No Candles Required.

I feel overwhelmed by those who consider that a spell is not a spell without using candles of a certain shade of teal, ribbons of a specific colour and length, on a certain day at a certain hour but only if the moon is gibbous and in Virgo.  But honestly, hands up anyone who seriously believes that those who originated the craft had time for such theatrics?

Let me instead present an alternative ‘spell’ that I am sure everyone the world over knows in some form or another and has used on more than one occasion.

“See a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.”

Not a candle in sight!

And it works, with regional variations.

Rubbing the penny is one such variation as locally is spitting on it then rubbing it.

I collect all my found ‘pennies’ together, including ones that are old or not from the UK, into a box then use what I can towards ‘significant’ purchases, which with the accrued ‘luck’ will last well or otherwise have greater quality than otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hawthorn

In England the hawthorn is also called ‘mayflower’, ‘may blossom’ or simply ‘may’ as the white flowers are usually recently opened on May Day.  Branches are woven together for the May King and Queen’s crowns in Beltane celebrations.

In recent years however the flowers have been seen earlier and earlier.  Year after year a bush beside the River Dart was always the first I saw coming into flower in the last week of April.  In the last 5 or 6 years though another bush has put out its flowers from mid-April onwards.  This year however it has become very confused by the exceedingly mild winter and put out leaves and a few days later flowers in the last week of January.

hawthorn

By the amount of buds on the bush it will be covered in flower next week.

It is usually one of the first hedgerow bushes into leaf in spring (after elder) and that greening typically comes from mid-March.

The wood and branches are often used for protection both physically (due to the strength of the wood it makes good strong weapons) and also psychically (from witches or those who seek to do you harm by magick).  It is regarded as very unlucky to bring the flowers into a house as that will invite death into the family.

 

 

 

Imbolc

This festival is celebrated on Feb 1st in the Celtic tradition but otherwise the 2nd in The Craft tradition.  Amongst other traditions it goes by Brighid’s Day or Candlemass and is one of the principal sabbats (Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas).

It is the point in the year (in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere) when the first signs of returning spring are evident.  Outside my window it was not dark until nearly 6pm unlike at Yule when it was dark by 4:30.  Snowdrops and primroses are in flower (the daffodils in my garden have been flowering since Jan 1st!!), the leaf buds on the oak and ash trees are swelling and the local ewes are about ready to lamb.

The transformation of the goddess from crone to maiden is symbolic of this new growth and the young maiden is epitomised in the form of Brighid.  In folklore she was one of the Tuatha De Danann; the tribe of semi-gods that settled Ireland but were eventually displaced and fated to live underground (after attempting to break a truce through the use of magic it has to be said).  Thereafter the powers of the Tuatha faded and they became the many faeries of Irish tradition.

Significantly Brighid assumes the threefold mantle of crone, maiden and mother (or three sisters) and she is responsible for artistic inspiration, healing and particularly smithcraft.  In many traditions she is honoured as the spirit of sacred flames and is often portrayed as having a flowing mane of red hair.  Vesta was her counterpart in Roman tradition.

Wells are frequently dedicated to Brighid and at Imbolc these may be adorned with trinkets and amulets signifying wishes that are made now at the first stirring of spring to grow and mature as the year moves through summer to harvest.  If you are feeling creative and traditional then make a St Brigit’s Cross, a woven offering of grass or reed stems in the form of a 4 pointed star (click the link for instructions).  Unlike synthetic offerings grass will of course return to the soil over the coming year.

brigits_cross.jpg

White (signifying the last of the snow) or red (signifying the increasing warmth of the sun) candles may be lit around the home to dispel winter and welcome summer.

If you choose to mark Imbolc with a ritual, one which asks for blessing of seeds or plants that you will plant out in your garden, or one that asks for guidance in order that a ‘job in hand’ develops favourably would be appropriate.

 

 

 

 

The Ghost in the Machine

The phrase was coined by Gilbert Ryle as a response to earlier philosophical ideas put forward by those such as Rene Descartes.  Descartes was of the opinion that mind and body could be regarded as dissociated parts; “I think, therefore I am.”.  By Descartes philosophy ‘mind’ could exist outside of the physical ‘body’ form, mind was a temporary inhabitant of the body and continued on after the body deceased.  Ryle however regarded mind and body as parts of whole (what Koestler would subsequently term a ‘holon’) and envisaged a feedback mechanism whereby mind controlled the body but responded to the impulses of the body.

The ghost(s) in the machine were to Ryle those parts of the mind that were responsible for emotions that in a ‘civilized’ person were kept in check: rage, anger, spontaneity.  Such qualities were those that governed simple brains but as the brain and mind developed greater complexity the primitive qualities became subservient to the whole mind.  They were qualities nonetheless that were still essential to the complex mind and body as survival mechanisms but at other times could run out of control both at individual level and in the case of wars at a societal level.  War is actually a foolish enterprise whereas negotiation would be a more sensible option.

The ghost in the machine is therefore the part of the mind that is normally subconsciously kept in check but which may on occasion manifest and produce unexpected outcomes.

Exercising control over such ‘ghosts’ may seem to be an oxymoron, but think of the Tai Chi, a martial art tapping into one part of inner self and directing it to another purpose; calm from conflict.  However, releasing the ghosts would lead to chaos if it was alike to a Pandora’s Box and the lid could simply be thrown back.  Fortunately releasing the potential within takes time and the lid opens only with effort.  Thereby those who seek to make careful use of the ghosts within learn control along the way.  There are however those who would rather simply throw back the lid and get hit by the blast, grabbing for whatever they can, but without control the other ghosts: anger, fear, etc. take hold and the outcome is unpredictable and rarely good.

One ghost in the machine is that part of the mind a witch seeks to unlock and yet still exercise control over in order that visions of days of future past may be seen and the mindfulness therein may be applied to glamours and charms in order to manipulate events in ways that would otherwise appear beyond logical belief.  In that respect the witch is little different to those who practice meditation for other purposes, but the fact that in a meditative state details may be seen outside of the immediate physical surroundings or of events that might not have yet come to pass does lend credence to Descartes notion of an independent mind that is not confined to a physical body.

 

 

 

Green is the Colour of Money ‘Spell’

Spells for gaining money are one thing, but, if you are on a budget what about spending the money you have more wisely?
 
Place a low value copper ‘penny’ coin in each of your altar candle holders, low value because the aim is moderation and control not big jumps. Each time you renew your candles you will see the coins have turned a little more green from contact with the candle. Take a moment to think about your recent spending habits, have they been frivolous or careful? Green has a correspondence with wealth and money and is often the colour of money and as the coins become more green you will find your spending becomes more controlled and your bank balance more healthy.

What makes a spell?

Yesterday I read in a book the advice that “like most magic tools, fancier ones may hold more energy or may otherwise deliver better results.”  Am I alone in thinking the reverse may actually be true?

First maybe a spell should be defined.  ‘The intent to influence the state of events by the application of willpower’ might suffice.  A spell is only an intent, there is no guarantee of success.  To influence the state of events may mean to bring about a transformation of a physical form or condition or it may mean to deviate future events from a predestined path.  A spell could also be termed a charm, glamour, enchantment, hex, working, bewitchment or jinx, to list but a few.

There was a time when pointing a finger at someone was widely interpreted as placing a spell on them.  ‘It’s rude to point’, people say it but do they know why?  It was that simple and can still be that simple, all that is required is that the spell caster forms a clear vision of the current state of events and how they want to change that and uses their pointed finger to direct their will to that task.

Pointing fingers may be seen as counterproductive as it is a clear signal to all.  Charm and flattery may achieve a greater transformation in the actions of other people than outward signals of force.  And what is a spell other than a means to divert the predestined course of events?  think of the way in which the word ‘charm’ is used in English as a verb or noun and you will see that it is usually applied to a change in the expected course of events.  ‘She/He charmed the pants off him/her’, is often a saying used when a person has been influenced and you can read as much as you like into the exact wording.

The idea that ‘charm’ and ‘spell’ are one and the same also raises the question, are we all witches?  ‘Oh isn’t he charming’, you might hear a mother or grandmother say of a child.  But perhaps the more aware of us would think ‘Crafty! What are you after?’.

If you focus on your baking and envisage a fine cake or plant seeds in your garden and envisage a fine row of vegetables it is simple spell casting without realizing it.

Of course no-one gets it right all the time and we cannot be jacks of all trades, some people have ‘green fingers’ but couldn’t bake a cake if their lives depended on it and there is always the possibility that a higher power is at work against which we strive in vain.  Nevertheless ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’ or alternatively ‘if you imagine it will fail it will surely fail’ are more often true than not.

A wand or, the Gods preserve us, a sword are only fancy pointed fingers.  You could argue that a sword may be more effective than a pointed finger, but only in the physical medium, when it comes to willpower alone then the pen is mightier than the sword.  And with a pen in your hand it becomes quite natural to write down your spell so that you or others can repeat it again in future.  More importantly though with a pen in your hand you may be able to write down exactly what you wish for, without ambiguity, for the Spirits have a sense of humour too.

After the act however, is time spent drawing mystic signs with a finger, pen or tip of a wand enhancing the spell or diverting energy away from the core purpose?  There is though a strong case to be made that spells often need reinforcement and a sign that you can see and only you can interpret provides a reminder to reinforce the spell whilst not alerting others so they can work against it should they choose.

Generally then is it true for tools that ‘fancier is better’?  I suspect not if taken at face value.  A simple stick taken haphazardly from a pile may have the same face value as a wand as the finest, gold inlayed, crystal studded shop bought item.  At face value both have little value.

But, the purpose of a spell is to focus energy, will, intent, call it what you choose and time spent carefully selecting the tools you are going to use is time spent balling up the energy and willpower you are going to put into the spell.  In that respect a stick carefully selected from a pile of ordinary sticks because it is the one that speaks to you may serve you far better than a fancy wand selected on the basis of only an on-line picture.  Similarly in some instances carefully casting a circle, making the working fancier, may be integral to the outcome.  Proper pre-planning prevents poor performance, as the saying goes.

Another argument against ‘fancy’ is that of dilution.  The colour red, for example, has a clear correspondence and in a pure form it has a clear purpose.  When however I see spells that require that a spell be written on a yellow parchment, in black ink, in front of 2 blue candles, then bound with red ribbon, then I cannot see the clear correspondence, the clear purpose.  It is not necessary to consider every aspect of the world around you when working, that is what the sacred space is for, only the influences you bring into it have relevance and purpose.  But if you bring in a clutter of fancy items you had best be sure they do not conflict for at best nothing will happen, at worst the outcome will be exactly the reverse of your intention.

Items fit for purpose is a theme to which I frequently return.  A wand of apple wood (love and abundance) is not fit for a spell of banishment.  A wand of holly adorned with acorns may appear priapic, but the holly and the oak are each others life and death and therefore not a great combination to bring into a sacred space if your intention is to ask for a fertility blessing.

Fancier is NOT therefore necessarily better.  Fancier does NOT necessarily mean you get the sum of the parts. Fancier may mean that each part detracts from the others until nothing but chaos remains.

Keep it simple and you’ll not go far wrong.

 

 

 

 

Casting Ogham Runes

Having made a rune set from 16 native English woods I just happened to have lying around my workshop over the weekend, I have set out a table showing the properties of each wood and the meaning in divination.  Just for a bit of fun I have also cross referenced to the Tarot Major Arcana though some correspondences are pretty fanciful.

ogham_runes

The Ogham originally contained 20 characters each with a corresponding wood, this expanded to 25 characters and 4 additional punctuation characters.  Taking the 25 ‘letter’ characters as a set, some of them have very similar correspondences so Elm and Pine both represent ‘clarity’ and when assigning correspondences and divination interpretations if you look long enough you will find someone has assigned just about every correspondence you could imagine to each wood.  This is unhelpful.

Consequently in my table I have distilled information from around 15 sources to the point where each character and wood had a correspondence by a clear majority.  It is still not perfect however as the character Edhadh equally came out as Aspen or (White) Poplar but Ebhabh also equally could stand for a grove of trees or Aspen though many sources noted that groves of trees were often groves of Aspen.

As for spelling of the Ogham character names almost all have 2 variants, some have 4 and this has come about as the ‘language’ moved out of its native Ireland into Wales and Scotland and later England.  Spelling however is not really the concern here.

For practical divination there are again a number of methods on offer:

  1. throw all the runes and read those falling face up.
  2. as above but throw them into a space and read only those within the space that are face up.
  3. for both the above, give greater weight to the meaning of those falling closest to you.
  4. for both the above, give greater weight to the meaning of those falling on top of another rune.
  5. In answer to a specific enquiry, hold the question in your mind, select 7 runes, throw those and then proceed as above.

Of the 9 woods I have outstanding, elm just needs finishing off; ivy, heather, ‘vine’, aspen, poplar and spindle I will have to collect; whilst neither honeysuckle nor reed will never be suitable for this purpose so I intend to substitute bay or sweet chestnut both of which I have or walnut which I don’t.

So this is the completed table as a pdf file: Ogham Divination just click the link.

Or as a poor quality screen capture:

Ogham Runes.jpg