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.

 

 

 

 

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Turmeric Folklore and Magical Uses

Turmeric is what gives curry a yellow color (as well as everything else it touches). It has a subtly spicy, earthy scent and flavor, and, to be honest, is next to impossible to find folklore or magical uses for.

It’s not that they don’t exist, of course. It’s just that they’re kind of drowned out by the number of blog posts, articles, and books on its nearly-magical health benefits. People use it for inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular health, and to improve liver function. It’s a bit outside of the scope of this post to go into all of that — besides, I’m not a doctor — but it’s pretty evident that turmeric occupies an important place for a lot of people around the world.

Turmeric is native to southern Asia and some Pacific islands. In the places where it grows wild, it has a history of use as a medicinal herb going back about 4000 years. Interestingly, though turmeric was known in ancient Greece, it never really caught on except as a dye. (Interestingly, ginger, turmeric’s cousin, didn’t seem to have this problem.) Needless to say, if you’re looking for uses of turmeric in European-based witchcraft, they’re a little thin on the ground.

turmeric-3089308_640

Turmeric Magical Uses and Folklore

Nobody seems to be able to agree on what elemental correspondences go with this herb. Some say air, while one source I found said fire. While fire makes sense to me, I would probably say earth.

In India, turmeric seems to function as a sacred anointment. It’s used for brides and grooms during the pre-wedding haldi ceremony, girls entering puberty, and the bodies of the dead. Most of the sources for witchcraft uses of turmeric cite purification as one of its properties, so, while I doubt that its associations in Indian culture are exactly the same, this makes a lot of sense.

Malevolent spirits, particularly the angry dead, can be sent away with the smell of turmeric.

Turmeric is also indicated for spells for healing, strength, and vitality — since it’s a potent medicinal herb and general tonic.

Turmeric’s golden color is useful in color magic. Yellow is associated with abundance and happiness, while gold is associated with the energy of the sun, prosperity, success, and healing. (This sun energy might be an explanation for why turmeric is so useful for purification!)

Using Turmeric

Since turmeric stains pretty much everything it touches, that makes it great for making magical inks, dying sachets, bags, or poppets, or adding color to sweetening jars or other potions.

Turmeric essential oil has a very warming scent, and can be substituted for hot spices when you don’t necessarily want their sharp pepperiness. Like the root itself, though, the essential oil stains — use it with caution!

If you can keep it out of humidity, you can use turmeric to bury magical tools to purify them the way you might use sea salt. Again, be careful — don’t use it to bury anything porous, and keep it dry, or you might find that whatever you buried is now yellow.

 

I love turmeric, and I put it in everything. While I haven’t experienced the magical health benefits a lot of natural health websites attribute to it, it’s delicious, easy to use, and gives everything such a bright, pleasing color. If you’re looking for an ingredient for magical ink for a prosperity, abundance, joy, or purification spell, you can’t really go wrong with turmeric.

divination, life

Getting closer, card by card.

Learning Lenormand divination has been immensely practical, especially now. It’s a lot more tangible than tarot — where tarot deals with emotions and energies, Lenormand cards deal with actions and circumstances. Both tarot and Lenormand readings give you a glimpse of the situation as it stands now, if nothing were to change, but having both at my disposal has been very helpful.

I’ve been doing small, two-card daily Lenormand readings for myself. Every day, I ask the same question: What can I do right now to bring me closer to the life that I want?

And I get an answer: Write something, deal with unresolved relationships, make something, focus my energy and attention on a specific area.

It’s nice.

Sometimes, it’s funny — since the readings are very straightforward and practical, the advice isn’t always profound. For example, for this week’s reading, I asked what I should focus on for the week to get me closer to my ideal life.

I drew the Tower and the Anchor. The Tower can represent authority, in a governmental sense. It can be the company you work for (or, in my case, my self-employment). It can be protection and isolation. The Anchor can be achieving your goals — as in, dropping anchor once you’ve reached your destination. It can be stability, or settling down. Most sources interpret this combination as a safe harbor, long-term protection, or a stable isolation.

fantasy-782001_640
This image showed up when I was looking for a public domain image of a tower. Not gonna lie, social distancing would be a lot more fun there, I think.

In other words, “You want to know what you should do to achieve your goals? Really? Maybe stay home and don’t die first, nerd.” 

Which… Okay, I get that. The world isn’t likely to be substantially different over the course of the next week. Safe harbors and isolation it is.

I asked my copy of the Crow Tarot deck the same question. In response, I drew The Heirophant.

The Heirophant is a religious leader. He’s an authority. He is tradition, convention, conformity, and a mentor in The Way Things Have Always Been Done. In a spiritual sense, he is ritual, routine, and ceremony. When he shows up, it’s often a sign not to rock the boat — if you want to succeed, it’s time to listen to people who have gone before you. Reinventing the wheel won’t get you any closer to your goal.

Taken together, I should stay home and take this opportunity to study and build more routine into my day. Structure and good advice will bring me closer to the life I aspire to, now’s not the time to take chances.
I agree.

 

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.