Thursday, August 9, 2012

Magic and Music

We Pagans are a creative bunch in so many ways, and that extends to music as well as other forms of art.  We create music to celebrate life, to celebrate our faith, and sometimes to help us through difficult times.  We can do so much more with it that we don't generally explore because Life itself is distracting.  

Centuries of human beings (and probably longer) have used rhythm and sound as part of our celebration and part of our magic and I think it would be a fun subject to explore.  Whether you play an instrument, compose, sing, or can't carry a tune in a bucket you are still a note in the grand Song of Life.

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” – William Congreve

Music certainly does have charms, doesn’t it?  We fall in love, express our emotions, and vent our frustrations as well as soothe our hearts with music.

My earliest memory of music was driving home from the library with my Mom and my sister, singing along as the radio played “On Top of the World” by the Carpenters.  I still listen to the Carpenters when my heart needs healing, because it takes me back to that purely innocent time in my life.

My mother’s side of the family had a tradition dating back before 1900 of gathering on Christmas Eve as many of the family as possible for a potluck, and to sing Christmas carols together after dinner.  It was years before I understood just how unusual my family was.  We never got drunk, had fights, or had feuds in our family.  Christmas Eve caroling was more magical for me than Santa Claus, because when we were all together singing, there was a light that connected all of us together.  My family was creating music magic, weaving us together with love, I think.

In later years, comic books caught my attention and sound became a potential weapon in the character Banshee from the X-men (whom you may have seen reinvented in the movie X-men First Class).  Prior to that, it was just my sister’s tin ear that made me realize how punishing sound could be.

Later in my life I learned that sound was being used in medicine to shatter kidney stones, and ultrasonic waves were giving some people relief from various other ailments that caused them pain, or to diagnose conditions.  We even have sonic toothbrushes to help us keep our teeth clean now.

So we know about our emotional connection to music, and the actual physical power of sound has progressed from fiction to reality.  The monks who released a CD of Gregorian chants did a powerful thing for the magical community, they helped us remember that music can be both beautiful and sacred.  It’s no different for us pagans.

Not everyone can sing.  I can carry a tune most of the time, but I’m no Elton John, that’s for sure.  My first experience with pagan music was a copy of a copy of some chants from the Reclaiming community, and it wasn’t long before I began writing chants of my own to share with my friends in the local pagan community under the name “Alpha Starsinger”.  Half the joy of chanting with other pagan folks is the unity, not the melodic quality though.  We don’t have to be rockstar quality to create beautiful moments together.

As I grew older and had more time to incorporate some of these lovely chants into my spiritual practice, I began to notice that while some chants were great at raising energy in a group setting, the energy wasn’t directed.  The imagery of the words in the chant didn’t *do* anything with it, so it was like this big energy pancake spinning overhead waiting to flop down on top of us.  Other chants directed energy beautifully and left us feeling completely refreshed.  For example, the chant “Where There’s Fear There’s Power” ( has a definite magical use – to help us banish fear’s control over us, and transform it into useful energy, and help us remember that we can use the emotional power of our own fear to transform our lives if we channel it properly. “Hecate, Cerridwen” ( is perfect for a dark moon ritual to help the chanters prepare themselves to meet the darker aspects of the goddess and prepare themselves for rebirth prior to a guided meditation, for example.

Those are some pretty good examples of the psychological benefits of music as part of our spirituality, but what about the actual magic?  Think on this for a minute – if sound waves can destroy stones in our body, see through us to look at a fetus in the womb, or help relieve pain, then what happens to every cell in our body when we sing and produce the sound ourselves?  Sound creates vibration in air, water, and matter.  When you stand in front of a speaker at a concert, you feel the sound in your bones and in every cell of your body.  Why can’t we harness that knowledge and put it to good use? 

The words we chant create images in our mind for us to focus on.  That’s how we shape the energy when we’re chanting.  The regular breathing, and weaving our voices together as one raises the energy to work with, granting us more spiritual power available for our magics than the sum of our number.  In the book “Chanting” by Robert Gass (excellent read!) he describes chanting as one way of numbing our conscious mind into submission through repetition to help us achieve a trance state (not a direct quote), and I agree with him.  Chanting is one of the paths to achieving a trance state, and for me personally it works better when the words are in a language I understand so I know the symbology and meaning behind what I’m saying before slipping into trance.

I think if we’re ever to progress farther than our “Paganism 101” levels that all of our published books are stuck at (because apparently that’s most of what sells), we need to explore how we can make our paths more rich and fulfilling, and I think music will be one way we get there.  I’ve read a tiny little bit into Solfeggio frequency theory, but it’s “channeled” information which I have a hard time taking seriously and unfortunately total pseudoscience from everything I can find on the subject.  One of my favorite books “The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy” by Cyndi Dale covers the subject of sounds and chakra healing, attributing a note on the scale to each chakra (pages 401-406), and while interesting in theory I haven’t had the chance to work with it much yet.

But for practical applications, I propose that we start thinking about music, our use of it in ritual and how it affects us.  We can begin the dialogue on magic and sound theory, share the work we put into it together, and explore new horizons.  There are much better musicians out there, I’m barely up at amateur level to be honest.  If enough people are interested, perhaps it’s time we find an online space to share and discuss our ideas.

For now, I wish you harmony and may joy fill your days until we meet again.


PS, this post and the next few on the same subject are part of 
my contribution  to Kallan Kennedy's  blog-The Secret Life of the American Witch! Please check it out and all of the other contributors as well. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Measuring Up

We spend a lot of time worrying about whether we measure up to someone else’s standard.  It starts as children, who are supposed to measure up to length/weight expectations when they’re born, and developmental progress as they grow.  Even after we achieve adulthood, even the status of our “adult-ness” gets measured by our parents, peers, and in our professional lives.

The reality is, that isn’t going to change.  But when we take our metaphoric measuring tapes into our spiritual lives, it starts getting both strange and destructive, I think.

In some traditions, there’s an expectation that someone needs to be a “proper person” prior to initiation, and in my case I have standards before even accepting someone as a student.  Frankly, it’s in the best interest of everyone involved to make sure it’s the “right fit” for us all.  But when the tape measure turns into a weapon, there’s a problem with someone’s ego getting in the way of their spirituality.

For example, my friend Betsy (not her real name) asked a local woman Sondra (not her real name) about the discrepancy in elemental associations for the athame and the wand between air and fire.  It’s not a bad question, because if you read enough books it’s clear that there’s a big difference of opinion on the matter.  Now, Sondra is not Betsy’s teacher.  Betsy is studying on her own, and Sondra is someone in an online discussion group who she respected enough to ask.  Sondra’s response was, in a word, horrible.  The gist of the response, with the expletives deleted, was “Why can’t you newbies learn to read and think for yourself instead of being so damned fluffy?”   Betsy was terribly upset and justifiably insulted.

So, Sondra immediately judged Betsy as not worthy of an answer, and by whatever internal standards she was using Betsy fell into the category of “fluffy”, and proceeded to verbally whip her with that metaphorical tape measure.  For folks who supposedly believe and practice “Harm none”, being abusive to another person is actively choosing to violate their own belief system.  And yes, I’m completely aware that I’m using my own measuring tape right now.

But we don’t just hurt each other with our measuring sticks, we hurt ourselves too.  We set these weird limits on ourselves such as:  “I’m too fat for that guy to be interested in me”, “I’m not smart enough for that job”, “I don’t know enough about magic to talk to other people about it”, “I can’t do love spells for myself”, “I can’t do a prosperity spell for myself to get that job”, etc.  We do these things to ourselves with our negative self-talk and sabotage every aspect of our own lives. 

As magical practitioners, we can’t work magic to effect change without remembering that it’s thought that drives it, and we MUST remember that if our thoughts can change reality then we must be more responsible for the changes we make in our own lives through self-talk.  Being kind to ourselves AND others means we all need to focus on our standards, our own limits, and respect our wants/needs without beating ourselves up and without beating other people over the head with them.

So here’s my final point… make sure the standards you expect yourself and others to live up to aren’t unreasonable.  Don’t demand that others live up to a standard you don’t.  Don’t be a jerk, it’s really not that hard to be nice.  If you’re so frustrated that you’re likely to blow up, then you need to work on your own personal stress management.  Go meditate or something.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Chocolate Ritual

This was making the rounds via email back in the 90s, and I know a lot of people might not have seen it.  I have no idea who the author is/was, but we all got a good laugh at it so here it is - spelling and grammatical errors you find are not my own, but the unknown authors:


Materials required: On the altar are brown candles, a Tootsie Roll (the great big one‑ as the athame), a large glass with milk in it (the chalice), a small dish of Nestle's Quick and a spoon, a small dish of chocolate sprinkles, a plate of cupcakes, and some Yoo‑Hoo along with a goblet.


(take the small bowl of chocolate sprinkles)

Chocolate sprinkles where thou art cast
No calories in thy presence last.
Let no fat adhere to me
And as I will so mote it be!

Nestle's Quick where thou art cast
Turn this milk to chocolate, fast.
Let all good things come to me,
and make my milk all chocolaty!

CAST THE CIRCLE (using a tootsie roll)


Mousse of the East, Fluffy one!
Great prince of the palace of dessert!
Be present we pray thee, and guard this circle from all moochers approaching from the East.

Fondue of the South, Molten one!
Great prince of the palace decadence!
Be present we pray thee, and guard this circle from all diets
approaching from the South.
Cocoa of the West, Satisfying one!
Great prince of the palace of thirst!
Be present we pray thee, and guard this circle from all carob
  approaching from the West.
Rocky Road of the North, Cold one!
Great prince of the palace of crunchy!
Be present we pray thee, and guard this circle from all cheap
  imitations approaching from the North.
HANDMAIDEN (Henceforth known as the Swiss Miss):

Listen to the words of the Mother of Chocolate; who was of old called: Godiva, Ethel M., Sara Lee, Nestle, Mrs. See, and by many other names:
HPS: Whenever you have one of those cravings, once in a while and better it be when your
checkbook is full, then shall you assemble in a great public place and bring offerings of money to the spirit of Me, who is Queen of all Goodies.  In the mall shall you assemble, you who have eaten all your chocolate and are hungry for more.  To you I shall bring Good Things for your tongue. And you shall be free from depression.
And as a sign that you are truly free, you shall have chocolate smears on your cheeks, and you  shall munch, nosh, snack, feast, and make yummy noises all in my presence.  For mine is the  ecstasy of phenylalanine, and mine is also the joy on earth, yea, even into high orbit for my law is "melts in your mouth, not in your hand".

Keep clean your fingers, carry Wet Ones always, let none stop you aside. For mine is the secret that opens your mouth, and mine is the taste that puts a smile on your lips and comfy padding pounds on your hips.  I am the gracious Goddess who gives the gift of joy onto the tummies of  men and women.  Upon earth, I give knowledge of all things delicious, and beyond death well, I  can't do much there.  Sorry about that.  I demand only your money in sacrifice, for behold,  chocolate is a business, and you have to pay for those truffles before you eat them.

SWISS MISS: Hear now the words of the Goodie Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the  cheap imitations, whose body graces candy racks and finer stores everywhere:  I, who am the  beauty of chocolate chips, and the satisfying softness of big bars, the mystery of how they get the filling inside truffles, and fill the hearts of all but Philistines with desire, call unto thy soul to arise and come unto me.  For I am the soul of candy, from me do all confections spring, and unto me all of you shall return, again.... and again... and again.... and again.  Before my smeared face, beloved of women and men, thine innermost divine self chocolate covered cherries all within you.  And  you who think to seek me, know that your seeking and yearning shall avail you not unless you know the Mystery:
  "We shall sell no chocolate until you pay for it" For behold: I have been with you since you were just a baby, and I am that which is attained at nearly any shop in the land.  Messed be.
SWISS MISS: Hear now the words of the Chocolate God, who was called Ghirardelli, Milton Snavely Hershey, Bosco, Fudgesicle, and by many other names:

  HP: I am the strength of the candy rack, and the piece that fell on the floor but looks like it may not have gotten too dirty, and the deepest bitterness of dark chocolate.  No matter how you try to resist the call of chocolate, I will hunt you out, and I will become your sacred prey.  I am warmth of hot cocoa in the dead of winter, and the call of the road that leads you to that really expensive Godiva store downtown.  I give you my creatures, the fire of love of chocolate, the power of jaw  strength to bite off a piece of that frozen Milky Way bar and the shelter of Haagen Dazs when that big date didn't work out.  You are dear to me, and I instill in you my power of a piece of chocolate that you had forgotten you had hidden, and the power of vision and magickal sight with which you can spot a candy counter a mile away.  By the powers of the half melted bar in the glorious sun, I charge you, by the darkest depths of the bottom of the cocoa pot and lingering smell of bittersweet chocolate, I charge you, and by the beauty of a perfectly swirled vanilla butter cream, I charge you. Follow your heart and your instinct, wherever they lead you.  The wealth in your pocket can buy you treats that a Mayan king would envy.  Take joy in that first bite of lecithin emulsified cocoa, and in the last satisfying slurp of Yoo‑Hoo.  Yet you must be wary of deceit.  Eat not of that which  is called "baking chocolate", for it is vile and bitter.  Lastly, always remember to leave some chocolate behind you.  Be not greedy, but let yourself be known as a connoisseur.  Leave a little for someone else.  I am with you always, just over your shoulder, or around the next corner.  I am the Lord of Chocolate, and when you have reached the end of you hoard, I will never be further away from you than that 7‑Eleven on the corner.  I am the spirit of the wild child, the inner child who can never get quite enough.  If you are a true chocolate lover, then your soul and mine are intertwined.

(Blessing of the Yoo‑Hoo)
HP: Be it known that milk chocolate is not better than dark chocolate
HPS: Nor is dark chocolate better than milk chocolate
HP: For both are better than the falsely named "white chocolate"
HPS: And neither one is carob
HP: As the frosting is to the cupcake
HPS: So the creamy nougat is to the Milky Way bar
BOTH: And when they are eaten, they are yummy in truth, for there is no greater snack in all the world than one made of chocolate.

  (blessing of the cupcakes)
HP: Frosting is keen
HPS: And frosting is neat
BOTH: Great Goddess! Let's eat!
  (Feasting and Drinking)
  Dismiss quarters
HPS: Oh, ye mighty goodies of the __________, we thank you for attending our rites and guarding our circle, and ere you depart for your sweet and sticky realms, we say unto you,  "N‑E‑S‑T‑L‑E‑S, Nestles makes the very best"
ALL: "Choooooooc‑laaaaate"
  (After all quarters have been dismissed, give a final satisfying belch at the east)
  Close circle
  Go now in perfect love, perfect trust, and perfect chocolate