The Introverted Aries and other Astrological Anomalies

Dear Miracles,

An introverted Aries.
A Taurus who is chatty.
A shy Gemini.
Cancers that never dream.
A Leo who prefers to be NOT in the spotlight.
Disorganized Virgos.
The Libran who doesn’t get along…with anyone.
Mainstream Scorpios.
The Sagittarius who likes to stay home.
Capricorns who aren’t competitive.
Aquarians who are decidedly not social.
Loud-mouth Pisceans.

Sure, these are not the typical descriptions for each sun sign, but I have met folks who fit with each description. I’m often told by a client…this is my sun sign, but it doesn’t fit me, I’m nothing like that! Maybe so and maybe no. The whole point of astrology, really the whole point of any sacred art, is that we are not reducible. We cannot be reduced to our genes, our address, our education, our family, our talents or our weaknesses.

The whole is always greater than the parts.

That’s what astrology teaches. So does tarot. Both disciplines should encourage an aerial view…one that opens up and expands on possibilities, not a view that leaves you feeling trapped in a category that doesn’t work and doesn’t resonate.

More love.

More possibility.

More promise.

Never less.

This is how we heal

Love Amongst the Ruins by Edward Burne-Jones

No sooner did I start pondering this month’s lunar letter, than it occurred to me that healing would have to be its theme. For the Full Moon shines down on us from Pisces, and the Fish is the healer of the zodiac, ruling over the 12th house of our charts, the area where we confront once and for all the beliefs, traumas, ideas, and habits that cut, wound, and tie us down, leaving us feeling broken, scarred, and scared.

Healing is a word we bandy about with the best of intentions. How many times have we heard it said that we need to heal, or that we need to be open to healing, or that what is needed now is healing? All of that is fine and good, but we may wonder, after years of healing, and perhaps even after little or no results: is it even possible to heal? What does it mean to heal?

We might turn to the icon of the Sacred Heart for help. Here we have the familiar heart symbol, but there is a fountain of fire pluming from within the heart’s division, and the heart is encircled with lines of radiance, or sometimes wings. When we see it in its radiant glory, we may easily forget that the shine and radiance is that of a heart and spirit that has been to hell and back.

In image and imagination every possible wound has been inflicted on the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart speaks to the scarred heart — pierced by a thousand swords, cut by a thousand pieces of glass, wrapped in rusty barbed wire and a crown of thorns — and sometimes, at first, we think that those scars are something to hide from the world, something to keep quiet, keep covered up.

The Sacred Heart speaks also the scared heart, afraid because we know we can be harmed, frightened of our worst dreams coming true, scared that the wounds Pisces asks us to face cannot ever, really, be healed. Experiencing the traumas to body and spirit that cut so deep, the ideas that bind us to a limited view of life and love, the habits that keep us from not just living life, but living life well, we are afraid that we will only ever be broken.

Fleeing from our pain, we will reach out for healing far away from the scars and brokenness, to cover it up, to be free of it. But to flee from our condition in this way is to flee from what makes us sensitive and alive, from what transcends and supports our own mortality. To the Sacred Heart, those salves and remedies for which we reach are a mirage: the greatest healing power comes from within the very darkness and brokenness of our condition, just as a lily flower blossoms from out of the muck. To the Sacred Heart, what we call broken shards and scars are for it the crown jewels which bedeck and bedazzle.

The Sacred Heart will not be covered up nor will it be silenced. Like a phoenix rising up out of the ashes, it shines through fear and a forest of scars and the clothing that we wear and the protections that we weave about ourselves. None of these matter to Sacred Heart for it is made to shine. And so it does. It shines out in radiant splendor, saying:

My blessedness is in and among the broken, ever, and always.

Daily Practice and Dancing Planets

Daily Practice and Dancing Planets

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Dear Miracles,

As we usher in September I am preparing for my favorite season — Autumn — with the celebrations, the remembering of our ancestors, the magic making, and pumpkin everything! I find that September, at least after the first week when we get into the swing of school time rhythms, is a wonderful month to assess and remember where we are, what we are committed to, and what we are doing with ourselves in our sacred arts work.

To me the best place to begin this investigation is to look at our daily practices — what practices are speaking to us strongly, resonating more often than not, and what practices feel dull, lifeless, and no longer vital? Right now taking the time to ask these questions is especially appropriate because we have two potent retrogrades happening in the heavens — both Uranus and Neptune are retrograde. Uranus will be retrograde until Winter Solstice and Neptune is retrograde through November 16th.

Longtime readers know that I often say that the key to working with a retrograde rhythm is to remember to “re”. Re-member. Re-assess. Re-structure. Re-view, You get the idea. The specific planets that are in retrograde provide us with a focus for all of this “re” activity. So in the case of Neptune, the planet that is attuned most potently to memory, intuitive knowing, psychic skills, deep feeling, and powerful dreaming, we can look at our daily practices and ask about these elements. Are they absent or present? Is there a way that they can be better honored in our daily rites?

Uranus in some ways is a polar opposite of Netpune but they are both planetary forces adept at walking and working between the worlds. In the case of Uranus (whose name means “heaven” in Ancient Greek) the key idea is visionary. Whereas Neptune looks back, Uranus looks forward and asks, what is possible here, now, going forward? Mercury is often aligned with intellect and intellectual capacity as well as successful travel and skills of mediation. Some find it helpful to conceive of Uranus as Mercury writ large — so that our inner brilliance is called forth, travel takes on a deeper meaning, and we each have the opportunity to mediate between heaven and earth. When Uranus retrogrades we have the chance to look at our daily practice and ask: where is the brilliance here? What travels, what adventures am I open to at this time? What am I mediating on a daily basis? Are my ties to the celestial and terrestrial strong and sure? If not, what blessing way might help with that?

People often ask me what a daily practice looks like. Well first and foremost it is something you do DAILY. Not weekly, not monthly, not once a year when you feel like it/remember it, but daily. Because consistency is the key to deepening your sacro-magical work we want our daily practice to be accessible. If you only have ten minutes a day to dedicate to your sacred art then let’s make those ten minutes count! Everyone has a different way of creating their daily practice, but here are some key components I find helpful to keep in mind:

1.) Stillness and Silence. If there is only one thing you can do let it be this. To be still and to be quiet—even for a couple of minutes—it is like a power nap! It leaves you feeling refreshed and ready to go forward with clarity.

2.) Prayer/Blessing. Blessing our selves, our precious bodies, minds, and spirits, and blessing those we love allows us to commune with what we most revere. To expand upon this consider blessing the home in the morning when you awake and in the evening before bedtime.

3.) Communion. With your guides, your allies, the Divine, or your own inner knowing. Communion often looks like stillness and silence but it is different in feel and technique because communion is actually listening closely and carefully.

Two possible additions to make to these guidelines at this time, given the dance between Neptune and Uranus would be active imagination journeys (mediating between this world and the worlds beyond in honor of Uranus) and developing or re-developing an intuitive sacred art like tarot in honor of Neptune..

And now Miracles, it is your turn! Tell me what aspects of your daily practice are running strong and/or what snags have come up for you all.

Happy September and Happy Practice! 

Breaking for Beauty (and summertime fun)

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Dear Miracles,

Hello, hello gorgeous readers! Just a quick note to let you all know that I am taking a wee break from maintaining the blog so that I can fully squeeze the juice out of summer! I am still available for consultations and customized ritual work and will be teaching an intensive on Diagnostic Tarot for one week in June. In the meantime catch me on facebook or twitter…and of course my lunar letters will go out as normally scheduled!

 

Many Branches–Sapna Mehra

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Dear Miracles,

I first learned about Sapna Mehra and her one of a kind brilliant jewelry from my dear friend Fabeku. Since then Sapna and I have become friends as well and I am the lucky owner of a couple of her pieces–they are magical in every single way. Her story inspires and her art sets intention on fire–I proudly present this month’s Many Branches feature and hope all of my readers make Sapna feel welcome!

 

sapnaIn her own words: I’m Sapna Mehra and I collaborate with artisans in my ancestral homeland of Rajasthan, India to create meaningful jewelry that is crafted by hand using 16th-century techniques. My jewelry designs are inspired by the meeting of fine and folk, the old and new, and the everyday and the divine. I design jewelry for anyone who’s passed through fire to wear as an emblem of triumph.

 

 

Find Sephra on the World Wide Web:

Website: www.sapnamehra.com

Facebook: facebook.com/sapnamehrajewelry

Instagram: http://instagram.com/theglobalsoul

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theglobalsoul

 

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1.) On your site you have the following quote: “Gold becomes kundan only after passing through fire.” Tell us about kundan and the significance of this process.

I first heard this Rajasthani proverb from a favorite aunt of mine. I was going through an especially difficult time in my life and she said these words to me to lift my heart and spirits. It’s something that has stayed with me ever since.

The saying is about unleashing your strength, inherent beauty, and highest potential when you’re in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds.

It speaks to the process of creating kundan, a very prized form of purified 24k gold used in traditional jewelry from Rajasthan, India. Gold is fired continuously for 3 days in an arduous and elaborate process that requires constant oversight and meticulous care to ensure the quality and purity of the gold.

Once the gold has been fired, it’s beaten down and burnished into flowing ribbons of rich, pure gold that’s used to set gemstones into intricately enameled bases. It’s a beautiful art that is fulfilled only through the devotion and dedication of the artisan from beginning till end.

As individuals, we all pass through our own fires. Those fires distill, hone, and refine who you are.

As you move through the challenges that you face, you persist and overcome, even when you think you can’t. When you persist, you break through the barriers of your mind and what you believe is possible or impossible. Your struggle is your opportunity to choose who you want to be, to choose to act instead of react to whatever circumstance life’s journey has presented you with.

It’s in this act of persisting that you discover your own strength, power and grace.

What I’ve learnt from passing through my own fires, is that in every moment, you are faced with the choice to rise up above the struggle and truly know who you are. You aren’t your circumstance, you are the choices you make in those circumstances. And it’s the sum of the choices that you make day in and day out that transforms you into kundan, pure gold.

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2.) Ritually created jewelry has been present in magical and religious circles for ages but recently sources for such creations have been few and far between. As you know, I have several pieces of your work and I can attest first hand to their wonderful properties and inspirited forms. Why not just go the conventional route in jewelry making, why the decision to add a spiritual/sacred significance to your craft?

First, thank you so much Bri for your love and support!

Mysticism connects you to the universal energy. It fosters intimacy with others and the environment that surrounds you. It connects you to the part of yourself that is greater than you.

My passion for ancient symbols, philosophies and my understanding of form as divine expression is rooted in my Indian heritage. I believe symbols are able to express and connect us to the abstract divine. Symbols, rituals and spiritualism connect the gaps between the rational and the parts of your experience that moves you beyond the realms of logic.

Designing jewelry with meaning that is informed by a spiritual, mystical or sacred practice is how I give voice to my experience in the world. When a design comes forth, it feels like an intense and unstoppable energy that I must respond to and that connects me to something that is much bigger than me.

When you connect with that message or symbol, it fosters an intimate connection and creates a blissful circuit of rasa or divine nectar. This circuit and the experience of connection is what art is all about. I feel blessed and grateful to share this with everyone who connects with this synergistic energy!

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3.) Your tagline is Be Triumphant–how does the right jewelry help us become triumphant and what does that mean to you?

Your body is your sacred vehicle in the world; your witness, perceive, express and act with your body. It’s the body through which you experience and hone your awareness to unleash your shakti. Adorning the body is a sacred act of empowerment. When you choose jewelry that uplifts you and reminds you of your beauty, strength and power, you are empowering your highest self.

Adornment is a powerful act of expression and art. In ancient Indian texts, there are suggestions and prescriptions for sringar or adornment according to seasons, times of day, to affect a mood or elicit a particular desire.

The act of choosing what to wear, putting it on and taking it off is a sensual, meaningful ritual. It creates a beautiful pause, brings grace to light and awakens the senses to oneself.

What you choose to wear, how you choose to express yourself and put your Self out into the world gives you agency and power.

For me, being triumphant is about claiming your story and realizing your agency in your narrative. You story isn’t a series of events or how circumstances unravel. Your story is driven by how you decide to tell your story. I believe choosing the right jewelry for you is an act of empowerment and helps you express your story in the most magnificent way.

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4.) You work with precious and semi-precious stones in your creations so I have to ask…do you have a personal favorite?

Oh, that’s a very hard question because I LOVE gemstones!

I have a special affinity for rose cut diamonds and I really love gems that are cut by hand in old cuts like rose cut and polki. The rose cut originated in India and then it’s popularity spread throughout Europe and you’ll see rose cut diamonds and other gems frequently used in Georgian and Edwardian jewelry. I try to use rose cut faceting as often as I can because it feels like the soul of the gem shines through.

Each gem has a particular vibration bringing forth different energies. At different times, depending how I’m feeling, I’m drawn to different stones, most likely because that is the energy I need to awaken within myself.

These days I am loving turquoise, lapis lazuli, black spinel, labradorite, and moonstones. These gems remind me of the depths of the ocean and the infinity of the sky. You get lost looking at them.

 

5.) If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

The biggest message I’ve received in my life is to persist. No matter what your circumstance is in this moment, remember your heart’s truest desires, be aware of your dreams and listen to your highest self. Doing this, over and over again, even when it’s so hard, is the discipline that will illuminate your purpose and your path. I think that is the only way to discover what it means to be triumphant.

And to love. Emanate love at every moment possible.

Snaps of Spring

Dear Miracles,

It is Springtime–one of my favorite seasons which makes sense because in the Western Esoteric traditions the season of Spring is of course attuned to the Element of Air and being a Libran, I’m an airy — faerie kinda gal! Spring means more time outside and less time inside. That has been especially true this year because the weather has been, in a word, INCREDIBLE. We had a cool and moist April and Beltane dawned crisp and glorious. Since I am in South Central Texas we always need more water but thus far the plants are thriving and delighting in the cooler than usual winds.

A basket full of herbs straight from the garden–for medicine, magic, and cooking alchemy. Lavender for love and peace, Rosemary for clarity of mind and purpose, Oregano for prosperity blessings and sensuality, roses for beauty, and lemon balm for zest! Some of these green goodies will be worked with as I make my own florida water for spiritual cleaning. Part of the Rosemary was tinctured for a respiratory health elixir, part of it was baked into bread, and a bunch of it was dried for ritual work I create around academic success.


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And more roses because really, can we ever get enough? These petals are from two antique varieties–Le Vesuve and Dame de Coeur. Roses did not make the top twenty list of magical herbs that live in your kitchen, but they make my personal short list of plant allies I always need to have on hand. My mother is somewhat of an antique rose expert–in Texas we call them Rose Rustlers, no joke, and she has over 200 varieties–so yeah, I guess you could say it runs in the family.

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Our Faerie light and grapevine chandelier hangs over our bed and blesses all it sheds sparkly light upon.

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And there has been a lot of bread making! (Note how the geese measuring cups look on with serenity).

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I hope everyone’s spring has been as delicious as ours has been!

Many Branches–Starry Eyed with Amelia of the Midheaven

Dear Miracles,

Amelia Quint is an amazing astrologer who knows the stars like I know my trusted Rider Waite Smith tarot deck. She is also super nice, approachable, and able to bring all the astro talk down to earth in a very hands on and practical manner–and she does it all with style! These are some of the reasons that I have collaborated with her in the past and had her as one of the featured guest teachers for Star Magic. I am now so pleased to bring her to my lovely readers. Give her a warm welcome and settle in to do some star gazing!

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In her own words: Amelia Quint, author of The Midheaven, uses divination to help movers, shakers, and risk-takers dream new and exhilarating possibilities. Her rock-and-roll-meets-the-boardroom approach creates a space where insights and creativity flow with ease. She believes that while astrology and tarot set the stage for personal transformation, the real magic lies in their ability to inspire people to take charge of their destiny.

 

Find Amelia on the World Wide Web: 
Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/themidheaven
FB:  http://www.facebook.com/midheavenastrology
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/themidheaven

 

1.) On your site you say that you use divination to “help people take charge of their destiny.” I love that so much. What does it mean to you and how do you see it working practically?

One of the most common questions I’m asked in both astrology and Tarot readings is “When are things going to get better?” Though some things in life are out of our control, I think taking this approach takes away your power. My favorite thing to do as an intuitive reader is to show my clients that they ARE powerful and have the ability to change their situation!

In practice, “taking charge of your destiny” is all about knowing yourself. Your birth chart (a map of the planets and stars at the time of your birth) will give you insight into where you’re naturally talented, and what potential stumbling blocks to sidestep. And of course, Tarot is a perfect way to delve into the heart of any issue or crisis you may be experiencing. Really both astrology and Tarot come down to a sense of radical self-understanding. When you know yourself intimately, you can create an action plan to move forward with confidence.

Lots of people come to me when they’re going through a difficult astrological transit. They start out feeling hopeless, but once they are able to put a name to their struggle, it becomes much easier for them to face it down. The archetypes of Tarot help in a similar way. Knowing really is half the battle! Once people have a name for their circumstances, they’re able to own what’s happening and make the best of it. To me, that is really the beauty of divination!

 

2.) You work with both Tarot and Astrology–do you often combine them in your work? If so, how do you find the two disciplines work together?

Yes, I do combine them! I tell people all the time that studying Tarot will deepen your understanding of astrology in a huge way, and vice versa. During astrology readings, I’m always thinking of what Tarot card might correspond to their situation, and with Tarot clients I always take a look at their birth chart to see if there are any major transits happening. The traditional correspondences between Tarot and astrology play a big part in my readings too, especially with the Major Arcana (for example, Venus and The Empress). I take a very holistic approach to both disciplines and move pretty freely between the two, because I think that they each have so much to offer!

 

3.) The name of your business is The Midheaven. What is the Midheaven and why do you love it?

The Midheaven is a traditional name for the tenth house of the birth chart, which rules our public life and contribution to society. The Latin phrase for the Midheaven (medium coeli) literally means “top of the heavens,” and that is what I want everyone to reach for in their life. My goal is to inspire others to seek out the highest expression of themselves, with stars and cards as a guide!

 

4.) Favorite Astrology question? Favorite Tarot Question?

My favorite astrology questions are about how to bring more abundance and joy into your life. Working with the benefics (the Sun, Venus, Jupiter, and more) is fabulous! Also, many of my clients have come to me during a Saturn Return, which is a notoriously tough transit. I love seeing these beautiful people transform adversity into opportunity.

I love checking people’s charts for psychic potential too. Everyone is intuitive, and helping people tap into that part of themselves is so much fun!

Honestly I enjoy all types of Tarot readings, but I seem to have a knack for love and relationship work! I think my Mercury in Libra helps me keep things compassionate and balanced for everyone involved.

 

5.) If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Be audacious! Audacious, one of my favorite words, comes from the root meaning “to dare”. I love this and live by it! Dare to know yourself deeply, dare to love passionately, and dare to stop taking crap from people. And most importantly, dare to ask for what you want. The universe will respond, and so will more people than you think!

 

There is No Healing Without Tension–How to Nail April’s Astro

Dear Miracles,

So the astro for April is, as I have written elsewhere, incredibly intense. My mantra for the month, given to me by my lovely Nia teacher is: there is no healing without tension.

Around April 21-22nd (depending on where you are on the planet) the star scape is going to form a Grand Cardinal Cross. It is actually very appropriate astrology for Easter and the entire concept of sacrificing in order to redeem and transform (take this in whatever way you can best work with it) is relevant.

A Grand Cardinal Cross occurs when planets enter the four cardinal signs of the zodiac at the same degree. The four cardinal signs of the zodiac are: Libra, Aries, Cancer, and Capricorn and the four planets this time around are Mars (going retro), Uranus, Jupiter, and Pluto sitting in each of these signs respectively. Check out the arrangement in the chart below:

Uranus Square Pluto

 

As you can see looking at the above chart, these four planets in their respective signs are forming a big square in the sky. In astrology whenever anything is squared there is tension, and in the case of this massive square there is the potential for A LOT of tension. The individual squares are as follows:

Mars squared with Pluto and Jupiter

Jupiter and Pluto opposed to each other

Uranus square with Pluto

Uranus opposed to Mars

The Uranus/Pluto square is one that we skywatchers have been paying attention to for a long time because as it started in 2007 we experienced the financial crash. Generally speaking, Uranus and Pluto squaring each other creates tensions around forms of wealth development and the “hidden” traumas that so many people in the world experience every single day. There is a lot of doom and gloom around this skyscape and while I am not saying that it is going to be tra-la-la easy I would like to collectively see us talk more about the amazing healing opportunities this line up makes available to each of us.

The healing is especially noteworthy wherever the sign of Cancer falls in your natal chart; that is where Jupiter will be hanging out, but it is available across the board. More than that, we have a cosmic green light to literally RECOLLECT ourselves. To bring the parts of ourselves that feel isolated back into conversation with one another. Of course that conversation will not be easy…at first, but the fruit it can yield is SO worth the effort!

Generally speaking the guidelines for April are:

Amp up your daily spiritual practices: this is not the month to become inconsistent in grounding, centering, and anchoring, prayer, and sitting in stillness and silence. If you have a cornerstone spiritual practice maintain it through April and perhaps increase it slightly to offer yourself more support.

Do not make any sudden changes: with Uranus and Mars rx there can be deep insights, flashes of brilliance and a desire to make lasting changes NOW. Try your best to keep a coherent record of the ideas that come but choose not to act on making sudden changes until we are well into May or better yet, June.

Let it go: Pluto is a destructive change agent–wherever Pluto is in your chart, you are shedding stuff just like a snake sheds its skin. Resistance is futile so don’t do it; exercise discernment and cooperation in letting go whatever needs to be let go.

No Drama Mama: This is NOT the month to engage in the creation of and participation in high drama–especially the kind that goes NOWHERE. Keep calm and rock on.

Kindness: To yourself and others–especially in the way you speak. Really this is a good rule of thumb always but remember that kindness, real kindness, does not sacrifice truth. r

Many Branches–Something Witchy this way comes with Sarah Anne Lawless

Dear Miracles,

Many of those in my audience already know our latest guest in the Many Branches series–Sarah Anne Lawless. She is an occult author, witch, herbalist, and artist living in the Pacific Northwest. Her blog is well known in the Pagan community and beyond. Her knack for crafting a brilliant flying ointment is one that I can personally attest to, and her devotion to her Gods is inspiring. Please give her a warm welcome!

bio-pic-2In her own words: A professional artist, writer, and herbalist, Sarah’s work has been published in various books, magazines, and online in The CauldronHex MagazineWitches & PagansWitchvoxSerpent Songs, and Hoofprints in the Wildwood. She is a carver, painter, and illustrator working in the mediums of bone, wood, ink, and paint creating original artwork, talismans, and ritual tools. Sarah is an animist, initiated witch, and wortcunner with a love of otherworldly beauty, folklore, mythology, poisonous plants, wildcrafting, wild places, and bones.

Find Sarah on the web at:

her website: sarahannelawless.com

Facebook: Black Arts Foundry

Twitter: @forestwitch

 

In the occult and magical community you are known for making excellent spiritual products, your writing, and your fine artwork, but you are also one of the few voices out there talking about working with animals and zoological talismans in an ethical and sustainable manner. This subject is a bit controversial but one that I think the magical community needs more familiarity with. What led you to begin working with animals and animal parts in a ritual setting?

For me it started with collecting feathers and escalated from there and I’ve found that others who consider themselves bone collectors often say the same thing. Taking home a feather you found on a forest walk isn’t really so far off from taking home a sea-washed bone or a small skull picked clean by scavengers. Once people find out you’re a bone collector they will suddenly start calling you about bones, feathers, or dead animals they found and ask what to do with them. Then people will start showing up on your door step with boxes of bones and any friends that hunt for food will start giving you bird feet, wings, and sometimes even organs that they don’t want to waste. Often people don’t want to use or give me the animals they find, they just want to know how to bury it safely and give it a respectful send off to the spirit world. A bone collector can find themselves taking on the role of an animal funeral director.

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I think the reason why many find my use of animal parts in magic controversial is because, though the use of zoological remains is still common in modern rootwork and the magical traditions of Central and South America, it is not common in modern witchcraft despite all the documented historical links and traditions. Many people are so far removed from nature, husbandry, and dirty hands-on folk magic that they find the use of zoological remains to be appalling and unethical without trying to first understand the context and history. Many assume that bone collectors such as myself are actually killing animals to use their parts in magic when this is very much not the case. You can find hearts, tongues, and feet at the butcher and you can find bones, skulls, teeth, claws, and hides from taxidermists, tanners, farmers, or hunters who don’t like to waste any part of an animal that’s been hunted or raised for food.

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Another reason I think this practice is controversial is because many people assume you are using a dead animal’s parts solely for cursing and other black magics, when again this is simply not the reality. Indigenous cultures who’ve held onto their animistic beliefs and traditions use animal parts in a sacred manner – they are used to better connect with animal spirits and the whole of nature itself. Feathers are often used to fly prayers to the spirits so they may hear them. Teeth and claws are used for protection against harm and to give one strength. Organs are more often used for healing and offerings than anything else – anyone with a grandmother who still buries dead fish in the garden for the fertility of the plants may best understand this. In rural areas of North America you can still find farmers hanging deer antlers or bull horns over their barn door. They may have forgotten why, but once upon a time it was the belief that doing so would protect your livestock and also ensure their health and fertility.

Modern butchery and hunting practices are wasteful and unethical for treating animals as soulless resources. By doing this work and using animal remains in a sacred manner in our spiritual traditions, we make those animals sacred. By showing them respect even in death, we make their lives have the same value as our own.

 

You are well known for crafting various flying ointments, often using ancient recipes. Why flying ointments and when did your love affair with them begin?

I first took notice when nightshades I had not planted started to grow in my garden plots and containers. Instead of weeding them, I researched them and became fascinated. This led me to growing other varieties like henbane, belladonna, datura, and brugmansia. I had a lot of fresh plant material on hand and at the same time I realized that no one I could find was making and using flying ointments today. Considering that flying ointments were one of the very few genuine direct links to the ancestral magical practices of preChristian Europeans, it puzzled me greatly that modern witches and pagans weren’t using them. Later I discovered this was largely due to fear of the plants as governments had been churning out frightening propaganda against them for centuries and our modern governments continue to spread the fear through misinformation. Tales of wild hallucinations and near death experiences come mainly from youths not seeking a spiritual experience, but who simply wanted to get high and who used these plants without research, proper preparation, and with no regard for dosage. They were using these sacred plants at a toxic level instead of in the much safer ways our ancestors would have and have consequently given these plants a much maligned reputation.

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I mainly work with plants in the solanaceae (or nightshade) family. Though many would believe we no longer use them today, the constituents of these plants, such as atropine, are actually considered “core” medicines on the World Health Organizations “Essential Drug List.” Aside from the nightshades’ long history with witchcraft, they are also some of the oldest and most potent medicines used by humanity. How could an herbalist fascinated with ethnobotany not fall in love with plants that were both powerful spiritual allies and incredibly potent medicines? Though my original intent was to use the solanaceae and artemisias for spiritual purposes, the more I worked with these plants, the more I found people came to me for their medicinal uses as well.

And so, after A LOT of research and careful testing, I started to make ointments with the plants I grew along with dried European mandrake roots. I found them to be very useful in aiding in dream work, spirit work, and trance work along with being excellent topical pain killers for relieving migraines, sore backs, and other muscle and joint pain. I started making them for shamanic and pagan groups who wanted to use them for rituals and ceremonies and I started bringing them to my own rituals and teaching workshops on these plants. With all my experience, I learned that much of the fear and propaganda surrounding nightshades and flying ointments is simply not true and that those of us who have learned their history and proper preparations should pass on our knowledge so it is not lost to future generations as it has been to generations past.

 

A lot of folks in the magical community struggle with that to call themselves. You have referred to yourself as an animist, witch, and spirit worker. What do those words mean to you and what is your advice for someone who has not figured out what the right title is for their work and beliefs?

When I call myself an animist, I am referring to my religious philosophy just as others would call themselves a polytheist or a monotheist. I do not worship gods, but instead see all things, all of nature, as being imbued with spirit, anima, life force. Interacting with and honouring the local animals, plants, rivers, lakes, mountains, forests, and larger land features is what matters most to me in my spirituality – the local spirits, great and small. Within animism there is also room for ancestor reverence and so I also honour those who have come before me, both my own blood ancestors as well as those who lived upon this land long before I was born. Animism is believed to be one of the oldest forms of spirituality in human history and still permeates surviving forms of folk magic, folk religion, and common superstitions.

When I call myself a witch I am referring to the practice of witchcraft, not a religious path. It is the folk magic I do, the early modern witchcraft lore I study, and the rituals I put into practice.

When I use the term spirit worker, it is to reference my work with spirits, both is in this world and the other worlds of folklore. It is my dream work, trance work, and the rituals I perform to interact with spirits – usually plants, animals, or ancestors.

I don’t personally believe in putting too much stock in labels and finding the right one as everyone has their own definition of a term, some using the archaic meaning and some using a modern derivative. It is far too easy to waste a lot of time trying to find a label that fits all we believe and do, when we could instead spend that time actively practicing and developing our own beliefs to suit our individual spiritual needs. I think it is a better use of our time instead of trying to fit into a role someone else has defined and be constantly fretting over it.

I wrote a whole article tackling this subject last winter as it comes up over and over again in spiritual communities: “Ducking Pigeonholing.”

 

You art is gorgeous, tell us a bit about how you got started and what your current favorite artistic project is?

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Thank you! I got started in art at a young age. I was always drawing and painting. I took art classes in every year of school because it was something I always enjoyed. I had a lot of support from family who kept me well supplied with paper, ink, and paints. I even used to illustrate stories I wrote and bound them into little homemade books. Today I’m lucky enough to be in a position to get paid for my art and to illustrate the writings of others as well as my own. Falling more under the umbrella of a folk artist, I’ve been able to explore just about any medium I’m interested in – woodcarving, bone carving, pyrography, textiles, calligraphy, and jewelry to name several.

Right now I have a bit of an obvious obsession with drawing plants and skulls. I hope to do more pieces with plants and animals native to my beloved Pacific Northwest in the near future.

 

If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams and passions so you can live your life in joy and wonder, but at the same time be honest with yourself about how you’re going to pull it off in a practical manner.

Mars retrograde in Libra–Swords to Ploughshares

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Mars and Venus by Paolo Veronese; 1580

…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. –Isaiah 2: 3-4

Dear Miracles,

The bad news? The planet Mars is transiting the sign Libra until July 2014 and it just went retrograde. In classic astrology there is no sign that Mars less likes to be in than Venus ruled Libra–he even likes Taurus better than Libra!

The awesome news? Mars is transiting the sign Libra until July 2014, just went retrograde, and we can all learn a lot of lessons from this experience!

This astro situation usually shakes down in one of three ways:

1.) Passive Agressive Alert! Libra does not like confrontations–we like harmony, peace, and love (also champagne). Mars lives for conflict, super charged drama, and risk (high adventure, no?) When Mars goes retro in Libra it can make people who tend to be more direct and unafraid of conflict feel…muffled. It can also make those who do not tend towards conflict feel unusually short tempered and irritable. Thus the scene for some massive passive aggressive attacks is set.

Response: From now until May 19th watch your words and actions–if something rubs you the wrong way and you are usually pretty low key then ask yourself–is this really something I need to bring up and get into it about. If the answer is yes, by all means proceed–with clarity, honesty, and direct communication.

2.) All show, no go: For Libra pretty is powerful and superficial concerns are anything but. For Mars and it’s associated sign of Aries appearance matters but mostly so we can figure out who plays what role and then do something dramatic, daring, and adventurous (and high fives if we manage all three at the same time). Mars retro in Libra can lead to superficial concerns that really are superficial–with no undercurrent of awesome and likewise, can lead into situations that look like they are potentially difficult but worthy endeavors (along the lines of nothing ventured, nothing gained). But are less Mission Impossible and more Mission Stalled Out.

Response: Keen-eyed discernment people! Mars/Aries rules the head and Libra (house of art and diplomacy) is no dummy. This astro has brains, beauty, and brawn so put all of yours to work for you. Do NOT let Mars get the upper hand and go chasing after unlikely/impossible/soul sucking ventures. Do not get caught up in the Libra project gone wrong and spend 2 hours organizing your nail polishes so that they match your lipsticks when what you really need to do is call your boss and have that difficult (and not passive aggressive) conversation about the raise he promised you but never delivered on.

3.) Blue Aisle Special on Global Skirmishes and Political Unrest…yes, Mars retro in Libra can lead to some pretty fine messes on a geopolitical level. Financial weirdness can occur but with this particular astrology it’s more likely that diplomacy in some cases will be a total no go and elected leaders will embrace might over right. You may be yawning and thinking, what else is new? But the Mars retro action does raise the stakes.

Response: Other than sending blessings of wisdom and self control to elected (and unelected) leaders throughout the world, we can all collectively take a page from Isaiah and encourage swords to be turned into ploughshares. The global brandishing of weapons may feel overwhelming and inevitable, but Mars retro in Libra can also send some pretty essential messages about peace and reminds us that harmony emerges first from discord.