Standing in the Depths by the Little Church in the Mountain

Foundations

The bone-filled catacombs of St. Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna. Vestibule at Windsor Abbey. National basilica in Washington, D.C.  Rowdy jam sessions at American and Missionary Baptist Churches.

I love these churches. I don’t always love what they stand for, but I love the reverence they are filled with, and I especially love the stories that they tell.

But none of these churches compare to a certain little shrine carved into a rocky cliff-side in Northern New Mexico. You might miss it if you didn’t know where to look.  The ground is rough, the sun hot, and when you visit, you will surely return with ankles covered in dust from a red dirt road.

I like to imagine the first moment it occurred to someone to make this shrine. Who was it? What was their name? A natural hollow in the face of the rock, perhaps by starlight, or firelight, or by the changing light of the seasons, was enough. Take some small tools in hand, a modest hammer and chisel perhaps; for the volcanic tuff across the valley, a simpler implement would do just fine, like a spoon. But go to work, scrape a little off here, a little there, and then smooth it until the hollow is deep and well-rounded, like the curvature of a big belly. Soon you will have the protected, safe space needed to make a home for a loving image of power and grace.

Every time I visit the shrine it is different. People leave their marks, their little touches. Someone has left money. Someone else has left flowers or removed old ones.  Photographs are left. Names and dates are etched into the sedimentary rock. Traces of countless untold stories are braided together into this space.

Carved into cliff and mountain, there is no pew here, no enforced silence. A great part of the charm, I think, is its informality, its improvised, unplanned character. More likely there is the basso beat of a low rider or pickup truck spraying gravel along the dirt road. Folk shrines like this one so often feel closer to the heart, to what a human being actually feels about the sacred and profane – not what we are led officially and symbolically to feel.  Beyond the official channels, there is a living poetry of human thought and feeling, a great simplicity and ineffable complexity to what we actually feel about the sacred and profane that resists easy formulation.

You can find some the best handmade, homespun, precious prayers in places like this, and their holiness is full-bodied and low, down to the ground, so that they might hear the words of even the smallest ones.

Folk shrines are not an exception to this part of the country, and they certainly were not invented by Christian folks. Perhaps no more evidence is needed than to go across the valley to see the cliff dwellings in Bandalier Canyon. But wherever we look, folk shrines in natural places are the norm for fragments of pre-modern life-ways that still remain today across the globe.

Look anywhere and you will find them. All lands have been graced by these handmade churches of stone and tree, river, and wind if you know where to look. Even the ancient Greek peoples of the Pericles’ Athens made informal folk shrines to the gods, goddesses and other semi-divine beings, places of power woven into the interstices of the natural landscape. Everywhere you turn, there would be a sacred center touched and memorialized in the plane trees and the rocks.

What do folk shrines remind us? Old ones have become such a part of the hills and forests, that they seem to have grown out of them. They make the hills hillier even, and the trees just a little greener. The marks and inscriptions left by countless unknown people are little messages to the next who come along: take heart! We were here. And yet there is a gleaming something that reminds us, that while we are in the world, having grown out of it, we are nevertheless not entirely of it. There is a little swerve, a little swing to the left, a powerful something that is free.

To be in the world, not of it, is like going out into the ocean, deep enough that you really feel the pressure of the water on your body, you feel the pull and push of the tide and yet, you stand your ground, you stay put, firm in this place that is your own. It requires strength of body and mind – an understanding of the ocean currents – not be pushed or pulled in this or that direction.

Then the tide’s strength and roar can so much that it overpowers you and you find yourself swept along once more – going in a direction you had not planned on, carried by a borrowed momentum and not one that comes from your own desire and choice. You get swept along and then the momentum slows, and you drift until something snags you, or you snag it, and you grind to a halt with wet hair and muddy feet, take a breath and get your bearings once more.

In life, we lose our footing and get carried away by the current. What really happens in those moments?  As I understand it, what happens is that we forget, we forget our own true innate holiness – that we are infinitely more than ourselves, and deeply rooted in a great, unfathomable mystery. We forget that inner swerve and swing which is somehow free from all circumstances – but which is something shared by all creatures. We forget too that we are born not to one world only, but two – a practical here and now, and an enchanted dream realm of then, now, and forever.

I was asked the other day what I mean when I say that I teach sacred arts to soulful seekers. Fair question. I’ll put it this way. If I could have one wish granted, it would be to see more cliff-side churches, more votive candles in limestone nichos, impromptu shrines in the trees and the rocks. Because these are shrines not just to the holy; they are sanctuaries to human vulnerability and strength, to memory, to our stories, and to the radical reverence found within and not away from the life we live and the land we live it upon.

The tides can be strong and the current overpowering. But the shrine in the mountainside continues to stand so that all might come, all might pray and bless, all might heal and weep, and on their ways back home with their dust covered ankles they remember, as do we, – we are in this world, not of it, not only.

What is your favorite shrine?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Why Walking Away is Rarely the Answer

Lunar Letter

D

ear Miracles,

If you remember in the August Lunar Letter, we looked at what it takes to be a soulful seeker. In a word, we saw the need for an “eyes-wide open” faith, which stays alive to our deepest and our sharpest questioning. In response to this Letter, I received several thoughtful messages from you asking me to write/speak on a related topic: what should we do when soulful seeking becomes a divisive wedge in relationships? 

This is a question I receive quite often, in many different forms, and all of you who wrote to me are right. This is a problem that needs to be addressed in our sacred arts communities.

One person finds herself trying to explain why she would like to have an area of her home dedicated to candles, prayer and contemplation, or to divination practices, and her spouse looks at her as if she’s sprouted a second head. She can take only so much of this, and begins to wonder if she should divorce him.

Another person tries to tell his secular Jewish parents that he would actually like to attend the neighborhood synagogue regularly, not just during the high holidays, and they roll their eyes at him, and his relationship with them suffers. They always seem to do and say things that undermine him.

Someone else finds herself unable to explain to her Baptist grandmother the finer points of her astrological chart and becomes worried that at any moment said grandmother may begin talking about the Devil’s handy work. She used to spend long afternoons with her grandmother, but it is becoming more and more difficult to do so – and she is even wondering if it wouldn’t be better for everyone if she stops visiting all together.

Yet another person finds herself making excuses and covering up when talking to intellectual friends who are skeptical of spiritual matters. She worries she’ll lose her friends.

Someone else no longer can talk to family, has becomes estranged, because she feels they stand on the other side of a vast unbridgeable canyon.

In order to belong, we can often feel we need to cover over our eccentricities. But if we do that, in some way it feels like we are betraying ourselves. If – on the other hand – we try to proclaim our differences proudly, then we risk destroying our relationships and isolating ourselves in unsupportable ways.

This is a tough one, people! And it is a very, very old conflict. One of the toughest things is that every relationship is different.  That means that there’s no silver-bullet, one size fits all, solution.  But the good news is that you’re not alone.

So what should we do? To approach this problem, let’s begin by identifying a trend. We see more and more commonly in our sacred arts communities today something like the following solution to the problem:

You come first. Do what is right for you no matter what the consequences. When conflicts arise the choice is clear: keep the spiritual teachings and practices and leave the relationship – even if it is your beloved, your parent, your sibling or child. 

Now let’s buck the trend and see what happens.  Try this on for size:

Relationship is first. Do what is right for you in the deepest and truest sense. When conflicts arise the choice is clear: if your spiritual teachings destroy your relationships – if they do not teach you how to approach relationships with greater wisdom and understanding – go back to the drawing board, seek wisdom, and ask, what is right relationship here, what does it look and feel like?  

Why might this alternative approach interest us as soulful seekers?  For one thing because the greatest mystical and sacro-magical teachings the world over emphasize one thing more than almost any other: right relationship.

Right relationship with the mysteries and powers of a magnificent cosmos.

Right relationship with our dear neighbors and loved ones (not to mention with strangers.)

Right relationship with ourselves.

There are times when certain relationships do indeed need to come to an end, or at the very least be re-assessed. And it is true that in some cases weaving spiritual practices into our daily lives can appear to create conflict.

But if certain relationships need to end, could it be because of – and not despite – the real need we all have (all of us, without exception!) for good and genuine relationships in our lives? If conflicts appear to be stirred up by practices, could it be that they were already there in the first place, but that somehow we were not acknowledging them properly?

The single greatest problem with the simplistic “you-centered” remedy is that relationships can never be avoided. Try as we might to make ourselves numero uno, we find ourselves again and again having to live and work with people.  Stubborn, intractable people!

Instead of trying to escape from this conflict without success, we might do well to consider the alternative. What if the very people who best push our buttons – the ones we love the most – and the very deepest conflicts in our lives, are our best teachers, the ones who grant us an perfect opportunity to seek greater understanding and wisdom, therefore to do soulful work? Just as we would never wish away our friends and best teachers, so we might do well to cease trying to escape from, or rid ourselves, of these conflicts at the roots of our life as human beings and as soulful seekers.

It makes sense, doesn’t it?  After all, one of the most valuable things we can learn from divination practices such as the Tarot as well as so many other sacred arts such as the storytelling tradition of faerie tales is not how to flee from conflicts, not how to put “ourselves first” no matter what, in order to soothe away conflicts temporarily. We learn, rather, how to fight well! We learn how to embrace the unknown and get out of conflicts and difficult times with more grace and wisdom, more wholeness and holiness, than we had before we went in. That is, we learn true sovereignty, and how to enter into a deeper more objective and vital engagement with relationships, facing conflicts with compassion, understanding and greater insight…and, above all else, a “can do” attitude characterized by inspired and wise action.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

New Moon in Libra: Peace passeth all Understanding

Lunar Letter

D

ear Miracles: In these days of the Dark Moon leading up to a Libran New Moon on 9/24, it is a good idea to turn our attention and intentions to peace. Not peace in the sense of covering things up or looking the other way when faced with injustice. Not the false peace of holding our tongues when we would do better to speak out, but deep peace, abiding peace, peace that truly does surpass our reasoned understanding or expectations.

I chose the image of two otters holding hands because first of all: Otters holding hands! And secondly, I think this is such a true image of peace. Two creatures, content for the moment, holding onto one another as they drift in mamma ocean. The ocean, like the world in which we live, can be full of wonder or terror and we all know that calm seas can turn stormy in an instant. The otters know that peace is often found in partnership — with a friend, a loved one, a generous ally. So it is for us too, when we are in right relationship, with our loved ones, our body, our work, our creative aspirations, then there are moments of peace.

As many of you know, the New Moon in sacro-magical work is the time of beginnings. It is the time when we can plant the tiny seeds of our intentions for the month, the next quarter, or even the entire year. One time-honored way of “planting” is through ritual. So what seeds, what rituals are most appropriate for this particular New Moon?

Peace obviously is one good focal point. Libra, the sign of balance and harmony, chooses conversation over conflict and diplomacy over threats. Mars in Sagittarius places his discipline and drive for perfection in the areas of learning teaching, philosophy, and exposure to other ways of doing things — together these two can work beautifully especially in the areas of international relationships. Whether you are dealing with family drama or concerned about a geopolitical crisis, this New Moon offers a cosmic “reset” button…allowing us to change approach and strategy to create more collaboration and less strife.

Those of you dealing with a court case or legal issues may find that intentions and desires that are ritualized during this New Moon carry great weight and do much to bring any legal troubles or stresses to an end. (Libra is, after all, the sign of law).

Love is another good area to explore under the aegis of this beautiful New Moon. Specifically mending and healing broken love relationships of all kinds, working towards reconciliation, and infusing fireworks and fun into already existing and solid relationships is an excellent idea.

Money/Career affairs can receive an extra dose of brilliant insight at this time due to the lovely trine between Jupiter and Uranus. If you have been stuck on a money situation or feel like the financial sector of your life needs a boost then work this alignment by giving yourself a few days around and including the New Moon to brainstorm and delve deep into your relationship to money, work, and abundance. You are guaranteed to discover treasure.

Because Sagittarius has a dreamy, wildly psychic and creative side, this New Moon is quite good for sign and synchronicity watching as well. If you have been waiting for the right time to ask the universe for a sign, this period would is hard to beat!

Two good divination questions to ask during this beautiful black moon are:
Where in my life and/or what in my life needs peace now?
How can I provide or make space for that peace?

Wishing you deep, meaningful, peace.

PS: Don’t forget that registration for Three Ways of Wisdom closes on 9/22. If you want to take a tarot class with me this year, this is the class and now is the time!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

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

Alchemy and Magic

D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

How to make a honey jar (with pictures!!!)

Alchemy and Magic

D

ear Miracles,

Life is sweet but sometimes it needs to be a little sweeter, yes? So it is that honey jars were born and have become one of the most popular and well-known techniques in folk magic. Today I wanted to share with you both in words and pictures on how to put a honey jar together.

As it turns out, honey jars are not just for tea and biscuits! There is actually a long history of folk magic traditions working with sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, simple syrup, and other sweeteners to promote love, kindness, joy, harmony, goodwill, and favored status. The theory is simple enough and a great example of sympathetic and contagious magic: because the primary medium (a sweetener of some kind) is used in a directed manner towards a specific person the intention is that said person will become “sweeter,” more kind, tender, loving, and harmonious.

Although “honey jar” is the preferred term, I actually like to use Whole Foods’ vegan sugar in my jars. I like sugar because it is less messy than honey, it’s easy to take petition papers out and add new papers if the need arises, and sugar is also less expensive than honey. I use vegan sugar which might seem strange until you understand that most sugar is processed through filters made of animal bones (due to the high heat required during the refining process). Vegan sugar is not.

honey_jar_contents

Honey Jars and sweetening bottles are created and worked with for a variety of reasons. Some like to make a jar that represents themselves so that they will be kinder and more loving to all of the people in their lives. Others choose to create a honey jar to mark a marriage or special anniversary and to bless a couple with years of love and tenderness. In other cases, honey jars may be used in a more compelling manner–to make a difficult boss like you better, to encourage a judge or jury to find in your favor, or to persuade your students or clients to work with you and follow your lead. Making honey jars is relatively easy; because of this they have become one of the more popular forms of magic–and because of the materials involved, you can get very creative (or stay simple) in the creation process.

First, you need to write a petition:

honey_jar_petition_1

The petition made for a honey jar tends to follow a specific format. First, you will write the name of your target (the person you would like the honey jar to effect), then you will turn the paper 90 degrees and write your name on top of the target’s name. If you are doing a honey jar on yourself then you do not have to do this second step.

Some people like to use pencil for the target’s name and then a pen or permanent marker for their own name–the idea behind this is that permanent ink is “stronger” than a pencil (which can be erased) and therefore exerts more influence. I personally like a strong ink that I can see well for both names. After the names have been inscribed its time to create a magical circle around them like this:

honey_jar_petition_2

During the writing in a circle around the names, the pen cannot be lifted from the paper and this is why it makes sense to use a short and sweet prayer. In this demo, I used the prayer: “love and blessings” over and over again.

An optional but fun step is to embellish the petition paper:

honey_jar_petition_3 (1)

Once the petition is completed you can anoint it with oil and then fold it towards you. Turn the paper 90 degrees and fold it towards yourself again. Now you are ready to add it to the sweetening jar. Different people have different attitudes about the jars themselves. Personally, I like Ball Canning Regular Mouth Half Pint Canning Jars. I like using a regular, inexpensive jar and then embellishing it myself–that is part of the magic! It’s also essential to have a metal/heatproof lid if you want to burn candles on the jar.

honey_jar_complete (1)

You will add your sweetening agent be it sugar or honey but then you will also want to add roots, herbs, and curios that are appropriate for whatever situation you are working on. If you do not know the first thing about herb magic, don’t worry–I have an Amazon store chock full of my favorite herb books! Once you have added what you want in the way of herbs, roots, and curios your jar will look beautiful and you can tuck the petition right in. Make sure that the petition is totally covered by the contents of the jar. Now in some cases at this point, people like to ask if they can use the sweetening agent that is in the jar and the answer is…it depends on what you put in it!

Obviously, if you used any toxic roots or herbs when making the jar you will not be able to consume the sugar/syrup/honey. However, if you used edible plants (of which there are MANY) you can eat the sweetener and you can also use it in baking, cooking, and beverage making. In fact, one very simple and stripped down honey jar spell involves putting a whole vanilla bean into the family canister of sugar–it is believed that this leads to a happy and peaceful home. The sugar, of course, is used in the day to day doings of the family and its magic extends through use!

At this point, you could stop. These days a lot of people are making sugar jars and then they work them and magically impart their intention onto them by praying over them, stating their desires and shaking them rhythmically. However, some of the oldest honey jar workings do center around a candle and adding a candle to your honey jar is a wonderful way to imbue the magic of fire into your work–and it also can provide you with a great focal point as you pray or charge up the jar.

Choose a candle that resonates with you–many people like to work with specific colors of candles. For the demo, I went with a blue and yellow candle since the jar I was demoing was made for love, communication, and healing. You will want to anoint the candle with a ritual anointing oil appropriate to your situation. Hold the candle at heart level and draw the oil from the base of the candle towards your body. You may also want to dress the candle with ground herbs, ground herbs and magical sachet powder, and of course glitter:

dressing_a_candle_for_honey_jar

Set the candle on top of the honey jar and it’s time to light it!

I consider honey jars an endurance type of ritual work. Typically they are fashioned with the intention of being worked for a long time — at least several months and often for years. The jars are usually set up on an altar or dedicated working space. Candles can be burned on them and they can be prayed over and put to work every day, two or three times a week, or on a monthly basis. Pay attention to the way the wax of the candle melts and the way the flame burns when you are working your honey jar–these are two of the main ways that you will receive confirmation and affirmation that your magic is doing its thing! And remember, when in doubt you can always order a custom-crafted honey jar of your very own.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

10 Ways to Heal (and deal with) a Broken Heart

Right Relationship

D

ear Miracles:

Being brokenhearted sucks.

Even with a broken heart, most of us know intuitively that we are better off, we’ll learn a powerful lesson, and we’ll know better next time. But in the deep night when our chest feels like it has a huge, gaping wound and our guts are tied in knots–all of that knowledge is a sorry source of comfort. Much of my work deals with love and romance and I have seen my share of broken hearts personally and professionally.

One of the worst things about being brokenhearted is feeling like there is NOTHING you can do to help yourself. But there is!

I offer you a hand-picked list of ten ideas to help light your way through that darkness:

 

1.) Sit with it and feel it.

Breneé Brown has two terrific TED talks on vulnerability and shame. Go listen to them. I’ll wait. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make and I’ve made it myself is to run away from feelings and thoughts that are not pleasant; feelings that might be a little scary or even a lot painful. Don’t run. Heartbreak will only follow you. Before you heal, you’ve got to deal.

 

2.) Stop the blame train.

If I hadn’t done that; if he had said this.” On a superficial level, does it matter who has the lion’s share of blame? Maybe.

On a soul level, does it matter?  No.

If you start hopping on the blame train try rephrasing it this way, “The next time I am going to focus more on,__________” or, “Right now I want to feel_________.” These are petitions that can actually help you.

 

3.) You are not an island.

Heartbreak is an underworld adventure for your soul.  In our times of heartbreak it may look on the surface like everything is fine while inside we feel dead like a zombie, checked out, departed, and alone. Your journey is yours but you are not an island. Our lives are constantly touching and rubbing against each other. Call on your friends and family for support.  Do not make every conversation with them an opportunity to figure out what went wrong or slam your ex.  They have lives, too.  Ask about them and what they’re dealing with.

 

4.) Invest in kindness to yourself and others.

Book a massage, get a heart-healing anointing oil, volunteer at a soup kitchen, help a kid learn to read. Heartbreak rides on the fear that you have nothing left to give. Oh yes, you do.

 

5.) Embrace Beauty

Read good poetry and/or make a space for something beautiful. Fresh flowers, the art museum, your local Waldorf School’s Gift shop. Beauty heals.

 

6.) Get pissed.

Feeling wronged? Swallowing anger makes us sick. Wallowing in anger is the basis for many Greek tragedies. The trick is to focus your anger. Make it a ritual.

Think: prescribed time, place, opening and closing and then create an activity to help you purge. Burning all your pictures of him, kick-boxing a bag with her face on it, putting an entire garden bed in, just letting yourself yell for half an hour. Let it out so you can let it go.

 

7.) Admit that it is not all OK

Understand that everything will not be all right for awhile. This is not a failing. This means that you are a living, thinking, breathing creature who gives a damn. Never feel bad for giving a damn.

 

8.) Revenge = no bueno.

Revenge is motivated by a desire for justice and fairness. The problem is that revenge also blocks out justice and fairness. You are better than that. Do something crafty, like making a salt jar instead.

 

9.) Treat it like trauma (because it is).

If you had a head injury you would be careful with yourself.  You would learn about what might heal and help you.  You would not expect too much too soon.  Heartbreak is a trauma. Treat it as such.  Learn about healing emotional trauma and also about spiritual cleansing.

 

10.) Accept help.

One time I went hunting with my uncle. It was right after Christmas, about 4:00 in the morning, very dark and very cold. My uncle does not hunt from a blind. He picks a spot and beds down with his dogs. As anyone who has seriously hunted for meat knows, most of hunting is waiting and watching. I saw lots of things in that cold, dark morning. Some were real and some were imagined.

This terrain is similar to what we travel when we experience heartbreak. Dark, a bit alien, unfamiliar but presences make themselves known to us sometimes because we are open in a unique way. Pay attention to what appears. If you need assistance in thinking about that contact a spiritual worker.

Heartbreak is hard, but in a broken heart there is room…for grace.

 

Save

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Power & Grace-The Difference is in the heart

Right Relationship

D

ear Miracles: I would like to tell you about Anima Sola and her sometimes twin spirit the Intranquil Spirit. When I sit down to write and when I stand up to pray Anima Sola is often the image that comes to my mind. You have probably seen this vision of her too.

To me Anima Sola, whose name literally means the Lonely Soul, is an image that we are all somewhat familiar with, one that we carry with us. She is in bondage, alone, imprisoned, but nevertheless holding out hope, nevertheless keeping her eye on her ultimate goal, refusing to allow immediate circumstance to define every aspect of her experience. This is an aspect of experience that the alchemists of old called the nigredo — the dark period that occurs between two days, the period of dying back, cutting out, and ultimately making space for grace. When I write it is with the hope that my writing will in some way ease the Anima Sola we all possess. When I pray it is with the expectation that my prayers will offer a little bit of healing balm to the lonely soul, a little bit of water to those who have been in a desert for far too long.

Whenever we experience hardships of any kind there are two basic approaches we can cultivate. One approach is to look for the ways in which we may gain power over the hardship. So finances have you down, simply make more money. Love not working out the way you want it to, find a new lover, someone betrayed you, take vengeance on them (and make it good). The path of power is a tempting path to walk for many reasons, but one of the most prominent is that power is effective. Wielding power can get you what you want (or what you think you want) in double time. The second approach we can take to hardship though is grace. Grace is defined in many ways but when we look at the word’s Latin root we see gratus which is a cognate of our modern word “grateful.” This gives us a clue about meeting hardship with grace — we come to our experiences with a sense of gratefulness. To be clear, I am not advocating a martyr complex or a need to go looking for difficulties — they will find us, I promise! But to meet what hardships do come with a cheerful optimism, to be grateful for what is present and to be grateful for the opportunity to learn — even in and especially in the most fire hardened moments, this seems to me to be a path of wisdom. Anima Sola and her sometimes sister the Intranquil Spirit illustrate the point beautifully.

The Intranquil Spirit is a figure petitioned in several different systems of folk magic — including African-American based Conjure as well as Mexican folk magic and Catholic Folk traditions. The presence of the Intranquil Spirit is requested, usually by a woman, after a love relationship has ended. She is a coercive spirit and the intention in calling her forth is to torture one’s ex partner to the point that they become so miserable that they are forced to return to their old lover. Although the Intranquil Spirit is usually conceived of as female, some practitioners have observed that there are actually several different kinds of Intranquil Spirits that will show up for a job, some female, some male. Not every spirit worker will work with Intranquil Spirit because the energy invoked is so harsh. Though it’s understandable to anyone who has been through an especially painful break up how one might be in the position of wanting the return of their lover NO MATTER WHAT — magical workers often find that working with the Intranquil Spirit creates more complications than it solves and that the reconciliations this spirit brings about are often still emotionally fraught. Though the spirit is conceived of as feminine, the main traditional image associated with the spirit shows a white bearded man sitting in judgement over the world.

intranquil spirit One of the traditional images associated with the Intranquil Spirit. Although the spirit is usually conceived of as female in this image the spirit resembles a male God in a position of judgement.
The Intranquil Spirit’s name gives away the story-it is a spirit who has departed from the physical world — perhaps in a violent or unjust manner — and as a result it continues to cling to the earthly plane looking for peace, closure, and a final resting place but never finding them — thus the Intranquility. The motivation of calling forth such an energy in magic is to make the target of the Intranquil Spirit equally unhappy, restless, and confused until they commit a certain set of specific actions (usually having to do with returning to their lovers). Putting aside the moral issues of compelling someone to do anything by wishing misery and unhappiness upon them, it is obvious that the Intranquil Spirit works through power — specifically overpowering someone so that they act in such a manner that goes against their stated will. The spirit (and magician) who calls upon her expects to win the situation by overpowering the opponent. But there is another way…in magic, in life, and certainly in matters of the heart — and that is the way of Grace.

The image of Anima Sola is a well known image, especially where I live in the Southwest. We see a lovely dark haired and dark eyed beauty whose wrists are chained and who is being licked at by some vicious looking flames. For a non Catholic the assumption would be that the poor girl has landed herself in hell, but she is actually understood to be in Purgatory — the intermediary realm between heaven and hell that a soul achieves when it dies with sins left uncleansed but in a state of grace nonetheless. This state of grace that Anima Sola possessed upon her death is the first clue that she works through grace as opposed to power. In both Catholic and folk magic practices framed by Catholicism, Anima Sola is petitioned by people on behalf of their beloved and departed ones whose souls are believed to be in Purgatory — she is petitioned for deliverance, aid and succor to those who have passed beyond the veil. Her veneration is especially strong in Mexico, South and Central America, and Italy — especially in Naples and Florence. Because her veneration in Italy is well documented and seems to have started around the same time that Dante Aligheri published the Divine Comedy and the concept of Purgatory became widely accepted by the Catholic church I have a personal pet theory that Anima Sola may be based on one of the characters that Dante placed either in Purgatory or in the lowest (least painful) level of the Inferno.

Anima Sola is not simply a spirit prayed to on behalf of those caught in the in-between realm of Purgatory — she is believed to have landed in Purgatory herself due to misplaced romantic affections — she fell in love with the wrong man. How human! How familiar! We are not sure if he was the wrong man because he did not reciprocate, was already married, or did reciprocate and the relationship was inappropriate — but illicit romance is often given as the reason why she is in Purgatory. For this reason she is petitioned and worked with in some magical traditions such as Voudo and Santeria and Lukumi in the same manner that the Intranquil Spirit is. However, what I have found in working with Anima Sola is that she does not work at like the Intranquil Spirit at all — Anima Sola’s transformative magic lies in her state of grace — even as she carries sin upon her, even as she suffers, she is open to grace and her eyes are fixed on transcendence. For those of us who are not Catholic or have a hard time identifying with concepts like sin, heaven, and hell, Anima Sola can still be a wonderful spiritual helper.

Her presence reminds us to be open to grace at all times — and it also reminds us that opening to grace is really all we can do — we cannot make someone love us, bend to our will, or go our way-we can only open ourselves to the grace that lies in all things all around us at all times. In cases unrequited love and/or painful break ups Anima Sola can be a great helper because she understands loneliness — the way it is all consuming much like the flames she is immersed in. Because she understands loneliness, pain, suffering and redemption she also knows (and reminds us) that there is always tomorrow — that even though we may feel in the lowest pit of hell today, tomorrow offers new light, new life, and new hope. In cases where a loving relationship has ended due to a lack of understanding, courage, or care Anima Sola can be petitioned to bring loneliness to the forefront of someone’s mind-not to punish but to remind that the whole is greater than the parts and that turning our back on true love is perhaps the greatest error of all.

How to work with Anima Sola

If the themes around Anima Sola resonate with you on any level you will of course want to know how you can best go about working with her. My experience with Anima Sola is that she likes her image to be placed on your working space — and if you can create a shrine around her all the better. She loves red sequins, flowers, a glass of water, and cinnamon. I burn cinnamon chips on charcoal disks when I am working with her and I also offer her hard cinnamon candies. She is a spirit who works on our hearts and heart-based knowing (as well as heart-based fears) so incorporating herbs and roots that altar the heart’s rhythms and physiology can be appropriate — mandrake and belladonna are two plants that I use for this — external only of course, do not ingest either plant and in fact be careful when handling them as they really do alter your heart’s physiology! Petitioning her on a Saturday is a good way to begin and as I recommend for most spirit work — simply speak or pray from your heart and pay attention to the ways in which she might answer you.

There is the way of power and there is the way of grace. One relies on our own strength of will while the other relies on strength of trust and the knowledge that we are enough-blessed, whole, and holy already just as we are.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.