Gaily work the rites of May

We’re hard on the heels of May Day.  That glorious sabbat where witches all skip out into nature and — not to put too fine a point on it — show Nature they’d like a heaping helping of fertility, please.

Best. Holiday. Ever.

It’s also the holiday with it’s very own (rainbow-colored) elephant in the room.  “Great!  I’m gay.  I have a same-sex love and working partner, and I’m working magic in a traditional (read heterosexually-slanted) fertility cult.  Now what?”

Of course there’s a way to work the May Day rite with your same-sex partner.    (But you probably already knew that.)  And lots of ways to do so and show Nature you’d like not only a great love life this year, but also lots of fertility on the farms so there’s plenty of good food to eat.  And we’re going to talk about one way below.  So if you’re too young, or easily offended, please turn back now.

And for the rest of us, a maypole dance, while we wait:

Vintage May Day frogs

Are they gone?  Good.  On to the details.  If possible, perform this rite out in nature.  If that’s not possible, set up a cauldron of rich local soil in your working space.

If you’re guys, your rite would include some lovely sex, culminating with you both (all?) sharing your seed with the earth in your cauldron.

If you’re gals, your rite would include some lovely sex, and after culmination you’d share some of your mixed fluids with the earth in your cauldron, scatter the plant seeds of your choice on top, and cover the seed with some additional soil, to whatever depth the seed packet recommends.

Magically speaking, you’ve used elements of nature to complete a circuit of fertility.

Finish by dancing around the cauldron, singing or chanting an appropriate May Day Song.  Hal An Tow is a traditional English May Day song.  Rudyard Kipling’s Oak and Ash and Thorn, as set to music by Peter Bellamy, is lovely.  Or write your own.

If you’ve worked the rite inside, be sure to leave the blessed earth outside at an appropriate spot, so that it can continue to Work.

So raise a glass (or a priapic wand) to fertility.  May Day blessings to you all!



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I’ll Kiss You, My Pretty!



Kissing.  I’m whole-heartedly for it. Not only is it a peck of fun, but for us witches, it can be so much more. Being a mother, I’m quite familiar with kissing my son before sending him off to school, secure in the knowledge that my kiss adds a layer of protection to his day.

But kisses are amazingly multi-functional.  A quick jaunt through the Googlesphere shows they can be used:


To heal – We kiss a child’s bump or bruise to “make it better.”

To obtain poesy – To get the gift of eloquence, we kiss the Blarney Stone.

To convey good luck – We kiss on New Year’s Eve for good luck.  And the first person (other than its mother) to kiss a baby, affects Baby’s luck in life.

To break an enchantment – Sleeping Beauty was awakened with a kiss. And apparently, if you kiss the right frog, he’ll turn into a prince.  In these instances, it’s not just any kiss that holds the power, but the kiss of a particular person (such as a princess), or sometimes a kiss of particular virtue (such as true love’s first kiss).

To seal or imprint intent – We seal our love letters with a kiss.  Kissing you’re signature in a book, or indeed kissing the Bible or other holy relic can seal your oath.  As well, there’s the kiss following the giving of fealty.

Protection or Curse – Some scholars believe that all those X marks – stand-ins for our kisses — may have ties the Hebrew letter tav, and posit that the mark of Cain (placed on Cain’s forehead to keep others from killing him) was the Hebrew letter tav.

Which doesn’t make much sense until you compare the modern letter tav:

Modern Tav

With the older version of Tav:
Old Tav

Let’s not forget the famous mafia-style Kiss of Death.

(In my ever ready imagination, I can see this transmuted into the Kiss of Piss On Off.  A two-handed kiss, planted a la Michael Corleone. It would probably work a treat on all those pesky proselytizers!)

And a personal fav, smooching the Devil’s buttock (also known as the Osculum infame).


Given all that, no matter the Work, a kiss may just be the most satisfying way ever to deliver it.

In that spirit, here’s a fun nursery-rhyme-like spell I wrote for my nephews. The right column is what I say, and the left column in italics is the accompanying action:


Pitter pat.                              Tap chest twice.

Tit for tat.                              Touch index finger to right of nose, then left of nose

Good luck.                            Hold on to both ear lobes and gently tug once

Full of pluck.                        Another gentle tub

Evil duck.                             A third gentle tub

Amant!                                Kiss forehead


So where’s the spell, you ask? Here’s the underlying Work:


Pitter pat – catching the attention of the Powers that Be. Much like knocking on wood.

Tit for tat – reminding Them that help goes both ways, and you’re here for Them, too.

Good luck / Full of pluck / Evil duck – the things I want for the child. I want them to be lucky, to be brave and to avoid evil.

Amant! – Latin for “They love you.” In my case, I mean the those selfsame Powers That Be.

Now get out there, and get to smooching!




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Thanks, Squat!

Broom Parking.

All those dirty nun jokes paid off!  My son did indeed get one of the coveted parking spaces.

And now, an offering of thanks:

There once was a nun from Siberia,
who was born with a virgin interior,
until a young monk,
jumped into her bunk,
and now she’s a mother superior.

Thanks, Squat!



*If this is your image, please let me know so that I can properly credit it.  Thanks!


Filed under The Pagan Child

To Strengthen the Heart of a Place

A Sense of Place.

We recently purchased a piece of land. I shudder to write that, because how can anyone own a piece of land? To my witch’s sensabilities, this seems like rankest heresy.

However, by paying Babylon for it, as far as Babylon is concerned, we have a say in how it’s used. In Texas – a strange blend of Fundamentalist paradigm and mind-your-own-business — that can be a really big say.

So I’ve been spending some time this past year gently reaching out to the Spirits of Place, and in general being ignored.

Until just the other day.

Sitting quietly, thinking about eventual practical gardens and the possibility of a toolshed cum Woo Shack, I got a ping.

Filtered through my own percenptions, while trying my best to be true to the communication, it came like this:

To Strengthen the Heart of a Place:

Local is important because man‘s puny boundaries don’t mean a thing to the Land. In one sense it’s all one Land. In terms of a specific Place, though, the boundaries are arrived at differently. * (The impression I got is that the Land is all one big Titan-esque entity, and a Place has a Spirit of Place/Genius Loci.) A Place doesn’t care what the title says, or where the fences are. A Place has it’s own boundaries, based on other things like where the bodies of water are, what the terraine is like, and other things we aren’t privy to.

To maintain the best Heart to a Place, when you’re on it let your flows mingle with its flows. (As in permaculture flows — starting with what you take in as food, water, air, shelter, etc. and what you put out in wastes and effort.)  Bring as little onto it as you’re able, from as close as you’re able.  Local matters.  Just because it’s not from your specific address, doesn’t mean it’s not within the boundaries of the Place you reside within.

Eat from it, at least in part, every day.

Everything that must come from any distance beyond it’s borders, should be changed in some fashion by the products of the Place.  Fabric could be dyed with acorns/herbs from the Place.  Biodegradable waste should remain on it.  Take as little as possible off of it.  If something can’t be modified by bits of Place, it can’t stay — it must just visit.

Come to depend on it’s flows, and let it depend upon yours.

Buildings should incorporate as much as possible from the Place.

Plants/seeds should be grown through one cycle (if annuals) or one set of seasons (a year and a day) before they’re considered part of th Place.

Change your vocabulary to support a new mindset compatible with a your new relationship.  Say “the Land” or “this Place.”  Don’t use “my land/house, etc.  It’s shared.  It’s “ours.”

Plan your flows into at least the next season, if not some for the next generation or two.  Store a harvest and annual seeds.  Make compost that will cure for a year or two.  If you need a fence around your gardens, set the plants to they grown inside and outside of the fence.  Let the same plant/berry bush, fruit tree/ patch feed both wild and tame.  Both you and the wildlife.  Extend that idea to the public/man-made corridors like roads, so that passersby can share in yields as well.

Remember flows include things like the sun, moon and stars that shine upon the Place.  They live on the Place when they shine there.  Remember too that lines of sight are shared with neighbors.  So a private/sacred space should be shielded.

Where possible, blur the edges between indoors and out.  Moon/view windows, patios, bird decks).

Restrict where cars/fumes/strangers go.  Make such things acknowledge that they are crossing a threshold, and that the rules have changed.

Let there be cross-throughs on the Place for wildlife as much as possible.

Get a yield – give a yield.

Not connecting your flows to a Place makes you a visitor.  You have less duties and responsibilities, but less rights, too.  Like the difference between dating and marrying.  Between acquaintance and friend.

Be trustworthy.  Be consistent in your attachment.  If your actions aren’t loving, trustworthy and inclusive, how can you have a relationship?  It’s holding the Land / the Place in bondage against its Will.

When you are doing all that, then take it a step further.  Think about what you can do to create your own niche within the Place that would be helpful to the whole (as a partner, not an overlord).  What can no one else on the Place currently do that you can?  This step takes your relationship to the next level.  You become more that a denizen.  You mean more to the Place.  Look at the whole of the Place, observe how it wants to be, and arrange for those desires of Place to be successful and balanced.  The flow of a Place is constant.  It’s changing by the hour, day, year, century.

When you have a need, look first to your Place, and the nearby Places to fill that need.  Where you find gaps, consider filling them by respectfully introducing new plants, habitats, etc. to the Place.  Be this food, medicine, clothing, shelter, or community.

I think I’ve been given a set of marching orders.  Thanks be to Place!


*It would be interesting to dowse or skry for such boundaries.


Filed under Crooks and Straights

Got Squat?

Got Squat

When you’re a parent and and witch, you rather hope your offspring will follow in your footprints.  But — just as it should be — my son has always been his own person, with his own path to follow.  One that doesn’t usually coincide with mine.

So it was a proud day when I came upon my son looking up dirty nun jokes on the internet.

Before you start hitting your back button, take heart.  It all had to do with Squat, the Goddess of parking spots.

My son explained he was entering the lottery for a parking place at school (there aren’t enough spaces for everyone).  And he needed to appeal to Squat, Goddess of parking places, for Her help.

Awww … it makes a Mother proud.

And in case you don’t know Squat, the folks that call upon Her swear She’s very helpful.  I understand from my own HPS, she is especially revered in San Francisco, where to invoke Her you say:

Squat, Squat I like you a lot
I think you’re hot
Help me get a parking spot!

Then you tell a dirty joke about a nun, to fuel the spell.

Hence the dirty nun jokes.




Filed under The Pagan Child, The Vagaries

The Witches’ Dance

Witches Dancing


Witches dance. Historically, folklorically, ecstatically.

Okay.  Maybe not all of those examples are of witches.  But when you think of the Sabbat, what visual do you flash to? Probably you imagine folks (possibly without any cloths on) out in nature, dancing in a ring.  Bonfire optional.  There is an undeniable witchiness about dance.

And that makes perfect sense to me.  Dancing puts me in touch with my creative, intuitive self.  Dancing lets me interact with the other dancers a primal way. Dancing raises the energy level, be it in ritual or rave.  I feels as if I’ve always known this.  Always loved this.

I recently had an “ah-ha” moment about dance when I fell upon a line in Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft.  In writing about the concept of sabbat, he says “Begin to move towards, be moved by the blind magnetic blood.”

Oh.  Magnetic blood.

In a rite, when you slice with a knife or shift a cauldron,  you move the energy inhabiting the space.  You consciously change the energy flow to work your will.  You shod the stang with iron, to fix its energy in place.

You move your body, filled with iron-rich blood, in a ring.  Pacing, spinning, leaping in the same direction, like salmon swimming upstream.  Faster and faster.  Whipping the energy


and up

and out.

It makes perfect sense.  I’ll never again take up a witches’ dance without thinking about it this way.  Or for that matter, watch a parade, or the scene from The Wickerman where the children carry Death out of the village.  I now know a deeper purpose to our dance.




And since I mentioned it here, I highly recommend Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft.  Don’t be sidetracked by what you think the title is saying; read the book and find out for yourself.   Read it for it’s many seed pearls of insight, which  take root in and grow into unbidden understandings.  Read it for it’s lush poetical style.

Or better yet — as Grey proposes in regards to the relationship between the sabbat and the mythic landscape — enter into “The wordless book, which falls open and you with it, into the very last page.”

And whether you fall into book or dance, I leave to you.





Filed under Crooks and Straights


Crossed Fingers

I’m not ashamed to admit it.  While the majority of the magical work I do is for the benefit my family, I tend to think of them as being mostly outside the magical loop.

But I’ve been thinking about this lately.

Earlier in the week, a friend and I stepped out onto the cool night grass, spun the Full Moon into a bowl of water, and bathed in it.  It was glorious.

(By the way, for those of you who are drawn to witchcraft, but feel you don’t have enough time for it, Spinning the Moon is a good one for you.  It has minimal set up, and could — however damply — be well done with all your clothes on in the space of a few minutes.)

I saved some of the water in my bowl, and later anointed my family members with it — my moist hand on their cheek during a kiss.

(Well … I guess my family are in the loop a bit.)

Do I make specific mention of these monthly anointings to them?  No.  And I don’t see that omission as any sort of betrayal.  My role within our family is to do those things I believe will promote our health and well-being.  I don’t ask their permission before serving up mounds of vegetables; nor do I feel any need to tell them when they’re bathing in the moon.  It’s all part of the package.

Outside of my immediate family, I’d feel differently.  Those relationships have different rights, privileges and duties, which might not include acting unilaterally in their best interest.   But I digress …

Later this week, family will be coming for a Halloween party.  Not coven family (we’ll be having a different sort of party later).  It will be my siblings, nieces and nephews.  We’ll play games, eat food, drink really good beer and coffee, and talk until the Eyes of Night Herself start blinking.

We’ll have pictures of our Beloved Dead out, with plates alongside their pictures, so they can share in the feast.  They’ll be toasted and remembered.  It’s not something we’ve specifically discussed as being Craft-related.  I suppose my family just assumes it’s close to All Saints’ Day, and how lovely to do it while we’re all together to share reminiscences.

(Ok.  Perhaps my family is “in the loop” a bit more than I thought.)

For dessert, we have a cake, thickly iced and done up with ribboned charms.  The custom of charm cakes is an old one  — think Kings Cake or the cake pulls of Southern weddings.  I remember reading somewhere that finding your fortune by charms in a cake at All Hallows was also a Victorian tradition, but couldn’t find a reference for that on the fly …

Our cake differs from others, in that there are more charms that folks present, and the charms that aren’t pulled are cast into a body of water.  Because when you make one choice you are, of necessity, giving up others.

(Alright.  I’ll admit it.  My family is so far into the loop, they might well be wearing the it like a bow.)

I must have become inured to just how much crossover there it between my lone work, my coven work and my surprisingly craft-saturated family culture.

I guess that’s why they call it the “Cunning Arts.”  You rarely see it coming for you!





Filed under Crooks and Straights


Snake, Magic Wand, Leather Books from Portrait of Ebenezer Sibley

We witches love our books.  And we love to buy, read, praise/bitch about, prominently display, lord over our friends and prop up one end of the bed with our many, many occult books.  Although not necessarily in that order.

Rarely in that order.

Be that as it may, never before have we been so spoiled for choice in publishers of our kind of books.

For our collective convenience and browsing pleasure, below are icons for a big handful of occult publishers.  (I should probably say here that I am receiving no recompense of any kind from these folks.)  This isn’t an exhaustive list; rather a lovely sampling.  Let the book ogling commence!


Caduceus Books

Caduceus Books

Fulgur Esoterica

Fulgur Esoterica

Hadean Press

Hadean Press

Mandrake of Oxford

Ouroboros Press

Pendraig Publishing

Salamander and Sons

Scarlet Imprint

Starfire Publishing

Starfire Publishing

Three Hands Press

Three Hands Press

Troy Books

Wonderella Printed

Xoanon Limited


Filed under The Vagaries

Walk this way

By jgbernard at
Photo by jgbernard at
Set your foot upon the path.
Hold your breath, you can’t go back.
The Powers That Be have seen your deed
And call on you in time of need,
As you call them.
Walk the wicked widdershin
Landward, backward, down, within.
Raise the power.  Speak the Word.
Seal with sweat what’s in your blood,
The need to stem.
Go back now, the way you came.
But know you’ll never be the same.
Upon your brow you bear the mark.
Others see it, shining dark.
Others who this way have been.
–Trothwy, 2013


Filed under To the Old Ones

Getting the Sight, Part 2: Rush Hour in the Otherworld



We See Things.  And some more Things.  And pretty soon — like the clever monkeys we are — we start trying to piece together the patterns and understand the rules.

Honestly, I don’t think it’s helpful to try to learn rules instead of experiencing the journey for yourself.  However, over the years I have found it absurdly comforting to compare my experiences to the experiences of others.  In the back of my mind, I always wondered if I was … well, delusional.  Because, let’s face it, Seeing Things is one of the classic symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and dementia.

(One of the reasons why, in my opinion, folks with those conditions should steer clear of witchcraft.  If you’re already trying to separate what’s real from what’s not, adding an extra layer of what’s Otherworldly into the mix is just too stressful on an already taxed system.)   But I digress …

So these others with the Sight — not a very large group, just 8 or 9 folks.  For purposes of this article, I call them the Pool, because it’s good to have a pool of experience to pull from.  Below are some interesting gleanings from those conversations, in case you’d find them comforting, too.

Rush Hour

There is a rush hour in the Otherworld.  Although strictly speaking, I guess it’s really an Otherworldly rush hour here, in our world.  And really, it’s more of a rush season.  (Nothing like being definite, right?!)

No surprises, the weeks around Hallowmas form one such rush hour.  There are no sharp demarcations; just a gradual ramping up to a few very busy days, then a tapering down to the usual traffic levels.

And by “busy,” I mean (1) you have more sightings per day, and (2) you see more and different otherworldly things than usual.  For instance, instead of seeing one Cheshire Cat and one Tall Dude on Tuesday, you may also see a Diving Cat, something some of the Pool likes to refer to as the Greek Chorus, and something you’ve never seen before squatting across the inside of your front door, which you later realize is what the Spirit of your Door Knocker looks like in the Otherworld.

(I realize how totally crazy this sounds.  But for the life of me, I can’t think of how to describe it so it doesn’t sound crazy, and flippant is one of my default settings.)

What I found surprising — at least until I got a little deeper into Crafting — is it’s even busier around May Day.  All you experienced Crafters will be nodding your heads now.

Interestingly, none of us noticed it being particularly busier at one time of the day over another.

You See What?

In the Pool, some folks saw ghosts, some folks saw otherworldly beings, but no one saw both.

The folks who saw ghosts described them as being dead people who hadn’t yet crossed over to wherever the dead go.  They often float, drifting in and through furniture, walls, etc., They generally feel sad and lost.    The folks who see ghosts said the ghosts talk to them, in one instance with the ghost saying its name and where it had worked.

The folks who saw otherworldly things all agreed that such creatures didn’t walk through walls, and didn’t seem to be floating (although sometimes you couldn’t see what they were sitting or standing on).  Otherworldly beings tend to use doors, stairways and open spaces to move through.  When they don’t use a physical door or hallway, they seem to be using an otherwordly door, which has a fixed position relative to our physical architecture.  Outside, they sometimes move into a tree or feature of nature, but not through it as part of their line of movement.

For purposes of this discussion, I don’t lump ancestors in with ghosts, because in my mind, ancestors have passed over to some sort of Happy Hunting Ground.  While I haven’t seen an ancestor that I knew in life, at least one of the Pool has.  Ancestors look more or less like people.  Otherworldly creatures (which I think are probably what witches would call faeries, but that word is so loaded I can’t bring myself to use it) can sometimes look like mostly like people, but don’t feel human, as though your subconscious mind recognizes that something’s “off.”  Mostly otherworldly beings look like something you might read about in a storybook.  Well, maybe one of Neil Gaiman’s storybooks (think Coraline).

I’ve often wondered if that’s because I’m processing them through some internal filter of my own, or if that’s how they’re projecting, or even if that’s how they really are.  (So do you have giant eyes because you’re searching for something, or because you’re a Peeping Tom?)  Mostly I tell myself not to get hung up on that, because frankly I find it too disturbing to dwell on.

How it starts and where it goes

Those in the Pool who see otherworldly things agreed that their Sight started with seeing things in their peripheral vision.   Then things would pass through their line of sight.  It’s usually the movement that draws your attention, and you get a glimpse before whatever it is fades out or moves on.

Things start by appearing as a dark or light shape, like a solid shadow.  Some of the Pool felt the things that appear as dark solid shadows have a more wholesome feel, and the lighter solid shadows often feel sinister.

And then you’ll occasionally see otherworldly creatures in full color and three-dimensions.  Some of the Pool say at that point, they’ve instinctively cried out or spoken to the beings, because, let’s face it, you would, wouldn’t you?

It’s a sliding scale between solid shadow to full-color-3-D.  At some point, you’ll find your gaze is snapping to their eyes, because generally humans look for a face in things.  (Even buildings and sidewalk cracks, that don’t really have a face.)  Not everything you See realizes you’re looking at it, but occasionally you’ll startle an otherworldly being that suddenly realizes you’re Looking at it.  Which is weirdly gratifying to me, because they’ve startled me.  Plenty.

Sometimes you don’t See something, but you can Hear it.  I’ve never been able to make out the words, but the times I have Heard something, it feels as if I can almost make sense of it.

Most of the Pool agreed that if you’re trying to See something, remember to glance up, because some of the things you’ll see are taller than us.  Also, sometimes you’re seeing something, but it’s so large it’s hard to pull into your focus from your particular vantage point.

The Moment of Truth

Some of the Pool members agreed, laughingly, that they reached a point where they went from saying “I wonder if I Saw something?”  to “Shit!  I just Saw something!”

I believe there must be some continuity to the beings we’re Seeing, because a few members of the Pool have described seeing the same beings in the same general area over the course of several years.  And we’ve been able to fill in enough details for each other that we believe we’re Seeing the same being or beings.

During the busy season, the dog can See and react to something, that I can then glance over and See it, too.

Geography Matters

Some places, and some portions of a house, are busier than others.  The plane separating busier from not-as-busy often cuts through the house, as though it were following an otherworldly feature.  So the back half of the livingroom, back bedroom and courtyard beyond of one Pool member’s home was a busy area, but not particularly the rest of the rooms or courtyard.

Helpful Hints

  1. Alcohol doesn’t blur the Sight.  While it might steady your nerves, you’re not always going to have a glass of wine handy every time you See something.  So I wouldn’t recommend it for those of you who may be freaking out a bit over Seeing things.  Trust me, working on some sort of control is much better.
  2. It’s easier to See in the dark.  Maybe because there’s more of a blank slate to work with?  Turning on the light will help tone things down, but won’t stop you from Seeing.
  3. If something is giving you the creeps, it helps to move towards it, follow it or try to find and have a Look at it.  It’s almost as if it’s a bit of fun to give you a scare, and certain otherworldly things will keep it up as long as they get a rise out of you.  Take it from a girl who used to avoid looking up, going into empty rooms and looking into mirrors – the faster you try to look these things in the eye, the faster you can feel comfortable in your own surroundings.
  4. A sharp gaze will dispel something more quickly than a soft focus.  So if you’re trying for a longer look, work on developing your peripheral sight and keeping a soft gaze.
  5. Pick your battles.  You may not want to go around telling one and all you’ve got the Sight, unless you want an intervention and /or a stay at a mental institution.
  6. Most important of all — keep a wide range of friends and interests, so that you stay well rounded.   It’s not good to immerse yourself in metaphysics.  You’ve got friends and family that love you, a job to keep so you can afford a roof over your head.   Don’t go off the deep end.  Keep your magical life balanced with other, more mundane interests.


Filed under Crooks and Straights