Tag Archives: Magic

My World and Welcome to It

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This evening, G/Son was working on a project and I was sitting next to him, knitting and drinking tea. We’d been contentedly quiet for quite some time.

G/Son: Nonna, so what I want to know is: how does magic actually work?

Nonna: Well, I think the way that magic works is that everything is connected. We’re all connected to everything. Like I’m connected to you, and to the oak tree out in the yard, and to the rocks, and to the Moon, and to our blue jay, and everything. It’s like a web that connects everything. And so, if I pluck this strand of the web here, I can make the web vibrate over there. And that’s how I think magic works.

Another period of quiet ensued, G/Son working carefully on his project and Nonna knitting.

G/Son: Wait. Nonna. So that means “everything”? Like you’re connected to that other lawyer who makes you really mad and we’re even connected to Mitt Romney who we wouldn’t vote for?

Nonna: [Here, you must imagine Nonna sighing, and shaking her old head, and sorrowing to have to say this to an eight-year-old] Yes. I know it’s hard. But that’s how magic works. I am even connected to that obnoxious lawyer and we are even connected to Mitt Romney. If you want to work magic, you have to accept that. It won’t work any other way. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

For a few more minutes, there is silence. Nonna sips tea and knits. G/Son works on his project. He silently eats Madelines.

G/Son: That sucks, Nonna. Magic is cool, but being connected to some parts of everything sucks. Can I have another of those biscuits?

Picture found here.

Gardening with Mystery

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Garden Rant is one of the best (if most erratically-scheduled) garden blogs. Today’s post is especially thought-provoking. Here’s a sample:

Here’s one of my beefs with lawns: where is the mystery? We live within this awe-inspiring natural world, teeming with diverse creatures and plants. We have a built-in fascination for other living things. Why would we construct our daily environments in such a way that we avoid being fascinated by them?

Instead, why not kindle this fascination in our everyday, ordinary experience? Research shows how important the experience of natural landscapes is for children’s healthy brain, body, and emotional development. Wouldn’t our adult lives be richer from these experiences as well?

As I gaze across a vast, unbroken sea of lawn, it practically shouts out a need to rein in wild nature’s unpredictability and mystery. Why would we want to do this?

Perhaps we are acting instinctively to create open spaces that give us an uninterrupted view, because that feels safer. But does it really? The groundbreaking work of architect Christopher Alexander, among others, shows we are more likely to feel safest with foliage at our backs, standing at the edge of a clearing (or, indoors, in a doorway or alcove surveying the room). That would mean we need, somewhere on our property, foliage substantial enough to provide us with shelter.

For many of us, especially those not used to spending time in wild places, too much “nature” in a place can prompt fears of getting lost, of encountering snakes or mountain lions, of being unsafe or uncomfortable. During the course of giving my talks about lawn alternatives, I’ve spoken with many a person who is reluctant to walk in ankle-deep turfgrass, much less ducking inside a thicket of head-high shrubs.

Avoiding any wildness does restrict our chances of contact with these perceived dangers. But in accepting denuded landscapes, shorn carpets stripped of life and diversity, what are we giving up? What potential experiences are we trading for our certain safety?

We are not only trading the satisfactions of exploring and observing other forms of life, but also the truly awe-inspiring experiences that nature can offer: of feeling tiny and inconsequential in the face of its grandeur and of feeling a splendid sense of belonging as part of its expansiveness.

I say this is an extremely poor trade.

When we explore a natural landscape, we get the satisfaction of solving small-m mysteries, such as “hmmm, I wonder what’s behind that hedge?” But that is just the beginning of our fascination. Spending time in such a landscape, opening ourselves to its surprises and unpredictability, we start to form connections with that place and its flora and fauna. We begin to learn their quirks and characters, and in knowing them, to see ourselves in relation to them. This fosters a sense of belonging, a certain possessiveness. [There's a quote in Le Petit Prince about this.]

Now we are talking about big-m Mysteries, as in arcane knowledge of how the world works—including some knowledge about how we ourselves (being part of nature) work. This knowledge cannot necessarily come from scientific study, but from personal experiences that prompt a more emotional/spiritual understanding of the world’s patterns and lessons and our place in it.

One of the lessons that I’ve learned from Landscape Guy is to garden with an eye towards making the person experiencing the garden move forward, getting them to explore behind a corner, or along a curve, or behind a veil of fig branches. There has to be a place where you want to go and sit or stand and see the garden from that vantage point, which will be different from all the other vantage points.

And, in the end, the study of magic’s like that, too, isn’t it? What’s best is what draws us in, gets us to experience things that we wouldn’t have known were there if we hadn’t gone barefoot in the long grass, introduces us to the big-M Mystery of ourselves.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Hestia and the Homeless

keep-calm-and-love-hestia

Just last week, I had friends over for dinner and, with light jackets, we were able to eat dinner out on the porch. Today, an Arctic front has moved into my landbase and it’s painfully cold to be outside in the wind for more than a few minutes, even with a coat and gloves.

Tonight, many of D.C.’s homeless will be outside, sleeping on the cold ground or pavement, sheltered by nothing more than a bridge, or a storefront doorway, or a trash bag. Those who are old, ill, or hungry may even succumb to hypothermia, although that problem gets worse as even colder temperatures settle into the city in December and January.

The problem can seem overwhelming. What can just one Witch do? One thing you can do is find out the emergency number for your city and program it into your cell phone. Here’s the info for DC. That way, if you see someone out in the cold, you can alert the hotline and they’ll provide blankets, transportation to a shelter, gloves, etc.

And here’s a short magic working:

On your altar, place your cell phone with the hotline number already programmed; a pair of socks, gloves, or a hat that you can give away; some incense, and, if you have one: an image of Hestia.

Cast a circle and call the elements.

Invoke Hestia, Goddess of Hearth, Home, and Right Order in the State. Light the incense as an offering to Hestia and, while it burns, give thanks for the comforts of home that you enjoy. For me, these include privacy, warmth, a garden, security, hot water, a place to entertain friends, heavy blankets and clean sheets, a place for my books, hot tea, and stability. I enjoy these things due to a combination of white, middle-class privilege, my own hard work, and Hestia’s blessings.

Now, hold your hands over your cell phone and call upon Hestia to help you to see the people who need you to call the hotline for them. Commit to her that you will call when you see people who need the benefits of warmth and security. Hold your hands over your offering of socks, gloves, a hat, etc. Call upon Hestia to help you to find the person who needs and will accept that gift. Commit to her that you will give your gift as a way to share her blessings.

Thank Hestia for her presence in your home and in your circle. Open the circle and put your phone and your gift in your purse, book bag, coat pocket, etc. so that you’ll have them right to hand when they’re needed.

Picture found here.

Practical Magic

Some people don’t believe in magic. But how could I not believe in magic? As Mary Oliver says:

How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

May it be so for you.

Why Not Ask the Land?

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I attended an interesting presentation today that wound up being, in part, about how one establishes conditions that allow The Sacred to become more perceptible, especially in places where it might seem unlikely — the example given was of a dangerous neighborhood in urban Detroit. There was an informed discussion about how one begins such a process: should you do a cleansing, should you ground, what do you do first?

The answers were all worthwhile, but no one said what I think has to be the first step: ask the landbase. It has an opinion, it desires relationship, and it’s willing to help — if only it’s asked.

Too often we assume, even when we want to be magically involved with a place, that we’re acting upon a passive object rather than approaching a living landbase.

Picture found here

It’s as if the World Were Magic

Landscape Guy was telling me the other day about this research. Mycelia really do connect almost all trees and plants with each other. Try noticing them when you ground as part of your daily practice.

Mushroom Man | Leslie Iwerks from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Imbolc: When the Changes Are Still Mostly Invisible

Lots Going on Underground

Lots Going on Underground

Here in the magical MidAtlantic, the period just around Imbolc is when Nature is very busy, but almost all of the work is done out of sight. A quick scan of the horizon shows trees that still look dead, ice on the Potomac, and leaden skies. Yet, in the mountains, mother bears have given birth to their cubs and are no longer hibernating. They’re staying in their caves, but there’s activity there. Foxes are building dens for the kits that will be born in a few weeks. Bulbs underground are growing green shoots that will soon pop out of the Earth and then begin to make buds. Trees and shrubs are covered in tight little buds. You can see them, if you look carefully, but it’s difficult to imagine that, come September, that hard bit of stuff will be, for example, an apple or a fig, much less that it will be a blossom in May.

And it is often the same way with our own growth process. We may have been working with our Word of the Year or List of Goals for a month now, but it can be difficult to see much progress. And that’s when it starts to seem as if it might just be easier to forget the whole thing.

Here’s a good post (hat tip to: @druidjournal) that provides some outstanding advice for exactly this time of year. For example:

Of all the skills I’ve learned in the past 7 years of changing my life, one skill stands out:

Learning to be comfortable with discomfort.

If you learn this skill, you can master pretty much anything. You can beat procrastination, start exercising, make your diet healthier, learn a new language, make it through challenges and physically grueling events, explore new things, speak on a stage, let go of all that you know, and become a minimalist. And that’s just the start.

Unfortunately, most people avoid discomfort. I mean, they really avoid it — at the first sign of discomfort, they’ll run as fast as possible in the other direction. This is perhaps the biggest limiting factor for most people, and it’s why you can’t change your habits.

Think about this: many people don’t eat vegetables because they don’t like the taste. We’re not talking about soul-wrenching pain here, not Guantanamo torture, but a taste that’s just not something you’re used to. And so they eat what they already like, which is sweets and fried stuff and meats and cheeses and salty things and lots of processed flour.

The simple act of learning to get used to something that tastes different — not really that hard in the grand scheme of life — makes people unhealthy, often overweight.

I know, because this was me for so many years. I became fat and sedentary and a smoker and deeply in debt with lots of clutter and procrastination, because I didn’t like things that were uncomfortable. And so I created a life that was deeply uncomfortable as a result.

The beautiful thing is: I learned that a little discomfort isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be something you enjoy, with a little training. When I learned this, I was able to change everything, and am still pretty good at changing because of this one skill.

Master your fear of discomfort, and you can master the universe.

The entire post is well worth a read.

And it’s true, isn’t it? Lots of growth does feel a bit uncomfortable, especially at first. Change isn’t always easy. And when the change is still happening underground and outside our field of vision, the discomfort can seem to be a lot greater than the reward.

One of my tried-and-true tactics for dealing with the kind of discomfort discussed in the post is (no surprise here) breathing, grounding, centering, coming back to my true self. When I do that, it’s much easier for me to remember why I’m putting myself in an uncomfortable situation in the first place. A second strategy is to personalize the discomfort. Give it a name, an appearance, a personality. And then talk to it. Invite it in. Acknowledge it. Ask for its help on your journey (you did read fairy tales, right?)

For one of my goals this year, my discomfort is the Woodwose from the Wildwood Tarot. We’re developing quite a relationship. I wouldn’t call us friends, exactly, but I do think we have a healthy respect for each other. I’m learning to recognize him even when he hides as my tiredness, busyness, appetites.

What does your discomfort look like? What does s/he say when you invite hir to come in and sit down? Is it easier when s/he doesn’t always have to hide?

Picture found here.

Poetry, Imagination, Magic

I like this definition of poetry. Whyte could just as easily be talking about the practice of magic, as well, I think.

Do you agree?

Friday Poetry Blogging — How to Survive a Fairy Tale

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Fairy-tale Logic

~ A.E. Stallings

Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross a sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks
And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible what someone asks—

You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.

Picture found here.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve blogged this poem before, but it’s a good reminder, here at the beginning of the secular new year.

Art and the Art of Magic

As noted, I spent yesterday at the Chihuly exhibit in Richmond. It was wonderful and we had a great time.

I firmly believe that beauty is its own reward and that time spent seeing art needs no “practical” justification. But I do know that my daily practice and my magic both get a big boost from exposure to creativity. One of the first magical skills many Witches learn is visualization. Raise your hand if you were early on exposed to the exercise where you look at, smell, peel, and taste an orange and then close your eyes and repeat the experience in your mind. Me, too. And, I continue, from time to time, to practice those exercises, both because it’s good to return, occasionally, to the basics and because I’m just not good at visualization.

I’m fairly weak at a whole host of what are sometimes, and perhaps less-than-accurately, called “right-brain” skills. Knowing where my body is in space: Nope. Rhythm: Nope. Drawing: Nope. Visualizing: Well, I’ve worked at it and gotten somewhat better with practice, but it’s still not a strength, by any means. Seeing art helps me to fill in the gaps. I spent as much time as I could yesterday gazing at the fantastic sculptures and then closing my eyes and “seeing” them again, so that I’ll be able to use those images in my daily meditations and in my magic work.

What’s your magical weakness? What helps you to become more proficient? How might you use these images?

Boat on River Styx with Globes

Boat on River Styx with Forms

Boat on River Styx with Forms


Ceiling

Ceiling


Sea Forms

Sea Forms


Globe

Globe


Energy

Energy

Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back. The captions are mine; Mr. Chihuly has different titles for these works.