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Building a Witchy Go-Bag

Ever since Witches’ Sabbat last year, I’d been thinking about easier ways to bring the majority of my tools and bits and bobs with me, in the event I want something while I’m away from home (like at an event at a campground in a whole other country). I began compiling a list of things I might want, but I kept getting stuck with a list too long or too short and I couldn’t figure out what sort of container to put it in. I wanted something structured and weather-resistant, but beyond that I wasn’t really sure.

Then, about a month ago, both Seo Helrune and Morgan Daimler started talking about their go-bags, and I went scrolling through types of bags on the internet and ran straight into a bag type I hadn’t realized existed: structured makeup travel bags. (Yeah, I’m not that into makeup. But then, if you’ve seen me in person you probably already know that.)

ta-daaaaa!

So I looked around and ordered one that was black and water resistant and had what looked to be a good layout, and I waited. When it arrived, I started gathering things and moving them around and revisiting my list and adding more things to a shopping list and taking things out and looking for the perfect notebook and now… Here it is!

The main compartment, anyway.

The Final Kit:

  • Mirror (came with bag, not pictured)
  • slim A5 notebook and mechanical pencil (in outer pocket, not pictured)
  • 3 plastic quart-sized zip bags (in zipper pocket, not pictured)
  • 1 white cotton handkerchief (also in zipper pocket)
  • a small bottle of whiskey
  • a ceramic folding knife
  • a corked test tube
  • a mini rattle
  • 3 biodegradeable plastic 5 gal bags (green, tucked around jars)
  • a jar of sea salt
  • a jar of pipe tobacco
  • an empty jar
  • a spice shaker of my ash salt (not quite the same thing as black salt)
  • a compass
  • a crystal pendulum and a silver ring in a small jewelry box
  • a roll of washi tape
  • an electric tealight
  • 3 tealight candles
  • a small box of matches
  • an incense cone and a metal stand, that will be swapped out for incense matchsticks once I acquire ones I like
  • a leather pouch with a few important crystals (this is sort of a divination set and sort of a set of tactile anchors for trancework)
  • a tiny sewing kit with some different colored thread and a mini scissors
  • a set of finger cymbals (in lieu of a bell, because I like them better)
  • a tin with a mini tarot deck, the Radiant Rider-Waite-Smith
  • an altoid tin, containing white chalk sticks, black birthday candles, and a number of bright candies
  • some of my business cards (hey, a witch has got to self-promote)

This is the out-of-town bag, and as such it doesn’t contain the things I always have in my purse, which includes most of my enchanted jewelry (if I’m not wearing it), a number of small personal charms, and a set of oracle cards of my own devising, as well as my phone, calendar, pens, sunglasses, tylenol, hair ties, etc. If I’m wandering about a witchy campground, those things will likely also migrate into here or into my pockets (or, gods-willing, the apron I will finally sew for myself).

I’m glad to have finally made this, and it’s usable now even if there are still a few little things that need tidying. It might seem like a lot of stuff, and it is, so I may need to think about making something scaled down just a touch, something between what I carry everyday and this whole bag, but then again… As much as I love my tools, most of the time, most of what I do uses very few tools at all. This bag is a safety net, for when I can’t just pop home and grab something, for when the closest store is farther away than I can easily walk. I’ll take it to events and I’ll take it to house calls, and as I do the work, I’ll learn what I use most and what I can replace with something I’ll use more.

Grimoire of a Blue House

Shielding

There are nearly as many approaches to shielding as there are paths in paganism and witchcraft. Some of the more popular include:

  • Carrying objects or materials known to be protective (such as certain types of plants, certain crystals, hag stones, or iron)
  • Using sigils or bind runes, inscribed either on yourself (in lotion, as a tattoo, etc), on a belonging (like clothing, shoes, jewelry), or on something small enough to carry with you (like a notecard, business card, or guitar pick put in your pocket, bag, or wallet)
  • Spoken spells, used daily or whispered when extra help is needed
  • Enchanting jewelry, clothing, or something you carry with you, like a keychain or charm bag
  • Spirit protection, provided by a familiar, a guardian spirit (often an animal, mythical being**, or ancestor), or a constructed thoughtform or servitor
  • And finally, by energy work, using energy to construct shields that aren’t anchored to anything but the practitioner themselves

As the last one is the way I create my own shields, that’s the way I’ll be focusing on in this blog.

The simplest way most people learn to make shields with energy is to imagine* an egg of bright light surrounding them. Most people will have heard this before, and you might have heard that it should be white or gold, but I’m here to tell you that it can be any color, or a combination of colors, or no color, and it can be bright or dark, provided that whatever color or not-color and brightness or darkness you choose is something you associate with the thing you want the shield to do. That is: to protect you.

But what kind of protection are you looking for? I think it’s important to be clear on that before we go any further. Do you want to keep every single type of energy that is not yours out? Probably not – that will keep out blessings and interpersonal connections and all sorts of things you probably want. Do you want an impassable barrier between you and spirits? Strange ones maybe, but gods are spirits, too, and if you’re a devotee I doubt you want to completely shield out the object of your devotions. Do you want it to keep out negative energy? But what counts as negative? Do you want to be completely unaffected to the point of apathy about the suffering of others? Do you want to be unable to tell when other people are anxious or angry? Again, probably not always. There are probably some things you always want to keep out, like intentional malevolence and non-consensual energy feeding, but other things you probably only want to keep out sometimes, or only keep specific types out. For example: it might be good idea to shield out angry or anxious energy coming off of strangers, especially in tight spaces like a commuter train, but you might want to be able to feel some of the same energies off your romantic partner sometimes, to help you empathize with them. Once you identify what you what you want the shield to do, at least in broad strokes, I have another tip for you.

It doesn’t have to be light.

You can make a shield with any type of energy. Light, darkness, void, elemental energy (using whatever element system you like), plant energy, crystal energy, WHATEVER YOU WANT. Promise. It just needs to be: 1) a type of energy with which you’re familiar enough to imagine clearly and work with accurately, and 2) something you think will be useful for protection.

So, pick something, imagine it, and then try to feel it. Build it the same way every day until it gets easy. I recommend trying to build it in the morning as you start your day. Maybe right after your alarm goes off, or in the shower, or right before you start your morning commute. Do it the same time every day and it will become routine, and as it becomes routine it will get easier and easier. Don’t worry if you forget one day – just do it when you remember, and try to be as consistent as possible. Once it gets easy (and I recommend waiting until you’ve been doing it for at least three weeks), you can try something more advanced.

Once you’ve mastered doing a single layer shield with one type of energy, you can try creating a sort of composite energy material from other types, or build up multiple layers, each with different types of energy. Let’s say someone, and we’ll call them A, decided to stick with white light for their three weeks of practice, but now A is thinking it would be nice to have something that would slow down the energy of their partner’s outbursts, without completely keeping it out, and something else to mask their presence from spirits, because A noticed that the white light seems to make them more visible. So, A thinks about it for a while, and decides that they’ll keep the white light, but make it the inner-most layer, and then outside that they’ll put a layer of charcoal for filtering, and then outside that, a layer of salt water. Now, they’ll spend three weeks focusing on building all three layers, until that gets easy, too.

As you experiment with other materials, you may also think about using reactive materials. In our mundane lives, we’re familiar with things like glasses that get dark when you walk into sunlight, or liquids that react in the presence of magnets. You can work with or create those types of energies, too. One I like to use is sort of a liquid one-way mirrored glass, that can get darker/lighter and more/less mirrored as I tell it to, or according to its programming. Programming is another thing you might consider: you can create shields with certain pre-sets, like “increase filtering of other people’s energy when I am in a crowd”, or “filter out spirit activity while I’m at work”. You can also think about programming in shortcuts so you can adjust the layers without having to rebuild the whole thing.

This, too, you’ll have to practice daily for a while: including all the programming. Once you’ve really set up the shield the way you want it and the building is both solid and easy, you can set it up to function permanently on a low or medium setting, and then just walk through the building once a week, and eventually once a month, as it learns to stay for longer periods of time. Because it is taking hits for you in its protective role, it will eventually degrade and need patching and cleaning, so I do recommend you release and rebuild it once a month, perhaps on the waxing crescent moon. If you find yourself forgetting, you should at least try to make an effort to clean and patch quickly every time you use your shield intentionally at a high level, as part of the wind-down process afterwards when you’re in a safe space and can lower your shields a bit. That might be best to check and do before bed. Left alone – unpatched and uncleaned – for too long, even the best shield will disintegrate and you’ll be left unprotected. But if you rebuild and patch and clean regularly, the whole process will become fairly automatic, and it will take less focus and less energy than it did when you first created your shields.Helpful tips for blindspots: build an egg not a wall. Fill it up with something. Different layers can fill each other’s loopholes.

Some final tips on shielding:

  • Make sure you’re building something that goes all the way around you, not a wall. Things can go over or come under walls. It doesn’t have to be egg-shaped, but it will work better if it goes around your energy bodies, too, instead of being skin-tight (though someone else entering your space should cause it to retract to the space between you, even if that space is microscopic).
  • Related: make sure your shield is consistent. That is: make sure you’ve got it just as thick at the small of your back and under the soles of your feet as you do in front of your chest. Try not to have seams or weak areas. Pay equal attention to all areas when patching and cleaning.
  • If you really want to use a type of energy but it seems to have a loophole or blindspot, pair it with something else that fills that lack.
  • You can definitely include weaponized elements in your shield (for instance, spiky protrusions or acid), but make sure that your shield isn’t all weaponry – you need purely defensive measures, too.

That’s all for now. Hopefully it helps! If you have questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below!

* By “imagine”, I mean you should attempt to visualize or feel [tactilize?] or hear [auditorize?] the energy, or even smell or taste it. Use whichever sense is strongest and most accurate for you when you’re sensing energy.
** That is to say, a being from myth, like a gryphon or a dragon. I don’t mean “mythical” in the sense of “fictional”/”doesn’t exist”, but if you’re a witch, pagan, or spiritworker working in a pop-culture paradigm, fiction is your myth, so go ahead!

Book Review

Book Review: Fairy Witchcraft

Full Title: Fairy Witchcraft: A NeoPagan’s Guide to the Celtic Fairy Faith

Author: Morgan Daimler

Publisher: Moon Books: Pagan Portals

Length: about 100 pages

Review: 5/5

Links: Amazon, Goodreads

 

Morgan Daimler is a long-time witch and Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan who is currently a member of Ar nDraiocht Fein, a neopagan Druid fellowship, and is a practitioner of a neopagan form of the Celtic Fairy Faith.  Daimler is widely published in both fiction and non-fiction, the latter being mainly on the topics of paganism and witchcraft.  This is Daimler’s second book on the topic of fairy witchcraft (the first being A Child’s Eye View of the Fairy Faith).

As with most Pagan Portals books, Fairy Witchcraft is meant to be an introductory guide.  At just 100 pages long, it can hardly be expected to be comprehensive on the subject, but Daimler does a very good job covering all the basics and still finding room to add a few tidbits that may be helpful to the more experienced practitioner.  Daimler spends a bit of time discussing holidays, altars, tools, and ritual format for the fairy witch, and while I personally use a different calendar and set up, I think this information would be indispensable for a beginner.  I would recommend this book to any newbie looking to begin down the path of work with the fae, and I would also recommend it to any intermediate practitioner looking to reexamine and reinvigorate their practice.  Many may find that their own way of doing things differs from Daimler’s (I know I did), but the text never claims that there is only one way of doing things.  Rather, the reader is encouraged to find practices that best suit them.  The text is also peppered through with illustrative anecdotes that really give the reader insight into the depth of Daimler’s practice.

The most refreshing thing about this book is the acknowledgement of the diversity of the fae.  Not all of them are happy sweet little winged people who want to give you good luck, certainly not!  Daimler discusses various types of fae (but does not list them all, which would certainly require an encyclopedia all on its own) and warns the reader that not all of them are nice.  There is a reason there is lore about predatory fae (such as kelpies) and there are certainly reasons that protective charms against the fae have been passed down.  Still, Daimler thinks that working with the fae isn’t any more dangerous as any other kind of spiritwork or witchcraft – as long as the proper precautions are taken.  My thoughts exactly.

Divination, Projects

Oracle Deck in Progress

I’ve been working on an oracle deck for a while now.  I started with 36 terms/symbols/cards/whathaveyou, but I’ve been filling in some gaps and now I’m up to 42, which I think is probably where it will stay.  I’ve also changed some of the names to be more gender-neutral, and I’m really quite happy with how it reads that way.  I’ve written a lot of free association on the terms, too, and my next step will probably be a rough draft of the meanings as they’ll read in a companion booklet.  And then it will be time to brainstorm art!

Here are my current terms:

  1. The Child
  2. The Youth
  3. The Caregiver
  4. The Elder
  5. The Ancestors
  6. The Companions
  7. The Stranger
  8. The Authority
  9. The Benefactor
  10. The Apprentice
  11. The Healer
  12. The Farmer
  13. The Warrior
  14. The Artisan
  15. The Bard
  16. The Oracle
  17. The Cleric
  18. The Hedgewitch
  19. The Sorcerer
  20. The Fairy Queen
  21. The Green Man
  22. Deer and Wolf
  23. Sheep and Dog
  24. Fallowness
  25. Cornucopia
  26. Precipice
  27. Sanctuary
  28. Earth
  29. Waters
  30. Fire
  31. Skies
  32. Spring
  33. Summer
  34. Fall
  35. Winter
  36. Sun
  37. Moon
  38. Stars
  39. Wheel of Time
  40. World Tree
  41. Balance
  42. Compass

 

What do you think?  Want to be a guinea pig and receive a free three-card pull on a question of your choice?  Email me, and make the subject “Oracle Deck Free Reading”! (7serendipities at gmail)

~Réaltán~

Event, Ritual

Sacred Space, Day 3

After my late night with Bast on Friday, I did not make it to the morning session I had planned to attend, “Dark Goddess Tarot” by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.  I heard it was great, though, and I did look through her tarot deck of the same name.

 

Braucherei (and Hexerei) in the Urglaawe Context, by Robert Schreiwer

The “Urglaawe context” refers to the Heathenry revival within the Deitsch (Pennsylvania Dutch) community, and braucherei and hexerei are both Deitsch words for witchcraft, though the exact meaning of the terms varies according to local custom.  In general, where the two words refer to different things (in some places, one of the words refers to everything under the witchcraft umbrella), “braucherei” refers to things like energy healing, herbalism, fertility charms, and protective magic, whereas “hexerei” refers to less savory things, like hexes and curses.

Robert started off with a brief history of braucherei, and of the Deitsch people in general, including their immigration to the US.  Braucherei post-dates the conversion to Christianity, and the Deitsch came to the US after the 30 years war, so much of the practice has Christian and Gnostic influences, though Robert has managed to trace a lot of the roots back to pre-Christian traditions.  (For instance, Frigga and the Gnostic Sophia seem to be heavily conflated in Deitsch traditions).  After they came to the US, the Deitsch had a lot of contact with the Lenape, and they shared a lot of knowledge back and forth.  One of the things the Deitsch learned from them was the medicinal use of local plants, many of which are very different from the plants in Central Europe.

Robert is a Braucher, and currently has several students.  A lot of the practice is Verbots, or forbidden/taboo to discuss with those outside the practice, but as an insider Robert is in an excellent position to discuss braucherei with other practitioners.  He has been travelling to visit older practitioners, and hear their stories, and discuss the practice, so that he can record as much as possible, to help with the revival.  He’s trying to find practices in common across various geographic regions in the US, and follow threads of Heathenry back to their origins.  He’s found some use of runes, and the names of Germanic gods, and he and others are hard at work reconstructing more following the threads they’ve uncovered.

It was a fascinating presentation, and his handout listed a lot of places to follow his work and find more resources:

 

Sisters in Shadow and Light: A Ritual for Nephthys and Isis, by Helena Domenic

I was hoping for a Kemetic ritual, but this was more a Wiccan ritual to Kemetic gods with a little local flavour, if that makes sense.  Still, I enjoyed it and I was glad I attended.  The premise of the ritual was that each participant would choose from whom they wished to receive healing: Isis, with healing light, or Nephthys, with healing darkness.  Each participant then annointed themselves, and went to speak with the priestess channeling the goddess they had chosen, to ask for what they wished to heal, and to receive a message.  I chose Nephthys because I wished to be rid of something, and I received a message in turn that was so powerful and personal that I have no doubt the channel was truly possessed by the goddess she represented.  I will not, however, recount that message here.  I hope you understand.

Once each participant had finished their moment with the channel they had chosen, the attendees chanted to raise Osiris, as the sisters do in the myths, and his rebirth, as performed by another channel, became our transmutation.  It was a powerful rite, and it left many in tears.

 

Hellenic Oracles, by Gwendolyn Reece

The first part of Gwendolyn’s presentation was on the history and locations of various oracles in the ancient Hellenic world.  This is information that was not new to me, and I did not take very many notes – it’s important background information, to be sure, but fairly accessible thanks to the many written records left behind.  (She quoted Plutarch more than a few times.)  Her basic definition of oracle (mantike in Greek), is a cult, located in a particular place, in which a god (usually Apollon) possesses a vehicle (usually human).  Gwendolyn herself has been preparing to be that vehicle (a mantis in Greek) for Apollon for a temple she is founding in DC.  The temple is called Theophania, named after the festival that welcomed Apollon back to the Oracle at Delphi at its reopening in the spring.  I knew about the temple, but I had not known about her oracular work, and I have to say I was equal parts astounded and elated.  Bast and I have been working towards an oracular-possessory relationship, and while I attended Diana Paxson’s workshop last year on Oracular Seidh and bought her book, a traveling Norse seeress is not exactly the same sort of thing as a priestess at a grand state temple in Egypt.  A Hellenic mantis would be much, much closer.  Needless to say, I listened to the rest of the presentation on the edge of my seat, took pages of notes, and had a question for afterwards on the tip of my tongue.

Gwendolyn explained that she is a hard polytheist, and that this means that she believes the gods are individual persons with agendas, and so she thought it was worth explaining to us what she thought Apollon’s agenda was.  As she understands it, he is a law giver, he is very fond of humanity, and he wants to give us advice.  She explained a bit more about how he is kind, and a deity of civilization, and I summed this up as an alignment: Lawful Good.  Giving oracular counsel is an extension of his Light and Healer aspects, illumination of the Truth and using the Truth to set us on our right course.  He is trying to help us avoid our hamartia, a tragic mistake that can define us in negative ways.  Apollon wants us to find the clearest path through our fate, and mitigate as much damage as possible.  As Gwendolyn said, not everything can be mitigated completely, but nothing is entirely predestined.  A choice must always be made, somewhere.

Gwendolyn understands oracular revelations as part of a spectrum of divine responses to human attempts at conversation.  Prayer, sacrifices, and offerings are all ways to speak to the gods; omens, divination, dream/trance theophany, oracles, and full theophany are all ways of hearing what they say back.  The spectrum goes from omens, which require the least energy and are the most frequently misunderstood, to full theophany (where the gods appear in the flesh), which requires the most energy and has the least chance of being misunderstood.  She mentioned that a lot of people in ancient times asked oracles about personal matters, even if the best-remembered stories are all about city-states asking political questions.  In her opinion, it is a good idea to consult an oracle in the following cases: 1) when you have a choice to make and reason is insufficient; 2) if the choice means a major change or upheaval; 3) at any indication of miasma negatively affecting your life; 4) any question about your relationship with the gods; or 5) anything that weighs very heavily on your heart.  In her personal work she said she tries to focus on teh big picture stuff, but she’s had people come and ask personal questions, too.  Sometimes Apollon answers the question the querent should have asked instead of the one they did.  One of the big picture messages that she has recently received from him and is trying to spread knowledge of, is that in order to help with climate change and prevent calamity, we need to focus our efforts on healing the world’s oceans.  He says we have about 20 years to get things moving in the right direction, or it will be too late.

One evening in which Gwendolyn was sitting down to talk to Apollon (as she tries to do daily as part of her mantis training) she found herself complaining about her day and then caught herself and apologized, and he gave her a very important lesson that resonated with me, and I think it will resonate with some of you.  When she apologized for wasting his time with her complaining, he said “I’m not that small.”  At first she didn’t understand, but then he helped her to see that he had no problem being there in intimate friendship with her, hearing about her day, and also doing his cosmic duties.  He could be there, that close, paying attention to each of his followers all at the same time and never be distracted.  He’s not that small.  None of the gods are.  And I think we, as devotees, need to be reminded of that now and again.  The gods do not have to suffer, but they chose to do so by entering into relationships with us – they choose to feel our pain, and to see the world through us as much as we see the world through them.

 

Only one more day to go!  And I must say, re-reading my notes and typing them up for you has really helped me process the events of the conference.  Hopefully you got something out of it, too!

~Réaltán~

 

[Day 1 Here]

[Day 2 Here]

[Day 4 Here]

Divination, Etsy Shop Update

Second New Year’s Tarot Spread!

Here’s the second New Year’s Tarot Spread that I made, and this one is also available in my Etsy Shop!  The full graphic for this one is on tumblr, too, so spread it around if you see it, please!  And again, I don’t mind if anyone else uses or modifies this spread, even to sell in their own shops or tarot practice, but hopefully some of those who see this will decide to knock on my little (internet) shop door!

new years 7 top

Overview of changes coming in the New Year:

1. Work: changes to your career, job, or schooling

2. Play: changes to your hobbies or recreational activities

3. Friends: changes to your friendships, or changes in your friends’ lives that will affect you

4. Romance: changes in your love life, or change’s in a romantic partner’s life that might affect you

5. Family: changes in your family life, or changes in a family member’s life that might affect you

6. Health: changes to your health, either physical, mental, or emotional

7. Spirituality: changes to your spirituality or your religious beliefs or practice

 

If you do use this spread, let me know how it works for you!  And if you’re interested in having me to a reading for you, I offer this spread in four different tarot decks, or in two different oracle card decks.

~Réaltán~

Divination, Etsy Shop Update

New Tarot Spread

I created this tarot spread for our Etsy shop, anticipating that clients may want a little insight into what’s coming with the coming year, and what they can do to help make the transition smooth.  I made the graphic to share on tumblr, so if you see it there, please reblog!  I don’t mind if anyone else uses or modifies this spread, even to sell in their own shops or tarot practice, but hopefully some of those who see this will decide to knock on my little (internet) shop door!

new years 12 top

Things Leaving with the Past Year:
1. Something you’re ready to let go of
2. Something you need to let go of
3. Something you want to let go of
4. An external way to help yourself let go
5. An internal way to help yourself let go
6. An obstacle preventing you from letting go

Things Coming in with the New Year:
7. Something you’re ready to accept
8. Something you need to accept
9. Something you want to accept
10. An external way to help yourself accept things
11. An internal way to help yourself accept things
12. An obstacle preventing you from accepting things

 

If you do use this spread, let me know how it works for you!  And if you’re interested in having me to a reading for you, I offer this spread in four different tarot decks, or in two different oracle card decks.

~Réaltán~