Burning incense.
life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

I passed! … Now what?

It took me some time, but I submitted my ADF Dedicant Path work, received some feedback, elaborated where I was asked to elaborate, and… I passed!

It’s an enormous relief — perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the feedback I received involved me being “too hard on [myself]” when rituals didn’t go perfectly to plan. I don’t consider myself a type A personality, I don’t really think I’m a perfectionist (well, most of the time), but I can see it. Completing this path work was very important to me. Upholding the virtues and things I’ve learned in the course of doing it is still important to me.

There’s only one problem: where do I go from here?

I’ve considered trying to pursue ordainment. There are also other paths of study within each of the Druidry guilds. With how long it took me to finish my Dedicant Path work to my satisfaction, I’m a little hesitant to jump into another round of studying and writing so soon. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t calling to me, though.

Do I explore other Druid groups alongside ADF, and see what knowledge they have to offer? Do I choose a guild or two to concentrate on?

I’m giving myself until February 8th. By then, I will have looked at my options and picked a course of action.

Fingers crossed that it’s a good one!

life, Neodruidry

The Return of Spring

Imbolc was this past Saturday.

I celebrated alone, as I often do — as much as I like having other Pagans to share with, i still really enjoy the headspace of a solitary ritual. It can get much more improvisational. If it feels right to do a ritual in the alley next to the dumpster and pour out my nature offerings right where the birds can get them, I can do that. If I want to honor my ancestors by making and offering of some of the really awesome BBQ pizza I reheated from the night before, I can do that. If the spirits move me and I want to cover my floor in newspaper, smear my body with paint, and express myself by doing the worm across a piece of unstretched canvas, I can do that.

Not that I did, or anything. But I could!

Oddly, being able to get out and about more now has given me more of an appreciation for solo rituals. The difference between having to celebrate alone and choosing to do so is much bigger than I thought.

I don’t generally get much opportunity to decorate for the High Days. Kiko would eat whatever I put out, and Pye would throw it on the floor in a fit of pique if he thought his food bowl didn’t contain the right ratio of freeze dried bits to crunchy bits. I love my cats dearly, but they are kind of jerks.

crocus-318293_640

And so, I had a small Imbolc celebration sitting in the big, comfy chair in my living room, with my coffee table as an altar and a very fancy candle I choose specifically as an offering for Brigid. The Nature Spirits received mung beans, my Ancestors received candy, the Shining Ones received bourbon and incense, and the waters of life were the tail end of a bottle of very excellent cucumber, mint, and geranium lemonade. (I’m a sucker for cucumber and herbal flavors.)

It was peaceful. It was low-key. It was just what it needed to be, in a place where the pavement often keeps me from being able to see the first early flowers make an appearance, on a day when the overcast sky seemed to blanket everything in downy gray and the brightness of spring still feels far away.

It was nice.

divination, life

A Re-sip-ient of the Three of Cups

(… Sorry.)

I get lot of Cups.

I’m not complaining, of course. Cups cards are the cards of emotions, and most of the Cups I end up drawing are all about fulfillment and good times.

This weekend, my S.O. and I had a little cause to celebrate. I’ve been able to get out more now, so we packed the weekend with things we’ve needed to do, and a few that just sounded like fun. The rain dampened our plans a little bit, but that’s alright.

The important thing here is that I’ve got so many plans for stuff I want to do, my dudes. i have a group of tabs open for some local theaters and concert halls, which I’ve been idly refreshing in my spare time to see what’s on offer. It’s a really nice feeling to be able to do that, pick a show that looks like fun, and actually plan to go, instead of feel like I’m tormenting myself with FOMO.

So it feels pretty appropriate to draw the Three of Cups this week. I’ve pulled it before, when he and I were about to move into our new place, and we each had a ton of irons in the fire that we were both very excited about. This time around, I’m continuing existing projects more than starting up new ones, and I don’t really have a major life change on the horizon that I know of. There are always more things that I want to do and see, but both my S.O. and I are in a very good place at the moment. I’m very happy to enjoy my new freedom, though!

Processed with VSCO with  preset

Saturday, we’d hoped to go see World in a Box. Unfortunately, the stars didn’t quite align — they were sold out, and the rain made navigating there a bit of a challenge. Still, it prompted me to look at what else Rhizome has coming up, and given me a lot of new ideas.

I love this card. I love the Crow Tarot deck. I love where my life is right now, and I’m excited to see where it’s going.

 

Witchcraft

Energy Cleansing Your Apartment (When You Can’t Burn Anything)

If you’ve been following the saga of the gas leaks, you can probably guess why I put off doing a full-on apartment cleanse. It’s a good idea to do this as soon as — if not right before — you move in. It is a less-good idea to do this if you plan on burning things, and your kitchen smells like mercaptan.

Anyway! Now that the fire hazards are dealt with, I wanted to talk about apartment cleansing.

You should cleanse anything that’s been used by another person, and any time that thing has seen arguments, illness, death, or other struggles. You also want to cleanse your space whenever things just start to feel gross, heavy, or tense. I don’t support “good vibes only” culture, but it’s definitely important to wipe the energetic slate clean once you’ve experienced something bad and allowed yourself to process the trauma. This is especially true if you perform other spells or rituals in your home — there are some energies you don’t really want to keep around if you don’t have to.

Most house cleansing rituals involve things like candles and incense. These rituals are great, and extremely effective, but not always the best choice — what if your lease prohibits burning things? What if you have artwork, or other special objects that would be damaged by repeated exposure to incense smoke or soot? What if you’re asthmatic and shouldn’t be breathing in burning particulates? What if you might explode your entire block, because your building is very very old and literally everything is leaky?
You get my drift.

So, what does house or apartment cleansing do?

Ideally, cleansing a space gets rid of negative or stagnant energy, and brings in fresh energy. Psychologically, it can help give you closure after you’ve had a rough time, and create a sense of optimism and enthusiasm for the time ahead. It can also mentally prepare you to be the new steward of the place you’re cleansing.

What does it entail?

From my experience, house cleansing and house blessing are usually part of the same ritual. You cleanse the space, then you bless it. Some people roll them into one action by asking their guardian spirits, ancestors, and/or deities to both cleanse and bless.

Generally, cleansing a space involves walking around the area either clockwise or counterclockwise (depending on tradition), performing a cleansing act, and asking that the space be cleared of any bad vibes. A cleansing act can be wafting the smoke of burning herbs or incense over the walls, asperging them with water, sprinkling a perimeter of salt, carrying a white candle dressed with cleansing oil, or even just touching the walls and floor and declaring the intention that they be cleansed.

Incense and candles figure prominently in many popular energy clearing rituals, but they aren’t a necessity. There are plenty of other things you can do if burning things isn’t possible or desirable for you.

1. Lemons. Everywhere.

Lemons have a well-deserved reputation for busting up stagnant or negative energy. Even the scent of lemons is uplifting, and lemon juice is very helpful when it comes to actually physically cleaning your place.

You can use lemons in a variety of ways, from adding sliced lemons or lemon juice to your mop water, to leaving whole lemons in places where people tend to gather. I prefer to use them like this:

  1. Take a whole, fresh lemon, and slice it into rounds.
  2. Take a generous quantity of sea salt, and sprinkle it over the rounds. (Make sure to cover both sides!)
  3. Place them in a dish, and set it wherever you feel needs some cleansing.
  4. Keep an eye on the lemon slices — if they begin to get moldy, discolored, or mushy, discard them and try again with fresh ones. It might take a couple of lemons before everything’s thoroughly cleared up.

lemon-slices-232210_640

2. Asperge with water.

Asperging with blessed or holy water is probably my favorite way to cleanse a space. Depending on your tradition, “blessed” or “holy” might vary. In mine, water gathered from three natural sources is used in ritual. Alternatives include:

  • Water left to charge in sun- or moonlight.
  • Water to which has been added a pinch each of frankincense ash and sea salt.
  • A hydrosol made of a cleansing herb, like rosemary or sage.
  • Water you have asked your deities to bless.

Asperging involves dipping a bundle of herbs (or your fingers) into the water, and sprinkling it on the object to be cleansed. Sprinkle it on your walls, floor, and ceiling (if you can reach it) as you declare your intention to cleanse the space. Make sure to get the corners!

3. Use your own energy.

You don’t really need anything other than yourself, if you don’t have other tools at your disposal. You can stand in the middle of each room in your home, raise power however you customarily do, and release it into the walls, floors, ceilings, and corners of your space. Visualize it as a bright light that touches every surface of your home, absorbing and disappearing into them, leaving no trace of negativity behind.

4. Make some noise.

I feel like a lot of practitioners underestimate the power of noise (but, I admit, I might just be inordinately fond of raising a ruckus). Coupled with light and fresh air, there are few things as helpful for clearing the energy of a place. Open the windows, get a nice breeze going, let the sunlight in, and turn up the volume — at least, as long as your neighbors won’t complain.

There are a few different ways that you can use sound to help the energy of a place:

  • Play a set of chimes. Ascending scales are said to purify, and descending scales banish.
  • Play uplifting music.
  • Play Solfeggio tones. Each one is said to have a different effect, so it’s best to experiment and find the one that works for you.
  • Play nature sounds. Running water, insect chirps, and birdsong have their own, special effects. There’s a reason they’re part of so many meditation tracks!

color-1405478_640

5. Salt.

Sea salt is a quick and easy way to cleanse pretty much anything that won’t be damaged by salt. Personally, I don’t use it that often because I try to do most of my cleansing-of-things outside, and I don’t want it to leach into the soil — but I can vouch that it works.

To use it, sprinkle sea salt in the corners of your rooms while declaring your intention to clear the space. You don’t need very much — just a pinch will do just fine.

Every tradition has their own ways of preparing a home, from cleansing, to blessing, to protecting it and inviting in prosperity for its occupants. If you’re in a place where you can’t turn to candle or incense magic, you still have plenty of tools at your disposal.

Plants and Herbs

Marshmallow Folklore and Magical Uses

Note: This post contains affiliate links to the herbs I talk about here. These allow me to earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting independent artisans, and this site!

I drink so much marshmallow, it borders on the absurd.

It’s not for the flavor, either — marshmallow root doesn’t really have much of one. Let me tell you, though, if you’ve got a stomach ache, bladder pain, or an annoying, dry cough? There’s nothing more soothing than a big cup of swamp root goo. No joke.

I cannot overstate the debt of gratitude I owe to marshmallow.

cropped-img_20170903_182451_435-768x768.jpg

(I’d also eat my weight in toasted vanilla Smash Mallows if science would let me, but that’s a subject for another time.)

Marshmallow Magical Properties and Folklore

As its name implies, marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is considered a water herb. It’s often associated with deities of love and beauty, and used in fertility and attraction spells. (Some sources say that the slippery marshmallow extract was even used as a lubricant, so using it in sex and fertility magic isn’t much of a stretch!)

Marshmallow is sometimes burned to cleanse a space, or used to make protective oils.

It’s considered to be a favorite of benevolent spirits. Spirit bottles, used to house helpful spirits, are filled with marshmallow root. Keeping a jar of it and a dish of water on your altar is said to help call helpful spirits to your aid.

Planting marshmallow on or near a grave, or decorating a grave with the flowers, is used to honor the dead.

Using Marshmallow

A big part of why marshmallow root is medicinally valuable is its mucilage content. Marshmallow mucilage is a polysaccharide with a very thick, slippery consistency. When you stand the root overnight in water, you’ll notice that the water becomes more viscous.

Marshmallow expresses its mucilage best as a cold infusion. I usually measure the dose of marshmallow root I need (depending on what I’m trying to do) into a tea strainer, fill a glass jar with clean water, plop the strainer in it, and set it in my fridge overnight.

If need be, you can brew the root the way you would any other tea, it just won’t produce quite as much mucilage. I usually do this if I have a sore throat — the mucilage and the warmth are really soothing.

Marshmallow leaf contains less mucilage than the root. It’s a diuretic and helps with expectoration, and is sometimes used as a topical poultice.

The key words here are “soothing,” “protecting,” and “comforting.” On a physical level, the mucilage in marshmallow root soothes irritated membranes, forms a protective layer, and brings comfort. This is reflected on a metaphysical level, too — as an ingredient in beauty preparations, it’s not surprising to see it used in spells for the same. As something that helps banish pain, it’s natural to use it to banish evil. As an herb that offers comfort, it makes sense to use it to comfort and placate the spirits of the dead.

You can find shredded, ready-to-use marshmallow root from retailers like Mountain Maus Remedies and Grassroots Herb Supply. If you prefer, you can also find it in a finely ground powder form.

 

Even if you don’t regularly perform spiritwork or work with the dead, marshmallow’s a helpful herbal ally to keep around. It makes a soothing tea, and its gentle, comforting nature lends it well to a variety of magical applications. Even though marshmallow is used as a food as well as medicine, consult with an experienced practitioner before use — especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or have any medical conditions.

 

divination, life

The Star

As much fun as last week was, at times, it absolutely kicked my butt.

I don’t know if you remember when our car got poisoned when we went on that road trip down south, but, between a clunking engine and a cracked windshield, we’d finally decided that it was time for Caliber the Undying to be put out to pasture.

(According to what the trade-in guy said, the pasture appears to be somewhere in eastern Europe.)

So, my S.O. had to get a new car — though by “new,” I mean more like “used, but clean and significantly less likely to turn into smoking rubble on the highway.” Couple that with some late work nights, getting handed a shovelful of writing orders, turning in the corrections for my Druidry coursework, and going out in a crowd for the first time in over a year(!), I’m a little drained.

Please, I silently begged as I shuffled my deck, please just not the Ten of Swords. Or Nine of Swords. Or any of the Swords, to be honest.

Fortunately, I lucked out. This week’s card is The Star.

The Star is a very positive omen — it’s a hope spot. A pause for breath. It comes after The Tower, a card of tremendous upheaval, so it’s common to draw The Star when you’re entering a time of peace, serenity, and optimism after a struggle.

I wouldn’t exactly call what I’ve gone through lately a struggle, of course. While it was a lot of work, and it wore me out, I was glad to do it. (I mean, I’m not exactly going to complain about having too many opportunities to help support my family!) Still, spoons are spoons, and it’s possible to wear yourself out doing things you enjoy.

The Star is a positive omen in virtually every respect, whether you draw it in a Love, Career, Spirituality, or just a general reading. As advice, it asks you to focus on rest and healing — The Tower has fallen, the worst has passed. Marshall your strength and go forward from here. Conditions are favorable, you’re on the right path. Don’t force anything, just let it guide you.

Right now, it’s guiding me to some magnesium oil, a heating pad, and a cup of marshmallow root tea.

Blog, life

Two Bards.

Tuesday night, I had the chance to see Richard Thompson perform live. It’s a show I’ve had on my bucket list ever since I was introduced to him a few years ago — he’s an incredible guitarist, and watching him play is really an amazing experience. When I stopped being able to go out much for awhile, I was legitimately afraid that I wouldn’t get well enough to be able to see him play. I only learned about Coco Robicheaux on the day of his death, and I missed the chance to see Tom Waits (who doesn’t tour very often) perform when I lived in California; two things I consider some of the biggest missed opportunities of my life.

Processed with VSCO with  preset

I think my S.O. and I were the youngest people in the audience by close to twenty or thirty years, which made me a little self-conscious when we were finding seats. (‘Scuse me, sir and/or ma’am, biker punk and tattooed millennial with a shaved head coming through.) As soon as I sat down, though, I didn’t care. I still whooped it up and applauded hard enough to jam one of my fingers.

He’d just started playing “Valerie” when we got in, which is, bar none, my favorite of his songs. It was honestly a little overwhelming — I’m embarrassed to admit it, but my heart skipped a beat and I thought I was going to have a panic attack for a few. I teared up at “Beeswing” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” just like I knew I would. (Lucky for me, I’d had the foresight to forego eye makeup for this exact reason.)

The songs were moving, tragic, and hilarious by turns. His voice and guitar playing were superb. His banter made the venue feel small, with the kind of warmth and humor that turns a show into an intimate gathering.

I loved every minute of it.

And then, the next day, I found out that Terry Jones had died.

He wanted to be remembered as a comedian, but I knew him best as an author long, long before I knew anything about Monty Python’s Flying Circus. When I was a kid, we had a copy of Fairy Tales. It was my favorite children’s book — as a kid, I think I learned more important morals there than almost anywhere else. Like Three Raindrops, which taught me that everyone’s grave is the same size, and there’s no point in wasting your life on comparisons. Or Jack One-Step, which taught me the value of collective bargaining. Or The Glass Cupboard, which, I’m fairly certain, is what turned me into a tiny environmentalist.

monster
And then there’s this guy, which I’m pretty sure figured prominently in my nightmares until I was ten. Artwork by Michael Foreman.

I loved Michael Foreman’s illustrations, too. To be honest, I can’t really overstate the impact they had on my imagination as a kid, or even on my artwork now. His watercolors were at once bright and soft and dreamlike, surreal and strange, occasionally with a subtly unsettling edge. They were the perfect accompaniment to stories like The Fly-By-Night and The Wonderful Cake-Horse.

cakehorse
Illustration for Terry Jones’ The Wonderful Cake-Horse, by Michael Foreman.

I’m much older now, but the stories and illustrations still mean just as much to me.

Jones’ passed after a battle with dementia. As much as we like to think that “where there’s life, there’s hope,” there’s still a very particular kind of mourning that happens when someone passes from a brain disease. There’s the loss you experience when someone is no longer who they once were, and the final loss that comes with death. Sometimes, the hardest thing to deal with is that we might not think we feel “sad enough” when someone actually dies, because we’ve spent so long mourning the person they used to be. It’s something I experienced with my grandmother, as she declined from brain cancer. As hard as it was to handle her passing, I felt guilty for feeling relief. Not for myself — I felt relief that she was beyond the pain, confusion, and anxiety that her illness had caused her.

It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with, too. Intracranial hypertension causes brain damage, and it’s very likely that I will suffer a stroke at some point and either die, or have to fight my way back from that. Sometimes, you have to mourn for yourself. The important thing is to process this grief, then get on with the hard work of living. For Jones, that was raising awareness. For my grandparents, it was my grandfather feeding, dressing, and bathing my grandmother. For me, it’s working a little more every day to try to regain some ground before I lose more of it.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it doesn’t matter if you’re part of an artist’s primary audience. Life’s too short to miss the concert you want to go to, or to overlook a book just because it’s intended for children. Eventually, like the Three Raindrops, we all become part of the same big, muddy puddle. Draw inspiration and spiritual nourishment anywhere you can.