Monday, January 31, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

For years and years I searched for a recipe for fettuccini Alfredo that would match the old favorite I used to invariably order at Marie Calender’s. The rich sauce coating thick ribbons of fettuccini which was served with broccoli and with or without chunks of chicken was always comforting. Unfortunately, the frozen variety just isn’t the same and Alaska is not Marie’s cup of tea, apparently.

Why I didn’t just dig around in my Creole cook books in the first place is beyond me but finally, after moving up here ten years ago, I did just that. Thanks to La Bouche Creole by the always reliable Leon E. Soniat, Jr. I found exactly what I was looking for and now it is a favorite at my house, for dinner or brunch. Here is this shockingly simple but thoroughly delightful recipe:

1 lb fettuccini noodles
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
½ cup heavy cream (I use half and half without any loss of taste)

Boil the fettuccini as per package directions and then drain.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan until partially melted. Lower head, add the noodles and toss. Add the Parmesan cheese and toss until cheese in melted. Add the cream; continue to toss until the mixture is hot throughout. Plate and add black pepper if you like.

This recipe is delicious but unfortunately hard to reheat, especially in the microwave. That’s all right though; it’s so delicious you surely will have none left over. And I’m sorry, Marie, but this is even better than yours.

Header: The Cook by J. Beuckelaer

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Samedi: Pelerinage

Like most religions, Voudon has its own devotional pilgrimages. The places that draw the faithful in Haiti, though, are usually not buildings, churches or cities but are often bodies of water. Followers of Voudon may be led to personal places of pilgrimage; there are many cases of voudonists being told by a lwa or ancestor in a dream to visit a forest, park or seashore and they will make this a habit. There are also major pilgrimage sites that have become famous in their own right.

Two of the best known focuses of Voudon pilgrimage, or pelerinage, are the mud baths at the Plaine du Nord in northern Haiti and the waterfall at Saut d’Eau near the village of Ville Bonheur. The festival at Plaine du Nord takes place on St. James’ Day, July 25th and celebrates the lwa of fire, the forge and technology Ogou Ferraille. The town of Plaine du Nord surrounds what is known as Trou Sen Jak, a large mud pond which is said to have healing powers. The mud is warmed by underground steam and, because he is a “hot” lwa, it is not surprising that it is sacred to Ogou. The worshipers who flock to the little town bathe in the mud not only to honor Ogou, but also to receive healing which both the lwa and the mud itself are said to impart. The worshippers appear in blue clothing with red piping, trying to emulate Ogou who is frequently pictured as a soldier. They wear red head scarves and hope to be blessed with the courage and masculine energy of the lwa in spirit possession.

Saut d’Eau is a 100 foot series of falls outside Ville Bonheur where, in 1847, a vision of Erzulie Freda as the Virgin Mary was seen in a palm tree. The local priest had the tree cut down to discourage voudonists from worshiping there and it promptly fell into the water beneath the falls, floating away serenely. The priest died of an untreatable illness and the locals got the word out that Erzulie Freda had claimed the falls for herself. Now each July 16th crowds of voudonists and tourists swell the little village and participate in the purifying bathing ritual at the falls. All those who jump into the water remove their clothes and allow them to float off like Erzulie’s palm tree, taking their sins away with them and allowing them to emerge from the water clean both physically and spiritually. The village is about 60 miles north of Port-au-Prince and the festival has a carnival atmosphere with music, food and curio stands, drumming and dancing. The most influential and devoted voudonists never miss a year but those not accustomed to the festival should take special precautions. There’s a lot going on and, much like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the criminal element never misses a year, either.

Of course we can’t all go to Saut d’Eau but there are places of Voudon pilgrimage in North America at least. The shrine of Sainte Anne in Quebec is a huge draw on her feast day in July. New York voudonists visit Prospect Park to commune with the lwa of the forest, Gran Bwa. And of course the grave of the famous “voodoo queen” Marie Laveau in New Orleans’ St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is an ongoing destination for those seeking her favor. It is the custom to make three Xs on the grave with a shard of red brick, ask for your desire and then leave a small gift for Madame Paris, as she is also known. Bon pelerinage ~

Header: Saut d’Eau via HaitiWiki (click to truly enjoy the beauty of the place)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Vendredi: Three of Hearts

As we have seen before, some cards stand on their own with very little effort. Many times these cards virtually jump out at you as you survey the spread. They are like the squeaky wheel; it’s easy to know what they’re saying. Others are quiet, subtle and influenced by what is going on around them. Like a shy but interesting person they must be drawn into the conversation. And so it is with the Three of Hearts.

Generally, this card is a call to celebration. This may not – and usually, in fact, does not – mean party hats and noise makers. The indication is that the querent is surrounded by caring family, good friends and the fortune of happiness. All you have to do is remind them how fortunate they are. In some cases, however, something insidious may be lurking at the margins.

The sign to look out for is the Suit of Spades. If three or more Spades, particularly the lower number cards, are next to the Three of Hearts and quite literally surrounding it, someone among those joyous acquaintances may be deceiving your querent. This is particularly true of the Three of Spades which may strongly indicated adultery if the spread has any inclination in that direction.

Should Spades be present as noted, advising your querent to use discretion is very much a good idea. While blurting out “your husband is cheating on you!” is never a good idea, asking a few leading questions might reveal that the querent is already aware of something that doesn’t smell right.

This is a good place to add that ending a reading on a positive note is always, always necessary. Anyone who has asked you to read for them is already at least partially open to psychic influence and it would be unethical if not inhuman to send them away thinking about sorrow, deception or death. Even the darkest cloud has a silver lining; your job as the card reader is to find it and let it shine as brightly as possible. Vendredi heureux ~

Header: The Fortune Teller by Jean-Baptiste Leprince

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jeudi: The Art of Beauty

As promised, it’s time to wrap up our discussion of homemade bath salts with the idea of adding color. Once you’ve mixed your bath salt base, and thrown in any essential oils that either suit your fancy or help advance your magickal goals, a little food coloring might put the finishing touch on your creation.

Some workers find that color helps them to achieve what one of my teachers called “the psychic click”; that moment when you connect with not only your own power but the force or forces in the universe that will allow you to manifest your desire on this plane. Man, that’s a New Age mouthful isn’t it? And I think we all know what some people would say it’s full of. I get that, but the reality is that spells do work and using whatever connects you as the worker to that higher reality is one of the most important parts of being effective. If that’s adding a little lavender tint to your psychic dreams bath salts, so much the better. Then, too, coloring your bath salts makes for a really pretty gift either for yourself or someone dear.

Common food colorings work great for this process but, just like the essential oils, always blend your colors prior to adding them to the bath salts. When your goal is green a bowl of salts that looks more like a fish with blue and yellow spots really isn’t going to work, especially not magickally. Again, it’s the connection to the subconscious and if what you’re looking at doesn’t match what you wanted you might as well just take a straight bath and forget it.

Once you’ve mixed your colors, add your bath salts to them and mix with a large spoon or spatula that you are not concerned about being stained. As I’m sure you’re aware, food coloring – even those organic kinds – will stain your hands, clothing, counters, etc. so take appropriate precautions to that end. Red bath salts can jump start your love life but red counter tiles might make company wonder what exactly you keep in your freezer.

Here then, for reference, is a by no means complete list of color correspondences. Use this as inspiration and let your imagination and intuition work together to achieve the color that works best for your intention. Just as an aside these colors work for candle magick too so it couldn’t hurt to have a corresponding colored candle burning while you soak. Just a thought.

Red: courage, action, strength, health, sexual attraction

Light blue: tranquility, calm, healing

Dark blue: decision making, healing depression, courage in the face of change

Green: luck, money, fertility

Yellow: power, persuasion, prosperity, confidence

Brown: grounding, neutrality in opposition or debate

Pink: flirtation, attraction, love

Purple: psychism, centeredness, sleep

Orange: adaptability, stimulation to action, encouragement

Black: turn away and/or neutralize negativity

White: can be used for any working and is also used for protection and clarity of thought

As noted, use your intuition. If yellow feels like an attraction color to you, ditch the pink and go with your instinct. What works for you is what’s important. What works for me is white; I’m not much for mucking around with food coloring. A votre santé ~

Header: Toilette of a Roman Lady by Simeon Solomon c 1889

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mercredi: Herbal-Wise

Because I missed Tuesday’s post, due to a nasty microbe that is still giving my stomach fits, I am switching things up a little bit this week. Today will be the usually-on-Tuesday herbal post and tomorrow we can finish up the discussion on magickal bath salts. With good fortune and force of will, HQ should return to normal next week.

Flax and flax seeds in particular are one of my favorite magickal ingredients. The seeds are easy to get – most craft stores sell them now for making beauty related items like eye pillows – and they are above all else wonderful for protection work. They are also said to improve your psychic powers.

In root work, flax seeds are used particularly to protect babies and children. Put nine flax seeds and a whole angelica root into a white flannel bag with a charm or medal that represents a Guardian Angel. Empower this mojo for your child and keep it somewhere in your baby’s room, preferably near their crib, to protect them from illness and physical harm. Some workers dress the bag regularly with Blessing Oil. As your baby grows, collect their baby teeth when they fall out. Put the teeth in a box or bag filled with flax seeds to protect your child as they grow to adulthood. To strengthen the mojo and ensure its efficacy, add a silver dime from the year your child was born to the packet.

Sleep with a purple flannel bag of flax seed that has been dressed with Psychic Vision Oil under your pillow to improve your psychic abilities. Keep your fortune telling tool, be it a scrying mirror, cards, runes, cowrie shells or what have you, in a box or bag to which a few flax seeds have been added to encourage their potency.

In other magickal traditions, flax seeds are used as a form of insurance against evil spirits and the evil eye. Red pepper flakes and flax seeds kept in a box or urn on the mantel or in the kitchen are said to keep evil away from your home. Flax seeds can be scattered around your property to turn away harm from intruders of the animal, human or spirit varieties. This trick probably goes back to the old belief that witches and revenants are naturally compelled to count each seed before they can enter the property. Our ancestors seem to have relied on their evil spirits having a bit of OCD.

Finally, an old European wives’ tale says that you should have your child dance in a field of growing flax on their seventh birthday to ensure they will be beautiful and robust. I’d say picking an attractive partner would be a better bet, but I’ve yet to become an “old” wife. Bon chance ~

Header: Sleepy Baby by Mary Cassatt c 1910

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Samedi: Lady of Luxury

In “eclectic practice”, which is a term one hears about particularly in Wicca, the lwa Erzulie Freda Dahomey is starting to be acquainted with goddesses of love and beauty from other disciplines. I’ve spoken with people – women in particular – who have put representations of Erzulie on their altars next to Aphrodite and Inanna. There is a tacit danger in this erroneous belief that one goddess is as good as another lwa. In all fairness, as I have discussed before, the lwa are not gods. And, just as a point of reference, they’re relatively new to the scene. A Greek or Sumerian goddess can afford to be magnanimous; they’ve seen it all before. The lwa, on the other hand, are still stretching their muscles.

As an example of the very different nature of Erzulie from any ancient love goddess, I offer an excerpt from the writings of Maya Deren who is one of my personal role models. Deren, as anthropologist and ethnographer, went to Haiti in 1947 to study Voudon. She became a voudonist and developed a met tet relationship with Erzulie herself by whom she was possessed on more than one occasion. Deren’s writings on Voudon are classics of the genre and should be studied by anyone with a serious interest in Voudon.

Here then is Ms. Deren explaining, to the best of the written word’s ability, what Erzulie Freda Dahomey is like as she appears at the oumphor in spirit possession:

Erzulie moves in an atmosphere of infinite luxury, a perfume of refinement, which, from the first moment of her arrival, pervades the very air of the peristyle, and becomes a general expansiveness in which all anxieties, all urgencies vanish. The tempo of movements becomes more leisurely, tensions dissolve and the voices soften, losing whatever aggressive or strident tones they may have had. One has the impression that a fresh, cooling breeze has sprung up somewhere and that the heat has become less intense, less oppressive.

… attired, powdered and perfumed, she goes out into the peristyle escorted by several of the more handsome men, her favorites. There she may make the rounds, greeting the men guests effusively, but extending only the little fingers of each had to those women who are not special devotees. Her voice is a delicate soprano; her every gesture, movement of eyes and smile, is a masterpiece of beguiling coquetry; with her, human relationship becomes itself significant rather than merely a means to an end.

It is Deren who refers to Erzulie as “The Lady of Luxury” and rightly so. Voundonists imagine her as a light skinned quadroon of immense beauty and refinement who speaks only French, drinks champagne and prefers to spend her days painting her nails rather than doing any actual work. Her horses follow suit, drinking only champagne, speaking French even if they don’t know the language and dressing up in clothes, makeup and perfume set aside at the oumphor particularly for Erzulie.

At some point during her appearance, though, Erzulie will break down in a fit of weeping. In the end, no matter how beautiful her clothes are, how attentive her lovers may be or how delicious the morsels offered her are, Erzulie is disappointed by life. Her heart hurts, she weeps, and then she is gone. In this she is perhaps more like a woman than a goddess. Inanna may dance and Aphrodite may smile but Erzulie, the Lady of Luxury, knows what it is to be human.

Header: Dwapo lwa of Erzulie Freda by Yves Tellemark

Friday, January 21, 2011

Vendredi: Two of Hearts

The Two of Hearts follows the general pattern of its Suit and leads toward interpersonal relationships and partnership in particular. Most of the time, the card hints at a blossoming love. A face card nearby may give a hint as to the person involved or potentially involved with the querent. Depending on the surrounding cards the querent may be considering a date, a relationship, moving in with a partner or even marriage. Some delicate questions should get to the heart – pardon the pun – of the matter and this card in a spread is almost always a positive indicator in favor of the decision.

Some readings do not involve love, although to casually glance at the many books about cartomancy you’d be hard pressed to believe it. If this is the case look for cards from the Suit of Clubs near to this one. The indication is probably a business partnership. I once read for a woman and found the Two of Hearts right next to the Five of Clubs, a sure sign of a struggle in a business partnership. The querent insisted her issue was marriage. I pressed her a bit and it finally came out that she was considering asking for a pre-nup. Essentially she perceived her marriage as a corporate merger but hadn’t come to terms with her feelings, or those of her fiance.

Finally, if none of the above situations are in any way indicated, the card may be a sign of impending prosperity for the querent. You’ll need to read the cards around this one to try and determine what sort of prosperity is implied. Appréciez votre Vendredi ~

Header: Fortune Telling by William Mount c 1837

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jeudi: Root Work

Last Thursday we talked about magickal boosts to help bring love into your life this year. As promised, this week it’s all about shaping up.

The reality is that there aren’t a lot of spells or workings to address weight loss and motivation to diet/exercise. In hoodoo, this probably has a lot to do with the origins of root work. A lot of old time root workers didn’t have enough to eat at certain times if not on a day to day basis so the idea of encouraging “dieting” would have seemed to them laughable if not ridiculous. This may be an element of the lack of advice on the subject in other disciplines as well. Although I suspect there is a tinge of fear of manipulation here too, just as there is with love spells.

I’m a big believer in balanced eating, regular moderate exercise and a generally good outlook on body image. As the mother of two teenage girls, this is not only advisable it is absolutely critical. They see enough skeleton-thin women in the media. Momma got curves, babies; ain’t nothing wrong with that.

At any rate the idea of shaping up magickally really is a modern invention and so I will offer the advice of one of the foremost Wiccan authorities of the 20th century, Scott Cunningham. In his book Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, Cunningham recommends securing a moonstone. It can be set in a piece of jewelry (he mentions a pendant) or loose as from a gem seller or craft store that sells semiprecious stones. Remember to cleanse your stone prior to using it by letting it sit on a sunny windowsill for a day or so. Failing that, I cleanse mine with holy water (sun can be hard to come by in Alaska in January).

Here is Cunningham’s ritual for “reprogramming your eating habits” with the help of your moonstone:

Three nights after the Full Moon, stand nude before a full-length mirror in bright light. Study your body closely, using another mirror if necessary. To successfully perform this magic, you must know yourself, accept your faults, and then allow yourself to change.

Be brutal with your visual self-analysis. See the areas you wish to reduce on your body. Visualize a new you – slimmer, in control of your food intake, fully alive.

Then, hold a moonstone in your projective [dominant] hand while continuing to visualize the body and discipline you wish to have.

Rub the moonstone over the problem areas of your body, over the excess amounts of fat, visualizing them melting away. Draw it across your head to help control your urges to eat unhealthy and fattening foods.

Finally, wear or carry the stone with you at all times. When you feel the urge to eat cheesecake, take the stone in your receptive hand, breathe deeply for ten seconds, push the image of the food from your mind – and then grab a juicy peach or crunchy carrot stick.

Aside from the moonstone itself, which is a focus, there is very little here that can’t be found in one form or another among the preaching of all the weight loss plans on TV. Slow down, be conscious of what you’re doing, think before you act. The moonstone helps you to visualize your goal and, I have no doubt, beats some pre-fab list of “rules” or taping a “before” picture from “The Biggest Loser” to your frig. Not to mention that the moonstone won’t ask you to pay it cold, hard cash every time you show up to a meeting without loosing weight.

To each their own, but who among us couldn’t use a little more focus in this frazzled world? Cunningham’s book is a thorough examination of his subject and well worth owning for anyone interested in working with any of the curios in the title. It is still in print through Llewellyn Publications. Bon chance ~

Header: Sacred and Profane Love by Titian

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

Two weeks ago we talked about a base for making bath salts. I promised more on the subject so today we’re going to discuss adding essential oils to your bath salt base not only for aromatherapy but also for magick.

As you can see, the following combinations call for two or more essential oils. If you are planning on adding more than one scent to your bath salts, you should always mix the essential oils separately and let them stand in a container, preferably glass, that you can gently shake once or twice a day. This will mix the oils and the scents so that they distribute more evenly once they are combined with your bath salt base. It’s also a great time to actively empower them for magickal purposes.

Once the process of letting the oils blend is done, mix up your batch of bath salts and incorporate the oils as the last step before you package the bath salts. A big spoon that you can use just for bath salts and oils is a great tool for this step.

Here are a few suggestions to help you relax, smell great and add a little empowerment to an otherwise simple indulgence.

For restful sleep: 6 drops lavender, 4 drops jasmine, 4 drops violet

To draw affection: 8 drops rose, 4 drops vanilla, 2 drops patchouli

To draw money: 8 drops pine, 4 drips cinnamon, 2 drops cloves

For peace at home and among family: 6 drops rosemary, 4 drops sandalwood, 4 drops basil

For physical and mental health: 4 drops allspice, 4 drops rosemary 2 drops myrrh

These are just a few suggestions. As you work with herbs and essential oils, you can experiment with other combinations for love, luck, prosperity, protection, wishes and sleep. Or just pick scents that lift your mood, relax you and enhance the experience of a warm bath. A votre santé ~

Header: The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse c 1888

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Last week, in talking about the various magickal uses for garlic, vetivert came up as one of the ingredients in Four Thieves Vinegar. Vetivert is a grass from Asia and is the most highly scented among its relatives including citronella and lemon grass. It is used in hoodoo and other magickal disciplines to turn away jinxes, inspire love and draw cash.

Vetivert is frequently sold distilled as an essential oil. It has a musky scent whose connection to sex and sex appeal can be readily understood. The herbal form can be steeped in cologne such as Florida Water and then sprinkled on the clean sheets of a marital bed to insure faithfulness.

Bathing in vetivert to draw love and/or sex is also common. Scott Cunningham recommends adding vetivert tea to a bath and then air drying thereafter to make yourself more attractive to the opposite sex. There is also a legendary hoodoo “Virgin’s Ritual” that includes vetivert and is said to ensure a positive first sexual experience for a woman. The woman in question should take a bath to which mint tea has been added, rub herself with vetivert essential oil and then drink a cup of sage tea to which whiskey has been added. I’ve no personal experience with this trick but if it helps there is surely no harm.

Dried vetivert root burned on charcoal is said to lift crossed conditions. Business will burn the root the same way to prevent theft and keeping some dried vetivert in the cash register is said to bring in business. A person who carries a vetivert root as a pocket piece is thought to attract luck. Bon chance ~

Header: In the Orchard by Franz Dvorak c 1911

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Samedi: Possessed

Aside from zombies (the actual term in Haitian Creole is zombi), the thing that seems the most off-putting about Voudon is spirit possession. Americans in particular, at least those I’ve conversed on the subject with, can’t wrap their brains around the idea, usually falling back on Hollywood stereotypes (just as they do with “zombies”). Of course this is foolishness on many levels.

Spirit possession is a far more common phenomenon than most people think. Native cultures in Thailand, Ethiopia, Brazil, the Philippines and even here in Alaska – just to name a very few – believe in forms of spirit possession, spirit wandering or both. Why the tenant of spirit possession in Haitian Voudon is so frightening to so many can really only be attributed to ignorance (I’m looking at you and your ilk, Pat Robertson) and the fact that true spirit possession lacks a lot in shock value (your turn, Hollywood).

Spirit possession, or mounting as it is known in Haiti where the individual who is “ridden” by the lwa is called a cheval (horse), is a very real thing to voudonists. In fact, it goes beyond the experiences of the oumphor or temple. It can occur at any time in anyone’s life.

Milo Rigaud, in his book Secrets of Voodoo published in 1953, gives an instructive list on times and situations when an individual lwa might choose to mount a person. Rigaud, who was born in Port-au-Prince in 1903, was a voudonist and life long student of Voudon tradition. He studied ethnology, theology and psychology in France and obtained a law degree in his native Haiti. A brilliant man with much insight into the interweaving of Haitian life and Voudon belief, Rigaud’s book is very much worth your while if you have a serious interest in Voudon, Haiti or both.

Here are the reasons a lwa will possess a person as laid out by Rigaud:

1) To protect him.

2) To confer upon him a power or faculty that he needs for the successful accomplishment of a task, which he does not ordinarily have.
[Rigaud gives the example of a man in a shipwreck suddenly being able to swim to shore when he never could swim before.]

3) To permit him to remove himself with supernatural speed.

4) To cure him of illness or to prevent him from suffering.

5) To give him counsel. In this case, those who speak to the possessed person repeat to him the advice that the loa gave during the “loa-crisis”.

6) To give some other person a treatment or simply to prescribe or to compose a remedy.

7) To punish the “horse” for some offense. [This can be a horrible ordeal for the person possessed, including the dislocation of limbs, breaking of bones, utter exhaustion and/or illness and probably comes closest to the Hollywood image of “possession”. It is also exceedingly rare and usually occurs only when the person in question has transgressed beyond anything most people could even imagine.]

8) To point out some forbidden ritual.

9) To give warning of danger threatening an individual or the community.

10) To preside over, or to assist at a ritual ceremony.

11) To come and get a sacrificial offering.

This list gives a clearer picture of spirit possession in the context of Voudon. It might also give one pause; how many of these instances sound like things done by common men throughout history that we have attributed to heroism, bravery, leadership or a deity. Just a thought, after all. Bon Samedi ~

Header: The Voodoo Dance by Granger c 1885

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vendredi: Ace of Hearts

As you will recall from HQ’s very first post (hard to believe this is 101!), the Suit of Hearts concerns friends, family and love. The Ace of the Suit is a particularly auspicious card, generally speaking, and is hung in the homes of people of Roma (gypsy) descent to foster good luck and harmony.

In broad terms the card indicates an outlook of happiness on a personal and spiritual level, particularly at home. Things are going right for your querent, particularly if the Ace is close to the “significator” card which represents the querent in more complex divinatory spreads. Other Suits in proximity to this card can alter its meaning in the following ways:

Hearts: the querent is surrounded by affection if not love.

Clubs: future rewards will take hard work but are imminent if the querent applies him or herself.

Diamonds: good news is on its way and it may include financial gain (this last is almost certain if the Six of Clubs is next to this Ace).

Spades: a disagreement has occurred or is brewing at home; quickly dealing with the issue will restore harmony immediately.

At all points the Ace of Hearts is a welcome card to deal. Even in the bleakest reading, this card will allow you to give some hope to your querent which is something that you should always strive to do. Walking away from a reading on a positive note will encourage the querent to be positive and address even the most dire situation with a good outlook. Bon Vendredi ~

Header: Reading the Cards by Harry Herman Roseland

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jeudi: Root Work

It seems to me that the two major fixations in January of any given year are weight loss/getting in shape and finding love/marriage. Certainly the ads on television would have us believe as much. But people in the real world tend to gravitate to these kinds of “resolutions” as well. Generally speaking, aside from “make me rich and famous” (I love that one), when I’m asked to help with something this time of year, the request involves either love or looks.

The fact of the matter is that nothing happens with the help of magick alone. If you want to be fit you need to hit the exercise of your choice and make allowances for diet. If you want to find love you have to first of all – here’s one some people don’t readily grasp – be loveable and second, put yourself out there where you can meet people. But a little focus will help so, this week and next, let’s talk about love and health, magickally speaking. First up: love.

There are paths of magickal practice that do not believe in working spells to draw love aside from those with a completely nonspecific application. These practitioners feel that working magick to spark the interest of any one individual or kind of person is manipulative and therefore invokes the “Law of Three”: what you send out will return to you threefold. In other words, if you try to make someone long for you, you’ll just end up pining away miserably for them. Hmm. One wonders if you’re not already doing that given your current desire.

Hoodoo isn’t so concerned with backlash. While ethics are always to be considered the idea in hoodoo, particularly with regard to love magick, is that everyone benefits. Two consenting adults doing what comes naturally is the goal. Hardly a harmful outcome if you step back and think about it.

Each individual has to follow their own conscience in all things, not just magick. If you are uncomfortable with being specific in love magick, use the following workings only in their broadest sense. If you want to attract someone in particular, consider adding a picture of that person or what is known in hoodoo as a “personal concern” (nail clippings, hair, etc.) to your pocket piece or other work. Use your best judgment and remember, there is such a thing as retribution. Preying on anyone unable to make adult decisions will lead you to a place you don’t want to be. At that point, prison really is the least of your worries.

Now that we’ve got the cautions out of the way, here are a few “tricks” that might help you in your search for the perfect man or woman; regardless of your gender, by the way.

To attract a woman, carry a High John the Conqueror Root close to your body. Some workers advise that the root be “dressed” with Florida Water or Hoyt’s Cologne on a regular basis to keep it powerful. This will work for men or women seeking the companionship of women.

Speaking of colognes, steeping shavings from the same root in Hoyt’s Cologne, Florida Water or Kanga Water for a month with the intention of improving sex appeal is highly recommended for gentlemen wanting to attract ladies. Once it’s ready, just splash some of it on as an after-shave. Added bonus: rubbing it on your hands before gambling is said to bring luck.

On the other side, a Queen Elizabeth Root should be carried to attract a man. Again, this will work for either gender and “dressing”, in this case with Florida Water, is recommended by some. If you have a specific gentleman in mind, consider taking a bath in water to which a tea made with the powdered root has been added. Soak for nine, twelve or fifteen minutes and then let your skin air dry before you spend time with the man in question.

Regardless of gender, some root workers highly recommend lemon grass as a seasoning in shared foods to encourage romance and enhance sexual pleasure. Something to consider once you move to that stage of your relationship.

Another simple, non-specific pocket piece I like to recommend is a carnelian stone that has been left in the sunshine for a day. Carry this with you and hold on to it when you feel your self-confidence dipping. It will help improve your mood and your confidence. I find that nothing, aside from a delightful sense of humor, is more attractive than that. Bon chance ~

Header: Two Strings to Her Bow by John Pettie c 1882

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

I've chattered away in previous beauty posts about dry, rashy skin and how this time of year can destroy almost anyone’s epidermis. It occurred to me last night, as I was trimming my daughters’ hair, that I haven’t addressed the winter misery of dry, brittle tresses. Of course it’s not just a wintertime affliction. Sun, salt water, chlorine and even air conditioning can dry out our hair, not to mention all the horrible things that we actually pay to have done to it. It’s a wonder to me that we’re all not as bald as the inhabitants of some dystopian future.

Permit me, then, to correct my oversight by offering my favorite luxurious treat for frazzled hair. This is a recipe my grandmother found in an old Reader’s Digest and she wrote it down in her book of cooking recipes with the amusing and accurate preface:

Don’t taste this; you’ll be sorry if you do.

This concoction contains rosemary essential oil which will sting your lips and tongue only mildly less effectively than rubbing them with a habanero pepper so just keep it away from your digestive system. On the other hand, apricot kernel oil, unlike some other oils, can actually penetrate the hair to strengthen, repair and protect from future damage. Rosemary is said to protect homes and people, particularly women, ensure a faithful marriage and bring good (and sometime prescient) dreams. What better essential oil for a lady to use on her “crowning glory” any time of year?

½ cup apricot kernel oil
20 drops rosemary essential oil

Mix the oils together thoroughly. Make sure to put an old towel around your shoulders before you start as the oils can stain clothing. Massage the oil into your scalp using firm, circular motions with your fingertips. Then coat your hair from scalp to ends with long, sweeping motions grabbing more oil as needed. Now pile your hair, if it’s long, on your head and cover entirely with a plastic shower cap (those disposable ones from hotels are the best for this). Heat a towel in the microwave (about 15 seconds on high) and wrap it around your head. Keep it on until it is cool again. Spend some time relaxing and letting the oil do its work, perhaps focusing on what you would like the rosemary oil to do for you besides make your hair soft.

Wash your hair thoroughly after the treatment. Don’t overdo the shampoo, though; you want the effects of the oil treatment to last. Rinsing with cold water will help seal the hair shafts and seal in the treatment. For a particularly indulgent treatment, rinse with a cup of apple cider vinegar and let your hair dry naturally to add shine and body. A votre santé ~

Header: The Bower Meadow by Dante Gabriel Rossetti c 1872

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Garlic, in most cultures that have it handy, is an ancient cure for what ails us. Garlic will keep away upper respiratory infections when eaten, crossed conditions when hung in the home and revenants when worn. In hoodoo, the uses for garlic – aside from being a tasty addition to savory dishes – are specific to health and protection. Other disciplines tend to have a broader view.

In European folk magick, garlic was often worn and not just to keep the undead at arm’s length. Garlic as a necklace is an ancient way to keep away plague. This is still the case in some modern Wiccan traditions. Scott Cunningham mentions wearing a clove of garlic for thirteen days and then, in the middle of the night on the thirteenth day, tossing it over one’s shoulder at a crossroads and running away without looking back as a way to avoid contracting hepatitis.

Roman soldiers received garlic routinely in their rations and ate it before battle to improve their courage. Medieval sailors carried garlic to keep their ship from sinking, and soldiers of the same era wore it to protect themselves from fatal injury. Garlic was hung on the doors of homes to turn away the evil eye and keep out robbers until the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th century turned the practice into a sign of witchcraft going on behind the door.

Garlic is used to keep bad dreams away from children by placing it under their pillow. Brides will carry a clove of garlic to keep envy at bay. Rubbing garlic on new pots and pans before use neutralizes negativity which could contaminate your cooking (this is especially true with hand-me-down pots or old flea market finds that have been used before).

In the New World, garlic came to African-American folk magick through the European tradition. Old root workers will recommend peeling a clove of garlic, rubbing it on the afflicted area of the body (for example, the temple for a headache) and then tossing it into a body of running water so that it can take the pain or illness away with it. Hanging a braid of garlic in the kitchen is considered wise. It keeps the evil eye away and promotes harmony. The garlic should be actively used throughout the year in cooking and then the braid should be replaced in January, with any leftovers from the year before discarded.

Garlic can be added to water and used to scrub down a residence or place of business to neutralize negativity and keep away government or local law enforcement. Garlic is one of the four ingredients in Four Thieves Vinegar which itself can be added to wash water to turn the evil eye. It is said to be especially potent for keeping away people you don’t like when sprayed on the front door or used to wash down the front stoop. Here’s a recipe:

Into a 16 oz bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar put:

1 peeled clove of garlic
1 High John the Conqueror root (about the same size as the garlic clove)
1 tsp of black pepper
1 tsp dried vetivert

Close and shake the bottle gently then put it in a cool, dark place to steep for a week. Strain the vinegar through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and add a tablespoon to a bucket or spray bottle of water for use. This mixture can also be used for jinxing, but that’s another topic for another time. Bon chance ~

Header: Souvenir de Mortefontaine by Jean-Baptiste Collot c 1864

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

I've been asked to a get-together this Friday for a not for profit I volunteer with. The group is 49 Writers and I coordinate book signings once a month. The theme of the soiree is “resolve to write” and the invite asks that attendees bring a bottle of a favorite beverage and a “comfort food”.

Everyone loves comfort foods, of course, but it’s hard to get agreement on what they are. I’m comforted by Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings. People in France find the very idea of turkey nauseating. See where I’m going here? What to bring is the question. I want it to be appealing, tasty and easy to serve – while mac n cheese is super comforting, it would involve plates and utensils and such. I think, as I usually do when hunting for food ideas, it’s time to go Creole.

So here is what I will probably settle on, a recipe from the NOLA Times-Picayune food section that is perfect for just this type of occasion: no dips or other messy semi-liquid items and each individual morsel can be eaten with your hands. It’s blue cheese puffs and oh, do Creoles love their blue cheese.

4 tbsps butter
¾ cup water
¾ cup all purpose flour
3 eggs, room temperature
¼ pound blue cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease (preferably with butter) two baking sheets.

In a heavy saucepan and over high heat, bring the butter and water to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan, forming a smooth ball. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat until smooth after adding each egg. Add the blue cheese and stir to combine. Set the pan aside for 15 minutes.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheets. Space the balls about two inches apart. Bake until golden, about 20 to 30 minutes.

This makes approximately two dozen puffs, which in France are known as gougeres (from the verb gorger, to stuff). They can be served warm or room temperature so they’ll be perfect to travel with. If they’re a hit, I may make more for the Super Bowl. No matter what I do, that won’t be as wonderful as last year. But good food always helps. Bon appetite ~

Header: Two Girls in Black by Pierre-Auguste Renoir c 1881

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Samedi: The Favorite Gift

In Voudon it is understood that the lwa need to be fed. The lwa were once people, just like us, and their need for sustenance – though it has changed – has not left them. They all have a special morsel that they are particularly fond of and those who have a devotion to any given lwa will often be instructed, usually in dreams, to offer certain foods or drinks. Because of this, long lists of what foods suit what lwa can be instructive but only if the individual lwa’s needs are not overlooked in their favor. The spirits will speak up and anyone who works with them had best pay attention.

For the Ghede in general and the Barons and Maman Brigitte in particular, one specific offering is universally understood as welcome: Barbancourt rum.

Sometimes referred to as rhum agricole (although, technically, only rum from Martinique can be so designated), Barbancourt is made exclusively from sugarcane grown on Plaine du Cul-de-Sac in Haiti. The House of Barbancourt was founded in 1862 and the process for making this rum has not changed since that time. The cane is crushed and processed immediately after harvesting. The juice is stocked in vats, yeast is added and then the mixture is allowed to ferment. The result is a kind of sugarcane wine that is then distilled and aged in French oak casks. This is unique as most rums are aged in the same type of barrels as American bourbon.

The result is a dry, oaky taste similar to a full bodied Chardonnay or champagne. The Barbancourt bottle is usually adorned with stars, their number being a key to the years the rum has been aging in those divine oak barrels: three stars mean it has been aged four years, five stars mean eight years. The Reserve Domaine has been aged fifteen years and is very much the rum equivalent of Dom Perrignon champagne.

Other lwa who are particularly fond of rum in general and Barbancourt in particular are Papa Legba, the Lord of the Gate, Ogou, the warrior and Erzulie Danto, his warrior spouse.

Because it is delightful, and prohibitively expensive in a place where many families survive on a dollar or two a day, Barbancourt is a seductively generous gift to the lwa. Though difficult to get in more out of the way parts of the U.S. (like up here in Alaska) nothing is truly out of reach in our Internet age. Consider giving it a try yourself, and find out why the spirits are so fond of this hand crafted indulgence.

Header: Rhum Barbancourt modern label

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vendredi: Divinatory Spread

Last Friday we completed our review of the divinatory meanings for the Suit of Clubs. As promised, and as the pattern went when I was taught cartomancy, its time to learn a divinatory spread so that you can start to use the Suit of Clubs for divination and add in new cards as we go.

This is a quick spread that can be used to determine the efficacy of a project, the outlook for the day or answer simple questions. Since only five cards are dealt, you will have no problem getting an answer using only one Suit.

Remove the Suit of Clubs from your deck and shuffle them. Now cut the cards into three stacks using your left hand and moving right to left while concentrating on your question or concern. Pick them up the same way and deal five cards, again moving right to left.

The first two cards dealt will be the one on the far right and the one next to it. They represent your past. Read them as a group, taking into account the effect the cards have on each other. Once you are comfortable about the clarity of meaning for these two cards, move on to the next one.

The middle card will be the third card you dealt. This represents the present, what is happening now, and it is the key to the question. Read it as a stand alone, then move on and come back to how it influences the whole as your summary of the reading.

The next and finally two cards, the fourth and fifth ones dealt, will be on the left. They represent the future. Like the first two, they should be read as a team with focus on how their meanings relate to one another.

When you feel you understand each component separately, past, present and future, sit back and take them in as a whole. The combination should give you a solid answer to your question.

Not quite clear on one or all of the messages you see before you? Don’t hesitate to start the whole process over again. Especially when you are learning, more practice is always good and until you develop some confidence in your own divinatory abilities – and those of the cards – you may need to review the same inquiry more than once. Make time for this and take it. In a few short weeks you’ll be recognizing patterns and intuiting answers with remarkable capability.

Now go practice; next week we’ll begin the Suit of Hearts. Bon Vendredi ~

Header: Fortune Telling by Aleksei Venetsianov c 1842

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jeudi: Great Spirits

The story of the City of Ys and its Queen Dahut is ancient indeed but it enjoyed a sort of Renaissance during the Romantic and Victorian period when poets and artists imagined the shining city in the sea and its beautiful Celtic mistress after their tragic fall. In fact the legend, even with the added baggage of Victorian moralizing, is instructive. It speaks to the changing perceptions that happen when one regime and its religion overthrow another.

Dahut was the lovely and spirited daughter of King Gradlon who ruled an empire along the rocky coast of French Brittany. Dahut was a devoted believer in the “old ways” in a time when Christianity was being “introduced” to her corner of the world. Later writers tag the time period as the reign of Charlemagne, which is not entirely unbelievable, but the legend existed before the Holy Roman Emperor started killing those who would not convert to the Christian faith en masse.

Gradlon fell under the tutelage of a wandering monk who introduced the King to Christ and convinced him to convert. Gradlon built a monastery in his capitol, much to his now nubile daughter’s dismay. She chastised him for his weakness, saying that abandoning his ancestral beliefs was like forgetting his family. Gradlon shrugged and gave her a “this is the way of the world” speech. What, he asked, would his daughter have him do.

Dahut quickly suggested that her father build her a city of her own, far out on the rocky promontory now known as Pointe du Raz. There she would rule over those who chose to follow the old religion and worship the gods of the sea while allowing her father to pursue his own path. Gradlon agreed and the City of Ys, sparkling like gold in the summer sun, was the result.

Now the Queen of Ys, Dahut and her followers retired to their city on the rocks where they lived happily on the bounty of the sea. As fall turned into winter, storms threatened Ys and it became abundantly clear that the city would not last through a truly devastating storm. Dahut, against her prior promise, went back to her father in the spring and asked him to build a mole around her rocky city to form a tranquil harbor and keep her people safe from storms.

At first Gradlon agreed but the monk who was now his constant companion advised otherwise. Damnation would be the only reward for the King if he gratified the pagan Dahut’s requests. Better to let the sea claim her and her city of sin. In the end, that would most please God. Fearing for his soul, Gradlon relented and denied his beloved daughter her safe harbor.

Dahut retaliated by returning to her city and calling up the ancient sea spirits known in Celtic Breton belief as the Korrigans. These watery sorceresses, in the form of mermaids, granted Dahut’s request to protect Ys in return for her fidelity to them and her promise never to have dealings with the mainland again. Dahut agreed, and for winter after winter – despite the rage of storm after storm – Ys remained safe in a magickal cocoon.

Unfortunately, though, Dahut began to believe that she was the source of her city’s magick. She stopped offering sacrifices to the Korrigans and turned to lustful pleasures. She began to have young, handsome men shipped in from her father’s kingdom for one night dalliances that ended with her lovers’ deaths. Finally she declared she was Queen of not just Ys but the very sea itself, placing herself above not only the Korrigans but their father, the Lord of the Waters.

This was more than the ancient Gods could stomach. Ys’ bubble literally burst and the Sea King came to claim his own. Even though King Gradlon tried, as the sea engulfed Ys, to save his daughter there was nothing he could do. Dahut was dragged down with her people and her city, never to be heard from again.

It seems to me that the story of the lost city of Ys, which is still told on the Breton coast, is cathartic. In a time when Celtic women, who were used to being equal to their men in both civil and religious law, were being asked (forced?) to become second class citizens (chattel?) by the newly arrived Roman law and Christian church, the story of a powerful pagan who got her comeuppance could be instructive for all parties. The new ruling class could put their own spin on the story but around the hearths in women’s kitchens, the reason Dahut was punished would be clear. She failed to keep faith with the ancestral spirits not by joining the new religion, but by making herself greater than the Gods.

Header: Pointe du Raz, Brittany, France via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

It is almost counterintuitive that bath salts actually help mend dry skin. When we think of salt we think of a drying agent and preservative. In fact there is a relatively small amount of actual salt in any given bath salt recipe and, if you make your own, you control what kind.

Today, I’d like to offer a simple base of three ingredients that can be built upon in almost any way imaginable. Once you have the base you can add oils and/or herbs to create a perfect blend either for yourself or someone else. Bath salts, after all, make a wonderful gift in particular for people who might need to take a little time for themselves now and then. Here’s the “recipe”:

3 cups of Epsom salts
1 cup baking soda
1 cup sea salt

Epsom salts are easy to find at drugstores and are soothing to the skin. They have the added bonus of helping soar joints and bruises so bath salts are a boon to athletes – and those of us who are essentially weekend warriors – when they need to feel a little better after a big day in the field, on the slopes or in the rigging. Baking soda is great for skin irritation like mild rashes, sunburn and, yes, dry winter skin and the sea salt changes the Ph of your water so that it is actually less harsh. Perfect.

Mix your three ingredients thoroughly and store in a container with a tight lid. This base can be used right away as is; a generous handful should do for an average size tub. If your skin is really dry, consider moisturizing immediately after you get out of the bath and letting your skin air dry. The infused water helps your skin absorb your moisturizer more thoroughly.

That’s all for today; I’m running unusually behind. Another topic for another time will be mixing one or more scented oils into your bath salts, or adding dried herbs either directly or as a kind of “tea”. A votre santé ~

Header: Lola Montez nee Eliza Gilbert; a famous 19th century courtesan who wrote beauty advice books and frequently recommended bathing for health and loveliness (judging by this lithograph, it worked)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

The delicate periwinkle, with its attractive flowers that are not quite blue, not quite purple, has long been thought of as magickal. This may be the reason that it is sometimes referred to as Sorcerer’s Violet.

In general herb lore and Wicca, periwinkle is thought to improve mental powers – meditating on one is said to bring back lost memories – draw money, protect the holder and encourage both lust and love. Scott Cunningham says that the flowers must be plucked from their vine-like stems only at night and when the Moon is one, nine, eleven or thirteen nights old. He also says that the harvester must be “clean of any uncleanness”, but is silent on what such “uncleanness” might be. Sprinkle the dried leaves and flowers under a marriage bed to keep the couple faithful, happy and in love as long as they sleep there.

In hoodoo, the leaves of the plant are said to bring pleasure and joy, as well as lust, into a relationship. The flowers are used to keep peace in a home and are sometimes hung in bunches above the front door for this reason.

Herbal blends available in shops that sell hoodoo supplies often include periwinkle, especially Peaceful Home Blend. This usually includes basil and rosemary as well, with balm of Gilead leaves sometimes added. People will burn this mix on incense charcoal to keep their home and family happy and free of strife. The added bonus is an improvement in conjugal relations and marital fidelity. The blend can also be brewed like a tea with the resulting water used as a floor wash to achieve the same results.

Generally speaking, periwinkle can have ill effects when ingested so please don't do that.

At this time of year, a little peace and harmony are due any household. As is a little reminder of spring to come, like the periwinkle.

Header: Enchanted Garden by John William Waterhouse c 1916

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

The holidays are solidly behind us, or at least behind my family. The Yule tree and all attendant decorations were boxed up and stored over the weekend and my girls got back to the school day grind bright and early this morning. Or early, anyway; despite the passing of the solstice, it’s still pretty dark around here.

But one thing lingers on: leftovers. From Christmas turkey to New Year’s ham there is a lot yet to be eaten. Don’t mistake me; I’m not complaining. The good fortune of a full refrigerator should never me made light of. But how to serve those leftovers as fresh, palate pleasing meals is the challenge.

One of my favorite easy ways to use both types of meat is in a French sandwich known as a Croque-Monsieur. The verb croquer means to munch or snack so the sandwich translates humorously as Mr. Snack or Mr. Munch. These are generally made with ham as I will offer here, but can also be made with turkey (in which case they are called a Croque-Madame, or Mrs. Munch).

This simple but hearty and delightfully warm lunch or supper goes like this:

Sliced French bread (I like to get mine, at least for this meal, the same day from a local baker the way a Frenchwoman would)
Ham (really, you can use any kind but leftovers from a big meal work brilliantly)
Swiss cheese, grated

Preheat oven to between 300 and 325 degrees.

Butter one slice of bread. Place a slice of ham on the bread and then put some grated cheese on the ham. Cover this with a second slice of bread, butter it and repeat the process with ham and cheese.

Place four completed sandwiches on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until all the cheese has completely melted and the edges of the bread are brown and crispy.

Serve with vegetable soup or a green salad. Bon appetite ~

Header: Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir c 1880

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Samedi: Root Work

Happy New Year to one and all who spend a moment or two here at my labor of love, HQ. Today, I’d like to offer a few world wide ideas about what can bring us luck on this most auspicious of days.

In England, chimney sweeps are considered particularly lucky today. Running into one, having one enter your house and/or shaking hands with one – particularly if you end up with soot on your hand – bodes very well for a prosperous and happy new year.

In Ireland and Scotland, the tradition of “first footing” continues to modern times. Historically, the cooking fire would be allowed to go our on New Years Eve and all the doors and windows would be opened at midnight to let out any built up negativity from the old year. The next day, visitors would bring coal or peat as a gift to kindle or add to the new cooking fire and the first visitor to enter the house would determine the household’s luck in the coming year. Particularly favored were strong men, originally warriors but now police or firemen or military men are popular. Pregnant women are about the only ones of their sex thought of as lucky. A particularly fortunate individual, the local police chief for instance, may be asked to literally go from house to house in a small community to insure good luck for all. His reward would be food, drink, or both offered at each residence.

In France, Spain and Italy, offering any leftovers from the New Years’ feast to those less fortunate is considered mandatory to insure luck. Any food held on to from the meal was said to rot preternaturally fast, taking the good fortune of the household with it as it spoiled.

In China, among the many New Year traditions, is the obscure good luck charm of the carved walnut. The shell of the nut, with the meat inside, is intricately carved most often with the image of the Buddha. These exquisite pocket pieces are given as gifts and carried for good luck.

These are just a few examples of New Year magick. Leave me a comment if your family has an unusual tradition along these lines. I’d love to have a whole new list for January 1, 2012. Happy New Year; I’ll look forward to seeing you in the year ahead.

Header: A Stroll in the Snow by JC Leyendecker (may 2011 bring you as much good fortune as this handsome couple clearly enjoys!)