Friday, April 30, 2010

Blessed May Eve

"Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun."
- Kahlil Gibran

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Magic Of Beltane

Tomorrow evening (April 30th) marks the beginning of Beltane. It is the Sabbat which celebrates fertility and the returning of the sun. Winter has passed and the warmth has returned. It is the beginning of the growing season. Cupboards that were dwindling from the winter past will slowly be restocked as seeds are planted and soon they bear fruit. It is a time when the pleasures or growth of the earth as well as the self becomes awakened. With such an awakening comes the hope of a bountiful harvest later as well as the carefree nature that only summer can bring.

Beltane translated means “fire of Bel” or “bright fire”. This refers further to Bel the Celtic Sun God. It is Bel who is the father, and also husband of the Mother Goddess. On April 30th or May Eve, two large fires referred to as Bel fires are built from the nine sacred woods. They are as follows:

 Birch – representing the goddess or female energy
Oak - representing the god or male energy
Hazel – representing knowledge and wisdom
Rowan – representing life
Hawthorne – representing purity and faery magic
Willow – representing death
Fir – representing birth and rebirth
Apple – representing love and family
Vine – representing joy and happiness

Bel is then asked to bring his blessings and protection to those whom have come to pay him homage. The Bel fire is a sacred fire known for its healing and purifying powers. They represent the return of the sun as well as the coming of the growing season which will put an end to the coldness and barrenness of winter. Animals are led between the two fires as a means to purify, protect, as well as bring luck to them. Fires in the home are also quenched at this time and relit with the fresh fire from the Bel fires. When Beltane has completed and the fires are no more, their ashes are scattered across fields where the crops have been planted as well as other gardens wishing to benefit from them.

Other traditions for Beltane include the May pole: A pole usually made of birch, from which a number of brightly colored ribbons hang. Flowers and leaves likewise decorate it in a festive manner. Upon taking a ribbon in hand those participating, dance around the pole intertwining the ribbons as they do so. The participants traditionally are to be an equal number of young males and females. The dance symbolizes the union of the goddess and her consort. In the joining of the two they form a third. As the ribbons are woven it is thought that the pattern it creates will predict how bountiful the coming harvest will be.

The faeries are also very active during this time. With the return of the vibrant colors of spring flowers as well as their sweet scent it is a time one has the opportunity to have an encounter of the faery kind. They live in trees, plants and flowers and love to hang out in overgrown areas. The fae is a great reminder of our own child like ways whom we tend to hold back as we become older. Much like a child though, faeries love sweets. Be sure and leave a special treat set out for them during your celebration. I myself have already started to ready their area beneath my Elm. The flowers are blooming, a wind chime hangs, and a special area where their feast is placed has been cleared.

If you would like to call the fae, begin by ringing bells. The soft sound of bells is known as a wake up device for the fae and lets them know you would be delighted if they come out and play. Look for the slightest flicker of movement. Be sure also to acknowledge the trees. Often you can feel a presence, even if you do not see anything. Making friends with the faeries in your area is a wonderful thing. They in turn will lend their hands and magic to you. You will soon notice your mood lightened as well as your cares less.

Whatever your plans for Beltane, remember this: It is that childlike demeanor that best portrays the nature of Beltane. It is that unbridled energy which surges up from deep down within us and craves to be released. It is an expression of bliss and delight in the simplicity of running freely with no restraints. It is lying in the middle of a field of soft clover with the warmth of the sun on your face and the smell of the wildflowers around you. It is dancing without any inhibitions, expressing ourselves freely. Quite simply: It is the natural abandonment of our adult sensibilities. Which in turn allows us to find pleasure, bliss, and peace in celebrating the gift of Beltane.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Queen of May

The wheel of the year has turned, and we find ourselves on the verge of Beltane. Opposite to Samhain in both cycle and purpose, this festival celebrates the pleasure and fertility of life. One of the traditions I love best about this holiday is the idea of the May Queen. Dressed in white, the May Queen is the Maiden ripe with fecundity, at the moment she is to become the Mother. Over the centuries, the May Queen has been associated with the Queen of the Fae, with Maid Marian, and with Mary, mother of Jesus.

In ancient Celtic festivals, the May Queen was the embodiment of the Goddess, giving herself to the May King, the embodiment of the God in the moment of divine creation that brings forth all life. Modern pagan traditions often reflect this role with rituals and celebrations featuring sex and sexuality, and this is fitting on a day that celebrates fertility.

However, the May Queen also symbolizes the power of change: the change, or growth, that causes a seed to sprout, or an egg to grow into that most complex beast, the human being. The power of this change is with in us all, as it is in the May Queen. We posses reserves of strength and growth untapped. Because of this, I see all of us as 'May Queens and Kings' this Beltane. Celebrate the fertility of your mind, of your life; celebrate the power of your prayers, the power your words have, the strength and fecundity of your own spirit. Honor that within you which is the embodiment of the God and the Goddess, year round.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gemstones & Crystals

Here are two of my most coveted books, the ones on gemstones and crystals.

The Crystal Bible: A Definitive Guide to Crystals
By Judy Hall

This text offers a comprehensive guide to all the crystals known to man, their shapes, colours and applications. It aims to be useful to the beginner and expert alike, using a directory format which makes the crystals easily identifiable. The descriptions accompanying each of the crystals provide information on their appearance, worldwide distribution, attributes, actions and healing properties required to unleash their unlimited potential. All the major and lesser-known stones currently available are featured, including those only recently discovered.

Sparrow’s Note – My husband or I use this one at least once a week.  It is great if you are using gemstones for protection, healing or in jewelry.

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic
By Scott Cunningham

Practice an ancient magic that is both natural and powerful—the elemental Earth magic of rock, stone, and metal. This comprehensive and clear guidebook by Scott Cunningham has introduced over 200,000 readers to the secrets of over 100 gems and metals.
Learn how to find and cleanse stones and use them in divinations, spells, and tarot readings. Discover how to determine the energies and stories contained within each stone, and the symbolic meanings of a stone's color and shape. Also included in this classic guide are:  
  • A 16-page full-color insert, new with this edition
  • Birthstone and jewelry magic lore
  • Tables listing both planetary and elementary rulers of stones, magical intentions, and magical substitutions

Sparrow’s Note – We don’t use this one quite as much as the bible above, but Cunningham goes more in depth about the crystals.  There are also some wonderful correspondence tables in the back to help you figure out what stones to use for what purpose.

The following book also includes quite a bit of interesting information on uses and correspondences of gemstones that can be used when contacting or working with your Angels.

The Angel Bible: The Definitive Guide to Angel Wisdom
By Hazel Raven

Angel lore, angel stories, angel advice, and angel wisdom: whether you’re seeking guidance, healing, or inspiration from these heavenly messengers, you’ll find it in this splendidly illustrated Angel Bible. It’s filled with enlightening knowledge: you’ll learn about angelic calling cards, messages, and visions, and discover how to sense an angel’s presence, create an angel altar, keep an angel gratitude book, and meditate and dream with the angels. Find out about angels of many lands and their hierarchies, and explore the connections between angels and astrology, colors, crystals, essential oils, kabbalah, and the chakras.

A quick reference guides you directly to those angels who can offer immediate assistance and teaches you how to call on them for help in any situation.

The following books are on my “wish list.”  If you already have them or get them before I do, please let us know what you think!

Practical Crystal Healing: 555 Tips & Techniques
By Nicole Lanning

Practical Crystal Healing - 555 Tips and Techniques is a simple guide for any crystal healing practitioner, whether they are just starting out or are a bit more advanced in their learning. The real heart of this book lies within the 555 different tips and techniques to use for crystal healing. These are common ailments and conditions that have personally been worked on by the author, Nicole Lanning, in her own crystal healing practice and studies. They have been tested and re-tested over many years for their accuracy and validity. Other topics covered include: Choosing Your Crystals, 8 Cleansing Techniques, 3 Programming Techniques, 15 Chakra and Crystal Correspondences, 12 Aura and Crystal Correspondences, Crystal Elixirs, Crystal Gridding, Crystal Healing Bags and much more. Each individual works within a different vibrational level and will resonate individually to different crystals. What is shown in this book will work for everyone to enhance his/her own crystal healing potential.

Healing Crystals and Gemstones: From Amethyst to Zircon
By Flora Peschek-Bohmer

Heal yourself with power of crystals and gemstones. Hundreds of vivid color photographs make it easy to identify and distinguish between different varieties. Listing for over 140 stones tell you which stones to use for particular illnesses, how to use them most effectively and how stones relate to the chakra system and the signs of the zodiac.









Crystal Awareness
By Catherine Bowman

Now you can learn the secrets of crystals and how to use them for meditation, healing, and personal energy by reading Crystal Awareness by Catherine Bowman. Virtually everything you need to know about crystals is included. That's why over 130,000 people already have this book. You should have it, too!

First, you will learn about the basic nature of crystals. You'll learn what they're made of and their different forms. You'll also learn about the different powers of each. What type of crystal should you use when doing healings? How can you use clusters of crystals? What are the differences between small crystals and large ones? The answers are all found in Crystal Awareness.  More than anything, this book is practical. You'll learn how crystals have energy fields and how they can interplay with your personal energy fields. This book explains how to use crystals in meditation and how they can open you to deeper personal awareness as your meditations go deeper than ever before. Included is information on the effect of working with color and crystals when meditating.

Crystal Awareness also reveals the secrets of healing with crystals. You'll learn how to program crystals for healing and how to lay them in arrays around the head or feet. You'll see the effect of large crystals and clusters on healing as well as how colored quartz can be used for different healing purposes.

Simply put, this is the best book to introduce you to working with crystals. Get your copy today.

If you enjoy working with gemstones and crystals like I do, go check these out!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

As Above, So Below...

Angel holding the earth
I have trouble with the whole idea of "Earth Day" which seems to only honor the earth one day or week of the year. I feel the same way about Valentine's Day and how wrapped up our culture gets lost in romantic love and expressions as opposed to loving deeply each day. I'm not saying that everyone only recognizes and appreciates the earth on a certain day. I think the intention of Earth Day is wonderful, it's just that most people either feel too overwhelmed, confused, or hopeless to know where to start to help our earth and how to make it last.

The phrase, "As Above so below, As within so without," comes to mind when I think about where we are as a culture and how that impacts the earth. The expression of "As above, so below..." originated in ancient Egypt and became a major principle for alchemists and magicians. Today, many of us who believe or practice magic still believe in that truth. I don't interpret that belief to mean we're responsible for everything we experience because we created the thoughts or fears inside us first. It's ignorant and cruel to use that way of thinking when people experience tragedy. How I interpret the alchemists philosophy is that what we are experiencing internally influences how we view the external. What does this say for us then?

Most of us don't know how to properly nurture, protect, or love ourselves. So how can anyone expect then that we know how to heal and take care of the earth ? We all could start with a little more compassion for ourselves and others. With compassion we can learn greater acceptance, kindness and wisdom. There's a difference between being selfish in an unhealthy way as opposed to having self-love in beneficial ways. Most of the time we're not conscious of the millions of internal voices that constantly berate, criticize or make ourselves feel horrible. If we could slow down and hear what we're saying to ourselves, we'd be appalled. We don't talk to the people we love this way, so why do we treat ourselves so horribly?

One of the easiest ways to love ourselves more is to connect with nature because nature gives so much back to us. I'm not talking only about going outside, for walks, hikes, camping etc...Each moment of the day we're interacting with all the elements of Earth. For example, we breathe in oxygen, we drink water, we eat the food that came from the earth, we take medicine and vitamins that are all derivatives of what is found on the earth and on and on. We just forget how much we rely on nature and she on us. I believe then if we really want to make a difference to help the earth, we start small. Notice the next time you drink water how it tastes and imagine where did it originate from. When you eat, think of how it started in the earth and how the wind, rain, and the sun shaped it. These are just tiny examples of how much we depend on and the earth. I don't want to sound like those angry and pessimistic people who preach about how much we've destroyed the earth and we're all heading for a cataclysmic end if we don't do this or that.

We humans have the capability to change for the greater good as well as we have the power to destroy. We've just forgotten who we really are and what gifts we can bring to the world. Meditate upon your passions and what brings you the greatest joy in life that doesn't depend on how much it costs or looks. That's where you start to focus on change, real change for the earth. Help the earth because you want to and not because it's the "right thing to do" or if you don't do anything you'll feel guilty. Those lessons never helped us as children in any valuable way. It's not going to start now that we're adults. Children are great teachers in the way that they receive so much from nature in the simplest of ways. To have that joy, enthusiasm and appreciation for all the gifts that the earth gives us can help us to heal old wounds. We can then help to restore and renew the earth where she needs it most.

I'll end this post with one of my favorite poems; "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.wildgeese.jpg

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Planting the Seeds on Earthday

Forty years ago today the first Earth Day occurred. It was spurred by the idea that each and every person residing on this planet deserved the opportunity to live in an environment that was healthy and natural. Over the years this cause has grown and its urgency has been expressed again and again. Yet as in all causes if the seed is not continuously planted eventually the crop will fade and it will not flourish as it once did.

This is why it is so important that we as parents, grandparents, teachers, etc continue to show the children of the world the need and importance of tending to Mother Earth. From books to participation in community activities, to be an example ourselves the opportunities are endless.

There is no easier way to introduce a young child to Earth Day than through a book. "I Can Save the Earth" by Alison Inches is the story of how one little monster learns how to not only recycle but also reduce and reuse.  This is one of many books put out by "Little Green Books".  Other books include "The Adventures of Aluminum Can", "Don't Throw That Away", and "The Adventures of A Plastic Bottle".  All have a wonderful message of the importance of being green.

One of my favorite ways to teach my grandkids about the wonders of the earth is via gardening.  Whether it is the planting of a flower or a harvest of the garden it has always been a wonderful way to show them the gifts that Mother Nature can bestow to them.  I love the concept of the community garden.  Where a community comes together and develops and tends a garden for them all to use.  Not only does this idea help them to become self sufficient, it also brings them together and form a sense of community.  What a wonderful lesson to teach your children.  The American Community Garden Association is a wonderful place to start. 

Living by example likewise is a wonderful manner to teach those around us.  Recycling is a wonderful start.  The Recyclo-Pedia is a great place to start with tips on how to recycle just about anything you could think of:  Papers, Plastics, Electronics, Metal, Glass, etc.

Another method of recycling is a compost pile.  It has always amazed me how taking yard and kitchen waste could eventually create such beautiful dirt.  I can not believe more people do not do it, especially if they are gardeners.  The soil created by a compost pile is far more rich than any one would ever buy.  Tips for building your own compost pile can be found on Earth 911.

 

If your children are small and still not yet old enough to grasp the concepts of recycling or composting, there are still things that you can do.  Years back (I'm sure some of you can remember) the convience of the disposable diaper was only a dream.  The Cloth diaper ruled.  Of course when the first dispoable was introduced mothers everywhere ran to it as it was such a wonderful change. The cloth diaper became a thing of the past.  Today we realize the folly of our ways. 

The average newborn will be changed aproximately 70-80 times each week. That equals 280-320 diapers a month. 80% of people today use disposable diapers. That is roughly 18 billion diapers making 82000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp (250,000 trees) each year. Although some brands have worked to help the disposable be more biodegradable, most diapers take literally hundreds of years to degrade. Added to this is the fact that neatly tucked into each "package" is its own little "present".

Many mothers today are relooking at the cloth diaper. Go Diapers offers the convience of both ways.  Their reusable cloth insert as well as a 100% biodegradable disposaable insert allows one to go either way.  With the cost of disposable diapers these days I would think that alone would make one rethink.

Each year on April 22 we acknowledge and celebrate this concept. It is a day when the entire manners in which we can “be green” are expressed. Yet Earth Day should be every day. We should be conscious of the changes that need to be made on a daily basis. We should stand up and speak for such needs whenever the opportunity arises.

Save the Earth - You Might Need It Later!

We walk upright, have opposable thumbs, and can program an iPod. And with great power comes great responsibility. This Earthday, let us all remember that, regardless of religion, philosophy, or desktop computer platform, we are stewards of the Earth. In honor of that idea, I got together today with some friends of mine from the Pagans of Esty Street Team. What is that, you ask? Long story. Click on the link. Anyhow, we got together to share a few tips and ideas for making our footprint on this planet a little smaller. With their permission, I’ve collected them together for you.
We started with this bit of Yankee wisdom: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." The key idea here is to reuse, recycle, upcycle, and reduce as much as possible!

Things that you can’t recycle, and don’t want to reuse? Swap, share, giveaway - try freecycle.com to giveaway things in your area. Too much work? Opt for Goodwill, Salvation Army, Out of the Closet and other thrift stores that resell your donations and put the proceeds to good use with in the community.

Reuse water: plug the tub so that shower water doesn't drain, then haul buckets of grey water out into the garden so you don't have to use fresh hose water. Do the same with your dishwater. The soap will gently take care of garden pests, reducing your need for harmful pesticides. Also, if you have fruit trees, removing the fruit that drops every day will reduce the number of insects, lowering your need for pesticides once again.

Opt for low flow shower heads, low flow and air assist toilets. Try to cut 5 minutes off of your showering time. This can save over 10 gallons of water! Have a drippy faucet and no money/time for the plummer? Catch the water with a bucket and use that to water house and garden plants, or use it to fill your washing machine.

Pick up opened, half empty water bottles after athletic practice for watering delicate house plants and orchids, then recycle the bottles.

Start a compost heap or bucket. Coffee grounds, paper napkins, pet hair and orange peels are all things that can be composted, and there’s lots, lots more. If you don’t have a big back yard where a smelly compost barrel will go unnoticed, try red worm composting, a fast acting, low odor composting system that is great for indoors!

The choices you make at the grocery store can also be helpful at lowering your impact on the Earth. Things that are locally grown take less fossil fuels and energy to get to your store. And free range meat and eggs are usually produced in a manner that is better for the environment. And make educated choices about fish! Don't have your Fish List? Print this one out!

Lets face it, for the most part, our spell casting and ritual Work has a pretty small impact. But here are things you can do to make that footprint even smaller. Choose locally produced tools, or make your own, or recycle from objects you already have. Forage for organic materials to use - flowers, acorns and nuts, and sea shells can be used in ritual and found on your hikes, visits and vacations! Pinesap can be harvested gently, in small amounts, from pinecones and naturally occurring drips on pine trees. This sap can be used as incense. But be careful! It burns very hot!! Only use it with a very fire safe receptacle.

Save your candles and melt them down to make new ones.

Wax that you don’t want to reuse as a candle can be remelted and put into paper egg cartons with a pine cone or sawdust and make great fire starters.

Don't know what your carbon footprint is? Check out this calculator.

And here is a resource for all of us busy bee Pagans: Ways to go green in just 5 minutes.

I hope you found all of this helpful on this Earthday. Small changes, even just one or two at a time, can have a huge impact if we all do them together.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: a fresh take on old Greek mythology

About six months ago I read a blog post from my mentoree Bex about a series that she and her husband were reading – "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" by author Rick Riordan.  She was very excited because they were going to turn it into a movie.  My curiosity got the best of me and I looked it up online.

Percy Jackson is having a rough year at school.  His dyslexia is getting worse, making it near impossible for him to read.  Other kids are getting him in trouble with a teacher that seems to have it out for him.  He doesn’t want to get kicked out of another school so he tries to stay out of trouble.  Little does he know that trouble is already there to get him!

There are five books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.  They document the transformation of Percy from awkward teen to Greek hero in a modern setting.  Originally written for children, the books are a wonderful read for all ages.

The Lightning Thief

What if the gods of Olympus were alive in the 21st Century? What if they still fell in love with mortals and had children who might become great heroes — like Theseus, Jason and Hercules?

What if you were one of those children?

Such is the discovery that launches twelve-year-old Percy Jackson on the most dangerous quest of his life. With the help of a satyr and a daughter of Athena, Percy must journey across the United States to catch a thief who has stolen the original weapon of mass destruction – Zeus’ master bolt. Along the way, he must face a host of mythological enemies determined to stop him. Most of all, he must come to terms with a father he has never known, and an Oracle that has warned him of betrayal by a friend.

The Sea of Monsters

When Thalia’s tree is mysteriously poisoned, the magical borders of Camp Half-Blood begin to fail. Now Percy and his friends have just days to find the only magic item powerful to save the camp before it is overrun by monsters. The catch: they must sail into the Sea of Monsters to find it. Along the way, Percy must stage a daring rescue operation to save his old friend Grover, and he learns a terrible secret about his own family, which makes him question whether being the son of Poseidon is an honor or a curse.




The Titan’s Curse

When Percy Jackson gets an urgent distress call from his friend Grover, he immediately prepares for battle. He knows he will need his powerful demigod allies at his side, his trusty bronze sword Riptide, and . . . a ride from his mom.

The demigods rush to the rescue to find that Grover has made an important discovery: two powerful half-bloods whose parentage is unknown. But that’s not all that awaits them. The titan lord Kronos has devised his most treacherous plot yet, and the young heroes have just fallen prey.

They’re not the only ones in danger. An ancient monster has arisen — one rumored to be so powerful it could destroy Olympus — and Artemis, the only goddess who might know how to track it, is missing. Now Percy and his friends, along with the Hunters of Artemis, have only a week to find the kidnapped goddess and solve the mystery of the monster she was hunting.

Along the way, they must face their most dangerous challenge yet: the chilling prophecy of the titan’s curse.

The Battle of the Labyrinth

Percy Jackson isn’t expecting freshman orientation to be any fun, but when a mysterious mortal acquaintance appears, pursued by demon cheerleaders, things quickly go from bad to worse.

Time is running out for Percy. War between the gods and the Titans is drawing near. Even Camp Half-Blood isn’t safe, as Kronos’s army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. To stop them, Percy and his friends must set out on a quest through the Labyrinth — a sprawling underground world with surprises and danger at every turn.

Along the way Percy will confront powerful enemies, find out the truth about the lost god Pan, and face the Titan lord Kronos’s most terrible secret. The final war begins . . . with the Battle of the Labyrinth.

The Last Olympian

All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows.

While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time. In this momentous final book in the New York Times best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy’s sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.

Once you are done reading these it will be about time for the release of Riordan’s latest book The Kane Chronicles, Book 1: The Red Pyramid.  The Egyptian pantheon will never be the same!

The Red Pyramid

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

And for those of you who really enjoyed the Percy books, the adventures of the Greek pantheon are not over just yet.  According to Riordan’s blog, Myth & Mystery, Disney-Hyperion books has announced a new series called "The Heroes of Olympus" that will introduce some new heroes and welcome back some of our favorites.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Magic and Alchemy I've found in Books.


"Children don't read to find their identity, to free themselves from guilt, to quench the thirst for rebellion or to get rid of alienation.  They have no use for psychology.... They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff.... When a book is boring, they yawn openly.  They don't expect their writer to redeem humanity, but leave to adults such childish illusions."  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer~

I cannot imagine my life without books. Reading to me is as important as breathing and eating. I know many of you understand exactly the way I feel. If you gave me the choice between going out to a party full of "exciting" people or have a quiet night at home reading a good book, can you guess what I'd choose? I usually have about three books that I'm reading at the time. Currently, I'm reading a book about Medieval England, a computer programming book and book about earth magick. This way, I can satisfy all those parts of myself that crave different worlds and wisdom. So, this will be one of the most challenging posts I have ever written.
Our blogs theme this week was to discuss books that have influenced our spiritual paths or books that we just love. Trying to narrow down all the books that I cherish and have been changed is like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. With a lot of thought and difficulty, I've narrowed down my choices to two books. They both have helped me to learn more about myself, they continue to give me pleasure each time I reread them and I think that if you haven't read them you might want to read them for yourselves.
"Goddess in Every Woman" by Jean Shinoda Bolen introduced me to "Archetypal Psychology". Trying to explain what an archetype is, is like trying to explain the quantum of physics which I doubt I'll ever fully understand. I'm going to attempt to give you just the tiniest bit of what an archetype is. Please forgive me if you're still confused at my explanation of archetypes. There are many wonderful resources available if you want to learn more. Archetypes and Archetypal psychology is a world unto itself and each individual has to learn for themselves about this realm.

Dr. Carl Jung was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and like him studied psychology. They both had very different personalities and views of life but one of the major fascinations and psychological theories they agreed upon, was the study of "Archetypal Psychology." Jung and Freud learned more about ancient stories, myths, dream symbols, pantheistic religions and found that cross-culturally there seemed to be reoccurring patterns and images that kept showing up. For example, the wicked witch, the young princess, the wise magician, etc...are all examples of archetypes that we all know and can identify with no matter what culture we live in.Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen is an archetypal psychologist based upon the teachings of Freud and Jung. She wrote the "Goddesses in Every Woman" to help women and men explore those parts of themselves based on the early Greek/Roman Goddesses with an archetypal slant. I first read the book when I was in my twenties and became immediately drawn to archetypal psychology. I have always loved mythology as well as psychology in general. She writes about certain Greek Goddesses and their strengths, weaknesses and the most predominant stories that are associated with them. We can relate to certain deities because we may identify with similar personality traits and life experiences. Back then, I revered Aphrodite and when I read this book, I started to see how I was limiting myself because I only wanted to be considered "Aphrodite like." We're all complex creatures and therefore we don't have just one archetype and that's it. It's when we exclude parts of ourselves that we may not like or wish to develop that we don't really evolve and grow.
As I kept reading "Goddesses..." I began to learn about the other Goddesses and the lessons I could learn from each.Artemis helped me to reclaim my athletic ability I long ago gave up and more importantly why women need to honor other women instead of constantly focusing on my romantic relationship issues with men, which was in the realm of Aphrodite. I wanted to become more like Athena because of her intellectual brilliance and her ability to use logic instead of always coming from pure emotions. Demeter was a goddess of the earth and had strong maternal instincts for her daughter Persephone. I always had strong maternal instincts from my son, but I learned to nurture him more the way Demeter did. Those were just a few examples of what I took away from the book. Today, I still read it and see where I may a bit unbalanced, which archetype I'm currently identifying with and how I've grown from when I first read it. Dr. Bolen also wrote a book called, "Gods in Every Man" which is worthwhile to read for both men and women. Each gender has a masculine side and a feminine side within so it's important to incorporate both qualities. I appreciated how she wrote as so many psychology books tended to be either full of b.s. or they used jargon that went way above my head. If you like mythology and are interested in learning more about archetypal psychology, then this can be a perfect book for you. I hope you check it out and then let me know if you like it or not.


"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho is one of my all time favorite books. It's very written externally but within the story there is so much soul and wisdom. It's not a book that teaches how to walk a particular spiritual path or become more psychologically savvy.Who I am spiritually today has been strongly shaped by this book. Santiago is a young sheep herder in young boy who lives in the Andalusian Mountains and has a very quiet and modest life. One night he has a dream where he's in Egypt and discovers a remarkable treasure. He wakes up and realizes how important this dream is and that he needs to travel to Egypt to find his treasure. The books takes us off on this incredible journey of his. He learns about an alchemist who has magical wisdom and is famous because he knows how to speak "the language of the world" which can be used to transform base lead into gold. Alchemists of early times were known for their quest to acquire gold from lead. I saw the gold in the book as a metaphor where some people seek out gold only for material gain only ending up with fools gold and others may walk the path of an alchemist so that they may find the gold within. Santiago goes through many setbacks, challenges and fears that each of us have experienced. He also finds allies who are far different from what he imagined. I reach for this book over and over again when I'm feeling disillusioned, stuck or I can't seem to remember the blessings life has to offer. It doesn't matter what your age is what spiritual path you're on. If you're willing to open yourself up, you may after reading "The Alchemist" find riches you've only dreamed of. "The Alchemist" has become like a beloved friend and mentor to guide me along the way. Paulo Coelho writes a blog that is so full of inspiration and beauty that it doesn't matter if you've read "The Alchemist" or anything else he has written, the blog stands alone because of how wonderful it is.
I would love to know what books are important in your life and the gifts you have received from them. I always look forward to read new books that just may end up as a new best-friend..
"Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own."  ~William Hazlitt~


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Review: Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink by Susan Pesznecker

Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink: Learn to Write Stories, Spells and Other Magickal WorksWritten by: Susan Pesznecker
Published by: Llewellyn Worldwide LTD
Page Count: 264 pages
ISBN-13: 9780738711454

Blurb:

Write—the Right Way!

The right way to write isn't by following those old rules that bored you in school. The right way is your way—from your heart and expressing exactly what you mean. Here you'll find tools—not rules—that will help you create powerful and expressive rituals, spells, articles, poems, and books. Filled with tips, tricks, clear examples, and wonderful do-it-yourself exercises, this book contains everything you need to make your words sparkle and clearly reflect your ideas. Learn to brainstorm topics, write a rough draft, edit your writing, and come up with a finished work that publishers will want to print and everyone will want to read.

This book is unique because it brings magick into the mix. It reveals secrets of automatic and trance writing that will uncover latent creativity you never knew you had. Once you have unlocked these imaginative forces, you'll also learn how to magickally protect your work. Just about anybody can write words. But if you want to let your creativity explode in new directions, this colorful guide has the magickal and practical keys that will open the locks, break down the blocks, and let the inner writer out. Find out just how much fun writing can be and how good a writer you can become.

Whether you are in the brainstorming phase of the writing process or just need an extra little push to finish your masterpiece, Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink can give you the motivation and inspiration you need to live up to your literary potential.

By using the magickal and professional methods in this book, you can breathe new life into your writing and set yourself on a course towards greatness.

Review:

When I read the blurb for this book, I had to have it!  The idea of combining my magickal studies with my writer’s journey intrigued me.  And since I knew the author from the Grey School of Wizardry, there was no doubt in my mind that Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink was destined to sit on my bookshelf.

From the moment that I cracked open this book, I was hooked.  Pesznecker covers various types of magickal writing in the text.  My personal favorite was the information about journaling, since this is something that I struggle with personally.  Each chapter was followed up by a couple writing exercises to reinforce the chapter and get the creative juices flowing.

If nothing else, this book helped to fuel my passion for writing and made me more eager to jump into my journal each day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What I'm Reading

Yes!! I will admit it! My dark, dirty, pagan related secret: I don't read nearly enough about the philosophy and studies of my own set of beliefs. It's true, and I'm ashamed.

Obviously, we have no 'Bible,' here, no traditional, timeless tome of pagan ritual, philosophy and history to turn to when we have a question. So we have to hunt for our information. I firmly believe that as Pagans and Witches, it's up to us all to educate ourselves, to do research, to find out our paths and actually walk down them. And yet I'm a slacker. But I'm trying to make up for it.

By telling you, dear readers, what I fully intend to read this summer, I hope to strengthen my will to actually do so. Also, now you can nag me about my reading - do it!

Here's my summer reading list.

Drawing Down the Moon, by Margot Adler. Seminal and classic, this is an ethno/anthropological examination of the various kinds of paganism popular in America. I've been wanting to read this for a while, and finally picked up a copy. I'm an anthropologist at heart, and a field guide to paganism seems both intriguing and applicable to my own philosophies.


Wicca, A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner, by Scott Cunningham. This is considered a 'beginner level book,' and while I don't think I'm a beginner, I'm don't consider myself to actually be Wiccan, so I thought it would be good to really educate myself on the basic views of Wicca. I've read some of Cunningham's books on herbalism and other tools, and I appreciate his simple, friendly writing style. I know some people are critical of his casual approach to ritual, among other things, but I think I can roll with this.


Twilight of the Celtic Gods: An Exploration of Britain's Hidden Pagan Traditions by David Clarke and Andy Roberts. My own path takes a lot from neo Celtic paganism of different sorts - Celtic shamanism, Druidism, etc. However, a lot of handy reading that claims to be about Celtic traditions is really Wicca dressed up in the Celtic myths, or New Agey (I hesitate to use the word, but I have to call it like I see it:) silliness. This book, however, purports to be an anthropological look at how ancient traditions have survived in rural Britain. This is very exciting for people like me who are looking for a more traditional and historic look at Celtic beliefs. Now, this one I haven't actually purchased yet, so we will see if I can get my lazy self a copy.


And that's it. My summer beach reads, not exactly laid back reading, but works that will help me grow in spirit and in wisdom. Now, let the nagging begin!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just a quick note

Saturday, I received my copy of Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard so nicely featured in our book column by Sparrow. I have to tell you that it is really wonderful. It is written in the more contemporary style that high school textbooks seem to be done in these days: in small bits & bites. Perfect for the ADHD witch that I am. It offers lots & lots of great information, charts & pictures. It is easy to ollow & easy to use & if one actually did the coursework as presented, olne would end up with a pretty solid Wizardly foundation.  I rank it right up there with   Grimoire for the Green Witch by Ann Maura & Holland's Grimoire of Magikal Correspondences by Eileen Holland, both books I use ALL THE TIME!


Saturday, April 10, 2010

There's Rosemary, that's for remembrance...

phpzwzjNHPM.jpgSoft you now!
The fair Ophelia! — Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
* Hamlet, scene i


How many of us have struggled for words when we're desperately in love with someone, only to produce an inadequate mumble? William Shakespeare was so familiar with this dilemma that in ninety percent of his plays he carefully chose flowers to illustrate humans emotions and experiences. The people who lived in the Elizabethan era, gardened and worked with the earth for both survival and pleasure. People started to learn the "language of flowers" also known as Florigraphy. Each flower had its own folklore, magical qualities and personality. Shakespeare was an avid gardener and his love for flowers ended up becoming a reoccurring theme in his work. I am going to show how Shakespeare used flowers in one speech from the play "Hamlet" spoken by the character, "Ophelia."
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There are so many speeches of Shakespeare to admire and love, but Ophelia's speech is special for me. In high school, I was chosen to act Ophelia's "Flower Garland" speech for a Shakespeare showcase. I was drawn most to Ophelia because of how much I identified with her at the time.

 I'm not going to get into details about "Hamlet" as my focus is on Ophelia. For those who have not read or seen a production of "Hamlet," Ill tell you a little bit about Ophelia and how brilliantly Shakespeare wrote about flowers. Ophelia is a fragile and immature teenager, desperately in love with the prince of Denmark, Hamlet. At the beginning of the play, Hamlet professes his love for Ophelia and speaks about a possible future together. Ophelia's brother and father are very wary of Hamlet and beg her to stay away from him. Hamlet's father is murdered by his uncle who ends up marrying Hamlet's mother. Obviously, this took an enormous toll on Hamlet which is illustrated in the famous speech, "To be or not to be..." Hamlet now mad with revenge and hatred has no capacity to love Ophelia anymore. He tells Ophelia that he never loved her and that he wants nothing more to do with her. Ophelia, becomes overwhelmed with depression and begins to emotionally unravel. Hamlet later ends up murdering Ophelia's father which leads to Ophelia to eventual madness.


Ophelia wanders into Hamlet's castle, singing strange songs to herself about a young girl who loses her virginity and death. She looks wild and unkempt, with flowers and herbs weaved into her hair and clothes. She stops before Hamlet, his parents and her brother and starts to speak;
"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts," said Ophelia to her brother Laertes. "There's fennel for you, and columbines. There's rue for you, and here's some for me; we may call it herb of grace o' Sundays. O, you must wear your rue with a difference. There's a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died."
As I mentioned before, Shakespeare knew exactly what he wanted to portray when he wrote about specific flowers. Shakespeare and many of his contemporaries had a fascination with early civilizations, especially the "Golden Age of Greece" and incorporated their myths for themselves. In Ophelia's speech, most of the flowers are based upon the Greek myths and stories. Ophelia starts off with "rosemary for "remembrance". Greek students would wear wreaths of rosemary as they believed it helped them with memorizing their studies. In Shakespeare's time, rosemary developed new meanings and associations. If a man couldn't smell the fragrance of rosemary, he was known for never being able to love a woman properly. If a home had a rosemary bush in the front yard it said to everyone that the woman was the head of the household. It was also believed to ward off certain types of illness. If you slept with a sprig of rosemary beneath your pillow, it would help to bring sweet dreams. Ophelia sadly beseeches Hamlet to remember.
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Pansies are for thoughts, Ophelia says. The word "Pansy" was originally a French word, "Pensée," literally meaning thought. Pansies back then were much smaller and grew all over the fields as wild flowers. They came to have the nickname, "Heartsease" because it was believed that pansies could heal a broken heart and to bring back joy. Shakespeare also used the Pansy in one of his other plays, "A Midsummers Night's Dream" for a very different purpose. The King of the Fairies, Oberon, had his servant Puck, wipe the juice of the pansy wiped on his Fairy Queen Titania as she slept. They were in a tiff, and Oberon wanted the upper hand over Titania. When someone had pansy juice on them while sleeping they would wake up and fall in love with the first thing they saw. Titania wakes up and falls in love with a man who's been changed into a donkey. Not being one of the tragedies that Shakespeare wrote, "A Midsummers Night's Dream" is one of those plays where all's well that ends well. So Pansies also had an aphrodisiacal power.


Fennel seeds were eaten by the Greek soldiers who were starving at wartime. Fennel were used to appease the hunger, but they never worked or helped the way people wanted them too. Fennel became known as the "false flower." Ophelia uses Fennel to show how she was falsely loved and hurt by Hamlet.

Columbine symbolized ingratitude and became known as "the thankless flower." Again, Ophelia is speaking to Hamlet of his cruelty and lack of any type of appreciation for her.

The word "Rue" itself came from the Greek word, "ruta", meaning repentance. The Greeks had many stories about the flower rue didn't always represent repentance. Rue was eaten for strength and protection in battles. The English were the one's who fully used the flower rue to symbolize repentance. A good churchgoer after sunday confession was supposed to have feelings of remorse and sorrow for whatever sin they had committed. Rue was also known as the "Herb of Grace o' Sundays." Ophelia wished for repentance upon Hamlet who never showed any degree of repentance.

The flower "daisy" was originally called daeges eage, meaning "day's eyes". Daisies the flower unfurls during the day and then closes up at night time. The qualities for daisies were daisies were innocence and purity. Ophelia carried a bouquet of daisies with her throughout the play.

And finally Ophelia speaks of the Violet flower. Violets bloom early in spring and then fade away. The English would forever connect violets with the early death of a person.Hamlet told Ophelia once that violets had a sweet scent that never lasted and faded away too quickly.
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After Ophelia finishes her speech, she is never to be seen alive again. Hamlet's mother who loved Ophelia as a daughter tells Hamlet of her death;
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

So, do you speak the language of flowers as Shakespeare knew how to? And if so, what do they say to you? 

Friday, April 9, 2010

One more thing: Bluebirds

There is a mama bluebird right at the entrance to my bluebird box.The box is on the fence & yes, it is hard to see. This is year three, maybe four that we have had blue birds in the box. We clean it out late, late fall & get it ready for the next spring's batch.

Gardening when you do not have a green thumb. And where you live with endless gnats that dive bomb into your nose & ears.


Gardening is this week's thread & it is a good one. I have four raised beds  in the only place in our backyard  that gets sunshine. One bed has it's potting mixture & the other three remain empty. I need more compost, ours is not ready so we will have to buy more. I do not really like to garden, at least not here in Lynchburg. We are the "Gnat Capital of The World" & they are horrid. We also have mosquitoes but the gnats are the bigger problem. Well, actually the really big problem is deer. We have a huge population of city dwelling deer. Lynchburg has a lot of green space. Our backyards all flow into a wooded area & all of the more distant neighbors have woods, too. We also have creeks & springs in the Burg. And we are in the city.
What I really like to do is can & pickle. I love my pressure cooker. I get a thrill just looking in my pantry knowing that if the world comes to an end, I can feed us for a while, even without electricity. I also make our bread, mustard, ketchup & frequently mayonnaise.

That all said, I feel like I have to try to grow vegetables so that I can "put them up."  I am going to send Barry out for compost & he can mix it with the vermiculite & peat moss & get it all in the beds. Then I will seed. It may be too late for some things. I may have to buy plants. Rats. At any rate, I will get something in the ground soon & go weed, too. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Gift Of Gardening

In some ways this is my favorite time of the year. I love the way that life seems to spring forth all over. And best of all it is the time to start planting. Whether it is flowers, vegetables, trees, or any other I love the process of gardening. I have always loved to have my hands in the dirt. I do not know how to explain it yet it gives me such a sense of energy. Vincent is constantly telling me to wear gloves while I work outdoors, yet for some reason I do not enjoy it as much. I want the feel of the earth right next to me. To cover my hands seem to somehow diminish the full effect it has. It was my grandfather and grandmother who gave me my love for gardening. I remember there garden with such fond memories. I remember my grandfather in his overalls, pulling an onion from the ground and taking the first layer off then giving it to me to eat; its sweet taste feeling me with joy. My favorite gifts from them: a pint jar filled with small sweet red onions. I can not to this day eat, cook, or plant an onion without thinking of them.

My grandmother gave me the gift of preparation of the harvest. By watching her I learned tricks on cooking, storing, and also drying. Unfortunately these days a root cellar is not an easy thing to find so I have to at times improvise. Still I hold some of her ways and recipes close to heart. She did things the old way, from start to finish. She showed me how to utilize all parts and have less waste. She taught me simplicity. She taught me her secrets and told me stories of how many of the items she used to cook with could be used for other things as well.

Their driveway into their small stone house by the railroad tracks was of crescent shape. In front of her home was a stone flower bed with a stone archway. In the summer it was lined with a multitude of color. Such flowers as pansies, asters, and violets lined the borders. Mint, Sage, Lavender, and Rosemary could also be found. I remember other small flowers that grew off to the side of her home near an old cellar that housed the water pump. This area always had the appearance of being neglected yet she would wander through it on occasions bringing back a handful of treasures. She called it her wild garden. I later learned that this was where her wild herbs grew. In it grew Mustard, Poke, Garlic,Marjoram, Lemon Balm, Thistle and so many others.

Also in their yard stood a stone wash house and a small stone storage shed. Further back a chicken yard and a large Mulberry Tree. I remember gathering Mulberries each summer; the bottom of our feet stained with the color red and purple. Grandma would tell us the tree was a watcher and guarded the home from lightning. As she would spread the jam made of its fruit on our toast she would tell us it would likewise guard us and make us strong.

In my yard today many of the same things grow as did in theirs. My Rosemary sits at the southeast corner on my house. I have planted more this year as I simply love its aroma. I credit my grandma with giving this love to me. She would slip a sprig of it under my pillow as I slept on the sofa outside her bedroom, telling me that it would keep me safe and make the bad dreams stay away. I would go to sleep with its fragrance surrounding me. Sweet Basil and Mint are also a part of my garden although I have them planted in large pots that I bring into the house as the year begins to get colder. I love having them fresh all year round. My Apple Mint makes a lovely cup of tea and is quite useful when I have a bit of an upset stomach. Simply chewing on a leaf lends the same effect. As for the Basil, it lends a wonderful taste to many of my dishes. And as my grandma would say, if there is a basil plant in the home, there will always be peace in the home. Sage and Lavender can also be found growing. I have an array of Sages, from blue to white and more.

Also in my yard are the multitude of wild herbs which seems to multiply as the years pass. At the moment the bottom of my yard towards the woods is covered with a multitude of wild flowers. Lambs ear, prairie clover, asters, dandelions, and more. Although I know that soon I will need to trim it, I leave it for a while as I love to see its color each morning.

At the time I did not realize the wisdom in so many of the words she spoke to me. I took for granted at times the gift that their environment gave to me. As time has passed, I find myself thinking back to my times with my grandparents, especially my grandmother. She is with me always. I feel her presence with me often, especially while I tend my own garden or am busy in my kitchen. She offers me remembrance of her wisdom to aid in my talents. The place they once lived has long been gone. There is no trace of their small stone home or other buildings. The garden area and Mulberry and Cherry trees have since been cut down. Yet still I can visit them anytime I please. I need only close my eyes and remember. I need only sit on the ground and feel the dirt fall through my fingers. I need only stand in my kitchen and cut my own herbs taken from my garden. They are both with me still.

Witching in the Garden

I have always believed that good Witch Craft, wether it’s spell casting, tincture or salve making, or simply paying respect to the spirits and guides of our path, relies on quality tools that are generally quick to hand. Centuries ago, our pagan ancestors didn’t have witchy internet communities from which to order their exotic and far flung spell ingredients. Likewise, most of them had limited resources, so expensive, hard to find ingredients were not an option. They had to make do with what was close by - what they could harvest from the world around them.

We may source these natural ingredients on our walks through the neighborhood or countryside, but for many lucky Witches, this means planting a garden. A well planned garden has obvious benefits - the herbs you use the most are quickly to hand, and you can put up quantities to dry or freeze for the dark half of the year. Further, planting and caring for your garden helps attune the vegetation to your energies and needs. We often ‘charge’ the herbs with our will before we use them. I firmly believe that plants that you have cared for a season or even for years may be more sensitive that charge, and may lend their energies to your workings more entirely. And for those of us who live in cities or away from the grander example of our deities work in the world, a garden can help us to be in tune with the cycles of nature and the Turning of the Wheel. A garden can be a small reminder for us all of the love the Great Mother, or Lady, or whomever you may know her by, has for the Earth and all of Her growing things.

If you aren’t an experienced gardener, start off slow. A garden is an investment in time and space - don’t bite off more than you can chew! Because time is always limited for me, I like to grow perennials - plants that grow constantly, instead of dying off in the fall and have to be replanted. I spend much less time replanting in the spring and fall.

For many of us city bound pagans, a full blown garden isn’t an option. Space may be limited, and those of us in apartments and condos may lack a yard to dig up and replant. There is hope for us all, however. Many useful herbs grow very well in pots with just a little light from a window. As you may know from last weeks blog, I keep a little window garden that is full of helpful, healthful herbs. I started with a few pots in a kitchen window, but have included plants in shelves near all the windows in my house. It takes some experimentation, to determine what plant did best where, but I’ve got it sorted out and am harvesting and using my herbs regularly!

To make the most of your garden, consider investing in a few good herbals - books that illustrate the uses and properties of these plants. Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, The Illustrated Herbal, by Philippa Back, and The Magical and Ritual Use of Herbs by Richard Alan Miller are books on the subject that I found fascinating. Philippa Back’s work looks chiefly at the folkloric and contemporary medicinal uses of the herbs, while the other two books are more likely to outline the use of particular herbs as spell and ritual components.

Some easy plants to start with:

Basil is used in many, many prosperity spells. It is also used in love and divination spells, and there is folklore that suggests that basil attracts dragons! Basil is used to mend lovers' quarrels and brings good luck to a new home. There are many different types and flavors of basil, which is also a useful herb in the kitchen.

Catnip is considered easy to grow; besides bringing joy to your felines, herbalists have long claimed that a tea of catnip will settle an upset stomach and relieve flatulence. Magically, catnip leaves can bring luck in love, strengthen friendship, and bring happiness; according to Cunningham, giving catnip to your cat will help create a psychic bond between you two.

Chamomile has long been known for it’s sedative properties, but has also been used for digestive issues and calming nausea, as well as for reducing the pain from menstrual cramps. Magically, it is associated with the masculine aspect of the deity, so use it in rituals honoring Gods and the Sun. It is used ton remove hexes from a home and is a common ingredient in prosperity spells.

Lavender can bring peace and comfort to the home. Recent studies have found that lavender is one of the few natural scents carrying a chemical compound that has been proven to relax and calm the mind. Use in purification baths and rituals.

Mint is considered a healing herb, and mint laid on the altar can call good spirits to aid you in spell working. Use in spells for healing, cleaning, protection, prosperity. Tea made from mint can soothe the stomach and ease congestion.

These are just a few herbs and plants that are available for us to grow and use in our daily workings and rituals. I hope you find them helpful!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Books for Pagan Children

There are thousands of books written by and for Pagans about the various Earth-based paths that are available to them.  The great majority of these books are geared towards adults with a few scattered here and there for teens.  What about our Pagan children?

Here are just a few books that I have had the pleasure of promoting at the Pagan Writers Community that are geared towards the newest generation of Pagans.

The Witchlets of Witch’s Brew #1: “Holly the Hasty Witch” by Edain Duguay

Holly is the kind of child that is always in a rush, never stopping to complete a task and often forgetting to fulfil her promises. She is not a selfish child, just one that needs more hours in the day for her daydreaming and her many plans.

That is until Yule, when the biggest promise in the history of mankind is not fulfilled and Holly begins to see why, when she gives her word, it must mean something.

‘Holly the Hasty Witch’, is the short Pagan tale based on the virtue of integrity and is set at Yule in a small, modern day Pagan village.

This eBook is the first in a series of eight and is suitable for ages 8 years and upwards.


The Witchlets of Witch’s Brew #2: “Ash the Solitary Witch” by Edain Duguay

Ash only had one friend, Rufus, her dog. He was loyal, reliable and loved her unconditionally. She had no one her age to celebrate the seasons and festivals with and she began to feel lonely for the first time in her life but hid it from everyone, even herself. Having previously liked being alone, Ash had no idea if other children her age would like her or if she could even make friends.

One day, her world changed forever as her family moved away from the only home she had ever known, to the small Pagan village of Brew.

Would Ash be brave enough to make new friends? Would she find some at Brew’s celebration of the Spring Equinox?

This eBook is the second in a series of eight and is suitable for ages 8 years and upwards.

Pagan Degrees for Children“Pagan Degrees for Children” by Shanddaramon

Many modern Pagans seek growth and spiritual practice through the pursuit and attainment of spiritual degrees. Whether in a group or as a solitary practitioner learning through a degree system can provide a needed structure, clear and distinct goals, and rewards for hard work. Children, too, often enjoy learning by following a clear structure and by getting positive reinforcements but may not be able to effectively and successfully pursue adult degrees.

This book provides a system of learning Pagan and good living concepts just for children and young adults through three main degrees. Children from the ages of 5 – 18 can work on obtaining the Neophyte, Apprentice, and Mage Degrees by meeting specific goals designed for children and by completing the requirements for earning Achievement Awards. The Neophyte Degree is subdivided into several Levels to help give young children small and easily obtainable goals.

Provided with each Degree and Award is a great deal of information and sources for learning and for exploring. All of the Degree, Level, and Award images and certificates are provided in black and white. However, a companion book is available that contains all the designs in full sixes and colors.

Growing Up Pagan: A Workbook for Wiccan Families“Growing Up Pagan: A Workbook for Wiccan Families” by Raine Hill

Finally, a children’s workbook designed for Pagan families! Rich, exciting stories to read together and discuss, as well as activities to reinforce lessons in a fun way. Chock-full of puzzles, games, mythology, beautiful illustrations, and Pagan symbols, this workbook teaches about the basic Wiccan belief system. Let this be a family affair, with parents, older siblings, and young children taking part in a “something-for-everyone” Pagan experience. A teaching tool for Pagan families or others who want to teach their children diversity.

What others are saying about “Growing Up Pagan: A Workbook for Wiccan Families”

“A fun workbook filled with facts and myths to inspire budding young Pagans.” – Christopher Penczak, Author of “Sons of the Goddess” and “The Inner Temple of Witchcraft”

“Raine Hill has written a charming, lucid and magickal work that will be enjoyed by children of all ages; as someone who has taught in schools for many years I can heartily recommend it. Young people will love being read Wicca’s central myths and stories, they will enjoy exploring the basic philosophies and celebratory cycles and will relish the interactive activities. The wonderful art work is similarly engaging and the whole book will be a treasured item on any Pagan family’s bookshelf. I also intend to use it in my school.” – Pino Longchild, Assistant Head teacher Olga Primary School, London, webmaster of www.magickaschool.com, publisher of The Magickal Light Ezine and author of “Wicca Revealed” and “Wicca Advanced”

Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard“Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard” by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

Here is the book Merlin would have given a young Arthur…if only it had existed. This essential “Boy Scout Handbook” of Wizardry contains everything an aspiring Wizard needs to know. It is illustrated with original art by Oberon and friends, as well as hundreds of woodcuts from medieval manuscripts and alchemical texts- – plus, charts, tables, and diagrams.

The book also contains:
  • Biographies of famous Wizards in history and legend
  • Detailed descriptions of magickal tools and regalia (with full instructions for making them)
  • Spells and workings for a better life
  • Rites and rituals for special occasions
  • A bestiary of mythical creatures; Systems of divination
  • The Laws of Magick; Myths and stories of gods and heroes
  • Lore and legends of the stars and constellations
  • Instructions for performing amazing illusions, special effects, and many other wonders of the magickal multiverse.
By Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, with contributions and additional material from Raymond Buckland, Patricia Telesco, Raven Grimassi, Ellen Evert Hopman, Jesse Wolf Hardin, Amber K, Fred Lamond, Abbty Willowroot, Jeff McBride, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, and other illustrious members of The Grey Council.

What are some of your favorite books for children?

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