Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kapet, or Egyptian Kyphi.

Chewy. Delicious.
I've been dipping my toes (and then my entire personage) into the world of incense making over the last year. I started out with recipes from others, and then began developing my own blends.

A few of them have been a rousing success, the May Day incense had the desired effect, but maybe too much so (1). The circle incense has been grand, but too smokey (it sets off the alarms). And apparently my Satyr-themed incense is so voluminous as to fog up someone's apartment as though a large gang of Rastafarians had recently taken up residence.

The incense I've been trying at for, well, years, has been Kyphi. It's delicate, it's touchy, and if done wrong it just stinks. It seems that a LOT of people use the same mistranslations of the Edfu recipe over and over, or worse... very pared down bastardizations from the more pop authors.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Unpopular Truth.

It is IMPOSIBLE to self-initiate. Fuss all you like, disbelieve, rail, cry "pagan persecution" and "meanie poohead traditionalist" until you go blue in the face. It is impossible to self-initiate.


Initiation requires that there be a trigger and catalyst. A indoctrination by one party, of another party. A singular individual cannot indoctrinate them self into what they do not know, and if they already know it (someone self-initiating into their "own tradition") there is no induction process. One can dedicate them-self toward a practice, or confirm their walking of an already-established mode. But that is not an initiation.

But, of course, it's possible to be:
Initiated without a -physical- Initiator.

Initiation is something you can do by yourself, but it is something that can occur when no on else is physically near you. All circles are as one circle, and if properly cut through the worlds into a shared space, two people half a world apart can join together in spirit to pass the proper ties. Some traditions allow for this, though all the records are kept, and when the time comes the person ideally undergoes the physical initiation as well.

In addition, The Gods may come when sincerely called, and jam the right wires into your back. And though that may sound a little "harsh", direct god-to-human initiation is not exactly gentle. It's big, it's rough and painful... and often far more filled with life-upheaval than even the most misguided of human-on-human initiations. Why?? Probably because the experience of a body is not their strong suit, and thus they are unaware of the finer points of keeping it in perfect shape (or, in the case of some gods, the point is breaking you apart so they can remake you). Maybe because they are -gods-, and the small sip of energy we are accustomed to dealing with is nothing compared to the torrent they pour into us.

These initiations are really not ideal where most Trads are concerned. They are messy and forge connections which my folk call "Nonstandard in either quality, quantity or topography" (as compared to a "normal" initiation). The understanding of the Gods/Powers, rites, rituals and purposes of each, which come through these connections are most often NOT in holding with the Tradition one was trying to jack into. Hell, even the best-laid initiations sometimes result in this.

Self-Dedication, versus "Self-Initiation"
When I was a very young witch, I did a self-dedication ritual from a book. This was not an external experience (like initiation), but an internal one. This was a self-affirmation of my dedication (or, gosh, self-dedication). This got me walking in the right direction, and put me on the radars of the right powers (who put me on the radars of the right Priests).

Some folks say that The Witch Power is always inside us, and it merely takes a transformative experience, and applied use of said power, to create a Witch. That's fine and dandy, but still does not cover the grammatical and logic errors of "Self-Initiation". Revelatory experience is a much better term for that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Severe Beauty, Belladonna

The nightshade family is diverse. It runs the course from nondescript black berries that can viciously extinguish your life, to huge, plump, near-white fruit that explode with an acidic sweetness and are incorporated into very progressive marinara.

Nightshades are all poisonous to one degree or another. Their modern descendants, the Tomato, contain the poison in their greenery, and not the fruit, though. The toxins in Belladonna and it's relatives are tropane alkaloids like atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. These toxins effect the involuntary actions of the body, and poisoning can be catastrophic. Among the most mild are pupil dilation (and it's companion, light sensitivity), but on the darker side, tachycardia (heart racing), loss of balance, rash, slurred speech, confusion, panic, convulsions, heart failure, coma and death.

Belladonna means "beautiful woman", and the deva/spirit/ally of this plant is the epitome of this archetype. She is gorgeous, luscious, tempting, and fatal. Her beauty is refined to a razor's edge, and so perfect that it is poisonous. She has turned fine features and graceful curves into pain. She is woman, weaponized.

Like any Femme Fatale, she lures you in with these looks for her own ends. Belladonna is jealous, vindictive and envious. A mask of certainty over a sea of chaos. Sampling her is opening yourself to the chaos inside.

It has become extremely trendy to take Belladonna recreationally, on the kick that "it's natural therefore safe" or for it's "witchiness". I've seen it's inclusion in incenses with no warning to keep it to the outdoors, or well vented areas. I've seen it touted for sleep (based on the film Practical Magic, I'm guessing), with no warning that an overdose means death. In short, I see a lot of people who fail to realize that gorgeous woman cannot be tamed, nor used.

Old herbals cite the use of Belldonna in plasters, poultices, and extracts applied to obscure locations such as a toenail (slower and more diffuse absorption). But never, NEVER is she taken internally. The only references I find to the internal ingestion of this Beautiful lady is by the condemned. There's sparse folklore about accused witches being slipped the poison so that they would simply fall asleep and die before they got to the gallows.

She rules death/Daath, and this connection is often viewed with a veil of childlike glitter by modern pagans. Death is the welcomed sleep, unless it comes too early, and too painfully... then it is a hateful thief. The great cycle is defined by intense joy, and intense suffering. Her realm is suffering, sad to say. From stinging nettle-thorn to bitter poison-fruit, her Apple of Sodom becomes ash in the mouth.

But... (and there's always one of those), if one wishes to explore the power of the plant, she is there to speak. You don't need to ingest it, or even touch it. A glass jar of supple, raisin-hard berries never needs to be opened to commune with her. Meditation works shockingly well to speak with her. Before I ever did any real research a nighttime chat with Horse Nettle (a nightshade relative) left me dizzied and drunk, and not in a good way. But her lessons are sharp. Visions of the gallows, of suffering, of torture, of weaponized beauty, and hateful power.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Blood and Bone

"Secular Halloween".. or... er... is that Samhain?

The Fall "Sabbat" did not form in a vacuum. It formed from age after age of man, woman and child scraping a living from the soil. And the soil supporting those people. It came from making the hard choices each fall between which stock would yield enough progeny next year, and which were too many to feed over the winter when food was not to be found. It came from the cull, and the harvest. It came from blood and bone. We talk a big game about how Halloween has become a superficial, "Christianized" parody of The Old Faiths Holidays, how Halloween witches are offensive (that old chestnut STILL makes me laugh, though)... and yet we are no better.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Herbs and You.
Someone recently asked me about what I mean when I say I have a working relationship with the deva/ally of a plant. I explained that each plant is sort of like a hive-mind. Each is it's own individual, but the species collective shares traits so closely, and are so fluid that Wormwood from one place -can be- the same plant spirit you knew from another place. But it's also more than that... it's about experimenting with the plant's physical side.

I am an unashamed hater of hokey. I have a real hard time with "too weird to be true" tales told with a sly grin and try as I might I can't dig the following out of that mental place for me, so I will just have to try to dampen the snarkiness on it for a time.

Whenever I procure a new herb (or locate the growing plant in my yard), I take the time to mediate with it. Not "Ohm" with the lights out, but still, quiet, time spent feeling both the physical quality of the material*, and it's energetic nature. I will burn a bit*, simmer a bit, taste a bit*, see how it grinds in a mortar, see how it chops or breaks in the fingers*... and fill out a little sheet something like this (note, this is not the actual sheet, but terribly close). * (assuming it's nontoxic)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Corpses Upon Which We Are Blessed To Dance.

The Danse Macabre.
That's a bit of a cheeky title, but really sums up the way I feel about some things. I just finally started posting over at Harry's Blog "The Alchemist's Garden", after being a long-time fan of his herbal craft website, and his skill in that arena.

It was his article about flying ointment that caught my attention. Why? It's a prickly subject, and one I've noticed resurfacing a lot in the Pagan communities. To refine some points here I think that part of the attraction to banes is something our own culture causes itself. If you were to list "witch herbs" the top slots will probably belong to Belladonna, Mandrake, Wormwood and White Sage. None of these are particularly good to ingest.

Part of it is that yearning for "authentic witchiness" that affects some of the Elders just like the Youngers. There's a lot of whimsy and a bit of personal satisfaction when I take a good look at my herb cabinet, I'll admit. Why else would I have hand-labeled on parchment slips and stored in latch-lid apothecary jars?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rumors, Gossip and Social Control.

Not long ago I saw a quarrel start in the community around me. The specifics aren't important, except to say that a well-established member of the community got accused of casting malignant magick against a very new person, who had previously been making claims of elderhood. In turn, the well-established member made the claim that, in fact, the new person had been slinging a lot of crap his way, and he simply opted to enact a mirror-spell, sending back what was sent out.

Rumors began flying left and right, gossip about the Elder's previous magickal faux pas, and about how this Llewiccan upstart might have more raw skill than said Elder.

We realized, after a flurry of yik-yakking (which some of us stayed out of) that one person was doing the majority of the rumor-milling. It was someone who had spotted an opportunity to "dethrone" someone he disliked (the elder), and control the social politics.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ritual Recordkeeping and Books of Shadows.

One of the more important bits of Occult house-keeping (at least, to me) that is often overlooked is record-keeping. How often has each of us done a ritual, or even minor working, and then forgotten about it? Weeks later a result appears that may have been tied to the working we think we remember doing, but there's no way of telling for sure.

Not only do we owe it to ourselves to track the effectiveness of our methods, but to those for whom we work. If we did a ritual promising something to a force or deity, and failed to come through on it due to simple forgetfulness, it weakens our magick, because our Will is not so iron as we thought.