Thursday, May 16, 2013

There are teachers out there for everyone

When the disciple is ready, the Master is ready also.
In literature, and in many non-fiction occult books, magic is something that is learned directly from a teacher, usually an older, wiser person who is passing on their knowledge before they die. (Many cultures actually believe that a witch cannot die until he or she has passed the ability onto someone else.) Being taught spells at the feet of ones grandmother, learning to pick and prepare herbs by the old healing woman, or being chosen as an apprentice to a wizened shaman are all ideal in theory, but most of us will never have that opportunity. We have to seek out our teachers and learn from them in whatever ways we can.

Certainly in the early days of modern witchcraft, everything was handed down personally from teacher to student. There were few books, and the organized coven was the only apparent model for learning magic. Of course there were always lone witches who weren't part of a coven, but by nature they were usually invisible, while some covens did maintain a public presence through rituals, classes or publications. Most people followed a familiar path of reading what few books were available (Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, Sybil Leek, Janet and Stewart Farrar or Raymond Buckland if you were lucky; lurid "occult exposé" books if that's all you could find) and stumbling upon a notice of a class or public ritual in a local magazine or occult store. Some people stayed with the coven they first studied with; others moved on through the connections they'd made there, into groups more suited to their own interests and personalities. Eventually they initiated newcomers into those groups and the Craft was passed on.

Everything started to change with the publication of Scott Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner in 1988. Suddenly it was acceptable to learn witchcraft from a book and never be part of a coven at all. Cunningham was an indefatigable writer and produced over thirty books in his short life, most of them written for those pursuing independent study in magic and witchcraft. He was shortly followed by a rising tide of prolific authors, including Ann Moura, Raven Gramassi, Silver Ravenwolf and many others. Every form of magical practice was laid out in how-to guides, from traditional Gardnerian Wicca to Siberian shamanism to casting spells via text message.

Like many of us, I was interested in magic from childhood, and devoured all the books available in our small-town library. There weren't many in the 1970's, and these were all of the "Encyclopedia of the Occult" and "History of Witchcraft and Demonology" type. By the mid-80's I found myself in a Golden Dawn ceremonial magic order, and soon I was attending Pagan festivals and public rituals, meeting Wiccans, Thelemites and other magical folk . But our group broke up after the death of its founder, and although I continued to read widely, and the number of books available grew exponentially, my own practice and interest dwindled and I lost contact with other magically-inclined people.

The growing online Pagan community somehow never had much attraction for me. Witchvox, MySpace, even the growing number of Pagan blogs never really grabbed my attention as I coasted through the end of the millennium. They were useful sources of information, but not something I felt a part of. Then about three years ago I discovered podcasts, and everything started to move forward again. Books and websites were always interesting and good resources, but no substitute for a living teacher. Listening to a podcast, however, gave a personal presence and a real connection to the speaker, and I found I was much more engaged than I ever had been with written material alone. I started studying magic again, and expanding into areas I had never even known of before.


The first podcasts I discovered were fun, chatty programs like The Darker Side of Fay,  A Pagan Heart in Maine, Pagan Hooligans, The Wigglian Way and Pennies in the Well. But each of them carried promos for other podcasts, and as soon as I'd listened to their archived recordings, I branched out to The Spiral Dance with Hawthorne, Media Astra Ac Terra (now Between the Earth and Stars), The Unnamed Path, and Pagan FM. One day a promo on Pagan Hooligans announced the launch of New World Witchery, a podcast exploring something quite new to me: American folk magic. An interview there led me to the grandmother of all Hoodoo podcasts, The Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour, then Five-Star Spells (which became Conjure Crossroads), Old Style Conjure and Lamplighter Blues. At the same time I was having my eyes opened to Hoodoo, Voodoo and other African diaspora traditions, I also found Druidcast and The Celtic Myth Podshow and headed back across the Atlantic to rediscover Druidry and ancient Celtic traditions. And my background in Ceremonial Magick wasn't neglected either, because I started listening to The Hermetic Hour, and was finally able to grasp some concepts of Kabbala, Gnosticism and Hermeticism that eluded me when I was younger.

Like radio shows, podcasts can include lessons, lectures, personal essays, panel discussions or phone-ins, but many also feature a lot of Pagan music. Some, like A Darker Shade of Pagan (now Numinosis) and The Magick Jukebox, are purely music shows. (Thanks to podcasts, my awareness and appreciation of modern Pagan music has grown exponentially over the past three years! )

Most podcasts have a home site where you can download or listen online to current and archived episodes. Some post a new episode monthly or even weekly, but most are more occasional. You can use "subscribe" to favourite podcasts using iTunes or another podcatcher utility (I use Juice) so that new episodes are automatically downloaded for you whenever they appear. I download them to my MP3 player and listen at work; lots of people listen in the car or while doing chores. You can also just listen at the computer while you're doing other work.

Some of My Favourite Magical Podcasts

  • The Spiral Dance with Hawthorne: a weekly hour of essays, stories, spells, mythology, meditation and information, with a lot of great music, from a very eclectic Pagan perspective.
  • The Wigglian Way: Sparrow and Mojo, two lovable and crazy Canadian Wiccans, host a more-or-less monthly program of chat, essays, Pagan politics and music.
  • Druidcast: The monthly podcast of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Hosted by musician Damh the Bard, it includes some teachings of the Order, but is mostly lectures (always fascinating), interviews and of course lots of music.
  • Ariel's Druidic Craft of the Wise: A long-running but occasional series of teaching lectures on spellcraft and magic.
  • Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour: A weekly 90-minute phone-in show where hosts cat yronwode and Conjureman Ali use divination and traditional conjure magic to help solve callers' personal problems. cat yronwode is a bottomless source of knowledge, and I've learned more about Tarot from this show than from thirty years of reading!
  • Conjure Crossroads: A panel discussion and general gabfest between four fabulously knowledgeable hoodoo practitioners: Susan Diamond, Starr Casas, Sindy Todo and Orion Foxwood. The amount of spells, charms, magic and folklore that pours out of these four, and host Shimmering Wolf, forces me to listen to each episode at least twice to take notes of it all.
  • New World Witchery: My absolute favourite podcast on traditional magic, mostly because the hosts Cory and Laine are just so adorable. But they have a lot to share, especially on the intersection of magic, folklore and popular culture. New episodes have become less regular, but it makes them more of a treat when they appear.
  • Between the Earth and Stars: The archived episodes of Oraia Helene's podcast are well worth listening to because of the long series she did of very informative programs on stones, crystals, astronomy and astrology. Plus lectures, personal essays and some music. Less frequent than in the past but always worth it.
  • Many podcasters use their shows to document their own ongoing exploration of Paganism and magic.  Scarlet Paige's Lakefront Pagan Voice is a good example, with personal essays, interviews with family members, meditations and accounts of personal magical experiences. 


Online teachers and mail-order classes

Mail-order magical training has been around for a long time, with groups like AMORC, The Society of the Inner Light and Fraternitas Rosae Crucis advertising their correspondence courses through ads in occult magazines. But the Internet has made it easier to find correspondence courses in astrology, witchcraft, ceremonial magick and other occult subjects, and now many online courses have been established to take advantage of the many benefits of online communication. For those who don't have access to teaching groups in their area, or who have trouble finding time to go to classes and meetings, this kind of distance teaching is very valuable. Much more in-depth than any book can be, correspondence classes are usually structured to ensure that the student has mastered each topic before moving on to the next. Courses can usually be completed at the student's own pace and schedule, while email, chat, Facebook and other social media groups allow for ongoing interaction between students and teachers. Fees for online and correspondence courses vary quite a bit, from just enough to cover the operating costs to commercial schools that teach classes for profit.

Some of the well-established online and correspondence schools I know of today are the OBOD Druidry Training Course, cat yronwode's Hoodoo Correspondence Course,  the Correllian Tradition's Witch School, Cherry Hill Seminary and the Aquarian Tabernacle Church's Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary. I'm sure there are many others, both here in North America and in Britain and Europe. As well, many Pagan bloggers, authors and individual teachers offer online courses and workshops. These can be harder to find, and although many are listed on Witchvox and other Pagan sites, lots are not. For instance, Australian musician Wendy Rule and her husband teach an interesting-sounding online course called Living a Life of Magic, which I know about only from her fan newsletter - I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else.

Festivals and Conferences

Most Pagan authors and teachers, even famous ones whose books you probably have on your shelf, teach individual classes and workshops at Pagan festivals and conferences. Often the workshops are included in the festival admission price, though some conferences charge separately for each workshop. As well, local stores and groups sponsor workshops and classes by visiting Big Name Pagans. Many workshops and classes include handouts, and sometimes even books, magical supplies and spell kits. There are annual Pagan festivals and conferences throughout Canada, the US and Britain, though I don't know of any one site that lists all of them. Any local Pagan or occult store or publication in your area will have information on upcoming festivals and workshops. While the cost and time to attend a festival can be daunting, the amount you can learn from even a few hours with a very knowledgeable teacher is worth it; one good class can revitalize your magical training and practice.

Here are some to look for:

Pantheacon: This is the big western US Pagan conference, held in February each year in San Jose, CA. The list of workshops and presentations reads like a Who's Who of Paganism and witchcraft.

Starwood: It bills itself as "the largest Pagan/Magickal/Consciousness gathering in North America (perhaps the world)." Held annually each summer for 33 years, now each July in Ohio.

Gaia Gathering: The Canadian National Pagan Conference, held in a different host city each year on the May 24 long weekend. The 2013 conference is in Ottawa.

Sacred Space Conference: Held in March in the Washington D.C. area.

Traditional Folk Magic Festival: A relatively new conference on hoodoo, conjure and American folk magic, held in New Orleans in November. This year's festival will coincide with the Pagan Podkin Supermoot, an annual gathering of North American Pagan podcasters.

Wic-Can Fest / Harvestfest: Canada's oldest Pagan festivals, held annually in southern Ontario for 32 years. Wic-Can Fest is in mid June and Harvestfest on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

Hoodoo and Rootwork Training Workshops: Sponsored by the Missionary Independent Spiritual Church and hosted by the Lucky Mojo Curio Shop in northern California each spring.

Druidcamp: Held every July in the Forest of Dean, England.

Pagan Pride Days:  There are Pagan Pride Days held in cities throughout North America every fall. And while their focus is more on music, rituals and fun than workshops and lectures, there are usually at least some classes, sometimes by big-name guests.

So don't let being "isolated" keep you from finding teachers and continuing to learn first-hand about magic and Paganism. Books and websites just aren't enough - you need to hear real voices too!

Monday, May 6, 2013

P is for Personalization (better late than never, right?)

When I first started on the path I did everything by the book. Literally, by the book, any book. I clung to the rituals and spells laid out for me, and would not change a thing, to the point that if I didn't have a particular stone or candle, then I just didn't complete the spell or perform the ritual. This meant a long time of planning well in advance any workings I might do, and god/dess forbid I did not find the exact things.

It took a good many years but one day I was getting ready to perform a ritual for self-love, and it called for rose oil with which to annoint yourself. I am not a big fan of rose oil, and smelling like it does not make me feel divine and beautiful, just really stinky. (I know others love rose oil and it does make them feel fabulous, I am just not one of those people.) I now had a couple of options: I could not perform the ritual which I obviously wanted to, perform it using an oil I do not like and lose some of the joy of the ritual, or I could replace this oil with one that made ME feel divine and beautiful. I chose the latter, replacing the rose oil with honeysuckle which has been a favorite of mine since I was little. And I think the ritual worked much better than if I had sucked it up and used the oil the author suggested, and certainly better than if I had given up on it because I didn't like one element.


So don't be afraid to play with ingredients, stones, scents, etc. To some healing is blue, to some it is green and to others brown, so when doing a spell or ritual for healing you should use the color candle that represents best for you. The same goes with wording and deities used, if there is one close to you that represents the spell or ritual you are doing, then plug them it. The point of Wicca/Paganism/Witchcraft is that it be personal, and mean something to you. So make sure that it does.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Magic from rags

This photo of Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Around the world, people have traditionally used rags, small flags, torn strips of clothing and other bits of cloth to anchor and reinforce their prayers and magical petitions. In this post we'll look at some of these traditions and how we can use cloths in our own magical working.

Holy Places

When people make a pilgrimage to a sacred site to make a petition to the resident deity, saint or spirit, they often leave behind a token to mark their visit and as an offering. In some places these will be statues, small ex voto charms, written petitions or even stones, but at many holy places around the world, visitors leave strips of cloth. This practice is found among cultures as diverse as Native American, Celtic, Tibetan and Japanese. Usually the cloth is more than just a marker to say "I was here" - it embodies a prayer and leaves it at the site to continue its work long after the petitioner has returned home.

Photo taken in Bhutan by Jean-Marie Hullot,  via Wikimedia Commons
In some places, like the Himalayas, this is made more explicit by using small flags with specific prayers printed on the cloth. The idea is that, as long as the prayer flag continues to flutter, the winds will carry the prayer to the gods. In Ireland and other Celtic countries, visitors to holy wells will often dip a cloth into the water as they make their prayer (formerly to local gods, goddesses or water spirits, now usually to saints) and tie it to the branch of a nearby bush. Often this bush is a hawthorn, one of the sacred trees of the ancient Celts. The Scots and Irish call these rags "clooties" (from the Gaelic for "cloth") and the wells at which they are left are known as "clootie wells". Sometimes the well is long gone, its place now marked only by the continuing presence of a "clootie tree" still being visited by the local people to convey prayers and wishes to the spirits.

You can have a clootie tree in your own yard, and tie strips of fabric to it as you make a wish or speak a charm. Use lightweight cotton or other natural fabric, so the clooties will decay quickly. You can also hang charms, papers and other small objects from the branches along with the cloth. Your clooties can also be hung as offerings to fairies, elemental spirits or just the genus loci or spirit of the place. There may even be a spring in a park or natural area near you; look for small streams of water and try to follow them back to their origin. You may find one that just comes from a tiny pool that isn't fed from any other water source. This is probably a natural spring, and you can pay your respects to its resident water spirit by hanging a clootie from a nearby branch. This is also a way you can honour a special tree or bush in your neighbourhood.

Rags in spell work

Cloth has many characteristics that makes it especially good to incorporate into spellcraft. Colours can be chosen to correspond with the type of spell (green or gold for money, red or pink for love, etc.), a deity whose aid you're requesting, or the zodiacal or planetary correspondence. You can write a petition, name or sigil onto a cloth and either use it to contain herbs or other elements of the spell, or incorporate it into the spell as you would a paper. Rags can be pieces of new cloth, bought specially or taken from your stash, or they can be remnants of old clothing or other possessions, in which case they are a powerful magical link to the original owner. Traditionally, rags with the strongest personal connection come from shirts or undershirts (because they're worn against the heart), underwear (because it contacts the genitals) or scarves (because they're worn on the head), but any piece of clothing will retain a link to the person who's worn it. Even leftover scraps from fabric have a connection to the rest of the fabric and therefore to the person wearing the garment made from it.

You can work backwards from this idea too, and perform a spell onto a piece of fabric that is then incorporated into a garment or other item for someone. A protective charm can be made and sewn inside a shirt, for example, or a love charm into a bag.
Quilts are a perfect place to include magically-prepared cloth, for example. And incorporating scraps from the clothing of loved ones and ancestors has always been a traditional practice of quilters even when there was no overt magical intent.


The use of poppets as magical stand-ins for specific people is extremely ancient. Its most well-known form is in cursing or causing harm, but poppets are very often used in magic for healing, protection and especially love and relationships. Of course poppets can be made of any materials, including wood, wax or straw, but are most often sewn out of scraps of fabric. This allows them to be stuffed with suitable herbs, charms and other materials, and most significantly, to be made out of fabric that was once worn by the person represented. This creates a uniquely powerful connection that will amplify any spell worked with the poppet.

If your poppet is made of wood, clay or other material, you can still use a personal scrap of fabric to dress it. The ideal, of course, is to use fabric from the clothing of the person represented to make similar clothing for the poppet, so it will resemble its subject even more closely. But even just a scrap of personal fabric tied on as a sash or scarf will greatly enhance the power of the poppet.

A poppet could be used for ancestor work, too. We often have small scraps of fabric, handkerchiefs, lace or odd garments from our great-grandparents or even more distant ancestors. You could create a poppet to represent either a specific ancestor from whom you have a piece of fabric, or simply "my ancestors known and unknown". Dress the doll in a style that suggests the right period of the past (it doesn't have to be historically accurate - just a few period touches is enough) and incorporate any bits of actual ancestral fabric you have. Add an inherited button, hat pin or brooch to finish it off. Give your poppet a place on your ancestral altar, and treat it as an honoured member of the family.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


 “The earth laughs in flowers.”
  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You have as much laughter as you have faith.” 
 - Martin Luther

“Laughter is poison to fear.” 
 - George R .R. Martin

Laugh, chortle, snicker, cackle, giggle, titter, snort, guffaw, snigger - However you do it make sure you do it today. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

In the Witchy Kitchen

image from Here

Almost from the beginning of my journey into Wicca and Paganism I have always been strongly attracted to the aspects of Kitchen and Green Witchery.  I LOVE baking and gardening and creating in general.  It's really where my heart sings.  Now that I have a family (a pretty good sized one too) I now feel the need to be in the kitchen not only for the preparation of meals, but just to have my little escape.  Nothing is more soothing to me than cutting out a batch of fresh homemade noodles, or kneading together some delicious baked good from scratch.  Over the last couple years I have neglected the gardening part of my life, but others have been good to me.  I have gotten some delicious herbs and herb blends from many fellow pagans that I have used to add a little magick into my everyday meals.

  Along with the creating of food, I have also used these herbs in spell work.  From turning sage into smudge sticks, to creating homemade bath salts.  The later is what I am going to be sharing with you today.  I made up a batch of Purifying bath salts that is perfect for a pre-ritual cleansing bath.

I chose lavender and rosemary for both their scent and for their cleansing and purify purposes.  lavender is also a calming herb and rosemary has protective properties.  I used baby oil because it is gentle on the skin and already used in many bath and body products or even alone.  

Here is what you will need:
  • 1 1/2 cups Epsom salts
  • 2 Tablespoons baby oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Rosemary
  • 2 Tablespoons Lavender
  • Lavender oil (about 10 drops)
  • several dishes for mixing ingredients
  • mortar and pestle for grinding herbs (optional)

For my spell crafting I always try to measure out all my ingredients and put them into either stainless steel or glass bowls or dishes.  These dishes won't absorb smells or stains from my materials, and I feel won't hold onto energies from past spell work.  They are both made from earth elements, unlike man made plastic composed of chemicals.  I lay them out on my altar (or workspace if it is a large spell or project) and light my charged full moon candle, and let the candle light and smoke cleanse the items and prepare them for crafting.  The candles I use for spell working and for spell crafting are different.  These crafting candles are charged specifically for the purpose of cleansing ingredients and materials prior to crafting.  I charge them in the light of 3 full moons.   This is a personal thing, I am very attracted to the cleansing energies from the full moon and incorporate it into as many aspects of my spell work as I can.

To make the bath salts  I start by pouring my Epsom salt into my stainless steel bowl and adding my baby oil and mixing by hand to make sure all the oil and salt are blended.  It should take on a wet, clumpy appearance.

Next I put the rosemary and lavender into my mortar and grind them up until they take on a powdery consistency.

  Finally I add the herbs to the salt mixture and combine them by hand until everything is evenly dispersed.

 You can now transfer your ritual bath salts into glass jars or other containers and store them, or use straight into your tub.  I use about 1/4 cup in my tub.  This container has enough for two baths, and the recipe has enough for four.   

I chose lavender and rosemary for both their smell and for their cleansing and purify purposes.  Lavender is also a calming herb and can aid in relaxation and meditation. Rosemary has protective properties which make it perfect for circle casting.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


This year I have decided on taking a journey.  Not to an actual physical destination, but a mental and emotional journey.  Over the last 10 years I have slowly been slipping away from the person I thought I would be.  I have fallen into other roles that are more "functional" if you will.  In these 10 years I have become a wife, a mother, and am staying at home raising my kids full time.  Would I trade any of these roles in? Never!  I just wish there was more ME in the MothEr role.  So I started this journey on January 1st.  My goals for the year were pretty simple, get healthy and be more active in the things I am passionate about.  So far things are looking good!  What about you? Care to share a similar journey you are on? or have completed?

Friday, March 1, 2013


Close your eyes.
What do you see?

A green field, a lush garden, an everlasting sea?
Now throw that silk over your shoulder
And carefully knot it in front

And make it your invisibility cloak
Your fairy wings
Your superhero cape
Close your eyes, make it fly as you spin around

You can be anything you want
And anything you feel you have
within yourself.

Don't loose that as you grow up
Because it's hard to find it once again.