This Is What Self Care Looks Like Today

RANDOM THOUGHTS OF A CRONE

I’m struggling to feel good today—or even okay. All around me are celebrations of my county’s freedom—Independence Day, Fourth of July! Yet all I see are those precious freedoms slipping though our fingers.

I’m not celebrating our “Great America” today. I’m not setting eyes on any parade, especially one that appropriated tax dollars to ego stroke the interloper in the people’s house.

I don’t want to see or hear any celebratory fireworks—representative of the gallantly streaming ramparts. Not when an American war hero now laid to rest is repeatedly ridiculed by a petulant trust fund baby, the so called Commander in Chief, not half the man of any U.S soldier.

I will not celebrate when brave men who risked their lives on 911 must stand before congress, shadows of their former selves, eaten by cancer, and beg that their health coverage not end; their words fall on the deafest ears of a corrupt majority leader.

I will not celebrate when children are being caged and treated like animals at our borders, when instead they could be processed out to relatives already living here, to foster care, to many people who would temporarily take them in and treat them with compassion.

I’m not celebrating when Congress appropriates money to expand facilities and improve conditions in these kiddie concentration camps. Not when these facilities are part of this country’s for profit industrial prison complex that unjustly incarcerates marginalized people to maintain their money-making head counts.

Not when the interloper and a Supreme Court Judge have been accused of sexual assault and their accusers have been dragged through the mud, received death threats, and are left with a life in ruin.

Not when veterans who fought for our freedoms are homeless in the streets, and we spend millions on a bullshit parade for a fake president so he can impress the murdering dictators of the world whom he believes are fine people.

Not when children live in poverty within our own borders and we cannot feed, clothe or care for them with tax dollars, but will stop at no expense to protect those not yet born, not yet hungry, not yet naked or cold or sick . . . right up until the moment they are born and become hungry, naked, cold and sick.

Not when single mothers are shamed as immoral sluts and welfare queens, while men pass laws that will force all fertile women to bear children. Not when a pregnant woman sits in jail because the bullet from somebody else’s gun killed her unborn child and she is deemed the guilty one.

Not when judges slap the hands of rich white boy rapists to preserve their promising futures, while throwing the victim and a good deal of her hope for a promising future to the dogs.

Not when innocent people of color are shot down in the streets, in their own yards, in their own cars.

Not when the blood of those who gave their lives to secure our freedoms cries out from the grave and is denied.

Not when the poor, the sick, the minorities and the marginalized are fodder for the GOP Corporate money machine, fed into the grinder to churn out the God Almighty Dollar for the rich.

I will not celebrate America and her freedoms today. I will mourn the loss of both and conjure whatever force—in whatever name or names—that might still exist for good, for decency, for compassion, and for justice to rise up and smite all the corrupters and corrupted.


Witching Up a Recipe

Nothing says summer picnic to me like sweet and tangy pickled beets. You can buy your fried or broasted chicken at any number of fast food places. Purchase a pint of potato salad at the deli counter, and pick up a watermelon from the produce stand. But pickled beets—really good pickled beets, are a work of kitchen magic.

My mother was an excellent cook, the kind who used a pinch of this and a dash of that, a few cups here, a handful there—stir and taste until it’s just right. When she cooked from scratch the results were five star.

She was also a busy woman and her forte was “doctoring” things up. That meant sometimes starting with store bought sauce, packaged macaroni and cheese, or other convenience packaged, canned, or frozen mainstay. Then she added her own magic touch. I do the same, but I prefer to call it witching things up.

Back to the beets. My mother made, hands down, the best pickled beets I’ve ever tasted. Judging from the request she received for the recipe, they are the best pickled beets just about anybody has ever tasted. And it takes less than 10 minutes to make them.

Refigerator Pickled Beets

  • 2 Cans Sliced Beets (with liquid)
  • I Medium to Large Onion
  • 1.25 Cups White Sugar
  • 1 Cup Vinegar
  • 4 Whole Cloves
  • 1 Quart Jar (with cover)

Pour juice from both cans of beets into saucepan, about 1.5 cups. Add generous 1 cup, (up to 1.5 cups) vinegar. I use half apple cider and half white vinegar; I like my pickled beets a bit tangier than they are sweet. Add sugar sliced onion and cloves. Bring to boil. Fill jar to 1/4 with canned sliced beets, then pour brine with onions to cover. Repeat this process until jar is filled, alternating beets and liquid with onions. Cover jar, let cool then put in refrigerator. Wait at least 24 hours before serving. If you can, wait a little longer to give the flavors a chance to develop and blend—it’s worth it. These will keep several weeks in refrigerator—but once you open the jar you’ll eat them all before that.

I alternate adding beets and liquid into the jar simply to distribute the onions throughout. You can add more vinegar or sugar to your personal taste, and yes, taste the brine while cooking until you get it just right . . . I wouldn’t know any other way to cook.

You can make this recipe with fresh beets, and I’m not going to argue that it will enhance the already delicious ambrosia. Simply clean, peel and precook the beets, and use the beet water. But honestly, if you buy a good quality of canned beets this recipe is hard to beet (lol) for it’s flavor and ease of preparation.

It’s up to you whether you share the bounty—or share the secret ingredient . . . “You’ll never believe I made it with canned beets!”

When I’m asked what the secret is, I just say, “It’s magic.”


Rainy Days and Sundays

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The sun woke me early this morning. 

It’s always a welcome awakening. Shining through my east bedroom window the beam strikes the mirror (positioned to catch it) and light floods the entire room. For a few moments, I lay silent, letting the illumination fill me; it reaches into the shadowed corners of my psyche and I feel both hope and purpose propelling me to rise.

This morning, like most, I fed the cat, made my coffee and completed my morning devotionals, a changing mix including meditation, prayer, intentions, reading, and journaling. Now, I’m sitting in my quiet space and the clear sky has given way to gray clouds. I hear the sound of soft but steady rain and it evokes a different feeling than the sunrise, a calm sense of contentment and appreciation. I’m reassured that all I need is provided in balance, in light and dark, sunshine and rain, stars and moon in the black velvet night, joy and sorrow, growth and rest.

It’s not always so easy to remember this. Quiet mornings become busy days and the voices of doubt and fear speak louder to me than the silent proof all around me that the light always returns, the bounty of earth blooms every spring, that I live in a place and time where my needs are easily met, and my worries are mostly a foolish waste of my time in this life.

“But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

~ Julian of Norwich

It’s sometimes difficult to wrap my brain around what the 14th-century holy woman intuited in her messages from the Saviour of her understanding, Jesus Christ. It’s not as simple as saying this too shall pass. I think more so it means that what we experience in our human existence as suffering—unmet need, loss, sorrow, pain, illness, and death, are as well in the fact of their existence as when they are overcome; all manner of things shall be well.

It’s from the sun and the rain that bounty grows, it’s from the adversity and the prosperity that we grow. All manner of things.

Each of us meets our metaphorical rainy days against the backdrop of our personal experience. I have buried four young men in our family, my step-son and three sons-in-law, the most recent just six months ago. The depth of that despair is now familiar to me and colors the lens of my perspective.

Friends wonder how I survive, how I go on. For some time, I thought I didn’t have a choice; the world goes on, the sun continues to rise every day, sometimes the rain falls. I am faced with the same challenges and triumphs I have encountered before, and will again in many guises.

But with such great loss, has come a gift of deeper insight. I now see that the joys and sorrow of life dress differently for everybody but are felt the same. I may be able to look at a mother who mourns the loss of a baby never held in her arms and know she cannot imagine the deeper sorrow of losing one she has known and watched grow, maybe to adulthood; it doesn’t matter because this is her greatest pain.

A parent or grandparent who has never stood at the graveside of a child they nurtured and protected, sees a future taken away by drug addiction or unwanted pregnancy, or debilitating illness or injury, and feels that loss as deeply. A spouse who cares for their dying partner, or one who watches, helpless as their marriage dies in divorce, each feel their pain as intensely.

Regardless of what measure they are dealt in, sorrow and joy are the two sides of the coin that is this life. They boil down to two known quantities—what am I afraid of, and what do I yearn for?

My fear of loss is great, it haunts me daily because I know how much more I could still lose, but the depth of that loss equally expands the boundaries of my yearning for joy, because I know how much more is still here within my reach.

A moment spent with my daughters in their otherwise busy lives, the mess of my grandchildren’s muddy boots in the entryway, the comfort of a warm cat sleeping in my lap, the light of the sun breaking through the clouds, all give me infinite joy. I have only to choose to embrace it.

That is how I go on, in sunshine or in shadow.


No Joy In Snowville

Once upon a time, there was this book that set the self help world on fire, I’m Okay—You’re Okay, by Thomas Harris. It examined the behavioral patterns of self doubt, and called for the understanding that we are all different individuals, we approach life circumstances differently, but none of us is less okay than others of us because of our differences.

That’s a pretty simplistic take, but I think it covers it. There’s more than one way to peel a banana, viva la difference.

Fast forward half a century and our culture, from global to next door neighbors, has become considerably more divisive than amenable. I think we all see it happening in the same way we see a forest, and maybe some of us even see the individual trees, but I believe too few are seeing the root of the problem.

It became crystal clear to me thanks to a Facebook meme; or you might say, it became as clear as the icicles in a Wisconsin winter.

 

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I have lived in this northern state my entire life. Specifically, I’ve lived on the edge of Lake Superior, the largest and coldest Great Lake in the chain. Our winters are brutal. The recent arctic blast that plunged the upper Midwest and eastern states to below zero temperatures is a guaranteed January  occurrence here at the head of the lakes. Some years it’s short lived, some years we’re blasted for the entire month.

Most often the deep freeze is followed by four to six weeks (sometimes more) of relentless snow. Not necessarily blizzards, though we’re familiar with them, but rather light and steady snowfall that accumulates to several feet in a matter of days. Weeks on end of accumulating snow, until the banks lining my walkway are so high I can no longer shovel the snow up and over them, it hits the snow tunnel wall and just cascades back onto the walkway.

This is snow country. So you might think a Facebook meme that encourages finding the silver lining in all that white stuff would be a good thing. You might, but I don’t, at least not in Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 2.08.16 PMthe way it’s presented. It’s okay to enjoy the snow and cold, it’s okay to love winter recreation, it’s okay to wish for more of it because it’s the bread and butter of your business. But it’s also okay to not like it. The finding joy in snow meme may as well say, I enjoy the snow and there’s something lacking in you’re life, in you, if you don’t.

I’m all for making the best of any unchangeable situation—and yes, the snow will fall here whether we like it or not, but taking the position that enjoying the snow is simply a matter of choice is dismissive, it others those who are not able bodied, healthy, and young. The real choice being made is in choosing to see circumstance, limitations, and obstacles as being easily overcome if you just change your attitude. It says my perception and experience is okay, yours is somehow flawed. It’s really saying, “Just get over it already and quit yer complaining—sheesh!”

Well if this isn’t the height of irony—a snowflake (I’m not, but a lot of people reading this must surely think so) complaining about actual snow. If one person can’t enjoy it, then nobody should?

Bear with me.

I’m sure those who must navigate a wheelchair over snow and ice don’t find joy in six months of struggling just to get into and out of their house. Nor do those with lung or heart conditions, who are at greatly increased risk in extreme weather conditions, find joy in being virtually shut in for the duration.

And let’s not forget the elderly—though it’s easy because our youth focused culture has made them all but invisible. Aside from mobility difficulties and the danger of falling (a fall for an elderly person can be the beginning of a long downhill slide to further complications and even death) this vulnerable demographic includes many who cannot shovel, who must depend on (and wait on) others to shovel them out.

Many seniors are living on meager fixed incomes, and the cost of snow removal is prohibitive. In addition, most municipalities levy fines to residents who fail to clear the walkways in front of their house. We can get people to stand in sub-zero temperatures and ring bells for charity, but we can’t organize volunteers to shovel for the elderly?

Not everybody owns a car. How much joy do you suppose there is to be found walking in temperatures and wind speeds that cause frostbite in a matter of minutes?

Do I even need to talk about the homeless?

Further, blizzards endanger the lives of essential service and health workers, who must report for work when everything else is closed—not to mention the police, fire and rescue teams who respond to accidents on icy roadways. Extreme conditions endanger the lives of school children, dismissed early when storms blow up suddenly in mid-day. Snow and ice covered roads present life-threatening dangers for everybody who drives or rides as a passenger. I don’t guess those involved in the recent forty vehicle pile up on I-90 in central Wisconsin are finding much joy in the injury and expense incurred.

Snow and ice also cause expensive property damage. Is the single parent working for minimum wage dancing for joy beneath the leaky roof caused by ice dams? Or is the family whose furnace goes out with no money to repair it, feeling any particular joy?

I commented on my social media, saying the meme was annoying and dismissive of the real, dire consequences that can come from the perfectly natural weather we experience here in northern Wisconsin, and that it’s completely lacking in empathy or compassion for those who don’t fare so well in snow and cold to say they should find joy in it.

Friends told me I was disgruntled because I came back from a warm respite in the Southwest too soon. Actually not. I don’t have many concerns over the snow and cold. I don’t like it much, but my driveway and walks are cleared (we can afford to pay for the service), I don’t have to go out on the icy roads or walkways, I have the privilege of waiting for safer conditions. I’m not at any increased health risk and if my heat goes out we can afford repair—and a nice warm hotel room while we wait. My only real concern is for my kids safety; they still have to drive back and forth to work in bad weather.

But I’m not so myopic as to think that extreme snow and cold isn’t a great hardship for many people just because I’m okay. I think that meme makes it easy to overlook the real dangers and lulls us into believing it’s no big deal, we just have to toughen up, and face the weather with a smile on our faces. It insinuates weakness on those who complain and shames them for doing so.

It may have been well meaning, but would it be so different if I posted one saying You can choose not to find the joy of living in an impoverished neighborhood, or country, you’ll still be impoverished, but you’ll have less joy in your life. Factual or not, that would be a pretty shitty—and privileged—thing to say. Believing it’s a matter of choice to find joy in circumstances that cause hardships greater than your own, is the very act of rendering marginalized people invisible in our society.

Many more Californian’s escaped this past summer’s horrendous fires, than suffered from them. Would anybody have had the gaul to post a meme suggesting that Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 2.22.37 PM.pngeverybody would be happier if they just found the joy in hot, dry weather?  After all, you can’t control the weather and it’s not unexpected for a region bordering the Southwest desert to experience unusually hot and dry spells. For those not in fire regions that was the worst of it, so lets all look for the joy in it.

Or, perhaps if they’d found the joy in being outside raking leaves the previous fall . . .  you get the point, right?

The fact that extreme winter weather and excessive snowfall is expected or normal in northern Wisconsin, doesn’t negate the also true fact that it’s a dangerous situation for many people who cannot just up and move. 

Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the wintery snow and cold if that’s your jam. I’m not saying anybody shouldn’t because somebody can’t. And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about enjoying it. I have a friend who leaves Wisconsin for the entire winter to go to Montana for skiing. God bless her snow loving heart, I hear about her joy in every post, tweet, and phone call and it makes me happy that she’s happy. I’m also happy she doesn’t expect everybody else to feel the same way.

The snow-joy meme is judgmental; it stinks of privilege regardless if the number of people who are adversely affected by extreme weather is small in comparison to the overall population. I’m not sure if this mantle of privilege is coming down from the top, or if it’s the fertilizer feeding the roots from the ground up. I am sure it’s a slippery slope of simplification that leads to not seeing those in need.

Please, just stop perpetuating the idea that those who find no joy in Snowville (or anything else that delights you) are disgruntled complainers who need to get over it. And maybe get your joy on by shoveling the sidewalks of two or three people who can’t.

I find joy in the snow twice a year, when I see the first flakes, and when I race my car though the spring-melt puddles. The rest of the five or six months it’s a huge pain in the rear end as far as I’m concerned. Pretending different doesn’t add one bit of joy to my life.


Simple Witchery Part 3 — The Four Pillars of Witchcraft

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To Know,
To Will,
To Dare,
To Keep Silent

 

What does that mean for a practicing witch? These are the four governing principals of the practice of all witchcraft. Each is simple at first glance, and means just what you would think, to have knowledge, to be willing to apply that knowledge, to dare to test your limits, and to keep it all under your pointy little hat.

However, they issue a deeper command even in simple witchery.

To Know: As I touched on in Simple Witchery parts 1 and 2, the highest order of business for a witch is know self above all else. Does this mean I have to embark on a quest, submit to extensive therapy, unpack all my bags and rattle the skeletons out of my closet before I can be a practicing witch?

No. But it does mean that a large part of your on going practice is devoted to knowing what makes you tick, why you do what you do, why you want what you want—the unvarnished truth. This is mostly because witch crafting works with intent, and if you don’t know your motivations, your intent can backfire. In fact, it will backfire . . . every witch has at least one story of learning that lesson.

I spent years as a personal development coach. I helped clients discover their motivational style, to more easily understand their desires and choices. When taken down to the lowest common denominator we are all motivated by fear and reward, with each at the opposite ends of the spectrum. In a very simplistic example, if a bartender took the job because the tips are good and s/he needed to pay the rent, that leans toward a motivation of fear—afraid of being homeless. If s/he took the job because of s/he likes meeting people, loves to talk and listen, and finds the atmosphere energizing, in other words s/he loves the job, that is much closer to reward motivation.

The example above just touches the tip of the iceberg, but you can see how it works. As a witch, do I want to cast a banishing spell because someone is truly causing me harm, or because I’m a little jealous of them, or annoyed by their needs or . . . (take your pick).  In such cases, it might be far better for me to work on myself, and if I cast any spell, to make it one for tolerance. At the very least, if I go ahead and work a banishing, knowing why I’m doing it will allow me to make it more effective.

A final note here; magic is not always the right or best solution and you have to know that too. Exhaust all mundane (non-magical) solutions first. Instead of casting a binding spell on a coworker who is bothering you—confront them in a calm and logical way. If that doesn’t work, take it up with human services.

So the first thing to know is yourself, the real you, the true you—warts and all as they say. Then, there is knowing the craft, the history of it, the thought leaders past and present, and the mechanics of it. There is only one way to achieve this and that’s research, research, research. If you’re a joiner, there are some great schools to be found online, and mentoring groups in social media. If you’re just starting out, I recommend finding somebody who is advanced and reputable, for some one on one mentoring.

There are many knowledgable writers at patheos.com. Circle Sanctuary is also another great source. Llewellyn is the largest publisher and book seller of pagan and witchcraft authors (among other genres).

As you can see, this To Know thing, is an on-going pursuit throughout the lifetime of a practicing witch. The wisest witch knows she doesn’t know it all and never will.

To Will: This is your intent. The magic of witchcraft is to actually will something to happen with focused intent through manipulating the laws of nature, human nature and physics. Let’s look at that word, manipulate, because it can have a negative connotation. 1.

handle or control (a tool, mechanism, etc.), typically in a skillful manner.

“he manipulated the dials of the set”

So witchcraft can be described as skillfully managing, controlling or creating (manifesting) a desired outcome through knowledge of natural and physical laws.

The caveat with this one is to remember what Cyndi Brannen of Keeping Her Keys says (I’m paraphrasing a bit as she names a deity, rather than using the word magic)  “[Magic]  can not do for you, what it can not do through you.”  In other words, you can’t work magic to help you find the perfect job, and then not do everything in your (will) power to look for that job. You can’t cast a spell for needed money, and not be willing to work for that money.

Then, what do you need the magic for? Isn’t it all just willpower? Yes and no—mostly no, and you’ll understand this as you get better at making magic happen. It just works.

To Dare: For me, to dare means to take the risk, because being a witch is risky. We might not have witch hunts, persecution and death by drowning, hanging or burning at the stake . . . in most countries, but it’s still not all that safe to be a witch. Society doesn’t look fondly on witches, we live in the margins, we have truck with the undesirables—often we are their champions, sometimes we are them.

To dare also means to believe and to try. “Do I dare believe I can attain this, or create that with witchery?” And, “Do I dare believe I am deserving enough to have this power?” In this vein, to dare is to lay claim to your sovereignty, your divine-given right to strive for that which you desire. Your right to autonomy, your right to justice, your right to equality. Whether you are practicing in the broom closet (keeping your witchery secret) or you are a loud and proud witch – to dare means to take control of your own power and use it.

To Keep Silent: Again, pretty self explanatory on the surface. Historically, keeping silent meant to keep your practice secret, only share it with coven mates if you had them, It was self preservation. But there were, and are, family and legacy considerations for keeping silent too—just like secret recipes, a family might keep their particular ways only in the family, passing it down through the generations. This was often the root of the book of shadows and the grimoires.

In my opinion, it also means to be circumspect about your practice, being careful not to share with those who would misuse or cheapen it, who are interested because it’s a fad. Also, not to proselytize. The general rule of thumb is that somebody who seems interested in learning more, must ask of their own accord.

Finally, I see keeping silent as part of my personal spell work, in not broadcasting the spells I cast. Cast your spell, release the energy to do its work in the universe, and let it go, put it out of your mind. Keep your journal, or book of shadows, to write the spell and later note its success or failure. That is the way your practice grows and you become better at crafting spells and manifesting results.

I want to add one final note to this series on simple witchery—simple does not mean lazy. There is no room for lazy in effective witchcraft. Study, make time for devotion/meditation, practice the craft (work spells, keep notes, and track your practice). Prepare your spells carefully, researching correspondences, moon phases, and other influencing factors. In this way, a simple practice every day is better than an elaborate ritual once a month on full moon, or whenever you have time.

My vision for Simple Witchery is to help you create an effective practice that fits your lifestyle, your schedule, your resources and, yes, your finances . . . because the only thing you need to be a witch, is within you—your belief and your intent. The rest is window dressing.

Start where you are, go slow, and grow.

Blessed Be and Journey Well

Read Parts One & Two

For more Simple Witchery visit the MAD Goddess  Patreon site, where you’ll find lots of free content, and the opportunity to become a patron starting at $3/mo.


Witchy Wares: A Merry Little Gift List

I’ve been so busy in my northwoods realm I nearly forgot to share my list of witchin’ gifts for the holidays.

Topping my gift picks this year is anything from Sarah Ann Lawless’s newly launched herbal shop, Bane Folk. I have long been a follower of this folk herbal witch, watching her develop and refine her line of exquisite poisons into modern versions of historic flying potions and other products. Her mandrake ointment has been a wonder for easing the pain from my spinal stenosis.* Now that she offers 5ml tubes for sampling each of her six herbal salves, I can’t wait to try them all.Screen Shot 2018-12-15 at 12.22.30 PM

The newest addition to her product line is her Poison Garden Perfume Collection. The website states, “Each poison garden roll-on perfume oil is crafted with the botanical extracts & essential oils of psychoactive and poisonous plants from the Artemisia and Solanaceae plant families.”

The size and price (a mere $4 +S&H) make this a perfect stocking stuffer.

*This is not an endorsement, recommendation, or suggestion for medical treatment.

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Listen, a witch can never have too many candles. For magics. I found these colorful beauties at Menorah(.com). Hand dipped using organic beeswax, they feature 100% cotton, clean burning wicks. Don’t be fooled by the picture, these diminutive tapers are only about 5 inches tall, but in my opinion that only lends to their magical uses. At $17.99 for a package of 45, it might be the best deal on this year’s list.

If you’re like me, scrolling through #witchesofinstagram, #pagasofinstagram and #castingspells on your Instagram feed turns you just a little bit green with envy. Some witches really know how to visually style a spell. While I’m waiting for the book of pretty spell casting to comeScreen Shot 2018-12-15 at 1.41.14 PM out (hint-hint Spell Bar), I find a lot of inspiration in the not-exactly-meant-for-witches magazine, Willow and Sage One year of four issues costs a dear price of $50 by subscription, a $2.50 savings per issue. It’s filled with how-to, ingredient lists and sources, and pages of visual eye candy for the home herbalist. A cleaver witch can see past the practical application and transform inspiration into beautifully laid spells.

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Of course, there’s much more to casting a good spell than meets the eye. This quirky little book, Composing Magic, by Elizabeth Barrette, covers the basics skills of  good writing and applies them to magical works. The easy to read format lets you jump around to areas of interest, such as spells, rituals, or a book of shadows, but the books flows from beginning to end with an easy to read style.

Screen Shot 2018-12-15 at 2.05.07 PMI can’t leave without sharing my fountain pen pick of the year. I’m obsessed with these scratchy, inky, pens that harken to the past. This rose gold and aquamarine Ted Baker model is hard to come by, but a Google search will still lock in a few available for purchase. If you love it as much as I do, don’t dally!

Don’t forget the ink! Though this is categorized as a red, the shimmer in Diamine Red Luster gives it the appearance of a rich copper sheen.

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That rounds out my witchin’ gift picks for Yuletide 2018. Wishing you a bright and blessed Solstice Season.

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Simple Witchery — Part 2

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witch·craft
/ˈwich – kraft/
noun

synonyms: sorceryblack magicwhite magicmagicwitchingwitcherywizardry; spells, incantations.

I have to say I take exception to the rather archaic concept in the definition above specifically the descriptor, especially black magic. Most of the definitions I found with a simple dictionary search were equally as faulty.

Yes, some witches practice black magic, not all, and not even the majority. So why the inference that all witchcraft has a menacing element?

The persecution of witches (mostly women, but men too) is a time honored tradition of suppressing power. Not magkical power mind you, but that which resists the ruling powers of the prevailing institution. One very effective method to thwart opposition is to cast aspersions that create fear, and also promise repercussion for offenses. It plays out as convincing the masses that a witch is to be feared and reviled. It is a vehicle to prosecute and punish accused witches, up to and including death.

The rest of the definition, the casting of spells and use of invocation is accurate enough, if not amusing. By that definition, I was a witch sitting in the pew of the Roman Catholic Cathedral attached to the church school that I attended for 9 years—because if chanting litanies to the saints doesn’t fit the description of a spell, and calling forth the body and blood of a religious icon, a man who died over 2,000 years ago isn’t invocation of a spirit, then I guess I don’t know what is.

The largest misconception about witchcraft today is that is a religion.

~ Mad Goddess

Here is where I’m going to go off the rails because the further out of the broom closet I come, the more this is becoming my pet peeve. The largest misconception about witchcraft today is that it is religion. Some witches do intertwine their personal spiritual faith belief with their practice of the craft and in that way it fits the frame of religious practice.

The saying often goes, all Wiccan’s are witches but not all witches are Wiccan. It serves its purpose, but there are a few glitches even in that.

  • Wiccans are not the only witches who incorporate spiritual faith belief into their practice.
  • It is possible to practice Wicca without ever incorporating spell work, an essential component of witchcraft.
  • I know I can do spell work and invocations without a trace of religious trappings, or for that matter, belief in a supreme being; the only belief required is that in the properties of natural and physical laws, the properties of energy and the affect of motive and intention.
  • Finally, witchcraft can be practiced by those who follow a religious faith. Their faith may or may not approve, but otherwise, the two are not exclusive.

The least assumptive definition I found was, “The use of magic to help or harm people.”

Uhg. There is so much wrong with even that statement, some of which could be remedied by just dropping the last word. Yes, witchery (not necessarily magick) can and is used for both help and harm, depending on the practitioner—but help or harm can be directed to all things energetically connected by the web of life.

Witchcraft is the study and use of natural and physical law, for
the purpose of applying focused intent and personal will to a
specific purpose, and to manifest a desired outcome.

~ Mad Goddess

If any of those dictionary scholars were asking me (and they aren’t) this is what I’d tell them: Witchcraft is the study and use of natural and physical law, for the purpose of applying focused intent and personal will to a specific purpose, and to manifest a desired outcome.

A witch has a deep and abiding relationship with nature and the natural world, including an understanding that simply because many parts of the natural world are unseen to us it doesn’t mean we cannot enlist the aid of those properties and powers. In other words the belief that if E=mc², ( all physical matter consists of energy) that energy can be tapped into and used.

Many witches practice with a deity or deities, but even this does not a religion make. The major religions of the world call for belief in and worship of an all knowing supreme being (or beings) responsible for the creation and/or oversight of life as we know it, with the power to reward and punish our deeds. Witchcraft requires no such thing.

The practice of modern witchcraft, or neo paganism, primarily arises out of the desire to eschew the dogma and doctrine of organized religions, yet in many cases veers right back into those codes of behavior. Old habits and beliefs are hard to break; for those who were raised with prescribed religious practice it can be difficult to leave that aspect behind. Thus witchcraft and spiritual practice have become so enmeshed it can be difficult to tease one out from the other.

Working with the energetic qualities of archetypes and deities, gods, goddesses, prophets, saints or spirits, as opposed to worshipping or venerating and or submitting to the same, separates witchcraft from religious practice.

A witch might call on the energy of a particular animal to inspire its qualities, for example an Owl’s powers of observation. Indigenous American spirituality would describe it as calling on the animal’s medicine. Likewise, one could call on the energy or medicine of the ocean, the mountains, the sun, moon or stars, rocks and trees—as well as deities, spirits or human forms no longer of this realm; even archetypes and symbols have associated energy.

If witchcraft requires any faith belief, it’s the belief that all things have an energy that can be combined with our own to achieve a goal or manifest a desired result. Or, at the least the belief that we hold within our aspect the energy of all living things, each to be called forth as needed.

If either of those possibilities sounds a little crazy to you, consider how these concepts have permeated our culture:

  • He is the salt of the earth
  • She is an angel of mercy
  • I’m sly like a fox
  • WWJD – What would Jesus Do? What would your mother think? What would your father tell you?

All of these and many more are the calling forth of energy to our purpose. Of course, that alone does not make a witch. No more than my husband is a Catholic priest because he can still recite the entire mass in Latin (altar boy for three years). Nor I am Madonna because I can sing all of her songs. Yes that Madonna, not The Madonna—it’s okay for witches to have a sense of humor too.

You are not a witch until you know you are a witchTo Know is the first of the Four Pillars of Witchcraft*:

  • To Know
  • To Will
  • To Dare
  • To Keep Silent

The meaning of the first might seem obvious—you have to know witchy things to be a witch. But this pillar also commands the witch to know thyself above all else. It is essential to know not only what witchcraft is, but why you choose to be a witch.

Whew! It sounds like simple witchcraft is anything but simple.

Think of it this way—it’s like playing the piano. You learn to read music, practice the scales, develop and ear for the the sharps and flats, you have to know how to play all the notes and chords. Where you take it from there determines whether you’ll become a virtuoso or play chopsticks the rest of your life.

There is nothing wrong with playing simple tunes the rest of your life, just as there is no failure in making simple witchery the entirety of your practice. It’s not necessary to have a working knowledge of the uses for every herb in the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. You can do everything you need to do with herbs that are easily grown in your region or purchased (fresh or dried) at your grocery store.

Likewise, you don’t have to have one of every crystal and gem in your collection. A clear quartz crystal can be charged for any purpose. For that matter, a stone natural to your region holds scads of magick to be used.

Truth be told, you don’t even need that much. I’ll cover this in more detail in my next post—Everything You Need to Know About The Four Pillars of Witchcraft. Suffice it to say, the only thing you need to practice witchcraft is yourself and your intent. The rest is accoutrement.

My idea for simple witchery is to develop a practice easily incorporated into daily life, your daily life, because consistent practice is the key to effective practice.

Simple witchery is knowing that lighting a candle and invoking sacred space, is as effective as calling a circle and holding formal ritual. That drawing a magical symbol on a small stone to carry in your pocket, is just as effective (maybe more so), than a pricey, magical bracelet or amulet. That isn’t to say it’s okay to be a lazy witch (never putting much effort into your practice) or that you shouldn’t make fair exchange for the things you desire (it’s okay to buy the bracelet, purchased from the metaphysical shop).

Remember this; you will get as much out of your practice as you put into it—no more and no less.

Blessed Be and Journey Well

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