Element Earth

Roughly a year ago, Awen began smacking me upside the head to do a series of paintings for the elements. (It’s true, sometimes Awen hurts.) I’ve obviously been sitting on this inspiration for a while now, but I think the brew’s been boiling for long enough.

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At the last full moon, I scoured the conservation land for as many different types of leaves as I could get my grubby little Ovate hands on. The results were: four types of oak (red, white, black, pin), American chestnut, staghorn sumac, hawthorn, striped and red maple, sassafras, fern, birch, and beech.

15547038782_23c9ad4a04_kI pressed them between the pages of the Oxford Classical Dictionary (yes, its abbreviation really is OCD) for two weeks while my brain played with the patterns. Finally, in a rare two hours of free time, I prepped the canvas board with acrylics and began arranging the leaves.  Where they didn’t contact the wet paint directly, I used PVA glue to secure them.

15360891228_4e913c87dc_hThe next step was to fashion a stencil that could be used on all four paintings for the elemental symbols. Once it was in place, I used metallic gold spray paint to create the Earth motif. Finally I cleaned up the edges with various shades of Sharpie to make the gold really pop.  This was the final result.

Next stop: Water.

Strategic Sorcery Homework #3

Druid Bugout Bag and Mobile Working Altar

The planetary power exercise took a cleansing ritual of our old property to a whole new level. The following took place on the 5th of April 2012, Day of Jupiter, Hour of Mercury.

Tools: smudge bundle (white sage, common sage, and lavender, the last two being grown on the property), dagger, hurricane water, salt, talisman (upright pentacle, seal of Mars in the center, Jupiter to the left, Mercury to the right–on a post-it note).

The working altar was set up in the kitchen, as it was the center of the house.

Divination as to the outcome: Four of Pentacles, Ace of Pentacles, High Priestess.

Process: First, cleansed the hose/drove out the critters, working from basement to attic (counter-clockwise on each room and level), by Fire and Air with smudge bundle, saying:

I cast you out by Fire and Air,
I cast you out by the steel of my blade,
I cast you out by the force of my will.
You cannot hide from me,
You are not welcome here.
Flee before me!
The grasping tendrils of smoke drag you away, far from this place.
By the storm of my heart, the flames of my will and the strength of my arm, I cast you out!

Then, purify and bless with Water and Earth, using hurricane water (from Sandy) and salt, again working up from basement to attic, but moving clockwise.

I bless and purify this place, by Water and Earth, of any stain of sorrow or pain.
May this home be blessed by the love of Water.
May this home be blessed by the gifts of Earth.
Pain turns to strength and sorrow becomes wisdom.
Shine, that the light of this place may join the greater Light.

The results were immediate. Both my (ex-)husband and I have been able to work in the house without anxiety. We also had a rash of new interest in the listing; this does coincide with the usual spring real estate boom, but it was waaaay more than we had last year.

Gale Night

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The Greeks considered Air to be hot and wet, but in winter, its bite can be brutal. A slicing intellect, a keen wit, the wind is a deadly opponent, blinding the unwary and sucking warmth from flesh and bone. Untempered by the other elements, it desiccates and embrittles until the barest breath shatters the victim.

But from the gale’s cold and deadly blade shines an unparalleled beauty. No sight is more clear than the sun shining through a winter’s dawn. No breath is as pure as the one that stings the nose and lungs, then rises steaming back into the clouds. Focus on breath. No act is so simple, and none is more difficult.

Hail Wind, Dawn Breath of Spring!

Ice Night

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Water seeps into the tightest crack. No matter how firmly you shut your mind, your will against it, Water finds a way through. The fallacy that emotions can be bent to will or intellect is as ridiculous as trying to stem the pull of the Moon on the oceans—yet is nonetheless touted throughout our culture. “Man up.” “Don’t be a crybaby.” “Get over it.” Oh, it may work for a time, maybe even years, but eventually the damn will break and you must deal with the flood that was ignored for so long.

But Water is not only the raging sea. It can bring a deep peace and calm in the midst of a firestorm. The same way it flows through fissures in the earth is the same way it trickles into a shattered heart, filling the cracks and holding the pieces suspended until they can mend. Water heals and nurtures, provided it has the room to resist stagnation. It is the stuff of life, a miracle and a gift to all.

Hail Water, Midnight Pool of Winter!

Stone Night

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The essence of Earth is stability and strength. In the deep of winter, frozen soil holds stones and pebbles immovable. Cool and dry, Earth is the densest and most static of the elements.

I used to believe that emotions were the greatest threat to stability, like the pounding of waves on the shore grinding pebbles into sand. But an excess of intellect can also be detrimental, subversive thoughts eating away at an already shaky foundation. Passion can likewise burns away the stoutest of roots, destroying a forest from beneath.

Earth need not stand in opposition to her brothers and sisters. Water, Air, and Fire can shape and hone Earth’s solid foundation, creating circulation and an environment where living things can grow. It is a question of balance, of how each element supports its fellows. Building up is tempered by tearing down. Both processes are necessary in order to achieve a dynamic balance.

Tonight I give thanks for the strength and solidity of Earth, for the firm base it creates for the rest of my work. I give thanks for the fruits that I eat, for the frozen grass beneath my feet. I give thanks for the sensual pleasures available in this life, for the cup of tea after a hike in the cold, for the scent of cinnamon wafting from the kitchen, for my son’s wet puppy kisses while I’m cooking.

Hail Earth, Twilight Stone of Autumn!

More on the Vanic Soul Map

Casting cloth & soul map

This week, I’m going to talk a bit more on my casting cloth/soul map. I use this both for regular rune (and hopefully soon ogham!) castings, as well as for a more detailed soul-map reading. When casting runes, I’ll usually take a handful and toss them on the cloth, then interpret them in relation to whichever elemental quarter they occupy. If a rune happens to land smack in the center of one of the tribal circles, then I’ll pay extra attention to it, and consider it to be advice either coming from that Tribe, or pertaining to an area of life “ruled over” by said Tribe. So for example, finding othala in the Bull circle would indicate that there needs to be a focus on the hearth and home, also perhaps establishing boundaries or paying attention to right action in relation to family and/or community.

For a more detailed reading, I use a modified version of Kaldera’s soul map system, focusing on how the Vanic Tribes can manifest their influences on the body-soul complex.*  I’ve expanded a couple of groupings since I use 19 tribes (whereas Kaldera has 17 positions), as well as rearranged some other associations. So far, though, it’s been working out nicely, and still serves as a good diagnostic tool despite the change in flavor.

The map can be divided into five regions, four elemental, and one central axis. The Core gives an overall look at the health of an individual; the Elemental regions provide details on four major areas of a person’s being. These are as follows:

Vertical Axis—The Core
Cat: the astral body
Bull: the physical body & well being, health.
Boar: the higher self, connection to the divine

Earth Tribes—Blood & Bone
Serpent: chi/energy flow; the unconscious, possible unhealed wounds which may affect the situation
Frog: vitality, ability to self-heal, adaptability
Goose: lineage, effects your ancestors may have upon the present situation
Hare: creativity, sexuality, lust for life

Water Tribes—The Dreaming Sea
Salmon: wyrd & fate, not limited to ancestral
Swan: ability to achieve mystical union
Seal: the emotions, empathic ability
Otter: balance

Air Tribes—The Wind-Honed Blade
Eagle: the intellect, mind
Crane: the will, discipline
Owl: woo, innate psychic ability
Raven: memory

Fire Tribes—Hearth & Embers
Deer: guiding spirits
Ram: honor, reputation
Horse: what sort of path you’ve made for yourself and how fast you’re riding down it
Bee: luck

As to the stones used to diagnose each aspect of the map, my numbers are basically the same, but I thought I would dowse for them independently just to check (since this was the method Kaldera originally used to determine how many he should use). The only changes are one more normal stone, and two more wyrd ones. That leaves us with 19 normal stones, 5 weak, 6 exceptional, 6 blocked, 7 wyrd,** and 1 missing or void.

The procedure for a reading is much the same: a person draws a stone for each Tribal position to diagnose the level of health in that area. If there are areas which are blocked or wyrd (or otherwise require further explanation), a rune or card is then drawn to try to clarify the situation.

I’ve only used the soul map a handful of times now, but I find it much more intuitive for my wiring than the original version (which is hardly surprising, I suppose). For other who have asked about running with this idea, I found Juniper’s writings on how she went about creating her casting collection to be most helpful when it comes to creating divination systems—it gave me the impetus to take a great idea that I loved but couldn’t quite mesh with, and make the changes necessary to let it work with my wiring, my worldview.

I hope other folks will be inspired to make their own systems, whether based on Kaldera’s, Juniper’s, or completely from their own bag. I love seeing what works for different people and I’m glad I’ve finally come to the point in my own studies where I’ve been able to branch out (sorry, druid pun!) and do the same.

—A.V.

*Disclaimer: it should be noted that this is not channeled material (i.e. not THE ONE TRUE PATH!), but a creative work in progress—take that for what you will.

**While I basically agree with Kaldera’s definitions for the stone categories, I am a big believer in wyrd not being a fixed and inevitable track—even if gods or wights are involved, there is always a choice. So I see the wyrd stones as being indicators of divine influence or proddings, rather than an inescapable fate.