crystals, Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

7 Ways to Set Up a Pet-Proof Altar

Let me preface this by saying that I love my cats. I do. But one of them has an odd obsession with getting into any plant that’s within reach (and several that aren’t), and the other will hurl things and scream if one of us fails to sit on the kitchen floor with him in the morning. I don’t know why this is, but it’s the reality of the situation.

Anyway, as you can probably tell, this makes setting up and maintaining a home altar somewhat… challenging, shall we say. Not only do I not want my altar disturbed, I also don’t want to have to worry about someone eating something they shouldn’t. So, here’s how I keep everyone (and everything) safe:

Train Your Cats to- hahahahahaha

Sorry, couldn’t resist. Couldn’t finish that thought with a straight face, either.

She might be your familiar, but that doesn’t mean she cares about your stuff.

Choose Portable Altar Decor (But a Permanent Space)

In my opinion, part of an altar’s power is in its presence even when it isn’t being used. Some of that is lost when you have to set up and take down your altar every time you need it, but that doesn’t make a portable altar any less beautiful or meaningful.

If you do have to go the portable route, however, I’d recommend keeping a dedicated altar space. Even if you can’t have food offerings out without your dog getting into them, or your cat tries to knock over all of your statuary, you can still have a specific space that’s only used for your temporary altar. Get a nice accent table and cover it with a cloth. Set it with a good-sized crystal or a vase of flowers (if your animal companions will allow for it). Save the other altar tools and decorations for when you’re actually performing a working, but keep that space as a designated altar even when it isn’t in use.

Use a Drawer

One of the best ways I’ve found to avoid my felines’ penchant for destruction is to choose a table with a nice, deep drawer, and set up an altar in that. You can still have a permanent space, and all you have to do is pull the drawer open to get to work.

Remember to close it gently, though — you’ll keep your altar tools and decorations from rattling and knocking around that way.

Use the Floor

If having things knocked over is your primary concern, why not just put them on the floor to begin with? The fact is, having chairs and tables so far from the floor isn’t a universal thing — plenty of cultures around the world use low tables, floor cushions, or nothing at all.

Designate a space for a floor altar. Set it with a small accent rug and your altar supplies. Place a comfy floor pillow in front of it, and you’re golden.

Use the Outdoors

If your interior space is too thoroughly dominated by your four-legged roommates, consider working outside. It’s a bit less convenient if the weather’s bad, but outdoor altars are beautiful, functional, and, if you work closely with your local nature spirits, immensely powerful.

The only tip I’d offer here is to choose altar decorations that are resistant to walking away. Expensive statues might disappear on you, and shiny crystals may prove irresistible to the local bird population. Materials that aren’t durable enough might end up a bit worse for wear after a few rainstorms and a couple of rounds of sun bleaching, too. Largish stones, garden statuary, candles, and — of course — plants are inconspicuous, not likely to disappear, and can handle being outside.

Watch the Center of Gravity

Few things are as nerve-wracking as a tall, lit candle. This is especially true when that candle is in the same room as a cat. If candles are part of your practice, make sure to invest in some good, heavy candle holders. If you can make sure your candles are sufficiently bottom-heavy, they’ll be less likely to tip over easily. For this reason, I also recommend tealights and jar candles over, say, long, fancy tapers.

The same is true of any statuary or other decorations. Avoid choosing items that have a high center of gravity, because they’re much more likely to tip over if, for example, a very zealous boxer puppy wags his tail too close to your altar.

Invest in Some Museum Wax

Museum wax is what helps keep museum displays in place. It comes in several types, from an opaque, gummy material to one more like clear dental wax, and can help things stay stationary if they get bumped. The only caveat here is that it doesn’t work on an altar cloth — museum wax provides a tacky surface between two smooth finishes, so it won’t really help to keep your statues in place on top of fabric.

Know Your Poisons (They May Not Be What You Think)

So, we probably all know not to let our pets get into toxic herbs or houseplants. The ASPCA has a good list of plants that can trigger adverse reactions.

I remember watching a video by a crystal worker a few years ago. In it, they mentioned being guided by their intuition to charge a piece of cinnabar(!) using fire(!!). The reason I mention this is that, sometimes, the list of things we know we should keep away from our pets isn’t as long as it ought to be.

For example, cinnabar is an ore of mercury. Some specimens even have droplets of mercury on or in them. Metallic mercury is, itself, not that toxic — organic mercury compounds are far more dangerous — but inhaling heated mercury vapor is a super bad idea. Honestly, you shouldn’t even really handle cinnabar or wear it next to your skin. If you want to work with it, use gloves, keep it in a glass container, and definitely don’t let your pets touch, lick, or play with it. Definitely definitely don’t heat it up.

Some other gemstones contain toxic materials, like lead, arsenic, or antimony.

Plants and mineral specimens aren’t the only sources of a potential poisoning, either. Some pottery — particularly very old or inexpensive stuff — may not be food safe. This means that its paint or glaze can contain toxic minerals that might leach out if you use it to cook with or eat from. While this isn’t usually a super serious concern for altar tools, it can be if you have a pet who tries to sneak a drink out of your altar’s water vessel or steal your food offerings!

The bottom line is, it’s important to know what goes on your altar. If you have pets, it’s equally important to assume that everything is going to end up on the floor or in someone’s mouth eventually.

life, Neodruidry

Honoring Balance at Mabon

It’s the Autumnal Equinox, and we’re heading into Libra season. All of the articles, posts, books, and assorted other things I’ve read say that this is a time of balance, of honoring one of only two days when day and night are of equal length. For some of us, it’s a time to prepare — to acknowledge that the dark, cold months are coming, and, while we may not like them, their quiet and rest is what gives us the brighter, warmer seasons ahead.

Mabon is also the second harvest. It’s enjoying the fruits of your labors, and gathering the seeds that will yield next year’s bounty.

It’s party time over here, though.

Sometimes, balance doesn’t look like you’d expect. If you’ve been going through a period of darkness or inactivity, balance can look more like a rush. Achieving balance and experiencing balance aren’t always the same thing — what it takes to reach equilibrium is not always what maintains that equilibrium.

That’s my balance right now. I’ve had an incredible, dramatic upswing over the past week or so — physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m physically stronger than I’ve been since I was a teenager, I’ve reconnected with someone who was very important to me as a child. My mental health is stable enough for me to identify areas that need healing, and work to help them. I feel vital, creative, and validated.

All of which are pretty weird things to associate with the day that marks the Earth’s gradual descent into winter darkness, but I’m not going to knock it.

Even my plants don’t seem to have gotten the message. With this uptick in my own energy, it seems like everything else in my home is being swept along with it. My violets are blooming. My nepenthes is packed with tiny new pitchers. The asst. fern $4.99 is apparently a staghorn that is putting out new fronds faster than I can keep up with — including a very formidable set of shield fronds. My parlor palm is outgrowing everything. My calathea has taken over an entire shelf with leaves like salad plates. My cats are shiny, sassy, and extra playful.

(Kiko found a tomato somewhere, and decided this was her New Favorite Toy. I had very mixed feelings about her smacking an entire-ass tomato around my living room most of the evening, but I also didn’t have the heart to take it from her. This is how badly she has me wrapped around her little pink toebeans.)

Today, I’ll make offerings of honey, tea, flowers, and incense. I’ll play music, and let the autumnal sunlight in. I’ll give thanks to all of the things that have contributed to this feeling, this harvest, and I’ll find the seeds and hold them safely for next year.

Blessed Mabon, everybody.
(Unless it’s Ostara where you are, then have a blessed that instead.)

Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Jewelweed Folklore and Magical Properties

Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, is one of the most beautiful parts of watery places out here. Though the plant has bright yellow-orange flowers, they aren’t what give it its name — rather, it’s the curious property of the leaves. Since it grows near water, and excess moisture has a nasty tendency to support the growth of all kinds of pathogens, the leaves repel it. If you take one and drop water on it, it will bead up and glisten like jewels. If you take a leaf and hold it underwater, it looks like it’s covered in pavé-set diamonds.

They have a very clever reproductive strategy, too. Their showy flowers encourage sexual reproduction by attracting hummingbirds and other pollinators. They also have much smaller, more discreet flowers, which don’t open up the way their other blossoms do — they self-pollinate. This gives jewelweed the ability to produce two different sets of seeds: one that costs more energy and has a wider gene pool, and one that’s much cheaper, but lacks genetic diversity.

The seed capsules are pretty cool, too. One of the plant’s other common names is touch-me-not, because of the way it disperses its seeds. Plant jewelweed once, and it’ll keep self-seeding and coming back. After pollination, the seed capsules hang out and wait for something — anything — to touch them. Brush up against one, and the valves on the pods will quickly coil back and fire the seeds in a tiny explosion. (This all sounds perfectly normal, until you picture what it would look like if every pregnant person was also basically a baby confetti cannon.)

Jewelweed Magical Uses and Folklore

These plants are well known to people indigenous to where they grow. Their virtues are largely medicinal, so I didn’t have very much luck finding explicitly-stated magical properties or associations. Peer-reviewed research supports its use for itchy skin conditions, including tinea (the fungus responsible for ringworm, athlete’s foot, and jock itch).

Jewelweed contains compounds that act as antagonists to the urushiol found in poison ivy. Most people are sensitive to urushiol, and end up with a telltale itchy, blistered rash from it. Applying jewelweed sap immediately after coming in contact with poison ivy can help stop the rash in its tracks.

I’m reminded of a rhyming couplet I read once, though I fail to remember where:

Jewelweed, starve ivy’s greed

Touch-me-not, stay ivy’s rot

(I have no idea. If you know the origin, let me know!)

The elemental and planetary associations for jewelweed are pretty much what you’d expect: water and Venus.

The flowers are a bright yellow-orange. Following the elemental correspondences, color attributes, and medicinal uses, I would use jewelweed in workings to bring joy and prevent or alleviate suffering. Water is the element of the emotions. Orange is for joy and positivity. It can keep you from spending a long, miserable time dealing with poison ivy blisters. The leaves repel what they don’t want on them. It makes sense to me!

Orange is also a color of creativity, and I did find a source who talks about using jewelweed in a flower essence to bring the flow of awen into your life. This also makes sense when you think of the plant’s seeds — whether it has pollinators to help it out or not, jewelweed will create new life!

Using Jewelweed

As mentioned above, jewelweed makes a nice flower essence. It also appears to be provisionally edible, but you need to cook it thoroughly to denature its toxic compounds.

Most uses of jewelweed involve either applying the crushed, raw plant to the skin, or adding it to salves, washes, or witch hazel.

Magically, I would dry some of the flowers and add them to sachets or witch’s bottles for creativity, joy, and the prevention of sorrow. Use the seeds in spells to increase the flow of inspiration. Since the plant depends on its flowers for genetic diversity, avoid taking more than a third of them. (Unless you’re in the Pacific Northwest, where it’s considered invasive. In that case, go to town.)

Jewelweed is a really unique plant. Sew it once, and it’ll keep coming back. It has an admirable tenacity, and can be a real friend to anyone who’s ever touched poison ivy on the trail. While traditional magical lore seems to be a bit thin on the ground, it has enough special qualities that it’s easy to extrapolate. Work with jewelweed, and see what it tells you.

Sunset cloud over a calm field.
life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

A Weather Eye

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a Pagan is the fact that my mind and body’s internal cycles don’t really do the whole “seasons” thing.

It isn’t a question of living in a city, or using air conditioning, or things of that nature — the personal rhythms of creation, growth, harvest, and rest are there, just mismatched. Summer is when I’m at my least active, it’s really closer to what should be winter. Heat basically makes me one of those flattened blob people from the old Zoloft commercials.

All of this is to say that I can’t wait for it to be fall. I know pumpkin spice season has apparently officially started, but I’m not even in it for the nutmeg. I can’t wait for cool weather and orange trees. I crave the smell of gently rotting leaves like a lab monkey craves amphetamines. There’s just something in the dirt and the moss and the wind that lights my soul up.

It’s supposed to be below 80°F next Saturday, and I almost don’t know what to do with myself. Should I go looking for the Sykesville monster? Hunt for an outdoor ritual space? Go mushroom spotting? There are so many options. Like a border collie who’s just heard the words, “Want to go for a w-,” I am pawing at the door and wiggling like my life depends on it.

This highlights what I mean, though. Akin to some kind of bizarro-realm iguana, I get more active as things cool off. It throws off my whole jam when it comes to the High Days. I feel like I should be feeling things in spring and summer that my biology doesn’t really get around to until October. Coupled with living in a city, it’s pushed me to find new meanings in holidays and the rhythm of the seasons — not only changing how I celebrate, but pushing things to other days, or even building new celebrations entirely.

Lately, it’s given me a lot to think about the days of the week, and the way each is attributed to a celestial force or deity. Sunday’s the day of the Sun, and best for workings involving success and happiness. Tuesday is Mars’ day, and best for workings for strength, battle, and so forth. It’s something that pops up a lot in various forms of witchcraft, but it’s also something that, in my opinion, it’s okay to dispense with in a lot of cases.

One thing I’ve learned is that, while it’s said that “purely mental magic yields purely mental results,” a solid 80% of it is setting up the right mental space for raising and releasing energy. Herbs, stones, and other materials have their own properties, but much of that can be overshadowed by what they do for you, the worker, on a personal level. (This is where unverified personal gnosis and personal associations come in, and why it’s so important to label them as such — the relationship between you and your materials is deeply subjective, and passing a subjective interpretation off as traditional is confusing, at best, and irresponsible, at worst.)

What all of this means is that, if a specific day, month, or season isn’t drawing the right feeling out of you, listen to yourself. Thursday is supposed to be the day of abundance and increase, but if your payday’s Monday and Thursday is when your bills come due, don’t let a stack of old books tell you how to feel about it. Maybe your prosperity spells will work better for you on a day when you actually feel prosperous. Maybe they’ll work better on a day that traditionally corresponds to them.

I’m old enough now to know that the only thing I can know for certain is that the world is a big, weird place, and it doesn’t like telling anyone the whole story. Old grimoires are the map, but they aren’t the territory. At some point, you have to figure out how to engage with the weird on your — and its — own terms

Here’s to autumn, my dudes.

life, Neodruidry

Lughnasadh, Pandemic Style

Lughnasadh is one of the High Days that falls between the solstice and the equinox. It’s an ancient celebration of the first harvest, but I’m probably not alone in feeling less than enthusiastic about this year. To be honest, I can’t honestly say I “celebrated” it.

The harvest is when you reap what you sow, and we’re reaping a whole lot of bad right now. Unable to get the message, police forces respond to protests against police brutality with increased brutality. Told that we need to wear masks and avoid indoor gatherings to slow the spread of a virus, people vocally rebel by not wearing masks and having rallies indoors. Other countries ostracize the U.S. as if it were a mass of plague rats, and I can’t really blame them. This is what we’ve collectively sown, and what are we harvesting in return?

I made a small offering (some beans I sprouted in a jar), but this Lughnasadh was less about celebration and enjoying the fruits of the first harvest than it was about understanding cause and effect. What we sow, we reap. You can’t meet challenges with brutality and callousness and expect to harvest success.

While I have plenty of growth and cause for celebration in my own life, it pales in comparison to what’s happening outside. Even so, that serves as its own reminder to find joy where we can. Even when the world’s on fire, there are small triumphs worth recognizing. There are still new bean sprouts in the jar.

Thanks for indulging my melancholy today. Promise I’ll be less of a buzzkill tomorrow 🧡

life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

How Antidepressants Made Me Better at Witchcraft

Have you ever seen that meme about psychiatric medication? The one that’s all, “pills are trash, forests are medicine!” (Which, by the way, is a toxic, steaming load of horse puckey.)

It’s not an uncommon attitude in some new age and Pagan-adjacent circles. I could digress into a discussion of the destructive power of the naturalistic fallacy, but it’d take at least eleven posts just to contain it. Instead, I want to point out one thing:

Medication made me way better at everything, including witchcraft and Druidry.

A lot of people express reluctance at trying psychiatric medication, and I can’t blame them. It can take awhile to find the right one, and, after that, to work out the right dose. That’s frustrating, even scary. Some worry that medication will “dope them up,” reduce their creativity, or subdue the traits that make them them. For me, nothing could be further from the truth. Without the constant high-pitched background buzz of anxiety and panic disorder, I’m much freer. I have some side effects, but they’ve been a small price to pay.

I do occasionally feel stabs of resentment that I’m reliant on something “unnatural” — but that’s a me problem. If there were a “natural” equivalent to what I need, believe me, I would have found it. I didn’t, despite years of experimentation. I came close a few times, but there was no herbal remedy for my panic that didn’t also knock me unconscious, make me throw up, or worse.

The fact is, the idea of “perfect” physical or mental health is a construct. It’s not a birthright, it’s not even a natural concept. In Sick Woman Theory, Johanna Hedva explains,

“Sickness” as we speak of it today is a capitalist construct, as is its perceived binary opposite, “wellness.” The “well” person is the person well enough to go to work. The “sick” person is the one who can’t. What is so destructive about conceiving of wellness as the default, as the standard mode of existence, is that it invents illness as temporary. When being sick is an abhorrence to the norm, it allows us to conceive of care and support in the same way.

By contrast, in nature, an organism that is “well” is one that’s able to meet the challenges of its environment. That isn’t a super high bar to clear — it also very often doesn’t look like the human conception of wellness. In reality, few creatures would meet the definition of “well” to which humans aspire. Animals live with parasites. Crows steal lit matches and bow over ant hills, seeking relief from mites when they need to. One crow with an injured beak needed the help of his mate to eat, and she gave it. We find deer that have lived for years with teeth or bullets embedded in them, muscle and bone growing gnarls over what biology apparently considered an impolite intrusion. We find creatures that have existed, eaten, and fucked for a lifetime, tumors and abscesses locked away behind walls of thickened bone. As salmon amply demonstrate, as long as you can survive to adulthood and pass on your genes, nature doesn’t much care what state you’re in. If you end up truly unwell, you don’t survive. If you’re surviving, even if it takes an anthill, a patchwork of scars, or an understanding mate to keep you there, you’re doing well.

“Perfect wellness” is not a natural standard, and the kind of health sold by the wellness industry is not only unnatural, it is deeply damaging.

Natural perfect health is rare enough to be nearly mythical, because there is no real binary opposite to sickness. Everyone will experience a significant amount of pain and disability at some point in their life. Some are fortunate enough not to experience that until they are very old. For others, that point just comes earlier and lasts a bit longer.

We are pushed to consider caring for ourselves as temporary, which perpetuates the myth of being “well” as a default, natural state. As long as the aspirational standard of natural perfect health exists, we’ll keep working ourselves to death trying to reach it. So, the idea that you must be naturally, perfectly clear-headed in order to commune with the Divine or perform magic? It’s kind of crap.

It’s an idea that’s also used to delegitimize practices that use entheogens — practices where altered mental states are valuable, if not necessary. It derides rituals that use substances in favor of quiet, whitewashed sensibilities.

In my case, it’s just a lot easier for me to get things done when my brain isn’t dysfunctionally revved up on a constant stream of high-test adrenaline, neurons struggling to swap about four serotonin molecules between them. It doesn’t matter if the “things” I’m trying to do are dishes or divination.

It’s not wrong to prefer natural tools in ritual, but the standards that apply to a wand or an herb don’t work when you try to apply them to the self. Medication — the help that gets us closer to the functional, animalistic concept of “wellness” — isn’t an enemy or a detraction from spiritual experiences.

If you’re hanging in there, even if you need medication to keep you here, you’re doing well. Nature and the divine won’t reject you for that.

life, Neodruidry

Water you mean?

I’m not really big into dream dictionaries. Symbolism is so subjective, it’s hard to really get usable information from a guide compiled for nobody in particular. That said, if you have recurring images you can’t really get a bead on, you could probably do worse than looking them up.

All of this is to say that I’ve been dutifully making note of my dreams, and have come to the realization that, holy crap, fully 99% of them are water-based.

The funny thing is, I used to live on an island. Going to the beach was a regular thing. When things got too intense at home, I’d sometimes hop on my bike and ride for hours — often ending up at one beach or another. I never dreamed of water then.

I don’t mean that I dream of drowning (because then I’d be signing up for a sleep study to make sure I don’t have apnea). I mean that I’m almost always either navigating around, traveling on, adjacent to, or in the ocean. The character of the water varies — sometimes it’s eerily, glassily smooth. Others, it’s pouring in and threatening to tear down everything in its path. In either case, I never actually feel threatened by it. I might have to work around the threat of an imminent flood, but, no matter how dangerous the waves may seem, they never cross into nightmare territory.

(If I have nightmares, they’re usually about crossing suspension bridges or trying to keep out zombie hordes using doors that are inexplicably too small and keep falling off the hinges, but that’s another story.)

Dream Moods mentions the usual stuff about ocean symbolism, it’s tied to the state of your emotions, rough seas mean turmoil, yada yada yada. (They do have one oddly specific bit about kissing the ocean floor, though.) Looking up “sea” yields pretty much the same.

I know water is emotion, but I haven’t really identified anything in particular that it might be referring to. The roughness of the sea doesn’t correspond to anything, it’s seemingly random. One resource offered up a bunch of prophetic meanings to sea imagery, but, if that’s the case, oh boy do I have a whole lot of very contradictory stuff coming my way. These also don’t “feel” like prophetic dreams that I’ve had. Another resource pretty much describes ocean dreams as a land of contrasts.

I have been considering choosing a patron/matron deity, but I don’t know who and haven’t fully committed to the idea.

Maybe the choice is being made for me.


life, Neodruidry

The Summer Solstice, and Paying the Rent to Manannán mac Lir

This weekend was the Summer Solstice, one of the High Days for Druids and other neo-Pagans. It’s the longest day of the year — the turning point where the daylight hours begin shortening and the world turns slowly, inevitably, into the restful darkness of winter.

This year, I celebrated by myself. There were plenty of Zoom rituals, streams from Stonehenge, and other online celebrations to take part in, but I wanted to keep my ritual for myself. It’s one thing I’ve found very helpful on my path. The High Days have their traditional meanings, but they just feel different depending on where (and who) you are. A California Solstice feels differently from a Maryland one, and neither is quite the same as a New York one! Celebrating by myself lets my experience shape the ritual, and makes it more relevant and meaningful to me.

(I’m also really self-conscious about screwing up the order or forgetting the wording, so it’s easier if I’m not doing it in front of a crowd.)

*Ahem*

The day before the Solstice, I paid rent to Manannán mac Lir. On the Solstice on the Isle of Mann, worshippers go to the highest hill to make offerings to “pay rent” to the first King of the island. Needless to say, I am not on the Isle of Mann and don’t have a high hill, but I make do. With a bowl, fresh water, a few pinches of Celtic sea salt, and yellow flowers (roses, in this case, and a few drops of sweet ylang ylang), I made my offerings and ad libbed a prayer.

To be honest, I ad lib most of my prayers and ritual work. I might post a spell outline here and there, but rituals? I follow the basic ADF structure, but it’s all improv from there. I’m lucky I can remember my own name half of the time, let alone an entire ritual!

The Solstice is a time of brightness, optimism, and joy, coupled with the acknowledgement that the warmth and light of summer must come to an end. It’s the time when the Oak King and Holly King do battle, and the Holly King emerges victorious. It’s been a little tough to see the brightness and joy this year, but the warmth is there nonetheless.

For anyone who’s missed it, I’m still donating all of the proceeds from tarot readings in my Etsy shop to Black Lives Matter. If you’ve already donated to a Black-led organization of your choice, send me a screencap of the confirmation (redact whatever information you need to) and I’ll happily give you a free 3-card reading at no charge.

May we all have peace and justice as the light wanes and the Earth turns toward repose.

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.
life, Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Herbs for Justice, Protection, and Invisibility

If you’re taking part in the June 5th spiritual protest or any other justice-related spellwork, you might be wondering what materials you should reach for. Traditional hoodoo resources are a great source for this — the generations of the Black community’s mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement is made painfully evident when you look at the number of oils, powders, and roots that help with court cases and legal trouble.

If you don’t have access to traditional rootwork resources, though, that’s okay. There are plenty of other plants you can go to, especially if your spiritual and magical path hails from a different part of the world. Since this is somewhat short notice and COVID-19 is still affecting business closures, here are some herbs I thought would be a) effective, and b) easy-to-find, even if you don’t have them already. Some, you might be able to find by the side of the road. Others, you might have in your kitchen already.

Amaranth

Amaranth is used for protection and invisibility — help journalists and protesters avoid violence. It’s an ancient grain, so, if you have a sensitivity to wheat, you may already have some to cook with.

Buckthorn

Buckthorn is useful for protection and legal trouble. Alder-lead buckthorn grows across the U.S., Carolina buckthorn can be found in the east, and California, cascara, and hollyleaf buckthorn grows in the west. Common and glossy buckthorn also occur in the U.S. as invasive species — get your magical ingredients and curb the invasion, all in one shot.

Celandine

Celandine is protective and helps with legal matters. It helps win the good will of a jury, and is used to avoid unjust imprisonment. Lesser celandine is an invasive species in the U.S., especially in the east and northwest, and is sometimes known as “fig buttercup.”

Mugwort

Mugwort is used for protection and healing. It keeps away evil, protecting the target from dark forces. When carried, it helps ensure that loved ones return home safely. Mugwort grows as a weed everywhere but the plains states in the U.S. You can find it on waste ground, roadsides, by train tracks, and in fallow fields.

Oregano

Chances are, you’ve got some of this common spice in your kitchen. Grab a shaker of it, a piece of charcoal, and a fireproof dish, and burn the leaves. As you do this, pray for justice. Your intent will be carried on the smoke.

You can also add oregano to spells for protection — useful for aiding the protesters and oppressed communities.

Rosemary

Rosemary is my favorite protective plant. It’s also an easy-to-find culinary herb — if you don’t have rosemary itself, you might have “poultry seasoning” (which probably has sea salt, garlic, and other protective goodies in it).

Vervain

Vervain is a very powerful sacred herb. It empowers anything it’s added to, and is used for protection, peace, healing, sending negativity back, and more. This is common vervain, not the U.S. native blue vervain, but both are part of Verbena. Blue vervain grows wild in disturbed areas.

Woad

Woad is often used for ancestor work, particularly by those of Celtic extraction. It’s also used for banishing and spiritual protection. As far as I’m aware, the Celtic peoples didn’t really give a flying fornication about ethnicity or bloodline purity or what have you, so, if using it speaks to you, go wild.

Woad isn’t particularly easy to find, but it’s a favorite for battle magic.

Yarrow

Yarrow helps instill courage. You can find it all across the U.S., in gardens, forests, and grasslands alike, growing along roadsides and hiking trails.

This is a very short, basic list based on my own experience and research. (For a more in-depth treatment of war witchcraft, there’s a great article on Zindoki.com.) Most of these herbs are pretty easy to find, you might even be able to harvest some from untended land near your home. Just remember — take no more than 30% of the plant, and always ask permission and leave an offering.

The injustice suffered by some of us, hurt all of us.
Work your magic by the moon. Kick some ass.

divination, life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

The Accidental Journey

When I was little, I loved to sleep. I still do, to be honest.

At least, the adults around me thought it was sleep. I wasn’t really sure what it was. While hypersomnia has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, sleeping was never really just a means to an end.

I didn’t really have any privacy growing up, I didn’t have my own bedroom until I moved out — if I didn’t have to share it with my brother, I had to share it with my mother. You couldn’t even get five minutes in the bathroom without someone either banging on the door or just barging in. But the time and space behind my eyelids was mine.

When I was little, I learned the patterns my brain followed when it started its spiral into sleep. As soon as my thoughts turned into free-association nonsense, I learned to tweak them just enough to influence my dreams. If I timed it just right, I could dream lucidly, or, if nothing else, have dreams that were vividly beautiful and meaningful to me.

Sometimes, I wouldn’t be tired enough to descend into sleep. I experimented with ways to make myself dream — slowing my breathing, blinking my eyes in certain patterns, listening to certain songs, repeating phrases or disembodied snippets of poetry under my breath.

The first “awake dream” I had shocked and confused me as much as it delighted me. It was brighter and more vivid than the most memorable lucid dream I had, and I still retained a sense of the “real” world around me — I had a sense of awareness in two places at once, and gently ignored the walls around me for the impossibly lush, green gateway ahead. Unlike a dream, I could control my body. Unlike a fantasy, I couldn’t control anything else.

I didn’t know hedge riding, shamanism, or path-walking was a thing yet, I was only eight or nine years old. I kept it to myself, knowing that my experiences would either be dismissed as childish make-believe or decried as somehow demonic.

It was a long time before I learned what it was, and how lucky I’d been. I learned that doing this could be useful for more than just me. I’d spent a lot of time journeying as a scared, angry kid, and was fortunate to find things that (for the most part) were helpful at soothing my hurts and teaching me to avoid the destructive patterns I was being taught. It was because I was able to accidentally find my way there that I was able to find my way into a better life.

I know I was extraordinarily lucky, and things could have gone very wrong if I hadn’t been. Waking, sleeping, or journeying, I’m grateful every day for the way they turned out.