Honoring my Beloved Dead – Charles

Tomorrow marks 12 years since I arguably the worst news of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was just after dark and I had just gotten back from having a few drinks with my friends to celebrate the 4th. I had only been home long enough to take a quick shower and relax on the couch. I heard someone pull into my driveway and I got up to answer the door. It was my Aunt Diane and my Uncle Carl. I’ve never been close to my mother’s side of the family, which made it super weird that they would show up unexpectedly.

I answered the door and they came inside without saying anything. We sat on the couch and they informed me that my older brother Charles had committed suicide. The world stopped. I understood what they had said, but it didn’t feel real. I reached for my phone to call my family, but my aunt told me that they already knew. Apparently, my parents sent them over to tell me since they didn’t want me to hear the news over the phone. I made the call anyway and my parents were too distraught to talk. I hung up and said goodbye to my aunt and uncle.

I walked out onto my back porch and lit up a cigarette. My mind raced with speculations about what happened. You see, my brother was a toxic person. He had been in and out of jail my entire life. He struggled with addiction, had severe mental health issues, and was barely able to hold on any semblance of structure or balance.

Towards the end of his life, my brother had made steps to better his life. He was attending college, had a steady job, and was about to propose to his girlfriend. When his girlfriend broke up with him, he lost his grip on his sanity.

I remember receiving a call about a month before his death from Charles. He didn’t have a particular reason for the call, he just wanted to catch up. I was 19 at the time, not that this matters, but I was extremely selfish during this period of my life. I didn’t have time to talk to him. I don’t remember what I was doing or where I was going, but to me, it was more important than talking to my brother. I promised that I would come visit him soon, but made my definite plans. I hung up and never talked to him again.

For several years, the 4th of July has always been a terrible day. I vacillated between staying home looking through pictures of my brother and mourning my loss or surrounding myself with friends and drinking myself numb. The sound of fireworks still ignite a level of anxiety matched by nothing. Over time, I’ve gotten better about this day. This time of year is still emotional and I sometimes snap at people around me, but I have a better outlook.

So today, I honor my brother Charles. On my altar, I place his picture, a fishing lure, and a can of Budweiser. I pray that he has finally found rest.

Charles, my brother. Thank you for your guidance, protection, and friendship.

Blessed may you be in this world and all others.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, every day. You can call them at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with someone online by going here.

No Frills Magick – Finding Lost Items

In my last post, I spoke about the practical, no-frills way I approach magick. This week presented me with the opportunity to “practice what I preach.” My friend Jamie has an amazing job that affords her the opportunity to work remotely. She has taken full advantage of this by spending the last several months travelling to the Czech Republic and South Africa. Jamie was home for three months, but left to continue her adventures on Sunday.  Sadly, Jamie posted that her luggage, pretty much everything she owns in the world, was lost during her flight to Prague. Nothing a little magick can’t handle.

I asked Jamie to describe something that was in her suitcase and she mentioned her travel altar, a small box carved with the image of Nuit on the front. She posted a picture of it in our study group when we were discussing altar creation. I studied the picture until I could visualize the box easily.

I sat at my altar, lit a single black candle, and asked the Goddess to guide me on my journey. I visualized the box in my hands. I felt the smoothness of the wood, the rough edges of the etching, and the power of her ritual items pulsating through the wood like a heartbeat. Once I knew I had the visualization “solid,” I looked around me and saw that I was standing in an airport in a small office just a few feet away from a row of luggage carousels.

I allowed the visualization of the airport to fade away, but kept my mental grip on the box firm. I then visualized my friend Jamie. I saw her standing before me. The relief of getting her belongings back washing over here. I handed her the box and allowed the vision of her and the box to fade from my mind.

I brought my awareness back to my room. I grounded the excess energy into a piece of hematite, thanked the Goddess for her help, and extinguished the candle.

Yesterday, Jamie posted that her suitcase was found and would be delivered to her. Sure, it’s extremely plausible that this would have happened without magickal intervention, but I’d like to think I helped clear the path for it to happen.

Magick is Seldom Spectacular Because It Seldom Needs to Be

This quote from Donald Tyson has been the tagline for my blog since I first started it several years ago. It perfectly summed up my view of magick. I repeated it this past week when talking to a friend about magick. My friend asked about my magickal technique and was surprised to see that it wasn’t as theatrical as he expected them to be.

To be fair, I’ve done my fair share of theatrical magick. Once, the coven I used to work with mixed sulfur with incense and pushed our fears into the mixture. When we “sacrificed our fears to the cauldron of the Goddess (a cauldron of hot charcoal)” the blast from the sulfur lit up the night. It was amazing! Another time, I littered my backyard hundreds of tea lights and bowls of dry ice for a full moon ritual. It was awful to clean up, but it created a magickal ritual space.

As I have gotten more comfortable with my practice, my reliance on the proverbial bells and whistles of magick has decreased. That doesn’t mean that I don’t use them, but most of my magick is based in simple breathing exercises and visualization.

This works for me specifically because the magick I use most often is for practical purposes. Since most of these things happen when I’m away from my altar, I have to rely on the most important magickal tool, my mind. When I need to avoid traffic, I imagine that everyone else on the road take an alternate path. When I’m having an issue with a coworker, I charge a packet of sugar with loving thoughts and add it to my coffee. When I need the weather to cooperate with my plans, I simply pray for it to change.

For more on how to use magick on the fly, you can check out Instant Magick by Christopher Penczak.

Back to the Basics

My practice has always been eclectic. I’ve taken what has resonated with me from various traditions and wove them into a spiritual framework that was uniquely mine. I was never drawn to a specific spiritual tradition in its entirety. Nothing seemed to click for me.

About a year ago, I read a book with a mention to a specific tradition that sparked an interest. Being a mystery tradition, I wasn’t able to get my hands on much information, so I let it go. A few months later, I read another book with mention to this tradition again. This book gave me a few specific beliefs and practices, but it still wasn’t enough. I finally found a book that outlined some basic practices of the tradition and purchased it.

I didn’t read it immediately, because I knew this was an initiatory line and I didn’t know how I would go about finding a teacher. Through a random conversation with a friend late last week, I found that he knew a teacher that came highly recommended. I was also able to get my hands on some foundational training material. So, I began reading the book I purchased last year and reading through the training.

Most of it is very basic magickal training. Several pages are spent explaining how to meditate and ground. Being an experienced witch, I skipped this. Why would I start with something so basic?

The next grouping of information asked me to set up a traditional altar. While I had all the tools required to create the altar setup used in the tradition, I pushed back. Why would I put a wand and athame on my altar, when I seldom use these tools? Why would I replace my white altar candles with a black one? It didn’t make sense to me.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and we discussed my studies. I told her how much the liturgy of the tradition spoke to me. I told her how I loved the fact that there wasn’t such an emphasis on fertility and male-female duality that I found in other branches of witchcraft. I also told her that I was disappointed that I had to change my practice.

“Why are you being so stubborn? Just do it” she said. When I hesitated, she continued.

“Maybe there’s a reason why you should approach things differently. Maybe these practices will prepare you for the “real” work. If you want to test-drive this tradition, you need to take it seriously and do it their way. If you can’t maybe this tradition isn’t for you.”

I thought it about this for the rest of the day. Although I was (and still am) adamant that I don’t need to make these changes to practice within the tradition, I decided that returning to the basics will help me approach any new ritual practices with fresh eyes.

So, today I tore down my altar and set it up based on a picture in a book, including my wand and athame in the mix. I also am writing this after spending 20 minutes practicing grounding and centering. I think that by approaching my new studies as a brand-new student of magick will help open the way for me.

17 Witchy Questions

A Youtuber named Raven Flower shared a #17WitchyQuestionsTag video. I like these types of thing because it gives me a focus for writing and because it becomes a community discussion. Several people have responded with YouTube videos and, although I plan to post videos at some points, I prefer the written word. So, below are my answers to the 17 Witchy Questions for 2017.

 

  1. When times get tough, do you fight? Or take flight?
    1. I typically take flight. I, admittedly, am a very sensitive person, which makes me prone to being hurt or offended more times that I’d like to admit. In the past, I’ve reacted to these issues by fighting. Not necessarily the physical kind, but I’ve had my fair share of verbal altercations. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more aware of my own reactions, so I try to remove myself from negative situations and think through solutions before I act. If fighting is the best option, watch out! I’m going to come through with guns blazing. Usually though, removing yourself from toxic places is often the best solution.
  1. Is there a certain color you connect with?
    1. When I became serious about my practice, I noticed that the color blue began showing up in strange ways. When I visualize my personal energy, it’s blue. When I visualize my astral body, it’s covered in blue armor. When I astral project or do journey work, the world has a blue tint to it.
  2. What is your Sun, Moon, Rising sign?
    1. I was originally told that I was triple fire (Leo, Aries, Sagittarius, respectively) by an astrologer, but I decided to do my own research. I’m a Leo sun (typical Leo, honestly), Virgo moon, and Scorpio rising. I’m not sure what this means, but it just means I have something else to research!
  3. Something you would change if you could.
    1. My brother killed himself several years back. At the time, he and I were estranged due to some bad decisions that he made. I felt that it was in my best interest to put some distance between us. About a month before he passed, he tried to call me. I sent the call to voicemail and never returned the call. If I could change anything, I would go back and answer the call.
  4. Are you passing down your knowledge to the next generation? If so, in what way?
    1. Sort of. I’m currently running a pagan study group and several of the members have children. So, in a way, I’m helping parents to form a religion background that they may pass on to their children. This blog is another way I’m passing on my traditions to the next generation. I also plan to hold workshops at local pagan shops geared specifically to LGBT youth.
  1. Ancestor connections? Who’s coming through?
    1. Tons! Along with the other four traditional elements, I add light, blood, and shadow. Blood represents my connection to those who come before me. So, ancestors play a huge role in my practice and get evoked before any other practice. The ancestor that comes through the most is my grandpa Joe. He has a very calming and protective effect on me.
  1. Do you prefer to do magick with others or by yourself?
    1. By myself. I tend to practice “on-the-fly” or instant magick. Basically, I have a need, I throw together some magick based on what I have on hand and where I am led. This approach doesn’t typically work with a group. With that being said, I would like to begin practicing magick and ritual with my study group.
  2. Do you feel there is only one type of meditation?
    1. Not at all. I’m not one for the silent type of meditation where you sit and count your breaths. I’m too restless for that. Instead, I prefer guided meditations or journey work. I also have experienced the same benefits of meditation while painting and dancing. I’ve even experience a light meditation when editing documents at work or playing board games with friends. My biggest tip for those new to meditation is to do what works for you.
  3. What is your favorite flower? Why?
    1. Lavender flowers – I love the way they smell and I use a lot of lavender in my ritual work. It’s just always been a staple in my home and my garden. I plant it next to the doors to attract love and to offer protection.
  4. Have you tried a new form of divination this year?
    1. Actually, yes. I have a few entries posted in the past few weeks about my new shiny crystal ball. There will also be more to come, as I have been working with her a lot. I’ve also spent a little bit of time with tea leaf readings. Maybe I’ll post a little on that too.
  5. What is your favorite what to connect to the elements?
    1. Ritually, I like to focus on the parts of the elements that are parts of myself. My breath in air, my bones are earth, my body heat is fire, and my blood is water. Mundanely, I like to connect to the elements by being out in nature, particularly in my garden. I also like to find new ways to view the elements. For example, the internet is an amazing symbol of the communicative powers of air. Electricity is pretty much the same as fire. The paint I use in art is both water and earth. Pretty much everything we do can have elemental associations if you look close enough.
  1. Tea or coffee?
    1. Seriously though, I love coffee. Specifically, iced coffee with a little coconut milk.
  2. Do you come a witchy family? Do you feel that bloodline is important or does it matter?
    1. I would say that I come from a magickal family. I don’t feel that blood is important though. Family is much more than that to me. I feel like once you find your tribe, any magickal associations or gifts that might be passed down genetically can be passed own energetically as well. Simply put, witches are made, not born.
  3. List 3 of your favorite YouTube channels.
    1. Joanna DeVoe, Kelly-Ann Maddox, and Molly Roberts. You can find links to their channels in the Resources section in the sidebar.
  4. What is your favorite witchy book?
    1. Fiction would be The Mayfair Witches series by Anne Rice. I love this book series and even made it a point to visit the house it was based around during my trip to New Orleans. Nonfiction would have to be the Temple of Witchcraft series by Christopher Penczak. It’s a great self-study course in the art and science of Witchcraft.
  1. An herb you haven’t worked with yet.
    1. It’s poisonous, but in small doses, it can help one to astral project. You can buy products with a smidge of belladonna in them, I’m just a big wuss.
  2. What are your goals for the next year?
    1. To find out what I want to be when I grow up. I just finished my MBA and have a decent job, but, like a spoiled kid, I. Want. More. I’d like to work in a field where I get to help people. I’d like to travel the world again, as well. I’d also like to see my study group grow. I want to bring in more people including newbies and advanced practitioners. I’d like to offer virtual and onsite classes and workshops, create YouTube videos, and grow my Tarot client base. I’d like Caffeine-Fueled Magick to be more than a blog, I want it to become a full offering of magickal education and self-development support.

Honoring My Beloved Dead– Trish, Chris, and Jinah

 

IMG_20170520_154751.jpgI know it’s the wrong season for this, but I didn’t get around to honoring Trish during the Samhain season. Feelings of guilt, compounded by the fact that Chris and Jinah just recently passed, made me want to write about the three of them now, rather than waiting until Samhain.

 

Trish

I was working the night shift at work; something I wasn’t accustomed to. It was a rough day and I needed to blow off some steam after work. I called all my friends and they were already in for the night before I had even left the office. Despite not having a partner in crime, I decided to go out on my own. I went to my usual bar in hopes that someone I knew would be there. Luckily, Trish was there.

Trish was a regular at the bar and I saw her almost every time I went out. We didn’t talk a lot, but sometimes our smoke breaks would sync up, so we’d talk outside. I considered her an acquaintance, but after this night, she became a friend.

Another man was at the bar and he began making homophobic comments. I asked him to stop and he responded by calling me a “fag.” Like most gay men, this is a trigger word for me and I was ready to fight. Before I could say anything, Trish stepped in.

“Joe might be a fag, but motherfucker, he’s our fag. So, if you’re messing with him, you’re going to mess with all of us” Trish said. At over six feet tall, Trish was an imposing figure. The guy paid his tab and left quickly thereafter. I had never felt so protected by someone who was basically a stranger.

Not long after, I stopped going to this bar. One of my friends broke up with her boyfriend, who also frequented this bar. We stopped going to avoid unnecessary drama. After almost a year, I got word that Trish passed away unexpectedly.

A few weeks ago, my friend Jamie asked to go to this bar in hopes of running into an old coworker. I agreed and was excited that I would get to see people I haven’t seen in years, including Trish. That’s when reality hit me. Trish was gone, I would never see her again.

 

Chris

Chris was a coworker at my previous job. He was a supervisor in our inbound sales center and I was a sales coach who focused mostly on our retail locations. That being said, I didn’t interact with Chris all that often. Chris had a myriad of health problems that eventually took him away from work for a while. While he was out, I covered his team. His return coincided with another supervisor leaving on medical leave, so I moved on to cover the other team.

Chris was a lifesaver for me. Whenever I had questions or needed support, he was there. He was also one of the few people on the floor who had as much nerd-cred as me. We spent so much time talking about comics and video games. He made work fun.

When I was offered a new position at a different company, the rest of my peers were resentful. They felt that I was leaving because I didn’t want to work with them anymore. Chris was the only one who saw that I was leaving for a better opportunity. He wished me well and helped me understand that I ultimately had to do what was best for me.

Chris passed away a few weeks back. I hadn’t seen him since I left my old job. The world definitely lost a good soul when he died.

 

Jinah

“So what are you going to do when we don’t hire you” the voice said from the phone on the desk in front of me. I was caught off guard. I answered the question and eventually this portion of my interview ended.

Jaime, the manager who was present in the room with me, shrugged afterwards and said “Sorry about that. Jinah’s just a little rough around the edges.” I left the interview knowing that I didn’t get the job. Fortunately, I received the official offer the next day.

When I began work, I sat a few seats away from Jinah. She was a middle-aged woman who had recently returned from medical leave. On my first day, she handed me a $10 bill and said “go get me Jimmy Johns.” I was shocked, but ultimately complied, because I wasn’t going to make a woman in a wheelchair go get her own lunch.

Over time, her rough demeanor softened and we became close. I enjoyed her candor and her impatience with stupid people. She made me laugh every day. Her battle with cancer was tough, though she tried to hide it. Over the past six months, I watched her deteriorate mentally. I knew she was sick, but I didn’t realize how bad it was.

Last week, Jinah went on short-term disability at work. By Thursday, she was moved to end of life hospice. On Monday, she passed away. It hit me harder than I expected.

I was cleaning my desk out at work and I found a card from Jinah. I had the flu a few months ago and she gave me a get-well card. It was amazing that Jinah, who was struggling with her own health issues, took the time to wish me well on a trivial concern.

 

Today, I lit three candles on my altar.

Trish, I thank you for your protection and your laughter.

Chris, I thank you for your wisdom and your support.

Jinah, I thank you for your candor and your guidance.

Blessed may you all be, in this world and all others.

Top 5 Witchy Moments in Pop Culture

If you’ve read more than a handful of posts in this blog, you’ve probably gathered that I’m a bit eclectic. I know that’s a bad word in the witchy community, but there isn’t a better term to categorize my practice. Chaos magick comes close, especially in conjunction with this blog.

I love all things Witch related, especially novels, TV shows, and movie targeted towards young adult audiences. When I read Pop Culture Magick by Taylor Elwood, I knew I would add pop culture to my magickal pursuits. Looking at the shows and movies I loved as a kid through this new lens, I realized that I could adapt the magick used to create real magick in my own life. With that being said, this post will be a list of my top 5 favorite witch moments in TV and film and how I’ve adopted the magick used in my own life with video clips as I can find them.

  1. Willow’s Tabula Rasa Spell in Buffy the Vampire Slayer S6E8

 

In this episode, Willow casts a spell to make Buffy forget about the afterlife she experienced after she died…Buffy always seems to die in this show. However, the spell makes the entire Scooby Gang forget who they are. To cast the spell, she uses a quartz crystal and a fancy herb. She says the spell below, the crystal turns black, and all memories are erased.

 

Personally, I use this spell to release negative thoughts or memories, as I tend to overthink/overcomplicate things. I use the same spell, but I use sage instead of the herb she used. I light the sage, place it in a dish with a quartz crystal and say “For me, this I char. Let sage do its chore. Purge my minds of memories grim, of pains from recent slights and sins. When the fire goes out, the crystal turns black, the spell will be cast. Tabula Rasa, Tabula Rasa, Tabula Rasa.” Then, I go outside and throw the quartz crystal as far into the woods behind my house as I can.

 

  1. Past Life Spell from Charmed S2E14

 

In the episode, Phoebe is harassed by an entity connected to her past life. She casts the spell to return to her past life to confront the issues that are causing her issues now.

 

 

For me, when I want to do past life work, I will settle down in front of my altar, light some incense and a black candle, then use this spell to set the intention for my journey work.

 

  1. Willow Protection Prayer Against Gnarl Demon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer S7E3

 

Another Buffy reference! In this episode, Willow returns to Sunnydale, but is in an alternate dimension from the others. In the climax of the episode, she is faced with defending herself against the gnarl demon. Since she is still struggling using magick after she went on a rampage in the previous season, she prays for protection.

 

This prayer stood out to me because before I saw this, I didn’t think of my conversations with deity as prayer. Not only did this revamp (pun intended!) my practice, but I’ve said this prayer to myself while walking to my car late at night.

 

Protect me Goddess. In thy name, I supplicate myself. Take the power from my enemy and lay him lower than the lowest field.”

 

  1. Vivienne Explains the Goddess in Mists of Avalon

 

I couldn’t embed the video, but you can see the clip here. In the scene, Vivienne explains who the Goddess is. It’s a beautiful explanation. She says “The Goddess is everything in nature and everything in nature is sacred.” She goes on to say “She is in everything that is beautiful and everything that is harrowing as well.”

 

If you go back to a very early post about Drawing Down the Moon, I include very similar words in my own invocation. Even though I say these words a lot, I still get goosebumps when I hear them.

 

  1. Esther links her children together in The Vampire Diaries S3E14

 

 

Esther is the original witch who created the original vampires – pretty sweet. Since she sees vampires as a corruption of nature, she decides to link them together magickally and kill one to kill them all.

 

Now, I was fascinated by visuals of the blood spreading out over the page, so that’s the part of adapted to my own needs. As a form of divination, I will pour red wine or sometimes spiced rum on my altar. While I am pouring, I will ask the gods or my ancestors to show me what I need to see and then decipher the images left in the liquid. It’s a mess to clean up, but very fun and enlightening.