Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Idolatry

I have always been a lover of Sacred Stuff.  I grew up with it.

My Catholic grandmother had a shrine to the Virgin Mary in her bedroom, where she lit candles and poured offerings of rose water and left sweet pastry at the Blessed Mother's feet.

"Mother's deserve something sweet in the afternoon.  Our work is hard.  A fat Mama is a good Mama" she would say in Czech, both about the Virgin and my mother and aunts.

So naturally when I found myself dancing the Pagan path, I was happy to find that there was Sacred Stuff for us, and admittedly better stuff than the Catholics had.  Real pieces of art, and quality replicas of Old Good Things.  As an enthusiastic young Witch, I bought a lot of statuary from Sacred Source. 

Most of it, I'm sad to say, ended up just being pretty art pieces that lived on a bookshelf.  I only had real devotional practices for a handful of the Goddesses they represented, and the Male faces of the Divine were sadly absent.  Not so much from personal oversight, but there just wasn't a lot of glorious art to be had depicting the various Gods.  I'm glad to see that that's changing.

But I liked having Holy Idols around. 
I eventually gave many of these statues to others who would love them and give Them the proper devotion they deserved.  I retained a small handful that I had poured a lot of personal mana into through worship and ritual.

A Very Important Pair of Deities, whom you might rightly guess to be the Lord and Lady of Witchcraft, remain elusive as far as proper Idols are concerned.  I'm old enough that the first books I read suggested the famous Venus on a Half-shell for the Goddess and a piece of antler for the God. 

And for years I followed suit.  She was later joined by a quite randy statue of Pan, and the two look quite fetching together.  But the disconnect of Aphrodite and Pan standing in for the WitchMother and WitchFather looms large in my mind. 

I've considered more abstract symbols; antlers, shells, a mirror.  But those don't quite carry the weight of an Idol.

I've always loved the Idols, made by a man called Bel Bucca, that sat on Doreen Valiente's altar. 


I'm also completely in love with the work of Mr. Paul Borda, and may have to purchase his Seated God and Goddess statues, which are quite similar to the ones seen above.

Those of you who are Wiccan-identified, how do you represent Them on your altars?  Do you have special items, or as the old books used to say, use "any statuette of a lady and a piece of antlers"?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

In the wee hours of the morning, me and mine shall be travelling to visit family in Northeast Texas, deep in the Piney Woods region.  It's a truly magical place, and what it lacks in progressive mentality it makes up in unspoiled natural beauty.  I wouldn't want to live there, but it's lovely to visit!

I know there are many Pagan-folk who object to the celebration of Thanksgiving, for a long list of very valid reasons.  And that's fine.  No pumpkin pie for them.  But I love Thanksgiving; the food, the family, the tradition, and the shopping!

So I wish all of you dear readers old and new a joyous and filling Thanksgiving!  May your tables be bountiful, your bellies be full, your hearts be merry, and your stress levels be low!  And if you are able to celebrate at all this year, in this unfortunate economic time, then you most certainly have something to be thankful for.

So in the interest of good manners, please make offerings to your local spirits of place.  One can never be too polite!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Story Time

I love stories.  I love stories about magic.  I especially love true stories about magic in the day to day lives of Witches.

When the Witch is one of your dearest friends, it's just the best thing ever.

I was baking a cake, a Devils Food Cake to be precise, for this weekends Halloween enjoyment, when I got a phone call from Co-Witch and Compatriot Evn, directing me to read his latest blog entry.

And I did.

Best.Fucking.Story.Ever.

Treat yourself to a little Pre-Halloween storytime, courtesy of the Lord of Strife.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Quote Of The Day

"The suggestion that spells of domination should never be performed suggests at best naively idealistic, at worst ignorant, protected, Ivory Tower sensibilities.  Images of powerful wizards in castles to the contrary, magic spells have always served as weapons of the disempowered.

Societies where every individual is free, has enough to eat, isn't dependent on others and is able to retain control over one's own body, sexuality, family, and personal destiny, do not develop domination spells.  They don't need them."

- Judika Illes
   Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells

Monday, October 18, 2010

Samhain is coming...

Samhain is fast approaching and all throughout the land of fair Pagandom, folks are getting ready to honor their Beloved Dead.

Altars are being set up, shrines erected, and offerings made.  I love this. 

Having grown up Catholic, my childhood Halloween fun was sometimes interrupted by All Saints Day observations, depending on where Halloween fell in the week.  Placing cheap flowers on graves, a half-hearted invocation from our Parish Priest, a few chats with living relatives, and then back home where I put on my conical hat and waited for trick or treating.  Even as a child it struck me as being...soulless.  I didn't connect with it. 

But I've grown up a lot, and more of my extended family and friends have crossed the veil.  This year alone brought a number of deaths, and I've had to face the mortality of my parents, my friends, and myself.

The wonderful thing about families such as mine is that tradition and heritage are so important and so strongly interwoven into everyday life.  We prepare meals my peasant ancestors in the Czech Republic would have had during a rough winter.  We play their music.  We sometimes speak their language.  The old stories are told around the table.  Just last Thanksgiving the Top Secret Family Stuffing Recipe was handed down to me, and I was tasked with making it for the feast. 

My Beloved Dead live on with me everyday.  In everything I do.

But I must confess that my Samhain nights are almost always secular.  Costumes to make.  People's gore and effects makeup to do.  Must-See Tacky Late Night Movies.  Being on candy duty.  These things take up lots of energy, time, and damnit, are a lot of fun.  To skip out on that fun, magic, and family time to sit in my room and think about dead people seems counter-intuitive to me. 

So how does one remedy this?  How do you make it work?

Since so much of my famiy identity is connected to the Church, I must make my peace with Catholicism and attend the All Saints Day services with my family, in addition to my usual Halloween fun.  I will make dishes my grandmother would have made.  I will light candles and leave offerings.  I will watch tacky movies and gorge myself on candy.  And in the wee small hours of November, I will call the names of the Mighty Dead.

What do you have planned?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hints From Hertha: Dripping Candles


Chances are you've had a taper or fifty drip and make a nasty mess on an altar cloth, a table, or the carpet.  Maybe even on the cat.

Putting the tapers in the freezer for a few hours before you use them helps to cut down on the amount of drippings and makes for a cleaner burn.

If you divine the outcome of a working by reading the wax drippings...ignore everything I just said!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Full Moon Musings On Praxis

My freshman year as a theatre major brought with it lots of surprises, in addition to all of the normal surprises one experiences their freshman year of college.  For one, theatre majors are generally required to take two years of dance lessons; including jazz, tap, and ballet.  Included in these classes were also a lot of yoga, tai chi, and meditation instructions. 

Obviously, all of these things are beneficial for performers; you have to get in touch with your body, you have to know how to move, and you're also going to be doing things with your body that could lead to permanent damage.  Serious permanent damage.

I am not especially willowy or petitite, and the thought of having to do ballet was not one I was amused by.  I took a lot of teasing from high school friends, and even some family members.  But when the time came for me, in character, to hurl my body across a stage as if I had received a powerful blow, I was thankful that my body had been conditioned to accomplish this correctly.  The only injuries I suffered were a few minor bruises, which saved the makeup person from having to create fake ones.

I could have attempted it without any training, and been rushed to the hospital because of the broken ribs and crushed ankle I would have received from an improper landing.  I could have picked up a how-to guide to ballet or yoga, and attempted it on my own at home.  And without a properly trained teacher to help me know the difference, I could have trained my muscles in a lot of wrong behaviors that would have ended up getting me hurt.  I could have also not bothered to show up to class and do the work, and then complained to any who would listen at how my teacher/theatre/ballet had failed me.

But I didn't.  I stuck it out, and while my training was never intended to make me a professional dancer, it did teach me an awful lot about how my body works and what I can do with it.  It completely altered the way I walk, how I carry myself, the way I sit. 

What does this have to do with Witchcraft?  Why, everything of course! 

At this stage of my studies, seeking coven based Witchcraft and Traditional training, I know that there are things that I have picked up as a solitary eclectic that are "bad muscle memory."  When I find a teacher and present myself as a candidate for training, there will be things that I have to re-learn or put aside for the time that I am learning their Trad.

And I welcome this.  I welcome the chance to start again, if that's possible.  To look at the Craft with new eyes, to see it a different way.  To understand it in ways I never could when I was reaching out towards the Mysteries on my own.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harvest Home, Harvest Moon

There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

- Robert Burns, 1782

This year the Autumnal Equinox and the Harvest Moon are back to back, a two for one special if you will!  So for those of you who will be celebrating, have a happy and joyous Equinox!

*And in case you were wondering, nothing can compel me to refer to this holiday by the incorrect and utterly modern label of Mabon 


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Eleanor Bone



Today is the anniversary of Eleanor Bone's death, and I thought it fitting to share this little gem from Witchcraft 70.

In photographs, Eleanor always looked like a very proper Englishwoman, so I was delighted to see her having as much fun as she clearly was in this video.

We need more Witches like her.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hints From Hertha: Cleaning Metal Altar Furnishings

Chances are you have some sort of metal on your altar; perhaps a brass censer or candlestick, or something made of copper.  If so, you also know how quickly brass and especially copper start to tarnish or look a bit dull.  Doubly so if things are getting handled a lot or sprinkled with salt water or wine. 

A handy tip I picked up a few years ago for cleaning metal is to make a paste of equal parts salt and lemon juice and use it as a cleaning solution.

Please note this only works on real brass, copper, etc.  I have not tested this on plated metal, and I don't advise you to try it either. 

The salt acts as an abrasive and the acid in the lemon juice cuts through dirt, oil, and tarnish.  The two combined with a little elbow grease leave the metal very bright and shiny.  Ketchup will do the same thing for brass, but it's very messy and smells foul.

Copper tarnishes much more quickly than brass or other metals, and if your pentacle is made of copper, mine is, then you're likely to have lots of tarnishing considering how much handling it receives.  Add splashes from salt water, and you've got a lot of polishing to do.

So there you have it!  An easy solution to making all those metal tchotchkes look show-room new.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hints From Hertha

Awhile back Trothwy posted a blog about solving one of the many wax-related dillemas we Witches sometimes find ourselves facing.

In the comments, there was some discussion about a Hints From Heloise type thing for Pagans; a Hints From Hertha

*Since I am, in fact, very much a Dude, I wonder if Hints From Herne would perhaps be more appropriate.  Please weigh in with your opinions*

Being responsible for most of the domestic tasks around my house, this sort of thing is right up my alley.  There are plenty of books on Witchcraft, and how to do some of the things that Witches do.  How to make incense.  How to pour your own candles.  How to stick a damn crystal into an otherwise lovely piece of wood.

But a guide to some of the more mundane things that seem unique to Witchcraft?  Hardly.  At least not in the Woo-Woo section of your local Barnes and Noble or Occult shop. 

We're always getting wax on something, or needing to get wax OFF of something.  Ever mixed incense by hand and found your fingers stuck together because of wet and goopy super-glue like Myrrh resin?  Want a non-chemcial way of cleaning up those brass and copper altar furnishings?

So a new feature of this little blog is going to be my own practical tips for dealing with some of those special tasks that Witches have to do.

And hopefully some of the other Awesome Witches I'm honored to know will chime in and share their own tips and ideas as well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cross that palm with a shiny dime. Quarter? Master Card? Platinum?


The Season of the Witch is approaching, and something about this time of year always makes people in my social circles seek out tarot readings or other forms of divination.  Sometimes even a brave few who are wanting love charms or to hex a rival.

I have never read or done spell work for money, mostly because I keep a low profile in my everyday life.  When I was in college, people would come to my apartment and share their liquor in exchange for a tarot reading, which I thought was most fair.  One fella even offered to clean my apartment...shirtless.  Natch, I thought that was fair as well.

But at some point I realized how draining it can be to have constant requests for divination or spell work without getting some kind of compensation for it.  Spell work especially can be a major drain on one's resources, and an intense round of divination can be very taxing on my system.

So I look to you all for guidance.

What better way to ask a question of some of the most awesome Magicians in the world, than to do it via this blog.  So for those of you who read for others and charge for it, what do you think is an appropriate fee?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Isaac Bonewits


"May he return again at the same time and at the same place as his loved ones;  may they meet, and know, and remember, and love again."

Hail and Farewell, Great Druid.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Struggle/Practice

Whenever I read about fellow Pagans getting up at 5 am to pray and meditate, something in me revolts.  For one, I keep weird hours, and 5 am usually means bedtime.  And that kind of discipline scares me, because I generally lack it when it comes to forcing myself to do something.

I have famously gone through periods of Circling daily for months at a time, and then going back to integrating small moments of magic worked into the every-day flow of things.  But I prefer when the simple every day moments of magic and gratitude includes starting and ending the day at my altar, lighting candles and incense, and speaking to my Gods.

But after finally giving in and reading Eat, Pray, Love and working again with Thorn Coyle's Evolutionary Witchcraft, I'm scourging my own rear-end to resume daily practice. 

Last night I cleaned and set-up my altar, invoked the Witch-Father and the Lady of the Crossroads, offered them candles and incense.  My witchery tends to be a bit formal, but last night I relaxed and just spoke.  Addressed certain fears, some issues in my life that needed attention, sent out requests on behalf of loved ones, sent blessings to family and friends.

I'm going to spend a few moments each day in this liminal space.  I can't guarantee that the mornings will find me in the mood for it, or that I won't have several cups of coffee while checking my email first, but I'm committing myself to trying.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Stick In The Mud

An Open Question:

Who exactly was it that decided a Wand = a stick covered in glitter with a fucking quartz crystal hot-glued to the end of it?

I want answers.

Monday, June 28, 2010

And speaking of Oracles...

I purchased a new Tarot deck today.

I've collected a number over the years, given many away when I got tired of having to dust them, and retained only a choice few.  I think Crowley's Thoth deck is one of the most beautiful decks ever, but it doesn't Talk to me.  Robin Wood's deck is pretty, even though there are a few cards whose imagery I find problematic.  See the Hierophant card for more information. 

And while I do love the Rider-Waite deck and it's various versions, I have to admit that I don't really grok the Cabbalistic/Masonic thing.  When you start having theological debates (read: Tantrums which involve throwing things and threats of immolation) with your oracle...maybe it's time to look for a new one.

So I returned home with my brand new deck and checked out Gordon's blog, as I often do.  And he has this great post up on Calibrating An Oracle.  You should go read it.

Portentous or merely Noteworthy?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Midsummer

The Lord from The DruidCraft Tarot

A happy and joyous Solstice to you all!

June in Texas is really just the beginning of a very hot, miserable season which is at it's nastiest in August and September.  My ancestors were not people who lived in hot climates, so their eventual decision to settle in Texas is an odd one.  Maybe they were tired of the cold.  Maybe it was the abundant farmland.  But my lily-white skin and red hair does not like the sun, or the heat, very much. 

So, I'm really not the sort of Pagan you'd likely find roughing it at an outdoor festival, at least in the daytime.

Appropriate Solstice celebrations for me include staying inside all day with the AC cranked up while sipping iced tea, lemonade, or perhaps a nice pitcher of Margaritas.

Later tonight, I'll quietly step into the Circle and congratulate Himself for reaching the High Point of His power.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wicca: Everyone's Favorite Whipping Boy

Sometimes when interacting with Neo-Pagans you'll hear a lot of talk about community, plurality, and the need for tolerance amongst the various sects of Paganism.

And I agree with that statement.

But sometimes you'll also notice a bit of condescension whenever the subject of Wicca comes up.  Which is oddly amusing, since most modern Pagan paths wouldn't be alive and kicking today if Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner didn't have the testicular fortitude to write a couple of controversial books way back there in the dark ages of the early 20th century.

Sometimes practitioners of Asatru, for example, will poke fun at NeoWiccans for being fluffy. And you know, sometimes the things people do in the name of Wicca are incredibly ridiculous.  Sometimes a harmless joke about tye-dye and crystals is just that: a joke that anyone with the maturity of an adult can laugh at. 

But the most venomous attacks directed at Wicca is often from people who claim to be Witches of the NeoPagan variety themselves.

And before we go further, I would like to make it clear that I don't think every form of Witchcraft or Paganism is Wicca.  Because it isn't.  I have said so here and in everyday conversations more times than I can count.   That firmly held belief of mine is often a source of strife when it comes to dealing with NeoEclecticPagans.  Feri is not Wicca.  CultusSabbati is not Wicca.  Michael W. Ford's Luciferian Witchcraft is not Wicca.  Religious NeoPagan Witchcraft is not Wicca.  A person practicing magic of various forms is not practicing Wicca, but might very well be practicing Witchcraft. 

A lot of times people will say that they "tried Wicca" while they were starting out on their path, as if it was an illicit drug at a frat party their freshmen year of college.  And a great many people do begin with one of Scott Cunningham's books or maybe Raymond Bucklands Big Blue Book, and then find that their own path lies elsewhere.  Nothing wrong with that at all.

But when you engage these persons in conversation about their own practices, which they will tell you is the Most Authentic, Great Tasting, Less Filling, NonFat, EcoFriendly, New and Improved Tradition of Witchcraft Ever:  it's all the same public Wicca material that has been written about since the 1950's. 

Circle casting? check.  God/Goddess/Polytheism?  check.  Magic? check.  Full Moon Esbats?  check.  Quartered elemental placing?  check.  Eight Sabbats?  check. 

So you begin to wonder:  What about this is so damn new, special, or nonWiccan enough that these nonWiccans can get all morally superior about it.

They haven't created something new.  They are following a path based on the hard work and trail-blazing of a lot of wonderful Elders who made it possible for them to follow the path that they do, while simultaneously turning around and pissing on their work.

Not that our Elders need or require blind devotion.  (Although, ya know, maybe.  Some folks are nuts.)

I would advise anyone to be skeptical of dubious history and inflated life-stories.  Gods know, we have had some characters in the Occult scene.  And a lot of them have said and written things that weren't exactly truthful. 

We should never accept anyone's claims at face value, nor dismiss questionable behavior out of some sense of community loyalty, but MOST of the more outrageous and colorful characters that have influenced Modern Paganism and Modern Witchcraft paved the way for our various religions to have legal recognition and varying degrees of mainstream approval and tolerance. 

Raised by an old world family in an old school part of the South, manners and respect for one's elders was firmly ingrained into my worldview.  I'm of the mind that this is a good thing, a thing severely lacking in our current over-culture.  I am only in my mid-twenties, but I am already experiencing great shock and disgust when I see how the current youth culture behaves.

So when I, as a youngish Witch with a few years of experience under my belt, see younger and new Pagans treating our various traditions as if it were a buffet at Golden Corral, and our Elders as if they were some oppressive Mom and Dad who yells at them to do their homework and won't let them have the car keys; I get a bit miffed. 

Because I am embarrased for them, and I am embarrased by association.

I'm not interested in dictating how other peple label and define themselves, because such an endeavor is boring and fruitless.  But in the interest of fostering real respect within the Pagan community, it would be refreshing if rather than dismissing the work of our elders and trailblazers, we could give them the respect and honor they are due.

And when 98% of your personal practice is based on watered down versions of Wicca that you have pulled from published sources, I would advise you not to turn around and bite the Cauldron that feeds you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hey! It's Spring!

Happy Vernal Equinox!

May your season be full of sunshine and flowers!

*and chocolate.  lots and lots of enchanting chocolate*

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Move On Already!

That deliciously cheesey song is right. Breaking up is hard to do.
Whether a relationship, a friendship, a career, or even a religious practice/philosophy, there is nothing easy about ending something and moving on.

The period that follows of sleepless nights, tears, and the need to verbally lash out at the former beloved (or whatever) is a necessary and natural part of the healing process. It's good. It's healthy. Eat a box of chocolate, watch a tacky movie and spend a week in your pj's if you can.

And then put your big girl underpants back on and get over it.

The same needs to be said to those person's who are "Abandoning Wicca" throughout the interwebz.

We get it. We really do.

You took a good look at the amalgam of practices that you threw together from Llewellyn books, dubious new-age ideas, and poorly understood Eastern concepts and was calling Wicca - and realized that it didn't satisfy your needs.

And that's fabulous! It really is! Please, go on and be happy. Find a perfect fit. Or maybe you'll create your own, and give it a special name that is unique to what you are doing.

But please, don't piggyback on the Wicca thing. Or the Pagan thing. Because what you are doing, and what you have always been doing, never really was any of that to begin with. Honestly. It wasn't. That's crystal clear to everyone who wasn't in this for a fashion statement or as a bandage to their poor self-esteem.

You're moving on. That's great. Now please do that. Move on.

But the more you continue to bash Wicca (or any other path) for it's perceived shortcomings, the more you prove yourself to be a Jackass to the rest of us.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

To Keep Silent

For good or ill we are living in a technological age. An age that likely will not move away from technological development any time soon.

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and the blogging phenomenon has given pretty much everyone - from seasoned academic to Joe Schitz, a voice. A voice to say what he wants, when he wants, in whatever format pleases him.

I'm generally of the mind that this is a good thing.

But the simple fact remains that not all voices are equal or equivalent. This, sadly, is especially true amongst Pagan's who participate in the world of online communication.

I'm aware of the history of the Occult movement. I've seen old newsletters and zines where some of the more prominent public Pagans hashed out grievances, spread lies and gossip, and generally made asses of themselves.

There is nothing new under the sun, and this isn't what I'm referring to. Occult folks are a snarky bunch, with very strong opinions, and even stronger Wills, and if this were not so, I'd wash my hands of the whole mess.

I'm referring to downright stupidity being flung about like so much poo.

I was recently watching a video on YouTube about a group of Australian Witches who worship skyclad. This was a clip from the Taboo program on religious nudity.

As I was reading through the comments, there was one in particular that jumped out at me. There was this young woman who was absolutely outraged! She was condemning the Witches in the video, the produces of the tv show, YouTube for hosting it, and anyone who would dare to watch it.

Why?

Because the Witches in the video were moving counter-clockwise in their circle.

"Real Witches only move clockwise in their circles!!! I should know, because I am a Wiccan, and WE would NEVER EVER move counter-clockwise. It's black majiqk! That rule is, like, totally in books! Whoever these "witches" are, clearly don't know what they are doing. Unlike me, because I'm a super-powerful natural witch for REALZ!!!!!!"

I ignored my urge to inform this young lady that down under counter-clockwise would technically be clockwise there. Or to reach through my computer scream and smack her upside the hide with her probably very cheap, mass-produced, and McWicca approved wand.

Or, for that matter, to use one of my favorite quotes from Victor Anderson:

"White magic is poetry. Black magic is anything that actually works."

Most governments require people to be educated and to pass formal exams in order to drive vehicles. I think the same should be applied to Witchcraft, or any other Occult practice.

I not-so-humbly suggest that certain folks should meditate very strongly on the To Keep Silent side of the Witch's Pyramid, carve it into a candle, write some bad poetry, and make a good effort to put that practice to work. The rest of us would be so much happier.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some counter-clockwise black magic to do.

A Spell? On a Witch Blog? Groundbreaking.

Most magical systems recommend practicing some sort of regular psychic or magical hygiene rituals. This might be as complex as taking carefu...