You can click to go to the article source on Google Books. It is entirely possible that this has long since been debunked as some sort of anti-Pagan propaganda that make it through certain credulity filters.
So, the bees hovering outside my window buzzing loudly had a rather mundane explanation. It both reassures me while leaving me somewhat annoyed with myself. Yet I also feel a little like it’s a Catch-22. Last month my neighbors were burgled while they slept on the next floor by a local theft ring. Since we share a wall with those neighbors, my well set hackles went up more than they might have ordinarily. Along with locking all my doors and windows at night, etc. I decided to add a little oomph by using some homemade 4 Thieves vinegar to wash the windows and the wooden windowsill. I got ambitious and even washed the outside (which really needed washing anyway.)
Bees. Bees buzzing loudly wanting to know where the grapes they were smelling were hidden.
While the little panhandlers would have annoyed me anyway, something about vinegar hits their ganglia like meth – they were aggressive little panhandlers.
And it’s relatively unclear whether I am actually allergic to the bastards.
So, uh, yeah … I really need to chill my paranoia. My prevention efforts are getting me bees.
Also, for those bound to ask:
4 Thieves Vinegar Recipe
The basics of 4 thieves vinegar is that it must use vinegar as a base and have 4 herbs, one of which must be as much garlic as you can jam in there. I buy the long stemmed garlic at a local Farmer’s Market and shove in all my leftover peelings and skins, along with any leftover cloves. I also consider wormwood to be a second requirement – despite its hallucinatory reputation, it’s quite the powerful herb when it comes to detoxification. You likely have been giving your pets wormwood for years – and c’mon, we actually do know when dogs and cats start tripping balls. The other two herbs are your choice; usually it’s best to choose something medicinal (clove is cheap and underrated) or something protective.
white (grape) vinegar (yes, that stuff above started off as clear liquid)
- jalapeno peppers/ghost chilis (I grew them as an inset deterrent in my garden and wound up with quite the pileup.)
- rue – it’s rather mythical. Vervain also does in a pinch.
Fill a glass container with the herbs, mostly garlic but whatever you’d like of the rest. Seal it off. It’s OK to store this one in direct light – the heat from the sun gets more volatile oil out of the herbs. Shake once or twice a day. At the end of a week or two, strain the herbs and pour the liquid into a different container.
- Polish for untreated wood
- Window cleanser (except for when bees are around)
- Half of a vinaigrette dressing
- Rinse for your hair
Vinegar is famously versatile – so much so that just about every craft and herbal blogger ever gets a post or ten out of it.
- Woman run over by own SUV while trying to get away from a bee(q13fox.com)
- Household Cleaning Uses For Vinegar(simple-green-living.com)
- 8 Herbal Vinegars for Skin and Hair(foodfreedomgroup.com)
- How to Make Medicinal Vinegars & Oxymels(undergroundhealth.com)
There’s a conversation floating around the Paganosphere/magic worker’s sphere right now about whether magical paths are about service to mankind or about survival.
Ultimately how magic gets uses is a discussion of privilege. No matter how incisive a view, parts of it get ugly. This is in part because those who consider using magic for personal gain are almost always the ones who live in a situation that allows them to see magic as optional.
There’s a lot of abstractions thrown around by the “for enlightenment” crowd. Lots of “raising global consciousness” and lots of “let’s send energy to.” There’s nothing wrong at all with that outlook. Using magic to raise consciousness and make people healthier and happier is always a good plan. You can’t treat a disease until you’re conscious of it.
But the people that do have that outlook do tend to look down on those who use magic for survival. I can’t quote statistics here – it’s just a general feeling based on the declarations of the more vocal .
I think there’s a LOT wrong with that outlook – not because it’s wrong to want people to live better and be happier, but because it’s a viewpoint based mostly (but not totally) on white privilege, class privilege, getting-there-first privilege, etc. To be blunt, it’s participating in a class war. Telling people with serious problems not to use magic to fulfill their daily needs because it’s “lesser” is crappy. Actually, saying the same thing to someone with relatively more privilege who still prefers a little magical insurance is still crappy.
Some of this is, unavoidably, personal. Anyone who claims total objectivity about magical society and magical practice will, at some point, be bitchslapped by the ghost of Crowley.
My frame of reference
My socio-economic and class status has changed dramatically since I started practicing witchcraft at the tender age of 19. I got to where I am with a great deal of work both magical and not. Ultimately I think magic did far more for me than traditional forms of hard work. Also, I really did work at magic with a great deal more effort than my immediate peers at the time.
I got into magic because my back was against a wall – I’m far from the first of recent essayists to say so. I needed money for college. The people in my life did not want me to have it and were doing all they could to erode any independence I achieved. I could see, though at the time could not verbalize, that it wasn’t just college privilege at stake. My basic adult autonomy – and from there, ability to live in a violence free environment of my choosing – was in danger. Desperate to get any help I could, I cast a series of spells.
Now I’m here, relatively independent and writing about it.
These days I tend to hang out more with the global consciousness types. They differ a bit from what I consider the Pagan subspecies. There’s more actual unity and tolerance for differing perspectives – I can discuss ideas (as long as I veer off veganism) and most discussions end up in discussions, not in the borderline assaults I’ve come to associate with about one third of all my Pagan-based interactions.
Most are put-their-money-where-their-hearts-are types; while I do not think the language I can speak it. I admire their ability to walk away from the privileges granted them in a normal white life in favor of stepping outside of society to make society better.
But they’re also, for the most part, doing it from places of safety. They have family, friends and money to support them when they want to take off on global “help the world” journeys. They may show up for Habitat for Humanity stuff and they have the freedom to go on complicated diets based on what’s trendy at the coop. They don’t need magic to make these things happen – because they already have it. I have no idea whether their hearts go to their local communities – if, say, the New Ager in dance group with me sends as much energy to North Minneapolis as s/he does to Africa – and if that person chooses to send internationally over nationally I really don’t have a moral judgment on that. Carbon based lifeforms have infinite connection; both good and bad reaches all of us somehow, sometime. Whatever they’re doing, it’s either good or entirely benign – I can live with either.
But these are also not people I discuss magic use with all that much. They are doing as they see fit and I don’t talk about myself or my practices with them unless they ask me directly. We don’t talk about the magic I do for myself on a regular basis – the stuff I do to protect myself, to make sure I can maintain some independence however minimal, the stuff I do just to feel better sometimes. While that magic itself has a lot of ethical guidelines surrounding it its very existence – the very act of judging another person for doing magic for him or herself – is the very essence of the destructive missionary. To become so sure of your own moral rightness is to forget what happens when it’s a matter of living or not living. When you forget that, you end up with, say, the equivalent of a destroyed Africa.
There are spots on the stairwell where a sensitive person experiences dizziness. Put a hand out, and it feels like the atoms of the wall move just a bit faster than the molecules on the adjoining wall. At my housewarming, one guest reported that she felt the ceiling closing in on her when she used the main floor bathroom. I also had that experience my first few days living in this house. There have been days where I had to perform a rose cross on every single floor of the house just to be able to go about my daily work. That frustrates – while the ritual provides a nice break, I often wonder if there’s some sort of lifetime credit limit on how often I can perform a rose cross. Three times a day feels excessive. I’ve taken measures, laid down house rules, fumigated, laid down copper and camphor.
It’s a newish townhouse, built in 2005. The first owner died very shortly after taking custody, and the owner we purchased from had filed a lawsuit against the Home Owner’s Association. She sued for “not telling her something.” The judge quite rightly dismissed it with prejudice.
Over the last week the discomforting energy rose to a hard-to-bear pitch. The inclination to just crash on the couch or hide on the bed, not moving, hit often. The pinched nerve forced me to overcome it – the hourly physical therapy dictates I move or lose the ability to move altogether – but even so, it unnerved me enough to run to the really good botanica on Lake Street. Three reversal candles planted shifted the energy enough that I really noticed the wobbly atomic movements in other spots around the house – in every corner of the stairwell, behind the front door, in one spot in the kitchen, coming and going in the basement.
The day the HOA annual meeting came up, I awoke with an impacted left sinus and a massive migraine. I could barely do the Monday minimum for Fat Chic. I listened to a binaural for sinus problems, drank as much water and juice as I could, slept until Mike got home. As recovered as I could get upon his return, I went straight to the botanica and purchased 6 more reversal candles. I still might add one. As backup, I found some devil’s shoestring. The botanica labeled it “Abre Camino.”
The HOA happened at an artist’s house; it is older than ours, cozier in some ways. It had a small attendance – it’s a small association – and people greeted us warmly enough. Rather than pretend I didn’t know, I stated with as much good humor as I could infuse that we knew about the lawsuit from the previous owner and my guess was it was either some weird personality thing or she thought there was a ghost. As it turns out, the original owner’s sister lives next door to us – and she assured me that her sister has long since reincarnated in a tropical climate. While hauntings don’t necessarily negate reincarnation and vice versa (a linear universe it’s not) it did appear that the previous owner of this house bred quite a bit of bad blood. While the same neighbor pointed out in a fit of pique over furniture her sister installed that we removed that I am a writer from Chicago area just like the last tenant, for the most part, people seemed visibly relieved at the differences especially between myself and the last woman.
We parted company pleasantly, Mike with the HOA presidency and me with a garden plot. A garden plot!
The household energy upon my return home was altered – it felt like the house had just sighed in relief. Not all of the vibrational weirdness came from my neighbors, but so much of it did that I was feeling their tension and desire to restrict in my walls. I’m still burning the candles – my neighbors might have provided a chunk of the weirdness but certainly not all of it – and besides, it’s a kindness to them to have the last woman’s memory gone.
While I protect my home well from spirit energy, I often forget to take into account the energy of my neighbors. Emotional energy is stuff of this plane of existence and often we don’t know how to shield or deflect it becasue we aren’t really taught well how to handle our emotions.
While I hate the corporate adage that perception is reality – it so isn’t – it does factor in to a magical life. My neighbors’ nervousness about the kind of person I in particular am affected the energy of my house to such an extreme I have had a hard time moving around in it. Their perception of the last tenant led to a fear of what I would be like. That fear started shaping the energy in my home. Now that they have a sense of what I’m like – and a sense that I won’t make routine things like HOA meetings unpleasant – it’s loosened a bit. I decided to take a gamble and skip the Rose Cross before bed – while still not optimal, it was better than if I might have skipped it last night. I also woke up with almost totally clear sinuses – it’s like yesterday’s sinus plus migraine never happened.
The best way to protect my home and keep it comfortable right now is to make an effort to be friendly with the neighbors. Their perception does shape my reality, because non-astral emotional energy makes a difference in my own environment.
Living and dead. I spend plenty of time with both. When connected to death from birth, you become very aware of how little a difference life or death makes in personality. Life and death have meeting points. They share us. You never ever have an expected experience when you encounter them.
For me, the more difficult stuff is the day-to-day. Which is why I consider my experiences with the dead, the very thing that scares me the most and that I often wish would just go away, what saved me from a half-life of living up to expectations.
There are living, and dead, that see the world as having two kinds of people: bullies, and victims. This is why ghosts who experienced terrible deaths then turn around and do terrible things to people that cross their paths. It’s why in life, so many women implicitly or explicitly involve themselves in the victimization of other women.
I do not see the world this way. We have other choices, options three, four and infinity. They are not the popular or easy choices, but alive or dead, we have them available to us.
It is not that we have no limits. It is that we ultimately have unlimited in choice in how we choose to behave.
There’s more than good or evil. You will probably have more than one true love in your lifetime, and at least half of those loves you will never have sex with and probably will never want to. Soulmates come in packs, and most are unpleasant. No two marriages, snowflakes, stars, or dogs are the same.
We all have choices, and the ultimate evil is the evil of taking another being’s choice away.
There is more to the world than bullies and victims. When you learn things that some might consider dangerous, unfeminine or frightening, you do not have to learn them for the sake of seeming more power-dominant. You can learn them to evolve, to have tools prepared for when the bullies and victim subscribers cross that line, to do the ultimate magic: make sure nothing happens.
Hoodoo scares the crap out of people. Just mentioning it to some friends causes them to visibly flinch.
I’ve reading about hoodoo, but not for the power. I have absolutely no need to seem more scary.
My involvement in Wicca was never about power-seeking and it actually nothing to do with my feminism. I have always had plenty of power.
Information really is power, and I’m good at getting it.
My wedding guests made it clear they planned to be themselves all the way through my ceremony, so as a preventative measure, I mixed up domination oil. I never used it, as the guardians I work with saw my making it as an indicator of how much I wanted their help. Still, I was advised to hang on to the oi, that I would know when to use it.
One strange evening, a woman who frequently asked me for my magical skills found the domination oil in my repertoire. She saw it before, knew I had made it, but acted as though I hadn’t. This time, she immediately assumed the worst, because at the time she was looking for an excuse to cast me as a bully and to confirm her continued role as a victim.
It was also projection. To her mind, if she had domination oil, she would use it, and therefore that’s what I would do.
I suspect I’m keeping it around for the next woman who finds me when she needs to get out of an abusive relationship alive. Bullies and victims are quite real, after all, and the bullies and the victims that become bullies are forever fucking up life or frustrated that they aren’t for those of us who are choosing something else instead.
When you look at its cultural history, hoodoo is all about the bully or be bullied mentality. It has undeniable roots in African-American culture, and is one of the byproducts of American slavery. Hoodoo developed, as did all magic, as a method of survival.
According to Judica Illes, most domination and compulsion work was extreme self-defense, to avoid getting raped, killed or accused of a crime you did not commit.((and sometimes to avoid consequences for crime you did darn well do yourself.))
I turned to Wicca because I was desperate to prevent other people from taking away my future. But I already had power, and I used it to find a way – the way I found was Wicca.
I’m interested in hoodoo because, after years of Wiccan magic, I want to become better at what I do. Hoodoo has follow up, discipline and a worldview of “use what is at hand” rather than “judge what is at hand,” that resonates with me. While I can never call myself a Conjure – my beliefs just won’t line up – I appreciate the artistry and discipline behind the practices that look raw and frightening.
Many hoodoo practitioners are on to options 4 – 1000 themselves and used their magic to make those options. What would a life with magic in it, that allows for possibilities beyond be the bully or be the victim, look like? My own vision isn’t a perfect world peace, more of a society where a lot of people wear “Work in Progress” T-shirts.
A reviewer on FourSquare posted that “Marshall’s is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.” While I don’t think deities are overly concerned about the accessibility of heavily discounted name brand home and clothing items to North Americans suffering from a national stuff-glut, I do have to say that Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and its lesser known offshoot Home Goods is freaking awesome.
Above, you see my latest seasonal find at Home Goods. I plan on buying a box a week for the duration of Halloween season, because – well hell, I’m a witch. There are SO many awesome, non-nefarious uses for tea-light sized black skull candles. In my case, it’s the international symbol of “I am putting an end to this bullshit.” I can also use it to honor the departed, stick a snake pellet in its head to represent or call forward a dramatic transformation (though I’m deeply disinclined towards drama) or just hang out, silently tolerating the relentless rounds of “Alas poor Yoric,” and “To be or not to be,” that makes me wonder what Daria Morgendorffer were say if it were her skull in Hamlet’s hand.
I’m getting ready for a big trip this week, which has led to me doing some heavy duty workings. While I can’t share the bulk of them for a long while, I can at least point to the techniques I’m using. For some reason, my poetry muse speaks loudest when I’m writing spells. Now if only we could negotiate a better schedule, as I do need my beauty sleep.
I once nearly chewed out my own eyeball trying to figure out what energy is. In an ill-begotten essay rough draft, I used a scene a college professor flagged as pretentious where I shuffled around from my computer to my ex, using the kinetic use of the wheels on my chair as an illustration.
It really was a losing proposition: the professor was grading a rough draft I wrote in class, on the spot. It was an exercise designed to humiliate. Indeed, the red scribbles on my page embarrassed me so much I dropped the subject altogether. Also, the essay was terrible.
He was right, I was being pretentious – and the problem on the page was that I didn’t know what in the hell I was talking about. I still consider the technique of grading free writing a dirty, low-down trick.
I also never did figure out what energy was. I still don’t know, and that makes me feel awkward when I talk about magic. We mention all this stuff about “energies’” and “spirits.” Sometimes we bring it into something a touch more concrete, by mentioning vibrations that revolve around light and sound. I’m among those that prefer not to stray too far from physics – the laws of magic must follow the laws of nature, and that includes working with the laws of human nature. To force your will is to break something irreparably, but to work gently within to without invites what you work with to cooperate, to lend its energy, to work with you in the reshaping of reality. But if it’s lending that energy – what IS that energy, that star stuff, that random filler word that isn’t quite Chi and isn’t quite electric current?
If pulling from Encylopedia Britannica might do me any good, energy is defined as “the capacity for doing work.” This makes it sound like the alchemists, Hermeticists, and Thelemites then work right along the line with various collective pursuits of the Great Work. I do think of my own energy levels within the atomic physics definition – how much work can I do? How much am I physically and mentally able to accomplish? Grounding and centering is phrased as such to refer to a current, to the connection of energies that flow through us, and not just what we naturally contain.
What continues to make energy and its processes difficult for me is its ephemeral nature. I’m Wiccan with polytheist/animist leanings; abstractions and ambivalence give me trouble and that’s why I reframe them. I’m less invested in whether the God/ess(es) are any certain way or pantheon – I’m more concerned with getting it all into a framework I can direct the energy of my belief to in a given situation. It’s not about what is to me – it’s about what works. If energy is the capacity for work, then I’ve just brought myself right back around in a circle again.
I’m suddenly gaining some empathy for my dear departed fox terrier chasing his tail.
Energy, by being defined as a capacity, is a noun…for a verb. It’s an action – but it’s also a force of being. We can influence and change energy, but it can also sneak up and pounce on us with a lightning strike or a sudden impact when an asteroid comes careening out of the sky. It is, without exception, in absolutely everything, living, dead, never alive in the first place. If it’s still, it’s potential. If it’s active, it’s kinetic. It lies within air (wind), sun (fire), water (hydro-power and emotional motivation) and earth (through sheer, impassive potential.)
It’s always, always, always THERE. It prevails beyond the power of death and taxes.
With energy, I don’t think anyone knows exactly what it is, and what pushes it into motion can differ from one moment to the next – and a force had to start that into motion, like endless dominoes tipping over into infinity.
So I don’t know what energy is, but I know it’s the single major element in absolutely everything I do from brushing my teeth to casting a spell. I know it’s not infinite, but it can be renewed. Renewal seems to work best by rotating and even staggering the sources I draw from, whether that’s variety in my diet or hugging a different tree every day.
But energy is something I can’t pinpoint to explain when it’s still, and when it’s in motion, it’s slipping past me too fast for me to grasp.
I just know it’s there, and it’s important, and we can measure it and feel it, even though we can only see, hear, smell, taste or touch its byproducts. When When I talk about energy, the above is what I mean – it’s all “sort of” until you come to your own intuitive understanding of how you experience it.
To enact magic is to enact change. That means that whatever you cast a spell for, whatever its purpose – even in the case of preservation – you commit to an act of changing yourself.
I think that’s why I see one quibble after another by people who identify as practitioners about reasons not to perform magic. While an honest desire for change my bring a person to magical practice, at some point the fear of change sets in. It’s a bit embarrassing, getting past the gates of fear marked “Occult’” only to find yourself two miles in and pissing your pants again. I still terrify myself on a regular basis.
Personally, I think that’s why people concoct one so-called magical ethic after another that essentially demands inaction.
“Don’t cast a spell for a job. That might give you an unfair advantage.”
“Don’t visualize an open parking space – what if someone needs it more than you?”
“If you map out good places for ritual around here, people will go and vandalize them!”
“You should avoid spells. They could have unforeseen consequences.”
“You might hurt yourself.”
That’s all true. Risks and unforeseen consequence are inherent in all change. Just because it’s true, however, does not mean it’s a good reason.
Just to give you my full perspective: I consider Reiki a classic situations where specific energy workers are overly convinced of their rightness and sometimes make decisions for people in for exactly the reason people breed these hesitations about magic work; I’ve been “treated” more than once without my permission, and every time it’s completely screwed up progress I’d made on healing work I’ve done for myself. I can guarantee you that when a practitioner asks me “higher self” for permission, S/he’s answering “For fuck’s sake, no!” But therein lies the key difference: magic you work for a job or parking space is based on a decision you make for yourself. The uninvited reiki was some asshole making a decision for me. ((Reiki may be “universal life energy” but the method is not universally applicable. Most reiki practitioners I have met have a very difficult time accepting this, as it goes directly against what they’re taught/attuned to. I have tried it, with practitioners I trust and respect. It doesn’t work for me, and often does more damage. I do not think this is because I am built from some Qlipothic energy, and I don’t think an attunement would make a difference. I’m just, energetically something else not labeled or conceived of within reiki. Whatever that may be, I believe myself to be entirely human.)) Please note that I say uninvited reiki – I have no quarrel with people who have offered me help, and from whom I have accepted that help. It’s not their fault that the help did little if anything.
When you sit down, stand up, flip a switch or get a drink you at the very least squash an amoeba. A living thing dies every time you eat – not just furry animals. Plants are alive too. Life feeds on life, after all. You can sit on your ass flipping channels all day, and you still cause change in the world.
No matter how much you limit your footprint, you have an effect on the world around you. Rearranging it with magic is one more step into that effect.
Whenever the whatever tribe first came up with the idea of magic, the entire purpose was to get some kind of advantage. An advantage in the hunt, an advantage in crops – an advantage to help us survive. Magic served two purposes: to give us a sense of control over areas where we felt we had none, and – if you happen to believe magic is real and works – to give us a tool to ensure our survival.
What we need for survival differs these days, and whether or not comfort factors into survival depends on who you are. I personally see no shame in ensuring my comfort; I do more good and feel more generous when happy than when cranky.
So along with fear of change – magic is tricky in that we don’t always record or sort what we do – is a sort of denial. If the magic works, we have to admit responsibility. If the magic changes our lives, we have to acknowledge that we have a hand in it, that there is no one to blame and that there was something more that could have been done. If you use a moral “high ground” – “what if I have an unfair advantage?” it’s hiding from the possibility of failure, that possibility that even if you cast the spell, you’re not “good enough.”
This does not mean “ignore the consequences.” On the contrary – the more specific the working you want to do, the more closely you should look at your divination tools for the big picture. You can cast a spell for that certain job, but if you do a tarot reading and find the Devil, or the Hierophant, Emperor or Empress inverted, you will see a warning about a regrettable boss. That certain someone you want to aim your lusty energy could turn out to be a freak show that’s not on your level of kink, something you’ll find out the hard way once your head clears from the hormones and fantasy.
If you do think your spell affected someone, also pull out your divination tools. First, you might be wrong. Second, that person might have his or her own chain of events and choices that led to some karmic lesson and you just happened to walk up to the slot that person left open as a result. We are finite beings working with the tools we have – just because you have the power of magic on your side does not mean that unknown persons aren’t using their own tools, contacts and advantages.
The seal above is from Heptameron, i.e. Magical Elements. It is in the manuscript used for assuming robes/ritual vestures. It might be applied also to assuming a magical/other persona or switching personas, as you might need to between work/home/family. At least, I think this is for persona assumption – it might call up the four archangels and compel them to order a pizza. I have a hard time with esoteric translations on the fly.
My best friend, Brenda, has worrying down to an art form. Honestly, I think if she’s not worried, she worries that she’s doing something wrong.
Right now, she’s worried about her other best friend. While I can’t disclose the details, there’s a whole lot of travel to foreign territories that don’t always give people back when they leave. So Brenda has commissioned me to create a way to protect her dear one.
I’m using the Anna Riva book – yes, that one – to pull out various seals for protection. I don’t think her friend owns a Smart Phone and it might not work where she’s going, so we’re making a “good trip” card for her to stick in her luggage or purse. It will actually be harmless – a piece of cardboard, words scribbled inside – and no person in the world will need to open a suitcase to look at it. She could just take the card as carry-on if she wants. It will contain a weaving of seals for protection; if you charge up the sigil, it works whether it’s on dead tree or dead goat.
It occurs to me, as I keep finding stuff for myself, that I could again use my Smartphone more for these magical applications. If I want a seal to work for me, I could snap a photo from my book or upload a file I’ve charged (by meditating at the computer screen) and setting it as my Droid screen background. I could, especially with the series of seals I wish to use, create a “Live wallpaper” that streams the seals like a slide show, flashing out influence whenever the phone is on.
Obviously, I couldn’t use it on a plane – the phone has to be off, and most of the time I get stuck behind a seat recliner that steals any possibility of working on my laptop when I do fly.
Oh, the possibilities!
Note: Since I am going to turn Magickal Realism into a botanica and open up a second perfumery for scent collectors, you may see an expansion on this soon.