Monthly Archives: April 2014

H is for Herbs and spices

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H is for Herbs and spices

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I love herbs. My mom is a gardener and growing up with a garden with plants growing and herbs all around has always been interesting to me, although spading and working the soil was not my favorite thing as a kid. When I discovered the magic of herbs, I jumped at it, and one of my first entries in my magical workbook was several pages about herb lore. Although it would be a while before I really started doing a lot with herbs, when I started cooking regularly, they also become a favorite way to give flavor, depth and interest to dishes.

Herbs (which for me cover everything like seeds, barks, roots, petals, flowers, stamens and leaves) have a multitude of means of putting them to work in practical sorcery While I don’t always think about magical relationships with herbs while cooking, sometimes the symbolism I find can be quite potent. An apple pie with cinnamon or clove can be clever and tasty way to deliver a love spell. A good marinara sauce seasoned with basil, rosemary and sage can help to promote peace and blessings among the inhabitants of a home. Make a protection soup with white mustard, black pepper and that ubiquitous pinch of salt, which can both be magical and flavorful. A cup of chamomile tea can be soothing and relaxing, but also help bring luck, especially with money.

Of course, there are more ritualized methods of working with herbs as well, that are not so subtle. Making a herbal blend which you then boil or steep in hot water to make a magical bath. For cleansing I have a preference for sage (the garden variety) hyssop and eucalyptus leaves. For love, Rose petals, lavender buds, and some rosemary make for a gentle love drawing bath that smells quite green and floral. For something a bit more spicy, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom made into a strong tea and then bathed in can also bring a bit for physical enjoyment. You can also just simmer the above spices, or a pumpkin spice blend in a pot of water to get the scent to fill the home before an amour comes over to visit. Similarly a bath in cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice can help to draw wealth and good fortune. You can also bath in chamomile tea, which creates a bath of golden water, a very striking image of as you are bathing in gold.

While not as commonly used by many people, powders are a good way to apply magic. A practice that comes mainly from African American folk traditions, it is often overlooked by people outside of tha tradition, except for well known powders like Hotfoot Powder or Goofer Dust, two powders used to curse people, either to drive them away, or to potentially kill them. You can also use simple powdered herbs for their effects. Putting a pinch of ground black pepper and then a pinch of salt in your shoes can help to protect you from harm, shielding you from curses that have been laid down where you walk. The first time I did this, I almost jumped when I put my shoes on, because I immediately felt this surge of power go through, as though some residual negative energy have been cast out from me. Of course, there are other powdered herbs. You should take a pink of powdered cinnamon and lay it down underneath your door mat, to bring wealth to your home, a good practice if you also have a home business. Laying powdered herbs down that relate to your intention in the 4 corners of your home or property is a good way to reinforce magic performed on that area to help establish protection, blessings, or good fortune in the home or property. You can also use powdered herbs in rituals, using them to lay down symbols that connect to the herbs powers, which are serve to further reinforce your intention and focus. The most recognized one would be a circle of protective herbs, perhaps mixed together, which then marks a boundary for a ring of candles that surround a single candle, used in a spell for protection. When the candles have all burned out, collect the powder again, and carry it with you for protection, or sprinkle it around your home or the place to be protected.

There is a multitude of ways of using herbs, and I hope I have laid out some less commented upon methods here to inspire your imagination when working with herbs in magic.

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H is for Hagalaz

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H is for Hagalaz

Hagalaz
Hagalaz is the rune that marks the beginning of the second aettir of Elder and Anglo-Saxon Futharks. It’s name is usually translated as Hail. That frozen precipitation that falls from the sky in some parts of the world. I have been in a few hail storms, and usually very small pellets of hail, about the size of BB gun pellets. Mostly I have been inside, where it does make quite the din, but apparently being caught outside in such a storm is unpleasant, although only mildly as the tine stones beat against your face, head and exposed skin, as their descent from the sky causes them to be moving at very high rate of speed as they accelerate towards the earth.
There is the other hail storms, where hail stones can be as big as baseballs or softballs, and these hail storm can do significant damage to property, people and animals, as they are also moving quite fast, and being larger, can pack particularly more destructive power when they do so. If you have been fortunate enough to not live through one, here is a google image search link to help you.

For me at least, that is the lesson of Hagalaz. Destruction. Destruction that leaves only things that can barely be salvaged in it’s wake. What is left after the Hagalaz storm? Well, apparently ice that melts down into water, which can be beneficial to any crops that survive of the beating, and not much else. It is after the storm passes that is the important time to rebuild though, because what is left, is strong. It is durable. It has withstood the storm and can continue forward. The weakness has been cast away and it leaves only room for the strong to grow, prosper and move forward. If you were to use Hagalaz against a foe, and that foe manages to walk away at the end, you better hope is lesson in survival taught him to think better then messing with you ever again, and perhaps to follow a new path. Otherwise, he won’t be so easy to eliminate if there is a next time.

Black Salt

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Black salt is a mixed preparation of salt and a few choice items that turn that salt from its usual white color to a black color. You can Google recipes for it, and there are also people who manufacture it, usually by somehow adding a pigment to the salt that turns it black. Some other names for Black salt is also Sal Negro (Spanish for Black salt) and Witches’ Salt. In this case the witches being referred to are not the contemporary followers of a neopagan religion, but rather the historical and folkloric “witch” a figure, sometimes supernatural in nature, who use supernatural powers to do harm to people and places in various ways.

As the names suggest, the primary use and purpose of black salt is to curse or perform harmful magic. A common secondary purpose is used to drive away people from your home. This is also a form of a curse, although a curse done to protect oneself and property from the person who is already causing harm. It is similar to hot foot powder in that sense, as hot footing someone is also a type of curse meant to drive someone away, whether that person is vexing neighbor, a bothersome coworker, or a conniving love rival. Ultimately both are curses, are not in anyway beneficial, benevolent, or really kind acts to be engaging in, however necessary they may be for one’s personal health, wealth and well being. Remember that the color most often used for cursing is Black. And the historical and folkloric image of witch (whose salt this is) is a supernatural agent of harm and evil. Black salt is used to curse, and sometimes that curse is used to drive away other evil beings, but the essence behind it is cursing and doing harm.

There seems to be a new fad of promoting black salt as something not as bad. I have read online various indications of use black salt for protection, by laying a circle of black salt around your home. This is a technique one might do with regular salt, as salt is protective, and purifying. Black salt, however, is the opposite of that. Laying a circle of black salt around your home would probably only curse you and start ruining any peace or prosperity in your home, instead of protecting you from harm.

Elsewhere I have read suggestions to use black salt with the dead and with ancestors. That concept is also ignorant usage of black salt. For one, a great number of methods and styles of venerating ones ancestors and conjuring up the dead indicate not to use salt. This applies to any kind of salt, not just regular salt. While the various metaphysical explanations behind this are multitude, it still comes down to one thing. Don’t do it. The ancestors and the dead don’t like salt. For the few methods that do use salt, one should keep in mind that it is unique to that culture and tradition, and the salt they use is going to be regular salt, not black salt.

I have also read suggestions of using black salt with gods, usually gods of war, death, the underworld. Again, I find this to be incorrect, although there could be an exception. The exception would be calling upon that specific god to bless the black salt, before you go out and use it to drive away evil or to curse. That is not the same as using blacks salt in devotion and veneration of the god or gods in mind

It is possible that in your personal work, you might find a spirit that wants to have black salt in it’s presence. If that is the case, then do so, but remember that it is unique to you, and unique to your practice, and in no way reflects traditional uses and folklore behind black salt and if you do write about it, you should make that clear to your readers.

I have even read people suggesting to bathe in black salt, although I suspect this might be a recommendation for a special kind of salt that is mined from the ground, which has a dark gray to black color to it. That would function as normal salt, not as the special mixture known as “black salt” which is salt mixed with things

G is for Geomancy

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G is for Geomancy

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Geomancy is the word which I use to refer to a method of divination. It was a method that seems to have originated from Arabic lands, where it goes by the name khat al raml and many others. From this name it was translated into Greek as Geomancy meaning “earth divination” It reached it’s heyday in Europe during the middle ages and the renaissance, and like many other occult arts, dwindled with the flowering of the Age of Reason. During it’s hey day, it was widely practiced and a number of authors wrote treatises about it, even more so then most other methods of divination. It was mainly very easy to use, unlike astrology which required complex calculations and instruments to view the sky, or other methods of sortilege, like card reading, which means you needed to have cards on hand (which not everyone did). At it’s simplest all you needed was some kind of blank field that you could use to make dots which could be used to count and create the figures that build a geomantic reading.

There are sixteen figures used in geomancy. During the middle ages and Renaissance in Europe, these figures were identified with astrological forces, with each classical planet being given two figures, and two more figures attributed to the North and South nodes of the Moon. Each of the figures are composed for 4 lines, which will have either one or two marks. One mark is an indication of active energy in that line and the presence of that force. Two marks are the indication of passive energy of that line, and the absence of inactivity of that force. From top to bottom the lines are named Head, neck, body, feet. They are also identified with the four classical elements from top to bottom of Fire, air, water, earth. These lines and their elemental values, combined with the planetary symbolism, help to give depth to a reading, but also in understanding the symbolism of each sign and it’s interaction with the world and with other signs.

The two methods of using the figures were in generating charts. The oldest and most traditional method is known as a shield chart, which requires one to generate 4 figures, however you wish to do that. These four figures are identified as “mothers” and from them the rest of the figures of the chart are created, about 11 or 12 figures, depending upon the inclusion or exclusion of a final figure. From the mothers one generates 4 daughters and from the mothers and daughters are generated the Nieces, which are then used to generate two witnesses, which are combined to form the Judge. The Judge is considered the answer to the question, sometimes with an additional figure formed by combining the judge and first mother to form the Reconciler, which makes a total of 16 figures used in the chart. Additional methods of shield chart interpretation help to give more precise and particular answers through the relationship of the judge to other elements in the chart.

From the shield chart, a second chart can be generated, known as the house chart. This chart is based upon the 12 house system of astrology, where each sign is placed into a house. The most basic ordering is taking the 1st mother which is given to the first house, 2nd mother to the second house, 3rd mother to the third house etc… There are other methods of assigning figures, depending upon whose treatise you read, or your own insight from gaining proficiency and skill with it. From the house chart it is also possible to answer questions, which can further influence the indications given in the shield chart and also given more depth and precision to a reading.

I came into geomancy a few years ago when I discovered a newly published book by John Michael Greer. It talked about Earth magic and divination, and as I was very much feeling the earth magic vibe, I was very intrigued by the book title. That introduced me to this method and I quickly took to practicing it and using it as often as I could, in order to become proficient with casting charts and understanding the signs. I also was very taken to how simple the signs were, which can be easily used in making talismans for magic, calling upon the forces symbolized by the geomantic signs.

There does seem to be a rebirth for geomancy occurring right now. While this practice did disappear in the West (although it did survive in some interesting ways and get small revivals during other blossoming of interest in the occult) there are a good number of sources available. Quite a few books have been written, as well as academic research into it as a item of historical interest. It also seems that in Arabic countries, the practice of geomancy has never fulled disappeared. It also bears some resemblance to I Ching, but also methods if Ifa divination. Whether they are related, or only bear passing resemblance is not fully decided or clear yet to researchers. There are some geomancy groups in existence right now, which can be found in Yahoo and also on facebook, where people can share techniques, and get assistance with their interpretations of charts they have cast. Another great resource and modern intrepid explorer is Polyphanes over at Digital Ambler. His work with geomancy is quite fantastic and he does contemplate it in order to advance this once forgotten divinatory art.

G is for Ganesha

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G is for Ganesha

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One of my favorite deities of the Hindu panoply of gods is Ganesha. He is fantastic. I forget when I was first introduced to him, but I have always felt a certain fondness for him, and enjoyed learning about him; the myths, the mantras, the devotions, the festivals.

The popularity of Ganesha extends throughout many of the religions that originated in India. Hindus, Buddhists, Jainists, all seem to venerate Ganesha, and it seems quite a few people outside of that religion, who also are drawn to him.

His origin story is quite well published, and if you want to read it, well, Google it, but I will do a quick paraphrase here. He is the son of Parvati, the wife of Shiva, who was created to guard her while she took her bath. However, while Parvati was bath, Shiva returned and sent some of his followers to call upon Parvati. Ganesha denied them, and beat them soundly when they attempted to trespass. Finally Shiva came to see what the problem was, and not knowing the boy was his wife’s son, they fought. Shiva won, but before Parvati could stop the conflict, Shiva had used his destructive third eye upon the youth, destroying his head. In order to revive him, another head needed to be found, which was an elephant head, which became attached to the boy’s body and he was then revived. There are quite a number of different versions that fill in various details and explain various things, but that is the very short hand version of the story that I first heard.
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He is associated with having dominion over many things, but his main attribute is the Lord of Obstacles. While mostly often he is asked to remove obstacles, it is also said that he can place obstacles in the path of people who need it. One of his names reflects this power where he is identified as Vighneshvara, which literally translates as Lord of Obstacles (shvara – lord and Vighne being obstacles). There are other variations of this name, but the meaning is considerable consistent. The obstacles he governs are both physical and metaphysical and can be people, places, concepts, spiritual issues, illness and many other things. For this reason he is often called upon when beginning a new venture, to remove obstacles that may obstruct it, as well as when engaging in ritual, to remove obstacles that would impede the success of the ritual.

Another name and association is with knowledge, wisdom and learning. The concept I learned with that is his name Ekadanta which means “One Tusked” as he is often portrayed with only one complete tusk, the other one often broken off and being held in one of his hands. I have a small clay statue showing him holding this broken tusk, and it seems he was using it as a writing implement. The story that I learned is that it was Ganesha who first created writing, and started to write down what other gods said, that it might be preserved and remembered. As he was doing so, his writing implement broken, and there was nothign to replace it. So he broke off his tusk, and dipped it into the ink and continued writing. Because of his connection to knowledge, wisdom and learning, he is also sometimes known as Buddhi’s husband or Buddhipriya, buddhi being a sanskrit word for knowledge and wisdom which is a feminine word and priya meaning fond of, lover or husband.

Ganesha is also associated with a number of other concepts. It is said that the OM is his nature. The swastika is a very popular symbol and it is widely associated with Ganesha. Many statues from the subcontinent of Ganesha often have the swastika prominently displayed on Ganesha, or used in his depictions. He is also said to dwell in the muladhara chakra, as it said the “he holds, supports and guides the other chakras , and thereby governing the forces that propel the wheel of life”

The largest festival associated with Ganesha is Ganesha Chathurthi. This annual festival of 10 days happens in early autumn, typically at some time in August or September (because it is based upon a lunar calendar, the dates vary in the Gregorian calendar. You can google the date). Originally a small family orientated festival, it became a rallying point for Indian independence from the British, and for that reason is widely celebrated across the country, but especially so in specific states and in Ganesha specific temples. The beginning of the festival is marked by the arrival of Ganesha, usually as a large statue. At the end of hte festival, the statue (or statues) are then taken to nearby bodies of water (lakes, rivers etc…) and submerged. While this tradition continues, there has been some discourse over it, as the original statues were often made of clay and would just dissolve into mud, many modern statues started to be made from plaster of paris, which is filled with toxic chemicals, and then painted with toxic paints, which would then pollute the bodies of water. While I have read that some areas have returned to using clay and non toxic pigments, others have started using reusable statues also colored with non toxic paints and dyes, and so they retrieve the statue from the body of water after a few days.
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If you want to engage in devotion to Ganesha, a very simple way is through offering him incense and sweets. While he is often depicted with a bowl of traditional indian deserts, I have found he likes all maner of sweets and candies. Including incense (sandalwood is a good choice) is always good, as would including some kind of liquid, even water. The most commonly recited mantra to Ganesha is “Aum gam ganapati namah” Ganesha is very often identified with the color red, although white also is used, along with blue, and it seems orange and yellow are also popular (although usually used with different roles of Ganesha).

And now a little devotion for you