Monday, August 27, 2018

Hedge Riding Series: How to Hedge Ride + Flying Ointments

How to Hedge Ride + Flying Ointments

It's that time! Time to hedge ride, witches! This is a very lengthy post and content dense, so please bear with me.

Altered State of Consciousness

An altered state of consciousness (ASC) occurs when your mind and spirit separate from your body. This separation can be achieved through both natural and induced means, and it is in this state that hedge riding occurs. While you are fully awake during ASC, your mind works differently, just below the surface of full consciousness as opposed to unconsciousness where you are unaware of your surroundings and things are hidden from you. ASC is very similar to astral projection. Astral projection, however, is generally a natural occurrence and is usually not induced. ASC, however, is always deliberately induced, generally in a ritualistic setting.

Drugs are often used to reach an ASC, but I do not suggest using drugs, especially during hedge riding because of the dangers the Otherworld poses. Furthermore, many drugs, apart from marijuana, can drastically alter the chemistry of your brain and cause lasting damage. Safer means of entering into ASC include chanting, drumming, dancing, or listening to your own heartbeat. These methods require more concentration than drugs but do not pose the same health risks. To make reaching ASC easier, you must understand that you are part of an integral universe, not separated from it.

So how exactly does one enter an ASC? There are several safe ways, my personal favorite being shamanic drumming.

1. Shamanic Drumming: As mentioned, this is my favorite method for reaching ASC. First, there are TONS of shamanic drummings on YouTube. I created a YouTube channel containing some of my favorites. Feel free to use them to reach an ASC. Second, shamanic drumming has a clear start and end beat that will safely pull you back to reality. The signal usually occurs a couple of minutes before the end of the drumming session, allowing the listener to make their way back to their bodies. This is particularly great if you are a solitary practitioner like myself that doesn't have someone else around to rely on. Sometimes my cats will gently bring me back, but for the most part, I'm on my own. Listen to the drum beats prior to riding to figure out exactly what their signal to come back is. I strongly suggest your first several rides only be 15-20 minutes long. There are lots of shorter shamanic drumming sessions available, so start there. It will take time before you can work up to the longer ones.

2. Shamanic Music: This is very similar to drumming, but contains more than just drums. Usually, you will hear rattles and chanting. Again, there are several listed on YouTube if drumming alone isn't right for you. I find voices distracting and rooting, but you may find that's exactly what you need to leave your body.

3. Rattling: You can do this yourself or look up a song on YouTube. There are shamanic rattlings listed, but I've found it most effective to use the rattle yourself. Not only does the sound help you enter an ASC, but the motion and swaying to keep the beat also helps.

4. Dancing: Dancing is another way to enter an ASC, but is one of my least favorite ways because of its difficulty. This is extremely tiring, as you basically dance until you want to drop. You want to do this in a warm room or outside around a fire, where the lights are dim for a prolonged period of time. As you dance, you should begin to sweat, which helps force you into an ASC. I suggest pairing dancing with music of some sort or chanting to make the transition easier. I have very little experience with this method, so cannot comment further, but shamans from around the world have been using this method for centuries, so it obviously works.

5. Chanting: Chanting is very similar to drumming and rattling to reach an ASC. You can chant yourself, which is most effective, or listen to shamanic chanting on YouTube. I would pair chanting with another action to increase its effectiveness.

6. Your Heatbeat: Listening to your heartbeat is another effective method. Your heart beats like a drum, making it a free way to enter ASC. Sit or lay in a quiet room and use your heartbeat instead of shamanic drumming. If you need to, use earplugs to help you hear your heart better. This is a great method to use if you are in a body of water, like a bath, pool, or lake. Having your ears underwater makes it difficult to hear outside noises, but it tends to amplify your ability to hear your heartbeat.

Putting It All Together

So you've grounded yourself, set up your protections, decided on a purpose, and entered an ASC, now what? Now you fly! Go on...try it. Just kidding! It is a little more complicated than that. As I mentioned, you need to set the scene and properly protect yourself before you attempt to hedge ride. Once those are done, decide why you are going to hedge ride. Be specific. A good purpose for your first journey is to make it to the Lower Realm. You need to state this out loud and continue to repeat the statement in your mind until you reach your goal. It can be as simple as "I will travel to the Lower Realm." Once the purpose is firmly in your mind, pick an above-mentioned way to reach ASC and let go.

How to Hedge Ride + Flying Ointments

To enter into the Otherworld, you first have to cross the hedge or veil. This is done by passing through a portal of some sort. This portal takes a different form for each person, but it could be a storm drain or road tunnel, a hollow tree trunk, cave, door, or even a triad portal, like what's depicted in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I'm being serious here. I always enter into the Otherworld the same way. I begin by first imagining myself at my childhood home. We had some steps that led down the side yard and into the woods. Our backyard was completely wooded and very steep. There was a deer trail I used to follow as a child all the way down to the lake. I take this same path to hedge ride. (Over the Garden Wall anyone?) I walk it until I find a large tree with a large hole in it. Sometimes this tree is alive and well, other times it's dead and broken. Sometimes I walk for what feels like forever to find the tree, while other times I find it quickly. The times it takes me a while to find the tree are the times when I am having trouble focusing on my intent. Sometimes my mind is just too busy to find the doorway quickly, and that's okay. ADD for the win! I spent the majority of my very first hedge riding journey trying to find the entrance to the Otherworld. Don't worry if it takes you multiple journeys to make it there. It takes time and practice, and very few people get it on their first try. In fact, I have read accounts where a rider spends their entire journey walking a long dark tunnel, never to reach the light at the end. Do not be deterred if this happens to you too.

Once you have found your entrance to the Otherworld, continue through it into the tunnel. This tunnel can, again, take many forms. Mine are steps downward deep into the Earth when I travel to the Lower and Middle Realms. When I travel to the Upper Realms, I enter the tree and climb upwards. The tree and steps are always dimly lit, like twilight, as this is the veil that separates our world and the Otherworld. Continue walking until you break free of the veil and pass into the light. Again, don't worry if you don't reach the light on your first try. Take a break and come back to it another day. When I reach the bottom or top of the steps, I always travel through a damp cave and finally cross into the Otherworld when I pull the plants away that are blocking the entrance, kind of like in the movie Tangled. It is always the same path for me, although the sights may change slightly. To come home, I ALWAYS return the exact same way. I do not come back to my body until I make it back to the bottom step of the garden path of my childhood home. You should have a very similar marker or spot that leads you directly back to your body. I know where I left mine each and every time I ride. It is important you do the same. Soul separation is very real and very dangerous. Please make sure you take the proper precautions to ensure you return safely.

When you begin hedge riding, you should familiarize yourself with the Lower Realm first. This is the safest place to travel. Once you are experienced, have met your animal guides, and are familiar with the Lower Realm, then travel to the Middle and Upper Realms. Do not begin with very many expectations. Your journeys will become more complex the more experienced you become, so let it come naturally. If you are struggling to cross the veil, even after multiple rides, something may be blocking you from entering. Self-doubt is likely the cause. Get yourself together, find the blockage, and remove it before trying again.

How to Hedge Ride + Flying Ointments

Moving Between Realms

On one of my last posts, a reader asked if I could explain how to travel between the realms, especially if you are already in one of the realms. Traveling between realms is quite simple, but until you are experienced, and I mean riding for a solid 6 months to a year regularly, you shouldn't leave the Lower Realm. There are several ways to enter each of the realms, and the method that works best for you will come with time. As I mentioned, I take stairs down to the Lower and Middle Realms. For me, these two realms overlap, and sometimes I don't realize I have crossed between them until I encounter my Garden, which I will talk about in another post, or I run into spirits not commonly found in the Lower Realms. For other hedgewitches, the transition is more clear. They must travel back up to the Middle Realm from the Lower Realm to get there. Moving between realms can occur within your portal or within each realm. For some hedgewitches, they must travel back to their portal to access each realm. This is the safest and surest way to make it between realms. Getting lost while traveling in the Otherworld is extremely dangerous, so it's best to retrace your steps and use methods are known to work, especially when you are first starting out.

How to Hedge Ride + Flying Ointments

As you hedge ride and become more experienced, you may find you find portals to the other realms within each realm. As I mentioned, I have never found a portal between the Lower and Middle Realms, that I somehow flow freely between the two, but other hedgewitches recall passing through a cave, door, or another passageway to go to the Middle Realm from the Lower Realm. To go to the Upper Realm from both Lower and Middle, I suck in air and act like I am a balloon and float upward until I reach the Upper Realm. When you pass into the Upper Realm from the Lower and Middle, it feels like you are passing through a membrane, like when you pass something through a bubble without it popping. It feels the same way. The Upper Realm is also much brighter and more iridescent than the other realms, visually setting it apart from the others. To travel down, you can fly or float back down or take the stairs in your portal or stairs you find going down elsewhere in the Realm. As I said, the best method of traveling between realms is to go back to your portal and travel via those means.

Another way to travel between the realms safely is to ask your animal guides to take you there. Meka, my red fox, often takes me on her back to travel long distances. Rocar has also assisted me in flying to the Upper Realm and back down to the Middle Realm. Once you establish a working relationship with your guides, they will often help you travel between the Realms with ease, sometimes without you realizing where you are traveling at first.

Finding portals within each realm can be difficult and takes time and intuition. When in doubt, ask your guides what you have found. An experienced hedge rider is able to seek out these portals, or thin/liminal spots called caol ait. This is a skill that comes with time and experience, so don't rush it. The more your hedge ride the easier it becomes and the more vivid the experiences.

Flying Ointments

How to Hedge Ride + Flying Ointments

I have never used flying ointments before, but some hedgewitches do. Flying ointments were traditionally used by hedge riders to reach an ASC prior to hedge riding. Historically they contained toxic plants, like belladonna and henbane, and sometimes nontoxic plants like mugwort mixed with animal fat that when applied to the body, especially near a major artery, would induce a trance-like state. These herbs do this by activating your pineal gland. Many of the flying ointments on the market today are not actually flying ointments at all, but a gimmick to swindle you out of your money. I don't want to get into too much detail about flying ointments in this post as it is already incredibly lengthy, but they should be mentioned alongside other methods of reaching an ASC. I plan on writing a more detailed post in the future, but if you are looking to learn more about flying ointments right now, please read Sarah Anne Lawless's Introduction to Flying Ointments and her Flying Ointment FAQs for more information. I thankfully saved many of her articles in PDF format, so we haven't lost all of her work forever.

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

Hedge Riding Series

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Magical and Medicinal Uses of Apple

Witches, it is almost apple season and as such, I have come to throw a herbarium post your way about the magical and medicinal uses of the glorious, tasty apple!

Magical and medicinal uses of Apple. Includes FREE BOS page!

Gender: Feminine
Planet: Venus
Element: Water
Powers: Abundance, Healing, Immortality, Love
Magical Uses and History: Sometimes referred to as the Witch's Fruit because its seeds resemble a 5-pointed star, apple is ripe with history and folklore. The history of the magical and ritual uses of the apple is lengthy, dating back thousands of years. As early as 8,000 B.C., evidence from the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, and Yellow River valleys suggests the apple was highly valued and cultivated crop. Furthermore, the apple plays a prominent role in myths from around the world, often being associated with magic, immortality, death, knowledge, and love. It has been called the Fruit of the Gods, Fruit of the Underworld, and the Silver Bough. In fact, the name Avalon is likely derived from the old Irish word meaning "the place of apples."

In an old Scandinavian Saga, Edda, Idunn (or Iduna) kept apples that were eaten by the Gods to ensure eternal youth. A similar myth appears in Greek folklore where Hesperides guards the apple trees that provide the same gift of youth and immortality to those who eat them. Apples also played a prominent role in Diana's Festival on August 13 in Greece where apples were prepared still on their boughs as part of the ritual meal. And while the Bible never explicitly states the tree of knowledge is an apple tree, it has long been believed to be so. In Celtic mythology, a branch of apple with buds, flowers, and ripened fruit, known as the Silver Bough, was thought to be a magical charm that would allow the bearer to walk between the land of the Gods and the Underworld freely. Apples are also mentioned in an old English ballad, Thomays the Rymour, where the Fairy Queen warns Thomas against eating any of the apples during the feast for to do so would mean he would not be able to walk among the living again. Finally, it is believed the Trojan war was started when the Goddess Eris threw an apple into the midst of a group of goddesses, claiming it was for "the fairest."

Due to its association with death and the Underworld, apples often adorn Samhain altars or are buried as offerings to the Dead so they may have something to eat during the long winter months ahead. Strong cider brewed from apple is sometimes referred to as Witch's Brew and placed on altars or poured on the ground for the same reasons. The wassailing tradition is still maintained in parts of England, especially Somerset, where on the Twelfth Night (Yule) cakes and cider are offered to the trees as libations for the spirits. Guns are often shot and pans banged together afterward to drive away evil and negative spirits.

The number of love spells using the apple is countless. Apple blossoms are added to love sachets, incense, and brews to increase spell potency and bring the caster love. Furthermore, an apple can be held in your hand until warm then given to your love interest. If they eat the apple, then they love you too. The most famous apple love spell, however, was popular among unmarried women across Europe. Simply peel an apple in one piece and throw the peel over your shoulder. The letter it forms is said to be the first letter of your future husband. Margaret Atwood brings light to this tradition in her book Alias, Grace where Mary and Grace try to figure out their future husbands. Mary is unable to peel multiple apples in a single go, foretelling her death in the near future. Other love spells include counting the seeds; even for marriage soon to come, odd for no marriage in the foreseeable future, a cut seed foretelling a tumultuous marriage, and two seeds cut foretelling widowhood. To ensure fidelity, cut an apple in half and have your lover eat one half while you eat the other.

Apples are also used in fertility spells. Barren women in Kirghizstan are said to roll around under an apple tree in order to become pregnant. In some parts of Europe, apple trees are planted at the birth of a son as an indicator of his health and virality. Furthermore, the apple is viewed as a life-giving fruit among the Celts and Welsh. Due to its potency of the drink created from fermented apples, they may have been linked to orgiastic rites.

The apple also has a long history of healing uses. The old Welsh proverb, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" rings with truth, as the apple contains properties that reduce fever, thus keeping the doctor away. An apple can also be cut into three pieces and rubbed on the affected area then buried during the waning of the Moon to banish illnesses. Gardeners would pour apple cider onto freshly-tilled soil to breathe life back into it prior to planting.

Apples can be used in a number of spells including:
     Love Spells
     Healing Magic
     Prosperity Magic

Please note there are hundreds of other magical uses not mentioned here. The list is too lengthy to include in one post. 

Medicinal Uses: Apples are commonly used to reduce fever (and historically scurvy) due to high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C. Apple cider vinegar is also used to treat fevers and sunburns. Early research also suggests eating apples may reduce your chances of cancer, especially of the esophagus and larynx, diabetes, and lung cancer. Research also suggests eating three apples a day increases weight loss.

Preparation and Dosage: Internally- If running a fever, eat an apple, drink apple juice, or eat applesauce immediately to boost the immune system and reduce the fever. Apple cider vinegar can also be taken internally to reduce a fever. Simply mix 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar with 1 tsp honey in a glass of warm water and drink 2-3 times a day until fever breaks. Externally- To reduce fever, place a towel soaked in a 1:2 part mixture of apple cider vinegar and water on your forehead or abdomen. Change towels after they have absorbed your body heat until fever eases. For a bath, mix 1 cup apple cider vinegar in a warm bathtub and stay in the water for 5 to 10 minutes. To treat sunburns, spray the affected area with a 1:1 mixture of apple cider vinegar and water, dabbed a vinegar soaked washcloth on the affected area, or take a cool bath mixed with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar.

Want to print a copy of this for your Book of Shadows? Click below for your free copy!

Magical and medicinal uses of Apple. Includes FREE BOS page!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Lammas Altar 2018

Lammas Altar 2018

Wooo! What a couple of weeks it has been! First, I traveled to Boston and Salem and after our flight was delayed multiple times, I finally returned home late last Tuesday and promptly returned to work the following day for pre-planning. The joys of being a teacher! Wednesday was our first official day back with the students, I am utterly exhausted. Because of my trip and work starting back, I haven't been home, like, at all, except to sleep. Needless to say, blogging has not been something I have had time for. However, I still found a few minutes to put together my altar for Lammas and I am glad I am finally able to share it with you guys.

Lammas Altar 2018

1. Leaf Candle Holder & Green Candle - The leaf candle holders with the green candles represent fertility (green) and the changing seasons. At Lammas, Mother Earth is providing us with bountiful crops, but there are marked shifts in the weather as summer begins to end, especially for those up north. Furthermore, the candles represent the Sun who helps to ripen the fruits of the first harvest. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost: $3 ($1 for set of 3 candles, and $1 each for the holders)

Lammas Altar 2018

2. Grapes- The grapes found flanking the altar represent fertility and abundance. Grapes are ripening and being picked during this time, making them the perfect addition to a Lammas altar. Furthermore, with Lammas being a harvest festival, it is important to have as many representations of fertility and abundance as possible to continue to provoke a bountiful harvest season so there is food to survive the winter. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost: $1)

3. Wine/Juice- Like the grapes, the wine/juice represents fertility and abundance. Being in a "chalice" and red, it also represents the feminine and lifeblood of Mother Earth who we thank during this time for the food she provides us. (Where did I get it: Publix; Cost: $0.25)

Lammas Altar 2018

4. Crystals- On this altar, there is malachite for growth and fertility, carnelian for strength and to represent the sun who is beginning to wane but still remains strong, citrine and pyrite for abundance, and amethyst for balance during this changing of seasons. (Where did I get it: Purchased from metaphysical stores or received in subscription boxes; Cost: Unknown)

Lammas Altar 2018

Lammas Altar 2018

5. Fruits and Red Candle- The fruits found in the center arrangement represent the fruits of the first harvest, as Lammas is the first of the harvest festivals. They also represent fertility, abundance, and prosperity in hopes that the growing season will be successful. The red candle represents the masculine Sun who helps to ripen the fruits of the harvest. (Where did I get it: Good Will; Cost: $2)

Lammas Altar 2018

6. Horn- The horn opposes the chalice of wine and represents the masculine aspect, specifically the Sun who ripens the fruits of the Earth, as well as fertility. (Where did I get it: Loot Crate 2016; Cost: $2?)

Lammas Altar 2018

7. Ivy and Sunflowers- The ivy draped around the entire altar represent abundance during the harvest. The sunflowers represent the Sun, balance, and fertility. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost $2 ($1 each)

8. Wheat- Lammas literally means "loaf mass" making wheat a must have on any Lammas altar. Being one of the first crops harvest this time of year, wheat represents fertility and abundance. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost $1)

TOTAL COST: ~$13-15

Like my other altars, most of the items I use are found or purchased for around $1. The crystals are the only items that I have acquired from various sources and cannot give an exact value for. I hope you find this sort of break down helpful, especially those of you looking to create Instagram perfect altars on a budget!

How did you celebrate Lammas this year?