Category Archives: Developing a personal spiritual path

Book Review: Candle and the Crossroads by Orion Foxwood

The Candle and the Crossroads:

A book of Appalachian Conjure And Southern Rootwork

Candle and the Crossroads

This is one of the most powerful books I have read in recent history on spirituality in general.  While yes the book focuses on Rootwork and Conjure as the author knows them, the book is highly spiritually focused.  For me even if I don’t put all of the information into practice, the components of the book that made me question spirituality and what it means were well worth the investment.

So to begin my review I have to say that even if you don’t follow any magical spiritual path as a guide for spirituality any one of any path can get something out of it.  I would even recommend this book to Christians who are looking to deepen their personal spirituality and connection to their religion.  Everyone on any path in life can get something out of this book.  The connection to your own spirit that this book teaches us to develop is important for everyone and everything.

If you are looking for a book on spells you wont find them in this book.  There are several workings discussed but actual spell work for money, wealth, love, etc are not really seen in this book.  There are magical techniques for baths and creating mojos as well as connecting to spirits in this book.    So there is magic with in the book but not necessarily spells for luck, love or mney drawing as most people are familiar with.

The focus on this book is the spiritual component of Hoodoo and Conjure rather than the spells.  Too often people want to jump into the spells and workings of magic without the spirit component and thus they miss a huge part of the Southern Conjure traditions.  This book provides that spiritual information.  It is that focus which sets this book aside from others.

This is one book I am going to be referencing again and again.  There are several exercises, meditations, and self questions that I am going to be looking at periodically.  There are many things in this book that made me think and start to evaluate my personal path and practices.  For this reason I am going to be using this as a reference and guide to develop my own connection to my spirituality and my own personal spirit.

The first chapter in the book is all about the foundation of this practice.  Here we learn the authors experiences and his history with the practice as he knows it.  This is where we see how his experiences and lessons in life and explains the reasons why he wrote this book.  He mentions what the foundations of his personal magical practice are.  By knowing this information you can better understand the worldview and practices presented in the rest of the book.

The second chapter is about the starting of finding your paths to the spirit that is you.  The core teaching of this book is that humans are spirits as well.  We are spirits having a physical existence as humans.  In the teachings of this book and worldview if you start to realize this you will not only come into your own power but also start be be more whole yourself.    This chapter starts a basic discussion on types of spirits that walk with us as well as types of spiritual paths.  After talking about the paths there are also descriptions on how we are called to find our paths including symptoms of the different calls.

The third chapter is short but very important.  Here is where we get into the history of the actual practices that formed Southern Conjure as the author knows it.  The author mentions slavery and African traditions and their importance in the tradition.  Here we see what Conjure really is about and how it survives over the years.  There are warnings in this chapter about working with the spirits of Conjure and how powerful they are.  There is a quote that illustrates the power and spirirt of Conjure work very well that I am going to share with you here.:

“If you are not willing to cry for, be angry for, pray for, and ask help of its spirits, then stay away from this work.  These spirits went through hell when they first came to America in boats of flesh.  No one can change this root, and why would we want to?

If you want to find the root that cannot be bound, then then root spirit of conjure is for you.  If you want to grow your spirit from a place of truth and spirit power then conjure is for you.  If you want to reach deep and pray high, then welcome to this deep well of spirit and spiritual nuturance.

But come through the door blessing and praying for the ancestors that suffered.  This builds a bridge of grace to the spirit world and begins to establish the essence and flavor of the spirits that come when you conjure.”-Orion Foxwood Conjure and the Crossroads

The rest of the chapter focused on what the Root of conjure and the cultural mixtures that made up his conjure.  The author mentions honoring his own Roots and how he works with them.  After mentioning the spirits of African, Native American, and European folk practices who settled in that area he goes into the roles that Conjure played in that culture and still continues to play to this day.

The fourth chapter is about the Nature and Power of conjure.  Here the author gets into the fact that Conjure does have ties to Christian spirituality and Christian religions.  He addresses that many conjures use words like God and Creator and occasionally Maker.  Here we see the power in conjure comes from the source of creation and the power to create which resides in our own personal spirit.  The author gets into a few types of spirits that are connected to this power.  One of them being the God of Christianity and divine beings.  The author is specific in that for the reader and seeker that it doesn’t have to be the God of Christianity but it is the Source of all creation and all essence which is a spirit of sorts.

This is where we first start to actually get introduced into some of the techniques in this practice.  The author goes into several different ways that conjure works with spirit.  These include prayer, baths, blessings, healing, and cleansing.  After starting the basics on techniques we are introduced to a few of the different types of spirits that are worked with in conjure.

Chapter five was probably my favorite chapter in the book.  Its for me really the most important chapter in the book.  This is the chapter that focuses on growing our spirit.  The author had previously mentioned that working with ones own spirit and knowing ones own spirit was the most important thing in conjure.  Here we finally learn to address the spirit and work with our spirit.

The best part of this chapter was the checklist on the attumement to our spirit.   Not only does the author give a list of questions and symptoms of disconnect with our spirit but he provides remedies to help fix the situation.   For me this was really the way for me to start to see how connected I am to my own spirit and what I can do to fix it.  The author does mention that some of those ailments are actual symptoms of health issues (depression, anxiety and other mental health issues) and if you answered yes to many of them that you should seek professional help.  For me that disclaimer and statement shows the connection between the mind, the body, and the spirit and how mental health can effect spiritual health.

This section provided me with the most enlightenment.  It gave me tools to adjust and start working on my own personal spiritual path and development. One of the reasons I had started to explore Conjure and Rootwork was for a spiritual connection and a way to deepen and develop my spirituality beyond the basic 101 books.  Here I have tools to find what I was missing and develop my path.  The chapter ends with providing you with the steps to growing in your spirit which is what you need to do after you start the work of attuning to your own spirit.

Chapter six is about maintain spiritual health.  The main focus on this chapter is spiritual cleansing and cleaning.  The author explains how important is is to cleanse ourselves from the different forces in our lives that can cause spiritual clutter.  He told a story of a client that his mother had to illustrate the issue.  The author ends with a working for spiritual cleansing.   This provides the start of our practical conjure spirit workings.

Chapter seven is about fixing or attracting good spirits to you.  Here we learn how actions we take and the way we live our life sends signals to spirit.  One of the first lessons in this chapter is that often we focus on our lack of something when we want something then more often than not we are going to be stuck with more of what we do not have.  The author then begins to go into how we send images and messages to spirit so we can attract what we actually want.

The author then starts getting information on working on attracting the right spirits.  The first real focus is on a prosperity spirit.  The author provides a recipe or a ritual working outline to attract a prosperous spirit.  One thing this working outlines is that in Conjure everything is spirit and everything has spirit.  If you can accept that view and work with it then you are going to work conjure.

After the pot the author talks about maintain the spirit and provides steps and techniques to keep spirit alive.  The first part of this practice is the establishment of an altar.  The author continues with a ritual working for the altar set up and the consecration of the altar, yourself, and your home.  While the workings are not exact they provide you an outline to make the conjure your own.  In the end you must be the one to do the work.

Chapter eight was probably my second favorite chapter in the book.  One thing I have personally been interested in for years has been working with graveyards and various forms of graveyard magic.  This book is the first book I have seen that addresses this practice.  Its considered Taboo in many modern magical traditions yet many acknowledge that there is strong power in the graveyard.  Finding this chapter thrilled me to the core.  It started to lift the veil on these workings.

There is so much in this chapter that covering the techniques and information would be a review in itself.  I will say the author provides information on the power of the graveyard works and why we should work with graveyards.  He provides information on working with graveyard spirits as well as how to gather graveyard dirt and work with graveyard dirt.  The author spends the other half of the chapter talking about working with our ancestors and providing ways to honor them and work with them in our home and life.

Chapter nine is an interesting chapter.  It covers ways to enter into the spirit world as well as working with a spirit unique to his tradition and practice.  The technique discussed I found most interesting and will most likely try myself was the concept of tapping or knocking.  Its essentially like you are knocking on the door to the spirit world like you would a regular door.    After tapping and knocking he covers river magic as well as fire and candle access to the spirit world.  Here there is a working for river magic specifically outlined.

The last part of the chapter includes a ritual and a poem I am likely to work into ritual work.  Here is where the author teaches us about the Dark Ridder and gives us a way to introduce ourselves to him and work with him.  The spirit known as the dark rider had been mentioned earlier in the book as a traditional spirit but not much was told about him until now.  The author does make it clear that what he shows us is not the full formula for encountering this spirit.  The working he provides is an introduction to the spirit and nothing more.

Chapter ten is the final chapter in the book.  In some ways it works very much like a conclusion focusing on working the Root or working the spirit which is the force of Conjure and Root work. This is how the chapter starts anyway.  It is here we see the final outline of the techniques and practices covered in the book to develop and connect with our spirit.  The chapter ends with talking about a few specific plant spirits and with a formula for making a spirit bag.

This book provides several powerful tools for any spiritual tradition.  In the end this book illustrates not only the power of Conjure and Southern Rootwork but also the power of working from your own spirit.  The author provides an excellent introduction to the spiritual components of Rootwork and Conjure while also providing a few practical workings in the magical sense.

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Ancestral work

Starting Ancestral Work

Introduction:

What is Ancestral Veneration and Ancestral Work

Ancestral Veneration is one of the most ancient religious and spiritual practices. The respect and belief in an afterlife as well as honoring ancestors can be traced back to paleolithic mankind. It is believed that honoring our ancestors was the first religious and spiritual form of ritual work. From ways the dead were buried to views of the afterlife ancestors and the dead were never far from the mind of our paleolithic ancestors, and for some this truth remains today.

Ancestral veneration is not worshiping our ancestors, at least not in the common sense of worship. Ancestral veneration is more like honoring the dead in a respectful way. Its a belief that they are still with us in a spirit form. That they can hear us and can effect our lives from the other side. Its a belief that our ancestors like other spirits can help us become the best person we can be and to live the life that we really want and desire.

There are exchanges of offerings and gifts. This isn’t worship. In some ways I think of it like when I put a flower on my ancestors grave. Its giving something to them to signify that you remember them and care for them. These gifts can be basically anything. Though some cultures do have rules against some items being given to different spirits.
In some cultures flowers are only for the dead and it’s ok to leave offerings to the dead till they rot as this signifies they have taken everything. In other cultures and practices only water is offered to the dead. Even Christianity has mention of the value of prayer for the dead. Working with and honoring our ancestors is a powerful spiritual path and there are many ways to go about it.

The act of the gift and the offering is the important thing though. Its through these exchanges that relationships with our ancestors can develop and grow. Its believed that a gift will ensure a gift. Its also believed that because the dead and our ancestors are beyond the veil they have access to energy and powers of the universe that we don’t so by asking them to help us in our work and our lives they can tap into those energies for us. Granted they dont help us unless we help ourselves. So the gifts symbolize our part to do our work.

Many religions and traditions have celebrations and days of the dead. Halloween, All saints and All Souls day, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos(Mexican Day of the dead), The Bon Festival (Japan), and Pitru Paksha (Fortnight of the Ancestors-Hindu) are different festivals in different cultures. They have one thing in common. They are all festivals to honor the dead and the ancestors. These are only a handful of celebrations that exist to celebrate ancestors and the dead. The point is that the concept of honoring the dead is still alive and well in this world today.

The practice of honoring the dead is starting to become more common in Pagan practices today as well. Part of that is that many of us are reclaiming this practice. It was a part of ancient pagan traditions, so the practice was largely destroyed in the west. For many reclaiming ancestral veneration as a part of our practice not only connects us to our more recent ancestors and keeps our passed loved ones in our lives, but it also allows us to reach the deepest ancestors we have which can be powerful guides for those starting down pagan paths.

Personal Development of Ancestor work

One of the reasons I am writing this post today is in honor of a new ancestor. A loved one of mine has just crossed the veil. It is this passing that has once again made me think about working with my ancestors and how is really always been a central part of my practice. I haven’t always considered the contact with my ancestors and the shrines to my past loved ones ancestral veneration. I thought it was simply remembering them and keeping them alive.

Ancestor veneration is a large part of my practice and spiritual work. My ancestors have a lot to teach me. I have an ancestor altar that I pray at everyday. While it is a strong part of my practice these days, ancestral veneration and honoring has not always been a large part of my path. In fact it was at one point something I really only did on the festival of the dead (Samhain) as that was the focus. I thought that was really all that was needed, and at the time maybe that was for my best.

When I started to practice witchcraft I had recently lost my Grandmother. Many of the psychics and readings I had done at the time confirmed that she was staying close to me as a spirit guide (I was having dreams of her). So I started working with my ancestors through a single ancestor as a spirit guide. That was 17 years ago. Now I have an altar to all my ancestors as I have learned that any of our ancestors can be our guides and guardians.

Originally I didn’t offer any prayers, or much to my ancestors. I would simply say hello to them when I needed to feel their presence. I had a place of memory for them where I could see them and keep them in my life. Then when I started to explore traditional witchcraft as a religious and spiritual practice I heard of the concept of giving them offerings and having shrines and altars to them. So I created one and started an ancestral prayer working.

The practice with ancestral veneration got even deeper when I started to explore Germanic paganism and found I had Germanic ancestry. When I read how they honored their ancestors and the powers of wyrd and Oorlog I decided that I had to develop my relationship even further. So I started to work them into Germanic rites and rituals through the phrases “The Alfar and the Disir”

There was a time when I stopped practicing basically everything. Then I started to explore Hoodoo. My interest and desires to understand magic and witchcraft returned. Through this I found more focus on ancestors and honoring your culture. I found that ancestors will be powerful allies in spells as well as in meditations and trance work. So through Hoodoo my work with my ancestors started to develop further and I learned new prayers to use for my ancestors.

Now today I have a prayer I say to them every morning and I have a prayer I say every evening to my ancestors. I give them offerings when I perform rituals and I invite them into my ritual circles. They have a part of my day to day life and my spiritual life. I couldn’t imagine my spiritual work without my ancestors at all. They are always there for me and they always will be. I may not be able to physically hold them and see them, but when I need them I can feel them and I know they are always there for me.

The types of ancestors:

Being adopted my ancestors actually come in different forms and types. Not all of my ancestors are of the blood. Some are of the spirit and some are of the heart. I have legal blood ancestors and blood ancestors. I have ancestors in all of my families that I don’t know but are my allies through the bonds of the heart and the spirit. I even have ancestors that are not really in my family at all but are in my spiritual family. All of these ancestors have roles to play in my life and I honor them all.

I dont consider ancestors limited to just the blood and the heart though.This post is going to discuss the different ancestors I have through my adoption and my spiritual practices and how I can honor and work with each of them. For the longest time I didn’t engage in ancestral veneration because of my adoption. I wasn’t sure if I should honor my ancestors of my adoption, my foster family, or my biological family. Thinking about this also was painful so while I wanted to honor my ancestors I didn’t go about it until I had answered my confusion.
How I came to see the types of Ancestors

That was how I came to see the different ancestral lines. One year I went to the local Pagan Pride day. I typically attend a few of the workshops that go on. This year there was one about ancestral work and contacting your ancestors. The key component of that workshop was a meditation on ancestral lines. During this meditation I saw three lines of ancestral blood flowing from my body. There was a fourth that was some what gray at the time and today its now clear.

It was then I knew that I was to honor all of my ancestors. Those of my foster family, my blood or biological family, and my adoptive family. It was through this work that I came to see that there are many different types of ancestors and that not everyone will have access to blood ancestors. Through these meditations and concepts I came to see that there are
four primary types of ancestral allies: You have your ancestors of the Blood, your ancestors of the heart, and the ancestors of the spirit. Adoptive ancestors are actually a mixture of two types which I will get into in the next sections as well as being their own type of ancestor.

Ancestors of The Blood

Every one is familiar with the concept of blood ancestors. These are those of your family or blood line that goes back generations. These are the strongest allies that one can have. These are the ancestors that everyone thinks about when they think of ancestors. Ancestors of the blood also include ancestors gained through marriage and long term committed relationships. When I got engaged to my fiance his ancestors joined mine and mine his. We are a family unit. These ancestors go back generations on each side. So the lines of blood ancestors are very long.

These are the strongest allies that you can have as a spirit. They are the ones that have your best interest at heart. Through the strands of Fate, and the workings of Wyrd we are always directly connected to our ancestors. Our actions reflect them as much as their actions reflect on us. So we need to honor them in our lives and we need to keep them close to us. Before any other spirit is petitioned the ancestors will work stronger for you and faster for you. There is little that is stronger than the power of the blood.

Adoptive Ancestors

For me I also have my adoptive ancestors, These are the ancestors of my adoptive family. They are the family that raised me and that belongs to me. In ancient cultures at times the roles of the blood ancestors would be replaced by the foster and or adoptive family. In my case I never considered them to replace the blood ancestors at all. I considered them additional ancestors that I was blessed to have.

We have no physical blood that ties us. However to all of the world and all legal meanings they are my flesh and blood. That is how I feel about them as well. In all honesty at times they are more my family than my blood and biological family simply because I have minimal contact and my relationship with that family is in its infancy (until recently was non existent). Which is why they are both ancestors of the blood and of the heart. The time that they spent raising me and being involved in my life can not be undone.

They gave their blood, sweat, and tears to me. They are for my my most powerful allies. They have been there for me more than the blood ancestors. They were the first ancestors I have contacted and they were the first ones to make themselves known to me. This is the ancestral line that has been the strongest for me. My blood ancestral work is focused on more ancient pagan ancestor while my adoptive ancestral work is more with Saint and angel work (Hoodoo influences as well).

It is because my adoptive Ancestors gave so much of their blood, sweat, and tears into my life and that they took me in they are also ancestors of the heart. They are of the blood because of the family ties and concepts but of the heart because there is no physical blood. Its a spiritual and memory based blood love. The bond of the heart here shows how even just being in a family for a short while can create strong family bonds.

Ancestors of the Heart

Those of the heart are the family that has passed that are not connected through marriage or blood or even legal adoption. In my case this is where my foster family lies. They did not adopt me but are still my family. I have lost several members of that family and they were all close to me. They are now my ancestors and they watch over me. Our bond is somewhat stronger than blood or law.

These ancestors are some of my more recent ancestors. It was my Uncle Cleve’s passing which made me think about ancestors. He was my foster uncle and is an ancestor of my heart. His two brothers are also my ancestors here. I have a Grandfather here as well. To them and to me the fact that I did not live with them, and was not legally a part of the family after my adoption never mattered. I never stopped being their family. That is what the ancestors of the heart are all about.

The ancestors of the heart are those that have passed on we considered family even if there was no blood between you. These can be friends you thought of as brothers and sisters, close friends and even those who you would consider “father”or “mother” figures. If you feel that they were and are apart of your family in your heart than they are your family and are your ancestors. Never let anyone else tell you any different.

Ancestors of the Spirit:

Finally there are ancestors of the spirit. For me I consider any Occultist, Witch, and Magician who worked hard to preserve the magical and spiritual arts are my spiritual ancestors. Even though I dont agree with all of their teachings and philosophies people like Gerald Gardner, Aliester Crowley, Doreen Valiente, Scott Cunningham, and many others put a lot of work into making magical spirituality acceptable and part of our day to day lives again. Those are a few of my spiritual ancestors as a witch based on the practices I have taken into my practice.

As I explore Hoodoo and other magical systems other spiritual ancestors will come into my practice. For example Marie Laveau is a famous Hoodoo worker in New Orleans. In some respects I could consider her a spiritual ancestor. Other ancestors in the case of Hoodoo would in general be any one who struggled to keep African American spiritual heritage alive through Hoodoo and Rootwork. When a teacher passes I would add them to the spiritual ancestors as well.

You can also have ancestors of the spirit when you are spiritually adopted into a tradition. There are many religions and paths where they are only open to people of a specific culture. Occasionally through the practice of spiritual adoption outsiders are initiated and welcome into that spiritual family. The ancestors of your initiator in these situations become your ancestors and guides as well. It is a spiritual family you have entered into and like all families they will help you and work with you if you honor them as taught.

Working with your ancestors

Now that we have covered the types of ancestors out there and I have mentioned the importance of working with your ancestors its time to actually start thinking about how we can work with them. Why do we work with them, and what the best ways of working with them are.

There are three primary ways aside from meditation and spirit travel work that a person can work with their ancestors. These three forms are the altar, prayers, and offerings. They work well together and serve as a starting point for building power with your ancestral allies. Unless one is experienced in astral travel and spirit communication using those tools right away to work with your ancestors is not the best of ideas. Prayers and altar work are all you really need.

The altar

Really when it comes to working with your ancestors the only real must do I have found is having an altar of some sort where you can offer prayers and other items to them as you get to know them. These altars can evolve and change over time. The point of the altar is to serve as a focal point in your work. The altar is a place for you to offer your prayers and your gifts to them.

Your altar doesn’t need to be fancy. Many people start off not knowing any of their ancestors. In which case a candle, a cup for water, and a plate for offerings is all you would need to contact them. If you know your passed on loved ones and you have photos of them you can and should add those photos to the altar.

The altar also serves as a place of remembrance of the dead. So its a place to put items that make you think of your ancestors as well as their photos. You want it to look nice and appealing. This is going to be their home for you in your house and their place in your life. So its also important to keep the altar neat looking.

Here are some examples of my own ancestral altars and how its changed over time:
Ancestor altar alpha

Ancestor Altar 2

Ancestor altar

As you can see by looking at these altars they have changed over time. As they have changed so has my relationship with my ancestors evolved. The reason I wanted to show you the evolution of the altar is that I want you all to know that you can let your altar change over time. Its not meant to be a static thing! Its meant to be something that evolves with you and with your relationship with the spirits!

There are no limits on your ancestral altar. Let their spirits come through. There are reasons for the symbols I have placed on my altars. They grew as my focus and my relationships grew. One thing has always been common though-the focus has been on remembering them and keeping their memories alive in my life.

Ancestral Prayers

The best way to work with your ancestors even before starting an altar is simply to pray to them. Prayers to your ancestors aren’t really any different than prayers for gods and spirit guides. You are simply having a conversation with your ancestors. Prayers are how we can communicate with them directly and its our best way to communicate with them. They can communicate with us in different ways (dreams, scents, meditations, sudden insights etc) but we can really only speak to them through prayers.

The easiest prayer is simply:
“Blessed Ancestors I welcome you into my life. May you bless and guide me and may you teach me what you yourself can”

That’s all your prayers to your ancestors need to be. You dont need to praise them. You don’t need to have a fancy invocation. You simply can address them as your ancestors and they will listen to you. You dont even really need to ask for a blessing. You could simply say something along the lines of:
“Good Morning Ancestors. I welcome you this day”.

All you are doing with your prayers is acknowledging that they exist and that they are apart of your world. By giving them a simple welcome everyday you will start to feel their presence build up. You will begin to know them and feel them like you do can with other spirits and beings that you work with. The more attention you give them the more you will notice them.

Prayers can be more complex and verbose. My personal prayers evolved from a simple Hello and welcome to a full blessing and daily petition for them to be here. There is a bit of praise and there is a bit of thanks. These prayers are offered twice daily. I feel that they flowed from me into the written form when I was channeling spirits and writing prayers for them. My ancestors let me know what they wanted.

Offerings and Gifts

The final way that we can work with our ancestors is in offerings and gifts. These gifts are ways that we say thank you and show our appreciation to them. There are many ways types of gifts that can be given to our ancestors. You can give your ancestor basically anything you would give yourself or a person. They are still family and they are still people.

For myself I consider flowers on graves a gift to them. I also place flowers on the altars every so often as remembrances of them. I try and give them their favorite flowers. I also try and give them their favorite things. For my grandmother I will think of her when I go bowling and send her some of that energy as play and a memory of our times together.

On holidays I will set aside a portion of the food on my plate for my ancestors. I will let it sit till the end and eat that last. They eat the essence of that portion while I eat my meal. When I have finished the portion for me they will have had their fill and I can take nourishment from the food. Other cultures burn food offerings to ancestors and spirits. Some burry the food in the yard. Other throw it into the woods for animals to eat.

There are some taboos in various cultures about what can and can’t be given to ancestors and the dead. If you belong to a specific culture, religion, and or tradition I suggest that you look into ways that they honor the dead. By honoring the traditions of your culture, your religion and your tradition you are honoring your ancestors in that way as well. These traditions after all were ancestral in many cases.

Conclusion:

This post has covered my own discovery into the importance of ancestral veneration. It has covered the types of ancestors and a few of the ways that we can work with our ancestors. Your ancestors are part of who you are. They are powerful allies that can teach you things you wouldn’t imagine and who can be there for you in ways none else can. Your ancestors are still here in this life and in this world just in a different form.

There are many ways to work with them. Once you start working with them you will find that there are many more ways and reasons to work with them. I’ve been working with my ancestors actively for several years and my relationships with them continue to grow and develop. I am constantly learning new reasons to honor them and new ways of working with them. The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn.

These allies seem to be the ones that develop the most as I develop spiritually. The more I understand spiritual and magical practices the stronger they seem to become and the more things we seem to be able to so together. Its my hope that any one who has read this will start to develop their own relationships with their ancestors and start to find the power and comfort in ancestral grace and guidance.

Forming new Products

The process of forming new Products

 

Today I am going to discuss the process that goes into developing each and every herbal product that we sell. I handcraft each tincture and each incense blend and over the next few weeks will be crafting oils and candles. The process that goes into crafting each of these items is the same regardless of what form the product takes. It is a mixture of intuition, research, and hearing experiences from others in crafting similar items or when working with similar oils and products. The process is intense and it does take a lot of time but I as a witch and magician learn a lot about herbs and oils through this research and am able to grow my craft so I can best benefit you my customers.

In this post I am going to discuss the importance of each part in crafting the items I sell for you here. Without any one of the aspects of this process I would not be able to ensure the quality of the products I have to my customers. These parts are also essential to how I approach my spiritual crafts and practices in general so the crossover is essential. As I grow in my craft and practice so do my skills and my abilities to provide products that serve the needs of my customers.

 

Research

When it comes time to develop a new product I think about what I want to make.  For example when I think of oils I make a list of oils I have thought about working with and or have worked with.  I also think about spells and what sort of magical oils would best work with those spells I want to help my customers cast.  With the list of the oils I want to craft based on needs created I turn to books and websites. This is where the research portion really begins.

There are three Primary books I work with on my general witchcraft and magical oils, incenses, tinctures, and brews.  Those books are Magical Aroma Therapy, & The complete book of Incense, Oils, and Brews both by Scott Cunningham.  The last physical book I work with is the book Kitchen Witchery by Marilyn Daniels.  These three books form the basis of my general occult, witchcraft, and magical herbal products..  I also have an e-book by Lady Gianne called The Magical Oil Recipe Book.

A few of my new Oils, Tinctures, and Powders have a Hoodoo Inspiration to them.  This is true.  I am starting to as I have mentioned on the Facebook page, this blog and our other outlets that I am starting to study and explore the practice of Hoodoo.  These products that are inspired by Hoodoo have been deeply researched.  I have books and websites I have looked into for herbal associations, recipes, and spells from the Hoodoo perspective.

These Hoodoo inspired products have additional prayers and charging aspects done with them.  They are also prepared in a slightly different mentality as the ethics within Hoodoo vastly differs from the ethics found within most modern witchcraft traditions.  So I make it my own by adding my witchy inspiration to the mix.  Its the addition of herbs from a witches cabinet as well as those from Hoodoo/Rootwork/Southern Conjure that makes the products Hoodoo inspired rather than being strictly traditional Hoodoo.

After I use my book resources I start to look into the second phase of developing my products.  The second phase of product development really doesn’t make any sense without the research first.  The research prepares you for what you might encounter in this next phase.  For me this helps temper my overwhelming inspiration and intuition at times with the research.

Personal Experiences

This second phase is one of the main reasons I have joined so many different forums and social media exchanges related to witchcraft over the years.  The sharing of personal experiences for me is one of the best ways to explore experiences both that you have had and that you have and those you have read about.  The sharing of personal experiences by others is also a way to prepare oneself for doing new work.  Its a way of gathering insight and may provide ways of looking at things that you would not otherwise consider.

Personal experiences with herbs can also help a person develop a wider understanding of herbal spirits and practices.  While there are some spiritual and magical aspects that seem to cross cultures with various herbs, other experiences are based in culture or tradition specific practices.  By combing the traditional lore shared in books with personal experiences deeper relationships with herbs can develop.

At the same time new herbs and new ways of performing magic and working with herbs based on the needs can also be learned through discussions of personal experience.  Through these discussions healing charms that can be carried in the pocket and may be a single herb can be learned about and simplicity can be embraced.  Other applications could be learning edible and medicinal aspects to herbs as well as folk medicine and remedies that one may not have considered before.

One personal experience notes have been taken down and added to the notes from book research the final stage of the actual preparation begins.  This is the stage where my witch hat gets applied and my spirit speaks through me.  This is where the actual crafting of the spell and magical actions beginnings before the physical development starts.  here is the mental preparation and focus.

Intuitive decisions

During the research portion I write down copies of the recipes that spark my intuition and make me think “yes this is what I want”. When I am done with the personal experience notes I gather the recipes and I put them into piles based on need and topic (all money oils together, all healing oils together etc).   After a while I look at the piles.  I will then take all the recipes of that need (lets work with money for example here) and compare the components in each recipe.

I’ve noticed that it is very common to have multiple recipes in a book related to needs.  There are several different types of money oils I have found in each of my resources.  In noticing this factor I also made a note of the exact nature of the money oil (wealth, employment, fast cash, etc).  This helped me further refine my own product decisions and allowed me to start refining magical and spiritual practices to more specific needs and desires.

I make a list of the herbs and oils I find in each recipe.  From there I look at my herbal correspondence lists from earlier research.  These lists provide excellent resources for future development as associations are already listed and correspondences have started to become known.  Through using the herbs in multiple ways I start to know them very well.  After working with them in a time the knowledge becomes second nature and I just know what herbs to add to a spell or ritual.

Its at this point that I start to write down what oils and herbs are going to be used in what new product.  I often look at what I already have in stock so I can continue to develop working relationships with those herbs.  However I am also always looking for new herbs and minerals to add to my practice.  In each new product release I am working with a new herb or mineral.  The last batch added sea salt to my practice.  This new batch is adding several new herbs and essential oils.

Once I have the herbs and oils decided I can start the actual blending.  After making decisions based on the research and personal experience my intuition decided in the end which herbs and oils to be used for each blend.  Aside from choosing the herbs and oils there is one other essential aspect to the product development with the use of my intuition.  That is the actual ratios of the herbs.

Often times in practice the actual plans end up needing to be changed to an extent.  The ground herbs can take up more or less space than originally planned and envisioned.  In this case slight changes need to be made based on how much of an individual herb I have left as well as for occasionally looking at substitutions.

This is where the intuition and personal knowledge and experience with the herbs comes into play.  The more I know an herb through experience the better I can decide what to substitute and what to add.  This also for me is where being crafty can come into play as I have to let the spirits of the plants and my spirit speak to me much as artists must let their muse speak to them.  The blending of herbs is an art form in its own right.  Its a spiritual art that often goes unappreciated.

Once these are all placed into balance the product has been developed.  I test its use myself and keep some of each batch for my own personal use.  This ensures to me that the quality of the product I send out is the same quality I would use myself.  If I wouldn’t use it I wont sell it.  This philosophy is also why the development of herbal products is tied directly into my own personal spiritual development and magical studies.  The more I study and experience the more I can provide here.

Review: The Magical Powers of the Saints-Evocation and Candle rituals

Magical Powers of the Saints

The book The Magical Power of the Saints: Evocation and Candle books was an interesting read. It was just what it states its about. The book focuses on Saints and candle magic and nothing else. THis book never claims to be Hoodoo or anything than working with saints which is excellent. Its a great introduction guide for working with saints and gaining spiritual knowledge from the practice of working with saints.

Before I read this book I knew about maybe two or three saints. I knew of Saint Joan of Arc, Saint Jude, and Saint Paul. This book while not providing detailed information about the saints provides information on 74 different saints that can be worked with for spiritual and practical gains in our lives. The information provided is direct and to the point.

This book contains 11 different chapters. Each of the chapters focuses on a different aspect of what the author calls “popular religiosity” or the working of religio magic or magic with the saints. The topics of the chapters are varied but provide a cohesive system for working with saints.

The book gets started right away in the first chapter by talking about working with saints and deities. The author begins by telling you a bit about how ancient pagans gave offerings to deities and spirits when asking for something. The author then goes on in to how the saints started to have the same roles and practices used with them. This is popular religiosity. From there he gives a list of saints some with images and some without with their associations, colors, and what they are patrons of. You can start formulating your work right away.

The second chapter deals with the practice of divination before doing any sort of working. Now this is not just about telling things based on as they appear with the cards or tool used. This discussion of divination includes finding out what sort of offerings to give, blocks in the way of the working, and the proper saints and spirits to work with. This chapter also discusses the importance of the diviner priest to know magic and divination.

The third chapter focuses on ancestors and the dead. The author explains how prayers to the ancestors can work with a biblical verse. The author then talks about a concept called the “Mighty dead” which is found in various traditions of witchcraft. He relates this concept to working with saints and ends the chapter with a prayer you can offer to your ancestor for working with them.

The fourth chapter is all about working the candles. Here we get our first taste of the type of work that is ahead of us. The author goes into the history of candles in magic and prayer. The majority of the chapter focuses on several different types of candles and their uses for work. The chapter ends with a “ritual of transformation”

The fifth chapter is really three chapters together. This chapter focuses on reading the signs in the candles as they burn, several different candle spells, and oils for working the candles. This is the spell and correspondence section of the book and provides different spells and rituals for basically every need.

The sixth chapter focuses on the use of the psalms in the bible. The author doesn’t go into a discussion about the use of the psalms merely states that they are a historical magical use. The author then provides a list of the different psalms that can be used in spells and candle work for various needs. They are grouped by need or use in numerical order.

The seventh chapter focuses on aspects of ritual. Here the author talks about incenses, baths, and washes. These are components of different magical practices that can be obtained and add benefit to the other workings. Here the author introduces the concept and how to be ware the costs of those selling washes, baths, and the like.

The eighth chapter is all about putting the practices together. Here the author talks about working with planetary hours on the days. The author also includes arch angels and the hours and items they can be petitioned for. The author also includes ideas on how to make prayer beads and work effective magic that way.

The ninth chapter is about becoming a diviner priest or priestess. Here the author goes into the training that is required to become a diviner priest or priestess. the author also provides a simple but also diverse divination style that a diviner priest or priestess may need to be familiar with in order to complete their training.

The tenth chapter of the book is all about the church that the author is a reverend of. The author includes photo copied images of his certifications to prove he can teach what he teaches and is what and who he says he is.

The last chapter in the book is a final set of advice. Here the author gives a final bit of advice for when seeking the help of a professional root worker, witch, or what ever. Not everyone who offers these services is what they say they are.

All in all the author provided a good basis to start delving into your own work with saints and angelic spirits. While there could have been more lore provided for the various saints and more information about the herbs and incenses and oils, the book will get you started on the path of working with saints and angelic forces. When you combine this work with the recommended reading list the author provides more then enough sources and information to begin feeling comfortable in these practices.

Pagan Blog Project: F is for Freedom

One of the good things that happens when a person chooses to go off on their own spiritual path they realize that they have a lot of personal freedom and power.  For many people this is a good thing are they felt that they had no power or freedom to really experience the Gods or spirits in the religion they original came from.

When a person start their new path the sky is the limit for them  They are not limited by anything said by anyone else.  The only thing that they are limited by is their own thoughts deed and actions.  They are free to experience spirituality and the Gods however they choose.

This new found freedom can also be scary.  Here you have to make all the choices.  No one is telling you how to worship your Gods and how to practice.  This is something that will take time to get used to.  A lot of time the Gods and the spirits are the ones that will teach you and direct you on your new paths.

By trusting your intuition and your spirit guides you will find your path.  You may be given advice like this:

This path is yours.  Walk it freely, and walk it proudly.  Only you know yourself, your path, your craft, and your Gods.  Use that knowledge to freely develop your path.

Why those who seek spiritual connections are always studying

The last few blog entries have been focusing on why pagans and witches are very individual people and why personal truth is so important.  Today is a bit of a continuation on that theme.  Today it’s about why witches and pagans are always seemingly reading a new book or looking for new materials to study,

There is always something new to explore or even something old to reexamine.  With in the realms of spiritual practices and spiritual development there is always something new to learn about.  There are so many different cultures out there that one can always look to new cultures for further inspiration as to where they would like to go or different types of practices.

I’m going to provide a few cultural examples that you can look at to see what I mean when it comes to looking for new things to study and explore to advance your spiritual practices and development.  These are examples of things that I have looked at and thought about for my own personal studies.  Though these will only serve as examples.  From here  I will go back and talk about what exactly this means for you as a seeker and a practitioner.

The first example I am going to cover is that of Germanic Paganism and witchcraft.  These are two spiritual and religious paths that are a part of my personal practice that also inspire and help form the products that this business sells.  This is also a popular culture to explore spiritually right now with more people having interest in Germanic mythology with new pop culture references.

In Germanic paganism there is a lot of lore that can be explored.  Most people start off with the Eddas and Sagas.  With in the Eddas and Sagas there are many tales of magical practices and spiritual works.  This is where most of the concepts of Modern Germanic worship come from such as the Blot and the Sumbel.  The Eddas and Sagas while having an extensive study in themselves, is not the only source of the lore out there.

Many people are familiar with the Grimm’s brothers fairy tales.  These fairy tales actually come from the Germanic forests,  These fairy tales provide another source of wealth for practicing Germanic Paganism and witchcraft.  The tales describe many different spirits and even some of the traditional practices of the Dwarves, Witches, Elves, and other spirits found within Germanic cultures.   These tales provide even further keys into the folk knowledge that create the base of witchcraft and other magical practices.

Aside from the fairytale and the Eddas there are other sources of practical information.  The Rune poems give inspiration for the practice of rune magic which has been mentioned in the Eddas and the Sagas.  By reading the Rune poems a Germanic Pagan begins to study another wealth of information regarding the spiritual practices of the ancient Germanic Pagans.

Even within the Umbrella of Germanic Paganism and practices one could go into even more specific studies.  For example one could focus their attention on the continental practices in old Germany and Norway for example.  Focusing even further on some of those specific tribes.  One person could even focus on the Anglo-Saxon practices (England mostly here for those looking for a region).   One could go so far as to say that even the Icelandic practices and tribal setting would have been different.

While each of these tribes had a base shared language and some base cultural similarities, the names for the Gods and even some of the specific practices were different.  Though they were similar and related enough that the cultures and tribes were able to trade and intermarry and work successfully together in war and in peace.

Those are just a few examples from the Germanic cultures.  There is so much to explore and study within one area of the vast umbrella of Paganism and Pagan spirituality that one will always find something new to learn and study.  Even if a person decides to stick to a specific set of cultural practices and identities ( Germanic paths for example) there will always be something to learn.

Here is a set of examples from a different Pagan culture completely.  Hellenic Paganism or Greek style Paganism has many different facets.  This cultural style of study and practice can be even more difficult and extensive as it is so diverse.  You have on one hand the cults for each city state as well as cults of areas.

Greece because of the way it was organized for many years did not have really a cohesive religion for the culture.  They had in general a pantheon that they all shared with some common festivals, but each area was highly specific.  There were areas where people focused their entire worship on One of the Gods and you had those whose temples were only really visited once a year (The Elysian mysteries for example).

Hellenic pagans from what I have found typically follow one or two specific Gods that are their Patron Gods. While extensive research into the practices of worship in the culture is important in order to form bonds closer to their chosen deities they will most likely focus their attention on studying the cult centers and cult worship of those Gods.

The above examples were specific to Paganism in general as a study.  Now I am going to try and give some examples of magical practices from the view of a witch who is always studying and learning.  This blog does focus on all of these topics so covering both of these topics in this entry is reasonable.

Within magic and witchcraft there are many different ways to practice and types of practices that one can study.  To be honest there are so many options that a newbie often seeking to start practicing witchcraft can feel overwhelmed.  Which is why many find that mastering spellcraft can be near impossible and they wonder if they are doing it right.

In magic you have herbalism, crystal and gem magic, Galdar, Seidr, Trance work, summoning, healing work, poppet magic, astral projection, weather work, ect.  Often times a person may have so many interests that they can’t figure out where to start and will find that practices can overlap.

I’ll take Herbalism for example.  In Herbalism a witch and magician studies the herbs that they work with.  They can use them in powders and in potions as well as in oils, lotions, tinctures, soaps, and other types of charms.  There is also the healing work with herbalism.  Though while one studies making an oil for example they may learn or hear about spell oils from Hoodoo and then start to explore that for further herbal use and practices.

The examples above are one cultures examples of how deep and diverse the study of a cultures religious heritage can be.  The above examples also illustrate just one example of why it is impossible to master the spiritual crafts.  There will always be something new to learn and explore.

This is also why some witches, Pagans, and spiritual people tend to have rather extensive libraries.  Books are used as references in work and in studies and are often to valuable to just borrow from a library when it is needed.

 

Know your craft

It is important to know your craft as a witch, pagan, or spiritual practitioner. One does not simply know their craft through books and study. One must practice and explore their craft in order to really know their craft.

It is often said that Witches dont believe. That they know. This is because they have experienced magic and spells. They have done the rituals and done the book study. Putting them together one gains knowledge and wisdom.

So how does one get to know their craft and path?  One must gain experiences.  By trying new techniques that are read about in books one gains new experiences.  By performing exercises over and over one can gain deeper understanding of the topics they are exploring.  This gains knowledge.

There is an academic study involved in the development of knowledge.  This involves history and cultural studies.  It involved studying mythology and folklore.  It then involves studying practical modern books as well.  From here we gain exercises and techniques to try.

The important thing is that one must actively practice their craft in order to really know the craft they practice.  The practices give us experiences.  These experiences are what give us the potential to access and experience the various types of mysteries mentioned in a earlier post.

Witches experience their craft.  Pagans experience their deities in ritual and in trance.  Shamans experience the spirits that they work with and fight.  Magicians know the magical forces they work with.  Here you could say that experience turns belief into knowledge and inner truths.  In the end this is what it means to really know the truth and the crafts that we practice.

Some witches will choose to practice certain crafts more than others.  Every witch must find their own practice and style of working their craft.  There are never two witches who will practice the same thing.  We must develop our own practices based on our own experiences and tastes.

Knowing our craft comes through study, exploration, testing, failures, and much more.  This takes time and effort but it is worth it.  Find what areas and styles of witchcraft really catch your fancy and drive you “wild”.  Ignite your passions and find your craft.  Create it and craft it.  Learn it and study it make it yours and claim the knowledge for yourself.

~Loona Wynd~)0(

Witches and Personal Truth and Myteries

Religious witchcraft falls under the category of mystery religions.  In mystery religions the focus is not on worshiping the Gods through action and words but on having direct experiences with the Gods and the spirits.  Mystery religions are all about bringing forth the Gods from within you and becoming one with them.

Mystery religions are not religions of the book.  In a mystery religion it is not so much important on how the religion is practiced.  This is actually  a type of religion which is based on experience.  The lore and the rites of the religions are there to guide and direct you towards your interactions with the Gods and spirits and may even provide some context for the meetings.

The nature of these religions means that it is impossible for each witch or participant to ever have the exact same experience.  Even covens of traditional Wiccan practices like Gardnerian or Alexandriean while there is a core set of contexts and practices which provide a foundation for some what shared experiences, in the end each of the members of the covens have their own relationships and their own unique experiences.

Mystery religions can not be learned from a book.  With this statement one may be wondering why there are so many books out there on the market on witchcraft and pagan practices.  The answer is simple. The books provide key concepts and guidelines which can lead the seeker to having their own experiences.  With the books and the concepts within the books a witch is able to begin their understanding and practices for developing their own spiritual path.

This is ultimately the reason why two witches will never practice the same path even within the same tradition or base practice.  Each with must find their own way.  No one path is better than the other paths out there.  It is simply not the path for you.  Even if a path is not perfect for you there may be something in that path that will inspire you or have something to teach you.

Be open and let the spirits teach you.  Find your own wisdom and personal path.  Let your heart guide you and your path can do no wrong.  Go out there and experience life and what the spirits has to offer.  Play and go wild.  Don’t let other people tell you what to do.  This is your path and your journey.  Find your own truths and find your spirituality.

~Loona Wynd~)0(

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