Magical Spirituality in Harry Potter

14612486_10154145584448937_5081505771712641877_oOn November 18th, 2016, a new era of the Harry Potter universe begins with the release of the film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”. It takes place many years before the birth of Harry Potter, and gives fans a glimpse of the ‘expanded universe’ of the wizarding world. In this film we see the adventures of Newt Scamander and his menagerie of magical creatures. Part of the genius of the Harry Potter stories is that there are bits of truth scattered among the fantasy. For example, in the new film, there is a nod to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials. We also see magical symbols (including a pentacle on the floor), witches, wizards and all sorts of wonderful magic and enchantment.

harrypotterrender1Before going any further, it must be acknowledged that the Harry Potter books were not written to endorse any religion or spiritual practice. They are simply brilliantly written stories that include symbolism, myth and legend (with a few facts thrown in) from many different cultures. That being said, the Harry Potter books can appeal to those of any spiritual path: including those who follow earth-based paths such as Witchcraft and Paganism. If one reads between the lines, one can find magical concepts hidden behind subtle metaphor. This is the mark of a clever storyteller, after all. There are far too many too include in this article, but we will explore a few of them.

3booksBefore Harry ever arrives at school in the first book, his magical education begins. While on the Hogwarts Express, he purchases several chocolate frogs. Each frog comes with a collectible card containing a photo and short biography of a famous Witch or Wizard. Several of these are fictional, or characters of myth and legend, but a small number of them were real people who actually existed. These real-life people made a huge contribution to modern Magic, Witchcraft, Astrology, and Alchemy. They are prominent figures in our real magical history, and are often overlooked by modern pagans. (Heinrich Cornelius) Agrippa is the first Chocolate Frog card that is mentioned specifically in the Harry Potter books. Agrippa was born in Cologne, Germany in 1486. He was a scholar of magic, astrology and alchemy. He spent much of his life studying the occult. His most famous work, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, was first published in 1531. It was later translated from Latin to English in 1651, and is still available today. It is a voluminous book of over 900 pages, and is filled with magical knowledge on a wide variety of topics. For over 500 years it has been used by Witches, Wizards, Ceremonial Magicians, and is considered by many to be the most important book of magical lore in existence today. Information from the Three Books of Occult Philosophy has influenced several magical traditions, from Golden Dawn to Kabbalah. The chapters vary in length, from just a few paragraphs to several pages. Also included are various illustrations, charts, drawings and symbols. As the title suggests, Three Books of Occult Philosophy is a book containing 3 volumes. Book 1 focuses on the natural magic of crystals, herbs, metals and the like. Book 2 deals mainly with celestial magic and numerology, and book 3 explores pagan deities, angels, spirits and how to work with them.

The Four Houses of Hogwarts

The Four Houses of Hogwarts

The four houses of Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin are each associated with a particular elemental force. Each house is also linked to a particular color and animal totem. The primary color of Gryffindor house is Red, and it’s animal totem is the Lion. Harry Potter is a Leo, a Fire sign, also symbolized by the Lion. Naturally, the element associated with Gryffindor is Fire. Those who belong to Gryffindor house are described as brave, bold and daring. In magical lore, the direction of Fire is the South. It should also be noted that in traditional witchcraft, the elemental ruler of Fire is the Salamander. It is said to be a spirit creature that lives within the flames. In the book version of Prisoner of Azkaban, Fred and George Weasley have an encounter with a Salamander.

The primary color of Hufflepuff house is Yellow. The element associated with Hufflepuff is Water, and its direction is the West. In traditional witchcraft, the elemental rulers of Water are the Undines, which is another word for MerPeople. We see a representation of MerPeople in Goblet of Fire, when Harry competes in the 2nd Task of the Triwizard Tournament. The attributes of Hufflepuff students are hard work, patience and loyalty. The totem animal is the Badger, an animal that fiercely defends itself. The Badger figures prominently in Japanese mythology as a shape-shifter, and is also linked to healing, herbology and storytelling. The Hufflepuff Cup is linked to the Throat Chakra, which rules speech and communication. Due to the Badger’s ability to quickly dig through the earth, Native American tribes viewed it as a Medicine Chief, conversant with all manner of herbs, seeds, roots and the mysteries of plants. Those who work with Badger Medicine are in tune with the mystical powers of things that grow beneath the earth. It is no wonder, then, that the head of Hufflepuff house is Herbology teacher Professor Pomona Sprout.

The primary color of Ravenclaw house is blue, and Ravenclaw robes are lined with this color. The element associated with Ravenclaw is Air, and its direction is the East. Ravenclaw students are intelligent, wise and studious. When choosing the totem animal for Ravenclaw, this is where Rowling strangely chose the Eagle, presumably because of the Eagle’s association with Wisdom, among its many other magical qualities. On the surface, the Eagle would seem appropriate. However, Hogwarts is a school of Witchcraft, and students do not attend this school to acquire superficial wisdom. They are there to gain inner wisdom as it applies to mystical, occult learning, magical awareness and perception. These are hallmarks of the Raven. The Raven reveals to us the secrets of magic and the hidden keys to unlocking our full potential. This is the true wisdom of Ravenclaw. The Ravenclaw Diadem is linked to the Crown Chakra and Divine Wisdom. In traditional witchcraft, the elemental rulers of Air are the Sylphs, which are thought to be formless entities that exist in the wind. Faeries, Sprites and similar beings also belong in this category. In the Potter books, Fairy Wings (symbolic of Air) are an ingredient in certain potions. Thankfully, official Ravenclaw merchandise does picture the Raven rather than the Eagle.

The primary color of Slytherin is Green. The element associated with Slytherin is Earth, and its direction is the North. Students in Slytherin house are said to display traits such as cunning, resourcefulness and ambition, but there are other qualities that have been overlooked. Slytherin house developed a bad reputation due to the large number of dark wizards and witches who came from there. I believe there are some missing pieces to this story. The animal totem for Slytherin house is the Serpent. In magical lore, the Serpent guards the secrets of the Underworld and represents the Shadow Self. The Shadow Self is that part of us that we hide from others, things about ourselves that we keep hidden. Severus Snape, head of Slytherin house, is a classic example. Working with the Shadow Self can be a dangerous process. As we allow issues that have been long hidden to come to the surface, the healing process can be painful and can take a long time to complete. The process is not always successful, and wholeness is sometimes replaced by anger at past hurts or revenge on those who have wronged us. Severus Snape sought the path of healing, while Tom Riddle/Voldemort sought destruction and control. Those who belong to Slytherin are deeply in touch with the Shadow Self. Harry Potter himself had Slytherin qualities. He was a Parselmouth and could speak Parseltongue, the language of serpents. In Order of The Phoenix he was becoming aware of his darker nature, “What if I’m becoming bad?” And let us not forget the words of the Sorting Hat, “You would have done well in Slytherin.” Harry was placed in Gryffindor because he willed it to be so. He is a perfect balance of Light & Dark, with both Gryffindor and Slytherin qualities.

mandrake1The path of the Witch is closely tied to the plant world and the spirit of Nature. Herbology is the study of the magical/medicinal properties of herbs, flowers and plants. Witches not only use plants in their spells and rituals, they also connect to the spirit of the plant through meditation, calling on their inherent powers to aid in magical workings. What is most interesting is the fact that the majority of flowers and plants mentioned in the Potter books are those that have been used in traditional witchcraft for centuries. These were not randomly chosen. Mandrake, Belladonna, Valerian, Dittany, Rue, Hellebore and others we see in the Potter books are some of the most powerful (and poisonous) magical herbs in existence. Ms. Rowling really did her homework when choosing these specific plants. The first plant introduced to students is the Mandrake, and this is quite significant, since the mandrake is considered to be the ruler of the plant world, and has accumulated more lore than any other plant. It was very popular in European witchcraft and what is known as “Old Ways“ magic. Its roots have a human shape, and for centuries it has been believed to contain many magical and medicinal properties. Old lore says that if one pulls a mandrake from the earth, its loud cries are fatal to anyone who hears it. The prescribed method for harvesting the root—in which a dog tied to the mandrake pulls the plant from the ground—is frequently depicted in ancient and medieval herbals. On a superficial level, the mandrake can be used magically for protection, fertility, love and money issues.

We also find Numerology hidden throughout the Harry Potter books, particularly the number 11. The number 11 plays a large role in Harry Potter’s life. This number signifies the beginning of a spiritual journey, the embarking on a path to enlightenment and heightened awareness. In Numerology, the word “Potter” reduces to 11. On Harry’s 11th birthday, he learns of his magical heritage and that he himself is a wizard. After gathering his school supplies and magical tools (cauldron, wand, owl familiar), he boards the Hogwarts Express, which leaves the station promptly at 11:00 AM. The wand that “chooses” him at Ollivanders is 11 inches in length and contains a Phoenix tail feather at its core. These are all mystical clues that Harry is beginning a journey of transformation.

Some aspects of Harry Potter can even be found in modern magical practice. In his book, “Hands-On Chaos Magic,” author/teacher Andrieh Vitmus gives detailed instructions on how to cast a Patronus Charm with the incantation “Expecto Patronum”. The memory-storing Pensieve sounds very much like the Memory Tower as described by Christopher Penczak in his book, “The Temple of High Witchcraft”. Author/teachers Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and J. H. Brennan explain in their book, The Magical Use of Thought-Forms, that “Harry Potter is alive and well on the astral plane”. They describe how thought-forms work and that Harry Potter himself is a thought-form entity. What is a thought-form? Basically, whenever there is a large group of people who are collectively focusing their attention on the same purpose, person or idea, something extraordinary happens on an astral level. This purpose, person or idea soon begins to take on a life of its own and becomes a living entity or spirit-being. This ‘created thought-form’ can then be interacted with and called upon for various purposes. If this thought-form happens to be a literary figure with already built-in attributes and qualities, we can call upon those qualities through meditation and regular interaction. The Harry Potter phenomenon has definately taken on a life of its own. It has become a living entity, what some practitioners call a thought-form. Many who have been deeply affected and influenced by it have found ways to communicate and interact with it. It’s presence could be felt at midnight book and film releases, and it is still a tangible presence at Harry Potter conventions, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks, Wizard Rock concerts, meetups and gatherings, and within the heart and spirit of every fan who has had a profound experience from reading the books.

patrIn the Harry Potter universe, a Patronus is an astral entity, (usually an animal totem), called upon to provide protection or deliver a message. Harry’s Patronus is a White Stag, the same Patronus as his father, James. The White Stag appears frequently in Celtic lore, and this magical creature was considered to be a messenger from the Otherworld. It is a symbol of mankind’s spiritual quest, and is a creature that travels freely “between the worlds.” At times, the stag was depicted as having almost human-like understanding and certainly far beyond animal intelligence. Whenever a White Stag appears, it is a sign of great spiritual changes within the person who sees it. The elusive and mysterious white stag has been described by those who’ve seen it as radiant, eerie, striking, and even awe-inspiring, so it is easy to see how these creatures came by the legendary abilities assigned to them. The Stag, a male deer, is an animal with fatherly qualities, a fiercely protective guardian, and also happens to be the animal most closely associated with one of the primary deities in Witchcraft, a Celtic figure known as Cernunnos. He is often referred to as “The Stag God,” or the “Horned God.” He is seen as a peaceful god who cares for Nature and the fruitfulness of new life within Nature. For Harry Potter, the White Stag is a father-figure symbol with mythological links to the Celtic Stag God, Cernunnos. Both Cernunnos and the White Stag share a connection to the Underworld: the realm of the ancestors, or more specifically, Harry’s father. Remember also that James Potter was an Animagus, a shape-shifter, and could transform into a stag. Harry’s mother Lily had a Patronus as well, a Silver Doe. A female version of the White Stag, Does are reminders of spiritual evolution, and the patience required to allow our spiritual unfolding. The Doe was sacred to goddesses Artemis and Diana, and excavations have uncovered ancient vases in the shape of does, some of them in a crescent design. The Doe seems to have been closely related to Moon symbolism. In magical lore, the Doe is a symbol of spirituality, and the gentle inner voice of intuition. The doe’s energy is comforting, nurturing, maternal. By observing the ways in which the doe behaves, it is possible to see what amazing powers they possess. From them we learn how the gifts of gentleness and caring can help us overcome many challenging situations. Only love, both for ourselves and for others, helps us understand the true meaning of wholeness. The Silver Doe was the Patronus of Harry’s mother, Lily. In herbal magic, the Lily flower has near-identical associations as the Doe. It is linked to the Moon, the element of Water and the powers of intuition. It is associated with Water signs Cancer, Pisces and Scorpio. In the language of flowers, the Lily means : “May I kiss your hand?” It is a flower of purity, and motherly love. It speaks to us of keeping the heart open, and that no love is greater or more true than a mother’s love. In the White Stag and the Silver Doe we see glimpses of pagan gods and goddesses of the forest, deity figures that appear frequently in magical lore. These Father/Mother figures are sacred in Witchcraft, Druidry, Celtic Shamanism and other paths of Earth-Based Spirituality.

Three Cauldrons of Poesy

In 7th Century Ireland, a Bard by the name of Amergin White-Knee penned a magical text that has come to be known as the Three Cauldrons of Poesy. As is common with ancient Celtic lore, there is much mystical wisdom hidden within the text that can only be understood through meditative practices. Some have referred to these three cauldrons as the Celtic Chakras, Three Levels of Reality, Three States of Enlightenment or the Threefold Mind. According to this text, all people are born with three cauldrons.

3-cauldrons-small

The cauldrons are described as follows:

The Cauldron of Wisdom is located in the HEAD, and represents Spiritual Health. It contains our highest spiritual and artistic inspirations. This cauldron is inverted when we are born, but turns fully upright when we become enlightened.

The Cauldron of Motion resides in the HEART, and represents Psychic Health. It contains our spiritual or psychic/magical gifts and abilities. This cauldron turns on it’s side when we become aware of our gifts, fully upright when our gifts are developed, but turns fully inverted in those with no evident psychic/magical skill or ability.

The Cauldron of Warming is located in the BELLY and represents Physical Health. It contains the source of our physical strength and health. It is upright when we are born and remains upright, with the potential to be fully filled.

Some teachers suggest that through visualization, we can place objects or images into the cauldrons to increase our spiritual, psychic and physical health. We can also utilize these cauldrons when doing healing work for others.

The majority of the text of the Cauldrons of Poesy focuses on the Cauldron of Motion as the vessel that truly holds the poets power. It is born half-tipped, and it is by the deeds and events of human life that it becomes fully upright, able to obtain a full measure of the Mead of Wisdom. In the same way the Cauldron of Wisdom is born tipped on its lip, empty of power, and must be turned. This is described as happening due to powerful emotional events – sorrows and joys – during the course of life.

The Four Sorrows are described as: longing, grief, jealousy and hard travel. The Joys are said to be twofold: divine joy and human joy. Human joy is fourfold: Sexual delight, physical health, the joy of prosperity from one’s vocation, the joy of success in one’s efforts. Divine joys are the delight of the Blessings of the Gods, and the joy of eating of the Hazelnuts of Wisdom. These joys and sorrows come from the events of our lives – they are not just from within, but rather they must grow from real experience and relationship with the other. In a modern life, if we have any adventure in us at all, any of that which might make a poet or magician, we will have many of the joys and sorrows described. If we can take them in and process them, they become the raw material for our understanding and wisdom.

There are different translations of the text of the Three Cauldrons of Poesy. I have included one below.

Three Cauldrons of Poesy

(7th Century-Irish)

My perfect cauldron of warming
has been taken by the Gods from the mysterious abyss of the elements;
a perfect truth that ennobles from the center of being,
that pours forth a terrifying stream of speech.

I am Amirgen White-knee,
with pale substance and grey hair,
accomplishing my poetic incubation in proper forms,
in diverse colors.

The Gods do not give the same wisdom to everyone,
tipped, inverted, right-side-up;
no knowledge, half-knowledge, full knowledge —
for Eber Donn, the making of fearful poetry,
of vast, mighty draughts death-spells, of great chanting;
in active voice, in passive silence, in the neutral balance between,
in rhythm and form and rhyme,
in this way is spoken the path and function of my cauldrons.

Where is the root of poetry in a person; in the body or in the soul? Some say it is in the soul, for the body does nothing without the soul. Some say it is in the body where the arts are learned, passed through the bodies of our ancestors. It is said that this is the truth remaining over the root of poetry, and the wisdom in every person’s ancestry does not come from the northern sky into everyone, but into every other person.

What then is the root of poetry and every other wisdom? Not hard; three cauldrons are born in every person — the cauldron of warming, the cauldron of motion and the cauldron of wisdom.

The cauldron of warming is born upright in people from the beginning. It distributes wisdom to people in their youth.

The cauldron of motion, however, increases after turning; that is to say it is born tipped on its side, growing within.

The cauldron of wisdom is born on its lips and distributes wisdom in poetry and every other art.

The cauldron of motion then, in all artless people is on its lips. It is side-slanting in people of bardcraft and small poetic talent. It is upright in the greatest of poets, who are great streams of wisdom. Not every poet has it on its back, for the cauldron of motion must be turned by sorrow or joy.

Question: How many divisions of sorrow turn the cauldrons of sages? Not hard; four: longing and grief, the sorrows of jealousy, and the discipline of pilgrimage to holy places. These four are endured internally, turning the cauldrons, although the cause is from outside.

There are two divisions of joy that turn the cauldron of wisdom; divine joy and human joy.

There are four divisions of human joy among the wise — sexual intimacy, the joy of health and prosperity after the difficult years of studying poetry, the joy of wisdom after the harmonious creation of poems, and the joy of ecstacy from eating the fair nuts of the nine hazels of the Well of Segais in the Sidhe realm. They cast themselves in multitudes, like a ram’s fleece upon the ridges of the Boyne, moving upstream swifter than racehorses driven on midsummer’s day every seven years.

The Gods touch people through divine and human joys so that they are able to speak prophetic poems and dispense wisdom and perform miracles, giving wise judgment with precedents, and blessings in answer to every wish. The source of these joys is outside the person and added to their cauldrons to cause them to turn, although the cause of the joy is internal.

I sing of the cauldron of wisdom
which bestows the nature of every art,
through which treasure increases,
which magnifies every artisan,
which builds up a person through their gift.

I sing of the cauldron of motion
understanding grace,
accumulating wisdom
streaming ecstacy as milk from the breast,
it is the tide-water of knowledge
union of sages
stream of splendor
glory of the lowly
mastery of speech
swift intelligence
reddening satire
craftsman of histories
cherishing pupils
looking after binding principles
distinguishing meanings
moving toward music
propagation of wisdom
enriching nobility
ennobling the commonplace
refreshing souls
relating praises
through the working of law
comparing of ranks
pure weighing of nobility
with fair words of the wise
with streams of sages,
the noble brew in which is boiled
the true root of all knowledge
which bestows according to harmonious principle
which is climbed after diligence
which ecstacy sets in motion
which joy turns
which is revealed through sorrow;
it is enduring fire
undiminishing protection.
I sing of the cauldron of motion.

The cauldron of motion
bestows, is bestowed
extends, is extended
nourishes, is nourished
magnifies, is magnified
invokes, is invoked
sings, is sung
keeps, is kept,
arranges, is arranged,
supports, is supported.

Good is the well of poetry,
good is the dwelling of speech,
good is the union of power and mastery
which establishes strength.

It is greater than every domain,
it is better than every inheritance,
it bears one to knowledge,
adventuring away from ignorance.

The Song of Amergin

Amergin was a bard and judge of the Milesians, who took control of Ireland from the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Milesians had to win the island by engaging in battle with the three kings, their druids and warriors. Amergin acted as an impartial judge for the parties, setting the rules of engagement. The Milesians agreed to leave the island and retreat a short distance back into the ocean beyond the ninth wave, a magical boundary. Upon a signal, they moved toward the beach, but the Druids of the Tuatha Dé Danann raised a magical storm to keep them from reaching land. However, Amergin sang an invocation calling upon the Spirit of Ireland, that has come to be known as The Song of Amergin. He was able to part the storm and bring the ship safely to land. The Song of Amergin is often recognized as Ireland’s first written poem and Amergin as Ireland’s first Druid. There are several musical versions, but it can also be explored through meditation. This ancient, mystical poem from the Irish Mythological Cycle contains imagery that can be visualized in the mind’s eye while in an altered state of consciousness.

songofamergin

I am the wind on the sea,

I am the wave of the sea,

I am the bull of seven battles,

I am the eagle on the rock,

I am a flash from the sun,

I am the most beautiful of plants,

I am a strong wild boar,

I am a salmon in the water,

I am a lake in the plain,

I am the word of knowledge,

I am the head of the spear in battle,

I am the god that puts fire in the head,

Who but I spreads light in the gathering on the hills?

Who but I can tell the ages of the moon?

Who but I can tell the place where the sun rests?

The Irish musical group Anuna has a beautiful rendition of the Song of Amergin, which you can listen to at this link.

Tarot & Ego

300

I once belonged to a group of tarot readers, an online forum where readers could share ideas and insights about the world of tarot. This group has thousands of members worldwide and it seems to be a great place for networking with fellow readers. However, the past few days I encountered something very disturbing, which caused me to voluntarily leave the group. Someone had posted a question out of concern for one of their friends. The friend had called a tarot-by-phone service, and was charged $200 for the reading. There was concern that this friend had been scammed. To my astonishment, I began to see posts from people stating how much they charged for readings, both in person and over the phone. Some of them charged $100, $200, even $300 or more for readings. When I suggested that those prices might be unethical, they became quite defensive. One by one, more people chimed in, and it became quickly apparent how widespread this has become. Some had the audacity to ask “How is this unethical”? They were actually defending their right to charge hundreds of dollars for their readings. Unbelievable. I realized this was not a group I wanted any part of. To not see this as unethical, they are either extremely greedy or arrogant beyond belief. After all, they must feel that their abilities are so amazing they can charge such ridiculous prices. Perhaps it would be better if I skipped paying rent this month, or go without food, just so I can pay for one of their incredible readings. I’m being sarcastic, of course, but this is the impression one gets.

These practitioners are preying on those who are vulnerable and easily-manipulated. Some view themselves as celebrities, and because of their perceived status and “years of experience” they feel justified charging high prices. They believe they can charge so much because of who they are, and the reading has become more about them and less about you. The unfortunate thing is, as long as people are gullible enough to pay these prices, readers will continue to charge them. I really think there should be some kind of government regulation that controls how much people charge for readings. Laws vary from state-to-state, but in some places, it is illegal to market yourself as a “fortune teller” and you are required to tell your clients that your readings are “for entertainment purposes only”. Not that anyone really believes that.

I don’t consider myself an expert tarot reader, but I would certainly never call myself one, no matter how much experience I had. I charge a small flat fee for all readings and I do not place a time limit on them. I think that’s only fair. I’m more concerned about helping the person who has come for the reading than I am about how much money they’re paying me. It’s not about the money. Tarot is a service that I offer to help people, I do not seek to make a living from it. I don’t do readings for free, but I purposely keep my prices low so the average person can afford them. I saw one tarot reader at a beach resort who was charging different prices for ½ deck readings and ¼ deck readings or readings just from the Major Arcana. Not even a whole deck. You can’t tell me that this is ethical in any way.

No tarot reader is worth 300 dollars. How “good” or accurate they are is completely irrelevant. Do not be taken advantage of. You can find other tarot readers who charge much less, and they can be just as good, maybe even better than the one who wants you to pay them 200-300 dollars. Whatever happened to “payment in kind”, “whatever you can afford” or “exchange of services”? I’m not entirely convinced that tarot reading should be someone’s sole source of income. Even the full-time witches that I know offer a wide variety of services, not just one specific skill, and they don’t charge triple-digits for them. Tarot readers should be accessible to everyone, not just those who have a few extra hundred dollars to throw around. The average person can’t afford 200+ dollars for a reading. For most people, that is just not a reality. I’m also a little leery of the dollar-per-minute readers, simply because I would have to keep one eye on the clock to  make sure I don’t go over what I’m able to pay. I rarely go to others for tarot readings anymore, as I can read for myself. I’ve used the same deck for years and I have a strong connection to it. When I do readings for others, some people would be shocked out of their minds to know I only charge $20 for readings. How dare I do such a thing.

10 Ways to Magically De-Stress the Workplace

Stress-Pie-Chart-259x300Numerous studies have shown that the major source of stress for most people is related to their jobs and the workplace. Domineering bosses, a heavy workload, deadlines and unusually high expectations contribute to stress in the workplace worldwide. This in turn cause many people to develop health problems that include high blood pressure, depression and anxiety disorders. I have seen this particularly in the customer service field, in which I have some experience.

I will share with you a horror story from a job I once had…

I have had more than one job where those in management would mistreat their staff. Some employees don’t complain for fear of losing their jobs, and sometimes when they do complain, it does no good. If you are asked to take your complaints through the “chain of command”, this does not always work when someone in the “chain of command” is part of the problem. All of this contributes to high stress levels. Many moons ago, I worked as a teller for the now-defunct Great Western Bank when I lived in San Jose, California. The money was good, but the working conditions were terrible. One of the supervisors was insulting and verbally abusing staff on a regular basis, often leaving people in tears. Whenever someone would complain, we were told this supervisor was “having personal problems” and that this somehow excused their abusive behavior. Add to this the fact that at this particular job, there were a hundred and one things that could get you fired. The branch manager was constantly reminding us how easily we could be terminated if we stepped out of line. And indeed, it seemed as though someone was getting fired every week. The atmosphere in the bank was always filled with tension, and we were all wondering who would be next! Eventually, it was my turn for the chopping block. I had returned from a 3-day vacation, after which I was called into the office and informed that $100 in Traveler’s Cheques had gone missing from the vault. And, since I was the only one responsible (other than a supervisor) for keeping track of the traveler’s cheques, then naturally they assumed I was the one who took them. They were asking me questions like “How are things at home?” “Are you struggling financially?” Anything they could find to determine why I would have stolen the traveler’s cheques. But the thing is, I did not take them. I wasn’t the only person who had access to them. The other person was a supervisor, and whenever we counted them at the end of the day, we had to sign both of our signatures. The supervisor was never questioned, and I was the one who got fired. All of this happened a very long time ago, and I can only assume it was the supervisor who took them and then placed the blame on me. How is that for job stress? When I left there that day, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. Even though the pay was good, even though I was temporarily out of a job, I would no longer have to deal with all the nonsense and drama. Fortunately at the time I had other options. Some employees continued working there because they had no other options.

Which brings me to another point: If one of your co-workers complains about their job, it’s not fair to say to them “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?” Many people stay at jobs they hate because they don’t have a choice. They still have rent and bills to pay. They might have kids at home that need food. It’s not as simple as “If you don’t like it, then leave”. Some people can’t “just leave”, as much as they may want to. Show some compassion.

Over time, I found ways to help me deal with stress on the job, no matter where I was working. Depending on your work environment, you may not be able to implement all of these suggestions, but some of them you may find easy to do.

1: ENERGY CLEARING ROOM SPRAY

tumblr_o2i5frx9hP1uxyfzmo1_500You can create an energy clearing room spray using Sage or Lemongrass essential oils and distilled water. There are a couple of ways to do this. The simple way is to mix 3 ounces of distilled or spring water, 1 teaspoon of vodka and 10-18 drops of Sage essential oil. (A great combination I like to use is 10 drops of Sage and 10 drops of Lavender). Also add a pinch of sea salt. A glass spray bottle is ideal, but plastic will work as well. Place a small crystal in the bottle, either Amethyst or Rose Quartz. Before anyone arrives, spray the solution all around your work area, room or anywhere you want to neutralize harmful energies. Sage is a powerful plant that disperses those yucky energies and clears the room for beneficial ones. A more potent spray can be made by simmering sage leaves and lavender flowers in a pot on the stove for about 30 minutes. Strain out the herbs and allow the water to cool, then add to the bottle with the other ingredients.

2: CREATIVE VISUALIZATION

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Before anyone arrives, sit down, close your eyes and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state. Visualize your work area completely filled with blue light and say three times, “This is a place of peace and tranquility” or “I will react in peace and do my work in peace” or “All who enter this area will be filled with peace”.

3: CRYSTALS

111-MM-NATURAL-gigante-quartzo-rosa-bola-Pink-Crystal-pedra-esfera-curaCarefully placed crystals can work in subtle ways to neutralize harmful energies and bring peace to the work environment. Place a large piece of Rose Quartz on your desk, on a table, or on the windowsill. If you can’t afford a large crystal, then fill a glass bowl with small Rose Quartz and Amethyst crystals. Those who are unaware of crystal magic will see them merely as a piece of office décor, but you will know they are working to clear the air of tension and bring peaceful energy into your work environment. Place your crystal where it will be seen by those who come into work area. I do not recommend Clear Quartz, as this stone is an amplifier. If someone has strong emotions such as anger, fear or stress, Clear Quartz will only increase those energies. Amethyst or Rose Quartz are recommeded as stress-reducing stones.

4: ESSENTIAL OILS

essentialoilI have a bottle of Lavender essential oil I keep in my workspace, and I put a few drops on my wrists and temples when I am feeling stressed at work. You can make your own relaxing essential oil blend by mixing a few of your favorite scents together in a special bottle to keep at work.

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5: SCENTED CANDLES

503bb59ff58f567cedb5653529ec7b46Place a scented candle with a relaxing, calming scent somewhere in your work area where will it be out of the way and undisturbed. Be sure to keep it away from curtains or anything flammable. Some candles are so strong they don’t even have to be lit, but if you can light it, all the better. Light and floral scents work great. You’ll know it is working when people walk into your work area and say “Oh, it smells good in here” or “I smell flowers”. If you can use them at work, scented candles are a great way to bring peaceful energies into your work environment.

6: TAROT

It’s always good to get an idea of what your work day will be like. Purchase a tarot deck that you keep specifically at the workplace. Every morning when you arrive at work, hold your tarot deck in your hands, close your eyes and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state. Ask the cards to show you what to expect for that day at work. Then draw three cards. Familiarize yourself with the cards meanings or keep a “cheat sheet” nearby so you can see what the cards have in store for your work day.

7: PROTECTION SHIELD

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This is a simple technique that activates your aura and energizes it to become a sheild that blocks out harmful energies. To activate the shield, do the following steps:

  • Close your eyes and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state.

  • As clearly as you can, visualize your aura, the energetic shield that surrounds your body.

  • See your aura crystallizing, forming a sheild around you. Some see the shield polished like a crystal ball, others may see it multi-faceted like a diamond.

  • Make the shield as real as you can make it in your mind’s eye.

  • Say three times: “I charge this shield to protect me from all harmful energies”.

It is important to take your time and do not rush this process. Your shield will fade over time and will need to be re-inforced periodically. The more you use it, you will be able to sense when it is fading. Mine usually last about 2 ½ to 3 days. For more information about protective techniques, see Christopher Penczak’s book, The Witch’s Shield.

8: RELAXATION MUSIC

Music is another great way to neutralize harmful energies and allow peace to come into the workplace. Buy special instrumental music for relaxation or meditation, and turn it on at low volume. It should be just loud enough where you can hear it but not distracting to you or your co-workers. Avoid music with drums or vocals. The idea is promote a feeling of calm and relaxation. You’ll be amazed how much work you get done with calming music playing in the background.

9: PENTACLES OF PROTECTION

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This is something you can do when you arrive at work in the morning, and is best done when noone else is watching! Face each wall of the room or the East/South/West/North directions in your work area. Extend your right hand and draw pentacles in the air, projecting them in each direction. The pentacle is a powerful symbol of protection. As you “draw” each pentacle, visualize blue flame coming out of your fingers as you make the pentacle symbol. Draw the Earth-Banishing Pentagram first (as shown above), then enclose it in a circle with a clock-wise motion. Do this for each wall of your office or direction in your workspace.

10: NATURE IMAGERY

glencoe-valleyIf you can, place photos of nature scenes in your work area. These can be pictures of trees and forests, flowers, the ocean or any type of imagery that promotes a sense of peace. Calendars and day-planners with nature scenes work wonders, but if you can place framed photos on your walls or on your desk, that’s even better. Plants and flowers in the workspace are also great ways to help neutralize harmful energies and bring a sense of peace into an otherwise stressful workplace.

Here is an extra tip: Don’t take your work home. Leave work at work. Some companies want their employees to make the job the center of their lives, but if you want to keep your sanity, you really cannot do that. I don’t know about you, but I have other things to think about when I leave work at the end of the day. I have other responsibilities and other things that need my attention. I have a life of my own outside of work and I’m sure you do too.

The above suggestions are just a few magical ways to help bring a sense of calm and peacefulness into the workplace. I do many of these and I have found them tremendously helpful.

Witches and Christianity

Updated…

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This is not a post bashing Christianity or it’s followers. I have a few friends who are Christian, whom I sometimes get along better with than certain other witches. I don’t have a problem with Christians as long as they don’t try to convince me to become one too. I know not all Christians are hateful people, but it sure seems at times that quite alot of them are. Ever since I became public about being a Witch, I have met some Christians who condemned me to the “fires of Hell”, while others were merely curious about my beliefs and spirituality as it relates to Witchcraft. Most of them were educated and intelligent enough to know that witches do not worship Satan, we do not even believe in Satan, nor do we participate in human sacrifice or do any of the other horrible things that some people think we do…

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Winter Solstice: Returning to our Roots

First of all, let me make it perfectly clear I’m not Anti-Christmas. I don’t mind if other people celebrate it. I don’t mind if people say “Merry Christmas”. I might even say it back. However, as a pagan, it is not a holiday that I celebrate. I know there are some pagans who celebrate a secularized version of this Christian holiday and almost begrudge other pagans who won’t join in with them. I prefer to remain true to my path and my beliefs. I do not have nostalgic, romanticized notions about Christmas that some other pagans have. I prefer to honor the real “reason for the season”…the Winter Solstice.

Unlike some other people, I don’t have warm and fuzzy, sentimental memories of Christmases from my youth. I grew up in an abusive environment that was also (ironically) very Christian. Christmas was always about the birth of Jesus Christ and a religion that was forced on me for several years. Even though it has been secularized to a degree, and many people celebrate what they call “Christmas”, by it’s very name, Christmas is inherently a religious holiday. Christmas is about Christ, after all. Even though most historians agree that Jesus Christ was not born in December, Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate his birth. To deny this is simply ignorant and foolish. Since I am not a Christian, why should I celebrate a holiday that I do not believe in?

Sometimes people who know me feel a bit awkward when this time of year comes around. They ask, “Can I tell you Merry Christmas?” or they will ask what is the appropriate thing to say. I appreciate their thoughtfulness in asking, and usually just tell them “you can say whatever you like” or “Happy Winter Solstice is fine”. I really don’t mind what sort of holiday greetings people use. I’m not offended if people say “Merry Christmas”. I know they are being kind and wishing me good will, and that is important for everyone.

Some pagans and witches have romanticized the holiday, calling to mind the feasting, gift-giving, gathering with family and friends, decorating a tree and singing carols. Perhaps they have forgotten that none of these practices originated with Christmas. These traditions are all of pagan origin that were simply grafted onto Christmas celebrations over time. This means that as a witch and a pagan, I can still do all of these things and I don’t have to call it “Christmas”. Also, just because you don’t celebrate Christmas does not mean you have to avoid family gatherings. You can gather with your family because they’re your family, and not necessarily “because it’s Christmas”. You can also have your own Winter Solstice gatherings and Yule dinners with pagan friends and do the same things people typically associate with Christmas. You’re not missing out on anything by not celebrating Christmas, because you haven’t really lost anything. All of the old seasonal traditions are yours to enjoy, because they are much, much older than Christmas.

People who know I am a Witch will often ask questions, like:

Do you sing Christmas carols?

Carols, yes. Christmas, no. The first carols had nothing to do with Christianity. They were pagan songs that were sung at Winter Solstice celebrations. The word “Carol” means ‘dance’ or ‘song of joy’ and used to be written and sung at all four seasons. Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones. Sadly, the old songs have been lost or have been given a Christian gloss, such as we see with “The Holly and the Ivy”. Even today, I still enjoy such songs as “Winter Wonderland”, “Deck The Halls”, “Jingle Bells”, “Sleigh Ride” to name a few. There are plenty of seasonal songs that have nothing to do with Christianity.

Do you decorate a Christmas tree?

Yes, but we prefer to call it a Yule Tree. We go to a tree farm just like the muggles do, and cut down a real tree to bring into our home. The practice of decorating a tree did not originate with Christmas. Dating back centuries before Christ, it was the pagans and witches who brought evergreen trees, plants, and leaves into their homes upon the arrival of the Winter Solstice. Druid priests in Great Britain also used evergreen plants and mistletoe in pagan ceremonies, and the mistletoe plant was the symbol of the birth of a god.

Do you have dinner with loved ones and exchange gifts?

Absolutely. Gathering with friends and loved ones for feasting, music, games and gift-exchanging is all part of our Winter Solstice celebrations, just as in ancient times. These winter-time practices began with the ancient Yule and Saturnalia celebrations to welcome the “return of the Sun”. Winter is the perfect time to gather with loved ones for warmth and comfort. It is the dark time of the year and we can rely on each other for strength as we await the light.

What is the Winter Solstice?

The pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. Ancient people were hunters and spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives. Because of this many ancient people had a great reverence for, and even worshipped the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word “Yule” is thought to have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank ale. The ancient Romans also held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and giving presents. The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year. Many of these customs are still followed today. They have been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas.

‘Tis the Season of Winter, and we can flow with the natural energies of the Winter Solstice in the knowledge that we are tapping into an ancient current that is centuries older than the Christian holiday. So, even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I still partake in the seasonal celebrations. I just call them by a different, much older name.