Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Evil Eye (updated)

Many cultures all over the world share a common belief in a type of curse or hex that is transmitted (usually) unwittingly through a glare or  glance in which the caster is filled with envy, praise, or covetousness. It can also be transmitted, intentionally or unintentionally, by people with green or blue eyes — which is why protective charms to ward against this curse are so often blue, green, or turquoise.

The evil eye is also called the invidious eye, the envious eye, ayin ha'ra (Hebrew), malocchio (Italian), mal ojo (Spanish), jettatore (Sicilian), the stink eye (Hawaiian), nazar (Turkish), and bla band (Farsi).

While the eye itself is a receptive sensory organ, the power of the evil eye is insidious in its ability to send curses outward in a projective manner often unbeknownst to the own doing the cursing. In a traditional context, the person who sends the curse does not necessarily intend the afflicted target any harm. They simply admire and covet what they don’t already have. For this reason, mothers in cultures where a belief in the evil eye is prevalent might respond, “Oh, but he’s got dirt on him,” when told their baby is beautiful. Without saying something seemingly “mean,” the child might attract the evil eye and become sick — or even die!

Perils related to the evil eye include wasting, illness, blight, injury, plain bad luck, and possibly death.
Charms against the evil eye are sometimes also simply called “the evil eye” and take the shape of a blue, green, or turquoise circle banded in white to represent the eye. Various hand gestures and horns (with their phallic connotations) are also reputed to ward against the evil eye.  Eyes, hands, and horns have all been fashioned into jewelry, charms, and art that can be displayed on bodies, in homes, and in vehicles to offer the most possible protection against the threat of this malevolent glare.

Meeting at the Crossroads (updated)

Liminal places are those locales that can be described as neither here nor there, and since time immemorial, they have been considered the very best places to meet the Witchfather (or Witchmother) and perform spells.  Liminal spaces might be include the mouth of a cave (neither in the belly of the earth, nor upon the land’s breast), at the seashore (neither in the ocean, nor upon dry land), at a doorway (neither inside the house, nor yet outside its bounds). But the liminal place that has fired the imagination and bred some of the most enduring folklore is that of the crossroads — the place where two or more roads come together and the traveler can stand for a moment in true limbo, on their way to anywhere.

It is in this place of balance, of limitless possibility, of undiscovered potential that magic and initiation are possible. The Seeker of the Mysteries has access to all that Is, Was, and Will Be.

Cultures from all over the globe have expressed this concept in a myriad of ways. Some embrace it, and some fear it. The Keeper of these Mysteries is most often viewed as a devil, demon, whore, or hag, but sometimes they are known as the Master, Light Bearer, Psychopomp, Key Holder. (Sometimes they are both loved and feared, for the Mysteries that illuminate and set the soul aflame can also consume one with madness if not grounded and tempered.) Hekate and Hermes both held this role in ancient Greece.  In Africa (and African-diaspora) religions we see Legba/Elegua (and several others) as well as Pomba Gira.  Odin was honored at crossroads in parts of Denmark and elsewhere in the Norse world.

Folklore holds that rulers, dancers, musicians, artists, and merchants — just to name a few — have all made deals with the Devil at the crossroads to increase their talents, fame, power, and fortune. Perhaps the truer tale is that these intrepid (or desperate) seekers quested for mastery of their natural gifts. They may have come away changed by their initiation, startled by the Keeper they encountered there, but their work was fueled by Cunning Fire  after they had gone down to those crossroads.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Oath Stone

There are several types of stones that are important to Cunning Folk. With Tubal Cain being such a central figure within the lines of the Craft that have influenced this Tradition, however, it is no surprise that the Oath Stone upon which we take our vows and form our sacred blood bonds is his anvil.

I feel that it is most honest here to point out that this point of symbolism comes less from specific lore or myth as handed down from others, and more from mythopoesis -- that poetic sense of symbolic elements fitting together and clicking into place.

This is a piece of American Folkloric Witchcraft that came first from the Clan of the Laughing Dragon, the coven I (Laurelei) was trained in as a young Witch. There, the anvil wasn’t the Oath Stone. We had no such stone. Our oaths were taken upon a Sword (and all vows, including coven bonds, were still made in blood). But the anvil was used in every single ritual that we performed as a way to call upon Tubal Cain, the Forge Master. We struck the hammer to the anvil three times, each time pausing to call his name. It was powerful. It still gives me chills when I call to him this way.

When my son was about 5-years-old, I was away from home and the anvil was sitting at its place (when not in ritual use) at our family’s hearth. He picked up the hammer and started striking, which brought his father running from the other room. He stopped the boy and asked him what he thought he was doing, intending to scold him for disrespecting this sacred tool. My son, not missing a beat, looked his father in the eyes and said in a voice filled with reverence, “Daddy, this is how we talk to God.”

This IS how we talk to God. Through our blood. Through Tubal Cain’s blood. Through the heartbeat that is pounded out in the rhythm of the hammer strokes.

The symbolism of the forge is powerful, alchemical, mystical. The anvil is the foundation of Stone. The forge is the transformational Flame. The bellows are the Breath. The quench is the Sea (both womb and tomb).

Ours is a path of the Mysteries of Life and Death and all that lies Between. It is Creation and Destruction. Destroying in order to Create. Mixing Fire and Water to temper the steel and make it stronger. Knowing how and when to do that in the right proportion.

And the anvil is the rock, the hard place on which this great work happens. It is the altar on which we are pounded and shaped (at our own request!) into something useful, something beautiful, something dangerous.

The earliest anvil’s were actual stones, of course, and a great many cultures have had ceremonies involving oathing and coronation stones. The Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny) and Jacob’s Pillow are two well-known coronation stones upon which dynasties of monarchs took vows to serve God and country. Furthermore, the custom has long-existed in Celtic countries for couples to make their wedding vows upon an oathing stone.

Within this Tradition, the Anvil as the Oath Stone sits at the base of the Stang when the Compass is drawn, along with the Cauldron. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Making a Ritual Shield

The shield is the weapon of the Southern Gate -- of Earth and Goda. It is the weapon of ThisWorld. It is a defensive weapon, used to guard against and deflect the dangers and assaults of day-to-day reality. It also represents the ways in which the physical realm affords certain protections and defenses against the slings and attacks of the other magical realities.


A simple shield is very easy to make and really adds to the protective, defensive magic of your home and magical space. Once it is finished, place it in a prominent location to guard your home or altar. When laying the compass for ritual, the Shield would be placed in the South.

Building the Shield

Materials:

o    Wooden round (a pre-made table top works beautifully)
o    Heavy duty felt (available by the yard at fabric stores) – need enough to cover front of wooden piece
o    Leather – enough to cover the face of your shield plus have an extra two inches all around; buy it pre-dyed or dye it according to your tastes
o    Furniture tacks – to keep leather from slipping across the wood; also for creating a design; any style of furniture tacks works
o    Cabinet handle – one that you can screw/nail from the front side of the handle (counter-sinking a nail or screw from the back will be difficult before you buil the shield and impossible afterward)
o    Pencil
o    Scissors
o    Measuring tape or ruler
o    Hammer
o    Staple gun with staples

Steps:

1.    As with any magical crafting project, you should create the targe in sacred space. Wear your cords and call the Grove, complete with any Deities whose energy you would like to include in your shield.
2.    Place the leather face down on your worktable. Put the wooden round on top of the leather and trace the shape plus 2 inches all the way around. Cut the leather and set it aside.
3.    Do the same with the felt, except cut just shy of 2 inches. You’ll want the leather to cover the felt completely.
4.    Place the leather face down again on the worktable. Put the felt on top of it, followed by the wooden round.
5.    Fold the leather and felt over the wooden base at the top-most point of the circle. Staple it in place on the back of the shield. Do the same at the bottom, making sure that the fabric and leather are snug but not too tightly stretched.
6.    Repeat the folding and stapling at the two sides, and then work your way around the entire circle. Remember to staple one side and follow it up with its exact opposite. This will keep the leather and fabric even and smooth.
7.    You’ll end up with staples all around the backside of the shield, holding the leather in place.
8.    Next, use the furniture tacks to tack down the leather on the front of the shield. You can make a simple circle of tacks along the outer edge of the flat circle, or tacks the outer rim of the shield. Another option is to incorporate a personal design, using the tacks, on the face of the shield. Any of these options will serve the same primary function – keeping your leather snug and secure.
9.    Affix your handle onto the back of the shield in place that will be comfortable when you are holding it.
10.    Use a strap of leather (or fur, if you want) to create a strap for your forearm. This will help your shield wear comfortably when you have need to hold it.
11.    Finish by placing your sigil and/or bindrune on the back of the shield, if you have one.
12.    Dedicate it to magical use after the Shield is complete by cleansing and consecrating the shield using your preferred method. It would be wise to call on Goda, Horse, Swan, Apple Tree, and the Southern Gate to empower this weapon.



Incorporating a Design

It isn’t entirely necessary to fashion a design onto your shield, though it certainly adds to the personal connection between Witch and Weapon. You can draw the design in pencil onto the leather, or use a paper pattern that you nail onto the shield and then remove once the design is complete.

If you do put a design on the shield with tacks, do it at Step 8.

You may also paint a design onto the leather, but be sure to do two things in this case. First, be sure to use some tacks around the edges to secure the leather. And second, use a sealant to preserve the painted design. It will flake off of the leather, otherwise.



Airts -- The Southern Gate

The Southern Gate – Airt of Earth

Values: Growth, Experience, Authority, Money, Physicality, Security, Nourishment
Colors:Brown, russet, black, green
Symbols: Square, stone, cornucopia, scythe, salt, cart, plate, Gnomes
Tools: The casting bowl, patens/pentacles, horns
Weapons: Shield (Targe)
Totems: Swan, Horse & Apple Tree
Musical Instruments: Drums
Times: Lammas/Lughnasadh, Noon, Summer, Coming of Age
Places: Fields, mountains, valleys, canyons, deserts, forests, gardens
Zodiac: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo
Sense: Touch
Power: To Keep Silent
Process: Brushing Hair/Skin, Grounding, Eating, Burying, Binding



You can visualize the Gates (the portals to each of the four cardinal directions) in anyway you like; but I like visualizing a 2-legged dolmen or even the sort of wooden gate that is common on ranches. 

The Southern Gate is very much associated with the mortal realm, consciousness, and consensus reality. It is the gateway to the Greenworld, the magic of this plane that we inhabit. It is a noon-time, bright day, midst-of-summer's abundance place.

Because it is representative of consensus reality, some people might mistakenly assume that nothing is secret, hidden, or mysterious through the Southern Gate. This is an illusion, though, and one of the challenges in coming to truly know this place. For it is also the realm of the Good Neighbors -- the Little Folk, the Fey.

Goda is the Queen of Elphame, riding forth from her Barrow. She is the White Goddess upon her white Horse. She is the Lady of Sacrifice, linking her earthen power to the first Harvest -- the Red Day of Lammas. She is the Sovereignty Goddess with whom the King must conjoin in order to rule, and it is under Her auspices that the King's life is taken in order to feed the land and the people.

On our Year Wheel, the Southern Gate is open and most easily accessed at Lammas, and the three totems that sit here are all intimately linked with Sovereignty and Self-Mastery.

This is a time for reaping the first harvest, playing games, and settling into the work of approaching Autumn.
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