Dark Moon: Mor

14166017143_8e09c51eca_zThe Sea. Scots pine. Beech. Witch hazel. Twin of hazel. All of these have been proposed as interpretations for Mor. Personally, beech and the sea are the two which resonate most, so it is with them that my interpretations for this dark moon begins.

This has been a time of betweens, no doubt. Between two homes, between two jobs, between two paths, between two states. It’s the solve before the coagula.  Things are pulling apart before they can come back together.

The sea, Manawydan’s realm, holds the essence of the soul, of the other worlds.  Water shows up in my dreams when there is emotion to acknowledge. The last time I dreamt of water, it was clear and pure, with shells and polished glass on the sandy bottom. Water has always been the most difficult element, but slowly, I feel it pulling into balance again.

The Beech is my World Tree. It connects everything. So as things have pulled apart, I’ve still be able to keep the connection between. Essential for any transition, not only looking forward and back, but up and down, left and right, to see where all threads lead.

Release and connection. Hold on tightly, let go lightly. Breathe.

NYC Pilgrimage: Central Park

New York City has always been something of a touchstone for me, so I decided to make a pilgrimage to three spiritually significant spots: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Central Park. This is the final post in the series.

I had actually intended to avoid the park. Stories of muggers and rapists crowded my brain as I left the museum, enough so that I crossed the street to walk in the perceived safety of 5th Avenue doormen.

Then I heard music. (Fairy music, perhaps?) Thrumming base notes and a pop/rock wail spilled through the trees and over the low stone wall. As I crossed East 66th St., my curiosity finally got the better of me and I followed the road towards the melody.

There is something romantic about the park at night. No longer gas lights, but the glow of the street lamps and strains of music gave the towering trees an otherworldly glow.  These trees, for the most part, like people, or are at least very tolerant of us. They’ve grown up with humans, and their branches bend protectively over the paths.

But there are human ghosts in the park, too, not all of them so happy.

An irregular terrain of swamps and bluffs, punctuated by rocky outcroppings, made the land between Fifth and Eighth avenues and 59th and 106th streets undesirable for private development. Creating the park, however, required displacing roughly 1,600 poor residents, including Irish pig farmers and German gardeners, who lived in shanties on the site. At Eighth Avenue and 82nd Street, Seneca Village had been one of the city’s most stable African-American settlements, with three churches and a school. —Blackmar and Rosenzweig

I stopped and spoke a while with a sycamore, a leopard tree with peeling bark.  Sycamores are the guardians of this place, more so than any other species.  She was gentle, somewhat amused and muzzy as she prepared for the winter. A piece of her bark cracked off and fell at my feet as we spoke, her gift to a traveler far from home.

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One melody gave way to another as I continued south, from Indie Pop to protesters’ drums. Along Central Park South, I noted a small fountain. City planners it seemed still had some classical education, public water being essential to the designs of so many ancient and medieval cities. The water for NYC, in fact, comes from miles away, through aqueducts in the Catskill Mountains.  Like Rome, 95% of NYC’s water gets there by gravity, rather than having to be pumped into the city.  The fountain was in the shape of a stone trough–perhaps it had watered horses in days gone by.

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I dipped my fingers into the stream, offering a final prayer of thanks as I laved my forehead, lips, and heart. Blessed by tree and water, and by the fire of music, I made my way down through the protesters, and home in the false dawn of a NYC night.

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.

Thoughts on Spirit Bottles and Reliquaries

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Spirit jar for A., the Strategist.

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery course.  He has some great techniques and a sensible, straightforward syllabus that is an effective crash-course in magick and conjuration.  The lesson on spirit bottles is one of the most respectful approaches that I’ve seen, considering that many traditions have long and tangled histories around the practice.

One of the best things Miller does is get into the differences between local and non-local spirits, i.e., beings like the archangel Uriel vs. the nymph of a particular pine tree.  When making a spirit bottle or house for someone like Uriel, he’s so big there is absolutely no way that you’re actually going to cram all of him into that little bottle–no matter how good a mage you think you are.  What you can do is make a connection and give that non-local entity a foothold in your space so that you can develop a much deeper relationship.

Unfortunately, there is a very strong association with the term “spirit bottle” or “spirit house” and the practice of binding a spirit against its will to work for the sorceress. However, as Miller wisely points out, you really don’t want to trap a spirit in a bottle. If you’re good enough to actually pull that off, you’d have one extremely pissed off spirit on your hands. You’d be far better off performing a solid banishing ritual and pushing it out of your life completely. Why keep an enraged entity (who will eventually more than likely escape and wreak havoc on its jailor) in your space where it has a direct line to carry out its vengeance?

Not really smart when you think about it.

Then, there’s the simple matter of manners.  Speaking from my own limited experience, spirits do in fact have agency; they don’t necessarily want to sit around on your altar all day waiting for your requests. Treating a bottle or house as a place for an honored guest to visit is a much more hospitable approach; to say that the beings with whom I work are big on hospitality would be an understatement. When I use a spirit bottle, I’m seeking a contemplative relationship with the entity, rather than a power-over relationship.

Unsurprisingly, the baggage surrounding spirit bottle terminology has left me searching for another term. Dipping back into my early exposure to European Catholicism, I began to think of reliquaries. As a kid, I loved looking at the pretty boxes with the bones that were supposed to perform miracles. Looking at this practice now, from a polytheistic/animistic perspective, it’s a clear instance of ancestor veneration. (I’ve spoken with a couple of American Catholics who were frankly weirded out by the reliquary collections they’d seen in Europe, but I’d always found them rather comforting.  In fact, I still far prefer seeing a saint’s bones in a box to having to walk over their tomb markers on a cathedral floor. The latter has always felt disrespectful to me, and led to much hopping about trying to avoid stepping on various medieval cardinals interred beneath the pavers.)

Reliquaries do, in fact, serve a very similar function to spirit bottles, but with a very different set of expectations.  Often elaborate and opulent, reliquaries are at their simplest boxes with an object (relic) closely associated to a particular saint or miracle worker. That object is often a bone, but can also be a piece of clothing or hair. In short, it’s very similar magickal tech to a spirit house, which often includes items closely associated with the spirit’s nature, as well as tools for the spirit to carry out its work. Now, there is a difference in that certain types of spirits do not leave physical traces to include in a reliquary, but when working with plant and animal spirits, physical material is readily available.

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Materia magicka.

Thus far I have created one spirit bottle/reliquary (pictured above) for a non-Midgard being, A., from Miller’s personal grimoire.  There are tools and symbols inside the jar, as well as a map of where to extend his influence. On the outside of the container is a necklace with still more symbols of this being, which I wear when working with him in ritual.  The jar sits on my altar and once a week or so (more often if there’s other work to be done), I pour him out a libation.  He is fairly low-maintenance, and we both find the current arrangement satisfactory.

For spirits grounded in this world, I have materia for Turkey, Crow, Frog, Rabbit, Mugwort, and Datura.  I have not as yet designed the spirit boxes, but this may be a good Yuletide project–to reaffirm my connections with the genius locii of our land. (The other questions, of course, are of storage and display, and offering frequency. Making sure everyone is fed and happy can turn into a full time job if expectations are not made explicit at the outset of the relationship.  It’s also an argument in favor of not acquiring more allies than one can properly honor.)  Making the reliquaries is a slow process, both in terms of physical assembly and putting the whammie on the final product. Still, it’s one of the most worth-while magickal processes I’ve engaged in.

To conclude, one the the main reasons I consider myself a Druid is because of the emphasis on being in right relationship–with our ancestors, our landwights, our gods, our bodies, and our communities. Druid magick, in my opinion, needs to reflect this fundamental principle. Wyrd runs thickly throughout our lives, connecting us in ways that may remain hidden for years or even lifetimes.  Reliquaries offer a way to emphasize major nexuses in the web where our threads cross those of other beings, points that we can reinforce through right action and ritual. Eventually, with enough time and work, each nexus brightens until it illuminates other surrounding threads in our wyrd–ones which would otherwise be beyond our sight.

 

Earth Web and Chestnuts

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Yesterday was the third day of global rituals led by The Warrior’s Call, a group of pagan dedicated to the eradication of extreme fossil fuel extraction like fracking.  October 4th’s Earth Web ritual was designed to create a world-wide network of protection against fracking via a sigil net.  While my land is not yet threatened directly by fracking, it is being threatened by a possible gas pipeline in the near future. Our town has been fighting this on a local level, but I figure adding a bit of mojo to our efforts wouldn’t hurt.

After completing the ritual, I strolled under a chestnut tree. Looking down, I spied dozens of glossy nuts (some having been sampled by squirrels) and popped five relatively unchewed ones into my bag.  I was also lucky enough to find one whose outer shell had only partially opened. The chestnut became my touchstone, a ritual anchor, holding the memory of the Earth Web rite and feeling the return flow of blessings from the Earth as we fight to protect her.  As a symbol, it personifies the defense of valuable resources.  Feeling its spiny husk in my hand, I thought about some of the prickliest people I know, and how they are much like a chestnut–pokey and a bit rough on the outside, but sweet and slightly nutty once you get past their defenses. Those spikes are there for a reason, the flesh within being too tender to defend itself.

Humanity has bored its way past the Earth’s natural defenses, though her rocky skin to tap the black blood of a million years’ sunlight. She doesn’t have another way to defend herself.  It’s up to us to become the spiky hull and stop the reckless extraction of fossil fuels, be it though protests, lifestyle changes, or magickal acts. It’s so easy to become discouraged and apathetic, but we can’t afford that luxury any more. Stop passively absorbing the horror of the inevitable decline we now face. Yes, be informed, but do not become paralyzed. The smallest amount of action, no matter how imperfect, reaches further than reading a hundred blog posts or listening to a thousand pundits.

“The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you’ve gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?”
Zhuangzi

Be the chestnut. Save our world.

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