Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Accepting Your Ashe'

Leading a "spiritual life" incorporates a few basic concepts. Probably the most difficult concept for people to grasp is the accepting of change and the idea of ashe'. It sounds like two concepts but change is one facet of ashe'. Accepting change is the only way to be drama-free, stress-less, and lead a truly fulfilled life. People have a tendency to throw their hands up when things go wrong-this is not accepting change. This is giving up. True, change is inevitable but throwing your hands up is not the same as throwing your arms around it.

For instance, this is a common one; the car breaks down. Nearly every person this happens to says something to the effect of "this always happens to me!".Well, if you keep saying that and having that reaction it will keep happening to you because you are not learning the lesson. Shit breaks. Our bodies wear out, our hair goes grey, toys break, batteries run down, and machines fail. Do you really think all this has something to do with you? You have nothing to do with time and time and chance is all that makes your car break down. The more you complain and try to give it an identity of having something to do with you, the longer you will live in frustration. By trying to associate something with you that has nothing to do with your life, you are creating what is called a "false dilemma". You will continue to place blame or look for a solution to things that are beyond your control. It is a meaningless, exhausting cycle that humans LOVE. Let things be, accept that change occurs, and accept that the world does not revolve around us. The deities did not cause your car to break down and they certainly did not cause it to break down to punish you.

It did not "happen to you" it merely happened...and you were there.

You are interpreting meaningless happenstance as having something to do with you and then freaking out about it. You are filling your mind, body, and spirit with needless worry and stress. All this causes you to miss the entire meaning of ashe'.

If you have a period of things going well, expect that change is coming. It is inevitable. It is not bad nor good-it is ashe'. Change comes to teach us lessons. The sooner you accept and embrace change, the sooner and easier you will learn your lesson.The more you fight it, the more you fear it, the more desperate you are to resist ashe' the more intense your change will have to be. The more stubborn you are, the more dramatic your lesson will become in order for you to finally learn the lesson the gods have meant for you.

The ocean has the power to move great trees, to create new coves, lagoons, beaches, and carve away rock. Are one of these occurrences bad? Is it bad for the ocean to deposit drift wood on the beach? Is it bad for the ocean to deposit sand to create new land? Is it wrong for the ocean to carve away the mountains? No. While these are miraculous and intense forces they are not bad. It is ashe'. It is change.

Once you start to realize that your ashe', your changes, your lessons, are neither good or bad you can embrace your true self and life in entirety. Much of the unnecessary worry will be gone. You can now devote that energy to the path before you and not worry exactly "what" is on the path. Once you disassociate "change" with "bad" you will not fear it. You will find it easier to accept the ash'e the gods have sent you. You can fully acknowledge that part of your self that was consumed with negativity, worry, doubt, and fear. Ashe' is sent to teach and prepare us. "Trials" are ashe'. They happen because we are alive and here, and well, things are bound to happen if you are breathing! And thank the gods we are here to receive their lessons! It has always helped me to think of ashe' as not to prepare me for another change but to help prepare me to aid someone else with their change. In times when they are too worried or stressed to see that this ashe' or change they are experiencing is a lesson directly from the gods. It is a message sent because we are their children and they want us to progress and grow and achieve!

You will be able to live your true life and follow your own path once you stop fearing what is along the way. Each change is as valuable and valid as all the others. This does not mean you will stop feeling pain or loss when a painful change occurs but you will begin to see it as valid. The mountain being carved away by the ocean feels pain too but it knows the ocean means it no harm and that it is only how ashe' works.

Let the ashe' of the gods, the forces of nature, guide you. Accept them. Isn't that why you are on this path in the first place?


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lwa Erzulie

Today, I received the Erzulie statue I bought from a good friend of mine in Louisiana.

Erzulie was one of the most recent Lwa I have really gotten to know. I began to honor her about 10 years ago and then really came to learn her story and spirit about 6 years ago. She is the patron lwa of New Orleans and most Haitian women serve her. She is similar in her area of rule to the Orisha Oshun.

She is the spirit of everything one could ask for or want in their lives; wealth, love, passion, romance, art, creativity, dance, sex and success. She is also the spirit of jealousy and can behave much like a spoiled child. The more you give her, the more she wants until she bursts into tantrum. Crying out of frustration and, because she is the spirit of love, for the suffering of the world. Our human desire of continuously wanting more is seen in Erzulie. She is us and we are she. At the root of our want for the material is the void that we are trying to fill-the void of enough or the right kind of love that we eternally seek.

Erzulie seems to be a paradox as a spirit but is she any different than the human spirit?

Erzulie is of Dahomey descent. She is either depicted as a light skinned black woman or a woman who is of mixed race and often with tribal scars on her right cheek. The knife and heart are her most common symbols as she fought with her people during the Haitian Revolution. To keep from revealing their secrets if ever captured, her people cut her tongue out rendering her mute. Again, the many aspects of love present themselves. Sometimes those who love us most, hurt us worst of all.

There are several facets of Erzulie; Freda, Dantor, and La Sirene. I will not go into her facets here but just mention them so readers are aware that she is a complicated spirit.

Erzulie embodies everything a human would pray for and about-especially women. Much like Oya she will provide women protection in the way of a mother-seen in her Black Madonna personification. She will fight for women's rights and ensure them success when attempting to be self sufficient. She will provide you opportunities and constant work for the independent woman. She is the epitome of female power.

She rules all matters of love. She is said be particularly fond of homosexuals and bisexulas and those who have experienced domestic abuse. I believe because these are complicated matters of love. Those who have these experiences or lifestyles have experienced persecution for their love. They have experienced cruelty, injustice, and self esteem issues. Those who have been betrayed by those they love.Erzulie has a soft spot in her heart for the warrior who has been treated unfairly, abused, and still manages to love. Enlightened men, who treat women with respect and value, are also her children.

Her altar~
Colours if pink, yellow, and blue are acceptable for all of her aspects. She loves sweet potatoes, cooked ham, rice pudding and bananas fried with sugar. The bowls that hold her food offerings should be reserved only for her use. Her candles should be blue and yellow and she loves anything feminine and beautiful such as perfume, florida water, rose water, champagne, silver chains, gold rings, hearts, and floral incense. She has 3 husbands; Damballah Wedo, Met Agwe Tawoyo, and Ogoun Feray. You may want to get to know them as well.

She is commonly depicted as the Black Madonna and Mater Dolorosa. Mater Dolorosa is a Mary who is depicted draped in a blue robe and precious jewels with silver and gold chains. She wears a beautiful, large crown, may rings, and holds a sword in her heart-also jewel encrusted. Another symbol of her willingness to mourn and understand the pain of the world's sorrows. Her motherly aspect is seen in these depictions, the aspect of La Sirene who is mother to all and controls all matters of wealth-fertility, abundance, and prosperity.

In order to petition Erzulie you must first evoke Legba of the petro branch as she is a petro Lwa who is considered a "Djab". Only he can open the gate to communicate with her.


"Legba, Papa Legba, open the gate for the lwa!
Open the gate for the djab, Papa Legba! 
Open the gate for the loa!
I have arrived, I am waiting for them.

 
Let us go, Papa Legba, let us go!
Let us go, Papa Legba, let us go!
We will go see what is happening in that house,
We will go see where Legba commands."


"Erzulie Dantor, you are strong and powerful!  Do you see these offerings I give to you?"

Sprinkle the offerings with water.

 
Pick each offering up and holding them above you and offer each item to the four sacred directions. Then touch each bowl or plate to your head and groin.

 
"I offer some of your favorite things to eat and drink and these beautiful objects for you. 
Erzulie Dantor, I am in need of your protection and guidance. Help me, defend me, 
fight for my family! Beautiful spirit, spirit of luck, spirit of my house, be here now and accept these offerings!"

 
"Do you see this food? Do you see this drink? Do you see me? I need you to be my mother 
too!"

 
Now you must be specific with what you need her to do. Write down your request on a
piece of decorative paper. Place the paper on the altar and stab it seven times with a small 
knife.

 
Each time you stab it say something to the effect of:

 
I win!
I am empowered!
I prevail!
You no longer affect me!
You can't beat me!
My mother is Erzulie, and you can no longer hurt me or my family!
Away with you! 
Down with you! 

What you say, of course, will depend on your situation and petition.

After this, spend time watching the candles burn down and listening for her help, guidance, advice, and 
support. She is there. Within you.

These are items I create to evoke her power in your practices;

Erzulie Dantor Plaque

Erzulie Oil

















Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Ways of Gris Gris








The term "gris gris" seems to be confusing for practitioners-even seasoned ones. The term Gris Gris has a few origins. Some believe it comes from the word "juju" for the west African word for a "fetish" or "sacred object", "jou jou" for the french "doll" or "plaything". Grou grou then came from this and then "gris", the french word for "grey" took over. It then evolved to mean a physical working, such as a doll or bag created from natural objects, to create a balance between light and dark in order obtain, maintain, and control outcomes. Gris gris can be herbs, shells, nuts, berries, powders, stones, bones, sticks, roots, claws, teeth, hair (especially hair or nails belonging to the person for whom the gris gris is being worked)-anything natural that possesses ashe'. Ashe' is the energy that each living thing possesses-it's spirit.




There are rules with gris gris-it ain't just throwing shit in a bag-AND, not just anyone can do it. I can learn how to run but will I ever run a marathon? No.




The first must have is an extensive knowledge of herbs. Not just their names, but where and how they grow. What they need for food when then bloom, how they multiply. All of these characteristics must be known to know how the plant "works". What it's doctrine of signature is. The Doctrine of Signatures is an ancient theory from 40 A.D. This doctrine states that herbs that resemble various parts of the body can be used to treat ailments of that part of the body. This has been adapted into magical practices by way of associating what an herb looks like to what magical use it has. A good example of this is the Lucky Hand root. This multi-fingered root is thought to have special provenance over "all the things that five fingers can do." For this reason it is carried by folks who play the lottery, bet on horses, play cards, and are seeking employment.




Read as many books about herbs as you can get your hands on. Old and new ones. I have learned some of the most valuable uses of herbs from books published in the 1920's that I picked up for 25 cents at a rummage sale. Check books out at the library-they have tons on gardening and herbs. Look for classes on native plants in your area at nature centers, camps, and retreats.




What is an herb? An herb is any plant that has more than one use. Medicinal, magical, culinary, aesthetic, and olfactory are all uses of a plant. Any plant that possesses more than one is an herb. We have a saying "a weed is just an herb whose uses have not yet been revealed". Learn your native plants-especially weeds. You can make delicious and nutricious wild harvested salads and learn magical and medicinal benefits by grokking-sitting and communing with the native plants.




The place a plant is found can have a great affect on your magic. If you find a lone dandelion sprouting up through a concrete slab-that plant has come to you representing survival. It comes with strength and support. Appreciate it's effort and let it's spirit of victory inspire you. Learn your environment and explore the landscape around you. GET OUTSIDE!




Learning proper harvesting a drying techniques are a must as well. I won't go into this too much here. Most herbs can be hung in a cool DRY place to dry and most roots can be dried whole (or sliced if they are thick) and dried in an oven on the lowest setting for a few hours on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. You are drying them-not baking them so don't raise the temperature to speed up the process or you will cook your roots to mush.




The basics;

The bag- I am picky about this. I will NEVER use a pre-made velvet bag sold in the shops on-line. I either hand make or machine sew each of my bags from material I have hand picked. Or, I have a friend make them. My own gris gris bags are made from cloth I died myself with natural dyes I make from native plants. If you can't sew or don't have a machine, cut a circle or square of cloth, fill the middle with gris gris and tie it up with string. Material can be as inexpensive as $3 a yard at a fabric shop and you can get dozens of bags out if it. Plus you can choose the colours and patterns to suit your goal. Anything is better than mass produced, crappy, velveteen or flannel bags.




What goes inside;

Are you making a gris gris bag to honor a deity or saint? Is it to help or harm another? Is it to help yourself? Have the appropriate gris gris harvested and before you. If you can't harvest your own, purchase from a reputable spiritual worker.




Lay your square of cloth down (or circle if you prefer) and lay a lining of cotton or Spanish moss first. This is your lining. These are both considered very sacred and lucky plants and will keep the rest of your gris gris from poking through and keep your powders from coming out through the material. Choose an odd number of items. A typical number is 13 but i go as high as 27 sometimes. My personal practice is to lay out all gris gris I have associated with the matter or goal and then invoke the deity or saint that deal with that area and then intuitively choose the ingredients for the bag by allowing the deity or saint to guide me. I don't work this way every time but most times I do.




Choose ingredients that represent each part of a plant-each part of the life form. A root, a stem, a leaf, a flower, a seed or berry. Not all from the same plant but each from different plants. This represents the whole spirit of a plant or being-encompassing it's ashe' in entirety. And don't forget the earth! If you have not begun an Earth pot start one today! This minute! Gather earth from everywhere you go-especially trips to sacred or special places.You can begin with earth from your own home. Honor your home! It protects you, it keeps you warm, it provides for you! My Earth pot contains red sand from the Sahara, mud from a birthing center in Ethiopia, volcanic sand from Hawai'i, sand, sea glass, and pebbles from Vieques, and peat from Ireland. Someday I will go home to Hungary and gather earth for my ancestors.




I choose to add items to represent the element that governs what I am working on. Water for healing, so I would add 7 shells for Yemanja. Fire for love so I would add sand from Hawai'i. For grounding I would add earth from our homeland-Ethiopia. Feathers for intuition or easy change, and so on. I realize not everyone has these earths but use what you have and your intuition. Start gathering earth from graveyards and crossroads to have on hand for your workings.




I also always add a shell, stone, feather, and a bone or claw-no matter what. It grounds the gris gris by rounding out the energies-you should have plant, animal, and mineral represented.




"Top" your gris gris by finishing it with a powder that is appropriate for your goal. Kyoto for luck, Attraction for manifesting, Oshun for love, Obitsu for protection, etc.




Finally, draw up the sides and give it a twist-clockwise for attraction, love, and manifesting matters and counterclockwise for protection, banishing, or ill intent.




Bind with an appropriate coloured string or cord by winding it at least 7 times with the cord then tie securely. You may add beads or charms if you feel the need. You may choose to knot it or tie a bow so it can be opened. This all depends on, again, the matter and intent. For matters of attracting or healing love, I tie a bow so other items can be added to make the love grow, for harm I tie a not so it can not be opened. Though these rules are not absolute and depend MUCH on the client and matter at hand.




I have made gris gris for over 15 years now and information, realizations, and mysteries are still being revealed to me. For this, I am blessed. When the messages stop coming and it seems I have learned all there is-it will be time to stop as the gift will have been passed to someone else.




Ashe'-O!




For proper activation and feeding techniques, see my post How to feed a Mojo

http://conjuredcardea.blogspot.com/2011/10/how-to-feed-mojo.html




Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Attraction Powder Working



We CAN manifest our goals and dreams. We can attract luck and blessings. Working yourself to death trying to keep the negative away  is actually just FOCUSING on the negativity, which is the opposite of what you want, right? The idea is to attract positivity by projecting and visualizing our goals and needs being achieved-think only positive. By complaining about all that is wrong in our lives or worrying about the next thing to come, we are only manifesting those things, giving them power and momentum. Words are merely sounds, which are vibrations. They are physical energy that we send out when we speak. When you say "i'm ugly" , "i'll never get this job", "i can't do this"-then you are right, and you have already failed. Our thoughts are even more powerful. When we have a thought we involuntarily see images in our minds, even if you are focusing on getting rid of something or if fear something, you are still focusing on that fear and manifesting it. That energy is sent throughout our bodies, into our impressionable cells, into other people and out into the world.

Imagine what your negative words and thoughts are doing to you and others. It is extremely difficult to just stop worrying or to stop expecting the worst, but instead of thinking about what could happen or what you are expecting, think about a solution to the problem. If you are worried about a bill coming and how much it will be, visualize the amount of that bill being low or visulaize the money in your pocket or bank to pay it. Give energy to the goal-NOT the problem.This is where grounding and meditation practice comes in. We are made up of atoms, minerals, and elements, just like everything else in the universe. We are connected to the universe, we are divine, and we CAN control our lives. You can control your future by utilizing this law. What you send out is what you get back. Like attracts like.

A big key to this is letting go the past. You cannot change it and it is not who you are in this moment, so leave it alone. Sure, your past is part of you but you are not your past. you have taken steps away from it, to change yourself. Going back to re-visit it with your thoughts only re-creates it in the present, and the same things will happen over and over.ever wonder how people get in cycles where they make the same mistkes over and over? this is how.
This requires several steps, with idea that you will be creating a new habit, and change in your everyday life. This is the catalyst for attracting these positive avenues and opportunities. The idea is that the more time you spend and more physical acts you do during this, the more energy you have invested into your creation and your life. It’s like baking a cake; the more precise you are with the ingredients, measurements, and timing, the better the cake;) You also have to give it time. If you want to lose weight, you can't diet for one day and expect to lose 20 pounds. You have to create new, healthy habits and stick to them. This creates a ritual which will help you take small steps each day to achieve your goal. This is how magic works.

The working;
This working has been successful for every person I have suggested it to who followed the direction and gave it adequate time to work. 

Gather several magazines, catalogs, or newspapers. Cut 7-9 pictures out of these of the things you need or desire. Get a white novena candle you can burn for at least seven days. These are glass encased prayer candles that you buy from the grocers. You can find these in the “ethnic foods isle and they cost between $2-3. Create a space just for this candle and lay the pictures around it. Anoint your candle and the pictures with my Attraction Oil (powder and oil are available in my shop). Then glue the pictures onto the candle so you will see them glowing from within when the candle is lit. It will serve of a reminder for you each day of what your goals are. You can also use it on doors and windows-any threshold sf your home. Sprinkle my Attraction powder in each corner of your house, moving clockwise, and say "spirit of attraction, bring me what I desire", then name the things that are on the pictures cut out. Sprinkle some powder on your candle and say "as I feed you, you feed me". Do this ritual for seven days. Ask Lakshmi (or whatever prosperous deity or spirit you work with) that your needs and desires are met. Set a bowl in the place you have reserved for your candle and pictures and fill it with coins and cinnamon as an offering for Lakshmi (or offering appropriate for your deity) After the 7 days, continue to fill this bowl with your loose
 change. Once in a while, bury a coin outside in your garden or in a houseplant. Give the rest of the change to charity or to someone who needs it, and start to refill your bowl again, repeating the process.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Using the Quiet of Winter



Yes, that is my actual tree:)

I live in Michigan and the winters can be pretty brutal and a lot of people complain about them...even pagans. You'd think that as children of nature, we'd all value each season as much as the next but I've found that's just not true. We often loathe the winter. After all, we can't go out and bask in the sun, pick herbs, get our hands in the earth, bathe in the lakes or sea, hold ritual or worship outside. Winter lacks those things, and that is exactly what it is supposed to do! Winter is a time of REST. I LOVE the fact that I am freed from yard and garden work for 6 months! I can actually pick up a book and READ it! That is my favorite thing to do in the inter actually; catch up on reading books that are spiritual in nature. Right now I am reading The Mark of Voodoo and Spiritual Merchants.

So how to we keep our spiritual practices alive? By switching over to a different kind of energy-slow, peaceful, energy.

Things I love doing that take advantage of this slow, restful time are;
Freshening my altars. Dusting statues, refilling candles, replacing old roots, and adding new pictures and items, and creating image candles for deities who are new in my life.
Scrubbing with bluing. There is nothing that prepares you and your home for the long rest like a good cleaning with bluing. After all, you are going to be stuck inside for a while:)
Donating. I donate year round because I know from volunteering at the local mission that most people only donate in the winter. This is good, but people are in need of food and clothing ALL year-not just winter time. Donating also de-clutters the home and mind which allows energy to flow freely and also stirs up the muses! I get so inspired and receive such wonderful ideas when I organize and donate! It's like the muses say "because you have given, I will give to you".

A story about donating;
I have family in India. When Indians meet a stranger, they invite them into their  home and offer them only the best of what they have. Most often, this is very very little. You are likely to receive the best food they have (which may seem inedible) and a straw mat to sleep on. This culture does this with the belief that at any point, they be encountering the divine. Every person they meet, they treat as if they are a deity-after all, you never know. Imagine if we treated strangers this way? What a world it would be! I keep this custom in mind when I donate and when I encounter someone who is homeless. I too have needed help at times-haven't you? What does it hurt to give away an extra pair of shoes or the dollar in your pocket? I promise it will return to you 3 fold.

There is something liberating about donating half of your clothing and half of your shoes. It creates movement and paths that were not there. It also fills your heart.

Take time to learn a new craft that you can sue to create spiritual items. Once can learn to make candles, sew simple mojos, make paper, sculpt with clay, crochet, etc. There are tons of useful crafts to learn that can be picked up easily with little investment. What do your friends do for hobbies? I am sure they would be willing to teach you their craft.

Baking! Baking is a magical chemical reaction in itself-just like ritual! I often use baking as an analogy when I am explaining magic to someone. When you combine certain things together, a chemical reaction happens and it becomes something completely different than what you started with. And as with any recipe, the better your ingredients are and the more careful and precise you are with timing and amounts-the better then end result. Just like baking:)

Snuggling with your kids or spouse in front of a movie. Give strength to your relationships. Rekindle the love. You have the time in the winter-use it.

Make time for your friends. It gets dark early so we tend to retire earlier in the day. Visit a neighbor and bring some hot chocolate or hot toddies and catch up on your friendship.

Set the goal of making small gifts for your closest friends or conjure family for the winter solstice. Small hand made cards or embellished pictures make lovely and inexpensive, heart felt gifts.

Plan your garden for next year. Make a list of the seeds you'd like to get and draw out a simple plan. You can also so this if you live in an apartment. Plan what you want to grow and how big of pots you'll need and how many. This is my favorite thing to do in February when the seed catalogs start taking over my mail box.

Develop your studies. Listen to that deity or spirit that's been appearing and calling to you and spend some time researching them. You will be glad you did:)

Lastly, get some rest...spring will be here before you know it.






Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fear and Mistakes


This post is about something I encounter on a weekly basis that severely impairs a person on their path. It either happens via convos in my shop or I hear it from a student of mine. It is easy to spot through my shop. It's when someone has sent me 20+ e-mails asking these very specific questions about a working they want to do. What goes where? What time do I start? For how many days? Do I need to cast a circle? Do I need to take a special bath? I don't have a statue! I don't know what to say! I don't have any money! I can't buy an offering!

Then, the truth comes out;
"I am afraid of doing it wrong."
"I am afraid of offending the spirits."
"I am afraid of what will happen."

The TRUTH is that all these little, tiny, obsolete details you are obsessing over have virtually nothing to do with your working. ESPECIALLY when the only reason you are obsessed with them because you are scared. If you feel fear when you think about your spiritual path, the divine, or when contemplating helping yourself or others through divine power, then one of two thing is happening; you are on the wrong path or you have been misinformed. Most likely, you have been misinformed.

Why were you misinformed? Because society, the media, and Hollywood films will tell you that (and I am only referring to hoodoo, Vodoun, and Santeria here because other Pagan sects do not have as much fear associated with them) that we work these blood thirsty, angry, vengeful, chaotic gods and unless we do everything just so in order to appease them, they will come for us and terrorize our lives and families. This is what they would have you believe. The truth is, THEY are the majority but the majority is not always right. Especially when the majority doesn't even subscribe to our beliefs! So HOW could they know more than US?

Let's look at this logically. People often think that you can not be logical and use sound reasoning if you are a religious or spiritual person. Not so. I can logically explain every facet of my beliefs, I can use sound reasoning in a religious debate. I was am a woman of science as well as spirituality-it does exist.

We have all taught something in our lives. Maybe you are a college professor, maybe you are a cub scout leader, maybe you volunteer and teach kids how to garden, or maybe you taught your kids pre-school class how to bake muffins-whatever-we have all taught at some point. When one of the people you were instructing came up to you with a mistake did you rain fire on them? Did you throw lightening bolts at their family? Did you cause a flood to destroy their home? Or did you smile, sit down with them, and walk them through it...

Why would the deities treat you any differently? YOU are their child, their student, and you have the divine within you. You are part of them.

Isn't one of the reasons you chose paganism because you did not believe in a vengeful, angry god?

I'll give you an example. Me and my whole family cuss like sailors. If there is a heaven (which there could be, who the hell knows?) do I really believe that Jesus is not going to let me in because I say "fuck"? No. I don't. He's got bigger fish to fry than my potty mouth. So then let's apply this same logic to our deities. Do you really think that if you don't have a red a candle to offer Eleggua, instead you have a pink, that he is going to pissed and say "You know what, fuck you!". No. The intention is what matters. That we TRIED. That we had the thought, that we carried through with action, that we honored him in whatever way we could.

There were times when I did not have money to buy this or that for an altar or working. Do you know what happened? The deities sent me those items by random acts of kindness and little miracles to show me that they were there, they saw what I wanted to do, what was in my heart, and that they loved me and would provide for me.

In 15 years of working with the Orisha and Lwa I have NEVER seen an ugly or malicious side to them. Now, your heart and intention has a lot to do with this. If you are asking for blessings without honoring them, without first respecting them, I imagine it ain't gonna turn out so well for you. We all know a person like that, that is always in need of help and always taking advantage and will never be there when you need help. Don't be that person in your spiritual life. It can be easy to do, people get excited at this wealth of possibilities, this overflowing source of blessings from the deities. But you can exhaust your resources if you keep taking and never give in return.

There are very simple ways to honor and return the blessings. A simple white candle or small piece of food offered in the morning each day is affordable and full of good intention. My favorite thing to do is to donate, time money or other resources. We live by the personal philosophy that if you are blessed with something, a portion of it should be given away to those who also need help. If this is not done, I believe you will begin to see your own blessings, opportunity, and good luck run out. Now, this is not WHY I do this, because I am afraid of the consequences of NOT doing it. I do it because I want to and because I have a sharing nature. It is not difficult for me to share or give. This is something that is unusual in our culture now which I suppose is why people just ask and ask from the deities without it occurring to them to give anything back. This will be detrimental to your spirituality, growth, and to your relationship with your community and all humanity as well. Unfortunately, it comes down to this; respect your fellow humans and your deities as you would respect yourself.

We must learn to let go of the fear that stops us from finding our true path. Fear will push away everything that you want in your life. Fear is a death grip and desperation is the grease that will make your goal fly right out of your hand. To fear the divine is nothing more than fearing yourself and your very own breath.

You can not make a mistake with the divine when you are of pure intention. It can not be possible that every practitioner everywhere has every item they "need" for their altar, says each word perfectly for their petition, and does this on the right day, at the right hour, in the right moon phase-nothing would ever get done! Trust me I have had plenty of times when I've said after a ritual, "Well, I fucked that ALL up."

 I always tell my students it is better to have tried and make a mistake than to never attempt to commune with deity because you are afraid of "not doing it right". If you have to, first as the gods for some courage, stronger faith, and ask the muses inspire you! You will be rewarded for your efforts, whether you think you fucked it up or not;)

Here are some REAL books about our practices that teach the truth-that we are seekers of love and healing.

Jambalaya by Luisah Teish
Sticks, Stones, Roots, and Bone by Stephanie Rose Bird
Carnival of the Spirit by Luisah Teish
Four Seasons of Mojo by Stephanie Rose Bird
Jump Up by Luisah Teish
Finding Soul on the Path of the Orisha by Toby Correal














Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Raising "Pagan" Children



Probably the most common question I get asked is something like "How long have you been practicing?" or "How did you find this path?" And when I tell them I was raised pagan, the response is always the same, they exclaim "Oh, how lucky you are! That must have been wonderful!" Well, it wasn't. At least not all the time, because there are flaws in every parent and in every religion.

I must say this first. When I am asked how long I have been Pagan I say 17 years. Even though I was raised Pagan, I was not equipped to make the decision until I was 13. At 13 I felt I had a good connection to what it meant to be Pagan and a good understanding of the deities.

I was expected to teach the tradition in my family, just as in any "family business" I guess. Being raised pagan actually set me up to be cut off from the world. To be distant from those I would be teaching in the future. I had nothing in common with the beliefs and traditions others were raised with. There was no bible in my home, no church on Sunday, no prayer before meals, and no father-god that terrified me and shackled me with immense guilt. The biggest difference was, I had no concept of sin. I was a good kid. I didn't lie, cheat, or steal, and if I did screw up (which I began to in high school) my mother left it up to karma to straighten out the situation out-no punishment for me really. So living without the idea of sin, I was also able to live without a lot of the guilt others feel on a daily basis. I have seen guilt over nothing break people down so badly, because they were taught to feel guilt by organized religion from a young age. Now, I'm not a sociopath- I FEEL guilt when I do something wrong, I feel remorse when I hurt someone. But do I LIVE with it? No. I was raised with much freedom, perhaps a bit too much, but at least I was free.

So when I began to teach I found the majority of my students were former Catholics and Mormons-the two most guilt riddled sects I have ever seen. They would confide in me about simply feeling guilt for intuitively being drawn to this path. And all I could think was "Why?!" How can one feel guilt for their intuition, their gut instincts, for following their heart?! It made no sense and I was therefore completely devoid of being able to help. Or so it felt.

This didn't just interfere with students-it interfered in everyday life because only a tiny portion of us are raised pagan or, at least, are not raised Christian in this country. Think back to that Jewish kid or Muslim kid or maybe the black kid you went to school with. Kids feared them, maybe even you did. Well imagine that plus the fact that no one had ever even heard of a Pagan. If you were raised Christian I am sure you were never questioned about your religion. Imagine trying to explain why you weren't at school on May 1st, or the other 7 sabbats, when you are a child. It's not so easy and...it's not fun. Your religion, at that point, becomes some sort of embarrassment. Something that segregates you and makes you weird. There are times, when I was not proud to be Pagan.

I transferred to a Christian high school in 8th grade. Yeah. Can you fucking believe that? I was being bullied at my former school. Pushed down stairs, spat on. So my family (my mother, grandma and grandpa) figured private school would be best. I am blessed that my grandparents paid for that opportunity or I could have never gone. Here, I had to completely hide the fact that I was pagan. Even the kids who had become my best friends, I never told, or I would have been removed from the school. I also had to hide my sexuality because I would have been removed for that as well. Here I was seen as some sort of freak. We were extremely poor. I'm not talking we had to buy our clothes at the dime store poor. I'm talking dirt floors, no washer or dryer, no water heater poor. While that mattered in my last school it REALLY mattered here in this private school filled with the kids of doctors and lawyers. Also, coming from public school I knew about all sorts of things that these kids had never even heard of, like drugs and sex. My senior year, at age 16, I was holding a sex ed class in the girls locker room once a week for the 19 year old girls in my class. These girls did not even know basic anatomy or how the act of sex physically took place, as in what went where-at 19! They were leaving for college for fucks sake and I was terrified they would be raped or get pregnant as soon as they got there. This, I saw, as a huge fault in being raised Christian. I did not like the way these kids were terrified and into not doing certain things but were never really taught about why not to do them other than "because the bible says so".

So I was this weirdo that didn't pray in chapel, or sing their songs (we had chapel every Tuesday for 3 hours), or pray in the morning or before meals. I lived too far away (45 minutes) to ever have anyone over, plus I was embarrassed of the 30 year old trailer we lived in at that time. I knew far too much about sex and drugs and the "secular" world  in their eyes. It's funny; while every one wanted to ask me questions about sex, they called me a whore behind my back for knowing the answers...because that's what Jesus would do, you know.

So, this brings me to another question I often get. "How do you raise your children?" I am married to a man who is agnostic and extremely respectful of my beliefs. He is proud that I am so self sufficient. I know how to grow our food, forage for food, make our soap, make our candles, grow herbs and make our medicine from them, raise animals, and more. These are the things I will be teaching my children-not necessarily about the beliefs of our family. Being raised pagan, I was given a choice. I could CHOOSE if I wanted to be pagan and participate in rituals and such. This is not common for organized religions. I have seen families abandon their children for choosing to be Pagan over their Christian upbringing-some of these were my own students. It is heart breaking and mind boggling.

You may think "Why wouldn't you raise your kids as Pagan, it's so great!". It's not. It's great for ME and great for YOU. It may not be great for my kids. I don't know yet, and neither do they because they are 3 and 4 years old-there is no place for religion in their lives. Just as I believe it is wrong to raise a child as Christian, I believe it is wrong to raise a child Pagan. Children should be having fun, not worrying about communing with deities. It's far too heavy and complex of a subject for a child's mind to understand. They don't understand it and it causes fear, anxiety, and guilt over things they can not comprehend but feel they are supposed to.

Now, being raised Pagan and from a Pagan culture, it is my CULTURE to make herbal medicines, to make protection amulets, to make candles, and make oils-as my ancestors have done for thousands of years. This is where my religion overlaps with my culture. I view these things as life skills, self sufficiency, and it doesn't hurt anyone to know how to do them. In fact it makes you stronger and more likely to survive in this world.

I do not keep my religion from my children. I practice around them daily, I have my shop, I do readings, we celebrate the sabbats-but I will never make them participate. Honestly, I don't even hope they will choose Paganism because I hope they will choose what makes them happy. I hope they choose to honor their culture in whatever path they choose-which may be no "path" at all. Would I be disappointed if at 23 my daughter tells me she is a satanist? Maybe a little, because I do not find it to be a religion based on much reason or compassion. Would I disown her? Never. Would I chastise, ask her to change, or belittle her choice? Never. She's an adult, it's her choice and if there is one thing I want for my children it is freedom. For me, freedom is one of the most beautiful parts of being raised Pagan.






Monday, November 7, 2011

Doesn't Jesus Hate Pagans?



How can you work with the saints, who are all Christian when you are Pagan? Don't they hate us? Wouldn't they hate what we are doing? After all, witchcraft it against the bible...right?

I used to get these questions quite a lot...a lot of times, from myself. Before I truly embraced my multi-cultural background, I was a bit confused. Don't Pagans hate Christians? Because I know Christians hate Pagans...the bible tells me so. So, how can I be raised Pagan but named after Jesus and Mary Magdalene's daughter?! Because the bible left that part out, and the bible is what most people go by... and twist to suit their own agendas.

I believed I should hate Christians because they hated me and because other Pagans I "knew" hated Christians. I never did, I am incapable of hate. And there were many a workshop I did and many a Pagan parade I joined in where there were Christian fundamentalists protesting us with their awful signs. Screaming at us that we ate babies and throwing food at us. If I hated them, then I WAS them. I would be exactly what I loathed-an intolerant, small minded, asshole. 

"Love your neighbor, but who is your neighbor. Your neighbor is the one who is sent to you from the Divine. Your neighbor can be one who is a total stranger to you from afar. Your neighbor can be someone living close to you. But what is true is that your neighbor is one of the Light who needs your support as much as you need his."

I couldn't be that. I also could not deny my heritage which is a mixture of Jewish, Middle Eastern, Black, White and God only know what else...literally. While all cultures began as polytheistic I can acknowledge and love the fact that we evolve. Religions evolve, people evolve. Some are better for it, some worse, but I can appreciate the cycle just as I appreciate that there is a cycle in everything. I love the layering of cultures and traditions, and that's all religion really is.

The facts-at least what SHOULD be the facts; 
Pagans are polytheistic and while there are pagans out there who are completely against Jesus, Pagans also hold the belief that each religion is correct for it's adherents. Meaning we believe there is more than one path to God-not just ours. We embrace all cultures and their beliefs and customs that are traditional to their lands. 

Let's get this out of the way now; God is like an ocean and there are many, many ways to get to the ocean.

So if you are able to understand how a Pagan can worship Jesus and the saints, depends on how you view Jesus. I believe his mother was Sophia, Hebrew Goddess of wisdom, and that he was married to Mary Magdalene and had a child, Sarah. Most Christians don't believe in this Jesus, that's kind of where the problem lies between the Pagans and Christians. All early civilizations and cultures were polytheistic, even the Hebrews and Mesopotamian of which Jesus is a descendant. This is the Jesus I know and the Jesus I know loves everyone, even us crazy hoodoo workin'  Pagans. I believe in a Gnostic Jesus and I believe this is the truest view of him.

Once you work with saints and spirits you will find that HUMANS are the only one's saying they would hate Pagans or witches. The bible says that-which was written by humans not God and not Jesus. Look at Mother Theresa who only teaches love, giving, and helping those less fortunate. I admire and honor her, does she look down from heaven and not acknowledge me because I am not Christian? No. Because I strive to practice what she teaches. The path doesn't matter, how you live does. No saint, god or spirit cares what religion you call yourself, it's how you serve your fellow humans and that you strive to be pure of heart that matters. Spirits and souls at that level could not care less what path you follow-there are far more important things than a name we have chosen to identify and segregate our beliefs.



"Knowledge and ritual without compassion is empty."

If you read the words of Jesus, his teachings, you will find he only preaches love, tolerance, giving, and compassion. Pagans strive to live the same way. We all strive to be Christ like, and Buddha like, and Mohammed like, which were all great teachers.

No one will ever convince me that Jesus and the saints do not love me. And if I came to find that they did not, I would still love them and live my life the same way. 


My multi-cultural background has taught me to love without reciprocation. I have learned to embrace what I do not immediately understand. I have learned to trust the instincts my ancestors have provided me to guide me down my path, for they were already there once. Most importantly I have learned that the divine is within me-God is within us all-and NO God hates me.

"The kingdom of God is within you."

bless.


Monday, October 24, 2011

The Custom of the Dumb Supper


I honor the custom of the Dumb Supper every year, and sometimes several times a year. It has become associated with this time of year due to the associations of Samhain, Day of the Dead, All Saints Day, and Halloween-all honoring spirits, the deceased, saints who have passed on, etc. However, a dumb supper can be performed any time of year and Beltane is also a good choice to do this. The veil between the worlds is thin on this day as well with equal parts of day and night.

One reason a lot of people have not heard of Dumb Supper is because it is ancestor worship which people like to think is not common in this country. In fact, a  lot of Americans find it very uncomfortable because we do not have the respect and connection to our families and elders as other cultures do. However, each time you pray for a deceased relative, you are honoring the dead. It may also seem like something associated with the occult, when in truth most people practicing Dumb Suppers in this country are God-fearing folk in the Ozarks of Arkansas, through out the south and all the way over to the east coast. Most of us realize, as pagans, that the folk magic of the mountains GREATLY parallels our own traditions whether they want to admit it or not. Another reason is that most Christian denominations will see it as a form of idolatry, which is why they don't believe in working with the saints as well. Honestly, I think there are more cultures who have a celebration or custom that is similar in meaning than those who do not.

I begin this night by walking to the cemetery next to my neighborhood, loaded with my besom, a box of shabbas candles, a few clean cloths, and a sack of dimes. I stop for those who call to me, clean their stone, sweep the ground clear, light a candle and leave a dime. Few things are more rewarding than learning the respect it takes to remember someone who has been forgotten. This custom is traditionally done in the "pauper's cemetery" the part of the cemetery where people were buried with very simple headstones, or none at all, because their families could not afford them. The cemetery I live next to was for the wealthy in my city, there is no pauper's place, so I choose to honor the oldest graves who most likely have no one to come visit them any longer.

There are many details that can be taken into account when setting a Dumb Supper. Some people believe all the linens, dishes, and decor should be black. Some believe you must set the table backwards, forks on the right and knife and spoon on the left, begin with dessert and finish with the appetizer or salad. You can make the practice as detailed as you like, but what is important is that you make the time to do it.

Folks also like to perform divination on this night, and why not? Everyone you have ever respected is there to get advice from! So divination is a common practice after the supper.

The main traditions I like to follow are setting an altar for the ancestors and spirits. Each physical person in attendance should bring something owned by the ancestor when they passed to add to the altar. Photographs and jewelry are common. This altar always has fresh flowers, marigolds are common in Mexico and are seen in the millions for Day of the Dead. The flowers are the most expensive item for me as it is nearly winter in Michigan. Glasses of water, preferably crystal and decorative goblets, because the dead are always parched. I like to add skull candles and images of Santa Muerte as well. Buy a few new, special candles for this occasion if you can-I prefer natural beeswax. A tablecloth from a passed family member is a nice addition, if you are lucky enough have one. I always use a stone vase of my great grandmother, Lucy Alice Leet, to hold flowers.

ALL food for dumb supper must be made WITHOUT salt! Salt drives spirits away, it is a purifier, so there is to be no salt in the food and none on the altar. Each physical person attending should invite one ancestor, so you must double the place settings and each setting for an ancestor should have a candle to light it.

Traditionally, 9 dishes are offered. I prefer to set all food out at once and let the spirits have their choice. Basically, everyone needs to bring two dishes or two bowls of the same dish. I know-it's a lot of work-but all good things are:) After the table is set, each person who enters the room touches the chair(s) reserved for the spirit(s) and says a silent prayer. From the moment you enter the room you are to be silent or "dumb" as in "deaf, dumb, and blind". Not exactly politically correct but we're not worried about that right now.

20 minutes usually seems sufficient enough time for spirits to gather. In the mean time you can meditate, pray, sit by a fire, read, but remember to pay attention- signs and messages could be flying about! If you have a group of guests, each person can write a request to their ancestor at this time, petitioning for advice in some area or for blessings. This paper should be placed beneath each person plate. Now, you and your physical guests may eat, also done in silence and reverence.

After everyone has finished each person is to set their prayer paper on fire from their ancestors candle, sending their petitions to the spirits. A heat-safe vessel is reserved for the burning petitions to be reserved in. These ashes are sacred and I like to set them outside to be carried away by the wind and spirits while saying a prayer.

It is now a suitable time for divination. Some of the most simple divinations like candle drippings in water, reading egg yolks, or candle flames are some of my favorites for this time. To me, they represent a different time, a time of self sufficiency, when we used what we had to make things happen. There was no money for a fancy tarot deck and no where to obtain one from anyway. Pure forms of divination, divining with the elements, are what I find best for this celebration.

If you have never held a celebration like this in your home I hope you are inspired to at least try part of it this weekend. You won't be disappointed with the respect and reverence you will learn, the release and blessings from the prayers, the beauty of the feast and altar, and the messages delivered.

This custom has taught me much about what it means to serve. To serve SPIRITS we do not know should be harder than serving living people we do not know. So then why do we do so little for those around us, in our own community? If you want to truly lead your own life, you must learn to serve in another's.

Bless.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How to Feed and Care For a Mojo




It's a common question "How do I take care of my mojo?" Well, it's pretty instinctual and what you've been doing all along is probably fine until these questions come up; "Is my mojo dead?" and "Can I re-use the gris gris inside?"

First, create your mojo or purchase one from a REPUTABLE source. You have no idea how many pulverized, unrecognizable, dusty, old bags of shit are sold as "mojos". These people ought to be ashamed of themselves. If you can't read the feedback of a practitioner, know someone who has dealt with them, or find there Facebook page(s), blogs, or profiles easily on the web-DO NOT BUY from them. This goes for joining a physical group or coven as well. Use the senses the Gods gave you! Once you receive or create the mojo, open it up (unless instructed not to by the worker who created it) and breathe within it 3 times to breathe your life force into your mojo. You may also add a taglock at this time; a personal concern such as a fingernail pairing (this is most convenient) a bit of hair, a scrap of clothing, a drop of blood, etc.

Now, you've got a mojo. Do you have a good quality oil to feed it? This is important because you'll be feeding is a lot at first and then regularly every week then month, so have a good oil on hand. Some folks like to feed their bags with magnetic sand-I do both but for different reasons and at different times. You may want to have this on hand as well. I highly recommend having it around as it is very useful and common in many workings.

Prepare a an altar or small place you do your workings with a candle, water, and incense. Now, incense is a HUGE deal! If you can, please spend the time and money to find an incense that is purely herbs and resins NOT stick or cone incense which contains saltpetre, synthetics, dye, and chemicals-yuck. You can choose from pure resins such as frankincense, myrrh, copal, benzoin (storax), dragon's blood, and sandalwood. These will need to be burned in the ancient manner of using a charcoal briquette (hookah charcoal) to burn them on. I've heard of people setting the resins themselves on fire! DON'T! That's like setting your food on fire instead of grilling it! It is a complete waste to do this.

The water on your altar is for the spirits, ancestors, deities and/or saints whom you work. Remember, mojo means "to give praise" so it must be created in the name or under the guise of someone. While we are on the spirit part, the reason we do not use salt on these altars is because salt is protective and drive spirits away-not what we want to do at this time. Some folks pass the mojo over the flame of the candle as well or just leave the candle as an offering and symbol on the altar.

Prepare your incense by lighting the coal about 5-10 minutes prior to the ritual to make sure it is nice and hot. Place a bit of your resin on it and pass your mojo through this smoke. This is called "smoking" and is believed to activate the ashe' of the gris gris within the mojo. Now, rub a bit of the selected oil appropriate for your mojo between your palms vigorously to raise energy then CLAP your hands hard to show honor and get the attention of the spirits! Some traditions perform a dance where they drag their legs, slap their thighs and clap their hands to raise this energy and show respect and honor.

Now, hold the mojo in your oiled hands and pray or say your petition. Some folks have a particular Psalm prepared for their intent. I do not rehearse this part or read from any script-this should be from your heart and off the top of your head-It is So, So It shall Be. Keep your mojo as close to your body as possible for the first week. I choose to put mine in my bra or pocket. Your purse is okay if that's all you can do. At night, place it on your bed stand but make sure no one else touches it or you may have to start the ritual over depending who touched it. Children don't count as they are considered neutral.

Do this with the oil and mojo every day for a week. Then on the appropriate day that corresponds to the intent of the mojo every week. Then once a month from there on out. For an extra feeding, I like to add a pinch of magnetic sand once every couple of weeks or so.

So, does a mojo ever die? Anything will die from neglect. If you do not care for your mojo, first, I don't know why you bothered to make it or ask the spirits for help, and second-it ain't gonna work!

It only makes sense that you are going to acquire more gris gris you like after you make your mojo-go ahead and throw that shit in there! Swap the worn roots or lodestones for fresh ones. Take the old gris gris out side and bury it, returning it to The Mother.

Can you re-use gris gris or bags for new mojos? Yes! I do it often as I have very special bags from women folk in my family. Some ingredients are so special or so rare you can not replace them so take them out and smoke them, rub them with a little Florida Water of Hoyt's Cologne, put a bit of oil on them and call it good! Bags can also be re-used. For instance in Haiti the bags are often hand-sewn by an elder and are made from leather-irreplaceable! So honor this tradition and your elder by cherishing it and USING it.

Occasionally a client will contact me about a mojo they bought for WAY too much money and they are certain is worthless and dead. Then bury the whole thing and give it a bit of honor by returning it to The Mother to, once again, become something viable.

Lastly, place your mojo on your altar or in your power space once in a while, when you give everything a good scrub and freshening. Scrub your candle holders with sea salt water, replace your candles, dust statues, clean out offering and water bowls, and then give everything a little a sprinkle of Florida Water or Blessed Water.

Now, get to workin';)

Pictured is a Nation Sack I created for a client who agreed to the photo.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Working with Saint Expedite



Saint Expedite is the patron of those who hope for rapid solutions to problems, who wish to avoid or put an end to delays, and who want general financial success. His aid is also sought by those who wish to overcome procrastination as a personal bad habit, as well as by shop-keepers and sailors. His feast day is April 19 and His number is 3. I find he and Elegba work very well in dire situations.

Expedite is typically depicted as a young Roman centurion holding aloft a cross marked HODIE ("today" in Latin) and stepping on a crow beneath his right foot. Out of the dying crow's mouth issues a word-ribbon, CRAS ("tomorrow" in Latin). Thus Expedite destroys a vague tomorrow in favour of a definite today.

There is an interesting clue here. CRAS CRAS CRAS is how the Romans imitated the sound of crows (in English, this is CAW CAW CAW), thus crows and ravens are said to always be croaking about "tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow." Expedite, by stomping the crow, destroys the vice of procrastination (pro-CRAS-tination means putting things off until tomorrow).

This is the best working I know for Saint Expedite;

You will need a glass of water, my Saint Expedite candle, or one of your choosing, my saint expedite oil and a vase of flowers if possible.The only other addition will be a petition written on a piece of white paper and placed under the candle.

Say the following once you have set the altar to him, anointed and lit His candle.

"Saint Expedite, you lay in rest.
I come to you and ask that this wish be granted.

____________ (Express exactly what you want, and ask him to find a way to get it to you.) 

Expedite now what I ask of you.
Expedite now what I want of you, this very second.
Don't waste another day.
Grant me what I ask for.
I know your power, I know you because of your work.
I know you can help me.
Do this for me and I will spread your name with love and honor
so that it will be invoked again and again.
Expedite this wish with speed, love, honor, and goodness.
Glory to you, Saint Expedite! "

Recite the prayer once a day until your prayer is answered. Allow the candle to burn each day as well. Once the petition or wish has been granted, legend tells that you must offer him a glass of red wine and some pound cake. Some variations on the offerings can be the whole pound cake or slices arranged on a plate with a coin (usually a dime) placed on top. It can be Sara Lee cake from the store-he likes it just as well as home-made. Once a few days have passed, take the cake outside for the birds and pour the wine and water as a libation to the earth. Give the coins to the poor. You must also tell a friend of how saint Expedite has helped you or he will take back the help plus some, and will not help you again.



I offer an entire line of Saint Expedite items and services ranging from several types of candles to a soap, oil and more in my shop. These can be found here; SAINT EXPEDITE ITEMS AND SERVICES