Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Hidden Occult - Naked Magic

Now that I have set everyone in motion with my Naked Magic statement, let me clarify.

For the Neophytes reading, here's a basic primer as I learned it. The four tools of the magician are: the Sword, the Wand, the Chalice and the Paten (a small plate used for offerings).

These items align with the four elements of the world.  Swords = Air, Wands = Fire, Chalices = Water, Patens = Earth. You can use that as a starting point - go find a book and learn the rest of the correspondences - that's not what this post is about.

These tools are meant to align you with the energies and power of the elements they represent. For example, a Sword is the power of Air. Air is thinking, communicating, engaging in verbal exchanges. Wands are the power of Fire. Fire represents excitement, animation, uplifting and engaging acts of creativity and inspiration. Chalices are the power of Water, so intuition, psychic abilities, mental stimulation, dreamwork and visualization all fall under this category. And finally, Patens are the energy of Earth. Use them to grounding yourself, center and balance your body; it also means stabilization, solidity, solidarity.

A sword is not a device to communicate - unless you want someone to really pay attention. But our language belies our meaning - "He has a rapier wit...";  "Life is a two edged sword"; "My mind is as sharp as a sword..". Get it? When you hold a sword in hand during a magical rite, you call all the powers of your mind into play.

A chalice is not intuitive. But filled with water and used for scrying it becomes a fulcrum for your mind; beset between today, tomorrow and the past. And again, language gives us the inner meaning - "My heart was filled to overflowing..." "My cup runneth over.." All those sayings that link to emotions are embedded within the symbology of the chalice. Think about the stories of the Holy Grail and you'll get the bigger picture.

Those are just two examples.  So first off, all magical tools are just focus points for power you carry within yourself. Your wand is an extension of your body of light; your chalice is an extension of your heart; your paten is the place you stand in the world; your sword is an extension of your willpower. I said in the previous post, it all extends from yourself. The greatest magicians use only a couple of tools to help power themselves, and those are really simple foci to bring it into mainfestation.

Think about this for a moment. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? I am not talking about how you adorn yourself in ritual. I am asking what do you reach for time and again? A ring? A necklace or pendant? That object, whatever it may be, is the most powerful piece of magical equipment you own.

Why?  Because its you. It says something about you to yourself. That piece may be an expensive item -- or it can be a CrackerJack box ring. It doesn't matter. What matters is how you FEEL about it when you wear it. That connection is what makes it special.  And making it special makes it powerful. But it all begins with YOU.

Gather all the fancy adornments you can afford. Build a huge temple and stuff it full of things. In the end, the only real power a Magician owns is what s/he carries inside. And that's the really important stuff. Everything else is an exterior sign of an inner blessings.

Or in other words, Naked Magic. Tomorrow we'll talk a little about evocation and it's efficacy.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Vodou and Plant Allies - Part One

I am plotting a planting party for the weekend -- and hoping not to get washed out. It's summer, and in September Vision Quest will be held. A weekend of plants allies, tinctures and spagyrics, culminating in the Visionary Feast and an overnight Vision Quest. The faint of heart (and tongue and stomach) need not apply.

So in honor of the Super Moon, I thought I'd share some of my planting tricks with you all. All good Vodouisants should have a garden. No excuses - you can grow herbs in a pot on the window sill if you must.

Let's begin by searching for the right place - a sunny location that gets early morning sunlight is best, but one with late afternoon sun works too. You don't want full sunlight on this garden. Herbs like their light in moderation. Plus you will be able to plant several varieties together this way. Choose your site with care - some plants become pretty bushy, while other remain compact. Be sure the soil is not wet - herbs like dry conditions. Even if your thumb is black, you can grow herbs - they thrive on neglect, actually.

Once you get your locale picked out, prepped the soil a bit (dig it up, turn it over so it's loose and easy). Now add some or all of the following: Coffee grounds, egg shells, fish heads and Epson salts. All are natural fertilizers/additives that will enrich the soil, giving you bigger, healthier plants without resorting to chemicals.

That's the basics (along with tools, gloves, whatever.) Now for the fun stuff - the plants.

This year, I am planting according to the Alchemical alignments, meaning I am planting according to Planetary alignment. This is part of my long range plan for September and my distillation, so it pays to do a little homework upfront. My shopping list so far reads like this -

Moon plants (Water):  Chamomile, Poppies, Mugwort, Orris root. 

Sun Plants (Fire): Bay, Hops, Hibiscus, Marigold

Mercury (Air): Cinquefoil, Damiana, Fennel, Lavendar

Venus (Air): Angelica, Feverfew, Passionflower, Pennyroyal, Vervain, Spearmint

Earth (Earth): Patchouli, Sage, Spikenard, Vetiver,

Mars (Fire): Bloodroot, Cardamon, Coriander, Dittany of Crete, Wormwood

Jupiter (Earth): Hyssop, Valerian

Saturn (earth): Fumitory, Mandrake, Monkshood (wolfbane), Solomon's Seal

The Alchemist of old did not recognize the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto), so there are no solid alignments for those planets. I am also lining stuff up according to their elemental signatures.

Finally, I will also have a Haitian section of my garden. In there goes the following:

Banana trees (the frost hardy ones - its still Philly); Lemongrass; three kinds of Peppermint (Black, Sweet and Hot); four kinds of Basil; Bitter Melon also called Awossi in Creole; Dutchman's Pipe called Tref Carayib in Creole; Rose of Sharon.  I am still working on finding good size plants for this section.  These plants will be set under the protection of their spiritual natures. And they all have both medical as well as magical natures.

So there you go - a beginning list of plants to look for at your local garden centers. Almost everything I listed can be container grown. In fact, the folks at the Cauldron of the Allta Cailleach have some smashing pics of their magical garden - all container grown. Do check them out.

CAVEAT: We have three dogs, one of whom loves to eat stuff. As much as I'd like to reprise my Witches Garden with Henbane and Belladonna, I want my pups alive more. Please be very responsible about what you plant, particularly if you have animals who like to wallow in the greens. Even just rubbing up against a plant like Henbane will allow some of its active ingredients to enter the dog or cat's system. I'll share my own story here: I planted Henbane seeds one year, and was rewarded with a bumper crop of tiny plant-lets. When they were large enough, I transplanted them with bare hands into separate containers. Almost immediately, the scopolamine of the plant hit me, dilating my eyes and making my heart run at 100 beats a minute. It took four hours for my heart to stop jack hammering, and a full 24 hours for my eyes to return to normal. I repeat - all I did was hold the damn things in my hands. Don't do this to yourself, your pets or your children. Please plant responsibly.

I'll talk about what I'll be doing with these herbs in my next post. Happy gardening y'all.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Hidden Occult - Part One

This is the first in a series of posts I will be writing concerning the overindulgence in mix and match magic for some of today's magickal practitioners -- to the determent of their practice.

I go subrosa for 10 days and the world can't find itself with two hands and a flashlight. The world or should I say its inhabitants, are spinning faster and faster, grasping at the golden ring of knowledge just outside of reach of their fingertips, but like the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, the faster they move, the less they accomplish.  People, listen up. It works likes this - both in the mundane world and the metaphysical world. You can't be good at two things. You might be okay at one and slightly better at another, but you will never be great at both.

Mozart wrote music - not street signage and music, not novels and music. Just music. Great, big archipelagos of music that shook the world to its roots and gave way to modern musical standards. Shakespeare wrote plays, sonnets and poems (pages and Pages and PAGES of stuff and who knows how much he tossed out before he got to the main course of his work? )  that continue to be expressed in a myriad of methods, ways and interpretations to this very minute.

Picasso painted with such fury that NO ONE in the art world has come close to his capacity and creativity in all the time he's been gone. And even more remarkable is the fact that EVERYONE in the art world agrees -- and that says something, cause they usually can't even look at one another across a street, let alone agree on something this big.

And now -- its the Occultists. Who's got the bigger game going on; who's conjuring tough, meaner, leaner spirits. Who's f***ing Babylon every night of the week, because they've conjured/aspected/gotten possessed or gotten their partner possessed by her/he/it/whatever. Who's throwing roots, casting circles, calling up demons, throwing down with angels and wrestling with the Devil at the Crossroads.

Excuse me while I take a shot of Nyquil to clear my addled head. I thought being an Occultist meant being "withdrawn". Isn't that what the word means? Occult - 'hidden'? And what is hidden is often of great power and importance? So why is everyone and their brother dragging the secrets of the Occult out kicking and screaming into the light of day, then wondering why their magic isn't working? Or better still, why are people treating magic like some kind of daily exercise that needs to be worked at, so their magical muscles expand into something grand and glorious.

It seems to me that the more you work at something the better you get -- but magic isn't like that. Not the magic I learned and practice. I was taught by four very competent magicians. I usually don't drag my pedigree out but it bears showing off here so everyone knows where I am coming from. I am a Magus in the Servants of the Light School, a direct initiate of Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, and third in line from Dion Fortune herself (yeah I am that old, just keep walking...). I am also a Mambo Asogwe in Haitian Vodou and the daughter of Gro Mambo Shakmah Winddrum of Philadelphia. And I am the granddaughter of Bon Houngan Edgar Jean Loius of Belair and Bon Houngan Lazireau Lerine of LaFond, Haiti.

And what I learned was this - to trust the universe and work with the elements. To go with the flow and not be a dam to the forces in the world. To put my magic in motion and then to set it free. Let go. Trust. In other words, get out of the way. When I hear about days of evocation and hours of oration, I can't help but feel that the individual is spending all their energy on the wrong thing. Same thing goes for the free spirited soul who just willy-nilly tosses their stuff to the winds without any forethought.

Magic is a subtle and subdued art. To really be a magician, is to become one with the universe. Literally, it's that simple. You don't need pounds of incense, fancy robes or inscribed Spirit vesssels to do real magic. Dolores always said you could do magic in the desert naked if you had to. A dear friend says everything you really need in life, you should be able to carry in two hands at a dead run. I say, combine the two, and you've got the idea.

If everything in magic proceeds from within yourself, then how much/many/ more items are needed to gain the ring of enlightenment? No one loves a magical event more than mwen. I spent a decade doing Big Events with Dolores all over the country.And even after all of those, she would always remark to me that next time, it was to be a chalice and a paten and nothing else. After nearly 30 years with her, I couldn't agree more.

So I will be blogging about Naked Magic this summer. How to mix it up without a lot of stuff. And what bears repeating and what can just be let go. Time to clear out the magical trunk. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dantes Inferno

I am back from the Inferno. Its a real place folks. It looks like here - I mean there are streets and people. There's food (I smelled it); there's even sound though to be honest I wasn't really listening unless I had to. It was strange, exhilarating, scary and exhausting. Now I know what Purgatory feels like.

I was in Temple Hospital for seven days with Don. The doctors thought he'd had a heart attack. I can't begin to tell you what this feels like. Don is a real trooper. We've been doing cardiac checks every six months for 30 years. There have been minor procedures and one open heart surgery. But this time, it was too close for comfort. In all those prior times, I was a partner, a cohort, a lover and wife. We made the decisions together. We reviewed stuff, talked it over and then carefully chose our path. This time was different. When the call came that he had to go the hospital NOW, I was frightened. I drove like an idiot to get him, and flew to the hospital, laws and lights be damned. And when we got there, Don was the star and I was directed to the cheap seats. I was in the room, I heard the doctors, I watched what they did. But I was invisible.Welcome to Dante's first level of hell, I thought.

Purgatory sounds like mechanical things. There's the soft beep of the monitors. The rattle of carts and gurneys. The squeak of wheels and the sound of beds rising and falling. This orchestral composition is enhanced by the smells. Alcohol dominates, with notes of copper and musk, linen and body effluvia. It's not pleasant. It's boring, monotonous and scary. People looked at me but didn't see me. They moved around me like I wasn't present. I was a ghost in the corner,  painfully watching the man I love be poked, stabbed and prodded repeatedly. I was unable to aid or help or fix anything. I tucked in the sheet corners, re-arranged the food tray and straightened his slippers for the hundredth time. I felt worthless.

Then came the Greek chorus of "what can go wrong" - the dangers, the infections, the possibilities of everything bad in a hospital. Sign here to absolve us of any blame. See, we told you so. Like a drama played out on a personal scale, the imminent disasters feel much more real than the final solutions and the promise of health ever after. This must be the second level of Dante's Inferno.

And just when you think it can't get any worse, the doctors all decide to keep checking things. One more test. One more invasion of your body - for your own good. And I am in pain just watching this. The surgeon tells us unemotionally that Don needs a new heart valve. It's open heart surgery. But then this test says no, it's an Echocardiogram but first let's do a cardiac catheter. Nope, wrong, now it's an ICD inplant.  I vomit quietly in the john, so as not to scare Don. Welcome to level three of the Inferno.

But then - there's this moment. A roommate is brought in to keep us company in our pain. A small brown man with a limp. Mr. Ray. A big smile with no teeth. And stories galore of a life lived to the fullest with drama and laughter - a cook from the south, who came north to raise a family and is now rich with children and grandchildren. A reminder that there is something worth reaching for. Mr. Ray natters on until dusk. I feel lighter. Or just light headed from no sleep or food.

Chelsea calls me to ask how I am doing. Connie checks on me and demands that I eat. I had forgotten until she said something. I descend to the cafe to get a coffee and salad. I even eat it. I am feeling more solid. Notes and flowers come for Don; phone calls to check on me. I am real again. Don smiles at me, the nurses acknowledge me. I am no longer invisible. I have returned from the Inferno intact.

The road back is long, but Mr. Ray keeps laughing from the other bed, reminding me that being happy is more important than being sad. I squeeze his toe when we leave. He laughs and says thank you. I hug Miss Emma, the nurse, who squeezes me back. Legba is standing outside, an old black man with a cane. He tips his hat at me and I smile in return. I get the car, collect my Beloved and head home up Broad Street. It's been a long trip, but we are going home together. That's all that matters now.

Legba, Legba, Legba. Mesi anpil Papa Legba for helping me find the road again. Ayibobo.