Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ancestral Altar for Samhain

The table set with pomegranate, fresh bread, orange (the dead love citrus) and apple. With water, because they are always thirsty too! Marigolds, for they are the flower of death, and roses for love. Hell bank notes, for some pocket money in the after life and myrrh in my censer so that I may receive their messages.

The candles are of an anonymous Hungarian gypsy  from Ellis Island records and one for Dia  de los Muertos-though it is lit early since that is not celebrated until November 2nd. I don't think the spirits will mind if I invite them to my traditions. There is also a candle dressed every year for Marie Laveau because my god mother, Viva-May, looked exactly like her. Tradition says that we begins to look like our eguns after a while. I believe this was so with her. This year I am honoring those who do not get honored. Those who are nameless and faceless, those forgotten.  Also, a ring from my great grandmother Lucy and a ring from my grandmother Kay are placed on the altar this year.

Myrrh enveloping the censer.

Hell Bank notes in offering to the spirits. May we all be blessed.

Have a blessed week everyone!

Making of Lamps in the Hoodoo Tradition

Lamp Lighting or The Setting of Lights is an ancient tradition. Sacred lamps, oils, and lights have been used and recorded through out history for thousands of years. They are also one of the oldest Hoodoo arts, and sadly, they are all but forgotten. I know one other practitioner who legitimately offers this service. I have seen others offer it, but they are not what I would call "authentic". 

This is only ONE example of a lamp. Usually these are done in offering for the Orisha, in which case you would use a pineapple lamp for Ogun, a watermelon for Yemaya, an eggplant for Oya and so on. They would then be left to float on a live body of water such as a river or the ocean. I will cover these types lamps at a later point. We will begin with the basics first.

The first thing that must be done is to gather your ingredients. This is where having a great knowledge base of your correspondences will come in. One can not make their own majik, without the use of pre-written spells, unless you know what actually MAKES a spell work.

For this post I have chosen to create a prosperity lamp in the name of Oya. She has been bugging me about it because she knows winter is coming, and winter can be brutal for those with a way of life like my family's. My husband and I both work for ourselves, my husband is a carpenter, and the winter is when work dries up. Sometimes for several months which means there are 4 of us living on just my income for at least a quarter of the year. This is on top of our $400 a month heating bills due to living in Michigan. We live in a 105 year old house that is very drafty!

My work can suffer in the winter as I can not forage for roots, curios, stones, and herbs to sell. And there is the fact that Christmas is coming and shops like mine aren't where people are shopping. Their money is going to Macy's and Kohl's for things for the rest of their families who are Christian. A Pagan business doesn't get that flood of business for 2 or 3 months prior to the holidays putting us from the red into the black.

This just gives you a background why Oya wants me to get prepared and prevent any little things that may set us back. We've had this life for 6 years now and we are used to the "grasshopper and the ant" mentality. We are ants 8 months out of the year-saving and scrimping! Also, she does this because she is my mother-and she mother's me as mothers should:) We simply ask for our needs to be met this winter; food, shelter, clothing, and work.

This lamp is created is bring those things. Here is what I started with, however, you may use whatever items correspond to your goal;
Iron Filings
High John Root
Lovage Root
Cinnamon Stick
Cowrie Shells
Devil's Claw
                             corresponding oil from
(I used my Abundantia for this lamp or you may add a few drops of a corresponding essential oil)
Base oil (I used sunflower)
A Mason jar-the large the jar the larger the lamp

You are also going to need what is called a "mechita" or a "floating wick". These can easily be made from a slice of old wine cork with a braid of embroidery thread poked through it and knotted. Or you can purchase my pre-made Mechitas. I also have a lamp kit with everything you need to start a prosperity lamp here.

This is an old rootworker trick for making gris gris; layer your ingredients from rock to root, to bark, to seed, to flower-just in the order the earth would naturally produce them. This is said to enhance the ashe' of each item and form a sort of pyramid of ashe'. I also try to stick to 13 ingredients as this is also a tradition of gris gris.

During the adding of ingredients you would, of course, say whatever words, prayer, or affirmations come to your mouth from your heart. I prefer words of honestly and of-the-moment than perfectly pre-written incantations. These words should only be words of honor and words that state your intention. They should never be words of want, complaints, or selfishness.

Then add your choice of Conjure, Specialty, or essential oil. You now cover all the items with the base oil of your choice. This order more evenly mixes the oils first added to give you a more even burn and scent.

You will want to dunk the top of the wick, the upper cotton part of the mechita, in the oil to saturate it so it does not completely burn down. I do not recommend dunking the whole mechita as this causes it to burn up sometimes. Candles wicks have a coating of wax which they use as fuel to get started, mechitas do not have this.

Light your mechita and leave burning as long as you safely can. Give honor and praise and dedicate your lamp in offering to the deity, saint, or spirit of your choice.

Simple, traditional, meaningful, and practical. What more could a Hoodoo want?
Have a blessed Samhain, Dia de los Muertos, All Saints, and All Souls Day!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Stereotype

This happened several years ago and I am always reminded of it around Halloween/Samhain time. I suppose it's all the barely-there witch costumes and the silly posters on FB showing corny fantasy art of what a "witch" "looks like". Then followed by some weird saying like "yup, I'm a witch, deal with it" or "my other car is a broom". Really? It is? I doubt it.

I used to do lectures and workshops at our city's Pagan Pride Day. I took a few years off right after I had my kids and then accepted an invitation to come back and teach a "Paganism 101" lecture. Let me tell you this; there is nothing I dislike more than doing Paganism 101 classes in a Pagan venue BUT that was what the coordinator thought was most beneficial and I agreed. The point of a Pagan Pride Day (believe it or not) is for those who don't know about Paganism to come out, get to see what we do, get to know us and see that we are just like them. It's about squashing fear and stereotypes.

So why then, when I show up, are people dressed in cheap velveteen capes they bought from the "after Halloween sale", donning make-up similar to the band KISS, sporting pentacles that resemble Flavor Flav's clock necklace, and hopping around on brooms like they are hobby horses? Then I hear someone yell "Come on over! Free broom lessons! Get on your brooms witches!" >face palm<

Really. Look, you don't ride a fucking broom. You may want to, you may think you do, but you don't. And you look and sound ridiculous which, in turn, makes ALL of us look ridiculous.

The non-Pagans who came over to see what was going on with our gathering, quickly walked away...

And we wonder why no one takes us seriously.We wonder why we are stereotyped so badly, why people think we are freaks. Why our religion is made fun of and taken as a joke. We are angry about a problem we cause for ourselves because many of us resemble these stereotypes. Many of us are the reason these stereotypes exist.

If you are angry about stereotypes then stop contributing to them.

If we want to be taken seriously as events, lectures, and workshops, if we want to really reach people, then we need to be professional. We need to take our own religion seriously and project that. Sadly, these events are more about dressing up and acting weird than educating non-Pagans. If you are holding a ritual, teaching a workshop, or giving a lecture then LOOK like it. Our religion is not a hobby, it's not a joke. Dress and look how you would to give a presentation in college or at your place of work because your religion IS work if you want to improve it. Dress like you would if you were thinking at all about trying to make others feel comfortable with a new group of people. Dress how you would if you were not just thinking about your own ego.

When we wear black capes, theatre make-up, swing swords around, and pretend to ride on brooms, all we are doing is making the gap between "us" and "them" larger. We are creeping them out and making them leave. They don't want to hear what we have to say because we look fucking ridiculous.

Isn't one of of our core beliefs that there should be no "us" and "them"? Isn't that what we hope and wish and fight for between all religions? If it is, then we must create a playing field where we can not be segregated from them. A playing field where we can not be told apart because of our cloaks and Flavor Flav pentacles.

Now, for those of you would like to wear that stuff, that's fine-in the appropriate venue. Trust me I am all for self expression; I have a multi-colored mohawk, 13 hours of tribal tattoo, facial piercing and branding. The truth is that the black capes, theatre make up, and fake British accents have NOTHING to do with being Pagan. They may have everything to do with what YOU like but YOU aren't all Pagans. Non-Pagans don't know that. If we want to open the lines of communication then we must meet half way. We will reach far more people by looking professional than we would by falling into the stereotypes that were created to discriminate against us in the first place.

Let us try to convey what our religion is truly about. Let us teach about our hundreds of thousands of years of history, our reverence for our culture, land, and nature. Our honor and respect for our earth, our tolerance for the beliefs of others. Our emphasis on peace, love, and compassion. These are the aspects of our religion that should be shown. Not capes, wands and brooms.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On Offerings

I've gotten many requests to write about offering in their many forms and meanings. I will attempt to cover a bit about it in this entry.

Food offerings are something basically unheard of here in America and, surprisingly, they are seldomly used in the Pagan practices here. With all of the emphasis our beliefs place on reaping and sewing, planting and harvest, the cycles of life, we don't offer any of this harvest to our deities or guides!

Food stuff offerings are commonly practiced in Buddhism, the Navajo, Hinduism, Bali, Africa and, honestly, much of the world. Why, we here in America (a place where we have much more than the majority of the world), do not adopt this practice, I do not understand. Some of the poorest areas of the world understand the concept and practice of offering.

Offerings are a physical form of gratitude. As many of you know, from reading my blog, gratitude is the fundamental principle in my beliefs and practices. Without gratitude, one will never be fulfilled.

As humans we have emptiness of want. We eat, and buy things, and indulge to fill it. Finding that once we have obtained what we coveted, we are still empty because there is always something more to want.There's more food, the newest phone, the hottest gadget, the most "in" clothing.

"If I only had ___, I'd be set!". The want is the problem, not the lack of means to obtain it. If we can not learn to be happy and grateful for what we already have, our want to obtain what we do not have will chase us forever. One will never be full if they have not emptied themselves of wanting.

This is a very large part of why "magic" or "spells" don't work for people. If they don't get exactly what they want, when they want and how they want it, then they see is as a failure. That the gods did not listen to them. We live in a time where if what we have or what receive doesn't please us, or fit us exactly, or work perfectly, we throw it out and get a new one. I can promise you, we do not control deity or spirit. We will not decide what we get no matter how specific or hard we work that gris gris. By thinking that we will determine the goal, we are throwing out everything we have been given that we just couldn't see. We were too consumed with our own idea of what the answer would look like that we turned the answer away.

After too long of doing this, we may find, we don't hear our guides like we used to. We may find that, to them, it seems as if we've been crying wolf all along. They keep showing up and we keep looking right past them...

Although offerings should be made for NO reason at all, other then to give, they are often made as a gesture. A gesture of "I am giving you what is valuable here on earth in exchange for your blessings". If you haven't made a physical offering before, you will probably start out here, because there is a set give and take, a "reason" to do it. Over time, you will find you leave offerings from the heart, not to receive something in return...which is when the REAL magic begins...

You can find many lists of correspondences by searching the internet that will pertain to the deity you are making an offering to. Then is it just a matter of finding or purchasing the foods, drinks, colors, that are sacred to them. You then arrange them nicely on a serving plate and in a vessel which are reserved only for offerings, then set these on your indoor or outdoor altar. Speak from your heart about why you are doing this. Don't read incantations or prayers from a book. The heart if what speaks and is what they hear.

Think of the finest restaurant you've been to. Think of the atmosphere, ambiance, and presentation of the meal. What please you, pleases your guides, for the divine is also within you.

If you work with an indoor altar you will want to remove the food after it begins to show decomposition. After all, you are to offer the deities what would please you-and few of us enjoy rotten food and spoiled drink. If you leave it outside, like I do, you let the bugs and animals come to claim it as they are part of this earth and divine in their own rights. Sometimes you will get bugs inside when you leave offerings. Get over it. When the offering is ready to be rid of, take it outside to a corner of the yard, compost, wooded area, or bury it. Return the gift to it's Mother.

The items I always have hand that will work for most deities or spirits are fresh baked bread, fresh flowers, fruit, rum, water, a candle, some incense, and perhaps money or joss paper depending on the spirit or deity.

Water and oranges are important. Many cultures believe the dead love citrus and are always thirsty so at the very least, offer these. Most of us can provide a candle and some incense as well. I set out one stick of incense each day for each person and household I pray for in my community and life. I stick them in the cracks where the wood joins together to form our fence. The smoke is carried throughout the neighborhood, blessing all who smell or see it. You can leave offerings for humans too:) After all, many of our deities and guides were once human. The best friend you have now, may one day be a saint:)

What if you have no way to purchase an offering? Many of the items I offer are foraged for; fresh wild flowers, nuts, berries, stones, sacred woods, etc.These are even more valuable because of the effort, time, and journey taken to obtain them.

It is not about WHAT you are offering but THAT you are offering. Make an effort, actually make a practice your spiritual practice. The world is run by those who show up. So show up and give your deities a reason to show up with you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bounty of Spirit

Our beloved secret path

Greater Celandine


A lovely daddy long legs at home among the lichen on a grave stone

The grave I visit most often,a family- mother father, and children-who passed together

hickory nuts

The ivy on this tomb turns red with autumn

Porcelain Vine; it's berries begin chartreuse, then teal, then finally purple.

Cedar berries

Golden oak leaves
Today's trip to forage and gather. Leaves and berries, dirts and gnarled branches. We pack my cemetery sack (a gift from Loas a friend brought back) with silver spoons, bags and labels, candies, and coins. The occasional flask of rum comes along too. As we venture down the path from our house I harvest celandine, motherwort, lunaria, ivy, pokeberry, nightshade and more...

Cedar berries, porcelain vine, oak leaves and moss are collected for an incense that will be offered to my ancestors upon my return home. A fire will be made and perhaps a trance, induced from the sacred smoke, will follow...if The Fates smile upon me.

The air was cool and a strong breeze stirred the spirits in the grave yard today. Autumn does that. As I harvested and foraged, dug and prayed, I found it was my own spirit that received the bounty. For as I leave offerings and prayers, forage for what I need, dig where my hands lead me to, my spirit feel as if it was the one prayed to. I am an offering myself in this cycle; a tool, a vessel.

These spirits are my muse-malleable and giving.

Old Man Winter will come soon and my trips will slow to a stand. It will become near impossible to maneuver the hills and stones. Then, the trips to the grave yard will be be only for prayer, for there will be nothing to forage for, no space to dig, except for my in my own spirit. The sewing and reaping of the spirit never ends.