Salt and Blessings

We returned yesterday from a long weekend of camping at Acadia Park in Maine. Josh did a lot of Rune magic throughout the island (you’ll be able to hear that story when he publishes his blog next week) and we both enjoyed connecting to both the spirits of the island and the ocean.

I was, of course, ecstatic to be by the sea. I submerged myself in those cold northern Atlantic waters as much as I could, connecting to the ocean’s primal power and cleansing myself of any psychic muck I may have picked up. As we drove home, I was deep in thought about the cleansing power of ocean water and methods of energetic cleansing that I use at home. It comes down to something that most every house has, something that we use every day.

Salt.

Salt has a lot of interesting history in many different cultures. Salt has been used by humanity as far back as 6050 BC in trade, food, preservation, and religion. Imagine eating your food without a little bit of salt. There aren’t many out there that enjoy bland food. So, this ocean derived commodity was a big deal (and an important source of dietary minerals).

As I mentioned, people had also noticed applications in spiritual practices. Even the ancient Egyptians used it in their spiritual practices, including mummification. They were far from the last culture to use it in spiritual practice, though. The first modern example that comes to mind is the Catholic Church. Salt is mixed in their holy water, after both the water and salt are blessed. It is then used in baptism and blessing. While the blessing is an important aspect in the usefulness of the holy water, it is the mix of the water and salt that hold the first step towards its power.

I’m sure you’ve heard of fairy tales, myths, or TV shows that involve the magic of salt. Many times it shows up in a protective circle of salt around a magician or a horror movie protagonist. That myth comes from actual use in folk magic as well as Catholicism. It even continues in modern day “tradition” in the practice of tossing salt over your shoulder when you spill salt.

According to John Michael Greer’s “Encyclopedia of Natural Magic” salt’s astrological correspondences are Saturn in Aquarius. Energetically, it absorbs and purifies. These qualities make it a great choice for protection and banishment work. It also makes it great for clearing out psychic gunk that might be attached to you or something that you own. I even make a protection salt that incorporates herbs of blessing and protection that one can use to block out negative energies.

I often use salt in my own energetic clearing. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve begun an exploration into a very intriguing magical system called Quareia. I’m still in the beginning stages of the course, so I can’t really give too much of an opinion of the magical system. One of the first things that you learn in the course is how to make a sort of holy water. The idea is to make cleansing baths once a week for a few weeks to learn how it feels to be clear of the psychic grime that we accumulate throughout our travels in life. It can also be used in clearing a room of unwanted energies, as well as helping to remove simple energetic parasites from someone.

Here’s an example of its use. Josh and I attended a sound healing event. The space it was held in was full of people, so there wasn’t a lot of room to work with. As I laid down, I set the intention that the session was for me and that I wouldn’t connect to those around me as the session went on. I wanted to focus on my energetic stuff, and I didn’t want to get sucked into doing healing work for others while I ignored why I was there. I set up strong boundaries and let the sound wash over me.

Josh had a very different approach. He opened up to feel what was going on in the room. He interacted with spirits of the place and the energies of the people in the room. He didn’t feel anything too out of the ordinary until we arrived home. I noticed that he was edgy and something was off. As we tried to go to sleep, he was wide awake with the feeling that something was off. He had picked up some small parasitic energy from the session, most likely dislodged from someone else during the sound healing session. Josh was an open target! So, I rolled out of bed, grabbed some salt, poured some water, and got to blessing. After dousing him in the salty water mix, he began to feel like his normal self. The salt water had worked!

It may seem like a little thing, but the usefulness of this is pretty fantastic. You can find the blessings I used in this PDF (starting on page 8). I’m still playing around the uses, but it’s shown some promise. It makes me wonder how much of it is the blessing, and how much of it is in the natural properties of the salt and water.

An interesting note in the use of salt, holy water, and cleansing herbs. My teacher Adhi has a theory about the uses of these items in Catholic baptism that may help shut down people’s third eye. She theorizes that the mix of symbolism, salt, water, and herbal oils (all of which, by themselves are useful tools for healing and clearing work) were formulated to help shut down the intuition of the common people about a millennia or two ago. While it may seem a little like a conspiracy theory, the methods that she taught me that employ sacred geometry and dowsing to counteract this “psychic scarring” have a powerful effect. There is certainly something to it! I bring it up to look at all the sides natural magic, and how too much of a good thing can be counterproductive.

Well, that’s all I have for tonight. Thank you for exploring the mechanics of a little natural magic with me.

 

Be well and do good work

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Old Holidays in the Modern Age

Today is Lughnasadh (phonetically loo-nah-sah), an old Irish festival said to be started by the god Lugh as both an athletic competition and a memorial feast for his mother Tailtiu, who died clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. It is part of the eightfold wheel of the year that so many European inspired nature religion’s use. This is a modern mix of four different Gaelic holidays with the two Solstices and two Equinoxes. I don’t believe people really used these eight together as a sacred holiday cycle until Gerald Gardner, father of Wicca, stitched them together. Since then, many other nature orientated spiritual groups have taken up this cycle in their practice. It is an earth cycle honoring set up which I like, so I try to follow it.

Lughnasadh itself has a really interesting, varied history. It’s been Christianized as Catholicism took root in Ireland, as well as secularized. People have celebrated it with bilberry harvest, athletic competitions, cultural celebrations, dramatized re-enactments of mythology of Lugh stealing grain for mankind, or later on the mythology of St. Patrick converting pagan chiefs. Holy wells would be visited. Pilgrimages would be made. Goats are still crowned king for the day. Trial marriages were created for a year and a day. Feasts were and are eaten. It’s an interesting mix that has changed with its times.

This brings us to modern day practice. I love the set up of the eight holidays. They are spaced rather evenly, so it makes it a little more sane to celebrate. A few of them even line up with holidays that most of the United States celebrate (such as Halloween and Christmas). They are mostly focused on our interactions with the life around us, connecting me to the seasons. Those of you who have read my post about the wheel of life (if you haven’t, here’s the link) know how these points in time play into my spiritual practice. I see each of these points in time as energetic qualities to connect to in my work.

I find a few issues with practice. It can be a bit odd to try and focus on holidays that a majority of the population do not acknowledge. There’s a certain cultural push towards celebrating certain holidays. When that’s not there, and that recognition of its sacred nature isn’t culturally acknowledged, it can feel a little lonely. We often expect to have religious holidays like Easter off from work, but it’s hard to have the conversation with your employer that you’d rather switch Easter for the Spring Equinox.

The biggest obstacle for me, though, is creating my own way of celebrating. When it comes to any Irish traditions concerning the Gaelic four festivals, some transfer to the hills of Northern Vermont well. Others, not so much. Many spiritual groups have their own ways to celebrate, but they are either tradition specific, apply to the seasonal cycles of Celtic lands, or apply to the seasonal cycles of where the spiritual group is. My part of Vermont certainly keeps its own time and seasons. An example is Imbolc, which was traditionally the time in Ireland when the ewes started to lamb. Not up here, it isn’t! It’s too damn cold at the beginning of February! Spring in Vermont is still a long ways away at that point, so that tradition does not transfer.

So, here I am, trying to figure out how I can celebrate Lughnasadh in my own way, while being area appropriate. If I’m not seasonally appropriate for where I live, I’m missing the point of celebrating holidays to explore the energy of the seasons of where I live. Besides having a ceremony to thank the land for the produce in my garden, I will try to embrace some of the competitive nature of some of the older traditions. I will make sure that my husband and I break out the boffer swords we own and practice. I also have karate class later on, so that’s pretty appropriate. The mentions of bilberry harvest makes me think of blueberries, which are in season as we speak. Sounds like a perfect way to connect to the cycles.

Ceremony, competition, garden harvest, and blueberries. Sounds like a good start to me. The importance is that I make space to explore how this time of the year feels, and try to take what I know about the traditions of this holiday into context. Every year, I create a stronger connection to it and maybe, just maybe, get others to join me in connecting to this moment in the cycle of the year. We talk often about the spirit of Christmas. Today, I feed and experience the spirit of Lughnasadh in both what that means to me and what that means to the life about me in this point in time.

How will you feed the spirit of Lughnasadh?

 

Until next time

 

  • The Green Mountain Mage

Spirits of my Past

Today is my 34th birthday. Anyone close to me knows that I am really into celebrating my birthday. I can take a day to celebrate another year of exploration of life and the world I live in. It can also be a great time for reflection.

In my reflection, I’ve been going back to my childhood and the form that spirituality took then. I was raised by fiercely religious folks whose belief system was still rocked by the 80s satanist scare. Magic and other forms of spirituality were sure paths to hell.

My childhood was my first magical training, though. My mother and grandmother would probably be horrified to hear that, but it’s very true. I learned a way to interface with Divinity in those years. I learned how to feel energy. I felt the difference between praise songs, how they felt different, how the people singing these songs with me affected the feel of praise, and how the right mix could lead to a mystical experience. I remember learning that many of the kids in the churches I would attend didn’t feel the same, weren’t looking for the same spiritual experience as I was. While I was looking for connection to the Divine and Divine Love, many of the other kids were there because they had to be. I felt the same for many of the parents. It was a social thing that was expected of them.

To be fair, hypocrisy is a human thing that is not just the domain of any one religion. I saw it in the one I was raised in, though, and that was part of what drove me away. From what I saw when I was young, it seemed that other traditions had more developed ways to explore magic. Now that I am older and have waded through a bit of magic theory and traditions, I’ve learned that I was very, very wrong.

You’d might be surprised to find that most paths of power on this continent have Christian roots. Renaissance magical study abounded in Christian symbolism, and the Church hasn’t always been so antagonistic to its practice. It is heavily present in a lot of folk magic like Root Work (Hoodoo) or Pennsylvania Dutch Pow-wow. Even the famous Golden Dawn magical system uses a mix of Christian and Ancient Egyptian symbolism in their work.

When I began to actively research magic outside of my religious experience, I was pretty sure that I had finished my path with Christianity. I thought that I would be jumping into a world of pre-Christian European deities, and that would be that. That turned out to be yet another thing that I would be wrong about.

I’ve mentioned the Sphere of Protection ritual that I practice in other blog entries. In case you’ve missed them, the Sphere of Protection ritual is a practice created by the Ancient Order of Druids in America, a Druid Revival Order of which I am a member. The purpose of this ritual is to align myself with the archetypal energies of the elements, as well as the planet and the cosmos, while creating balance within myself and banishing unbalanced energetics within and about me. Part of this ritual involves intoning divine names. The original example is written using the names of old Welsh deities. They’ve never called to me, so I tried out names from other Celtic deities. I have a connection to Mannanan Mac Llyr after all, so that pantheon group should make sense to use in my daily ritual. Something wasn’t right, though.

Fast forward to a session of shamanic journeying with a teacher of mine. We were meant to go and meet guides who represented the four directions. We started in the East, the direction traditionally attributed to the element of Air. My teacher started drumming, and I began to journey East in my mind’s eye. I was heading into this with an expectation. I work with Hawk, as I’ve mentioned before. He is often attributed to the East and to the element of Air, so I expected to bump into him. Instead, I found the archangel Raphael.

I didn’t expect my meditation to go this route. Raphael is the archangel traditionally attributed to Air and the East. I started to talk to him, but I told him that I thought I had made a mistake. A wrong turn in the corners of my subconscious, if you will. So, I left to find Hawk. As I did, Hawk laughed and told me to go back to Raphael and talk to him. Confused, I went back to Raphael, archangel of Air, archangel of healing. Apparently, I was not finished with Christianity... or, at least, its archetypes.

This was my first hint that I should be working with angelic energies (not my last). This is now a little bit of a weird concept to me, but I think it’s a way of the universe reconnecting me to a spiritual part of my youth. I now invoke the elements of the Sphere of Protection ritual with the names of the archangels traditionally attached to the directions: Raphael for the East, Michael for the South, Gabriel for the West, Uriel for the North, Sandalphon for Below, and Metatron for Above. It seems to work well for me, so I’m running with it. It gives me a good excuse to delve into old angel lore, at least. Who knows where it will take me from there?

Well, it’s late. May your explorations produce good information, and may your roots help you, not hinder you.

 

Until next time

 

  • The Green Mountain Mage

Planets and Constellations

We are embarking on an experiment in magic today. In fact, this experiment is the reason why I’m posting on Wednesdays. It goes back to the idea of working with the energetic currents that naturally happen around us every day.

Magic and astronomy have gone together hand in hand for a very long time. The idea that different sorts of energetic currents moved around our planet (and us) at different times is an old one that more than one tradition has tried to develop a language for. One of the ways that people could tell where our planet was in it’s cyclical currents was watching what stars we are facing from where we are standing on this big hunk of space rock that we are travelling around the sun on. A common language that people use now a days for these currents is the language of astrology.

Before we continue much further, I’d like to make something known. I am not an astrology expert. I wouldn’t even go as far to say that I know it all that well. I do know enough to experiment with it in my magical practice, though. It is this knowledge that I am sharing.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you will already have noticed that I use astrological terms when talking about the esoteric uses of plants. Lemon balm’s correspondences are Jupiter in Cancer. Plantain’s correspondences are Mars in Capricorn. You may have wondered what planets and constellations have to do with plants. When I speak of these celestial bodies in reference to energetic properties, I’m referring to the energetic currents associated with these planets and constellations. Each of the planets known to Babylonian and Greek astrologers millenia ago and the twelve constellations of the zodiac represent a certain energy. If you don’t know these correspondences, here are some charts that I stole from the internet.

Planetary_Astrology_For_dummies
Zodiac_Astrology_For Dummies

That’s actually what a lot of astrology is all about, as I understand it. The popular pigeonholing of someone due to their sun sign is talking about the yearly energetic current that someone was born into. The constellations that we use to describe this was where the sun was approximately hanging out in the sky about 2,200 years ago. While the sun no longer is in the constellations due to the wobble of the planet, we still use the constellation’s names in describing the energetic currents that happen at that point of the year. Presently, we are in the astrological sign of Cancer. Though the sun nowadays is actually hanging out in Gemini, the current of the year remains the same. We’ve called it the Sun in Cancer 2,200 years ago, and we’re sticking to it.

When getting into astrological birth charts, they are a lot more complicated than one’s sun sign. They cover where the moon was, where the planets were, and other astronomical events at the point of your birth. While fascinating, that’s not what I’m covering today. Instead, I’m talking about charting these energetic currents and trying to ride these currents to be more successful at whatever you are trying to do.

Magically, a good way to do this is to pay attention to where the moon is hanging out in the sky. As I write this, the moon is in between Pisces and Aries at a point that astrologers refer to as “Void Of Course.” Not the most auspicious time, this should have a bad effect on intuition. It’s not a good time to do something magical. It would be better to wait for the moon to go into Aries tomorrow. Not to say that one can’t do something magical, just that it would not be as easy as it would be to wait for a better time.

The other planets in the sky also move through these different points of the sky, and mark movement of energetic currents. The theory is that they are reflecting solar currents flavored by the planet, subtly coloring the energetic movements on our planet. I’m sure you’ve heard of the dreaded “Mercury Retrograde.” That’s when, due to planetary movement and perspective, Mercury moves across the sky in the opposite direction as everything else. While it might be sending vibes of botched communication, it certainly is not the game changer that a lot of people try to make it. When it comes to planetary astrology, though, I usually don’t pay too much attention. They’re pretty far away, so I imagine that their effect is pretty subtle indeed. The moon and the sun, on the other hand, affects us in so many ways, astrology aside. I find the idea that their position in relation to us defining subtle energy shifts intriguing.

This brings us back to the beginning of this blog entry. Why Wednesdays? Well, someone noticed a long time ago that there are seven planets in traditional astrology (the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) and there are seven days in our week. It was only a matter of time until someone assigned a planet to a day. Wednesday happens to be the day assigned to Mercury. While the week seems to be an arbitrary human construct that divides the solar year pretty well, who am I to argue with tradition? Let’s try this experiment out. Will blogging on Wednesday be better at communicating than a Friday (the day of Venus) or Saturday (the day of Saturn, which is not the best choice for communication)? Let’s find out.

Talking about using astrology as a way to follow energetic currents, I will be expanding on that theory and how to use it during my upcoming Amulet Making Workshop. It will be on Sunday (can you guess that day’s planet, and what kind of amulets will be made then?) July 15th from 1 pm to 4 pm. If you’re interested, email me at greenmountainmage@gmail.com and I can tell you more.

Finally, have a fun (and relatively safe) Independence Day (for those of us who live in the United States). Don’t let the void of course moon mess with your intuition too badly.

 

Until next time

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Clearing Space With Herbs

Using the smoke of cleansing herbs has long been in my practice. Physically, the smell helps bring me into the mental space I need to be to do spiritual work. Smell has strong links to memory, as the information from smells go from the thalamus to the hippocampus and amygdala, key brain regions involved in learning and memory. It’s certainly a fascinating, underappreciated sense! The herbs also interact with the vibes of the area. Most plants used in clearing work have a fiery nature.

I was recently reading the work of author Josephine McCarthy who suggested that there is a connection with these cleansing herbs and the area that they grow. She mentions that she doesn’t have a lot of luck with white sage (Salvia apiana), an herb commonly used in energetic clearing, because she lives in England. White sage is endemic to the warmer, drier areas of the states and has a long history being used by various Native tribes in ceremony. She prefers using frankincense, which does not grow on the British Isles, but has a long history there via the Church.

I’ve read articles about people calling out the overuse of white sage in cleansing as disrespectful and culturally appropriative. I believe it to be situational. It would be cultural appropriation if used in a quasi Native American ceremonial way without correct context, cultural connection, and cultural permission. Used as an herbal agent that works in a certain way seems to me to be working with the land. As a white man in an area that white sage does not grow, you can take my thoughts on that as you’d like.

In my practice, I’m fond of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens). It’s wood from a tree that grows in South America. The name means “holy stick” and I am sadly unaware of its history beyond that. It’s commonly used in energetic clearing, and has a pleasant smell. It does the work, and does not offend the noses of those who dislike the smell of white sage.

Following the idea that plants that have a connection (historical or ecological) to the area you are cleansing are more effective, I wanted to mention some plants that I’ve used in this work that you can grow or harvest in northern Vermont. I will be using some of these in my work in the future, but not all the time. As they carry some of the skunkier notes that make people dislike white sage, they may not be for everyone.

Cedar

 A twig of the cedar tree up the road from me

A twig of the cedar tree up the road from me

The type of cedar that grows around here is white cedar (Thuja occidentalis). It has a very fiery nature, its astrology being Jupiter in Sagittarius. They are commonly found in graveyards due to a symbolism of eternal life. Interestingly, cedars seem to have a history in different cultures in dealing with death and purification. It might have something to the compound called thujone in it, which acts as an insect repellent, a wormer, and a mild neurotoxin (not one to repeatedly take internally in large doses, especially in essential oil form). That also protects the wood from rotting quickly. Our bodies deal with it just fine in small amounts, which is why it’s perfect for a cleansing smoke. It smells great, and has been used in conjunction with white sage for a very long time.

Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina)

 Taken from Wikipedia

Taken from Wikipedia

This was a plant introduced to me last year. While it does have a sweet scent, it is not an actual fern. It is a deciduous bush that has history of being used as a medicinal plant. I have yet to personally explore that aspect of the plant, but the claims range from an expectorant, to treating ringworm, to covering a host of other ailments. What I do know about it is that a teacher suggested using it to clear space. She felt that it worked better than white sage. I don’t know if part of it is its connection to the land, but that is part of my theory. There is one drawback… when burnt, it really smells like pot. If you’re using it in a situation where that doesn’t matter, it’s great. It’s probably not appropriate for a lot of client situations, though. Depends on the space and the client, I guess. That being said, it works very well. I use it in a mix when I’m doing ceremony for myself.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

 Also taken from Wikipedia

Also taken from Wikipedia

This herb can be found growing beside roads pretty much everywhere up here. It also has a rich and varied history in the magic and medicine of China, Japan, Korea, medieval Europe, and beyond. Plants in the Artemisia family seem to have that in general. Its astrology is Venus in Cancer, and it is another fiery plant. It is used medicinally for menstrual and digestive issues. Magically, it has a history of use in works of protection and awakening psychic powers. I like to make a tea out of it with lemon balm before I work with clients to help me with compassionate insight. As a tea, it is also used to encourage dreaming. Chinese medicine has long used burning mugwort in a process called moxibustion, where a stick of mugwort is burnt over certain pressure points to restore proper flow. Burnt in a ceremonial sense, it can clear a space and open your third eye a little. My husband uses it to clear his space for readings. This one also has a pot-like smell, but not as strong as sweet fern.

Common Sage (Salvia officinalis)

 It's still dead out there. I have to keep using pictures from Wikipedia.

It's still dead out there. I have to keep using pictures from Wikipedia.

Yes! You can totally use culinary sage! I had a teacher who said that it worked way better for her than white sage (again, that possible connection between the plant and where you use it). It has a lot of history in medicine and food. Yet another fiery herb, its astrology is Jupiter in Taurus. I have yet to try out home grown sage in this work. I live right at the edge of where you can grow sage, so I haven’t tried until last year. I’m still waiting to see if the plant made it through the winter. If not, I have to try and create a better microclimate for it. I will get it, someday.

So, there you have it. Four herbs to try out in cleansing space that you can forage or grow up here. Feel free to comment here on the website, or on the Facebook page as to whether you’ve worked with any of these. I’d love to hear about your experience.

Until next week

-The Green Mountain Mage

Offerings

I had a request to talk about offerings to spirits! So, let’s tackle that.

When one does work with other beings, it’s always a good idea to have some sort of exchange, or an offering of good will. When I hike, I like to make three offerings. One at the base of the trail, asking for a safe hike, one at the top of the mountain as a way to honor how majestic it is, and one at the end to thank the mountain for the safe trip. It’s certainly not a necessity. Most people just hike and they’re just fine. I think it’s more polite to offer to the mountain or trail, as well as it sets the mood for the hike. I’m not there just for a walk that I can do anywhere. It’s a pilgrimage, and the mountains are living beings to me.

When doing ceremony, offerings are an important part. Ceremony is usually to honor, or to ask help in something. If you go into that expecting that you deserve help for nothing, or just your presence is honoring enough, is a little short sighted. Offerings give us perspective in our place of things, that we are not the top dog that the universe bows down to. Instead, it creates a give and take.

In short, it begins a relationship.

I believe it’s an important part in communicating with things that aren’t necessarily considered as communicative… or, such as in the case of the mountain, alive. When I began to work with the drum, I was reminded to make an offering to the drum, to warm the drum to me. In the work that I do, everything is assumed to have some sort of spark of consciousness. How we interact with that spark of consciousness can change the way we act in the physical world.

When it comes to what you offer, I find that intuition can play a large part in it, as well as tradition. I usually stick to herbal offerings, but some people use coins, hair, or whatever their specific tradition calls for. We all know about the idea of animal sacrifice, something that has played a role in a lot of cultures. While definitely not something that is considered in our continent, it still does have a place in other parts of the world, where the animal is ritually done in, then eaten usually by the community. If you are a meat eater, and this idea rubs you the wrong way, you might want to take a moment and reflect on the non-sacred killing of animals that happen so that you may have a burger. There’s a lot of weight on that subject, though, and further discussion would take a blog or two on it’s own. I’ll say that I don’t have any animals I’m raising for meat right now, and blood seems to me to be a little too dark to offer to spirits I work with.

The offering I do often use is tobacco. It runs on the idea that tobacco has had its place as a sacred herb to indigenous folk, and the land recognizes it as something that is a sacred gift. People use cornmeal and sage for similar reasons. The intuition comes in when you add herbs to the mix. I had a surplus of Sweet Annie Herb a year back, and it felt right to add that to my offering mix. It had a pleasant smell, and it was something that I grew.

Another offering that I like is one of music, or spoken word. Even singing to a mountain, as silly as it might sound, can be a magical experience. It adds extra vulnerability, and one that I love to mix with an herbal offering.

There is also specific offerings to the spirits, plants, or land formations that you are working with. I was taught that it is traditionally proper to offer white flowers to water spirits. There are great cleansing herbs, like cedar, that are appropriate to offer to a fire. If I’m headed to a specific place to make an offering, I keep what I’m working with in mind, and try to feel out what that space would like. That can begin the conversation, and I like to think that the land appreciates that extra effort.

And that’s all I really have to say about offerings. I’m going to head out an enjoy the beautiful sun that’s poking through the clouds outside, maybe make a little offering to the spring that supplies our house’s water.

Cultivating gratitude for the sun and running water

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Above and Below

My first introduction to shamanic work was from a friend who tried to introduce me to journey work and a finding an animal spirit to work with. The plan was for her to drum, and for me to use the sound to imagine travelling to a sort of underworld. I would imagine myself entering a hole in the ground, going deeper and deeper until I found a different world where I would meet my animal spirit. It’s a common practice, especially for “Neo-Shamans”. Despite how actually traditional it might be, it can have a place in magical work.

It was later explained to me that many times these sort of Astral journeys can be broken up into travelling in three different worlds. The is an Underworld, a place of power and wild energies. There is a Middle World, the realm in which we all exist in. The third is an Upper World, the realm of knowledge and Guides.

Fast forward to me beginning to learn ritual through the AODA (Ancient Order of Druids in America). When beginning that work, the start is with the four elements, and their corresponding directions. Then, the three types of Spirit are introduced. There is Spirit Below, a realm of power and wild energies. There is Spirit Above, the realm of knowledge and the heavens. Then there is Spirit Within, the place where you find balance with the six powers that have been invoked before.

As far as I know, many of these shamanic traditions evolved quite separately from the Druid Revival, so the correlations interest me. In “The Druid Magic Handbook” by John Michael Greer, Spirit Below and its corresponding current, the Telluric Current, are compared to Kundalini practices and other practices that draw power up. Spirit Above and its corresponding current, the Solar Current, are compared to the many traditions that draw power down (including many mainstream religious work).

It is theorized in that book that these are the two major power currents that most religious and magical work draw from. Most of the time, groups will pick one to work with and ignore the other at best. At worst, the powers that be will demonize the other current, saying that their current is the proper one to use, while the other is evil. Druid magic, and a lot of the shamanic work that I’ve learned, believe otherwise. Instead, they try to utilize and balance both.

I have a clear memory of walking through the woods as a teenager trying to understand the energies that I was experiencing. On one hand, I could feel the wild energy that I associated with the forest around me, and the spirits that I experienced there. On the other, there was an energy that I felt when in an intense church service, experiencing what I understood as God. I remember sitting below an ancient pine tree, comparing the two, and marvelling at their very different feel. At the time, I believe that I felt this meant I needed to make a choice between the two. Now, I have a language for what I was feeling, and a way to deal with it.

In my Druid work, one of the things that I am supposed to be aiming for, through meditation and ritual work, is combining these two currents within me to make a third. In this tradition, it is referred to as the Lunar Current. I think that this may have been one of the deal makers in my decision to work with the Order’s system; a way to mediate between and use both planetary and celestial energy in my work.

The interesting correlations between my Shamanic work and Druidic work does not end there. Part of the Druid work is to do Pathworking exercises into the realms of the elements, and the different realms of the three Spirits. The method used is in ceremony, where you call in the help of the elements and the three realms of Spirit to help you explore the Astral realm of a specific element or direction of Spirit. Shaman work involves exploring realms like this, using repetitive sound to shift your brain into a Theta state. I enjoy using both these tools at the same time to explore these powers.

Another interesting connection between the work of using both the Telluric Current and the Solar Current, and other traditions is the presence of trees in sacred mythology and magical practice. Trees are often seen as point of connections between the worlds. With their branches absorbing solar energy and their roots drawing nutrients from the Earth, they make a great metaphor, if not example, of the work of both the Shaman and Druid. That is why they find their way into the work. One of my first tasks as I began my apprenticeship with Adhi was to find a tree to work with, my Burden Tree. My relationship to that tree would grow as the tree helped balance my energy, and acted as a spot that I could use in my journey work to access different worlds. In the Druidic tradition I work in, trees are eventually used as a blueprint to create a flow of the Telluric and Solar Currents within you as you use them to create the Lunar Current.

If you have any thoughts about the use of these currents, and see them in whatever practice you use, let me know in the comments here on the blog, or on Facebook. I love comparing commonalities in practice, and hearing what works for others.

 

Until next week,

 

The Green Mountain Mage

Elemental Rituals

In Ancient Greece, about 500 years before the birth of Christ, philosophers suggested that there was a single material source of the world that we experience. Some suggested it was water, others suggested fire, and I imagine that there were quite a few other suggestions being offered. One of the philosophers of that time, Empedocles, came up with his own theory, one that still resonates in our modern culture. In his poem “On Nature” he introduced the idea that the world was not the product of one material source, but four. He argued that everything was made up by the process of air, water, fire, and earth combining and separating.

This idea has seemed to stick with us as a culture. From the rings in the cartoon Captain Planet (excluding heart, which would be compared to “aether”, or spirit, an addition to the elements from Aristotle), to the movie “The Fifth Element”, these classical elements seem to be well represented by pop culture. Perhaps the correlation between the elements and the states of matter help keep them in our collective mind. Earth is a solid, water is a liquid, air is gaseous, and fire corresponds with plasma.

The lasting awareness of these four categories of the material world might also have something to do with their persistent use in Western magic. The idea of four (or five, if you count spirit) elements seemed to have spread out from Greece, to be integrated in medicine, magic, and philosophy of other cultures. It found its way into Ayurvedic practice, Buddhist texts, Islamic philosophy, alchemy, and astrology. The alchemical and astrological uses of the four elements seemed to have deeply affected the magic of the Renaissance. European ceremonial magic used the four elements, and it seems that a lot of the correspondences that many mages use nowadays stem from their work.

The elements grew to be a bigger metaphor than the actual matter that is earth, air, fire, and water. Each was a handy way to categorize the spirit world, the natural world, and the human experience. Plants, planets, directions, and even archangels were assigned an element, and a lot of these associations live on in ritual magic. There were even beings said to be specifically from elemental realms; undines from the realm of water, salamanders from the realm of fire, sylphs from the realm of air, and gnomes from the realm of earth.

I personally use the elements quite often in my ritual work. In fact, the ritual format that I use relies heavily on it. In my work, I usually call on the four elements, and three different forms of Spirit (which I will cover in a separate post). For actual consecration work, such as blessing a tool or an amulet, I would have a full set up, tools to represent the four elements, a central altar, and a lot more invocation and blessing work than what I do on a daily basis to connect to the spiritual nature of Nature. My daily work doesn’t involve tools, it just involves me.

The ritual I perform daily is called the Sphere of Protection, and it is a practice from the Ancient Order of Druids in America, the Druidic order to which I belong. I like it’s use to connect to the natural world, and how well it translates into ritual for purposes beyond connecting to natural forces. I also like how adaptable it is. One could change it to fit whatever belief system they like, as long as they are interested in working with nature within the parameters of their belief.

The first step of the Sphere of Protection (or the SoP), is to calm your mind. The order suggests imagining that you are standing in a clearing of a forest, surrounded by standing stones. I find that part is optional. The only part important to imagine is the sun shining above you, and the heart of the earth shining below you.  You raise your hands towards the sun and imagine a beam of light streaming down to your hands. You pull the light to the center of your forehead, and intone an appropriate sacred name. Honoring my past with Christianity, I intone the name of Raphael, the Archangel assigned to Air. You then bring your hands to your solar plexus, drawing down the light to that part. There, you intone the second name. I use Uriel, the Archangel of Earth. As you intone the second name, the light shoots through you to the heart of the Earth. You bring your right hand out, the light following, and passing into infinity, as you intone the third sacred name. I use Michael, Archangel of Fire. Your left hand goes out, sending another beam of light from your solar plexus as you intone your fourth sacred name, or word. I use Gabriel, Archangel of Water. I then ask the powers of nature to protect me as I visualize two more light beams from my solar plexus, one before me, one behind me. I then chant the word “Awen”, a holy word of the Druid Revival.

Then comes the actual invoking of the elements. I start in the East, with Air. I draw a symbol for air, invoking it with the Druidic name of the Spring Equinox, Alban Eiler, and the animal that represents air in this tradition, the hawk. I ask for its elemental blessings. I also ask for it to be balanced in my life, as the elements can be destructive if not in balance in your life, physically and metaphorically. I move to face South, the traditional direction of Fire. I invoke it with the name of the Summer Solstice, Alban Heruin, and the white stag. Blessings and balance. Then I face West, the direction of water, and invoke with the name of the Autumn Equinox, Alban Elued, and the salmon. Blessings and balance. Finally, I face North, the direction of Earth, and invoke with the Winter Solstice, Alban Arthuan, and the bear. Blessings and balance.

One ends that by creating the elemental cross again (the bit where I used the names of the Archangels). At the end of that, you focus on the light of your solar plexus, expand it to a protective ball of light about you, and imagine it spinning forwards, sideways in a clockwise manner, and diagonally. This is to solidify the energies of the elements within your spirit body, and help protect you from harmful, unbalanced energies that you might run into.

The ritual actually continues into work with Spirit, but this entry is long enough already, and working with the elements for a while is a good start before moving into Spirit. If you find this ritual intriguing, I suggest looking it up on the AODA’s website, linked here, for a more detailed explanation, as well as other ways people practice it. You can also find it in “The Druidry Handbook” or “The Druid Magic Handbook”, both by John Michael Greer.

 

Until next week

-The Green Mountain Mage

Creating and The Divine

Every month or so, my teacher Adhi Two Owls gives her apprentices homework outside our regular work of rattling, dreamwork, listening, divination, and working with our Burden Tree. This month, we’ve been tasked with creating something with plants and stones, listening to their individual energies, and mediating between them to create something synergetic. While this is a fun project for me (I’m thinking that an amulet is in order for this particular piece of homework), it touches on something bigger. It works with the Divine nature of creative expression.

Before she started her journey as a Shaman, Adhi went to art school. She often talks about the connection between her work as an artist and her work as a Shaman. In order to quote her correctly, I asked her to give me a quote that I could use on my blog about the relationship between the creative process and the work of the Shaman. This is what she gave me:

“The creative process is the one thing we do as humans that most reflects the Divine nature of the Universe. The Universe is in a constant state of creation and expression... There is no particular goal only the meandering exploration, binding, destroying, churning of energies and matter. The Universe is defined by the nature of its unfolding and mutating creating worlds... elements.... stars... etc...

Art and the creative process for us humans is the same. We imagine and muck about with the skills, materials and challenges. We go into relationship with the process and it brings us to greater understanding.... And if we are lucky something beautiful or useful. As the process unfolds we engaged and a participate and we create each other... In a sense no inside or outside... Oneness... "

The creative process as an extension of Divine work fascinates and resonates with me. There are moments in artistic creation (whether it be through paint, sculpture, music, or verse) where a disassociation can be felt, as if you’re channelling more than creating. This is a magical moment, and your work can seem bigger than you.

It’s something that can make the Sacred tangible, as well. Music is a magical thing that can have amazing effects on us. Art can move us in ways we didn’t think possible. Poetry can speak to your heart where nothing else could. This is the magic of inspired creation.

Adhi is not the first person who I have heard this from, though. The creative experience plays a large role in Revival Druidry. They refer to it as Awen, a Welsh word for poetic inspiration. In Druidry, it is much more than that. It is inspiration itself, the draughts of Cerridwen’s Cauldron of Wisdom. It is the current of intuition. It is the individual purpose of being that each of us carry. It is what drives us to create and change.

Awen is such an important concept in Revival Druidry that it finds its way into most of their ceremony and work. The word itself is treated as sacred. To them, the creative process is the expression of the Divine. Creativity is an important part to crafting magic and communing with nature.

The healing and magical nature of the creative process is something that is a joy to explore. So, my suggestion to you this week: Try creating something that has sacred meaning to you. It can be simple as a quick dry clay pentacle, or something as ornate as prayer beads to honor a deity you’re fond of. Maybe you want to create something ugly to represent a heavy emotional response that no longer serves you and your process, then destroy it. Or perhaps write something that carries that emotion, then burn it. The creative process can be a great venue for release, as well as a way to bring beauty into the world.

 

And with that, I’m going to get something creative done myself.

 

Until next week…

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Runes, Tattoos, and Life Lessons

With a computer issue Friday night, and a birthday party to put together Saturday, I’d like to apologize for the lateness of my blog. I’ll be back on track this upcoming week, I promise.

There is a blessing in the tardiness of this week’s piece, though. My husband and I just returned to our house from part 2 of a 3 part class on Runes, giving me a little time to talk about this magical Norse alphabet that I work with.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Runes, the Elder Futhark (the set of Runes that I work with) is a writing style from Northern Germanic tribes from around the 2nd to the 8th centuries. There are 24 letters in this alphabet, and each carry a meaning and its own power. As myth goes, the Norse God Odin hung himself to Yggdrasil, the World Tree, pierced by his own spear, for nine days and nine nights. From the Well of Urd at the base of the tree, he beheld the Runes that the Norns carved into the tree to direct fate, bringing the information into this world. That’s, at least, how the story goes.

I believe my first real introduction to Runes was from my high school friend Robin (who, incidentally, also introduced me to Shamanism). I dabbled in working with them for years, using them for divination, and even using them to invoke energies in my life by having select Runes tattooed on my back. I’ve also always integrated them into amulets that I’ve made, finding their basic angular shape easy to draw or embroider, and their ability to move energy to be rather powerful.

My husband and I heard that Sali Crow, my mentor Sandy’s sister, was doing a three part class on Runic divination and magic recently. With both of us having interest in Runes, we decided to try it out. The first class was all about the meanings of Runes in divination, and different spreads to use. It was incredibly informative and added a whole new level of understanding for me to use in creating magical objects with them.

The second class was using them in healing, which was especially interesting to me as a Reiki Master. It included an energetic attunement to the Runes. Watching an attunement to a certain type of energy unfold is an interesting thing, especially when you can compare the way different people react. In my case, I get to experience it unfold within me, while watching how it unfold within my husband.

Soon, after the attunement, Sali began discussing using the Runes. As she mentioned writing Runes on you for magical effect, she then threw in a warning. “Unless you are really sure you want to enter into a life long contract with a Rune, don’t get them tattooed on your body!”

Well. Shit.

So, my overthinking mind went down the path of how the Runes tattooed on my back effect my life, and push me in the directions that I find myself pointed in. For the most part, they make sense. I did pick them for their meaning to me, so a life long contract with the Runes for Divine messages, balance, personal gifts, and protection aren’t the worse Runes to be stuck with, especially as a Healer and Mage. It does make we wonder what part of the things that have driven me is the part that chose those Runes, or are my life choices partly driven by the Runes on my back?

Then, there is the Rune that I thought was important at the time in my life that I decided to get it tattooed on my back above my other Runes. It’s a Rune that isn’t part of the Elder Futhark and I honestly can’t remember where I found it. I understood it as a Rune of necessary tribulation. After a little research recently, I found where the Rune was from. The Younger Futhark, a reduced form of the Elder Futhark that had come along centuries after the original. The Rune I had chosen was the newer version of Hagalaz, the Rune of hail. The Rune of disruption, destruction, and uncontrollable acts of nature. In other words, a tricky Rune to have a life long contract with.

Now, this Rune does have healing aspects, but none of them gentle… There is a connection to the dismemberment experience of the Shaman, and the destruction of the ego to make way for a better self. Good things, but not easy things. I’m still organizing my thoughts on all of this, but it is interesting to think about ways that the Runes I have may have shaped my life in ways unclear to me at the time. I’m sure I will have more to share as I unpack the implications a little more, while by body digests the Runic attunement. Perhaps the third class, which is on singing Runes in magic work, will clarify the situation a little more for me.

In part of my Rune work, I will soon have hand made clay Rune divinatory tiles on the website. Stay tuned. I will also make a few sets of Ogham divinatory tiles for you Druids out there who might be interested.

 

Until next week….

 

  • The Green Mountain Mage

Consciousness and magic

As some of you may have read, I am a Reiki practitioner. In Reiki work (and, later, in some of the Shamanic work I’m learning), I worked with being a channel for a specific type of healing energy. I learned to feel different energetic points on clients’ bodies, and try to suss out emotional and physical issues from what I would feel.

This is a difficult thing for me to talk about. I understand that many people are skeptical of what I do. I understand. I, in fact, encourage skepticism. Just taking someone at their word can be dangerous. Skepticism doesn’t change the fact that I can feel something when I’m working on someone. And it seems that I am not alone. There are quite a few cultures with words for some sort of life force or energy, such as chi or prana. I use energy, though that can be confusing as it isn’t synonymous with kinetic or thermodynamic energy, but it’s the best I seem to have in English. So, I run with it.

This is where magic acts. The only way we seem to be able to interact with this energy is through consciousness. There’s been a lot of talk about how our consciousness interacts with the outer world, and it seems to get messy quick. Our consciousness creates the constructs through which we understand reality, after all. I’d like to point out that I didn’t say that our consciousness creates reality. There’s a lot we are not easily conscious of that still affects our reality. Our mind creates ways to interact with the world around us, though. Our eyes receive light. Our ears receive sounds. Our nose receive smells. There’s a part of us that can pick up energy and how it feels.

It seems to make sense, as matter is all just vibration. I read an interesting piece from the New York Times about how nothing is truly alive. It cites how life is a useful label, but in the end just a delineation to better understand phenomenon occurring about us. Many mystics would argue that the opposite is true, that we live, not in a dead universe, but a live one. It has been suggested that all matter has a level of consciousness, all part of a super consciousness. It’s a theory that would erase the difficult line of what’s alive and not, while suggesting that there is something more to everything, that there is some sort of order inherent in all matter of the universe.

I would argue that this is how parts of magic work. Everything being a certain vibration of the bigger thing, a gesture of the infinite, carries with it an energetic correlation with bigger astral cycles. When I mention Angelica is a solar herb, I’m putting its energetic vibration (astral wavelength, magical juju… whatever you want to call it) in an organizational bracket with the energetic vibration of the sun. Put that onto your person, mixing with your astral self, leads to certain interactions. In Angelica’s case, it’s an herb of consecration, blessing, and protection. Its vibes interact with your consciousness to create a certain effect within the realms of your mind and energy.

Ritual is a way to direct these energies. Using triggers for your mind to interact with your subconscious, you can move these astral powers in a way that will interact largely with other conscious beings. When I do a ceremony to bless items, that further reinforces the purpose I’m trying to use that item for in said item. My consciousness, and the consciousness of the spirits that I am working with (if you believe in that sort of thing) interact with the consciousness of the item I am blessing. Whether that item is indeed on some level conscious, or the only place its consciousness exists is in my mind and, later, whoever ends up with the blessed item is up for discussion.

And that is a little bit of magic theory, as I see it. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions.

Thank you for reading.

Until next week….

-The Green Mountain Mage