Getting the Sight

Vintage Eye

Getting the Sight.  It’s a bit like getting your period.  Those of us who don’t have it, want it.  Those of us who do have it, find it’s messy and makes other folks uncomfortable when we try to talk about it.

My take on it all may not align with other folks’ views.  And that’s okay.  As with all Things Magic ™, even wildly different takes can all be “right,” and you should winnow out what works for you.  Find your own truth; I’ll be cheering you on.

Given that, here are my thoughts on it:  I think the potential for the Sight is within each and every one of us.

In some, it’s a full-blown ability that leads us around by the nose, and if we’re not careful we’re self-medicating with sex, booze and rock and roll.  Or spending our time in institutions.

Others of us listened and believed it when our parents said there is no “monster” under the bed.  As kids, we’re designed to learn and fit in.  So over time (and with a thick enough application of logic), we’re able to stuff the ability down into a box and explain it away.  It’s the miracle of cognitive dissonance – when we see something we can’t explain, we rationalize it into something believable.  And the more uncomfortable it makes us, the harder our brains will work to “fix it.”

So if you want to coax the Sight out and use it comfortably, it may take some work.  Here are some things that I’ve seen help:

1)      Change your filters.  Practice accepting what you see at face value, and being okay with that.  For this, I think the best exercise ever is Phil Hines’ What’s in the Box.”  You’ll have to scroll down to see the exercise — it’s under the heading Psychic Sensitivity Exercises.

2)      Recognize what stands out.  Our monkey-selves are programmed to recognize patterns, and to see when “one of these things is not like the others.”  It works when we’re learning to read, and it can work for you in this instance, too.

Start by making some type of acknowledgement every time you see something “significant.”  Don’t try to rationalize what significant is; just go with your gut instinct.  I developed the habit of making the sign of the mano fico with my hand, and kissing my knuckle whenever I saw something significant.  The first few days I was kissing my hand constantly.  If I asked myself “is that significant?”  then the very act of asking made it so, and I kissed my hand.  After a few days, things settled out, and my subconscious self got better at separating the wheat from the chaff.

3)      Sharpen your focus.  Not only do you want to See, you want to See clearly.  Jason Miller of Strategic Sorcery is your friend here.  Practice his exercise on folding reality (pick up at the paragraph beginning, “in this exercise you should face a wide vista”).

4)       Install some controls.  Once you start Seeing things, you’ll probably wish the Sight came with an on/off switch.  Good idea!  Better install one.

What has worked for me is to think of my third eye as being the center where the Sight comes from, and to think of it as having a dimmer switch – like the ones on light fixtures.

Dimmer switch

I can dial it up for maximum “on-ness,” down for “off,” or anywhere in between.  (Which can be a great relief on those nights when you really don’t want to See One. More. Thing.)  I’ll readily admit, this sounds über goofy, but thinking about it like that, and practicing turning it up and down helped me get a handle on things when I really wanted one.  Who am I to argue with success?

Maybe it will help to get a refresher on your third eye:

The third eye – also known as the pineal gland – is nestled between the right and left lobes of your brain.  You can see it as the little red dot in the spinning skull above.  (Many thanks to Anatomography, as maintained by Life Science Databases(LSDB), and to Wikipedia Commons for making this image available for use here.)

If you put your finger on your forehead between and slightly above your eyebrows, you can imagine the pineal gland in your brain behind your finger.  Or you can imagine it peeking out the top of your head, from between the two halves of your brain.  Both are right.  The little bugger is actually light-sensitive, so it’s pretty logical to call it a third eye.  And I swear, if you think about it just right, you can make it wink.  (No, really.  Although no telling who or what you’d attract when doing it!)

Now that you’ve been reminded where your third eye is, with practice you should be able to work out how to turn the “volume” up and down for yourself.

5)      Make some breathing space.  Sometimes (and by this, I really mean Some Times of the Year) things get a little busy, and it’s hard not to See stuff, and you may really just want a little peace from it all.  So remember you can make yourself a little breathing space.  Here are some of good go-tos:

– For pulling out all the stops, Paul Hume’s Witches’ Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is classic.  It’s his adaptation of the Golden Dawn’s LBRP, using deities rather than archangels.   This makes a lovely clearing.  Please note, however, that if it works for you the way it does for me, you’ll have to come to terms with Things,  their noses pressed against the boundaries, looking in at you.

– The inestimable Phil Hines includes a simple but beautiful clearing in his discussion of banishing rituals/centering.

– Scylla at Root and Rock, has a good, Carmina Gaedelica-inspired Curse against the Evil Eye (and while what we’re dealing with here isn’t the evil eye,  this curse will clear the space).  While I haven’t used the whole of it, I often — with great satisfaction — use the end bit of it, which I pare down to:

I subdue thee  (mano cornuto, horns up)

I supress thee (mano fico, fig down)

I banish thee (flip the bird)

flip the bird

The options truly are endless.  Smudge, shake your fist, draw a banishing pentagram, whatever works best for you.

As I mentioned earlier, these are all things I’ve seen work, but by no means the only things that would.  If something else has worked well for you and you’d like to share it — or share your experiences in general –please feel free to put them in a comment.  Your thoughts may help others!

All of this addresses how get the Sight, but not what to do with it once you’ve got it.  That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, and I leave it to each of you to chart your own course.   A word of warning:  you would do well to be wary of all strangers, be they Worldly, or Otherworldly.  So my advice is to:

–          Be courteous.

–          Be careful of what you offer or take.

–          Did I mention be courteous?

In the next post, I’ll talk about some commonalities of the Sight, as collected from a small group of folks over the years.  Until then, best of wishes to you all on getting your Sight!

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Nake Up

May Day is drawing near, so you won’t be a bit surprised to hear that I’m thinking about nakedness.  After all, I loves me a good May Day romp through the woods, what with them phalluses (uh … phalli?) and all.

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dotty-garden-lady-701

Naked is good.

Interestingly, naked isn’t just about not having any clothes on.  One of my favorite occult resources, Etymonline, has this to say about the origins of the word:

naked (adj.)  Old English nacod “nude, bare; empty,”

In the rush to May Day, it’s easy to overlook that “empty” aspect of naked.

I can take all my clothes off, but if I’m not in a receptive state — if I’m not empty — I’m not truly naked.

Okay, that sounded waaay dirty.

Let me try it another way.  For purposes of interacting with the Otherworld, if I’m not in a state of open receptivity, holding myself free of expectations, the quality of my connection to the unknown is going to be poor to none.

Which adds a new layer to the concept of “naked in your rites.”   For me, I find the perfect blend of nakedness to be:

  • having no clothes on (and thus no adjusting, fidgeting, stepping on hems or setting my garmets on fire, with that added pinch of naughtiness that makes my subconscious sit up and beg),
  • having my hair bound up (hair also being flammable, and mine being so very long a fair amount of wrangling is required to keep it out of the flame),
  • being a tabula rasa.  A blank slate.  Not that I don’t know what I mean to accomplish in ritual, but that I try to let the experience speak for itself.

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Tabula Rasa

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And what kind of witch would I be if I wasn’t curious enough to keep reading through *all* the entries Etymonline had for naked? As a result, I found this gem:

nake (v.) “to make naked,”

A wonderful new word to wield around the coffee shop.  Not to mention, the pith of a catchy post title, to lure other curious witches in for a visit!

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The God of Keys

Old Key Chain

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First thing in the morning, as my family shuffles about in search of bathrooms and coffee, one or the other of us will tell our dreams from the night before.  Usually it’s something like “I had another stress dream … worked all night trying to send emails, but my computer was really a wood stove, so it wasn’t working.”

But recently, my son had a real doozy.  He dreamt he met — to use his words — a bunch of small gods.  Although he met quite a few, he could only remember three of them.

In his dream, the election was over, the Republicans won, and Bible study replaced all the subjects in school.  Son became a fugitive; on the lam from authorities who meant to catch him and make him Christian.

It was in his flight that he met the small gods.

In Colorado he met the Surfer God, who looks Hawaiian, and was wearing Hawaiian shorts and shirt.  The Surfer God told him it would be better for Son to hide in plain sight, being noisey and boisterous in public because “people do that.”  He himself often appeared drunk in public, in an effort to blend in.  The Surfer God was also very worried about how stressed Son was, and gave him lots of advice on that, none of which Son can remember.  The Surfer God was always slipping away to surf, even though Colorado is nowhere near the ocean.

Then Son met the God of Locks.  He is a bouncer in Los Angeles.  The God of Locks doesn’t say much.

The one Son remembers best is the God of Keys.  He lives in a big city.  “Perhaps New York?” says Son, as if trying it on for size.

The God of Keys is a thief.

But the God of Keys doesn’t steal from just anyone.  For instance, he’ll steal from someone who has just gotten a bonus and thus has some money to let slip.  And the God of Keys has a high opinion of stockbrokers; he won’t steal from them because they keep money moving about.

Fascinated, I asked if the God of Keys was stealing from the rich to give to the poor.  At first Son said “no, he keeps it,” but after thinking a moment, said “that’s not right, it becomes like loose change on the ground.  That feels right.”  The God of Keys also told Son to stay away from the God of Locks.  When Son pressed him for details, all he would say was that the God of Locks is “hard to talk to.”

This dream vividly reminds me of my own brushes with other small gods.  Especially the surprising details, which blow through preconceived notions of Who is God of what, and just how the whole God Thing works.

It makes perfect sense, though, that the God of Locks could be a bouncer, tossing out those who didn’t behave well, or belong.  That he would be miserly with his words.

Just as a God of Keys could best unlock money and liberate it into circulation by being a thief.

Shakespeare said “the play’s the thing.”  Personally, I’d have to say that these otherworldly experiences are the thing. Pleasant or unpleasant, short exchanges or long relationships — we’re changed and enriched by each one.

The next time I get a little extra money, I’ll spend some right away.  Because that God of Keys sounds like a fine fellow, and he was nice to my son.

After all … how better to start up an acquaintance with a god than by doing the things he likes, in his name?

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On babies, bathwater and stink bugs

Baby with Bathwater

A member of a local e-group posted a link to this article — Protocol, Privilege and Monotheistic Arrogance.

Interfaith work.  Most of us have strong feelings about it.  Love, a sense of duty, frustration, hate, and sometimes all of the above.

I am a strong believer in interfaith work, but Galina Krasskova over at Witches and Pagans sums up something that’s been disturbing me for a while now:

     “That’s really what unity is after all: it comes from the Latin word ‘unus’: one. It is an erasure of indigeny. It is an obliteration of the wondrous diversity of experience and divinity that characterizes polytheism. It is an extension of monotheistic domination. It’s just been prettied up. It’s been made politically correct. Words like ‘tolerance’ and ‘oneness’ have been slapped on it to present a facade palatable to the WASP and/or new age majority, a façade that precludes active engagement.

“… in the end, those who are working to restore their indigenous traditions need to ask themselves how much time, energy, and commitment they’re willing to take away from their ancestral ways to educate the impious, to educate those who don’t even think to question the status quo.”

Personally, I think interfaith work is valuable, but too often is allowed to eclipse the main focus of a spiritual practice.  I’ve come to believe that there is no way to sanitize my spiritual practices so that they will be found acceptable to Mainstream America. Remember:  the most vocal fundamental minority* here in the United States, the Southern Baptists, believe we’re all “going to hell,” and that they are doing us a kindness to breach the boundaries of common courtesy and respect for individual choice, in an effort to “save us.”  And by “us,” I mean almost everyone else in the United States, not just us pagans.  I’m not saying that as a meanness; just stating a truth.

In trying to present our various ways in a pallatable light, one needn’t go very far before the beauty and strength are stripped away from our practices.  So these days, I focus my interfaith efforts on actively promoting courtesy and respect of the beliefs of others. You don’t have to believe like I do, and I don’t have to believe like you do.  But we should be polite and affirming of each other’s right to the path of our choice.  And hopefully not tell each other that we’re going to hell, or reincarnating as a stink bug.

I’m also spending more time on intrafaith work. Making opportunities for those who are genuinely interested in knowing what I find beautiful and powerful in my own practices.  Working to keep myself open to the sacred, and to consciously remove the filters I discover within myself that have been pressed onto me by the paradigms of my childhood.

Otherwise, I’d just be throwing the baby out with the interfaith bath water.

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*From the U.S. Government Census

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Every time a witch votes, a monkey gets his wings

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If you live in the U.S., tomorrow is Election Day.  My apologies to those of you tuning in from other countries.  As a consolation prize, you get to hear a great song, and perhaps have a little laugh about America’s current sociopolitical climate.  (When not crying, I’m laughing about it, too!)

As far as I’m concerned, there’s not much witchier than the Power of Choice.  Your word made manifest.  And all in a private voting booth — it’s practically begging you to work a bit of magic within its alcoved privacy.

So load your pockets with the Amulets of Your Choice (pun intended) and Make. Your. Mark.

Still sitting on the couch?  Here’s a rousing song by Damh the Bard to light a fire under your backside.  Although it’s specifically about British politics, the themes shine through:

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Fly my pretties.  Fly!

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For Hallowstide

For those of you who —  like our merry band — celebrate Hallowstide after October 31st, below is one way we’ve worked it with good results.  It’s actually from last year’s ritual done for the book club group, hence the ceremonial wordings.  As always, change it up to suit yourself, speaking from your own heart.

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Set up your altar with a skull, or representation of a skull.  We used a pottery skull with old skeleton keys crossed in front of it, as crossed bones, or “feet.”

Light candle beside skull,  saying

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From this fire, exorcised unto our need, spring forth now the Cunning Fire, which sits between the horns of our god.  Be Thou a lamp to light our ways, and a beacon to call forth our Beloved Dead this night.
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Knock three times, then say:

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By my Will I shape this throne
And call our Dead upon this Bone
Come ye in my Master’s Name
Until I send Thee back again

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Breathe life into skull, until you feel it stir and waken.

All stand in circle around altar.  Take up a red thread.  Each person ties knots into their thread, in the fashion of a snaim.  More about this another time, but for now — Don’t touch the thread with either forefinger at any point during the process.  Bring the thread to your forehead while concentrating on your intent, then down in front of you to tie the knots, then to your lips to whisper the name of one of your Beloved Dead, or to send a general call to the Ancestors.

Tread the Mill, stepping sideways and moving widdershins.  Pass thread deasil.  Whisper names of Beloved Dead, interspersed with “One by one and all together.”* Keep steps slow, but allow chant to increase in volume and/or speed.

When the Mill reaches its natural conclusion, one at a time, each person takes a thread up to the altar.  Offers a sign of love or respect (usually kissing the “feet”), then places bead end of thread into eye socket of skull, holding the other end.  Commune.

Remove thread, take up candle and pass around head 3x, to “take in” the cunning fire.  Rejoin circle.

When all have communed, perform a housle**:

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For our Ancestors, our Gods and ourselves, we do this.
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(((Knock 3 times)))
Here is bread, the life of the Earth,
Blessed to give us life and strength.
I consecrate it in the name of the Witch Father
With my left hand I bless it (mark it with goosefoot)
With my left hand I shall eat it.
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(((Knock 3 times)))
Here is wine, filling the cup with abundance
I consecrate it in the name of the Witch Mother
With my left hand I lift it,
With my left hand I shall drink it.
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Holding the cup in your left hand still, bring it near your lips, and say
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I drink this cup in the Witch Mother’s name:  She shall gather me home again.
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Then drink a little. Everyone who shares from the cup should say the same, holding the cup with their left hand, before they drink.
After everyone has shared from the cup, everyone should eat a piece of the bread- tear or cut it apart, making enough pieces for everyone. As you bring the piece of bread, held with your left hand, near your lips, you should say:
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I eat this bread in the Witch Father’s name, that I might have of his cunning fire

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Make an offering of bread and wine into a bowl.

Make subsequent toasts spontaneously from the heart.

Make the final round in silence.

Pass the bowl around for each to anoint their forehead with mixture in offering bowl.

While this happens, one of your number says:

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As some is taken, so is this given
By the sons and daughters of the family of the Old Faith
I give it to the Ground
I give it to the Pale People below
That above and below will become one
For what is taken is truly given
And what is given is truly taken
The day and night are wed
As the living and the dead.
Here is shown a mystery.
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Anoint skull.

Close the Skull, saying:

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In my Master’s Name, I bid you depart to your proper place, and be there love between us ever more.  So mote it be!

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Silently, each person takes up a candle from around the circle or on the altar.  One of your number takes up the offering bowl and starts a procession to a quiet place outside.  This could be a place where 3 trails meet, or any place you find good for leaving offerings.  In our case, our Magister is at the end of the procession, because the “Devil takes the hindmost.”

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Pour your offerings onto the ground, “To our Beloved Dead”

Leave your candles burning by offering.

Turn and walk away, without looking back.

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May you and the Ancestors be blessed!

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*Peter Paddon uses this phrase, and I like how it works.

**If memory serves, these words are a combination of Robin Artisson’s red meal and American Folkloric Witchcraft’s housle.

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Casting souls before the Wild Hunt

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The faint scent of fall is in the air, and because of it, my mind has turned to thoughts of Hallowmas and the Wild Hunt.  This year more so than usual, because my husband’s father died earlier this year.

It got me to thinking about public and private forms of grieving.  In my neck of the woods, you’re meant to buck up in public, and keep outward forms of grief to yourself.  Excepting the funeral, there are no public rites for grief and release.

Some will say grief is best left to counselors and other qualified experts, rather than kept with friends and family — in effect “sanitizing” the grieving process, to make it comfortable for the masses.  But life’s a messy business, and if you aren’t in touch with that reality, I’m not convinced you’re doing it right.

A ritual surfaced, buoyed up by all these musings.  It fills in a gap for me and mine.  Maybe it will fill one for you, too:

Start with a cauldron full of easy-to-string beads, set in the center of your work space.  It helps if everyone brings a cup to scoop out their beads.  Have a knife or some scissors handy, and some red thread made of natural fiber (cotton embroidery floss does the trick nicely).  This rite works best with a relatively small group; too many and the rite loses steam.

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Everyone should scoop some beads out of the cauldron, and string their beads onto the thread, to make a loop of meditation beads.  It doesn’t really matter how many beads you scoop up.  Bracelet- or necklace-sized, either is fine.  Tie off the loop with three knots.  Why three?   Because three is a number infused with mythic properties.  To most folks, three just feels right.

For this rite, the string of beads represents the life of your Loved One.

Now arrange yourselves around the cauldron, and take several steps backwards to that you end up with plenty of space between you and the persons next to you.  During the ritual, you’ll gradually move closer and closer to the cauldron, and to each other.

Decide whether you’ll be moving deasil or widdershins.   Pick the direction that feels right to the group — don’t agonize over this, just go with your first answer.  Decide on who will speak first.  With these two decisions in hand, you’re ready to start.

Hold the beads to your forehead, close your eyes and think about your Loved One.  Let your emotions flow, and allow yourself to rock back and forth in place, in an age-old motion of comfort.   After everyone’s had a chance to get settled in, the first person speaks, using something like the following formula:

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“For the love of (say the Loved One’s name here)”
followed by a word describing the Loved One

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Everyone will chant this, so it’s best to keep it simple.  For instance, if I’m mourning Abraham Lincoln, I might say “For the love of Abe the Bold.”

The next person takes up the chant, saying “Abe the Bold.”  It helps to speak in rhythm with the rocking, for instance, saying “Abe” or the forward rock, and “the Bold” on the backward rock.

Let the chant go around the circle, while marking each chant off on your prayer beads.  You’re using the beads to keep yourself in a meditative state, so simply hold the beads in one hand, and let your thumb pull a bead forward with each chant.  Something like this.

When the chant goes around the circle to return its originator, that person says something like “Abe the Bold, now gone from us.”  Everyone takes a baby step forward, and the next person in line starts his chant.  If you’re all grieving for different people, you’ll each say a different name.  If you’re all grieving the same person, you’ll be saying the same name, but with a different descriptor each time.  You’ll start by standing apart from each other, and move closer and closer together, until your shoulders are touching.

Depending upon the size of your group, each person may start the chant once, or you may go around three times.  Whatever number you decide, when you’re done, take a moment of silence.

After the silence, each person should approach the cauldron and cut the thread, so that the beads fall loose back into the cauldron, saying something like “We will not walk this way again.”  Which is true, because no matter how many times you might do this, the combination of beads on each string, people present and words chanted will never be the same again.  And the thread is cut, just as the Loved One’s current life has ended.

Once everyone has returned their beads to the cauldron, someone should give the cauldron a good stirring, so that the beads are all mixed up.

If you subscribe to the idea that a person’s life force returns, to dissolve into a “Cosmic Soup” — a blend from which new souls will be dipped upon reincarnation, this imagery is pretty apt.  If this isn’t how you look at reincarnation, no matter.  Undeniably, the body’s return “ashes to ashes and dust to dust,” means your Loved One’s components are blending with and rejoining the material world.

Now, take up a new piece of thread and a new scoop of beads from the cauldron, saying something along the lines of “The Wheel of Life turns.  Now you are gone from me, but I will know you again.”

Be it so!

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Turned on my head

As you can tell from the date of my last post, I haven’t been writing here much.  Instead, I’ve been studying like a demon.  And yes, I can easily envision a demon studying.  It looks something like this:

I’m up to my elbows in books and practica.  And I’m loving every brain-sweat-filled moment.

A fellow on the internet recently shared a link to Seahenge gives up its secrets.   A newly-found archeological site containing 55 wooden posts surrounding an upturned oak were exposed when winter storms washed away a sand dune in Norfolk.

And now, finally, to the point.  Quoting from the article:

Dr Francis Pryor, President of the Council for British Archaeology, believes the symbolism of the upside-down oak tree is very important to understanding the Bronze Age mind.”We often find everyday objects deliberately turned upside down at Bronze Age sites. The inverted oak is a very complex statement. It is the world turned upside down, just as death is an inversion of life.”From a ritual point of view it symbolises taking objects out of this world and placing them in the next.”
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Most of us are nodding about now.  Makes perfect sense.  In several cultures, the world tree is shown as inverted; Yggdrasil and Klipoth to name two.

I all but heard the popping sound of a lightbulb on going off.   A new layer of symbol and meaning I can add to how I make offerings.  Indoors, even in the presence of Aunt Albie, I can place offerings in a teacup, then turn cup over onto saucer with a murmer.  Turning the offerings “on their head” to send them on to the otherworld, along with my spoken words.

My outdoor offerings also take on new layers of meaning, as I now see that pouring out an offering inverts the contents.  (All you who already knew this can stop chuckling now.)

There are days I truly love witchcraft.  And this is one of them!

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An omen by any many other names

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A couple of days ago, I traveled through a crossroad with a name so juicy I had to pull off the road and snap a picture.  My family has lived near Old Omen Road for many years, but I’d never thought to ask — as my kinfolk would put it — “how come it” to have that name.

Turns out, Omen is a rural community which has been called by many names — Round Hill, Canton, Clopton, Troup.  No one I spoke with knows where the omen part comes in, but my all-too-fertile imagination longs to believe the settlers stopped there in 1848 because they received an omen that it was the proper place to set their roots.

And that their staunch Baptist descendants have been trying to scratch new names over Omen ever since.

Doesn’t appear to be working!

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Watch this — The Outcast

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The Outcast.  A supernatural horror film.  Full of witchcraft, but without any of the usual Hollywood fluff and hype.  Perhaps because it’s not from Hollywood — it was made with the participation of Bord Scannán na hÉireann (the Irish Film Board) and Scottish Screen.

This not sweetness-and-light-witchcraft.  If you’re disturbed by the darker side of witchcraft, this is not the movie for you.  If you’re open-minded, you’re in for one hell of a treat.

Set in a a run-down housing project in Scotland, this film vibrates with gritty realism.  Refreshingly, this movie doesn’t preach to us about right and wrong, and doesn’t ask for, or indeed make any apologies.  The witchcraft portrayed is visceral, sometimes brutal, but overwhelmingly matter-of-fact.

To read other reviews, try Beyond Hollywood, and Film School Rejects.  Or watch the trailer here.

Or see what you think for your own self.  You can watch streaming video from Netflix or Amazon.

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