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, June 29, 2012

Readying Yourself for Magick: Connecting to the Divine

A connection to deity is essential to the full practice of magick. This is not to say that one has to follow any particular religion. Any religion or spiritual path can offer a wondrous connection to the divine. However, this connection must be of a personal nature in order for it to benefit magickal practice.

A personal relationship to the divine is one where either you have chosen a particular deity, or that deity has chosen you. Most people have an easier time establishing this connection if they visualize the deity in human form, complete with a name, history, and bursting personality.

How is the Divine Visualized?

No two people share the exact same worldview. This means that no two people see the divine in exactly the same manner, though there are usually similarities between people who share a similar religious background. Often, personal views of the divine change over time. There are many ways in which the divine is visualized today.
  • Imaginary beings created by ancient peoples as a way of coping with and explaining the unknown in the natural world.
  • Beings that started as imaginary, but because of the energy directed toward them by worshippers, have now become real and taken on a life of their own.
  • Beings that existed prior to any humans, and are supernatural and immortal in nature.
  • Aspects of the original deity who created the universe.
  • Aspects of the psyche of the individual, and not external at all.
  • Human beings who were so influential in their time and culture that they became deified after death.
  • Imaginary beings created by the priestly class as a way of controlling the masses.
  • Unknowable entities that fill a psychological need in the human psyche.
  • The unifying force of the universe.
These are only some of the ways in which the divine can be visualized. It is impossible to get into specifics and describe each aspect of the divine, since no two people will see the divine in the same way. For example, not all Christians see God as an elderly gentleman with a flowing white beard. Not all Wiccans see the Goddess in her Triple form – Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

How Can I Connect to the Divine?

The divine is such an all-encompassing idea that it is best if you are able to connect to a more familiar aspect of the divine, such as Isis, Diana, Lugh, or Odin. Choosing an aspect, instead of focusing on a form that is somewhere ‘out there’ and whose nature is uncertain, allows the mind to grasp the idea of the divine with greater ease. This increases the likelihood that you will make a lasting connection to this deity.

Perhaps you already feel the call of a particular deity. If not, feel free to choose a deity from any time or place in history that you feel can help you on your spiritual journey. There are hundreds to choose from, so take your time, do your research, and choose carefully.

Once you have settled on a particular aspect, there are many things that can be done to encourage a connection with this deity. Remember, these are only suggestions. Anything that will enhance your relationship to your chosen god or goddess will suffice.
  • Read a book (or many books) about your chosen deity.
  • Perform online research to learn as much about your deity as possible.
  • Meditate, focusing on your deity and its personality.
  • Use your dreams to further connect with your deity.
  • Find, buy, or make a statue for your deity.
  • Make a painting or collage or your chosen deity.
Building a relationship with a particular deity may happen in an instant, or it may take many years. You may or may not choose to dedicate yourself to your deity, but either way, the personal relationship that is developed with a particular aspect of the divine is powerful and fulfilling.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Herbology: The Tools of Herbology

Herbology is the art of using herbs and their components for medicinal or magickal purposes. Herbology is also called herbalism or herbal medicine. For the modern herbalist, whether medicinal or magickal, there are many items and tools that can make the practice of herbology easier and more enjoyable.

The Mortar and Pestle and Its Place in Herbology

The mortar is a bowl-shaped object into which herbs to be ground or powdered are placed. The pestle is a long item, almost like a stick, that is used to grind the herbs against the mortar. If you also practice herbology for magickal and medicinal purposes, it is recommended that you have two of these: one for medicinal purposes, and one for magickal preparations. The reason here is simple — magickal preparations often contain items that should not be ingested.

Today, there are so many types of mortar and pestle available that the novice can be a little confused. Some common types of mortar and pestle are:
  • Wood — Even if you can find one of these, it is best to pass it by, since wood is porous and a breeding ground for bacteria;
  • Brass — These are nice, since they are not porous and are fairly cheap;
  • Marble — The only real problem with a marble mortar and pestle is the fact that it can chip and crack without anyone really noticing;
  • Glass — Though difficult to find, their ease of use and quick cleanup makes these a worthwhile investment;
  • Ceramic — If you can’t find a glass mortar and pestle, ceramic is a good second choice, since it’s almost as easy to clean, especially if it’s white.
Some herbalists will use a coffee grinder in place of a mortar and pestle. This is perfectly acceptable, but observe the same rule as with the mortar and pestle — have two of them, if you’re interested in both the medicinal and the magickal.

The Use of Blades and Knives in Herbology

There are two kinds of blades that are in general use for practitioners of herbology. The first is called a hand sickle or boline. This is a tool for harvesting, and has a curved blade. The inside of this blade is sharpened for a clean cut. The boline is not a tool for whittling or general cutting, but is only used for harvesting, and so is only necessary for those people who grow and harvest their own herbs.

Any decent herbalist will have a working knife that is used solely for herbology. This knife is used for carving, chopping, whittling, and all other cutting that may need to be done, with the exception of harvesting. This knife should be a straight blade, and single-edged, so that it is possible to put weight on the blade without cutting yourself. The exact style of this working knife will vary according to personal preference.

Other Tools Used in Herbology

There are many other tools that are either useful or necessary to the practice of herbology. Some of these include:
  • Hammer — This might seem an odd item to keep in a kitchen or workroom, but it comes in handy when breaking up large chunks of herbs, especially ginger or orris root;
  • Mixing bowls — Only glass or ceramic should be used;
  • Eyedroppers — Glass with a rubber or plastic bulb are the best;
  • Scale — Invest in a high quality scale, as the lower-end scales aren’t accurate enough;
  • Measuring cups and spoons — Any type that cleans easily is appropriate;
  • Glass bottles and jars — for storage of herbs and herbal preparations;
  • Cheesecloth — good for straining herbal preparations, and also for adding herbs to bathwater without unnecessary mess;
  • Cotton bags — used to make sachets, for those interested in such things.
For the dedicated herbalist, the right tools are not only convenient, they are a necessity. Whether you choose to practice herbology for medicine or magick, ensuring that you have the right tools are your disposal will make it a more enjoyable experience.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Crystal and Gem Magick: An Introduction to Stone Magick

Crystals and gems are everywhere. They are deep within the Earth. They are high on a mountaintop. They are at the bottom of a river. Crystals and gems come in all colors – blues, reds, greens, pinks, blacks, and whites are but a few examples. These crystals and gems that are so a part of the world are also a source of great power.

The Ancient Power of Stones

The Earth is full of energy. It ebbs and flows like a river. Stones, crystals, and gems are the concentrated energy of the Earth. They absorb this energy through contact, and retain this link even if they are removed from the Earth. They are like little tiny batteries, fueled by the planet.

Crystals and gems have been used for magick since the first humans found sparkling gems and carried them for protection against the unknown. For many thousands of years, stones have been carved into sacred shapes and worshipped as religious or magickal artifacts. Crystals and gems were used to magickally enhance many things in life, from ensuring conception to protecting the dead.

The Modern Use of Crystals and Gems for Magick

In the modern world, crystals and gems are used by many people around the world to effect internal and external change. The types of stones used are many and varied. Some commonly used stones for magick are:
  • Agate – strength, bravery;
  • Alexandrite – luck, love;
  • Amber – luck, healing, protection;
  • Amethyst – dreams, psychic powers;
  • Aquamarine – psychic powers, purification;
  • Aventurine – mental powers, money;
  • Bloodstone – healing, strength;
  • Calcite – spirituality;
  • Carnelian – protection, peace;
  • Cat’s Eye – wealth, beauty;
  • Citrine – protection;
  • Diamond – spirituality;
  • Emerald – money, love;
  • Fluorite – mental powers;
  • Garnet – healing, strength;
  • Hematite – healing, divination;
  • Jade – love, healing;
  • Jasper – health, beauty;
  • Lapis lazuli – joy, love;
  • Moonstone – divination, psychic powers;
  • Opal – astral projection;
  • Ruby – wealth, power;
  • Sapphire – love, meditation;
  • Topaz – protection, healing; and
  • Quartz – protection, healing, power.
These are not the only gems used in modern crystal magick. Those who use the power of stones have learned that all stones, even the ones picked off the driveway, have power. Some stones will have to be purchased, but many others can be found on hikes through natural areas or simply walking in your own yard or through a downtown park.

Crystal and gem magick is based upon very simple ideas, much like candle magick, and it has quick and direct results. Anyone can work crystal magick, for the stones themselves bring their influences and magick with them. The magick of stones and metals is the easiest of all magicks, and so this is suitable for the novice magician, and can help to awaken the magick within.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Readying Yourself for Magick: An Internal Elemental Balance

The practice of magick is a mysterious and complex art. There are many tools and accessories that can be used to enhance its practice, including athames, wands, cauldrons, and ritual robes. However, all of these are useless without the most important tool of magick – you.

The Elements Within

Most people, including most magicians, are elementally imbalanced. There are five elements, and each of these corresponds to a point on the pentagram and certain human qualities. The elements are:
Earth – physical and practical concerns;
  • Air – intellect and imagination;
  • Fire – passion and will;
  • Water – emotion and intuition; and
  • Spirit – relationship with the divine.
If you want to be at your best as a magician, then your own five elements must be balanced within you. Very few people are truly balanced, and if you look at your life, you’ll probably see that you are actually lacking balance.

Perhaps you’re obsessed with earning money, but have difficulty with relationships. Maybe you have a hard time getting passionate about anything, but you’re incredibly smart. Whatever the combination, it is important to rebalance yourself for your magick to be at its most effective.

Achieving an Elemental Balance

Finding an elemental balance isn’t as hard as is might sound. With some meditation and personal exploration, identifying imbalances should occur quite quickly. After this, rectifying them is simple enough, though it usually takes quite a bit of time and energy.

Select one elemental area of your life at a time. Don’t try to tackle too much at once, or you might become overwhelmed.Once you have selected one particular area of you life, try the following steps:
  • Be very clear about your goal. Write it down.
  • Chart your progress using a diary or journal, otherwise you won’t know when you’ve achieved your goal
  • Break down your goal into simple, attainable, steps. This will help to keep you motivated.
  • Think about what obstacles you might encounter and decide how best to remove them.
  • Evaluate the resources you already have, including friends, family, spiritual counselors, etc.
  • Set dates for progress, and keep them.
  • Look at your list of steps every day, and try to accomplish something, even if it’s only a small thing.
  • When you finally achieve your goal, have a celebration to acknowledge your achievement.
Repeat these steps for each area of your life, until you’re satisfied that you are more elementally balanced that you were previously. This balance will enhance the effectiveness of your spells and rituals. Revisit the idea of finding your balance one a year, and you will truly empower the magick within.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tai Chi: Charting Your Progress in Tai Chi for Motivation

Very often, people stop doing those things which are best for them, such as exercising, eating healthy, meditating, etc., because they do not immediately feel the effects. Other times, they do feel the initial effects, and then stop because they feel that the problem is fixed, at least temporarily; sometimes, this occurs during the practice of Tai Chi.

Using a Chart to Encourage the Practice of Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a long term exercise, and most of its benefits are only noticed after prolonged practice. While waiting for this progress to become evident, it is easy to lose interest. As a result of this, it is highly recommend that you chart your progress in some way, possibly on a calendar, or in a diary or journal. Write down how many minutes a day you practice Tai Chi, as well as anything else that you might have done that was healthy for you.

These things may include making a healthy food choice, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or maybe even deciding not to have that second helping at dinner. This will help you to feel good, reinforcing your level of commitment. It will also help you to see that you are indeed making progress, and this idea will help you to stay motivated to continue practicing Tai Chi.

Progress in Tai Chi Can be Easily Seen with a Graph

After about two months or so, make a graph; a bar graph is usually most helpful for this. Most likely you will see a wavy line. This is normal. In fact, it is quite healthy. Everyone is influenced by multiple factors, even those who try to resist these influences.The biological energies of the body are constantly at work, the cosmic energies of the world flux and have an effect, and busy schedules take time away from Tai Chi. A straight line, or a line that steadily increases without fluctuation, is not to be expected.

Graph your progress over many months and watch it grow. Compare your graph with significant events in your life, whether they are positive or not. People respond to events differently, so one person might find that they practice more during a traumatic event, such as a death in the family, while another person might find their practice time reduces significantly. Over time, the practice time should steadily increase, and this will be seen in your graph. This can be the motivation necessary to continue with Tai Chi.

Try to be consistent when it comes to practicing Tai Chi, but do not fret if you can’t find more than a few minutes every day. Tai Chi is the type of program that allows for the flexibility when necessary. With commitment and determination, you will see a steady increase in your progress.