Ya Gotta Do What Ya Gotta Do

(Oops!  I thought I scheduled this, and found it still sitting here in “edit post” mode.)

 

Before I start, let’s talk about the Rede.

“Harm None.”

Nice sentiment.

What is frequently not considered is that “harm none” includes yourself.

Taking it a step further, it also means not permitting harm to come to yourself. (And I include harm to loved ones in that.)

Keep in mind, also, that the Rede applies to Wicca and its offshoots.  Not all Witches are Wiccan and not all follow the Rede.

That’s not to say that they are unethical or that they go around cursing people at will. It just means that they aren’t afraid of the dark.

Nor are they afraid to be proactive, or to take matters into their own hands.

Sometimes a situation arises where you need to not be a doormat.

The other night there was an incident with a new neighbor that set off some caution flags.  He didn’t do anything, or even make any threats, but… let’s just say that his application for asshole has been pre-approved.

So, what to do?

He hasn’t done anything, but the potential for trouble is there.

Do I ignore my instincts or take action?

I believe in being proactive.

No, I’m not going to do a spell to get him to move.  (Although people tend to not stay in that rental for long and I am going to hope that the trend continues.)

I will, however, be putting some extra protections on my home and my car.  And I may extend them to the neighbors on either side of me.

Proactive defensive magic.

This can take many different forms.

Probably the most common is to place some sort of wards on your home, especially doors and windows. to keep out negative energy.  I’ll admit, I’ve become a little lax about that lately, as the neighbors on either side of us are good people.

A friend of mine suggested some prickly plants on the porch, so maybe I’ll start a dish garden for cacti.  Once it’s warmer (on a consistent basis!) I think I’m going to do just that.

And I was thinking about growing some rue in a pot on the porch as well.

You can also charge an object to act as a protective device:  a rock, a statue, etc.  I’m going to be on the lookout for a statue (or maybe a wind chime) of a cat to do that with.  (Why a cat?  Because for some reason, “Cat” is a protective totem for me.)

And, of course, there is always the standby of a line of salt.

And binding magic.   I don’t use knot magic a lot but I have used it quite effectively to bind negative energy.

So many options…

I love being a  witch!

Familiars

It’s been a pretty busy week.  I’ve been working, writing, editing, and trying to create space for new members of the household…

Rats.

I was supposed to be getting some last month, taking the last four males from a litter.  The deal fell through, but she offered me first choice of a litter due in mid-March.

Meanwhile, however, I found another offer and called and I will be picking up three little boys this afternoon.

I am so excited!

I love critters of all types, and I’ve missed having a pet.  (The semi-feral cat doesn’t quite count.)

The cage for the rats will be right next to my computer (yeah, that’s gonna be good for productivity…) so we’ll get to know each other pretty well.

But that doesn’t mean that they are going to be acting as my familiars.

A witch’s familiar isn’t just a pet.

It’s not even a pet that you have a close relationship with, although that helps.

A witch’s familiar is a working partner.  It lends energy to rituals and it acts as a defender.

Depending on your belief system, a familiar can be one of many things.

It can be a pet with which you have an especially close bond.

It can be a spirit that has assumed an animal form and comes to assist a witch in his or her workings.

In a more shamanic tradition, it can be a spirit animal, perhaps not even a physical animal at all, and in addition to protecting the worker and aiding in rituals, it can retrieve information and relay it to its partner.

There are also totem animals, power spirits, etc.

Hmm… maybe I’ll do a series on animals in magic.

But, anyhow…

You don’t find a familiar – a familiar finds you.  They come to you when they are needed and they may choose to stay with you or they may leave when they have served their purpose and return if needed again, either in the same form or a different one.

I’ve never worked with a physical familiar, but I have had spirit animals show up, primarily big cats in a protective role.  I didn’t summon them or ask for them, they just showed up – and I was grateful.

Would I like to work with a familiar in a physical form?  I’m not certain. I think I would worry about it too much.

Not that the choice seems to be up to the witch…

Mercury Retrograde February 2014

It started on my birthday (and ends on my mother’s — how’s that for weird?) and it has been miserable this time around.

Usually, a retrograde Mercury doesn’t bother me all that much.  It’s more of a minor annoyance.  But this time…

I have had nothing but trouble with electronic devices.

My cell phone wouldn’t pick up a signal the other day, yet someone else was having no trouble at all.

My computer has been lagging and temperamental.  (Okay, it’s old and cranky but it’s not normally this cranky.)

The computers in at work really hate me.  I’ve been rebooting them seven times a shift or more.

There was some sort of a glitch and a scheduled payment didn’t happen.  (The money was in the account but somehow it just never happened.)

And let’s not talk about transportation issues.

But all that aside, a couple people have asked me about Mercury retrogrades, and at some point in explaining them the following came out:

Mercury retrogrades are not a good time for communication.  Messages are missed, misdirected, and misunderstood.  Communication is disrupted in one way or another.

But retrograde Mercury is a good time to meditate on communication: on how you communicate, on how you fail to communicate (remembering that communication is a two-way street — you not only have to speak, but listen), on what you do and do not say, on what blocks your own personal communication — with others, with the gods, with yourself.

There are always lessons — even from things like a retrograde Mercury.

In fact, the best lessons come from adversity.

And, I just realized that Mercury is the Roman version of Hermes, who is one of my primary deities, and I do believe He has been trying to get my attention.

So if you will all excuse me, I have a couple more days of retrograde to use to use to improve my communication with Him…

Be blessed, and blessed be.

Casting Spells To Help Yourself?

Lately, I’ve seen the question asked if it is all right to cast a spell for yourself, for a new job, money, etc.

Why wouldn’t it be?

As long as you are harming none with your actions, why wouldn’t it be?

You are as valuable as anyone else.

Your needs are as important as anyone else’s.

Not less than.

Not more than.

The same as.

Equal to.

Where does the thought that it might not be all right come from?

I had my own suspicions as to the origin of that thought, but I ran the question past some Pagan friends of mine to see what they said.

Caro, a traditional Witch (not a Wiccan!) believes that it is a “recent” development that grew from Neo-Paganism’s desire to get away from the image that witchcraft is “evil.”   Many modern Pagans are still strongly influenced by Christianity and its moral code and seem to have just replaced the (Christian) God with a Goddess without making a real break.  Scratch the surface of many Pagans, she says, and you’ll find that their Paganism is only skin deep – the concept of divine punishment is replaced by a form of “karma” or the “rule of three.”  Real witchcraft is still frightening to many who claim to be witches and they seek to sanitize and emasculate it.   Adding the gloss of altruism made witchcraft less frightening, both to its practitioners and to those outside of the Craft.

But, I argue, the Bible basically says what I said above.  It says to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Not more than, not less than, but the same as.

Brandon’s response to that is that most of the dogma of the last two thousand years is not based on the Bible, and part of the non-biblical dogma includes a denial of self, not for the greater good of the group, but for the divinity.  Being “selfish” – even in a healthy sense – is seen as “bad.”   In fact, we are still fighting the “evil” of masturbation because it is a “selfish” act.

In addition, he points out, our media and daily culture are all about stories of selflessness, of people risking their own lives for others, of putting others ahead of themselves, of giving “selflessly” to others.

This is reinforced by Becky’s experiences.  As the oldest of three children, she was expected to be the more “responsible” one and help take care of her siblings, take on more chores around the house, etc.

She says that she still doesn’t know how to put herself first, and feels that putting oneself first is looked upon as being selfish by society.  And especially so for women, who are taught to be everything for everyone, whether it be for our children, spouses, other family members, etc.

Thus, casting spells for oneself would be considered selfish by society in general, regardless of any religious overtones.

So, how do we get past this?

Well, for starters, by accepting that we are as worthy as the next person.  There is no need to feel guilty for wanting to better yourself and for using your skills – including magical skills – to do so.  It doesn’t make you a bad person.  Honest!

And by understanding that there is a huge difference between the God of the Christians and the deities worshiped by Pagans.  It’s not easy to cast off a lifetime of indoctrination into guilt and fear, but that is not what our deities are about.

You are worthy, not worthless.

“You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.”

Love Spells 2014

Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again, when a young witch’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of love – and love spells.

Pagan/Wiccan/Witchcraft Facebook groups are being hit with questions almost daily about “How do I make someone fall in love with me?” “Do you know any love spells you can share?” “How can I break up this other couple?”

Now, granted, not all witches follow the Rede, but most have some sort of code of ethics, a knowledge of right and wrong, and believe in some sort of Law of Return, that what you send out comes back to you in at least equal measure.

And interfering with someone’s free will is just plain wrong.  (Well, there is a grey area on that – if someone is hurting someone, yeah, then I’m cool with stopping him or her.  But back to the subject at hand.)

You can’t force someone to fall in love with you.  You can’t force love.

Not real love, anyhow.

Yes, it is possibly to get someone obsessed with you, but what happens when you get bored and want out?  Uh-huh. You’re bored and they’re still obsessed.

Besides, why would you want someone that you had to force to love you?  Being loved freely is much better – you know that they are with you because they want to be, they choose to be. That’s a far better ego rush than “I forced him/her to love me.”

That said, it is possible to do ethical love spells.

How?

A couple ways.

One is by focusing on yourself.  What might you be doing to block yourself from being in that perfect relationship that you want?

Which leads, of course, to the question, “Do you know what you want?”

 

 

 

Spend time thinking about exactly what you want in a life partner, what s/he is like, what things the two of you would do together, do you want someone who is outgoing and always on the go or do you prefer (or need) someone quieter, someone who is content to spend quiet evenings at home together.

(HINT: If the only things you can think about are your potential partner’s looks, then you are not ready to do any sort of love spell.  You’re not even open to real love – go back and re-think your answers to “What might you be doing to block yourself from being in that perfect relationship that you want?”  When you’ve gained some insight and maturity you may continue.)

This doesn’t need done in a day.  In fact, it probably shouldn’t be.  Spend some time on it, say from new moon to full.  You want your list to be as true and complete and in depth as possible.

Once you have the qualities you seek firmly in mind (and preferably written down) there are several ways to proceed.

You can focus on your intent to draw love into your life, charge a pink candle with that intent, and light it.

You can charge a piece of rose quartz and carry it with you.

You can make a poppet – just be careful that you aren’t tying it to any specific person, but to the concept, the ideal that you have been creating.  Then sleep with it under your pillow, carry it with you (if it’s small enough), leave it on your altar, leave it on your dresser in front of the mirror – whatever works for you.

But the most important thing is to put yourself in places where you can meet the person of your dreams.  Staying home and waiting for her or him to come knock on your door is probably not going to yield the best results.

 

 

* * *
Recommended correspondences for love spells include roses/rose petals, rose quartz, and pink candles. (Roses make us think of love, rose quartz promotes self-love (and it is necessary to fully love yourself in order to fully love another) and pink is the blending of the red of passion with the white of purity.)  And, of course, anything that has meaning to you, personally.

 

 

 

 

Happy 53rd

Tomorrow is my birthday – I’ll be 53.  No big deal.

Seriously, it doesn’t bother me.  Neither did 30 or 40 or 50.

A long time ago I used to think that birthdays were magical.  That I would somehow suddenly feel different being a year older.

I never did.

(I also used to think that I would feel different being in another grade at school, but that never happened, either.)

So, in a sense, it will be just another day.  Depending on the weather (ah, the joys of a winter birthday!) my roommate and I will probably go out to eat.

I might do some divination for the year ahead.  If I didn’t have other things to do that day I would maybe get brave and try the full 210 card Tree of Life Tarot spread, but it takes a great deal of uninterrupted time.

At any rate, I’ve been pondering birthdays and birthday traditions.  Not just the blow out the candles on the cake tradition, but the sorts of things that are unique to individual families.

One of ours was that the birthday person got their favorite food for dinner that day.  My grandfather never expressed a preference: my mother’s was always stuffed pork chops. (I can still see my grandfather’s hands as he stood at the counter stuffing them.)

Mine?  Creamed chipped beef on toast.  Yeah, yeah. I know it’s called “shit on a shingle” but I love the stuff.

And there was cake, of course. Again, the choice was left up to the birthday person.  Mine was always chocolate, preferably with chocolate peanut butter frosting.  Mom’s was chocolate.  My grandfather’s was a spice cake.

My most memorable birthday cake was a round layer cake.  My mother frosted it with green coconut frosting, built a fence out of Twizzlers, put a couple plastic horse figurines on it (I was – and still am – a horse lover).  She even put on a few malted milk balls behind the horses for authenticity…

And then there was the unicorn cake I made my mother.  She was working third shift, so I baked it while she was sleeping and put it in the freezer to hide it, and so it would be firm enough to frost.  (She had been taking a cake decorating class which meant that I learned how to do it too.)  After she left for work I started frosting it.  All went well until the directions told me to make the horn from royal frosting.  I had no idea what royal frosting was or how to make it, and I couldn’t find the recipe in her cake books.  (This was pre-internet days.)  I was tired and frustrated and facing a white horse with blue eyes and mane.  It needed a horn.  The horn in the picture was orange in color.  A light dawned.

And a few minutes later the unicorn had a horn.

I cleaned a carrot, shaped it, stuck a toothpick in the big end and stabbed it into the cake.

Ah, creativity!

It’s odd, how memories work.  Most of my Christmas memories center around the tree, and most of my birthday memories center around food.  I

(In fact, the only birthday present that really sticks in my mind was when I turned 16, (and was thus eligible for my learner’s permit for driving):  I was given a set of keys to the family cars.  I suppose I remember it because it was something of a rite of passage.)

Now, we’re more likely to go out for a birthday dinner (the birthday person gets their choice of restaurants) – a new tradition being forged.

As a kitchen witch, however, I find it intriguing that my birthday memories center around food.  I don’t think that anything makes you feel quite as loved and cared for and… special… as having your favorite meal prepared for you.

 

 

Imbolc 2014

Less than a week until Imbolc.

Imbolc is one of my favorite Sabbats although it was one that I had the hardest time understanding when I was starting out.   For some reason I just couldn’t quite grasp what it meant.

Then one year I was working as a temp and was between assignments, when I got a phone call – on Imbolc – about a short-term job, and that was when it clicked.

Imbolc is about beginnings and possibilities and hidden promises.

I am in more or less the same position this year: between jobs.  I have an interview later today for a part-time position that is ideally close to home. (A five-minute commute sure beats a sixty minute commute!)

Imbolc, in my own personal tradition (I should name my own personal tradition one of these days…) is the start of spring.

Sure, it doesn’t look like spring, at least, not here in Western Pennsylvania, but, nonetheless, it is the start of spring.

It is halfway between Midwinter Solstice and Spring Equinox, and the hours of daylight are noticeably longer.

And, in the words of one of my favorite Pagan songs, “The Rolling World”

“All life in the earth begins to unfold
As the waxing light is seen.
Each seedling will sprout into its own self,
To inspire us to be truly free.”

So, what do I do for Imbolc?

I keep an eye on the weather.  (Imbolc is also known as Candlemas.)

“If Candlemas Day be sunny and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain,
Winter has flown and will not come again.”

And I usually swear at the groundhog and listen to my roommate – who hates winter with a passion rarely seen in a sane individual – threaten to sell raffle tickets to see who gets to shoot him first.  (Punxsutawney isn’t that far away from where I live.)

On a more spiritual level, I give thanks for new beginnings and new promises.

I plant seeds. (I’m currently torn between snapdragons, marigolds, tomatoes, or zucchinis.)

And I make rice pudding.

From my Cookbook of Shadows:

Rice Pudding
(Imbolc)

Any symbols of the sun or fertility are appropriate for this Sabbat, as are foods that incorporate milk products. (My favorite Imbolc food is rice pudding, as it incorporates fertility symbols, sun symbols, and lots of milk.) 

1 cup rice, cooked and drained — wash pan and cook these ingredients:

4 cups of milk — symbolizing the milk of the Goddess
1 cup of sugar — for the sweetness of life
2 eggs, beaten — symbolizing both the sun and new life/fertility
1 tblsp cornstarch — to thicken and bind
1 tsp vanilla — because every recipe has vanilla in it

Add rice and cook (over Brigid’s Fire) stirring until it is like custard.

While stirring in a deosil (clockwise) direction, visualize the things you want to draw into your life. This is also a good coven or family activity, as everyone can take turns stirring it.

May the growing light show you the way to yourself.

Spoon-feeding

First, let me apologize for missing last week.  I somehow forgot what day it was until two days later when I was writing a post for my writing blog.

Now…

Excuse me while I rant…

First (or is this second now?) let me say that I don’t mind teaching.  In fact, I love teaching.  I love helping others find their way along the path or learn about energy or whatever.  I even loved it when I would have orientees at work.

(Granted, way back when I was starting out on this path I got dragged into the role of teacher kicking and screaming and objecting that I didn’t know enough to be a teacher.   My most often used line was “I’m a healer, not a teacher” – at least, it was until I was reminded that teaching is a form of healing.)

But, anyhow…  I like teaching.  I should have been one.

But I do not like spoon-feeding people!

And, yes, in the last few days I’ve had more than enough of that to last me a lifetime.

We’re supposed to be the wise ones, the knowing ones.

We’re supposed to take responsibility for ourselves and our paths and our learning. It’s one thing to ask for help with something you don’t understand.  And we were all new to the path once – that’s not the issue.

But asking what “eclectic” means instead of taking less than a minute to Google the word?   Seriously – it took longer for him to type the question and wait for an answer than it would have taken to open a new tab and Google it.

Another goodie was “Who’s Prometheus?”  Seriously?   The picture that started that thread mentioned him being bound and having his liver torn out every day for giving mankind the gift of fire and you couldn’t get some sort of general idea who he is?   Or look it up yourself?

Prometheus

Reading comprehension: it’s a wonderful thing.

So is Google.

Maybe because I came to this path before the days of the internet, when answers took longer to find than typing a couple words into Google, but this is really starting to irritate me.

I’m not saying don’t ask questions.  Asking questions is a great way to learn, and, frankly, no one can teach you if we don’t know what you need to know.

But before you ask, look things up on your own!  For one thing, following Wiki links is a great way to explore and learn about all sorts of things that may intrigue you, perhaps even things that you didn’t know about.  (I can spend hours following links in Wikipedia, sometimes to the point of forgetting what I started out researching.)

Granted, you aren’t going to find the answers to everything online.  Sometimes you need to talk to other people.  And most of us on this path are more than happy to answer questions.

I know I am.

As long as you’ve done at least some work on your own.  (Can’t find the info you want?  I’m happy to refer you to websites or books if I know of any.)

And sometimes you need an answer to things that aren’t quite as quick and easy of a look up – help for anxiety (there are a bazillion or two correspondences for everything), suggestions for spells, different tried and true methods of doing things because sometimes the way you’ve been doing things just isn’t working at the moment and you need something new.

And anything that requires a more objective viewpoint – for instance, it’s really hard to do a clear, non-biased reading for yourself.

Read. Learn.  Then ask questions about things you don’t quite understand:  sometimes you need to hear things put in a different way, and that’s where a teacher comes in.

I am more than willing to help people who want to learn.

But I’m not going to spoon feed you.

Winter Musings 2014

I hear so many people saying that they hate winter, and it makes me a little sad. Winter has a beauty all its own, and so many people seem to be blind to it.

Oh, sure.  I hate brushing snow off of my car, and there are times when driving is hazardous (and so is walking!), and I can do without the subzero wind chill (and the #!^% frozen hot water pipe) but I don’t hate winter.

For one thing, some of the most beautiful scenery comes in winter.

  • A heavy wet snow that clings to the branches and makes the forest look like it’s made of lace
  • An untouched expanse of snow, sparkling in the sunlight as if made of tiny diamonds
  • Big fat fluffy flakes that drift and swirl and make you feel like you’re inside a snow globe

Yes, winter can be deadly:  so can summer.   That’s no reason to hate either season.

I think that one of the reasons that people hate winter is that they have drifted too far from the cycle of the seasons.  (Part of that problem, of course, is modern life. People don’t live as close to nature as they once did.  We now, for the most part, live in more urban areas and few people live within walking distance of where they work.)

What does that have to do with hating winter?    Well, one of the reasons that people don’t like winter is because it’s so hard to get out and about, but that’s the point.

Winter is a time for going within, a time to draw into yourself, to rest, and to restore your soul.  We’re supposed to be less active in the winter.  Nature is resting, preparing for the new growth of spring: we should be doing the same thing.  Our bodies and souls know this.  Even separated from the natural world as we are, part of us senses that now is the time to rest.

But a lot of people aren’t comfortable with that.  Our society pushes “go, go, go, do, do, do” to the point that people don’t know how to be still: people think that they have to be out doing something, even if it’s just window shopping.

And that dichotomy between society’s expectations and the soul’s needs leads to people “hating winter” because they don’t understand the true root of their distress.

Another reason is that less time out in the world also means less time around people.  For an introvert like me, that’s not a problem, but, again, our society seems to be geared toward people not being alone, with the result that people don’t know how to be alone, to the point that unless they are in a relationship with someone they don’t feel like a whole person.

People aren’t comfortable with themselves.  They don’t realize that they need to form a relationship with themselves, so they look outward, to others.  And winter is a time for looking within.

Winter is a dark time, and people are afraid of the dark.  They are afraid to look within.

But the dark isn’t evil, and the truest answers come from within yourself.

So don’t hate winter. Embrace the lessons it offers, and the time that it gives you to learn those lessons.

Oh.   And the best thing about winter?

Hot chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Day 2014

I’ve burned away the things that I don’t want to be a part of my life anymore – I wrote them on small slips of paper and fed them one by one to a candle flame in a small cauldron on my altar.  (Don’t worry – I had a bottle of water open and within reach – the element of Fire and I occasionally have issues.) Part of today will be spent meditating on the things that I want to draw into my life to replace the things I burned away. (Nature abhors a vacuum – if you banish something you need to replace it or it will sneak back.)

I’m also starting some new traditions this year.

One is an idea that I got from Face Book – a gift jar.  Throughout the year, whenever something good happens, write it on a piece of paper and put it in a jar.  Then on December 31 open the jar and read them as a reminder of the good things in your life.

(I have done something similar in the past – when I feel stressed and hounded by negativity I keep a Gift Journal.  It’s just a small notebook in which I write at least one “gift” each day.  It doesn’t have to be something tangible – it can be a beam of sunlight through clouds, something someone says, the caress of a breeze, anything that gives your spirit a boost.  The point is that “energy flows where attention goes” and it’s so easy to only focus on the negatives and not see the positives.  Change focus, change events.  As within, so without.)

I’m also doing a challenge (along with some friends) to spend time every day doing something creative.  For me this means something in addition to writing, which I do just about every day anyhow.  I’m hoping that this challenge will result in some finished cross stitch projects this year.  (And also a start on a Book of Shadows – or at least my CookBook of Shadows…)

Part of that creativity challenge will involve crocheting my way through the stash of yarn in the basement. I’m not sure how we came to have so much of it, but I think that it’s time that it gets turned into afghans and donated to charity: a homeless shelter or domestic violence shelter.

And, of course, there will be my ongoing work of becoming more focused on my spirituality on a daily basis, making it part of my daily life.

May all of you have a year filled with blessings.

So mote it be.