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.

The Best Fairy Tale Resources

Divination and Dreams

D

ear Miracles: It is no secret that I love fairy tales and folk stories. I grew up on a steady diet of magical tales and mythic art, and my love affair with fairy tales has only grown deeper and more comprehensive over time.

Why do I love fairy tales? I love them because they take on the biggest questions and the most difficult conflicts in simple and accessible language. I love them because they are portable – you can take them with you anywhere! – and you can tell them and re-tell them again and again. And I love fairy tales because they reveal worlds that are just as real and vibrant as our own.

Myth and fairy tales give shape to the magic that is all around us, not only in the rocks and wind, in streams and trees, but also in the places we would least expect to find it: in urban landscapes, in the broken and forgotten and hectic places. When my students ask me what book I would recommend to get a deeper understanding of this or that aspect of the sacred arts, nine times out of ten I refer them to a fairy tale or piece of mythic art, and so teaching through fairy tales has become a mainstay of my work.

Given all of that, there are many resources out there for people who would like to learn more about the stories they grew up with and perhaps in the process learn new stories too!

 

Websites and Blogs

Terri Windling ~ one of my favorite sites and blogs period, Terri Windling is a writer, artist, and book editor. Her blog Myth and Moor is frequently updated and features gorgeous art and wonderful articles dealing with a wide variety of mythic art topics. She is also just a really lovely person!

Midori Snyder ~ another daily go-to for me, Midori Snyder’s blog In the Labyrinth features great book reviews, mythic art, and tales of her own creative work. Midori’s writing is so beautiful, I always learn something new when I visit her online home, and like Terri, she is just a delight!

Endicott Studio ~ featuring the Journal of Mythic Arts. While no longer active, the JoMA site hosts hundreds of great articles of fairytales, myth, and folklore, penned by some of the best authors and artists working in the fields today.

Sur La Lune ~ An online compendium of fairytales from around the world, cross-referenced, and featuring art from many of the stories. Invaluable resource

The Interstitial Arts Foundation ~ they are dedicated to featuring and serving artists without borders, what we call in the sacred arts tradition working in the liminal.

These are but a smattering of the sites out there with fabulous information, most of them have links to other sites, which I encourage you to explore for yourself.

 

Books ~ there are hundreds of fabulous collections of fairy tales and books written about fairy tales and folk lore too, but for the beginner, here are a few of my favorites.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition translated by Jack Zipes

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm All-New Third EditionTranslated by Jack Zipes

The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tartar

American Indian Myths and Legends edited by Richard Erodes and Alfonos Ortiz

African Folktales edited by Roger Abrahams

Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

Beauty – retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

Briar Rose – Jane Yolen

The Wood Wife – by Terri Windling

The Innamorati – by Midori Snyder

Coyote Speaks – by Ari Berk and Carolyn Dunn

Faeries – by Brian Froud and Alan Lee

Good Faeries/Bad Faeries – by Brian Froud

Brian Froud’s World of Faerie – by Brian Froud

 

And no list would be complete without a mention of Baba Studio’s Fairy Tale Tarot (out of stock, but beautiful nonetheless).

There is also Goblinfruit, an online poetry ‘zine that is simply breathtaking.

And finally, two magazine recommendations for you: Faerie Magazine and Fairy Tale Review

What are your favorite fairy tale resources?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

What the Goat Knows

Lunar Letter

M

ear Miracles,

Earlier this week I was perusing Terri’s wonderful blog and came across a recent post on the folklore of goats. Ever since visiting our local zoo when I was a little girl and finding one goat in particular who loved eating my ponytail, I have been a fan. I was especially taken with one fact that her article presented: goats are one of the earliest animals domesticated by humans but they are also happy to return to a feral state whenever an opportunity presents itself.

Tomorrow the New Moon in Capricorn, a sign traditionally represented by the goat, arcs across the heavens and the sun returns for another year of shining light. In our Sacred Arts community, much is made of the ideas of “being wild”, “going wild”, “embracing the wild”. I don’t think it is too much to say that many of us find our ethics defined, honed, and in debt to all that is wild. And as we know from mythos, the goat, often is emblematic of all that is wild, natural, sensual, and feral, but I think more than that, the goat is a great lover of paradox.

When we turn to classical Western astrology to understand the goat-marked sign of Capricorn much of what we discover does not, at first blush, speak to the wild. Capricorn is a sign that is often attributed leadership skills, it is affiliated with the 10th house which is the house of career and prosperity building. Discipline, seriousness, steadfastness, and incredible endurance are the most common qualities associated with this cardinal earth sign. Interestingly, those same qualities are often the very ones that farmers and ranchers look for in various domesticated breeds they raise.

What does it mean that the stellar constellation most affiliated with the goat is one that seems to find a definition against the common perception of what the goat represents in art, culture, and religion? Could it mean that domestic and wild are in a more complicated relationship than we commonly think? Is this what the goat knows?

To be domesticated is not a bad thing. To be domestic is to be of the home, a complicated world in itself that forms the basis of all economies and all political systems (the word econoimos in Ancient Greek literally means home). Domesticated is not synonymous with being tame, and in fact, if you speak to farmers and ranchers who actually know and appreciate their craft, they will drive this home again and again — no animal is truly tame, ever. So it is with us. We are not ever tame, never wholly domesticated, we are always capable of spontaneity and surprise, always. Most importantly, domestication assumes wildness; quite simply domestication cannot happen anywhere except where something, someone, is wild.

I have found that we feel, keenly and deeply, loss when we speak about wild places, even those of us who are the most urban city slickers dream better at night knowing that there are places where it is truly dark, and quiet, and alive. And we forget, so easily and so frequently that what is wild is not only outside and away from us, locked away in a national park or held aloof and apart in a refuge. What is wild lives within us, underneath the skin, between each heartbeat and rush of blood?

The goat reminds us not to forget, never to forget, that we can slip the collar, break the fence, run the field and then return…to what is known and loved and domestic in the best possible way. On this point there is no choice to make; we carry both the wild and domestic within us.

Tonight as you sit in the darkness of the New Moon ask yourself this:

  • Where am I wild?
  • Where am I domestic?
  • What does the right relationship with both look like?
The picture in this post is part of a series of goat and sheep portraits shot by Kevin Horan. A wonderful article with many more pictures may be found here: http://huff.to/1zO4RXJ

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Snaps of Spring

Divination and Dreams

D

ear Miracles: It is Springtime–one of my favorite seasons which makes sense because in the Western Esoteric traditions the season of Spring is of course attuned to the Element of Air and being a Libran, I’m an airy — faerie kinda gal! Spring means more time outside and less time inside. That has been especially true this year because the weather has been, in a word, INCREDIBLE. We had a cool and moist April and Beltane dawned crisp and glorious. Since I am in South Central Texas we always need more water but thus far the plants are thriving and delighting in the cooler than usual winds.

A basket full of herbs straight from the garden–for medicine, magic, and cooking alchemy. Lavender for love and peace, Rosemary for clarity of mind and purpose, Oregano for prosperity blessings and sensuality, roses for beauty, and lemon balm for zest! Some of these green goodies will be worked with as I make my own florida water for spiritual cleaning. Part of the Rosemary was tinctured for a respiratory health elixir, part of it was baked into bread, and a bunch of it was dried for ritual work I create around academic success.


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And more roses because really, can we ever get enough? These petals are from two antique varieties–Le Vesuve and Dame de Coeur. Roses did not make the top twenty list of magical herbs that live in your kitchen, but they make my personal short list of plant allies I always need to have on hand. My mother is somewhat of an antique rose expert–in Texas we call them Rose Rustlers, no joke, and she has over 200 varieties–so yeah, I guess you could say it runs in the family.

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Our Faerie light and grapevine chandelier hangs over our bed and blesses all it sheds sparkly light upon.

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And there has been a lot of bread making! (Note how the geese measuring cups look on with serenity).

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I hope everyone’s spring has been as delicious as ours has been!

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

D

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.

Many Branches–Plant Love with Kiva Ringtail Rose

Learning and Community

D

ear Miracles: I first heard Kiva Rose’s name mentioned years ago when my mother and I were reading one of Loba’s columns in Sage Woman magazine. The Anima school and sanctuary sounded wild and wonderful and so very needed. Then years later I came across her work again in Plant Healer Magazine–and it wasn’t long before I wrote a couple of articles for that most excellent periodical. Kiva is a busy woman and I was delighted when she agreed to take some time and speak with me about plant magic and all that is wild. 

In her own words: Herbalist, author, and wild creature, Kiva Rose lives in a canyon botanical sanctuary within the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. She is also the co-director of the HerbFolk Gathering, held each September in the mountain Southwest, is co-editor of Plant Healer Magazine, and maintains an herbal blog, The Medicine Woman’s Roots.

Find Kiva on the World Wide Web:

Plant Healer and The HerbFolk Gathering
The Medicine Woman’s Roots Herbal Blog

 

 

 

Who/What is a Plant Healer? Why this term instead of a term like Herbalist?

A Plant Healer is anyone who works with the plants for the purpose of healing. We chose this term in part because of its simplicity and because of the way it keeps the focus on the plants themselves. I am an herbalist because I love the plants, and feel called to matchmake between plants and people, hopefully facilitating new and deeper relationships among humans and herbs that brings healing for us, as well as inspiring us to take better care of the earth in the process.

 

One of the many contributions you have made to the plant loving community is a return to the notion of “folk herbalism”. How is folk herbalism different from what might be considered more “mainstream herbalism”, what are folk herbalists bringing to the table that has been missing in the community?

Basically, folk herbalism is technically defined as herbalism being practiced by non-professionals or lay people, often utilizing regional or handed down knowledge and perspectives. However, given the wide range of practitioners that currently identify as folk herbalists, I think it makes sense to broaden the definition to include professionals and non-professionals alike who practice an herbalism not currently accepted as valid by the Western biomedical industry and our culture in general.

Folk herbalism has always been here, and has long been represented by an incredible spectrum of practitioners. I personally use the terminology because I value both inclusivity and diversity within the healing community. I especially like the fact that folk herbalism embraces such a wide range of ideas and practices without insisting upon a false or forced homogeny.

 

You run a clinical practice, care for a beautiful wilderness area in Southern New Mexico, teach, write, publish some of the finest books and magazines on the plant path, and organize festive conferences and weekends of education for plant healers, you are also a mom and devoted partner…how do you do it all and what are your personal favorite herbal allies?

Thank you, Bri! I’ve found that it’s my nature to cycle through focusing on what most interests me at the time, and I find that working on so many projects allows me to move from seeing folks to creating art to writing to land restoration to teaching to solitary and family time in a way that allows me to feel both fulfilled and to keep many projects going at once. Also, my wonderful partner, Jesse Wolf Hardin, does an enormous amount and keeps everything on track and on schedule!

Many of my absolute favorite plants are from the genus Salvia, I adore all that I’ve met thus far! I’m very blessed to have two native species growing right here in the canyon where I live and many more nearby. Working with the less well known Sawtooth Sage, Salvia subincisa, was a profound experience in my early herbal studies. While I don’t know of anyone else working with this plant, it is a profound relaxant nervine that is specifically indicated when tremors are present with anxiety. It’s also a wonderful ally for those who have such sensitive nervous systems that even Lemon Balm can seem too stimulating. Back when I was first studying and practicing herbalism, I was also recovering from many years of insomnia, addiction, and abuse and dealing with a very fried and overstimulated nervous system. The Sawtooth Sage helped to heal my nervous system and allowed me to sleep and relax in ways I hadn’t experienced in decades. I especially like it combined with our local Skullcap for tension, anxiety, and insomnia.

 

In 2013 you launched the Bramble and Rose–a wonderful shop where folks can order perfumes, elixirs, balms, and oils, tell us about the Bramble and Rose and what inspired it?

Originally, The Bramble & The Rose was created as an outlet for my passion for creating botanical perfumes and body products, and my desire to share the medicine of aromatics with a wider audience. As time has passed, I’ve slowly been expanding it into a more complete woodland apothecary that includes elixirs, bio-regional incense, bitters blends, and certain single herbs abundant in my area. I’d been asked for many years to make more of my herbal preparations for sale, so I’m happy to fulfill this desire from the community while sharing many of my favorite plant allies!

Part of the profits from The Bramble & The Rose go to paying for the materials used to create the herbal formulas I provide to local clients in my tiny mountain village at little or no charge.

 

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

To keep your work at its foundation, and to focus on not straying from the source that ignited your passion to begin with. To work as healers of any kind we need to avoid being drained by what we do, and a bit part of that is being able to receive vital nourishment from the earth and work at a roots level. I know that, for me, it’s very easy to get caught up in what needs to be done, and to neglect the simple, sensual delights that first drew me to herbalism. By remembering to play with the plants, experiment with new remedies, and spending wordless time on wild land, I am sustained and replenished in a circle of healing I am honored to be included in.

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

New Year Prosperity: tips and tricks to spruce up your pocketbook

Alchemy and Magic

D

ear Miracles: We are still in January and for many of us there is still a strong drive to create lasting prosperity in this New Year. The trick, of course, is knowing how one might best go about creating that prosperity. Here are some of my favorite tricks and tips to feather your nest and, maybe, if you are lucky, discover a golden egg!

1.) New Year=New Wallet. If last year’s cash flow was not all it could have been, why don’t you spend some money on getting a brand new wallet? Your wallet or billfold is the home where your money lives — you want it to be a home fitting for lots of cash, right?

Choose a color that is traditionally associated with prosperity and abundance like green (for money cash and growth), red (for power and authority in the world of personal finance and beyond), royal blue (the planetary color associated with abundance creating Jupiter), or yellow/gold (for um, more gold!)

2.) Dress 3 $100 bills with a prosperity enhancing sachet powder and place them in your wallet. When we carry larger bills like Benjamins or even $50’s, we are less likely to break them which translates to less likely to spend on frivolous items.

3.) If possible, get a wallet that has a change purse and use your change frequently — leave it as tips, hand it out to panhandlers — moving change in and out of your wallet keeps the current of money moving in your life.

4.) Take all non essential cards, especially credit cards out of your wallet for daily use. If you don’t have access to your cards you can’t use them. Bam!

5.) Put a tiny lodestone in your wallet to attract and draw more money.

6.) Put a tiny piece of iron pyrite in your wallet OR a piece of real gold. Even a gold earring will work because like attracts like.

7.) Sprinkle sassafras and cinquefoil (five finger grass) in the area where your paper money goes–a pinch works great. Sassafras has long been worked with to make each dollar stretch and cinquefoil is believed not only to bless all that your five fingers do but also to encourage others to favor you.

8.) Choose one area to work on when it comes to financial health. Do you need to draw more in the way of income or lower existing debt? Make a plan of action that includes PRACTICAL steps for you to do. Dedicate a section of your home to this work and only this work.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.