Witch in Practice: Week 19

A very quiet week last week, partly due to the ongoing annoyance of chronic health issues.

I’ve been feeling under the weather for about two weeks. It could be one of said chronic things flaring, it could be the weather, it could be side effects of the most recent medication change (since 2-3 weeks ago is about when it would have hit full efficacy).

This particular variant has involved brain fog, exhaustion, and a lot of inability to focus. I’ve been here before, so I have coping mechanisms, but it’s still really tedious.

I made the decision on Wednesday to cancel Dedicant class for the weekend – I hate doing that, but I knew I was at “I can prep for this class or I can do this class, and I can’t do both.”

Two days of sleeping late, doing some other restful things, and not doing anything substantial on Saturday other than some minimal writing helped a fair bit, but I can tell I need to be very deliberate about my time and energy for the next week or two.

I did manage a New Moon divinatory reading (um, on Sunday), and my usual weekly offerings, but that was about it.

This week

Doctor’s appointment, a regular monthly dinner with friends, and maybe a meeting, then our Imbolc ritual (and class) on Saturday.

Witch in Practice: Week 18

Last week

Tuesday: I had a catch up dinner with my initiate, who has had a bunch of health issues, and has been focusing on those. She’s doing better, so we caught up on things in her life (and mine) and figured out what our next steps look like for ongoing initiate discussion. Yay!

Wednesday, I had the beginnings of a migraine, and an online class (Jason Miller’s Sorcerer’s Guide to Good Fortune). Due to the migraine, my retention of info was, um, not great, so I need to find time to watch the call again, and work through the information.

Thursday, I stayed home from work (see also: migraine), did a couple of errands in case Saturday’s weather was worse than it turned out to be (we spent most of the week with the forecast alternating between “dusting” and “5-8 inches, snow all day Saturday” and ended up with 3″ Saturday evening).

Friday: The meeting I was planning to be at on Friday was cancelled (migraine postdrome appreciated that…)

Saturday, I made cream scones, and figured out an adaptation for them that will make them a better ritual food (I have a strong preference for ritual foods to have a deliberately transformative element done by something living – so yeast, happy pro-biotic bacteria in yogurt, or honey all count. For this I was figuring out how to sub in the honey.)

I used this cream scone recipe from Budget Bytes, a honey calculator (instead of the sugar, use 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons honey, don’t reduce the cream, and add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda) and used chocolate chips and orange extract for the flavour.

They came out nice and light. I like bread baking, but it’s a larger time commitment – these take about 20 minutes to do, and it’s a single bowl and measuring tools cleanup. And unlike a lot of scone recipes, you don’t have to fuss with cutting in tiny bits of butter.

This week

Saturday, we have Dedicant class, talking about symbols and correspondences, which is often an interesting class.

Witch in Practice: Week 17

Last week

A quiet week, which was good. (I like those: I have a lot of projects I’m trying to get more done on.) The lunar eclipse and the Pluto-Saturn conjunction in the space weather both had me feeling a little off kilter over the weekend.

Saturday evening was spent at a friend’s house with a bread, cheese, and books party – it was a great format. (Bring bread, cheese, and a book you like, swap the book with someone else’s.)

I made cream scones from this super easy recipe from Budget Bytes, and I’m mostly mentioning it here because I’m trying to figure out the best way to get either yeast or honey into the recipe so I can use it as a ritual recipe. They came out flaky, light, and easy to chew, and the recipe freezes well, so ideal for ritual use. There are other recipes out there to adapt for different herbs or flavours. (I want to try rosemary and lemon sometime soon.)

I have a strong preference that the cakes and ale portion of ritual use food and drink with a fairly direct transformative option – yeast, yogurt, or honey all work well for me, but I’m not reliably up for baking bread on a timeline that works for having it for ritual. These were about 20 minutes of total attention, which is great.

Practical details: I also had an inquiry from someone interested in coven work (should anyone reading this be interested, it’s looking like the next round of getting stuff started will be over the summer.) I also made hotel reservations for Sacred Space/Between the Worlds in April, which I’m very much looking forward to. (I already had my registration.)

This week

So busy, but mostly in good ways.

Tuesday: Dinner with my initiate, who has been focusing on other parts of her life due to some health issues, and we’re excited to get to chat and catch up figure out what we do together next.

Wednesday: Online live call for a course.

Friday: Meeting for the ongoing project for more Boston-area Pagan stuff. (More to come in the not too distant future.)

And then the forecast suggests much snow on Saturday, so I am not planning to go out if I can help it.

Witch in Practice: Week 16

Last week

Tuesday: I did the last of the household cleaning (the floors, complete with using floor powder, to bring in good things for the coming year.)

I also finished taking notes on the excellent book, Game of Saturn, and made a few comments in this post about books that made me think this year relevant to magical stuff.

Wednesday: New Year’s Day, and I spent it doing a little bit of lots of things I want in my life the coming year. I don’t go in for New Year’s resolutions specifically (and if I did, the calendar day isn’t the day I’d pick for them), but I do like it as a ‘begin as you mean to go on’ point.

Saturday: Dedicant class, and then my brain fell over and didn’t do much else for the day.

Sunday: Astrology study, and writing up the Dedicant class notes. (I don’t think I’ve mentioned these, but every class I do a Google doc with pointers to things in the bookmarks, assignments, things that I mentioned in class (sites/resources/etc.) and what’s coming in the future.

I find it easier to wrangle than other approaches, but it still takes me an hour or so to put together, sometime a bit more, depending on how much hunting of ‘I know I had a thing about this topic that came up, where’s the link’ I have to do. On the other hand, they make a great record of what we’ve covered.

This coming week

Not much on my calendar this week, other than a social event on Saturday evening at a friend’s. (The week after, however, is rather ‘how did I overschedule myself that much?’)

Given that I’ve got to be out of the house anyway, I’m planning to go to the Museum of Fine Arts for one of the last days of the Ancient Nubia Now exhibit. One of my students has seen it, and said it was fantastic, and both the exhibit info and reviews have talked about how they put the collection (and the fact the MFA has it…) in context of colonialism.

Now just to figure out the scheduling involved, given that I will want my car at the end of the process, and would prefer to do as little backtracking as I can manage.

Making me think this year

Resources: Shelf of books, some leaning over, on gray circle background

As we move into the new calendar year, it’s a good time for me to do a roundup of a few things I particularly liked.

A note: The Amazon links are affiliate links (if you buy through them, I’ll get a small referral fee). I’ve also linked to GoodReads, for those who prefer other sources, including libraries.

Books

I read less Pagan and magical specific reading this year than I wanted to (goals for 2020!) but here are a few highlights.

The Ravenmaster: My Life with Ravens at the Tower of London
by Christopher Skaife

(Amazon, Goodreads)

If you are a corvid fan, as so many Pagans are, this is a great read. Christopher Skaife has been the Ravenmaster for decades, and this book is full of great stories both about the Tower Ravens themselves, but more about ravens, history, and folklore.

Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary
by Briana Henderson Saussy
(Amazon, Goodreads)

A fantastic book that gets to the heart of magic and how to help it live in our lives. I love the structure of this, how there are stories to ponder, but also tiny and slightly larger ritual experiences to explore. I’ve liked Bri’s work for years, and this is a great example of bringing together multiple strands to make the end result better and more enchanted.

Six Ways: Approaches & Entries for Practical Magic
by Aiden Wachter
(Amazon, Goodreads)

Came out in 2018, but I didn’t manage to read it until this year. That was a mistake. This is a quiet, thoughtful, deep look at the core of practical magic, a new way to think through things that has ancient and solid bedrock as a foundation.

Game of Saturn: Decoding the Sola-Busca Tarot
by Peter Mark Adams
(Amazon, Goodreads)

I got a copy of this book through interlibrary loan because I was trying to figure out a fiction writing puzzle involving a tarot deck. (That became In The Cards.) This didn’t solve that problem, but as soon as I was a chapter in, I was enthralled, and I’ve spent a lot of hours since taking notes from it.

Why so many notes? One of my undergrad majors was Medieval/Renaissance Studies, but this is a deep dive into the sorcery, magic, and philosophy in Renaissance Italy that is clearly explained, through the lens of looking at a particular tarrochi deck finished in Ferrara in 1491, most plausibly as a gift to a patrician man in Venice.

Along the way, there’s an extensive look at the culture of the noble courts of Italy, the d’Este family (about whom I now want to read a whole lot more), the various approaches to Neoplatonism of the time, and rather a lot of scandal.

If you’re remotely interested in the magic and philosophy of either Italy or the 15th century, I highly recommend it if you can get your hands on a copy.

Podcasts

I have however, picked up on my podcast listening, partly because I have a long project at work which is well suited to it. Particular listens include:

Betwixt and Between: I’m still back in earlier episodes (currently around the end of 2017) but I love this for the back and forth, the getting a sense of the way people’s lives change and develop, and for the range of topics discussed.

That Witch Life: Three friends who’ve known each other since their teen years are now all back in the same area, witches, and have a podcast. This one has a particularly great range of interviews and breadth of topics, while being rooted in people who have a wide range of experiences in the communities they’re part of.

Not beginner-focused in the sense of focusing on basic topics, but they do a great job of explaining things so people new to the community and topics can pick it up as they listen. Also, they do a great job of extensive links and notes.

Down at the Crossroads: A great variety of interviews and topics, with a delightful mix of on-topic and off-topic discussions you didn’t know you might want.

The Hermit’s Lamp: I love the interviews and discussions with one person, but I discovered I also particularly love the Stacking Skulls episodes, with discussions with a handful of people (some recurring, some invited to a particular episode.) Listening to experienced people from a range of specific paths and practices talk about what’s going well for them, and what they’re looking at trying out is really useful and far too rare in too many places.

Episodes for The Hermit’s Lamp are transcribed.

Here’s to more magic and wonder in 2020!

Witch in Practice: Week 15

This has been a quieter week than last, thankfully, though I’ve been on vacation, so I’ve been plowing through a lot of larger tasks at home, including making my pantry usable again, doing the bulk of an update on my library organisation, and generally arranging daily stuff in my life better.

Last week

Lots of reading! I met my mother at the Worchester Art Museum on Friday (which is, I think, the first time I’ve been there, and it’s an excellent smaller art museum, quite a manageable size to wander around.)

Yesterday, I wrote up my current Daily and Weekly Offering practice, so that there’s actually a reference to point to.

The coming week

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day are the last of the ‘let’s start this year on a good foot’ rituals.

Tuesday: The last major part of my cleaning binge is giving all my floors a good going over – that will be on Tuesday for New Year’s Eve Day. I’m also planning to get a chunk of my financial records in order, so I can start the new financial year better organised.

I’m also planning to post about a few witchy and magical books I’ve read this year (not everything I’ve read, but a few highlights) as one of my goals in 2020 is to share a few more resources like this.

Wednesday: I subscribe to ‘do a bit of everything you want in your life this year’ as a theory, so I am planning to:

  • Cook (ok, that’s making lunch for work for the rest of the week.)
  • Make chicken stock from the chicken I roasted for solstice that has been in the freezer. (I’ll start it in the slow cooker Tuesday night.)
  • Knit and spin (see below)
  • Read
  • Chat with friends
  • Have something tasty to eat and drink
  • Write
  • Depending on the weather, I may walk up to a local coffee house with a book for a bit of being around people.

Knitting and spinning: These have been going along very nicely. I finished spinning the chunk of roving I was working with today, and will ply it once tomorrow, and again on New Year’s Day, for four ply (strands), three sets of twists, which feels right. We’ll be using this for ritual for our Imbolc ritual, and I’m excited to see how it turns out. (There will be some photos.)

Witch in Practice: Week 14

Last week

It was a busy week! 

Thursday: My last day of work for nearly two weeks (I am back in the office January 2nd). I have a lot of plans to do things at home, some witchy and some pragmatic. (And some both. I am a happier human with a well organised life, so I am tackling a bunch of projects that take a couple of hours.) 

Friday:  My first day off! I did errands in the morning, and then spent a chunk of the afternoon hanging out a local yarn store buying roving (for spinning) and yarn (for knitting). The former has some specific ritual purposes in mind, the latter is a little less direct. Both are going well so far, and there will be photos when I make a bit more progress. 

I spent the evening at the Cornucopia Collective public ritual – I don’t make it there nearly enough. (My health and stamina are a lot better than they were this time last year, never mind previous years, but I’m still usually only up for one substantial outing a weekend, and my own group ritual work obviously gets priority for my time.) It was a lovely ritual, I had a really good conversation with a couple of people there. 

You can see more about all of this (with a photo of my shrine for the solstice) here.

Saturday was the Up All Night event for solstice vigil on The Cauldron, now in the twelfth year or so. I slept badly on Friday night, and ended up napping for a chunk of the afternoon, but even with that, I only made it to about 2am. 

Some of the things I did to set up the vigil, in case they’re useful to people in future years: 

  • At sunset, did a Tarot reading for the coming cycle. 
  • Made mulled wine, using some talismanic mulling spices from Sphere and Sundry (whose stuff I highly recommend.) It made my apartment smell amazing. I drank some of it, and poured the rest of the wine into a bottle for future offerings. 
  • Made a roast chicken with roast carrots and potatoes for dinner. (Very tasty, also makes the house smell great.) 
  • Did a bit of the things I want in the coming year – some writing, some knitting, some spinning. 
  • Chatted online, listened to music, and so on. 
  • Had a candle going the entire time I was awake. 
  • Avoided using any overhead lights (I did use the one on the oven fan hood when I was working with the chicken, because I didn’t want to risk hurting myself.) 

The knitting and spinning are partly in honour of Frau Holle, a deity strongly associated with the fiber arts, who I am exploring doing a bit more work with this year, so I decided to dedicate time to doing a bit of both every day between solstice and New Year’s Day. (It’s also a great excuse to get myself back into knitting, which I have been mostly out of the habit of for a while.) 

I did not, however, make it to dawn. This turned out to be a good thing, because…

Sunday, I slept in as late as I could, but there were people doing work in the yard at 9:30 that woke me up.  I did some of my usual Sunday reading and witchy learning, and in the evening ended up walking up to meet friends at the gaming pub near my apartment. (It was great, also it meant I got some exercise.) 

This week

I deliberately do not have much scheduled. (This is a good thing, since I’m currently coming down with a cold.) 

Wednesday: I plan to spend most of the 25th doing what I usually do on the 25th, namely reading fanfic written for the yearly Yuletide exchange, which is a fic exchange for smaller fandoms, and which always gets some great stories. (I’m excited to see what I get, and what the person I wrote for thinks of the story. Authors are anonymous until January 1st.) Basically, I open up a lot of tabs and read through things, pausing periodically to make food and do other things at home. It’s great. 

(A lot of classic childhood books get some love in Yuletide, and there are usually some interesting mythology and ballad stories, so even if you’re not usually fannish or fanfic reading, there may be some interesting things for you. Here’s the list of fandoms that have works this year, and the collection will be open for reading at midnight GMT on the 25th.

Friday: Probably meeting up with my mother at a museum. (Depending on the cold.) 

Generally:

I’m working my way through the dense but fascinating book about a historical Tarot deck, and I’m also starting to set up the scaffolding for my main focus for learning things this year, astrology. I expect to do a lot more of both this week. 

Also more knitting and spinning. And organising all my books properly. 

Other projects: I have a bunch of fiction words I really want to get written before the end of the calendar year, but I also have some posts for this blog in mind. They include:

  • Thoughts about my regular offering practice
  • An article on ritual tech in terms of actual technology that’s helpful. (My latest addition are USB rechargeable portable lamps, which are great when I don’t want the overheads on.) 
  • Figuring out how to talk about some witchy books I’ve been reading in a way that’s sustainable and useful for me, and useful for other people. 
  • Work on some longer projects (turning some of the Seeking articles into a book-structured object, writing about hosting coven events, and a few other things like that.) 

Preparing to make magic

(And making magic while preparing to make some more..)

Each year, I spend winter solstice night doing an Up All Night vigil with an online community I’ve been part of since about 1999.

I don’t always manage to stay up all night (I think I’ve done it twice in ten years or so), but I do like to set up with some things to do, a mix of magical practices and some practical ones. (It’s often a time I sort computer files and reorganise thing for my current focus and projects.)

A vigil shrine

This year, I wanted to make an shrine in the bedroom, where I’ll be most of the evening. (Most of my working shrines are in the living room.)

Here’s a photo of what I’ve got set up for tomorrow (the thing to the right is the bedroom shrine for prosperity and abundance and beauty.)

Shrine decorated for yuletide, with a potted small pine tree, two candles in amber glass jars, two skeins of yarn (yellow-browns and green), some wool waiting to be spun, and a pile of amber beads on a dark red altar cloth with a golden yellow runner. Further details in the text.
Yuletide Shrine, 2019

That brings me to the magic of today! I was planning on going to a public Yule ritual put on by a local group, the Cornucopia Collective. I don’t make it to their rituals very often (since I’ve also got my own group work and sometimes other thing that are not rituals) but it’s a good time whenever I do.

Fibre arts

I’ve known for a few weeks that I wanted to spend some time spinning over the winter holidays, for a variety of reasons (not least because I would prefer to have some handspun yarn to use in our group ritual for Imbolc, in February…)

I learned how to use a drop spindle in Minnesota, and while I haven’t been spinning much in the past decade, I still like to keep my hand in. Both hands. It’s also a wonderful craft to know for magical use.

I’ve known Annie, the lovely owner of Mind’s Eye Yarns in Porter Square (Cambridge, MA) for years, and so I emailed, asked what she had for roving (the stuff you spin), and arranged to go by while she was still around in the shop.

In the end, I got some of the Frabjous Fibers Blue-Faced Leicester (which is lovely to spin) in a colourway called “Persephone” which is a mix of blues, dark red-purple, and paler purple and green. I’m excited to see how it spins up!

I had a lovely time chatting to her and the other staff person who was there, and of course I bought more yarn, because I also wanted a knitting project that didn’t take a lot of thought (I plan to do the Boneyard Shawl, by Steven West.

I got two gorgeous skeins of yarn (Auracana in Wallflower (which is shades of brown and orangey-red and gold – not my usual colours at all, but gorgeous!) and Shamrock (deep green), and I have plans for some interesting stripe work.

You can see all of these in the photo. (Also some knitting needles, and the little tin at the back has my collection of stitch markers so I can decide which ones this project is getting.) And for a bit of greenery, a tiny pine tree, and a bit of holly (complete with berries) from the bush on the walking path near my apartment.

Evening plans

I then made my way to Harvard Square for a bit of food, and curled up at a cafe table, reading Brianna Saussy’s book Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary until it was time to head to the ritual. More on that in a second.

Part of the ritual included a gift exchange (each person brought one, and you were given one according to what La Befana felt you needed.) What I received were a gorgeous necklace of amber chips, and a piece set up as a bracelet, with three loops. Amber is one of my favourite materials (you can see them in the pile at the front of the shrine.)

The rest of the ritual was also great – some good conversations, some things that made me think, and generally a lovely set up for the rest of my ritual time this weekend.

Also in the photo, you can see the candle I’ve been using for weekly offerings (almost burned out), and the one for at least the beginning of the year. (Both are from Mithras Candle, who make lovely beeswax candles. The handmade pillars are amazing, but I like the jar ones for regular use, since I don’t have to worry about wax spills the same way.)

Everyday enchantment

So, why this post? It’s inspired by a request from Bri Saussy, because a lot of what her book is about is finding the magic in daily life – and in the amazing moments of potency and enchantment that we all can choose to turn towards. Definitely something I want more of in my life.

I’ll have more to say about the book in the coming weeks (figuring out how to do more useful book reviews is on my list for the coming year!) But in the meantime, I highly recommend it. Learn more about the book here.

(And check out the hashtags #makingmagicbook and #BrianaSaussy for more inspiration for your own magic on your social media of choice.)

I’ll do a post once I’ve got a bit of the spinning and knitting done, so you can see what that fibre looks like when it’s being made into something.

Until then, blessed Yule, and may whatever holidays you celebrate in the next few weeks be wonderful.

Witch in Practice: Week 13

A tad late this week! Also, it was a fairly quiet week.

Last week

Thursday: I missed the call for the online class, due to inability to manage time. I need to watch the recording, which is a project for this coming weekend.

Saturday: I did makeup class for one of my current Dedicants, we set up for ritual, had our Yule ritual, and then more class. Yay! All of these things were good.

Then I did a rough plan of how I want to spend my winter vacation (lots of cleaning, organising, and I want to do twelve days of spinning yarn, not least because I want to have some handspun yarn for ritual use for Imbolc.)

Sunday: I spent some more quality time reading about odd historical Tarot decks. This is my kind of fun, really.

This week

I am off on vacation starting on Friday for nearly 2 weeks, yay! I am looking forward to getting so many things done at home.

Sometime between Thursday and Friday, I need to go grocery shopping (so I can bring cook and bring food to potluck on Friday) and do a round of laundry (with a plan to do a larger massive haul to the laundromat on a suitable day over my vacation, which is somewhat dependent on weather.)

Friday: I am off to the Cornucopia Collective open ritual, along with probably two of my Dedicants, so that’ll be fun. (If you happen to be in the Boston area, and inclined to go, I will introduce myself as Jenett.)

Saturday: I intend to do the Up All Night vigil I mentioned last week.

Sunday: Dinner with friends (rescheduled, due to today’s local weather.)

Witch in Practice: Week 12

Last week

A fairly quiet week.

Wednesday: A brief check-in call related to one of my classes. The card drawn for it has me thinking a lot about what things I want to give my time to this coming year, and what things I don’t.

Thursday: I had coffee with a priestess I’ve met through some of the local community planning stuff I’ve been doing, and that was great.

One of the things I haven’t had since I left Minnesota was people to talk through some of the issues of group work with in person. (I have friends online who I can do that with, who are great, but it’s not quite the same thing as getting coffee.) It was really great to both do some of that, and look forward to being able to do more in the future.

Saturday and Sunday: I spent some quality time thinking about long-term goals with my new planner (one of the Dragontree Rituals for Living Dreambook line.) I keep most of my day to day tasks electronically, and I’m doing well with some long-term projects, but I wanted something to bridge the gap and help me make more progress on some things week to week or month to month.

I also did more note-taking work on the Sola Busca book, which keeps reminding me how much I love just setting aside time to dive into something in more depth and make sense of it in my head. Definitely a priority for the coming year.

This week

This week is full of medical appointments, and my focus in my planner for the week is “Get through all the necessary appointments with grace”. (None of them are dire, just one is awkwardly scheduled.)

On the religious and magical front:

Thursday: Online ritual and discussion for one of the courses I’m doing.

Saturday: Make-up class for someone who had to miss last Dedicant class at 9am, followed by Yule ritual and Dedicant class from 11-2. (After which I will probably fall over in a puddle.)

The week after

I’m taking Friday off (partly becuase I’m going to a public ritual in the evening, and so I can start resetting my sleep schedule to see if I have a chance of doing the Up All Night Ritual that The Cauldron forum does every year. It’s one of the pivot points of my personal ritual year.

(It’s open to anyone, but if you want to join us in the Discord channel, you’ll need to make a couple of posts on the forum to get access to that. Basic info here, more coming soon.)

And then I’m off work until January 2nd, with a long list of things I want to get done at home, some of which are explicitly witchy and magical.