Saturday, November 28, 2009

Magickal Crafting

Arts and crafts and other similar hobbies are a great way to employ your creative spirit. It’s a popular pastime for pagans, and you will find many of us partaking in these activities. There are so many varieties of crafts to choose from: knitting, cross stitch, sewing, beading, scrapbooking, leatherworking, and woodworking to name just a few. I am an avid crocheter and love nothing more than to spend an evening in front of the television with a steaming cup of peppermint tea and my yarn & needles.

Crafting can be fun and rewarding, but did you know crafts and the Craft – as in Witchcraft – are not mutually exclusive? As an aware pagan practitioner, you can easily combine them to make your creations not only works of art, but Spirit gifts as well. There are several ways you can imbue your creations with your own personal energy and intent, which in turn gives them great power and blessings to share with others.

I often say a prayer or recite a chant while making a baby blanket. You can tailor what you say and how you say it depending on the energy you want to put into the piece. In one of the original Sleeping Beauty stories out of Germany, there were 13 fairies/wise women/Goddess-mothers who attended the christening of the princess (only 7 were in the French version). Each of these Goddess-Mothers gave the baby girl a special gift – one gave the gift of music, of health, of beauty, etc. When you are making something for a child, you get to be the fairy Goddess-Mother/Father! Infuse the item with wishes of protection, happiness, courage, wisdom, art and health. Or choose the energies you feel are most appropriate for the child.

But wait…these well wishes are not reserved only for the kids! Energies can be sent to all kinds of people for all kinds of situations!

For example, if you are making something for an elder, you can draw in peace, health and strength for them. When it comes to close friends and family, communication and support are important qualities. And if you’re stumped as to what energies to attract to your piece, love is a universally welcome energy.

And what if you’re making something for yourself? Well, you can focus on what you want that item to bring to you! For example, are you making a purse? Try focusing your intent and chants on abundance and wealth, include an adventurine into a hidden pocket, or dab the inside of the piece with some High John the Conqueror oil. Making a snuggly blanket for the TV room? Attract energies of peace, warmth and comfort into your working by singing a lullaby as you’re putting it all together. If you’re making a travel journal, saturate the book with energies for safe travel and clear memories. Focus your energies on having fun, celebrating life & attracting wonderful new friends if you’re making a special something for going out on the town. Are you a jewelry maker? Find a chant which enhances beauty and self-confidence to give those ornaments an extra sparkle. If you’re making something for sacred rites, you can call upon a favorite God or Goddess to bless the item.

One of the most popular ways to permeate an item with energy is to repeat a chant while you are doing your work. The power of the chant pushes your intent and energy into the piece you are working on and continues sharing that energy long after you’ve completed your project. There are many chants you can find on the web or in books that can fit your style, or you can create one of your own to say. Chanting doesn’t have to be a constant litany, but the more times you repeat the chant, the more you reinforce that intent and energy. I’ve actually seen people making items for a particular person, and sitting in a circle, chanting in unison together. It’s a very powerful thing! But don’t worry…you don’t have to chant aloud for this to work; chants can be said in your mind and heart and have the same effect.

Here are some other ways you can make sure your crafted items carry with them the energies you want. Keep your materials and tools in a safe and protected place so you know precisely what energies they are exposed to. You can create a prayer to say over your materials, smudge your tools with sage, or sprinkle them with sacred water (Florida water is also a good choice). I put a very small clear quartz crystal in the case that holds my crochet needles. If you choose to use specific herbs or sea salt to cleanse your tools, be careful, as this can get messy! Large tools and items which are hard to move, such as sewing machines or looms, can always benefit from a light smudging between projects. If you wish to imbue a finished project with Moon or Goddess energies, you can leave it by a window to soak up the power of the Full Moon.

You can also do some light candle magick while crafting a piece, which is something I’ve found very useful. One of the best choices for this is a candle in a tall glass enclosure. These are often called seven day candles and your local pagan shop will happily direct you to their supply. Choose a color which best corresponds to the energy you want to work with. Before you begin the project, visualize the person you are making the project for (even if it’s for yourself) and what you want them to have. Focus that visualization into the candle. You can carve the person’s name and the intent into the candle or write it on the outside of the glass if you so wish. Bless the candle and ask for the Gods’ blessing on your work. When you start the project, light the candle and as long as you work on the piece, keep the candle lit. Even if you finish the project before the candle is out, let the candle burn until it is spent.

Other ways to include energies into your crafts are by incorporating energy items in the piece. I know a seamstress who collects tiny crushed bits of gemstones for a bargain. She then sprinkles a pinch of the appropriate crystal dust into the hem of the item she’s creating right before she sews the hems closed. You will want to be careful about incorporating organic material such as herbs or oils into pieces which have a good chance of getting wet – these additions can rot or become rancid after washings! Also have a care if you choose to include metals into your pieces because they can have dangerous points and leech toxins if the item is worn close to the skin – not to mention, rust stains are pretty ugly. You can use herbs, metals, and most other magickal items in non-wearable crafts, however. Scrapbooks, photo albums/frames, and decorative pieces do well with almost any kind of item that doesn’t degrade easily! Just make sure to do your homework and understand what they bring to the magickal party.

You have the power to turn your beautifully created items into a magickal treasure. All it takes is a bit of imagination, some focused intent and a whole lot of fun. Your recipients will receive much more than a pretty piece; they will receive a gift of love and positive energy too. You can’t buy those at your local hobby shop! I hope this sparks your inspiration to include energy work and magick into your crafts!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teach What You Know, Know What You Teach

One of the most frequent conversations I hear in the pagan community comes from people who think there aren’t enough teachers. I usually counter with the notion that anyone – even you – can be a teacher!

In the Tarot, we have the Major Arcana. These are 22 cards of higher wisdom which teach us great karmic and life lessons – and usually their lessons are multi-faceted. The Hermit is a card that I think works well to exemplify my point. On the card is a wizened old man who is leaving a cave and carries a lantern. A person on a spiritual journey must go within themselves and find their internal truth before that wisdom becomes a part of them. Sometimes that truth takes work; research, interviews, experience. But it is a truth that they have to process and learn. The other side of this wisdom tells us that it is not enough to seek our truth, but to share that truth with others, hence the lantern. It does no one any good if your “truth light” is used only to illuminate your own cave – you can share that light with others so they might find their own truths in turn.

I’m not a teacher by trade, but I’ve taught many people over the years in Tarot, Witchcraft, Divination and other subjects. In my decades as a public workshop leader as well as a teacher within my own Tradition / Coven, I have found an amazing truism. I have discovered more about the Craft, about the Tarot, about people, and about my own self through teaching than I ever learned from a book or from another person. Certainly books and teachers set me on the right path, but it was in the assimilating of knowledge and being able to impart it to others that gave me a special insight that I would have otherwise not have attained.

When you teach, you get a perspective that you might not have gotten otherwise. It may help you to see things in a different way and approach those topics from another angle. Even if you think you know a topic like the back of your hand, fresh eyes give you a renewed enthusiasm for the subject without allowing it to become stale or boring. The blessings I’ve received from my students are priceless to me and I thank my students for giving me the honor of sharing what I know with them.

In the giving is the receiving. In our coven, we strive to see our students excel and surpass us, using our knowledge as a platform to further their own growth. Hording information does not serve you, the community or our Gods. So, give your gifts freely! It’s not hard to share your light of knowledge with others. If you have done any research, even for your own personal spiritual growth, you can present your findings to others. You are then the expert.

Expert? Yes, you – the expert. Experts are used in everything from academics to the legal profession. To qualify as an expert in a legal context means you fit the definition of someone who is a specialist in a particular subject, that is, you know more than the general populace. If you have studied a particular subject for a while and know it better than the average bear, you are the expert in that subject.

For example, if you were looking for a magickal name and did a lot of research on birds and mythology to determine which one fit you best, you could come up with a topic that explores the role of birds and the Gods in various myths. If you’ve researched a God or Goddess, pantheon, or other spiritual topic, write it up and share it. Draw from your own experience and knowledge. Of course, you wouldn’t want to share private or Oathbound information with the public, but you can share your own knowledge as you wish.

When you’re creating a presentation, whether written or verbal, there are some important things to consider. First of all, remember accuracy and check your facts. If you are doing historical research, you have to make sure your facts are verifiable. You can’t just say “I found it on the INTARWEBZ so it must be true”, and hope people will respect what you have to say. Wikipedia is a great place to start your research, but it shouldn’t be the reference itself. Its scholarship is tenuous at best, and is often added to by people who have not done their fact checking either. Use the same criteria a college professor would in evaluating a research paper. If you can’t prove it, don’t use it.

Another important consideration is attribution. Attribution is giving credit to someone else for their work. If something is your opinion, then say so. But if you got the idea from someone else, make sure you acknowledge that person. Not attributing properly is not only unethical, it’s also illegal to claim someone’s intellectual property as your own.

Now, I understand that not everyone is interested in teaching formal classes or workshops, nor is everyone interested in writing a book, but there are many other wonderful ways of sharing your knowledge with the community!

You can write up article and submit it to local newsletters and magazines. You’re reading this newsletter, right? Well, there are tons of newsletters and magazines in pagandom with readers just like you. And those readers might be very interested in what you have to say!

The Internet has given us a great forum for sharing our information as well. You can create a pagan blog or share your topic with your favorite blog out there. You can submit your presentation to various pagan websites who support the sharing of knowledge. A good place to start with is Make sure that you know the criteria the website owners require and what they’re looking for before submitting your article. And remember to be gracious if they come back with “Sorry…we already have eleventybillion articles on Beltane this month!”

There are plenty of pagan online groups available to share your information with – a quick search on will provide you with many pagan groups eager to chat. Many even allow you to post your presentation – but kindly check with the moderators before you decide to spam them with your presentation or you might get the big ol’ ban-hammer. You can even share your knowledge on your Facebook or MySpace pages!

Another way to share what you know is offering to present your work to a pagan or pagan friendly shop; or if that’s not an option, look for pagan gatherings in your area who will allow you to present your information at their function. A word of advice, make sure you have a good synopsis of your presentation and know how long it will take, an outline of what you will be covering, and what supplies you’ll be needing (chairs, easel, etc) so they can plan around you. And always allow the participants of your work – the people who attend your presentations or read your work – to give you feedback. Give them time to assimilate what you’ve said and let them flow with it.

So you see, you too can be a teacher by Teaching What You Know – all that hard work you put into learning about a particular subject doesn’t have to lie dormant within you. Give it life and share it with other like-minded friends. Furthermore you must Know What You Teach – you can’t share a topic with others unless you know it inside out and are sure things are as accurate as possible. Put the two together and you will have the motivation and resources to be a vibrant part of our pagan community.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Paganism By The Book

One of the most difficult dilemmas for pagans - particularly pagans new to the Craft - is determining what place books have in their spiritual practice. For most of us, books were our first introduction to Paganism, Wicca and the Craft and it is where most of us started our journey.

But there are so many books! In fact, most of us lament the fact that there are so many wonderful books and not enough time to read them all. But never fear, my pagan friends! There are ways you can determine the legitimacy of an author before you shell out your hard earned cash.

The first question we often ask ourselves is how do we determine which books are "good" and which ones we should pass up? Certainly there are authors who are more favored in the pagan community than others. Most every pagan has their own favorite and least favorite authors. If you look at any purveyor of pagan books, you will find names and topics aplenty. You'll find authors who are liked, disliked and perhaps even unknown. You might hear about authors who have questionable scholarship, who might be surrounded by ethics issues, and who may seem to be more concerned with fluff over substance.

One of my first teachers taught me an invaluable lesson about the importance of separating wisdom from the vehicle it comes in. I recently had a discussion about this with Liz Draman, one of the many wonderful Mystickal Voyage practitioners. I think she recapped this idea beautifully when she said, "Focus on the message, not the messenger". What this means is that we must try to concentrate on at WHAT is being said, not necessarily WHO is saying it. Sometimes even a questionable author can write something in a way that resonates with you, or helps you understand a concept better. Remember that in the end, you alone have the final say whether you use the information in your practice or not.

With that being said, however, you have to be discerning when allowing authors to influence your spirituality. Before obtaining information about any author, you should have three very important tools in place. These tools will not only help you make better decisions about your source materials, but they will serve you well on your Pagan Path. These three items are:

1.  Critical Thinking Skills

2.  A Very Big block of Salt (as opposed to just a grain)

3.  A very well developed Bull Puckey Meter (to make sure people aren't trying to fool you)

The first thing you can do when researching an author is to ask pagans that you trust what they think of that person as a writer. You may find that there are authors who are resoundingly respected by pagans in the know, and others who they will steer clear of.  As an added bonus, you might even get turned on to similar authors to enjoy as well! Keep their opinions tucked in the back of your mind, but remember to temper their opinions with your own.

The next thing you will want to do is conduct some individual research. Just because Lady Pixie Moondrip has published a book, or has her own blog, or writes for a local newsletter / magazine, doesn't mean she is the Goddess's gift to Pagandom! Check out reviews of the author's work on the Internet - but please remember to employ your tools listed above. Amazon has a great feature to allow people to provide reviews on books they've bought, so too do other pagan websites. Getting multiple people's feedback can gives you an idea of the author's style and feel, so you can decide if that's the kind of writer you are looking for.

The next thing you may want to consider is the author's bibliography. Do they even have one? Which books do THEY draw from, and which books have influenced them? Do they only reference books which they themselves have written? Check to see who has written the book's foreword or testimonials. But do note that some publishers will request one of their more popular authors to write a glowing acknowledgment for a lesser known author in order to spur sales.

Now that you've researched the author, and have decided to buy one of their books...where do you go now?

First, choose the types of books you want to draw from - and you decide this by determining what you enjoy. The best ways to work this out is by starting with the broadest subjects and then focus on the specific topics which resonate with you. Not sure if you resonate with Celtic deities? Then choose a general book on Gods and Goddesses of all types before buying a detailed translation of the Mabinogion. Interested in the runes or the tarot? Try reading a book on divination before you specialize - you might find another medium better suited to you.

Another thing I would strongly suggest is to make your learning as diverse as possible. Mix information about theory with books about how to do something. It's important to understand pagan history and magickal theory as much as having a magickal cookbook full of spells for every occasion sitting on your shelf. Learn about how various groups do things - and perhaps just as important - WHY they do things. The more (w)holistic your knowledge, the better practitioner you will be, and the better you will be able to adapt your book learning to your own actions.

Try not to fall in the trap of seeking out just one perspective because you happen to like the particular author. There are many pagan authors who are almost universally loved and respected, but don't dismiss other writers because they might disagree with what your favorite author says. There is no "Wiccan Gospel According To <insert author here>". There are only perspectives of how each individual practices their faith. Understand that there is no cookie cutter methodology to paganism - and there are as many ways to practice our faith as there are practitioners!

Another way to broaden your knowledge is to obtain information from multiple sources. Books are fantastic, and I would be lost without mine. But they are a poor substitute for classes, workshops, Internet research, discussion with like minded pagans, or even actual practice. Books are but one part of a greater whole. 

So, now that you've decided what books you want to read, how do you use them in your own practice? There's a big gap between the written word and seeing those words in action. One of the most important things to understand is the WHYs of something. WHY does this author insist on using a particular herb/deity/word in this place? WHY do we need to chant at this point in the spell? WHY is a particular symbol important on the altar? Understanding WHY helps us to adapt these concepts to our own practice. If an author says to call on Athena to invoke the Goddess of Wisdom, but you're not familiar with Athena - you might find another Goddess of Wisdom more to your liking, such as Sophia, Cerridwen, Saraswati, or Freya. Conversely, if you're doing a money spell, and the author instructs you to use a green candle, it is better to know why green can be a better correspondence color than the blue or red candle your aunt gave you for your birthday.

Look at what the author has to say. Can you make their chant, prayer, tools, or accouterments uniquely yours? Remember, authors are only relating their experiences and understandings. You then can OWN the practice by flavoring it with your own personal energy. Use your creativity by incorporating things sacred to you, your Gods and your personal connection with the Universe. While their experiences should be honored, they give only one way to do things. Never allow someone to tell you that your practice is wrong because you're not following another's instructions 100% - provided you aren't harming anyone or being disrespectful, of course. 

Our pagan practice is about learning and then incorporating that knowledge into practice. Learn as much as you can, from as many sources as you can, and then put what you've learned into action.