The cabinet is full of bottles with strange names and stranger contents. The witch is hovering over a bubbling cauldron, stirring and chanting, lost in a trance, her eyes tracing the patterns on the surface. Few images are so evocative of the Craft.
Potion-making has always been one of my favorite ways to express my magic. I've been hard at work putting my latest batch of mixtures together. I've got a whole assortment of blends that I configured, each with its own unique purpose. “Money Mojo” blends plants that resonate with Jupiter and elemental Earth to draw long-lasting financial growth, while “Red Hot Lover,” blends Martian and Venusian essences to spark up that explosive polarity that creates passion. I choose the right mix of herbs based on any correspondences I wish to incorporate, after careful consideration of the goal at hand. I primarily use planetary and elemental correspondences, but any will do. Sometimes, I don't bother with those at all, and simply mix based on the individual characteristics of each plant. Either way is effective.
I first research the correct plants, compounds, stones, and other ingredients. I start with a long list of potentials, and then narrow down from there. First, I'll hold various combinations in their dry form to my nose, and see which combinations work the best together aesthetically. If it smells terrible, unless the magic is meant to be terrible in some way, it's probably not going to be useful. If a plant is one I do not like, it's likely not going to be useful for my purposes, as the distraction will cut into the effectiveness. Any potion with patchouly will get my husband to rub his nose and say “that stinks,” not, “that inspires my spirit to work in tandem with the spirits within the bottle to achieve my will.” Scents that please the senses are a must.
Visualization is one of the most important skills to master when it comes to magick, yet many have said that this is one of their greatest challenges. I hope to offer you a bit of help through my own insights here. Don't give up because you cannot do it as of yet. As with anything, practice, work and patience will get you there.
In Wicca, we use visualization to see the portals to the elemental realms, the elementals that stand at them, and the circle as it is cast around us. Witches use it in practically all magicks that we work. We visualize our desired goal, empower it with the energy we gather from the earth, the moon, the planets and stars, and direct it into a channel for it to manifest on the physical plane. Without skill at visualization, we'd have a hard time getting much of anything done. Visualization is essential to the proper working of the psychic senses. It's an essential skill for any witch or magician to know.
In our circle, we say "as above, so below." That statement has been used by magicians ever since the days of Hermes Trismegistus. Anything that you expect to have in the physical world, you have to see in your mind's eye first. Even in the most mundane of tasks, this is true. A builder doesn't just get a bunch of boards and nails and start hammering them together and expect to get a nice house out of it. She starts with a plan, a blueprint. Even an expert chef, who might not follow a recipe, can see in his head the end result of what he wants to make before mixing the ingredients. The point of visualization is to create something on the "above" so that it may manifest on the "below." Create it in the spiritual realm, the realm of possibility unmanifest, and the magick sets the wheels in motion so that it may manifest in the physical realm.
You can start developing your ability to visualize by working with known objects. To get good at visualization, you must first get good at paying attention to your own senses. If you aren't in tune with your senses in the below, how can they work well in the above? It's easy to get lost in one's own head, and to be so wrapped up in our thoughts that we don't pay attention to our bodies. The point of this exercise is to get you back in tune with your senses, to learn to work with them more effectively on a plane that you are familiar with - the physical plane, so that you can extend that familiarity to a less familiar plane - the astral plane.
Perhaps you have been there ten years,
Perhaps you have been there one hundred years.
Perhaps you are a precocious child,
or perhaps you are a wise great-great-great-grandmother.
Your roots reach down into the rich deep soil,
perpetually nursed by the breast of the Mother.
My feet leave the ground every few seconds,
but you never lose your connection,
not even for a step.
I've been experimenting with DIY foot soaks lately, and been having tons of fun with it. First, if you don't have a foot soak tub, get one. They have them at Dollar Tree, sold in the kitchen stuff section as a wash bin - it's also the perfect size and depth for a foot soak tub. Find a nice fluffy clean towel to set it on, so you can easily dry your feet after.
I'm giving you the recipe I've developed for a single serving of this (enough to fill one soak tub), and you can scale up as needed. This amount goes nicely in one of those small zipper snack bags.
First, add in 1/4 cup epsom salts. Epsom salts are the go-to for relieving achy and sore muscles.
Good old fashioned kitchen witchery is a delight of mine. I've made some wonderful balms this way, and with winter and dry-hands season is coming up, I thought I'd share a bit about how to make some good, protective balms for the skin which you can charge with magical intent.
I've chosen to work with beeswax for its ability to coat and protect the skin, coconut oil and shea butter because they're both nourishing and moisturizing, and the three of these together make for a feel that I really enjoy in my balms.
Essential oils and herbs
Create a double boiler - fill a large pan with water and put it on the stove to heat up. In it, place a smaller, heat-proof dish, filled with your ingredients. Ceramic coffee mugs work really well. I pick up old ones for cheap from a thrift shop to dedicate specifically to making balms.
The ratio of ingredients varies based on how thick you want the balm to be. Usually, I use one part beeswax, one part coconut oil, and three parts shea butter, which gives me a nice smooth, but solid consistency. The more beeswax you use, the harder your balm will be. The more coconut oil you use, the softer it will be. If you live in a warm climate, I suggest going easy on the coconut oil, because it melts around 76 degrees Fahrenheit, and you'll end up with a balm that is more fluid than you may desire. Shea butter is a happy medium between the two, with a melting point around 104 degrees Fahrenheit will hold its shape in most climates, while softening nicely when it touches warm skin.
After a while, all of the components will become a clear, yellow liquid. At this point, lower the temperature of the stove so that you don't get steam burns from boiling water, and add your herbs and oils. If you are making a magical balm, this is the point at which you would start to charge the balm with your intent. If you feel so inspired, chant a little rhyme while stirring the herbs and oils in, and visualize your goal, fully manifest, on the surface of the mixture. Stir deosil (clockwise) to draw things toward you, stir widdershins (counterclockwise) to banish things from you, or to create a protective (banishing negative energies) balm. I recommend The Herbal Alchemists Handbook or Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs for more information about herbs and their magical properties.
I've heard a bit of buzz from various Pagan people on the internet suggesting that covens are going out of style, in favor of big public pan-Pagan gatherings. While I think that the coven is a classic, timeless facet of witchery, like the little black dress, here are some more concrete, universal reasons why covens will always be needed. Covens are a necessary structure for many practitioners of witchcraft, and despite the trends toward exoteric pan-Pagan community gatherings, covens aren't going anywhere.
While many tout the idea of love and trust among everyone in the Pagan community, it's not at all realistic. Love and trust take time to develop. Within a well-formed coven, the initiates share a heartfelt connection with one another, enough so that they can remove all of their masks and facades, and be completely as they are. Imagine how much more magical power can flow if you aren't spending part of your consciousness worrying if so-and-so across the circle is giving you the stink-eye. Imagine how much more healing can be accomplished when you realize that you can bare your soul, every dark and scary thing, without fear of being talked about behind your back.
The bonds of friendship, love, and trust in a well-formed coven are often as close as family. People know each other on deeper levels, strengthened by the spiritual bonds they share. Nothing in a public gathering space can match that. A depth of love and trust can actually happen within a coven context. Can you say the same for a circle of dozens of people you only know in passing?
I have been doing a lot of thinking about my former Catholic religion as of late. Though I have not given it much thought in many years - I've been happily post-Catholic for two decades now - a recent bit of light reading on the long-reaching effects of Catholic sacraments disturbed me. In my reading, I learned that because I engaged in the sacrament of baptism, without my consent, as a helpless baby, that the Catholic church will always think that canon law applies to me. Needless to say, this is not acceptable.
The Catholics have a pretty good schtick going on. Get people looped in while they're too young to resist, and lay a spiritual law upon them that will, according to them, apply to the person for the rest of his or her life. Recently, changes to canon law, after a flood of mail with intents to defect, has made it so that it's difficult, if not nearly impossible to formally defect. Of course, one still should send their intent to defect anyhow - this page explains the process. You can strengthen your case by stating that you converted to another religion, and even further strengthen your case by stating that you are a leader in that religion. Despite all of this, the church may well send you a letter stating that you cannot defect.* This is irrelevant. You don't need their permission to defect. Even if they are too co-dependent themselves to accept rejection, just remember - no means no.
The Catholic church maintains that baptism is for life, and for most people without the spiritual know-how to nullify it, it is. I did some research on the topic, and found little solid information on what I consider to be a very important topic. I was amused with the atheists and their clever notion of using a hair-dryer for debaptism, but I needed something that addressed the actual ritual workings of the baptism ceremony. As one who understands the nature of energy in spiritual workings, I needed something that addressed the spiritual marks that were set at the baptism ceremony. Other than the writings in Paul Huson's classic, "Mastering Witchcraft," which were more geared toward a general removal of past Christian influence, I found nothing in the Pagan sphere on this topic, so, I took it upon myself to write my own rite. This rite is written within a Wiccan paradigm, but can be adapted to suit any spiritual path. All of my work is released under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commerical, no-derivative license, but I permit this to work be modified to suit your need. Without further ado, here it is. It also can be downloaded as a PDF for ease of printing.
*Addendum: As of today, I am no longer a lapsed Catholic; I am an ex-Catholic. I am surprised and delighted to announce that the local diocese accepted my petition for defection. I am glad to be completely, fully, and totally out of the Catholic influence now and forever.
I am the final product of millions upon millions of years of evolution, and before life on earth even began. Before the earth even formed, the atoms that formed my body and the energies that have merged together to create my consciousness reach back billions upon billions of years to the creation of the universe. My mind, spirit, and body were born at the beginning of the universe, and throughout the span of time, have been shaped through the physics which created the planets, and stars, and then through the generations of evolution which fine tuned my form from that of a single celled organism in the primordial soup into the unique person with the unique set of DNA with which I was born.
It is for these reasons that I honor my ancestors with a special place in my altar room, an altar of their own. Every day, I take some time to commune with my ancestors. I reflect upon the fact that they were sufficiently able to navigate their way through wars, famine, political upheavals, and disease, that they could have children who could have children, thus continuing their life through their particular genetic line. I spend time remembering the faces of my grandparents, the soft touch of my my grandmother's hands, her love of life, her elegant style and snappy sense of humor. I remember my grandfather, so intelligent, so talented in so many ways. I remember my grandmother working in her garden, and taking out lemonade and cookies for the neighborhood kids, so kind and generous.
Humans have been running rampant over the planet for centuries, but really, it wasn't until about 100 years ago that our impact really began to be felt. It was right around the time of the industrial revolution that humans were able to poison the land, sea, and air in such a widespread way. It wasn't until our technology enabled us to have such widespread power that we were able to enact such widespread destruction.
I consider environmental consciousness to be one of the core virtues of my spiritual path. The earth is my Mother, the earth is my home, and all of the earth's children - whether they are stone, leaf, bone, fur, scale, shell, or root - they are all my brothers and sisters. My spiritual path demands that I understand that I am connected to these things; and if one suffers, everything on the planet suffers.
Because the dodo bird went extinct 300 years ago, the tambalacoque tree is now on the verge of extinction. The tambalacoque's seeds need to pass through the digestive tract of the dodo in order to properly germinate. No dodos, no new tambalacoque trees. No new tambalacoques, no new life forms - bugs and birds and lichens that will live there. No more wood or medicine from that tree. Three hundred years later do we finally understand the further implications of the dodo's extinction.
So, what of all of these species that disappear in record numbers now? Though the numbers are hard to pinpoint, the World Wildlife Federation estimates between 200 and 100,000 species go extinct every year. While species go extinct on their own due to natural causes, the rate that the WWF estimates is 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. Humankind is directly responsible for the loss of most of the biodiversity on this planet.
If this happens, what will precipitate is a desertification of our planet, a collapse of biodiversity, because it's all linked together. Life feeds on itself, and when the body is poisoned, life is poisoned. Humanity has that power to make it happen. We are making this nightmare come true, but will we listen to the sages and the seers, the scientists and the activists who are ringing the warning bells, or will we ignore them as we blunder into self-destruction?
The problem is that while we humans are short sighted, our intelligence has allowed us to have a large reach. This is a dangerous combination. I often look at humanity's stewardship of the environment as one might look at a five year old child carrying a chainsaw. We have got to evolve a consciousness of awareness to the earth, and our impact upon it. It has to happen for humanity, as a whole.
Things are seriously out of balance. I feel it all over the energy currents as a whole. And it's going to take a change in ourselves as a whole, our whole species, all of humanity, to fix it and prevent our own extinction. Our cleverness is going to kill us, but our wisdom can save us.
I call the earth "Goddess." She is family and home to me, and I have pledged my allegiance to her, that I may protect and honor her. It's important for me to take care of her, because it is important for me to take care of myself. Awareness of the Goddess has brought me to an understanding that She is me, and I am her, that I am humanity and humanity is me, that I am life, and life is me. I am one thread in the web, and I am the whole web; I am one drop in the ocean and I am all of the oceans on all of the planets in all of the universe.
Every day, may we realize that we are connected to everything in the web of life, and act with responsibility as a result.
- Cree prophesy
I grew up in a Catholic church. Every Sunday, we'd get all dressed up and go sit for an hour while some man I didn't know, but apparently who had the right credentials, would tell us all about what God thought, did, and wanted from us. He would then magickally transform some wine and crackers into human blood and flesh, we'd all have a nibble and a sip, and then it was off to the hell that was called "Sunday School" for me. Sunday School was pretty much the same - more telling us what God wanted from us and what he thought, only I had to fill out worksheets to prove I was listening. By age 14, I had enough of that crap. I hated that church for a number of reasons.
I hated being told what to think.
I hated someone else saying, "I know what God thinks, but you do not. Listen up."
Mostly, I hated someone else being a gatekeeper between humans and divinity.
I've always felt very in touch with the mystical mindset. As a child, I frequently pondered the divine, spending long nights staring at the stars, but it made no sense with what the Catholic church was saying. If this is so joyful, then why am I looking upon the face of a bloodied, tortured man every time I walk into his home on earth? I hated that crucifix above the church door. If it's the true story of how things are in heaven and earth, then what about those pesky fossil records?