February, 2010

Well Met and Welcome to PaganPages

February, 2010

In This Month’s Issue:

HP-Regan1

High Priestess Regan

Faerie-Archive-CD-Cover1

artist Erin Martinez

raven1

The Facts on Carnelian

Carnelian1


The continuation of our Newest Column on the Magick of Colors: Featuring Burgandy

As always we are constantly looking for new talent.  If you are interested in submitting some of your work send it to admin@paganpages.org

Don’t forget to check out our Etsy shop at:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/paganpagesorg

Monthly Horoscope

aquarius

Aquarius 2010 Horoscope (20 Jan – 18 February)

Aquarians you will see exciting trends not only in finance but within your work as well, but hold off on any new ventures until after the end of May 2010. Your Cognitive capabilities will be on the rise through the month of May. Your family life will be more fulfilling now than ever. So sit back and relax as good things are on their way.

By: CelticMoon

Monthly Prayer

A new beginning awaits thee
A new beginning awaits me.
A future still unseen.
Although the past still beckons me to remember,
the time to forget is still in my favor.
The present is weighed down with my labor.
With powers from with in, with out and all around me,
I seek to find the happiness long forgotten.
And may it find me
Of this I ask and I plead,
all the powers that be.
Give me happiness, love and contentment.
So Mote It Be
Written By, Patty Miller
AKA: Darkwater

Meandering Through the Past

February, 2010

Imbolc

This month we get to celebrate Imbolc on February 1st. It is and has been since ancient times one of the major Sabbats to celebrate the impending return of Spring. It also could be considered in those ancient times, a celebration of the New Year. For pagans with a Celtic lean, it was a time to celebrate Brigit which also means “bride”. Though now she is considered a Christian Saint, she began as a Celtic Goddess, meaning “Light-Bringer.”

The bringing of Light, the return of Spring, the return of flowing this after the thaw. The flow of water, of milk from mother giving birth, it is a celebration of what is coming, as opposed to what has happened. Spring is the time for rebirth and is celebrated with fire, which in many themes of celebration represents fire.

Imbolc back in the day, was an important time, for the beginning of February meant you were in the heart of winter, though the days were beginning to stay brighter longer. Soon you could look forward to planting and tilling the soil. Warmer days and warmer nights, and the end of dark times. Bon fires were erected and lit and danced around for the knowledge that soon, crops could be planted and the cold would retreat to further lands.

Also, way back during those ancient times, The Catholic Church adopted the Imbolc day of celebration and changed it for their members to a celebration on February second called Candlemas. It was dedicated to Bridgit the Saint and celebrated with processions of flames.

There were other interesting ways the day/night was celebrated that were used back in ancient years. Many writers believed her name meant “fiery arrow” which was incorrect, but supported the smith craft or one who returned the fire, creativity and growth of the land. It was also believed that Brigit had two sacred oxen each with a red ear which was common back in the day of the Celts. Legend tells that her mother would bathe her in milk where as she couldn’t eat anything else, she was fed the milk of these oxen. Later, Brigit performed a miracle by increasing the flow of milk for her peoples so they would not starve.

The most important thing to remember, is Brigit was associated with fire, regeneration, the return of life basically. Here are ways to celebrate her either as the Celtic Mother Goddess, or the Christian Saint.

The time for purification! Clean your house, little areas of clutter that have
taken residence in the recesses of your home…

If you still have a tree in your home, this is the time
to burn it…

Create your own Brigit’s crosses and put them inside your home,
the kitchen is a great places where her presence will bless your food…

Make cakes and sweets to place outside your door with a glass
of  milk for Brigit and her cows as they walk past your door.

Leave a silk ribbon on your door for Brigit to bless as she walks by, then
use it for healing purposes.

You can also meditate on things you’d like to leave in the past be it old habits,
old “things”, ways of thinking or doing things that are best left in the past for growth.

References:
http://www.chalicecentre.net/imbolc.htm
http://www.worldspirituality.org/imbolc.html
Celtic Magic by D.J. Conway

Across the Great Divide

February, 2010

divide

Do You See What I See: Spirit Photography

Last month we dealt with capturing audio evidence so this time around it seemed logical to continue by exploring spirit photography.  I was honored to chat with Paul Michael Kane in preparation of this article.  Paul is a professional photographer and has experience in paranormal investigations.  During an enjoyable and humorous chat many topics were discussed.

Many of us have taken a picture from time to time that had strange exposures, lighting effects, or unknown properties and stood there in awe wondering what it was.  Paul just about made me fall out of my chair in laughter over what he calls “chimping”.  This is when someone takes a random picture while out with friends or when part of an actual ghost hunt and stands there mimicking a chimpanzee jumping up and down shouting “OOOH!!  OOH!! Lookie what I got!!” because they believe that bright splotch on the tiny LCD screen is a ghost, when in fact it’s nothing more than a bug or other explainable source.

Spirit photography is the practice of finding images of paranormal anomalies or spirits on film and is also referred to as psychic photography.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be night time to get a ghost picture as many photographs of ghostly anomalies have been taken during broad daylight at various, seemingly innocent locations, proving yet again that ghosts or spirits are around during the day just as much as they are at night.

Light exists within the universe in a spectrum consisting of infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light.  Without getting too technical, humans experience the physical world through the visible spectrum but parallel to this are infrared and ultraviolet.  Infrared, or “night vision”, is electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths greater than visible light and shorter than microwaves; ultraviolet consists of electromagnetic waves with frequencies higher than those that humans identify as the color violet.  It is within the boundaries of these wavelengths that spirits make there presence known when they cross over, however briefly, into the visible spectrum and our awaiting eyes.

Just as with EVP, spirit photography has been around since the camera was invented with photographers using many types of film and cameras.  For example, Semyon Kirlian discovered in 1939 that when an organic or nonliving object is placed upon a photographic plate and subjected to a high electric current, a glowing “aura” forms around the object and is imprinted on the film.  It is more accurate to say that rather than revealing a natural aura, this process produces such.  Some effects thought to be paranormal disappeared under more stringent controls, leaving research of Kirlian photography at a dead-end.  However, fluctuations in the magnetic fields surrounding the subjects can be detected in this way and Kirlian photography has recently come into use as a medical diagnostic device.  It also has a popular market at psychic fairs as a sort of high-tech, more expansive version of the mood ring.

The use of digital cameras has become the rage in recent years, in part due to falling prices, ease of use, and the ability to view results immediately on location.  Many ghost hunters take hundreds of digital photos at random, using nothing else during their investigation but the camera, and then present the images as absolute proof of the paranormal and by doing so make a sham out of the field.

The issues researchers had with digital cameras have dramatically improved in recent years.  The problem was with older models and how they operated in low-light conditions.  Truth be told, even well-lit day conditions were often grainy, pixilated, and with questionable results.  Referred to as the “orb factor”, many ghost hunters would take shot after shot of locations and point to the numerous orbs in the resulting photographs and present it as proof of spiritual activity.  These were simply a result of the camera’s inability to interpret data correctly, light reflecting off of insects and dust, and areas of the file where the pixels failed to fill in completely leaving blank areas or misinterpreted and warped data.  Newer models have all but removed this incompatibility.

Another issue was that a digital image’s authenticity would come into question and often pictures were doctored or manipulated in such a way to support a group’s claim.  To be able to analyze a photo and determine its legitimacy, two things have been needed- a print of the photo and its negative.  It has been argued that a digital camera could not provide this and since electronic images could be easily altered, it was impossible to prove they were authentic.  To begin with, photographs have been manipulated and staged since the camera was first in use.  Manipulation occurred within the camera itself and afterwards during the development process, thus tainting the almighty film negative.  Technology has changed and now it is not only possible to authenticate digital images but, depending on the camera, it can be used as the primary photographic instrument in an investigation.

It is now within the financial means of investigators to purchase high-quality point-and-shoot digital cameras that not only offer clean and crisp images that do not have the problems with false orbs but some models also offer night-shot modes.  These next generation cameras also offer a way to authenticate the images that is as trustworthy as a negative.  One option of a higher-quality camera is access to what are called Raw Data or Meta Data files. These files are uncompressed and unprocessed and an anomalous image that is examined using this option can actually be authenticated with often more detail than in a photographic negative.  In addition, the newer cameras also offer access to the information about the images that are photographed.  This data is embedded into the image once it is taken containing everything about the camera that took the image including camera settings, date and time the image was taken, if flash was used, the ISO settings, f-stop and aperture settings, and more.  If anyone attempts to manipulate the image, the changes are marked as well.  In this way, a person trying to analyze a digital image will be able to see if it has been manipulated or not.  If anyone attempts to alter the data, it will destroy the image.  In this way, it becomes a “digital negative” of every picture that is taken.

Video cameras are another important instrument for any investigation.  Unlike still cameras, they provide constant visual and audio surveillance for review and observation.

Due to most investigations being conducted in absolute darkness, video cameras equipped with infrared capability are a necessity due to normal cameras needing a light source bright enough to capture.  Many of today’s handheld digital camcorders can be fitted with an optional infrared module for night vision recording and are fairly cheap via aftermarket outlets.

With video any phenomena occurring can be documented in its entirety.  This will show the length of time the phenomena occurs, what is happening, the conditions surrounding the phenomena, and possibly even the cause of the phenomena; also widely used are infrared wireless security cameras for the unattended stationary recording of various locations within an investigation area.  Paired with a 4 to 8 channel Digital Video Recorder system this is a must have for any investigation covering a large area.

When working with video it’s best to set your camera up on a tripod during recording to keep the image or video steady.  Don’t drag the camera around trying to get something on film- let the spirits come to it.  Set the camera up somewhere and just let it run, then view the footage later on.  Set your camera to manual focus and keep it focused on something nearby.  If it’s on auto focus and something unusual comes into view it will spend a lot of wasted time trying to focus in on it, and it usually won’t be able to in time, so you won’t see what really went by.

Try using external infrared lights to increase the viewing range.  When using a night vision camera, the laser dot will appear as a white glowing point, so don’t confuse it for something it’s not.  These can be fitted to a digital photo camera as well so there will be less need for flashes during an investigation.  There are Do It Yourself kits but you’re best option is to have a professional install it.

The holy grail of paranormal research equipment is the thermal imaging scanner.  This device is a fusion of the digital video/still camera and the infrared thermometer that allows users to see and record on video what an IR thermometer detects.  A deviation of plus or minus 10 degrees is significant for investigation purposes.  Should there be a cold spot or hot spot, this infrared technology makes it possible to see the shape and size of the temperature change.  These remain perhaps the most expensive items to date costing anywhere from $1500 to $10,000- second only to the new full-spectrum cameras which can run up to $30,000!

The results of this device are often glorified by groups like TAPS and GHI, but for every paranormal incident that the device shows, there are several that TAPS is able to debunk because of it.

A recent addition to the camera class is the full-spectrum model.  Not only can these highly-expensive cameras capture everything in the visible spectrum, but simultaneously in the ultraviolet and infrared as well; the resulting images are black & white with some color hues.

So what exactly should you look for in a digital camera to do ghost hunting with?  Make sure it has a good flash and the ISO settings can range from 100 to 1600.  By using cameras that range from 8 to 13 megapixels and taking advantage of all of the options available to us, we can actually gather significant evidence with our digital camera that is comparable to that of a 35 mm camera.  The Nikon P6000 is a great camera for ghost hunting purposes.

If the camera has a preprogrammed night-shot setting, which is a very slow shutter speed, you may want to invest in a monopod which can cost as little as $14 and easily portable on an investigation.  With this type of setting any hand held shot will come out blurry.  Some digital cameras will not take a picture if it thinks the area is too dark as well because they require something for light to bounce off of, like a gravestone.  Also use high capacity media cards- anything from 512 MB to 1 GB will have plenty of storage space for investigations.

A major issue that needs to be dealt with in detail when working with photography is the matrixing effect.  “Matrixing” is a general term for the natural tendency of the human mind to interpret sensory input, what is perceived visually, audibly or tactilely, as something familiar or more easily understood and accepted, in effect mentally “filling in the blanks.”

d1

I was initially convinced I caught something wild when I took this photo.  It turned out to be the camera’s wrist strap.

d2

In this example several of the rain drops looked like faces to me.

So, there you are, on location chimping away at your camera screen and exciting your fellow investigators because something looks paranormal on the LCD but later when the photo is analyzed in larger detail it turns out to be the reflection of a butterfly’s wings or the way the shadows of trees merged together to look like a figure standing in the field.  Of the hundred of pictures that are taken maybe 1 or 2 percent actually produce worthwhile results.  Is this to say that cameras are a waste of time?  No.  When something of merit is discovered it is usually of great importance to paranormal research.  Just be sure of what you have before releasing your findings.

A few groups take a conventional camera and shoot away in the hope that something will appear on the processed film.  From time to time distortions and anomalies result during development.  It should be noted that all such images are well-known an understood effects of photography and of cameras.  They happen every day and have nothing to do with paranormal phenomena.  Sometimes what may seem like a ghost or other paranormal occurrence in a photograph is the result of matrixing or physical factors within the camera itself.

orb

We must also discuss the infamous “orb factor” in more detail.  The parapsychological meaning of substantiated orbs are floating circular balls of light with color or brightness seen in areas of high paranormal activity and are believed to contain the soul, personality, and emotions of a deceased person or animal. These may be visible to the naked eye or invisible until caught on film. They may also have streaking tails of ectoplasm or glowing energy; most orbs are widely debunked by paranormal researchers as evidence of paranormal activity.  True orbs produce their own inner light, so would it not seem likely that a true orb will be seen with the naked eye before being caught on camera?  After all, a light bulb doesn’t just show itself when a picture of it is taken.  The example above left of four ‘orbs’ surrounding a grave is particularly interesting.  While I know it’s most likely dust, the formation around the marker- as if standing guard- was very peculiar.

orb2

orb3

The two examples above show how some orbs are captured.  The example on the top does seem like it’s glowing of its own accord but keep in mind that the closer it is to the flash, the brighter it will be.  The example on the bottom is leaving a tail as it moves upward.  Dust will generally move very slowly and in an erratic pattern due to wind factors so the cause of this photo is open for interpretation.

There are several examples that Paul suggested as the cause of the majority orbs.  The infrared lights from video cameras or teammates camcorders could be reflecting in.  I once was analyzing some video footage of pulsating lights and it turned out that it was the handheld Mini DV of an investigator and a stationary camera’s IR modules reflecting into each other thus causing the phenomenon.

There is a term within professional photography known as Bokeh (bo-kah), meaning “out of focus”.  Many mists are the result of a portion of the lens being out of focus or the operator’s finger is over the lens causing condensation.  Also keep your fingers away from the flash and remove the wrist strap.

Sensor dust occurs in DSLR cameras when metal shavings from the detachable lenses stick to the sensor inputs of the camera and cause unwanted effects.  Sometimes there can also be issues with the shutter sync.

With great jealousy I listened to stories from Paul when he had an opportunity to document a pictorial of a paranormal investigation into Eastern State Penitentiary.  Over the course of the event, and during other investigations, he has gathered some great advice for investigators when documenting photographic evidence of the paranormal.

Pull out that camera from time to time and take a few shots.  Don’t just take a picture in front of you but also over your shoulder while walking.  While looking in one direction, quickly snap a photo in the opposite direction.  This method of capturing something on film is usually quite effective.  Trust your feelings.  If you feel something or someone else does, take a picture.  If you think you saw something, take a picture.

Take more than one consecutive picture.  Rather than taking a quick shot of a stairwell and moving on to the next room, take two or three quick shots keeping the camera in the same position.  Most of your typical point-and-shoot models have a sport or burst mode that will ratchet off three to five frames at once.  In this way, if you caught something you can have before-and-after shots to help track its movement.

Go with your instincts, but if you’ve captured something try to debunk it by recreating it.  Have someone stand in the same position to see if it was just a reflection or light effect as often it’s just our imagination impacting our perception of events.  Try to remove as much human element from your photographs as you can.  Be aware of reflective objects in the room; with dust and debris the closer it is to the flash the brighter it will be in the picture.  Also be aware of where other team members are and what they are doing.  If they are in the hallway taking a picture and you simultaneously take one in a connecting room the flashes will interfere with each other.  Control light sources as much as possible and try putting the camera down regularly and set the timer.

Many common settings on the camera can also improve your results.  Read the manual that came with your model thoroughly and know how to adjust the settings.  Turn off red eye reduction, set the camera for aperture priority, and most importantly turn off the auto image preview.  This feature slows down your picture taking because many cameras do not reset for another shot if the screen is active.  This also removes any possibility of chimping (I love this term) and if you’re too busy staring at the screen all night you’ll miss something.  Leave the in-depth review of your pictures for the analysis phase.

With photos you’ll want to import them into a computer and view them on a large screen.  Just like with EVP, you’ll want to work with copies only and leave the originals safely stored away.  You can also zoom in and out of the image to help clarify objects.  Be aware of the matrixing effect and go through each one to look for differences in lighting, shades, and shadows consistent with a vortex or apparition.  Using the tools available in programs like Photoshop, increase levels and clear up the image as best you can by adjusting for light, contrast, and color balance.  The most important thing is to differentiate between reflections and objects that are emitting their own light.  Look at how lights and shadows are affected by the objects in question and their positions three dimensionally.   Light bends around objects; it does not hover in mid air.

plasma1

plasma2

Two of my most treasured photographs (above) were taken at Goodrich Cemetery where a lone marker was hidden in a back alcove; these were taken in succession mere seconds apart. This is an example of a vortex, known in environmental science as plasma lights.  There is no satisfactory explanation as to their origin.

So there you have it, a brief but concise introduction to spirit photography.  As with many aspects of ghost hunting, try different techniques and experiments.  Remember to try and recreate or debunk any anomalies you encounter and strive toward truth rather than the exciting.  I hope Across the Great Divide continues to be informative and enjoyable for you and your comments are well-received and always appreciated.  As always, and until next time, keep those cameras rolling and always exploring the great unknown.

For more information on the photography of Paul Michael Kane and his pictorial book about Eastern State Penitentiary, please visit his website at www.paulmichaelkane.com

New to the Craft

February, 2010

Merry Meet and Welcome to the “New to Witchcraft” column here at Pagan Pages.  My name is Twilight Raptor and I am new to this magazine, but not so new to the craft.  It is my goal to cover many various aspects of the craft in the column from a starting point and one of progression from then on.  Since reading is always an important part of any study, much of the information I will provide you with in future columns will of course be documented for further research on your part.  Any information that comes from an outside source will be documented through a footnote as well as a biographical reference at the end.  With no further adieu, I think it is time we get moving on our journey!

Each of us comes upon the craft at various points in our lives and it is up to us to decide just what this journey is going to entail.  Using me as an example, I felt lost when I was a young man and despite the fact that I was raised in a predominately Christian family, the need for something more was becoming increasingly more apparent.  At the age of 16 years old I began my journey into the studies of the Craft not quite knowing exactly what to expect.  In all truth, it has taken years of reading to finally be able to differentiate between the Craft and the various aspects of the Wiccan Traditions.  For those first coming across the Craft this can be at best daunting.  A new student will encounter not only the decision of whether to be solitary, but which tradition to follow as well.  It is important to understand that there is no right and wrong in Wicca.  There is only the path that you choose; the path that suits you best and above all, that you are most comfortable with.  Please don’t be confused with that which is right and wrong both morally and ethically.  Those rules still apply!

In deciding the way to best pursue the success of this column as a new writer, the most logical decision was to start at ground zero and build upon that.  So…hang on to your broomsticks and get ready for a ride!  The topic that we will be discussing next month is going to one that I consider to be vital to any person’s success within the craft: grounding your energies.  This practice is commonly done both before and after magickal workings and rituals.  We will spend some time going into detail about this and the various ways that such things can be achieved.  I realize that many of you may already be familiar with this.  If so, consider it a review as perhaps there is a new technique you may pick up!  For those who are new to this concept, we will start nice and slow to make sure that you get this process thoroughly ingrained into your regular routine.  I look forward to spending time with each of you!

If you have questions of me, I can be reached through Pagan Pages or http://myspace.com/twilightraptor.

Bright Blessings to you all and merry wishes to a happy Imbolc!

Tarot Talk

February, 2010

The High Priestess (2)

High-Priestess


“To know that you know, and to know that you don’t know – that is the real wisdom.” ~Confucius

Image Description:

The Rider-Waite deck portrays a High Priestess seated on a throne between two pillars, which displays the letters ‘B’ and ‘J’. The crown of Isis rests upon her head, and the waxing crescent moon lies beneath her feet. The symbol of an equal sided cross is displayed on her robes.  In her arms is a scroll containing the word ‘Tora’.

Symbols:

Crown of Isis: Knowledge, understanding

Pillars: Balance

Letters B and J: (Hebrew symbols for the entrance to the temple of Solomon) Holy place

Waxing Crescent Moon: Women’s mysteries, secrecy

Equal Armed Cross: The four elements — water, air, fire, earth

Tora: Hebrew word for ‘teaching’

Key Words:

Non-action, Unconscious Awareness, Wisdom, Mystery, Hidden Knowledge

Fool’s Journey:

The Fool next encounters a wise and mysterious woman. Majestically seated upon a throne between two pillars, her quintessential presence portrays her sense of  hidden knowledge and unconscious awareness. She seems to be the opposite of the Magician, exchanging creative masculine action for feminine non-action and wisdom. She teaches the Fool the meaning of the tools the Magician has given him, and helps him determine how he can best use them.  Although the Fool suspects that the High Priestess has more secrets she could reveal, for now he has the knowledge needed to continue his journey.

Lesson:

To learn how to use our intuition, and to find the inner wisdom and hidden knowledge in each of us.

Meaning:

As card number two, the High Priestess represents the feminine powers of the unconscious mind. She symbolizes the female passive principle, and the instinctual knowledge and intuition that each of us possesses. Many Tarot readers see the High Priestess as being the opposite counterpart of the Magician; both active and passive energies are required to achieve balance.

In readings, the High Priestess might ask us to look beneath the surface for hidden knowledge. Sometimes we overlook our innermost feelings and the messages of our internal voice, thereby missing valuable counsel in the process. Reflection, meditation, and communion with our Higher-Selves is necessary to illuminate the answers we seek.

The High Priestess can also represent a time of waiting and allowing. It is not always necessary to act to achieve our goals. Sometimes our purpose can be realized through a stillness which allows our aspirations to bloom within the fullness of time.

February Correspondences

February, 2010

Legends and Lore for February

February, the second month of the current Gregorian calendar and the third month of Winter’s rule, derives its name from Februa, the name of a Roman purification festival held on the fifteenth day of February in ancient times. The traditional birthstone amulet of February is the amethyst; and the primrose and the violet are the month’s traditional flowers.
February is shared by the astrological signs of Aquarius the Water-Bearer and Pisces the Two Fishes, and is sacred to the following pagan deities: Aradia, Brigid, Juno Februa, and the Wiccan Goddess in Her aspect as the Maiden. During the month of February, the Great Solar Wheel of the year is turned to Candlemas, one of the four Great Sabbats celebrated each year by Wiccans and modern Witches throughout the world.

February Moon:

Quickening Moon

Gemstones:

Rose quartz, amethyst, jaspe

Trees:

Rowan, Myrtle

Gods:

Aphrodite, Juno, Mar, Brighid

Herbs:

Hyssop, myrrh, sage

Element:

Fire

The Witch’s Cupboard

February, 2010

Sage

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is also known as Healer of all Ills, Garden Sage, Red Sage and Sawge.  It was a perennial shrub with soft, finely-toothed leaves that have many different uses.    It was first discovered to grow in Mediterranean areas because it likes to grow in the full sun.   It has traveled all over since then and can be found all over the world.  There are 500 different varieties of Sage now.  Sage is used in many different ways and this article will explore some of those ways.

Sage was considered to be sacred to the Romans.  They would offer the plant wine and then harvest it without any tools.   The Greeks believed by eating Sage, it would improve their mind.  Hence, this is why Sage is known to help with wisdom.

Egyptian women would drink Sage juice right before being with their husbands to help with easy conception.

Sage is used spells for long life (even immortality).  It is thought by eating Sage every day, it would ensure longevity.

There is also some luck lore around Sage.  Do not plant Sage in your own garden; a stranger must be the one to plant it.  Also, it is not good luck to have a full bed of Sage – other plants must be with it.   Finally, to ward off bad luck and the evil eye, wear a small horn filled with sage.

A popular wish spell with Sage is to write it on a sage leaf and place it under your pillow.  Sleep with it under your pillow for three days.  If the wish does not come true in those three days, take the plant and bury it outside.

Sage is also used in many purification rituals, especially when doing house cleanings or to clean an aura.   The smoke from the sage is used in the area for cleansing.  For example, with an aura, it is waived into the auric field on both sides of the person.  For a house cleansing, the smoke is brought into every room in every corner.

Sage is known to have many medicinal purposes, for example, drinking sage tea with honey to help a sore throat.  It works on all the bodies – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  Rub Sage on insect bites to help heal them.    It is also used as a drying agent for the body for things like mucus congestion and night sweats.

Pregnant women should not use Sage and it is not to be used in high doses or for long periods of time.  However, for short term uses, it can be very powerful to help with many different ailments.

Remember, this is not a substitution for medical advice so always check with a medical professional to make sure working with herbs or oils are safe for you.

Keywords for Sage:
Magickal Uses/Spells:  Immortality, Longevity, Wisdom, Protection, Wishes
Deities:  Zeus, Consus
Planet:  Jupiter
Signs:  Cancer, Sagittarius, Aquarius, Pisces
Gender:  Masculine
Element:  Air
Tarot Correspondence:  The Magician

Faeries, Elves, and Other Kin

February, 2010

Imbolc and Honoring the Fae

We of the pagan persuasion will be celebrating the sabbat of Imbolc (“in the belly) on 2 February here in the Northern hemisphere.  This sabbat is also known as Oimelc (“milk of ewes”), Candlemas, St. Brigid’s Day (or Brigit, Brighid, Bride, or Brìd), Là Fhèill Brìghde (Scotland), Lá Fhéile Bríde (Ireland), G?yl Fair (Wales), Brigantia, and Lupercalia, and may be spelled Imbollgc.

For those who were unable or preferred not to perform the Twelfth Night ritual of removing their Yuletide foliage from the home to release any fae or nature spirits residing therein, as one of the four fire festivals Imbolc is an excellent time to do so.  Burning your spent evergreens in the Imbolc bonfire will release and honor the fae while simultaneously celebrating the growth of the newly reborn Sun.

Here are some ways I honor and work with the fae on Imbolc:

Plantable Paper:

Our fae friends, as the guardians of nature, will appreciate any effort you make on their behalf to keep the earth green. Paper you can plant is a project you can do that involves both recycling and growing life-sustaining greenery.

Making paper from trash is really quite easy.  You can use newspaper, junk mail, discarded printer paper, gift-wrap, etc., to create paper pulp.  Just be sure to remove any pieces of plastic (such as windows on envelopes) and staples as they are not good for the environment or your blender.

Once you have gathered the materials you will be recycling, you need to create a deckle.  The deckle is simply a frame with a screen that lets water drain away leaving the paper pulp behind.  If you don’t have two old frames sitting around gathering dust that you can use, two unadorned inexpensive wooden frames about 8”X11” are readily available at craft and home stores.  You will need two pieces of screen about an inch bigger than your frame all the way round and of the type used on windows.  You will most like find this type of screen at a home or building supply store if there are no old screen doors or windows around from which you can “harvest.”  Using small nails or a staple gun, affix one screen to the flattest side of one of your frames.  When you are ready to use the deckle, place the second frame, flattest side down, against the screened side of the first frame, trapping the screen between the frames.

You are now ready to create your pulp.  Pour a blender filled with water into a tub (such as an old kitty litter tray or a roasting pan) that is at least 4” bigger on all sides than your deckle.  Then fill your blender to the halfway point with water and hand shred the equivalent of about three sheets of paper into 1” to 2” pieces and place them in the blender.  Begin at the lowest speed and work your way up to the highest speed until all of the junk paper thoroughly disintegrates.  Do this until all your scraps are blended, but do not overfill the tub; leave at least 2” to 3” unfilled.

Hold your deckle firmly on the longer sides and slip it into the tub of pulp at a downward angle until it is fully immersed.  Swish the deckle from side to side and back and forth, agitating and evenly dispersing the pulp in the water.  Holding the deckle level with the floor, raise it out of the pulp and let the water drain.  The pulp fibers that remain in the deckle are about to become your first sheet of paper!  Practice will make the amount of pulp in the deckle more (thicker paper) or less (thinner paper).

Set the deckle on a baking sheet with sides and gently lift off the top frame.  Sprinkle the wet pulp with seeds you have selected and that will grow in your area.  Sprinkle (or place) them in the correct density for the type of seed chosen.  Now place the second screen over the pulp and seeds.  Using a sponge, gently press straight down to remove water from the paper pulp.  Wring out your sponge often.  When the second screen is sticking nicely to the pulp, turn the deckle over and sponge again, this time upon the screen attached to the deckle, until you cannot remove any more water.  Try lifting the bottom of the deckle to see if your sheet of paper sticks to the deckle.  You want it to transfer to the second screen.  If it does not, flip again and sponge some more.

Once the sheet of paper is off the deckle, you can remove even more water from it by placing it between two absorbent sheets of paper called couching sheets.  If you do not have couching sheets, children’s white/light colored construction paper works okay.  Place the couching sheet atop the handmade paper still on the second screen and, using a pressing bar (anything flat, like a piece of 2X4) firmly press and smooth the sheet.  The handmade paper should lift off the screen and onto the couching sheet.  Place a second couching sheet on top of the handmade paper, sandwiching it between the couching sheets, and use the pressing bar again.  Remove the couching sheets.  Your paper is now ready to be dried.  If you want your sheets to dry flat, you can layer them between sheets of waxed paper and place them under old books or stacks of telephone directories; otherwise, lay them on a tablecloth and let them dry naturally.  (Note:  When disposing of your leftover paper pulp and water, do not pour it down the drain or toilet.  Strain the pulp out of the water and dispose of it in the trash, and use the water to water your outdoor plants, or your plantable paper if you plant it immediately.)

On Imbolc, during your celebration and ceremony, dedicate the sheets to the fae by asking for their blessing while passing the handmade papers through flame (bonfire or candle) and smoke (incense).  Here is an example of a blessing you may use, although it is always best to write your own or speak from the heart:

Imbolc Faerie Blessing
by Kat Cranston

Come hither now, Good Folk,

Nature’s first children, faeries free.

Guardians of all growing things,

Hear what I would ask of thee:

Elves of the Earth,

See that the soil is ready for birth.

Sylphs of the Air,

See that the winds blow gentle and fair.

Dragons of the Fire,

See that the days grow warm and drier.

Naiads of the Water,

See that the rains do softly nurture.

Go hither now, Good Folk,

Nature’s first children, faeries free.

Guardians of all growing things,

Do what I have asked of thee.

Then, as soon as the ground thaws or when it is time to plant the seeds you selected, place the dedicated paper at the correct depth into Mother Earth (which includes potting soil in containers, so it’s possible to do this on Imbolc!) and wait for the miracle of life to begin once again.  Know the fae will watch over the seedlings and that you have made a healthy contribution to the turning of the Wheel.

Paper Whites:

I don’t know about you, but when I lived in New England, by this time of year I was desperate to see signs of life.  I satisfied this need by “forcing” paper white bulbs.  Not only do they smell wonderful, but also their beautiful flowers are white, one of the colors of Imbolc.  In addition, my house faeries adore them.

On Imbolc, during your celebration and ceremony, dedicate your paper white bulbs to the fae by asking for their blessing while carefully passing the bulbs through flame (bonfire or candle) and smoke (incense).  Here is an example you may use, although it is best to speak from the heart or write your own blessing:

Paper White Blessing

By Kat Cranston

Little paper white

With your face so bright

Shinning like a light

After the long dark night

Little paper white

At your scent and sight

Passion will ignite

In every faerie knight

Little paper white

The faeries nearly fight

To cling to you so tight

In rapturous delight

Little paper white

The heart of every sprite

It is my wish to invite

To join with yours tonight

You will need a container that does not have any drainage holes and that is about 3” to 4” deep.  Shallow casseroles work well, as do ceramic dog dishes.  Fill the container with about 1” to 1 ½” of small stones or marbles; do not use anything else, like earth or sand.

Place as many bulbs as you can squeeze in (the more the merrier) with their tips pointing up (their bottoms will look like the bottom of an onion) on top of the stones.  Add another ½” to 1” of small stones or marbles on top of the bulbs to help keep them in place.  Don’t cover the tips; only cover about 2/3rds of each bulb.

Add enough water to cover the root area of the bulbs.  More than that and your bulbs will rot; less and the roots won’t begin to grow.  Maintain the water level (don’t do as I have done and forget to check their water!).

The bulbs don’t need any sun at this point, but when there is 1” to 2” of growth, try this trick to keep your paper whites from getting leggy and falling over.  If you don’t want to try this trick, tie a soft ribbon or yarn around the mass of stems when they start to fall over and insert a small stick to give them some support.  Pour off the water and feed your paper whites a mixture of water and hard liquor (i.e., vodka, not beer or wine).  It will reduce their height, but won’t reduce their bloom size.

To figure out the correct ratio, use the following table compiled from About.com, which shows alcohol proof converted into alcohol percentage and how much water to use with that strength of alcohol:

Proof Equivalent Water Alcohol
20 10% Use 1 Part Use 1 Part
30 15% Use 2 Parts Use 1 Part
40 20% Use 3 Parts Use 1 Part
50 25% Use 4 Parts Use 1 Part
60 30% Use 5 Parts Use 1 Part
70 35% Use 6 Parts Use 1 Part
80 40% Use 7 Parts Use 1 Part

You can now move your paper whites into a sunny location, but don’t let them get hot.  When the blooms appear, move them back into a cooler, shadier part of the house to help them last longer.

If you don’t have fae living with you now, this may be just the thing to attract them!  However, be prepared for small, bright and shiny items to go temporarily missing and to find oddments you’ve never seen before hiding amongst the dust bunnies (who may suddenly become very militant!).  Living with the fae is simultaneously meddlesome, loving, annoying, instructional, vexing and entertaining—and worth every minute!

    Bibliography and Works Cited/Recommended Reading:

“Paperwhites – Using Alcohol to Keep Paperwhites from Falling Over,” http://gardening.about.com/od/forcingandprechilling/qt/PaperWhites_Alc.htm

Let’s Spell it Out

February, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From “The Two Babylons

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

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

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

were honored with the highest honors.”

From “The Two Babylons

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

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

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

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

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

even after the fires of Vesta was extinguished,

and state support was withdrawn from the Vestals;

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

four hundred and twenty four temples or chapels

still remained to satisfy the devotion of the people.”

From “The Two Babylons

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

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

THE SPELL

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

Supplies

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

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

Call to Brigit with this or another evocation:

“On this day of waxing light

Longer days and shorter nights

I call to Brigit, Goddess White

On this day of Your powers’ height.”

Candlelight

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

“As I light this candle fire

Lady of the Flame, please inspire.”

Inspiration

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

Meditation

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

To thank the Goddess Brigit:

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

Sources:

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

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

Magickal Colors

February, 2010

Burgundy: Color of the Everyday Sacred

Burgandy

The moon turns a deep burgundy when it is near an eclipse, and is truly a sight to behold. This time is unrivaled for opening oneself to the flow of all energy, and scrying for life path decisions.
The wine pours from its holder, shining in the air for a moment like a jewel and beautiful in its glorious impermanence.
It is the color of red earth and drying blood, that I write of, hardening in the elements but no less true to life.
On the Rainbow Path I have walked, and learned the colors and their meanings in turn. Burgundy is the color of impeccability on this path, and I will try to impart to you some of what I have been shown.

Impeccability is the absence of original sin, often confused with infallibility and innocence. Infallibility would mean that one is without error (who?) and innocence implies that one eventually is sullied by mere exposure to the world. Impeccability falls somewhere in between. I like to say I’m im-peck-able, so peck off, all those who would peck me!

impeccability means that one is without sin. Sin is not a concept embraced by most Pagans, as most of us believe that while we may error and do things against our natures (which are, in their purest form, inherently “right”), there is no such thing as “original sin”. This of course does not mean we have no concept of right and wrong. When we are born, we are naked and beautiful, and closest to the forces we call the God and Goddess (as anyone who has looked in the eyes of a newborn can attest). We are naturally pure, and only through learned behaviour do we act in ways that do not reflect this closeness to the natural way of things.
In Christianity, one must be reborn and “washed in the blood” to be pure again. In most Pagan traditions, we have not to be washed in any blood but that of our Mother at birth. Sacred we are born, and may remain.
Rather than original sin, we can see original purity, and not just that of the newborn babe- it is a choice, an inner state that we can cultivate and carry with us throughout our lives.

A burgundy rose means a beauty that is uncontrived, unadorned, and unconscious. This natural beauty seems more to be described by what it is not there than what is. In Tibetan Buddhism, the zhen (everyday robe) is burgundy or maroon– a sign of holiness in the mundane world. In modern times this color is seen as a sign of wealth, success, and vigor. It has commonly been a color preferred by royalty.

The sacred pomegranate, associated with those Earth Goddesses of unaffected beauty for thousands of years, bears this color inside and without its womb.
Persephone, the impeccable daughter of Demeter and embodiment of fertility, ate the pomegranate seeds that sealed her fate, causing her to live below the ground for half of the year and the other half above, creating what is summer and winter for us mortals. The similarities between this story and the Christian’s Garden of Eden do not go unnoticed. Yet there is one very important difference- it is what defines us as Pagans. While Eve ate the apple of knowledge and was tainted, Persephone ate the seeds and was changed– not necessarily for the worst. She saw the darkness for what it was, and found herself seemingly trapped below the earth. Upon her emergence in the spring, however, the denizens of the greening earth found that their Fertility Goddess was also Queen of the Underworld, the sides in perfect harmony and unison with each other.

It is possible that we can be both in the world and in our sacred places at the same time. These worlds do not clash, and the sacred is not separate from the everyday. We can be Divine and mundane at once, by bringing this concept of impeccability with us and acting in accordance with our true natures, the Way of the Earth, all day in everything we do.
It is true that daily life can feel difficult on the best of days. It can be hard to feel like a Goddess with two screaming kids in the backseat of a car during rush hour! (I’ve never understood why they call it rush hour when cars are obviously doing the opposite).  Your higher thoughts perhaps might give you peaceful mantras that may either help or annoy, your instinctive side wants to get out of the car and get primal, and somewhere in the middle the “normal” side of you is twisting around under all this stress and just wants to get home.
It is this middle place that is our everyday mode of being, influenced by our higher and lower selves to varying degrees throughout our lives. It is our clay that we may shape however we choose. Neither higher nor lower self is “wrong”, as they are both necessary to our existence, but allowing ourselves to be controlled by either for too long is like riding a train in the dark. Your whole life just passes you right by while you’re staring out the window.

Burgundy is a representative of this middle state made aware, our higher selves brought down to earth and mingling with our instincts to produce a sort of everyday spirituality, one that is conscious of itself but not self-conscious.
By continuously being mindful of our instincts, thoughts, and emotions, we begin to understand from where they all arise. We find our purest instincts rising up from the earth, and our higher thoughts coming from above like rain. Where these come together we have the ruddy clay of our waking world, for us to mold and shape into whatever we wish it to be.
We remember, now, with our bellies and wombs, listening to hearts pumping blood and feet treading roads, the simple sound of voices carrying, unadorned with meaning: drums all, beating out the rhythm of our sacred Life. We remember the color of the womb, the pure light filtered through all the wonder of our Creatrix.
We need not look further than our own lives to rediscover the wonder and spirituality that is our existence on this earth. Transcendence is for the dead– Life is for the living! It is still known in some circles that the Faeries do not lament the obstacles in their way– they sing to them a song of appreciation, and dance with them until their obstacles dance back, sing to them until they awaken and harmonize.
To know is not to hope, or to believe, but to carry with you the spirit of resolve and acceptance, mingled together like clay and water. If you are rained on, soak it up and revel in the wetness. When thrown in a hot spot, harden and shine. If you are stepped on, become the grape and make sweet wine of yourself. Just don’t sit on the shelf too long, or you’ll turn to vinegar.
Drink deep, for the well of life is sweet, and give thanks to the pressers of grapes.

Burgundy:
Elements: Earth, Fire
Tarot Card: Strength
Astrological Sign: Taurus, Capricorn, sometimes Aries
Planets: Saturn, Venus, Mars
Metal: Iron
Stones: Ruby, Garnet, Lava Rocks, dark Amethysts
Days: Tuesday/Wednesday
Plants: Many succulents (grow well with very little water in arid conditions), Henna, some Orchids, purple Clover, some Lilies, Sarracenia Pitcher Plants, Grapes
Deities: Dionysus, Persephone, Earth God and Goddess

Impeccability, Sacrifice, Presence, Natural, Vigor, Success, Wealth, Royalty, Fertility, Health

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