Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Story Spells: Teaching Spellcraft to Young Children

I've had so many people ask me about teaching spells to children that I finally wrote a small ebook about it. This ebook can be found at most major retailers, including Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble. It's not a long book , but it doesn't have to be.

About the book:

Children can cast spells too! Kids have wonderfully open minds and perfectly vivid imaginations. This makes them natural spellcasters. With a little guidance from a parent or other loving adult, they can create and cast their own spells. These spells can help children learn to deal with the widening world, make new friends, work better with others, or even banish nightmares.

Young ones are very literal minded. For this reason, when the idea of spells is first introduced, using stories that reflect their personal experiences and goals is the way to go. Though story spells work best for children ages 1 through 5, even older children (and their parents!) can have fun with this unique form of spell casting.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ashling Wicca, Book Three

For those interested in a continuing study of Ashling Wicca, the third book in the series is available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other retailers, as both a paperback and an ebook. Just like with the first two books in the series, there is an accompanying workbook that can be purchase in either paperback or ebook format.

From the back of the book:

Venture further down the path into the magickal world of Ashling Wicca. The seven units of this book, which are designed to be completed over the course of an entire year, build on the skills and knowledge you should have gained in the first two books in the Ashling Wiccan Series. Each lesson will guide the student to a fuller understanding of the intricacies of the Ashling Wiccan Tradition. These lessons include both the practical and theoretical, and your magickal education will be rounded out by the inclusions of rituals and spells to assist you in your practice.

This book contains all the lessons traditionally studied by those seeking to attain Water Degree within Ashling Wicca. Because initiation into the tradition can only be obtained under the direction of a High Priest/ess, the material within these pages is presented by a High Priestess of Ashling Wicca. With careful study and attention, the student should be able to complete all included material in about a year. At this time, initiation into Water Degree may be possible.

From the back of the workbook:

This workbook, which is designed to complement Ashling Wicca, Book Three, will guide you further down the path towards a thorough understanding of the Ashling tradition. Full of tests, exercises, journal entries, and reflections, it can help you make sense of the material presented in the master book. It also provides various rituals vital to the practice of Ashling Wicca. Here you will find an initiation ritual, a handfasting ritual, and two additional Sabbat rituals.

This book should be used in conjunction with Ashling Wicca, Book Three. The units in each book are identical, allowing you to easily line up the written information from the master book with the tests and other materials in the workbook. Use both to continue your study of the art of Ashling Wicca.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Herbal Preparations: Soaps

When we think of herbs and their uses, soaps aren't necessarily the first thing that come to mind. But they can be used in herbal medicine and magick, especially if you take the time to study the herbs you'd like to use.

When we talk about making soaps at home, we're not really making soap. Instead we're purchasing a soap base, usually from a craft store, melting it, adding scents and colors, and pouring it into a mold. Truly making soap is a complicated and sometimes dangerous process. As such, it is outside the scope of this article. The melt and pour method is safer and is easy enough for just about anyone to pull off.

Besides your soap base and a double boiler (because you do not want to put melted soap directly over heat; it may catch fire), you'll need molds and soap additives. Molds are typically sold wherever you buy the soap. You can get your additives there too, but beware. While the soap colors are perfectly fine, you probably don't want to buy the scents. Instead, use true essential oils. They have medicinal and magickal properties not present in fragrance oils.

Once you have your supplies, you'll need a recipe. For the most part, you can take any essential oil recipe and convert it you a soap recipe simply by omitting the base oil. Add the oils, using just a few drops at a time, slowly increasing the amount until the scent is pleasing to your nostrils. Take into consideration your skin's sensitivity. If you have sensitive skin, you might want to be conservative with the amount of oil you add until you know how you might react.

You can also add dried herbs to your soaps, which have the added benefit of exfoliating the skin a bit. Make sure these are well distributed throughout the soap before pouring your soaps into molds. When using your soaps, bathe in warm, but not hot, water to maximize their effectiveness.

The ingredients in your soaps will determine their magickal and medicinal effects, so choose your recipes carefully.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Herbal Preparations: Salves

The simplest of salves can be made by gently warming sesame or olive oil along with your herbs of choice. Use a very low heat in the stove and simmer for at least one hour if using fresh herbs. Dried herbs or seeds should simmer for two hours. Hard materials such as barks and roots should simmer for three hours or more.

And what about using a combination of hard, fresh, and dried material? This is quite easy, actually. Simmer the oil, add the hard materials, and let simmer for an hour. Add the dried materials and let simmer for another hour. Finally add the fresh materials and let the salve simmer for a final hour. The trick is timing, so pay attention and perhaps use a timer.

The product at this stage is not a salve yet. Strain the material through a good quality cheesecloth, making sure to get all the plant material out. You want no plant material in your salve. When this is done, you'll need to add melted beeswax. A mix of no more than 2 ounces of beeswax per pint of oil mixture is typically ideal. Stir thoroughly and consider adding a teaspoon of benzoin tincture as a preservative. If you're going to refrigerate the salve and use it often, a preservative isn't necessary.

Pour the mixture into a container of your choice, one that seals well, and store in the fridge if you haven't added a preservative. If you have, you can store the salve in a cool, dry place. If you've made a salve for your lips (such as a chap stick), consider pouring it into an empty chap stick container. You'll still need to refrigerate if you haven't added a preservative, but your chap stick will survive a few hours at room temperature. You can refrigerate overnight and carry the stick with you during the day.

Your salve can be applied directly to the area you need to treat. The exact ingredients in the salve will determine what it can be used for.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Herbal Preparations: Poultices

A poultice of red clover on a rash on my own leg.
You might think poultices aren't used very often in the modern world, perhaps because you haven't heard the word used in common conversation, but you'd be wrong. If you've ever put a little bit of ointment, perhaps some Polysporin, on a bandage and applied it to a wound, you yourself have used a poultice. They're also used frequently in hospitals for a variety of purposes, though they are more likely to call them applications.

Simply put, a poultice is just a sterile cloth (such as a bandage or even a sterile piece of cheesecloth) that is used to keep some for of medicine in place. This medicine might be a paste, it might be an ointment, or it might even be actual loose herbs. In general, if you do use loose herbs, you'd place a single layer of bandage or cheesecloth on the wound first, then place the loose herbs, then bandage the wound. This practice is sometimes used with pastes and ointments as well, depending on the ingredients. The poultice is often heated, but be careful of applying an overheated poultice to bare flesh. Burns can and have resulted.

Back before we knew much about infections and such, a piece of bread or other similar food product might have been used instead of the sterile cloth. I distinctly remember my grandmother applying a poultice of mustard and a few other ingredient to a piece of bread and strapping it to my spider bite. It worked and I didn't get an infection, but today it would be better to use sterile cloth. We don't always have to be stuck in the past, after all.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Herbal Preparations: Oils

Oils have been used by many cultures around the world for thousands of years. A great deal is known about them because of their extensive use. When used for magical or medicinal purposes, you will almost always dilute your oils. There are some notable exceptions, such as lavender, but most essential oils are far too concentrated to use without dilution. Some oils are actually dangerous if they come in contact with your skin or mucous membranes before they are diluted. Because of this, if you are going to prepare your own oil mixtures you will have to know how to delete them yourself using a carrier or base oil.

There are many base oils to choose from. you might consider almond, apricot kernel, avocado, coconut, grapeseed, hazelnut, olive, palm, peanut (if you're not allergic), sesame, or sunflower. To decide which one best suits your purpose, do a little research. Look up the properties of sesame or sunflower and decide if any of those properties make sense for your purposes. Or you could simply use jojoba oil as your base or carrier. This oil is good for almost any purpose and it has the added benefit of not going rancid. All other oils, including the ever-popular olive, will eventually become rancid and unusable. You can, of course, use a preservative such as wheat germ oil or rosemary oil extract, but I prefer to simply use jojoba and avoid the problem altogether.

When creating your oil preparations, you'll have to take into account your own personal sensitivities. Some people, for example, can place certain oils almost undiluted on their skin. Others may find that the oil in question must be diluted significantly before it can be applied. For this reason, you may have to add more or less carrier oil to your final mixture before use. Also remember your own allergies. If you're allergic to cinnamon, you probably cannot place its oil upon your skin no matter how much you dilute it. In general, however, it is best to start off with a ratio of 20 to 25 drops of pure essential oil to approximately 2 ounces a base or carrier oil. You can then make this mixture stronger or weaker depending on your own preferences and needs.

At first, you will probably want to stick with proven recipes when creating herbal mixtures. In time, however, you will certainly want to experiment a bit. When doing so, look back at the proven recipes and see what you can tweak to better suit your own personality and style. As long as your oils are not too concentrated and you're not using anything you're actually allergic to, there is little harm in this type of herbal preparation. Just keep most herbal mixtures away from your mucous membranes and out of your eyes and you should be fine.

Remember that all of the above assumes you are working with pure essential oils. Fragrance oils have no place in magical or medicinal practice. They might smell good, but they are otherwise useless.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Herbal Preparations: Incense

If you need is to release the scent of herbs, incense is a time-honored way to do so. Incenses, in one form or another, have been used as long as spirituality has existed. There are two basic forms of incense: self-igniting and non-self-igniting. Both have their benefits, though one definitely has more drawbacks than the other.

The best and most effective incense will always be the non-self-igniting type. This kind of incense is most easily prepared by simply grinding the herbs you need in a mortar and pestle. After mixing the herbs in accordance with your needs and perhaps the recipe you're following, you simply burn the resulting mixture on charcoal disks. This is the most effective type of incense and is certainly worth a little time grinding up herbs. Charcoal disks are fairly inexpensive, so this method can be cost effective as well.

You can, if you like, use a pure wood powder as a base and add essential oils and other extractions. This works much like the non-self-igniting incense in that it has to be burned atop charcoal disks. I don't generally recommend this type of incense because it is much harder to prepare, but it is certainly an option.

Self-igniting incense is another story entirely. Fair warning: I really do not like self-igniting incense. Most of it is little better than scented sawdust and saltpeter. It burns all right, but because it uses very little actual herb, it has no real medicinal or magickal value. Even if you can manage to create an incense that is mostly herb and saltpeter, the saltpeter interferes with the scent of the herbs, thereby making it less effective than non-self-igniting incense. And most certainly you should not use self-igniting incense you find in stores. Smells great, yes, but it's worthless. If you want self-igniting incense, experiment with saltpeter and herbs until you find a mixture you like.

Then we come to the matter of incense sticks. Though sticks are convenient, NEVER buy them from a store. Almost without exception these sticks are made of resin and fragrance oils (at least in North America and most of Europe). Since fragrance oils do not have the properties of essential oils (which comes from the natural herb), they are useless for your magickal or medicinal work. Now if they made them from essential oils...but this is rarely done because the cost would be astronomical. If you can buy the incense sticks for a quarter a piece, they're certainly made with fragrance oils no matter what the sales person says.

So what about making them yourself? Well, it's possible. I have had some success dipping my own incense sticks in a mixture of resin and essential oils. I've used both wooden sticks and charcoal sticks, and both have their benefits. The wooden sticks are cleaner, but the charcoal sticks produce a superior scent (but they do make a mess). So you can certainly make your own stick incense that will work for your purposes, but be aware that this is a time consuming process. Finished sticks will have to dry for a few days (don't try to quicken this process in an oven) so you won't be able to use them immediately. Still, the process can be a fun craft if you're in to that sort of thing.

The best way to make incense is simply to grind the herbs and burn them (even by throwing them into a fire instead of using charcoal disks). There are other methods, obviously, but in this case, simple is best. Experiment, if you like, but don't skip over the easiest and most effective method for preparing incense.