Fire Scrying

Fire Scrying

Make a fire of driftwood, on the seashore, after sunset (if you are far from the seashore then you can use any old, weathered wood, such as from an old barn, or the like). When the wood has been well burned and is beginning to die down, lay on it a cedar log, a juniper log and three good handsful of sandlewood chips. Let these burn well. Then, as the fire again begins to die down, gaze deep into the dying embers. In these embers you will see scenes of the past, present and future. You may see the actual scenes, but it is more likely that you will see symbolic scenes that need interpreting. This scrying fire is sometimes referred to as the “Fire of Azrael”, and was described by Dion Fortune in her book The Sea Priestess.

Buckland’s Complete Book Of Witchcraft
Raymond Buckland

ISBN 0-87542-050-8

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Fire ScryingRosemary Kooiman

Fire has long been a standard ritual tool for the Nomadic Chantry of the Gramarye. We scry in the fireplace when the weather is cool enough for us to build a fire. Additionally, the Lady has charged us to ask at the time of the full moon for that which is our desire, so we burn our petitions to the Goddess and the God during our Full Moon Circle. It is the burning of petitions that I will address, as it is an excellent and magical way for the petitioner to clarify, in his own mind, his objective. I use the generic “he” and “his” as it is less cumbersome. If you feel the need, you may substitute “she” and “hers” where appropriate. The petition, ideally, is something that is lacking, or sorely needed, to fulfill the life of the petitioner.

Prior to gathering in Sacred Space to celebrate the Full Moon Circle, each participant is given a small sheet of parchment paper, which is available in most stationery stores, and is encouraged to write his petition on the parchment. The sheet must be small enough (one inch by two is sufficient) to burn thoroughly and quickly so the cauldron will not become clogged with paper and the burning delayed. Petitions should be stated in four or five words. This helps the petitioner to truly define his thoughts. “I want to be rich” does not qualify. We have found that if the petition is lengthy the true wish may be come ill-defined, and may reap less than the desired response. Petitions should be written in pencil. Not only does a pencil write better on the parchment, but it seems to bond the wish more firmly to the parchment, and produces a better result. I have no idea why this is so, but many years of petition burning has proven it to be true. The petitioner will carry the paper into Circle with him.

Supplies required:Sufficient pieces of parchment paper Sufficient pencils

A cauldron large enough to hold the petitions, but not so large that the supply of fuel required would cause a fire larger that anticipated or desired. My small cauldron is three inches high and five across, and will handle up to twenty petitions. For more than this I use my large cauldron which is six inches high by ten and a half inches across.

A supply of fuel. I use grain alcohol. Everclear is one of the names under which it is bottled, and it can be obtained in any liquor store. It seems to burn more evenly and cleaner than the Sterno type of solid fuel. The amount needed is surprisingly small; indoors never more than a shot, and usually much less. Outdoors the amount will vary depending on the depth of the cauldron, the strength of the wind and the ambient dew point and barometric presssure. I strongly advise that the practicioner experiment with the amount of fuel and the size of the cauldron required to burn a specific number of petitions. It could be disastrous to go it blind. The area where the burning is to take place, if in a home, should be magically fireproofed, and a container of water somewhere in the near vicinity is a wise idea. If the burning is to be done outside it is a really good idea to get permission for an open flame if the site is not in your own backyard. Our good name is precious, and we need not antagonize the owners of a property or the guards of a park.

A long taper or match with which to light the cauldron. The word “long” is not used lightly. The flame may jump higher than expected. It is beautiful, but dangerous to the unprotected hand.

During the Circle ceremony, after the cleansing and casting of the circle, and after reading the “Charge of the Goddess, the cauldron is placed in the center of the Circle or the Sacred Space. The HPS declares it is time to petition the Lady and invites the congregation to come forward and present their petitions to the flame while reminding them of their part in the procedure. One receives according to the effort one has put forward to obtain his desire for himself. Truly does the Lord (and Lady) help those who help themselves. While the petitions are being fed into the cauldron, and afterward while they are still burning, the Circle chants the following:

Fire, fire, burning higher, making music like a choir

Bring to me my heart’s desire.

When the fire has burned out the cauldron(s) should be removed from the center of the circle. Please remember the cauldron is HOT, and should be handled with a utensil or with gloves or a pot holder.

The Full Moon ceremony is expanded during the Sabats, each Solstice and Equinox. Since these are a time of transition, two pieces of parchment are prepared; one to rid oneself of a habit, trait or condition that has become unnecessary or honorous during the past year, and one to bring to ones life a new condition or dimension, much like the Full Moon petition. Two cauldrons are used. As one faces North their placement is thus; the one for riddance is in West where the waters may wash the slate clean, and the one for aquisition is in the East where we find beginnings. The procedure is the same, with the cleansing cauldron the one which is lighted first.

During the years we have been burning our petitions, the Goddess, the God and the gods, spirits and watchers have truly blessed us with riches. We have gained new jobs, new dwellings, mates and health. When you have completed your wishing and have received your blessings remember to thank Deity, who helped you get them.

Rosemary Kooiman, Reverend High Priestess Nomadic Chantry of the Gramarye

Beyond the Smudge Stick

Beyond the Smudge Stick

Author: Amy

Do you find the smoke of smudge sticks to be, well, wimpy? Is what you need a truly cleansing smudge? Then try some Hibachi Herbal Magic. Tossing loose herbs on hot charcoal is style of smudge favored by the Mesoamerican indigenous for a few thousand years, like this recent experience of mine in the Mayan Yucatan:

A red glow danced across Paloma’s dark skin as she leaned toward the modest bonfire, using a small stone rake to draw steaming embers to the edge. She deftly a large terra cotta chalice with one hand to scoop up hot charcoal and tossed on copal granules from a bowl with the other, quickly rising up and walking toward me in a cloud of thick white smoke. With a few swift motions up my body, she enveloped me in swirling copal fumes.

To become immersed in smoke is a baptism, a complete submission to another world. The animated smoke feels alive with strong aromas that can transport the mind and liberate the spirit. If you have herbs, a fire container and charcoal, you can do this, too.

More Than Sage

In making a smudge stick you’re limited to herbs still on their stems. But with loose herbs on hot charcoal, the possibilities are boundless, with not only leafy herbs but resins such frankincense, sandalwood and other woods, plus seeds, flowers, berries and a plethora of essential oils.

Ooomph up a sage smudge with super purifiers like blue vervain. Add in protective herbs so that the vigorous cleansing doesn’t leave you vulnerable. Tailor the smudge for your event, using a rich, sweet myrrh and mugwort-based blend for the emotional openness of Moon ceremonies. Salute the Sun with a mix emphasizing rosemary and bay laurel for a sharp aroma that will quicken the mind.

A smudge can be fashioned for any sabbat, with Beltane and Summer Solstice bonfires having strong herbal traditions. A male-honoring smudge might be musky with highly spiced overtones. One for women could reflect their complexity, with sweet and warm aromas brightened with elements of green herbs and grounded with earthiness.

Here’s an example of a woman-honoring smudge:

Feminine Focus

Aroma: resinous – sweetly musky with spicy overtones
Ceremonial Use: purifications; Venus, Moon and women’s ceremonies
Significant Days: New and Full Moons; goddess and divine feminine days

Preparation Notes: Crush the cardamon pods, myrrh, sandalwood and valerian root, if necessary, and grind into a rough powder. Add thyme and blue vervain and blend.

cardamon (or cardamom) pods1/2 cup 1 part
myrrh resin 1 cup 2 parts
sandalwood 1/2 cup 1 part
thyme 1/4 cup 1/2 part
valerian root 1/2 cup 1 part
vervain, blue 1/2 cup 1 part

The warm aroma and purifying qualities of the lunar myrrh and sandalwood are paired with purification punch of blue vervain and thyme. Valerian provides relaxed grounding, while cardamon adds spice and pays tribute to Venus, the goddess of love. (See note about balancing with solar blends in Lunar Purification, below.)

More Than Smudge

You can push smudges a step further with adult-only blends that I call immersents. The smudges are done naked or lightly clothed. Active ingredients in the smoke are absorbed through bare skin and inhaled into the lungs. They should only be done with lung-buffering herbs like coltsfoot and great mullein to counter the stress of inhaling smoke.

Immersents are ideal for situations when you want to create a mind-altering effect in participants in a mild and gradual way so the gathering doesn’t go all wacko. Hibachi Herbal Magic is not for parties, but can be used to take your mind to new places.

Psychotropic herbs can be used to foster passion and induce trances, deepen divination and cause prophetic dreams. Some facilitate deep meditation. None should be used if driving within three hours of partaking.

Even if mind altering is not what you seek, you can guide your gatherings with non-ceremonial inhalants for sharpening the mind when folks have gotten too loose or chilling out when overly revved up.

It’s Better Together

One of the cool things about Hibachi Herbal Magic is the way it puts the herbs and their power at center stage. When being blessed with a smudge stick, I’m always aware of the person who’s doing the smudging. But with loose herbs on a hibachi of hot charcoal, it’s just the smoke and the smudgee.

Everyone’s been through the interminable wait while the circle is smudged with a stick. But with Hibachi Herbal Magic, to smudge a group of people they just have them stand downwind, or use large hand fans to direct the smoke. Using the Mesoamerican chalice technique you can still smudge people individually, while doing it quicker and with a more potent smoke.

Hibachi Herbal Magic can also sub for a Beltane or Summer Solstice bonfire in places where open fires are not allowed. A leap through the smoke of special seasonal herbs can be a perfect conclusion to a ceremony. It’s very tactile and memorable!

But the technique also excels for individuals and small groups. It’s an awesome experience to do Hibachi Herbal Magic alone; it’s like a dance with the smoke. Either way, you can even straddle the hibachi and smudge the goods!

Fire Up!

The whole igniting-charcoal-in-the-hibachi thing can be intimidating for the barbeque-impaired. It all depends on the charcoal you use. Self-lighting charcoal briquettes are a breeze; one flick of a Bic will get them started.

Natural charcoal or regular briquettes are by far the more environmental option. Both use waste from lumber processing, with pre-charred wood scraps making natural charcoal and sawdust mixed with binder for briquettes. Or look for treeless briquettes made from coconut shells, which have a great aroma.

Use ethanol a plant-derived lighter gel, which is essentially liquefied Sterno, for the complete green approach. Using a charcoal chimney can will help the lighting process immensely.

Charcoal fires can a bit of an art, and a messy one at that, but worth it. The poised glowing fire of the hot embers provides a powerful focus point for any gathering. The clouds of smoke redolent with complex aromas can focus and entrance a crowd, quickly transporting them out of the ordinary in a very whole-bodied way.