Read an Excerpt
I danced with the Maiden upon the lea.
She turned her fearless gaze on me,
Said, “There’s so much you’ve never been
You still could be. Have you been caged,
Or do you walk free . . . ?”
Race with the old gods,
Run through the night!
Reach for the power,
Reclaim the right!
The Mother came down a sweet green lane
With cakes and daffodils.
She said, “Through Beltane’s blossoms
Is Imbolc’s pledge made real.
Some regret the youth that was spent;
Tell me, are you fulfilled?”
Sing to the old gods,
Sing through the night.
Pray for the courage
To finish the fight.
I called the Crone one night alone,
We talked for quite a while.
She said, “You’ve done okay, kid;
I rather like your style.”
Then grew the Hag more pensive,
I heard her heave a sigh . . .
“Why is it man cannot understand,
You must live before you die?”
Soar with the old gods
So brilliant and bright!
Burn like a comet
With no end in sight!
All About Journeys
Although we of the Craft honor Samhain on October 31st as the old year passing and the new one just begun, the calendar on the wall still guides our life. In January we look out over the uncharted landscape of another year: pristine, full of promise, potential, hopefully prosperity and successbut inevitably changes, too. In January we reflect on where we wish to be living this time next year. We look back over the auto payments and repair bills, and consider whether it may be time for a worthier steed. We plan how to get from point A to point B. We take stock of our lives.
In this chapter, those readers who are longing for a home to call their own will find a way to call it into being and to claim and bless it when it appears. There are charms to ensure your car’s safety on the road and a method of releasing your four-wheeled steed when a new one would serve you better. Come share my journey, dear reader, as you embark on adventures of your own. Let us begin.
There’s No Place Like Home
Although spring is far from sprung, your nesting urge has begun. Tired of living in cramped quarters with insufficient closet space to store your ritual robes? No room for your cauldron collection or latest stockpile of herbs? Then perhaps it’s time to find a new place to hang your pointy hat. Roll up those witchy sleeves and let’s get cracking.
Here is a lighthearted and airy house-finding and house-blessing ritual for people who know in their bones that it’s time to seek out a home of their own. You’ve long outgrown your parents’ nest and passed the nomadic apartment-dweller phase. The new you longs for stability and a place to call home. You want your name on a mailbox, invitations to loathsome homeowner’s association meetings. You covet a mantel on which to display Grandma Madison’s china or Grandpa Rossman’s musket. You yearn for trees you can get to know over many seasons and neighbors you can count on, and you have your resources all in a row. This home-finding ritual can help sharpen the focus and bring your dream house into the land of manifest reality.
Do your mundane homework first. Check the listings and property values, listen up for real estate agents that are real wizards at cinching a deal and taking your priorities to heart. Then enter the magical realms . . .
Calling Your Home to You
You will need a bird’s nest, a hollowed-out dried egg that you can write on with a fine-point marking pen, a gold candle, an object or drawing to symbolize your house, a piece of parchment paper, and a small but sturdy fire to be laid of straw and twigs. Warning: shakest thou not the nests from the trees but go ye into craft stores instead, where such things in great bounty await!
Make a simple altar outdoors and decorate it with those things important to your tradition. For the representation of your house, many possibilities exist. Do you own a Monopoly set? Pluck a green plastic house from the box. Have a Yule decoration shaped like a gingerbread house? That will do fine. You can also simply draw a house outline on the parchment paper, leaving room for your list of specs. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectlove and the Universe will make it so. On the egg, write “My new home.” You can add your name, date, and runes or other magical sigils if you want.
Now comes your shopping list. Be as specific as you can, while keeping a healthy amount of realism in play. Where should the house be in relation to work, school, culture, family, and so on? Envision your ideal floor plan, describing it in words. Is there a yard? A garden space? Is it environmentally friendly? How big is the garage? What would you like within strolling distance? For price range, you might want to give two figures: the first being what you’d prefer to pay and the second being the highest you can go.
When you are done, roll up your parchment paper into a scroll thin enough to be inserted through the open ends of the hollowed egg. Where else would a dream house hatch? Cast circle in your way, lastly lighting the gold candle and invoking your patron deity, or whomever you feel most likely to help you in this rite. You may wish to call upon the Goddess in her guise as Bird Goddess, ancient Mother of us all, from whom the egg of the world was laid. Other hearth fire keepers might include Juno, Vesta, Brigit, or Hestia. Nordic types may turn to Frigga as queen mother of Asgard, or even to good friend Thor, known to gladly bless a new stead and to party with the best.
A suggested invocation might be:
“By the spark within my breast,
Feel my longing for a nest.
Grant that I, contented, dwell
By sacred words and ancient spell
So mote it be!”
Holding the egg cupped in your hands, speak aloud your dearest wishes and desires for your home, including the time frame in which you hope to find it. Kiss the egg gently and lay it in the nest, thanking Deity for making it hatch with all-knowing magic. Lay the nest atop the twigs and straw you will use to kindle the fire, then light the spark. As the nest and egg burn, know that your mental blueprints are rising to the heavens where your Hallowed House Hunter is seeing them clearly and already beginning to discern where your perfect home might be.
Close circle in your way, but allow the gold candle to burn out. If that is not possible all in one night, pinch it out and relight it for the next several nights until the candle is gone.
Get yourself a cardboard box and pack some unneeded things away. This signals the Universe that you are becoming mobile and can take occupancy of your new home as soon as the closing documents are signed.
House Blessing Ritual
Huzzah! The Old Ones and your banker have come shining through! You dance a wild jig, sign a million papers, and are petrified and exhilarated. You are now a homeowner!
The first new moon after you have keys in hand and have unpacked enough things to live sanely from day to day, invite friends over to bless your new home. Ask each to bring you a coin from the happiest place they have visited recently so that your home might be blessed with joy and abundance, and a bell to ring for mirth and to summon the fey folk forth. Provide an attractive crystal dish or clear bowl to hold the coins.
Light a white taper candle and trace an invoking pentagram at every entrance, asking that truth, benevolence, and harmony enter in. You may wish to add an extra wish for great sex, creativity, personal growth and new opportunities, or other heart’s desires. Hand your favorite blessing oil to a special friend and have them bless each reflective surface by drawing the same invoking pentagram in oil and expressing the same wish. Burn some sage or your favorite magical incense, inviting all unseen creatures of goodly heart and helpful hands to come and dwell therein.
After this is accomplished, guests may deposit their coins one by one into the dish, telling of the happy place in which the coin made its way into their pockets. Never spend these coins, but rather look upon this hoard as treasure of the heart and a certain guarantee that you will never be impoverished.
Those guests who have bells now go merrily ringing and dancing through the place, proclaiming lighthearted wishes for you as they do so: “I wish for your cat to love it here! I wish you incredibly lusty romps! May nothing you cook in this kitchen ever burn! May there always be wine in your fridge!” Let unbounded imagination bring forth creative, graphic, heartfelt, and humorous wishes. Well-wishers may shout “Huzzah!” or “So mote it be!”
Find the heart of your house. You will feel it when you walk through the door. Is it under the ceiling fan in the living room? Near the kitchen table? Go there now and take your friends along. It is time to claim your home, sharing with it your hopes and rightful praise.
Ask several guests to join in. Create a blessing charm and give a portion to each friend to read aloud. You can print words ahead of time on colored index cards and once they are read, retain them as a housewarming keepsake. Say something like this:
“This is a marvelous house!
With friends in every chair
And love beyond compare.
This is a wonderful house!
This is a blessed house!
And hearty laughter sounds.
This is a loving house!
This is a magical house!
Health, wealth, good fortune, too.
All blessings come to you.
May there be such joy in this house!”
This would be the perfect time for a toast to you, to the God/Goddess, to your new home, and to many years of happiness together. Congratulations!
Magic for Rent, Inquire Within
I once manifested a lovely tower apartment in this fashion. With the Y2K scare looming only a few months ahead, I made my shopping list: The place must be utterly safe, with a protected entry and in a well-policed neighborhood. On my tiny budget, utilities must be included. The apartment must be large enough for me and my things and (the impossible part) cost less than $300 per month. Friends promised to help me move but shook their heads and chided me for being so naïve as to expect “all that.”
Two weeks later, a friend phoned who knew the owner of a property in an historic district in town. It was originally a mansion, dating back to the 1890s, previously home to a wealthy spiritualist named Dorothy. It was purchased soon after her death by one who had loved her in life. It was said that on the day Dorothy left this plane, every blackbird in town touched down on the lawn and waited to carry her over. Might I wish to inquire? Write down this number then.
I drove to the towering brick and stained-glass building, now housing an architectural firm and with a separate studio apartment hidden somewhere inside. I explored the grounds a bit, and was charmed to find wooden black cat silhouettes adorning the gates and enormous cauldron-shaped planters in the back! If they didn’t want to attract a Witch, they shouldn’t have put out bait!
One whole wing belonged to the property managers. Stern old Mr. Radnowski scoured my references and deigned to accept my check. Then his good-hearted wife Valentina led me to the little round bell tower, smack in the third-floor peak of the place. To gain entry, one either had to get by fiery-eyed, gun-toting Radnowski at the front door or climb the Himalayan fire escape.
The tower proved to be a multiroom studio with whimsical quirks. Heat was provided, and the air conditioner ran on quarters. A tiny coin slot meter, in a gnome-sized closet under the eaves, got you four hours for twenty-five cents. Because of the high ceilings and drafty windows, bats dropped in from time to time. Rainbows appeared in photos I took in the bedroom. I thanked Dorothy frequently for her hospitality. Her portrait still hangs in the office of the place, and I know her spirit hovers to make sure all guests are respectful.
Radnowski, bless his crotchety soul, turned a blind eye when my friend, the yard sale queen, packed my mailbox with rummage sale Halloween brooms. The price of this magical bastion? $295.00 per month.
Vehicular Protection Spells
Here is some simple spellwork that can make motoring a whole lot easier. As I turn the key each morning, I trace an invisible pentagram over my steering wheel, chanting:
“Spell and magic, three times three
Swift, safe journeys grant to me
That I might reach my destination
Without accident, incident or cops (unless I need them).
So mote it be and blessed be!”
When parking in an unlit area, or in a place where vandalism has been known to occur, trace an invoking pentagram on your front and back windshields, and driver and passenger-side windows, saying:
“Spell and magic, three times three
Guard thou well what belongs to me!
Stand guard and sentry while I’m gone,
Let this magic spell wear on!
So mote it be!”
Stuck in snail’s-pace traffic? After you’ve colorfully cussed a bit, simmer down. Wave your power hand back and forth in an undulating motion. Repeat:
“Ebb and flow, ebb and flow
Swiftly, safely on you go!”
Things should begin to move again.
Turning over the Wheel
The time will come when you decide to relinquish your wheels and trade them for a better besom. Many of us imbue our four-wheeled friends with personalities, names, praise, and pleas. We coax them to crank over in the mornings and beseech them to coast a few more blocks to the cheapest gas station on the day before payday. You aren’t pawning off an impersonal object. You’re preparing to part with a mechanical friend.
Thank your car, truck, or SUV for the service it has given to you. As unobtrusively as possible, walk clockwise around your vehicle, carrying a lit stick of incense or a pinch of smoldering sage. At its eastern sphere, thank the vehicle aloud for all the splendid sunrises and sunsets you saw while driving it. At the south, thank it for the enthusiasm you felt, taking off on a weekend camp-out, rummage sale or road trip, and for its trusty spark of ignition in getting you there and back. At the west, speak your gratitude for the feelings your travels have evoked in youthe joys of seeing old friends again, the solemnity of attending an unexpected wake, wherever life has taken you. Finally, at the north, think back on all the seasons this car has served you. Praise its loyalty and all the miles it gave you. Release it from its allegiance to you, and free it to be purchased by another. I did these things and signed over my car title to a new owner the very same night. Safe journeys to you and yours along the highway of life.
Three Years and Out . . . How Odin Led the Way
What god shall we say charts our journeys? What cartographer lays out the course? In 1988 my wanderings led me from my native Illinois to Phoenix, Arizona. A starving single parent then, wincing when the winter heating bill arrived, I reasoned that being warm and poor in Arizona might be better. My twin son and daughter were turning twelve and up for the adventure.
Though my love of sacred places and geology first led me to Arizona on a college field trip when my children were very young, the desert has never been my home. The part of Arizona that originally swept away my senses was the Indian country, north of Flagstaff. A voice spoke to me in the wind at the ruins of Wupatki. A spirit face peered through a deerskin stretched on a birch frame at the craggy monument of Tuzigoot. Friends lived in Phoenix, however, and promised aid in finding jobs and an apartment, and so we came. My daughter married her high school sweetheart and made a life in Arizona. My son mourned trees and seasons and returned to Illinois.
In November 1997 I was ready to head northwest. Arizona had given me both blessings and heartaches. I had found Craft community, whereas in Illinois I’d been “the only unicorn in town.” In Arizona I had edited a Pagan newsletter, hosted open sabbats and full moon circles, and met a myriad of magical souls. I had also known the acrid taste of love’s illusion and despair, and it would be quite awhile before I opened my heart again.
I heard the call of Puget Sound and knew healing awaited me there. My gaze had fallen on Bellingham, Washington, up against the Canadian border. Tall cedars, draped in tendrils of fairy hair moss, had secrets to share with me. Puget Sound, in its mystery, awaited, and Raven watched for me. I longed for a home I had never known.
I closed out my bank account, gave notice on my apartment and my job, and started packing boxes. Then came the calls from Illinois, from my now-grown son who shared an apartment with my widowed dad. “I took Grandpa to the emergency room last night, Mom,” one phone message said. The next day the report was better, then back to ER again. I had visited my father a couple of months before all this began, and he was his usual quirky, happily-fishing-and-tinkering self then. This downhill pattern was disturbing and as my father’s only child, I didn’t know what to do.
Brain trauma from an accident in his youth had rendered my father mentally unstable since the age of twelve. While delivering papers by bicycle, he was hit by a passing car. Dad lay in a coma for several days before regaining consciousness. In lucid times, my father cracked jokes, fished and hunted with buddies from work. During his darker days, he would grow delusional, violent, accusatory, and perverse.
My dad in his seventh decade was good to my son. My own childhood, however, was filled with calls to the police, fistfights between my folks, and objects thrown and shattered. My mother and I hoarded Christmas presents and tried to sneak Christmas past my father’s brooding glare and the threat of his eruption at any time. After my mother’s death in ’87, I filed a quit claim deed on my childhood home, giving sole ownership back to my dad who quickly sold it off. I moved to Arizona and no birthday cards or Christmas greetings followed me. Except for my phone calls, which he was usually too busy to accept, my dad and I had distanced. A forgotten daughter I had become. Now the man’s days were numbered, and a hard decision lay in my hands.
I called together a circle, summoning the least fanciful folks I knew. I didn’t need “dragons in the clouds” or sage interpretations from anyone else. I needed the plain, hard truth. Four freshly filled canister-style torches flanked the four directions. I flung my atlas open to the map of the entire United States on the ground in the middle. Circle was cast and quarters called, and then I held up my hands to the heavens and declared to Hecate, “I stand here at the crossroads. One road calls to the depths of my heart, another road calls to my kin. Where would you have me go?”
The flame on the torch in the east shot up four inches, while the other three simultaneously dimmed. It was like someone had thrown a switch. The answer could not be questioned. I was to return to Illinois. With a heart like lead and a bellyful of sorrow, I closed circle and went home. I cursed and cried, knowing my obligation and hating it all the while. “Don’t you strand me there!” I ranted to the gods, my voice hoarse. The Illinois I’d left behind had been conservative, Christian, and condemning of anyone different. “Don’t you make me stay!” I cried.
A clairaudient answer came: “It’s a three-year commitment.”
“You had better not ask me to stay there one day longer!” I wailed.
“It’s a three-year commitment,” I heard again.
“How will I know when my time is up?” I wanted to know.
“We shall send someone to tell you.”
The 1,700 miles sped easily away. I pulled into my father’s driveway in November of ’97, just as he was loading fishing poles into his rusty, rattletrap blue station wagon. He smoothed back his shock of unruly white hair and greeted me. “I’m seventy-three years old now. I’m living on borrowed time.” I silently answered, “Yes, Dad, I know.”
The following month he lay dead of a stomach aneurism. My son found him stretched out on the living room floor when he returned from working third shift. A memorial service was held, and none of his six widowed lady-friends clawed each other’s eyes out or fought over Dad’s cremains. Men in their seventies with a full head of hair and a running car were a hot commodity indeed, and his loss was felt by many.
On a bitterly cold December day, with the frozen ground jutting up into hard, sharp ridges underfoot, my son and I took Dad’s ashes and scattered them riverside. I tidied up Dad’s apartment, scraped dead earthworms out of the crisper, paid his remaining bills, settled his meager estate, and found myself excluded from his will: “For reasons known best to me and my daughter, I choose not to provide for her.” My funds, accrued toward moving to Washington state, had slowly trickled out. And so I stayed, found work and my tower apartment, and reinforced ties with family and old friends.
Many job assignments took me past a Unitarian Universalist (known informally as UU) church, whose sayings in the glass-encased message board outside always hit uncannily homemy own private fortune cookie for how the week would go. Curiosity overcame me, and one Sunday morning I timidly stepped inside. The moment they lit the flaming chalice, uncannily like a cauldron, I was hooked. The following week I attended a full moon drumming circle in the church’s basement fellowship room. It was already in progress when I tiptoed down the stairs and stood uncertainly hovering, not wishing to intrude. The minister rose and came over to me. “We saved you a seat,” he said, waving his hand toward the one empty chair in the circle. “Won’t you come join us, please.”
Witches were welcome at the UU church. Spiritualists were, too. One afternoon, during a spiritualist message service, the old man reading for me squinted and furrowed his brow. “I see you with an instrument,” he began, then concentrated more. “It’s a musical instrument . . . what do you call those things? Ah . . . panpipes. I see you holding panpipes and wondering if it’s safe to play them here. Yes, play the pipes. Many here are waiting to hear the tune.”
I was soon enlisted in teaching a Wicca 101 course at that church. There I met Autumn and Joad. A hunger for magic does not go unfed for long. From that class sprang fledgling Moon Grove Coven, which later incarnated into the Central Illinois Pagan Alliance.
My series of Midwestern careers finally led me to a job at the front desk of an old, impoverished cemetery in receivership. Its honeycombed hills and wooded valleys sprawled out for six hundred acres. The mausoleum was haunted by a man seen standing barefoot in the snow. Raccoons had taken up residence, chewing their way through the back chambers of the decrepit office building. Plat books and interment records were hefty and dusty, with no data on computers. As the secretary, I searched records for genealogies, scheduled burials, and tried to sort out the broken heap of discarded monuments and markers piled around the back.
One day in the fall of 2000 a stout old man came shuffling through the door. He was retired and disabled, he said, and whittled walking sticks out of deadfall branches to supplement his income. He sold them at craft fairs and such. Would I write out a permission letter, he asked me, so that if anyone saw him picking up wood, they wouldn’t give him a hard time? Sure, I said, charmed by his sincerity. Might I like a hiking stick myself, he asked. Seeing that he wanted to give something back, I said yes. Maybe a little acorn on the end? And could he wood-burn the bindrunes I drew, my runic initials, onto it? Easy enough, he nodded, and tucked my sketch in his pocket.
A week later he returned, my walking stick in hand. It was he and I, alone in the office, the other employees out servicing the grounds. I praised the carving on the staff, ran my fingers over the well-oiled shaft. “This is beautiful work, sir,” I said.
The old man gazed intently into my eyes and then quietly asked, “Would you deceive a one-eyed man?” The room fell away and my skin rippled with goose bumps. The god Odin, in Wanderer guise, had chosen a human mount and walked right through that door.
“No, sir . . . I would not.” I managed to gulp in reply.
He regarded me. “Why are you still here then? Your three years are up . . . ” With that said, the room returned to normal, and there was just that plump old man and me. He examined my desktop rock collection, then went about his way.
The gods had kept their promise, and I had honored mine. My journey there was done.
If Your Car Tells You Its Name . . .
I’ve always named my four-wheeled steeds or, rather, listened for what they wished to be called. I laid my hand on the hood of my very first love, a 1974 beige Gremlin X, and knew it was Archimedes, just like Merlin’s owl in Sword in the Stone. I put a million miles on that little fleet-winged beast, before laying it to rest.
Its successor was not so benevolent. I learned the hard way that hearing a car declare “I am Armageddon!” translates into “Do not buy me! Run fast!” That black and green Gremlin had been wrecked, rebuilt, and rewired by the teenage owner. Six weeks after the sale was made, it fried itself in the driveway. I watched the smoke curl up and thought to myself, “Damn! If I had only spoken Patriarchy!” If it had said, “Just call me Ragnarok,” I would’ve understood.
Kalikrates, the electric-blue Pacer X, had a drinking problem. Every week it knocked back four quarts of oil and two quarts of transmission fluid just to keep it staggering down the street.
My present roadworthy friend declared, “I am the Bonny Blue!” to me soon after we met. I was not surprised to learn that flags and ships had also proudly borne that name. My blue-jay-colored Toyota sails gaily down the road and has a knack for joyful new discoveries. Listen for who your car declares itself to be.
Proverb: If your hands are full of yesterday, how can they reach for tomorrow?