Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope that the holiday season has treated everyone well. Ours was lovely but has ended on a sad note.

This Christmas my husband and I traveled to his hometown where his grandmother was celebrating her 100th Christmas!! The grandkids had all pooled money and donated 101 gifts to the fireman's toys for tots program in her name, and the family gathered from all over North America to party with Lily. There were 18 great-grandchildren present, as well as all the grands plus spouses, and her own children and their spouses. It was a lovely way to honor a lady who I personally feel embodies the true spirit of Christ and Buddha - loving everyone equally and having compassion for all without judgement.

After a few days of happy familial chaos, we returned home. Being from a very small family myself, large family gatherings really wear me out - so I was happy to be home and able to unwind. My waistline was also grateful to be relieved of the constant temptation of mountains of freshly baked cookies and candies that my mother-in-law always has piled on every available surface of her home during the holidays!

The next day was very sad, as my elderly bearded dragon, Little Man, began displaying troubling symptoms and was obviously uncomfortable. That trip to the vet ended up being his last, as it was determined the most compassionate option was to let him go. Although he did not actually display any symptoms of being towards The End until then, I had been intuiting for the past few months that he was ready to move on - just a very subtle shift in his energy and demeanor. When he showed those symptoms I knew in my heart it was his time.

I'm very sad to have lost him, but happy to have been able to release his spirit. I know he is being well taken care of on the other side. He was almost 12 years old, which was quite an advanced age for a bearded dragon (the vet says on average they live 6-8 years, though of course they can live longer with proper husbandry). So, he did have a long life. He will be missed dearly. However, he is on a very exciting adventure for this New Year and I will think fondly of him often.

So, for our own celebration, we're just going to sit down with some Guinness and some movies to make us laugh. I can think of no better way to ring in the New Year than cuddled on the couch with my husband and my pup, Voodoo.

One of the movies we will be watching tonight is Sita Sings the Blues! It's a fantastic and unique film that is freely I will be embedding it here as a New Years gift to you!

On the business front, readings, consultations, and product orders will resume starting on Monday!

Thank you so much for reading this past year, and I hope to see more of you in 2011.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Digital Story of the Nativity

This was too fun not to share! Enjoy and have a blessed Solstice, no matter what path you follow!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Getting Started with Ancestor Veneration

Our Dia de los Muertos ofrenda here honoring our ancestors over 3 nights - Oct. 31, Nov. 1, and Nov. 2

Honoring one's ancestors is a very important aspect of conjure practice, and from having the experience of what it can do for you, I would say that would be a very important element in nearly ANY spiritual practice. Unless you come from a culture where the dead are very taboo spirits not to be worked, like you find in many Native American belief systems, there is much value to be found in beginning a practice of venerating one's ancestors.

Even though it is a very simple thing to do, it often seems a strange and overwhelming, and sometimes downright difficult or impossible practice to begin when you are coming from a more secular culture that sanitizes death and then ignores the dead completely once they are buried (as many Western and certainly North American cultures do nowadays). The fact that once you start researching ways to honor your dead you find many very contradictory instructions and perspectives just complicates things further.

I will admit to being a magical practitioner that came pretty late to the ancestor veneration game. I had a lot of baggage surrounding the idea of "family" (oh heck, let's be honest, I still do have that baggage) stemming from the fact that the vast majority of my family was extremely dysfunctional and abusive. I divorced myself from all but my very immediate family when I was 17 and have not looked back - doing everything I can do stay out-of-touch and spiritually out-of-reach of my maternal relatives. I also never knew my father growing up (I only just tracked him down and got in touch with him within the past year), and so only had one half of the normal amount of family to start with. I loved my maternal grandmother and grandfather very much, and my mother did a truly excellent job considering all the difficulty she dealt with - other than that is was a big pile of family fail.

I was never beaten or molested or anything that horrible, and I never went hungry or without proper clothes, and always had a roof over my head - so I guess compared to very many people my childhood family life was fantastic. And I appreciate that and am grateful that I was never subjected to anything of that nature. Even so, life with my mother and her parents was far from perfect - proper communication was rarely present with screaming being the mode of choice as soon as conflict arose, and order through fear or emotional blackmail was fairly standard practice, and drama generally ran high. But between the drag-out fights and hurtful words, there was a pleasant family dinner each and every night, and unconditional support and nurturing of creative and intellectual pursuits. So there was a heavy dose of good with the bad. In my immediate family.

Outside of that the same unhealthy patterns existed, but without the checks and balances that existed in the home I lived in. Emotional abuse was vicious and downright twisted, and physical abuse was common as well. When the relatives visited or when we visited them, I got a taste of hell. My relatives seemed to sense that I had not been conditioned through abuse to the extent that they were used to, and so would do their best to inflict what they could on me while I was around.

To make matters worse, strong spiritual gifts run in our family line, and some relatives link their energetic capabilities with their abusive dysfunctions to make a powerful malevolent brew. They not only do emotional, mental, and (if you're were unlucky enough to live in their households) physical damage - but deep, lasting psychic damage as well. The worst psychic attack I have even endured and had to heal from came from a relative that visited to help care for my grandmother when she was very ill. I couldn't stop shaking for almost 12 hours, and it took months for me to recover. I still have the occasional nightmare about the incident even 16 years later.

So "family" is not one of my most favorite things. I have a pretty bad taste in my mouth about it. Honoring the people in that line seemed very counter-intuitive to me. I dragged my feet BIG TIME in starting an ancestor practice. I liked the idea of it, just like I liked the idea of "family". But it seemed like something I didn't really want to invite any more of into my life - family presence, because that had always meant drama and unpleasantness. I wanted to honor my grandfather and grandmother (my mother is thankfully still here and we have a very close relationship), but I wasn't thrilled about inviting anyone else to the party. I also didn't know how my grandmother would feel about it, as she was a very fear-based conservative Christian that didn't go in for anything "occult" or "ritualistic". My grandfather had never seemed to have much of an opinion either way, for him church was more about community than God it seemed - so I was fairly sure he'd be open to things.

But still I procrastinated. I felt confused over how to start. Some sources said you had to tend an ancestor altar every single day, and that if you didn't they'd get mad and then you'd have all kinds of spiritual trouble. I didn't want that. Other sources said you tended it weekly, and that seemed more feasible. But which one was RIGHT? Did I need 7 glasses of water, or was it 9, or would 1 do? Were the candles supposed to be white, or red? What do I do about my whole father's side of the family that I knew absolutely nothing about except for a name? And once those relatives that had attacked me passed, would I be required to put them on the altar - because I was NOT cool with that. Some sources said that without exception all ancestors go on the altar, other sources said you could omit abusive relatives. More than anything else, it was probably that last concern that kept me from beginning my ancestor practice the longest.

You may think that with so many issues, why would I bother honoring my ancestors at all? Because when I stopped getting into the nitty-gritty of what was wrong with all of the individual people that I knew of, there were also some pretty amazing things to be proud of to that all played into who I am today. My maternal family line has been continuously present in New Orleans since at least the mid 1800's (the trail goes cold around 1850, and I can't find anything else to note where they may have come from previously) with a family crypt that is still used in Lafayette Cemetery. That's pretty amazing and I'm very proud of that. I get a feeling of "home" when in NOLA that is deeply profound. Despite all the madness and dysfunction that runs in the family there are significant spiritual gifts and an extraordinary creative spirit that also flows through the bloodline, and I am a beneficiary of those spiritual inheritances. There is also a powerful connection to nature's plant and animal life which was also imparted to me. These are all things which are very important to me and are very significant in my life. It is an ancestral heritage which very worthy of recognition and veneration.

This cumulative ancestral energy is what started resonating within me stronger and stronger, until I really couldn't ignore it any longer. I began crafting a small shrine that represented my family lines - the patron saint of Germany (as my maternal line was all strongly German), and the Virgin of Guadalupe for my Mexican paternal line. I just started with that on a white cloth, and I would burn a candle once a week. That went on for about a year. Even though I did not feel any specific instances of my ancestor spirits being around, I will say that many very significant positive changes occurred in my life during that year.

It wasn't until fairly recently that I've felt a very palpable presence from my ancestors, and it's mainly my grandmother and grandfather that I knew and loved so well in life that explicitly make themselves known. On one occasion, when I had called to them strongly for some protective spiritual work, I have had the unique experience of feeling my entire home filling up with ancestral spirits, all linked together, and linked to me by my grandmother and grandfather. That feeling was so overwhelming - to feel that I had such a vast number of spirits that cared for me and were willing to come to my aid - that I had to stop my ritual and just have a good cry. (I also realized later than night that that day had been my grandmother's birthday.) That was a huge turning point for me.

I now look forward to tending my ancestor altar - changing the water glass once or twice weekly and adding a drop of Florida Water to scent it, and burning white candles dressed with Ancestor oil for them. Putting pictures and personal articles from my grandparents on there, and also finding items that represent specific groups of ancestral spirits (like the NOLA ones, who have 2 items now that I come to think of it, and Marie Laveau has started bringing her energy through them as well). It is becoming more and more a place of power, and a place where I enjoy spending time. I also pray for my ancestors every night, and as spoken of in my previous article on Praying for the Dead I have expanded that practice to pray for the dead in general.

Whenever I have need of something, I ask my ancestors first, telling my needs as I set a candle on the altar for them. More often than not my need is met without me needing to resort to any more complicated spiritual work. When I do perform spiritual work, I always ask for their blessing and aid, and I have noticed my work being more potent than before. Overall it has deepened every aspect of my conjure practice, and strengthened my connection to the Divine. I am very grateful that I found a way to approach ancestral veneration in a way that worked for me and allowed me to connect to my familial current without all the drama and baggage I had been anticipating and dreading.

So how can YOU start an ancestral practice? I certainly don't claim to know the One True Way to do it, because there isn't any one particular way that is any better than others. If you are working within a tradition that has specific established practices, then you're ahead of the game as you already have a system and elders to look to for guidance. Many however are just independent eclectic spiritual practitioners and, like I was, are confused as to how to get started. They may have issues with their family, or may have been adopted and not know their bloodline, or they may just be overwhelmed with all the options they have come across online and in books.

I like the technique laid out by Martin Coleman in his book Communing with the Spirits. It's simple and straight-forward, and if you want to read it in all the details I suggest grabbing a copy of that book. The Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Radio Hour archives has an episode on working with the ancestors with Mambo Angel that is very informative. There have also been several podcasts recently on 5 Star Spells, and Momma Starr's Old Style Conjure that also talk about ancestor work - so you may wish to look those up and give them a listen.

I will outline how I practice, which is still pretty simple and easy, and is a mesh of Coleman's instructions, a prayer inspired by the one Sallie Ann Glassman gives in herVodou Visions book, elements from The Magical Power of the Saints by Ray Malborough, and bits and pieces I found resonated with me that other practitioners spoke of. I initially began by doing this practice once a week. As the connection strengthened it became natural to increase the frequency of my ministrations. I currently burn candles and change the water about 2 to 3 times per week (basically whenever I feel the message to change it, I do), but I spend a few minutes at my ancestor altar every day communing with them. Mainly I talk to my grandmother and grandfather, as I did not personally know anyone else, but I do greet the entire line.

You will need:

*white altar cloth
* pictures of ancestors who have passed, or other representations of your ancestral line
* list of known ancestors names (if available)
* glass of water
* white candle
* oil for dressing candle (can be an appropriate condition oil, or holy oil)
* Florida Water
* print out of any prayers that you would like to say (optional)
* incense (optional)
* fresh flowers (optional)

1) Start by cleansing the space where you will establish the ancestor altar. Dust the area, and wipe it down with Florida Water.

2) Put down your white altar cloth and then arrange your photos &/or other items in a way that is attractive to you. There are no real rules for this, besides not putting pictures of anyone that is still living onto the altar. Just make it appealing to your eyes.

If there are ancestors that were abusive to you, do not feel obligated to place them on your altar or name them in your rituals until you feel comfortable doing so (if at all).

If you are adopted, or otherwise in a situation where you do not have specific pictures of biological ancestors, you can use pictures of people who took the role of family for you who have passed, and in honor of your biological ancestry you can use a general symbol of that culture. If you are even unsure of your biological cultural background, you can use a symbol that you find strongly represents "Ancestor" to you - perhaps a picture or reproduction of a very ancient statue or rock carving of a goddess or god, or a Tree of Life-type glyph.

3) When you are ready to begin, fill the glass of water with cool clear water and add a very few drops of Florida Water to lightly scent it, but not affect the clarity of the water (too much will make the water cloudy). Place that on the altar.

4) Dress the candle - a tea light is fine - with the oil while praying that it bring the light and presence of the ancestors into your life and be a blessing to them. Light that candle and place it on the altar.

5) If you are using incense, light that now as an offering to the ancestors.

6) Once the offerings are all on the altar, I say the following prayer:

I honor my ancestors, who have made me who I am.
I honor the ancestors that I have known and loved in life,
(Call those ancestors by name 3 times each. If you do not have any names, simply skip to the next appropriate line of the prayer)
I honor the ancestors in my mother's line,
(Call those ancestors by name 3 times each)
I honor the ancestors in my father's line,
(Call those ancestors by name 3 times each)
(alternatively you could say, I honor the ancestors in my adopted line)
I honor the ancestors' names who have been lost to time,
and I honor the ancestral spirits which are yet to come.
I thank you for your contribution to who I am,
and I invite your presence into my life and at this altar.
Enjoy this light and water and be you blessed in the hereafter.

7) If you have specific prayers for the blessing of your ancestors that you would like to say, you can say them now.

8) Spend a few minutes speaking from the heart to them. If you have no words to say, then just spend a few minutes of quiet contemplation on your ancestral lines.

9) When you are ready, say a farewell, and leave the candle to burn itself out.

10) Change the water at least once weekly, and also burn a candle at least once weekly. If you are placing fresh flowers on this altar, make sure to tend to them and remove them if they wilt, replacing them when necessary.

The first few weeks or months that you undertake this practice, it's best not to go with requests or petitions. Just go with the intent of establishing a connection with your ancestors and to honor with, without expecting anything in return. Wait at least 8-12 weeks of a regular practice before petitioning your ancestors to work on your behalf.

If you have some ancestors that would have been very strongly opposed to your spiritual practice on religious grounds, and you begin to feel uncomfortable about them being on your altar, you may follow that intuition and remove them. While some spirits seem to leave behind many of their earthly prejudices when they pass over, other cling to them. Even if you loved them in life, honor their choice to not be included in your altar if they make it apparent they feel that way. Also, if an ancestor had an addiction problem in life, do not offer any of that substance on the altar where they are included.

Some people get discouraged if they don't start getting dream visits from their ancestors, or other dramatic communications from them. While you do hear plenty of stories like this from practitioners, it is not a requirement that you have such palpable contact with your ancestors for a powerful connection to be successfully made. Some may never "hear" or "see" the presence of their ancestors directly, but will instead reap the benefits of a positive connection by noticing a generally more harmonious life then prior to establishing a practice and by having their needs fulfilled when putting those petitions before the ancestors. Even though I am fairly sensitive to spirits, I have only had one very concrete moment of obvious and extraordinary contact with my ancestors. Most times I am simply "praying to the air" and being able to trust that my needs are being heard and taken care of.

I hope this encourages some of you that have been thinking of starting an ancestral practice to give it a go. It doesn't have to be as complicated as it may sometimes seem. Simply open your heart and mind in gratitude, and see what manifests.

Blessings upon you and your loved ones this All Souls Day!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Momma Starr Releases "Black Hawk: Working with His Spirit" !!

I just wanted to drop a note to let everyone know that Momma Starr of Old Style Conjure has finally finished and released her book Black Hawk: Working with His Spirit!

This is going to be a very historically important work in the world of conjure, as this particular spirit tradition has had precious little useful info written about it. It has left many workers who do not have access to a very old school rootworker to learn mouth-to-ear from, and who may otherwise be drawn to work with Black Hawk scratching their heads and trying to find threads of information where they can. Until now if you were looking for information on working with Black Hawk, you were limited to biographies about him, or the wonderful book The Spirit of Black Hawk: A Mystery of Africans and Indians by Jason Berry which looks into the spiritual churches of New Orleans that venerated Black Hawk which has some lovely pictures of altars and practitioners, but does not include practical information on working with Black Hawk (but is a great introduction to the spiritual tradition surrounding it).

Momma Starr has now set out to remedy this, spurred on by Black Hawk himself!

If you listen to Momma Starr's fantastic podcast, Old Style Conjure Podcast, which she hosts with Dr. Love Bug, then you've probably already been tantalized by her interview with the worker who taught her how to work with Black Hawk and White Eagle, as well as from the amazing amount of information that she and Dr. Love Bug share on their broadcasts. Her last episode was actually devoted to speaking about and teaching about how to work with Black Hawk, so if you're unfamiliar with Black Hawk, or want to get a taste of what her material will contain, I suggest surfing over and taking a listen to her Black Hawk and How to Call on His Spirit podcast.

I have ordered a copy of the book, which you can too from the PayPal link that is provided on the first page of her Old Style Conjure Ning Community. She is selling the book for $34.95 and that includes shipping (at least for the time-being).

If you are able to make it there, Momma Starr is also teaching an in-person class on how to work with Black Hawk at the Traditional Folk Magic Festival that is being held in New Orleans on November 13-14. I am doing my best to be able to attend as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

So, once I get my copy of her new book (which she told me she put into the mail today - hooray), I will post a review of it here...but if this is a subject which interests you, I encourage you to go purchase your own copy today!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Praying for the Dead

It's that time of year again! The veil between the worlds grows thin, and the spirits of those who have gone before are closer than ever. You find many different spiritual paths taking the opportunity to acknowledge and remember our ancestors and friends on the other side - whether it be a NeoPagan Samhain circle, a Catholic All Souls Day mass, a Vodou Fete Ghede, or even a secular nod to those traditions through the holiday of Halloween.

In the Latin American countries you find communities everywhere gearing up for Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which actually takes place over several days - Oct. 31, Nov. 1, and Nov. 2. In some places in Mexico, such as Oaxaca, the Dia de los Muertos celebrations are the largest and most important religious event of the year - even bigger than Christmas or Easter! It's a time when the dead are honored and remembered and invited to visit and enjoy the company of their living friends and family once again.

Being half-Mexican we have adopted the celebration of Dia de los Muertos in our home, and I've been busy constructing our ofrenda with pictures with our loved ones on the other side. It's a refreshingly upbeat and colorful observance that pokes fun at the fear death often holds, recognizes that death in no way is the end of life, and serves to strengthen the goodwill and ties to ones ancestral spirits.

But while I anxiously await October 31st to really light up the ofrenda and invite my ancestors in for a few days for a visit and to partake of some of their favorite foods and pleasures from life, I like to take the opportunity of the thinning veil to make a nightly prayer observance for the dead. Now I acknowledge my ancestors daily in prayer, and clean and work their altar at least once a week - but offering prayers for other disincarnate souls is a lovely practice, and you can find many lovely prayers to aid you in this practice. I wanted to share with you some of these, so that if you feel so inspired you can also take up the practice of praying for the dead.

Bone and Blue Rosary

I like using a rosary of real bone skulls for my prayers, but even having a unique set of prayer beads for the purpose can really aid in the focus. You can find some stunning momento mori rosaries, chaplets, and prayer beads from Etsy artisans such as Artista Muerte (who made the gorgeous rosary pictured above), Elegant Medical, Forest Glen, and others. Use search terms like "bone rosary", "skull rosary", and "rosary of the dead" to find interesting items. Of course you are not required to have special prayer beads or any prayer beads at all - you can just pray from the heart.

Here are some of the lovely prayers that I offer. I usually will start with one of these prayers and then move into praying in my own words. I originally did not resonate with the idea of a Purgatory which is present in so many of these prayers, but I came to personally understand it as the state of being for soul's who have not perfected yet, and is subject to at least one further incarnation before being able to become One with the Divine (at that would be most of us, I think). And of course, lost souls who are bound to earth through some tragedy or another can of course use our compassion and our prayers for them to be relieved of their burdens so that they may move on. Spiritualist prayers will often include phrases asking for blessings and elevation for the souls who have passed, and I see this as another form of that same practice. So for me, praying for the souls in Purgatory, is praying for blessing for and for the elevation of the souls in between lives who still have work to do in their evolution. I realize this is not the orthodox Catholic doctrine on the matter, but it is how I connected with the practice in my own path.

A similar but simplified practice involves a specific prayer on each day of the week for the dead. Each short prayer is followed by an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a De Profundis.


O Lord God Almighty, I pray Thee, by the Precious Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus shed in the garden, deliver the Souls in Purgatory, and especially that Soul amongst them all which is most destitute of spiritual aid; and vouchsafe to bring it to Thy glory, there to praise and bless Thee forever. Amen.

O Lord God Almighty, I pray Thee, by the Precious Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus shed in the garden, deliver the Souls in Purgatory, and especially that Soul amongst them all which is most destitute of spiritual aid; and vouchsafe to bring it to Thy glory, there to praise and bless Thee forever. Amen.

O Lord God Almighty, I pray Thee, by the Precious Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus shed in His bitter crowning with thorns, deliver the Souls in Purgatory, and especially that one amongst them all which would be the last to depart out of those pains, that it may not tarry so long a time before it comes to praise Thee in Thy glory, and bless Thee forever. Amen.

O Lord God Almighty, I pray Thee, by the Precious Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus shed in the streets of Jerusalem, when He carried the Cross upon His sacred shoulders, deliver the Souls in Purgatory, and especially that Soul which is richest in merits before Thee that so, in that throne of glory which awaits it, it may magnify Thee and bless Thee forever. Amen.

O Lord God Almighty, I pray Thee, by the Precious Body and Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus, which He gave with His own hands upon the eve of His Passion to His beloved Apostles to be their meat and drink, and which He left to His whole Church to be a perpetual sacrifice and the life-giving food of His own faithful people, deliver the Souls in Purgatory, and especially that one which was most devoted to this mystery of infinite love, that it may with the same Thy Divine Son, and with Thy Holy Spirit, ever praise Thee for Thy love therein in eternal glory. Amen.

O Lord God Almighty, I pray Thee, by the Precious Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus shed on this day upon the wood of the Cross, especially from His most sacred hands and feet, deliver the Souls in Purgatory and in particular that Soul for which I am most bound to pray; that no neglect of mine may hinder it from praising Thee in Thy glory and blessing Thee forever. Amen.

O Lord God Almighty, I pray Thee, by the Precious Blood which gushed forth from the side of Thy Divine Son Jesus in the sight of, and to the extreme pain of His Most Holy Mother, deliver the Souls in Purgatory, and especially that one amongst them all which was the most devoted to her; that it may soon attain unto Thy glory, there to praise Thee in her, and her in Thee, world without end. Amen.

There are plenty of other prayers for the dead that are available. I will provide some links that you can browse if you so wish. There are some moving and powerful ones out there, so it's really just a matter of finding which ones resonate with you and will be pleasing for you to incorporate into your own practice.

I particularly like and use is the Short Prayer for the Faithful Departed:

O most compassionate Jesus, have mercy upon the Souls, detained in Purgatory, for whose redemption Thou didst take upon Thee our nature and endure a most bitter death. Mercifully hear their sighs, look with pity on the tears, which they now shed before Thee, and by virtue of Thy Passion, release them from the pains due unto their sins. O most merciful Jesus, let Thy Precious Blood reach down into Purgatory and refresh and revive the Captive Souls which suffer there. Stretch forth unto them Thy strong right hand, and bring them forth into the place of refreshment, light and peace. Amen.

Blessed Souls! We have prayed for you! We entreat you, who are so dear to God, and so certain of never losing Him, to pray for us miserable sinners that are in danger of being damned and of losing God forever.

There is also the Novena for the Relief of the Souls in Purgatory. It is sometimes performed beginning on the day of the passing of someone close to you. When someone you love passes, it brings the shadow of death clearly into our vision, and this can be an opportunity to undertake spiritual practice to help us grieve and move forward, while helping to obtain spiritual benefits for not only the loved one who is now gone, but all the dead who dwell in various planes of existence in between incarnations.

Because this practice involves several daily prayers and meditations, I will simply link to it below so as to conserve space here.

The Memorial Prayer for the Suffering of Souls in Purgatory I really like because you connect with so many different souls from all walks of life and pray for their wellbeing.

Almighty God, Father of Goodness and love,
have mercy on the Poor Suffering Souls,
and grant Thine aid:

To my dear parents and ancestors;
(Jesus, Mary, Joseph! My Jesus have Mercy.)
To my brothers and sisters and other near relatives;
(Jesus, Mary, Joseph! My Jesus have Mercy.)
To my benefactors, spiritual and temporal;
To my former friends and subjects;
To all for whom love or duty bids me pray;
To those who have suffered disadvantage or harm through me;
To those who have offended me;
To all those who are especially beloved by Thee;
To those whose release is at hand;
To those who desire most to be united with Thee;
To those who endure the greatest suffering;
To those whose release is most remote;
To those who are least remembered;
To those who are most deserving on account of their services to the Church;
To the rich, who now are the most destitute;
To the mighty, who now are as lowly servants;
To the blind, who now see their folly;
To the frivolous, who spent their time in idleness;
To the poor, who did not seek the treasures of Heaven;
To the tepid, who devoted little time to prayer;
To the indolent, who were negligent in performing good works;
To those of little faith, who neglected the frequent reception of the Sacraments;
To the habitual sinners, who owe their salvation to a miracle of grace;
To parents who failed to watch over their children;
To superiors who were not solicitous for the salvation of those entrusted to them;
To the souls of those who strove for hardly anything but riches and pleasures;
To the worldly-minded, who failed to use their wealth and talents in the service of God;
To those who witnessed the death of others, but would not think of their own;
To those who did not provide for the great journey beyond, and the days of tribulation;
To those whose judgment is so severe because of the great things entrusted to them;
To the popes, rulers, kings and princes;
To the bishops and their counselors;
To my teachers and spiritual advisors;
To the deceased priests of this diocese;
To all the priests and religious of the whole Catholic Church;
To the defenders of the Holy Faith;
To those who died on the battlefield;
To those who are buried in the sea;
To those who died of stroke or heart attack;
To those who died without the last rites of the Church;
To those who shall die within the next twenty-four hours;
To my own poor soul when I shall have to appear before Thy judgment seat;

O Lord, grant eternal rest to all the souls of the faithful departed,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

There are also some other litanies for the dead as well that, if you find this form of prayer moving, may wish to peruse.

I hope this has inspired you to consider praying for the dead as part of your spiritual practice. I have found praying daily for the welfare of my ancestors has deeply enriched my path and opened many doors for me. This has in turn heightened my awareness and compassion for other souls, and initiated my desire to pray for blessings for other spirits as well. Of course I've always felt a connection with the dead that many others simply do not, and found comfort and beauty in funerary art. I guess that is why the joyful play that the Latin American countries display towards death have always appealed to me. Perhaps praying for the dead is not for everyone all the time, however during this time of year when the veil is thin, I feel it's more fitting for more people. And so it is in the spirit of the season that I offer this information to you!

Blessings to you and yours, both here and in the hereafter!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Billiken!

As a proud member of the Church of Good Luck, I'm happy to announce that today is the birthday of the central deity of C.G.L's practice, Billiken!

If you've never heard of Billiken the God of Things As They Ought To Be, I encourage you to surf on over to the Church of Good Luck a read all about Billiken and the facinating Billiken lore.

I wanted to pass along the birthday message from Rev. Jim who is the founder of the C.G.L.


Dear Friends and Members,
This day marks the 102nd birthday of Billiken, The God of Things as They Ought to Be. Please join us in reflecting on the Good Luck and Happiness that Billiken has brought to millions of people for over one hundred years. By honoring him this day, you are now a part of that unbroken chain of Luck.
It was back in 1908 when He first proclaimed:
"I am the God of Happiness,
I simply make you smile,
I prove that life's worth living
And that everything's worthwhile;
I force the failure to his feet
And make the growler grin,
I am the God of Happiness,
My name is Billiken."
Since then Billiken has granted countless wishes to those who have asked for His help. If you have a wish of your own, take a moment to ask the Billiken today, and then do something in His honor: have a good lunch, raise a toast, or enjoy a piece of cake. And most of all, remember the simple words of advice Billiken gave us over a century ago:
"Grin and Begin to Win"
Best wishes,
Rev. Jim

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Working Conjure with the Hindu Deities

Lately I have been getting asked or running into questions being asked about incorporating the Hindu deities into conjure. Because I have worked with them for the better part of 10 years now, I do have a set method of working that has been extremely successful for me, and which I’m happy to share. It is a way of working that respects the cultural tradition from which they spring, and acknowledges their roles as full-fledged powerful and compassionate deities, and not just spirits that we can treat as totems for quick money or the like.

I had previously written an article about using mantras with spellwork, which introduces the topic of petitioning Hindu deities for magical goals in a very basic sense. People have been requesting more detailed information, which I applaud, and so I’m happy to provide my perspective. I am in no way saying that this is the only manner of working with them, I am just presenting what has worked for me and how the Hindu deities have guided me to work with them. Once you develop a relationship with them, they may guide you differently.

So without further ado, here are some of the most common questions and concerns that I run into regarding blending work with Hindu deities into a rootworking or other folk magic context.


I would suggest working to build your connection with them before trying to petition them for anything other than just their presence. It irks me to see people treating them like gum-ball machines – thinking that if they put up a statue and pour some oil on it that money or love will just start to come right out at them. These are high-level gods and goddesses who are worthy and deserving of your respect, and because they have approximately 900 million native worshippers they are not dependant on your offerings for their sustenance. They are compassionate deities who are more than willing to help those who call upon them with a sincere heart, and who may receive spiritual benefit from their interactions.

While they are certainly happy to aid with your day-to-day mundane problems, they do have a much more expanded view of life and are more anxious to aid you so that you can develop spiritually, then they are to just give you stuff because you want it. Ultimately they are most concerned with maintaining the dharma, the right way of living. If helping you will help you be a better person and live a better life, then they will most likely be willing to lend aid. However if your goal has no real positive value, then you may find yourself unaided.

Taking the time to develop a relationship with them shows that you have a vested spiritual interest in them and the disciplined commitment to some form of spiritual practice to be deserving of their attention and open to their positive influences.

Spend time reading up on the various myths and scriptures associated with that deity – that way you can learn their personality, as well as their likes and dislikes, and in what ways you can expect them to work with you. Set up an altar space for the deities you wish to work with, and make is beautiful and welcoming. At least burn some incense and a candle at the altar daily, while spending some time calling out to them and inviting their presence into your life. I recommend that you perform a small simple puja for them each day, and spend time chanting their mantras. As I spoke of in the other article, mantras are extremely potent and powerful and call in the attention and energies of a deity very quickly.

You will want to make sure that you have successfully called the deity’s presence into your altar image before petitioning for specific requests. There are rituals that one can perform to establish the deity into an image, however this generally requires an established relationship and connection between the deity and the person doing that ritual. So those first starting out would most likely not be able to accomplish them. However, daily devotions done at an altar will result in the deity being called into that space and establishing a presence there, if the devotions are performed with consistency and sincerity.


Puja is ritual devotion. If you look up traditional Hindu pujas that often look very intimidating and require many items that, unless you live near an Indian market, it will be unfamiliar to you and difficult to acquire (although online shopping has made it easier to get them). However, you don’t need to offer all the various things that are culturally foreign to you. You simply want to offer something from each of the 5 elements, and that is sufficient.

Each day offer a small amount of food (Earth element) for the deity to take prana/energy from, some cool water (Water element) for them to refresh themselves with, some incense to sweeten the air with (Air element), some light in the form of a ghee lamp or candle (Fire element) for them to warm themselves with, and your mantras, hymns, and prayers of devotion and respect (Spirit element).

Flowers are another common offering if you have them readily available, they are a nice addition; however if you do not have a garden, buying flowers daily can be cost-inhibitive, so this can be an options offering for special occasions. Another nice touch which you can experiment with is ringing a small bell as you make the offerings – as bells are considered to bring the deities attention to the altar and cross through the various planes of existence. Generally speaking bhajans (hymns) to the deity will be sung while the offerings are being made. Most of these are in Hindi or another Indian-language, however you can easily find them for download online (I like for this), and it’s become common practice in modern times to simply play bhajans on a stereo during puja. This is what I generally do, though because I’ve listened to them for so long I now know the words and can sing along. But it is nice to have the musical atmosphere. Again, the bhajans and music are optional. These are elements which can be added once it seems natural to do so, and needn’t be seen as a requirement.

When you present the offering to the deity’s murti (image), it is traditional to circle it in front of their image 3 times in a clockwise motion.

After presenting the offering, spend time praying and chanting. I recommend chanting the mantra at least 108 times, which is one round of mala (Hindu rosary), and then spend a few moments just speaking from the heart. It’s easy to find mantras to the various deities through Google searching. But just in case you get confused, here are some simple ones for some of the more popular deities for your reference.

Ganesha – OM GAM Ganapateyei namaha

Lakshmi – OM SREE Mahalakshmiyei swaha

Saraswarti- OM AIM Saraswatieyi namaha

Durga – OM DUM Durgayei namaha

Kali – OM KRIM Kalikayei namaha

Shiva – OM nama Shivaya

Krishna – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

When you are finished chanting and communing at the altar, then partake of the food and water offerings that you made. In Hindu practice this is called Prasad, or grace – the deities has taken what it wants from the offerings, and in turn has bestowed special blessings and energy onto them. Partaking of the offerings is a way of accepting the blessings of the deity and internalizing their presence and energy. This is similar to the Christian communion.

If you would like to view a nice video showing a simple puja so that you can get an idea of how it is done in a more traditional Hindu context, you may enjoy the following video. Remember, you do not need to do a fully traditional Hindu puja to develop a relationship with the deities, but it is good to be somewhat familiar with what is done to honor them in their home culture. It will also make the instructions that I’ve given above make a bit more sense.


ReversingUncrossingAbove.jpg picture by pranadevi

But when you move into petitioning them, I always perform puja first, and only then ask their aid with my petition and conjure.

I don't really change too much about the conjure itself at that point, except I use mantra instead of Christian-style prayer and of course I'm asking for their aid and not any other spirit from any other tradition. So however you would normally go about dressing and working your candles, or making your mojo bag or bottle spell, or whatever you may be doing, you basically do that the same way.

However as I perform the conjure I chant an appropriate mantra to bring that deities energy and aid to the work, or you can just pray to the deity from your heart asking for their aid. This is like the prayer part of the work that you would normally do, you are just addressing the prayer to the Hindu deity, rather than a different saint or angel or whathaveyou.

Finding an appropriate mantra is an important step if you wish to incorporate mantras into the work itself (which I always do). Healing Mantras and Shakti Mantras are two great books by Namadeva Acharya (aka Thomas Ashley-Farrand) that help you find a mantra that energetically targets particular goals. The author also has accompanying CDs that you can purchase to learn how to properly chant a mantra, and also to have a track to chant along with which can be very convenient. As I chant an appropriate mantra, I visualize the sound taking the form of my petition being granted - so that see that happening with each recitation of the mantra. That's at least 108 times of seeing it happen in one sitting, though if you have the endurance doing 10 rounds of japa is ideal.

What’s fantastic about incorporating mantras into your conjure, is that you can chant your mantra at any time and be working for your goal. Just hold your petition/intent firmly in mind as you chant. This can help you work towards you goal throughout the day. Even if I have completed the ritual part of my conjure, for instance I am done with my 7-day prosperity candle ritual, I will still chant at the altar each day for my petition. This continues the work and helps infuse me and my space with the energy of that deities aid for my case.

Laxmi_candle_MVR.jpg picture by pranadevi

As an explicit example of my blended “Hindu conjure” work, let’s take dressing a glass encased vigil light. I have all my conjure supplies at hand, and then perform the puja. Once the puja is complete I speak from the heart asking for the deities blessing and aid in my need. Then I begin preparing the candle – dressing with oil, inscribing names/petitions, etc. I speak and pray from the heart to the deity while I do all this. Then I take the candle into my hands, and holding the candle in such a way that my breath will fall onto the top wax, I begin chanting 108 of the appropriate mantra for that deity and my petition. As I chant, I strongly visualize that deity aiding my cause and my petition being granted. When I am through chanting, I knock the candle on the table 3 times to seal it, and then light it to set it to work. I place the candle on the deity’s altar, and then partake of the offerings while offering my sincere thanks for their aid, and for the blessings received through the prasad.

One other thing that you can do is use the water portion of the prasad to sprinkle around your home or add it to a spiritually cleansing floorwash to bring in the blessings that way. However, I still recommend taking at least a small sip to take into yourself those blessings as well.

When your goal has manifested, I recommend preparing a puja with more elaborate offerings (within your means) in thanks. Go out of your way to find out what exact foods and flowers are especially favored by that deity and offer them. Ganesha is particularly fond of sweet balls, called modaka or ladoo, but any sweet will do. Saraswati likes yellow sour candles, and yellow foods in general. Coconuts (and coconut water and coconut milk), mangoes, honey, fruits in general, and rice are always good offerings if you're not sure what else to offer. Try to include flowers in a thanksgiving puja as well, as well as some traditional music.


I use the same products that I would normally use for that condition. If I’m working to draw money, I’ll use Money-Drawing, if I’m working to open my way I’ll use Road Opener or Van Van, if I’m working for success I’ll use Crown of Success, etc.

If I have a specific image of a deity that I maintain on a separate altar, as in not an altar exclusively for them (for example the Ganesha and Lakshmi that I keep on my prosperity altar), I will anoint it with an appropriate condition oil at least once weekly. This helps keep it specifically attuned to the intent of that altar space; but I still understand that the deity in question in much larger and multifaceted than simply that one particular aspect that I call upon at that altar.

Also, Lucky Mojo does make a fantastic line of Hindu Deity condition products that can be incorporated into that work. I like to use the Lucky Mojo Hindu oils in my puja, and then blend some of the Hindu oils with the appropriate condition oils for my conjure for the actual spell work. So blending my Road Opening with Ganesha oil is pretty standard fare around my conjure studio, as is blending Lakshmi oil with Wealthy Way oil.

As for general devotional work with the Hindu deities, sandalwood incense is always a great choice. Again, theLucky Mojo Hindu incenses are a fantastic choice as well. If you do have an Indian market near you, you can find other incense blends that are made with a specific deity in mind. Generally these are all synthetically fragranced, though, so I don’t use them in my conjure very often. But they can be nice altar offerings.


Yes, always acknowledge Ganesha in some way before moving into petitioning any other deities. He's the gatekeeper, and it's traditional Hindu protocol to honor him first. Trust me, it will make things go easier. If you are at all familiar with African Traditional Religions, then you may recognize this concept of a gatekeeper-type spirit that must be acknowledged before any of spirits. Papa Legba and Ellegua immediately come to mind. Ganesha’s role is very similar, so to ensure that any obstacles are removed from you reaching the other deities, always acknowledge him in some way at the outset of your rituals.

This can be easily accomplished by saying his mantra OM GAM Ganapatayei namaha once while intending that he hear and open the ways for your devotions and work.

It’s a tiny amount of effort to respect that spiritual protocol and reap the benefits of following it.


Ganesha does serve as guardian of the thresholds, and so is often kept by doorways in Hindu practice. Keeping a statue of Ganesha by the front door is something that I first learned from an Indian furnace-repairman that came to our home early last winter (can you guess why he was there – LOL).

I have a very small Ganesha statue that I used to keep by my computer. When we moved into the new house, he got packed away, and when I finally unpacked that box he ended up going onto a shelf with some other small statues that I had in the basement. As the repairman was leaving he saw the Ganesha statue and turned to look at me, re-noticed that I am definitely not Indian, and asked who else lived here. I answered just me and my husband. He looked puzzled and asked why we have a Ganesha statue (he hadn’t walked through any of the rooms where my large altars are, or he would have gotten an eyeful of all kinds of Hindu deities and Christian saints). I said that I’ve honored Ganesha ever since I studied Hinduism in university. He nodded and said, “You should really keep him facing your front door. He will bring blessings and guard the home. But he must face your front door!”.

I thanked him for telling me that as he left. I now keep my large stone Ganesha statue facing my front door on my prosperity altar in my living room – and my blessings have definitely increased!

You don't HAVE to keep Ganesha near your front door, it is just one folk practice associated with him that I have adopted. For most of the time I've been a devotee of him he had altar space in a variety of different places in my home and our relationship was fine. So don't feel obligated to keep him near your door - it is just one way that you may do it.

If you would like to develop a relationship with Ganesha, I would recommend that you start by reading one of the best resources available on the topic, Loving Ganesa, which is available online for free!


I've been asked a couple times in the past week if I use Christian prayer/psalms, etc with the Hindu deities. If I'm petitioning the Hindu deities, I just leave it with them and keep it within the Hindu tradition. I try to keep my spirit-systems separate unless I get specifically guided to blend them. I don't think Ganesha would mind working with other spirits, but Durga and Kali might depending on the circumstances, and I'm sure there some others that might not get on so well with other pantheons, and remember that many Christian spirits are quite against polytheistic traditions and may not play well with others in that regard as well!

That is a generality to keep in mind, not a hard and fast rule. Jesus is often worshipped alongside the Hindu deities on some Indian altars. In my healing studio, St. Michael and Durga share a space on a protection altar. They actually get along fairly well, as both are divine figures who actively fight demons! However your Durga may feel otherwise – so make sure to ask, or at least make adjustments if you feel that two spirits from different cultures aren’t fairing well sharing space.

I do know that some people still pray psalms when working with the Hindu deities, and their work is successful. That is fine – if you wish to try it, go ahead. For me it just feels “off”, and so I do not do that when I work with them. The energy is just too different for me. But if you feel drawn to try it, please feel free to experiment.

If you do like having scripture to read as part of your work, I encourage you to look up the scriptures of the deities you are petitioning. Most of them will have many different texts associated with them that you can find online or at a good library. There are truly stirring pieces of sacred literature and devotional poetry that make excellent additions to ritual work with them.


Speaking of some spirits not getting along with others... there are some inter-Hindu feuds between the deities, and taboos for certain spirits that you may wish to be aware of. Taking time to learn about the deity you wish to work with will also give you a good idea of what they like and what they do not.

One example is that you should never have Lakshmi and Saraswati on the same altar together unless you put someone else there as well to mediate - usually you'll see Ganesh in that role, though sometimes you'll find Durga playing go-between. (This isn't universally practiced, because Hinduism is far too big of a tradition for that. But it is present in some regions, so if you find your Lakshmi and Saraswati not getting along, it's something to be aware of.)

In some traditions, Ganesha and Shiva do not like tulsi, so never use tulsi malas (commonly used in devotion with Krishna and other Vaisnava deities) or tulsi leaves in his devotions; sandalwood or rudraksha are safer bets. Apparently the reason behind this is that tulsi (holy basil) is used to exorcise spirits, and Shiva is the patron god of ghosts and gouls, so he does not appreciate the presence of a botanical that removes his friends. Ganesha according to some myths got into a disagreement with Tulsi who cursed him, and he cursed her in return to eventually be turned into a plant; she repented and he turned her curse into a blessing by saying she would be central in the worship of Vishnu, but she was still never to be present where he was worshipped. Likewise tulsi, in some traditions, is not to be used with Lakshmi because Tulsi was a sometimes rival for Vishnu's (Lakshmi's husband) affections.

Of course NEVER offer meat of any kind to Krishna as he is a very strict vegetarian. Generally don't offer beef or alcohol of any kind to the Hindu deities since those are taboo substances, unless you are petitioning a tantric aspect that accepts such things, or you're working in another blended tradition that has its own methods of offering that's been negotiated with the deities.

So there are just little things like that to be aware of, but mostly if you honor them with sincerity they will help guide your practice. I find Ganesha is actually the most active guide in that respect. I've had some pujaris and priests tell me the same thing.

Finding out the likes and dislikes of the deity you're working with is definitely part of the reason you should do some research into their myths and scriptures and traditional worship. It will only help deepen your relationship with them to take the time to do so. And always listen to the deity! They will speak to you and let you know how best to serve them.


It's not goddesses in general that don't get along, it's specifically Lakshmi and Saraswati. In the Shakta traditions they are considered sisters with Durga as their mother. In those areas Durga is the mother of Laskhmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, and Murugan; and Shiva is a mostly absent father who spends all his time away from home smoking hashish and hanging out the ghosts and ghouls. Durga becomes more like a struggling mother who tries to keep peace among her family in those traditions, which are very folk based and speak to the experience of many poor rural women. Laskhmi and Saraswati have a fierce sibling rivalry, and so simply cannot be in the same space together alone without huge fights breaking out - so to keep the peace there must always be a third between them. Generally you see Ganesha, as he is their brother, and peacekeeper, and mediator of the gods; but sometimes you'll find Durga since she is their mother.


Yes, this happens most commonly in certain areas of Northern India. If that is a topic that you would like to explore more, I think a book you would be very interested in is Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls by June McDaniel. It's about the folk Shakta traditions in Bengal, and they talk a good deal about the various devotees that get chosen by Durga or Manasa Devi, and in many cases become possessed and channel the goddesses at certain times. These men and women are approached from people all over for herbal remedies and cures, spiritual advice for dealing with various issues in their lives.

You'll also find many tree spirits and other nature spirits being honored, as well as trees and rocks that are believed to be manifestations of particular goddesses and so provided with devotions.

Those folk traditions are much more shamanic than mainstream Sanskritic Hinduism, and share a good deal in common with indigenous spirit-working traditions around the globe, including the African ones.

Generally speaking though, this is not a common event even within Hinduism in India. It is a fairly localized phenomenon.


It's neither right nor wrong, really. Durga is a very protective force. I was taught to use OM DUM Durgayei Namaha as a very strong protective mantra to practice if you want to invoke her protection. But Kali and Durga, while being intimately related since one is an aspect of the other, have very different energies and serve very different functions.

As Kali is the fiercest aspect of Durga, you can certainly call on Durga and once you've developed the connection with her ask her to aid you in connecting with Kali in the way that is most appropriate for you at that time. You will see then how different their energies are!

As to the dichotomy of Durga and Kali, a good friend of mine, Kalipadma, explained it thusly (and I find that to be very accurate) - Kali is the negative/entropic force, meaning that she tears things down, destroys, levels, brings chaos...all of this is the doorway for new beginnings. The old has to be destroyed or die, before the new can take its place. Durga is the positive force, meaning that she comes in and re-builds, fortifies, lifts up, brings order...all of this helps make things stronger and better. Kali can be rough, but it is always out of compassion - though admittedly it can be hard to handle sometimes. That's why I always like to invoke Ganesha into any Kali works, because he helps mitigate and smooth over the chaos, making it more bearable.

But there are forms of Kali that are much more gentle. So if you feel called to develop a relationship with Kali but feel intimidated by her nature, start with one of the more soft Motherly manifestations of her -Bhavatarini, for example. This is the manifestation that means "savioress of the world", or "redeemer of the universe". Use an image of her that emphasizes her beauty, as well as Motherly and Compassionate nature, rather than her fierce nature and call on her by her gentle names.

I hope that this information has helped you and inspired those who wish to incorporate devotion to the Hindu deities in their folk magic practice.

If you would like to work some conjure with the Hindu deities, Queen of Pentacles Conjure Shop and Village Witchery does carry a line of 7 different spell-kits that petition them! Including Road Opening, Prosperity, Uncrossing, Courage & Self-Esteem, and Happy Home!

DELUX_Ganesha_VanVan_spellkit1.jpg picture by pranadevi Durga_Courage1.jpg picture by pranadevi