What are you really banishing?

Ceremony and Ritual

D

ear Miracles: On Sunday we performed our weekly house cleaning followed by our house blessing. It is a wonderful family ritual that we all get involved in. As we went through the house with our white sage I was standing at the wide open back door repeating my mantra for banishing:

I banish thee, I banish thee, I send thee out and set thee free to dwell in river, air, and stone and never through our home do roam.

As I banished anything that was not welcome I called it out by name:

envy — be gone
fear — be gone
lack — be gone
wrongful pride — be gone
anger — be gone
greed — be gone
miserliness — be gone
selfishness — be gone

We are a happy crew at my house, and I wouldn’t say that I/we have experienced  many of these feelings and thoughts in a significant way over the last week, but – human nature being what it is – they are always there and they are never useful, good, or loving.

All too often we sacred artists think of banishing external funk and negativity — vibes that are just hanging out around us and need to be cleaned out. That is not wrong or bad but it is incomplete. The next time you banish ask yourself: what inner states do I need to let go of too?

Then…bid them farewell.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

The Sacred Artist

Foundations

D

ear Miracles: For too long we have been without a name, and though names are not everything, as many a faerie story tells us, they are also not nothing. The right name is magical. It can open doors, reveal treasure and say what is true.

Within our tribe and for all of our differences, there are many things we hold in common. We have an unwillingness to settle for what is “normal”, sanctioned, and approved of by governments, multi-national corporations, popular media, and religious zealots. We have a desire to see and speak of what is true, what lies beneath the ground and above in the aerial branches and cold mountaintops. We want to champion the healthful and vibrant aspects of our lineage while learning the lessons from past, taking heed of of our Ancestorserrors, returning–as best we can–to old, older, oldest ways of knowing, seeing, and being in the world to a place of honor, while at the same time creating new fresher spaces for what is newly born and yet to be known.

Others have given us names, oh yes, they have.

A catalogue is both helpful and hilarious:

New Ageirony of ironies because for so many of us what we know and do is grounded in practices that are quite old. Heretics -because our sense of the sacred does not sit comfortably in the sanctuary of orthodox religion. Occultists – coming from the word occult which means hidden,because we have hidden and we have been hidden in response to persecution and fear.

We are sometimes called Light Workers because too many of us continue to buy into the wrong belief that fear and threat only comes in darkness and because we have forgotten the nourishing power of Night. Pagan – springing from the Latin paganus, meaning among other things a country dweller, because many of us ourselves come from rural stock and given our colorful variety of devotion and styles of reverence, what else might we be called? Other names include Psychicit is usually said in a pejorative manner but we may claim it in good faith since our work does deal directly with the health and quality of the Soul or Psyche. Sorceress – because power, especially liminal power wielded by women, is still seen as dangerously unpredictable. Weird -because we do not conform to the rationalistic norms or live our lives the way the dominant modern secular culture says we often should (also interestingly tied to the other wyrd which of course means fate and destiny – concepts we are versed in). Bitch – because we do not see NO as a bad word (and maybe because many of us love dogs and other four legged creatures?). Whore – sometimes yes, we are still called whores, or ho, or harlot, because we affirm that our sensuality is sacred and acts of love and pleasure can be, should be, acts of touching the Divine. Tree Hugger is often applied to us because in fact, you may find us hugging trees.

We are called Witch – intended to be the deadliest insult of all, one that not so long ago promised a date with a pyre or gallows, one that many of us now embrace with enthusiasm because in its root and origin it points to what we care for and pursue above all else…wisdom. The wisdom of living a good life, cultivating right relationship, and honoring all that is whole, healthy, and holy.

A name is not everything, but a name is not nothing either. The right name, a true name, provides a point of reference: this is who I am and this is where I stand.  It reveals a little red door that opens upon the majesty of each of our unique and blessed inmost natures.  A name, the right name or the wrong one, determines a way of seeing and a way of being seen.

I say we have worn the names that others have thrust upon us for too long and enough is enough.

These names are tired and cramped like a pair of too worn and too small shoes. If, like so many of us, you too have wondered in the wilderness of No Name looking, looking, looking for the right words in every shadow, canyon crevice, and under every rock then I offer this to you:

Be a Sacred Artist – a creator and delight taker in all that is whole, holy, and sacred.

A name is not everything, but it is not nothing. The right name allows us to be seen as we truly are and one thing more–to decide how, where, and by what means we will make our presence known and do our work in the world. Claiming your name is the first step in doing your work – the work – you were placed here to do.

Postscript:

I began using the term Sacred Artist a couple of years ago and I have been delighted to watch more and more people claim the title for themselves. I wrote some preliminary thoughts on the history of the Sacred Arts and I was inspired with the term by my husband – a fine artist, who told me that yes, crafting ritual is an art form.

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

D

ear Miracles: A version of this article was first published in the Summer 2013 issue of Witches and Pagans Magazine.

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 candles would be burning. Folk magic traditions grew up around novena rituals and their glass-encased candles and then in the early 1940s, 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 catalogs 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 ’60s and ’70s. 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 ’70s, 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 have 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 fireplace. 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 alter 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 burns 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 affected 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 the 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 backups” 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 described 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 are 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 a 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.

Many Branches–Creating Sacred Space with Jacquelyn Tierney

Learning and Community

D

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.

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).

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.

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 collected 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 its initiation into a new chapter of life.

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.

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 life 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 season’s 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 experience 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.

So Fresh and So Clean – The Art of Sacred Bathing and Spiritual Cleansing

Purification and Cleansing

D

ear Miracles,

We can all feel the difference between a messy room and a clean room. Clutter, refuse, and objects that are not in their proper places create confusion, imbalance, and waste our time.  This is true for our physical lives as well as for our emotional and spiritual lives.  In our relationships, for example, we can see how continually bringing up issues from the past that need to be released and buried can damage the present.

Think of a clean kitchen. Maybe the kitchen is sparkling and spotless or maybe it is a little dingy around the corners but more or less clean.  Now imagine someone walking through that kitchen with mud on their feet, leaving their muddy footprints all over that clean kitchen floor. If this were really your kitchen what would you do?  Would you leave the muddy footprints where they are, ignoring them and hoping that they would go away?  Or would you get out the mop and go to work on them?

Most of us would not leave muddy footprints in our kitchens, but I am constantly surprised at how many folks refuse to clean up the muddy foot prints that have trekked all over their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. The problem of course is that one cannot take a bottle of pine-sol to the soul, so what can we do?

As it turns out, quite a bit. Folk healing and magical traditions world over have remedies that address the state of spiritual muddiness we all encounter from time to time. Below are some of the time honored traditions I have been taught and can personally vouch for.

 

Sacred Bathing

There is a saying in my family when one of us gets really sick. We say “I am so sick my hair hurts!” Have you ever been that ill, where your hair literally hurts? Thankfully I am not sick in that way very often these days but when I am I immediately know what to do.

I wake up early in the morning before anyone else is up, I fill my bathtub with hot, hot, water and I pour in a handful of blessed salt, Angelica Root, Peppermint, Cinquefoil, Rosemary, a chunk of Bloodroot, a pinch of Lavender, and a sprinkle of Life Everlasting. Yes, I’m taking a bath to ease my body, to get the sweat up so that my lymphatic system goes into action, but I am also taking sacred bath — a bath of healing, restoration, and blessing.

Often in my work I advise someone to take a “sacred bath” — it is an easy and inexpensive ritual act that may be done at home whenever the need arises. Many of my clients know the basics of sacred bathing, quite a few of them have sacred bathing traditions in their own families. Even so we are well served in revisting the art of the sacred bath.

First we must ask ourselves, what is a sacred bath? I use the term sacred bath to denote a bath taken for ritual or ceremonial purposes as opposed to a bath taken only for physical cleaning. Sacred bathing is a tradition found throughout the world. The use of water in combination with the just right botanicals and minerals, blessings, and focused intention has been with us since ancient times. Special waters  herbs  roots, oils, and other preparations are often involved in sacred bathing. Blessing ways, petitions, affirmations or mantras may also be part of you sacred bath. Though sacred baths are taken for a variety of reasons, they usually have something to do with cleansing and purification of the body, mind, and spirit. To that end, let us consider the one element that every sacred bath has in common.

 

It all begins with water ~

Water is one of the four classical elements honored in the Western Sacred Arts, the element of Water is also acknowledged and represented in many Asian and African traditions as well. Universally water is seen as an ideal element to work with in rituals concerned with healing, restoration, and cleansing. It is also commonly included in ceremonies designed to deepen an individual’s relationship to their intuition and inner knowing.

Tales of sacred springs, holy lakes, and blessed bodies of waters populate both myth and fairy tales while even today in largely Catholic areas holy water is gathered and used in the daily blessing of family, home, and land.

Often the realm of the dead and the realm of the living are separated by, among other things, a river or body of water. This has found modern translation in the teaching that whenever one is visiting a graveyard or trafficking with  spirits of the dead,  a good way to cleanse away any negative or malicious energy is to cross running water either in a vehicle or by foot as the belief is that the departed will not be able to move past that natural boundary line. We also find the notion of water’s protective qualities emphasized in the belief that setting a glass of clean water on a bedside table may protect whoever slumbers from unwelcome nightmares.

With the level of emphasis placed on water it should come as no surprise that the kind of water we use in a sacred bath is quite important. In myth and folklore we often find very specific rites given that involve bathing is specific bodies of water at specific times of day and even during specific times of the year. To this day in many countries pilgrimages are made by people of all faiths to bodies of water that are believed to be particularly blessed.

For our purposes I will assume that sacred bathing is a rite my readers desire to perform at home, where there is not necessarily a sacred body of water near by. I will also note that for some of us who, like myself, live in water-poor parts of the world any body of water is sacred! No matter where you are bathing, it is always advised to procure water from a natural source usually a spring or underground natural aquifer.  If your water comes from a man-made reservoir or desalination plant for instance, you may want to represent water from a natural source by taking a cup or bowlful of spring, river, or lake water and adding it to your bath. If you choose to do this please note that some water does contain bacteria and other impurities that can be dangerous. Many rivers, streams, and springs have information about their bacteria levels available on the web, but if you cannot make sure that the water you have is safe then boiling it for at least ten minutes is a good way to quickly purify it for use.

Those are the outer, external considerations around the most essential element. But as you prepare your sacred bath, I encourage you to consider your inner relationship to the element of Water as well. What does water mean to you? What do you think and feel and envision when you hear the word “water”? How much water do you drink every day? How many ways do you use water on a daily basis? How many aspects of your life are directly supported by the presence of water? You are going to water for sacred purposes so take a few moments to reflect on your relationship to it, practically and spiritually, will do nothing but deepen your entire experience.

 

Name your purpose ~

After you have decided on the right source of water for your sacred bath you will want to take some time to think about why you are creating a bathing ceremony to begin with. What are the muddy footprints you are seeking to clean up after? When, where, and how did they appear in your life? Are you dealing with the debris that follows in the wake of lack of self-care? Are you seeking to heal a broken heart or bandage wounded pride? Is your desire to celebrate sensual beauty and pleasure? You can get clear on your intention by asking these two questions:
1.) What outer change am I looking for?
2.) What inner changes are required to support that outer change?

 

Then add Botanicals and Blessings ~

Your purpose or intention is what will guide your choices in botanical, mineral, and blessing elements to add to your sacred bath blend. While there are many herbal books and encyclopedias that will list out various plants and their spiritual associations and uses, I have been taught that the individual bathing should have their own relationship with whatever ingredients they choose to work with. If you grow plants yourself always look at your own garden for inspiration. If you responsibly wildcraft then take a walk in the woods and consider what botanicals might be willing to lend you their medicine. Of course you can always look at the books but starting in your own kitchen gives you a much more direct relationship with the entire process.

The same is true of the blessings, petitions, prayers, affirmations, mantras, or words of power that you intend to use. Your stated goal, the external change you are hoping to achieve, will go a long way in helping you determine the best way to make your prayer and bless yourself. If in doubt, you can always go with a general blessing like this Blessing of the Body.

This is also the part of the process where you consider what kind of bathing preparation you wish to create. Are you creating a mineral rich restorative bath soak? Are you going to create a delightfully fizzy bath bomb or a specialty bath melt? If you only have a shower and think that you cannot have a sacred bathing experience because you do not have a bath tub then I have news for you: a bundle of fresh herbs tied directly to your shower nozzle is fragrant and pure magic. For great ideas on the art of bathing and the many preparations that are possible I strong recommend the magazine Willow and Sage. Keep in mind that after taking your sacred bath you might want to anoint yourself with an oil, lotion, or dust yourself with powder – all of the same principles apply to making or choosing these formulas.

 

The Bath itself ~

As I always say, look first to your own traditions and the practices you have made your own — because water is such a universally recognized element and sacred bathing is a sacred art found world over, many of you will already have ways and means of sacred bathing that work beautifully for you. However, if you do not have a framework within which to work, then allow me to share some of my own approaches.

In my family sacred baths are usually taken at dawn because the sun is considered one of the most important celestial bodies to observe. At dawn the sun begins to rise and is viewed as both young and strong. Whenever we wish to draw something to us — be it cleansing, renewed health, love, wealth, or specific opportunities, we take our sacred bath at dawn to attune ourselves to that nascent solar potency. In rarer cases a sacred bath may be taken at dusk when the sun is setting. The purpose behind that choice is concerned with banishing something or someone from our lives — such as illness, cross words between friends, etc.

Lunar phases may also be taken into consideration following the common motif of working to draw good things to you during the period from the New Moon to the Full Moon and working to remove things from your life during the period from the Full Moon to the New.

Once you have decided on the right time for your ritual I recommend that you gather whatever you will need. Clean towels, clean clothes, and in many traditions clean shoes or socks are all highly recommended. If you are going to bed after your sacred bath then clean sheets and a lovely scent in your bedroom might be added to your list. If you are going to recite specific words during your sacred bath then have a copy of those words at the ready. Candles, essential oils or incense, music, and whatever other ceremonial items you may wish to have present can all play a role in your bathing experience. You might even want to have a special drink or delightful treat on hand as you bathe – it is traditional to end ceremonies with some kind of feast after all! You will also want a small cup or bowl, the purpose of which will be explained below.

The Details are in the Disposal ~

As I have been taught, the final part of the sacred bath is the most important. Once you have finished bathing you may wish to anoint yourself with an oil or lotion and/or dust yourself with powder. Traditions like African American Conjure place a great emphasis on allowing yourself to air dry. Other traditions such as Currendera encourage wrapping up in a special towel or blanket. Choose what makes sense and feels in best alignment with your stated purpose. The next step is the most critical: before draining the tub or stepping out of the shower you will want to collect some of the water with which you have bathed. This water now carries your imprint, your essence, and as such it has become a magical material. Like all such materials it must be disposed of with respect and purpose. So if your desire is to draw blessing and abundance then pour out the water at the base of a large and healthy tree facing east. If your desire to remove affliction pour the water out at a four way crossroads while facing west — and when you turn to go home go in a different direction than the one you came, and never, step back over the place where you have poured out the water.

Although the steps to sacred bathing may sound time consuming and exhausting at first, this really is one of the most simple and straightforward ritual acts you can perform. It is also a kind thing to do for yourself and your precious body – be careful, you may soon find that every bath you take becomes a sacred bath!

 

Spiritually Cleansing a space or vehicle~

A sacred bath is one approach (and my favorite) to spiritual cleansing, but it is important to keep in mind that the places and spaces we physically occupy can also accrue their own energetic funk and need to be cleaned up from time to time. When it comes to cleaning any physical space there are a couple of guidelines to keep in mind.

Clean from top to bottom (this is just practical sense, you dust before you vacuum) and back to front.  This applies whether you are cleaning a room, cubicle, entire house, or vehicle.  My favorite spiritual cleansing agent is one that my mother and I make every year — we call it Momma Hen’s Fabulous ‘n’ Famous floor wash. I also like Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbena scented products which are made from essential oils, are biodegradable, and phosphate free. Lemon Verbena is one of many herbs used to spiritually clean, unlock doors, open the way, and attract good luck.  As always consider what botanicals are your natural allies in this endeavor.

Whether cleaning a single room, home, or vehicle start in the back and move to the front. When cleaning multiple rooms after the first room has been dusted, mopped, and vacuumed you can say a blessing over the space, light a bit of incense, and/or light a small candle.

If you have co-workers who are negative and difficult for you to be around, stuck in a job that is not rocking your world, or dealing with aggressive supervisors then magically cleaning your work space, office, or cubicle is a good idea. Follow the same basic guidelines for cleaning a house. Obviously, skip lighting the candle or incense, reciting the blessing is just fine. If vacuuming is not feasible then lightly dust your area with finely ground botanicals you associate with abundance and good fortune.

Vehicles are another area that can benefit from spiritual cleanings.  Again, the principle is the same: cleanse from top to bottom and back to front.  Make sure that you clean the inside and outside of the vehicle, including the tires.

In closing I would simply say that it is not merely coincidental and that in myth, in folklore, and in many spiritual traditions that art of sacred bathing and spiritual cleaning are strong emphasized. During these acts more than perhaps any other we are able to fully see ourselves – our broken places, our beauty, and our blessings. From that clear vision we are able to call in all that is whole-making, healing, and holy – what greater magic is there?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Beth Owl’s Daughter

Learning and Community

D

ear Miracles,

So one of the things that I really do love about the web is how it has allowed me to connect to people that I would not have encountered otherwise and Beth Owl’s Daughter falls into that category. I LOVE her! We have been in some of the same social circles because we are both tarot readers but we really hit it off when I wrote an article about the Sylvia Brown episode and Beth graciously posted it at her very popular blog. From then on I knew I had found a kindred spirit in Beth Owl’s Daughter-even though we live far apart, and even though our busy schedules do not allow us to connect that often, we wave to each other through social media and I know that she stands with several other gifted intuitive as an example of what our field can be if we are willing to work with honesty and integrity!

In her own words: 

For over four decades, Beth Owl’s Daughter has been a mystic, seer, and spiritual guide in the non-ordinary realms.  A trained Priestess and intuitive, she devotes her life to sharing her gifts with thousands of clients worldwide. Her lifelong passion has been working with the Tarot, an art she has been practicing since 1972.

Beth is…

* a master level Tarotist. She is a member of several organizations that promote and set guidelines for ethical Tarot practice.

* an internationally respected reader, teacher, writer, and leader in the professional Tarot community.  She has published hundreds of articles, reviews, and columns about the Tarot both in print and online. She has been featured in many radio interviews and podcasts and her blog and newsletter have received numerous awards.

* a former officer on the Board of Directors for Cherry Hill Seminary, the world’s first and only graduate-level educational institution for Pagan clergy.

* the founder and organizer of one of the world’s largest, oldest, and most successful Tarot social groups (the Triangle Tarot and Friends Meetup).

Beth Owl’s Daughter is also an ordained interdenominational minister, an Usui Reiki healer, and she practices the Craft with deep roots in the Reclaiming and Faery traditions.  She lives in a little cottage in the woods of northern Durham County, NC with her husband John, their cat, and countless spirit allies.

These days, having completed her second Saturn return, she is deepening her magical practice, and doing more teaching and writing.

You can find Beth on the World Wide Web at the following hot spots!
Her awesome website!
Twitter

So, everyone probably asks you about your name, and I was reading about your name on your site. One of the features pointed out about owls is that they form a “Link between the dark, unseen world and the world of light” and I LOVE this idea. How does this resonate with your own work–do you form a link yourself, do you illuminate links that are already there?

Oh, what a fun, insightful question!  Thank you!

What this means to me is also expressed beautifully by the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, when he said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Mainly, I think I am a seer of patterns, which is why I love the Tarot since it is a symbolic pattern language.  With Tarot, and my other ways of knowing, I can see how patterns of behavior, thought, and habits act like engines in the subterranean realms in our consciousness. They can drive unhappy choices, self-sabotage, and other distortions that bring suffering.  Until they are recognized, they can seem like forces beyond our control or even understanding.

I do feel that at times, I am just helping show what is already there.  Other times, I experience that healing and transformation move through me coming straight from Mystery.  So I guess the answer to your question is I am honored to do both.

Your tagline is: practical wisdom for an extraordinary living–can you talk a little bit about how arts like tarot reading and magic can lead to practical wisdom? 

I don’t know if I can talk a little about this. I can, however, talk on, and on, and on about it!

But attempting to be brief, I think that Tarot has gotten a bad rap as being only for gullible cloud cuckoo-land woo-woos.  While I do use the cards in mystical and esoteric ways, I also see Tarot as an instant, intimate kind of personal Google.

The Tarot can be an instant, truth-telling tool any time you need help on your creative projects, understanding relationships, working through life passages when you need support for healing – just about anything.  It can especially help us get clarity and perspective when making choices, even in the most everyday situations.

For instance, I love to consult the cards when I am writing and get stuck.

The first time I tried this was about thirty years ago.  I was writing a short story and couldn’t decide which way the plot ought to go. I got the bright idea of doing a reading to ask.

Surprise!  I got everything I needed and more!  The court cards told me about the dynamics of the characters in ways I had not considered; a couple of Major Arcana cards revealed huge insights about their motivations, and the pips offered a much better story arc than the one I’d planned.

Looking back, it seems so obvious, but at the time, it was jaw-dropping to me. Since then, of course, my fabulous Tarot colleague, Corrine Kenner, has written the ultimate book about using the Tarot as a writer’s tool, Tarot for Writers.

After that epiphany, I began exploring the most mundane questions about my work projects, vacation plans, and so on. I don’t recommend becoming dependent on the Tarot for every single decision in your life, but I also think that we have only just begun to discover the many pragmatic ways it can help us live on a bigger, more empowered and joyful level.

You are a tarot reader like myself — what is one thing about the work of tarot reading you wish more people understood or were exposed to?

Please don’t ask me to tell you what will happen. “Will he ask me to marry him?” “Will I get the job?” “Will, my house sell? And when?” “How soon before my daughter moves out?”

These are typical questions and I absolutely do understand our very human desire to wish we knew all the answers in advance. But that is not how the Tarot works because that is not how life works.

Tarot tells the truth. And the truth is, there is not some immutable destination called “the future,” that we are all just passively riding towards.  This is not a movie and we are not following a preordained script.

Yes, there are some readers who offer predictive readings, but even they will remind you (if they are ethical readers, that is), nothing is carved in stone – your free will to choose is always an option.

Other than our mortality, we can change just about anything. I just can’t buy that we are stuck on some conveyor belt of time heading into one fated event after another.

So my approach is to encourage questions that bring us clarity and understanding about the underlying relationships, perspectives, assumptions, and choices that are currently at work in our lives. The better we can see those, the better we can anticipate and shape the experiences that we actually want.

The closest thing to any correct answer about what will happen is another question: “What do you want to have happened?”

Knowing and naming your heart’s desire is true north and the Tarot is a compass.

Tell me about the Tarot Boutiques–they sound amazing!

Oh, Bri – they really are! We are having so much fun with these!

As you may know, I have been teaching introductory Tarot classes for many years and also leading our Raleigh-Durham Meetup, where we’ve had lots of study programs taught by myself and our other members.

But I have wanted to offer something more advanced, intimate, and even experimental.  My home is the ideal place because it has a very peaceful, magical vibe that I love to share.

Since January, once a month, I have been facilitating tiny “boutique” workshops that appeal to the “discerning Tarot connoisseur.” Each workshop is designed to focus on one specialty topic that can add sparkle to your personal or professional practice.

We have played dress-up, embodying the Tarot Soul Cards; we have gone on guided meditations; we have investigated how to create spreads and how to ask questions, and much more. And all with tasty snacks, lol!

Upcoming classes include working with Valerie Sim’s “Comp Tarot” method of comparing answers from different decks; creating and using a Tarot journal to boost your knowledge; Tarot as Muse (for writers, yes, but all kinds of creative pursuits); the use of herbal magic in association with the Tarot; and a mini-series about going pro.

Really, the possibilities are infinite, especially with my participants also adding their suggestions.  One afternoon a month, geeking out on Tarot in a kaleidoscope of ways – what could be better?

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

I believe we are living in a time when it is crucial for every one of us to find our gifts and get involved. We no longer have the luxury of playing small or hiding out behind our petty dramas. Find your vast underground pool of courage and step up!

Each person reading this has powerful intuitive wisdom and has the ability to make vastly important changes in a world that is in desperate need. Those changes may look small, but we never know which small action will be the tipping point that makes all the difference in the end.

Whether it is the Tarot, or runes, or healing, or simply cultivating more enlightenment and love – now is the time we were born for.  Keep asking questions, dare to peek behind the curtain of consensual reality.  You are so much more powerful than you might have thought, and our world is far more mysterious, aware, and divine than we’ve been led to believe.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.