Category Archives: Sacred How-To

Taking it Personally–How to work with Personal Concerns in Magic

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A lock of hair from Napoleon Bonaparte sold for 14K at auction–wonder who will be working with that?

One aspect that many different folk magic traditions have in common is the use they make of personal concerns such as hair, nail pairings, and bodily fluids. These concerns are worked with in a number of ways for both benevolent and malevolent purposes and though folk magic traditions are making somewhat of a comeback, there is still much confusion around what a personal concern is and how we can work with them in our practice.

Personal concern is a term used in ritual and folk magic and can indicate any number of items including:

  • blood
  • menstrual blood
  • umbilical cord
  • placenta
  • sexual fluids
  • waste products like urine and feces
  • finger or toenail clippings
  • hair
  • bones
  • pubic hair
  • sweat
  • saliva
  • worn, unwashed clothing
  • picture of the person
  • handwriting from the person

In some cases legal documents and business cards may also function as personal concerns

The idea behind the personal concern is that of sympathetic magic, specifically the subset of sympathetic magic known as contagious magic which holds that “things once in contact with one another continue to exert an influence on one another after they have been separated” (James Frazer, The Golden Bough). In other words the concern you have (either from yourself or from the target of your magical work) is a concrete, often DNA laden, tie that binds the person it represents to the magic that you are performing on their behalf. Or to put it more simply, items like a bit of hair and nail pairings are magical because they have an element of our bodies and spirit in them even though they are no longer attached to the physical body itself.

A quick survey of anthropological discoveries assures us that our ancestors knew what many of us are now only remembering-that personal concerns were *the* essential and primary ingredient in many magical workings. Doll babies unearthed in Annapolis, Maryland, dating back to slave times in the US, are stuffed with the hair of plantation masters; effigies from Europe to Africa are “loaded” with hair, nails, and in some cases the blood of the person for whom they are meant to work. In 1654 an English cunning woman named Anne Green “saw no illogicality in claiming to have cured a headache caused by bewitchment through boiling a lock of the client’s hair in urine and then throwing it in the fire–believing that the maleficent spell would have been destroyed along with the hair and urine” (Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits, Emma Wilby).

Strong taboos against ingesting blood, leaving hair and nail clippings out for anyone to pick up, and allowing strangers or potential lovers access to one’s unwashed clothing or used bath water are found in many cultures. In Mexican folk magic traditions new mothers will often take a part of or the entire placenta of their baby and bury it at the base of a strong tree confident that as the tree grows and matures so will their child. My grandfather–a half Irish, half Cherokee plant man–took the first lock ever cut from my head and kept it in his wallet until the day he had a massive stroke. When I asked him why he told me it was to “keep me close and protect me” as his Cherokee mother had done for him.

 

Why did personal concerns go out of vogue in magic?

In Europe when Christianity, especially protestant Christianity, began replacing indigenous folk magic traditions the emphasis on personal concerns began to wane as the power of prayer, right living, and intentional petitioning of saints, angels, and the Blessed Virgin replaced older forms of sympathetic and contagious magic. This is not to say that the use of personal concerns in magic faded completely–I believe it has never done so–but it did begin to give way to the power of the mind and suggestion.

The advent of New Thought traditions in America and popularization of “oriental” and eastern techniques of meditation and concentration further eroded the use of personal concerns as “mind over matter” became the accepted mantra. Humanists like William James ushered in the era of Psychology and the relationship between will and results focused power, including magical power, in and around the mind. An emphasis on the practitioner’s intention and ability to “visualize” strong results from their work was and to some extent continues to be seen as the most important aspect in magic making. Interestingly in many magical communities to this day it’s held that your intention is the most critical component in successful spell casting-more so than any specific ingredient you might use, charm or incantation you might utter, prayer or offering you might make and of course more than any tangible and personal link to the individual(s) you may be trying to influence.

Gerald Gardner, influenced by Aleister Crowley and other Victorian era mages, did mention personal concerns, especially sexual personal concerns from time to time. The sense, however, one has from their writings is that personal concerns were seen as transgressive and powerful due to their taboo nature as opposed to vital ingredients in any successful magical art.

 

Personal Concerns in magic today

As folk magic traditions experience a bit of a renaissance the need for personal concerns in ritual work is becoming more acknowledged. It is still an issue that causes confusion and discomfort. Many people find the idea of working with a personal concern—especially someone else’s—to be disconcerting for a number of reasons. In some cases the practitioner may feel that possessing something so personal is a transgression of their own ethical or moral codes and in those cases I can only say that perhaps no magic should be performed. More frequently the mage may feel a bit squeamish especially when handling some of the more biologically charged concerns such as urine, semen, vaginal fluid, or blood. I encourage my students and clients to treat personal concerns with the same level of respect and practicality that they treat the precious roots and herbs some magic calls for. A basic working knowledge of biology and especially how proteins decompose over time is necessary for correct usage. When working with volatile personal concerns it may be wise to wear gloves. If you are not sure that a person’s personal concern is “safe” health-wise then do not work with it.

 

Significance of Specific Concerns

As with everything there is always the question of what the BEST personal concern is and of course the answer varies depending on what it is that you are trying to do. Here is a useful guide:

  • Placenta and umbilical cord are typically used to bless and protect both mother and new born child.
  • Hair from the face or head can affect the head (thoughts, ideas and speech) as well as the heart (emotions, desires) and can be pulled from a brush, picked up by running a piece of tape along a pillow, or pulled from a razor. Hair from the genitals is typically used in love and romance work.
  • Fingernails affect the hands which in turn can alter our ability to work, to possess skill, to gain in prosperity, to heal and to harm. Fingernail pairings from filing or cutting nails with scissors work well.
  • Toenails effect the feet and in many cultures the feet are believed to be one of the most vulnerable parts of the body–taking in whatever they walk over be it good or ill.
  • Saliva is worked with to effect someone’s ability to speak, and to make kisses especially sweet…or sour. An excellent way to get a sample is by cutting a few bristles off a used toothbrush.
  • Urine is often seen as one of the most vital bodily fluids and may be used to mark off territory or dominate while feces is almost always used for baneful magic and cursing work but in some rare cases may be used for benevolent, usually healing, purposes.
  • Blood of course is one of the oldest magics but working with blood need not take us immediately into the realm of sacrifice and slaughter. Magic around women’s menstrual cycles is ancient and profound as we can see because so many taboos exists around moon blood.
  • Bone calls up the spirit of whatever animal-be it beast or man-it came from.
  • Sexual Fluids are used in love, romance, and sex magics.

Sacred Artists NOT Scam Artists–How to Hire an Ethical Spiritual Worker

 

It’s not enough to wish and hope that you get an ethical spiritual worker–it is up to you to get educated!

It’s that time of year again. No, not Mercury in Retrograde, not Yuletide, and not my birthday. It’s the time of year when scam artist spell casters start coming out of the woodwork, and I hear story after story from clients who have been scammed out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars and even more stories of near misses.

People who misuse the magical arts as a way to scam the innocent and naive are at the top of my personal evil eye list. I take issue with them not only because I often find myself cleaning up the emotional, financial, and magical messes they leave behind, but also because, for an easy score, they undo the fragile in-roads into acceptance and belonging that the Sacred Arts community has been steadily making through collective dedication to ethical practices, transparent policies, and above all, professional integrity.

So…in the spirit of public service and protecting the innocent, here is my handy list of what to look for when hiring an intuitive reader and/or magical worker to attend to your situation(s). While these guidelines and landmarks will not absolutely 100% protect you from the shysters that are out there, they can, when followed, give you a much better chance of finding an honest and ethical worker.

1.) Know your budget for magical work BEFORE you contact a worker. Please do not spend your last penny with a spiritual worker in the hopes that you will have greater prosperity. That road will only lead to sadness and ruin.

1.) Do NOT ever, ever, ever, tell anyone who is going to read for you or possibly perform magical work on your behalf that you are “desperate” or “will do anything” or will “pay anything.” Seriously people. You could not mark yourself out as a more easy target if you painted a big bullseye on your forehead. If you are truly experiencing any of the aforementioned feelings, I would go a step further and say that unless you have a trusted associate who does this kind of work, you might want to take a step back, engage in some grounding and prayer, and proceed when you are more level headed.

2.) Typically, not in every single situation, but usually, a person who offers to perform ritual/magical work on behalf of others will require an intuitive reading first.

These readings often serve multiple purposes. In the various traditions I have been trained in they are considered de rigeur because:

  • the intuitive reading allows the querent to tell their story and not only gives the worker valuable insights but also helps the client arrive at useful information themselves during the process.
  • the intuitive reader allows the worker and client to determine if they do and can have a good working relationship together. This is so important, especially if considering hiring someone to do ritual or ceremonial work on your behalf.
  • the intuitive reading allows the worker to assess the situation and determine if ritual work is an appropriate means of addressing the client’s concern. Websites where you can just buy a spell and have someone else perform said spell for you without any kind of diagnostic session are not to be trusted.

 

3.) Pay attention to your worker’s testimonials page–are the testimonials up to date? Are there pictures? First and last names? Also, note what the testimonials say as well as what they DO NOT say. For instance, is someone really good about about getting back to clients but curiously missing testimonials indicating that their work actually works?

4.) Look for a “No Guarantees clause.” This clause is a legal clause and is actually found in most boilerplate client contracts–whether you are working with a ritualist or a web designer it does not matter. It is standard operating procedure for any professional to have a no guarantees clause somewhere in their literature. The gist of a no guarantees clause is that the professional you are hiring promises to do the work they have been hired for to the best of their ability but they cannot guarantee a successful outcome. Spell casters and magical workers who promise money back guarantees and/or 100% success rates should be approached with great caution and skepticism.

5.) Note what frequency/method of contact the worker prefers and agrees to BEFORE rendering payment.

6.) Note what kind of follow up or feedback you will receive during and at the conclusion of any work BEFORE rendering payment.

7.) Note if there is an unbiased mediator or third party you may appeal to if something comes up during your work that concerns you. For instance, I am a founding member of AIRR (the Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers), and clients who patronize members of AIRR have recourse to the Ombudsman (full disclosure: that office is currently held by me) if they experience either failure of contact or failure of delivery with one of our workers.

8.) Make sure that a clear agreement is in place directing your worker on details such as adding more work to the situation without first speaking to you, sourcing rare/expensive ingredients/or engaging in any other activities that might run up your bill.

9.) Ask what kind of client contracts the worker expects you to engage in BEFORE rendering payment. A contract is a clear and simple way to make sure that you and your worker are on the same page.

In closing, I would like to point out that people have sought out spiritual aid for their situations for centuries…and just as long as there have been people looking for magical aid there have been unsavory characters willing and able to take advantage of the gullible. Many people are more than willing to testify that with the assistance of intuitive readings and careful ritual work they experience deeper meaning, successful resolutions to difficult life situations, and abundant blessings in their lives. If you would like to work with a professional in these areas there are plenty of good people out there who really know their stuff, but it is up to you to be an educated, thoughtful, and careful consumer!

For further reading I recommend this page at the AIRR wiki.

 

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!

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!

New Year Prosperity: tips and tricks to spruce up your pocketbook

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We are still in January and for many of us there is still a strong drive to create lasting prosperity in this New Year, yes? The trick, of course, is knowing how one might best go about creating that prosperity. Here are some of my favorite tricks and tip to feather your nest and, maybe, if you are lucky, discover a golden egg!

1.) New Year=New Wallet. If last year’s cash flow was not all it could have been, why don’t you spend some money on getting a brand new wallet? Your wallet or billfold is the home where your money lives–you want it to be a home fitting for lots of cash, right?

Choose a color that is traditionally associated with prosperity and abundance like green (for money cash and growth), red (for power and authority in the world of personal finance and beyond), royal blue (the planetary color associated with abundance creating Jupiter), or yellow/gold (for um, more gold!)

2.) Dress 3 $100 bills with a prosperity enhancing sachet powder and place them in your wallet. When we carry larger bills like Benjamins or even $50′s, we are less likely to break them which translates to less likely to spend on frivolous items.

3.) If possible, get a wallet that has a change purse and use your change frequently–leave it as tips, hand it out to panhandlers–moving change in and out of your wallet keeps the current of money moving in your life.

4.) Take all non essential cards, especially credit cards out of your wallet for daily use. If you don’t have access to your cards you can’t use them. Bam!

5.) Put a tiny lodestone in your wallet to attract and draw more money.

6.) Put a tiny piece of iron pyrite in your wallet OR a piece of real gold. Even a gold earring will work because like attracts like.

7.) Sprinkle sassafras and cinquefoil (five finger grass) in the area where your paper money goes–a pinch works great. Sassafras has long been worked with to make each dollar stretch and cinquefoil is believed not only to bless all that your five fingers do but also to encourage others to favor you.

8.) Choose one area to work on when it comes to financial health. Do you need to draw more in the way of income or lower existing debt? Make a plan of action that includes PRACTICAL steps for you to do. Dedicate a section of your home to this work and only this work.

9.) If you are currently looking for employment make sure you read my tips on Job Getting–they really do work!

10.) If you have not already done so, download the Magnetizing Manifestation phone fest. It’s free and full of more useful information on attracting abundance big time!

Psst! Want to learn more about how to work with planets like Jupiter to increase your prosperity and financial health? It’s your lucky day because I am teaching a class  in February that will answer that question and many more. Head over here to check it out and register!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Something Wicked this Way Comes: 13 Points About the Evil Eye

 

eyes-on-the-table-1938

The “evil eye” or mal ojo as we call it here in San Antonio, is a pan-cultural idea that encompasses a host of beliefs regarding negativity, bad luck, and misfortune. Quite a few scholarly articles have been written on the evil eye but here is the low down stuff you absolutely need to know. The first thing to recognize about mal ojo in our current time is that we can carry it with us. in us and not even know it. Anytime we are seeing incorrectly–with envy or pride or lust or selfishness we could rightly be said to be suffering from the evil eye–our eyes are literally being taken over by an evil force, call it energy, call it spirit, or simply bad will. In traditional spiritual work the best cure for one who has the evil eye put on them is a limpias–a spiritual bath, and that is the best way to cure oneself of incorrect seeing too–it is a time of cleansing and reconciliation to the self and your true purpose, it can be a time of recommitting to the work you have to do in the world. May it be so.

1.) The evil eye is everywhere. In every culture that is. The belief that people can intentionally or unintentionally wish you ill or harm is found throughout the world and throughout time. Usually people focus on the beliefs surrounding the evil eye found in Judaism, the Mediterranean countries, and Middle Eastern countries like Turkey or Iran, but plenty of beliefs about the evil eye can be found in Western European, Central and South American, and African countries too.

2.) Most often the evil eye is believed to be given to someone unintentionally. There are plenty of cases of people feeling that someone has deliberately decided to try to ruin their life through negative thoughts, malevolent prayers, or outright destructive workings. More frequent, however, is the belief that someone called down the evil eye through their own jealousy and was not really trying to harm the object of their attentions.

3.) Symptoms of the evil eye vary from time to time and place to place–but many of them include a general idea of “drying out.”  Water is generally associated with life and life giving forces. When we are too dry we are not as generative, fertile, prosperous, or healthy.

4.) Children and older people are traditionally believed to be the most vulnerable to the evil eye as are women who have just given birth.

5.) Salt is a world wide curative for the evil eye and is also seen as protective against it. So are the colors blue (featured in many of the apotropaic charms we find for the evil eye today) and red–which is favored as a cure and protective color against the evil eye in parts of Africa, Italy, and the UK.

6.) Sugar is second only to salt in its curative abilities as the evil eye is believed to make someone’s life bitter as well as dry. Sugar brings moisture and sweetness to the situation.

7.) Along with sugar and salt, Spiritual Cleansing, is seen as another essential step in both warding off and combating conditions resulting from the evil eye.

8.) The evil eye does not necessarily only come from other people. Many traditions believe that it can be cast on a person by spirits who are displeased or offended for whatever reason.

9.) Rue is the herb most popularly called on to address and combat cases of the evil eye–perhaps because of it’s tiny eye-shaped leaves.

10.) Blessed water/Holy Water can be used to wash someone down who is believed to be afflicted with the evil eye. Start at the head and work down to the feet then dispose of the water at a four way crossroads.

11.) Gold jewelry is a potent ward against the evil eye in many countries.

12.) Conditions brought about by the evil eye can be chronic/repetitive or acute and isolated events.

13.) In Western Europe one old and favored trick to use, is to immediately turn your clothes inside out and walk backwards or in a widdershins (counter clockwise) circle.

 

Optimize your Omens

Faerie Godmother by Brian Froud

I wrote in Christmas 2012 about paying attention to the 12 days after Christmas–also known as Omen Days–but this is a quick reminder to do it! This is a wonderful and fun practice to participate in that leads to an increased awareness you can bring with your throughout the new year!

The Omen Days are an ancient practice around the ecclesiastical celebration of Epiphany. They were popularly known as the 12 days of Christmas and during each day one was encouraged to pay special attention to signs and omens around them in the belief that what they perceived would be a good indicator for their next year.

Begin the process on December 26th which corresponds to January 2014, continue through January 6th which corresponds to December 2014. You can do this in as spontaneous or deliberate manner as you like. Last year I simply paid close attention to what was happening around me and kept a log. But you could also pull a tarot or oracle card or work with another divination device of your choosing to get a more streamlined message. Keeping some sort of written record is obviously useful because you may not remember what your omen for January 6th was by the time you hit December 2014.

How to (Successfully) Study Magic

One of the questions that I am most often asked is: “How do you approach magic if you are studying more than one tradition, area, or technique?” This issue has come up for some of my own students who are immersing themselves in the eclectic Miracle Tree Sessions and also for clients who are interested in developing their magical chops. It has also come up for me personally more times that I can recall. Through long experience I have come upon some useful approaches to take with the study of magic. It is my hope they will be of benefit to you.

1.) Make sure that you are clear about the difference between magic and religion. 

All religions that I know of have magical components. While these aspects are often hidden/occult, part of esoteric (as opposed to exoteric) practices, and in some cases branded as heretical, they exist and have existed throughout time as can be usually documented from both oral and written sources. The same is not true of magic. There are magical “systems” that pull from many different religions, pantheons of Deities, and in some cases acknowledge no Gods at all.

I often find that often a student is studying what is essentially a religious path and mistaking it for a study in magic. The path may be an alternative or indigenous spiritual path as opposed to an orthodox one but nevertheless a path that is fundamentally religious. The student confuses this with the study of magic because magical techniques or rituals make up part of the devotional or liturgical practices. You can study a religious path and also study magic at the same time–so long as the one does not put you in direct contradiction with the other–and even then if you like contradiction you can find fruitful ground. People often run into problems, however, when they want to study and practice two different religions at the same time–especially the esoteric forms. This is possible to do, but it can be quite confusing unless you know what you are about, and of course such a decision has little to do with a study of magic.

2.) Treat magical study like any study. 

Think back to school when there were different subjects: reading/composition, mathematics, science, and history. These subjects were all different from one another. They required the use of different approaches and tools. The work needed to succeed in the subjects was different. All the subjects, however, aimed towards the same end goal (or should have)– increased proficiency and the acquisition of wisdom and understanding.

Magic works the in the same manner. Just as there are many different traditions of magic now there are a number of courses one can study–from general sorcery, to tradition-specific courses on Hoodoo and Conjure, Western Ceremonial Magic and everything in between. With so many choices available, the possibilities can become overwhelming. If you approach your magical studies the way you have (or perhaps should have) approached scholastic studies, you will find that the choices start to make more sense.

Just as in school, the magical student needs to be cautious of not spreading oneself too thin. If you are brand new to magic, it is a good idea to start with picking one teacher/tradition that you would like to learn more about. Once you’ve gained some experience, however, do not feel the need to dedicate yourself solely to one method or approach. Magicians, witches, and magically minded people are like magpies–collecting bits and pieces from this system and that tradition with the ultimate concern of finding what actually works. One day that may be a honey jar ritual from Hoodoo; the next day it might be working with the Archangel Michael in a Ceremonial context. For the more advanced practitioner, several different traditions can be studied at once as long as they are comprehended in their “pure” or “traditional” forms before being modified to suit your own specific practice and idealogical framework.

3.) There are skills that work across the magical board. 

Those of us interested in magic come to it at different times and from different perspectives. There isn’t a one size fits all Magic 101 course that needs to be mastered before moving into more advanced work. In school, there were basic skills to master like reading, writing, and asking questions. The same goes for magic. There are certain fundamentals that any magical student should grasp and every type of magic I have studied emphasizes in one manner or another–fundamentals like sitting in stillness, grounding, cleansing, and protecting oneself. It is a good idea to have a basic understanding of these skills–especially meditation/contemplation and grounding–before going on to more advanced work as they provide a strong skeleton upon which your work can build. If you in turn decide to provide magical services to others or to teach magic, your potential clients and students will receive the benefits of your training in the basics.

For newcomers, look for a course that emphasizes both of these studies. For advanced practitioners not yet well versed in  meditation/contemplation practices or grounding practices, I recommend that you go back to a course or teacher who did emphasize those techniques so that you might (re)learn them.

4.) Know what kind of learner you are.

Do audio/visual presentations work for you or do you need to actually do it in order to understand? What about class size–do you need other students that you can talk to and bounce ideas off of or do you prefer private one on one tutoring with a knowledgeable teacher? These considerations will help you pick courses and teachers that work for you and help you learn in the deepest and truest ways. Also…don’t forget to work with the magical components of academic success!

5.) Do the work, including homework!

Again, like any course of study you will not grow and learn if you do not learn the material and do the practical exercises including homework. Also, it will make your teacher happy.

A Note to Our Spiritual Community

Miss Bri: I had just gone into the office after being away over the weekend and noticed that one of my dear colleagues had tagged me on Facebook. Curious to see what was going on, I went over to the conversation thread and saw that someone was using a name that was quite similar to my own and planning to name their business in a fashion that was also similar to mine.

Several good friends and colleagues on the thread had already voiced confusion and even started giving outright advice that one or both names should be changed. I did not know the person whose word choices were so similar to my own but just as I started to private message them to get more information they sent me a message asking if their choices bothered me.

I answered honestly and they explained not only that they did but also why they did. The individual was kind, flexible, and willing to make changes so that his name and my name and his business name and my business name could be easily distinguished. General happiness and celebrations ensued. Several folks remarked on how easily what could have been a huge conflict and drama-rama was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.

Brother Bri: I had just returned to my roots in a three-day period when all of this took place. After 13 years of practicing Greek-influenced Witchcraft, I met a friend and I was led to return to my roots. Little did I know I was going to be an instrument for this type of collaborative post. However, Miss Bri has already told what had happened. From my standpoint, I really never knew of Miss Bri. So when I saw the confusion, I knew something had to be done, so I went to her and we discussed it. Originally, my name was “Bri Conjure” and my future business was originally called “Conjure Roots”.

I could definitely see after having respected individuals in our Spiritual Community state their advice. I was impressed with how cool and collected Miss Bri was and respected that. Little did I know this was for the better. It’s been a long time since I was called “Brother” (back in my Pentecostal days) and never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine being able to call a business “Holy Ghost Conjure.” Miracles come when you least expect them, and never in my dreams did I ever expect a respected rootworker such as Miss Bri contact me in request to doing this post together.

As a result, we (Miss Bri and Brother Bri) have decided to work together to share this story so that it might illustrate useful guidelines for dealing with conflicts and potential conflicts in our greater spiritual communities.

 

1.)   Know and Respect Your Associates.

Miss Bri: I would never have known that there was a problem in the first place unless one of my dear colleagues at AIRR had tagged me in the original thread. This would have been bad for me, for Brother Bri, and for our clients because there would have been a longer time of similar name use and the confusion that no doubt ensues.

Brother Bri: Not only that, but it would’ve lowered our integrity to be individuals and unique in our own “callings. Accidents and mistakes happen, and we’re human, but it’s all about respect. It truly is earned and not given.

2.)   Go to the Source.

Miss Bri: Brother Bri is to be commended because he did not continue to engage in a Facebook thread where everyone and their Aunt Sally could have an opinion. Instead he messaged ME personally – I was the one who had the similar name so I was the one whose opinion would really matter.

Brother Bri: My logic was this: there is enough drama and “he said, she said” blame going on in the world today. Why contribute to it? So I went to Miss Bri because she was the one that could’ve been offended and affected the most. Her colleagues had her back, which was great because it showed me the example that I needed to follow.

 

3.)   Assume the Best and not the Worst.

Miss Bri: This is the crux of the issue. In speaking to one another I did not assume that Brother Bri was trying to copy or imitate me. While “Bri” is not the most popular name it is by no means rare. The proposed name of his business was Conjure Roots-similar after a fashion to my own Milagro Roots-but again-the use of “roots” in our world is pretty common. I assumed it was an honest mistake that could be corrected. For his part, Brother Bri assumed that I was a reasonable person who was not accusing/blaming him for anything and that it was evident to all interested parties that this was just an honest mistake and we were both adult enough to see that.

Brother Bri: There’s really not much I can add to this, being that Miss Bri is right. Being reasonable and maintaining a positive outlook from the beginning only helps issues to be resolved more smoothly. Being accusatory, demeaning, and pessimistic will only cause one of two things: high blood pressure and a big blowout that could honestly be avoided at any given time. Either way, it’s your health and your surroundings that can be affected by how YOU react to any given situation. You may not be able to control a situation, but you can control your reaction to said situation.

 

4.)   Speak Your Truth but Lose the Ego.

Miss Bri: Brother Bri asked me if I had a problem with the similarity in names and I admitted that I did, but I went on to explain why I did. I was not afraid that Brother Bri would “get all my clients” or that he was trying to leverage my good name for his personal gain and advancement. Rather, I explained that my biggest concern was actually for him and for the way that the similar names would be understood in our community – that is that others would make judgements about him and his motives, that I was sure were simply not true. This is a good example of speaking what is true but from a place where we are as concerned about our brothers and sisters as we are for ourselves. For his part Brother Bri spoke his truth too – explaining beautifully where the “Bri” and the idea for Conjure Roots came from and why he was working with those titles.

Brother Bri: She’s making me blush. However, there’s enough people reacting callously from the brain in the world and allowing the ego to create the “status quo”. Do we really need to contribute to increasing that and bringing more “dis-ease” into the world? I was simply amazed by her reactions because, even though she didn’t know me, she cared about me.

We truly are ALL brothers and sisters in the grand scheme of thing. Forget about race, color, creed, sexual orientation and all other man-made labels for the moment. We all have many things in common. We all are human, we all bleed the same way, we all experience emotions, we all make mistakes, we all start out as babies and grow up to adults (well, some of us), and we all rely on food and water to survive. Certainly, we can all agree that we have quite a bit more in similarity as far as human nature than we think. Sure, we all have personalities and egos, but that makes us unique. Personally, if everyone was exactly like me or exactly like Miss Bri, I think the world would get quite boring to live in after a time. We can’t change the actions or reactions of others, but we can continue to be unique in how we accept them for who they are and live and let live. Isn’t that what John Lennon talked about in his song “Imagine” when he stated “a brotherhood of man”?

 

5.)   Be Solution Oriented.

Miss Bri: Again, Brother Bri showed his stellar sense of integrity because he immediately posed a solution to the problem that left us both feeling like we were walking away from the table happy and in good standing with each other.

Brother Bri: She’s made me blush, again. However, I think it has a lot to say about Miss Bri and I as individuals. If we wanted to complicate the problem, we could have. Instead, we both wanted each other to be happy and feel like we were able to accomplish something for the good of the other. We could’ve been greedy or selfish, however we were not. I will be honest, at first I was a bit reluctant to change because I was so excited, but sometimes by doing that, we prevent ourselves from receiving greater light and knowledge and moving forward. In the end, I was happy I made a small sacrifice because it was truly a beautiful moment to be able to realize that I was capable of so much more than what I thought I was.

 

6.)   Put the Solution into Action.

Miss Bri: I see this a lot in our community – there are a lot of solutions talked about but few that are actually put into action. Brother Bri immediately put the changes he recommended into action on social media – thereby creating consistency in his words and actions and showing himself to be honest and sincere.

Brother Bri: I agree. Miss Bri made her suggestions and what she did that ultimately led to my decision to make the changes was by supporting me. We were able to discuss the situation and possible solutions, and then we were both willing to make the changes. I think a great change on her part was speaking to this young, 26-year old guy who had only recently returned to the roots of his spiritual path and whom she didn’t know at all.

 

7.)   Keep it Private.

Miss Bri: I am certain that one of the biggest reasons why Brother Bri and I were able to reach an agreement easily and early on is because we had a private conversation – just the two of us. Social media can be a wonderful tool but it is really not the place to air out conflicts – especially if you really just want to resolve the conflict and move on to the next exciting part of your day. Private messaging, emailing each other, or a phone call that lasts five minutes can often allay a lot of drama, confusion, and miscommunication.

Brother Bri: Ain’t that the truth! It’s the same as airing out dirty laundry. Do you really want everyone to see all the personal items of yours that you’ve just washed, especially if they have stains or dirt on them? You know, stuff like that causes people to become judgmental really quickly. It’s not that they are bad people, but first impressions truly do count. It’s perfectly okay to post about your personal life on social media, but do it with respect to yourself and maintain your dignity. You may find that you will be happier as a result.

 Miss Bri: If you are engaged with someone who seems hell bent on airing their grievances through social media it is a good idea to ask yourself what is motivating the other party and to realize that given their interests a successful resolution may not be achieved – if this is the case, then my recommendation is to disengage. I thank Brother Bri for being not only a friend in spirit and truth but also for having the maturing and wisdom to work with me directly on the situation and create an outcome that not only feels blessed but could also be used as a teaching moment!

Brother Bri: I would advise the same thing as Miss Bri. Save yourself the stress, in reality, some fights are truly not worth the effort because of the motive and intention of the person starting it. There truly are greater battles to be won. Let’s focus on those for a change. Let’s voice our opinions to end world hunger, to stop many forms of discrimination, and ultimately to make our world a better place for us and our fellowman.

Many of you may know the following poem. But ponder how it can truly help you to make for yourself a better journey as well as helping you to resolve a conflict by choosing “The Road Less Traveled” (by Robert Frost, 1920):

“TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

“Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

“And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

How can that help you with resolving conflict and making a difference? Are you ready to take a journey on the road less travelled and help making the world a better place by choosing a better path? Then join us. We can all do this if we individually make the choice to do so and work together.

 

Blessings from both of us!

Miss Bri (Milagro Roots) and Brother Bri (Holy Ghost Conjure)