10 Magical Ways to Use Your Chalice

There it is, on your shelf, where you’ve been neglecting it for many moon cycles.  It’s time to dust off this classic altar piece and bring it back into your ritual rotation.

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If you’re lacking inspiration, try using your chalice . . .

To pour libation.  Pour any liquid libations, like wine or juice, from a chalice for an elegant touch.

To collect rainwater for blessing.  Leave your chalice in the rain for pure, natural water to use in making moon water or herbal infusions.

In binding rituals.  If you have a small coven, and it doesn’t weird you out to drink from the same cup, Chalices are a lovely way to seal the bonds of sisterhood.  Choose a blended wine, pass the chalice around the circle, and have each member pledge their friendship to the people next to her.

In handfasting ceremonies.  Similarly, add a “unity chalice” in place of the unity candle at a handfasting ceremony.  The couple each pours some wine into the same chalice, and then they each drink from it.  We used this idea at our vineyard wedding for a rustic touch and it worked out beautifully.

For scrying.  Fill your chalice with water, then add dragon’s blood ink or another dark ink to the water.  Take it outside under the full moon and use it exactly as you would use a scrying mirror.

In place of a cauldron.  If your chalice has a heat-safe finish, place a charcoal disk inside and burn your ritual herbs in it.  The visual of smoke rising from the chalice adds a mystical quality that I just love!

To dress up cakes and ale.  Don’t use plastic or disposable cups for cakes and ale!  Chalices make everything feel so much more witchy.  Serve your cakes on a formal serving plate and add chalices for a classy ritual that would please Martha Stewart herself.

To float candles.  If you are working with the energies of fire and water, floating candles inside a chalice makes an effective way to blend these elements.

To cleanse gemstones.  Leave your gemstones or crystals in your chalice with water and place in the moonlight overnight to cleanse and charge them.  Just be sure you know your stones!  Some dissolve in water!

To blend potions.   Blend small batches of oils, infusions or brews for immediate use in your chalice.

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Ostara with a Kitchen Witch: Cabbage Dyed Ostara Eggs

Every year, I try to do something inspired and kitchen witchy for this most decidedly food-friendly holiday.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the concept of naturally dyed Easter eggs floating around Pinterest the last few years.

I thought this made for a perfect Ostara activity.

I tried tumeric, spinach and cabbage.

Spinach was a dud.  I boiled and boiled, but the dye wasn’t strong enough.

Tumeric worked okay, but it stained everything!  I can see why they use this in India to dye cloth!

But the humble cabbage, at 79 cents, proved to be both the cheapest and most effective option.

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The idea is pretty basic.  Start with a base for extraction.  In this case, we have our head of red cabbage.

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Shred it and place it in a pot with a 1 to 1 ratio of water.  I did 4 cups shredded cabbage with 4 cups of water.

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Meanwhile, make your hard boiled eggs.  Some recipes call for boiling the eggs with the dye, but I like my eggs cooked a certain way, so I did them separately.   (Place eggs in pot with cold water, bring to boil, turn off heat, let them sit for 10 minutes in a covered pot, then rinse with cold water—perfect every time!)

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Once your dye is done, allow it to cool and add 1 tablespoon white vinegar per cup of liquid dye.

Then submerge the eggs in the dye for 24-28 hours in the refrigerator.

But before you do that, there are some creative options that I didn’t try.  The internet rumor is that if you write or draw on the eggs with crayon, it won’t dye there.  You can imagine all the possibilities for spell work there!

I wanted to keep my eggs as natural as possible, so I skipped this, but I might try using beeswax in the future for a similar effect.

I really loved the way the dye turned out.  It felt so earthy and wholesome.  I see myself using this for a lot of things, maybe even cloth.

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And there you have it!  Charming, naturally dyed eggs for your Ostara ritual.  Use them on the altar as an offering, or for your Ostara meal as a beautiful table decoration.

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With eggs on sale at my market for 28 cents a dozen, my total cost for this project was a mere $1.08.

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10 Spring Crafts for Wiccans

With just a few more weeks of winter ahead, the earth already begins to warm and wake up, pushing up delicate baby green grass and soft, pastel-colored bulbs.

Spring is almost here!

Here are a few activities to get you inspired for the coming season.

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1.  Try a bird feeder wishing spell.   Choose a spring fruit and hollow it out (grapefruits are nice).  Fill it with appropriate herbs and stones and close it up, securing it with a ribbon or string.  Carve symbols in the flesh.  Cover with peanut butter and bird seeds and hang it somewhere it your yard under the full moon.  Every time a bird comes, imagine it is carrying your wish to the heavens.

2.  Decorate eggs naturally for Ostara.  Rather than using the dye kits to decorate your Ostara eggs, try using natural dyes like tea, blueberries and other naturally occurring pigments.

3.  Make an “enchanted” flower bouquet.   This one is particularly fun if you’re knowledgeable about the local flowers and plants.  Choose a theme, like “love and attraction” or “home blessing.”  Go on a nature walk and pick out local flowers, herbs and plants that you associate with this theme.  Leave it in your kitchen to bless your home with the energy.

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4.  Head to the farmer’s market to cast your first kitchen witch spell of the season.    Living close to the earth starts in your kitchen!    Search the farmer’s market for the freshest natural, sustainable spell ingredients and design a ritual around what you find.

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5.  Make an outdoor pillow with a twist.  Pick up some outdoor fabric (available at most fabric stores during the warmer months).  Throw in a pinch of lavender, mint or dried lemon rind and leave it in your coziest outdoor living space to bless the garden.

6.  Make your own bath magical products.  If you enjoy whipping up your own bath band beauty products from natural, wholesome ingredients, try making them with magic in mind.  Spring is prime time for beauty spells, so get cracking before the season slips away!

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7.  Make some new ritual wear.  Good with a needle and thread?  Try making your own ritual robe.  Choose a flattering pattern, select a pattern or color for your robe that speaks to you and go to town!  Get creative.  You can even add beading or buttons with moons or other symbols.

8.  Plant a magical garden.  You’ve always meant to do it.  This is the season!   If you’re intimidated by the green arts, start small.  A simple window box will do.  Choose herbs that are easy to grow and magically useful.  The possibilities are endless.  Bury gemstones in it, choose garden ornaments and symbols with meaning to your practice or create a space for your moon rituals.

9.  Create a spring altar piece.  The craft stores are full of items perfect for making an altar piece for the spring season.  I craft these little boxes last year, and they were a hit on my retail site.

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10.  Craft your own dandelion wine for libation or cakes/ale.  I love the potent spiritual power of making my own wine for libation.  I also enjoy getting creative with the cakes/ale portion of a ritual.  Dandelion wine makes an excellent spring-themed substitute for Ostara and spring moon rituals.

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The Role of Fire in Witchcraft

Inspired by the success of my post, The Role of Water in Witchcraft last summer, I decided to continue it as a series for each element.

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One of my earliest memories takes the form of my mother allowing me into the kitchen to watch her make dinner.   Sternly, she instructed me “Not to touch that stove, little one.”

Naturally, the moment she turned, I place my hand unflinchingly on the hot surface, giving myself a ripe little burn and a lifelong lesson about fire:

You really shouldn’t touch it.

Like all the elements, fire bears both creative and destructive force.   Simultaneously dangerous and beautiful, our respect for fire usually begins the first time it burns us!

And yes, I got a nasty burn that day.  But my mother used it to create a hot meal for us.

Same flame, same day.

I chose fire for this season because I strongly associate it with winter.  In the darkest, coldest months, fire provides warmth and light.

Let’s go over different kinds of fire and some creative ways to use it in spell craft.

Candle flame.  Easily the most convenient, common fire tool in ritual, candles are an ideal, all-purpose source of fire perfect for altars.

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Bonfires encourage groups to gather around it, making it an extremely effective focal point for group rituals and coven meetings.  Ideal for “going big” in rituals evoke empowerment or for burning spell elements in banishing rituals.

Hearth fires warm the home and create a cozy, holiday feel.  Perfect for enjoying a winter Sabbat like Imbolc or Yule.  Or, get creative and charge it with passion herbs for a date night at home.

Sparklers.  Remember how magical it was to hold one in your hands as a child, making streaks of light across the summer night.  Use sparklers to bring that same feeling to a moon ritual or night spell.

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Torches (as in the sticks with fire on the end of them, not flashlights) look a feel very ceremonial.  These are ideal for rite-of-passage type ceremonies, particularly involving the transition to manhood, or the ascension to a clergy position.

Lanterns work nicely for spring and midsummer festivals, anything involving faeries or woodland spirits, and garden blessings.

Flash paper is available at theatrical supply stores.  It’s usually used for stage magic, but it’s also great fun in spell casting!  Write spells or symbols on them and up it goes–in a flash!

Hope some of these ideas inspire you to use fire in more creative and fun ways during your rituals.  Blessed be!

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Candlemas with a Kitchen Witch

I decided to whip up a little something in honor of the upcoming Imbolc/Candlemas holiday.

In the past, I generally neglected Imbolc.  Maybe because by February, I was over-holidayed, or maybe because unlike Mabon, Samhain, Yule and Ostara, there aren’t really any corresponding mainstream holidays.

But now, Imbolc is one of my favorites.  I love that while every else considers the winter holidays to be over, we have one more to look forward to, and it’s the coziest of the year.

I chose a poppy seed cupcake for this Sabbat.  The key ingredients represent some of the classic, deep-winter symbols of Candlemas.

For reference, I used this recipe.

Because of Imbolc’s strong association with seed blessing, I wanted something that features seeds.  Poppy seeds in particular symbolize deep meditative states and spiritual insight.

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In this context, powdered ingredients like sugar and flour represent the lightly falling snow of the season.

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Known sometimes as the “Festival of Lights,” Candlemas celebrates the return of the sun and the waxing of the light after the Winter Solstice.  Lemon symbolizes solar energy and light.

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Imbolc celebrates animal husbandry and dairy farming in particular.  For this reason, I am adding a cream cheese frosting in addition to the light lemon glaze in the recipe.

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The inclusion of butter also compliments this theme.

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I kind of imagine the time in the oven as “when the magic happens” in baking.  So for a ritual meal, I like to say a blessing before it goes in.

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And like magic, out they come!

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Happy Imbolc!

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10 New Year’s Resolutions for Pagans

New Year’s resolutions like losing vanity weight or making more money take us further away from our inner lives.

Try a spiritually based resolution instead to create a richer, fuller life experience.

Here’s some inspiration.

Start a meditation  practice.  Want to acquire that razor-sharp concentration of an expert spell practitioner?  Meditation is like boot camp for the mind.  Start you new year right by committing to a daily meditation practice.  Even if it’s only 5 minutes in the morning before you get out of bed, the benefits are astonishing.

Eat seasonally.  Considering the emphasis pagan culture places on staying in tune with the Wheel of the Year, eating seasonally rarely gets the attention it deserves in the context of spiritual life.  Strengthen your connection to the seasons by eating locally and seasonally.  Join a co-op for fresh vegetables.  Find a beekeeper to get honey for cereal and coffee.  If you eat meat, know when deer season is and try incorporating local venison or beef into your diet.  These lifestyle adjustments go a long way to helping you stay close to nature, not to mention the health, environmental and social benefits.

Commit to celebrating all the Sabbats for one year.  Pagans tend towards a lax holiday schedule.   With 8 holidays on The Wheel, many of which fall on weekdays and aren’t widely recognized (the only exception being Samhain), it’s easy to skip a few every year.  I’m the same way.  But one year, I committed to celebrating all the Sabbats, and it proved extremely rewarding!  My advice is to plan in advance.  If you have a job that typically requires you to be at work during”normal” or mainstream holidays like Christmas, you can even get your holidays off.  Co-workers are usually very happy to work for you on the winter solstice if you work Christmas, or give you Ostara off if you work on Easter.   But even if you can’t get off, plan something special for every Sabbat.

Find your tribe.  Many people find satisfaction as lifelong solitary practitioners in the purest sense.  Festivals aren’t their things, group rituals are too noisy and their practice is best done in quiet, personal contemplation.  Awesome.  But most of us prefer at least some human interaction in our spiritual life.  If you’ve been going it solo for a while, maybe this is the year to branch out.  Unitarian Universalist congregations usually offer some pagan services, and Meet Up almost certainly has something “pagan flavored” available in your area.  If not, there’s probably a hunger in your community for a pagan group, so start one yourself and become a leader.

Learn tarot.   Many practitioners look longingly at me when I pick up a deck and pull cards like old friends.  “I wish I had that gift” is something I often hear.  I don’t know where this comes from.  No one was born reading the tarot, and I wasn’t, either!  With diligent practice, a year is enough time to master the deck.  See my recent article on “Getting to Know Your Tarot Deck.”

Become a healer.  Whether it’s perfecting your at-home massage technique, learning Reiki or getting better at using essential oils and herbs to promote wellness, learn a new way to heal and experience the rewards of bringing comfort to those around you.

Contribute.  The pagan community thrives on participants from all walks of life.  Agree to volunteer your time at least once a month to making our shared world richer.  Teach a workshop at your local occult shop, volunteer at festivals, or organize your coven to help out at a soup kitchen.  Whatever you have to offer, offer it.  The world needs you.

Go on a weekly nature walk.
  Most people only walk outside in ideal conditions—warm, dry weather that’s only available in most places during certain times of the year.  But nature offers so much more in the “off” season.  Rainy weather means the perfect opportunity to go mushroom hunting.  A snowy day makes for a quiet, contemplative time for a walking meditation.  Commit to a weekly nature walk for one year and see what it teaches you.

Maintain your altar.  For one year, commit to keeping your altar fresh and rotated.  Decide what means to you.  Does it mean decorating for the Sabbats?  Keeping the offering bowl freshly offered?  Lighting a nightly candle or stick of incense as a daily devotion?  Try maintaining your altar “religiously” (pardon the pun) for one year and notice how much more spiritually mindful you become.

Train a familiar.  I saved this one for last because I believe of all these suggestions, it is by far the most serious commitment.  Involving a living creature is not a light endeavor.  While I certainly wish you luck, all the above New Year’s resolutions may be broken with no harm to anyone.  But taking responsibility for an animal does carry with it the potential for harm should you decide it isn’t for you.  Please be certain you are prepared to care for an animal for the entire duration of its life.

If this is something you’ve considered deeply and you feel you are ready, there are many options.  Some are quite obvious and amusing (a witch with a black cat is always hilarious).  But birds, tarantulas, rats, snakes, fish and turtles all make excellent familiars, depending on your time constraints and spiritual inclinations.

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