excerpt

Magic at the Hearth Excerpt from The House Witch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

December, 2018

Magic at the Hearth

*Excerpted from The House Witch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

 

 

 

In hearthcraft, magic is a way of consciously drawing on the energy of the spiritual hearth to enhance the activity you are engaged in. In many paths magic and spiritual practices are separate, but in hearthcraft the magical activity both supports and draws from spiritual activity. As so much of hearthcraft revolves around love, nurturing, and protection of what you consider sacred, positive goals can be the only ones envisioned.

 

Another way of looking at magic within the context of hearthcraft is as transformation of some kind, a task performed with the intent to weave together energies in order to initiate some sort of spiritual transformation, rejuvenation, or growth. With that in mind, this chapter looks at kitchen folklore and customs and the energies associated with the equipment found and used in the kitchen.

 

Kitchen Folklore

 

One of the fun things about doing research into home-based customs is discovering the traditions and folklore associated with domestic activity. Here’s a series of domestic customs you can use to help enhance your awareness of the spiritual nature of your activity.

 

  • Stir the contents of pots and bowls clockwise to attract positive energy, or stir counterclockwise to banish things. Use one or the other according to the needs of your home or family at the time.

  • Pass items at the table in a clockwise direction to maintain harmonious energy there.

  • If you wish to clear the house of negative energy, clean it beginning at the back door and travel through it room by room in a counterclockwise direction until you reach the back door again, then sweep or mop out the door and off the doorstep.

  • To attract positive energy, clean items in a clockwise motion. is includes dusting, mopping, and scrubbing as well as wiping counters and washing dishes.

  • Draw a spiritual symbol that has meaning to you (either cultural, religious, or designed by you) with salt water on the windows of your house and on the front and back doors. Paint these symbols with clear nail polish if you want something a little more permanent.

  • If you wish to further connect your cooking to your spiritual hearth, draw a spiritual symbol on the inside of the pot or bowl before you use it. A stylized flame is a good basic image to use.

  • Empower your laundry detergent for purification of any negative energy clinging to clothes. Water has a natural purification effect, but empowering the cleaning substances you use boosts that natural effect. Do the same for your household cleaners.

  • Running out of salt is said to be bad luck for the posterity of the home. Keep a small packet of salt somewhere to ensure there will always be salt in the house. (This may be one of the origins of the custom of bringing a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, and a box of salt to a housewarming.)

  • Hanging braids or wreaths of garlic, onions, or hot peppers will keep your kitchen free of negative energy. Compost them every fall and hang new ones. Never eat them!

  • Hanging bunches of dried Indian corn attracts prosperity and abundance.

  • Leave an onion or clove of garlic outside below the kitchen window to absorb any negative energy trying to enter the home. You may leave them around the doors to the house as well. Place a new one there every month, or more frequently if the old ones decay faster.

 

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

 

*Copyright © 2018 Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

 

MagickalArts

December, 2018

Excerpted from:

19-Days of Illuminated Darkness

Day Three

The Light Within the Shadow of the Winter Solstice



For most of us the turning of the Greater Wheel to the Winter Solstice (Yule) is one of welcoming the return of the Light of

renewal and strength, the promise of increasingly longer hours of daylight and anticipation of warmer weather and a more outer world focused time. This change is subtle in physical form as this is also when the cold of the Winter (Northern Hemisphere) will remain for a few months more prompting us to retreat indoors as the early arrival of evening’s darkness envelopes and calls us into the warmth and light of home.

Each year, I do my work of Self, both within my Tradition (The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel) and personally to call forth this return of Light. And, I also find myself retreating more deeply into the shadows and taking refuge in its landscape of shadow; being intuitively drawn towards the deeper work of spiritual quickening, I think of this as the energy of the Hermit Key of the Tarot and my time to move into the darkened areas of my own inner landscape so that I may welcome and bring forth the Greater Light within. This is also the time of relying on my Shadow self to provide the necessary absence of light to guide me through those darkened paths in a constructive and informed way.

In all spiritual practice, the thought of the physical being holding the Inner Flame of Spirit or The Divine Spark of Light is offered up as a basic concept. The language may differ. The way in which this Inner Light presents itself and interacts with conscious awareness may have different ideology. And, the tools and methods used to quicken its energy may be worlds apart in intent and function, but the premise remains the same. In the space of our dark nature lay a light that is luminescent and brilliant that may be called upon to enliven and transform our spiritual and mundane pursuits. If we take it a step further, this transformation is the direct result of collaboration and embracing the dark and the light natures of our consciousness and using each as support and spiritual catalyst of the other.

This dark nature that I am referring to also has many names, functions and philosophies attached to it. I will simply call it the Shadow (Self) . There is an inherent polarity in all things and this Shadow is that polarized image of our Light nature. I am intentionally not using words that are negative in connotation for the Shadow, because it is not anymore a negative aspect of our being than the Light filled self is. Both are states of being that are subject to all the permutations and scales of intensity and impact that any other state of being is. In reality, if we did not have the antithesis or opposite of something, how could we ever enjoy and fully embrace the thing that is being opposed? So, how can this Shadow state be used during the waxing of the Light and engaged to work co-creatively upon those parts of myself I Will to quicken and prime in alignment with the increasing state of light?

The time of the Solstices allows for a deeper awareness and exploration of what impact we have in this world and how we may use the information we learn about ourselves to move in appropriate and fulfilling ways. It is the time of disequilibrium to bring about the eventual balance that is actualized at the Equinoxes. Neither of these energies are about everything being measured and being exactly the same amount of something on each pan of the scale. Rather, they are the states of balance that are dynamic in nature, moving and flowing one to the other and arriving at an informed state of equilibrium at some point of the process. It is again about the process of polarities and the allowance of a void or lesser amount of one thing, so that it may be filled and quickened by its opposite. There is also the component of sacrifice within these thoughts in that we must willingly acknowledge that something must be given up to make room for that which would be drawn in.

This is the battle of the Holly and the Oak Kings, as each gives way to the other and also resists the relinquishing to the other of its power. One holds the promise of the growing Light and the other the refuge of the increasing Darkness. And, although they are one in the same, in order that the cycles may continue and a newly formed energy can be birthed into being, one must relinquish a parcel of its power to be subsumed into the other; temporary imbalance as brothers become enemies and in the final act, become allies in the process of transformation. The Light of the Oak King birthed from the darkening and lessening of the Holly King.

We call forth to the return of the Light-filled Oak King and celebrate the waxing of the Light half of the year. But, in order for that light to shine in its fullest way, we must also embrace and celebrate the remaining vestiges of the darkness of the Holly King. The darkness of the months that persist of winter’s cold. The darkness that becomes the expanding shadow as the sun shines increasingly longer and brighter around us. And, the darkness that we can retreat into to find those hidden sparks that yearn to be nurtured and brought to the full light of day.

As the weather remains or becomes even colder, the natural inclination is to seek out the warmth and coziness of home. And, so I retreat into the welcoming warmth of my home and settle in ready to study, meditate and reveal more of myself to myself. I embrace the early evening darkness as a cloak that I step into so I can more fully appreciate the sun’s light of day. I move within both physically, settling into home and family and spiritually as I dig deeper into the recesses of my own nature. I seek out and call to the inner spark within and stand ready to embrace also the Shadow of my nature as it rises to the surface, revealed by that light.

In meditation, I allow my breath to slow and deepen into the darkness and move along the paths of my own creation that I have tended to in the previous months in preparation for this time of going within. These paths are often mired with the thorns and treacherous roots of inertness, illusory thoughts and judgments that I have used as the trappings of who I am in the world. My Shadow has nurtured each and knows the weakness and strength of each because in this space of darkness what is revealed is often seen more clearly in its true form than in the blinding light.
When I finally relax and surrender into the wisdom of my Shadow the first striking of the match of greater light is drawn across the rough surface of my resistance, and the resistance is transformed into the tiny sparks that ignite the part of myself that is receptive and waiting.

In accord with the energy of Yule, I allow the weakening resistance of my Holly King to be replaced with a renewed sense of purpose and the strength of my Oak King. My Shadow self is resistant to being brought forward, knowing that bits of it will be released in sacrifice and other parts will be transformed so that its darker nature can work co-creatively with the strength of my light self. I call to the Oak King that he may bless and enliven both aspects of myself as we move forward into the new year in anticipation of what can be seeded at the Spring Equinox; and accepting the knowledge that his wisdom will be transformed as the Shadow begins to strengthen its work at the Summer Solstice and the rising once again of the Holly King.

At those points when the darkness seems pervasive and overwhelming and the light is barely visible I am reminded that without the necessary shade to prevent the seedling from drying and withering from an overabundance of the light’s unfiltered rays, the beauty of new growth and radiant and healthy flower will not come to fruition.

May the blessings of the growing Light and the wisdom of the Dark create the quickened space for a prosperous, enlightened and informed Yule.

***

About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.

She is the author of (click on book titles for more information):

 

The Inner Chamber Volume One on Amazon

It’s Written in the Stars

Astrology

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the Spheres (Volume 2) on Amazon

Qabalah

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths on Amazon

Qabalah

 

A Year With Gaia on Amazon

The Eternal Cord

 

Temple of the Sun and Moon on Amazon

Luminous Devotions

 

The Magickal Pen Volume One (Volume 1) on Amazon

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

 

The Elemental Year on Amazon

Aligning the Parts of SELF

 

The Enchanted Gate on Amazon

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

 

Sleeping with the Goddess on Amazon

Nights of Devotion

 

A Weekly Reflection on Amazon

Musings for the Year

 

Her books are available on Amazon or on this website and her Blogs can be found atRobin Fennelly 

 

Follow Robin on Instagram & Facebook.

Dreaming: An Essential Skill

November, 2018

 

In “Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing,” I wrote a lot about my personal connection with my Dreamer. What follows is a sample from the book that is relevant to this article’s theme:

It was by practicing and studying shamanism that I learned to hear and identify the true voice of my own spirit, also called “Dreamer” or “Higher Self.” Through journeys, I met this luminous being and got to know her more intimately throughout the years. At first, I found it hard to believe that there was a part of me that could never be broken, hurt, screwed up, or depressed. I had the tendency to see her at first as something other than me–the way I saw Jesus or Mary as enlightened prophets. Her benevolence, beauty, and compassion bowled me over time and time again. You see, shamanic cultures have always known that there is a part of our beings that is pure spirit and they trained people to tap into the wisdom of the dreamer within. Our Dreamers know what our life purpose is in this lifetime and are the only ones who can guide us perfectly on our journey in order to accomplish our purpose.

At first, I had a lot of resistance to the idea that there is a part of me who absolutely knows what I am meant to be doing, how to do it, and how to accomplish it. I would follow my ego’s idea of what I should be doing and totally neglect to consult with my Dreamer to see if this plan of mine was even worthwhile. I learned the hard way that refusing to go in the direction that my Dreamer was sending me in was counterproductive and often painful. When I didn’t listen, I had a lot of messes to clean up in my life that took energy away from living my dreams.

Winnie the Pooh famously said: “Doing nothing leads to doing something.” Contrary to what most people believe, dreaming is not an idle activity. Whether we realize it or not, we are living in a spiritual soup of energy containing many layers of experience and knowing that we can access if we are able to quiet our inner worlds to listen. Dreaming is a vital practice for our time. The world we’ve created collectively as humans is in chaos. If dreaming unconsciously is how we created this mess, dreaming consciously–aware of the impact our thoughts, feelings, and actions are having on the dreaming matrix–is what will begin to turn around the reality we’ve created. The solutions to these problems are not outside of ourselves where we normally look to resolve issues: they are inside of us, accessed through our ever-present connection with the spiritual matrix of life.

While shamanic dreaming might sound like a New Age fad to some, this practice is, in fact, ancient and known to shamanic practitioners throughout the world. To give you a flavor of what this practice is about, I offer an Incan perspective by Alberto Villoldo on dreaming from his article “How Shamans Dream the World into Being”:

Whether you realize it or not, we are all dreaming the world into being. What we’re engaging in is not the sleeping dream we’re familiar with, but the waking dream we craft with our eyes open. When we’re unaware that we all share the power to co-create reality with the help of the Universe itself, that power slips away from us and our dream turns into a nightmare. We begin to feel we’re the victims of an unknown and frightening creation that we’re unable to influence or change. Events seem to control us and trap us. The only way to end this dreadful reality is to awaken to the fact that it, too, is a dream, and recognize our ability to write a better story, one that the Universe will work with us to manifest. The nature of the cosmos is such that whatever dream you have about yourself and the world will become reality. As soon as you awaken to your power to dream, you begin to flex the muscles of your courage. Then you can dream bravely: letting go of your limiting beliefs and pushing past your fears. You can begin to create truly original dreams that germinate in your soul and bear fruit in your life.

What Villoldo describes here takes practice; just like any other skill, we must re-learn dreaming by putting our attention on it again. We live in a busy outer world. We inadvertently train the natural ability to dream out of our children when we tell them they don’t have time to dream, play, or rest. We keep them overscheduled and overtired in a continuous stream of doing so that there is no time for being. If we want to find the treasures hidden in our inner worlds, we must slow down, quiet ourselves and really listen deeply with our whole beings. This is why the world’s spiritual systems have built in practices that train reflection into our harried lives. Introspection takes us into the heart of dreaming. These reflective practices are the things people do every day to consciously interact with the spiritual aspect of life in order to learn more about the sacredness of living and their place within the Dream of Life. In order to connect with the spiritual aspect of the world around us, spiritual practices are embedded into daily living so they become habits as natural as brushing our teeth every day. Practicing spiritual hygiene is just as important as that of the physical variety.

Many spiritually-minded folks I’ve talked to feel they simply get sucked into mainstream reality unless they practice connecting to Great Spirit/God/Creator/Goddess/Allah/Yahweh on a daily basis. These folks set aside part of their day to tune into themselves. These intuitive practices that lead us straight into the healing arms of our Dreamers can include: singing spiritual music (i.e. chanting), meditation, contemplative practices (i.e. walking labyrinths and journaling), working with totem animals and spirit guides, drum journeys, prayer sessions and vigils, studying and discussing spiritual texts and teachings, playing instruments (i.e. drums, rattles, church organs), spiritual dances (i.e. Powwow and Sufi dances), working with archteypes presented in dreams to derive personal spiritual meaning, interpreting omens in nature, ceremony, ritual, rites of passage, pilgrimages, vision quests, and making spiritual art–to name a few.

What spiritual practices do you already do on a daily basis? How do you use the information intuited from these sessions to take action to change your waking dreams? What is not working in your life? Take those problems into your contemplative practices to see what solutions your Dreamer can show you. Consider trying some of these other practices listed in this article to see if they work better for you. For example, some people do their best introspective work when they are moving their bodies, in which case sacred dance or walking ceremonies like labyrinths might be a better fit. Most importantly, when you need motivation, remember the intent behind the practices stated so eloquently by Villoldo:

Courageous dreaming allows you to create from the source, the quantum soup of the Universe where everything exists in a latent or potential state. What science is now discovering describes what the ancient wisdomkeepers of the Americas have long known. These shamans, known as the Earthkeepers, say that we are dreaming the world into being through the very act of witnessing it. Scientists believe that we are only able to do this in the very small, subatomic world. Shamans understand that we also dream the larger world that we experience with our senses. Like the Aborigines, the Earthkeepers live in a world where the dreamtime has not been pushed into the domain of sleep like it has for us. They know that all of creation arises from, and returns to, this dreamtime. The dreamtime, the creative matrix, does not exist in a place outside of us. Rather, it infuses all matter and energy, connecting every creature, every rock, every star, and every ray of light or bit of cosmic dust. The power to dream is the power to participate in creation itself. For the Earthkeepers, dreaming reality is not only an ability but a duty, one we must perform with grace and love so that our grandchildren will inherit a world where they can live in peace and abundance.

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’S Shamanic Journey into Healing on Amazon

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Book Excerpt: Old Style Conjure- Hoodoo, Rootwork, & Folk Magic by Starr Casas

September, 2017

THE FOUNDATION OF CONJURE

Despite all the information out there on Conjure, no one to my knowledge has ever written about its foundation. You see plenty of works, or “spells” as outsiders call the work, but there is no mention of the foundation of this work. Is it because folks don’t think it’s important? Is it because they really don’t know? Or is it something else? It really is food for thought. It is one of the first lessons I learned as a young worker and one of the most important.

I have found in today’s conjure world that it isn’t enough for folks to know the work; they want to “own” the knowledge. They seem to want to claim it when it isn’t theirs to claim. This work is borrowed, because it belongs to someone else. Are you wondering what I am talking about? Like my elder Mr. Robert used to say, “Let me break it down for you.”

Are you thinking that the foundation of the work is the ingredients that go into the work? If so, you’re wrong. The foundation of this work is the ancestors who brought the work over on the slave ships! Conjure didn’t exist over here until the slaves were transported here. That’s one of the reasons Conjure is part of the South. The ships docked in the South, and all the Southern states were “slave” states! The ancestors’ beliefs became part of the Southern culture. The only thing the kidnapped ancestors had was their knowledge. They didn’t have a backpack filled with roots, herbs, and remedies; all that information was in their heads. They only had the clothes that were on their backs. They suffered untold miseries in the bottom of slave ships being taken halfway around the world to an unknown place. Then they were off the ship and on the slave block being sold like ani­mals, but they still had their knowledge and their pride. Can you imagine how much willpower it took to stand docile while in chains and having folks poke and prod you? Or how about never being able to lift your head in pride or to be able to look a white person in the face?

This work—Conjure—came out of their misery and suffer­ing; it came from their blood being spilled. It came from their deaths. The work was done and passed on to help protect the family. The law stay away work was done to keep the slave patrols from finding the runaways. Dollies were made to bind or influence the slave master or overseer. Justice work was done to try and bring justice to an unjust situation. These works came alive from the need to survive.

The blood, suffering, and deaths of the ancestors ensure that this work belongs to them. They should be honored and remembered for their great gift. They are truly the foundation of Conjure, and we must all remember without them there would be no Conjure, Hoodoo, or Rootwork, or whatever name you wish to call the work.

Honoring the ancestors of this work will empower your work. I know this topic makes folks uncomfortable, but it must be discussed in order to give the ancestors their due, which is so sorely lacking. Some folks might not like what I am saying, but that is not my problem. It is theirs. The ancestors of this work deserve to be honored and uplifted for all that they gave. With more folks getting DNA testing done and finding out family histories, questions can arise. Here are some questions that I have been asked over the years by some of my students.

Q. Do you have to be of African descent to practice Conjure?

A. No, but you must honor and acknowledge the ancestors of this work.

 

Q. I did an ancestry search and I found out genera­tions back my folks were slavers; can I still be a conjure worker?

A. Yes. What better way to right a wrong than to uplift and honor the ancestors of this work?

 

Q. My family is racist; do I have the right to do conjure work?

A. Respect and honor go hand in hand. We are not responsible for what others do. We are only responsible for our own actions. If something within you is calling you to this work, then I would say as long as you uplift the ances­tors of this work and honor them, then there is no reason why you can’t.

 

Q. What do you mean when you say to honor and uplift the ancestors of Conjure?

A. We are all guests in this work; it doesn’t belong to any of us. When I say “honor,” I mean for you to maintain a small space for these ancestors, a place where you can offer a cool drink or say a prayer for them. By doing this you are not only showing them respect, but you are feeding their spirits and uplifting them.

 

I have been asked these four questions many times by new students. The important thing is to understand that we don’t have the right to just take this work without giving the ances­tors their due. Set up a small altar and dedicate it to the ances­tors of Conjure. I have a large altar in my home and the whole family burns lights on it when the need arises, but I am the keeper of the altar.

**Adapted, and reprinted with permission from Weiser an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, OLD STYLE CONJURE  by Starr Casas is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at www.redwheelweiser.com or 800-423-7087.

***

Author Bio:

Starr Casas, a veteran rootworker and traditional conjure woman, has been helping people for over 35 years through her ancestral art of old style conjure. She is one of the preeminent modern masters of this southern American style of folk magic, and she maintains an active teaching schedule. Starr is also among the organizers of the annual New Orleans Folk Magic Festival.

The Witching Herbs by Harold Roth – Book Excerpt

April, 2017

witchingherbs1

 

Plant Spirits

Hammers and pens can be well made or faulty, beautiful or ugly. They require skill from the user, as well as a certain amount of intrinsic capabili­ties as tools, but they are not capable of independent thought or of deliberately hindering or helping our work. When you work with an herb, rather than with its plant spirit, the herb is a tool. When you work with a plant spirit, the herb is a sacred text that you can read to learn about the spirit. And that spirit has its own will and its own desires that may not match what you want to achieve.

When you are silent, you have more of a chance of hearing what someone else has to tell you, and I think that this is especially true in the garden. In some ways, ordinary gardeners are closer to magic than most people, because of the opportunity gardening gives them to listen to other spirits and to relate to lives that are fundamentally different from their own. We can anthropomorphize animals to the point where it becomes difficult to perceive their “themness,”that doesn’t usually happen with plants, because they are physically so different from us. To understand a life so alien from your own requires a real opening of the soul. I believe that anyone is capable of doing this, but it does take patience, work, and will.

witchingherbs2

(Belladonna)

If you are not cultivating a plant, or at least working with it in the wild, it is very difficult to come to know the spirit of that plant. If you want to work with henbane, but the only henbane you possess is in powdered form, you may have difficulty contact­ing the plant spirit, because powdered henbane seems always to be adulterated with flour, which can get in your way. This is not to say that magic work can’t utilize herbs that you have bought rather than grown or harvested. Far from it. I sell herbs myself and often buy herbs that I cannot grow myself, as they derive from tropical trees. However, it is more difficult to contact a plant spirit using store-bought herbs.

When you grow an herb yourself, especially if it is one you grow on a regular basis, it is almost certain that, sooner or later, the spirit of that plant will contact you if you make yourself open to it. For one thing, when you grow the plant yourself, especially from seed, you are able to see it at various stages in its life, under many different weather conditions, in various seasons (sun phases), and through all the moon phases. I also see this activity—growing a plant—as being devotional to the plant spirit.

Yes, there are plants that grow without any human assistance, but many that are associated with magic actually seem to prefer to grow around people. They appear to get something from that prox­imity besides the benefits of cultivation. In fact, my sense is that they receive something spiritual or nonmaterial as well—something we lack the words to define at this time in our development.

I also view cultivating a plant as being akin to the kabbalistic concept of tzimtzum, the Lurianic concept of how the divine con­tracted to make room for the universe as an independent existence. Tending a plant can be a very caring and selfless activity. Moreover, many of the plants used in magic have aromatic foliage that, when brushed against, releases its signature scent. This may not always be a pleasant smell, but it is always an identifying characteristic. Scent is among the primary ways that plants communicate with animals. This is certainly true with moths and butterflies, but even fruits begin to release a fragrant odor when they are ripe and ready for animals to eat them. If a plant can send out requests through scent for certain parts of it to be visited or even consumed, then it most likely can and will communicate other things about itself. However, we must be open to this communication and recognize that communication does not always have to occur in the form of words or even images.

Scent can be narrative, can tell a story. It can be a way for us to communicate with the plant spirit itself. Since scent is one of the least understood senses—and in our society, perhaps the least necessary and thus most mysterious—it is often accorded magical or spiritual properties. The Zohar, for instance, considers scent as the one food for the soul that is available on this plane and that can feed angels and other spirits as well as gods—which goes a long way toward explaining the importance of incense in magic.

witchingherbs3

(Mother & Child Mandrake Root)

It is certainly true that scent can affect the mind on the physical plane by being psychoactive. Examples include the perfume of brug­mansiaswhich, if slept under, provides the sleeper with terrifying visions—or the uplifting scent of frankincense, or jasmine’s ability to raise the seizure threshold. So one important means of commu­nication between plants and people has to be scent—not only when plants send their scent to us but also when we, in turn, use that scent to evoke the plant spirit through magic oils or scented candles.

in my experience, being around and tending a growing plant every day—basically in a posture of helping and attentively listening—is a way to let the plant spirit know that you want to make contact and that you are ready to learn. Years ago, a rabbi told me that one way to indicate to the divine that you want to make contact is to study holy books; by doing so, you indicate that you are open to contact with the sacred. I see tending plants in the same way. A plant is a sacred text—the description and plan, the story of the plant’s spirit—and when you tend that plant and cultivate and groom it, you indicate to its spirit that you are open and ready and receptive to its contact. I see this posture as completely different from consuming plant parts.

Often, plants offer a particular part to animals for consump­tion—fruits, for instance—as an element in a bargain wherein they distribute their seeds. Even when we eat the leaves of a plant, I have sensed that these plants know that their siblings and their children will have more opportunities to propagate than if they were growing alone in the woods somewhere and no one ate their leaves. And, as with animals, propagation seems to be one of a plant’s primary aims in life. so when we tend plants to help them grow or propagate, we let their spirits know that we are well disposed toward them and that, while we may kill masses of them during the harvest process, we intend to further their progeny more than would have been possible for them on their own.

We provide an important service to the community of that plant; the god of that plant, its spirit, must take heed of that service. I am certain that plant spirits notice our attentions to their avatars. If any­thing is equal to prayer in the relationship between people and plant spirits, it is our tending and helping to propagate their material man­ifestations as plants. I think it is also a good example of how prayer, in order to work, must be in the form of action.

witchingherbs4

(Mugwort Patch)

It’s also true that the plants we cultivate tend to be far less fero­cious in their effects than those that grow in the wild. I have seen a lot of advice that claims that plants intended for use in magic should be harvested from the wild, rather than grown in the garden, because wild plants are considered to be more powerful. But plants grown in the optimal conditions of a garden tend to be far more relaxed and friendly. They don’t produce the high amounts of alkaloids that wild plants do, because they don’t have as much need for them, as they are not being gnawed on by every passing critter. A garden-raised baneful will likely have fewer alkaloids, because it is not as afraid of being eaten. A plant that is less afraid is a happier plant and one that may be more open to interaction with us, because it is not constantly in fear for its life or worrying that its babies will be destroyed. My advice to people wanting to contact plant spirits: Choose a plant toward which you feel simpatico or one whose shape you just like (often the same thing) and grow it. Grow it in your yard or in a pot, on your windowsill or in your home—anywhere that provides the conditions for cultivation. Tend it and wait with an open heart.

We cannot demand that a plant spirit show itself. But my expe­rience has been that, eventually, the spirit will reveal itself, and in a most unmistakable way—through dreams or visions, for instance. It is a mighty impressive and awe-inspiring experience, one that lets us know that our allies are extraordinarily powerful and also fundamen­tally different from us.

Permissions Line:

Adapted, and reprinted with permission from Weiser an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, THE WITCHING HERBS  by Harold Roth is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at www.redwheelweiser.com or 800-423-7087.

*All photos are courtesy of Harold Roth

***

About the Author:

Harold Roth is among the foremost authorities on plants within the modern occult community. For the past 15 years, he has owned and operated Alchemy Works, an online store focused on herb magic, where he crafts and sells incense, potions, and magical oils. The Witching Herbs has been in the works for a decade and is eagerly anticipated. Visit him at www.haroldroth.com.

 

Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Witching-Herbs-Essential-Plants-Magical/dp/1578635993/

 

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-witching-herbs-harold-roth/1124702813?ean=9781578635993

 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781578635993

 

Red Wheel/Weiser: http://redwheelweiser.com/detail.html?session=33455c09c89e36a195834b7c32f065e6&id=9781578635993

 

 

Celtic WitchCraft Excerpt: A Witch on a Celtic Path

April, 2016

celticwitchcraft

 

A Witch on a Celtic Path

Celtic Triad: Three things to be avoided by the Wise: expecting the impossible, grieving over the irretrievable, fearing the inevitable.

Witchcraft is often described as a new age religion, especially with the emergence of Wicca, the religious practice strongly associated with modern witchcraft, in the 20th Century. However, you only need to look as far as the nearest fairy tale anthology to realise the term witch has been with us for millennia, in many different forms. The Old English words wicce and wicca were used for female and male magical practitioners as far back as 890 CE. This shows us that witchcraft is extremely ‘Old Age’ indeed! Throughout the generations the term witch has moved from meaning wise person (usually a woman) to feared crone or hilarious hermit. As with all things that are not understood by the majority, respect gives way to fear, and fear to anger and ridicule, and as we have seen through the centuries, hatred and murder.

Reassuringly, at least one ancient culture has inspired multiple stories of prophets, prophetesses, druids, poets, bards, satirists, shape-shifters, gods, goddesses and more who are not only respected but accepted as a part of day to day life. I’m speaking of the Celts, who adored and accepted what we now refer to as the supernatural. They accepted that gods and goddesses walked among us, and that animals held spirits and voices of their own. They knew of the power of trees, and the binding ways of words. They were held by geas, or taboo which could not be broken. They made heroes of warriors and the wise alike. They believed in sacred objects, and great quests to find such. They stood face to face and toe to toe with the Fae, those unearthly being from under the hills or beyond a spiritual veil.

It is no wonder then, that modern day Paganism retains so much of their influence. This includes, as you probably know, festival dates, deities and places of worship or respect. The biggest example is the wheel of the year, the seasonal structure for many Pagan paths. This is based on the festivals we believe the Celts celebrated, the four primary ones being Imbolc (or Imbolg), Beltane (or Beltain), Lughnasadh (not Lammas; Lammas is an Anglo Saxon celebration although probably has similar roots- who doesn’t want to celebrate at the height of summer!) and Samhain.

The Celts seem to have regarded Samhain as the boundary between the light and dark parts of the year; Summer’s death and Winter’s rebirth. It’s no surprise then, that many Pagans and witches see this as the start of the New Year. Robert Graves famously used the Holly King and the Oak King to represent Summer and Winter, locked in an eternal struggle for power (The White Goddess, 1978) which is an image that seems clearly inspired by the Celtic way of dividing light and dark, and of course, their reverence for trees. Many Wiccans or people on a similar path will find this metaphor familiar, as it is a core part of the Wheel of the Year now for some; a way to visualise the sun reaching its peak at midsummer, and the triumph of the dark in midwinter.

So why, when we can all see that most ‘Neopaganism’ has such Celtic roots anyway, am I a Celtic witch? What does that mean, and how is it different from any other type of witchcraft?

Well let’s look at the ‘Witch’ part first; when I say I am a witch, I’m saying I harness the energies around and within me to instigate change. Mahatma Ghandi said ‘be the change we wish to see in the world’ and much of witchcraft is this; using our inherent power as a sentient being to be a force for transformation. Anyone can do this with training, and the will and patience to gain a deeper understanding of the universe around them. You don’t need to be religious, although many witches do follow a religious path, such as Wicca or another polytheistic faith. For me, witchcraft is more about having faith in yourself and your own skill, although I also accept the existence of other-worldly beings and forces.

Onto the Celtic part: I am deeply influenced by my Celtic ancestry, and walk a path side by side with the Tuatha Dé Danann; the great folk who were one of the many races that invaded Ireland. Lebor Gabála Érenn, the Book of the Taking of Ireland, is an 11th Century text describing eight periods throughout Ireland’s ‘history’ (the book’s contents are of more mythological interest rather than indisputable fact) including the rise and fall of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The text tells us that they came to Ireland on dark clouds, and that they viewed their men of arts as gods, and knew the incantations of Druids. It is sung in the text that they are ‘without a covenant of religion’; indeed, it seems that while they accept the reality of larger than life heroes and magical transformation, they revere none as being above or beyond them. Everything is worldly and everything is within reach. This is why I feel my craft belongs to a Celtic source more than any other. I am stubborn to the point of foot stamping and petulance, yet patient enough to wait longer than most would in a tense situation. I will fight when necessary and be quiet when not. I know when presentation is important, and when subtlety is key. I accept that part of me is divine, and acknowledge that divinity within others, but I am not cowed by it. I know when to use my craft, and when elbow grease and hard work will give me a better result.

The Celts took pride in taking a skill and honing it to perfection, but also mastering a number of other skills along the way. They revered wisdom as much as physical strength which is something that I often find lacking in our modern world. The Irish Celts in particular had strict social customs and manners, and because barely anything was written down, words had a unique power which is difficult to recreate in an age where there is a record of everything.

Of course the Celts were not solely Irish, in fact it is now thought by modern historians that the Celts were various tribes who moved across Europe during the Iron Age, perhaps even from the far east, travelling through the Mediterranean, the Germanic and Baltic countries, and possibly as far north as Scandinavia. Because of the aforementioned lack of Celtic literature, their tales and myths come to us via word of mouth and the work of Christian scholars such as Áed Ua Crimthainn, compiler of the Book of Leinster. In the British Isles the stories that cling closest to our hearts tend to be the Welsh and the Irish, particularly the Mabinogion and the Ulster Cycle. My heart lies with my Irish ancestry, mainly because I have been moved and inspired all my life by the tales of the Ulster Cycle, and because bizarre twists and turns along my path have brought me into contact with other fascinated with our Celtic heritage. So while I speak of the Tuatha Dé Danann and their influence on my life, you may find a stronger connection with Gaulish deities, or perhaps the Welsh. Use my experience to create a bond that is unique to you.

But I don’t have any Celtic ancestors you may say. Well, I believe you absolutely can follow a Celtic path without any known Celtic ancestry. Our entire world would be a different place today if the Celts had not existed, so all of us can say our existence has been in some way influenced by the Celts. Celtic names, tales and art pop up throughout modern popular culture, from films to video games. The famous Halo gaming franchise has a screeching vehicle called a banshee, based on the mythical creature who wailed to foretell death. The word comes from the Gaelic bean sí meaning ‘woman from the fairy mounds’ or ‘woman of the barrows’. Charlaine Harris’ famous vampire books are filled with names from Celtic mythology and even refer to the fae themselves. Imagine the books at a tattoo artist without Celtic knots present, or a silversmith lacking the same. I had a good natured argument with someone once who disputed the authenticity of anyone calling themselves ‘Celtic’. I understood his point; we are not Celtic because the Celts are no more, if we take the word ‘Celtic’ to mean a part of a tribe of Celts. However, when I use the term ‘Celtic’ to describe a person or way of working, I take it as read that we understand already that the Celts are no more, and I am using this term to describe someone or something influenced in some way by some part of Celtic life.

As I write these chapters, I want to introduce you to a way of connecting with the world, even the universe, which harks back to the Iron Age and beyond; after all, our Celtic ancestors were themselves influenced by those who had come before. It’s important to remember that the magic we perform today will never be the same as that of our ancestors; we are influenced by our ancestors, but we are not them. We live in a very different world, and we cannot pretend otherwise, but we can reach into the threads of time to try and understand the way magic affected those who came before, and we can search for those feelings and reactions in ourselves. To think that I may be feeling something as profound as one of my ancestors from over 2000 years ago is heady indeed. We will look at simple steps towards being a Celtic Witch from my own path, from very ethereal, meditative experience, to ‘hands-on’ work building small tools to aid spell-craft. We will discuss the Celtic reverence for the bard and satirist, and how you can learn to wield words as wisely, and how to cultivate silence as a weapon. We’ll remember tales of magical transformation and wonder how we can transform ourselves. Do we want to change? Have we the will? And what is the consequence?

To read more, pre-order Mabh’s book, Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft at Amazon and all other good retailers.