Wednesday, September 29, 2010

St. Michael's Feast Day

September 29th is the traditional date for St. Michael the Archangel's feast day on the Catholic calender - and I wanted to honor him by singing some praises here on my blog, and share some easy but powerful practices you can undertake at home.

St. Michael is my constant guard and guide and has been for several years now. He is best known for his role as protector and defender of the innocent and of the Church. While perhaps best known in the West as a figure from Christianity, he has very ancient roots in Judaism, and a presence in Islam as well. (Occasionally you will see it speculated that he may even pre-date the Abrahamic faiths and had been recognized by some of the other Near East religions in another form, though historical evidence of that is slim-to-none. Though, I have no doubt he existed prior to his official recognition by the Hebrews.) Despite being linked strongly with the Catholic Church, being an angel, Michael does not just limit his aid to those who profess the "correct" faith - he will come to the aid of any who sincerely call upon him. And his aid is powerful!

St. Michael is believed to be the Commander-in-Chief of God's army - the ultimate warrior. His role as defender and protector revolves around his throwing back and defeating negative spiritual entities that cause trouble. He can likewise take care against human enemies, and is the patron of those serving in the military, police, fireman, and all others who put their lives on the line to aid others. His presence is always serious and business-like. In my spirit-interactions I often find spirits to have a strong sense of humor, whether it be gentle or downright acerbic; but I've never encountered levity in Michael in all my years of calling upon him. That's not to say that he is in anyway mean or unpleasant! He is extremely compassionate and wise, and can be a great comfort when you are in fear or danger. But he is all business, all the time.

In conjure, St. Michael is often called upon for strong protection against enemies or other dangers that may lurk. The condition formula Fiery Wall of Protection is strongly linked with the energies of St. Michael, and invoke the aggressive defense provided by Archangel Michael's fiery sword. Fiery Wall of Protection is not only a powerful protective oil, but it has an offensive edge - burning those who would try to move against the one invoking it's aid. It is recommended that one directly petition St. Michael when utilizing Fiery Wall of Protection products, and praying the traditional Prayer of St. Michael is one way to do this.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

It's a short, simple, and potent prayer which can be followed by speaking your own needs to set St. Michael on your specific case. Just saying the prayer with strength and faith can sometimes be enough to clear an area of lower-level spiritual entities which may be causing problems (though you want to back that up with other spiritual action in most cases). I say this prayer several times each day - in the morning, the afternoon, and before bed. If I am working with St. Michael I will begin by saying this prayer, and then moving into my own prayers from the heart. When doing protection work I will usually repeat this prayer several times during the work, really whipping up a righteous fury. The words are strong and powerful and lend themselves well to stepping into your own power, and bringing Archangelic back-up to your case.

* Take a cleansing bath using 13-Herb Bath or Uncrossing bath salts to cleanse yourself as well. Wash your home with Chinese Wash, or another cleansing floorwash, and fumigate thoroughly with sage or and Uncrossing incense. As you finish each room, leave a white candle that you have prayed over burning in each room (tealights work well for this as they are self-contained).

* When the cleansing is complete take some Fiery Wall of Protection oil and begin praying the Prayer of St. Michael. Work yourself up using it until you feel powerful and the presence of St. Michael and his warrior angels. Seal each window, door, electrical outlet, cable input, and every other opening into the house with a 5-spot (the 4 corners and the center) of the Fiery Wall of Protection oil.

* If you feel the need for very strong protection, mix some Fiery Wall of Protection sachet powder with some salt, and put a line of this around the outside of your entire home &/or property line. Pray fervently as you lay this.

* Burn some Fiery Wall of Protection incense, letting it fill your home. Each day burn some more to keep the effect strongly in effect. Pray strongly as you light this.

* Dress a red vigil candle with Fiery Wall of Protection oil, praying the Prayer of St. Michael and for your specific needs over it as you do. Set it working in the central room of your home.

*Take two St. Michael holy cards that you have smoked in some Fiery Wall of Protection incense and anointed with Fiery Wall of Protection oil. Cut a small lock of hair from each person that is in need of protection, and place them in-between the two holy cards. Set this underneath the dressed Fiery Wall of Protection candle, and keep a candle burning continuously on top of this as long as the strong protection is required.

While most people know St. Michael as a warrior and protector, he also can perform many other very useful spiritual functions - and he brings he same strength and professionalism to each of these tasks. His name literally translates to mean "Who is like God" - implying that Archangel Michael has miraculous capabilities that reach far and wide in parallel with the Creator. He is not limited to the one role for which he is most famous, but can bring great power and aid to nearly any situation that he is petitioned for.

For example, St. Michael is a powerful ally to bring to healing work! In the alternative and spiritual healing communities he is often called upon for cutting cords that bind us to past events, people, or in other ways hold us in spiritual bondage. Healers invoke the presence of both St. Michael and St. Raphael (the Universal Physician) into sessions, as they pair extremely well together in these contexts. St. Michael defends the sacred healing space, and can cut away those energies and cords which are no longer needed, as well as purify through fire - in this way he plays the "negative" force needed in healing. St. Raphael plays the "positive" role in healing, rebuilding what is broken or cleared away through St. Michael's interventions, refreshing the exhausted, and rejuvenating the body-mind-spirit.

These healing abilities of St. Michael hint at his Mercurial qualities, which then brings us to another realm which he is extremely helpful in: communication.

If you've been involved with, or done any amount of research into spirit communications, you likely ran into the technique of using a spirit that one has built a strong-relationship with as a facilitator of further spirit communication. The spirit helper, already being on the non-physical spiritual plane of existence, is believed to be able to locate other spirits, bring them to the practitioner, and facilitate communication between the two - even acting as a protective force if the summoned spirit turns on the practitioner or is otherwise difficult.

St. Michael can absolutely fulfill this function, and he aids me in this way on a regular basis. I stumbled upon his ability to facilitate spirit contact when I wished to speak to a Saint that I had not ever contacted before. I figured that St. Michael would easily be able to locate a fellow saint, and asked if he could please help make the connection. It happened almost immediately! I felt his presence blink away and the reappear again just a second later, this time with a second presence with him - St. Dymphna! I was very grateful and had a powerful interaction with her thanks to St. Michael. In mentioning this to another practitioner friend of mine, he pointed out that St. Michael has strong Mercurial energies, and it made perfect sense to use him as a spirit-contact facilitator. Since then I have asked for his aid whenever I am establishing contact with a spirit, especially the first time I am making that connection, and have found that it has not only streamlined the process, but has also greatly deepened my skill in spirit work.

St. Michael is an extremely powerful ally to have on your side - whether or not you are a regular spiritual practitioner. He's also one of the easiest spirits to make contact with; just a little persistent prayer and effort and he will be there to aid you. I am so thankful for his presence in my life, and I speak to him each night expressing my gratitude and asking for his continuing aid. I hope that you've learned a small amount from reading this, and it has inspired you to develop a relationship with Archangel Michael. I pray that he stands by your side on this his Feast Day, defending you and guiding you, today and ever more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ganesh Chaturthi !!

Namaste everyone on this blessed first day of Ganesh Chaturthi - the 10-day festival celebrating Lord Ganesha's birthday.

Those of you who read this blog regularly already know that a very large portion of my personal spiritual path comes from Hinduism, and that the elephant-headed Lord Ganapati and I share a close relationship. He is an extremely wonderful Divine spirit to have a strong connection to, as he serves the roll as Remover of Obstacles and Opener of the Ways. He has the power to clear one's path to any goal, and so is closely linked to spiritual works aimed at increasing one's success, and gaining good luck and good fortune. He is also a wonderful spiritual guide who will help you find whatever you need to get to the next stage of your spiritual development - even if it is something outside of the Hindu tradition.

One of his duties in Hinduism is to aid the seeker in connecting with the other Deities, and so he is always acknowledged at the beginning of any ritual because without his assistance one cannot gain the favor and help from other Hindu gods and goddesses. He is also the Lord of Karma and can aid one working through issues that are rooted in past lives.

However, even with all these important duties and titles, Ganesha is a very joyful and compassionate Divinity who is a great deal of fun to have around! He has a very playful spirit, and many people experience a light-hearted trickster aspect in his personality through their interactions. He is very beneficient and easy to please, and he enjoys any earnest attempts to make a connection with him and will quickly bestow blessings upon those who make the effort.

In conjure and rootwork, those who do honor Ganesha generally go to him for Road Opening work - which directly corresponds to his role as Lord of Obstacles. He is also approached for aid in financial increase, success, and good fortune, but he really is an extremely powerful ally in nearly any type of work that you can imagine. He can bring about swift healing, and guide you to a new suitable romantic partner. Because of his duty to make the connection between the devotee and other deities, he makes a fantastic deity to petition alongside another to help keep the road open to the manifestation of their powers in your life. For example, Ganesha is very commonly petitioned alongside Lakshmi for financial prosperity. But he makes a fantastic spiritual partner with Saraswati for academic and artistic success as well! In reality, there is nothing that Ganesha cannot help you with, and there is a sect that worships him exclusively and sees him as the Ultimate Godhead.

Ganesha Chaturthi is the 10-day birthday celebration for Ganesh, and those wishing to develop and maintain a strong relationship with him generally recognize the festival in whatever capacity that makes sense for them and their resources.

Traditionally, Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated with great pomp and circumstance. In the weeks leading up to the festival, clay statues are created of Ganesha which temples, community stores, and householders purchase and enthusiastically decorate. (The statues are all immersed in to the waters of a sacred river on the 11th day, and so are not fired or sealed in any way so that they remain dissolvable.) These statues become the central focus of the festival, receiving worship and offerings each day of Ganesh Chaturthi, and generally being celebrated with much gusto. Towns and villages will have contests for the best decorated Ganesha statue, and parades and parties will be held with lots of music and dancing. Ganesha's presence is considered to be very close and palpable during the event, and reveling in his close energy is spiritually rejuvenating! At the end of the festival, all the statues are ritually walked down to a river and immersed, signaling the end of the festival and dispersal of Lord Ganesha's influence back into the cosmos as a whole.

For a really adorable depiction of what one devotee imagines goes on at the bottom of the river as those Ganesha murtis are immersed, view this fantastic and fun video:

While there are all kinds of traditional expectations as far as what offerings are offered on what day of the festival, those outside of the Hindu tradition can feel secure in offering what they are able for Ganesha Chaturthi. He is particularly fond of coconuts and sweets, so those will always go over well with him. Here at my home I have a modest Ganesha altar that is part of my larger household prosperity altar, and so I move things around to make him the center feature. Since my marigolds are blooming, and they are one of the flowers that are often used to craft ceremonial garlands that decorate honored deities and spiritual leaders, I strung some of the best blossoms together and hung them around his statue. I will keep a light burning in his honor for the entire 10 days, and so decorated the glass of a vigil candle with the AUM symbol (which Ganesha is considered to be an embodiment of) in some bright colors. I burn sandalwood incense several times daily, offering them with prayers each time, and I spend some time chanting his mantra with no other intent than to honor him and feel his presence. Each day I also make an offering of water, and some form of food offering. Today it is a coconut, the following days it will be fruit and sweets. I make a point to play bhajans and other devotional music that is dedicated to Ganesha all day throughout my home (gotta love the iPod playlist feature for this).

GaneshChaturthi.jpg picture by pranadevi

It's not much. It doesn't look as bright and as fancy as I know he deserves, but it is the best that I can do without having a more traditional shrine space dedicated exclusively to him. It is definitely something that is on my spiritual wish-list, and has been for years. I know that when the time is right, the means to make it happen will present itself and so I remain patient and show my devotion in the best way I can. And you can honor him, too!

At Hinduism.About.Com we find these simple suggestions for observing Ganesha Chaturthi at home:

On the Ganesh Chaturthi day, meditate on the stories connected with Lord Ganesha early in the morning, during the Brahmamuhurta period. Then, after taking a bath, go to the temple and do the prayers of Lord Ganesha. Offer Him some coconut and sweet pudding. Pray with faith and devotion that He may remove all the obstacles that you experience on the spiritual path.

Worship Him at home, too. You can get the assistance of a pundit. Have an image of Lord Ganesha in your house. Feel His Presence in it.

Don’t forget not to look at the moon on that day; remember that it behaved unbecomingly towards the Lord. This really means avoid the company of all those who have no faith in God, and who deride God, your Guru and religion, from this very day.

Take fresh spiritual resolves and pray to Lord Ganesha for inner spiritual strength to attain success in all your undertakings.

May the blessings of Sri Ganesha be upon you all! May He remove all the obstacles that stand in your spiritual path! May He bestow on you all material prosperity as well as liberation!

If you wish to learn more about Ganesha, his mythology, his worship, and his mantras that you can use for meditation and devotion, one of the best resources, Loving Ganesa, can be found online for free at the Himalayan Academy. If you'd like to read it in its entirety you can here:

Lord Ganesha has been an invaluable guide and friend for nearly a decade now. I can't imagine my spiritual life without him and I am extremely grateful to have his presence near me each day. I look forward to Ganesh Chaturthi each year, and the fact that my own birthday falls very near to it makes it all the more special.

Here's a short video showing Ganesh Chaturthi festivities in India. Enjoy!
(Also, my apologies for the ad before the video, I couldn't find a good one that didn't have this.)