Burning incense.
life, Witchcraft

Rosemary for Remembrance

My family has a long history of military service stretching back on both sides — all the way back to the soldiers in Acadia and beyond. I don’t know the names of my ancestors who died in war, though I’m sure there must have been some. Monday was Memorial Day, so I thought I’d do a Witchcraft Wednesday post on a ritual for memorializing the departed. Even if your Memorial Day plans don’t include rituals or spellwork, or you usually perform your remembrance work around Samhain (when the veil between worlds is thinnest), this is a good, simple working for this time of year.

All you’ll need are:

  • A white (or natural beeswax) candle
  • Rosemary oil (optional)
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • A piece of string or ribbon
  • The names, photos, or even just visualizations of your departed ancestors
  • Other herbs or woods associated with remembering or honoring the dead, like marigold. Oak is symbolic of strength, vitality, and victory, and is often a motif on military headstones.

Begin by anointing the candle with rosemary oil, if you wish. Next, fashion the rosemary into a wreath and tying it with the string or ribbon. If it is large enough, place it around the base of the candle. If not, place it before it. Inhale the sweet green aroma, as rosemary is the herb of remembrance. Let whatever memories or images it conjures up for you flow.

Fresh herbs.

If you have photos or belongings from the deceased, or even just other herbs, leaves, or flowers, arrange them how you wish. There is no right or wrong way.

You can say a few words acknowledging your lost ancestors’ bravery or sacrifice, if you wish. This is a complicated time for many people, and that’s okay. Many people choose military service as a way for them or their families to escape poverty, which is a terrible choice to have to make. Even if you are a pacifist, or are against the wars that they fought, you may wish to acknowledge the courage it took to go into the battle that claimed their lives.

Light the candle.

Say,

“The ones you left behind mourn you, but you are beyond pain and fear. You did not return home, but you are alive in our hearts and minds. Be at peace.”

If your belief system includes reincarnation, now is a good time to visualize your ancestor as they might have been reborn — free and happy, in a healthy, uninjured body. You can add some words to that effect, if you wish.

Allow the candle to burn. Dispose of the ritual remains in a manner appropriate to your tradition.

Though Memorial Day is for honoring the fallen, there are those still living who have sacrificed their well-being. The Wounded Warrior Project has a variety of veteran programs designed to help them move forward with mental and physical wellness, career and VA counseling, and more. If you can, please consider donating.

Neodruidry, life, Witchcraft, divination

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.

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

Walking the Talk

I had a dream the other night. It was about someone I haven’t seen in years, and virtually never dream about. We were close at one point, but time and circumstance eventually decided otherwise.

In this dream, I was faced with a decision: I wanted to try to take on some of a soul debt that they’d incurred, to make things right again. I kept being told that I couldn’t. It wasn’t mine to take, and nothing I did was actually going to “fix” things.

It’s a bad habit I have. I spent a lot of my childhood trying to manage people’s moods, to keep mommy from getting screamy, or my younger siblings from getting in trouble. I’ve always been sensitive to noises as it is, especially a raised voice or the sound of a slap. Even now, as an adult, the thought drives nails into my brain and twists my stomach into hard, acidic snarls. Like Kiko, who immediately searches for the source of the sound any time she hears a video of a kitten meowing, I tie myself in knots to make all of the bad things stop. While “trying to fix things” seems to be helpful on its face, it’s not a good habit to have. The ability to sit with discomfort and know when not to interfere is a skill worth cultivating.

This is all some very roundabout exposition to justify asking one question: Why do we do what we do?

The person in my dream once called themselves a shaman. There’s a lot of stuff tied up in that one word, many even hesitate to use it because it often comes with a heaping side of appropriated cultural practices. It’s one of those words, like “tattoo,” that is a loan word for a widespread thing. In some cultures shamanism was just called “journeying” or “hedge riding” (much as tattooing was called “pricking” or even “embroidering”) so using a distinct loan word from another culture had appeal. For most people curious about communicating with spirits through altered states of consciousness, it isn’t necessary to turn to appropriated cultural teachings. Your elders know the ways.

This person called themselves a shaman in a tradition where they were an outsider. But why?

Was it the appeal of gaining secret knowledge?
Was it an attempt to adopt something new and “exotic,” like a hermit crab coiling into a painted shell?
Or was it a genuine desire to use these skills to help their community?

Unfortunately, it didn’t end well. They lost friends and loved ones. They were pushed away. In the end, they weren’t any better off than when they started, and neither was their community. Whatever it was that they had sought, they didn’t obtain it.

I know another person who called themselves a green Druid witch. They were a powerful witch, too. But working within the framework they chose came with rules, so they found sly ways to work around them. So why adhere to a tradition to begin with?

Was it to position themselves as an expert?
Was it out of genuine belief and respect?
Was it because they thought it would fill a personal need?

In the end, that didn’t work out so well either.

I’ve also known doctors who seemed to practice more “eminence-based medicine” than anything else, so this isn’t restricted to people in the metaphysical/religious/esoteric community. There is no shortage of people with ulterior motives, even if they don’t realize it themselves.

In the pursuit of any knowledge, self-interrogation is important. Do we seek titles? Recognition? The uncovering of hidden talents? A broader set of skills for interacting with the world? Why do you do what you do?

Know yourself. Know your motivation. Self-deception always leads to loss.

 

divination, life, Witchcraft

And then she said my partner used to be my grandma.

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A couple of months ago, I came across an Etsy listing that piqued my curiosity: Couple Past Life Reading.

“Welp,” I thought, “This is going to go some interesting places.”

I don’t usually do past life-type stuff. It isn’t that I don’t think past lives are possible, it’s just not really relevant to how I live my life right now. I have also noticed a — shall we say — type that tends to be kind of way too into the idea. (For some reason, this kind of person also was, without fail, Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, or Morgan le Fay in a past life. You’d be amazed at how much dead royalty’s walking around.) Still, for less than a twenty, I was down to find out what my partner and I were up to a lifetime or so ago.

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This picture came up when I was looking for royalty-free pictures related to past lives. I’m not sure what’s up with these fish, but enjoy.

Now that COVID-19’s made it much tougher for a lot of people to earn a living, I figured it was also a good time to promote an inexpensive way to help someone keep a roof over their head, while getting some entertainment and insight and not having to worry about shipping.

So I sent a few pictures of my partner and myself to Rossana, and sat back to wait. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before she delivered. The report she gave was long and detailed, so I’m just going to hit the high notes:

We lived in the 18th century. He was my mother’s mother, and was afflicted with blindness after sustaining an injury while saving her son from a fall off of a horse. I read books to her and acted as her eyes — which was particularly interesting to me, since my partner drives and does other things I can’t do because of my vision loss.

He, as my grandmother, worked helping runaway teenagers, unwed mothers, and political dissidents. I never married, but I had two daughters and worked as a folk healer using herbs and the laying on of hands. I was also part of a secret society that helped women escape domestic abuse and gave them new lives and identities. My daughters’ father didn’t feature prominently in my life — he fled to Spain and eventually died. I lived a long time, and died at an old age.

Neat stuff, huh? I laughed when I found out that my partner was my grandma — no star-crossed romantic entanglement there! I did like that we were ordinary people, it made things much more interesting than finding out we were Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I also didn’t tell Rossana anything about our relationship, so finding out that I was his “eyes” in a past life (much as he is mine in this one) was pretty cool.

Did this change my perception of past life work? Not really, though it did stir up some curiosity in me. Rossana has a wide variety of other reasonably-priced readings available (including pendulum, runes, and Lenormand cards) so I’m definitely going to return to her in the future.

 

 

 

 

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

An Bealltainn toilichte!

Hello!

If you celebrate Beltane, I hope yours was a happy one. If not, I hope your May is going well. (Well, all four days of it, anyhow.)

I did a small, low-key ritual at home, to honor the Three Kindred and pray that this year’s metaphorical harvest is good. All of the omens were positive — blessings I really need right now. I had some candles, incense, a parlor palm for a tree, and a tiny bit of honey, beans, and whiskey for offerings. I didn’t have all of the woods to build a sacred fire, but I kindled a tiny one of oak, rowan, and ash twigs. I also didn’t have flowers or much in the way of decorations, but it was enough.

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Someday, I’ll be able to have a proper bonfire outside.

Saturday, I participated in a video call with one of my former teachers, a group of current- and former students, and entertainer Mandy Goodhandy, for tarot readings and cocktails. I had a lot of fun — and not just because it was the first time I’d spoken to someone who wasn’t either my partner or one of my cats in roughly a month.

When my turn came around, I asked a deceptively simple question: What do I have to do to obtain the life I want?

The answer? Learn to self-promote.

I’m, uh…
I’m not great at that.

Let me back up a few minutes. When my turn came around, both Mandy and my former teacher commented on my energy, that I seemed to exude a light. It was incredibly sweet and kind. Also absolutely terror-inducing.

I’m good at accepting compliments in the moment. At the very least, I can keep my idea-meat from short-circuiting long enough to smile and croak out a “thank you.” Inside, however, it’s more like

aaaaaa

spongebob

community

I’ve been working with my therapist about it. It’s slow going.

As you can probably see, this presents certain impediments to promoting myself. I make things, but, when it comes to showing them to other people, I panic. I’ve been taking small steps to try to get over it, but there’s still a huge element of self-sabotage when it comes to trying to attract attention — the one thing guaranteed to make me want to flee in terror.

I can catch a giant spider and let it outside. I can hook a rattlesnake. I can handle a spinal tap. I can take a lot of things in stride.
Just not that.

(Fun fact: When I was a little kid, I used to hide under the stable and cover my ears whenever anyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Though I no longer do this, the desire to has not lessened.)

And so that’s where I am. My therapist has tasked me with writing down good affirmations about myself, and reading them every day. (This is also slow going.) I’m trying to find meditations for boosting confidence. I’ve got a pouch of crystals waiting to be charged for self-esteem. At this point, I’d gulp flower essences by the pitcher if it seemed like it’d help.

I asked Lenormand cards for some guidance. They gave me Bear and Mountain. Stubbornness, and dominating obstacles. No secret tricks here, just doing the thing. Damn it.

Still, there’s no harvest without tilling. (I mean, there is no-till farmin, but work with me here.) There’s no reward without toil. If I want to have the harvest I’ve prayed for, I have to put in the work of… riding the bear up the mountain?
The metaphor’s gotten away from me a little bit, but you probably catch my drift.

From my house to yours, have a good week.

crystals, life, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Cleaning House, and Don’t Try the Brown Mushrooms

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This weekend, my partner and I decided it’d be a good time to give everything a nice, solid deep-clean. Everything. The windows, the stove, the weird, hard-to-reach area behind the toilet, everything.

Cleaning house is a great opportunity to refresh the energy in a place. While there are small, day-to-day things you can do to keep the flow from going stagnant on you, nothing really beats a solid top-to-bottom scrubbing and airing out.

Due to a combination of frugality and scent-sensitivity headaches, I make pretty much all of our cleaning products. (What I save in glass cleaner and counter spray, however, I more than spend on ethanol, vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap.) I keep a canister of homemade cleaning wipes in the bathroom, and another in the kitchen. I’ve got pretty cobalt glass bottles of spray cleaner on my kitchen counter, and another of tub and tile cleaner under my bathroom sink.

Frugality and lack of synthetic scents aside, the nicest thing about these DIY cleaners is that the ingredients easily pull double-duty; the same things that keep stains from my counters and rings out of my tub also have a history of use as spiritual cleansing agents. Make them on the right day, in the right moon phase, during the best planetary hour for whatever you’re trying to do, speak your intentions as you add each ingredient, and charge them by whatever method is preferable for you. (I would, however, advise against using sunlight — depending on what ingredients you use, heat and UV light might denature them, leaving you with a concoction that’s mostly water.)

We opened up the curtains and all of the windows. We played upbeat music. We scrubbed everything.

When the physical cleaning was done and my partner was figuring out lunch, I worked on the other side.

I love tarot cards. Not only are they useful divination tools, they’re useful aids for focusing magic. Whatever you’re trying to draw in or push away, there’s a card for that. In each room, I set up a small altar with a candle or incense, a clear quartz,and three cards: The Sun, The World, and the Ten of Cups.

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Cards from the Tarot de Maria-Celia. Massive Herkimer diamond from TheElusiveHerkShop. Lavender and lemongrass candle from SweetgrassApothecary.

These three cards are among the most positive omens in the deck. The Sun speaks of radiant positivity, abundance, and optimism. The World speaks of auspicious beginnings and infinite possibility. The Ten of Cups speaks of ultimate fulfillment. Good stuff to bring into your life and home, right?

I treated them the way you might treat a crystal grid — placing them, charging them, and releasing the energy. It was a small ritual, moving room-by-room, setting up each grid, and putting them to work, but it felt more uplifting and powerful than I can say.

I definitely needed it after the day before that. Friday, I had ambitious (well, relatively ambitious) dinner plans. I made penne, a quasi-homemade mushroom risotto, and grilled vegetables marinated in balsamic vinegar and herbs. Everything came out tasty, and all was well.

You know how some people have genetic quirks that keep them from enjoying certain foods? I don’t even necessarily mean allergies. Some people are lactose intolerant, some think cilantro tastes like soap, and so on.
As it turns out, some people can’t handle boletes.
Like, really can’t handle them.

I am apparently one of them.

mushroom-1281733_640
More like “bol-eat-your-insides-apart,” amirite?

I know the mushrooms weren’t actually toxic, because they came in a prepared blend and I really hope Trader Joe’s knows better. I was lucky, though. Some pretty intense gastric pain and dehydration was the most I had to deal with, though I was legitimately concerned that I was going to need some kind of intervention if things didn’t improve quickly enough. I definitely didn’t want to need a spinal tap because my intracranial and blood pressure decided to shoot way up on me. I definitely definitely didn’t want to go to the hospital and have to explain that I was there because my dumb ass decided now was the time to try eating unfamiliar fungi.

Lesson learned. If you’re trying to avoid using ER resources, maybe stick with things you’re absolutely certain you can tolerate. Save the risotto experiments for the future.

Here’s hoping you’re safe, staying sane, and not eating anything weird.

 

Environment, life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

A Daily Earth-Healing Meditation

Since today is Earth Day, I figured it’d be a good time to post about a small, simple daily meditation that I use to start my day.

It’s a combination of a grounding exercise and a planet-healing. You don’t need anything to do it, other than a comfortable, quiet place to sit (or even lie down) and five or ten minutes to spare. It’s based around the incredibly important role that fungi play in every ecosystem.

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Tiny eyelash fungi on mossy wood.

The Fungi

Though we often picture mushrooms when we imagine fungi, fungal fruiting bodies make up a tiny portion of the whole organism. Beneath them, spread out in a web, is a vast network of mycelium. The hyphae spread out like thin threads, transporting nutrients, secreting enzymes to break down organic matter, and supplying nutrients to the plants that depend on them. Everything in the world relies on fungi for survival, in one form or another. They secrete carbon dioxide as part of the carbon cycle, and can break down almost anything that isn’t actively toxic to them — even plastic, petroleum, or pesticides. Some fungi turn carbon into melanin, a very stable carbon-containing compound, while others help soil retain moisture. Certain fungi increase soil aggregation, potentially increasing soil carbon storage.

Still, fungi respond to a very careful natural balance. While the soil is a carbon sink, soil fungi also return carbon dioxide to the air — especially in situations where elevated levels of carbon dioxide encourage plant growth, increasing nitrogen demand and upsetting the delicate balance of carbon and nitrogen. Fungi can be vital environmental allies, but the balance needs to be preserved.

white-mushrooms-2582319_640
A pair of boletes.

Soil fungi don’t just comprise one or two species, either. Every patch of soil could be a host to a thousand distinct species. Just like the natural microflora of the body shift and change in response to illness, stress, diet, and medication, different stressors affect how these fungi grow, compete with each other, and evolve.

It’s never been more clear that protecting the planet means preserving all of the microscopic activity below the soil, not just the plants and animals above.

The Meditation

To begin, position yourself comfortably. Let your shoulders drop. Relax your jaw and the muscles around your eyes. Unclench your hands, and let them rest softly in your lap.

Inhale deeply, using your diaphragm and pushing out your belly to take in as much air as you can. Breathe in for a count of four, gently hold your breath for a count of three, and exhale for a count of seven. Repeat this three to five times.

Visualize your energy reaching from the base of your spine, through your seat, the floor, and into the soil. You don’t have to go far below the grass here — once your energy reaches the ground, let it spread out like the roots of a tree. Picture the filaments of your energy reaching through the soil, touching the filaments of mycelium that connect everything. Let your roots engage with the hyphae, gently befriending. When you have spread your energy as far as you can, begin sending a stream of loving light down through your roots.

Don’t worry if you don’t know all of the ins and outs of your local soil’s chemistry. Visualize your energy stimulating where it is needed, calming where it is needed, and balancing where it is needed. Visualize the soil fungi doing their microscopic jobs to break down what is no longer needed, and return it to the earth in a usable, nourishing form. Let your contact with the living soil recalibrate your energy, grounding you.

Continue this visualization for as long as is comfortable for you. When you are ready, gently withdraw your energetic roots from the soil. Open your eyes, stretch your limbs, and go about your day with a renewed awareness of how our actions affect everyone — and everything — around us.