Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Moon--Make a Wish! ♥

It's January 20, and today we will experience our first new moon of 2015! Try this exercise to start working with the new moon (and the phases that follow): 

Starting today with the moon in her dark phase, keep a daily journal of your activity for the month--what you do, what you eat, how you feel, and any good news (like getting a letter from a pen pal, finding money in the street, or acing a test) or bad news (urgh--a flat tire! not being able to find something you're looking for, or skipping breakfast) that comes your way. Note the phase of the moon for each day (you can get a free moon phase calendar at STARDATE.ORG). Do you see any patterns? Changes? Try it again for another moon phase. How can this information help you grow?

New moons are good for making wishes and planting the seeds of things you would like to see come to pass in the future. According to many astrologers, you'll see results from the wish you make and the work you do to make it come true at a new moon in six months time. Wish today, work and watch; by summer, how much of your dreams have been realized?

by Natalie Zaman
Moon Phase art from ClipArt Panda

Friday, January 16, 2015

Magical Lives ~ Scott Cunningham

He left too soon.

However, before his untimely death at the age of 36, Scott Cunningham had written some of the most influential books on Magic and Wicca of his generation. Born in Royal Oak, Michigan, Scott and his family moved to San Diego where he made his permanent home. Rosemary Ellen Guiley, author of The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, says he was introduced to Wicca through a book his mother bought, The Supernatural by D. Hill and P. Williams. After viewing a TV movie, and meeting a classmate practicing the Craft, he made it a point to learn as much as he could. By the time he finished two years of college, he had published more books than his professors, and dropped out to write full time.

As a writer, Scott used clear, simplistic language to explain the spirituality he felt and shared with the Goddesses and Gods through the earth and others. When he was a child, he displayed a fascination with plants, minerals, and gemstones, and many of his books reflect his interests and beliefs: Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, The Magical Household, Wicca, A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic, The Truth About Witchcraft Today, Divination of Beginners, Spell Crafts: Creating Magical Objects, and Magical Aromatherapy: the Power of Scent. And these are just a few of the things he's written!

Scott believed that Wicca was a neo-pagan (or “new”) spirituality, established in the 20th century, and not a continuation of ancient religious beliefs. He felt that even if today’s Wicca exhibits many aspects of the older Pagan Path, modern witches and seekers should forget about some of the historical and mythological connections, or “trappings,” as he called them.

It all came down to this, said Scott: the purpose of religion is to “…facilitate human contact with the Goddess and God.” He did not believe in secrecy, complicated rituals, or that traditional Wiccan initiation and formal practice were necessary. He wanted people to read as much as they could, throw out what didn’t feel right, and embrace their path.

Some feel that Cunningham’s “find your own way” philosophy weakens traditional Craft. Some even label his work as “fluffy” or “Disneyesque” because he wrote in a positive, affirming manner. He did not address the dark side, or the reality of death and evil. This, his critics say, makes his approach to Wicca overly simplistic. But this probably would not have bothered Scott; he encouraged the idea that only three things are required for successful magic: need, emotion and knowledge, and those are available to everyone.

He left us too soon, but he left behind a treasury of words, concepts and ideas!

by Charlotte Bennardo

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lay It On Me!

Winter is here! 

If you live in a place where the weather gets chilly, you'll appreciate the power of LAYERING. You're much warmer when you wear a thermal undies and a sweater and a jacket when you go outside in the snow. The same rule works for magic too--layering makes for more potent spells. Any spell you make will work better if you... 

Write it down--because writing makes it real. Think about it. Have you ever written out a shopping list? How about a list of chores that have to be done (I love crossing off tasks that I've completed!)? Writing helps you to remember and it makes you think about your intention (do I really want this?)--and that's always important when doing magical work. 

Make a touchstone. Once you know exactly what you want, make a touchstone--a physical reminder of your intention that you can carry around with you. Think of it as a souvenir (remembrance) of the purpose of your spell. Looking at your touchstone will send instant energy to your intention.

Get physical! Adding action to a spell keeps the energy around it alive and moving--and we all know that active spells are much more effective than tired, sleepy ones. Action includes actual physical activity and speaking your intentions aloud. 

Write it down. Wait--didn't we just do that? Yes--but you always want to keep track of any changes, dreams and messages you get as an end result of your magical work. Are you ready to make some magic? 

WRITE: Draw a large spiral on a blank piece of paper (or in your Book of Shadows if you have one). Why a Spiral? Take a look at this image:

It spins inward and outward; it shrinks, and it grows. Those are powerful actions that you can put to work in your life. 

Starting at the outer end of the spiral and working inwards, on one side of the line write something that you would like to see fade in the coming year--perhaps a bad habit or feeling. Write it over and over again until you reach the center. 

Next, on the other side of the line, starting at the center of the spiral and working outwards, write something that you would like to see grow in your life over the next year. Maybe you'd like to sharpen a skill you've been practicing, or connect to a spirit guide.

TOUCHSTONE: At the entrance to the burial mound at Newgrange in Ireland is a stone that is covered with spiral carvings. One of the things that makes Newgrange a special place is that at dawn on the Winter Solstice, the sun shines into the entrance of the hill, and for a short time, it lights up the open chamber deep inside--now that's timing! The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year--one of those special in-between times of light and dark, beginnings and endings.

The intentions that you wrote along the spiral can be reinforced by making a physical reminder of that intention--a spiral stone. Find a flat stone that you can easily carry in the palm of your hand. On one side of the stone, starting at the outer edge, draw or paint a spiral spinning inwards (crayons and white out or liquid paper work really well!). While you are making the spiral, think of your fading intention. Turn the stone over and draw another spiral, this time starting from the center of the stone. When you draw or paint this spiral, think of your growing intention. Your spiral stone will be a touchstone to your growing and fading intentions that you can carry with you throughout the coming months. 

ACTION: "Labyrinth" is one of my favorite movies. It's about a girl that goes through a maze filled with tricks and traps to rescue her little brother. A labyrinth is often mistaken for a maze, but where a maze has various routes, dead ends, and several possible solutions, a labyrinth is a single continuous path that eventually brings you to its center. Take a look at this labyrinth:

If you trace the green line around and around, you can get to the center without stopping (and it looks alot like a spiral!). Labyrinths were often built into the floors of churches and were symbolic of life's journey. Walking the labyrinth is a thinking exercise--your brain works very efficiently when you're on the move! Even though the path twists and turns, it is certain, so you can concentrate on your intentions without worrying about which way to go. Go to a place where you have lots of room. Beginning at the outer edge of your space, walk in a circle. With each pass around, move inward to form a spiral. As you walk, speak your fading intention (you can read from your book, you don't have to memorize it). Keep walking and repeating your intention until you get to the center. When you get to the center, pause for a moment, and then, turn around and walk the spiral outwards, this time speaking aloud your growth intention until you reach the outer edge where you began. 

WRITE: Don't forget to keep track of what happens after you do your spell. It might be a while before you see results. Keep your eyes open for subtle signs, changes and messages.

by Natalie Zaman

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ice is Nice: A Window Scene

Inviting, frozen popsicles 
Collage of winter white 
Evergreens twinkling bright 

Icy diamond castles 
See-through kingdoms decorate the yard. 

Nights of luminous glitter 
Images on a sea of light under dark 
Cold swords, sliding boards 
Even a delicate doe, crackles through the snow. 

By Lyn Sirota, Art by Regina Briseno

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Rufus and the Big White Lumps

Rufus, the Shih Tzu puppy, couldn't believe his eyes!

 Looking out the glass deck door, he saw a sea of white where his back yard used to be. Overnight, someone had laid down a thick, fluffy blanket of--well, STUFF--all over everything. He stood up with his paws against the cold pane, trying to get a glimpse of the neighbor’s yard before his breath steamed up the glass. Yep, the same thing had happened to them over there. Did Mommy know?

“Morning, Rufus. How do you like your first snow?” Mommy asked as she sipped her tea and joined him at the door. Rufus turned and wagged his tail, then sat and tilted his head. His human Mommy knew that meant that he didn’t understand.

“Snow--that stuff out there. It’s dry and wet, soft and heavy, really cold, and not too deep for you to go enjoy. Do you want to play outside?”

Rufus barked and danced in a circle. Outside was fun, and this “snow” business sounded intriguing!

“OK, then.” Mommy pulled on her coat, and boots, and gloves. “Only, be careful. This storm sneaked up on us, so there are still things in the yard that should have been moved, like the last pile of leaves. Oh! And the picnic bench…and I think I see a snow drift. Just mind where you play.”

With that, she opened the door and walked out onto the deck, with Rufus bounding out behind her. He came to a jolting stop. Wait a minute, his feet were gone-- sunk into the white “snow” stuff, and his pads were cold. He lifted a front paw and bright, icy crystals flew away from his fur. Interesting!

He turned around and watched a circle grove form in his wake. Hey, this was great! What would happen if he ran through the stuff, or dug under it? Would it have a smell? Does it taste good? Expectantly, he stared up at Mommy.

“OK--go ahead. Mind the steps and remember what I said about--”

But Rufus was already on the move. A quick tumble down the stairs produced a slight avalanche and a cool dusting of snow on his belly. Undeterred, he raced through the yard, scratching, rolling, and checking for the scent of wild animals and small birds. It was then that he spied the first lump. What was under there? Could it be food, toys, someone trying to hide? If so, he would surprise them good! With a mighty leap, he landed on the top of the lump … and struck something hard. A few quick digs exposed red wood.

“That,” Mommy said, watching from the deck, “is the picnic bench.” Rufus barked to let her know he heard her. From his vantage point on the bench, he saw another bulge nearby. What was that? Taking a flying leap to the ground, he bounced over to the second lump and sprung to the top. This time, his landing was soft and mushy. “That would be the leaf pile,” Mommy called. “Just be careful, you!”

Rufus wagged his tail, but his attention was caught by the biggest lump yet, back by the fence and the bare maple tree. He couldn’t begin to imagine what was buried beneath, but he was determined to find out! Without a second thought, he propelled himself full speed towards the fence, threw himself into the air and dove paws first into the hill of white, and landed on. …NOTHING!

Rufus was shocked! His little feet started paddling, but he kept sinking into whiteness. It was in his nose! It was in his eyes! It was caving in on him from above! He was in a cocoon of wet and cold, and dropping slowly downward. He whimpered and shivered and then--suddenly--two wooly gloves reached down, grabbing him by the belly and pulling him back into the light. Next thing he knew he was chilled, covered in a hundred tiny ice balls, but cradled safely in Mommy’s arms.

“And that, little man, is a snow drift.” 

An hour later, after being warmed by a hair dryer, toweled off, and nestled in his fleecy blanket with his stuffed bunny, he heaved a relaxed sigh. As he closed his eyes, he knew the only “drifting” he would be doing for a while was off to sleep.

Moral: Dabbling with Magic is a lot like lumps in the snow. Know what you’re getting into before you jump in with all paws!

by Katharine Clark
Art by Robin Ator

Friday, December 12, 2014

Magical Lives ~ Raven Grimassi

Strega means "witch" in Italian--and the name that comes to mind when it comes to the Craft in the Italian sense, is Raven Grimassi. The author of many books on Wicca and Witchcraft (not just Italian-style!), Raven is also the directing elder of the Arician tradition, and together with his wife Stephanie Taylor founded the College of the Crossroads--a mystery tradition school that works to preserve ancient paths (Stephanie also co-wrote The Well Worn Path and the Hidden Path!). Add to that a huge research project, and a cross country move and you have one very busy, very magical person, but I was able to catch up to Raven and ask him a few questions about where he's been, and where he's going... 

NZ I have always loved the name Raven (not to mention the bird). I read that this is your pen name—how did you come to choose it? 

RG I have always been attracted to ravens since I can remember. This increased when I began to study the occult and found the bird held a significant role there. Later I had the opportunity to work with injured ravens and became fascinated with them. The lore of ravens and their trickster nature appealed to my own sense of humor, and so I eventually took on the name of raven. I also had some training with an American Indian group, and they gave me the name "Laughing Crow" without knowing my name as Raven. I found that confirming. 

NZ You're a first generation Italian-American (I'm second-generation, my mom's parents were from Italy—hopefully I got the generation thing right!), so this next “set” of questions is close to my heart:) You studied Italian folk magic and customs from a young age—was this in the family, or something you did on your own? If the former—can you tell us about a fond memory you have about learning at the hands of a family member? If the latter, what inspired you to find out more about this path? 

RG In family traditions people grow up learning "the things we do" without any real label. I learned various things from various family members. My relatives from Italy visited in the summers and I learned a variety of things about the Old Religion from them. These visits were always special to me, and I also learned more things about Italian culture this way as well. A conversation on any topic almost always led to talks on old lore and the revelation of some old technique of folk magic. 

NZ A good deal of the available information on Wicca and paganism is Celtic. What makes the Italian practice of the Craft different? 

RG There are more similarities than differences, and certainly the seeds of southern European witchcraft were influential in the development of Wicca. The popular Charge of the Goddess, for example, begins with a verse from Charles Leland's work on Italian witchcraft, which is the Aradia material. In general, Italian witchcraft involves an emphasis on the veneration of ancestral spirits and upon a variety of nature spirits. There is no "Wiccan Rede" in old Italian witchcraft, but there is a rule against harming the innocent. Innocent is defined as someone who does not provoke the witch. When someone provokes a witch, then he or she loses the protection of being an innocent.

NZ Any suggestions for how our readers—especially those with Italian or European roots—can incorporate (for lack of a better way of saying it, and please, pardon the pun) an “Italian Flavor” into their practice? 

RG I think that an emphasis on southern European deities will help along with the incorporation of guardian spirits such as the Lare (spirits of people related to us by blood). At the core, I feel that all Craft traditions are simply the cultural expression of the same beliefs and practices. So there are few true differences when all the dust settles. 

NZ When Broomstix was an e-zine we explored direction and location as a theme. You took a new direction with a a big move a few years ago when you moved from west to east. What inspired the change? What do you miss most about California? What do you love the most about your new home, Massachusetts? 

RG One of the reasons I moved to New England was to be able to live the seasons of the Wheel of the Year. In California, from a ritual perspective, you have to imagine the seasons more than you actually experience them. Surprisingly I don't miss California at all, but I do miss family and friends. I love the look and feel of New England. There is a vibrancy of the life force here that I never felt in California, at least not in such a tangible way. One of the primary reasons for moving to New England was the closer proximity to the annual events we are often invited to, and so in that sense it was a business inspired move. 

NZ The Well Worn Path, and The Hidden Path are among my favorite divination/oracle decks: What inspired these projects? Was it a challenge to produce them as a group effort (you, Stephanie Taylor and Mickie Mueller)? I love that both decks can stand alone, but that they can also be brought together—was that the vision from the beginning, or was it something that evolved? Will there be future additions to this system? 

RG The idea for the decks grew from a feeling that we (our community) could benefit from a system more rooted in Pagan themes. The Tarot is, in essence, a system based on Western ceremonial magic and Hebraic mysticism. As such we felt something was missing in terms of pre-Christian European spirituality. So instead of trying to make yet another "Witchy Tarot' or "Pagani Tarot" we set about the task of developing a system rooted in Pagan European themes. Originally we designed an 80 card deck, but the Publisher asked that it be reduced to 40 cards. So we separated out what we call the 40 foundational cards (in terms of teachings concepts) and those became the Well Worn Path. Later on, the Publisher wanted the other 40 cards, and so those became the Hidden Path (consisting of the 40 mystical concepts). The two decks have the same back design, are the same size, and are by the same artist, and so the continuity and compatibility are there. Therefore the decks can be shuffled together to make one deck (which was our original intent). 

NZ Any new books and/or projects in the works? 

RG Oh, I always have something in the works. I just submitted a proposal for a work tentatively titled 'Old World Witchcraft" which is about the commonality of European traditions. It is part history and folkoric and part Grimoire (note--this book is now available!). I am also just one chapter away from completing a compilation of the writings of Charles Leland in the subject of Witchcraft. I add commentaries and expand on his writings. (Charles Godfrey Leland was an American writer and scholar who did a great deal of research on folkways and folk lore. He wrote Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, a classic read for people on a pagan path.) * Since I first conducted this interview, Raven has had several books published--have a look at them HERE.

NZ We ask this of everyone we interview—what is your favorite sabbat and why? What do you do to celebrate? 

RG I will assume that my answer is the most common one - Samhain. In my own tradition we have an emphasis on ancestral veneration. Witches have always been associated with communicating with the dead, and so this season in particular is very meaningful and intimate. 

This is true--everyone loves Samhain! Discover more about Raven and his many projects:

Stregheria ~ A site devoted to the Italian Craft. 
Raven's Loft ~ Raven and Stephanie's online shop.
Raven's Author Site ~ www.ravengrimassi.net

You can also follow Raven on FACEBOOK and TWITTER

Get ready to soar!
Interview by Natalie Zaman

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shine a Light at Yule!

Lucia wore a crown of candles on her head so that her hands could be free to bring comforts to folks who went into hiding for their faith. Kindness and caring apply to all paths. As 2015 draws to a close, be a light for others! Read more about Lucia HERE and celebrate her on her day, December 13--this Saturday!

Click HERE to get a printable Lucia coloring page!

Lucia coloring page by Robin Ator