20 March 2013

Happy Equinox!

Happy Equinox everyone!  A very Happy Ostara to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, and a Happy Mabon to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere :)  Seattle is celebrating the birth of Spring with torrential rain, wind, and general unpleasantness.  I am so going out to buy flowers today.

For those of  you looking for info on a more traditional pagan Ostara, rather than my shadowy one, check out today's article over at The Wild Hunt.  You can also check out my Ostaras past.

18 March 2013

Ostara Shadow Work

It’s almost that time of year again, springtime.  Yay?  I honestly have very mixed feelings about spring.  On the one hand I love not freezing my ass off at the bus stop, on the other hand I’m not especially enamored of being soaking wet either.  Spring in Seattle is a rather soppy affair, with rather absurd amounts of rain, but less of the biting chill that accompanies it’s winter rains.  I love the occasionally dry (ok, less wet) Saturday for getting to early season hikes and getting back out into nature after the cold dark of winter.  I love witnessing the turn of the seasons and the Wheel of the Year.  But you know what I really don’t love?  Pastels.  I don’t like wearing them and I definitely don’t want them in my rituals.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Ostara.  The Vernal Equinox is full of potent energy for growth and new beginnings.  It’s a very hopeful time and shadow workers often need a good dose of hope more than most.  However, I’d rather gouge out my own eyes than attend a sparkly, shiny, “love and light” ritual.  So, naturally, I do things a little differently.  

This Ostara my ritual is going to be about balance and wholeness.  You can’t have light without dark and at the Vernal Equinox the day and night are of equal length - thus light and dark are symbolically of equal strength.  Instead of celebrating the triumph of light over darkness, I’m going to spend my Ostara recognizing both the parts of me that are light and the parts that are dark and what those things give me.  Shadow work is all about recognizing the less pleasant parts of yourself and integrating them, rather than cutting them off or hiding them away - about finding strength in wholeness.  Despite it’s occasionally sinister image, shadow work is actually a very hopeful practice.

My main working is going to involve meditating on some of my less pleasant features.  I’ll write down a list of things I don’t like about myself and try to narrow it down to one specific trait that I think is being the most trouble right now.  Once I’ve selected the one trait to focus on, I’ll burn the list of negative traits - it doesn’t do to dwell on them and there’s always going to be too much to tackle everything at once.  Then I’ll create a sigil to represent that one negative trait.  I’ll use a crayon to draw that symbol on a raw egg and then I’ll hard boil it.  (If I’m feeling like I really need to go the extra mile I might dye the shell black)  Then I’ll eat the egg to symbolize my recognition that my negative trait is a part of me and that I’m willing to work with it, rather than just blacklist it or try to remove it.  

There’s no banishing at Ostara, just gentle acceptance and willingness to grow.  Negative traits can be a problem, but they can also be teachers.  My avoiding a particular project might teach me that I need to solve an interpersonal problem with a teammate, or that I’m afraid of what will happen when the project is finished.  My shocking inability to get off my ass and go running (even though I really want to) teaches me that I’m still clinging to the image I had of myself a year ago (when I ran four times a week) and don’t want to be smacked in the face with how far I’ve fallen off the wagon.  It’s hard to look beyond what we don’t like about ourselves to really figure out why those things bother us so much.  Ostara is the time to be a bit more gentle with yourself and take baby steps.  We’ll save the more drastic measures for the waning half of the year.

08 March 2013

Creating a Shadow Mirror

Everyone who has ever seen or read any version of Snow White knows the famous line, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all."  The idea of magick mirrors goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, with the goddess Hathor possessing the most famous magick mirror of them all.  Magick mirrors have been used throughout the ages, with contemporary witches most commonly using the black mirror.  Your typical black mirror is used for scrying - a type of divination that involves gazing into the mirror to induce visions or a sort.  In his book, Shadow Magick Compendium, Raven Digitalis introduces the idea of creating a special black mirror for use in shadow magick.

Recently I've been working with the idea of mirrors and looking deeply into oneself, so I figured it was about time for me to make a Shadow Mirror.  Here's how I did it :)

You'll need:
A plain black frame, at least 5x7
Black acrylic spray paint that works on glass
A small container of acrylic black paint
A paint brush
A silver leaf pen

The most important item is your picture frame.  It should be relatively plain and it must have a sheet of glass in it (no broken or chipped glass).  If it has one of those little stand up legs in the back, so much the better.  Otherwise you'll need to get a stand.  I happened to have an old 8x12 frame in my closet from when the local frame shop was having a 2 for 1 sale, so that bit was easy.  The herbs I needed I had in my kit, as well as a silver leaf pen.  The rest of the items were easily found in my local Fred Meyers.

The first thing I did was gather my herbs and grind them into a powder in my mortar and pestle.  I used mugwort, wormwood, damiana, sandalwood, mandrake, and a little dark goddess incense.  

Then I headed out into my garage to start painting.  I took the back off the frame so that the inside of the glass was exposed.  I then applied two coats of spray paint to the back of the glass.  I did this so that I'd have a nice smooth surface to look at when I worked with the mirror.

Once the spray paint was reasonably dry (I gave it an hour per coat), I mixed my crushed herbs with the liquid acrylic paint.  Depending on your herb to paint ratio this should end up about the consistency of tempera paint (the gloopy stuff you used in elementary school to paint banners).  

I used a small foam brush to apply my paint/herb goo to the back of the glass.  I applied a pretty darn thick layer (I'm pretty sure that glass is never coming out of that frame again, which is fine for my purposes).  I then set it in a cool, dark place to fully dry for 48 hours.

When it was done drying I had me a shiny new black mirror.  All that was left was to clean off the fingerprints and consecrate it.  

To consecrate it I cast a circle, burned a little incense, and called on my deity.  Then I wrote a sigilized version of my mirror incantation around the rim of the mirror with my silver leaf pen, in Theban.  The full incantation is: Mirror, mirror on the wall, show the shadows of us all.  Show me truth sharp as a lance; take me to the shadow's dance.

Once it was fully consecrated I thanked my deity and dispelled the circle.  I'll be keeping it in the closet with my other tools, careful to keep it out of direct sunlight.  I've got some New Moon Rituals that are just begging for a Shadow Mirror, so I look forward to using it very soon.

05 March 2013

Getting Started - Part II - Working With Others

Once you've done a little research and know enough to ask the right questions, it's time to jump into the Magickal/Pagan community.  Depending on where you live that might be as simple as heading to the closest open Sabbat or asking questions at your local metaphysical store.  Or, it might be quite a bit more difficult.

Online Community

In this day and age the magickal community is just a click away - simple right?  If only.  First off, there are a lot of different online communities and each one has a different character.  There's Facebook, Tumblr, Witchvox, PaganPages, PFI, COG, and many other places to choose from.  Some communities are easy to access and are full of people just starting out, others are much more difficult to get into and are often full of elders. You'll have to try them out and see which one best fits who you are and how you like to communicate.

There are two MAJOR drawbacks to online community: lack of vetting and rampant miscommunication.  Anyone can get online and call themselves the grand high poobah of anything.  It can be really hard to know if someone is actually what they claim to be and if the information they're giving you is accurate.  Of course, there are also plenty of trolls out there that will give you bad answers because they think it's funny.  They are douche bags.  This is why I always recommend getting multiple answers to your questions.  The more answers you get, the easier it will be to see which ones are way out of left field - making them less likely to be accurate.  Of course, sometimes the wacky answers are the most inspired, but it's often best to leave that kind of exploration until you've got a better foundation to work with.

The other, and possibly biggest, problem is miscommunication.  Just because you can make yourself understood in person doesn't mean you can make yourself understood online.  Things like humor, sarcasm, emotions, etc., don't really translate well into text alone. It is really easy to be rude unintentionally online and a lot of people are quick to anger at any imagined slight.  Don't get yourself into a Witch War just because someone forgot to add a winky face to show they were joking in a post. 

Also, a lot of magickal concepts are pretty darned complicated and can only be fully explained in person.  Have you ever tried to describe the feeling you get when you know you've cast your circle successfully?  It's so much easier to show someone in person then to try and explain it in text. Images, animated gifs, and streaming video have made things a lot easier in recent years, but there's still no substitute for being there.

In-Person Community

Depending on where you live, finding in-person community can be fairly difficult.  There are still a lot of places where being "out of the broom closet" is still a very risky choice, and even in otherwise open places (college campuses, major cities, etc.) folks still might need to keep their magickal tendencies a secret from co-workers of family.  Joining any in-person community raises the risk of someone who doesn't know your magickal side happening onto it be accident.  If you're deeply in the broom closet you will need to think carefully about how much risk you're willing to bear.

The first step in finding in-person community is often a trip to your local metaphysical shop.  Occult bookstores are a sort of unofficial community center for magickal folk.  They'll often have flyers or notices for local magickal events and the owners usually know what groups exist in the area.  Many metaphysical shops will actually host workshops and rituals with local groups, so they're a great place to start.  Next, check Witchvox.com for listing of local groups and events in your area.  Lots of magickal and, most especially, Pagan groups will post their events up on Witchvox and a lot of elders will have personal listings there.  Any group or person who has posted their contact info on Witchvox should, at least, be willing to talk to folks who are just starting out.

Once you've found a local event or group you'll need to approach them.  Public events are a great first step toward joining a local community.  Groups expect new folks to come to open events, that's why they're open.  They should make and rules and instructions clear in advance, so you'll know what you're getting into and what, if anything, will be expected of you.  Some groups that put on public events are amazing, others are total crap.  Go to as many different things as you can, so you can find out which groups are worth learning more about.

If you find a group that you really like, it's time to look into joining them.  This is where it can get really tricky.  If you've been to an open event chances are you've had a chance to talk to some members of the group and hopefully get to know them.  If you have, that's great.  It will make figuring out your next steps very simple.  Unfortunately, some groups, particularly longstanding ones, will have an insane and complicated dance of manners and etiquette they require from seekers, and sometimes they won't tell you what the rules are.  These aren't the most welcoming groups in the world and I tend to get frustrated with them and go find a more approachable group.  Unfortunately, these finicky groups often have some of the most knowledgeable elders so it's a toss up as to whether they're worth the bother (of course some of these groups are just a hive of ego and meglomania). 

If you do find a group and are able to join them remember - just because you've joined a group doesn't mean you're stuck with them forever.  People grow and change over time.  The group might not be what you thought it was, your needs might chance, the group itself might change.  There will probably come a time when you'll need to move on and that's completely normal.  I don't know anyone that found their perfect group on their first try.  Honestly, I don't know anyone that's found a "perfect" group at all.  Every group has its challenges and it's up to you to decide when to stick it out and when to head for the hills.

Finding A Teacher

Finding a one an one mentor seems to be the Holy Grail for a seeker.  I can remember how badly I wanted some experienced person to take me under his or her wing and reveal the secrets of the universe (like they do in so many books and movies) back when I was starting out. Depending on where you are, who you are, and what you want to learn finding that kind of apprenticeship may or may not be possible.  I can't really give advice for finding that kind of mentor because I never found one. It is much, much easier to find group classes and workshops.

You can find in-person classes the same way you find in-person events and local groups.  Once you find a potential class be sure to check out who's teaching it.  Has it been offered before?  Can you contact people who have taken the class or worked with the teacher?  What's the teacher's reputation?  There are a lot of amazing teachers out, but there are a lot of mediocre (or crappy) ones too.  It should always be possible to contact a teacher and ask questions before you commit (and pay) to any class.

There are also a lot of online classes available these days.  Many well known community elders, like Kerr Cuhulain and T. Thorn Coyle offer online classes - which is a great way to learn from a master.  There are also online schools that can offer a huge variety of magickal learning.  Of course, as a graduate and faculty member, I'm quite biased towards the Grey School: an online non-denominational school (we teach magick, not religion).  At the Grey School you can learn just about every major magickal practice out there while working at your own pace.  It's also got an amazingly supportive community built into it, which I love - like I said, I'm rather biased.

In the end, you'll just have to jump in and see what works for you. 

Back to Part I

Seattle Workshop - Urban Magickal Self-Defense

Saturday April 6th, 2013 3pm-5pm

Learn magickal methods to increase your awareness, prevent being hassled in a crowd, improve your work area, and safeguard your home. We’ll be looking at auric control, magickal camoflauge, wards, witch bottles and more. This workshop is appropriate for people of all levels of skill and experience, from any path. All you’ll need is an open mind.

Join me afterwards for dinner and an informal chat at a local eatery, or take the fabulous Spooked in Seattle ghost tour.

$20 per person, Cash or Credit Card

    102 Cherry St.
    Seattle, Washington 98104

Phone    (425) 954-7701
Email    reservations@spookedinseattle.com
Website    http://www.spookedinseattle.com

01 March 2013

Getting Started - Part I

For the most part, this blog is for folks who have been working with magick for a while.  What I do is usually pretty advanced and I rarely bother to spell things out for the new folks.  This post is different.  I spend a lot of time over on Tumblr and have seen so many posts along the lines of, "Hey, I'm new to magick/witchcraft/etc.  Can somebody help me figure out how to get started?"  This is my answer to that question.  These are personal opinions and are not the end all and be all.  I'm a solitary eclectic witch with strong Wiccan tenancies, so my answers are going to be skewed towards that flavor of magick.

First Steps

The first thing any honest seeker should do is read up on magick.  There are tons of books and websites out there with information on getting into magick of all flavors (check out the suggested reading list at the bottom of this entry).  Read as much as you can from as many traditions and styles as you can and find out what resonates with you.  Magick in general and witchcraft in particular is very personal.  There is no one right way for people to do things - but there probably is one way that will feel the best, most natural and fulfilling, to you.  Some books will tell you that you HAVE to do things a particular way to get results - that usually means that the author's tradition says so.  I've never found that to be the case, which is why I'm not a traditionalist.

If you're looking into all this primarily for the religious/spiritual aspect, rather than the magick, finding what feels right is even more important.  Your relationship with deity is just that - YOURS!  Read the poetry and mythology surrounding the path that interests you the most.  Read books that detail those specific paths.  See if you find any particular deities that resonate with you, deities you might want to have a personal relationship with.  Maybe you'll find that you don't want to work with particular deities or pantheons and would prefer to work with archetypes, ideas of nature, or just the energies of the universe - that's just fine.

Maybe you're not interested in finding a new religion at all, but just want to get into the practice of magick - no problems there either.  If you've got an existing religion you're happy with you can bring the practice of magick to it, adapting the forces called on in your work to those of your religion.  If you're an atheist or agnostic you can think of the spirits called on in most spells as mere symbols, or you can omit them and work directly with the energies they personify.  I started out as an atheist witch, but over time came to know forces that felt an awful lot like deity to me so I became a polytheist.  I've also known folks who came into witchcraft believing in deity that switched over to atheism. Many of the books you'll find do approach magickal practices from a religious standpoint - don't discount them just because you don't like the tone.  You can look at the magickal practices of any tradition and learn their techniques without buying into their viewpoint.


It's ok to experiment with both religion and magick.  If you're not sure what kind of practitioner you want to be give several different styles a try.  In terms of magick, try a little witchcraft, ritualcraft, meditations, Hoodoo, Ceremonial Magic, etc.  Try out the different styles that interest you.  Almost every tradition has a few beginner practices (spells, meditations, trance work, etc.) that you can try without needing to necessarily be of that tradition.  For example, almost everyone has done the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram at least once, regardless of whether they like Ceremonial Magic or not.  So to, almost everyone has done some form of candle magick or rootwork regardless of whether they consider themselves Hoodoo conjure folk or not.  Experiment and see what feels good to you.

And yes, you can experiment with the Gods.  When I was first starting out I did a number of ritual "meet and greets" with different deities.  You can do a ritual where you say that you want to get to know a deity to find out if you want to work with him/her/it and if he/she/it wants to work with you.  Most deities are pretty understanding of new folks and would rather you got to know them (and vice versa) before committing to anything.  Just be respectful, open, and honest - they'll know if you're not.

The same applies to any group you want to work with or elders you approach as teachers, but I'll talk more about working with others in my next post.

On to part 2 - Working With Others

Suggested Reading List (read all of these and you'll know enough to sort fact from fiction)

Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner - Scott Cunningham (an excellent intro)
Witchcraft Today - Gerald Gardner (the one that started the modern movement)
Charge of the Goddess - Doreen Valiente (the best ritual poetry I've ever read)
Complete Book of Witchcraft - Raymond Buckland (also known as "Uncle Bucky's Big Blue Book")
Real Magic - Issac Bonewits (how magick actually works, and doesn't work)
The Spiral Dance - Starhawk (west coast eco-paganism)

The Triumph of the Moon - Ronald Hutton (the real history of modern Wicca)

Witchvox - The best site on the web for information on Wicca and Witchcraft.  Also a great place to find others in your area.
The Wild Hunt - Some of best actual Pagan journalism out there.
The Pagan Newswire Collective - another great Pagan news site
The Grey School - Accessible non-denominational magickal education.
Patheos -  a wonderful site with blogs and info from respected members of the community