Charms for my new home

I’m in the middle of writing what’s turning out to be a fairly long post on why I became Christo-Pagan, but in order to keep to my goal of posting roughly once a fortnight I needed something I could post this evening, as I’m away on holiday from Saturday and packing tomorrow. So here’s one on the gorgeous charms I recently bought from WytchenWood on Etsy.

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Blackthorn on the left, rowan on the right.

I was first attracted to the shop by WytchenWood’s gorgeous Ogham sets, made from the corresponding woods with the bark still on. I still want one of those, but, like my mala, I have yet to be able to find a way of justifying buying/being given a set, as I don’t use my tarot cards and runes enough to add another divination system to the mix just yet. What I did have however, was a cheque for £25 from my godmother which she had specifically told me I was to use to buy myself something for my flat that I wanted and that wasn’t purely practical – no curtains or teatowels for me!

The first charm I spotted was the rowan one, which I was drawn to after seeing the red thread it was tied with and reading the wood it was made from. Even before I began researching and studying Paganism I knew that rowan wood and red thread kept witches (specifically ones intent on doing harm) away, and, being the mildly superstitious folk-music listening historian that I am, I decided I was going to buy it. I then started looking for something else to buy to make the most of my £25, and found the blackthorn charm – as WytchenWood says, ‘the protection afforded by the Blackthorn is impenetrable and allows nothing to gain entry’, which sounds damn useful to me. The rowan one is probably going to hang in my living room with blackthorn in my bedroom, and depending what Kizzy or one of my other personal Magical Geiger Counters say when they’ve had a chance to have a proper look, I’ll either leave them as is or poke some personal energy in there as well.

I was very impressed by WytchenWood, not only because of the descriptions given for the charms, but also by the way they were packaged, the speed of shipping, the prices, and also how beautifully made the charms are. No loose threads, no rough wood, and they feel lovely in the hand, even if you’re energy-blind like me.

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The elaborately labelled boxes my charms came in, and the gorgeous business card.

Luck and abundance ritual

A couple of weekends ago I drove down to Exeter to see my friend Kizzy, who is not only one of my closest friends but also a witch and a Wiccan-influenced pagan of fifteen years standing. We did all the usual things we do when we see each other – lots of talking, the watching of many things on Netflix and YouTube (Antonio Banderas as the Phantom!), and staying up till the small hours of the morning while doing so. However, this time we also did magic.

Now, I don’t consider what I do in ritual to be magic, although from an outside perspective I grant you it probably looks no different to what I’m guessing pretty much every Witch and Pagan would call magic. I think the main reason for this is that I can’t feel energy; for example, I’ve handed a sachet I’d made during a ritual in circle to two pagan friends of mine at different times, and they gave me nearly identical answers when I asked what the energy felt like. Me? Felt no different than when I’m holding a box of tissues or a jar of jam.
Scott Cunningham in ‘Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner’ defines magic as ‘the projection of natural energies to produce needed effects’, but with my inability to sense energy I just can’t see what I do as magic. Instead, I view it in the same way the Church describes Sacraments: ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’, that is, symbolic actions that provide a physical way of helping to focus my mind for prayer and meditation.
I admit it may look like I’m splitting hairs here, but while I occasionally refer to what I do as spellwork and will freely admit that I seem to be able to put power/energy into things, I honestly don’t feel I’m putting the magic into ‘magic spell’. However, Kizzy does do magic, and as she was leading the ritual and did most of the work I feel justified in saying ‘we did magic’.

Because Kizzy’s been dealing with a fair amount of crap over the past few months, what with huge amounts of stress at work adding to the problems caused by her former housemate suddenly moving out seven months ago, I recently bought her a surprise present consisting of a hope bath spell, a luck-reversing bottle spell, and ‘relaxing’ incense sticks. The incense got opened pretty much immediately, but as Kizzy currently works six days a week and ends up having to stay late most weekdays she hadn’t got round to using the spell kits by the time I came to visit.
I didn’t arrive in Exeter till the early afternoon as I had to deal with buying a new bathroom for my flat, but I was in time to meet Kizzy for her lunch break to sort out my becoming guarantor for her rent (the main reason for me visiting that particular weekend), and then had a couple of hours to kill before she finished work for the day which I used to go shopping. I knew I wanted to buy her a couple of Crystal Journey candles, and I knew there was a pagan shop in town (whose name I honestly can’t remember) that sold a selection of their votives, so I was hoping they would stock the ones I wanted. Thankfully they did, and I purchased an Abunance and a Good Health votive (as, like me, she’s wound up with clinical depression) along with glass holders to go with. Then I headed back to meet Kizzy via Patisserie Valerie and Waterstones, followed by an evening of Indian take-out consumption and Farscape watching with a friend of mine from uni who now also lives in Exeter.

After we’d done some necessary housework and shopping on Sunday though, the magic began. I’d led our Litha ritual last year, and as most of the ritual work was focusssed on her, we agreed that Kizzy leading would be best, plus I didn’t have any of my tools with me. So while Kizzy cleared the coffee table I fetched the chest she keeps her magical and ritual things, and filled the chalice with water while she set up the altar.

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The overview of our luck and abundance altar. The altar cloth in the centre holds the materials ready for ritual, with quarter markers round the edge. I’d given Kizzy the set of quarter markers from my Litha kit, which she combined with her usual markers – a stone painted with a Green Man for Earth, a butterfly-shaped tealight for Air, a tealight and a tiny dragon for Fire, and a blue-dyed agate slice for Water.

Kizzy will freely admit that she’s not done any spell or ritual work since last year’s Litha and very little religious work past honouring the moon, so she kept this ritual low-key. While I sat on the floor next to the table she cast circle using a form she’d quickly looked up on the internet as she couldn’t remember her usual casting. I don’t remember the exact words, but she walked clockwise round the table (and me) four times with her wand calling on each element in turn, then calling on the God and Goddess with another turn around the table. After that we settled down to the spellwork. The first was Pagan Dreams’ spell for luck reversal, during which Kizzy used the black and white candles and the tiny bottle on a string. She also changed the Goddess statues around when she changed the candles, while my participation in this part was confined to meditation and prayer (the Christo part of my religion kicking in) while she charged the bottle.

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A close-up of the things we used in ritual.

The next spell we did I can describe in detail, as it’s one we made up ourselves. Kizzy suggested we buy each other lottery tickets when we went shopping and put them underneath the Abundance candle I bought, while I suggested carving symbols into it. I also wanted to try and see if I could pull up Earth energy to put into the candle, as I’ve come to the realisation recently that my personality is more Earth than anything else.
First we took the candle out of the holder for carving – Kizzy drew a house on one side then I drew a pound sign on the other. Because the Crystal Journey candles are so full of essential oils they’re a lot softer than most candles and take carving really well. We used the silver pointy implement shown above to do the carving, which when not being pressed into magical use is what Kizzy uses to clean under her nails with.

Carved candles
Having never carved these candles before, Kizzy had an awful lot of fun with her house once she discovered how easy it was. My artistic offering was more… basic.

Then we put the candle back in the holder, and prepared to charge it. Kizzy cupped her hands round the candle, and I put my left hand over hers. My right I placed flat on the floor with my fingers spread and thought my way down through the carpet, underlay, floorboards, and foundations of the house to the earth below. I then imagined pushing my fingers into the soil, the tips growing out like roots, with my left hand growing leaves and being like an open flower. I then imagined Earth energy being drawn up through my right arm with every inhalation, swirling around my lungs, and then being pushed down my left arm and out through my left hand when I exhaled. After a couple of minutes I stopped and opened my eyes, and Kizzy placed the candle back on the altar on top of our lottery tickets and lit it. We then recited the affirmation together that came with the candle and watched the flame for a while before Kizzy closed the circle.

As ever, I felt absolutely nothing while I attempted to channel Earth energy, but when I asked Kizzy about it afterwards she said that she could feel it building up in my left hand. She had originally thought to just let the energy pass through her into the candle, but she told me that all she could sense was the pressure of the energy building up with nowhere to go until she thought to channel it into her receptive hand, through her centre, and out through her projective hand. After that, she said that the candle and its holder got so hot that she was amazed the candle didn’t end up lighting itself. Again, I was oblivious to all of this, although I did notice that the insides of the holder had steamed up where there was a gap between the candle and the glass.

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Our altar after we’d finished our workings. We let the white and green candles burn out, though as the votive took longer Kizzy relit it every day until the lottery draw.

With Kizzy being righthanded and me being lefthanded, there was one thing I noticed that I’d never thought of before. When casting circle myself, I hold my wand etc. in my left hand (which, as my dominant hand, is considered to be projective) and move clockwise. When Kizzy casts she holds her wand in her right hand, but has to hold her arm across her body in order to walk clockwise in order to create a circle with her on the inside. It seems being lefthanded is an advantage in my religious practice as well as when I’m swordfighting. Who’d have thought?

Sneaky Sabbat

Litha always creeps up on me. Even before I became a practising Christo-Pagan I was always surprised when the longest day happened, as it just never seems far enough away from Yule yet for the nights to start getting longer.

Back when I was studying, both at school and university, my summer holidays had only just started, and we had at least another two months when we could expect/hope to have ‘proper summer weather’ – a lot less rain, visible sky, actual sunshine that caused shadows, and temperatures warm enough to wear a tshirt, shorts, and sandals. It also doesn’t help that my family’s annual summer holiday has for the last twelve years been Sidmouth Folk Festival, held the first full week in August, so summer seems an awful lot further away than something that has its middle in late June.

Still, I didn’t forget to celebrate Midsummer, although my celebrations were done during twilight rather than at dawn as I’d stayed at a friend’s on the Saturday night and as a result of staying up late ended up sleeping through a significantly large chunk of the longest day of the year. Everything was very simple – I lit the two coloured candles I’d chosen to represent the Sabbat, lit a yellow spell candle to represent the sun at its fullest, and charged a piece of citrine with Solstice energy. It’s the same chunk I used last year, so hopefully I’ll end up with a fair bit of solar-derived energy to draw on when needed. I was originally going to use a gold spell candle as it’s that little bit more sun-masculine-special coloured than just plain yellow, but I seemed to have used up all of my gold candles and forgotten to order any more.

My Litha altar so far.
My Litha altar as it stands at the moment.

I didn’t leave the candles burning long as you can see, but I’m planning to do a fuller ritual with a circle and incense and everything as soon as I can get the privacy, which is why my Litha candles are still up instead of being replaced by my everyday white ones. The rest of my celebrations involved a guided-meditation CD that Pagan Dreams used to include in their Litha celebration kit, and turning my mini Spiral Lords round.

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My Spiral Lords by Abby Willowroot in their darkening year position. Around the edge of the photo you can see my ‘Christus’ statue, the red glass votive holder I use to honour the masculine aspects of Deity, a white pebble I painted years ago with the Horned God symbol, and the pottery bowl I use to burn charcoal discs and loose incense at the Sabbats, which sits on a ceramic Apollo coaster on top of what’s supposed to be my regular incense holder.