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Roll of a Mentor

August 1st, 2009

Learning Braucherei

Traditionally, magickal systems would be learned from another person face to face.  As I have discussed before, information available from print and online sources have enabled the seeker to learn without a teacher, although it is of great help to have other Pagans for learning and discussion.  One tradition that still places emphasis on in person learning is variously known as Braucherie, Powwow, or Hexerie.

Braucherie originated among German immigrants to the US in Pennsylvania; erroneously called “Pennsylvania Dutch” because they referred to themselves as Deutsch (German).  The practice of magick was shunned by the Amish and Mennonites, who were among these immigrants, but considered it evil.  These immigrants brought with them a system of folk magick in the form of chants both spoken and written, actions performed with household objects such as ribbon, yarn, pins and eggs, a specially selected stone, use of herbs, and talismans.  They also brought a grimoire called The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, which contrary to claims of antiquity, was actually compiled  in Germany in 1849 by Johan Scheible.  This soon became secondary to another book of magick called The Long Lost Friend by John George Hohlman, first published in 1820, whose secondary title was The Powwower, a term often applied to this tradition.  Personally, I prefer not to use the term to avoid confusion with Native American traditions.

The primary focus of Braucherie has always been healing and this is one of the main reasons I was attracted to it as well as my mainly German ancestry.  I have used it quite a few times to stop minor bleeding (a common use)  as well as to help heal sprains, sore muscles and burns.  My first use of it in healing occurred when my dad burned his left hand improperly mixing fireworks chemicals.  I broke the rules by “trying”, as working magick is known in this system, for my dad without his permission, but I believe the Gods allowed it because of the close relationship.  Practitioners did not discourage their clients from conventional medical care and normally accepted only donations.  My dad went to the ER and followed up by seeing a dermatologist and applying a prescribed salve and I’m glad to say that his hand healed completely with no scars or loss of use.

Some other applications for this variety of folk magick were overcoming adversity, gaining luck, protection against negative magick, animals and natural disaster.  The most famous form of protection was the Himmelsbrief, literally meaning “Heaven’s letter”, elaborately worded and decorated documents, many of them never opened by the bearer, which implored protection against war, fire, flood, deadly disease and other disasters.  Their use almost certainly peaked during WW I when perhaps tens of thousands of soldiers and sailors carried one.

The most famous magickal symbol and the only aspect of Braucherie familiar to most people is the hex sign.  These round colorful designs were first seen painted directly on barns and later became popular as signs that were often displayed on or by front doors, sheds, garages and inside homes.  Some people say they are “chust for fancy”, meaning merely decorative, but many of them incorporate magickal meanings in symbols such as the distelfink (finch), tulip, heart, geometric patterns and color correspondences.  In German, the word Hex means magick without a negative connotation like in English.

A tragic chapter in the history of this tradition occurred in November 1928, when John Blymire and two accomplices murdered braucher Nelson Rehmeyer in his home in rural York County, Pennsylvania.  Blymire had become convinced that a personal run of bad luck was caused by a curse placed on him by Rehmeyer and it could only be broken by cutting off a lock of the braucher’s hair and burning his magickal book, but sadly, while attempting this, they killed him and unsuccessfully tried to burn down his house.  The subsequent trial, which was well publicized, dealt a serious blow to the practice of magick in Pennsylvania, causing many to see it as a dangerous superstition and those who kept it alive to practice quietly. (1)

As with many other systems of folk magick, Braucherie practitioners insisted that it did not conflict with them being Christian and resented being called witches.  Often, chants include references to Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Trinity as well as drawing equal armed crosses in the air.  Some practitioners also included Bible verses or used the book as a magickal tool.  While Christian practitioners have a monotheistic theology that recognizes God and Satan, Heathen practitioners call upon Germanic gods and goddesses, particularly Frau Holda, and draw upon Northern European myths and folklore.  Many of these prefer the term Hexerie, which comes from the German word for Witch, “Hexe”.  It is only been in recent years that it has been studied and practiced from a Pagan perspective, leading to Urglaawe which is the study of Germanic spirituality, myths and folklore by those who call them the first ways. (2)

Whether one desires to learn Braucherei as the primary focus of their spiritual path or as a useful art to add to their magical practice, one needs to address the question as to whether it must be learned in person or if self study is valid.  Like any other question, there is more than one viewpoint worth considering.  I am thankful to several members of the Yahoo group Hexenkunst for their input.

Like I said at the beginning, traditionally the only way to learn was in person, normally from someone of the opposite sex who was often a blood relative.  I heard from members who told me they were taught by relatives and one said he was the apprentice of Jesse of The Three Sisters, an educational foundation dedicated to the teaching and preservation of Pennsylvania Dutch folklore, spirituality and traditions.  He added that traditional practitioners took a dim view of learning only from books.  Jesse also wrote me explaining that it would be difficult to learn energy manipulation as well as the correct pronunciation of Deitsch (local German dialect) words used in chants without in person contact.  She added that her and her husband learned from older brauchers as well as gaining much information through interviews with them.  One Wiccan tradition, Black Forest, incorporates this magickal practice and its founder learned it the traditional way.

However, for many who desire to learn, in person training is not possible.  In recent decades, this magic has mainly been practiced by seniors, many of whom passed without finding an apprentice even among their relatives.  I heard from someone who wanted to learn, but the only brauchers in her family were great-grandmothers who were deceased.  Since this tradition is quite local, mainly south central Pennsylvania, living outside this area would require travel to learn in person or attend festivals.  I heard from a man calling himself Oracle from Bucks County Pennsylvania who explained that he learned from books because he felt quite drawn to this practice and German spirituality in general, but could not find a teacher, although he later found his brother, a former student of a hexenmeister who became his mentor.  He figured he must be doing something right as his magick had been successful, as mine has been.  My learning has also been through books and the only German I speak is what little I remember from high school, which I never use in magick and is High German anyway.

A good compromise would be an online course and one is offered by The Three Sisters, lasting a year and requiring minimal travel.  Personally I believe that in person learning is best, but there is nothing wrong with book learning or distance learning, in my opinion, if the student is sincere and has accurate information as well as the dedication to learn then apply it.  I believe that initiation comes from the Gods who teach and guide all who are willing and listen with their hearts.  Requiring lineage raises the inevitable question of who initiated the first magickal practitioner.  While I respect and agree with those who desire to keep this practice traditional in both its form and teaching, I feel it needs to respond to the needs of those who sincerely desire to follow it but do not fit the traditional mold.  As the Three Sisters Center says on its website, ” We believe that this living being of culture and tradition must be continuously nurtured and allowed to evolve, recognizing that otherwise it would stagnate and die.” (3)

(1) “History of Rehmeyer’s Hollow” http://rehmeyershallow.com/?TabId=57

(2) “Urglaawe” http://www.thortrains.com/utmo/Urglaawe.htm

(3) “Three Sisters Center” http://www.threesisterscenter.com/

The Everyday Witch notices the magic in the mundane and uses the images of her environmental space to conduct effective Spelling.   In order to get to that point in our daily lives, where the magic is obvious, we must have the tools to visualize our space and experience the magic.

For my introductory column, I am supposed to write some flowery stuff about me and my heritage and what I know.  Instead, I will direct you to my new MySpace and The Everyday Witch website to give you the update on me.  I would much prefer for you to be thinking about Correspondences and what they mean to you, what images you personally associate with Fire or with East.  I have included a Correspondence table for you to read.  You can also use this Google Search link which looks for the key words “witchcraft correspondences”.

The first thing one must possess to practice effective Magic is Belief.  Correspondence Witchcraft gives the Witch an edge on Belief.  The corresponding ideas work together to form a synergy which aids in the visualization.  What I would like to focus on for my first column is to give you something useful and relevant to the Correspondences that Everyday Witches use in their Craft.  A project of sorts, timed to the moon and designed to assist you in visualization in time for Ostara 2009.  You will need 6 panels.  A box or heavy paper is sufficient.  If you aren’t the creative type, a journal with 6 entries on 6 pages will suffice.  I do however, believe strongly in visualization as a means to success, so please make an effort to print or draw images during the exercise to help guide your learning process.  This would make an interesting addition to a BOS or a Scrapbook on Wicca. The 6 panels will represent the 6 Cardinal Directions.  North, East, South, West, Above and Below.  It will also encompass the 5 basic elements of Earth, Air Fire Water and Spirit. This is the over arching Theme to my column, Correspondences.  You could call it “Foundations for Successful Witchcraft”.  The best way to classify the information in my column is “The rudimentary knowledge one should have before committing oneself to the Craft”.  I may want to be a Plumber, but without a wrench I’m just a bald guy with bad butt crack.  The tool is very important to the Craft.

While you are deciding between the journal and the box, I will tell you that I have always considered the world around me in a relational sense.  This is related to that through this relationship.  It’s like an odd “six degrees of separation”.  For me, Correspondences make sense of those relationships and gives them an order that no other religion or path of faith has provided me.  Only witchcraft with the belief in the Goddess incorporated into ritual, has provided a sense of order and structure in my life.

I think it is best to say that my column is about the magic of ordinary things.  In the 1970’s, the Scholastic Book Club carried books by Ruth Chew.  What the Witch Left and The Wednesday Witch.  This genre of fairy tales that best describes Witchcraft are those of ordinary household items being magical tools.  The Folk Practices of the 1600’s Scotland included this tradition of Kitchen Witchery for the benefit of healing and family prosperity.  It’s not just a kettle, it’s a magical cauldron!  That is the stalk from which I am raised.  The Hippie Love Flower Child of the 1970’s with a spiritual philosophy of LOVE and The Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tales are the tacky metallic wallpaper which cover the walls of my sacred space.  I am a city witch, growing up primarily in the crowded apartment complexes and “designed neighborhood community”, with summer visits to the Southern California Desert and teenage years spent roaming the fields of the Silicon Valley… before it was the Silicon Valley.

You will find a book list in the coming months which focuses on the beginners path, and hopefully there will be some more “advanced” discussions on religion, magic and the need for Ritual in our ordinary lives.  To start with, I use the Seasons of the Witch Planner from 7th House, as I find the information interesting – the mundane stuff like Planetary Hours can be found anywhere on the internet.  Having a good calendar geared for Moon phases, Sabbats, and other helpful information like Astrology and Tarot is very nice to have in practicing the Craft.  I’ve used a lot of them, Seasons of the Witch is by far my most favorite.

The candles, the incense the altar, the chalice, the bread, the wine, all are part of the Witchcraft ritual.  For people on the Catholic path, Witchcraft should appear familiar and easy.  Witchcraft is very ceremonial – but it is not the ceremony which makes the magic, it is the belief and our ability to visualize our intentions.  The ceremony is simply the descriptor for our Sacred Space.

Correspondence Witchcraft takes advantage of the visualization, providing a 6 sided “space” with which to define our environmental space.  Correspondence Witchcraft can be likened to the work of Carl Jung.  The importance of imagery and visualization is very central to both his psychology and his other writings.  The Correspondence Table for my personal brand of Correspondence Witchcraft is included with this column, as mentioned above.  Here’s the link again. Keep in mind that you will most probably have a different path, a different set of Correspondences.  You may be from the Southern Hemisphere reading this column on the Web, and of course it will be very different for you!

The Beginning is very important to one’s beliefs.  While the Wheel of the Year is a pretty picture, there isn’t a lot to guide an inquiring Witch to understanding how the Wheel is read.  So, “ Where do you start?”  I personally start in the East.  When I finish my circle, I want to be standing firmly on the ground, therefore I end my Quarter Calls in the North, or Yule.  Or think of it as, I start on the shoreline with the rising sun on the East and I end on the shoreline in the North.  This makes Imbolg the first ceremony of the new year.  It also makes Imbolg a Cross Quarter Sabbat.  But we will get into all that in a future column.

Only you can decide the start of your Year.  Is your path more Wiccan, does your Wheel start at Samhain, making your first Sabbat of the year Yule?  Or is the wheel not a consideration and you begin every Ritual facing East?  There are a multitude of justifications for where your box should “begin”.  Pick one that is right for you.

My background in Correspondences began when I was a child.  My grandmother and grandfather secretly practiced and taught me the importance of the relationship of “things”. By the age of 34 I had become a Level 2 Energetic Healer and a 2nd Degree Priestess of Sankofa Pride.  It was with Sankofa Pride that I discovered my knack for Correspondences and how easily I could associate colors and stars and goddesses.  I worked with the Temple of Isis, Iseum of Isis Padeusis and remained close with Lady Sankofa.  I established a “Big Witch” Circle in Long Beach CA where ritual witchcraft was practiced on a monthly basis.  The Grotto enjoyed a full year and several months in Long Beach.  I am finding it harder and harder to find the “big witches” simply because most of us, at this point, retire and teach only our family.  I hope that by laying down the basics, I can provide the impetus for a future Big Witch to carry on.

For the month of February, you should be preparing and gathering items to make your box, your 6 scrap book pages or your 6 journal entries.  The craft store Michael’s has some lovely sized affordable boxes to decoupage or paint.  Your thoughts should cover what you want to do – box, panels – how involved you want to be – easy glue on or in depth detailed painting – and of course the visualizations.

I will let you be the guide to your own creativity.  However, may I suggest using the Google Image Search to gather and meditate on your Correspondences?  I have provided a link here for you which searches the Google Images for “witchcraft correspondences East”. That should get you on your way to visualizations!  Mix up the key words and see what comes up for “Animal Totem West” or “Water Undine”.  Save the images you most relate to or that speaks to you strongly.  You will want to print those images in color for later decoupage (gluing) on to the box or panels.

Using basic Wicca concepts, your 6 panels will become the visual representations of North, East, South, West, Above and Below.  Not everyone likes to do Below since the box is sitting on that panel.  For the Ceremonialists reading along, please, note I am including this portion especially for you.

Starting in the East, you will want to sketch out the 4 cardinal points and their correspondences.  You can also use the Season and the Sabbat correspondences to the cardinal points.

All of the panels should be sketched out as you want them by the first weekend of February.  Decide where on your box or object the elementals will be placed, color choices for each Element should be identified and any photos or pictures you want to glue/decoupage on the box should be printed in color and ready for application. The first Elemental Panel (your choice) should be traced or outlined on the box at the very least.  Ideally you should be well underway with painting or applying the first panel.  If you are using a journal or 6 scrapbook pages, you will want the Elemental panels sketched out, and your visual materials ready to be glued or stapled in place.

The Dedication Full Moon is February 9th.  You will want to have the majority of the Elementals Sketches complete by now and well underway.  If you are using a box, the material should be prepped – base coats applied, etc and so on.  During your regular February Full Moon observance, you want to hold each of the elemental panels in your mind and meditate on their magic.  As you attend Full Moon Circle for February, reflect on the images you have chosen to remind you of the Elemental Beings, the Animals and the Star Watch Tower.  In your mind, go through all of the Elemental Beings and the ritual tools and the colors, for East, and for South, for West and for North.  Hold these images in your mind and let them interact, let their synergy mingle. Hold this synergy in your thoughts and dedicate it to your future spells and intentions.  This energy should be channeled into your box, your journal or your pages, for the seeding and planting of the magical tool which will aid your future intentions in magic working yet to come.

For the remainder of February, the Elemental Panels should be completed and/or applied.  Instead of playing Solitaire this month, spend those 3 hours a day researching the Goddess which corresponds to West?  This is the “get your hands dirty” kind of Witchcraft preparation work that inspires the mind.  Spelling is not just about words.  Spelling is about visual images and 3 dimensional ideas we can hold in our mind.

For the March column, we will cover the structure of a Full Moon Spell used in conjunction with a Sabbat Ritual.  You will need your box or your panels as Correspondence will be a central component.

Correspondence is the foundation, Spelling is the structure.

Book List and URL References

The Everyday Witch – http://www.geocities.com/girleegeek/

The Everyday Witch at Myspace – http://www.myspace.com/theeverydaywitch

Correspondence table – http://www.geocities.com/girleegeek/TheEveryDayWitch/Witchcraft_Correspondences.htm

To Ride a Silver Broomstick – Silver Raven Wolf  http://www.amazon.com/Ride-Silver-Broomstick-Generational-Witchcraft/dp/087542791X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232566860&sr=1-1

To Stir a Magic Cauldron – Silver Ravenwolf  http://www.amazon.com/Stir-Magick-Cauldron-Casting-Conjuring/dp/1567184243/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232566860&sr=1-3

Moon Magik – DJ Conway  http://www.amazon.com/Moon-Magick-Recipes-Llewellyns-Practical/dp/1567181678

Thank you for welcoming me back into the Pagan Pages family. It is good to be home.

Knowing if you are pagan is relatively simple, but choosing your path is a little more complex. There are hundreds of pagan paths that a practitioner can follow. Before you choose your path research them. Follow your heart when you make your final decision.

The title of this column is Blessed Be the Kitchen Witch. I am a kitchen witch but I am so also much more. I have brought many more practices into my craft, hearth witchery, cottage witchery, green witchery and garden witchery. I am an earth based witch and all of these practices are centered on the hearth and home so to me all fall into Kitchen Witchery. They are what make me the witch I choose to be. This column will have a little bit of all. It’s easy to be a Kitchen Witch if everything at your kitchen works perfectly. Last time I had some problems with plumbing, all I needed to do was to visit MarinesPlumbing.com and call this contractor. They are real magicians, I should say.

All of the spells, advice, and tips in this column are used with harm to none. Please follow the Wiccan Rede when doing any of the workings found here.

The following was found on the internet and I don’t know who the Author is.

The Kitchen Witch’s Creed

In this pot I stir the sun,

an’ follow the rule of harming none.

Banishment of bane when goin’ windershins;

an’ with water and salt negativity is cleansed.

Household duties are more than chores,

Magick abounds when mopping the floors.

With this broom, I do sweep,

To clean my house and safety keep.

Marigold, Basil, Thyme, and Yarrow,

My spell is cast for a better tomorrow.

Lemons for joy and apples for health,

The pow’r within brings great wealth.

And in this kitchen I do pray,

To truly walk the Witch’s Way.

The tools of a Kitchen Witch do not necessarily have to be bought. A simple wooden spoon can become a wand. A cup or bowl can become a chalice and vessel. Ordinary kitchen knives can be used for an athame and boline. The kitchen broom becomes a staff. The slow cooker or crock pot or a heavy duty cooking pot can be used as a cauldron. A simple coffee grinder takes place of the mortar and pestle. A Kitchen Witch’s magick comes from within, so be sure to use natural materials. Ie: glass, metal, wood, pottery, and ceramics, the broom should be made of straw.

A Kitchen Witch uses essential oils and incense to create balance. He or she turns everyday mundane life into magicak moments. They will take pride in the meals they prepare, and the recipes they create. There are many spells involving a broom and mop. They use these items to cleanse their home which is also their sacred space. He or She will also keep to the rule of harming none as not to jeopardize their magick. Their symbols involve household items such as a cauldron, broom, corn dolls, the triquetra, and a kitchen witch doll. Of course they will use any symbol that is comfortable for them.

A little lore using simple elements from the house.

The refrigerator is the appliance dedicated to air.

Fire dwells within the stove

Water rules over the kitchen sink

All the foods and herbs in the kitchen are ruled by the earth element.

It is thru the use of these basic everyday items from our kitchens that our magick is created.

Even more lore from a Kitchen Witch’s home

Be sure to wash all of your dishes every night is you work with fairy magick. Faries don’t like a dirty kitchen and they won’t let you sleep until you clean it!!

Hang wind chimes in doorways, in front of windows outside, or from a balcony rail to ward off negative energy and keep away intruders.

Sifters and strainers kept in the kitchen are good for protection and will keep the kitchen safe.

If you have a bunch of accidents in your kitchen it is time to magikcally cleanse it.

Sew herbs or magickal powders into the lining of your drapes. Place packets of herbs or magickal powders under your throw rugs. This helps protect and scent the home at the same time.

Herbs for alternate healing


NOTE: Before using any of these remedies please check with your doctor. Some may be bad for your health if you have an existing condition that will interact with the herbs.

Arthritis: Comfrey

Flu: cayenne pepper

Gout: comfrey.  Gout is also in the arthritis family

Headaches: rosemary

Insect Stings: Marigold

Nightmares: chamomile, rosemary

I will have more for you next month.

 

Natural Remedies

Cool whip will condition your hair in 15 min.

Dump Nestea into a bath for sunburn

Use meat tenderizer for bee stings

Puffy eyes? Preparation H….I know it sounds gross but it works…yes I have used it…lol

Use that old time favorite snack jell-o for stinky feet… I know.. now I am really grossing you out, but these really work.

Put Kool-Aid in plain yogurt and let your kids use it for finger paints. Your kids will love it and it won’t hurt them if they eat it.

Use Pam cooking spray for a sticking bike chain

Pam will also remove paint and grease from your hands

Peanut butter will take the ink off the face of dolls

Stay tuned for more

March brings us our Spring Equinox. It is also the sabbat of Ostara. Ostara is celebrated on this equinox. It is also known as Lady Day. Ostara is named after the Goddess Eostre. While modern day Wiccans equate Ostara with the spring equinox, the original Ostara was a lunar holiday celebrated on the 1st full moon following the equinox. The significance of Ostara is the beginning of spring and the renewal and rebirth of nature herself.

The full moon for March is called the Chaste Moon. March is the month when spring is upon us. With spring comes the rebirth of plants and animals. Now is the time for new beginnings, new projects, and planting your flowers and new herbs.

I live in an apartment complex so I don’t have flower beds (the BIG downfall of apartment buildings) I do however have a balcony. Since this is the 1st spring I have been here I am going to try my hand at balcony gardening. I will get planters for the railing and plant some of my favorite flowers and a herb garden. I can’t wait. This month’s gardening will be geared towards the apartment dwellers.

For those of you who have a sunny kitchen window (I don’t) the windowsill full of potted plants and herbs not only looks good, but they release magickal energies into the room. Plant some common herbs that are used in your kitchen. Of course plant some of the herbs you like so you can have their energies too.
This month’s craft

Doorway Protection for those living in an apartment

Items Needed:

1 purple candle   glue gun and glue sticks  wire cutters

¼ yard ½ “ lace, gathered and color of choice

2 yds ¼ “ satin ribbon in your color of choice

4 yds ½ “ satin ribbon in a contrasting color

10 small silk rose buds ( found at Hobby Lobby or Michaels)

Gather these items into your sacred space. Light the purple candle. Before making this protective charm, sit and clear your mind and think of how you want this charm to protect your home. When you are ready begin.

1. Take the broom and “very carefully” pass it thru the flame of the candle, the fire will help infuse your charm with your energy. Do this for each item.
2. With the ¼ “ ribbon tie a double bow and glue to the top of the handle. Cut the wire stems off 2 of the silk rosebuds. Glue these to the center of the bow.
3. Take the ½ “ ribbon and tie it into a triple bow. Glue this to the base of the handle. Cut the wire stems off 4 of the rosebuds. Glue them to the center of the bow.
4. Glue the gathered lace along the bottom edge of the bristles(about 1” from the bottom) Cut the stems off the remaining rosebuds and glue them evenly spaced across the lace.
5. Hold your finished broom in your hands as you visualize its intent.

The following incantation is recommended but now necessary. I know it doesn’t rhyme but I haven’t yet mastered that.

Wrapped in ribbon and lace

This broom is enchanted.

Cleansed in fire, now may my wish be granted.

Magic broom of mine protect from harm,

Ward off negativity

Blessed be.

Hang the broom bristles up over your door.

Allow the candle to burn for a bit then extinguish. Put the candle away and use the next time you work any protection for your apartment.

As I told everyone in June 06, I had a “kitchen witch doll” that hang in 7 different kitchen’s and had made it thru all the moves. Well I had to give her a decent send off as she didn’t make it thru my last move intact. Next month’s craft will be the making of a Kitchen Witch Doll.

In closing: Everyone has their own magickal or sacred place. Mine is my home. I feel the magick of my home as well as work my own magick. For some this is their magickal place too. Whatever your place, make it your own. Decorate it to your taste. For those who’s space is outside, enhance your place by adding nice chairs and pots of flowers that you feel drawn too. This place too can be made your very own. Whether inside or out, have fun making your space. Let it take on your personality as well as keeping its own.

Remember: Magick happens all around us.

See you next month

Work to ‘Bee’ Done Rite

This purpose of this solitary ritual is to help you focus on projects that you need to get done.

niterites
Supplies

Athame

Wand

1 white pillar candle & holder (universal energy candle)

2 white taper candles & holder (God and Goddess candles)

6 beeswax tea light candles

1 bee figure (statue, pendant, etc.)

1 9×12 inch wooden plaque & painting supplies

Picture of your favorite flower

6 strips of yellow construction paper & a pen

Clover stick incense

Yellow and/or black altar cloth

Small bowl of honey & spoon

Small plate of buttermilk biscuits, sliced in half

Chalice of mead

Offering bowl

Ziplock baggie

Preparation

Paint a light yellow hexagon, surrounded by a deeper yellow background with a black border, on a 9×12 inch wooden plaque. Find a picture of your favorite flower or draw/paint one in the middle of the hexagon.  Allow the wooden plaque to dry fully before you perform this ritual.

Bake six buttermilk biscuits on the same day that you will perform this ritual.

Altar Set-up

Place the hexagonal wooden plaque in the center of the altar. Place the 6 (unlit) beeswax tea lights around the outside of it, one at each side.

Rite

Sit down in a comfortable position and ground yourself in your traditional way.

When you are ready, stand up and cast a sacred circle using your athame.

Call forth the Elemental guardian winds at each of their quarters by drawing a hexagonal-shaped portal in the air deosil using your wand.

When you are ready, invoke the God and Goddess and welcome them to your circle.  Light the God and Goddess candles on your altar.

Light the center candle on your altar to represent the universal energy of magick, and say:

This rite has begun.

Holding the flower picture in front of you (or touching it, if you painted it on the plaque), repeat:

I am the flower, flourishing and full of promise.

The honeycomb is my life, my world.

I have a greater purpose, so I have work to be done.

Whether mundane or magickal, these are my tasks.

Take out the six strips of yellow paper and a pen. Write down the six most important tasks that you need to complete as soon as possible, one task on each piece of paper.

Sort the tasks in order of their importance with the most urgent on the top and then read them out loud, one by one.  After you read each task, fold the paper and slip it under one of the unlit tea light candles, starting at the top of the plaque and moving in a clockwise motion.

Hold both your hands, palms down, over the plaque, and say:

Great Goddess in the form of bee,

Your presence I carry within me.

Constant hum of work to be done,

My tasks, I have finally begun.

Pick up the figure of the bee and hold it forth, and repeat:

Honey Bee take flight,

Let me have the sight,

The strength and the will,

To make the buzzing still.

Place the figure of the bee in the middle of the plaque, on top of the flower picture/painting. Turn the bee figure, so it is facing the top side of the plaque, the location of which you placed your most urgent and important task.

Light the stick of clover incense and wave it over each of the unlit tea light candles, repeating:

Honey Bee to green clover,

Let this task soon be over.

Dip your finger into the small bowl of honey and rub a small amount of the honey onto your lips, then say:

Honey brings the truth to light,

My honeyed speech is true and right.

I vow to finish my tasks at hand,

As I will it, so is it planned.

Take one of the biscuits and use the spoon to drop some honey between the two pieces and then combine the pieces together again. Hold it in front of you and dedicate the offering to the God and Goddess. Break the whole biscuit in half and drop both halves into the offering bowl.

Hold the chalice of mead aloft and dedicate the libations to the God and Goddess. Pour a generous amount into the offering bowl.

Partake of a piece or two of biscuit (adding honey, if you like) and drink from the chalice of mead.

Take the remaining biscuits and break them apart, placing the pieces into the zip lock baggie.

Thank the God and Goddess and bid them farewell. Thank the Elemental guardian winds, and close their portals behind them by drawing the hexagon in the air widdershins with your wand. Open the magick circle. This rite is complete.


After the Rite Instructions

Toss the offering bowl contents outdoors for nature’s creatures to enjoy.

The bee figure should be facing (pointing) to the task that you are currently working on. Light the tea light candle each evening for a few minutes to remind you that you have work to be done.

When you complete the first task (the most urgent one), turn the bee figure clockwise to the next task to be done. Each time you complete one of the tasks, take a handful of the crushed biscuits and toss it outside for the birds to enjoy.

Continue the pattern until all tasks are complete. Consider holding another rite when all tasks are complete to thank the Goddess (in her bee form) for her aid.

Note: Picture seems to show the hexagon as white, but it is, in fact, a light shade of yellow.

In many Wiccan traditions, as well as a few other Pagan faith groups, there is something called ‘the Great Work’.  This term is probably stolen from the Masons and, in Pagan venues, refers to what might be termed a calling, though that is most often used when referring to some kind of spiritual dedication.  Traditionally, an initiate chooses what will become his or her Great Work sometime during their time at Second Degree (if following the Gardnarian format).  Other traditions might not follow that form but still retain something like the idea of the Great Work.  Whatever it may be called, finding your Great Work is an extremely important event.

The traditions and conditions for a Great Work might vary but there are some fairly consistent elements to it.  Probably the most important one is the fact that it often will dominate the person’s life; they’ll do almost anything to continue their Great Work because it will mean so much to them.  Nearly every important accomplishment has been the result of such dedicated persistence.

Usually, when a person is told they should find a Great Work, they tend to fumble around looking for something ‘important’ they think they can do, something that may be somewhat a stretch but for which they currently have the confidence and ability they’ll need to carry it out.  This view is what I call the project approach.  The person tries to find something that fits their abilities and hopes they’ll come up with something really nifty and for which they will receive acclaim when completed.  While this is certainly a good thing in many ways, it isn’t what the Great Work means or is intended for.

To understand what a Great Work is, one must understand why it’s an important part of an initiate’s development.  It is an area of interest that fascinates and attracts them to the exclusion of all others.  In doing so, the initiate is able to build a more complete sense of self and a broader relationship with the world around them.  The purpose of finding a Great Work is not in what the initiate accomplishes, but what they become.  The act of dedicating one’s self to a higher purpose is a way of giving, an act of creating.  And, ultimately, all acts of creation are spiritual acts.  In this respect, the Great Work is a pathway.

A Great Work is something like a great love affair.  It is meaningful beyond words and seems so important for the person they’ll sometimes forget to eat or sleep or otherwise attend to their mortal needs while engaged in it.  And when they aren’t so engaged, part of their mind will still be contemplating some piece of it.  They’ll sacrifice for it and consider their sacrifice a good trade.  But dedication and fascination can lead to obsession and part of the work of a Great Work is learning how to avoid some of the more negative aspects.  Learning to do so will further benefit the person in the rest of their endeavors.

Many traditions require an initiate to find their Great Work before they are allowed to go on to their next degree.  The wisdom of making it a requirement may be up for debate but it can’t be argued that it does prove to be of great benefit to have found your Great Work before you focus on the responsibilities and pressures of living with more complex magical awareness and spiritual discovery.

Faced with the task of finding their Great Work, some will grab at anything that seems handy.  They’ll claim interest in whatever opportunity that comes along first, whether they actually know anything about it or not.  This results, of course, in a flashy start that loses its luster almost from the start.  They might make a show of ‘dedicating’ themselves to such-and-such cause or course of learning but their interest will begin to fade as soon as the first obstacle or difficulty shows up.  Soon, they’ll drift away from all actual effort and hide their feelings of guilt with various masks to keep from admitting their mistake.  If the initiate is lucky enough to have some kind of monitor, that person should provide a confident but realistic approach when discussing the problem with the initiate.  It serves no good to ignore the problem.  It is, in fact, neither uncommon nor shameful.  It is only a mistake.  Everyone makes mistakes.

Finding your own, personal Great Work is often an exercise in seeing the obvious.  Though a true Great Work will always make the person stretch and grow, it nearly always is closely associated with that person’s talents and interests that have been their constant companion for years.  It might be a cliché, but it has been the consistent advice of successful people for ages: do what you love and let it carry you beyond your dreams.

Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss,” and did exactly that for himself by showing the world how all the great philosophies and myths affirmed the power and joy of that declaration.  If you look at the truly wondrous accomplishments of people who have added to the human experience, you will find they did so by doing what they loved.  In fact, no other formula works as well.  Unless you love your work, you won’t be capable of sustaining an interest or an energy level sufficient to go beyond the barriers that will inevitably come along.

Some people think that playing to their strengths is ‘cheating’ when in fact it’s the best way to work your way into what will become your Great Work.  Your talents and interests have been developed because of what you find rewarding and pleasurable.  You only need to find a way of employing your skills and interests in a way that will sustain you and give you reason to venture to new heights.

It’s all too easy to look at your personal interests and talents and say they aren’t something somebody would want to employ you for.  And you may be right but a Great Work doesn’t always have to be a source of income.  However, perhaps with a little more education or experience, you might be able to use your skills in an area that right now seems out of reach.  Never be afraid to make a new beginning; in all likelihood, you’ll make several in your lifetime.  And don’t settle for work that depresses you.  Life is not supposed to make you unhappy all the time any more than it’s supposed to make you happy all the time.  But if you spend your time and energy in something that you truly love, something that gives you a sense of worth, you’ll be happier than you would be doing anything else.  Don’t measure your Great Work by how much money it might bring you.  If it inspires you, the money won’t be important.

Also, a Great Work doesn’t always have to be a vocation.  Personally, I have a job as a Dispensing Optician.  Both of my parents were Dispensing Opticians and I grew up swearing I’d never be one.  However, after leaving the Navy in ’68, I went to work ‘temporarily’ with them to keep a paycheck coming in and found to my surprise that I truly loved the work.  But, as happy as I have been in my career, I’ve found another activity that gives me even more pleasure.  I’m doing it right now: I’m writing.  I’ve been learning this skill for nearly thirty years and I’m getting good enough at it that others are encouraging me to continue.  I still need to stretch more; getting published for larger works requires energies I’ve yet to master.  But I’ve had some success in the past and expect I’ll have more in the future.  My biggest problem is that I enjoy expressing myself in words so much that I leave very little time for finding publishers.  Plus, I still find the process of submitting my work somehow distasteful.  But I’ll grow, rest assured, because this is my Great Work.  This is what I’ll be doing when they’ve hooked me up to beeping machines and ten miles of plastic tubing.  The only disappointment will be I’ll probably not finish the piece I’m working on when I finally gasp my last (I hope I’ll have a good agent by then).

A Great Work is like that; it carries you to places unknown and then a little further.  It is the altar upon which you willingly sacrifice yourself.  It is a constant source of wonder and pleasure, even the painful parts.  So I encourage you to find yours.  Remember that it will be something that both inspires and consumes you.  It will limit what you can do in other parts of your life because you will be busy doing your Great Work.  In all likelihood, though, you won’t notice because you’ll be so caught up in your work.  This, however, is one of the negative aspects of a Great Work.  If you read the biographies of some very famous people who have almost singlehandedly changed the world, you’ll read of the overwhelming dedication they brought to their work.  But you will also find in many cases that they became almost like hermits; they cut themselves off from the world to an unhealthy extent in many cases.

Two very good examples of this in American history are Edison and Tesla.  They were contemporaries and their work often was in the same areas.  Such common interests could have made them fast friends and one can only wonder what great things could have been created by these two if they had joined forces.  But history says they instead fought one another in many ways.  Edison had a reputation for being a grouch, unable to make or keep friends, and Tesla came to be known as man who often broke into wild ravings.  They never cooperated on anything and they both died with hardly anyone around who loved them or whom they loved.  Though their work benefitted the world, they in many ways paid a sad personal price for it.

Hopefully, this won’t be the case for you.  As in all activities, balance is the key.  A Great Work is largely a concentration on the Earth altar, but to be truly whole, to experience the wonder and magic that is your birthright, you must attend to the other altars in your temple of life.

Dancing in the Flames

This is the third in my Elementals Perspectives series for PaganPages.  As you might guess, this one is all about the Fire Element.

When I was about ten years old, I nearly burned down a forest; I played with matches.  If it weren’t for the vigilance of my parents, I probably would have been the cause of enormous damages and maybe even loss of life.  It has been the cause of many nightmares for me over the years and it’s been difficult to forgive myself for my childish stupidity.  The only good thing that has come out of it is now I respect the Fire Element in the world around me to a degree that is probably a notch or two higher than many people.

As magic workers understand, Fire represents power, energy, consumption, change, transformation, and all the other ways we label those concepts.  Fire has to be a part of our magic or nothing happens.  But, as I learned most profoundly in my childhood, Fire must be handled with care and caution.  When you play with Fire, it just might reach out and bite you.

Anthropologists often mention the discovery of fire as being a major step in the development of human history and this would certainly be difficult to dispute.  Purposely making fire (and I am describing ‘fire’ in this case as meaning an open flame that is kept alive through our feeding it fuel) created a whole new world for ancient humans and it might be argued that fire-making separated us from the rest of the animal kingdom.  Other than using sticks and rocks for tools, it is perhaps the most significant technology ever incorporated into our world.  Our modern understanding of physics and all the other so-called ‘hard sciences’ is due to our use and study of fire.  Our technology uses fire and its derivatives in over 90% of everything we take for granted in the world around us.  Even the previous two Elements I’ve discussed in the last months (Earth and Water) would not exist if it weren’t for Fire.

The biggest fire you’ve ever seen is the one that hangs over us in the sky every day.  It (the sun) is directly responsible for maintaining life on this planet.  And the atoms that make up you, me, and everything we can touch, see, smell, taste, and feel were made in the fiery depths of stars like our own Sol.  If we can direct Fire properly, we can perform some pretty amazing magic.  Of course, ‘properly’ is a relative term.  But to be able to have any ability to manipulate Fire, to have some control of ENERGY, we need to know something about it.

Fortunately, this is where science and magic come together very nicely.  For instance, we hear a lot about energy in the news lately and since most news media guys don’t know much physics, the word, ‘energy’ is bandied about as if all energies were the same.  Well, guess what… they are.  Energy is energy is energy.  The main difference between thermal energy and, say electrical energy is the way we measure it.  Don’t believe that?  Okay, try this:  thermal energy is measured in basically two ways: degrees and calories.  There are formulas that can convert one to the other as long as you know a few other measurements (calories measure how much the degrees change things).  Now calories can also be converted to horsepower.  That too measures how much change is made in overcoming inertia.  Go to your local hardware store and ask for an electric motor and the salesperson will ask you what horsepower you want.  That’s basically how they’re rated.

The way we measure energy depends on what changes we’re interested in.  Magic is also interested in changes.  Of course, magic is based on the belief that everything is connected to everything else.  Modern physics has finally come to that conclusion as well, thank the gods.  When magic users ‘raises energy,’ we don’t necessarily make a big thing about what type of energy we’re raising because we believe there’s always some way to convert the energy we collect together into the type of energy necessary to get the job done at the other end of our spell.  Please note that I’ve said we collect the energy.  This is actually a more correct way of phrasing it.  Mostly, when we get to the part where we’re supposed to ‘raise energy,’ what we do is insert some form of activity (usually through our own physical efforts, but not always) that we’ve collected together in one place and one time.  Now comes the tricky part: converting that energy into the form that will make the changes we want.

Actually, this is only a small problem, a very small problem.  Remember how thermal energy was converted to electrical energy?  Basically, it wasn’t changed; it was only put through some things that made us measure it differently and, viola, it was that form of energy.  What happened in between is we used some physical device that allows us to measure energy in one way going in and another way going out.  Ask a physicist how that happens and he might tell you about sub-atomic particles and dimensional exchanges, etc.  That’s fancy physics talk about stuff that we don’t know very much about how and a lot more about what happens.  But don’t worry; we aren’t demanding you become the next Einstein just to cast a spell.  It’s all magic; having a degree in physics doesn’t make it anything less than magic.

Spell crafting depends mostly on our Will.  That is, it depends on our ability to formulate and hold a clear goal in mind and heart until that goal is reached.  As I said before, physics and magic have come together nicely and this particular point is where there is close agreement.  Quantum mechanics says that nothing in the universe actually happens until we measure it.  Simple observation counts as measurement.  With every observation comes an observer and that observer has expectations and a certain amount of Will.  It isn’t hard to connect the dots and realize that any energy we direct with a strong enough Will ends up doing pretty much what we expect it to do.  All schools of magic train the student to focus their Will and the rest is easy (well, okay, easier).

Our spells and rituals are the devices we use to collect and convert the energy all around us.  Essentially, energy is change.  So any change is some form of energy that we can use if we can create the correct spell to convert it to the form that accomplishes our goal.

But hold on a minute.  Let’s go back to me and my stupid matches, or rather, my matches and stupid me.  My mistake was not that I didn’t understand that matches made fire and fire burned things.  My mistake was that I didn’t understand that at some point, I would be unable to control the fire.  My young/dumb self didn’t respect the fact that energy was all around me and it could overwhelm me if I didn’t put some safety features into the way I handled it.

Energy is all around us… everywhere and all the time.  A great deal of it is in the form we call matter.  Matter is only one way energy hides.  But as soon as you spark the right change (remember that all energy is measured by the changes it makes), the matter starts to convert into some other form of energy.  In the case of my younger self, the wood around me began to convert mostly to heat and light… in other words, it began to burn.  Given the right ‘spark,’ any bit of matter can be coaxed to convert itself to some other form of energy.

The Fire Element requires us to exercise considerable caution.  Otherwise, we can burn the forest down around us.  Learning to use this Element isn’t just a matter of knowing how to raise energy.  It’s also about learning how to handle the energy we collect and convert.  All too often, students of magic concentrate on producing the right energy but forget to put safeguards in place.  I guarantee this will lead to big problems.

And that is why you are supposed to cast a circle.  Circle casting is mostly a mental thing for most spells.  And anything that deals with the mental aspects of the universe is relegated to the Air Element, which will be the subject of the next article in this series.  Between now and then, think long and hard about various ways of safeguarding your energy raising.  It well might keep you from getting burned.

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