Archive for August, 2013

Ghost Bottles

In celebration of the last days of the ghost festival, it’s a great time to make a ghost bottle. Ghost bottles are said to act as a vessel for the deceased to more easily communicate and manifest here in our realm.

Steps to make a Ghost Bottle:

  1. Choose a container with a cork. I’ve chosen a potion-shaped bottle, but any glass container with a cork would do. Recycle that old olive oil bottle if you’d like.
  2. Choose your bottle contents and fill your bottle. If you’re filling the bottle with herbs, you’ll want herbs associated with attracting spirits. Magickal Cat has an excellent Herb Grimoire if you’re not sure which herbs to choose. I chose mint, marshmallow root, and rose hips – that’s what I’ve got on hand. You could also use other things associated with ghosts, such as dirt.
  3. Cork your bottle and seal it with wax. Be sure to place wax paper underneath your bottle before pouring the wax to avoid any waxy messes. My bottle has been sealed with black wax because this is the color I associate with death and ghosts. You might choose a different color, such as white.
  4. Choose an item for the top of your ghost bottle. Michaels has some pretty neat skull beads, and they fit perfectly on top of my bottle. You could also use items such as a crystal, a rock, a small key. It’s up to you and what you will associate with.

Consecrating your Ghost Bottle

  1. Light a white candle and incense that attract spirits.
  2. As you do so, state your intention of allowing the Ghost Bottle to be a vessel for ghosts to communicate in this realm. You may wish to name specific relatives or friends that have passed at this time.
  3. Ask the spirits, or ghosts, if they are willing to work with you, and pay attention to the candle flame.
  4. Strong flickering of the flame may indicate a strong response, or yes. Still flickering or a flame that blows out may indicate a weak response, or no.
  5. Allow the incense to burn, and snuff out the candle when you are finished.
  6. Place your Ghost Bottle in a place sacred to you, such as an altar.

This is my adapted version of Ghost Bottles, fit to my personal practices. Change it as you wish to suit your own practices. Idea originally from Sarah Anne Lawless.

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Cartomancy

We’re going to take a brief look at my main method of divination, cartomancy.

Cartomancy is divination using a deck of cards. Any deck of cards will do, including playing cards, cards you’ve created on your own, or the well-known tarot.

Can cards really tell us anything?

It’s good to have a sense of skepticism when dealing with the world around you. I like to believe in the cards, but I also keep a healthy sense of skepticism. People use cards for many different reasons. Telling the future, seeing into the past, asking if a spell will work, connecting with spirits, and connecting with deity are a few among these reasons. Personally, I like to remind my clients that they are purchasing a reading for entertainment purposes only, and I cannot guarantee anything.

How did I get into cartomancy?

At the age of 16 or 17, I read the Blue is for Nightmares series by Laurie Faria Stolarz. I was immediately fascinated by the magic brought to life in the series, specifically the practice of reading the future using a regular deck of playing cards. What the series never explained was the meanings of the cards, so it took a little research on my part to find them. I stuck to a 9-card layout, which was an extension of the common 3-card “Past, Present, Future” layout. I used the same deck of playing cards into my college years, but have since retired the deck.

This website does a decent job of describing the card meanings similar to the ones I originally used.

 

My Current Practice

Decks

Currently, I use six different decks. Pictures of these decks can be found in my etsy shop, Hawthorn Howl.

  1. Fairy Tarot – A whimsical deck, featuring suits that best reflect Fae (Acorn, Hearts, Leaves, Bells). I use this deck as my personal default deck, as well as for people with a light, enchanting nature to them. The deck can also be used for Fae communication.
  2. Steampunk – Man, machine, science, nature, alchemy, and romance all in one deck. This is a darker deck, that tends to go into greater detail than my others. I associate this deck with Hecate and Persephone.
  3. The Hobbit – As a LOTR and The Hobbit fan, I had to have this deck. Knowing the story of The Hobbit gives greater insight into the meaning behind the cards.
  4. Shadowscapes – A popular fantasy deck with some of my favorite artwork, influenced by Asian and Celtic artwork, as well as myths around the world.
  5. Animal Wisdom – A colorful deck, with each card being a different animal. I instantly fell for the coyote on the deck box. Who doesn’t love a trickster? This deck is great for communicating with your mirror animal. I associate it with Loki.
  6. Art Through the Eyes of the Soul Oracle – Not your average card deck, and much different from the tarot. The Lady of the Lake is the focus of this deck, with her dark mysteries in the depths of her waters.

Card Spreads

Spreads can be used for specific questions, or simply to reflect something, such as “Past, Present, and Future.”

I’m a huge fan of the 5-card spread in the shape of a star, which includes insight into the inner situation, life direction, obstacles that will appear, how to overcome those obstacles, and the overall purpose. It can be used as a general spread, or to answer a specific question. In my shop, I have listed one, three, five, seven, and eight card spread for different purposes, including fae connections, future, money, and relationships. I’m also willing to create a spread for questions not covered by those spreads.

Creating a card spread isn’t something I’d suggest for beginners. If you’re just starting out, pick one or two card spreads, and stick with them. Once you’ve been working with the cards for a while, you’ll get to know your decks, and what feels right, in the event that you do need to create a spread. As an example, I’ve created a spread visually similar to a staircase with two doors, using the Steampunk deck, for a past life reading.

Conducting Readings

I have a set routine of shuffling my cards into five separate piles, and then combining them all again. I then cleanse them using a quartz crystal. Sometimes, I choose to cleanse them by waving them above a candle flame. It’s really just how I’m feeling at that time. At this point, I concentrate on the purpose of the reading, or the question. Once the cards are shuffled and cleansed, I spread them out in front of me on a special cloth. I find it disrespectful to lay them on any uncovered surface, again, just my personal practice. I then go over the cards with my right hand, all the way down the line and back to the beginning before I begin to choose cards. Sometimes, I’ll feel a tingle in certain fingers. It might feel like a light vibration, it might be a stinging pain. Other times, I see certain images that guide me to choosing the cards. Once I choose a card, I begin to form the spread.

Card Meanings and Interpreting a Reading

The most important thing to remember is that you do not have to memorize the card meanings. In my case, I have six different decks, with different suits that don’t always match up. In time, you become familiar with the meanings, but it’s always good to do your research and check the meaning anyway. It’s much easier to tell a client “I want to do the research to provide you with the correct meaning of the cards,” rather than “I’m really sorry, but I didn’t do my research, and provided you with the wrong meaning.”

Once you’ve got the meanings to the cards, it’s time to interpret the spread as a whole. I look at the big picture, the artwork, and how it fits together to tell a story. I pay attention to themes, the same suit coming up, the same numbers coming up. They all provide keys into giving greater detail in my interpretation of the cards.

Important Note: Words I See Used in Relation to Cartomancy, and Why I Don’t Use Them

Gypsy – I am not a gypsy, my readings do not make me like a gypsy. This term is a racial slur.

Animal Totem/Spirit Animal – These terms are not culturally appropriate for me, and I will not use them. Instead, I will use terms such as “animal guide,” or “mirror animal.”

I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I see most often.

Why do I charge for readings?

They are a service that I offer. Practicing for roughly seven years has made me a more advanced reader. On average, a reading can take me anywhere between 20 minutes to 40 minutes. They can also be tiring, and I need to re-energize myself afterwards. What I make from readings is saved to help pay off my student loans. If you’d like a free reading, tell me how to explain to the student loan company that I can’t pay off my student loans.

Want to learn more about cartomancy and tarot?

Go here.

Working Altar

Ghost Festival

This altar is the altar I keep set up in my bedroom year-round, and it serves as my work space. Currently, it’s decorated for Ghost Festival.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s on my altar:

  • Skulls – specifically for Ghost Festival, to celebrate the deceased
  • Flower arrangements – to welcome Autumn and the harvest
  • Incense burners – incense are burned for various purposes; such as spells, cleansing, honoring
  • Salt – sometimes used for cleansing items
  • Dagger – used for directing energy and cutting herbs
  • Cauldron – used for burning items; such as incense, herbs, and paper used in spells
  • Tealight candle – a new one is placed on my altar each night during Ghost Festival, lit, and allowed to burn until it goes out on its own

On Witchcraft and Ethics

Frequently asked questions:

Does witchcraft have a standard set of ethics?

The short answer is no.

You have to follow the Wiccan Rede, right?

No. I’m not Wiccan. I’m a witch.

Let me further explain. Wicca and witchcraft are NOT the same thing. Wicca is a religion, witchcraft is a craft. Some Wiccans practice witchcraft, yes. Some Christians practice witchcraft. Some people practice witchcraft separate from a religion, and I’m one of those people.

By definition of rede (counsel or advice), it’s not a law, and Wiccans don’t have to follow it either.

Part of the Wiccan Rede states “An’ ye harm none, do what ye will.” What counts as harm? This is debated, even by Wiccans. It’s a sticky topic, and I prefer to avoid sticky topics.

Another part describes the “Rule of Three,” in which what you do comes back to you in threes. Nope, I still don’t give a floating banshee, because I’m not Wiccan.

Well, what about karma?

This one annoys me to no end, and drives nails under my skin. Karma is not a Western term. It does not mean “What goes around comes around.” Karma is an Eastern term. I’m not going to explain here what karma actually is, instead – Read this and learn something. 

Yes, I’m telling you to do your research. Use your critical thinking skills. Don’t stop at one source, go find your own sources, and question everything.

Do you curse people?

Dictionary.com defines curse as:

  1. the expression of a wish that misfortune, evil, doom, etc., befall a person, group, etc.
  2. a formula or charm intended to cause such misfortune to another
  3. the act of reciting such a formula

Have you ever said, “Oh, I wish they would crash into a ditch!” ? What about, “I hope they trip and fall!” ? Perhaps, “I wish their internet would stop working so they couldn’t complete that paper that’s due tomorrow!”

You have? Then technically, you’ve cursed someone. I’m sure most people have at some point, without even thinking about it. So yes, I curse people too. Like that person on the highway who cut me off, I hope they get an expensive speeding ticket. That person who was a jerk to me, I hope their favorite chair breaks. You get the idea.

May your soda always be shaken enough to explode on your freshly shampooed carpets.

Why do people curse?

It’s different for everyone. Maybe it’s for justice, maybe it’s just because they feel like it. Stop curse-shaming.

Someone might curse a person for calling them a hurtful name. Another person might curse their rapist. Are you the universal ethics police? No? Then who are you to judge? Each person has their own individual set of ethics.

So, do you practice white magic, or black magic?

Are you concerned about whether I practice the “good white magic” or “bad black magic?” If so, you should probably ask yourself about your thought processes. Really analyze them, because you might be thinking like a racist.

I don’t label magic with colors, and I don’t label it as morally good or bad. Magic is magic.

Are you a good witch, or an evil witch?

I don’t believe in labeling people as “good” or “evil”. The acts of people can be seen as “good” or “bad” through different moral and ethical systems, sure. However, I don’t find use in creating an ultimate for people. We’re human.

So, I am neither a good witch, nor an evil witch. I am simply a witch. I am human.

What are your moral/ethical beliefs?

I do as I please. I look at each situation individually, and I do what I believe to be the right thing. Keep your ethics out of my cauldron.

 

Ghost Festival

Ghosts Festival begins August 18, and lasts through August 31.

Ghost Festival celebrations:

  • Honoring a range of spirits and listening to what they have to say
  • Researching death rituals of other cultures
  •  Visiting the graves of those I have lost in my life
  • Brushing off the headstones of those I know, and those I do not know
  • Lighting a vigil candle each night to remember the deceased
  • Recognizing death as part of the life cycle

 

Hecate’s Days

Hecate’s Days are from August 13 to August 17. This originated from the Greeks, who celebrated Hecate on August 13 each year, the day when she protected their land from harvest-destroying storms, which the moon may cause at that time. I decided to make this a five day celebration for my personal practices.

Who is Hecate?

Hecate is a goddess of witchcraft, magic, the night, the moon, and ghosts. She is the goddess of crossroads, who holds the skeleton key to unlock all of the realms. In Greek mythology, she assisted Demeter in her search for Persephone, guiding her with her torches.

Symbols of Hecate:

  • key
  • torch
  • cauldron
  • knife
  • broom
  • wolves and black dogs
  • horses
  • snakes and dragons

What drew me to Hecate?

Hecate is the liberator of women, setting them free from human-made bonds. She guides us at the crossroads when we are lost. She feeds our creativity. She represents the darkness within us, showing us our whole self.

I saw symbols of her showing up in dreams in a very dark time in my life, years ago. I began to honor her, and follow her guidance out of those times from that day forward.

How do I honor her?

  • An altar. I’m constantly putting new things on Hecate’s altar, but currently, I’ve got a snake statue, a wolf statue, a picture of horses, a cauldron candle, a black candle, and a stuffed raven.
  • Offerings. I leave honey at a crossroads. I set a small jar of lavender on the altar. I burn black candles.

At the end of Hecate’s Days, I remember the queen of the ghosts, and I begin the Ghost Festival.

Witchcraft

First, I’ll start by saying that I define myself as a witch, or sorceress. I practice witchcraft.

By my definition, witchcraft is a craft, similar to knitting or painting, that is non-religious, and uses magic. As a note, witchcraft does not have to be religious, but can be incorporated into religion.

I often hear, “Is magic real?” Here is my response:

Watch this clip – Jar of Dirt

Jack Sparrow questions Calypso as to whether or not the jar of dirt will help him. She tells him, “If you don’t want it, give it back.” He replies, “No.” Calypso tells Jack, “Then it helps.”

The point is, it’s all in your belief of magic. If you believe in magic, then it exists. These are your personal beliefs, not anyone else’s.

Of course, I can’t perform anything like what you see in Harry Potter, Hocus Pocus, Charmed, or Practical Magic, but it would be nice if I could. I’d love to be able to give myself more time for learning, and be able to say a couple of words and have the house clean. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

So what exactly do I do?

I make magic a part of my every day life.

I practice witchcraft in the kitchen, also known as kitchen witchery. I honor the mundane in life. I find pleasure in cooking and baking, and I focus my energy into the process to create a little bit of magic. Many know how much I enjoy baking lavender sugar biscuits. They taste wonderful, but they’ve also got some magical properties in them -lavender is great for protection, healing, and restful sleep.

I focus my witchcraft on the home and family, commonly known as cottage witchcraft. I make natural cleaners with various herbs. Lavender is great for cleaning, also, if you’re going for calming and purification effects in the home – just be sure to keep it away from the pets. I turn bathing into an aromatherapy session, using different herbs for different desires. I put up protections for the home, and my family.

I practice witchcraft when I step outside of my door, into my lawn. This is known as green witchcraft. It involves gardening, herbalism, gifts from nature, and working with wildlife. I grow basil in my garden, not just to make delicious pesto sauce at some point, but also for luck. I honor the energies and life cycles of plants and wildlife. I believe in thanking the trees for clean air to breathe. I believe in thanking the bats for keeping the mosquito population to a minimum.

Finally, I make no promises that your soda didn’t explode on your freshly shampooed carpets because you’re an asshat.