Day 363: The Animal Spirit’s Magic

Now that we’ve found our way to the shamanic lowerworld, we can return there anytime by following the roots of the oak tree.  We don’t need to cast a circle for future trips there, though we can if we life.  At minimum, we should anoint ourselves at the backs of our knees and insides of the elbows with the animal power oil and burn the animal power incense.

Today, we’re going to return to the lowerworld to learn about our familiar-self’s magic.  Have a magical partner read the following guided imagery or record it and play it back.  Or simply click on the recording below!

Close your eyes and imagine that you stand before a great oak tree.  Take several deep breaths and, with each breath, imagine that your body becomes increasingly transparent.  Now, move close to the tree and walk into the trunk.  You are now one with the tree.

Follow the heavy roots of the tree as they descend through layers of sediment, rock, and soil.  You follow the roots even more deeply into the dark, cold earth.  Follow the roots until you come to their end, which sets you inside a large cave.  You cannot see anything before you, but you can sense the enormity of the cavern.

Eventually, as you stand in the darkness of the cave, you spot the glowing mark or symbol of the animal spirit.  Walk toward it, reach down, and touch the glowing symbol, and watch the cave as it crumbles around you to reveal the animal spirit’s landscape.  Your animal power is waiting there for you.

Ask the animal spirit what magical power it lends to you.

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

Now ask the animal spirit what drawbacks it brings to your life.

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

Finally, ask the familiar spirit for a chant or a word of power that you might use to summon your animal’s power.

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

Once you are ready to leave the lower world, bid the animal power farewell.  When you do this, the cave will surround you once more.  Reach up and you will find the root of the oak tree.  follow it back to the upper realm.  Step out of the tree trunk.  Open your eyes and write down what you were told.

Whenever you need the animal spirit’s power, use your chant or word of power.  Do not share this word or chant with anyone else.

In addition to this journey, Roderick also includes another method to use whenever we want to seek our familiar spirit’s advice on any matter.

First, we take time to formulate our questions, and we try to ask open-ended questions so that our familiar self’s wisdom won’t end with a simple yes or no.  This will prevent the familiar spirit from becoming frustrated if it can’t fully express itself.  Similarly, the spirit may become frustrated if we don’t follow the advice it gives, so before we ask any questions we have to be sure we’re prepared to follow whatever the spirit tells us.  Even if we don’t think the answer coincides with the question, we must follow the advice we receive.  It may be that only after events have concluded that we can see how the familiar has guided us toward a good resolution.

Practice:  Animal Instinct

  • Animal Power Incense
  • Animal Power Oil
  • Blank Paper and Pen or Pencil

Light the animal power incense and anoint yourself with the animal power oil.  Close your eyes and return to the lower realm, as you have done before, by following the roots of the oak tree that you visualize.  Follow the roots until you come to their end, which sets you inside a large cave.

As you stand inside the darkness of the cave, you spot the glowing mark or symbol of the animal spirit.  Walk toward it, reach down and touch the glowing symbol, and watch the cave as it crumbles around you to reveal the animal spirit’s landscape.  Your animal power is waiting there for you.

Ask the animal spirit for its guidance in your situation.  Wait for your answer.  Once you receive it, bid the animal power farewell.  When you do this, the cave will surround you once more.  Reach up and you will find the root of the oak tree.  Follow it back to the upper realm.  Step out of the tree trunk.  Open your eyes and write down what you were told.

Follow the advice of the familiar self.

I performed the first visualization here, and Badger told me that the strengths he brings me are surety in purpose and a profound, practical groundedness.  When I take a step, I know that I am going to find solid ground beneath my feet.  Unfortunately, the flip side of this is that I need to cultivate adventure, for it does not come readily to me anymore.  This isn’t just going somewhere and doing new things–which I actually quite enjoy doing, so long as I minimize risk.  It’s being afraid to fall, both physically and emotionally.  It is difficult to open up and let others in, which is an adventure of its own.

I know I am to keep the chant Badger gave me secret, but it was basically any chant which makes me fully embodied and thoroughly grounded.  In my case, it’s the opening chant I learned in Kundalini meditation, which we use to “tune in”:  Ong namo guru dev namo.  It means “I bow to the divine spark in all things.  I bow to these divine teachings.”  A pretty good instruction of how to perform this chant can be found in this simple YouTube video:

Day 362: Discovering the Animal Power

Today we’re going to cast a circle and do some magical journeying  to help find our animal and learn its name and symbol.  For this, we’ll need our usual circle casting tools, the incense and oil we’ve prepared, and blank paper and a pen.  Follow the instructions below.  For the guided journey, you can use the recording below:

Cast your circle as usual.  Sprinkle the animal power incense on a hot coal and allow it to smolder.  Offer the incense at each of the four compass points of your circle:  east, south, west, and north.  As you offer the incense around the circle, say the following:

Bull-beggars, spirits, Witches,
Hags, Satyrs, Pans, Sylvens,
Changelings, Dragons, Men of the Oak,
Open the way to the sacred hunt,
From thy thunder, echo the voices of
Feather and fur, claw and talon.

Return the incense to the altar and then use your left hand to fan the smoke across your body.  Carry your animal spirit oil blend to the east of your circle.  Once there, face the perimeter of the circle.  Anoint yourself with the oil at the base of the throat, saying

I open to the voices of the animal world.

Repeat the oil anointing in the south of your circle.  This time, dab the oil to your solar-plexus area, saying:

I open to the power of the animal world.

Repeat the oil anointing in the west of your circle.  This time, dab the oil between your eyes at the center of the brow, saying:

I open to the wisdom of the animal world.

Repeat the oil anointing in the north of your circle.  Dab the oil to your root chakra, saying:

I find my root in the animal world.

Now lie down on your back in the south of your circle with your feet pointed north and your head south.  Anoint yourself with the essential oil on the insides of your elbows and the backs of your knees.  Have a magical partner read the guided imagery below, or record it before your ritual and play it back now:

Reader:
Close your eyes and imagine that you stand before a great oak tree.  Take several deep breaths, and, with each breath, imagine that your body becomes increasingly transparent.  Now move close to the tree and walk into the trunk.  You are now one with the tree.

Imagine that you travel down through the heavy roots of the tree as they descend through layers of sediment, rock, and soil.  You follow the roots even more deeply into the dark, cold earth.  Follow the roots until you come to their end, which places you inside a large cave.  You cannot see anything before you, but you can sense the enormity of the cavern.  Listen in silence and soon you will hear the noise of your animal spirit.  What is this noise?

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

Follow the sound of the animal in the cave and know that you will not be harmed.  The floor of the cave is smooth and soft.  There are no obstructions in your way.  Simply follow the sound in the dark.  Soon you will feel something brush up against you.  This is the feel of your animal spirit.  How did it feel?

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

The animal spirit continues to summon you with its sound.  Follow the sound and eventually you will catch the scent of your animal spirit.  What is that scent?

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

Finally, you notice a speck of glowing light on the floor of the cave.  As you approach the soft glow, you can see it is not a speck at all, but a large luminous symbol.  This is the mark of the animal spirit.  What is this symbol?  Remember it for future reference.  Reach down and touch the glowing symbol and the cave crumbles around you to reveal a landscape.  Where are you?  Is this the beach?  Is this the desert?  A forest?  A mountain top?

Wherever you are, begin to explore the terrain.  Soon you will encounter a single animal.  This is your animal power, your familiar self.  Greet the animal power and ask its name.

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

It is now time to return to the upper world.  Thank the animal spirit for revealing itself and bid it farewell.  Soon the vision of the landscape and the animal fades and you find yourself back inside the cave holding on to the oak tree root.  The root seems to quickly draw you back to the upper trunk.  Step out of the trunk and then watch your body as it becomes visible and solid again.

Once you are ready, open your eyes and write down what it was you saw.  Write down the animal power you found, write its name, and draw its symbol.

Close your circle as usual.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the European badger, Meles meles.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the European badger, Meles meles.

Seriously, I was fully kidding about the Honey Badger the other day.  It just seemed like too good a joke to pass up when discussing animal traits.  After all, Randall’s flamboyant narration has become the stuff of Internet legend.  I swear, badgers were not floating around in my subconscious when I cast circle and laid down to perform this meditation.  In fact, if I had had to guess beforehand what I would encounter in trance, I would have guessed something like a bacteria (most populous animal on the planet!) or maybe a fish or something.  After all, the charismatic mammalian macrofauna are far too represented as spirit animals in the Pagan population, and it would just figure that mine would be totally bizarre.

So imagine my surprise when I got to the cave and heard this sort of snuffling, grunting, clucking sound.  That’s certainly no fish!  Next, I felt a rough, wiry pelt brush around my ankles and paws, claws, and a snuffling nose reach up towards my knees.  I’ve spent enough time around different friends pet ferrets and hedgehogs to know that this animal was no dog or cat!  Then that musky odor hit my nose and I knew I was dealing with some sort of creature like that.  The speck of light that revealed the sign of my creature showed a squatter, wider paw print than I’m used to seeing with dogs and racoons, and what I now know to be very close to the print of a badger’s front paw.

Prints of a badger's front paw and back paw in some good English mud.

Prints of a badger’s front paw and back paw in some good English mud.

When the cave disintegrated around me as I touched the paw print, I found myself standing in a warm pasture land with rolling hills, a bright blue sky, and ringed all around with woods.  It was like the southern hills of England and Ireland, if I had to guess.  I know now that this is ideal European badger habitat, and the animal I encountered there was indeed Badger.

Yes, that’s right.  The universe has soundly sorted me into House Hufflepuff.

Now that I’ve read up on the European badger–the type of badger that appeared to me (thank the Gods–American badgers are mean!)–I can definitely see why.  It’s definitely something of a homebody.  It likes its territory and it stays well within it.  It also actively maintains several burrows or “setts” within its range, which it shares peacefully with other badgers (and even rabbits, etc.!).  And when I say maintain, I mean maintain.  It hauls out soiled bedding and brings in fresh, and they defecate outside the sett in designated latrines.  They care about maintaining a good home–and they pass that home down to others!  Apparently these extensive setts can be in use for decades.

Like me, the badger is pretty peaceful and genial until something dear to it is threatened…and then it becomes a formidable force!  It’s very social among its burrow-mates, but fights with outsiders, and badgers foster their young very happily and with lots of play.  They’re also hibernating animals, so–like me–they understand the value of a good long “vegetate and do nothing” session, even though they’re otherwise quite industrious.  And even though they build a great little badger society, they do sort of pair bond!  Males typically mate with one female for life, though females themselves may have more than one partner throughout their own lives.  They’re very loyal, these badgers.

In fact, I found out that when it comes to fiction and folklore, it’s not just J.K. Rowling who finds badgers “just and loyal” and “true and unafraid of toil”.  Though Irish mythology laregly figures them as shape-shifters, Germans largely hold them to be cautious and peace-loving, though generally distrustful of art and intellect.  They love nothing more than home and comfort.  Kenneth Graham’s Mr. Badger from The Wind in the Willows is similar.  He loves his home and shuns society, but he’s a good friend to Mole and Ratty, and is the epitome of common sense.  This holds up in T.H. White’s Once and Future King when Merlin turns Arthur into a badger.  When Arthur seeks to learn a lesson from a true badger, he is told “I can only teach you two things – to dig, and love your home.”

Isn't he cute?

Isn’t he cute?

All in all, I’m glad the universe knew better than me on this one, and I’m glad that Badger is my spirit animal.  And, as a delicious coincidence, I’m pleased that its scientific name, Meles meles, is very close to Melissa.  Perhaps there’s a shared etymology there?

Day 245: Contemplative Day, Sacred Balance

Today Roderick asks us to contemplate the question of “Where do you find sacred balance”, and he acknowledges that “looking for balance is not easy” and that “many of us search for it in our daily lives.”  But through the rest of his description, it becomes pretty clear that he’s just talking of general balance, and not of a sacred balance.  Maybe I’ve been working with the Gards for so long that “sacred balance” to me is the continual interplay between the God and the Goddess, and that interplay is constantly at work both around and within me.

General balance or “sacred balance”, I’m not too sure whether I find either.  If I’m to be honest, I must acknowledge the fact that I’m not a terribly balanced person.  I move from one intense focus to another and try to make up for excesses in one end with shortchanging another.  In grad school, for example, I would work intensely for two weeks on my final papers and do nothing but bathe and work on them.  Housework, exercise, socialization, spirituality…all would take a backseat.  Today, I have to completely finish my entire list of ‘today’s objectives’ before I can move on to do something like re-write my resumé.  I think a balanced person would be able to do a little work on one thing, then do a little work on something else–basically juggle a lot more balls with a lot more care.  Maybe a spiritual balance is sort of the same.  Instead of acting like a monk for one day and rushing around with mundane concerns for the other six, maybe a gentle integration of sacred and mundane is more the goal?

Meditative Question:  Where do you find sacred balance?
Candle: Blue-Green
Direction:  Northwest

To begin, find a comfortable meditative sitting position in a quiet space while facing the northwest.  Light a blue-green candle and sit approximately two feet away from the flame.  Next, cast your gaze upon the flickering candle and hold the question firmly for 20-30 minutes.

You may not arrive at a magically satisfactory conclusion in one sitting alone, so to manifest a greater depth of answer, it will be important to see this question as it actualizes in each of your activities.  Become one with it in each of your tasks.  Allow your body, mind, and spirit to become this question as you eat, sleep, work, and play.  Over time, a shift in your perception will take place and you will realize your own answer.

I meditated on this question for quite some time before my answer came to me:  discipline.  The times in my life where I’ve felt a sacred balance most keenly was when I built the most disciplined structures into it.  I would go to bed early–10 to 11–and wake up at 6:30.  I had strict routines that I’d follow in the morning and the evening.  I had my days efficiently scheduled, and a time to accomplish everything I needed to accomplish.  I was able to have time to meditate and exercise, time to cook and clean my home, and time to work on my projects and socialize with my friends.  My stress was low, and my love of life was high.

I’ve been out of work for over a year now, and because I have no real schedule obligations, my life’s drifted into binges of excess.  My body is screaming, my mind is screaming, and my spirit is screaming.  Maybe I need to dust off my daily routines again?

Day 228: Pentacle, Personal Symbol of Power

Just as we did on days 215, 220, and 224 with the wand, athame, and chalice, today we will do a meditation to find our pentacle’s personal symbol of power.

Reader:

Close your eyes and take several deep breaths.  Scan your body from head to toe and note wherever it is you hold tension.  As you note tension, breathe through that body part and release the tension.  Continue relaxing each body part until you feel wholly still and internally silent.

(Reader:  Pause for a moment.)

Once you are fully relaxed, imagine that you stand at midnight in the center of a stone circle.  A canopy of stars shimmers overhead.  As you watch the sky, you notice the stars beginning to move, slowly, almost imperceptibly at first.  Then they take on a life of their own and form a shining pentacle in the black sky.  The pentacle then takes on more substance and form, and it glows brightly with a green aura.  It drifts down form the nighttime sky into your hands.  You carry the pentacle with you and you hold it out to the silence saying, “I summon thee, O symbol of power!”  Son you will notice that the pentacle glows in your hands with a bright green aura.  Examine the pentacle now and you will see your power symbol inscribed there in glowing script.  Look at this symbol closely and remember it.

Once you have seen your personal power symbol, allow the vision of the stone circle to fade.  Open your eyes when you are ready.  Record the symbol on a blank piece of paper and transfer this to the pentacle, either painting it or magically infusing it.

When you have finished setting the personal power symbols on the pentacle, set it in a place of visual prominence for the remainder of the day.  Before going to bed, wrap the pentacle in a special cloth, such as green silk, and store it until it is time for the pentacle consecration.

My pentacle's personal symbol

My pentacle’s personal symbol

Well, it’s the middle of the holiday season, and I definitely felt all that tension as I began this meditation.  My lower back won’t relax for anything, and I’m currently nursing quite the neck crink.  In fact, I had to do this meditation lying on the floor!  It hurt too much to sit still that long!

Despite my relaxation issues, this symbol came flying to me the instant I summoned it.  I think it’s really appropriate, since I connect the earth element so much with grounding and centering, and the spiral of energy is one that strongly reminds me of being centered and present in the moment:  very earthly qualities.

I placed the paper I drew the symbol on top of my pentacle and passed it through some vanilla incense and above the flames of two anointed, green candles I inscribed with the spiral.  As I did this, I envisioned the symbol being transferred to my pentacle, and I left the pentacle between the candles until they burnt out.

Day 225: The Pentacle

The pentacle is the magical tool associated with the earth, and–like the cup–it’s fairly easy to see the association.  After all, the pentacle is a solid disk that can act as a sort of platter to hold all the other tools:  it is the ground upon which everything else holds focus.  You can use any disk for the pentacle, and–believe it or not–it doesn’t have to be inscribed with a pentagram–the five-point unicursal star that, when encircled, also goes by the name of pentacle.  This star is an important symbol in Wicca because it naturally corresponds with man’s five extremities (think of the Vitruvian Man), his five senses, and the five major elements (earth, air, fire, water, spirit).  It becomes an important pagan symbol when it is inscribed by a circle, which symbolically ties all the points, extremities, and elements together.  Moreover, each separate point of the pentacle has a hard association with a particular element.  With the upright pentagram, the top point represents the fifth element–spirit or akasha–while the top left corresponds with water, the top right with air, the bottom left with earth, and the bottom right with fire.

This is a correction of the image shown in Roderick's text.  While he has the correct arms in his prose description, air and water are flipped in the image.  This restores them to their correct arms.

This is a correction of the image shown in Roderick’s text. While he has the correct arms in his prose description, air and water are flipped in the image. This restores them to their correct arms.

I think that, at first glance, it seems a little odd to inscribe a symbol that encompasses all the elements onto the tool that corresponds primarily with earth.  I suppose one would assume that the earth symbol would make far more sense.  But again, you’ve got to remind yourself that the disk is the ground–it is the surface upon which all the other elements can come into existence.  The tool pentacle is not the pentacle symbol:  the symbol rides on the surface to remind us of earth’s importance.

If there’s still confusion on the fact that the disk is not the star symbol itself, it’s important to learn that past magical traditions didn’t exclusively use the word “pentacle” to mean an encircled five pointed star.  In fact, the word could refer to any magical amulet used in evocation.  My somewhat uncharitable (and completely unfounded) assumption is that “pentacle” and “pentagram” have become nearly synonymous in post-Wicca magic because of Gerald Gardner’s issues with learning disabilities.  With the words “pentagram” and “pentacle” being so similar, I think it highly likely that old Gerald inadvertently substituted one for another without much thought.  It’s also likely that the two terms became synonymous because one of the most famous pre-Wiccan pentacles was the Sigillum Dei Aemeth, a late middle-ages magical diagram that has at its center a pentagram.  A very reduced version of it, then, would probably look like an encircled pentagram.

Sloane3188-john_dee

John Dee’s diagram of the Sigillum Dei Aemaeth found in the British Museum, MS Sloane 3188, 16th century.

Practically, we use the pentacle disk in ritual to represent the element of earth during invocation, as a symbol that sort of ‘grounds’ the other magical tools and items by consecrating and magically charging the items placed upon it, and  band as a platter to hold and consecrate the food for cakes and wine.

Many people who are new to Wicca have an uneasy relationship with the star symbol, since popular culture often understands it to mean ‘evil’ or ‘Satanic’ (which it can mean when inverted, just like an inverted cross would).  If this is your mindset, Roderick offers a meditative practice to help us understand the pentacle symbol:

Pentacle Practice:

Take time to consider your body as the living symbol of the pentacle and know that you are a manifestation of all elements.  The following pentagram exercise helps connect you to the earth, provides grounding and centering of your energy, and provides magical protection.

Get a container of salt (preferably kosher or sea salt) and take it outside with you.  Ue the salt to form a 6-7 foot diameter pentagram on the ground.  (Note:  if you do this on a lawn, the salt will kill the grass and vegetation.)  As you create this pentagram, chant these words of power:

Five-fold forms the sacred birth,
Of air, fire, water, and earth.

Lie down in the center of the pentagram with your head at the top point, your arms within the side points and your legs inside of the bottom points.  Close your eyes and take several deep breaths.  Now imagine that a golden glow begins to form in your right hand. (You are the pentagram, so you are the mirror of the description above.)  In your left hand, a blue glow begins to form.  In the sole of your right foot, you can see a green glow forming, and in your left foot a red glow takes form.  Focus now on your breath.  As you inhale, draw each of these glowing colors toward your chest.  Once the colors meet at the center of your chest they explode into rays of blinding white.  Imagine that this energy travels up your spine and out through the top of your head.  This energy then links you to the universe.  When you are done, open your eyes, stand up, and scatter the salt pentagram on the ground with your left foot.

I can see how this can become a favorite grounding exercise of mine!  Physically, lying on the ground with my legs spread at the pentacle angles almost always ‘pops’ the tension in my lower vertebrae and allows me to relax more deeply.  Spiritually, I really enjoy purposefully drawing each element into myself and charging me fully.  I often feel that in my Hartwood Grove groundings that I’m only really pulling earth and air, though I often try to envision tapping into the volcanic core for fire and the clouds for water.  This gives a very full grounding feeling.

Day 224: Chalice, Personal Symbol of Power

Just as we did on days 215 and 220 with the wand and athame, today we will do a meditation to find our chalice’s personal power symbol.

Reader:

Close your eyes and take several deep breaths.  Scan your body from head to toe and note wherever it is you hold tension.  As you note tension, breathe through that body part and release the tension.  Continue relaxing each body part until you feel wholly still and internally silent.

(Reader: pause for a moment.)

Once you are fully relaxed, close your eyes and imagine that you stand at the edge of a vast ocean at dusk.  Direct your attention to the waves as they crash and foam on the shore.  Take a deep breath, inhaling the salty sea spray.  Imagine that it is dusk and you stand at the seashore, facing west.  Imagine that you wade in up to your knees in the warm, inviting sea.  You carry the chalice with you and ritually submerge it into the brine, saying, “I summon thee, O symbol of power!”  Soon you will notice that the chalice glows with a bright blue aura.  Lift it from the water, examine it, and you will see your power symbol inscribed and glowing upon the cup.  Look at this symbol closely and remember it.

Once you have seen your power symbol, allow the vision of the ocean to fade.  Open your eyes when you are ready.  Record the symbol on a blank piece of paper and transfer this to the chalice, either painting it, engraving it, or magically infusing it.

When you have finished setting the personal power symbols on the chalice, set it in a place of visual prominence for the remainder of the day.  Before going to bed, wrap the chalice in a special cloth such as a blue silk, and store it until it is time for the chalice consecration.

My cup's personal symbol.  Very appropriate, no?

My cup’s personal symbol. Very appropriate, no?

I’m starting to get a little more confident with these exercises and went into this one fully expecting that the right symbol would appear.  Of course, it did.  I could see it on the chalice while it was still submerged in the ocean.  I’m also starting to realize that my deep subconscious or whatever is sending me these symbols has a definite aesthetic.  Like the wand and athame, I again have two curls, but this time they form a heart, the universal symbol of love.  In my opinion, this is the perfect symbol for a grail, the eternal fount of love that it is.

I tucked the paper I drew the symbol on into my chalice and passed it through some vanilla incense and above the flames of two anointed, blue candles I inscribed with the symbol.  As I did this, I envisioned the symbol being transferred to my chalice, and I left the chalice between the candles until they burnt out.

Day 220: The Athame, Personal Symbol of Power

Just as we did on day 215 with the wand, today we’re doing a guided meditation to find a personal power symbol for our athame.

Reader:

Close youre eyes and take several deep breaths.  Scan your body from head to toe and note wherever it is you seem to hold physical tension.  As you note tension, breathe through the body part and release the tension.  Continue relaxing each body part until you feel wholly still and internally silent.

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

Once you are fully relaxed, imagine that you stand facing south before a small bonfire, while holding your athame.  The midday sun blazes down upon your shoulders as you stand close to the fire.  Warmth radiates from both the sun and the small fire before you.  Imagine now that you hold the athame over the fire and say: “I summon thee, O symbol of power!”  Release the athame to the fire and you will see it slowly descend into the flames.  Soon the fire takes on a bright red aura and the athame then rises from the fire.  You grasp the hilt of the knife only to find that it is cool to the touch.  Examine the blade and you will notice a power symbol engraved and glowing there.  Remember this glowing symbol for later.

Once you have seen your fiery symbol of power, allow the vision of the bonfire to fade and then open your eyes when you feel you are ready.  Record the symbol on a blank piece of paper and transfer this to the athame by either painting it, engraving it, or magically infusing it.

When you have finished setting the personal power symbols on the athame, set it in a place of visual prominence for the remainder of the day.  Before going to bed, wrap the athame in a special cloth, such as red silk, and store it until it is time for the athame consecration.

This is my athame's personal symbol.  I think of it as flames coming from a fire.

This is my athame’s personal symbol. I think of it as flames coming from a fire.

Like with the wand, I was pretty darn certain I wasn’t going to see any sort of symbol…but I did!  Right when I examined the blade, I saw this set of curls.  It’s kind of similar to what I saw with the wand, except one arm is longer than the other and they meet to form a V.  Overall, it reminds me a bit of flames jumping from a fire.

I wrapped the blade of my athame in the paper I drew the symbol on and passed it through some sandalwood incense and above the flames of two anointed, red candles I inscribed with the symbol.  As I did, I envision the symbol being transferred into my athame’s blade.

Day 215: The Wand, Personal Symbol of Power

On day 214, we were to have magically infused the sigils into our wand by inscribing them into a pair of yellow candles and writing them in black ink onto a circle of yellow paper.  We were then to sprinkle the paper with air incense, twist it closed, and burn it on a piece of charcoal as we held the wand in the smoke, chanting “By the blessed thirteen moons, Sealed are ye by sacred runes!”  We were to finish by laying the wand between the candles and leaving it there until the candles burnt out or below the inscriptions.

Today, we are to do this with our own personal symbol of power.  In order to find that symbol, though, we go through a guided imagery meditation.

Reader:

Close your eyes and take several deep breaths.  Scan your body from head to toe and note wherever it is you seem to hold physical tension.  As you note tension, breathe through the body part and release the tension.  Continue relaxing each part of your body until you feel wholly still and internally silent.

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

Although your eyes are closed, imagine that you can see the wand you hold in your hands.  Imagine now that you hold the wand up to the eastern sky and say: “I summon thee, O symbol of power!”  Suddenly, a warm breeze blows and it carries a multitude of tiny glowing golden symbols–all of them are alike.  The symbols float and dance like fairies in the air around the wand.  Within moments, the wand blazes with a golden energy.  You peer at it and discover that it is engraved with the power symbol you saw floating nearby just moments ago.  Remember the symbol that you see, as well as where it is engraved upon the wand.

Once you have seen your air power symbol, allow the vision of the magical meadow to face and then open your eyes when you feel you are ready.  Record the symbol on a blank piece of paper and transfer this to the wand by painting it, engraving it, or magically infusing it.  When you have finished setting the personal power symbols on the wand, place it in a visually prominent location for the remainder of the day.

This is apparently my air symbol.  I like to think of it as a gust of wind.

This is apparently my air symbol. I like to think of it as a gust of wind.

I have to admit that I wasn’t all that certain I’d see a symbol going into the meditation, but–sure enough–my inner vision was full of these mirrored curls.  They’re not unlike the zodiacal symbol for Ares, but the staves don’t form a V, and it’s tilted to oneside.  I prefer to think of it like a gust of wind.

My air incense is still packed away, but I did pass my wand through a stick of sandalwood planted in some sand wherein I traced my symbol, then set it between two anointed yellow candles onto which I inscribed the symbol.  I think it will be nice start to building a better relationship with my wand, which is unfortunately the least used of all my tools.

Day 211: Contemplative Day, The Power of Magic

Meditative Question:  What is the power that drives magic?
Symbolic Color:  Purple
Symbolic Direction:  Southwest

Contemplating the power that is behind magic is the same as becoming one with this mysterious source.  In our year’s training we have not yet discussed magic in depth.  Because of this, you might wonder how to contemplate magic without prior knowledge of the subject matter.  It is important to keep in mind that knowledge appeals only to the linear, unidirectional mind.  Magic (and contemplation) begins with letting go of what we know, getting into our bodies, becoming acquainted with our emotions, our physical energy patterns, and the world around us in an experiential way.  Academic knowledge of magic is as useful to a spiritual practice as is academic knowledge of the color red or of a symphony.  You can’t adequately explain these things in words; they are experiences that transcend verbal explanation.  Today’s contemplation should take you to the bottom of any assumptions, ideas, or information you have.

To begin, find a comfortable meditative sitting position in a quiet place while facing the southwest.  Light a purple candle and sit approximately two feet away from the flame.  Next cast your gaze upon the flickering candle and hold the question firmly for 20-30 minutes.

You may not arrive at a magically satisfactory conclusion in one sitting alone, so to manifest a greater depth of answer, it will be important to see this question as it actualizes in each of your activities.  Become one with it in each of your tasks.  Allow your body, mind, and spirit to become this question as you eat, sleep, work, and play.  Over time, a shift in your perception will take place and you will realize your own answer.

I think I’ve come up with a couple answers for “What is the power of magic.”  The first is a more cerebral answer:  directed change.  There’s that old Crowley definition of Magic being “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”.  We force magic to occur when we desire a change to come about.  The forces which then effect that change are all magic, so magic is essentially the process of desired change.

I think, though, that our desire to truly change something comes from love.  For example, people have a really hard time losing weight until love of self and body overcomes the love of stimulation.  Superficial desires–working a spell to ace a test when you didn’t put in the effort to study–rarely result in true magical workings.  Magic is a deep, mysterious force.  It’s got to come from something equally deep and mysterious.  What is more deep and mysterious than love?

Day 209: Making a Wand, Preparation

There is a lot of lore and ‘rules’ that go into choosing wood from which to make a wand.  These are some of the more important ‘traditional’ ones:

  1. The wand should come from a living tree, so as to retain the tree’s spiritual essence.
  2. The most ideal time to collect one’s wand wood is at midnight on Midsummer, the most mercurial time (for the wand is the most mercurial of tools).
  3. The branch should be no more than one inch in diameter (or no thicker than your thumb).
  4. The branch should be completely straight.
  5. The branch should be equal to the measurement from the tip of your middle finger to the crook of your elbow, or slightly longer to accommodate for length lost in further shaping of the wand.  (Interesting note:  your foot is as long as the crux of your elbow to the base of your palm, so this length of wand is also the length of your hand plus the length of your foot.)
  6. The branch should be cut with a single stroke of a blade to assure its magical vitality.  (Best to bring the pruning shears with you, as it’s a little hard to do this with a knife.)

However, I think just about every single one of these rules has been broken at least once by almost every witch.  Loads of people don’t want to cause harm to a tree by snipping off a branch, it’s more than a little difficult to collect a wand at that precise time, thicker branches offer more wiggle room in shaping the final wand, slightly shorter wands are easier to manage in circle, lots of people like more natural-looking ‘bendy’ wands, and it is a little hard to remove a branch in one stroke.  I really wouldn’t worry overmuch if one or more of these ‘traditional’ rules can’t be met.

It’s probably far more important that your own wand harvesting keep in mind some of the symbols this list tries to help promote.  Harvest your wand in a spiritual frame of mind that is “between the worlds,” which is what Roderick suggests in today’s exercise.

Practice:  ‘Twixt the Earth and Sky

Today’s practice involves centering yourself between the contrasting forces of earth and sky.  This technique aligns you to the wand’s Mercurial nature.  It is preferable to practice this technique when you can feel the warming energies of the sun directly on your skin.

To begin, turn to face the north.  Raise your right arm, making sure that the palm of your right hand faces the sky–toward the sun.  Close your eyes.  Imagine that the energy of the sun begins to concentrate and focus into a beam that enters your raised palm.  Breathe deeply.  With each inhalation, imagine that the power of the sun draws down into your body, filling it.  Continue to draw the sun’s energy until you feel completely flooded with solar light.

Hold your left arm at your side and flex your left hand at the wrist so that your left palm is parallel with the surface of the earth.  Continue to keep your eyes closed.  Imagine that a cool green energy radiates from the earth and focuses into a beam that merges with the palm of your left hand.  With each inhalation, the power of the earth enters your body and fills it.  Continue to draw the energies of the earth into your body in this way until you feel it blend with the energies of the sun.

When you are finished, open your eyes and place both palms flat against each other, in “prayer hands”.  Hold them in this way, pressing them together until you sense that the intensity of these two energies subsides.  When you are finished with this practice, place both of your hands under cold running water or flat on the ground for a few minutes to restore your own natural energy patterns.

I performed this exercise almost exactly as written, with the exception that the sun was setting at the time, so I turned towards it and the west.  All in all, it moved energies in a similar way to the ritual grounding that we do in Hartwood Grove.  There, we first ground down into the earth and feel its energies and pull them up into ourselves, then we push those energies through our crowns into sky branches and we pull that energy down into ourselves, then let them swirl and circulate through our bodies.  It was very interesting to basically do the practice in reverse and through my palm chakras.  I felt the warm solar energy much more profoundly than I do when I tap to the earth first, and the circulation did seem more pronounced in my pressed palms than it did in the rest of my body.  But, in the end, I felt the same sort of “in betweenness” I feel in a good ritual grounding.