Mar 272011
 

The grass is greener and warmer days full of sunshine fill our senses. I can’t help but think about the garden returning to life and the future garden that I will be planting. With that in mind, you might want to think about all of the possible uses of that future plant material. Think now what you will want in the coming year, so that you can plant wisely. Here is a brief list of all of the various types of ways to use herbs magickally around your house, home and ritual spaces.

One extra note: be careful when using oils and such that will go on your skin. While the scents of cinnamon and citrus can be uplifting, some of these oils can be highly irritating. When in doubt, leave it out – or at least make sure it’s highly diluted. Also, what is totally acceptable for one person may be really irritating to another.

Altar Decorations/Arrangements
Whether a simple vase of flowers and herbs or more elaborate wreaths, choosing plants for their energy can be rewarding. These can be made from fresh or dried plant material.

Amulets/Sachets/Talismans
Mixtures that are put together in a cloth, pouch, mini-bag, etc. for a very specific purpose. These are then left in an appropriate place.

Aspergers
Bundles of herbs that are used to sprinkle salt water in a ritual or around the home in purification.

Baths
Mixtures of fresh or dried herbs or oils to create magickal baths. Oils can be added to mixtures of epsom salts and baking soda to create wonderful bath salts. Don’t forget to use a tea ball, cheesecloth, or something else to keep your herbs from going everywhere!

Brews
Herbs steeped in water and breathed in for a particular purpose. These can also be sprinkled using aspergers or dispersed in a spray bottle. These are like teas except they generally are not ingested. While not really a “brew” because there is no steeping, a version of this is to put a few drops of essential oil into water, shake it really well, and use it in a spray bottle to bring wanted energies into your space.

Dream Pillows
Herbs stuffed into pillows for a particular purpose; better sleep, psychic dreams, vivid/lucid dreams, etc.

Food
Herbs and plants can bring specific energies into the food that we eat.

Healing
Is a broad catagory that encompasses many different techniques. Do not self-dose or self-medicate without being under the supervision of a professional!!! Also, don’t eat any plant unless you absolutely know that it is safe!

Incense
Burning plant materials for a specific purpose. People are most familiar with sticks and cones, but these can be time consuming and messy to make. Try getting incense burning charcoals and putting the plant materials/oils directly on the hot coal.

Inks
Especially potent if made specifically for certain spells. Locally, we use pokeberries (or ink berries) to make magickal ink. But it is poisonous, so don’t use it on any spells you plan on eating!

Ointments
Herbs/oils mixed into some kind of fat/lard/beeswax.

Perfumes/Oils
Used for anointing people, candles or objects. Usually a scented base oil. Please, use only essential, “authentic” oils. While synthetic ones are cheaper, they don’t actually contain the energies of the plant. If the oil is listed as a perfume oil, it’s probably not real.

Powders
Finely ground materials sprinkled on an altar or ritual space to add energy to the working. Be careful that your powders don’t contain ingredients that will stain!

Potpourri
Attractive mixtures of scented, usually dried, plant materials. Can be simmered to release scent or used as a dry mixture.

Soap
Herbs and oils can be either introduced in soap made from scratch or can be added to commercial Castile or other unscented soap that is “melted down”. Note: Castile soap can be very drying and a bit harsh – so you may want to add a cosmetic oil to the soap. Almond oil or Jojoba oil are good choices. You can also buy glycerin soap and add your own twist to it.

Teas
Steeped herbs/plant material that is then ingested.

Tinctures
Plant materials are soaked/infused in an alcohol base. The energies are released into the alcohol and the plant material is strained.

Mar 242011
 

Even as I write the title, I cringe a bit. Who am I to be calling myself a priestess, let along a high priestess? It sounds so pretentious that I think of going back and renaming this post. But it does fit. The path that I have chosen to walk for the last 20+ years has been one of the high priestess. If I were of a Christian denomination, I guess I would say that I had a “calling” to become a minister – to serve a faith community in whatever manner was appropriate. But we Pagans, witches, and Wiccans generally shun the Christian lingo in favor of our own. High priestess. Just what does that mean to me?

I never started out thinking that I wanted to be a high priestess. My first calling was that of the witch. I was fascinated with the subjects of magick and witchcraft. These interests started early in my life. In fact, most people that I know who are called to this path can go back to third or fourth grade and start pinpointing when they first discovered mythology and magic. It was the same for me. I really didn’t get the religion part of it though. That came much later. But as a kid, I did spells and divination. It was something that I took pretty seriously. Why wouldn’t I? It worked after all!

It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I started finding out more information about “the Craft.” I ran across Spiral Dance by Starhawk in 1986 and was immediate entranced with its connections to Goddess worship. Instantly, I found the missing pieces of my earlier practice and found a loving, joyous and worshipful religious practice that I could follow.

Since most of us start as solitaires, I am guessing that most of you can relate to the struggle of the next three years. Spiral Dance, while containing great exercises, primarily centers around group practice. My steps were tentative and uncertain as a lone witch. It was Scott Cunningham’s new book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner that really gave me the courage to start practicing Wicca as a specific religious tradition. (Luckily, there was a New Age/Pagan bookstore close to my in-laws hometown. My original, but sadly battered, doggie-gnawed copy was actually signed by Cunningham when he did the promotional tour for it.) I did a self-dedication rite and from there, it seemed as though the Goddess and God truly had heard my need for a greater community of people with which to share my experiences. Through a series of increasingly bizarre coincidences (?), I found myself connected to the local Pagan community. In early 1990, it was a fairly small group of folks – small when compared to the number of Pagans around Athens today. The local Pagan Sabbat circle was pretty much by invitation only.

It was in the autumn of 1990 that the unofficial organizer of the local Pagan circle along with my husband and myself started the study group that would eventually (and with many trials) become the Coven of Celestial Tides. Pretty much from the beginning I acted as the group’s high priestess. I cringe now to think of all of the mistakes that I made. It was not just a trial by fire, but of water, earth and air too. And spirit. Let’s not forget spirit. I had much to learn.

For me, every witch is truly their own priest or priestess. No one needs another to mediate between one and one’s deity. Still, when people get together, there is a need for someone to play ritual “traffic cop.” In the beginning, that was pretty much the role that I played. I enjoy crafting and running rituals. But over time, more was required. The call became deeper and more meaningful. It became about helping people grow spiritually. It became about creating community. It became about sharing concerns and joys and laughter and tears. Presiding over a handfasting ceremony or a baby blessing (Wiccaning) was a joy. And it is a great honor to be asked to share in people’s lives in this way. When my best friend’s son died in a tragic car crash, I underwent a personal rite of passage in aiding the family in coping with his death. It was a terrifying privilege to minister to the family and community – being there through the calling hours and running the memorial service.

As I continued to grow in my role as a priestess/minister, I found a personal connection to the goddess Hekate.  I spent a night in vigil to honor Her and to dedicate myself as a priestess to Her. And now as the winter nights turn to springtime’s dawn, I see Her in the shadow of the moon and hear Her voice in my heart.

There still isn’t an end to this story – but that is just the point. The path of the high priestess – nay, of any priest or priestess – is about the journey. Mine has brought me to this place and time – and I hope that I am worthy to be called in service to this community. My education continues as I share in a teacher/student/mentor/learner relationship with this glorious planet, the Goddesses and Gods, our animal kin, the bounteous plant life and the many beautiful people of our community.

May you find such beauty on the path you walk.

Feb 212011
 

the world in flatness
four corners reaching out
a twist
a fold
all the world
becomes a crane
flying high through new realities

Origami, as you may or may not know, is the Japanese art of paper folding. It is a craft enjoyed by school children, elders, and every age in-between. I was introduced to origami by a Japanese exchange student and I found the entire process fascinating; to take a simple piece of paper and turn it into whatever your imagination chooses. But of course, to turn paper into anything takes a great deal of patience and experience. So for a number of years I forgot about the beauty of origami and did other things (like study Paganism, etc…). Years later I worked in a bookstore and origami started popping back into my life. Grandparents, it seemed, liked to buy origami books for their grandchildren as presents. My interest was rekindled and so I purchased a beginning origami book with clear instructions and stater to fold on my own. People, I found, were drawn to the process. I could take a piece of paper and start folding around a crowd of strangers, and they would watch intently until the last fold was complete and a new form appeared. They would ooh and aah and fight over who would get the piece. I was also enthralled with the process. The concentration necessary to complete a good piece along with the simple beauty of the art made (and still makes) me feel a sense of wholeness. So it must have been the culmination of these thoughts that resulted in using origami in ritual. It is a natural extension of the entire process and mind set of origami.

Decoration

Origami folds can be used for decorating the altar, ritual space, yule tree, the participants, whatever and however you choose. Folding a piece that you will wear for ritual is a great way to get yourself into the ritual mode, especially if you choose to fold something that is directly related to the ritual.

Power Animals or Totems

Folding a particular animal or totem is a good way to get in touch with or actually invoke the energies of that animal. Care must be taken that you do not actually trap your totem animal inside of the origami piece. You want to think about the energies of your totem, using the model as a representation of those energies, not as the actual totem. You could also allow the model to become a place of power for your totem to come and visit. However, YOU DO NOT WANT TO PUT YOUR POWER ANIMAL INSIDE THE MODEL PERMANENTLY. (See spirit guides below.)

Spells

There is a traditional Japanese myth that says if you fold 1000 cranes you will have happiness in your life. I’d say. It would take a great deal of concentration and effort to fold that many cranes. Something’s bound to manifest. Sounds like magick to me!

If you are working on a spell to obtain a particular “thing” then the folding can be a focus for the actual manifestation of the “thing”. If you need money you could fold a purse and visualize the purse filling with money. If you wish to be more productive, how about folding a bee? What if your life is too hectic and you really need to slow down? Try folding a snail. (This little guy is cute!) Working with a particular aspect of the elements can be easy depending on what fold you choose. And if you get really frustrated, those little wads of paper can become boulders. Drain your energy into the earth and recycle! What about working on new projects? I like to do the main folding of a flower and then every day pull the petals out a little more. I concentrate on the blooming as I work on my project to make it bloom. All of these techniques can be particularly powerful because you are taking a flat piece of paper and making something new appear. Putting the origami where you can see it often arouses no suspicions, especially at work or if you have nosy relatives who don’t know you’re a Pagan.

Spirit Guides

One of the most powerful rituals that I have done with origami involved the creation/calling of a spirit guide that would lead a dying friend to where they needed to be in the afterworld (underworld, summerland, wherever). This ritual was done previous to the death of the person (who had terminal cancer). A white ritual candle was blessed and anointed with frankincense oil. Then group power was raised as I folded a crane and we visualized the crane filled with a spirit guide. (The last step in the folding of the crane involves blowing air inside the model to form the body.) As I blew the air into the body of the crane, we saw the spirit go into it. We gave the crane a name and blessed it with the power of the four elements, charging it to guide our friend after death. After it’s task was complete it would then be free. The crane was then given to the daughter of the dying woman. (I should note that the daughter, who was not part of the coven, participated in the ritual and was the one to anoint the candle and name the crane.) Soon after the woman died, the children of this woman used the white candle to burn the crane and set the spirit to it’s task. They told me that it was a powerful ritual and that their mother was at peace and indeed gone from this world.

Final Thoughts

I would like to note that in all of the above cases of using origami, you need to know how to do the fold in your sleep. This requires a good deal of folding practice. It is very difficult to concentrate on your intent if you have to keep looking at the diagrams in your origami book. Plus it wouldn’t be much fun to work to make a house manifest in your life and your fold turns our looking like a damaged sumo wrestler. Who knows where you would end up?

I have only outlined a few uses of origami. The required act of concentration makes this a good training exercise for beginning Pagans. It is a great way to get kids actively involved, not to mention that their friends will be incredibly jealous and will want to learn all about origami! It can be a great motivator, not to mention fun. Mundane or magickal, origami can create whole new realities in you life!

Resources

Origami Paper

Origami paper can usually be obtained in art stores or sometimes, gift and book stores. It comes in a variety of sizes, colors and patterns. (Origami paper is usually white on one side.) If you cannot or do not want to use origami paper, wrapping paper can be a very good substitute. You should note that very heavy paper is not conducive to folding. It makes the model too thick and doesn’t hold the folds well. Prior to the magickal act of folding, you can write on or decorate the paper.

You can get origami paper at your local craft or art supply store. If you don’t have one of those near you, there are many on-line ordering options including Amazon.

Books

A few recommended books on Origami – This is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means! Click on the title to go to Amazon.com where you can buy this book at a discounted price!

Essential Origami by Steve and Megumi Biddle
St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 19919. 1991

Best book for the beginner that I’ve seen. Very clear diagrams and instructions. Shows all basic folds. Great book! A must for the origami library.

Origami by Hideaki Sakata

Not as many models as Essential Origami, but very nice. Shows folds through photographs which can be very helpful for the beginner. This is a great partner book, because it lets you see how the folds look from a photograph, which then helps you translate to diagrams used in other origami books.

Mythical Beings by Jay Ansell
HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53 Street, New York, NY 10022.

This book is not for the faint-hearted or novice, but WOW! What a great book! Four different dragon models, an ouroboros, Pegasus, centaur, cerebrus, unicorn, elf and a dancing Shiva! There is a wizard/witch model, but the author explains that they are meant to resemble children in Halloween costumes. Plus more. A great addition for any Pagan thinking of origami as a serious magickal practice.

This book is out of print. You can order new and used copies through third party sellers at Amazon.

There are many, many, many origami books with new ones being published all the time.