Our Ancestors didn’t have access to the latest perfectly polished stones, dyed feathers or resin representations of spirit animals or deities. Tools, both mundane and magickal, were gathered from what was available to them.
Bones have been used for utilitarian pieces, crafted into weapons or tools and used for ritual purposes since the dawn of mankind. They were made into amulets and charms, used in folk medicine, used for divination, spirit summoning, and in protection magick.
It’s easier than ever for modern practitioners to access bones for magickal use. Suppliers of clean, sterile skulls, bones and claws can be found online, and the goods can be delivered straight to you with just a push of the button. But wait- How do you know if the bones you purchased were ethically sourced? It is important to do your research before buying any kind of magickal supplies online, avoid buying from anyone who sells material that is included on federal or state endangered species list, any migratory birds, or marine mammal species. Always search out local suppliers who are open to questions as to how they have obtained their material.
A better way to collect bones, feathers, stones etc. for your craft is by finding them yourself. This is something that can be really difficult for practitioners who do not live on the edge of a forest but be mindful as you stroll through the park or along the beach because there is treasure for the taking. Other options include, contacting a friend or family who is a hunter; give a head’s up to friends or family who are avid hikers; or even contact your local butcher shop to see what they have to offer.
Roadkill is another option- but depending on how decomposed the animal is, the cleaning can be a gruesome act to be done with reverence and quiet.
However you find bones, make sure you know exactly what animal you have. Thank the creature for its gift and research the folklore of your animal to get a better sense of the messages they convey.
Cleaning and Sterilizing Bones
Finding an animal that was recently killed (typically roadkill), can be cleaned one of two ways- Exposure or by Maceration.
Cleaning Bones by Exposure
You will need:
Lidded container large enough to hold your animal
Sharp object for poking holes (screwdriver or hammer and large nail)
If you choose something like a plastic-lidded compost bucket, use a screwdriver to punch holes all around the sides for ventilation. If you are using a small metal garbage can, use a hammer and a nail to punch out ventilation holes. When ready, put your small carcass in the container and secure lid. Place it somewhere remain undisturbed for several weeks or more, depending on the state of decomposition and your climate. Also remember to secure the lid if there is a chance wildlife or your neighbor’s dog or cat may disturb it. There will be a slight odor- bones are ready when the odor has subsided.
Cleaning Bones by Maceration
You will need:
Large containers to allow for complete immersion
Close access to water
Remove as much of the remain flesh, feathers, etc. from the bones as you can. Place what is left in a container and completely cover with tap water. Every couple of days, replace the water, pouring the used water into the compost or the garden (it will have a foul odor). Repeat until water is clear- this means that the bacteria have finished breaking down the flesh.
Cleaning Old or Heavily Soiled Bones
If you have found bones that have been openly exposed and are relatively clean, you may skip this procedure and move onto the hydrogen peroxide bath. But if you find bones that are covered in soil, or have been sitting in someone’s basement or barn with years’ worth of accumulated dust and dirt clinging to them, you can get rid that grime with a pretty simple procedure that requires only a container (large enough to accommodate your piece) filled with warm water, dishwashing soap (‘Dawn’ works well), and a toothbrush.
Set the material in the warm water bath with a few drops of dishwashing liquid- let it sit for a few minutes to loosen the dirt. Then use the toothbrush to gently get into the crevices until you are satisfied with its cleanliness. The bones will most likely still have a yellow tinge.
Bleaching and Sterilizing Bones
Once the bones have been cleaned, it’s time to sterilize and bleach your bones to the brightness you desire.
You will need:
Container large enough to allow complete immersion
Place bones in container and pour over enough hydrogen peroxide to cover completely for sterilization. As it is also a bleaching agent, you may allow the bones to stay in until they have reached the shade of white you desire. This may take up to 8 hours if you are bleaching a skull.
If you have an especially old skull or bone that has some tough staining around the teeth or in the cervices, you may make a paste from borax and hydrogen peroxide to pack into those areas. Use a toothbrush to move the paste around.
Never ever use household bleach to brighten bones as it will deteriorate the material.
Reddening the Bones
You may want to empower your bones with sigils, symbols or by reddening them with a paste made with brick dust, madder, beet powder or ochre (or other naturally red plant or mineral), red wine and/or a little blood. This is a tradition used by cultures who practice ancestor worship and was traditionally done using a red ochre paste to symbolize blood or the ‘life force’ being returned.
You will need:
Brick dust or ochre powder, madder root powder or beet powder
Red wine, cherry juice or moon water
Ground dragon’s blood (optional)
A few drops of your own blood (optional)
Plastic wrap (optional)
Mix enough ochre powder. Madder, beet powder or brick dust and red wine (you may also add drops of blood) to create enough paste to cover your bones. Use your hands (you may want to wear protective gloves) to completely coat your bones. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit overnight allowing it to stay moist. Remove wrap and allow to air dry. When completely dry brush off remaining dust. While holding your bones, take a deep breath- now slowly blow out across your bones- ritually breathing ‘life’ into them.
Feeding the Bones
If you are using your bones as a way of summoning a spirit guide, you may want to ‘feed your bones.’ In other words, offer an offering to your bones. It may be a bit of food the animal would have eaten in life, a crystal, incense etc. That is between you and your bones.
The world has become something of a dark faerie tale one would never know the telling of if casting their gaze upon my home in the Pacific Northwest awash with spring’s flush of green. Though quiet are our surroundings of human interaction, our lives are still filled with days where the very air vibrates with the drone of bees and the beat of hummingbirds who fight for the nectar of the especially sweet honeysuckle that rambles up the side of our home. Evenings still belong to the magical ones who ride upon the silky streams of moonlight as twilight settles in shades of indigo and I wonder, as I watch toads lumber from beneath mossy logs and bats flit and flitter above a river that ripples obsidian, if the spirits of nature are aware of what is happening in our mundane lives- if they understand the anxiety, loneliness or loss so many are feeling at this time. Then I feel the breath of wind as it caresses my cheek and calms my spirit and reminds me to linger in the quiet days and to enjoy the little enchantments life has to offer, and I know that they are aware and are telling me everything will be alright.
I find solace in the garden- and have used my extra time to rediscover the beauty that is in my very own backyard. A recent project included making an old back yard swing into a mossy faerie bed that I entwined with grape vine clippings and a yellow flowering vine. The moss used for the bedding was gathered from a tree that had fallen in a storm.
With a little imagination we can add enchantment to our lives simply and inexpensively. My love of faerie creatures and midsummer magical masquerade balls inspired another project- Papier Mache masks. Easy enough to involve the kids, creating these masks definitely turns a mundane day into something enchanting and you might be surprised to find you have all, or most, of the ingredients on hand.
Magical Papier Mache Masks
5-6 sheets of plain white copy paper
2 cups hot water
White glue (such as Elmer’s)
Plasticine (or modeling) clay
Discarded 2 lb jug or other rounded container
Acrylic craft paint
Modge Podge or other sealer
Ribbon for tying
1. Tear paper into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Pour hot water over the top and let sit until water is cooled. Place mixture into a blender or food processor and liquefy into a slurry.
2. Use a cheese cloth (or your hands) to squeeze water from pulp. Put back into mixing bowl and a few tablespoons of white glue to mixture until slightly sticky but holds it shape. Set aside in a plastic storage bag.
3. Lay jug on its side. Form plasticine clay (as it stays pliable and can be used to create many molds) and create a mask mold. Don’t forget to cut out eyes and leave room for your nose. Be creative. Add ears for a rabbit or fox mask or a beak if it’s a bird mask. Lay the clay of on the curve of the jug.
4. Now take piece of your Papier Mache pulp and press it onto your mold. When you are done, let dry for up to 48 hours.
5. When dry, carefully peel your mask from clay mold. Use scissors or an exacto knife to trim around eyes and edges if needed.
6. This is the time to add feathers, fur, flowers or other pieces that will give your mask dimension. (If you do not want to add dimension to your mask move on to step 7). Take pieces of Papier Mache and form them as best you can into leaves, flowers, feathers etc. and press onto your mask. Allow to dry up to 24 hours.
Use acrylic craft paint to decorate your mask. Have fun and be creative. When paint is dry, add a layer of sealer. When dry, hot glue ribbons onto inside corners of mask.
Wear your masks for a magical tea party on the balcony, for twilight picnics with the kids in the backyard or for an impromptu dance under moonlit skies.
For more ideas about Raising a magickal family in a mundane world- check out my book, "The Magickal Family, Pagan Living in Harmony with Nature," available wherever books are sold.
I am a Witch of quiet places. I wander the hedgerows with moss and twigs in my hair taking in the subtle energies of my region that feed my soul. I practice my magick in a natural setting whether casting spells under a full moon are raising energy in a driving rainstorm, it is within nature's bower that I feel at home.
Like many of you, I dance to the beat of a drum of my own making- never caring how others perceive me. I am me - weird, happy and thankful that I have been blessed to own a bit of land and raise my magickal family in a temperate rain forest in the pacific northwest along the banks of the Sauk River.
I have spent many years honing my skills as a magickal practitioner and was eager to share my knowledge the best way I knew how- through writing. For a quiet Witch in tune with the spirits of her world- there is no better way to express the joy of her magickal world. One problem though... I am not an extrovert- I am not good at selling myself. In fact, I'm probably the worst representative for a publishing house there is because my first bit of advice is- 'reference books are nice, but... ultimately, dear soul, you are your most powerful tool. Trust your instincts and believe in your magick.'
Just as many of you identify- I am an intuitive empath who is easily overwhelmed by the energy of others. When in a crowded room I feel like a porch light that draws so many moths that my light becomes smothered and I ultimately shut down. Not only do I take in the light and lovely energies of warm and caring individuals, I absorb energies like anger, mistrust, arrogance and pain that feed my own insecurities and make me want to run as fast as I can back to my enchanted forest.
I know a lot of people who think I'm being silly and that I need to suck it up- but there is research that validates people like me. Highly Sensitive Person or HSP disorder is a term used for people with sensory processing sensitivity. It is found in about 4-5% of the population and is identified as an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli. In other words... We are more aware than others of the subtle energies in play and process information deeply. We experience the world differently than others- which is kinda cool and (for me) makes sense and explains a lot about why I have always felt... different.
This takes me back to writing... As a writer for an independent publishing house, I was not aware of the amount of time I was to spend selling my own work- I get it now, but it has been really difficult for me (I've shed a lot of tears) because the process so contradicts who I am as a person and how I feel about social media. So when asked if I could make it to PantheaCon for the launch of my recent book, I felt it was something I had to do because I knew I needed to amp up my participation. I am not rich, but I have a friend who lives in San Jose who I could stay with and thought this was the perfect time to meet fans, fellow writers and share some of my knowledge with others.
I planned and saved for the event; I purchased and gathered supplies; I played out being charming over and over in my mind; and I put together a magickal first aid kit (which I forgot at home to my chagrin). I drove with a friend and my daughter and her partner nearly 20 hours before arriving exhausted but happy, at my dear friend's home.
PantheaCon was filled with gloriously eccentric souls (very much my people) and my class was small and intimate- creating an environment that was easy for me to connect with individuals as we mixed incense blends around a table in one of the suites. But as the day progressed, I felt my energy begin to drain- I could sense those who were not who they say they are and was finding it harder and harder to process everything that was happening all around me.
By the time the launch party had started, I was a shell of the being I was earlier in the day. The room was claustrophobic with people. I watched as other authors gathered and chit-chatted with one another and I wanted to walk over and say, 'hello,' but I was frozen on the balcony. The one time I did try to greet another author, I was answered with, 'excuse me,' and moved aside. They probably weren't even aware that I spoke. So in this room filled with amazing souls, who I know were most likely the misfits in school (just as I was), I was a misfit. When the clock struck nine-forty, I gave my little spiel about my book and bolted.
On the long drive home I played the party over and over in my mind and came to the conclusion that I can't even be cool amongst my own tribe and I hated myself for it.
It wasn't until I arrived home that I thought long and hard- Yes, I am a misfit- a highly sensitive soul who will never be the life of the party. I am a Witch who is comfortable growing herbs, communing with the spirits of the land and creating magick in the most beautiful place on earth (to me). We all have a role to play- we all have our own special magick to offer. We can't compare ourselves to others and for those who (like me) were 'blessed' with HSP disorder, we need to accept it as a gift and hone the special, magickal skills that comes with it. Here are a few things that can help fellow HSP practitioners magickally navigate the overwhelming energies of our mundane world.
Stones for Practitioners who are Highly Sensitive
Theses stones make a great addition to a magickal first-aid kit or to be worn next to the skin when in a charged situation:
Rose Quartz: restores harmony and loving vibrations
Labradorite: protection from over-thinking and insecure thoughts
Jet: draws away negative energy- supports positive vibes
Amythst: attracts positive vibes and protects against negativity
Blue Lace Agate: promotes peace and harmony
Citrine: for balancing energy
Moonstone: calms and soothes stress
Hemitite: absorbs negative energy
Quartz Crystal: restores and regulates energy
Dragon Stone: promotes strength
Obsidian: healing, strengthening, protection
Herbs for Highly Sensitive Practitioners
Activate your innate healing abilities with these herbs:
Agrimony: healing and restoration
Angelica: summoning strength- banishing negative vibes
Birch: psychic protection
Calendula: repairs aura and provides energetic protection
Cedar: protection and cleansing
Chamomile: relaxes energy and allows you to become more receptive
Cinnamon: shields negativity
Comfrey: restoration and healing
Fennel: relaxation, healing and focus
Ginger: releases frustration and brings contentment
Hibiscus: Acceptance of self
Lavender: relaxes the mind and aids in letting go
Lemon Balm: restoration and harmony
Nettle: helps reset both body and mind
Peppermint: promotes healing and loving vibes
Orange peel: uplifting and centering
Rose: understanding and healing- self-love
Rosemary: clears negative vibes
Sage: clears negative energy
Thyme: aids in clear communication
Valerian: transmutes negativity
Magickal Healing First Aid Kit
As empaths or HSPs we are extremely open to the energies of others. This little kit is designed to be portable for on-the-spot grounding, cleansing and protection. Use the above stones and/or herbs in the combination that works best for you.
Your kit will include:
Three stones of your choice. Place stones in your pocket to absorb energy. I like to have Labradorite, Moonstone and a beautiful Obsidian arrowhead. (you can wear your favorite protective stones as jewelry too- I just like to have them somewhere close where I can use them as I would a worry stone).
Sage Smudge Spray
Use this spray to quickly rid yourself of negative vibes. You will need:
2oz glass bottle with spray head
1oz distilled water
1 tsp. vodka/pure grain alcohol
10 drops Sage essential oil
4 drops lavender essential oil
Pinch of sea salt
Put ingredients in the bottle and charge it to purify and promote healing vibration
The shielding properties of cinnamon and cedar combined with the uplifting scent of orange make for a great inclusion to our magickal first-aid kit. Place a dab at your temples and pulse points as needed.
You will need:
1/3 oz carrier oil (grapeseed or fractionated coconut oil are great)
5 drops cinnamon oil
3 drops cedar oil
2 drops orange oil
glass roll or vial
mix and add to glass vial- shake and allow to sit overnight before use.
Keep your stones, spray and oil in a drawstring bag that can be tucked into a bag or your luggage for long trips and use as needed.
Other quick dispelling techniques:
*Keep a pot of garden soil on your porch or balcony to quickly plunge your hands into when you need a quick grounding
*Hug a tree- Large trees can handle your excess energy. If you're in a park or your back yard and need a quick release- this works great.
*Magickal code word- Have a magickal code word that represents energy release to you and yell out whenever needed.
For more information on transformative magick- check out my book available wherever books are sold
Excerpt from "Wild Magical Soul: Untame Your Spirit & Connect to Nature's Wisdom"
“Yes, Mama.” I wiped the sleep from my eyes. The darkness still hung heavy in the sky, though the first of the morning bird song had already begun to seep through cracked windows.
“Your cereal is on the stand by Dad’s chair and I’ve turned on the cartoons. Mommy will be right back.” She kissed my head and I stumbled to the recliner where I had spent the early hours of every morning for the better part of the year. “Try not to wake your sisters.”
“I know, Mamma.” I curled up on the recliner where the leather was warm and held the scent of my Dad’s aftershave lotion. The cartoons blinked in and out, and I stirred my cereal that had already become soggy- just the way I liked it. My three little sisters softly slept in their
rooms and I knew everything was going to be okay because I was 8-years-old, the big sister, who knew she was strong enough to take on the job.
My father has epilepsy. The disease had slowly taken from him a lot of the freedoms most of us take for granted. His ability to drive had been the latest- so my mother got up with him every morning at 4am, fixed his breakfast and packed his lunch before waking me so I could watch my younger siblings, who ranged in age from 1 to 6-years-old, while she drove my father the 40-mile round trip to his place of employment. She would always return to find me still
vigilant- then send me back to bed to catch a couple more hours of sleep before school. I was okay with my responsibility and I understood why she didn’t want to wake up four little girls and pack them all in the car every morning. Sometimes, one of my baby sisters would stir. I would hear her muffled cries and would be by her side as quickly as I could. “Hush, now,” I would say, “I’m here and everything is okay.”
As we grew older, I was the one who led my sisters through darkened woods and dilapidated outbuildings full of spooks and creatures of unknown origin and when they could no
longer contain their fear, it was I who yelled, “Stop screaming. I’m with you and everything is going to be okay.” They would calm down because they knew they were protected- big sister will keep the boogeyman at bay.
As we became teens and young adults, my role shifted from protector from physical harm to that of guardian of secrets. Most were childish confidences- crushes whose names were to never be revealed or juvenile antics that needed to be purged. A few were life-changing- the kind of information that once accepted can bear heavy and burdensome upon one’s heart- and no matter how many years may pass- their revelation would prove painful. But no matter the secret,
my words were the same, “Not to worry. Everything is going to be okay.” Because they knew their big sister would never betray nor judge them.
The years went by- we grew up and moved on. My role shifted- from big sister to mother and wife. Responsibilities shifted- no longer protecting the 3 wild-haired sisters from monsters under the bed, but now protecting my own wild-hearted witchlings (mostly from themselves) as their youth was filled with high jinx and exploration that on more than one occasion required emergency room visits. But as I held cloths on bleeding wounds and distracted their gaze from
broken limbs or carried them away from the contraption they had built and fallen from, I would meet their gaze and I knew what they wanted to hear, “Hush, Baby- everything is going to be okay.” And everything was okay because they knew Mommy was there and mommy’s always made things better.
It was the same with my marriage- whether it was due to job loss, illness or injury, during the times we were left struggling emotionally and/or financially, my husband would walk around in a storm cloud- unable to clearly process the circumstances we were left with. So, it was up to
me to swallow back the anxiety, straighten my shoulders and look him in the eyes. “Everything’s going to be okay.” I would say. “I’ve got this.” And I took control. And he let me because he knew I was strong and capable of handling the emotional load.
And so it was with friends and extended family- “Monica, I know how good you are with words could you please write an essay for me by tomorrow. I completely spaced it and I’m freaking out! It has to be 5 pages and your choice of essay topics are attached.”
“Monica, no one else wants to be a board member and we’re desperate. Could you help
“Monica, we need someone to help with our organization’s holiday program- by the way, we can’t find anyone to dress up as Mrs. Claus this year- could you help out?”
“Don’t worry,” I would say, “everything is going to be okay. I’ll help.” They knew this to be true because I was dependable and level-headed and known to get things done.
But as the years slowly crept by, I found myself feeling muddled and unfulfilled and by the time I hit my mid-forties, I felt what I can only describe as a sense of loss. The day before my 46th birthday, just as storm clouds boiled above the bluff that rises above my homestead to the south, I decided to go to the garden to wait for the approaching storm and to ponder my accomplishments. I had done well- I had helped to create a home from scratch and I raised an
amazing family (and nobody starved). I took on the
responsibility of schooling my own children and the children of others when there was a need. I carried many a burden for friends and family, so they would not have to feel anxiety or defeat; I helped in the community and gave of
my time. Everyone liked me, I thought and weakly smiled as the first big plops began to fall. But wait a minute- what had I accomplished for me? I had taken care of others my whole
life and put others needs before my own because that is what I was taught a good person does- but in doing so, I had forgotten to take care of me. And in that forgetting- I lost a piece of myself.
I gazed to the storm clouds that now boiled and roared above the bluff that guards my home and remembered the exhilaration I had felt standing on its peak looking over the land that I’m so intrinsically connected with. It had been years since I had hiked the bluff- it was time I
did it again. I climbed with purpose- and as I swept back heavy conifer branches and overgrown elder
and salmonberry bushes, I asked myself what made me special? I was uncomfortable with my answer, as it was not a practice in my family to ‘brag.’ But with each exhale of breath, I managed to answer- I am unique; I am creative; I write well; I can draw; under my hand- gardens bloom.
As I continued up the switchbacks and tripped over roots of giant trees who clung precariously to the steep bluff, I asked myself, what have you done with your gifts? My internal
list checked many items that included:
I wrote plays and designed sets for various youth organizations
I planned engaging lesson-plans and lectures for our homeschooling association and for WSU extension’s Master Gardener program.
I designed and wrote newsletters for my coven’s day camp participants and for various ecological organizations.
At this point, I had come to the top of the bluff, thunder crashed, and rain pelted. I stood for a moment and let the wind and rain hit my face. I wanted to feel the sting- I needed the reminder that I was alive and strong and passionate. I stepped as close to the edge as I dared.
It’s funny how perception can change your reality. I saw my home, which encompassed my whole world and at times had felt a burden, look small and insignificant from my vantage point. The world felt more open than it had in a while and made me wonder who I was- where was my
place in this world and was I too old to attempt to make my mark.
I am many things to many people- I am the keeper of the home; I am mother; I am daughter; I am sister; I am spouse; I am priestess. I am organizer and doer and maker and
mediator. I am protector and caretaker and teacher and friend. So, my question was, as I looked
out across the majestic Sauk River Valley, who am I to me?
I took a breath and released it- whisperings of inadequacy stroked my ears, ‘Selfish, selfish, girl. Only thinking about herself.’ I shivered and let the thoughts dissolve with the rain that had soaked me thoroughly. Another intake of breath and with all of the voice I could muster, I released these words into existence:
I am a writer!
My words will inspire!
My words will evoke introspection!
My words will delight!
My words will be read!
When I came off the bluff, I felt good- in fact, I was giddy. I knew after releasing my intention into the universe I had to follow through by putting my power into action. I set up a writing space for myself and hung an inspiration board above my computer. The very first quote I tacked to the board was the popular last line from Mary Oliver’s poem, ‘The Summer Day,’ that asks what will you do with this one wild and precious life? And when I doubted myself, I looked to that quote and replied. “I will be a writer.” I researched publishers I thought would be good fit and put together samples and queries. I took it seriously and when asked to commit to another obligation that would affect my writing time- I allowed myself to say no- guilt free.
So now- what are you doing with your one wild and precious life? Personally- I will spend more time tending the garden of my soul- I will write stories and I will do it for me and everything (and everyone else)…is going to be okay.
Cry like a Banshee
Spell for Self-Affirmation
I mentioned earlier a line from a poem by Mary Oliver that you are probably already familiar with where she poses the question: what will you do with your one wild and precious
life? Ask yourself, are you living a life that is fulfilling to your soul? Maybe you are giving everything to your job or sacrificing yourself so that others may thrive. It’s time to stop for a moment and reflect on you.
What is it that your wild soul longs for? To train for an athletic event or perhaps learn a new skill, or better yet, reacquaint yourself with a passion you gave up on too long ago.
For this spell we will climb the mountain (literally or figuratively) and call upon the Banshee as we let go
of what no longer serves us and cry out our dreams/and or positive intentions for ourselves into existence.
You will not need any special tools for this spell- only your voice.
Banshee are female faerie spirits who, according to legend, are said to be attached to particular families of Irish heritage and whose cries foretell the death of an individual. She is a
shape-shifter who may appear as an old woman or a young maid and is typically dressed in white, but has also been known to wear green or red. In Scotland she was known as Bean Nighe and is seen as a washer woman washing a death shroud near a stream. Banshee are not to be feared and can be called upon in spell work for the death of old habits, change in circumstances or the release of negativity.
Though it would be great if you could do this spell on a hill, bluff or mountain- it’s not necessary. You can stand on your balcony, porch, deck or on a steady chair- anything that
Before you begin, ground and center yourself in your own way. If you are hiking up a hill to perform this- use the walk as a form of meditation. Pay attention to the rhythm of
your breath and focus on your intention with every step. If you are performing this at your home, meditate for a few moments before you begin and focus on your intention.
Call upon the Banshee by saying:
'I ask for the courage to let go those things That no longer complete me. Banshee let your cry be heard as I release all anxiety and self-neglect completely.'
When you feel her presence- join her cry. Let it all out- this is the reclamation of your wild soul- release all of the neglect that you have inflicted on yourself. When you have finished, take a moment to collect yourself and thank the Banshee for her assistance in your own way. Now you are ready to release your passion into existence.
Whether you have hiked a hill, mountain, knoll or any other natural rise, or are standing on your balcony, deck or a steady chair- position yourself where you have a good view of the landscape- take it all in and remind yourself that you are unique and that your talents/ skills/passions matter.
Now yell out as loud as you can what will exist for you. As you do this- see yourself successful in your hobby/job/passion whatever you feel serves you to live a purposeful life.
Now that you have done this, remember, as practitioners, we are our most powerful tool and it’s up to you to put your power into action. Follow through and live your dreams.
It doesn’t take a witch to utilize the purifying power of smoke. In fact, the fragrant scent of smoke created by incense has a long history that goes back thousands of years. Throughout its history it has been used to mask the sometimes-odorous scent of human habitation; to purify sacred or religious sanctuaries; to carry prayers; chase away malevolent spirits; to elevate meditative states; or for healing purposes. So greatly sought after were the ingredients for incense that a network of trading routes linking the Mediterranean world with sources for exotic spices, barks, seed, flowers and resins from throughout Northeastern Africa, India and beyond, flourished between the 7th century BC and the 2nd century AD.
There are two types of incense- You are probably most familiar with combustible incense that is made up of an aromatic material (natural and/or artificial) combined with a combustible binding material and is shaped into cones or rolled onto sticks. Noncombustible incense is made up of loosely ground aromatic plant material, resins and/or essential oils that releases its smoke when sprinkled onto a hot ember (typically an incense charcoal tablet) in a censor or a heat-proof container. What’s great about noncombustible incense is that it’s easy to make, you’re in control of the ingredients and you can specialize in blends that fit your intentions.
Before you begin make sure you have a few simple tools:
A mortar and pestle (or an electric grinder)
Measuring devices so you can easily replicate your blends
Journal or index cards for recording recipes
Jars for storage
Below is a list of a few common tree resins, essential oils and other plant-based materials used in making incense to get you started- or you can try out some of my recipes listed at the end.
Allspice: Dried berries from trees in the myrtle family native to Central and South America. Its spicy aroma lends well to blends for luck, energy, mental clarity and prosperity.
Amber: Fossilized pine resin which has a camphor-like scent. Most on the market today are not true amber. Used in incense to draw love and healing.
Benzoin: Dark brown with an antiseptic scent, benzoin is a resin from the bark of trees in the genus Styrax. Use for clarity, purification and prosperity.
Cedar: I use cedar tips from our local Western Red Cedars- but wood, bark or leafy material may be used from any variety of cedars. Use in incense blends for calm, spirituality, healing and denoting sacred space.
Copal: This resin from the copal tree is seen as white, yellow or pale orange in color and has a piney-citrusy scent and is native to the Mexico and Central America. It is used for incense for healing and purification. Copal has been used in religious and magical ceremonies in the America’s for thousands of years and is a great replacement for Frankincense in incense recipes.
Basil: Popular in cuisine worldwide, some 35 species of this aromatic herb are native to central Africa and Southeast Asia. It’s sweet-spicy scent is used in blends for improving memory, to cleanse and purify and to induce calm.
Bay: Another pantry staple, Bay leaves are from several trees in the Lauraceace family native to Southeast Asia and South America. They can be used in mixes to promote healing, sharpen psychic abilities, protection and purification.
Bergamot: This favorite essential oil of mine comes from beautiful small flowers with a minty-lemony fragrance that can be used in mixes for prosperity and wealth and to promote mental clarity.
Clove: Dried flower buds from the small bushy trees of Myrtaceae family native to the Moluccas Islands and Indonesia, their intensely spicy scent works well in blends for strength, love, protection purification and prosperity.
Cinnamon: The inner bark from several varieties of trees of the genus Cinnamomum grow in Sri Lanka, India and Burma. Cinnamon sticks or powder can be used in creating blends and are found in your local grocery store. Use cinnamon in mixes for courage, love and prosperity.
Dragon’s Blood: Resin from the fruit of the Clamamus draconis climbing palm tree, dragon’s blood has been used in ritual for thousands of years in India. With it’s strong, spicy scent use in blends for love, purification, strength and meditation.
Frankincense: From the resin of the Boswellia tree, frankincense has a woody, spicy scent that may reduce anxiety and aid in sleep. Frankincense can also be used in mixes for purification, grounding and cleansing.
Juniper: A common ingredient in Tibetan incense, the berries, bark and wood of this member of the Cupressaceae family have a calming and relaxing effect and has been used to sharpen mental clarity, protection and to raise spiritual energy.
Lavender: This Mediterranean favorite is easily attainable and the dried flower buds or essential oil can be used in creating incense blends. The smoke of lavender creates a calming peaceful atmosphere and can also be used in mixes for loving vibes, to induce sleep, meditation, purification and healing.
Mint: This popular and prolific herb native to Europe and the Middle East, can be used in mixes to aid in meditation, stimulate mental clarity and aid in psychic awareness, for love, peaceful vibes and to aid in sleep.
Orange peel: Dried Citrus can add an uplifting scent to your incense blends and can be used in blends for mental clarity, luck, joy, or to raise energy.
Patchouli: This earthy scented favorite works well in blends for money, sex and physical energy.
Pine: The essential oil or resin (plant material can be used also) is typically from the species Pinus sylvestris. Can be used as a substitute for copal or frankincense in blends and is used for healing, cleansing, strength and grounding.
Rose petals: The lovely dried petals of the rose can be used in incense blends for love and healing and to promote a peaceful vibe.
Rosemary: A popular woody perennial herb from the Mediterranean, it can be used in mixes for peace of mind, luck, to stimulate mental clarity, protection, healing and to designate spiritual space.
Sage: Aromatic evergreen shrubs of the Salvia family, traditionally used by Native Southwestern North American tribes for use during sweat lodge ceremonies. Use in mixes for cleansing, promoting spirituality, increased memory and healing.
Sandalwood: The rich and mysterious scent of this wood is widely used in religious incenses. It is used in incense for healing, spirituality, protection and exorcism.
Thyme: with a warm, slightly bitter scent, the leaves of this small woody herb of the Labiatae family lends well to blends for health, healing, strength and purification.
Vanilla: the warm scent of vanilla adds calming vibes to any mix. Also add to mixes for love, mental clarity and to soothe anxiety.
Ylang-ylang: Oil from this beautifully scented flower that is native to the Philippines is easily accessible and can be used in incense for love.
Time to Unwind (blend for calm or meditation)
1-part lavender buds
Heart of a Dragon (blend for courage)
2-parts dragon’s blood
1-part cinnamon bark
Love Spell (blend for loving vibes)
1-part rose petals
1/2-part cinnamon bark
A few drops of ylang-ylang essential oil
Lucky Me (blend for luck)
2-parts dried orange peel
1/2-part ground nutmeg
A few drops of vanilla essential oil
¼ part lavender
¼ part patchouli
Warrior Blend (strength and courage)
2 parts dragon’s blood
¼ part clove
¼ part cinnamon
Images courtesy of Acorne photography
Black Salt is a staple in any witch's arsenal. Used for protection, banishing pesky unwanted spirits (or guests), ridding bad habits and/or negativity and hex breaking, this is something I always have on hand and it only takes minutes to make.
You will need:
Equal parts Sea Salt and
Charcoal (I use alder because of its association with protection, strength and battle)
Mortar and Pestle or
Rolling Pin and a Plastic Baggie or a Coffee Grinder
Commonly used for lending a smoky flavor to meats, fish or cheese, alder chips can be picked up for just a few dollars online or anywhere barbecue supplies are sold. If you have alder growing in your neighborhood, gather a few dropped branches or ask the tree to gift you a few branches.
Burn the wood down in a wood-pit, barbecue, fireplace or wood stove until you have lovely blackened charcoal. Let cool for 24 hours.
(Remember- You don't have to use alder, you can always use wood from a tree that resonates with you.)
Use your mortar and pestle, a coffee grinder or (as I like to do because it's cleaner) put the charcoal in a baggie and use a rolling pin to reduce the charcoal to ash.
Now take equal parts ash and sea salt and mix.
That's it! Bless it in your own way and store in an airtight container.
In August, we will use our black salt to make mini Witches Protection Bottles- so stay tuned.
Nature is my church- so when I enter the bower of my sacred forest, I like to take with me simple, easy to transport supplies for ritual. One of my must haves is a small, portable altar that looks lovely, keeps everything together and ensures I'm not catching the local flora on fire.
They can also be used as part of your home or garden altars- and if you choose to give your leaf a 'cupped,' shape, they can be used as containers for your crystals or other magickal supplies- you are only limited to your imagination! A word of caution- these are not intended to be used for food- nor are they dishwasher or microwave safe. That being said- here's how to make them!
Altar Leaves Supply List
This will make two 6x8 inch (ish) leaves
4-5 parts fast drying cement (I'm using Rapid Set Cement All)
1 part water
Acrylic craft paint (your choice of color- I like brown or black to give it an aged patina)
1"-2" soft-bristle paintbrush
Some kind of sealer to protect your creation- (I am using Modge Podge for this demonstration- but a nice spray-on sealer works great)
A bag of sand
Plastic garbage liners
Fresh leaves (Leaves that work best are cabbage, hosta, rhubarb, pumpkin, elephant ear, gourd, cucumber, fig- basically any leaf that has good veining and a lot of substance so it can hold up to the casting process)
In my photo you will notice a mole hill. This is not only a demonstration of a fun project- but a lesson on how to take life's lemons and make lemonade. Mole hills in my yard are not a favorite of mine- but I'm going to be utilizing them to help mold my leaf castings. If I didn't have mole hills in my yard to use for this project, I would be laying out a garbage liner and using the sand from the supply list to mound on top.
When shaping your mound, keep in mind that this will determine the inside slope of your leaf. If you want it cupped (like a traditional leaf casting for a bird bath) you will want a rounder mound. If you are a making a flatter casting to use as a small altar, flatten out the mound. I like to give it a slight curve because it looks more natural.
After you have formed your mound, place another plastic liner on top. Place the leaf so the underside of the leaf is showing.
Put on gloves and mix the rapid drying cement and water a little at a time until you get a brownie-batter consistency.
We are working with quick drying cement- so you will want to work quickly. Start pressing the cement on the center of the leaf making it about 1/2" thick and tapering down to about 1/4" .
Let your leaf set for about 30 minutes to dry. When it feels solid, lift up from the mound and gently peel away the leaf. Let cure for 24 hours.
After it has cured for 24 hours, Use a 1 or 2" soft bristle paintbrush to paint the entire surface of the leaf. Make sure to really press the paint into the veins. Now quickly use a damp rag to wipe off the surface of your leaf. We are wanting to give it an aged appearance- so leave paint in the veins and on the edges. Remember- you don't have to use this painting technique- Be creative. When you are finished painting your leaf- let dry completely.
Use a brush on or spray on sealer to give your creation a little extra protection.
Bless it in your own way and enjoy.
Close your eyes, if you will, and try and visualize the perfect magickal garden space. What did you see? A formal garden with perfectly trimmed topiaries and rose bushes that encircle your ritual space. How about an old-fashioned vegetable garden with a pumpkin patch and a scarecrow? Maybe you visualized yourself sipping herbal brews in an English cottage garden or studying up on spell work in a tropical garden where the scent of jasmine bewitches you. And still, others may visualize an amazing herb garden just steps from their kitchen- or a gothic Witch’s garden tangled with mystery and secret knowledge.
What about desert inspired gardens? Where the element of fire sets our hearts ablaze or a shady woodland setting where faerie energy can be felt just under the fern fronds and moss makes a cool carpet for our dancing feet? There is also something enchanting about a snow-covered landscape that sparkles under moonlight- reminding us to take the time to tend the garden that is our inner self. Gardens are as varied as the Witches who tend them- be it an amazing array of potted plantings on a balcony or a field of wild flowers- the most important aspect of your magickal garden is that it feeds your soul.
Connection with our Ancestors I have written a lot about seed saving and plant sharing because I feel it is not only an important way produce food that is better adapted to your region, but to connect us with our ancestors. Be it a cutting from your grandmother’s prized rose or seeds that have been passed down for generations, for me, part of the magick of my own garden is that it’s a place where I can feel my ancestors near me.
Another way to connect may be more ‘historical’ in nature. Take a look at an old grimoire, receipt book or an herbal almanac- Are you drawn to these plants because of their medicinal/historical or magickal values? Growing your own magickal plants is a great hands-on way of learning more about the craft and connecting with long gone hedge-witches and cunning folk who walked between the worlds in days gone by.
Connection with Nature Being a part of life’s process helps us to understand that our connectivity with nature is truly a symbiotic one- We lovingly tend to the earth to grow our own food, which in turn helps sustain us. Flowers, shrubs, trees or water features that we add to our landscapes are not only beautiful, but provide food, water and shelter for other creatures, attract pollinators, and provide oxygen.
As magickal practitioners you may notice more faerie activity. The blessing of nature spirits are abundant when we are in sync with our natural surroundings.
Earthing (grounding) Being in contact with the earth has calming effects that may lower stress and help improve sleep. Magickally, it helps to balance and equalize the flow of energy and avoid negative side-effects unbalanced energy can have on your spell-work. Plunging your witchy hands into the soil is a great earthing technique- in fact, recent studies show that there is a soil microbe called Mycobacterium vaccae which has the same mood enhancing effect as anti-depressants.
Bare footing is another way to make that contact with earth’s balancing energy. Wiggling your toes in fresh upturned soil or walking on fresh spring grass are great ways to ground and create a sense of ease.
How about tilting your face to the breeze? Let the element of Air blow away negativity and stimulate your creativity.
Balance your energy by dipping your feet in a stream, lake or other body of water. Dance in the rain or simply sit by a garden water feature and let the trickling sound of water cleanse and equalize your spirit.
Sense of Accomplishment As I look at the jars of dried flowers and herbs that line my witchy pantry, I can take pride in the knowledge that I cultivated my magickal ingredients myself. I like knowing what went into the cultivation of my garden- everything from the compost that the seeds are propagated in- to the astrological timing of when they were sowed and the moon phase of when the plants were harvested is all under my control and contributes to, not only the success of my plants, but to the success of my spell crafting.
You can customize your magickal herbal needs. What are your magickal needs? Would you like to make your own smudge sticks? Adding white sage to your garden sounds good. Maybe you want to work with lunar energy- how about growing lemon balm, gardenia or willow. Okay- maybe you just want something simple like- the all-purpose Witches herb, Yarrow. No problem. Growing your own means you can customize your garden to fit your needs
A place for meditation and ritual. This is your sanctuary. Learn to take advantage of focal points, such as a favorite tree, vine, water feature or view that soothes you. And learn how to create a sense of safety and enclosure to make your ritual space comfortable and maybe give it just a hint of mystery.
Make Your Own Pagan Prayer Flags
Here is a fun project that will add a little whimsy to your magickal garden space. And the best part, you don't need a sewing machine.
You will need:
4-5 Fat Quarters 18"x21" (colors or patterns of your choosing) These can be found in the quilting section of any craft/hobby or fabric store.
2- 4 yards of ribbon or twine (depending on how long you want your flags)
2 yards of black felt (I like to have plenty to work with in case of mistakes)
Pinking shears or scissors (I use pinking shears to control fraying- this will leave your flags with a zig-zagged edge)
no-sew fabric glue (look for water-proof if you live in a wet climate)
Lay out your fat quarters. These will make four panels each that end up roughly 9"X10". You can use up to three of each color for your panels, but hold one out and cut into 2" strips. these will be used as the streamers that go in between the panels.
Once you have all of your flag panels and streamers cut out, make sure to iron them so they lay nice and flat and set aside.
Now for the creative part! Use the black felt to cut out a symbol that resonates to you for each flag panel. This is a good time to get the kids involved and let them help with the designs or the cutting (if they're old enough). Don't get stressed out if you're feeling artistically challenged, cut out bold, simple patterns like moons, stars, cauldrons or simple representations of the God and Goddess. You don't have to mess around with Celtic knots if you don't want to.
Once you have all of your felt pieces cut out, lay one on top of each panel- make sure they are centered, and then using the fabric glue, glue onto the panels and let dry for a couple of hours.
When the panels are dry, it's time to attach them to your ribbon or twine. Lay out your ribbon (you might want to use plastic sheeting or newsprint to lay under it if you're worried about getting glue on carpeting) and place the flags and streamers in a manner that is pleasing to you. Remember to leave enough room at each end for tying.
Glue each panel and streamer in place and let dry overnight.
Is there anything sweeter than a young child tucking a homemade faerie dwelling beneath the shade of an old tree, surrounded by ferns and sweetly scented violets?
This was a past time all three of my children and I took part in every single spring. The bases of our faerie homes began their lives as milk jugs, juice cartons or plastic garden pots- but by the time we were done embellishing these discarded items with forest treasures such as, twigs, moss, leaves, stones, cones and flowers found scattered across our property, they were works of art that were fit for... well, a faerie!
It was my youngest child, Chloe, who wanted to work magickally with the spirits of nature- and she was a natural, so I didn't want to discourage it. But faeries are spirit beings who have a moral code very different from our own, and when offended, can become very, shall we say... mischievous. This can difficult for children to understand, especially for someone (like my daughter), who feels at ease with their particular energy. So, after a bit of research and consultation from a friend who was very experienced with working with the spirits of nature, here is a lists of dos and don'ts for mixing kids with the Fae:
My Faerie Garden Favorites
Honeysuckle: A beautiful climbing plant with trumpeted flowers. Use in spells for prosperity and psychic powers.
Fern: There are thousands of varieties that can grow in many different habitats. They are an enchanting to choice to add charm to your faerie garden. Use in magick for protection, luck, prosperity and rain making.
Columbine: An old-fashioned perennial that is a faerie favorite. In magick, use columbine for love and courage.
Forget-Me-Not: Their ting flowers grow in clusters of blue, white and pink flowers. According to folklore, these flowers have the power to unlock secret treasures guarded by the spirits of nature. Use in magick for love and devotion.
Foxglove: A classic faerie plant that if planted by your door, provides protection. Also use in magick for divination.
Pansies: A merry little flower that will add charm to your faerie garden, and it is said, attracts parades of trooping faeries. Use in magick for love and focus.
Working with the Fae can be rewarding for both you and your children. And remember, if you're lucky enough to wake up one night to the tinkling sound of bells and ethereal voices softly singing, you have pleased the faeries and you are truly blessed.
For more information about raising a magickal family in a modern world, check out: The Magickal Family:Pagan Living in Harmony with Nature.
Be Thankful for Who You Are
"The sun grows weary and autumn's chill breath clings to the alder and maple. Children chase tumbling leaves under a Harvest Moon as the last canned goods are stored. The hearth calls to me... Time to rest." (The Magickal Family)
Autumn equinox (or Mabon) is upon us. During this time, day and night are once again equal, and we (as Pagans), celebrate the second harvest (or the Witch's Thanksgiving). For most of us who work the land, this marks the end of our harvest season- and with all of the labor done, it's time to celebrate and be thankful.
At our home, the Witch's Thanksgiving is celebrated in true Martha Stewart style. September is typically one of our driest months in the Pacific Northwest, so we set up our traditional feast under a large maple near the Sauk River complete with candles and buckets of sunflowers.
Our feast includes what anyone may find at a traditional Thanksgiving meal- but there is one rule we abide by, and that is everything prepared must contain local or homegrown ingredients (flour and sugar are my exceptions).
A fun project to share during your Mabon feast with visiting guests, or the little ones in the family, are Poetry Masks. These masks are made to wear as an artistic expression of who we are on the inside- conveying the message that our inner qualities are more important than our physical appearance. And there's nothing better to be thankful for than what sets us apart from the rest of the world.
You will need:
1 white cardstock or plastic mask per person
Ribbon or a Popsicle stick (to secure the mask if using ribbon or to glue on the bottom as a handle if using the stick)
Fine-tipped permanent markers (black plus any other colors for decorating)
Decorations: colorful feathers, sequins, plastic jewels, natural material, glitter, felt... you get the picture
Before the fun of decorating, use the black marker to write on the mask quotes, words, song lyrics, or poetry that describe you in a positive way.
Now for the fun! Use those craft supplies to create an artistic picture of you. Are you a true nature baby? Use leaves and twigs or small cones to show your style. Maybe you love the water- how about small shells and scales using shiny paper.
When your done, attach your Popsicle stick to the bottom or punch holes on each side to tie ribbon.
The example I made (pictured below and modeled by my daughter, Chloe) is pretty low-key. But I think it describes me quite nicely. I used words, symbols and a few herbs that express me magickally and creatively.
After everyone is done, hold them up (or tie them on) and try this blessing:
This mask I wear portrays the potential in me,
A symbol of the beauty I want everyone to see.
As I say these words, help me bloom and grow.
Let me be an example to others- as above, so below
(Poetry Masks and other great ideas can be found in "The Magickal Family: Pagan Living in Harmony with Nature" published by Llewellyn Worldwide)