Category Archives: magic

Interview with a Witch: Laura Perry

One in a continuing series of interviews with cool people I’ve met.

Laura and I first met a bunch of years ago…in a Facebook group, I think. We discovered our mutual love of herbs (and other things), then discovered we lived fairly close to each other – a little over an hour apart which, in the Facebook world, is next door. She’s now a good friend and my editor! On to the questions:

When did you start writing and what inspired you to do so? 

I’ve always written stories of one sort or another, since I was a child, but I think you’re asking about more serious writing intended for publication. If you discount the amazing pioneer tale of Nine-in-a-Row Johnny that I wrote in fourth grade (I’ll inflict the story on you only by request), I first began writing in earnest when I became involved with the local Pagan community in the early 1990s. It was back then that I created the series of rituals that eventually became the core of Ariadne’s Thread. That was effectively the first non-fiction book I ever wrote, even though it wasn’t the first one I published. It was also around that time that I began writing magical and historical fiction, inspired by past life memories, travel, and the “sparkles” I encountered in personal and community rituals.

What prompted you to rediscover/reconstruct the Minoan spirituality path?

I’ve been mildly obsessed with the ancient Minoans ever since my 9th grade art history teacher showed my class a photo of the Bull Leaper fresco from Knossos. But I finally began taking the Minoan path seriously in my own spiritual life during that time I mentioned above, in question #1. As part of my work toward my second Wiccan degree, I was given the assignment to choose any pantheon I wanted and use it as the focus for writing a year’s worth of seasonal rituals and a lifetime’s worth of rites of passage. Though it took a little while for the universe to get the message through my thick skull, eventually I realized I needed to focus on the Minoans for that project. Doing that work opened up to me the idea of the Minoan pantheon as the center of my spirituality, which was a big deal for me because at the time there were virtually no resources at all for that sort of thing. So I did what most bootstrapping Pagans tend to do in that kind of situation: I couldn’t find the resources I wanted, so I created them. I was overjoyed to eventually discover other people who were interested in the same things, and now we’re walking the path of Modern Minoan Paganism together.

How does witchcraft help you in everyday life?

It does two things for me. First, it reminds me that there’s more to the world than just the objects and effects our five material senses can detect. We get so caught up in the modern materialist worldview sometimes, I think it’s good to remember that there’s also magic, and spirit, and far more depth to the world than any scientific instrument will ever be able to measure.

Second, it gives me a sense of power in my own life. Witchcraft has long been the purview of the disempowered segments of the population: women, minorities, the poor, the oppressed. Though I’m certainly not downtrodden in any real way, there are times when no amount of mundane activity will overcome a problem. Obviously, no amount of magic is going to help if I don’t get my butt in gear and do the material-world work first. But sometimes it’s the key to tipping the dial over just far enough to achieve a goal that I might not have been able to reach otherwise.

Do you have a routine to get you into the writing/art mood? Is it different for each?

I can manage non-fiction writing pretty much at the drop of a hat. I wrote my first two published non-fiction works, Ancient Spellcraft and The Wiccan Wellness Book, at the dining table with a toddler running around the house. So I got really good at learning to focus and work in 15- to 20-minute increments, with no special kind of surroundings, for that kind of writing.

Fiction and art, though, are different. Both of them have technical aspects that require the same kind of focus and diligence as non-fiction, but they also have creative aspects that are a little harder to just turn on and off like a faucet. So I have an office/studio now, with a door that closes (yay!) where I can get into the headspace for more creative work. Just being there, especially sitting at my art table, shifts me to that kind of mood. I’ve also had some good experiences the past few months in a new location. Due to logistical issues, I’m spending several days a week on campus while my daughter takes college courses. It turns out, the carrels in the library are an excellent place to just “fall into” the world of the Minoan-themed novel I’m working on.

I’m still in love with your novels Jaguar Sky and The Bed. What was the inspiration behind them?

Jaguar Sky is the direct result of a trip I took to visit some of the Maya sacred sites in Belize. Though the details of the story didn’t really congeal until I came back, while I was there, I began to imagine the characters and the circumstances of their journey to Central America. I’ve actually visited the places where Maddie and the rest of the team do their archaeology and where she has some very unusual encounters with all kinds of people, living and dead.

The Bed began almost on a whim. I was in an antique shop one day and I heard a woman talking with her friend about how she didn’t like buying antique furniture because of a fear that it might somehow be haunted. I must be a born-and-bred writer, because my first thought upon hearing her comment was, “That would make a great story.” So I wrote a novel about a woman who buys an antique bed that comes with a matching nightstand and a not-exactly-matching, and somewhat magical, ghost.

Finally, I know the answer to this because we joke back & forth, but coffee or tea?

Tea. Most of the time, anyway. I’ve been known to have a cup of coffee if we go out for brunch. And you’ll probably cringe, but I also love decaf after a nice dinner.

 

Laura just completely updated The Wiccan Wellness Book and the second edition is now available in various formats. Clicking on the book cover will take you to the page on her website that not only describes the contents, but gives you direct links.

 

Where to find Laura on the net:

Website: http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Laura-Perry/e/B001K8LSQ6/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraPerryAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MsLauraPerry

Interview with a Witch: Wendy Steele

I did a few of these four years ago, and am going to get back into the habit. I meet such interesting people online!

I first “met” Wendy through a mutual friend on Twitter perhaps a year or two ago (thanks, Laura!) and subsequently in a Witch Lit group on Facebook. Her books are “Witch Lit” par excellence.  On to the questions she so kindly answered for me:

When did you start writing and what prompted you to do so?

I wrote my first poem when I was twelve years old, after visiting the Tutankhamun exhibition in London and there began my love of Egypt and all things Egyptian, and a love for writing things down after visits and events. I began my first novel, Hubble Bubble, after a two day writing course on characterisation. All 100k words are sitting under my bed, waiting for me to edit them into a decent novel.

You live in Wales (I can’t wait to visit some day!), which is a source of inspiration for many writers, pagan and non-. Does your location influence your writing?

You’d be most welcome! The Welsh landscape inspired me to write the Standing Stone book series when I’d been in Wales less than a year. There’s a Bronze Age settlement site on the hill next to our land which fascinated me, wondering who may have lived there in the past and who might live there in the future.

We’re lucky enough to live in a detached house now, with peace and quiet, no interruptions and the luxury of a riverbank where we’ve made a shelter of old pallets and silage plastic, where I can sit and look at the river as I write.

How does witchcraft help you in everyday life?

I live by the Wheel of the Year, eating the foods that are in season, keeping my physical body in shape. I respect Sabbats and Esbats which helps with both mental and physical health, being aware of the waxing and waning of the moon and respecting the natural flow of nature.

My craft helps me focus on aspects of my life that need attention, sometimes with tarot cards or a simple candle spell. Feeling part of the natural wheel, I’m inspired by my craft to create, dance, teach, heal and inspire.

Your “Wendy Woo Witch Lit” series has a strong female protagonist. (I love her independence!) Is she based on you?

No! There are bits of me in her, but Lizzie is her own person.

Two things about you not many know.

I write the majority of my first drafts with a fountain pen filled with black ink on foolscap writing pads.

I came to dance at the age of forty…and haven’t stop dancing since!

Finally, coffee or tea?

Either as long as they are decaf. Caffeine gives me a thumping head ache.

The first in the series, The Naked Witch is free on Amazon at the moment. Go, get it from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Other ways to connect with Wendy:

Website: www.wendysteele.com

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/WendyWooauthor

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/destinyofangelsnovel/?fref=ts

 https://www.facebook.com/WendyWooBooks

https://www.facebook.com/TheStandingStone

Amazon author: http://www.amazon.com/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref

 LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendy-steele-91257660/

Goodreads author:http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6548666.Wendy_Steele

All Author: https://allauthor.com/profile/wendywoo/

 

 

Do the Mundane!

/rant

“Magic is the solution to all problems.” Not. If that were the case, every experienced witch would have won the lottery; they and all their family and friends would be in perfect health (and probably immortal because who wants to lose a loved one?); there would never be any disagreements (world peace, anyone?); etc., etc., ad nauseum.

I see this so much in new witches, especially young ones who are looking for a quick fix to all their woes, but where I find myself explaining and educating the most is to non-witches. (Duh. They don’t understand how magic works because all they know is what the movies show them. “We don’t sparkle” could be applied to us as well as vampires!) Case in point:

A neighbor (the only one who doesn’t mind living near a witch and therefore takes care of our cats when we’re away) has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. We were talking about it after my husband and I returned from vacation. He asked, “isn’t there something you can do, you know, woo-woo, to cure me?”

My reply was, “Diet and exercise.”

Him: “Yeah. That’s what the doctor said. But…”

Me: “I can help but you have to do the hard work, too.”

Him: “But…”

Me: “You know the phrase, ‘God helps those who help themselves?’ Same thing with magic. My Universe is like your god. If you don’t do the work to get well and maintain your health, why waste the energy? It just becomes a vicious cycle – your body heals itself for a while but because you haven’t done anything to prevent a recurrence, the symptoms come back. You ask me to do another spell, it works for a while, the symptoms come back. See where I’m going with this?”

Him: “Aw crap.”

Me: “Listen, neighbor. Prove to me you’re willing to follow doctors orders and I’ll do what I can to help. Call me in a month after your next doctor’s appointment and we’ll talk, okay?”

It’s been six weeks and I haven’t heard a peep. CHF is nothing to screw around with and I have a feeling I’ll be losing this neighbor (who is younger than me) sooner rather than later. It makes me sad.

To be frank, most problems can be solved without the use of magic. It’s usually not easy, but anything worthwhile rarely is. To me, magic is just another tool in my arsenal – a tool to be used either as an aid in what needs to be done or, as a last resort, when mundane methods fail. (I’m getting to the ‘last resort’ stage on one issue.) Am I glad I have that extra tool? You bet. But outcomes are more lasting if the mundane is done either first or alongside the magical.

So, next time you have a problem, look at all the mundane things that could/should be done before resorting to magic. You (and your resident witch) will be happier in the long run.

//rant

 

My New Charm

No, I haven’t changed my personality. 😉

As background, for years I’ve worn several things on a necklace – always under my shirt. (I have conservative clients. They wouldn’t understand.) However, my thoughts on some things have changed and what I wore no longer really had meaning to me. It was time for something new.

I really like the idea of a pentacle (the four elements plus spirit, surrounded by will) but wearing one of those openly seems to immediately identify you as Wiccan, which I certainly am not. But what to wear?

If you’ve been following along on my Facebook page, you know I’ve been learning the Herbal Tarot. Early on, I set the companion book aside because it’s geared toward herbalists who consult. I don’t. But one thing in the introduction (page ten) struck home: “[…] the ancient Greek letter theta. The circle divided into two halves signifies spirit-matter held together by the underlying principle of Divine Spirit.” I interpreted that a little differently. Body and mind, surrounded by spirit – the principle of holistic health (and witchcraft, if you think about it).

The text shows the lowercase theta. If I’d been thinking a little harder, the upper case theta would more completely show that connection – it has a little space between the horizontal bar and the surrounding circle. There is leakage between the mind and body. But then the charm would’ve had to have a back, been heavier, and I wouldn’t have liked it as much.

It took about five seconds to decide where I was going to get my new charm. My friend, Jen, introduced me to the work of Aidan Wachter several years ago and I’ve been in love with his work since. About a month later, this arrived in the mail:

Isn’t it beautiful? Go look at his website, or his Facebook page, or his Twitter feed. What he does is amazing!

Now I have a charm I can wear on the outside of my clothes, with an explanation even the most conservative of people will understand. Nestled next to it is my father-in-law/husband’s first wedding ring. Yes, there’s a story there, too, but only the fact that it was my husband’s needs to be told.

By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root – A Review

When the publication of this book was announced, I got excited. Yet another book to add to my collection on poisonous plants! In addition, Ms. Draco is a respected author in the occult world.

Once through this small book (a whopping 96 pages), I was both pleased and disappointed.

The pleased: She gives a very nice history of poisoning, detailing instances from Socrates’ famed ingestion of hemlock, through the times of the Roman Empire, to the Borgias and de’ Medicis of the Renaissance, poisonous intrigue in the English courts, and finishing with various accounts of poisonings in the 18th century (which, naturally, were mostly perpetrated by women 😉 ).

An entire chapter was devoted to the “Proving Tree”, which was a “metal stand (often attached to the salt dish) that had from five to fifteen different ‘stone’ pendants hanging from its branches.” For a few centuries, it was thought that dipping one stone or another into food would either detect or neutralize any poison found in food. Servants would have been a part of that “Proving Tree” because several would taste their master’s food before it even got to him.

The final chapter, “Cursing v Bottling”, was useful. She goes to great lengths to discourage someone from cursing which, in a book for public consumption, is a good thing. A milder retaliation is bottling and she’s got some good ideas in there.

The disappointment: the listing of the plants themselves. While the information presented is, for the most part, accurate, only a chemistry buff would be interested in the list of toxic chemicals in each plant. I’m used to reading scientific papers and I found my eyelids drooping at points. Foot- or endnotes would have made reading easier, rather than citing sources within the text.

It’s obvious this book wasn’t reviewed by someone who is an herbalist prior to publication. One example: she cites “Margaret Grieve” as the author of A Modern Herbal (Chapter 3). The initial “M” stands for Maud.

Another: she lists “Bryony black and white” as Bryonia dioica. B. dioica is red (or sometimes white) bryony, while white is B. alba. Black bryony is in another genus (Dioscorea) altogether, although no less toxic.

And one final nitpicking: all but one of the Latin binomials are in lower case, sometimes without the species name attached (making it a monomial). In case you didn’t know, the genus is always capitalized, the species not. If all species in a genus are considered, then ‘spp.’ should be after the genus.

So, I’ll give this 3.5 stars of 5. It presented a lot of good information on poisonous herbs but there are other books out there that present it better (a couple she used for reference and cited in the bibliography would be a good start). Buy it for the history lesson and how to bottle rather than curse.

 

 

Tulum

As I said last week, it’s taken me a while to process my visit to Tulum. I’m not certain I’ve still fully grasped everything, but here goes…

(Note: most of what I’m saying here is from our tour guide who, in addition to being an archaeological guide, is part Mayan. Take it as fact, or not.)

 

First, Tulum was built on the highest point on the Yucatan Peninsula and the temple – El Castillo – sits almost at the edge of the bluff. (Husband, who grew up along the coast, estimates that in its heyday, it was probably visible five or six miles out to sea.) And what a perfect site to build on – so defensible! Landward, it’s surrounded by mangrove swamps which, in addition to being almost impossible to move through without a lot of machete work, are inhabited by animals like crocodiles and venomous snakes.

Thankfully, we were there on a dry, sunny day before the rainy season. Our guide told us Tulum means “stinky soil” and that would definitely apply when things were really wet. Yet, the official site says Tulum means “wall”. I think either would apply.

One you’ve made it to the wall, you don’t have much of a choice of entries unless you want to try to scale the wall. There are only five gateways, and they’re tiny – even for a small person like me. Husband had to duck and I saw several people going through sideways. (The exit is now a path with stairs, thanks to the restoration.)

Once through the gate, you see a beautiful clearing with the ruins. (I can’t imagine the work that went into building the city, much less uncovering it again.) Not many structures are still standing and those that are, aren’t fully intact. But compared to today’s cities, it’s small. The entire site within the wall & up to the cliff is only about 300 acres – that’s about 1/3 the size of Olympic Park in London!

The first thing that hit me was the silence. Even with a bunch of tourists walking around and several tour guides giving their talks, it was so peaceful! The first word that popped into my head was “sacred”. Makes sense. The Mayan were very careful with their land, living in harmony with it rather than trying to force it to their will.

Tulum was a trading port – one of the most important in the Mayan Empire. If you look at where it’s situated on a map, you can see that it’s in a perfect spot for people to bring things both by land and sea. There’s a natural cove at the base of the cliff, making it easy for boats. Although, I wouldn’t want to haul my goods up or down that path! I would love to see a different site (leaving the ruins as they are), set up as it originally was, with re-enactors. At least, re-enactors doing what we think they would’ve been doing 800 years ago. We can thank the conquistadors for destroying virtually everything related to the Mayan culture.

Some pics of the ruins, including El Castillo*:

*Those two lumps on El Castillo (better in the closeup) are the sacrifice stones. The person would’ve been laid on their back over those two stacks of rocks so the priest could more easily go up under the rib cage rather than trying to go through it to get to the heart. Ouch.

As an earth witch, I wear moccasins when I can’t go barefoot so I can feel what’s happening around me. While I still got the feeling of “sacred”, I didn’t get the energy buzz I normally get, which puzzled me. Husband and I talked about it later and we think it was because of all the underground water. The Yucatan Peninsula is riddled with underground rivers, and cenotes are all over the place, providing fresh water – if you want to climb down for it! Which, of course, they had to. Water seems to negate earth energy for me. I’m curious what I would’ve felt if we’d been allowed on the ruins themselves. Stone has a long memory. (But thankfully, we weren’t. I’d hate to see them destroyed any further.)

Unfortunately, the number of people walking around sort of kept the wildlife away. According to our guide, there are several coati-mundi living there, including two that aren’t shy. I was so disappointed I didn’t see them! But here’s a cool bird and a squirrel that didn’t immediately split when I got close:

Another disappointment: our guide said there were native Maya selling things they’d made in the village attached to the historical site. We would’ve definitely bought something if we’d seen anything we were certain was handmade but all the wood carvings looked like they’d have a sticker that said, “hecho en China” (made in China). So, we didn’t.

The place fascinated me. And I still want to go to Chichén Itzá.

Winter Solstice 2016

If you’ve been following along, you know that the Winter Solstice is my New Year. Naturally, I celebrate the calendar along with everyone else, but the Solstice is when I do all my yearly thinking and planning. I also do a full rune cast to see what the coming year has in store for me. (It looks like a good year!)

One of the things on my bucket list is learn to read tarot. I love my runes but they don’t go into as much detail as cards. I’ve tried several different decks and have never been able to connect with the cards. Earlier this fall, I ran across The Herbal Tarot. Herbal? Hmm. Maybe I could connect with that deck? So, I bought a set, along with the companion book.

The companion book has been shelved. First, it’s aimed toward healers who want to use the deck in a consulting practice and I don’t consult. Second, it’s a wee bit too touchy-feely (and perhaps “love and light”) for my taste. The little book that comes with the deck gives all the information I’d need. (I noticed some of the Latin binomials are misspelled. Just sayin’.)

I quickly discovered the rote memorization ability that has served me well all these years no longer functions as well as it once did. I couldn’t remember a card’s meaning from one day to the next, yet spirit tells me this is something I need to learn. So, another tack, the same one I took with the runes: using them.

I don’t do daily divination for myself anymore. My life is, for the most part, very calm and predictable. (Thank goodness. At this age, I’d hate for it to be anything but.) I only cast the runes twice a year (at the Solstices) and when spirit prompts me to do so. (Or, if a friend asks for a reading.) So, that won’t work. While doing my annual thinking and planning, I came up with another method.

I’m going to borrow something from my friend, Renee. She’s been learning wire wrapping and chose “A Year of Mastery” as her theme, posting her progress both on her blog and over on her Facebook page. (If you’re a jewelry-type person, you need to check out what she & her husband do. It’s fabulous!)

Starting 1st January, I’m going to pull one card a day, using the universal, “what do we need to know for today?” as my question. I’ll post it, along with my thoughts, on my Facebook page. (Sorry, Twitter. I doubt 140 characters will be enough.) There will be a one week exception: we’re going on vacation (yay!) the end of January. I’m not hauling everything with me.

And…if you want a free reading, pop me an email with your question. It’ll give me some practice at switching my focus from runes to cards. (Note: this offer subject to withdrawal at any time.)

What do we need to know for today?

So, follow along with my Year of Mastery.

Am I A Dinosaur?

dinosaur-46298_1280

 

I’ve been contemplating this adjective for a while. Merriam-Webster defines a dinosaur as, “(2) someone or something that is no longer useful or current : an obsolete or out-of-date person or thing”.

I feel out-of-date, perhaps even a little obsolete. Perhaps it’s my age (I’m well over the half-century mark). But some of the things I’m seeing:

  • Witches no longer doing their own thinking. If a question arises, they post it onto social media and let the public answer it rather than do a little research and/or just sit and cogitate on the matter.
  • Young’uns don’t even write their own spells anymore. They just look it up in one of a myriad of books on the market today. I will admit I had no formal teaching but it seems to me creativity and personalization are a couple of ingredients in any good spell. After all, no two situations are identical in every respect. That said, writing a spell from scratch would take time and that doesn’t fit with the gotta-have-it-now mentality that seems to permeate society.
  • Then there’s the whole, “I did a spell for [this] last night and boy, was it powerful!” on social media. Just an announcement? Bragging? While it probably originates with Eliphas Lévi (1810-1875), To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent seems to have fallen by the wayside.
  • There’s an app for that. I admit technology has made life easier. I wouldn’t have the lifestyle I have if it weren’t for computers and the internet. But it only goes so far. As an example: a lot of people do divination, usually with cards or runes. Many do it on a daily basis to see what the day has in store for them. But many of them do it by pressing a button on their phone and let a computer somewhere shuffle the cards or muddle the runes.  Last I knew, the cards/runes were affected by your personal energy as you shuffled/muddled them. How can an impersonal computer, who knows how many hundreds or thousands of miles away, pick up on that energy then display the right card/rune for you?
  • People bemoaning that they can’t get close to nature because they live in an apartment in the city (and by extension, just can’t do a spell for this or that). I lived in apartments until I was 35 and in the city until just 13 years ago. City parks are wonderful postage-stamp-sized samples of nature. I had a car. It would take me out of the city to much larger state or national parks. (Don’t have a car because you don’t need one? Good for you. But there are these things called car rental agencies that will allow you to rent one just for a single day.) “They’re crowded,” I hear. Park your butt on the ground against a tree and stare off into space or close your eyes. You’d be surprised how many people will give you a wide berth and leave you alone. As long as you’re not making a spectacle of yourself, you can even do a spell while you’re sitting there.

This is just a slice of the pie that has me grumpy. Call me old-fashioned (I do) or even a curmudgeon (I do that, too) but what I see, read, and hear makes me think laziness is at the forefront of witchcraft. And that makes me sad.

Book Birth Day!

A Green Witch’s Cupboard is LIVE!

A Green Witch’s Cupboard (Small)

You can find it in paperback at Amazon US or Amazon UK. It will take a few days for it to reach other Amazon outlets and what they call “expanded distribution” (competitors).

After looking at the sales numbers from other books, for the moment, it’s only available electronically on Kindle US and Kindle UK. If I get enough bitching, I’ll put it in other outlets, too. (But I have to wait 90 days to do so.)

If you want an autographed copy, give me a week or so to get my stock. I’ll let you know when I have that available.

Phew!

Cover Reveal!

Phew! After many trials and tribulations, A Green Witch’s Cupboard is nearing completion!

Here’s the cover:

A Green Witch’s Cupboard (Small)

Do you love it as much as I do?

If everything goes as planned (cough) it should be available in paperback and e-book by the end of the month – just in time for the holiday season – and all those witches on your shopping list! 😀