Category Archives: Daily rituals

Review: The Heart of the Initiate

The Heart of the Initiate

The Heart of the Initiate is a wonderful book. This book was created by Victor and Cora Anderson for their students and those interested in the Feri tradition of witchcraft. The forward states:

“THIS BOOK IS A VALENTINE from Victor and Cora Anderson to you. For those of us who are their initiates, the Andersons live on through the many personal recordings and letters we held close and treasure. We’re grateful for this great opportunity to share rare insights into the Anderson’s teachings, and offer you an imitation of what it was like to be their student.”

It is clear that the Andersons wanted their teachings to be preserved and shared. That they wanted more people to understand and know what their tradition was and is all about. The proof is in the quote mentioned above. For this reason the book was created which allows seekers like me and students of Feri to see what the actual founders and high masters said about the tradition and their teachings.

Due to the nature of this book there are not chapters. The book reads like correspondences which is what they are. There are a few sections in which various teachings are written about in letter or essay form, but not your traditional chapters and sections style.

The first section of the book is called Some Pictish views on the old religion. Here we learn about some origins of the practices and how the religion is different from others. It talks about the origins and how sex is sacred. There is a little bit on basically all aspects of the Craft in this section written by Victor.

The second section of the book is called Commentaries. In this section there are a few specific articles on points important to the specific Feri tradition of witchcraft as they teach it. Topics include Raising power to divinity, Sexual Initiation, Sexual ethics, Training and Initiation, The Consort, The Guardians, The morning prayer, Possession, and Salvation. All of these concepts are teachings important in the Feri tradition to some extent and these basic articles express how they work and what they mean.

The third section of the book is the most informative section of the book. Here there are glimpses at some of the rites and materials actually presented to their students. There are exercises and explanations given. The letters are written by Victor and Cora presented to us as they responded to their students. The only thing missing in this section would be the letters from the students to their teachers so the context makes more sense.

The very last section of the book is important for seekers like myself. In many books on traditional witchcraft there is an exercise to switch from a Christian path to a Traditional witchcraft path which involves the reciting of the Lord Prayer backwards. Here Victor describes yet another prayer that can be used which is essentially a modified version of the Lords prayer for seekers trying to be open to new paths and teachings.

Review: The Wiccan Way-Magical spirituality for the solitary Pagan

The Wiccan WayThe Wiccan Way (Published in the UK as The Hedge Witches Way) is a very good book for beginners. This book covers a very simple way to practice magic and witchcraft without the requirement for long formal rituals. This book covers an important topic that most books on witchcraft don’t talk about, even those which come at witchcraft from the perspective of a religious practice. This book covers the concept, practice, and creation of witchcraft prayers.

For many people the practice of magic and prayer are intricately connected. Many books teach that spell casting is a witches way of saying a prayer. While some spells are prayers, this book examines exactly what a witches prayer is. This book covers what makes a prayer a magical act and what makes a prayer an act of devotion, as a witch uses prayers both for magic and for forms of worship.

The US title of the book is a bit more accurate than the UK title of Hedge Witches Way. The reason behind this is that Hedge witchcraft is a very specific form of witchcraft dealing heavily with trance work and spirit companions. While the author does include prayers for traveling and working with the spirit realms, the focus of the style of witchcraft in this book is not shamanic or trance based, and as such this book is not about Hedge witchcraft but a different form of modern Wicca or Wiccan styled witchcraft.

The author calls the witchcraft and magic described in this book as Wildwood Mysticism. The author teaches that this particular form of witchcraft does not need intense structured and formal rituals. The author mentions here that maintaining an altar and saying a simple prayer to the God and Goddess is all that you need to do to practice this style and form of witchcraft.

The first chapter in the book is all about prayer and enchantment. This first introduction chapter basically covers the nature of witchcraft. Here the author mentions a sense of nature being sacred, a connection with spirits and spirit forces, and why prayers can be effective ways of connecting with the various forces in life and that are responsible for life. The author even mentions just how easy it is for the distinction of the difference between a prayer and a spell to fade for witches, as witches who follow this path work their spells and magic through the use of prayer.

The second chapter is a chapter about the Gods that are worshiped and prayed to in this particular tradition or style of witchcraft. The author starts the chapter by mentioning how the Gods of witches were demonized in the past and how we need to bring their truth back. The author then gives a basic idea about the God and Goddess of this tradition including an introduction to the cosmology or worldview of this practice explaining the three realms or worlds and how their God and Goddess manifests in each of them.

The third chapter of this book is about mysteries. In religious witchcraft the experience of the mysteries is the goal of the rituals. In this specific tradition the experience of the mysteries is related to the prayers. This chapter explains why prayers help us access those mysteries and experiences. The chapter also explains why some prayers should be kept private and why some are meant to be shared. This chapter is key in understanding the importance of prayer in this style of witchcraft, as the mysteries are the experiences of the God and Goddess as well as magic and the flow of the universe.

The fourth chapter in the book is about the theories and practices of magic. Here is where the author describes and defines clearly what wildwood mysticism means and is as a practice. The author here defines what it means to be a witch. The author ends the chapter with a list of the practices that makes one a wildwood mystic and a witch in this practice pointing out prayer being the central component to all of them.

The fifth chapter is a chapter on initiation to wildwood mysticism. To the author the witchcraft is the action and practice of the magical aspects while the wildwood mysticism is the actual spiritual practice and components. Before one can be a witch in this practice they need to become attuned and accustomed to the forces of nature through a wildwood mystic initiation. This chapter provides the ritual and prayer outline for this practice. The chapter ends with ideas and areas of study to increase ones awareness of the tides of nature and the feelings of wildwood mysticsim.

The sixth chapter in this book is about the maintenance and creation of an altar to the Gods and to the practice of wildwood mysticism. Here the author provides a very basic and simple idea of what an altar can be. There are no fancy elemental tools and associations on this altar set, rather a bowl of water, a twig or plant for the world tree and something for the God and Goddess. The key point here in this chapter is the practice of saying prayers at an altar as an act of devotion and worship. Its the idea that you can worship with prayers at an altar without elaborate rituals and ceremonial tools that you see in so many other books on witchcraft.

The seventh chapter in the book covers initiation into the practice of witchcraft and the practice of gaining the powers of the witch. As shown earlier the practice of the mysticism and the witchcraft are separate yet connected. This chapter explores and explains how one can use prayers in ritual to gain the powers of a witch and to become a witch yourself providing several different prayers and ritual actions to naming oneself a witch with the powers of a witch.

The next three chapters are very practical chapters. These chapters focus on the practice of need based prayers and magic. These chapters provide insight into the different types of spell work that wildwood mystic witches can and may perform.

The eighth chapter gets into spells for healing. Here the author provides several different types of healing prayers and spell actions for different situations. The author explains how different types of prayers and a different world aspect should be used for different types of healing work. The prayers provided here serve as an excellent base for healing prayer and spell work.

The ninth chapter in this book is again a chapter focused on spells and prayers for a specific need. This chapter focuses on money and wealth. Like everyone else witches have issues with money and they have bills to pay. This chapter provides several different unique prayers and spell actions for different types of wealth and money.

The tenth chapter in this book focuses on good luck and good fortune. Like the other two chapters the prayers and spell actions in this chapter address the three worlds and the aspects of the God and Goddess in each realm that are important to those prayers. The author also examines the different types of good luck and good fortune out there and why you may want to work and pray for them.

The eleventh chapter in this book is probably the most useful chapter in the book. It is in this chapter that the author finally teaches the reader how to write their own prayers. The nine previous chapters provided several different examples of prayers in different situations. By looking at those prayers a reader can have an idea of how prayers may be constructed. The author provides a three step process for writing prayers and provides blanks in them for you to insert your own concepts and addresses. There are also two prayers for example set up as being written.

The twelfth chapter in the book focuses on writing prayers with the assistance of a familiar spirit. Familiar spirits and spirit guides are common themes and concepts in witchcraft traditions. Here the author explains and provides rituals to get and meet your own familiar spirit, but also explains how and why they are useful in prayer writing.

The thirteenth chapter of the book focuses on another traditional practice of witches. That practice is the ability to travel in spirit body to the different realms and worlds. This is the one hedge witch and shamanic aspect of the book. While the other realms and worlds had been addressed through prayers and had spiritual associations given to the other realms, it is only in this chapter that the reader learns to navigate those realms themselves to gain spiritual insight and prayers of their own.

The fourteenth chapter of this book focuses on steps on the path. Here the author provides different tasks and steps that one can take to making wildwood mysticism and witchcraft their path and part of their daily lives. The author begins the chapter by showing through a symbol that the path of a witch is not straight and that it curves and spirals. The author provides examples of ways we look to the other worlds for guidance and nine different actions we can take to make our spirituality and life whole. This chapter is really about the work it takes to bring this spiritual path to daily life, providing ways to make it a part of your daily life.

The final chapter in this book is about the wheel of the year. This chapter focuses on the typical 8 sabbats of religious witchcraft and ways to celebrate the wheel of the year. There are three different spell actions given for each sabbat (one for each of the worlds and realms) as well as a prayer that focuses on the energetic forces and theme of the sabbat.

By the end of the book the reader has an understanding of a cohesive style and tradition of witchcraft that works with minimal tools, nature energies, and prayer. The book teaches witches not only the importance of prayer work, but how effective prayers can be as a magical and spiritual practice and focus all on their own.

Ancestral Work

Ancestral Work and Practices

Last year my post in the Pagan blog project on ancestors (Ancestors and why Ancestral Veneration exists)was at the start of my exploration of ancestral worship and working with the powers and spirits of our ancestors.  Most of what I was doing there really had no meaning to me.  It was a basic understanding of concepts.  Yes I had an ancestral altar that was set up but there really wasn’t any meaning to my work.  I prayed to my ancestors because I thought I should.  The altar was set up because I thought I needed one.  There was no reason behind any of it.

I did believe that our ancestors had power.  I just wasn’t sure how to work with them.  I knew that as I had said in ancient cultures it was a common practice.  I also knew that there were a few modern pagan religions that had continued the practice of ancestral veneration.  I saw that it was a part of many forms of traditional witchcraft and as well as part of Asatru.  So I wanted to make it a part of my path.  I wasn’t sure how.

For me part of it was the process of how complex my ancestry is.  I consider the fact that I have spiritual ancestors.  Those are the people who were the first authors in bringing witchcraft to the world today.  In that group is Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valienete, Sybil Leek, and several others.  I also have my ancestors of the heart.  This is where my Foster and Adoptive ancestors lie.  They are not connected to me by blood but by the bonds of love through my adoption and family ties.  Then I have my ancestors of blood.  These would be the ancestors tied to my biological family.  These multiple ancestral lines were some of the reasons I wasn’t sure how I could work with my ancestors.  Which type did I honor and work with?

I recently started to realize that I can work with all of my ancestors in different ways.   I just needed to think about applying ancestral veneration in different ways that did not just relate to prayers and offerings at the altar.  I found that because I had the different lines I could find three different ways that I can honor my ancestors and so far this revelation has been working for me.

My witchcraft ancestors (Gardner, and the like) I work with and honor simply by continuing to practice witchcraft and keep it alive.  They feared that witchcraft would die out. Instead it has grown beyond what they imagined.  So for me to practice, study, and explore as many venues of witchcraft as I can is a way of honoring the witches who have walked the paths before me.  This was one of the first ways I actually started to work with my spiritual ancestors.

My ancestors of the blood were a bit different.  I did some traces of where the various ancestral lines my biological family came from.  In this practice I have found that my ancestry is Germanic in nature.  Around the same time I had a dream where several of the Germanic/Norse Gods appeared calling for me and for one of them.  I concluded that by studying and by working with the Gods of my blood ancestral tribes I could honor them as well.  So that was another way I could honor my ancestors.  It has worked well for me.

Its been my adoptive ancestral lines that I have really had some issues working in.  While I prayed to my Grandmother for advice (she had made herself known to me early on as a spirit guide for me) I had no real way to integrate the rest of that ancestral line into my life and I honestly didn’t think that they would approve of the work I was doing.  So it was something I didn’t quite understand.

Even in my studies of Traditional witchcraft while I would acknowledge the power of the ancestors in the land I wasn’t I was sure I actually believed in.  I also never actually called my ancestral powers into ritual before.  I would call on the spirits of the land and the God and Goddess but not my ancestor when I was doing that work.

Now things have actually changed.  I am actively working with my ancestors.  I pray daily and I actively maintain an altar to them.  On this altar I regular light a candle to them as an offering.  I also give them fresh and clean water on a regular basis so that when they visit they always have a clean drink.  In rituals I have an item I use to give them a manifestation in the room that sits on the altar the rest of the time.

Yes.  I never actually worked with my ancestors in magic or in rituals before.  Now things have started to change.  I actually call them into my rituals.  They have a place that they can manifest in ritual and in magical work.  Like the God and Goddess can manifest in my statues and in me, my ancestors have a vessel with which they can manifest in this world during ritual.  I am actively forming relationships with them like I would any other spirits, through now working with them in formal rituals.

Recently I have started to study a new magical tradition.  I have started to study Hoodoo.  Now I am not African American nor do I belong to the culture that Hoodoo was created in and for.  That being said I do respect the origins and I know that today Hoodoo is not practiced by just those of African American descent or in that culture.  There are Caucasian Americans who practice this art.  They all however pay respects to the origin of the path and understand where the roots of Hoodoo come from.

Hoodoo in some forms was heavily influenced by forms of Catholicism.  My adoptive ancestry on my mother’s side is all Catholic.  I have felt that by practicing and studying Hoodoo I could connect with that part of my ancestry.  In Hoodoo a lot of time is spent focused on working with ones ancestors.  So for me Hoodoo provides a way for me to connect with my Catholic ancestors while still remaining the witch that I am and that forms the base of the tradition I am developing.

I feel that my connection with my ancestors has started to grow because I have started to work with them in ritual and pray to them daily.  I invite them into my life on a regular basis.  I know they are around me now.  I know that they are there.  I just needed to find a way to interact with them all and I have found a way to work with them.  Now I just need to make sure I maintain the practice.

Review: The Conjure workbook by Mama Starr

The Conjure Workbook Volume 1: Working the Root is an excellent tome on Southern Conjure work. When I picked up this tome I knew that it was going to be full of Christian mysticism and biblical references. That is what Hoodoo and conjure is. The Southern Hoodoo and conjure traditions are a mixture of folk beliefs from pre-slave days in Africa and the various Christian faiths in the south. This was how the slaves were able to hold on to a bit of their previous culture and identity.

If those who are looking to learn about Hoodoo and conjure work are expecting information to come from a pagan perspective and are looking at this work they will be disappointed. Mama Starr is very clear about her roots and the roots of Southern Conjure which are in Christian belief systems of the south. While she does say that you can be of any belief system and still work the spells and rituals she provides, unless you respect the Bible and understand that it is filled with lore, spells, and practices you will not get anything out of this book.

The author begins the book by discussing the work of ancestors. Here the author begins explaining one of the core concepts and beliefs across Conjure/Hoodoo/Rootwork traditions. There is an overall belief in an existence of an afterlife and that our ancestors will be there to answer us. The author starts by describing how they help us and work with us and finally ends with setting up an altar to venerate and pray to your ancestors.

I mentioned the importance of respect for the Bible as a sacred text and as a book of power as that is the second topic discussed in the book. As I said early on the author is clear in that this book is a southern conjure book which is going to have referenced to the Bible in there. Most of the references are in the Old Testament but they are still Bible references.

After working with the ancestors is covered, crafting altars and work spaces is discussed, and the Bible is mentioned as an important source the Author gets into the spirits and beings that are often worked with in her practice of Hoodoo. Prior to reading this book I was aware of the work with the archangels and the saints. Here I learned of new spirits and beings also associated with Conjure as well as how we can even work with the prophets in the bible.

Each being mentioned came with several different prayers and ways that you can work with them. These early workings are here to give you an idea about the powers each spirit has. These workings also introduce you to the concepts of repeating works, and how actual effort is put into the work. The author makes it clear that these things are repeated several times for effectiveness.

As the book continues the author mentions and focuses on another core belief in rootworking traditions. That belief and practice is one of divination. Starr provides many different ways of working divination including a very traditional practice of reading the bones. While the actual practice of bone reading is not discussed, the author does include its history of use. The author included a photo of her own bone set.

As the book continues the author continues an easy to follow step by step instruction on workings. The author also continues her straight talk. The author is very serious about their work and their tradition. Throughout the book the author mentions how some of these works are dangerous and are not to be simply played with. She does this not to discourage people from doing these works, but to encourage people to take the work seriously.

The author does speak only of their own tradition and practices. While the author does give you all the information you need to create your own Hoodoo/Conjure practice she does encourage you to find an actual teacher to learn more complex works. As an example the author explains why some packet spells written by other authors aren’t as effective as they could be because of folding the paper of the packet in a different manner than she was taught with an explanation of why the other method may actually backfire.

This book is filled with practical information. With the authors attitude, explanations, and the step by step processes in the book the tome The Conjure Workbook volume 1: Working the Root provides everything you need to know in order to effective start working your own spells and rituals. By working the spells in the book you develop understanding of associations and correspondences which can be useful in creating your own effective spells.

Pagan Blog Project: A-Altar management

One of the things that I have been lacking in my practice is proper altar maintenance and management. Now what is altar maintenance? Not to mention what is altar management? Well that depends. There are many things that it can mean. It can be as simple as remembering to pray there regularly to build up power. It can be washing the items on the altar regularly so that dirt or dust don’t accumulate. It can be many different things. Proper altar maintenance is part of establishing a healthy spiritual practice with regular applications in daily life.

For myself altar maintenance actually means all of those things I mentioned and more. For a long time I have had my altars set up as a part of my house decoration. I would nod at them in the morning occasionally as a reminder that each day is a gift from the Gods but aside from that they weren’t used often. Seeing the altars set up did make me feel connected to my spirituality so it did serve a purpose but I wasn’t letting it serve its main purpose which is to serve as a focal point for workings with the various spirits that I work with.

I have lacked altar maintenance. Altar maintenance would be cleaning the dust off the altar. Making sure that there is fresh water daily for the spirits, cleaning the altar cloths on a regular basis, bathing the statues ritually, cleansing and consecrating the place on a regular basis. These are all little ritual items that I could have done and should have done on a regular basis that not only would build my connection to my spirit allies but would also keep my spirit soaring.

Altar management for me is a bit more complicated than that. Altar management is the actual use and working of an altar. Here we have decorating for rituals and sabbats, we have performing offerings, prayers, and magical workings. All of these things are part of altar management.

This is yet again and area that I have lacked in my spiritual progress and development. I rarely decorate the altars for the sabbat or esbat at hand when I do work those rituals. I haven’t been good about praying at my altars as a regular communication practice and as a way to build a relationship with them. Nor have I been particularly good about giving them offerings either.

Altar management is also for me changing the altars around periodically. For me it is about really letting the Gods and spirits know what sort of items they want on their altars. Each spirit and altar is going to be different so its important to make them all unique. So if the Gods and the elements tell you to use one tool over another in ritual and on the altar that is altar management.

Most of my magical workings are not done on my altars but on any space I can find. The only times they are is when I am typically doing a healing work of some sort and need the assistance of my guides and allies. Then I work at my altar and pray. The rest of the time its not done at my altar. Though I may occasionally burn the incenses I have made on them. Working magic on the altars would also be a way of deepening spirit contact and relationships.

These two things that seem simple are things that I have been lacking in my life. These are also things that I have been working on correcting in my life. For me right now I have a goal of working on developing a more consistent daily practice of my path. I am really working to integrate my beliefs and my studies into everything I do part of every day. Its a challenge but its been worth it.

The first real thing for me has been developing my new ritual room and ritual space. There is still some more work I would like to do and things I need to get. For now though it really looks like a sacred space or at least a place for performing and working various rituals. Part of getting this room set up was finally getting the altars to where I like them and what I want to do with them.

In setting up my ritual room I now have a place to perform daily rites and workings with spirits. So now I can really work on digging into my spirituality and developing those relationships. The first thing I am working on is altar maintenance and altar management. These two things can be worked on together by creating daily prayer and offering routines.

The first part of the maintenance though was in the creation of some new altars and some new sacred space for those prayer workings and ritual workings. Here now are the new altars and shrines I have created for my new ritual area.

The first altar I am going to discuss is my main working altar:

Main working altar

This altar is where all my actual worship of Gods and Goddesses occurs. On the wall there is a Pentacle with a Stags head for the God and a clay plate impression of a Goddess who is mother earth. These are on the wall to show the places of the God and Goddess as well as to form a background. In the center of the altar there is a birch wood circle which I use to hold the candle lit for prayers and devotions. In the back you can see my wand. My stang and my broom are on either side of the altar. This is set up and basically ready to go for any ritual at any time.

The next altar is my Dragon altar:

Dragon altar

Here I am actually performing altar maintenance and management by burning incense for them and lighting a candle. You can also see how that altar is clearly focused on being there for the dragons. The incense that was offered was Dragons Blood. Dragons Blood is a favorite incense of many dragon spirits and they feed off its scent and love. I’ll get into working with dragons another time. For now I performed maintenance then by giving them an offering.

This is my ancestral altar:

New ancestral altar

Every item on my ancestral altar has importance to me. This altar is actually a new design. My original ancestral altar was much smaller and less formally organized. This altar on one side you see several different pictures. Those are the photos of my deceased loved ones. There is also a photo on there of my biological mother and her father. I don’t know if either one of them are still alive. The photo is there is symbolic of my ties to my blood ancestors so that they know they are not forgotten. The large goblet there is the chalice for them. It contains water I give them as an offering or any other liquid. The candle next to them is light and fire giving my prayers a vessel. The skull actually serves as a place for them to manifest during working rituals. The bottle of GlenLivet on there is a connection to my fiance’s grandfather. Finally the red tie across the altar comes from my grandmother’s robe. I use the red color to be symbolic of blood but also of spirit and all the ties and bonds that we share together.

The next two altars are works in progress. They will grow as my relationships with these spirits grow. I am also going to see about getting more storage containers like the one my Dragon altar is on so I can set up a few more altars and shrines. I feel I should set up one for my Norse God practices. I also sort of feel like there are other spirits wanting to work with me and have altars built for them.

This is my altar to the arch angel Micheal:

Saint Micheal-Arch Angel Micheal shrine

Micheal is the protector. He is also called the prince of heaven and is the leader of heaven’s army. This is why there is a sword on the altar. The candle is lit for is prayers. The candle also symbolises the element he is most often associated with which is fire. The water is there to offer him a drink. The plate is there for offerings.

This is my shrine for Moses:

Moses shrine start

The large staff there is going to be a conjure/hoodoo tool that I am making with the power of Moses. This staff will be used to call on his name and power in basically any rite that I would associate with him. The candles again serve as a place to show the prayers the water is his drink and the plate holds offerings of various forms.

You have now seen my altars. Part of my altar management now and altar maintenance now will be regular saying prayers at these altars. I will be offering fresh and clean water every day. I will wash the altars physically and make sure that they stay clean and fresh. I will in some way work at my altar each day building a relationship with the spirits therein.

Altar maintenance and management now to me is the simplest way I can work on making my religious and spiritual practices an active part of my day to day life. All in all it doesn’t take a lot of time. Its maintaining the practice, the sense of the sacred, and giving the time that becomes the issue in our lives. By writing this essay I have given myself some tangible tasks to do each day to work on my altars and with the spirits there in the altars.

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