Category Archives: Sacred Arts

The Sacred Artist

Dear Miracles,

For too long we have been without a name and though names are not everything, as many a faerie story tells us, they are also not nothing. The right name is magical; it can open doors, reveal treasure and say what is true.

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Rumplestiltskin–one of many faerie tales where the right name is of utter (literally as in to be uttered) importance.

Within our tribe and for all of our differences there are many things we hold in common such as and including: an unwillingness to settle for what is “normal”, sanctioned, and approved of by governments, multi-national corporations, popular media, too strict religious sensibilities, or the denizens of Hollywood, also there is a desire to see and speak of what is true–what lies beneath the ground and above in the aerial branches and cold mountaintops, to champion the healthful and vibrant aspects of our lineage while taking heed of of our Ancestors’ errors, to return–as best we can–to old, older, oldest ways of knowing, seeing, and being in the world to a place of honor while at the same time creating space for what is newly born and yet to be known.

Others have given us names, oh yes, they have.

A catalogue is both helpful and hilarious: New Age–irony of ironies because for so many of us what we know and do is grounded in practices that are quite old, Heretics–because our sense of the sacred does not sit comfortably in the sanctuary of orthodox religion, Occultists–coming from the word occult which means hidden–because we have hidden and we have been hidden in response to persecution and fear, Light Workers–because too many of us continue to buy into the wrong belief that fear and threat only comes in darkness and because we have forgotten the nourishing power of Night, Pagan–springing from the latin paganus–meaning among other things a country dweller–because many of us ourselves come from rural stock and given our colorful variety of devotion and styles of reverence what else might we be called? We are sometimes called Psychic–it is usually said in a pejorative manner but we may claim it in good faith since our work does deal directly with the health and quality of the Soul, Sorceress–because power, especially medial power wielded by women, is still seen as dangerously unpredictable, weird–because we do not conform to the norms or live our lives the way the dominant culture says we often should (also interestingly tied to the other wyrd which of course means fate and destiny–concepts we are versed in), bitch–because we do not see NO as a bad word (and maybe because many of us love dogs and other four legged creatures?), whore–sometimes yes, we are still called whores, or ho, or harlot, because we affirm that our sensuality is sacred and acts of love and pleasure can be, should be, acts of touching the Divine. Tree Hugger is often applied to us because in fact, you may find us hugging trees.

We are called Witch–intended to be the deadliest insult of all, one that not so long ago promised a date with a pyre or gallows–one that we now embrace with enthusiasm because in its root and origin it points to what we care for and pursue above all else…wisdom…of right living, of connecting to and honoring of all life, of our souls and our fiery hearts.

A name is not everything but a name is not nothing either. The right name, a true name, provides a point of reference–this is who I am and this is where I stand–it reveals a little red door that opens upon the majesty of each of our unique and blessed in-most natures, a name, the right name or the wrong one, determines a way of seeing and a way of being seen.

I say we have worn the names that others have thrust upon us for too long and enough is enough–these names are tired and cramped like a pair of too worn and too small shoes. If, like so many of us, you too have wondered in the wilderness of No Name looking, looking, looking for the right words in every shadow, canyon crevice, and under every rock then I offer this to you:

Be a Sacred Artist–a creator and delight taker in all that is whole, holy, and sacred.

A name is not everything but it is not nothing. The right name allows us to be seen as we truly are and one thing more–to decide how, where, and by what means we will make our presence known and do our work in the world.

Claiming your name is the first step in doing your work, the work, you were placed here to do; it’s time.

 

Postscript:

I began using the term Sacred Artist personally a couple of years ago and I have been delighted to watch more and more people claim the title for themselves. I wrote some preliminary thoughts on the history of the Sacred Arts and I was inspired with the term by my husband–a fine artist, who told me that yes, crafting ritual is an art form.

Many Branches–Plant Love with Kiva Ringtail Rose

Dear Miracles,

I first heard Kiva Rose’s name mentioned years ago when my mother and I were reading one of Loba’s columns in Sage Woman magazine. The Anima school and sanctuary sounded wild and wonderful and so very needed. Then years later I came across her work again in Plant Healer Magazine–and it wasn’t long before I wrote a couple of articles for that most excellent periodical. Kiva is a busy woman and I was delighted when she agreed to take some time and speak with me about plant magic and all that is wild. 

DSCF5129In her own words: Herbalist, author, and wild creature, Kiva Rose lives in a canyon botanical sanctuary within the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. She is also the co-director of the HerbFolk Gathering, held each September in the mountain Southwest, is co-editor of Plant Healer Magazine, and maintains an herbal blog, The Medicine Woman’s Roots.

Find Kiva on the World Wide Web:

Plant Healer and The HerbFolk Gathering
The Medicine Woman’s Roots Herbal Blog

 

 

 

Who/What is a Plant Healer? Why this term instead of a term like Herbalist?

A Plant Healer is anyone who works with the plants for the purpose of healing. We chose this term in part because of its simplicity and because of the way it keeps the focus on the plants themselves. I am an herbalist because I love the plants, and feel called to matchmake between plants and people, hopefully facilitating new and deeper relationships among humans and herbs that brings healing for us, as well as inspiring us to take better care of the earth in the process.

 

One of the many contributions you have made to the plant loving community is a return to the notion of “folk herbalism”. How is folk herbalism different from what might be considered more “mainstream herbalism”, what are folk herbalists bringing to the table that has been missing in the community?

Basically, folk herbalism is technically defined as herbalism being practiced by non-professionals or lay people, often utilizing regional or handed down knowledge and perspectives. However, given the wide range of practitioners that currently identify as folk herbalists, I think it makes sense to broaden the definition to include professionals and non-professionals alike who practice an herbalism not currently accepted as valid by the Western biomedical industry and our culture in general.

Folk herbalism has always been here, and has long been represented by an incredible spectrum of practitioners. I personally use the terminology because I value both inclusivity and diversity within the healing community. I especially like the fact that folk herbalism embraces such a wide range of ideas and practices without insisting upon a false or forced homogeny.

 

You run a clinical practice, care for a beautiful wilderness area in Southern New Mexico, teach, write, publish some of the finest books and magazines on the plant path, and organize festive conferences and weekends of education for plant healers, you are also a mom and devoted partner…how do you do it all and what are your personal favorite herbal allies?

Thank you, Bri! I’ve found that it’s my nature to cycle through focusing on what most interests me at the time, and I find that working on so many projects allows me to move from seeing folks to creating art to writing to land restoration to teaching to solitary and family time in a way that allows me to feel both fulfilled and to keep many projects going at once. Also, my wonderful partner, Jesse Wolf Hardin, does an enormous amount and keeps everything on track and on schedule!

Many of my absolute favorite plants are from the genus Salvia, I adore all that I’ve met thus far! I’m very blessed to have two native species growing right here in the canyon where I live and many more nearby. Working with the less well known Sawtooth Sage, Salvia subincisa, was a profound experience in my early herbal studies. While I don’t know of anyone else working with this plant, it is a profound relaxant nervine that is specifically indicated when tremors are present with anxiety. It’s also a wonderful ally for those who have such sensitive nervous systems that even Lemon Balm can seem too stimulating. Back when I was first studying and practicing herbalism, I was also recovering from many years of insomnia, addiction, and abuse and dealing with a very fried and overstimulated nervous system. The Sawtooth Sage helped to heal my nervous system and allowed me to sleep and relax in ways I hadn’t experienced in decades. I especially like it combined with our local Skullcap for tension, anxiety, and insomnia.

 

In 2013 you launched the Bramble and Rose–a wonderful shop where folks can order perfumes, elixirs, balms, and oils, tell us about the Bramble and Rose and what inspired it?

Originally, The Bramble & The Rose was created as an outlet for my passion for creating botanical perfumes and body products, and my desire to share the medicine of aromatics with a wider audience. As time has passed, I’ve slowly been expanding it into a more complete woodland apothecary that includes elixirs, bio-regional incense, bitters blends, and certain single herbs abundant in my area. I’d been asked for many years to make more of my herbal preparations for sale, so I’m happy to fulfill this desire from the community while sharing many of my favorite plant allies!

Part of the profits from The Bramble & The Rose go to paying for the materials used to create the herbal formulas I provide to local clients in my tiny mountain village at little or no charge.

 

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

To keep your work at its foundation, and to focus on not straying from the source that ignited your passion to begin with. To work as healers of any kind we need to avoid being drained by what we do, and a bit part of that is being able to receive vital nourishment from the earth and work at a roots level. I know that, for me, it’s very easy to get caught up in what needs to be done, and to neglect the simple, sensual delights that first drew me to herbalism. By remembering to play with the plants, experiment with new remedies, and spending wordless time on wild land, I am sustained and replenished in a circle of healing I am honored to be included in.

 

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

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Dear Miracles,

We are still in January and for many of us there is still a strong drive to create lasting prosperity in this New Year. The trick, of course, is knowing how one might best go about creating that prosperity. Here are some of my favorite tricks and tips 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 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!

 

 

Of Glass and Fire: How to work with Devotional Candles

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Dear Miracles,

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 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

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Dear Miracles,

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 information 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. With that said, here are other facets of this idea which may be of use.

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

Dear Miracles,

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.

A Blessing of the Body

Dear Miracles,

I am really honored that this blessing which I wrote years ago inspired Diana of the BunnyKissd blog to put it to one of her gorgeous photos. In the midst of your hectic Holiday it is our prayer that you too will take a moment to recall how blessed and beautiful you are!

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So Fresh and So Clean–How to spiritually clean yourself, home, or car

Rackham

Dear Miracles,

We can all feel the difference between a messy room and a clean room. Clutter, refuse, and objects that are not in their proper places create confusion, imbalance, and waste our time.  This is true for our physical lives as well as for our emotional and spiritual lives.  In our relationships, for example, we can see how continually bringing up issues from the past that need to be released and buried can damage the present.

When life feels stuck, when you are spread too thin, then you know it’s time to spiritually cleanse.

Think of a clean kitchen. Maybe the kitchen is sparkling and spotless or maybe it is a little dingy around the corners but more or less clean.  Now imagine someone walking through that kitchen with mud on their feet, leaving their muddy footprints all over that clean kitchen floor. If this were really your kitchen what would you do?  Would you leave the muddy footprints where they are, ignoring them and hoping that they would go away?  Or would you get out the mop and go to work on them? Most of us would not leave muddy footprints in our kitchens, but I am constantly surprised at how many folks refuse to clean up the muddy foot prints that have trekked all over their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.

 

The problem of course is that one cannot take a bottle of pine-sol to the soul, but we can spiritually clean ourselves just the way we would clean a kitchen floor. 

Spiritual bathing is a tradition found throughout the world and is present in many different cultures and religious practices. The use of sacred, purified water in combination with prayer and focused intention has been with us since ancient times. Special waters, herbs, roots, oils, and other preparations may be involved in spiritual bathing. Certain prayers, recitations, or mantras are also usually part of the rite. One of the best examples of spiritual bathing today is baptism.

bath

For folks that are suffering from baneful magic that was worked against them or who simply feel stuck, confused, or believe that their luck has turned against them, the first level of cleaning is personal and physical. The most simple and straightforward way to cleanse on this level is by taking a spiritual bath. If you want to make your own blend try a traditional Three Ingredient Cleansing Bath by using any 3 herbs or minerals from the following list:

  • Kosher Salt
  • Alum
  • Table Salt
  • Cumin
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon
  • Pine needles
  • Mint (pepper, spear, lemon)
  • Sage

These are just a few options that I have personally had success with and that my clients adore. For a full list of herbs and roots that can be used for a variety of conditions my go-to books are Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic and Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. If you have both of those titles and want more green goodness check out the herb section of my Amazon store for other excellent titles.  Of course by this point you are probably wondering exactly how one takes a spiritual bath — what is the ritual? Download free instructions for that here.

A spiritual bath is usually the first step in personal cleansing, but it’s important to keep in mind that the places and spaces we physically occupy can also accrue their own energetic funk and need to be cleaned up from time to time. When it comes to cleaning any physical space there are a couple of guidelines to keep in mind.

 

Clean from top to bottom (this is just practical sense, you dust before you vacuum) and back to front.  This applies whether you are cleaning a room, cubicle, entire house, or vehicle.  My favorite spiritual cleansing agent is one that my mother and I make every year–Momma Hen’s Fabulous ‘n’ Famous Floorwash. I also like Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbena scented products which are made from essential oils, are biodegradable, and phosphate free.  Lemon Verbena is one of many herbs used to spiritually clean, unlock doors, open the way, and attract good luck.  You can also add your own favorite magical ingredients to a commercial cleaning product that you favor.

Whether cleaning a single room, home, or vehicle start in the back and move to the front. When cleaning multiple rooms after the first room has been dusted, mopped,  and vacuumed light a small white candle that has been anointed with an oil for abundant blessings or if you are on a budget, olive oil that you have prayed over. Place the candle in the room and let it burn all the way out, repeat a prayer or affirmation of your choice for blessings and success over the candle and then proceed to the next room of the house. An appropriate incense may also be left to burn in the room along with the candle.

If you have co-workers who are negative or attract bad luck or you are stuck in a job that is not rocking your world or dealing with aggressive supervisors then magically cleaning your work space, office, or cubicle is a good idea.  Follow the same basic guidelines for cleaning a house.  Skip lighting the candle and the incense, and if vacuuming is not feasible then lightly dust your area with sachet powder for abundance and good fortune, like Promise Land.

Vehicles are another area that can benefit from spiritual cleanings.  Again, the principle is the same–cleanse from top to bottom and back to front.  Make sure that you cleanse the inside and outside of the vehicle, including the tires.  Use a blend of Abundance-Bringing and Protection and sachet powders dusted lightly on the tires and into the carpet of the vehicle.These smell wonderful and provide an extra added layer of protection.

A final common question is, once you have spiritually cleansed the home and taken a spiritual bath, what can do you to keep the work going? One traditional way of maintaining that so fresh and so clean feeling in between major spiritual house cleanings or spiritual bathing rites is to smudge yourself with a wing feather or a feather whisk. Depending on your spiritual tradition(s) working with black hen feathers, Turkey Vulture feathers, a Turkey tail fan, or Dove feathers may be appropriate.

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Why birds specifically? Chickens and Turkeys are all ground dwelling birds that forage food and have a varied diet, they can adapt to different kinds of food, and left to their own devices their diets include a large percentage of insects and bugs that also happen to be parasites.  As they search out and consume pests in life, they are believed to spiritually search out and consume parasites and negative gunk that may have become attached to you. Turkey Vultures, also known as Buzzards in America, are carrion feeders that have powerful organisms in their gut that can transfer something rotting and spoiled into valuable, life-sustaining nutrients. Birds like Doves, Hawks, and Owls all have deep folkloric significance and their feathers are used in ritual settings. Remember, however, that the last two especially are often protected under the Migratory Bird Species Protection Act and harvesting feathers from them is illegal unless you have the right license.

If working with bird feathers does not appeal then a bundle of herbs — either fresh or dried — can be used instead. This is something that can be done on a daily or weekly basis-when you wake up in the morning or when you come home at the end of the day. Start at your head and work your way down brushing off any negative juju you feel that you may have picked up during the course of your day. Fumigating or smudging with an appropriate incense can also be a fast way to clean in between spiritual baths. Another good trick? Use a soap that is made with one of the cleansing herbs mentioned above-or a herb and essential oil combination that resonates for you as your daily soap.

Do note: none of these quick tricks make up for or replace the full benefits derived from a spiritual bath but they can help to keep you clean and refreshed on a daily basis!

Archangel Michael-Who is Like God-Angel of Healing, Protection, and Victory

 

Next up in our roster of holy figures is one of my personal favorites-Archangel Michael. His Feast Day, also known as Michaelmas, is celebrated on September 29th in various Catholic and Christian traditions. 

 

 

History

Archangel Michael is a holy figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. His name means “Like Unto God” or “Who is Like God” In Catholic and Christian Orthodox traditions, he is sometimes known as Saint Michael or Saint Archangel Michael.  Catholic and Orthodox traditions venerate him as the patron saint for policeman and soldiers. In the Muslim tradition, some believe him to be one of three angels that visited Abraham. Archangel Michael is mentioned once in the Qu’ran. In the Coptic Orthodox Church, he is the one who presents God with the prayers of the people. Other traditions hold that Archangel Michael is actually Adam from the Book of Genesis or that he is the pre-incarnate figure for Christ. He is the angel who foretold Mary, Mother of God, of her approaching death.

 

In the Jewish tradition, Archangel Michael is the closest angel to God. He is Captain of God’s army as well as ruler of all natural elements such as rain, wind, and storms. His nemesis is the Angel Samael. When Samael was cast down from heaven, he grabbed Michael’s wings, hoping to bring him down as well. Some traditions also say that Michael and Samael are in constant battle over the state of Moses’ soul. In Rabbinic liturgy, Archangel Michael is seen as the staunch defender of Israel. His depiction in the Book of Daniel as “a great prince who stands up for the children of your people” led to a place for him in Jewish liturgy despite Rabbinical prohibitions against seeking the intercession of angels between men and God.   Due to Michael’s role as a defender of Jews and Israel, two Jewish prayers are said in his honor.

In the early Christian tradition, shrines and sanctuaries were dedicated to Michael. Though he is mentioned as leading God’s army against Satan in the Book of Revelation, these early Christian shrines and sanctuaries dedicated to Archangel Michael were actually for the purpose of healing. Saints like George were considered martial whereas Michael was believed to be a healing force. When a devastating plague hit Rome in the 4th century, Michael was invoked for healing and aid and during this time he came to be known as “Archangel” and/or the “Prince Among Angels.”  By the 6th century, feasts were being held in his honor. Various feasts and feast days have been associated with him ever since.

In Roman Catholic tradition, Michael is assigned four specific roles:

1.) He is the Captain of God’s army fighting against Satan and Hell

2.) He is the Angel of Death who carries the soul away from the body when death occurs

3.) He weighs the Soul-According to this tradition, Archangel Michael weighs the soul with perfectly balanced scales. For this reason, he is often depicted holding these scales

4.) He is Patron of the Chosen People (Jews) of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and Guardian of the Church.

 These Catholic teachings are not strictly required beliefs (church orthodoxy) but “strongly encouraged” by the Church.

 

He gives his protection especially to mothers and children. A Romanian story from 1900, involving an infant-eating demoness named Avezuha and her attempt to harm both the Blessed Virgin and the infant Jesus, as retold by Diane Purkis in her marvelous book At the Bottom of the Garden relates :

“…when she [Avezuha] meets Archangel Michael she declares ‘I am going to Bethlehem in Judea, for I have heard that Jesus Christ is going to be born of His Virgin Mother Maria, and I am going to hurt her.‘  Whereupon the Archangel Michael took hold of her head, fastened an iron chain round her, stuck his sword into her side, and began to beat her terribly in order to make her tell her secret arts. She began and said ‘I change myself into a dog, a cat, a fly, a spider, a raven, an evil looking girl, and thus enter into the houses of the people and hurt the women and bring trouble to the children, and I bring changelings, and I have nineteen names.‘ And the Archangel Michael said to her, ‘I tell thee, I conjure thee, that thou shalt have neither the power to approach the house of X the servant of the Lord, nor hurt his property, his flocks, nor anything else that belongs to him. Thou shalt go to the desolate mountains where no one lives, and there shalt thou abide.‘”

Working with Archangel Michael

In the American folks magic tradition of Conjure, Archangel Michael is seen as a powerful defender of those who are unable to defend themselves, including women, children, slaves, and other minorities or marginalized groups. His association with healing can be seen in his connection to Angelica Root–a root used in many peace and tranquility formulas and rituals. His association with martial endeavors and victory can be seen in the writings that invoke him along with the use of Bay Laurel leaf-an ancient symbol of conquest and victory. For those grounded in a specific religious tradition, Archangel Michael’s role as healer and psychopomp are at least as emphasized as his role in military and police pursuits–if not more so.

 

I petition and invoke Archangel Michael’s aid for a number of situations-for protection, healing, mercy in the face of sin or error, and, of course, victory. I find him to be a strong protector not only of women and children but of entire families. Despite his widespread veneration across many traditions, Archangel Michael does not have many specific offerings associated with him. When I invoke his aid and intercession, I repay his gifts with flowers, Jordan almonds, honey, and donations to battered women’s shelters and/or Jewish charities.

I remember very clearly when Archangel Michael made his presence known to me—I was 7 months pregnant and it was December. I had a vivid dream of the Angel and he was holding an old-fashioned Archangel Michael packet. He told me I needed to start making them and in my dream I thought—”Ok, but I can hardly sew!”

He told me to learn so I did.

In celebration of Archangel Michael’s Feast Day I will be building an altar in his honor, feasting him (and my family), and placing petitions, prayers, and intentions before him. This is a FREE service. Go here, fill out the simple petition form and your petition will be added to the altar!

 

Reclaiming the word “Psychic”

It seems that these days everyone is reclaiming something. There are reclaimed wooden tables for your dining room, reclaimed houses, and even a magical tradition called reclaiming!

 

I guess its time to throw my tiara into the ring. I have something I would like to reclaim too–the word “psychic”.

 

When most people think of a psychic they think of a gussied-up lady with heavy black eyeliner and lots of jewelry; a performer who works off a set script taking money from the gullible (never mind that I know many costumed readers who are actually damn good at their work!) OR they think of a figure with bad hair, always shot through vaseline-coated camera lenses, who makes the rounds on daytime t.v.

 

 

As it turns out, the word psychic has only been in use since the 19th century. Camille Flammarion is credited with first using it in french. Shortly thereafter, a fellow named Edward William Cox brought its use into English. It’s likely that both Camille and Edward were well-educated in the old-school classical tradition and that they knew that the root of the word psychic was the Greek psuke or psyke, which means soul.

 

That’s right: SOUL.

 

About as far from bad t.v. and phony stage names as you can get, right?

 

For a long time, I eschewed the word psychic. I touched on the reasons why I avoided its use in this article I wrote regarding Sylvia Browne’s recent misstep. Ever since writing that piece I have been like the princess in the fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. No matter how many awesome cushions I have, there is this tiny, irritating pebble that I can’t ignore.

 

So…I’m not beating, I’m not joining, I am re-framing: A psychic is a consultant on and for the soul and soul matters. We may also think of her as a midwife for the Spirit-like the ancient Oracle at Delphi, the Pythia: Priestess of Apollo who illuminated the intellect of no one less than Socrates.

 

Say it with me loud and proud: psychic.

So my loves…what word do you need to reclaim today?

What does it currently mean and how do you wanna change it?

Tell me on FB or Tweet it out!