Day 136: Summer Solstice, Incense and Oil

I’ve got to admit it:  I’ve not been a fan of these incenses.  I understand that not all magical incenses will smell great, and if I was preparing an incense for a particular spell, I’d probably be okay with the smell of burning leaves.  But Sabbats are more celebrations than spells to me, and I ultimately want something I can enjoy.  So I am officially not making this incense.  I will make the oil, though…but I will modify it.

Summer Incense

Burn this any time you want to bring about the energies and insights of the summer solstice.

  • 1/2 handful of pine (wood), either powdered or chips
  • 1/2 handful of powdered sandalwood
  • 2 teaspoons white copal
  • 1 teaspoon dried bay laurel
  • 1 teaspoon hemp seed (optional)
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • 5 drops cedar essential oil
  • 5 drops carnation essential oil
  • 3 drops cinnamon oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.  Stir in about 2 tablespoons of vegetable glycerin, adding it one tablespoon at a time and mixing it in thoroughly with a metal whisk or fork.  You simply want to create a soft, fluffy compound.  Do not add the second tablespoon if it feels like it would cause the incense to be too wet.  Now add the essential oils and whisk.  Wait for at least a day for the compound to settle before you sprinkle it on hot coals.

Summer Oil

Use this oil any time you ant to awaken the insights and mysteries of Summer Solstice. this oil activates the magical energies of joy, freedom, power, and strength.

  • Vegetable glycerin (or a carrier oil such as grape seed oil)
  • 5 drops cedar essential oil
  • 3 drops carnation essential oil
  • 3 drops cinnamon essential oil
  • Pinch of chamomile flowers, hemp seed, white copal, or all three dried herbs

Find a one-ounce bottle.  Fill the bottle halfway with vegetable glycerin.  Add plain water until the bottle is 3/4 full.  Add your essential oils.  Add the dry ingredients, close the lid, and shake the bottle.  You can use this magical oil immediately.

Litha Oil: note the suspended poppy seeds.

I did make this up in a one-ounce bottle, but I filled the bottle nearly full with sweet almond oil.  I added the 5 drops of cedar and 3 drops of cinnamon oils, but substituted geranium for carnation.  Geranium doesn’t have a solar connection, but it does promote happiness in aromatherapy, and that happiness is part of Litha.  Also, I thought it’s sweeter floral notes would harmonize the masculinity of the cinnamon and cedar.  Finally, I added a pinch of poppy seed.  Poppies are such a strongly solar flower to me:  they pop out when summer really starts rolling in, and they stick around for a good long while.  I probably could have taken a very quick walk to Sundance and picked up some chamomile and hempseed, but the poppies seemed like a better fit to me.  I enjoy the fragrance and the energy of my finished product.

I’m a little perplexed as to why Roderick called for carnation oil in a book so geared to a Wicca 101 audience.  It’s not an oil you will find anywhere essential oils are sold, and almost everything you find online called “carnation oil” is a synthetic.  Not even many oil companies will carry it.  It’s primarily used in the perfume industry, so I had to go to a perfume-focused oil site to find it, and even then I had to use the search function as it wasn’t listed among the essential oils.  Frankly, I’m not really sure the carnation products are oils.  I think one might be a wax and the other an alcohol.

That being said, I really recommend Liberty Natural for its exhaustive selection of oils, reasonable prices (though you must spend $50 at a time or pay a $15 fee), and their transparency about where they obtain their oils.  For many, they have several nations of origin from which you can choose.  They’ve also got several Oregon-sourced oils, which–as a new Oregonian–I really appreciate.

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Day 135: Summer Solstice, More Stone Waters

Oh, I dearly love it when Roderick gives his readers a little break.  I was starting to get a little bit flagged with all these new and varied workings.  Beltane didn’t seem nearly as involved.

Today is largely a repetition of yesterday’s practice.  Basically, we pick a stone, hold it up to the morning sun and imagine that it absorbs the suns rays, then pop it in a glass jar of water and let it steep in the sunshine all day.  Then we drink the water.  Roderick gives the following short list of minerals and properties to help make a decision:

A bloodstone bath...

Amber: To enhance beauty
Amethyst: Magical dreams and visions, tranquility, spiritual awareness
Bloodstone: For success in business, courage, and healing magical power
Jade: Luck, love, longevity, health, prosperity, wisdom
Moonstone: Moon goddess energies, psychic ability, love
Marble: Success, prosperity, solidity
Obsidian: Peace
Opal: To bring about change, magical ability, prosperity
Quartz crystal: Psychic ability, awareness, receptivity

I’m not sure I would have chosen all of these stones to present on a short list of possibilities.  Opals are pretty pricey gems; people don’t have them just lying about the place.  Marble isn’t quite as expensive, but you don’t usually see “small” marble pieces.  They’re usually substantial features like counter tops or bookends.  And amber is sort of a special case; you definitely try to keep amber out of direct sunlight as heat can damage it, so I’m not sure I’d recommend using any amber pieces you especially liked in this application.

At any rate, I could do with an infusion of success, healing, and courage in my career, so I went the bloodstone route.  Also, I have a strong fondness for bloodstone anyway so it was a win/win choice.  After I drank the water, I did feel better in a whole body way.  Granted, it could have simply been related to drinking a whole pint of water in a sitting–I think I am a bit dehydrated as of late–but I do feel a bit stronger, like I’ve got the courage to face up to my fears.

As with the sun water earlier, I popped the stones into my jar early in the morning and arrived back home just as evening was falling.  The energy I felt this time was different.  Instead of ‘growing’ energy, this one felt more…well, more like ‘warrior’ energy.  It was much more focused and had an aggressive edge to it.  I guess I can see the associations with business, courage, and healing with bloodstone–all of those require careful, measured aggression.

Day 134: Summer Solstice, Stone Waters

Today, Roderick introduces the concept of ‘stone water’, which–unlike stone soup–is not a collaborative exercise in culinary creativity.  Essentially, you just take a stone, mineral, or gem of the properties you desire, pop it into a jar of water, then pop the jar onto a windowsill to steep in the power of the sun or the moon, depending on the energies you desire.  I’m of the mind that this is an excellent solar activity because the sun undeniably steeps matter into pure water.  Remember making sun tea?  Remember how it was the best darn iced tea you ever had–summer in a glass?  Yup, that was the solar energy.

Apparently we have the early Celts to thank for the practice of infusing stone energy into water as they’d boil quartz and use the infuse as a healing potion.  Roderick asks us to tweak the practice to make a stone water a bit more keyed to the sun.

What you’ll need:

  • A small clear-glass container
  • A small piece of topaz or a piece of gold

The method is simple. Hod the small topaz or the piece of gold up to the first rays of the sun.  Imagine that your mineral absorbs the sun’s rays.  Next, set the stone into a small clear glass container of water.  Place the container with the crystal on a window ledge where the sun can shine on it all day long.  At the end of the day, remove the stone and drink the water.  As you do this, you will absorb the energies of the sun.

The memories that linger and the ones we cherish most are those of Delta Gamma let us rise and sing our tooooooast!

Funny, but after I got my jar all filled up with water, I realized I didn’t have any topaz in my (embarrassingly extensive) rock collection.  A quick peek through my jewelry box revealed that I’m not a big fan of gold jewelry either.  I had just two pieces: my mother’s wedding ring and my sorority pin.  Frankly, with my parents’ divorce looming on the horizon, I didn’t want to be imbibing any residual energies from that jewelry, so I turned to my sorority pin which, really, has nothing but good memories for me.

Yes, I am a sorority girl.  No, that does not mean I was a sorostitute.  Great Greek systems are much more about solidarity, community, and sisterhood than they are about short skirts.

Anyway, I charged my pin and popped it into the water early in the morning.  When I came back home later in the evening, I debated whether or not to drink the water–after all, how ‘sun charged’ did I want to be at night?  Curiosity won out, though, and I downed the pint.

I think that perhaps energy work sometimes give us just what we need.  I felt just productive enough after drinking the sun water to proactively tackle my evening workload and have restorative sleep afterward.  All in all, a very nice magical technique to have under one’s belt.

Day 133: Summer Solstice, Sun Cake Blessing

In today’s practice, you will imbue the cakes you have made with the energies of the sun.  Set the cakes on a windowsill during the daytime for at least an hour.  If you life where there are few sunny days or if you practice this technique on a day with no visible sun, it does not matter.  What matters more is your knowledge that the sun lies beyond the clouds.  Know that its life-giving energy penetrates the earth no matter where you are.

After the cakes have had a chance to soak up some sun energy, bring them to a table.  Light four gold candles and set them in a circle around the platter of cakes.  Stand in the “Provider” magical pass position, with your right hand up at shoulder height, palm facing away from the chest.  The left hand is open at the hip, with the palm facing away from the hip.  Modify this pose by hovering the left palm slightly above the platter of sun cakes.  Close your eyes and imagine that the sun’s rays enter in the space between your brows and channel down through your left hand, entering into the cakes.

While you do this, say the following incantation:

Wheel of the sun,
Great wheel of time,
Radiant scepter, shining over all!
I draw thee down,
To enter here,
Become these cakes,
O shining Sphere!

When you are finished, open your eyes and place the palms of your hands together to stop the flow of solar energy.  Eat one or two of the cakes.  Share them with friends or with anyone who needs solar energy.

Preparing the cakes for the solar blessing

Wow, I think I’m getting appreciably better at working with energy.  My third eye is still buzzing with a sun infusion…and I did this while it was raining!  The cakes even taste a little livelier than when I sampled them yesterday (which sort of defies the laws of baking, but we’ll go with it).

I think I should turn some attention to writing my own invocative phrases, though.  I rather giggle a bit when I see an awkward repetition like “wheel” here, and I don’t really see the round sun as a scepter.  Ah well.

 

Day 132: Summer Solstice, Sun Cakes

In Hartwood Grove, the “cakes” and “ale” part of cakes and ale is really varied.  There’s usually some sort of baked good, be it bread, brownies, cookies, cakes or what have you, and there’s usually some sort of juice, wine, or lemonade.  This is a fairly new practice to me.  I would usually make a consistent cookie and procure a consistent wine or juice when I practiced alone, though I did change up the recipes over the years as I became a better cook.  When I went to other circles, the cakes would almost always be a very soft, not terribly sweet cookie: something almost biscuit like, but without the biscuit crumb.

Roderick seems to lean to that latter camp, as he notes that many Wiccans and Pagans make “sun cakes”, at least for the solstices and equinoxes.  He also says that in ritual, the priestess or priest blesses the cakes by drawing the power of the sun down upon them, and that the celebrants use their imaginations to visualize the power of the sun entering them as they eat the cakes, warming and energizing their spirit.

The exercise for today is to make some solar cakes of our own, and the recipe Roderick provides is for a soft almond cookie rather like Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cakes, though he calls for making a little hole in the center of the circle to make them look like the sun symbol rather than dusting them in powdered sugar.  I really dislike these types of cookies though, and I’m not a fan of laborious decoration, so I set off to figure out my own cake.

I knew I wanted “sun” reminders, which meant a strong orange or yellow color, and tastes reminiscent of sunshine.  Citrus is, of course, excellent for that, but it doesn’t really impart a strong color.  I eventually stumbled upon a collection of recipes for carrot cookies, which use a whole cup of pureed carrot.  The batter of these was bright orange, which was just what I wanted.  Topped with an orange and lemon glaze, I married two strong solar correspondences in one cookie.

Citrus Glazed Carrot Cookies

For the cookies:

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup pureed carrots
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

For the glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons orange juice

Carrot baby food will work for the pureed carrots, but it’s really easy to make them. Just chop up several handfuls of carrots, put them in a microwave safe bowl, cover them with water and microwave 5-10 minutes until a knife easily pierces the largest pieces. (Alternately, simmer them in a covered saucepan until done.) Drain the water and put the carrots in a food processor. Process the carrots until they form an even puree, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Cool before using in the cookies.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and the sugar together. Add the pureed carrots, egg, vanilla, almond extract, salt, and baking powder and continue mixing until a smooth, pureed consistency is reached. Slowly add the flour to the carrot mixture as the mixer is slowly beating. Stop the mixer as soon as the last of the flour becomes incorporated, and hand beat for a couple strokes to make sure no flour pockets are left in the batter.

Drop by rounded tablespoons (or a #40 disher) onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing each a couple inches apart from each other.  Pat down the dough mounds to a flatter disk and bake for 12-14 minutes until the tops look set and dull and the bottoms are slightly browned. Removed the cookies to a cooling rack set over wax paper and let cool.

While the cookies are cooling, whisk together the glaze ingredients. Spoon the glaze over the cookies as they are still on the cooling rack. Any run-off glaze will simply fall on the wax paper and can be easily cleaned up afterward. Let the glaze set and harden, then remove the cookies to a serving tray.

Citrus Glazed Carrot Cookies

The cookies are pleasant.  They’re soft and pillowy and not terribly sweet, with a pale orange-yellow color.  They don’t taste like carrots, but rather a bit more like an old-fashioned wedding cake.  The extra sourness of the lemon in the glaze is a nice counterpoint to the soft texture and taste of the cookies themselves.

I’m not overly fond of these as I like a bit more chew in my cookies, and I don’t think they have a very attractive presentation, but I think this is a decent recipe and a good launching point for further experimentation.

Day 131: Summer Solstice, Solar Healing

The sun has magical healing properties from which Witches and magical folk draw.  Witches traditionally practice this sun-drawing technique at sunrise–or at least within the first hours of sunrise.  Go to some place where you can have a full view of the rising sun.  Face the sunrise, close your eyes, and feel the solar warmth on your skin.

Now imagine that the sun draws out from you any heavy, dark energies.  Any illnesses or emotional difficulties you face can be eased if you allow the sun to draw them out from you now.  Imagine them leaving you, floating up and out toward the sun, where they are annihilated forever.

As you stand there imagining the energies leaving you, repeat the following chant to the sun thrice:

Morning sun, take my pain!
Ease my heart; illness wane.

Conclude the rite by anointing your heart chakra (at the center of your chest) with chamomile essential oil, which aligns you with the essence of solar energy.

Well, I must admit it:  7:33 in the morning is not exactly the crack of dawn…but it’s close.  The local sunrise time today was 6:43 am.  I was up in plenty of time to make the sunrise, and I did my usual routine of showering and grabbing breakfast, but I got all discombobulated when I found that one of my housemates had left the fridge door open all night.  Somewhere around my penning a little e-mail to my housemates, the sun rose.  I suppose things happen.  At any rate, I get more sun streaming through my window a little later in the morning anyway, which made this visualization a little easier as it was raining and not sunny in the least.

I do feel lighter after performing this healing–less like the world is crashing down upon my shoulders and more like I can shift the load about comfortably.  There’s also a little buzz of solar energy infusing my being, which is always welcome.  I’m even enjoying the lingering smell of cedar oil on my person (no chamomile, sorry!).  It vaguely reminds me of childhood guinea pigs, which is odd, but it’s such a strong, solid, supportive, masculine scent that it’s bringing me some auxiliary balance, too.

Day 130: Summer Solstice, Sun Vigil

Today, honor the sun by watching it set.  Go to a favorite natural setting where you can clearly see the sun set on the horizon.  Before you do this, check in your local newspaper or almanac to know the exact time of the sunset–otherwise you may be waiting for a long time for the big event.

When you arrive at the viewing spot, lay out a comfortable blanket and sit on the ground.  Close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin.  Mentally thank the sun for bringing light into your day.  You can make and offering of sweet cakes or a libation of wine on the earth at this time.  Without directly looking into the sun’s light, peer now and again at it as it sinks into the west.  After the sun has set, take time to consider the following:

  • What personal associations do you have with the sun?
  • What memories do you have related to the sun (sunburn, a favorite sunny day, etc.)?
  • What feelings or energies do you sense as the sun sets?
  • How might the energies you have sensed be useful to you in your life?

I’ve not really noticed sunrises or sunsets all that much since moving to Eugene.  Where I am, you can’t really see the sun rise or set–there are too many hills and houses and trees blocking the view, so you don’t really see the sun itself until later in the day.  If I want a good sunset, I’ve got to go up–onto my roof or a higher story of PLC–or to the beach.

Neither would have helped me today.  The sky was so thick with rainclouds that you really didn’t see the sun set as much as you noticed it was getting darker.  There wasn’t going to be much “feel the warmth” happening this evening–nor any other evening in the foreseeable future–but at least I can answer some questions now.

My personal associations with the sun…well, warmth and life, really.  From the sun, all life is possible.  The sun allows organisms to spin sugar from air.  It’s an incredible, mind blowing thing.  But too much sun or not enough, we either fry or freeze.  It’s a power that has to be carefully, carefully balanced.

My memories of the sun–oh, hot, hot summer days of childhood and bicycles and running around in the woods and through the creek.  And the beaches…all the beaches my parents took us to.  I’d get a sunburn on the first day and be miserable for the next four.  Hilton Head Island was the worst:  2nd degree burns.  I couldn’t stand to have clothes on, I couldn’t stand to lay down and sleep.  I was so, so tired and in so much pain.  But that day was glorious.  It was one of the last days that I played like a child.  We found sand dollars and swam in the rough Atlantic surf and really let our trick kite soar.  I don’t even remember resting much at all that day.

When I do manage to catch a sunset, I feel energies drawing to a close.  I feel lulled to a comfortable, natural rest, one of near perfect peace and one of a sweet hope for the new day.

Energy, balance, and rest can all obviously be useful in my life, but in order to really feel true energy or true rest, I’ve got to work so hard on striving that crucial balance, lest I freeze or frizzle.

Day 129: Summer Solstice, The Burning Wheel

It should go without saying, but when handling fire–particularly the burning of a large piece–great care should be taken to make sure the fire stays controlled and that adequate amounts of extinguishing materials are on hand.  The best policy is to perform all burnings outdoors.

What you’ll need:

  • The finished sun wheel
  • Old newspaper, twigs or other suitable kindling
  • Extinguishing materials such as sand, water, or a fire extinguisher
  • Long matches or a lighter
  • A fire pit, barbecue, or a large, safe burning vessel

Set the wreath into a fire pit and place old newspaper or other kindling in and around the wreath to assure it will properly catch fire.  Light the kindling on fire using a long wooden matchstick or a long-nosed lighter and quickly step away from the fire.  Allow the wreath to burn completely.  While the wreath burns, hold the palms of your hands toward the flames and recite this traditional Old English Summer verse (Contemporary English Translation):

Summer is a-coming in
Loudly sing cuckoo
Groweth seed and bloweth mead
and springs the wood anew
Sing cuckoo!
Ewe bleateth after lamb,
Calf loweth after cow,
The bullock jumps, the buck mounts,
Merry sing cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo!
Well singest thou cuckoo,
Nor cease thou never now!
Sing cuckoo now, Sing cuckoo!

Burning up my paper blessings wreath

First things first:  I must complain about how stupid I felt singing about summer coming in and cuckoos wailing about when it was a very cold March morning and my chickens were squawking bloody murder behind me.

That being said, I always forget how magical and cathartic it is to watch a blazing fire until I actually do it.  I layered newspaper, my Beltane incense (well, I wasn’t going to burn it inside ever again), and the wreath inside my cauldron and lit the newspaper once in each of the four quarters.  I barely finished before the pot was ablaze.  I was thoroughly surprised at how long and strong the fire burned given that it was mostly paper.  I have a feeling the resins from the sandalwood and frankincense contributed to the burn and to the prolonged crackle afterward.  There was a good bit of resin fuel in there, I suppose.  But my wonder at the burn didn’t compare to how I felt when I watched it all turn to smoke.  There was something really powerful about symbolically placing my gifts back into the realm of the sacred.  I felt more centered than I have in a long while.

Day 128: Summer Solstice, Making the Sun Wheel

Today, Roderick basically asks us to make a wreath.  His suggestion is to pick up a wreath frame from a craft store along with a bunch of moss, some pieces of paper, and a slew of dried flowers.  He suggest to cover the frame as desired with the moss, to write down our talents, skills, or accomplishments onto the little slips of paper, twist these papers into the frame and moss, and then decorate with flowers as desired–sunflowers being particularly evocative of the solstice.

This did not sound appealing to me in the least.  My hatred of craft stores is nigh legendary, but that had little to do with my antipathy towards this project.  It just seemed like a lot of money and time to put into something I’ll just burn up tomorrow.  Granted, I might well prefer to make a big elaborate wreath at some point in the future–it actually sounds like a fantastic group activity or something to do with children–but right now, I just want to get to the nitty gritty of the activity.

My little origami sun wheel

For me, the important parts of this activity was the combustible wheel and the lists of talents, skills, or accomplishments.  After just a few minutes of wondering how I could make a wreath out of paper, I struck upon the idea of origami.  I even found some instructions detailing how to do this with 3×5 pieces of paper.  Since I have scads of 3×5 note cards lying about, I was sold.

This wreath probably cost me a nickel to make and about 45 minutes of my time.  Folding the card stock was a little trickier than paper, and I ended up having to fold 29 cards in order to get the wreath to self-support.  But that was okay, for it challenged me to think up more talents…and to state them as gerunds.