Hestia Annointing Oil

Ever since I dedicated myself to Hestia, I’ve discovered that working with a goddess with such a low profile means I have had to create my own practices and rituals.  On the one hand, as a book-learned witch, this is a bit intimidating.  On the other hand, it offers me plenty of opportunities to be creative.

To that end, one of the customs I am working into my daily practice is the use of an anointing oil.  I use it not only for dressing candles, but in consecration of various items: the pots and pans I use, the crock pot, the fridge, the doorjamb of the front door.  The oil provides a conduit between myself and Hestia.  Through that conduit we speak and outline those parts of my home and my life I want in which I want her direct involvement. Continue reading Hestia Annointing Oil

Imbolc Cross Stitch Sampler

Imbolc—the time when we see the fist stirrings of spring—feels far away today, despite coming up in a week’s time.

This morning we woke up to single digit temperatures.  The wind chill was around -20°.  The deep freeze of winter is upon us and the promise of warmer weather has to be taken on faith.

Imbolc Sampler Design

Now is a good time to snuggle on the couch and binge watch shows, or read, or game.  Or, perhaps take a few hours to stitch this Imbolc cross stitch sampler.  It is the first of a series of cross stitch projects I have created to celebrate the Sabbats.  The chart is offered up for free.  It features a Brigid’s Cross, flower bud border, and the word “Imbolc”.  The floss palette is limited to four colors. Continue reading Imbolc Cross Stitch Sampler

Sew Witchy Cover Reveal

When my editor asked me if I had any ideas or suggestions for the cover art for my book, all I wanted was to make sure my name was spelled right.  It’s not that I’m indifferent, but the publisher has a lot more experience about what kind of covers sell what kind of books.  I trusted them to come up with the best cover for the book.  And boy did they deliver.  Just look at this lovely cover:

Sew Witchy Cover Art
Sew Witchy: Tools, Techniques and Projects for Sewing Magick by Raechel Henderson, out December 2019 from Llewellyn.

The book was originally called Sew Craft: a Sewist’s Book of Shadows, but the publisher changed it to Sew Witchy: Tools, Techniques and Projects for Sewing Magick.  And again, I’m cool with the change because if anyone knows what it takes to sell a witchcraft sewing book it would be Llewellyn. Continue reading Sew Witchy Cover Reveal

Leaning on Your Craft When Life Gets You Down

I’ve been away from posting the last few weeks due to all the things happening at once. Life is starting to settle back down, and I have a backlog of posts to release. I’m not quite ready for that bit of work, though.

One thing I’ve been doing is embracing my witchcraft as a means of dealing with all those changes. Centering myself around my spirituality, my work with Hecate, Hestia and Turtle, and engaging in spellwork aimed at making life run more smoothly has given me a small measure of peace.

And just today I came across this video by Headology and the Witch which goes into how one can make a practice to deal with life changes. I especially like the Tarot spread included towards the end.

For me, small acts, like lighting a candle on my altar to Hestia, give me a moment of peace. I am able to connect with my spiritual, witchy core. It’s a reminder that I am stronger than what is going on around me.

Book Review: The Witch’s Cauldron by Laura Tempest Zakroff

The Witch's Cauldron by Laura Tempest Zakroff
This is pretty much the kind of book I hope Sew Witchy turns out to be.

Ever come across a book where you make satisfied “mmm” noises as you read?  Ever read a book that feels like a conversation between like-minded friends?  How about one that makes you feel a sense of comfort? That’s how I felt when I read The Witch’s Cauldron by Laura Tempest Zakroff.  When I got to the acknowledgements and saw my editor, Elysia Gallo, mentioned I was over the moon.  I immediately sent her an e-mail telling her how much I enjoyed the book and how it was just the sort of book that I wanted to write.

The Witch’s Cauldron is part of The Witch’s Tools Series from Llewellyn, which covers various tools used by witches throughout history, and deals with, as the title suggests, cauldrons.  What immediately resonated with me was Zakroff’s pragmatic approach to the subject.  Early on in the book she writes, “In dangerous times, it was safer to have a commonplace item that could double for a person’s spiritual needs while not outing them to those who might wish to cause them harm.”  This is the magick I’m here for, the mundane made magickal because “special” tools could be used as evidence against the witch.  This isn’t candle color or crystal magick that—while it might have a place in modern magick—didn’t have a place in historical witchcraft.

That pragmatism continues as Zakroff explores non-traditional cauldrons like crock pots, encourages supporting local businesses, and even cautions the reader to be aware of local laws with regard to collecting feathers and animals/animal parts.  That last bit is a particular pet peeve of mine, as so many pagan books will offer up correspondences for feathers, shells, and other fauna with no such caution.  Laws about this are meant to protect animals from harm and ignoring them is not being a good steward of the earth.

What really impressed me, however, was Zakroff’s recognition of non-binary practitioners and her address of cisgendered heteronormativity of the Great Rite.  Having worked with non-binary clients and having a several trans friends, it was gratifying to see witchcraft being addressed in such an inclusive manner.  I’ve been seeing more of this over the last year or so, but only online.  To see the topic come up in a book from a pagan publisher is encouraging.

I will be checking out the other books in the series, with the hope that they are as intelligently and thoughtfully written as The Witch’s Cauldron.

 

Intentional Energies

” … it is important to keep in mind the Aristotelian notion that ‘nature abhors a vacuum.’ When we have emptied a space of that which once occupied it, if we aren’t intentional about how we want it refilled, we are simply leaving things up to chance. So after intentionally clearing a space, it is just as important to be intentional about the energies that will fill the area.” — Clearing Spaces, Khi Armand, p. 28

Book Review: Clearing Spaces by Khi Armand

Clearing Spaces by Khi Armand
Root work + shamanism = a useful book.

The first time I was aware of how an environment affected me was in 1994-1996. I had moved to Laramie, Wyoming to go to school. The years I was there I felt unsettled, unraveling. I eventually moved away, heading for Chicago (which presented its own environmental issues) and didn’t really connect my unease with the town. Over the next few years, whenever I would travel home to visit, stopping in Laramie to see friends, the general sense of bad energy would hit me. I eventually came to recognize that the town, for whatever reason, just doesn’t jibe with me.

I think that is one of the reasons I related so strongly with Khi Armand’s Clearing Spaces.  It is a book full of advice in recognizing and diagnosing problems in one’s environment.  Armand then offers practical advice on how to address those problems.  He acknowledges, also, that some problems might not be fixed, and that, especially when dealing with genus loci, compromise might be necessary.

What I enjoyed about the book is that Armand discusses ways to treat the environment that don’t involve feng shui.  In fact, he introduces several concepts and practices that I had never heard of before.  For example, he talks about Ho’oponopono, a Hawaiian healing technique of reconciliation.  The idea of coming to terms with your environment, rather than trying to impose your will on it, was particularly interesting to me.

The book is grounded in root work, shamanism and paganism, with an understanding of and reference to the cultures that contributed to those paths or “modalities”. This blend of various paths feels organic rather than forced in his prose.  Armand also uses the term “technology” in references to practices like smudging, feng shui and the like.  It’s a call back to past times when spells and charms were worked as practical matters alongside other, mundane activities.

The greatest benefit I got from the book, however, was the introduction to the term “helping spirits.”  For years I have worked with Turtle, but eschewed the term “spirit animal” so as to not participate in cultural appropriation.  No other terms ever encompassed what Turtle means to me, though.  But when I read “helping spirits” it was like a light clicked on in my head!  It’s not an exaggeration to say that learning this term has helped my relationship to Turtle grow and deepen over the last few months.

Finally, on a completely aesthetic note, this is one of the most attractively laid out books I’ve read in a long time.  Flipping through it felt good.  I spent some of my time reading, just looking over the pages, admiring the design.  That sort of attention to the page space is completely in keeping with the rest of the book.

 

Book Review: A Witch’s Runes by Susan Sheppard

A Witch's Runes by Susan Sheppard Cover
She had me at the witch as gentle anarchist and lost me at “gypsy”.

In my wandering and varied research for my book, I kept coming across the witch’s runes.  You can find a plethora of them on Etsy.  I was really curious as to what they were, where they came from, their provenance really.  A little digging produced the book A Witch’s Runes by Susan Sheppard.  The subtitle How to Make and Use Your Own Magick Stones was right up my research alley.  I put in my request for a copy via Inter Library Loan along with the half a bajillion other books and waited.

I want to point out from the offset that I admire what Sheppard set out to do with the book.  With certain modern pagan paths’ penchants for making up traditions out of whole cloth there a real risk to viewing anything not steeped in hundreds of years of history as somehow lesser or illegitimate when it comes to the pagan faith.  I’ve read a lot of pagan books over the last year, and there is a trend of constantly looking back.  What Sheppard does in this book is create a new divination system, somewhere between runes and Tarot cards.  It’s an ambitious objective and it has certainly paid off: her book was first published in 1998 and the idea of witch’s runes has spread.

But (and you knew there was a but coming, right?) reading through the book was an uncomfortable stroll through cultural appropriation, slurs and handfuls of generalizations thrown in for good measure.  Sheppard’s approach is summed up on page 22: “But the witch honors all of the spiritual traditions that have preceded her.  She takes what works for her and makes use of its meanings.”  This set the tone for the book.

The thing is, it didn’t have to be this way.  Late in the book, on page 96, Sheppard mentions that her “…area of discipline is astrology.”  She talks about using the runes she has created “in the place of signs and planets and it works out fine.”  Knowing this, and seeing the table at the back of the book with planet, sign and element correspondences, I could see the potential for a divination tool made incorporating the zodiac and astrology.  I don’t understand why this isn’t what she did.

The only reasoning I can come up with is that urge I pointed out earlier, to try and tie any new Pagan ideas to the past.  For each rune, Sheppard tries to tie the symbolism to various older cultures: Egyptian, Pict, Anglo-Saxon, Akkadians, Mesopotamians, and of course the ubiquitous “gypsies”.  Occasionally she touches back on her astrological background, tying the Scythe to Scorpio and the planet Pluto.  But for the most part all the runes are presented as an amalgamation of symbols drawn from mostly western cultures.

I am writing Sew Craft with an eye to avoid appropriation, generalization, and giving Western traditions more importance than the rest of the world.  It is a fine line to travel, as I am aware that I can’t see all the pitfalls I might fall in while meaning well. As I work, reading books like A Witch’s Runes keeps me mindful of respecting the history of my sources.

 

Book Announcement: Sew Craft

I’m excited to announce that Llewellyn Worldwide will be publishing my book Sew Craft: A Sewist’s Book of Shadows.  If you want to see what kind of book it will be you can read my posts on the magical properties of fabric and dream pillows.  There will be projects and rituals, as well as much of the lore and information I’ve picked up in the last year of research into magick and sewing.

From as long as I can remember I have written.  Before I could form letters or words I would scribble stories.  To finally realize my goal of getting my work published is amazing.  This project is going to consume most of my waking hours over the next few months.  Fortunately, now that summer break is over, I have more time to devote to it.

I’m not going anywhere, though.  I will still be posting here about commissions and events and whatever else pops into my head.  And I’ll be posting about the book, because eventually I’m sure that Stephan and my kids are going to get tired of me goobing over it.

A very happy Solar Eclipse to you all.  I hope it sees the start of something good for each and every one of you.

Attempting Murder

It’s All In My Head

I am done with my Jerk Brain.  For forty years I allowed it to sit in my mind, eating away at my self-esteem, mental health and happiness.  This past April, I turned forty-one and decided that I didn’t want to play host to that parasite any longer.  It’s a decision borne of annoyance and desperation, but also of weariness.  The idea that I’ll be eighty-years-old and still dealing with a voice that tells me I am fat and ugly and stupid and a waste of space is exhausting.

Evicting Jerk Brain isn’t the goal.  I’ve tried in years past to mitigate the harm it has done.  I’ve turned down the volume on its voice.  I’ve redirected its energies.  I’ve engaged in endless efforts to soften its vitriol.  All of these measures have been taken under a belief that Jerk Brain serves a purpose.  For as long as it has been with me I have treated it as my very own Jiminy Cricket—albeit an insect whose guidance owes more to a school of unwarranted cruelty rather than kind correction.

None of my previous attempts have mitigated Jerk Brain’s nastiness for long.  Always, it would convince me that ignoring all the harsh criticism was proof that I was a bad person.  Jerk Brain, it would insist, is just trying to help me become a better person and here I am, being an ungrateful, petulant child in the face of that help.  And I would capitulate, allowing a voice that most assuredly wants me to die have room again in my life.

Breaking that cycle of abuse has to start with the acceptance of one solid fact: Jerk Brain does not have my best interests at heart.  It’s an easy enough realization, harder still to embrace and use as a platform for change.  I am required to reject outright any of Jerk Brain’s comments.  More than that: I have to murder the fucker.

So I set out to come up with a plan for killing off my most intimate enemy.  I need more than self-help psychology and affirmations.  I was going to call in some spiritual help in ending the putrescent Clarence once and for all.  It was time to take my relationship with Hekate to another level.

Hexing My Jerk Brain

I’ve been working with Hekate for about a year now.  I wanted to move beyond my pagan relation to the world and into practicing witchcraft.  My practice and study have been focused on my sewing, and the book I am writing about sewing and magick.  I’ve consecrated my sewing machines, imbued my pins and needles with magical intent, and wove ritual into items I’ve made.  Beyond that, and the regular smudging of my home, I haven’t cast spells.  And yet, here I was, drawing up a plan to cover a year of regular hexing my Jerk Brain, as well as spells to build up myself, to become the person I wanted to be.

It is an ambitious undertaking for someone with little experience under her (imaginary) belt.  But that is my Jerk Brain, talking, and I’m not interested in listening.  I am a woman desperate to free her life of a poisonous toad.  What else do desperate women do, if not acts that look impossible from the outside?

Hexing is a touchy subject in pagan circles.  More than one person has brought up the “rule of three” when I started outlining my plan.  Honestly that rule has never figured into my belief.  It’s a concept that doesn’t make sense to me and I’ve never seen it in action in my life or worldview.  I’ve found that my feelings on magick, hexing and its usefulness  are in line with Seo Helrune’s in their blog post “A Witch That Cannot Hex Cannot Heal” (parts 1 and 2).  I won’t expand here what has been so eloquently put there.  Click on the links if you want to read more.  Even if I abided by the rule, if ever there was an entity that deserved hexing, it would be Jerk Brain.  It is a matter of magickal self-defense at this point.

After some research and meditation I wrote out the plan, titled “A Year and a Day” (because “How to Kill a Jerk Brain in About Thirteen Months” seemed a little wordy).  For the next year I will perform a hex on my Jerk Brain at the dark of the moon.  On the full moon there will be a more constructive ritual/spell because I need to focus on building up as well.

I cast my first hex last night.  It was a rather low-key affair.  I don’t call the quarters or invoke lords or ladies.  I don’t speak in rhyme, or out loud, even.  As an introvert pagan my spellwork happens primarily in my mind.  The focus of the spell was identifying Jerk Brain as my enemy, aided by a drawing of a blocky, snarling monster surrounded by swirls of black.  This image was burned with rue (for exorcism), flower of the hour (to heighten the speed of the spell) and a dried snapdragon husk (for its resemblance to a skull and thus the death of Jerk Brain).

The only altar image present was the Death card from my Herbal Tarot deck to amplify the change I am attempting.  Later I might add a Hekate image, to reinforce her presence.  The altar is a family affair, constantly shifting with items added or removed by any member of the household, not to mention the occasional visit by the cats who find it a perfect place to perch while looking out the window.  Because of this, I can’t really have an elaborate set up.

The whole ritual took an hour, from the start of assembling the herbs for the incense, to the end when I snuffed out the candles, made some tea and headed to bed.  This will be key to maintaining the spellwork over so many months. Anything that requires hours of preparation or participation won’t work with my schedule.

I have twelve more months to build on what I started last night.  I go into this knowing that what I have set out to do will take time.  Jerk Brain won’t be gotten rid of overnight.  It will reanimate and lurch back into my mind to harry me once again.  That’s the reason for the year long ritual.  With each month I will build on the spell, increasing its potency and deadliness.  Every time I say “You are not welcome here” and burn Jerk Brain’s image it will be easier to tell it to fuck off between spells.  Every time I call on Hekate to help me overcome my sadistic inquisitor, I will feel stronger.

Therapy is useful.  Medication helps immensely.  And where those two fall short, I have witchcraft in my arsenal.