A Witch at Home: Awaking the Ancestors of the Land Pt 1

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As we step into the darker months of the year, I thought it would be fitting to write something relevant to the season. Although, it bothers me to no end how most modern Pagans and Witches only tend to focus on their ancestors and the dead during the Samhain season, I still thought it was a perfect time, especially after some recent events that unfolded at my home.

Since humans have walked this earth we have always had a sacred relationship with our dead. Whether it is because of our belief, fear, or need in the continued existence of the soul or the knowledge that they can and do influence our lives. Despite working with them or not our ancestors are our strongest allies, teachers, and guides. They are our link to the mysteries of the underworld, the land, and even sometimes the gods. Through ceremony, devotion and offerings, we call them back to being part of our lives and brings us back to our true nature. Unfortunately, modern society has put our ancestors on the back burner of tradition. Our dead are pushed aside for our own satisfaction. You die, your disposed of, and then left to a memory. We do this because of the selfish healing thought of out of sight, out of mind. Sadly, this way of thinking can even be found in the modern magickal traditions. Whereas, the only time the dead are honored are during the Samhain season. Although, over the last few years I have seen a larger focus of the dead in new writings and books this once a year reverence of dead is still very common. I wonder how many keep it as a part of their regular practice. With the exception of Hoodoo, Vodou, Santeria, Palo, and other indigenous and cultural traditions where the practice remains strong and the ancestors are regularly honored and called upon throughout the year. One other thing that I often see among modern practices is that the only ancestors given respect are the ones of blood. The ones found in your family tree are not the only ones we should be honoring and working with. The benefits of looking past our selfish lives are immeasurable.

Upon moving into my new house, I not only called to my blood ancestors to be reawakened to the house, but I also called and honored to dead of the land. Asking for protection and acceptance and in return I would honor them and honor their land. I wanted to let them know that they have not been forgotten and that we can coexist on the same land without harm or disrespect. Living in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania would mean that the majority of spirits and ancestors of the land are primarily of the indigenous American tribe of the Leni-Lenape. Now, because I have not traveled far from my first landing in Pennsylvania, I already was accustomed to their culture and ways and understand their needs. In fact, I have been working with these tribal spirits for years. However, it is more about honoring those spirits who reside on the property itself rather than the area of residence. When honoring and petitioning those ancestors of another culture and/or tradition, it is best practice to do so in ways they are accustomed to. You would not want to leave an offering of your family’s recipe for baked ziti, especially at first. Take the time to learn and understand their way of life. This act also shows respect.

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On the night of the most recent dark moon I set out to not only honor and awaken Hekate to the land, but more importantly the ancestors of the land. I started by collecting all the necessary items I needed for the ceremony, including offerings of tobacco and corn. With everything in hand, I proceeded outside and of course it started to rain once again. However, I wasn’t going to let that stop what needed to be done, despite what rain can do to my rattle and drum. As I walked around beating the drum I could feel them awaking with signs of curiosity. It wasn’t until I gave my offerings that I felt them ease off. After I was done, I sat down to ground and compose myself after the ceremony. This is when I began to see the spirits in full glory walking the property. A sign that I did well with my goal. Fast forward a few days later, I had a housewarming/birthday party planned, which by the end of the night had turned into a spirit fest. Although, this is nothing new when I get together with my spiritual family. However, this time it had tuned into more than just doing some spiritual work with friends. Due to the circumstances and people involved I will not discuss what transpired that night. One thing that I will tell you is about a dream I had after everyone had left. Before falling asleep, I started thinking of one of the gifts my friend had given me and how perfectly it fit into my plans for my bedroom. I was given a carved bear head for my wall. Which coincided with my idea to represent each directional animal on all four walls. At some point I fell asleep thinking of the north wall and having a buffalo skull there. In my dream the skull kept changing to a deer skull. Moving onto the next morning I woke up feeling like I was hit by a spiritual truck and had no plans to do any kind of magickal workings. However, the ancestors had other plans for me. As I was trying to relax, in walked my roommate’s son and asked me why there was a deer skull in the yard. What the hell was he talking about? So, I got up to entertain his antics and low and behold, there was not only a deer skull but its lower jaws as well. It was in the middle of the yard where we had been removing an old fence and had just mowed for the party. We would have seen this; how did it get there? First logical thought was someone from last night placed it there for fun. Upon inspection, I could see that it wasn’t just sitting there, it was partially embedded in the ground. I knew that it had something to do with what had happened the night before, but just didn’t know what. Was it a gift or a warning? I will be honest with you, I did panic a little bit. Even after all the weird and unbelievable things that I’ve seen and experienced over the years, I am still sometimes amazed and taken back. After freaking out and discussing the findings with a person who was involved with the nights previous events, I set out to connect to find the answers. Turns out it was a gift from the ancestors of the land. What a better gift to give a Witch on his birthday, than a skull. I also knew that this was not just an act of kindness from the spirits, but an acknowledgement of my working with them.

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The results of working with the ancestors are not always what is expected, but something you can always count on is that as long as you honor them regularly they will be present in your life. It brings a type of wholeness and balance to everyday life that may not be present without that extra guiding hand. Working with them is like working with your own personal army. If you enter a regular practice you can always count on that army for protection, love, and the occasional odd happenings that can blow your mind. As my close friend would say “You can’t make this shit up”.

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A Witch at Home: Floor Washes

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I normally do not post or give away any of my personal magickal secrets. However, so many people have asked me what I did upon moving into my new home for cleansing and purification, other than using sage and your typical products. So, I decided to talk about floor washes and for the first time ever post a recipe from my book of shadows.

The use of floor washes is what I would call the tried and true traditional Witchcraft. They are a common part of spiritual cleansing and are usually found in many old-world magick and Conjure traditions. Spiritual floor washes are especially found within the Hispanic and Latin American spiritual cultures, and in Hoodoo/Rootwork and folk magick of the Afro-American cultures. Whereas, the practice of washing an area with a specially prepared herbal mixture will bring out the magickal properties of the herbs and add to the desired intention. They are often used for such things as to attract love, luck, and money but can also be used for banishing and protection.

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How are washes used?

There are more ways to use floor washes then there are the traditions that use them. Typically, they are used after all mundane cleaning has been done. Floor washes are not just used on the floors of your home. They can be and should be used to wash windows, walls, and doors. The direction or start of the wash depends on the intention of the floor wash. In the case of cleansing and banishing, one would start at the back and top of the home and end at the front door. Many traditional practitioners feel the front door should also be washed from top to bottom and in some cases the porch and sidewalk. Cleaning everything along the way in a counter-clockwise direction. Some traditions ask that certain candles, oils, and prayers be used after the work is done. After everything has been cleaned the left-over water is disposed of toward the east or at specific places, such as a four-way crossroads.

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How are washes made?

Most Traditional or original floor washes were made with only three ingredients. Due to modern homes having multiple types of surfaces more ingredients and have been added. Others have been added over the years due to personal choice and tradition. The earliest floor washes were made by mixing salt with some form of cleaning agent such as ammonia or lye, and a variety of herbs. Some older recipes required the mixing in of urine. These items were/are all added in a magickal fashion to a bucket of water.

 

General formula for making a floor wash

  • Boil all of the ingredients for 20 minutes in 1 quart of water.
  • Allow the liquid mixture to cool.
  • Add 1 cup of ammonia to the liquid mixture.
  • Add 1/2 cup of Spiritual Water such as Florida water.
  • Pour the liquid mixture into a glass storage bottle until ready to use.

Recipe for banishing old or harmful energies in a home

Although, the basics of this recipe was given to me many years ago by an old friend’s mother, I have altered it over the years to fit my personal tastes or rather my personal smells.

2 cups water

4 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 cup rosemary

1 cup Sea salt or Epson salt (not as harsh on floors than other salts)

1 cup Pine Needles

1 cup White Sage

1/2 cup Clove

1/2 cup Basil

1/2 cup Bay Laurel

10 Cinnamon Sticks

1 cup vinegar or ammonia

Go away evil oil (or any bansihing oil) added to bottom of the storage jar

Add all herbs to the water and boil for 10 min, allow to seep for 2 hours. Solid ingredients may be strained out before or during first use. Add to bottle with oil on the bottom. allow to cool. Add vinegar or ammonia. Close the jar and store before use.

Note: Floor Washes can also be used as sprays if you have carpet. Your floors should be physically cleaned before being spiritually cleansed.

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A Witch at Home: Outdoor Altars and Shrines

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There is a reason why my posts and I have been M.I.A. I have picked up my broom (which still needs to be fixed and saged) and moved to the Pocono mountains. The move has taken a lot of my time, with unpacking and organizing. So now that my altar, office, and most of the house has been put in place I can start focusing on my projects again. Thanks to the non-stop raining here all that’s really left to do is to find a home for the outside altars. Hekate was very vocal about where her altar should be. Oshun has chosen her spot next to the creek that runs right through the property and the ancestors have chosen a knotted-up apple tree as their home. Although, the places have been set, they need to be fed and awaken to the energies and relics need to be placed.

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With this on my mind, I thought this would be a perfect time to write a post about outside altars and shrines.

Before we discuss a few ways to set up outdoor sacred spaces, lets take a look at the basics of what they are.

There is a slight deference in what an altar is and what a shrine is. A shrine is a sacred place, which can be dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, or similar figure of respect, where they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain statues, relics, or other special objects associated with whom the shrine is for. Shrines are found in many of the world’s religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Pagan traditions. They can be found in almost every setting, such as churches, temples, cemeteries, or in and outside of the home. It is a sacred place that is dedicated to its resident. Prayers, blessings, and respect are the main focus for shrines, no other work is usually done at a shrine. If offerings are made or any other type of spiritual work is done, then it would be considered an altar.

An altar is any structure upon which offerings are made, ceremonies are held and is usually consecrated for spiritual purposes. Just like shrines they can contain statues, relics, or anything related to its specific workings.

Building a Permanent Outdoor Altar/Shrine

When first building your outside altar or shrine, be sure to ask its resident(s) where they would like to be placed. Begin by quieting your mind, relax open yourself up to the specific energies or call out to whom you are trying to connect with. Next turn slowly, notice if there is one particular direction that pulls or speaks to you. Walk in this direction, slow and deliberate. Pay close attention to shifts in energies and whether you are drawn one way or another.  Look and listen for signs or messages. Always ask for a confirmation.

Remember when constructing an outdoor altar or shrine keep in mind that the conditions around the area that has been chosen. Your altar’s area may become wet, flood, or have strong cross winds. If possible take consideration to these conditions. You also want to be able to safely access the altar, if the location is not safe, ask the resident for another location because it is unsafe or un accessible.

If you’re lucky to live in a wooded area and want to make a stone altar, but there are no rocks in to be found you will have to carry your rocks. As with any altar, you will want to try to use objects that are native to the area. You also want to make sure that your materials won’t harm the wild and plant life around. If you also plan to leave offerings, be mindful not to leave something that could be harmful.

Once the area is set, it should be dedicated in however your tradition calls for or how and what you feel is necessary.

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