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.

Crochet Spell, Event, Holiday Celebration, Spellwork

Our Samhain, and a new kind of Spellwork

We ended up spending Samhain with friends, and took part in a small group ritual, which nearly got rained out.  It was still good to reconnect, though, and Baby was very entranced by the bonfire (though I took him inside as it started to rain).  We burnt offerings of whiskey, acorns, and a cinnamon broom, and then huddled inside enjoying a potluck meal.  I had meant to bless the crochet granny square I’d made at the request of the Morrigna, but alas by the time I was done feeding baby it was raining too hard and the fire was practically doused.  Ah, well.  It seems that wasn’t necessary.

The granny square itself turned out rather well, I think:

20171113_131210It’s a sort of a knot spell, woven with intent.  My role in my work with the Morrigna and their (her, for those who use the singular Morrigan) other devotees is akin to that of a battle medic – I’m playing support to the warriors, those fighting the good fight.  But there’s been a bit of divisiveness in the ranks as of late, and we need to align ourselves if we’re going to achieve the Morrigna’s goals (or so they tell me).  To that end, I was told to weave us together – all those who have fully committed to the cause, those whom I see growing raven wings from their backs, those whom I know or have met and also those who I have not.  The Morrigna supplied the connection to the individual strands of fate, and I have begun to knit us more tightly together, in rows.  Or, well.  Crochet.  The work is not finished – it is only beginning – but I am, as ever, heart-glad to play my part in all of this.

Knotwork isn’t new to me, but crochet spells in particular are, and I’m really happy how this one turned out, and I’m surprised how easy it was.  I think I’m going to make a few more, starting with a healing charm for a friend.  And if there’s interest, perhaps I’ll start offering them for sale as custom spellwork, too.

What do you think, dear reader?

Spellwork

Weather Protections

A few weeks ago, Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the east coast of the United States.  I was safe enough, inland in Virginia, but my husband had family very close to the coast near Jacksonville, FL, where landfall was expected.  They did not manage to evacuate, in part because one of those stranded was his 91-year-old great aunt.  My mother-in-law was very distressed, and asked if I would attempt a protection spell to keep them safe through the storm, and I promised I would do my best.

There was just one problem.  The storm was being powered by the Wild Hunt, and they do not take kindly to outsiders interfering in their work.

So, I turned to a friend with some excellent Wild Hunt connections via Gwyn Ap Nudd.  Initially I asked her if she would just present my case to Gwyn and ask his advice.  What would I need to do to get my spell let through?  I knew I could make a decent spell, but I was worried about being able to send it south to get to them, and I was worried about anchoring it.  I needed this to be a spell cast and set, not something I’d need to constantly pour energy into, because the storm could be there for days.

My friend went journeying to see Gwyn, and came back with a somewhat unexpected answer: he’d allow my spell through, but only if my friend went to bat for me.  She would need to give offerings, give my spell her essence, and stand guard throughout the storm.  I was hesitant, not wanting to put that much pressure on her, but Gwyn had made it very clear that this was the only way.  She agreed, much to my relief, and gave me directions.  I was to enter her place of power and take away a goo-like material gathered in a pool there, and use it in the Otherworlds-side part of my spell.

That required a journey on my part, so I found a quiet place to lie down, and let myself drift into my Waystation.  From there, I left by the portal door and ended up in a dark forest, where it was an autumn night.  I followed a path up a hill and then down stone stairs cut into a cliff face, to the mouth of a cave.  Once inside, I intuitively made my way to the cavern where I knew I would find the pool.  Although I normally glow somewhat in dim light Over There, I did not disturb the blackness of the cave, because my clothes had adjusted to be something like black-out curtains.  Even my face was veiled and my hands were gloved – I moved without seeing where I went. Once I found the place, I briefly lifted my veil so that just the dim glow of my face could be seen – the place needed to know who I was, needed to recognize me, so that I could take some of the goo without mishap.  I could vaguely see or feel someone back towards the wall ahead of me, though as I was the only source of light, I could not see them clearly.  At first I hesitated, wondering if I would have to prove myself to this being, but whoever it was, they simply watched, perhaps making sure I was not taking more than I had agreed to, and that I wouldn’t overstay my welcome.  I bent down, uncertain how I was going to scoop up some of the goo when some of it jumped out, a droplet the size of my fist.  I held out a belt pouch to catch it in, and the goo landed but bounced back up once, twice, three times before settling, and then I closed the bag.  I put it back on the belt at my waist, lowered my veil again, and made my way out the way I’d come in.  Once I was outside the cave, my clothes became my usual airy dress, and this time, instead of heading up the stairs, I leapt into the water at the base of the cliffs. I used the water as a portal, leading me through to the water of my own Waystation, where I emerged.  Once out of the water, I headed for my temple, in which I do most of my offerings and spellwork in the Otherworlds.  I transferred the goo from the belt pouch to a glass jar, where it bounced around in a vaguely annoyed manner – I got the feeling it didn’t like being cooped up, but I wasn’t yet ready to add it to my spell and I needed to put it somewhere for the meantime!  Then I ended the journey, coming back to myself in this realm.

Once I was grounded and back to my usual self, I set about readying the Over Here portion of the spell.  I selected a jar, cleaned it out and dried it and set it on the counter.  Then I found a square of paper – one with waves, from my one-a-day coloring book desk calendar.  On the reverse side I wrote the address of the place my husband’s family members were staying, in red ink.  I then crossed it with the word “safety” three times in blue ink, folded the paper towards me twice, and put it at the bottom of the jar. On top of that, I put sand from a bucket we’d gotten at a gem mine.  There weren’t any large pieces, but any small pieces that went in with the sand I promised in offering to the Wild Hunt.  Once I dismantle it, those will likely go on my faery altar.  On top of that, I poured just about a half a container of sea salt. Next time I think I’ll use a narrower jar!  Into the sea salt I stuck the handle of a small folding knife, with the blade close to and facing the edge of the jar.  Behind the knife I put in a seashell, given to me by my husband from his collection.

While I was doing this, my husband went to the store to get some stew meat, for an offering to the Hounds and the Wild Hunt.  When we returned, we selected three pieces and put them on a plate on the balcony, making it clear to the spirits who and what it was for with a short invocation.

Then it was time to head back to my Waystation.  Again, I found a quiet place to lie down and once I had drifted to my Waystation I went to the temple where I had taken the goo.  I brought the jar with me, solidifying it’s existence in that world, too – although Over There it was in a much prettier and larger jar.  Once it was solid, I focused first on the paper at the bottom, the address.  I visualized it on the map, visualized my husband’s family in the condo, and saw it protected, anointed, covered in the paper that would keep it safe.  Next, the sand: I imagined sand bags circling the building, the sand of shore and coastline buffering the waves and stopping  the storm.  Then, the salt: protection of the highest degree. Protection for them, protection for the spell, the glue holding everything together. Kin to the ocean water, that it would not be seen as foreign, but a natural barrier.  Lastly, the shell, encasing it all, keeping it safe, keeping them safe inside a bubble of protective energy.  The blade I visualized parting the wind, breaking the storm winds around them so that the brunt of the storm was elsewhere, so that the condo was in a calmer pool of air and water.  Finally, I uncorked the jar of essence goo, and added that – it smelled of my friend, and then she was there, claiming it, and the storm raged fiercely in the jar and she met it just as fiercely, tooth and blade, claiming her area as beyond its destruction.  The storm truly parted, then, and the bubble I had made was encased in an additional bubble of this essence, of her power, and my husband’s family members were made safe.

Back to myself, I stood and closed the pickle jar then, and on top I placed a tea light, and lit it, so that the work I had done would be sealed and it would come to pass as we had willed.

They will weather the storm, I thought to myself.

And I was not wrong.  A whole day passed as the storm raged, and I heard it batter against our protections. A second night passed, too, before it becalmed.  Then we heard word from those stranded: they were safe, they were fine, they had weathered the storm alright.  The spell’s work being done, I released it, though I did not dismantle it right away in case I had need of it again.  But the storm passed and did not return.

 

[If you’re interested in doing a similar spell, yourself, contact us and I’ll be glad to give you more concise instructions.  Or, if you’d like to pay us to do spellwork on your behalf, contact us and we’ll talk!]]

Prayer, Spellwork

Prayer for the 4th

Originally, Glasreo and I had hoped to be part of a small group doing a working in DC today, but that did not pan out for us.  While we hope those colleagues of ours manage to pull off their grand endeavor with the help of the Theoi and other gods, we are home, and adding our power to the tide in our own small way.

A Prayer for the 4th of July

Today, I pray to the gods of War – that peace may be sought and maintained.

Today, I pray to the gods of Truth – that lies may have no power and be silenced.

Today, I pray to the gods of Justice – that the disenfranchised may be heard and provisioned.

Today, I pray to the Mighty Dead of this nation.  I call out to them, and I pour them libation, that they may maintain their legacy, and that the founding principles of this country – the ideals of the Enlightenment – may prevail.

Our Mighty Dead dreamed of a country where all could be free to be who they truly were, without fear.  While we now think many more aspects of individual identity should be protected, and we acknowledge that society does not give us all equal power, we continue to strive in the same ways that they did: increasing liberty and justice for all.  May those ideals unite us, where others would divide us.

I honor also this land – from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, to our northern border with Canada and past that to the Alaskan arctic, to our southern border with Mexico and the Gulf as well as the south Pacific islands.  The land contains many different biomes, innumerable ecosystems, and a great diversity of life beyond humanity.  Land, Sea, and Sky: these, too, are citizens, and they, too, must be protected and cherished.

So Hail to the Gods, Hail to the Mighty Dead, and Hail to the Natural World!

Tonight, my prayers will be lit in sparklers, not incense.

Spellwork

Arts and Crafts and Execrations: Helping out a Friend

A few weeks ago a friend of mine (for the purposes of this post I’m going to call her “Phoebe”, though this is not her real name) asked my husband if I knew anything about strong banishments or curses.  She’d been plagued by terrifying nightmares, and she was afraid that she was once again under psychic attack by an abusive ex of hers, who happens to be a Santeria practitioner.  Phoebe had done banishments before, but so far they had all eroded in time, and had only barely managed to keep him away – her moving out of state had done more than anything else in that regard, as she only has a legal restraining order in the state in which he assaulted her.  Phoebe was afraid to sleep and more or less at her wit’s end, and she knows that I’ve banished nasty spirits before, so she thought she’d ask me about blocking out a bad person.

What we ended up doing had four major parts.  First, we made a banishing packet aimed at her ex.  Then, I spoke to a few Entities from the Santeria “pantheon”, and we lit candles for them.  Next, I facilitated a kemetic execration for her, drawing on my relationship with Bast and Sekhmet.  Finally, we put together a dream-ease spell jar and consecrated it to Phoebe’s protector, Brigid.  It was a bit eclectic, I know – but that did not seem to diminish the power of our spellwork.

Continue reading “Arts and Crafts and Execrations: Helping out a Friend”