magick

Book Review – Daily Spellbook for the Good Witch: Quick, Simple and Practical Magic for Every Day of the Year by Patti Wigington

January, 2018

Daily Spellbook for the Good Witch: Quick, Simple and Practical Magic for Every Day of the Year”

 

 

by Patti Wigington

Published by Sterling Ethos

Published: 2017

Pages: 385

Begin a year and a day of witching with the help of the “Daily Spellbook for the Good Witch.” Starting with January’s themes of new beginnings and going though December’s focus on winter’s darkness, High Priestess, Wicca expert and author Patti Wigington presents 366 spells for seasons, moons and astrological signs. Included are spells for protection, abundance, gratitude, blessings and divination.

While she notes at the beginning of the book that people often think you need a lot of supplies to do spell work – you don’t. Knowing others may think differently, I like that she points out you can do a lot of magic with things you find around you. Many of the spells I read required very little. For instance, the King Frost Snow Spell for Neighborhood Harmony required you to make snowmen while chanting, and adorn each with sticks for arms, a carrot for the nose, and whatever hats or scarves were handy. A spell to find new friends calls for nine seashells and an orange candle.

Wigington’s spells use batteries and a piece of red fabric to jump start your love life; and silver paper, a pen and mugwort for dreams to answer a question; and crayons and a new coloring book for creative thinking. She’ll tell you how to make a nine-piece divination set from painted rocks and prosperity poppets out of gingerbread dough.

None of the spells are long and involved, so it would be possible to set aside 5 to maybe 20 minutes and do a spell a day. Some may not resonate for you – not everyone needs a spell to gain professional respect, male potency or to pass a test. I wouldn’t personally recommend the love spells, including one to bring back a lover who has strayed or the Stay With Me Spell because they interfere with someone else’s freewill, and I don’t know that I’d bring a firefly into the house to help me find a lost object.

There were many, however, I did like. One is the Spell to Bless a Freshly Planted Garden presented on May 29 in conjunction with the old agricultural festival of Ambarvalia, Wigington instructs you to mix equal parts milk, honey and wine in a bowl and walk around your garden clockwise, using your fingers to sprinkle the mixture on the soil while saying, “Honey for the bees, wine for the Divine and milk for growth in this garden of mine.”

This book will easily help you bring more magic into your life, and there’s no reason it can’t be used a second or third time, or serve as a reference for the spells you found most successful. It could also be gifted to a new witch every year, made more personal if you jotted notes in the margins.

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About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Book Review: Old Style Conjure- Hoodoo, Rootwork and Folk Magic by Starr Casas

January, 2018

 

I was quite excited to have the opportunity to review this book. It’s a subject that I’ve been curious about, but haven’t read about as much as I would have liked. There was a great Foreward by Orion Foxwood who is an author and conjure worker as well, then we get into the Introduction, which Casas writes “I am going to try and write in a way even the novice worker will understand, and the information will also maybe help the seasoned worker as well. I feel that it is important for this work to be passed on, as many of the elders are passing and with them the knowledge they hold. I don’t want this work to die out; it is too important to my culture”. She then goes on to talk about how over the last ten years the work has been watered down and whitewashed. She writes about how respect for the work and the ancestors is critical, as is the fact that the work must always be justified. In this Introduction Casas gets into something called hotfoot work, which is “something done to move someone out quickly where they will not come back…that when you work with hotfoot products on someone, you could be sending their spirit to wander and be restless. The hotfoot work could cause them to never have peace and to just move from place to place” Reading about this I knew that this book would be talking about a type of magic that I have never practiced. Once I kept reading she does talk about why it is this way; that you need to think about how this work got to the place that it did- the horrors of slavery. She ends the Introduction with some common questions and answers, it is here too that I discovered the importance of the bible in old-style conjure.

The next chapter is full of basic Q and A’s. It was a great idea to put this right at the beginning of the book. It touches on a lot of topics, and it’s a great idea to get it all out of the way. She did get to a question that I already had at this point in reading; and that was if you needed to be Christian for this work, and I think that a lot of people who are reading this are probably Pagan. Her answer to that is “No, you do not have to be a Christian. But if you remove the bible, then you are no longer doing conjure work; you are doing something else. The bible is an integral part of conjure. There are a lot of folks who would love to take the bible out of conjure, but if you do, then it is no longer conjure.” This answer seemed kind of silly to me. Clearly you need to have a bible to do this work, and you need to believe in what you are doing. So all in all, you do need to be a Christian in my opinion. After reading the whole book, there are for sure things that I took away from it, and I feel like I could take many aspects of conjure and wicca and put them together, but for the sake of this review I just need to say that it seems contradictory to say that you don’t need to be Christian, but then immediately after say that if you take away the bible, it’s not true conjure. The rest of the Q and A really does touch on a lot of subjects and it was a great chapter. It really did answer a lot before even getting into the meat of the book.

Chapter two is about ole time religion. This chapter was overwhelming me with talk about Christianity and the bible. She also mentions numerous times how tricky conjure workers are. I did find this chapter repetitive and a lot of the same information that I just read in the introduction were stated again in this chapter. The following chapter is about the foundation of conjure, and it was full of a lot of interesting tidbits. A great way to sum up the chapter is to quote the author herself. “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.” She then answers more common questions and gets into an altar. It reminds me a lot of a pagan altar and she also talks about giving small offerings, just like a lot of Wiccans do. It was good to see some similarities and some things that I personally could connect to.

The next chapter she covers the topic of an altar to more extent. She also touches on the importance of colour, like when deciding what colour cloth to use. The 5th chapter expands on offerings. Again, I found some similarities between Paganism and Conjure; especially in relation to honoring Spirit (even if we are talking about two totally different definitions). I did find aspects of this chapter a bit confusing as on one page she talks about leaving an offering on your altar for a few days, but no longer than a week, but on the following page she talks about leaving offerings on the altar permanently- so I wasn’t too sure what way would be the best in that aspect.

The chapter on divination was one of my favorites. Bone reading and card reading are the main focus and style of divination when looking at conjure. I’ve always been curious about old style divination and have only really heard stories about bone reading so I really enjoyed that section, and it was cool to hear about chicken feet being used in real life. She says that “Each bone tells its own unique story. The thing to remember is to relax and let Spirit guide you in the reading.” And that resonated with me. A lot of the time in life you need to just relax and listen to Spirit and see what it makes you feel. Another cool thing in this chapter was the topic of protection when doing divination, which to me was just a Christian way of casting a circle. There was also a lot on trinity, which as a pagan the power of three resonates with me as well. So I liked the similarities to my own religion. The card reading part was different than what I expected, as usually when I read or look into card divination it’s usually involving the Tarot, whereas in conjure you use just a regular deck of cards. I want to give it a try for sure.

Following that, there is an excellent chapter about the spirits of Conjure that focuses on the ancestors, elders and spirits. I think this was my favorite chapter of the book actually. She gets into the historical ancestors “those who fought against the unjustness of slavery, of the wrongness of one man owning another man, or someone who fought against the odds and achieved something that was almost unachievable for a nonwhite”. And she tells the stories of many of those people. After educating the reader about that she delves into spiritual ancestors of conjure, with the first being Big Mama. I loved hearing all the tales of these spirits, as I hadn’t really heard of them and it really was a great read and would be informative to new and old conjure workers.

Chapter 8 was all about places of power. Which, I am aware of the importance of location when working with magick. The first place she touched on what the graveyard, which makes total sense to me. I’ve always been cautious and have avoided working in a graveyard except for a few times out of respect for the dead. Casas is a very blunt author and I appreciated that for this chapter. “Use your common sense when you are dealing with the graveyard and the dead that live there”. One thing that did get a bit repetitive was the use of “use your common sense”. It showed up many times in just this chapter, but also throughout the book. But, I understand where she is coming from. Something I took from this chapter especially was when she talks about a “wash”; which is a cleansing. I’ve done and heard of a lot of methods, but she does talk a lot about Christian prayer and I am used to casting a circle, or something similar and it’s always interesting to me to learn about different methods of spiritual protection. She gets into many other places of power including the police station, the banks and hospitals, which honestly I haven’t thought about ever doing magick in any of those three locations.

Following that was a chapter all about light. “Fire has always been a part of spiritual work from the time the first people discovered it. Whether through candle lights, lamps or an actual fire, folks and spiritual workers alike recognized the power of fire and what you can do with it”. That quote sets up this chapter well, as the first things she talks about is candles, which is what most people work with on a day-to-day basis. She also gets into talking about oil lamps, and a nice little feature is the basic spells she gives for both types of light-work.

She moves from light to conjure waters. This is a very neat chapter with a lot of information that is new to me. I never thought of using things like dishwater and toilet water. There is also something called Tar water and War water. It’s a short chapter but she touches on some neat information. After that she writes about dirts and dust. The dirts are used to make conjure powders. She tells the reader here that she is sharing information that she’s never written about before. She reminds the reader as well that not all conjure work is “sugary and sweet” and gets back into the topic of slavery. She lists the different types of dirts and dusts used, but there is a pretty noticeable error in this chapter and she has the exact same post about termite dust twice.

After all that, chapter 12 moves on to roots, herbs and trees. A lot of this hits home with my inner Pagan as this is something I’ve read a lot about. She lists all the different plants used and why you work with those specific ones. It’s a pretty decent list that I think is quite informative; especially if you are new to that topic. Chapter 13 moves onto the tools of conjure- and it opens with writing a petition- something new to me yet again. “Your petition tells Spirit exactly what you are asking for”. She gives a couple examples of how to plan said petition and works through it so if you’ve never done it before it makes you feel like you’re in good hands. Once she finishes up that she gets into household tools. There is another nice list for the reader. Some items are pretty common (coffee, brooms, eggs, etc.) and some would be items most would need to go out to buy specifically. (chicken feet, gunpowder, railroad spikes, etc.)

The last three chapters sum up a lot in the book. Casas delves into various things that are hidden within the culture, things she did automatically as a child because that’s what she was taught, without even realizing why. I like the personal touch here. The 2nd to last chapter is all about “Drawin’ and Removin’” Where she gets into attraction and reversal work and how you need to have an understanding on both sides of the fence. There is also a really great section in this chapter where she gives the reader a “Love yourself power work”, which I think is just fantastic. Then there is a final Q and A and a few more examples of work you can do. The last chapter is titled Africanized and she gives a bit more information on the history, the bible, and the culture itself.

All-in-all I really enjoyed this book. I learned a lot about a topic I’ve always been interested in and so I felt like I was being educated by someone who actually knew what they were talking about and I love the fact that she grew up learning conjure and didn’t just decide to pick it up as a hobby or anything. She has a lot of stories to tell, which makes the book that much more of a better read. The only negatives I have to say is that as a Pagan, I did find some things conflicting with my belief, and that there really should be a better index. She gives so many great examples of “spells”, but if you wanted to learn how to do something, there is no quick reference guide to find the page you would need. If you wanted to learn how to make a conjure bag for example, you would need to flip though the book and just hope to find it. I had to use a bunch of post-it notes to keep track of some things in this book. But- it’s great read and I think a lot of people could take something away from it.

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MagickalArts

January, 2018

(Calliope 1)

This is the second posting of the (en)LIV(en)ING with the Muses Series

The Muse, Calliope is the oldest of the Muses and according to the Theogony of Hesiod was foremost of the muses. Holding this preeminence, suggested her creative gifts were many with specific association with music and song and is often depicted playing the harp in early art work. In many mythological tales, Calliope is the mother of the Bard and player of the lyre, Orpheus. Calliope’s gifts of eloquence and music moved through her child Orpheus, considered to be the greatest musician and poet of Greek mythology having the ability to stir the emotions of God and man, alike into passive acquiescence.  

(Image: Museum of Fine s.Boston.MA)

As each of the Muses was later parceled out as representation of specific skill set, Calliope was assigned as the muse of Epic poetry. Her name means “beautiful voiced” and it is this quality that enhances her representation as a being of great eloquence; using that gift in the crafting of beautiful and emotionally evocative poetry. It was this gift that she offered to the Kings so that they may speak with power and authority in a manner of clarity and preciseness and it was this eloquence that she brought as judge to the dispute of the Goddesses Aphrodite and Persephone over Adonis. 

Aphrodite hid the newborn child, Adonis, in a chest, which she gave in charge to Persephone, queen of the nether world. But when Persephone opened the chest she was beheld by beauty of the baby, so she refused to give him back to Aphrodite, although the goddess of love went down herself to the Underworld to ransom the baby Adonis from the power of the dead.

The dispute between the two Goddesses of love and death was settled by Zeus, who decreed that Adonis should abide with Persephone in the underworld for one part of the year, and with Aphrodite in the upper world for another part. When he stayed in the underworld, it was winter. When he returned, the Earth blossomed into spring and summer.” 1.

Later attributions depict her with pen and tablet and designation specifically as the muse that inspired the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer. In Greek mythology, Calliope is linked to Ares the God of War and Achilles, to whom she taught rowdy drinking songs. She had two sons by her mentor and teacher, the God Apollo and by all accounts her beguiling gifts of creative inspiration, word and song weave through many of the Gods and Goddess myths. 

As is the case with many of the Muses, Calliope’s name is used is association with a similar attribute of representation by an object. The Calliope is a musical instrument that produces sound by sending a gas in the form of steam or compressed air through large tubular whistles. These tubes were originally part of the whistles found on large locomotive engines. The sound emitted was typically very loud and piercing, often being heard for miles. Unlike most musical instruments, there is no way to vary the tone or loudness relying solely on the interval of time between notes and their individual length. It was for these reasons that the Calliope was most often used as the advertising tool to let the community know that the Circus, an epic event, was coming to town. 

 

 

(Photo: P.M.McClintock (1925))

This reference to a sound-producing instrument of this sort and magnitude and its use in calling attention to what would be multiple acts (or stanzas) of adventure, excitement and peril that formed the comprehensive story of man overcoming physical limitations (think of the aerialists and acrobats) and taming the beasts themselves (think of the animal trainers). 

When we call to the Muse, Calliope we are calling attention to the many stories and adventures we have encountered in our life’s journey. The valiant successes and the epic failures are all waiting to be codified and through the gift of eloquence, we find the gems of our most beautiful and meaningful way of expression. This may take the form of journaling the experiences in prose. Going back later and reading through that epic phase of your experience and ultimately being inspired from its telling and sharing of what has served to move you forward. It may take the form of a beautifully written poem, pouring heart and soul onto paper, guided by rhythm and rhyme, semantic and syllable. And, in this way unraveling the mysteries of your hidden feelings word-by-word, line-by-line like so many layers of paint on a fine work of art. Each important to the larger picture crafted, yet transparent in their uniqueness and need. 

In my own work, I call upon Calliope to inform my writing and stir the flow of creativity, but especially when I am writing a pathworking. A pathworking is much like the epic poem. It stimulates and serves as key to your personal journey into unknown territory that will provoke a response and set of challenges along the way that ultimately lead you to a new land, new perspective or new form and way of being. 

The pathworking below is one that I wrote several years ago as a place of connection to the deep waters within and the shadow energy that resides ready for birthing. It is an epic journey into your inner realms and with the assistance of Calliope’s energy I offer it now to you. 

The Journey of the Shadow

Audio of Pathworking Here..

https://teachingsonthepath.com/bonus-pathworkings-and-guided-meditations/

Scroll down to the bottom of the page

Transcript:

Turn your focus and attention to your breath. Allow your consciousness to move with the rise and fall of your chest and the filling and release of the lungs. Continue in this manner for several breaths, allowing each to become softer, smoother and slower. With each breath your physical body appears to lighten and your center of consciousness floats upwards towards the inner eye. You find yourself enveloped by the mist of transition between the Physical and Astral and, as this veil thins and you see before you an opening in the fabric of the space around you.

A mist of Lavender surrounds this enclosure as you pass through the darkness of the Great Abyss. As you move through this space, feelings of foreboding and a sense of being out of place in a time that is neither here nor there and in a place that is both upwards and down simultaneously flood your emotions. You are disoriented and are aware of the depths of sadness and loneliness that is felt in this space. Your only thoughts are the hopes that you will pass quickly and easily through this space. Quite the contrary, time seems to slow and the angst seems to become greater. And, just as you are about to scream out in sheer frustration, you remember the lesson of surrender. You remember the call to trusting and the lessons of the “Fool”. You find that you are engulfed in shadow. Glimpses of light are hidden beneath what appear to be shadowy figures and although you do not feel threatened, you know this is a place of great power and well deserving of care and respect as you pass through.

There is no flooring under you and you have a sense of weightlessness and somehow being suspended in space. Although there are no definitive boundaries, the impression is one of being enclosed tightly in a very confining space. You take a deep, cleansing breath and you allow yourself to simply be open, receptive and non-resistant to lesson of this place of shadow. You take another deep breath in and ready yourself to move forward and explore this place. As soon as the sigh of exhale has passed, feelings of sadness begin to well up within you. You are fearful and now wish you had decided against entering this space. Your former resolve of being receptive and open is weakening steadily as you begin to feel that you are sinking even deeper into this space of darkness.

You take another deep breath, hoping to restore your composure and as you exhale your awareness that you are alone in this space heightens. You strain to hear any sound that might point you in the direction of moving towards something; even the faintest sound of another human or animal would give you comfort. But, there is nothing, absolute and pure nothingness in this space. Your breath comes in short bursts now and the combination of sheer and utter loneliness, silence and disorientation keeps this rapid pace going.

You try to move, and find that with each step you are moving deeper into the shadowy fabric of this space, so, you decide to simply remain still. You look around and find that your eyes still have not adjusted to this deep and pervading darkness that now seems to be vibrating with energy; but you can neither see nor hear the source of it. You would normally have called out to the Divine or your guides to help you through this difficult passage, but you feel as though they have forsaken you as well and that in the depths of this seemingly unending well your pleas would remain unheard. This thought provokes a surge of emotional release and you begin to sob, at first quietly, then uncontrollably with louder and higher pitch.

These cries crescendo and you find that you are keening, screaming from the very base of your throat and the depths of your Soul in desperate release of this overwhelming sadness and fear. You call out to those Divine beings who are your patrons, and the only sound in return is the increased volume of your own voice. You call out to those who are family and friends. Again, the only return being the echo of your frantic cries against a surface you can neither see nor feel.

With one final exhausted effort, you pull up all of your will and courage and release a final soul filled call and as the sound issues forth from your lips, the oppressive energy around you seems to shatter and fall away. The powerful force and reverberation of the vibration wraps around you and you feel the personality that you entered this space with fall away. The ego you have carried so proudly shatters from your being and the You who entered this space moves within the spiraling of this powerful force of energy reshaping and transforming. You close your eyes and willingly surrender to this action and allow the necessary release and rebuilding of your subtle and physical forms. It seems as though time has stopped and for the briefest of moments you and all space, time and creation are one in the same.

As the energetic outpour begins to lessen around you, you gently open your eyes and looking upward see a tiny point of light above you. Although very small and far away, you can feel the intensity and radiance of this light and know it to be the reentry into the world of matter and form. As your breath slows to an even and steady pace you see that the light is growing brighter and larger as you rise on ascent towards it. Each breath pulls you closer to its light and radiance and the space around begins to brighten, the darkness and magnetic pull of the intense experience held within it slowly fading in its energy and effect on you.

You continue to rise upwards, coming to rest on a soft surface beneath your feet and completely enveloped in the brilliance of this light emanating from a space directly above you. You look at your hands and take note of a luminescent glow about them and the lower part of your body as you look downwards toward your feet.

The light begins to dim slightly and you know that there is still more of the journey you must follow through the lessons of the Higher Realm in final completion of the work done within the Dark Night. You take a deep breath in, close your eyes and resolve that you will embrace each step and challenge that is presented to you. You think on the lesson of this experience, and the birthing of light from what was held in the shadows.  You know you will make many journeys to this space and with each you will integrate the totality of both your light and shadow self as you open to the transformative energies of this space.

You gently open your eyes and see that the blue veil of transition has formed just a few steps in front of you. You feel yourself enveloped in the veil of transition between the Physical and Astral world. The veils of transformation and all they contain gently fade from your sight and you begin the descent back into your physical state of being and the room and space in which you began this pathworking. Return to awareness of the rhythm of your breath and the rise and fall of your chest. Become aware of the physicality of where you are sitting or laying; your body pressed against cushion, chair or floor.

And when you are ready, gently flutter your eyes open

The next post will focus on the Muse, Clio and her gifts of history.

Reference:

1. Greek Myths and Greek Mythology

 

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About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author. She is the author of:

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. One

It’s Written in the Stars

Astrology

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the spheres

Qabalah

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths

Qabalah

 

A Year With Gaia

The Eternal Cord For

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Temple of the Sun and Moon

Luminous Devotions

 

The Magickal Pen, Volume One

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

 

The Elemental Year

Aligning the Parts of SELF For

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The Enchanted Gate

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

 

Sleeping with the Goddess

Nights of Devotion

 

A Weekly Reflection

Musings for the Year

 

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

 

Follow Robin on Facebook and on Instagram

 

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

January, 2018

La Befana

 

(LA BEFANA. Magic stocking from BEFANA. By incantevolemerletto shop.)

 

Merry meet.

While my mother’s parents were from Sicily, it was not until recently I learned of La Befana, Italy’s oldest and most celebrated legend – about a witch.

In Italian folklore, she is an old woman with warts on her crooked nose, wearing a skirt and a black shawl, who flies around on her broom, delivering candy to well-behaved children. In Russia she is known as Baboushka.

Children await Babbo Natale on Christmas Eve, but the red-suited man is new compared to the story of the old woman who was too busy cleaning to join the Wise Men on their journey. According to the legend, they stopped by her cottage to ask directions and invited her to come along, but she refused. She also refused to join a shepherd who asked her to join him, as some tell the story.

Later that night she saw a great light in the sky. Regretting her decision, she sets out to give the Christ Child gifts that had, according to some, belonged to her child who had died. She never finds the Baby Jesus and instead, leaves her gifts for children she encountered along the way. Since the 13th century, children have left their shoes out or hung up their socks Epiphany Eve, January 5, for the Befana to fill with sweets and gifts. Bad children were given lumps of coal.

Often she is shown covered in soot because, like Santa Claus, she delivers presents by sliding down the chimney. Her name means “gift-bringer” and according to a post by DreamDiscoverItalia.com in 2015, many believe she also sweeps the floor before she leaves, sweeping away the old to make way for the new.

La Befana is a Christian legend that began in Northern Italy and became a big part of the Italian celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the Wise Men arrive in Bethlehem and deliver their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Other versions of the legend have La Befana carrying a sack of bread, giving a piece to every child she saw in the hopes one would be the Christ Child. She never does find him and is still wandering around Italy on her broomstick.

Her arrival is celebrated with such traditional Italian foods such as panettone, fried doughnuts with dried fruit, and fritters with raisins. When children leave a snack for the witch, it’s something soft because she has few teeth.

While La Bafana is viewed most commonly as a village crone, she has also been called a sprite or fairy. Instead of a broomstick, sometimes she is said to ride a goat or a donkey. Rarely does she wear a pointed hat; a headscarf is more traditional.

According to an article written by Martha Bakerhian for tripsavy.com, “This folktale may actually date back to the Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia, a one- or two-week festival starting just before the winter solstice. At the end of Saturnalia, Romans would go to the Temple of Juno on the Capitoline Hill to have their fortunes read by an old crone. This story evolved into the tale of La Befana.”

Heather Greene explains in an article for “The Wild Hunt” in January 2016, “As with many regional traditions, La Befana’s modern construction and appearance were developed over an expansive amount of time and stem from a diverse number of cultural elements. Her story has been adapted over and over to fit into a variety of different social or religious structures.

 

(La Befana the Witch Sculpture by Dellamorteco, Dellamorte & Co. Etsy Shop)

 

Similar to modern community traditions in the northern Italian towns, Circolo dei Trivi burns an effigy, a representation of Giobiana, within their ritual space. They collect the ashes and tell the story of nature’s death and rebirth, through the death of Giobiana and the birth of Belisama. In that process, they also thank nature, represented as La Befana, for bringing the final gifts from the previous year. Grazie, La Befana.”

Urbania, thought to be her official home, draws tens of thousands of people for a five-day festival that includes the arrival of La Befana to her cottage, which the townspeople built in her honor. There is music, dancing, parades, fireworks and letters from children asking for gifts. In Venice, men dressed as La Befana race boats on the Grand Canal, per DreamDiscoverItalia. In Rome and elsewhere, women dress like La Befana.

 

A Spell of Prosperity to Accomplish your Goals 

(Submitted by Gayle Nogas)

What you’ll need:

A red candle placed on a table or altar

Three figs or three dates 

A small cup of honey

A broom 

With this simple spell you can ask The Befana not only to bring your home prosperity, but also to send you powerful energy regarding your success and the goals you will work with next year.

In the evening, put the three figs or dates in the small cup of honey (this is a traditional offering for The Befana) and put them on the table or the altar next to the red candle. These offerings will show that you honor her powers.

Light the red candle. Pull up a chair and sit in it calmly for two minutes watching the candle and bringing your mind to the tranquility of the energy that is surrounding you. The red candle is a symbol of your own power to accomplish your goals and also calls the power of The Befana. Now repeat the following out loud or in your head three times:

“Come Befana, come to me.

Come from the mountains to make me free.

Come with your gifts of wisdom and power,

To make this a prosperous year for me.”

Once you have repeated this spell three times, take the broom and start sweeping the room in the direction of the clock’s hands, always sweeping towards the central part to concentrate there the powers and the charitable energy of The Befana in one place.

Leave the broom and dust all night long. Finally blow the candle and thank The Befana for her help by saying:

“Thank you, Befana, for giving me the gifts of your wisdom and prosperity.”

The next day, pick up the broom, clean up the dust and debris, and focus on a hugely prosperous year.

 

This year, in honor of my ancestors, I plan to recognize the Witch of Christmas for making winter a witchy season. Perhaps I’ll dress like her, or leave my shoes and a soft cookie outside my door. If you celebrate her, please leave me a comment describing how on the Pagan Pages Emag Facebook page.

 

Merry part. And merry meet again.

 

**

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Book Review: Tree Medicine, Tree Magic by Ellen Evert Hopman

January, 2018

Tree Medicine, Tree Magic”

by Ellen Evert Hopman

Published by Pendraig Publishing Inc.

Published: 2017

Pages: 245

This second edition is updated and revised from the original published in 1992 by Ellen Evert Hopman, a master herbalist, lay homeopath and founding member of The Order of the White Oak. She is currently archdruid of the Tribe of the Oak, a teaching grove for Druids. She holds an M.Ed. in mental health counseling.

For each of the 19 trees, she includes an illustration; describes their physical characteristics; gives their practical, herbal and magical uses; and provides Druid insights and recipes. Information for each tree takes up about 10 pages; quotes and poems about trees are sprinkled throughout.

Some of the common trees of North America and Europe that get a chapter in the book are ash, apple, birch, elm, holly, maple, oak, pine, poplar and willow.

Hopman treats each sacred tree reverently, sharing its powerful magic and how its legends are woven into various cultures. The traditions she shares are those of “our ancestors, the celebrants of the trees.”

 

 

At the beginning of the book, she explains the many forms which use flowers, leaves, bark, roots and seeds to treat conditions. She tells you what parts of the tree to use, and how to collect and use them. The back of the book contains such useful information as the Celtic tree alphabet and a tree meditation, along with indexes of herbal uses, magical uses, practical uses and illustrations.

Tree Medicine, Tree Magic” is a useful guidebook to work with trees on multiple levels.

 

Susun Weed, author of the Wise Woman Series, praised it, saying, “Trees are the Ancient Ones. They hold a vast wisdom that can heal all ills of body, mind, and spirit. Open this book and open a door to the details of that wisdom, brought to you by one of my favorite herbal authors, Ellen Evert Hopman. Ellen is actually a tree, ‘disguised’ as a person, so she speaks to us directly from the heart of the Ancient Mysteries. There is something for everyone here, whether you seek food for your psyche or physic for your woes.”

 

 

As I read about tree after tree and learned about the old ways, I was inspired to make more connections with them. I harvested white pine needles to make tea; I became aware that a branch of apple with both flowers and fruits is an indication the otherworld is paying a visit, and will now be on the lookout; and I now know to thank maple trees for being among those most tolerant of people.

I cross-referenced it with the Celtic tree moons – nine of the thirteen are in the book – and will be drawing information from the book when planning rituals.

 

For Amazon Information Click Image

 

Hopman’s other 10 non-fiction books include “A Druid’s for the Sacred Earth Year,” “Walking the World in Wonder: A Children’s ,” “Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore” and “The Secret Medicines of Your Kitchen: A Practical Guide.” She also wrote three novels including “The Druid Isle” and “Priestess of the Fire Temple: A Druid’s Tale.”

Visit Ellen Evert Hopman online at www.elleneverthopman.com.

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Notes from the Apothecary

January, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: artichoke

 

 

January is an odd sort of month, past the solstice but not yet at Imbolc; deep in the heart of winter where the promise of the sun’s return sounds like a distant whisper. In keeping with the oddness of the month, I thought it would be appropriate to look at a plant which is extremely odd indeed: the artichoke. The name artichoke is used for two distinctively different types of plant. One is the Jerusalem artichoke; a sort of knobbly, potato like root which is very tasty and nutritious. However, for this month’s notes, I will be examining the globe artichoke, as far from a root as it is possible to be, as it is the flower of the plant.

The Kitchen Garden

One of my favourite things about visiting our allotment is getting to see what other folk are growing. The first summer when I saw one of our neighbour’s artichokes in full bloom, it took my breath away. Having seen artichokes only in a can or in the grocery store, I was not prepared for the sheer beauty of these extraordinary flowers.

The artichoke is actually a type of thistle, but the artichoke blooms are to the thistle flowers what a lobster is to the tiniest shrimp; huge, extravagant and an entirely different beast altogether.

The seventeenth century almanac by Markham suggests artichokes should be sowed in March, just after the full moon, when the moon is on the wane.

The Apothecary

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the artichoke was, during the 16th century in Italy, reserved for men as it enhanced sexual prowess. Across Europe, the vegetable was renowned for its aphrodisiac qualities, even by royalty; Henry the Eighth supposedly consumed vast quantities of artichokes.

In Turkey, it is believed that a decoction of artichoke will cleanse the blood and the liver, thus improving the skin. It’s possible that the effect on the liver may be backed up by science, as artichokes contain silymarin, a phytochemical which can be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of liver disease.

Other uses include as a diuretic, as a digestion aid and as an antioxidant.

Folklore

A legend of the Sioux people tells of an artichoke and a muskrat. Both are proud, and try and outdo each other with tales of how yearned for they are by humans. The artichoke appears to win the contest by boasting how people will eat his flowers without even cleaning the dirt off first! The tale’s purpose seems to be to teach the qualities of both the animal and the plant, and their usefulness to mankind, or perhaps more keenly, why mankind should admire them.

The Witch’s Kitchen

 

 

Some sources suggest the artichoke is a plant of Venus, perhaps due to it’s aphrodisiacal qualities. It is also associated with fertility, unsurprisingly! An alternative view is quite the opposite, stating that the artichoke is a vegetable ruled by Mars, due to its thorny nature. The plant itself is actually a hermaphrodite, so I guess go with whatever feels comfortable for you.

The artichoke is also associated with protection, so can be used in warding and exorcisms, and laid at the boundaries of your home. The artichoke is particularly useful at driving out demons, and even banishing bad moods.

The plant also represents courage in the face of adversity; facing your fears and standing up for what you believe in.

The plant can also be a symbol of things not being what they seem, or a sign that you should look at something again. ichokes change the flavour of the next thing you eat by chemically altering your taste buds temporarily; also, they look like spiky, armoured beasts, then produce the most delicate and flamboyant of flowers. They are transformative and deceptive, and remind us that we are all multi-faceted beings, with many skills and many aspects to our character.

In sympathetic magic, peeling away the layers of an artichoke represents working your way to the heart of a problem. You can do this either physically or in a visualisation or meditation.

Seeing an artichoke in a dream can mean you are stifling your own creativity somehow, and that you need to release your own potential. They can also represent wealth and luxury.

Home and Hearth

For the courage to speak out: take a globe artichoke, a whole raw one either from a grocery store or one you have grown yourself. Find a comfortable place to sit and think of the problem at hand. Imagine what you would say if you had the courage. Start to say each of these sentences out loud, and each time you do, tear or cut a leaf from the artichoke. A sharp pair of kitchen scissors is best as they can be tough; take care not to cut yourself! If they are too tough to cut, then mark them with a pen or pencil, or a piece of charcoal. Imagine yourself as tough skinned as the artichoke; whatever is thrown at you, you can handle, and you will still eventually bloom as beautifully as the artichoke.

Keep repeating the sentences you wish you could say, and keep cutting or marking the artichoke. Once the artichoke is completely defaced, gather the parts together or simply hold the plant and thank it for its strength and courage. Bury the dismembered or disfigured plant or compost it if possible, that way it is giving its nutrients back to the soil. Pour a little water on the ground with the wish that the earth may never hunger or thirst.

I Never Knew…

A close cousin of the artichoke is the cardoon, another thistle, but instead of the flowers being eaten, the stems are blanched and used like celery.

Image credits: An ichoke in bloom, copyright Little Mountain 5 2009, via Wikimedia Commons; ichoke in bloom, copyright Unukorno 2015, via Wikimedia Commons.

***

About the Author:

 

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

For Amazon information, click images below.

 

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

 

The Bad Witches Guide

January, 2018

 

The Bad Witches Guide to Poppets

 

I am a bad witch. There are a long list of reasons why I am a bad witch. Having been out of the broom closet for some considerable number of years I would on occasion get asked “but you’re a good witch though?” My response to that depending on the person asking but I found I started to say “yes, a very, very good witch” rather darkly as it usually got the point across.


As someone who has only relatively recently learned to sew I had to get crafty with poppets. I am quite cool about substitutes like onions and lemons (as someone who LOVES to cook).


Salt dough

 


I started making my own salt dough for my family early on. I do suggest food colouring (and gloves) at least in the mixing stage otherwise it has a tendency to go a bit gray. Equal parts flour and salt with warm water added a bit at a time until it reaches a dough. You can add an oil to make it a bit more pliable but if you mix it then chill it it should work better without. Salt dough can be used to make decorations, altar pieces for Sabbat, and poppets to heal, or otherwise. To harden it drying it out in a low oven is best, but it does dry to a hard texture, a bit like crumbly clay.

 

Clay

 


Clay is old school! You can buy air clay and you won’t need to dry it in an oven or you could let it dry out slower. Again it quite hard when finished and you might need to “poppet it” (add openings, names and so on) before it’s dry. You can mix herbs and things into the clay but this will effect it’s structural qualities too. If you are going for a bigger poppet you will probably need an armature. An armature is a skeleton within an object to give it a structure. Small ones might need only a single piece of thin wire down the middle. Bigger poppets might need a wire body. Clay holds onto paint well when dried and if you are a person who paints well this can be valuable.

 

Fabric

 


Fabric cut out with wool or other stuffings make a cheap and useful poppet. They take pins and other objects pretty well. You can put hair, or an old piece of clothes inside. You can add cursing herbs or spices and they soak up oils really well. It’s definitely a different experience than the clay or dough. An accomplished person can knock one out in very little time, but the rest of us it might take more than an evening. It’s lightweight and easy to carry with you.

 

Wood

 


There are a couple of ways you can make wooden poppets. You can use the carving method which requires a lot of skill and tools. The peg method (a wooden clothes peg can make a quick and useful poppet in a pinch). Or you can make a bundle doll. A simple cross bundle bound with thread can make and excellent poppet or spirit doll. You can use all kinds of woods, all kinds of thread, from silks to rough jute and soak it in oils or tinctures. You can glue the threads or even wax them (making them easier to burn in a fire) to keep the binding together. You can of course combine materials and use clay and the like to make the thread hold. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you like.


Wool

 


I am a crafty witch, in all senses and I got into needle-felting recently and I love it. It’s sculpting with pointy needles! While you do need wool and felting needles (which can vary in price a lot) a simple set is not that expensive. What you don’t pay in money, prepare to pay in blood! No needle felter doesn’t stab themselves (with varying degrees of pain and blood loss) while making things. Sure you can by leather finger protectors but I never stab myself in the same place twice! That said you can make rather good likenesses, have a whole spectrum of colours and shades of wool to choose from and with an armature you can make them quite big. I have been making a lot of fae dolls this way (they just want to be made) and there is this strange alive quality to them even before they are finished.

 

Roots and Vegetables

 


From pumpkins to turnips we have been carving faces for a very long time of vegetables. My turnip head is still there from Samhain last year (and yes it’s terrifying). You can carve or make poppets from roots like ginger and even odd shaped carrots, or just parts like heads, or phallic symbols in all kinds of vegetables. They do perish (some more quickly than others) which can be great (or not) depending on what you want. Can be burned reasonably safely and put in rushing water without too much issue (polluting is bad people). You can also squish them quite well too, should you feel the need and compost with clear(ish) conscience. Being as they tend to be wet (ooh er) things like photographs, or other connections can be damaged in trying get them into the poppet. That said that might be a bonus and they take pins and such really well.

 

Wax

 


This is one I don’t often use but one of my friends is great at this one! They are not “pretty” but they have such a power to them. Good for a short sharp shock. They burn well (obviously) and if you do it right they burn themselves! So try and make sure if you are using a wicked candle to try and keep it central to the poppet. A candle, a craft knife and a hot spoon to smooth things out are all you need. It’s a cheap and powerful way to make poppets. You can of course buy and melt wax and sculpt it from scratch but it requires a double boiler and a lot of patience. This way means you can add oils, herbs, hair, photographs and so on. They take pins well and if you leave in a cool place can last a long time. No so great for throwing in water but good for jar work and fire work.

 

Grasses, Cornstalks, Such Like

 

 

Corn dollies are a very old poppet material. Good wheat stems can vary on how easy they are to find and there are hundreds of ways to weave these little lovelies. Dependent on the material weaving can be a simple or complicated business. It’s more like stalk origami than true weaving but you get some lovely pieces. They are a lot of work and you might not want to use them as a poppet unless you are really pressed. That said they are a beautiful and ancient form of poppet and it would be remiss of me to leave them out. They can last years, but don’t take pins well. You could use them as a basic armature for something like clay on top.
A good poppet is what you need in the moment. Whether it is for healing, focusing a group spell or cursing the crap out of someone making your own is an empowering and therapeutic thing.

The Bad Witches Guide to Yule

December, 2017

 

The Bad Witches Guide to Yule

I’m always a bad witch, but apparently I really suck at this Yuletide thing. I mean I make my own gifts! I like snow! When people say “season’s greetings” or “Merry Christmas” I smile and mean it! I’m a monster!

The cynical average British Pagan just sort of rolls their eyes at me. I don’t Cringle early. I spend November and December making gifts and decorations (I’m a bit slow this year but we have been adjusting to new medication this year, but I have plans)! I don’t even go and get really drunk!

I mean I clearly suck at this witching thing!

Of course it can be a pain! Its hard work, it’s expensive (though often nowhere near as costly as Samhain in our house). I know you get pine needles in the carpet, but the tree! Ah the tree! We put up our tree either on Yule itself or the day before. It’s always real. Always in soil.

It’s the smell to me. Is it even Yuletide without the smell of pine, holly and orange and clove? The energy of bring a living being into your home. Changes it. It is magickal.

We have handmade ornaments, ones we make each year and ones me made when my daughter was very little. The sun star that goes a top our tree is one she made when she was about 5 or 6 years old from air clay, acrylic paint and ribbon. To me it’s treasure! We always had a candy cane (not a very British treat) to eat while we decorate. We always listen to Jethro Tull and sing along.

The other ornaments are made of cinnamon quills, star anise and dried orange slices, florists wire and ribbon. We make tradition Christmas cakes with lots of fruit steeped in spiced rum, covered in marzipan and snow white icing. No neon red cherries though. We would make in loaf shapes and large rounds dependant on who was getting them. Single folk don’t tend to want to buy a big cake just for themselves but enjoy it.

The fruit perplexes many modern folks especially in America. Yet raisins, plums and dried fruit were mixed with sugar and spice as a herbal remedy to coughs, colds and infections right up until the beginning of of the 20th century. Spiced fruit became traditional, medical and they added some dried breadcrumbs or flour! Minced pies are medicinal! That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

The biggest mistake folks make with their dried fruit is just that! They leave it dry! The fruit was only dried because it needed to be preserved. In the food dried fruit was soaked sometimes in strong black tea with spices or with alcohol! Merry Christmas comes from being merry, which meant drunk! Once the fruit as steeped sometimes overnight sometimes longer, then it’s ready for pies, and cakes!

Come on though! It all sounds like far too much hard work! I mean it’s just a day!” A day? Don’t let folks rob you! Yule is two weeks! Two weeks of family, food and gifts! Now some of you might think this is excessive and more work, but actually removing the pressure and spreading it out makes it a much better holiday! We tend to trim and decorate the tree on the solstice (on the 21st of December) and have in the evening our big meal). The first of our gifts are given. Our daughter might have got her main gift on the solstice or later. Each morning having what would be a stocking filler. Again this means no gift is unappreciated. Each gets its own moment! It isn’t lost in the crush of “OPEN EVERYTHING”. It is quite common for us to open our home to pagans and non-pagans alike whom might not be having a great time. Maybe they don’t have a family to celebrate with. Maybe it’s a break-up. Maybe they are just sad. We sit down and feast together. A roast bird and all the trimmings! I confess I’m lucky as while I do a lot of meal prep my husband cooks the dinner. It is his way of honouring his grandmother who was like a mother to him.

It’s quite odd, but my favourite day is usually the 22nd, because everyone else is in a panic and well, all I have to do is the dishes! I tend to try and make this day “be kind to retail staff day”. I really smile. I say thank you and mean it. I know what fresh hell retail can be!

I might have other meals (when my family and my husband’s Pops was around sometimes we’d do a Christmas day meal too) or Boxing Day (which was traditionally the servant’s day off to celebrate Christmas in the UK). Yet given the choice we declare it a duvet day, watch Doctor Who and eat left-overs and fish finger sandwiches (fish sticks).

Yuletide and the mid-winter season has become a lot about “stuff”. Yet if you let it, if you let go of the cynicism, and rush, if you make it, it really is magickal. Of course you can do rituals and rites. Mix a little “mojo” with your “ho ho ho” but you have to let it in! It’s the spirit of giving, of kindness, of new beginnings!

 

 

Tree Blessing

A candle

A handful of compost or earth

A sprig of holly

An acorn or dried oak leaves

Fresh green ivy.

Incense (your own blend but frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon works well)

Water.

 

Carefully (and you might need gloves) holding the holly and ivy walk around the tree three times clockwise. This can be spoken but it is better sung.

The holly and the ivy,

When they are both full grown,

Of all the trees,

That are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.

The rising of the sun!

The running of the deer!

The playing of the merry music

Sweet singing to inspire!”

 

The ivy is then tapped gently against the tree three times. Then the holly. Then they are both then put aside.

Lord and Lady of the Forest dream.”

Spirit of the resting green,

A vessel hear our words:

Spring will come.

Warm winds will blow.

[Waft and blow incense onto the tree]

Water will again flow.

[Pour a little water onto the roots of the tree.]

Earth will again make things grow.

[Place compost at the base of the tree. Light candle.]

Fire, the suns light shall glow.

[Walk the candle around the tree clock-wise. And place on your altar or hearth.]

The oak King is born! The sun is returning! *spoken*

*sung* Joy to the world!

The Lord has again come!

Let Earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare Him room!

Heaven and nature sing!

Heaven and nature sing!

Heaven, heaven and nature sing!”

You could now dress and decorate the tree. Eat sweet treats and maybe even sup a glass of spicy mulled wine! Eat! Drink! Be merry and bright! With all of my bad witch heart bright blessings and seasons greetings!

 

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

December, 2017

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times December 2017

Bright Blessings!

With Yule just around the corner, you are likely planning festivities, gatherings, and family nights!

Growing up, of course, my family celebrated Christmas, and large scale was the rule. Everybody sent cards, bought gifts, planned dinners and lunches, and I can say Christmas for many of my family members was one of the biggest events of the year.

After I moved out, and started my own traditions, I scaled back the complicated Christmas festivities, and after converting to Paganism, reduced it further to just a single day for Sabbat. The Winter Solstice is a big deal for me, because I am so happy about the fact the sun will grow stronger, and “be reborn”.

I typically do a firepit fire, and libations alone, although I’ve attended public Sabbat and officiated for friends before.

Many different topics can be explored in Pagan Yule or Winter Solstice observances, but this year, instead if exploring things related to the Wiccan or Heathen male gods rebirth, the topic will be mothers.

Yule and Mothers Night

Anglo Saxon Pagans, according Bede, writing in the 8th century:

… began the year on the 8th calends of January [25 December], when we celebrate the birth of the Lord. That very night, which we hold so sacred, they used to call by the heathen word Modranecht, that is, “mother’s night”, because (we suspect) of the ceremonies they enacted all that night.”

They supposedly venerated the Disir, or the mothers, mother goddesses, protective mother ancestors, and held sacrifices in their honor. They gathered, feasted,

Yule lasted three days in Pre Christian days, but a lot of modern people observe it for twelve days, beginning December 20 or 21, with Mother’s Night being the first thing observed. Many do a ritual honoring the protective female mother ancestors and goddesses. Some give food or other gifts to them, light candles for them, and ask them to protect, watch over, bless, and ensure good coming harvest.

Some sources state Mother’s Night was the final festivity in Yule, and it was observed then in honor of the goddess Frigg. She wove people’s fate for the new year on that day, which was counted as New Years, and Frigg was honored. It was said she had knowledge of the future, but would not tell anybody what it was! She also was unable to alter the future, as evidenced by the fact she foresaw her son Balder’s death, and try as she could, she was unable to avert it.

I have attended candle lighting ceremonies Norse friends observe for some of the twelve days. They do candlelight vigils all night, with a prayer on the hour every hour, and network with one another from household to household if they can’t do it all under the same roof.

Of course, it is the women/ Matrons of our community who do this.

Some of these women have moved out of state, and some are no longer in contact with one another, but those marathon candlelight vigils are one of many things that are still maintained by almost all of the women to this day.

This is an appropriate introduction, I think for this month’s topic.

Mothers, and most specifically, mothers who have lost children.

Somebody’s Mother

I had the privilege of reviewing the beautiful film Somebody’s Mother, which was created by The Tollman Sisters, Gabriela and Evelyne. It’s been very successful in the US, and is headed to China!

I watched the film, myself and I recommend it. It’s a film that will make you think, and gets right to the difficult to face, let alone discuss issues that come when you lose a child.

As somebody who has been trying to have children for twenty years, and have been unable to, this film really hit home. The Tollman sisters explored so many of the things you deal with after such loss.

In the film, one sister’s baby died, and the other loses custody of her son after inability to take care of him that was not in any way her fault, and that she never meant to happen.

In the instance of losing custody due to inability to care for a child, the number one thing I see happening in the lives of my loved ones who have children is they become so focused on making their kids their all, they become completely unaware of their own needs at times. This is due to the great love they have for their children that compares to nothing else in their lives, and to a loving parent, no sacrifice for their children is too great. It can mean that sometimes, they don’t know how to ask for help, and they forget that even parents need support too. The topic specifically explored is postpartum depression, which I have seen more than one mother I love deal with it.

In the instance of the death of a child, I have been told by more than one parent that the death of a child is something you never fully recover from, and one that literally takes a part of your heart away that you never get back.

The stages of grief are explored intimately from the viewpoint of both sisters, and done in such a way that viewers can relate.

The film takes a very compassionate view of suffering many films exploring pain lack. At one point, in the film , it was said “I don’t know why I needed to go through it…I don’t know why I needed such pain.”

The film shows how loss of a child impacts the relationships of the parents of the children with one another. I don’t have the statistics of how many people’s marriages or engagements are called off when a child dies, but I’ve seen it happen quite a lot. The film presented a relationship surviving, and another not surviving.

The film portrays the inability to function normally in your own life after such a loss, and the great lengths people go to in order to keep up appearances, so people leave you alone about what happened. Sometimes, not talking about something that is tearing you apart emotionally is part of coping with it. It also shows how sometimes, that is absolutely impossible, however, and many of us have endured well meaning questions after losing a child we are not ready for like “ When will you have another baby?”

The love of sisters and how they are one another’s number one supporter, and closest friend in good times, and bad is intimately portrayed. It is a beautiful testament of the Tollman sisters devotion and love for one another as well.

Finally, the film shows how to pick up the pieces after unspeakable tragedy, and find hope for the future.

The link to the film’s pages follow, as well as a trailer.

http://www.somebodysmotherfilm.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SomebodysMotherfilm/

 

Trailer-

https://www.facebook.com/SomebodysMotherfilm/videos/504423143047518/

 

This film is now available on Amazon. Click Image below for more information:

 

Interviewing Gabriela Tollman

I had the opportunity to ask Gabriela Tollman some intimate questions she lovingly answered. Her words are as heartfelt and nurturing as the film.

 

Saoirse- Some of the women I interviewed about loss of their children are deeply suffering, even decades later. Some wanted to share, but could not bring themselves to talk about it. What words of advice, healing, and wisdom do you have for women dealing with loss of their children, be it through death, or loss of their living children?

 

Gabriela- It is an intensely painful experience to live through the loss of an infant, and it has been important for to let myself cry all of my tears. I spent two to three years crying. What helped me cope and carry on was the understanding that everything that happens in life has a reason. I know this idea does not comfort everyone, but it helped me. I began to see the events of my life, and the loss of my baby Charlie as a way to further advance the development of my soul. I also found many healers and teachers who helped me. Brian Weiss’ book Many Lives Many Masters was integral to helping me transform my pain into a spiritual lesson. Other books and healers that resonated with me are Anita Moorjani Dying to Be Me, and A Course in Miracles.

 

Saoirse-What do you recommend to these women to find strength when their own strength seems to vanish?

 

Gabriela- Writing down my story was an immense help for me. I wrote down anything I was feeling, thoughts and ideas in journals. These writings eventually became part of our film, Somebody’s Mother. Creativity of any kind helps transcend circumstance. It allows one to rise above and take control of grief and pain instead of it controlling you.

 

Saoirse- In what do you find comfort when it seems things are at their worst, to get you through until things are better?

 

Gabriela- As mentioned above, writing and creating helped me transform. Other practices that have helped me transform the pain are meditation. I practice transcendental meditation and this truly was the tipping point in getting me through that horrifying pain of grief. TM allowed me to find a place of peace inside myself, and release the oppressive negativity, anger, denial, fear and anxiety of grief. It is an incredible tool for all types of trauma and grief recovery. I also practice yoga, hiking, swimming, and am a certified hypnotherapist. Hypnosis is extremely effective for those who have a difficult time meditating, as it delves into the subconscious where I find peace and answers.

 

Saoirse- If you are religious, how does your personal devotion carry you in these times of grief? If you are atheist, but philosophical, how does your personal philosophy and values do the same? 

 

Gabriela- One of my favorite quotes is by David Bowie “Religion is for those who are afraid of hell, spirituality is for those who have already been there.” I am spiritual. The works of Brian Weiss, an MD, hypnotherapist, writer and teacher changed my life. He writes a lot about past lives and lessons that we need to experience in the flesh in order to grow, evolve, transcend and raise our vibrations. Another brilliant healer and teacher that I follow especially in difficult times is the work of Marianne Willamson. Her teachings of A Course In Miracles help me find understanding. A COURSE IN MIRACLES offers a lesson for each day of the year, which is an incredible practice for self-healing and transformation.

 

More on this beautiful film follows the working at the bottom of this article.

 

The Mothers Stories

I could write volumes about how my personal miscarriage and being childless breaks my heart, but instead I reached out to friends who have lost their children. Their names are changed for confidentiality, but they were good enough to share their own heartbreaking stories with me, and all of you.

First, my friend Patty lost a child to death, and custody of another.

Here is our conversation about it:

 

Patty- In 1998, I gave birth to Anthony Joeseph Oliver. He only lived 3 days. He was born on March 14th and died March 17th. He had potters syndrome.

Me- Oh gods! How does it make you feel?

Patty- Kind of bad still, but it gets easier. I also have a daughter who I don’t get to see who turned 18 in May. I wanted so badly for her to know Anthony, her big brother. He would have been 20 in March.

Me- I wish that had happened for them too. Have you ever been able to get a hold of your daughter?

Patty- No, but I’m hoping she tries to find me. I think she lives in Missouri. I miss them. It’s kind of hard to talk about it.

Our discussion ended at that point. Patty just couldn’t bear to talk anymore, and I understand. My prayer is she is able to make contact with her living daughter.

 

The next woman I interviewed is 20 year old Jade, who lost her child very recently.

This is her story;

Marceline was a very healthy baby up until the last two weeks I carried her. I was seeing Riverside doctors as well as Knox Community doctors. KCH refused to coordinate my care with Riverside, and wouldn’t believe me when I said she was ten days ahead of development.

Since I’m a Type 1 Diabetic, Marcy was already going to be bigger than a baby from a low-risk mother. I started going into labor at about 34 weeks, but KCH said I was too early, and stopped me. I went into labor again at about 36 weeks, and they didn’t really stop me since I was at the minimum week requirement, but they were going to give me a steroid shot for her lungs.

They had warned me about it last time I went into labor, and I had asked Riverside how it would affect me. They said I didn’t need it, and if they gave it to me it would possibly send me into Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which would hurt my baby. I told KCH I didn’t need it, and they told me I was getting it whether I liked it or not.

About a week after that, I went in for a non-stress test, which I did twice weekly. I was scheduled for 10:00AM. I switched rooms three times, and they took an hour trying to find her heartbeat. They brought in an ultrasound machine to see if they could find it, but the machine wasn’t functioning properly. The next two weren’t, either. It was about noon at this point, and I’m already panicking.

I was already at a higher risk for a stillborn birth, and I was afraid that’s what was happening. Mike, my fiancé, was watching the monitor since I couldn’t see it. He told me that the cord was wrapped twice around her neck, and he could see her heart and circulation stop.

The doctor that was operating the machine told me, “I’m so sorry, but your baby has passed away. We can’t find her heartbeat.” I feel like I screamed, but I was in so much shock that I can’t remember clearly. I remember crying that entire day. It took them another two hours to start me on a Pitocin drip, and another two to start the epidural. I had to lay with my dead child laying still in my belly, because they were forcing me to deliver vaginally.

They told me that I run the risk of not healing properly from a C-section. I honestly would’ve taken that risk if it meant they could revive Marceline. I had to lie and wait until late that evening before I could deliver her. It was over an hour that I was in labor. Marcelne had shoulder dystocia, and was stuck in my pelvis. My pelvis was too small for her. They were using the vacuum on her.

I remember screaming, and feeling everything, even with the epidural. Mike, Mom, and my best friend Mickey all saw the cord around her neck, and heard the doctor say, “Oh, that’s wrapped tight.” I saw her turn a little to block Mike from seeing her cut the cord. Marcy was born at 1:16AM on Sunday, July 9th, 2017. They let Mike cut the cord, then laid her on my chest.

The skin on her cheeks had started to slough off from the cord strangling her. When I let Mike take her and hold her, they wouldn’t let me up to see him. I don’t remember much after that, and I think I had fallen asleep. The next morning the nurses had brought her in so I could see her. Her poor little hands were so cold. Her lips were so dark they were nearly black. I remember sobbing as I held her and being so afraid to touch her, thinking she would disintegrate if I did. When everyone had left the room, and it was just Mom and I with her, we sang her her lullaby, Loch Lomond.

I begged her to just come back to me, to us. I told her how much we loved her and how badly she was wanted, and how I was so sorry this happened to my poor little fox. She weighed 8lbs. 12oz., was 20.5 inches long, and looked exactly like I did when I was born. I didn’t get to hold her anymore after that. I could barely hold myself together; I barely can now.

The doctor also told me it was my fault she died, saying it was complications from diabetes that killed her. They also tried talking us out of getting an autopsy done on her. The autopsy results were eight pages long, and there was only one thing that may have been linked to my diabetes, but was not the ultimate cause for her inter-uterine demise.”

It is my prayer that the blessings from the goddess be upon my beautiful friend that she may become a mother of healthy children, and that she may heal from this terrible tragedy.

 

The next woman who shared her story was Mary.

I was 16 when I found out I was pregnant. I was in and out of group homes for most of my teen years, so I was actually kind of excited that I would finally have someone who loved me who didn’t get paid to. (Teen logic). A few weeks later, I went to a party with some friends in a nearby hotel. I was the only one there not drinking. My baby’s life was too important to me.

Everyone was passed out on the beds in piles, except for me and one guy who was still drinking. I’d noticed him before, and he was cute, but I was in a relationship, so he was off limits. Besides, he was a cop’s kid, and he drank way too much, knowing he could get away with anything. I shook my head and decided to use the bathroom and find a place to go to sleep. He followed me to the bathroom. I won’t go into details, but he raped me on the bathroom floor, and no one even woke up. The next morning, I left before anyone else stirred. Once he had left the bathroom, I had spent the night curled up crying on the bathroom floor, so I was able to tiptoe out unnoticed. I called my best friend and asked her to come get me. She lived nearly two hours away, but she came, and instead of taking me home, she took me back to her house.

That night, I started spotting. Being so young, I had no idea what to do. I didn’t tell anyone, just got a pad and pretended everything was fine…until it wasn’t. By the next afternoon, I was bleeding heavily and having stomach pains so bad I couldn’t stand. I told my best friend what was going on, and she and some friends who were at the house took me to the ER. Of course, by then, it was too late to save the baby. That opportunity had passed the day before, if it ever even existed.

After the miscarriage, things are kind of a blur. However, I do remember what the doctor told me after my D&C. “You’ll never be able to get pregnant again. It was a miracle you were ever able to in the first place. And if you do manage to get pregnant, you won’t be able to carry a baby to term.” Just a few months later, I was pregnant again. This time, she was nearly a month late.

I was in the custody of DCS when I had my daughter. Less than two weeks after I had her, I turned 18. I told my case worker I wouldn’t leave the home for young mothers when I turned 18. I lied. I left on my birthday. She was livid, and actually tried to have my daughter taken from me. I fought like I had never fought before. No one was ever going to take THIS child away. I’d have died first.

Because of the miscarriage, and because I knew she would likely be my only child, I grew up and threw myself into motherhood head first. The late 80s were a time when almost all moms bottle fed their children, and preferred strollers and bouncy seats to skin on skin contact. I nursed my daughter, and improvised a way to carry her on my chest, much like today’s baby slings. She slept in a bassinet that was right beside my bed, and there were nights I would wake up and put my hand on her back, panicking a little until I could feel the rise and fall of her breathing. I never went a day without telling her I loved her, and I never went a night without reading a story and tucking her in. Perhaps I was TOO close to her, but I never wanted her to doubt my love.

The doctor was partially right. I was never able to have another child after my daughter. I tried to move on, but every year I would think about how old my first child would be if they were alive. Today, they would be 28. My daughter is 27. She is a beautiful woman with a wonderful life. I always told her growing up that she could be anything she wanted, but that all I wanted for her was happiness… I still feel that way. And she has it. That’s all a parent could ask for.”

I have thanked these beautiful women for sharing their stories, and they will be invited when I do the ritual I have written for this month’s article. It was very difficult for me to write this, as I could not stop crying the whole time. I will be blessed during this ritual as well.

I tried to think of something simple, but meaningful, and what I would want somebody to say to me for my grief over my own childlessness. I also looked to see what other liturgies I could find for women mourning loss of children, and I did not find much. I don’t ever remember hearing of such a ritual, and what little I did find was specifically for either funerals or miscarriages. I found nothing for women who are barren unless it was to pray for fertility. I found nothing for women who lost custody, as society tends to assume these women deserve that, but I’m not so quick to judge. I found a couple of Pagan prayers about miscarriage, and quite a few Catholic liturgies. I wanted to do something where the women bless and support one another, and as the women I am inviting venerate different gods and goddesses, I did not write this to be specific to honor a goddess, or to fit any one pantheon.

 

The Working

Instead of just honoring the Mother goddesses, living mothers, and mothers who have joined the ancestors, for your Winter Solstice Celebrations, I suggest a blessing for living Mothers who have lost children.

Decide if you want one officiant to act as a Priestess, or if you prefer to delegate parts and readings to multiple people, depending on the needs of your group.

You will need:

  1. One large candle for The Goddess,
  1. One candle for each child attending women have lost,
  1. A large pitcher of water, and cups to drink from.
  1. Boxes of Tissues in case anybody needs them because they are crying.

First, cast circle as you normally do, or leave the circle open as preferred.

Then light the large candle to welcome the goddess. Because of the solemnness of this rite, a silent lighting is acceptable unless you have a special way you want to welcome her.

Each woman should take the pitcher of water in her hands and bless it as she sees fit. The communal blessing is what will make this ritual powerful, as it is one another we oftentimes look to for love, and strength. Prayers, or focusing energy to bless the water as feels appropriate for each woman is acceptable.

After the water is blessed, have each woman light a single candle in honor of each child they have lost, saying the child’s name and sit all the candles in a circle around the blessed water.

The reading, as followed can be done by one person, or each person can take a part to read.

The unbreakable bond of flesh of our flesh transcends the body and mind, and unites through spirit.

Though their bodies are far from yours, their mother, your soul connection to your children is forever.

Though your life with your child ended, you are still their mother, and always will be.

Let the love of the Divine Mother who you manifest in this life fill the void the loss of your child left.

You, a vessel of life, create more than just human beings. You create life through joy, kindness, laughter healing, and love.

May the blessings that you, a reflection of the Goddess, bestow upon those around you be returned to you tenfold.

May those whose tears of sorrow you dry, dry your tears. May those who you bless with tears of joy fill you with joys beyond compare.

May the waters we have blessed heal us, wash away our sorrows, and restore things we thought our pain took from us forever.

May the Mothers mourning loss of connection with living children be reunited with them, and have a long, happy life together.

May the Mothers whose children have died be reunited with them in the place of the ancestors, if they do not reincarnate together.

May you have the love and support of other mothers around you. Know that you are never alone. You have the connection to the Divine Mother, and all Mothers on earth who embody Her.”

Next, give everybody a cup to drink of the blessed water.

Each woman will then take turns talking to their child, or children and think of something they would have done for their child. Since they can’t do that, let the Mothers take a pledge to do something for another child in honor of the child or children she has lost. It can be something as simple as babysitting for a single parent you know for free, or something as great as adopting or fostering another child who has no parents.

Next, take down circle as you normally do, and potluck.

Blessed Yule, and Blessed Be.

 

Below is more information about Somebody’s Mother.

 

From the Press Release about Somebody’s Mother-

FILMMAKER’S COMMENTS

I feel shattered, pieces of me flying everywhere. Some parts of me are back in the hospital with the ghost of Charlie. Some parts are on the other side with Charlie’s soul, floating, dancing in the light. Together the two of us, our forgotten love. The love we didn’t get to share in this lifetime because he died. My little baby died. He was born too early with a terrible infection. He became terribly septic and was suffering. We released him from his pain and took him off life support. He floated away back to the other side and he died. Some part of me is there with him. Another part is on the floor at Trader Joe’s, where I was just shopping but had to run into the bathroom, and beg God for mercy; from the pain that I was experiencing just walking through the bread aisle.

Grief showed me all its colors, textures, shapes and sizes. When I lost Charlie it felt as if I was never going to get out. One day, I had a vision in my meditation, that Charlie came and said I need to make this story, I need to talk about grief and loss and that there is a connection to the other side. He’s not lost, its just another realm. And so we began to change the script we had worked on. Making something, first by writing it down in the script, then re-enacting it out during production and finally observing it in the editing slowly allowed me to befriend the grief. The parts of my body rejoined other parts. Parts of my soul rejoined the other parts and the new fragmented me became whole again.

During a scene in our film SOMEBODY’S MOTHER I sort through a purple box, which was actually my Charlie’s baby items. These items were given to us from the hospital NICU and consisted of Charlie’s little hat, a lock of his hair, and his footprints. I hadn’t been able to go through that purple box since returning from the hospital over a year prior. I decided to go through it for the first time while we were filming. During the scene, I wept. I felt purified and cleansed. It was beyond healing, it felt shamanic. By fully embracing the pain, I somehow transcended it.

I wasn’t just doing it for me but as a way to understand others; who had or were going through this. I learnt that extreme pain forces us to leave our bodies and reconnect with something deeper than ourselves. In this process, we shatter into a million pieces destroying who we once were, our former selves; our ego identity to rebirth into a new self with new knowledge and a reconnection to “source” energy. Charlie taught me this. Making the film allowed me to fully understand it, and not become lost in the grief or hardened by it. Instead it helped me open and soften. The experience deepened my understanding that this pain is a universal experience, which ultimately made me more of who I am. — GABRIELA TOLLMAN (Director, Writer, Actor, Producer)

My sister and I were interested in exploring contrasting themes. So many women we know want to get pregnant so badly and when they do; they don’t enjoy motherhood. It’s complicated. The role of a mother; is expected of women. It is assumed that the role of a mother should come easily and feel natural, but this is not always the case. Not everyone should become a mother.

We wanted the audience to feel how lonely these two women feel. If we are disconnected from honoring loss and disconnected from pain then how do we move forward in life? If Anna had allowed herself to express the confusion as a mother, her guilt, shame and fear perhaps she could have sought help instead of walking away from her four-year old child and leaving him in a car. So many women go through postpartum depression but feel so much shame that they act out instead of seeking help. We wanted to explore these topics, these dark places that nobody really wants to see – the places that are uncomfortable for an audience to experience and yet when they do, they feel relieved that they survived and deepened their understanding along the way.– EVELYNE TOLLMAN (Writer, Actor, Producer)

 

This film is now available on Amazon. Click Image below for more information:

 

***

About the Author:

 

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel

 

Nikki Sleath’s Book Explains Witchcraft to the Unfamiliar, for PaganPagesOrg She Talks About Her Magick to the Familiar

November, 2017

 

 

Just in time for Halloween, Nikki Wardwell Sleath self-published “You Might Be a Witch.” It provides a simple overview of the Craft, defining what modern day witches think and what they practice, dispelling myths along the way.

In the first half of the 103-page book, she talks about her own life, going from a child with no magickal exposure to a woman in her 40s who is the founder and High Priestess of the Society of Witchcraft and Old Magick.

The second half of the book covers such topics as the general belief systems of a witch, the ethics of magick and how to speak to skeptics. It ends with a twenty-question, multiple-choice quiz to see if you’re “Cautiously Curious,” “A Witchlet in the Making” or ready for a coven.

 

 

It’s totally just for fun; the questions are stereotypical,” she said.

Sleath hopes her book will increase public acceptance of earth-based spiritual practices and will help readers see the magick in themselves so they can be more accepting of it in others. Although she expected those who might be curious to purchase it, she said she’s also had many witches buy copies to give to their family and friends.

I think a lot of people are maybe a little more witchy than they think,” she said, noting that magick often exists in ways that may not be recognized.

For instance, when she was six and in the first grade, she wanted to win a raffle for the angel her teacher had made. It would go to the first student to guess the number the teacher had selected.

I knew the number was 11. I felt the same sense of disorientation that I would have when experiencing déjà vu, except that I also felt a surge of adrenaline, knowing I would win and that it somehow felt like cheating to have known the number ahead of time,” Sleath wrote in her book.

 

 

She did win, and 11 was to become a determining factor in many decisions and superstitions.

I still have to look away after seeing 11:11 on a clock out of superstition that if I look back again at it before it has changed to 11:12, that my wish will not come true,” she wrote.

Another form of divination she relied on as a child was to get the answer to a question by kicking off her shoe. If it landed face up, the answer was yes and if it landed facedown, the answer was no. If it landed on its side, she took it to mean there was continued uncertainty.

For a high school genealogy project, Sleath learned her eight-times great-grandfather was Samuel Wardwell, one of the “witches” hung in Salem. While she thought it was cool, that’s where it ended.

Prior to finding witchcraft, she said her big ah-ha moment was when she acted on psychic impulse.

I had been dating the same guy in college for three and a half years and I loved him. I thought we’d have a life together, I really did. But I didn’t know any better because I hadn’t had a higher quality relationship yet than that one. I didn’t know that all of these things that were weaknesses in it, I didn’t know them to be real problems.

 

 

Then, just one day, all of a sudden, the way that he spoke to me, I kind of realized it all and I made a snap decision: ‘You know, I think we’re done. I can’t do this any more.’ That was just an intuition in the moment. I wasn’t planning on breaking up with him that night,” she said.

The big moment came the next morning when she threw away his key.

I knew that once I did that, I would never go back to his apartment. As it’s going up in the air toward the giant hole of the Dumpster, I had images of myself, like flashes of myself forward through my life in various adult stages. Just me. No other people involved. And I saw myself confident. I saw myself professional. I saw myself rocking it out. I saw myself enjoying my life in all these different decades. And in my moment, I was at the age of 21, I was gifted with this big revelation that I am the one. I don’t need any guy for me to define happiness in my life. I knew I didn’t need a man for me to be happy. And I decided that I didn’t care at all. … It felt really incredible.”

It was only looking back that she realized how magickal that moment was.

As it turned out, the next day she was introduced to the man she later married.

That same year, she recognized a pattern that had been occurring. Each fall, she would become more psychic and have more instances of deja vu, “knowing exactly what someone was going to say before they say it, knowing what people’s thoughts were.” Then, come winter, she would go back to her normal intuitive level.

That started her researching.

I stumbled upon some good websites about the Craft and that hit me over the head. Everything I ever believed and didn’t know that it was all there as a practiced religious and spiritual way. When I was a kid going to a Protestant church, I just thought I wasn’t a spiritual person because I never had a spiritual experience there. And that couldn’t be anything further from the truth.”

Sheath got her degree and became a physical therapist, but the structure of the healthcare system burned her out quickly. She started to study holistic practices beginning with meditation, yoga and Reiki and going on from there.

 

 

While practicing the Craft on her own, in 2012 she opened Nikki’s Nature, offering energy healing, aromatherapy, auriculotherapy and hypnotherapy. She did past life regressions and Reiki. She also began attracting students who wanted to learn witchcraft.

The coven in which she had trained moved back to New Orleans, so she began her own.

Then it just started snowballing, she said. “Since then I have been teaching the classes to an ever-increasing number of people.”

She moved her practice into a bright, airy space in an old ax factory in Canton, Connecticut.

When she had only a few students, lessons were individual. As more people came, she began groups that met weekly, together moving through her year and a day progressive curriculum. As one group completed its training, they were initiated. With night now open, she’d begin a new group.

 

 

It’s a magical religious practice and I take it very seriously as do all the people in my coven and my community. It’s a large community. Right now we have 41 active members in the coven and I have nine or ten new people starting in a couple of weeks, so it’s going to be 50 people. … It’s an awesome community. I keep it 100 percent drama free. I won’t allow anyone to stay if they make it ‘all about me’ or if they can’t hold themselves together.”

Of all she does, the magickal training is most in demand. The ninety-minute classes cost $20. Groups are about six to nine people – nearly all of whom are women.

It is really hard to find, and even sometimes when you do find it, it’s not great,” she said of training in the ways of the Craft. “It’s random. I have people in the coven who have been in other covens and a lot of them are more social and they don’t get organized, learning and deep magick done. They get together because they all identify as witches and they want to celebrate the full moon and do things like that, but I think there has to be structure in order to see routine, progressive growth,” Sleath said.

In my coven it is a true occult order. We teach ceremonial magick and so people have to learn the Golden Dawn style traditional ways of establishing sacred space, but then of course within that, the ritual varies depending on what it is. It’s different if it’s a moon or a sabbath – different things are done, but the whole casting and setting up of the space is very ceremonial in nature. It’s amazing because obviously, everyone can do whatever they want outside of the large group gathering that we have, if they want to experiment with other things. You do what you want, but by doing that routinely in a coven, they just wind up with such strong skills. They know that they can command energy and focus their words and their thoughts at a moment’s notice when they need to, and that’s an amazing thing that a lot of people can never get from a book. So that’s one of the big benefits of structured training and practices. The confidence in your skill set is just so much beyond anything that I could have achieved when I was a solitary, for sure.”

In their own practice, “what each individual person does can vary greatly depending on what their passions are, what their talents are, what makes them feel spiritually connected. And one of the cool things about witchcraft is there isn’t just one way of feeling connected to the divine. There’s so many ways and I think that’s one of the reasons people love it,” Sleath said.

Some people simply are into the nature and earth-based energy parts of magick in the Craft. Some witches find a lot of gratification in working with various deities, mythologies, spirits, angels. I do both of those things. I work with nature very closely, but I also have a lot of guides and deities that I have very personal relationships with. It’s intensely gratifying on many levels.”

After years of practice, dreamwork became a large part of Sleath’s magick.

 

 

Dreaming, I believe, is every person’s spiritual birthright, but … [it] is important for me as a witch. I get a lot of insight, a lot of precognitive information, a lot of direct energetic and communication experiences with the divine through my lucid dreaming practice that you would never be able to experience in waking.”

It was after about seven years into her dream work – journaling every day – before, she said, “my lucid dreaming ability blossomed to the point where the deepest magick I could ever imagine happens in that space. For me, that’s a big part of my practice.

A lot of times when I start talking about lucid dreaming, and some of the really deep magical stuff that has happened, people want to know if their dream was lucid. The thing is, if you have to ask that, it was not. Every lucid dream has a very intense tangible ah-ha moment when you go, ‘Oh my god, I’m dreaming,’ and your whole sensation changes and you’re aware that you’re in your bed. It’s not astral travel.”

In lucid dreaming, she said, you’re in a different reality, a dream reality but you’re aware of real time in ordinary reality while experiencing the dream. “In that state, because we’re not limited by the physics here and our physical body, you can practice magick in ways [you can’t in this plane]. You can actually shoot lightning out of your hands and make a banishing pentagram and watch it dissipate. You can do all of the things we do here symbolically and energetically, but see, as if you’re in Hogwarts, the effects. And it’s amazing. But the deep magick is not just that energy stuff and the flying and all of that, it’s how I’ve been able to actually experience goddesses directly and that’s something that I can’t even make someone believe. No one can ever really believe or know what I’m saying unless they experience it for themselves. … It’s unimaginable.”

By setting her intention in the dream time and then again in the morning, she feels “in the flow of what I want to get done in my life.” If there is something urgent, she’ll do a spell. However, she said, most of the spells she does are on behalf of others.

The hard part of doing spell work is really knowing what you want and understanding the underlying motivations and getting the statement and the vision in your mind super clear. Most people never get that far. They have a vague idea. And then it’s hard to manifest. Doing a spell for money is not a great idea. People do it all the time and it doesn’t usually work that well, and the reason is that money is an abstract concept. We don’t need the money. We need the things that money affords us in our lives,” Sleath said.

For that reason, she tells people, “If you can’t afford a new car, do a spell for a car, because you don’t know by what means that may end up becoming available to you.”

Spells must have a crisp vision and a clear understanding of the goal. Lining up the correspondences – colors, herbs, gems, astrological timing – give the spell energy.

 

 

I think many witches nowadays are very, very ethical. We talk about ethics all the time and how to appropriately point your thoughts and your goals so that it is always as well-intentioned as possible,” Sleath said. “I think many spells done by witches are actually much more ethical than a lot of prayers being done by good-intentioned Christians. For example, I don’t think it’s ethical to pray for an outcome for someone else. … You don’t even know that’s the best thing for that person. That would be the same as me doing a spell for someone without getting their permission.”

In addition to ethics, karma is another topic that comes up.

It’s a bone of contention with a lot of groups online right now; everyone’s arguing about it. I absolutely believe in karma. I absolutely believe that you will attract what you put out there. … I teach that to my students, that you have to be aware that your thoughts are very powerful and what you think about – and especially what you put out there magickally in sacred space – will also return to you, possibly in an amplified way.”

While some people may poo-poo karma, calling it an Eastern concept that does not fit with their tradition, she boils it down to energy and ethics, saying there’s a reason all religions subscribe to that.

You do attract what you give off. If you do magick at all, the things you put together are sympathetic magick; you’re operating under the assumption that like attracts like. Well, if you’re thinking about revenge, that attracts revenge. To me it’s that simple. Our thoughts absolutely draw circumstances to us.”

When crafting a ritual, she encourages an escape clause, explaining, “If you’re not positive that there won’t possibly be an ill effect on somebody or on yourself in the act of conducting this spell, then you need to have a statement in there such as, ‘As long as it be for the highest and best good of all involved.’”

Witches need to be able to work with both the light and the dark, she said.

Given that light and dark are balanced in the world. Everyone has light and darkness within themselves. … I never intend people harm and I make sure I’m super ethical in any magick that I do, but I teach people to do shadow work. I help people to not fear death and to understand the affect of their consciousness that exists on beyond the body so they don’t fear moving on. I’ve worked in hospice. … I work with a goddess who is very closely tied to death and so it’s actually been given to me as a mission, to help people not fear the dark [and how] to conduct themselves responsibly.”

Sleath intends to write a book about dreams.

 

 

People that have excellent dream recall often have magickal tendencies because – and I did my entire master’s thesis on this, on dream recall,” she said.

Her survey-based research correlated a person’s rate of dream recall to how well connected to nature they perceived themselves to be.
“It was off the charts, statistically significant,” she said. “People who rated themselves as feeling like they were very closely connected to nature have much higher dream recall than people who say that they’re not.

In the act of doing that project I read every study about dream recall that exists. All of the factors come down to mental clarity, so all of the things that make you better at remembering your dreams are things that increase your mental clarity [such as meditation]. … A lot of pharmaceuticals ruin your dream recall and it’s because they have an effect on your mental clarity.

If you have a general belief that dreams are worth remembering, you’ll remember more. Your open-mindedness to the metaphysical enhances your dream recall. There’s even political ones, like Republicans have worse dream recall than Democrats. People who exercise more recall dreams better. People who do creative stuff, like music or painting, they also have better dream recall.”

That book, however, will come after she complete the one she’s already started that puts together two different magickal approaches. Unlike her first book that was meant to be accessible to everyone with an open mind, this book will be for magickal practitioners to augment their own practice and their relationship with deities.

Her message to witches is: “You can’t just leave your magick for your gatherings, your moons and when you’re standing in front of your altar. You have to bring it with you into what you perceive as the mundane, otherwise, how is it really helping you? You’ve got to trail those sparkles with you through your work, through the things [you do]. … I think that’s where the depth of experience really comes from – when you can maintain and live in your enchanted world view all the time, even when you’re not literally standing in front of your altar or gathering together with your friends to do magick. That’s like immersion. That’s really your Craft. And there’s a lot of ways to do that.”

For more information, visit nikkisnature.com, email her at nikki@nikkisnature.com or call 860-212-0055.

For Amazon information, click image below.

 

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About the Author:

 

 

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

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