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.


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

How To Work a Candle-Hoodoo Style

What you will need;
-A small glass jar such as a small canning Mason jar.
-Salt water and sweet water (honey water).
-Rich, vital soil.
-Celery, feungreek or fennel seed. These seeds are for prosperity and abundance. You can use other seeds appropriate for your working.
-Magnetic sand.
-4 pennies.
-A glass or ceramic bowl of water.
-Solid coloured candle, properly loaded and fixed or dressed.
-A small slip of paper for your petition.

Wash your jar thoroughly with your salt water-leave a bit in the bottom.

Fill your jar half way full with the soil. This can be soil from a special place, such as a crossroads or cemetery, your home, or from your earth pot on your altar. Choose earth that is rich and full of organic matter-not dry dead earth. Pack it so it is firm but not solid. Write a petition to whom you are offering this candle to; Lakshmi for love, Oshun for money, Oya for change, etc. Fold the paper up, folding towards you if you are drawing something to you and away from you of you are ridding yourself of something. Push the folded paper down into the dirt.

Place 4 pennies (sideways) in the dirt, with the heads facing inwards, at each of the 4 directions in the jar. The tops of the pennies should be just above the dirt so they are visible. Sprinkle generously with magnetic sand, covering the pennies and a good portion of the earth.

Make a loose circle by folding in all of the fingers of your right hand to meet your thumb. The opening in your hand should be large enough to fit the candle. Place  your loaded and oiled candle in your hands socket. Do the same with your left hand and place this hand on top of the candle-over the wick. Now, using both hands that are now holding the candle, mount the candle into the earth with strength and purpose. State why you have created this candle-what you are offering it for-what you need. Say this petition 3 times.

Once the candle is in place, fill in around it with more earth then water it with your sweet water in order to draw your goal to you.

Place the entire jar down into a bowl or pan of water and place it on your altar. It should not be submerged to the point that it take son water. Now, light the candle and say your invocation.

You have now planted your request in solid, vital earth. You have created a gorgeous, meaningful offering. You have planted seed, the potential for growth. The pennies and magnetic sand will attract the energy from the elements and directions and the magnetic sand will attract your goal to you. The salt water keeps the desire pure and from the heart. You have projected your petition, your intention, 3 times with the vibration of your voice. These vibrations will go out into the universe, root, and manifest. 3 is the number of Elegba, the Orisha of fate and of Saint Expedite, the Saint of speed. Your request is on it's way-your offering has been delivered.
It is So.

Now, get to workin';)


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mojuba-The Art of Offering, Patience, Acceptance, and Faith

I get a lot of emails and messages each day. Sometimes it takes me several days to answer them, but there is one that presents itself over and over again. A client, or potential client, will write referring to a listing for one of my mojos asking "How does this work?". At first glance this seems daunting, to explain how something works energetically, magically, historically, culturally. Lucky for us, all of these aspects are tied together in the mojo.

The word "mojo", is a corrupted version of the word "mojuba" from West Africa, meaning "to give praise".

Mojo's are created from ashe', the natural, invisible power of our mother, the earth. Any natural object such as bones, feathers, earth, stones, roots, etc., contain ashe'. By utilizing and acknowledging the power of such items you are giving praise to the earth, our mother, and praise to your particular deity, spirit, ancestor, or saint. Mojos are not about you, they are about giving an offering to Gods, Spirits, Ancestors, Saints, and/or the Fates so that they will consider smiling fortune upon you and granting your request.

Mojos are also linked to the tradition of the Banganga from the Congo Basin in West Africa. This tradition is called "Minkisi" which translates to "sacred medicine" or "holy". They believe that all exceptional human powers are believed to result from communication with the dead. People known as Banganga (singular, Nganga) work as healers, diviners, and mediators who defend the living and provide them with remedies against diseases. Banganga harness the powers of bakisi and the dead by making minkisi. Minkisi are primarily containers; statues, ceramic vessels, gourds, animal horns, shells, bundles, or any other object that can contain spiritually-charged substances. Even graves themselves, as the home of the dead and hence the home of bakisi, can be considered as minkisi. Minkisi are typically filled with minerals from different places or graves, nails, plant material, bones, etc.

Mojos are not charm bags-they are not spells. They are offerings and a wonderful art form and practice that can really get you in touch with your ancestors.Typically charm bags and spells are created to get something. That's fine but there is no offering involved usually. I don't dig that and neither do the Gods, Spirits and Fates who will be answering your request. You have to give to get and it's just plain rude to ask for help without first offering something in return.

The truth is, sometimes, mojos don't work at all. The Fates do not have your request in their cards...yet. You'll just have to be patient and wait and continue to work just as hard on something else. Don't give up, just switch focus for a bit, then ask again.

People get so disappointed when whatever they are using doesn't work. It did work-it just didn't give you the answer you wanted when you wanted it because that's not how it works. Logically, you can not get a "yes" to your workings every single time. That is an impossibility. You know the song; "you can't always get what you want, but when you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

So, the first step to working a mojo is; accept that it may not be the right time and accept that answer you get is truly the one you need-whether it is the one you wanted or not. This is called faith and we all go on and on about how much faith we have but when we don't get the answer we want we get all pissy. That's not faith-that is called being immature and unreasonable.

The second step to working a mojo is know what gris gris to put in it to keep it fed and full of ashe'. For this you must be familiar with the "Doctrine of Signatures" used by ALL good hoodoos, root workers, cunning folk, and witches. The ancient "Doctrine of Signatures" dictates that objects in nature reveal their magical or medicinal uses through their form and colour.This is a philosophy shared by herbalists about 50-90 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. A theological justification was made for this philosophy: "It was reasoned that the Almighty must have set his sign upon the various means of curing disease which he provided." The concept is still reflected in the common names of some plants whose shapes and colors reminded herbalists of the parts of the body where they were thought to do good; pulmonaria, bloodroot, barrenwort, etc.

Let's look at salep root also called lucky hand root. This light to medium brown, multi-fingered root is thought to have special provenance over "all the things that five fingers can do." For this reason a lucky hand root may be carried by those who play the lottery, bet on horses, play cards, or partake in any other form of gambling. Lucky Hand is highly beneficial to others who wish to increase their edge and success by subtle manipulation of the tools of their trade.

So, when you are out foraging around, keep an eye out for botanical items that you can use. Here is a short list of examples;

crab legs-to reverse a situation (because crabs walk side ways instead of straight ahead)

termites/nests-to destroy a situation or person

animal claws-to grab and attract your goal

teeth-to enhance connection and bring good luck and ashe' (because teeth are the first step to deliver vital nutrients to your bodes-what we need to live)

lodestone or magnetite-to attract good fortune and repel bad.

vertebrae-for support, grounding, confidence, and power. No one can stand without a back bone.

feathers-to bring creativity, intuition, and power

nuts and seeds-for fertility, abundance, and luck. As they are reproductive centers all in their own.

You can go on and on using your own experience, intuition, and logic to find what makes sense to you.

The 3rd thing you must do-give it time. When people ask me how long a mojo will take to work, my answer is always "I don't know". I don't know what the Gods and Fates have in store for you-if you want to know ask them or get a reading done. In my experience an answer is received within 6 months to a year. A long time right? Not really but we live in a world of instant gratification. People think "magic" means something will appear right before you eyes in a matter of seconds-like a rabbit out of a hat. That's Hollywood and media-don't buy into that because you will be disappointed with every single working you do. That is not real, OUR magic is, and therefore logic, statistics, and reason apply to magic and it must have time to work just as everything else. If you can't accept the pace of the results, then you are saying to the Gods, Spirits, and Fates; "You don't work fast enough for me. I know I asked you for help and for answers but I don't really dig what you're putting down." I am sure that will REALLY speed things along for you and for future workings.

Learn patience and acceptance when working mojuba or any practice of offering.

When you start a healthy lifestyle change, like watching what you eat, do you lose the 20 pounds you wanted to get rid of in the first day? No? Well why not? Is it because it takes time, effort, faith, and the right mind set devoted to the ritual of eating better and exercising every day? Is it because you have to really work and struggle with it, getting back on the horse after you've fallen off? Yes. It is. Faith is the same way-we work at it each and every day. We create ritual and leave offerings each day to remind us of our goal, what we are doing why we are doing it, who we are serving, and each day we get a little closer to it. This is magic. This is faith. This is mojuba.