cauldron

Review of Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s The House Witch

December, 2018

Review of Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s The House Witch

 

 

I received a “review copy” of The House Witch: Your Complete Guide to Creating a Magical Space With Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home by Arin Murphy-Hiscock just before the Thanksgiving holiday. This handsome book is published by Adams Media, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, and is the twelfth book by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. On Simon and Schuster’s author website for Arin Murphy-Hiscock, you can find all the titles of her other published books. Some were known to me and some were not. Some, like Birds: A Spiritual Field Guide, I had borrowed from my local public library and had on my “to-buy” list. So naturally I was elated to get The House Witch. I immediately cracked it open and wrote my name and the date on the inside cover.

But the demands of the Thanksgiving Holiday – cooking the meal and getting together with family in town for just a few days – meant that I wasn’t able to sit down and give The House Witch a good read. And then I caught my son’s cold. Sick and miserable, I gave up. I took a box of tissues and curled up on the couch under a hand-crocheted afghan for several days in a state of semi-slumber.

When I did finally get back to The House Witch, I was delighted, as I knew I would be. One my very first impressions was, “Gee, I wish there had been books like this back when I was first getting into witchcraft and wicca!” In the 1970’s and 1980’s, there were only a few books out on the subject and most of them – like Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance – were geared toward the large group or the coven but very rarely the solitary practitioner. Not until Scott Cunningham published Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner in 1988 that you started to see more attention paid to the solitary witch. While The House Witch is not specifically written for the solitary witch, it addresses the many concerns of those of us who practice alone – whether we live alone or with other people.

I was born in May, under the sun sign of Taurus, my moon in Pisces, with Cancer rising. Issues of home and health and happiness have always been forefront in my spiritual practice, so it is natural that I would gravitate toward creating and maintaining a beautiful home, even if that home is a tiny apartment in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in a rust-belt city. Because of my wonderful grandmothers, I was always aware of the magic in everyday things but many people – especially those born after, say, 1980 – do not have the benefit of the wisdom of their elders. On page 17, Murphy-Hiscock lists four steps that anyone can learn to “recognize the magic” as she terms it, reminding us to keep things simple and always to focus on what we are doing in the house. These steps are: live in the moment, be aware of your intent, direct your energy properly and focus on an action. Anyone who has studied any kind of meditation, magical instruction or spiritual path will recognize these steps. So just what does all of this have to do with the home and the hearth? Murphy-Hoscock writes,

“Opening yourself to the simplest of tasks and allowing them to inspire you with some insight or wisdom, or even a

moment of peace, illustrates that the Divine can whisper to you in the oddest of unexpected places. Hearthcraft is

about communing with the Divine through everyday tasks, not through complicated formal ritual.” (page 19)

She talks about home as sacred space. One thing she mentions is the removal of shoes in cultures such as Japan and other parts of Southeast Asia; I don’t allow anyone to wear shoes into my apartment and I am always amazed – when I watch TV, for instance – and I see people, not only with their shoes on inside their homes but also on the furniture!

When I was growing up, I always lived in houses that had fireplaces and we usually had a fire most winter evenings, so the idea of a hearth and a hearth fire is not unknown to me – one of our houses actually had a giant hearth built into the wall surrounding the fireplace! But since I have left my parents’ house, I have never lived in a house with a fireplace, much to my great sadness. I consider my hearth to be my kitchen oven or perhaps a meditation candle. However, when I was sick a day ago, I had some split pea soup and freshly baked bread and lay down for a nap. I could feel the warmth of the soup and bread in my belly and it occurred to me that my hearth fire was inside of me.

With this in mind, the “Bank Your Inner Flame” ritual on page 45 makes perfect sense. I had a wonderful warmth inside of me and I needed to be able to hold onto that warmth. It wasn’t just the soup and bread – it was the sense of being safe and secure in my own home. I love the word “smooring” – I love anything Scottish and Gaelic – I added it to my list of cool words and then I copied the “smooring prayer” (page 46) into my personal prayer book.

This book is filled with jewels.

There is a chapter on “The Magic of the Cauldron” in which she talks about how to find and care for a cast-iron cauldron. “Hearth and Home Deities” is just what it sounds like – a chapter of gods and goddesses of the home and hearth. The next chapter is about the kitchen as a sacred space – something that not many people even think about seriously nowadays. If your idea of cooking is opening up a box of prepared food and popping it into the microwave – or even using something like Hamburger Helper – then I would give Chapters 6, 8 and 9 a very close reading. As I already stated, Chapter 6 is about the kitchen as a sacred space. Chapter 8 is “Magic at the Hearth” and Chapter 9 is “The Spirituality of Food”. included!!!!!

Other topics in this fabulous book are “Using Hearthcraft to Protect Your Home”, “Herbs, crafts, and other Hearth-Related Magic Work”, and a chapter of various spells, rituals and blessings. Quite naturally, there is an appendix and a bibliography that have quite a bit of information in them as well.

In the “Postscript”, Arin Murphy-Hiscock writes, “Several times as I was writing this book, my thoughts moved faster than my fingers, and as a result ‘hearth fire’ very often came out as ‘heart fire.’ I wonder, at times, if my subconscious was trying to tell me something.” (page 247). I do not wonder at all. This book most assuredly set my heart on fire. In this rich season of Yuletide joy, when all of us decorate our houses with festive lights and traditional ornaments that may only have meaning to our loved ones alone, The House Witch: Your Complete Guide to Creating a Magical Space With Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home by Arin Murphy-Hiscock is a book which brings together all the spiritual and happiness that home and hearth can represent. I highly recommend it for anyone on any spiritual path.

References

Murphy-Hiscock, Arin. The House Witch: Your Complete Guide to Creating a Magical Space with Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home. NY: Adams Media, 2018.

The House Witch: Your Complete Guide to Creating a Magical Space with Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home on Amazon

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Mindful Meditation

November, 2018

Samhain Mindful Meditation

Samhain, or the third harvest, historically was a time for farmers to harvest their last crops and head into the dark times when the nights were longer than the daylight. Also known as “Witches New Year,” we can use this time to reflect on our accomplishments and regrets as we begin to look ahead to the coming new year. What are we letting go of and what are we calling in to our lives? 

Items you will need:

-a quite room to be completely alone in

-a comfortable seat

-writing utensil & paper

-cauldron or fire pit

-special box for safe keeping

Intentionally create sacred space and allow yourself to relax into this meditation.

Imagine yourself throughout the evolution of this past year, from November 2017 up until today. Watch your milestones, your mundane actions, and life changing decisions unfold before you. Notice how each movement through out life this year has gotten you to where you are right now. 

Write down any regrets, missteps, or perceived mistakes or missed opportunities you have made.

Now, imagine yourself in the future year from this day until November 1st, 2019. What accomplishments do you see yourself making? What do you wish to manifest for this coming year? Write the manifestations in an affirming way by using phrases like, “I will have” or “I am”. Envision yourself achieving these goal and living it as if it is a normal day, like a waking dream. 

You have your future manifested now in your mind and affirmed on a piece of paper. 

Fold the paper intentionally, mindfully, and place it in your special box. You can place your box upon your Altar or in a special place to be kept secretly.

Now, take the first sheet of paper which refers to your past year and hold it in your hands. Say, “I forgive myself for _____” (stating each individual regret) and once you have released the energy from your heart and tears, through the paper into the fire, watching it burn away before you. Allow the fire to fully extinguish.

Thank yourself for taking the time to sit with your thoughts, thank the fire for burning away the past, and thank your future self for creating this intention-setting moment.

***

About the Author:

(Amy Dubenetsky & Becky Coates, respectively; Writers of the Mindful Meditations column & Coven Sisters.)

This Mindful Meditation is brought to you by Amy Dubenetsky, a Bodyworker/Reiki Practitioner/Witch based out of Manchester, CT whom leads group meditations as well.  Amy is deeply involved with her Coven, Organic Farming, and various Dance Communities across the country.

Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @bodyandbeyond444.

The Bad Witch’s Guide

September, 2018

The Bad Witch’s Guide Autumn Equinox

I have always enjoyed the light around this time of year. The beginning of mists at sunset and dawn. The first tinges of frost and the spider webs like diamond nets over the leaves that were beginning to turn. The dead summer grass rattling in a wind with a distinctly crisp edge.

The light and dark are in perfect balance. The Veil between this world and others is thin

Mabon has his name attached to this festival and I like that. I like Mabon in general. I like a seeker. I also like balance so equinoxes feel really good for me. It is neither thing, light and dark, hopeful and guarded, plenty and want. Perhaps that is why Pryderi, Rhiannon’s sacred son is often associated with Mabon for this reason.

Pryderi (or Prederin) is born of a Goddess (like Mabon). He enters the forest, the world between. His manners are rough and he insults a great King, Arawn. King Arawn switches places with him and during his quest into Awen learns to “dwell with desire” but to not act on it. He learns great self-control and in so doing wins a great battle. In learning mercy and abstinence (not sleeping with another’s wife) becomes a Great Leader. It is a great lesson. To not give into lust or vengeance, even you can “get away with it”.

Of course I love the food and while apples and pork are more Samhain for me, Mabon is full of cobnuts (fresh hazelnut), damsons, wild game like pheasant and venison and this year’s lamb tend to be fresh seasonal and excellent. In fact Mabon is the peak of vegetable harvest, from the last of the fresh garden herbs to runner beans and early potatoes. The sea also is full of wonders, oysters and mackerel, sardines and sea bass are plump and delicious.

It is pickling season. From Yule onions (the ones you break out with your cold cuts) to some kimchi because the cabbages are amazing this year, preserving your own food is fun and relatively simple. Part of me wonders if Mabon isn’t a pickling party that got out of hand so marvellously they did it every year! That is the light in the dark; planning the plenty in a time of ice and snow. It is in the wine and vinegar, the syrups and treats, the medicine and the merriment.

The dark is something else. The dark is in the journey work, the intoxication*, the self-exploration and releasing of our leaves to feed our next year’s growth. This is not ancestor work or work with the dead. This is honouring our deaths. All of the people we have been that are no longer. It is letting go of all we have been carrying, good and bad, at least for a while.

Many traditional wiccan rites around this time of year feel like hollow reflections of Lughnasadh or Samhain. Yet this is as powerful as midsummer or Yule to me. A time of beginnings and endings, of big and small changes. It is the bloom of mushrooms, the food of the Gods after all. *While I don’t condone their use it is an ancient part of ritual practice. It is a time of sacrifice and plenty.

Ritual

What you will need:

A fire (or safe heat source)

A large pan or cauldron.

A sterilised bottle or jar

Elderberries

Caraway seeds (a pinch)

White rose petals (13)

Elder leaves (13)

Water

Sugar (to make a syrup)

A sieve or strainer

If you are using freshly picked seasonal berries you will need to double what you would be using for dried and make sure they are well washed and dried.

Heat your water and add your sugar. When up to a simmer, bless your pot or cauldron with a seven pointed star. Make sure your sugar is dissolved.

Add your leaves one at a time with the following charm.

Dark mother, Matrona,

Modron

Sweet Moon:

I call you

I evoke

For your healing and protection,

The Birch, the Rowan, the Ash, the Alder, the Willow, the Hawthorn, the Oak, the Holly, the Hazel, the Vine, the Ivy, the Reed, and the Elder Moons.”

Add the elderberries and stir it gently in a figure of eight pattern.

Add your caraway seeds and then a rose petal at a time saying the following

Light mother, Matrona,

Modron

Bitter Goddess:

I call you

I evoke your healing and protection.

By blood and thorn, by your magick and power

The charm is made by seed and flower.”

Remove the cauldron from the heat and let it sit for about five minutes before you carefully strain it, mashing the berries a little to get as much juice as you can and bottle it and seal it.

This syrup is good for flus, and colds it can also be used as a blood substitute or made into a tea to replace wine in most other rituals.

Review: WitchEmoji by Pam Grossman

May, 2017

Hunt for Witches No More: WitchEmojis by Pam Grossman

Emoji2

Witches now have their own charmed emoji to use with iMessenger, thanks to Pam Grossman, a Brooklyn-based writer and curator who focuses on witches, magic and esoteric art.

I created WitchEmoji because I couldn’t find any great witchy, magical emoji to use in my texts,” she states on the witchemoji.com website, adding, “Necessity (or obsessive desire in this case) is the mother of invention.”

Working with an emoji designer who created the icons based on her designs and direction, she then built the app herself. Costing $1.99, it launched early April 2017. The iMessage sticker pack is compatible with iPhones and iPads with iOS 10.1 or newer.

It became the number one sticker pack in the App Store in its first week, beating the likes of Star Wars and Kim Kardashian,” Grossman said. “It’s currently still in the top 20 and getting stellar reviews, which has been very heartening. Just goes to show how much the archetype of the witch is currently resonating with people of all ages.”

WitchEmoji’s 80 images include a besom, cauldron, Book of Shadows, pentacles in all colors, a chalice, a candle, an owl and a love potion along with witches of all hair and skin tones in a variety of situations from flying on a broom to honoring the full moon.

There are so many more emoji I’d like to add to the pack,” she said of her towering list. “It will just depend on what I can afford to develop, so hopefully the pack will keep selling well so I can invest in making more.”

Explicit directions on how to download and load the emoji can be found at https://www.witchemoji.com/.

Emoji1

I’ve been a witch since I was very little – before I even knew to call myself one,” Grossman said. “Like lots of kids, I gravitated toward stories and artwork that deal with magical themes, and engaged in my own intuitive rituals and wild imaginings. Once I was a teenager, I began to read a lot and explore the path a bit more formally. But it was really discovering the surrealist artists and the writings of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell that opened things up for me, and made me realize that creativity is the surest path we have to the divine. My practice is very personal and syncretic, and draws as much on the art world as it does on spiritual systems.”

Last May her 36-page book “What Is A Witch,” was released. Illustrated by Canada’s occult sweethearts Tin Can Forest, and published by Tin Can Forest Press, it is described as “an illuminated incantation, a crystalline invocation, a lovingly-crafted celebration of the world’s most magical icon” and a “manifesto on witchcraft.”

Grossman’s blog, Phantasmaphile, can be found at Pamgrossman.com.

She is the associate editor of Abraxas International Journal of Esoteric Studies, co-organizer of the Occult Humanities Conference at New York University, and co-founder of the former Brooklyn arts and lecture space, Observatory, where her programming explored mysticism.

Grossman’s writing has appeared in “Sabat Sciences Occults,” “Huffington Post,” and MSN. Lectures include such topics as the occult in modern art and female magic in Western , and she also teaches classes on spellcraft, ritual and herbalism.

Moon Owl Observations

November, 2012

The Cauldron

 

 

Almost everyone knows what a cauldron is. They are usually shown in movies or shows dealing with witchcraft, and a lot of people might then associate it to dark magic. The cauldron has been around for a very long time, and media has corrupted it’s use over those years.

 

The cauldron is a central image of the Celtic Shamanic tradition as it is a vessel or heat, plenty and inspiration. Large cauldrons were very common among the ancient Celts, some of them being as big as a person. Cauldrons were so important to people back then, that when the owner died, they were often buried along with their cauldrons and other things.

 

The Cauldron represents the receptive feminine form and also the embodiment of the Goddess and the womb. It is seen in countless rituals as it is a symbol of inspiration and transformation. This magical pot of the Goddess is associated with plenty or abundance, and generally transcends through Dadga.

 

Cauldrons are used mainly in divinations, especially for scrying. Scyring with a cauldron means to fill it with water and than you would gaze into it. But, the cauldron has many other uses including filling it with flowers, herbs or other symbolic items during important Pagan festivals or holidays. Of course, then there is to use the cauldron to hold items that need to be burned, boiled or heated. Salves, oils, and various other brews can be made in the cauldron.

 

The cauldron is linked to the west, which in turn means it is also linked to the element water. This suits well considering it has the ability to contain liquid. They are usually made out of cast iron, but you can also find it them in silver or bronze. They come with either three or four legs.

 

There are both three legged and four legged cauldrons. Both are pretty popular. The three legged cauldrons represent the Goddess- Mother, Maiden and Crone. The four legged ones are associated with the four Elements, the four Airts (winds), for Watchtowers and the four Major Fire festivals.

 

A cauldron is a great and practical addition to any alter.

Let’s Spell it Out

February, 2010

The Cauldron of Inspiration with Brigit, the Lady of the Sacred Flame

February begins with a Sabbat that is usually celebrated on February 2nd.  Although it has many names, it is usually referred to as Imbolc or Imbolg (pronounced em-bowlg or immol’g) meaning “in the belly” (being pregnant with life) or Oimelc (pronounced oy-melk) meaning “ewe’s milk” (nourishing life).  Other names for this day are Disting-tid (Norse), Laa’l Breeshay (Isle of Mann), and Candlemas (Saxon; “mas” meaning “feast”, not a Catholic word).  As this is the day of Brigit, be she goddess or saint, this day is also called White Brigit’s Day, Feast Day of Saint Brigit (Irish) or Feast Day of Saint Blaise (an Armenian saint that has a King arthur connection and may be the goddess Brigit in disguise).

Brigit is the Goddess of Inspiration and the Lady of the Sacred Flame.  As a goddess, she is usually referred to as Brigit, but after her demotion to sainthood, she was usually called Brigid.  Brigit has many other names, but to keep things simple, I will continue to refer to her as Brigit here.  Although her holiday falls at a time of the year where both light and warmth are waxing, her day is about the light, not the heat.  This is expressed through candlelight, torchlight or firelight.

Fire has been considered sacred for thousands of years and the practice of tending it goes back to the Greeks and continued on to “Saint Brigid” and her “nuns”.  Brigit’s lineage can be traced back to other goddesses with fire associations such as Juna, Minerva, artemis/Diana, Tanit (Lucifer or Lucia, the Son of the Morningstar Venus, not the Christian “Satan”), Hecate (they both have crossroads connections) and Hestia (Greek) or Vesta (Roman).

The Name Hestia or Vesta means “dwelling place”, as in the womb of the goddess, the cauldron or Holy Grail Cup, as she is the mother of the Sun God.  Although her name came to mean “fire”, “Hestia” means “ a house” or “a dwelling” as it is derived from the word “hes” or “hese”, meaning “shelter”, “to protect” or “to show mercy”.  Hestia to the Greeks and then after her Roman “adoption” as Vesta, was the goddess of domestic life and it was believe that she resided in every household, the reason for her shrines.  She was also sometimes called Ashta, another name meaning “fire” and she was referred to the Goddess of Fire.

Fire was so sacred to the Greeks and Romans that select women were chosen to tend the sacred flame in temples built to Hestia/Vesta.  In the time of the Romans, these were called Vestal Virgins.  This practice was also found throughout history in other parts of the globe, sometimes because of the Collective Consciousness and sometimes from Roman occupation.

“In Scandinavia, the priestesses of Freya, who were generally kings’ daughters,

whose duty it was to watch the sacred fire, and who were bound to perpetual virginity,

were just an order of nuns.  In Athens there were virgins maintained at the public expense,

who were strictly bound to single life.  In Pagan Rome, the Vestal virgins,

who had the same duty to perform as the priestesses of Freya, occupied a similar position.

Even in Peru, during the reign of the Incas, the same system prevailed,

and showed so remarkable an analogy, as to indicate that the Vestals of Rome,

the nuns of the Papacy, and the Holy Virgins of Peru, must have sprung form a common origin.  These were young maidens dedicated to the service of the deity,

who at a tender age were taken form their homes, and introduced into convents,

where they were placed under the care of certain elderly matrons, mamaconas,

who had grown grey within their walls.  It was their duty to watch over the sacred fire. ”

From “The Two Babylons

Why were these young ladies, their occupation and the fire held in such high esteem?

“The fire of Vesta was regarded as one of the grand safeguards of the (Roman) empire.

(It) was kept with the most jealous care by the Vestal Virgins, who, for their charge of it,

were honored with the highest honors.”

From “The Two Babylons

So ingrained into the people’s psyche the importance of this sacred fire, that even after Paganism was outlawed in Rome, the temples survived and the practices remained.

“The “great serpent of fire” was cast out, when by the decree of Gratian,

Paganism throughout the Roman Empire was abolished-when the fires of Vesta

were extinguished, and the revenues of the Vestal virgins were confiscated…

How strong was the hold that Paganism had in the Imperial city,

even after the fires of Vesta was extinguished,

and state support was withdrawn from the Vestals;

but the Emperor yet spared the statues of the gods which were exposed to public view;

four hundred and twenty four temples or chapels

still remained to satisfy the devotion of the people.”

From “The Two Babylons

Brigit was no different than Vesta; history repeated itself, the fires were to be extinguished as they were in Rome, but the flames would burn on.  Even after her “demotion” to sainthood, Brigit simply chose to evolve to survive.  She became the first nun in Ireland and created a small community of seven virgins at Croghan Hill.  Later it was said that she moved to a new location, into a cell at the base of an oak tree (oaks being sacred to the Druids).  This tiny community grew into a nunnery and monastery, the famous center of learning at Kildare; or “cill-dare”, meaning “oak-cell”.  Seven nuns grew to be 19 that tended Brigit’s flame and many daughter convents peppered Ireland from this original one.

In her goddess aspect, before her demotion, Brigit also had a cauldron (that she may have obtained form her father) and one of the jobs of what would become “nuns” was to tend to the flame beneath it.  In many of his books, Raven Grimassi makes the case that many of the practices of the Celts actually come from the Greeks and Romans, and this is also one of them.  The Greeks had nine muses, who among other things inspired humans, and Brigit originally had nine fire attendants and one of her powers as a goddess is to inspire humans.  Brigit can do many things, but for the purposes of this spell, we will tap into the power of the Sacred Flame of inspiration.

THE SPELL

If possible, perform this spell either at your hearth, but if you don’t have one, you can simply substitute your kitchen stove (the modern-day equivalent).  Preferably perform this spell either on or as close to February 2nd as you can.

Supplies

  • Candle (color of your choice, to correspond with your need)
  • Cauldron/fire-safe bowl

Either create Sacred Space or cast a Magick Circle in the manner of your own tradition.

Call to Brigit with this or another evocation:

“On this day of waxing light

Longer days and shorter nights

I call to Brigit, Goddess White

On this day of Your powers’ height.”

Candlelight

Light the candle after placing it inside the cauldron and say:

“As I light this candle fire

Lady of the Flame, please inspire.”

Inspiration

In your own words, speak to Brigit about the subject that requires her aid in inspiration.  Perhaps like a Muse, she can inspire you to find a solution to a life-problem that is blocking you from moving forward.  Perhaps she can lead you to a solution that will destroy your negative situation in a blaze of glory.  Although this article has focused on Brigit in her flame aspect, she is also associated with sacred wells and streams, so perhaps Brigit could teach you to move like water; finding the path of least resistance or to crack a giant boulder simply by freezing within the cracks.  If you have writer’s block or another kind or artistic block, ask Brigit to help you to move past it.  Whatever your situation may be, simply pour your heart out to Brigit and ask for her help in finding the best outcome for all involved.

Meditation

Mediate now on the light in the darkness, the candle in the cauldron, the life within the womb.  With Her inspiration, you can plant a seed to grow in the coming season.  During meditation, Brigit may give you the answer to which you seek.  If not, do not worry, She may use a dream to get the message to you or you may get the message from a chance encounter in your daily life, so be vigilant as to what messages are coming your way.

To thank the Goddess Brigit:

When finished, if you feel so inclined, in gratitude to Brigit for Her help, you may wish to tend her flame as others have and still do.  If this is not for you, please consider making a donation in Her honor.  Although I didn’t cover it much here in this article, Brigit’s cauldron fed many and she was known for providing for those in need.  You could do the same by making a food donation to either your local food bank or to the local animal shelter.  Don’t worry if you have to make it a small donation due to your current state of finances if that is an issue for you; Brigit will see what is in your heart.  After all, She is the flame that burns within all of our hearts.

Sources:

Candlemas: Feast of Flames by Amber K and Azrael Arynn K

The Two Babylons or the Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and his Wife by the late Rev. Alexander Hislop