December 1st, 2015

To Join (or Not to Join) A Magickal Group

This is an article I wrote many years ago and I’ve decided to share it in this month’s column. As the community and spiritual paths of pagan practice become increasingly more available, so too are the opportunities to become intimately a part of that expanding community. What that participation looks like and how in depth are multi-faceted. It is particularly timely for me since I have been in process of Hiving and forming a new coven within our Tradition, The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. And, so in this spirit I pose the question that should be explored before committing to any one path of spiritual community.

The choice to remain a solitary practitioner or join a magickal group, coven or lodge is a very personal matter. Both offer benefits and detriments. Even if you consider yourself to be a solitary practitioner, there will be celebrations and stages in your development that will generate a desire to share, commune and connect. Similarly, those who choose to join a group will have specific times in their path of journey where they may wish to celebrate and/or practice in private; leaving group work behind.
Solitary Practice

Many pagans choose to walk a Solitary path. In former years this could be a very lonely, albeit a fulfilling one. We are fortunate to be on the Path at this particular time as there are many festivals and open events that both solitary and group affiliated members can attend. Meet-up Groups that have a pagan flavor are in abundance throughout the United States and the opportunity to interact without the deeper commitment of joining any organization has never been more accessible.
For some, group work and the structure needed to have things run smoothly is too restricting and limiting. For others, jobs, lifestyles or family obligations prevent the individual from attending group functions (there is usually a minimum requirement of events throughout the year that a group member would be expected to attend, unless there are emergencies), and this creates stress for both the group and the member. If a ritual at 2:00am is all you can easily fit into your schedule, most groups will not be accommodating to that and the pressures of having to fulfill attendance obligations can often sour the group experience.
Those who work as solitary practitioners often develop a very creative outlook that is largely self-directed. This is primarily because everything they do ritually or devotionally is generally self-generated and created and therefore they become quite adept at improvising. Working alone also guarantees that everything will be done at your own pace, in your own way and ultimately makes you solely responsible for your own experience, success and failures. Many prefer this freedom to connect to their spirituality by creating their own traditions and ways of offering up devotion to those deity and spiritual beings they commune with.
Group Work

Depending on the Tradition you are interested in joining there will generally be a specific length of time and protocol specified to facilitate the orientation process. Within our coven and Tradition we require at minimum a six-month “getting to know you” period where the prospective dedicant (newly dedicated member) attends open events and interacts with the other members of the coven and Tradition. Other groups accept members immediately and are less structured in their process of fully integrating you into the group and/or specific Tradition and still others have a lengthy process of education and training and when and if you are felt to be an acceptable candidate you are then invited to join as a member of the group.
Working within a group provides opportunity for direct sharing, access to those who are more experienced than you and the feeling of an energetic community and bonds to those who are your spiritual family. You will also have greater opportunity to network and meet others if the group you select holds open or sister events in collaboration with others in the Tradition, Coven or Lodge. Ritual work becomes a group effort in which you are able to be simply the participant and are able to open yourself in a deeper way since you are not the sole person responsible for the workings at hand. It provides the ability to see how others structure their practice and exchange ideas and suggestions about different approaches and subtleties. Now, of course, these are all things a solitary practitioner can experience in an open ritual; but the depth and openness that is shared between those within a group often occurs at those times when you are setting up or preparing for ritual before guests arrive or sitting in a group- only social event.
Some considerations you should have as you decide on what group is the best fit:
The group you select to petition for membership should offer a stable and fair structure of spiritual progress with resources to further and enhance your personal growth. Working within the group should feel like a spiritual family and these should be people that you trust to see you at your best and your worst. The energetic connection that you weave with this group of people will strengthen and build as you continue to work together and it is a very intimate relationship that requires respect between all of membership.
You should never feel pressured to do anything that you do not consider to be safe or is coercive in nature. Unfortunately, not all groups are ethical in their actions and offer up empty promises of the gifting of great powers and knowledge of the mysteries in exchange for sexual, monetary or other favors. Some traditions do work skyclad (naked) and perform sex magick as part of their magickal rites, but do so with the consent of all concerned and are up front from the very beginning, ensuring that everyone is on board. Bottom line is- if it doesn’t feel right to you and is not in accord with your beliefs you will probably not make much spiritual headway.
The leadership of the group should be people who live by example those teachings that they have been entrusted to pass along. There should be a comfortable exchange between leadership and membership such that any discord, or misunderstandings can be discussed and resolved in an ethical, intelligent and mature manner. Respect is key here, on both sides.  Respect that leadership has the best interest of the group, Tradition and its members always in sight. And, respect that membership will be supportive and helpful in maintaining a positive working environment and good intent for those they work with.
There should be encouragement of all members within the group to excel and progress in their magickal studies at a pace that will provide challenge but also allow for life events to take priority as needed. And, although healthy and constructive criticism is a great motivator there should never be an ill-intended push or encouragement towards unhealthy competition for recognition, roles or initiations among members. There will be many times when you will feel challenged unjustly and perhaps even feel as though you are not progressing in the way or at the speed at which you feel you should. A good barometer is to step back from the situation for a moment and ask yourself if you are just annoyed at the inconvenience or is there something truly and viably wrong.
It has been my experience that frequently the people who are meant to become members of our group, find their way to us through a synchronistic moment. They happen to be in the right place at the right time, find our website and decide to come to an open event or become interested through a friend who is already a member. Don’t be afraid to be selective. Take the time that you need to make an informed decision and never allow yourself to be pressured into joining a group. If a group is that desperate for new members, there are most likely other areas in which they will exert or force their will on the existing members- the number one “no-no” in pagan philosophy and ethics.

The bottom line is that if the group is a viable and healthy one, they will want to take their time in getting to know more about the potential members who come knocking on their door, and if the fit is right there is no need to hurry matters.  Neither your nor their interest in having you join them will diminish or lessen. If it does, perhaps it was not the place for you after all. The commitment to a group should be entered with the thought that this will be a place of working and growing for several years. There is no short track to magickal mastery and those who frequently leave and join groups, as well as groups who have a fast moving revolving door usually do not stand the test of time and longevity.

A Timely Choice

Just as all of life’s experiences change and flow as you change and grow in years and time, the decision to remain solitary or join a group will follow its own meandering course as well. Many start as Solitary workers; come to a crossroads where the progress they require includes working with others in a committed way, and when the lessons are integrated go back to Solitary practice. This is the nature of all spiritual growth regardless of tradition.
The start of your journey is begun of your own accord and decisions about how and in which direction it moves are formulated by you and you alone. As you move along the path of your making there will come a point in the road where the need to offer the mysteries learned in a broader and more communal sense rises to the surface. The yearning to share and exchange this wisdom with like-minded people and the security of feeling that you are part of something larger than yourself is the gentle rise of the hill ahead that offers no glimpse of what lay on the other side. You reach the summit of this path and begin the process of gathering to yourself all of the outer influences, interactions, joys and sorrows you have experienced. You take in new sights from this higher vantage point. These spread out before you in panoramic view. And, as the choices blur and thin in detail in the vastness of what can be, you look around and see that you have returned to the space of standing alone and quiet in your inner sanctum; new choices ahead and new paths to walk. And, so the cycle begins anew.
It doesn’t really matter whether you choose to join a group or remain a solitary practitioner. The important thing is that you continue your practice. That you seek out the resources you are guided to when and where you are led. And, when the time is right, you gather with like- minded individuals as one in celebration of the Pagan Path.
Blessings on your journey!

Being a Hereditary

A Hereditary tradition does not have to be transferred from parent to child. Often it can skip a generation and be passed from a grandparent or an aunt, uncle or other family member. A Linage tradition is passed directly from parent to child and so forth down the generations. Of course, I am speaking from my family’s understanding within our own tradition.

My own line of hereditary witchcraft began with my great, great aunt who was adopted into a hereditary line of witchcraft. Often entrance into a family tradition was through birth, marriage or adoption. My great, great aunt then passed on the tradition to my grandmother and from that time it has been passed on directly from parent to child. I am the fourth generation and my children carry the path forward with my granddaughter being the sixth generation. All in all we have a hereditary path spanning over 125 years. We are by far not the oldest hereditary family path, nor are we the youngest.

I know that I am very fortunate to have grown up in a family tradition as opposed to seeking one out later in life. I am often asked what it was like growing up with a path already set in place. It was magical, like living within warm earth and it was lived every day. My family raises cattle for a living and every day we were surrounded with the cycle of birth, life and death. We grew our own food and butchered our own animals. It was hard work.

While my mother worked a day job, I lived with my grandparents. Grandma was the local healer and a semi-self taught veterinarian. Someone was always bringing a sick or injured animal, domestic or wild, to the house. Sometimes grandma would go to administer healing at someone’s home. There was always some sick person or animal she was tending too. Family and non-family referred to my grandma as ‘aunt’.

We are an oral tradition. The closest thing to a Book of Shadows would have been the Old Farmer’s Almanac. We do not adhere to the tenets of the new religion of Wicca; we have our own codes of conduct and honor. We do not take magical names, let’s face it, we are family and everyone knows who we are. We do not use terms such as Priest or Priestess, but we do have an Elder who is elected by the family. We do not wear special clothing for our rituals; as long as we were clean, pants and shirts were fine. Of course today I can afford to wear something more to my liking for ritual.

Growing up, there wasn’t a local metaphysical shop to drop into to pick up supplies. We either made what we needed or used what we found in nature. Candles were made from canning paraffin and oil lamp wicking. We were lucky to get colored birthday candles on occasion. We grew our own herbs, made our own teas, tinctures, salves. Sometimes we found quartz, serpentine, arrowheads and sea shells in the creek, washed down from the mountain.

Our rituals are rooted in our family land. We work with the land children and the guardian who watches over our land. We differ from some traditions by not calling quarters, casting circles, or worshiping gods & goddesses. Well, that’s not quite so, because the gods & goddesses of my dad’s family claimed me when I was young, but that is for another column. The ritual tools we use are the cauldron, knife, staff, broom, stone, and antler. Our rituals may include healing work, gratitude, communion with the land, journey work, learning a new skill, divination and sharing what portents & signs we observed. We work with folk/sympathetic magic which may include workings for justification.

We celebrate the seasonal shifts and moon tides; however seasonal shifts do not necessarily coincide with a date on the calendar, but rather with the physical shift of the season on the land. We do a spring cleaning and a fall cleansing. We have rituals for honoring the steers before slaughter and when we drive the cattle from the winter pastures to the summer ones.

This is but a small glimpse into my family tradition.



Death exists in the Universe with the same levels of joy and reality as does birth. For the soul which dies free from fear, death is a spreading of one’s spiritual wings, the ability to merge into the Dreaming and find rest and recreation before entering the womb.”( Beyrl 1990, p.119)

It is our belief that Death is a time of spiritual wonder, an opportunity to seek union with the Divine.” (Beyrl 1990, p. 124)

Although there is no ‘bible’ for Witches because it is a non-dogmatic spiritual path, there are common beliefs that are held by most practitioners of the Craft. Most Witches believe in life after death, either a transition in Summerland and rebirth, or a continuation of the spiritual quest in some manner. This includes meeting those we love again. As Samhain is coming and the time to honour our beloved dead I would like to offer a ritual that we use in the Greenwood Celtic Shamanic Tradition. Death is one of the mysteries because we don’t really know what is going to happen to us when we embark upon this journey. Let us enter into this mystery with love, with reverence and with hope for reunion with those who have gone before.

Cast Circle starting from the West (not East as we usually do), the home of souls.

Calling the Winds in each quarter

Zephyrus, wind of the west

Blue wind of power

Scented with the ocean breezes

Lend us your wings tonight

Boreas, wind of the north

Black wind of power

Bearing mysteries of deep northern lands

Lend us your strength tonight

Eurus, wind of the East

White wind of power

From the land of the rising sun

Lend us your clarity to see the unseen

Notus, wind of the South

Red wind of power

Heat and fire

Lend us your energy tonight

To fulfill our heart’s desire.

Invoking Deity

Lady of the Greenwood, Anu

Mother of Earth and water

From who all beings come

And to whom they must return

Aid us in our work tonight

As we release the soul of __________with love.

Cernunnos, Lord of trees

Deep in the Greenwood

Where the souls rest among the ancient trees

Help us to reach beyond the veil tonight

And protect us as we connect what is, what was and what will be.


Calling the Ancestors, Guides and Loved Ones of the Beloved

On the wings of the wind

We send messages

Like butterflies

Floating westward to the land of souls

Calling the Ancestors

And Guides and loved ones of ___________

Come to us from the land of the setting sun

Where the light touches the darkness

And the darkness is filled with light

We need your help to guide _________home!


Calling the Soul of the Beloved

(Draw a pentagram on the West side of the circle.

Place a rose in the pentagram.)

On this Holy Night

As we meet in love and hope

We call ________ to enter the Circle

If you are still present in the Middle Realm.

Follow the sound of the drum

Beating like hearts full of the dreams of forever.

(Drum until the priest/ess rings the bell.)

(Priest/ess lights the candle.)

Friend’s Address

Welcome beloved _______(you can say your relationship here: i.e. friend, sister, husband etc.)

The time has come for your journey

Into the arms of the Mother

Surrounded by your Ancestors,

Your guides and your loved ones

We will listen if you have parting words

We will speak our heart’s pain of letting go.

Until the day when we will meet again in love.

(Conversation with the Beloved can be had here if so desired. Also other eulogies may be spoken at this time. If there is a medium in the circle there may be some direct messages. Otherwise people can say eulogies or simply speak from the heart to their beloved dead followed by a moment of silence to feel his/her presences.)

If the Beloved was a Witch or Pagan the Elegy for a Dead Witch can be read. Also the excerpt from the writing of Kahil Gibrand can be read at this time by a family member or friend.

Life And Death Are One – Kahlil Gibran

Life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity…

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and melt it into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb,
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Kahlil Gibran

Elegy for a Dead Witch

To think that you are gone, over the crest of the hills,

As the Moon passed from her fullness, riding the sky,

And the white Mare took you with her.

To think that we will wait another life

To drink wine from the horns and leap the fire.

Farewell from this world, but not from the Circle.

That place that is between the worlds

Shall hold return in due time. Nothing is lost.

The half of a fruit from the tree of Avalon

Shall be our reminder, among the fallen leaves

This life treads underfoot. Let the rain weep.

Waken in sunlight from the Realms of Sleep.

Doreen Valiente

Calling the Winds to Carry the Light

Zephyrus, Boreus, Eurus, Notus,

Winds of darkness and light,

Carry the flame of ________surrounded by his (her) loved ones to the land of eternal summer. Until we meet again.

(Priest/ess blows out the candle.)

As the rose fades, so does his spirit gently pass, with love and peace. Blessed Be.

(She/he hands the rose to a friend or relative.)

Deep Peace Prayer (modified from Fiona Macleod)

Deep peace of the flowing air to you

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Deep peace of the rolling wave to you

Deep peace of the shining stars to you

Deep peace of the gentle night

Moon and stars pour their healing light on you

Deep peace of the Lady and Lord to you

Deep peace. Deep peace. Deep peace.

Closing the Circle

We thank the Lord and Lady for their Holy presence here. May your blessings stay with us at each breath and every step.

We thank the winds as you fly to your far away realms. Remember us when we are awake, remember us as we sleep.

By the Earth that is Her body,

By the air that is her breath,

By the fire of her bright spirit

And holy waters of her living womb,

The circle is open yet unbroken

Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again. (Reclaiming chant)

Works Cited:

Beyrl, Reverend Paul. 1990. A Wiccan Bardo. Phoenix Publishing Company. Blaine, WA

Northern Star Rite

As we approach the Yule season, we are reminded that although we have been in the dark half of the season, we will always return to the light. The Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the return of the sun. Our days will continue to grow longer, and our nights will become shorter. It is a time of quiet reflection, but also joyous celebrations of winter.

This rite is in honor of the North Star that brightens the winter night and offers its power of guidance to all that accept it. The North Star can be found in many traditional stories of the winter holiday season, so this rite may be a comforting childhood reminder of the power of the brightest star in the night sky.

Gather with friends to perform this ritual on an evening before the Winter Solstice. This rite is written as if it would be too cold to perform outside, like it is here in Maine in December! However, you can certainly do all of this ritual outdoors as weather permits.

Please use caution when burning candles and incense. Never leave candles or incense unattended or in the reach of small children or curious pets. Also, please use caution when handling ritual blades and burning candles. Inform participants ahead of time about the use of incense, and check on possible food allergy issues.

Black altar cloth
Small bowl of water
Small bowl of salt
Incense burner with trivet
Charcoal tablet
Loose pinon pine resin
Athame or ritual blade
Chalice of milk
Plate of star-shaped cookies
One white taper candle in holder
Two red and white striped candles in holders
Several tea lights in holders
Thin ribbon and scissors
Gentle, instrumental music
Basket of wooden cut-outs of stars with holes pre-drilled for a hanging ribbon
Altar set-up

Spread out the black altar cloth on the altar. Place the white taper candle in its holder on the center of the altar. Place the bowl of salt (representing earth) to the left of the white candle and the bowl of water (representing water) on the right of the white candle.

Add the incense burner to the left side of the altar and place an unlit charcoal tablet on it (representing fire). Make sure to place the incense burner on a trivet to prevent heat damage to your altar. Have the pinon pine resin (representing air) handy nearby.

Also add the ritual blade to the left side of the altar. Place the chalice of water to the right side of the altar, along with the feather. Have the plate of cookies somewhere on the altar if there is room.

Place one of the red and white striped candles on either side of the altar. These candles represent the God (left) and the Goddess (right).

Place the tea lights in their holders and place them safely around the room. Use enough so you can turn off all the electric lights and still see and safely maneuver around the ritual space.  The tea lights represent the twinkling, starry sky. Light the tea lights right before you are ready to begin.


Lead the group in a grounding and centering breath exercise.

Sprinkle some of the salt into the bowl of water, and stir three times with your ritual blade or athame.

Light the charcoal tablet and place on the incense burner. Wait until the tablet is smoking, and then add a small amount of the loose incense on to it.

Have the first participant to volunteer approach you at the altar. Dip your finger into the water and draw the shape of a star on the forehead of the participant.  Then use the feather to move the incense smoke in their direction. Repeat with all participants (ending with yourself) while repeating:

Charcoal lit and incense burn

Salt and water stirred in turn

Earth, water, fire and air

Blessed in the name of the sacred pair

Once everyone has been cleansed and blessed, join together around the altar and take each other’s hand. Cast the circle by saying together:

Hand to hand, this circle is cast

Be us not in the now

Yet not in the past

From above and below

To dare and to know

Within and without

To whisper, to shout

As the Gods will it

So mote it be

Take a moment to enjoy the energy flowing between you all, and then release your hands.

You can call the four elemental quarters here if you like, but it is not necessary.

Light the Goddess candle (striped candle on the right side of the altar) and invoke the Goddess with spontaneous words.

Light the God candle (striped candle on the left side of the altar) and invoke the God with spontaneous words.
Drawing in the Star Power

Participants should find a comfortable spot to sit or lay down. Start playing the meditation music.  Add more incense to the charcoal, if desired.

Lead the participants through a meditation. Have them imagine themselves standing in a snowy, flat landscape, where are compelled to gaze at the magnificent, clear night sky. The sky is full of beautiful, sparkling stars, yet one stars stands out from the rest. This is the North Star. Spend some time developing the scene for the participants. Don’t rush things. Let the description naturally come to your mind’s eye and then describe it out loud to the group. When you’ve reached a full description, ask them to open their eyes.

Pass around a basket of thin wooden cut-outs of stars and encourage everyone to take one.  Then, pass around some markers.

Now, ask them to imagine themselves back at the landscape again. This time, they should imagine reaching out their hands and drawing the energy gently down from the North Star and into themselves.  Explain to them that the North Star’s energy is a guiding energy. Ask them to think about where they need guidance in their life.

Allow several minutes of time to pass, before asking them to open their eyes again and hold their stars. Ask them to write down on the wooden stars what they would like guidance on. When everyone is ready, have everyone gather around the altar, and light the middle white taper candle on the altar.  Ask everyone to hold their star between the palms of their hands, while reciting together:

Brightest star of the dark, night sky,

And kin to the sun in the daylight hour,

We reach out to you from on high,
And wish to honor your power.

Finding that within and that without,
Which guides our hearts and minds,
We follow you without any doubt,
Beyond the realm of places and times.

We take your strength within ourselves,
Hold fast to your rays of light,

Where our spirit and hope truly dwells,
With the sincerity of new sight.

We look upon your shining glow,
In need of wisdom, a path we seek
Please help us go, we must know,

At this night hour of your peak.

So mote it be!

Invite participants to come up to the altar, one-by-one and share with the group about how they plan on using their star energy to guide them. You can seal their star tokens by dripping a few drops of wax from the white taper candle onto the tokens and leaving them on the altar to dry. Be careful not to get any candle wax on yourself or the participant.

Allow the tokens to dry before moving them again. Invite the participants to tie a red ribbon on the star for hanging in a Northern-facing window at home.

When everyone is ready, pick up the chalice of milk and hold it out in front of you, saying:

We drink to the Gods, fair and true.
We drink to our kin, those we know and knew.
We drink to the evening sky and the stars so bright.
We drink to the slumbering earth and the cold, dark night.

We drink to honor the moment and times past.

We drink to change the future and help our magick last.

Blessed be!

Pass the chalice around the room and enjoy! Pour the remainder on the ground outside later.

Pick up the plate of cookies and hold it out in front of you, saying:

We partake in the honor our constant companion, the North Star.

Pass the plate around the room and enjoy! Toss the remaining food on the ground outside later.

Give thanks to the God and Goddess in any way you see fit.

Dismiss the four elemental quarters, if you called them.

When you are ready, gather around the altar once more and take each other’s hands, saying:

Hand to hand, this circle is broken.

Let us return to the now,
As our magick has been spoken.
Let us find harmony in the work we’ve done,
With greater good and harming none.

So mote it be!

Felix the Cat had his bag-of-tricks, Batman had his utility belt, and witches have spells.

Hollywood tells us that all a witch really needs is a good book of spells and they’re in business.  Hot, diggity-dang!  I’ll run right out and get me one of those.  Except, aren’t there any useful modern books of spells?  The ones that I can find are kind of out of date and a lot of those spells aren’t of much use any more.  I mean, who needs a spell to keep your yams from wandering over the fence into your neighbor’s yam patch at night?  Or one to get rid of boils on your bum?  (My health plan covers that, unless it’s a pre-existing condition.)

Of course, there are modern spells for love charms and making money.  In fact, that seems to be the main focus of most of the spell books on the shelves these days.  I guess if you want to have a spell for some other purpose, you’ll just have to work it out yourself.  If you’re not an old hand at crafting spells, that might seem an intimidating task.  But, trust me; it’s as easy as pie.

First off, let’s be clear what we’re talking about.  A spell is actually nothing more than a plan that involves magic to get something done.  Most spells are subtle ways of injecting magic into a process so as to make it more successful.  And magic, as we all know, comes in a wide variety of forms.  Most magic workers find they are more adept at one or two forms and tend to stick with them for most of their spells.  This isn’t surprising since specialization happens in every art form.  Magic works in direct proportion to the amount of will power put into it, so most magic requires a good deal of mind work and motivation.  Spells commonly use what most would consider to be psychological tricks.

For instance:  A few years back, a fellow came to me and said he was suffering from writer’s block.  He just couldn’t seem to write anything useful and he was getting frustrated over how long it had been going on.  By the way, this guy was a die-hard typewriter user.  Why, I’ll never know.  But I made use of the fact in my spell.  After a little questioning, I created a spell that got rid of his writer’s block in one week.  Here were my instructions to him:

1. On day #1, sit down at your typewriter.  Clear everything off the desk with the exception of the typewriter and a stack of blank paper.
2. Insert a sheet of blank paper into the roller and put your fingers on the keyboard.  But do not type anything.
3. Sit like this for precisely one minute.
4. Take out the paper and burn it.
5. On day #2, sit down and repeat steps #2 through 4.
6. On day #3, put the paper in the typewriter and sit for two minutes without typing anything on it.
7. Then, type one key, any key.
8. Take out the paper and burn it.
9. On day #4, repeat #6.
10. Then, type a complete sentence… anything.
11. Remove the paper and burn it.
12. On day #5, repeat #6.
13. Type the same sentence that you typed for step #10.
14. Then type, “I am a GOOD writer.”
15. Remove the paper and burn it.
16. On day #6, roll in the paper but don’t type anything.
17. Look at it for ten minutes.
18. Leave the paper in the roller and exit the room.
19. Do not return to that room until the next day.
20. On day #7, type anything you want.

I had no assurance that this spell would work but I thought it would because of what I knew about the man and his habits.  He was what I would call a compulsive writer.  By forcing him to go ‘cold turkey’ about his writing but giving him a specific ‘cure’ for his writer’s block so he’d be motivated to follow my instructions, I felt he would bottle up so much writing energy that it would nearly explode from him on the seventh day.  And it did… right on cue.  He called me up that night and told me he’d written twenty-two pages and wanted to do more but was too tired.  He thanked me profusely and then hung up.  I learned the next day that he’d gone back to finish a paragraph and ended up writing another five pages.

The magic in this spell is obvious.  I relied upon the person’s own compulsions to break the barriers down that his mind had put in place.  I knew that most so-called writer’s block was because the unconscious was telling the writer that they had to change something in their lives and/or story before the creative juices would flow again.  I just gave him the time necessary to make those changes while providing something that he believed would make that change for him.  The spell didn’t actually make those changes; he did.  But while he was doing that, I gave him a reason to accept a change in his normal routine.  I gave him a distraction as well as making him hopeful that the change he wanted, the breaking of his writer’s block, would happen and happen at a specific point.  Just an old Jedi mind trick.

A lot of spells are like that.  They use the predictable changes and energies around a situation and give them purpose and direction.  How was I able to come up with this particular spell?  Well, the formula is actually something I learned years ago when reading The Art of War.  The solution to a problem usually lies within the proper description of the problem.  Remember that the so-called ‘writer’s block’ was something that the man was producing himself.  And I knew that most of the time, a ‘writer’s block’ is nothing more than the unconscious trying to adjust things so the natural creativity of the person can work better.  All I did was use that knowledge and make up a spell that gave his unconscious enough time to do its thing without the guy feeling frustrated all the time (which undoubtedly would have hampered his unconscious from doing what it was supposed to do).  In other words, I used what I knew about his condition and provided a reason for him to allow the problem to take care of itself.  And it worked.  I found out later that he’d taken the time he would have normally used for writing and spent a good deal of it with a lady he’d met a few weeks before his ‘writer’s block’ had appeared.  Their relationship blossomed and actually turned into an intense romance that lasted well after he was done with the book.  He told me that one of his female characters had to be rewritten so she acted more like his girl friend and that had been what the story really needed.

A good part of most spells relies on psychology.  Understanding how people think and what kinds of things motivate them is a key factor.  But also knowing how other things function is necessary in making successful spells.  Much of the time, spells appear not to have anything that connects them to the purpose or goal of the spell.  How would burning a candle help find a lost pet?  Why would white rose petals worn in your right shoe help you find a lover?

As magic users, one of the first things we learn is that everything is connected.  Simply because something appears not to be connected doesn’t mean that it won’t make a difference in how things work down the line.  Just as every parent knows, what is done with a child at the age of two has a great deal to do with how they behave at the age of twenty-two.  Knowing how a small change here can make a big change there is the kind of thing needed to craft a good spell.  Of course, such knowledge requires a good deal of education.  Witches (and, for that matter, all magic workers) are always curious… about everything.  But I believe the biggest thing that sets magic users apart from others is that one concept, everything’s connected.  Anyone who works magic believes that concept is true.  And because of it, we see the world differently from how much of the population sees it.  For us, thinking that there is a connection between the rose petals and finding a lover is not outrageous.  We can’t always justify or explain how something is connected or how it influences things, but there is no doubt in our minds that it is so.  For us, this is not bad science or crazy thinking; we like to think of it as ‘wisdom’.  Whether it is wisdom or just a different way of viewing the world, it works for us.

Hollywood and the entertainment media in general tend to portray spell crafting as some super mysterious way of causing fantastic events.  While that might sell movie tickets or books, the truth is that most spells are rather bland.  No big flashes, no swirling smoke, no freezing time… sorry.  Just getting stuff done.  But I don’t discount the importance of mystery.  Sometimes it’s necessary for things to work properly.  Take the spell mentioned above about getting rid of the writer’s block for instance.  If I’d told the guy, “Hey, give it a rest for a while; get out a little more and have some fun,” he probably wouldn’t have taken the advice and certainly wouldn’t have found some needed distraction so his unconscious could work out the kink in the story.  I purposely camouflaged what I was doing so it would work better.  Like I said: old Jedi mind trick.

Remember that many people ascribe powers and attributes to us that are absolutely untrue.  They may think we’re strange (well, that might be a little true), some think we’re even evil.  They might believe we can fly on broomsticks.  Then again, they might think we’re totally bonkers.  But they also believe… or at least want to believe… that we can twitch our nose and make things happen.  (I’ve tried for years to learn how to twitch my nose that way, but so far…)

Anyway, a bit of drama or skillful misdirection can be useful sometimes, especially with non-magic workers.  It could be argued that this doesn’t help dispel (Get it…dis + spell?  Ha, ha.  Well, anyway…) the idea that we are aligned with ‘evil forces’ but I think that is another whole subject.  It’s a way of using the person’s own energies for empowering the spell.  They can’t expect us to do everything.  Besides, many who come to us for spells are frustrated and don’t know or believe that they have the power to make the desired changes in their own lives.  Having them be the source of the spell’s power is one way to give them a sense of ‘ownership’ that will help them in more than just that one instance.

Crafting spells is an art, and a very useful one at that.  Learning how to do it for others is part of our bag-of-tricks.  But remember that whatever you create, you are responsible for.  Whether you work magic for yourself or for others, the rules are the same:

1. Be careful what you invoke.  (You just might get it!)
2. Don’t make something you can’t un-make.  (If you made that mess, you might have to clean it up!)
3. What you do will always come back to you.  (If you’re lucky, it will only be threefold!)
4. Do good.  (Don’t be mean, nasty, ugly,… or stupid!  See #3!)

Finally, just a word about doing spell work for others:  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  You are under no obligation to do something just because somebody asked you to.  In fact, the only obligation you have is to be a responsible magic worker (see the above rules).  Always, always be mindful of what your own spirituality tells you and be true to it.  The best spell is the one that you do on yourself to make you into a better child of the gods.  Blessed be.

Like many others my age, the first witch I saw on TV was Samantha on the show Bewitched. But there was real life witch in my area whom I saw on TV several times. Jeffrey B. Cather RN, better known as Lady Circe of Toledo, OH, was respected by the media when they turned to her as the unofficial representative of the Pagan community. She was well spoken, knowledgeable and had an air of leadership about her. When I saw her on TV in the 70s and 80s, I was not yet studying the old ways, but it was in the back of my mind and the knowledge that such people existed kept the spark of my interest alive. When she passed away in 2004, I read she was a WW II veteran and since this was before the VA decision to add the pentacle as a symbol of belief, I’ve wondered if her headstone was ever changed.

Shortly after I was hired by the Postal Service in 1994, I saw a documentary called “Witches, Werewolves and Vampires.” It was more on the lighter side, but I was intrigued by what the Witches were saying about a magical nature centered religion which included a goddess. This was the moment I decided to see if what the Witches were saying was true and if this was something for me. Its funny how the words and attitudes of someone we never meet and who have no idea we exist can change our lives, so perhaps our words and attitudes can in turn affect people we will never meet and may not even know they exist.

I looked in the library in Port Clinton, OH where I was working at the time and found a book, the name of which I have long ago forgotten. It claimed to be about witchcraft, but with instructions to self initiate that included saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards three times at midnight and making a wand stuffed with a blood soaked cotton ball, it sounded weird even in my naiveté. Fortunately it disappeared never to return before I could check it out. Perhaps someone was keeping me from starting out with misinformation.

Eventually I found a few useful accurate books at the library and bought some at a bookstore in another town. But I yearned for contact with a like minded person, someone I could learn from, ask questions, and gain understanding. There was a woman on my mail route I wanted to talk with as she received metaphysical catalogs, had a stained glass pentacle on her door, stickers on her truck reading “witches heal” and “born again pagan” and had a banner in her window wishing “Blessed Samhain.” One day she was sweeping her sidewalk, so I stuck up a conversation, complimenting her on her Halloween decorations. She replied that it was important to her as she was a Witch. I replied that I was a newbie Wiccan and she offered to be of help.

I learned so much from Soraya. She explained the difference between Witch and Wiccan and elaborated on her path of Hedgewitchery. She was the first other Pagan I had met in person, so being a newbie, I tended at first to hang on her every word, something she discouraged. Instead, she encouraged me to listen to different views, try different things and see what worked for me. There was an author whom I idolized at the time, but my mentor had a rather negative opinion of her. I was able to step back and be objective about that author as well as any other. We were comfortable disagreeing agreeably and I never felt pressure to agree with or imitate her. I was a fan of the TV show Charmed and she thought it was stupid. She thought the movie The Craft insulted our religion but I could watch it over and over although I understood how those not familiar with our ways could get the wrong idea. Practical Magic was a movie we both enjoyed.

Soraya encouraged me to interact with other Pagans. She started a local meet and greet called Pagans in the Pub and invited me to come. I was too reluctant to do so and unfortunately after two meetings, it stopped due to lack of interest. She was a member of a Cleveland, OH based group and drove to their monthly meetings. We talked about me riding with her sometime but again I was reluctant. Considering the problems I have now finding the time to participate in Pagan groups, I wish I would have went.

I did manage to find other Pagans online and she pointed the way. She recommended the Witch’s Voice and a few other quality sites as well as setting up her own Pagan message board, Soraya’s Witch’s Tavern. I was one of the first members at her invitation and as I sat at the library internet computer pondering a user name, it came to me, Postalpagan, a name I still use 12 years later. It amused me when she said that some of the other members asked her if it was a reference to the term “going postal”, and she replied that I was her mail carrier. When someone asked her how she changed her hair color like one of the girls in The Craft did, she replied that she started by going to the drug store and buying a box of hair color. One Imbolic morning I knocked on her door because I had been feeling like I had way too much coffee since an early morning ritual. She went through a checklist of the steps of ritual and when she got to grounding and centering at the end, I realized my omission. Once I followed her advice to perform the missing step, I felt myself calm down. One thing she would not do was let me join her in ritual as she said she was strictly a solitary.

Her proudest moment during the time I knew her was the front page story on her in the local newspaper. She had called them about ten days earlier to point out the error in a Halloween article that claimed the Celtic god of the dead was Sam Hain and Samhain was named after him. After she replied yes to a newspaper staffer’s question if she was Pagan, she agreed to an interview at home. The article with a photo of her on her porch swing was published October 23, 1999 in the Port Clinton News Herald. It was spot on both in regards to her personally and our religion. Only one of my coworkers at the Post Office criticized her as eccentric and I defended her even though I was still in the broom closet. In spite of her fears, she did not receive any threatening phone calls or hate mail. I walked into the newspaper office to praise both the article and their willingness to be open minded. Sadly, I found out a few years later from another newspaper staffer, who was Pagan, that they received so many complaints that the editor decided that they would never run another piece on anything Pagan.

A little over two years later, I transferred to Clyde, OH and said goodbye to Soraya thanking her for her help which had meant so much. She encouraged me to keep learning and practicing as well as remaining active at the Tavern. But she soon closed the message board and I heard she moved to North Carolina. I saw her on the membership listing of Witchvox under that state for a while, then she disappeared and repeated web searches have found nothing. If perchance she is reading this, I would like to give her a big thank you for being my mentor and my dream is that someday I could be as helpful to a new Witch somewhere.

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