In Search of the Holey

honeycomb_2People who do magic, who really roll up their sleeves and have altar dust under their nails, know that is not a certain thing. I’ve been searching for a holey stone since I first heard of them over seven years ago. The are primal talismans, formed by wind and water cutting a perfect window into living stone. Lucky is the Druid who can find one.  Like any magical geegaw, they can be bought online, but that seemed like cheating. Power comes from rarity and from the effort in acquiring an object.

Push finally came to shove, and I needed some sort of holey stone for a particular piece of magical tech that I have been hankering to craft for nearly a year. That stone was the only thing holding me back from having quite a useful little ally in the ol’ esoteric toolbox. I’d been feeling called to visit Salem, and have found many strange and wonderful items along the beach and quay where the period ship is docked. And indeed I had seared for a holey stone there before, but never had any luck. This time I decided to prime the metaphysical gears thoroughly before I even set out on the journey.

I did a full Hekate supper in preparation that morning, calling upon the Fates, making offerings of eggs, honey, and incense. I asked the Weavers to help me find a holey stone in Salem, whether it be on the beach, in a shop, from a friend, or from a stranger–any (legal!) way they could deliver it into my hands.

What followed was a serendipitous series of events. Salem is always crazy this time of year, with the Halloween season bringing in witches and occultists of all shades of black white and gray. Despite arriving shortly after lunch on a Friday, there was no place to park. I crawled the car all the way to the top of a four-story garage and found nothing. Puffing out a sigh I began to creep my way back down and no sooner had I turned the first corner than I found not one, but two cars pulling out!

c18b63a5-155d-451f-674602e0ff3db01c-largeI headed for the Friendship of Salem, a replica ship that docks in the old harbor, but it sadly was out of its harbor for repairs. The New England sun cast four o’clock shadows though it was only 1 PM. I began making my way to the gravel and storm debris that lined the sides of the quay. I began on the eastern side, chanting “holey stone, holey stone, holey stone” in my head as my eyes scanned the deposits of rocks from the last summer storm. I had the image in my head of a thumb-sized rock, the hole perfectly centered, just laying there in the afternoon sun, begging for me to snatch it up. The angle of the light made it easy to see possible candidates, as any divots cast shadows across the surface of the pebbles.

Time and again I was disappointed. I did find a chunk of chert, an anomaly in the extreme. The only chert deposits in Massachusetts are far out to the west. Could it have washed up from down in Alabama? Could it have been carried across the Atlantic from the rich deposits in England? An eerie feeling stole over me as flint/chert nodules are one of the symbols I associate with closely with Gwynn ap Nudd. The piece in my hand had a deep groove and I wondered if perhaps I would have to make my own holey stone after all? But I kept going, finding pockmarked pebbles galore, but none with holes that went all the way through.

Reaching the lighthouse at the end of the quay, I paused to feel the water and wind. A busload of teenagers raced by, trying to push each other over the edge, arms wheeling and shirts grabbed. The water was cold, and, I fancied, hungry. I enjoyed the feeling of the sun on my back, the wind rough on my cheeks. Though I still had the beach proper to comb, I was getting anxious. Hekate’s rosary thumped on my hip as I walked; I still stopped occasionally but was no longer under the trance that had propelled me to the lighthouse.

Almost to the beach, a low patch of mugwort, young and green, called.  Picking some, I asked her to help me in my search.

Sister Mugwort, open my eyes,
help me find the hidden prize.

I inhaled her chrysanthemummy scent and felt myself slipping back into that walking, seeking trance. There were some long bones, maybe from a pig, and some smaller ones, likely from the chicken. Scattered all over the beach were these little round thin cardboard washers. I feared that perhaps the spirits had mistaken these for true holey stones. Or, perhaps they were just screwing with me.

I made three passes up and down the moon curve of the beach, and it was on the fourth that I spied an acorn resting atop a mat of seaweed.

That, right there, is what you call a sign.

It was the only terrestrial seed I had seen on the entire beach. I felt like I was being hit with the proverbial clue-by-four. Her voice said, “Dig deep, little druid, dig deep for what you seek. An acorn marks the spot.”

I scooped up the acorn and began sifting though the flotsam until I reached a layer of pebbles. I worked methodically, like I had been trained–though without the benefit of a GPS-sighted 10 m x 10 m grid system. Minutes passed. Breathe in the mugwort. Breath in, breathe out, dig deeper, dig wider.

I picked up yet another cratered pebble like the scores I had uncovered before it. This time, light shone all the way through near the very edge. But when I held it up to my eye, I couldn’t see anything. The angle was such that the light could pass through but I still couldn’t see through the hole.

“Not good enough,” I muttered, reburied it.

I shuffled further into the setting sun, shoved aside another patch of seaweed, dug down to the stone layer. More time passed, ankles sore, back hunched. Another dozen pockmarked rejects fly away from my frustrated fingers. Then.

A tiny, black pebble in my palm, a small hole board through and through its side, perfect in its asymmetry. I held it up to my eye, just to make sure. The tiny aperture warped the sun-striped beach, wavering my vision with the wind. A window to the Otherworld. He was not at all what I had imagined, but he was perfectly suited to the task.

Body stiff and cracking, I walked pack towards the low stone seawall.  I poured out an offering of water, scattered some nuts for the birds.  Ate some chocolate and fruit leather to bring myself back from that place where I dug into the Otherworld and with the spirits’ blessings, pulled a little piece of it back into my own.

Magic isn’t an easy thing. It’s rarely certain. At best it can tip Fortune’s wheel a bit more in our favor. At worst it leads to delusions and insanity. But when it works, when you have that bone-deep certainty that the Others have your back, nothing is more beautiful.

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Loosing Strife, Druid-Style

9594875574_9417ba690fThe purple loosestrife just started to bloom down by the brook. It’s an undeniably spectacular plant, bringing color to parched summer meadows and brook edges.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it blooms in the hottest months.

That’s when strife’s stranglehold needs the most loosening, after all. Violent crime rates, including those for aggravated and sexual assault, notoriously spike up to 12% higher during the hot summer months. But that’s just the general yearly (sadly predictable) increase in violence and irritability.

And now there’s the added complication of climate change coming into play.  An interesting article published in Science back in 2013 explores the influence of climate change on human conflict. From the abstract:

We find strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world. The magnitude of climate’s influence is substantial: for each one standard deviation (1σ) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. Because locations throughout the inhabited world are expected to warm 2σ to 4σ by 2050, amplified rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of anthropogenic climate change.

The times, they are a-changin’. Culture (rednecks taking up arms against white supremacy?) climate (iceberg the size of Delaware?), certainty (Social Security? Don’t bet on it, you entitled Millennials)–they’re all a-changin’.  Stability comes with a price as old as Cain and Able and we’ve repeatedly sacrificed resiliency for efficiency and profit.  There comes a point when the supply lines are so fragile that any shift will cause catastrophic changes. The Tower will tumble.

Amidst the almost nostalgic mobilization of “grassroots” and “drops in the ocean,” loosestrife can help ease our families and communities through these changes. Allying with loosestrife can help you bring peace to your three feet of influence.  It’s one of the plants I use magically on a regular basis during the summer, a charm to ease anxiety and tension. A vase or two of the flowers in your home will help mitigate the rising tempers that inevitably come with August heat. Or, see what it does for you on the rush-hour subway.

Loosestrife is invasive. Loosestrife changes the land, one of the plants of Tower Time.  It continues its steady expansion across the marshes, pushing out native species. Yet what we called “manifest destiny” for our white European selves, we decry in a plant as being “alien” and harmful to the status quo.  One of those “damned immigrants” taking other plants’ jobs. There is a touch of irony that a plant named “loose strife” has inspired such a crusade against it.

It’s no esoteric accident that purple loosestrife has proliferated in a time of such conflict. Loosestrife’s march is a warning, and a needed ally.  If we are to bring her back into balance in our ecosystems, we must also master the same imbalance within ourselves.

Don’t hate the mirror that reflects your own shortcomings.

Sun Mirror Meditation

CIChmMjXAAAIKnkI thought it might be interesting to share some of my own personal visualizations from the Sun Mirror meditation that I’ve been doing in the past few months. The uses I found for the mirror have been a curious combination of healing, charging/energizing, and prophecy. I’m not quite sure how that last bit is going to work out long term, but we’ll see. For now, just some thoughts and images that have skated through my mind while using this technique.

Beli Mawr, ignite my passion. This is the Root, the hard bones of the earth, and the flesh of the soil and falling leaves. It needs to be solid but still able to flow, to convey blood and sap to the whole. The Root dwells in darkness, hot red warmth that seethes beneath the surface.  It is the strength of the Land, the cup that holds the healing waters.

Beli Mawr, inflame my heart. The Heart of the Sea, a pearl precious beyond measure. If the Root needs to flow, then the Heart needs to overflow. Fire burns away the chains locked around the heart, leaving one to love fully and freely again. Wayland the Master Smith fills the gaps between the shards of your heart with molten gold. He says “The metal needs to be soft. You have a heart, not a sword.”

Beli Mawr, illuminate my mind. The Mind opens to the Sky. See with clarity, strengthened by the will of the Land. Be crowned by the circle of light, your own true will coming to the forefront. Know that emotions hide behind logic, and pulling the veil of reason aside will reveal someone’s true motives–including your own.

Global Mercury Rite

 As those of you who have read this blog for any amount of time know, I’m a big fan of Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery materials.  One of the nice things is that once you’ve signed up for the course, you will get invitations to participate in world-wide rituals, usually focused on some sort of planetary energy.  A few days ago, I received a PDF with instructions for a global Mercury rite to be performed between July 29th and August 1st.  So after getting Hufflespawn  to bed, I read through the ritual and decided to stretch the ol’ magical muscles.

One of the things I really dig about Miller’s rituals are that they’re pretty flexible and can easily be combined with other paths and traditions–or perhaps that’s also a function of OBOD rituals and the two just complement each other nicely.  I tend to set up an OBOD grove initially, then move into Miller’s script for the main event–and of course add herbs and spices as desired!  (‘Cause magic really is like cooking–it’s not your recipe until you fiddle it to your tastes.)

I waited until 9:44 PM, the beginning of the hour of Mercury, on the Day of Mercury, to start the rite.  The Moon was in Capricorn, and waxing/almost full, which should lend a more mature and stabilizing influence to all that Mercury energy flying around.  For offerings I used cinnamon incense, dried Nicotiana sylvestris from last year’s garden, and apple cider.  I set up the circle with eight beeswax candles and my own personal Mercury sigil, in addition the to usual ritual paraphernalia.

A couple of immediate takeaways:

  • Even the most eloquent orators have practiced their art.  I botched reading one section of the rite pretty badly.  I took a deep breath and delivered it again, and woah, there a punch there that I lacked before!  The story about William Jennings Bryan practicing speaking in the woods comes to mind.
  • Sometimes clouded vision produces rainbow or other sights of beauty–but to see clearly you still have to wipe them away and stare into the hard edges of the fire.
  • Steady breeze from the West during the entire ritual.
  • The following phrase floated out of the ether into my brain as I closed down the grove: “Three again, and three times three, As I will so must it be.” Now curious about repetition of 12 in magical practice.  Must go research!
  • Very much inspired to make a set of 100 beads for longer ritual chants.  Most of my rosaries tend to be in sets of 3, 4, 7, or 9.  I’ve consciously avoided multiples of ten since that’s what the Catholics do, but they tend to use repeats of five decands, so I think I’m good.
  • I can still pronounce Latin really easily aloud.  Thank you, Dad.

Definitely another ritual for the every-growing grimoire. I’m looking forward to whatever Mr. Miller chooses to tackle next.

Comfort in Chaos

Chaos_arrowWhen my ex and I first got together, The Secret had just come out. He was already a big fan of What the Bleep Do We Know, and I had never been exposed to the slick marketing of the New Age publishing machine.  I would like to think that my critical thinking skills would not have been so easily overcome, but the combination of glossy visuals and a desire to please a new partner overwhelmed my rational brain fairly quickly. And, if I’m totally honest, the fact that I already had practice in spell craft (a form of targeted manifestation) also made me easy prey for this particular mode of thinking.

The idea that one can manifest one’s own reality is quite seductive. It provides the oft-craved illusion of control. Life feels so unpredictable, and the promise of being able to create every desire is balm in the wound of uncertainty.

It’s also very dangerous.

Don’t get me wrong, the initial rush of attributing every coincidence to your own eminence is seductive. You feel powerful, able to take on anything. The problem is, however, that this initial string of beginner’s good luck doesn’t last. Inevitably something goes wrong: you get in a traffic accident, you lose your job, you miscarry.

And now, it’s all your fault.

That’s the only conclusion you can draw and still uphold the manifestation paradigm. If you’re manifesting your own reality, and if something bad happens, then clearly you brought it on yourself. For someone who already has a tendency to take responsibility for things that aren’t necessarily their fault, this is an insidious and deadly poison. In a way, it flips the model of a wrathful god on its head: Instead of god punishing you for your transgressions, you are punishing yourself for lack of discipline or bad feelings, which have brought sorrow or hardship upon you.

It is the ultimate in victim blaming, with no regard for circumstance. It’s free will taken to the nth degree.  Those people want to be poor. That woman let herself be raped. That child chose to be born into an abusive home. When you take the paradigm to that extreme, its ugliness oozes to the forefront.

We become afraid of the chaotic, the unpredictable.  We become afraid of those who have fallen on hard times. We forsake compassion for the fear. We become more selfish, more self-centered, more juvenile in our desires and attitudes.  We attribute unasked-for blessings to our own superiority and enlightenment, and self-flagellate for the smallest bump in the road.

John Michael Greer gets the credit for creating the first crack in my Secret-induced misery. He has a wonderful talent for taking the long view of various trends, and he noted that books exactly like The Secret were popular throughout the 1920 up until the Great Crash of 1929, when reality came barreling back through the haze of excess.  Ever the student of history, I began to take a good hard look at the assumptions I had been holding.

The next crack exploded into a seismic fault when my husband asked for a divorce a few months after I miscarried my second child.

Accepting that there are often things out of one’s control is a huge part of beginning to route out magical thinking, which is what The Secret  is at its most basic level. Now, of course, there are times when magical thinking is incredibly useful, like, when you’re actually doing magic.  But for getting through the day-to-day, it’s rarely an optimal paradigm. In truth, there’s really not much we can control outside of our own actions–and even then it’s debatable how much control we truly have.

Slowly, I began taking joy–but not credit–in a bluebird’s wing brushing my hair as I lay in the meadow, in the unexpected tax refund, in the chance to play music on the front porch with a neighbor. I became a more grateful person, and dare I say a happier one.  Chaos isn’t always something to be feared.  It can be those happy coincidences. It fuels creativity, and I returned to finding inspiration in the randomness of a tarot draw or the odd turn of phrase from my child.  There is an undeniable ease in uncertainty, where both happy surprises and unfortunate accidents are, in fact, out of your control and not a manifestation of either your damned or elect status.

Find happiness in the accidents. Live without apology for circumstance. Take comfort in the chaos of life.

Taking in the Midsummer Harvest

Midsummer is really the beginning of summer here in central Massachusetts.  We are about six weeks off from the traditional British harvest holidays, with the cross quarter fire festivals marking the height of each season rather than its beginning. At least that’s been my experience.

There are a number of sacred herbs that can be harvested from my land. Midsummer seemed like a good time to accomplish this, but I also wanted to incorporate some lunar correspondences. The Full Moon was in Capricorn just after Midsummer, which traditionally is a time where  pruning, or harvesting, is done to promote more vigorous growth in the plant. (Although why I would want this for the Mugwort is beyond me.)

And then it rained on the day of the full moon. All my lovely plans were foiled.

So, I went out the next morning, which was still within 12 hours of the moment of the Full Moon. It was the hour of Venus on a Thursday, the day of Jupiter, both of which should be auspicious for harvesting healing herbs. I managed to bring in the Motherwort, Agrimony, and Mugwort then. For future reference, I will be harvesting Motherwort much sooner next year, as it’s seedpods are very sharp and spiky.

Unfortunately I had to complete my harvest in the afternoon, which is when the essential oil concentrations are the lowest. On the “bright” side (ha!) this was now during the hour of the Sun and I brought in Sweetfern, Lavender, and Feverfew.

I had spied a glorious Yarrow by the side of the road earlier that morning. Sadly, someone mowed it down between that time and when I went out in the afternoon to harvested. I was really cheesed off. I did find a couple of other smaller sprigs though, and I’ll see what wild crafting I can do down in the conservation land for this little herb.

I’ll likely be doing another round of harvesting during the Dark Moon, especially for Mugwort (and probably the Agrimony as well, just because I don’t want it going to seed). I’ll probably wait until the next Full Moon for the rest of my culinary herbs like Sage and Oregano.  But for now, it looks like a goodly supply drying on the walls of my kitchen!