Tag Archives: greening your magics

Greening your magics: From the ground up

Throughout this series I have sought to bring awareness to ways in which regular spiritual practice and tools can be altered to help benefit our world, reconsidering strip mined jewels, petroleum based candles, and offerings which either may not decompose, or, in the case of food, be packed with industrialized ingredients and not nourishing for the body.

Today, my last in the series (for now?), I want to talk about herbs and plants. But instead of talking about plants which are overharvested for New Age and Pagan markets (white sage and sandalwood being two contenders I am sure many of us have in our tool kits, I would rather turn my attention to plants which can be easier to obtain and more plentiful.

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10 points to anyone who knew this is mugwort gone to flower. Odds are good that for a good portion of the country, you’ve seen this plant before. Mugworts exist in several parts of the world, and are used for culinary, medicinal and magical purposes. Since I am not an herbalist nor have used the herb in cooking, I will focus on magical properties.

Mugwort is a member of the Artemisia family, which also includes wormwood. As such, this makes it an excellent herb for any psychic work. It can be burned as part of a psychic incense, or made into a tea or oil for consecrating scrying tools like a black mirror.

This next item is included FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND I ABSOLVE ANY RESPONSIBILITY IF YOU TRY THIS. The tea can also be drunk to further enhance psychic abilities, but as its active ingredient is thujone, it can build up in the body and potentially become toxic. If you are curious about working with wormwood as an herb but are unsure as to your reaction, this might be an option.

Mugwort is also a very protective herb. If you are looking for an alternative to sage or other bundles for smudging purposes, consider mugwort. A bundle can be ready in six weeks by harvesting several stalks of the plant, binding together with thread, and hanging to dry in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

If you are someone who works in a more ceremonial tradition, mugwort can be in your kit as well. It is a feminine plant, ruled by the planet Venus and the element of Air.

Another option if you’d like to move away from sage bundles is sweetgrass, which was used by many First Nations peoples in different parts of what is now the United States. It has a sweeter (hence the name) smell than sage, and if you react strongly to those bundles this may be a good alternative. Also, if your spiritual practices include honoring the local land spirits, and you live in an area where the People used to use sweetgrass, your local spirits may feel very appreciative. One of my Heathen friends in the area told me many years ago that among her offerings for the land wights she would include things like cornmeal and tobacco, since that is what they used to receive.

For some further ideas of how you can incorporate local plants into your workings, this recent post by Sarah Lawless should provide some good inspiration.

I do hope you have enjoyed this series, as I have enjoyed writing it. If I’ve influenced some of you into looking at your practices with a new or fresh eye, then I have done my job.

Are there any other aspects of magical or spiritual practice you would like to see “Greened?” Or have you incorporated sustainable practices into your regular workings, such as bioregionalism or general socially responsible? IF you would like to talk about any of these things, please leave a comment on this post and I will get in touch with you. My plan is to continue the series by talking about bioregionalism in paganisms/polytheism/witchcraft/magic but I would also like to know other ways people have put these ideas into practice.

Resources:

Beyerl, Paul. The Master Book of Herbalism.

Cunningham, Scott. Magical Herbalism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mugwort

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_%28genus%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thujone

Additional information:
Scylla on the use and overuse of Palo Santo and white sage

Greening your magics: Bones of the earth

A few days ago, I bought myself some new jewelry. I’d been feeling pulled to find some pink tourmaline and rutilated quartz, and succeeded. And I also succeeded, knowing full well what this post would be about.

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I’ve loved semi-precious gemstones since I was a kid. And for a long time I have been well aware that they do not make it to the market through altruistic means. The process of mining gems, precious or semi-, most often involved damage to the earth (like other forms of mining), the use of toxic chemicals, and exploitation of workers in the most disadvantaged parts of the world.

That said, I’m not here to shove some sort of guilt or privilege on you, readers, for even thinking about buying gems, whether for spiritual purposes or because you like the piece. My hope is that you will put some thought into your purchases, and maybe consider other options.

But what if there is a stone which would be perfect for your upcoming magical workings, and you don’t already own it? That’s what I had above. Incidentally, it turned out my intuition for being pulled to both stones had merit. Pink tourmaline is said to support the adrenal glands, and rutilated quartz can give energy to people dealing with chronic health problems. Both are still problems for me, and I am still working on healing. It may be psychosomatic, but I am already feeling a change in my state of health, and for the better.

In addition to educating myself about mining practices, I’ve decided to take a few courses of action with gem buying now.

1. Buy with intent
In the past, yes I have bought gems because I thought they were pretty, shiny, and just because I could. Which means that now I do have a nice little collection and can cover a lot of bases with spiritual needs. If I feel pulled to having something new, I will look around and find the right piece. Not just buy a few and hope one of them works out.

2. Buy vintage
Or even secondhand. I’ve bought some lovely stones in the last few years from friends selling off some of their collection. Should you be worried about unwanted energies hanging around the stones, you can clean them with water (where applicable) or put them in sunlight. But not all stones can handle such cleaning. My favorite way to clean gems now is to set them on a piece of selenite. The gem is also said to be self-cleaning which means I do not have to worry about cleaning IT in addition.

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3. Look outside your door

Several years ago, I left my house one day and discovered a regular round rock sitting on the ledge of one of the flower beds. Now, the land around my house isn’t all that rocky, and my neighbors aren’t the sort just to leave stones near the door. I’ve kept that rock, even though I don’t know just what its purpose is yet. But gem and rock work is not limited just to shiny polished stones fit for jewelry. A rock from your property can be used for protection work, healing (by drawing out illness), or any Earth-related magic.

A few years ago a friend of mine told me about going to a gem show, hoping to find amethyst and pyrite. There was little to be found that day. According to one of the vendors, a high demand from the New Age market (and yes I am kinda throwing us pagans and polytheists into that group) meant a limited amount of material available. I would hate to think that our demands would also mean these gorgeous materials would no longer be available.

Resources

Bendell, Jem, et. al. “Mindful mining.” in The Journal of Corporate Citizenship. 12/2009, issue 36.

Duffy, Rosaleen. “Gemstone mining in Madagascar: transnational networks, criminalisation and global integration.” in Journal of Modern African Studies. 45:2. 2007.

Greening your Magics: Wildness and Waters

If the land is poisoned, then witchcraft must respond.

(Point one of the Apocalyptic Witchcraft manifesto, by Peter Grey)

Last year, I started the Greening your Magics series in a fit of inspiration for what is my activism: sharing information and changing my own practices as I learn. I got inspired to start writing posts in this series again after a post from my friend Lupa on sourcing ritual items secondhand and another post about the use of animal parts as an ecologically friendly practice. (I can’t find it now though) Then it seemed like I was seeing blogs right and left posting about matters like this. And then there was Peter Grey’s Rewilding Witchcraft essay, which I encourage you to read if you have not already. I also recommend Sarah Lawless’s response. (and Sarah, if you see this, I had forgotten the actual title of your post when I was coming up with mine.)

I read posts like this and my mind races. The fire builds. The waters of emotion overflow. I want to should from the rooftops, shake people, dance like mad, and DO. Whether or not you identify as “Earth-based” in your traditions, the reality remains that you live upon this earth, and there is not a spare one waiting in the wings, nor a Christ to replace a ravaged one as the Wise Use proponents claim.

So first, I give you this reminder about using your magics in whatever form. Do your rituals. Use your words. In ancient Egypt, magic was heka, which also translates as authoritative speech. Execrate, and be like Set at the front of Ra’s barque, slaying Apep, the snake of Uncreation, every single day to ensure the sun rises again.

And then there are the days when I wonder if it’s all just pointless. Because we have too few people like this and too many more like Peter Brabeck-Letmathe who do not even consider water, the building block of life, to be a human right. Oh excuse me, no, it is but it must be “properly managed”. Apparently that proper management includes taking it from the California water table to be bottled at a huge markup. You might also be interested to learn that the same state wants to charge up to a $500 for private citizens who use too much water. But what about businesses who do? What is our culture when we want people to pay such high prices for the very thing which supports us into life? Any deny people it flowing into their homes because of questionable billing practices, like in Detroit?

I’m reminded of the Cochabamba protests of almost 15 years ago, when people in Bolivia were able to overturn the privatization of their water supplies. If that happened in this country, how many people would even protest? I have to wonder now.

Because of the feelings stirred up for me by these readings, I had to reign in my anger, my passion, my sadness, and not let this post turn into rants and screeds. They won’t help. Attacking and demonizing in a blog post does not make for effective magics. Clear thought and words do.

Let us gather our magics. Find our fire, and our water, but do not let either of them overcome us. Suck out the poisons, wherever they are. Let us try to do better by our communities, seen and unseen.


Used with permission

Greening your magics: Candles

Just about every pagan and polytheistic tradition active at this time have a love for candles. Those flickering flames can set an otherworldly mood perfect for ritual and can fuel their own magic. They are also cheap and ubiquitous. So, no problem right? A quick trip to IKEA, buy a pack of tealights, and you’re good to go.

Did you ever consider why those candles are so cheap?

The answer comes down to three little letters: oil.

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(Photo used under Creative Commons license)

Paraffin-based candles are all made from oil. They are big business and have a huge environmental impact. Back in 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency released a report about the impact of burning candles in the home. (source) Burning these candles can create a toxic environment in the house and wreak havoc for anyone with respiratory issues. Plus wicks in these candles often contain lead.

Sometimes it seems like a person just cannot win in these matters.

So what can you do? A few weeks back my good friend Sufenas wrote up e’s own post on such matters though I do not know if e is aware of the reason why candles are so specifically toxic.

You do not have to burn candles for all your rites, that is for certain.

In my own case this is not as much of an option, as the Kemetic Orthodox rite of Senut includes a lighting portion of the rite, either with candle or oil lamp.

There are safer candles out there. Beeswax candles do not emit the same kind of chemicals as paraffin wax candles do. And while I have yet to find any formal studies, there are anecdotes available online from those who have found the candles may even benefit people with asthma and allergies.

During this year I have made a conscious decision to switch over as many candles as I can to beeswax. The cost is a factor and I will not try to deny that. However, as some of my practices do involve candles on a regular basis and I can afford to do so, I will buy them. I also see it as another way to support real beekeeping, since the wax would not be available otherwise.

Beeswax candles can also give your magic an extra boost. In the spring I bought a box of beeswax sheets for making candles, and it also came with wick. The candles get rolled tightly around the wick and lit. But before you do that winding you can make a seemingly innocuous candle into something with a punch. Sigils can be carved on the inside of the candle, and you can put your oils, herbs, or powders in there as well. (I think I first got this idea from Ellen Dugan’s Herb Magic for Beginners book but I have been unable to find a page number in there.)

To be fair though, I have not made a full switch in candles. Since some of my practice includes serving the lwa and some hoodoo, I have yet to find a good replacement for glass-encased candles. In fact, it was because of hoodoo that I first became aware of the base material. When the price of oil began to spike up in the mid-2000s, those of us in Miss Cat’s hoodoo course were told that the prices of her candles would be going up for this reason.

You can also use soy wax candles, but as I am not a fan of soy in the diet I tend to stay away from the candles too. In this case it is your choice. They would most likely be much easier on your home’s air quality than most candles.

You can find previous posts in this series here.

Greening your magics: What are you giving?

Offerings. Every spiritual tradition on earth has them in some form. It helps to form as relationship with the unknown and unknowable of our traditions. The rune gebo and a line from the Havamal sum it up well for me: a gift for a gift. Gods/spirits/ancestors give to us, and we on the living side give to them.

In some traditions, offerings revert back to the devotee. For others, the offerings are left out to be burned or taken in by the spirits themselves. Which often then translates into the local fauna consuming them.

What are you leaving out for your spirits then?

Over the past year I’ve blogged a lot here about food. Hel, I have an entire blog devoted to the subject. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I put into my body, as well as what others ingest. I know Those in the Unseen world do not have the same nutritional needs as people do, but I still wonder how some of the food in our culture might nourish them.

Do we want to share offerings comprised of fake sugars which the pancreas cannot process? Or fake fats? Or overloaded with potential allergens and fake colors and an overall ingredient list which sounds more like a chemistry experiment?

Also, if you are going to leave the offerings out for the spirits, and for animals to consume, do you want to put out food which could make them sick or cause death? Chocolate is toxic for dogs, for example.

My friend Lupa spoke about this recently. There is more to offerings than food. You can offer actions. You can offer words. You can offer objects. I’m a big believer in quality over quantity. My ethics won’t allow me to spend a huge amount of money on little trinkets which were made in the sweatshop of a poor country.

So what do you do, especially if you only have a small amount of money to put into your offerings? If you want to buy food or items, get the best quality you can. Negotiate. Ancestors especially understand not having a huge amount of money for what amounts to gifts. When done with love and thought, they matter a lot more than throwing around a lot of money for flash.

What have you been offering recently?

Greening your magics: an introduction

If you don’t respect the earth, you starve.Eli Sheva.

Since Michelle first asked me last year if I would contribute to Pagan Activist, I’ve been struggling with the very idea that I might be an activist. I’m not someone who participates in protests, or writes letters, or anything overt. If I am one, I am an activist in my day to day living. When airlines first started offering carbon offsets, and the discussions came up as to their effectiveness, I decided that I would make a donation of a tree through Heifer International every time I flew. I stopped eating Nestle brand anything 20 years ago when I learned of their atrocious policies around baby formula. I share what I learn. And over the years I have discovered that other people have taken my mentions of doing these things as inspiration. It feels like an Emerald Tablet approach to activism.

In April, an idea started to brew in my head. There was Shauna’s excellent post here about not accepting offerings distributed in nonrenewable materials., and a post I now cannot locate on Tumblr about alternatives to sage for smudging. My overt magical practices are being revived and I have noticed that my ethos has reshaped how I handle my spiritual life. Some of what I am doing is coming a lot closer to my physical home. Alchemy happened in my brain and the idea came forth.

I am a pagan, a polytheist, a practitioner of magic. Surely I am not the only person looking at this blog who does some form of spellcraft or puts out offerings for the spirits.

Perhaps instead of talking about current events or activism in the theoretical I can start to go into the practical applications. A series of posts covering ways in which our actions, our supplies, our ritual work, our outlook, can reshape and be a form of activism. Let us consider the ways in which our desire for certain plants and stones can damage the environment. The pollution from all those candles. Let us consider that our actions have reprocussions.

Let us also consider bioregionalism. Lupa’s documentation of Therioshamanism over the years has shown a path morphing from animal spirit work to one tied heavily to where she lives. My friends Beth and Jo have made great strides in tying Heathen festivals to the weather patterns of their new(-ish) home of Eugene, Oregon, as well as development of festivals based on local celebrations. On my own front, I have been learning over the last few years of how the three Kemetic seasons of Innundation, Harvest, and Fallow Time can be felt even as I cycle through New England spirngs, summers, autumns, and winters.

If Lykeia can find the rhythm of the Olympians while living in Alaska, they can be found anywhere.

Perhaps I am preaching to the converted here. Perhaps not. I feel the need to discus these matters and hope that you will accompany me along this ride.

As of right now, here are my planned topics of discussion:
offerings
herbs
stones
candles
bioregional spirituality
(possibly) earth healing rituals

If there are any topics you would like to see me cover, feel free to leave a comment.

In the meantime, perhaps you will consider perusing some reading material to spark your mind on these matters.

James Endredy. Ecoshamanism.
Yasmine Galenorn. Embracing the Moon. (includes land and species protection rituals)
Marian Green. A witch alone.
Lupa. New paths to animal totems. (One section is about working with bioregional totems)
Rosa Romani. Green spirituality.
Starhawk. The earth path.
Peter Lamborn Wilson, et. al. Green Hermeticism. (because even “high magic” workers can find something in this discussion.)

Blogs:
Sarah Anne Lawless (formerly Witch of Forest Grove)
Therioshamanism
Wytch of the North (my friend Beth, mentioned above.)
Strip me back to the bone (my friend Jo, again above.)
Beloved in Light
A Forest Door