Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Secret Meanings of Celtic Symbols

Like all symbols, those found in Celtic art, literature, jewelry, architecture, and decorative objects contain deeper spiritual and magical significance. The four most popular symbols used today--knots, serpents (or dragons), the cross, and spirals--can be found on artifacts dating back to the eighth century B.C.E.

Although exquisitely beautiful as design motifs, Celtic knots are not purely decorative. Knotwork symbolizes the continuing cycle of life, death, and rebirth––and the many twists and turns along the way. Celtic knots also represent the path to the ancestors, one's inner self, and divine inspiration--much as the labyrinth does.

The cross is a poignant symbol to both Pagan and Christian Celts, but its meaning in the two traditions is somewhat different. To Christians, the cross represents the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To Pagan Celts, the cross depicts the junction or union of two polar energies. The horizontal portion signifies the earth; the vertical symbolizes the heavens. In both viewpoints, however, the the cross signifies eternal life, a bridge between the physical and spiritual realms.

Serpents and dragons depict wisdom. In Celtic spirituality, as in many other traditions, the snake represents the life force as well as hidden (or occult) knowledge. Dragons are seen as keepers of secrets, as well as the gatekeepers to other worlds. The spiral shape depicts the path inward and outward, as well as the flow of life energy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice marks the sun ingress into the first degree of the zodiac sign Capricorn, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. This year the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 (although it can vary a day or so from year to year).

In pre-Christian Europe, Britain, and Ireland the Winter Solstice celebrated the birth of the Sun God. This holiday of good cheer and festivities, also known as Yule, commemorates life over death and the return of the sun. The turning point in the year, it heralds increasing sunlight as the days grow steadily longer for six months. The holiday was so important to Pagan cultures that Christianity adopted this joyful season to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Like the Sun God, Jesus is said to bring light into the world during the darkest time of the year.

A Pagan custom was to build a fire from wood of the nine sacred trees (some people say seven) as part of the Winter Solstice ritual. An oak log, known as a Yule log, served as the fire’s centerpiece and represented the ascendancy of the Oak King, who would rule until the Summer Solstice. (A small piece of the Yule log was saved for next year’s fire.)

After the fire burned down, anyone who wished took ashes from the ritual fire and wrapped them in a piece of cloth, along with a pine cone. Then they placed their packages under their bed pillows to solicit nightly guidance and angelic advice about the coming year.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Golden Cord

This sex magick spell combines your creative energy with a partner’s to attract prosperity.

Best times to perform this spell: During the full moon;
hen the sun or moon is in Taurus; on Thursdays

Ingredients or equipment needed: A gold-colored cord;
12 candles in rainbow colors;

candleholders; matches or a lighter

Acquire a gold-colored cord that’s as long as you are from the tips of your toes to the tips of your fingers when your arm is fully extended above your head. Arrange the candles in a circle around the space where you will perform this spell.

Enter the circle with your partner, bringing the golden cord with you. Light the candles, beginning in the east and continuing in a clockwise direction until all are burning. Make love, coordinating your activity so that one person reaches orgasm first.

As one person reaches orgasm, the other ties a few knots in the cord. When the second person comes, his/her partner ties a few knots. Throughout the entire experience, focus your minds on the objective: to attract money. Your intention and energy are tied into the knots.

When you’re finished, snuff out all the candles. Any time you need money,
open one of the knots and release the energy.

(Excerpted from Nice Spells/Naughty Spells, by Skye Alexander, published by Adams Media; copyrighted material.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Simple Candle Magick

The word “candle” comes from the Latin candere meaning torch. Candles play roles in many of our favorite religious and secular rituals, as well as magickal ones. Blowing out candles on a birthday cake, for instance, is a popular tradition –– but it’s also a simple magick spell, intended to make a wish come true and bring good luck in the coming year.

Candle magick may be the most common and widespread form of magick, spanning many if not all magickal traditions. In the practice of magick, candles represent the element of fire and the spirit or life force. This tool can be used as a focusing aid or for scrying. Candles may also represent people or higher powers, and serve many other purposes in spells and rituals.

Often magicians inscribe candles with words or symbols that relate to their intentions. If you were doing a love spell, for example, you might carve a heart or the word “love” into the candle wax. As the candle burns, your intention is dispersed into the Universe and set into motion. You can even get creative and form candle wax into a symbolic shape, which is often done in the practice of sympathetic magick.

The candle’s color can contribute to your spell, as each color contains certain properties and characteristics. Many candles today are also available scented with essential oils, which combine magickal qualities with sensory and psychological benefits. If you prefer, you can “dress” candles yourself by anointing them with essential oils appropriate to your spell or ritual. When you incorporate color and scent into your spells, you involve several senses in your work and enhance the power of your magick.

(Excerpted from 10-Minute Magic Spells, by Skye Alexander, published by Fair Winds Press, copyrighted material.)


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sex Magick

Mystical rites, rituals, and ceremonies involving sex have been practiced in numerous cultures, East and West, for longer than anyone can document. Early Celts engaged in sexual activity, particularly during the spring planting season and on Beltane, as a form of sympathetic magick to encourage the land’s fertility. Temple priestesses in ancient Greece combined sex and mysticism. Tantric yoga channels sexual energy toward spiritual goals and also promotes health and longevity. Early Jewish mysticism contained sexual components in its rituals and spirituality. In Wicca’s Great Rite, a couple invites the God and Goddess to enter their bodies during sex, and the act is considered sacred.

Western sex magick has links to the teachings of the Sufis, who supposedly shared their knowledge with the Knights Templar during the Crusades in the Middle East. The Templars brought these practices back to Europe, where they were incorporated into other mystical and occult philosophies.

Magick’s notorious bad boy, Aleister Crowley, did much to promote and influence the course sex magick has taken in the West. Crowley learned sex magick while traveling in India and Africa, and he emphasized its practice through the organization he headed, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO).

Like other types of magickal work, sex magick’s objectives are varied, ranging from healing to spell-working to spiritual enlightenment. Franz Mesmer used sexually induced trances to facilitate various types of healing. The British poet William Blake, a Freemason, wrote about a facet of sex magick that involves sexual activity between humans and spiritual beings. In kundalini yoga, sexual energy is raised and directed throughout the body to nourish the charkas and encourage healing on every level. Because sex magick’s power comes from blending male and female energies with divine forces to produce wholeness, it can also be an effective way to consciously create virtually any circumstance you desire.

Tapping Creative Energy

Sex magick taps the powerful creative force inherent in sexual activity for specific purposes other than human reproduction. According to sex magick’s tenets, this creative force, which is responsible for all human and animal life, can be directed to create abundance, success, healing, and so on.

Sexual energy can provide the fuel to propel all forms of manifestation. The result of magickal coupling is known as a “magickkal childe.” This means an effect is imprinted on the spiritual plane that will eventually materialize in the physical world. As in other types of magick, the participants mentally create an image of the intention they wish to bring into being. Then they engage in sex while holding this image in their minds. At the moment of orgasm, the image is released into the cosmos to be acted upon by divine forces and finally “birthed” on the material plane.

This is only one of many sex magick practices, but it’s a relatively easy and effective method. Other forms, such as tantric yoga and astral traveling during sexual trance, require more extensive mental, physical, and spiritual expertise.

Charging Charms

The creative energy raised during sex magick can be used to empower charms and other magick tools. The easiest way to do this is to fashion a talisman or amulet in the usual manner. Then keep the charm near you (or wear it) while engaging in sexual activity. Remember to hold your intention clearly in your mind throughout the act.

You can also charge charms with a mixture of male and female fluids (called elixir) generated during magickal sexual activity. Anoint a talisman or amulet with these fluids, just as you might anoint a charm with essential oils. The creative force permeates the charm and imbues it with additional power. Magicians sometimes use sexual fluids to charge magickal tools, too.

(Excerpted from The Everything Spells & Charms Book, by Skye Alexander, published by Adams Media. Copyrighted material.) 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Timing Money Spells

Jupiter, the planet astrologers connect with growth and expansion, rules on Thursday. If you’d like to increase your income or business opportunities, do prosperity magick on a Thursday. However, if you want to stabilize your finances, limit spending, or manage your money better, Saturday is a better choice because Saturn supports discipline and responsibility.

Partnerships fall into Venus’ domain, and Venus reigns on Friday––work spells to improve a business partnership or attract financial backing on a Friday. People who earn their livings in creative fields can also benefit from doing magick on Friday, as Venus rules the arts, or on Sunday, for the Sun is linked with self-expression.

Pay attention to the moon’s phase, too. Perform spells to attract money, enhance investments, improve your public image, or help you get a job or promotion while the moon is waxing. Plant “seeds” for a new venture on the new moon. As the moon’s light increases, so will whatever you started during this auspicious period. The full moon helps bring projects to fruition. Examine your progress during the full moon and, if necessary, make any adjustments.

Don’t overlook Mercury’s retrograde periods, which occur every four months and last for three weeks at a time. (You’ll have to consult an ephemeris or astrological calendar for this information.) From our vantage point here on earth, Mercury appears to be moving backward in its orbit when retrograde.

Investments or ventures begun during this planetary cycle can be problematic. You may not understand all the details, a situation may not turn out the way you’d planned, or an undertaking may take longer than expected. Because we don’t think as clearly while Mercury is retrograde, it’s not usually a good time to work magick––you may miss something important or get your signals crossed.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Shades of Gray

Let’s get one thing straight––there’s nothing wrong with doing magick to get what you want. In fact, that’s the reason most of us perform spells. You can use magick just as you use your abilities to improve your lot in life. But if you injure someone else in order to achieve your own objectives, you’re crossing the line from gray to black magick.

Wicca, the spiritual path many modern-day Western witches follow, puts it concisely: “Do what you will, but harm none.” Now that seems plain enough, doesn’t it? A spell designed to kill your business partner so you get total control of the company and your joint assets obviously falls into the black category. A spell to steal your sister’s husband? Black again.

But what about doing magick to get a job that your best friend also wants? Or to win the heart of that really cute guy you met at a party Saturday night (the one who didn’t ask for your phone number)? Now we’re talking shades of gray.

Some spells fall at the “silver” end of the spectrum, others at the “charcoal” end. But sometimes it’s kind of hard to tell. Even well-intended spells may infringe on another person’s free will. Here’s an example. Let’s say your brother is sick and you decide to do a spell to heal him. Sounds like a positive use of magick, right? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Perhaps your brother has been pushing himself too hard and needs a rest big-time, but the only way his body can get him to slow down is to send him 

to bed with the flu. His illness is actually serving a good purpose; therefore, doing a get-well spell could be interfering with his body’s natural protective processes. See what I mean about gray areas?

Many spells are considered “bad” because they’re manipulative. Let’s talk some more about that cute guy from the party. And let’s say you know for a fact he’s not involved with anyone else. Isn’t it okay to go for it? Again, the answer is maybe. In situations like this, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. One, if he isn’t interested in you, are you manipulating him (i.e., interfering with his own free will) by doing a spell to snag him? Two, do you really want someone who’s not that into you or would you be better off with someone else? 

Okay, I admit, this is a toughy. Love spells are the ones people most often misuse. The best way to handle this dilemma is to add a “disclaimer” at the end of your spell, something like “if this is for our highest good.” This allows the Universe to make the final decision and take responsibility for the outcome. You’re off the hook––if the relationship isn’t right, it won’t happen. An even better approach is to do a spell to attract a partner who is right for you in every way. Don’t specify who that might be, let the Universe send you the perfect lover. 

How can you decide if the spell you’re doing is naughty or nice? Consider the possible consequences––are you willing to accept what happens? Would you advise your best friend to do it? Trust your feelings––if you don’t feel right about it, don’t do it.

Often, your intention is the only difference between one category and the next. Before you do a dark spell, consider whether you can produce the same result using a slightly lighter touch. Remember, the choice is always yours.

(Excerpted from Skye's book Nice Spells/Naughty Spells, published by Adams Media; copyrighted material.)


Friday, October 23, 2009

Which Witch Is Which?

Despite the ugly face that’s been put on witches, historically most have been concerned with helping individuals and communities. Of course, there are some “wicked witches” just as there are greedy evangelists and pedophile priests. It’s important, however, to remember that fear and misunderstanding underlie the misconceptions many people hold about witches. Once you get to know them, witches are pretty much like everyone else––the person who cuts your hair or repairs your car might even be a witch.

The word witch comes from the Anglo-Saxon term wicce meaning “to bend or shape.” The Old English word wiccacraeft meant witchcraft.

In the past, many witches learned their art as part of a family tradition in which they were carefully trained. Villages had their honored cunning folk to whom people turned for all kinds of help, from encouraging crops to grow to fixing a broken heart. Healing comprised a large part of the witch’s work, and many witches were herbalists and midwives.

Witches learned their skills as a craft, just as someone might learn carpentry or masonry. Religious constructs weren’t linked with the practice of witchcraft itself, though individual witches may have followed the beliefs of their families or culture. Witches do not need to believe in divine beings in order to use magick, although many do recognize higher powers and attempt to work with them. Nor do witches need to adhere to a particular dogma in order to perform their work, just as computer programmers and auto mechanics don’t have to be members of a particular faith to do their jobs.

For the record, witches are not necessarily Wiccan. Witchcraft implies a methodology (for example, the use of magick), whereas the word Wiccan refers to a person who has adopted a specific spiritual philosophy. Wicca is a religion, one that even the U.S. military recognizes. Wiccans practice specific rituals and moral codes just as people of Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths do. Witches can follow any religion, or none.

However, the lack of an ethical or religious construct does not mean witches are without ethics or religion. The use of magick is simply a means to an end and is, in itself, morally neutral. Ethics get involved only in how magick is wielded.

By the way, a male witch is not called a warlock. He is a witch, too. Warlock derived from an Old English word for oath breaker; later, during the mid-1400s, the word came to mean liar (whether the person was male or female). So to call a male witch a warlock is a nasty insult. The words wizard and sorcerer can be used for a man or a woman. Wizard derives from a term meaning “wise,” and sorcerer means “witch” or “diviner.”

The word magician is also appropriate for both sexes and refers to someone who practices magick, regardless of his/her religious beliefs. (The “k” at the end of the word magick differentiates it from stage magic or illusion). Many magicians are adept in astrology, sorcery, or other magickal arts. Magicians come from various cultures and ethic backgrounds, belief systems and schools of thought. Most witches and Wiccans practice some type of magick, but not all magicians are witches or Wiccans. Shamans, ceremonical magicians, feng shui masters, and many others engage in various forms of magick. According to Aleister Crowley, perhaps the most famous magician in modern times, “Every intentional act is a magickal act.”

If you choose to follow a magickal path, as a witch, Wiccan, wizard, sorcerer, or other practitioner of the magickal arts, you’ll notice that everyone you meet is your teacher. In turn, you’ll teach something to everyone you meet. You’ll also discover that magick exists everywhere, all the time, and that you are part of the magick.

(Excerpted from my book The Everything Wicca and Witchcraft Book, all material copyrighted.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Halloween Facts and Fallacies

As Halloween approaches, we are once again subjected to lots of misinformation and downright foolishness regarding witches, paganism, and the occult in general.  Unfortunately, this ancient holiday's true meaning has become lost in a muddle of macabre sensationalism. Each year we read stories of children eating tainted candy and teens using Halloween as an excuse for bad behavior. In some places, conservative Christian groups try to get the holiday banned, believing erroneously that it has something to do with satanism.

Also known as All Hallows Eve, Hallowmass, and Samhain (pronounced SOW-een), Halloween is a holy day for witches and many other pagans. It is the witches' New Year, a time for reflecting on the past and looking ahead to the future. Originally, the custom of wearing costumes on Halloween was a way to visually demonstrate what you wanted to be in the coming year and to project that image out into the world. (No one who knew this would choose to dress up as a ghost, skeleton, goblin, or hobo!)

Halloween is also a solemn time for remembering friends and relatives who have passed on––consequently its connection with death. However, the dead don't rise up out of their coffins and walk around as ghosts or zombies on this sacred holiday. Witches may enact rituals or light candles to honor departed loved ones. Some believe heaven and earth are close together on Samhain, and that this is the best time to make contact with entities on the other side.

No belief system has been so maligned as witchcraft and no group has been so persecuted for so many centuries as the followers of pagan traditions. It is important to remember that before the rise of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Goddess religions predominated for millennia throughout Europe and many other parts of the world. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, a period known as the "Burning Times," millions of women and children (the most famous being Joan of Arc) were accused of being witches and massacred by Christian zealots. Although most of the violence was levied against females of all ages, astrologers, homosexuals, and other assorted dissidents were also put to death. And we all know what happened in Salem, Massachusetts, a city that now capitalizes on its darkest hour and enjoys a brisk tourist business during Halloween.

Wicca is a Goddess-based religion––one of the few in a world where patriarchal belief systems prevail. Despite the fact that our male-dominated culture still denigrates witchcraft and paganism, many women (and some men, too) today are rediscovering these ancient traditions and finding a form of spirituality they can relate to, one that respects the feminine.

For the record:  Witches do not put hexes on people, fly around on broomsticks, snatch and/or eat children, or perform animal or human sacrifices. They do not believe in Satan (he's a Judeo-Christian conception). They do not deny the existence of God or the male principle. Most of them are not cackling hags (although the "hag" is one of the three manifestations of the Goddess: the older woman, representing wisdom). They do not hate men and have no desire to overthrow Christianity or any other religion. Not all pagans are witches; paganism is a general term for various spiritual belief systems that honor the earth, nature, and the cosmos. Many of the rituals, holidays, myths, and practices now connected with Christianity derived from the earlier Goddess-based traditions.

Fear and ignorance are dangerous forces. They are at the root of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, jingoism, and other forms of violence and hatred. This Halloween, let us put aside our prejudices and uphold one of the principles this country was founded on: religious freedom.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's in the Cards

Can you really see your future in the cards? I’ve used the tarot––and other oracles including the I Ching, runes, and astrology––for many years. Whenever I have an important decision to make, seek clarity or direction, or just need a different perspective, I turn to my trusty tarot deck for guidance. It never fails to amaze me. (Here's the 3 of Cups from the tarot deck I'm creating.)

Nobody knows how old the tarot (pronounced tar OH) is or where it came from. The earliest tarot deck that still exists today was created in the mid-nineteenth century. We do know the tarot became popular during the Renaissance, especially in Italy. But tarot scholars believe this beautiful and mysterious oracle is much older, perhaps dating back to ancient Egypt. Some sources say gypsies brought the first tarot decks to Europe hundreds of years ago and used the cards to tell fortunes.

I was thrilled when Ravenous Romance’s Holly Schmidt invited me to write TAROTICA, my just-released erotic novel based on the tarot. The book is one woman’s lively, lusty journey of self-discovery as she travels cross country, meeting a colorful cast of characters who teach her the secrets of the 22 cards in the tarot’s major arcana. Here's how it starts:

"Some people believe the ancient, mysterious, beautiful oracle called the tarot holds the secrets to life.

Miranda Malone isn’t sure.

But she’s about to find out... "

One of my favorite tarot artists, Lori Walls, creator of the fascinating Tarot Erotica deck, called TAROTICA “a ripping read which works surprisingly well on a number of levels. I love your characterizations of the trumps, the interpretation of the Path, and of course, the erotic element.” Coffee Time Romance and More reviewed TAROTICA as "one of the hottest books I have ever read....a journey not to be missed."

You tarot enthusiasts out there, I hope you’ll check out Lori’s card deck –– and my book! Go to and you'll find TAROTICA listed under my pseudonym Amber Austin. In a future post, I'll excerpt part of the second chapter "The Magician," which depicts a scene of sex magick in a secret pyramid. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Magick of Art and Writing

We live in a magickal universe––we’re all magicians, performing magick all the time. Science tells us that everything is energy, and things that appear solid are really collections of mobile molecules. Quantum physics has demonstrated that when you focus on those molecules, your attention influences how they behave. What this means is that through the power of your mind, you cause results––whether or not you realize you’re doing it.

Art and writing are some of the most potent forms of magic. To work magic successfully, you create a vivid image in your mind, then empower it with emotion. The more real you can make your vision––and the more feeling you can get into it––the better. That’s exactly what we writers and artists do. Which is why what we write or paint often transpires, metaphorically or literally. I know a writer who wrote about a house she later lived in, and another who wrote about blindness shortly before her retina detached. Twice I’ve drawn hot young guys by writing spicy love stories––they actually turned up on my doorstep.

A couple weeks ago, I made this collage––the image seemed so empowering to me. Then last week I attended a women’s retreat where, unbeknownst to me in advance, a class in the Polynesian art of fire spinning was being offered. I got to dance with fire, like the woman in my collage––I even performed before a crowd of people, and the experience was indeed empowering! 

I do believe we create our own realities, as all those inspirational speakers such as Wayne Dyer and Jack Canfield keep saying. The trick is to do it intentionally, so we make things come out the way we want them to. Through writing and art, I’m design my own destiny. Fellow writers and artists, have you ever done this? I’d love to hear about your experiences.