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, May 25, 2012

Tai Chi: The Benefits and Exercises of Tai Chi

Tai Chi has been described as many things. Some call it the ultimate martial art, claiming it is a powerful fighting form. Others say it is an exercise purely for health. Some refer to it as ‘meditation in motion,’ while others claim it is the physical manifestation of the Tao.

Some people insist that it is only a series of breathing exercises, meant to clear the mind. There are those who claim that Tai Chi is the ultimate route to spiritual enlightenment, and yet others say that it is only a mild way of keeping fit.

The Art of Tai Chi and Its Effects

Tai Chi is widely regarded as an amazing art that affects practitioners on many levels. It certainly is a physical exercise, designed to tone and strengthen the body while simultaneously increasing flexibility. It permits the body’s life force or ‘chi’ to flow freely throughout the body, thereby making it a wonderful method of maintaining health and vitality.

On a more spiritual level, it promotes the calmness of the mind and the balance of emotion. If you allow it to, Tai Chi can even become a spiritual guide, regardless of your religious belief system. It teaches you to use your own internal energies to affect both yourself and the world around you.

Despite all of these benefits, there is something even more powerful about it – anyone can do it. You do not have to have any previous experience in any type of physical activity. You do not even have to be physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually healthy. All you need is a desire to be truly healthy, and a firm belief that Tai Chi can work. Not only must you believe that it can work, but you must believe that it can work for you.

How to Learn Tai Chi

Tai Chi cannot really be learned from a book or video. Books and videos are wonderful resources, but they are not teachers. To effectively learn Tai Chi, you do need the right teacher.

How do you go about finding the right teacher? This question is not one that is readily answered. There are many decent teachers available in most cities, though make sure you check out their credentials. There are inevitably those who claim to be teachers when they’re obviously not. One class does not turn someone into a teacher.

Ask a potential instructor if you can sit in on a few classes before committing. Most decent teachers will allow this. Speak to some of the other students, ask their opinion of the training they have received. Also, it is better if you find an instructor who specializes in Tai Chi.

What Might You Learn Through Tai Chi?

Each instructor teaches Tai Chi with just a little variation. This is inevitable. Some teachers are more inclined to teach the meditative aspects of Tai Chi, others will focus on its strengths as a fighting art. However, at the beginning, there are some basics that you can probably expect. These might include:
  • Warm-up exercises
  • Breathing techniques
  • Chi Kung
  • Tai Chi stances
  • Meditation
  • Extension
  • Tai Chi sort form
  • Pushing hands exercises
Through studying Tai Chi with a qualified instructor and charting your progress, you should be able to thoroughly understand at least the basics of what Tai Chi is and how to perform both the short form and various other techniques. If these techniques are practiced regularly and with dedication, they will guide practitioners to a deepened awareness of self, while encouraging the development of personal creativity.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Magick and Health: Fresh Air, Light, Exercise, and Magick

One of the greatest sources of energy for magick is the physical body. It produces and expends vast quantities of energy every day, and the intelligent magician will both realize and utilize this. There are some things that can increase this source of energy, including sunlight, fresh air, and exercise.

The Magickal Effect of Fresh Air

It is common knowledge that air free of pollutants is healthier for the body. From a magickal standpoint, avoiding pollutants such as smog, smoke, or fumes is almost a necessity for healthy magick. Part of the energy used during magick will always be personal power. This personal power comes from many sources, including the air around you. If this air is polluted, then your magick will be as well.

The ideal situation is fresh, outdoor air. If possible, go outside about an hour before starting a spell or ritual and breathe in the clean, fresh air; work your magick outdoors as well, weather permitting. If you live in a large metropolitan area, this may not be possible, as the air indoors might actually be of a better quality. In this case, consider purchasing an air cleaner for inside your home, and place it where you work magick. On days when smog is really a problem, close the windows.

If you smoke, try to avoid doing so during the two hour period before practicing magick. If you typically smoke indoors, consider working your magick outside to take advantage of the cleaner air. Obviously, it would be best if you could breathe clean air all the time, but in today’s world of city living, that’s not always feasible.

Is Sunlight Necessary to the Practice of Magick?

The short answer to this question is no, it’s not necessary. After all, many spells and rituals are performed under the light of the moon, or even under the cover of total darkness. However, sunlight is necessary to keep the energy resources of the body high, presuming that you’re not allergic to it.

The body absorbs energy from the sun. This energy can be used to fuel spells and rituals. Spend time in the sun, and you will find that you feel energized. This is easiest during the summer months, when the sun is high in the sky, but can also be arranged in the winter with a little creativity.

If you are the type of person who spends almost all your time indoors, natural light might feel strange, perhaps even uncomfortable at first. It will take some getting used to, but the extra energy is worth the effort.

Energy is also absorbed from moonlight, just as with sunlight. However, people in general tend to get less exposure to moonlight, simply because most people are asleep when the moon is high in the sky.

Exercise and its Effect on Magick

Exercise generates energy. So, it makes a certain amount of sense to use exercise to raise power for magick. While it is best to exercise consistently, thereby maximizing the amount of available energy, a little extra exercise in the last few hours before a spell or ritual will also make a difference.

There are certain types of physical activity that increase the circulation of energy throughout the body, including:
  • Yoga;
  • Tai Chi; and
  • Aikido.
Dance is also an excellent choice, especially when one feels passion for a certain type of dance. For example, many women find that belly dance resonates with them. Dance is one of the many ways of raising power in ritual, and can be used before ritual to begin to raise power.

The physical body is an incredibly rich source of energy for magickal workings. Its power can be accessed quite easily by those things that are done anyway, such as physical activity and ensuring you have access to fresh air and sunlight. Being properly rested and eating certain foods will help as well. Embracing some of these ideas is said to enhance the magick within.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Magick and Health: Food for Magick

Many believe in a strong connection between the physical body and the magick within. When the physical body is strong, everything in magick — from casting spells and working rituals, to meditation and visualization — will be easier. Food is one way to increase the energy of the physical body.

The Link Between Food and Magick

There is no perfect magickal food. Some practitioners like to eat exotic fruits that are sacred in different parts of the world. Others, usually those who follow a specific tradition, consume entire meals from certain regions. However, it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

For the purpose of discussing food, there are two types of magickal workings:
  • Those that take a short amount of time and use little energy; and
  • Those that take a longer amount of time and use much more energy.
Food is one source of energy, not just physically, but magickally. When it comes to choosing foods to eat right before practicing magick, even if that magick is small, it is best to choose foods that release their energy in the manner which will most benefit you.

Selecting Foods for Magickal Work

When performing magicks that will only take short while, such as most simple spells, choose foods that release their energy fairly quickly, but steadily. This does not mean chocolate. Yes, it releases energy quickly, but in an extremely short burst, and will leave you feeling drained rather than energized. Instead, choose fresh fruits. Some good choices are:
  • Apples – are a powerful magickal fruit, as they reveal a pentacle when sliced open;
  • Apricots – are said to be a fruit of love;
  • Bananas – are helpful for prosperity;
  • Blueberries – are excellent for protection spells;
  • Oranges – have the power of divination and luck; and
  • Pomegranate – work well for wishes, wealth, and fertility.
Magicks that take longer, such as most rituals, need a more sustainable source of energy. Generally, if you’ll be engaged in your magicks for more that approximately ninety continuous minutes, it is a good idea to pick foods higher in carbohydrates. Some good choices include:
  • Pasta;
  • Rice; and
  • Potatoes.
Foods to Avoid During the Practice of Magick

There are some foods that impede the practice of magick. These should be avoided in the last four hours before a spell or ritual. This does not mean that you have to give up these foods all the time, but to maximize the effectiveness of your magick, their consumption should be limited during spells and rituals.

Some foods to avoid include:
  • Red meat;
  • Alcohol;
  • Salt (though sea salt is acceptable);
  • Refined sugars;
  • MSG;
  • Caffeine; and
  • Soda pop.
Organically grown fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates are probably the best for working magick, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your favorite foods. As long as they are consumed in moderation, and not immediately before a spell or ritual, they should not have a completely adverse effect on your magicks. It's believed that by combining the consumption of food with exercise, fresh air, and light will enhance your magick even more.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Preparing for Magick: How to Cast Spells

Spells are really just the manipulation of energy. This energy must then be sent towards a specific goal, and any excess energy should be released into the earth. This process can seem rather complicated, but as long as you’re centered and grounded correctly, the manipulation of energy can be fairly simple.

The Energy Within — Personal Power

Every living thing is full of power. The magick within is incredibly strong, and ready to be used. All the strength and power you will ever need is within you, including the strength to draw upon outside energies when necessary. However, for most people, these skills have never been used, or were used so long ago that they have forgotten them completely.

Personal power is like a muscle. It strengthens with use, and will atrophy with neglect. Start small, and practice frequently to encourage your personal power to become stronger; there are many exercises you might use to help learn to direct your own energy. Eventually, your own personal power will be strong enough to accomplish what might seem to be impossible.

Using personal power requires intense emotion. It is best to focus on a goal you can feel passionate about for maximum effectiveness. The modern world teaches that strong passions must be repressed and controlled, so you will have to break through these years of conditioning, finding the flame that will fuel your own magick.

Raising Magickal Energy From Outside Sources

Raising energy can be done in many different ways. Some common methods of raising energy are:
  • Chanting
  • Drumming
  • Stomping
  • Clapping
  • Breathing
  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Visualization
  • Meditation
Many Pagans and Wiccans use ritual to raise energy. This allows for the combination of many methods mentioned above. When raising energy, let the feeling that has been awakened using personal power permeate your entire body; feel the power surge through you.

Remember to draw energy from the earth, the same way you do when you’re grounding. Channel energy from the sun, the moon, a lake, or whatever natural sources are nearby. Open yourself to nature, or you will only have access to your own personal power, and this will quickly leave you exhausted.

One must see the desired goal as real and already accomplished. Experience the feeling of achievement that will accompany success. You will know instinctively when the energy is at its peak. In that instant, it is time to send it towards its goal.

Sending Magickal Energy Towards Its Goal

Raising energy does no good if it’s not eventually sent out to accomplish its goal. To do this, visualize the energy streaming from you into either the object of the goal itself, or a visualization of this goal. For example, for healing, you would visualize the energy entering the person to be healed (following all magickal ethics, of course).

If the person is not sitting directly in front of you, try using a photograph, or perhaps a lock of hair. Even picturing the person sitting in front of you will do. Imagine them as hale and healthy, raise the power, and channel it into them. Keep the vision of them fully healed in your mind for the duration. Avoid distractions during this process.

Some visualizations are not as easy as this. For example, if you’re casting a spell for increased concentration, you may have to visualize yourself studying, or working, or whatever image works for you. See yourself participating in an activity that is associated with your goal.

Releasing Excess Energy Into the Earth

After the energy has been raised and sent towards its goal, you will probably still feel as if you’re vibrating, too keyed up to sleep. This means that there is still excess energy circulating throughout your system. This energy is fine in the short term, but it will eventually begin to have adverse effects such as:
  • Headaches;
  • Inability to sleep;
  • Too much tension; and
  • Hyperactivity.
There is no need for this, as the excess energy can be sent into the earth. Simply place your hands upon the ground (preferably the earth itself, but it’s not strictly necessary). Allow the excess energy to drain through your hands and into the earth. As an alternative, you could try sitting on the ground and allowing the energy to drain though your ‘roots’ into the earth. This is the reverse of most common grounding exercises.

Many rituals, especially Wiccan rituals, involve ‘cakes and wine.’ This is a more mundane method of releasing excess energy. When your body has to digest physical food, it can return to its normal state much more quickly. Releasing excess energy is highly important, no matter which method is used, so if simply having a meal after spells and rituals is easiest for you, then do so.

Casting spells is not necessarily an easy process at first. However, with time, patience, practice, and an internal elemental balance, it does become easier, and eventually second nature. Some spells have a long list of ingredients and tools, and while these may enhance the working of a spell, they are not strictly necessary.