Manifestation Spell: An Alternative to Candles

One of the simplest, and therefore most popular, types of spells seems to be a candle spell. Candle spells work great for simple manifestation rituals, but they can be a pain in the ass.

Generally you’re instructed to carve your intention or desire into the candle. That becomes a problem if, like me, you suck at carving.

My attempts to write any type of description usually end up illegible, and I give up on the inclusion of important details because I don’t have the time or space to spend mutilating my candlestick.

And worse is the time investment. Candle magic requires a lot of attention. You can’t exactly start it and walk away. Most spells suggest letting the candle burn all the way down, which can take a long time even for a small candle.

As a busy little witch, I am interested in something that is a bit simpler–something I can do in fifteen minutes before I run out the door to an appointment or remember the laundry I forgot to switch to the dryer…which is why I am in love with my new “burning” magic that is quickly replacing my candles.

Flying wish paper is a fad that has hit my area in the last few years. The styles run anywhere from whimsical to cheesy, but some of them are quite elegant. I got one of the kits as a birthday chochke. They don’t market themselves as a magical tool, which is probably why it took me a bit of time to come up with the idea of using them in place of candle magic though I have used them as parts of rituals in other contexts.

More recently, as I’ve genuinely struggled to find chunks of time to spend on spiritual pursuits, it occurred to me that they might work for a manifestation spell…and they did!

The small wish papers provide enough room for me to scribble a fairly detailed intention. They’re formed into a cone which resembles a candle when I initially light it from the top.

It’s truly delightful to watch the paper burn. Just when I think that it’s going to burn all the way down to the base, the paper flies up into the air and turns to ash, which can be buried or washed down the drain.

I’ve used flying wish paper for several spells at this point, and they seem to work just as well or better than the candle spells at helping me to focus in on what I want and to seek it out in the universe.

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I Put a Spell on You…and Myself

a_witch_casting_spells_over_a_steaming_cauldron-_engraving_b_wellcome_v0025855

A witch casting spells over a steaming cauldron by H.S. Thomassin

Let’s talk about magic.

I’m currently working on developing a binding spell for Trump’s presidency to limit the damage he can do. I realize that it may not work, but it feels better than doing nothing.

Depending on where you look in the world of magic, you can get very different messages about binding spells, some warning that you should never ever do them and others suggesting that sometimes it’s appropriate but you’d better have a good reason.

In both instances, the fear is that a spell designed to interfere with the free will of another has the possibility of creating some…karmic payback.

Wiccans in particular cite the “Rule of Three”—the idea that what you put out into the world will return to you threefold.

I don’t personally believe in the rule of three in a literal sense, nor do I ascribe to a spirituality that is all positive rainbows and sunshine. Darkness, destruction, and shadow emotions have their place. I also don’t expect myself not to have emotions such as anger because binding spells are usually my response to boundary violations that have gotten out of hand. Anger is entirely appropriate.

But I never let myself cast the spell when I am actively feeling vindictive. I think it’s valuable to consider how I would feel about being the recipient of my own spell because it makes me consider my intentions. For me, a binding spell is about setting a boundary not about “getting even.”

I write them in a way that if I were to be on the receiving end, I could live with what I was doing. Thinking about myself being the recipient helps me keep the best interest of the person in mind. It reminds me that I don’t want to prevent them from being happy. I don’t want to prevent them from accomplishing good.

I do want to limit their capacity to harm others (including me)…and I am totally okay with that coming back to me threefold or twentyfold because I also want to limit my capacity to cause harm to others.

Generally, I don’t even write the spell to force their choices or actions to change. I write the spell to interfere with how effective they can be if they make those choices.

In other words, I don’t try to mess with their free will. I just try to stimulate failure for any action that might be abusive or harmful.

So far, I have done three binding spells—all of them scarily effective considering that those people pretty quickly chose to exit my life afterwards.

Trump is definitely different because I don’t know him personally so I don’t know what his good intentions or positive qualities might be. It’s a little more tempting to wish him ill.

I also realize that it’s not enough to just cast the spell and rest comfortably in the hope that he won’t harm me personally. I have to also keep a watch on how he is affecting others and stay involved to the extent that I am willing to stand up to injustice, even if it’s not knocking on my door specifically.

However, I recognize that wishing him general failure means wishing the nation failure as well because, like it or not, he will be leading us come January. I have to work even harder to ensure that my motivations are pure, fueled by righteous anger but not coming from a place of malice because I don’t doubt that malicious intent towards someone so influential will have ripple effects on the rest of us.

In this instance, I specifically want to bind him from causing or inciting violence. I want to open his ears to hear the people who are vulnerable right now. I want to tie his success to justice, and call up failure on anything he attempts to do that would violate the rights of others.

And as with the other spells, I design my spell with every intention of having to live under it myself. I am committing myself to the same values with which I want him to lead. More than that, I am binding myself to staying active in the cause.

If you are a spell-worker, will you commit your energy to the same?

 

 

 

Sometimes Magically Mundane (I had to make a pun on my blog name at some point)

At the beginning of every seasonal change, I find myself dusting, vacuuming, and rearranging.

When I get out of work after a long day, I often find myself changing my clothes, washing my hands, or even showering.

Both habits seem entirely mundane, but they are actually incredibly important spiritual rituals.

Yes, I called them rituals.

Often rituals get characterized as formal ceremonies, requiring special attire and tools.

In reality, anything that someone does on a regular basis in a specific way can be considered a ritual. The way you make coffee in the morning is a ritual. The way you get ready for bed is a ritual.

We are creatures of ritual and habit. We all have dozens of rituals in which we participate every day. It’s just that most of us don’t realize that we are performing them.

It’s not a bad thing, per se, to go through a ritual without thinking about it. Part of a ritual’s purpose is to create continuity and stability in life, and mundane rituals certainly do that. Anyone who has ever had their morning routine fucked up can attest to how much it affects the rest of the day.

But there is so much potential in recognizing the rituals of the mundane…so many ways to bring magic into one’s world without even having to try.

I first became aware of my after-work ritual when I found myself unable to leave “work at the office” for the first time in my life. Moving into mental health from retail meant that my interactions carried considerably more significance than before. I wasn’t prepared for the way that conversations, stories, and interactions would come home with me, haunting me, plaguing me with what should have been different or what to do next.

I needed a way to signal to myself the end of the work day and the beginning of my private life.

At first I spent some time trying to devise something to help me, until I realized I already had it. The very first thing I did when I got home was to kick of my shoes and rip off my bra. They were the most uncomfortable things on my body, and I couldn’t wait to be out of them at the end of a day.

Taking a ritual that was already in place and creating intention around it was transformative. Suddenly, changing my shoes and clothes came to symbolize switching out of a role and transitioning into a new space.

On days that I found it particularly difficult to signal the end, I began using a ritual of washing grime off to also wash off energetic grime and energy.

Not every ritual is daily like that. My seasonal ritual of giving my home a miniature “spring clean” happens every few months or so. Before, it may have just been a compulsion I had to deep clean after doing surface cleaning, e.g. dusting around but not under knick knacks, vacuuming what I could see or feel under my feet, etc. However, at some point I realized that it was a perfect way to reset my focus and spiritual intentions.

Now, giving my apartment a good dusting provides me an opportunity to clear out or stir up the energy that has become stagnant. I can refresh my altar with new items and identify a goal for the next couple of months. It helps prevent my own spiritual life from becoming dust-covered and forgotten.

We can’t take the mundanity out of life. Indeed, I’m not sure that any of us would really want to, even though it’s tempting when we’re bored.

However, we can infuse our mundanity with magic. The mundane can become significant and meaningful with a little attention and intention to our habits.

What’s In A Name? Just A Soul

Hi my name is

What’s in a name?

Everything as far as I’m concerned. Names tell who you are. They’re your primary identifier. They say something about your personality, the culture you were born into, and your family history.

They possess power.

Names are important. Deep down, I think we know that, even if we don’t consciously acknowledge it. I think it’s why we give each other nicknames and pet names, because we recognize that public names don’t have the same power as a name that is more personalized to an individual.

I hate my given name, but it carries a lot of information for an observant person. When I introduce myself with my birth name, someone could easily figure out that I grew up in a Christian home. A person who knows the etymology of my name would know that I was named after an animal that is not exactly known for thinking for itself. Someone who knows even a little bit of my background could easily deduce how the animal I was named after was both revered and disdained by my religious group.

When I first decided to choose a different name for my online life, I did so out of a desire to protect my given name. I was taking baby steps out of the IFB and was paranoid about being watched—for good reason. Family and members of my former church would stalk my online activity, often attacking me or chastising me for the questions I was asking. Something as simple as choosing a new music artist to listen to or talking about seeing a movie at a theater was enough to get me embroiled in arguments or buried under nasty emails. As the closet to my sexual orientation and changing religious beliefs began to peak open, I felt trapped. I needed a safe place to figure out myself and my world, but my Facebook page wasn’t that place.

I briefly considered going offline altogether, but I had started to build a true network of support for the first time in my life and couldn’t imagine leaving all that behind. Changing my name seemed like the only way I could protect myself as I explored where I needed to go.

So I unfriended everyone from my former church and blocked them on Facebook. Then I changed my name and web address. From then on, I started to develop a persona under Diane.

While my given name had been pretty well descriptive of who I was within the cult, Diane was much more descriptive of who I was striving to be. Diana is one of my favorite Goddesses—the virgin Goddess, a strong, capable woman who owes nothing to no man . . . the type of girl who doesn’t take shit from those who stick their noses where they don’t belong.

I felt different interacting under that name. It wasn’t just the security of having a protected page. It was the way the name made me feel, the personality traits that it brought to mind.

It was liberating.

Eventually, Diane came to feel like a true name—my birth name felt more like the shield that I wore around my family to protect my identity. Diane was the persona I wanted the world to see, while my birth name was the persona I adopted when I wanted to give the world as little of me as I could.

When I started this blog, I considered going back to my birth name. By that point, I knew that my chosen name had been divulged to my family (because the IFB are really persistent stalkers, especially when they’ve been denied the ability to snoop easily). I had no hopes of continuing to keep my chosen name a secret, but I also knew that I was no longer so afraid of them seeing my beliefs. They had lost the power to shame me into conformity.

But I came to realize that Diane felt too real to me now. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to use my birth name for fear that someone would link my words back to me; I didn’t want to use my birth name because I felt that my birth name no longer applied. I’ve even considered having my name officially or semi-officially changed (by semi-officially, I mean announcing it to friends and family and smacking them if they don’t comply).

But here’s a secret, even though I’ve adopted Diane as my own name, it’s another alias to one extent or another. It’s closer to who I am at my core–as close as I will ever publicly get, but it isn’t the name that I sign off with in my journals. No, I first learned the name I would adopt as my innermost name from a friend way back in high school. It was the name that resonated to my absolute core. It is my soul’s name, and only a handful of people have ever heard me refer to it.

And no, I’m not going to reveal that one here to you because, like the Doctor, I believe fully in the power of a name and the need for that power to remain with the one who possesses it.

Doctor Who Name

Nor am I going to reveal my birth name because, as every musician, actor, or writer has discovered at some point, the power in a given name is nothing compared to the power in a name you choose for yourself.

What’s in a name?

Only the identity you are given . . . or the identity you create.

Have You Ever Heard of a Superstitious Witch?

I normally keep my spellwork pretty quiet, partially because it’s none of people’s business. But if I were extremely honest with myself, I’d also have to admit that I’m afraid—not of the people who would think I was evil. Ironically, the prejudiced and terrified are fun to poke with my non-traditional beliefs. Rather, I’m afraid of those who will think that I am silly and superstitious.

I know when people find out that I create my own brand of spirituality by drawing from Paganism, Buddhism, and other religions, many raise an eyebrow at the idea. Why would I trade in the Christian doctrines for another set of rituals and practices?

Sometimes I try to explain the thinking behind the value of choosing your own worldview for the benefits it brings to you. More often than not, I try to emphasize the difference between rituals that are done for fun and rituals done out of sheer terror. But many times I just kind of want to hide because I know that, no matter how good my explanation is, there will always be a handful who will deride the things that have helped me connect to the deeper levels of my self.

I’m not afraid of debate, but for some reason, I’ve been afraid of judgment. Up until recently, I felt almost as if someone else’s disdain could destroy the joy I get from my own practice simply by making me feel silly.

But when the impending visit of my family left me feeling anxious, trapped, desperate, and helpless, I turned to the one thing I knew would work.

Magic.

When my partner offered to help with the housework OCD/anxiety supergirl cleaning rituals, I didn’t shrug him off and wait until he left the apartment so he wouldn’t laugh at me. Instead, I handed him a jar of my freshly made Protection Wash from Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery and told him he had to use that to mop with.

I didn’t silently mutter my incantations as I sprinkled salt in front of my doors. I said them boldly out loud.

When I hung my protection charms (from the same book) by the doors, I didn’t hide them from sight for fear someone might ask what they were.

I was to the point where I didn’t care if others thought I was superstitious because I knew that the spells would serve their purpose for me.

I didn’t care if I was superstitious because I suddenly realized that it’s okay to have a superstition.

I would never try to force someone else to adopt my beliefs or practices. I would never expect the world to conform to them. I wouldn’t want teachers to present them in school. In short, I wasn’t violating my own rules of respect for others’ paths, nor was I trying to claim scientific or academic backing for these rituals.

I can recognize that there’s no scientific evidence that hanging herbs by my door or sprinkling salt across the threshold does anything to actually protect my home. There’s nothing new in that revelation. I have always approached my new path with a sense of agnosticism. I’ve embraced the doubts as part of myself and found that many things retain their value even in the face of doubts.

One of the first things I learned about magic was that it worked less on changing the world around you and more on changing your perspective of the world. Aren’t superstitions the same thing? On Dictionary.com, superstition is defined as “an irrational belief,” “not based on reason or knowledge.” But what about its purpose? People turn to superstitions when they are in an uncomfortable, uncontrollable situation and need something to ground them and give them a sense of power.

In other words, superstitions help people cope when they feel powerless by giving them a means of altering their perspective to an empowered one.

Perhaps a better definition would be unintentional magical thinking for those who don’t claim to believe in magic.

There’s no shame in that. There’s no harm as long as people can recognize when they are making use of a superstition to cope and don’t allow fear to rule their lives (because unlike the dictionary, I don’t think fear and terror are the basis of superstitions).

I could go more into why I think magic is different from superstition—but ultimately, it’s going to come down to something along the lines of “it’s in the eye of the beholder.” The point is, some people pray. Some people put on a lucky shirt. Some people sprinkle salt. But we all have little things we do to help us cope.

My spells worked as they were intended to. They set the foundation for me to protect my sacred space from the potential invasion of others. They helped connect me to my own power in maintaining my boundaries. And in a roundabout way, they helped me realize that my beliefs and practices aren’t subject to the rationale of others. don’t think magic and superstition are the same. If someone else thinks my path is superstitious, that’s only because they don’t understand my way of thinking.

Dear Santa: Finding Hope and Magic in the Impossible

I’m heartsick over the events of December 14. And I almost wanted to nix this post because it seemed entirely too . . . I don’t know. But I’m keeping it because I really need my own words right now. My heart goes out to all those who are grieving. May you find comfort where you can, and if you find it here, I’ll be honored. Outside of this introduction, I’ve chosen not to edit my post to try to make it fit with the tragic events that happened since I wrote it. This post isn’t about guns or death. I can’t talk about that right now. Instead, it’s about hope. Somehow, I feel it fits while not really fitting at all.

I believe in Santa Claus. I write him a letter every year and leave cookies and milk out for him on Christmas Eve.

old_fashioned_santa

People usually think I’m joking if I say that, but I’m totally serious. There’s always the simple, slightly snarky answer that I do so out of spite because of the way that fundamentalism demonized the poor guy. And while that does indeed play a part, that’s not the main reason. I didn’t start believing or force myself to believe because I was pissed off. I really feel like I’ve believed in Santa my entire life.

No, I don’t think that a jolly old fat man physically flies around the world and pops down chimneys to give people presents.

But there is so much more to the world than just what is physically there, after all.

You rarely find people who try to argue that there is no such thing as time or North or mammals. There are those (me among them) that argue that those concepts are human constructs and not inherent in the universe, but even as abstract human creations that provide a structure and lens through which to view life, they are granted a form of existence, if only in our minds.

The same goes for Santa Claus.

He is the construct through which I view Christmas. It’s so much more than just a holiday. Christmas and Santa Claus are the season and the symbol of hope.

outdoor-christmas-tree-lg

Christmas is a light holiday. We decorate our homes with twinkling candles and set our neighborhoods glowing during the darkest time of the year. There is so much freaking symbolism in that, it’s amazing that we forget it so easily! To take a season that could easily be the most desolate season of the year and turn it into one of the most joyful speaks of the inspiring resilience of humanity.

Terry Pratchet brilliantly draws out how the winter solstice was very often about the return of the sun. In The Hogfather, when an assassin attempts to kill Discworld’s version of Santa, the characters learn that his existence is necessary for the sun to rise. It’s not that there would be no light without the Hogfather, but the ability to believe in things that “don’t exist” (things like the Hogfather or, more importantly, mercy and justice) is what makes that flaming ball peaking above the horizon a “sunrise.”

In other words, our ability to hope and imagine is what makes life worthwhile.

In that manner Santa Claus is also a symbol of wonder. There’s one scene in the Polar Express that embodies this concept so well. The three children are staring out the train window at the shops going by. One sees only the presents. The other sees only the mechanics of the spinning pieces. But the little girl—she sees the magic.

So much of life is based on perspective that simply shifting your point of view can almost turn your world upside down. Santa Claus is a reminder to shift my perspective to that of a child every once in a while and see the magic that fills the world around me.

I’ve heard some Pagans try to differentiate between “magic” and “magick.” But to me, it’s all the same. There is no magick without magic, and where there is magic there’s also magick. I see magic in nearly every aspect of Christmas, to the point that I sometimes feel like a fool with the exuberance that I approach Christmas.

Even the presents hold hope for me. We live in a nation that is obsessed with getting stuff. Going to the mall, even during Christmas, is enough to make me sick. But the presents aren’t just a product of an overly materialistic society. They hold magic as well.

Yes, I love getting gifts. I won’t deny that. But really it’s not about the gifts—I swear it’s not!

It’s about the hope of good things to come. So often, that hope requires that we suspend our disbelief in the impossibility of something in order to allow ourselves to wish for it—and then the absolute joy that comes when, almost magically, that something comes true.

For children, perhaps that is toys because toys are the things out of reach for them. For me, I find it’s not objects for which I ask Santa but dreams and goals—the things that are still out of my reach. And I don’t wake up to discover my dreams wrapped up under the Christmas tree, but I do plant the seed in my soul that maybe, just maybe, that dream is something I can attain.

Perhaps I seem naïve for seeking out such innocent wonder, enduring hope, and impossible dreams. I’m not naïve though. I’ve experienced far too many horrors to be naïve. But in a world that is torn apart by violence and hatred, I kind of think we could all do with a little more of a belief in the impossible things.

I know that a world of abuse and sorrow exists, but I also know that a world of beauty, love, and hope exists. Christmas reminds me that world is still there, no matter what the year may have brought. Santa Claus shows me how to embody that world within myself.

Transformative Magic: Embracing my Dark Side

In a previous post, I gave a sneak peak into some of the things I would talk about, including one on how “negative emotions are good.” I’ve had requests from several people for more on that, so I thought now, with the approach of Samhain, would be a good time to approach this topic.

We live in a culture where certain emotions are viewed anywhere from simply “negative” to downright “wrong” or “sinful.” No matter where you go, the general consensus is that these emotions need to be resisted, “released” (one of my favorites of the coercive terms because it sounds so innocent. Right up there with “forgive” or “just get over it”), or not even felt if you’re a “good person.” The taboo on emotions is especially strong surrounding sadness for men and anger for women, but it’s pretty safe to say that, in general, “negative emotions” just aren’t considered good or healthy to experience.

But what if we have it all wrong?

A little fairy once told me, “Changing your perspective gives you the power to change your world.” And as many pagans and witches know, the highest magic comes not with transforming the world around you but with transforming your thoughts.

So let’s try some transformative magic.

It’s easy to recognize how a world of continuous darkness would be bad. Life would die because life cannot function without light. It’s easy to see how a world of continuous rainfall would be bad. I’ve seen the floods and destruction that come with a few too many days of rain. But I rarely question the destruction that would surely follow a world that was always sunny. There are times where there is too much sun; it’s called a drought. But I never think about droughts when thinking about excesses of something!

Growing up, I remember hearing preachers disdain the philosophy that “life’s purpose is happiness.” In their minds, such a wasted life was a life spent pursuing happiness. And as much as I would disagree with the reasons for that statement, I find that I actually agree with the statement itself.

Pursuing happiness is a pursuit doomed to failure.

Does that mean I don’t have the right to be happy? Should I be miserable, as those preachers seemed to want?

No, I think I have every right, even a destiny, to be happy! But I am coming to see life’s purpose as wholeness, not happiness. And there’s a big difference. While wholeness certainly involves happiness, it also involves the ability to feel sadness. While wholeness involves peace, it also involves the ability to feel anger or fear.

They’ve been labeled “negative emotions.” They’re portrayed as something I shouldn’t have, something to avoid, something I must drive out when I feel them. But imagine if you could not feel sadness or anger or fear? I’ve thought of these emotions as out of place, but that’s only because I didn’t recognize their purpose. Something would be terribly wrong with me if I could not feel anger when I saw a child abused. Something would be terribly wrong with me if I could not feel fear when I got too close to danger. Something would be terribly wrong with me if I could not feel sadness when I lost a loved one, or guilt when I hurt someone.

Without them, I would die just as surely as I would die without hope or joy or courage.

A tree requires both sunlight and darkness. Its branches reach for the sky while its roots tunnel into the ground. If the roots are not cared for or fed, if they’re cut off, the top of the tree will quickly die as well. In the same way, I have a shadow side, a side that is buried away from view, that isn’t fun to look at, that doesn’t feel good, that has the potential to make others and myself uncomfortable. But if I don’t embrace that side of myself and accept it as part of myself, I doom it to rot and fester until it destroys that bright side of me too.

Wholeness isn’t about cutting myself off from the shadow side of life. It’s about recognizing the purpose for that shadow side—the purpose for those emotions and experiences—and melding it together with the light side into a single whole. I have so much duality in me. I have light and darkness, reason and intuition, “femininity” and “masculinity”. Heck, my life card is the Sun and my Spirit card is Death. You can’t get much more dual than that. And the amazing thing is, each side, each facet, has a freaking purpose! They all work together to create me! And just as I’ve given up so many other things with fundamentalism, I’ve also given up the idea that there is anything inherently in me that is wrong.

Which means my emotions, by themselves, can’t be wrong.

None of them.

So what is it that makes these shadow emotions seem “bad”? Outside of a general inability to tolerate discomfort and do messy soul work, I think we’ve mistaken the emotions themselves for specific scripts surrounding them. It’s a kind of confirmation bias. When we think of anger, we think of when someone became violent in their anger. We don’t remember the times that anger was constructive or creative or protective. Once you get to the point where you associate the emotion itself with the negative behavior, then you get so busy fighting the emotion that there’s no chance to fight the script that you’ve adopted about it.

As part of my spiritual practice, I’m learning to become comfortable with my dark side. I’m throwing away the scripts I’ve been taught and searching for a new, transformative perspective about the shadow emotions. I’ve come to appreciate this time of year, when the Goddess traditionally takes a journey down into the underworld for a few months until spring, because it reminds me that I also need underworld journeys, as tough as they are. It’s not easy to sit with an emotion. It’s much easier to go back to my scripts. But sitting in discomfort is essential to my emotional transformation as much as it is to my spiritual transformation. The ability to sit with uncertainty and discomfort is, I think, one of the key aspects to true freedom.

And as I take this journey, I smile to myself because I recognize what I never could have from within Christiantiy—that Jesus, too, got angry, felt grief and despair, and considered bailing out from fear.