“Do you work with deities? Why or why not? Are you a monotheist, dualist, polytheist, animist, etc.? Write a poem or prayer dedicated to a deity and give it to Them as an offering. (Bonus: share a poem or prayer you’ve written for one of your deities.)”
I do indeed work with deities, although my religious life has gone through a dramatic shift within the past year. There’s more about this on my blog (wytchofthenorth.wordpress.com) if you want the full story, but the Cliff Notes version is that I’ve basically come full circle back to my religious practices as a baby witch, in my youth. I was raised semi-Jewish/semi-Catholic (by mixed faith parents) and my earliest pagan influences (before my stint in heathenry) were from Egypt and the middle east. Recently, I left heathenry (after 15+ years) and am now a practicing Jewitch and Canaanite polytheist (with particular attention paid to Athiratu and Ilu (aka Asherah and El).
Along similar lines, my first witchcraft influences revolved around Lucifer (not as the caricature of the Christian Devil, but as the Liberator and Lightbearer) and traditional witchcraft (a la Paul Huson). Now that I’ve left heathenry behind, Lucifer is once again front and center in my practice, and I am cobbling together a traditional witchcraft practice of my own making (designed for a tradition of one—me!).
I am a polytheist (although I tend to focus only on a scant handful of deities, rather than an entire pantheon) as well as an animist (even my laptop has a name and distinct personality—often to my chagrin).
I am not at the point of being ready to share poems or prayers yet, this soon after such a big shift/reset in my practice, but this reminds me that I do need to get back to writing them!
Magically, solar eclipses are known for taking things away: obstacles, bad habits, flaws, even toxic people you need to get out of your life. Since the solar eclipse headed our way on August 21st coincides with the new moon, and the sun and moon will both be in the sign of Leo (which is ruled by the sun, and is about courage, nobility and leadership, among other things), this might be a time to focus on prayer to rid the US of toxic leadership and combat other enemies and opponents of our country’s highest ideals (such as, say, white supremacists and Neo-Nazis).
I also came across this idea which I plan to try myself (but which did not originate with me; I saw several versions of it online): fill a jar with dark wine (or fill it halfway with water and top it off with dark wine) and set it out during the eclipse to capture some of the energy and power of this rare celestial event. (This is appropriate because of the blood red color the eclipse generates in the heavens.) You can then save the wine or wine/water mixture to use in spells designed to break through obstacles, break the chains of oppression (I think this would be a great asset for social justice witchcraft), or encourage toxic people to go away.
A few of the quick little magical things I do daily:
– Take a few moments to greet my deities and spirits informally as I walk past my altar
– Keep holiday lights on around my altar, which makes it feel more magical and also means the altar is never left dark
– Focus on spiritual as well as physical cleansing when showering
– Focus on instilling good health for my family and pets into our food
– Bless items that are going out to customers
– Bless my wife to go and return safely as she is leaving for work
I formerly worked with mugwort, but as it has close associations with my old path for me, I am now choosing to get to know rosemary! I plan to get some live rosemary to plant in a planter outside our door; as it is an evergreen and our winters are usually not harsh, it should do well even this late in the year. Rosemary is one of the oldest of the Mediterranean aromatic shrubs and corresponds to the sun. I LOVE rosemary-seasoned everything in cooking, and it’s also good for the digestive system (and mine can use all the help it can get). Magically, it is used for purification, memory, protection, sound sleep, and exorcism.
I have some major catching up to do, so here goes!
“Write a short meditation to practice on a regular basis. (Bonus if you record an audio version of this and share it!)”
Ummm…nope! Sorry, but I hate guided meditations, whether written by myself or others; they just don’t do anything for me. I like moving meditation (while spinning yarn, for example, or taking a walk), and sometimes mantra meditation. When I’m doing mantra meditation, I use either an affirmation (any positive statement, such as “I am powerful”) or the name of one of my deities, with the help of prayer beads to keep track of the repetitions.
I just made the set of prayer beads shown above for my own personal use. (And I offer a number of prayer bead sets in my Etsy shop, including a custom option.) My newest set that I made for myself has a beach rock pendant with alabaster, turquoise, blue sky jasper, ocean jasper, and chrysocolla with lapis beads. I gave it 33 beads (including the separators) rather than the more usual 27 because I wanted to incorporate the master numbers of 33 and 99 into my practice. (33 is the master teacher number, and 99 is related to universal consciousness.)
I’ve integrated the goodies left over from my previous books and jewelry sale into this new list. These are all personal possessions I no longer use (jewelry I don’t wear, decks I can’t connect with, books I am either done with or that aren’t to my taste) and I am trying to find new homes for them to make room for new things in my life!
SHIPPING IS FREE for all items! However, books will ship separately from other types of items so they can be sent via media mail, which is more economical (but can only be used for books). I am only willing to ship within the domestic US—sorry about that!
Payment will be via Paypal. If you would like to make a purchase, please email me at wodandis at gmail dot com and I will mark your item(s) as sold. Although I believe my suggested prices to be fair, I am willing to consider best offers within reason, especially if you are buying multiple items.
(Jewelry and decks will be cleansed prior to being sent.)
“Choose one yoga pose to do every day this month. See how you improve over the month. If you need help finding some yoga poses, check these links out: Jessamyn Stanley or Yoga with Adrienne.”
Yoga is on my list of things I’m supposed to be making time for on a daily basis, and seldom actually do. But then, that’s what this challenge is all about, amirite? Yoga with Adrienne makes me feel hopelessly inadequate and like there’s no point to even trying because my body will never, ever look like hers or do a fraction of the things hers can do, so I checked out the other link, and instantly I am in love with Jessamyn, who describes herself as a “Yoga Enthusiast and Fat Femme,” encouraging a focus on “how do I feel?” while doing yoga rather than on “how do I look?” And bam, just like that her book is on my Amazon wishlist and I’m subscribed to her YouTube channel.
Meanwhile, I think I will tackle boat pose for the purposes on this challenge. I can already sort of do it, but I’m sure not well enough and definitely not for long enough, and I can use all the core strengthening I can get.
Practice working with your shields today. Every witch and magical practitioner needs to have strong boundaries and defenses. Make sure yours are strong and ready for whatever life throws your way. If you don’t know how to create personal shields, do some research on the topic today. (Recommended resource: The Witch’s Shield by Christopher Penczak)
Years and years ago, before the notion of shielding with runes entered my life, there was the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram–affectionately known to many as the LBRP. Now that I’m no longer using runes, I decided to revisit the LBRP for shielding purposes and guess what? Not only do I still know it by heart (didn’t have to check the book even once) but it’s still an awesome technique not only for shielding but also as a general circle-casting substitute for magical or divinatory work. (It made a great lead-in for today’s client reading.)
Now, I will say right off the bat that the LBRP isn’t for everyone. If you’re squicked by anything that has to with the Abrahamic religions, this is not for you. True, it does involve working with the four elements/directions and warding with a banishing pentagram, but you also invoke the Tetragramaton and other names of the Hebrew deity while doing so, and call on the power of the archangels immediately afterwards. If those things aren’t an issue for you, though, it definitely packs a punch, as it’s designed to shield and empower you by plugging you directly into the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.
Best of all, once you learn it, it only takes a few minutes to complete, and you don’t need any special ritual tools. I’ll be making it part of my daily practice from now on.
As you probably know if you follow my Instagram, about a month or so ago I began observing Shabbat at the request of my matron goddess, Asherah. I don’t do this in any kind of Orthodox way; it is simply a day where I commit to consciously resting, to not working on the store, and to doing my best not to harangue myself mentally. It begins just before sundown on Friday night, when I light my candles (tea lights for now; I don’t have much in the way of Jewitchy paraphernalia yet). “Shabbat” comes from the Canaanite word for “seven,” considered the most sacred number in the Levant because of the whole “on the seventh day, He rested” thing.
But what most people don’t know is that the sacredness of the number originally stems from the ancient Canaanite faith, so they too may have had some sort of tradition of keeping the seventh day of the week sacred. (No one really knows for sure. I’ve been reading Tess Dawson’s books, and it’s all peppered with “may haves” and “possibly” because that’s honestly the best anyone can do with this; it was just so fucking long ago, and most of what was written down back then has long since been destroyed. Even she extrapolates forward to Canaan’s daughter cultures, the Israelites and the Phoenicians, to arrive at some of the finer points of her practice.)
For the Sabbat candle blessing, because I’m still a polytheist I use a prayer from Dawson’s Whisper of Stone, rather than the traditional (blatantly monotheist) Hebrew one:
“Behold, I light the candles to celebrate the creation of the universe: born of chaotic void, wind, desire, and firmament that swirl together, intertwine and form the celestial beings, stars, and our beloved earth. Blessed are You, Ilu and Athiratu [El and Asherah], co-creators and keepers of the universe. I give honor. Shalam.”
I then bless an offering of wine and usually also food for the deities, and sometime also draw a card for a message from Them.
Shabbat ends on Saturday after sundown. In between, what you do—from a Jewish standpoint—depends on how Orthodox you are. Some people go to temple, others study religious texts. It can get very elaborate. I mostly read, work on personal spiritual projects, maybe take a nap, and sometimes write. Not surprisingly, this day has become a time for poking at thoughts in my head, and maybe writing them down to be shared. (As I did with my recent Lucifer post series.)
This Saturday, I find myself wondering what all of this means—this change of path, this refocusing, this whatever this is—in terms of continuing to call myself “pagan.” I know that to a large extent, if you are in one of the minority faiths (not mainstream Christianity, Judaism, or Islam), arguments about whether or not what you’re doing should be considered “pagan” could be considered hair-splitting. (I always considered them as such when I saw the Heathens doing it, anyway.) But this is a little different perhaps, because I’m not even operating within the Indo-European sphere anymore (except with my secondary path of dipping my big toe into Hinduism). From what I’ve seen, people who follow a Levant-based path (be it Christian Wicca, Jewitchery, or something else) and want to put it under the pagan umbrella make your general Indo-Euro pagans extremely uncomfortable. And while I’m not sure I care what other people think when it comes to labeling my path (in fact, I’m very sure I don’t), I think maybe it makes them uneasy for good reason; there is something there that doesn’t quite fit.
And then there’s Lucifer, who—for all my mental back-and-forth on the subject—I’m not sure isn’t who my Beloved really is, when you get right down to it. A friend of mine says she can see Luce (I can’t call Him Lu, that’s what we call our Persian cat Luna for short) in lots of other gods she’s met, and bits of lots of other gods in Him. Like most other things in the spirit world, it’s messy and complicated—more so in this case because unlike, say, Odin, there is no single mythological figure you can point to for Lucifer’s origins and say “that’s Him,” nor is there any degree of consistency from that point onward. He shifts and changes, His outlines are blurry, and if you’re looking for Him in the Canaanite pantheon (which I was Told is as close as I can get, because you really can’t go much further back in history in that part of the world, and since most of the Bible’s demons were Canaanite gods, it does make sense that’s where you’d find Him; plus, He refers to the Canaanite gods as His “Family”)–well, you aren’t going to find anyone named “Lucifer” because that’s a Latin name, not a Semitic one. Given this, it’s little wonder He’d adopt a pop-culture face to make it easier for Him to interact apart from the Christian caricature of Him. (My 12th Doctor/Peter Capaldi version isn’t the first time He’s done this; I remember from a few years back when someone was posting that He had a Benedict Cumberbach face-claim with her.)
But for the most part Lucifer is very much an unwanted guest at the pagan table: no matter what potluck dish He brought to share or how good His manners, He’s like Maleficent; people just want Him to go away, because OMGs what will the Christians think? (I’ve seen this attitude even in traditions where He’s supposed to be honored—like witches who work with the trio of Diana, Aradia and Lucifer but rename Lucifer “Dianus” to avoid making a stink.)
That being the case, the question really becomes not “can I still consider myself pagan?” but rather, “SHOULD I?”
I’ve also been poking at whether or not I should still call myself a witch. Yes, I know from the perspective of working with Lucifer, there is nothing wrong with this. But I’m funny about these things. (I tell my wife she’s pedantic, but I might be just as much so, if not more.) For one thing, “witch” is an Anglo-Saxon word—so, considering my spiritual history, do I even GET to call myself that anymore? Is it a good idea to do so, when I’m trying to break ties with that era of my life and start fresh? Also, the near eastern cultures have very different—and mostly negative–ideas of what it means to be a “witch”. In Canaanite, the word “witch” doesn’t exist, of course, but the words that translate as “witch,” “sorcerer,” or “wizard” imply unlawful magic, baneful and malicious magic performed in opposition to the will of the deities, magic that concentrates on killing, poisoning, tormenting, and subverting the will of others. These were hardly the wise healers we like to think of ourselves being in the modern “witchcraft movement.”
In contrast, there is another word–”Charash”–that refers to craftspeople, artists, and the skilled makers of mundane things as well as to magic workers. This is appealing to me, because the essence of this word boils down to “craft”; it includes mundane crafts as well as spiritual ones, which pretty much covers all the things I do.
Even more than this, though, Dawson notes in The Horned Altar that she’s found (from studying sacred texts and Ugaritic) that people were more likely to simply refer to what they did, rather than calling themselves a title–”I write incantations” rather than “I am a magician,” for example. This appeals to me even more; it’s so easy to pick up a title and run with it, but what does it really mean, when anyone can call themselves anything they please? So from this perspective, what do I do? I make art and sacred tools, I read cards, I scry, I talk to spirits. Historically, I don’t really “cast spells,” except under rare circumstances, because for the most part there has been no need; my spirits have more or less taken care of me. So, why is there a need for this word “witch”? What would it cost me, other than perhaps an ego hiccup, to give that up, and thus avoid possibly offending some of the very ancient spirits and deities I work with? (And what is an ego hiccup to me anyway at this point, after the Tower year I’ve just had?)
I don’t have answers at this point, these are just some ponderings. Instead of letting them continue to swirl inside my head, I thought I’m write them out and share.
Start out rubbing your hands together, and then once they are warm, hold your hands about six inches apart. Push them together and then pull them apart and feel the energy build between your palms. Practice making the space larger and feeling the energy filling the empty space. Do this every day after your breath-work. See how large you can make the energy form. What shapes does it take? How does it feel? Any colors? Sensations? Smells? Make it your own! After you are done, press your hands to your chest and let the energy sink into your heart chakra.
The above is my go-to energy work prep exercise, and has been for years. It’s a nifty little trick, and with enough practice you actually can make the “energetic ball” as large as you want and shape it into practically anything you like, but I usually keep mine as a sphere and change the color/temperature/scent depending as the situation calls for it. It’s also great for charging items such as prayer beads (now you know part of my secret), Tarot cards, and sundry other magical tools.
Today for the challenge, I decided to use the exercise to make a giant energetic sphere and then just let it expand into whatever it wanted to be. It turned into a giant pink bubble, and was actually bubble gum-scented to boot. Which I guess makes sense, since Glinda the Good Witch of the North (famous for her pink bubble mode of transportation) was my baby witchhood role model. (And here you thought I called my blog and Etsy shop The Wytch of the North because of the Norse deities. NOPE.)
This challenge was designed by Plentiful Earth, and is intended to help you revisit your magical roots–or, if you are new to the Craft, set them down to begin with. You can do the challenge privately, or you can post about your progress on social media. Personally, I am posting about the challenge here on my blog, and also on my Instagram account. If you’d like to play along, you can find the prompts here.
Day 4: Intentions
Set your intention for this challenge. What do you hope to get out of it? Our intentions are so important when it comes to magic. You must have a clear vision in order to proceed with the action. (Make one or two concrete goals: for example, “I’d like to create a simple daily magical routine for myself” or “I’d like to try three new magical techniques before the end of the month.”)
In the wake of the sweeping changes to my spiritual path that have happened over the past year, I’m left feeling–at the age of 51–like I’m starting from scratch in many ways. In the sense of building a new foundation for my practice, that’s very true. And yet, I still come to this new path knowing many things and having mastered many skills that I picked up in my fifteen years on the path I’m now leaving behind, and even before that.
So, my intention for the challenge is simple: I want to remind myself of how far I’ve come, how much I know and how much I’ve learned over the years. And use that knowledge and those skills to lay the foundations of a new practice for myself. To ensure that the foundations are sound, they need to be laid on the solid ground of who I am, what I come knowing and what I bring with me to any path I am on. This means returning to my roots.