Monday, January 30, 2012

Musings Monday: Compassion, Anger, And Living your Path


(Image is of my G/Kuan Yin altar. As you may know, she is considered to be of the highest compassion in that she so wanted to help the world she chose to stick around, and since she couldn't help everyone at once, her head and arms split so she could better help the thousands who were suffering. I keep her statue as a reminder that the work is never finished.)

My purpose with my monday musings posts (which are basically rants, you know I'm angry all the time right? Hah) is not to wag my finger and tell everyone they're not doing enough, or not doing something the right way. My intention is to, just maybe, get someone thinking about how they feel about things and how they connect to their path, and give confirmation to those who might be thinking the same things at the time. I think outside topics are important to consider as we go through life on our respective pathways.


~*~

For all my posturing of working with death and 'dark, scary, bump in the night' things, and my considerable desire to rant all the time about things that make me angry (I have the wonderful curse of being an Aquarius with a Taurus moon, so not only so I feel the constant need to change the world, people who change the world for the worst make me double pissed) AND my considerable inability to be around huge portions of the populace, the place where all my anger and such stems from is actually a place of compassion.

I know, hard to consider right?

Let me explain how I see anger. The way I think about anger, I see there being a few types.

Situation 1: Petty Anger

Petty anger is like this. Someone butted in front of you in line, you get mad, you yell some shit. Or, someone is spreading rumors about you, you get mad, you move on. Petty anger is the little things that get on your nerves, but you generally move on from. Everyone has this right? Petty anger is usually stemming from something somebody did to you, and it doesn't last that long.

Situation 2: Sustained Petty Anger

This is where petty anger becomes a bad thing. When someone stole your parking space and then you follow them for 2 miles, yelling things, that's bad and probably illegal. If you gossipy friend spread rumors you were such-a-such a person and you cut ties with them and sustain that anger for the rest of your life--that's probably not a good thing for you, or for them. Sustained petty anger is what happens when a small thing leads you to hold a grudge for years, for something that really wasn't that bad, and frankly doesn't help you much.

Situation 3: Justified Anger

The difference between justified anger and petty anger is sometimes a matter of debate, but I see it like this. If you're being gossiped about and you get pissed about it, that's petty anger that should pass. If you're being gossiped about to the point at which the rumors are affecting your family, your job, your home, or anything in your vicinity in a negative fashion, you are experiecing justified anger. When people or things are literally trying to make your life hell, for no other reason than they want to, and you lose your job due to that, you have the right to be angry and seek retribution.

Situation 4: Worldly Anger

I consider this a different category because it concerns something other than the immediate family group/environment of the individual. Worldly anger is what one feels when one is filled with compassion. It may sound strange, but let me give you an example. When one is angry about the rainforest being destroyed, or animal poaching for fur and ivory, or nuclear dumping, or oil spills, or the rape and mutilation of young women in African countries, or the human rights crises in China, one is experiencing justified, worldly anger. The reason one experiences that is, somewhere in their mind, they are sensing 'HEY! IT'S NOT RIGHT THAT THIS IS HAPPENING. I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO TELL YOU WHY, BUT I FEEL THAT IT IS NOT RIGHT THAT THINGS LIKE THIS ARE GOING ON IN THE WORLD, BECAUSE THIS CREATURE/ENVIONMENT/HUMAN POPULATION HAS THE RIGHT TO EXIST UNENCUMBERED BY THIS TERRIBLE THING OCCURING.' This is what we may classify as compassion. When you feel deeply, horribly saddened when you see the mutilation, or human rights crises, or animal exploitation in the world, you are coming from a place of (worldly) compassion. It means you give a crap what goes on in your world, and it's not OKAY with you that it is going on.

Worldly Anger is the energy that is fueled by that compassion, and in turn becomes the fuel that makes us want to CHANGE what is happening. Without anger, there can be no change. Just compassion alone will not change the world. (And this is where you can say I'm not quite a Pacifist, I guess) The people allowing these things to happen won't marvel at your compassion and stop dumping bio-waste into the ocean. Anger is the fuel that makes things happen, whether for good or for bad, depending on the anger we're talking about.

To give you a real world example, as I'll reference it a lot, compassion and worldly anger is why I could no longer exist in this world without ceasing to eat meat. Once I realized what occured in this country especially, in slaughter houses and what have you, I literally wanted to cry for days. I felt a deep, uncontrollable anger that the world was capable of allowing such things to go on, to allow creatures without a human voice such deep suffering. Since I could do nothing to change it but suffer with this deep-seated sadness and anger borne of compassion, I just did what I could: stop supporting the industry. Sure, maybe it won't make a change in the long run, but it helps me sleep at night knowing that, even with such deep anger within me, I was not perpetuating that lack of compassion and dignity which I so hated.

(As a side note, no, I could not eat an animal even if I hunted it/raised it/it had a good life. I was born with this deep-seated, seemingly boundless sadness even at the thought of watching the life leave from a breathing, walking, living being's eyes. Yes, despite the fact I work with death. No, I don't think that makes me better that anyone.)

And yes, I also have the same compassion and anger for plants. Do you know the issues surrounding Genetically Modified Organism perpetuation in the USA? The very idea that we would allow, as a country, GMO plants into the food supply astounds me. The effects of GMO plant genes escaping into the environment are catastrophic, its effects on the human system largely untested, and the economic forcing out of small farmers in this country to make way for large scale corporations is a sin against everything rational, at best. These plants are not treated with any modicum of dignity, either, and frankly are bad for both humans and animals.

The same compassion fuels my rage against the human rights crises in this country and abroad, poaching, the absolute disregard for the environment the world over, deforestation, the plight of women in extremely sexist societies, and almost every other travesty committed on this earth.

I don't know if it's my Aquarian nature informing my Shamanism, or the other way around, but I literally wake each day feeling the weight of the animals and plants who suffer on this earth, in my backyard, at the hands of humans. I hear silent screams from every direction, and I feel ashamed to be a part of this race. The small way I make up for these travesties in my own life are refusing to support the industries that commit atrocity, and supporting those who are working against those atrocities.

I couldn't just practice my 'religion' in private. I feel the need to extend my work with Spirit animals, plants, and deities to the world at large. It wasn't enough for me to try and explain to my totems why I was supporting slaughterhouses, or to explain to my Shamanic guides why I was perpetuating the use of GMOS and deforestation through what I consumed. I felt like a hypocrite working these things in my Shamanic life that I was not prepared to apply outside it. I live my Shamanism every day, because I don't know another way to practice. Whether or not you feel the same is something to consider.

Links below to some organizations who I think are doing wonderful things:

Human:

The International Princess Project (Against enslaved prostitution)

Amnesty International

Reporters Without Borders

Animal/Environmental:

Defenders of Wildlife

World Wildlife Fund


Greenpeace

Friday, January 27, 2012

Poisons Post: Bloodroot & Belladonna



Bloodroot

Scientific Name: Sanguinaria canadensis
Folk/Common Names: Snakebite, Sweet Slumber
Toxin Type: Alkaloid (sanguinarine)
Toxicity Level: It has the capacity to destroy living animal cells, which can cause massive dis-figuration and huge scab growth. It can be pretty bad if taken internally.
Where is the Poison: The whole plant (but especially in the root, which is said to 'bleed' when cut)

Symptoms: Essentially since Bloodroot is part of the poppy family ingesting it is like mixing Morphine and Opium and then eating it. You can guess the results. Numbness, acting like an insane person hopped up on shit, then potentially accidental coma and death by respiratory failure.

Interesting Fact: Bloodroot has reportedly been used in many instances to treat skin and other cancers--it has the unique properly to only "eat" bad cells on the surface of skin. However the process is extremely painful and dangerous if not handled properly. It also results in disfigurement.

Bloodroot extract has also been used in many dental hygiene products, as a dental aid. Its safety is still disputed.

Folk Info: Bloodroot was used extensively as a dye for clothing, especially in the Native nations. It was also used successfully in treating dental and respiratory problems in those same places. (interesting that too much can kill your lungs, isn't it?)

BOTTOM LINE: Should you be worried?
I would honestly be worried more if it was ingested rather than got on you. But it's still painful when absorbed into the skin.



Belladona
Scientific Name: Atropa Belladonna
Folk/Common Names: Deadly Nightshade, Devil's Herb, Black Cherry
Toxin Type: Tropane Alkaloids (Atropine & Hyoscycamine)
Toxicity Level: Ranks as one of the most toxic plants in the world
Where is the Poison: The entire plant, the root is the worst, but even a few berries can be enough to cause death.

Symptoms: Dry Mouth, tingling, blurred vision and dilation of the pupils, extreme delirium (usually not considered a 'high' in that it's not usually a pleasant experience), loss of balance and faculties, headaches, heart problems, and death.

Interesting Fact: I think you all know this herb was made quasi-famous for its supposedly inclusion in Flying Ointment made by witches to 'travel' to their rites. I find this plausible since the recipes I've seen include a near-toxic dose of hallucinogenic plants, so yes, you will see some shit, definitely.

Folk Info: Got its name due to its use to dilate the pupils of females to increase attractiveness.

BOTTOM LINE: Should you be worried?
It's extremely unpredictable to use and highly toxic. I personally wouldn't touch it.

More info on poisons/citation websites:

A Modern Herbal: Poison Directory

Poison Control Centers of America Plant Page

Disclaimer: Info is not evaluated by the FDA, yadda yadda, and please don't eat poison or handle it without some sort of training or a good herbalist (although both would be best!). Thanks.

BACK TO THE MASTER POISON LIST?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

PBP 03: 4 Days Of Bast (And Sekhmet)




You might have guessed by now I have a fairly close relationship to Bast, and as I consider Sekhmet to be so close to her in energy signature, like two sides of the same coin, I work with her on occasion as well. I'm more likely to engage directly with Bast, however.

You may notice that I also avoid the term Patron. To be honest the term strikes me as more pretentious than it perhaps means to me, and I feel the same about 'magical naming'. I have astral names, yes, but I don't want to broadcast those for fear of it falling into the wrong hands. Patron just implies to me a deity takes a specialized interest in you that somehow trumps other things, and I find it uncomfortable to use that term. I have working relationships with all 'my' Spirits/Deities and I consider it one of mutual respect and mutual gain, but not like they're particularly invested in my life.

Anyway. I recently went through 4 days of Journey/Visionwork with Bast and Sekhmet. I was informed this would occur right before it happened on the evening of the first night. I keep a Bast/Anubis altar in my bookcase and had the sudden urge to move their statues/boxes out to our kitchen altar (posted above, it's outfitted for Winter hence the cool colors) and I was told by Bast to light an incense in Her honor, because we had things to speak about. Since I have been recently wondering about the nature of deity, I feel somehow like She planned this to teach me about such things.

Listed below are a combination of directly streamed information I saw during journey, similar to Autowriting, and transcripts of things I experienced while under trance with these deities. I find many take a very shallow point of view on who Bast is; I have always found her a demanding teacher, least of all concerned with being a strangely fluffy music/sex cat. She is truly anything but. So if you're expecting me to approach this from that perspective, you may be a little jostled.

Also, please don't take my information as fact without doing your own research. I am not an Egyptian historical expert, though I have a basic grasp of Mythology, but any potential links I propose between African/Egyptian mytho-links are speculation only and I am not well versed enough in either to make historical claims. Views expressed here are not necessarily mine, because I was in basically a Trance in which the Deity was essentially speaking to/through me, so the things I type are coming mostly from that Source. Thank you.

The format of my writings is shifting and sometimes jarring, because my journeys are often not sequential in that they can shift without warning and continue on totally different paths. I keep them this way on purpose. I was instructed to share these and so I will.

~Day 1: BAST~

(The vision begins with me on a table, likely stone, in ritual garb, with Bast above me, breathing into my mouth. I inhale, she exhales, and in this way we share a single breath. We breath as of the same being, as of the same flesh, and in this way we journey together.)

~*~

First, I was a Leopard, running in a dense wood. To be honest it felt very African, as in it had foliage I would not expect locally around the Americas or in the vicinity of another place. I was running from something, afraid, my lithe muscles contracting and expanding. I felt speed, and feline grace, and sharp vision. I was interrupted in thought by a clearing in the trees, and in swooped a large falcon. His gnarled talons grabbed my shoulders and lifted, and I was flying. Once a feline, a ground creature, suddenly aware of the entirety of Existence, of the world beyond my feet and claws. (I think this perhaps is the untold story of Bast.)

~*~

(For this portion I am in a dark, Egyptian-looking temple, with a large cat statue. A male in white garb is speaking out from a platform, to a crowd of us, whoever we were. He was explaining what Bast was and is, and you could tell he was Channeling at the time. I wrote down what he said as he said it.)

'Bast teaches us power and humility, grace, and strength, aloneness and knowing, togetherness and union. Bast teaches us who we are and what we are, and how to use parts of us. She teaches us to love and sacrifice, but also to surrender when it is called of us. She pushes our egos aside and opens a door into our psyche. Bast is a strong teacher, a gentle one, but one not loathe to sacrifice. Bast takes the hidden backdoor into our souls and ruins us from the inside out, tearing down walls and pretensions and seeing us for who we really are.'

(Cats are known for their second sight and lack of pretensions when dealing with people. This can be said of Bast as well.)

'Bast is the light and the dark, the incense and the smoke and the clouds of worship. Bast showers us with praise while whipping us with scorn. Bast is a multisided teacher, whose words know no bounds nor quandary. Demanding yet soft, no stranger to sacrifice, is Bast.'

'Bast is Awakening, and Sunlight, and the Day. Bast is the terror and the iris, the Eye and the Gem in the eye.'

'Bast is the shadow and the Night, the Lord and the Lordess of the eve’, the Sorce’ress and the Only. She is the One they call Orlam.'

The streaming made me ponder: Was Bast/Cat worship originally an African practice? (I keep hearing “South African” in my head, though I don’t know enough about the cultural history of mingling of these two places to put my vision in context. I looked up 'Orlam' and got some hits from completely different areas of Mythos (Celtic, for example), and one hit for an ethnic tribe from South Africa, but nothing solid.)

'Bast will strip away (literally) layer by layer until only your soul/signature remains, and in teaching that will show you who you are.'

~DAY 2: SEKHMET~

I suddenly became aware of a 'weight' on my crown chakra/top of my head area. I recognized it for an energetic pressure; often when things want my attention they apply "gentle pressure" on that area until I get so annoyed I trance out and listen, for once. (I am stubborn, with my Taurus moon.) Since Bast had told me this would happen for 4 days (streaming and journey with Her, that is) I assumed it was her.

This time she appeared in the guise of Sekhmet the Lion-Headed.

This is what Sekhmet explained to me.

Every human is born into this world with a weight on their head. This is a rock. Look, you’ll see one on every being. Some are large, some are small, some are boulder-sized. This rock is the weight of Soul. The manifestation of accumulated heavy energies, made solid by existence on this plane. Every being has this weight, but few are aware of it.

Some thing to extinguish this weight by handing it over to Deity--this is incorrect. (“Giving it up to God”, as they say.) Deity may remove the weight, for a while, even for a lifetime, but this is akin to hiding and not removing.

How to remove the weight is mundane and expected. One’s soul weight derives from One’s soul decisions and journey. One must spend lifetimes chipping away, a little at a time, at the stone. The accumulation is not always the fault of the One; there are those (deities included) that seek to create the fall of Man and add weight to their souls. One must be careful, and not held fully accountable, for their stone.

Their stone is their anchor to this land, this plane, this Earth. Those who seek to eliminate their soul weight must face their own Soul, Room by Room, one at a time, to chip away at the weight on their heads. Once this is complete, the bond holding them to this Plane is extinguished, and they are free to walk where they will.

(I would liken this to what I consider ascension)

(I also asked Sekhmet if she had a Soul-Weight as well--and she showed me a pebble-sized ‘weight’ on her own head. She said Deities and Spirits seek to eliminate this weight by taking on the burden of helping those gone before, but some choose to stay behind from compassion.)

The last two days were both intensely personal (soul journey, etc) and really hard to explain in a single post, so I am relaying just what I was instructed to relay. I hope this gives someone out there clarity, if they have been needing it, or perhaps help someone to understand these Deities more. Also remember not to believe anything I say as fact unless you can confirm it yourself. Blessings.

(Now back to my regularly scheduled poison posting)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Musings Monday: Shifting Bear (And Why I Distrust Totem Dictionaries)




Below is a stream-of-thought writing I did when I brought my small Bear statue home from goodwill. I could feel him "pulling" my spirit from across the room the entire night, and finally I let him pull me into himself. Often I work with primal spirits whose best teaching is done from the inside of their skull. I'm a very visual person, and I learn in a decidedly non-verbal way, so most of my Spirit adventures revolve around literally becoming Animal.

His name, he told me, is Tutkalut.

~*~

"SHAPESHIFTER, I WILL TEACH YOU POWER, AND GRACE, AND HUMILITY, AND STRENGTH. I WILL TAKE YOU TO THE PLACES YOU NEED TO SEE AND GO. I WILL SHOW YOU THE PATH."

I feel power, rippling through every muscle, I feel it in every nerve. My human muscles twitch as if I’m running, inside this great spirit.

I feel a joy, a joy at having so much power, so much pent up energy, the ability to spring and cut and bring down something twice my size at a moment’s notice. I feel what a predator must feel, knowing it can cause harm but also knowing restraint from harm. I feel a pure joy at running in the newfallen snow, the mountains at my back and the wind in my fur. I feel the frozen river on my back, but it gives me no quarter.

I feel the loping gait of the bear, running beneath me, inside me, we are the same being, melding and de-melding all in the same moment. I feel my claws grabbing the earth, throwing it up behind me. I feel my shoulder muscles, tensed and released. I feel, more than smell, the entire world around me. I know the trees, I know the sky, I know every bird that flies overhead. This is my land. I know it with every fiber of my, the bear’s, our being.

~*~

I have shifted Wolf (my 'Totem') before, but while canines seem to WANT to know everything---Bear seems to just know. Wolf is too cerebral, Bear is physical.

I often have problems with the 'New Agey Totem Books' (you know the ones, such as Animal Speak) that describe an animal in an easy to digest way that supposedly applies to all totems and guides of that sort. In many cases I find it utter, delicious bullshit. I post this Shift experience to show you how different my experience of Bear is to the 'normal expectation'. Animal Speak will attempt to describe Bear energy as all about hibernation, or looking within.

If I had to describe my Bear energy in one word, it would be Power. It wasn't the sort of Power that makes one want to express it. It was the sort of solid, muscular, very physical power that gives one the self assurance that one is undoubtedly King on this landscape. It wasn't pride. Not nearly. It was just this sense of intrinsic knowing that nothing could challenge you, and though you took no pride in that, you realized it would be no contest and you had the ability to remove any and all blockages in your way.

I work with Deer in a deep way as well. If you peruse a Totem dictionary you may get some nice shiny easy-to-digest BS about gentleness and quietness. Have you SEEN deer? Have you seen two males fighting in the mating season? Gentle my ass. I work with Deer to learn the cycle of predator and prey, life and death, and how to easier transverse the boundaries between the two. Deer is one of the prey animals that has an excellent and peaceful relationship with death and its boundaries. But gentle? Deer is as much a gentle teacher as a wolverine.

I take issue with anything that claims to blanket-label Spirit-types as one thing or another thing. My Wolf totem is as much about loyalty and community as a rock. No. Teaching, yes. I can see that. But there is so much more than the pretty surface description of the animal. Totem dictionaries seem to do, for me, what a bad writer can do for a main character in a book. Give a flat, lackluster summary/description and the character seems 2D. The character seems unbelievable, like it can't exist in a realistic fashion, and so we find it hard to connect with that character. The same thing happens in many 'new agey totemic' descriptions. No wonder so many have trouble connecting to Primal energies--look at how they are being described.

I implore you to look beyond surface definitions and really ask your Totem/Guide WHY it takes an animal shape. Does it do so to relate to you better? Does it do so to demonstrate what you're lacking? Really ask it what it has to teach you. And don't expect it to be what you read in a book, either. Really open your mind. Don't take my word for this, either. I want you to really dig deep and think about what your specific guide/totem is doing in your life and why they are what they are.

And hey--sometimes your Guides don't take animal form. Some people just can't work with animals in that way. And you know what? That's fine. I don't usually have human teachers since I can't understand them, either. Don't expect to have 16 'totems/guides' because a book told you so. You can have 0 guides or 13 guides, and a book sure don't know that until you find out yourself. Totems are not collectible trading cards. They are living, breathing beings who have important shit to teach you, they're just waiting for you to stop reading totem dictionaries.

-Love the Spirits

PBP 02: Singing the Bones




As he [the crow man] went up the Kashunuk [river] in his kayak, he came to an igloo where there lived two women and a boy of about three years of age. The women and the little boy did not laugh when they saw him so he went into the igloo and told them he was hungry.


"Kill that little boy for me," he commanded the women. "Boil him in the pot. I am very hungry."

The frightened women did as they were told, though they were very loath to do so. When the boy was cooked to a turn the Crow Man sat down and devoured him, placing the clean bones in a wooden dish. After his repast he turned to the mother of the child and said:

"Take this dish of bones and go outside. Throw them as far as you can towards the Yukon river."

The woman did as directed. When she returned to her igloo, there she beheld her son again alive and well. He was as dirty-faced as ever, with the front of his kuspuk smeared with seal grease.

"This boy will never die," the crow-man told his mother and he left for his home, someplace near the Yukon. The lad grew to be a man and he did not die but always appeared to be about the same age.

--Powers Which We Do Not Know: The Gods and Spirits of the Inuit - Daniel Merkur
--Sourced from the Inuit tales of the Hooper Bay area (approx.)

The myth above, I thought, was fitting for topics on Boneworking. Being a Shamanic practitioner working with Inuit deities, I study a lot of the mythology when I can find it to corroborate things I experience and see, and to find clues on how such deities were worked with in the past.

The above story was likely a commentary on the cycle of birth and reincarnation; the statement here as I read it as "the bones are not who we are." We are not necessarily just our bones, so destroying our bodies does not "kill" us.

When I first went to visit Sedna (the Inuit Sea Goddess/Underworld Queen, though she goes by countless names within different tribes) I was given the task of singing bones to life. I had no idea what this meant at the time, mind you. Before me was a dark circular room, with 13 piles of human bones. Beyond where the shadows fell away, there lurked shadow spirits, all jagged claws and jaws and glowing eyes, prowling beyond the circle. I was afraid of them at the time.

"I can't sing," I protested, "and in any case I don't know the words." Certainly I couldn't sing well enough to sing something to life. The idea was preposterous.

No sooner could I protest than the creatures crept closer. Trial by fire, it seemed. I don't remember much between here and when I began to sing--and when I say I began to sing, it was as if an energetic wave welled within and just burst out in the world. That's what it feels like to sing bones to life. It feels like a wellspring of energy coming from the depths of the earth, and spilling all over the place like a river. The piles of bones moved, and reassembled, and grew flesh and muscle and fur and clothing. It was a combination of all of them. The Ancestor spirits joined the song, and it was a primal, old song not so much words as power put to music. They began to circle, faster and faster, and the shadow creatures joined each of them, one spirit to one Ancestor. They each became one being, dancing and spinning, and the song rose over all of us.

I later found that was her Initiation for me.

Those who are afraid of bones--usage in ritual, usage as Shamanic partners, usage as anchor points for working with one's path--are usually afraid, on some level, of expiration. Bones serve to remind us of our own mortality, and in the United States, at least, the funerary industry loves to dress our good friend Death up as something suspiciously, creepily similar to surrealist life.

At least in this country, we remove ourselves so far from death it shouldn't surprise anyone that there is so much fear directed towards boneworking, especially with Human remains. We deliver dead to funeral homes and nice men in suits keep us calm and 'dignified' and handle everything for us. So long as we live apart from death, it becomes something to be feared. Working with bones--and the spirits in bones--helps us everyday to really think about what this means.

I keep bones on every Shamanic altar I build, both as a reminder and because I work with the Spirits in the bones. I've found not every animal part (fur, feathers, bones) has a Spirit attachment--and I can't even steadfastly tell you why. Animals that die horrific fur farm deaths don't seem more likely than a natural death to stay within the skin. It seems to me to be the result of any circumstances or contracts the animal Spirit may want to make or have made beforehand that determines this. Basically there are not rules for why a Spirit stays within a skin or skull or other part. But sometimes they do choose to stay, at least for a while, and while they do stay they are wonderful allies. The fox skull pictured above chooses to stay because we have a reciprocal relationship--I feed her "stagnant" energy, and she converts it and recirculates it through my altar space.

As when working with any Spirit, working with bones and bone Spirits requires respect and the will of the Spirit. Always ask before taking bones (if found in the wild) and be sure of your sources if buying remains. I wouldn't suggest working with pelts sourced from fur farms and trapping simply because of the intrinsic disrespect shown to the Spirit during its death, but that's your moralistic quandary to think on. For the record, all of my bones and furs come from trusted Taxidermic sources that receive the animals as Roadkill and process them accordingly. I purposely do not patronize hunting and fur farmers. (The exception I sometimes make is vintage fur, from 40+ years ago sourced in thrift stores, where obviously the animal Skin Spirit is not being put to good use or respected.)

Sometimes the Spirit will strike a deal with you--as in, I will guide you on such and such a path, but you own me funerary rights when my term is up, which is in X months. Or, you can take my skull provided it is cleaned and given a place of honor on your space. Some Spirits may want you to purposely alter their remains in some way--a skull may want to be painted or carved, but please make sure that is the will of the Spirit beforehand. Never use a bone in ritual or in crafting you did not secure permission from the Spirit to use. And be sure to use your regular Respectful Discretion when working with Spirits of any sort. No giving out of proper names or important information if you don't have to, etc.

Sometimes Spirits you already work with may request to take up residence in an "empty" bone/skull/hide/feather/part. It's not uncommon a Totemic spirit you work with takes up residence in a fetish or an item of the same image, so why would it be strange to do so with bones? (I work with a Bear deity who inhabits a small ceramic bear figure thrifted from Goodwill.)

And hey, sometimes the remains you buy DON'T contain spirits. Like I said, sometimes they move on and desert their skins, like the myth above. There's nothing wrong with using Spirit-less skins or bones, either. I might still request permission from the Spirit, on the Astral if you can find it, before using the parts though.

If you're willing to listen, bones are excellent teachers. Also be sure to check your local laws on possession of animal parts before beginning to work with them.

Lupa's List of Parts Laws


An Ethically Sourced Parts Dealer (via etsy)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Musings Monday: What does 'Deity' really mean?

Warning: This article is full of personal experience and speculation on heavy shit. Please don't take anything listed here as Real Fact for you, or Holy Writ. Thank you. (If you want to know yourself, go searching. You might not know what you'll find.)

I've been pondering the nature of Deity/God/Dess/Higher Powers/etc the past few days. I feel as though the way Deity is usually portrayed is an all-knowing, (usually good), creator/trix/etc that knows all, sees all, and can potentially affect all accordingly.

The more time I spend on the astral, talking to spirits, my guides, and my Shamanic gods, the more I think it goes against the very nature of soul and the fabric of the universe to have in existence an all-knowing all-seeing god/dess.

I think many people consider it from the human perspective, and I understand that. It's a comforting notion that humans, who comparatively know so little of the universe, can have contact with a being that has all the answers. It's like having a constant big brother/big sister, watching out for you.

But consider it from the perspective of the spirit. Imagine you are a deity who has infinite knowledge and power. You have literally learned all there is to know about everything. There is nothing left for you to know. For someone who assumes we live in order to learn and know (and I do believe that) if the fate of knowing everything befell me I would probably lose my desire for living. I would want to move on, to anywhere, to anything other than the current universe, if only because for someone like me knowing everything would be torture.

The existence of such a being goes against what I continually see being repeated as the nature of the soul and the nature of the universe itself.

This is why I rejected the idea of Heaven/Hell when I was Catholic. I found the idea of a 'paradise'--an unchanging world, waking up to the same exact thing every day, day in and day out, for eternity, a very distinct form of torture. Nothing stands still n the entire Universe. The Universe, some say, continually expands. The earth moves, the planets rotate, stars are born and die, black holes and white holes dance in a constant balance of life and death. Imagine a day in which nothing changed, ever. Now imagine living that, forever. (Or maybe that's just Hell for an Aquarius with a Taurus moon, eh?)

What if I proposed to you, that every being you interact with--human, Deity, God/Dess, Spirit guide, Totem, or Teacher--was on the same journey as you. What if I told you the nature of the soul is to expand, to evolve, in a constant outward and inward journey. What if I proposed the only difference between you and your Guide is your guide probably has several to several hundred lifetimes of expanding on you. But that's it.

I see the soul like this: a soul is made up of several facets. You can have 2 or 200, but the soul continually splits itself into 'facets'. And even if your soul is on this earth right now, learning as a human, you may have a facet that is serving as Guide for someone else.

What if, what a Deity is, is a simple animal, human, or other sort of soul or facet (or even the humblest of humble land spirits) that learned and evolved so much that the Deities that came before it helped it to 'ascend' to the next level? This also calls into question the principle of belief. I'm a fan of the theory that, if you have invented it, it already exists somewhere on the astral. I've also always been a fan of if you get enough believers to put energy behind something -- such as a small town God that becomes powerful via believers (See Terry Pratchett's book "Small Gods" for this concept in hilarious, and sometimes terrible, action) then that thing can exist in its own right. I think if you performed a ritual for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and you truly believed he existed, I would not be surprised if the ritual worked. (I'm not sure what this means for how I think things come into existence yet, these are only hypothetical considerations.)

Of course, this is implying there is an end state. This is implying Deities (and every soul) eventually reach a point at which they're ready to evolve, and go on the next level. Can, then, a Deity "die"? I would say it's definitely possible. Though the better word is probably "evolve". What, then is left behind? Is the succession of religion on Earth based, literally, on the "deaths" of Gods? Who, then, steps up to take their place? Is this, then, the same as when we don't want loved ones to go? Some people believe if we continue to contact the dead person it impedes their moving on. Does anyone ever wonder if Gods want to be worshiped? If a God, in theory, is ready to move on--is worshiping them like clinging to someone who just wants to go?

These are the things I have been thinking the past few days. Feel free to share thoughts on any and all theories. (or your opinions as well)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday Shenanigans: 5 (US) Stores You Didn't Know Were Pagan

Since I was out during the week at Homegoods and various other apartment/craft stores, I started taking photos of objects that could be used on altars/sacred spaces to prove it's completely possible to make an altar out of objects found in the most "vanilla" stores.

Hence, I present to you: 5 stores you didn't know were pagan.

Hey Greeks, wassup?

1. HOME GOODS

Home Goods probably has the most workable pagan altar shit of any store around me. From cheesy garden ornaments to Greek-esq statuary to giant Buddha heads and candles, they literally have it all. Add to that completely affordable candles, fake floral, and really gorgeous jars for storing shit, and you have a recipe for ridiculously awesome pagan shit. The statue above is waiting to be on a Greek altar. And her hands--offering area, anyone? It's like pagans run this place, I swear.



Frida travel altar I made for one of my Voodou friends.

2. MICHAEL'S/AC MOORE

Craft stores. Hate em or love em, they have probably the one thing I always use on my altars: blank wooden boxes.

You all remember my Bast/Anubis Samhain altar from my Altars post? $1.00 boxes from Michaels. Spraypainted shimmery gold. That's it. The box above was a dollar, spray-painted white and hand painted by me with red enamels. It's really easy to make nice boxes. Right now I'm in the process of woodstaining a box for Samedi and another for Frida. There is infinite variety when utilizing blank boxes. Stain, paint, burn, carve, whatever. Everything.

My beloved Deer figure.

3. JO-ANNS (or other fabric/decor stores)

Ah, my favorite. In a word: altar cloths. Lots of altar cloths. Or, if you're me, fake floral. And cheesy seasonal decorations (that you can make work with a little ingenuity.)


Bad phone pictures.

4. GOODWILL (OR THRIFT STORES)

Okay, you may have known about this one. Do you KNOW how much totally workable pagan shit gets left here every day? The above picture is what I found on one run, for a total of 6 whopping dollars. There is so much good pagan shit in thrift stores across the country it seems like a conspiracy. Check it out, really. Before you drop $70 on that pagan-specialty item.



5. SCIENCE/MUSEUM STORES

Okay, this one might be a little stretchy. But the next time you're at a Science-y or kids-friendly museum, check out the gift store. Whenever we go to the Franklin Institute or Academy of Sciences (both here in Philly) we always hit the gift store for stupidly cheap crystals. When I went to see the Cleopatra exibit at the Franklin, the gift store was decked out in Egyptian statuary. I got my small Bast statue there. If you have the fortune of living near the Smithsonian, the minerals gift shop has the nicest tumbled crystal spheres you have ever seen--but NOT for pagan-inflated prices. You'll find the less magical the store, the less costly the crystals...just a tip.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Poisons Post: Aconite & Fly Agaric



Aconitum

Scientific Name: Aconitum
Folk/Common Names: Wolfsbane, Monkshod, Devil’s Helmet
Toxin Type: Alkaloid (Toxin is called Aconitine) Neurotoxin
Toxicity Level: You have 2-6 hours after ingestion before death if your luck is sound.
Where is the Poison: All parts of the plant are poisonous. You can even absorb the poison through the skin/mucus membranes. The fastest way to end up dead is ingestion.

Symptoms: The first sign of poisoning is usually numbness/tingling in the mouth and throat. The next are gastrointestinal -- extreme pain, nausea and vomiting. The pulse will be affected as Aconitine tends to affect the heart. Cold sweats and staggering are also common. If you ingest the poison in high enough amounts you’re most likely to die of cardiac arrest or respiratory distress; whichever comes first.

Aconite was used in Western medicine for a while in very small doses, but was later scrapped for decidedly less...deadly methods.

Interesting Fact: Aconite poisoning seems to leave the mind completely clear. It doesn’t induce delirium like some other poisons.

Folk Info:
Probably best known from the Greek story in which Hercules fought Cerberus on the hill of Aconitus. It was sad the dog’s saliva fell on the plant, making it instantly deadly.

Monkshod also was purported to be what Medea attempted to use on Theseus.

Also known for its supposed wolf and werewolf-repelling properties, hence the name Wolfsbane. Arrows dipped in the stuff were said to kill wolves.

BOTTOM LINE: SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED?
Aconitine is arguably one of the worst plant toxins in the world. So yes, you should be worried. And don’t eat it.



Amanita Muscaria
Scientific Name: Amanita Muscaria
Folk/Common Name: Fly Agaric Mushroom
Toxin Type: Alkaloid (ibotenic acid and muscimol)
Toxicity Level: Ranges with dose from hallucinating but surviving to ending up dead (Rare).

Where is the poison: The Whole Mushroom.

Symptoms: Sets in in several hours at the most. Nausea, confusion, dizziness, auditory and visual hallucinations, sometimes culminating in a false hallucinogenic sleep. Can end up in hysteric laughter or sudden bursts of joy or anger, respectively. The problem with the usually long kick-in time is if you have misjudged your dosage it will be far too late to save you from the effects of the probably-lethal poisoning because it has already worked through your system.

Interesting Fact: Utilized by Siberian Shamans in rituals to expand the mind.

Folk Info: Has a strong tie to fairy-folk, probably due to its properties.

The name, Fly Agaric, comes from its folk use as an insecticide. The pieces would be floated in liquids, and the aroma would entice insects to come take a bite, then end up dead.

SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED?
I wouldn’t suggest working with the Fly Agaric at all, but at the very least find a very good herbalist who knows how to tell it apart from a look-alike.

More info on poisons/citation websites:

A Modern Herbal: Poison Directory

Poison Control Centers of America Plant Page

VERY GOOD further reading on the fly Agaric:

Sacred Earth

Disclaimer: Info is not evaluated by the FDA, yadda yadda, and please don't eat poison or handle it without some sort of training or a good herbalist (although both would be best!). Thanks.

BACK TO THE MASTER POISON LIST?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Moontime Tea Recipe

This is a 4-part herbal tea designed to aid with all your moontime woes.

I actually suggest you drink this up to a week before your period begins. You can drink it all through your cycle to strength the Uterine walls and generally aid you with feminine health.

The 4 herbs we're using:

Raspberry Leaf - If you're a female of the menstruating sort and you haven't heard of this, you are missing out. Raspberry leaf is probably the single most miraculous herb for women. Taken a week or so before the period, it can shorten the length, prevent a lot of cramps, and aid you with PMS. Take note this is not raspberry TEA--this is only the green, leafy part. It tastes very mild and "leafy" if I have to pick a word, lol. PS, if you're pregnant you can also benefit from raspberry leaf tea. Be sure to research when you should take it (some say after 3 months, some say throughout pregnancy) but it can aid with an easier birth and a faster recovery time.

Cramp Bark - The other miracle herb. Like the name suggests, Cramp Bark is used as an anti-spasmodic, so it's for all sorts of muscle cramps, bad pain, and PMS-related and menstruation cramping. It has also been used to prevent miscarriage. This really works like a charm.

Spearmint - Relieves gas, bloating, and indegestion. IF YOU'RE LIKE ME, YOU GET ALL 3 DURING THIS AWESOME TIME. It's also a diuretic. (I add it for taste, too.)

Lavender - I use lavender for headache relief (which I also get), for stress, and for taste in this tea. Also makes it smell wonderous.

NOW: TEA TIME!

First, let's talk about infusing tea. Do you have a tea infuser? Is it a tea ball?

Did you know tea balls are probably the worst way to infuse a tea? If you have nothing else they're fine and dandy, but you want to give the tea space to move around!

If you have cheesecloth lying around, you can use that. You can also get one of these babies. Teavana sells them too. They have the luxury of a top, because a tea infuses best when covered.

LET'S TALK ABOUT HOW TO INFUSE HERBAL TEAS!

To infuse an herbal tea, you don't need to scald your eyebrows off. A "soft boil", in which small bubbles begin to rise, is just fine. The ideal steeping time is usually 10-14 minutes (covered) in order to get the full effects of your tea!

OKAY MIXING TIME!

So we have our lavender, spearmint, crampbark and raspberry leaf. I'm going to give you the directions for one cup of tea, because I am quite horrific with math and stupidly forgot to write my bulk recipe down. (I think I ended up repeating my one cup recipe multiple times.)

You should be looking at 2 1/2 teaspoons of tea per cup. Ready?

RECIPE:

1 teaspoon raspberry leaf
3/4 teaspoon cramp bark
1/2 teaspoon spearment
1/4 teaspoon lavender

Simple, right? Just throw all your herbs in the infuser together, pour soft boiling water over it all, cover, steep for 14 minutes, and enjoy. Try to drink it a while before your period, and it works best drunk 2-3 times a day. As far as working time if you have cramps NOW, it can be anywhere from 15 minutes-an hour in my experience.

PMS TEA?

Do you also have stupid PMS swelling like I do? You can do this, too...

COMBINE:

1/2 teaspoon rosehips
1/2 teaspoon spearmint
1/2 teaspoon dandelion root

And drink as a tea twice a day. The rosehips are also packed with vitamin C, as well as working at relieving the water retention. Dandelion root has been used for PMS for a very long time.

Just some simple teas to help you with your cycle :)

ROSE MOUNTAIN HERBS, A RESPONSIBLE HERB SELLER WITH AWESOME PRICES.

If you're a first time herb-buyer, 4 ounces is a LOT OF HERB. Be sure to have someplace to keep it! (8 ounces of most herb take up a 10-inch tall by 4 inch wide container.)

Q & A

I DECIDED TO DO THIS QUESTIONAIRE I FOUND ON WITCHFIRE'S PAGE BECAUSE WHY NOT.

B A S I C S

Do you have a magical/Pagan name? No, the idea kind of weirds me out. I have several astral name(s) I'm not at liberty to disclose, though.
What does it mean? I believe it means something like a small fire.
How did you find Paganism? Had a 'sudden awakening'.
How long have you been practicing? 4 years but it seems like much longer...
Solitary or group practitioner? Solitary but I briefly had an open group/coven.
What is your path? Non-Core Shamanism. Inuit if I have to pick a 'region'.
Are you out of the broom closet? Yes.

D E I T Y

Who is your patron God? Don't have one. Sorry. I'm a let down, I know.
Who is your patron Goddess? By way of a blood-bond, Sedna.
What Gods do you worship? I don't worship any god(s). I consider a working relationship different from worship. I consider it a mutual respect relationship.
Do you fear darkly aspected Gods/Goddess, or rather respect them? You're joking with me...right? Me and Baron Samedi drink each other under the table ALL THE TIME.
Do you worship the Christian God? No...because he's 5 years old and disrepectful (imo).
Do you ever worship animals? See my philosophy on deity. However, I consider animals superior to humanity at large, yes.
Or plants? Same with plants. Vastly superior to humans.


N A T U R E

Do you regularly commune with nature? If possible.
Ever walked barefoot in the woods? Yes. Mud, omnom.
Taken a camping trip just to talk to nature? Haven't had the opportunity.
Describe the moment you felt closest to Mother Earth? I was inside Stonehenge. I touched the rocks. I can't tell you how it was.
Do you have a familiar? No.
Have you ever called upon the powers of an animal in ritual? --->The only thing I do more like
Or a plant? Do you consider astral drugs/plants real plants? No? Well...
Do you hug trees? REALLY?
Give them gifts? Usually when I take something.
What is your favourite flower to work with? Rose.
What is your favourite tree to work with? Birch.


W H E E L . O F . T H E . Y E A R

What is your favourite holiday? Samhain.
What is your least favourite holiday? Actually every single one in Summer. I'm not a fertility kind of person. (but more on THAT HAIRY TOPIC LATER!)
Have you ever held a ritual on a holiday? The ones I care about. (See: Samhain, Yule, First Snowfall, First Melt, Imbolc)
Ever taken a day off work to celebrate a Pagan holiday? Nope.
Do you celebrate Yule on the 21 rather than the 25? I do that and then Christmas because I LOVE MATERIALISM. HOLY SHIT.
Have you ever felt the veil thin? Oh yeah. Mostly in dreams and in the fall.
Ever danced the Maypole? No. See: How I Feel About Fertility Rites (coming soon)
Know what the Maypole symbolizes? Phallic Symbol. (Also why I don't care for it. Not really into the whole dudes.)
How do you usually celebrate the Pagan holidays? Depends where I am.

D I V I N A T I O N

Do you use Tarot? Yeah.
Do you use runes? I...have them.
Do you use a pendulum? Yes.
Do you use dowsing rods? If I had them.
Do you use astrology? Like a beast.
Any other form of divination? Dreams, Bone working, visions, etc.

S P E L L S

What was the first spell you did? A BAD IDEA.
What was the latest? Luck.
Ever done a love spell? Only on myself.
A job spell? Coming Soon!
A healing spell? I'm hands-on instead on healing spells. I'm more likely to drag your sickness out kicking and screaming then spelling it out. (You think it's afraid of letters?)
What was the most powerful spell you’ve ever performed? See: THE BAD IDEA BINDING SPELL.
What deities do you usually call on? Don't usually call any.

C R Y P T O Z O O L O G Y

Do you believe in Vampires? Astral.
Werewolves? Probably.
Shapeshifters? Also probably.
Elves? Astral.
Faeries? NOT THE LOVING, TINKLY, HAPPY KIND. THE ONES THAT EAT YOUR FACE. (This is why I don't get the fae-obsession in the pagan community personally.)
Dragons? Astral. I know several.
Nymphs? Yeah they're aboot.
Sprites? I consider them faeish.
Mermaids? Yeah, probably.
Satyrs? I HOPE NOT BECAUSE I LIKE MY GENITALS WHERE THEY ARE.
Ever “seen” any of the above? Almost all. See: Fae tried to rip my face off.
Ever talked to any of the above? ALL TOO OFTEN...
Ever used any of the above in magic? Dragons help me out sometimes. Also Sedna is sometimes a mermaid...so...
Do you have one of them as a personal guardian? Well...I have certain ones under my care but I wouldn't call that guardianship on their part.

R A N D O M

Do you see a rabbit, a man or a woman in the moon? Rabbit!
Own a cat? Deathly allergic. I know, it's terrible.
When you meditate, what does your happy place look like? I have a nice cozy hut in the Underrealms. Giant spider, cobwebs, dragon chilling in the next room, extensive herb garden. You know.
Do you work with Chakras? Depends on problem.
Do you believe in past lives? MAN WHICH ONE?
If so, describe a few briefly: Horrible tragic one in which I was thrown into a mental asylum. Inuit one where I had a wuff-pet.
Do you believe in soul mates? Yes.
Do you have a spirit guide? Arctic Wolf, name is not at liberty to disclose though...
Is it always love and light? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...WAIT...WAIT...LET ME...I CAN'T...AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahAHAHAHA...I CAN'T -BREATHE-

Monday, January 9, 2012

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN



LOOK WHAT I FOUND AT GOOD WILL.

I can now check "GIANT FUCKING SHEAFS-OF-WHEAT-CANDLE-HOLDERS" off my bucket list.

Pagan Crafting



I'm infusing rose petal oil in this conveniently shaped bottle for Freda devotionals.

Musings Monday: On Mild Winters

Just something I've noticed on the news and from other people, etc.

I live in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, and as such I'm kind of used to getting, if not slammed by winter and snow, at least a little something per year. I'm one of those crazed people that loves the 15 degree temperatures because I'm always warm. Once the weather surpasses 50-60 degrees I'm in a constant state of agitation and really not a happy camper. (Told you I was crazy.)

I also value the 4 seasons. Being in the NE of the US, we generally get to experience all 4 seasons as distinct patterns, if not in temperature, in the trees, the animals, the birds, the whole shebang. The differences and the balance between the four assures me that nothing is amiss, and generally makes me happy all around. Shamanically, spiritually, physically.

When we had the extreme, desert-like Summer, I was concerned, because that pattern was abnormal. I felt the pain of the animals around here not used to the extreme heat. We're in the NE, known for the not-horrible Summer, and we were setting record temperatures above the 100s. One day (I worked outside in the Summer) I was outside for 2 hours before becoming terribly heat sick and I actually had to go home. I was pretty distressed all Summer.

Then we hit fall. Fall moved too fast here, the cold came too early, suddenly, and the trees were so confused. I remember Samhain felt early this year as well. I was saddened a little because I love Fall. It was maybe 2 weeks between excruciating, horrible heatwaves into October and sudden freezing temperature.

We had snow in November, which isn't completely weird here, but it was strange. And then the mild temperature started. The entire winter here has been mostly 40-60 degrees. Many people here are lauding the warm winter, feel thankful for it, even. But it worries me. I love the snow, I love the frost, I love everything about winter. A completely snow-less winter gives me warning feelings about the land.

Some people will say, yeah, but we've had mild winters before. It's not a big deal. I feel like the more we have them the more it's being indicative of a problem. We're in January now and we had a single day of flurry here, for an hour, in December. I always celebrate first snow fall in Winter. I'm now wondering if I'll get to celebrate my favorite season at all.

I feel depressed when we have mild winters. It gives me an uncomfortable feeling, as if something is changing in the land/world, and not in a good way. It presents itself as evidence to me that soon nothing will be the same. Desert Summers and Spring-Winters--sometimes I'm afraid eventually we'll all lose the 4 seasons. (With global warming and the climate crisis, I'm also not surprised.)

I'm that crazy person that misses the cold nights and the freezing days.

Friday, January 6, 2012

PBP 01: Altars


Samhain Altar Circa 2009

Since altars are a topic near and dear to my heart, why not talk about them? Also, since I have an obsessive need and or/habit to set up altars wherever I choose to live or work, I have compiled a massive number of altar and shrine photos from past rituals.


Imbolc Altar Circa 2009

I think altars can be a very valuable part of any Pagan practitioner's life. For me, altars literally ground a room. Without them I feel akin to floating in a space. Altars mean you are making physical space for a representation of your practice, and that your practice is valuable enough in your life that you require a place to work in. If you're going to work from home, a lot of us find it hard to focus on work in, say, our bedrooms. Many people have an 'Office' room dedicated for that purpose. I find whatever you use a room for the most will generally be what you continue to use it for. For me, I find it much harder to work on intellectual things in my bedroom, because it has an aura of peace and a grounded feeling. I'm much better at working in my kitchen, with an air of people and activity.



"Love"/Erzulie Freda/Self Healing altar, circa 2011/2012

My point is that altars, imbued with objects that hold a certain energy, can inspire progress in your path just by virtue of existing. They can aid in feeling grounded and more certain in your progress.

I also am a strong believer that an altar isn't just a shelf full of curios; an altar should always reflect you in your current path in your current moment. (Shrines to specific deities/spirits I consider more permanent than altars, but they should also be subject to change based on your experiences.) Many times I may wake up antsy and realize my altar is no longer channeling what I want it to. I think it's normal and healthy to literally have a falling-out with your altar. Often when your altar stops feeling right for you, it's a sign to begin reexamining old things or studying new ones.

I bring you 3 examples: These are all the same space, on top of my dresser. The first is from 2009, when I was essentially Wiccan but attempting to branch out from that. The below picture is an Imbolc ceremony from that same year.



The second is when I had moved away from Wicca entirely and was attempting to figure out my thoughts on this 'Shamanism' business and how that fit with my ideas of Deity and the Cosmos.



The third is when I was fairly comfortable with beginning to study Shamanism and had completely scrapped my previous theology and started over.



The fourth is my altar from this past summer, when I began focusing on the life aspects of deathwalking as well as...well, the death. Walking the veil is not always about one side over the other.



The images should tell their own story, but you can see the evolution of my thinking reflected in my altar. I don't think it's Required Reading to have ANY tools on your altar, or a specific set. I've seen spellwork done with no tools, and spellwork done with the entire array of tools. Your altar should reflect your specific needs and intentions.

If you don't know where you stand on your path, I think it's absolutely fine to have no altar at all, or an altar of only very personal items that may have no connection to ideology. If you're into herbs, why not include some on your altar/shrine space? And for goodness sake don't take my word for it. Use what works for you even if goes in direct opposition to something in a book or written down somewhere or something somebody told you. Try a lot of things, and if they ain't working for you, try something completely different. Altar-building is an art and an altar is a living, breathing space that will often let you know when it's time to dismantle and re-think. Your altar should be your partner; it should be aiding you and not working against you. Try thinking of your altar as a part of yourself, and relly think about if it's jiving with you at the point you're at in life and on your path.

Try listening to it, sometime. You might be surprised.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Poison Research: Master List

For every 2nd week of the Project, I'll be posting info on 2 poisonous herbs/plants/mushrooms/naturally occuring substance coinciding with the letter for that week. This is not me imparting High Wisdom; it's as much a research and learning experience for me, a rudimentary herbalist, as it is for those reading. Poisons are fascinating things; by working with their spirits we can traverse the Veil and back, but by taking advantage we can wind up in body bags. I have a lot of respect for poisons.

I am extremely interested in how poisons were utilized by witches and others in the Olden Days, as well. Most of you know some of the herbs I'm listing by their inclusion in Flying Ointments.

This post will be considered the "Master List" of my poison posts. Once a post for that poison has been made, I will link it back to this master post to make your (and my) lives a lot easier. List is subject to change, as well.

Note towards the end of the alphabet it was getting hard to find poisonous species. I am going to continue researching to find some for T and the other letters.

I don't have to tell you not to eat these, right? (Unless you're under the guidance of an Extremely Good Herbalist and are knowledgeable about the antidotes.)

You'll notice sometimes I took liberties and am posting a common herb/poisonous plant by its scientific name. That's because everything fit better that way. I'll be sure to be clear on which is which.

Here we go.

~A~
Aconitum (Monkshod, Wolfsbane, Devil’s Helmet)
Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric Mushroom)


~B~
Bloodroot
Belladonna (Atropa Belladonna, Deadly Nightshade)


~C~
Calotropsis
Cicuta Virosa (Also known as Cowbane)


~D~
Daphne (Berries)
Deathcaps (Mushrooms)


~E~
European Spindletree

~F~
Foxglove

~H~
Henbane
Hemlock

~I~
Ivy (Poison)
Ignatius Beans

~J~
Jack in the pulpit
Jimson Weed (Thorn Apple)

~K~
Korf's Gyromitra

~L~
Lily of the Valley
Laburnum

~M~
Mountain Laurel
Mescal Buttons

~N~
Narcissus (Also known as daffodil)

~O~
Oleander
Ordeal Beans (Calabar Beans)

~P~
Poison Sumac
Poison Oak

~Q~
Quercus (Oak)

~R~
Rhubarb
Ragwort

~S~
Suicide Tree
Strychnine tree (Nux Vomica)

~T~
The sickener (Russula emetica, a mushroom)
Tiger Tricholoma (Mushroom)

~U~
Urtica Ferox (Ongaonga)

~V~ 
Veratrum viride (False Hellborne)

~W~
Webcap (Deadly)
Webcap (Fool's)

~X~
Xanthium (Cocklebur)

~Y~
Yew

~Z~
Zantedeschia (Calla Lilies)

Tea in the Underrealms

This post is going to be some kind of introduction.

I follow Shamanism. I should be clear in that the brand of Shamanism I follow is mine alone. I didn't read it in a book, though I borrow elements from academic texts on the subject. I don't follow 'core shamanism', which is what Michael Harner ("The Way of the Shaman") teaches about. I follow what I like to call grassroots shamanism. Learning from the animals, from the land itself, what works and what doesn't work. I realize my type of Shamanism is not anybody's else type. It requires constant work to make sense of it, even to me. (This is not me being big-headed, I'm saying I don't belong to a tradition or Tribal society, and, like an Eclectic, I am building my own path as I go.)

In terms of Witchcraft, I err to the side of old-school. I am not opposed to blood magic, bone magic or direct communication with the dead. (Whether that be animals or humans, but I mostly work with animal spirits.) I don't have a law, or specific deities, or specific holidays I conform to. I generally celebrate the changing of the seasons when the season decides that is. For instance, Samhain honestly felt like mid-October to me last year based on when it felt right. (I ended up celebrating late and kicked myself later.) I am in favor of natural witchcraft, meaning the use of herbs, oils, and natural objects in ritual. I utilize tarot and other forms of divination. I love a nice smelling candle as much as the next person. I collect bones.

This is where my morality gets interesting: I am a Shamanist and Animist, yes, but a vegetarian. I make absolutely sure my animal parts come from road kill sources, or at the very least the animal was not killed for the sum of its parts. Eating animals when I know they have been killed in an excruciating manner (see: factory farms) would be the equivalent to me of defiling your Deity(s)'s holiest place or temple. I can't square the circle moralistically of participating in the killing of beings I work with on a daily basis. (That doesn't mean I care if anyone else in the world eats meat. Just explaining how I roll. Please, party on.) In the future I would ideally like to collect road kill myself, in order to ensure the proper death rites are handled for the animal and the parts do not go to waste.

In terms of theology I'm what you might call a Hard Polytheist; ie, all Gods are not the same. Apollo is not Artemis is not Anubis. I'm of the opinion if I put two Gods that are from vastly different cultures in the same room chances are they aren't going to make nice and get along in many cases. Sometimes, they do. Sometimes it's not a good thing. When I work with Deity they usually err to the "darker" side of the pantheons. I have a working relationship (you pass each other in the hallway and give a nod of affirmation) with Bast & Anubis, who are my only true constants, and a very close "binding" relationship with Sedna, who is specifically an Inuit Goddess of the sea. Her story is really quite tragic. I'll be posting more on her in the future, I'm sure.


ENOUGH OF THE STUFFY BUSINESS.

Goals for this blog:

1) I'm beginning work with herbalism, so every 2nd topic week I will be covering an herb. Most likely, poisons, because I am learning to respect and understand their power in a healing context.

2) ACTUALLY GO OUT IN NATURE MORE. I live in a Development and the city during a lot of the year (school) so ironically this is not an easy thing for me to accomplish. I would kill to live right behind natural forest.

3) WRITE. SHIT. DOWN. I am notorious for crafting a ritual that works so well it's unreal, then POOF. It's completely forgotten the next day. I could smack myself each time.

4) MAKE PAGAN FRIENDS. That means you! There is nobody around my immediate area practicing Paganism, and specifically Shamanism. Feel free to comment/make friends. I don't bite, really! :)

5) FOLLOW THROUGH AND DO EVERY POST. I am also a notorious project-dropper. Let us see.