Category Archives: Divination

Many Branches: Starry Eyed with Amelia of the Midheaven


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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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

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.

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

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.

Shuffling the Deck: Your Foolish Ways

Is he simple and a dumbling or is he really, really, quite wise? When she finally takes the leap will she fall on her face or discover that she has wings? And what of the relationship between what the world expects us to think/do/say and what we know, in our hearts to be true?

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The Fool in the Ride Waite Smith Tarot Deck.

Now the tom cat was the master of the house, and the hen was mistress, and they always said, “We and the world,” for they believed themselves to be half the world, and the better half too. The duckling thought that others might hold a different opinion on the subject, but the hen would not listen to such doubts. “Can you lay eggs?” she asked. “No.” “Then have the goodness to hold your tongue.” “Can you raise your back, or purr, or throw out sparks?” said the tom cat. “No.”

“Then you have no right to express an opinion when sensible people are speaking.” So the duckling sat in a corner, feeling very low spirited, till the sunshine and the fresh air came into the room through the open door, and then he began to feel such a great longing for a swim on the water, that he could not help telling the hen.

“What an absurd idea,” said the hen. “You have nothing else to do, therefore you have foolish fancies. If you could purr or lay eggs, they would pass away.”

“But it is so delightful to swim about on the water,” said the duckling, “and so refreshing to feel it close over your head, while you dive down to the bottom.”

“Delightful, indeed!” said the hen, “why you must be crazy! Ask the cat, he is the cleverest animal I know, ask him how he would like to swim about on the water, or to dive under it, for I will not speak of my own opinion; ask our mistress, the old woman—there is no one in the world more clever than she is. Do you think she would like to swim, or to let the water close over her head?”

“You don’t understand me,” said the duckling. –From the Ugly Duckling

 

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The Fool from the Wild Unknown Tarot Deck

Card: The Fool
Number: 0
Planetary Ruler: Uranus
Zodiac sign: Aquarius
Season: Spring
The Fool begins the journey into the Tarot. Though he is associated with beginnings it may be better to think of him as a radical revisionist. He has already done some traveling as evidenced by his handy pack–full of tools of his trade and a few essentials for the road. He has seen various paths and ways of being but he is looking for something deeper, something magical and ripe with meaning. But like all aspects of the other world, following intuition can lead to truth or illusion and so the Fool must watch both heaven and earth allowing the practical to intermingle with the more abstract and obscure.

Meanings:

* New Beginnings and Endings
* Foolish behavior, lack of awareness
* Faith and Devotion
* Risk and Reward
* Wisdom

In the beginning there was nothing, only void and in the beginning we have nothing…or so it may seem. Rarely is there a time when an individual says to himself “yes, now is the time and the day that I will go and seek out my deep well of inner knowing., Now is the best time to pursue my dreams” No, no. More often than not life pushes us–through emotional travail, practical circumstance, or shattering revelation to go out on a journey looking for Lord only knows what. This initial step is what the Fool demonstrates and guides us in. For we all begin as fools when we search out and seek towards our deepest sense of knowing and acting.

In most Tarot decks the Fool card is labeled zero and many remark on the tabula rasa nature of the fool, on the fact that zero is equated to the cosmic egg, that the card in a way is a kind of birthing. These observations hold truth in them but I think there is more to the story. Many of us today have experiences in life where we would rightly say that we started not at zero but in the negatives. Perhaps day in, day out circumstance weighed against us or we lost ourselves to ourselves through one bad decision after the other, when the Fool shows up her presence indicates that in some way and to some degree healing and foreknowledge has already begun to take root–for we are not in the negatives-we are at zero and we are ready to set forth.

In literature, myth and story there are different kinds of fools. There is the foolish fool, the wise fool, and the holy fool. There are the Trickster Gods who are the fools’ boon companions, guides, and in some cases challengers all rolled into one black feathered raven or scatter-furred Coyote. But there is one thing that all of these fools have in common, one demand that they make of us no matter what kind of fool we may be-we must be willing to be ridiculous, to embrace the absurd.

Ridiculous, absurd, and hilarious behavior puts us right up close and personal with our pride, ego, and most essential of all concern with what everyone else thinks. The Fool is the right first step for any journey that takes us into our interior, any work that is determined to unearth the deep well of intuition because the first step is a turning away from “what the world thinks” and that is why the Fool shows us his back and not his front. He has by hook or crook turned away from the blathering on of the exterior world…for now. The Fool is, interestingly enough, concerned with knowledge but it is knowledge of the self he seeks out. He is seeking a different voice, one that is carried on the wind and sniffed out in woodsmoke, one that resides in just the right harmony, and in the wind that blows around our deep well of knowing.

In a reading: The natural expression of the Fool in our outer life looks different for different people but it often manifests as the individual turning their back–figuratively or literally–on that which no longer serves, takes up space for the sake of taking up space and wastes time.

When the Fool/ess comes into your life you can bet that s/he is going to turn it upside down and inside out-willy nilly. The Fool is not gradual change–there is little that appears to be reasoned or rational about her, she is after all a Fool. The Fool is fast and sudden change. It is the financier who after working 100 hour weeks for eight years decides to quit their job and follow their life long passion of photography. It is the artisan who leaves the big city that never had a place for her and chooses to homestead in the mountains with her partner. It is the mom who chooses to homeschool her children-other people’s opinions be damned, and it is the boyfriend who wakes up and realizes his life will never be the same without his mate…and ask for their hand in marriage.

These are all examples of Fool energy in action. Just as there is nothing gradual about the Fool there is also nothing done without order-although it may not be apparent at the time. The Fool always, always, always initiates a journey. When the Fool shows up he crooks his finger and says-come away with me. The journey need not be physically articulated-though it often is-because it is a journey into the interior realms, into the mountains and valleys of our soul selves-that is why the back is turned.

 

Rituals:

Sacred Journal Prompt: Where is the Fool in your life? What journey does he invite you take?

Build an Altar: To represent your understand of Faith, Belief, and Inner Wisdom.

Try Something New: the Fool likes journeys and beginnings, try one thing you have never tried before to honor your own Fool/ess.

 

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

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.

 

Make Mercury (Retro) work for you!

 

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Mercury in Retrograde is here! It’s that crazy time of year when the wee planet Mercury appears to be going backwards in its elliptical orbit. It is not actually retrograding but from our vantage point it sure looks like it! And Mercury in Retrograde is probably THE most infamous astrological event because Mercury is a small but mighty planet–he rules, among other things, our ability to communicate clearly, think smart, make good deals, and the general area of technology. When a retrograde happens to say the least, it is easy for things to go on the fritz!

Mercury in retrograde is actually a time of year that I really typically enjoy. I mean sure, there is always a repair that has to happen or a technical snafu, but I go into the season EXPECTING those events. If you are like me there is always a project or two that you started that is still hanging around in a half completed state. While Mercury retrograde is not a great time to begin new projects it is a superb time to bring old projects to a close. Paying attention to the zodiac sign that the retrograde occurs in brings a certain level of nuance to each retrograde phase. Consider what particular sets of strengths and weaknesses the sign Mercury is transiting brings to the cosmic table and then think about ways to practically maximize the benefits in your own life.

While traveling during retrograde is not the best idea, considering the way we travel-and if you are a frequent traveler-organizing and streamlining the process for yourself is a great way to take advantage of this time. In fact, the simple rule of thumb is that any activity that begins with an “re” is an appropriate retrograde activity, this includes: reassessing, remembering, recollecting, repairing, responding (to letters and emails), reorganizing, and reconciling!

Always exercise common sense during a retrograde-a bunch of my lovely lady clients always feel the need to start pressuring their significant others into stronger commitment or marriage. This is probably not the best time to do that since feelings can get hurt and intense conversations can go south quickly. Back up your computer, make sure your phones are charged and plugged in.

If you start to feel itchy, twitchy, unfocused, or like you might bite someone’s head off–take a breath, go for a walk, clear your head and then return to it. Pick an organizing/cleaning/de-cluttering project a few weeks before the retrograde actually hits and you will be in awesome shape!

Blessed New Moon in Aquarius!

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Blessed New Moon in Aquarius guys! If you missed the latest edition of Milagro Roots News or for some weird reason are not subscribed then you have not heard me wax eloquently about how awesome this New Moon is. It is especially great for deep and fast insights into your networks (both for business and pleasure), how you connect with people, and how you communicate ideas. The New Moon is in the sign of Aquarius AND it is well aspected with Aquarius’ ruling planet Uranus so these insights are of the flash of lightening brilliant variety as opposed to gradual or subtle.

Por example: I had a killer dream last night that re-affirmed some biz decisions I have already made and left me with a mean and lean priority list. So…the moon is New at 3:40pm central standard time but the vibe is here right now! Be open to the fresh insights, I would recommend traveling today with a blank book or recording device of some kind, and give yourself some extra space and time this afternoon to really appreciate those flashes of golden insight!

And if you would like to work the the moon on a magical/ritual level then this excerpt from my upcoming Star Magic class will be of interest:

In Magic-The moon can be used to consecrate any object, talisman, or spiritual product with the qualities of fertility, magic, intuition, coolness, objectivity, artistry, and inspiration. In Eastern systems it is also equated with the mind or pure intellect. Work with the New Moon to plant seeds for your newest project or desire (or your physical garden), and work with the waxing moon on things you wish to have grow and strengthen. Work with the Full Moon to celebrate completed projects, increase fertility of all kinds, honor love and romance, and divination rituals, and work with the waning moon whenever you need to let go of/banish things. Finally, work with the Dark Moon (the phase right before the New Moon), for baneful work.”

 

 

Treat Me Right Tonight-Devouring the Dark Moon

Just a quick note loves because from now until Tuesday we are in the Dark Moon period–that time when la luna is preparing to renew herself for the New Supermoon on Thursday. Every newsletter I send out has an article and ritual either for the New Moon or the Full Moon but I don’t get to talk about the Dark Moon very often so I wanted to share. The Dark Moon is the period right before the New Moon. In the sky during this time the moon is almost invisible as it is when it’s New. Dark Moons are WONDERFUL times for deep and meaningful self care. Typically the vibe is more relaxed and passive–these are the times where even if you are an early riser you are more tempted to stay in bed, nourish yourself with warm teas and soups (especially in January), boost your immune system and engage in some thoughtful self care. If there is ever a time where it feels like you can take a day off from your typical ritual practices or spiritual program, this is it and the time is now. Quietude, good candles and some dark chocolate may be the order for the next few days–I know it’s a tough order but I’m sure you are willing to make the sacrifice!

How to work a Void of Course Moon

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We are coming off a Void of Course Moon in Virgo and I thought it would be a good time to say a few words about what exactly a Void of Course Moon is and how you can work most effectively with it. The Moon is considered “void of course” after it passes the last planet in a given sign and is on its lovely way to the next sign in the zodiacal wheel. So, for instance, since yesterday (1/20/14) the Moon has been Void of Course in the sign of Virgo and around 5pm my time today it will have its first aspect in the sign of Libra officially ending the Void of Course time period.

The Moon goes Void of Course pretty often and these periods can be longish–in the neighborhood of one to two days–or they can be quite brief. When considering how to work with a Void of Course Moon, I usually recommend that folks treat this period in a similar fashion to a New Moon minus the starting new ventures energy. Void of Course moons are small but intense moments when we have the opportunity to engage in deep self-care which really translates to paying attention to what is working and is not working in our lives. It is almost like a Celestial magnifying glass is handed to you but of course you get to decide whether to make use of the time or not.

This IS a time when big movements or decisions can happen–in most presidential elections one party has chosen their nominee during a Void of Course moon (and typically that nominee loses). The first pictures of space were taken during a Void of Course Moon, and generally speaking your psychic spidey-sense comes out more strongly during this time, but so can negative patterns that need to be assessed and addressed once and for all.

When considering what ritual vibe is most appropriate for a given Void of Course Moon look at the sign that it is in. For me with the Moon Void of Course in Virgo I have been making lists about what needs to be cleaned and organized in my home in preparation for the upcoming Mercury in Retrograde we will all delight in come February. The sign/house that the Moon has gone Void of Course in points the way for magical work during this time and any work you do can yield long-term and lasting results! Ready to learn more about how to work with the stars and simple, magical, ritual? Star Magic is happening in February!

Of Glass and Fire: How to work with Devotional Candles

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A version of this article was first published in the Summer 2013 issue of Witches and Pagans magazine which is available for purchase here.

If you have ever wandered into a Botanica or latin american grocery store you may have found yourself staring down an aisle or wall filled with brightly colored glass candles–some with silk screened images on the glass, some topped with foil or Saran wrap, and others that are plain and unmarked. These are glass novena candles, also called vigil candles, vigil lights, sanctuary lights, or devotional candles, and while they often go unmentioned in the classic pagan books, they have been used in candle and fire magic for years with great success.

Glass novena candles were first used in Catholic religious devotions known as “novenas”–9 day prayer rituals with the intention of seeking the aid and building a relationship with a specific saint usually for a specific purpose. The novena ritual does not come out of Christian scripture but is derived from ancient Greek and Roman pre-Christian rites around honoring the dead. The devotional candles sanctioned by the Catholic Church were originally 100% beeswax and poured so that they would burn for 9 days–they were sometimes affixed with a paper prayer card of the petitioned Saint which in turn gave way to large paper illustrations of particular Saints on the front of the candle and prayers for the saint on the back of the candle.

In Catholic families and communities the novena could at times take on a party atmosphere-with friends coming over to sit in vigil, feasts shared, and group prayers performed or they could be quiet and intensely private affairs. Through them all the glass encased devotional candle would be burning. Folk magic traditions grew up around novena rituals and their glass encased candles and then in the early 1940′s these devotional candles started getting advertised in spiritual supply catalogs as “religious” goods.

Candle shops that catered to African Americans and stocked supplies for those working in the Hoodoo and Conjure traditions bought from these spiritual supply catalogues and thus the glass encased vigil candle found its way into Southern Conjure. Meanwhile specialty shops known as Botanicas began to spring up as immigrants from Mexico, South, and Central America came into the United States in the 60′s and 70′s. Pharmacies and grocery stores in Latin American neighborhoods also began dedicating an aisle or two to commonly used spiritual products-often with a focal point of glass encased devotional candles-which by this point in time were no longer composed of beeswax but petroleum derived paraffin. Silkscreen printing on glass became popular at this time as well and the devotional candles began to branch out into more mainstream culture-with candles no longer being set only to Our Lady of Guadalupe or Saint Martha for love magic-but instead also getting labeled with more generic petitions like “Love Me” or in some cases maintaining a Biblical connection with a formula like “Adam and Eve.”

By the late 70′s glass encased candles were available in straight up magical supply shops as well as religious supply stores and they are now used by a variety of practitioners for both religious and magical purposes. Pagans who were raised in or around Catholic tradition, specifically Italian or Mexican, Central, and/or South American strains of Catholicism are usually familiar with the glass novena candle already and may find the tradition of blessing and dressing a candle to be second nature. Those who do not may find that working with the magic of a devotional candle is something that appeals to them and opens new windows for the philosophy of fire, as Henri Gamache so poetically puts it.

In modern day candle magic there are several steps involved in preparing your devotional candle. These are: write a petition, “fixing” the candle, setting the candle, reading the candle, and ritually disposing of the candle.

 

Writing a petition for devotional candles

In a traditional novena the devotional candle represents a way to honor a specific saint but it also gives light, energy, and the magic of fire to the devotees’ petition or prayer. So it is in our own magic making-we begin with our petition, our intention, or the desire that we wish to manifest. Looking at devotional candles now we often find that when the candles have paper images in the front and prayers in the back there are sometimes lines underneath the prayers for you to write your own petition. When working with plain devotional candles that do not have any papers or labels affixed to their sides a petition may be written on a small piece of paper and taped to the bottom of the candle or in some cases affixed to the sides of the candle. I have also seen candle shop and botanic owners use a sharpie to inscribe a client’s petition directly onto the glass side of the candle. Another popular way to include the petition is to write it into the wax at the top of the candle-using a screwdriver, icepick, or blade to inscribe. If using paper for your petition you may anoint the paper with ritual anointing oil, pass it through ritual incense, anoint it with your own bodily fluids if appropriate, and/or in the case of affixing a piece of paper to the bottom of the candle enclose small bits of personal concerns within the paper, fold, and then tape it to the candle.

 

Dressing & Blessing or “fixing” devotional candles

Once the petition has been created it is time to bless, dress, or “fix” the devotional candles. The top of the candle may be poked with holes or inscribed with a sigil, name, or short petition-it may also be left alone. Next a pinch of dried herbs or a dried herb mix is sprinkled on top of the candle. Years of burning candles for myself and clients has taught me that the finer the herb mix the better-a spice grinder is ideal for this-and keeping the herbs relatively far from the candle wick is a good practice. The herbs should of course be ritually appropriate to whatever situation it is that you wish to magically address. Thus if you are working to cleanse and purify you may wish to use a pinch of sage, to bring about love work with red rose petals, to increase protection use ginger, to increase academic success consider deers tongue leaf, etc.

After the herbs are added you may desire to include a slightly larger curio (in Conjure the addition of lodestone grit, small pieces of pyrite, and High John the Conqueror root chips is often seen, while in Latin inspired botanicas I have been given devotional candles studded with quartz crystal tips-very pretty!, pennies, and even large horseshoe confetti. Non-toxic, fine, glitter may also be added for extra sparkle and shine.

So far all of the dry ingredients have been added-now its time to add our wet ingredient-a ritual, essential, anointing, or pantry oil. Some essential oils are flammable so it’s important to do your research if you are using a straight essential oil. A more traditional method is to use a ritual anointing oil-these are also usually available at candle shops and Botanicas or you can make your own. I will say that many of the mass market available ritual oils begin with a base of mineral oil-due to its cheapness and personally I steer clear of those. You may make your own ritual anointing oil by gathering dried herbs that are appropriate for your situation and soaking them in almond oil for several weeks or you may simply use olive oil out of your kitchen pantry! The important thing to remember is not to drown your herbs or the candle wick-for doing so will leave you with a weak or dirty burning candle and that will have an impact on how you read the candle. A few drops and you are good to go!

Now the candle has been dressed with herbs, oil, and perhaps some sparkle. And if you notice you also have represented three of the four elements-Earth is invoked by the dried herbs, air is invoked by the scent of the herbs and oil, and water is invoked by the liquid oil. All that is missing is fire! It is time to bless the candle. I have been taught many ways to bless a candle but my favorite way is to hold the candle up at my heart level and speak into it. Sometimes when I do this I go into a bit of a trance and sometimes I will ask my guides for a specific, physical sign during the course of the candle burn to let me know if the magic is manifesting. In some traditions practitioners will set the candle down and clap over it one or three times to seal it, tap the bottom of the candle on the table three times (this is referred to as “knocking” the candle) or using one hand to cover the top of the candle and then lightly tapping that hand with your other hand.

When preparing many candles at the same time I have been taught to take a towel or sheet, place it over them and tap it in the center-all of these are various ways to seal the candle and to let the spirits know that you are ready for them to help you in your magical endeavors! When devotional candles are prepared at a shop for clients they are often blessed and dressed and then covered with tin foil or saran wrap so that the client may carry them home and set them.

 Setting devotional candles

Once your candle has been dressed, blessed, and fixed its time to set it! The best practice when working with glass devotional candles is to set them up in a place where they can burn continuously without interruption. Unfortunately this simple instruction can cause a lot of confusion and worry.

Fire safety is important when dealing with candles of all kinds. If you are away from home for most of the day, have a cat, dog, or small children that are sometimes left unattended then working with glass encased devotional candles may not be the best choice for you unless you can place them somewhere out of reach. It is possible to snuff out devotional candles but I strongly prefer to work with taper or figural candles if I am going to be snuffing a candle out repeatedly. I will say from my own experience of burning thousands of candles that if a glass devotional candle tips over it is most likely simply going to go out-its very hard for a fire to start from one of these lights-but of course caution is always advised.

A devotional candle should really be allowed to sit and burn. I have seen these candles placed in a large aluminum stock pot, in glass casserole dishes filled with water, sand, or lovely rocks, in the kitchen sink, in a bathtub, shower, and fire place. When I lived in a one room apartment and lit candles for clients I placed them in the kitchen sink and bathtub whenever I went out, when I moved into my house I had a local blacksmith make two metal candle houses for me after going to a local Catholic grotto and seeing a design there that I was able to altar for my needs. If you are setting more than one devotional candle do be aware of putting them too close to one another-especially in a closed area like a stock pot-they will increase one another’s heat, melting will happen faster-especially with the paraffin candles-and the glass around the wax can break or scorch.

I like to light my devotional candles with wooden matches. You may light them and say a charm or prayer over them or you may light them in silence. You have now added the 4th element-fire to your magical candle-may it burn brightly!

 

Divination with devotional candles

One of the nicest aspects of working with glass devotional candles is that after they have finished burning you may perform a simple divinatory reading of the glass and candle to determine whether your work is on its way to manifesting or needs to be repeated or refined in some way and you can also pick up other important signs and symbols that may have specific meaning to you and your situation. When reading a glass candle there are three main parts I look at: the glass itself, remaining wax and debris from the candle, and if the candle has a paper petition or label attached to it the paper. On the glass of the candle we may see black soot, discreet scorch marks, a gray fog or haze, or the glass may be completely clean and clear. I have found over the years that performing divination with glass candles is a very personal and subjective art but in most cases a clean and clear glass casing indicates that your road is open and the petition has been heard “loud and clear!” Black soot indicates resistance or obstacles while gray haze or fog can indicate a lack of clarity or a scattered intention. Discreet scorch marks may indicate that the work will manifest in many ways but there may be one specific challenge that is first addressed.

Some people read the candle from bottom to top-meaning that the base of the candle is considered to represent the “present” while the further up along the candle we travel represents the near future and future. Others, including myself, read the opposite way-the top of the candle indicates the present situation and as we move down the candle towards the base we may forecast future events. When considering the wax and debris inside of the candle we may notice that some of the wax has not melted completely, that there is wax-often is specific shapes-along the sides of the candle, and that debris from our herbs and such may also adhere to the inside of the glass-again, often in specific shapes. There are many good books out there that can assist you in decoding the meaning of specific shapes and symbols-books on Tasseomancy and Bone Reading are particularly useful in this respect I find. However, the more you work with these candles the more you will discover your own unique language of symbols-for those of us that come to magic from inherited traditions we often find that a symbol that has deep meaning for us also has meaning for someone else in our family! Sometimes rings of wax will form on the candles and these may indicate the numbers of days/weeks/months you will need to wait before your work full manifests. Often when there is residual wax at the bottom of the candle it may indicate that a similar candle should be lit again for the same purpose.

Paper labels and petitions are usually not effected during a candle’s burn-but every now and then a candle becomes so hot that the paper will singe, scorch and in rare cases catch fire. The specific meanings of these events must be considered within the context of the candle’s intention and the purpose of the papers in the first place.

 

Devotional Candles as spells or part of ritual

So far I have written about devotional candles as a spell in and of themselves-you have a specific need or request, you create a petition, dress your candle, light it and let the magic spiral out into manifestation. But devotional candles may also be used in more elaborate altar rituals as part of the altar set up or as “magical back ups” to your main ritual work.  In these cases one would usually fix and set the devotional candle first so that they are burning and then turn to the more intricate ritual components. Candles worked with in this way may be read in the manner I describe above and they are often read in conjunction with other aspects of the completed ritual.

 

Tricky burns and other situations

Often when we first start working with devotional candles we will encounter the candle that refuses to light, the wick that continues to drown, the herb that catches on fire, floating wicks (especially in paraffin candle  and other similarly trick situations. Schools of thought diverge on what the best methods for dealing with these candles are. On the one hand some practitioners believe that messing with the candle at all destroys the ability to get an accurate read from the candle. For those of us who light candles for clients professionally this is especially difficult because often part of the candle service includes a report wherein the candle is read. Others, like myself, believe the physical manipulation of the candle to ensure that it stays lit and burns as best it can without interruption is part of the service and caretaking of the candles. When a candle has to be physically altered in some manner a note is made and this is considered when the finished candle is read for signs.

 

Ritually disposing of devotional candles-environmental concerns:

Devotional candles have a long history of use in religion, magic, and American folk magic but as we progress into the 21st century I feel some remarks about their environmental impact should be considered. Many old spells call fur burial of candle remains and some practitioners have taken this to mean the remains of glass candles as well. For ecological reasons it is preferable to recycle glass candle casings or better yet-reuse them! The majority of glass encased devotional and novena candles today are made of dyed paraffin. Paraffin is a petroleum by-product and the wax is whipped with air to create a softer, malleable product that can be easily poured into glass containers. Whereas these candles were originally for novenas or 9 day rituals, today’s candles last an average of 4-5 days if there are no difficult burn situations. Parrafin has a specific scent and burning it does release toxins into the air, including the assortment of chemicals that is found in diesel fuel. Some paraffin glass devotional candles also contain lead in their wicks so you have the added worry of burning lead. On the other hand, many people love these classic candles because they grew up with them and they are also very inexpensive. Pull out paraffin candles are available at many spiritual supply stores so that once your original candle has burned out you may clean out the glass casing and insert a new candle in.

For those who do not wish to burn paraffin for whatever reason (I stopped burning paraffin candles myself several years ago due to health concerns and because I had birds that could not tolerate paraffin) there are alternatives. You may buy empty novena style glass containers or any other style of glass container and read your candle, you may also order beeswax glass devotional candles from several suppliers. Whereas paraffin has many negative properties, sustainably harvested beeswax has wonderful properties-including color, scent, texture, the release of negative ions into the air, and the added magical properties of bees and honey! Last time I compared a beeswax novena candle when burned alongside a paraffin novena candle-outlasted the paraffin candle by 4 to 5 days. The downside of beeswax is that it is considerably more costly-but as far as I’m concerned that’s a great motivation to get to know and support your local beekeepers!

The presence of fire through a prism of glass has a magical allure all its own. Glass encased devotional candles are considered a standard magical necessity by some and exotic tools by others–but their ability to function as both spell and divination reading makes them one of the more versatile magical tools and allows for one more way in which our lives might be blessed by the power of fire!

 

Sources:

Cunningham, Scott. Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Llewelyn. 1985.

Dey, Charmaine. The Magic Candle. Original Publications, 1982.

Gamache, Henri. Masterbook of Candle Burning. Original Publications, 1985.

yronwode, catherine. Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic. Lucky Mojo Curio Company, 2002.

 

 

 

 

Shuffling the Deck: The Devil You Know

The Devil is such a compelling figure and one to consider from so many angles. In the Tarot he surprises us by showing up right after the stabilizing force of the Temperance card. Let’s find out what this particular tarot teacher has to say.

 

Card: The Devil
Number: 15
Planetary Ruler: Pluto/Saturn
Zodiac sign: Capricorn
Season: Late Winter
We have just come through Death and found a place of balance and revivification with the Temperance card. Just as we think we are making some progress, Old Scratch shows up to cause mischief and mayhem…or does he?

Meanings:

* Slavery and Bondage
* Addictive Behaviors and Chronic Negative Thought Patterns
* Love of the Wild
* Rebellion
* Obsessions and Compulsions

In the Tanakh (The Hebrew Bible or what Christians call the “old testament”), the term Satan is almost always accompanied by the definite article “the.” As a result, some translators believe that the term refers to a function as opposed to a specific being. This function of “the Satan” is perhaps best illustrated in the Book of Job where he is described simply as “the adversary.” In Christian contexts Satan becomes the Devil. The word is derived from the ancient Greek diabolos which literally means “to slander” or “the slanderer.”

First and foremost, we see from the Jewish and Christian contexts of the terms Satan and Devil, that the function of the Devil is that of a challenger or adversary. This aspect is carried over into folklore where characters like “Old Scratch” show up to create mischief and mayhem and figures like Krampus-a pre-Christian German figure especially active during the holidays–is the foil to “Good St. Nicholas.” Whereas St. Nick awards children who have been good, Krampus punishes those who have been bad. The image that we see emerging from these depictions is a figure whose job is to exploit us in the areas where we are most weak. Some believe that the Devil does this because he is inherently evil, but others find that we prove our worth and mettle by facing temptation head on and acknowledging where we may be enslaved; enslaved to bad relationships, addictive behaviors, or simply chronic thought patterns that will not subside.

Capricorn, the astrological sign that is affiliated with the Devil card, gives us another aspect to consider. Capricorn and the Devil share the ruling planet of Saturn. In astrology, Saturn is often conceived as a planet dictating discipline, restriction, and a rigid adherence to one’s strict ethical and moral code. In Greek myth, Saturn is Kronos, the God of Time who continually procreates only to devour his children in fear that his throne may be usurped. The Devil is also the Horned Goat associated with Pagan Gods like Pan and Cerrunos–the Celtic Lord of the Animals. In this guise the Devil is viewed as a Christian overlay on a pre-Christian Deity who symbolized wild lands, wild behavior, and protections of and for the wild.

In the RWS version of the card we see a horned figure with the torso of a man and the shaggy, furred legs of a goat. This image is the traditional Satyr image of half man/half goat we see associated with the Devil throughout the Western world. An inverted pentagram rests between the Devil’s horns. The pentagram was first popularized by metaphysical and mathematical teacher Pythagoras and has many mysteries associated with it. Far from a symbol of evil, the pentagram right side up actually connotes adherence to the four cardinal virtues and high esteem for the immortal soul. In it’s inverted position, the pentagram indicates a disdain for these trappings of religion and civilization. At the feet of the Devil are two figures who look familiar to us because we first met them in card #6–The Lovers. In this card, however, our prototypical Adam and Eve have sprouted their own horns and, most alarmingly of all, they are chained to the great beast’s throne. When we look closely at the chains, however, we see that the collars around both the man and the women are large and spacious and easy enough to slip right on out of. This gives us the clue that the Devil is actually a challenge for us–to examine what chains bind us, name them, and then free ourselves of them once and for all.

When it shows up in a reading, this card usually indicates that something is binding you right now. It is your job to figure out what that is and do something to free yourself. It may also indicate that an addiction you have had up to this point and believed you could handle on your own is getting the better of you. It is time to seek out help. In some cases, this card encourages you to never underestimate the person(s) who challenge you most. For others, this card is a clarion cry to rebel against an unjust system and often indicates a “return to nature” or a romanticization of all that is wild, free, and unfettered by man-made civilization.

Rituals:

Sacred Journal Prompt: Is there a Devil in your life right now? Who or what is your own personal adversary? What are the chains that are binding you and how might you go about setting yourself free?

Build an Altar: Depending on what the Devil card says to you, you can create an altar that is meant for banishing work.  Put items on the altar that you wish to be free of–overloaded credit cards, cigarettes, liquor, that abusive friendship–and then take practical steps to let them go. Place this altar in the West and work at it as the sun sets in the sky.

Honor the Wild: If the Devil is not posing as an adversary to you right now then perhaps he is reminding you of what is wild, free, and unfettered. What in your own life is wild? Does something need to be unchained a bit more? Take a walk in the woods and consider these questions.