Category Archives: Witchcraft & Magic

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Managing Magic with Small Children

By | Witchcraft & Magic | 18 Comments

In which friends Sarah and Cin talk about what it’s like to be a witch mom, give tips on how to juggle magic alongside tiny mischief makers, and talk about how to keep in touch with your magical practice when all you want is sleep and quiet.

Sarah Lawless is an animistic witch, writer, and herbalist living in rural Ontario, Canada with her partner Alex, her three year old son, and a baby boy on the way. When she’s not chasing after the kiddo, Sarah works as a forager and herbalist crafting wild edibles and medicinals for her business Fern & Fungi. You could say she’s obsessed with herbalism, ethnobotany, native plants, and permaculture and you’d be correct. Sarah has been an author, teacher, and ritualist within the witchcraft community for the past 12 years and she can often be found teaching classes at herbal conferences and horticultural events as well as hosting rituals at the local Witches’ Sabbat and Kaleidoscope Gathering. Sarah’s idea of downtime usually involves baking sweets, cooking complex recipes, napping, and snuggling up with her man and binge watching Game of Thrones.

Once upon a time when I was childless (which seems very long ago, but has really only been three and a half years), I was a very active witch. I really do mean very active. I had my own personal magical practice working with my familiar spirits and the land, I worked with small groups of friends, I circled with a few large ritual groups, I was on the board of the local pagan festival, I taught workshops, I hosted rituals, I hosted events, and I wrote frequently about the practice of magic. Those who have known me for years will have noticed most of that has either completely stopped for the past few years, or has significantly slowed down.

I had my first son in 2014 and now I am about to have my second son this April. I love being a mom and I love my tiny adorable man who is so clever, funny, helpful, and such a goody-two-shoes, but I never could have imagined how incredibly tired I would be. I’m fairly certain small children have so much energy because they are secretly borrowing it from you! You know going in that babies and kids are going to be hard, but no one can really tell you just how hard until you experience it for yourself. It is a life-changing switch of going from an independent person who mainly has to worry about their own self-care to a parent who has to worry about tiny humans every second of every day… even when said tiny humans are sleeping. Free time is a distant dream as is uninterrupted sleep. If you’re lucky enough to have grandparents who babysit or have a good daycare program, then your “free time” becomes “do all the things you couldn’t do with the kiddo around time“. This means: laundry, dishes, house cleaning, emails, banking, groceries, cooking, and other fun tasks of adulting.

It is especially hard if you are a single parent, the other parents is absent or unhelpful, or you don’t have any family to rely on for help… but even if there are two awesome co-parents involved, the idea of fitting your magical practice in alongside parenting can seem daunting and impossible. It can be even harder when you get the fun reality check of discovering your coven, ritual group, and witchy friends are not kid-friendly. You may find yourself consistently sitting at home while the magic happens without you. Your childless friends may think reliable babysitters who are free when you need them fall from the sky, but if you aren’t near family it’s often not an option for many parents. Over the years I’ve watched a lot of friends drop out of their covens or the pagan community after they had children. Sometimes they come back, many times they do not.

I didn’t have the best experience when my first son was a baby. I didn’t have a reliable partner, I was thousands of miles from family, none of my ritual groups turned out to be baby or kid friendly, and some of my witchy friends even blatantly asked me not to visit them with my baby (this unexpectedly included friends who had their own kids). Isolation is not good when you have little ones and supportive friends, family, and community make all the difference in the world between a happy parent and a depressed parent.

I answered to these issues by leaving behind my pagan community for one that is kid-friendly, moving closer to family (as in 15 minutes away), and then leaving my previous partner who was abusive and not interested in parenting (despite claiming the opposite). I took care of my needs and what is best for my kid. I really miss my magical friends from the West Coast, but we try to keep in touch as best we can. Change can be hard and often painful, but if you find yourself in a similar situation as me, I can tell you now it was worth it.

Where on earth are magical parents supposed to fit in magic? If you don’t have a family-friendly coven and/or an awesome partner or family to help you out so you can attend rituals, coven meetings, and festivals, you are going to need to focus on building and maintaining a personal magical practice at home. In the borrowed words of my father: “Keep it simple, stupid.”

The Magic of Birth and Babies

If you are pregnant, remember that birthing IS magic. You are becoming a doorway between the spirit and physical realms. You’re about to turn a spirit into a corporeal being — that is some heavy shit! Look into traditional rituals that prepare mamma and baby for the birth and the big changes that are about to happen. The blessing way ceremony popular in new age circles may verge on appropriation (what doesn’t these days?), but make it your own using your beliefs and practices from your own magical or cultural tradition. For both of my pregnancies, friends put together simple, personalized ceremonies that were really beautiful.

If you’ve recently had a baby there are many ceremonies you can perform which mainly consist of blessing and protecting the baby and new mother. You’ve just ripped a hole open between the worlds, you’d better ward it! You can look to cultural traditions or pull a rite from your magical tradition. A baby blessing usually involves holy water and also often the official naming of the baby. Baptism is pretty pagan if you look into its ancient history. You don’t need a coven, you can do this yourself or with your partner and a small group of friends.

Craft yourself a protection talisman and a birthing talisman. Willow placed under the birthing bed is supposed to help with the pain, but there is a lot of folklore and superstitions you could mine for information. Talismans to protect babies and small children are very common across cultures as they are believed to be more susceptible to illness, evil spirits, pesky pixies, and the evil eye. Research can also help you keep up your magical work so I’m not going to do it for you here!

Daily Devotions

So you have a baby or a toddler and not much free time, but you can still try to do one small thing daily for yourself and your deities or spirits. You can work on maintaining an altar or shrine with offerings of incense, libations, flowers, or food. I try to light good incense one to two times a day for my spirits. My current partner helps with this, which is awesome, and the toddler loves to help by blowing out the flame when I light the incense sticks. I also refresh the cut flowers on my ancestral altar every 1-2 weeks. My ancestral shrine currently gets more love than my main witchy altar, but I’m working on evening things out.

You can attempt to meditate once a day (or at least sit for a moment and do absolutely nothing at all) even if it’s only for 5-15 minutes. The best time for meditation is when the kiddo is asleep at naptime or bedtime. If you try to meditate when they’re awake, it’s often going to be as bad as trying to take a phone call while your toddler acts out to get your attention (when just a minute before they were completely ignoring you). That being said my partner is Buddhist and has started meditating in front of the kiddo and instead of just pestering him, the toddler has decided to join him in just “sitting” and demands his own cushion. It’s pretty cute.

Maybe you have a favourite piece of devotional liturgy or a litany you like to recite that makes you feel holy or more connected to your magic. Something easy to memorize that you can repeat once a day at a certain time. I also often found myself forgetting the words to lullabies and more frequently sing my son to sleep with soothing magical chants to the point that he requests them now that he can form full sentences. Eventually you can sing them together. Little ones love songs and singing and most don’t care whether you can carry a tune or not – they certainly can’t!

Digging Deeper for Monthly Magic

Even practicing something once monthly can be hard, but it’s worth it. What is one thing that is important, that you promised you would do, that you really shouldn’t let lapse now that you are a parent? That one day or one hour of re-connection to spirit is incredibly nourishing to your soul. You need it, so make it happen! It could be your monthly coven meeting and ritual, it could be your local open sabbat ritual, or it could be something personal. I perform my solitary full moon rite every full moon and try to keep it simple and the same to make it manageable but still meaningful. It’s the one thing I promised I would do. If I lapse, man do my spirits get pissed! They don’t care how much I need to sleep and the bright full moon shining in my face at night, waking me up, certainly doesn’t either. If you have commitments to spirits you work with, it’s in your best interest to keep up with them. Apologize sincerely and leave good offerings when you fail.

I also tried to attend a local new moon women’s ritual, but couldn’t keep up. It’s something I know I can try to go back to. If I add something else to my monthly practice, it’s usually divination. I’m not a daily card puller, so once a month works well for me to bring out a favourite tarot deck. When the kiddos are older I will attempt to add my dark moon rite back into my regular practice, but right now juggling full and dark moon rituals would be too overwhelming. Know your limit, stay within it!

Magic on the Fly

If it’s just been too long since you’ve felt magical and witchy or your small, daily devotions aren’t nourishing you enough, then it’s time to step it up. Try to get a night off with a babysitter or invite your magical friends over to your place after the kiddo’s bedtime and have a good magical session and social catch-up with your friends. Do a simple ritual, read tarot or tea leaves, perform a needed spell, or go outside and soak up actual moonlight and starlight. Put aside the time and do it. Re-embrace your pre-kid witchy self.

Not everyone has witchy friends to call on or at least not ones that are nearby enough to come visit. Skype or face-time those far away magical best friends and talk about your magical practice and all things woo-woo. Sometimes even just talking about magic with others who practice and get it is immensely helpful and invigorating. Also, it’s nice to talk to adults, adults who talk about adult things using adult words –especially adults that don’t mention toilet training, diapers, or the hell of toddler bedtime at all. Forget you’re a mom or dad for a while and hang out with your fellow magical people.

If you’re really alone or are just a very private person, then it’s time to get your witch on. Get those hands dirty and do some spell work. It doesn’t matter if it’s something serious that needs doing or just refreshing your household protection charms — get down and dirty and do it. Make talismans for protection, luck, money, gardening, or sleep. Perform candle spells. Do a house cleansing and blessing. Take a ritual / spiritual cleansing bath complete with candles and herbs and oils. Craft herbal concoctions like salves, incense, magical oils, or a dream pillow. Break out those occult books you’ve been hoarding since your teens and mine them for crafty hands-on ideas. Steal some that super precious “free-time” and do one small thing.

A Note On Precautions

So you’re a parent now and are responsible for the safety of tiny people. Be smart and responsible. You can’t shit where you eat anymore. This means you don’t curse in your house, you don’t summon dangerous entities in your house, you don’t open portals to unsafe places in your house. You don’t do gorey or kinky rituals in your house the kids could walk in on that might scar them for life. Now you have to do it at a friend’s house or take it outside – preferably completely off your property. Go find a crossroad or a spot in a park or the woods for your witchery. Save some things until you are kid-free at your local pagan festival. Seriously, don’t even let some spirits or deities know you have kids. Children’s innocent souls are tender and delicious.

You’re pregnant? Yeah, the hedgecrossing wherever/whenever you want, the shape-shifting, and any possessory work is going to take a big hit. Reel it in until your bun in the oven turns into a toddler. I still do some dream work, but it’s much tamer and safer than my pre-mom, pre-pregnant self practiced (even unconsciously). Then there’s that awkward moment when your witchy friend’s kids and husband, who are tired of being haunted, ask you to “talk” to mom about her loose boundaries with spirits and come over and shut all the doors to the otherworld in the house whether she likes it or not and give her a talking to. Oh the magical parents I’ve known who have done dumb things…. Letting ghosts in the house on purpose or getting possessed and speaking in tongues is not going to impress your kids.  No, just no. You’re a parent now. Ward all the things and check those wards at least monthly.

Be cautious, but no need to go overboard. A simple spell candle, a divination, a blessing, the crafting of talismans, consecrations of tools, etc are not going to be a big deal to do in your home when you have children. Just save those Hekate devotions for the crossroad and the necromancy for the graveyard or the forest. Keep those baneful herbs and any fetiches or tools that can’t be handled by anyone but you locked up and out of reach. As my partner would say: “common sense, yo.”


 

Cin of Stone Spiral Creations is an experienced practitioner of the Craft with over 22 years of study in both group and solitary rituals. Growing up she played with astrology, tarot cards, and crystals in her Grandma’s kitchen. In her teen years she began to practice Wicca.  She has been involved in a long-standing coven and a Sabbat group, both based on Wiccan Traditions, and has been both a leader and participant in public rituals, classes, and events. Since moving from Canada to Wisconsin, USA, Cin has been working on building a coven and getting to know the local community.

By day Cin lives the cube life of an office worker. Evenings and weekends she can be found cuddling or chasing after her baby son. Cin loves to take photographs and will often be distracted by some tiny detail that she needs to capture. Cin is also a geek who loves to collect My Little Ponies, dolls, or anything sparkly or cute that catches her eye. She loves to do crafts; she sews, does embroidery, scrapbooks and adds large amounts of glitter to things (some of these things end up in her Etsy shop). Cin relaxes with a good book and a large bowl of popcorn.

Tarot cardBecoming a mom has been an amazing journey. I never thought I would be here, but I have learned that the universe throws you curveballs on occasion. I’ve always stated that if I had kids I would let them be free to explore religion and find the path that works best for them. Now, here I am, a new mom, trying to figure out how to have time for my spiritual needs in a way that works for my family and in the small amount of time I do get to have. I want to figure out how to let my son see this side of me, but I want to do it in a way that lets him know my path is mine, his dad has a different path, and he can find whichever way works for him.

I have many worries and fears. People often say that a child raised without spiritual purpose is lost. I never felt that way, but that is me. I want to offer some sort of guide post to help him find his way, but I also have to be careful. His sister is being raised Christian and I have promised to never mention my faith to her. It means I have to figure out how to juggle all these things and keep it under wraps every second weekend in my own home. I also don’t want him to get to school age and feel left out when all his friends talk about Church or to look weird if he talks about the things we do at home. A delicate balancing act is about to begin.

While I was pregnant I just didn’t have the energy to do much so my serious spiritual practices stopped. The first few months after he was born was a time of adjusting and learning to take care of his needs. I have slowly started to bring back my deeper work, but it can be hard when I am used to giving everyone else what they need before seeing to the things I need myself.

Here are some things that have helped to motivate me, inspire me or some general tips and tricks.

Social Media

Be inspired by Instagram, blogs, FB, twitter but never compare your practices! I also find if I want to snap a photo of something on my altar I then feel I should actually do something. I’ve made it a rule, no empty photos. If I post my tarot cards, I do a reading, if I post a pretty altar shot I take time to pray.

Schedule Time

I try to look at the month and plan out what nights I will have more time. Schedule chore nights so that you can have time for yourself. After the kids are asleep is a great time to meditate or do some divination or journaling.

Tracker

I am very motivated by accomplishments. I use a bullet journal and within it I have a daily tracker. Each day has several items on it that I want to be better about doing, things drinking enough water, eating more vegetables, and being Spiritual. As I get to the end of the day I start to figure out what I can do to check that box off.  Figure out what motivates you and use it.

Be Flexible and Simple

Understand that you might have to pause that invocation to feed a hungry baby. Let anyone you work with know what potential interruptions might happen so everyone is on the same page.

If you feel like you don’t have time for a full ritual – pull a tarot card daily to meditate on. Make a note of it in your day planner or snap a pic with your phone so you can reference if you need to at various times of the day. Take a few mins on your lunch break or in the bathroom or wherever you have a few moments to yourself.

Before bed light a candle and pray. Connect to the divine however you feel most comfortable.

Chant while you push the stroller to raise some energy. Or while you rock the baby, or do the dishes, or the laundry etc. Use the time your hands might be busy as a time to raise energy with your voice. Focus it and then send it to aid you in your workings.

Set an alarm on your phone and when it goes off, pause and practice gratitude or work on a visualization etc.

Traditions

Build family traditions that work around whichever holidays you celebrate. Keep them simple enough for your family and friends to take part in, but witchy enough that you can tap into the symbolism and feel like you celebrated.

In our family we plan to make “Sun cookies” on the solstices. We created a Wassailing tradition to bless the yard and our gardens. We celebrate Lent for my husband and during that time I work on sacrifice and shadow work.

Take Turns

When my husband needs some time to relax I watch the baby. When I need time he takes him. Work together to make sure everyone gets a healthy amount of time to do the things they enjoy.

There will be moments where it is a struggle. There will be months that go by with no serious work. Get creative and see what you can do in the short moments you do have.

Last night I had my candles lit, the incense burning and I was ready to get to work. I heard my son wake up and my husband go to get him. I waited, but after a few minutes I could hear the cry of “mamma”. I blew out the candles and headed up to rock and soothe my little boy. We sat in the dark and snuggled. I could smell my incense on my skin and as he slowly fell back to sleep I paused and breathed deeply. I sent out a pray of gratitude and connected. This wasn’t the meditation I had planned, but it was magic of its own.

featured-blog-image

It’s All Indie Cards III: Black & White Decks

By | Reviews & Interviews, Seership, Witchcraft & Magic | 8 Comments

Here I am again, just in time for the holidays to tempt you to spend your hard won earnings on gorgeous tarot decks by independent artists (or to plaster the links all over your facebook until your loved ones get the hint for what you want for Yule this year). Indie tarot means there’s no big name publisher involved. The decks I share are either crowd funded or the artists came up with the funds themselves to get their deck printed –which is quite the undertaking! The downside to indie decks is that the first printing often sells out and the artist can’t afford to reprint their deck. For example, there were two amazing decks I really wanted to include in this list, but they’ve now sold out and are no longer available: The Nomad Tarot by Jennifer Drantrel and the Black Hand Lenormand by Shelley Barnes. If there is enough demand, however, this changes the artist’s stars. Maybe we can help.

For this year’s round up I’ve chosen all black and white decks with a few black and gold exceptions. I’m a sucker for simple, black and white artwork and have a feeling I’m not alone in this. It was unintentional, but the featured decks all happen to be created by women. Enjoy and be tempted!

animalis-os-fortuna

Animalis Os Fortuna Tarot Deck

by Megan Weber

Website: zaheroux.etsy.com

Animal Bone Fortune Deck is an animal oracle based on the traditional tarot system featuring illustrations of a great variety of creatures and their skulls and bones. If you’ve been looking for a less cutesy animal oriented deck to connect to animal spirits in your magic, this one has your number.

Notes: this is a large deck with big cards and will showcase the art awesomely, but be hard to shuffle.


dark-exact

Dark Exact Tarot Deck

by Coleman Stevenson

Website: thedarkexact.etsy.com

This is the tarot deck you’ve been looking for to put in your instagram photos and to read with your witchy friends who are too dark and cool for the all the big name colourful decks out there. It is full of symbolism, simplicity, and quality. Each card looks as if it were professionally designed by a graphic designer, and considering that their cool shop has a team of designers and consultants, this could be true. A very professional looking deck overall. The Dark Exact deck follows the traditional meanings of the Rider Waite deck despite the different imagery and so won’t require a complete relearning to work with as a new deck. In my opinion, The Dark Exact Tarot has the potential to be the new “it” deck and reach the same cult status of The Wild Unknown.

Notes: The other witchy products in their shop are seriously amazing.


flowers-from-the-dead

Flowers from the Dead Divination Deck

by Misha Huntting

Website: flowersfromthedead.com

Etsy: americanobscura.etsy.com

I love this deck. It screams witchy spirit work as a deck of all skulls on a black background of swirling smoke. This is an animal oracle, not a tarot deck, and has a small handful of skull-faced human exceptions. This deck would be a great way to communicate with the dead and with animal spirits in your practice and doesn’t require or come with a companion book. The cards are slightly larger than a pack of regular playing cards and are easy to work with.

Notes: Out of all the beautiful decks I researched for this post, this one followed me home.


heart-and-hands

Heart and Hands Tarot Deck

by Liz Blackbird

Website: thirteenwaystolook.etsy.com

Crowdfunding Site: indiegogo.com

In this deck’s artwork, graphic design meets tattoo flash meets art deco (with hints of Aubrey Beardsley). These are big cards and the art is full of swirls and lots of detail –almost reminiscent of stained glass but without the colour. If you’re looking for a beautiful deck with endless hours of hand illustration put into it by the artist, this is the one.

Notes: This deck is the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign. Congrats Liz!


small-spells

Small Spells Tarot Deck

by Rachel Howe

Website: smallspells.com

A full tarot deck of simple black ink illustrations on white backgrounds. The style is a combination of cartoon, tattoo flash, and low-fi graphic design. If you don’t like fancy decks and are looking for something simple and hand drawn, modern but still mystical, Small Spells is definitely for you.

Notes: This deck comes with the guide book, you don’t have to pay extra for it!


spirit-speak

Spirit Speak Tarot Deck

by Mary Evans

Website: spiritspeaktarot.etsy.com

This funky tarot deck has a very chaotic, discordian, graphic novel feel. The artist’s goal was to create a simple deck that anyone can understand and perform readings with. I like it for its lack of pretentiousness and the clever design of the branding and packaging.

Notes: The artist has two more full colour decks available in their shop — Iris and Vessel.


vibrant-spirit

Vibrant Spirit Tarot

by Beata Kruszynski

Website: beatakruszynski.etsy.com

I don’t know what it is about this deck, but I love it. Simple, hand drawn, abstract, and very feminist. I see it helping a lot of women in both their mundane and magical lives. The first printing sold out, but the second printing is now available for pre-order.

Notes: The artist also has a 2017 Tarot Calendar available if you are impatient to wait for the deck to be printed.


wanderers-tarot

Wanderer’s Tarot Deck

by Casey Zabala

Website: wandererstarot.com

Etsy: wandererstarot.etsy.com

A feminist exploration of the traditional tarot with altered suits of moons, stones, knives, and feathers. The Wanderer’s Tarot is a very striking deck with its simple hand drawn imagery against the stark black backgrounds. Because of it’s diversion from the traditional tarot system and imagery this deck will take longer to learn to work with, but if it speaks to you it will most definitely be worth it.

Notes: A cool black casting cloth is also available and she’s taking pre-orders for the guide book.


BLACK AND GOLD DECKS

urban-divination

Professor Pam’s Urban Divination Deck

by Pam Wishbow

Shop: pamwishbow.etsy.com

Pam Wishbow is my current witchy artist crush. Everything she touches and creates is pretty much gold to me and her graphic design aesthetic is perfection. This humorous deck of square cards is perfect for the city-dweller who is honest about their disconnect from nature and contains cards like “The Sewer Raccoon” and “The Suspicious Puddle”.

Notes: There is also a bone casting cloth and a spirit board in her etsy shop!

Pam is also in the process of creating a different yet-to-be-named black and white oracle deck.


golden-thread

The Golden Thread Tarot

by Tina Gong

Website: goldenthreadtarot.com

Etsy: milkmusket.etsy.com

Just when you’re like “no, stop Sarah, my bank account can’t handle looking at any more amazing decks!” I’m like: “but just look at this last epic one with metallic gold illustrations that will blow your socks off.” The Golden Thread Tarot is what happens when a talented graphic designer who also happens to be a huge technology nerd designs a deck. The artwork is reminiscent of animé and it is “cute” without taking it too far. The gold on black makes it elegant and it creates a very unique balance with the art.

Notes: Who needs a guide book when you can download a custom app for your smart phone with beautiful custom graphics? A huge gold and black zodiac casting cloth is available in her etsy shop. Oh, and she also has an online tarot school. This woman is rocking at design and marketing.


Do you have a favourite indie tarot deck you found this year? Share it in the comments!

Related Links:

bonnechere-river-2

Curses & Blessings at the Witches’ Sabbat

By | Events, Festivals & Sabbats, Witchcraft & Magic | 7 Comments

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, witches came from miles around to meet in the woods and learn from each other about cursing and warding magic. I remember walking a dense spiral path formed by trees and earth alone, the mossy ground slimy under my feet and covered in mushrooms and the tiniest of toads. I caught the toads and they baptized my hands with their poison. There was a clearing with four stangs in each corner adorned with skulls and antlers, their feet covered in offerings.  It was a place full of genius loci and magical potency, but I spent most of my time on a forest path sitting at the door of the sacred mound of gnome home, offering smoke as well as blood via mosquitoes to the nisse.

I remember cooking in large iron cauldrons over a hot fire under the hot sun and needing to jump in the river to cool off. I remember people feeding me bannock dripping with honey and my fingers bloody from eating a rare cow heart cooked over the flames, the women shouting “Khaleesi!” Words fell out of my mouth and sang a song of henbane; its history, folklore, magical uses, medicinal uses, how to grow it, what to harvest, and preparations for the pleasure of the herb alone. I remember the witches dancing wildly around a bonfire and casting a powerful curse of protection as the sun set and the world grew dark.

As the hour grew late, I remember wearing my floor length red dress and putting on red lipstick, my long dark hair curled from the heat and humidity.  I remember a man sharing the good whiskey with me possibly because of these facts. I remember the hem of my dress dragging across the dirt path as I led the midnight procession of endless people dressed in white into the pitch black of the forest. I led them with no lantern, just my night-seeing eyes and my voice singing a chant of cleansing (strong like the ocean/gentle like rain/river wash my tears away/aphrodite).

We turn right at the crossroad and curve like a snake around sacred groves until we come to a sandy clearing with some stars visible through a clouded sky. The sound of the frogs is so loud it drowns out all other sounds. There is a large fire with a darkly bearded man in black standing next to it holding a large staff and at his feet is a deer hide with a skull, a bird wing, bottles, bowls, and herbs. The people’s eyes widen, but the man is only the firekeeper and steps back into the shadows. To the left of the fire are two large candles struck into the ground, with white and red rose petals on the sand forming an entrance way into an unseen pool of water; all that lays beyond is a heavy darkness. It is called “The Cauldron” and is fed by an underground aquifer. It goes deep.

I briefed everyone before we began the procession. They were to wear white or be naked if they were comfortable doing so. This was to be a purification ritual, a spiritual cleansing. It may seem reverent to some and  playful to others, and it will be both. I told them to focus on a prayer and hold it in their mind when they go in the water and put their heads under. What do they wish to be cleansed of? A curse, an evil eye, an attached spirit, unhealthy thoughts, illness, stress, frustrations, unhappiness, bad experiences… I told them the cleansing may have consequences. It could result in your wish coming true in unexpected ways: a broken relationship or friendship, the loss of a job or living situation… that most people would be fine, but those at major crossroads in their lives may have some fallout. My warning came to pass for some and my heart goes out to them.

At the sandy shore of the Cauldron in the darkness, I loudly called to the directions of east, south, west, north, above and below and asked the spirits of the land to witness and guard our rite. Juniper, Janine, and I cleansed the participants. Janine smudged them with burning sage and the bird wing to purify their spirits. I passed forth a bottle of my blackcurrant mead and had them paw at a jar of raw honey with their hands and lick it off. “For sweetness in life,” I repeated.

Then Juniper and I sprayed their faces and bodies with fine mists of red wine and mead spat from our mouths. We looked at each other for a moment with wicked smiles, turned and sprayed each other head to toe. It sounds cruel, but it is a common folk practice of spiritual cleansing around the world. In Scotland, the healer’s mouth was sacred and their saliva could turn water or alcohol into holy water. Most people laugh, some frown. To be sweet again I had them all dip their hands in a bowl of deliciously scented rose water and white rose petals and anoint themselves with it, rubbing it on their faces and necks… but then after I splashed the remains wickedly all over their feet so they were cleansed from head to toe. I sweetened them and cleansed them so they would feel clean after a hot, humid, and sweaty day, but more so to cleanse them so their human-ness would not offend the spirits of the spring.

How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, and back again.
If your heels are nimble and light,
You may get there by candle-light.

~ Mother Goose

Divided into three groups, I instruct each to follow the path of rose petals and run into the darkness through the tall candles. I pull my dress over my head and lead the first wave of naked and white-clothed people splashing into the depths of the black water. The water is glorious and pleasurable, perfect. They hold their heads under for six seconds and pray. They come out again and the next wave goes in, and the next until they have all baptized themselves –I’m proud to say: even the ones who were afraid of the water. I look into the darkness with my cat eyes and make sure each person comes back out. I bless them: “May you be cleansed of your curses, your evil eyes, your unwanted spirits, your problems! May you have happiness, prosperity, love, and laughter!” And they laugh with joy and their eyes sparkle. Some of us go back into the water because it is so perfect and the stars are so beautiful and the chorus of frogs is incredible. People linger and hug and then we all slowly walk back into the forest and off to the dreamtime.

I return home recharged and full of joy, feeling ever more the strange and wild witch-like creature I am. Happiness is being in the company of witches and knowing nothing you do or say will upset them because they are the same type of strange creature. I feel blessed to have such a gathering only a blink away from my home and hope you will join us one year to celebrate your own strangeness.

Blessings of the dark and the wild,

Sarah

 


 

Image of the Bonnchere River by D. Gordon E. Robertson.

Links:

The Witches’ Sabbat at Raven’s Knoll

The Witches’ Sabbat Facebook Group

Raven’s Knoll Campground

Raven’s Knoll 2016 Events List

2008_05100024

Mysteries of Beast, Blood and Bone

By | Bones & Blood, Featured, Folk Magic, Necromancy, Witchcraft & Magic | 8 Comments

Crow skulls, bones, and foot

© 2013  Sarah Anne Lawless – Originally printed in Serpent Songs: An Anthology of Traditional Craft curated by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold and published by Scarlet Imprint. Do not copy or use any portion of this text or its images without the express permission of the author, but sharing the link is very welcome.


skulls line the windowsills. Skulls float in jars on top of cupboards. Bones boil in pots on the stove, the flesh melting away. Hidden among the drying herbs and roots there are hearts and tongues and eyes. It is not Baba Yaga’s hut I describe, but my kitchen. Bone collector, bone washer, animal necromancer, deathwalker, shapeshifter, poisoner, witch… these are the words people whisper of me and my practices. Some whisper with fear and others with desire. I am an animist, a folk magician, and a rootworker. It is not just herbs I work with in my folk magic, but also skulls and bones, hearts and tongues. I practice the lost art of working with beast, blood, and bone in order to rebirth the ancient nature of Witch as a wild and primal creature; surrounded by spirits, anointed with blood, dressed in hides, and adorned with talismans of bone, tooth, and claw.

The magic of beasts is sympathetic magic, fetiche magic, and death magic, but it is also sensual magic. It is the feel of the Saturn finger dipped in warm blood, of softest fur on barest skin, of sharpest tooth and talon biting in, of a raw heart on the tongue, and the scent of decay deep in the lungs. It is the rendered fat of a flying ointment like smooth silk across the brow, and it is the tactile, dirty, grounding sorcery of the here and now. It is an amoral, carnal, fleshly, and sensory feast of visceral magic combining the sacred and the profane. The magic of beasts belongs to the wild sorcerers who are part human, part spirit, and part animal; the ones who dance the knife’s edge between the worlds of life and death, the incarnate and disincarnate.

It is only practical to work with the animals and spirits who share the land where I live, for they have a closer relationship with me than any romanticized exotic animals across the sea. On my altar you will find the spirits of the Pacific Northwest: Orca, Salmon, Black Bear, Black Wolf, Mountain Lion, Mountain Goat, White-Tailed Deer, and wings of the birds who haunt our skies and the tree tops of Hemlock and Red Cedar. Old Woman and Old Man of the Woods whispered to me their names in dreams and one by one the beasts came to me. On my altar are their antlers, horns, bones, skulls, teeth, hides and feathers. The ones I did not find myself ended up in my care through bone collectors, shamans, and hunters.

It is important to state that I do not kill the creatures who come to me; instead, they are brought to me after death by conservation officers, hunters, taxidermists, and from friends as road kill. This is my choice and yet in the future I hope to go with my animist friends who hunt in a sacred manner and help them skin and butcher and then take of the bones and flesh they will not eat or use. When I receive dead beasts, plastic is rolled across the table, knives laid out, and gloves and a mask are worn. The still bodies are smudged with fragrant herbs, anointed with holy water, and blessings of cleansing and release are whispered over them. The bodies may be still but their spirits are not. Sometimes it isn’t enough and the animal’s spirit must be bargained with; some demanding to be buried whole with nothing taken, some who will only give up a few parts for sacred work and no more, and some who demand an offering or a working before you may proceed. It is best to respect their remains and their demands for they can curse you better than any witch if you anger them. Folly alone will lead you to curse yourself: butchery and preservation require training as dead animals carry disease, bacteria, parasites, and legal issues –it is not something to walk into blindly.

Crow Claw TalismansThis path is not for everyone; it is not for the weak of stomach or for those who think it is immoral. I grew up with hunters and fishers. I’ve lived by the sea, I’ve lived on a farm raising livestock, and I’ve lived deep in the wildest forests. I was once a professional butcher and cook. It is how I can do what I do. Why follow this path? It should compel you and feed your soul in some way. What is the reward of such bloody work? It is simple, if you want to be a shape-shifter and a walker between worlds, if you want to learn the tongues of beasts, if you want to align yourself more closely than you could ever believe with your animal familiars and the genius loci, then you will also need to work closely with death, blood, and bone. Our ancestors were not soft or squeamish and we must not white-wash their memory by imagining they didn’t kill the deer used to make their ceremonial costume, the raven for their feathered headdress and cloak, or the bear for its hide to craft their drums and rattles. We must approach our Mighty Dead in full knowledge they killed the swans buried in their sacrificial pits, they killed the mare buried beneath the feasting hall, and they killed the hornless bull for its hide to wrap around their seer so he may dream of invaders’ ships. Long have we as the human race worked with animals, their deaths, and their spirits in our rites and ceremonies. Long will our descendants do so after we are dead.

Death will show you a side of your character as yet unknown and your reaction will either gladden you or horrify you. We are so far removed from death in our modern, sterile, clinical world that it is more important than ever as spirit workers to reconnect ourselves and others with death, blood, and bone. I work with death so I can be close to it. Being close to death reminds me I too am a spirit, walking around in a suit of flesh which I may come and go from as I please. When you are close to death you are close to spirits and more easily able to see and commune with them. When you are close to spirits, you are closer to the other worlds where they reside and therefore more easily able to transverse them.

FORMULARY OF THE BEAST

I share my ancestors’ belief in sympathetic magic and, when I wish to work more closely with an animal spirit, I need to also work with its remains whether it is a claw, its hide, or its whole skeleton. To practice this magic one must be able to seek out death; for bone collectors and necromancers can sense bones and remains when they pass nearby, be it in the forest or the flea market.

You are what you eat. Sympathetic magic takes this common phrase to a deeper level. To acquire the keen hearing, quick reflexes, and agility of a deer, one would eat venison. To acquire keen eyesight or the ability to fly like a bird, crossing between the other worlds, one would eat poultry. Our ancestor believed to eat a thing is to absorb its powers, spirit, and knowledge into yourself to making you more powerful or wise. To kill a thing is to take its spirit. Hunters of old would usually let the spirit go and return the bones of a fish to the river it was caught and the bones of a deer to the forest of its death as a sign of respect so the creature could be reborn again and eaten again.

Not every animal was let go. Some animals were hunted solely for their spirits: for their hides, their bones, for their claws and teeth, for their power, and for their help as an ally, totem, or familiar. Such spirits are asked to willingly offer themselves and stay with you until it is your turn to die. Our ancestors asked permission, not merely of the animal spirits themselves, but of the ruling genius loci, before they hunted or harvested as is evidenced in the hunter’s invocations in the Kalevala, ancient Latin spells petitioning Artemis, and oral Scottish tales of disrespectful hunters being found dead, killed by a wild shape-shifting crone.

When you bring home any part of an animal with the intention of enlivening it as a fetiche, keep in mind that like any living creature you would have be your pet, you must also be responsible for any spirit you take home – you must accept its wildness and instincts, sate its hunger and thirst, clean it when it becomes soiled, and give it of your love, your energy and your time. The respect, reverence, and care you give a familiar spirit and the fetiche it inhabits is what you will gain in return.

Each part of an animal can be used as a fetiche, a spirit house, a ritual tool, and as a spell ingredient. As a bone collector I save the bones, but as a witch I save the blood, eyes, fats, feet, hearts, skins, teeth, and tongues as well.

He layeth corpses at my feet;
not dead slain by warrior’s hand
or creatures fit to eat,
but brings me tongue and heart,
skull and bone, tooth and eye
– all to work my grisly witch’s art.

Owl Skull

BONES

Fresh bones wet and greasy with fat and blood, smooth white bones stained with earth, dry rough bones eroded by wind and water… no matter their condition the bones and skulls of a dead animal connect us directly with the creature’s spirit and the spirits of all their kind, living and dead. Collect the bones and skulls of animal familiars to ease communion and interaction with them. Gather the bones of animals each from the realms of land, sea, and sky if you wish to better transverse between the worlds and shift between shapes. Become an osteomancer by throwing the bones to divine secrets, foreknowledge, and the keys to your questions. Carve and paint the bones with runes and sigils. Become a charmer and wear a baculum for fertility, virility, sexual prowess, and protection.

The empty eye sockets of skulls watch and guard, apotropaic and undead they never tire of their duty. Hang the skulls of sharp-toothed predators over garden gates and chicken coops to keep out unwanted beasts. Hang them over your own door to keep out unwanted spirits and energies and let them be your fanged bouncers, your hunting hounds. Hang the skulls of horned beasts above a stable, outbuilding, or gate for protection and also to ensure the health and fertility of any livestock or wild game on your land.

The skull is where awareness and the senses dwell. Skulls are the most suited part of a skeleton for a spirit house. Magically cleanse your skull in a ceremony and ask if its spirit wants to continue to dwell in it or if another beast of its kind wishes to volunteer. I prefer the spirit the skull once housed as the connection between the two is much stronger. Consecrate the skull to its purpose as spirit vessel and a tie for that spirit to our middle world. To summon and work with the spirit you can chant:

Black is the colour of womb and tomb;
we meet at night on the dark of the moon.
White is the colour of bone and ash;
to speak to the dead we bathe and fast.
Red is the colour of blood and death;
we rub the bones and give them breath.

Clean the fetiche and leave its spirit offerings on a regular basis for the rest of your life until you pass it on to another or you die. If you must, you can desecrate a spirit vessel in ceremony and release the spirit from the bone.

BLOOD

Blood is a sacrifice that feeds the hungry spirits and the insatiable earth. Blood ties us to life and death for we are born in blood and we die when our blood flows through the earth instead of our veins. Blood is holy water, life force, heat, and metal. The spirit dwells in the blood and when you drink of it you are possessed by it, bound to it, and it to you. The earth hungers for blood; the ancient battlefields long to be soaked in red, the mountains cry out for human sacrifice, and the herb garden hungers for dead crows. How they flourish when painted red, how green and juicy the plants grow when fed off of the blood of mortals and beasts alike. The whole of nature feeds off of death and decay. Leave out offerings of blood or raw meat to the genius loci, to the plants, to the black earth, and see how greedily the spirits claw and bite and devour it. The hungry earth is the easiest way to clean bones. Bone collectors learn to feed their gardens the unwanted flesh of their work so only pure osseous matter is left.

Blood will tie you to living beasts, it will cleanse you like holy water, protect you like an amulet, and lend you increased power and life force for your ceremonies. Blood can heal – trading a life for a life, sickliness for health. Blood can bring you closer to death and your ancestors. Blood can curse too; spilled and spat upon, a life taken in an enemy’s name.

“Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of a Christian man,” says the giant. “I smell Russian blood,” says Baba Yaga. The spirits can smell our blood and by it know that we are human. They will want to drink your blood like the hungry earth for not all spirits are amicable towards us mortals. Animal blood will distract them from your scent and feed their hunger… for the moment. Blood spilled on feather down seems to be a favourite. Is it not why we bathe in cold spring waters, rub and smudge ourselves with fragrant herbs, and adorn ourselves in animal hides? We disguise ourselves as forest creatures to safely travel in and out of the territories of dangerous spirits..

CLAWS AND FEET

Claws click, dig, and bite deep, shedding blood. Sharp claws and talons have long been worn as protective amulets – wear them about your neck to prevent attacks from the familiar spirits of other magicians and to chase away the evil eye like an owl hunts down a mouse with its eyes upon a corn field. In a trance straddling the worlds shamans use a sharp-clawed bird foot to tear illnesses or elf darts out of a patient’s body, to chase away the evil eye, to shield and protect, or to send forth biting curses to rend apart a rival or enemy. Keep the feet, toes, and nails to walk in a beast’s footsteps and wear them about your neck for rites of shape-shifting.

Arthritic Crow Foot

EYES

Save the eyes to see the unseen, to have visions, and dream dreams. Preserve them and keep them to see like the animal and better shift your shape into feather, fur, or silver skin. Eyes to spy: wear them around your neck or place them under you head to see through the eyes of their living kind far away.

Eyes to send the evil eye. Eyes to bind and blind. Eyes to stab and curse. An eye to repel the evil eye. Add to a protection talisman to carry or hide in your car or home. Eyes to watch and warn of dangers. Hang over your door for the worries of this world and place on your altar for dangers from the otherworld. Eyes as offerings to seer spirits and deities of the divinatory arts. Burn them and bury them, the eyes to see the future.

FAT

Creamy, luscious, succulent fat – it makes such a good and pleasing offering to the gods and spirits. The rendered fats of beasts can be transformed via alchemy into flying ointments, tallow candles, protective ritual grease paints, and potent medicines. Hallucinogenic plant poisons insidiously infuse more thoroughly into animal fats and into your bloodstream than through a vegetable medium. My ointment of bear fat and henbane seed serves me well in my rites of shape-shifting and seership. When I use it I anoint my bear skull as well as myself. I do the same for my crow and owl skulls with my ointment of bird fats infused with feather ashes, the dust of bird bones, solanceae and artemisias – it aids me in spirit flight and travelling through the worlds in the form of a bird.

Burn down a tallow candle of bear to invoke its spirit or to give offering to a deity or nature spirit whom bear is sacred to. Fat is the food of the gods; burn the fat of pig, goat, deer, bear, cow, and bird as a grand offering. Bury it raw in the woods for the spirits of the wild. Rub fat on a statue to feed its inhabiting spirit.

Mix rendered fats with potent magical herbs, charcoals, and natural pigments to create grease paints to protect your body and soul for your rites of spirit work – especially those of possession and shape-shifting. Rub sacred fats into your untreated wooden ritual tools to feed them, darken them, and strengthen them.

FEATHERS

Feathers lend us wings to fly out of body and between the worlds, tucked in the hair or stitched onto the collars and sleeves of cloaks. Feathers connect us to the world of the spirits and can deliver messages between them. Feathers tied to staffs, stangs, wands, ritual pipes, drums, and rattles used in spirit work. Feathers to slice and cut or feathers to caress and heal. Feathers hung for protection when travelling and feathers tucked under the mattress to receive true dreams. Wings to sweep away what doesn’t suit us and wings cleanse our bodies and souls. Wings wash away emotions and parasitic spirits like a fierce wind. Smudge with a tail fan to help redirect energies so things flow smoothly once more.

Rook and Crow Fetish

HEARTS

The heart is one of the seats of the soul. A poet would say a soul is not free from the body until the heart rots, eaten by the earth. To keep a heart is to collect a soul and its power. To hide one’s heart like a sorcerer in an ancient tale is to cheat death. To wrap a poultice around a heart is to heal a heart that still beats. To stab a heart is to tear into a soul and let darkness in.

Bake a heart into a salt dough poppet. It is your choice whether the dough contains healing or baneful herbs and whether you cover it in healing poultices or stab it with ill intent. Give a heart the name of your enemy and feed it to your pet or eat it yourself to gain power over them. Prick a fresh heart with pins, needles, or thorns to curse another or to reverse a curse laid upon you. Burn a heart on a fire or bury it in a pit as an offering to your gods or spirits whose currency is souls. Hearts can be dried and saved for later use like any herb in an apothecary. Reanimate a dried heart with red wine and red ochre until it is swollen and bloody once more.

HIDES

Our ancestors wrapped themselves in fur hides to bring on prophetic dreams, to shape-shift into an animal, to journey into the other world, and to call upon their familiar spirits for their power and aid. Bear hides for dreaming, deer hides for transvection, wolf hides for hunting and battle, and seal hides for navigating the mysterious ocean. Furs are tools of magic and can be used as altar cloths, ritual costumes, and sacred blankets.
The rawhide of beasts is the body of our ritual drums and our rattles. We transform skin into musical instruments so the spirits will hear the song of their own flesh and come to us in our time of need. Any creature with skin can become a drum. The hide of each beast sings a different song in a different tune: deer and elk are high and resonant, bear is a deep and thundering roar, and cow and buffalo are soft and deep like their dark liquid eyes.

Save the leather for ritual costumes, for binding your book of arte, and for the crafting of amulets, fetiches, and sacred medicine bundles. Save the skin of a bird to craft from it a crane bag where you will store all your tools, fetiches, and talismans you wish to take with you into other worlds and other forms.

TEETH

Teeth to bite and gnaw and scare. Teeth to devour curses, attacking spirits, and meddlesome folk. Teeth to chew and spit back out. Teeth to warn an unruly cub and teeth to put a trickster back in line. Teeth to rip and rend and bloody an enemy. Teeth to give bite to those who lack it and need it. My what big teeth you have, bigger than mine, predator to my prey. A fool stands against one armed to the teeth, but a wiser beast runs away. A tooth carved with a sigil and sung with a rune, carried to protect one from harm. A tooth dipped in venomous herbs to energetically stab and dig in like a serpent’s fang – the tooth of a bear, lion, whale, shark, or wolf.

Fox and Bat skulls

TONGUES

Tongues to speak benevolence or malevolence, tongues to bind or cut out, tongues to sweeten others to your cause or to ruin another’s. Are there tongues in the crane bag on your altar that you may speak and understand the languages of beasts of land and sea and sky? Do you possess tongues to exchange for your own in the otherworld so the animal spirits will understand you when you speak? I collect the tongues of birds, messengers between the worlds and ferriers of souls, that my own tongue may speak prophecy and knowledge from the other side and that the spirits may hear me when I call out.

CONCLUSION

I offer this knowledge to those students of the mysteries who truly wish to deepen their relationship with the animal world. Animals have a lot to teach us about magic and wisdom. Long have they been viewed by the human race as guardians, protectors, and teachers proficient in magic, shape-shifting, and communication with the supernatural world. Animals are our familiars, our messengers and intermediaries, our dream companions, our omens, the skulls and feathers on our altars, the skin of our drums and rattles, the antler and bone of our tool handles, the tooth and claw of our fetishes, the tallow in our candles, and the leather of our crane bags. They are furred and feathered gods in the trees, on our dinner plates, and in our homes deserving of our respect, reverence, and a change in our attitudes towards them.

Further Reading:


RESOURCES

Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. 1992. Princeton University Press.

Ellis Davidson, Hilda. Roles of the Northern Goddess. 1998. Routledge.

Harris-Logan, Stuart A. Singing With Blackbirds: The Survival of Primal Celtic Shamanism in Later Folk Traditions. 2006. Grey House in the Woods.

Johnson, Buffie. Lady of the Beasts: Ancient Images of the Goddess and Her Sacred Animals. 1990. HarperCollins.

McIntyre Jorgensen, Grace Miri. A Comparative Examination of Northwest Coast Shamanism. 1970. University of British Columbia Department of Anthropology and Sociology.

2009_04110002

Consecration and Desecration

By | Folk Magic, Witchcraft & Magic | 3 Comments

I am very much a “consecrate all the things” type of magician. I consecrate altars, ritual tools, divinatory tools, fetiches, talismans, charms, idols, candles, holy water, and even herbal preparations. To consecrate simply means “to hallow or to make sacred.” To me, it means to cleanse and bless something and charge it with a purpose. A skull is just a skull, but when consecrated it becomes a spirit house. A statue of Odin is just a statue until you consecrate it to be a vessel for deity. A candle is just a candle until it is anointed with oil and its purpose for a spell stated aloud. A stick is just a stick, but if you carve it, sand it, oil it, sprinkle holy water on it, smudge it with smoke, name it’s purpose as your wand of art, and imbue it with the desired powers of blasting, protection, and blessing then it becomes a potent tool of magic. To further the process of consecration, the more the object is actively used for its named purpose, the more power it will wield and the more it will simply “be” that sacred tool. There are as many ways to consecrate as there are witches. The following are my own practices and thoughts.

Poisoner's Crane Bag

BASIC CONSECRATION GUIDELINES

This can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. It can take five minutes, or it can take an hour. You can do it at midnight on a full moon on your altar with candles lit, incense burning, and chants sung while your loosed long hair cascades over your bared breasts glowing in the candlelight… or you can do it in the morning on your kitchen table with some water, salt, and olive oil and be back to watching Ellen before your blueberry bagel pops out of the toaster.

Step 1: Cleansing

Clean physically if possible with soap, water, and purification herbs (lemon, evergreens, rue, hyssop, mugwort). Then clean spiritually with incense smoke or smudge. If the object cannot be washed, sprinkle it with holy water then smudge with smoke. Move the object around in your hands so the smoke touches every nook and cranny. While cleansing the object think cleansing thoughts, or say out loud “I cleanse you”, or sing a purification or washing chant or song (pagan or from the top 40, it doesn’t matter).

Step 2: Anointing

Oil all the things. You don’t need to have a fancy oil as olive or sunflower oil will do just fine. Essential oils work great too, just dilute them a bit with olive, almond, sunflower, or jojoba oil first. You can use fairy or flying ointments to anoint with too, depending on what you are consecrating and to which purpose. Dip your index finger in oil and from the centre of the object swipe your finger up once. Go back to the centre and swipe your finger down once. You can use an equal armed cross instead. Ta da! Anointed! This works well with candles, jewelry, skulls, bottles, boxes, wands, staffs, statues, chalices, candle holders, etc.

Step 3: Rebirthing

Get a black cloth or piece of leather and wrap up the object. This will serve as tomb and womb. Your ritual goody is about to go through a magical initiation (I got this idea from Nigel Pennick who is awesome). Its old self will die so its new self as your ritual tool or fetish can start. Unwrap the cloth and welcome the object as a new born. Sprinkle earth on it, sprinkle holy water on it, pass it over a candle flame and through a plume of incense smoke –blessing it with the elements of earth, water, fire, and air.

Step 4: Charging

Now you name the object and charge it with its intended purpose. It is best to make it up so it can be completely customized to your needs and the particular purpose of the object. A protective ring and a tarot deck aren’t going to have the same purpose. “I charge you ring with the purpose of protecting my body, mind, and spirit from harm whenever I wear you, that I may be invisible and impenetrable when my enemy sends forth an attack, that I am safe when travelling in this world or in others, and that you send me warning when I am in danger by sending an itch to the finger you sit upon. I charge you to do my will. Let it be so!”

Hekate Ritual Bundles

Simplifying Consecration

Don’t feel the need to do anything so elaborate for a candle, a bottle of sabbat wine, or a herbal sachet? No worries, keep it simple. Sprinkle water on it, anoint it with oil, or just blow on it. Then whisper a prayer of intent so the breath from your prayer touches it. Done. I consecrate my holy water with just a holey stone, a silver ring and then I blow on it three times “by silver and stane may the water be sained”. Boom, it’s instantly ready for me to sprinkle on people who forgot to take their glasses off. I consecrate new altar candles of beeswax by just rubbing some olive oil on them and lighting them while I say: “I consecrate thee in the Devil’s name, by oil and by flame may the candle be sained.” With the new candles quickly in place, I can get down to the business of a rite or a tarot reading.

Aftercare Tips

Well after your sacred objects are consecrated and used for their purposes, you should still clean them now and then. Make a gentle magical wash for items that can get wet and give them a bath – this works well for talismanic jewelry, skulls, swords, knives, stangs, staffs, statuary, and some divinatory tools. Things build up dust and grime over time. About once a year I will wash my altar and everything on it, shaking dust out of animal hides and off of feathers, and cleaning up any candle wax buildup and guck in the incense censer.

Wooden ritual tools that aren’t varnished will need some love throughout the year; altar patens, wands, staffs, stangs, carved statues, cups, boxes, etc. Wipe them down with a damp cloth, let them dry and then oil them with linseed oil or Danish oil. You can also rub them down with some beeswax or a wood balm like Clapham’s beeswax polish. Have any leather goods? Same deal only use a leather dressing or saddle balm after wiping an item down and massage it into the leather like you would with lotion on your skin – this will not work with synthetic leather. For wood or leather, let the oil or balm dry overnight before putting your ritual tool back on your altar or back to use.

For hides, furs, rugs, etc sprinkle a dusting of baking soda over them, let it sit for 15 minutes and then shake out and/or vacuum. This will both clean and deodorize the item. You can mix essential oils into the baking soda before use to make them smell lovely too as well as adding magical cleansing properties from oils like lemon and lavender.

For tarot decks or wooden runes a good smudge of smoke works well. I energetically cleanse mine by pulling out the energies from past divinings and letting it absorb slowly and naturally into the earth. Others place crystals on them and let them rest and charge for a week or a month. Others may even bury them or dig them back up.

Once or twice a year, replace sachets, charms, and talismans that are meant to be temporary. Brighid’s crosses are meant to be burned every year at Imbolc and a new one made and hung up for blessing and protection. Spirit traps can only take so much and are meant to be burned and made anew as well. Keep this in mind when making charms of protection or blessing for a room, house, or person. Don’t make them too nice or elaborate, as you’re going to have to dispose of them and craft another.

A Note of Caution Regarding Spirit Fetiches

I’ve quoted the German proverb “raise no more devils than you can lay down” before, but it also applies to “create no more fetishes than you can responsibly look after.” Fetiches should be kept clean, fed offerings, go with you when you travel away from home, and be honoured and worked with often. One ancestral fetiche plus seven animal familiar fetiches plus four plant familiar fetiches later and suddenly you have a dozen spirit houses to look after and take everywhere with you. It all escalated rather quickly. You might want to create one medicine bundle with a token for each spirit that is not fetishized instead. Or you could create one for ancestors, one for animals, and one for plants. Keep the tokens small, keep the container small and you’re good to go. Hold the token in your hand when you want to call and work with that particular spirit – this way it acts as an aid in spirit alignment rather than creating a permanent spirit house that will take up a lot of your space and time.

Spirit Vessels for Poisonous Plant Familiars

DESECRATION

Consecration is pretty common knowledge. Most of us have our ways. But what do you do when you need to get rid of a fetish, a ritual tool, or a sacred item that has broken or needs to be thrown out? You’ve probably guessed right, the garbage can isn’t really an option. Your sacred items deserve ritual desecration as much as they deserved being consecrated in the first place. Again, there are many ways to accomplish desecration, here are some traditional methods and ones that I was taught.

Salt, Moon and Earth

This method I learned from my first teacher who I’ve not-so-affectionately nicknamed Baba Yaga. To undo an unwanted consecration or a spell on an object that is not a curse: place it in a canning jar full of sea salt. Screw on the lid. Let it sit on a windowsill and soak up the light of one full cycle of the moon. Or, bury it in the ground for one full cycle of the moon. This is best for objects you do not wish to destroy, but either repurpose or undo someone’s good or not so good intentions. I’ve done this for a tarot deck that was gifted me with a love spell put on it. It also works for fetiches of skulls, bones, claws etc. which you no longer want to use as spirit houses. It’s also perfect to use for spelled jewelry, keys, or crystals and stones. Maybe you got a better one, maybe you want to use the item for something else, or maybe you want to gift the item to someone else.

Break, Burn and Bury

This is the classic method of desecration and coincidentally of how to leave votive offerings. Prechristian European and Mediterranean cultures believed if you broke and burned an object (including the cremation of the dead), it would go to the otherworld or the underworld. The Chinese still burn all their offerings today believing this sends them to their beloved dead. So, consequently, if you smash and burn a fetiche or spirit house it both destroys the object and sets free the spirit associated with it. Smash the spirit bottle, the spirit trap, the statue… snap in half the wand, the staff, the stang… take apart the knife, the necklace, the herb sachet. “I unmake thee, I unname thee, I set thee free. Bear no ill will against me and be released.” Throw it in a fire and let it burn up. Don’t have access to a fireplace, fire pit, or even a barbeque grill? Try an incense charcoal placed in a large stainless steel bowl which is resting on bare earth or cement. Add some sticks and newspaper to get a flame and then add the object of your desecration. It’s okay if some bits don’t burn up. Glass and metal aren’t going to turn to ash. Simple gather up any remnants as well as the ashes and then bury them –by a crossroad, by a stream or river, in a hollow tree, under a bramble patch where no one will disturb the grave. Are you an animist? Ask the place permission first before you bury your remnants. Ask for a sign that will signal a yes like a crow’s caw or a robin’s whistle.

Go Away / Get Lost Box

This method I found mentioned by Ray T. Marlborough, but haven’t found info on it anywhere else except some folklore of trapping evil spirits in boxes. If you have a ritual tool, talisman, or fetiche you don’t want to destroy or can’t destroy, you can make a go away box. Find any box that will fit the item and on each of the six sides draw a protective talisman. You can make them up, use ones out of old grimoires, or simply draw an equal armed cross on each side. I prefer to use red paint as it protects from spirits or magical interference, but black, blue, and yellow are suitable as well. Consecrate the box on your altar to its purpose: to seal in your ritual tool or fetiche so it no longer has any power and no being can use its power. That when the box starts to decay, so too will the object decay and lose its power. Wrap the item to be desecrated in a natural fabric like silk, linen, cotton, or wool and place it in the box. Seal the lid of the box with wax dripped from a candle (again, red is best) and then wrap thread (also a natural fibre) around and around the box and knot it up tight. Now bury the box by a crossroad, a stream or river, or somewhere it won’t be disturbed (farmlands and development sites are a bad idea).

Self Aftercare

After you perform a desecration rite you should cleanse yourself. Take a bath with sea salt and oils, smudge yourself with smoke, or spritz Florida water on your self and your hands and also clean your altar or work area with it where the rite was performed. Lemon water with salt consecrated as holy water will do in a pinch if you don’t have access to Florida water.

RELATED ARTICLES


Text and images © 2015 Sarah Anne Lawless. Do not copy or use without the express permission of the author, but sharing the link is very welcome.