Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lammas Idea: Invocation to Saint Dorothea

I often can't help but see stories of saints - particularly stories of martyred female saints - as stories of the survival of the Great Goddess. These stories may or may not have been consciously designed with that in mind, and for that matter they may or may not be true. However, the fact that they've resonated so strongly with so many for so long shows that there's something archetypal about them, and that they are true in some very real (if not literal) sense.

Case in point, Saint Dorothea of Caesarea, who - the story goes - lived in Turkey around 300 C.E. After supporting two persecuted Christian women in being true to their faith despite the threat of torture, she was tortured and then sentenced to be beheaded. As she approached her grisly fate, a government official named Theophilus teased her by saying something like, "Hey Dorothea, why don't you send me some apples and roses from heaven?" She then replied seriously with words to the effect of, "I shall."

Luckily, Dorothea was granted some time to herself to pray before her execution. While she did so, an angel arrived with three roses and three apples in a basket. Dorothea requested that the angel deliver these items to Theophilus, which he did after her death. Because it was the beginning of February, this was seen as a miracle.

Regardless of the group who was responsible for the beheading (and in the story it was the pagans), you might say that beheading people for their faith is an indication of an overabundance of masculine energy, i.e. powerful masculine energy not sufficiently aspected by powerful feminine energy. Certainly the people with whom Dorothy gained popularity - the early and medieval Christians - did not support or recognize Goddess worship, and the general feeling among this group around these time periods was, in very real ways, violent, intolerant, and generally anti-female.

If you'll notice, the beginning of February is precisely at the opposite side of the wheel of the year from Lammas, the ancient festival of first fruits, celebrated beginning of August (i.e. right about now). Considering the dark and violent cultural climate (comparable to an inhospitable winter) in which Dorothea lived and gained popularity, you might interpret the fruit and flowers to be symbols of the unflagging survival of Goddess energy, which encompasses life, love, warmth, and nourishment.

Additionally, the name Dorothy means "divine gift," which is precisely what we consider the first fruits to be as we give thanks for them at Lammas. And of course, roses and apples are both potent symbols of love, femininity, and the Great Goddess.

With all of this in mind, if you celebrate Lammas (or if you'd like to start), you might consider invoking Saint Dorothea as a part of your ritual celebration. Of course, an ideal offering to her would be (you guessed it!) a basket containing three apples and three roses. Saint Dorothea is also the matron saint of fruit trees, so if you ever want to bless a fruit tree, Saint Dorothea might be just the helper on which to call.

Here's an invocation to Saint Dorothea, which is derived from her prayer. I've altered it to be relevant to Lammas and to those in Goddess-centered traditions.

Saint Dorothea, emissary of the Great Goddess,
By your divine radiance, and against all odds,
You reminded two sisters of their sacred truth,

And lovingly sent roses and apples, which sowed the seeds of understanding.
You kept the sacred fire of the Goddess burning throughout the cold and dark night,
Keeping our hearts warm and spirits alive.
Dorothea, for this, we thank you.
Please bless us and ground us in our truth as we give thanks for our physical blessings as well as the spiritual fruits and flowers of our practice.

Please renew us, bless us, and align us with your kindness and your strength.
By the Great Goddess who eternally endures, we thank you.
Blessed be.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nostalgic Enchantments--4 Favorite Magical Ingredients and the Times We've Shared

Now that I've been actively practicing magic for almost two decades (!), there are a number of magical ingredients that occupy a special place in my heart. Like old friends, every time I see them I think of the good times we shared and the happy conditions we manifested together. I find that this is particularly true for ingredients that I worked with during those first few years of magical practice.

I thought I'd take a walk down memory lane and celebrate some of these beloved old friends in this post.

Wikimedia Commons/Rob Lavinsky
When I met Ted (my boyfriend of 15 years), I had a love-drawing charm containing a naturally heart-shaped lepidolite tucked into my bra. Since that time, I have always kept at least one lepidolite in my home, particularly in the relationship corner or on a love altar.

For my very first spells and rituals (according to instructions I read in Good Magic by Marina Medici) I added dried thyme to my bathwater before performing spells, in order to bolster my power and get me into the magical mindset. The scent of thyme still reminds me of the wondrous feeling of awakening to a new world of magic and power.

flickr/Tehmina Goskar
Years and years ago, my friend Sedona and I spotted a display of aqua aura crystals in a metaphysical store and each latched on to one in particular, with which we could not bear to part. I purchased mine for what was then, to me, a huge price ($14, if I remember correctly), and kept it close to me almost constantly for months. As I held it, it literally vibrated, and it filled me with a sense of confidence and feeling of possibility that I had never before known. Alas, the aqua aura chapter of my life came to a close when I fell asleep with it in my hand, and then - as crystals will do - it disappeared quite thoroughly in the night, never to be seen again. (It actually looked a lot like the one in the photo, and looking at it makes me SO nostalgic!)

While living at the edge of Grand Canyon at the age of 20, I picked desert sage and tied it into bundles with hemp twine, then smudged with it after it dried. No one taught me to (at least in this lifetime), and I had never seen it available in smudge stick form in the past. I just somehow knew it would be perfect for smudging - I imagine I learned it from the plant himself.

Even after I moved away, I had some bundles left that I burned in my new space, which reminded me of the profound inner shifts I had undergone while gazing at the canyon's seemingly infinite, quiet, empty depths. To this day, the scent of desert sage smoke fills me with a transcendent sense of serenity, comfort, and safety. (Also to this day, I love the Grand Canyon and always want to go back!)

What about you? What are your nostalgic enchantments?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lakshmi Wealth Ritual (and Foot Soak)

Sue Halstenberg
As you may know, Lakshmi is a Hindu goddess who bestows gifts of wealth, beauty, luxury, and love. She helps cloak us in an awareness of our own inherent worthiness with an energy that is like cool, clear rushing water on a summer's day, gold coins, the sound of tinkling bells, and a warm jasmine-scented breeze.

As Thursday is the day of wealth and expansion, perform this ritual on a Thursday when the moon is waxing. Conveniently, this means that you might perform it day after tomorrow!

Fill a large bucket or very large bowl (big enough for both feet) with warm water. Float fresh jasmine blossoms on the top, or add a few drops of jasmine absolute. Optionally, add red, pink, and/or yellow rose petals. Also add a bit of gold (such as from a ring or a coin) that has been cleansed in bright sunlight for a minute or two, or a few drops of gold essence. Hold your hands over the bowl and call upon Lakshmi. Feel her energy rush into and around you. Imagine directing her wealthy, affluent, loving, sparkly golden energy into the bowl as you say,

"Lakshmi, sweet goddess of luxury and love,
Please bless me from all sides, below, and above.
Bathe my future in brightest light,
As I receive the wealth that is my divine right.
Thank you and so mote it be."

Now play some relaxing and uplifting music (like New Age or spa music) as you soak your feet for 10 minutes or so, feeling luxurious, happy, and at peace.

Afterwards, dry your feet and when the water is cool enough, use it to water outside plants or pour it out around the base of a tree. (Make sure to get your gold out first.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Artwork and Imagery: Dos and Don'ts

The artwork we look at every day has a profound effect on our self-image and overall sense of well being. While this is a key consideration of feng shui, it's also something with which most modern day psychologists would agree. So with both ancient and modern sensibilities in mind, let's look at some of the dos and don'ts of choosing artwork to display in your home.

Do ask yourself what story the artwork is telling.

If you've never thought about the story that the artwork is telling (or even if you have), ask yourself right now to tell a story about it. Even if it's abstract! What feeling is it giving you? If you had to make up a story about it, what would it be? There is no right or wrong, there is just what you personally feel when you look at the image. Humans speak the language of imagery, and all your artwork's stories - positive or negative - will be powerfully transmitted to and imprinted upon your psyche. Which brings us to...

Don't choose artwork that tells a story that you wouldn't want to be constantly present (in some capacity, symbolic or literal) in your life experience. 
We are a very empathetic species. We even empathize with images! If they appear to be sad, scared, or in pain, we will subtly begin to take that on. Because our feelings help manifest our reality, this in turn creates conditions in our lives that match the feeling that we have adopted from the image. So, definitely appreciate masterpieces like the one above in museums -- just don't hang them on your wall! On the other hand...

Do choose artwork that depicts conditions that you'd like to experience.

Simply hanging an image of something that gives you the potent and unmistakable feeling of that which you'd like to experience is an extremely powerful and magical act. Over time, that image will become a part of your everyday beliefs and expectations about what your life looks like, which can't help but manifest its depicted condition into form. Because this is such a powerful dynamic...

Don't overlook the subtle details.
For example, with this image, you might think, "Oh, it's a couple, and they're walking together, which is great, right?" Well, let's look a bit deeper. First of all, they're walking away, which from a design perspective generally gives one the feeling that energy is leaving the room. Naturally, we'd rather feel that our imagery nourishes the room. Secondly, who is that third stranger in the distance? What does he represent? Certainly not romance. And where is the couple going in this stark setting? Because of the somber feeling and muted colors, any viewers would not suspect that they were going somewhere wonderful. All in all, while it might not depict a terrible story, it's also not totally ideal.

Do choose human imagery the depicts whole people (or at least that gives you the feeling of wholeness).
Again: we identify with our imagery, and our life conditions shape themselves to match. As such, if your image includes one or more humans, make sure that they appear complete and healthy. In other words...

Don't choose human imagery that depicts disembodied body parts such as heads, limbs, or torsos without arms.
While some (like the piece above) may be beautiful to look at in a museum, decorating your home with fragments of bodies may contribute to an incomplete or unhealthy self-image, and may be detrimental to your holistic health and well being.

Do make sure you love it!
Whether it's a landscape, a still life, an abstract, or anything else, take the time to surround yourself in imagery that makes your heart sing and your spirit soar. It's such a simple thing, but such a powerful one. Give yourself (and your home) that gift! The benefits will far outweigh the effort.
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