All posts by shionflame

About shionflame

Shion Flame is located in southeast Missouri. When she isn't writing, networking or teaching, she can be found gardening with her partner and her little girl in the back yard, doing yoga, or reading. She shares a home with two energetic dogs and a sleek grey cat named Sheena.

Offerings The Energy of Reciprocating

Offerings are often an integral part of practice for many Pagans (of any variety; witches, Wiccans and more -oh my! ) But is the practice leaving offerings something that is outdated and what are some of the reasons we might choose to do this? I stood over the stove this morning preparing an offering of gratitude when the inspiration for this article came to mind. In this, I’ll tell you how I feel about offerings and what I think about them as I’m sure there are varied opinions.

Offerings are an exchange of energy which may be literal or symbolic. When we make friends, we often first begin by exchanging names. Offerings can help us build relationships through the act of reciprocation. The power of offerings functions like that of magic in the sense that it is not really about the food, the art or whatever we are leaving. It reminds me of the old adage: It is the thought that counts. In this case, it is a bit more than that. It is the thought but it is the feeling, the gratitude, and intention.

Do the spirits really eat offerings? Again, sometimes things are taken quite literally which can be a mistake in acts that are often symbolic and heavily meaningful. It could be argued that spirits partake of the energy of the offering or in a literal sense, animals might eat whatever you leave out (consider that carefully.)

Why Do We Do it?

For many Pagans, the offering is truly about giving back. This doesn’t always take the form of food. An offering can be anything meaningful; a specially prepared dish or treat, a carefully composed piece of music or visual art -even dance can be considered an offering. When something fills me with joy and I feel so grateful there are no words, I use that energy to create an offering. I spend time and energy creating them and then offer that up with the feel-good energy in my spirit.

What Kind of Offering

Now this one is a biggie! I think what is chosen should, of course, be culturally appropriate to the deities/spirits you are choosing to work with. When I first started working with the ancestors I was unsure where to begin. I decided to begin by calling my mother on the phone and ask about the favorite things that some of the elder family members loved. I whipped up a list and made sure that I wanted to connect with these energies. Because let’s face it, not every ancestor is one you want to be working with. That being said, who you are working with might have a preference, ask them.  If you don’t know and have issues getting the answer, then offers something meaningful that you appreciate. In my home, we go through honey as fast as a bee can make it (tea problems lol). So, it isn’t unusual for me to feel value about honey and I symbolically associate it with peace, relaxation, joy, and family. I do think the bees would agree!

What Do We Do With Offerings?

The answer to this pondering lies in who you are and what you do. If you are a garden witch you may just compost your organics into a special heap as offerings to the land. It will quite literally give back fertility and nourishment. If you are a hedge witch that happens to love animals you may just spend time and energy creating an animal sanctuary in your backyard or volunteering at a local animal shelter. If the offering is art you may place it above a shrine or exhibit the pieces in a gallery where the beauty or love is projected to those who look upon them. Offerings may also be hung on special trees, buried in the ground or offered to the flames.  The possibilities are many.

The Gift of Giving

Some final thoughts concerning the meaning of offerings regard the message they send.  My daughter began helping me leave out offerings during the full moon by the time she was five.  She loved having a sweet piece of bread with honey and milk too and she knew she could look forward to getting a little for herself (not those on the offering plate of course!)  Leaving offerings presented a unique opportunity to gift my child with something important because the act of doing so became a living illustration to the younger generation about feeling and behaving in a mindset of gratitude and appreciation to all of the wonders around us.

Men Can Be Witches

The ambiguity of the word witch makes many people feel very uncomfortable and yet, that is what makes it amazing. This morning, I woke up to rather unconstructive commentary regarding how people feel about the concept that a man could be a witch. While historically speaking it has been a stereotyped word with the image of a woman taking central focus, I don’t think men were exempt.  Why you choose the word will ultimately have more value to you than the word itself but that doesn’t mean the word choice won’t have an effect on others.

Now you may be reading this and nod in agreement or reading through just to see where it goes, it is important to say that feelings are relative, subjective and ultimately they relate to the person who is expressing them -they go hand in hand with those fantastic things called opinions. Does a man who refers to himself as a witch somehow impact people negatively? No, of course not.  Will people verbalized their disagreement, opinions and most probably justifications for the choice concerning the life path of another -most certainly.  I am grateful for all of these opinions and how very diverse they are -but they shouldn’t divide us completely.

Men are/can be witches. I don’t feel that is mutually exclusive to women only. The terminology might indicate where you focus or how you feel about magical practice. Of course, what follows is my personal perception/ideas only.  Consider this lens for a moment:  warlocks, for me, has always been a term for someone at odds with themselves magically speaking and are engaged in using magick for purposes of conflict in one manner or another. Sorcerer, Sorceress; a magickal focus without religious overtones. Magus or Magician evokes images of ceremonial work, high magick.  The word witch conjures images of cooking, folk magic, animal spirits, ghosts, skeleton keys, knowledge of plants, dream working.  Wizards are the thinkers, the analyzers, the contemplators.  Meaning, those acts take primary focus prior to any magickal work (and may take precedence over magickal acts altogether.) Wizard shapes visualizations of the wise old hermit, the man in the tower with lots of books, the old wise man in a straw hat with a corn cob pipe (an old dream I had.)  Ultimately, I perceive the wizard as focused on the development and mastery of the mind.  Does that mean the witch doesn’t think clearly? Does that mean that all wizards are old men?  That would be laughable!  Of course not! In Wicca, men are considered not only Wiccan, but if they apply magic to their practices they are also witches.  These images paint the associations that I have with the word, they tell me something about the person (and therein lies the challenge and source of some of the apparent conflict.)  As people of varied experiences, we have differing lenses.  If those lenses are overlayed with others -quite frankly they won’t always match.  Suddenly, we find ourselves faced with a completely different idea about a label, idea, group etc.  What makes it more of a challenge is that the labels themselves are simply not just the images and ideas that come to us.  Often, they are a state of mind, a way of life, a matter of being and walking through life.

Don’t choose to adhere to one lens alone, be willing to consider the very varied opinions and ideas that exist.  The advantage is that it broadens the experience of the individual and promotes concepts such as inclusiveness, and diversity for a very beautifully colored community.  The witch is a powerful symbol -that challenges norms, that sees the magic in the mundane and that is willing to stand defiantly in the face of adversity -but there is always more to a word.  So to the men out there walking magical and/or religious paths, who feel aligned with the term “witch,” remember you have no need to justify how you feel and that you shouldn’t feel threatened to either voice your opinion in positive/constructive ways or simply stand tall and walk your path.

Divination More Than Reading the Future

If you look up the definition of divination on Google you get the answer: The practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means.  I’d like to elaborate on that by defining it differently. In this article, divination is the practice and art of obtaining information not consciously known by tapping into existing patterns of energy (through the use of various mediums such as tarot, runes, tea leave etc) that have the propensity of manifesting -or have already manifested.  Does this mean that using divination can tell us the future?  Well, yes and no.  What divination can do is read energy.  Since the future is ever-changing, it depends on not only our own choices but things out of our control, only part of the pattern is often seen.  Simply put, there are a lot of variables in the way the future unfolds.  Another way to look at it is in this scenario:  A person sits down in front of you wanting to know if they are going to get into Harvard.  The first question should be:  Have they bothered to apply to Harvard yet? If there is no energy put forth to set the pattern into motion, it is unlikely that the divination tool can tap into that clear yes and no.  Exceptional readers may lay the cards and with clarity perceive that there hasn’t been enough groundwork laid to make the inquiry in the first place.

My first experience with divination (1999) involved a woman who was able to use her cards to tell me a secret that no one living knew. It convinced me that it worked, that it was real and more importantly -not all people were charlatans trying to take advantage of people.  My mind reeled with questions.  How could a person pull information from the air or was it from the mind?  Unintentionally, I’d set out on a quest to have a deeper comprehension of the forces behind the skill and art of divination.

There are many forms of divination:  tarot, runes, scrying in stones, black mirrors and colored glass or stones.  To find what works requires dedication and practice.  When I first began, I used tarot.  I later discovered that I preferred oracle, simple symbols and runes to work with. Asking what sort of divination is right for you is the same as asking what kind of channel to use to receive energy that is being communicated to you. Perhaps your style of divination will be reading bones, tea or coffee grounds or even looking at cloud patterns. Ultimately, with a little experimentation and practice, I found what worked for me for divination and what didn’t.  Above, I refer to divination as both a skill and an art; it is so because it requires practice.  At some point, it is possible to develop the ability to read energy beyond the use of the tool which echoes the truth that ultimately, the power comes from deep inside -we just need a little help sometimes to tap into the energy.

Keeping It Simple; Early practices that give magick good roots.

Magick is a wondrous thing! We live and breathe magick every single day -in all that people do, feel, think and say.  I’ve written a little about connecting to the magick in the mundane in my article: “With the Flick of my Finger.”  The difference is that a witch knows it, she/he  feels the rise and fall of it in her bones and takes action accordingly.  I look for exercises, meditations and activities that are focused on concentration, imagination, feeling, and movement and mindfulness.  I see these practices as beyond religious.  Yes, a religious label might be attached or incorporated but the exercises themselves can be practiced without religious connotation.  Practices which integrate with daily life are very helpful in helping me to develop the integrity of the magick that I practice. That being said, for example, you might use art to practice magic, perhaps you are a cook -this too can become a magick act; possibilities are -quite limitless.

Beginning the study of magick can be quite overwhelming.  The mind starts to buzz with all the different kinds of magic:  candle, knot, sigil etc.  Then we get into designations like Folk magic, ceremonial (High) magick, religious and not religious…..some with traditional connections some more eclectic…some more appropriated than others….Oh, so quickly it fills the brain!   So where is it most important to begin?  Since much of magick deals in our ability to imagine, feel and connect, the most important place to begin is with the mind.  What does that mean?  I always like to begin simply.  For example, you might choose set goals:  I will watch my thoughts today and then write about all of the things that I noticed.  I like to combine these works with an element approach. Below, I’ve listed helpful exercises and in parenthesis, I’ve noted which element I associate with that particular work. Ideally, it is better to work these in a lunar cycle (doing each for one whole month.)  You might further ritualize these exercises by choosing to observe at a particular time but too much structure tends to impede me -personally speaking of course. The intention is to simply be “aware.”

Try these things:

  1.  Watch your thoughts for a few days (sometimes a month is a lot to commit to starting out!)  and record what kinds of imaginings, inner speak etc. that you notice.  It is important not to judge them, just write them down.  (Air)
  2. Set your intention to observe your own emotions for a week. (Water)  Be aware of their rise and fall, how it feels to engage with others and the flow of your daily feelings.  Be aware of what uplifted you and what felt draining. Again, try not to polarize the feelings as good/bad etc.  Just observe and record them.
  3.  Here the focus in on the action, movement, what you are doing.  As you are focusing on your actions, it is likely that awareness of thought and feeling will come in.  Acknowledge it when it does and return your focus to the action itself.  I found this one very challenging!  (Fire)
  4. Choose to be aware of your body; the way it feels, where it aches, what makes your body feel good.  When you eat, take your time.  You might simply choose to mindfully eat a meal for a whole week.  Think about where the food came from, how it came to sit before you, what work went into it and what it means for the food to nourish your body. (Earth)

So why awareness and observation?  What is the point?  In observing ourselves, we become aware of our desires, strengths, weaknesses, creative spark, -what direction we really want to move in.  As the season turns to Yule (in the northern hemisphere), the time to go within, these exercises can be quite helpful in helping us emerge into the “new light” of the coming year.  For those in the southern hemisphere, you might consider these exercises a focus of reconnecting to your inner power and improving your connection to self for a slightly altered purpose:  What have a learned about myself that enables me to help others in my community?  In that case, you might instead use the exercises slightly different and be aware of how those energies relate and flow to those around you.

Regular practices with exercises that utilize being mindful and that work your imagination, focus, -even curiosity will help you to recognize your own power, develop it, to know which thing to learn next.  Each person will be proficient in a different area -or perhaps several, go with those revealed talents whatever they might be!

Celebrating A Witch’s Halloween

The waning year is in full swing and Halloween is just around the corner. Halloween is a tradition that I grew up with here in the heartland of America. When I got older, I understood this time of year was important to people by various names and from different cultures/spiritual faiths:  All Hallows evening, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Hallowe’en and Hallowtide.  Many witches, Wiccans celebrate it as Samhain (Soween) today.  For myself, Halloween was just fine but I integrated personal practices into the celebration into the “tide” that last from about October 31 through November 7th.   Celebrating as a child meant enjoying the cooler weather. It meant preparing to make a costume and go trick or treating. I have fond memories of popcorn balls, candied apples, and even an orange kitty cat dropped right into my Halloween sack as a treat (since she ran out of candy.)

By fifteen, I’d developed a deeper sense of the season. I had always associated it with spirits and even monsters. But I’d begun to observe nature and relate to it symbolically and emotionally. Leaves falling from the trees were a symbol of letting things go. The season blew in melancholy feelings and I’d sit in the garden to pay attention to the blooming mums, enjoy the cool wind that played in my hair. I drew a strength from the season that couldn’t be verbalized. I observed farmers burning off their fields for the season and animals preparing for the winter and felt that I too was withdrawing to my own internal world.

As a Wiccan hedge witch, I see Halloween with awakened eyes. I see the children as visiting spirits and acknowledge the treats as representative of the little offerings given to spirits in the past (so they don’t cause harm or mischief.) I smile when I see the porch-lights. I realize that they have become the modern candles burning in the night; to guide friendly spirits home. The wicked smiles of the pumpkins -once guardians to ward off wicked spirits have become a fantastic symbol for the season. There is deep magic at this time of year -the kind that is felt deep in the bones. This time of year is special for most witches -and each has their own way of honoring the season. Here are some of the ways that I celebrate this wonderful time of year. I hope you have a great one!

Costume Magic:
Choosing a costume to represent the energy of something you desire.  Dressing up in the costume becomes an act of empowerment and it allows you to connect with or represent what you’d like to bring with you into the new season to come. This year, I’ve chosen the mermaid. She is a symbolic balance between the earth and the land, animal and human and she can swim to the inner depths and discover treasures she didn’t know was there.

Transitional Rituals:                                                                                                                                                   Coming of age ceremonies, departed loved one ritual and honoring, Rituals that release unwanted/harmful life patterns.

Ancestor/land Offerings:
Cook a meal and set a place for the ancestors, honor them during a ritual, set up a small table with those who have passed away and leave them small gifts or treats which will later be buried or placed in compost. Visit the graves of loved ones and offer protection, clean up their space, leave flowers or other trinkets.

Blessing the treats:
Oh, those sweet, plump little hands grabbing for tasty treats from the Halloween bowl. A good luck prayer is perfect over the candy *make your life a little sweeter*

Halloween gift cards:
Reach out to your witchy friends and send them a postcard or homemade card with a season’s greeting. It is so special to get mail to open, read and touch!

Decorate for the Season:
Decorate with intention. Create a pumpkin with a scary face to guard the home and bless the candle as it’s soul light.

Divine:   Pull out your personal divination tools for a reading

Table/Altar set up:                                                                                                                                            Black or maroon cloth, pine cones or other natural items I’ve picked up on walks, small pumpkins or ears of dried corn, offering bowl, divination tool, apples, pomegranates, Buckeye, ancestor candle, black fireproof bowl and other tools (this may depend upon your personal practice or tradition).