Chinese Whispers and Black Salt

In this modern age where everyone is offering magical advice, how do you know what is genuine and what has fallen victim of what I classify as “Chinese Whispers Syndrome” (a childhood game where a “secret” was whispered to one person who then whispered it to another which went around the circle to the last person who would vocalised the “secret” hoping it would reflect the original whisper). This year (probably reflecting the global situations and increase in social media usage), I have noticed an increasing about of “sage advice” about magical practices or techniques often gleamed from other spiritual traditions being incorporated into witchcraft practices. While I personally have not issues with adapting such magical practices or techniques, after all this is what my style of contemporary witchcraft is about, my issue is where the adaption is based on a lack of knowledge and understanding of the original magical practice or technique. I will use “black salt” as an example.

In a number of folk magic traditions, black salt (also known as “Sal Negro” and “Drive Away Salt” and should not be confused with the Indian black salt which is a mineral salt used for cooking) is a special salt blend used to drive away evil. It can be sprinkled around your property to keep your home safe from intruders or troublemakers, and even sprinkled in the footprints of someone who is bothering you, to make them go away.

Black salt can also be placed in closets and dark corners in a room to drive away evil or negative spirits. You can even sprinkle it on the floor and then sweep the salt out through the front door for a cleansing of your home or apartment. This protective salt can be added to witch’s bottles and alternatively, sprinkled in a circle around the perimeter of your house for protection, to banish evil and also to cleanse from any negativity.

More traditional recipes instruct that black salt includes salt (preferably sea salt), scrapings from a cast iron skillet or pot, ash from your fire pit (ritual fire), maybe some herbs (such as black pepper) and even powered black food colouring (although black salt is not necessarily black in colour). These ingredients are blended during certain phases of the moon and have specific chants and prayers recited over them for a period of time.

Modern alternatives to making black salt include adding additional protective herbs and even essential oils to the mix, such as rosemary (protection from harmful people or toxic relationships), cayenne pepper (dispel anger or toxic relationships), cinnamon (protection from a broken heart or pain in a romantic relationship) or even lavender (to block invisible ickiness).

I recently came across someone advising their followers to make black salt from Himalayan salt and the left over ashes from burnt incense sticks. This advice I personally consider to be a prime example of “Chinese Whispers Syndrome” in that while Himalayan salt does offer protection, this is more commonly during astral travel or when spiritually travelling between worlds as opposed to protecting your physical space. Sea salt on the other hand is used in purification and cleansing baths, as well as to help release and cleanse negative feelings. Further, I question the use of burnt incense ash as this has little if anything to do with ritual fire ashes or cast iron scrapings.

In this modern age, anything appears to go. While this may be true to a certain level, when you are making products or utilising practices or techniques that come from other spiritual traditions, ensure that you actually have some knowledge of what is required to ensure your success.

Using Magical Condition Oils

Within specific traditions, “Condition Oils” are specifically crafted oils that are used to dress candles, anoint the body, anoint magical or spiritual tools used within rituals and ceremonies, as well as added to baths and even floor washes.  These oils are usually made from a base oil to which specific herbs, roots, flowers and other curios are added.

If the oils are added to the body, then they are more commonly applied to pulse points, or a specific body part. They should not however been taken internally – unless, of course, the maker specifically advises they are safe to do so.

When it comes to dressing candles, it is generally considered that if you wish to draw some thing or situation to you, that you rub the candle oil from the base to the top of the candle. this is so when the candle burns, it burns towards you. If you wish to remove something from you, then the candle is dressed from the top down to the base.

Condition Oils also are believed to add power to petitions. In this case, five dots of oil are placed in the corners of a piece of paper upon which the petition is written or drawn upon, with the fifth dot in the centre. The petition is then either burnt or a candle of appropriate corresponding colour is placed on top of the petition and then burnt.

Some Condition Oils, such as the Fiery Protection Oil (which is for sale through the LunaNoire Creations store), are made to steep over a period of time during which special prayers are chanted to add further power to the oil.

The Magic of Cloth

The tradition of making offerings at wishing trees and wells dates back hundreds of years, and can be found all over the world in different forms. In Scotland, Ireland and England, it is common to see pieces of cloth or rag tied to branches of a tree that is often growing besides a well. These are known as “Clootie Wells” and the cloth tied to its branches are done so in the hope of having an illness cured.

“Clootie” comes from the Scots meaning “cloth”. It refers to pieces of cloth (a cloot) that is generally dipped in the water of the holy well and then tied to a branch while a prayer of supplication is said to the spirit of the well. As the rag disintegrates over time, the ailment is supposed to fade away as well.

This tradition dates far back into pre-Christian times, when it was believed a goddess or local nature spirit inhabited the well, with special powers of healing. With the arrival of Christianity, local churches began to associate themselves with the holy wells, and the ceremonies began to be overseen by the local priests or saints.

At one point in 1581, during the Protestant Reformation, making pilgrimage to holy wells was made illegal, but the practice has not stopped. The problem today is that many of the offerings being left by people are actually made from modern synthetic materials that will never rot away, and in turn impacts upon the environment.

Similar practices are found all around the world, such as the Buddhist tradition of prayer flags. Specific prayers and mantras are printed onto these colourful pieces of cloth which are then hung. Just like the Scottish clootie, the Buddhist prayer flags are left exposed to the elements (usually in a windy place), it is believed that the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space.

Combining the beliefs behind both the clootie and Buddhist prayer flags, together with an assortment of esoteric, magical and even metaphysical techniques, I will be hosting a workshop on The Magick of Cloth Offerings on Sunday, 22 November 2020 where we will be making our own set of cloth offerings.

Bookings are essential and can be made here.

O Hail the Red Planet

According to local stargazer, Paul ‘Starman’ Curnow (lecturer at the Adelaide Planetarium), the red planet Mars will be putting on a bit of a show over coming weeks. At least for those of you that have access to a telescope. The best time to view Mars will be from around 9:30pm (ACST) onwards (towards the east) in order to give it time to rise above the hills, trees, or any buildings that may obscure your view to the horizon.

On Tuesday, 6 October 2020, Mars will be at its closest point to the earth at 14.10 GMT. It will come within about 62-million kilometres of the earth and therefore it will be a great opportunity to have a closer view of the planet. This distance may sound a lot, but this is quite close in planetary terms. The Earth and Mars only make close approaches about every two years, which is why a flotilla of spacecraft are being sent off during these times.

If you do not have a telescope, you can still venture outside and do a bit of star gazing as Mars will be able to be seen from with the naked eye, especially when combined with the dark skies of Australia.

The ancient Egyptians referred to Mars as Her Descher, which basically means ‘very red’. Mars is the same planet named by the Romans after their god of war, as well as an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was the son of Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army.

Based on an ancient prayer to Mars, the above is one that I have written for use when calling upon Mars to lead you his strength and courage.

Contemporary Witchcraft – Pre-orders now being taken

I am delighted to be able to advise that pre-orders for my forthcoming book, Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life, will open on Saturday, 5 September 2020, with physical copies expected to be received by the end of the month.

Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life aims to set the series of foundational practices that will benefit any neophyte (beginner) interested in contemporary witchcraft (initiatory Wicca) or to magick in general. As I explain, how you design and build your practice is entirely up to you however with solid understanding of some foundational practices, you can be assured that you are effectively set for life, regardless of where your own path takes you.

 My initial instruction into contemporary witchcraft not only focused on the practical application of ritual and magick, but also the “behind the scenes” information, providing an insight into the psychological changes, as well as what is actually happening on the astral level. It is this understanding that enabled me to gain a stronger belief in the magical work that I was undertaking – a belief that also proved to be most beneficial during dark nights of the soul, the times of doubt when the logical mind saw me questioning what I had been dedicating much of my adult life to. 

Times may have changed, as have the needs and desires of people, and whilst spiritual practices also have changed, this does not necessarily mean that all of the original vision Gardner had is outdated and needs to be discarded. As the saying goes, we do not have to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. When it comes to magick, there are still aspects and techniques that simply can only be learnt over time through the practice of the magical art. Such things cannot really be taught through the pages of a book or the internet. There are other aspects of magick that are best taught under physical instruction of a trained practitioner as opposed to a handful of inexperienced novices boasting about their alleged successes.

You can pre-order your early release copy of Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life here for only $35 (includes postage within Australia).

The actual release date for Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life is not until July 2021.

The Power of Words

My initial magical training included a number of timeless pearls that I believe still hold relevance today, one of them being the power (or energy) that words have. This belief in the power of words is not one that has been wrapped up in ancient esoteric secrecy that is only disclosed through appropriate hereditary initiations, nor has it been randomly plucked out of all obscurity. All throughout history, the power of word (or language) has been evident, being one of the first things targeted by an invading power (ie, where the conquered is forced to forego their language and adopt that of the conqueror).

In various metaphysical, neuro-linguistic and even new age teachings, students are instructed on the “power of words” and how they shape our perception of things including ourselves. Within the various magical communities it is the carefully chosen words that crafts the spell in order to achieve a desired goal, or expresses our devotion and requests to the Gods.

Even beyond the magical, mystical and metaphysical realms, most of us know the power of words – from a young age we are encouraged to believe that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”.

Why then, are seekers of the Craft insisting on calling themselves “baby witches”?

Apparently this is not a new phenomenon despite me only first coming across someone (an adult) referring themselves as such a month or so ago (clearly I live under a rock). However, since a recent TikTok incident where so-called “baby witches” attempted to “curse” the moon, social media and blogs have go overboard.

Now, I don’t watch TikTok so have no real interest in whether the moon got “cursed” or not, not I have the energy to invest in ascertaining any logic as to why someone would attempt to do that is in the first place, what is getting my goat is the phrase “baby witch”.

There have been some popular bloggers who have openly stated that to call a seeker or novice a “baby witch” is rather insulting because we all had to start somewhere. However, the only people I have come across calling anyone “baby witches” are novices or seekers themselves. And it is this use of the phrase that, for the life of me, I don’t understand.

When I was starting to take my first steps on the path that eventually evolved into contemporary witchcraft, I was a “seeker” for I was seeking knowledge, experience, the answers to my endless questions, and possibly a teacher/guide. I was also a “novice” as I was still relatively inexperienced when it came to the art of magic and the Craft. Another word that was used was that of being a “neophyte”, again referring to someone new and starting out on the path.

The word “baby” conjures up impressions of an infant, someone helpless and totally reliant upon others (adults). Babies are incapable of acting on their own behalf, are unaware of things that are potentially dangerous due to their inexperience with the concept of harm, not to mention having an intellectual awareness of fully understanding what is going on around them.

While calling yourself a “baby witch” may sound cute, it also implies the avoidance of taking responsibility, and that you are simply absorbing whatever you are being told without displaying and discernment about your own education, needs, and desires. The negative use is further highlighted when compared to the term “novice” where the latter, implies having full autonomy of your spiritual path and the direction you wish to follow.

In my forthcoming book, Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life, I explain that one of the underlying aspects of this spiritual path is that “it calls upon its followers to engage in active participation as opposed to being merely spectators; and where each individual is ultimately responsible for the development of their own spiritual journey.”

How responsible are you prepared to be when it comes to your own spiritual and magical path?

Ebbing and Flowing with COVID-19

Only last week I was delighted to announce a couple of forthcoming events that I would be running at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre – one to celebrate the gateway of spring, Imbolc, on 1 August 2020, and the second was to celebrate and honour the Goddess of the Crossroads, Hekate, on 15 August 2020. Due the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the border in Victoria, and the increasing risk of a potential resurgence here in South Australia, I have now decided to:

Cancel the Imbolc event at Riverdell Spiritual Centre altogether with much regret. If you have already booked through Riverdell, please contact them for a full refund.

The A Day with Hekate event will still remain at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre. Bookings are essential as there will be a strictly limited number of places available. Details of how you book your place can be found here.

At this stage, the August Gathering Around the Cauldron will also still be going ahead on Thursday, 6 August 2020. Booking are essential as due to social distancing observances, there are only a limited number of places being made available. You can book you place here.

The Power of a Witch’s Healing

These days there are numerous forms of healing, both orthodox as well as alternative, and it is within this latter category where witches most often work, in particular in the area of spiritual healing.

It never ceases to amaze me the power of the collective group (ie, such as a coven) when we are all focused on a single topic. I recall an occurrence a few years ago when a coven member arrived for our regular meetup feeling under the weather. They stated that they were suffering from a lack of energy, not to mention other ailments for which orthodox medical advice had been sought. Yet nothing seemed to be working.

As part of the work we do is that of healing, during our ritual energy was directed to our coven member … and so powerful was the chant that even today I still vividly remember half expecting to find the member in question flattened against the wall (as in the movies).

They declared the next day that they had woken up filled with energy and ready to take on the world again, and it was the most alive that they have felt in a while. Further, that the discomfort and other effects of what they had been experiencing appeared to have ceased. We joked about what they would tell their doctor at the follow up appointment.

Healing is one of those skills that whilst we readily give to others, we tend to forget about ourselves … there is an old saying of “healer – heal thy self” … meaning that before we can heal others, we need to make sure that we are in fact in tiptop condition.

Asking for energy, for healing from coveners who we work with on a regular basis and who we perceive as members of our “magical” family should never be considered as a hindrance. For there will be times that each of us will need a little help from our magical brothers and sisters – especially these days as there seems to be an increasing amount of negativity circling (regardless of whether it is intentional or not).

In any case, the following song from Joe Cocker certainly comes to mind.

Blessings, Frances

A Witch’s Familiar

In European folklore and folk-belief from the Medieval and Early Modern periods, witches and cunning folk were believed to assisted by certain supernatural entities that were known as “familiars”. These spirits would appear in numerous guises, including as in a humanoid figure, but more commonly as an animal. When they served cunning folk, familiars were often thought to be somewhat benevolent, however when they were in the service of witches, familiars were considered to be rather malevolent.

The role of the familiar is the topic that will be discussed during the July Gathering Around the Cauldron which will be taking place in the format of a Zoom call on Thursday, 2 July 2020 at 7pm ACST.

If you would like to participate, you will need to register through Paypal in order to receive the Zoom meeting code. The meeting cost is $10 AUD.

Alternatively, you can email our High Priestess for the appropriate bank account details. Your payment must be received by 1 July 2020.

All participants will be receive a detailed fact sheet about the topic as well as go into the draw to win a prize.

Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere

The timing of the winter solstice is marked when the sun reaches its furthest north position in the sky and starts to move back towards the south.  As it does, it marks one of the main turning points in the year, the others being the equinoxes as well as the summer solstice (that occurs in December).  The timing for the winter solstice this year is today, Sunday, 21 June at 7:13 am (ACST time).  From this moment onwards, days start becoming longer and night times shorter.  However with the worse of the winter weather yet to arrive, this thought is not often the first that comes to mind.

In ancient Europe the winter solstice (the timing of which in the Northern Hemisphere takes place in December) was seen as a time of celebration.  The Romans had a week-long celebration called Saturnalia during which all wars had to stop and courts did not try criminals.  Later this festival became Dies Natalis of Sol Invicti, or the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, celebrated on 25 December each year.

Within the mythos contained within contemporary witchcraft, this is the time when the God is reborn and emerges from the Underworld, where he passed into at Samhain.  His rebirth will bring warmth and fertility back to the land. 

The eve of the winter solstice, however, belongs to the Goddess who is likened to a hibernating animal, residing deep within the Underworld as she readies herself for the pending birth of her son.  The child conceived at the festival of Bealtaine, which marks the commencement of summer, is about to be born. This birth is also the sign that life is about the return to the earth once again after many bleak months of winter.  Just as she labours to bring forth her son, the “Child of Promise”, the young hero, we also wait with much anticipation for the sun to appear.  The rebirth of the sun confirms that darkness will be overcome by light and we step into the waxing half of the year. We are reborn. The year is new.

The following “Solstice Prayer” by Thorn Coyle reflects the anticipation of waiting for the first rays of the sun to appear over the horizon:

We wait in the dark for the light to appear,
Mother, give birth to our brother the Sun.
We wait in the dark for the light to appear,
Mother, give birth to our brother the Sun!
We wait. We watch.
Out of the cold comes the promise of newness.
We wait. We watch.
Out of the cold comes the promise of day!

The Child of Promise is the new sun, which is small and weak at this time of the year, but will grow stronger as the sacred Wheel of the Year turns.  As such, the winter solstice is a time for celebrating new beginnings and to focus on what you wish to bring into your life.

Sources: Sydney Observatory