Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Although in my mind there's no place like my beloved Ozarks, I recently got the opportunity to spend some months living on the coast.  It was the first time I'd ever lived more than 50 miles away from my birthplace and it was a fun experience. It was interesting to see how the energy of new land and a different culture (I was close to NOLA - whoot!!) changed my way of working magic during my time there.  Spending some time by the sea (more time than a vacation but not a permanent move) had always been a dream of mine, ever since my Grandpa gave me a tiny preserved seahorse when I was small and suddenly the real-ness of exotic sea creatures opened like a kaleidoscope in my brain. :)

I lived very close to the beach and went walking at the water's edge pretty much every day, and became completely enamored with seashells and their myriad of possibilities.  After realizing the first day there that many of the most desirable shells were inhabited by hermit crabs (and making a flying trip back to the water to release the live crabs that were freaking out in my stifling hot car) I made sure to check first whether they were empty or not when picking them up. lol 

                                                        ^Hermit crabs inside!^

In the area I was in, one of the most common types of shell along the beach (and in every yard) was oyster shells.  Most of these have a beautiful abalone-like sheen to the inside, and some have holes in them from predators or just the wearing of the tide.  They will be excellent for hanging on wind chimes to bring a bit of that ocean energy that I enjoyed so much back to my home.  I've read some intriguing information about mortar made with oyster shells (apparently many of the older tombs in St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans were made with oyster shell mortar), but the process appears to be quite extensive - too much for a simple home sculpting project.

I also picked up a ton of quahog shells on this trip (and still have a stock of them from previous beach vacations).  I would dearly love to learn to make wampum beads   but have so many other time consuming projects going on that at the moment my attention span is more suited to arranging the quahogs into lovely sea mandalas. 

Another type that was common was snail shells, although these were usually broken.  I found the broken ones quite useful for traveling through visualization or jumping.  When the outer edge is slightly broken away but the spiral still intact, the shell has a larger gateway where the darkness within can be seen, and the way leading to it visualized a little more clearly.  Spiraling up, spiraling down, or even spiraling within, these 'broken' shells overlooked by most beachcombers are a treasure.

Another beach treasure I picked up was a large red crab shell, but haven't decided yet how I'll be using it.  Crab shell powder has a good reputation in hoodoo for removing curses and jinxes, and reversing the 'evil eye' and sending it back to it's sender.   I may grind it to powder, or use him in a protection ward.

Throughout the time I spent there, I picked up several bags of empty shells to test my ideas and make some nice art pieces and spirit houses with.  Broken bits of shells are useful to me too, as some of them will be ground up and put into spirit bottles.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Heretical Bible Reading

I grew up in a very conservative fundamentalist christian family.  I spent many hours per week in church, as my family believed in going to services at least 3-4 times per week.  This was so natural to me that it was several years before I began rebelling against being required to sit quiet and still on a wooden bench for so long.

Before I began to feel the need to vociferously rebel and protest, I had a method of whiling away those hours by reading the Bible.  I would block out the words of the preacher that were thundering over the loud speakers and just read.  I would read these stories in the same manner as I did the old dusty books with tales of Apollo and Zeus that were on the shelves of our home library.  Sometimes I'd start reading with whatever text the preacher chose for that day, and then let my imagination go from there.  Occasionally I'd hear the preacher speak of the same verse I just read and give his interpretation, and I'd look up in astonishment, wondering if we were really reading the same book because my mind had went such vastly different places with the imagery of the text.

After leaving home and no longer being required to spend those hours in contemplation and being preoccupied with esoteric endeavors and classic occult texts, I still occasionally turn to what some hoodoo practitioners refer to as that 'greatest book of conjure', for its exotic stories and legends.  In my beliefs, these stories are in no way literally true, and do not teach some unquestionable morality.  In fact, I find that the majority of the stories go very much against my personal morals, as the Bible contains a lot of conclusions that go against my personal moral code.  Because of it's prominence in my upbringing though, it does hold a certain fascination for me.  And due to the devotion of it's followers, I find there's centuries of power stored in those words that can be accessed and used in 'interesting' ways if one wishes to. heh

My favorite chapter during those young church days was always Genesis 3.  My thoughts while reading it and ignoring the preaching would go something like this.  (Note: These aren't especially original lol, they're just a sample of how I tend to read the Bible, and why I remain a first class heretic.)

3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Subtle indeed.  So subtle apparently that he could pass the gate and commune with the humans that this 'Lord God' had created for his amusement only.

 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

How rude that 'God' would create the humans and the garden, but leave a deadly tree in the midst of the fruit orchard for no identifiable reason.

 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 

Hmm, so the serpent might have knowledge of this 'God', more knowledge than the humans 'God' created and communes with daily.  And also he's mentioned the option that the humans might become as gods as well...

3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 

So they both ate, and they did not die.  Instead, their eyes were opened exactly as the serpent predicted.  Preachers postulate alot about the death of human innocence and the possibility that perhaps in the garden they were immortal, but the fact still remains that according to the text 'God' said 'ye shall surely die' and they did not immediately die upon consumption of the fruit.  Now the serpents words feel more trustworthy than 'God's...

3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

 This tells me that this 'God' made Adam and Eve afraid.  You'd think that Adam and Eve would have been seething to confront 'God' about his lie, to scathingly spit out "You said we'd die if we ate the fruit and we didn't! What's up with that fucker, and what else are you lying to us about?!?!"  But they didn't, they hid.  They disobeyed an order and upon discovering the futility of that order they appeared to be more worried about punishment for disobeying than finding out why the order was issued in the first place.  Looking at this as an adult, it reminds me of stories I've read regarding the mindset and psychological state of child soldiers, who are much more concerned about the reaction of their superior than the greater actual implications of their actions.

3:9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 

This was really puzzling to me as a child, and continues to be as an adult.  Why was he afraid because he was naked?  It's usually explained that it was the awareness of his nakedness that made him afraid, because he knew that 'God' would know that he was aware and would realize that he'd eaten of the tree.  But that's not actually what he says, he says he was afraid and hid himself "because he was naked".  Odd.

 3:11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
3:12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
3:13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

Cowards.  Sometimes as children, siblings will take the blame for each other out of love, in order to spare their brother/sister the punishment they know is coming.  Not so with these "first humans created in 'God's image"!!  Man blames woman, woman blames serpent, there appears to be no thought of frustration with 'God' over his apparent deceit that's been revealed regarding his pronouncement that they would "surely die" if they ate the fruit of the tree.  All the focus is on getting responsibility for their disobedience of the futile order shifted to someone other than themselves.

3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 

Harsh, but I'm not convinced this worked out so well.  Many cultures revere serpents, even the American Medical Association has the serpent in their symbol.  Interesting that 'God' tried to specifically put enmity between the serpent and the woman. 

3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
3:18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

'God' seems to be having an epic hissy fit.  He's not given any explanation of why they did not immediately die upon eating the fruit, or why he was so dead set against them eating it, instead he's just cursed his creation in every way imaginable.  What a jackass.

3:20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. 

Again with the anti-nudity, although it was all good before... Things that make you go hmm.

3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

WHAT!!!  'God' just confirmed the serpents statement as truth!  He also said "one of us", which reveals from his own words that there are others of his kind. And apparently there is another tree in the garden that the humans have not eaten of, and now he knows that they will not just blindly follow his command so:

3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
3:24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Well isn't that just lovely.  He lied, was caught in the lie, didn't deny it, just cursed everyone for not blindly obeying, confirmed the serpents words as truth while demonizing it, and then drove his creation away from the the home he created for it and set armed guards at the entrance.

My reaction to this as a child: Revere and commune with snakes, they're trustworthy.  Ignore and run like hell from anyone who claims to speak as or for 'God'.  :)

What I Am/What I Do

It would be my preference to just say that I'm a witch without wrangling about definitions, cultural contexts and etymology.  But these days that begs more explanation because there are such vastly different practices being labeled as witchcraft, which is often correct in my view, but still different from 'my' witchcraft and not helpful in giving a perspective on what I do.  I don't care too much about those labels as I'm more interested in what a person's actually doing, but labels properly applied do help give an inkling to what a person does in their work so here goes.

I'm not Wiccan or wiccan, just to get that out of the way.  I'm not an initiate of a specific tradition, so many would not consider me a traditional witch either.  Due to some flubs and a particularly virulent infection of fundamentalism that ran rampant in my family for a few decades, I missed out on the initiation into the tradition of my ancestors and the last initiated member died without passing on her words and knowledge when I was a pre-teen.  This does make me sad and irritated if I dwell on it too much, but I truck on and know that there are others, I've managed to find a few. :)  As Chumbley and many others have said, "Nothing about the arte is ever truly lost."

Eclectic, in it's most literal definition, might be a proper term for my witchcraft, but I shy away from it because of the way I've seen it used.  In my search for the roots of my family's tradition, I've studied many texts and traditions and found a surprising number of similarities.  Experimenting with the methods of other traditions that have been made available to non-initiates and making contact with some of the forces they invoke has taught me a lot and furthered progress on my path.  (On a related note, I have to wonder if those who say you can't learn anything from books have ever read any.)  However, just because I have engaged some of the technique's of other traditions to further me in my personal work, doesn't mean that I go about calling myself a "Voudon/Palo/Santera/ONA/Feri/Bhuddist/Wiccan/N.A. Shaman/Satanist"! Certainly not, and having seen this quite a bit is why I cringe a little at the term eclectic.

What I do (that I talk about publicly): I venerate and commune with my ancestors.  I tend graves.  I engage the spirits of the land I was born and raised on, the genius loci, the haints, etc.  I use my native Ozark Mountain Magic (hoodoo style) for blessing and bane.  I wildcraft and grow herbs for crafting and food.  I create art for magical purposes that's infused with specific types of energy.  Much more could be said, but this pretty well sums it up. These are things I've done all my life, but with the specific "witchcraft" labeling and focus for the last 10 years.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Day I Decided to Die

*Note - This post is not about suicide or suicide attempts.  It's an allegorical reflection.*

I remember well the day I decided I had to die.  I had built myself up into something beautiful, carefully crafted to be aesthetically pleasing and pleasant to touch.  But as my environment had changed around me, I became useless.  In the unexpected position I found myself in on my life path, I was like a large and beautiful sculpture sitting in the midst of an industrial park.  Work was going on all around me and would soon crash into me and break me while laughing at the absurdity of my stillness if I was not moved out of the way or recreated into something that would be useful in my current location.  

A calling had sought me out, something that I'd never thought would be possible happened to me.  I'd thought that my place in life would forever be a solitary garden where the only people that wondered through were there to also enjoy the quiet peacefulness and would expect nothing more from me than for me to simply 'be', and they would admire the lines of my form and my purpose would be fulfilled.  But the garden had been transformed into a production center, no longer an oasis of tranquility.  Those hungry to be fed were working in the garden, stirring up the dirt in their quest for edible roots.  The delicate and exotic plants had to be moved to other locations that were still undisturbed by life that was pulsing and writhing instead of gliding in silence.  I had a choice to make, I could request to be moved from my location.  I could leave what had supported me and what I had stood on up to this point and seek a place that was dedicated to beauty and solitude and ignore the obligations to the creations of my soil. Or I could transform and join in the work.

The decision to die and be reborn into something useful in my current state was sudden, like a tornado with no warning sirens.  I pierced my flesh and tattooed a cross on my back, I sacrificially destroyed the creations symbolic of my solitude.  I endured the anger of the spirits I'd previously engaged for my tranquility and the watchful silence of my ancestors.  I vibrated like a person being electrocuted and I burned, then I died.

When I arose from death, I was disoriented and unformed.  All things I'd gained understanding of in tranquility and moved past were a mystery again and the understanding had to be regained, and it was the same and it was different as my life was now one of production rather than reflection.  I missed the solitude and I cried for it as it cried for me while I kept working and tending what I'd produced with no time for looking back.

Then one day, I saw my reflection in a vat of water as I cleaned tools in it.  I could still view and be viewed.  I could work with my hands while quieting my mind.  I could see as much sensual perfect beauty in nettle seeds as I did in the orchids of the previous days.  The realization that I could have both, tranquility and production, washed over me like a river bringing strength and calmness with its active water.  I realized that I'd always known that the balance was possible and even necessary for me, but I had to experience both exclusively to appreciate it. I learned to walk between the two, occasionally stepping to one side or the other, but always stepping back between and walking on with hands stretched out to both sides.  I laugh at my previous struggle, knowing that it was necessary for me while feeling amused at the simplicity.  This concept of balance is written in numerous texts new and old.  I had read it many times while thinking that it was obviously the only way to live, but not until I'd acknowledged my experiences in both sides and the death I required to leave one and enter the other did I understand the complexity that is bound into it due to the human processes that are required for my understanding. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jar of Sweetness

Folk magic is something I grew up with, although it wasn't labeled as such.  It wasn't until years later after I'd left home and was attempting to find magic through foreign constructs that my studies began to show me that the magic had been in and around me all my life.  The talismans, manifestations, and crafting that I'd taken for granted as something that we just do in my family were suddenly seen in a new light.

On that note, I have folk magic on my mind today.  Mainly because I realized that I accidentally left behind a honey jar in the house I spent some time in recently.  It was crafted on the fly when a situation came up that I needed to sweeten.  I took a small glass jar with a glass lid and filled it with sugar cubes because I had no honey available.  I wrote out my petition paper crossing it 9 times and then stuck it in the jar and added water to the cubes so that the sugar would melt and the petition would be literally saturated with sweetness.  I added some coins for a rich and sweet outcome and charged my jar.  Everything went nicely so the jar was finished, but I had not dismantled it yet and now I realize it was left sitting on a shelf in the closet... lol  I wonder who'll find it, if they'll know what it is or get curious about it.  The petition paper was unreadable before I put it in because the writing was crossed so many times, and now after sitting in the water for a few weeks I'm sure it's completely illegible.  The jar was pretty well deactivated, but still gave off a sweet/friendly vibe.  Makes me smile sitting here now to think of someone finding it. :)

Hillbilly Bohemian Heathen

I'll start this off by sharing a little about the title I chose for this blog.  The word hillbilly for most people appears to either draw up an image of Ellie Mae and Granny Clampett, country music stars retiring to Branson to live out their last years performing in the comfort of their own theater, or those kitschy gag gifts that almost every convenience store and gift shop in the Ozarks has that are all labeled as 'hillbilly' something.  A bag of pinto beans is labeled "Hillbilly Bubble Bath!" among other oh-so-clever products.  For me though, it just brings to mind living in the hills.  Growing up we lived on the ridge with the James River flowing through a nearby holler.  Early in the mornings, the fog would rise off the river and the sunrise would color it with brilliant shades until it looked like a magical cloud of fire, rising and dissipating between the hilltops.  We weren't the intentional 'modern homesteaders' you read about these days, growing organic health food on our land and butchering meat in order to get it hormone free (although these are excellent things to do), for my family it was just living.  We raised and butchered our own meat because it was cheaper than buying it at the store.  We grew a garden because seeds were much more affordable than the produce section.  We lived 40 minutes from the nearest grocery store anyway, so running to the store to pick up some last minute ingredient for supper just wasn't an option.  We lived in the hills because it is where our ancestors have lived for the last three centuries in America, and they lived in the hills of Scotland before that. So in my view, hillbilly isn't a slur, a joke, or some exalted label I choose to apply to myself, it's just a word that implies how I grew up.

Bohemian in its most proper sense refers to a native or inhabitant of Bohemia. In the more common vernacular it is a descriptive of a style of dress or decor, or a person who's rather unconventional, and usually artistic.  For me the word evokes images of antique tea-stained lace, velvet and silk patchwork, tea leaves being read, simple people in exotic places, and exotic people in simple places.  This image is something I relate to.

Heathen is an interesting word.  One of the central aspects of the majority of it's definitions appears to be the concept of being 'unconverted', primarily in relation to the Big Three, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  And this describes me perfectly.  I am unconverted by any of the dogma of accepted religious or spiritual thought, even outside of the big three.  The truths that I have taken to heart are few, and they are based on my life experience. Reading ancient texts on spiritualism and mythology is interesting to me and contains valid information, just as reading modern books where contemporary authors have recorded their experiences is helpful and can provide new insights. But for my way of living, none of those can ever be accepted on faith, or could ever take the place of experience. I remain an unconverted heathen when it comes to alignment with any organized religion.