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Book Review: Raymond Buckland’s “The Magick of Chant-O-Matics”

July 31, 2014
The obligatory cover shot.  My, there's no way anyone is going to miss that yellow cover on your bookshelf.

The obligatory cover shot. My, there’s no way anyone is going to miss that yellow cover on your bookshelf.

This post is not a review.  This is more akin to your mom gleefully sharing embarrassing baby pictures with your new girlfriend or boyfriend.

As the Gard community is well aware, we have Raymond Buckland and his first wife, Rosemary, to thank for bringing Gardnerian witchcraft to the United States.  They left the Long Island Coven in 1973 following their separation.  Later that year Raymond went on develop his own version of the Craft, Seax-Wica, and has spent the remainder of his life publishing books pertaining to witchcraft, the occult, and gypsy practice.  (For what it is worth, I have yet to meet any Romani, Banjaras, or Doms who have a favorable opinion of Buckland’s gypsy books.)  Today, Buckland is best known amongst the general Pagan community for two publications, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (1986) and Practical Candleburning Rituals (1970).

I recently came across this original 1978 copy of one of Buckland’s most forgettable books, The Magic of Chant-O-Matics, at a little hole-in-the-wall occult bookstore in Portland, propped up on a piano.  And I bought it because it is straight-up hilarious.  This is 1970s pulp publication at its finest, people.  From the insane title on the cover to the hyperbolic ‘real life examples’ to the generous amount of exclamation points within, the book is the best of grocery-line gimmicks and attention grabbing.  Now, I suppose Buckland had a good reason for the title.  As he puts it, when you use these chants “attainment is automatic!  For that reason I label it CHANT-O-MATICS.”  But it certainly is not a reason that stands the test of time.

A sample of the contents within

A sample of the contents within.

Neither, sadly, is the content.  It is true that Buckland–to his credit–gives some decent magical background for how one might prepare and carry out a petition chant, and he does coach to hold strong, concrete visuals in mind while performing the chants.  But, as the book goes on, the chants become increasingly odd.  The chants in the first couple chapters are basically English rhymes with a steady, galloping meter.  But by the time you get to the end of the book…lord only knows what the linguistic origins of the chants are.  That alone is not bad–but with chants, you need to know what every word is so that you can use it to focus your intent.  If you can’t even create a translation for something strange, how will you know it will be effective?  For all you know, your chant to help you get a paying job might actually mean something along the lines of “keep your dog of my lawn, stupid neighbor!”  Of course, Buckland gives no translations or even nods at to what language the various chants come from.  Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if some were pure gobbledegook.

Still, I love the book.  I’ll never use it seriously, but it puts a dopey grin on my face whenever I catch sight of the spine…and it stands as an amazing testimony to just how far the Craft has come in such a comparatively short amount of time.

Adieu, Margot Adler

July 29, 2014
Margot had a smile that could put anyone at ease.

Margot had a smile that could put anyone at ease.

Margot Adler died yesterday.

I feel silly taking her death as personally as I am.  I only met her once, in passing, but she had this personality that was so open, so inquisitive, and so caring…she wasn’t someone you could easily forget.  She had a way of looking at you and, in the moment you were interacting with her, giving you her full attention, like you were the most important person in the universe.

The world needs more Margots.  The Craft needs more Margots.  She will be sorely missed.

A Traditional Bees-in-a-Bag Prosperity Charm

July 28, 2014
A man capturing bees in a bag.  An illumination from the "Book of Hours"

A man capturing bees in a bag. An illumination from the “Book of Hours,” c. 14th century.  The full illumination shows the man capturing three bees, but I couldn’t find a great image of that.

I occasionally search for oddments related to bees and witchcraft, and a bit of my web-trawling over the weekend yielded an interesting spot from the Witchcraft Museum in Boscastle, Cornwall.  One of the items they have on display is a charm taken from a house in Dawlish in Devon, England.  In physical form, it is a faded blue drawstring bag that contains the bodies of three dead bumblebees.  The Witchcraft Museum calls it a charm for prosperity as the Dawlish bag was hung in the best room of the house, and they market a similar version in their gift shop, though this one uses ceramic coins shaped with a relief of a bee, and promise it will “bring health, happiness, and sweet good fortune.”

Now, the Museum doesn’t cite any sources for why they believe the charm to be a prosperity one, and modern witches might question the prosperity association altogether since the bag the bees were found in was blue and we now tend to correlate green with prosperity.  It might be that blue cloth was costlier in times gone by; after all, bright blue colors in cloth were harder to create prior to the creation of synthetic dyes.  Woad and indigo plants were pretty much it for creating blue, and both have their drawbacks.  Creating a consistent blue with woad is incredibly tricky, and–as anyone who has owned a pair of blue jeans can attest–indigo is highly prone to wash-out fading. I can see how one would associate blue fabric with prosperity.

As for the bumblebees, their inclusion might have something to do with folklore tales stating that if a bumblebee is buzzing in your house, it should not be let out again as it brings luck.  Perhaps the owners of the Dawlish charm kept the bodies of their luck-bees after they died for good measure?  Similarly, there is a folk belief that finding a bumblebee in one’s house means that someone would soon visit.  Perhaps that is why the charm comes with the admonition to hang it in the best room of the house; after all, that is ostensibly the room in which one would entertain guests.

In addition to these links between bumblebees and luck there might also be a special connection between bumblebees and witchcraft, too.  In her book The Sacred Bee, Hilda Ransome relates a story of a Lincolnshire witch who employed a bumblebee as a divinatory familiar, and Helen Creighton relates a story in her book, Bluenose Magic: Popular Beliefs and Superstitions in Nova Scotia, of a man purported to be a wizard who killed a cow by sending a snow-white bumblebee to land upon it.  There might also be connections between bumblebees and “mad honey”, or honey made from the nectar of rhododendrons.  Rhododendrons create a series of toxins known as grayanotoxin, and a very little bit of it can contaminate honey and cause poisoning.  It’s rarely lethal in doses found in honey, but it will sure make you feel ill.  Unfortunately for the bumblebee, it loves rododendron blossoms and anything with a fat, cave-like blossom.  They are also predominant pollinators of two plants strongly associated with witchcraft:  foxglove and wolfsbane.  Perhaps there may have been a folk belief connecting witches to collecting bumblebee honey from these toxic plants?

At any rate, I can see taking a page out of the Museum’s book and crafting a bee prosperity bag.  It’s probably best to spare the lives of real bumblebees and opt for something else, be it little jewelry charms or stamped bits of clay or pebbles you paint to look like bees or clay you shape yourself.  Personally, I’d opt for a green bag, and I’d probably throw some herbs into the mix and a few other sympathetic tricks…but it’s a nice idea with some decent tradition and folklore to back it up.

Bring out the Bling

July 28, 2014
Gemma Jones's First Degree Pentagram pendant in pewter

Gemma Jones’s First Degree Pentagram pendant in pewter

In case all the Gards out there haven’t got the memo, our own Gemma Jones has turned her knack for designing amazing jewelry to creating Craft pieces.  She has plans to create first, second, and third degree pendants, and stage one has just completed.  The first degree pendants are currently on sale at her Etsy store in both pewter ($45) and sterling silver ($75).  Each is about 2.5 cm or 1 inch from the top of the bail (which has the Goddess symbol on one side and the God symbol on the other) to the bottom point of the triangle.

I for one think they’re quite droolworthy, and–as a first myself–I’m contemplating snapping one up now that the sterling version has hit her store.  Excellent work, Gemma!

A Payday Spell to Help You Save Money

July 24, 2014

Saving money can be pretty hard, especially if you need to actually hold physical cash in order to manage it.  Personally, I know that unless I have cash in my wallet where I can physically hold on to it, I’m definitely prone to impulse spending–you know that moment of, “Oh yeah, I can totally afford that” even if I can’t tell you my exact bank balance.  It’s not an uncommon mental phenomenon, and lots of financial advisers counsel their clients to lead a “cash-only” lifestyle (basically no credit cards, debit cards, or checks) until they have a solid saving habit established.

I’m a bit more in favor of learning how to use bank accounts myself, and that was confirmed to me last week when a cash-only friend of mine lost her purse.  Now, this friend has been having such a problem managing her money that she completely closed out her bank account.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t feel comfortable leaving her money in her home alone because she lives with housemates and doesn’t trust that they or their friends will leave her stuff alone.  So she carries all her money on her all the time, all separated into a series of different envelopes, each marked for a specific purpose.  When she lost her purse, there was several thousand dollars in it.  And it was ear-marked for really important things like dental work for herself, birthday presents for her teen daughters, rent, groceries, etc.

Luckily, my friend did get her purse back, and all the money was still there.  However, it definitely brought the importance of managing bank accounts up to all of us.  So I devised a bit of a spell that combines the “gotta see it stack up” mentality with the abstractness of a bank account.

The 50/20/30 budgeting plan.

The 50/20/30 budgeting plan.

First, though, you’ve got to get an idea of how much of each paycheck you should be saving and how you should be budgeting.  A good place to begin is with the 50/20/30 rule, which divides your monthly budget into three distinct categories of expenses, and ranks them according to importance.  At least 50% of your monthly budget should be reserved for essentials, such as your rent/mortgage, food, staple clothing, transportation, and utilities.  At least 20% should go towards “financial priorities” such as savings, debt payments, retirement contributions, etc.  Finally, no more than 30% should be allocated to “lifestyle choices”, such as nights out, a million cable channels, that cute sweater you saw in a boutique, etc.

Now, if you follow this rule alone, you are on track…but you still really aren’t saving enough.  After all, you actually need to be socking a quarter of your pay directly to a savings account–that way, at the end of a year you’ll have saved up approximately 3 months of salary, which is the minimum advised to have just in case you lose your job.  Then you still have retirement to think of, as well as saving up for specific things, such as home and auto maintenance, vacations, etc.  If you’re going to be fiscally conservative, you might actually consider a break down of something closer to 50/35/15.

To put this latter proportion into an example, if you are paid every 2 weeks and each paycheck is $850 after taxes, your monthly take home pay is about $1700.**  Of that, $850 is reserved for essentials, which gives you roughly $400 for housing, $150 for bills and gas, and $300 for food and clothing.  Then, at least $595 should be saved in some capacity, which leaves $255 for discretionary spending.

An example of a budget breakdown across multiple bank accounts.

An example of a budget breakdown across multiple bank accounts.

Once you’ve set your proportional budget for how much you should be saving, go to your bank and set up some savings accounts.  Yes, that was plural.  At the very least, most banks allow you to set up multiple “Christmas accounts” in addition to a primary savings account.  Your primary savings account is going to be the “never ever touch unless it’s a dire emergency” account.  The bulk of your savings are going to go there.  The other accounts will be for things like Vacation, Auto/Home Maintenance, Moving Expenses, Tithing/Charity, etc.  Figure out how many of these accounts you need, and how much money you are going to divert to all savings accounts every paycheck.

Once all that is said and done, the spellwork begins.

Can't beat the simplicity of a mason jar piggy bank.  Ball sells 'retro' green jars, too, in case you really want to hit the money correspondence.

Can’t beat the simplicity of a mason jar piggy bank. Ball sells ‘retro’ green jars, too, in case you really want to hit the money correspondence.

On a payday, get yourself two lidded jars or piggy banks, and two squares of green fabric and some string.  In the center of each fabric square, add a few juniper berries (to prevent theft, either from others or from yourself), a cinnamon stick (for success), and a few clove buds, dried mint, and old fashioned oats (to obtain wealth).  Write your savings account numbers on a scrap of paper and add it to the pile of herbs.  Bundle the fabric around the herbs and paper, and tie the bundles off with the string.  Set the bundles aside.

Gather up all the loose change you’ve accumulated since your last payday.  Cast circle, and charge the bundles to your intent of attracting and holding onto wealth.  Envision yourself setting aside money every payday into your savings accounts.  Envision the balance in those accounts growing.  Push that energy into the bundle, and put the bundles in your jars.  Separate all the pennies out of your loose change, and put those into one jar.  Put all the silver coins into the second jar.  Envision these jars filling up with every pay day.  Give thanks and close circle.

To live in accordance with this spell, do not spend any money on your subsequent pay days until you have taken your money and divvied it up into your different accounts accordingly.  Once that has been done, take all the loose change you’ve accumulated since your last pay day, and divide it up into your jars, envisioning them growing as your accounts grow.

When the silver coin jar is full, take it to your bank and have them deposit it into one of your savings accounts.  When the penny jar is full, turn in the pennies for cash.  Use this money as “sacrifice.”  Give it to a homeless person, buy some charcoal or salt for the covenstead, give it to a kid who looks like he could use a treat…whatever floats your boat.  As you have enriched yourself, pass the seed of that enrichment onto another.

Continue your payday ritual as long as it helps you.

A Spell to Finish a Chore

July 20, 2014

Ages ago when I was helping my mom through a year of illness and feeling completely overwhelmed by all the housework, I discovered Marla Ciley’s housekeeping book Sink Reflections. Now Ciley (A.K.A. The Flylady) is no Martha Stewart, and her book is no Homekeeping Handbook, but it did help me out quite a bit.  One of the most important lessons I learned from it is that “you can do anything in 15 minutes.”  If I get home and my house is a wreck, I turn on a timer for 15 minutes and spend that time just putting things in one room away.  I don’t let myself get sidetracked by something like taking a handful of pens from the living room to my office and then straightening everything on my desk.  I just put the pens away and return to the living room.  Once that timer goes off, I stop and evaluate.  Am I done?  Am I too tired to continue?  Do I have enough juice left to do another 15 minutes somewhere else?

Now, I know from lots of mundane experience that I usually finish the ‘clutter busting’ in just about 5 minutes or so, and I can often get two or three rooms finished in 15 minutes.  And I’m usually not exhausted like I thought I’d be.  But even though I know this, I’ve been a downright slob as of late.  My new shift at work combined with summer’s long daylight hours means I’m not getting near enough sleep, and my job’s mandatory overtime means I take my precious off-hours very seriously–I don’t want to do housework, I want to have fun!  So while I know I can keep my living space looking nice with just a few minutes of effort…I still find myself procrastinating.

To combat this, I’ve taken to turning my 15 minutes into a bit of a spell.  Before I start my timer, I light a scented candle or put some oil into my diffuser.  Then I take up a cord and tie 15 loose knots into it while holding the image of my finished task in my mind.  With each knot, I say something to the effect of “No delay, time is slipping away.  From this task I will not stray.”  Then I undo the knots, chanting something like “In fifteen minutes, my task is done.  Then I shall take some time for fun.”  Then I set my timer and get to work, and I work without letting anything interrupt me or thwart me from my task.

I think I do concentrate better on my task when I do this little spell than when I don’t.  I think that taking just that little bit of time to still my mind and focus on the task at hand–and the goal of completing it!–gives me just the little bolt of energy I need to see it through.  And, better still, I’m not living in a pig sty.

More Bits of Crafty Gorgeousness: Borbala Arvai’s Needle Felted Figures

July 10, 2014

This is definitely my week for drooling over international crafts.  Today we jump from Lisbon, Portugal to Budapest, Hungary, where Borbala Arvai creates her needle felted dolls for her Etsy shop, BoriDolls.

Arvai's Horned God and Earth Mother paired set of needle felted dolls.

Arvai’s Horned God and Earth Mother paired set of needle felted dolls.

Like Pedro Santos, Arvai is not necessarily a Pagan practitioner, but she at least speaks our lingo.  In addition to the gorgeous Horned God and Earth Mother pictured above, she creates fairies and mermaids.  She’s not all Pagan and fantasy, though:  she also creates dolls in a variety of yoga poses and has created a whole needle felted Nativity.  She creates a number of Earth Mommas, too, with hair and continents in every color of the rainbow.  In fact, she even has a rainbow-festooned Momma to help remind us to celebrate our diversity.

Generally, I’m no great fan of fiber arts, but I can definitely see using these to create an altar for very little children.  There’s something very Waldorf and Montessori about them.  These are hands-on figures, and they practically invite children to grab them up and play with them.  (No, I *never* got in trouble for playing with my parents’ saint statues as a kid…nope, nope, nope!)  I can certainly think of worse things for Pagan toddlers to do than to re-create myths with these dolls.  It’s certainly a lot more wholesome than the plastic action figures du jour or Barbies or what have you.

On that note, I get the impression that Arvai would be happy to take on custom work.  Horned God and Earth Mother not your primary deities?  I betcha she’d happily take on Shiva and Kali.  I’d love to see her create a Ganesha.  If I had kids, I betcha I’d ask her to make me a whole Greek Pantheon.

Maybe at that point I should just learn needle felting for myself?


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