Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Celebrate Dia de los Muertos!

Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead--is a holiday dear to the heart and soul of every Mexican that loves his ancestors. The Santa Muerte is the goddess connected to Dia de los Muertos. She pre-dates Christianity in that part of the world, and the Mexican people knew her as MICTECACIHUATL, Lady of the Land of the Dead. She was believed to be a protector of souls residing in the dark underworld, and she is depicted as a woman in a skull mask and traditional dress decorated with flags which were put upon corpses prepared for cremation.

Originally, this holiday fell at the end of of July and the beginning of August, and was dedicated to children and the dead. But when Spanish priests came to Mexico, the date was moved so that it coincided with All Hallows Eve, a Christian holiday. Nevertheless, Dia de los Muertos retains its ancient roots honoring the Lady of the Land of the Dead. You can celebrate Dia de los Muertos by making an Ancestral Altar. It will help you establish a real connection not only with your ancestors but, with the whole spiritual world. Once you make an altar to your ancestors, it will become like an antenna for other spirits who will take notice that you venerate and wish to work with them.

Making an ancestral altar is a simple. The first thing you will have to do is find some pictures of your deceased relatives with whom you have positive connections; aunts, uncles, grand parents or great grand parents. Although the best place for you to have an ancestral altar is your living room since the idea is for you to include your ancestors in your daily life, a closet in a separate room from your bedroom is also a good place to create your ancestor shrine.

Wash down the table top to purify it (white vinegar is good), then place a white table cloth on the altar top. Put a religious symbol at the back of the ancestral altar. This will be guided by the faith that your muertos (deceased relatives) practiced. Arrange the pictures on the altar with a clear glass of water for each relative and a vase to put an offering of fresh flowers. You will also need a white ceramic or glass plate and bowl to make food offerings. The plate and bowl do not always have to be on the altar (but keep them in a separate place from your regular eating plates and bowls). What will always be on the altar are the pictures, the clear glasses of water and the vase. You can also have a picture of La Santa Muerte on your altar, and a crystal skull to store the positive energies that grow from your prayer sessions and communication with the dead. The skull will give you strength in times of stress and great need.

Change the water weekly as well as any flowers that you have placed on the altar. Traditional flowers for the muertos are marigold (flor de muerto) chrysanthemum, jasmine flowers (for the spirit of death) and calla lily flowers. Try to designate one day of the week to devote to maintaining your altar--this way you always pray to your ancestors at least once every week. 

Approach the altar, knock three times, and tell them who you are. Offer them the fresh water and say a prayer on their behalf, ask to bless them and help them grow in spirit. Talk to them for a while, tell them how you miss them, and have not forgotten them. Ask your ancestors for their blessing in your daily life ask them to help you have good health, love, and prosperity. Then light a white candle for them dressed with blessing oil if you have it and leave it there to burn for them, offering your muertos the light, heat, and energy of the candle. Prayers to the muertos should come from heart. If they were Catholic or Christian you can say a Christian prayer for them. To close the ceremony, clap three times.

As you develop a stronger connection with your muertos, you can start to give them food offerings, such as bread, fruits and candies. Never salt the food that you offer the dead as it makes it nearly impossible for the ancestors to draw energy from the food offerings. Try to offer foods that you knew they favored in life—this will make them happy. You may find that as you develop this positive relationship with your ancestors, they will help you in your life. Look for signs that they are with you!

Dia de los Muertos is more than just one day—it lasts from October 31st to November 2nd, and you can keep your ancestor altar up all year round. On November 2nd, the last day of the festival, give each of your muertos a calaveras de azucar--a sugar skull with his or her name on it. Take it to the cemetery if you can. It is customary to take a bite from each skull so a part of your muertos lives on through you!

by Nick Sigala
Art by Ungala

Friday, October 2, 2015

Divine Feline Talks Pet Protection ♥

Samhain greetings, human kittens!

Yours truly, the witch’s cat a.k.a. the Divine Feline, has just returned safe and sound from my little… exploration whilst on vacation. (I hate to admit it, but that absurd Kitty Door did come in handy. My witch must still be asleep. Or upset with me for running away. Or both.) Let's begin our latest lesson: Protecting Your Animal Familiar...

Protection magick is an important part of caring for your familiar year-round. But it is especially so at Samhaintide, when the boundary between the worlds is thinnest, and pranksters on both sides increase their midnight mischief. Yet fear not: there are several magickal means by which you can provide extra protection to your favorite animal friend.

  • Herbs and Plants. Numerous herbs and plants help protect their bearer and their vicinity from harm and deflect negative actions or spirits. Better-smelling alternatives to the old garlic necklace are basil, bay leaves, cinnamon, clove, comfrey, fennel, marjoram, and rosemary. Place a pinchful in a small square of white or red cotton cloth, and tie this teeny sachet to your familiar’s collar, or hang on or around their resting cage, aquarium, terrarium, etc. A word of caution, however: ALWAYS check with your vet, shaman, herbalist (or this powerful Google oracle I hear so much about) for possible toxic effects with your particular animal before using. 
  •  Shells, Bells, and Stones. Several natural items such as crystals, gemstones, and shells have protective properties—and they look fabulous when affixed to a collar, harness, leash, or lead. A round, white shell, or even the smallest bit of amber, black onyx, black tourmaline, clear or rose quartz (watch out for sharp points!), opal, peridot, sapphire, or turquoise can be especially effective. 
  • Cord and Color Magic. A nine-knotted red cord placed round your familiar’s sleeping area will provide protection, as will red ribbon-tied braids in maned/long-haired animals. (Tyffin got his leg hair braided last Samhain—it was a riot!) And, when the adult witches in your household perform their Samhain home protection ritual, ask them to burn a brown candle for your familiar alongside their red one. 

How about crafting some protection for your pet? Try these!

The Home Bottle Charm
Gather together:
a small bottle with a stopper or lid a piece of red thread or ribbon
a snippet of your animal’s fur (ask first!),
discarded feather, scale, etc.
a red candle or sealing wax (get an adult to help)
aluminum foil
black fabric or black paper

Concentrate on protection for your animal friend as you assemble and work with these items. Take the snippet/feather/scale, etc, and tie with the red thread or ribbon. Place into the bottle. (You may add any other protective or home-symbolic items—herbs, a tiny drawing, etc.—that you wish.) I don't know about you, but I feel safer already! Then have an adult help you seal your bottle shut with the wax. Wrap the bottle with the aluminum foil, then the black fabric or paper. Place your familiar’s protective bottle near the point where they enter or exit your home (or in the case of indoor animals, near a favorite outdoor viewing spot, or near their sleeping area). Recharge monthly or as needed by holding the bottle in your hand, and visualizing your familiar as safe and well. 

The “Hamster Ball” Protection Spell 
You don’t truly need anything for this one except your will. Hold your familiar or get as close to them as possible. Envision a sphere of white protective energy encircling the two of you. Then set your familiar down and slowly back away. As you do, see a smaller ball of white protective energy stretching around them from your main sphere. I'm surrounded by a hamster ball of love! When fully encircled, their smaller energy ball can separate from yours, and will help protect them at all times. (See? It looks like a hamster ball, doesn’t it?!) Repeat each full moon or as needed. (While not necessary, if this spell is new for you, you can encircle your familiar’s habitat or sleeping area with white wool yarn for the first seven days after casting this spell to strengthen it. Just make sure your familiar doesn’t have any—ahem!—yarn chasing and/or eating tendencies.)

♥ ♥ ♥ 

Charged with your intent, these charms and spell (along with good ol’-fashioned common sense, of course) will help keep your animal safe while indoors, while roaming outside… …or even on their long journey home after they get angry, switch off their psychic communication link, and run away because their witch forgot their vacation bag of Fishy Crunchies on the kitchen counter. (Hypothetically, of course.) Hear that? There was a creak upstairs. I think my witch is awake! Before I run upstairs and deliver multiple “cheer up!” head-butts, I leave you with this final bit of advice for your familiar this festival:

Their safest place, this Samhain’s dark, 
Is happily curled upon home’s hearth. 

Until next lesson… What is it now, Tyffin?! You interrupted my cool sign-off phrase! Huh? Oh. Sorry. I’ll add it now: Unless you’re a spider. (Rowr! They’re so touchy about that word, “curled.”) Until next lesson, kittens! Have a divine (and safe!) time until we meet again.

by Ame Dyckman
Divine Feline by Steelgoddess

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mabon Magic

The wheel of the year turns, and for a moment the world is balanced. The sun has reached the equator and light dances with darkness equally across Mother Earth. Mabon is how we celebrate this wonderful dance. You may hear the words “Fall is in the air.” Sitting in the sunshine, a cool breeze may brush by you reminding you that cooler days are just ahead. Colorful leaves dance in the trees and fall like rain on the street and in yards. Animals hurry and scurry to fill theirs dens and birds fly south high in the sky. Harvests of corn and apples are brought to the barns, and farmers spend days making cider and apple butter. Family fireplaces are stocked with wood.

This is a time of great celebration. Many of us dread the coming cold. Mabon reminds us to be thankful because it is the high point of the main harvest season. A good harvest means lots of great food to eat right through Winter.

Mabon around the World. People celebrate the Autumnal Equinox in different ways. The Chinese bake special birthday cakes because they believe the moon’s birthday falls around Mabon. These cakes are baked with flour from harvested rice. They also believe flowers fall from the sky on this night, and anyone who sees them will be blessed with great abundance.

Long before the Pilgrims came to America, Native Americans honored the harvest with thanksgiving festivals. The Iroquois people held a Corn Dance each Fall. This was how they gave thanks for the ripened grain. Songs, dances and drumming were all part of the celebration. Naturally, food played an important part as well, including corn.

The ancient Greeks believed Persephone, goddess of Spring returned to the Underworld in the Autumn. Her mother Demeter missed her so much that she would not eat, or sleep, or tend to the earth. Her great sorrow is said to cause Winter. Some pagans tell how the Sun God travels down through the Underworld, only to be reborn at Yule.

Celtic tales tell of Mabon, stolen from his mother by Modred and rescued three years later by King Arthur. He is the power in the darkness, the Lord of the Otherworld and guardian of the harvest and fertility. Mabon represents innocence as a baby, strength as a young man and the sacrificed God when elderly. 

However you celebrate the coming of Fall, whether you run through leaves, help bring in the harvest, or just enjoy the changing colors, remember the Lord and Lady and give thanks for all the blessings you receive. 

Gods of the Universe, I know what you are telling me, 
Today the Earth prepares for a great change. 
Light and Dark are for a moment balanced 
As we slip into the night of the year. 
Thank you for the wonderful dreams we will share.


by Adrienne Wesner, Harvest of Hope by Sue Miller

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Meditating Molly

Molly was very pleased with her progress. For the past six months, ever since she turned twelve, her mom and dad had been instructing her, in earnest, in the Craft of the Wise. She had always loved their seasonal rituals, but now she was learning the ways of spell-crafting, elemental work, wort cunning, and much, much more. She enjoyed and embraced all this new knowledge with gusto, but the thing she loved the most was meditation.

When she sat in her quiet room, wind chimes gently ringing in the breeze outside her open window, she could close her eyes and enter another realm. Not only could she calm and center herself, but snipets and pieces of her past lives started to pass before her mind like brief scenes of a hazy movie. The more she meditated and relaxed, the more fragments of her other lives came to her--places, faces, even voices--stronger and clearer than before. It was fascinating.

In fact, one particular evening it was so fascinating that she completely ignored Hazel, the family lab, when she brought Molly her food dish and whined in hunger. It was so fascinating that she forgot that it was her turn to take out the garbage bag for the morning pick-up.

While Molly sat crossed-legged on the bedroom floor, watching her former self dance among the standing stones of Avery, her homework and study materials for tomorrow’s test sat in her backpack, untouched. Also untouched was her supper, stone cold on the kitchen table downstairs. She had been enjoying a memory of her life as a gondolier in Venice when her mom finally gave up calling her to come and eat.

It wasn’t until her tummy started to cramp with emptiness that Molly reluctantly stretched her arms and legs and decided to go to the kitchen. Dreamily, she moseyed down the stairs, past the grandfather clock in the hall (did its hands really point to 10 o’clock?) and into the kitchen, where she came face to face with Mom.

Mom did not look happy. She stood with her arms crossed, resting her back against the kitchen sink. On the floor at her feet was the garbage bag Molly should have taken out. It was ripped to shreds and strewn around by Hazel, in a frantic search for food. The empty dog dish sat on the kitchen counter, next to a plate of congealed mashed potatoes and gravy, and slowly graying meat.

“Hi, Mom” Molly said, innocently. “Is there anything to eat? I need something that’s fast because I still have to go study for tomorrow. I was meditating on past lives…”

“First of all” Mom said slowly, but deliberately, “You will feed Hazel her food. Next, you will clean up this mess, put the garbage and your supper in a new bag, and take it to the curb. Then, once you swipe the floor and wash your dish, you may go to bed.”

“But, Mom!” Molly exclaimed. “I’m hungry and I have a TEST tomorrow!”

“But nothing” Mom replied. “Molly, meditating and recalling past lives are fine, but you have a present life as well, and responsibilities here and now. What good are past lives if you aren’t living THIS one? Try meditating on that for a while. Now, see to your chores and then off to bed.”

It was a very hungry Molly the next morning, cramming for her exam on the bus to school.

“Life was easier as a gondolier” she sighed to herself.

Moral: All things, even the magical arts, need to be done in moderation. We should strive to keep a balance between this world and the spiritual. After all, this is the life you may remember next time!

by Katharine Clark
Art by Robin Ator

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Happy Birthday...


Positive Traits: Clarity of Thought, courtesy, service to others, practicality, and self-honesty.
Negative Traits: Critical, crankiness, timidity, pessimism, inferiority, and hair-splitting.

  • Ruling Planet: Mercury 
  • Colors: Brown, dark grey, navy blue, green, wheat and colors of a farm. 
  • Dates: August 24 - September 22 
  • Polarity: Negative/Yin 
  • Duality: Feminine 
  • Element: Earth 
  • Quality: Mutable 
  • Body: Nervous System, Stomach, and Intestines 
  • Direction: South-West 
  • Geography: Brazil, Crete, Greece, Iraq, Mesopotamia, Turkey, Virgin Islands
  • Cities: Athens, Boston, Corinth, Heidelberg, Jerusalem, Lyons, Paris Trees~All nut bearing trees Plants: Aniseed, azalea, balm, bittersweet, bryony, caraway, elfwort, fern, haresfoot, lavender, lily-of-the-valley, maidenhair, myrtle 
  • Foods: All kinds of nuts and root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. 

Practical and pragmatic, with plenty of common sense, Virgos are the ‘workers of the zodiac.’ They have a need to always keep busy as they often find it hard to sit and listen; they're worrying about numerous tasks that are yet pending! Nevertheless, they can be surprisingly good listeners and wonderful speakers (if given the opportunity). Excellent at expressing their opinions, they often tend to be a tad too critical, often over analyzing everything. This is only because they are critical of themselves, and criticize everything else to mask their own flaws. Once they’re able to curb the self criticism, Virgos can carve out successful careers, often becoming ‘self-made-millionaires,’ who never lose their humility and self-effacing charm. Dedicated and loyal, they always lend a helping hand when asked politely, and always make sure that every task done by them, is done as close to perfection as possible. 

Virgo is one of the few zodiac signs that is represented by a human figure rather than an animal or mythical beast, and her legacy of being the sole virgin of the skies is bestowed upon her from various cultures. In Babylonia, she was Nidaba (or Shala), the goddess of the grain, depicted with a whip that trailed out over the tail of Leo in the constellation--hence we get the phrase, "beauty tames the savage beast. " Here's what Virgo's Constellation looks like In Greek Mythology, Erigone, was the mortal daughter of the King of Attica, and associated with the sign of Virgo. When her father was killed by a band of drunken shepherds, Erigone lamented his death so deeply that Zeus placed her within the 13-starred constellation of Virgo, along with her faithful dog Maera, now referred to as the Dog-star. Some believe Virgo was Astraea (the ‘starry maiden’), the goddess of purity and innocence, who was long associated with justice, and was known as the last god to leave the Earth. Soul Journey. The idyllic youthful Summer of Leo comes to an end as the crops of the field are ready to be harvested before the Fall sets in. In its second sojourn into the night forces of Earth--the first being Taurus --the teenage soul blossoms into an adult, matured by the practical and pragmatic element of Earth. The Virgo soul lets go of the carefree indulgent Summer and takes upon itself the duties and responsibilities of ‘adulthood’ while defensively striving for perfection.

Unlike the Leo soul that bravely rebelled against orders, the Virgo soul complies with society’s rules and regulations by submitting itself gracefully and courteously, despite being frustrated by them. Here the soul learns the values of hard work and dedicated service, often putting playtime aside. And since this is a Mutable Earth sign, even versatility and flexibility become traits carefully measured by clocks and schedules. This happens to such an extent that the Virgo soul can forget the importance and power of dreams, dismissing them as hallucinations that distract from more ‘important’ matters like school and work. Like the new adults symbolized by them, Virgo souls see much to criticize: the traffic, the pollution, what their friends are wearing, or if you're late for a get together with them. However, it's important to understand that this soul secretly resents the loss of childhood innocence. As it has always faced and witnessed criticism from others and itself, so critical thoughts are all that it knows. They believe their value increases with the amount of responsibility they can take on their steady yet nervous shoulders. So when you see a Virgo criticizing and complaining, whether it's about something important or futile, realize that it's merely their way of masking their own self-criticism. 

While all the other signs frolic and bask in the Summer of life, Virgo frets and worries about how to warn everyone of the approaching Winter. Life is a very serious matter for this soul. They spend their time planning ahead for a happier and comfortable tomorrow and can forget the virtues of living in the moment and enjoying it. Virgos yearn for something better, and feel that this can only happen for them if they push themselves beyond their limitations. Virgo souls must embrace their flaws wholeheartedly and learn the power of gratitude. Achieving their desires will only occur once they ask and receive graciously, and be willing to spend without pinching pennies and budgeting every area of their life. It does pay to be cautious, but abundance and prosperity like everything else are forms of energy, and need to ‘circulate’ in order to reach their full power. These are life-long lessons for Virgo. Virgo, like Cancer, is often driven by fear, but unlike the moody crab that hides in its shell and wonders who will take care of them, Virgo is fearful of dependence, and determined to live a life where they'll be self-sufficient in every way. This is one of the main reasons why Virgo is symbolized by a Virgin--not for the purity, but for the fact that they are happy leading a life in which all their basic needs and wants are met by themselves (Think of the Hermit from the Tarot, who lives high in his mountain in solitude and is happy and complete from within.). Don’t be fooled by this: Virgos need love. When they let their guard down, Virgo souls make the most devoted and dedicated partners, even if they do criticize and complain. 

The motto of Virgo is “I ANALYZE,” and it is through their carefully fine-tuned analysis that can we discover the best in ourselves. However, for this soul to truly experience love at its deepest and purest form, the Virgo soul needs to love itself, and only then can they give and receive true love from the world around them. The Karmic goal of this sign is to give dispassionate, altruistic service as an expression of Divine energy at work. Their quick minds and their ability to see patterns and understand (and obsess) over the finer details, allows Virgo souls to plan things in the most functional and efficient way. Creativity within this sign can be channeled towards practical undertakings, allowing them to create brilliant masterpieces either on canvas, film, stage, or even in the kitchen and backyard. However, it's important that along with seeing the trees, the Virgo soul doesn’t miss the ‘forest,’ and appreciates the grander scheme of the Universe’s workings. They can only have true control of their lives once they learn to trust and believe in process of life and thank the Universe for everything they receive. The inner nature or destiny of this sign is DISCRIMINATION.

by Zorian Cross, art from the collections at karenswhimsy

Friday, August 14, 2015