What is an herb?
noted and I also mean trees and fungus.
More than kitchen witchery
Herbal Alchemy Series
What is an herb?
There is, in the witchcraft community specifically, a difference in meaning of the word herb between one witch and the next. Some will call herbs much the same way mainstream shops and gardeners do - those plants grown and used in the kitchen among the spices. Others will use the word herb when talking about only medicinal plants that are not trees or ornamental flowers. Some practitioners mean a certain part of the plant - usually the leaves or flowers - are the herb. Still others, like myself, will use the term herb when referring to all plants and plant parts used in medicine, food and magick. This last usage is more general and may be confusing to some but I find it the easiest use and most practical. Also, when I say herb I mean the whole plant unless otherwise
noted and I also mean trees and fungus.
More than kitchen witchery
Herb magick is for more than hedge and kitchen witches to use in steamy kitchens and green gardens. Herbs are used by witches of all walks and faiths from Hermetic sorcerers to Hoodoo priestesses. Herbs are in the incense you burn at ritual or meditation, in the essential oils you perfume yourself with, in soaps used in ritual cleansing, in candles burned on altars, in the cakes and ale you use in offering. Once you see the vast ways herbs are used in your life and in your magick, it will be hard to ignore their power and even harder to not use them all the more.
Herbal Alchemy Series
It is my hope to create a series of posts regarding the use of herbs in magick whether for ritual, healing, or just to bring a little magick into your everyday life. I hope you enjoy these posts and find them beneficial.
"Commitment handfasts us to the object of that commitment, and like a marriage it requires regular attendance and attention. For example, we cannot claim to be committed to a lover unless he or she can depend on us when we're needed. Similarly, one cannot claim devotion to a spiritual practice or path honored only on solstices, Sundays, or Sabbats...spiritually speaking, commitment is the full consignment of the magickal self - with no provision for default, no requirement for success, and no room for regret."
Commitment by Jesse Wolf Hardin in Cakes & Ale for the Pagan Soul
Church is Full on Holidays
I read this editorial in Cakes & Ale the other day and it struck home, hard. Recently I've made a strong connection with Frigga and her presence in my life has been one that does not allow conditional devotion. This queen is an all-or-nothing kind of gal and my experiences with her have led me to think on my past experiences as a pagan and how I and other spiritually minded people of all faiths that I have met treat the divine, devotion, and our path.
Most pagans I know consider themselves more spiritually minded than most Christians they know. I have heard many disdainful remarks towards Christians who seem to only live their faith on Sundays or, worse, on Christmas and Easter. To be fair, I've heard similar remarks from Christians themselves and, actually, there is some truth in it. What I feel should also be pointed out is that many pagans also fall into this category - mouthing and dancing along to known practices only on the Sabbats or only on the full moon. I see a lot of witches talking about spells and the craft but very few really living it beyond the pagan chat rooms or monthly/bi-monthly meetups.
Apprehension & Service
I will say that not all witches are religious or spiritual - some only practice the craft and have no divine ties to their work. Good for them. This post is about those who follow a religion, especially those with a Matron/Patron deity that they honor, worship, and/or serve.
Some pagans absolutely HATE it when I mention servitude in regards to deity and witchcraft. This brings about ideas of submission, Christian ideals, and entrapment. Some pagans go so far as to say that the gods have no interest at all in servants and to suggest so or even go so far as discuss god-slaves is blasphemy. Others argue that the gods have no need of servants, that they can easily do whatever it is that they want doing on this plane without aid of humans.
You might be asking, what the hell does commitment, Frigga, and devotion have to do with servitude and wondering why I am getting off on a tangent.
Before I go further, I do want to say that whatever way you practice your craft and faith is your own business and no one, including me, has a right to tell you how to do it. I only want to point out a few things that I observe and my opinions and feelings on them.
While no deity has any interest in forcing a human to do something for them, I have learned in my experiences and in reading and talking to other pagans that have experienced divine presences, that they do have tasks they desire humans to perform for them on this earthly plane. I won't attempt to speculate much on whether or not the divine could do this themselves - I don't think one should risk the divine proving them wrong - but it does seem that there are some duties and tasks they would prefer we do instead.
In Christianity, God charges His followers to perform duties that include telling others of Him, charitable works, healing, and more. Perhaps it is the similarity to the Christian faith that many pagans are trying to avoid when they say that their gods have no need of servants or tasks performed here.
In my experience and reading, the Christian God doesn't seem to hold the corner market on asking/telling humans what they need to do. In fact, its not just the divine that does this but also our guardians and guides.
A few years ago, i was led by spirit and a couple of my guides to learn Reiki and Sekhmet Sekhem in order to heal some people I know as well as myself. I didn't have an interest in Reiki or energy healing before but I did was I was inspired to do and ended up needed this hands-on healing many times sense even though I don't advertise my ability to do it.
Recently, this divine urging has come from Frigga. I won't go into detail as to what all has happened with her but I will say that part of it was a quick request from me for her to look over a woman and her baby who was in NICU. She said I would have to do some work in order to get that aid.
Part of the committment to the divine is doing things we aren't gung ho for and another part is understanding that there is a give and take. Some consider this keeping the universe in balance, others believe that the gods, like humans, simply aren't always interested in doing something for nothing.
So I had to add my own work into her blessing by creating a physical item for her to work through in the life of this woman and child. I later came to understand that, because the woman was not a follower or believer in Frigga, she needed something to connect her with them when the circumstances would otherwise involve prayer, belief, and intention on the part of someone else.
Hands of Gods
Just a random question to pagans who think that the divine has no need for us to perform tasks - why in the world would they 1) help us at all and 2) would we leave offerings to them when we ask for aid? Just curious, what's your thoughts?
What I think: Sometimes the divine needs its followers and god-servants to do the work for them on this plane because so many people do not believe. Without belief, the work cannot be done. So the divine needs those few the believe for them.
What does this have to do with Commitment?
Well, how can we do the work of and for the divine if we only acknowledge them maybe once a week, once a month, once a blue moon? How can we expect to work with them or them to work through us if we do not attend to that relationship regularly? How can we ask for their aid and guidance if we do not also give back by doing what they ask of us here?
Not long after I did what Frigga asked me, I was considering going to a pagan event and honoring her there. That night I had a dream that I was at said event and someone called for a toast to the Mother Goddess. We all drank and I drained my cup as I mentally honored Frigga. She then spoke to me, admonishing me for being among a group of people that said they honor the gods but do not mean it. She said they are like children, pretending at play, except that even children have reverence.
My lesson from this dream is it is better to speak to your gods and commit to them in true and dedicated devotion alone - even if your words are jumbled, don't rhyme, or, heaven forbid, you don't even have a ceremonial circle or altar or anything than it is to join together and have a party with all the right words and costumes and dance but have no love or dedication in your hearts.
I recently posted the list of Devotional Polytheism Questions beginning this blog series. You can find the original post here with a link to the original blog by Galina Krasskova.
My being where I am today is just as much the doing of the divine as it is the doing of the choices I have made. Whether its the Christian God leading me to go to a Christian college, Ganesh helping me in my decision to move to Alaska, Anpu and Sekhmet guiding me through my energy attunements, Oya lifting me up in my miscarriage, or Frigga empowering me in my motherhood - I have felt the hand of several gods holding mine in my life.
My husband too has often been guided by his gods through dreams, prayer/meditation, and visions as well as divination. His work, where we've lived, and people we've befriended have many times been conversations and decisions deferred to the divine.
I preface my answer this way because, as much as the gods have done to help direct my path, you could say I owe whatever wealth I have to them. I truly believe it is the work of gods and spirits in my life that led me to learn tarot, which is my primary source of income currently. It was also the work goddesses like Oya and Frigga who helped me through my miscarriage, fertility doubts, and pregnancy to where I am now - holding my son and feeling very rich in love.
The gods of the north and the wights (land spirits) of this place we live have also helped us bask in the wealth of Alaska - wealth of beauty, of wild edibles and medicines, and wealth of energies to lean on and learn from.
The gods have brought much wealth into my life and I know this because of my practice of acknowledgement and gratitude.
Today is the feast day of Saint Agabus, patron saint of fortune tellers.
Glorious St Agabus, prophet and disciple, do not let my faith be weakened by my fears of what the future will hold.
The Roman god Janus is known as the two-faced god that stands at the gates. He is a guardian that sees all directions, the judge that is able to see all sides, and the one who stands in the in-between places where decisions are made who sees both the past and the future.
This is the god of January, the month that is the first of the year and yet is still in the heavy darkness and snows of the winter that began in the year before. This is an in-between time when many people are drawn to set goals for the year ahead and wax nostalgic about the year behind.
In this, my first blog post of 2016, I wanted to encourage you, dear reader, to do both - plan for the near future and reflect on the past. Janus’ lesson for all of us is that one cannot be without the other. We need to reflect on the lessons of the past in order to learn what to do in the future.
When I do tarot readings at events, I often read cards for past, present, and future. So often, people come to sit at my card table with interest in the third card, the future, but it is the first card, the past, that makes believers out of them and is the real reason for them being there. When I tell them where they are coming from, a stranger who hasn’t been there but knows them through the cards, then and only then do they believe enough to see what needs to be done about the future.
What do I do for the New Year?
Using some favorite tools, every December I begin a time of reflection and manifestation.
I then do a Release Ritual wherein I let go of that which no longer benefits me and accept those lessons as learned so I can move on and forward all the stronger.
The workbooks have lots of amazing sections and exercises and I cannot recommend them more (I have achieved so many goals and doubled my income every year since using these books) but a section that I not only use yearly with joy but have also adapted to my own lifestyle is the 2016 Oracle Reading. This is a 12 card reading, one for each month, to help you intuitively prepare for the year ahead. This leads me to my new year’s tool number two…
Tarot Reading for 2016
Every year I give myself a tarot reading. The first part of this reading is finding the new year’s card for me numerologically (for 2016 its #5 The Heirophant). The next step is laying out cards for the year to come*. This can be done a few ways - two of the ways I like to do them is by month and by sabbat. Lately, due to the Shining Year Workbooks, I’ve been sticking to monthly with 12 cards to give a glimpse at each month ahead.
*Regarding readings for the year and divination that spreads further into the future. I have found the further ahead you read, the more likely for things to be a lil vague and the more chances for things to change depending on what decisions you make along the way.
Astrology for 2016
The last thing I like to do after writing out my goals and looking at the cards is I like to look at the astrology for my year ahead and write down key bits in a weekly planner. This includes New Moons (for New Moon Newsletters and beginning small steps towards big goals), Full Moons, eclipses, planetary alignments, retrogrades, etc.
Look Both Ways Before Crossing
As we cross the year’s threshold and see all the new plans and goals, ideas and blessings, lessons and mischief of 2016 all ahead of us - look also behind and where we have come from and how our past year has helped develop our personality and dreams to where they are now. Use the tools in your personal arsenal to better achieve your dreams and try out some new ones.
May Janus bless you and give you aid with his sight of both directions.
Happy New Year from the Seer&Sundry Family
Today is my birthday! I am 27 years old, a Sagittarius with Gemini Rising, a new mama, a blessed wife, and a proud spiritpreneur who plans to rock out in 2016!
To share with you all a little about who I am and why I am here I thought I would let you all in on a story, just a short little glimpse into my autobiography of magick - how I became a professional tarot reader.
I hope that you all enjoy it and maybe come away with a little insight as to why I am the way I am when it comes to my love of the cards.
Damon and I were discussing this the other day - about how the Pagan and Witchy communities could definitely take a leaf out of the Christian community book and hire pagans when they need a service done or product made. I remember distinctly how the Christian churches I belonged to either worked within itself - need your computer fixed? Hire the Deacon who also has an IT business! - or they hired businesses that had "Christian values."
Some pagans might feel that it is the purpose of the pagan community to be different from the christian community, however, my point here is there is a reason to christian community is larger and has more influence in our society. While we aren't necessarily competing with this community, we should consider our own growth, strengthening, and development.
I Don't Just Mean Metaphysical Industries
Supporting other pagans should be something we do to better ourselves and our community.
What do I mean by taking our business to other pagans?
I don't just mean occult shops, tarot readers, and other metaphysical businesses.
Witchvox had an article years ago Why Pagan Shops Fail and How Some Succeed. In the article, Pennanti explains that many occult industry businesses are failing not because Pagans don't want to buy from Pagan's but because there aren't Pagan Businesses that are meeting the needs of the community. "There’s a level of entitlement in the pleas to buy Pagan – that they deserve it just because they’re Pagan. Stores aren’t charity, though, and I shouldn’t feel obligated to toss money at people selling stuff I don’t need. What do I need? What do Pagans need? I would love to see, say, a hardware store that was Pagan owned. A craft supply store. A garden store."
I suggest that when we need any business done, we should consider local and we should consider pagan. If you need catering for an event, ask the kitchen witch with the catering business. If you need website design, ask the druid that is also a computer and graphic design wiz. Want to hire a baby sitter or tutor for your kids, consider the young witch that helped out at the pagan community park clean up.
Business & Community, Not Charity
Now, I'm not saying that you should lower the bar for a Pagan Business - if they aren't as good as the Jewish, Christian, or Atheist business around the corner, then, by all means, go where you will get the best service. All we're saying is to make community part of your consideration.
5 Years Ago Today...
Damon and I were legally married in the magickal city of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Then again...some things were quite traditional.
We were married in front of St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square.
The original plan was to be married here, at Pirate Alley, but there were complications with the Catholic church not wanting us there. That's ok, we got Jackson Square with all of its musicians and crowd for free - the entire square was silent for the ceremony (which is really something to see so many strangers holding space for us and then celebrating with us!) and it was perfect.
Of course, us being who we are, and New Orleans being what it is...we couldn't just have a normal wedding and honeymoon. We had to fit in trips to voodoo queen tombs, famous cemeteries, pirate bars, and homes of horror authors.
I'd do it all again.
Today's Magickal Question is from Gem:
Is it possible for someone, a spirit, deity, someone to communicate through the smoke of incense? Is that possible?
Messages in Smoke
Yes, it is certainly possible. Some might even say that spirits or deities will use any means to get their message across so anything is possible. Incense smoke, however, is a highly possible medium through which the divine would communicate because it is often used for that very purpose by magickal practitioners. People of many faiths use incense to send prayers, requests, thanks, and messages to the spirit world. This is often done because of the aetheric nature of both fire (the burning of the herbs and resins) and air. Neither can be held in our hands and both have a shifting nature, making them fantastic conduits for spirit.
2 forms of using smoke for this form of spirit communication are called Libanomancy and Capnomancy.
Capnomancy differs from Libanomancy in that it is divination of smoke after a fire has been made - not necessarily smoke just from incense. Readings can be done with any smoke-causing fire but were traditionally done over the fires were sacrifices were made to see if the sacrifice was pleasing to the gods.
Like Libanomancy, reading the smoke is often a matter of deciding the meaning behind which direction it is going, if there are any breaks or clusters in the plume, etc.
Yet another form of smoke divination that falls under the umbrella of Capnomancy is Dendromancy which is a Druidic practic using specifically oak wood and mistletoe.
Practical Use & Recommendations
If you tend to burn incense when doing other forms of divination such as tarot reading, make a practice of recording the smoke's signs and reactions during the reading in your tarot journal or book of shadows. See if there are any patterns to the smoke depending on the type of reading, person you are reading for, or even depending on your mood or which tarot deck you use.
I recommend capnomancy after any spell or ritual that involves fire, especially when a spell is burned or disposed of in the flames. This can give signs as to how long and how well the spell or ritual will turn out in the days or weeks to come.
You can also practice capnomancy when smudging a home. Rather than guiding the smoke with a fan, allow the smoke to guide you to where it is most needed and use it to see where in the home needs focused cleansing or banishing.
Want to Add More Magick to Your Life?
Hi! I'm December, the more talkative half of the Seer&Sundry team. Along with reading Tarot, my passion is helping people live a magickal life every day & writing about all things witchy. You'll find all three topics that I love here!
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