Friday, December 30, 2011

Kapet (Kyphi)

My last post got me thinking a bit on the old blog I had here a few years back. I remembered this recipe for kapet which I used in many of my rituals when honoring the Egyptian Deities. Thought it would be worth sharing again...

Kapet, also known by the Greek kyphi, is a type of incense that was popular in ancient Egypt. Quite a few recipes and methods of creation have come down to us, although many are incomplete as we do not know the correct translation for each ingredient. Kapet was burned as an incense, but it was not much like the incense we know today, as it was often more like a thick liquid. Some forms of kapet were also used as an internal medicine, or sometimes as a salve.

There are many modern ways to make Kapet, and after experimenting with a few old and new methods, this is the recipe I prefer to use.

(Day One) Pour 1 bottle of red wine into a large glass jar with tight lid. To that add 250g chopped raisins and two cinnamon sticks.
(Day Four) Add 50g chopped lemon grass.
(Day Six) Add 100g of roughly powdered myrrh.
(Day Eight) Add 4 tbsp tincture of juniper berry and 2tbsp of almond extract. Alternatively, juniper berries and crushed almonds - but add the almonds on day four if not using an extract. They will not have as strong of a scent.

(Day Fourteen) Strain the mixture, keeping the scented wine. Boil 300g honey and 60g frankincense until it becomes thick. (I keep an old separate pot for this, frankincense can be very sticky stuff when heated, and hard to fully clean off.) Then add the wine to the pot and heat until the mixture is slightly thickened and comes together. Pour back into a clean glass jar.

This kapet is very thick and sticky. To create an incense for burning over charcoal, put some of the kapet into a small bowl, and add enough benzoin powder (or equal parts benzoin and cinnamon) to make a sticky dough. Roll out small balls, and let them dry in a cool, dark area. When they're dry they can be crushed and burned on incense charcoal.

The scent is deep, spiced, and earthy - but also sweet and fruity. It does smoke a bit, but not horribly so. I sometimes play with this base recipe a bit, and it's pretty easy to experiment with a few different mixes. Rather than putting the whole bottle of wine into one jar, use a few jars and divide the other ingredients among each jar equally. To the different jars you can play with other herbs and spices, such as mint, anise, cardamon, rose or cedar. Hathor is particularly fond of the addition of anise, cardamon, and lots of rose (and slightly more heavy on the cinnamon and myrrh).

Looking back on 2011.

This year was one of big changes, spiritually speaking. I...

-Formed relationships with Deities outside the Egyptian pantheon, for the first time in all my years as a pagan. I'm still reeling from this one a bit. Okay, a lot. There have been many changes to my path over the years, big and small, but the Deities were always that one constant. So for that to change, well... I knew it was coming, but it still seemed unexpected at the same time.

- Continued moving away from gender binary beliefs and practices, a process that started last year. (There wasn't much left, perhaps because there was not as much emphasis on the masculine/feminine in Kemetic reconstruction...) I'm still sorting out where I'm going with this... if anywhere. Right now I'm content to focus on other pairs (or triads) beyond gender. This has also lead to exploring Sacred Marriage in ways that are more meaningful to me.

- Continued with a deeper study of the 4 element system, while also exploring systems of 3, 5 and 8. While interesting work, nothing huge to write about.

- Retired my two oldest tools (the knife and cup), brought in new ones, which lead to understanding new symbolism and ritual uses for them. On that note, some old tools came back to the surface - some new tools came in as well. Finding that nice balance of ritual aid without being weighed down with too much stuff.

- Continued to delve deeper into the roots of traditional witchcraft. Found new little pieces that connect with bits I already had to form that bigger picture.

- Studied the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Put names to existing concepts I had, connected other concepts to each other, found a lot that resonated with my personal practice. Saw how so many different cultures are connected to this one ancestor group. Truly fascinating stuff.

- Learned a few new plants, was unable to find names for other plants. Did not do nearly as much plant work as I would have liked, but still managed to do a fair bit.

- Made an official parting with an old organization I belonged to in the past. Drifted away from a few communities without really meaning to. Joined new communities. Made some new friends. Cleaned up this blog, archived the old posts into a personal journal, gave it a fresh start for a year with many changes.

Overall, a lot of little elements of my practice and study fell to the side. Not surprising, since I had to spend a lot of time establishing new relationships, while maintaining and strengthening bonds with the spirits and the ancestors. It was also the first year in the new apartment, so there was a lot of exploring and getting to know the local area right around me.

2011 was, overall, a good year. It was challenging, sometimes confusing, sometimes frustrating, or downright terrifying - but those are all reasons why it was good, too... although maybe I didn't think so at the time. I'm looking forward to 2012, seeing what it will bring, what I'll bring into it. Working on 'smoothing out' the bumps of 2011, and seeing it all come together, and building on that.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sixth Night Festival

Tonight is the sixth night of the new lunar cycle, not the first night seeing that sliver of a crescent, but still newly forming. This is one of the nights in a month where I hold a special festival for Artemis. I hold it on this night because Artemis is associated with the number six, as well as with the waxing crescent that resembles Her bow.

I began the night by making the ritual cakes. Equal parts flour and ground almonds (it should be walnuts, but almond is what was on hand tonight) - 1/4 cup of each is enough for my purposes, six small ritual cakes. Next there's a bit of butter and honey, about a tablespoon of each. A pinch of salt, a few drops of good olive oil. Enough wine (well this month it's mead) to form a stiff dough, again usually about a tablespoon. It's probably obvious that this is not a strict recipe. Some months I include fruit, maybe fig or apricot. Or perhaps something locally growing that I've picked earlier in the day. Some months there may be some egg - yolk into the cakes, and brushed with the whites before baking. The dough is shaped into little crescent cakes, baked until the bottoms are lightly browned. Tonight the drink was that same mead used in the cakes. Locally produced, it's flavored with black cherry, blueberry, and red currant. Very nice on a cold night.

Next I gathered the supplies - the cup and plate, the knife, some incense and a lighter, my choker that I wear when doing Her rituals. I walked to the place where I knew I'd be able to see the crescent as it sank lower to the horizon. If this were a summer month the sun would still have been up for the ritual, birds and bugs would have been singing... but it's winter, so it was dark, and very quiet. This is not like a full moon ritual, the crescent shines some light down, but even away from city lights it's still quite dark. It was cold out, 25F, but I didn't feel cold...

I sat on the ground and gave my eyes a few minutes to adjust a bit, gave my mind some time to adjust. There's no lengthy set up. No need to purify the space, no need to do anything to it. It's good as it is. I simply lit the incense, and invited Artemis and Her spirits to join me if they would. I used the knife to bless the meal, I ate and drank some myself, but I shared more, and then I just sat and listened. When the time came, I thanked those who attended. I left more offerings at the edge of the woods.

It's very simple, but not everything has to be complicated, complex, highly-scripted, using many tools or props, or whatever else. Such things have their purpose and place, but I find myself leaning more and more to the simple these days...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nature Spirits

The ancient Greeks had many names for the various types of nature spirits. Nymphs were female spirits of natural formations or specific locations - Dryads were one type of Nymph, the spirits of oak trees. The Meliae were the spirits of the ash trees. Naiads ruled over streams, books, and fountains. Oceans, flowers, clouds, meadows, groves, and mountains all also had their spirits or guardians. These spirits were given various names, and were thought of and treated in many different ways by different cultures.

Whatever you want to call Them, however you wish to divide Them, They are all around. Often they neutral to humans, but some do seem to enjoy the company of humans, and others can be hostile. If you've ever read old folk tales of Fae, such as some coming from Ireland, you know they were often thought of as dangerous, and were treated with respect.

These spirits are not human, they have their own obligations, needs, and desires. They are not all the same, the spirits of the yard and those that live closer to humans can feel different than the spirits of the deep wilds - and even the spirits from one yard to another may not be the same in every way. If you wish to do spirit work, you must take the time to get to know the spirits of each area around you, rather than assuming they will all act the same, and request the same things from you - or even want anything to do with you at all.

If one wishes to know and work with the spirits, it's best to begin with a cautious and respectful approach. Seeing what traditional offerings were given in your area can be a good place to start. In the New Hampshire area that included tobacco, small stone or clay figures, beads, found feathers, and other such objects. Offerings of milk and honey, sweet grains, and wine are also commonly suggested - and while they are more European in nature, they seem to be welcomed here as well. Experiment. Leave the offerings, and spend some time outside. Take the time to listen, to really listen to these spirits that have been ignored for so long. Sometimes it can take weeks, or longer, to really begin to form a bond.

Offerings should be left whenever one takes something from the land. If you take, you give back. (Offerings aside, one should always make sure they have permission to take first.) When you leave offerings, be sure you don't leave anything that will be harmful to the local wildlife. Really think about what foods and material offerings you are leaving behind, and if they could cause harm to animals or the environment. It's often said it's the thought that counts, so actually put some thought into it.

Winter Wednesday

(Yeah, didn't think I'd be giving this up, did you?)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Setting Goals

We're coming up on a popular time of year for setting goals... and also for forgetting goals. So lets talk a bit about creating and achieving goals.

When you start considering your goals, it's important to think about your reasons. Why do you want to accomplish X? Be honest with yourself here. Knowing why you want to do something can provide motivation, and help you filter goals a bit.

Be specific with your goals. Vague goals are difficult to follow through on, so get detailed on what you want to accomplish. Then, work out details on how you will accomplish your goals. Challenging yourself is good, but try to keep it realistic - don't set yourself up for failure. For example, say one wishes to form a closer relationship with a particular Deity. An hour long elaborate daily ritual may be okay for some, but others just might not have the time because of other obligations. A shorter daily ritual, with perhaps a longer ritual once a week (or month) may be more fitting. Know your limitations.

Create an outline for accomplishing your goal, and include points where you can check in and note your progress. Don't be afraid to tweak goals along the way. After working on a goal for a while you'll have a better understanding of what's working and what isn't. You may find that a particular goal is impractical, or perhaps not challenging enough, and needs to be modified a bit.

It's often helpful to write down your goals, and your outlines for achieving them, and keep them in sight. The saying "out of sight, out of mind" can be very true. Even things we really want to do can be pushed out of our minds in the day to day grind, keeping your goals in sight can help to prevent that.

Don't fear failure. If you do not achieve a goal, take the opportunity to understand what went wrong, and learn from your mistake. Take that knowledge and apply it to form a modified goal, or for use in creating new goals.

Above all else, while the new year may be a nice time for a fresh start - every day, every moment, is a new beginning.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Hedge

The word hedgewitch can conjure up many images in those unfamiliar with the path. Some hear the term and think of green witches, and while we may have a good bit in common, the two terms are not truly interchangeable. To hedgewitches, the hedge is a powerful symbol, and while it can mean somewhat different things to different individuals, there's one theme that's common to most... the hedge as a boundary.

The boundary symbolism plays a dual role. The first is perhaps the more obvious - a hedge is literally a boundary, usually formed of shrubs or small trees, but sometimes of stone. A hedge separates the yard (or the village) and what lies beyond. The domestic and the wild. What is 'ours' and what is not. The second boundary is along similar lines, the boundary between the seen and unseen worlds. Some Wiccans and other pagans call this boundary the veil.

A hedgewitch works with both levels of symbolism. They cross the hedge into the wilds of the seen world, knowing the land and working with it. They cross the hedge into the unseen world to seek knowledge and learn from, and work with the spirits there. However, it's not just about crossing the boundary, going between here and there, but also working and living along it, finding a personal balance. Never only on one side or the other, but with a foot in both. Just as it is a mistake to view the wild lands as totally separate from a domesticated area (they are both part of the same Earth, after all), it is a mistake to view the seen as totally separate from the unseen. What is done in one will affect the other. The seen and unseen are parts of the whole, and must be balanced as such - a balance which is unique to each individual.  

Beyond being a boundary, the hedge can be a habitat and shelter for wildlife, a place to forage plants and herbs, a place where one can work with the spirits and energies of the boundary. Plant hedges are also not the only hedges, as I mentioned earlier sometimes they are made from stone (rock walls are a common sight in New England), sometimes they are natural, sometimes they are built by humans. There are many different types of hedges, and it can be interesting to consider the subtle differences in symbolism between each.

Pascal's Wager

This might seem like a strange post coming after yesterday, but as I said I don't see any issue with bringing up the issues with a particular teaching or idea.

Yesterday I walked in on a conversation my grandfather and his brother were having. I'm not sure how it started, but within the first few words I knew where my grandfather was going, and why it was wrong. He was bringing up Pascal's Wager.

Pascal's Wager basically says that either God exists, or God does not exist. So it is better to live life as if God exists, since if it turns out there is no God you lose nothing - where an atheist, if they were wrong and there is a God, would lose everything.

Now, anyone who understands that there's more than one religion can see the most obvious flaw here - Pascal's Wager puts forth only two options, but there there are numerous Gods and religions one could choose from. How do you know you'll get the right one? It also assumes that if a God exists, they will punish atheists for not having faith, which is not a teaching of all religions.

If we narrow it down to the options where non-believers will be punished (since if there is a God who doesn't care, taking such a view would mean you still "lose nothing"), we're still left with several options. There's no guarantee that you will choose the right one.  A Christian who lived their life believing in God should be "safe" according to Pascal - but if that Christian dies, and it turns out maybe Islam was true? Well, things aren't looking so good for them, after all. (I find that when using that particular example, even in reverse, many are more likely to want to jump on the bash Islam wagon, rather than sticking to the issue. Don't be derailed!)

Now this particular criticism was addressed by Pascal, well, somewhat. Pascal basically calls this argument a "trap" that he won't fall into. That anyone actually interested in knowing the truth would study, and come to his same conclusion that all "pagan" religions (that is, all religions aside from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) come down to superstition and ignorance, and aren't actually worth looking at in any detail. He basically comes to the same conclusion about Islam. Yet, the only reason anyone "rejects" Christianity is because they haven't looked at it in detail. Pretty easy to see why this is a flawed, and indeed hypocritical argument.

This is not the only flaw with the wager, though. It also assumes that an all knowing God isn't going to care that you were essentially going through the motions just to be rewarded, as it's quite hard to force true faith. Of course, many Christians don't actually seem to understand why this is an issue. (Matthew 7:21, anyone? Some scholars see this verse as applying to false faith, among other actions.) Others say faking faith leads to real faith, and that if it doesn't you just "weren't trying hard enough." It's quite hard to explain to such people why that is a flawed view. Of course, this eventually gets more into the issues with a God who would create an eternal hell, worshiping to avoid Hell, and so on. Perhaps that would be better left to another post, for another day, though.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


First of all, a merry Christmas to those celebrating today, however you may be celebrating.

There's an unfortunate trend within paganism to view Christianity, as a whole, as the source of every evil ever done or thought. Even going as far as to make up lies such as saying there were no evil spirits in any religion before Christianity, which is just not true. Or thinking that Christianity could never actually be spiritually fulfilling for any person, that every Christian is just some blind follower with shallow faith. Many of these pagans are the same ones who'll cry out for tolerance and acceptance of paganism. The same ones who'll get mad when Christians spread stereotypes or lies about paganism. The same ones that will brag about how open minded and accepting they are. The same ones who'll happily call all Christians hypocrites...

Look, I'll be the first to admit that Christians have done some horrible things "in the name of religion." (Which, if you actually study the history? Many of these things were only done using religion as an excuse or cover, rather than a true religious motivation.) I'll also be the first to admit that there are things which Christianity teaches that I just can not agree with. Of course, Christianity is not alone in either camp. However, discussions and debate about particular acts or teachings is not the issue. The issue comes with making downright hateful statements about all Christians, or ignorant sweeping statements about Christianity as a whole. Does this sort of thing do anyone any good?

I fully understand that some people may be carrying around some serious baggage from their pasts. It can be hard to work through, but it needs to be recognized and done at some point for one to really be able to move on. It's hard to really grown and come into your own when you're lugging so much weight around.

Not every Christian is a loud bigot. Not every Christian is a brainless sheep. Some Christians do find spiritual truth and meaning in their religion - and is that really so shocking? We're all different, we all find meaning in different paths. And if we bother to look, even if there are many things we may disagree with, we can probably find something we might find meaning in as well.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I hope everyone had a wonderful solstice (winter or summer!). I held a ceremony on the night of the solstice welcoming the new year, and welcoming prosperity and good fortune into my home. I left an electric candle "burning" all through the night to carry the spark of light through the longest night of the year (a nice option when you're not able to stay up for a night long vigil), and got up early to see the sunrise, the sun reborn.

Yesterday the days started to get a bit longer again, and today, a little longer... by seconds. Four seconds, eight more seconds, tomorrow will see an additional 13 seconds. It's not much, but it adds up. The sun is slowly making its return, we know the light is growing - but we still have to go through winter. There are months of cold and snow coming, but we have the promise of spring and summer, too. Of course, the promise of summer also brings the promise of winter again, always a cycle.

Tonight is Christmas Eve, the night before a big celebration. Which means tonight I'll be up late again. I've done a lot of baking - mincemeat pie, pumpkin pie, gingerbread, cookies - but there's still more to be done. Lots for the family, and always some for the ancestors and spirits... and maybe a little something for Santa, too.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fall Friday

This is the last Friday in Autumn, and so this is my final fall picture until next year. (Although I wouldn't expect this blog to be free from seasonal pictures between now and then, heh...)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why Bad History Matters

Bad history is a big problem in the pagan community (which is not to say it's limited to the pagan community, unfortunately it's not). It's everywhere, and sometimes it can be really hard to get down to the historical facts of particular topics - even for avid history lovers.

Why does it even matter? Why should we care about historical facts? Simple - these are our roots! Through studying history we can see where many aspects of our lives originated - the meanings behind many beliefs and traditions. We can see how cultures, religions, even the languages we speak evolved over time. When we see this, it's clear how our history is our foundation - how we continue to build on the past... and how the future will build on what we do today. History links us to our ancestors, and it will link our descendants back to us.

I sometimes see pagans saying they don't care how X deity was worshiped in the past, or similar statements. Look, I'd never tell someone they have to do everything exactly the way it was done in the past, but ignoring hundreds or thousands of years of knowledge? Why in the world would you shoot yourself in the foot like that?  Even non-reconstructionists can benefit from the knowledge these people worked for. Obviously those ancient devotees had a different cultural filter, not everything they did or believed will benefit every person today, but how can you know unless you look?

New religions, new traditions, new beliefs and ideas are not bad. Something does not have to be old to be valid, to have worth - yet sometimes false histories are attached to new ideas for exactly that reason. This isn't necessary. If an idea is good, if it works, if it benefits people, then it should be able to stand on its own. Saying something is not historical does not mean it has no value.

These are just a few of the reasons that good history matters. Heck, if for no other reason, doing a little fact checking can prevent you from looking ignorant. That's always nice, right? Of course, as I said, bad history is everywhere. Sometimes it can be hard to miss, and you pick up a few bad facts along the way. It happens to most people at some point - I know I've fallen into a few bad history traps. Or, sometimes we think a source is trustworthy - that they've done their research - when that may not always be the case. Bad history can be hard to avoid, but there are some history myths out there that are so easy to disprove, yet still get passed around as fact. I know historical research doesn't always seem fun or spiritual, but sometimes it needs to be done... and frankly, we absolutely can benefit from the wisdom of our ancestors, if we bother to listen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Still Alive

Yep, it's true, I'm still alive. Didn't mean to take such a long break, but in addition to getting over a cold, it was just a busy week in general. Still, I'm back and ready to start updating regularly again. Have some book reviews, some bad history rants, recipes, and more... just need to find the time to post them.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Just a quick update.

I caught a cold from my Grandmother at Thanksgiving. It's nothing serious, sore throat and cough, but it does keep me up a bit at night and make me tired. So, essentially this is an update to say I probably won't be updating as much for a bit. Trying to get some extra rest, since that's what my body is asking for. (So why am I up at 2:24 in the morning? Gotta love a bad sleep schedule.)

I started a post about ogham a few days ago. Originally I thought it would best be done in a few parts, but now I'm leaning to getting it all done in one article - maybe two. It's taking me a bit longer than expected, not taking the cold into account, but it's coming along. I'll be sure to note when it's done for anyone who was interested, since I'll just be editing that original post.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fall Friday

    It may be December, but there are still more a few Fall Fridays to be had...