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Sunday, March 20, 2022

Ostara/Spring Equinox Altar 2022

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Ostara or the Spring Equinox celebrates the dawning of Spring and the return of life. It is first and foremost a fertility holiday, honoring the reappearance of flowers, birds, and rabbits. Snow is beginning the melt and flowers force their way through the frozen ground, dotting the landscape with their bright blooms, a symbol of hope and new life. As the Sun grows in strength in the sky, the air warms, bringing with it animals previously hiding during the colder Winter months. March and April mark the mating season for many birds and small mammals, which will culminate in a bushel of cute babies. This is also the time of balance, as an equinox is a balance between day and night. We didn't get snow here in Georgia this year except for the mountains and by the end of March, daffodils and tulips have already stopped blooming. However, the cherry trees, forsythia, dandelions, and purple deadnettle are in full bloom. I am an advocate for local witchcraft and customizing your Wheel of the Year to sync with where you live. After all, the Wheel of the Year is about celebrating the changing of the seasons and that looks very different across the world. I encourage you to find your own spring markers and incorporate them into your altar as best you can. While I don't feature any flowers on my altar this year (I have been having issues with my cats lately...some serious ones related to both health and behavior), I do feature some natural elements using crystals. I decided this year to go more along the theme of balance, creating a perfectly symmetrical altar to honor equality, balance, and togetherness.

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1. Gold and White Rabbits- One of the most prominent symbols of Ostara or the Spring Equinox is the rabbit, representing fertility and new life. Rabbits begin breeding this time of year and are extremely prolific, hence their association with fertility. In fact, rabbits can be pregnant with more than one litter of babies at a time! I've included two rabbits on my Spring Equinox altar to represent fertility, but I have included two to balance the altar as the equinox represents balance. The golden rabbit represents the Sun while the white rabbit represents the Moon which is in perfect balance during the equinox. You will see that I have matched them with their respective symbols on the plaque in the center of my altar. (Where did I get it: Hobby Lobby 2017; Cost: $3 each)

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2. Mangano Calcite, Rose Quartz, Tree Agate- Honestly, Mangano calcite and rose quartz are two of my favorite crystals (black tourmaline is number one) so if I can find a reason to put them on my altar, I do. You'll notice I also left the tree agate from my Imbolc or Winter Thermstice altar on this one as well. This is because the themes of Imbolc continue right on into Ostara. While both celebrate new beginnings and the returning of life, Imbolc is more about the returning of the light and Ostara more about fertility. Mangano calcite and rose quartz represent love, harmony, and balance. They both vibrate with a soft, soothing love, one that last's for an eternity, the perfect crystal to symbolize the loving relationship between Sun and Earth. Tree agate, on the other hand, is a symbol of Earth, new life, fertility, growth, and renewal. Its soft white and dark green hues represent the first of the plants breaking through the snow. (Where did I get it: Metaphysical Subscription Boxes; Cost: ~$6)

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3. Sun and Moon Plaque- In the center is an incense holder without the incense. I used it because of its pink color and flower shape. The flower represents the new blossoms of Spring, and being pink, it represents love and unity, which results in the flowering fruits being so abundant at this time. I did not place any incense for this altar because the heavenly smell of the forsythia and dead nettle were enough. While cherry blossoms do not smell the best, the mixing of the two scents would not have created harmony and balance on this altar. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost: $1)

4. White Tealights- The Sun continues to grow in strength at Ostara, with it finally being equal tonight for the first time since the Fall Equinox. From this point on, day will continue to grow in length, as night slowly decreases until the Summer Solstice in June. The white candles in their opalescent candle holders are to sympathetically strengthen the Sun so my new seedlings may flourish and my flower garden bloom. White also symbolizes day, which again, continues to grow from this point on. I went with the opalescent candle holders this time because when the light hits them just right, they appear like pink, blue, and green, symbols of spring and Ostara. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2019; Cost: $2.50)

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5. Marble Egg- The blue, marble egg is the ultimate symbol of fertility and new beginnings. As Spring begins, the birds flock back to their mating grounds, building nests and laying eggs that will give birth to the next generation. I placed it in the center of my altar as fertility is the predominant theme of Ostara. The blue color represents healing, calm, and femininity, something I believe is currently lacking in the world right now. (Where did I get it: Marble Egg: Gifted; Cost: Free; Egg holder: Target 2018; $1)

TOTAL COST: ~$14


Like my other altars, most of the items I use are found, made, or purchased for around $1, although if the items must be purchased by you, then the cost will be higher. I hope you find this sort of breakdown helpful, especially for those of you looking to create Instagram-perfect altars on a budget!

Did you do anything special for Ostara this year? Let me know in the comments below!



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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Book Review: Witch Please by Victoria Maxwell


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.

I'm not going to lie; I agreed to review this book simply because I liked the cover and knew it would look good displayed in my home as it matched my decor. Witch, Please: Empowerment and Enlightenment for the Modern Mystic by Victoria Maxwell is a very basic introduction to modern witchcraft. Maxwell takes a secular approach to witchcraft, which is nice in an introductory book, although there are some Wiccan undertones. Overall, the book wasn't terrible, but this wouldn't be my first choice for a new witch.

Let's start with what I did like. First, the book is really easy to read, well organized, and beautifully designed. Maxwell begins with a basic introduction to witchcraft and how to set up an altar, cast spells, and perform other basic skills used in modern witchcraft. Unlike other introductory books, however, this book is very secular and there is no mention of specific traditions or holidays, although there are concise lists of deities from multiple cultures spread through the book. Maxwell is an advocate for combining spells and rituals with mundane work, which is imperative information for a new witch. I remember when I began practicing that I had hoped the spells would do the hard lifting for me and I could lay back and reap the rewards. Unfortunately, that is not how magic works and Maxwell makes that very clear throughout her book, including stories and examples to reiterate her point. She also stresses the value of gratitude in spellwork and states that "prayer without action is just lip service to the Divine." I think this last sentence was by far my favorite part of the book. Prayer is talked about a lot and used often, especially in times of crisis or great need. There is absolutely nothing wrong with prayer, but we must realize that praying alone is not enough to bring about the change we wish to see. Maxwell also advocates strongly for self-love and setting up boundaries with yourself and with others. Boundaries are the key to happiness and successful relationships. Boundaries are often overlooked in the spiritual community, not just with each other but with the entities we work with as well. I wish that Maxwell had gone a little deeper with setting boundaries and that these boundaries apply not just to the mundane world, but the magical as well. We must hold boundaries with the spirits we work with, spiritual leaders, and magical guides and recognize that they will have boundaries as well. So often witches overstep and demand help from others, especially spirits and deities, without recognizing that neither of them is required to help. In fact, they often don't want to help a witch who demands their time and attention. The book ends with some spells for creating a home sanctuary, finding love and self-love, attracting money, finding your purpose in life.

While the design is enough to get a reader to pick up the book, there is, unfortunately, little within its pages to keep a reader engaged. While there are certain elements I enjoyed, the information is extremely basic and found time and time again in other introductory books. If you have read one introductory book you've read them all. As I mentioned earlier, there is some slight toxic positivity, despite Maxwell condemning such an idea. She continues to push the narrative that negative thoughts and actions are the cause of many magical problems, despite the fact that such emotions are normal, healthy, and necessary. With that being said, Maxwell does discuss, at length, how the law of attraction often leads to victim-blaming, which I 100% support. This makes her message a little muddied, however, because she is slightly contradictory throughout the book. There is some mild cultural appropriation in this book as well as it includes deities from other religions and cultures, specifically Hinduism. While Hinduism is an open religion, its deities should only be used by those who practice Hinduism, not by secular witches. It's unlikely these deities would even answer your call in the first place which can lead to problems with your spells and rituals. Some other issues I had with the book were some mild food shaming (promoting 'clean' eating as a way to reach spiritual enlightenment) and the promotion of capitalism within the craft (if your crystal breaks you need to buy a new one mentality). Finally, Maxwell includes some essential oils without warning the reader of the possible dangers to animals within the home. This is a mistake I see made a lot in witchcraft books and for new witches who don't know any better, this can be extremely dangerous.

Overall, it wasn't a terrible book. However, as an experienced witch, I do not believe this book is worth the expensive price tag. It's very short and you can seriously read it in an afternoon. Witch, Please: Empowerment and Enlightenment for the Modern Mystic by Victoria Maxwell is available now.



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Monday, March 7, 2022

Herbarium: Magical and Medicinal Uses of Calendula

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Gender: Masculine
Planet: Sun
Element: Fire
Powers: Healing, Legal Matters, Love, Prophetic Dreams, Protection, Psychic Powers
Magical Uses and History: Calendula, not to be confused with marigold (French marigold) which looks similar, comes from the Latin kalendae meaning "the first." This is an ode to the plant supposedly blooming at the beginning of the summer months or during the New Moon (it doesn't). This, however, resulted in it often being associated with the menstrual cycle, despite being masculine in nature. Calendula was often used to induce menstruation and relieve menstrual cramps, and therefore can be used in spells regarding women's health. However, because it can induce menstruation, it should not be used by women who may be pregnant and therefore should not be used in spells regarding fertility. Its blooming at the beginning of the month later led to calendula becoming the symbol of the Roman calendar, being used to note the beginning of each lunar phase. As such, calendula can be used during New Moon spells and rituals to bring prosperity, luck, protection, confidence, prophetic dreams, or to see through illusions.

While the exact origins of calendula are lost to history, we do know that it was used in Ancient Greece, Egypt, India, and Arabic empires as a fabric dye, cosmetic, medicine, and to flavor food. By the Middle Ages, calendula became extremely popular among Europeans who nicknamed it "Mary-Gold," hence its confusion with marigold, and dedicated the flower to the Virgin Mary. It was often used to flavor soups and stews to boost health and protect against disease. This led to it being given the name "Pot Marigold," as it was thrown into just about every pot. In the Americas, early colonists heavily relied on calendula for its healing and protective properties, using it in a similar manner as their European ancestors. It protected against the damp and cold common during the winter. Later, during the American Civil War, doctors carries dried calendula flowers to staunch bleeding and promote healing of wounds.  As such, calendula is deeply associated with healing and protection. Calendula, being associated with fire due to its bright yellow-orange petals, can be used in spells to gently 'burn' away illness, disease, and unwanted negative energies while nourishing the body during healing and cleansing spells and rituals.

Apart from healing, calendula was also believed to be highly protective, not just against disease, but also bad luck, negative energies, and people will ill-intent. Garlands of calendula were sometimes hung from door handles to protect the family inside or strewn underneath the bed to protect against robbers while the family slept. If you happened to be robbed anyway, it was believed that calendula would induce prophetic dreams identifying the culprit. As such, calendula can be used in protection spells or during legal matters to ensure victory.

Calendula is also associated with love and happiness, likely due to its bright yellow-orange color. It was often incorporated into flower crowns worn by brides or, again, placed under the bed to ensure a happy marriage. In some instances, it was believed that placing calendula under your pillow or bed could also induce prophetic dreams of a future lover. It was also believed that bathing in a bath of calendula petals would make people see you more favorably. As such, use calendula in spells to attract a lover or maintain a happy, successful marriage.

Finally, there are some folklore references to calendula being used to dispel illusions and bring the truth to light. Burning calendula is thought to remove glamour and reveal faeries. It has also been used in truth spells and to prevent rumors from spreading by getting your enemy to shut their mouth. I had difficulty finding where these superstitions originated from, but its association with Fire is likely part of the reason. Not only can it burn through illness and disease, but also deception and lies. If picked on Saint John's Day, the powers of calendula are said to double.

Calendula can be used in a number of spells including:
    Protection Spells
    Love Spells
    Dream Magic
    Healing Spells
    Truth Spells

Medicinal Uses: Calendula is renowned for its healing properties, especially for treating skin problems due to its being anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and natural astringent. It is used to treat mild skin infections, cuts, bruises, bug bites, ulcers, sprains, scalds, and burns. It can also be used as a compress or poultice to stop external bleeding, just as doctors did during the Civil War. Internally it can be taken to calm stomach ulcers and digestive inflammation. As an emmenagogue, it can stimulate menstruation, especially if late, and aid in period-related cramps. It combines well with marshmallow root to soothe stomach problems or slippery elm and goldenseal to treat external wounds.

Preparation and Dosage: Calendula can be taken internally or externally. To create an infusion, pour one cup of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of florets and leaves. Infuse for 10-15 minutes and drink up to three times a day. As a tincture, take 1-4 milliliters up to three times a day. Externally, calendula can be used as a salve, poultice, or compress. If you are looking to create a salve, try my recipe! Look for more recipes, check out The Herbal Academy's Calendula Uses: Our 14 Favorite Recipes and Remedies.


Want to print a copy of this for your Book of Shadows? Click below for your free copy! 
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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Spellcrafting Series: Breaking Your Own Spells

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It's all well and good to cast a spell, but what happens when things don't go the way you intend or your previous intentions no longer align with your current intentions? This is where breaking your own spells becomes incredibly important. This topic is almost always overlooked in the occult community, leaving generations of witches ill-prepared when a spell goes awry. I hope to fill that void today by discussing why and how to break your own spells, and how to build in loopholes to make breaking them easier.

Why Break A Spell?

So first, why would a witch want to break a spell they painstakingly created, raised energy for, and cast into the Universe? Well, there are several reasons, the biggest of which being the spell flopped. Sometimes when we cast a spell, things don't go the way we initially intended, which is why logging your spells is so important. This can happen for a variety of reasons including vague intent, lack of effort, or even asking for something too specific. The Universe is very literal and does a great job of giving us exactly what we ask for, whether it's what you really want or not. This can mean a spell to attract a lover ends up attracting attention from everyone, including people you don't want attention from. Or maybe you banished negativity from your home which inadvertently ended your relationship with your significant other (Am I drama?). Needless to say, if the spell ends up backfiring or giving you something you didn't originally intend, you'll likely want to break the spell to prevent any further damage. This is where loopholes come in which I will discuss in just a moment.

Other times a spell needs to be removed because we no longer wish it to continue. This is true of protection spells and wards that you remove once you leave a property, sell an object, or no longer feel the need for the spell to continue. No matter the reason, know how to remove and break your own spells is an important skill, one that is often overlooked in most introductory books.

Creating Spell Loopholes

I have mentioned spell loopholes briefly in the past and included them on my Spell/Ritual Worksheet, but haven't extensively talked about them in any capacity. A spell loophole is a quick and easy way to stop a spell in its tracks and prevent it from continuing to do damage. Loopholes can technically be built into every spell, although there are some you don't necessarily want to break such as most protection and cleansing spells (which is why I often say these types of spells can't be undone, at least not in a traditional sense). 

Loopholes can be created in multiple ways and are completely dependent on a spell. This, again, is why keeping a detailed record of your spell work is so important. Even if you didn't initially build in a fail-safe, going back and looking at everything you said, used, and did during a spell or ritual can help you break it. Sometimes this means dismantling something you made, reversing the words and/or movements you did, or sometimes creating an entirely new spell to end the other. This last option is most often employed to break another witch's spell, but can also be used by you to counter your own spells. So how do you know which option to pick? Again, that is entirely up to the spell you performed, but below is a list of some spell types and ways to break them.

Spell Jar: Dismantle jar. Dispose of the spell remains away from your property, especially if the jar was designed to draw something to you or used for protection. You will want to cleanse yourself afterward.
Spell Sachets & Bags: Dismantle bag. Like spell jars, the remains of the spell should be disposed of away from your property or burned. Cleanse afterward.
Knot Spells: Untie the knots. Dispose of the rope or string in the trash, bury it at a crossroads (if ecofriendly), or burn. Do not look back after burying and cleanse afterward.
Candle Spells: 
Dance Spells: Perform the movements backward, stating out loud that the spell is undone. Cleanse afterward.
Chants & Other Spoken Spells: Say the spell wording backward. This can be saying the sentences in reverse order or saying the words in reverse. This will be dependent on the spell's wording. If the sentence backward still means the same thing you intended such as "I have money" versus "Money have I," you'll want to say the words themselves backward. For example, "Yenom evah I."
Candle Spells: These ones are tougher to break because the candle is used up in the spell. I suggest doing an "opposite" spell. Use a candle of the opposite color, such as black instead of white, dress in spell-breaking oils and herbs, and declare the spell undone.
Cleansing Spells: I can't imagine anyone wanted to break a spell like this, but if you wish to undo a cleansing, expose the object, person, or place to the very energies you removed.
Wards: Hold your hands up and visualize the ward dissipating, being absorbed by the Earth as you slowly move your hands down. If you walked clockwise to establish your ward, walk counterclockwise to remove it, stopping periodically to 'pull' it down.
Amulets & Talismans: Remove them, thank them for their service, and bury them (if ecofriendly). Depending on the amulet or talisman, you can bury these on your own property. If you wish to keep something you originally charged for protection, instead of burying it, you can cleanse it using whatever cleansing method you prefer.
Paper Petitions: Tear the petition up and flush it down a toilet (if septic safe) or throw the pieces away.
Cord Cutting: If you saved the string, tie the two pieces together. If not, you will need to create a new spell to mend the bonds and break the previous spell.

If one of the above methods doesn't fit the type of spell you did, you can use another spell to break it. There are many ways to do this but my favorite is to light a black candle and state which spell or spells I want to end. Sometimes I will even cut a string (cord cutting) or break a stick to symbolize the spell being broken. Since this series is all about writing your own spells, I encourage you to design your own spell for such purposes.

***


This week I'd like you to go back and look at some of your old spells. Brainstorm how you would go about breaking them and write down your best ideas near the spell, in case you need to break them in the future. For any future spells, write in a loophole to make this process easier. Drop some of your ideas in the comments below!



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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Book Review: Espiritismo, Puerto Rican Mediumship & Magic by Hector Salva

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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.

This is the second book by Hector Salva I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing. The first was The 21 Divisions, which details the practices of Dominican Voodoo. I thoroughly enjoyed Salva's other work so when presented with the opportunity to read Espiritismo: Puerto Rican Mediumship & Magic I jumped right on it.

Espiritismo: Puerto Rican Mediumship & Magic details Puerto Rican Spiritism or Spiritualism, which combined religious and occult practices of European Catholics, indigenous Tainos, and African slaves to create a unique blend of mediumship and magic. Salva begins, as he always does, by briefly introducing the topic at hand before discussing the history of Puerto Rico and Espiritismo. This is always my favorite part as much of my history education was severely white-washed and focused almost entirely on Europe and the United States after European colonization. I always learn something new and the history puts the entire practice into focus. You cannot separate spiritual practices from their history. Furthermore, Salva makes it well known right from the start that this practice is transmitted through apprenticeship and requires years of intense study. Failure to do so is not only disrespectful but also potentially harmful as detailed later with personal stories and warnings. The principles, however, are for everyone and Salva is sure to let the reader know that the world needs Espiritismo now more than ever, so while the practice is not open to all, the principles that make it up are.

After introducing Espiritismo's history, which includes Kardec's Spiritism (there is a movie about Kardec on Netflix btw), Salva breaks down some common practices, spiritual guides, mediumship, and spiritual healing practiced by most espiritistas. Salva discusses various ways mediums communicate with spirits, touching on everything from hearing messages to smelling scents. As someone who smells rather than hears or sees, it was nice to be included. He also discusses the difference between being an empath and being empathetic. I really wish he would have expanded on this topic because the misconceptions and misinformation spreading across various occult groups is profound.

Salva weaves magical tales throughout the book, ending each chapter with stories from his own life. Honestly, I would read an entire book of Salva recounting things that have happened to him and those he knows. His stories are by far my favorite part, as they were in 21 Divisions. He is a marvelous storyteller and chooses stories that promote the lessons outlined in each chapter. These stories also include cautionary tales about improper initiations and charlatans and the consequences that befall those that attempt to take shortcuts or refuse to do the work required. Spirit is a messy business, and I wholeheartedly agree with Salva that cutting corners is disastrous. Often times this is perceived as gatekeeping, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Sometimes practices require a teacher, not a book, and that's okay. 

This book, however, is not a definitive guide to Espiritismo, but instead is a preservation of a dying culture. Both Catholics, scientists, and the United States worked desperately to wipe out Espiritismo, resulting in the generational loss of history, religion, and spirituality. There are some practical applications, but because this spiritual practice requires a tremendous amount of work under the guidance of an experienced espiritista Salva avoids giving too much information. This is likely in an attempt to protect readers from potentially harmful practices. Despite this, Salva does discuss how to set up your own altar, how to find a spiritual teacher, and how to perform simple cleansing rituals, practices open to everyone. 

I commend Salva for his work and I am sure espiritistas appreciate that much of their practices have been kept secret, but well-preserved within this book's pages. I highly recommend this book to anyone that wishes to learn about something outside of European witchcraft. The general principles, as Salva mentioned, are for everyone and even experienced witches can glean a new perspective about their own practice by reading Salva's work. You can purchase Espiritismo: Puerto Rican Mediumship & Magic by Hector Salva now. 



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