Dorothy….. We’re Not In Salem Anymore. The Witch Hunts of the 21st Century

educate

 

It is said that understanding and education are the two best actions against ignorance and fear…. but are they? What do you do when an angry, hateful and overzealous mob of members of a radical religious group come knocking at your door? They don’t want to talk. They don’t want to listen. They don’t want explanations or reason. They’ve come with their minds made up: They want blood. Do you turn the other cheek? Do you become a martyr? There are no clicking of ruby slippers and suddenly, there really is no place like home…..

Just think, it wasn’t until the 1690’s that the persecution of witches really became a problem in the United States, and it began with a couple of naive girls in then Puritan Salem, Mass., (Now Danvers) who played with some divination techniques, got freaked out and cried witchcraft to cover their own back sides…. that act alone cost 19 innocent people their lives, because these girls used the hysteria as an opportunity to point a finger and accuse the people they simply did not like, and it was down hill from there. You couldn’t win for losing, here. Either you confessed to being someone and something you weren’t, sparing your life but living the rest of it basically shunned from those who you once called friends, or you kept your pride and your reputation and had your neck stretched out…. with the exception of old Giles Corey who was crushed to death. They didn’t mean to kill him, they said, it was an accident. They only wanted to scare him into a confession, to which they were faced with a rather unexpected request from the old man just when they thought the weight of all the stones would surely break his spirit. The request? “More weight.”

It was only a few hundred years ago that Christianity attempted to condemn Catholicism… because both  were so concerned about their way being the “One true way” that it didn’t matter who died or lost everything, innocent or guilty as long as the prevailing party was right. The Protestants thought the Catholics tasteless and tactless, and the Catholics? Well, they just hated the Protestants for not being Catholic. Queen Elizabeth I of England was faced with this very dilemma on practically a daily basis. Aside from the fact that she was a woman successfully ruling a country, refused to take a husband and didn’t give the country an heir to the throne, she was Protestant. (The very nerve!) … and attempts were constantly made on her life on behalf of the Catholics. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this type of thing continues. It’s horrid over in Africa, all you have to do is be accused and you are immediately condemned to death, often times burned alive right on the street or in your front yard, making it rather opportunistic for greedy family members to immediately inherit any property you own upon accusation.

But we in the U.S. and other religiously free countries have nothing to concern ourselves with, right?

Wrong.

Witch-hunting has NOT gone away. It is still prevalent here in the 21st Century, and not only is it prevalent, it’s gaining speed.

According to a recent article in the NY times, “In recent years, there has been a spate of attacks against people accused of witchcraft in Africa, the Pacific and Latin America, and even among immigrant communities in the United States and Western Europe.”

What’s the matter, the bible thumping upper management afraid the witches are gaining speed? In my sole opinion, the devil and the threats of eternity in hell were both created to instill enough fear to get others to conform….. I was a Catholic once, I get it. There is such a thing as “Catholic Guilt”, I know, I suffered from it for years, despite being raised by witches who hid under the guise of the very church they brought me up in….. as a kid, was it fair to me? Probably not. I was terribly confused and incredibly torn. Here, I had these gifts and this connection with nature and the energies around me, that were fostered and encouraged at home, yet condemned in the very place I was also taught to seek refuge. There were also a great many teachings in the Bible that I felt in my heart, even as a child, were wrong or unjust. After all, people cannot help what they are, right?

Allow me to drop another bomb on the “You’re wrong, we’re right” religious groups: Witches don’t acknowledge in or believe in a Satan, a hell or a proverbial devil. It’s a Christian ideology, not a universal one, and honestly, it makes that lot who protest and raise a ruckus and shout out over horns and loudspeakers the blah, blah, blah about brimstone and hellfire make you all look like nothing but bat shit nuts. That’s right, fifty shades of cray-cray.

hell no…… she didn’t!

Yes. Yes I did.

The same group of religious wacko’s found themselves the butt of everyone’s jokes and giggles last year when they annoyed Jason Voorhees on Essex Street in Salem to the extent that he put his murderous urge aside for a moment to protest how he felt about these folks:

fuck these guys

 

Why? Cause

aint nobody got time In fact, the more they preach, the louder they get, the more obnoxious they become about it…. well, the rest of us don’t get that warm fuzzy feeling of converting, repenting or being saved….

No, wait. We do want to be saved. When we’re handed those pamphlets and “invited” to the retreats and revivals, this is what we envision:

bates

 

They make Hotel California seem like a 5 star vacation spot.

But on a more serious note, United Nations refugee and human rights agencies have estimated the murders of supposed witches as numbering in the thousands each year, while beatings and banishments possibly running into the millions. The folks who gather this info also report that making it illegal to even believe in witchcraft is not a solution to the problem (gee, ya think?) but respect for customary beliefs , however, does not allow for persecution and murder.

Now, before the rest of the Americans here reading this article starts puffing up their chests and saying “Well, they’d never get away with it here in the states!” Think again. Let the hot air out and your chest deflate, because I’m about to spring some really disturbing news on you.

On March 30, 2013 (That’s right, only a year ago) Kyrja Withers, a Pagan author in Port Richie, Florida  reported that shots had been fired at her home, affectionately named, “The Glitter Dome”.

“Someone shot at me tonight – and though they missed, The Glitter Dome is a bit more …. holey … tonight. We’ve had intermittent problems with someone honking their horn outside our house at very late hours and screaming obscenities  Once, they threw a firecracker in our front house. Last night, they screamed “F’ing WITCH” – quite clearly. No mistake. Today, we received several telephone calls where the caller said something unintelligible and then hung up, as well as an inappropriate post on one of my Rupert videos. This is obviously personal. And now, they have crossed the line and have caused property damage. And yes – the first window they hit is where I sit. It is time to deal with this. And so we shall. We ask for your assistance in calling for swift justice.” – See more at: http://wildhunt.org/2013/03/shots-fired-at-florida-pagan-authors-home.html#sthash.CpSGDKVJ.dpuf

So as I write this, I think about how far we have come, how much blood has already been shed, and I shake my head… partially in disbelief that there are still so many intolorant and ignorant and partially in disgust at the actions of those who claim they are working for a “God” history and science have already pretty much debunked. Perhaps not the God itself, but what they claim to be truth…from a book that has been molested, torn apart, revised, omitted and rearranged to suit so many times that one is left to wonder….”What the hell??” :/

I also sit here thinking, and I’ll leave this as a final thought, that witches, for the most part, mind our own business and go about our lives without hindering, being self imposing or intrusive to those around us. Why can’t others do the same? Holy wars are everything but holy.

 

Resources, references and further information can be found at the following:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NEWSEVENTS/Pages/Witches21stCentury.aspx

http://respectwomen.co.in/the-witch-hunt-a-superstition-or-conspiracy/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/05/opinion/the-persecution-of-witches-21st-century-style.html?_r=3

 

 

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Living Witchy…. Or Is It Witchy Living? The Ethics Behind Making A Living as a Witch

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There is a lot of discussion (Doesn’t it always seem like my articles start this way? “There is a lot of discussion or debate”…. well, there is) about being a witch and charging for services. Sure, I could talk about how to cast this spell or how to cast that one, herbs or crystals and stones and their magickal affiliations etcetera, etcetera…. but there’s plenty-a-witch out there doing all that already, and I kind of fancy writing about the things that still leave questions in most everyone’s minds… not that I have all the answers– I don’t, and I’m certainly not the authority on the subjects I choose to write about. I’m just one little witch with a big opinion (or mouth–depending on who you ask 😛 )

Most today would agree that charging for spells or other magickal acts is down right unethical. And it might be. After all, just this past year, there was a shop in Salem, Mass. that will remain unnamed that found themselves in a particularly hot and bubbling cauldron for having charged a gentleman upwards of two thousand dollars to remove a curse.

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I bullshit you not.

Gypsies over the centuries (and even today) have charged for spell casting as a way of making a living. There was one very popular psychic witch in Miami back in the 80’s and early 90’s who made a fortune for her services and had one hell of a following. Heck, I have an aunt in Puerto Rico who makes her living this way, has been doing it for the better part of her life, and has folks four deep wrapped around the block to see her. I believe that in some societies, it is acceptable, and in others it is not only forbidden, but unethical and perhaps even unforgivable. In some states in the U.S. and even in some countries, it is illegal, and in some countries, punishable by death if caught.

So you might still be wondering, what’s the big deal? Why can’t we, don’t we or should we charge for casting spells for others? Well, firstly, even as early as two hundred years ago, women, particularly, were not permitted to work in many places or at all. Take Hulda, the witch, a real-life character here in my own Sleepy Hollow who is all but forgotten and rarely mentioned and one you will not find in legend. Hulda was a real person, an immigrant from Bohemia. She displayed suspicious witch-like behavior by living alone in a cabin in the woods and gathering herbs to make remedies. But she seemed like a perfectly nice lady: when folks in town fell ill, she would leave them baskets of her potions and pastes to try to help the healing. While the people were relatively grateful, they were still scared to death of her. But back then, that’s what witches did. There were few ways of earning a living if you hadn’t been born to a skilled trade, and that was one way for the witch to live; by concocting potions and notions and casting spells on behalf of another (in secret, of course). When folks caught wind of the practices of the slaves, who do you think they would solicit to help them with their problems? Since slaves were obviously not getting paid for their day to day services, they were hard-pressed to decline an offer of money for their assistance when the opportunity arose.

But today is a vastly different world than our fore bearers knew. Witches have stepped out of the proverbial broom closet. We (in the States and a few other places at least) no longer have the prospect of death looming over our heads should our practices be discovered. We have classified ads, Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, eBay, Etsy and other outlets to advertise such services. Message boards, chat rooms and social media to network and gather and learn from one another. We have blogs too 😉

Just this past weekend, my future brother-n-law, who fell in love with my Ford SUV asked if I could cast a spell to make his wife (Who is a die-hard Chevy girl) agree to the purchase of it. I refused. He offered to pay. Again, I refused. Why? Because while I’m not a huge believer in the way Karma works and while I also do not subscribe specifically to a Three-Fold Law, I also don’t subscribe to forcing another person’s hand through the use of magick, in making a decision they otherwise wouldn’t have made as a means to a profitable end. Nuh-uh. I don’t want that juju at my door step. The Universe will be like a tax bill collector with bill for twenty-grand in its hand, payable IN FULL right then and there, when it comes time to collect–and it will. My motto is: Don’t let your magick write checks your ass can’t cash. I’d really love to sell the truck, but not that bad!

Going back to the question, “What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is this: Over the years (and because of the great many media and social outlets we have gained during this time) there have been an increasingly alarming number of scam spell casters, fake witches and fake psychics that have become a great source of worry and frustration to spell seekers, genuine witches and legit psychics alike. I had a grandmother who enjoyed reading those tabloid papers and I couldn’t decide what I found more amusing when I was bored enough to pick one up and thumb through it: The alien baby discovered in Nebraska birthed by the Virgin Mary reincarnated or the psychic and spell-casting ads in the back pages of the classifieds.

shockedImage

 

meh…YIKES!

“I will return your lost love to you!” Boasts one ad. In another, “Let me help you gain riches with this old family spell!” Now, while the cost of these “Services” sound all well and good at the tune of $50 each, do the math. Those magazines have a circulation of HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS. That $200 ad Billy Bob placed while chugging a beer and watching Nascar is earning him $25,000 that month even if only 500 out of those hundreds of thousands of readers and subscribers bite.

 

y u no

He takes your money (Payable only by money order, of course) and kicks back, collects and collects and watches Wheel of Fortune —and the title of that show is about the only magical or psychic thing you will ever see. You also have others charging people thousands of dollars to break curses. In some cases, like the experience my mother-in-law had, you bring them the money, they tell you to come back the next day to pick up a mojo bag or some other thing and when you return the only thing left of their establishment is the tumble weed merrily bouncing across the front lawn on the feeling of “Sucker” you’re now stuck with. Ebay has, in the past year or two, banned listings that sell spells. A lot of witches in the community were put off by this, but in retrospect, I really can’t disagree with the company’s decision. Some of the listings were just as bad as the tabloid ads, and there was virtually no way to prove that the buyer received what they paid for. Some buyers did in fact receive, and decided to file a claim, stiffing the seller, and getting their money back. THIS is why witches today have a beef with those who charge for spell casting services. That kind of nonsense right there makes the rest of us look like frauds too. Not only that, but it’s a slap in the face to those of us who take our Craft very seriously. The vast majority of practitioners seek to help, not harm, and gratitude from the receiver is usually payment enough.

So how does the witch– and I’m referring to the “Career Witch” make a living simply by being who he or she is? How does one step away from their “Muggle” (I adore that word!) life and dive broomstick first into their magickal one, full time? Many witches make soaps and sundries, jewelry, ritual clothing and other adornments as well as magickal incense and potions that they sell to customers and New Age and witch shops. Many also make candles, give tarot readings, conduct workshops and seminars and even write and publish books. Some study and then practice–for a living– alternative medicine and Eastern methods of healing. Still there are others who allow their spirituality to completely take over and inspire and they go on to create beautiful works of art in which they sell.

There are still some witches who don’t do any of this, instead they keep their day-to-day lives, perhaps even start a business and name it after something they resonate with spiritually. For example, I know a gent who is a witch and has a car detailing business named Wizard Detailing. I know another woman who teaches yoga and calls her business In Balance Studios, and still another woman who owns a beauty salon that uses all natural products and includes henna as an option for hair coloring and calls her shop, The Alternative Salon. 

Practitioners of the Craft today have found very creative ways to derive an income from simply being who they are and doing what they love to do without having to charge for magickal services. Many believe, as I do, that if you have the ability to harness and manipulate the energies around you, which is given freely of the universe (Some will argue with this) then it is only right to give it to another in turn, freely. Real witches understand this.

So stay away from those tabloid ads, no matter how desperate or dire your situation may seem.They’re bad. Very, very bad.  If you are a new or inexperienced witch, or perhaps not a witch at all, you have a plethora or resources right here on line at your fingertips to get some help. Nearly everyone is on Facebook these days. There are groups you can join. There are witch shops all over the net who also have brick and mortar locations that can assist you in getting the supplies you need to cast a spell for yourself or at the very least offer sage advice.

Be wary. We all once had to worry about witch hunters. Now, we must worry about con artists.

 

 

 

 

 

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Magickal Self Defense: The Difference Between Ethics and Being a Door Mat

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There is quite a big debate about using magick in retaliation or self defense in the witch community, verses turning the other cheek and allowing “Karma” to do her thing. I personally have had the scolding finger shook at me by other witches who practice a… let’s call it, “Passive-aggressive” approach to the way they do things, (ie., the pot calling the kettle black or if you will, talking from both sides of their mouths).

What I mean by this, specifically, is that they will be the first ones to throw a law in my face that I do not follow (You can read my article from January, Shove Your Three-Fold Somewhere Else if you’re looking for an honest rant and controversy; It’s right there in black and white, so I will not rehash it here… and I will also acknowledge (just as I did in that article) that not ALL are this way, but sadly, the vast majority have continuously proven me wrong…. at least from the Western world) but they are also the first ones to lash back when they read something they do not like (i.e., the truth about how some of their members are portraying their entire religion).

BUT….

They have the right to do that, yes? They have the right to defend themselves, whether verbally or magickally if they feel they’ve been attacked… and that was just what one blogger did…. and I certainly didn’t take any offense because she had the same right as I do. So let me ask you, what is the difference between that which was done, in defense, from magical self defense when you feel threatened or attacked and say, getting that extra insurance on your car in case of collision? Or better yet, filing suit against a store when you’ve slipped and fell on their wet floor when there was no sign saying such?

Go ahead… when it pops into your head, just shout it right out…

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That’s right… absolutely NOTHING! 

I’m not trying to ruffle any more feathers here, though I am almost certain I will anyway, freedom of speech is, after all, the nature of the beast when it comes to writing. What I am actually attempting to accomplish here, is to sort out some of the confusion when it comes to this subject matter. It is, of course, my take on it, but I’m certainly not alone when I say you absolutely have a right to defend yourself, and to protect yourself and those you love with magick if the need should call. You also have a good leg to stand on where “Karma” is concerned, should you decide to help give her a bit of a nudge for a wrong doing, because let’s face it, she doesn’t always act quickly. Most of us would rather see retribution happen quickly, and leaving things up to Karma alone doesn’t always work that way. But we also don’t always get to watch her in action, either. Sometimes, Karma doesn’t come around at all, leaving the person who was wronged feeling like it’s all a crock of…. well, you get the picture.

Am I telling folks to run out and gather up a group of “Voodoo dolls” and start checking names off their list? No. It would be nice though, wouldn’t it? Besides, I’m a firm believer that anger and bitterness, when held onto, is like cancer. It eats away at your spirit slowly until their is nothing left.

Here’s my take on the Rede, ‘Do what you will, an it harm none’ which I believe to be an ethic that discusses personal intention.  In other words, it’s not acceptable to intentionally hurt someone, and I’ll go long with that, but conflict does occur. Bad people do exist. Bad situations happen, and often times, to very good people, unfortunately. 

For times when harm comes your way I do believe that defensive magic is appropriate. In most cases this should never intentionally hurt anyone…. but notice I said most. 

I have an ex who is probably the epitome of annoying. When we split, he wouldn’t go away. In fact, he thought he’d play the charming card. You know, “Mr. Helpful” and sweet after I sent him packing (and this was a guy who was never helpful or sweet). You would THINK after five years of living with me that he’d have caught on somewhere along the line that I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck. An entire half of my family is either in the military or law enforcement. The ability to sniff out BS runs through my blood, and I’m good at it (I totally missed my calling, but whatever. Being the family Bruja has its perks too ;)). But because I didn’t trust him, I cast a binding spell on him using the shoe lace off one of the pair of boots he’d conveniently forgotten and left behind.

Cue music,  music “You must not know ’bout me, you must not know ’bout me” music

blink

 

 

I bound him from the ability to do any harm to me, to anyone I loved or cared for and even though I really had to think about this one, from doing harm to himself. The next day, I was served with court papers.

Naturally, the binding hadn’t worked yet because the papers were drafted even before I performed the spell. But the utter garbage and lies they contained was one of those instances where I see all too often a person who wields the power use it in the wrong way… don’t get me wrong. If I sat here and told you I didn’t think about doing it too, I’d be a liar. In fact, I sat and thought about it for a whole week before I decided the best course of action for someone like him. I pulled the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” spell on him. Anything, and I do mean ANYTHING he sent my way, anything he did to try and throw me under a bus, undermine me, proverbially cut my throat, any negative thought he had toward me would bounce off and head right back at him ten times. Simply, what I did was side-step the responsibility that comes with cursing another. It’s not a curse, a jinx or a hex if all you are doing is protecting yourself and wielding back what was sent your way in the first place. A person doesn’t have to physically do something to cause you harm. Thoughts are a powerful force too. Whether he realized it or not, the thoughts he had about me were being sent out to manifest, and I wasn’t taking any chances of allowing that to happen by being lax, turning the other cheek and letting Karma handle him. Chances are, if I  didn’t want to deal with him, she wouldn’t want to either. To make a long story short, within months he’d lost his job, had utility service cancellations attached to his front door and the house in early foreclosure. Ironic since his last words to me were “You won’t get by without me”…. and to his dismay, I did. Not only that, but the final order handed down from the court did not go in his favor either. Quite the opposite (for good measure, I’d also worked an old family court spell with the petition I received while I was at it… it’s called crossing your “t’s” and dotting your “i’s”.)

What is the point of being a magickal being if you are too afraid to use your own power and energy or the power and energy around you? Sure, you could live a life of servitude, collecting Karma points along the way by performing nothing but house blessings and healing, but even a tea pot that has been steaming and whistling for too long will evaporate and run dry.

Speaking of crossing “t”s and dotting “i’s’s”, I also have several triggers set up in and around my home. If something nasty is coming my way, these little alarms will tell me. Here are a few easy tricks and tips that you can set up yourself:

Place a plant (I use Rosemary) on your front porch or household plants by the front door and in every room of the house at or near an entry point, like a door, window or mirror. If there is a spiritual or psychic attack of any kind that makes its way in, the plant will take the hit first: by literally just dying or drying out (presuming you have been watering and caring for it in the first place).

Magickally connect yourself to your familiar(s). I have a dog and two cats. If there is something coming, has already arrived or is on its way, I know it. I have an Old English Mastiff. Look up the breed. They’re known as gentle giants, who are incredibly inactive, but fiercely protective and pass their time away by sleeping.

I mean, c’mon… here’s what he does all day…

snoozy

They also aren’t vocal, therefor, they rarely bark. Mine will howl when something is present (he also does this each time I perform a ritual bath). The cats will stand guard or attempt to protect me by smothering me to death in my sleep– or while awake– (why my head is the most coveted space to them of all the places in the house they could go is beyond me.) But they will also stand guard at the door of the room I am present in.

 

My vehicle is charmed. Both of them. I have an SUV with a disabled alarm. When something comes, the alarm will still sound. (I was shocked when it actually worked, I won’t lie, I had my doubts). The lights on my black car will randomly just begin flashing.

There are Gargoyle statues at the entrance of my back garden, which is where I meditate, pray, perform rituals and host Sabbats. Needless to say, the land has been made sacred and the Gargoyles, known for their fierce protection and servitude of the home and its occupants, have been placed upon the grave dirt of the 90 year old grave of one of my aunts, another witch. Both the gargoyles and the spirit have been charged with one task: to protect the home and all within it by not allowing anyone or anything with ill intent to enter. (And for the record… Spirit trapping (another blog post for another time) isn’t trapping when the spirit has agreed….. more good juju coming my way for that. 😉

One of my children, who is a sensitive, refused to enter the garden  (I hadn’t told him what I’d done) because of the “Lady in the black dress” who stood by the wall, smiling at him. Once I explained, he was OK with it…. the sight of her still freaks him out a bit, but all spirit does, since he is only just learning how to develop his gift and doesn’t particularly trust something that makes all the hair on his body stand on end just by walking into a room… and I can’t really say I blame the kid for that. But a few of the more nosy neighbors who have seen her weren’t so “OK” with it. I suppose it’ll teach them a thing or two about trespassing.

I have also driven a rusty railroad spike into each of the four corners of my property, creating a grid. Ever wonder why those old cemeteries have iron gates around them? It isn’t for keeping the living OUT as much as it is for keeping the dead IN. Iron and spirit do not mix, and it is a powerful deterrent for anything looking to cause trouble.

My point is, before I went on my tangent, is that setting up the proper reinforcements before you find yourself the victim of someone else’s ill intentions or pubescent rage is not something you should ever fear Karmic retribution from. Nor should you fear it if you are protecting yourself. My ex simply received back what he sent my way in the first place. If you’re simply walking around town hexing folks for the joy of it, you’re going to have a problem. If you hex your lover’s wife so that she takes ill and dies, leaving him all for you… you are most definitely going to have a problem. You’re likely to have a problem anyway if she finds out about you. It doesn’t really come down to Karmic sense as much as it does ethical sense. One of the few things I agree with in the Bible is that Golden Rule of theirs: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Keep your nose clean. Don’t go looking for trouble, or to cause it needlessly, because trouble, where magick is concerned will have no problem finding you to collect.

Another thing I do is pay very close attention to signs. If I am so angry that the thought of cursing another enters my mind, (it’s a fight) but I take a few days out to calm down and really think it through. I’m grateful that I haven’t come into to many situations where I’ve felt the need for doing this, but I stand by saying that there are rare instances when it is appropriate. Sometimes, someone needs to be taught a lesson. But before I take it upon myself to do anything like this, I meditate long and hard over it, and I ask the Gods if it is appropriate. Signs for me usually come through nature. 3 black crows will appear in a row at my window. A Red-tailed hawk will rest on my out door altar, leaving its fresh kill behind. A coyote will pay a visit, make sure it’s made eye contact with me and then go about its business. Four or five young bucks will cross my path, each acknowledging my presence before moving on.

The use of magick alone is a big responsibility, particularly in that witches for the most part believe and accept that we ourselves are responsible for our own actions. We didn’t do it because someone else made us do it. We didn’t turn our back on our gay brother because there was a book telling us that, that is what we are supposed to do because the other person is wrong in their decisions. We make up our own minds. We are also prepared to accept the consequences if any, of all of our actions. The act of healing, even through a modality such as Reiki, requires an exchange for the energy and healing given and performed. It is no different with magick. The exchange with healing services is more often than not monetary, but there is still an exchange nonetheless. It’s all about balance. When we allow other people to harm us, we become imbalanced. We are left with feelings of hurt, anger, sorrow, bitterness and even victimization. You can’t tell me that sticking a few push pins into that doll you fashioned of the offender doesn’t make you feel damned good. It’s therapeutic at the very least. When we take in other people’s garbage, it depletes us. And that goes for everyone, not just witches or sensitives. It robs us of the beautiful, magickal lives we are meant to live.

I know a woman who was in an abusive marriage. One day, she went to the little botanica down the street from her house and bought the items she would need to perform a spell to separate herself from this marriage and from the abuser. A month after she performed the spell, her husband was dead. He’d gone for a check up at the doctor’s after he’d developed a cough, discovered he’d had advanced emphysema and was dead 2 weeks later. Although she hadn’t cursed him specifically, by performing the spell she did she asked for this problem of hers to be removed from her life, she called for protection,  and the Universe did it in a way it saw fit.

If you are ever so angry at another that you want to condemn them to a curse, take a few days to really think it through and calm down a bit. No one thinks clearly when they are enraged. But whatever you do, do not, under any circumstances allow another to tell you are wrong in wanting to do so. It’s the same as them telling you that you are wrong for feeling hurt. Your feelings are yours, and at the end of the day, it is you who reaps the benefits or faces the consequences of your actions, not them. Shaking a finger at you and telling you to “Harm none” is the Pagan equivalent to the Christian hell fire and brimstone for not being a Christian, for having pre-marital sex, for admiring the beauty (coveting) of your neighbor’s wife, etc., etc…. that gives you something to think about, doesn’t it? Protect yourself and those you love as you see fit. Sometimes, sending something nasty to the offender is the only way of protecting yourself or others from that person. Causing harm of any kind may be unacceptable for some, but being a door mat for continued hurt and abuse is unacceptable for many others, and more importantly, to your own spirit….. cast wisely.

 

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Gods and Goddesses: Be Careful Who You Summon

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There is no doubt that each of us who have connected or resonated with a Deity have developed a personal relationship with them. They understand us…we understand them.

…….But do we? Really?

We know what we have read and researched and Googled. We look up beautiful pictures of our beloved patron God or Goddess and we draw them on notebook paper, or perhaps ink our bodies in their likeness as a display of unwavering devotion…. devotion, by the way, can really be a beautiful thing.

But how well do we really know the Divine? Just how close can we, mere humans (even if we are witches) get to them?

I’ve seen a lot of craziness over the web, and I’m sure you have too. That message board where one member questions another about something seemingly trivial, the other member takes offense and fires back, some more rounds are fired off between the two (and by now perhaps several more have needlessly gotten themselves involved {it is after all, the 21st century, we have all kinds of rights, including the right to stick our noses in an argument it never belonged in, in the first place} ) and then the offended party (or the offender, or someone else who got their knickers in a twist through the course of all this) lashes back with something no one expects to see come from the debate, something that makes half the onlookers shake their heads and think, “Here we go again..” and the other half hold their breath, but suddenly, it’s the one statement made by that one person that makes everyone else involved (or watching) realize that, that individual may very well be a few fries short of a Happy Meal…..

The ultimate threat is made, and they who have offended had better watch out because the witch you just pissed off is a direct descendant of the God/Goddess such-and-such, and tonight, when they log off their computer, they’re going to light a candle, do a rain dance, maybe mimic a pit mosh and have their Divine Ancestor who they have traced through blood (cough, cough) come down and bibbity-boppity boo your rear end.

…………………………………………..  meh…………………………………………………….giggles……………………….

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Sorry….. couldn’t help myself. That subject is a whole other blog post but if you’d like a good giggle and further reading about what else could possibly annoy a witch (or get them to point and laugh at you)… read here (I love her stuff!) … if you haven’t seen these types of arguments, give it time. They’re all over social media and message boards.

**Giggles a little more**… Clicking heels together and moving forward….

Here’s the truth, and who better for it to come from than a witch who has already managed to irk an entire community of like-minded people (and who has no intention of stopping any time soon) by saying the things most just shake their heads and walk away at. The truth is, we are nothing to them. Even with being the magical and/or spiritually minded creatures we are, we are actually but a speck of sand on a vast beach to the Divine. They owe us nothing. So why is it that there are still so many witches who feel that they are entitled to call upon a Deity whenever it behooves them to get into a peeing match with someone online, who they’ll likely never, ever meet in person….. because their ego was hurt, and expect the God or Goddess to do their bidding as if they were nothing more than the witches lap dog? Why do so many witches perform an internet search of Celtic Gods and Goddesses, Egyptian Ones, Norse Ones, etc., etc… looking for the one THEY resonate with the most (or just pick one because he looks bad-ass and cool) at the moment for whatever soap opera may be playing out n their lives at the time? C’mon, people! Get with the program! This is a mistake I see so many new witches make (also affectionately called “Baby witches” by many)…. they get on the search engines, read a Wikipedia article and BAM! They have their patron God. Then they hit the dollar store, get a couple of poorly made candles, light them and then beg that God for their assistance in hitting the lotto. It’s going to take a bit more than a salt dough sculpture that’s been saged and dubbed blessed and thrown on a makeshift altar to get their attention. It’s gonna take a bit more than a couple of $1 candles too. They don’t have to do SQUAT if they don’t feel like it. In fact, it’s the other way around. We should be the ones who honor and thank them each day for the air we breathe, for the fact that we have awoken to another day, for the blessings, both small and large they have bestowed upon us.

It’s like walking off the street into Trump Tower and straight to Donald’s office, throwing him a cheeseburger from the dollar menu of McDonald’s and then saying, “Hey, I’ll sweeten the deal with some french fries if you give me a hundred grand.” You’re gonna get the same reaction from him that you’ll get from the Gods:

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(And by no means am I calling Donald Trump a God, but let’s face it, the man has more money than any of the rest of us have a dream of ever seeing… a cheeseburger and fries from a fast food joint is hardly going to impress him.) It’s the same with devotion to beings that are at a much higher spiritual level than you are. I wrote a blog back in November titled: Building a Better Relationship with the Gods. It’s a good place to start when trying to understand how they tick. But the very best way to learn about a Deity you have chosen to pay homage to is to become the student of that Deity. Go beyond a Google search. Go beyond a passage in a Pagan publication written about them. Get your hands on everything you can about this being. Understand every single aspect of them, not just the ones that appeal to you. That isn’t how it works. If you noticed at the top of this article there is a beautiful portrayal of the Goddess Kali. Most who are at the very least familiar with her know her as the Goddess of time,change and destruction. “She Who Conquers Over All”, all-auspicious, the remover of darkness, the “Excellent One Beyond Time”, the bearer of the Skulls of Impure thought the reliever of difficulties, loving, forgiveness, supporter of the Universe. However, upon closer study, you will also find that she is also associated with empowerment, and is sometimes presented as dark or violent, being the fierce aspect of the Goddess Durga, the name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death: Shiva. Since Shiva is called Kāla— the eternal time — the name of Kālī, his consort, also means “Time” or “Death” (as in “time has come”). Her earliest incarnation as a figure of annihilation of evil forces still has some influence. Various Shakta Hindu cosmologies, as well as Shākta Tantric beliefs, worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman. She is also revered as Bhavatārini (literally “redeemer of the universe”). Comparatively recent devotional movements largely conceive Kāli as a benevolent mother goddess. Kālī is represented as the consort of Lord Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing. Shiva lies in the path of Kali, whose foot on Shiva subdues her anger….. and that should speak volumes to the one who chooses to make this particular Goddess their patron. It’s a cautionary tale, at best. 

I’ve known a hand full of witches who made the mistake of doing a quick look-up on a Deity, making an offering of something they thought would suffice, and pleading with the One,  during a course of situations transpiring within their lives where time was of the essence. To say they weren’t particularly pleased with the outcome of it all would be an understatement. It ties right in to that whole “Be careful what you wish for” thing…. but when you are wishing and worst yet, playing with Gods like you’d play a game a chess, without regard, careful study, regular devotion and caution, instead of getting what you wished for, you may be getting your comeuppance instead, for what they will view as nothing more than ignorance and disrespect…. which they have little patience for and they will not hesitate to humble you for it.

There is certainly something to pay attention to with the statement of “Feeling the wrath of the Gods”……….

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Beltane: Eroticism and Sacred Sexuality….. We All Just Get Naked….

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**Side note: I realize this article comes after Beltane. Not only was I busy celebrating it (see photos below) but I’d been really wanting to touch on this subject for some time now, while handling it with care, so, I took my sweet time in writing it 😉 ***

Well, we used to…. ok, maybe not us, as in modern day Pagans… okay, okay…some of us still do.

Most folks who are new to Paganism or who have been raised outside of Paganism seem to think that any Pagan gathering is inclusive of wild orgies in the forest (Hey, fun times!!), and drunken, drugged-out sex parties……. I’m not confirming or denying but I’ll get back to this in a moment.

Once, an old boyfriend of mine (who was Agnostic) extended the invitation to a Litha gathering at my home to a business associate of his. The business associate was a practicing Catholic (which makes no never-mind to me) but clearly he had a preconceived notion of who Pagans are and what we do at our get togethers, when he showed up with the largest box of condoms I’d ever seen, a case full of liquor, and a smile from ear to ear….

I can’t be certain, but I just KNOW I had THIS look on my face:

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One of the lesser-known celebrations, which are part of the earth-based spirituality cycle of holy days, is Beltane and is the last of the three spring fertility festivals, the others being Imbolc and Ostara. Beltane traditionally marked the arrival of summer in ancient times, and  like Samhain, is a time of “no time” when the veils between the two worlds (the world of the living and the world of the other) are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and magic is it’s strongest. 

When the veils are this thin it is an extremely magical time; particularly at Beltane where a fairy sighting is more likely than at any other time of the year. It is a festival of rapturous gaiety as it joyfully heralds the arrival of summer in her full garb. Beltane, however, is still a precarious time, the crops are still very young and tender, susceptible to frost and blight. The ancients believed the Wheel {Wheel of the year} would not turn without human intervention. People did everything in their power to encourage the growth of the Sun and His light, for the Earth will not produce without the warm love of the strong Sun. Fires, celebration and rituals were (and still are) an important part of the Beltane festivities, as to insure that the warmth of the Sun’s light would promote the fecundity of the earth…… and so is sex.

 

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Sex, among Pagans during this time is a Beltane tradition referred to as the Great Rite, which, along with Hindu tantra, is the most powerful example of sacred sexual practice known today. It isn’t sex for the sake of having sex. Sex at Beltane is an act of devotion. There is no question that an intense sexual experience, whether or not there’s love present, can actually cause changes in your biochemistry, igniting cells, chakras and your energy field as a whole and, as a result, often triggering significant transformation in your life. Sacred sex, however, usually activates profound transformation not only for you personally, but properly directed it also can have the same intense effect on the world around you….. which is the entire motivation behind the Great Rite. Because crops are still so young, tender and vulnerable, the act of sacred sex encourages that growth, by means of that act being devotional in nature, and because the Great rite has everything to do with fertility…. get it now?

So I wonder….. what’s the hang-up among some Pagans have about stripping down and getting it on?

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Well, there’s the whole STD thing, and unplanned pregnancy thing, and the feminist movement; sure, we should honor our bodies as temples because they are. And in honoring it we certainly aren’t going to just let anyone have their way with it. I get it, and if it’s any consolation, I feel the same. But I’ve come across some pretty uptight Pagans in my life when it comes to this subject. I suppose what it comes down to at the end of the day is individual comfort levels….. and the fact that not all Pagans are ritual Pagans. It’s the truth, not all Pagans are practicing, they simply have their set beliefs and live by them accordingly without ever having partaken in any type of ritual….not every Pagan is a witch, and that’s cool too. I mean, under normal circumstances, you couldn’t get me to strip down to my birthday suit in front of a group of folks I know or hardly know, even if they are all naked too…. but then again, after a few shots of Blackhaus, I’ve been known to be talked into crazier things 😉 ….. I’m finding out that this is the Westerner in me coming out. A friend of mine who is from France told me the beaches in France are primarily nude or topless, and they can pick out a Westerner from a mile away at these venues because the vacationing Westerners are the only one in the sand gawking. Makes sense, I mean, here in the states you get arrested for relieving yourself out doors because it’s considered “Indecent exposure”….. honestly, sometimes I think only in America can you be punished for being human (and no, I don’t really believe this… I don’t completely live under a rock, I’m well aware there are places much worse)….. it’s indecent to be the way you came into this world at any other time but arrival….. and they won’t let you go out that way either. The most interesting wake I’ve ever attended was that of a nudist. His express wishes were to be waked naked. the funeral home adamantly refused, and so the family settled for a Hawaiian print top and khaki shorts…. I sometimes suspect that  it’s society that’s the problem: Magazines with beautiful, incredibly thin women, “Fashion experts” that dictate what is and is not attractive, Law makers (Primarily Christian followers) who hand down the order of what is and is not acceptable behavior (**Cough, cough… we won’t mention all those political sex scandals they find themselves in though, cough, cough**).

……. a rant I’d rather leave for political discussions… clicking heels together and moving on….

Typical Beltane celebrations today include bonfire gatherings on every hill, boughs hung over doorways as a sign to maidens living within that a certain young man is interested, the rather obvious symbolism of dancing around and decorating a Maypole and, of course, rowdy parties which conclude with plenty of sex and giggling in the bushes—in the theory that all that lusty energy will help motivate the Earth to bloom and grow abundantly…. yes, yes, some of those gatherings do still exist…..

Now that we all have the image of a scene straight out of  Shakespeare’s A Mid-Summer Night’s dream in our heads, (those naughty, naughty nymphs 😉 ) or maybe even Hugh Heffner’s reality, allow me to move on to a subject that seems a bit “touchy” (puns, puns!) where Beltane is concerned:

One of the most common and most enduring myths surrounding Pagan women is the idea that we are all nymphomaniacs. (easy, boys… I’m about to shatter some hopes here)…. we’re not. Pagans, in general however, tend to be more open minded about sex than anyone else.  We view sex as a normal and natural part of the human existence and human experience, and not as a dirty or immoral act, although we are often accused as such by more traditional faiths, mainly because sex to us in uninhibited and not limited to an act solely between a married couple.  But for Pagans, sex isn’t taken lightly either. Traditional Wicca for example, views sex as the sacred union between the Goddess and God. In this case, sex is held to be very sacred, creating a strong spiritual bond. When sex is a sacred act, it becomes even more meaningful. To waste a sacred ritual for manipulation or any other reason, is to harm yourself greatly, which is one of the reasons I was so very annoyed with Mr. Condoms and cocktails. Another reason my nerves were plucked (and this is part of what I said I’d get back to earlier in this article) is that Pagans are often accused of a wide variety of sexual perversions, the most common being that orgies are held regularly at our ceremonies and gatherings. This is not at all true. Yes, we consider sex to be a natural moral act (even if it is between two individuals of the same sex—- but that’s another cauldron stirring for another time   {for the record, I strongly support gay rights} ) we also view it as a bond of love. While casual sex (when agreed to and understood as such by both individuals involved) is not considered immoral by most Pagans, it’s certainly not considered to be appropriate for a religious or spiritual ceremony. As I said before, those kinds of groups do still exist, but you’d be hard pressed to either find them or get an invitation to one…. they’re pretty secretive, incredibly private and above all discreet and participated by people who are comfortable with each other. Suffice to say, those people know full well in advance what they signed up for and are completely fine with it…again, I guess this all goes back to individual preference and comfort levels.

Additionally, not all Pagans are gay or bisexual. I have a friend whose wife despises Pagan men (him being the exception, of course) because the last man she’d had any kind of relationship was Pagan and had an affair on her with another man…. that she walked in on. As unfortunate and traumatic as this was for her I am certain, it is most definitely not the case with all of us…. which may or may not make you wonder why there are so many gay or bisexual men and women among Pagans as opposed to any other religious or spiritual group…. the answer to this is easy…. can you guess, can you guess???

Because we are more accepting of people as individuals than most any other faith. We also do not tell anyone they are going to hell or are damned to torment for eternity in purgatory.  We aren’t told we aren’t “True Pagans” (a statement I have come to despise) because of our sexual preference. With the exception of some rules among a certain group of bunnies Pagans/Witches who will not initiate someone who is gay into their path (not naming any names here, but if you know which group I am referring to, no names are needed ;)) most Pagans and Witches (because not all Pagans are witches) could give a rat’s arse who you lay with at night (or afternoon, or morning, or whenever the mood strikes).

Lastly, not all Pagans have open relationships. I have another friend who prefers the company of married women. I brought him to a Pagan festival with me just to get him out of the house and hopefully introduce him to a single woman. He said to me, “You know I prefer them married.” I responded with, “Well, then I wouldn’t attempt it with this lot. Pagan men often carry very large knives, and the head on your shoulders won’t be the only head you lose”. I will say here that many of the Pagans I know (and I know a lot of Pagans) are in long-term, committed relationships with each other. To this I will add that I have personally never dated a Pagan man who was okay with sharing me.

Pagans and sex combined is a delicate subject, no less. But in terms of Beltane, regardless of your sexuality and level of comfort, there are a plethora of ways to celebrate it. I would encourage anyone unfamiliar with Beltane, but curious enough to have read this or research it, to attend a public Beltane festival, such as the Long Island Beltane Festival I attended last weekend. I’d introduced two people that day to the way we Pagans celebrate, and they had the time of their lives. I have every confidence you will too. Enjoy the photos!

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Photo Credit: “Wild Embrace” by Hak Ukamizaki

Male Model: Alex Morrell / Female Model: Emily Thomas
Make-up Artist: Yoiwan Kong
Hair Stylist: Francesca Masters                                                                                                                                              
Photographer & Stylist & Editing: Hak Ukamizaki

Photography Assistant: Ivan Mastershttp://hakukamizaki.deviantart.com/art/Wild-Embrace-272858676

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The Witch Hunt Among Witches: Eclectic Witches & Cultural Appropriation

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This is a touchy subject… not that I’m afraid to talk about it, clearly, if you have been reading my articles, you’ll already know that I have no bones about speaking my mind or hurting a few feelings in doing so. But let me begin this by saying that Cultural Appropriation is different things to different people, and more often than not, it’s solitary Wiccans (usually non-initiate) and non- Wiccan/Witch “Spiritually minded” Pagans, just treading their own paths, who are accused of this more than anyone else. When someone takes a practice (or several)  from one culture and applies it to their own, they may see it as paying homage to that culture or practice and thereby incorporating it into their own spiritual journey, bringing them closer to the Divine (however they may view the Divine to be) on a more personal level. The problem with this however, herein lies with the culture in which the individual is borrowing from. I am not one to begrudge anyone of the spiritual choices they make, but I do see how some of these cultures have issue with this practice. 

You would be surprised at how ugly this debate becomes, especially when it is between what we have come to know as Eclectic Witchcraft and say, Vodouists, who would prefer one not engaging in their practices at all unless you are committed solely to it… and these folks have a legitimate gripe, as do the Native Americans, which is where I believe this whole war on Cultural Appropriation really starts. 

When you look at things from a religious standpoint, it is only natural that a Native American tribe would be troubled by and have some serious concerns about the adoption of Native American practices by someone who is not Native American, (the same with Vodouists) and has never truly had or lived the Native American experience. It makes sense. The majority base practices off of what they think it is and are basing their adopted practice off some imaginary or wishful interpretation of what being Native American really means. The truth is, the lack of social, historical and practical experience of this culture makes it impossible for anyone who is not actually from it to accurately understand what it’s like to be a part of the group and group’s practices they are attempting to emulate. Having a feather in your hair makes you no more a Chief than having a vintage badge you scored on ebay makes you a police officer. The most common one I see today is Shamanism, which used to frost my grandfather (who was Native American) like you wouldn’t believe. Today, you take some classes, go though and achieve different levels, maybe attend a few retreats and you are dubbed a Shaman, complete with a pretty certificate stating so. In tribes, it was similar to some extent, each tribe having their own way of determining whether or not one was suited (strong enough) for the job. But I assure you, there were no sterile facilities or classroom environments involved in this process. It often included days of fasting, a night of plant-induced hallucinating and if  you survived the evening fighting off demons and other monsters that come to you, bringing messages that you had to determine were trick or truth, you then would have to hike far into the forest or desert with escorts and perform a series of other, miracle-worthy feats before they even considered you to be worthy of being a healer. (Again, different tribes had different ways of determining this). 

Even if you were to take a religion such as Hindu, (for the sake of example) where each piercing and each Mendhi design has a significant meaning, a time-honored tradition among a group of people with practices and beliefs that have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years was suddenly taken by Western cultures and turned into something completely insignificant and then dubbed “Spiritual” can actually be insulting to the originating group. I imagine something as beautiful and traditional as this:

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gets taken, melded, mashed and incorporated in with several other belief systems, looks like this in their eyes by the time it’s all said and done:

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Um…. yeaahhhh…. Image

 

So how does this affect the Eclectic Witch? It affects them in a LOT of ways. Particularly, Eclectics have been under fire by just about every Pagan and non-Pagan Pantheon that’s out there primarily because they don’t fit into any specific definitive category. A Christian is a Christian, a Wiccan is a Wiccan, and Celt is a Celt a Druid is a Druid, so on and so forth. The Eclectic takes a bit from each (Christianity aside for a moment because that isn’t always the case here) and then forms his or her own tradition of beliefs and practices, and because this system can’t be defined as something else, it can be defined as eclectic….. which seems to have become a dirty word in the Pagan and Witch community, probably because of some of the points I made above and the perception of there being a lack of commitment to any one path, but I also think a bit of it has to do with the fact that we are human and because we are human, we need to place everything into nice, neat compartmentalized boxes with labels attached to them. If we cannot define it for sure, then it isn’t authentic or genuine… right?

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While I, myself am somewhat on the fence about this entire subject, mostly because I believe in a person’s right to choose the spiritual path or paths that brings to them the most peace,and also because I myself am from a mixed bag of spiritual and magickal cultures, I am also a bit old-school when it comes to being respectful to the originating pantheon or culture in that, if you are to emulate one of their practices or incorporate them into your own, it should probably be done discretely and with as much reverence to it as possible. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a deep fascination with Vodou, but encourage as they might, my friends in the higher ranks of the religion who have suggested I look further into it and go through what it takes to be initiated, I simply will not do it for the fact that I cannot whole-heartedly commit to its belief system in its entirety, and so I have taken a fancy to the practices of Hoodoo and rootwork instead, allowing me to have my “fix” of some of the practices without completely insulting the religious aspect of it (they are the same, yet very different–much in the way that Wicca and Witchcraft are–one is a religion, the other is a practice). But simply because I cannot completely commit does not mean it isn’t genuine or real, and for the same token, also does not give me the right to pick apart the pieces of it that jive with me and incorporate it with the things I do believe simply because it will suit me. It isn’t fair. And so, out of respect for the religion and those who practice and have worked hard to preserve it, I ask questions for understanding and education, but I certainly will not besmirch it by picking it apart and bending it for my own needs. 

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a Vodouist (translated in French to vodouisants, meaning “Servants of the spirits”) that began after he’d posted a photo to his Facebook page of an altar he’d erected to the Loa. Before I continue this story, allow me first to explain how this works, to the best of my ability, since I am not a Vodouist. Vodouists believe in a distant and unknowable creator god, called Bondye, who does not intercede in human affairs. Therefore, vodouists direct their worship toward spirits subservient to Bondye, called Loa. (Any vodouists reading this, please correct me if I am wrong in anything I have attempted to explain here). Every loa is responsible for a particular aspect of your life, with the dynamics and changing personalities of each loa reflecting the many possibilities inherent to the aspects of the practitioner’s life over which they preside. Vodouists cultivate personal relationships with the loa through the presentation of offerings, the creation of personal altars and devotional objects, and participation in elaborate ceremonies of music, dance, and other rituals and practices, which as you can see, makes it quite difficult for an Eclectic or anyone else who is not of this religion, to truly grasp the meanings and practices of this religion, because if you believe in many Gods, how can you also only believe in one Bondye? Pagan witches seek to know and build relationships directly with their Gods and Goddesses, where the Bondye is unknowable, and doesn’t get involved with our day-to-day rif-raf. Can you imagine erecting an altar to honor the Loa, having all the appropriate statuary and offerings on there and then placing a statue of Pan up there with them? How pissed off would the spirits be? 

And that brings me to the conversation, where someone commented under the photo asking if it would be appropriate to erect a similar altar to the loa but incorporating a few pagan touches. The answer was a resounding NO. 

When it comes to Wiccans and Eclecticism, there is some argument about who is Wiccan and who isn’t (here we go again!).

The argument is typically over the existing lineaged Wiccan traditions, such as Gardnerian, and newer “eclectic” traditions. The argument goes something like,  only those lineaged covens are permitted to call themselves Wiccan, and that anyone who claims to be eclectic is, by definition, not Wiccan but Neowiccan (labels, labels labels!!!). But lineaged is often used to describe more or less who initiated you and who initiated the person who initiated you and so on.  While lineage is not of importance to some traditions, in those that count it, you can bet your bottom dollar you will find a whole lot of “Uppity-ness” over your eclectic practices if you are also calling yourself Wiccan while doing it. Lineage is more often than not however primarily found in the traditional groups and not so much in Neowiccan or other pagan paths, but you still might want to be a smidge pickier about what practices you take from what traditions… Wiccan or otherwise. 

There is no easy answer to this debacle of eclecticism….and it is a bit of a debacle, at least until there is more tolerance for it. On one hand, your spiritual path is just that–yours. On the other hand, some religions have a real issue with parts of their beliefs and practices being picked apart and used in conjunction with others. Is there ever going to be a happy medium? A meeting of the minds? Probably not. 

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Witchcraft and Modern Medicine: There’s Not Much Taboo In Hoodoo

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For some of you who have followed me for the past few years on The Pagan Circle, you know I have a very sick child at home. He has a chronic illness, Ulceritave Colitis, which is a form of IBS or Irratable Bowl Syndrome, except his condition seems to be unique in its severity. He has bouts of severe diarrhea, vomiting and bleeds out, dehydrates and weakens quickly, rapidly loses weight and his immune system is completely shot, so he cannot be around those who have something as mild as the common cold. What this translates to is that we spend a LOT of time in the hospital, getting monthly treatments for his condition, blood transfusions, and working to bring all of his levels up including his iron, protein, calcium, etc.  Ulcerative Colitis also historically causes Colon Cancer.

The reason I’ve chosen this blog topic is simple: Many of us live naturally, take herbal supplements and use home remedies when we are sick. Some don’t vaccinate their children (and in some states in the US, no one can tell you you have to). But where does the line get drawn in using those things, turning to Magick and seeking professional medical help? I think it’s important to discuss this, particularly because so many hospitals do NOT acknowledge our religion  (They don’t even acknowledge Wicca, which is a Federally recognized religion) when they ask you if you have a religious preference while they’re doing your intake, and self treatment, particularly where it involves children, could potentially get you in quite a bit of trouble, especially because we live in a day in age where a parents’ right to parent is being slowly stripped away by our governments, by school officials and by medical practitioners. Our beliefs and practices can, and often do get translated by these three groups into medical neglect.

When he first started having issues, many in the Pagan community advised me to have him take this or that, or perform this or that spell or ritual on him. I appreciated the advice, and the kind thoughts and words and prayers have not gone without a tremendous amount of gratitude. But the fact at the time was that I really didn’t know what was the matter with him, and I was scared out of my mind. At the time, tests were being done that could only tell me what he didn’t have, but none of them were successful in telling me what he did have. While I know herbs and their medicinal and magical uses like the back of my hand, I am also a firm believer that unless you know exactly what you are dealing with medically, you run the risk of causing more harm than you do in attempting to do good.

That being said, little progress has been made in my son’s condition and treatment, as far as traditional medicinal practices go, and I am currently seeking a second opinion, as well as outside holistic sources. But at his last hospital stay, I asked his physician about Periwinkle. She looked at me like I had six heads. She knew what the flower was, but admitted to knowing little about its medicinal benefits, (except that nothing is medically proven when it comes to herbs and they may interact negatively with the current medications a patient is taking and, blah, blah, blah… you know, the standard cop-out answer you get from someone who has spent years analyzing cells, dissecting cadavers and memorizing synthetic medications… {Nothing a call to the pharmacist to cross reference like you would with any other medications can’t handle if you ask me}) one of which is the treatment of inflammation in the intestines caused by conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and UC.

Despite the doctor’s hesitation to think outside of the box with herbal remedies (which honestly came as no surprise to me, so few of them are open to it, despite the fact that ancient magical practices and herbal apothecary and alchemy are what paved the way to modern medicinal practices and treatments) I am also from the school of thought that there is nothing this planet cannot provide us, including the flowers, plants and herbs to heal ourselves of various ailments. I believe, whole-heartedly that the use of magical and holistic practices and herbalism in conjunction with modern medicine could very likely heal and even cure everyone of everything one day.

Many medical practitioners today have forgotten that  modern medical practices used to be labeled as witchcraft. The use of “remedies” was looked down upon and discouraged, and even punished. If you were suffering some ailment it was a penance for something you did wrong. The use of minerals and herbs to heal the body was devilry. Even midwives were considered evil because the suffering of a woman in labor was placed upon all women for the punishment of Eve for her part in the “Original Sin.”

Traditional remedies, utilizing medicinal plant and animal products, have been used as treatments for human diseases and and medical conditions for millennia.  In recent years, (as of about 4 years ago to be precise) 60-80% of the word’s population,  mainly from developing countries, depend primarily on traditional medicines , folk remedies and home cures, as well as treatment from witches and other “Supernatural practices”, for their health care needs. In Western societies, complimentary and alternative medicine is gaining and increasing in its acceptance, although alternative medicine has yet to be included in the majority of any given medical school’s curriculum.

While scientific studies have have validated some some traditional remedies  for instance, by confirming the biological activity in plant extracts (the doctor can take that and smoke her pipe with it) the use of complementary and traditional medicines remains contentious among medical practitioners, and despite the scientific proof, there are still a good amount of doubting hold-outs.  **Rolls eyes**

The origins of medicine are closely linked to the supernatural. The primitive view of medicine had more to do with magick than with what is considered medicine today. Witchcraft, or the practice of magick, could be used to inflict illness or to take it away. Hippocrates and later physicians tried to separate medicine from magickal thinking, but the two remained connected until at least the 17th century. I applaud all those practitioners, holistic, witch, alternative medicine and the like, for lobbying hard to bring the two back together.

BUT, whenever using herbal remedies, it is always, always wise to read up on them as much as you possibly can before self prescribing. Honey for example, has SO many benefits, but it should never be given to children under the age of 5 due to the small amounts of salmonella in it. It’s little things like that, that could trip you up and land you in more trouble than you ever intended without doing the research or seeking the advice of a physician. I think what it all boils down to are two things: Common sense and there not  existing such a thing as being too careful, because you can never be too careful, especially when caring for an ill child or elderly loved one.

Secondly, I believe the mind is a powerful thing. It allows us to imagine, create our realities by focusing and shifting our thoughts and turning those thoughts into energy to be sent out and manifested, hense the term “Mind over matter”. The trick is to truly believe it will work, especially when healing yourself or another. My son recently helped me erect an altar to Hekate where at least once a week he sits at it, reflects, meditates and asks her for her guidance and assistance in healing him (and so you all know, he is just 10 years old). He also asks me to do a smudging over him a few times a week before he goes to bed at night. It calms him, and within minutes he is sound asleep. My point is that even if at ten he doesn’t whole-heartedly believe it will heal him, and he hasn’t said whether or not he does, it brings him peace. And sometimes, that peace is all the body needs in order to be able to rest, allow the medications to do its work, and begin to heal itself.

So when using herbal remedies to treat something, keep in mind that there could be interactions and unwanted side effects on your regular medications in conjunction with the use of the herbs. Pregnant women and children should use the most caution. There are in fact, herbal birth controls and that would not be a good thing for a pregnant woman to be taking! When it’s concerning kids, children’s weight and general health should also be considered before using herbal remedies or supplements. As always with children a pediatrician should be consulted first to be sure the right actions are taken for their health, and if herbal remedies and magickal practices can be used in conjunction with their prescribed treatment(s) even better!

Sources for mathematical analysis, medical analysis and research on historical and medical information and reference may be credited to:

http://www.plosone.org/, http://dancingmooncoven.blogspot.com/, http://www.faqs.org/

Photo Credits:

http://artismyhustle.tumblr.com/

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Love Spells……. Be Careful What You Wish For…

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It’s human nature. Every single aspect of it.

Love.

The wanting of it, the blissful days filled with the feeling of being in love, and the heart
break of losing it. For years I detested Valentine’s day just because of it. People rushing to and fro with roses, chocolates, teddy bears. And then we had MySpace and Facebook where our friends would gush over the lovely and thoughtful things their love’s gifted to them on this day, complete with photos posted to their virtual walls.

**GAG!!**

Now that I’ve gotten THAT out of the way, I’ll have you know I’m over it. I dropped my axe for it a long time ago. But it will still never get me to perform or dish out a love spell. Why? Because they’re trouble.

By the way, The FTC requires that I give you my Advertising & Affiliate Disclosure, because I may recommend products I have tried and tested by a company that I am an affiliate for, products I manufacture and sell, or for products I have received in exchange for reviews. Isn’t that neat? And so,  Bewitching New York & Krystal Madison may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website.

Moving along…

When I was learning the Craft, there were no “Innocent Love spells”. Despite how they have been altered, ripped apart, rearranged to suit and delivered in a pretty little “Harm none” package over the past 25 plus years, at their root they are still designed to alter another person’s free will.

…. But I’ll get back to that…..

When I was twenty years old I thought I was in love. I was with this guy on and off for a few years, and when I’d decided  to perform a certain love spell on him to bring him back, I hadn’t taken into consideration the placement of my altar, that spells take time to work, or that I may have been opening Pandora’s box…..

….Oh, what a tangled web we weave!…. Well, at least, I did.

I lit the candle, did everything I was supposed to do, and I did it every night after I came home from work. A few months down the road with no results, not even so much as a phone call, I’d given it up…and besides, I had a new boyfriend 😉 …nothing heals a broken heart faster than someone else to distract you from your woes 😉

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One night (Valentine’s Day, as a matter of fact) I’d come home from work to find that the new boyfriend had a romantic, elaborate dinner waiting for me…complete with the candles from the spell I’d tried casting months earlier…..LIT.

Sure, “Oh, CRAP!” crossed my mind. “What if?” crossed my mind too. Then I thought, “Nah!” and enjoyed the the time with him.

Three days later, the phone rang. It was the ex. Mind you, about eight months had passed since first  lighting the wick of the candle I’d designated for the spell. I sat quietly on the line…in shock and disbelief as he told me that he missed me. That he’d made a mistake. That he wanted us to work things out. That for the past eight months all he has been able to think about was me, that he’d resisted the urge to call but couldn’t take it any more and blah, blah, blah….. sounds like a line of BS, but you’d have to know the guy to understand that something came over him to pick up the phone and do that….eight months after the fact.

I tried my best to be polite, despite the urge to rub my new-found happiness in his face. I was a good girl, I let him down, but I let him down gently. Now he knew I’d moved on, I was happy, and that I wanted him to be happy too.

A week later, he showed up at my job with roses. The phone calls (mostly late at night) continued,  letters and cards pouring out his heart started flooding my mail box (this was way back when before the internet or email existed and people still used mail correspondence 😛 )

Do these chicks look familiar to you??

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Remember what they did to that poor SOB Chris? He was a love-sick zombie… and my ex was no different. It really was becoming a problem.

I had two mentors in my path. The first was my great-aunt in Puerto Rico and the second was Maria ( I wrote a bit about her in my previous blog post). My aunt, when I begged and pleaded for her to help me out of the debacle I brought upon myself laughed, called me an idiot (and I was) and told me to lay in the bed I made. Maria, fortunately, was a bit more sympathetic and helped me. Not because I deserved it, I didn’t. And certainly not because she liked my new boyfriend. She didn’t (even though she didn’t like too many people to begin with), but she REALLY detested the old boyfriend, so I was in luck!

Here’s the thing.

Imagine you are at a diner or restaurant and on the table in front of you is one of those paper place mats with the puzzles and activities on it. One happens to be a connect the dots game. So you get a pen and start connecting the dots, but before you get a chance to finish, your food arrives. You look down at the picture, incomplete, and can see that it would have eventually been a picture of a crab. Doesn’t really look like a crab, it has a smiley face and all, only a couple of legs and maybe one claw, but you’re intelligent enough to know that if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s a duck…but in this case, it’s a crab.

It’s the same with love spells.

You can alter them. You can change the “intent”. You can change the candle color, the wording, the moon phase, add “Blessed Be” or, “An it harm none” to it or whatever you want to do to try and justify that you are doing it for someone else’s greater good, but at the end of the day, it’s still a love spell, and it still holds more doors open for the opportunity for something to go awry. It wasn’t just my own stupidity that brought me to this conclusion. I’ve seen it happen time and time again with others. With clients I’ve had that came to me to bail them out of a relationship they thought was “It” when they were 16 (and now they’re 30, married with kids and the old flame is causing problems in the marriage), I’ve seen it happen with my own students. If you’re hell bent on performing any kind of love spell, consider the responsibility it holds and do it on yourself instead–and even that can be risky.

Let me give you another scenario.

Liz and Tom are 6 months into a committed relationship with each other. Liz decides it would be a fantastic idea to perform a love spell on them both to “Make their love stronger”. Harmless, right? Well, let’s say for the sake of argument that 3 more months down the road, Liz decides that while she loves Tom, maybe they’re rushing into things a bit and she needs some space. Another two weeks go by, and while out with her girlfriends one night, Liz meets this really great guy and decides she wants to see where it goes with him…

Where does this leave Tom? Love sick.

And still thinking about Liz who, while well-intended at the time, cast a love spell on the two of them to make their love stronger. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t still love the guy, maybe she just wants to play the field a bit before she settles with him. Meanwhile, as they say, absence makes the heart grow stronger, poor Tom is sitting around waiting on this girl to come to her senses missing and loving her more.

I mean, the above scenareo could get far more sticky than just that. Tom could walk into a pub and find Liz all cozy with the new chap, and Liz, by virtue of her own carelessness, has just lost the guy who truly loved her from the start. Or Tom could go and sow his wild oats with every skirt that gave him the time of day all in an effort to try and forget Liz. What if they had been married and she had performed this spell, and Tom wasn’t really such a nice guy after all? She just bound herself to someone and to a relationship that are both toxic for her.

You might even be completely single, a free agent of the game of love…however profoundly educated on the topic of love spells you fancy yourself to be,  you can still perform a love spell listing seven qualities you desire in your next girlfriend… get them, however, they may come in seven different women. ( That stampeding you hear in the back ground is the single, gigolo men rushing out the door for the nearest place that sells red candles). Most of today’s witches go by the general rule of if it doesn’t cause harm to someone else, it should be ok to do it. However, you have to realize that I’m talking about all kinds of harm, not just physical harm. Subverting someone’s free will is causing harm. Stealing their property (another man’s wife, another woman’s boyfriend or husband) is harm.

So how do you know what’s a bad love spell? (In my opinion, they all are) but the kind of love spell that is cast to make someone fall in love with you would fall into the bad category…. even the traditional, old-school witch doesn’t like doing them. You’re attempting to subvert their free will to make them love you. Not only is this bad because you’re subverting their free will, but it’s also bad because, if the spell is successful, then it wouldn’t really be love, because the person the spell was cast upon wouldn’t have chosen it….. and for me, if it ain’t real, then I don’t want it.  ..

Sometimes, it might just be better to be patient and let nature take its course…..

Photo & Artwork Credit:

Wonky Barbed Wire Heart With Spider Web And Spider by thedustyraven

https://www.etsy.com/listing/91043800/wonky-barbed-wire-heart-with-spider-web

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Quoth the Raven…”Never-More”… The Magick of Ravens and Crows in Witchcraft

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Aside from my own family members, I was fortunate enough to have had two additional mentors to guide my practices. The second one, whose name was Maria, was the mother of a friend I had made while studying the Mayan temples and rain forests in Guatemala when I was 19. I was there for only a month or so, and I fell in love with the people, the history, the nature and the culture…. and especially the food….. ( I didn’t particularly enjoy having to shake out shoes, bedding, towels and clothing for black widows each day, but that’s another story for another time 😉  ).

But Maria welcomed me when I came back into the states. I remember the day clearly as though it were yesterday. Fresh off a plane and jet lagged, the cab pulled up to a small cottage on a back road three towns over from my own parents’ house. The town itself was named for the Mahopac Indians, which I found rather ironic once I learned this, but thought it was even more ironic that a “Powerful witch” lived in this town, (and so close to where I’d grown up) on a secluded dirt road in a cottage that could best be described as the one from Hanzel and Gretel (minus all the candy). A variety of wild, colorful late summer blooms lined the path to the large, oak front door,  and the chimney was billowing smoke. It was early fall, and while in the day it was still warm and beautiful, the sunset brought with it the chill of the approaching season.

At the time, I think I was too tired to fully appreciate my surroundings, or make note of the wind chimes that hung at each and every window, particularly the ones made of bone, or that the flowers lining the walk way had actually been herbs. My initial plan was to go home and sleep for two days, but Maria had given explicit directions to go straight from the air port to her house. Knowing her now, I know it was her way of judging just how serious I was about my path. Physical fatigue and mental exhaustion was no match for determination and dire commitment as far as she was concerned. I didn’t want to miss this opportunity that I knew would not be there if I’d passed it up for two days of sleep, So I went.

The entire way there I’d wondered who this woman was that my friend called “Mother”. She must have been amazing. I pictured her in my mind’s eye as some kind of magnificent Goddess, dressed in black with long, flowing black hair, her wrists and fingers covered in gold. But when the door opened, An older, but beautiful and very well-kept woman with short, bottle-dyed auburn hair and glasses greeted me.

She wasn’t warm or terribly friendly. She didn’t ask to make sure I was who I said I was, nor did she ask me about my flight. She simply said, “Come in.”

My flight instincts kicked in but my curiosity got the best of me (I am, after all a Sagittarius) and I followed her inside. I was confused, really. She looked nothing like I’d imagined, heck, she didn’t even look like a witch! She wore Chanel No. 5 Perfume and some sort of purple velvet designer label jump-suit….. even her glasses were designer!  Her makeup was flawless and her nails were perfectly manicured. Had she opened the door wearing cross bones, I might not have been so perplexed.

I followed her down a short hall and into the living room, rolling my suit case behind me and clutching a couple of books I’d purchased in the “New Age” section of the local book store before I left the country. We entered the first room to the left from the hallway, which was the living room. Her furniture was beautiful and floral. Her walls were covered in book shelves packed with books that had writing and symbols on the spine I didn’t recognize, small statuary and tribal masks. Then I saw the fire place, with a human skull resting atop the mantle. I stopped short and my eyes locked onto it.

“Is that thing real?” I asked. I probably sounded horrified, and maybe I was…a little. But I distinctly remember feeling shock and amazement at the same time, followed by the thought that maybe this was her previous student. The skull was old, and it had carvings, tiles and gems embedded at the top of it. I sat for a moment quietly watching it watching me watching it, until she broke the awkward silence with, “So, you are a witch?” while looking over at the books I held. I nodded. I just couldn’t speak. I was still busy staring at the skull. Who the hell has one of those in their home???

Then what she said next, broke my dazed concentration. “No, you’re NOT!” She sounded accusatory. I looked at her confused, but a bit too scared to challenge her. I didn’t know why, so few people actually make me nervous.

“I’m not?” I finally asked.

She shook her head. “Prove it to me.”

I was really confused now, and thought to myself that maybe I should have followed my first instinct to run. All the thoughts in my head turned into a jumbled mess as I scrambled to figure out just how I was supposed to prove this, when finally, I looked at her, pointed to the skull on the mantle and said, “Your friend there, he was a medicine man.”

Her eyes grew wide and her mouth dropped open a little. Then she gained her composure, put her hands on her hips and said, “How do you know that?”

I shrugged my shoulders, looked at the skull and said, “Because he told me. He also told me you call him ‘Max’ “. I looked back at her and her mouth was open again.

She pointed at my books and said, “Those, throw them into the fire, right now!”

She was serious, and I didn’t dare challenge her. I’d decided upon that very request that I didn’t like this woman (mostly because Sagittarians don’t like being told what to do) but that I would go ahead and toss them into her fire (I could always pick up other copies later on).

I walked up to the fire place, held out the books and hesitated. Then, one by one, I tossed them into the flames.

I was startled by the sudden and loud “Cras! Cras!” sound of something at my side. I jumped away and looked over, and beneath one of the book shelves was a large iron cage and in it, the biggest black bird I’d ever seen in my life. It was a raven.

…..and then she said from behind me… “Now, you are a witch. Let’s get to work.”

I’d cast away my dislike for the woman right then and there and knew with certainty that not only was she the real deal, but she was classy and she was bad-ass.

I also had my first few crash-course lessons in witchcraft: The first, is that not all witches are tree-hugging hippies, some of them wear designer labels, eye liner and Chanel No. 5. The second, books meant absolutely nothing without practical, hands-on experience, thirdly, witches don’t often choose their familiars, their familiars choose them, and lastly, you haven’t known magick until you’ve looked into the hollow eyes of a human skull or the knowing darkness in the eyes of a Raven. At best, your own mortality is set firmly in your mind.

Maria’s father was an archaeologist, who brought his daughters with him on his travels. The girls passed their time while he worked by learning the culture and magick from varying tribes. By day, she was a dog groomer, running her own successful business in a high-end town. In secret, she was probably to this very day one of the most powerful practitioners I have ever met (aside from my first mentor, and great-aunt). How she came upon the raven, I’ll never know, except that he had chosen her and that one of his wings were so damaged that he would never fly again, and this was how she’d “found” him. But what she taught me about these birds, as well as crows, has never escaped my mind.

Firstly, the Raven is not the crow. Although they come from the same Corvinus family, these are two different birds, who each bring about their own meanings and lore.

  

Native Americans had great respect for this bird.

Black, to Native Americans, is a color of magickal power, and only to be feared if misused. Ravens symbolize the void – the mystery of that which is not yet formed. Ravens are also symbolic of the Black Hole in Space, which draws in all energy toward itself and releases it in new forms. The iridescent blue and green that can be seen in the glossy black feathers of the raven represents the constant change of forms and shapes that emerge from the vast blackness of the void. In Native American and many other tribal traditions, the Raven is the guardian of both ceremonial magick and healing circles and is also the patron of smoke signals. Of course, the context of the bird’s meaning can change significantly from culture to culture, how the bird appears to you (through visions or dreams) and what is presently transpiring in your life when the Raven makes its appearance to you in person. Ravens are also thought to be the guardians of graveyards and of the dead. Both crows and ravens have appeared in a number of different mythologies throughout the ages. In some cases these black-feathered birds are considered an omen of bad tidings, such as in Welsh folklore, the raven is an omen of death. If the raven makes a choking sound, it is a portent of the death rattle. A crying raven on a church steeple will “overlook” the next house where death will occur. A raven could smell death and would hover over the area where the next victim dwelt, including animals.but in other cultures and traditions they represent a message from the Gods or from Death or the Spirit World itself. Several southwestern tribes heralded the Raven as the bringer of light that escaped from the darkness of the cosmos. Thus, they associate this bird with creation because it brought light where there
was none. Other tribes looked upon this bird as a trickster or even a shape-shifter because of its high intelligence and ability to adapt to different situations.

Even today Native Americans say they are good signs and counter the effects of bad spirits, such as the owl. They are a sign that danger has passed and will bring good luck.

To invoke the Raven as a bird of prophecy, you can use the old English rhyme used to interpret omens by the number of ravens, crows, or rooks seen in a flock:

One for bad news,

Two for mirth.

Three is a wedding,

Four is a birth.

Five is for riches,

Six is a thief.

Seven, a journey,

Eight is for grief.

Nine is a secret,

Ten is for sorrow.

Eleven is for love,

Twelve – joy for tomorrow.

In most parts of the world the raven is considered a prophet and a bad omen. The Arabs call it Abu Zajir which means “Father of Omens.” In Ireland it was once domesticated for use in divination practices and the term “Raven’s Knowledge” was applied to the human gift of second sight.

The raven is a symbol for solitude and an attribute of several saints whom ravens fed in the wilderness, including St. Anthony Abbot, St. Paul the Hermit, and St. Benedict. Now, although the raven itself was considered unclean by many, in the Bible, God sent ravens to feed Elijah the Tishbite by the brook Cherith during a long drought (1 Kings 17:6; Leviticus 11:15; the Book of Deuteronomy 14:14). The raven has long been a symbol of divine providence (Psalm 147:9; Job 38:41). Many Christians remember God’s command to consider the sparrow and the lilies, but the words, “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them,” are seldom brought to mind (Luke 12:24). In the Song of Solomon, the Beloved’s locks are “black as a raven” (Song 5:11).

The raven symbolizes filial gratitude and affection, wisdom, hope, longevity, death, and fertility. In alchemy, it represents change and the advanced soul dying to this world.

Like the larger raven, the symbolic crow is associated with the sun, longevity, beginnings, death, change, bad luck, prophecy, and Christian solitude. It, too, is considered a messenger of the gods. Among ancient Greeks and Romans there were some who considered the crow a bad omen and the raven a good one.

White or albino crows were so prized that fowlers tried to change the color of their baby crows by soaking them in various deadly formulas. Among the Celts, the white crow was the emblem of the heroine, Branwen. Her heroic brother, Bran, was pictured as a raven. In North America, the Kiowas taught that the white crow turned black from eating snake eyes.

The crow is associated with motherly love and spiritual strength. It was believed that fairies turned into crows in order to cause trouble. In heraldry, a crow was used to indicate a dark person such as a Moor or a Saracen. In Egypt, two crows, like two doves, were an emblem of monogamy.

Raven’s element is air, and she is a messenger spirit, which Native American shamans use to project their magic over great distances. Because they fly high toward the heavens, they can take prayers from the people to the heavens and, in turn, bring back messages from the spiritual realm.

In Earth Magick, these birds’ feathers are used in spells, ceremonies and rituals to promote change. They are often used as a catalyst to help focus concentration while carrying out spells and wishes. Since these birds’ element is air, as are their feathers. Depending upon which bird the feather came, as well as its place of discovery is a determining factor in how you would use its feather in magick. About a year ago I was feeling a little blue and missing my father who passed in 2008. I took a drive out to the property where he kept his business, which also happened to be on the property my grandfather lived. I was saddened by the ruins that were once my grandfather’s house. The whole face of the house had collapsed among the trees and other fauna that had grown in and around it, exposing a closet with clothing still hung. I walked to the back of the property where my father spent most of his time. I stood quietly reflecting on the times we had, how much I still loved him, and how terribly I was missing him at that moment. He had always been my protector.

It began to rain, hard. While it was overcast most of the day, I certainly wasn’t expecting the sky to open up. A part of me wanted to believe that it was his way of telling me he missed me too, and just as I was turning to walk back to my car, I noticed a large black feather. It was his gift of continued protection to me, and today that feather is part of my smudging fan. The only other feather that makes up my smudging fan is a giant Hawk feather. You see, a pigeon feather is not as helpful in creating a defense than a feather that came from a bird of prey, or a bird who is seen as opportunistic or connected to the spirit world. Follow my drift? 😉

The raven was Maria’s protector. Between the bird and the skull, she had open access and a revolving door to the spirit world, of which she worked intensely with (this experience was also my first taste in Necromancy). She never asked of the bird what it did not freely give. After all, the bird chose her. And so if she needed one of his feathers, she would patiently wait for him to shed one. I have taken the same consideration into my own practices. I will NOT purchase feathers, because the chances of the bird who gave them paying for them with their life by a horrible, unjust death is very likely. Instead, like Maria, I wait patiently until I happen upon one (in my case, usually several). Last year I had a red-tailed hawk enjoy its fresh kill on my outside altar. It left a few feathers behind when it flew away, (a fair exchange in my book–not to mention profoundly symbolic that the Gods have just blessed and made sacred the space in which I honor and worship them–just as whenever I take something of nature I give something back, as that is the unspoken law of the Earth). Today, I have roughly two hundred feathers from crows, ravens, hawks and other birds in my collection, cruelty free, and you can too, by getting yourself in out there in the great out-doors and looking. All kinds of natural, wondrous gifts abound!

Photo Credit: http://daarnautova.tumblr.com

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Earth Magick: Getting Back To Our Roots

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The ways of true magick are revealed within us, and within nature . . …. I’m not entirely certain why, over time, we have complicated things with elaborate rituals incorporating items and tools that can only be found within New Age and Metaphysical shops. If you recall our history, such places and items weren’t available. During the days of the witch hunts, witches certainly didn’t hand out calling cards to attract those seeking their help and services to them, nor did they advertise in the local paper. Instead, the true witches would pass an acorn to others to make themselves known without being persecuted.

It was these men and women who understood that the secrets of magick were written in meandering streams, in the rushing waters of the river, in drifting clouds, whispered by the cool summer breeze and echoed through caves and rocks and forests, felt within the blades of grass and in the eyes and presence of the animals…..not within mass produced books and expensive paraphernalia.

My shop owner friends are probably going to hate me for this post, and even as a shop owner myself, I am still quite passionate about this subject. The fact is that those of us who walk the path and live our present lives in the ways of the Old are a dying breed.

It is mostly our own fault. Other traditions have made their ways more available to the outside world, where the path of the Traditional Witch has continued to be shrouded in secrecy for the most part. Sure, there are books out there anyone can pick up and learn from, but you will be hard pressed to find them in most of today’s shops which focus on the lighter aspect of magick.

The Old ways is a practice that has typically been handed down from one generation to the next, unless you have been fortunate enough to find an able teacher with a willingness to take you under their wing. We don’t usually advertise our services, instead, we spend our time writing our thoughts, clearing our minds, communing with plants and animals, tending to our gardens, taking in the environment around us and making use of the items nature herself provides for our magickal workings. We’re a rather reclusive bunch, but the ways of the witch… the ways of Old, are not lost to the rest. There is no secret formula, no magic potion. By working in harmony with nature, we can transform ourselves, our lives, and our world.

I was fortunate enough to have come from a mixed bag of magickal nuts. My mother and the women in her family were practitioners. My mother’s father was Native American and my father’s mother was a Hungarian Gypsy **Cringe** ….But I was equally as fortunate to have had two wonderful (and very strict) mentors that guided me throughout my path, one of which forced me to take my books and cast them into the fire. I loathed her for this at first, but looking back in retrospect, I not only understand why she made me do it, but I appreciate it. For you could own a dozen or more books on herbs but never really know them until you have searched for, picked, felt, smelled or tasted them for yourself. Believe me, if you have picked a specimen during a walk in the woods and have spent hours researching it based on description alone, you will remember that plant, as well as its medicinal and magickal uses always.

The more time you spend out in nature, the more you will come to realize that there is a higher intelligence at work—from the “animal spirits” to the Nature Spirits of Element Forces that can both be invoked and evoked, and on to the Earth Energies that can be called into the Witch’s mind and body.

Some would have you believe that Nature or Earth Magick is a class of magick unto itself, residing somewhere between Folk Magic, Practical Magic, and Ceremonial Magick, when the truth is that it was the original way, and for thousands of years, the only way, and while the world of Nature has been a resource for all kinds of magick, it can also be credited (solely in my opinion) to having  given birth to the various traditions we have amassed in present day.

But where does one begin??

herb foraging

By putting down your books and vowing to use them for nothing more than reference.  By growing your own herbs and vegetables and in the spring, making it a daily practice to take time out in nature. Collect one specimen of a plant you are unfamiliar with that has caught your interest (be sure to look up the poison ivy plants first and stay away from those!). Collect natural things you find such as feathers, acorns, pine cones. The latter two were the first items in my herb collection, and today I have literally thousands of dried herbs, petals, buds, leaves, barks and roots both common and rare in a large hutch I have designated exclusively for housing them.

herbs

You will very likely find things you may not expect to stumble upon, such as bones, antlers and skulls from animals long deceased, fur from animals that have shed, as well as old glass medicine and liquor bottles, or a fallen branch that has twisted itself in such a way it tickles your facy. So bringing a large bag or basket, several zip-lock bags and a pair of gloves would be a great idea.

Spending Time Out In Nature

Shamans particularly, understood the desire and importance  to create a unity of being with nature. I can tell you with certainty that there is nothing, and I do mean nothing, that can put your position in this world in better perspective than being out in nature, and being a part of something so grand that you realize you are nothing more than a speck of sand among a vast beach. I take every opportunity I can get to put myself in this position, to be humbled, to allow whatever is burdening me to be taken away with the winds from atop of Acadia mountain  or with the rushing waters of the Housatonic river (shown below) or by feeling the energy that pulsates through a tree. The magick in it all is there and it’s real. This is what those before us understood, and what so many of us today, with knowledge and answers so readily available at our fingertips thanks to modern technology, has failed to grasp and maintain….

acadia

river

Instead we run to the books and Facebook groups and message boards. I cannot tell you how many people come to me and ask me for the answer to a question they could so easily look up or otherwise discover on their own. How are you to learn if someone is always there to answer the questions for you? Sometimes, I can’t decide if we have grown complacent, lazy or truly just don’t know any better because we have become accustomed to having instant gratification without all of the work. I recall when there was no such thing as Google or the internet. I had to go to libraries and seat myself quietly and inconspicuously in a corner to do my research (because “Occult shops”– and that’s what they were called back then–were far and few in between)… we had to grow our own herbs or find them within the wild or search the world over for a shop that sold them–by black and white photocopied mail order pamphlets where the pictures of the herbs were more often than not hand-drawn. Some book stores had a “New Age” section–tucked away somewhere in the very back of the store. The selection was often slim, and you waited to be certain there would be no other customers on line behind you when you made your purchase.

At least once per week, so long as the weather permitted, I would gather my supplies (inclusive of, but not limited to: candles I hand-dipped on my own, as well as holders, incense made from the herbs I gathered, dried and blended by myself as well as the charcoal to burn it with, matches, a libation (I was underage and will freely raise my hand and admit to rummaging through my parent’s liquor cabinet when they weren’t home….sorry mom, but the spirits enjoyed the spirits!, {Now I either purchase it or make my own for such occasions} ) and whatever else I needed for my task at hand. I’d then walk a mile or so into the woods behind my parent’s house, and sometimes would sit there taking in my surroundings for so long, before even performing any ritual or spell, that deer would pass through or the sun would set and nighttime would fall. Today, the mentality for practice seems to be: Google, light a candle, imagine, recite, done.

This practice may work splendidly for the modern-day witch, but by doing so you have robbed yourself of the very connection with the magick that surrounds you, the magick of nature, the magick of the earth, and by extension you have perpetuated a practice, a tradition that it seems so many today seek and simply can’t find because they are running to the search engines to find it, when all the while they need look no further than their own back yards.

Each morning, set aside some time to sit outside or near an open window. Close your eyes and focus on nothing more than the sounds around you, the smells that waft in the breeze and the warmth of the sun on your face. What do you hear? Are there crows calling in the distance? Is a car driving by? Are there tree frogs singing? Do you smell the ice as it melts slowly from your roof top? Do you feel the chilling breeze of winter or the cool breeze of spring? Even if only for a few moments, this is how we begin to connect to the magick around us, and once we have gained a firm grasp on the energies that encircle us each day, and by making use of the natural resources given so freely of nature that we begin to harness its powers.

Working with Herbs

I said earlier that the best way to learn about herbs, flowers and plants and their medicinal as well as magickal uses was by foraging for them yourself. There isn’t much this beautiful earth of ours does not privide, including the plants we need for simple home remedies. An important part of learning Earth magick is by learning how to create naturally healing salves, balms and other non-toxic concoctions for every day living. Below is a super easy recipe to start with for treating poison ivy (You know, just in case you didn’t take my advice about getting familiar with this plant before going gung-ho into the woods 😉 ) :

(Click the photo below)

herbal poison ivy remedy

Earth, or Nature Magick stretch far beyond just the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water (although it’s a good place to start to understand how nature really works). It is the energy that runs through the trees (you can actually feel it when you touch the bark of an old one), the collective memory of stones, in the song of a morning dove, in the dew on a blade of grass. There is no substitute for closing your laptop, stepping outside and embracing nature fully. When you have made a regular practice of this, Nature will provide you with all the magickal tools you will ever need, including the inspiration to write in your own words spells and rituals…… so put the books down, roll up your sleeves and go out side and get your hands good and dirty 😉

Photo Credit: (Top photo) by Anina Salling Photography

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DIY Vintage Apothecary Spice Bottles: http://homemakerchic.com/2012/07/01/diy-vintage-apothecary-spice-bottles/

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