Wishbird

Last night I went to yoga for the first time in over a month. It wasn’t a difficult practice, but after being sick for so many weeks it challenged my body. I still think of myself as an ‘advanced beginner’ or ‘intermediate’ level yoga practitioner – even now, after years away from a regular practice! Sessions like last night’s are humbling, but also excellent opportunities to practice ‘beginner’s mind’ and return to basics. What is the most basic thing of all? The breath.

In between postures and on my walk to and from the class I focused on my breath. In and out, in and out. This simple refocusing – away from thoughts of being awesome or strong or fast – raised a lot of energy and grounded me simultaneously. One of the things I love about yoga is the semi-high feeling I get afterward. I feel at least two inches taller, rooted in each footstep, more fully present and connected to my Godsoul. It’s like I’m a spiritual ninja for about twenty minutes afterward! I attribute it all to focusing on breathing.

This type of breathing is a vital part of making magic. Getting grounded, being present, and raising lots of energy are core parts of making magic. So what did I do when I got home? Instead of going straight into the house, I went into the back garden to cast a little spell. I knew that if I went inside first I’d be distracted by children and dinner and needs and who knows if I’d have a few minutes, let alone the energy, to start all over again.

My family is moving in three weeks time. When I started this project I had assumed we’d be in Wales until at least next summer. That is not to be. We are leaving Wales on the 21st of December and leaving the UK a week later. (Yes, it coincides with the shift in spiritual quarters for me.) We are moving to Olympia, Washington, and we need a house, so I used my extra energy to send a wishbird to find one for us.

The wishbird is an exercise I learned from T Thorn Coyle. It involves raising energy, focusing on one’s need or desire, then blowing the energy into one’s hands while imagining a bird taking form. With specifics and intent firmly established you let fly the bird and it goes ahead to help. There are some other details to this, but this is a good, simple description of a good, simple spell. It has worked for my family before, and I hope it will do so again. I sent the bird off in a west by southwest direction. Hopefully, we’ll soon find a home – more than a house!

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Here is a link to a short post on spell work by a Feri friend of mine. I think she says far better what I’ve been trying to say about magic and spells.

House Magic for Beginners – the post

There are many levels to magic. There’s Big Magic: big in scope and aim and performance. It might, and might not, be the same as High Magic, usually referring to the kind of magic that involves complicated casting, symbols, words and lots of ritual/liturgy. There’s folk or Low Magic, usually referring to the types of magic that many solitary practitioners use: lunar timing, herbs, oils, candles, charms, etc. There’s Small Magic, where are aims are simpler. I think all of these kinds blur together and are indispensable. But where can a person begin?

I ask myself this a lot. I admit that I waver between to two extremes. On one hand, I find the world completely magical and enchanting. On the other hand, I’m so often tired and immersed in laundry neck-deep, while a wee babe tries to climb up my leg, that Making Magic feels overwhelming and out of the picture. Those family moments are very much magical but they have less to do with my will changing anything. In spending the last week thinking about this post I’ve realized that there are many ways that I connect spiritually and enchant my life. The things I list below could be done by a person of any spiritual persuasion. In fact, in some ways, they’re not ‘magical’ at all.

Hanging the Laundry

It might sound silly to say, but I find hanging the laundry outside to dry to be magical. It takes longer than shoving the load in the dryer. But on a day that’s clear and dry I truly love hanging the laundry. What’s magical about this? Well, it connects me to the land. I have learned to read the sky here. I watch the birds and see what they’re doing. Is it wasp season? Bee season? Butterflies? How is the air smelling now? The clothes come in smelling like the land and the air. Sure, the sheets would be softer if they went through the tumble dryer, but I wouldn’t trade the clean scent of sunshine soaked sheets for the softness. I also like to think of all of my family’s clothing as kissed by the elements. In a small way we are slightly more connected to the space in which we live.

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Hinduism places a high value on cleanliness. I admit that my dining room/altar space was a lot cleaner last quarter! There’s nothing in paganism, witchcraft, or Feri that specifically values neat and clean, as far as I can tell, but there is plenty of low magic that deals with one’s space.

Sweeping is a simple act that can have immediate results. I sweep every day, with the windows thrown open, even if for only a minute, to let the stale air out and the fresh air in. I think about getting rid of the detritus from the day before and starting the day fresh. This could be done the night before too, but I manage to get it done in the morning.

I think our spaces reveal a lot about how we’re thinking and feeling. It might not seem magical, but the act of refreshing our space can help shift our attitudes. Are you feeling stuck and stagnant at your office? Can you open a window? Get rid of all the outdated papers on your desk? Give your area a thorough dust? Maybe gift yourself some fresh flowers? Those simple acts can mentally and energetically shift things.

Whenever I move into a new place I always go around to all the doors and windows and shake some blessed salt water (blessed by me) over all the thresholds, praying that all that might wish us harm would be kept outside and only that which wishes us well would enter. In a similar vein, I periodically get down on my hands and knees and wash the floor, all the while praying for negativity to be banished and for joy to increase (or whatever needs work at that time: stress to be washed away and ease restored, etc).

Whether or not this stuff works in any way other than to change my attitude and that of my family is inconsequential to me. What matter is that these things work!

Chicken Soup

I am a huge believer in the old saying ‘you are what you eat.’ I absolutely believe that what we put in our mouths becomes our cells, our hearts, our brains, our blood. Ideally we all have healthy bodies to support our energetic bodies. Sometimes we need extra nourishment, whether to fight a cold or the blues. I find homemade bone broths to be some of the simplest, most nourishing food around. Chicken soup is one of the most common forms, and I’m going to share my ‘recipe’ with you!

First, buy a chicken. I aim for the best quality I can afford: free range, organic. Because a whole chicken could easily feed one person for a week or a small family for about four meals, I think the money is well spent. On the first night I roast the chicken for dinner and then pick the carcass mostly clean, reserving the bits of meat not eaten. I have, when hit with a spur of the moment desire for homemade soup, just bought a large leg and thigh from the butcher and cooked that in the morning, reducing time, size, and cost.

To make broth, put the bones in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 2 hours. I like to do this for 4-5 hours, adding water as needed. I like to add any old veggies I’ve got in my fridge to add flavor to the broth. But they’re not necessary. The bones will start to release their goodness and at the end you will have a golden liquid that leaves a slight coating on your lips. Strain out the bones and veg and reserve your broth.

Now you can sweat some diced onion, carrots, celery, ginger, garlic, and, if you like a little heat, some red or green chilies. Some people like some potatoes, I prefer my soup without. I add in the broth and bring to a simmer. After maybe 20-40 minutes I add the meat and taste. Usually it needs some salt and pepper. When I’m ready to serve I add a clove or two of pressed garlic to the soup, and a handful or fresh parsley and/or cilantro, and a squeeze of lemon. You can, of course, alter this recipe for your tastes. (There’s obviously no way to make this vegetarian.) If you like noodles or rice in your soup, cook them in a separate pot and add in bowl by bowl to keep the starches from thickening and clouding your beautiful golden broth.

What’s magical about this? I know bone broths are a nutritional powerhouse, but there’s also something so deeply satisfying to me about making something from scratch that can soothe bellies or hearts or heads. I suppose the only magic is the love it’s made with.

None of these things are simple things that any one can do to enchant their own worlds just a little bit more. When I’m down on myself for not having more time or space to do Big Magic I try to remember that these acts of Small Magic add up to something special.

If you’re interested in more of this sort of magic in your life, I recommend Draja Mickarharic’s books, A Century of Spells and Spiritual Cleansing. Both of these books incorporate occult magic, but also forms of Christian folk magic.

Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday centered around food, family both biological and chosen, and food (and shopping and football and Christmas, with a veneer of remembering our indigenous cultures, and more food). I am cynical and critical about many aspects of holiday celebrating in the US, but I’m thankful that we have a holiday centered around the idea of gratitude, even if just in name.

Over here in Wales, we’ll be celebrating by eating left over shepherd’s pie and chicken soup, and consoling a very ill little boy. It’s a Thursday like any other. But I still want to take a moment to be grateful.

Gratitude is an important part of any spiritual practice, in my opinion. Many religions have some kind of holiday recognizing the ways we are blessed and allowing space for us to give some of our abundance to others. We are moving back to the United States in 5 weeks, so we’ll be giving away most of what we own. It’s really hard to let go of some of this stuff – baby clothes, children’s books, the very nice wine glasses we finally purchased, et al. Letting go of this stuff is hard, but if my experience of moving over here is anything to go by, I will feel relieved when we’ve finally pared down.

And so: I am grateful for the opportunity to pass along my belongings. I am grateful to be stepping into the in-between spaces of homes, stuff, certainty, spiritual practice, and friendships. I’m grateful for what comes next. Our time in Wales has been challenging, and yet it has been a period that I already look back on as transformative. I think I’ve matured here. If my life is divided along ‘maiden-mother-crone’ lines, I feel like I finally entered (or accepted that I’ve entered) the Mother part of life.

Part of the process of Becoming that I feel took hold here is thanks to this blog/project. I’m grateful for everyone who reads this and comments, because in doing so you are helping hone me and you spur me on in my journey.

So thank you.

No matter where you are or what you are eating today, may you be warm, safe, nourished and happy.

What is magic?

Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.

This is one definition of magic, by Aleister Crowley, from his book, Magick, Liber ABA, Book 4. While I’m not a fan of Crowley, I do have respect for his daring and determination to push the boundaries of magic. Or magick, with a k, if you prefer. Which I don’t. But I do agree with this statement on magic.

Is it magic when I pick up my cup because I want a drink of water? Not really, even though it fits a literal interpretation of the definition. Will is spelled with a capital W. Will is the intention of our highest selves, it is the force that pursues our Work, as opposed to will, which is a lot of wants and needs and desires that are important for doing our daily work of living. Causing change, and Big C Change, perhaps more like evolution, is a very important part of the magical life – of any life! The Buddhists will tell us all is change, nothing is permanent. One of the things I like about Paganism/s is the embrace of that in its theologies; for most strands of Paganism, the gods evolve too. We all want to feel that we have some power in our lives, some control over a life of constant change, and I think this is where an understanding of magic comes in.

For me, I view the world and my life through magical lenses. I see the world as enchanted. What I am about to say may annoy more than one hard scientist, but I totally think that science is magic. Am I confusing a sense of wonder with the idea of magic? Absolutely. I am a fan of science. I think it is a Good and Right Thing. Perhaps what we think of as magic now will have rational explanations next year. I know that a thousand years ago if I had talked about washing one’s hands regularly to avoid the germs we can’t see in order to maintain health, I would have been mocked as a weirdo or witch or worse! But let’s talk about two things, two every day items that I always use in this sort of discussion: airplanes and eyeballs.

Airplanes fly all the time and almost never fall out of the sky. I’ve flown more times than I could possibly count and I know they are completely safe. I know that air currents blow over the top and bottom of the wings and cause lift. Engines propel us through the air. And yet I still cannot help but think that physics are part of magic. I mean, a huge metal tube weighing a ton manages to fly through the air, transporting hundreds of people from one side of the world to the other in less than a day, and does not just fall out of the sky.

The eyeball is another amazing, biological creation that makes me gasp in wonder. You can talk all you want about neural synapses and retinas and optic nerves, but let’s just get real: this gelatinous ball allows me to see bright colors, shapes, textures,  and actions far and near in consort with their occurence.  I think that’s pretty damn magical.

Do not even get me started on the cycle of life and death! There is nothing like growing a human being in my own body and birthing it into the world to blur the connection between science and magic.

Our everyday, biological existence is pretty darn magical. Life perpetuates itself and struggles to thrive.

I think this carries over into our energetic and spiritual lives as well. Some people are psychic, and I think this is a form of magic. Sometimes I just know things, but I’m not psychic. I don’t hear or see dead people or spirits. I know several people who do, some by no effort of their own and some using magic: using their will and skills to make it happen.

Spell and ritual magic are techniques to hone one’s energy and Will to cause change in the physical or spiritual or energetic worlds. There are many different kinds of spells and rituals. The skeptic might insist that this is just psychological games and the effects are nothing more than placebo effects or mere coincidence. I disagree. Even if the only person or thing changed is me, then Will has caused change. I think prayer is a form of magic too. I’m reminded of the quote from the CS Lewis movie, Shadowlands, where he says, ‘I pray, not because it changes God, but because it changes me.’ My family uses magic in the forms of prayer, intention, and spells to make our way forward in the world. We have most certainly been changed by doing it, and for the better, and that alone is pretty magical. But we’ve also seen the manifested fruit of our magical workings in the larger, physical world, and that’s pretty exciting.

Humans want to control their world in the face of so many forces, like Time, over which we have no to little control. It’s a human desire – whether we use magic or science – or both! – we work toward changing our world. I like to think of magic and the magical world view in terms of re-enchantment, bringing the numinous to the forefront of every day. It’s hard to do. There’s a zen book titled, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, and that title about sums it up. My next post is going to talk a little bit about how I try to connect with the numinous in the midst of the everyday.

For further reading, here is a great article called ‘To Re-enchant the World’ by Sharon Knight.

House Magic for Beginners – prologue

Last week, during a peaceful moment involving watching the laundry blow dry on the line and drinking tea, I had a neat thought for a post. And then the power source for my computer died, I continued to struggle with a malingering virus, and my family prepped for a trip to London (a trip that never ended up happening). It wasn’t my best week.

A new week begins today and here I am feeling somewhat less than excited about writing for this blog. Why is that? In spite of the post to come (on house magic, as I’ve termed it), I just haven’t been feeling…. magical. My daily practice has slipped. At first I took some time off because my sinuses were so blocked and my energy so low that sitting meditation seemed like a lost cause. Then I never really got better and I seemed to function at about 65% all of the time and I kept thinking, ‘I’m almost on the mend, I’ll just wait.’ The problem is that witchcraft, magic, even regular ol’ devotion requires energy. I can go through the motions – and sometimes that’s helpful – but it’s energy that powers the work. I think this is true of most things. How often are we powering through our work, our art, our workouts, our chores? While that can get tasks done, it doesn’t foster much, if any, ‘juice’ – any connection, anything deeply satisfying.

An interesting topic to write about would be the idea of grace in witchcraft. I believe that grace exists. Sometimes it ‘descends’ without merit, or work, or warning. But most of the time we’re met we’re at. Like any relationship, I must put in the effort to reap connection.* What is the point of a relationship, or a spiritual practice, if there is no connection?

While I may be able to chalk up my all-too-often sicknesses to several legitimate factors (living in a damp climate, not getting enough quality sleep due to having a nursing infant, and having a small child who brings every bug home from school), I admit that I engage in more ‘victim’ thinking around this than I wish I did. What am I doing wrong? Should I be learning something from this? Why now? Why me? I fret that I’ll have nothing of interest to write about. I fret that life and opportunity will pass me by. I’ve been neither too sick to not care, but not well enough to do anything about it. Oh, woe is me.

I have learned stuff from being ill so much lately. I’ve gained more compassion for those people who struggle with chronic illness. My colds and illnesses are not on the same level of debilitation, but I think any time compassion grows it’s a good thing. I learn to let go of more – less attachment to outcome, another good thing. And I’ve realized that if I’m not up for Magic with a capital M, then I must find more mundane magic. I must find ways to seek out connection with Life Force (the Gods, Energy, etc, as you will) where I am and how I am.

Which leads me to the next post.

 

*Just a note to say that ‘putting in the effort’ is not meant to imply some kind of ‘faith or grace by works’ notion. The ideas of grace here bear little resemblance to a Christian, mainly Calvinist, understanding of grace and faith.

Enough already!

Remembrance Day poppy, photo from the Guardian

At his preschool, my son made a poppy to wear for Remembrance Day, the British Equivalent of Veterans Day. He quite liked his poppy and made sure he was very careful with it. He wore his proudly in the middle of his shirt all day long. Until he asked why we wore poppies on this day.

I’m not sure what the preschool told him. I explained that the poppy flower symbolized remembering and today we were remembering the dead that had fought in wars. I explained that while war was a terrible thing, we needed to honor those that had fought for our freedoms. It was a way of honoring the dead of war, as well.

I think he’s a little burnt out on honoring the dead! After several days around Samhain and nearly nightly candle offerings to the Ancestors and Mighty Dead of our household, and now this, I think Son had decided he’d had enough. ‘I don’t want to remember the Dead! I don’t want to remember! I don’t want remember them! I don’t want to wear this poppy!’ he yelled. So we took it off. And then he proceeded to carry it around for the rest of the evening, being very careful with it.

Is any one else feeling worn out from two straight weeks honoring the Ancestors? For those of you with children, how do you talk to your children about the Dead?

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Full moon

In other news, I have been fighting a virus for a couple of weeks now. I think it has morphed into a low-grade ear infection. This has sapped my energy levels. I had hoped to finish up a tarot reading for a friend over the incredible full moon that just passed. I tend to feel less magical on full moons – I prefer the dark moon. But on a clear night with the moon shining bright I can’t help but want to go outside or get up to something. I’m hoping this illness will pass. I don’t feel I have a lot of energy for anything more than reading or breathing meditation. That makes for dull blogging, but there it is.

 

 

What sort of mischief or magic did you get up to during the full moon?