Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Cleansing Rituals: A Basic Smudging Ritual

What is smudging? Smudging is the burning of certain herbs and using the resulting smoke to cleanse people, places, or objects. The smoke attracts the negative energy and sends it heavenward, where the negative energy simply becomes fire energy. Any smudging ritual is a form of fire magic, and is one of the most common cleansing rituals. It's a great place for beginners to start practicing cleansing rituals. All you'll need is a smudge stick (we recommend cedar and sage).

Cleansing Rituals: Choosing What to Burn
Whether you are doing a smudging or another type of cleansing ritual using a firebowl or incense, you will need to understand the elemental makeup of various herbs, resins or incense that you will be burning. This will allow you to pick the appropriate one for whatever type of ritual you are performing. Different kinds of incense, herbs or plant resins are chosen to create specific effects. Every type of incense, herb or resin has a particular scent or way of burning that can be classified by element. For instance, general-purpose incenses are usually high in Air and Fire, while incense candles are usually high in Water.

Always test herbs, incenses and resins yourself to determine what elements they represent. Many incense change drastically when they are burned in a firebowl. To test, burn a little piece in your firebowl, then smell the scent and watch the smoke. You can use these guidelines to determine the elemental makeup.

General Purpose Elemental Mix:
Have a good mix of the four elements, usually higher in air and fire. Good for general use and emergencies.
Smoke - Moderate amount of smoke, tending to rise and spread moderately rapidly. Smoke leaves a slight bluish haze.
Scent - Some "edge" or "stickiness" in the scent.

Air Element:
These are often pale in color, containing lots of white or transparent material. Good for studying as they will keep you awake and can be used to remember dreams.
Smoke - Rises quickly and dissipates rapidly, has a very light smoke that leaves the air relatively clear afterward and does not leave a blue haze.
Scent - Delicate, fast-rising scent or no odor.

Fire Element:
Often red, orange, or yellow. Good for studying as it will keep you awake. Can be used on gloomy days to liven up the energy.
Smoke - Light or moderate amount produced that rises quickly, and is red or yellow in color. It spreads rapidly and leaves a slight bluish haze.
Scent - Sharp scent that tends to "bite" the nasal passages and sinuses.

Water Element:
Often pink, blue, dark red or brown material that often feels damp. Useful for meditation, introspection or to remember dreams.
Smoke - Thick smoke that rises and spreads slowly then dissipates slowly.
Scent - Often has a fruit or flower scent or a heavy, sweet, wet, thick and cloying scent that lasts for days.

Earth Element:
Often brown or green and useful for stabilizing an area.
Smoke - Tends not to rise, but to "boil" out and settle to the floor, spreading slowly.
Scent - Heavy, not sweet, not wet, "earthy" scent that can last for days. Also dry with a slight "edge" to the nasal passages and sinuses.

Smudging Ritual
Smudging a person is one of the most important cleansing rituals and a good one for beginners to start with. Here's how to do it.
  • Light your smudge stick and get a good column of smoke coming off it
  • Start at the person's crown and circle the person clockwise 
  • Use your breath or a feather fan to push the smoke toward the person 
  • Anywhere the smoke bounces off, go over the place again until it sticks 
  • Have the person breathe the smoke in lightly at the end
To smoke an object, dangle it in the smoke. Smoke an area such as where you will do a tarot reading, by circling the smudge stick or sweetgrass clockwise over the area. A smudging ritual can be used anytime you need to clear negative energies from yourself or others, such as before rituals, when feeling down, or after a negative encounter with another person. Some people smudge themselves everyday before mediation to prepare themselves to go into their sacred space.

So next time you need to "clean up" or give yourself a lift, grab a smudge stick and do this simple smudging ritual.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Want to REALLY Learn the Tarot? Wear the Cards Around

The word Tarot is a disguised word. Originally it was spelled "Rota" meaning wheel. This came about because the Tarot card deck represents all phenomenal experience, the wheel of life. The Tarot is used as a living form tied into the existing Universe which makes it like a simulacrum of the Universe.

The Modern Tarot
The underlying symbology and concepts in the Tarot go back thousands of years. The modern Tarot was revised by the Order of the Golden Dawn for the purpose of working more intimately with the Tree of Life and for spell work. The modern Tarot was created by people who were members of the Order of the Golden Dawn. They designed the Waite-Rider, Morgan-Greer and Thoth decks. The tarot cards that we use at the Esoteric School are the Waite-Rider deck. This deck was created by Arthur Edward Waite with the artwork by Pamela Smith. All three of these decks however were created by magicians for magic. They can be used for:
  • Straight divination
  • Spellwork
  • Working the Tree of Life (for doing a great work)
Other decks may serve one of these functions, but only these 3 decks were designed to do all three.

Minor and Major Arcana
The Tarot is made up of Minor Arcana cards in 4 suits and Major Arcana cards which are not in suits. The 4 suits of the Minor Arcana are Wands, Swords, Cups and Plates (or Discs). These match the 4 elemental tools. These cards are also numbered in each suit from Ace to 10 plus the court cards of Page, Knight, Queen and King. Major Arcana cards represent principles, concepts or ideals while Minor Arcana cards represent the many ways those principles manifest in the mundane world.

Wearing the Cards
Whatever you have learned about the Tarot from books and other sources may not be useful when working with the Tarot because the meanings are in the cards themselves. Don't try to memorize meanings of the cards. The Tarot originally was an oral tradition so the writing down of the meanings in some ways defies the tradition. Looking at written down meanings can be useful as a place to start, but you also need to strive to see the meaning of the cards as they pertain to specific readings. One way to practice this is to "wear" the cards. In other words take a card, possibly one per day, and really explore it and get in tune with it. Here's an exercise to get started:
  1. Pick a card out of the deck. Spend a few minutes really looking at the card. 
  2. Notice the symbols the card contains, the pictures in it and the number of each. Compare what you know about the 4 elements and what symbols show up in the card associated with a particular element. For example, if you see cups in the card, you know to associate that with the element of water and that water is the element dealing with emotions and feelings. 
  3. Really focus all your intention on the card. Listen for the card to "speak" to you. You may see or feel it "come to life", see movement in it, hear words in your mind associated with it or notice changes in the brightness of the colors.
  4. Absorb the energies of the card and carry this energy around with you for a day. 
  5. At the end of the day note your observations as to how it affected your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and interactions.
This simple exercise will give you a more personal experience of the cards and their meanings and help you establish a relationship with them. You will find that creating an understanding of the cards in this way will allow you to see far more and deeper meanings when you do a reading instead of being stuck with a memorized definition and trying to make it fit into the reading. With a little practice and experience in doing readings you will find the Tarot magically come alive for you and through you.

Ready to learn more about the magical uses of the Tarot? Check out our Tarot Homestudy Course.

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