Monday, May 28, 2012

Rootbabies and Care Packages

I blessed the roots on the altar of Aphrodite, who governs the giving or denial of love, who inspires the deepest lust and withers the greatest loves.  
I've been so busy I haven't really blogged in a little while, and for that, I am sorry.  The family pea-patch has needed a ton of work; Andrew, his mother and I have been clearing land, picking out herbs, weeding (which I hate doing but I was overruled) tilling, spreading manure and removing bones and mole-corpses from the yard.  I've been stripping bone of flesh, soaking those bones in the whitening bath, trimming early roses and uprooting the small shoots of several plum trees during the last dark moon to make my root charms.  Plum tree has special properties having to do with love and adoration, and so the root-babies all serve a particular function in matters of the heart or the loins.  Some (the roots that weren't in the necessary shape for rootbaby making) were commissioned as talismans by a few of my online friends, I hope you enjoy, ladies!

During one of my more hectic deadline weeks, I received a care package from my most beloved sister, Kendra, all of it gifted from the metaphysical and wellness store she works at Renaissance Holistic Center, an awesome place might I add, and if you let Kendra know that you read this blog, she'll tell you some sort of embarrassing childhood story about me free of charge (I deny it all).  I made sweet incense, wax idols and blood-red tea out of my goodies, and even got around to blending up a new batch of Aphrodite Ritual Bath to use during erotic or romantic rituals (of which I take part in many so I wind up making a huge batch every month or two).  

I'm finally getting around to finishing up projects so I'll be able to blog more.  Upcoming articles to look out for: Spirit-housing, Oceanic Magic and Witchcraft on the Seashore series about the different aspects of my life as a witch by the sea, lore and legends of the sea, sea gods and witches, and, some upcoming crafts; necromancers runes (complete) Lala's pendulum, my new altar plate and more.

thanks Kennkenn!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Witches of Our Dreams

Who were you role-models?  When you decided to become a witch or a magician, who did you emulate?  These are questions I am asked by family, friends and readers alike.  Who inspired me in my life as a witch?  I can think of many people, teachers, mentors and guides, but many of those I think about are the witches from fairy-tales and storybooks. 

When a witch thinks back to her childhood, to those days when her dreams were so vivid and free and the possibilities seemed endless, she may catch memories of what inspired her to be a witch.  Those fairy tale books with their crinkled pages, those colorfully illustrated legends, those are the places where so many of our future selves reside.  You'd be surprised at how many of us drew our inspiration and desires from the old tales of witches long dead or beings who may have never existed.  We draw inspiration from these characters, we see so muich of ourselves or our desires in these beings, and it stirs in us an image of the person we want to become, of the kind of witch we look up to as teachers and friends.  A character from a story is not merely some idea or figment of imagination, anyone who loves and adores the written word knows that ideas take on lives of their own once the story is shared.  Stories stop being figments of our imagination and begin to become real, they begin to teach us and shape us.  How many workers of magic and priestesses of shadows drew their inspiration from Medea, cloaked in night and moving through the craggy hillside to gather her trembling herbs?  How many of us dreamed we could meet some wild hag in the forest like hideous and temperamental Baba Yaga, and learn her cunning ways?  As the forest disappears from our life, so does the mystery and mysticism of the wild beyond, where all these enchantresses were found.  For those of us who aren't too jaded and disassociated from the living, breathing reality of nature, that old mystery in the forest where faeries, elder gods, spirits and hags reside still holds its power and the memories we carry of the magical wild helps us retain our faith. 

If I were to think of the three most powerful literary role-models of my childhood that helped drive me towards my fascination with witchcraft, I think of three sources: Jules Michelet's Sorceress, George MacDonald's The Golden Key and Medea of Euripides, Seneca and Apollonius.  Not only were the witches in these stories my idea of what witches ought to be, but I saw so much of myself and my own desires in the witches of these tales that I knew, just knew, I was going to be like them some day.  All three are completely different kinds of stories- a narrative with both true and false elements, a contemporary fairy tale and an ancient myth from the cradle of lore and legend itself retold.  I can remember many inspirations and role models in my life whose exploits and powers brought witchcraft closer to my soul, but I am a dedicated bookworm and it is destined that my greatest teachers would be stories themselves.  I knew by the time I was nine years old that I wanted to be just like Grandmother from The Golden Key when I grew up.  I knew by the time I was 13 that I wanted to be Medea of Colchis when I grew up.  I knew by the time I was 17 that I wanted to be the Sorceress of Jules' dreams...  I saw a true and honest version of myself in these characters, I saw what I believed to be real in these stories, and so they are real, to me.

The Golden Key...

In a way, one of my greatest influences also happens to be one of the greatest tales of life, death, rebirth ever told.  It may be a fairly recent fairy-tale, but it is based on the old common themes and elements of the fairy tales we know and love, and those tales are bred from the lore and local superstitions of the cultures from which they arose.  It is a tale that's imagery and symbolism map out the traditional story of the soul's journey, the power of the otherworld and the mysteries of the forest.  The Golden Key is a short fairy-tale, a children's book written by George MacDonald in 1867 (illustrated by none other than Maurice Sendak may he rest in peace).  It is in no way your typical weak, one-note fairy-tale, this one is ripe with powerful imagrey and spirtual symbolism.  MacDonald may have been a devout Christian who put his spiritualism into his work, but the Golden Key is distinctly pagan in it's feel.  I venture to say I would not be overstepping the boundaries to suggest there is a very pure and very unintentional pagan undertone to the whole story and it was as obvious to me at eight years old as it is to me now that the nature of a traditionally styled fairy tale is inherently pagan and always ripe with the common symbolism of the old ways.   

It may be short, but it is an epic story; a young boy  and a young girl who's lives are intertwined by a fated meeting in where else but an enchanted forest where an "Old Woman" named Grandmother resides.  The boy has in his possession a golden key he found at the end of a rainbow on a bed of moss, the girl is the neglected and abused child of a merchant who is driven from her home by mischievous fairies (or guiding spirits if you look closely).  The two children are not the characters who most catch the eye, it is Grandmother, the beautiful wise wild woman who's familiars are owl-headed flying fish (the symbolism of the owl as the familiar or shape-shift of a Hag goddess won't be lost on the knowledgeable, nor will the symbolism of an old woman" of the forest).  Grandmother sets about orchestrating the journey- akin to a shamanic journey of the soul in some ways, as these kids will have to pass between worlds and elements, meeting the gods as they go, being tested and teased.   They shall find the door that the golden key unlocks.  

Grandmother is said to be old, extremely old, even though she herself appears to be a middle aged and very tall beautiful woman.  She keeps a tidy cottage in the forest, she is served by fairies, familiars, flowers and trees. She has an untold wisdom of the nature of all things, a knowledge of the elements, the ability to enchant and ensnare, and most notably, has a very kind heart despite her mysterious ways.  In some ways, she is the kind of witch-in-the-weald that many witches strive to be.  Like the old tales in many cultures go, the old woman in the wood may harm or help you as she pleases, is fond of children and sets them about performing tasks for some end they are not aware of. As the story goes, the children become distracted from their mission to find the keyhole by their new passion to find the "place where shadows fall".  The enchanted forest is always a liminal space in the old tales, it is the doorway between our world and the otherworld, and the beings of the forest act as guides.  This is a present motif in many myths, legends and fairy-lore; an old woman or "witch", lost souls traveling through the forest, encounters with the otherworld...  The childeren are accedentally separated and the girl undergoes an incredibly familiar but very unique journey through the realm of water, earth and fire, meeting the "old man" of each place.  In each realm, quite a bit of time passes though it only feels like a short time, and the "old man" of each place changes in age and appearence- this is the nature of the otherworld where time is deceptive and where spirits are not what they appear to be.  To me, the "old man" of each world who is a friend of Grandmothers, whom she has essentially sent the childeren to, is in some ways like the ever changing god to her goddess.  Grandmother reminds me of the chthonic faery queen, sending seekers on holy journeys through the depths of the worlds....  I wanted to emulate her wisdom, her beauty, her strange ways as queen of the enchanted forest who dwells in a small old cottage like a true queen of the forest would.  She is like the Queen of Elphame, a goddess of the otherworld and underworld, a mysterious woman who holds the threads of fate in her hands,  all knowing, rarely sharing.  In Grandmother, I see the witch in her less severe form, as a priestess of land, as a goddess of the in-between and twilight.  Like the children of the story, I was drawn to her, loved by her, enthralled by her and still look up to her as the kind of wild woman I'd like to be... 

The girl is aided by the old man of the sea, and then the old man of the earth, and then follows a serpent to the old man of the fire (who appears to be a child but is oldest of them all), and she waits for her lost boy with his golden key.  The old man of the sea shows the boy the door that the key unlocks, and waiting there, old as he, is his lost girl, and they travel up the staircase in the rainbow to the place where shadows fall.  If it had not been for that strange old fairy queen in the forest and her elemental consorts, their journey through time, life and death would never have taken place.  And so Grandmother to me is the doorway, the goddess of journeys and the soul, a witch alone in the woods who is the key between worlds. 

The story of Medea is all to familiar; a beautiful woman, morally ambiguous, cunning and serious who is scorned by her ungrateful lover, slays her children by him, ruins his new wife and wreaks havoc upon him.  Poor Jason should have known better after witnessing her miracles and learning her dark arts, but he did not and so he suffered.  Each account of Medea varies from person to person.  In some lore she is more political than mystical, in other legends she is more devoted priestess than hard-hearted witch.  Some say she is the niece of Circe, or the sister, daughter of Hekate or perhaps only her priestess.  I would say she is simply Medea of Colchis, a beautiful sorceress, pharmakis and a master of herbs and drugs.  She is not evil or good as stories so often try to simplify her, she is simply who she is.  I looked toward Medea (and to a lesser extent Circe) because I saw in her a great deal of wisdom, power and will.  She didn't take shit from anyone and was willing to put her soul on the line to attain her dreams.  I love her story, her travels, her deceptions.  I prefer the version of her painted as the beautiful and more morally upstanding sister of Circe who fell from her piety and descended into the darkness of the soul.  Through suffering and trial, she gained power and respect. She may not be the squeaky clean sweetheart others would want to look up to, but she is a witch, and from all accounts was one of the greatest and most powerful, responsible for much of our common imagery and ideas of what a witch is and what she is capable of.  She is responsible for much of the blueprint of a witch in the Western world, and when I look at her I see the traditional archetype of the witch as an empowered, intelligent and dangerous worker of the dead and damned. 

La Sorcière...
The Sorceress was written by historian Jules Michelet in 1862, though it is now known under the title Satanism and Witchcraft.  It is not the traditional sort of style of writing you would find about witchcraft history, rather it is the tragic and poetic tale of witchcraft as a rebellion, personified in his Sorceress who, wedded to the Beast, leads a revolution of sorcery and enchantment- her purpose?  Revenge and personal pleasure of course! I looked up to the Sorceress despite her cruelty and drive for revenge because at the time I read the book, I was a teenager, at that stage of rebellion and dissent and I saw within the sad and cruel enchantress a part of myself.  To me, he personified the quintessential witch in his Sorceress as harlot, familiar and bride of the devil, the beast or old god of misrule.  She represented surrender to one's own motives and her purist of revenge was one I sympathized well with, and her rebellion against the church is one I still sympathize with.  The land trembled at her presence, bears and wolves were her familiars, all devoted to her and besotted by her.  She as a mistress of drugs and was as inclined to heal as she was to destroy.  She toiled in her spell work and magics, rejoiced in her battles and triumphs, she was consumed with the power of herb and tree and land, she was mistress of despair and darkness.  In short, she was a true witch down to her soul. She may have only been a personification of witchcraft in Michelet's eyes, a creature to be both despised and pitied, but there is no doubt that her fascinating allure and unparalleled mystical beauty is worthy of admiration, and I most certainly do admire what she stood for.  A mistress of misrule...

Angelina, Sorceress, Old Woman of the Forest, Night-Wandering Devotee to the Terrible One

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Scribbled Pages

Trillium growing wild
I've been so busy over the last few weeks working on these two books and making arrangements for some of my fictional work.  I'm really worried about my deadline, but I think I'll push through. Every day after work, I'm at the computer, typing as fast as I can, flipping through pages of research, talking with my main contacts across the country.  Writing is too time consuming, but I love every second of it.  I'd rather be bent over my pages than anywhere else.  Andrew's been pouring himself into his comic book, and I'm amazed at the progress.  It's vaguely pagan, his story-line... pretty awesome.  But alas, too much time cooped up in the house and being sick for a few days took its toll and we fled to the forest on a sunny day... to smoke, to drink and to quietly listen to the land breathe....  Here's a Beltane treat for you:

To Attract Bees:

Gather foxglove, raspberry leaves, wild marjorum, mint, camomile, and valerian; mix them with butter made on May Day, and let the herbs also be gathered on May Day. Boil them all together with honey; then rub the vessel into which the bees should gather, both inside and out, with the mixture; place it in the middle of a tree, and the bees will soon come. Foxglove or "fairy fingers" is called "the great herb" from its wondrous properties.-Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland by Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde (1887


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beltane, Bookworms and Bad-Asses


We feasted, we sang, we cleaned house and made music, that was my precious Beltane.  We burned last year's Beltane blend, we smoked as we invoked the Green Woman of the spring, the May Queen and the spirits of spark and flame.  We honored the dead with libations of apples, oats, honey and cider.  We shunned the winter while smiling at the Hag- she may sleep while the Bride takes over, but she is queen of witches, and so she never leaves our blood.  I broke from the group to explore the wilderness so that I may speak my piece to my spirits and devoted dead.  Trillium and skunk cabbage are bright in the forest, and the nearby creek is abuzz with new insect life thriving in the shadows of alders and madronas.  I collected bleeding hearts, early wild roses, budding lunaria and white camellias.

We sat on the porch with a pipe, my ever present liquor and spoke of religious philosophy, spring's best herbs and our radical leftist, anti-establishment heretical agendas while the sun went down.  All in all a very normal day.  I don't get out and socialize much, even on holidays; this is probably because my idea of a fun holiday is drinking while in conversation, arguing over religion and politics, mulling over the opinions of others, discussing the world rather than going through the motions.  Vee and Andrew have a lot in common with me; bookish hermits, spiritualists, not fond of drama and bullshit.  We're all sort of bonded in our united dislike of having to pick through other people's emotional garbage when there's bigger and better things to be had.  We spent some time joined in debates, arguing over all the wonderful aspects of The Red Goddess and enjoying the company of other hippies.  

Kindred spirits are often hard to find.  It's hard to find people who understand that introversion is NOT a condition, it is a personality trait that doesn't need to be fixed or repaired.  We don't need help, we don't need to "get out more" or "be more social", it's not us who need to understand, it's extroverts who need to get a grip.  Vee is a kindred spirit in that way; smart, weird, eccentric and unwilling to live the thoughtless life of the stereotypical twenty-something American girl.  She, like me and Andrew, doesn't want to hang out all the time, likes her own home and isn't afraid of the silence.  Beltane is a time for coming together with those you love, but it's also a time for pleasure and warmth.  I take my pleasure from the quiet and my warmth from that gooey good feeling you get when you realize the person/people next to you like you just the way you are.  A merry Beltane in mind and spirit.