Saturday, July 14, 2018

August Eve / Lammas / Lughnasadh: Ten ideas for solitary witches!

Below are ten crafts, altars, spells and ritual ideas for solitaries that either I personally or other covens have done throughout the past five years.  Enjoy!

Make Corn Dolls
Use corn husks soaked in water to create figures representative of the season as Circle of Fountains did in 2015.

Make Straw Dolls
Alternatively, create smaller dolls out of tightly-bunched straw as Liithi Lushede did in 2014.

Bake Bread
Honor the wheat harvest by baking bread this holiday as Circle of Fountains did in 2015.

Make Corn Dishes
Honor the corn harvest by creating dishes out of corn, like corn bread or corn salsa, similar to dishes brought by Circle of Fountains members in 2014.

Harvest Jar Spell
Use a mason jar to create a harvest spell, either to encourage he fruition of real crops or to secure your goals, as Circle of Fountains did in 2017.

Miniature Gratitude Bonfire
Create a miniature gratitude bonfire by placing a tealight candle in a fireproof bowl and burning slips of paper with what you're thankful for, as Circle of Open Traditions did in 2013.

Decorate Your Altar with Wheat and Corn
Honor the first harvest by placing dried corn, corn husks and wheat stalks on your altar as I did in 2017 and in 2015.

Can Food
As you harvest your garden, farm or even your local farmer's market, begin canning vegetables and jams for the winter ahead.

Iron Protection
Because August Eve focuses on protection, hang iron keys, horseshoes or other decor near your door as a way of protecting your home.  Take it a step further with these Blessing Keys I did in 2015.

Dry Herbs
Hang harvested or purchased herbs to dry in your window sill.  Take it a step further by wrapping ethically-harvested sage, rosemary, bay, lavender and/or more with twine to create your own smoke cleansing bundle. 

Whatever you choose to do, I wish you gratitude and honor this coming August Eve!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

July Personal Update: Piano, Vow Renewal, Circle.

Where do I begin?  It's been a strange month.  You know it has when I have very few pictures to add to a personal update.  I just didn't take many this round.  Going through some major changes - ones I didn't anticipate going through this year - will do that.  That being said, I think it's for the better all the way around.

First, I wanted to show off this incredible sign I had made at our local Signarama for my job.  The time and agency are interchangeable and the card holder pops off for safety.  They cut a handle into it so I could carry it easily alongside my board - their suggestion.  I hadn't even thought of that.  They went above and beyond in creating this sign.  I've been using it at events the past few weeks since I got it and it's been amazing!

I had someone come out to look at my piano and it's surprisingly in good shape - just heavily out of tune.  We got it just short of tuned up - stretching the strings so they don't break - and will finish that in December.  He's coming back out sometime this week to replace missing ivories and a broken foot pedal.  While I wanted to restore it, he heavily suggested to "love it as it is, warts and all."  Fair.  One less thing to worry about financially anyway!  Because...

Aaron and I are renewing our vows next year!  We've talked for years about doing it but, financially, it just never really worked out for us.  In April, we did some calculating and figured out that we could easily swing it in 2019 - which is perfect because we'll have been married for 10 years in September and together for 15 by the date we chose.  We've already secured the venue, photographer, DJ, two tarot readers, a caricature artist and a bakery for our cake.  Artie will of course be a part of the festivities and I'm having a custom suit and tie harness made for him in the color palette we've chosen.  I'm super excited!  The only thing I have left to book sooner rather than later is catering.  I've been holding off because we've managed to stay local and LGBTQ/pagan friendly thus far but, for what we're wanting catering-wise on the date we're wanting it, I may have to go with somewhere like Hy-Vee.  Most smaller places require a $2k minimum order on Saturdays and, for a 3 hour brunch with 50 people, I can't justify it.  If any of my KC readers know of a good eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and fruit caterer in the KC area that is local and can do it for around $10 a head, let me know!  Otherwise, I'm going to have to go with Hy-Vee.  I mean, it's not the worst place to go with by any means, but I wanted to keep the trend of supporting small businesses located in KC.

I started seeing a therapist about a month ago and it's been a significant relief.  If you can afford it, I strongly suggest it.  Having an impartial third party weigh in on life is incredibly helpful.  Working through some childhood trauma and tackling the beast that is the OCD/depression one-two sucker punch will hopefully round out the stability I've been needing.  Turns out, I'm pretty stable and logical, and managing my life well.  I just need some additional coping mechanisms.  I figured if I constantly press circle members to seek therapy when they need to, I can't be a hypocrite and not do it myself.  Speaking of which...

I wanted to thank everyone who sent me messages and left comments of concern regarding my resignation from Circle of Fountains.  As many of you suspected, the circumstances are of course more complicated than they appear.  That being said, my previous statement of leaving because my path is going in a new direction wasn't a lie.  I've been focusing increasingly on spirit work and shadow work over the past few years and have felt like I couldn't fully explore that practice while giving the majority of my attention to the circle.  I wasn't necessarily wrong in that either.  Since resigning, I have finished two books I had shelved for months, created my altar to D which had been on my list for over a year and totally renovated my ritual room (pictures coming soon).

Unfortunately, my resignation was spurred due to certain events.  As a coven, and particularly as the Coordinator/HPS, communication is key.  I was intentionally kept in the dark from drama occurring within the circle.  Over the course of a week, the circle's ability to communicate had been severed completely.  I attempted to bring up the issue in question with circle members both individually and as a group to no avail.  I could see a division being created.  Once members are required to pick sides, covens are broken.  To remove the inability to communicate along with the division created, I resigned.

Sunday, members came by to pick up circle-related items.  I understand that they're restructuring the circle and potentially renaming it, though that's simply concepts that I picked up - nothing that I was directly told.  I'm being kept out of the loop entirely and it feels like I'm being erased, which is difficult given that this was my personal project for four years.  But I did resign of my own volition.  I suppose it's only fair.

Sometimes, when you truly love someone (or, in this case, a whole group of people), you have to let it go for their sake.

This is not to say that Circle of Fountains - or whatever it might be named after this - isn't a positive environment.  In fact, it may be even more so in my absence.  What I hope is that I have removed the blockage in communication, that there will be no division created, and that they restructure the circle into something they truly want.  I have intentionally put distance between myself and the Primary members - and will maintain that distance - to ensure the stability of the coven.

It breaks my heart.  It's terribly isolating.  But it is what it is.  I have made it through this before and I will make it through this again.  Besides, I can now focus entirely on my own personal Craft rather than ensuring the evolution of others'.  That's freeing.  I need that.

In terms of starting a new coven, I doubt I see myself doing so any time soon.  I've become increasingly exhausted with putting my heart and soul into something only to become severed from it in the long run.  I'm still quite excited about working on my own and developing my own practice as a nontheistic spirit worker verging on trad craft witch.  And I hope you'll all be just as excited to join me on this journey.

I think that about sums up everything!  I hope everyone is well.  Have a fantastic day!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Daily Witchcraft: Creating a Functional Daily Practice

Twelve full moons and twelve new ones.  Four quarters and four cross-quarters.  Birth, life, death and rebirth.  Witchcraft is often, though not always, thought about in cycles.  From the moment we wake and go to work, to the time we get home, eat, rest and sleep only to wake against the next day, we notice that we live our lives in a cyclic nature.  Once we become aware of the subconscious and spiritual, it seems only natural that we would want to apply that to our day-to-day lives.  We long for a sense of completion, of wholeness and discipline, and for a chance to evolve seamlessly from path to path as we decide what trajectory we want to take our Craft.  While some may find that outside of a daily practice, others crave it.  And so we wish to marry that cycle of life and death, of seasons, of moons and stars and planets to our daily mundane.

In truth, a daily practice is less cumbersome than you may think.  It is surprisingly less elaborate rituals - more walking the walk and talking the talk.  Daily witchcraft is about your commitment to your path by integrating your beliefs into your regular life rather than forcing your life to conform to your Craft.  The following guide will help you create a routine that fits your lifestyle and avoids burnout.  As you follow this guide, you should be mindful of both who you are and what the world around you is like.  By blending these, you can find ways your life and Craft merge seamlessly. In fact, you may already have a subconscious daily practice waiting to be brought to light!

Living as a Witch: Creating a Daily Practice through Awareness

Sometimes, those who are seeking a daily practice want to totally rework their lives, starting a complicated hour-by-hour schedule of witchcraft and assuming that they'll seamlessly fall into the schedule.  True change, however, is subtle and gradual, its staying power reinforced by the way it is effortlessly included in our already present routine.  As you follow this guide, be honest and gentle with yourself.  You don't have to be a full-fledged, hat-wearing, wand-waiving witch every single moment of the day.  It will not make you any better or more "real" of a witch.  Instead, if you're aware of what you want from your practice and what your life can realistically allow - where your strengths and weaknesses lie - your daily practice will essentially create itself!

Begin by brainstorming what you want from your Craft.  Start at the "End Goal" of where you want to be in a year with your Craft and break it down piece by piece, arriving at the most seemingly mundane steps.  Take all your parts into account - your career, your family life, your home and your responsibilities.  If you fancy yourself the isolated village witch living in a forest cottage but also want to keep your career in IT and your beautiful family, you might struggle to make the two meet.  It's important during this process to be realistic.

Identify mundane aspects of your life that have the space for a little magical face-lift.  Think about your daily routine.  How do you spend your morning?  If you often wake up late, rush out the door with barely any, or no, time for breakfast, it's not likely that you'll be able to squeeze a practice into those rushed moments.  However, after you come home, if you like to kick off your shoes and relax for a few moments before diving into the next part of your life, you might be able to also squeeze a few moments of the Craft in as well.  Consider the parts of your day that are dull, boring, slow even and lacking inspiration - the parts that could use a little magical "spice."

Also identify where magic already touches your life.  You might be surprised how much you already incorporate your practice into your daily life.  Often, once we alter our view from the mundane to the magical, it's difficult to see anything else.  Do you enjoy watching the sunset?  Do you do a little introspection when you wake up?  Where do you get your inspiration now?  Is it music? Art? Even a stroll through a witchy Pinterest board can be a way to create a simple daily practice (online altars, anyone?).

Choose one five-minute change that you can easily make to your day starting tomorrow.  Again, the keyword for this change is simple.  You don't want to stress yourself out or find yourself easily forgetting to complete the task.  So, instead of trying to cram an hour-long ritual into every sunset that only lasts a few minutes, try instead to so a simple meditation while you feel the warmth of the sun dip over the horizon.  Instead of trying to create a website by hand dedicated to your deity of choice, try simply creating a Pinterest board to them and adding to it whenever inspiration strikes as you scroll through on your lunch break.  One five-minute change is all it takes to start doing a daily witchy task!

Make yourself accountable.  Start by requiring just three days a week.  Once you regularly hit that quota, up it to five.  Mark the days off with a calendar or check in with a friend or network.  Give yourself little rewards.  You did your sunset meditation every day?  Good for you!  Have a glass of wine.  You have 20 pins on your altar board?  Congrats!  Now go play your favorite game for a few minutes to take an entertaining break.  And if you don't hit your goals, don't sweat it.  Go easy on yourself.  In fact, if you're struggling to hit your goals, your goals may not be simple or realistic.  It may be time to sit down and reanalyze what you can realistically include in your day.

Once your daily schedule seems easy, stretch yourself.  This doesn't mean adding in that hour-long daily ritual now (or ever).  Instead, consider adding something you have to work for just a bit.  Add a drum and humming to your regular sunset meditation.  Print a picture from your Pinterest shrine and frame it on your nightstand.  Add things you collect from around your house or yard to create a small indoor altar.  While you want your practice to merge with your life relatively effortlessly, you also want to take chances and step outside of your comfort zone every now and then.  Find out what you're capable of.  Dare to make mistakes and find your limits.  Forgive yourself and scale it back when you go too far.

Sprinkle a few simple five-minute tasks throughout your day until you're satisfied.  Adding two or three very quick witchy activities to your day can quickly build momentum to your practice.  Imagine saying a "thank you" to your nightstand shrine in the morning, adding to your Pinterest altar at lunch and doing a simple sunset meditation in the evening.  Suddenly, you have a "breakfast, lunch and dinner" witchcraft trifecta!

Once you're satisfied with a schedule, write it down and analyze it.  Look back at your initial brainstorming and look forward to where you want to be.  Did you achieve it?  What's missing?  Are you happy with where you're at?  Did your path take a totally different direction in the process?  What are your new goals?  Fine-tune your daily schedule as needed for maximum effect!

Examples of Simple Daily Practices

Daily Tasks
Participate and mindful exercises.
Take a cleansing and blessed shower.
Eat with reverence.
Add ingredients to meals based on their correspondences.
Stir liquids clockwise to draw to you and counterclockwise to banish.
Choose your clothing and jewelry based on color and gemstone correspondences.
Add a scarf and utilize knot magic.
Add a playlist of songs that inspire your Craft to your phone for your daily commute or workout.
Do some magical crafting (knitting, beadwork, wire-wrapping, candle-dipping or carving, oil creation, etc) while watching TV show or listening to a regular podcast.

Divinity and Spirit
Greet your deity or spirit every day at the same time.
Thank your deity or spirit ever day at the same time.
Spend five minutes just talking with your chosen entity.
Short prayers.
Light a candle on an altar.
Offer a simple cup of water.

Mindful Living
Meditate for five minutes. Ground and center when needed.
Repeat affirmations daily.
Be responsible for yourself, taking ownership for your mistakes as well as accomplishments.
Give to others: Buy a lunch for a friend, give your change to a fundraiser, and lend a helping hand to a coworker on a project.

Recycle or compost.
Cut back on excess energy consumption. 
Tend a garden.
Listen to the world around you in a moment of silence.
Watch the sunrise and/or sunset.
Plant your bare feet in the grass or dirt.
Take a walk and feel the breeze.
Create a mini-altar with a few natural items you find in your backyard.

Read a witchcraft book 15 minutes every night before falling asleep.
Get an audiobook to listen to in the car.
Choose an area in nature to read about, such as trees, herbs, animals, stones, etc.
Watch a YouTube clip on witch history or read a short fairy tale or myth.
Draw one tarot card or rune a day, or utilize your pendulum to ask a yes/no question in the morning.  Record what happens.
Sit with a stone, card, herb or other such took and just feel it for five minutes.  Note your experiences.

Utilizing Cycles
Add a five minute routine that coincides with the current cycle of the moon.
Study the astrological components of that day for fifteen minutes and see how they relate.
Think about the space between the sabbats and what that means to you.
Utilize the magical purposes associated with the days of the week.

And these are just a few!  As you brainstorm, do some research to see what might fit in with your Craft that's not listed here.  Best wishes to you and your new daily practice!