Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Heart Altar

Just be for a moment. Stop pretending to do anything else, as we so often do. Declare unto the self from the center of the universe, “I am,” and shift consciousness to that place from which the conviction of that statement comes. Stand witness to the glory of the divine experience; and knowing that which one is not, see the truth upon the altar of the heart.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Painting the Landscape

The religious thought of Witchcraft is experientially individualistic. Our Craft teaches us how to interact with the forces and world around us in such a manner that from it we derive an understanding of the cosmos, Deity, and our place in existence. Each of these experiences is a revelation that was revealed through the gateways of the heartand mind of a Witch.

Unlike other religions, based upon correct belief, ours is a methodology that allows the Natural World to grant these experiences from which one builds their own belief. Religious Witchcraft is based in Nature Theology. As much as definitions of a Witch would lead one to believe otherwise, a Witch does not believe in the supernatural, for in their experience, nothing exists that is not of the natural order of things.

As for what constitutes the natural order of things? Well, no two Witches will give quite the same answer. My own answer is a simple one. In short, if it exists then it is of the natural order of things. Amazingly though, when Witches gather and compare notes, they find that the stories of their experiences to be too similar to discredit as the fantasies of the individual alone.

The details and interpretations of experiences vary, and because of this there are many forms that Religious Witchcraft takes. Each in its own way is like a painting revealing the world, the end result is different but each shows the landscape through which the Witch travels.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Guest Post- Crossroads Joe: The Magic of A Witch's Tools

There are a number of pieces of "folk wisdom" that crop up here and there in the modern neopagan community. Like most folk wisdom, these aphorisms are of varying utility and genuine use. Among the most egregious of them, in my mind, is the one that goes something like this:

"Oh, well, you don't *really* need tools. I mean, they're just there to help you focus - the magic comes from inside you! Tools are just crutches."

Ask any of my students: when I hear this, it gets me a'twitching, because there is so much wrong with it. Let's look at some of this, shall we?

Symbolism in the Group
First and foremost, on a very practical level, tools serve a valuable purpose. Even if we set aside the basic occult concept of magic, tools are part of the language of symbols. We interact with tools on a conscious level and a subconscious one. There is value in learning and mastering the language of symbols: like any language, it is used to communicate effectively.

On a personal level, our subconscious (or better still, the Deep Mind, as some streams of the Craft would call it) understands symbols independently of our conscious mind. In fact, it often understands them in spite of it. Craft tends to use very simple symbols, things of an often-agricultural or rustic origin. Now, while very few of us live agricultural lives these days (let's be honest - the last time many of us have been anywhere near a farm was in a Facebook game),Deep Mind remembers. We have spent the sum total of human culture as we have any concept of it as agricultural creatures, minus the last hundred and fifty years, give or take. This is deeply imprinted on who we are as societal creatures. Even if you don't know the nuances of the meanings behind the sheaf and the sickle, or the wheel with candles set in it, rest assured that Deep Mind does. Rest assured that it understand that Blade = Will and Authority, while Chalice = Reverence and Encompassment.

Deep Mind knows.

On a more practical level for those of us who interact magically with others on a routine basis, knowing this language (and knowing it comes wholly through experience) allows us to communicate things to one another. When my circle-mate lifts her athame with her right hand, her posture regal, feet set to give her a powerful foundation, I instinctively know what she is doing. She raises her Will as she raises that Blade, and whatever comes next comes from her authority as a witch and initiate of the Mysteries. Likewise, when a priestess dons a mantle or veil, and takes up the Cup, I know what is happening without ever having to be told.

Compare, then, to the group who simply stand there, "performing magic" with only the power of visualization and their minds. Lots of people like to claim that they "sync up" in such instances, prepared to work Grand Occult Wonders wholly in the realms of the unseen. But really? They're usually all just standing there waiting for someone else to make the first indication that the "work" is at an end.

Towards a Physical Praxis
Speaking of the Realms Unseen, most witches I know do not aspire to dwell wholly in the realms of spirit, thought and ephemera. "What is holy, witch?" one might ask, and there will be many answers, of course. But among them will be some version of "this world". If we claim to find holiness in this world - not just a world that is not profane, but one in which actual, divine holiness resides - how can we make this claim while simultaneously eschewing the role of things physical in our Rites?

Put another way, it's been said that the witch's true home is "at the Crossroads" - that is to say, liminal places and times. Be it at the crux or transitions of the seasons, when the moon rests full or dark at the mid-point between waxing and waning, as day bleeds into night, or night unfolds into day, or at the stroke of midnight, balanced between two different days. Perhaps we meet at the seashore, where Land meets Sea, or in the groves, where Wood touches Meadow, in the graveyard (balanced between death and life) or even in the Circle, where the lands of the physical and the lands of the gods are admixed.

If we accept the power of the liminal, the power that builds naturally where two things which are unlike one another meet and mingle - Fire and Water, Male and Female, Thought and Emotion, Body and Soul - how can we claim to find any virtue in discarding one of those aspects. If the powerful visualizations, trance states, otherworldly Sight and starlight vision, meditative practices and all the other tools of the unseen are of value, why would we use them without those tools of the physical world. Where Intent and Literal meet, where Will and Blade are, these are the places of power.

The Magic of the Incarnate World
Finally, as a practitioner of a couple kinds of low magic - two separate kinds of witchcraft, as well as old-fashioned Southern conjure (or hoodoo) - I'm here to tell you: the tools you use, the herbs you employ, the colors you bring to bear all have power. And it's not "your power channeled through them." It's a power of their own.

We do bring magic with us, of course. It is within - it is no more correct to say that all magic comes from the items and tools you use than it is to say that it all comes from within us. It's an admixture of these things. Again, liminality, where the magic of the incarnate world, as found in tools, herbs, oils and a myriad other things, meets with the intentional, motivative magic within us. If our tools and correspondences are the ingredients and tools of a chef, we ourselves are the chefs. Those ingredients aren't going to turn themselves into a feast, any more than the tools themselves are going to work magic on their own, either.

This isn't about proclaiming tools to be the source of magic. Rather, it is about honoring them as part of the magic we do, just as surely as our own Divine Will, occult intents and mastery of our states of mind are part of it. It is the whole of both aspects, working beautifully together, that is the source of magic in what we do.

-Joseph Carriker, ©2012


Thank you Joe for taking the time to put this together.

Also, everyone go read his blog.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Breeze Appreciation

The winds of our lives vary in their influence but no matter how life’ events begin to unfold the wind is there somewhere; marked and whispered upon by those Spirits, Guardians, and Deities with whom we work. The winds of change are constantly flowing about and through us. As these winds pass through the realms they turn there the windmills of change, pick up the essence, much like the scent of incense, and bring it into our lives.

When we have grown tired, irritable, and stressed by life’s events it is too easy to focus solely upon the fuel of those issues, the issues themselves, or simply the strong emotions permeating our thoughts and feelings. Compare this to standing in a field for hours, with no shade or water, the sun blazing hot, not allowed to move, and all on a hot summer day. Life at that moment is miserable, and that misery and what brought it on are almost entirely central to one’s thoughts.

In those moments when we allow any discord, life may bring and make it central to our thoughts, we become as the discord is. Now standing in that field, focusing only upon the unpleasantness of the situation one may miss anything else, however, when a breeze comes, and it will because the winds of change do not stop, that breeze will either be ignored as we wallow in the temporary circumstance or it will be noticed. If we look for the wind we are more likely to feel it upon our being. Stop then, right then, and appreciate it. For that wind will transform you if you allow it, as it takes the edge from the blade of severity. Sometimes you just have to stop and appreciate the breeze.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice

The Crown of Knowing, granting Sovereignty, having been placed upon our being brought forth an inner Fire. This Sun has feed and nourished the Crops we planted in the depths of our Sacred Landscape; a barren and darkened Land without the Union of having felt the Mystery from the reflecting Moon and the Will born from having seen what the Sun reveals. The Fields are full of growth.

Our growth is that of those Crops, they are the Bearers of the Fruit of our labor. Today, halfway through the Light Half of the year and the longest period of time that the Sun will be in the sky, it is time to stand in awe of the glory we have invoked within our lives. It is time to meet the Genii Loci, the Spirits of Place, of those Fields whose seeds we planted when we first began to work, turn, and plough the Soil.

The Work is not done, long from it, but as the Sun reaches its height the focus turns from growing but towards collecting what has been brought into our lives and storing it for the Winter and Journey into the Caverns of the Underworld; another mystery awaits. But for today, bask in the Sunlight and allow its warmth to fill you with strength.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It Comes!

There is a shift in the community as we speak. This shift is in regards to our way of growth. Sociologically any religion grows or maintains its size via two ways. One is conversion; check. The other is through reproduction. This is something that only slowly started when my generation was growing up in the community. Before reading anymore, be warned that I used a lot of personal experience in support of my thoughts, more of a musing than anything else.

I am a second generation Contemporary Pagan (CP); my father converting when I was very young, in the mid-80s. I later got involved around the age nine via him. For all you older first generation Pagans, you remember those kids running amuck at festivals? Well, I was one of them. This was the early to mid-90s or so. At the time we were few and far in between. I knew two people during High School that were a CP; it should be no surprise we stuck together. By the time I was an adult moved out on my own, I was still a rarity in the community; I was someone that was raised as a CP. The first time I approached a Coven as an adult I was not believed, that is until my Dad provided a vouch for me.

Now a little over a decade since first approaching a Coven I have noticed that there is a small change in the community. Whereas before I knew no one else that had been raised CP at the same time as me, I have since met a few. Furthermore, the second generation is having kids, and you know what? This is a major stepping stone. Granted our community is still largely converts and most of our growth continues to come from such, but there is a noticeable shift, or at least I see a shift. I remember going to festivals as a kid and there only being a small handful, maybe five or so, kids of various ages, but now there are four or five times that many at the small festivals.

With this shift, there looms another, a much bigger and potentially more crucial shift. It is a shift in the mental egregore of the CP community. The mindset and thought process of a community of adult converts is very different from that of a group of people raised within that community. There is no internal struggle with a past religion and its teachings, because it wasn’t a part of the experience. At the moment, we are still a long way from the later but it comes.

What got me to thinking about all this? My kids, or at least some comments they made got me to thinking about it. In the car the other morning my son told me, “At night when the moon is full, I turn into a stag.” This reminded me of my daughter telling me, “Daddy, the Goddess lives in the trees.” Now, this is par for the course for comments my kids make on occasion. However, it struck me at that time that my kids have a very different childhood than I grew up with, let alone that of the older CP generation.

My kids have robes, and sometimes play ritual. They know that when the moon is full that it is time for the family to circle together. They know how to take libations out to the land, and do so every night with our devotional offerings from the family meal. Last year when asked to draw a picture of the family doing something together by his kindergarten teacher, for a Christmas project, my son drew us all in robes standing around a Yule log. And so on and so forth…

I see the same all around me, as others raise their children. Each approach is vastly different, and yet all are within the parameters of Contemporary Paganism. What is most striking is their shared mentality towards life. Take a moment and watch next time you are around the kids at a festival, you will see. Before you will be a glimpse at what is coming.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

5 Things...

5 Things Witches Need to Learn More Of…

I was reading the Strategic Sorcery blog*, and yesterday he posted five things that he thought Western Occultism was too wrapped up in and needed to escape from. This got me to thinking about things that Witches get a little too trapped in, and decided to make a short list of my own. However, I decided to go the opposite direction with my list, and instead point out those things I think need more attention. Warning: Highly Opinionated, and in no particular order.

1. Ecology

Tons of reading, reflection, and theorizing about metaphysics and the spiritual is wonderful, and Witches, regardless of the brand, have tons of that. For some strange reason though, we as a whole, mind you not everyone, tend to neglect learning about what ecology has to say about the world in which we live in. If you have no clue what a watershed is or how it effects the environment then it might be time to do a bit more of this type of learning. It is important, as Witches, to know how the pieces fit together. It is particularly important to know how the local ecosystem works and where the Witch fits in.

What are the local major geological land features? What is the major source for drinking water? What birds/mammals/fish/reptiles are native? Are there any invasive plants or animal species causing a problem? Questions like these, and many more, need to be known.

2. Mythology

For some strange reason, Witches neglect to read source mythology, electing to instead take someone else’s word for it. Worse yet, many only get their mythological knowledge from Contemporary Pagan books. Again, not everyone falls into this category. For example, assuming the Welsh Goddess Rhiannon has entered your life, it would be best to crack open the Mabinogion first, and read what it says about Her. Do this long before googling or seeing what some introductory list of Deities has to say about Her. After reading the myth, find out what mythology scholars have to say. Only after doing all that, and spending time thinking about what it all means to you and your relationship with the Deity in question, do you look at how others have incorporated the material into their practice. Read the myths, they tell us about the Gods and Goddesses as close to first-hand as you can get, minus direct individualistic experience.

3. Meditation

So this is my item on the list that isn’t about reading, or more specifically isn’t normally achieved by reading. Yes, I know that reading a good book can induce altered states of mind, but that is beside the point. Out of all the various practices that Witches engage in, meditation is perhaps one of the most important and most neglected. A Priestess I know once pointed out during conversation, that when things begin to get a little hectic, stressed, or busy that meditation is the first thing to go. You know what? She is right. Witches don’t dedication enough regular and daily time to meditation. That’s right, I said daily. Meditation needs to be done every day. Not reflective thought or guided journeying, but actual focusing the mind ‘as best as possible’ for a prescribed period of time towards a single thought. Do it and your spiritual, mental, and mundane lives will all improve. It will seem like someone opened a flood gate of spiritual epiphany.

4. The Classics

Personally I think the ancient classical works are horrible reads, HORRIBLE, but I say this from the stand point of having read quite a few of them. As much as I had to force myself to keep reading Plato or the Iliad, I did get through it and thought it was very important to do so. As a Contemporary Pagan it is crucial that we read the various works of the classical world. Hordes of books and stories exist that were written from a Pagan worldview that had never experienced centuries of monotheistic thought. You may not agree with everything that was written, but that’s not the point. It’s about knowing what these people thought.

5. What They Read

So Witches, and Contemporary Pagans, have a long standing, and not likely to end soon, love affair with books. Unfortunately, I have noticed a trend lately. Many of those new to our Religion don’t dig beyond the newest book available at Barnes and Noble, or some of other giant chain bookstore. Now, I’m not saying to ignore these books, new books are written everyday that can and do have significance. I am saying, read what your authors read, and so on and so forth.

I remember the first time I did this. I had re-read, “The Witches Bible” and wanted to know more about something mentioned. So I flipped to the reference page and started researching those books. This led me to many very important books that helped to shape modern Witchcraft. I specifically remember ordering and reading for the first time, “The White Goddess” because it was listed there. I have done and continue to do the same for many many different books.

Sure, many of us have read the books by Gerald B. Gardner, but how many have looked at the books he listed in his references? Or within other influential and a bit more popular books, such as, “The Spiral Dance” and “Drawing Down the Moon.” Then after reading those books, flip to the back and track down what those authors where reading.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

*Go read it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Crafting in the Craft

I’ve made tools in the past but not often. Normally I wait for my allies to let themselves come home. When one of those tools arrives at a scene, it is known, and at that point I swoop in and greet my old friend. I sometimes go years without getting a new tool of any kind, I already have lots and generally don’t stock up on tons of tools or open the intention gateway unless I have a purpose without a tool to assist with. I, however, have been tool Crafting lately.

The root of the reason is two-fold. First, I am fed up with the poor quality of mass produced tools available on the Contemporary Pagan market over the past decade or so. Secondly, I have felt the urge to add some ‘crafting’ to my Craft. As a result I have been making things.

In the past couple of months I’ve made a couple of unique altar plates for specific Deity work and a couple of pentacles based on Solomonic work. All of these have new homes, with people I know. I felt the need to make these items, but as it turns out, they were made for someone else. I was just the one that brought the tool into manifestation so it could go home. Sorry, no pictures, I didn’t take any before giving the items away. I also made a new wand. A Tradition ritual I was going to, and have since, performed called for a wand of specifications other than I already had. I probably could have gotten away with what I had, but I decided to just make a wand. After-all, I had not made a wand in years. For your viewing pleasure, see the pic of a wand, that’s me holding it.

Now all that is fine and dandy but completely off topic for this blog, or at least it only serves as an introduction to the shortness of this blog. I started making an athame, from scratch, none of that buying the pieces and gluing them together business, and I’ve decided to drag everyone along for the ride, or at least give updates on it.

There is an athame in there somewhere.

As I am not a metal worker or smith in anyway, I sought help. I just happen to be related, via hand-fasting, to someone, my father-in-law, that has thirty plus years experience and is retired from civil service for thus. I am more than grateful for his guidance, for I’d be floundering in the dark without it, but I did have one condition I needed to be met before we began. He had to let me do the work. He could tell me what to do, show me the technique, but at the end of the day, I needed to be able to say I made the athame.

Last night I went over to his shop and got to work. The above picture is of stock metal used for machine working. At his recommendation, a good steel was picked out and a design drawn up. The design is wholly my own but tailored to be within Traditional standards, meaning it will eventually have a black handle, etc. He explained how to mark the metal and over the next three hours guided me in a systematic methodology of slowly shaping and removing the unwanted edge material.

The second picture, below, is what got done thus far. It is basically a blade blank that still needs to be cut, have a pummel and guard fashioned and a handle put on. It is currently, oiled with olive oil, it’s what I was told to use, and sitting on my main altar in the Temple Room. I’ll post more updates as they come.

So what crafting have you been up to in your Craft?

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why Bother with Tools?

Every moment we become newly shaped, stepping forth upon the path from the cauldron ready to be forged and tempered by our life. Far too often we forget that the greatest shaper towards spiritual understanding is simply life. Books, meditation, and ritual are all tools to assist this journey but they are not the journey— we must not remove ourselves from everyday existence. Sometimes though, we do ourselves a great injustice in this realization, we decide to leave the tools behind.

It as if the dweller in a fit of ego laden logic has convinced us that our tools are not needed at all, and so our logic justifies, using the base truth that our tools are not a requirement in order to do deep spiritual work, thus we forgo them. No, tools are not needed to live a good life and travel in pursuit of the inner mysteries. As humans we are spiritual by nature, we are going to make realizations with or without tools. Although tools may not be needed, they help.

Tools are our allies in the Craft, whether physical, such as a wand, or intangible methodologies, such as a meditation regime. They may not be necessary but they sure do make things a whole lot easier. So why then do so many sit them to the side allowing them to collect dust unused, an ally without a purpose or goal? Yes, even the intangible can collect metaphorical dust.

There is a part of us that is continually out to keep us in our spiritual comfort zone. It has many names in many different Traditions. It is this self-defeat made manifest that allows us to take the hard road disguised as the easy road. It is the easy road because it takes very little work to sit around, not meditating, skipping rituals, not bothering to use a consecrated athame when it’s not ”really” needed but instead just using a hand, screw that, too much work, I’ll just imagine using an athame… Yes, great things can happen via using the mind alone, but greater things can be achieved with allied help; and these allies are our tools. Not doing the work is in truth the hard road in regards to practicing the Craft as a spiritual journey.

Perhaps if you have been feeling in a rut, stuck and not really going anywhere, it is time to pick up some long left behind tools, dust them off, and get them working for you once again. Just maybe, they’ll unlock a door whose key had been lost.

What allied tools have you been leaving unattended?

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Toasting the Gods/Goddesses

I don’t often have dreams that I consider to be of any real significance. Rarely do I remember my dreams, but on those few occasions when one stands out, it is normally due to it being important or having a spiritual message.

Recently, I had a message given to me in a dream. It is a really simple one, “Toast the Gods when you do something mundane that is theirs.”

Everything, whether it is profane or spiritual, has a connection to the Gods and Goddesses. Everything! In those moments that are less focused directly upon their worship we tend to push them to the back of our mind, even when engaging in an activity that is directly of one of the Gods or Goddesses for whom one might be a devotee.

When engaging in any mundanity (mundane + activity) pause and purposefully, with full intent, turn the mind towards Deity and literally say a honorific salute, just as one would as if toasting someone at a formal dinner. Allow that instant to bridge the realms and be a gateway to the Gods and or Goddesses.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Monday, June 4, 2012


No blog entries today or tomorrow.

Today: Due to it being my last day of work.

Tomorrow: Due to it being my first day of work.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Friday, June 1, 2012

First Witness

One of the titles of the God of the Witches is First Ancestor. His is the example of how to travel the inward road and arrive at the feet of our Lady, thus the title.

This morning while driving, I was reflecting upon this title as well as living in the moment and being a witness to the present. At about that moment in my train of thought I turned a bend and the sun blazed before me. In an instance, a title I had never conceived of before filled my thoughts with rushing images offering a taste of Awen laden Salvation.

Our Lord born forth as the Flame, the Morning Star, the First Ancestor to trod and dance with the universe. The longing to have the vessel of being filled sounded the horn for the hunt, the Eternal Chase of the Sun after the Moon. As the Sun, His light revealed the Moon from the dark inner recesses of the hidden. He was the first to gaze upon the face of our Lady, He is the First Witness.

Our path is not one that is just walked, but lived, experienced, and every step, every moment that is the Now we are a Witness to our own Eternal Dance, and if we allow we too can gaze upon Her face.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."