Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Magick of Chalk

There are certain fundamental supplies in discreet witchery:  oils, waters, herbs, incenses, candles, salts.  But none is more handy than basic chalk. 

Inexpensive and easy to obtain, chalk is used as a spiritual tool in many cultures.  In Christianity, it is often used for the blessing of the Epiphany.  In Hinduism auspicious designs are drawn on the doorstep at the beginning of the day.  Essential to Hoodoo practitioners, chalk is used in Foot Track magick in which symbols are placed in the path of the spell's intended.  In modern pagan craft, chalk is used much the same way.  Made of calcium sulfate or calcium carbonate, chalk can represent the Earth aspect of most basic spells. When casting a small circle, chalk can be used as the circle's physical manifestation.  For blessings and protection spells, it can be used to mark corresponding symbols on most surfaces with little fear to damaging property.

A box of basic white classroom chalk is all that is really needed in discreet witchery.  For large-scale blessings (say...you entire driveway) children's sidewalk chalk is better.  The sidewalk chalk is softer and the colors bolder. In a pinch, the sidewalk chalk can be used to write on skin for body blessings or protection spells, but it will rub off easily on clothing.

Bless the chalk as you would any of your magickal tools, preferably with smoke.  Charge it under the full moon for extra *umph* (though be sure to bring it in before the dew settles--wet chalk is a messy thing).  For magick on the go, nothing beats chalk.  It fits handily in purse or pocket and it's uses are only limited by the witch's imagination.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Newsflesh Series



Zombies aren't particularly witchy, but since they seem to be everywhere right now, I thought I'd roll with them for today. 

I just finished reading Blackout, the last book in the Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant (pseudonym of Seanan McGuire of Rosemary and Rue fame).   While it wasn't as good as the first two (Feed and Deadline), it still rocked.  The Newsflesh Trilogy takes place in a future where zombie-ism is something the people have learned to live with, and life goes on.  Lifestyles and laws have changed in the world to accommodate a new reality where anyone who dies will come back as a zombie unless you put a bullet in their head.  Mira Grant does an amazing job creating a feeling of ambivalence/paralyzing fear which grips the people of this world, to the point where even the reader begins to forget the zombies are even in the story.

If you enjoy a good zombie novel (or three), and you know I do, I can totally recommend the Newsflesh Trilogy.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hansel and Gretel



I went to see Hansel and Gretel this weekend.  I'm a movie geek, what can I say.  I'd been hesitant to say anything about it, since it was so obviously not going to paint a flattering picture of witches.  And it didn't.  The best I can say about the movie was that it was a mildly entertaining piece of anti-witch propaganda.

Still, without giving anything away I will say that it wasn't as offensive to witches as I expected.  It was more of a good witch vs. bad witch thingee.  The movie itself?  Meh.  The fight scenes were cool (and who doesn't like watching Famke Janssen get the schisnit beat out of her?).  The dialogue was laugh-out-loud funny on occasion.  Jeremy Renner is a dreamboat.  Still, it wasn't art.
Fortunately the theater served alcohol.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fun With Incense


My family is fairly supportive of my beliefs and practices...except for the incense.  They don't mind if they come home to the lingering fragrance of sandalwood burned hours and hours ago, but gods forbid they should walk in the door while a stick or cone is being burned.  I love the scent of incense, but I will admit that some brands are stronger than others.  I have a drawer full of incense wands which I cannot burn inside--they are that overwhelming. 
The other day a Girl Scout and her mother came to my door to sell cookies (yes, it's that time of year again) and commented on how nice my front porch smelled.  Weeks before, I had placed a few sticks of a really strong incense in a pot of sand to burn later and forgotten about them.  When burned, this particular incense tends to be unbearably strong (hence its being relegated to the out-of-doors), but just sitting there in a pot, it was perfect.
And so inspiration strikes.  Instead of the overpriced bamboo sticks in oil room fresheners I'm seeing everywhere, why not place a few sticks of your favorite incense in a charming jar or vase?  My home now has the gentle scent of incense I love, without the eyeburning smokiness my family hates.  And because it has become part of the decor, I'm always aware of my incense inventory. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Discreet Altar

An altar, like all other aspects of the Craft, should be a personal thing.  It is the external representation of an internal mystery.  It can be as ornate or as discreet as you want it to be.  An altar isn't wholly necessary to be pagan, but since visualization is everything in spellwork, a good altar really sets the mood and helps us to focus when doing spellwork.  And honestly, what pagan doesn't like to accessorize?

As a discreet pagan, I've always believed that best hiding places are in plain sight.  So many of the accessories we surround ourselves with as pagans have mundane and/or decorative uses.  Brooms are found in every home.  Wreathes, decorated with ribbons and flair, routinely hang on our walls and doors.  My favorite cauldron is our trusted cast-iron Dutch oven (I have a smaller, more discreet one for burning offerings, but that mostly only comes out around Samhain).  Incense is a personal fragrance preference.  Candles look good anywhere.  Crystal balls, prisms, statuary can all be part of the decor.  Jewelry is jewelry.  People see what they want to see.

My own altars, when I use them, tend to be very discreet.  Even so, they all contain something representing Earth, Fire, Water and Air.  Sometimes it's as simple as a stick of incense (air and fire) in a bowl of wet sand (earth and water).  Sometimes, like during the holidays, I can go all out, since a certain amount of creative license is expected in holiday decor.  I save my formal altar for special occasions.  It consists of a statue of the Mother, a small tealight in a color appropriate for the work I'm doing, a large piece of quartz crystal (my all-purpose stone in magick), a stick of incense (my go-to is sandalwood), a chalice of water or wine and an athame.  My chalice is the lone surviving goblet from my wedding crystal.  My athame is a really cool letter opener I found at Pottery Barn many years ago.  All of this is placed on a lovely silk scarf I found in a resale shop and wear often.

The formal altar gets put away when not in use, not because I am ashamed of it, but because my personal beliefs are my own.  I would sooner go skyclad at the mall than wave my religion around like a banner.   And frankly, I really don't want to risk that last crystal goblet.

Blessed be.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Wishing Tree


 

Yesterday I was reminded of one of my favorite childhood memories.  Near my grandmother's home, next to the school bus stop for her neighborhood, was an old fruit tree (I think it was a pear) which had a hollow in it the perfect size and shape for a child to place things in. 
I had just gone to live with my grandmother, and was feeling alone and frightened by the prospect of going to a new school.  As I walked up to the bus stop, I noticed the tree hollow and saw something inside catch the light.  When I looked in I found a treasure of marbles, ribbons, old holiday ornaments and pennies.  And notes.  Small scraps of paper with carefully written notes.  The one which I read asked for "Bethie to stop taking my stuff."  I quickly realized, the way children often do, that this was a special tree, and that I shouldn't read other peoples' wishes.  But the next day, and the weeks and months that followed, I put my own offerings and wishes into that hollow.  Some came true, some didn't.  But knowing that such a thing existed made the sudden change my life had taken a little less scary.  So if you see an unoccupied tree hollow, make an offering and make a wish.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pagan Diversity



This morning I read an article on restoring the ancient religions of Europe, the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia to their original glory, "suitably updated by what we have learned in the last two thousand years," of course.  The gist of the blog was the creation of one, unified Pagan church, or "big-tent Paganism."  Thing is, while modern Pagan beliefs mirror ancient religions, our practices are diverse.  I lean towards Goddess worship.  Others may be Hellenic, Celtic, Ancestral, Eclectic...the list can be as long as you want it.  Modern Pagans are seekers, and we each find our own path.  The idea of creating one unified, powerful Pagan religion is wishful thinking at best, narcissistic at worst.  Exactly whose big tent should we unify under?  Which of us should compromise our beliefs to better fit in with this new uber-Paganism?  How would this make us any different from the religions we grew up with?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Viola Hederecea


Viola hederacea
The front and back porches in my house have a wintery case of the humdrums.  With the Yule greenery gone and my potted plants finished with their show, my front door feels unwelcoming. 
We had a brief spell of spring-like weather last week, so I decided to head out to my local nursery to see what coolness they had going on.  I really wanted violas for the porches, both for their magickal properties and their cheerful loveliness.  Either violets or pansies would do, but the violas offered at the nursery looked leggy to me, so I ended up buying a flat of Australian Violets (viola hederacea).
Now, with window box and pots scattered about laden with these charming, tiny purple and white flowers I can begin a cleansing of the porches.  On the next sunny day, I will remove everything from each porch (no small task--I'll definitely be earning my glass of wine).  Then I get to hose everything off, letting the running water act as a spiritual and physical cleanser.  Once everything is cleansed, (and cleaned) I get to put the furniture and potted violets back and start blessing away.
Thing is, with over 400 species of flower in the violet family, the magickal correspondences are open to a fairly broad interpretation.  Normally violets represent tranquility and peace, dedication and loyalty, and protection from evil.  The Australian violet has a little extra *umph* though.  Unlike sweet violets and pansies, all parts of this plant are considered poisonous.  To me this gives the Australian violet a little more spiritual street cred which I will incorporate into any protection spells I weave around the front and back doors. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

36 Second Ritual


 
I'll admit it, I love my coffee in the mornings.  The hotter the better.  In fact, I like my hot coffee so much that I will heat my creamer (or soymilk or whatever) in the microwave before I add the coffee just to get it hot enough.  Thirty-six seconds seems to be my number.
In the past I've used this time.  Thirty-six seconds of lovin' on the dogs.  Thirty-six seconds of general tidying.  Thirty-six seconds of prepping lunches for kids.  It is amazing what can be accomplished in thirty-six seconds.
This morning, as I looked around at the wreckage that is my kitchen after a Baconalia fest the menfolk held, I decided that thirty-six seconds of centering was needed.  I set up a candle (a scented tealight I had on hand), prepped my coffee cup (my favorite one with the Three Blind Mice on it), and programmed the microwave.  Thirty-six seconds of visualizing a bubble of energy and strength I was going to need to deal with the nightmare that my kitchen had become.
The microwave beeped, I gave thanks and blew out the candle, and then went on to enjoy my coffee on the back porch where I wouldn't have to look at the kitchen or smell the old bacon smell emanating from it.  No way am I using that little bubble of peace I'd formed to clean up after those pigs.  As soon as they're up I'm using the strength I prayed for, all thirty-six seconds of it, to crack the whip. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dream a Little Dream

 
Last night (and this morning) I had really nutty dreams.  Seriously.  They were all over the place, and some of them were so vivid I really want to call certain friends and family members to either see if they are well, or congratulate them on their cool new flying elephants.
On one level, I truly believe that dreams are the Universe's way of sending us little messages.  On another level, I believe that dreams are the brain's way of sifting through all of the information stored during waking hours.
What are dreams?  One researcher asks "Why would Mother Nature highly activate your brain, paralyze your body, sexually activate you and force you to watch these things we call dreams? Why? Why would Mother Nature do that?"[1]   Excellent question!  For all of the research out there on dreams, the only questions answered are the physical ones.  We know that dreams during R.E.M. sleep tend to be the most vivid.  We know that most people have almost no muscle mass during dreams.  We know that personality often determines how people dream--type A personalities tend to have more disturbing dreams, logical people tend to have more emotional dreams, etc.  Nobel Prizes have been given out for the study of dreams.
As a pagan, I lean toward the more spiritual interpretation of my dreams.  Interpreting your dreams is a good way to get to know what's going on in your head a little better.  I believe in the symbolism common in dreams, for example:  oak trees symbolize longevity and stability, snakes can symbolize a hidden fear or threat in your life.  There are just some archetypes that are universal.  I believe that some dreams are the brain's way of pointing out things I may have missed during the day.  As a pagan, I believe that the Universe is sending me messages.  As a realist though, I believe that sometimes a dream is just a dream, and maybe a reaction to the spicy tacos and glass of wine I had before bed, or the cold medicine I'm taking.

http://www.dreammoods.com/dreamdictionary/
http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/how-to-analyze-your-dreams-and-why-its-important/

 [1] PATRICK MCNAMARA (Boston University).  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/what-are-dreams.html

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bayberry

This weekend, as I walked through my garden to determine what needed to be done before spring planting, I noticed that my wax myrtles were loaded with fruit.  In spite of losing two or three during the drought last year, I still have a lot of wax myrtles and as with every other plant in the garden (oak to citrus) these guys produced like wild this year.

Wax myrtles are known by several names:  Candleberry, Tallow Shrub, Waxberry, and most commonly, Bayberry.  They thrive in coastal gardens as large shrubs, or in my case small, ornamental trees and wildlife loves them.  In colonial times, the discovery of bayberry wax was a welcomed change from the rendered fat commonly used for candles, and because bayberry wax burns with a pleasant, almost smokeless flame, they were preferable to smokey grease lamps.

The downside to making bayberry candles is the effort involved.  The berries themselves are tiny (about 1/8 a centimeter in diameter) and somewhat labor intensive to harvest.  Mostly I just rolled the clusters off of the branches, but there were a lot of clusters on a lot of branches.  Moreover, it takes five to fifteen pounds of bayberries to make one pound of bayberry wax.  I'll be honest here, I may have gotten all of a pound and a half of berries before the shine was off this little adventure.  When all is said and done, I may get enough wax for a tealight, but it will be the most magickal tealight I've ever made for I plan to visualize the heck out of my intent while I am rendering the wax.
Bayberry can be used for spells involving luck, money, healing and stress relief.  In the language of flowers, bayberry signifies instruction.  Since I save most of my spell work for special occasions, I'll keep the candle (or hopefully candles) I make for the next full moon or Imbolc and use them for blessings.
If you're desperate for bayberry candles, but don't have the time or berries to make them, here are some links to buy:
http://www.isabellacatalog.com/p/Hand-Dipped-Bayberry-Tapers-6.cfm?tid=708032027 
http://www.capecandle.com/bayberry-candles.aspx

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Clearing the Clutter

New Year's Day is the perfect time to start clearing the clutter in your life.  This year is especially perfect because it falls during the waning moon (for undoings) and near the beginning of the week (for fresh starts).  Here the de-cluttering starts with Yule decorations and then snowballs into a frenzy of my dear spouse's favorite game "Trash or Treasure."  As something of a packrat, this little game used to be hard for me.  Seriously, there are levels to trash or treasure--that thingee still has most of it's pieces...it's a souvenir from that trip...remember when the kids vomited on it--I'll admit that I sometimes have trouble letting go.  Even worse, I'll want to find a way to recycle the junk, often hanging on to things for years before I finally just throw them away. 
But for some reason, on New Year's Day, it's easier. 
Once the holiday clutter is safely put away (in an organized manner, one would hope), boxes come out and everyone finds old stuff to get rid of.  Clothes, toys, kitchen supplies which never get used, these all go into "The Box."  Every now and then I'll be the voice of reason (are you SURE you want to get rid of Fluffybear?) and maybe I do slow the process a bit, but by the end of the day we can usually clear out two or three boxes of junk somebody else will have use for, and a garbage bag of broken or irreparable things for the curb.  To be honest, the boxes tend to sit by the front door for a week or more before I can lug them out to the donation center, and often some of the treasures in them find their way back into kids' rooms or wherever.  Still, every little bit that does leave us makes the house feel lighter.
Emotional and spiritual clutter is harder to deal with.  We all have our own personal demons, and simply cleaning the house isn't enough to exorcise them.  It is a constant battle, but one which has to start somewhere.  For me it starts with a list.  Just writing things down and seeing them on paper seems to help me get a handle.  When I have some quiet time, I'll light a candle (maybe white for balance, healing and changing attitudes), center myself and meditate on the list.  What caused the problem?  What can I do to fix it?  If nothing, am I strong enough to just let it go?  When I feel I'm done, I light the list and let it burn in a fire-proof dish.  Maybe nothing gets solved here, but taking any action seems to make me feel better, thus unloading some of my emotional burden, but maybe keeping a little until I can find a place for it later.
Bright Blessings
Mrs. Smith