Hearth and Home Vol. 10 ~ Does Anyone Here Speak Sumerian?

Ceremony and Ritual

T

he Sumerian-inspired subject line of today’s Hearth and Home is brought to you by my seven year-old son, Jasper, who has been availing himself to my Sumerian dictionary. Yep, you heard that right: Sumerian. Like from ancient Sumer. Actually the text I have is more than a dictionary: if you want to, you can learn how to read Sumerian cuneiform, based on scholarly reconstruction of archeological findings. It’s a solid tome, and, you know, practical if you want to learn Sumerian. He has plans for this book, he is going to try to cram it into his bookshelf so that it magically becomes his, that’s right, the bookshelf in the picture – do you think there’s room?

Who in the world would want to learn Sumerian? NO ONE speaks or writes Sumerian anymore. It is truly a dead language, written and spoken. And yet this very fact is what makes languages like Sumerian so attractive to some people (and certain 7 year olds).

Y’all should have seen J as he tried to wrap his head around the fact that Sumerian is dead. The notion that a language could be dead is actually what brought cuneiform to life for him, lighting the whole thing up like a Christmas tree. Now there are scraps of paper with cuneiform marks all around the house. (One of the groupings of marks he copied, means “liberty”, according to scholars, and Sumerian is the earliest known written language with this concept.) So this ancient, dead language is now the coolest most relevant thing ever, and Jasper has decided he wants to become an ancient culture detective (as he calls it) and find out what really happened to the people who spoke Sumerian.

Oh, and also: he does not quite believe us about the whole “dead language thing” because he woke up last Saturday morning asking who in the household speaks Sumerian. He is pretty sure one of us is holding out on him. Maybe it’s the baby.

I love everything about this. I love the fact that my 7 year old chooses to spend his Saturday morning delving into a magical script from a faraway time and land. I love the fact that he is so sure someone really does speak Sumerian somewhere, and I love the fact that he might just be right…maybe somewhere someone does after all.

Jasper’s tenacity (around ancient languages and generally speaking) is a study in belief. The belief that he has access to this knowledge and that this is appropriate – that knowledge should not be jealously guarded under lock and key or held only be a few. The belief that if he practices at something long enough and diligently enough he can begin to make headway with it. And the belief that there is magic…in old books and ancient languages and everywhere around us if we know how to look. This has been the theme for our family this year, ever-present magic and the fact that while the extraordinary is most definitely part of the everyday, we still have the privilege – and challenge – of dealing with the everyday.

This month ‘the everyday’ beyond the usual work load looks like wrapping up presents and picking out gifts, decorating the tree, and sending out Christmas cards. I unashamedly and unabashedly love Christmas, Solstice, Yuletide, and the Omen Days that come after. I love it all. I love the sparkle and the color and the corny music. I love the excitement of the kids. I even love the pangs of sadness – the way that I miss by best girlfriend because when we lived in the same city we did our Christmas cards together. And the way that I miss my grandfather who loved this time of year above all others. I adore the stillness and the quiet of the cold air and the sparkling stars.

We often hear it said that the holidays are hard. And they certainly can be. But there seems to be an expectation that they should not be so hard…that everything should be happy and joyful and perfect. To my mind this expectation is rooted in the forgetfulness that the holidays are in fact HOLY days.

Genuine holy days are days pierced and crowned with the qualities of wholeness and healing, and holiness – truly beautiful and magical things. But these magical qualities are no more free of the hard and the tough than the phrase “happily ever after” is meant only for fairytales. Never in my experience has the magic of the truly holy turned away from the incredibly hard. Always it has made room for and embraced it.

This means of course that the genuinely hard times are never far from holy, wholeness and healing – even if it can feel like sometimes they are, even if the grace and freedom you seek feels a million miles away.

I tell my students that what keeps us steady in the face of the hard is our daily practices. These practices change as we do. They morph, they transform. But if we commit to showing up with them, they in turn commit to us and give us a steady foundation from which to work, live, and simply be. These days my practice begins at 4am when I get up before anyone else to take care of all of our animals.

Then, when the weather is favorable, I go outside in my pajamas, with a thick blanket and wrapped up in a coat, and I lay down under the stars. It is dark and cold. The neighbors are mostly asleep (and my neighbors know that I am a bit touched and seem to be OK with that), the wind is usually blowing gently at 4:30am, I listen. I’m watching the stars in part because I am preparing to teach my most ambitious astrology course yet in the New Year. But I am also simply being with the sky and the earth and the air, saying an intentional hello to these elements that surround me all of the time. With so much happening, with so much busy activity, these few minutes of star and moon bathing seem to add hours on to my day.

My practice is also all of the daily stuff. Watching Heath as he begins to eat solid foods…zucchini is a yes, bananas are a yes, as is spinach; green peas he is not so sure about and green peas and rice will earn you a Paddington Bear-esque hard stare. Listening to Jasper play piano at his winter recitals and play basketball (he is learning to catch the rebounds) and loving the way his little brother smiles at him as if he is the very sun itself. My practice has also included the fun of snuggling with my love, diving into Grey’s Anatomy – yes we just started, and yes it is so fun – and figuring out how to bend time and space so that my lover has time to draw and sketch and create the gorgeous art that our homes and lives are filled with.

Business is a practice for me too. I love my work so the scheduling and the follow up emails and the readings, the lighting of lunar lights and the teachings – all part of the practice. First writing and then shepherding the book into this next phase has been a new set of practices I have become familiar with.

At the end of November I got to speak to the publicity and marketing team in charge of my book (we have decided that when we meet in person it shall be over margaritas) and we have devised a very sophisticated marketing strategy…would you like to know what it is?

Write a good book.
Tell your community about your book.
Create an actually useful and awesome bonus when people pre-order the book.
Whip up some fun ways for there to be more time and connection within the community without outsourcing everything to social media or a keyboard…so simple, yet pretty revolutionary stuff huh?

Amidst a sea of bad marketing advice this certainly feels revolutionary. And then there is my publisher and my team, and for us it all comes down to integrity…write what needs to be written, share what needs to be shared, make it worthwhile and let your community know. As Emeril says, “Bam!” I’ll be sharing loads more about the book in January so stay tuned for that but in the meantime I hope you do what the title advises and make some magic for yourself this season.

And on that note, I want to share one of my favorite little tricks for creating some sweet magic in your home. It is the holiday season and some of the tough stuff that we encounter happens in our own families, yes? We can all use a reminder to speak with more kindness and compassion, to listen with more mercy, and to check our snap judgements at the door. One of my favorite magical tricks to inspire this behavior is to fill the sugar canister with whole vanilla beans, one for each member of the family. As you place the pod into the canister, name it for the family member and bless them with the following blessing:

“May your season be full of love, warmth, and kindness for yourself and for all you come into contact with.”

Of course you can also utter a blessing straight from your heart.

When you bake with the sugar or add it to your tea or coffee, it will call to mind the sweetness that you have wished upon yourself and everyone in your family. Want another little home sweet home enchantment? I’ve got one right here. And for those of you who have asked me about the lunar lights for 2019 – they are open through today so get in on it! Beautiful blessings of this holy, hard, and yes, magical season.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Protected: Star Stories: December 2018

Ceremony and Ritual

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magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Magical Missive: Nailed It!

Alchemy and Magic

M

iracles,

While much of magic is concerned with change and transformation there are also times in life where what we are seeking after is less change, less movement, but rather stability and certainty; times when we want to nail it! In these cases we can turn to a special family of rituals that center around the act of nailing or pinning something down, fixing it to a point of stillness and (semi) permanence. My favorite example of this from childhood is Peter Pan’s need to fix his shadow back to himself, that is a storybook case of nailing something down.

Outside of fairy tales, when we encounter a situation, like a great new job or a piece of land we feel called to protect, that we want to stabilize and keep fixed to ourselves, then we are ready to enact this kind of magic. As Sacred Artists and soulful seekers though we always begin our outer magical work with some inner questions both to help us gain clarity about what we are actually trying to accomplish and to enable us to write the best petition for our ritual work once we are ready to move forward with it. Before nailing or pinning anything down it is important to get clear on what it is exactly that you want to nail down and why. For instance, you may want to nail down a piece of land that has been in your family for many generations that one of your siblings wishes to sell. If your intention is to nail down the piece of property and then live on it and/or maintain it in perpetuity then all is well, but if your intention is to nail down the property and then sell a few years down the road at a higher rate then be aware that once you have nailed down something it is deeply connected to you and selling, getting rid of, or exchanging the nailed down item for something else may be quite complicated. This is because when we magically work to nail something down we are actually expressing through ritual a deep and abiding commitment to whatever it is we want to stabilize and secure. That commitment works both ways – if done properly the nailed down item will be stabilized and secured and/but you will also be on the hook and responsible for it going forward. For this reason it makes sense to only nail down things that you really can consistently show up for and be committed to.

What can be nailed down:

Land – in the oldest rites for nailing or pinning down something – rites which we can find world over in various forms – land, and later, homes, are usually the first items that are secured. A piece of land may be nailed down so that it remains in a specific community or family line forever. A home may be nailed down so that it remains connected to a specific piece of land, individual person, entire community, or specific family line. Because in so many cultures even today obtaining “ownership” or stewardship over a piece of land is a mark of success and viewed as the beginning of a new and better life, the act of nailing down a piece of land and/or any dwellings upon it is still quite popular. During the housing crisis in America I saw a spike in my own practice of people asking to have their land or property nailed down so that it would not go into foreclosure or so that, if it had, they could get it back.

Jobs – Like land and homes, many of us have an ideal job and once we attain it we may choose to stabilize the situation by nailing it down. This is usually performed with high earning jobs or dream jobs. It is not advisable for jobs where there is room for promotion and advancement because when you nail down a job you nail down that specific job and position, often making later advancement more difficult for yourself. In certain cases the intention may be not only to nail down the job but also to nail down the moment when the individual is at the height of their earning potential, so if you love your job and know that you are making as much money as you can possibly make from it then you might consider nailing it down.

Relationships – There are some relationships that can very much benefit from being nailed down. Typically these are not romantic in nature but beneficial in some specific way, such as a mentor/mentee relationship or a relationship between a source of spiritual support (like a minister or priestess) and an individual who is unstable and trying to become more stable, such as an addict. Another situation where I have seen relationships positively nailed down is between individuals who are chronically ill or differently abled and a medical team that they have a great rapport with. The risk that nailing down a relationship runs is that the relationship becomes stagnant, outdated, and is then difficult to move on from when the time is right. For this reason while nailing down relationships that need to be fixed and stable is tempting, I always prefer (and advise) that people work with something less coercive (like a sugar jar).

Health – Good health can be nailed down as can a certain level of fitness, youth, or even an ideal weight. Again, think carefully and feel into the situation before taking action. If you are one of those people constantly seeking to improve your health, appearance, or waistline (I’m looking at you Virgo) then nailing down a specific moment in time will frustrate you as it becomes difficult to improve upon it. If, however, you have just come out of cancer treatment and received the good news that you are cancer free then you may well want to nail down that moment.

Finances – One of my friends used to run a hedge fund on Wall Street and he told me that everyone should have a number, a financial, monetary number, that once reached is enough. Everyone’s number is different of course depending on what your needs actually are but everyone should have one. If you know your number then when you attain it you may want to nail it down, ensuring that you do not go past it or dip beneath it.

Identity – While in most cases a sense of semi-fluid and shifting identity is beneficial and keeps us from becoming overly fixed into a single way of being or too rigid, in some cases an individual really will benefit more from a definite and fixed sense of identity. This can be a very useful magical support for people who experience a regular loss of a sense of self due to external events that they only have limited control over or internal situations (such as mental disequilibrium) that they are actively working with and treating. For minority and disenfranchised groups there is a great deal of work to be done around reclaiming a healthy and proper sense of personal as well as group identity so when that work is done and an individual feels that they have really uncovered and reclaimed their true, essential self, they may want to nail that down as well.

Mastery – Skill building and development when practiced consistently can lead to mastery. While true masters are the first to tell us that they never stop learning, there are certain times when individuals may want to nail down a specific skill that they have mastered so that they have access to it going forward. The challenge with this is that it can keep you from expanding your knowledge and learning even more.

Accountability situations – a new exercise regime, nutrition plan, daily practice, or any kind of situation where you want to be disciplined and accountable is also game for being nailed down. Again, the limitation here is that if the system stops being supportive or needs to be changed in some way then it becomes much harder to do that.

Baneful situations – occasionally in our lives we experience malevolent energies, evil situations and/or people that need to be nailed down not so that they are stabilized but rather so that they are immobilized and cannot harm any longer. Some traditions refer to this as binding and it can be done as a literal binding but in situations like this we can also work with nails to great effect.

Tools for nailing down:

Old railroad spikes – these are the big spikes that are used to connect and nail down railroad tracks. They are worked with almost exclusively in nailing down pieces of property and/or physical dwellings. Railroad spikes are especially valued for this kind of magic because they are made of iron which is an incredibly magical material. You cannot pry them out of railroad tracks because that will make trains derail. You can pick them up along side of the tracks although technically that is illegal unless you have the permission of the railway company. You can also purchase them from some spiritual suppliers.

Old Iron Nails (usually square cut) – these are old fashioned nails used primarily in wood working that can still be found at a good hardware store, on the web, and in stock with certain spiritual suppliers. they are usually made of iron which as stated above is beloved for its magical, specifically protective qualities. Iron nails can be worked with in place of railroad spikes when the land or dwelling that needs to be nailed down is smaller or the nailing down needs to be more subtle.

Pins or Needles – Pins or needles can be worked with in nailing down items from all of the above categories with the exception of land or dwellings. Silver pins and needles are the best to work with but any kind can do in a pinch.

Coffin Nails – these are exactly what they sound like, nails that were used in the construction of a coffin. Coffin nails are worked with when a baneful situation is being addresses or when someone wants their ancestral lines to support them in their work.

Techniques for nailing down:

Land/home – When it comes to nailing down land and/or a physical dwelling the process is pretty straightforward. In the case of a physical dwelling you will need to note every corner of the dwelling – so many houses have four corners but some have more, depending on the shape and size of the house. You are looking at the outer corners of the home, the ones you can see when you walk around the building. In the case of a piece of land you need to note the exact shape of the lot and how many corners it has.

Once you know how many corners you are working with procure that number of railroad spikes or iron nails.

During sunrise go out and begin placing spikes in the ground at the corners you have noted. The spikes need to go into the ground and should be driven in all the way so that only their tops flush against the ground. This may take some preparation on your part as you may need to deal with materials like concrete or asphalt that cannot have spikes driven into them with ease. There is no workaround for this – if you want to nail down the property or dwelling the spike or nail needs to go directly into the ground.

As you nail in each spike recite your petition or prayer. You can pray straight from your heart or you can use the following petition:

Blessed Ones in whom I live, move, and breathe. From you all emerges and unto you it shall return. Aid and assist me as I work in nailing down {name whatever you are nailing down} so that it is safe, secure, stable, and bound to me as I am bound to it ever more. May it be so/amen.

Move in a clockwise manner until all nails have been nailed into the ground.

Within the now nailed perimeter find a healthy tree and make an offering of fresh water to the tree, thanking the land spirits for working with you.

At this point, cultivate calmness and then go into a light trance and ask the land spirits if there is anything they need from you to keep the land/property safe. They may ask for something specific. If they do and if you agree to provide it to them then you can leave a bit of the offering on each of the nail heads. For instance, if the spirits of the land ask for tobacco you can leave a pinch on each nail head, if they ask for water you might pour a bit over each nail head.

Activate the protection and permanence of the nails by sprinkling some of your urine on each nail. This may sound gross but it is an old school and still widely practiced (believe me here) way of marking a specific territory as yours.

Note: in my experience and the experience of my clients you will have the best working relationship with a piece of nailed down land or property if you go into that relationship with the attitude that you are a caretaker or tender as opposed to owner.

 

Everything else – In all of the other cases the nailing down process is slightly different. You will need a picture of yourself and then something on a piece of paper that represents whatever you wish to nail down. So for instance, if you want to nail down a job then you need a current picture of yourself and the job title. You will do this work at the base of a healthy and vital tree.

Write your full legal name over your picture three times.

Align your picture with the paper that has the image or words describing whatever you are nailing down on it so that your picture faces inward towards the image or words describing your target. (Pro tip: use a bit of honey to stick the two pieces of paper together so that there is sweetness).

If you have personal concerns you want to work with for this such as hair or nails then you would place them in between the two pieces of paper.

Place the papers on the ground in front of the tree. Once you are ready, pray out loud or use the petition given above.

If you are working with an iron nail then drive one single iron nail through the center of the papers until the nail is all the way into the ground.

If you are working with pins or needles drive one down in each of the four corners of the papers and then a fifth in the center of the paper until they are all the way down in the ground.

Cover up the paper packet with dirt. You may work with graveyard dirt from an ancestor if you would like to include your ancestors in on the work.

Cover up the area so that the papers are well and truly buried in the ground. Thank the tree and make an offering of fresh water to it. Cultivate calmness and then go into a light trance to find out if there is anything else the land spirits might need or ask of you before you depart.

Baneful Situations – If you are nailing down a baneful situation or toxic person then the intention is to restrict and immobilize said situation or individual so your petitions and prayers will be modified to reflect that. This is where you would employ coffin nails if you wish to call on the aid of the Beloved Dead to assist and support you in incapacitating the predator/predatory situation. In this case you would not work with an image of yourself (or any of the victims of the individual/situation), rather you would work with an image or written description of the situation and you would take the paper to a graveyard.

For work like this I was taught to seek out the aid of a departed spirit who was a solider in their living life – a good soldier or in some cases an honest law enforcement officer. If you have ancestors in your family line who were either then you can work directly with them, if not then you will need to do some research and feel into the various spirits at the graveyard to determine who is willing to work with you and what they might want in return.

Once you have done that work you can take the paper to the grave of the spirit you are working with.

If you have personal concerns fold them up into the paper, then place it on the ground approximately where the departed person’s feet would be – this placement is symbolic of your spirit helper bringing the individual or situation you are seeking to immobilize “to heel”.

Drive a coffin nail into each corner of the paper and then one into the center of the paper until the nails are flush against the ground.

Cover over the paper with extra dirt from the graveside.

Leave an offering of fresh water, plastic or fresh flowers, and coins to thank and pay the spirit for helping you in your endeavor and if anything else was promised to the spirit, then make sure you pay it. After this kind of work it is always a good idea to follow up with a spiritual bath.

Working with spikes, nails, pins, and needles is often considered more coercive magic, there is an edge to it, a forcefulness that some do not appreciate or approve of. I can understand the hesitation but I love this kind of magic precisely because it makes us get really clear about what our intentions are and why we are doing what we are doing. There are moments and places and times where we need to be more solid, fixed, stable, and sure-footed, where we need to know that we are both protected and stabilized, this is the magic that speaks to those needs. It is old, simple, deeply practical, and accessible to all. So don’t be afraid to go out and nail it!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Protected: Star Stories: November 2018

Ceremony and Ritual

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magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Protected: Star Stories: October 2018

Ceremony and Ritual

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magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Protected: Balancing Acts

Ceremony and Ritual

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What are your favorite ways of celebrating the Equinox?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Protected: Star Stories: September 2018

Ceremony and Ritual

To enter this space, please provide your password.


magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.