Meditation not working? It’s not you, it’s your process.

Ceremony and Ritual

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ear Miracles: One of the most common complaints I hear from students is that meditations and visualizations (guided and otherwise) don’t work for them. For those unfamiliar with the idea, a guided meditation is a scene or series of scenes that is narrated to the participant by a guide or leader.

Guided meditations (also known as guided visualizations or guided journeys) can be incredibly useful in both sacro-magical and therapeutic contexts. Sacred artists have been working with different kinds of spirit journeys for thousands of years to foster and deepen their relationship to the other world, the worlds beyond time and space.

However, the truth is that for a many people they don’t work and the reason why is pretty simple: most forms of meditation begin with the observation that we are too connected to our thoughts and our feelings; that our mental, emotional, and psychic contents are so intense and present that it is very difficult to see where we end and they begin. This is not necessarily a problem and is often a true observation — we have all had the experience of feeling something so deeply that it takes us over completely, so that we are literally “out of our minds” with anger or lust, for instance.

But when it comes to sacro-magical work, meditation is used traditionally to bring us to a “zero point” — a place where we can look at even the most intense personal experiences with objectivity and learn what is really true about them.

When we work to engage with the Other Worlds we are doing something very different. We are not trying to go beyond ourselves; we are working to both broaden and deepen our daily habits of perception. Because we are working with expanding our envelope of perception it is a good idea to begin from a “zero” state, a state of nil, or of stillness and silence. Meditation can help us achieve that. But meditation is not going to take us into the Other World.  To do that we must go down and deep…into our memories, our ancestral knowing, and our imaginations. This is not a process of meditation and it is not a process that any one can narrate for you, it is instead, quite literally, Active Imagination.

Active Imagination is the act of turning and attuning to the realm(s) we might best name time beyond time and space beyond space. A great “mystery” is that these realms exist both within us and also outside of us. The term itself comes to us by way of an earlier term, imaginative cognition, literally meaning to “come to knowing with/through the imagination”, which may be found in medieval contemplative prayer practices, the alchemical traditions of Europe and the Middle East, and Islamic and Jewish traditions as well. Imaginative Cognition came into the 19th and 20th centuries through the writings of Rudolph Steiner and was further developed into the concept of Active Imagination most notably by Carl Jung.

So what is active imagination? The imagination is the faculty within us that is able to produce images and ideas, the part of us that is able to make connections and offer up insights that are new, fresh, and original as well as universal and ancestral in memory. In other words, the imagination is not the recycling up images we are already familiar with but rather the place where new (or at least new to us) ideas and images spring forth. To work with our imaginations actively then is to build, create, and participate in a specific kind of image making. In sacro-magical work we understand these images, and all that they open out onto, to exist both within us and also independently outside of us.

So the next time you sit down to experience a guided meditation remember to do some soul searching and get really clear on what is actually happening: are you emptying yourself out and returning to an objective “zero” point? Or are you searching to fill your deep well with waters of imagination, memory, and other world alliance? Answer that question one way or the other, and your road will become much more open.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Something Witchy this way comes with Sarah Anne Lawless

Learning and Community

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ear Miracles: Many of those in my audience already know our latest guest in the Many Branches series–Sarah Anne Lawless. She is an occult author, witch, herbalist, and artist living in the Pacific Northwest. Her blog is well known in the Pagan community and beyond. Her knack for crafting a brilliant flying ointment is one that I can personally attest to, and her devotion to her Gods is inspiring. Please give her a warm welcome!

bio-pic-2In her own words: A professional artist, writer, and herbalist, Sarah’s work has been published in various books, magazines, and online in The CauldronHex MagazineWitches & PagansWitchvox, Serpent Songs, and Hoofprints in the Wildwood. She is a carver, painter, and illustrator working in the mediums of bone, wood, ink, and paint creating original artwork, talismans, and ritual tools. Sarah is an animist, initiated witch, and wortcunner with a love of otherworldly beauty, folklore, mythology, poisonous plants, wildcrafting, wild places, and bones.

Find Sarah on the web at:

her website: sarahannelawless.com

Facebook: Black Arts Foundry

Twitter: @forestwitch

 

In the occult and magical community you are known for making excellent spiritual products, your writing, and your fine artwork, but you are also one of the few voices out there talking about working with animals and zoological talismans in an ethical and sustainable manner. This subject is a bit controversial but one that I think the magical community needs more familiarity with. What led you to begin working with animals and animal parts in a ritual setting?

For me it started with collecting feathers and escalated from there and I’ve found that others who consider themselves bone collectors often say the same thing. Taking home a feather you found on a forest walk isn’t really so far off from taking home a sea-washed bone or a small skull picked clean by scavengers. Once people find out you’re a bone collector they will suddenly start calling you about bones, feathers, or dead animals they found and ask what to do with them. Then people will start showing up on your door step with boxes of bones and any friends that hunt for food will start giving you bird feet, wings, and sometimes even organs that they don’t want to waste. Often people don’t want to use or give me the animals they find, they just want to know how to bury it safely and give it a respectful send off to the spirit world. A bone collector can find themselves taking on the role of an animal funeral director.

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I think the reason why many find my use of animal parts in magic controversial is because, though the use of zoological remains is still common in modern rootwork and the magical traditions of Central and South America, it is not common in modern witchcraft despite all the documented historical links and traditions. Many people are so far removed from nature, husbandry, and dirty hands-on folk magic that they find the use of zoological remains to be appalling and unethical without trying to first understand the context and history. Many assume that bone collectors such as myself are actually killing animals to use their parts in magic when this is very much not the case. You can find hearts, tongues, and feet at the butcher and you can find bones, skulls, teeth, claws, and hides from taxidermists, tanners, farmers, or hunters who don’t like to waste any part of an animal that’s been hunted or raised for food.

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Another reason I think this practice is controversial is because many people assume you are using a dead animal’s parts solely for cursing and other black magics, when again this is simply not the reality. Indigenous cultures who’ve held onto their animistic beliefs and traditions use animal parts in a sacred manner – they are used to better connect with animal spirits and the whole of nature itself. Feathers are often used to fly prayers to the spirits so they may hear them. Teeth and claws are used for protection against harm and to give one strength. Organs are more often used for healing and offerings than anything else – anyone with a grandmother who still buries dead fish in the garden for the fertility of the plants may best understand this. In rural areas of North America you can still find farmers hanging deer antlers or bull horns over their barn door. They may have forgotten why, but once upon a time it was the belief that doing so would protect your livestock and also ensure their health and fertility.

Modern butchery and hunting practices are wasteful and unethical for treating animals as soulless resources. By doing this work and using animal remains in a sacred manner in our spiritual traditions, we make those animals sacred. By showing them respect even in death, we make their lives have the same value as our own.

 

You are well known for crafting various flying ointments, often using ancient recipes. Why flying ointments and when did your love affair with them begin?

I first took notice when nightshades I had not planted started to grow in my garden plots and containers. Instead of weeding them, I researched them and became fascinated. This led me to growing other varieties like henbane, belladonna, datura, and brugmansia. I had a lot of fresh plant material on hand and at the same time I realized that no one I could find was making and using flying ointments today. Considering that flying ointments were one of the very few genuine direct links to the ancestral magical practices of preChristian Europeans, it puzzled me greatly that modern witches and pagans weren’t using them. Later I discovered this was largely due to fear of the plants as governments had been churning out frightening propaganda against them for centuries and our modern governments continue to spread the fear through misinformation. Tales of wild hallucinations and near death experiences come mainly from youths not seeking a spiritual experience, but who simply wanted to get high and who used these plants without research, proper preparation, and with no regard for dosage. They were using these sacred plants at a toxic level instead of in the much safer ways our ancestors would have and have consequently given these plants a much maligned reputation.

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I mainly work with plants in the solanaceae (or nightshade) family. Though many would believe we no longer use them today, the constituents of these plants, such as atropine, are actually considered “core” medicines on the World Health Organizations “Essential Drug List.” Aside from the nightshades’ long history with witchcraft, they are also some of the oldest and most potent medicines used by humanity. How could an herbalist fascinated with ethnobotany not fall in love with plants that were both powerful spiritual allies and incredibly potent medicines? Though my original intent was to use the solanaceae and artemisias for spiritual purposes, the more I worked with these plants, the more I found people came to me for their medicinal uses as well.

And so, after A LOT of research and careful testing, I started to make ointments with the plants I grew along with dried European mandrake roots. I found them to be very useful in aiding in dream work, spirit work, and trance work along with being excellent topical pain killers for relieving migraines, sore backs, and other muscle and joint pain. I started making them for shamanic and pagan groups who wanted to use them for rituals and ceremonies and I started bringing them to my own rituals and teaching workshops on these plants. With all my experience, I learned that much of the fear and propaganda surrounding nightshades and flying ointments is simply not true and that those of us who have learned their history and proper preparations should pass on our knowledge so it is not lost to future generations as it has been to generations past.

 

A lot of folks in the magical community struggle with that to call themselves. You have referred to yourself as an animist, witch, and spirit worker. What do those words mean to you and what is your advice for someone who has not figured out what the right title is for their work and beliefs?

When I call myself an animist, I am referring to my religious philosophy just as others would call themselves a polytheist or a monotheist. I do not worship gods, but instead see all things, all of nature, as being imbued with spirit, anima, life force. Interacting with and honouring the local animals, plants, rivers, lakes, mountains, forests, and larger land features is what matters most to me in my spirituality – the local spirits, great and small. Within animism there is also room for ancestor reverence and so I also honour those who have come before me, both my own blood ancestors as well as those who lived upon this land long before I was born. Animism is believed to be one of the oldest forms of spirituality in human history and still permeates surviving forms of folk magic, folk religion, and common superstitions.

When I call myself a witch I am referring to the practice of witchcraft, not a religious path. It is the folk magic I do, the early modern witchcraft lore I study, and the rituals I put into practice.

When I use the term spirit worker, it is to reference my work with spirits, both is in this world and the other worlds of folklore. It is my dream work, trance work, and the rituals I perform to interact with spirits – usually plants, animals, or ancestors.

I don’t personally believe in putting too much stock in labels and finding the right one as everyone has their own definition of a term, some using the archaic meaning and some using a modern derivative. It is far too easy to waste a lot of time trying to find a label that fits all we believe and do, when we could instead spend that time actively practicing and developing our own beliefs to suit our individual spiritual needs. I think it is a better use of our time instead of trying to fit into a role someone else has defined and be constantly fretting over it.

I wrote a whole article tackling this subject last winter as it comes up over and over again in spiritual communities: “Ducking Pigeonholing.”

 

You art is gorgeous, tell us a bit about how you got started and what your current favorite artistic project is?

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Thank you! I got started in art at a young age. I was always drawing and painting. I took art classes in every year of school because it was something I always enjoyed. I had a lot of support from family who kept me well supplied with paper, ink, and paints. I even used to illustrate stories I wrote and bound them into little homemade books. Today I’m lucky enough to be in a position to get paid for my art and to illustrate the writings of others as well as my own. Falling more under the umbrella of a folk artist, I’ve been able to explore just about any medium I’m interested in – woodcarving, bone carving, pyrography, textiles, calligraphy, and jewelry to name several.

Right now I have a bit of an obvious obsession with drawing plants and skulls. I hope to do more pieces with plants and animals native to my beloved Pacific Northwest in the near future.

 

If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams and passions so you can live your life in joy and wonder, but at the same time be honest with yourself about how you’re going to pull it off in a practical manner.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Of Glass and Fire: How to work with Devotional Candles

Alchemy and Magic

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ear Miracles: A version of this article was first published in the Summer 2013 issue of Witches and Pagans magazine which is available for purchase here.

If you have ever wandered into a Botanica or latin american grocery store you may have found yourself staring down an aisle or wall filled with brightly colored glass candles–some with silk screened images on the glass, some topped with foil or Saran wrap, and others that are plain and unmarked. These are glass novena candles, also called vigil candles, vigil lights, sanctuary lights, or devotional candles, and while they often go unmentioned in the classic pagan books, they have been used in candle and fire magic for years with great success.

Glass novena candles were first used in Catholic religious devotions known as “novenas”–9 day prayer rituals with the intention of seeking the aid and building a relationship with a specific saint usually for a specific purpose. The novena ritual does not come out of Christian scripture but is derived from ancient Greek and Roman pre-Christian rites around honoring the dead. The devotional candles sanctioned by the Catholic Church were originally 100% beeswax and poured so that they would burn for 9 days–they were sometimes affixed with a paper prayer card of the petitioned Saint which in turn gave way to large paper illustrations of particular Saints on the front of the candle and prayers for the saint on the back of the candle.

In Catholic families and communities the novena could at times take on a party atmosphere-with friends coming over to sit in vigil, feasts shared, and group prayers performed or they could be quiet and intensely private affairs. Through them all the glass encased devotional candle would be burning. Folk magic traditions grew up around novena rituals and their glass encased candles and then in the early 1940’s these devotional candles started getting advertised in spiritual supply catalogs as “religious” goods.

Candle shops that catered to African Americans and stocked supplies for those working in the Hoodoo and Conjure traditions bought from these spiritual supply catalogues and thus the glass encased vigil candle found its way into Southern Conjure. Meanwhile specialty shops known as Botanicas began to spring up as immigrants from Mexico, South, and Central America came into the United States in the 60’s and 70’s. Pharmacies and grocery stores in Latin American neighborhoods also began dedicating an aisle or two to commonly used spiritual products-often with a focal point of glass encased devotional candles-which by this point in time were no longer composed of beeswax but petroleum derived paraffin. Silkscreen printing on glass became popular at this time as well and the devotional candles began to branch out into more mainstream culture-with candles no longer being set only to Our Lady of Guadalupe or Saint Martha for love magic-but instead also getting labeled with more generic petitions like “Love Me” or in some cases maintaining a Biblical connection with a formula like “Adam and Eve.”

By the late 70’s glass encased candles were available in straight up magical supply shops as well as religious supply stores and they are now used by a variety of practitioners for both religious and magical purposes. Pagans who were raised in or around Catholic tradition, specifically Italian or Mexican, Central, and/or South American strains of Catholicism are usually familiar with the glass novena candle already and may find the tradition of blessing and dressing a candle to be second nature. Those who do not may find that working with the magic of a devotional candle is something that appeals to them and opens new windows for the philosophy of fire, as Henri Gamache so poetically puts it.

In modern day candle magic there are several steps involved in preparing your devotional candle. These are: write a petition, “fixing” the candle, setting the candle, reading the candle, and ritually disposing of the candle.

 

Writing a petition for devotional candles

In a traditional novena the devotional candle represents a way to honor a specific saint but it also gives light, energy, and the magic of fire to the devotees’ petition or prayer. So it is in our own magic making-we begin with our petition, our intention, or the desire that we wish to manifest. Looking at devotional candles now we often find that when the candles have paper images in the front and prayers in the back there are sometimes lines underneath the prayers for you to write your own petition. When working with plain devotional candles that do not have any papers or labels affixed to their sides a petition may be written on a small piece of paper and taped to the bottom of the candle or in some cases affixed to the sides of the candle. I have also seen candle shop and botanic owners use a sharpie to inscribe a client’s petition directly onto the glass side of the candle. Another popular way to include the petition is to write it into the wax at the top of the candle-using a screwdriver, icepick, or blade to inscribe. If using paper for your petition you may anoint the paper with ritual anointing oil, pass it through ritual incense, anoint it with your own bodily fluids if appropriate, and/or in the case of affixing a piece of paper to the bottom of the candle enclose small bits of personal concerns within the paper, fold, and then tape it to the candle.

 

Dressing & Blessing or “fixing” devotional candles

Once the petition has been created it is time to bless, dress, or “fix” the devotional candles. The top of the candle may be poked with holes or inscribed with a sigil, name, or short petition-it may also be left alone. Next a pinch of dried herbs or a dried herb mix is sprinkled on top of the candle. Years of burning candles for myself and clients has taught me that the finer the herb mix the better-a spice grinder is ideal for this-and keeping the herbs relatively far from the candle wick is a good practice. The herbs should of course be ritually appropriate to whatever situation it is that you wish to magically address. Thus if you are working to cleanse and purify you may wish to use a pinch of sage, to bring about love work with red rose petals, to increase protection use ginger, to increase academic success consider deers tongue leaf, etc.

After the herbs are added you may desire to include a slightly larger curio (in Conjure the addition of lodestone grit, small pieces of pyrite, and High John the Conqueror root chips is often seen, while in Latin inspired botanicas I have been given devotional candles studded with quartz crystal tips-very pretty!, pennies, and even large horseshoe confetti. Non-toxic, fine, glitter may also be added for extra sparkle and shine.

So far all of the dry ingredients have been added-now its time to add our wet ingredient-a ritual, essential, anointing, or pantry oil. Some essential oils are flammable so it’s important to do your research if you are using a straight essential oil. A more traditional method is to use a ritual anointing oil-these are also usually available at candle shops and Botanicas or you can make your own. I will say that many of the mass market available ritual oils begin with a base of mineral oil-due to its cheapness and personally I steer clear of those. You may make your own ritual anointing oil by gathering dried herbs that are appropriate for your situation and soaking them in almond oil for several weeks or you may simply use olive oil out of your kitchen pantry! The important thing to remember is not to drown your herbs or the candle wick-for doing so will leave you with a weak or dirty burning candle and that will have an impact on how you read the candle. A few drops and you are good to go!

Now the candle has been dressed with herbs, oil, and perhaps some sparkle. And if you notice you also have represented three of the four elements-Earth is invoked by the dried herbs, air is invoked by the scent of the herbs and oil, and water is invoked by the liquid oil. All that is missing is fire! It is time to bless the candle. I have been taught many ways to bless a candle but my favorite way is to hold the candle up at my heart level and speak into it. Sometimes when I do this I go into a bit of a trance and sometimes I will ask my guides for a specific, physical sign during the course of the candle burn to let me know if the magic is manifesting. In some traditions practitioners will set the candle down and clap over it one or three times to seal it, tap the bottom of the candle on the table three times (this is referred to as “knocking” the candle) or using one hand to cover the top of the candle and then lightly tapping that hand with your other hand.

When preparing many candles at the same time I have been taught to take a towel or sheet, place it over them and tap it in the center-all of these are various ways to seal the candle and to let the spirits know that you are ready for them to help you in your magical endeavors! When devotional candles are prepared at a shop for clients they are often blessed and dressed and then covered with tin foil or saran wrap so that the client may carry them home and set them.

 

 Setting devotional candles

Once your candle has been dressed, blessed, and fixed its time to set it! The best practice when working with glass devotional candles is to set them up in a place where they can burn continuously without interruption. Unfortunately this simple instruction can cause a lot of confusion and worry.

Fire safety is important when dealing with candles of all kinds. If you are away from home for most of the day, have a cat, dog, or small children that are sometimes left unattended then working with glass encased devotional candles may not be the best choice for you unless you can place them somewhere out of reach. It is possible to snuff out devotional candles but I strongly prefer to work with taper or figural candles if I am going to be snuffing a candle out repeatedly. I will say from my own experience of burning thousands of candles that if a glass devotional candle tips over it is most likely simply going to go out-its very hard for a fire to start from one of these lights-but of course caution is always advised.

A devotional candle should really be allowed to sit and burn. I have seen these candles placed in a large aluminum stock pot, in glass casserole dishes filled with water, sand, or lovely rocks, in the kitchen sink, in a bathtub, shower, and fire place. When I lived in a one room apartment and lit candles for clients I placed them in the kitchen sink and bathtub whenever I went out, when I moved into my house I had a local blacksmith make two metal candle houses for me after going to a local Catholic grotto and seeing a design there that I was able to altar for my needs. If you are setting more than one devotional candle do be aware of putting them too close to one another-especially in a closed area like a stock pot-they will increase one another’s heat, melting will happen faster-especially with the paraffin candles-and the glass around the wax can break or scorch.

I like to light my devotional candles with wooden matches. You may light them and say a charm or prayer over them or you may light them in silence. You have now added the 4th element-fire to your magical candle-may it burn brightly!

 

Divination with devotional candles

One of the nicest aspects of working with glass devotional candles is that after they have finished burning you may perform a simple divinatory reading of the glass and candle to determine whether your work is on its way to manifesting or needs to be repeated or refined in some way and you can also pick up other important signs and symbols that may have specific meaning to you and your situation. When reading a glass candle there are three main parts I look at: the glass itself, remaining wax and debris from the candle, and if the candle has a paper petition or label attached to it the paper. On the glass of the candle we may see black soot, discreet scorch marks, a gray fog or haze, or the glass may be completely clean and clear. I have found over the years that performing divination with glass candles is a very personal and subjective art but in most cases a clean and clear glass casing indicates that your road is open and the petition has been heard “loud and clear!” Black soot indicates resistance or obstacles while gray haze or fog can indicate a lack of clarity or a scattered intention. Discreet scorch marks may indicate that the work will manifest in many ways but there may be one specific challenge that is first addressed.

Some people read the candle from bottom to top-meaning that the base of the candle is considered to represent the “present” while the further up along the candle we travel represents the near future and future. Others, including myself, read the opposite way-the top of the candle indicates the present situation and as we move down the candle towards the base we may forecast future events. When considering the wax and debris inside of the candle we may notice that some of the wax has not melted completely, that there is wax-often is specific shapes-along the sides of the candle, and that debris from our herbs and such may also adhere to the inside of the glass-again, often in specific shapes. There are many good books out there that can assist you in decoding the meaning of specific shapes and symbols-books on Tasseomancy and Bone Reading are particularly useful in this respect I find. However, the more you work with these candles the more you will discover your own unique language of symbols-for those of us that come to magic from inherited traditions we often find that a symbol that has deep meaning for us also has meaning for someone else in our family! Sometimes rings of wax will form on the candles and these may indicate the numbers of days/weeks/months you will need to wait before your work full manifests. Often when there is residual wax at the bottom of the candle it may indicate that a similar candle should be lit again for the same purpose.

Paper labels and petitions are usually not effected during a candle’s burn-but every now and then a candle becomes so hot that the paper will singe, scorch and in rare cases catch fire. The specific meanings of these events must be considered within the context of the candle’s intention and the purpose of the papers in the first place.

 

Devotional Candles as part of ritual

So far I have written about devotional candles as a spell in and of themselves-you have a specific need or request, you create a petition, dress your candle, light it and let the magic spiral out into manifestation. But devotional candles may also be used in more elaborate altar rituals as part of the altar set up or as “magical back ups” to your main ritual work.  In these cases one would usually fix and set the devotional candle first so that they are burning and then turn to the more intricate ritual components. Candles worked with in this way may be read in the manner I describe above and they are often read in conjunction with other aspects of the completed ritual.

 

Tricky burns and other situations

Often when we first start working with devotional candles we will encounter the candle that refuses to light, the wick that continues to drown, the herb that catches on fire, floating wicks (especially in paraffin candle  and other similarly trick situations. Schools of thought diverge on what the best methods for dealing with these candles are. On the one hand some practitioners believe that messing with the candle at all destroys the ability to get an accurate read from the candle. For those of us who light candles for clients professionally this is especially difficult because often part of the candle service includes a report wherein the candle is read. Others, like myself, believe the physical manipulation of the candle to ensure that it stays lit and burns as best it can without interruption is part of the service and caretaking of the candles. When a candle has to be physically altered in some manner a note is made and this is considered when the finished candle is read for signs.

 

Ritually disposing of devotional candles — environmental concerns:

Devotional candles have a long history of use in religion, magic, and American folk magic but as we progress into the 21st century I feel some remarks about their environmental impact should be considered. Many old spells call fur burial of candle remains and some practitioners have taken this to mean the remains of glass candles as well. For ecological reasons it is preferable to recycle glass candle casings or better yet-reuse them! The majority of glass encased devotional and novena candles today are made of dyed paraffin. Paraffin is a petroleum by-product and the wax is whipped with air to create a softer, malleable product that can be easily poured into glass containers. Whereas these candles were originally for novenas or 9 day rituals, today’s candles last an average of 4-5 days if there are no difficult burn situations. Parrafin has a specific scent and burning it does release toxins into the air, including the assortment of chemicals that is found in diesel fuel. Some paraffin glass devotional candles also contain lead in their wicks so you have the added worry of burning lead. On the other hand, many people love these classic candles because they grew up with them and they are also very inexpensive. Pull out paraffin candles are available at many spiritual supply stores so that once your original candle has burned out you may clean out the glass casing and insert a new candle in.

For those who do not wish to burn paraffin for whatever reason (I stopped burning paraffin candles myself several years ago due to health concerns and because I had birds that could not tolerate paraffin) there are alternatives. You may buy empty novena style glass containers or any other style of glass container and read your candle, you may also order beeswax glass devotional candles from several suppliers. Whereas paraffin has many negative properties, sustainably harvested beeswax has wonderful properties-including color, scent, texture, the release of negative ions into the air, and the added magical properties of bees and honey! Last time I compared a beeswax novena candle when burned alongside a paraffin novena candle-outlasted the paraffin candle by 4 to 5 days. The downside of beeswax is that it is considerably more costly-but as far as I’m concerned that’s a great motivation to get to know and support your local beekeepers!

The presence of fire through a prism of glass has a magical allure all its own. Glass encased devotional candles are considered a standard magical necessity by some and exotic tools by others–but their ability to function as both spell and divination reading makes them one of the more versatile magical tools and allows for one more way in which our lives might be blessed by the power of fire!

 

Sources:

Cunningham, Scott. Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Llewelyn. 1985.

Dey, Charmaine. The Magic Candle. Original Publications, 1982.

Gamache, Henri. Masterbook of Candle Burning. Original Publications, 1985.

yronwode, catherine. Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic. Lucky Mojo Curio Company, 2002.

 

 

 

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Something Wicked this Way Comes: 13 Points About the Evil Eye

Alchemy and Magic

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ear Miracles: The “evil eye” or mal ojo as we call it here in San Antonio, is a pan-cultural idea that encompasses a host of beliefs regarding negativity, bad luck, and misfortune. Quite a few scholarly articles have been written on the evil eye but here is the low down information you absolutely need to know.

The first thing to recognize about mal ojo in our current time is that we can carry it with us, in us, and not even know it. Anytime we are seeing incorrectly — with envy or pride or lust or selfishness we could rightly be said to be suffering from the evil eye –our eyes are literally being taken over by an evil force, call it energy, call it spirit, or simply bad will.

In traditional spiritual work the best cure for one who has the evil eye put on them is a limpias — a spiritual bath, and that is the best way to cure oneself of incorrect seeing too — it is a time of cleansing and reconciliation to the self and your true purpose, it can be a time of recommitting to the work you have to do in the world. May it be so. With that said, here are other facets of this idea which may be of use.

1.) The evil eye is everywhere. In every culture that is. The belief that people can intentionally or unintentionally wish you ill or harm is found throughout the world and throughout time. Usually people focus on the beliefs surrounding the evil eye found in Judaism, the Mediterranean countries, and Middle Eastern countries like Turkey or Iran, but plenty of beliefs about the evil eye can be found in Western European, Central and South American, and African countries too.

2.) Most often the evil eye is believed to be given to someone unintentionally. There are plenty of cases of people feeling that someone has deliberately decided to try to ruin their life through negative thoughts, malevolent prayers, or outright destructive workings. More frequent, however, is the belief that someone called down the evil eye through their own jealousy and was not really trying to harm the object of their attentions.

3.) Symptoms of the evil eye vary from time to time and place to place–but many of them include a general idea of “drying out.”  Water is generally associated with life and life giving forces. When we are too dry we are not as generative, fertile, prosperous, or healthy.

4.) Children and older people are traditionally believed to be the most vulnerable to the evil eye as are women who have just given birth.

5.) Salt is a world wide curative for the evil eye and is also seen as protective against it. So are the colors blue (featured in many of the apotropaic charms we find for the evil eye today) and red–which is favored as a cure and protective color against the evil eye in parts of Africa, Italy, and the UK.

6.) Sugar is second only to salt in its curative abilities as the evil eye is believed to make someone’s life bitter as well as dry. Sugar brings moisture and sweetness to the situation.

7.) Along with sugar and salt, Spiritual Cleansing, is seen as another essential step in both warding off and combating conditions resulting from the evil eye.

8.) The evil eye does not necessarily only come from other people. Many traditions believe that it can be cast on a person by spirits who are displeased or offended for whatever reason.

9.) Rue is the herb most popularly called on to address and combat cases of the evil eye–perhaps because of it’s tiny eye-shaped leaves.

10.) Blessed water/Holy Water can be used to wash someone down who is believed to be afflicted with the evil eye. Start at the head and work down to the feet then dispose of the water at a four way crossroads.

11.) Gold jewelry is a potent ward against the evil eye in many countries.

12.) Conditions brought about by the evil eye can be chronic/repetitive or acute and isolated events.

13.) In Western Europe one old and favored trick to use, is to immediately turn your clothes inside out and walk backwards or in a widdershins (counter clockwise) circle.

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Optimize your Omens

Divination and Dreams

D

Faerie Godmother by Brian Froud

ear Miracles: For four years we have celebrated Omen Days together. This is a wonderful and fun practice to participate in that leads to an increased awareness you can bring with your throughout the new year!

The Omen Days are an ancient practice around the ecclesiastical celebration of Epiphany. They were popularly known as the 12 days of Christmas and during each day one was encouraged to pay special attention to signs and omens around them in the belief that what they perceived would be a good indicator for their next year.

Begin the process on December 26th which corresponds to January 1st, continue through January 6th which corresponds to December 31st. You can do this in as spontaneous or deliberate manner as you like.

Last year I simply paid close attention to what was happening around me and kept a log. But you could also pull a tarot or oracle card or work with another divination device of your choosing to get a more streamlined message. Keeping some sort of written record is obviously useful because you may not remember what your omen for January 6th was by the time you hit the month of December next year.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Going Bright with Candlesmoke Chapel

Learning and Community

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ear Miracles: I’m so delighted to introduce you all to two more of my favorite Sacred Artists. Joseph and Sara Magnuson are friend, colleagues, and collaborators who make beautiful and truly magical spiritual products. From sublime ritual oils to sweet sugar jars and of course their stellar candle services — these two run one of the most authentic spiritual supply businesses I have come across in years! 

 

In their own words: Candlesmoke Chapel is a husband and wife collaboration dedicated to crafting high quality magical and spiritual goods. We’ve been crafting our own supplies for years and are proud to offer our products and services to others. Our work and studies include traditional witchcraft, hoodoo, genealogy, folklore, and herb lore. We are always working to better our own lives and are committed to helping others achieve their desires through the use of magical and spiritual practices.

 

 

Find them on the World Wide Web:

www.candlesmokechapel.com
www.etsy.com/shop/candlesmoke

 

1.) Candlesmoke Chapel fills many different roles, but one of the things that you two do beautifully is create homemade spiritual supplies–how did you get started in this work?

Both of us have been interested in and studied various paths and traditions our whole lives. After many years of learning and practicing, we found ourselves drawn to the principles behind conjure and rootwork. This became a jumping off point for us, so while we don’t practice conjure and rootwork exclusively, we find that the tangible aspects of working with candles, roots, herbs, oils, incense and washes speaks to us. We believe that having these items to physically work with helps to focus one’s intent and purpose.

In working with these types of items, we’ve been in and out of every botanica and occult shop we’ve come across. Even though there seems to be lots of options out there, we weren’t always satisfied with the quality and the general feeling behind most of the products we found. So we decided to make spiritual supplies for our own personal work, and quickly found that they were powerful and effective. We started giving items to friends as gifts and doing work for people we knew for free. The feedback we received was awesome and we’ve just kept growing!

 

2.) You also offer readings through Candlesmoke Chapel–what is your favorite subject to read on and what question would you like to never be asked again?

We’re going to answer this question separately because we each do different types of readings…

Joseph – I read with the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot and my favorite kind of readings are open-ended, general questions. I love it when the client just says, “tell me what you see.” This gives me the opportunity to really open up to the cards and the client’s energy and look at any and all possibilities. I really enjoy all the readings I do, but if I had to pick I’d say the most difficult readings are the third or fourth go-around on the same issue; when the client doesn’t like the answer they got the first couple of times and they keep wanting another reading to see if something different will present itself. These are difficult because I know they’re unhappy with their situation, but I won’t just tell them what they want to hear.

Sara – I read with the Animal Medicine Cards and my favorite kind of readings are about how people can move forward with something in their life. I love questions about feeling stuck in some way and guiding the client to the animal spirits and energies that they can learn from and call upon to bring themselves up to the place they want to be. I love helping people see the connections between other living creatures and themselves and watching that “aha” moment when the client sees how it all comes together. Like Joseph, I enjoy all the readings I do but, due to the nature of the cards I use, the most difficult question I get is “tell me what my spirit animal is.” People are usually asking this question without a real understanding of what that means and they’re typically not interested in doing the inner work necessary to discover this themselves. It can be challenging to explain to someone who doesn’t want to look within themselves that no one can tell you what your spirit animal(s) is/are.

 

3.) Talk to us about bottle spells–how do they work and what you do guys love about them?

We love bottles spells and especially sugar jars! The idea behind any type of bottle or container spell is to create a magical battery. You’re creating a small space that is super-concentrated with ingredients suited to your purpose. Immersed in that super-concentrated space is a paper with your desire written on it, your handwriting on the paper adding more power to the purpose of the container. Add some personal concerns, like a strand of hair, and this can be some powerful stuff! We create the jar for your purpose, you add your written paper and personal concerns and we provide you with instructions on how to work the Sweetening Jar on your own.

There are tons of different types of bottle spells and we focus on Sweetening Jars, specifically sugar jars. They can be made with many different kinds of sweeteners, but our preference is for sugar because it tends to manifest movement in a situation more quickly than something like honey. There’s also a physicality involved with shaking a sugar jar – seeing the magical ingredients tossing about; hearing the sound it makes and getting into a rhythm like a musical instrument. Our Sweetening Jars currently focus on romantic love situations, but we’ve done custom jars to help create a peaceful home and to help draw more clients to a business. There are lots of situations that can use a little sugar!

 

4.) You are a married couple doing awesome work together-are there any particular challenges or benefits that you find in working together on all your different projects?

One of the biggest benefits for us is that we’re passionate about the same thing. We’ve seen lots of situations where one person can’t be very open about what they’re doing, or even has to hide it, because their significant other doesn’t get it or isn’t into it. Yes, we’re a married couple, but we’re also best friends – and who doesn’t love hanging out with their best friend! There’s also two sets of eyes on everything we make. It’s invaluable to have someone else that you trust to smell, touch and test a new creation; it’s the in-house quality control department. Luckily, we have a very honest relationship so the quality control department takes no BS! We openly and honestly give each other our feedback without worry of hurting any feelings. The best benefit is getting to collaborate; we love putting our minds together to develop new products and services. Even though we’re walking this path together, we each have differing sets of knowledge and our own ways of looking at things. If one of us doesn’t know something or can’t figure something out, the other one can almost always find the solution. The only real challenge for us is arguing over who gets to use the big work table and who has to clean up!

 

5.) If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Trust yourself. Completely block out what anyone else thinks and do what you feel called to do. Keep doing what you feel passionate about and practicing what you believe in because it will shine through in everything you do. Not only have we learned this lesson in our own work, we also run into these issues with our clients. This advice is not just for someone following a path in life, but also for those who are working to change a situation. It’s not just about big-picture, life-choice questions and even applies to the little things. After you get a reading, or use a product, trust yourself. Block out all the extraneous stuff and do what you feel called to do. Practice what you believe in and the right path will appear.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Creating Sacred Space with Jacquelyn Tierney

Learning and Community

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ear Miracles: Jacquelyn Tierney is one of my favorite Sacred Artists! She is a dedicated student of mine and a beloved colleague who fuses her background in art and design with deep psychic skills and profound mediumship. Spend some time with this beautiful soul and come back feeling refreshed and inspired!

In her own words: Jacquelyn is an Artist, Traveler, Psychic-medium, Feng Shui Practitioner, Destiny Reader, and an Old Soul. She has a background in the fine art of printmaking as well as the history of decorative arts and design, with a special focus on 18th-Century German Palatial Interior Architecture and the history of Italian gardens. Today, Jacquelyn specializes in working with the energetic history of antique and vintage objects and historical properties. Combining her love of art, furniture, and object history with her mediumship abilities enables her to look at and understand the history of objects and spaces not just through a scholarly lens but also through an energetic one as well.

She also connects with loved ones on the other side, reads destinies, and in her spare time travels the world.

1.) Your work fuses disciplines as diverse as Feng-Shui, Mediumship, and Psychometry. What is the thread of commonality running through all that you do?

Working with and understanding energy.

This is actually a question that I used to ask myself over and over and over again before I had a lightbulb moment in 2012. I realized that every subject I had studied and explored up to that point in my life–printmaking, wallpaper, type, design history, 18th- century stucco work, garden history, Feng Shui, mediumship, destiny cards, and the list goes on–was not as separate from one another as I thought. In fact, all of these subjects were connected like a large staircase leading me to what I am doing today which is reading, communicating, and working with energy in order to help my clients create lives and environments that support their needs and desires. Sometimes my work takes place in the garden; at other times in the home or through the computer.

I will often use two or three of these disciplines in one session with a client as well. For example, if I have been given an object to read (psychometry) I can also inform the client of the most auspicious placement in their space based on the object’s energetic history and provenance (Feng Shui).

 

2.) Some of your work specializes in objects or even estates that are antique, vintage, or ancient. What led you to this kind of work and what do you love about it?

Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by old objects and other people’s stuff as well as the rooms that often house these older items such as attics, basements, closets, crawl spaces, and private spaces. As a child, one could find me organizing my mother’s friends’ closets on the weekends or rummaging through neighbor’s basements. This gave me the opportunity to inspect the contents of every box and drawer and get to know people in a more intimate way–even if I didn’t understand what I was looking at. Today, I still love inspecting all the nooks and crannies for hidden truths and secrets.

I believe the objects we collect and the spaces we inhabit tell a story about our soul’s history not only in this incarnation but also in our past lives too. That’s one of the things I love most about this work–collecting the stories and uncovering those hidden truths and secrets. I also love the deep connections I am able to make with other people through the exchange of those stories because even though our paths in life may be different, or we are from different generations, we all experience the same basic emotions of love, joy, sadness, and grief. We are all human.

 

3.) Tell us a bit about Possessed–your how-to guide on “collecting, editing, and manifesting”

I wrote Possessed as an introductory guide to help others understand and strengthen the relationship they have with the energy of their objects and spaces. Because everything is composed of energy, it helps to know the history of the energy being brought into your space so that whatever you are bringing in is supporting you. The book also provides suggestions on how to clear the objects once you have had a conversation with them.

Let’s say you have picked up an object from a garage sale or your interior decorator acquires furniture from an antique store. A couple of questions to start asking yourself are: “Where have these pieces been? What energetic memories did the objects collect from their environments?” If the desired object was pilfered from a holy place, you might want to know if any curses will be tagging along. If the object is a ring that has been through a few divorces, it would be wise to not give it to your fianceé. On the flip side, if an object is from an ancestor that you feel deeply connected to, keep it near you to help channel their spirit. Once you have acquired this information you can then go ahead and clear the object as part of it’s initiation into a new chapter of life.

 

4.) You also have a relatively new service that you have rolled out called “Design for Woo-Woos.” Tell us everything about it!

Design for Woo-Woo’s is a graphic design service I have developed specifically for practitioners of the sacred arts and woo-woo who want to infuse more of their soul’s essence into their website and online presence. Too often, I find energy workers getting stuck with cookie-cutter sites and fluffy graphics that look like they have been pumped out of a big corporate machine. This is unfortunate because each one of us is unique, therefore, making our practice unique. Our web presence should reflect that.

I also take a very woo-woo approach to designing. When a client comes to me with a request I want to get to know their soul. What is their soul’s history? How has it evolved? Where is it going? I look into what really turns that person on visually and spiritually. I even talk to my clients about the past lives that they may want to channel in the work. When the vibration of our soul is embedded in the visual design of our online presence, we are saying we are comfortable being honest with who we are as spiritual beings and practitioners. As a result, we attract ideal clients for our work.

 

5.) If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Life is a journey that doesn’t end here. I tell this to my destiny reading clients to help them adjust their perspective and see their current life as a chapter of a very large book rather than a single race with a set finish line. Sometimes, we get so focused on our timeline of goals or what we should be accomplishing and experiencing in this lifetime that we forget to slow down and enjoy the earthly delights right in front of us. We rush through the magical changes that take place when the seasons transition, the way our pet’s heartbeat feels as he/she lays on our chest, or how the flora in a far off land can be tasted just by licking a dab of that land’s local honey. All of these moments are also a part of our larger purpose here on Earth. They can only experienced when we slow down and notice where we are now and our movement during each step of our journey. Besides, if you don’t complete something this time around you’ll get another chance in the following incarnation.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.