April 30, 2010

Check out this beautiful post about Walpurgisnacht — the night before Beltane — here at New World Witchery. Cory’s blog is wonderful, focusing on American or “New World” specific traditions and the blending of traditions that takes place here. I highly recommend it!



April 29, 2010

A quick post this morning…

At Beltane the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon, whereas winter (Samhain) begins when the Pleiades rises at sunset. The Pleiades is a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the seven sisters, in the constellation of Taurus, near his shoulder. When looking for the Pleiades with the naked eye, remember it looks like a tiny dipper-shaped pattern of six moderately bright stars (the seventh can be seen on very dark nights) in the constellation of Taurus. It stands very low in the east-northeast sky for just a few minutes before sunrise. Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of “no time” when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! Celebrated approximately halfway between Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice, Beltane traditionally marked the arrival of summer in ancient times.

My sister & I are going to a Beltane ritual this Saturday — and my friend, S, is going to come, too! I’m very excited and can’t wait to share how it goes.

Z Budapest’s Podcasts

April 27, 2010

One thing I am loving about the Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries class is that Z Budapest records audio podcasts in the lessons. We read from the book, but there are also files you can listen to, where you learn directly from her talking to you. Her voice is very interesting, and she speaks so frankly! I am using this entry as a note-taking entry as I listen.

Lesson One she talks about Politics & Women’s Spirituality. One thing she says, “first, I should clear one thing up: everything is politics. what you are talking, what you do, what you eat, it’s all politics.” And I agree with this. She says feminist witches are women who search within themselves for the wisdom of their DNA, of their inheritance, looking for the female principle of the universe — the Goddess. Here we claim relationship with the Goddess. Everyone understands that we have to own the ass we are sitting on, she says, because everybody else owns everything else. That is why we must fight for our rights as women. We must fight for the rights over our own bodies and souls — the “fight for our sweet women’s souls”, as she says.

So we are fighting a revolution, fight for cultural diversity, against racism, for sexual freedom… everything needs some change. It’s a lot of work. We must make sure we are grounded in our spirituality, we must make sure we have replenished our energies. We must have fun! A secure grounding, a woman’s spiritual strength is knowing both fun and our herstory — those who came before us. This reminds me of my recent read of a book titled Manifesta, which covers a lot of feminist history. Budapest says to know the past is to know who we are, to know where we come from.

The changing universe of consciousness is important. The new consciousness that was born from women’s movements is a glorious gift. We must be mindful of how we relate to each other. At this moment she talks about why men fear powerful women, or women gaining power. It’s because, she says, maybe they fear we would treat the men how they have treated women for thousands of years. Perhaps there is a fear of retribution, of getting even? This, she says, is because perhaps men in this position would do so. They are not fit to rule over us, Z says, a hint of laughter in her voice.

She mentions the Venus of Willendorf, who is 25,000 years old compared to the Bible which is 2,000 years old, and the Koran which is only 500 years old. In this section she talks about the age of the goddess consciousness. While it is true that a “universal goddess religion” theory, as written about by Maria Gimbutas, has been disproven by the last twenty years, it is also true that there is evidence for some matriarchal society, and there is certainly evidence for Goddess-based religions. She is discussing also the origins of lack of work ethic and the invention of rape and slavery.

“We believe the female control of the death principle yields human evolution.” This is big. Human evolution… she talks about cultures treatment of death, and the idea of heaven or any such place. The death principle of goddess consciousness is to look around you. Everything dies. The goddess energy, the pure love of the universe, the pure miracle of life, this energy is what will go forth, again and again. “Death is just a swing door,” she says, “one side of it says Life and the other side of it says Death, and we are all just always coming and going, all the time.” This topic was something my sister and I discussed recently in our lessons, so I was surprised to hear it again! It’s been on my mind a lot, consequently. She touches on death as not a source of fear, of something which has a date already that we carry in our body. We all bloom and then we die. This is, to me — and judging by her voice, to her, too — a comforting thought.

Living life lovingly. Now she is mentioning our need for self love, our need to serve OURSELVES. This is so important. Sisterhood is good for us. Learning from your sisters is good for you. No matter where you are from you are still a woman, she says also. Lastly, in this audio podcast, she talks about how we can love others better if we make sure we love ourselves. Have a little self-reflection, she says. Love yourself. If you are short of some quality, make it up somewhere. Life is a gift. Affirm your life.

Mala, Sunshine, Energy

April 25, 2010

mala & book

Originally uploaded by caitrionaoconaill

Today I have cooked a lot and cleaned my home and spent time outside, soaking up the energy of the sunshine and the feel of soft winds. For some reason I felt drawn to a specific place in the yard today, so I stood in that place and did a short Tree of Life meditation.

I bought recently a rosewood mala. I had not yet used it, preferring to let it sit on the altar and sort of… soak up energies there for a little while. Today I ran my hands over it, anointing it with Attuning oil and with bergamot essential oil. The Attuning oil is a blend I purchased from Beth at Twilight Alchemy Lab. She makes wonderful magickal blended oils — I have had great success with some of her oils, including White Light, Bastet’s Laughter, and STFU. Beth cites her Attuning blend as being used for:

Makes you more sensitive to the emotional, spiritual and non-corporeal presences in an area. Attunes you to the vibratory qualities of a place or object. Particularly effective in developing psychometry.

I have used Attuning on tarot decks, the lone athame I purchased when I began on a pagan path, and the pentacle necklace I wear around my neck. I felt it was a good blend for anointing tools, and I thought it would be a good choice for anointing the mala, as well.

I chose bergamot for a variety of reasons, the first being that I simply adore its scent. However, I didn’t use bergamot just because I like it. Bergamot leaves and bergamot essential oil are also used in rituals and spells to draw success. Some practitioners claim it is also effective in breaking hexes. Bergamot essential oil is known by aromatherapists as a mood elevator and relieves depression caused by fatigue, tension and frustrations. It also helps release repressed feelings or inhibitions and assists in alleviating sleep problems. It assists in regulating body functions and can be a stimulant, a relaxant or a tonic, depending upon your body’s requirements at the moment.

Given that it has all these properties, I thought bergamot would be a very useful oil to anoint a mala with — I do well when using aids like malas or rosaries during meditation, as they give my hands something to do. Combining scent with touch and mind in this instance? Great idea!

I stood with the mala outside after the Tree of Life meditation and ran through many repetitions of sat nam in my mind while deep breathing. The energy outside felt very bright, to me, almost sparkly. I don’t know if this is because Beltane is drawing so near or not, but it is intriguing! I didn’t want to go back inside, with the wind caressing my hair and the birds singing gently. If I didn’t have to work tonight, I think I might spend all evening in the garden.

Hello, all my woo-woo and not-so-woo-woo friends and loved ones.

A few days ago, I was talking with a friend about the state of the world, the state of many of my friends and loved ones, the state of my family and many other families….and all that mess.

She said that in talking with Reiki folks and others of similar ilk, it seems some kind of darkness in the world is beginning to shatter into shards, and that we all seem to be waiting….and that the best thing any or all of us can do is to manifest as much light and healing as possible, as often as possible. To that end, I’ve been working on daily meditations that tap into the power I know I have, manifesting it as an energy that turns away negative/dark/etc.

AND….I also thought it would be good to take a page from those Transcendental Meditationists of long ago and see if we can really give this thing a boost.

So I am calling all my friends, and their friends, and anyone else who care to join us, to join me at 4pm US Pacific timezone, next Sunday, April 25th, to spend 10-15 minutes in a concerted meditation/ ritual/ prayer/ energy-working/ as-you-will. The goal is to bring healing, love and peace for all of our loved ones (and the world).

Please feel free to signal-boost….the more people we have, the more love and healing there will be. Thank you.

You know, when I first read Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance, I skimmed over some of it. The visualization bits, some of the how-to. I was just reading it for… something, but not because I was fully interested in the Goddess. At that time, I was still Christian. I still clung to those thought forms, that way of thinking. And so I was not fully open to Starhawk’s words in this book.

Re-reading it has been, for me, almost transformative. I’m coming more into my own in terms of what I believe in, and it’s looking more and more like pantheistic Dianism. I’m not sure about that, and I’m really starting to think the only label I need is “witch”. That one works for me.

Starhawk speaks in this book about the use of the circle as a visualization and meditation, and it’s very beautiful. I’ve always thought of casting a circle as something formal and unneccessary; I definitely don’t cast circles very often. Of course, their use in creating sacred space is something I fully believe in, but I didn’t really think about the applications of that for me. It didn’t seem… hmm. How can I express what I mean? The creation of sacred space is as easily done without a formal casting, I suppose. I felt it was more like play-acting, casting a circle, and I always felt silly doing it. I may reconsider my views on circle casting, and try various methods.

Something else she talks about in The Spiral Dance is witchcraft as a method of seeing, as “starlight vision”. This is, as she describes, a different method of knowing. It is the method of knowing that is deeper than everyday knowledge — as witches we learn to walk across the Veil between worlds, or to manipulate that. This was an excellent way of expressing the Veil, one that I think is very poetic. And, after all, so much of witchcraft is poetry, isn’t it? Poetry in plant, stone, word, and action.

Tealight Petition Magic

April 15, 2010

In preparation for filming a tealight petition spells video, I figured I should re-post an old post I wrote on this topic, as I’ll be pulling from it when I do the video.

Tealights are great because their burning time is relatively short, they are easy to find, and they’re inexpensive. They are also useful if you want to do the same spell for several days in a row, but you’re a busy person and you don’t want to leave a burning candle unattended.

When I do work, whether it’s for myself or for a client, tealight petition magic is often one of the first ways I consider when thinking about the best way to get something done. You can add whatever type of herb or oil to a tealight, and when it burns out it seals inside itself all the material, making it easy to dispose of. All that’s necessary for simple tealight petition work are:

  • a tealight
  • something to burn it in
  • a piece of paper & a pen
  • herbs or oil, etc of your choice
  • a little bit of time

That’s it! I usually burn my tealights in a glass holder meant for a votive candle, because I feel pretty good about leaving the little candle burning down in the bottom of a big glass cup.

First and foremost, I gather my materials together. If I need to reference what herbs are best for what purpose, I usually turn to Cat Yronwode’s Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic book, but you can use a simple google search to find that kind of information if you need it, too. I take the little wax candle out of its metal cup, setting it to the side.

Once I’ve made sure I have what I need, I’ll take a minute to sit down and write out what it is I’m after. A little piece of paper is best, because you’re going to be folding it up and sticking it under the candle while it burns. An example of this: Let’s say I want to do well in my studies. I’ll write my full name on my little piece of paper, and then I’ll turn it 90 degrees and write what I want over the top of it, covering my name with my desire. So I’d write “first name middle name last name”, turn the paper 90 degrees, and then write something like, “Focus & understanding in my studies — the ability to retain what I learn”, or somesuch. I’ll fold this up and stick it in the bottom of the little metal cup. Sometimes this doesn’t work out because the paper is too big and takes up too much space in my cup — that’s okay. If you don’t want to put the paper down into the cup, just set it to the side. You can burn it in the flame later.

That done, I’ll put a pinch of herb into the bottom of the cup on top of the paper. For my examples, I’m going to mention herbs that are commonly found in kitchens. Since I’m after success in this example, I’ll put a pinch of allspice in my cup, along with a little basil. Both those, by the way, are also useful in matters of luck and money. A bit of cinnamon helps speed my luck along and provide a little protection, and mint can be used for mental strength and clarity. Obviously, the herbs you use will vary by your purpose.

You don’t have to anoint the candle with oil, but I like to. We call this “dressing” the candle, by the way. Because I make my own Has no Hanna, I’d use that for this example — all purpose luck, etc — it would be a good choice. You can experiment with oil making or look around online or in your city for pagan shops that sell oils. I tend to apply the oil with one fingertip to a tealight, and I start with top, to which I apply the oil in a clockwise fashion. Tealights are so small that I don’t really bother with more ceremonial or ritualistic ways of dressing them, but if you’re interested in knowing how I dress larger candles, feel free to ask. Once the top is dressed, I’ll do the same thing around the sides of the candle, and then to the bottom. As you do this, concentrate on what it is you want. This should be a thoughtful process.

When the candle is dressed with oil, I usually tip it on its side in the cup and roll its edge in whatever herbs are inside. This prevents mess, and the oil will help powdered herbs and such stick to the wax of the candle. Once I’ve done that, I’ll pop the tealight back into its metal cup, and put it into the holder I’m using the burn it. If the paper is inside, we’re pretty much done — just pause, say out loud whatever it is you want, add a little prayer if you believe in deities and want their assistance, and light the candle! Let it burn itself out undisturbed.

If your paper is not in the little metal cup, go ahead and light your candle and stick it in the holder. Now take your paper and once again, say out loud whatever it is you want. We say things aloud to “announce” them to the universe, or to make them more “real”. Once you’ve said your piece, hold the corner of the paper to the candle’s flame. Allow the whole paper to be consumed by the fire in whatever manner is the safest and most appropriate to you. That done, let the candle burn itself out.

Kuan Yin

April 12, 2010

I was looking at a thread on some fora I frequent, asking about experiences with patron and matron gods and goddesses. I really like this thread, because people typically just post about whoever/whatever they are feeling pulled to, and it is a good resource on how people venerate and what they offer and so on. Today I came upon a post from someone saying they feel a very strong connection to Kuan Yin. She posted, along with her words, a link to this article: Kuan Yin: My Buddhist Patron Saint.

Kuan Yin is depicted in art, or approached by an individual worshipper, as either male or female. She can appear in many different forms, depending on the worshipper’s needs. The vast majority visualize her as female. So Kuan Yin is female by popular demand.

Her name means “Hearer Of The Cries Of The World.”

Hearer Of The Cries Of The World. This resonates with me, as well, particularly due to my own huge need to serve the world via healthcare and humanitarian aid. I am also interested in the gender flexibility! Apparently Kuan Yin is both male and female, or, she is sometimes seen as a female representation of a male being, or she is sometimes male, or… two halves of one coin. According to Wikipedia, Avalokiteśvara/Kuan Yin was originally depicted as the Buddha when he was still a prince, and therefore wears chest-revealing clothing and may even sport a moustache. However in China, Guanyin is usually depicted as a woman. Additionally, some people believe that Guanyin is both man and woman (or perhaps neither). It’s a very interesting concept.

The author of this article also writes:

You make offerings to the statue – a cup of water daily, fresh flowers every week or so, and fruit, particularly oranges and bananas. You leave a light burning near her at night — you don’t let her sit in the dark. You can meditate on her by reciting her mantras before the statue, and pray to her in your own words. Even if you don’t literally believe in her, the prayers tend to be answered, often very quickly.

along with that I find these mantras very… well, I don’t want to say nice, so I’ll say useful, but I’m feeling a little deeper word than that:

Kuan Yin is worshipped with the following mantras:

Namo Kuan Shi Yin P’u Sa (pronounced Nah-moh Kwahn Shee Yeen Poo Sah):
All Hail To Kuan Yin Bodhisattva!

This mantra is used to salute Kuan Yin at the beginning of a period of worship, and to say goodbye to her at the end (for this purpose, vibrate it slowly, three times). It may also be chanted rapidly over and over for a period of time — like fifteen minutes — while focusing mentally on a goal or desire you wish Kuan Yin to help you achieve.


Hri (pronounced “Hree”)

This is Kuan Yin’s “Bija” mantra, and is considered untranslatable. It is a syllable to be vibrated as long as the breath allows, and is supposed to capture in sound the pure essence of Kuan Yin. You use it to identify yourself with her, in hopes of gradually becoming more like her. You chant it and think of nothing, purely focusing on making the sound itself without intellectualizing about it. Try it for five or ten minutes, gently bringing your mind back to the sound itself whenever thought arises.

There is an online Kuan Yin Oracle that provides translations of poems and so on.

Women & Spirituality

April 9, 2010

I have ordered Women & Spirituality, a series of three PBS documentaries. The series examines goddess-based pre-historic societies, the witch-hunts of the Middle Ages, and the continuing popularity of contemporary women’s spirituality movements. Starhawk is interviewed for these documentaries, as is Luisah Teish, who wrote the book Jamabalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals. It’s a great book, one of the first I read when beginning this path. Teish is a Yoruba priestess and the documentary covers, I know, some of that as well. I am really looking forward to having these DVDs on my shelves! Already I have a friend who wants to borrow them as soon as possible.

I have been wanting this series for a while now, but I went ahead and purchased it because I am teaching my sister. I think it will be a good series for us to view together. Right now we’re focusing on the element of Earth and working on things like grounding meditations and a basic understanding of what the chakras are. So far, things are going well. I’m hoping this documentary will be educational for us both. Looking forward to watching it!

This morning — well, morning for me — I am reading this interview with Alice Walker. It is, quite simply, amazing. I am going to post some pertinent quotes here, while trying not to quote the whole article!

“There is a sense of sinking back, with gratitude, into the vegetation. A call from the soul that wants a quiet so deep, a mental space so clear and empty, that I can inhabit it almost solely as spirit. And surely this is part of what aging is for: to prepare us for the slow absorption into the all, which I perceive to be a radiant and positive destination.”

“Whenever I encounter people who love their olive and fruit trees, their tomatoes, vegetables, and land, the farmer in me joins hands with them. I need no other, more political connection. But this is because of my paganism, no doubt. My belief that nature and we and “God/Goddess” are one and the same. My devotion to this intuitively arrived-at understanding.”

“What many people don’t realize is that the soul can benefit from instruction just as the mind can, and that this instruction is readily available. We just have to look, sometimes vigorously. It is a good thing to have a nourishing church experience every Sunday, for instance, but that is like going to a dinner where only a certain kind of food is likely to appear on the table. The soul may take a nibble, but it’s quite likely that what it really wants isn’t there. Unfettering the soul and letting it roam after its own peculiar nourishment is part of what assures spiritual development. We live in a time rich in all kinds of soul food, not just chops and overcooked greens, but organic produce and pure water, one might say.”

“As long as the world is dominated by racial ideology that places whites above people of color, the angle of vision of the womanist, coming from a culture of color, will be of a deeper, more radical penetration. This is only logical. Generally speaking, for instance, white feminists are dealing with the oppression they receive from white men, while women of color are oppressed by men of color as well as white men, as well as by many white women. But on the joyful side, which we must insist on honoring, the womanist is, like the creator of the word, intent on connecting with the earth and cosmos, with dance and song. With roundness. With thankfulness and joy. Given a fighting chance at living her own life, under oppression that she resists, the womanist has no or few complaints. Her history has been so rough—captured from her home, centuries of enslavement, apartheid, etc.—she honors Harriet Tubman by daily choosing freedom over the fetters of any internalized slavery she might find still lurking within herself. Whatever women’s liberation is called, it is about freedom. This she knows. Having said this, I have no problem being called “feminist” or “womanist.” In coining the term, I was simply trying myself to see more clearly what sets women of color apart in the rainbow that is a world movement of women who’ve had enough of being second- and third-class citizens of the earth. One day, if earth and our species survive, we will again be called sacred and free. Our proper names.”

“Meditation has been a mainstay in my life. It has helped me more than I could have imagined prior to learning how to meditate. I don’t meditate the same way I did earlier in my life, when the pressure to write, to mother, to travel, to be an activist, and to pay the bills was intense. Now I just live more meditatively, and it is very helpful that, understanding my nature and its needs for flourishing, I’ve created retreat spaces that help me keep my sanity and, quite often, my serenity. I discovered Mexico while I was pregnant with my daughter; we went there during my second trimester. I loved it and have gone there to rest in the sweetness of the Mexican people, in the kindness and courtesy of friends, every year for over twenty-five years. I also fell in love years ago with a Hawaiian musician who had the most delightful house on a beach in Molokai. The relationship ended, but we share the house still. I can go there when I’m dragging in spirit and sit and look at the moonlight on the water until I know all is well. That whether this small being is at peace or not, the tides will still do their thing: rise and fall and bring some boats to shore and refuse to let others land. With a complete and splendid indifference.”