Saturday, April 30, 2011

Samedi: Maryaj Lwa

I have done my damndest over the course of the last week to completely tune out the “royal wedding”.  I’m an American; it really has no effect on me.  I hope those two people are happy but all the rest of it is a bit much, I think.  That said, Voudon has its own kind of “royal wedding” where in a common mortal may be chosen by a divine spirit and elevated to the status of their husband or wife.  This is the maryaj lwa or spirit marriage.

Generally speaking, a man or woman will be called by their met tête or dominant spirit to take a vow of marriage with them.  This occurs through dreams, which is the way almost all voudoisants experience communication from the lwa.  On far more unusual occasions, a lwa not previously involved with the person will ask for marriage which sometimes prompts that person’s met tête to also ask for vows.  Frequently jealousy issues arise between the lwa when this happens and it can be hell to be popular (for the mortal involved) in such a case.

The human partner has large responsibilities in these marriages.  They will have to arrange a not inexpensive ceremony including bridal clothes, rings, cake and other foods favored by their bride or groom as well as guests and a prêt savann, or bush priest, to perform the ceremony.  The costs can be ruinous, and that’s just the wedding.  After the marriage the mortal is expected to wear wedding rings, both theirs and their lwa spouse’s, at all times.  They are to keep a separate bed in which they will sleep with their spirit spouse one night a week.  Any deviation from this routine – and in particular any sexual congress with another mortal on that day/night – will bring the wrath of the lwa down on their husband or wife.  It goes without saying that an altar must be kept to the lwa spouse and offerings made regularly.

In return the mortal spouse will be given special attention by their lwa.  They will be favored in those areas that the lwa controls and given precedence in intersession of prayers over the lwa’s non-spouses. 

As you may have imagined, the lwa are polygamous not only with humans but among themselves as well which can lead to some awkward interactions.  The lwa most likely to ask a mortal to marry them are Erzulie Freda, and her sisters La Siren and Erzulie Danto.  The gentlemen most frequently seen in maryaj lwa are Danbala, Ogou and Agwe.  This is where the trouble can start because Danbala, Ogou and Agwe are all married to Erzulie Freda.  While Danbala’s first wife is Ayida Wedo, Agwe’s main wife is La Siren and Ogou’s is Erzulie Danto.  To make matters worse Erzulie Freda and Erzulie Danto despise one another.  As if the pot could not be stirred up any more, Erzulie Danto will sometimes ask a woman to marry her, putting her at odds with both male and female lwa. 

Some connections are dealt with by multiple marriages to calm any potential jealousy.  A woman who marries Danbala will also marry Ogou, for instance, while a man who marries Erzulie Freda will invariably also marry Erzulie Danto.  This may make the lwa happy but it is a lot for the human spouse to take on.

Though it may sound spiritually glamorous to be called to maryaj lwa, most of us are thankful to have been overlooked.  While I love the lwa, I’m happy to simply tend to my relationships on this side of the gate.

Header: The Long Engagement by Arthur Hughes c 1859

Friday, April 29, 2011

Vendredi: Two of Spades

Similarly to the Two of Clubs, today’s card is an indicator of what our ancestors would have called “sloth”.  Unlike the Two of Clubs, however, today’s card indicates that the querent is not just procrastinating but failing to make a critical decision.  This indecisiveness could be harmful not only to the querent but to those they care for as well. 

Sometimes, though not always, this card indicates that your querent’s lack of action stems from them being a target of scandal or at the very least gossip.  Check the cards around the Two of Spades to get a feel for what might be happening and/or who might be causing the problem.

Whatever the issue, whether a real impropriety, a false accusation or the simple inability to move forward, your querent needs to snap out of it.  As with almost all of the cards in the Suit of Spades, urgency is implied at the very least.  It may be that you, as the person who has been asked to give advice, will need to give your querent a pep talk.  As you practice cartomancy, you’ll find this issue coming up more and more frequently.  It’s challenging at first, playing coach, best friend and sibling, but with practice and understanding, you will get very good at it.  Trust me.  Bon Vendredi ~

Header: Young Woman Drawing Cards by Marie-Aimmee Robiquet c 1891

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jeudi: Root Work

All the ladies in my household have been sick this week.  From stomach trouble to sore throat and fever, the three of us have been down simultaneously and/or singularly every day so far.  It is time, quite clearly, for a simple but effective healing bath.

We’ve talked about ritual bathing before here at HQ.  Regardless of the issue in your life, it seems that allowing yourself time to clean not only the body but the mind and the spirit can at least help you through if not push toward a solution.  This bath is particularly designed to slough off the crust of illness that can hang around even after you’re starting to feel better.  It lifts the malaise off your shoulders and frees you from, as the Puritans would have put it, the mantel of slothfulness.

Fortunately, the ingredients just happen to be handy to almost everyone so no poking around in odd stores or the local park is necessary to help yourself back to health.  Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup of sea salt (the Morton’s variety at the market will work just fine)
½ cup Epsom salt
1 handful of pine needles and 1 handful of dried rosemary or 2 handfuls of either alone

Mix the sea salt and Epsom salt in a glass bowl with your fingers.   Combine the herbs in a smaller bowl and then tie them into a porous piece of cloth (cheesecloth or gauze work great, as does the foot of a thin sock like pantyhose) with a long piece of string.  All the while focus on healing yourself or the person you are making the bath for.

Tie the herb bag around your bathtub faucet so that the water will run over the bag.  Now begin to fill the tub with very warm water.  As you do, sprinkle the salt mixture into the tub.  Swish it around with your fingers to help it dissolve while continuing to focus on healing.

Once the bath is full, remove the herb bag from the faucet and let it float in the water.  Now step in, lie back and close your eyes.  Breathe in the fragrant steam and feel the salts work on sore, tired muscles.  No need to dunk completely with this one, particularly if your ears are clogged; just pour a little water over your head and splash your face a bit at some point.  Dispose of the herb bag when your long soak is over.  A votre santé ~

Header: Le Bain (The Bath) by Berthe Morisot c 1886

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

As hard to believe as it may be, Mother’s Day is only two weeks away.  So, this week and next I’m offering a couple of decadent beauty preparations that you can make yourself and treat Mom to.  Both are the kind of thing she probably doesn’t do for herself – you know, she doesn’t have time for that – and both are easy as pie.  Or cake; I find making cake a lot easier, frankly.

Today, a soothing foot cream that you can make, package and present to Mom all wrapped up with a ribbon.  The cream is rich in cocoa butter and apricot kernel oil to soften and moisturize feet while the heavenly scent of roses stimulates the senses.  Added bonus: lemon essential oil and honey mildly antifungal just in case.  All the ingredients are easy to find in health food stores and/or the organic sections of many large markets. 

2 tbsps cocoa butter
2 tbsps apricot kernel oil
1 tbsp beeswax ganules
1 tbsp vegetable glycerine
1 tsp honey
10 drops rose essential oil
10 drops lemon essential oil

Put the first three ingredients in a double boiler and melt together over simmering water.  Remove from the heat and stir in glycerine and honey until mixed thoroughly.  Add essential oils and mix well.

Pour your foot balm into a wide-mouthed, shallow glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and allow to cool before sealing.  This formula is quite thick when it cools.  Simply scooping a palm full out and rubbing it between your hands will soften it to a workable consistency.

This foot balm is perfect for a relaxing foot massage (consider treating Mom to same while she enjoys a mimosa on the veranda or by the fireplace).  It’s also great to apply to clean feet before slipping on some cotton socks and heading off to bed.  Maybe a nice pair of socks would go well with your gift, too.  A votre santé ~

Header: Maternal Kiss by Mary Cassatt c 1896

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Cumin is a spicy herb used in many cuisines around the world.  It has a distinctive odor that always makes me feel warm inside.  There’s a sense of stepping into an Indian or Central American home for me when I catch a whiff of it.  I always imagine the family matriarch cooking something truly delicious.

Cumin is also a potent magickal herb not only in hoodoo but in other disciplines.  Hoodoos use cumin for two very specific issues: protection of property and spousal fidelity.  Cumin seeds and salt, mixed in equal proportions, are sprinkle on the earth while walking backward around the perimeter of one’s property to keep evil at bay.  To keep your mate faithful, simply sprinkle cumin seeds under your shared bed and, that same evening, feed them bread you have baked with cumin seeds in it.  Cumin is also an additive to mojo bags for happy marriages.

Wiccan’s use cumin as a protection against theft, ringing homes, cars and what-have-you with cumin seeds for the purpose.  Old wives in Medieval Germany baked cumin seeds into bread to keep it from being stolen by wood sprites.  A small packet of cumin was sewn into wedding gowns by old wives in Italy to keep the evil eye off a girl on her big day.

Along the same lines, cumin is carried in pocket or purse to encourage peace of mind while away from home.  Cumin is also steeped in wine for seven days.  The wine is then strained into a decanter and offered for drinking to encourage lust.

A final old wives’ tale about cumin, as quoted by Scott Cunningham, is that a person who hopes to grow a successful crop for magickal use must swear and curse as they sow the seeds.  Without this step, the result will be useless for anything but cooking.  As we all know, though, that in itself is decidedly magickal.

Header: Gather Ye Rosebuds by John William Waterhouse c 1909

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Samedi: Paket Kongo

What might look like an onion shaped piece of silk or satin tied up with ribbon and sporting a crown of feathers or an almost awkward set of arms is, in fact, a bundle of magick.  This is the Voudon paket kongo used for healing and protection.

The paket, which is a Haitian Creole word, is made by an houngan or mambo in a specialized ceremony performed during one of the three days of the full moon.  The paket is dedicated to a lwa or djab with close connections to the person for whom it is intended.  Alternately, but also rarely, the paket is dedicated to a lwa the person would like to become more familiar with.  The size, color and confirmation of the paket depend on the lwa being served.  A red silk paket with peacock feathers protruding directly from its base may be dedicated to Ogou Ferraille while a pink satin paket studded with sequins and with a number of sensuously curving “arms” holding duck down may be for Erzulie Freda.  These “arms”, which often appear in odd numbers, are reserved for “female” pakets.

Inside the cloth are specific ingredients that will draw the help of the spirit in question.  Usually ashes from an animal sacrifice are included; perhaps those of a black pig for Erzulie Danto, for instance.  Herbs are added, most commonly known by their Haitian names as bwa-din, twa-pawol and zo-devan.  The lwa Simbi, controller of all magickal working, is called upon as the paket is tied up with appropriately colored ribbon which must be knotted seven times.

Once made and consecrated, the paket kongo is kept on an altar either in the home or in the Voudon temple.  The paket may be passed over the body of a sick person to effect healing, or used in other ceremonial ritual or even surprisingly mundane practices to draw the help and support of the spirit it serves.  Regardless of its intended use, the paket kongo has a life span of seven years.  After that, its power is gone and the ritual must be repeated to make a new paket all together.

Header: Paket Kongo to Erzulie Freda via Haitianna

Friday, April 22, 2011

Vendredi: Ace of Spades

The Ace of Spades is often portrayed (in literature, poetry, rock-and-roll, and cetera) as a card of doom if not outright death.  Bad luck, or at the very least a bad attitude, will stalk the unfortunate who has this card turn up in their hand.  As is usual with broadly held beliefs about cartomancy, this is a complete misconception. 

Some readers will speak of the Ace of Spades as “the death card” but what they are referring to, in a kind of psychic’s shorthand, is an ending or conclusion in a person’s life.  It may be as benign as the satisfactory completion of a project.  On the other hand, it may be a great upheaval such as a physical move, the loss of a job or a change in personal status.  Often the card portends a marriage or the birth of a child.  Just as often, though, it signals the end of a relationship or a diagnosis of infertility.

The important issue with the Ace of Spades is not the card itself but where it sits in the spread.  The cards around it are the determining factors.  If the Ace of Spades is surrounded by Hearts, for instance, a new and life changing relationship may be coming the querent’s way.  Or perhaps they are heading toward reconciliation with a close family member.  Or, as noted, a child is on the way.  These are just a few examples but you get the picture.

The thing to remember is that the Ace of Spades signifies not just a little blip on a querent’s daily radar, but a life changing event.  And many times embracing versus resisting such change is the driving factor that brought that person to ask the cards for insight in the first place.  Bon Vendredi ~

Header: Card Players by Lucas van Leyden

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

It's beauty day here at HQ and I’d like to recount a tonic for lovely, youthful skin that has been popular for over 300 years.  In fact, some historians maintain that the original author of the recipe was none other than Eleanor of Aquitaine herself, who lived to approximately 82 and was offered ballads to her beauty well into her seventies by the troubadours of Southern France.

I know for certain that this skin treatment is a Creole beauty secret that may or may not have been used by my New Orleans ancestors.  It is actually simpler than anything I can think of aside from sprinkling rose petals on your bathwater.  And the added bonus is that it’s remarkably effective. 

Fresh rosemary should be soaked in spring or rainwater for three days.  How much rosemary will depending on how much water you are using but generally a sprig or two will do nicely for each cup of water.  Place the concoction in a bottle (preferably glass) with a tight stopper or lid.  To use, saturate a cotton ball or square wipe over your face, neck and décolleté after cleansing but before moisturizing morning and night.

Honestly, that’s all there is to it.  The astringent properties in rosemary oil help to stimulate facial nerves and improve circulation ensuring healthy, radiant skin.  Judging from the language used by advertisers of store bought beauty treatments, that is exactly what every woman (and maybe every man) needs.  A votre santé ~

Header: Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) by John Singer Sargent (this New Orleans bred beauty was said to have used rosemary water as a beauty aid all her life)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

When I was young I remember piling into the car with my Dad and my brother on the Saturday before Easter for the usual trip to the nursery.  My father had a specific purchase in mind – the same every year – and my brother and I knew where to go.  We’d all pick out the potted Easter lily with the most open blooms, like ivory bells with golden clappers, and purchase it as a present for my mother.  Home we’d come and offer her the statuesque flowers, their pot usually wrapped in gleaming, pastel foil. 

That’s about where the sound of the needle scraping the record would occur on any of today’s reality TV shows.

My mother, rather than being pleased to receive flowers and appreciative of being thought of, would pitch a tantrum.  She’d harass my Dad the rest of the afternoon about how she was allergic to Easter lilies and the smell made her sneeze incessantly.  Eventually the innocent plant would make its way outside to the trash, ritual done.  Of course the whole thing was a passive/aggressive tug of war between two people who hated each other.  Mom never sneezed; Dad always pretended to forget about her “allergy” the next year.  But I started to feel sorry for the lilies about the same time I became curious about their magickal properties.

As it turns out, lilies are not much thought of in the hoodoo botanica.  This is interesting since they are a flower that grows virtually all over the world in various forms.  Of course Christians love white lilies as a symbol of purity but Wiccans seem to be the discipline that gets the most bang for the buck out of these lovely and diverse flowers.

According to Scott Cunningham, lilies are great protectors of both individuals and homes.  He recommends wearing or carrying a fresh lily (any type – but Lily of the Valley – will do) if you think someone is trying to lay a love spell on you.  The lily will deflect the magick and keep you out of the spell caster’s mischief.

Old wives’ tales from European culture call lilies the CSI of flowers.  The tradition goes that a piece of leather from the shoe or belt of a murdered person should be buried in a bed of lilies as soon after the crime as possible.  The murderer will be identified within the year.

Finding the first lily to press its head up through the spring soil and flower bestows good luck on the discoverer.  Lilies are thought to chase away ghosts and are kept in haunted houses to do just that.  Planting them around your property will not only keep away revenants but also avert the Evil Eye.

Once I knew this I, even with my black thumb, planted those annual lilies all around our home in Southern California.  While they didn’t ease my parents’ continuous battles, I can say that I never once met a ghost in that house or yard.  Bonne chance ~

Header: The Flower Vendor by Diego Rivera

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

Today's recipe ties into the upcoming holiday of Easter, when so many of us non-Christians have to go to some Christian’s house and eat.  And usually pray at some point.  I always need a shower Easter Sunday night during which I usually wish I was Jewish so I could just celebrate Passover with other Jewish people.

But that’s not really my point (thanks for listening, though).  Here is my favorite recipe for Easter egg dye that makes the process easy, fun, and relatively clean.  I won’t tell you how to boil eggs because I’m pretty sure you know, so here’s the deal with the dye:

12 hard cooked eggs
Water
White vinegar
Various colors of food coloring

Stir together 1 cup boiling water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar and 10 drops of food coloring in a bowl.

Place one egg in the bowl at a time, turning gently with a spoon to make sure the egg dyes evenly.  When the desired depth of color has been achieved, remove and drain on paper towels or in the original egg carton (if it is cardboard and not Styrofoam).

This recipe generally produces nice, pastel colors unless you soak the egg for quite a while.  Experiment a bit and see what works for you.  No matter who you are or what your “religious background”, dying eggs is fun and reminds us of the original meaning of this holiday: fertility!  Next week I’ll share a great recipe to help you use up some of those boiled eggs (and no, it’s not egg salad).  Bon appetite ~

Header: Easter eggs in a warmer place than Alaska

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Samedi: More on Prayer to St. Expedite

Now that I’ve been posting here for six months, I’ve found that the posts with prayers to and information about the dear St. Expedite are consistently popular with visitors to HQ.  Now I’m keeping an eye out and an ear to the ground for new entreaties and new information to and about this intriguing Saint-that-never-was-and-yet-is.

Recently, while reading The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook by Denise Alvarado, I came across Ms. Alvarado’s version of a petition to St. Expedite.  I have not seen this one before but, it goes without saying, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been around for awhile.  The book focuses on New Orleans Voodoo – rather than Haitian Voudon –and as we’ve discussed before St. Expedite is there frequently associated with the lwa of NOLA, Baron Samedi.  This prayer is unique to the others I have posted as it gives you an opportunity to add your request at the end, which gives it a charming “homemade” flavor.  From the book:

Oh, Glorious Martyr and Protector Saint Expedito!  We humbly ask to have fortune and prosperity for our country, that the sick get well, the guilty get pardoned, the just be preserved and those who abandon this valley of tears rest in the Light of The Lord and the souls of the dearly departed rest in peace.  (Mention your request).  Amen.

Here the author of the prayer first asks for righteous assistance on a broad scale – keep our country, cure the sick, save the martyrs, watch over the dead – and then adds their petition at the end.   It is very much in the form of many Catholic prayers which I grew up with.  These tend to treat Saints like generous Aunties who, if we as children are clever enough in the way we ask, will hand over an extra treat after supper. 

In this same “folk-religion” tradition, supplicants are very much encouraged to go from Saint to Saint until they find the one that gives them candy who then, of course, becomes their favorite.  My Aunt Bette was a sucker for my green eyes and gave up the last piece of cake to me every time.  Which Auntie do you imagine was my favorite?

Thanks in part to Aunt Bette I am a big fan of red velvet cake and Saint Expedite as well.  May your good fortune with him be just as mine has been, and may your favorite Auntie always offer up that last piece of cake.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Framed icon of Saint Expedite

Friday, April 15, 2011

Vendredi: Divinatory Spread

Now that you have both the Suits of Clubs and Hearts under your belt, I thought it might be nice to try something a little different in divinatory spreads.  I learned this one Angeles Arrien, PhD’s The Tarot Handbook.  The book, originally published by Tarcher/Putnam, is a great workbook for beginning and intermediate Tarot work, but the spreads can easily apply to cartomancy of any kind.

Arrien calls this the “Self-Esteem Spread” and given that her field of study is cultural anthropology that comes as no surprise.  Really, you can call it whatever you like but it is a nice form of meditation on self that allows you to use the cards you have already studied.  Don’t get too hung up on the “names” of the card positions as laid out here (I have modified them a little).  Just flow with the reading and allow yourself to double check any card meanings that you aren’t sure of.  Reading your own fortune is always the best way to learn.

To basically repeat from our last divinatory spread in January, remove the Suits of Clubs and Hearts 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.

Lay out six cards in a linear pattern, each below the one before it, starting at the top.  Sit back for a moment and look at the cards before you.  The reading of each card individually should look something like this:

The top card gives insight into your ability to set boundaries for yourself.  The second card deals with your flexibility in situations from relaxed to stressful.  The third card speaks to how open you are to personal relationships.  Card four indicates your ability to stick to your goals and/or stay on track.  Card five is about your communication skills.  The bottom card has something to say about your overall feelings about yourself.

Read the cards individually, looking for insights that you may not consciously have thought about before.  Once you are clear on the individual meanings, either take what the cards have to offer or consider spending a little time in meditation.  Try focusing on the areas that you and the cards have both identified as needing a little work.  You can repeat the spread as often as you like – without obsessing, of course – to help you on your path of self-discovery.

If all that is a little too New Age for you (the book was originally published in 1987), use the spread just to become familiar with divinatory meanings, head back to our last divinatory spread post or – better than all that – make up a spread of your own!  Next Friday we’ll begin the Suit of Spades.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: The Fortune Teller by Nicholaos Gysis

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jeudi: Root Work

A while ago I offered one of the spells my Gran learned from her Roma friends.  Of course, the Gypsies have a reputation for powerful magick and to some degree that is well deserved.  One thing I learned from listening to Grandma, though, was that powerful doesn’t mean complicated, regardless of discipline.

As an example, today’s offering from Gran’s bag of tricks.  This is a working specifically designed to be effective against someone who has stolen your beau (or belle) through manipulation or trickery.  You know the kind of person I’m talking about so I won’t go into bloody details.  Suffice it to say that this trick is fast, easy and – if you apply the appropriate focus – very effective.

Obtain a piece of brown paper that is one by three inches and a red ball-point pen.  Now write the name of the creature that snagged your sweetheart on the paper with the pen and fold the paper over once, all the while keeping focused on your objective of bringing misery in love to this person.  Tuck the name paper into the bottom drawer of any piece of furniture (with multiple drawers), built in or free standing, and forget about it.  Your former rival will lose lover after lover to manipulative jerks until you remove the name paper and dispose of it.

Easy, non?  And surprisingly effective.  But now a warning: be very certain that the object of your ire is deserving of retribution.  If your sweetheart picked them out and dumped you without their encouragement, the spell will rebound with a vengeance.  At that point, even burning the name paper won’t help.  When in doubt, let the Universe take care of those who need taking care of.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Unconscious Rivals by Lawrence Alma-Tadema c 1893

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

All cultures have their own beauty enhancers that, at least originally, grow wild where the culture flourishes.  Modern people have been rediscovering the efficacy of ancient and wild ingredients for both health and beauty over the course of the last 50 or so years.  I’m always on the hunt for new ingredients to throw into my concoctions – be they beautiful or magickal – so I was particularly thrilled to find this article in my local newspaper, Anchorage Daily News.

The piece tells the story of triplets from the small town of Bethel here in Alaska who are tapping into their Cup’ik ancestry to make a product that is on the cutting edge of today’s skincare technology.  The ladies’ company is called Arxotica and their first product is a “wrinkle-fighting serum” named Quyung-Lii.  Pronounced kia-oong-lee, the serum is high in all the beauty world’s current age defying ingredients and it gets them from local plants that many outside of Alaska may never have heard of.

Crowberries provide a substantial amount of antioxidants which fright the demon free-radicals that are at least in part responsible for wrinkles.  Arctic sage has anti-inflammatory properties as does fireweed, which is also astringent and high in vitamins C and A.  Put these all together and you have not only a scientifically sound beauty treatment but a virtual Native shopping list from nature’s own market.  According to the article, Arctic sage was used by Cup’ik and other native peoples in treating illnesses and wounds, while crowberries were eaten in akutaq which is known as “Eskimo ice cream”.

Arxotica’s founders pick their own ingredients in and around Bethel, all of them wild grown.  They also “… want to create an industry that doesn’t have a footprint” as well as eventually employing a cooperative of gatherers from local villages.  The ladies will send their first batches of Quyung-Lii (which means “the potent one”) out to beauty editors soon.  Keep an eye out for this Earth and people-friendly beauty treatment from the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Header: Crowberries via AlaskaUSGS.org

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Marjoram, which is a fairly standard kitchen herb and even relatively easy to grow, is also a little powerhouse of metaphysical assistance.  Both in hoodoo and Wicca marjoram is thought of as a plant of protection.  Hoodoos also use it to bring conjugal bliss while other magickal practices associate the herb with attracting new love.

Most spiritual disciplines agree that keeping marjoram in the home and growing it in the garden will turn evil away.  Root workers place one leaf of marjoram in every room of their homes and businesses to keep bad luck at bay.  Wiccans do the same, and both agree that the leaves must be refreshed each month with the old leaves often being burned as an incense offering.

Root workers recommend marjoram in particular for those who work around electricity as a way to avoid being electrocuted on the job.  The herb is carried, often in a mojo bag along with feverfew, in order to avoid electrical mishaps.

Couples who are fighting frequently may be told to share meals laced with marjoram and basil to restore harmony to their relationship.  Marjoram leaves left around the home as indicated above will help the situation as well.  Teas made of marjoram are offered to people who are depressed, particularly if their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one.  A marjoram bath is also recommended for an unshakable blue mood.

An old wives’ remedy for winter colds advises the wearing a sprig of marjoram and sprig of violet together in order to avoid illness.  Wiccans advise serving a potential lover a home cooked meal laced with charged marjoram.  To reverse the attraction, simply serve the person the same meal again but this time replace the marjoram with lemon to sour their interest.  A lot of salt couldn’t hurt, either.  Bonne chance ~

Header: On the Threshold by Edmund Blair Leighton c 1900

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

Even though fishing season is a few months off up here in the far north, now is the time when we start to plan for it.  One of the things that needs attention is what is left of last year’s catch.  Invariably there’s a little halibut or salmon left and – to be blunt – it’s not the tastiest stuff after sitting in the freezer for awhile.  Creativity is required to get it to the table and make sure it actually gets eaten by someone other than the dog.  Creativity, and a little help from Grandma.

This is my mother-in-law’s recipe for halibut caddies.  It’s clearly an “old fashioned” recipe – all that sour cream and mayo would be right out in modern cuisine.  But with a little calorie cutting (light versions of both condiments, for instance), this is a delightful way to cook and serve halibut, or any meaty white fish, that’s a little rough around the edges due to time in the freezer. 

5 to 6 2 lb chunks of halibut
Italian bread crumbs
2 cups sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup green onions, chopped
Paprika
White wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the halibut in wine overnight. 

Preheat oven to 500.

Remove fish from marinade and pat dry.  Salt and pepper the halibut to taste and then shake on Italian bread crumbs, coating lightly on both sides.  Place halibut in a greased casserole or baking dish.  In a bowl, combine sour cream, mayo and green onions.  Spread this mixture evenly over the fish and then sprinkle with paprika.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until light brown and bubbly.  This will make four large or eight small servings.  Bon appetite ~

Header: The Marriage Feast at Cana by Hieronymus Bosch

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Samedi: Lady Screech Owl

One of the rarely spoken of lwa, Marinette is most probably a mystery even to those who know a thing or two about Voudon.  In her native Haiti she is not mentioned without the whisperer of her name crossing themselves, at least if they know what’s good for them.  Even devout Haitian Protestants, who claim no affinity for Voudon, will not speak of her.

Marinette is a lwa of the Petwo nachon, born and bred in Haiti with no ties to Africa or Europe.  She is a sorceress, sworn to “work with the left hand” until time ends or she herself is destroyed.  She is called up by the bokor (pronounce baw-kaw) who are priests and priestesses but who work only “black magick”.  They are the person a voudonist would consult to have an enemy killed, raise the dead for the purposes of necromancy, or bind someone in blind love.  Almost without fail, these kinds of workings involve summoning the gleefully malevolent Marinette.

Sometimes known as Marinette-Bwa-Chech, “of the dry arms”, she is imagined as a skeleton who is accompanied by her symbol, the screech owl.  She is thought to reside in wild places like swamps and forests where she will appear only at night.  Her devotees do not keep altars to her but go to such places to bury her offerings.  She in turn will come and dig them up, consuming them under cover of darkness so that she is not forced to share her bounty with any other lwa.  She is worshipped in these wild places where gasoline, salt and dust are thrown onto a bonfire in exchange for the skeletal lady’s help with malicious magicks.

Marinette is the particular protector of lougarou, a secret society of people who believe themselves to be shape shifting werewolves or, in the case of some women, vampires who suck the blood of children.   Special precautions are taken against people of this socyete including charms tucked into children’s bedding and the sprinkling of hoholi, sesame seeds, in coffins to prevent the dead body being dug up and misused for evil.

Like most lwa, Marinette is partnered with one who is thought to be similar to her, if a bit less cruel.  This is the much mythologized leader of the Haitian Revolution called Don Pedro.  He is known as the hougan who called up the original Petwo lwa to help the slaves fight for their freedom.  After his death, he himself became the lwa Ti Jean Petwo (Little John Petwo) and married Marinette.  He is the lwa of violent struggle against subjugation and is pictured as a dark skinned dwarf missing a foot.  Like his wife, Ti Jean will assist the bokor who serve him.

Though Ti Jean has been known to possess voudonists in ceremonies, Marinette rarely manifests in this way.  She is considered a lwa who is far too dangerous for the average worshipper.  The Lady of the Screech Owl is best known and then bypassed all together.  Voila un avertissement ~

Header: Riding the Dead by Jean Michel Basquiat

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vendredi: King of Hearts

Today we finish up our discussion of the Suit of Hears, putting us half way through the divinatory meanings of an entire deck of cards.  It’s hard for me to believe that a full six months ago I began HQ with a Friday cartomancy post.  Time flies.

The King of Hearts is unfortunately well known as the “suicide King” because many card deck graphics make it appear that the subject is sticking his sword into his ear.  Rather awkwardly I might add.  In fact, the intention was to show the King in an aggressive stance with his sword raised in preparation for a strike but, as cards have shrunk in size, time has not been kind to our King.  Essentially, at least for divinatory purposes, you can ignore all that.

This card most often represents a gentleman skilled in business.  He may have studied law, or he be involved with organized religion, but he is not a zealot or fanatic.  He is also not much interested in politics on any level.  This is an honest, responsible, considerate and generous adult man who will not take advantage of anyone or any situation.  If love is in the cards, the King of Hearts is a catch.  If a romantic connection is not indicated, this man would make an excellent mentor, teacher or boss.

If we’ve ruled out every possible man in the querent’s past, present and future, then of course the card represents a woman.  She too is generous, but not as good hearted at the man might be.  She is capable and independent and, though not exactly prone to romance, she too would be a good leader for the querent to follow.

Et voila, we’ve wrapped up the Suit of Hearts.  Next week, a divinatory spread for you to try and then it’s forward into the Suit of Spades.  Bon Vendredi mes amis ~

Header: King of Hearts from an early 19th century deck

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jeudi: Curios

I'm a bit of a semi-precious gem junky.  I love the way they look and the way they feel when you hold or wear them.  Knowing about their background historically and magickally only increases the intensity of the vibrations.  At least for me. 

Crystals and gems are not particularly big in hoodoo – obviously, they were cost prohibitive for the original practitioners – and their “New Age” underpinnings have made them a little less popular in other magickal disciplines as well.  I love ‘em though, and I will happily set them under the umbrella of “Curios”.  So today, a brief discussion on one of my favorites: the amethyst.

These glorious purple stones whose color can range from delicate lilac to deep aubergine are actually a form of quartz.  Amethyst geodes are not unheard of but are generally expensive and collector’s items.  Amethyst stones can be had at fairly reasonable prices at bead and even craft stores.  Make sure you’re getting the real thing by checking the fine print. 

Amethysts are traditional stones for banishing evil, protection and boosting psychic powers.  They are considered a highly spiritual stone that can lift the person holding one out of daily anxiety and fear into universal strength and courage.  Here are just a few uses for this versatile stone.

Amethysts are frequently kept by psychics in the box or bag that holds their tools, whether they be cards, bones, shells, sticks or what have you.  Resting an amethyst on one’s forehead while meditating, obviously in a reclining position, is thought to open up the psychic eye and make fortune telling not only easier but more accurate.  Many psychics wear amethysts while reading the future.

Putting an amethyst under one’s pillow or wearing an amethyst while sleeping is thought to help insomnia, stop nightmares and encourage healing sleep and relaxing, possibly prophetic, dreams.  This calming power is carried into the waking world as well.  Holding an amethyst is thought to sooth anxiety and help lesson social disorders such as panic attacks.  The same act in a quiet place can encourage meditation and trance.  Adding an amethyst to the water of just about any spiritual bath will increase its efficacy.

Amethysts are also linked to life success regardless of the pursuit.  Consistent wearing of an amethyst is said to make one more alert, focused and capable of sticking to a goal.  Amethysts can be kept on the desk at work or in a business’ cash register to keep clients and cash coming in.  While not a money drawing stone per ce, the amethyst will help its owner keep a clear vision for success in mind, and know what to do to achieve it.

As a stone of positive attraction, amethysts are said to help women look beautiful and men encourage fondness in “the right woman”.  Carry or wear amethyst on a date with that special someone to magnify your appeal.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Lilac by Edmund Blair Leighton c 1901

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

Once upon a time “fertility” was the “f” word at my house.  Because of various issues no one wants to hear about, money was spent and painful medical procedures were performed.  Bottom line: two wonderful girls. 

But lots of folks, particularly at this time of year, are taking those first tentative steps toward trying to start a family.  I know a few, as a matter of fact, and my first advice is always the same.  Why not take a chance on an easy working that will not only give your fertility a little boost but also make your hair baby soft and runway model shiny.  Seriously, why not?

The secret is eggs, those familiar fertility symbols handed down to the Christian Easter by the Teutonic Ostara.  This recipe makes a single hair mask for medium length hair.  If you have short, longer or very thick hair, adjust the amounts accordingly.

3 eggs
¼ cup mayonnaise (the real thing; not “sandwich spread” or “salad dressing”)

Whip the eggs until light and frothy with a whisk or an electric mixer.  Fold in the mayonnaise and hit this mixture again with your chosen gadget until thoroughly combined.  While you do this, concentrate on your chosen goal – fertility, pregnancy or a safe delivery.  You can also use this mixture as an attraction working since lovely hair is appealing to both sexes.

Wash your hair and dry it with a towel.  Then work the egg and mayo mixture through your hair, concentrating on the ends of longer hair, and leave it in for about five minutes.  You will need to wash your hair a second and possibly even a third time to get the mayo out; it is unfortunately stubborn.  A rinse with apple cider vinegar will boost shine and body, particularly if you let your hair dry afterward.

It’s a simple but potent piece of work and can be repeated about once a month.  Beautiful hair, a helping had to fertility and a little boost in personal confidence.  Why not?  A votre santé ~

Header: Cascading Hair by Malcolm Liepke