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 

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 

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.


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