My relationship with Papa Legba

I do not practice Vodun or voodoo. People in my life have/do and I have been introduced to the Lwa. I have danced with them and honored them.  When we moved into our home we celebrated our first halloween and we honored our ancestors and drew Veves on the driveway and honored the Gede and the Baron. We sat out rum, chocolate and tobacco. The next day when I came home from work I was greeted at the front door by a snake on our stoop. It was the only time I have ever seen a snake on our property and I took it as a good sign.

So on and off I would feel a calling to Papa Legba and in our the work I did with ADF and that druid style of ritual when we would do the opening and closing of the gates he would whisper and laugh at me. He would say “ you call on who you want but we both know I am the gatekeeper.”

As I began working more and more in magic and conjure I began to work more with Papa Legba at our altar.

When we opened our first store location we have a stoop and I asked my friend Crystal to paint a Papa Legba Veve on the front stoop as a salute to him and as a reminder that the gates are open. That we would strive to be a spiritual community center  for all seeking fellowship and knowledge.  Papa would often say “don’t forget anyone” and it was really important that we strike a balance in being eclectic and open to all paths. It is why our tagline has always been “All Paths Lead to the Sacred Center”  and there at the center is the crossroads.

When we moved around the corner to our newer location the new store painted over the Veve and we no longer had a stoop so it wasn’t something I worried to much about.  And then he showed up…

There is a old black man (I’m sure some homeless guy) but he came into the store one day. Did not speak. Held out his hand and when I went to shake his hand he grabbed it and placed it on his check very tenderly and then left with no words spoken.

A few weeks go by and he shows up again. Still no words but he grabs one our business cards and points to the tag line. Takes the card and leaves.

Then later again a couple of weeks he comes in (someone was here with me but I don’t remember who) and he has like peaches or something from Nancy’s Home Cooking and he opens the carry out box and hands me a spoon. I tell him oh no thanks and he shakes his head no and raises his hand to his mouth as a feed me gesture. So I was like this is surreal but OK so I take a piece of the food and feed him a bite. He smiles, takes his spoon and cups my hand to his cheek and turns and leaves.

Later that day I am sitting with one our readers and a couple customers come in and we are talking and one of the customers looks at the front door and says “what the hell is that” and the other says “is that a cat at your front door.” So we all get up and look at the front door and there right at the door is a white dress hat. The door that these guys just came in. I open the door and look around and there is no one around. It is not a windy day and one of the customers says “I think Papa Legba just arrived.” Now he has no reason to say that, had never been in the store before and knew nothing of of old Veve etc…

So I grab Papa Legba’s hat and sat it in the corner window in the front or the store. Give him three pennies and walk down to carry out and buy him a cigar. Later my friend James gives me a cane to put there and someone showed up with a kids toy, someone else had a deck of cards…and people started coming in a leaving offerings and pennies…so a shrine was built and I in earnest starting working with Papa Legba.  I never saw the homeless guy again. I had someone make a custom door sticker of his Veve so he once again opens the ways for everyone to come into our sacred center.

In ritual I open and close the gates with his help. I never know what I am saying and doing and often begin using an accent that I do not know. But it flows and it is powerful.It works.

I see Papa as a kind, old, grey, black man with a glint in his eyes  and smile that confesses his quick wit and trickster heart. He opens the way to me to perform my magic.

“As gatekeeper, Papa Legba opens and closes all ceremonies. Communication with the other Gods can’t even occur until He is consulted because Papa Legba is the Hoodoo Man who holds the keys to the doors between the physical and spiritual realms. Papa Legba is the knowledgeable sorcerer with keys to understanding the secrets of astral travel, banishing and dealing effectively with beings of the unseen. Papa Legba is found at any crossroads. This is where two roads meet and also a place where the physical realm and spiritual realm meet. He directs the traffic flow at this place. He is the alchemist taking what is left at his feet and transmuting it into something useful. You can come to him at the crossroads and leave sorrow, ritual remains, left over spiritual bath water, a haunted object, or anything and he will send it where it needs to go. There are also tales of people going to the crossroads to receive gifts and talents such as dance ability, more luck in gambling and better skill on guitar.”

http://www.aawiccan.org/site/Papa_Legba.html

Also check out:

http://www.kiwimojo.com/papalegba.htm

https://msu.edu/~williss2/carpentier/part2/legba.html

NEED trumps everything else!

One thing I get asked a lot is about magical correspondents and how they relate to coming up with a spell or some variation on that theme. Mostly in the form of “Oh my God, I need hair of a lizard and deer’s tongue for this spell I found on line.” Which then mostly devolves into me explaining I have no idea what the author of that spell’s intent was, nor do I know every spell ever written and why it was written that way. I do my best to explain things in a quick elevator pitch overview.

Yes, ingredients for spells matter.

Yes, timing matters.

Yes, colors matters.

Yes, it is might be best to follow the spell exactly as it is written.

Yes, I know that website.

Yes, they are expensive.

Yes, they probably do know what they are talking about; they probably have spent years learning their craft.

NONE OF THAT MATTERS!

OK, so maybe all of that matters but here is the secret. NEED trumps everything else. Say it with me class, NEED trumps everything else.

OK, let’s start at the top. Most 101 books will tell you all about correspondents. I remember reading Cunningham’s book (and others) and obsessing over how to set up the Altar and where to stand and getting really worked up that I had to do it right. Not just right, but righter, or rightest! I’m not sure what I thought would happen? The floor would open up and swallow me whole? Or probably that it just wouldn’t work. So rule one: No matter what you do or don’t do magic doesn’t always work, or work the way you think it will. So relax.

OK now about those correspondents. Whenever possible you should try to follow them. Think of it as recipes. Others tried them and they worked, so if you can follow them it might increase your chances of it working. Follow the recipe and yum. Go off on your own and maybe good, maybe not.

“But I need a red candle and all I have is white and yellow.” Rule two: white and black can be substituted in almost every case. In almost every other case you can find a way to craft your spell to include what colors you have. It is about being creative.

“I need to do a spell but it is supposed to be on a waxing moon but that is in 8 days.” Again be creative. Let’s say you are doing a spell for increasing love, but it is the waning moon, how about removing obstacles that are in the way? Or as the moon fades so does self fear and doubt that may be self sabotaging you from seeing the love around you?

I can review Isaac’s laws of magic, you can read hundreds of books and visit thousands of websites but until you see NEED trumps everything then you will look for reasons not to do your spell-work instead of celebrating the work you have done. As the Goddess Nike said “JUST DO IT.”

Of course we sell ritual and spell supplies, and of course you should use them, but you need to invest in your craft. You need to learn how to write spells that mean something to you and as you go along you will begin to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. You will find out what resonates and what doesn’t.  Spell work (much like piety) is an actionable thing. You just have to do it. Keep records and vet your successes and failures and over time you will find your magical voice. So yeah if you find some spell on line and you want to try it, do it but if you NEVER invest in really learning the art of spell crafting, then you will never be as successful and you can be.

Magic is like music. When you are learning music you are learning those boring scales and it is repetitive and doesn’t always sound good but you are building a musical vocabulary and training yourself to know instinctively which notes sound good together and what works and what doesn’t. Then after months of practicing one day you are able to begin to play things that are not just scales and practice items but music. Your hands just seem to know where to go and there is a flow to what you are doing. There are no short cuts. It takes practice.

Guess what? Magic is the same way. You study and read. You follow those recipes and practice. Sometimes it makes no sense but you just keep plugging along and then one day you realize you have this understanding of herbs and what several of them do and why you use them in certain spells, and the same with colors and you just kind of know what phase the moon is in and how to craft a spell to fit that phase and there is a flow to what you are doing.

Until then remember that if you have a NEED and you are creative in how you craft your spell then you can always find a way to do it even when you can’t find lizard hair or chicken whiskers.

Kindle a Good Fire

I have customers ask me all the time a variation on this question:

I’m new to this or feel drawn to this but I don’t where to start or what I need?

To this I always feel like the world’s worst business owner because I usually start by saying. NOTHING!

Magic starts from within and so does piety. The best place to start is in your sacred center.

I most often than not take them to our altar and begin explaining:

Most religions the world over have some representation of flame. I would suggest you start there. If you are overwhelmed or nervous, start within. Inside each of us lives a burning flame, the spark of order and divinity. I feel that it lives in your heart or what I call your heart shrine.  With every beat of or heart the universe beats within us. So start by taking 10 minutes a day to stop, light a candle and begin to concentrate on that candle. Begin to think of that candle as the energy and might of your heart shrine, feel it connect to your heart and pulsate with your heart.  Feel this flame wash over you and burn away all that is not needed. Feel it flame and flicker into your head igniting the fire in your head and igniting your mind and your creativity. For a while just be, just sit there and feel the warmth wash over you. Reflect on your good fortunes. Think of those in your life that you love, think of your health, your wealth and all the good things in your life and think now that as that flame burns within and about allow to be the light that shines out into the universe drawing more good things to you. Let it also be the light that burns of your virtues and know that you are a child of the sun, the moon, the stars and the earth and you have great power. With great power comes great responsibility, you must shine on and light the way for others in need.

Others like the idea of a cauldron, well or chalice. Here are the waters of magic, potential and rebirth. Like fire so to do you have a cauldron of the soul. Here within, flows the blood of your ancestors, here within, flow the DNA of all living things, here within, are the sacred waters. Stir your cauldron awake like you have kindled the fire of your heart shrine. Allow these waters to gush and wave all about you. Feel them cascade over your head and down your arms, torso and legs. Feel them as they draw forth from the cauldron before you and the waters of our earth mother, feel those waters as they cleanse you and invigorate you. Let these waters ripple out from you and feed the souls of those who thirst around you. Be the flame, be the well….

So to answer your question as to things you might want or need.  I prefer to have a representation of fire and water. Beyond that it is up to you. Most people set up some kind of altar or space to do their magic and rituals. Do you like gemstones and shining things? Then put them on your altar. Do you like images or statues of deities? Then put them on your altar. Pictures of ancestors and beloved dead might have a place there. If you have animal allies then statues, photos, etc. then you could them there. There is no right or wrong answers. As you begin to do more then you may decide you need a wand, or an athame which is like a magical knife. Some people like more props to help them get in the right mindset. Think of them as items to help put you in the right frame of mind and get you to transition mentally and spiritually from normal or mundane to sacred. Robes, staffs, jewelry, incense, drums, bells, and all kind of things may help you and the more you read and learn and the more you work on it the more you will know what YOU need. Just remember the magic comes from within. With all this said you may find that entirely other things work for you and what I just described holds no value to you. That’s OK too, many roads lead to the sacred center it’s up to find which one feels right to you.

Remembering A.J.

Today many people will gather to honor A.J. Gooch. A.J. was a father, husband, son, brother, friend, druid, drummer, prankster, and so very much more. People will say many things about him, much has already been said, and more will be shared.

I mentioned to my dad yesterday that I would be heading to Cleveland to today for a memorial and he cocked his head and asked “for the guy that met you for dinner when you took me up to the VA hospital?”yeah dad, that guy. That guy that in a world of acquaintances was a friend. A person who had a smile that could light up the night and a twinkle in his eye to match. As Billy would sing he was quick with a joke or a light of your smoke. A person who when he turned his attention to you would make you feel his love, his warmth.

I know those who were close to him knew him and his flaws, his scars and even his demons. But those were what made him, him. Because they knew him more, I am sure they will miss him more.

The A.J. I knew was the one who was always concerned that you were OK, at festivals or ritual he was always serving his community. He was a warrior, bard, seer and priest in the truest sense of those words.

In some of my darkest times I would look at my phone and there would be a drive by text from A.J. and I don’t know if he knew or how but it lifted me up. In a world where I was no longer valued or relevant he was still a friend. A real one!

I will leave you with this our last exchange…96c90569-57c8-435e-bcae-68ca29fa5553

I meant it, it is a better place because of A.J, and I am better for having known him. Love you my friend.  .

And so it goes…

I have thought about starting a blog a few times over the last few years and for a few reasons I always held off. The first is I’m not a writer. I’m not sure I am effective as a communicator period let alone in a writing style. I write like I think, free form, not worrying about grammar or punctuation.

Second I’m not sure if I have anything worth saying or that anyone would find a great need to read. It sometimes is therapeutic so for that reason alone it might be worth trying.

Lastly was a time issue, do I have time to write and is it worth my investment of energy to try to express myself in this format? We shall see.

I also have this idea that I’m not important enough to write. I’m not sure anyone is, and I don’t want to come across as a blowhard. I have tried to read others who blog etc. and sometimes I’m like damn, what size hat fits your ego. Maybe I’m being too harsh or judgmental.

So yeah, I guess we will try this.

I get asked several times a week about my spirituality and beliefs and so here is where I am now…subject to change:

I am a solitary druid who practices Isaac Bonewits style rituals. My path is a mixture of personal beliefs/cultures. I am a Tyrsman and believe myself to be Asatru. I also have a relationship with Celtic Gods and Goddesses and I do hoodoo work and have a relationship with Papa Legba.

If I was to explain more I think what I do is Drudoo. I am a Neo-druid and in keeping in the spirit of druids I am a spiritual leader, some would call me a priest, some call me a gothi or a root doctor. I have seen the quest for titles and merit badges do great harm, and to be honest I prefer to feed the soul instead of the ego. So call me whatever, if I need a title. I had a customer tell me I had to have a title so her daughter would show respect for me…so I told her she could call me Uncle Seamus.

My form of druidy is messy with a lot of spell-work and magic. I am from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and a modern practitioner who feels it is about results and the work. So I have no issues with working cross culturally as druids of old are sometimes reported to do anyway.

I could just as easily identify as a practitioner of  Bonewitsian Hoodoo.

What do I believe? Not much and everything. Having a store for the last few years has really opened my up to hearing a lot of different stories and beliefs and what is has helped to understand is that each path is so unique and individual that who am I to judge another’s experience.

I tell people every day, if it is working for you (and not harming others) then that is all that matters.