Category Archives: Personal Spiritual Development

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Realizing teachings from spirits

So here is something interesting I thought of recently. I started making my own incense for different workings 10 years ago. At the time I had no recipes. I had no books to guide me other than Cunningham’s herbal encyclopedia and magical herbalism.

I had a mortar and pestal and I had some herbs on hand for different workings (but I was mostly clueless at the time). I realize now that really the ones who taught me how to make incense were not the books. They were in fact the spirits of the plants. Which is why my recipes and practices are as effective and as powerful as they are.

I mention this now because there have been times I have mentioned that the spirits really haven’t taught me all that much. I look back and realize now that the lessons were much more subtle. They actually were more my partners than anything else.

Just like how I’ve always listened to the spirits of the land when it comes to my practice on the sabbats. I’ve always worked and done them really when it felt more energetically appropriate for me and the land that I live on.

The apartment I currently live in was gifted by the spirits of this land. After we left our viewing I said a simple prayer to those spirits asking them that the apartment go to the ones who need it the most, and the right people for the land. The next morning I get a call saying we have the apartment. If that is not spirits working for me and with me, guiding me I dont know what is.

Ancestral Veneration: What it is, types of ancestors, and working with them

Ancestors:
What Types there are and How to work with them

Introduction:

What is Ancestral Veneration

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 two primary ways aside from meditation and spirit travel work that a person can work with their ancestors.  These two forms are the altar and prayers.  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:

First ancestral altar

First ancestral altar

Second Ancestral Altar

Second Ancestral Altar

Ancestor Altar 3

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.

 

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 Spiral Dance

The Spiral DanceThe book The Spiral Dance is considered a classic in modern witchcraft literature.  The author Starhawk put this book out at a time when there was little to no information published publicly on Witchcraft and people were starving for information.  In the 35 years since the original release of The Spiral Dance many more books have been put on the market, but the Spiral Dance remains on the top of many recommended reading lists.

The one down side to this book is that it does focus heavily on the feminist movement and feminism.  At the time the book was written the author was heavily involved in the feminist movement and feminist spirituality, so it makes sense that this book would reflect those interests and activities.  This book is one of the reasons that religious witchcraft is considered to be “women’s religion”.  The theme and focus throughout the book is the use of witchcraft and Goddess spirituality to reclaim women’s rights and women’s power.

The subtext to the title “The Spiral Dance” reads :”A rebirth of the ancient religion of the Great Goddess”.  The text is a very apt description for the information that you find within the book.  When you combine the focus on the Great Goddess with the feminist movement at the time you have a book that covers feminist witchcraft and feminist spirituality and why its important for the world we live in.

Now Starhawk does talk about why feminist spirituality like the Goddess movement is important to men and what Men can get out of the practice of witchcraft.  So while the book is geared towards women and feminist spirituality, there are benefits described for Men and practices of Male witches discussed.  The overall tone though is geared towards women and women’s mysteries.

This book is 13 chapters long.  Each chapter has a specific lesson that expands on the information in the previous chapter.  Within several of the chapters are easy to do exercises and meditations.  These meditations and exercises are provided so that a solitary witch or someone seeking witchcraft can learn practices that will allow them to become witches in their own right.

Each chapter starts out with a ritual or a description of the practices found within the chapter to illustrate the lessons and information found within the chapter.  Some of these stories are fictional and some of them are from experiences within the authors own coven settings.  These personal experience illustrations form some of the most powerful aspects of the book allowing the reader to see what sort of experiences they may have in their own work while not telling them explicitly that these will be your experiences as well.

The first chapter completely discusses witchcraft as a Goddess focused religion.  Here is where we first learn the concept of a Great Goddess and of feminist spirituality.  The author also goes into the history of witchcraft and what exactly witchcraft is as a religion and a practice.  Its a basic starting point illustrating the misconceptions and issues many people have with witchcraft.

The second chapter goes into the worldview of witchcraft.  Every religion has a way of viewing the world.  Here we re provided with a creation myth for the birth of the God and Goddess within this version of witchcraft as well as the essence of the Great Goddess.  Here we are given the concept of the soul/spirit as well as the concepts of energy working and the view on the cosmos.

The third chapter talks about covens.  Here we learn about the common structure of religious witchcraft and the way that this structure functions.  The author illustrates both same sex covens as well as mixed gender covens and why coven structures work.  The comparisson between covens and traditional religious structures provide ways for seekers and students to understand the functional differences between a church and a coven.

The fourth chapter discusses sacred space.  One key component in witchcraft rituals is the creation of sacred space.  This chapter provides several different ways of working this ritual as well as reasons behind the creation of sacred space.

The fifth chapter is all about the Goddess.  This religious witchcraft tradition is Duotheistic meaning it focuses on the worship of a Goddess and a God.  In this chapter we are introduced to the Goddess and her roles within the religion.  We learn how to call her and how both men and women can relate to her.

The sixth chapter is all about the God.  While the Goddess is the focus in the feminist version of witchcraft that the Spiral Dance teaches, the God is still important.  This chapter illustrates the relationship between the Goddess and God and how they need each other and work together to be one.

The seventh chapter is all about the use of symbols within magic.  Magic works through the use of symbols and directing energy related to those symbols.  This chapter in the book has several different spells to try as well as exercises to develop your own understanding of symbols and your own association with symbols.

The eighth chapter is all about the Cone of power.  This particular chapter focuses on Coven based workings, but the concepts of raising and directing energy in the shape of a cone is applicable to the solitary student.  Here we understand what it means in witchcraft when the concept of energy direction and manipulation is discussed.

The ninth chapter is about trance work.  The basic definition of magic given early in the book is the idea and the ability to change ones concious state at will.  This chapter explores the use of trance and the reason why trance work is part of witchcraft.  Basic meditation and trance concepts are addressed here and there are several different exercises within the chapter for trance work and meditation work.

The tenth chapter of the book focuses on initiation.  Solitary witches who read this book will not get as much out of this chapter as a witch who is working for initiation within a coven or specific tradition.  This chapter describes what it means to be initiated and provides a coven based initiation ritual as a sample.

The eleventh chapter in the book focuses on esbats or moon based rituals.  Within witchcraft the moon is sacred and is revered as a symbol of the Goddess.  Moon rituals are typically in many cases working rituals while sabbat rituals are more worship based.  Moon rituals can be based on the full or new moons or other moon phases, though full and new are the most common.

The twelfth chapter in the book focuses on the wheel of the year or the sabbats and holiday celebrations of this tradition of witchcraft.  Here the author provides sample rituals for ideas as to how to honor the sabbats as well as providing information on the lore and meanings behind the sabbats.

The final chapter of this book is focused on developing religion.  Here the author explains the issues that can arrive when religions become based on dogma and established practices and don’t change.  The author explains what exactly witchcraft as a religion is and how it has to continue to change and evolve in this modern world.  Here we learn the dangers of thinking in strict absolute terms as well as in dualistic terms.

Despite the age, this book is useful.  Its a good book for establishing witchcraft as a religion and explaining why religious witchcraft is so different than traditional religions.  The book covers the basics and provides enough information that a solitary seeker man or women can start their own practice and create their own relationship with the God, Goddess, and the Great Goddess.

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.

I: Intuition

Intuition

One of the first things most books on witchcraft and spiritual practices say is to trust your intuition.  If something feels right then do it.  If something doesn’t feel right than it probably isn’t.  If you feel like there is something you need to do or really should be doing than you probably should be doing those things.  These feelings of something needing to be done, and of something feeling right or off are ways that our intuition comes to us and manifests in our world.

There are many different ways that a person can trust and develop a sense of their intuition.  When a person learns to trust their intuition they can really have the world at their feet.  By trusting and working with your intuition a person will essentially “never be guided wrong”.  Your intuition is really your highest self talking to your conscious mind and telling you basically what needs to be done at that moment.  Our intuition is also one of the many ways that our spirit guides can contact us.

Learning to develop a sense of your intuition is typically one of the first things that witches and pagans do.  By developing their intuition a person can better understand messages sent from their Gods and spirits.  It also helps them to better connect to the spiritual forces and energetic needs going on.  By developing a sense of your intuition you also develop a sense of what works and will simply “know” how to work the ritual on that day for that reason.  This is our spirit and ourselves working as one, and when this state is reached one really has become a witch if they practice witchcraft and aware of the spiritual nature of reality if they are not a witch.

For me I have only really recently started to work with my intuition.  For years I knew I had a strong intuition and sense of energetic flows.  I could read energy and see auras.  I was especially sensitive to emotional energy.  For me understanding my intuition and its strength was a scary process.  My readings when I did them were so strong and accurate I scared myself from doing my own readings and for reading for others.  Its only been recently I have realized that this intuition is a gift rather than a curse so I am actively working on recognizing my strengths and listening to my intuition.

The very first time I realized that my intuition would guide me in my magical and spiritual spells was when I created an incense I use in all my reiki and healing work sessions. When I created that first incense I didn’t know what I was making. I just grabbed the herbs I had that dealt with healing energies. I laid those herbs on the floor in front of me and I started to just grab and mix the herbs as seemed right. I don’t remember making measurements or anything along those lines. I just knew that the incense was right. I remembered to write down what I put in the incense so I could try and make it again but aside from that no record was made.

The healing incense that I sell in Mystic Echoes was inspired by and is an offshoot of that original healing incense blend. The core is the same, but there were other factors that personalized the other incense so they are not exactly the same but they are related. The tincture blend is also related. The core is the same with some modifications in both situations to be more generic than the original purely intuitive blend. You can buy those items Tincture & Incense blend

One of the many ways I have started to recognize my intuition has been in casting spells when it seems to be the right time. In the past I have felt a desire to cast a spell or thought that maybe a spell would help deal with this, and never done the work. I never really trusted myself to just do the right thing. In this sense I didn’t trust my intuition to basically tell me what I needed to do for that spell. Now I am being more active in my spell casting. I work my magic when it seems right and when it feels right.

The key way I am developing my intuition when it comes to my magical practices and my spirituality now though is through the development of products for Mystic Echoes and the writing of the exercises and content on the Seeker Sight blog that I also run. By working on both projects I am listening to my inner truths and knowledge and my intuition is guiding me.

With the products I develop for Mystic Echoes I have a concept in mind that I want to work with. I do some research. For example if I were to develop a hex breaker product or products I would look up herbs and items that correspond with hex breaking. I would then just let my intuition look over the list and decide what to use for items. In many cases it also depends on what I currently have available to work with.

I test all of those products as well. So by developing the products I am developing my spirituality, my intuition, my magical practices, and my knowledge of herbs. The herbs seem to work together because I trust that they will work together. My intuition guided me and will continue to guide me in my craft and practices.

I am not sure exactly how I define my intuition. I would call it an inner sense of knowing. I would say that for me my intuition is a combination of things I know within myself and messages and content sent to me through guides, ancestors, and maybe the divine. I don’t necessarily know the difference between which intuitive thoughts and practices are from guides and which is from deep within me. I just know that when I listen to my intuition things seem to work out in the end. When I don’t listen to my intuition things don’t always work out, or I will be tested in the same way or manner until I do listen to my intuition and then do something about it.

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