Monday, July 14, 2014

Magic Monday, Herbal Magic

Summer and Spring are the best times to plant herbs and can also be a great time for herbal magic. There are many different types of herbs one can grow during the summer such as yarrow, lavender, basil, St. John's wort, mugwort and sage among many others. If you have a green thumb you may wish to grow your herbs from seed or you can buy already grown herbs at your local nursery. Growing from seed can sometimes be challenging but also very rewarding!

You may also wish to add some herbs/flowers to your garden that attract faeries or are good for faery magic. Herbs such as thyme, foxglove, rosemary and a rose bush are all associated with faeries and faery magic. Once you have your garden plants sorted out, call on the elemental's or the faeries to bless your garden space. Plant your magical garden and nourish your plants as they grow. Remember to leave offerings to the faeries or elemental's every so often.

Once your herbs/flowers have grown you can make magical herb sachets with them. If you are not able to have an herb garden, you may purchase dried herbs from any reputable source. If you choose to do the latter, make sure to bless your herbs before you do any magical workings with them. This will cleanse them of any energies other than your own.

Magical Herb Sachet

What you will need:

One small sachet of any color (lavender for peace, green for money, pink for love, white for protection or any color you have on hand)

Herbs you can use:

Lavender - peace and calmness. Induces sleep and peaceful dreams. Can also be used in a tea with chamomile for a feeling of tranquility. Lavender is also good for purification and love.

Yarrow - used for divination, prophetic dreams, love and psychic abilities. Yarrow can be added to a dream pillow along with lavender and mugwort for dream divination.

Basil - used for good fortune and money magic. Place a basil leaf in your wallet to attract money to you. Basil is also used in love spells.

Mugwort - used for protection, divination and dreams. Mugwort can be used with sage to make smudge sticks for cleansing a sacred space. Mugwort is also associated with travel and can be placed in your car for protection.

Thyme - enables one to see faeries. Sprinkling thyme in front of your doorstep will invite faeries into your home. Thyme can be used to cleanse a sacred space. It's also good for increasing ones courage and can be used in a dream pillow to prevent nightmares.

Rose - a rose plant will attract faeries to your garden. Roses are good for love, happiness and protection for the evil eye.

St. John's Wort - a summer herb used at the summer solstice. Used for divination, love, healing and invincibility. St. John's wort is also used for protection against faery magic. This ancient herb has been used for centuries for healing and is also said to be associated with women's mysteries.

You may choose to use some or all of these herbs in your magical sachet. Grind your herbs down and mix them together, then place them in your sachet. Bless your magical sachet in your garden or at your altar. Ask your deity or the faeries to bless your herb sachet with whatever magical purpose you are using it for. Place your sachet in your purse, car, altar, garden, hanging over your door or over your bed. You may also wish to substitute essential oils for any herbs you might not have and you can also add crystals to your sachet for extra power.

Have fun making your Summer magic herb sachets with the faeries!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Kupala, Slavic Goddess of Water and Summer

Kupala is the Slavic goddess of water and is associated with springs and rivers. Her name translates to mean "to bathe" as her worshipers would honor her by bathing in rivers. Kupala was also associated with herbs, fertility and sorcery. Her sacred trees and flowers were ferns, birch wood and wildflowers.

Kupala was honored during the Summer Solstice where her worshipers would throw flowers in the rivers in her honor. They would then bathe in the rivers as a ritual of purification. Fire was also honored at this time as the two elements, fire and water, were both seen as purifying. Big bonfires were constructed in honor of Kupala and people would jump over them or dance around them in her celebration. Also at the Summer Solstice and effigy of the goddess was made from straw and was either burned in the fires or thrown in the rivers until next summer.

On the day of midsummer people would go out in the morning and walk amongst the morning dew in the grass while gathering herbs. Or it is said that they would leave a rag outside the night before to collect the morning dew and then would bathe in it. Women would gather wildflowers, herbs and ferns to make wreaths which they wore in their hair.  Herbs in honor of Kupala were also used to help with magical visions on the night of the summer solstice.

The male aspect of Kupala is known as Kupalo and he was also honored around the Summer Solstice in the Christianized festival of St. John the Baptiste. This festival, known as Ivana Kupala, is still celebrated to this day in Russia. This modern celebration is still honored as it was in ancient times. Bonfires, song and dance, ritual to the deities of summer and and effigy of the goddess is constructed, burned and then buried. Garlands made from Kupala's sacred herbs are made, candles are put in the center and then they are put in the rivers to float downstream.

To honor this ancient goddess of purification, throw some flowers into a river or spring. Or throw some in your bathtub at home and then bathe in it to purify yourself in Kupala's magic. You may also put a rag outside at night and collect it in the early hours of the morning and bathe in the dew of Kupala. Fertility rites and summer magic can also be held in her honor. Gather wildflowers, ferns and herbs to make a wreath to wear in your hair.

Picture courtesy of Ivana Kupala Day

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Durga, Divine Mother of India

Durga is one of the incarnations of Devi or the original Mother Goddess in Hinduism. She represents the power of the Supreme Being and stands for righteousness. She protects mankind from evil by destroying evil forces such as jealousy, hate, greed, anger and arrogance. She is depicted as a warrior woman with eight arms and rides a tiger or lion. In each hand she carries different symbols such as a conch, sword, lotus flower, bow, and a trident among other things.

The lion she rides symbolizes uncontrolled animal-like tendencies such as anger, selfishness, jealousy and hate. By her sitting on top of the lion she represents the ability to tame and control those tendencies that all beings have. Durga represents pure positive energy or divine light and is the embodiment of divine feminine energy. She is seen as the Divine Shakti or powerful female force and is the primary deity in Shaktism.

The story of Durga says that she was born fully grown and created from the flames which came from the mouth of  the Gods in heaven. She was created so that she could destroy a buffalo-demon named Mahisasura. This fierce demon was said to be terrorizing the Gods in heaven and the men on earth. Durga was given an army of Gods to fight with her and a lion upon which to ride and was sent to kill Mahisasura.

Her festival, Navrati, or Nine Divine Nights, is celebrated for nine days and takes place around October during the harvest. During this festival the nine aspects of Durga or Navadurga are meditated upon one by one. Another celebration that is honored is Durga puja which takes place for five days annually. During this festival the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahisasura is celebrated which represents the victory of good over evil.

To pray to Durga here are some mantras in her honor:  Om Sri Durgaya Namah
It is said that by chanting this mantra daily the Mother Durga will remove all obstacles from our lives. Another mantra is Om Hreeng Dung Durgaayai Namah. It is said that chanting this mantra will bring you success in all areas of life.

Jai Maa Durga! (Victory to the Mother!)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Medusa, Ancient Snake Goddess

Medusa is said to be an ancient deity and was originally known as a snake goddess. She was worshiped as a dark goddess in ancient Libya and was seen as a three-fold snake deity. She is known to be a gorgon who were said to be scaled and winged female monsters. In Greek myth she was the only mortal of three sisters and daughter to Phorcys and Ceto, who were chthonic monsters from an archaic world. Medusa was mother to the winged-horse Pegasus and the giant Khrysaor.

In classical Greek myth Medusa was a mortal priestess of the goddess Athena. She was said to be beautiful with long blonde, luscious locks of hair. As a priestess of Athena, Medusa had to pledge her celibacy and herself solely to the honor of the goddess. Although the god of the sea, Poseidon, took a strong liking to Medusa and ravaged her in Athena's temple thereby taking her sacred vows away from her. The goddess Athena upon hearing this became enraged with Medusa so she turned her into a terrible monster with snakes to replace her beautiful tresses.

If Medusa was looked upon by anyone, her gaze would turn them into stone. Athena instructs the hero Perseus to kill Medusa so he finds Medusa and decapitates her. When she is beheaded, her children Pegasus and
Khrysaor spring forth from her blood. Although Medusa has been killed, her head still has the power to turn men into stone even in death. Perseus uses it as a weapon to turn some of his enemies into stone, then gives it to Athena who puts it onto her shield. It is said that blood dripped from Medusa's head in the Libyan desert in which created many venomous snakes. This is said to be the cause of the many venomous snakes in Africa.

It is said that the reason that Athena punished Medusa so severely is because she and Poseidon were long time rivals. Some think that Medusa represents the destructive aspect of Athena. Other sources say that Medusa won a beauty contest over Athena which made Athena jealous. It seems to me that these myths are highly in favor of the male forces at play. Women turning against one another and a woman being punished for being raped. Sounds a little too patriarchal for my taste.

There are many messages within this myth. Some say that Medusa became more powerful in death than in life as her head still held it's power to turn man into stone and the ability to create life with her blood.  Some feminist groups today say that Medusa's head is a symbol of feminine rage. And that her head turning man into stone represents her warning to stay away since she was raped.  In classical antiquity the image of Medusa's head was used as an evil-averting, protection symbol.

Picture courtesy of Gaks Designs

Monday, May 26, 2014

My Experience at the Ashram

Entrance to the Ashram

Some of you may know that this past weekend I stayed at the Yoga Shakti ashram in Palm Bay, Florida for about three days. My experience can be described as spiritual, eye-opening and unforgettable. Although even those words will not do it justice. Sometimes it's hard to put a spiritual type of experience into words because you are dealing with feelings, energy and higher levels of living. What I can say though that as soon as I left to come back home my energy levels immediately dropped very low and I honestly didn't realize how high my energy level was while there.

I arrived on Friday afternoon and was greeted by the lovely family that runs the ashram. The ashram is seated in the middle of a forest on about 20 acres of land. There were different cottage-like houses on the property along with the screened pavilion where yoga was done any many of us slept. It was not glamorous living by any stretch of the imagination and even though I love that, it's not for everybody. I slept on my yoga mat on the floor of the pavilion with a lite blanket. Showers in the morning had to be quick as we were all sharing and we only had about 45 minutes to get ready in the morning. No shaving my legs or styling my hair and of course no makeup! :) The days were hot and the only place that had A/C was the temple which thankfully we were in much of the time. Surprisingly the nights cooled up quite a bit and I was grateful for that since I was sleeping in the screened pavilion. 

Statue of Ganesha in the Pavilion

Each morning we were woken up at 5:00am for morning meditation and prayer. The first morning we were awoken by someone playing a flute and the second morning the guru walked around the ashram reciting a chant that we had all learned the previous night. If any of you know the morning and evening Hindu prayers, they are very long and they're in Sanskrit so it was hard to follow along in the beginning. After that we had an hour yoga class taught by the guru. Throughout the day the guru taught us some of the Upanishads which are a collection of Vedic texts. Basically Hindu philosophy.

The philosophy behind what Hindus believe and practice rings the most true for me. Even though I do consider myself to be Pagan, Hindu philosophy is the most correct in my opinion. They believe that God (or Goddess for some of us) lives inside you and we all have the ability to connect with our higher selves through meditation and basic self awareness. To
understand and fully accept who you really are and to love yourself. I have always been of this mindset but didn't truly understand it until now. Many of us (myself included) search for external sources to satisfy us like material things or new careers or even love. What we need to understand is that what will fulfill us the most is looking on the inside to satisfy our needs. If you feel full and happy on the inside you will no longer need to keep searching for all the many external factors to satisfy yourself.
Statue of Krishna and Radha in the Temple

After lunch sometimes we had free time for a bit so I either walked the property or wrote in my journal. In the evening we had another session of the Upanishads and we learned some chanting as well as other meditation type exercises. We were sent to bed at 9:30 and lights were out. On my second night there after our nightly lecture from the guru, we were all given an exercise in silence and from 9:30 that night until we arrived for morning meditation the next day we were not supposed to talk at all. Even though I'm naturally a quite person, this was a little harder than I expected!

Statue of the Goddess Durga in the Temple
The family and others cooked every meal for us which was amazing. They grew much of their own own vegetables and herbs on the property so everything was organic and very pure. Every meal was vegan and incredibly delicious and satisfying. I'm vegan normally as well but I still noticed a difference in the food because it was so incredibly pure. While I was there I felt so lite like if I jumped too high I might float up into the clouds. You can feel the energy just buzzing around that place. It's palpable and I instantly felt a big shift in my energy the moment I drove off the property. I wanted to go back! I will go back at another time for sure.

I had never encountered a guru in my life so this was quite a different experience for me. They are strict so as to teach you discipline but you have to understand that it's nothing personal. I had a hard time with this at first but I understood why and now I totally respect it.  They are there to teach you and they are highly respected, revered and even worshiped people. Guru's are filled with knowledge and experience and they can literally see right thru you with no problem. They can be seen as being psychic even but I think it's just an extreme awareness to be able to see people for who they really are, and they will not hesitate to call you out on it.

I enjoyed my time at the ashram immensely and I can honestly say that this experience has changed my life in ways I still don't understand. All I know for sure is that this is something I will be experiencing more as it's left it's mark on my soul.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Nine Muses, Goddesses of Inspiration

The Muses in Greek mythology consisted of nine goddesses that were known to give inspiration to those partaking in creative endeavors. They were known to rule over music, dance, poetry, artistry, science, mathematics, astronomy and drama. The Muses are daughters of Zeus, Father of the Gods, and Mnemosyne, Goddess of memory. In Greek myth it is said that Zeus laid with Mnemosyne for nine nights and a year later she gave birth to nine daughters who were known for their creative talents and gift of song.

In myth the Muses were sometimes referred to as water nymphs as they were associated with four sacred springs. The Muses were said not to care about human affairs but were immersed in all ways of creativity. Their main cult center was located at Mount Helicon in Boeotia, Greece. A festival was celebrated in their honor every four years at Thespiae (near Helicon) in which much singing and dancing took place. 

The Muses gave inspiration to many poets and philosophers. They were said to usually be invoked prior to any kind of creative activity. It is said that the Muses inspired Hesiod to write his epic poem the Theogony.

Below is a list of each of the Muses along with their correspondences.

Kleio - Muse of history. Her name in Greek means "to celebrate" or "famous". She is often depicted carrying a scroll or sitting next to a chest of books

Kalliope - Muse of epic poetry. Her name in Greek means "beautiful-voiced". She was said to also be a Goddess of eloquence and wisdom. Kalliope was depicted carrying a writing tablet or a book.

Erato - Muse of lyric poetry especially known for her love and erotic poetry. Her name means "lovely" or "beloved". She is depicted wearing a wreath made from myrtle and roses and holding a lyre.

Euterpe - Muse of music. She was the Goddess that performed for the Gods on Mount Olympus. Her name means "the giver of much delight" and she is depicted playing or often holding a flute.

Melpomene - Muse of tragedy or drama. Her name means "to celebrate with dance and song". She is depicted wearing a tragic mask and wearing the boots that those types of actors wore.

Polyhymnia - Muse of sacred poetry and sacred hymn. Her name can mean "praise" or "hymn". She is depicted as being in very serious thought while holding a finger to her mouth.

Terpsikhore - Muse of dance. Her name means "delight in dancing". She is depicted sitting or standing while holding a lyre.

Thalia - Muse of comedy and idyllic poetry. Her name means "rich festivity" or "blooming". She is depicted wearing a crown of ivy and wearing a comic mask.

Urania - Muse of astronomy. Her name means "heavenly" or "of heaven". Urania can tell the future by the arrangement of the stars. She is depicted wearing a cloak embroidered with the stars while pointing to a celestial globe.

Artist ~ Andrea Mantegna - Parnassus

Monday, May 5, 2014

Magic Monday, Oneiromancy

Oneiromancy is the art of dream-work or dream divination. It is an ancient practice dating back many thousands of years and was used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Maltese and other ancient cultures. In ancient Malta people would visit the Hypogeum which was an underground chamber where they would sleep in the presence of the goddess in order to receive divine answers through dreams.  This is known as dream incubation and was also practiced in Ancient Greece at the Oracle of Delphi. The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were said to have scribes interpret their dreams for prophecies.

To practice the art of dream divination all one needs is sleep, a dream journal and a comfortable bed. Although adding other items can also help make your dreams a little more magical. If you do not already do so, get in the habit of keeping a dream journal. This can be any kind of journal, it doesn't have to be anything fancy. Just something to write your dreams down in daily. This should be done soon after you wake up so you do not forget important details. Keeping a dream journal will also help you to notice any patterns within your dreams and will therefore help your divination.

You can choose to invoke or not invoke your deity of choice for your dream divination as well. Setting up a shrine and doing some meditation before bed may also be an option. A nice hot, aromatic bath is also a nice way to relax your body and mind before bed. You may also choose to pull a card from a tarot deck and place the card under your pillow. Make sure to closely study your card right before you close your eyes so as to get a lasting image of the card in your mind.

Once you have completed any activities beforehand like setting up a shrine or taking a bath, make sure your bed is set up as you normally would. Your dream journal should be next to your bed with a pen so it will be ready for the you in the morning. Now cleanse your area with a smudge stick or incense or you may even wish to chant something. Get into bed and make yourself comfortable. Now is the time to invoke a deity of your choice or focus on a tarot card that you pulled. Now fall asleep as you normally would.

When you awake in the morning write down your dream as much as you can remember and if you had multiple dreams. Sometimes things may come to you throughout the day as well, write those down too. Try to think about the meaning of your dream as it relates to the particular answer you are seeking. Sometimes if we do not get the answer right away come back to the dream in your journal a day later and see it something clicks. You can also perform the divination again.

Wishing everyone magical dreams!
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