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I still mostly make my own Conjure items, but one there's one seller on Etsy that I absolutely love, Rita's Spiritual Goods. I got a couple of items from her last week.

work space protection witch bottle

This is a Work Space Protection Witch Bottle, she listed one several months back and I loved it, but I was unemployed at the time so I couldn't very well justify purchasing it. I've been watching her listings like a hawk since I started my new job in March, waiting for her to list another, and when she did I snatched it up within seconds. It's on my desk at work. I can identify a cats' eye shell (for deflecting the "evil eye" from negative co-workers), safety pins (witch bottles always have pins or needles or shards of glass in them), and what looks like Spanish moss, which is usually a money-drawing element. But there's also some stuff that's a complete mystery, herbs and bits of stone and something that looks like a nut that's been painted gold. The seahorse is a good luck symbol and also carries meanings of patience and peristence.

hand of fatima charm bottle

I bought this Hand of Fatima charm bottle at the same time, I just really like that symbol (also known as a hamsa). I recently bought a necklace that looks like a rosary except there's a hamsa on the end instead of a crucifix. In this one I can identify allspice berries and lavender, which I use in every positive work I make myself, an evil eye bead, and a skull bead. The skull is a near-universal symbol with a thousand different meanings, but in Conjure charms meant to bring fortune to the bearer it usually has a "reverse bad luck" meaning.

hamsa rosary

This is the necklace I mentioned. The Etsy seller was shutting down her shop, so I got it for 40% off.

Crown of Success charm bottle

This is a Crown of Success charm bottle that I made myself last week. In the center is a High John root that I anointed with Crown of Success oil. It also contains cinnamon stick, allspice berries, vervain, lodestone gravel with gold magnetic sand, and rock salt. I sealed the top with gold sealing wax, sprinkled orange glitter on it, and pressed a crown seal into the top. (I didn't have to buy the seal, it's part of a set I already had.)

I've also recently become interested in Lenormand cards, a style of card divination similar to Tarot that was used by Marie Anne Lenormand, a Napoleonic-era French cartomancer. I bought a deck on Amazon yesterday; you know I'm a sucker for a pretty deck so had to get Ciro Marchetti's "Gilded Reverie" deck:

gilded mass market cover

I don't know a lot about the method yet, but I look forward to learning. As I've said before, I don't believe that cards can "tell the future", but I think they can be a helpful tool to explore your subconscious. (And Carl Jung believed that too, so I'm in good company.)
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I am SO BEHIND on posting photos. I started a new job last month; my commute is twice as long as I’m used to (although largely on rural highways very light of traffic) AND I’ve been working a lot of overtime—I even came in for about 3 ½ hours on Sunday! I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, and I’m certainly not complaining about the money, but lately it feels like I barely have time for anything else.

Anyway, on Saturday I made time for the spring sale at the Old Schoolhouse Antiques Mall in the town of Washington, thus continuing my unbroken streak—I haven’t missed one of the biannual sales (there’s another one in October) since I moved to south Louisiana. For a couple of years there in the middle they were kind of crappy, but they seem to have bounced back. I’ve gotten some of my best vintage cameras there, including my Land Cameras, and this year did not disappoint:

Polaroid SX-70

The SX-70 was the only Land Camera I didn’t have at least one type of*, and one of just three cameras still on my must-own list. (The others are a Rollei 35 and a Fuji Natura Classica. I don’t count the Arguses or Kodak Brownies I buy when I come across them, because I collect those brands specifically.) I only paid $20 for it because it has the plastic rather than metal exterior, and because it hadn’t been cleaned and restored. But the seller—who was selling refurbished ones for $100, so he clearly knows Polaroids—assured me it worked, and I figured I could afford to trust him for $20. Those old leatherette patches just have to be scraped off, and the old adhesive soaked off with denatured alcohol, then I can either buy a die-cut skin or make my own. I’ve seen tutorials where people used materials like old wallpaper swatches, or leather patches cut out of vintage purses.

Hoodoo Oils

And this is the other thing I bought there, a Japanese lacquered corner shelf. Some of the lacquer has rubbed off on the edges, but it was only $12 and I’ve always had a fondness for all the kitschy stuff the GIs brought home after WWII. Cheap as it was, most of it is still better-made and more charming than the crap Ikea sells. I think it’s meant to hang in a wall corner, it’s got a metal hook, but standing it on the dresser creates 3 shelves instead of 2. Which makes it the perfect size to hold all of my condition oils, which previously had been scattered about—some of them were actually being kept in my underwear drawer!

*I also own a 95A, the 2nd model ever made and one that covers the earliest roll-film era; a 150, which covers the classic ‘50s-‘60s era (mine is a 1963); and several late-model hardshells.
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ocean goddess altar

I went back up to the Worthmore 5 & 10 in Rayne last weekend, which I like to think of as "the store that time forgot". I saw rolls of heavy duty elastic in the sewing section labeled CORSET REPAIR. And I picked up a pack of onion skin typewriter paper. When's the last time you saw something labeled as being specifically for typewriters for sale?

They have a cool religious section with some unusual items, including some very nice resin statues. Usually resin statues have awful paint jobs that look like they were slapped on by blind children in the midst of an epileptic seizure, but they had some small ones for just $5 that were perfect. I bought this one of Our Lady of Regla, to go on my altar along with Yemaya, La Sirene, and Stella Maris. I consider all of these matron saints who are associated with the ocean to be different aspects of the same spirit.
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martin and joan chaplets

Both of these saints have set forms to the number and placement of beads on their chaplets, but not for the colors, so I just used the colors that are generally associated with each of them: grey or silver for Saint Joan (for her armor and sword), and purple and white for Saint Martin.

saint joan medal

Saint Joan's chaplet starts with 2 large beads, then has 3 sets of 5 beads separated with 2 more large beads. This adds up to 19 beads, the age of Joan when she was burned at the stake. I used hematite for the main beads, which is a dark silvery charcoal color. The blue and pink don't have any special meaning, I just liked the way it contrasted.

chaplet fleur de lis

Of course I used a fleur-de-lis charm to finish it! Saint Joan is the matron saint of France, and of all bad-ass women.

saint martin medal

Saint Martin de Porres' chaplet is 3 beads, then 10--essentially it's a single-decade rosary. I took apart an old rosary to make this chaplet; I've never liked it because the person who strung it used this gross waxed thread that picks up every speck of dirt in a 5-mile radius. (The white beads are leftovers from Saint Dymphna's chaplet.)

saint martin crucifix

I wanted to use a mouse as the charm on the end but couldn't find one, so I just used the crucifix that was on the rosary. The most famous story about Saint Martin is that the head of his abbey asked him to poison the mice, but he couldn't bring himself to kill them, so he told them that if they left he would feed them everyday. They did leave, and every day they would line up outside the walls and he would feed them.

Saint Martin de Porres is the patron saint of African-Americans, all racially mixed people (he was the son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave), those that strive for interracial harmony, and anyone who loves animals. He is also syncretized to Papa Candelo in the religion of Santeria.
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Chaplets are any form of Catholic prayer beads. All rosaries are chaplets, but not all chaplets are rosaries. Many non-rosary chaplets are dedicated to certain saints, and for many of the most popular ones they have evolved over the years into traditional forms--certain colors and/or numbers of beads. They can be closed, like a rosary, or open. Traditionally the open forms have the saint's medal on one end and a crucifix on the other, but when have I ever shown myself interested in tradition? Mine have the medals but not the crucifix.

chaplets

The top one is a Saint Dymphna chaplet, the bottom one Saint Lucy. I've already talked about my interest in Saint Lucy, I've also been interested in Saint Dymphna for several years. She was an Irish princess who was beheaded by her pagan father, partly for being a Christian but also because she refused to marry him (yeah, gross) after her mother died. She is the matron saint of those who suffer from mental illness, seizure disorders, and somnambulism.

Saint Dymphna chaplet 1

The traditional form for Saint Dymphna's chaplet is to start with 2 large beads of any color, then add 3 sets of 5 beads each (which adds up to 15, the age she was killed) in red (symbol of her martyrdom), white (symbol of her virginity), and green (symbol of relief from your illness).

Saint Dymphna chaplet 2

The saint's medal. Saint Dymphna is almost always portrayed carrying a book, and sometimes a sword as well. Often she is either crowned, or there is a crown at her feet.

Saint Dymphna chaplet 3

Dymphna was Irish, so I finished the other end with a Celtic knot charm.

Saint Lucy chaplet 3

The traditional form for Saint Lucy's chaplet is 9 beads arranged in 3 sets of 3. Since she is associated with vision, I used "evil eye" beads.

Saint Lucy chaplet 1

The saint's medal. She is depicted here carrying the usual tray of eyeballs, and the palm branch of martyrdom.

Saint Lucy chaplet 2

Lucy is also associated with divination, so I ended the chaplet with a little crystal ball charm!

I think I want to do one for Saint Martin de Porres too, but I need to read a little more about him.

Saint Lucy

Dec. 13th, 2013 05:05 pm
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Saint Lucy's altar

Maybe I'm getting a little too into this whole Southern Conjure/New Orleans Voodoo/Folk Catholicism thing, but today is Saint Lucy's feast day and I made her an altar. I'll leave it up until the winter solstice, because Lucy is a solstice saint whose name comes from the Latin word for light, "lux".

My interest in Saint Lucy actually predates my interest in NOLA Voodoo, back to my teenage years. I mean, she's a teenage girl carrying around a tray with eyeballs on it and a sword. That's awesome. And at the same time I was getting interested in photography, in which vision is kind of important.

In regular Catholicism, Lucy is the matron saint of blind people or people with vision problems, either because her eyes were gouged out during torture, or because she pulled them out of her head to dissuade a pagan suitor who admired them. (In that version, God miraculously restores her sight.) In folk or magical Catholicism, she is associated with more mystical forms of sight, and people often keep her image near divination tools (hence, my tarot cards).

I don't like saint statues, because unless you spring for a really expensive one they tend to look kind of cheesy, so I always use other images. This is actually a bottle spell I made a couple weeks ago, it contains a petition paper, an eye milagro, and some herbal ingredients associated with eyesight--mundane and mystical. The idea behind bottle spells is they last as long as the bottle stays sealed. The front is decorated with Domenico di Pace Beccafumi's portrait of Saint Lucy, painted in 1521.

I chose the flowers and cookies that I did because they kind of remind me of both eyeballs and suns!
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Saint Rita honey jar

Honey jars are old school Hoodoo, used to sweeten up your life. Some workers claim they can only be used to sweeten specific people to you, but I've spoken with older workers that wouldn't agree with that. And they don't always have to have candles burned on top--if you're trying to sweeten a person, then you "set a light on them". If you're keeping a honey jar to make your life sweet in general, then just keep it on your altar or other charged space and let it do its work.

Saint Rita is the matron saint of all women, but especially of abused women or women in difficult situations. (She was married at age 12--!!!--to an alcoholic who abused her.) She is associated with bees because as an infant, a cloud of bees was observed flying into and out of her open mouth as she slept, but caused her no harm. So what better saint to help me with a honey jar?

Saint Rita honey jar (back)

The back. This is a very small jar, just a couple of inches high. Inside are allspice berries, lavender, shredded angelica root, and a single dried rosebud. Roses, along with figs, are a traditional offering for Saint Rita. As she was dying, her cousin asked her if she could get her anything. Rita asked for roses; the cousin went out into the garden but didn't expect to find anything because it was winter. She found a single rose and a single fig.

Saint Rita honey jar (top)

She is called "the Saint of the Impossible", and like Saint Jude can be petitioned for success in lost causes.
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Loaded cowrie shells are an idea I got from Rita's Spiritual Goods. I actually bought one of hers, although I haven't gotten it yet; in the meantime I wanted to make one of my own with a humpback cowrie I already had. I really like the idea, although I don't know how traditional they are. I've been told they are, but I've only seen them in Rita's shop and in another online store that I'm pretty sure got the idea from her. They feel traditional though, and of course cowrie shells are not uncommon in African-derived religions.

loaded cowrie shell top

Inside I put crushed pine incense, frankincense, blessed Dead Sea salt crystals, and dried orange peel. Those are all cleansing/protecting ingredients.

loaded cowrie shell bottom

The bottom is covered with blue linen from an old napkin, and I pressed the line of glue around the edge into dried pennyroyal, then dressed the shell with Blessed Oil. The smell of the stuff inside passes through the fabric, especially when you shake it up and get the juju flowing. The one I bought from Rita has healing ingredients, so I don't feel like having two of them is going to be superfluous.
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Lucky Nine Oil

I think this is the last oil that I'll make for a while. There are hundreds--possibly thousands--of different Hoodoo condition oils, but there are maybe a dozen that you'd use on anything like a regular basis*. This isn't even one of them, I just made it because I thought it looked fun and I had one more bottle from World Market that wasn't being used.

Lucky Nine Oil is a very NOLA-specific condition oil, and you'll always find it in books by NOLA-area workers like Anna Riva and Denise Alvarado. It's called that because it has nine ingredients, and you're supposed to add nine drops to your bath for nine days in a row to get what you need. (It's said to work well for those seeking employment.) Nine--three threes--is an especially lucky number in African-derived magico-religious systems; it's also a sacred number in Catholicism, folk or otherwise, hence the novena, which literally means "nine" and lasts for (yup) nine days.

Oils:

  • Musk

  • Rose geranium

  • Frankincense

  • Myrrh

  • Sandalwood

  • Orange

  • Bergamot

  • Allspice


Add a few pinches of dried vervain and blend in a base oil that's light and sweet-smelling, like almond or sunflower. This is an oil where I wouldn't substitute dried herbs or resins for the oils, because as mentioned, it's primarily a bath oil, so you want it to be liquid.

*The only one I haven't attempted to make myself is Van Van Oil. For whatever reason, I prefer to buy it; I like to get it from different sources and compare. Everyone makes it slightly differently: some people make a cheap and easy version with just lemongrass oil and vervain; some people go so heavy on the citronella that it smells like bug spray; some people sweeten it up with lots of lemon verbena. I drove down to Arabi last Saturday to photograph the remains of LeBeau Plantation (look for a blog post about that later), and on my way back through NOLA I stopped at F&F Botanica, where I'd never been before. I was so overwhelmed by their candle selection that I forgot about everything else, and I'm kicking myself for not getting some of their Van Van Oil. I guess I'll just have to go back soon!
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Blessing Oil

This is apparently one of those oils that has lots of different recipes, I've seen several and very few of them had more than one or two ingredients in common. The one commonality is that they seem like they'd all be very sweet-smelling.

In the end I wound up pulling elements from a few different recipes, so this is more or less a custom blend. It's ylang ylang, lavender, orange, patchouli, and sandalwood oils in a base of sweet almond oil, with pinches of angelica root and agrimony.

Blessing Oil is an all-purpose oil for petitioning saints (some saints have their own personal oils, but in a pinch you can use this one for any saint); it can also be used in candle spells, in floor washes or baths, and as a personal scent.

The bottle is another $1.99 bottle from World Market.

money lamp

Nov. 17th, 2013 11:18 am
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money bottle lamp

This is something I made out of a Topo Chico bottle (a Mexican brand of sparkling water) when I noticed what a lovely shade of green it was. To a lesser extent, yellow is also associated with money in Hoodoo--yellow for gold--but green is the most traditional color. Also, I like green better than yellow.

They don't have twist-off caps, but if you very gently pry off the cap in several spots, it will remain unbent enough to enable you to pop it back onto the bottle neck. I made a hole in the cap with an awl and fed my wick through it. I've given up using vegetable oil and natural wicks--they were always going out and required constant fussing with, and I just got tired of it. I bought some woven wicks and some paraffin oil on Amazon and I'm much happier with the results. (Also, paraffin oil does not go rancid.) Spring for the the ultra pure-burning stuff, it doesn't smoke or smell at all. And make sure the bottle says it's for oil candles, not just oil lamps--technically these are oil candles and not lamps.

Inside is a bunch of money-drawing goodies: a cinnamon stick, some dried allspice berries, a High John root, pyrite chunks, and lodestone gravel dressed with gold magnetic sand. They were anointed with Special Oil No. 20 (I haven't made any money-specific oils yet) and smudged in patchouli incense before being placed inside the lamp. (I had to get over my patchouli prejudice for that. It's lovely as a base in a complex oil, but by itself it smells like dirt and hippies.)

I had a really cool idea for a paperless name paper that involved carving my initials onto an array of coins that added up to my age--which means I'd have had to to add another penny on November 23rd--but alas, the neck was too narrow for coins, even dimes. So instead I wrapped some paper money around one of my business cards, and put it under the lamp.
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Crown of Success Oil

This is another complex oil, I think of it as kind of like the offensive counterpart to the defensive Fiery Wall of Protection Oil. It's only used for positive works, though. It's especially good for adults returning to school and people who run their own businesses, but it can be used in any situation where you desire to succeed.

There are a lot of ingredients in it. Mine has more oils than a lot of other rootworkers might use; I don't like to have a lot of solids in my oils and if I can use the essential oil instead of dried herbs I usually will.

I used orange, allspice, cinnamon, geranium, lavender, bergamot, and rosemary oils; you could use dried herbals for the lavender, bergamot, and/or rosemary if you wanted. I added a pinch of anise seed, a small piece of High John the Conqueror root, and a chunk of pyrite. I've read of some rootworkers using a pinch of gold glitter, but glitter is made of plastic (sorry to bust your bubble if you thought it was made of unicorn farts) and I only want organic ingredients in my oils.

The bottle is from World Market, they have a good selection of small bottles for just $1.99.

Crown of Success can be used in candle spells (purple would be the right color here), used to dress things like resumes or business cards or school papers (dab a bit on each corner), or used as a personal fragrance. It's got a really complex, but clean and bright, smell.
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Fiery Wall of Protection Oil

This is the most complicated oil I've made yet. I used olive oil as the carrier, my gut told me that was the right choice (and anyway this isn't an oil you would ever use as a personal fragrance--it's got cayenne pepper in it, for one thing).

There are 3 basic categories ingredients that go into this oil: protective ingredients, ingredients to "heat up" the oil, and things that I think of as "booster" ingredients that add strength.

Protective ingredients:

  • Rue

  • Sandalwood oil

  • Angelica root

  • Bay leaf

  • Dragon's Blood resin


"Hot" ingredients:

  • Cayenne pepper

  • Cinnamon oil

  • Ginger


"Boosters":

  • Frankincense

  • Blessed salt


You can make your own blessed salt by praying the 23rd psalm over any type of salt. I happen to have a stash of Dead Sea salt crystals that an Etsy seller included as a freebie, so I used a couple of those. I've heard of rootworkers who prefer pink salt for this oil, because it's the presence of iron oxide that makes it pink.

You can use this oil to dress candles, anoint your window and door frames, or as a component in left-handed works to protect yourself from counterattack.
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vigil light

Lamps have been used in magico-religious systems much longer than candles, although candles are a lot more common now. Lamps are good for long-term spells, and once you have the materials they're actually more economical than candles. Plus they can be "loaded" with appropriate items.

This is a lamp for protection of the family, so I used a blue mason jar. The fuel is canola oil (olive oil would also be appropriate here), and the wick is a length of rolled cotton bandaging. Inside is a whole angelica root, a chunk of dragon's blood resin, and a cat's eye shell--all strong protective items. They were all dressed with Peaceful Home Oil (and I added a few drops of it to the fuel oil) and smudged with sandalwood incense before being placed in the jar. Under the lamp is a petition paper; a family photo would also work.

You can use these lamps for virtually any purpose, just fill them with items appropriate to the purpose and make sure you use the right color. Apparently some people leave theirs perpetually lit, but I am way too paranoid for that. I light it when the sun goes down and pinch it out when I go to bed. (NEVER blow out a lamp, or a candle unless the spell is over--and usually you're supposed to let them burn out. Blowing a flame out signifies the spell is over.)
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Peaceful Home Oil

This one is not, as the kids say, canon. I started with a base of the traditional oil ingredients, but mine has a few extra.

The 3 traditional ingredients for Peaceful Home Oil are lavender, rosemary, and pennyroyal. I used essential oils for the rosemary and lavender, but a local essential oil company mildly freaked out on me when I inquired on their Facebook page if they carried pennyroyal essential oil. They were like NOOOOO THAT DAMAGES YOUR LUNGS IN EVEN SMALL AMOUNTS DO NOT USE IT IN AROMATHERAPY, which was weird because I thought even in aromatherapy they diluted the oils? Undiluted essential oils are overpowering at the very least, and a lot of them can be irritants or even harmful. Anyway, I was like uhhh chill, it would be diluted in a large amount of carrier, but thanks, I'll just go elsewhere. Anyway, I decided to use it as a dried herb instead of an oil.

To the rosemary and lavender oils I added sandalwood oil, which is associated in Hoodoo with happy homes and keeping out evil. And to the pennyroyal I added a pinch of shredded angelica root, which is a powerful guardian and healer; and a small piece of pyrite, because what do (adult) members of a household argue about more than money? The carrier I used was sweet almond oil.

Blue is the color in Hoodoo that corresponds with family matters and spiritual peace, so of course I decided to put it in the little blue bottle that I bought last month. It probably contained medicine of some sort originally. Like the bottle I used for the Uncrossing Oil, the original cork was long gone, so I whittled down a wine cork, then dripped melted sealing wax over the top. Keeping oils in dark glass bottles is practical too, because it keeps out light. Light will makes oils get rancid faster.

So this is my own personal recipe for a supercharged Peaceful Home Oil. It can be used for dressing candles, anointing objects used in Peaceful Home spells, added to floor washes or bathwater. Use it, share it, I would prefer you not sell it but realistically it's not like I would know.
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(I've had a bottle of this sitting for about 6 weeks, I'm going to strain out the herbs tomorrow.) Four Thieves Vinegar is a traditional recipe that supposedly dates back to the days of the Black Death, when its disinfecting/curative properties protected a quartet of Italian grave robbers from contracting the plague. In Hoodoo today it's used for both crossing (especially if you're trying to break up a couple) and protective purposes.

There is a million ways to make it, but there are 2 basic schools of thought: edible and inedible. A lot of recipes add inedible herbs and resins like rue and camphor. Me, I don't see the point of vinegar you can't drink, so I am firmly Team Edible. In addition to its spiritual purposes, you can use it for cooking or salad dressing--or you can feed it to someone you want to work on under the guise of cooking or salad dressing.

Red wine vinegar is the most traditional base, but you can use any kind you want, and apple cider vinegar is what's used most often in the rural south. That's what I use, because at least 5 generations of women in my family have cooked with apple cider vinegar. (I like Bragg, an unpasteurized, unfiltered vinegar that has a little bit of the mother in every bottle.)

Some people add dozens of ingredients to their vinegar, but the most basic formula is vinegar and 4 herbs (or garlic and 3 herbs)--one for each thief. I use garlic, sage, rosemary, and lavender. Stuff a bunch of everything in the bottle, pour in the vinegar, cover and put somewhere dark for at least 30 days, shaking daily. Strain out the herbs or leave them in, it's up to you, and use as needed. (I strain them out, because the lavender tends to pour out with the vinegar if left in.) It's delicious, and why anyone would make an inedible version is totally beyond me.
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Three Kings Oil

I got some sandalwood essential oil I'd ordered in yesterday's mail, I'm going to use it for Peaceful Home Oil (yes I use it in Peaceful Home Oil even though it's not standard, more on that later) but I'm still waiting on one last herbal ingredient. So in the meantime, since I had all the necessary resins, I made some Three Kings Oil. It's an all-purpose blessing oil, good for consecrating altar items and dressing altar candles (most altars usually have 2 white candles at the back, one on each side).

Three Kings Oil is sandalwood, frankincense, myrrh, and amber. You can use essential oils for all 4 ingredients, or use all solids, or use a combination, which is what I did. I crushed up small pieces of the resins* in my mortar and pestle, and added some sandalwood essential oil. You can see the crushed resins resting on the bottom of the bottle, but they will eventually dissolve.

*We had a conversation about resins in one of my Facebook groups the other day, to crush or not to crush. Sometimes oil recipes will specify this or that resin be added whole, but more often than not it doesn't say one way or the other. I crushed all these up, since they are the main--indeed, almost the only--ingredients in the oil. Ultimately, a whole piece of resin will eventually dissolve though, so the conclusion was that it doesn't much matter one way or the other. Some rootworkers crush, some don't, some both crush and add a whole piece for show, and still others use resin oils.
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special oil no 20

This is a really simple, classic Conjure oil that I threw together yesterday. Special Oil No. 20 (sometimes called Wick Oil, Candle Oil, or Brown Oil) is patchouli and vanilla. In the old days it was made with patchouli leaves and vanilla pods, which is how it got its brown color; nowadays it's more commonly made with essential oils and dyed brown.

Some rootworkers add this or that herb or root or maybe another oil; but in its simplest form it's just the two essential oils, a carrier oil, and your prayers. I knew this had patchouli and vanilla in it, but thought there must be a 3rd ingredient that I couldn't detect with my nose. Luckily a more experienced rootworker in my Facebook group clued me in. (I had also made the mistake of wandering into an old Yahoo! group that was clearly populated by fluffybunny Wiccan types, they kept insisting Special Oil No. 20 has at least one floral note.)

Vanilla is one of the most positive scents in Hoodoo, it encourages love--one of the simplest and most popular Hoodoo spells is to keep a vanilla pod in the family sugar bowl. And patchouli is one of the most versatile scents, used to draw both love and money and to break jinxes, so it's almost always found in "multi-purpose" oils. Therefore, Special Oil No. 20 is appropriate for use in any positive or defensive workings. But not "left-handed"* work!

*One of the most striking differences between Hoodoo and Wicca is that Hoodoo has no equivalent to Wicca's "Rule of Three". Hoodoo is a belief system of poor and marginalized people who read the Bible if they read nothing else, and anger and revenge--or just needing to get people out of your life--definitely have a place in it.
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Making Hoodoo/Conjure oils is something I've recently become interested in. I always had an interest in New Orleans Voodoo and usually had some oils from this or that NOLA botanica around; but since Granny died my desire to know more about it has grown. Like a lot of elderly people in south Louisiana, my grandmother had some Hoodoo beliefs, although she always thought of herself as a Catholic (not that the two things are mutually exclusive).

And of course in Cajun culture there is a long tradition of traiteurs/traiteuses. That's a kind of faith healing that mostly uses the "laying on of hands", although a lot of them also use various herbal or otherwise natural remedies. (To get rid of a wart, rub it on a cut potato and bury it at a crossroads, etc.) My mother was a spastic child who was always falling off roofs and whatnot, so I know she got dragged to one by Granny at least once.

It's a rewarding hobby, and an inexpensive one too: essential oils are almost always less than $5 a dram (1/8 of an ounce), and you only need a few drops to make a whole ounce of oil. Essential oils are overpowering and can even be harmful in their undiluted form, so you always want to use a neutral carrier oil. Old school rootworkers will say you have to use olive oil, but I think it makes everything smell like salad dressing and I use sweet almond oil. Jojoba oil is also a popular choice with younger rootworkers. And I squeeze a vitamin E gelcap into every bottle, which keeps the oil fresh longer.

xxx algiers oil

I made this yesterday, it's XXX Algiers Oil (usually spoken as Triple Strength Algiers Oil). It's a great multi-purpose oil that originated in the Algiers neighborhood of NOLA. Most "condition" oils are meant to remedy one condition: get you a job, win you a court case, make your man stop straying. But XXX Algiers Oil is supposed to attract love, luck, and money--hence the XXX in the title. It's a fun oil to make because the roots/herbs/etc. you put in the oil are up to you, so long as you use one each to attract the three conditions. You can use it to dress candles or anoint petition papers or as a perfume (it's a unisex scent).

Most rootworkers will not share their formulas, but I say fuck that. I'm not looking to make any money off this, and sharing knowledge is never a bad thing. (Anyway, XXX Algiers Oil is not a big secret.) The essential oils are patchouli, cinnamon, vanilla, and wintergreen--essentially it's Red Fast Luck Oil with the earthy patchouli added to "slow down" the oil. (Red Fast Luck works fast, as the name implies, but the results don't last long.) I combined the patchouli, wintergreen, and vanilla in more or less equal amounts, but I find cinnamon oil has a REALLY strong smell and I put in a little less of it.

In the bottle, before I poured in the oil, I placed a pinch of lavender flowers for love; a few nutmeg shavings for luck; and a small piece of pyrite for money. I chose a love herb that's slanted more towards promoting familial peace and harmony, as opposed to an outright romantic one like rose buds. Of course, any plant parts you put in oils have to be ABSOLUTELY DRY, or your oil will go rancid. A good resource for the different meanings of plants, minerals, and zoological material is Catherine Yronwode's* Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic.

I bought several small bottles at the Washington Schoolhouse Antiques sale last weekend (I haven't missed one of the semi-annual sales--there's another one in April--since I moved to Louisiana), with the purpose of using them for oils. They're all different shapes and colors, but all hold about one ounce. I spent all weekend soaking them first in hot soapy water, then diluted vinegar, then water scented with Florida Water, then finally just water. In between I scrubbed them out by wrapping bits of cloth around a wooden skewer. This bottle is actually an orphan salt shaker, I made it airtight by coating the inside of the shaker top with silver sealing wax and rubbing the threads with soft orthodontic wax.

I'm waiting on another batch of essential oils, and next week I'm going to make Peaceful Home Oil.

*I refuse to get involved in the American Hoodoo/NOLA Voodoo pissing matches, so any comments slamming either Cat Yronwode OR Denise Alvarado will not be approved. Everyone involved needs to just do what they do and stop trying to prove their way is the One True Faith.
box_camera: (what!?!)
"Christianity is NOT a religion, it's a philosophy!"

Substitute "Christianity" for "Buddhism", and Bill-O sounds like every stoned college freshman I ever met, myself included.

While it's always fun to see someone make an ass of Bill O'Reilly, I actually think that protesting the display of Christmas trees in public spaces is a classic example of atheists, both as individuals and in organizations, not being very good at picking their battles.

For one thing, and I know you guys probably don't need me to tell you this, but Christmas TREES (I wouldn't be writing this entry if Silverman had gotten upset with Nativity scenes) are not Christian. The practice of bringing evergreens indoors at the time of year when the days are the shortest predates that religion by thousands of years.

For another, and more importantly to me, the assumption that no one who isn't Christian celebrates Christmas in this country has been incorrect for at least as long as I've been alive. I and virtually every atheist I know celebrates Christmas in a secular fashion. My stepfather, who is Jewish, grew up with Christmas trees in his house, although they jokingly called them "Hanukkah bushes". His mother thought they were pretty, and they obviously had nothing to do with Jesus, so why not?

For atheists it's about family and food and presents--basically a holiday to break up the winter blahs and something to look forward to. In the same way I take pleasure in cooking for my loved ones and seeing them enjoy what I made, I also like buying gifts for them. I think about the kinds of things they like, or if there's anything they need that they wouldn't buy for themselves, and when they tear off the wrapping and smile, I feel good.

I have family members that I only see at Christmas; there are foods we eat only on that one day of the year and have done so for years. All humans take comfort in ritual; the difference between atheists and theists is that we don't mistake that comfort for magical thinking. I also collect rosaries* and own a deck of tarot cards, but it's because I appreciate the symbolism and the art that goes into them, not because I think they allow me to talk to an omnipotent creator or predict the future.

*Rosaries were originally intended as a meditative aid, it was only when the church started assigning them as punishment for petty sins and thoughtcrime that they lost most of their meaning.

June 2014

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