What’s On Your Altar?

Let’s have a round of “what’s on my altar?” tonight.

Let’s see…two burning candles for the Blood Brothers. One candle for Loki Himself that is an autumn/fall harvest candle. It won’t burn no matter what I do to it. (I’m thinking of putting something extremely flammable on it just to see if I can make it burn because GOD DAMN IT *L* what don’t you like about that candle? I’m starting to think it’s just that the time of year isn’t strictly his domain so He won’t let it burn.) A wintergreen candle welcoming Lady Skadi (getting cold here). A piece of driftwood because it carries a calming energy with it. Another harvest candle for the Gods Who Smile on Me. Another candle for Loki Himself, a tall white candle for Odin–Loki’s Blood Brother. A sage bundle that isn’t being used at the moment. A candle welcoming bounty into our household. And a wonderful plaque a friend of mine made for my birthday. choose I love tending my altar. It’s a joyful duty, one that brings me peace and a sense of purpose.

Be a Rebel, Blow Out Your Candles

candles

Never blow out a candle or you blow away the magick. This was something all little, new baby witches were taught when I was coming up as a youngster. Growing up there were countless frustrations as I imagined I’d ruined a ritual completely by blowing out my candles at the end. Blowing out candles has such joyful, childlike association for me that I couldn’t stop myself from doing it. Then I’d have a meltdown after I did and remembered I wasn’t supposed to. Who doesn’t like blowing out birthday candles? Who doesn’t like controlling something with only the invisible force of their breath? At the time I didn’t question the instruction, but little by little over the years I’ve come at that from a completely different angle.

Breath is life.

Breath, divine breath, wakes up life.

When you’re making a gris-gris bag you breathe life into it, wake up the spirit of the bag, depending on how you make one, of course. They’re not as strong if you don’t.

Your breath is magic. When I blow out a candle I don’t see it as blowing away the magick, but rather using my breath to spread my intention into the universe. I’m adding to the magick. In my mind’s eye I’m spreading the gossamer strands of my intention far and wide with my breath, especially with ritual magick. Of course, there are times I don’t blow out candles. When I don’t want to sacrifice any of my life energy to an endeavor I don’t, but normally if something is worth doing on the magickal front it’s worth me putting any energy I can into it.

Like all magick though, if you just can’t get the idea that you’re blowing away the magick out of yoru head when you blow out candles you’re using in a ritual or for devotional purposes you probably shouldn’t do it. You program your intentions with your thoughts. That’s why mental control is such an integral part of witchcraft in general.

Appropriation: Worship Like You Stole It

Okay. Appropriation. I want to have a discussion, and here’s a thought I seem to always have when the topic comes up. As an American, everything I have is appropriated. I have not a single thing that I can claim as unique cultural heritage found only in my birth land that belongs to “my people”. The language I use-English, is an obvious place to begin. I learned Spanish. I’m not Latina. Therefore, by the broad scope of appropriation, I’ve just bungled. English itself is a mash up of other languages. I use it every day and I don’t bother giving a wit about the words that aren’t English. I don’t know the history of the words and I use them with impunity. I speak therefore I appropriate. I guess you can argue that my ancestors, or at least some of them, brought the language along with them, but some of my ancestors didn’t speak English, it was forced on them. So, am I now practicing some strange form of forced appropriation? Is there a term for that?

I’m not Native American, or at least not ONLY Native American (I believe I would be about 1/8 native American. My Great Grandmother was the ancestor in question.), so if I try to immerse myself in that culture I wasn’t raised in it can be considered appropriation. I haven’t, but I like learning about it, and I’ve occasionally thought I’d like to use some terms here or there in my spiritual practice, though I don’t out of shear laziness. It takes more time to explain something unusual than use common lexicon. I use sage-sage bundles, which are native American in origin, without knowing much about the traditional use for them. I don’t feel bad about it and I don’t know that most pagans would. I rather think of it as a tool l’ve acquired that works. Should I research it? Probably. Nothing but good would come of it. However, I’m extremely thankful for the people who came before me and realized Sage was awesome.

Because of my mixed genetic background I can say I feel free to work with any number of deities, but I wasn’t really raised in any of the backgrounds they “come from”, such as the Norse pantheon I work with now. I’m not part of the Asatru bandwagon that thinks we should only work with deities we’re blood tuned for (*cough*racisist undertones*cough* Excuse me.), but then isn’t that what the abhorrence of appropriation is all about? Don’t raid other people’s cultures for your own benefit, willy nilly. I wonder how America’s Buddhists feel about this? Either it’s okay for me to research and come to something respectfully and use it in my practice or work with deities that want to work with me, or it isn’t.

For example, most Americans almost look on Greek and Roman mythology as our own. It’s very intrinsic to our culture, at least educationally, yet, it isn’t ours. Is it appropriation if Persephone wants to work with me (I’m not Greek) if She’s decided to work with me? In some ways the entire idea of appropriation spiritually is just farcical. Some aspects of appropriation seem to negate the idea of free will on behalf of deities or the fact that some ideas simply don’t exist in other cultures. Isn’t making up new words for an idea, such as two spirit people for example, more disrespectful than simply using the original term? I realize bigender is more academic, but there was already a name for that. Maybe I’m just being a jackass and maybe I just don’t get it, but much like the rest of American culture, spiritually, there just isn’t anything unique that I can lay claim to without “appropriating”.  We don’t have many things that are uniquely our own aside from Phili cheese steaks, the Liberty Bell, and arguably, pop culture deities that originate in the States. Voodoo, I suppose, but wouldn’t that still be appropriation? Thoughts? Should I just let this go? I think that people who come from countries with their own deities and cultures get more hung up on appropriation than Americans do, in general, because of this stuff.

Americans don’t have anything that we haven’t stolen.

Loki, The Gambling Miracle

So, for…OH, I’d say a few months now Loki has been insuring that He gets His devotionals from me (which I think are just as helpful to me as to Him).

How?

Well, with what I consider to be a Lokean miracle, perhaps dubious, but something I contend is a miracle. It makes my life better, and anything that makes my life better, yeah, I’ll clump that in with divine intervention.

Let me back up.

I’m kind of low on funds, chronically, because I’m a writer, editor, temp job worker (when absolutely necessary) and parent. (Parenting is expensive, in case you missed that.) I like to burn incense and candles for Loki, daily. You can see where the problem comes in.

About three or four months ago I was out if incense, feeling pretty low, bitching to myself on the way to the store to pick up a newspaper. When I got there I got this PUSH to go to the scratch off machines (you know, waste a dollar get a ticket to scratch off). Loki was telling me to do it, go get one, and I was arguing about wasting the money. When I actually got over there? There was a fly trapped in one of the plastic covers, and the name of the game had Fabulous in the title.

Long story short, I won enough money to get Him His incense and was really, really happy about it.

I haven’t been low enough on cash since to worry about it, but after the holidays it finally happened, and my incense stash ran out, and there I was feeling like crap about it and not even realizing how much so. I went to the store, again to get a newspaper, and there it was again. A tickle. A Loki tickle. So, I paid attention and He was telling me to go to the machines again. Now, the first time I thought might have been a fluke, and I was arguing with Him (possibly myself, I’m willing to accept that I could be a wee tad crazy, but I’m good company) and when I get there to the machine there is a holiday game with a Santa who looked suspiciously like Odin.

…2 dollars in the machine. 25 out. Loki got His incense.

So, that’s the story or my solstice miracle, and it means so much to me.

Hail Loki!

A Harvest Moon Esbat

Written on the night of the Full Moon, September 9, 2014:

I hope you’re all enjoying the Harvest Moon. Not only is it the Harvest Moon (the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox) it’s a “Super Moon” too. I’m more than a tad disappointed we’re having a rainy, overcast night in my neck of the woods. I wanted to see if the moon would actually be orange this year. I was excited to celebrate this Esbat, especially since it is such a unique one (Not that they aren’t all special in their own way, but half the time I forget what day of the week it is and, well…my track record for hitting an Esbat on the actual date of the moon is dismal, so I was excited for and proud of myself.), and I chose to do a Harvest Moon blessing to do so.

I wanted to use the Harvest Moon blessing I’d read in Seasons of Witchery by Ellen Dugan because it was pretty, not too long, and not overly flowery, but the blessing calls on “The Lord and Lady”. As I’ve become more comfortable with hard polytheism vs. the vagaries of Wicca/general paganism I see problems with this invocation I possibly wouldn’t have in previous years. If I call on “The Lord and Lady” Anyone can show up, which honestly, with a blessing, so be it. Whomever would like to drop some good stuff on my head this year, please do (No, really, PLEASE.); however, on the other hand it seems like calling Someone I work with often would be best to call upon.

BUT, if I call on someone I work with all of the time for a blessing I feel greedy too since, if I work with Them often, They’re already blessing my life. Asking Loki for more things seems like calling up my best friend and begging twenty bucks. (And then I get the Divine Head Slap because the Gods WANT to help with our Daily lives when They are Our Beloveds.) The last thought on this conundrum, the Divine Mystery of Who to Call for a Simple Freakin’ Autum Blessing, is this: Okay, if I shouldn’t call just Anyone, then I should call Someone specific, but if I call Someone, and say I even use a particular kenning, maybe They won’t want to show up or the area-the autumnal blessing-really isn’t their prevue, or maybe they’re just otherwise engaged.

In the end, I called on Angrboda and Loki (sort of-in a way-I still left it vague when I spoke the blessing/prayer, but I KNEW they where the ones on the line tonight, so it was kind of like calling Them mentally because They were the only Ones I could think about while I was saying the prayer). Calling on the Hagia of the Ironwood may seem strange, but I was getting the push from Her, so I didn’t question the decision.

In the end using the general Lord and Lady call for a blessing, allowing Whomever would enjoy blessing your life to come through, isn’t a bad call if you’d like to do a seasonal blessing, even though I chose not to. Sometimes specific calls for ritual and spell work may be limiting. I still work with general, universal energies for spell work and prayer of all sorts. (Prayer being spell work of a different variety in my estimation.)

My small ritual was lovely and involved a short blessing and lighting two taper candles, one orange and one white. I thought to perhaps include the blessing here, but if you could snag a copy of Dugan’s book you could easily find it for yourself or, better yet, write your own. The idea behind the blessing is that we are entering a time of thankfulness, prosperity, and abundance before winter sets in. I usually start my rituals with a Hail to Loki and they always include an offering to the gods these days, where in the past they perhaps wouldn’t have.

Bright Harvest Moon Blessings on You All! May you all find what you’re looking for as a season of introspection begins.

Natural Stone Point vs. Wand

I was at the beach yesterday and found a perfect stone point. It is a pleasant light grey with veins of sparkles and on the metaphysical front it vibrates with a lot of energy and feels good in my palm. It has been smoothed meticulously by the waves as well. I’ve found the perfect tool to focus energy through, unless I haven’t. It seems more than likely this stone will do the trick though.

I’ve always wanted to make a wand, but I’ve never found a piece of wood that sang just right to me, or a gem I just HAD to weave into a power structure. When I was younger I made an attempt with a dowel rod that I was going to run a metal core through, but 1.) It was a lot of work and I lost interest somewhere between purchasing materials and building a fire to heat the metal, and 2.) the finished product I would be left with didn’t appeal to me. 1 may have been more of a deciding factor than 2, but I think if I had really wanted to do it I would have bucked up and done so. I never did. The idea of buying a wand has never appealed either. I don’t want to use an item full of someone else’s energies and intentions for something so intensely personal as magick.

Thank you, generous waters, for providing me an instrument I’ve been searching out for years. Hail Angrboda, Witch of the Ironwood! Thank you for helping me strengthen my magickal practice with the proper tools.