Day 105: Spring Equinox: Incense and Oil

Today, Roderick finishes the Ostara studies by asking us to make up some incense and oil to use at Ostara rituals, or “at any time that [we] want to bring about the energies and insights of Spring Equinox.”  His recipes are as follows:

Spring Equinox Incense

A handful of powdered sandalwood
2 teaspoons dry cinquefoil
1 teaspoon dried rose petals
Vegetable glycerin
4 drops honeysuckle essential oil
3 drops rose essential oil
2 drops jasmine essential oil

Place the sandalwood in a medium-sized bowl and stir in about 1 tablespoon of vegetable glycerin with a fork or metal whisk.  You want to create a soft, fluffy, compound.  Add a second tablespoon of glycerin if needed to obtain this consistency.  Add in the essential oils and whisk, then add the other dried herbs and mix thoroughly.  Wait at least one day for the compound to settle before you sprinkle it on hot coals.

Spring Oil

Vegetable glycerin or a carrier oil such as grapeseed oil
4 drops honeysuckle essential oil
3 drops rose essential oil
2 drops jasmine essential oil
Pinch of dried iris, rose, or dandelion

Find a one-ounce bottle.  Fill the bottle halfway with vegetable glycerin.  Add in plain water until the bottle is three-quarters full.  Alternately, fill the bottle three-quarters full with a carrier oil.  Add in the essential oils and the dry ingredients.  Close the lid, and shake the bottle.  The oil may be used immediately.

I didn’t make the oils or incenses for Yule or Imbolc because I lacked the oils or herbs at the time and did not have the resources to procure them.  I probably don’t have the resources now, but I’ve been on something of a spending binge these days.  Also, thanks to Z., I found a local store–Mrs. Thompson’s Herbs, Gifts, and Folklore–where I can pick up small amounts of most incense herbs.  Buying just what I need and avoiding the shipping costs finally means that making incense is a feasible activity for me and my grad school income.  I think I spent all of $1.50 on the sandalwood, cinquefoil, and rose petals.  A splurge of $14.99 on a Mr. Coffee coffee grinder, and I’m in business.

Ostara Incense: The first incense I’ve ever made.

What’s that?  A coffee grinder?  Well, yes.  In my first foray with loose incense, I learned that large clumps of frankincense and myrrh on a charcoal will result in thick clouds of smoke.  Clouds that permeate everything in the house and set off all the smoke detectors.  Since then, I’ve learned to crush up the incense into a fine powder and sprinkle a little on the coal in semi-frequent intervals.  That either means getting all incense ingredients powdered, or powdering them myself.  I hear a mortar and pestle is the preferred magical route–all that hands-on energy, savvy?–and I do use a mortar for crushing resins (they’ll ruin a coffee grinder), but it takes absolutely forever for leaves and sandalwood.  I wish I could do it, but I just don’t have several laborious hours to devote to grinding incense.

So I whirred a handful of sandalwood for awhile until it was close to a powder, then I added the cinquefoil and rose petals and kept whirring until it all came to a fairly homogeneous powder.  (To be honest, I probably added 2 tablespoons of cinquefoil and at least 1 tablespoon of rose.)  I upended it all into a bowl, worked in the glycerin (2 tablespoons), then the oils.  Lacking the honeysuckle, I did about 6 drops of rose and 8 of jasmine (my jasmine is cut with a carrier).  Fifteen minutes later, I had incense.  We’ll see how it burns tomorrow, I guess.

Incidentally, the coffee grinder is pretty easy to clean for the next round of incense.  Grind up some white rice–I do about 1/2 a cup in two 1/4 cup batches–and discard the flour.  It’ll take away all the residual herbs, and then you can unplug the grinder and wipe out any clinging flour with a damp towel.

I didn’t make the oil because I have no oil containers.  And besides…a whole ounce of oil is A LOT of oil.  I did play with it a bit, though, and I learned that I don’t like using vegetable glycerin for this.  It’s kind of sticky when it dries.  Ick.

EDIT:  Meh.  I’m not overly fond of it.  Smells too much like burning leaves for me.  I’d definitely keep closer to Roderick’s sandalwood/herbs split in the future.

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Day 104: Spring Equinox, Cosmic-Egg Cleansing

Exercise:

Take a fresh egg and rub it across all doors and windows.  Once you have completed this, tap a hole into the smaller, tip-end of the egg using a pin.  Then make another hole at the opposite end of the egg.  Take the egg outside of your home, dig a hole in the earth, and then blow the egg’s contents into the hole.  Close the hole and leave the site, never to return.  Keep the hollowed eggshell as a charm against future negative vibrations.

I’m pretty sure this exercises has a root in central or South American folk practices.  I’m fairly certain I’ve heard of different shamans and the like rolling an egg over someone to pick up the disturbances in their aura.  Sometimes the egg is used to wick away those disturbances, the idea being that a freshly-laid egg is a completely pure entity and readily absorbs the surrounding energies of people who handle it afterward.  Sometimes the shaman breaks the egg open and ‘reads’ what it picked up, sort of like a divination.  CSI: Miami recently showed this practice in “Sleepless in Miami” (Season 9, Episode 5) just before a fake psychic drugs a detective.  Not that that’s relevant at all.

At any rate, I took that egg and rubbed it over the door and window to my room, visualizing it absorbing negative influences that enter my room.  Practically speaking, rubbing the egg over my door was not pleasant.  The shell kept dragging on the paint, and I thought the egg might break.  Afterward, I took the egg to my garden, dug a hole and broke the egg into it.  There wasn’t a power in the ‘verse that was going to get me to blow the contents out of the egg–it actually takes a fair bit of time, and I didn’t want to keep the eggshell anyway.  Heaven knows I’ll have oodles of pysanky to store later in the year.

I’m not noticing a difference in the energies in my space–it was pretty chill before and remains pretty chill now.

Day 103: Spring Equinox, A Day of Unknowing

Today, Roderick calls attention to how spring can be representative of newness and beginnings, and asks us to do an exercise that is intended to bring spiritual freshness:  not-knowing.  This, as he later describes, means setting aside the discursive, analytical mind–that which categorizes and critically thinks–in order to show how our lives often fall into story patterns.  The idea is to show that theses stories separate us from the natural world–that our minds makes us lose track of our natural reality.

Practice:  Not Knowing

Begin the day by greeting the dawn.  As you watch the sunrise, make a vow to yourself that you will live without judgments, categories, or critiques.  Whenever you catch yourself relying heavily on classifications, say the word “stop” aloud (or to yourself when appropriate).  After saying the word, take a deep breath.  Inhale and expand your lungs and belly.  Place your focus on these sensations and expansion.  Allow your breath to flow out naturally.  Try this three or four times, then go on with your day–practicing this technique whenever necessary.

This day couldn’t have been more perfect for this exercise.  I only got about a half an hour of sleep the day before, so I crashed really early last night and slept until about 8:30 this morning…which clearly wasn’t part of the exercise.  But last night it snowed…and everything was crisp, bright, and sort of made new by the snow.  All the world outside was untouched.

I couldn’t devote the whole day to this exercise:  my day job involves using my critical thinking skills and teaching others to do the same.  However, I did have a nice morning where I allowed myself to be similarly untouched and went through my day and interactions as though I’d never done them before.  And I noticed things about my life and my neighbors that I hadn’t noticed before.  I found more beauty in the world than I typically see.  It was sort of like being a child again.

Day 102: Spring Equinox, Sowing Seeds Rite

Exercise:

Using a red ink pen, write on a green 4×4 inch square of paper a wish that you’d like to see begin sprouting and growing during the spring season.  You can grown anything you’d like in your magical-wish garden; for example, your finances, your love life, your intuition, or your empathy.  Whatever your wish, place it at the bottom of a planter or clay pot.

Next, place a silver-colored coin on top of the paper.  As you place the coin in the bottom of the pot, say:

Silver moon inside this dish
Wax and wane, but grant my wish!

Now, cover the coin and the wish with potting soil.  Hold a sunflower seed between the palms of your hands.  Close your eyes and imagine your wish coming true.  bring into your imaginary senses every sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell associated with your wish coming true.  Once you have a strong mental image, begin to exhale thrice upon the seed in your hands.  Quickly plant the seed just an inch or so from the top of the soil.  Cover it over and water it.  Keep the pot in a warm, sunny spot.  Tend to the seed daily so that it can grow.  Know that as the seed sprouts and unfolds, so will your wish!

Assembled supplies for the working.

So, it’s the middle of November.  Nothing is going to grow (for very long), and that really…ah, undermines the symbolism in this working.  But who would have thought of doing Ostara work in November?  It’s rare instances like this that make me think following the specific order of Roderick’s days isn’t the best use of the book.  Thankfully, those are rare because I quite like the ease of following the days!

At any rate, I did modify the specifics here.  I used California Poppy seeds for one thing–it’s the only thing other than cover crop seeds that the Down to Earth expert gardener said would germinate (and she wasn’t enthusiastic about them growing much at all).  I also lacked a green piece of paper, so I wrote “Grow” in green around the edges of a white note card.  Because there were so many tiny seeds, I went and planted them, then held the planter to do the visualization.  It’s so cold in my house, I thought I’d drop the seeds and make a huge mess if I held them directly!

On my card I wrote that I wished to see my follow-through improved; that is, I wished my tendency towards procrastination to significantly lessen.  I imagined myself sitting at my office desk, working diligently on term papers early in the term, and–since I’d been working on it frequently and early–I could accommodate more and other projects simultaneously.  I saw myself gaining a reputation for organization, stability, and careful work.  I felt myself become calmer and happier–as well as very self-satisfied!  It was, I suppose, “the smell and taste of success.”

Do you think if I keep the pot on my heater in front of my window the seeds will sprout?

Well, if the seeds don't sprout, it won't be for lack of trying.

Day 101: Spring Equinox, Balancing Spirit

I love how Roderick starts out his intro to the exercise.  He sounds almost like Jeff Foxworthy:  “Do you use the Tarot cards to decide whether or not to use the bathroom? […] Are you tongue-tied by rigid insistence on political correctness? […] Do you find yourself incessantly contemplating spirituality?”  Well, then you might be spiritually imbalanced.  Redneck.

Roderick ultimately points out that the spiritually obsessed–the person who does, in fact, check their cards to verify their bowel sensations–needs to find a way to view all of life as “an expression of the spirit”, to see that “going to the bathroom is just as important to spiritual development as […] working a spell.”  In other words, the idea is to find the holy in the mundane itself and not to become reliant on the trappings–the cards, candles, spells–to be spiritual.  Roderick also acknowledges the flip side to spiritual obsession:  dismissive rationality, which he defines as an exclusive focus on “practical matters in an attempt to exclude spirituality.”  This is a person who “becomes mired in the density of form, the tasks of daily life, and the stimulation of the physical senses” and who may experience periods of feeling depression, isolation, and disconnection.

Roderick anticipates that most of his readers will have a list toward spiritual obsession or have a fairly balanced spiritual/practical life.  I kind of think I’m on the dismissive rational side of things, though.  I’ve lost my sense of how mundane things can be spiritual, and there IS a strong part of me that kind of laughs at the trappings of spell work:  what really can there possibly be in some candle and oil that will really help me save a little money?  Wouldn’t it be more effective to ask someone to help me set up a budget?  To have a friend hold on to my credit cards?

Roderick recommends that people in my position “take time to explore something mysterious” like the meaning of existence, lay lines, UFOs, etc.  If this is too heebie-jeebie, then he recommends a contemplation of “why the divine does not play a part in [my] life.”  After anything like this, he asks that I explore the feelings that “underlie this defensive position.”

I don’t really think I eschew metaphysical things in general:  Wicca is my religion, after all.  I am drawn towards learning about things like Stonehenge and fairies, and ancient beliefs.  It’s fun and fascinating.  At the end of it all, though, I think I really do feel that the magic work we do operates more in the psychological medium rather than the physical.  If I do that money spell, I’ve put some focus into acknowledging that I have a problem and that I want to work towards a resolution.  So that might make me actually call up the friend to help me set up a budget, or it might just make me do things like not going out to dinner more than once a week.

I don’t know that I exclude the divine from my life…but I’m not always conscious of it.  I don’t sustain a view of the gods in everything and often operate from a more immediate basis.  If I’m hungry, and find an apple on the table, I’ll just eat the apple.  I don’t give thanks or wonder at the awesome spicy-sweetness of the apple and have a transcendental experience of all the evolutionary processes that went into that apple and me meeting and our energies becoming one and allowing me to continue on the gods’ path.

There’s no real emotion forcing this, just some apathy, I guess, and a lack of training in that experience.  The only time I ever said grace was at formal family suppers, for example, and even that was just saying memorized words.  I want to become more connected.  Maybe I should make a point to consciously have a moment of grace in my days.  Take those baby steps.

I sort of did that today with my breakfast:  I went and made a bowl of 9-grain hot cereal and topped it with some homemade plum jam, and as I ate it, I thought of all that went into making that moment.  All the sunlight and water that the grains used in their life and the energy locked under their hulls, all the work that went into their cultivation, harvesting, and processing.  All the work I did in making that jam.  How all that work and energy was the gods and how the consumption honored them.  And I gave thanks.  It was a nice moment of connection.

Day 100 Redux: Spring Equinox, Balancing Emotion

Oh, man…this exercise was largely why I stopped recording my exercises.  I was–and remain–an emotional blocker.  When something bad happens, I do one of two things:  I either totally break down and sob uncontrollably for maybe an hour or so, then I pull my shit together and come up with an action plan to either fix the problem, live with it or move on or I immediately go right to the action plan.

Roderick’s exercise asks emotional blockers to pick up their crayons and make pie charts of their feelings for the day and for the next several days after.  Which is a pretty cool exercise.  Use logic to help you start noticing emotion again–totally counter intuitive, but totally speaking the language of the blocker.

As I recall, my emotional pie chart for June 10, 2009 was a little red (anger), and a little green (happiness), but mostly brown (neutral).  The next day, though, my grandfather died.  And the next three pie charts had so much red, blue (sadness), and black (fear), that I looked like I had become severely depressed.  I thought I’d return to the exercise when my emotions went back to an ‘accurately representative sample,’ but that took awhile.  And then a lot of things happened where I needed my emotional blocking skills.  I could not have handled my dad’s abuse or being strong for my mother without them.  I had to carry her through a lot emotionally, financially, and–with the move–physically, too.  The most emotion I could allow myself was an occasional panicked text message to Johnathan, Rachel, or Natalie.  Then I’d have to immediately go back to action-Me.

I don’t know that I have any real emotions left in regards to my family implosion.  I’m deeply disappointed in my father–and angry at him, too.  I’m really furious that he hurt Mom and Zachary so badly–and every time I think about Zachary’s suicide attempt, I do feel real fear.  But most of the time I just don’t care anymore.  I don’t even really think about the situation all that much.

Day 99 Redux: Spring Equinox, Balancing Action

My life should be one of overactivity.  I’m in graduate school.  I teach.  I do chores at the co-op.  I take care of chickens.  I study Wicca.  I study cooking.  I do a hundred and one things every day.

But I still fall hard on the “listlessness” side of activity.  I still procrastinate horribly.  On everything.  I’ve done hardly any research for my term paper (due in a couple weeks!).  I haven’t put a roof on the chicken coop.  I’ve only graded TWO student papers from the last essay cycle…and on Monday I get their next one!

I do watch me a helluva lot of TV, though.  Have you seen the rape story line on Private Practice this season?  Really compelling writing and acting, that.

So, yes.  I needed to vow to complete two tasks today.  And what did I do?  I rented a truck and picked up the last materials needed to roof the chicken coop–that is, the roofing materials themselves.  Ten foot lengths of corrugated metal and 2x4s are not the easiest thing to transport in a Ford Taurus, after all.  I also replenished my eye makeup remover.  And I wrote this blog post.

I’m taking baby steps here.  Whenever I try to sit down and force myself to do something, I just get…tired.  Really, really tired.  And my brain turns off.  And all I want to do is sleep or be passively entertained.  It’s really hard to power through that, lately:  might I be depressed?

Day 98 Redux: The Meaning of Spring Equinox

Going back over my past posts, I don’t think I really need to restart this project altogether, but I do think I would benefit a little from revisiting the past few days of it.  I could work on my balance.  Right now, I’m pretty unbalanced, particularly when it comes to balancing my work life with my play life.  All I want to do is play.  Which isn’t great.  Of course, there’s something of an issue with wrenching my mental gears to consider Ostara when I just went through real Samhain and am looking forward to Yule…but I think I’ll manage without causing any schizophrenic breaks in my reality.

Starting over is awesome.  “Clearing the scales” during Spring cleaning, as Roderick puts it, gives me mental permission to close a door on the mistakes of the past and continue wiser and unfettered–a really powerful combination.  It’s not bad, or good, it just is.  And sometimes that clearing gets you to the objectivity needed to find balance.

The first of the focused areas of balance in this multi-day project is balance in thought.  Roderick notes that imbalance here takes the form of overanalyzing or nonthinking–where you either try to think your way through every experience, or not think at all.

I’m an overanalyzer.  In a big way.  I have a lot of trouble letting myself go and enjoying an experience.  Most frustratingly, I have a hard time reaching orgasm because I’m worried about reaching orgasm.  I don’t just disengage and experience.  Therefore, Roderick asks that I take time today to practice experiencing.  His example is that while eating, I could empty my mind and maintain awareness of the sensations in my mouth, and perhaps to then extend awareness to my other senses.

So I went on a walk.  It seems like about a million years since I last went on a walk.  In fact, I think maybe the last time I walked just to walk was…May.  Yikes.  I went up through Pioneer Cemetery which–as you know–is one of my favorite places in Eugene.  I’m so sorry I missed the progression of flowers up there this year.  I paid attention to the ground under my feet–the slick mud, the crunchy gravel softened by pine needles, the soft and dry dirt beneath the pines.  I paid attention to the warm sun on my face (and gave thanks for the experience, given that it’s November in Oregon and sun is a rarity), the flutter of birds, the friendliness of the little dog that bounded over to me, and wondered at the crazy array of mushrooms.  The scents were intoxicating:  rain, crisp leaves, and cool dirt.  I even found a few last roses clinging to a bush–their scent still potent–and brought a bud home with me.  I paid attention to my body, too:  the breath in my lungs, the slight burn in my legs, the strains on my feet, and all my cells feeling invigorated by the exercise.

Did I entirely turn my brain off?  Maybe not.  But the extra attention to the now and to my body was amazing.  Why don’t I do this more often?  Thank you, great cosmic reminders!

Day 100: Spring Equinox, Balancing Emotion

Continuing on the theme, we now turn to water to balance our emotions.

Roderick notes that imbalances in emotions cause “us to act out, to speak in harmful ways, and it causes is to dip right back into the thinking mode.”  He also emphasizes that “thinking and emotional reactions go hand in hand,” so that if we notice an imbalance in one, we should explore imbalances in the other.

On the one hand of emotional imbalance is feeling.  Roderick says that when “we emote and react to each circumstance, we start and internal monologue of complaints” which cause us to “miss out on what is actually happening.”  Things like missing the sound of wind, the sensations in our bodies, or other physical reactions to stimuli.  Missing out on the world means missing out on the Divine.

The flip side of emoting is repression, or blocking emotions.  In this, we “make ourselves tough” and “ignore our hurts.”  But this basically just numbs ourselves from life, so we miss pleasure as well as pain.

Exercise:

  • In reviewing your emotions, do you find that you are out of balance?
  • In which direction do you tip the scales?  In over emotionality or in emotional blocking?

If you find that you tip the scales in the direction of over-emotionality, take emotional checks at regular intervals during the day.  Emotional reacting is easy to spot.  It results in hurt, anger, or sadness.  It also results in extensive internal monologues.  Once you recognize emotional reacting, take time to dig beneath the thoughts, the monologues that surround the reaction.  What is it that lies beneath the reaction?  When you shine the light of awareness on it, you will notice that the energy shifts and neutralizes in a relatively short time.

If you tip the scales in the direction of emotional blocking, begin by drawing a circle on a piece of blank paper.  Pick five crayon (or marker) colors that will symbolize the following emotions:  anger, sadness, happiness, fear, and neutrality.  Of course, human emotions manifest in a spectacular array of tones and attitudes, but roughly they can be categorized by these five states.  Using your crayons and the circle you have already drawn, create a pie chart graph that represents how much you felt each of these emotional states during the day.  After you have represented each of the emotional states, review how much of your day you spent in each.  Try this exercise for the next several days, so that you can begin to notice emotions more regularly.

Oh, I think I fall hard on the side of emotional blocking.  I’m very much a bottler.  All the bad and good feelings get modulated into evenness.  I try to carry on with daily life through bad spells…and I do the same through the good.  I don’t really take the time to enjoy life with it is treating me right.  I just don’t feel.

So I’m going to do me the pie chart exercise for four days.  I’ve chosen red for anger, blue for sadness, black for fear, green for happiness, and brown for neutrality.  A graphic designer would cringe at this combo, but I’m not really creating something aesthetic, now, am I?