Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday is Book Day in The Grove - The Fantasy Magickal Series of Katherine Kurtz

I have asked Fr. Ron Ivins to assist with content for the blog and of course he came back with, "What shall I write about?"  We discussed this dilema and decided that he could write a book report of sorts for a very good series of books that he has and that I have read the first book of. 

So with out futher ado I give you - Fr. Ron Ivins, well just what he sent me...okay sorry.  Here we go.

I am going to be reviewing the entire Deryni series that Ms Kurtz has written. The complete series is a quadruple trilogy. She starting writing it in the 70’s and the first of the series in the first trilogy was published in 1976. She had actually started a story before this and saw the potential to carry it a lot further, expanding on the characters and the story line. The time line for the tale begins in the 8th century about 720 AD. You could think of it as in a place long ago and far away but not as fantastical as the long ago and far away is for the Star Wars epic. She also wrote a number of novellas for the story which aren’t in the trilogies so that various characters and scenarios could be more fully developed outside the confines of the trilogies themselves. In addition, she found that a compendium was going to be necessary for reference work, functioning as a place to get the overall picture of the enormous body of work this series had become. This compendium is titled Codex Derynianus.


The reason I have chosen this series is that it has been the key bringing me from a staunch Christian focus to a more inclusive outlook on the world. Here I found all the possibilities and potentials that the acceptance of magick in the world has the ability to bring to each of our lives, making them more rich and full. At the same time, came the understanding that magick is not evil or bad of itself, only the awareness that it has the same potential for positive or negative that money has in the incorrect hands.

The way Ms Kurtz wrote the story has made it, in some ways, very relevant for today. She has included various human foibles, failings and weaknesses that many people will find hitting those various hot buttons because human nature hasn’t changed over the centuries.

Each blog that I write for this review will be continuing the story, one volume each time, starting with Camber of Culdi which is the first volume in the first trilogy. The first trilogy itself is entitled “The Legends of Camber of Culdi”.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rituals & Ceremonies Part II - Casting Circle & Calling Quarters

In the last Rituals & Ceremonies post I explained how to cleanse a sacred space.  Now it is time to move to the next step in preparing for a ritual, casting a circle and calling the quarters. 

One of the most popular questions posed to pagans is, "Why do you cast a circle?”  The question might be worded differently but that is the general inquiry.  People will give you a lot of different answers. 

First, creating a circle creates a barrier between you and the outside world.  A buffer if you will.  It is a way to keep outside influences from interrupting your sacred rite.  Of course, there are things that get a free pass through the circles barrier, cats most notably.  Also unless you are using a mosquito net to enclose your circle; bugs and other natural creatures will surely venture in and through your circle, so be ready.  Second, a circle will act as a container to hold energies rose during the ritual.  Those energies would otherwise be lost before they could be directed toward the intended goal.  Third, is to create sacred space for communion with the divine. 

So now that we have the reasons that we create circles down, lets get down to the good stuff, how to cast the circle.  Casting a circle can be as simple or as complex as you like.  The circle may be large or small, delineated with a cord, drawn in the dirt, or simply visualized.  Traditionally, some ceremonial tool is used to direct the flow of energy that we intend to use for casting. It can be an athame or wand, even a sword set apart for ceremonial use.  When nothing is available, all is not lost. Just point your index and middle fingers in the direction where you want to lay down your circle and begin. 

Take your preferred tool and point it at the ground where you want your circle to be cast.  Visualize a blue light or flame rising from the ground at the point and continuing as you walk in a circle, deosil, around the altar.  Be sure to encompass all the area and persons you want to include in the circle.  Continue until you have returned to point you began.  Some traditions pause during the creation and acknowledge each of the cardinal points, additionally; some people tie a knot at the end using the infinity symbol.  A chant is usually said during the creation of the circle.  There is a wonderful one in True Magick: A Beginner's Guide by Amber K. 

”I conjure thee, O circle of power, that thou shalt be a boundary between the world of humanity and the realms of the mighty ones, a guardian and protection to preserve and contain the power we (or I) shall raise within;  wherefore do we (or I) bless and consecrate thee!”
  You are now between worlds and in sacred space.  If you must leave the circle a door must be ‘cut’ in the boundary, resealed and cut again when you return.  As I mentioned before, pets do not need to be cut in or out of circles.

HAZZAH! You have cast your first circle.  Enjoy it, explore it, experience it and be ready for the wonders contained within. 

Next we call the Quarters.

“What do you mean by Quarters, I don’t have any change on me.”  Not those Quarters silly, the quarters of the circle.  You can think of them as the four directions on the compass.  North, East, South and West, alternately East, South, West, and North, depend on your tradition.  Each of the “cardinal” directions can be represented in many different ways and fashions.  Traditional each direction will have an elemental correspondence.  Lets talk about each direction separately starting with East.

East.  The direction of the rising sun.  The elemental correspondence for this direction is Air and the color yellow and shades thereof.  Aspects of the mind such as creativity and imagination are also associated with this direction.  Elemental Sylphs are the air creatures.

South.  The direction to your right as you face the rising sun.  The elemental correspondence for this direction is Fire and the color red and shades thereof.  Aspects of passion such as vitality, will and purpose are also associated with this direction.  Traditionally, salamanders are associated with this direction but the phoenix; a creature born of fire is perfect for this direction. 

West.  The direction of the setting sun.  The elemental correspondence for this direction is Water and the color blue and shades thereof.  Aspects of the emotions including intuition are also associated with this direction.  Undines are the elemental being for West but any creature associated with water is perfect.

North.  The direction to your right as you face the setting sun.  The elemental correspondence for this direction is Earth and the color is green and shades thereof.  Aspects of grounding including the body, foundations, and the material plane are also associated with this direction.  Gnomes (no…not the Travelocity Gnome) are associated with this direction. 

Using all this information you can create some unique ways to call upon guardians to ‘witness and protect’ you in your ritual.  Remember that you should be respectful when calling the guardians.  Some traditions us the word ‘summon’ when calling.  This denotes that the guardians are subservient to you.  This is not the case and there is nothing worse then an angry or pissed off guardian, well accept for a pissed off deity but we will discuss that later.  I personally favor asking kindly and reverently that he guardians come observe and protect you in your ritual and maybe offering guidance relating to their particular aspect.  Green Witchcraft by Ann Moura has some wonderful and simple calls for each direction.  Here is the one for North.  
"I call upon you, Elemental Earth, to attend this rite and guard this circle, for as I have body and strength, we are kith and kin."
 After each call it is nice to add “Hail and Welcome!”, again as a sign of respect to the guardians. 

So you have cast a wonderful circle, strong and powerful.  The sacred space inside is at peace and pleasant.  You have some glorious elemental guardians at each of the cardinal points waiting with anticipation at what will be happening.  Now what?  Well my wonderful readers…that is what we will discuss next time.  Rituals & Ceremonies Part III : The Deities – Whom to call and how coming in two weeks.

Oh I can hardly wait (squeaks). 

Blessings to you and yours my dear readers.  

Life just gets in the way.

To all our readiers.

I apologize for the lack of contents as of late.  Things have got very busy around here.  I have some new content that I am working on editing so they can be posted. 

I am going to post the second part to Rituals and Ceremonies today.  Next week is going to be post lite as well since I will be away at Dragonfest, a spiritual retreat held in Colorado.  I should have content galore when I return.

Blessings.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Just Some Bits & Pieces

I thought I would crawl around the internet today and see what interesting news I could find relating to the pagan community.  Here is what I found.

This is a perfect example of just how paganism can be tucked into small town and be just fine.
http://www.digitalburg.com/artman2/publish/Top_Story_74/pagans_have_small_presense_in_Warrensburg.shtml

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent?  I think it would be great.  Just in case you don't remember your Disney, Maleficent is the witch from Sleeping Beauty.  Here is the full article from the Marquee Blog -

In the upcoming spy thriller “Salt,” Angelina Jolie plays a master of disguise, and now she’s ready to transform herself yet again to portray “Sleeping Beauty” witch, Maleficent, and Cleopatra.

Quirky director Tim Burton is reportedly already attached to the Maleficent project, a live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1959 animated classic about a witch who puts a princess to sleep because she wasn’t invited to her christening. Jolie, a big fan of the original, told MTV News she’d be thrilled to slip on Maleficent’s horn-rimmed headwear.

“I would love to," said the 35-year-old actress. "It's all new and being discussed, but I loved her when I was a little girl. She was my favorite.”




Jolie is equally enthusiastic about the possibility of portraying Cleopatra in a film based on Stacy Schiff’s upcoming biography of the Queen of the Nile. But, she added, the script has to be just right.



"I think if we can get the story right, and do the real story… there's a lot about her that's never been covered yet," Jolie said. " So if we can do something original, we will."



Meanwhile, the mom of six is also speaking out about another much-talked-about lady, her daughter Shiloh. Defending the 4-year-old’s preference for boys’ attire, Jolie told Reuters, “I think she is fascinating, the choices she is making. And I would never be the kind of parent to force somebody to be something they are not. I think that is just bad parenting.”

Very cool huh.

I did come across the news stories about the people in Asia who were accused of being witches and then killed.  I decided not to post those stories.  Not today.

Blessings.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rituals and Ceremonies -- Cleansing a space.

In most Pagan traditions it is very important to purify or cleanse a space prior to beginning any sort of ritual. Although there are a different ways of doing this, how you do it will depend on the tradition you follow as well as what you feel comfortable with.

Usually, when ritually purifying an area, most do it deosil and spiraling inwards to the center. There are times when moving in a widdershins direction is appropriate, most notably for Banishing Ritual.



These methods are some examples of common ways to cleanse a space for ritual.

Smudging


Smudging uses smoke, which will carry negative energy away from the area. Traditionally White Sage is used, however, other dried herbs can be added, such as Cilantro, Cedar, Lavender and Mugwort. The herbs are bound with string into a bundle, which is commonly referred to as a “stick”.

When lighting the bundle, try to make it flame for a moment if possible, then blow the flame out. This will leave you with a smoldering, smoking herb bundle. Once you have achieved the smoldering bundle stage it is time to smudge the house.

Now you don’t take the bundle and rub it on the walls and other things in the room, which would make a mess and probably ruin a few things and maybe even start a nice fire. What you do is this. Hold the smoldering bundle in one hand or in a heatproof object, like a shell. With either a fan or your free hand you waft the smoke to the edges of the room, making sure to get it into the corners.

When you have finished smudging you can either snuff out the smoldering end of the bundle by setting it into some sand or by crushing the end. An alternative method is to douse it under a bit of water, making sure to let it dry completely before attempting to use it again.

Sweeping
By long tradition, the broom is associated with cleaning and purification. The broom can be either a special one used solely for ritual cleansing or even your household broom. Use a broom or besom going around the edges of the space, with your intent being to sweep negativity away as you go. Here's a good idea. Start and finish near a door--that way, negative energy is swept outside, rather quite literally.

Asperging
Asperging is the sprinkling with a liquid in order to effect spiritual and magical cleansing. Most people will associate Asperging with the Catholic Church, however the practice is also widely used by pagans for cleansing prior to rituals.

It can be accomplished in many ways. The simplest of these is to have a premixed liquid of your choice and bundle of fresh herbs that you can dip into the water. Then you take the herbs, dip them in the liquid and with a quick flick you throw the liquid off the herb and into area or onto the object to be cleansed. You don’t want or need to have a lot of liquid being thrown though. Just small droplets are perfect. Herbs that are prefect to use are Sage, Lavender, Vervain, Hyssop, Pine, Rue and Rosemary.


Another option that can be used quite effectively to cleanse a space is the use of incense. This can be either in cone form, stick, or powder and charcoal. The incense should be for working with cleaning, purification and even protection if you want to add that bit into the cleansing.

During your cleansing and purification of your space you can also include a little chant to augment the process. There are many to be found on the Internet as well as in books. You might even have one in mind already, in that case write it down so you will remember it for the next time you want to cleanse a room.

In addition to the above, I also ensure that the space is physically cleaned as well. I try to use a non-toxic homemade cleanser to do this. How you physically clean is of course up to you.


I would be remiss if I didn’t do a shameless plug for our online store where we carry many items that are perfect for what I have just talked about. Stop by Grove of the Ancients Pagan Marketplace today and order cleansing supplies.

Blessed Be!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Herb Day ~ MULLEIN ~ Just what the heck it is.

Mullein, I am sure many of you have seen this very interesting plant but never gave it a second thought.  I was in that arena as well until we started to sell it in our online store, Grove of the Ancients Pagan Marketplace.  We were selling pounds of it to people all over the country and even some overseas.  That led me to do some research to find out why it was in such high demand. 

I seached many sites and blogs and such to find that most all the information was the same.  I settled on one particular site, Botanical.com and the page on Mullein.  So here is what all the fuss is about.













Mullein's Botanical name is Verbascum thapsus.

Through history, Mullein has been known by many names.  Here they are - White Mullein. Torches. Mullein Dock. Our Lady's Flannel. Velvet Dock. Blanket Herb. Velvet Plant. Woollen. Rag Paper. Candlewick Plant. Wild Ice Leaf. Clown's Lungwort. Bullock's Lungwort. Aaron's Rod. Jupiter's Staff. Jacob's Staff. Peter's Staff. Shepherd's Staff. Shepherd's Clubs. Beggar's Stalk. Golden Rod. Adam's Flannel. Beggar's Blanket. Clot. Cuddy's Lungs. Duffle. Feltwort. Fluffweed. Hare's Beard. Old Man's Flannel. Hag's Taper.  It is quite interesting to see how people find names for things.  Many of the name are created because of how the plant looks.  The leaves are soft, felt-like and spongy so that explains some of them.  Other names originated because of the use as a torch. 

So where do you find Mullein?  That is quite easy.  Pretty much everywhere. 
From the Botanical.com - "the Great Mullein, is a widely distributed plant, being found all over Europe and in temperate Asia as far as the Himalayas, and in North America is exceedingly abundant as a naturalized weed in the eastern States. It is met with throughout Britain (except in the extreme north of Scotland) and also in Ireland and the Channel Islands, on hedge-banks, by roadsides and on waste ground, more especially on gravel, sand or chalk. It flowers during July and August."
Now this bit says that in North American it is a 'naturalized weed'.  While this is how most agencies view this wonder plant, it is far from a 'weed'.  Here in Colorado, it is found in pastures, open-space, along roads, along rivers and lakes, and even in some yards.  If you are looking for Mullein in your area just head to local undeveloped field or open-space, it just might be there. 

Pray tell, what does it look like? 
Mullein has two growing seasons so it will look different depending on which season it is in.  Season one it will be close the ground and have only a rosette of leaves between 6-15 inches long.  In the second season the rosette of leaves will have a stem rise from the center.  The stem will have alternating leaves similar to the lower rosette.  As the stock reaches full height of between 4-5 feet tall a flower spike will emerge and this will house the many yellow flowers of the Mullein plant. 

So what can you do with this herb?  The Botanical.com as a wonderful piece on this.  I am posting it here for your reference.

The Mullein has very markedly demulcent, emollient and astringent properties, which render it useful in pectoral complaints and bleeding of the lungs and bowels. The whole plant seems to possess slightly sedative and narcotic properties.


It is considered of much value in phthisis and other wasting diseases, palliating the cough and staying expectoration, consumptives appearing to benefit greatly by its use, being given in the form of an infusion, 1 OZ. of dried, or the corresponding quantity of fresh leaves being boiled for 10 minutes in a pint of milk, and when strained, given warm, thrice daily, with or without sugar. The taste of the decoction is bland, mucilaginous and cordial, and forms a pleasant emollient and nutritious medicine for allaying a cough, or removing the pain and irritation of haemorrhoids. A plain infusion of 1 OZ. to a pint of boiling water can also be employed, taken in wineglassful doses frequently.


The dried leaves are sometimes smoked in an ordinary tobacco pipe to relieve the irritation of the respiratory mucus membranes, and will completely control, it is said, the hacking cough of consumption. They can be employed with equal benefit when made into cigarettes, for asthma and spasmodic coughs in general.


Fomentations and poultices of the leaves have been found serviceable in haemorrhoidal complaints.


Mullein is said to be of much value in diarrhoea, from its combination of demulcent with astringent properties, by this combination strengthening the bowels at the same time. In diarrhea the ordinary infusion is generally given, but when any bleeding of the bowels is present, the decoction prepared with milk is recommended.


On the Continent, a sweetened infusion of the flowers strained in order to separate the rough hairs, is considerably used as a domestic remedy in mild catarrhs, colic, etc.


A conserve of the flowers has also been employed on the Continent against ringworm, and a distilled water of the flowers was long reputed a cure for burns and erysipelas.


An oil produced by macerating Mullein flowers in olive oil in a corked bottle, during prolonged exposure to the sun, or by keeping near the fire for several days, is used as a local application in country districts in Germany for piles and other mucus membrane inflammation, and also for frost bites and bruises. Mullein oil is recommended for earache and discharge from the ear, and for any eczema of the external ear and its canal. Dr. Fernie (Herbal Simples) states that some of the most brilliant results have been obtained in suppurative inflammation of the inner ear by a single application of Mullein oil, and that in acute or chronic cases, two or three drops of this oil should be made to fall in the ear twice or thrice in the day.


Mullein oil is a valuable destroyer of disease germs. The fresh flowers, steeped for 21 days in olive oil, are said to make an admirable bactericide. Gerarde tells us that 'Figs do not putrifie at all that are wrapped in the leaves of Mullein.'


An alcoholic tincture is prepared by homoeopathic chemists, from the fresh herb with spirits of wine, which has proved beneficial for migraine or sick headache of long standing, with oppression of the ear. From 8 to 10 drops of the tincture are given as a dose, with cold water, repeated frequently.
I have found the plant.  Now what do I do?
Well that depends on what you intend to make.  If you are going to make the ear oil, you just need to harvest the flowers from the plants.  This can be quite a challenge given that the flowers have no stems.  It is best to get the flowers that have fully opened and are near the bottom of the spike.  These are easier to remove.
If you are interested in the Mullein Tea then you will need the leaves of the plant.  These can either be obtained by removing them individually from the lower part of the plant (not the ones at the very bottom as they are usually damaged and don't do well).  Remembering to only remove some of the leaves and move to the next plant, this is done to ensure the plant survives to produce the seeds needed to self populate.  Another method is to remove the whole plant by cutting at the base just above the bottom leaves.  I would recommend this only if the area you are harvesting from has a large number of plants.  Once you have the entire plant, it can be hung like other herbs to dry and the entire plant processed as needed. 

More detailed information on the uses can be found at The Botanical.com.

If you aren't inclined to head out and harvest the herbs yourself we have this herb and many others available in our store at Grove of the Ancients Pagan Marketplace.

Next week is Hyssop. (a rush of ohs and ahs fills the room)

Blessed Be!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Herb Day ~ Herbal Information from the 3 Witches

So today is Monday so that means it is "HERB DAY"!  (applause from the 'hedge witches' in the crowd).

Today I have a post by Kerrick McCoel, one of the three witches that run this blog and Grove of the Ancients Pagan Marketplace.  After his post I will add some of my own information to it.

Let us begin....

Herb Preparation



I’m sure there are as many different ways to prepare herbs for use medicinally and magickally as there are different herbs.


Since I grow them in my own garden, I’m just letting you know how I manage this. Others may prepare their herbs using alternate methods I am sharing what works for me.


First of all, here’s the list of what herbs I grow most every year:


Basil, Fennel, Garlic, Leeks, Lemon Balm, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Rue, Sage, Tarragon and Thyme.


Secondly, I’m grouping the herbs by type of what is harvested:


Leaves and flowers only: Basil, Lemon Balm, Oregano, Parsley and Sage.


Leaves only: Fennel, Leeks, Onion and Rosemary.


Leaves, flowers and tender stems: Rue, Tarragon and Thyme.


Bulb only: Garlic.


Thirdly, when is best to harvest the herbs:


Some disciplines in the world of magick dictate that for the herbs to have full potency, they are to be harvested when the moon is full.


Other disciplines look at the scientific approach and suggest to harvest when the plants are fully mature, or when they have recovered from a previous harvest.


Still others suggest harvesting as often as possible as long as the plants don’t die.


Fourthly, whether to cut & dry, or cut, dry & powder the herbs:

The only herbs I cut, dry & powder are Thyme and Sage: The rest are cut and dried only, except for the Garlic where the entire root bulb is harvested. Depending on the fertility of the soil, it may take several years to reach a decent bulb size.

I’ve heard that herbs lose their potency after a certain period of time. It all depends on what is the focus of the use. It’s possible the potency loss is true medicinally and magickally; however, in the culinary field, I have discovered the time frame is quite a bit longer, as in several years.

Lastly, a drying appliance of some sort for herbs is not really needed unless one is in a very humid climate. What has worked for me is just to spread out the cut herbs evenly, not more that a quarter inch thick on a large dinner plate and set them aside for 2-3 days. Nature will do the rest.

Happy Harvesting!

Thank you Kerrick.
 
In my garden I have a wonderful bush of Oregano that is in serious need of harvesting.  Also a rather large bush of Hyssop that too needs a clipping.  Between the two is my gift of the Goddess and God, Black Nightshade.  My herb garden is contained within a pentagram and the Black Nightshade only grows in the pentagram it has never spread outside of it.  I also have a small sprig of Rosemary plant and some lovely Lemon Balm that is not quite ready for harvesting, needs to be bigger to survive it.
 
I will admit now that I didn't know the first thing about how to harvest herbs.  Do I take the whole stem? Just the leaves?  Half the plant?  That is mainly why the two plants are so massive now.  So with some help from Kerrick and the Internet I now can feel comfortable harvesting my own herbs.
 
I have heard that the best time to harvest in the morning after the dew has left he plants but before the heat of the day has hit them.  This way the oils in the leaves are still strong which is what you want in an herb, medicinal or magickal. 
 
I prefer to hang my herbs in the kitchen now.  I have a bundle of Lemon Balm from Kerrick and a bundle of the a fore mentioned Oregano plant.  Both have dried rather fast in the Colorado arid climate.  I prefer this way since I have feline children and they might disturb the plates in their curiosity. 
 
I also have a huge stalk of Mullein hanging in the basement which I am wildcrafting.  It is going to be my first attempt at it.  I am going to post more on the Mullein experiment later. 
 
That is it for today.  Next week we will be highlighting a specific herb.  There will be contributions from all.
 
Blessed Be

Pagan Friendly Theme Days Now On Our Blog.

After some thinking on how to get the blog going it has been decided that there will be themed days.  Mondays will be for herbs and herb topics.  Tuesdays will be when postings from our other, now closed, blog will be posted until they are all done.  Wednesday will be the Grove of the Ancients Pagan Marketplace updates.  Thursday will be for a discussion of deities.  Friday will be the weekly wrap-up with comments on any news of the week. 

So since this is Monday, the first herb post will be next.

CH