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.
Book Review: Backwoods Shamanism
This book is full of information. At first I wasn’t really sure what to think by the title of the book. The book is titled backwoods Shamanism, and for me most books on shamanism are vastly different from this book. Most books cover spirits of the land, trance work, and some rituals to honor those spirits. This book contains information on working with spirits and some rituals/ways to honor them but it is not your typical book on shamanism.
I’d put this as a mixture of shamanism and hoodoo myself which is what makes the book so unique. The author teaches about working with spirit and how we need to focus on the physical and the spiritual to heal and have holistic lives. Yet his approach to shamanism and shamanic work is not the familiar Native American style. Its more reminiscent of the African traditions which is due to the Hoodoo practices.
This book comes in three primary sections with five different appendix resources. Each section including the appendix actually deals with a specific and unique area of Hoodo/conjure work. This set up makes the book ideal as a reference for a beginner to the craft and spiritual practice that is Hoodoo.
The first section of the book is all about the history and basics of Hoodoo. One thing I like is how the author approached Hoodoo themselves. In many books you get the feeling that unless you were either raised in the south or are African American you can’t practice Hoodoo. He takes a slightly different approach to this view.
The author makes it clear this it is a specific culture or way of life that makes Hoodoo what it is. He makes it clear that if you can respect the origins and the culture that created Hoodoo you can practice it.
The author spends some time talking about the view of God in Hoodoo. He makes it clear that while Hoodoo is not a religion, a relationship with God and some spirits is essential. The view of God the author expresses is not a conventional view either which further shows that Hoodoo is not a religion but a holistic craft that deals with the spirit and the body together.
For those who are new to magic in general the author includes a basic idea about how magic works. He describes the process of working magic known as sympathetic magic or imitative magic.. This is also part of the authors explanation on how and why you will see things like hair, nails, shed skin and much more in Hoodoo workings.
The last bit of information in the foundation of the book is on ancestral veneration. Working with ancestral spirits is one of the key components that make Hoodoo what it is. The author includes the reasons for working with our ancestors as well as how we can work with them and instructions for setting up an ancestral altar.
The second section of the book is one I wish the author had spent more time with. This is the section on home remedies and folk medicine. A major component of Hoodoo is the medicinal work with herbs and treatments. It is here that the author gives information on the medicinal practices in Hoodoo.
Rootdoctors are one of the many names associated with hoodoo practitioners. This is because many rootworkers were also the neighborhood healers. They were the ones with the knowledge of what herbs could be used for healing what ailment. In the areas where Hoodoo was formed there was little to no money to go see a city doctor unless it was a major problem. So they relied on the local Root Doctors.
This section though is a bit too small. While there are instructions on the different medical terms for herbal mixtures and how they are used there are only a small handful of remedies available. The definitions of the types of remedies and the information on the doctrine of signatures is very useful.
The remedies offered include a cough syrup, flu relief, sleep aid, and a general salve. So while there are only a few remedies these are simple and are enough to start a newbie working on holistic medicine for themselves and their family. They are a starting point, and we all need someplace to start from.
Now we get to where the real meat of the work is. The third section in the book is all about the magical practice. The author titles this section Conjure. This section is full of spells, rituals, workings, and many other useful bits of information. This is why many people will buy the book.
The author starts off by going over the importance of performing divination before doing any sort of working. It is a part of the Hoodoo traditions. These readings not only tell you if work needs to be done but also what sort of work needs to be done to correct the situation you are in. The author covers bone reading and playing card reading and gives instructions on how to work with and use both of them.
The author covers mirror work, making a scrying mirror & scrying, container spells, a few bottle and jar spells, poppet, baths, and more. The author provides detailed instructions on how to perform each spell and how they will work.Something I had never heard of before were wish boxes. With the information provided by the author I may just make one myself.
The last section of the book before we get to the appendices and resources is a section on related traditions. Here the author provides what information he can on traditions that are related to Hoodoo or have similar practices. The author includes this information as he believe that there is something about Hoodoo that is attracting more and more people and that these related traditions may have connections to our own ancestral paths or have something that Hoodoo doesn’t and we need in our practice.
The book serves as an excellent primer on Hoodoo and provides a little bit of everything you need to get started in the practice of Hoodoo.
Review: The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates
The book The Way of Wyrd is a fictional story of a Christian Monk who is sent to learn the ways of the Anglo-Saxon pagans. The story is rich and entertaining. The author worked hard to research and present the information in a way that was informative and entertaining. By working the true beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers into this work of fiction the author has brought back the use of stories to transmit knowledge and information.
The book is actually in two parts. The first part focuses on the early aspects of the Monk’s training. Here the monk is very skeptical of all the powers the sorcerer claims to work with and hold. While he works hard to learn all he can learn, Brand (the name of the monk) never really believes the ways of the people or that the powers are real.
In this part of the book the author introduces the basic beliefs of the people. The story actually opens with Brand working with Wulf (the sorcerer) at a healing ceremony banishing an evil spirit. This powerful start to the book illustrates a few of the key practices and beliefs that Brand is exposed to as he begins the training. This ceremony is set after he has completed his journey so we see here that Brand has much to learn and yet he was open to them.
In this first part of the book Brand is highly skeptical of the beliefs and practices. There are some that even scare him. Though he is fascinated with the tales of the Gods and of the spirits he does not appreciate their real value aside from primitive beliefs and practices.
The first powerful ritual that Brand is exposed to is an example of his difficulty in attempting to switch worldviews to learn the beliefs and practices. Here Brand is taught about gathering power from plants and how to properly gather the plant and give it an offering.
Other powerful rituals are experienced in this section. Here the author also goes into reading the omens of nature such as the flight pattern of birds and the way fish swim. The largest concept of Germanic paganism introduced here is the concept of Wyrd and knowing how to read and work with Wyrd.
The final experience in this section of the book Brand has is watching Wulf heal an elf shot horse. When Brand declares the process a fraud Wulf knows then that he must make Brand experience these forces or the mission to learn their ways will be a failure. The experience at the farm and Brand’s declaration of being a fraud.
In the second part of the book Brand is forced to encounter the shamanic aspects of Germanic paganism. Here we learn about spirit flight, how our spirits can be stolen, and how to work a soul retrieval in the practices of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers.
The authors use of the narrative story teaches several elements of Germanic paganism. There are tales of the Gods taught, beliefs about plant lore explored, beliefs of the soul, and much more. The book provides through the story a basic concept and outline of many main beliefs found in Germanic Paganism as well as in Traditional Witchcraft, Anglo-Saxon shamanism, and much more. This book was well researched and written allowing a student to learn concepts in a way that non-fiction books may not be able to portray them.
Animal Familiars for Beginners Book Review
The book by Alexandra Chauran is an excellent book for beginners in Wicca and witchcraft. This book while it focuses on the aspect of working with animal spirits in magic and ritual also covers most of the basic concepts in Wicca. This book overall covers the 8 sabbats, spells, meditation, trance, and spirit work. The only aspect of Wicca that is not covered is deity worship which was not the focus of this book. By eliminating the focus on deity chants and the worship of deities the author was able to touch on basically all Wiccan principles and focus on the work of the book which is connecting spiritually with animal spirits.
One of the definitions of a witch is “One who has a familiar spirit”. In the media there have historically been images of cats, snakes, spider, and bats as witch familiars. Witches and animals who help them in their work have been a part of witch lore for centuries. Often times today modern witches wonder if the idea of working with a pet as a familiar comes from the witch trials or if it comes from an actual historical practice and if one can work with their pets as a magical ally.
The introduction of this book provides excellent insight into what sort of materials you will find within the book. The author first starts off by talking about her personal experiences with animals both spiritual and mundane. The author then goes on and explains what many of the benefits found in the book will be, Finally the author ends with providing a few different real life examples of people who have had experiences with animal familiars. The mixture of history, personal experiences (the authors and other people) and the exercises provide powerful insight to what this book has to offer.
The first chapter of this book covers the history of witches and familiars. The author covers stories from Shakespeare to a few tales of shape shifting in the witchtrials. The author covers here why witches have familiars, what they are, and a few of the forms they can appear in. This is the first time the author mentions the possibility of working not at all with physical animals but animals who may not exist such as Dragons, unicorns, Mythical serpents, and the like. Here we are introduced to the idea that the types of spirits witches can work with are not limited to just those who live and breathe in our worlds.
The second chapter is one that most modern witches and pet owners should really look into. This was the chapter that struck me the most. Like most witches I am an avid pet owner and I have worked some magic with my pets. This chapter in the book gave me new reasons to consider the possibilities of working with my pets within ritual and the home. The key points included in this chapter were things I might not have thought about such as adaptations that a witch may need to make in their practice to have their animals p[resent such as no incense for birds and the need to move altars to places where cats or dogs wont jump on them or knock over the candles and cause fire. The second chapter focused on animals within Pagan homes and how one can work ritual with them. The chapter ends with a simple spell that can be used to find more pagans who are pet friendly considering that some may have allergies and the like.
The third chapter is probably where the reader can most clearly see the Wiccan elements of the book. This is the chapter on actual rituals with pet familiars. Here the author discusses the basic components in Wiccan ritual and how you can work with animal familiars. The circle casting involves animal spirits rather than direct elemental spirits which can be a drastic change for most who practice Wiccan style rituals. After discussing the circle casting the author then provided several different types of spells and rituals that can be performed with pets or other animal familiars.The author then provides two different examples of how wildlife can be used and seen as a focus for the Wheel of the Year. There are sample rituals and concepts provided through out the chapter.
The fourth chapter discusses totem animals and how they can also be considered spirit familiars. The author starts this chapter off with a description of a Marine who got a wolf tattoo after his service. The author provides the story as an example of how as humans we can take on the characteristics of animals both positive and negative. The author the provides a few working examples of how we can use totem animals for strength and courage as well as other aspects we may need to bring out of ourselves in our day to day life. The author then goes into shape shifting as a historical practice and about how we can find our totem animals. Finally the author touches on animals as spirit guides and guardians in meditative work.
The fifth and final chapter in this book is a book on working with wildlife. Earlier in the book the author discussed and mentioned working with incarnate animal familiars. These are animal familiars who we may work with that are not physically present in our lives. Here the author talks about doing meditative practices outside in nature to connect with the animals. The author provides a few examples of how you can work in nature to work with wild animals as familiars and how you can give back to them.
Though this is a very short book each chapter provides significant information for a beginner to get started with. The chapters are concise while providing the needed information. This allows the reader to have a starting point for beginning their journey and allows them plenty of room to have their own experiences and develop their practices from there. This will allow people of any experience level to gain some insight from the book and be able to try new things.
Please comment and let me know if this book review was useful for you or not.
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.