Something I’ve noticed is that when you start browsing Pagan books, the great majority of them are ‘Pagan 101’ – what is is/means to be Pagan, how Pagans practice their faith, etc. I am a researcher by nature, and tend to be drawn to books on spirituality and on Pagan paths in particular. It’s been disappointing to see the same material rehashed over and over and over again: what Sabbats are, correspondences, dedication rituals and how to ‘be’ pagan – the very basics. Oh sure, it’s a little different; re-branded or spiffed up and published under a new name or path, but so much of it is the same basic, beginner material that you can find all over the place.
I’ve been thinking about why that is; why so many books are ‘beginner’ style books for Pagan spirituality, and have come to several observations. First, I think that a lot of Pagan practice is ‘first generation’. People are dissatisfied with mainstream spirituality and they go exploring. Because there are so many different styles of Paganism, it’s hard to ‘pick one’, and so each style or path has its own interpretation of the Path. Additionally, there are different ‘branches’ of Paganism: Wiccan, Heathen, Asatru, Druidic, Dianic… the list goes on, each with their own specific way of doing things.
Secondly, as information and technology have increased access to information, the sheer volume of beginner Pagans has increased to the point that such a volume of beginner material is necessary. Since there are so many first generation Pagans, there isn’t a large population of people who have practiced long enough to move beyond basics. Although I know many who have been in practice for decades, a great many of those have switched paths or gone eclectic or solitary for lengths of time, and developed their own traditions, rituals and styles of practice and don’t feel the need to publish it publicly. Add to that the general consensus that Pagans don’t like to be told ‘what to do’ or ‘how to worship’, finding an open group to practice with can be extremely challenging, which leaves many/most new Pagans solitary.
Thirdly, of those who have practiced for extensive periods of time, they don’t feel the need to indoctrinate their children into their faith, allowing the children to find their own paths, as it were. Without that indoctrination, children who grow up Pagan may or may not feel the need to pursue their own spiritual path. I know several adults who were raised by Pagan parents and although they may be interested on the fringe, most tend not to practice actively, at least among the people I know in this situation. Obviously, that’s not true across the board, so no slight intended if you’re a third or fourth generation practicing Pagan. These are just my observations, and I’d be interested in hearing yours.
Though I understand these as logical explanations, and accept whatever other possible explanations there may be, they don’t mitigate the fact that the majority of Pagan-centered books available are beginner-level books. For those who have been practicing long enough to have personalized their faith and practice, investing in new books can be disappointing because even seemingly promising books end up containing only a little bit of new information. While I certainly do not claim any authority, I thought I would share some of the ways that I have found helped me to move beyond ‘Pagan 101’ and into a more deeply personal and meaningful practice.
One method I found to circumvent getting trapped in the newbie books has been to move outside of strictly Pagan-themed books and into history, philosophy and world religion books. (Side note: My path isn’t deity-centered, so if yours is, the same types of methods for researching and deepening your knowledge about your pantheon or deities applies.) Beyond a certain point, even the most devout reconstructionist Pagan practitioner is just making stuff up to fill in the gaps in whatever factual/historical recorded information they have managed to piece together. From that viewpoint, their opinion on how you should practice is no more authoritative than yours. Additionally, many strictly Pagan-themed books tend to be European in origin, which means that they may be making recommendations for alignments and correspondences for a different hemisphere, climate or botanical availability than where you;re practicing your path. I am a firm believer is adapting my practice to suit my environment and many nature or earth-based paths focus on that connectivity almost exclusively. It seems silly to try to find herbs or wood to work with that you wouldn’t have any personal connection with because you’ve never seen, touched or smelled it!
If your path is earth-based; hedge-witches, kitchen-witches, and the like, and herb-crafting is a big part of your practice, then you’ll only find a handful of information in your typical Pagan-themed herbal companions. Look into books on gardening – learn native flora and what grows best when. Growing your own herbs, flowers and plants can make them so much more effective when you need them to work and the connection that you have to your garden and materials is a big part of making your path come alive. Continue your education; learn about using plants as medicine, how to distill essential oils, and anything else that strikes your fancy from sources that aren’t strictly Pagan-oriented. If the only information you;re lacking is the magical correspondence, those are easy to find online. If food is your bag, then the same applies; research cooking and recipes; experiment with flavors and use herbs and ingredients that you grow yourself.
I’d also suggest researching folk magic – hoo-doo and root-work, Santeria, Native American religions and other types of old, earthy magic. Many of those types of religions can be hard to find information on, but it’s worth it when you do. If your ancestors come from those religions, then even more so. My personal task over the last year or so is considering how ancient holidays could be modernized. I have posts about Lupercalia and Matronalia, and will be doing similar posts this year. I may not get them ‘right’, but it’s been a fun experiment, and adds value to my practice.
Another way to find more meaning in your practice is just that – practice. If you are a new practitioner, especially if you’re coming out of a religion where Pagan things are taboo, then you may be reluctant to actually do the things that you’re reading about. Even if you’ve ‘been Pagan’ for a long time, but don’t practice, moving beyond the basics means getting your feet wet – sometimes literally (if ritual cleansing is part of your practice). If you haven’t found anything in what you’ve read that appeals to you, make something up! There’s no right or wrong way to do an Esbat or Sabbat Ritual; there’s no right of wrong way to perform a candle spell, or sage your house, or create an altar. Don’t be afraid to try something, whether it’s all written out for you or you make it up yourself. If it has meaning for you, then it works. I view my path as an ever-winding road, with new things to learn and try around every corner, and I’ve been practicing for twenty five years. Some things I’ve tried flopped entirely, some things worked for a time or were interesting to try out, but ultimately didn’t stick, while others have become a regular, essential part of my practice. our spiritual practice should add meaning and value to your life, even if it’s a simple ritual like lighting a candle and incense with your morning coffee.
My final tip for moving into a more mature practice is to connect with the Pagan Community. Not just online, but in person. If your local community hosts Pagan Pride Day, or has a ‘Pagans Night Out’ or other meet-up, make an effort to go. If you have children, look for (or organize!) a Pagan Playdate or Pagan Game Night. There’s a group in the Houston area of TX that hosts an Interfaith Tea & Game Night, and there are organizations like Celebration of Womanhood and Women Of Magic And Nature (WOMAN) that host retreats for Pagan women each year. Meeting the incredibly varied group of women at WOMAN for the last 2 years has been such a great way for me to learn and explore different paths and practice dynamics and has added to deepening the meaning and value in my own practice. Plus, it’s just plain nice to be around other people who have similar (even if very different) beliefs.
How have you moved beyond Pagan 101?
Most of us are familiar with the various names for the Full Moon, but when I went looking for the names of the New Moon, I was a little surprised to find that there weren’t any. It seems odd that such a notable recurring event wouldn’t also have names to mark the passage of time, especially pre-calendar. I’ve talked before about non-traditional elemental associations and since this is one that I am making up, I thought I’d share my thought/creative process. For each month, I looked up several things, ranging from the history/origin of the month’s name and the deity(ies) they were associated with, as well as properties and other associations that go along with them. I also considered my own personal feelings and insights. Since this is a slice of my personal practice, how I interpret the months and times of year as the cycle turns plays a role in how I chose their names.
Because it’s the first of the year, let’s start with January. Even though, for many Pagans (myself included), January isn’t the beginning of the magickal year, it’s still ‘a’ beginning. I orient myself in the years’ planning starting in January, so for me, it is a beginning. Because I typically print of create my Moon Calendar by calendar year, and because my almanac runs from January through December, this is a logical starting point to me.
The Latin word for January is ianua, or door, since January is the door to the year. January’s deity is the Roman Goddess Juno. There’s some contention with that; apparently Janus was the original deity associated thought to be associated with January as He is the God of Beginnings and Transitions, but more recent research suggests it was, in fact, Juno. Because I am a woman, happily married and mother, the association with Juno speaks to me more. She is generally thought to be linked with protection of the state and of women, love, youth, fertility and vital force, marriage, and other complex roles. In particular, Juno’s name is associated with the Latin words iuvare, “to aid, benefit”, and iuvenescendo, “rejuvenate”, which could potentially connect her to the renewal of the new and waxing moon, which suggests that she may have been revered as a moon goddess. I like that idea. The word for January, or door, fits because in a way, Juno – and thus, January – can be seen as the guardian of the new year. She holds the doors to the year ahead, and as a gatekeeper, creates the way for the new path. For me, January is a time of beginnings – it’s when I reset my calendar, I’ve filed away things from the previous calendar year and get ready for the new year ahead. It’s a time of starting fresh, of making plans and setting goals and intentions – it’s sloughing off the previous year and starting anew. Because of those ideas and concepts, I’ve decided to call January’s New Moon the Renewal Moon.
Because of the potential length of this post, I am breaking it up into several parts. I will come back and edit the list below with the links to the other posts as I make them. For now, subscribe and you’ll get future posts in your inbox!
- January – Renewal Moon
- February –
- March –
- April –
- May –
- June –
- July –
- August –
- September –
- October –
- November –
- December –
- Black Moon (2nd New Moon in a month, also called the Secret Moon or the Finding Moon)
Do you have names for the New Moons? I’d love to read about it!
I’ve been a bit absent over the last few weeks; it seems like every time I get into a good groove, something happens to throw it off. It’s often that I lament the fact that the Universe doesn’t run according to my plans. However out of whack things get, they do always seem to find their way back to the course, but not without some action on my part.
I’ve been focusing on self-care for the last month or so; something I tend to neglect when I work a lot or get wrapped up in being busy. I love being busy, but it does catch up with me now and then, and I’ve been in a slump lately. Something I have noticed is that as I have become better at being in-tune with myself and meeting my own needs, I am able to recognize the beginnings of the down-slide sooner and respond more quickly to correct the course, which makes these little lapses much more tolerable. I wouldn’t say that I have a handle on it, exactly, but things are much improved, in any case.
This is where I am now – in the ‘action’ part of getting things back on track. The pattern seems to be:
- things are going well
- something happens and things are shitty
- I feel bad; wallow in bad feelings; complain and wish things were better
- recognize that things CAN be better; I am the key to making things BE better
- develop a plan; pay attention to self-care; start making things better
- things are going well
Whereas I used to get stuck in stage 3, I find that stage 4 and 5 come somewhat easier the more adept I become at managing step 5. No one wants to feel bad, but I think a lot of us just get caught in the loop and don’t know how to break out of it. For me, the cycle stops when I focus inward.
This has become my focus for Beltane this year: the idea that self-care is worship. The idea that I am a representation of the Divine Mother, and care of myself is care of Her go hand in hand for me. If the Divine Spark in me is a part of Her, then it would be negligent to allow that spark to be snuffed out. There are a lot of ways that the Spark can be extinguished, from a shift in focus or being distracted by everyday things, to something big that happens that rocks you to your core, like a loss or something catastrophic. I deal with chronic depression and anxiety, and sometimes I struggle to feel Her flame within just because the darkness is overwhelming and it’s easy to lose sight of things – but when I take a break and focus inward, it’s always there; I just have to look for it and coax it back to roaring life again.
What are you focused on this Beltane?
Last month, I posted about Lupercalia, and finding ways to make old holidays and traditions meaningful in today’s fast-paced world. Continuing in that vein, I thought I’d write about the ancient Roman festival of Matronalia. Traditionally, March 1st was the beginning of the new year, which made Matronalia was the first festival celebrated each year. That makes sense, considering that March is typically consistent with the beginning of Spring and the Earth coming back to life; ‘giving birth’, so to speak, to flowers and greenery after the long Winter sleep. Dedications to Juno, the Goddess of Birth and Motherhood and women in general, were made by everyone in Roman culture, from unmarried women, to new parents, to older women – everyone had reason to celebrate.
While Matronalia may be an ancient holiday, we have remnants of this festival in our own culture in Mother’s Day. Even though that’s absolutely a thing I make time for in May, as a mom myself, and as someone who works with women, birth and new mothers, I can’t help but like the idea of celebrating motherhood anytime the opportunity presents itself, and Matronalia, with the traditional celebration of these themes is a holiday very near to my heart.
One of the things I love about motherhood is the transformation. It’s not just ‘having a baby’ – there’s this whole world of transformation that goes on when a woman BECOMES a mother. It’s not something that happens to her; it’s a transition that she undergoes to become this whole other, new being. This is where the power and allure of Goddess-based worship lies for me; in the creative power that She both embodies and gifts to women, and the experience that I personally, as a woman, have undergone, and have witnessed in countless other women over the years.
So how does one go about translating an ancient festival into modern-day practice?
Since my personal fascination with motherhood is where my focus is, that makes it easy for me to create a framework to work from to craft my own version of a Martonalia celebration. Depending on where you are in your path, your framework might start with a different focus; fertility, protection or even gratitude. If your focus is motherhood or birth/transformation, then you might start with looking for deities that appeal to you within that frame – those dealing with birth, protection, mothers, babies and the like. Juno, since it was Her festival originally, is the obvious deity of choice, but if you don’t follow a strictly Roman of Greek path, She might not work for you. Depending on your path and needs, you might feel comfortable including other deities that have meaning for you. Lucina (another name for Juno), Ilithyia, Demeter (Roman and Greek); Haumea (Polynesian); Renenet, Hathor, Bes, Heket, Iat, Isis and Taweret (Egyptian); Frigg and Freya (Norse); Danu (Celtic) all could have a place during your celebration.
From there, you may start gathering items that symbolize whatever the basis for your celebration is focused on: femininity, motherhood, fertility and the bounty that ‘mother earth’ provides, protection, gratitude – whatever feels right for your needs. You may also choose to represent things sacred to any of the deities you choose to invoke, like foods, flowers, animals, stones, shells, incense and other such tangible items that feel appropriate. Since this holiday festival celebration isn’t one that’s common today, you can really do whatever you like with it, as long as you do so respectfully.
For my personal celebration, I am taking the time this year to reflect on the changes that my life has undergone since becoming a mother, and in gratitude that it’s been a relatively easy transition. Since peacocks were one of the birds sacred to Juno, and figs were a favored food, I am decorating my altar with peacock feathers, and doing a simple ritual with incense made from dried fruits and honey, and a simple cakes and ale with milk and figs.
How are you celebrating Matronalia this year?
There’s something I really enjoy about making old celebrations new again, and so this year I am taking a stab at honoring some of the long forgotten (or transformed) holidays a little more modern. Obviously, the historically ‘accurate’ traditions probably won’t translate well into today’s accepted celebratory rituals… sacrificial goats are a little hard to come by around here and we’re rather fond of our pup, so that’s clearly out. Plus, what would the neighbors say? The boys are also not keen on public displays of either dancing or nudity, so we’ll have to skip those parts as well. It occurs to me that, while the turning of animal skins into leather might be a useful skill, creating lashes with which to chase and hit young women is also going to have to be forfeit as we don’t generally condone violence, and definitely prohibit violence towards women … so again, a more modern interpretation in necessary, I think.
Apparently, not even the Romans knew the origins of the festival, or even which deity it was associated with; they just that it was a thing and they celebrated it with enthusiasm. That makes it a little hard to find modern-day associations, but there are some that seem obvious to me, even if they’re not historically accurate. Since the word ‘lupercalia’ is derived from both Greek and Latin, and where we find modern words for wolf, it seems natural to me that the deities associated with wolves and other canines would be the focus at this time of year. Whatever your chosen pantheon, there’s likely a deity that is associated with wolves: Fenrir for the Norse; Anubis for the Kemetic/Tameran; The Morrigan for the Celtics; Cerberus for the Romans; Pan for the Greeks; Inari (Kitsune, Dakini) for the Shinto, Hindu and Buddhist … there are others as well, but those are some of the ones I am more familiar with.
Fairly consistent with historical practice, these deities also are associated with themes of fertility, protection, ensuring good favor and good fortune. According to the oldest records, Lupercalia was a festival designed with rites ‘to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility’. That’s pretty common at this time of year, with Spring on the horizon – Imbolc is just passed, with ‘waking the Earth/Goddess’ and preparing the ground for seed to be sown, love is in the air as animals come out of hibernation and look for mates, Valentine’s Day is celebrates (with it’s historical ties to Lupercalia and other Pagan festivals)… even though this is an ‘ancient’ holiday, we’re not as far removed from it as it might seem on the surface!
So how does one translate traditional celebrations into modern day observances? Starting with the obvious, exploring Lupercalia and its connection to wolves is a logical beginning. Wolves symbolize strong family connections, loyalty, communication and stand as guardians. Spring is a time of planning and sowing, and so introspective questions arise:
- Are my goals clear?
- Am I communicating my intentions?
- Am I guarding my space to ensure that I am able to work effectively on achieving my goals?
Taking the themes popular in the Spring, my deities of choice are The Morrigan and Fenrir. The Morrigan is probably more well-known for her associations with ravens, but she’s also known to take the form of a wolf in folklore. Her role as a Mother Goddess, protector and fierce warrior is well-known, and in the context of my path at this point in my life, appropriate. Fenrir is also a strong figure, tasked with overcoming Odin at Ragnarok. As Odin could be seen as the personification of Wisdom, defeating ‘wisdom’ to make the world anew is an interesting concept.
This Lupercalia, then, is celebrated with meditation and introspection, with a focus on honestly considering my needs and goals, moving forward with making plans for the coming year and making sure I am clearly communicating what I need in my life to accomplish them. It’s not flashy, but it does feel ‘right’, and that’s all one can ask!
Have you tried taking/making meaning from old traditions?
I really miss the alphabetical challenge that the Pagan Blog Project was doing – though I understand why they stopped, it was a fun challenge, and even though I don’t think I completed one of them ‘on time’, it did keep me writing. So I thought I’d do a modified version of it just for myself, with a more-or-less weekly alphabetical update.
I also found another site with monthly blog prompts, at Mom’s a Witch. I’ll probably work some of those in over the course of this coming year as well.
Starting with ‘A’, this week’s post is on Air in the North, Part II. A while back, for one of the other PBP posts, I did the original Air in the North post, but I’ve learned more since then and thought it was worth another post. I also met another few people who put Air in the North, which was really cool, since most of the people I practice with on a regular basis keep to traditional elemental directions.
At Pagan by Design, the article starts off with acknowledging the discrepancy and sometimes conflict among different Pagan paths regarding elemental and directional correspondences. There are a lovely few paragraphs that indicate other Pagan cultures and paths that use additional directional and elemental correspondences (of note, Chinese, with fire, wood, metal, earth and water). I particularly like the Celtic and Gaelic preference of North, East, South, West, Above, Below, Within; and the concept of the Spirit being divided into 3 – Light, Dark, and Soul. I’ve written Druidic-inspired Rituals, using only three correspondences: Land Sea & Sky; and have participated in Native American-inspired Rituals where we did a Medicine Wheel rather than a traditional Quarter Call.
Part of my preference for Air in the North comes from thinking along these lines:
The North improves mental wisdom, discovery, and logic in an illuminating fashion. Knowledge accumulated through our lives is purified, as if a swift breeze blew away all dust and confusion. We prepare for intellectual illumination as these winds sweep into our awareness. It seems that gusts of enlightened, intellectual processes of “knowing” blows into our lives.
I was also particularly intrigued to find that the Lakota People also associate North and Air. I am not Lakota, but I’ve learned a bit about them over the past few years as one of my good friends is of Lakota heritage, and identifies with some of the spiritual paths and practices of the People. That makes total sense to me, as the Dakotas would be among the first territories to feel the chill of the Northern Winter storms – Air would absolutely make sense coming from the North for them, which is a big part of my feeling that Air belongs in the North for me as well.
After a lengthy explanation of why traditional correspondences exists and speculation as to how they came about, Pagan’s Path ends with this:
For you, the wind might be warm instead of cold. The waters might be cool instead of warm. What do you “feel” when you think of each element? Does the fire rise or flicker? Does the Earth rise or spread out upon a vast land? Make your own saying and then think about where these elements fit within the cardinal directions of your location. Is it cold in the North or the South? Does the warm water flow to the South or East? Does the sun represent your fire? If so, when it rises in the East or sets in the West? Does the Earth rise up to greet you in the mountains of the East, West, or maybe some other direction? These are the things that make you connected to the elements, the directions and the Divine Energy around you. It’s not how your friend feels, or your partner thinks, or what your Teacher says is right or wrong. None of those outside forces are going to be there when YOU sit down to do a working or to commune with the Divine world around you. So this is your time to think about where you are, and what you believe. You have the answers within yourself. Just sit down, meditate a little and ask your higher self what goes where and why.
That, I think, is one of the key elements as to how ‘being Pagan’ works. “You have the answers within yourself. Just sit down, meditate a little and ask your higher self what goes where and why.” This, exactly.
Though I am pretty vocal about my preferences, I don’t have to have Air in the North to be part of a Ritual Circle. I have, and do, function just fine when someone whose correspondences differ from mine leads Ritual. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that my practice is enriched by being part of Circles where things are vastly different form how I normally do them. Being exposed to new things always adds an element of wonder to my experience within that Circle, and I have always come away from that experience with something to take back to my practice (or know with certainty that something is ‘not for me’).
If you keep non-traditional correspondences, I’d love to hear form you – what they are and why you have them!
I was asked recently about my stones and crystals, and thought I’d make a post about them; specifically, about how they’re used. But first, some basics!
Most of the Pagans I know tend to think of their stones as ‘living’ objects, and by that, I mean that they recognize the energy and effect that stones and crystals have on their user/wearer. If you’re not familiar with stones and crystals in your personal practice, they can be a useful addition. I recommend getting a couple of books on stones, both scientific/geology-related and Pagan-related, to get an idea of what it is you’re dealing with. Knowing the geological profile of a stone can help you place it into your practice and correspondences more easily, in my opinion (especially if you use non-traditional correspondences, or follow an eclectic path). DK Press has several ‘stones and gems’ books, and I found one that is organized by color that is useful for identifying stones I find in the wild. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem and Metal Magic is another good one, and The Crystal Bible by Judy Hall is another good one.
While it’s tempting to start your stone and gem collection and pack it away, stones and crystals can’t help you if they’re tucked away in a drawer. To get the most effect, they need to be handled, loved and taken care of. It’s important to recharge your stones, too. But first, let’s talk about choosing the right stones for your collection.
Choosing Stones and Crystals
So how do you go about choosing the ‘right’ stones and crystals? Mostly, it’s by ‘feel’. Sometimes, you can be drawn to certain stones or crystals and know instantly that it’s right for you. Other times, you may need to touch and hold several in the bin before finding the ‘right’ one. It’s not uncommon for me to be walking around outside by the beach or in the woods and be drawn to something I can’t readily see, only to find a beautiful bit of sea glass or a stone that feels like it’s ‘mine’. Crystals seem to be a bit different, in that they often warm to the touch if they’re meant to go home with you! I can imagine that it has something to do with the cuts and the vibration of your personal energies, but that could be a load of hooey. In either case, crystals are easier for me to choose or recognize that it’s not meant to be mine than stones.
Can you use ‘just any’ stone or crystal? Probably, but if you don’t feel it, then chances are you won’t see the result that you were looking for.
Cleansing & Charging
I’ve read a lot of different methods for cleansing and charging. As with any magickal tool, I feel like cleansing prior to use is essential. Not only does cleansing clear whatever other psychic vibrations or energy attached to it, but it also gives you a chance to impose your energy on it, and ‘tune in’ to the stone or crystal. I use crystals and stones all the time – herbs and stones/crystals are probably the most often used in my personal practice – so I want to make sure that my stones work for me. Cleansing is a vital step for best results.
Among my favorite methods for cleansing are Sun Cleansing, Moon Cleansing, and Water Cleansing. With Water Cleansing, you can use Salted Water, Moon-Blessed Water, or Holy Water to cleanse. For Sun Cleansing, I choose a day when the sun is bright and the sky is clear. The Summer Solstice is an ideal day to cleanse stones in the sun, but any day would work. If correspondences are important to you, then you might choose a day that corresponds to the stone you’re cleansing, and use other favorable trappings as well (like color of tablecloth, or herbs on the table as well). I don’t cast a Circle for cleansing stones, but I do set a small, temporary altar, with the elements represented and the stones in the center. I leave the stones out in direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day, and bring them in afterwards. A word about Sun Cleansing for crystals – I don’t use the sun for crystals. The UV rays can discolor your crystals, and some crystals can crack or shatter if they get too hot. They’re still the same, energetically speaking, but not as pretty.
For Moon Cleansing, I recommend waiting until the Full Moon. I try to cleanse and charge my crystals by moonlight only, and every month. If I am home, it’s easy to leave them out overnight, but even just a little while under the moon can cleanse and re-charge them. You don’t have to do anything fancy; leaving them in a windowsill where the moon can touch them is perfect if you can’t get outside.
Something that is also very effective is Spirit Cleansing. Spirit Cleansing is ideal for those on a limited budget, or who practice discreetly, or just prefer to do things without a bunch of ‘stuff’. We Pagans tend to like our ‘stuff’, so sometimes it’s nice to get back to basics, and really connect with the idea that the power is in the witch. Spirit Cleansing is essentially using your own energy to cleanse and charge a stone or crystal. Using Spirit to charge is common; it’s how I charge all of my stones and crystals – but using Spirit to cleanse as well is just as effective. If you think about it, the intent is what matters. Even with other methods, you’re still drawing on your energy to set the intention. Spirit Cleansing is just a little more overt. To cleanse with Spirit, like with other methods, I don’t cast a Circle. I prefer to do Spirit Cleansing at my altar, with my altar and working candles lit. Spirit Cleansing is a little like meditation practice, in that you’re holding the stone and focusing your energy into it, and through it, and drawing your will and intent into it.
Charging your stones and crystals is something different from cleansing (though you can do both at the same time). Much like with Spirit Cleansing, charging uses either your own energy, or the energies of the elementals and things around you, combined with your will, to help the stone or crystal do the work you intend it for. One of the reasons stones and gems and crystals are effective is because you’re drawing on its own energy as well. When your intent is in alignment with the energy and purpose of the stone or gem or crystal, then it just works! Generally speaking, to charge my stones, gems and crystals, I hold it in my hands, and use visualization and focused meditation to set the intention for the stone. Some stones, I have specific goals for; others are for more general use.
One of my favorite ways to use stones is by wearing them. Lots of places have necklace pendants that you can either tuck a stone into, or open and put a stone in. I have both kinds, and they’re ideal for wearing small stones. The ones I have are large enough to put multiple stones in, which makes customization easier. Using harmonious stones or gems in one group can maximize a particular effect, or mediate the effects of one stone by using another. I wear my stones to help control anxiety and stress, and to promote compassion and harmony in my interactions with people. My son wears stones to help with gastrointestinal stress, and digestive issues. They’re also useful on the bed-side table, to help with falling asleep, staying asleep and dream-magick.
Another way to draw on the healing and/or magickal properties of crystals and stones is to make tinctures or oils with the stone or crystal inside. My jars and vials of Moon Blessed Water, for example, usually also contain a bit of moonstone, or quartz (or both). If you’re making massage oil, adding rose quartz, amethyst, tiger’s eye, or carnelian can either help with relaxation or help spice things up. For prosperity oil, gold, adventurine, unakite, goldstone, labradorite and other stones that attract wealth or luck can boost the oil’s effectiveness.
Many stones also have a deity connection; that is, a stone or crystal is associated with a particular deity. They can be used to focus on your connection and communication with a particular deity, or to establish one. In some cases, being drawn to a particular stone may be deity trying to get in touch with you! If that’s something you’re open to, a little research can go a long way towards figuring it out.
I also use stones in spellwork. Larger stone can be used as candle holders – I drip some wax onto the stone, and set the candle into it, then place it on my altar until it’s done or my work is finished. Stones are also great for long-acting spells; stones are very stable and can hold onto an intention for a long time (especially with regular care). I use them on my altar as place-holders for intention or as the visible reminder of spellwork for prosperity and protection that are either in other areas of my home or outside (like Witch Balls).
Crystal grids are another good way to maximize your intent. Laying a grid can be somewhat time-consuming, but once it’s laid, the stones use each other to stay active. The old infomercial ‘set it and forget it’ comes to mind (only don’t ‘forget it’ – you ARE the magic)…. Stone massage is another great use for your stones. Much like the very popular (and costly) ‘hot stone massage’ that many spas offer, you can achieve similar effects with your own stone collection. Certain stones are aligned with the seven chakras, and can be used to balance them, and affect your musculature and overall health. Though you can buy fancy sets of chakra stones (and there are some really nice, big flat stones that are engraved), you don’t have to go to such lengths to get the same effects that you can get from stones you find our buy in rock bins.
Crystals, stones and gems can also be used in decorating. I mentioned a while back that I was somewhat interested in Feng Shui, and found that they can be useful in bringing harmonious energies in, and helping the flow of energy in your home in general. I haven’t put this to the test, but I am fascinated by the possibilities and will probably try it and see what sticks.
Something that I’ve found to be very useful is purchasing vials of stone or crystal chips or shards. Those are very small, and can go into things like charms and spell bottles more easily than larger stones. They can also be ground in a mortar and put into things that you might not otherwise think to put them in (like sprinkling in doorways or around the foundations of your home for protection).
If you’re not currently using stones in your personal practice, I encourage you to give it a go. Start simple; your birthstone is a good place to start. Those are really easy to find and
completely inconspicuous (if discretion is important to you). From there, you can learn about the correspondences associated with it, and how you can use it to focus your energy, will, intent or spellwork. Birthstone jewelry is simple, but can be an important tool, too.
This is far from an exhaustive guide to how stones, gems and crystals can be used, nor are my methods the only ones. One of the most important facets of many Pagan paths is personalization. Trial and error are expected; ask any witch and they’ll tell you about the many mistakes and fumbles that they endured when they were new to the Craft. It’s okay to try something and if it doesn’t work for you, to scrap it. It’s also okay to try something multiple times until you get it (to a point where it feels) right, or to discard it today only to pick it up down the road.
How do you use stones in your practice?