Hello again! So the hectic pace of my life, and my continuing misadventures trying to discover that fabled work/life balance have continued apace!
I got my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine recently, left me feeling very tired for a couple of days but no other ill side-effects. My doctor says my bad cholesterol is up and he has upped the dosage on one of my meds. This has led or perhaps intertwined with thoughts about how I am using my time when I am not on the clock at the day job. I find myself thinking about how easy it is to slide back into bad dietary habits, and how often I have had every intention of writing here, and/or going for a relaxing walk after work, or doing other needed work and told myself ‘tomorrow’. The struggle continues but at least I am trying to make small changes… blogging here today is part of that effort.
Some of you will notice that several pages have been removed from the site. Most of them are back into Draft mode until I have time to seriously sit down and review them and rewrite to something resembling my satisfaction.
On the plus side of some column or another, while the hectic pace of life continues I have found time to begin dipping my toes into reading books again! It started in early March with the release of The Witch of Kings Cross, a fascinating and well produced documentary about Rosaleen Norton. I remembered reading something about her, and a piece of Witchcraft liturgical speech written by her, years ago in Doreen Valiente’s Rebirth of Witchcraft, and discovered that a collection of her notes or journals on occultism and Witchcraft had been published posthumously as Thorn in The Flesh.
I ended up ordering both books along with, based on some discussions over on occult Twitter, Protection and Reversal Magick by Jason Miller and The Witches Book of Spirits by Devin Hunter. All have been dutifully added to the now rather heavilly loaded undershelf of the lounge coffee table in my improvised study stacks. I was a bit vexed to find I didn’t have a copy of Rebirth of Witchcraft… but I suppose after moving across continent and also moving house several times since I really shouldn’t entirely surprised some things have been mislaid… still vexing though.
I have browsed through Thorn in the Flesh, re-read Rebirth of Witchcraft, and read Protection and Reversal Magick; it occurs to me that maybe writing up some book reviews for the blog may be useful writing practice to help stretch my mental muscles?
My spiritual practices have continued, although I have dramatically slacked off on the card of the day and journaling efforts. Recent scheduling upheavals at work led to a VERY upset sleep schedule and left me clinging to the most basic forms of my regular practices for the last couple of weeks. I have an extra day off today thanks to using some of my Earned Time Off, and am trying to take advantage of it.
I did do some cleaning of the windowsill altar on one of the nights of the Full Moon. Originally I had ideas about doing a formal Circle, but between the sleep schedule and being off my meds for a few days while I waited on a doctors appointment and some test results to come in before I could renew my prescriptions… I was just not physically or mentally up to the task… this time.
Otherwise I have been doing some research online on a couple of longer pieces for the blog and doing some thinking about my daily routines and how I can adjust them to start doing more of the things that I want to do as opposed to what I have to do.
So my last post was something of a victory over a big case of writers block I was wrestling with. I was having a lot of trouble figuring out how to write about my ongoing and evolving spiritual practices. Part of this was trying to figure out how much detail to unpack about my personal practice and my beliefs. Another part of my block was some sort of internal hesitancy to sit down and do the writing.
Writing used to be a pretty easy exercise for me. Not just the writing, but the reviewing and editing. Now, not having practiced the art in earnest for so long, I feel clumsy at best when I am sitting down to do it. But in this too I am learning to take a breath, forgive myself, and continue to do the thing. Gosh I hope this is growth. There were a number of years as both a writer and a Witch where I was stuck or perhaps going around in circles? No pun intended. This time my writing and my Witchcraft feel different… riskier and more personal somehow. I would like to think I’m actually maturing in both my craft and Craft.
Now speaking of puns, I did not INTEND to write a post about fluidity in ones spiritual practices and have several paragraphs dealing with libation offerings. That was more of an amusing accident.
The last week since posting and since did my windowsill New Moon Esbat has been a bit of a hectic rollercoaster. The night of the Esbat I was up late, and I’ve had a bunch of insomnia the last several days. Not every night, but enough of them that I think my internal clock or personal sleep schedule has perhaps adjusted to a new normal and I need to reconfigure some of my routines accordingly. Interestingly enough the whole ‘early to bed and early to rise’ routine has rarely been my style and returning to a night owl’s hours is more of a return to form for me.
Even with not having much time I have kept most of my practices intact, except for journaling and drawing my daily card/shadow work thing. Not really setting those aside just figuring out where the fit into the mix going forward. Then too parts of my brain have been trying to look at topics and ideas I’ve had for a while now for some longer form pieces for the blog that I wasn’t feeling ready to actually sit down and write about until just recently.
I have also somewhere found some of my reading habits again! A particularly happy development for me. I’ve reread Doreen Valiente’s Rebirth of Witchcraft, and am reading through Protection and Reversal Magick by Jason Miller.
My explorations and experiments in social media continue and I’ve been getting drawn into Occult Twitter as of late, some of the same cast of character’s from my blogging days and my Facebook world mingling with some new faces. Between Twitter and Instagram I have added a number of podcasts to my Spotify library and have a lot of food for thought, and more than a few questions… that I think I will take to social media…
Across oceans and continents, throughout ages and epochs, across cultures and faiths and peoples there is one story or lesson of which the ancestors have spoken or written or sung of again and again down through the ages and if we listen carefully we can hear them whisper of it still. The Holy Powers, The Spirits, the Blessed and the Wise and the Tricksters and the Heroes, all will wander amongst us unrecognized or disguised seeking shelter or food or some small courtesy or kindness and the merest acknowledgement of their worth and dignity; many and manifold are the blessings and the joys and the good fortune that are gifted in return to those who are welcoming and caring and considerate and generous, many and manifold too are the curses and miseries and misfortunes that befall the inhospitable and the rude and the neglectful and the selfish.
As I mentioned previously in part 1, fluidity in ones practices can come in either scheduling or format depending on the practice in question. This post is where we dig a little deeper into what that can look and feel like.
My regular practices include a rather full plate of activities; journaling, a tarot card draw as part of both some shadow work getting in better touch with my Subconscious and relearning the cards/reconnecting with my intuitive self, devotional and prayer work/touching base with and/or offerings to the Ancestors and Spirits and Gods, grounding and centering and shielding for the day, breathing into my chakras and possibly touching base with the different aspects of my self, some form of mindfulness work, some basic protective work, and the practical things I need to do to get ready for my every day life and the things I need to do to move forward with all of my life in the best way I can. A very full plate indeed!
As I mentioned previously, fluidity in ones practices can come in either scheduling or format depending on the practice in question.
In its most recent edition, my regular practice originated in the first few days I woke up from my medically induced coma in April 2020. (In case your not a regular reader here, I nearly died of congestive heart failure last year.) I was laying in hospital, having just figured out once more how to even get into my phone, posting an update about my status, and liking responses which was about all I had energy for. I was doom scrolling and sharing memes but not really engaging in any meaningful way. I was consumed by fears and exhaustion and worry. A friend/acquaintance and fellow Witch, Alexian, reached out to me via messenger to check on me. I poured some of my fear and worry about myself, my partner, our well being in the future, my fears of financial doom, my worry for my health, my worry for my beloved. Alexian gave me a bit of compassion in a timely reminder that my Bear could take care of himself for a while and that I needed to focus on getting better.
Among the points he made were…
“Focus on healing for yourself. Like they say when the plane is going down… put on your own oxygen mask 1st.”
“Focus your mind on the IMAGE of you being strong and healthy and back home.”
And in my mind I was like… “Oh…yeah… I’m a Witch…Magick… Will,,, True Will… and… stuff…”
So I started trying to ground and center each day and breathe energy into each of my chakra’s from Root to Crown…and pouring every once of the energy I was wasting on worry and fear into the suggested images and into my energy centers….. and it has evolved from there with time and different inspirations.
Now not everything I describe is necessarily a part of my everyday, or regular, the levels of complexity and formality of my regular practices now ebb and flow as time and energy levels and mental acuity of the day allows, but what follows is as complete and honest a reckoning I can make of the practices that are a part of my regular rotation. Some of them are packed with descriptions of ideas or sensations or images that kind of slideshow through my regular practices…with some being more present one time or another…
It all begins with breath, as one rekindles the fires.
A breath, a simple breath to center myself in my body and to still and focus my mind.
I would love to tell you I spend time in formal meditation each day or on the regular, but I’d be lying through my many teeth to say so. For me, at least for now, it’s more like micro-doses of mindfulness as sip my coffee and think about my day and then take another breath and sip my coffee and try to center myself fully in the moment.
Then grounding, taking a breath and sending some of the energy raised/drawn-in down through my feet into the ground beneath me, or through my spine into the wherever I am sitting on then spreading down like roots into the ground beneath me. Sometimes it is more like sending my breath and the energy I am raising within myself through it through my feet into the ground, and at times it is just a slight changing of stance and posture that suddenly makes me feel at once more aware of my feet upon the ground and at the same time more stable and connected to the world around me.
The idea is to reconnect with the physical and metaphysical world as I take some centering and calming breaths, feeling the energies raise up through me and through my chakra’s, from root to crown, and then up into the sky connecting me to the universe around me. Seeing in my mind’s eye some of the power branching out like the limbs of a tree above me, and even reaching down into the ground once more like an ancient tree…. following the rough outlines of a magnetic field of sorts around my body.
Here is where multiple images present themselves to me, some born from years of practice and diverse inspirations… I will imagine inscribing the Sign of the Crossroads over or within my Sacral Chakra, or each of my Chakra’s… sometimes in turn and sometimes all at once… often followed by an inscribing of the same sign over my entire energy field/shields/personal bubble.
Then too the image of the tree, both that threads through me having grounded and centered myself with the tree and rooting imagery so many of us learned at one time or another; and the image that cane to me in some contemplative meditations years ago… of myself leaning against/blending into a tree….my body merging with the trunk…an image of the the Horned God superimposed over me… somewhat resembling the Gundestrap Cauldron image of Cernunos intermingled with The Green Man… roots and hooves intermingling into the earth, body merging or emerging from the world-tree…vines wrapping around and sprouting forth from me…feeling a stags antlers growing from my skull and ratting against the branches of the the tree.
As I mentioned above different images and inspirations dance through my mind and spirit at different times during the grounding and centering and breathing into my energy centers portion of things, and sometimes differently from session to session. Sometimes there is little imagery, simply sensation of different parts of my self opening or awakening; and sometimes there is a sense of different chakra’s expressing different needs or areas of neglect to my conscious mind… and one tries to roll with those or contemplate how one might alleviate them. It is not all mystical visions all the time… sometimes it is, your mileage may vary.
Then there is usually more coffee and mindful moments mingled with thoughts about the coming day and what needs doing or dealing with both personally and professionally.
At some point decisions have to be made… about what other practices I am able to properly approach today… and how. Indeed sometimes the whole grounding and centering and touching base with my Chakras is a few simple breaths over a few moments, and sometimes it is more of a focused visualization/meditation thing that takes it’s own time.
Coming to terms with the idea that it’s ok to sometimes do something simple and sometimes go deeper or more formal has been an interesting wrinkle in my Journey. As I recently wrote in a Twitter thread… “For years… YEARS, I would fall away from regular practice regimes because I had it in my head that if I wasn’t doing them “right” or “fully” I was somehow not really doing them… now I can appreciate that Spiritual/Magickal/Religious Practices are just that, practice.”
At some point, we move into Journaling, and the Daily Card draw. When I am doing this… has usually been starting with noting the Date and Day and Planetary Day, the Time and Planetary Hour and whether it’s particularly close or ‘cusping’ as I call it towards the next, and of course the current Moon Phase, because I am a Witch and it’s kind of like The Law(tm) that I should be intimately aware of the current Moon Phase. Then I draw my Card of the Day. Now the Card of the Day is my regular attempt at Shadow work and giving my subconscious a chance to let me know what it needs to say or what am I not exploring or expressing. This is also serving to help me relearn the cards and get in better touch with my intuitive side. I note down meanings and interpretations, and sometimes do some general journaling or make notes for ideas for writing or make occult/magickal notes that will eventually make their way into my grimoire.
I’d love to talk about how productive journaling has been for me, and it HAS certainly helped and stirred some thoughts and realizations, but for one thing it does not always seem like there are enough hours in the day! Although, ironically given todays topic, I recently realized that I don’t NEED to do a Card of the Day every-time I journal. They got tied together somehow in my head for a bit there and I really wasn’t journaling unless I had time to do the card draw and take notes on that… which wasn’t always leaving room for actual journaling…. I am working on and wrestling with this as my practices continue to evolve. Fluidity in ones regular practices should include room for growth as well as forgiveness for neuro-atypicality, or mental health challenges, and/or the chaos that is often a part of contemporary life and culture!
Mingled in at several points in the actual daily proceedings are of course the mundane preparations for one day. Shaving, showering, and diverse matters of grooming and self-care, and trying to remember to have breakfast OTHER than the many vitamins and medications in my current regimen! For a while I was doing quite well with even preparing myself some lunch/dinner for my (usually) afternoon to evening shifts at work; some back-sliding has occurred and I am often buying lunch and snack and supplemental beverages on the way into work… this too is being worked on, I promise you.
Last, but never least, we come to the offerings to and prayers to and touching base with the Ancestors and Spirits and Gods. This is the more difficult part to write, because in this area I find there is a lot of ebb and flow in terms of my practice and in how I approach this act. Sometimes this is timing or energy level, sometimes it is related to recent cycles of seasons or other moon phases or other things, and sometimes it is based on an intuitive instinct. There is also a lot of very personal symbolism and cosmology in here culled from years of (sadly on again off again) practice and study. Very little of which I feel up to unpacking in this essay… but that leaves me something to think upon and write about later.
The above image is the latest version of my everyday altar at home in my kitchen windowsill above the sink. This is the most recent variation on the theme, having come about the other evening as I was redressing the altar for a simple New Moon Esbat; the wine glasses are a new addition to the permanent collection. If your interested in what the ‘full kit’ or a more formal Esbat or Sabbat might look like, you can check out the banner at the top of the page or this spread from my Instagram. But on the regular, this is where (most) of the magick happens.
Sometimes I am simply bringing my hand’s together in front of me, kissing my fingers, then spreading my raised hands apart with the palms facing towards the altar and saying a simple “Hail unto the Holy Powers, Hail unto the Holy Powers, Hail unto the Holy Powers.” taking a moment and a breath and then moving on.
As for a more formal offering and prayer?
Well first a few more notes and observations…
The offerings take the form of either incense wafted over the full or empty offering cups, and now glasses, OR a combination of informal or formal libation and incense, as feels right in the moment. The libations are either informally just poured or filled into the cup with a presentation or prayer said while holding the full cup up, or are presented and then formally poured with the left hand (my theoretical receptive or drawing towards hand as I am right handed) into the cup held in my right while the offering is spoken.
What libations are offered varies. Wine, water, coffee, iced teas, and hard liquor have all had their time in the cups. At the moment I am not sure what the addition of the wine glasses is going to do to the flow of libations in terms of content. I tend to let the libations stay in the cup a while before pouring them out into the sink, or making a further libation onto the ground, as timing and striving not to freak out ones neighbors allows. Hard liquor evaporates slowly and does not mold, wine will sometimes bloom with mold if left too long in an open container, water just gets dusty and nasty looking after a while… but usually I am switching the libations out often enough that this does not become an issue. Those times where life and my work schedule and ADHD are coming at me hard and fast and the wine or coffee does blossom mold, I will clean out the cups and let them sit empty for a day, reserving the molded offerings somewhere until the evening when I can pour the molded wine or coffee in libation to Hecate at the end of the driveway with out causing undue weirdness with the neighbors.
Any beverage will work as long as it is one you yourself drink or hold dear and if offered in sincerity. There are times where ones budget or pantry cannot manage liquor or wine for example. The holy powers seem to understand this, but do also seem to appreciate an effort at making an appropriate production of things from time to time. The Horned God, for example seems to appreciate Red Stag brand bourbon. (Not sponsored, yet…) One time I had poured a libation of this a day or so before, and then was offering incense and a string or log of the ash from the incense stick fell into the offering cup for Him. I started to pick up the cup to pour out the offering and replace, and got the distinct vibe that He was not through with it yet and I could just fish out the ash with a spoon and leave things be…. so I removed the offending string of ash and let Him sip his bourbon in peace!
Research, sincerity in ones approach to The Holy Powers, and developing ones intuition go hand in hand in the matter of making, handling, and respecting offerings as I have found.
Now, lets dig into the formal end of the spectrum…
First I will hold up a stick of incense in my left hand, lighting it as I speak aloud the words
“It Begins with a breath, as we rekindle the fires.”
As I light the incense stick, let it flame for a moment, and then draw the Sign of the Crossroads while speaking the charm
“Round, Round, Wrap Around, Protect me now from Sky to Ground.”
I place the stick of incense into the incense dish at the far right of the Altar and begin the prayers and offerings.
Starting from the rough center of our Altar just to the left of the candle as we look at the picture, we have a small black ceramic mug, with the image of a moon and stars facing out. This is for the Ancestors.
“Hail to the Honored and Beloved Dead. Those to Whom I am tied by the red threads of blood, the silver threads of Witchcraft, the pink threads of queerdom, and the many colored skeins of beloved friendship. Thank you for your gifts of inheritance and inspiration and love. Bliss and Blessed Be.”
To the right of the candle we have a small green ceramic mug, with an image of ravens in a row parading across it’s surface. This is for the Spirits.
“Hail unto the Spirits Known and Unknown. Hail unto the Spirits above and below and all around me. Hail to the Spirits of the Earth, the Skies, the Seas. Hail to the Spirits of Fire. Hail to the Spirits of Land and Hearth and Home. Thank you for your blessings and friendship, may we continue in peace, Bliss and Blessed Be.”
Then we go back over to the leftt, to the large blue mug with the Pennsylvania Dutch looking floral designs stamped around it in darker blue. This is for the Holy Mother or the Cosmic Mother.
“Hail to the Holy Mother in Whom we live, move, and have our being. Thank you for your blessings, Bliss and Blessed Be.”
Looking once more to the right, we see a similarly designed large brown mug stamped with the same designs in a darker brown, this is for the Holy Father, or the Cosmic Father.
“Hail to the Holy Father, Who has being in every atom, every soul, every cell. Thank you for your Blessings. Bliss and Blessed Be.”
Moving once more to the left we have a wineglass. This is for Hecate.
“Hail Thrice Holy Hecate, Lady of Magic, She who dwells at the Crossroads, Queen of Phantoms and Witches, Torch bearing Nurse and Guardian and Guide, Keeper of the Cosmic Keys, and Ruler of the Earth and Skies and Seas. I thank you for your blessings and wish you Bliss and Blessed Be.”
Then back to the Right we see another wineglass. This is for Herne.
“Hail Holy Herne, Lord of the Forests and Fields, Horned God and Greenman, Guardian of the Gates of Death and Life, He who wears black and bargains at the crossroads, Master of the Durable Fire, King of Witches. I thank you for your blessings and wish you Bliss and Blessed Be.”
Now, these words are not set in stone, nor are they the only more formal ways I might address the many Holy Powers that I strive to show my respects to on a regular basis. Sometimes I might be being more wordy or bringing in other aspects or symbolism. Sometimes, as I mentioned above, I might be saying a simple “Hail to the Holy Powers” and wafting some incense about.
The thing to remember about regular and fluid practice though is that even when it is a simple or even silent offering, once you’ve done the more formal wording a few times, the images and associations are their in your mind when you are performing the actions. Even as your level of formality or complexity ebbs and flows over time, every bit of it plays into the development of your relationship with the Holy Powers and with your Craft.