Saturday, February 28, 2015

What is Magic?

What is Magic?

I have debated some time about writing this post simply because I know it is going to be controversial. I am going to approach this delicately and hopefully not offend anyone in the process.

Of the three questions I get asked the most, "what is magic?" makes the list. Let me start by saying what magic isn't. Magic is not evil, malevolent, or bad; people are. Magic is neutral, and what it does is completely dependent on the person using it. Secondly, magic is not supernatural hocus pocus. This may bother some other witches out there, but let's get real for a moment. No one can move objects with their brain, fling people around a room with a wave of their hand, float down off of a house, raise the dead, read minds, or time travel. That is supernatural hocus pocus, and despite your deepest desires, magic is not any of those things. If someone tells you magic is one of those things, you know they are stuck in a daydream.

What magic is, is energy focused on a specific purpose or intent. That's it. How it works, is a different story. Magic works by focusing your mind on your intention. This is why casting spells on other people or without their consent is frowned upon and usually why it doesn't end up working. You can't control another person's thoughts unless they allow you to. The mind is an incredibly powerful tool, and by focusing on what you desire most, you can bring about the change you wish to see. By combining your personal energy with the energy of the elements around you, you focus your mind and manifest your reality. This is how magic and spells work, and why I strongly advocate only performing magic when you are of sound mind and body and that you use primal language. One mistake and you not only destroy your spell, but you set yourself up for failure. You can trick yourself into failing just as you can trick yourself into succeeding.

When people ask me what magic is, I often tell them it's like a self help book. We know positive thinking and focusing on our intentions work; maybe not always, but often enough. As I mentioned, if it doesn't work, it's because you have made a mistake somewhere along the line.

I hope this has been informative and has not offended anyone. What do you view magic to be?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dream Magic: Dream Stimulation

Dream Magic: Dream Stimulation

Dreaming is primarily an activity of the soul, offering a passport into the realm of magic. Just because dreams come naturally does not mean that dreaming isn't a skill you can hone. In fact, controlling and manipulating your dreams requires great skill and lots work. I have talked in the past about enhancing prophetic dreaming, and today I would like to talk about stimulating dreams in general. I know I need to post an introduction to dream magic, but I felt like posting some spells instead. Later I will cover what dream magic is and how mugwort is a witch's best friend, especially when it comes to dream magic.

There are several ways you can enhance dreaming including holed stones, dream baths, and dream incenses. Simple holed stones facilitate dream magic as much, if not more, than other precious gemstones. If you find a pebble or small rock containing holes, know it is a precious gift from the Earth. Not only do they enhance dreaming, but they also provide protection and clairvoyance. You can access the stone's dream power by wearing it around your neck, attaching it to your headboard or wall above your bed, or by placing it under your pillow.

For a dream bath, there are several recipes you can follow. Mind you these baths are meant to be relaxing, sensuous, and soothing so take your time. Use warm water to relax your muscles and help induce sleep. If you want, you can combine your bath with dream incenses. Make sure to take your bath right before bed. My favorite recipe is a Romantic Mugwort Bath. Be careful though. A side effect of this bath is sensual/romantic dreams so if you are hoping for something different a plain Mugwort Tea Bath may be best. For a Mugwort Tea Bath simply pour a cup of hot water over one teaspoon of dried mugwort and allow to infuse for 10-30 minutes or until cool. Add this infusion to your bath. You can add a few drops of mugwort flower remedy for added effect.

For the Romantic Mugwort Bath, place one handful of dried hibiscus flowers, one tablespoon of orange blossoms, one tablespoon of red rose petals, one teaspoon of dried mugwort, and three dried bay leaves in a pot of boiling water. Cover and allow the infusion to cool. Once cool, draw a bath and pour the infusion into it. You can strain the infusion if you like but you don't have to.

For dream incenses, you have several options. Burning the incense should occur right before bed, not while you are sleeping. Use common sense and safety people. You can burn bay laurel with cedar and storax gum resin to assist in dream recall, dream sharpness, and peaceful sleep; mugwort alone or with copal and mastic for psychic dreams; or acacia leaves with myrrh and star anise to contact someone who has passed over.

What do you use to enhance or stimulate dreaming?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Deity Introduction: Ganesha

Note: This post contains potentially problematic practices or language, cultural appropriation, or misinformation. I have been working diligently to decolonize my practice, for which you can learn more about in my article Decolonizing Witchcraft: Racism, Whitewashing, and Cultural Appropriation in Witchcraft and How to Decolonize Your Practice. I believe in documenting my journey in witchcraft and that my readers can learn from my mistakes, so the posts will remain as a learning opportunity.

Deity Introduction: Ganesha

Ganesha, the elephant-headed Lord of Prosperity, Wisdom, and Obstacles, stands out among the crowd as the most beloved Hindu deity. He is personally one of my favorite deity mythos, and I am not entirely sure why. I have encountered Ganesha several times in history lessons and literature, but he stood out most brightly to me in the book The Book of Dreams by O.R. Melling. I'm going to be honest; I started the book 5 years ago and haven't finished. I should probably start it over, but I digress. In the book the main character Dana, the light-bearers daughter, sets out on a quest with a half wolf French dude to find the Book of Dreams and saved the world and the world of faerie from dark forces. On her journey, she meets many obstacles and at one point Ganesha appears to guide her on her way. He tells Dana that he is helping her in her quest only because one of his daughters, Dana's stepmother, honors him and by helping Dana and he returning his love to Dana's stepmother. He then tells her not to expect his help again as he is not her deity or part of faerie. I found this very intriguing that a deity would reach out to help another who did not honor him. Today I'd like to share a brief history of Ganesha and how you can call upon him to clear obstacles from your path.

Ganesha is the son of the primal deities Shiva and Parvati. He was born in his father's absence and grew up completely devoted to his mother. One day while he stood guard while his mother bathed, Shiva returned unexpectedly and demanded to see his wife. Ganesha, having never met his father, barred his way. Shiva ended the argument by cutting off Ganesha's head, but when it was revealed that Ganesha was his son, he vowed to replace his head with that of the first creature he saw: an elephant. Because he no longer appeared "godlike," Shiva decreed that no prayers would begin without first invoking Ganesha. The letter or symbol Om or Aum found at the beginning of almost all mantras is a tribute to and invocation of Ganesha. Today Ganesha is invoked before beginning any new endeavor or project so he will open the way.

During August or September, the holiday Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated to honor Ganesha. Depending on when it falls it can last between 5-7 days or 10-12 days (usually 10 days). The festival involves placing clay images of Ganesha in public pandals, temporary shrines, and worshipping them with a variety of plants and leaves. At the end of the festival, the leaves are immersed in a body of water, usually the a lake, to purify the water. In the early years of the tradition, the water was their drinking source. Placing the blessed and medicinal leaves in it was believed to protect people from infections and viral diseases in the water.

You can request Ganesha's assistance with new projects and ask for his guidance on old projects you are stuck on. Offer him peanuts, golden raisins, and candy. You can also offer him leaves from 108 different plants to unblock your path. The most common mantra to invoke Ganesha is "Om Gam Ganapataye Namah," which means "Priase be to Ganapati." This is his mula or root mantra which is commonly used for yoga sadhana to merge oneself with Ganesha during practice. "Om Shri Ganeshaya Namah" or " Praise to Lord Ganesha" is the mantra used for invocation, adoration, and worship.

And to add an extra little tidbit, Ganesha's brother Skanda rides a peacock. Just so you know.

I hope this has been informative. Do you use Ganesha in your magic or yoga practice?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Element: Earth

Element: Earth

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Humanity and Hedgecraft

 by T. Michael Keesey

Humanity has three definitions.
  1. the quality or state of being human
  2. the quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals
  3. all people
The second and third definition are easy. Humanity describes humans collectively and our actions toward other living creatures. The first definition, however, is much more complicated. What does it mean to "be human?"

I just started my Master's in Secondary Education. I have mentioned this countless times that my Bachelor's is in Biology, specifically Evolutionary Biology and that I view my spirituality on a biological basis. The first assignment I was given was to write a "Teaching Philosophy" regarding why I wanted to be a teacher and how I was going to meet my goals. I'm not going to lie; teaching is not my first choice. I want to be a paleontologist, but it seems the universe believes my gifts should be used to foster a love of science in others through becoming a high school biology teacher instead of a college professor and researcher. That's fine. I bring this up because I mentioned humanity in my paper and wanted to share what I said there with all of you.

"The only reason I have ever pursued science, specifically biology, is because it’s what makes the world tick; it’s the very foundation of every living thing on this earth. I find that to be breathtaking. I want to teach others biology, no matter what level, to add to the human experience. What makes us human? Biologically speaking, it’s the interaction of our environment, our cells, our DNA, and our atoms. Something as simple as working out can completely change the expression of our genes. The chemical interactions that occur instantaneously throughout our body and the world around us make us not only individuals but human. Of course, we are still learning, but we are getting closer to understanding ourselves more each day. I can’t even begin to explain how much I love biology and find it to be awe-inspiring. I hope through teaching that, maybe, just maybe I can foster this same love in another individual and add to the human experience in the process. This is the most important thing any teacher can do for their student. It not only gives them drive to continue learning but helps answer that question of what makes us human....

....I want students and hopefully by extension their family, to realize that biology does not have to be at odds with their beliefs. Personally, I am not a religious woman, but I know that many students entering my classroom are going to enter with the stigma that religion and biology cannot walk hand in hand. This is just not the case. In fact, the majority of scientists do not view the subjects to be in constant conflict as many people believe. In fact, many believe that science comes from God and the further you explore the closer you get to the divine."

To me, being human is the sum of our parts. Many say it's our ability to feel emotions, but anyone with a pet knows they get sad and angry and happy. Others say it is our ability to build and manipulate our world. Have you ever seen the intricate design of a termite mound or anthill? Still, others say it is our capacity to create and appreciate art. Ever seen an elephant paint? We are not the only ones to create masterpieces. But the most common answer is our cognitive ability to analyze and understand our world. Despite popular belief, this is not true either. Countless studies have shown that animals are able to remember, analyze, synthesize, and more, things small children struggle to do every day. We are not special, but we like to think we are because it gives many a sense of purpose.

This idea flies in the face of many religions, even paganism, but it doesn't have to. In fact, I think it brings us closer to our spirituality. Hedgecraft is a particular sect of paganism that I believe corresponds closest to this belief, hence why I practice hedgecraft. Hedgewitchery/hedgecraft is heavily nature-based and emphasizes our place in nature. It stresses working with the environment instead of against it while recognizing that we are not different from the rest of the living world. Instead of trying to get rid of your awful neighbors, it tells you to work toward an understanding. Many versions of hedgecraft, like my own, don't emphasize the divine, but instead the individual's place in our world.

I know many will disagree, and that is perfectly fine. We all view ourselves, our world, and our spirituality very differently. I hope that by reading this, you will understand the uniqueness of all beliefs, and maybe it will change the way you view things.

What does it mean to be human?