This morning I sat my desk and looked out side to see it snowing on the second day of spring. As the snow falls I see at least 6″ of snow all over the ground from a blizzard that occurred last week. This is how it is every year where I live. Lots and lots of snow that never seems to go away.
Yet when you walk into a retail store you will see seeds for sale and signs of spring every where. people longing for the time where the days are warm and gentle and that they can be outside with out harsh heat and those pesky bugs (we have a lot of bugs in my area). Spring time in Maine can be a wonderful time of year when it finally gets here.
Its hard to be thinking about planting your gardens when its still covered in snow and the temps outside can still reach below freezing. There were times when during this past year I thought about getting started on my prep work outside, but once that thought hit me another draft of snow appeared to come our way.
It may be weeks before we actually notice spring here in Maine. As a pagan and as a witch I work with the spirits of the land and the current of the land energy. Hug a tree to talk to the spirit now and they are often annoyed that they got woken up. They are not yet fully awake and the land is still very much asleep. Some trees like Birch and Maple have started to have small leafbuds. Looking outside at the trees in the back and I largely have an image of this:
The grips of winter largely still hold over this land. Yet we see the squirrels and chipmunks darting to and fro finding food and the birds looking for any seeds or food they can find out in the snow. Life still moves in Maine spring, just moves quite slowly. Once the spring rains get here then I can say that the season has begun and that Spring has come to Maine.
This is why for myself I really dont celebrate and honor either Imbolc or Ostara. To me neither one really represent spring. Its not spring here. To me honoring the birth of the sun at Imbolc makes no sense, its still very dark here during that time. Then the Spring Equinox often has snow storms and ice going on, which to me is not very spring. Its not really the season of spring, at least in feel or look. Its still in the grips of old man winter.
The land does not have flowers blooming and baby animals all around. Its still quiet, cold and mostly slumbering. The lakes will start to crack and the ice will start to melt, and some flowers will start to peek through the snow in a few weeks. When that happens I will gladly honor and welcome to start of spring, but for now its very much winter still here.
It took me a while to get comfortable with not having those two sabbats in my practice, but then I realized if I was really going to honor and work with the spirits of the land I should honor the seasons when they actually come to the region. When they come to Maine, and Winter by far is our longest season. I’ll acknowledge the light and increase in day when we see that happen and I’ll welcome spring when I see the first flowers popping up in gardens. Till then I’ll simply continue to ask Old Man winter to be gentle with me and hope the ice and snow spirits accept my prayers of protection and my offerings when I give them.
I look forward to connecting to the spirit of the land when they wake, but for now I will let the land sleep. I have some plants I can work and grow in my office to try and feel as if Spring is here, but until the land wakes and the mud is here its still a land of snow with ice and cold and fires are needed to keep warm.
Be mindful of your land and the climate. Don’t force yourself to work in rituals or holidays that dont fit what you see and experience as your land. The land spirits will guide you and direct you and may even help you find new ways to look at everything you have been doing.
As a witch I work with many different spirits and have many different spirit allies. Some of these spirit allies have been with me longer than others, and many times they have lessons to teach me. For a long time I wondered what exactly it was my spirit allies had taught me, and where their lessons came from. There was a time when I actually believed that I had never learned anything from spirits, but I was wrong.
For years one main lesson from all of my spirit allies was to simply trust my intuition and trust my knowledge. I knew and know more than I often give myself credit for in both theoretical practice and actual practice. To put it blunt I was afraid of my skill with energy manipulation and with psychic work, so I didn’t let myself access my actual knowledge and understanding. I didn’t let myself practice.
This was until I encountered my first plant spirit guide. I had been buying “healing” incenses from stores and “Astral Travel” or “Psychic” development incenses from stores to use in my meditations, spells, rituals, and works. These worked for a while, but I began to wonder how I could make my own and if that would be any different. So The next time I went to the local metaphysical store I bought a few herbs to use for healing work and psychic work. I bought Peppermint, Myrrh, Calendula, and Mugwort to start with. I also had white sage, Dragons Blood, and Frankincense. This base provided me lots of different things to work with, spirituality, psychic work, meditation, and healing. It was a perfect selection to start my journey into magical herbalism.
Before I made my own I started by adding a little of these herbs to the powdered incenses I had been buying. Just to get myself use to the concept of working with herbs in this fashion. After a while I decided it was time to start working with the herbs and make my own blends. I had no idea what I was doing at first, no real connection to any of the herbs, then as I sat down and looked at them I started to have an understanding of which herbs I was supposed to use for the general healing incense I was creating at that moment.
I didn’t think about where the decisions and choice came from at that point in time, but looking back its pretty clear that it was the plants that were helping. One plant in particular seems to help me more than any other. That plant is Marigold/Calendula. To this day it has been the plant marigold that has led me to trust in the plants energy and the plants spirits guiding me in working with them and getting the incense blends just right.
Today when I do spell work or rituals I get out the herbs and ask them who is best to do this work with me, or who wants to be used in this work. One time when I was doing this for a money spell Calendula spoke up and wanted to be used in the mix. Which to me was strange. Our relationship had been with healing and psychic work. But after some time I relented and added some of the flower to the mix and the ritual worked quite well. A few days later I did some research and found out that money work was one of the attributes of the herb, yet the plant itself decided to teach me this lesson over books.
A lot of people ask me where the recipes I make come from. The answer is quite simple. The plants tell me. Its that simple. I may get out a bunch of plants with a similar set of associations (lets say astral travel and psychic work). I will then set them out and say what I am doing for work. The herbs themselves will guide me in their use and the specific work. Some herbs speak louder than others. Some take getting used to understanding how they speak, and others may never work or speak to you, each plant spirit is different and each one will have different lessons for you as you work with them.
It can be easy to forget the importance that these spirits have in our lives and in our practice. When we do they can give us needed wakeup calls. Sometimes these calls are as simple as quick image flash reminders of what we need to do and are doing and other times they can be more to the point causing issues in areas of our life until we address what they have to teach us.
I almost forgot how and why I got to where I am today. Its thanks to working with the marigold spirit and the spirit of the Pine tree. These two plant spirits more than any others have helped me develop an understanding of the green world and are one of the reasons I consider myself a magical herbalist. There are other plant spirits that have been influential in my life, as a witch I have a relationship with mugwort, but its not as strong as any other spirit, but the two who have been my main teachers and guides in spirit work with plants are Marigold and Pine.
Today I got that reminder from one of the spirits. Writing this article has been one of the ways I am apologizing to that spirit and trying to show the world what it has done for me. The other way is I reworked my workshop a little bit to include herb samples and a secondary incense to awaken psychic and spiritual powers and connect to plant spirits. One of the herb samples that the people attending my workshop will get is marigold, helping other people connect to the energy of that spirit is another way I will be making up for forgetting their lessons.
Let the plant spirits guide you and you will find a lot of allies who will aid you in contact with other spirits and your own spirit. Let the plants guide you and they will teach you their mysteries, their magic, and their spirit uses. They can be great friends and allies in magic if we just open up to them and listen to what they have to say.
This time of year for the northern part of our world go through the dark time of the year. Further north you go the more shorter the days are. The other thing about this time of year for the north is the shadows get longer, same as the night hours do.
Winter has its own expression of beauty. Yet it also has some unique challenges and lessons. Some of those challenges seem to have so much to do with this season of long shadows and long nights, long times of darkness and shadow.
And I can’t help but wonder if we could heal those challenges we can have during this time of year! By healing our stories, beliefs, perseptions and such!
For life and the cycles of nature can help us see where we may need to change or heal a belief, a pattern we are stuck in, something of our past traumas and so forth. Creation and nature are great healers and teachers. And the seasons and their rhythms have so much to offer us.
I also know that we as individuals and as a collective can point towards what is needing healing, transformation and change!
And oh my goodness am I feeling and knowing in a deep way we need to change our stories and even maybe language about darkness and shadow!
Oh I know it may seem I’m talking crazy here!
But I’m not alone in understanding that the true relationship we need to heal is with our Minds! For it is there that All things come from in our lives! Our minds is where our power is to bring about change or destruction!
And dear ones, when we close those eyes for meditation or sleep, there you get to see Darkness and Our Shadow, it’s where we have a fuller access to ourselves!
And we are not going to be able to be whole, complete and having full access to our power. Oh no we won’t! Not if we keep making Shadow and Darkness places of nightmares or turning them into our scapegoat for all the nasty stuff we do to ourselves and each other. No! Instead we will run and run and run away! In fact that’s why we are hurting and our world is hurting!
Can we do anything to change this? Oh! Yes we can! But only if we are willing to change our stories about Darkness and Shadow! And only if we are brave enough to want fuller access to the fullness of our Minds!
So! How do we go about changing our stories, beliefs, perceptions and such about darkness and shadow? Well, are we willing to accept we are talking about our minds, when we speak our shadow and dark side?
That’s the first step is realizing we are having all kinds of stories and philosophies about the dark and shadow parts of ourselves being such terrible parts of our human psyche and that we are really talking about our thoughts, our mind.
I’ve had the humble privilege of being able to share my philosophy and my thoughts about humanity’s relationship with shadow and darkness and how we are really speaking to the inner workings of the mind. Yet when I’ve had some understanding from folks, I could still see they didn’t quite understand where I was coming from. That was until I had them do a few interactive things.
First I have them put on a blindfold or close their eyes. I like the blindfold better, by the way. Then I ask them first what they are seeing. Answer is, maybe you guessed it, darkness. But I take it further I ask them to remember a happy moment in as much detail as possible, with as many of their senses as possible. Then I ask them what they are recalling and then ask them where is this all coming from? Then yes, I have them recall a sad moment, all this is happening while they are blindfolded mind you. Again this time safely bringing up a sad memory as thoroughly as safely possible. Again my question of where is it coming from. Now mind you, some of them are getting that information through smell and touch. It isn’t just visually. I ask them a final time, where is this all coming from. Most of the time it’s darkness. The more visual type people can have a harder time with this. So I tell them clear the mind’s screen. Then they also realize it’s darkness that they are experiencing. In our sleep time is another time we are pretty much alone with the darkness of our mind. Our dreams happen there too.
For shadow, it becomes a bit of a fun time of shadow play. But I also take people outside to see nature’s shadows, building shadows and their own shadows in the natural light. I ask them things like, in the summer on a hot day isn’t sitting in the shade, the shadow of a tree nice when we’re hot? I ask them to look at the shadows and ask are the shadows detailed, do they look identical to the things casting the shadow? Then I ask, are these scary terrible things they are looking at? Most of the time the answer is, no.
As you see, through experiencing through ourselves blindfolded we have a real personal look at the mind, which when blindfolded we realize all our thoughts are coming from a place of darkness. With the help of nature we find that shadows are not perfect reflections of the things casting them. Yet in certain ways they can bring us comfort.
The most interesting thing about the darkness of the mind when blindfolded, is that darkness is neutral space till a thought brings up information. And for shadows they are not mirror images of things. Which allows us to see things in a different way.
We also have stories that are positive stories or myths about creation coming forth from darkness. Again darkness being as a neutral space till something happens.We have stories about how the people wanted it to be daytime all the time. Well those people changed their mind after awhile because they couldn’t sleep or the lands were drying up and no food was available. So they had to ask for darkness to be around again.
Life through the birth and growth of life happens often in a space of darkness, wether it’s the womb, the inside of an egg, the seed within the soil or the networks of roots and animals within the ground, under our feet.
But the most important thing I’ve learned is both shadow and darkness are very important parts of our human psyche!
Just as the people that asked for daylight to be all there was, we become bankrupt, dried up and starving because we are afraid of sitting with our minds. We get too caught up in specifics that we can’t see things in new ways.
But most important is the darkness of the mind and it’s shadows is where all things come from!
Yes! Our most amazing ideas, love and compassion come from our mind! Yet also our most nasty, fearful, judgmental and condemning things come from our mind. And that mind until we think, imagine, or sense something, all of it comes from the neutral fertile space of darkness and shadow!
So to heal this relationship for yourself, try the blindfold experience. Try the shadow play and outdoor exploration of shadows. Track down positive stories about darkness or cautionary stories about why darkness is important. And the best pictures I can recommend are of space. To see all that potential of life in the star systems is an amazing example of the amazing things that come from darkness. Look down an animal hole into the ground and you’ll see roots and such down there in the dark of the earth. And be amazed at the network of plant and animal living under your feet. Look at pictures of a baby growing in a womb and marvel at the miracle of life. And know this is your mind seeing all of this, learning and reading and such.
Yes dear ones it’s even with the darkness and shadows of your mind that is reading this!
Blessings to you all this Winter Solstice time of the year!
Crystals are simply larger and more defined pieces of minerals. They are often polished and tumbled for sale and decorative pieces. Most of the ones you find for sale at metaphysical shops are likely tumbled and polished. Raw crystals like the ones above are the ones that you can find yourself when you visit a local quarry or dig site. In these locations you will be able to find stones yourself in their natural environment. When you pull them from the earth yourself you have a closer connection to them and can feel their natural power more easily.
Crystals are natural curios regardless of the form. Crystals come from the earth and are natural items. While humans have shaped them and formed them for us to collect, play with, enjoy, and work with they are still gifts from the earth. They grew deep within the earth and are the bones of this planet. They are very powerful natural curious for this reason.
In the above photo you can see several different forms of crystals. There are small totem stones, you have a crystal mala bracelet, angel carved crystals, shaped animals, hearts, raw, tumbled, skull, spheres, towers or wands, pendants and a pyramid. All of these different forms provide many different ways to work with crystals. By combining the shape of the crystal with the properties of the crystals you can find unique ways to work crystal magic that suit your personal body and style.
Raw and Tumbled
Raw and tumbled stones and crystals make the best talismans and charms. They are easy to carry and to create into jewelry. For many stones and crystals the tumbled varieties are readily available and less expensive than working with a pyramid, sphere or object in that manner. Small tumbled stones and raw stones are easily obtainable. Which means depending on the stone obtaining what you need for the work can be done.
When it comes to crystal magic the best way to work with them is to carry them as a talisman or amulet. A Talisman is typically a piece of jewelry that is worn or a stone carried that has a symbol or phrase inscribed on it describing the magical use. Talismans are typically for draw something to you. An amulet is typically an item worn or carried to ward off something. Both talismans and amulets are used for protection. One tends to be more about removing it the other is more about preventing it from getting there to begin with.
Two of the best examples of stones carried as charms for protection come from warriors. Both of these stones were associated with blood and bleeding. The first is Bloodstone and the second is Hematite. Two very different stones that share a common historical use: Protection from bleeding or excessive wounds on the battlefield.
Hematite is a stone that has associations with blood and protection in battle. The name comes from the Greek word for blood. It has been used as an amulet against bleeding, and so is known as the “blood stone”. Many people believe that Hematite is actually the original stone referenced when folklore mentions “bloodstone”.
Blood stone was historically carried by warriors in battle. It was thought that it was a charm that would protect against bleeding in battle. Which is why warriors wore it or carried it for protection. Occasionally it was worn as a pendant hanging over the heart chakra to cleanse the blood and protect from wounds.
In the case of both Hematite and Bloodstone they are both working as protection charms. Bloodstone worked more of preventing and removing so it was more of a talisman while Hematite was more of an amulet designed to try and ward excessive or unnecessarily wounds and fights in battles. Both stones worked to protect the warriors and both stones dealt with blood.
Today wirewraped crystal gifts have become very popular. They are made with crystal chips or small raw or tumbled pieces. Witches by knowing the properties of the crystals can create charms that are hidden in plain sight. They will be able to place the decoration on the wall or in the window to catch the light and the properties of the crystals will be brought into the home. Creating powerful subtloe natural magic.
The above photo is a crystal sun catcher in the shape of a pentacle made out of Hematite, Amethysts, and quartz. Hematite isused for protection and grounding. Amethyst is used to promote peace and protection. Amethyst being an empath’s stone is also one used for healing and working out emotions. Quartz is also a good one to have in the mix. Quartz provides power to all other stones and is a good overall energy stabilizer.
When the person who bought this pentacle hangs it in their house they will be bringing the energy of those crystals into the home. The shape of the pentacle ensures protection as it is a protective symbol. The way the crystals are aligned balances the energy of the three crystals in a repetitive pattern so that none of the energy overwhelms each other and they all work in harmony for the purpose at hand. Now all they have to do is charge the crystals like they would with any other crystal item. once it is charged and dedicated by hanging the crystal on the wall they bring that magic and energy into their home.
Raw and tumbled stones are also the corner stones of grid work. Crystal grids are a way of laying our crystals in a pattern that sends out your intent and desire into the universe. Most crystal grids are more complex, the one above was a simple one created for one day. The Aventurine stone was the anchor or core for luck, prosperity and succsess. The five citrine tumbles were arranges around the center piece in a star or pentacle pattern to direct the desire for sales and succsess into the universe through the directions and elements. Citrine was chosen for its money, luck, and prosperity properties.
Wands are actually a new thing in my life and in my practice and I have to say its a new way to look at one of the most common tools in witchcraft and magic. Wands are the most common tool in magical traditions and practices. Wands are used to direct and raise the energy manipulated for the spell at hand. Wands are tools traditionally made out of wood and fashioned with crystals feathers etc. Crystal wands allow us to work with crystal energy in spells by directing the energy trough that crystal.
A Selenite wand is good to banish and remove energy. I use it regularly to wipe myself down after a day of high anxiety. The properties of selenite are clarity and dispelling negativity. Its an excellent stone to use to work with banishing and removal work. My wiping myself down with selenite after work is an example of banishment and removal work.
An Aventurine tower held over a money incense as it burns would be a great way to work with the energy of the wand. The wand will absorb the energy from the incense, add its own energy to the blend and then direct it out into the universe amplified and further charged. As seen in the grid photo posted earlier the wands also can work effectively as core components of grids. This allows them to direct the energy from their root (bottom) to the universe up through their tip. They in the end focus the energy of the other crystals from one point into the universe to create your change.
An amethyst wand would be a great way to direct specific healing energy. Simple hold the crystal wand over the area with the specific ailment and direct the energy through the Crystal into the area. The point of the tower will provide pinpoint accuracy to the area. The energy channeled will also be charged by and effected by the energy of amethyst infusing any healing energy with amethyst healing and protecting properties.
One thing wands are really good at is directing energy long distance. Lets say you have a friend that is feeling depressed and you want to help them heal and feel better but can’t travel to them. A Rose quartz wand with lavender and catnip incense burning and a photo of your friend combined together can make an effective love and healing spell. You’d burn the incense and chant something about love and healing for your friend then take the Rose quartz wand and direct the energy of the chant, the incense, and your mental/emotional energy at the photo of your friend sending it into the universe towards your friend.
The more assortments of wands you have the more opportunities you have to work crystal magic. You can work with many different wands until you find the right crystal wand for a specific task. You may even find that some crystals dont work well for you in a wand form but they do work in tumbled or shaped or other forms. The crystals will speak to you.
Many people work with animal symbols within their spiritual practice. These totem stones and soapstone or gemstone animals are tools that can be used to call upon animal energy and powers. The shape and image of an animal can be a powerful way to connect with that animal when physical contact or items are not possible.
By carrying those stones with you in the shape of an animal or with the engraving of an animal you have that energy with you. Not only that but you also have the combined power of the stone with you. Its a double wammy. Great way to create charms and talismans with very few tools.
So if you have an Unakite totem stone with a dolphin carved into it you not only have the power of the dolphin in your hands but also the power of Unakite as well. In this case the symbolism of dolphins can be protection, rebirth, and renewal. The stone Unakite encourages psychic visions and the development of the third eye. Unakite is a powerful healer too. Unakite helps balance emotions, it can help with sleep, stress and healing addictions. With these two sets of symbolism there are a few different things that we can have here.
For someone trying to overcome and addiction they could carry the stone to help balance their emotions, relieve stress, and protect them self from the addiction. The healing of the addiction will also lead to renewal. They would simply need to create a dedication spell for this purpose. That spell should include herbs to heal for strength and for power. Lavender, Woodruff and Rosemary would help in this working.
For someone who is still developing their psychic abilities the protection and rebirth aspects of the dolphin can be of help while the Unakite stone itself can help them deal with the new information and regain balance. As with the above the person carrying this stone would now need to create a dedication spell or ritual for the purpose of strengthening their psychic abilities and providing a new start. Here I would recommend using herbs like Frankincense, Mugwort, and again Rosemary.
Lets take another stone and animal combination. Red Jasper is a very common stone. Red Jasper is known for dream work, sleep aid, and protection, Eagle is a popular bird to call on for spiritual aid. They bring independence, vision, strength, power, and freedom. Here are a few different combinations here.
Lets say you feel that you need more insight and are looking for dream wisdom. By sleeping with a Red Jasper Eagle totem stone under your pillow you can call upon the eagles vision for insight and you can call upon the Jaspers properties for dream work and sleep aid. Together you have a sleep magic dream work charm. As with the Unakite an actual spell to dedicate and charge the stone would be required. Chamomile and lavender with rosemary or ginkgo would work well in this spell.
Eagles are strong and powerful. Lets say you aren’t that physical strong but want to feel more confident. Red Jasper is a stone of strength and protection. It will bring you protection energy and build your confidence. By charging this crystal in a spell calling upon the animal and stone spirits you can create a charm to carry for protection that fits in your pocket. In the charging process I’d personally add Dragons Blood, Frankincense, and Nettle Leaf for additional energetic and spiritual protection.
In witchcraft communities you will find a lot of people who love their skulls. Many witches wear skulls in various jewelry and there are those who have skulls on their altars. Skulls are powerful symbols for many cultures. For many witches skulls are a symbol of the powers of death and rebirth and decay. Witches dont see death as a bad thing. Its seen as part of the life cycle. For many death is not an ending but the start of something new. For other witches death is the end of this life but not our full journey.
For most witches skulls are symbol a symbol of the dead and of our ancestors. They provide us a way to connect with our ancestors. Some witches use animal skulls on their altars to represent the God and some use human skulls to represent ancestors. Most of these skulls are resin or made out of clay/ceramic. For those who want to have a skull on the altar but dont want ceramics or resin and a more natural material crystals provide that opportunity.
Skull shapes crystals offer us a unique way to work with the dead. The skull shape due to its symbolism allows us to call on ancestral powers and properties fairly easily. Like with the totem stones crystal skulls would retain the properties of the crystals that they are. They also gain the additional property of being able to connect to the dead and be used to channel ancestral energy.
A quartz crystal skull is a great addition to an ancestral altar. Quartz crystals are good all purpose crystals. They also empower and power up any and all other magical workings. So with a quartz skull on your ancestor altar any workings that you do with your ancestors is automatically amplified. Quartz skulls also hold energy so it can be charged with the energy of your ancestors and brought with you so that you can take their energy any where with you. To charge a quartz crystal Frankincense and Copal are good for generic all purpose spiritual cleansing and workings.
An Opalite Skull would also be a great addition not only to an ancestor altar but a working altar as well. Opalite is a highly spiritual stone and is great for communication, meditation, and all around healing. Opalite can also help us be successful in business. By placing the Opalite skull on the ancestor altar it opens your communication with the dead making it easier to let them teach you and help you in your life. Magically lets say you had an ancestor who ran their own successful business and you want to do the same. When you do a spell or working to help with your business succsess add the Opalite skull into the working. This will allow you to call on that ancestor, their wisdom and the energy of the crystal at the same time. To add further assistance I’d add herbs like Cinequfoil, Cinnamon, and Dragons Blood.
Obsidian Skulls are probably some of the most popular Skulls out there. They are Black, which is a color associated with the dead and underworld as well as death and they are simply beautiful. Obsidian is also a very protective stone. Its great against psychic attacks, removes negative energy, grounds, and protects. IN many traditions the first spirits that should be called on for protection magic or any magic is our ancestors because they will answer before any other spirits will answer. An Obsidan Skull allows for that instant connection to ancestor energy and protection. To charge it I would run it through an incense that is a combination of Wormwood, Dragonsblood, Basil, White Sage, and Frankincense.
These are just a few of the many different shapes and forms that crystals can take. There are many other shapes and forms that haven’t been mentioned that all have their own unique properties and benefits. Let these styles, shapes and ideas be another way for you to begin your journey into the world of crystal and gem magic.
When Pagan communities have unfortunate uproars, or controversies, it often leads to fissures in the communal networks. In the settling dust of the aftermath is where the remains of once seemingly seamless connections burn slowly under their own power. The hurt and anger expressed by the parties involved spill out and touch all the events, celebrations, and organizations in some way when factions draw lines over who is right, who is wrong, and who is interested in healing through discussion vs. excommunication and banishment. It is at this time that the responsibility of leadership to not only bring peace, but also truthful constructive examination and amelioration.
In these times, we have access to the power to inform one another in the blink of a cursor. Information travels as quick as the thought can leave our brains and animate our fingers upon the electronic devices that serve as our virtual avatars. Words that we would not serve in person are dished out upon the byte filled landscapes of social media. When used for confronting the pains brought by crisis, they are the stallions of our causes. They deliver the emotions and thoughts that join the fray in order to bring about justice and fairness. When used carelessly, they become hellhounds that are unleashed to destroy our opponents without the nasty inconvenience of having to look them in the eye and share the same air in the same room.
It is the wounds that words and actions inflict that must be healed. To do this, those same words must be examined and digested. The community must eat from the plate that it serves. If our words are truthful, that means the meal will be pure. And if our words are cruel, that will season the meal. If we refuse the meal by avoidance or dissembling, then we starve our souls. And if we only eat from one side of the table, we are in a state of imbalance. All sides must be present at the table if the people involved are to heal and grow stronger.
Leadership is not pushing the truth under the tablecloth. Leadership is not forcing a narrative. Leadership is not playing holier than thou, or claiming the cloak of respectability by staying silent behind group statements. Leadership does not tip over the lid of the boiling pot of problems, and then walk away to pretend nothing has happened. Leadership does not call attention to a transgression and then refuse to take the next steps.
What are the next steps? What do those look like?
The next part to any situation where hurt and pain and anger have burned through the bonds that connect us as peoples in the Pagan circles is examination. After the flash of conflict has faded, it is the time to really look at what happened and weigh how it was handled. Was it done with determination and fairness? Was it righteous? Was the will of what is right served? Are there ways that could have led to the desired outcome that may have been more productive? Did the desired outcome happen? Why, or why not? How does we heal after this?
If the crisis is legal, have the authorities been contacted? Did we follow through with making sure the reports were filed and accurate?
If it was ethical, were all parties contacted? Was there a town hall meeting type of conversation? Was there an opportunity to make amends given? Was there a desire to do so?
Now comes the part where foot to ground comes into play. What actions are leaders taking in order to decompress the atmosphere? Did they set up a forum, or simply walk away back to their regularly scheduled programs? Are there educational events or rituals scheduled in order to make peace or bury animosity? Is there any effort to heal the fractures that this may have caused? Where do we begin?
Each body of people is its own. Each will find its own way of handling what may be a pivotal moment for them as individuals and part of a greater circle of connections. However, it is the responsibility of leaders to take part in finding what that looks like…with purpose and action.
This year, our family joined Ancient Oak Scouts, a new-ish Pagan youth program that started here in the Detroit area. We’re our own little group – doing any youth group or scouting program with two children with multiple special needs is a challenge, so we’re keeping it small and simple so we can work at our own pace.
One of our first projects was a community service project – we collected crayons at the end of the school year from the kids’ teachers to donate to an organization called The Crayon Initiative – they take broken or otherwise used crayons, re-melt them into new crayons, and donate the new crayons to children’s hospitals around the United States.
At some point in our paths we have the opportunity to be a part of either public or privately held circles. Being a part of a circle is a powerful experience, builds community, cohesion, and helps to deepen our spiritual path. I have always held the best way to teach our path is to be an active part of the path, not only by books alone but by experience.
Most of us started our spiritual path in some form of Christianity with a regular church attendance. With this in mind, there were certain observations one had to make so the service was not disturbed and everyone could benefit from the experience. While Pagan circles are not usually as formal as Southern church services, there is still a certain amount of etiquette one should observe when attending either public and privately held circles. Generally, it’s just common sense and common courtesy.
13. With social media making it very easy to locate and attend circles knowing when to RSVP and when not to can be tricky. Generally if it is a public circle and it states specifically to RSVP, do. The coordinator will probably want to know how many to expect for refreshments or other post ritual arrangements, the amount of supplies necessary, space, and parking. If you are planning to bring a guest please have them RSVP also, or RSVP for them.
Brooms are everywhere this time of the year. Black ones. Orange ones. Black and orange. Brooms with lightening bolts on the handle. You name it and you can likely find it on a besom. Other than the pointy hat, few other things identify witches as well, witches other than this universal accessory. Brooms have played an integral part in modern witchcraft and occult history. In fact, it would be hard to locate a circle anywhere this time of the year where a broom wasn’t somewhere to be found. It’s not just for sweeping the front porch anymore, at least not these.
As I said, brooms come in all sizes, shapes, textures, and patterns. Traditionally brooms were created from an ash or hazel (depending upon which was readily available in the area), sometimes willow, and birch branches or an herb called…you guessed it!….broom. Broom in it’s natural habitat of England, Scotland, parts of Asia, and warmer climates of Europe, has many uses, making brooms is just one. This bitter tasting herb grows as a shrub and can be used as both a toxin and a medicine. As an herbal treatment for bladder and kidney problems, and as a diuretic broom is used in conjunction with other herbs usually as an infusion over the course of a week or two until it is ready to be mixed into a potion. Unlike most herbs, this one is better taken with alcohol as it is very bitter and has an unpleasant scent after it dries and is boiled down.
The herb itself is very tall almost three feet high, woody with long tangling twig like stems, and grows in unlikely places. The rougher the terrain the happier this particular herb is. In fact, it will grow on rocky mountains in poor soil with little rainfall. This made it ideal for using as a tool or utensil for cleaning as well as magick.
Constructing brooms (besom) is pretty simple really. All that is needed is a long stave of either hazel, ash, or willow, willow twine, and long twiggy broom. The broom is connected to the stave with the willow twine and voila a besom is born! Of course the use of said besom isn’t always so simple.
Besoms were used, and still are, to clean the space for circle, to sweep away stagnant energy, as a protective barrier, to welcome guests, as a marital fertility aid (jumping the broom), and in some cases as a form of circle casting itself. Besoms placed near doorways welcome guests and ward away negative spirits. Sweeping the doorway, porch, and front of the home prevented energy from gathering and remaining there to cause problems later. In some cultures, sweeping of one’s feet meant the person in question would either get pregnant, go to jail, or get married. In other cultures it’s a way of removing the last bits of energy after shaking it loose with the besom.
Other lore regarding the besom include never sweeping with a broom while a deceased family member is in the home. A broom that suddenly falls from a door way announces company on the way. Brooms placed over the door protects against fairies and imps. Never bring old brooms into a new home and never burn a broom. Both are very bad luck.
The Welsh gypsy practice of jumping the broom is said to bring the newly wedded couple good fortune and many children. In parts of Africa sweeping over a man’s feet is said to bring on impotence. Of course, one can’t mention brooms without the practice of riding one.
The Dark Ages brought mountains of superstition regarding witches and devils. One is said to be the consort of the other and riding a broom was a reward for carrying out the devil’s work on Earth. I strongly suspect that should a Witch be able to actually get a broom to sweep his or her floor on its own, much less fly, there would be mass conversions. Certainly modern television witches have no problem twinkling their noses to a spotless home. However, Dark Age witches probably used a salve called flying ointment which was used to dress the broom for ritual use. This ointment consisted of a fatty base in which essential oils and herbs were mixed and then used to dress the broom from tip of the stave to the joining of the herb. Herbs such as wolfsbane, hemlock, henbane, and Nightshade were used and still are as a basis for charging these brooms. Charging is the practice of imparting energy onto an object so it become personal and receptive to the individual’s will. The first mention of flying ointments in conjunction with brooms and their use could be as early as the mid 1400’s.
The besom itself is a work of symbolism. It represents the union of the God and Goddess, a holy marriage, that revitalizes the Earth. Brooms may be created on May Day (Beltane, Belteanne, Beltaine, Cetsamhain), but not purchased on this day. To do so is said to sweep away friends and family and prevent visitors from returning.
Today modern witches still use the besom as an altar adornment, to sweep away negative or stale energy, and to recharge the energy in a space. They are used to cast circle, to mark the barriers of a circle, cleanse and consecrate the circle, and to prepare for smudging. Non-witches also use the broom to scent their homes, adorn their doors, and decorate their homes. It’s unlikely any of us witchy folk will be saving gas and riding our brooms any time soon, but the tradition and lore still live on.