Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dimanche: Swimming

"A delightful suprise!" late 19th century "French Postcard"
Happy Halloween and agreable suprises a tout!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Samedi: Honoring The Ghede

Some of our Ancestors may have become part of the collective known in Haitian Voudon as “the Ghede”. They are the spirits of the “forgotten dead”, unnamed and unremembered but no less sentient for it. Voudon recognizes that even in cultures where honoring ancestors is important, not every name will be remembered and the religion gives those who practice it an “out” in the form of the Ghede.

I try very hard to honor my ancestors throughout the year. I have a small ritual which I learned when I was in college from those who practiced sevis lwa; service to the lwa. One makes an offering of the first drink of the day, whether it is coffee, milk, juice or water, while deliberately saying the names of those who have gone before. The little ritual is rightly done outside and the offering poured on the ground but at six thirty in the morning in January in Alaska no decent spirit would have the heart to make me go outside. It’s all I can do to open the door for our St. Bernard. In the winter, the offering goes down the sink. In summer, though, my Sitka roses benefit from my devotions.

Take the glass or cup that holds your beverage of choice in both hands and make an X in the air in front of your eye line. Bring the glass to the center of the X and toss it for just a second into the air. You are only releasing it very briefly, so spillage should be minimal. Say: Great ancestors, I honor you or something like that. I’m giving you my recitation; making up your own will add meaning to your ritual.

Now pour out some of the beverage and say: For those whose names are remembered, then recite the names of those family members who have died. I reach back as far as 300 years, to Big Rene and Rose Beluche but that is only because I know them. Perhaps you only have your grandparents’ names at hand; that is all you need. First names are plenty as well; it’s all family.

Now pour a bit more liquid out and say: For those whose names are forgotten, yet do I remember you here. Take a moment to meditate on all those ancestors that you have no knowledge of. I particularly remember my ancestors who were indentured and enslaved, who died in a place that was completely foreign to them without being able to pass on their names.

Pour a last bit of your drink and say: And for those who bones are buried in this earth upon which we tread, ancestors as we honor you watch over us. Now your ritual is done and, should you have a touch of good fortune during your day, it wouldn’t hurt to thank your ancestors again just in case they engineered your luck in response to your remembrance.

At this time of year you might consider taking up this or another ritual that brings you closer to your ancestors. They await your call and they will respond in kind. And then brag to their less fortunate friends about the honor done them by their descendants, like the proud parents they are.

Header: Dwapo lwa (prayer flag) of The Ghede available for purchase, along with many other lovely pieces of Haitian art, at La Sosyete Belle Fleur Ginen’s website

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vendredi: Four of Clubs

Halloween is almost upon us and it is an evening when people have, from earliest times, gathered around a warm fire and told fortunes. The dark, windy night outside was driven away by the comforting flames and people could look to the future through the ministrations of a wise woman or root doctor who could tell what the cards, the palm of your hand, or the tea leaves that sat in your cup foretold.

In European and European influenced cultures, at least, this probably goes back to ancient Celtic belief. Samhain was the end of the year and there would be a “period between the worlds” that started on that night and continued until the New Year sprang to life at Yule on the Winter Solstice.

Sunday would be the perfect night to pull out your cards and read a fortune or two. So let’s see what the Four of Clubs has to say about all this, shall we?

This card usually indicates a need for the querent to keep a close eye on their finances and/or their job. It may be that they are slacking off at work or being a little to free with their cash. Some subtle questions on your part, and a close look at other cards in the spread, will bring out the crux of the matter.

If the general reading does not point to financial issues, the Four of Clubs may be indicating that another issue in your querent’s life needs closer attention. Specifically, there is something going on about which they are misinformed or even completely ignorant. That need to take stock and seek clarification if possible.

And so it goes. Bon chance ~

Header: Fortune Telling Witch on a vintage inspired Halloween card by Zazzle

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jeudi: Root Work

Now is the time of year when our thoughts turn inward. We begin to think about plans for the coming year as the cold and dark (very dark where I live) close in around us. It’s not necessarily oppressive, or I don’t find it so, and it gives us time that might have been turned toward other things, like our home or garden, back to ourselves. Now is a good time for family and a good time to remember our ancestors.

In the celebrations of Dia de los Muertos and Fête de Mort, it is common to set up what is known in Voudon as a “white table”. More frequently referred to as an ancestral altar, this is a place where pictures of our family as well as things they loved – books, drinks, flowers, foods, jewelry, etc. – can be displayed and offered as a way of letting those who went before us know that we realize they are still with us, just in a different sort of way.

None of this has to be particularly fancy. Some white tables are, of course, but you can just as appropriately honor your ancestors on a nicely draped and decorated TV tray as you can in a huge credenza. Particularly in our modern culture, when we don’t think much about our ancestors in general, they will appreciate any effort you make. I like to keep a white 7 day candle (those candles with the tall glass holders that you see in Catholic churches) burning on mine in memory of those whose names are remembered and those whose names are forgotten. The candles are available at the grocery store and if they tip over they are designed to go out automatically. Safety first. Also, the general recommendation is that ancestral altars not be set up in a bedroom. Dining rooms and particularly kitchens are very popular for this sort of thing as the ancestors will feel part of your daily routines.

Remember that you are not obligated to bring energies you cannot live with into your home. If you have a relative who was ill tempered and/or abusive they need not be included on your altar. Even if you can’t choose your family you can choose your companions. On the other side of the coin, I personally feel very connected to some ancestors that I would never have any way of knowing personally and, in fact, did not know of until I was an adult. If you have that kind of interaction with some of your many-generations-back relatives, find a way to represent them on your altar. Pictures are just the start.

This project is great for letting your imagination go to work. With only a little effort, a white cloth and some flowers to start, you can make a pleasing place for both you and the people who cared for and care for you. Taking the time to set up a white table now may make you want to keep it up year round. The ancestors can be a helpful group of allies, if you communicate with them regularly.

Header: Voudon white table via Kiwi Mojo (I would have posted a picture of mine but our camera has decided to join the ancestors)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

I will freely admit to not being one of those “shower every morning” folks. I can’t be, in point of fact. Coming into contact with that much soap and water would turn my skin into dried parchment. I can tolerate bathing every other day and actually prefer three times a week most of all. My hands and face are washed multiple times a day but then they are treated to a small herd of moisturizers that wouldn’t be practical “all over”. It works for me, and no I am not a wreaking remnant of the Dark Ages. The oil on your skin is there for a reason; try letting it do its job once in a while and see what happens.

The one important beauty aspect that can suffer from my personal regimen is my hair. Greasy hair has never (well, not never but not for a long time anyway) been attractive and I started casting around for ways to combat it without having to dunk my sensitive skin in water every day. Many years ago, even before I was hitting puberty, dry shampoos were all the rage and I loved the heck out of them. The craze dried up, if you’ll pardon the pun, in the late ‘70s and there I was pubescent and up a creek hair-wise. But, thanks to the good graces of my grandmother and a willingness to experiment, I managed to make my own dry shampoos which I still use today.

The simple purpose of a dry shampoo, which is really just a cleansing powder, is to soak up oil. The inability to wash one’s hair regularly brought about the use of powders and the eventual powdering of hair to a gray or white color in the late 18th century. It truly was a convenient and effective way to keep hair not only relatively clean but smelling delightful. And since the main ingredient then as now was cornstarch, it’s quite economical as well.

The best base I have found is simply 8 to 12 ounces of cornstarch to which you can add herbs for scent and, if you like, for magickal purposes. Put the cornstarch into a glass bowl for mixing and when you’ve made up your desired dry shampoo, place it in a glass jar with a tight lid. That way you can shake it gently to remix before application. Dried herbs should be ground to a very fine powder or you will have chunks of bay or rosemary left near your scalp. Use 1 to 3 teaspoons of your chosen herb and mix all thoroughly. Pour into the jar and store in a dry spot (the bathroom isn’t really the best idea for storage on this one) for up to three months.

To use, brush about a tablespoon’s worth of the mixture through your hair, rubbing it gently into your scalp first. Be sure to focus on any magickal outcome you might have empowered the herb(s) for while you brush, brush, brush. And check your scalp before you head out for white spots. At least until the big Marie Antoinette do’s come back in style.

Here are a few herbs and some magickal connections to consider along with my take on the scents, which are wonderful in and of themselves:

Lavender: a great pre-bedtime hair treatment that will help you sleep and stimulate your ability to remember your dreams.

Jasmine: perfect for a first date or to get a gentleman’s attention. For straight men and lesbians, vervain (also known as verbena – but not lemon verbena) works wonders. If you're looking for something quick and unhindered by commitment, basil is a good choice.

Rosemary: a certain pick-me-up first thing in the morning, rosemary can also assist your mental acuity through out the day and improve your persuasiveness and public speaking skills.

Bay: the leaves of the bay laurel – the very same ones you put in your spaghetti sauce – will help you get through a tough day, especially if you’re coming down with something or already ill. The scent is amazingly comforting without being antiseptic like eucalyptus.

Cinnamon: not only will you smell like a delicious confection but you’ll be protected from any ill will and the Evil Eye.

I highly recommend cinnamon for redheads, too, as it brightens your color all day. Blonds should try chamomile for the same effect while brunettes should use nutmeg.

Consider other possibilities too, particularly as your knowledge of herbal work increases. Who knows what you’ll be able to accomplish with your clean, charmingly scented hair. À votre santé ~

Header: Mary Robinson by Gainsborough c 1781

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Over at Triple P, my flagship if you will, it is Horror on the High Seas week in celebration of my favorite holiday: Samhain/Fête de Mort/Halloween/Dia de los Muertos. Around my house the celebration really lasts all of October and at least through the first week of November. In the Catholic tradition, October 31st is All Hallows’ Eve while November 1st is All Saints’ Day and November 2nd is All Souls’ Day or Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, all of which came from the ancient Celtic Samhain (that’s pronounced “SOW-en”). The Voudon Festival of the Dead, Fête de Mort, takes place over all three of those days which makes this week perfect for talking about honoring our ancestors and, today, a little bit of “left hand work”.

Jinxing and goofering, as so called “revenge” spells are referred to in hoodoo, should not be undertaken lightly. Of course no work, metaphysical or otherwise, should be done without consideration but it is particularly important to think before you throw a jinx in someone’s path. If you are not righteous in your anger, if the person has not done badly by you, you may find your own ill will cast back in your face. Forewarned is forearmed.

In Wicca and other Neopagan belief systems as well as in hoodoo, salt is used liberally as a psychic cleanser and a way of connecting to the spirits of Earth. Hoodoo takes this a step further through the use of what is commonly known as Black Salt but is also referred to as “Witches’ Salt”. This is salt mixed with charcoal, iron scrapings or black pepper (sometimes simply salt dyed black) and it is used to bring evil down on another or to keep evil away.

A good example is the use of Black Salt to keep someone from returning to your home. As the person who has offended you departs, throw a mixture of salt and black pepper after them (discretely, of course). They will not return. The next step in this sequence is the use of Black Salt to make an unwanted neighbor move. The story goes that throwing Black Salt mixed with red pepper flakes on the neighbor’s property, particularly in areas where they will tread daily, will make them up and move. The jinx will work twice as well if you can sprinkle some of the mixture inside their home.

For the ultimate trouble (and I would strongly recommend that you know full good and well what you are doing and that you are 100% certain of guilt on your target’s part before you even attempt this), mix Black Salt into War Water (an old hoodoo recipe that can be purchased at botanicas and can also be made at home) with the intention of cursing your enemy. Sprinkle the mixture in the enemy’s yard and on their house if possible while you walk backwards around the property and away, cursing them under your breath.

It’s a short step from wanting revenge to unleashing misery – possibly on yourself. Be careful what you wish and what you do. Maybe just a little sea salt in the corners of your home to keep out malice would be best, oui?

Header: Witches by David Teniers (detail)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Samedi: Moon Work

Wait a minute! The moon’s full and I didn’t even pay attention here at HQ, did I? So, with all apologies to the Ghede in general and the Barons and Maman Brigitte in particular, we will have a Moon Work Saturday here (and better late than never; see Sailor Mouth Saturday at Triple P if you’d like to know why).

The Full Moon came upon us yesterday at 9:37 PM Eastern Daylight Time here in the U.S. This moon brings us to the completion of a project. We are at that moment when we can step back and wipe our hands while admiring our handiwork. The energy of a Full Moon may make us want to start something else up immediately but be careful. Pick the wrong project (say, increasing fertility) and the waning moon will bring a frustrating lag in productivity.

On the other hand, now is the time to let go of anything that has been troublesome or caused worry. Forgive yourself for errors or behaviors you aren’t proud of and move on. This is a great time to perform work involving the releasing of vices or bad habits. As the moon wanes, so will your need to what ever it is that may be oppressing you.

Other works that benefit from Full Moon energy include: beauty, health, love (in particular), legal issues, increasing psychic abilities and motivation as well as self- improvement.

There are so many possibilities and so much more time. The Full Moon will be at her peak until tomorrow evening. Avec la bénédiction de la lune ~

Friday, October 22, 2010

Vendredi: Three of Clubs

Almost surprisingly, it is Friday once again. I’m not complaining at all but it has certainly been a week at my house and so much seems left at frayed edges, unattended to or only partially done. Perhaps, like Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

It’s time to look again into the divinatory means of common playing cards. We’re still on the suit of clubs and we’ve gotten to number three. Let’s see what we have.

The three of clubs usually has to do with solid planning paying off. Very much unlike the two of clubs, this card indicates that hard work has been attended to in a timely manner and the querent is reaping the fruit of their labor. Depending on who you are reading for, this could mean anything from a new job to a promotion to a part in a play. Less frequently, but as an alternative you should keep in mind, it may point to a marriage with excellent material (though not necessarily good romantic) prospects. In this case your querent may be a gold digger and he or she has snagged Daddy Warbucks.

Multiple means of one card are so common as to be universal. As you practice cartomancy, you will get a feel for what not only the cards but the person you are reading them for is telling you. A lot of it will, of course, be non-verbal. Watch and learn.

Vendredi heureux ~

Header: The Fortune Teller by Sarah Baselici; see more of her work here

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jeudi: Root Work

When doing root work, it’s wise to keep in mind the tenants of magick most often laid out by writers of “how to” books on Wiccan spell work. They are usually put in some variant of the following:

To want, to know, to do, to believe and to keep silent: you visualize your want, know what to do to get it, do what ever that might be while having faith in its efficacy and then shut up until the outcome has been made manifest. Simple.

Or, perhaps, over-simplification. I’ve found that nothing is ever so straight forward and have formulated my own “code of ethics and success” for magick. It goes more like this:

Know your need: Need is not want. If you simply “want” something you probably do not have the same emotional investment in getting it that you would if you really “need” something. This is why spells seem to work so well for teenagers. They, by the very nature of their physiology, are emotionally invested in everything. Which leads to the next tenant.

Be emotionally invested: Root work/spell work/magick requires a strong emotional tie in order to have success. Visualization and the harnessing of energy require strong feelings. Start small; that helps you flex your magickal muscles. Remember, like everything else in life success leads to more success.

Have the knowledge before you do the work: Study and, if at all possible, find a mentor. The Universe generally knows when you’re ready for a teacher and sends you one but beware. Jerks. Are. Everywhere. Don’t be a gull. If you have to stick with books (and, of course, the sage advice given virtually daily here at HQ) that’s fine too. Don’t let anyone make you believe you’re “not doing it right”. Again, starting small will help you stay on the right path.

Do the work: You must take the time to do the spell/make the mojo bag/read the cards/say the prayer/& cetera. Whatever works for you – from full blown candle ritual on a dressed altar to reading that same relevant passage in your Bible daily – just do it. (No Nike reference intended or implied.)

Believe in yourself: You know and you did. Pat yourself on the back and believe that you have that spark of Universal power within yourself. You can make your dreams manifest. Doubt does no one any good.

Zip it!: Yes I’m on the shut up train. All the people who ever told me to “tell people you’re dream/talent/intention and you will make it manifest” were just hoping for a chance to laugh at me, I swear. I know I sound a little paranoid but age has taught me that silence works magick. Running your mouth just makes you look a fool.

And get to work: You know what else works magick? Working in the really real world. Just did a spell to draw a big gallery show for your art? How many finished pieces do you have on hand right now? Got a mojo in your pocket to land you a job at the accounting firm in town? How’s your resume and when’s the interview? Love philter all cooked up for the cute guy at Starbucks? You’ll be calling him tonight, right? The Universe doesn’t do anything by itself. There is no magick like that.

Now get out there and get to it. Bon chance ~

Header: Silence by Henry Fuseli

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the weather is turning cool, perhaps even cold. Where I live it is literally freezing, at least at night. This change, from warm to cold and in many places from humid to dry, can wreak havoc on even so called “normal” skin.

My mother and my grandmother both had that general skin type. It was evenly toned, not terribly prone to breakouts and what my mother derogatorily referred to as “sallow”. This particularly when she was speaking about her mother. Though Mom was a Merle Norman gal through and through, grandma favored more “down home” skincare, probably since she spent most of her childhood on a farm in Minnesota. She was particularly fond of milk for cleansing and toning.

Of course when speaking of milk for skincare we’re talking about whole milk and raw milk if possible. Don’t make that face; no one is asking you to drink it. All the same that gallon of two percent in your frig will do you about as much good as water in this instance. Whole milk has all its lactic acids which are exfoliating and toning without removing oils from the skin. Whole milk (or the powdered version) is a wonderful additive to a bath on cold, itchy, mid-winter days. You might want to add a few drops of essential oil and you will certainly want to scrub out the tub when you’re done. Rancid milk is not a beauty bonus.

But here is one. This recipe for milk cleanser is easy to make and very flexible. While the flowers and herbs used are all gentle enough for use on irritated skin but you can play with the blend once you have some idea of how your skin reacts to certain herbs. You might consider adding oatmeal instead of chamomile for a little extra exfoliation. I like to use dried jasmine petals in place of the lavender if I can get them. They add no scent (jasmine oil can be added sparingly to impart that) but they are calming to the skin; just what mine needs on a chilly day.

2 tbsps dried rose petals
1 tbsp dried lavender
1 tbsp dried chamomile
1/3 cup whole milk
1 tbsp glycerine (preferably vegetable glycerine)

Place the herbs in the bottom of a glass jar with a secure lid. Pour in the milk and glycerine and close tightly. Shake gently, then let the mixture sit in the refrigerator over night. In the morning, strain the mixture through cheesecloth into an airtight bottle. Store your finished product in the frig for up to one week.

You can use this like an astringent, wiping it onto your skin with a cotton ball. Or, you can wash you face with it as you would any liquid cleanser. Just remember to always shake the bottle before use to encourage re-blending of the ingredients. À votre santé ~

Header: Venus With A Mirror by Titian

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Time once again to focus on the helpful properties of herbs which have been used throughout history to help make human life a little more comfortable. Today our subject is comfrey, which has come down to us from our ancient ancestors as a healing, prosperity drawing and protective plant.

Comfrey has also been known as boneset or bruisewort since Medieval times. In the British Isles it was simply called Healing Herb. In fact the juices from comfrey leaves will help heal bruising and sooth minor burns. The quick disappearance of a bruise treated with comfrey gave people the impression that the herb also helped to knit up broken bones. This led to comfrey leaves being packed into bandaging. Of course we know that is not entirely the case but decoctions of comfrey are used in modern ointments marketed to help minor wounds and bruises heal more quickly.

In hoodoo, comfrey is a money drawing herb favored in particular by gamblers. They will wrap their gambling cash in fresh comfrey leaves while concentrating on winning. Be certain to fold the leaf toward you and then stash the whole bundle away where no one else will touch it until you take it out again. To increase the potency of this work, first dab some Money-Drawing Oil on the leaf. To simply insure your wallet will never be empty, sprinkle dried comfrey onto the money that is already in it. Repeat this process whenever you put new bills in your wallet.

Some people swear by the root of a comfrey plant to keep them safe while traveling. Carry the dried root in a red flannel bag when on the road to keep you safe and worry free. To add protection for your home while you are away, dress the root with Peaceful Home Oil before you leave. This is also said to keep your spouse faithful while you’re gone. Scott Cunningham even recommends tucking a little comfrey into your suitcases, particularly if you plan to check them, to keep them safe and make sure they get to the same destination you do.

Comfrey is a pretty plant although I personally am not too fond of its scent. If you gamble, though, or travel a good deal, it might be worthwhile to consider its cultivation in your garden or window box. Bon chance ~

Header: Medea by Evelyn de Morgan

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lundi: Recipes

There are probably a dozen basic recipes for Chicken Creole in Louisiana (hell, in New Orleans) alone. And each probably has a thousand variations to it. Any cook who calls her kitchen “Creole” has several good chicken recipes she can pass along. I am no exception.

I will admit to having the misfortune of coming to the cuisine of my paternal ancestors late. I didn’t grow up helping Maman cook red beans and rice on Monday and gumbo for Mardi Gras. I’m a gamer, though, and I can figure out where to go for the good stuff: people who did. That’s why I love Leon E. Soniat, Jr.’s Creole recipes from his outstanding books La Bouche Creole and La Bouche Creole II.

So today, I offer you my take on Soniat’s Creole Chicken from his second book. I’ve left out a thing or two and added a spice here and there and I hope that, if you try this recipe, you will do the same. This kind of “signature” cuisine is another reason why I’m a cook and not a baker.

6 Creole tomatoes (note: I live in Alaska so Creole tomatoes proper aren’t going to turn up on my table, much as I might wish they would. In the summer, I use ripe tomatoes locally grown; winter means a 28 oz. jar/can of whole tomatoes.)
2 tbsps butter
2 tbsps olive oil
1 4 lb. chicken cut up or 6 chicken breasts or 8 chicken thighs
1 white onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning to taste – or – cayenne pepper to taste
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp basil
Lemon, thinly sliced
Green onions, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped

Soniat recommends peeling and deseeding the tomatoes before chopping them. I skip this step and just chop them up.

Heat butter and oil together in a heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, over medium heat. Salt and pepper your chicken and brown the pieces. Set them aside and, if need be, add a bit more oil to your pot. Now add the white onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and sauté about five minutes. Once the veggies are soft add the flour, a little pepper and either the Tony Chachere’s or the cayenne and cook for another five minutes, stirring frequently.

Next add your tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken stock and the thyme, basil and bay. Stir well and add the chicken. Bring to a boil and then simmer partially covered for an hour or so. You can let this go on the stove all day at a very low heat, which makes it a perfect Sunday-having-company one pot dish. Serve over white rice with crusty bread and garnish with lemon, green onions and parsley. Bon appétit ~

Header: Peasant Woman Cooking by Van Gogh circa 1885

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Samedi: The Barons' Song

Papa Gede bel garcon!
Papa Gede bel garcon!
L’habille tout ennui!
Pou’l monte au palais!

Papa Ghede is a handsome man!
Papa Ghede is a handsome man!
He is wearing all black!
And he is going to the palace!

The song of the Barons, in Haitian Creole and English, from Harold Courlander’s book The Drum and the Hoe

Header: A New Orleans Mardi Gras voodoo doll guised as Baron Samedi

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vendredi: Two of Clubs

Time once again to discuss the divinatory meanings of playing cards. At some point here at HQ I may discuss the Tarot but, being true to my rootwork roots if you will, means using playing cards for divination. Even if the Tarot are decidedly prettier to look at, as witnessed at yesterday’s header.

One thing that you will want to keep in mind if you decide to take up cartomancy is that you really should have a separate deck of cards for the purpose. These can be any playing cards you like. For instance, I have one with pirate designs on them drawn by the famous illustrator N.C. Wyeth. I also have a simple and very plane deck of Bicycle brand cards that I got at the market. I try to gear the deck I use to the person who has asked for a reading. Not everyone is on board with a dead guy lying in the sand next to a chest of treasure. Even if it’s just a drawing.

The deck(s) you use for divination should be handled by no one but you (except when you are asking a querent to cut the cards; more on that later). You should also avoid using them for gaming. Even Go Fish with the kids is a bad idea. The only exception I have to this rule is Solitaire. A quiet game of Solitaire with just you, your cards, a candle burning and maybe the dog snoring nearby is an act of divination and magick. This exercise allows you to interact with your cards, bend them, shuffle them and meditate on their meanings. I find that a winning hand usually signifies something good is coming my way that day. It won’t be anything extravagant but it will put a smile on my face. Try it; I think you’ll be surprised by the results.

The two of clubs is a card of laziness. It usually indicates that something that needs doing is either being put off or ignored all together. How urgent that thing is will be determined by the two of club’s place in the spread. If this does not fit in to your reading, the card may be pointing toward some kind of disappointment or an opposing force that is pressing on your querent.

Work with your cards this weekend if you can. Try to catch a quick game of Solitaire and feel the cards in your hands. They will impart their energy if you let them. Though I rarely guarantee anything (because the Universe gives us few guarantees) I will guarantee that.

Bon chance ~

Header: The Fortune Teller by J. F. Bazille

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jeudi: Moon Work

According to calendars old and new there can be between 7 and 10 days between the New Moon proper and the First Quarter Moon. While I know it sounds a bit illogical, it always seems to me that the colder it gets, the more the moon is “in a hurry”. I was almost taken off guard to consult my almanac and find that the First Quarter Moon (meaning the moon cycle is half way between new and full) is today (at 5:27 PM U.S. Eastern Daylight Time). Of course, if I lived in the Southern Hemisphere where spring is springing the timing would be the same but I can’t shake the feeling that frosty mornings hurry the moon along.

With the dawning of the First Quarter Moon, nature’s cycle is telling us to step back from a work (or works) in progress and assess how it is developing. Has anything changed from your original vision of the thing as it should be? If so, now is a good time to do the tweaking necessary to bring it to fruition. Of course, not all projects have 28 day time frames so this may be the first or the fourteenth time you’ve taken an objective look at what you are creating. No matter how many times you do it, though, the exercise is not in vein. First Quarter Moon energy will help you achieve the best possible outcome if you go with it for the next three days.

No particular project on your plate right now? Don’t let this moment pass you by. Turn your attention at the First Quarter Moon toward friendships (either nurturing those that you cherish or walking away from those that have grown toxic), motivation, magicks involving the elements and luck. Now is an auspicious time to make that lucky mojo you’ve been collecting ingredients for. The First Quarter Moon also imparts courage, which is always a helpful focus for meditation or prayer.

It seems like only a moment before the Full Moon will be upon us, but you’ve got time to take advantage of the energies around you right now too. Bon chance ~

Header: The Moon tarot card redo by Tyrantx via

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

My daughters are at that age where skin becomes what commercials euphemistically refer to as “a problem”. Usually it amounts to something more drastic than that in real life but then those ubiquitous commercials want to tone down and play up the “problem” at the same time. The message is, of course, you’ll just be unpopular and spotty if you don’t use our product. Buy. It. NOW.

Unfortunately, for the most part these celebrity-endorsed goos actually do very little to solve the problem: excess sebum on the skin generated by the onset of puberty. Nature, on the other hand, has the perfect solution which is both time tested and old wife approved. I’m talking about witch hazel.

Witch hazel is a bush whose twigs are often used for fashioning divining rods. The bark and leaves can be carried to cool passion and help recovery after breaking up with a lover. Finally, the witch hazel has been decocted for centuries to make an astringent that will calm inflammation, tighten pores and generally clean up extra oil on the skin. It has also been used as a rinse (usually diluted by half with water) for particularly oily hair and as a pre-modern hand sanitizer. It was favored by sailors as a soak to remove tar from the skin. No kidding.

Witch hazel astringent can be found in drug stores without much problem now. Look for one that uses the bark of the plant and does not distill the extract, which can remove the tannins. I like Thayer’s Alcohol-Free blend but there are others out there that will do the job just as well. Try to avoid any that add alcohol as all that does is dry out the skin, not remove the oil. I personally like the spicy scent of witch hazel but if you find it off-putting Thayer’s and others offer unscented blends.

People with sensitive and rosacea-prone skin (like yours truly) can have trouble with using witch hazel astringent as is. It’s also hard on open sours (such as recently excised blackheads). If you do have trouble with the straight stuff you can still get all the benefits of witch hazel but you will have to work a little harder. Here is a home-made astringent that includes witch hazel coupled with the soothing benefits of barley water. It’s a little more effort, but it really is worth it and it smells delightful.

Crush 1 tbsp of peppermint leaves (or about a teaspoon of dried peppermint), 1 tbsp of finely grated lemon peel, 1 tbsp of rosemary (or a teaspoon of dried) in a bowl with the back of a spoon (or a mortar and pestle if you have one). Place all in a jar that will seal tightly. Add ½ cup of alcohol-free witch hazel astringent, close the jar, shake gently and set aside to steep for 12 days.

On the 12th day, put 1 tbsp of pearl barley (available in the organics section of your grocery store) and ½ cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer for about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool and then strain through cheese cloth or a fine sieve. Strain your witch hazel mixture through the same medium, combine this with your barley water and decant into a bottle. Add 4 to 6 drops of peppermint essential oil, depending on your appetite for that minty scent.

Use on a cotton ball after washing but before moisturizing your skin. Keep the bottle in your refrigerator and use the mixture within two weeks (you can double or even triple the batch if you have a number of people, including gentlemen, who need it). À votre santé ~

Header: Young Lady at Her Toilette by Van Dou

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Last week we talked about the money and luck drawing powder of fenugreek, a favorite of root doctors. Today, let’s turn a little sideways and focus on the properties of myrtle which comes to hoodoo predominantly through the European botanica.

Myrtle is an ancient favorite for drawing and keeping love. Celtic maidens would wear myrtle flowers in the springtime to attract a lover and the Romans made wreaths of the leaves for the same purpose.

Dried or fresh myrtle can be steeped and added to baths for love-drawing workings or, particularly, to keep a relationship fresh and exciting. Dried myrtle is also added to love-drawing incenses and sachets/mojo bags. Carrying myrtle on your person preserves love.

Myrtle wood is carried to protect a youthful appearance. Scott Cunningham recommends drinking myrtle tea every third day to remain young but warns that the efficacy of this potion will disappear if the tisane is not imbibed on schedule. If you take up this regimen, never miss a third day.

Brides are encouraged to wear or carry myrtle on their wedding day to improve their fertility. Interestingly, however, the old wives’ tale goes that the myrtle (unlike the more common honeysuckle) will ensure a pregnancy later allowing the bride to enjoy the first few months of marriage without the added worry of gestation.

My favorite use for myrtle is as a house blessing. Plant myrtle on each side of your house to ensure peace, love and prosperity as long as you live there. Myrtle planted in a home’s window boxes will have the same effect. Since myrtle is ruled by Venus, these effects will be more pronounced if it is planted by a woman. Something to jot down in your gardening journal for next spring.

Header detail from Vermeer

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lundi: Recipes

I'm not much for baking. I love to cook but baking involves measuring and then that turns into, as Dan Connor put it on the old “Roseanne” show, “… some kind of recipe!” I will, however make this cake quite happily despite the fact that it’s all I can do to make a box brownie mix work.

Known as the Green Man Cake, the original recipe comes from Silver Ravenwolf’s book Halloween. The book is great, and jam packed with handy facts, crafts, spells and, yes, recipes for our current season and beyond. It’s still in print from Llewelynn and I can’t recommend it enough.

So here is my take on Silver’s Green Man Cake which is great as a sheet or layer cake or, in the current case here at my house, as cupcakes (in pirate cups with paper Jolly Rogers hoisted above the frosting).

3 ounces chocolate chips
1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 tsps baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt chocolate chips either in a ban Marie or in the microwave (approximately 1 minute on high). Allow to cool but not to solidify. Put softened butter, sugar and eggs in a large bowl and mix (by hand or with a mixer) until fluffy. Add vanilla and chocolate. Mix for another minute or so until batter is well blended. Sift flour and baking soda together. Add to batter alternately with sour cream and mix thoroughly. Add boiling water and mix again. The batter will be runny.

Spray the bottoms of two 9 inch round baking pans with cooking spray. Flour lightly. Pour batter into pans and bake about 35 minutes. Let cool 15 to 20 minutes before removing.

If you like you can add a tsp of green food coloring with the vanilla, thus creating the “Green Man” part of your cake. Great for this time of year when the ancestors might appreciate an offering of cake or for spring, when the Green Man returns. Jouir de ~

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Samedi: Saint Expedite

All lwa in Voudon belief have a corresponding Catholic Saint. This had to do with the African religion being practiced openly under the nose of Catholic slaveholders in what is now Haiti and what was then Saint Dominique or San Domingue. A statue or picture of the Blessed Virgin in her guise as the Stella Maris would be set up as the centerpiece for an altar to the mermaid La Siren and who would be the wiser? As the process of assimilation continued, the Catholic faith leaked into the African religion. Many voudonisants and rootworkers call themselves Catholic. The famous Marie Leveau, Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, stopped practicing hoodoo all together and “became a Catholic” in later life.

In the case of the Lord of the Ghede, Baron Samedi, the corresponding Saint is known as Expedite. This was not always the case, however, and is in fact not generally the case in Haiti. In Haitian Voudon the Ghede tend not to be represented by Saints. A cross will do nicely, particularly if it is painted black or purple. The association with St. Expedite (shown above on a prayer card) came out of the Crescent City and the story is not only amusing but a true tale of cultures mingling while they are still at crossed purposes.

In Catholicism proper there is no St. Expedite. Believe me. I was raised Catholic, did my time in CCD and have not only my jumbo book of saints for all things and days but my mother’s family Bible with the “Names of the Saints” section that includes such obscure entries as St. Cleopatra and St. Mel. Mom consulted it to come up with my name and never forgave Dad’s Creole kin for giving me a second, French version. “There is no St. Pauline,” she’d say. “She’s not in the book.” And, like Pauline, if there was a St. Expedite he’d be in one or both of these handy references.

The story goes that after the Louisiana Purchase but before Louisiana became a state, a package was shipped to St. Louis Cathedral from a Catholic Diocese in New England. The crate was stamped with the word “Expedite” as so frequently happened when mailing items to the unknown frontier but the Creole speaking Haitian men who were opening the mail had no idea what that meant. They read the word though and when they opened the crate they found a beautiful statue of a Roman soldier with golden armor, a gold halo and holding a cross. Surly, they agreed between them, this must be St. Expedite (pronounce “Ex-pa-DEET”).

The word got out and people began lighting candles before the new statue in the Cathedral. When it seemed that rootwork would be more successful and that success would come faster if St. Expedite was invoked, he got a reputation for helping things along. This, in turn, began his association with the lwa who watches over NOLA then and now, Baron Samedi. And all because of a stamp on a crate.

Is the story true? I would never be so bold as to say definitively “Yes!” because that would be foolish. As Hamlet told Horatio, there are more things in … Well; you know the rest. So for now, Au revoir ~

Friday, October 8, 2010

Vendredi: Ace of Clubs

Here we are, a week into HQ and we’ve come full circle. It’s time once again to talk about divination with the ubiquitous deck of playing cards that is probably sitting in a draw somewhere wondering why you abandoned it for the card games on your computer. Though they are amazing on all levels, one of the things computers can’t do with any accuracy is imagine the future. But you, with a little psychic nudge, sure can. Just remember to always keep your cards for divination separate from those you use for games. Remember too the old root wisdom: if you divine with cards, don’t gamble with them.

We will start our look at the divinatory meaning of each card with the suit of clubs, which you will recall represents enterprise and business. There is also a element here of creative energy and loyalty. Contemplate your cards often, doing readings for yourself daily if at all possible. As Scott Cunningham so brilliantly put it, you are your magickal laboratory and that includes divination.

The Ace of Clubs represents general prosperity. There is a sense of success achieved after hard work and possibly of someone finally getting what is owed to them. Change may be involved.

Note that some readers assign the Ace of Clubs the position I refer to as “place card”. The place card is an indicator of your querent’s status. In the case of the Ace of Clubs the status in question is reputation in their community with a proximity to a Spade meaning bad and to a Heart meaning good. I do not personally adhere to the use of place cards but I want you to be well informed and to remember that each reading is different and surprisingly new. If the cards are leading you in a direction, don’t fight it. Let that psychic trigger do its work.

Bon chance ~

Header: Card Reader by Martin Drolling

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jeudi: Moon Work

The New Moon rises today (at 2:45 PM U.S. Eastern Daylight Time) and as usual I’m filled with a sense of potential. Most rootworkers pay attention to the moon’s phases, as do Neopagans, Wiccans, Druids and many established religions. The Catholic Church sets more than one of its “moveable feasts” based on moon cycles and this has come down from the Jewish faith (as an example, Passover and Easter are both based on the date of the New Moon). These calendar “quirks” continued to be followed even after reform churches tossed out the so called “pagan” practices inherent in Catholicism.

The “New Moon itch” to start something new transcends spellcraft and religious observance and trickles down into daily life. Just as the Full Moon inspires “lunacy”, the New Moon kicks us in the butt. I have a devout (though not fundamentalist) LDS friend who always waits until the New Moon to start projects around her house like sewing new curtains or painting. “It just feels right,” she tells me and I can’t argue with that.

So today, tomorrow, Saturday and even Sunday are opportunities to start something new with the blessing of the Moon. A project, a blog, a job hunt, a painting, a novel, a relationship, a family, volunteering, studying; what is calling you right now? Whatever endeavor you truly want to throw yourself into but have been saving for “later”, now is a wise time to seriously think about jumping in with both feet. Or, if that just doesn’t sound right, there is always another New Moon next month.

Some specific focuses for New Moon energy are: gardens, love, networking, beauty and health, education and self-improvement, all artistic pursuits. This is also a great time to begin work on breaking a bad habit and/or removing something (or someone) toxic from your environment and your life.

Think of the possibilities.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

Wednesday here at HQ is all about taking care of yourself inside and out. You can’t look good if you don’t feel good, but you can make your “routine” more than just a daily chore. We’ll start out with something that most of us have tried, or at least are familiar with. But I’m adding my own twist so that your time is well spent even if you hardly have two minutes to rub together.

Cucumbers are not a big part of “rootwork” which is the colloquial term for hoodoo in practice. You put them in your salad. Or, you put them on your eyes to keep that annoying puffiness at bay. They don’t do anything per se. Well, said I, why not change that up?

Most of us don’t have time to lie around with day-glo facial masques on and cucumber slices covering our eyes in the middle of the day. That’s for “Desperate” and “Real” housewives; the gals who don’t have kids and jobs and dinner to cook. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get just the same benefits from nature’s bounty. Try this tonic for puffy eyes and psychic slump; it might be just what the root doctor ordered.

While you are getting dinner together, cut two ½ inch thick slices from a fat cucumber and sprinkle them with dried mint (peppermint or spearmint, either is fine, or you can use fresh mint leaves if you have a kitchen garden or window box handy) before sliding them into a Ziploc bag and popping them in the fridge. At the end of the night after the kids are down, the coffee maker is ready for tomorrow, the TV’s off and your face is clean and moisturized, climb into bed, lie on your back and place your cucumber slices over your eyes mint-side up.

Now breathe in and appreciate the surprisingly soothing yet rejuvenating mixture of scents. Focus but don’t frown or strain. You’re relaxing, after all. Think of your psychic abilities - be it lucid dreams, seeing the future, interacting with spirits/ancestors or spiritual protection – expanding, improving and strengthening even as your worries drift away. Keep breathing deeply and, if it helps you, repeat a set of words in your head such as “I remember my dreams” to keep focused. Don’t force it; the benefits will come as you continue to practice.

After ten or fifteen minutes, return the cucumbers to the bag and zip them up. They’ll be fine overnight for disposal in the morning. Remember that relaxation and rest do more for our health – physical, mental and spiritual – than just about anything else. And that goes for you gentlemen too. Fear not the cucumbers over the eyes!

Get some rest now, and repeat your cucumber magick as often as you like. Bonne nuit ~

Header: Countess Golivin by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Plants, roots, flowers and herbs are used a lot in American hoodoo. Uses for these natural objects have come down to us as a mixed bag of African, European and Native lore. After all, unless you are a Native American you came from someplace else – either voluntarily or involuntarily. My ancestors did both and, since I can claim no Native heritage, it was all new to them when they showed up in the Caribbean and North America. They found some things that were familiar, of course, but there were many new items as well. Thankfully, they had the good sense to learn from the people who were already here and knew the land and its bounty very well.

On Tuesdays here at HQ we’ll be talking about plants and their properties. Feel free to comment and add in your thoughts and/or experiences. The only exception to out Tuesday herbal will be, or course, Fat Tuesday when we will just be cookin’ up a storm.

Fenugreek is favored in hoodoo for the magickal properties of its seeds. Because beans are considered particularly lucky, and fenugreek seeds look and can be used like legumes, they fall into the “money drawing” category. Neopagans and Wiccans also use fenugreek seeds for wealth. Scott Cunningham, a noted pagan authority who has sadly left this world, mentions this use in his definitive Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs.

It’s advisable to keep a few fenugreek seeds in a bowl, plate or open jar in your kitchen. Add seeds every day or so until the container is full. This will draw money and bring financial fortune.

In hoodoo, the full container is emptied and the seeds are steeped in the solution used to mop the kitchen floors, which in turn attracts more luck. Cunningham recommends returning “ …the spent herbs to the ground”. Either way, start the process of filling your container over with fresh fenugreek seeds to ensure that your luck continues.

Header: "Europe Supported by Africa and America"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lundi: Recipes

To me, spellcraft is like cooking. Get the recipe right and your family is full and happy; get the spell right and the universe rewards your efforts. Both require forethought, collection of ingredients and tools and a good deal of will. A truly gifted practitioner can work magick without any outward gadgetry. But most of us need something to focus on, even if it is nothing more than a piece of paper. Monday here at HQ will be devoted to the magick of food preparation. I hope to inspire and make you smile. We’ll save the hard stuff for later in the week.

Today, one of my family’s favorite comfort foods as it came down to me from my mother and her mother before her: Macaroni and Cheese

1/3 cup butter plus a little extra for the baking dishes
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups milk (I use 2% generally but using 2 ½ cups of 2% and ½ cup of evaporated milk makes a richer sauce perfect for gatherings and holidays)
About 3 cups of grated cheddar cheese, medium, sharp or both
1 pound large elbow macaroni
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

With some softened butter, grease the baking dish or dishes you will be using. The recipe makes two dinner-sized servings of m & c so go large here. I usually use two Corningware dishes so I can cook one off and freeze the other for a night when I don’t have time to cook.

Cook macaroni as per package instructions.

While the macaroni is boiling, melt 1/3 cup butter in a sauce pan. Add flour and cook at a low boil for two minutes, stirring constantly (you want the flour “taste” to cook out). Warm the milk about a minute in the microwave (or let it sit out and rise to room temperature before hand) and add to your roux. Stir occasionally as it comes to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once your béchamel sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon, add grated cheese by handfuls and stir to melt. Voilà; cheese sauce.

Drain cooked macaroni and pour into baking dish or dishes. Add cheese sauce and mix thoroughly. You can add more grated cheese on top and/or some breadcrumbs for a nice crust if you like.

Bake m & c for about ½ hour or until it bubbles nicely. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad. A dish even Thomas Jefferson would love.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Samedi: The Baron

Baron Samedi is the Lord of the Dead in Haitian Voudon, New Orleans voodoo and American hoodoo. He, along with two other lwa known collectively as “The Barons”, is the leader of the spirits of the dead who are called the Ghede. Samedi is the word for Saturday in French and Haitian Kreyol so today is the Baron’s sacred day.

When speaking of the lwa (or loa), which roughly translates to English as “spirit” but can also mean “law”, it is important to be clear on what they are. The lwa are not gods in the way that Neopagans and Wiccans refer to Brigit or Athena, Lugh or Oden. There is only one God in Haitian Voudon and related practices, the Bon Dieu: Good God. The lwa are more like powerful thought forms or even ancestors in some cases. I personally think of them as akin to Roman Catholic saints probably because I was brought up in the Catholic Church and because each lwa has a corresponding Catholic Saint (more on that another time).

The Baron is a dapper dresser who, like many of the Ghede spirits, is bawdy in his speech and appreciates fine food, drink and cigars. He seems like fun guy to be around and he can be, but it is important to remember that he is a powerful and sometimes angery spirit that must be treated with all due respect. The Baron is the voice of the ancestors as well. If he visits your dreams he is probably coming with a message from your people. Many times he brings word that you are neglecting them and should get right by your ancestors as soon as possible.

Baron Samedi is also the patron spirit of the city of New Orleans. You will see his veve (the sacred symbol shown at the header) his image and so called “voodoo dolls” representing the Baron all over NOLA. You might have seen him at televised Saints games – or a man taking on the persona of the lwa – his face painted like a skull, his clothing black and a top hat on his head. Saturday will be devoted to the Ghede in general and Baron Samedi in particular here at HQ. Come back tout Samedi for more and I’ll see you next week with herbs, cards and a healthy does of fun. Aurevoir ~

Friday, October 1, 2010

Vendredi: In The Cards

Telling a person’s fortune, either one’s own, a friend’s or a ‘client’s’, is as old as human conscience. Wanting to know what will happen in the future – and therefore being able to control it – is a desire that all humans share. Using cards to predict the future is surely as ancient as the cards themselves.

In both Haitian Voudon and American hoodoo, the cards of choice for cartomancy (fortune telling with cards) are run of the mill playing cards. I know of practitioners who use the Tarot for readings but historically this has not been the case. In all honesty Tarot cards would have been a lot more difficult to come by for most of the history of both practices. Modern Wiccans, Druids and other pagans tend to favor the Tarot but even they would admit that the European wise-people from whom they descend probably used playing cards – some of them homemade one would imagine – in their cartomancy. We’re all very similar if you dig past the surface.

For the purposes of this series of Friday posts, we will be examining the fortune telling meanings of common cards. The Tarot is far more intricate and, in all honesty, is a lifetime study. Hoodoo cartomancy, though it is also a distinct art, can be learned fairly easily. As you become familiar with the cards and your own psychic ability, you will find deeper meaning in each card and see the way the cards interact with those closer to or further away from them in a spread.

Learning cartomancy can be an invigorating experience. Let go and let it happen and remember: there is no one authority. If I’ve aroused your interest, do more research. If you have another opinion, leave me a comment and start a dialogue. I have a lot of experience but I do not put myself before you as the ultimate arbiter. I’m here to fire your imagination, get the ball rolling and help you change your perceptions.

To begin, here is a brief outline of the general patterns that each suit brings to the fortune telling table. Future posts will deal with the meanings of specific cards and later we’ll talk about layouts and spreads. I’ll try to make this a consistent Friday feature and, if you follow me over at Triple P, you know I’m pretty darn consistent.

Clubs: These cards correspond to the suit of Wands in the Tarot. They are ruled by the element of Fire (masculine). This is the suit of labor, energy, enterprise and growth.

Hearts: This suit corresponds to the Tarot Cups. Ruled by the element of Water (feminine), the suit concerns friends, family, love and happiness.

Spades: Corresponding to the suit of Swords in Tarot, this suit is ruled by Air (masculine). Spades are the suit of warriors, courage, aggression and conflict.

Diamonds: These are equivalent to the suit of Pentacles in Tarot. Ruled by the element of Earth (feminine), this suit represents trade, fortune and money.

And so we begin. Stop in to HQ often and bring a friend. I promise a long, enlightening and enjoyable journey.

Header: The Fortune Teller by Lucas van Leyden