Basic Sigil Construction

Sigils are a great way to identify your intent when you’re working magic. A sigil is simply a symbol of your purpose – for instance, you could use a heart to identify love, or a dollar sign to indicate money. Those are the easy ones – and certainly, there are a floppity-million other symbols you can use. If you want to do the standard issue symbols, pick up a copy of Raymond Buckland’s Signs, Symbols, and Omens – it’s chock full of great suggestions.

That being said, one way to connect your intent to your working even more effectively is to create a unique symbol of your own. This sort of “locks the magic in,” or at least, it does in a number of modern magical traditions. The very act of creation is part of the magical process.

So, I thought I’d share my tried-and-true method of sigil construction. This is a pretty bare bones method, but it works. It’s a great way to create a symbol that’s unique to you and your purpose, and you can utilize it for ANY magical working at all.

Let’s say you want to do a working for love. Start by taking a piece of paper and writing the word love on it, like so:

Next, eliminate the consonants, so what you have left is this:

For the final step, take these remaining letters, and combine them to create a single symbol that you can use in your workings:

When you use it, even if someone else sees it, you’re the only person who knows what it means.

Okay, let’s do another one, that’s a little more complicated – how about protection?

Just like before, we’re going to eliminate the vowels. There are also two letter T’s, so we’re going to get rid of the second one. Ditch any duplicate letters, so you get this:

 

 

 

 

Then, for the last step, we’ll combine these remaining five letters into a single symbol:

It doesn’t look like much of anything, except maybe Tolkien’s Tengwar script, or perhaps the symbol for a musician formerly known as something else. But you know it means protection… and that means you can write it, draw it, or paint it anywhere you like, and no one will ever know.

 

The History of the Sheela na Gig

Although the Sheela-na-Gig is technically the name applied to the carvings of women with exaggerated vulvas that have been found in Ireland and England, there’s a theory that the carvings are representative of a lost pre-Christian goddess. Typically, the sheela-na-gig adorns buildings in areas of Ireland that were part of the Anglo-Norman conquests in the 12th century. She is shown as a homely woman with a giant yoni, which is spread wide to accept the seed of the male.

St Mary and St David, Kilpeck, Herefordshire

Sheela na Gig image by Amanda Slater / Flickr / Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Folkloric evidence indicates a long-standing theory that the figures were part of a fertility rite, similar to “birthing stones,” which were used to bring on conception, but scholars have been questioning that lately.

Although traditionally the sheela has been regarded as a representation of a fertility goddess, John Harding, spokesman for the national Sheela na Gig Project, says, “the symbols are more likely to have originally been a warning against the sin of lust, before gradually mutating into a protective force against demons. In modern times, the sheela na gig has become a pagan symbol.” The figure is found all over the United Kingdom, as well as in France and Spain, and as far away as the Czech Republic.

From a sheer numbers standpoint, it is Ireland that the claims the most sheela na gig carvings, and the England-Wales border is the home of the best known carving, the sheela of Kilpeck Church. Experts say that during the Victorian era, many of the carvings were destroyed or altered, thanks to the repressive social mores of the time.

Eamonn P. Kelly suggests that etymologically, the sheelas may be connected to the second-century Saint Cecelia, who fiercely guarded her virginity and told her Roman Pagan husband that she was betrothed to an angel, and was therefore sexually unavailable. I’m not sure that line would hold water today, but at the time, it must have worked.

The Irish Gaelic name Sile is a derivative of the Roman Caecelia. Kelly goes on to point out that later Sile became associated with guardianship of the land, and the Sile na Gadra was a personification of Ireland itself. Kelly theorizes that “linguistic and folklore evidence suggests that sheela-na-gigs may have become associated with the protection and control of land and lordly status.” It’s entirely possible that the sheelas were not simply carvings of wanton and fertile women, or even of sin and lust, but guardians and protectors of the Irish people and the land upon which they lived.

Saturday Spellwork: The Speed Bump Saga

I’m a big fan of using mundane stuff in spellwork, because there are always things around your house that you can finagle into a magical application. If you’re a parent, especially, I guarantee you that there are plenty of kids’ toys that are going to come in very useful at some point. To illustrate this, I’d like to share a tale from about fifteen years ago, when my twins (who are now high school juniors) were toddlers, and we had a fairly impressive collection of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars.

At the time, I lived on a one-way street in a residential area, and because it was the connector between a large public park and a main artery, we occasionally saw cars going the wrong way. There was one local teenage driver in particular who not only went the wrong way A LOT, but he did it at about 55 mph. I repeatedly asked the police to stop him, but because he did it at varied times, they really couldn’t help.

So….. magic.

I got a length of Matchbox track, and labeled it with my street’s name. I put little piles of gravel to represent speedbumps at intervals, created several other obstacles, and then I got a red Firebird toy car to represent Jason (that was speed-racer’s name). I also got a toy cop car. Then I put a mirror at the end of the street.

I drove Jason slowly down the street, hitting every possible pile of gravel. I did this with appropriate “Ouch! Yikes! %$#!” When “Jason” got to the mirror, the cop car drove up behind him to dispense justice. There was a little more to this than that, but that’s basically it in a nutshell.

What happened, about ten days later: Jason came flying down the street the wrong way one afternoon as I sat on my front porch. Suddenly, for no discernible reason at all, he slammed on the brakes. He then lost control of his car, and slammed it into a lightpole directly across the street from my house, severing the lightpole at the base. Jason backed up, turned the car around, and raced away in a cloud of dust.

Aaaaaaand he left his license plate embedded in the light pole… which the neighbors and I happily gave to the nice policeman who came to take the report.

The cop came by later and told me that when they went to pick Jason up, he told them he had slammed on the brakes because he got confused and thought he was on the next street over — which has speed bumps.

  • Toy cars: $6
  • Mirror: 99 cents
  • Stopping a douchebag from running over neighborhood kids: priceless.

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No, Salem Ancestry Doesn’t Make You Special

A reader says, “I just found out that I’m descended from one of the witches from the Salem witch trials and I feel like this makes me have witchcraft in my blood. I went to a Pagan event not too long ago, and when I told everyone about this they acted like it was no big deal. I feel like I deserve a little more respect since my ancestors were Salem witches.”

I know it’s very exciting to discover that your ancestry contains people who were interesting, or even famous.

And sometimes, when we make a discovery like that, we want to share it with others, and we want them to be as excited about it as we are. So if you’re descended from one of the men and women who were convicted of witchcraft in Salem back in 1692, that definitely makes for fascinating family conversations around the dinner table.

However – and this is a big however – it doesn’t really make you a special snowflake in the Pagan community at all, for a couple of reasons. First of all, the people executed in Salem were most likely not witches at all. Other than accusations which were later recanted and apologized for, there is no evidence that the accused were anything other than victims of hysteria and fear.

In fact, most of of the individuals hanged in Salem (as well as elderly Giles Corey, who was pressed to death) were devout Christians.

(The one exception to this may be the slave Tituba, who is believed to have been from the West Indies, and may have had some knowledge of folk magic, although that is unclear and has never been proven by scholars. However, Tituba vanished, released from jail shortly after the Salem hangings began, and her whereabouts afterwards are unknown despite the best efforts of academics to learn her post-Salem fate.)

A second reason that it was probably treated as “no big deal” by the people you met is because there are hundreds, if not thousands of people alive today who are descended from the victims of the Salem witch hunts over three hundred years ago. Again, this does not make you unusual. While it may be a really big deal to you, to everyone else, it’s just a mildly interesting fact at best.

Finally – and feel free to take this with a grain of salt – your email indicates that you expect people to show you respect automatically based upon your ancestry and what it means to you personally. In the Pagan community – as in others – respect is earned.

It can’t be demanded, because you’ll never get it. It’s earned by your words and deeds, not because you happen to have a certain family tree.

Step back, take a breath, honor your ancestors and do a little more studying and research. With a little bit of experience and learning, you may eventually become someone who earns respect based on your own merits, without invoking the names of the accused men and women of Salem.

Just for funsies, here are some cool articles I’ve written on the topic of Salem, which should keep you busy for a while.

 

 

Book Update: Wicca Practical Magic

Book update! I know many of you are as excited as I am to get a copy of my new book, Wicca Practical Magic — and you will very soon! There was a slight printing delay and the new on-sale date for the print book is now 6/6 (the e-book will be available a couple weeks earlier on the original release date of 5/23).

I want to make this book a real tool for you, one that will impact your practice for the long run, so in response to the delay, I’m putting together an EXCLUSIVE PREORDER GIFT FOR THOSE WHO ORDER THE BOOK NOW! The gift includes a special download on candle magic, a special offer for purchasing your materials on moonaria.com and more!

Check out the details here: http://books.callistopublishersclub.com/wicca-practical-magic-preorder-gift

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Saturday Spellwork: Banishing Magic

I don’t care what anyone says, banishing magic sometimes is a necessity. Sure, there are plenty of people who approach it from the mindset of “Well if someone is that terrible, why don’t you do a spell to help them be kinder and more understanding?” Well, frankly, hell naw. Some people are just awful, and the onus of responsibility to make them less awful doesn’t have to fall upon the rest of us.

Some people just need to get gone.

And THAT is where a good banishing spell comes in super handy. I’m going to share four of my favorite types of banishing workings, with the caveat (as always) that if you don’t approve of banishing, or your tradition has some sort of injunction against it, THEN JUST DON’T DO IT. No need to email me to tell me about it, k?

 

Banishing Powder

This is something I’ve used with a goodly amount of success – it’s based on the same concept as Hot Foot Powder, which you see in a lot of conjure and Hoodoo traditions. Blend equal parts of cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, and sulfur powder together. If you want to get really creative, you can also add saltpeter or black powder (got a friend who shoots a muzzle loader? there’s your black powder!).

Sprinkle this mixture in the footprints of someone that you want to get rid of, and they’ll walk themselves right out of your life. An even more effective method is to add some of it directly into the individual’s shoes or socks, but this can be a bit of a challenge if they don’t live in your home.

Rotten Apple Banishing Spell

Cut an apple in half horizontally, so you can see the seeds forming a star in the center. Carve the name of the person you want to get rid of on the raw inside of the bottom half of the apple. Place the two halves together again, wrap them tightly with black cord or cloth, and then bury the apple in the ground. As the apple rots, the person will move out of your life.

Four Thieves Banishing

If you don’t have any Four Thieves Vinegar on hand, you should make some. It’s one of my favorite magical ingredients in the history of ever, and it’s got a pretty cool backstory too. Write your target’s name on a piece of brown paper or parchment. Soak the paper in Four Thieves Vinegar until it’s good and soggy. Smush the piece of paper up as small as you can, and bury in the dirt somewhere – the person won’t bother you much longer.

Road Flare Banishing

I like fire, so this is a spell I enjoy a lot – I’m sort of sad I don’t have much call for banishing in my life these days, because this one is fun. You should probably do it outside. Specifically, on a non-flammable surface, like your driveway or a concrete pad.

First, make a poppet or doll to represent your target. Tie the poppet to a road flare – these burn bright red! Light the flare on fire, telling the person to keep out of your space. Let it burn until it’s completely gone, and the individual will leave you alone soon.

You Can Pre-Order Wicca Practical Magic Now!

Guys, I’m SO excited about my newest book! Wicca Practical Magic is available for pre-order on Amazon, both in a print and digital edition!

 

Wicca Practical Magic will be released on May 23, 2017, through Althea Press/Callisto Media, and you’re going to LOVE it! Here’s what some of the advance reviewers have to say:

"Patti Wigington has given us a rare sort of book. Wicca Practical Magic is treasure trove for the new practitioner while at the same time being a lovely refresher course for old-timers. This book is an important addition to your Pagan library."
—Byron Ballard, author of Staubs and Ditchwater: a Friendly and Useful Introduction to Hillfolks' Hoodoo and Asfidity and Mad-Stones: A Further Ramble Through Hillfolks' HoodooWicca Practical Magic is more than just a reference book. Written in Patti's easy, accessible style (I'm a big fan of her About.com articles!) it covers all the essentials of incorporating Craftiness into everyday life―everything from sabbats and spell work to stocking your magical cupboards.”
―Natalie Zaman, Wandering Witch and author of Magical Destinations of the Northeast and Color and Conjure: Magic Spells and Rituals to Color

“Patti Wigington’s wisdom has been a long-time staple online, and I couldn’t be happier to finally have a chunk of it in one place on my shelves. Wicca Practical Magic is a fantastic collection of knowledge for the modern witch.”
―Deborah Blake, author of Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy WorldWicca Practical Magic covers a wide range of topics without losing the pragmatic voice that Patti has cultivated. The appendix and resources contain a treasure trove of additional reading. Not only will I be advocating this book to my beginning students, but to every witch. Such constructive books come along rarely. It is a gem for any library.”
―Amy Blackthorn, author of Encyclopedia of Magical Aromatherapy

Doesn’t this sound awesome? You bet it does! Also, if you pre-order this title, you’ll get it at a discounted price of $11.31 (regular list price is $14.99) for the print edition – Kindle version is $6.99 –  and of course, Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping!

I can’t wait to share this book with you! You can pre-order your copy here:

Shell Powder & Chalk

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite magical ingredients, which I’ve always referred to as shell powder, or at least that’s what I called it when I started making it nigh on thirty years ago, and the habit done stuck. However, since that time I’ve learned that people who practice hoodoo, Santeria, conjure, and a number of other ATR magical systems call it cascarilla powder.

Although cascarilla powder has its roots in the West African diaspora, it has started to gain popularity in quite a few neoPagan magical practices – probably because it’s stupid easy to get your hands on. YOU CAN MAKE IT IN YOUR KITCHEN YOU GUYS. In addition to being super easy to make, it’s also handily versatile, and can be incorporated into multiple magical workings of various types.

Shell powder – super easy and useful!

Made from ground-up eggshells, cascarilla – which is pronounced cask-a-REE-ya – powder is used in a number of folk magic traditions for protection, cleansing, and purification. You can certainly buy some at your local botanica, but I like to make my own, because for me, the act of finding/saving/drying/powdering the shells is part of the magical process.

Did I mention it’s ridiculously easy?

Cascarilla Powder

There’s a ton of great info on cascarilla out there on the Interwebz, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, but there are a couple of key points you should know.

As I mentioned, cascarilla was originally from West Africa. The folks over at Original Botanica have a great explanation of how it evolved from a plant-based item into one derived from eggshells. “Among other beliefs, the people of this region brought to the New World the concept of sacred white earth they called efun. They believed this substance could provide an individual with protection against evil. Cut off from their ancestral lands, they sought an alternative that could achieve the same effects. This came in the form of an herbal powder called cascarilla. The finely ground outer bark of this large, tropical shrub was already known among the Caribbean natives for its medicinal properties that included reducing fevers, operating as an expectorant, and even clearing flatulence. In fact, the word cascarilla refers to any kind of outer skin or husk. Cascarilla also happened to possess a nearly white color. Over time, Santeria practitioners transitioned from using this herbal powder to using crushed egg shells. These were easier to come by, and the symbolism of the life-giving egg also made it very attractive.”

Magical Properties

Eggs themselves have a number of magical applications – they’re signs of fertility, life, transformation, and so forth. So – how does the shell translate into protection and purification? Well, look at it this way. If the shell is the barrier between the inside of the egg and the entire outside world, why can’t it create a barrier between you/your stuff/your property and all the things you don’t want to get in?

Essentially, it creates a shell that negative energy can’t pass through, just like any other sort of protection magic does.

Basic Shell Powder Recipe

To make your own shell powder – or cascarilla powder, if you feel like you need to call it that – you’ll need (wait for it) eggshells. Certainly, you can use shells from eggs you are baking and cooking with.

Rogue goose eggshells come in handy for shell powder!

If you can find empty eggshells in the wild, that’s an awesome alternative. I actually like to collect the empty shells from the goose eggs near my apartment complex’s pond in the spring. Why, you may ask? Because geese are territorial as hell – one actually chased me last week when I got too close to the nest – and that makes their eggshells perfect for a wee bit of home protection magic.

Regardless, collect your eggshells, and rinse them out (if you find them in the wild, there may be goop inside them, so consider yourself warned). Once they’re clean on the inside, you need to dry them. I generally put them in the oven at a low temp – maybe 300° – for about 15-20 minutes. You want them to be dry and brittle, but not burned.

Once they’re dried out, let them cool, and add them to your mortar and pestle to grind up until you’ve got powder. Yes, you can do this in a coffee grinder if you want, but I genuinely like the meditative aspect of the grinding process by hand.

To use it, sprinkle the powder around whatever it is you want to protect or purify. You can also use it to dress a candle, add to a mojo bag, or blend it in with other magical ingredients for an added bit of oomph.

Shell Powder Chalk

Once you’ve made shell powder, you can also make chalk – and I love this, because then you can DRAW things with it! Protection symbols and whatnot on your sidewalk, walls, doors, etc. To make chalk, you’ll need to start with some of the above shell powder. You’ll need one part hot water, one part white flour, and three parts shell powder (a part is whatever you want it to be – teaspoons, cups, gallons, have at it!).

Combine the hot water and the flour together and mix them thoroughly, and then mix in the shell powder. Mix it until you’ve got a thick, sticky paste – it’s not unlike Sculpy clay when it’s done. Shape your shell paste into sticks or chunks, and then wrap them up tightly in a paper towel for a few days. By the end of a week, they should be completely dry.

Another option, if you’re not sure about your chalk rolling abilities, is to gather some of those little white paper condiment cups from your local fast food joint. Pack the cup tightly with the shell paste, wrap in a paper towel, and once it’s dried out, just peel the paper cup away.

Other options? Add dried herbs or magical oils for a variety of purposes, and use that stuff to draw all over the place.

Whatever you decide to call it – shell powder, cascarilla, that white stuff in a ketchup cup – it’s going to come in handy, so get crackin’!

Saturday SpellWork: The I-Screwed-Up Jar

So I thought I’d start a new feature here on my website. I’ve been practicing as a Pagan for thirty years now, and I’ve written a metric shit-ton of original spells. Some I’ve published – there are 366 of them in The Good Witch’s Daily Spell Book and twenty more in the upcoming Wicca Practical Magic (#shamelessplug!) – but there are countless others that I’ve never put out before. I thought it would be fun to start sharing them here with y’all, so I’m going to try to do a weekly feature called Saturday Spellwork, where I’ll share something new and nifty that you can add to your Book of Shadows.

I’m starting with this one because I had a reader message me on Facebook asking about reconciliation spells, and once I pulled this one out of my ol’ Hard Drive of Shadows, I realized that other than the old AOHell Message Boards of Yore, I’d never shared it publicly before. It’s a goodie, and comes in really handy if you’re trying to repair a relationship that you yourself have damaged, especially if there was deceit involved.

Have at it, kids!

The I-Screwed-Up Jar

You’ll need:

Two blue votive candles, to symbolize peace
Some salt
Rosemary
Sage
Mugwort
A taglock (this is a magical link) for each of the parties in the relationship
A clean glass jar, baby food size will do, with lid

**NOTE:  Feel free to change any of the wording as needed.

Light the blue candles on either side of your work space, so that you can sit comfortably between them. If you normally cast a circle, feel free to do so now.

Remember, this ritual is designed to HELP mend a relationship that has been damaged. That means that the person who did the betraying needs to accept the fact that they screwed up. Place the salt in the jar, and as you do so, say, “This jar is our relationship. It is clean, it is new, and it is pure.”

Add the rosemary and mugwort to the jar. The rosemary and mugwort symbolize healing and health, which is what you are trying to bring to the relationship. As you do so, say, “I have made mistakes, and I have brought deceit to this relationship. From now on, it starts anew, as  I bring honesty and truth to this relationship.”

Add the sage, which symbolizes wisdom. Let’s face it, you need to learn from your mistakes, right? As you add the sage, say, “My mistakes and lies were my own, and no one else’s. I take responsibility for them, and I use this knowledge to be sure I don’t repeat them.”

Add the taglocks. They can be whatever you choose, just make sure they’ll fit in the jar with the lid closed. As you add them, say, “We are in this relationship together.  We are two parts of the same whole, we are equal.  I owe you honesty and respect, and you owe me the same. Our relationship begins to heal even now, blending together you, me, wisdom and healing.”

Mix the contents of the jar around together, and add a drop or two of wax from the blue candles, to add peace to the relationship. Cap the jar tightly. Keep it in a place that has a lot of meaning to you and the person whose trust you have broken — the bedroom, a quiet spot in the backyard, etc.

Remember that trust is earned – no one owes you jack squat. After doing the ritual, show that you are worthy of the person’s trust.