Fivefold Blessing

My Beltane gift to you all is to share this blessing that I’ve been working with for the last few years. It is inspired by the Fivefold Kiss as described in the Farrars’ British traditional style of Wicca; I believe that saluting the body and the parts of self is a beautiful practice, but the Fivefold Kiss was an extremely intimate way of doing so. My Fivefold Blessing is somewhat less sexually charged, making it appropriate in a wider range of situations. I encourage you to try this as a way to ground and center, as a self-blessing on a daily basis, as preparation for ritual, and as a reassurance in difficult times.

The Fivefold Blessing

Blessed be thy feet which have walked thy path.

Blessed be thy body which is thy life.

Blessed be thy heart which is thy love.

Blessed be thy hands which do thy work.

Blessed be thy spirit which is one with all things.

When doing this with myself, I usually touch my feet, belly, heart, hands, and head for the respective parts of the body. Try varying the order as needed; if you want to ground, then salute spirit, hands, heart, body, feet. If you want to draw up energy, use the opposite order. If you want to work from your heart outward, try that, and see what happens!

Glamour breaking as political magic

At the waning of the moon, a Witch’s fancy darkly turns to thoughts of hex…

-With apologies to Lord Tennyson

Breaking glamours is one of the most ethical acts we can do magically in a political situation. If you truly set your intention to break a glamour, then if you’re mistaken, and there’s no glamour there, no harm is done. The energy just dissipates. If you are correct about there being a glamour there, then you are helping the truth come out, which contributes to an informed electorate and better democracy. If, however, you are truly doing a spell to force other people to see your candidate in your way, you are being unethical. Examine yourself, your mind and heart and intentions, before you try this to make sure that you can do it ethically.

This post is about breaking Donald Trump’s glamour(s). I’m not going to debate politics at this time. I am convinced that Donald Trump is casting a glamour to present himself as things he is not. He wants to be seen as a virile man, a nearly cartoonish representation of toxic masculinity and patriarchy embodied. He wants to be seen as a successful, rich businessman (who also is interested in jobs for regular Americans?). He wants to be seen as the embodiment of power-over. I think he is in fact none of those things. Breaking that glamour will contribute to voters seeing him more accurately and making more informed choices on that basis.

This is an outline for a simple spell for banishing. You can dress it up with a lot more features. But if you’ve got a dark colored candle (or a white candle and a sharpie, be resourceful folks), and some magical oomph, you can give it a go.

Cast your circle.

Call the quarters. Ask Air to sweep away empty words and bring in the forces of truth. Ask Fire to burn brightly and consume all falsehoods and mirages. Ask Water to wash us with compassion and empathy. Ask Earth to support and strengthen only that which has true roots.

If you have a deity who is relevant, ask them to join you. I will personally call on Athena Columbia, spirit of this land and our government and the ideals we hold dear, to help show when candidates’ true natures are in line with those ideals or opposed to them.

Light a black candle. You can hold it in your dominant hand if you want.

Form a visualization in your mind of Donald Trump. See and hear him as a person behind a created persona: he has a projection in front of him that looks like his TV personality, big and bluff, virile and rich. If it helps your visualization, imagine yourself walking around to the side or peeking to the side to look “behind” the projected persona. Behind it, you can see him as he truly is: misogynist, racist, weaker than he thinks. He is the ultimate con person, trying to con even himself, but (very) deep down he knows it is a con. Tonight we are breaking that con, shattering the image, and allowing his true nature to show through.

When you have this visualization, using your non-dominant hand (the hand you do not write with), start making counter-clockwise circles in front of you. See and hear and feel yourself wiping away the projected persona just as you would clean the steam off your mirror after a shower. Clean it off of the glass of TV screens and computer screens and mobile devices. Wipe it away, always counter clockwise, at least three times.

Use the black candle to illuminate the truth that remains behind the projection. Let this truth shine clearly, reflect easily, into all the places that projection was showing.

Verbalize your intentions as you go, if it helps you. Say something like, “I break your glamour. I see you as you truly are.” Add details if you want; whatever helps you visualize (which also includes other senses, hearing especially) is useful.

When you are done, thank deity and the quarters. Open the circle.

Let the candle burn out, if you can do so safely. Either way, when you are done with it, take it away from your home, at least across water, and throw it away (in a trash can, be an eco-Witch) and leave without looking back.

Options and further ideas:

If you want to, you could dip your hand in a bowl of blessed salt water to do the wiping away. Dispose of the water immediately afterwards, ideally away from your house, but down the drain if need be, followed by clean water and good riddance.

If you want to, you can dress the candle with an oil and or herbs, such as ones for banishing. Dress the candle from the center to each end for banishing purposes.

I have also been doing a little spell with my weeding. I have a thistle problem in my backyard, and I am trying to use it to good effect. Whenever I weed during the waning of the moon, I name each thistle with the name of something I want to uproot and destroy: patriarchy, racism, misogyny, misogynoir, ableism, and so on. Then I uproot it, or cut it off at the roots below the ground, and visualize the problem becoming a little smaller, a little more manageable, a little less supported. I have also been saying things like, “Donald Trump movement, you have no roots, you are shallow and unsupported, you do not get the hate that you need, you do not get the attention that you need, you do not get the lies that you need.”

If you use these and have any feedback, I would love to hear about it!

To keep the peace in Cleveland

There has been so much violence lately. I have so many thoughts about the proximate and ultimate causes of those incidents, and I am glad that our society is having some of the heartbreaking and necessary discussions around those issues. I cannot contribute more to those discussions today. What I want to do right now is first aid, attempting to staunch the bleeding, in particular in the overheated environment of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

I believe that one thing that would make everything worse is an outbreak of violence at the Republican convention. Whoever starts it, however it ends, I believe that it would further divide our country and entrench fringe positions in power. If you disagree, then you can do whatever work you think best. If you agree, then here’s what I’m doing to try to keep the peace in Cleveland for this crucial stretch of time.

I am a Witch, and right now I am a Witch in touch with the land of Ohio. This is my job. Anyone who wants to help can help; you don’t need to do it exactly the way I do it, and you don’t need to use the same tools I use. Pray, dance naked in the forest, drum for the rivers, do whatever works for you. But if you want to help with this, I’d be grateful, and if you’re not sure how best to help, maybe my work will give you some ideas.

I used a map of Ohio. Just a plain old highway map. (Yes, I rode dinosaurs back before we invented GPS and we used these paper things called maps to point our brontosauruses in the right direction according to the sun. It’s old tech but it still works.) If you don’t have one, print one out. Or draw it. Just the state of Ohio with the city of Cleveland marked on it. Or the watershed. Whatever works for you.

In my sacred space, I oriented the map so that north on the map was facing north in the physical world. (I think this is one of the few crucial parts of using maps. If you’re holding the map upside down compared to the real world, any kind of magic I’m familiar with would be very, very confused.) I sank my awareness down into the soil of Ohio, this glacier-scraped plain shot through with slow and winding rivers, and laid my hands on the map and asked it to become one with the places it represents. (Think of this as just like when you ask the water in the bowl for the west point in the circle to become one with all the Water of the world and what it means metaphysically.)

Then I made offerings. You should make offerings that work for you; mine are shaped at this moment in time by the relationships I’m working with. I poured out honey for the Good Folk, the more tricksy of the spirits of the land, and whiskey for my deities, who mostly come from the Celtic pantheon, who came over with their people when enough of them settled here to make Dublin, Ohio, a reality. I offered tobacco for the spirits of the First Nations, who I do not forget, even though I do not know them very well. I offered tobacco for the wrongs done under slavery, and as a reminder of Ohio’s role in trying to change that sinful system. I offered olive oil for Columbia Athena, who I believe to be the matron spirit of our government and of our nation as it exists now.

I laid out physical objects to express my intentions. My intention for this working is simple: let violence go to ground. Let every human being in and around Cleveland be influenced, in whatever way is possible, to be physically peaceful. This is an earth spell, so I used stones to express it. I put a lead bullet on top of Cleveland on the map, and on top of it and around it I piled black tourmaline, for grounding, and jet, to absorb evil, and a metallic meteorite, to bring things down from heaven to earth.

Obviously the bullet represents gun violence, but lead is also the metal of Saturn, the planet of restrictions and limitations. I am trying to hold down violence of all kinds, but especially gun violence. The guns are already present in Cleveland, in the hands of police and non-police, in the hands of people of all races and genders and political identities. What I am trying to do is keep them from being used.

This is a binding of sorts, but I am thinking of it mostly in terms of gravity: making the weapons of violence too heavy to lift, too heavy to wield, too heavy to fight.

You could do the same thing with stones from your landbase. Or black stones, or whatever stones represent earth and grounding and heaviness for you. The tools are just tools – you are the one doing the work.

With all this in place, I began to shape my intention, to give it voice and form and power. It became something like this:

May all the weapons be too heavy to lift.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May every hand that is raised be lowered again in peace.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May batons and sticks remain heavy on the ground.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May knives be blunted and fall from the wielder’s hand.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May guns hang heavy in their holsters and remain there.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May bullets find only earth and not flesh.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May grenades fall to the ground as duds.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only words be exchanged.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only voices be raised.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only emotions flow in rivers on the land.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only hearts be lifted.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May people recognize each other’s humanity.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May people value the land they live in.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May everyone survive.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

While saying this, I put my hands over the stones on the map, and sent my energy into them. When I was done, I gave thanks, and ended my work.

Please note that this is NOT a time to light candles. The situation in Cleveland – and across the country, truth be told – is already volatile enough. It does not need any more undirected, ravening energy of change. If you want to join in this through visualization, great. Through praying to your land, crying to your rivers, speaking to your air, great. But don’t, for the love of all that’s holy, think you can extinguish gunpowder with a candle.

May it be so, for you, for all of us.

Imbolc – Sacred Inspiration

To continue my series on the sacred within Wicca, I would like to concentrate on learning to cultivate a connection with the divine, or sacred inspiration. Imbolc is a time of celebrating Brigid, and one of her specialties is inspiration, especially the inspiration that gives voice to poetry. I am not a good enough poet to begin to express the beauty of her inspiration, but I would like to try my meager hand at encouraging you to try experiencing divine inspiration yourself.

Many cultures have seen inspiration as something that comes from the divine; in some Hellenistic cultures it would be the Muses who brought artistic or scholarly inspiration, and that role has come down to us today in our language, although usually diminished in sense. Being a muse today is often seen as a passive role, while the original sense, and the kind of inspiration I want to discuss here, is very much a function of active engagement on divinity’s part.

There are different ways to experience different degrees of inspiration. Here I am not talking about full-blown possession, but rather something more gentle (which can shade into possession if you learn that style of work), more about a sensed connection with the divine which leads to new information, ideas, or emotions arising within you.

In Judy Harrow’s essential book Spiritual Mentoring, she names the divine collectively as the Entheoi, meaning the deities who are within us. This is a lovely revisioning that emphasizes the immanent nature of deity rather than the transcendent, and it normalizes the connection with the divine, emphasizing that the divine is present within each of us, something we only have to become aware of rather than create from scratch.

Even with those features in mind, though, it can still be difficult to access this kind of awareness; just because the divine is within us doesn’t mean it’s automatically easy to talk with them, because they are still vastly different from us. Think – and feel if you can – how different our awareness is than that of a wild animal, or a plant, especially a long-lived one like a tree. If we are so different from these living beings with whom we share our form of being, then how much more different must be the metaphysical beings we know as the deities? They are as far away from us as we are from the sun and the Moon, yet as close as our own heartbeat, our own breath.

That difference in being but closeness in spirit is why I refer to the relationship that leads to sacred inspiration as a connection that needs to be cultivated, because it is through practice and repeated attention – which, after all, is what we really mean by devotion – that this connection or mode of awareness becomes stronger and more reliable.

Cultivating a connection which will support inspiration requires a particular kind of devotion, though, because this is not the aggressive devotion of an athlete constantly pushing herself harder; nor is it an empty passivity that negates the self; this is a devotion very much like wooing a beloved, with regular attention and an open curiosity that delights in the presence of another.

I learned to cultivate this through trance work first; for me, that was a safer place to have these beyond-normal experiences; the real wonder for me is when we create the conditions to let that awareness flourish while maintaining connection with the outside world so that our different types of awareness can inspire and augment each other.

I believe that one of the highest goals of ritual and the work we do in general is to put people in touch with the sacred more directly, helping each and every person who wishes to do so to open that connection a little bit wider, helping them learn to use it on a regular basis.

The first place to start building this connection is usually with your primary deities – your matron or patron. And having an existing relationship with your matron or patron makes this whole process much easier, because you have someone to guide you, someone you trust, someone you know has your best interests at heart, which makes it much easier to accept the kind of closeness that is necessary for successful inspiration to be communicated.

The more I study, and the more I practice, the more I come to the conclusion that Wicca is a religion of relationship, and the relationship with the divine is one of the most beautiful parts. So once again, begin with relationship, begin with devotion. Begin with the simple act of being present. Be present for yourself, and then expand your awareness to begin to be present for those others who are so near and yet so different, whose wisdom we crave and whose closeness we cultivate.

May your presence be blessed with the awareness of their presence.

Expanded Chakra System

I wrote previously about the seven chakra system, but there are several variations possible. I currently work with an expanded system of nine chakras which includes additional chakras above and below the original seven.

The seven-chakra system is the most common one, and as I understand it, also the most common one in the Hindu roots, but there are many, many different expansions and contractions and other variations. This is complicated by the fact that in Hindu views chakras as energy centers existed in other parts of the body, like major joints (think hips, shoulders, knees) and the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Some systems of explaining or understanding the chakras include some or all of these.

Many of the variations on the chakra system want to adjust the number of chakras in order to match some other important or sacred number besides seven, especially nine or ten. At least a couple of different ways to attribute or associate the chakras with the Kabbalistic system of sephiroth exist, for example. (Creating coherence between two fundamentally different symbol systems from two fundamentally different cultures is a common problem of syncretic or multi-source spiritual and religious work – but I’ll save that conversation for another time.)

Unlike additional chakras found within various locations in the body, the addition of a “transpersonal” chakra (described as floating above the head) is, as far as I know, wholly Western.

Over time I have found it more productive to work with a nine chakra system which I was introduced to by Ivo Dominguez Jr in his book Spirit Speak. This system includes an ancestral chakra below the feet and a transpersonal chakra above the head. (Please note that the descriptions below are my own, and not Ivo’s, though I give thanks for his teaching.)

The Ancestral Chakra

The ancestral chakra, below the root chakra, is lower than the body by about 8 to 12 inches, and thus is anchored firmly in the physical world which supports us. In my experience, this chakra is a place of connection to the immanent spirit, or spirit made manifest in the physical world. This is the location of connection to the land base, to the spirits of place, and to our sources of stability and grounding.

As the name implies, this chakra also has a connection with the past as that which anchors and grounds us in time as well as place. This is a connection to the ancestors, meaning both our direct ancestors, known and unknown, but also the deep unconscious which extends beyond ourselves.

This chakra is associated with the color black, and it is important to understand that nearly all of the work that goes on here will be highly symbolic and instinctive; this is a space that responds well to rhythm and imagery, but doesn’t really make sense of language.

The Transpersonal Chakra

The transpersonal chakra is similarly located outside the body, floating about 8 to 12 inches above the head. I would almost rather describe this chakra as the transcendent, because in counterpoint to the ancestral chakra’s connection to immanent spirit, this uppermost chakra is connected to spirit as it transcends and exists outside of space, time, and matter.

The name transpersonal reflects the fact that since all beings are connected to spirit in this transcendent sense, working with spirit in this way strengthens the connection between oneself and other beings. But as I mentioned above, the ancestral or immanent chakra is also “transpersonal,” meaning that it connects us to others. The big difference is whether we are working with our connections to others as immanent, inside the physical, material world, or outside, in the transcendent sense. I think both are equally important but different ways of working with our connections to spirit and to each other.

This transcendent connection is the realm of the Higher Self or Deep Self, if you work with the Three Selves image. (More on that at another time!) This is the area of the superego, the wisdom that takes into account the individual but also seeks to take into account many individuals, and more than one time and place, in finding what is good or right or best. This is where we usually think of gods and goddesses residing, as opposed to the land spirits or cthonic and immanent manifestations of spirit.

This chakra is associated with clear or white light and can be a source of tremendously energizing feelings.

Benefits

Personally, I like the way this nine chakra system extends outside my physical body and includes explicit connections with the immanent and the transcendent world around me. It reminds me to check how my grounding and my connection to the upper Powers are functioning when I’m assessing my internal state, and gives me additional tools in working with my metaphysical understanding of well-being and healing.

One particular benefit is that a nine chakra system divides neatly into three groups of three. This particularly makes sense with the idea of a tripartite self – the lowest three chakras represent the Younger Self, the middle three chakras are the Talking Self, and the upper three chakras are the Higher Self or Deep Self, to use Starhawk’s terminology. Even if you don’t use that image of the self, the three groups do seem to fall together and it can be helpful to examine how each group of three interacts and balances itself.

Ultimately, whether you want to characterize these connections above and below as additional specific chakras or not, they are natural extensions of the seven chakra system which can help us pay attention to our grounding and centering, to our connection with the divine, and other parts of our metaphysical makeup. Spending time trying out these ideas and deciding whether to incorporate them into your own practice can be very rewarding.

Review: Kynes – Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences

Kynes, Sandra. Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences: A Comprehensive & Cross-Referenced Resource for Pagans & Wiccans. Llewellyn, 2013. Paperback, 528 pages.

Sandra Kynes’ book of correspondences competently addresses the fundamental needs of magical practitioners as well as offering opportunities for contemplation for those who want to expand their knowledge and understanding of correspondences. Kynes has done a skillful job of corralling a sprawling mass of information into a reasonably accessible format, and that alone makes this book a success for its intended audience.

In her introduction, Kynes touches on some important points regarding the nature of correspondences and how they interact with each other: “…we can bring correspondences to life by thinking in terms of a web. Doing so not only allows us to expand the links of attributes, but it also allows us to personalize the way we use magical correspondences.” (4) She illustrates the ways correspondences are interrelated and has used that fact to guide her in the difficult decisions that have to be made in any work such as this one.

In particular, Kynes restricts the scope of her material by only listing as correspondences items that have an independent listing of their own. For example, under correspondences for “love,” she does not list Oshun, because there is no independent listing for Oshun. With commendable transparency, Kynes acknowledges the Celtic influences on her practice and experience and her lack of knowledge about Afro-Caribbean paths. As a result, she chose not to include entries for the orishas or similar spirits. As a result of this consistency, for every item that is listed as a correspondence, the reader can consult a main entry to see its other correspondences.

Regardless of how the title describes it, no work like this can possibly be “complete,” and Kynes’ explanations about the way she shaped the work are part of what makes this book valuable. She explains that she is trying to walk a “middle ground,” and specifically aimed to capture the items, powers, and spirits that are most commonly used by Pagans and Wiccans at the current moment, including the ones most frequently mentioned in the bibliography, which contains largely recent popular works. Combined with the consistent and concise style of her entries – which I quite appreciated – the result does live up to the title of “cross-reference” as a resource.

Kynes also wisely avoids the trap of trying to categorize every item under every possible system of correspondences. If a particular plant does not have a specific connection to one of the runes of the Futhark, for example, Kynes does not try to create one. This restraint is wise, because trying to create correspondences that are not natural quickly becomes an effort at pseudo-categorization and simultaneously drains the magic out of the connections that truly do exist. The author deserves praise for not trying to apply a one-size-fits-all approach, and it speaks well of her understanding of the meanings of correspondences.

Kynes alludes to these deeper issues of correspondence and connection by briefly referencing Bonewits’ theories of correspondences and Eliade’s more scholarly investigations of magical imagination, but she leaves unanswered the question of how she combined and culled the correspondences drawn from her numerous sources. On one hand, such incessant citations would make the work incredibly unwieldy, but on the other hand, at least a small mention of this perennial question would have pointed the reader in the direction of further personal development. Regardless, the work as it stands is still tremendously useful as a starting place for intermediate practitioners to begin their own reflections on correspondences and how to put them into practice.

Since this is a reference work, the structure and layout are vitally important to its functionality. On the whole, the contents are clear and readable; I appreciate the amount of effort that went into making the entries reasonably uniform. The sections are organized in a way that is probably most useful for off-the-shelf needs: correspondences for intentions first, then separate sections on plants, minerals, animals, deities and beings, time reckoning, and general theoretical concepts.

Within these divisions, however, some problems arise. A few entries simply don’t make sense: “Revenge (to seek, protect from)” really should have been split into two separate topics, rather than leaving the user guessing which correspondences are appropriate for the purpose at hand. The plants are subdivided into “Trees,” “Herbs, Garden Plants and Shrubs,” and “Miscellaneous Plants” based on unexplained criteria – why is allspice not an herb, to use just one example? This separation is supplemented by an appendix listing the names of all plants alphabetically, then telling which subheading they can be found under. The author does go to the trouble of listing plants’ scientific names, which is extremely valuable for novice and seasoned botanist alike.

The biggest single problem I have with the work is the decision to place both the Futhark and the Ogham under the section on time reckoning. It is true that these systems can be connected with the flow of time, but they are both independent systems with a strong internal logic, and are used for divination and symbolic representations much more frequently than as time descriptors; perhaps this is different in Kynes’ experience with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Worse yet, these systems are listed in alphabetical order. The Futhark, for example, are not listed in their own order (fehu, uruz, thurisaz, etc.), nor are they listed in the order of the half-months assigned to them, but in alphabetical order by the English names. The same was done to the Ogham. The correspondences for the Tarot are placed in the separate miscellaneous section, but there too, the Major Arcana cards are alphabetized by name, which will confuse novice and experienced user alike.

The place where everything should be listed in purely alphabetical order is the index, and this nearly lives up to its purpose. The index to a work like this is what makes it truly a cross-reference and not merely a dictionary. The only problem is that the index is organized under the same subheadings as the individual sections are, so readers need to know roughly where they are looking in order to find something’s multiple references.

Overall, the book does what the author sets out as her intent in the introduction. Once a reader becomes acquainted with the structure, this work can be an invaluable reference for someone just starting to learn how to use correspondences, a Witch who needs to look something up quickly, a Pagan who needs a starting point to research a new item, or an intermediate practitioner reflecting on examples as a way to explore the deeper meanings of correspondences. Readers who are willing to get drawn into the web of cross-references that the author has woven will likely find themselves discovering unexpected relationships among familiar tools and ideas. Its potential for sparking new ideas makes this book both a reference and a good starting place for further exploration.

Home Warding

This article originally appeared in Circle Magazine, Fall 2013.

I live in a busy urban area, so warding my home is vitally important to me on many levels. Creating a sense of mental and emotional privacy is a necessary part of urban life. More than that, though, my warding designates my home as a space set aside, defined by my intention as the place I and my partner live and love. Casting and maintaining this magical boundary is not just about defining the edges of our home, but about shaping the very meaning of home in our everyday lives.

The basic pattern of my warding is a triple circle casting. Our apartment’s floor plan makes it possible to start at our doorway, which faces north, and move deosil through all the rooms, returning back to the door. The first circle I make is to delineate the boundary of our home area by visualizing a white line of energy at about waist height. When I come back to the place where I started, I visualize this continuous boundary growing into an irregular bubble that extends above and below our apartment to enclose it completely.

Once this boundary is established, the second circle is a cleansing with salt water. In each room I sprinkle the boundary that I’ve just defined, but also the space within the room as well, and visualize the saltwater clearing and dissolving anything unwanted within the space. This was especially important to me when we first moved in as a way of removing any residual energy from previous occupants. We renew this warding every year on the same day, and now the clearing with saltwater serves as a sort of regular cleaning to give us a ‘fresh start’ from anything we’ve struggled with at home over the previous year.

Finally I go around the apartment to bless it with incense. Sage and sweetgrass have both worked well for me, but I think almost any sweet-smelling scent would be a good choice. As I walk, I say out loud the intentions that I want my home as a whole and each room in particular to hold: “May this be a place of peace, of joy, of love…” In the bedroom, I might ask for rest, and also passion; in the living room, for hospitality and companionship; in the kitchen, for nurturing and community.

It’s important to me that this boundary is not an impermeable one. With both the water and the incense, every time I come to an opening in our home – a window, the door to our balcony – I draw a pentacle that fills the entire opening. I envision each of these as a particular kind of filter: for example, our windows should let in air and light, but keep us safe during storms.

The most important opening in this spell is our doorway. There are many different traditions that have to do with protecting the liminal space of the doorway. Since this warding is based on a circle casting, and most people practice not crossing over the boundary of a circle once cast, it would seem counterintuitive to incorporate a permanent doorway in a circle. In my adaptation, instead of seeing crossing the circle as an act that weakens it, I deliberately place the strongest parts of the spell at the doorway and use every time I pass through it as an opportunity to acknowledge and reinforce my warding.

When casting the warding, I start and end each circumambulation by magically anchoring my work in a small carving of a trinity knot that hangs just inside our door at eye level. This symbol represents to me the union of differences that give rise to all things, especially as reflected in the coming together of individuals to create a relationship. Since I see relationships – with deities, with nature, and with each other – as the heart of Wicca, this simple symbol reminds me of the essence of my religion and what I value about my home all at once.

As I leave, I touch the carving and send a small pulse of energy to the spell, saying:

Lady watch my going out and coming in again.
Lady ward my hearth and home, and all who live therein.

When I return home, I touch the carving again, and send energy, saying:

Lady watch my going out and coming in again.
Lady ward my hearth and home, and all my friends and kin.

I use the word “Lady” here to mean both the Goddess in general and my matron Brigid in particular.

We often talk about the power of the liminal in doing magic, and the doorway is one of those liminal spaces, neither inside the house nor out in a public area. Anchoring the spell at the doorway helps me use that liminality as a source of power, not weakness, for my warding. The warding itself is an honoring of liminality, a way of defining and delineating the difference between private and public, home and throughway, in and out. I use that power of creating a boundary to shape both the boundary between my home and the greater world and the inner nature of my home itself.

When I pass through the doorway, I am also acknowledging the existence of liminal times. These moments combine prayer and spell work, stitching a thread of reverence through the fabric of my everyday life. Pausing for a moment to say these words and re-empower my warding reminds me that entering and leaving the home is a holy moment, one worth approaching with intention.

When I leave, I reinforce my warding and ask for blessings on my home and family until I am able to return to them. When I return, I give thanks for my blessings, and send my love outward to all my loved ones’ homes as well.

Both parts of this practice grounds and centers me in the meaning of home and family, which is part of what I believe makes this warding as powerful as it is. We often talk about doing magic by phrasing our intentions in affirmative terms, rather than describing the negative that we do not want. This warding is so much more than just protection because it is centered on all the positive qualities that energize my home and the life we live in it. When I leave my home, I visualize those qualities, and the power that I put into the boundary is automatically protective in the sense that nothing contrary to those intentions can intrude. It’s not just that I am visualizing positive things instead of simply trying to counter negative ideas, it’s that there is so much energy wrapped up in the positive visualization that the boundary is much easier to sustain.

When I return home, connecting with that visualization again is a way to help me make the transition within myself. Whatever I have encountered while I was away, whatever else has been going on, taking a moment to acknowledge that I am now home, inside my own wards, with my family, helps me adjust and reorient myself. My partner and I enjoy living so close to the city, which reduces our commute time significantly. The downside of this choice is that we do not have a long car ride in which to let go of the stresses and troubles of the workday. Taking this moment in the doorway thus becomes an important tool to keep our home life separate from the world of work. Whatever we encountered there does not have to dominate our lives at home; we can choose to leave it outside and return to the intentions we’ve set for our space and time together.

If you would like to adapt this warding for your own home, I suggest that you begin by thinking and meditating deeply on what you want your home to be. Take a walk around your space and imagine all the possible visualizations you could include. This particular approach is best adapted for the physical space of a home rather than the entire boundary of a piece of property, but you could include a deck, garden, or even back yard, if it is a place where you spend time regularly. If you have a large property, I suggest that you use this form for your house itself, and create a separate perimeter for the land, one which is created in concert with the spirits of place, and takes a different form.

Within the home, choose your main point of entry as your anchor. Don’t feel that it has to be the “formal” entrance to the home, either. If you’re going to go in and out through the garage door, then make that your starting and ending point! For every other entryway that you encounter, visualize it outlined with energy, filled with a pentacle, and serving the same purpose as your main doorway. If you use the idea of a physical anchor or touchstone the way I do, try to get similar items to use at each doorway. If you’re working within a freestanding house, you might also want to include the roof and the foundation or basement as part of your visualization as well.

Including your whole family in the setting of the wards can make it a lot of fun. As you walk around the home, there’s plenty of time to express lots of different positive intentions together. If the kids want to bless the living room so that they can finally beat that video game, go for it; if a teenager wants to include a wish for individual privacy in her or his bedroom, incorporate that. The important thing is to cooperate in creating the meaning of your home as a place where you all live together.

My home warding is an integral part of my everyday life which operates on multiple levels. It is so much more than just an outward-facing protection spell; it is also an inward-facing focusing of intentions for our home. Casting it is an annual renewal and celebration of our dwelling in this place. Its presence establishes this as our space, carved out to be private and nurturing even in the midst of a busy urban situation. It contains and focuses the energy of our home to shape it into the kind of place we want to live. My frequent acknowledgment and renewal of this warding gives me opportunities for gratitude and reconnection. My warding serves as a context for all the daily acts of love that are the true magic of hearth and home.

Ostara Ritual To Find the Sun

Eggs are strongly associated with Ostara and its images of fertility and growth, and dyeing hardboiled eggs is a wonderful tradition to use for this Sabbat. This ritual uses the egg in a slightly different way to symbolize the release of restraints in order to promote growth and development.

Personally, I am so very, very tired of winter here this year that I am going to use this ritual to break away the snow and cold and ick in order to usher in a reasonable, gentle summer.

Materials:

  • Hardboiled egg. Whether you dye it or not is entirely up to you. If you do, you can spend time while the egg is submerged to meditate on the way that snow melts and begins to reveal the colors of springtime.
  • Plate or bowl and knife to cut the egg. (Be careful when handling knives, especially if there are kids involved.)

Ritual:

Cast the circle as you chant

The earth, the air, the fire the water
return, return, return, return

Call the Quarters with words like these or your own:

East, Powers of Air, blow through me with the winds of a fresh start! Hail and welcome!

South, Powers of Fire, burn in me with the energy to grow and change! Hail and welcome!

West, Powers of Water, flow through me with the courage to ride the waves! Hail and welcome!

North, Powers of Earth, ground me with the strength to break free! Hail and welcome!

Pick up your egg, and visualize its shell as the constraints that have been holding you back, especially anything that has been restraining you this past winter. Put all of your feelings about those situations into the shell (just the shell, not the egg!). Visualize your new energy as the egg itself, ready to be set free from that shell.

When you are ready, crack the shell with a sharp rap against the plate, and visualize your the constraints breaking. Peel the egg, and visualize all that has held you back falling away, allowing you to break free and emerge into a period of new growth and development.

Cut the egg in half. See the golden yolk inside as the sun, which is returning to its strength and bringing energy to fuel the growth and change of spring. Say, “The sun returns!” and celebrate!

Eat the egg to take that energy into yourself.

Thank the Quarters for their presence and blessings.

Open the circle.

PS – if you’re looking for something different, there’s also a more meditative ritual that uses seeds as a metaphor that I wrote a while ago, or a salt scrub.

Magic for the buds

Tonight I’m snuggled up and trying to stay warm while (yet another) snowstorm hits, here in February when we might expect things to be getting if not spring-like then at least a little milder. Tonight I will chant the names of plants and animals, and include many a prayer for the ones I do not know. Tonight I murmur over the unknown names of the people who are out of doors for any reason. Tonight I chant the names I know of my landbase, and include silence for the names, to borrow Eliot’s words,

…the names that you never will guess;
The names that no human research can discover—
But the land itself knows, and will never confess.

Tonight I say the names, and I keep the silence, and I pray my prayers to the nearly-full moon, and to all beneficent powers, to be merciful to the buds which have just appeared, and to the people who are out of doors, and to the land.

budsWhat are you doing to turn the Wheel?

Imbolc: Make a Brigid’s Cross ritual

It’s almost Imbolc! In honor of Brigid’s day, you might want to read my stories of Brigid, think about making an affirmation to engage Brigid’s gifts of fire and poetry in your own life, or try this simple ritual. Whatever you do to celebrate the day, enjoy, and may Brigid bless you richly!

Ritual: Crafting a Brigid’s Cross

Making Brigid’s crosses is a traditional Imbolc activity. In this ritual, we use strips of paper and empower each strip with an intention that we send to Brigid. Each strip can be a separate matter, or you can weave together multiple intentions all related to a single project or issue.

Materials:

  • Strips of paper. You can make these using regular typing paper, but I recommend construction paper if you can get some. Try multiple colors! Cut the strips lengthwise, about a half inch wide. If possible, use a ruler and pencil to sketch straight lines and cut with a long pair of scissors to make the strips even. You will need about 12 strips to make a single cross.
  • Writing instrument that will show up on the paper chosen.
  • Tape to seal the ends of the cross, or glue.

Ritual:

Cast the circle and call the Quarters. You can focus your invocations on Brigid and the theme of Imbolc, or tailor them to fit the intentions you will be instilling into your project.

Invoke Brigid with a poem, chant, or song. “Way to the Well” and “Holy Well and Sacred Flame” are especially well-suited to this Sabbat.

Write your intentions, wishes, or prayers on the strips of paper. Don’t worry about filing them all; it is better to have a few blank ones included than to have too many to work into a single cross.

Leave one strip blank, or just write Brigid on it. Lay it down in the center of your space, pointing up and down.

For the next strip, read it aloud, and say, “Brigid, hear my prayer.” Fold the strip in half with the words on the inside, folding it across the center strip with the ends pointing to the right.

Rotate your cross a quarter-turn counter clockwise. Now the single center strip is pointing left and right, and the strip you just folded is pointing up.

Read and bless the next strip. Fold it in half across the previous one with the ends pointing to the right.

Repeat the previous two steps until your cross is a size you like.

For a visual example of the folding, see these instructions or this example with pipe cleaners.

When you are done, use a little bit of tape across the ends of the arms to hold all the strips in place. (If you prefer to use glue to glue together each strip as you go, follow the instructions in the first link above.)

Holding your completed cross, repeat your poem, chant, or song and give thanks to Brigid.

Thank the Quarters and open the circle.

Afterwards, keep the cross and hang it somewhere where you can look at it and draw on its energy. If this is a short-term project, then when it is completed, dispose of the cross by burning, recycling, or composting it as a thanks-offering to Brigid. It is especially appropriate to burn it on one of the fire festivals (Beltane, Lunasa, or Samhain) if you can. If the cross relates to a long-term project or concern, dispose of the cross at the next Imbolc, and make a new one if you wish.