Over the past year I’ve softened a lot on the blending of pagan Yule traditions and Christian/secular Christmas traditions. One of my personal favorite traditions growing up was an advent calendar; probably because I got a present every day. Regardless of my dubious childhood motivations, below are some ideas of how to adapt an advent calendar to a pagan tradition that I call a Yule Countdown Calendar. I hope your family enjoys it. (And yes, I know it’s November, I’m just excited about the upcoming holiday season.)
What’s a Yule Countdown Calendar?
The word “advent” is a play on the Latin word for “coming” because, I guess, Christmas is coming and everyone is excited. This Yule Countdown Calendar works the same way, Yule is coming to let’s get excited about it. Traditionally, an advent calendar has 24-25 days, depending on whether there’s an extra gift on Christmas. The Yule Countdown Calendar should have 19-23 days, depending on a number of factors. If you want a box on the day of Yule, that day will be included, if not, the last box should be the day before. If you celebrate Yule on December 21st, that’s either 21 boxes (day of Yule included), or 20 boxes (last box on Yule eve). If you celebrate Yule as the Winter Solstice, the date will change from year to year, and you can adapt the Yule Countdown Calendar accordingly.
How Does it Work?
Every morning up to and/or including Yule, one item on the Countdown Calendar is opened, but only one a day. On December 1st item #1 is opened, on December 2nd item #2 is opened, and so on. If your calendar stops on Yule Eve, that gift is usually a bit fancier. I suggest making the last day Yule Eve since the gifts will steal the show on Yule. However, if the Yule Countdown Calendar is the whole gift, then Yule day should be included, and it should be the ‘big’ gift. If you have multiple witchlings, you know they count gifts and compare; giving everyone a Yule Countdown Calendar shuts down the fairness-based whining pretty effectively. Continue reading →
Some of my favorite witchy tips and tricks come from old world grandparents, who seemed to live more magickal lives filled with garden tending and home cooking. This is my grandma’s super simple recipe for ear medicine. I have no idea where she got it from, for all I know it was a 1950s homemaker’s book, but we’ve used it our whole lives, and you know what? I’ve never had an ear infection. Not one, ever, in my whole life. Plus, this recipe makes years and year’s worth of ear medicine for about $5.
As kids we would use this formula when we got out of the pool to prevent swimmer’s ear. To this day, if I start getting a twinge in one of my ears, I use a few drops (once or twice a day, depending on the severity of the earache) and within a few days it’s all better. I think I have to say that this old school formula isn’t a substitute for medical advice, so this is not a substitute for medical advice.
– Brown glass bottle with dropper
– Rubbing alcohol
– White vinegar
Llewellyn’s Witch’s Tools series contains six small books, one for each of the major tools in witchcraft (athame, book of shadows, broom, cauldron, mirror, and wand) though I hope more are forthcoming. The author varies by the book with no author having more than two books in the series at the moment, similar to the Sabbat Essentials series. The Witch’s Broom: The Craft, Lore and Magick of Broomsticks is first book in the series and was written by Deborah Blake. While I enjoyed this book more than The Witch’s Book of Shadows, I didn’t think it was nearly as good as The Witch’s Cauldron. This is the third book I’ve read in the series; three down, three to go! Something interesting that I just noticed is that the praise for the book including on the inside cover is all from Llewellyn authors, seems like they would have a lot of motivation to provide positive reviews, and smacks of quid pro quo.
The book has also had its cover changed as the series is being revamped, I am happy to have a first edition (third printing) copy, so I have the original cover (above). The current cover can be seen below. The books in this series are presented as a guide to the major tools in witchcraft, including uses, history, folklore, notable references in myth, a craft section, and various spells. The Witch’s Broom is broken into nine sections to cover these topics, with guest blurbs and “broom lore” interspersed throughout. In the other two books in the series that I’ve read, I noted that the guest author sections were somewhat disruptive because the author wasn’t credited until the end of their article. Happily, in this book, the author is credited at the beginning of their section, which I found much easier to read. The chapters are number on the index, but not on the chapter pages, so if I mislabel any, forgive me now.
A witchling will be among us soon, and so I was honored when I was asked to contribute to the protection and blessing of the baby’s room. This blessing jar is based, in part, of the House Blessing Potpourri recipe found in Halloween by Silver Ravenwolf. I’ve obviously made a lot of adjustments, but that article is what sparked my idea, and credit should be given when due.
This list below has a decent number of items on it, but you can either pick and choose, or see the second set of directions for a simple blessing jar ingredient list. This is because the jar really doesn’t need to be elaborate, but I love to go all out with baby stuff, and I have a lot of herbs and crystals on hand. Many of the herbs and crystals have overlapping properties to them, and this is because the jar is specifically to bless and protect a baby’s space.
These directions can also be adapted for a child, an adult, or a household. This jar would make a lovely gift for expecting parents, even if they aren’t pagan or witches.
There was a time in my life when there was a lot going wrong; not anything that was significant on its own, but lots of little things that added up to a bigger picture. The ‘run of bad luck’ that magickal folks are always a little suspicious of, shall we say. I worked on protecting my home multiple ways, which worked very well, but I also needed to work on myself.
While I believe there is absolutely a time and place for healthy negativity, I found myself thinking negative thoughts almost constantly, dwelling on things long after they were resolved, and finding a lot of negative things being attracted to my life. Along with a serious energy cleaning and protection work on my home, I started using this daily sage spell, and it worked wonders. Eventually the odd ‘coincidences’ went away, and the run of ‘bad luck’ ended. I hope that you will find it helpful as well!
Simple Sage Spell for Eliminating Everyday Negativity
If you’re looking for a Yule craft to do this year with your coven, magickal family, or solo, I present to you: filled intention ornaments. This is the very craft that my coven is creating for Yule 2017, and I’m very excited to share it with you.
Traditionally, an evergreen tree was brought inside the house as an act of sympathetic magick, protecting the forest throughout the harsh winter months. The tree was decorated with candles to represent the returning light, which is where the tradition of twinkle lights comes from. The round ornaments we are all familiar with represent the sun, as well, making this craft perfect for Yule. These ornaments can be made any time during the Yuletide season and can be done solo, with witchlings, or with a coven.
Below you will find a supply list, directions, and a list of correspondences that you can print for you or your group. Items can be mixed, matched, or left out as you please. The directions below make ten ornaments. The cost of each ornament is about $7 if you have to buy all the supplies, but you will probably have a lot of the supplies already on hand. My personal shopping list is in the Notes section. If you have a small coven like we do, this craft makes beautiful, personalized gifts for your friends and family.
Now that we’re in the dark half of the year, ’tis the season for self-care.
I was very intrigued when the concept of ‘self-care’ came to my attention; I teach all day, which I enjoy, but being around people left me feeling drained (classic introvert). At first I thought that self-care meant laying in bed or hiding in the dark for an entire day, so I did just that, but it didn’t help me feel recharged.
In reality, self-care is more empowering than giving in to your impulse to never move. Self-care means that you need to make yourself a priority and push yourself to take care of yourself. The guiding principle of self-care is, in other words, to do something that fills you back up rather than something that drains you. Below is my list of witchy self-care activities, some of which can be done at a moment’s notice, and others that need minimal magickal preparation.
1. Active Meditation – This is doing something that puts you ‘in the zone’ versus traditional, passive meditation (see #13 below). Active meditation can be anything from art projects to walking the dog, but if you lose yourself in it, then it’s active meditation. Active meditation means that you are lost in the moment, that you don’t feel time passing, and doing the activity that enables it can feel very rewarding.
2. Aromatherapy – I don’t know many witches who don’t have at least a few candles around, and filling your space with fragrance can really lighten a mood. I like seasonal smells since the weather doesn’t change much around here, but you can use any scents that help you feel positive emotions. For a magickal boost, use incense that has been charged or has a specific benefit (ie: lavender to calm). Carve sigils into the candles or write affirmations on them to focus their energy release as they burn.
This guide covers a witchcraft basic: how to cleanse the energy in a space. I created this because a lot of witchcraft writers, myself included, will say “cleanse your space” as though everyone knows exactly what that means. The truth of the matter is that, when you’re a new witch, you have no idea what that looks like! Intermediate and advanced witches will likely not find this guide helpful, but there are a lot of witches who are just starting out who I hope will benefit.
This is my own advice based on my own experiences and practice of witchcraft. There are three basic types of cleansing magick that I cover here: smoke, smokeless, and tool cleansing. I recommend cleansing the home or living space once every lunar cycle on the Full Moon. Cleansing can also be used after a negative energy event, like a fight or illness, or just when you feel that the energy could use a scrub.
Smoke cleansing is typically referred to as ‘smudging’, though that term has fallen out of favor as it references a specific Native American ritual. That’s a whole debate, however, with some saying that anyone is welcome to smudge who respects to practice, and others saying no do not call it smudging ever. I like to err on the side of caution and call it ‘smoke cleansing’ to be respectful.
Cascarilla (kas-kuh-ree-uh) is powered eggshell that can be used in a wide variety of spells and charms. It is especially useful cleansing and protection magick; however, don’t confuse it with the plant of the same name. This wonderfully useful substance is easy to make and use. In fact, it’s so easy to make at home that I don’t see any point in buying it from someone else, though plenty of places sell it. Chicken egg cascarilla is the most common, by far, but theoretically any egg could be used.
Cascarilla is made from eggshells, so it’s not vegan, but with a little effort you can easily make sure it’s cruelty free. Another reason that I simply will not buy cascarilla is that there’s no way to know how the eggs were obtained and how the chickens that created those eggs were treated. If a chicken is tormented in a factory farm, how could that misery not infuse its egg? What energy does that then transfer to your space or magickal workings?
How to Make Cascarilla Powder
Airtight bottle or container
Mortar and pestle
Begin by removing the membrane from the egg shells. Place the eggshells into a mortar and grind with the pestle using circular motions in a sunwise (clockwise) direction. Continue to grind until the egg shells are the desired texture. Store in airtight bottle or container.
Kitchen witchery is the art of infusing home life with magick. Generally speaking, kitchen witches concern themselves with their families’ lives and use magick to make the home more harmonious and prosperous.
This simple coffee spell can be done daily. I use this spell almost every day and it works wonders. It can also adjusted for tea if you’re British and make black tea every day like my gran did.
Coffee (or tea)
Milk (cow or plant)
Pour the coffee or tea into the cup and say, “Coffee for energy.” Then add the sugar and say, “Sugar to make the day sweet.” Finally add the milk and say, “Milk for productivity.” Stir the coffee 9 times sunwise (clockwise) and say, “By the power of three times three, as I will so mote it be!” Drink the coffee and have a productive day. Note: You can also think the words instead of saying them, it works just as well.