Monday, February 26, 2018

Book Review: Crystals for Beginners by Corrine Kenner

Book Review: Crystals for Beginners by Corrine Kenner

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Back in January, I finished reading Crystals for Beginners: A Guide for Enhancing Your Health, Intuition, and Creativity Using Crystals and Stones by Corrine Kenner. I originally purchased the book during Amazon Prime Day. I have to say, I got the book for next to nothing, and I am thankful I ordered it. Thus far Llwellyn's "For Beginners" books have been well worth the read, for beginners, novices, and advanced witches alike.

I honestly I do not have much I didn't like about this book. It is comprehensive, easy to read, and full of excellent, reliable information with much of the content being rooted in science. However, I would have liked some pictures. Being able to see the different crystal forms and types of crystals would be nice for reference. There are, however, a couple of drawings regarding some of the more uncommon and abstract crystal formations, which helped a little, but there were many others I was unfamiliar with and had a hard time visualizing.

Book Review: Crystals for Beginners by Corrine Kenner
At the beginning of the book, Kenner gives a list of 20 crystals she thinks beginners should have. It was fun to read this section as my top 10 crystals were found on her list as well. Furthermore, I liked that she included the science of the crystals, from how they are made, to their hardness, and even how they work on a metaphysical level. Kenner talks briefly about the uses of crystals in modern science and technology, mentioning that their energetic properties can be harnessed in spell work as well. She also makes sure to include extensive correspondence lists, that only include crystals, but how to use different crystal colors and shapes to aid in your magical workings as well. I loved her guide to cleansing crystals as well, as it is comprehensive and describes how each method works to cleanse the crystal. Other books simply say to do it, without describing why the different methods work and when they should be used.

Overall I rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars as I was disappointed there weren't any pictures. However, I believe this book is a must-have for beginner witches and any witch interested in using crystals in their magical practice.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Hedge Riding Series: Realms of the Otherworld

Hedge Riding Series: Realms of the Otherworld

Now that you have some sense of what hedge riding is, it is time to discuss the realms of the Otherworld. When hedgewitches hedge ride, they travel to the Otherworld to communicate with spirits, animal guides, and/or ancestral and spirit guides, or simply as a form of relaxation. To be honest, sometimes I travel to my Garden to get away from the stresses of day-to-day life. It is incredibly beautiful and relaxing there.

While not all hedgewitches will enter the Otherworld the same way, many believe it contains three realms that can be accessed through the World Tree, known in Norse mythology as Yggdrasil. Why the World Tree? Well, most of us can easily envision a tree, making travel easier. Second, the World Tree connects to all three realms. It reaches deep into the Earth, allowing access to the Lower Realms, is present within the Middle Realm with its trunk and reaches into the sky allowing access to the Upper Realms. The World Tree is typically considered to be an Ash that stands close to the hedgerow, the thin veil between our world and the next, making it easily accessible to those who know where to look.

Hedge Riding Series: Realms of the Otherworld
"The Ash Yggdrasil" (1886) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine
In Norse mythology, there are nine total realms: three Lower, three Middle, and three Upper. If you would like to incorporate all of the realms into your practice, go right ahead. I prefer to use a simpler model, focusing on one of each: Lower, Middle, and Upper. However, if you would like to learn more about Yggdrasil, check out the following links:


The Lower Realm

The Lower Realm is where I visit most often, existing close to our own realm. The Lower Realm is wild, with unsullied terrain and life. I have, however, found a house once on a cliffside overlooking an ocean. The house resembled that of the mansion in Practical Magic, but it did not feel safe and inviting. In fact, it felt forced and out-of-place. I have avoided that area ever since. Other than that, the Lower Realm is a beautiful, rustic land that can be every season at once or none at all. I have encountered high mountains, vast deserts, lakes and rivers, dense forests, open plains, and frozen tundra while visiting the Lower Realm and encountered a number of animals while there.

Hedge Riding Series: Realms of the Otherworld

The Lower Realm is where I have met both of my animal guides, Meka and Rocar. If you are looking to meet and communicate with your animal guides, the Lower Realm is where you should travel. It is uncommon to meet them elsewhere, especially in the Middle Realm. You can also meet ancestors, spirit guides, wise women and men, nature spirits, and faeries in this realm.

The Lower Realm is sometimes referred to as the collective unconscious, a reservoir of accumulated knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation. This is where I travel to seek advice, look for archetypes, seek hidden messages, and ask questions of those who live there. Furthermore, it is easy to access and relatively safe in comparison to other realms.

Below the Lower Realm is the Underworld, a place I have not visited as of yet. It isn't that this realm is dangerous per say, but more because I have no desire to go there. Shamans, who tend to do psychopomp work, are more likely to travel to the Underworld in Shamanic Journeying than hedgewitches are during hedge riding.

The Middle Realm

The Middle Realm is located at the trunk of the World Tree and is our world with a spiritual overlay. This is where your Garden exists, a spiritual safe haven if you will. However, I almost never travel outside of my Garden when visiting the Middle Realm. This is by far the most dangerous realm to visit as it is essentially our realm, but with spirits roaming the streets as well. Be careful of anyone you meet while in the Middle Realm. They are often deceitful. If you meet an animal while visiting, do not let it convince you it is an animal guide, unless it finds you in your Garden. Ask for it to visit you in the Lower Realm. If it truly is an animal guide, it will meet you there without hesitation. Despite this, the Middle Realm is a great place to travel forward and backward in time regarding your own life and that of your ancestors. If you are looking to evaluate your past choices or contact your ancestors, this is the realm to do it in.

Hedge Riding Series: Realms of the Otherworld

If you are inexperienced, I do not suggest travel into the Middle Realm in current time. However, traveling forward and backward tends to be relatively safe, especially when meeting ancestors because they have your best interest at heart. When traveling back and forth through time, make sure your intent is well stated, so you don't end up getting lost, or worse, running into some less-than-savory characters. If you do, make sure you stay calm and follow some simple etiquette tips to be discussed in a later post.

The Upper Realm

Honestly, I don't spend a lot of time in the Upper Realm either. I prefer the Lower Realm or my Garden because they are where I feel most at home. However, you may find the Upper Realm the most inviting. This is a magical realm, where the Sun is always brightly shining and the landscape is perpetually in bloom. There are blue-green waters, lush tropical forests, and cloud forests aplenty in the Upper Realm. Honestly, the golden-glow is a little too bright for my tastes. It is in the Upper Realm that the "higher" spiritual beings dwell; think angels, goddesses and gods, and other spirit-like beings (ancestors, guides, etc). Your animal guides can easily follow you here. I have seen lots of birds in this realm as well, including golden eagles and hawks. I have also seen griffins soaring overhead in the Upper Realm.

Hedge Riding Series: Realms of the Otherworld

If you are seeking divine knowledge or healing, the Upper Realm is the place to go. You can also meet your spirit guides in the Upper Realm, the wise women and men of the past sent to guide you through this life.

This is of course only a simple look into the realms of the Otherworld. Furthermore, each person experiences them slightly differently. That's the wonderful thing about our mind and the Otherworld. It tries to present itself to us in a way we can understand, making it accessible to all those wishing to travel.

Interest in the rest of the series? Make sure to keep an eye out for upcoming posts!

Hedge Riding Series

Developing a Relationship With Your Spirit Companions
After You Hedge Ride: Coming Back to Earth
My Hedge Riding Experiences

Looking for more information on hedge witches? Check out my posts on the topic:


Friday, February 16, 2018

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

Witch balls have a pretty long and rich history. Originally assumed to be less-than-friendly, modern witches use witch balls as a form of decorative magic. That's right, witch balls are usually prominently displayed in the witch's home or garden to bring about whatever magic they infuse the ball with. This is generally protection magic, but witch balls can be used for any magic you want.

With Valentine's Day under our belts, I decided to honor myself as well and put together a witch ball for self-love. After celebrating everyone else we love in our lives, why not celebrate ourselves as well? This simple witch ball is designed to be a constant reminder that you are enough, even when you do feel like it.

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

Supplies:
Clear, glass/plastic ornament
Small chip of rose quartz
Small pearl
Dried rose petals
Dried lavender
Heart-shaped charm
Twine
Small piece of paper
Marker/Pencil/Pen
Scissors

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

Directions:

Begin by cleansing all the items and charging the crystals with your intent.

Next, gently place the rose petals and herbs into the witch ball. As you do, visualize your intent.

After adding the flowers, place your rose quartz and pearl into the witch ball. If you are using a glass ornament as I did, you may notice it is not a perfect opening, so test to make sure your crystals will fit prior to beginning. I brought the ball with me to the metaphysical store to ensure the rose quartz was small enough to fit through the opening. If you are using a plastic ball you may notice you can fit large sized items into it because it has some give to it. If you are able, place a heart charm inside the ball as well. I couldn't get my charm to fit, so I set it aside for another spell.

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

On the piece of paper, write an self-love affirmation. I went with " I am enough. I am loved. I am beautiful." These are things I struggle with daily, so I felt they were three of the best affirmations to include in my self-love witch ball.

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

Finally, seal the ball and wrap the top with twine. If you'd like, add a heart charm to the twine prior to wrapping. To secure the first end of the twine, slightly open the top of the witch ball and place a small bit inside. Secure the top and the twine should remain snug. When you are done wrapping the top, you can tie it off, tuck the twine, super glue it, or even seal it with wax. Finish it off with a piece of twine to hang it up or place it in a holder.

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

Place in an area where you will see it daily to remind yourself that you are enough.

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

While the magic seems rather simple, this is a very powerful tool, especially because you made the item and are displaying it as a constant reminder. Sometimes we cast a spell and forget about it because there is nothing left behind in the physical world to remind us of it. Not the case with the witch ball.

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

DIY Self Love Witch Ball

How do you show yourself some love?


Monday, February 5, 2018

Imbolc Altar 2018

Imbolc Altar 2018

Last week was Imbolc (Feb 1 or 2 depending on when you wanted to celebrate). Imbolc, sometimes referred to as Candlemas, is a festival of lights. Candles are typically placed on altars and around the home to usher in the coming Spring, representing the young Sun who is growing in strength to bring new life to Mother Earth.

To celebrate this year, I took a minimalist approach to my altar. I decorated using candles, dried roses, crystals, and some incense. Nothing too fancy.

Imbolc Altar 2018

Most of the altar is covered in white candles to represent the growing Sun's power as the Wheel turns towards Spring. The candles also work sympathetic magic by encouraging the Sun to continue to grow in power and bring Spring sooner. We have all had enough of the cold by now, I am sure, and I am personally ready for the Spring breezes and flowers to bloom in full.

Imbolc Altar 2018

The roses and rose scented incense represents love, both passionate- and self-love. I decided to go with roses instead of the traditional white flowers because I wanted to represent the love between the Earth and Sun. Without the Sun, our Earth wouldn't have any life to be reborn with each turning of the Wheel of the Year. Furthermore, I wanted an altar that I could easily keep up through February, our month of love.

Imbolc Altar 2018

Finally, in the center I constructed a crystal grid of clear quartz crystal, rose quartz, and carnelian. The clear quartz is there to amplify the magic within the altar, while the rose quartz represents love and carnelian the Sun. Simple, yet effective. In the center of the grid is a single white candle, again a work of sympathetic magic to bring Spring to us faster. 

Imbolc Altar 2018

Imbolc Altar 2018
Imbolc Altar 2018

How did you decorate your altar this Imbolc?


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Authentic Witchcraft: Common Misconceptions in the Craft

Authentic Witchcraft: Common Misconceptions in the Craft

Last November/December, Witch Way Magazine was asking readers, "What are misconceptions about witchcraft that you can't seem to escape?". Of course there was a flood of answers (307 comments within a few minutes), some completely valid and some that weren't actually misconceptions at all, rather personal differences within the craft. This got me thinking about being "authentic," a term we use a lot in the spiritual community and, strangely enough, in education as well. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times: witchcraft is personal and driven completely by the witch. So why is it, when asked about misconceptions, we end up focusing on personal beliefs rather than overarching misconceptions of witches themselves? I want to address differences in personal beliefs that are often stated as misconceptions and actual misconceptions facing witches in hopes that we all have a better understanding of each other.

Misconceptions About Misconceptions

One of the first comments that popped up was one of the most common, "That I worship the devil." Lots of likes and cheers all around for that one. Well that's all fine and dandy that you don't worship the Devil, but did you know there are a large number of witches that do? That's right, there are witches out there right now that have Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, the Fallen Angel as one of their deities. To say that all witches don't worship the Devil is an erroneous statement, one I actually made quiet often when I was starting out because I was told in almost every book I read that witches don't believe in the Devil. These same authors go on to explain how the Devil was born of the Pagan horned-god and blah, blah, blah, blah. A story we have all been told a thousand times and a story we often repeat ourselves in defense when we hear such statements from others. The overwhelming majority of witches feel the way the commenter did above. Most witches don't worship the Devil, but to say none of us do is actually a misconception in and of itself. If you want to include Lucifer, maybe the Tom Ellis version (so hawt), then go right ahead. If you don't want to include him, recognize that other witches do and it doesn't make them any more or less of a witch than you are. Furthermore, just as some witches believe in the Devil, some are Satanists as well. These terms are not mutually exclusive as many people would like to believe. Again, nothing wrong with being a Satanist who also practices witchcraft. Witchcraft is awesome! Everyone should practice it. Maybe we would all get along better if we did.

Many of those that commented on devil-worshiping also included animal sacrifice in their comments. Again, more cheering and applause all around. This may be true of your form of witchcraft, but there are still witches practicing today that ritually sacrifice animals or use animal blood during rituals. Generally this is a cultural difference. What you have to understand is witches can be found all over the world, from the US and Britain to the Amazon Rain forest to the shrub lands of Africa. Not all of these cultures view animal sacrifice negatively. Personally, I would never sacrifice and animal. Heck, I don't even eat meat, that's how much I value an animal's life, but not everyone feels the same way you or I do about animal life. Most witches in America and Europe don't sacrifice animals. Instead, we make sacrifices in other ways (symbolically), such as the offering of food, handmade goods, animal hair/claw, or even a pin prick of your own blood. However, it is false to claim all witches do not sacrifice animals.

While it wasn't explicitly commented on, I have found that many witches will claim we don't collectively participate in black magic. Ummm? Excuse me, but I do, and you probably do too without even realizing it. Black magic isn't evil magic. In fact, black magic is subtractive, meaning you are taking something away instead of giving something. Banishing magic is considered black magic because you are working magic to remove something. It is unfortunate that other cultures and religions have misrepresented this concept, turning black magic into something it isn't. Furthermore, many witches do curse and hex, without remorse, but more on this later. If you want to banish something, go right ahead and embrace the black magic. If you don't want to banish anything, fearing that you could screw things up even more, then so be it. To each their own!

True Misconceptions

So what misconceptions are "true" misconceptions about witches? Well, almost everything else you can think of. We aren't like the witches and wizards of fantasy worlds aka Harry Potter, Practical Magic, or Buffy. Do I love Harry Potter? Fuck yeah I do! Slytherin all the way, but I'm not casting Lumos to light the hallway; I am hitting the damn light switch.

By far the one that bothers me the most is if you are a witch you are either Wiccan or follow the Wiccan Rede. This is probably the biggest misconception about witches out there. When you tell someone you're a witch, most jump to "Oh! So you are Wiccan." When I say no they stare at me blankly. Some witches are even guilty of this one. Not all witches, my self included, are Wiccan. Many witches do not follow the Wiccan Rede or the Three Fold Law. When I first started out, every book I read referred to both of these. The longer I practiced, however, the more I understood that the world is not so black and white; there is a shit ton of grey in the world. It is the grey areas that demand we judge each situation differently. If someone tries to rob me, I am going to stand up for myself; I will fight back. If someone attacks me using witchcraft, I will fire back. I have no problem cursing and wishing ill on someone who has hurt me or my family. It's pretty obvious if you are a member of any pagan community on social media that not all witches understand this concept. Every single time someone asks about cursing or revenge, there are a slew of love and light witches to tell them how wrong they are, blah, blah, blah. Again, authentic witchcraft means practicing the witchcraft you feel most comfortable with. If you want to curse, go right ahead. If you want to live by the Three Fold Law, embrace that light. Do what works best for you!

Another misconception that gets me regarding witches is we must be mentally ill. This actually appeared a couple times in the comments on the Witch Way Magazine post. I'm not going to lie, there is some truth to this, but not entirely. I have found that a lot of witches are mentally ill in some way. Witchcraft gives us an outlet and a sense of control over our lives, something we don't feel we can find in another "religion." I know witchcraft has help me overcome serious depression and anxiety. Even if witchcraft isn't "real," it is real enough to give me a sense of purpose and control over my life I felt I was lacking. However, there are mentally ill individuals in every religion and practice and to assume all witches must be mentally ill is inaccurate and honestly disrespectful. It's in the same vein as telling someone who is gay or transgender they must be mentally ill. We are just different; that doesn't mean something is wrong with us.

The last misconception I want to address is this idea that we all have to love black and dark things. Ummm, no. Have you seen my blog?! It's pink, green, and grey! Nothing dark about this damn thing, and there is nothing that states that witchcraft has to be all black cats and dark colored robes with magic being performed at midnight. If black is your thing, then go for it! Many witches love the gothic look and prefer the mystery dark colors adds. A lot of blogs out there follow this same idea, using dark colors and night skies as their layouts. However, an increasing number of blogs, retailers, and subscription boxes are taking a lighter approach. I like bright colors; they make me feel good, so I use them in my magic for the same purpose. My witchcraft is bright, colorful, and very "girly." There isn't a specific look or criteria for being a witch. The "You don't look like a witch," misconception is prevalent both in and out of our community. While many witches embrace the darkness, not all of us do; it doesn't make you any more or less of a witch. Furthermore, many witches take a very traditional approach to the craft, using antiqued paper and dark colored bottles in their work. I covered my Grimoire in floral colored fabric. I use bright pinks and greens to decorate the stark white pages. It is just as magical as the antiqued burned pages with Old English lettering. Witchcraft is what you make it, and the more personal your craft, the more effective your magic. If you want unicorns and roses, use them! If you want black cats and mugwort, go for it. Whatever makes you feel good and your magic strong.

Authentic witchcraft is the most powerful magic out there. When you embrace your personal tastes, beliefs, opinions, and morals, your spells and rituals are infused with a piece of yourself, making them more effective. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that your witchcraft is what works for you, it may not work for everyone. Avoid making general claims about witches and instead speak for yourself. You'll avoid the drama of passing on incorrect information and people will appreciate your authentic candor.

Authentic witchcraft is the most powerful magic out there. When you embrace your personal tastes, beliefs, opinions, and morals, your spells and rituals are infused with a piece of yourself, making them more effective.

I know I didn't address all the misconceptions plaguing witches out there, especially hedge witches. There are a lot and it's hard to cover all of them in one post. If there is something bothering you, feel free to comment below.

Keep it real, witches!