Writers wanted! Alternative Writers look here.

Got something interesting to say?

Is it related to what you find here on my blog? (eg Paganism Psychic, healing, self help, nature, mythology, dragons, fairies, alternative religions etc).

If so why not write for me! I’m offering generous rates of pay for genuinely interesting articles by Native UK speakers.

Whether you just wanna write one article or many, find out more here and then get in touch!

Blessings

StormJewel

StormJewel's Psychic Readings

Can We Save The Planet? [Infographic]

Part of loving nature and the earth, is caring about it and all it’s inhabitants.  Sadly, climate change is happening, but there are things we can do to try and improve the situation.  This donated infographic shows us the kind of impact that recycling can have in saving energy, pollution and more (ok its a bit US centric but still we can all get the idea).  If you like it, why not pin it on pinterest, or bookmark it to your favourite site and spread the eco world around the world!

31 Important Facts About Alternative Living and Recycling

Blessings

StormJewel

Alternative living & recycling facts infographic

Donated by http://www.fabulouscollections.co.uk/  Thanks guys!

StormJewel's Psychic Readings

Love Pictures? – Follow me on Pinterest!

Follow Me on PinterestFairy Figurines by Jasmine

Dear All

It’s been a while I know, but I’m back baby! 🙂

Do you like interesting/weird/funny/beautiful/inspiring pictures?  If so take a quick look at some gorgeous images on Pinterest – the newest social media site on the block! (You don’t need to sign up or anything).

Recently I’ve been spending quite a lot of time on this exciting site, which is described as an online pinboard.

What this means is you can grab pictures from all around the web and put them on your virtual pinboard to look at later or to show to others.  Like Twitter, (which I also use – feel free to follow me!) you can follow people of interest to you and see when they add new pictures (aka pins).

Its very simple to use and great fun, and if you follow my account you can see all the fantastic and amazing photos I have found on the web, and also see some of my most pretty products!  If you are only interested in some of the things I pin, you can just follow specific pinboards.

The picture you see to the right is one that I have created for Pinterest, to show off all my lovely Fairy figurines by Jasmine Griffith Becket

Currently the main subjects I pin about are,

  • Pagan and Wicca things,
  • Cute animals & Nature
  • Fairies
  • Dragons
  • Good advice
  • Funny things
  • Game of Thrones
    (Have you seen or read this?  A fantastic series of books and tv episodes, brilliant for anyone that likes a fantasy setting with excellent characters and intriguing plot lines.)

I’ll be adding more boards as time goes on.  Do you have any suggestions of boards you’d like to see me pin to?  Are you using Pinterest, or thinking about it?  Let me know below!

StormJewel x

Follow Me on Pinterest

StormJewel's Psychic Readings

Qigong Secrets Home Study Course – Review

Qigong Secrets Home Study Course – Week 6 – My review

Qigong Secrets Home Study Course Review

So a while ago I told you that I had signed up to an online Qigong course called the Qigong Secrets Home study course, it’s been a few weeks in now, so how’s it going I hear you ask? Here is my review of my experiences, but first, just a little about how and why I found this course.

I regularly meditate, but find it very difficult at times (in fact a lot of the time!) to clear the mind.  Active meditations (which can be anything from walking to something you always do) are ideal if you feel a bit restless when you meditate, and something like Qigong, Tai Chi or Yoga are excellent forms of doing this.

I was always intrigued by Qigong, but became interested when a friend taught me some of the moves. I was struck by the seeming simplicity, the joy I felt in doing it, and the powerful feelings of energy coursing through me. I scoured the newspaper and other local magazines for a Qigong course but there was none as it is not as well known as Tai Chi and Yoga.

When I found Marcus’s course I was very pleased and so got started straight away.  I am now on week 6 of the course. Unfortunately I got very ill for a few months and was unable to do the exercises so that is why it has actually been a good bit longer than six weeks since my last post.

Qigong Secrets Home Study Course – The Review So Far

Marcus’s Qigong teaching style

As soon as I bought the course I was impressed by Marcus’ friendly, clear and encouraging teaching style. In the first few lessons he explains some of the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, showing us how in this holistic conception of health, disease (dis-ease) is the result of energy blockages in the body, and Qigong is one way of removing these blockages, thus restoring or maintaining good health.

Each week he prepares an interesting handout with all the info on it, complete with diagrams and pictures.  Whilst all this info has already been given to you on that week’s video, its nice to have a quick way to recap what you have learned.

As well as the theory, lessons on the patterns of Qigong (the forms) begin straight away which is great as you feel you are getting stuck in to the practical side, and getting a feel for the martial art. Marcus encourages you to practice every day, but structures the homework so that it only takes a few minutes at first.

Getting the most from your practice and how long it takes

He gradually teaches you more preparation tools so that you get the most out of your practice, but even now it only takes me about 5-10 minutes a day to do everything that he recommends.  Some days I feel lazy and don’t want to do it, but I try and make myself because I feel so much better afterwards.

As well as showing you how to relax your body, one of the most valuable preparation methods he reveals is how to relax your inner self through a simple technique called ‘Smile from the Heart’. I particularly value this technique as it draws on much that I have learnt from many traditions (from Reiki to Hypnosis) about making yourself happy and healthy.

How QiGong helps me and how it can help you

So far I’ve learnt two forms through the Qigong secrets home study course – Butterfly dancing in front of flowers and Lifting the Sky.  These seemingly simple movements fill me with great joy to do, and after doing qigong I almost always feel lighter and happier, so something must be working.

Marcus gives you a progress tracker to chart your mood and general health, which I have been very naughty about and not done, (but I’m going to start from today, honest Marcus!) but even without that I can see that I feel better after doing Qi Gung and generally in better health and mood.

Physically I enjoy the (gentle) stretching and movements, particularly at night times where during the day I have been cramped in front of the computer.

Ultimately this course comes at a time where I feel I am changing and (hopefully!) growing as a person.  I’ve been feeling a desire to improve my self and my life by becoming calmer, being able to put things in perspective more and generally be more happy.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not generally a depressive stress head, but like anyone can suffer from sadness and worry under pressure, but I see that this does not help me much, and this Qigong secrets course is really helping me to be that person and it could do the same for you as well as keep you healthy!

So that’s all of my QiGong secrets home study course review for now, if you have any questions please do comment or get in touch.

Thinking of trying the course but still not sure?

Marcus is offering the first two weeks of the Qigong Secrets home study course for just $4.95 and there’s also a free video explaining more about him and the course, so do take a look, you’ve got nothing to lose and lots to learn even if you don’t take it further than these two weeks!

 

~~send2BL~~

StormJewel's Psychic Readings

Pagan Discrimination in NYC

The Witches' Voice
Image courtesy of Witchvox

Recently I wrote about my experience with what could be called religious discrimination. This post was first published on WitchVox.com and I’ve had lots of people emailing me with their experiences.  One fellow Pagan told me a rather shocking tale of his experiences in NYC and asked me to publish it to make other Wiccans and Pagans aware and so this is his story.

 

“Hi Louisa! Wonderful to get a response from a Witchvox user. I hope all is well with you.

Since I have found out about the situation at the Waterford Connecticut mall [ED: Pete is referring to the fact that a Christian minister took over the shopping mall and removed all Wiccan pendants that were on sale These pendants are now being sold there again Pete has since told me] I have appointed myself unofficial “Investigator of Religious Intolerance” (sort of) I regularly go to Barnes & Nobles in Manhattan at Union Square. I like to talk to New Age people and see what new ideas are emerging as well as help an occasional young wiccan to choose the right book for them. I have worked at a Wiccan book store in the past, so I pretty much know all the books.

 .

I have spoken to several wiccans about discrimination against members of the craft and unfortunately it seems to be increasing. I have had wiccans tell me that they are fearful to wear their pentagram in public, afraid that some crazy person will target them. Several people have told me that individuals have approached them and made hateful comments and in one case a young woman was spat upon. I didn’t want believe this was happening at first, so I decided I would look into this.

.
I began to “lecture” about wicca in Barnes and Nobles to any who would listen to me. I would talk about the principles and values of wicca. If anyone asked me about what books were good I would give them a “talk” about how wicca is an awesome religion. Well, let me tell you, I have had many bizarre and frightening incidents occur to me since I began this. One day, I was speaking to an older gentleman in his 60’s who seemed to be appreciating my Goddess-centered spin on history when he suddenly stopped talking and stared at me strangely. He said “If we find out you know anything specific we will kill you.” I was stunned, I wanted to say: “Who’s we?” Instead I said “You have a good night Sir.” I thought that he was just an isolated case of a lunatic, so I waited a month and went back. I was not there fifteen minutes when a group of people approached me and crowded around me too closely.

 

They were asking me: What books do you recommend?’ and “What practises do you do?” Their manner was threatening. I realized what they were doing and I began to turn it around on them. I asked one of them, a woman in her twenties, “What do YOU do?” and “Why not share with me some of YOUR practises?” They looked at me with silent contempt and left. This type of incident happened a number of times. It did not stop me however. I needed to know who is harassing wiccans. Since those incidents, I have been followed by these same people around the city. These are just a small sample of what I have encountered. Some of the events are too frightening and it would be inappropriate to relate.
In one instance, I met a young woman whom I had spoken to a few times before that was interested in wicca. She has a pure heart and is a good person. I began to talk to her about wiccan spellcrafting. There were some old guys in the New Age section browsing and one younger guy that I know to be well, evil. I had spoken to this guy before and I know that he is completely amoral. He hates witches. He thinks that witches are in his words “stupid.” He interrupted our conversation and asked her why she would ever want to be wiccan. She asked him what he meant. He said to her that she should study something with more “strength”. She asked “Like what?” He deliberately tried to be vague and wouldn’t answer. She tried to talk to me but he kept on interrupting. I got the impression that he was deliberately trying to interfere. The young woman got agitated and left. He looked at me with a pleased expression.

.
I spoke to a magician friend of mine about all this and he said that you have to be careful because there are christian and other types of occult groups here in NYC that are “going after” wiccans and other magical folk. I asked him what he meant and he told me that several of his longtime friends have had to move out of NYC because of the harassment. I know that he is telling me the truth. I can only hope that this is a temporary development and that these are just foolish people doing stupid things.

 

I also dearly hope that this isn’t the beginning of a fascist culture!!! I’ll keep trying to protect those of the craft. Please remember, Witches heal, protect and serve. Please feel free to post this in your blog and on witchvox. The people of the craft should know. Blessed Be Pete.”

 

Thanks for sharing that with us Pete. This is a very shocking story but at least by spreading awareness we may be able to improve the situation.

If anyone has any stories (good or bad!) that they would like to share please do so!

Blessed Be!

StormJewel

StormJewel's Psychic Readings

Sticking to Principles or Religious Discrimination?

Religious Discrimination?
Religious Discrimination?

Recently I was looking for an SEO (search engine optimization) service to help promote a blog post I had written about Wiccan tools and supplies. I found a freelancer, who advertised the service I was looking for and submitted my article to him.

Shortly afterwards, I got a very polite message back from him explaining that he couldn’t help me, because he was a Christian and his faith did not allow him to recognize or promote anything to do with Wicca or the occult. Here is the message:

“My dear friend , i am really sorry …but i cannot market your site.
Please do not be offended. But my faith refuses for me to promote or recognize anything that is related or has to do with the occult, witchcraft or wicca.
I myself am a studying theologian and Christian Minister in training.
Please accept my apology and consider a submission to this link below link that offers the exact same service as mine.
(link removed)
I will request you a refund ASAP
Humbly yours
(name removed – let’s just call him ‘B’)

Was I offended? Not really, the email was so polite and apologetic that it would have been hard for me to be offended. ‘B’ wasn’t censuring me as such, since he was even recommending someone else to help me, he was simply stating that he felt bound by his religion not to work with me.

So what did I feel? Saddened a bit, but not surprised at this Christian take on Wicca and the occult, but mainly thoughtful. His email raised several questions for me.

I found it an interesting concept that an SEO person would refuse to promote various sites on what could be called moral grounds – given the variety of subjects and products on the Internet, and this led me to my first question:

1. What other topics would ‘B’ refuse to promote and how far does he go to ensure that sites do not conflict with his beliefs or personal morals? Would he promote a Jewish website, or a Muslim one? What about a gay site, or even, say, a celebrity one that talked about sex before marriage and perhaps promoted behavior that goes against what the church proscribes. I posted a brief note about this on twitter and a Pagan tweeter told me that a friend of theirs worked for a Christian company and said that they regularly turned away the ‘wrong’ sort of people.

This line of questioning brought me to my second question:

2. What did ‘B’ mean by saying that his faith disallowed him from ‘recognizing anything that is related with the occult, Witchcraft or Wicca.’ By refusing to recognize Wicca – does this mean he is saying that he does not believe in it, and therefore won’t promote it because he believes it to be misleading? Would he feel the same about other religions – i.e. that they are simply misguided versions of the truth.

Or does he/Christianity in fact think (as many Christians do) that Wicca is related to devil worship? (We know, of course, that it isn’t – and the irony is that not only do we not we believe in the devil but in fact this figure actually comes from Christianity not Paganism) … And if B’s religion tells him that it is unethical to promote my site – either because in Christianity’s view it is ‘bad’ or simply because it is ‘incorrect’ – does he apply this same system of judgment to other sites?

I wondered if ‘B’ looked into sites that promote a certain product and if he looked to see if the product was ethical, something he believed in, and something that his faith allowed him to promote. What if someone was promoting a health cure that was in fact a scam? How would he know without researching it, and if he did research it, did he really have time to do this for all the sites he promoted? What if someone was promoting say, a book, that was not a scam but perhaps badly written and a waste of money?

And this made me ask…

3. If I were offering SEO services – what, if anything, would I refuse to promote? After thinking about it I decided that in his position I would refuse to promote any site that was designed to incite hatred or violence of any kind. I would promote a Christian site, as long as it didn’t fall under those categories. On the other hand I wouldn’t promote something like scientology. Why? Because it seems to me to be a cult, that uses pseudo science and other techniques to con people into handing over their money.

At this point I had to recognize that I too would make judgments on the validity of other’s beliefs, and link that into my business practices. I know there is a big difference between Wicca and scientology, but perhaps ‘B’ doesn’t. On the other hand I have had some personal experience with scientology and Christianity, but I suspect that ‘B’ does not have knowledge or experience of Paganism.

(Scientology – I got roped into watching a ridiculous video about ‘dianetics’ – the theory that science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard came up with before scientology. They then gave me a totally inaccurate personality test designed to ensnare the sad and lonely, telling me I was depressed, angry and violent when I actually felt really happy and am rarely angry and never ever violent – then tried to sell me books at £30 a go.)

(Christianity – I was brought up a Catholic, went to a Catholic School and felt devoutly Catholic till about the age of 12 when I began to question many of what I see as the hypocrisies of Christianity, becoming atheist until I discovered Paganism at 14.)

Furthermore, unlike ‘B’, my judgment about Scientology was made based on my personal moral code, rather than dictated to me by my religion and this led me to my final question:

4. Should we blindly follow a religious code, or any other code that doesn’t come from our own sense of right and wrong? This is an ethical and philosophical question that has baffled people throughout the ages. Many have felt that if we all obey our own moral codes then people will end up doing what they like, and that a religious code can keep us all on the same path. But thinkers like philosopher Jean Paul Sartre rebelled against this, proposing existentialism, part of which explains that since every situation and person is unique, there is no ‘one size fits all’ morality, and that we need to use our minds and hearts to make the best decision for each case.

For me, this is clearly the best answer, and the one that I live my life by, and I would say that the majority of Pagans would do the same. Being an unorthodox religion (i.e. there is no formal written doctrine) there aren’t really any rules, although I think that most if not all Pagans would agree that there is an implicit understanding that you should try to be a good person, expressed by one of few written down ethical codes in Paganism ‘an’ it harm none, do what ye will’.

Wikipedia paraphrases Judy Harrow nicely ‘This is usually interpreted as a declaration of the freedom to act, along with the necessity of taking responsibility for what follows from one’s actions and minimizing harm to oneself and others.’

While this lack of formal ethics may worry some non Pagans, I would respond that Pagans do not need a religious prescription of ethics to make them be a good person, nor do they need the fear of going to hell or the hanging carrot of heaven to make them act conscionably. We all know what is right and wrong (even if at times we have differing opinions) and it is our responsibility to live as good people, regardless of what our religion tells us. If we fail to think for ourselves, and simply do what we are told, there is a danger that a great many wrongs will be committed – a scenario has that has played itself out over millennia through the many wars started in ‘God’s’ name.

Sticking to principles or religious discrimination? – Conclusion: After consideration, I don’t feel that B’s act was religious discrimination, perhaps due to the polite and apologetic way that he expressed his inability to work with me. I think that he was sticking to his principles – i.e. that of following his religious code, but I do feel that acting in this way is a worrying and potentially dangerous thing – particularly for a religious minister, and that ethically whilst we can use the principles of our religions and beliefs for guiding us, ultimately we should all think for ourselves, and act in a way that satisfies our conscience.

This article was first published by me on Witchvox.com and I’ve had loads of you email me to tell me your thoughts and experiences with discrimination.  Interestingly many people who mailed me practice a kind of syncretic religion including both Christianity and Paganism.  I’ve also had some worrying stories of discrimination in NYC and will be posting another post shortly at the request of a fellow Pagan.

Was religious discrimination or not? Comment and let me know your thoughts, and please do share your experiences of discrimination, whatever the cause so that we can fight it by raising awareness and (by hopefully) helping to create solidarity!

StormJewel's Psychic Readings

Voodoo and Hoodoo Beliefs and Magick Around the World

Voodoo is an ancient art of magick, healing and meditation coming from Africa.

In my previous article (Voodoo and Hoodoo – what are they really all about?), I explained how West Africa is the cradle of Voodoo, and talked about the nature of the religion there, as well as giving you a look into a young initiates ceremony.  In this second part of the article you can find out more about Voodoo in different parts of the world, and learn about the magick and practices of Hoodoo

Voodoo in Haiti

As I explained the previous article, Voodoo traveled to countries such as the US and Haiti, through African people being sent into slavery, and the religion became different things in different places.  The Voodoo (or Vodou) of Haiti is close to that of Benin, although has absorbed many religious elements from Christianity.

Voodoo in Louisiana and New Orleans

Like the Voodoo of Haiti and the Hoodoo of the US, Christianity has been a large influence upon the beliefs of this religion, whilst at the same time keeping much from the Voodoo of Benin.  The flexibility and adaptability of Voodoo is no doubt a lot to do with the face that there is no formal doctrine or sacred book, and knowledge is passed orally.

Like Paganism, the religion can mean different things to different people, but a core belief is that the main God does not interfere in the everyday lives of people, instead it is spiritual forces which affect everyday life.  Just like the Voodoo of Benin, communication with the spirits is achieved through dancing, chanting, drumming and so on, and ancestor worship is also important.

Louisiana Voodoo is commonly used to help people with sicknesses, addictions and other ailments, and also to help the hungry and poor.  Rituals tend to be conducted behind closed doors.

Jesus Christ and Mary are important figures in the religion and reciting the Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer is part of Louisiana Hoodoo practice.

Superstitions, Spells and Voodoo dolls

If you lay a broom across the doorway at night, a witch can’t come in and hurt you.

Here are some spells and superstitions from Louisiana Voodoo

  • A lock of a girls hair brings good luck.
  • If you lay a broom across the doorway at night, a witch can’t come in and hurt you.
  • Having a woman visit you the first thing on Monday mornings is bad luck for the rest of the week.
  • If you sweep trash out of the house after dark you will sweep away your luck.
  • Don’t shake a tablecloth outside after dark or someone in your family will die.
  • If a woman sprinkles some salt from her house to yours, it will give you bad luck until you clean the salt away and put pepper over your door sill.
  • If a woman wants her husband to stay away from other woman, she can do so by putting a little of her blood in his coffee, and he will never quit her.
  • If a woman’s husband dies and you don’t want her to marry again, cut all of her husband’s shoes all in little pieces, just as soon as he is dead, and she will never marry again.
  • You can give someone a headache by taking and turning their picture upside down.
  • You can harm a person in whatever way you want to by getting a lock of his hair and burning some and throwing the rest away.

Whilst Voodoo dolls are usually thought in Western culture to be a way of harming people, this is incorrect, they are to bless people.  Pins are stuck in the dolls to attach a picture of the person to the doll, thus creating a magical link, and then a magical cure is performed using a special recipe (the cure is known as a gris gris), and is usually either for love, power, luck and finance or removing a curse.

What is Hoodoo?

Hoodoo Lucky Hand Root Orchid
Hoodoo Lucky Hand Root Orchid

Hoodoo can be called folk magic is better understood as a collection of magical practices rather than a religion, and this is made clear by changing the name from Voodoo to Hoodoo.  Hoodoo’s magick focuses on using roots, herbs and natural elements for magical and medicinal use.

However there is still worship of deities, and like the Haiti Voodoo, (in fact perhaps more so) many Christian elements have been absorbed into the religion.  Christian figures such as Moses are worshiped, and the Bible is seen as a source for spells, particularly the Psalsms.  The bible itself can be carried as a talisman to keep people safe.  Hoodoo also absorbed certain Native American practices as well.  Like Paganism there is no formal doctrine, or structured hierarchy, and knowledge tends to be passed on orally.

 

Some Magickal Items of Hoodoo

Goofers Dust To Defeat Enemies
Goofers Dust To Defeat Enemies

Hoodoo magick items have become popular with people from all around the world, and from all traditions. I have tried Goofers Dust To Defeat Enemies.  This green dust can be thrown on the land of someone that means you harm, to bring confusion and bad luck to their household.

This works well in tandem with Hot Foot Powder Incense, which can be sprinkled around your home to keep away enemies and troublemakers and to bring peace to your household.

Lucky Root Hand
Lucky Root Hand

Another popular Hoodoo item is the Lucky Hand Root for Protection and Good Fortune, so called because it resembles a small withered hand (but it’s only an orchid root!).  This root is known for bringing good luck and safety, and is particularly used for bringing luck to gamblers.

Cobra Black Snake Pellets can be used in rituals of protection, and are also a great magickal aid for spiritual healing rituals, cleansing such as cleansing a space for an altar, or a new home, and to assist in removing curses or jinxes.

Finally another popular Hoodoo ingredient is the Adam and Eve Roots for Love and Marriage proposals.  This can be used in two ways, firstly a charm to encourage that special someone to propose, or for good luck to encourage the person to say yes!  Secondly it can be used by lovers to help discourage rivals and prevent temptation.  The woman carries the round white seed and the man the long bud.

Want to know even more about Voodoo and Hoodoo?

Here is a great site full of interesting information, written by a Voodoo practitioner.  A page I found particularly interesting was this one which goes into more detail about what Hoodoo is and where it came from.

Are you interested in Voodoo and Hoodoo? Have you or would you try Hoodoo Magick?  Comment below and feel free to ask me any questions beliefs or practices, or contact me privately through my website if you prefer.

StormJewel's Psychic Readings

Voodoo & Hoodoo – What are they really all about?

Voodoo in Benin
Voodoo in Benin

In the west, commonly when someone mentions Voodoo, it evokes ideas of black magic, devil worship, scary sorcery, and films tend to depict Voodoo as originating in Haiti.

But in fact this scary reputation mainly comes from Europeans and Christians from the past who sought to quash and dehumanise the people of Africa and their religions.

 

Where does Voodoo come from?

Some people believe that Voodoo is the world’s oldest religion.

The religion of Voodoo, (or Vodoun as it is also known, particularly by those who practice it), is thought by many to originate from Benin, a country in West Africa, but is also practiced on the West coast, including people from Togo, Angola, Nigeria and so on.  The slave trade in 16th-18th century meant that many Africans were shipped to places such as Cuba, Haiti, Brazil and the USA, spreading the religion.

However the religious aspects were often changed and lost in these places and much of Voodoo became Hoodoo, which is generally thought not to be a religion, instead mainly focused on the magic and medicinal aspects of Voodoo. I’ll be explaining more about Hoodoo in my next article.  The word Voodoo actually comes from Vodou, which is the name of the spirits that the people worship.

For many years Voodoo had to be practiced in secret, until 1996, January 10th which is now Nation Voodoo Day in Benin, and people celebrate with song, dance and sacrifices.  This suppression was due to the European colonial influence and also the zealous Christians, who generally tried to quash local religions, perhaps believing this was a good way to control people, and in colonial times fines, torture and death could be imposed upon people found to be practicing Voodoo. Today there are an estimated 50 million worshippers around the world.

So what is Voodoo all about?

Voodoo is an animistic religion, which means that the followers believe that god is in everything from the leaves of trees, to the wind that blows.  It’s a Polytheistic religion, like Paganism, meaning that there are many gods, and again similar to Paganism is the idea of revering nature.  Ancestor worship is also another very important aspect.

Ceremonies and Rituals of Vodoun

There are complex ceremonies and rituals in which the aim is usually to make contact with a spirit (the Vodou), perhaps an ancestor, or one of their lesser deities (called the Loa).  People try to gain their favour by offering animal sacrifices and gifts, in order to get help such as better health, luck or abundance.  The humans and the Loa are co-dependant in this way, with the Loa giving protection and good fortune and the people giving gifts.

Rituals are also held to celebrate lucky or important events, such to give thanks for rain, for marriages, births and deaths, and for healing.

Ceremonies often last all night and are an exciting affair, with singing, drumming and chanting.

The Sakpata Guardian Ritual

Let’s follow one girl – Ianthe (meaning violet flower) into her initiation and receiving of her guardian

First the oracles are consulted to see which divinity she will align with, who will become her supernatural guardian?  The god Sakpata is revealed – god of disease and protection.  He is at once feared and respected for his power.  To become his initiate is a long process.

For nine whole months Ianthe stays in a special temple where she learns the esoteric knowledge of Sakpata, including secret dances, words and language, and the secret name of Sakpata.  Her cheeks are scarified (ritual scarring) to indicate the change and knowledge she has received.

The initiation day

Today Ianthe is wearing a white bonnet, with a cowrie shell necklace, a bright print dress that looks like small pox!  Why? Because Sakpata is also the God of pox.

There is excitement in the air and everybody is anticipating the great feast to come, as well as a whole day and night of celebration and ceremony.  Everyone is dressed in fine clothes and jewellery. There are people with strange costumes.

We can hear the atmospheric shaking of rattles and rhythmic beating of drums.  The village is filled with the chanting and dancing of the priests, priestesses and students.

The dancing and chanting builds in intensity, with women cartwheeling and shimmying low to the ground, until one dancer becomes possessed by Sakpata. She flails and convulses until the god takes full control. This dancer now embodies the god and is treated with the respect that a god commands.

At this point an animal is sacrificed to the Sakpata, and he initiates Ianthe and then leaves.  Soon after the feast begins and people enthusiastically begin to eat and celebrate.

Ianthe is now a fully fledged initiate and will have to follow certain rules and laws in her life (specific to her new guardian Sakpata), for instance she may not eat gineau fowl or have sex on market day.

The ritual and process has been very costly to her family, but to not have such a ritual would be unthinkable, as everybody must have a spiritual guardian that they can call on for help.

Take a look at part of a Vodoun ceremony here. This is a ritual to honour one of the gods.

 

 

 

The Magick of Voodoo

So I’ve written a lot about the rituals and ceremonies, but does Voodoo use magic?  Yes, and this is most obvious to visitors of Benin at the Fetish Markets, where items of power and potions can be bought, such as parts from dead animals, love and money potions.  Part of the scary reputation of Voodoo may come from these markets where things like cured apes heads can be bought (said to aid memory) or dead owls and vultures which are used to counter a curse.

Some people argue that all religions have a dark and a light side, and others say that the bad stuff you can buy at these fetish markets is not actually Voodoo but Bokors (sorcerer) items.

Is Voodoo Cruel to Animals?

I don’t know whether these animals are dead already before they are changed to fetish items, but I have mentioned a lot about animal sacrifice.  It’s important to remember that the sacrificed animals are always eaten, and that the conditions animals are kept in are far preferable to those found in the mass farming of the west.

Morals

The morals of Voodoo focus on love and support of your family and community, and it is highly valued to be able to protect yourself and those around you when needed.  Dishonour and greed are highly frowned upon.

Find out more about Voodoo and Hoodoo around the world, in part 2 of this article, coming soon!

Image Credit: Vodoun.fr

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Pagans protest at treatment of the Norse God Thor

There is also the additional concern, as Eric Scott pointed out, that the film makers felt that they didn’t really have to worry about what people would think, unlike one of the mainstream religions such as Christianity.

Eric Scott wrote a post at Killing the Buddha that set off a big debate on “What happens when Hollywood gets a hold of your gods.”

The truth is, I looked at the toys in my hands and I saw the result of millions of dollars of development and thousands of hours of manpower, put into something bearing the name of a god, my god, and it had nothing to do with me. Their Thor was a god forgotten by all except the few quiet geeks who read his adventures in Journey into Mystery and The Mighty Thor for forty years. It wasn’t that they meant to upset or unsettle me; they simply realized that people like me were too few to matter. It’s impossible to think of a story about Jesus like this, not written to pander to or irritate Christians, but simply not considering them at all.

Eric Scott goes on to make the point that representations of mythic figures change frequently, and depict different things depending on the context:

Of course the Thor of the movie, and the comics that I grew up reading, is not the same Thor whom Snorri Sturluson wrote of in the Prose Edda, who perhaps is not the same Thor the Norsemen worshipped in the time before Christianity came to Northern Europe. The character Chris Hemsworth plays is not the deity I worship, the god whose symbol hangs around my neck. Anthony Hopkins, in his Hollywood regalia and metallic eyepatch, is not the Gallows-God I pray to. And even if the film is terrible, perhaps someone will watch it and then pick up Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Norse Myths at the bookstore, and that will make it worthwhile.

On the plus side, many Pagans have actually been pleased with the film, saying that Thor is actually represented in a positive light, a great improvement on the demonification of Paganism that is common in everything from depictions of hag like scary witches at halloween to those who present pagans as devil worshipping.  And as Eric Scott says, if this film switches people on to the actual mythology behind Thor, this could be a good thing.

 

I haven’t seen the film yet but will definitely be checking it out.  What do you think?  Have you seen the film?  Do you think that filmmakers should be dealing with this issue in the same way as they would have had to with other deities?

(via USA Today)

 

 

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Feed the hungry and get some good karma!

Given that I just wrote a post about the Wiccan Rede and the Rule of Three, the later of which states that everything you do good or bad will come back to you threefold, I thought what a good time to post a link to the hunger site.  By clicking the picture below, the sponsors of the hunger site will donate one cup of food.  You can only click that one once a day, but if you are keen to do more there are other links on the site which allow you to click more in one day, feeding more people.

The Hunger Site

 

<——-     Please click this link to donate 1 cup of food!

 

 

 

It’s a really good, quick and easy way to do something nice for someone else so please get clicking!! You can also like the site with your facebook profile, and maybe even post a link there to spread the word.  If people buy stuff from the shop then even more food gets donated. You can take a look on the site to see how many cups of food have been donated each day, yesterday it was an impressive 202 310 cups! xx

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