Hello There

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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Home Made Lip Balm!

My friend Mr. B came to visit me, and since we both like herbs, essential oils, and natural living, we decided to make some home-made lip balm, from a recipe we found at Mountain Rose Herbs. We used the one called "Peppermint Cocoa Lip Balm" but made a few small changes to the ingredients. Here's what we ended up using:

1 tbs. cocoa butter
2 tbs. Sweet Almond oil
1 tbs. Jojoba oil
1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. beeswax
3 drops Peppermint oil (it called for 5-10, but we went lightly)

You melt the wax, butter, and oils over a double boiler, and then remove from the heat before adding the essential oils. Be careful not to let it boil over! We then transferred the hot mixture to a Pyrex measuring cup, before pouring it into the little plastic tubes (from Mountain Rose Herbs) and tins. You have to act fast because the wax hardens quickly. Now, we just have to let the tubes and tins sit for several hours, before capping them. We already did a "trial" taste, and the stuff is amazing! Very rich and creamy, which a wonderful chocolate smell and a hint of Peppermint. And, best of all, all-natural. It was quite easy to do, once we got the timing down, and I'll definitely be making more in the future. You could easily make 20+ tubes at a time.

Here are some pics to share.....

The "double boiler"

The filled tins and tubes (and a big mess!)

The filled tubes

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hoofprints in the Wildwood: The Review

Well, I have the book and am about halfway through it, and so far I quite like it. The cover, done by Sarah Lawless, is absolutely GORGEOUS. The content is lovely as well, with contributions from my personal favourite of Gemma Gary and Eric Jeffords (Twisting Ways.) I was especially interested in hearing more about Bucca Dhu, the Deity of Gary's Cornish coven, as information about Him is hard to come by. There are some quite useful songs, chants, and poems included, which I will no doubt be putting to good use in the future. The only minor problems I can see are that some of the illustrations didn't show up too well in the book, and at times some of the prose can veer off into the flowery. I personally view The Gods as being more "impersonal forces of Nature" as opposed to "parent-like beings who closely follow our day to day life" and so I find it hard to relate to some of the personal accounts in the book. These are but minor issues, though, and I heartily recommend the book to all interested parties. For far too long, the God has been demoted to simply being the "consort" of the Goddess, as though He were a lesser being, and in some modern "traditions" He is deliberately ignored. This book puts Him back in His proper place, as a powerful, independent force to be reckoned with.

Look for my own, upcoming essay about the God though the eyes of a gay practitioner. I feel that we have a unique, and powerful, relationship with Him and believe that He can be an important part of our spirituality as a powerful, sexual being (in welcome contrast to the dry, sexless, judgmental God of the monotheistic religions.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Joys of Spring

It's been a while since I posted anything about my garden, so I thought I'd show y'all some new shots of what I've got going on. I'm glad to say, my sunflowers have been taking off like there's no tomorrow (I actually had to pull some of them up) and most everything else is doing well, EXCEPT for a few of my magical herbs. I simply cannot get the Cinquefoil to grow, and my Mugwort remains pretty puny. We've had some really weird weather, with hot weather one day, and chilly the next, and it can't have helped matters much.

Alas, with the spring also comes the storms. There have been multiple tornadoes, and many have been killed. Also, other parts of Texas near me are VERY dry, and there have been some bad fires. Here's hoping we get enough rain to put them out!

My potted garden

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Best Magic Wands

I confess, I have a "thing" for wands.  Out of all the magical tools, I use wands the most.  Why?  I think it has to do with my love of wood and trees; every tree has its own magical specialty, and though I do use "traditional" sources to determine what those might be, I also enjoy exploring for myself what one can do with, say, Apple wood.  Also, I just like the look of the various woods, and the amount of personalization you can get by adding on various woodburnings and crystals.

Anyway, the supplier I use most these days is Wands of Avalon, which I'd like to share with you today.  A month or so back in my blog, you can see the beautiful custom Blackthorn wand Joy at WOA made for me.  This time around, I'm having a Hazel one made, as Hazel is supposed to be the best all-purpose wand wood (I actually have a Hazel wand already, from elsewhere, but I just don't think it's got the "feel" I am looking for.) Hazel, a pale, creamy wood, is meant to be the tree of wisdom, knowledge, and inspiration.  In legend, the Hazelnuts from the tree's branches and are eaten by the Salmon of Knowledge.  Hazel and Hazelnuts are also associated with Halloween and divination.

I think what I like best about the wands from Wands of Avalon are how simple, and yet how beautiful, they are. Many still have portions of their bark on them, but the bark has been sanded and smoothed until it takes on a glassy sheen.  All have special runes burned into them, and some have lovely, natural crystals.  They feel like powerful, serious tools of magic and not like "Harry Potter" toys, as some other crafters' do.

Here are a few pics of wands I have from Wands of Avalon.  For the record, I don't have any financial stake in them or ulterior motives in recommending them.  I just feel that, when you find something good, you should share it.  And, of course, I want them to do well so they can provide quality magical goods for years to come.  Here is the link, if you'd care to have one for yourself: Wands of Avalon


This Hazel wand is similar to the custom one I am ordering

This Blackthorn wand is mine, custom made for me

Joy from WOA shows off runic details on an Ash wand

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hoofprints in the Wildwood

Well, I ordered my hard copy (it's also available for purchase as a download) and it should be here tomorrow or Thursday.  It's a brand-new book containing various writings about, and devotionals to, the Horned God of the Witches.  Several online pals have contributed to it, and as I know their writing is amazing I'm sure I'm in for a real treat.

The God, for whatever reason, tends to be badly mistreated by many modern NeoPagans.  Why, I don't know for certain, though I have a few ideas.  One of them, I'm sad to say, is a kind of reverse sexism.  So many people flee the patriarchal religions of their childhood (Christianity is the number one offender, though some branches have gotten much better about acknowledging the Divine Feminine) and embrace Wicca and related traditions because it's got a Goddess.  However, though the God is part of official belief, sometimes He's either unintentionally, or even deliberately, ignored in a misguided attempt to "get back at" the previous religion.  "You didn't believe in a Goddess," they say, "Well, I'm going to ignore ALL male deities!  SO THERE!"  Needless to say, this is a terrible way of thinking.  Whatever the faults of the monotheistic religions, they don't have a Goddess and ignore Her on purpose, they simply don't have one as part of their pantheon.  This is vastly different than having a belief in one, and then intentionally pushing Her to the side to make some kind of political statement (obviously, though, some branches of Witchcraft are henotheistic, or worship only a Goddess as She's the sole patron deity, and this doesn't apply to them.)

Another reason might be that He does look, let's face it, like the scary Devil many of us grew up being threatened with.  It can be very, very hard to get the messages used to keep us in line ("If you dare question your religion, the Devil will get you and take you to HELL!") out of our psyche, and though we might know intellectually that the God isn't Satan (I personally don't believe there's any such thing as the "source of all evil") it can still be a hard fear to overcome, which I guess is why it's instilled in the first place.  Also, so many of us have had terrible experiences with male Gods, or with the men in our life, and perhaps assume that this God might be as cruel, vindictive, and hateful as the one we grew up with.  Only time and experience, in my opinion, can demonstrate that this is not the case.  No, He's not a fluffy Santa Claus who exists solely to get us parking spaces and "forgive" us (whatever that might mean) when we screw up, but neither is He a kind of cosmic hall monitor who keeps points on  us and punishes/rewards us if we're nice or naughty.

Anyway, I hope you'll forgive my little tangent there.  I really am excited about the new book, and can't wait to have it here so I can read it in person.  In other news, I also got in the mail the Forest Smoke I ordered from Sarah Lawless, The Witch of Forest Grove.  It smells like bee pollen, balsam, pine, and I don't know what else kind of amazing botanicals.  This was the first thing I've ordered from her, but it certainly won't be the last.  I just wish I'd snapped up some of the Raven Smoke she had before it got all sold out.

I'll report back more when I get the book!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Keeping The Sacred, Sacred

Writing a blog like this, I sometimes wonder if I give too much away.  You know, there's a lot of valid argument that one should never show their magical tools to anyone, or even openly admit to being a Witch.  Not only does doing so put you at risk from religious nuts and others, but it can sometimes cheapen what is meant to be a sacred, personal experience.  As such, there are those who share nothing with anyone except for perhaps other members of their coven.

In my own case, I'm kind of in the middle.  I'm pretty open about my beliefs and practice, and clearly since I'm writing this, I don't think everything should be hidden away.  Indeed, had not many respectable people been open about their religion, Wiccans and Witches would not have the rights and recognition they do today.  So, there is clearly a benefit to a certain amount of public exposure. Likewise, I  think it's important that serious, dedicated Witches and others put stuff out there to help counter, in some small degree, the huge amount of misinformation and "fluffy" stuff floating around on the web. I don't claim to be an expert, but I AM serious about what I do, and if nothing else I've picked up a lot of good information from various respected Elders online that I might never have found.

At the same time, there are some things which I do keep private and will probably not ever be sharing.  Deity names, for one; I keep these secret to all but myself.  Also, I might show myself making incense or an oil, but I won't ever show a ritual in progress or go into detail about workings I'm doing; I feel ritual is the time for ritual, not to be taking pictures.  Finally, though I've just now begun training with one of two magical systems I hope to learn in the next year, I'm obviously not going to be going and sharing information from those, as they are for initiate use only.

In the end, I think it's wise just to use common sense.  I don't think there's anything wrong in sharing certain aspects of one's beliefs and practices, but if it starts to be a "show" or you spill every single secret and tradition for all to see, you're basically taking something sacred and turning into a public spectacle.  It also makes sense to tailor what you share to the audience; sharing an experience with the Horned God with a fellow Witch might be appropriate; doing the same with your Baptist coworker is not.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Essential Witch's Reading List

On a number of different forums and places, I always see this question: "Can you recommend some good books for me?  I'm just starting out!"  Now, let's face it....there are loads of absolutely terrible books out there purporting to be about Wicca and Witchcraft, and it's not always easy to find solid material written by solid authors.  So, I thought I 'd put together a list of MY favourite books, which I wouldn't recommend only to the beginner, but to anybody who wants to deepen their knowledge of the Craft, in whatever path they follow it in.  I've arranged them into the categories of "Wicca;" "Witchcraft," and "Magic."  Hope you enjoy!

About Wicca:
"High Magic's Aid" and "The Meaning of Witchcraft" by Gerald Gardner.  The guy who more or less "started it all" when it comes to the modern Wicca movement.  Learn about Wicca from the founder.  May come as a shock to people reared on the more sanitized, watered-down books published recently.

"The Rebirth of Witchcraft" by Doreen Valiente.  My favourite magical author, this book contains info not only about Wicca, but about Trad Craft and Cochrane's Clan as well.  Highly recommended.

"The Witches Bible" by Janet and Stewart Farrar.  Some slightly homophobic sounding statements are a little off-putting, but this is a good picture of Alexandrian-based Wicca and includes 3 books in 1, with great info about the Sabbats and the Gods.

"Modern Wicca" by Michael Howard.  The backstory of Gardner and some of the other early leaders in the Wicca and Witchcraft movement.

About Witchcraft:
"Witchcraft for Tomorrow."  Another Valiente favourite. Kind of a blend of Trad Craft (I've seen her words and consecrations used in other Trad Craft books...without being credited as such) and Wicca, but geared towards a more solitary path.  Probably the first to allow for "self dedication" (which is allowed for the practice of Pagan Witchcraft; you cannot self "initiate" into Wicca.)  Chock full of the author's wonderful poetry and rites, and contains a "Book of Shadows" which is a great place to get started.

"The Call of the Horned Piper" by Nigel Jackson.  Interesting, if a bit "wordy" take on Traditional Witchcraft. Some very interesting imagery and rites, as well as an exercise based on Sabbatic flight.

"Treading the Mill" by Nigel Pearson.  Much more "hands on" than "The Call" listed above.  Good trance techniques and some info on oils and wine-making.  Definitely low-magic based.

"Mastering Witchcraft" by Paul Huson.  This one makes a lot of the New Age types tear out their hair, but it's really an amazing resource.  Provides a much more realistic, organic view of Witchcraft from before Wicca and such became a pop culture fad.  Definitely has some dark material, but this is a plus instead of a minus in my opinion.  Take what you need from it, but at least respect what it has to offer.

About Magic:
"The Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells" by Judika Illes.  The book I WISH I'd had years ago.  Spells for everything, from almost every tradition.  Definitely perfect for the modern Witch; you won't find a lot of fluffy, love-and-light stuff here.  Does include hexes and curses, which can be justified in certain cases.

"The Complete Book of Oils, Incenses, and Brews" by Scott Cunningham.  This poor guy gets WAY too much hate from people who often don't even bother to read his work.  This book, along with "Magical Herbalism" and "Earth Power" are all wonderful compendiums of recipes and spells using herbs, essential oils, and the like.  I use a lot of his incense and oil recipes, and love them.  Highly recommended.

Anyway, hope you all enjoy these and find them useful!  I'll be adding to the list as I dig through my books and find ones I might have forgotten.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Living With "The Land," And The Importance of Regional Variation

If you read the best books available on Traditional Witchcraft, you'll quickly notice one thing: they are almost all British in origin, and are directed towards a largely British audience.  This is fine for most of the material, as meditation techniques or spellcasting methods will work no matter where one is located.  Certain areas, though, will have to be adapted to fit your local surroundings.

For example, many of the herbs one is directed to grow, or use for certain purposes, might do well in rainy, cool-weathered England but are literally impossible to grow in incredibly hot, humid Texas where I live.  Rowan might make wonderful ritual tools and wands (and in fact I do have a Rowan wand) but it doesn't grow anywhere near me.  Even the spirits one encounters might be different, as the terrain in the American South can vary from wide, flat plains to rocky mountains to marshy swamps.  As such, it's important to experiment and find out what works for YOU in YOUR area.  As we draw some of our power and our knowledge from the Land, it's important to get to know it intimately and not simply rely on books, especially when they describe places that are vastly different from your own.

In my own city, we've got abundant Oak, Maple, and Ash trees, and I've experimented with all of these types of wood.  Oak and Ash are pretty traditional woods to work with for wands and such, but Maple is less so.  However, I've found that it has a wonderful energy, and seems especially suited for "growth" workings (gardens and fertility) and other positive magic.  In my garden, I've planted things that do well in our sunny, hot climate and will soon have a beautiful crop of Sunflowers, Moonflowers, and Morning Glories as well as some tasty herbs I can use for both magic and culinary use.  Working with these things makes me feel more connected to the Land, and to the energy that surrounds it, much more so than if I simply tried to make British magic work in an American State.

All this is not to say that one should ignore tradition; far from it. I myself favour a pretty traditional path.  However, I do think it's wise to adapt tradition to blend with your surroundings and to bring them into harmony with the unique powers that infuse your particular geographical area.  By using local wood, local plants, and taking into account the local terrain you can help to harness their power and perhaps gain the favour of the spirits of place (genius loci) which can aid you in your magic.