Archive for the ‘magick’ Category

(fairies love the morning dew)

It’s fall…the leaves are turning, morning mists rising up off the hills, squashes are ripe. Round this time of year somebody always seems to mention cryptically that “the veil between the worlds is thinnest now…”  Fall does seem to be imbued with qualities that can only be described of as mysterious, beguiling and occasionally downright frightful. Look at the fall time holidays: There is the Christian All Souls Day, commemorating the lives of the faithful dead; the Chinese celebrate Qingming Festival, also called Ancestor’s Day; the Buddhist Ghost Day, when the dead visit the living; the Gaelic Samhain Festival, which also has aspects of a festival of the dead.

Now, while I don’t disagree with the cryptic folk who tell me that the veil is thin during this time of year, I’ve never been able to say why that might be. I can feel that it is true. Standing in the quiet street at the end of September watching the sun set, gold with ruby tint against the iron green Doug Firs in the distance, I could almost hear them whispering, I could almost see them swirling in and out of the fast fading rays. (Almost, but not quite. The otherworldly are, at least for me, not a sensible crowd. I have to feel them instead.)

But what is it about the fall that allows the otherworlds such an imminent and palpable connection? Upon completing a walking meditation (with my dog at the park) I began to formulate some answers. Almost all of our rituals and celebrations have their roots deep in the world of the ancients. Many of these activities were developed in order to understand and work with the energies and cycles of the earth, because the lives of those who participated depended on the positive outcome of these cycles. The ancients knew that in the fall, the crops were done. Their usefulness had come to and end and they returned to the earth. Animals retreated underground along with the energy of the plants that sustained them. This was the cycle in which the hand of death reached into the world of the living, touching everything in it. To the ancients, it probably wasn’t hard to see that this hand of death crossing over like a bridge from the world of the dead allowed for the temporary re-entry from that other world.

Fall is a time when cycles end, whether they be crop cycles, life cycles or seasonal cycles. It is the beginning of the end and this is a somber time as well as a time to celebrate what has passed before us.

Whether you experience this time of year as a time to settle down and look within or as a time to honor those who came and went before you or simply as a the end point of another beautifully engineered cycle, it seems really important to recognize and give thanks for all the beauty around us and to honor the sacredness of the great mysteries of life…


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(Aster Blooms photographed by André Karwath aka Aka)

I’ve been seeing this pretty little flower all around town of late. How could I have missed this all summer long? I asked my 11-year-old what kind of flower it was because she has a memory like a steel trap when it comes to flowers. She told me that it was a Michaelmas Daisy. Ah! I didn’t miss it after all! It only blooms in the fall, during the time of St. Michael, chief general of the divine army.

According to this lovely site, archangel Michael is given four duties:to fight against Satan, to swoop in at the hour of death and rescue the souls of the innocent from evil forces, to be the champion and patron of God’s people, and to weigh human’s souls in order to bring them to justice. Muslims revere Michael (as well as the Christian and Jewish faiths).

In Muslim lore [Michael] is described with four wings that are emerald green and hair of saffron. Each strand of hair has a million faces with a million mouths and tongues that speak in a million dialects. They believe that Mikha’il uses all of his mouths to plead with Allah to forgive the sins of humankind. (quoted from here)

Michael is the end of the road…the buck stops with him, so to speak. I suppose that is why he honored in the fall, the beginning of the end of the cycle. This was the time in medieval history (the period of origin for the Michaelmas feast, which falls on September 29th) when the bills were due, workmen were hired for the the year, accounts were settled and the harvests pulled in and distributed. And, as it so happens, the time when the Michaelmas Daisy blooms…

At first this flower appears to be a simple blue/purple flower, almost easily overlooked as a decorative weed. However, upon further meditation and research, this lovely flower shows another face. The Michaelmas Daisy  is a member of the Aster family. It is named after the goddess Astraea, who was forced to leave the earth as humanity degenerated into violence and war. A great flood washed over the earth, cleansing away the evil. After the flood, saddened Astraea’s tears fell from Libra and Virgo as stardust. Where they landed grew Michaelmas Daisies. (Incidentally, the word aster means star, sharing roots with asterisk, asteroid and disaster…)

The Michaelmas Daisy has a long history of mystical, magical and medicinal uses.

The Chippewa Indians used Michaelmas daisy in hunting magic, smoking the dried roots as a way to attract game (consider using it for other sorts of hunting, for instance, seeking a lover or finding an object). The Iroquois employed this starwort as hunting medicine and in love charms, which shows its rulership by Venus (it has been used to treat skin problems, a Venus trait for medicinal herbs). The Meskwaki and Potowatami made a smudge with it to awaken unconscious people, which points to possible modern-day magical uses in other types of awakenings, as in initiation or awakening one’s Third Eye.

Michaelmas also marked the beginning of hunting season in Ireland, which ties it to the use of Michaelmas daisy as a hunting charm in North America. And of course, since it is associated with the Archangel Michael, it can be helpful for angel magic. (qtd. from here)

According to Scott Cunningham (Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs) that Aster is ruled by the planet/goddess Venus and, as such, makes a great love potion. More cool facts:

The aster was sacred to the gods and so wreaths of asters were placed on their altars. Aster leaves were burned to keep away evil spirits and drive away serpents in ancient Greece. The bite from a mad dog was cured by an ointment made from asters. Pliny the Elder recommended a tea of aster in cases of snake bite and an aster amulet to ease the pain of sciatica – and Virgil wrote that the flavour of honey would be improved if asters were boiled in wine and placed near a beehive. The aster is considered a herb of Venus and like the daisy, which belongs to the same family of Compositæ, it has been used in love divinations. (qtd. from here)

So take a peek around you when you go for a walk in the next few weeks…perhaps you’ll spot a patch of Astraea’s tears. For me, the Aster is a great reminder that every little plant has it’s history and mystery.

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(flowering peyote cactus–it even looks magick!)

What do you think of when you hear the word magic? There are so many connotations…guy with a hat and a rabbit, black clad ladies dancing around a bubbling cauldron, N’ Awlins style Voodoo, pentacles and black candles, Merlin and the Sword of King Arthur, a rabbit’s foot dangling from the rearview, horoscopes, the sign of the cross–belly button, forehead, shoulder, shoulder–to honor Christ or to dispel the demons, the list could go on and on. Mostly though, it falls into two categories and most folks probably steer one way or the other–magic is real, or magic is a trick.

(cover of Natural Magick by John Baptiste Porta-1535-note the picture of the author. Try to not note the picture of the human with what appears to be a naturally magickal udder. Not sure what that’s all about.)

Etymologically speaking, the word magic comes from Greek magos–one of the learned and priestly class, or Old French magique–art of influencing events or producing marvels, or Latin magice–sorcerer, or even Persian magush–to be able, to have power. (I just read in The Everything Wicca and Witchcraft Book by Skye Alexander that the word magick is used to differentiate between stage magic and real magick. I had to go back and change the title of this post after I read that.)

I was talking to a good friend of mine recently and I mentioned that we in the United States don’t seem to have a lot of time honored rituals, and that the ones we do have have sort of migrated into consumerism extravaganzas. (By ritual I mean a action or set of actions that are symbolic. These actions have religious, spiritual, environmental, or other meanings to the actor.) It seems to be true that once my ancestors got added to the melting pot, our culture changed into something new. Although my scope is rather limited being from just one family, it doesn’t appear to me that many families are still practicing ancient rituals that have been handed down over time. I guess the Catholics still do it, but I was never really drawn to that particular religion. Maybe the Peyotism? That could be interesting…

Driving home from a camping trip yesterday, I saw the sign for Saginaw. I grew up in a Saginaw, 2500 miles from here. I’ve wondered if the name occurs here too because the government “relocated” the Ojibwe people to Oregon and the name came with them. Then was thinking about how much of that culture/ritual/history was forcibly lost in the genocide and re-education of this land’s indigenous people. How many have been able to retain their spiritual beliefs? Or relearn them generations later?

The above mentioned book (Everything Witchcraft and Wicca) speaks about the many, many pagan peoples of the past, who had deep and wide spiritual beliefs about the world around them: Indians, Irish, Greeks, Babylonians, Celtics, Mayans, Persians, Scandinavians, Australians, Slavonics, Chinese, Europeans, on and on the list goes from every corner of the earth.

I do know that some cultures have still retained their rituals and folk beliefs. I have vague references in my nog about shamanism in South America. I think that the Irish and the Celts have a deep and old understanding about fairies and the like. I know that there are still some Maya people who continue keeping track of the count of the days. I’ve heard tell about a beautiful Japanese tea ceremony. I read a book recently (God’s Middle Finger by Richard Grant) in which the author, a travel writer, tells about seeing “hunch back oil” for sale on the streets of the Sierra Madre (hunch backs are good luck, but how do you get their “oil?”).

When I think about magick, I think about bringing consciousness to the fact that the world around us is teeming with energy. If we honor the world, the earth, and the forces that shape the world, through ritual or other means, we can gain a richer existence here. Casting a circle, calling on the elements and the four directions, picking an herb and wearing it in a pouch–all of these actions require one to slow down and to notice the world around her. And once she has become awakened to the world, she’ll never be the same again.

(Ojibwe Cultural Foundation-painting by Plismo)

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