A Modern Witch’s Guide to the Magic of New Orleans

A growing interest in pagan travel inspired me to start my latest category, aptly titled Pagan Travel.

In this series, I hope to share with you my experiences in exploring local traditions around the world from my perspective as an interfaith witch.

From festivals to small, street corner shrines, my interest in local religions feels innate.  The passion, beauty and spectacular diversity of spiritual expression across cultures has left me breathless, mesmerized, and sometimes moved to insight.

My trip last month to New Orleans refreshed this sense of wonder.

a modern witch's guide

IMG_1354

Nowhere does local religious tradition thrive more colorfully than in what has perhaps become my favorite city in the US.

Naturally, we had go on a ghost tour.  No matter how you feel about spirits, or cheesy, theatrical ghost tours, or what your thoughts are on the afterlife, no one should pass up the opportunity to follow a local around the French Quarter at dusk and listen to some classic New Orleans ghost stories.

IMG_1136

Our guide was . . . passionate about what he does.  LOL

bw ghost tour guide

We heard all the traditional tales, like the dubious legend of Madame LaLaurie and, of course, the famous haunting of Hotel Monteleone.

IMG_1173

But I learned plenty of new ones.

In fact, it seems every bartender in town has a tale to tell about ghosts in the rafters, ghosts in the wine cellar, ghosts haunting every dusty, 100-year-old trap door in the closet.

Particularly, the bartender at this historical tavern regaled us with legends of drunken spooks.

IMG_0788

But first, a magic tonic with an infamous past.

absinthe spoon

IMG_0838

IMG_0839

IMG_0805

IMG_0847

Notorious for driving Edgar Allen Poe further into the rabbit hole of eloquent delirium, absinthe sparkles with the mysterious allure of 17th century poets and mad painters.

I love the mythical glamour of this centuries old elixir.  It is all the things many people imagine the occult to be: dangerous, intoxicating, magnetic.

But to me, absinthe calls to mind all the magical properties of its key ingredient, wormwood; herb of seduction, dark matters of the heart, and prophetic dreams.

I asked the bartender the same question he probably gets several times a night:

“But it isn’t real absinthe, right?”

The bartender explained that the modern absinthe now legal in the US contains much lower concentrations of the key (and highly toxic) ingredient, thujone, than Victorian-era versions.  I leave it to you super nerds to argue whether or not the modern stuff is “real.”

But though you may not see swirling green fairies on your way home from Frenchmen’s Street, many people report experiencing vivid dreams after a night of drinking modern absinthe.  Given the role of wormwood in witchcraft, I found this a very interesting rumor.

No exploration of the spiritual side of New Orleans would be complete without at least touching on the subject of voodoo.  I have little to say.  Voodoo seems to be one of those occult practices that’s impossible to talk about without pissing people off on all sides, and to me, those discussions aren’t productive.  I’ll just say that I enjoy the pride with which this tradition is celebrated in New Orleans, and the open references to it, from kitschy souvenir shops to the altars of serious, dedicated practitioners.

IMG_0728

IMG_0717
IMG_1384

IMG_1376

Finally, the eerie splendor of New Orleans’ crumbling, historic cemeteries provides a transcendent place to contemplate otherworldly matters.   Haunting and strangely beautiful, wandering between the cracking concrete monuments felt like drifting through an earthly purgatory.

IMG_1324 flip.jpg

IMG_1295

IMG_1310

mabon incense 3

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

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!

post sponsered by

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

post sponsered by

Check out what’s new at Moody Moons!

The workshop has been busy at MagicalMoodyMoons.com!

Click on the picture to be taken directly to the product page and description.

Moody Moons now carries the Hoodoo classic, Florida water.

florida water

By popular demand, I am expanding my line of mojo bags.

mojo bag

Also featuring some new scrying mirrors for the Strega/Gypsy witch.

scrying mirror pearl

Looking for a new altar set?  I have you covered!

il_570xN.892601495_cqu0_large

Keep it natural with Moody Moons organic deodorant in fresh new scents like orange cinnamon and rosemary (for the man in your life).

pampered_pits_cinnamon_orange_smaller_large

rosemary_pampered_pits_large

Blessed Be!

 

The Ancient Art of Bone Reading

IMG_9933

Let’s start from the beginning.  Bone reading, also called bone scrying or casting the bones, is an ancient form of divination found in many cultures around the world.  West Africa, Asia and the Americas all have variations of bone reading in their indigenous cultures.

The ancient Chinese used turtle shells and bones to predict the outcome of crops, advise military leaders on battle strategy and assist the royal family (for better or worse!) on matters of the national policy.

Slaves brought over their bone reading traditions from West Africa to the Americas, most commonly using chicken and possum bones to tell fortunes.

Throughout the Old Testament, a number of colorful Biblical characters used bone divination as a means to predict the future and advise patrons on matters ranging from the ordinary to issues of communal or tribal importance.

Okay.  I want to try it!  What do I do? 

To begin with, you’ll need to find a set of bones.

Some brave souls use the remains of deceased animals they find on nature walks.  Personally, this kind of scavenging is a little icky for me, but if you are knowledgeable about handling this type of material, which is potentially pathogenic and biohazardous, then you certainly can try to make yourself a set.

Less risky and more accessible are your own table scraps, such as poultry bones, although speaking from experience, this process is time-consuming if you want to do it right and cure them properly.

Of course, you can always buy a set like these.

I have my bones!  Now what?

Personally, my traditions really emphasize blessing my ritual items.  I usually anoint them in oil, bless them in sage smoke, or leave them in a salt circle on the altar on the full moon.  If none of these work for you, at least sprinkle a little water on them and say a little blessing.

My bones are all blessed and whatnot.  How do I use them?

There’s lots of ways to use your bones!

The easiest is the yes/no method.  Simply ask a yes or no question, take a bone, and drop it on a table or other hard surface.  If it lies more horizontal, the answer is yes.   If it is more vertical, the answer is no.

Scrying is a more challenging method, but also affords more leeway to ask complex questions that are not easily posed in yes or no form.  If you’ve ever read tea leaves, the methods are similar.  Drop a handful of bones onto a table from a height of about 20 inches.  Take your time and concentrate.  Remember how you used to lay on your back, gaze up at the sky and see shapes in the clouds when you were little?  This is a lot like that.  It’s rarely comes quickly.  Some bone readers stare at the bones for an hour or more before the picture becomes clear, but the longer you look at, the more you see.

Finally, you can try personalizing the bones by painting shapes, symbols or numbers on them.  I actually really love this because it allows for a lot of creativity and expression.  Apply symbols that are broad but have personal meaning to you.  From there, you can use them as you would runes or tarot cards.  Ask a question, and draw a bone out of a drawstring bag.  Apply the meaning according to your circumstances.

Sources:
Cambridge University Library
Lucky Mojo
King James Bible

post sponsered by

Mojo Monday: Financial Success

If you’ve been following my Mojo Monday series, we’ve been discussing practical ways to use mojo bags.

This week, we’re going to create a money mojo bag, which has been traditionally used to encourage financial success.

mojo bag for financial success

But first, a few words on money spells and ethics..

A lot of people get interested in witchcraft because they want instant rewards without the work.

Of course, any experienced practitioner will tell you that there’s no such thing—-and anyone who tells you otherwise is a fraud who probably intends to prey on your very human desire for this kind of gratification.

Money spells are meant to encourage opportunity to succeed.  This means if you get offered over time or a new job, you’ve been offered a chance to increase your financial success.  If you don’t take it, that’s on you.

The same goes for love spells, divination and any other form of “magic.”  So.  With that said.

Like the other mojo bags in this series, I gave special thought to the fabric.

IMG_8620

Of course, the color of this fabric is associated with money, particularly in the US.  But also, the foliage is a metaphor for financial “fertility.”  I’ve seen mojo bags with dollar bill logos printed on them, copper or gold metallic fabrics or simple, solid bright green.

When choosing what to include in your money mojo bag, consider classic money spices like cinnamon and allspice.  Not only do they have strong ties to financial well-being, they also smell amazing!

cinnamon

allspice

I added a few pennies.  This is a traditional hoodoo inclusion in money bags.

pennies

If you’re looking for a stone, jade is a terrific, inexpensive one to use any type of financial spell.  I picked this one up during my travels through China.  I like it because it’s in the shape of an elephant, my favorite animal, which is associated with intelligence and wisdom.  Don’t know if you’ve heard, but smart is the new rich.  🙂

jade

Finally, I’ve been using these charms to tie my bags off.  You can use a necklace pendant or whatever you want.  This one seemed especially appropriate for our purposes today.

mojo money sign

And that’s it!  This concludes my miniseries on mojo bags.  Hope you learned something useful!

post sponsered by

Mojo Monday: Love and Attraction

Another Monday, another Mojo bag!  If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a mojo bag, check out last Monday’s introduction.

This week, at popular request, we are creating love and attraction mojo bag.

IMG_8611

Like the Inner Peace bag, I started by finding a fabric I thought was appropriate.  I chose this pretty rose-print because roses have special symbolism for love and romance.

IMG_8572 IMG_8576

Speaking of roses, I included this hand-dried rose from my early garden harvest a few weeks ago.  If you want a super traditional attraction spell, use a rose given to you by someone on Valentine’s day.

The red rose’s significance as a romance flower dates all the back to classical period of ancient Greece.  The ancient Greeks associated the red rose with the goddess of love, Aphrodite, and later, the Romans tied the rose to her counterpart, Venus.

IMG_8582

A tiny piece of rose quartz is a perfect addition to a love spell mojo bag.  Rose quartz is known for its warm, loving vibration and its tendency to draw others to us.

In a traditional mojo bag, the bag is like a living thing, it needs to be “fed.”  This can be anything from changing the herbs to sprinkling it with water.

If you’re from a Wiccan tradition, instead of these methods, you might cleanse and charge your stone by leaving it out in the sunlight or the full moonlight for a day/night to “freshen” the energy.

Alternatively, you might periodically add an appropriate love oil, like rose or vanilla.

IMG_8585

Finally, mojo bags often include a personal item from the user.  Some root workers spit in the bag.  All respect due to the hoodoo tradition, I’m not big on spit, and anyways, we’re already coloring outside the lines here as far a traditional hoodoo goes.  This is more of “fusion” mojo bag.  So I went with a lock of hair.  Locks of hair have a long tradition in love magic, and can be used in a variety of ways.  This is one of them.

lock of hair

I tied it off with a heart charm, which, of course, symbolizes romantic love and affection.

Did you know this symbol dates back to the 15th century?  This symbol has a long history with Western tradition.  Because spell craft is so linked to symbolism, I always encourage you to study symbols and their root meanings.  It adds depth to your practice.

rose mojo heart charm

I think it came out quite charming.

You see what I did there?  🙂

IMG_8615

Next Monday:  Money Mojo

post sponsered by