Hello There

My thoughts about Traditional Witchcraft, Wicca, cooking, gardening, and anything else that catches my fancy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bread and Butter Pudding

It's been simply AGES since I posted a recipe on here; in the old days, I would document a lot of my cooking, but I've fallen out of the habit of it. So, to shake things up a bit, here's the recipe for my very favourite bread and butter pudding. It's actually from Paula Deen, but I've tweaked it a little bit to customize it. I made one for Thanksgiving, and it was a big hit.

Bread and Butter Pudding Recipe

5 slices of good white bread, crusts removed
2 tbs. softened butter
4 cups whole milk (do NOT use diet "milk" or non-fat anything)
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Cinnamon and nutmeg

Remove the crusts from the bread, and let it sit out on the counter for several hours or overnight to harden it up a bit. Preheat oven to 325. Next, lightly butter a 9X13 glass baking dish. Butter one side of the bread pieces, and place them butter side up in the dish. Scald the milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until bubbles appear; be careful not to burn it. Slightly beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl, and then whisk in the vanilla and sugar. Very slowly whisk in the hot milk, and then pour the mixture over the bread in the baking dish. Let stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg over the top, then put the baking dish in a large pan of hot water, with the water rising to slightly below the rim of the baking dish. Bake for around 40 minutes, or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean. You can serve this hot or cold, but I actually prefer it cold.

Below, you can see the buttered bread in the baking dish, waiting for the milk and egg mixture.

The finished product, below. This is easy to make, and good comfort food.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thoughts On A Winter's Evening

I've not posted on here in a bit, so thought I should write a brief update. It's been an odd few weeks in my part of the world. Sadly, my grandmother passed away yesterday morning after a long illness. I'd gone to see her on Saturday (she was being cared for at home) and it was clear then that the end was near. Even though, in a way, it's a blessing that she is no longer ill, it's still always hard when somebody dies. I don't think, even with advance warning, you can ever really be ready for something like that. I've burned a candle for her, and said my prayer for the dead, and I am sure she's found her way now into the next world.

Because of that and other events, I've not been doing much Christmas/Yule related stuff. My sister and I finally bought a tree for my mother last night, and decorated it today. We've always had a live tree, and we didn't want this year to be the exception. I'm going to be doing a lot of baking this weekend, as I always give cookies for gifts, but I've not quite decided on what. On the Witch-related end, I've been pondering opening a small internet shop where I could retail my magical goods and wares; I've started making oils and ointments more and more, and have been considering whether or not I could sell some of the ones I have large amounts of. It's something I'm thinking about, I just need to see how much of an initial investment I'd have to make.

Finally, I rather belatedly ordered, and got, the November issue of "The Cauldron." It had some WONDERFUL articles in it, including pieces about the Witches of ancient Greece and their herbal knowledge, the Black Faced God in in Traditional Witchcraft, and about Aunt Caroline Dye. In addition, I've also learned that there's now a revised and updated version of Gemma Gary's classic "Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways" which has been getting phenomenal reviews. I am a huge fan of the first edition, which I have, and fully plan on purchasing the new edition just as soon as some money comes in.

I do hope everybody is well, and having a good Holiday season.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Illness And The Witch

This post doesn't have much to do with magic, but it IS an important part of my life, none the less. At times in my blog, I've mentioned that I was unwell, or unable to do something on a particular day, but haven't mentioned why. Well, the truth is, I suffer from chronic illness which limits my activities. Around 2005, I suddenly came down with severe, chronic migraines accompanied by devastating fatigue, and despite brief periods of improvement it hasn't really let up since. I became ill almost overnight, it seemed, but it took around 7 doctors a good year to diagnose what was wrong with me. It was ultimately decided that I suffer from chronic migraine disorder, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia. Looking back over the years, I can see signs of trouble as far back as my early teens (I would have periods where I felt as though I had the flu, but the doctor said I had no infection) but it wasn't until I was 25 that it got really bad.

I've learned, the hard way, that our American culture does not do well with chronic illness. People sort of assume that, if one gets sick, one either goes to the doctor and is "cured," or else worsens and dies. It seems hard for a lot of people to comprehend that there are some disorders which can neither be "cured" nor are fatal, and that it's possible to suffer for many years despite not looking sick. Almost as difficult as the severe physical pain my illness causes me has been the lack of understanding shown to me by friends and even family at times. When told of my condition, peoples' reactions tend to range from the kindly-meant but ill-informed ("Oh, I get headaches too, and sometimes I'm tired after a long day.") to condescending ("You just need to take vitamins/give up gluten/exercise/etc") to the both ill-informed and the hostile ("Well, I read on the internet that your disorder is FAKE! If I saw it on a website, it must be true.") There is a tendency for people to vastly underestimate how disabling some of these symptoms can be. A migraine is not simply a "headache" and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not the same kind of tiredness you get from a long at work or too much exercise. My migraines are the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life, by far (and I've had quite a few surgeries) and the fatigue I suffer from is, at times, so severe that even getting out of bed to go get a drink of water feels like an almost insurmountable task. The best way I can describe my daily experience is to say, imagine having the worst flu you can think of (but without the fever or congestion) and the kinds of aches, pains, and severe tiredness you feel. That's what I wake up to every day. Now, obviously, I don't usually discuss my health with strangers, but at times it becomes relevant when I have to explain why I have to cancel plans, cannot be somewhere at a certain time, or am moving slowly. Sadly, because of my health issues, I cannot work and have become largely disabled.

So, how does this tie in to Witchcraft? Well, the question has been asked of me a few times (by non-occult acquaintances) "Well, if you're so magic, why can't you just cast a spell and heal yourself?" My response is always the same: "Well, if modern medicine is so great, why can't they give me something to heal me?" For, indeed, while it's possible to reduce some of my symptoms, there is presently no cure. Going more in depth, it's my belief and experience that magic is a tool, but not a miracle. If something is possible, magic can make it more likely to happen, and can give things a little "push" in the right direction. For example, if you've an injured arm, or a fever, magical treatments can help the harm heal, or aid the body in overcoming the infection causing the increased temperature. However, no magic (or medicine, at this time) can regrow an arm which has been removed, or heal a body so badly damaged that death is imminent. There is no belief system or occult science which puts you outside of natural law, and negates that fact that people are born and will one day die. I do NOT hold truck with the trendy New Age idea that we "create our own illnesses" by not being forgiving or something (which is a terrible philosophy that blames innocent victims of disease) but I do think a certain amount of suffering and pain in life is inevitable, though we ought to work to lessen that and provide relief. Though if I had a magic pill which would cure me instantly, I would take it without a second's delay, I have learned from my pain to enjoy life's little pleasures, and now take much more enjoyment out of days when I feel well. I've also gained much more empathy for other suffers of chronic pain and other chronic conditions, for I know now what it's like to have an "invisible illness" that others often time do not understand, or do not take seriously.

Because of my magical training and skills, I've been able to find useful coping mechanisms, be they herbal remedies to treat symptoms like nausea and vomiting, or trance techniques I can use to "escape" during the worst bouts of pain. However, it's still a tough time, and I have a lot of regrets and ever anger over things I had dreamed of for my life, but will now probably never happen. I have gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be human, though, and perhaps also a more detailed glimpse of the darker side of the human psyche and experience. I sometimes wonder if my problems, and the solitary life which tends to accompany them, have actually aided my magical work in a way, as all that alone time is valuable for doing mental exercises and study.

I usually don't discuss this issue, because I know it's a drag to read about other people's problems. However, I think it's relevant to my experience as both a Witch, and as a human, which is why I've discussed it here. If nothing else, it might help explain some of my previous statements on here, or why there are times when I don't post or mention missing out on sometime important because of my health. I also like to help increase public awareness, since there is much misunderstanding and even hostility towards what some call the "invisible illnesses." It's been one of my goals in life to help educate people, so that those who suffer as I do can find better treatment, and so that family and loved ones can better understand, be be more supportive,to those struggling with these same issues.

For more information:
About Fibromyalgia
About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
About Migraine Disorder

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thought For The Day

I've been poring over the writings of a very experienced, very traditional Hedgewitch of my acquaintance, and reading his work, I'm reminded of just now much I DON'T know. I feel as though I've only barely scratched the surface, magically speaking, and I suppose in a way that's true. It's funny, too, because the author in question is not a "big name" and if I were to link to him, it's unlikely his page would ring a bell. It just goes to show you, the real deal isn't always the one making the most noise, but the quiet one in the corner who's too busy spending their time "out in the field" to seek fame and publicity. Be that as it may, should I end up only half as wise as this particular Witch is, all of my efforts will have been worth it.

More Cemetery Explorations

Living as I do in the Southern US, we don't have the kind of ancient, historical cemeteries that you find in Europe or even the East Coast. Be that as it may, you can still find older graveyards in my area, usually from early pioneer settlements and located next to an equally old church. Recently, I posted pictures of a very large cemetery near our Downtown area, but this week I visited a much smaller graveyard, which is located next to a 150 year old Methodist church.

The cemetery is surrounded on all sides by a very large, thorny hedge. I suspect there may be an Elder tree (which is more like a bush in this part of the world) in there somewhere, but I cannot be sure. Even though you can hear the distant sounds of rushing traffic, once you step through the gate and into the cemetery, you still get a feeling of stepping back in time. There are very few of the modern, ugly, flat tombstones in evidence; most of the monuments are old, and of the upright variety. I'm quite sure there are no available spaces left, and one can only be buried here if you have a family plot. There are large trees in the cemetery,which (oddly for my state) are afire with brilliant Fall plumage.

To me, cemeteries are "in-between" places of power and magic. They are simultaneously places of the dead, AND of the living, and you don't find that in many other situations. They are also amazing sources of information, from a historical angle, because you really can learn a lot about peoples' lives and beliefs merely by reading their tombstones. Some people find cemeteries to be frightening, and to be sure, they are not always "welcoming" in their energies, but they are ultimately places of rest, and a place where the living can honour and remember those who have gone before them. They are few crimes I find more abhorrent and abominable than the desecration of cemeteries, and I feel heartbroken when I read about burial grounds being violated by teens or adults who smash headstones and destroy markers for "fun." I sincerely hope that people who do such monstrous things pay a very heavy price for their transgressions.

Anyway, here are some pictures I took. Some of them are spooky, some are a little sad, and some are lovely. This is turning in to a series, as I am making an attempt to visit and photograph most of the local graveyards. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Seasoning Cast Iron

Today, I had my first real experience in seasoning cast iron. I wrote last week about getting my beautiful new cast iron cauldron, but I hadn't gotten around to seasoning it until today. I tried putting it into a cold oven to see if it would fit, and it did.....but only barely. So, I had to get a friend to come over and give me a hand, because it was too heavy for me to pick up on my own.

When I purchased my cauldron, the seller sent along a few booklets that told me how to season it. One said one thing, and the other something slightly different, so I sort of averaged it out. First, we gave the inside and the outside of the cauldron a good washing. Then, we dried it out and put it in a warm oven for a bit to make sure all moisture was gone, and to "open the pores" so to speak. Next, we gave the entire thing a rubdown with Crisco. You can use various vegetable oils, or lard, but I settled on Crisco as being easiest and most shelf-stable. Lastly, we put it in the oven, bottom up, and cooked it at 300 degrees for about an hour and a half. I opened all the doors and windows, having been told that the seasoning process would smell and would cause smoke, but it really wasn't that bad.

When the time was up, we opened the oven door and turned off the heat, and waited a bit until the pot cooled down (which takes a fair while with cast iron.) We took it out of the oven, and I was pleased to see that the cauldron had turned a beautiful shade of rich, almost glossy, black. As the metal cools, the vegetable shortening will form a protective coating that will protect the cast iron from rust and from the acids of the foods being cooked, and will also help to keep the iron in good shape and prevent brittleness. I'm hoping to have my cauldron for a good, long while so I'm happy to spend the time NOW to ensure it lasts.

Here's a few pics of the seasoning process. You can see it greased up, the Crisco I used, and the final result (I put the hot pads beneath the legs so it wouldn't burn the floor.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Old Favourite Book

When I was young, around 11-12, I found a book in my school library that I absolutely LOVED. It was about Witches, ghosts, werewolves, and fairies, and though it was meant for young people it actually had a lot of good, factual information. Most such books I'd come across dismissed such topics as being from more ignorant times, but this one presented things in a pretty straightforward manner. Being an English book, it even went into the Cunning Folk tradition, which was the first I'd ever heard of such a thing (before, I'd always been told that Witches were imaginary, even though I knew better; I was thrilled to find proof that I was right!) I was especially taken by the illustrations, which were reproductions of old woodcuts and photographs of modern Witchcraft artifacts (one of which I believe is in the Boscastle museum.)

Unfortunately, being young as I was, I never wrote down the title of the book, and when I went on to high school I almost forgot about it. I wished, now and again, that I had a copy of my own, but I didn't know the title or the author, and eventually gave it up as a lost cause. A few days ago, however, I was searching Amazon for new books, when a title jumped out at me. "Ghosts, Witches, and Things Like That" by Roderick Hunt. I clicked on it, and though it didn't have an image, the description sounded familiar. "Could this be that book I used to love?" I asked myself. Well, only one way to find out. I ordered it (for a very good price, I might add) and, two days later, it's just arrived.....and it's the right one!

I feel like I am taking a stroll down Memory Lane, and the book is just as amazing as I remember it being. If anything, I can appreciate it MORE now because I know so much more about the subject than I did at the time. For a big geared towards children (though I think when this book was written, they didn't dumb things down so much for kids) it's really a good source of information, and it also has various recipes, songs, poems, and Hallowe'en activities to do. I'm going to post a few pics here of it, to show you just how awesome it is. If you can find a copy, I highly recommend it. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Brand New Cauldron

I finally broke down and ordered myself a brand-new cauldron. I already had a little one, which I used as an incense burner, and to burn spell papers, but it wasn't food safe and looked a little on the cheap side. In general, I don't buy things from "witch shops" because they tend to be overpriced and poor quality, and the last thing you want with your magical tools is to have the same thing that everybody else has. So, the cauldron I bought came, not from a witch shop, but from a small company which sells them largely for outdoor cooking and country living.

I had a wide number of choices when it came to selecting one. I wanted it to be big, large enough that I could actually cook up a big batch of soup or stew if I went camping, and big enough that I could burn things in it, or use it for scrying. On the other hand, I didn't want it to be TOO big, as I have a small apartment and health issues prevent me from picking up anything too heavy or bulky. The kind of pot I settled on is actually called a "pojtie pot" and is heavily used in South Africa as a cooking pot. They are numbered by size, with a "1" being the smallest, and going all the way up to "20" or even higher. I decided on a "4" which will hold 10 quarts, or 2.5 gallons. I got it for a pretty good price, but shipping added on another 30 bucks because it was so heavy.

It arrived on Tuesday of this week. I heard an ominous rattling coming from the box, and was concerned because the box looked like it had been through a tornado. I think the UPS people hate me, because most of the packages that arrive looks as though they've been almost deliberately mistreated. When I order something expensive, I almost always get insurance on it because of how badly mistreated most of my mail seems to be. Anyway, I brought it inside and opened it up, and found that the rattling was simply the lid rattling against the pot (they were packed separately in the box.) When I got everything out, I was surprised; I was afraid before it came that maybe I should have gotten a bigger one, but when I actually saw it I was shocked at how big and heavy it really was. It's covered in little bits of white packing material, which is something I will have to clean off. I really, really like my new cauldron, as it's obviously high quality and is 100% food safe.

Now I just have to season it. Cast iron must be seasoned with a protective coating before use. You can use lard, or vegetable oil, but I have decided on Crisco because it's cheap, easy to handle, and non-animal derived. You have to rub the whole pot and lid down with it, and then bake it in the oven for a few hours. Now, the pot is big and heavy, heavier than I imagined, so I am hoping I can get it in there and out again without any problem Once it's down, the cauldron will find a place alongside my working space/altar, until I am ready to go someplace and cook something in it. Because I am pretty practical with my Witchcraft, I see no problem in using it for both ritual, and cooking, uses though obviously I won't be able to use it for any baneful herbs. I like my new pot SO much, in fact, that I am going to be ordering another, smaller one without any legs so I can cook with it on my gas stovetop. I will also be ordering a tripod and chain so I can suspend my cauldron over an open fire when I am using it out of doors.

Here are some pictures. They are bad quality, as I took them on the spur of the moment with my cell phone, but I will post better ones later. The little white flecks you see are bits of packing material; I am going to be cleaning them off today as I prepare to season the pot.

Without the lid. You can see my taken-down Halloween decorations on the table

With the lid. The lid has a deep rim to allow hot coals to be heaped on top.

On the floor, with a burning candle within.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Post Hallowe'en Happenings, And Some New Books

Another year, another Hallowe'en has come and gone. I had a very pleasant holiday, though as per usual ate too much candy and goodies. Be that as it may, my "Dinner for the Dead" was a success, and I watched my fill of Witch movies and ghost stories. However, 6 days later, I still haven't taken down all of my Hallowe'en decorations, and my apartment is full of skeletons, ghosts, witches, pumpkins, and the like. Today I'll probably box them up, but for the mean time I'm going to enjoy them for just a little longer.

In other news, it's been a week of new books! On Wednesday, I got Cassandra Latham-Jones' book "Village Witch." If you don't know, Latham-Jones is a village Witch, or wisewoman, living and working in rural Cornwall. I've read a few reviews where people weren't really thrilled with the book, because it does read like an autobiography and not as (yet another) "how to" book on Witchcraft. This is what I like about it, though; I know how to work magic, but it's interesting to read about the long and winding path that led the author to where she is now, and about her personal take on magic and The Gods. On Friday, I received Raven Grimassi's new "Old World Witchcraft," which is his newest work and presents his thoughts and opinions about Traditional Craft. I've barely gotten to look at it, but from what I've seen so far it explored the truths behind the historical Witch trials, and looks at what the Witches of the past actually believed as opposed to what their persecutors claimed that they did. By now I'm quite convinced, modern assertions to the contrary, that there WERE (and are) pockets and covens of surviving, if fragmentary, Pagan belief which existed underground even after the Church had violently conquered most of Europe, and that these people became the Witches of the Middle Ages. However, these people worshiped a Horned God (later known as "The Devil") and the Goddess Diana (often called "the Queen of Elfhame" after Her true name had been forgotten or repressed) and not the "Satan" of the Christians. From what I've seen, this book explores much the same conclusions, so I'm quite excited to be able to read in-depth about Grimassi's research. I'll post a longer review whenever I'm done with the book.

Hope everybody is well. The time changed last night, so by waking up at my usual 6:30am the clock now insists that it's 5:30am, so I think it's going to be a long day. I've been suffering from a migraine off and on since Thursday, so I do believe I will just take it easy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Samhain Altar

I don't normally show my working altars, but I did want to show my Samhain one. It's got nuts, fruit, a Jack O' Lantern, pictures of deceased loved ones, my Blackthorn wand, and this and that.

And here are some of my Jack O'Lanterns. I carved five this year, three for the back porch, one for the front, and one for my altar.

And the front porch one!

Happy Halloween/Samhain!

I hope all of my readers have a wonderful and enlightening Halloween/Samhain! I'm going to be doing a Dumb Supper and some divinations, but will otherwise probably be taking it pretty easy. This is my favourite holiday all year, and I'm so glad I have other Witches and magic-workers around me who share my fun.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mastering Witchcraft: The Comeback

I wrote this after reading some of the conversation over at The Used Key is Always Bright, and found myself quoted on the page! Quite an honour to see my words there alongside those of Sarah Lawless and Hyperion!

There has been SO much discussion lately about Paul Huson's book, "Mastering Witchcraft," that I had to jump in and post about it once more. Those who know me know it's one of my favourite books; in fact, if I had to pick two books and two books only which have really directed the shape of my practice, it would be "Mastering Witchcraft" and Doreen Valiente's "Witchcraft For Tomorrow." If you could kind of mash these two books together, it would be the kind of Witchcraft I practice, and the kind I always imagined when I was a little Witch and hadn't read a single occult book.

"Mastering Witchcraft" is a rare gem, a Witch's "how to" manual written way before the glut of fluffy, anything-goes McWicca books that flooded the market in the late '80s and early '90s. This is not a book about a lovely matriarchal Goddess religion, and it doesn't encourage you to make up whatever you feel like and call it Witchcraft. This book is good, functional, old-fashioned Witchcraft of the kind Witches ACTUALLY practiced, and as such contains curses, love spells, and other such staples which would be likely to make somebody weaned on modern "harm none, and never do magic without permission" reading material tear our their hair in fright. Such ideas, of course, that Witches never use curses and must ask permission from all involved before casting spells, is entirely a modern invention and actually makes little sense. Much of the Craft's power comes from secrecy, and if you go asking people if you can do spells on them, you've already blown that. "Mastering Witchcraft" is more realistic; it assumes you're willing and able to make judgments about when the use of magic is appropriate, and leaves the responsibility up to you and not to some glib, meaningless "harm none" rule. Not everyone in this world is "nice" and not every problem can be solved by "sending love" or "binding." Knowing powerful defensive magic WILL come in handy; I can speak from experience here.

Witchcraft is not supposed to be safe, harmless, or common. It's not supposed to be a Sunday religion, where you go to services and listen to sermons and have bake sales. Witchcraft is truly OCCULT; that is, "hidden" and should be practiced in relative secrecy and silence. Modern day attempts to turn Witchcraft and pseudo-Wicca into a kind of "Christianity II" complete with clergy and churches have, in my mind, been disastrous and have gone a long way in completely castrating the word "Witch." I feel heartened at the recent surge of interest in "Mastering Witchcraft" and in Traditional Witchcraft in general. I am hoping that this signals a turning away from the pop-culture stuff that so dominated the magical landscape for the past couple of decades, and back towards fewer, but better educated and more dedicated, practitioners who really know their stuff. If only we'd had a few more books like this, perhaps we could have avoided the whitewashing of the Witch and the ensuing results.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York

As promised, but much later than I had planned, here are some images of the amazing book, "The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York". The original (which you can see images of in the book) was hand-written and illustrated by Charles Godfrey Leland, famous for his work "Aradia: Or, The Gospel of the Witches." That book was a compilation of various Italian Witch legends, stories, and spells as told to him by a mysterious figure who claimed to be part of an ancient Witch Cult of Diana. This book, "Dame Darrel," is a recreation of authentic English Witchcraft from the Middle Ages. While there wasn't a historical Dame Darrel, this book claims to reconstruct the workbook of people who would have been very much like her.

The book itself is beautiful. The first half is a reproduction of Leland's original hand-written, hand-illustrated work. The second part is a modern transcription, which is appreciated as some of the text was difficult to decipher. The book even has built-in ribbon markers so you can keep your place. It's a big, heavy, almost coffee table sized book and really does feel like an ancient tome. The spells and charms are very much like poetry, some resembling an old Mother Goose rhyme, which adds to their appeal. It's easy to see an old, story-book Witch using these things in a little cottage deep in the forest.

So, without further ado, the images!

The cover

The hand-written pages

Details of some of the illustrations

Images of the actual, original book

Ribbon markers

The transcribed pages

Sorry this took so long! I've been a bit unwell, not really been feeling up to posting. I'm working hard to rally for Samhain, though.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Haunted Cemetery and a Hawthorn Tree

Living as I do in the South, we don't really have the "age" that, say, the Northern US, and of course we don't have anything like glorious old castles and graveyards of Europe. Be that as it may, we do have some old (for us) sites that are worth a visit. In my city, one of these would have to be Washington Grove Cemetery.

The cemetery is located in what is now known as "Uptown" and is surrounded by rather tacky, yuppie-ish condos and some nice little bars, restaurants, and pastry shops. Once you walk through the gates, though, it's like stepping back in time. The oldest grave I ever found here dated from the very early 1800's, but the cemetery is so large that, in the middle of it, you really do forget that you're in a big, modern city and feel as though your in a different world. In the Autumn, migrating monarch butterflies make their temporary home in the cemetery, due to the large trees and lack of power lines, and I've also seen (and saw today, in fact) foxes, rats, cats, and other creatures darting between the graves and making their homes inside or on top of the monuments.

The cemetery is beautiful, and not in any way dark, but nevertheless it does have a bit of an "eerie" feeling. I am not a powerful medium by any means, but I can definitely feel a bit of....activity. I would hesitate to call it ghosts per se, but I do think there's a presence of some sort that those who are sensitive to that kind of thing can feel. As always, I'm always very respectful while in the ground; it belongs to the Dead, not the living, and there are few things that anger me more than seeing people littering, smoking, screaming into cell phones, or otherwise dishonouring the sanctity of the graveyard (and don't even get me started on people who turn over stones or otherwise commit vandalism.)

I also happened upon several of what I believe to be Hawthorn bushes. I'm checking with a friend to make sure, but if I am right, imagine....Hawthorn wood and berries from a graveyard! If I do take anything from it, rest assured that I will be very careful not to damage the tree, or to mar its appearance in any way. There were several of them, which makes me wonder who planted them or how long they've been there.

Here are some pictures of the cemetery, and the suspected Hawthorn trees (which are actually more like shrubs.) Hope y'all enjoy! Definitely put me in the Halloween mood....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Halloween Happenings....

In case you haven't noticed, this is my favourite time of year. I love both Halloween, the secular spooky holiday, AND Samhain/Hallowmas the Pagan/Witch sabbat. I find them tied together, as the decorations I choose (witches, skeletons, ghosts) tend to revolve, however subtly, around the themes of death, magic, and changes. I don't ever go for gore, blood, or anything like that; I much prefer either straightforward reminders of mortality, or cheerful skeletons and ghosts, who remind us that though we may die, we are not gone for good, and that this is the holiday in which the dead are closest to the living.

Anyway, though I'm still not finished, I thought I'd share some images of my Halloween decorations and ritual preparations. Some of these things are up all year, but others are holiday-specific. I still need to lay out my full Hallows altar, and decide on a menu for the dumb supper I plan on holding on the night, but I'm pretty pleased with what I've gotten so far. I've also been baking up a storm, making several different pumpkin-based dished, which of course is always rewarding.

An owl AND a pumpkin? How can you go wrong!?

Some Witches are offended by such Halloween images, but I am not. I like the idea of the Witch as a powerful, otherworldly being who lives by their own standards. This Witch might look "ugly" to our cultural standards of beauty, but she is clearly powerful and in charge! You can see my Stang in the corner.

I've got my Halloween tablecloth on my table, as well as some sparkly pumpkins and some amazing horror-movie dishes I got for next to nothing from the supermarket. On the holiday, this table will be covered in various dishes and plates for my Dumb Supper

The Owl is kind of my "personal symbol" and I have quite a collection of them.

So, here you go. I'll be posting more as the holiday draws closer, as well as sharing some recipes AND the (very late) pictures I promised from "The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York."

Hope y'all are well!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Equinox/Mabon!

To all my friends, I hope you have/have had a wonderful and magical holiday.

In other news, I am still in love with my new book purchase, "The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York." I've been a lazy goose and haven't done the pictures I promised yet, but I'll get them up in a day or so. So far, so good...the book is amazing, and full of interesting tidbits and stories (including one in which "Yuell" saves a town from a were-wolf type creature.)

I also bought and read a copy of the book, "Lammas Night." If you don't know, it's the semi-fictionalized tale of English Witches and other magical practitioners, working together to magically repel Hitler (who's portrayed as an evil magician in the book, which considering his interest in the occult might not be far from the truth) from invading the shores of England. I was surprised at what a wonderful work it was, and I actually found myself tearing up at several points. Highly, highly recommend.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York

I just ordered this today, and am SO excited. Written by Charles Godfrey Leland, best known for putting together "Aradia: Or, the Gospel of the Witches," this book is, as the publisher's site explains, "an imaginative recreation of how witchcraft was practiced in medieval England." It's a beautiful facsimile edition, complete with a red cover, gilded pages, and Leland's copious illustrations. Here's a link to the review I mentioned, and of course I'll be posting pics and a review just as soon as I get the book in (which should be this Friday.)

The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Harvest Moon, and a Moon Prayer

Today is the Harvest Moon, which is the Full Moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox (the equinox this year falls on September 23rd.) Traditionally, the name "Harvest Moon" comes from its association with farming; because the Moon was felt to rise early at this time, there was not a period of darkness after sunset, and the Moon's light was able to help farmers work longer. Of course, the Autumn Equinox itself is celebrated by many Witches as one of the harvest Sabbats.

I thought I'd include here one of my favourite prayers to the Moon. Composed by Doreen Valiente, it definitely catches the feeling and power of this magical time. I'll be using this evening's Moon to craft more holy water, as well as for some spellwork and general celebration. I hope everyone has a wonderful Harvest Moon!

"Invocation of the Moon Goddess"
Diana, Queen of Night,
In all your beauty bright,
Shine on us here.
And with your silver beam,
Unlock the gate of dream,
Rise bright and clear.
On Earth and Sky and Sea,
Your magic mystery,
Its spell shall cast.
Wherever leaf may grow,
Wherever tide my flow,
Till all be past.
O Secret Queen of Power,
At this enchanted hour,
We ask your boon.
May Fortune's Favour fall,
Upon true Witches all,
O Lady Moon!

-Doreen Valiente

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Back Soon

Unfortunately, I've been quite ill this week, and haven't been keeping up with the blog the way I'd like to. Hopefully, I'll be doing better over the next few days and can be back on track. I've got some interesting new recipes I want to share, as well as a posting I'm working on called "Craft or Religion" that details my feelings about the nature of Witchcraft.

See you soon!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 7 of 44 Days of Witchcraft: The Element of Air

The Element of Air. I've always loved a good, windy day......especially when it's chilly and grey outside. I confess, I'm very much a story-book Witch in that I would love to live in a big, spooky house where it was always windy and dismal out. It's not that I don't like the occasional sunny day, because I do, but in general I'm quite bookish and prefer to snuggle under a blanket with a good book, than I do prancing about outdoors. Also, the bright sun hurts my eyes, so clouds and wind are easier on me.

Anyway, I digress. A gentle breeze is fun, but living in the South, I've also seen the darker side of Air. Tornadoes are of great frequency in Texas, where I live, and last year I personally saw one as it tore through my city. Fortunately, nobody was killed, but other places weren't so lucky and suffered massive death and destruction. Of course, tornadoes (and nothing in nature, for that matter) are not "evil;" they just ARE, though at times they can appear "bad" because of how they impact humanity. Indeed, I think tornadoes have a kind of haunting beauty, and I would very much like to be involved in one of those "storm chases" as long as I felt I was with trained people who could guarantee a reasonable amount of safety. I'm actually pretty scared of storms, though, and would probably freak out!

Anyway, for my picture of "Air" I thought I'd do a tornado. This is the tornado I saw which I mentioned earlier, though I did NOT take this picture myself. I would only see the top part of the funnel from my vantage point.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 4 of 44 Days of Witchcraft: Picture of The Element of Water

Today's Element of Water day, and I'm posting a FEW pics of my own. A few years ago, I took a trip up to New England and drove up the Maine, and snapped some images of the coast along the way. It was in March, so it was still snowing in places, but the ocean was as beautiful as ever. I love, love, love the coast and wish I had a house by it. Perhaps one day, I can have a little house somewhere in Maine, like the beautiful one in The Whales of August.

And here's one last one, from a trip I took to North Carolina:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 3 of 44 Days of Witchcraft: Witch Tools

Well, this one is easy for me. My favourite tool, by far, is the magic wand or rod. Why? Well, for two reasons. First of all, I love trees.....not only aesthetically (and there's nothing witchier than seeing a dark, old, twisted, brooding tree) but for their magical wisdom and power, which can be immense. The wand (and I only use wood) is an extension of that power, and when properly made contains some of the spirit from the tree from which it came.

I've posted before of my distaste for the idea that magical tools are "just tools" to be used and discarded, and provide no inherent power of their own (this seems to be a popular screed of the McWiccans.) If so, why use them? Indeed, this is not a traditional way of thinking at all, and ignores the fact that various trees and woods have always been revered for their magical power. The three chief wand woods, from my own research, are Hazel, Blackthorn, and Elder, with Hawthorn and Ash being also mentioned.

I have two I use most often: a Hazel one for general purpose use, and a Blackthorn one for banishing and more heavy-duty workings. My Hazel one is intricately carved, but rather on the short side, making it portable and easy to stick in my bag for working outside (yes, my magical tools get used, and heavily....they don't just sit on an altar somewhere.) The Blackthorn one is much simpler, just a long, polished rod with a rune carved into the base. I'm a bit more reticent about showing my magical tools these days, but here's my Blackthorn wand.

It's important, if you don't make the wand yourself, to buy one from a reputable artisan who will make them in the traditional way. There's nothing wrong with adding some customization (most of mine have runes, animal totems, etc) to the stick, but in general it's wise to avoid anything made from milled lumber, lathe-turned, or that resembles a movie prop more than a magical tool.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 2 Of 44 Days: Myths and Folklore

Well, here's day 2 of the 44 days of questions I got from Twisting Ways. Today's question:

"Relate a myth or story from folklore." Hmm, this is a tough one. Ah ha, I've got one!

The Cauldron of Ceridwen, from the Tales of Taliesin.

In this tale, Ceridwen (it's not clear if she's a Witch, or some kind of goddess) creates a magical brew in a giant cauldron, the first three drops (the rest being poison) will bestow wisdom upon her foolish and ugly son Morfran. Unfortunately, the boy who's chore it was to stir the cauldron, Gwion Bach, was scalded by three drops of the potion and, without thinking, put his burned finger into his mouth, thus attaining the powers meant for Morfran. In fear Gwion fled, transforming into a hare, pursued by Ceridwen in the form of a greyhound. Gwion turned into a fish and jumped into the water, and Ceridwen became an otter. He turned into a bird and took to the skies, and she became a pursuing hawk. Finally, he turned into a grain of corn, and Ceridwen became a hen and ate him, therefore becoming pregnant with him in a child-form (hey, it's magic.) She resolved to kill him as soon as he was reborn, but he was so lovely she could not, so she instead cast him into the ocean in a leather bag, where he drifted away before being rescued by a Welsh prince, and grew up in a new life to be known as the bard Taliesin.

This is a very old tale, with some claiming that Ceridwen was simply a mythological Witch, and others claiming her as an older Pagan Goddess. She's certainly become popular amongst Wiccans, though her nature in the story isn't exactly pleasant. Regardless, it's an interesting bit of folklore, and I wonder how much it had to do with the later idea of Witches standing over their boiling cauldrons.

Stay tuned for a new question each day!

Monday, August 29, 2011

What's Your Witch Background?

This is question one from the 44 days of Witch questions.

1. What's your Witchy background?

Always wanted to be a Witch, even as a small child. I dressed up as one for Halloween at age 3! Made up my own version of the Craft, and practiced it in secret, until I found my first "real" Witchcraft books at around age 12. After that, I started practicing what I thought was Wicca, until I became disillusioned and went underground, so to speak, for years. When I discovered Trad Craft, though, and that there were others like me that weren't sappy and into sparkles and hugs, I became involved in the new Witchcraft community once again. Over time, I find myself moving away from the more ceremonial magic, ritualistic based stuff and into a simpler, more organic folk magic and spirituality.

Witchy Questions, and 44 Days of Them!

I got this one from Eric Jeffords, over at Serpent and Toad, and a Bit O' Dirt. You answer a question a day for 44 days; hopefully I can stick with it. Hope you like!

  1. What’s your witchy background?
  2. A myth or story from folklore.
  3. Witchy tools:
  4. Picture of nature (water element).
  5. A favourite Goddess.
  6. A favourite God.
  7. Air element.
  8. A photo of a magical place outdoors.
  9. A favourite mythological animal.
  10. Your sun sign.
  11. Witchy tools: oils.
  12. Picture of nature (air element).
  13. What are some of the witchy books that influenced you?
  14. A favourite pagan holiday that you celebrate.
  15. Thoughts on the afterlife?
  16. Favourite witchy website(s).
  17. Picture of nature (fire element).
  18. Have you had any paranormal experiences?
  19. Fire element.
  20. A picture of a tarot or oracle card, and its meaning.
  21. A favourite scent.
  22. Current moon phase.
  23. A favourite candle.
  24. Your moon sign.
  25. How do your close ones feel about your witchy path? Do they know? Why or why not?
  26. A witchy podcast.
  27. Picture of nature (earth element).
  28. A picture of a witchy I-Want-It-Now!
  29. Water element.
  30. Witchy tools: wand.
  31. A favourite pagan/witchy movie.
  32. A pagan/witchy artwork.
  33. Faerie of your choice.
  34. Rune of your choice.
  35. Something that I think people who don’t know much about paganism/witchcraft should know.
  36. Flower of your choice, and its magical properties.
  37. A famous pagan/witch!
  38. Witchy tools: cauldron.
  39. Something that inspires you.
  40. Your altar, if you have one!
  41. A spell you’ve done.
  42. A favourite nature spirit.
  43. A magical recipe.
  44. Witch’s choice!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Halloween's A-Coming!

Yes, I know it's still August, but it's not too long now before Halloween season us upon us. As you won't be at all surprised to learn, Halloween is my favourite holiday......and my favourite time of year.

Though we don't get much in the way of Fall here (yesterday was 107, and everything is so burned up and hot, I can't imagine it ever cooling off again) there are still one or two cool days during October, which I guess makes us appreciate them more. I love the dark, grey, windy days of gloom and such the we sometimes get in the Fall, and I love seeing all the pumpkins set upon porches and in windows. Most of all, I love decorating for the holiday, with little Witches and ghosts and skeletons. I don't much like the bloody, gory stuff, but I do like cheerful pictures of skeletons and such.......as there is a large Death component to Halloween, I prefer to focus on the concept of Death as friend instead of Death as evil.

This year, as always, I'm be throwing a little part and making my pumpkin cake with the Maple frosting. I'll also be doing my Samhain rituals, hopefully this time with others. Keep your eyes peeled for exciting new updates, recipes, spells, and such to come on my blog here. Last year, I took sick with the flu or something right before Halloween and had to miss out, so this year I really want to make up for it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Witchcraft And The Gods: My Personal Views

Most modern Witches I know take a polytheistic view; that is, they believe in multiple different Gods. I am no exception. Most, as well, would refer to their beliefs as a form of Paganism. However, whereas in most religions the entire focal point of their practices is worship of a God or Gods, and performing various rituals to either beg their favour, or appease their wrath, I would take the stand that such is NOT the goal of Witchcraft. Indeed, I question whether we "worship" our Gods at all. In some cases, yes: there are definitely Pagan paths which are religions, and which devote themselves entirely to religious pursuits. However, in Traditional Witchcraft and other such magical traditions, I think there is a difference in how the Gods are approached (if they are approached at all; there are some Trad Crafters who do not believe in, or actively work with, Deities.)

In my personal view, a Witch is a magic worker, someone who can harness the forces of Nature, spirits, the Gods, and their own Will and utilize these forces for their own ends. While Witches may have a strong respect and even love for their patron Deities, many seem to feel that their relationship is a "working" one, and not a master/servant dynamic. Certainly, almost none of the Trad Crafters I know consider their Deities to be "all powerful" or "all knowing" in the way the Islamic or Judeo-Christian God is meant to be, nor would they consider it their life's work to grovel in obsequious piety before said Gods. As an animist and pantheist myself, I see a spark of the Divine in everything, and to debase yourself in servitude as though we were lowly creatures, barely worthy to speak to the Divine at all, is to me the height of folly and smacks of Christian masochism. I also remain deeply suspicious of anyone who claims to know the "Will of God" whether that God is Jehovah, or the Lord and Lady. History (and today) is rife with barbaric atrocities committed by people who have claimed such knowledge, and it becomes possible to justify any act of violence or genocide if you can believe that the Gods have commanded it.

What, then ARE the Gods, if not all powerful beings we must bow before? The truth is, I don't know....and I don't think anybody does. My own feelings on the matter change over time; at some times, I feel that they are actual distinct, personal beings that exist quite independently of ourselves. At other times, they seem to me to be a kind of archetype, "real" in the sense that they exist in the fabric of human experience, but not as literal, physical beings. Having had what I would consider Divine experiences myself, I tend to lean towards the former, but I maintain a healthy skepticism and questioning attitude, for the reasons I mention above. I should also add here that I do not believe that "All Gods are one God" as I think that this is patently untrue, and demeans and cheapens the very concept. I've seen such claims made, largely by people from a Judeo-Christian background who are frightened to entirely leave behind their old religion, but clearly to equate vastly different beings from vastly different cultures and claim they are the same being is a folly, if for no other reason except that it smacks of cultural appropriation. The idea, for example, that Pan and Jehovah are really "the same God" is laughable, considering their historical context and legendary attributes. Even if they are but human projections, they project completely different and contradictory things.

I consider it a large part of my path as a Witch to ask these kinds of questions, and view myself not as a worshiper dedicated to "truth," but as an explorer trying to FIND truth. I'm primarily a magic worker, not a priest, and am dedicated to using my skills to help myself and humanity....and not in service of a God. Despite my occult leanings, I base most of my social agendas on Humanism, and the betterment of people, which is something I wish ALL people of ALL faiths would do. Religious differences come and go, but human needs and suffering are very real and, unfortunately, eternal and these are the things that I think deserve our full attention and agreement.

So, is my path a religion, or a trade or skill? I would say somewhere in the middle. Perhaps a "spirituality" would be the proper term. "Religion" to me implies a set of beliefs which one must adhere to, and a rigid set of rules to follow in service of something. This is not my path. However, neither do I view magic as a purely mechanical power, harnessing nameless "energy" in a manner rather like baking a cake ("Light candle A, say B, and C will happen.") I don't pretend to have all the answers, and indeed don't think I (or anybody) ever will have the answers. Our best option, then, is to keep an open mind, and to continue asking these kinds of questions and questing to get a better understanding of the world around us, both in the physical AND the occult realms.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Beautiful New Magical Book

I've never been especially good at magical note-taking, and up until now have been using a large, three ring binder to hold all of my recipes, spells, correspondences, etc. About a year ago, though, I decided I needed to really focus on putting together a Book which I could not only use in my personal magical work, but which would be long-lived and a magical object in and of itself. There are many such books on the market, but I just couldn't find one I liked enough. They were either too "Gothic" looking, or were mass produced, and I didn't want a book that anybody else would have. As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I try to make things myself, but when I cannot I try to work with individual craftspeople who are willing to dialog with me so there's a whole lot of "Me" in the finished piece.

I was lucky enough to come across the enchanting and talented Jack Copal, of Bewitching Books. He specializes in making one-of-a-kind grimoires and Book of Shadows. I saw some of his previous works, and immediately fell in love with his style. His books tend to remind me of Victorian scrapbooks, with a lot of velvet, brocade, and embellishments, and had the magical yet tasteful look I wanted for my own. Also, he offers both sewn AND post-bound books, which is a huge plus; my handwriting is horrible, so I usually type my rough notes up into my computer and then print them out. With a post-bound book, you can take pages out and re-arrange them, while still having the appearance of a hard-bound book.

I e-mailed Jack, and he responded quickly with some ideas. We decided on a green, brocade cover with a black leather spine and corner pieces, holding 500 pages in the post-bound style. As he lives in Scotland, and I in the US, we discovered that paper sizes there and here are slightly different, so I sent him some of the parchment paper I use so he'd have something to size things with. We also decided on a metal seven pointed star, or Faery Star, as an embellishment for the cover. He's quite good with a computer, and was able to make me mock-up images of how my book would look when finished, so I was able to see what it would look like and make changes as needed. After agreeing on a price, he set to work, and I waited in anticipation. I should add here that Jack is a really nice guy, and in addition to our business talks about the book, we also shared a lot of witchy tales and tidbits, discussed various movies and books, and generally compared life (and cooking!) between his part of Scotland, and Texas where I live.

Unfortunately, the places he'd tried to order my Faery Star from turned out to be out of stock, or unreliable, and I began to wonder if he'd be able to find one. However, he told me he had a surprise for me, and soon after I found out what it was......he'd actually taught himself to metal work, ordered some silver, and had MADE me an exact copy of the star I wanted! Needless to say, I was incredibly impressed that he'd made such an effort on my behalf; he definitely went above and beyond what anybody else would have done, and I was very touched.

Finally, my book was finished, and Jack set up a time for delivery. He uses a courier service, rather than the mail, because the courier is much faster and safer. They guarantee delivery within 3 days, so I made sure to be home and yesterday,at around 11am, I heard the knock on the door and my book arrived. It was very securely wrapped, and I was almost too nervous to open it, I was so excited. When I finally got the paper off, I was floored.....my new book was even better than I'd imagined. The green brocade is absolutely lovely, and the ribbon markers are beautiful as well and a very nice touch. Jack had sent along a nice note, as well as some other treats, which was much appreciated. I am very, very happy I chose Bewitching Books to make my magical book for me, and should I ever need another one, I will absolutely use his services again. I've already started the process of transferring my pages and recipes into the new book.

Here are some pictures of my book. First, here's the "mock up" he made to show me what my book would look like:

And here's what the book actually looks like. Even better than the mock-up!

And here is the interior:

I'm glad I took the time to research my options, as I feel I definitely got the perfect book for me. I'm sure it will give me many years of service, and who knows.....maybe when I'm gone, I'll be able to pass it along to somebody else. Thanks, Jack, for making me something so awesome!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Witchcraft Then And Now; An Observation

Let me start by saying by "Witchcraft then and now," I don't mean the witchcraft of 500 years ago versus the witchcraft of today. Indeed, I think it's become clear that we know very little of how Witches operated in centuries past, as so little was written down, and what WAS preserved was often the result of torture and probably reflects innocent people concocting stories to save themselves more than any genuine reality of Witchcraft. No, I mean the Witchcraft of the 20th century revival, versus the bulk of what is published today.

In general, it seems that current Witchcraft has become much more "materialistic" than what was being practiced even 40 years ago. For example, in Doreen Valiente's published "Book of Shadows" in "Witchcraft For Tomorrow" she lists a relatively simple set of tools that I'm sure are familiar to anyone reading this. The knife, the wand, the pentacle, the cord, the book, candles, incense, and the cauldron. Magic was performed by casting a circle using salt, water, and incense and then raising energy through mental effort and invoking the Gods. In her other books, as well as others of the time, one finds easy rituals for candle magic (involving nothing but an inscribed candle, some incense, and perhaps the knife used to direct energy) as well as spoken charms and knot magic. Even today, while perusing a website about Cornish Traditional Witchcraft, photographs demonstrate the Witch casting spells using little more than a knife, beeswax candles, and a fire. Simple items that one can purchase or make for one's self, and then use repeatedly for the rest of one's life.

Not so with most modern books on Witchcraft and magic. Many modern, published spells require sometimes dozens of ingredients and tools, many of them exotic and, if not expensive, at least an effort to obtain. One such book I own lists no more than 23 separate tools required for one rather basic ritual. Even worse, the author advises the reader to discard all candles and incense partially used, claiming that they can't ever be used again for magic. Perhaps the biggest change I can see between the time periods is the influx of herbal preparations and essential oils into magical practice. It's not that they aren't traditional, because they are, but not to the extent that they are used today. While older books contain a few simple incense recipes, or tell one how to make infuses oils to be used for certain magical aims, they do not require the dozens of herbal blends, tinctures, oils, and powders one typically finds today. But why is this?

Harkening back to a previous entry, I think that what's happened has been the influx of what one might call "sorcery" into Witchcraft. I define "sorcery" as the use of external objects to create a magical change, as opposed to "witchcraft" which involves exercising a power innate to the operator, along with the powers of spirits, Gods, and herbs. For example, American folk magic practices like Hoodoo and Pow Wow seem to have made inroads into Wicca and Witchcraft, altering all three in the process. In a less benign vein, Witchcraft has become big business: "Pagan" shops have popped up everywhere, willing to sell you herbs and tools of various freshness and quality, all for a pretty hefty price (it's not uncommon to see a cauldron that retails for 25 dollars one place, to be marked up to 40 or even 60 dollars elsewhere.) One wonders how much the ready availability of magical materials, which would have been unheard of even 40 years ago, has influenced the practice of magic itself.

I don't think there's anything wrong with having magical tools you find attractive and powerful, and I definitely don't deny that herbs, stones, woods, etc have inherent powers that the Witch can harness in order to work magic. However, I worry that sometimes people become so intent on buying more, having more, and stocking enough herbs to run a Witch store, that they forget to do the work! In addition, a lot of modern "Witchcraft" shops sell shoddy, tacky tools that carry but little of the natural energy required. What I cannot make myself, I buy from a few small, private artists (some of which I've shared) or come across in antique shops and thrift stores, where you can find amazing, high-quality objects that are perfect for Witchcraft. In the end, though, the important thing to remember is that YOU are the Witch, and if you cannot work magic using nothing but the power of your Will and experience, it's unlikely that even an entire Witch store full of merchandise can help you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Dark Mirror

As promised, here's an entry about my creation of, and use of, a Dark Mirror. If you don't know, a dark mirror is (as you might guess) a mirror or glass that's been darkened and magically consecrated for use as a divination tool. Some people use an actual mirror, with smoked glass, but others simply paint the back of a glass picture frame with dark paint, and use that. I chose the latter course.

I actually made mine a couple of years ago. I went to the craft store and bought an antique-looking picture frame and some flat black paint, and took it home. After laying out some newspaper, I removed the back from the frame and slid out the glass, cleaned it, and then put it on the paper. I sprayed the back of the glass with a coat of the black paint, let it dry, and then applied another one to make sure that it was evenly coated and completely black. After it dried, I put the glass back into the frame (with the unpainted side facing OUT) and then put the back back on. After performing an empowering rite, the mirror was ready for use.

I recommend using it in a very dark room, with only one or two candles going, but be sure to place them where you don't see the reflection in the glass, because you want to have a perfectly smooth reflection. You can also burn a divination incense, consisting of Mugwort, Wormwood, or others. Place the mirror on your worktable or similar, standing on edge, and sit about 4-6 feet away. Again, be sure that nothing is actually reflected in the glass; you want a perfectly black image to gaze into.

My own experiences with the mirror have been promising, but to be honest I haven't spend a huge amount of time with it. The first time I used it, I did began to see images, but felt I might not be ready for anything else so I stopped my experiment. In my case, after staring at the glass for about 5-10 minutes, I started to see what looked like a glowing mist forming. Shortly after, I began to see indistinct images (random shapes and such) swirling about, which then began to feel three dimensional and actually looked like they were coming OUT of the mirror, flying at me. It was definitely a witchy, magical experience but not something I would recommend if you are of a nervous or unsure disposition. Out of all the "gazing" methods of divination I have tried, the Dark Mirror had the best and most rapid results, quicker and better than a crystal ball or similar.

I do hope this has been instructive. Here's an image of my Dark Mirror at work, so hopefully you can get an idea of the technique I use.