Do You Believe in Magic?

I went online to dictionary.com and pulled three definitions for the word “magic.”

The art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc., conjuring.

To pull a rabbit out of a hat by magic.

The art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature.

Any extraordinary or mystical influence, charm, power, etc.

The magic in a great name; the magic of music; the magic of spring.

The first definition is the one that most people think of when the word is used. The second is what people think storybook witches and wizards do and the third, a great way of using the word when talking about marvelous things in life.

I am going to toss out definition number one because, while valid, it just isn’t the kind of magic I want to discuss.

Let’s look at the second one. Any good witch can tell you, it isn’t the incantation of other techniques that assure the desired outcome, that’s all for effect. It might even be called “fluff.” What does create the desired results is what is happening in the mind as well as the energy applied and even then, controlling the forces of nature is no easy feat! And my magic is never about contolling supernatural agencies. I am not even sure what they mean by that. Is it our goddesses, spirits, our ancestors? I am not sure, but attempting control is not a good idea in any case!

My favorite definition is the last one, not the definition itself, but the actual joy of experiencing magic.

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by snakes and lizards and yes, even bugs. The idea that a snake sheds its skin was an amazing thing. I would often find those skins after the snake shed it. That was magic in my little girl mind.

When I would come home from playing in the mountains, which I was forbidden to do, it was magic to me that my mother always seemed to know I had been there. In reality she could smell the sagebrush on me but I didn’t know that!

When I was a the beach, the sand crabs I could scoop up in my hands were magic to me. How could they possibly live under that sand in the water as well? I would scoop them up and then watch them bury themselves back where they came from. Amazing! Magic!

Even as a child I found the sun setting over the Pacific a most magical happening. This giant red ball, so brilliant the whole sky would follow suit and turn red as it lowered itself into the far distant water. That surely is where my child mind thought it was going. Magic!

As a teenager I would drive into town on Sunday mornings to go to church. I would always go early so that I could sit on the boulders overlooking the ocean far below me the waves would crash at the base of those boulders sending spray all the way to the top, the smell, salty and fresh. Magic!

My first child was born when I was twenty, after an easy labor. When I looked into his eyes for the first time, this beautiful little boy, all his fingers and toes perfect. Magic!

All my life I have loved trees. It amazes me how a tree can move through the seasons, knowing just what to do! Magic!

Here is a poem I wrote about that one year.

Bare TreeBare Tree, here in the cold of winter,
I stand here and gaze at your branches.
You are so adaptable to the changing seasons.
Each year, as the days begin to shorten,
you prepare yourself for the coming cold,
your leaves turning color and then dropping to the ground.
Those leaves, so full of moisture
would freeze with the cold
and cause you grievous harm.
Your branches would grow heavy with ice and snow.
In your bareness, Tree, you show us your wisdom.
In this time of cold,
You are preparing for future growth.
You are readying yourself for spring
When you will send out new leaves and flowers
and begin the growth cycle again.
Would that I could feel this cycle more within my own core
and know when it is time to be still and to rest,
when to pull back and listen,
when to be still and stand, rooted in the ground,
when to drop what could harm me
and when to go within to ready myself for the new.
Thank you, Bare Tree, for showing me this lesson
Thank you for the gift of your knowledge.

There are so many other things I could share here about my experiences with magic. Lately I have been having many synchronous events. People met, connections made. Magic!

Here’s my point …. Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you there is no such thing as magic!

Becoming

The Year 2015 is coming to a close. It is a time of endings and a time of beginnings. That is the wonderful thing about our cycles. We all have the opportunity to end and begin – over and over. Each day, each month and each year. We all scurry about making resolutions for the new year only to see them fail almost immediately.

This is where a good basic magical practice can lend a hand with our resolutions. In every magical act we must first know what it is we wish to manifest. I am not talking some empty wish here but a real look at what we want – really want – for the new year to bring.

If there were one thing I would say needs to be given the most attention in one’s magical practice is the Art of Becoming.

When we cast our Circle and invite the Elements, in truth, they are already there. It is within ourselves that we must become those Elements in order to feel their presence in our Circle. This is why we need to spend so much time studying them for when the studies are finished, we then must learn to feel them, embody them and finally, to project them out to others.

It is the same when aspecting a Goddess – we must become Her. The only way to do that is to first know Her, not just from books and other references, but from our own personal experience as we embody Her.

In my healing method which I call Annym Billagh (the spirit of trees), one learns the healing energies of trees by becoming those trees, by feeling them within and projecting their healing energies onto someone else.

When a member of a Native American tribe dances an animal, he is not just imitating that animal he is becoming the animal in the dance.

When a dancer wishes to portray an image in her dance, she must become that image. When an artist paints, he first learns what it is he wishes to paint. He learns so well that what he wants to paint becomes a part of him and then it is moved onto the paper. When an actor portrays a character on the stage or on film, she must first become that character. When we have a desire, when we wish something to be in our lives, we have to feel and be in that state in order to manifest it in the world of form. We must become our desire.

So it is if we wish to bring in something real with the New Year, becoming takes on vital importance. This year is coming to a close. As with all endings, it is a beginning.

This year, my Circle is honoring Frigga. The Goddess Frigga sits within Her hall and spins thread for the Norns to weave into the great tapestry of all life. She never reveals what is in the thread She spins, but we can tell Her of our dreams and ask Her to spin them into the thread of our life, if She will.

Frigga’s thread is the substance of becoming. We can ask for Her thread and once we have it, we can take it, and shape it, and manifest what is to come in our lives. What will you do with the thread Frigga gives you?

What do you need to know to become your desire in the coming year? Do you have a clear image of what it is you wish to become? Do you have a plan for becoming your desires? Will you be able to take the thread that Frigga has given you, and with your own full embodiment of that desire, manifest your dreams in the New Year?

May it be so! May all Blessings be yours in 2016 and may it be a year of “becoming” all that you can be.

The Blood of Isis

TjetOver the years I have seen the image of the amulet called the Knot of Isis but in all honesty, never paid it much attention. I am on the organizing committee for our annual Goddess Festival here in Austin this year and we have chosen Isis as our Goddess to honor. The intent is to reclaim the Sacred Name of Isis and celebrate Her power, especially for women.

I was supposed to go to Brazil this summer to speak. One thing that was to have happened on my trip was to be my ordination as a Priestess in the Fellowship of Isis. However, because I became very ill and was hospitalized, I had to cancel my trip. In preparation for this ordination, I created an altar Isisfor Her and began to get to know Her. I have always had special affinity for Hathor and Sekhmet or as I call them together, HetHeru. And so, began my relationship with Isis.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead describes Isis as, ” She who gives birth to heaven and earth, knows the orphan, knows the widow, seeks justice for the poor, and shelter for the weak.” She gets Her name, Isis, from the Greeks, but to the Egyptians, She is known as Aset or Iset, meaning Queen of the Throne. Her earliest headdress was that of an empty throne, representing the concept of Her as Throne-Mother, the mother of the king.

The myths of Isis represent the attributes of womanhood: intuition, love, psychic ability, great magical power, compassion and nurturing.

Isis embodied a wide spectrum of qualities: the healing arts, magic, relationships and sexuality, a bridge between the worlds, fertility and much more. She holds in her power the Breath of Life. The message here is that we too have the power within us, a power to save and to heal our world.Tjet

In doing my research I came across many mentions of the Knot of Isis. When I read that the Knot of Isis was also called the Blood of Isis the magic set in! Many of you are very familiar with what happens when suddenly something triggers you and it becomes an unrelenting compulsion to know more!

So I have read every site I can find on the Internet. I have pulled out my copy of Isis Magic by M. Isidora Forrest. I bought The Mysteries of Isis by DeTracy Regula as well as Awakening Osiris by Normandi Ellis. See? Consumed!

There are many guesses as to the meaning of Her Knot. It is often called the Tjet, or simply the Tet. We do know it was used extensively in funerary rites as a protection for the dead. It signified protection both above and below. It also represented resurrection for those protected by it. It was meant to also help those who died to be with their gods after death.

“At the ends of the universe is a blood-red cord that ties life to death, man to woman, will to destiny. Let the knot of that red sash, which cradles the hips of the Goddess, bind in me the ends of life and dream … I am the knot where two worlds meet. Red magic courses through me like the blood of Isis, magic of magic, spirit of spirit. I am proof of the power of the gods. I am water and dust walking.” The Knot of Isis from Awakening Osiris by Normandi EllisTjet

What fascinated me is the idea that it possibly represented the sanitary cloth used to catch the menstrual blood of Isis, the Sacred Mother. It was found in tombs placed between the legs of women who had died while pregnant. It is said that Isis herself used it as sort of a tampon within her vagina while she was pregnant with Horus to keep from having a miscarriage. The Knot was typically found made of carved red stone – carnelian – red jasper – all colors of the life giving Blood of Isis, the menstrual blood of Isis.

“You have your blood, O Isis; you have your power, O Isis; you have your magic, O Isis. This amulet is a protection for this Great One which will drive away whoever would commit a crime against him.” Book of the Dead, R.O. Faulkner

The women who served as her priestesses were healers and skilled midwives. They could interpret dreams and control the weather by combing and braiding their hair (knot magic). They wore fringed shawls wrapped around their robes, tied in a knot at their breasts in such a way as to look like the Knot of Isis, a tradition continued by those who serve her today.

There is an inscription inside one of the pyramids, “Isis and Nephthys work magic on Thee with knotted cords.” Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection by Wallis Budge

I practice knot magic. It gives me great pleasure to know that women have used knots in their magic since these ancient times, again confirming the Power of Isis for women. I use the Knot of Isis for protection, discreetly placed wherever needed. As I identify as a Dianic Witch, I wear the red cord knotted around my waist. There was a time in my life when I did not feel safe in my community. I did not give in to my fear, but instead, braided magic into my hair as I prepared to venture out. I called them my power braids! I chanted as I braided in the magic!

Braid the Magic
Braid the spell
Hold the thought
That all is well.

Warrior Braids do
Braid the charm
Twisting evil
Bending harm.

Braid the Will
Make it strong
Return to sender
Any wrong.

Warrior Braids
Make the spell
Wrapped in love
All is well.

IsisI will be co-priestessing at the opening ritual at our festival and we will be using the Knot of Isis as we invoke the protection of Isis at the Four Quarters.

We, who practice Women’s Spirituality, know well the power of the womb. Our womb space, whether we bleed or not, or even if we no longer have a uterus, is our power center and is what makes our magic so strong. We honor our menstrual cycles and the stages in our lives connected with the birth/death/rebirth cycle of our blood. We honor the power of menstrual blood and use it in our magic. As women, we are connected by our blood. The Knot of Isis, the Blood of Isis, represents that power in us. What more powerful spiritual symbol for women could possibly exist?

Column of Tjets

Budge, E. A. Wallis, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, NY 1911
DeTracy Regula, The Mysteries of Isis, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul. MN 1995
Ellis, Normandi, Awakening Osiris, Phanes Press, Grand Rapids, MI 1988
Forrest, M. Isidora, Isis Magic: Cultivating a Relationship with the Goddess of 10,000 Names, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN 2001

Egyptian Treasures from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo

When You Are Called To Service

When I came to Goddess, I was in my mid-forties and I suddenly had this huge fire burning in my soul. I felt like I had missed opportunities to practice my “calling” for forty-five years. I finally knew what I was born to do and couldn’t get there fast enough. There was a part of me that felt that, because of my age, I had to hurry up and “get there.” Come to find out, we do not ever “get there!” We are simply always “getting there!”

I wrote this for one of my students, recalling my own “fervor” in the beginning and I offer now it to every woman who has suddenly found Goddess and her burning desire to serve.

You are in what those in traditional religions would call “religious fervor.” It is an excitement that comes with a new connection to the Divine in whatever form She appears to us. She captures us, compels us, drives us and sometimes we misread that push and let things go, that in the future, we will depend upon!

Do not sacrifice your career/business/financial security – EVER!!!!! Almost all women called to be of service as Her priestess feel this and find it frustrating only to be able to devote a part of their lives to it. However, whether learning or serving, most of us do it part time and fit it in around our careers.

I will qualify this and say I am only speaking specifically about what I do. Most of us don’t do it for a living. When we start doing it for a living we must ask ourselves continuously, “why am I doing this?” I am not saying we should not ask for money. I started asking for money when I had to live only on my Social Security. I needed to ask for money to cover what it cost me. I know now I should have asked for it before, as an exchange of energy, as it seems to bring more dedicated women when they must give up something for the service offered. I always offer a sliding scale and never turn a woman away. If she isn’t serious, she won’t last in my program. I have very few students. I honestly don’t want more than what I have. How could I give them the time they need if there were more than a few? How would they get the personal one-on-one attention if I were spread too thin to give them what they need?

And then, if I did depend on the money, I would have to ask myself, if I won’t be able to eat or pay the rent without it, what would happen if I had a student who was not priestess material? If she wasn’t honoring commitments or doing the work, and if I needed the money she donated, would I be able to say to her, “this is not for you?”

Always make sure that your financial needs and the financial needs of your future are taken care of! Never sacrifice that for the work you do for Goddess. You are expected to always take care of yourself. The beautiful thing is, when we have been priestessing for a while, we come to realize that even in our mundane lives, if we truly see the Divine in every person, we can minister to all without having to discuss paganism or the Goddess. We just show love and compassion in every moment of our daily lives, helping others and caring for the Earth and all Her creatures.

It is never about “arriving.” The journey is what it is all about. Enjoy the journey, learning what you can. If you are truly called to this service you will remain a sponge your whole life, learning everything that comes your way or comes to your mind! Take your time. Study, take in knowledge and go slow enough that you can assimilate and apply what you are learning! Make sure you get lots of practice, if not by yourself, with others. Ask a lot of questions of those you see out in the world priestessing. Watch them, talk to them, gather everything you need. Make note of the things you see that don’t work and those that do. Pay attention to anything you see that you don’t feel is right, so that you can monitor your own actions in your own work. Learn to listen well. Learn good communication skills. Learn mediation.

Know our women’s history. Know the learned behavior of women who are raised in a patriarchal world. Learn ways to counter those behaviors and then teach women better ways to be with other women and better ways to resolve conflict. Always try to be a role model for others.

Learn to care for yourself. Learn good boundaries and help others do the same. Practice compassion in your life. There are many opportunities to do that every day! Allow yourself to be vulnerable. It is fine to share that you are less than perfect. Open yourself so that those who share time and space with you know that it safe to be open and vulnerable as well. If we cannot be vulnerable with others, we will never feel truly safe to be who we are.

Being called as Her priestess is such a gift! Learn to do it well and you will find that joy spills into your life. It is not that you won’t encounter obstacles or moments of despair, but trust in what you know. Call on your own wisdom to do what is right. Listen to your heart as well as your mind. She called you to this service, She will not let you down.

Time for Commitment

Imbolc is right around the corner. The Earth is stirring, warming and readying Herself for Spring. Deep in Her belly new life is quickening, soon to burst forth with new life. It is also the time for us to rise up and dedicate ourselves to new growth, to awaken to new possibilities in our connection to Goddess. Won’t you come join in the dance with us? Come to the safety of our sanctuary to learn and grow within our Sisterhood. Enjoy self-paced classes – rituals for all the full moons and the eight sacred seasonal holidays. Explore Women’s Mysteries in the safety of our Circle.