For years, I’ve struggled with the idea and practice of ancestral worship. Like so many others, the people that I come from are not good people. I’ll not go into details because it’s neither productive nor does justice to the effort I’ve spent trying to not be like them. Suffice to say, I’ve got my own baggage that I’m continuously dealing with and the Pagan communities unrelenting “honor your ancestors” maxim doesn’t help. I also don’t work with human dead (clarification: the dying are not yet dead, and my work as a Death Midwife does not fall into necromancy,) although I do actively work with animal dead. So while ancestral worship is something I can agree with ideologically, it’s not something I’ve felt compelled to enact.
This post is part of sporadic series on Working with Spirits. The previous post in this series was "Working with Spirits: Making Friends with the Genius Loci." Future posts may cover offerings, communication, how spirit work can benefit your practice, as well as preparing and using zoological remains.
It's not something I came to deliberately. It's not something I ever put much thought into, but so often throughout my life I have found myself in that position, cradling the dying, singing them across the Veil, feeling my body shudder and shake as their soul leaves their body. Of course, it isn't always that dramatic. Sometimes, death comes in a burst, a growing heat-like intensity that suddenly explodes, leaving you trapped at that peak, unable to come down from the physical sensations that seem to be a natural response the living have in response to experiencing the end of living.
This next series of articles will focus on the use of local plants in witchcraft. Local plants are a combination of native plants, i.e. plants that originate from that area, and naturalized plants, i.e. plants that have been introduced from elsewhere but have established themselves as a part of the environment. Using local plants for your magick offers a lot of benefits, enhancing your magickal practice and effectively taking it to greater depths than are readily visible and that you may not fully believe are possible. Plus, working with local plants is a cost effective alternative to purchasing exotic plants that you have no idea how they were grown or harvested, and if their harvest negatively impacted their environment.
Working with local plants serves to better harmonize yourself with the local energies and spirits where you live. This is a highly suggested practice if you have intentions of working with the genus loci -localized spirits of place that are attached to the land- and is a great preliminary step in learning about Them.
Each article will focus on one plant that is native to or naturalized within North America. As such, many of these plants can be found in Europe, especially within the United Kingdom. Many of the plants discussed are considered pests and weeds, plants that many people aggressively try to rid their yards of. Some may be wholly unknown to you, others familiar. But, each is an opportunity to broaden your knowledge and practice, becoming a stronger and more resourceful witch. Each of these plants is an often unappreciated and overlooked lovely that can offer powerful results -should you take the time to know them.
Regardless of where you live, there is a wide variety of plants that are waiting for you to find them, to teach you their secrets, and to become your ally. My own practice of witchcraft is highlighted by the use of local plants. Every ingredient comes to me from the wilds, be it a barefoot hike through the forest, a hike through the mountains, or a walk down urban streets. Plants present themselves, often unexpectedly, that are perfect for the spell work that I need to do at that time. This is something that you can easily have as part of your practice, too, the wonder of such this series of articles hopes to impart.
Witchcraft is a mode of interacting with the spirit world. As there are no beliefs that are necessary in order to be a witch, this statement may seem erroneous. The problem here lays in language: very often, due to perspective, experiences, and background, we find ourselves talking about the same thing, however, in different terms and using different language to do so. So while an animist witch may hold that they are interacting with the specific spirit of a specific type of plant (anthropomorphic personalization,) an atheist witch may hold that they are interacting with a specific pattern of energy that physically manifests as that type of plant (impersonal, non-sentient.) Both are right, both are correct in what they are doing, yet both are still interacting with the spirit world.
13 Purification Rites to Eliminate Ritual Pollution
In a continued effort to put Paganism in its rightful place as just another of countless religions found throughout the world, no different and certainly not any more "special" or "unique" than any other religion, this piece examines a common component of many religions, citing examples from various religions, as well as Paganism, to not only give further explanation of that concept but to give further credence to the idea that religion is a choice, with no religion nor its members being above any other religion or its members, and certainly not above in depth examination and criticism.
It is also important to note that while Paganism is not itself specifically a religion, rather it is a term referring to numerous modern religions with seemingly little in common other than shared history and inspiration, for ease of communication this distinction will not be made within this article, however, it is frequently addressed in other areas, such as the previous articles What is Paganism? and Whitewashing Paganism.
A common idea found in numerous religions is that of ritual pollution. This is the concept that there are certain activities, situations, actions, and biological functions that can leave one in a state of impurity, impacting one's ability to perform certain religious functions and rites. Often, there are certain prescriptions given to rectify this state, i.e. purification rites that must be performed or a certain time period that must pass for the state of ritual pollution to correct itself.
There has been so much that has happened lately that my mind struggles with fitting it all into the course of the last two weeks. So many changes, some for the better with definite movement forward, others that leave me conflicted, my heart heavy, and with whispers on every bird song that bring me to tears. But all change is a step forward, even if we cannot see it. Even what feels like a step backward is still a step forward for while time may not be linear, our lives most certainly are and everything that happens to us moves us closer to who we will be in the end, influencing who we will be in the next.
10 Tips for Becoming a Magickal Herbalist
Herbalism is one of those things that is so inexorably tied up with witchcraft that it's hard, if not impossible, to imagine anyone with a magickal practice who doesn't have at least a passing interest in herbs. There are few places on our world that don't have plants, and the potential to use them to create changes in our lives, warding off the unwanted and helping us to attract what we desire, is something that has enticed humanity throughout the ages. Even within medicinal herbalism, there is still that feel of mystery and magick surrounding the herbs and the gentle results they bring about.
Herbalism, both magickal and medicinal, is a multilayered modality that accommodates both beginner and expert alike, with a simple approach being just as feasible and rewarding as more complicated clinical herbal research. There is, perhaps, a greater simplicity in magickal herbalism than medicinal herbalism, but it can still seem no less daunting of a field within which to get started and learn. In no specific order, here are ten tips to help you on your way to becoming a magickal herbalist.
Witches are, traditionally and historically, spirit workers. It is one of the fundamental, and inescapable, elements of witchcraft and gives credence to the idea that witchcraft, as we know it, is part of the indigenous shamanic practices of pre-Christian Europe and its peoples*. Spirits exist in a wide variety of forms, although most people tend to think only of the dead (i.e. ghosts, spirits of deceased humans and animals.) While necromancy (working and communicating with the dead, specifically dead humans) is a part of witchcraft and does play a significant role in many witches practice, there are other forms of spirit work that are much more benign and, thus, overlooked that do make up every witch's practice. This is due to the nature of those spirits and the fact that they are very often not considered as spirits (which they, very rightfully and truthfully, are.)
As a new witch and/or Pagan, there is a lot of information to sort through. So many people, books, and websites offering helpful advice, telling you how to do this, how to do that, everybody saying what you should do, but what about all of the things that you should not do? In no particular order, here is a list of 7 things to utterly avoid doing when you’re new to witchcraft and/or Paganism.
I break the dry, brittle pine branches and carefully place them into the fire pit my sons built this morning. Blowing gently on the embers, I soon coax flames back to life. They lick greedily at the fresh fuel and I smile, and then place a few larger sticks next to the flames and around the large cast iron cauldron –a 7 quart dutch oven. I stand up, remove the top from the pot, and fill it with snow from a white 5 gallon pail. A second pail stands next to the snow filled one, only it is half filled with water. This water we would use for washing clothes, dishes, and ourselves.
This divination method works through conversation with the spirits of the pieces. As such, it offers a different sort of insight than other methods. Click here to find out how you can have the bones thrown for you.
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