Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Working with my Ancestors

I find myself working extensively with the ancestors of late.  For many people, this would not be a surprising statement -- many paths of witchcraft and other culturally based practices (Hoodoo, Santeria, even heathenism) place a great amount of emphasis on working with ones ancestors.  But I've never done this before.  Walking an eclectic path of my own making, no one ever pushed me beyond my areas of personal interest, and I have had no interest in my ancestors, no interest in the dead at all, really.   I set up an ancestor altar for Samhain once, but that was the extent of my journeys into that aspect of spirituality.

Now I no longer have an option -- if I want to continue down the path I have chosen (faery seership) I will have to begin working with my ancestors, as it is a central practice.  Strictly speaking we will not be talking about that work until our next intensive, so I could have chosen to postpone it a little while longer, but after the Conjure workshop last month I was inspired to get started.  So far, it's been an interesting ride.

I started by building an ancestor altar: clearing off the top of a bookcase, asking for photographs from my parents, and embroidering an altar cloth with an X to symbolize the crossroads where living and dead may meet.  I found a small chalice suitable for holding libations already in my collection of ritual odds and ends, and put it to use.  So far I have worked with the altar on three or four occasions (it hasn't been set up for that long!) and have given my ancestors peppermint schnapps and a slice of home baked pie.  Even with that little bit of effort, I can sense their presence in my life, and not just when I have the candle on their altar lit.  I'm not sure how to describe their presence...  perhaps it's warmer, more familial than that of my other contacts.

Another interesting aspect of this work is that it is forcing me to begin making peace with parts of my family with whom I never had a particularly good relationship. These aren't people who were abusive or anything.  Some of them were unpleasant and some died before I was old enough to really know them.  But now I am moving towards seeking a relationship with them as ancestors.  I may even visit the cemetery in which they are buried this week-end depending on a) practicality and b) whether I really feel ready for that.

Though I never would have begun this practice if left to my own devices, I'm glad that I am doing it now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Springtime in the Cemetary

I decided to take advantage of this beautiful early taste of spring by taking a nice walk to a nearby graveyard in order to try out some of the techniques I learned in Orion's conjure workshop. On the way out I saw the first crocuses of spring coming up!

Once I got to the graveyard I knocked three times, as instructed and waited for a response. Since this is a fairly modern graveyard, the knocking was done on the metal pole of a chain link fence, but I quickly felt a sensation of welcoming, and walked in. This is the kind of modern, “dead” graveyard that I find rather uncomfortable. The headstones are just a little too shiny, and something about those graveyards always feels a bit sterile to me. But this particular graveyard is one I've spent a fair amount of time walking in, and it's not as bad as many. I like that there are always a few graves with flowers or other decorations, knowing that the inhabitants have not been forgotten. Since no one in my family ever visits graves, and since my deceased relatives are all scattered in inconvenient locations, I don't take that for granted the way some people might.

After some preliminary wandering to re-acquaint myself with the area I sat down near what I consider the center of the graveyard and did an Opening of the Faery Well, in order to attune myself with the land. I thought it might help me listen better when approaching the graves. Then I started looking for “live graves,” or graves which are still visited by the spirit of the deceased. I wasn't getting nearly as many positive responses as I had during the graveyard field trip during the workshop, but I did get a few solid responses. One was from a man named Mark. He was quite grumpy and more than a little bit bitter, so I moved on from him quickly. I got a response from another grave, but the woman there didn't seem interested in talking – I sat next to her for a few minutes, but didn't hear anything. Then I walked over to the grave of a 55 year old woman named Catherine. I got a really strong response from her! My palm felt like it was over a fountain of warm, tingly energy. And she turned out to be quite chatty! She seemed happy and well adjusted in her death, and quickly figured out what I was doing, though she didn't know “white folk” did that now. And she had a great sense of humor! We talked for a while, and she said she would be happy for me to visit again.

I accidentally walked right out of the graveyard without taking the proper steps to exit, so I darted back in. I took the opportunity to pick up trash for a bit before leaving again, this time walking out backwards and stomping my feet, in order to avoid bringing anything home with me. All in all, I think it was a very successful expedition!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Psychic Self Care

While in the midst of absorbing the wonderful knowledge gleaned from the conjure workshop, planning a very personal piece of spellwork, inching forward with faery seership, and (oh yeah!) taking care of the six thousand little things that make up daily life, I have been thinking about good psychic self care. Unless you're a hermit, you spend every day surrounded by people. Many of these are wonderful, delightful individuals who enrich your life, but many of them are not. Maybe they're rude, or maybe they are just radiating so much stress that some of it sticks to you -- it doesn't matter. You end up accumulating psychic junk. Plus, unless you are far more enlightened being than I, you produce plenty of your own. Over time that accumulation of gook is bound to drag anyone down. Some sort of regular cleansing routine should be part of everyone's life, especially if you are a witch/pagan/psychic of any sort.

I know all of that. And I also know that my depression means that I produce more psychic gook of my own than most. I am perfectly well aware of the fact that a regular -- perhaps even daily -- psychic cleansing would do me a world of good, especially considering how fantastic I feel whenever I do manage one! So why don't I do them more often?

I've spent the last two weeks intermittently pondering that question and trying to think of something I could do regularly. Do I want to use Florida Water? That has a pleasing and subtle aroma. A friend suggested carrying jet with me to repel some of that energy, but I'm having trouble finding any in my local shop. After encountering Garden of One's energy peels I began to consider whether I needed a purifying scrub for the shower. Since I prefer to make things myself when possible, I began extensive research.

After spending almost an hour researching different recipes for salt scrubs and the metaphysical properties of essential oils I had an epiphany: I was being an idiot. I have a perfectly good cleansing recipe, which I've been using for years -- equal parts eucalyptus and lavender essential oil in a base of salt and oil. The base has no shelf life to speak of and needs to be mixed in single doses, which is a big part of why I don't use it more often, but all I need to do is find a slightly more lasting salt scrub recipe, pop in the essential oil mix, and I have a dandy little psychic cleanser for the shower. And if that's not enough, I have my beloved bottle of White Light from Twilight Alchemy Lab! I use that sparingly because the aroma, while quite lovely, is also extremely strong. It will overpower any perfume I wear, and I like to wear perfume. That means that I tend to reserve it for emergency situations, and not for over day use. I've bemoaned that fact for years, but the simple solution finally dawned on me. I found a tiny decorative bottle and blended one dropper full of White Light with 4 dropper fulls of jojoba oil. It's just as effective as the pure stuff, but the aroma fades much more quickly! This is something I could use every day if I wanted to. And because it's diluted, my bottle will last that much longer.

The morale of the story: don't reinvent the wheel. Look to see if you already have something that can be modified to suit your purposes!