The last few months have been pretty chaotic and upsetting, but things feel like they’re finally settling down into some semblance of normal again. Tonight was the first full moon esbast I’ve really been able to sit down and devote some time to since Yule. My mother got sick towards the end of last year, and died in January. Through the last couple of weeks of her life, we knew she was going to die, but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. In any case, that has been the source of a lot of rumination, contemplation, questioning and general introspective inquiry for me over the last few months.
It’s also been an interesting time for talking to my children. They’re not little anymore, so discussions about in-dept spiritual concepts have a much different flavor to them now than they used to. It’s interesting to see how their ideas about death, dying, the after;life and spirituality are unfolding and what they think about those concepts. It’s also interesting to me how very different they are from each other with regard to their thought processes and general spiritual ideas.
I have been working on creating a little outdoor space in my yard lately; I repainted some old patio furniture and bought a lovely bright umbrella for the table. It’s been nice to have diner outside, and gives me a pretty, dedicated space to meditate and/or commune with nature, especially when I feel like going outside at night. This evening was one such occasion; I brought my esbat journal and affirmation cards, incense and tea to my little spot and just bathed in the moonlight. Then I took a walk around my yard and mentally mapped out some future plans I’d like to implement for outdoor living spaces. The moon was so pretty and bright – I love walking around outside under the full moon!
I have been meaning to re-plant an herb garden, but haven’t followed through with it for various reasons. After my mom crossed over, it seemed like a good time to make those plans blossom. As part of my grief self-care and healing process, I have been buying plants and herbs. I love green growing things; I’m not super great at keeping them alive past a certain point, but I really love them. It’s been healing, because my mom had quite the green thumb and also loved her plants, so it’s almost like sharing this with her. In addition to garden basics like basil, thyme, oregano, lavender and catnip, I added several variations of common varieties, like lime basil and purple basil; hot & spicy oregano; several varieties of mint (spearmint, sweet mint, peppermint and chocolate mint); and other staples like lemon balm and be balm, succulents, bell and jalapeno peppers, and quite a few greenery plants and flowers as well.
When my mom died, my aunt brought me a cabinet that belonged to my grandmother. She had been keeping it for my mom (who inherited it when my grandmother died). My grandmother collected all kinds of dolls, and the cabinet is where they lived. I re-purposed it into my herbal and apothecary cabinet, with the top housing my living room altar. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a full altar in a public space in my house; my main altar is in my bedroom. Right now, it’s just a generic altar, but I’m planing for it to become more of a family space. I’m sure that with time, it will take on a life of its own as we add to it.
I spent some time the other day making honey incense. It’s been a long time since I’ve made incense; I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the process. It’s really easy, and can basically be customized with either what you have on hand, or for specific purposes. I made a prosperity and protection blend for Beltane. This has a lovely sweet scent, and doesn’t smoke a lot; it just kinda smolders, which is nice if you have allergies.
Homemade Springtime Prosperity & Protection honey incense
1 tsp comfrey leaf
1.5 tsp lavender flowers
1 tsp orange peel
.5 tsp fenugreek seed
2 white sage leaves
.75 tsp. frankincense powder
1 tsp copal tears
honey (aprox 1.5 tsp)
Grind all dry ingredients. I put everything in a mortar and grind with a pestle until the larger bits are about evenly sized, then move to an electric finder and give everything a spin – just enough to get a rough sand-like texture. Then pour into a small bowl and add honey, sparingly. You inky need enough honey to bind the ingredients together so they’ll hold the ball shape. Roll and place on parchment paper to dry in a cool, dark place. You can use them immediately, but the are better when dried and aged. Burn by placing a ball onto a lot charcoal disc.
I’ve also been spending time with my cards. I read with the Medieval Scapini Tarot, and have been experimenting with different ways to read. This was a year forecast reading, which I’ve never attempted before. It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the coming months.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but with a new year comes new writing goals and so I am back at it again. Today, I want to write about a very simple tool; one that’s easy to use no matter what your background, training, path or other designation might be. This is magic that you can do anytime, anywhere; whether you’re locked away, comfortable in your broom closet or Pagan and Proud and shouting it from the rooftops. I’m talking about affirmations. Quite simply, they’re magic.
Before we venture into this topic, I want to clarify what affirmations are, and what they’re not. When I was looking for an image to go with this post, and I came across quite a few graphics that were examples of affirmations (or were supposed to be). While many were actual affirmations, many were ‘encouragement’ or ‘praise’ rather than true ‘affirmations’, so I wanted to take a moment to explain the difference. When we talk about affirmations, there’s a difference in the way they’re worded. These are not trite words of praise that can be uttered or offered and discarded. They’re not rote pats on the back, a la Stuart Smalley, wherein you try to make yourself feel better. No; true affirmations are more than just words; they’re statements of intent. They’re the same thing that magic spells and prayers are made of; they’re action phrases.
Some affirmations are a declaration to the world (or to only yourself, as the case may be) of your will made manifest; a statement of WILL come. It’s a promise that you are going to put actions to those words and bring that statement into reality. Other types of affirmations serve a different purpose. They are reminders to your most inner self about who you are in your core; about where you came from, and about what your future holds. Statements like ‘I am Love, personified’; “I am filled with Divine Light and Purpose’; and ‘I am a vessel of The Goddess – See Me Shine’ reconnect the world-weary self with the essence of what we are when the conscious part of our minds forget what the unconscious knows, inherently. These types of affirmations are a powerful tool that can literally re-write your internal monologue, especially if you struggle with negative thoughts, which many people struggle to overcome.
I’ve been using a variety of tools to manage my mental health, and affirmations are part of my routine. I tend to prefer to make my own tools; the act of creation, and the final product invested with my time, energy and intention always seems to work better for me as it’s already attuned to the purpose for which it was created. I spent some time a couple of years ago creating a deck of affirmation cards for myself. I just used index cards, colored, stamped and glittered (because I like shiny things) with the actual statements printed off and glued onto the decorated cards. They’re nothing fancy; I keep them in a plastic box I bought at the dollar store, but they’re uniquely mine and meaningful to me, which is really all that matters.
Affirmations are not just positive thinking. Anyone can think good thoughts. The word ‘affirm’ means ‘to state as a fact; assert strongly and publicly’. It’s not just a sentence that you read from a card; affirmations are things that you feel. They’re statements and truths that you know, to the deepest part of yourself. They’re echoes of past lives and loves and experiences; they’re the things that you forget when you’re running around trying to take care of all of the various responsibilities and obligations in your life. Affirmations can bring you back to center, and keep you grounded and focused on the direction that you want to move forward in.
Affirmations are powerful magic; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. ;)
A friend of mine recently game me a name for something I’ve been making for a while, but calling something else. I’ve been making art shrines – little boxes full of paint, decoupage, paper, miscellaneous bric-a-brac, shiny and glittery things, handwritten notes, printed bits of paper, old torn up books… all arranged in some way that pleases me, but with a definite thought or concept tying the whole thing together. Her name for them, intent boxes, makes perfect sense, because that’s what they are – not so much ‘spells’ or ‘altars’, but similar to both and yet not quite either.
Well, she says ‘boxes’, I say ‘shrines’. Boxes, I would think, are more a home for a collection of things that you may gather and store for a purpose – things you can get out and touch and physically experience while meditating or to re-focus on your path when you may have wandered. I can see the value in creating such a box, with tangible reminders designed to be taken out and savored, or contemplated, on the path towards a goal. I have keepsake and ‘remembrance’ boxes that serve a similar function. Even my kids’ baby books have grown to the point of needing a box to keep them in because there are so many things filling them and falling out. For a tactile person, holding the physical memento or symbol of a goal can be a very powerful tool.
My version is more an art piece with intent built-in. This box, for example, is along the lines of ‘being kind to myself/yourself’. The mirror, with its persistent requirement of looking oneself in the eye (to see the ‘truth’ of yourself) is a prominent addition, with banishing oil in a vial (for banishing negative thoughts); a butterfly for transformation, Stella Maris for mercy and forgiveness, the key to unlock a brighter future… each element has both meaning and adds to the visual whole.
Another aspect of such a creation is the time and energy both spent on and invested in the box, itself. Energy work is a major part of my path, and it’s one of the reasons I choose to try to make most of my own tools – the energy I put into creating the tool literally makes it the tool I need it to be. My focus and intent and will imbue the tool or object with whatever my goal is, and I believe that makes it all that much more effective. There’s also the placement of the tool, whether on my altar or tucked away for use only in Ritual observances; this box, for example, is still tucked away in my art cabinet, because I am not quite ready to have it placed just yet. I’m still waiting for a final bit of inspiration to call it ‘done’ and figure out where it lives.
I have created others; one that I made several years ago still hangs on the wall by my bed. It’s focus is on both unlocking and honoring the creativity that I rediscovered during an art course I took. The shrine was the final project, presented at the end of the class. It is one of the first things I see when I wake up in the morning, and it’s been very inspiring.
Do you create similar ‘boxes’?
A few weekends ago, Bridey and I went to a retreat called W.O.M.A.N. – ‘Women of Magick and Nature‘. I’d learned about it earlier this year, and had been looking forward to going for some time. Despite how ‘connected’ I tend to think I am, it always surprises me to stumble upon some gem of knowledge or activity or event that is totally new to me. WOMAN has apparently been around for years, though it’s gone by several different names and changed leadership over the years – but the spirit of the gathering is in tact (at least I hope so – what I brought home from the experience was absolutely wonderful).
Over the course of the weekend, I got to meet so many bad-ass Texas witches – who have been around for years and both been instrumental in shaping the Pagan community in Southeast Texas and guiding the women who will come after them. I love that the traditions that started within Texas are being passed on, and at the same time, new life and vitality and ideas are breathed into them as new ones learn and adopt and grow. It felt good – being part of a group that, with each change of name and hands, both honors what came before while accepting and facilitating the changes to come. It’s a process that’s on-going… not without moments of frustration and sadness for what was lost, I’m sure, but overwhelmingly with love and excitement for that which is yet to come.
One of the things I was surprised to find is how much I enjoyed talking with the older women at this retreat. Having a community with a more diverse mix of ages is something that I hadn’t realized I was lacking. I remember sitting underneath the kitchen table while my mother and grandmothers and aunts and great-aunts (both those by blood and those by choice) would sit around talking and shelling peas, or playing cards. I always assumed that I would have that when I grew up, and I suppose in some ways, I do – but there were often elements of faith discussed in those kitchen-table gatherings and that’s the part that’s been lacking. It was energizing to be in an environment where spiritual ideas and concepts were so openly discussed and considered.
In my friend group, I am one of the oldest there – my kids are older, I’ve been married for the longest… I don’t have anyone to learn from. That’s not to say that I know everything, or that those with less time on the clock can’t or don’t have things to teach me – they absolutely do, and I eagerly accept their teaching just as readily as I do that from elders – but it’s not the same as being taught/mentored by an older woman. There’s something about the way an older woman imparts her knowledge – not universally, of course – personalities are what they are, but in general, the wisdom of years has something unique to offer, and I’ve missed it.
It was lovely being around so many women who wanted to teach and to learn from them. There’s something about the Pagan community, about the willingness to teach and be taught, that I don’t see in other religious communities. Whereas other communities all look to a single leader or group of leaders, at events like this, the floor is open to anyone who has something to offer. We had classes and workshops all weekend long, from divination, to crafts, to astrology… it was really interesting and fun to be part of. I felt like there was plenty of room for everyone’s time and differing opinions were heard and no one was belittled or told that they were ‘wrong’… it was such a great atmosphere.
One of the things I learned that I just love is a style of stone divination. Basically, you choose small stones, one for each planet in the solar system, plus ones for the sun and moon, and (to start with), a stone to represent yourself. Using either traditional or personal correspondences for the planets/stones, cast the stones within a circle (a 3’ loop of leather cord, or on a cloth or other surface with a defined edge). Depending on your preference, you can read the stones with the center point as the present, moving outwards for a timeline, or as the edge of the circle closest to you being the present, moving further along the timeline as you move away form yourself. Stones that are closest to ‘you’ (your signifier in the spread) have more of an effect, or their influence is in play, while those farther away from you have less influence. That’s a very (very) simplistic explanation, but gives the gist of the method. It’s also highly adaptable and open to various personalizations. We were left with the instruction, “Make it your own!”, so I did.
And then, there were the rituals. I won’t go into detail, simply because I feel like those were special times to me, and private. But these ladies went all out for planning and preparation, and it was really just awesome to be part of it.
I am so glad that I went. I struggle with anxiety issues, and as a child, I’d have passed an opportunity like this up. I’d have wanted to go, and been regretful for bowing out, but the stress and dread of meeting new people and participating would have been too much, so I’d have declined or bowed out when it came time to leave. I am so glad that I’ve worked through a lot of those issues. It was still hard to walk into a room in progress (we arrived mid-class), but without a doubt, this was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time and I am so glad that I got to share the experience. There’s another retreat in the Spring, and I am hoping that I get to go!
Over the past few years, I’ve come to recognize the importance and value in creating my own care products. Some things, like soap, I’ve tried and found that I don’t have the patience for, so I buy handmade soaps from reputable artisans, but other things I’ve dabbled in to try it out and found that I prefer making them myself.
Of late, herbal supplements have come under fire for not actually containing the herb that the label says, which can cause effects ranging from ‘nothing’ to ‘severe allergic reaction’, depending on what the supplement capsule actually contained and the user’s health history is. Some of the fillers used were rice flour and soy-based. If you were on a gluten-free or ketogenic diet, that could be enough to affect the user.
Of particular interest to me was that saw palmetto berry was one of the supplements they tested. I have PCOS, and have been taking a bi-phasic herbal blend to help regulate my symptoms, and SPB is one of the ingredients. I’ve been creating my own, because there isn’t a version of this particular blend available commercially, and I like to tweak things to my own use rather than use a recipe I find somewhere else, but I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to ‘think’ that something is helping, or worse – rule it out as helpful because you were really taking a capsule full of fillers.
This has further application as well. For Pagans on a shoestring budget, buying commercially packaged encapsulated herbs might be an easy way to access more expensive and/or uncommon herbs in small, inexpensive amounts for spellcrafting. While not the best quality, sometimes that might be the best option available. But if you’re counting on those herbal energies to aid your spellcraft, what’s the effect of using an entirely different set of energies (based on the fillers or actual product in the capsule)?
For my own purposes, both for personal/healing use and for spellcrafting, I’ve found it less expensive and a way to ensure the quality of the herbs I use, to slowly build up my apothecary cabinet with herbs and oils. I usually buy herbs in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs, essential oils and carrier oils our local health food store or from a company like Young Living, Eden’s Garden or DoTerra, and sometimes even from the grocery store (for tea-tree and avocado oils). I like Wyndmere’s blends (Clearer Skin is awesome!!), and have tried other brands as well. It’s definitely expensive, but when you plan out your purchases over a length of time, you can build a quality apothecary cabinet that you can depend on.
At this point, I’ve built my supplies to the point where I feel the need for cohesive storage, and have started buying containers (when they’re on sale, making them $1 each) and making labels for my herb jars. I’ve recently discovered the KonMari method of simplification, and have been taking strides to make her stance of ‘have nothing in your life that doesn’t bring you joy‘ my own. My herbs and oils, which are essential to my daily practice and family’s health, bring me joy because I know their value, and I want them to be more easily accessed and beautiful. I just created new labels:
I found a couple of old spice racks at Goodwill, and use that to store my oils in (and on – they’re creeping out of the spaces as my collection grows). Eventually, I will get around to re-painting them, but for now, they’re plain wood-grain and lovely in their simplicity.
My goal in writing this post is two-fold. One, if you’re a new Pagan, a new-to-herbcraft Pagan, or a Pagan who is under financial constraints, to let you know that ‘slow and steady’ is the way to go. It takes time, but eventually, you get to the point where you have the tools you want at your disposal. It’s absolutely worth the time and effort (and delay) that it takes to build your cabinet to ensure that the quality of the products you’re using is as good as you can make it. Secondly, to encourage those of you who haven’t taken the leap into herbcrafting for health use to give it a try. Start with something simple and easy, like tinctures (which only require herbs and alcohol or vinegar), or something honey-based, like elderberry syrup or ‘throat coat’ (made with honey, lemon and ginger – just add slices of lemon and ginger to a honey jar and let sit. Add a tablespoon to hot tea. Re-fill with honey when it gets low; add new lemon and ginger occasionally). Once you get some of those basics under your belt to build confidence, you can branch out into creating your own supplements. It feels good to take charge of your health, and to know exactly what you’re putting into your body.
I have been wanting to post this for some time, and am at long last getting around to doing it – yay! I have finally created a Shadow Book that I am happy with. I’ve experimented for years with different combinations of methods for creating and maintaining my Shadow Book, or as more proper pagans than I call it, Book of Shadows (I’ve always called it a ‘shadow book’ and am too old to change that habit now, so deal with it). Here it is, in all it’s unveiled, gigantic glory!
Over the years, I’ve tried various books and journals and binders, only to find that nothing was big enough to house all of the information that I wanted handy. Or, if it was big enough, I’d find or write something that needed to go between two pages that were already written on. I’m also notoriously fickle, so I’d end up wanting to change the way the sections in the book were ordered, which is impossible in a traditionally bound book. So, frustrated, I’d try another method.
Binders worked well for me for a long time. I used two main three-ring binders, and a variety of small notebooks for reflections and journaling. That got tiresome, as everything had its specific book that I had to keep up with. I’m a pretty organized person, but that was too many books to keep up with, even for me. To make matters worse, when I was working, inevitably I’d want something that was in another book or binder, and have to stop, locate the information and then continue. Such disruptions became bothersome, to the point that it was interfering with my practice – why bother if I was constantly under-prepared (and by under-prepared, I mean some bit of information that would flicker to life in remembrance once I got started – not things I should have had prepared before beginning).
But now, I have all of my information – what would traditionally be separated into a Book of Shadows, a Book of Mirrors and a Grimoire, all between two covers. Because of the way this book is maintained, adding new information, or changing the way information is organized is a matter of removing the cover, adding or shifting pages around, and replacing the cover.
I was inspired by some of the more commercial journals that I’ve seen on YouTube, particularly Pagan Scrapbook Supply. I love her books and supplies, but I am definitely not in the market to spend in excess of a hundred dollars for something I was reasonably sure that I could make for myself. And so, I started crafting! I knew that I wanted a post-bound Book. As a formerly avid scrapbooker, post-bound albums have the best flexibility when it comes to making changes; even PSS used the same concept (but with straps instead of posts, and two instead of three). All I really needed was the front and back cover. My first version was made from an old scrapbook that I had. It was the bare-bones, cardboard covers that tied with a string that I found at a dollar-store years ago. I cut the cover down (from 12×12 to a more manageable 8.5×11) and then used a variety of glues, papers and paints to make it look like old leather. I was semi-successful. It worked, but ultimately was a little more ‘rugged’ than I wanted. As a first attempt, it wasn’t bad, but was crooked, and not as solid as I wanted.
The next version, and what I am currently using, involved a pre-made, 8.5×11 post-bound scrapbook frame that I found at the craft store (similar to this one, with extension posts and multi-size posts). With a coupon, it was $10. I’d have done this straight away had I known that there was a commercially produced 8.5×11 size album available. All of my Books before have been printer-sized; I didn’t want to change to a larger page (or a smaller one). This album was exactly what I was looking for.
Initially, I had each page punched and inserted, but like the books in the video above, found that for maximum visibility, they needed to be mounted. So I used old file folders to create a bracket for the pages to stick to. Rather than have each page on a separate bracket, some brackets hold several pages (mounted to the fronts and backs) so that I have sections of related information where necessary. I’ve also found that plastic page protectors work in a pinch, but I dislike the look (and feel) of the plastic in my book. I do have some pages (herb info, mostly) that are currently in plastic page protectors, but will remove them eventually and mount them properly.
To create the page mounting strips, I traced a plastic page protector that could hold an 8.5×11 sheet of printer paper, and traced the area where the holes are, then cut it out and replicated it (dozens of times!!). It was time-consuming, yes, but the result was exactly what I wanted. Then I coffee-stained (like tea-staining, but with coffee – smells *amazing*) the 500+ pages that I’ve collected in my various binders over the years, mounted them and added them to the book.
What I ended up with is an amazing (if slightly bulky), useful tool that houses everything I need, from basic information, to more personal reflections, correspondences, recipes, spells and relevant material all in one place. Another feature that looks odd now, but becomes less so as time goes on (and more is added), is that there is ample room for embellishments and additions to the pages. I am an avid ‘art journal-er’, and my Shadow Book is eventually going to end up with the same treatment as my art journals – as a platform for my art. In this particular case, I still need my Shadow Book pages to be legible, but adding embellishments that add to the look, feel and general attractiveness of the book is part of nurturing my spirituality that I have been neglecting lately, and I am eager to get back into the process.
Though I tend to keep the pages of my Shadow Book private (you probably won’t see me doing a flip-through on YouTube), I don’t mind answering questions about the contents, so if you have a question, please feel free to ask in the comments. As I said though, I’ve combined the elements traditionally separated into the Book of Mirrors (personal reflections; a diary of one’s path), a Book of Shadows (practices; Sabbat and Esbat Rites; history, etc.) and a Grimoire (spells, recipes, etc.). I also keep blank pages in the center of the book so that when I wish to add notes, I can write in the book itself, and then move the pages to the appropriate section later on. This keeps all of my notes and things in one place, which I find helpful (and space-saving).
The last touch, which will probably be a while in coming, will be to create the spine cover. I need to get black posterboard (or regular posterboard and cover it with fabric) to make the spine look neater; it’s not required, but it will lend a more finished look to my Book. If you’ve made your own Shadow Book, I’d love to see it! If not, I hope you’re inspired to create one of your own. It’s something I’ve found to be very rewarding. Happy crafting!
“When celebrating the Wheel of the Year, you can interpret it many ways. You can see it as symbolic, agricultural, astrological, etc. You could even do a combination. How do you find significance of each holiday in the modern world we live in? For example, during the fall season, the holidays relate strongly to the harvest. In this day and age, most of us don’t live on a farm harvesting grain and ensuring the following year’s crops. How do you stay in touch with the roots of the holy days we observe when some times we are so far placed from them?
How do you interpret the Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year and make it fit the modern world around us?”
Litha is also when my local Circle celebrates our anniversary. We formed in 2011, and Litha was our first Ritual as a group, so each turn of the Wheel to Litha is another year that I celebrate in fellowship with the members of my Circle. We celebrate 3 full years in 2014.