Process

16043315844_201ba67481_nIt’s always something of a question as to whether to let someone look behind the curtain at your creative process.  It’s messy back there–blobs of ink, half-formed words, trailing threads, and heavens forfend those dangling participles.  Words themselves have been slippery fishes of late, and I find myself turning to solid crafts that satisfy my hands, like knitting, drawing, and beading.

Still, take for example the sigil crafted for Crow this month.  You can get a pretty good idea of it from the picture at the head of this post.  Yes, it’s still rough, but it’s showable, particularly for an article dealing with artistic process.  Sigil work, at least as I see it, isn’t just the tracing of lines over a witch’s wheel.  Sure, you can start there, but if there is to be any spark, any soul in the magical anchor, there has to be more than that.

To paraphrase Jason Miller, the most powerful sigils are the ones wrested directly from that Beyond space and brought into being on this plane.  That jujitsu match is ugly. There are many false starts, no little dismay, and often a feeling that this sigil is always going to look like crap and there’s nothing you can do to tell it otherwise.

This is where a child comes in handy. Inner, outer, literal or metaphorical–let the kiddies out to romp.

Stop wrangling and start playing.  Tussle, cross things out, let colors cohabit that would make Andy Warhol wince. Sigil crafting is a protean art.  Hold onto it too tightly and Awen slows to a trickle, left with nothing more than a madwoman’s scrawl across a restaurant napkin. Let go and see the lines swell with color and form, twisting around your mind until you know there is no other way for them to be.

It sure as hell ain’t pretty, but it’s process.

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Danger: New Thought Processes Ahead

Here's what a real live book of Ovate field notes looks like--messy huh?

Here’s what a real live book of Ovate field notes looks like–messy huh?

I’ve been undecided about what to do on the New and Full Moons each month for 2015. Last year was spent courting Cerridwen and cultivating Awen through the Cauldron Born ritual.  As I’ve said before was an absolutely invaluable experience. Now I find myself asking, “What comes next?”

One of the things that came out of my final ritual for Cerridwen was working with the 12 winds of Irish tradition. Despite my Sun sign being the ever earthy Capricorn, the most predominant element in my natal chart is in fact Air. It seems like a logical extension to incorporate that nature as much as possible into my practice. The Irish winds, which I first read about in the OBOD bardic course, provide a non-Golden Dawn derived structure for laying out ritual space. I want to try shaking up my paradigms a bit, I feel like I’ve gotten a bit too comfortable to be ritually creative in some ways.  This would also be incorporating some more Irish flavor in my work, which has not been a culture I found myself particularly drawn to beyond Lugh (ALLTHETHINGS!) and possibly Macha. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about poking about the Irish lore, partly because I have little to no known heritage from that land, and partly because I’ve been trying to stick to a Welsh-focused practice of late (despite some academic dabbling in Powwow). But it’s also true that gods and spirits seem to come and go as they please with little regard for maintaining the purity of their culture of origin (hello, Hekate!). So, in the long run, is incorporating a bit of obscure Irish color correspondence a grievous offense? I don’t think so, and I’ll have to count on the Winds letting me know if it’s otherwise.

I’ve also been trying to work more with the animals that actually live on my land. I spent quite a while working with what I term the Ancestral Tribal Spirits, but now it’s time to sink myself more deeply into the ecology of the Assabet River bioregion. Because I was trying to make a triple set of correspondences with the Irish winds, colors, and local animals I settled on 12 beasties that can be found if not in my backyard then within my town. These are: bobcat, fisher, crow, bluejay, sheep, snake, coyote, skunk, swan, toad, pig, and turkey. I’ve slowly been gathering skulls or other bones from all of these creatures, in order to deepen my connection and eventually create focus bottles/boxes for them.  During the last dark moon, I worked heavily with a fisher skull, painting it and devising a sigil to capture its essence. This month will be crow.

But now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t break apart these two tasks–the task of meditating on and learning the nature of the winds, and also then reaffirming my relationships with the local nature spirits.  Initially I was going to paint the bones in the color of the corresponding wind, but in some cases this just doesn’t seem to gel properly–for instance, bluejay definitely resides in the Spring/East, but the Wind Corcair (translated as crimson or purple) really doesn’t seem to suit.  So having talked all this through with you, dear readers, I will likely be focusing on the winds for the full moons, and doing the bone work for the dark moons.  I have a bit of catching up to do with the Winds, namely Temen (NNE) and Alad (ENE), but I think it’s doable.

And with any luck, there will also be some degree of blogging for your reading pleasure.  These may just be pictures, as many of the Cauldron Born posts were, but I hope it proves interesting nonetheless.

Charm for an Anxious Child

15844867185_9693521703_zWhen I came home on Sunday, Hufflespawn’s room was an absolute mess. Not a surprise, I mean the kid’s four, it happens.  But when I told him it was time to clean up, he was adamant that we couldn’t because all the stuff on the floor was a booby trap for monsters, and if we cleaned then the monster could get in.

I now had some choices:

a) Tell him there’s no such thing as monsters and leave the room a mess.
b) Tell him there’s no such thing as monsters and force him to clean his room.
c) Provide another solution to the monster problem, which removed the barrier to cleaning the room.

I went with option c), and said, “Well, the problem is that while this is great for catching monsters, it’ll also catch mom and dad if we need to come in here and that wouldn’t be cool. So, I’ll tell you what. Let’s make something to keep the monsters out that we can hang on your door. Then you’ll know if one is trying to get in, but we can still keep the floor clean. Deal?”

15657509200_57f67b1203_z“We get to make a REAL booby trap? Okay!”

Now, I’m sure people will read this and say to themselves, “There’s no such thing as monsters.  Why encourage fantastical thinking when it’s something that he’s going to need to outgrow?” In my mind, it’s not a matter of real vs. imaginary.  It’s a matter of trust–I remember what it was like as a kid to have a fear of something monstrous and have an adult brush it off as imaginary.  Telling a kid not to worry because something isn’t “real” rarely works.  Their fear is very real to them–denying the validity of that fear just makes the child distrust you.  Now, this isn’t to say that you need to feed into the fear or exacerbate it, but you can respect your kid’s fear and work with them.  In this case, I hear my son telling me that he doesn’t feel safe, so my job as a parent is to empower him to feel secure in his surroundings.

This is where magick can be a wonderful tool.

I grabbed some bells and some red worsted cotton yarn and measured three lengths that were as long as Hufflespawn is tall.  We knotted them together and I had him hold the tail as I began to braid them together. We would braid for the length of his palm from wrist to middle finger, then thread a bell onto the center strand and continue braiding. At each bell, we said a little rhyme:

Ring-a-ding-dong,
No monster likes this song!
Ring-a-ding-dell,
Bells make monsters yell!
Ring-a-ding-dee,
Monsters run from me!

When we finished, we tied it to his door. As promised, it makes a jangling noise when people go in or out, and Hufflespawn is quite proud of his monster trap.

Oh, yeah, and the floor is clear, too.

Kitchen Witchery: Fire Cider

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The same day that Sarah F. and I were making hag tapers, we were also cooking up a batch of fire cider.  Actually, it was the fire cider that was the impetus for the get-together, as apparently someone, not the person who originally wrote down the recipe,* has decided to sue anyone marketing a similar product under the name “fire cider.”

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So in the good ol’ Druidic spirit of “up yours!” Sarah suggested we brew our own. Here’s the original recipe:

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Make Your Own Fire Cider
It’s fun, simple, and easy to make. There are hundreds of variations on this recipe. Here’s the original.

½ cup grated fresh horseradish root
½ cup or more fresh chopped onions
¼ cup or more chopped garlic
¼ cup or more grated ginger
Chopped fresh or dried cayenne pepper, whole or powdered, to taste.*

Optional ingredients: turmeric, echinacea, cinnamon, etc.

* To taste means should be hot, but not so hot you can’t tolerate it. Better to make it a little milder than too hot; you can always add more pepper later if necessary.

Place herbs in a half-gallon canning jar and cover with enough raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least three to four inches. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Place jar in a warm place and let set for three to four weeks. Best to shake every day to help in the maceration process. After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs and reserve the liquid. Add honey to taste. Warm the honey first so it mixes in well. “A little bit of honey helps the medicine go down…” Your Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy, and sweet. Rebottle and enjoy! Fire Cider will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool pantry, but it’s better to store in the refrigerator if you’ve room. A small shot glass daily serves as an excellent tonic or take teaspoons if you feel a cold coming on. Take it more frequently if necessary to help your immune system do battle.

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We also added golden seal to the mix, since Sarah had some in her amazing and impressive herbal stash.  We decided to leave out the cinnamon, since it didn’t quite seem to blend well with the prodigious amount of horseradish we ended up adding to the brew.  The kitchen smelled nothing short of spicy and wonderful.

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I’ve always loved making potions. Happily, my mother and father indulged my early attempts at chemistry and herbalism, though they sometimes despaired that I had yet again ruined or made unusable some container with my concoctions.  Probably the most successful creation of my youthful dabbling was a weedkiller made by soaking black walnuts in water for a couple of weeks.

The fire cider promises to be much tastier.  I’ve been faithfully shaking my jar, so it should be ready the day I’m scheduled to close on my new home.  I love it when things come together!

*Rosemary Gladstar is the creatrix of the recipe. She also has a video describing how to make her original version of fire cider.