Retelling The Present

“It’s not necessarily about telling the future. It’s about retelling the present.” That’s from the introduction to Jessa Crispin’s book The Creative Tarot. It’s a nice way to sum up her story-based and pragmatic approach to Tarot reading. Crispin, a writer, literary critic, editor, and tarot reader who has co-designed a deck of her own (the Spolia deck with artist Jen May), wrote the book to fill the gap she saw in readings and spreads specifically geared to creatives.

 

The Creative Tarot is a funny, modern, down-to-earth text, intended as a starting point in a Tarot education. It contains history of the tradition, Crispin’s own spreads, illustrations from the Spolia deck, and advice for the beginner. However, it’s the card descriptions where it really shines. Based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, each card is given one and half to three pages where the author deconstructs the symbolism and meaning as well as relates stories about famous creatives that reinforce the meanings. In addition, she gives three “recommended materials”: books, movies, paintings, etc. to illustrate her point and encourage cross-pollination across genres and mediums.
Although I have so far only dabbled in Tarot, taking an online course through the Los Angeles Public Library [http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/online-learning] (for LAPL cardholders only, unfortunately), and doing my own readings, I’ve found Crispin’s book to be extremely useful and easy to understand. More so even, than the booklets that came with my decks (Rider-Waite-Smith and Salvador Dali). I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for down-to-earth guidance in their creative and spiritual practices. You can get a sense of her style by signing up for her Reading the Tarot newsletter [https://tinyletter.com/thebookslut].

-Katta, Magus Minion

Spiritual Practices: Morning Meditation

I’m often asked what my spiritual practices are here at Magus by guests. While I do have a set of meditations and rituals I do on a daily or monthly basis, I consider service to be a major component of my spiritual practice. Being there for my friends and family in times of need is a core ethic of mine. Working in the shop and helping people get the herbs they need or selecting the right book for them is part of my practice.

This month I’m offering you my daily meditation. It’s evolved over time, but takes elements from Kundalini yoga* and grounding and centering practices from various pagan traditions**. I know this isn’t a traditional form of mediation and isn’t sanctioned by any overarching authority, but it works for me and I find it prepares me for the day ahead.

I begin by turning off my alarm. I really don’t like silence, but in the quiet of the morning, I find it is the most peaceful time to sit and truly enjoy the silence. I sit in front of my altar. I might light a candle, depending on if I have the time to devote to it. Most mornings I don’t light a candle unless I’m going to meditate for more than 5 minutes, or do some other specific work.

After breathing deep for a few moments, I bring my attention to the base of my spine and my legs. I feel myself being grounded and supported by the earth. I’ll visualize roots descending into the ground and soaking up the dark and nurturing energy.  Then, I’ll massage my feet, ankles, and calves and with my breath draw up the energies.

I visualize my root chakra, and see what arises in my mind or body. I take note of thoughts and feelings that come up. I visualize or perceive the color or density the chakra. I do this in ascending order all the way through my body. I keep breathing up earth energy until I’m filled all the way up. Depending on the time I have that morning, I might spend more or less time in one chakra over another.

After going through each chakra and having my body filled with earth energy, I breathe it up and visualize branches going into the heavens. Each branch reaches out to the stars and draws down the cool blue fire of starlight. I continue to breathe in deep, slow, and calm. I let the star energy mix with the earth energy in my core, in the place between my pelvis and my heart. I breathe this combination into a sphere around my body, filling my space, my room, and expanding out into the world around me. I take several moments to breathe in the space connected to earth and heavens and my surrounding community. I see the ways in which I influence the world and how the world influences me. I might sense patterns or specific flows of energy.

Slowly I bring my attention back to my body, open my eyes, and journal a few notes about what I experienced with my chakras, or with my body, or where energy flowed slow or quick. I then go about the rest of my morning routine feeling centered, alive, and move with confidence through the rest of the day. I definitely notice the days when I don’t do this practice, or some variation on it. I recommend trying this, or parts of it, to anyone looking to formulate a daily meditation practice.

*Judith, Anodea. (1999). Wheels of Life. Llewellyn Publications.

**Coyle, T. Thorn. (2009). Kissing the Limitless. Weiser Books.
   Starhawk. (2005). Earth Path. HarperCollins Publishers.

 

-By Markus K Ironwood

ABRACADABRA!

We’ve all heard the word “Abracadabra” used in popular culture in films, TV shows, and maybe even in social interactions where one would use the word to exclaim a satisfactory outcome at some attempt to make something magical happen… “Abracadabra! The dishes are done! Abracadabra!” …but still they sit in the sink and every roommate groans and moans about the chore.  

The word actually has its origins in magical literature dating back from approximately the 2nd Century BCE.  According to Lecourteux in the Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells, the word was found on an amulet that was discovered and dated from the era in Greek letters.  The word was written “a ba ga da” and is said to be in acrostic (poetic, or puzzle-like arrangement) form and derived from the Hebrew version “Ha Brakha dabra”.  “Ha Brakha dabra” means, “the blessing has spoken”.  Other sources indicate that it could also be a derivative of Abraxas, an ancient Greek word attributed to Gnosticism.

Magical benefits of the word Abracadabra are said to be effective when writing the actual word out.  Etymologically the word “spelling” is quite literal, and spelling out a word or speaking words is much like doing a spell, as words have power.  Writing out Abracadabra (pictured below) was supposed to magically decrease a fever as the letters in the words shrunk down, in a form of a triangle.

-By Kyle Ford, Assistant Manager

Chakras and Stones

Chakras are energy centers in the body with 7 main chakras going up the spine. Each chakra has different stones to help it stay balanced and healthy. The first chakra is the root chakra, a common stone correlated with the root chakra is red jasper.

Red jasper has a grounding vibration that makes it ideal when working with the root chakra. It is also helpful with emotional equilibrium. This stone enhances insight into personal difficulties and provides a strong sense of stability. It is effective in stimulating the kundalini, also used in dream work to help with recall. Red jasper can also be used for protection as well as aiding with physical disorders with the heart and diabetes. Red jasper is a wonder stone to start root chakra work.

Another useful stone with the root chakra is garnet. Garnet is slightly more expensive than red jasper and worth the investment especially if you are working with depression or anger issues as it brings light and joy in. It stimulates survival instinct, willpower and courage. Garnet is a useful tool for relationships of all kinds. Also a grounding stone that works with kundalini energy as well as protection. This stone carries a fire like energy that regenerates and revitalizes.

Either of these stones would be an excellent addition to a chakra set or to start chakra work. When doing chakra work it is advantageous to start from the root and move up.

-Lily, Magus Reader

Kid in a Candy Store

 

A lifelong bookworm, I’ve been known to check out more books than I can carry from the library and, in bookstores, sometimes require physical restraint to keep from buying stacks of books I can’t justify or afford. As a writer, I’m intensely curious about anything pertaining to the various stories I write or anything that sounds like it could make a good story. Add my interest in herbology, tarot, magick, and alternative medicine and working at Magus becomes an exercise in not spending my paycheck before I make it.

 

As in any exercise in willpower, in order to keep from snapping and going on a buying spree, I have to occasionally allow myself some leeway. To this end, when my paycheck rolled around, I picked up a couple books I had my eye on. All four can be considered research for the urban fantasy book I’m working on so I’m feeling positively saintly about the whole thing.

 

The first two are on Santeria, a religion that has growing importance in this draft of my story. Previously, the grand total of my knowledge on the subject came from internet searches and the Sublime song of the same name which has nothing at all to do with the religion. So I picked up The Santeria Experience by Migene Gonzalez-Wippler and Cuban Santeria: Walking with the Night by Raul Canizares.

 

Both are written by initiates in the religion. They approach it with academic interest, but give slightly different versions of the secretive cult. Gonzalez-Wippler focuses more on her experience with Santeria, weaving her knowledge of the orishas and rituals in a memoir-style narrative. Meanwhile, Canizares, who also brings his personal experience in, approaches it from more of an anthropological angle, exploring the history of the religion and its evolution. However, as Canizares adapted Cuban Santeria from his doctoral thesis, this is hardly surprising. Both books are well-written, compelling and informative. I would recommend them for anyone interested in learning more about Santeria.

 

In the name of further research into other magick styles, especially ones linked to Judaism, I also bought two books on Qabalah. The Chicken Qabalah by Lon Milo Duquette and Practical Qabalah Magick by David Rankine and Sorita d’Este, which both came recommended by the very knowledgeable Kyle Ford, are turning out to be just as informative as she promised.

 

The Chicken Qabalah is about as serious as it sounds and probably one of the funniest educational books I’ve read in a long time. Duquette has a talent for conveying information through parody and I would recommend it for anyone with a casual interest in Qabalah. Practical Qabalah Magick is much more serious, and while fairly easy to understand, it can get a little dense. However, it feels like it will be a great reference book and will give me the tools to get a good handle on the uses and theory of Qabalah.

 

Hopefully, between these books and the ridiculously large stack of library books currently taking up a corner of my dinner table I will be able to keep myself well occupied for another couple weeks.

 

-Katta, Magus Minion

What are Amulets and Talismans?

Although amulets and talismans are some of the most commonly used magickal items, there remains much ambiguity as to what exactly they are and how they differ. Today we will briefly explore the most common definitions, how useful they are and how they differ, in order to arrive at a clearer understanding of these staples of magickal practice.

There are three common definitions for amulets and talismans. The first, the most common dictionary definition, is that they are synonymous and refer to any item which exerts an ‘occult influence,’ such as protection or good luck.  A second definition popular among some magickal practitioners is that an amulet is used against certain influences, such as an amulet against illness, whereas a talisman is used for a specific influence, such as a talisman to attract love. Finally, a third definition favored by other practitioners is that an amulet is natural, such as a stone or herb (worn in a ‘medicine bag’ for instance), while a talisman is man-made, such as a pressed metal disc with symbols on it.

Now, since these three definitions are all in common usage, it cannot be said that one right or wrong, but it can be argued as to which is most useful. First of all, there are contradictions between the definitions; so, we cannot just accept them simultaneously and move on. A single example will illustrate this. Take the stone carnelian, which is traditionally worn for courage. According to definition one, it is both a talisman and an amulet; definition two would say that it is a talisman because it is for courage, while definition three would say that is an amulet because it is a natural stone. So, which is it?

Since practitioners (i.e. those who actually use talismans and amulets), prefer the second two definitions, we will assume that there is some reason for differentiation between the two terms and move quickly past definition one. Now, as for definition two, this definition is often contradicted in the traditional literature. For instance, The Key of Solomon, one of the primary texts of Renaissance talismanic magick, lists many different talismans which are explicitly used against certain influence, such as “the sixth pentacle of Jupiter” which is used against earthly dangers. Also, whether an item is for or against something is often only a matter of phrasing. For example, an “amulet” against danger could just as easily be considered as a “talisman” for protection. Given these contradictions to the source material and the issue of phrasing, the second definition is not particularly useful.

Coming now to definition three, the natural vs. man-made dichotomy, consider a rune stone, tiger’s eye, for instance, which is engraved with the rune Uruz. Is it an amulet or a talisman? Well, in that tiger’s eye is a natural material, it is an amulet, but since it is inscribed, it is also a talisman. Since all natural materials have their own magickal properties, and since all symbols, likewise, have their own properties, it is useful to be able to differentiate between the “amuletic” and “talismanic” properties of a thing. In the instance of our tiger’s eye Uruz, it has the amuletic properties of tiger’s eye, being confidence and willpower, and the talismanic properties of Uruz, being virility and power, among other things. In this case, we can say that the amuletic and talismanic properties are harmonious. This allows us great subtlety and layers of definition. It also puts amulets/talismans on a spectrum; a stone or herb is obviously an amulet and a sigil or symbol is obviously a talisman, but where they combine, we can say why it is both and how these layers may affect one another, and whether they are harmonious or discordant. Clearly, this is the most useful of the three definitions.

By Adam Schaab, Arch-Minion

THE UPANISHADS

“Now, that which is the subtle essence—in it all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self. That thou art…”  (Chandogya Upanishad)

The Upanishads are texts in which the central concepts of what would come to be called Hinduism were first set forth.  Karma and rebirth as well as the concept of Brahman as the One Reality and the means of realizing oneself to be this Ultimate Reality through various disciplines or yoga are presented in verse and prose in these ancient Vedic scriptures.  

The Upanishads are “Sruti” meaning they are authoritative texts.  Collections of them are appended to of the four Vedas; therefore they are known also as “Vedanta” or the end of the Veda. This is interpreted both literally and as meaning the essence or fulfillment of the Vedas.  The word Upanishad is most commonly translated as “sitting at the feet of” as a student sits at the feet of the teacher.  It has also been interpreted as carrying the meaning “setting to rest ignorance.”  Buddhism and Jainism, arising shortly after the earliest Upanishads were written, were deeply influenced by the philosophies of these texts as well.  

Composed at a time of great transformations in Indian society, including the questioning of the Vedic rituals themselves, the Upanishads are often severely critical of the traditional religion. At the same time they offer commentary and interpretation of the rituals meant to reveal their deeper meaning.  According to Patrick Olivelle, thirteen principle Upanishads (there would be hundreds composed) were written over a period of time from approximately the 5th century and the 2nd century BCE. The philosophical stances of the texts therefore are varied, and while they are the single most important influence on Indian religion they do not present a unified vision.  This is especially true of the later Upanishads which are found at the end of the Arthava Veda, many of which were written from the viewpoint of particular schools as opposed to the earliest Upanishads which are attached to the three early Vedas and whose authors showed no particular group affiliation.

The central concepts of the Upanishads continue to guide and inspire the lives of millions of people the world over, including many who are not themselves Hindu or Buddhist or Jain.  If one would know the genesis of these concepts, perhaps most importantly the vision of what constitutes the realization of the Self, freedom from suffering, ultimate liberation, reading and reflecting on Upanishads will open the door to understanding.

By:  Astadhi Sadakha

The Body is a Machine

“Man is a machine” is not completely accurate… though it’s not completely inaccurate either.

I had this realization that the body is a machine. The best example is when I (or anyone) might wake up in the middle of the night for some reason, and begin to perform an action before consciousness is in the body. For example, I have woken up sweating in the middle of the night, and before I am there to be conscious in my body, it has already taken actions that I don’t recall at a later moment. Or rather, consciousness returns to me in the middle of an action.

The point here is that the body has a capacity of it’s own. We, whomever that is, are truly sitting in a vehicle, observing the world around us through this machine. Maybe we truly are a collective consciousness trying to understand itself. Now, I have read and accepted this concept for a while now, but it is finally something tangible for me. To really see the fact that the body is a machine. A strange, organic machine that has the ability to function without consciousness, and with consciousness.

So this raises two questions… Where does consciousness go when it’s not in the body, and are there truly people in this world that do not have consciousness (a soul)?

-Cameron Williams, Reader and Web Designer

Tarot vs Oracle cards

I have been a student of the Tarot for over 45 years now and I know that the fact that *I* know the difference between Tarot cards and other types of decks doesn’t mean that it’s common knowledge!  Simply put, Tarot is an ancient system of fortune telling or oracle cards.  It’s not the only one out there by a long shot!  Although there are examples of Tarot cards dating back to the mid-15th century, the deck as we know it was standardized in the late-19th century by Arthur Waite and Pamela Coleman-Smith who were members of the Hermetically Order of the Golden Dawn.

I recently decided to explore one particular alternative type of cartomancy – the Lenormand deck.  The deck was created by Marie Anne Lenormand (1772 – 1843) a famous French fortune teller  in the Napoleonic era.  Like the Tarot there are many versions.  It is a system of 36 cards, taken from a standard deck of playing cards.  Each of the 36 is assigned a designation like The Rider, The Ship, The Book.

Here is a summary of the differences.  The Tarot has 78 cards vs 36 for Lenormand.  Tarot has two parts; major and minor Arcana.  In the Lenormand all cards are given equal weight.  When a Tarot card is reversed it changes the meaning.  Lenormand cards are always read right side up.  The meaning of  Lenormand cards is dependent on proximity to other cards and they are read in combination with each other.
Magus carries many different Tarot decks and many Lenormand decks.  Picking a deck can be a wonderful adventure, looking at all the different art work and styles and choosing one that speaks to you.  We also carry many other types of oracle cards.  Come on in and explore!

-Carol, Tarot Reader

Bathtub Conversions

I’ve never been very good at taking care of myself. I’ve struggled with healthy food choices and making sure I get physical activity every day. There was a time in college when even showering seemed to be optional. But over the past few years I’ve really changed my tune. I make wise choices and hit the gym several times a week. Yet, when it comes to the simple acts of self-care, I still find ways in which I need to tend to my self-care more.

I’ve incorporated a relaxing, stress-relieving, and revitalizing practice into my self-care routine: a weekly bath. Mela, the Massage Master of Magus, advised me to take a bath after getting a massage from her. I bought some Epsom salts and headed home to do just that. I put on some soft music, dumped in my bag of salt, added several dashes of essential oils, and had the best bath I’d ever had. No lie. No joke.

The following day I went to Liz, Magus co-owner and Head Herbalist, asking what I can do to make my bath-time even better. She suggested I take the Minerals for the Bath class. I did just that and was not disappointed. I learned all about the different kinds of salts and what kind of aromatherapy oils I could add to the bath salt to make my experience even better. I picked up a copy of 500 Recipes for Aromatherapy by Carol Schiller (which has the most ridiculous late 80’s/early 90’s cover) and started blending my own bath salts.

I now take a bath every Tuesday night. It relaxes both my muscles and my anxieties. Epsom salt is especially good at removing lactic acid from the muscles. I work out several times a week and have noticed that this helped keep my mucles free of soreness and relaxed, yet toned. Now that it’s the dead of winter, I’m able to get warm and the essential oils I’ve blended up make me smell like the spirit of Christmas incarnate. My favorite is to put about 25 drops of Juniper Berry, Fir, or Coriander is wonderful and warming additions. For a more healing and soothing bath try Rosemary and Tea Tree.  I’ve added Eucalyptus Oil to the Rosemary and Tea Tree for a friend who wanted that cool and awakening blend.

Self care allows us to be more present in our everyday life. I’ve known practicing self care to be vitally important, especially for caretakers in need of taking care of themselves. Taking just 20 minutes for yourself can really help with burning out. I’ve seen dear friends implode because they we devoting too much time to their jobs and their social lives, rather than taking time to practice self love. And it can be practiced in so many forms. This includes making real commitments to going to the gym more often, making better and more flavorful choices of food, and devoting time for myself when at home.

I’d never been a bath taker. Maybe once or twice a year just to be good to myself. We’ll not anymore! Baths are now an essential component to how I take care of myself. They are phenomenal way to nurture and distress. I’ve even noticed a difference in my performance in the gym and at work.  I couldn’t recommend a better self-care practice.

– by Markus K. Ironwood