Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pagan Accessibility


I can remember, as a child, being fascinated by all things magical.  The library offered an edited selection of information, mostly on mythical animals and the history of the Salem Witch Trials, but that was it.  My mother, on the other hand, had a personal library of the occult which was, technically, off limits to the kids and as such, impossible to resist.  She kept her books up on the highest shelf of the bookcase, next to impossible for a child to reach without a concerted effort.  She also kept her copy of The Joy of Sex and the Kama Sutra up there, and I'm fairly certain she'd be mortified if she knew that it was the worst kept secret ever.  Ah the '70's.

Months ago I was at a local esoteric shop (shoppe?) purchasing The Way of the HedgeWitch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock.  As the clerk accepted my money, he commented that he could remember when he would have had to wrap the book in paper before it left the store.  This seemed so bizarre to me for such an innocuous topic as hedge witchery, but there you go.  Today information on the occult and paganism can be found very easily, and is not kept hidden like goofy 70's porn.  Bookstores dedicate entire sections to the occult.  Half-Priced Books is a dream for young witches on a budget.  The Internet is inundated with sites offering history, spells, supplies and (ahem) pagan blogs.  Even my local library has a much broader selection than the library of my childhood.  My own collection of occult literature, while admittedly in a more discreet section of my bookshelves, is not hidden like a dirty little secret, and is well within reach of anyone seeking knowledge. 

The downside to this ease in accessibility is that there is very little filter on the information.  Con artists can take advantage of the desperate seeker or the novice practitioner.  The darker aspect of the craft becomes readily available to those not mature enough to deal.  While knowledge is power, there really is no clear path, no Paganism 101, for those new to the Craft to follow (actually, Googling "paganism 101" will get you many, many beginner sites).  The true joy of paganism is that it is, mostly, a self-guided religion, but with the accessibility of pagan information comes a certain responsibility, and common sense.  If a spell sounds too good to be true, or if the ingredients are bizarre, expensive and only available through a particular website, move on.  The truth is there if you search hard enough.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Magical Aspirin

I find I am often asked for herbal cures for problems which are easily treated by over-the-counter remedies.  As much as I do appreciate the desire to go back to nature and live as the Goddess wills, I've been around long enough to respect the potential dangers of letting every day illnesses and injuries get out of hand.  Open wounds go septic, colds become walking pneumonia.  Herbal medicine is a wonderful thing, but it can be dangerous for the novice to self-medicate. 

If you really need to rationalize the use of over-the-counter medicines, technically it all comes from the Earth.  Many of the medications we take for granted today originated as herbal remedies.  Pharmaceutical companies comb rainforests and primitive cultures for the next superdrug.  The Mother provides.  Bayer, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson simply make it more easily accessible.

Today's magical OTC (over-the-counter) remedy is aspirin.  Modern aspirin is a pure form of acetylsalicylic acid, whose use has been tracked back as far as ancient Sumer.  Originally found in the bark of myrtle or willow trees and in the herb meadowsweet, salicylic acid was used to treat aches and pains and as a fever reducer--much as it is today.  In 1826, German chemist Johann Andreas Buchner isolated the bark's active extract salicin.  From there modern aspirin evolved.  Today, aspirin is used to fight arthritis and heart disease, and has been shown to be effective in the prevention of heart attacks, strokes and, in some cases, even cancer. 

When using aspirin magically, we turn to the magical correspondences of the willow tree.   The willow is used in lunar magic, particularly New Moon magic, as well as in love, fertility, protection and obviously, healing.  It is associated with the element of water.  The goddesses Hecate, Artemis, Astarte, Ceridwen and Rhiannon consider the willow sacred.  In folklore, a witch's broom is bound in willow.

So as you take your aspirin, for whatever ails you, remember to give thanks to the Mother, or to the goddess of your choice for the willow tree which created it, and of course, use only as directed.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Warm Bodies


Two houses divided...

OK, I have to admit, having read the book I didn't see the Romeo and Juliet analogy until spouse pointed it out to me.  R the zombie, Julie the human, balcony scene...d'oh!  In my defense, I don't remember the book going there.  Still...

I enjoyed Warm Bodies, I really did.  It got a little slow at times and was a bit of a stretch from the novel, but all in all I would recommend it in a heartbeat.  Zombie chick-flick, gore and romance, how can you go wrong?

Still, the book was better.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Inspiration Cakes

I can always tell when I really don't want to do something.  I'm hit with a sudden, overwhelming urge to bake.  I'd like to tell myself that it's the Universe urging me in a creative, nurturing direction, but the reality most times is that I'm feeling particularly unimaginative and I'm falling back on something I know I do well.  Today is one of those days.

Looking through my supplies, I noticed I have a crapload of brown sugar.  Huh.  Well, I have whipping cream, I have vanilla...Toffee!  And so inspiration strikes.

While I do love sticky pudding, I hate making it--it's work and it involves multiple appliances.  But I had a theory.  I suspected that any cake recipe would taste awesome if you poked many holes in it and soaked it in toffee.  I've got to make breakfast anyway, so why not...


Oh dear Goddess!  You've never had such a decadent breakfast as this!  Make your pancakes as you normally would--a pancake is a pancake is a pancake.  Then pour this yummy goodness on top and prepare to be inspired!

8 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then whisk in the brown sugar until combines.  Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is a deep amber (4-6 minutes).  Carefully add the cream (it will bubble up), vanilla and salt.  Remove the pan from the heat and whisk to combine.  Dowse your pancakes with this amazing concoction while still hot.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Candle Magic and Romance

There truly is something magical about candlelight.  The bright, optimistic flickering of candles on a birthday cake, the warm, welcoming glow of candles during the holidays, and the dark, sexy light of a candlelit bedroom.

St. Valentine's Day is upon us, and since you'll probably be lighting a candle or two anyway, why not add a little candle magic to the mix?  Though frankly, if you light a candle, you're halfway to romance already.

In candle magic there are three important aspects.  First and most important is color.  For romantic intents and purposes candles in red, pink, orange and white are what you want to use.  Red candles represent love, passion, lust and sex.  Pink represent harmony, affection and romance.  Orange candles are for encouragement, attraction and fertility.  White tends to be an all purpose color for candles, but in romance they represent truth and purity. 

The next aspect in candle magic is scent.  Certain scents encourage specific behaviors.  If you are setting the mood for romance, you are looking for the more carnal scents.  Spicy, dessert scents are always a good choice.  You can never go wrong with vanilla.  Floral scents represent femininity  and fertility in candle magic--choose wisely.  Woody scents encourage masculinity.  Be careful though.  It is very easy to overdo it where scents are concerned.  Less is more so try not to use more than one or two scented candles in a small room.

The final aspect in candle magic, as in all magic, is intent.  Know what you're asking for and visualize visualize visualize.   And for Goddess' sake, practice candle safety.  Burn your candles in appropriate holders, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and never leave your candles unsupervised.  Be sure to blow out all candles with a murmur of thanks when done.  If your intent is strong enough, flameless candles will work in a pinch, but you do lose the fire aspect of the spell.

Good luck

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Glamour Basics

This next week we've got Mardi Gras and Valentine's Day coming up.  Fun, food, drink and, well frankly, sex.  Consequently I think I'll let that be my theme for the rest of the week.  Today I'm feeling frumpy, and somewhat disheveled so I want to focus on glamours.

The basis of any good glamour spell is focus and belief.  If you don't believe that you are beautiful, no amount of spellcraft is going to help you.  Start with a ritual cleansing--I usually keep it simple.  While I would love to draw a romantic soaking bath and let Calgon take me away, if I stay in the bathroom too long the kids start banging on the door, thus ruining the mood.  A few candles and a simple salt scrub with an appropriate essential oil blend and base oil in the shower is a good place to start.  For glamours I like sweet orange, cinnamon and vanilla in a base of coconut oil.  It smells a bit like an Orange Dreamcicle--adding a tasty aspect to the spell.  I'll blend a handful of non iodized salt into this and hit the shower.  Focus on sloughing off the old to reveal the new, glowing you as you gently scrub.  I can't stress the gently part enough, especially on the delicate skin of the face and neck.  Once you are done with this, finish your shower as you usually would, say, for a hot date.  Anoint with more of the coconut oil blend, visualizing your beautiful self as you do.

Once you are thusly prepped, choose your best features and focus on bringing them forward.  The spell you write should be focusing on reaffirming your beauty, not creating a mask.  You are beautiful, you are confident, you are amazing.  Keep that knowledge close to you and it will shine through.  This is the glamour.  You don't need to save it for special occasions.  The more you do a glamour spell, the easier and more natural it will seem to you.

Basia mille,

Wednesday, February 6, 2013



Many, many years ago, as a young college student, I had one of the most entertaining Roman History classes I've ever taken.  The professor was a popular one, his class filled up within an hour of registration, and there was never an empty seat.   Sometimes, when the subject matter was particularly juicy (Caligula anyone?) it was standing room only.  It was from this professor that I learned about the month of February's ancient history.

In ancient Rome, the Feast of Lupercalia took place between February 13-15.  Nominally it was a national holiday, celebrating Romulus and Remus (the wolf-raised founders of Rome), but in reality it was a drunken fertility celebration.  According to Plutarch, "many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy."  Alternately, I was taught that it was the ladies who struck the naked young men with untanned goat skins (or "februa") for ensured fertility.  My research shows both versions.  Good times.  Whatever truly happened, Christianity came along, and flailing strips of goatskin have gone the way of the dodo.  Today we have the much less messy hearts and flowers we give as offerings to potential lovers at Valentine's Day, though I think it would be fun to see a pack of young men run through the streets in loin clothes.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Imbolc 2013

For me, no holiday is more full of optimism and hope than Imbolc.  It represents growth and beginnings, and is a reminder that winter won't last forever.  In my home, Imbolc has always been about spring cleaning.  In the house, the last straggling Yule decorations which survived the New Years purge finally get put away (or tossed depending on their condition), the pantry and herb cabinet get cleaned out to make room for the new, and the windows get a thorough cleaning.  It amazes me how much light that alone lets in, giving the house a brighter, cheerier feeling.

In the garden the beds get a thorough thinning.  Roses are pruned to make room for new growth, plants are divided and rearranged.  Even the compost bin gets some attention.  By February 2nd, my winter herbs and flowers have begun sprouting--dill, fennel, nasturtium and poppies are all sprouting in the strangest places, and basil seedlings are popping up everywhere.  By the 3rd, I have starters a-plenty to give away, along with the blessings they represent. 

While it seems a lesser holiday, for farmers, ranchers, gardeners, anyone who relies on the Mother and her seasons, Imbolc is one of the most important.  It is a reaffirmation of life, a reminder that there is work to be done in order to prosper.
Blessed Imbolc to you and yours
The Discreet Witch