How to Make Florida Water

how to make florida water

Wait.  What’s Florida Water?

Florida water is a traditional American cologne water recipe adopted by southern practitioners of the hoodoo and voodoo tradition to cleanse the home and use in ritual.

You can put it in a spray bottle as a spiritual “disinfectant,” anoint doors and windows with it, use it in place of holy water or pour it into a bowl and place it on the altar for offering.

There are dozens, maybe hundreds of recipes for florida water.

Rather than give you a straight up recipe, I’ll show you how to customize it according to what you have on hand.

Despite the name, it is not a water-based potion.

Most people use vodka to steep the herbs and flowers.

I recommend the cheap stuff.  As cheap as you can get.  Bottom shelf.  I’ve tried top-shelf vodka to make this, and it’s just a waste of top-shelf vodka.  In my opinion, it really doesn’t make much difference in the final result.

Choose at least two items from each group:

Aromatic greens:
4 parts fresh mint
4 parts fresh basil
4 parts fresh rosemary

Florals:
3 parts rose petals (fresh)
3 parts jasmine (dried or fresh)
3 parts lavender (dried)

Citrus:
2 parts lemon peel
2 parts orange peel
2 parts lime peel

Spice:
1 part allspice berries
1 part cinnamon sticks
1 part cloves

Put the vodka on low heat.  Add the dry ingredients and allow them to simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Simmer on low for an addition 40 minutes.

And there you have it!  Blessed be!

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An Interfaith Baby Blessing

We had a beautiful baby blessing.

I didn’t get any pictures of the actual ceremony because I wanted to focus on the moment, but I got some of the details, so I’ll share those with you.

I’m used to doing indoor rituals on the floor.  I don’t know why.  I guess because I was solitary for so many years, and I did outdoor rituals sitting on the ground.  So I wanted to create this Moroccan-inspired vibe, with the pillows and the lanterns on the floor.

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I gave away blessing salts as favors, which were really easy but they smell amazing and people are always happy to get them.

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I want you all to know that I DID try to bake for this event.  It . . . did not work out.  So.  Store bought cupcakes for Cakes and Ale.

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But!  I did add this charming little touch with the birth date on it.

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I usually substitute for the “ale” part of cakes and ale.  Champagne, wine, mead, sparkling cider.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually served real ale, but this time, I wanted the authentic deal.

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So there you have it.  Blessed be!

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Shades of Hoodoo

Check out Moody Moons “Shades of Hoodoo” collection, inspired by the traditions of Louisiana voodoo and hoodoo, for magick with a West African flare.

Click on the photos for a direct link to product pages.

Moody Moons carries Hot Foot Powder, for the people in your life who need to get steppin’.

Hot Foot Powder

Try Four Thieves Vinegar, a traditional blend of herbs with a unique tale of folklore attached.  Read about it here:

Four Thieves Vinegar

Moody Moons also carries a variety of mojo bags to tweak your vibe.

Peace

Inner Peace Mojo Bag

Love

Love Mojo

. . . . and success to you, my friends!

Money Mojo

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Lupercalia

Shakespeare himself opens his much-loved tragedy, Julius Caesar, amidst the colorful spectacle of Lupercalia, though (not surprisingly) he only refers to it in the vaguest poetic terms.

Among the most ancient and mysterious Roman holidays, the veil of distant history cloaks this rather boisterous pagan festival.

Scholars argue about even the most fundamental elements, including which god(s) are honored, what rites are traditional (or have evolved from tradition) and whether or not it predates even Roman times.

So what do we know about it?

The ancient festivities began and ended between February 13th-15th.

Reputed as “The Original Valentine’s Day,” Lupercalia celebrates fertility, love, and sexuality, and sets the stage for springtime cleansing rites.

Although various gods have been suggested as central to the event, many believe this lively winter holiday traditionally honors the playful, lusty god, Lupercus.

Is there a myth associated with Lupercalia?

Well, of course!  This is, after all, Greco-Roman tradition we’re talking about.

Two brothers, Romulus and Remus, were abandoned to die near the  Tiber river.  Fortunately, the river carried them to safety.  But they endured several other perilous trials before becoming the mythological founders of Rome.  Along the way, a she-wolf named Lupa found them and suckled them for nourishment.  Many believe this is where the name “Lupercalia” originates.

This is interesting!  I want to play.

If you want to celebrate Lupercalia with a modern take, decorate your altar with symbols of love, fertility and romance.  Hearts, phallic symbols, the color red, and rose petals all make nice inclusions.

Many of the common Valentine’s traditions correspond nicely with Lupercalia, which makes decorating for this pagan holiday “incognito” pretty easy.

Try writing a long, sappy love letter to your significant other, or planning a romantic evening at home.

For a more ritualistic approach, make an offering of ground red meat.  I recommend burying it as opposed to the traditional burnt offering, which is . . . frankly kind of stinky.

If you would like to have some fun with the kids, visit a local farm to pick up some fresh milk and plan a morning meal around it.

Lupercalia is also one of the key times on the Wheel of the Year for early spring fertility rites.  Both Lupercalia and Ostara make nice dates for fertility casting.

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Chang’e: Chinese Goddess of the Moon

Being the last full moon of the harvest season, I thought this would be a great time to talk about Chang’e, an important Chinese moon goddess.  Chang’e is the focus of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon festival, which just passed in late September.  Participating in the festival is fun alternative to a typical Sabbat celebration, but just learning about different moon goddesses from around the world can be a nice way to enrich your own practice.

The Legend of Chang’e

There are many versions of the following folktale.  Below is my retelling of the most common translation, but if you know another version, by all means, share it!

Long before the oldest memory of the oldest man on earth, ten suns burned in the sky.  But the light of heaven was too powerful for life on earth, causing the plants and people to whither and die.

A masterful archer named Hou Yi was sent down to save humanity.  He heroically shot down nine of the suns, leaving one to light the world and bring the heat of life.

In reward for his courageous deed, Jade the Emperor, ruler of the sky, bestowed upon the hero an elixir of everlasting immortality.  But the archer Hou Yi loved his beautiful wife, Chang’e, too deeply to bear eternity without her.

As Yi’s fame grew like the only remaining sun that shined down, he was sought as a teacher for his wisdom and skill.

Little did he suspect that one of his students, Fengmeng, concealed a cold jealously  in his heart for Yi.

One day, Yi left his wife, Chang’e, at home while he went hunting.

His treacherous and poisoned drove Fengmeng into a rage.  He stormed into the house of Yi and demanded that his wife give up the elixir.  But in her loyalty, she refused.  Knowing she could never overpower Fengmeng, who was of strong mind and body, she knew realized that drinking the precious potion herself was the only way not to relinquish it to her kind husband’s enemy.

Rising up, up, up into the eternal sky, she finally settled on the moon, where she still looks over the Earth.

In his devastated grief at the loss of his beloved wife, Yi spent his life honoring her altar with flowers and cake.

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Moon Magic

I love the beautiful world of Chinese pagan folklore, and I am especially fond of the legend of Chang’e, who holds a special place in my heart as a moon goddess.

Chang’e is said to bestow her worshipers with charm and beauty.

Since this is “her” time of year, I thought I’d share with you an adapted beauty spell that honors this goddess.

You will need:
*1 white candle
*small bundle of flowers (any will do)
*carving knife
*lighter or matches
*a bottle of perfume (something with floral or oriental overtones is especially nice)
*print out of the traditional Chinese symbol of Chang’e, the moon or beauty (see Google Translate)
*a small cupcake (or if you really want to go all out, make a traditional moon cake)
*a lantern or tea candles for light.

1.  On the night of the full moon, go outside in the fresh air.

2.  Carve the Chinese character of your choice into the candle.  Use a lantern for practical light if you need it.

3.  Place the candle on the altar (or rock, or tree stump, or whatever).

4.  Surround the candle with the flowers and light it.

5.  Place the bottle of perfume in front of the altar.

6.  Raise power any way you feel like it, but focus on the energy of feminine beauty descending from the moon and into your bottle of perfume.

7.  Extinguish the candles and leave the cake as an offering to Chang’e.

8.  Whenever you want to enhance your feminine allure, spritz yourself with the charged perfume.  If you feel it needs a boost, light the candle and place the perfume in front for a little while.

Sources:
Encyclopedia Britanica
Travel China Guide
China Highlights
Shen Yun Performing Arts

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Spiritualism, Samhain & the Other Side

If you are an interfaith pagan interested in exploring Spiritualism, the season of Samhain and its association with the dead makes this a unique time to begin your journey.

First things first.

What is Spiritualism?

Spiritualism may be described most simply as the belief that spirits or ghosts of people who have “passed on” exist on a plane that is accessible to the living through certain methods of communication, including altered states of consciousness, spirit mediums and divination tools like the Ouiji board.

The religion centered around these beliefs gained momentum in the 1840s and is still active today.

Far from existing exclusively on the fringes of society, Spiritualism has had some high-profile believers, including Abraham Lincoln, whose wife held seances in the White House!

Although spiritualists share things in common with the modern practice of ghost hunting, spiritualists are not to be confused with paranormal investigators, who sometimes, but not necessarily, identify as spiritualists.


Is Spiritualism witchcraft?

No,  And though I certainly don’t take offense to the term “witch,” a spiritualist might.  Most spiritualist do not consider communicating with the dead witchcraft, and they certainly don’t regard it is as evil or wrong, but a natural part of life experience.

What is your experience with Spiritualism?

My first experience at a spiritualist church was at the The Center for Spiritual Enlightenment in Falls Church, Virginia.  I was curious at that time in my life about the afterlife and the possibility of communicating with the departed.

Since then, Spiritualism has always been a peripheral spiritual interest of mine.

Do you “buy it”?  I mean really, do you?

As with any religion or philosophy, I believe I approached Spiritualism with a healthy sense of skepticism.

There is no way for me to know what another person’s spiritual experience is like.  I don’t know if spiritualists are able to communicate with the dead or not.  That’s the truth.

But I do believe that they believe it.  Contrary to the stereotype of fraudulent mediums prancing about in turbans, maliciously deceiving lost souls desperate to connect with their deceased loved ones, I’ve found most spiritualists to be honest people who earnestly insist they receive messages from the dead.

Why are you always writing about religions you don’t practice?!  What do you know about them?

Well, not much.

In my early 20s, I began to explore different walks of faith ranging from Buddhism to Haitian Voodoo to Hinduism to Christianity and Islam.  Any one of these religions takes a lifetime of exploration and study to fully appreciate.  I would not, nor have I ever, claimed to be an authority on anyone’s faith.

What I can tell you is that I’ve never been turned away by any religious person I’ve expressed interest in learning from, I’ve never explored a faith that hasn’t taught me something, and I always encourage others to be open to wherever their spiritual path takes them.

This sounds super interesting!  What’s the best way to explore Spiritualism?

Spiritualist churches exist all over the United States.  To find one closest to you, check out this directory.

This totally freaks me out!  I don’t want anything to do with it!

That’s fine, too.  Communication with the dead is a sensitive subject for many people—although this sensitivity is a fairly recent Western aversion.  Indigenous societies throughout the world have, and still continue, to believe in direct communication with the spirit world.

Even if participating in seance is not your deal, I still encourage you to be open and tolerant of other religious views, especially  if they are in conflict with your own.  Your measure of tolerance is not about how you regard the people you agree with, it’s about how you regard the people you don’t agree with.

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How Witchcraft Became Associated With Evil

“Witchcraft.”

This word and its million meanings.

Perhaps for you it connotes mystery, the bending of reality and personal power.

Or, it is something to fear; an invisible force with dangerous consequences.

For the purposes of our discussion today, we will define “witchcraft” as a wide variety of traditions originating in cultures around the world from ancient times to modern, including folk magic, healing, herbalism, alchemy, and divination.

But many people regard the word as a manifestation of evil.

I began to wonder why this is and how this notion became such an integral approach in our society to the ancient concept of magic.

After all, what we call “witchcraft” is nothing new.  In fact, witchcraft is much older than the idea that it is inherently dark or mischievous.  The practice of witchcraft, in one form or another, has existed in nearly every society around the world since the dawning of recorded history.

The “witch doctor” is a healer.  She is a midwife.  She knows herbs, lotions, potions and salves.  She rubs sweet-smelling cool ointments on the child’s feverish forehead.  She comforts the lovesick.  She brings life into the world.

So what great sin did she commit?  Why has the witch been cast out?  Set before the background of darkness instead of light?

The surprising answer is money.  Yes, that’s right.  Cold, hard cash.

In its early days, the Christian church found itself in serious competition with regional pagan folk religions.  Unlike polytheistic traditions, where new gods and religious practices were accepted quite readily, the idea that there is more than one way to worship a higher power is in direct conflict with the whole concept of monotheism.  In order to convert the locals to this new conceptualization of god, the church needed first get them to reject their pagan roots.

This was no easy task.  And in fact, they never totally succeeded.  Which is why the Christian church has famously incorporated European folk traditions into its own festivals.  The Easter egg and the Christmas tree are two familiar examples.  It was easier to adopt some pagan customs than to root them all out completely.

What remained must either be vilified or belittled as superstition so that the church might effectively spread its own superstitions.

Enter the witch doctor.

Up until only a few hundred years ago, the practice of medicine was not based in science as we understand it today.  In fact, doctors had a great deal more in common with religious leaders than even the earliest contributors to modern science, both in a practical sense and in popular imagination.  In times of sickness, plague and war, a healer was of high value.

But the church had its own doctors.  And it resented very much the competition.

Demonization of doctors outside the scope (and control) of church officials was a practical, effective form of propaganda.  Particularly when coupled with the Inquisition.

It was, arguably, the most effective propaganda in the history of Western world.  We now know that diseases are caused by invisible microorganisms; that madness has nothing to do with demonic possession; that women have the same capacity to benefit from higher education as men.

But we still believe witches are evil.  We still feel a kind of ingrained apprehension about tarot cards, communication with the dead and altars that honor strange, unfamiliar deities.

Whether we realize it or not, these fears are the residual impressions of a massive, powerful message from the monotheistic culture by which we are surrounded.

Just keep that in mind.

Sources:
God Against the Gods by Jonathan Kirsch
The Witch’s Ointment:  The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic by Thomas Hatsis
A History of Witchcraft:  Sorcerers, Heretics & Pagans by Jeffrey B. Russell