Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kenaz Filan Interview in Mystic Wicks Magazine

An interview with yours truly by Ben Gruagach is currently available at Mystic Wicks Magazine. This online 'zine is connected with Mystic Wicks, one of the most intelligent Pagan/Occult forums on the web. Admittedly the bar on this one is rather low, but Mystic Wicks actually has a reasonable signal-to-noise ratio and a number of articulate and thoughtful posters who engage in real, substantial discussions.

Ben was an excellent interviewer and I really enjoyed our discussion. I hope you enjoy it too!

Friday, December 18, 2009

From The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook: Red Fast Luck Oil

New Orleans is generally known as a place where things move at a leisurely pace. But sometimes you need to get things moving and moving fast. When folks in the Crescent City need to get their situation turned around, they use liberal doses of Red Fast Luck Oil. While some oils are meant to improve your financial situation and others are used to make you irresistible to potential lovers, Red Fast Luck Oil is an all-purpose ointment which is intended to bring you good fortune in both love and money – and quickly!

Red Fast Luck Oil begins with cinnamon oil. Cinnamon has long been used in magical and spiritual operations. The ancient Hebrews used cinnamon as one of the ingredients of their holy anointing oil, and the Egyptians used it in mummification. Its uses as an antibiotic and a culinary supplement made it a particularly treasured spice in medieval and Renaissance Europe: demand for cinnamon was one of the major factors behind the explorations that led to the Colonial era. In hoodoo cinnamon is believed to heat up magical operations and is said to draw wealth and inspire lust.

Wintergreen oil is also an important component of Red Fast Luck Oil. This must be added in very small quantities, as its active ingredient (methyl salicitate) is a powerful dermal and mucous membrane irritant. But only a little bit of this sweet sharp balsamic-smelling oil is required. Wintergreen is said to be a powerful money-drawing oil, and is also said to “heat up one’s nature” and improve both desire and performance in the bedroom arts. (That being said, do NOT put Red Fast Luck Oil on or near your genitals: the ensuing redness will happen fast, but you won’t feel at all lucky about it!)

And these two hot oils are counterbalanced by a third ingredient, oil of vanilla. Vanilla acts as a cooling and mellowing agent: a drop or two of vanilla can tame the bite of an overly spicy chili or an overly acidic tomato sauce. It is also believed to be an aphrodisiac: in 1762 German physician Bezaar Zimmerman wrote that “No fewer than 342 impotent men, by drinking vanilla decoctions, had changed into astonishing lovers of at least as many women,” while Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago found the scent of vanilla was highly effective in increasing penile blood flow.

The red coloring is often created by synthetic dyes, but according to Catherine Yronwode the traditional coloring agent was alkanet root. Alkanet root is also known as “Dyer’s Bugloss” and is used to redden textiles, makeup and food. (It was once used to darken the color of inferior wines and to give wine corks an aged appearance). It also has magical uses for drawing luck and protecting money, so, as Yronwode says “it is a better colourant for Fast Luck than any synthetic dye could ever be.” But it is also a tricky dying agent: too little and you get Pink Fast Luck, while too much will turn your oil a muddy crimson-brown. If you are going to make your own, you are advised to add a few flecks of alkanet root per every half-ounce of oil and let it steep for a day or so until you get the desired shade of red. While it may bring you Fast Luck, its creation requires patience.

It also requires caution: both wintergreen and cinnamon oils can be corrosive on sensitive skin, so make sure you use enough carrier oil and test with a tiny amount to see if you find it irritating before putting on more. You will probably be better advised to use your Red Fast Luck Oil for anointing a mojo bag or using it in a floorwash to bring in a quick run of success to your business or your bedroom.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thoughts on the "Burning Times"

This was posted to my forum Tristatevodou in response to a question about exactly how many witches were murdered during the "Burning Times." Since I had earlier made a disparaging comment about the "100 million Witches burned for worshiping the Goddess," I thought I should clarify my position. My intent was not to deny that people were killed for being Witches but to question the idea that there was an organized witch-cult which was targeted by Evil Christians. And so I produced this rather wordy commentary:


First: we don't know exactly how many people were executed for witchcraft during the medieval and Renaissance era in Europe. We can only rely on surviving records, which are fragmentary at best and sometimes non-existent.

The "Burning Times" legend conflates two separate campaigns, the wars against witchcraft/sorcery and the much larger and bloodier war against heresy. The Albignensians, Bogomils, Hussites, etc. were not witches, but Christian sects whose beliefs deviated from the norm and who posed a political threat to the established order. There were definitely major atrocities and genocidal campaigns committed against nonstandard variants of Christianity -- and later, during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Catholics and Protestants merrily
killed each other across Europe for decades. But these people never identified as "witches," "pagans," "sorcerers" or anything other that Christians -- more precisely, as orthodox Christians who were practicing the true Faith as opposed to the heretical and corrupt version practiced by the other guys.

The wars against "witchcraft," by contrast, generally were aimed at poor and marginalized individuals. There were tens of thousands of people, mostly women, burned as witches. But there were many, many more people murdered for heresy. The best comparison I can think of is today's "Satanic panic," which has ensnared quite a few innocent schoolteachers and daycare center workers vs. our feelings about Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. This is not to diminish the horror of what happened during the European witch panics. Any unnecessary death caused by stupidity and mob fear is a tragedy. But let us call the tragedy what it is, rather than co-opting it for our own political ends.

As a practitioner of a faith that venerates the ancestors, I feel obligated to give respect to those heretics who died for what they believe. They did not die in the name of a Mother Goddess or in support of a pre-Christian nature religion (which was long gone by the time most of them went to the stake, and which never resembled Wicca or modern neo-Druidism anyway). They died for their Christian (or, in many cases in Spain and elsewhere, their Jewish) faith. To redefine their suffering is to take away the meaning of that sacrifice. It's as repellent, to me, as trying to claim that 100 million witches were stolen from Africa and sold into slavery during the Middle Passage, or that 6 million witches were killed by the Nazis and went to the gas chambers chanting passages from Starhawk.