Celtic Polytheism, fae, Paganism, Spellwork, Spiritwork

Riders on a Baleful Wind, and a Charm to Keep Them at Bay

This time of year, between the autumnal equinox and Samhain, is when I notice the most activity from a loose grouping of spirits I’ve begun to refer to as Riders on a Baleful Wind. I’m referring both to the Wild Hunt ⁠(or, really, Hunts, plural) and also to some of the Fair Folk⁠—trooping fairies who travel near these dates*, and groups like the slua sí, who are also associated with wind or storms, and overlap somewhat with the folkloric Wild Hunt.

As a folklore motif and a mythological archetype, the Wild Hunt is prevalent across much of Northwestern Europe, and the Hunt of each region has its own leader. Often these leaders are Pre-Christian deities associated with war or death, like Odin/Woden and Gwyn Ap Nudd. Other times they’re figures associated with the aos sí, like Manannán Mac Lir, or they’re said to be famous ghosts, like Herne the Hunter. These folk tales came with European Immigrants to the Americas as well, and here the Hunt is sometimes known as the Ghost Riders. (Some of you will be familiar with the song, I imagine.) Besides the leader, who or what exactly the rest of the company is varies from tale to tale. Sometimes they are human dead, sometimes they’re said to be fairies or demons, but most frequently these groups seem to be something of a motley crew. The overlapping circles of the Fair Folk, the Gods, and the Dead are difficult to pick apart, and it’s especially difficult to draw any clear lines when we’re looking at the Wild Hunt and related groups of weather-riding unfriendly otherworldly beings.

Unfriendly and intimidating though they may seem, not all of them are actually malevolent. That’s why I term them “baleful”, not “baneful”, and each individual group poses a different type and level of danger. Malevolent or not, however, they’re generally not spirits most witches want in or around their homes or places of business, and with that in mind I’ve been working on a charm object to add a little additional protection to whatever wards you already have in place.

Warding Charm

The charm itself is fairly small and would easily blend into an autumn wreath. The ingredients are pretty simple as well: a sweetgum ball, some red yarn, and iron water.

SWEETGUM BALL: One per charm, dried, preferably with the stem attached.

Part of the work I’ve been doing with the Ogham for the past two years (or more, really, but I think it was two years ago that I really started diving in deeply in a structured way) is finding local plants that have similar energy to the plants of the tree ogham list.** Sweetgum, a tree indigenous to my area, has an energy that I think is similar in some important ways to Blackthorn. While it doesn’t have thorns, it does have spiky seed balls, and its sweet-scented sap, like blackthorn sloes, is actually very bitter tasting. Additionally, it’s a favored food of luna moth caterpillars, an insect I have long associated with nocturnal fairy beings. Blackthorn is sometimes said to belong to or to ward off the Othercrowd, and I find Sweetgum fits that niche as well. I have since learned that sweetgum balls are also used in hoodoo for protection, which dovetails nicely with both my experience of the tree, and this charm.

RED YARN: Or thread, I suppose. Enough to wrap around the sweetgum ball twice at perpendicular intersections, and tie off to leave tails for hanging.

I decided to spin my own yarn. I’ve wanted to learn to spin for a long time, but until recently thought I was allergic to wool. It turns out, I’m probably reacting to a chemical used in the commercial processing, because I did a test with a friend’s fleece-to-homespun and had no redness, no itching, no bumps, no hives! Excited, I borrowed a drop spindle and purchased some red-dyed roving from an artisan supplier. They included a sample of some other colors and I used that to figure out a technique for spinning. That way, once I started on the red roving, I could focus more on spinning my intent and my power into the yarn, instead of still figuring out what the heck I was doing. If you don’t spin, I recommend braiding embroidery floss as a good alternative for adding your intent and power to the string. Something like: I’m a badass witch and I protect this space; I decide who enters and who the wards keep out.

Iron Water: Soak some nails in water with a little splash of apple cider vinegar for a few days. When it’s ready, dip the sweetgum ball, yarn and all, into the water and let it get saturated.

I doubt I need to tell most of my readers that iron is known to ward off the Fair Folk, but just in case you need the refresher: that’s why we’re using iron water. You could also stick those very nails into this charm if you wanted, but that’s a bit stronger than I wanted for my personal charms, and it would be a little too strong for some allies I don’t want to keep out. I wanted something vaguely iron scented. Enough iron to say that I know what I’m about, but not enough iron to deeply offend those who are welcome across my threshold.

This is also probably a good time to tell you that this charm, as I’ve made it, is basically a “No Tresspassing” sign. It’s not going to do much good if it’s your only line of defense. If you have decent house wards, though, and gods or allies you can turn to in times of need, that sign will be enough to make those Riders more inclined to go around, rather than through. There are fewer obstacles elsewhere, and easier prey to be found. As with most predators, that’s usually enough, as long as you don’t provoke them.

* Though the ones who travel near the autumnal equinox may be following the Pleiades, not the equinox. See Morgan Daimler’s recent writings on that for more information.

** Nota Bene: The Ogham is an alphabet, and it’s not just about trees. Trees are one of the ogham lists. There’s also word ogham, skill ogham, bird ogham, even dog and waterway ogham. Eventually I’ll make my own local herb and bird and waterways lists, too, and maybe a modern skills ogham. But a lot of my general witchy practice includes work with plants, so trees seemed like a good place to start.

Bright Moon, Kemetic

Kemetic Bright Moon 10/13

Slightly delayed this month, sorry. Apparently I’m highly allergic to some kind of plant pollen I encountered on Saturday. Earlier today I finally managed to do my ritual, and here is this moon’s message from Bast and Sekhmet:

Pay attention to the edges. To your boundaries, to political borders, to people at the margins. Defend and strengthen those boundary areas. In doing so, stay true to your own ethics; follow your heart’s pathway through ma’at. You may be tempted to take a short cut, and to choose the way that seems quickest and easiest, but that will not give you the best outcome. You feel frayed but you are not broken; you are much stronger than you believe. There will be more conflict along the way, more obstacles to surmount, but you can trust your inner resilience and knowledge to guide you. Reject the negative structures that bind you; claim your personal power and move forward.

The next Bright Moon is 11/12/19, so check back then! If you have a question you’d like me to ask Bast and Sekhmet, I take a limited number of personal requests each month. Send them via email (eyes.of.ra.oracle AT gmail DOT com). If you’d like to support the work I do and the shrine upkeep, you can do so on Ko-fi. Thanks for reading!

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: Don’t Resist Change

Those of you who pay attention to moon phases are probably aware this is a week late. This has been a week of intermittent omens and conversation between myself and Na Morrigna, while I was drowning in migraine symptoms. Yesterday was my first day without blinding pain. Today, the wisps spun together into a yarn, and the message became clear to me.

It is close to the time of your awakening. We will fight side by side, working in harmony and cooperation across the whole of the battlefield. You must stand your ground and hold fast. Stay calm—you have the mastery of self and skill that you need to prevail. You may think you are unprepared, or not strong enough. Silence such thoughts! You are ready, and you will learn by doing. Do not resist the coming changes. True growth is never comfortable. Awaken, and join us.

Gods willing, the next message will be more on schedule. And do be careful out there! The Hunts are riding. Stay safe, and stay grounded.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Tarot of the Hidden Realm

Deck: Tarot of the Hidden Realm
Publisher: Llewellyn Books
Writer: Barbara Moore
Artist: Julia Jeffries
Overall Rating: 10/10

image (c) Llewellyn Books

Cardstock: It’s supple and very shuffly, but doesn’t feel like I could tear it quite as easily as some of the other decks I’ve reviewed.

Artwork: I LOVE the artwork! The facial expressions are clear and the backgrounds are detailed. There’s plenty of symbolism for intuitive reading. I also really like that these are borderless!

Book: This deck comes with a full paperback guidebook, not a LWB. I like the book – there’s plenty of detail in it to jive off of without it feeling heavy handed. The writer describes the activities of the people in the art, too, to clarify some of the artwork and symbolism. There’s a whole chapter in the front if you’re new to divination, and a chapter in the back with a few spreads.

Likes: Um, Everything? I especially like that this deck is Fairy Themed without being really twee. (Spoilers: most Fae aren’t twee.) I also like some of the renamed Major Arcana (like Life Renewed, depicted above, to replace the very Christian “Judgement”). By far my favorite part is really just the amazing artwork, though!

Dislikes: Ummmmmmm a couple of the cards have artwork reminds me of a celebrity who may have been used as a reference and it’s a tiny bit distracting? That’s a bit of a reach, though. Otherwise… There’s no tuck box, just a large box that fits the book, so I had to find a bag for the cards to keep them in, because the original cardboard bit wasn’t going to keep the cards undamaged, long-term. I really can’t think of anything major.

Overall Recommendation

Now that I own this deck I am astonished that I let it linger on a wishlist for so long! This is quickly becoming one of my favorite decks, and probably my new go-to when dealing with any random personal spiritual nonsense in my life. If you like the artwork you might need this.

Event, Holiday Celebration, Paganism, Prayer

Equinox Thoughts

The Equinox is the Feast of the Vanir in our home practice, and while we celebrated with friends yesterday and hailed them at a blot, I would still like to share the original prayer I wrote, in the same format as other prayers I’ve shared recently. Feel free to use this at your own home celebration!

The Autumn Equinox has arrived,
And the nights are now as long as the days
The last of the fruits of the earth are ripening
And the harvest is well underway!

The days are still warm and the leaves still green
But the nights are beginning to cool
Here we are at the balance –
Mid Autumn Equinox, between the Midsummer and Midwinter Solstices!

And on this day, we honor Freyr and Freyja,
Beloved deities of Vanaheim, and all their kin
Come to us now, and join our celebration!
We offer you food, drink, and merriment!

We ask in return for your blessings,
Help us to harvest what we planted in the spring.

Freyr and Freyja, Hail and Welcome!

Original Prayer by Aleja Nic Bhe Chuille

It was a two hour drive northeast to the friend’s house, as we’ve both moved farther away from where we lived when we first met, and that distance is no easy feat with a toddler who hates car rides. Up was not too bad – down home was much worse as we were hours past his usual bed time. Still, the gathering of friends I have not seen in too long was much, much needed. And that got me to thinking about community, which came up as a theme in the blot.

I spent a long time as a solitary witchy pagan animist something, barely aware of a wider community, until I happened across an ADF Druid grove in Baltimore the last few weeks of 2012. Scott and I both found community there for a while, but the distance became too much as other parts of our life solidified and we stopped going in early 2016. That autumn we met the members of the Fellowship Beyond the Star for the first time at Pagan Pride festivals, and we attended some of their meetings as time allowed – though as I moved into my second and third trimesters we got out of the house less and less, and then for the first three months after the Acorn was born in May we did hardly anything at all but take care of the baby, eat, and sleep.

Still, when we emerged from that cocoon, we found the Fellowship community very welcoming, and we also started attending our local UU church, which soon had a fledgling pagan study group. We were putting down roots, finding community around us both physically locally and also in nearby pagan area groups. We still had friends in Baltimore, but that became more connected by social media and less by actual in-person meetings. That doesn’t make those connections seem less valid, though – they can provide plenty of different kinds of support, even though it’s a bit too far for a “whoops I need a ride to urgent care” call.

Now, both local pagan groups (The Fellowship Beyond the Star, and Fox & Fungi at UUCR) have grown some, and I find myself in organizational roles in both. I’ve begun teaching workshops in the local community, and even down in Atlanta this past July. Acquaintances met at community events are becoming friendships, and I begin to see how my small groups might join in networks with other groups to form woven communities, providing the support we all desperately need.

The Autumn Equinox, the middle of fall in my seasonal paradigm, is a time of harvest and in an agricultural community it would also be a time of the community coming together, pitching in to make sure everything was getting set for winter. It’s a time to check in with those local to you, but also with wider ideas of community in this technologically connected age. For my husband’s Jewish relatives and ancestors, it is also time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a time to mend bridges and reconnect. We try to continue some of those traditions in our home as well, so there will be apples and honey on my kitchen table soon. For many people this is also when the school year seems to finally be properly underway, with everything settled from the first whirlwind of Back-to-School.

In my work with the Fair Folk, this is also usually the time when the Wild Hunts and Fairy Rades begin. I’ve been learning that the acronychal rising of the Pleiades happens around the Equinox, and that feels significant, though I’m still not sure what exactly that means for my personal practice. I mentioned that this is the Feast of the Vanir for us, and while Freyr and Freyja are usually my focus, with Njord and Nerthus included as well, I also deliberately include the alfar of Vanaheim, whom I believe to be culturally distinct from the beings of either Alfheim/Ljossalfheim or Nidavellir/Svartalfheim. I try to spend a bit of time around this day with my allies there, checking in and just enjoying their company. So far I haven’t attempted to join their seasonal celebrations, but perhaps this year I will ask. Perhaps they can help bring me clarity about the timing of the Pleiades and the Hunts.

Autumn is underway. Communities are pulling together. And Samhain will come faster than we expect.

Devotional Jewelry, Event, Vending

Frederick Pagan Pride 2019!!!

This was our first year vending Frederick Pagan Pride, and it was a really good show for us! There was lots of interest in our products and we ran into a lot of friends (including Monika Healing Coyote)! The Acorn Sprout even “helped” at the table, creating toy car tableaux.

There was sooooo much prep work involved in getting this much jewelry made, but it all came together in time for the festival! We learned a couple of things, too – I think for NoVA we’ll use fewer bracelet racks and more bowls, because people seem more likely to buy the reiki bracelets if they can interact with them first. Practically everything we sell is reiki-attuned and enchanted, and it really makes a difference!

Here’s the whole family, with Aleja waving to… somebody?

Also, we now have more than two dozen deity bracelet designs, from Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian), Hellenic (Ancient Greek), Norse (Aesir and Vanir), and Gaelic (Tuatha Dé Danann) pantheons, and we have a half dozen more on the drawing board! As always, if we don’t have the deity you’re looking for, or if you want a bracelet for a specific aspect of a deity, please don’t hesitate to ask! We love doing custom work!

The Etsy Shop is still on vacation and will be until we have a chance to do inventory following NoVA Pagan Pride, but if you want something, send us an email and we’ll accommodate you as best we can! Locals can come see us in Fairfax, VA on September 28th at NoVA PPD! We’ll be restocked on all the jewelry, and Aleja will also be doing divinatory readings that day!

Bright Moon, Kemetic

Kemetic Bright Moon 9/14

I’m still just completely in love with my new oil lamp, because I really feel like I get deeper into trance with the larger flame. That, combined with a few other small tweaks to my ritual, seem to be making the entire process easier for me, and I’m excited to see how this (Kemetic) year plays out. But without further ado, here’s this month’s message from Bast and Sekhmet!

As you embark on this new stage of your journey, you need to pay attention and keep your footing so you do not stumble and fall. There is chaos around you and behind you, but do not turn your head to look at battles that are not your own – their smoke will dissipate before it reaches you. We stand guard beside you. Gather your power and reach for your goals. Join in striving with others – you are brighter and stronger together. There is strength to be found in the shape of the Great Pyramid, and you will build your own monuments if you take the time to plan them properly. Keep the flame in your chest brightly burning! Indulge your passions and they will keep you warm.

I hope that helps, dear readers, and I hope you all manage to follow the advice as best you can. The next Bright Moon is October 13th!

If you appreciate these monthly oracular messages, please consider donating to the maintenance of my Shrine!

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: Form Your Squadrons

Last night into early this morning was a Super Black New Moon in Virgo, and while others can tell you more about that, I took the time last night to go see Na Morrigna, the three Daughters of Ernmas, to ask what message they had for me and my allies and associates this Dark Moon. I met them around a huge cauldron, into which they threw herbs and other ingredients. I breathed the steam, watched images dance across the surface, and gave them my attention as they communicated their message. Here is what I was told*:

“It is time to get back onto the wagon, and take the reins again, but hold them in a loose hand. You are anxious and also have high expectations. Do not dwell on the past, neither its good nor its ills. Look forward. Change is possible, but there is work to be done. Organize yourselves. Form your squadrons – small practice groups within larger networks. Decisive action must be taken by each individual group; be small, swift, flexible, and adaptable. Identify goals and work by consensus. Create your own strategies and share with others in your network. Everyone has a role to play.”

This is perhaps a good time to remind you all that my major role, beyond these Dark Moon messages, is to offer healing (in person or remotely) to others in my networks, especially when illness (spiritual, emotional, or mental/physical) is impairing their ability to perform their own role in the larger work. Such healings are free of charge within the boundaries of an individual’s own agreement with Na Morrigna. (Basically – if you’re a devotee with a right relationship with one of or all of Na Morrigna, and She/They agree/s that you need healing as part of your exchange with Her/Them, I’m happy to oblige, because that becomes part of my exchange with Them. If you wish to pay me yourself, with money or barter, I’m happy to do that, too!) I also do divination for those wishing to understand their own role better (see last year’s Tarot Spread), and I’ve been known to do combination divination/consultation advice for neophyte devotees looking to dedicate themselves with an oath to one or more of Na Morrigna (though as my own relationship is with Anu, Badb, and Macha, my advice is more suited to working with Them over other goddesses sometimes included, like Fea and Nemhain).

Beyond that… Shifts are coming. I can feel that, but I’m not sure what kind. This is meandering into Unseelie Weather Report territory, but keep your wits about you, friends. Shields and wards, ground and center. Keep an eye on large patterns, but a closer eye on your local communities and ecosystems. I don’t think this is going to be an easy winter.

* That is, translated as best I can out of the all-encompassing experience that is deep trancework, into grammatical English sentences. If I am an artist of any sort, I am primarily a wordsmith, and more than two decades writing poetry and prose has perhaps prepared me to take these experiences and find the best words to encapsulate a deep knowing understanding that is transmitted in a way that transcends words. Those who dance with the divine in this manner all have their own preferred medium of expression.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Radiant Rider-Waite-Smith

Deck: Radiant Rider-Waite
Publisher: Currently published by US Games Systems, Inc; original deck was published by William Rider & Son in London in 1909
Writer: originally the companion books, The Key to the Tarot, and the revised The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, were written by A.E. Waite.
Artist: original artwork was by Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith; has been digitized and saturated for this deck.
Overall Rating: 7/10

Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot, published by US Games Systems Inc

Cardstock: A little thin, maybe, but pretty standard for US Games. Nothing to write home about. Nice and wiffly but I would bet they’d show wear if I used them more often. Especially those stark white borders!

Artwork: The symbolism is super heavy – everything from the color of the robes to how many stars is pretty much on purpose. So if that’s your thing, more power to you. Besides the Pictorial Key there are dozens of other books about RWS symbolism. I’m really not super fond of Smith’s human figures, though. They all seem a little doll-like to me, but that seems to be her style so it’s more a matter of my personal dislike than her lack of talent.

LWB: It has decent descriptions of the majors but only a few keywords for upright and reversed for other cards, and those seem a little sparse or overly simplistic. I haven’t read the Pictorial Key so I’m not sure how well it compares, but I did buy one of the aforementioned several other books, so I use that instead. (Because, no, I do not have all the zodiac stuff memorized and some of the color symbolism is different from my own understandings.)

Likes: If you want to read tarot books, it helps to have this deck because a lot of them are about this one in particular. Also, a lot of other decks use this same imagery, turned into dragons or elves or cats or whatever. It’s useful if you want to understand the history of tarot divination, too.

Dislikes: I really dislike the Kabbalistic symbolism because I have Feelings about goyim using it. But I think if you’re unfamiliar with that it is easy enough to just ignore and gloss over. I also don’t like how the human figures’ faces have very little expression – I have a few other decks with very expressive artwork and that vibes a lot better with my intuitive reading style.

Overall Recommendation

I really got this deck so that I could start to go “deeper” into the tarot and then I found out that the zodiac stuff and the alchemical symbolism just really don’t jive as well with my reading style. I’m an intuitive reader, not an intellectual reader, and that’s too much conscious analysis. So this is sort of a fall-back deck, more of a collector’s piece than something I use often. Some of my clients like it, though, because it’s recognizable. Ultimately, it doesn’t jive well with me but I would recommend it to newbies or anyone who likes the depth of symbolism.

Bright Moon, Kemetic

Kemetic Bright Moon 8/15

I had some difficulties setting up the new oil lamp – the first attempted wick did not work as planned, but once I finally got it right and settled in, I felt their presence wash over me, their vessel. “Welcome back, child,” they greeted me, in reference to the renewal of my contract, completed as per my usual in a sacred bath.

Their message for us all on this, the first Bright Moon of the New Kemetic Year, is as follows:

You are free to abandon projects from last year that did not bear fruit. Try a new way, or try something completely new. But fore-planning will save you much grief.
We Lionesses walk beside you, and even the Snake of Isfet fears our teeth, but A/p/e/p must be destroyed every year, every month, every day. Be guided by ma’at. Return to it in times of confusion and let it guide your actions. Start first by bringing your private life into balance with ma’at. Wepwawet is opening the ways for greater actions to come.

Left: Swirly bath bomb suds. I think this was a Tadaima Okaeri, from Lush?
Right: My new oil lamp!!! With braided cotton wick. This was right as it started up, before I used fire scrying as my entryway to possessory trance.

Next Kemetic Bright Moon Ritual is: 9/ 14.

As a reminder, I take questions and requests for heka, blessings, and execrations. Those can be submitted through the tumblr e-shrine, or email them to: eyes.of.ra.oracle@ gmail.com.
If you appreciate the work I do and want to support it continuing, I have a Ko-fi for donations!