Wednesday, June 20, 2018

St. John’s Eve: on the Bayou, on Bald Mountain, with a Baguette at your Air BnB….


St. John’s Eve: on the Bayou, on Bald Mountain, with a Baguette at your Air BnB….

Feux de la Saint Jean - Summer Solstice – Midsummer is what they call it on a French travel site.  Kupala Night is what they call it in Poland. Most pagans call it “The Summer Solstice” because with today’s calendar it isn’t “Midsummer”; it’s the first day of summer.

I scarcely need to write anything this year, as there is so very much to read online about the Summer Solstice and how it is celebrated throughout the world. So much of the Northern hemisphere celebrates it along with the Feast of St. John the Baptist, which is how the preeminent New Orleans voodoo holiday came about: Midsummer on Bayou St. John. This year Sallie Ann Glassman is holding her annual headwashing ceremony after the ritual, and then it’s drinks at the International House. How I wish I could be there.

However, not this year. Maybe next. Witchdoctor Utu and the bunch are having a big whingding in Ontario, Canada. I wouldn’t mind being there either!

Anywhere but here. Anywhere but here, folks.

So I’m leaving the rest for you to look up. There’s the usual celebration at Stonehenge, some cool info on Mussogsky’s “Night on Bald Montain” which was supposed to have become a full-on witches’ rite-themed opera, and more.

Greet the sun and be grateful that you are allowed to see the sun.

Maybe next year things will be looking up. Let’s survive until at least Samhain, whaddya say?


Great stuff to read:
The Bittersweet Gourmet, St John’s Eve: Herbal Remedies & Ancient Rituals to Mark Midsummerhttps://thebittersweetgourmet.com/st-johns-eve/
Branley, Edward. NOLA History: Voodoo and St. John’s Eve, https://gonola.com/things-to-do-in-new-orleans/nola-history-voodoo-and-st-johns-eve
Cory, Blog Post 161 – Summer Saints, part II (St. John’s Eve) https://newworldwitchery.com/tag/st-johns-eve/
Dorsey, Lilith. “Voodoo Blessings on St. John’s Eve,” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voodoouniverse/2016/06/voodoo-blessings-on-st-johns-eve/
Duvalier, James. “Saint John’s Eve,” http://jamesduvalier.com/articles/saint-johns-eve-st-john-the-baptist/
Hofstadter, Dan, “Midsummer Magick in the Lands of the Midnight Sun,” https://www.nytimes.com/1989/03/12/magazine/midsummer-magic-in-the-lands-of-the-midnight-sun.html
“Night on Bald Mountain,”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_on_Bald_Mountain
Rodriguez-Pretel, Diana. ”Magic and Rituals on St. John’s Eve.” http://blog.only-apartments.com/magic-and-rituals-on-saint-johns-eve/

Monday, April 30, 2018

Happy Walpurgisnacht and Beltane, "The Other Halloween"



Happy Walpurgisnacht and Beltane, “The Other Halloween”

            And hope that everyone is having a great time there out of the Brocken, dancing with Freya and her cat-drawn chariot. Certainly the photos from this year’s celebration in Germany look wonderful…maybe Alpine Village would be into something like this next
year…
            In any case, Walpurgisnacht and Beltane are generally celebrations of the high point of spring, lots of sexual references and all that, dancing around the Maypole and everyone who misses Burning Man leaping over the balefires. I lit some bright red guava/coconut scented candles and even lit one for Ellegua. Lit a stick of geranium incense. Flowers and fruit and fruitful beings! And that’s as it should be: as Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way…”
            But there’s another side to Walpurgisnacht/Beltane, and that’s what I’d like to talk about here.
            A little personal stuff first. Last night I woke up screaming. Really. Screaming at my mom to lock the door so the evil man can’t get in. This was not a normal dream for me, nor is it indicative of anything that has been happening. Not that my mom could ever climb the stairs to my place again, and the only man on site here is the extremely non-evil Rick, who hasn’t had any nightmares lately about the “skeleton demon” that apparently was hiding out in the bathroom doorway (wouldn’t surprise me a bit) or the other creature peeking out from under the eaves in his dream the other night. Bedroom gets a lot of smudging, kids! But the terrors of my dream weren’t supernatural at all—just a sleazy guy who was sneaking around and clearly meant to harm my mother and myself. The guy in the dream was the kind that you look at and say, “I bet he’d slit your throat for a nickel.” The fact that I dreamt it this time of year makes it seem a bit prophetic, and so I’m on my guard and am also checking the security at my parents’ home.
            Because from April 30th through May 3rd the veil is thin between the worlds—about as thin as my checking account will be when I pay the rent tomorrow. I am reminded of Shirley Jackson’s line from The Haunting of Hill House: “And whatever walked there, walked alone.” Whether we call tonight by its German name or the more common name Beltane, whose Baal-fires once burned in the Celtic lands, it not only sets the scene for the blossoming of spring but also for the parting of the veil between the living and the dead. We are now at the opposite point of the year from October 31st-November 2nd holidays of the spirits, but the effect is the same.
            That’s why tonight is when I burn not the Beltane incense or the Breath of Spring incense that I create for the spring season, but rather the Psychic Visions incense I use when preparing to read tarot or crystal gaze or for psychic dreams. I will anoint myself tonight with my Psychic Visions oil, and will do so as well tomorrow in addition to using my Beltane oil.
            Divination goes hand in hand with times in which the veil is thin between this world and the next, because many people believe that spirits—including our own ancestors—help us with seeing the future. After all, what’s time to a spirit who’s moved on? We the living only mark it as linear because that’s how we perceive our lives. On the other side, perhaps past, present, and future all occur at once. We already know that nature is a cycle, not a straight line.
            Many people, including those who follow African traditions, keep an ancestor altar all year. Most of us just do so at the Samhain/Day of the Dead season. But now would be a good time to set one up as well, or at least light a candle, set out a glass of water and a portion of what you’re having for dinner, and talk to your loved dead a little.
            And do a little divination for yourself. Yes, it’s allowed. It might clear some things up. I’m going to see if it does so for me.
           
Fox, Selena. “Beltane Lore and Rites.” Circle Sanctuary. https://www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/celebrating-the-seasons/beltane-lore-rites
Wagner, Stephen. “Walpurgis Night—the Other Halloween,” ThoughtCo., https://www.thoughtco.com/walpurgis-night-the-other-halloween-2595375

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Few Thoughts on St. Patrick's Day and St. Joseph's Day



A Few Thoughts on St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day

            Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Fet Damballah! Huh? You might say. Well, I am a bit ambivalent about St. Patrick’s Day. I mean, here in the U.S. it’s celebrated as an excuse to get drunk and act like an idiot—in other words, to act like the stereotype of the drunken Irishman, the type for whom the “Paddy Wagon” was named. Now, is that really any way to celebrate a saint and an ethnicity? 
            Others in the U.S.—which has more people of Irish descent than Ireland does—celebrate it as a way to honor their Irish ancestry. Maybe it helps make up for the shoddy treatment the Irish received in the U.S. when they first immigrated—especially the poor ones. So if you haven’t seen Martin Scorsese’s wonderful film Gangs of New York, about the fights between the Irish immigrants and the Nativists, I highly recommend it.
            St. Patrick allegedly brought Catholicism to Ireland—the “snakes” he drove out were, symbolically, the pagans, for there were never any snakes in Ireland; it’s too cold. I feel very bad for the Catholics of Ireland. They suffer in many ways, not the least of which is from repressive Catholic practices such as the condemnation of birth control, divorce, and abortion. Yet I am proudly Irish at least by descent from the Catholic variety, as one of my great-grandmothers came from County Cork. But St. Patrick, who allegedly died on March 17th, didn’t drive out the snakes at all. He merely transformed them. Much of Ireland’s pagan past survives in folk tales and beliefs about the “little people” and all sorts of magical stuff. Even the Celtic-style cross is an amalgam of the Christian cross and an earlier pagan symbol. And of course, the international religious organization to which I belong, the FOI, is headquartered in Clonegal Caste in Enniscorthy, Eire.
            In Vodou, however, an image of St. Patrick is often used to represent Damballah, the “serpent” portion of the god-and-goddess couple known as the “Serpent and the Rainbow.” Damballah Wedo and Ayida Wedo represent the union of earth and sky. White is Damballah’s main color, but green is given as a secondary color. March 17th is his feast (‘fet’) day. Damballah, and all his variations, including Blanc Dani in New Orleans, is descended from the ancient African god Da, a creator deity. So how did he end up being portrayed as an old white man with a bunch of snakes? Because of the snakes, of course!
            Serpents are not evil in most pagan traditions, and they aren’t evil in Vodou. Many hounfos (Vodou houses) will have a snake, usually a white snake, in residence. Damballah is honored with an altar that contains white eggs, white flour, and a white altar cloth. Ironically, perhaps, he does not drink alcohol and is served orgeat syrup or another sweet non-alcoholic drink instead.
            In New Orleans, St. Patrick’s Day bleeds over into St. Joseph’s Day, a special feast day for the Italians in the city. St. Joseph is one of their patrons, keeping away famine, so many Italian Catholics celebrate the day with huge altars covered with food, and many of them open their homes to the public to feed their friends and anyone who needs it.
            St. Joseph’s Day is also the second-most important day for the Mardi Gras Indians, African Americans who dress up and vie with each other’s “gangs” to make the prettiest costumes. Why choose this day to do so? Some will say it is convenient, since the Italian Americans often have a parade on this day in New Orleans, too. Others might say it has something to do with the fact that this is the Fet Papa Loko, the feast day of Papa Loko, the agricultural god who knows about healing herbs and, as with St. Joseph, helps keep famine away.
            So in both New Orleans and Haiti, March 17th through March 19th are busy days for Vodouisants. And we haven’t even mentioned the Vernal Equinox yet; this year it arrives the day after St. Joseph’s Day. It is common for big Catholic ceremonies to coincide with formerly pagan celebrations; again, it is easier to overlay a party that is already in progress with a new theme than it is to cancel the party and then start your own. So Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Just don’t drink and drive.

References:

Filan, Kena.”Happy Fet Damballah,” http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/2012/03/happy-fet-damballah-and-shout-out-to-st.html
Mambo Samantha Corfield, “St. Joseph and Papa Loko”
Manbo Mary, “Get to Know a Lwa: Papa Damballah,” http://www.manbomary.com/?p=27
St. Joseph’s Day Altars, http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/seasonal/stjosephsday.html

 


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Hope for the New Year, 2018



Hope for the New Year, 2018

            Well, now, 2017 was a real corker, wasn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I for one am glad it’s over. I suggest that we take up, once again, Hope as our point of view for 2018. Keeping a good thought leads to good results. And if there’s only one oil you buy from Rev. Dee’s Apothecary this year, buy our Louisiana-style Van Van Oil and buy it now!

             Below you’ll find a list with explanations of all the uses of Van Van oil, but first, a little history. Most of the Van Van oil you buy in stores is just synthetic lemongrass oil in a synthetic carrier oil such as mineral oil (a petroleum byproduct.) Some of it doesn’t even smell lemony, so who knows what’s in there! Originally, Van Van oil was the name of an oil made from lemon verbena, called verveine in French and pronounced “van van” or something similar in Louisiana French dialects. So the original ingredient wasn’t lemongrass at all, it was lemon verbena. Lemon verbena (verveine) is not the same as the herb that we call vervain in English, which does not have a lemony taste or aroma. Verveine is a popular herbal tea (tisane) in France and is easy to find in the U.S.

            For those who are unfamiliar with Louisiana traditions, let me explain that we’re talking about New Orleans tradition but also traditions outside of the city such as those in Cajun Country. Many cultures put their stamp on Van Van oil in the state of Louisiana so that is why I labeled my product as such, since Louisiana-style Van Van oil is far more complex than most other styles of the product. It contains several lemony, all-natural essential oils such as lemon verbena, lemongrass, lemon, melissa (lemon balm), citronella, and a special zing from a bit of ginger oil. The herb you find floating in it is a bit of finely chopped lemongrass. I’m making new Van Van (see the picture of my worktable) for 2018 so get it while it’s fresh! It is the most versatile oil you can buy. 

 

Here are the most common uses:

--Cleansing is the main use, and here is how to use it for cleansing:

                        Floor wash water: Use several drops in a bucket of floor wash; pine scented or lemon scented is recommended. Use this floor wash both at home and in your business; we recommend the ¼ or ½ oz. size instead of the usual 1/8 oz. if you have a lot of floor space to wash.

                        Furniture polish: Most furniture polish is lemon-scented anyway; if using spray-can polish, just add a couple of drops to your polishing cloth or paper towel along with the polish. If using a bottled oil, you can put the Van Van oil directing in the container; in this case, it’s best to buy the larger size.

                        Spray cleaner: if you use a lemon-scented spray cleaner for counters and windows, go ahead and add the drops to the container if it opens or add a couple drops to your paper towels as you clean.

                        Work area cleaner: If you have a desk, office, or cubicle, I suggest not only cleaning your desk but also around doors and windows. This is also protecting the area; more on that in a bit.

                        Your business: If you own your own business, clean all display cases as well as floors and windows as above. See below for protection advice.

                        Cleansing yourself: If you bathe after you come home from work or school, remove any negativity you may have absorbed during the day by anointing yourself with Van Van oil while you bathe or shower. Anointing the throat chakra is optimal; some also anoint forehead and crown of head. Don’t get Van Van oil on mucous membranes; the ginger and lemon in it can irritate sensitive skin.

                        Cleansing candles: If you work with candles and they get dusty before you use them, you can cleanse them with a soft cloth or paper towel and a little Van Van oil.

--Protecting is the second most important use:

                        Workplace and business protection: After cleaning all appropriate surfaces in your business or workplace, clean around the door frame/window frame of your office or cubicle; if you own your own business, it’s important to protect it, so any possible entryways should be cleaned and anointed with Van Van oil. If you wish, you can say whatever protection prayer or chant you like while you are cleaning and anointing; that part is up to you. I always clean the desks in the office I share at college and clean/anoint the door frame. Teachers and professors can’t be too careful these days! When someone walks by and asks what I’m doing, I usually say, “My New Orleans stuff,” and they say “Oh,” and keep on walking! If you are worried about people you share the room with having allergies, just use enough water to remove the scent after you cleanse/anoint. Don’t worry; the vibes will still be there!

                        Protecting yourself: If you bathe before work or school, anoint your throat chakra while you are in the bath or shower. It’s ok to rinse it if you’re worried about the scent, but believe me, most people find the aroma divine! Saying a prayer or mantra of your choice is a good idea while you’re doing this. The Van Van oil acts like a barrier to keep out other peoples’ negativity. If you must go to work or school in a dangerous part of town, make sure you anoint yourself before leaving home.

--Other magickal uses:

                        Anointing candles: Spell candles or religious candles can be anointed; Van Van helps with all positive intentions. It can also be used in addition to other oils.

                        Anointing gris-gris, mojo bags, etc.: Van Van oil is great to anoint and re-anoint your mojos and gris-gris, especially those for gambling and for love. Lucky charms can be anointed as well.

                        Spell and spiritual work: Van Van oil is used as a primary oil in spiritual cleansing, blessing, and protection, and can be used in limpias, also known as house cleansings/blessings. In spellwork it can help to purify, cleanse, protect, add power or luck. It can be used in conjunction with other oils and dressings as a counterpart to another oil that is used for positive purposes.

Our Louisiana-style Van Van oil comes in 1/8, ¼, and ½ ounce bottles. See Rev. Dee’s Apothecary at www.DyanaAset.com or our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RevDeesApothecary/  to order.

            To end with our message of hope, let me share with you a wonderful poem by Emily Dickinson.

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - (314)

By Emily Dickinson, 1862
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.