Monday, December 31, 2007

How to Write a Manifesto

Don’t bother making a New Year’s resolution this year. According to the results of Franklin Covey’s third annual New Year’s Resolutions Survey, 35% of participants break their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January. The 2007 survey, which polled over 15,000 people, also indicated that only 23% are likely to permanently adopt a New Year’s resolution. Of those that don’t keep their resolutions, 40% say they’re just too busy to keep to their word and 33% said they aren’t committed to the resolutions they set. Not only is this just plain sad, it’s also self-sabotaging behavior. Let’s look at this from a Conjurer’s perspective.

Media coach Susan Harrow once said, “Words are the ambassadors of our intentions.” New Year’s Resolutions are juicy opportunities to set our intention for change (aka make magic/k) in the coming year and sometimes, for life. But with more than 75% of us faltering on these resolutions, our words end up informing the world and most importantly, ourselves, that our speech holds no power. Making resolutions, or statements of any kind, we don’t abide by sets a precedent for failure. When we don’t stay true to our word, our ambassadors (our words) begin spreading the message: “This person will not follow through.”

Do that enough and every time you finish off a bit of magic with, “So mote it be,” the universe will respond with a resounding, “What – evah. Your ambassadors told us you are teh suck.” By not staying true to your word, you’ll effectively make yourself energetically impotent. You’ll have lost your mojo.

To set a meaningful resolution, it needs to be well thought-out. You must not only have a clear vision of your goal, but a plan of action to get there. You must be passionate about the change, allowing your motivation to come from the depth of your purest desires and commit to making the change only after you’ve really considered all the possible consequences as best you can. Far more than making a flippant statement, “Um, I like totally want to lose like 30 pounds, okay?” you’d do better to really spend some time clarifying your intention and your plan of action. That’s why this year, I’m not making any resolutions. I’m writing a manifesto.

Admit it, manifestos kick resolution ass. Someone says they’ve made a resolution and you can’t help but smirk and pat them on the back. Someone tells you they’ve written a personal manifesto, and you sit up straight to listen. By writing your own manifesto, you’ll not only join the ranks of some highly successful and influential people, but you’ll spend some time with your goals, really fleshing them out. By clarifying your position and the changes you plan to make, you’re already stepping away from the superficiality of resolutions. You’re putting the mojo back into your words.

As you go through the following steps, keep in mind that a manifesto should be a call to action. It should definitely stir you and hopefully motivate others as well. It should be relevant and based on facts, reason, and logic.

  1. Choose a goal: If you have more than one goal that seem to be related, try to determine the common denominator.
  2. Identify your motivation: If you want to quit smoking or lose weight, your motivation may be to spend more active time playing with your children or adopt a healthy lifestyle. You may have to dig deep to find your true motivation and sometimes when you find it, you may actually change or refine your goal(s).
  3. Justify your motivation(s) on several levels: If you can, explain how your motivation(s) is relevant to body, mind and spirit or personal, local, and global issues. Try to examine your motivation from various perspectives. This should help you clarify it more and again, through this process you may end up changing or further refining your manifesto.
  4. Be specific: Boil it all down to a single or abbreviated set of over-arching motivations. Make your manifesto as clear as possible using strong and incisive language. Eliminate non-essential words and try to stay away from metaphors and pop-jargon as it may not be universally understood and probably won’t have much longevity.
  5. Make it public: Manifestos are public declarations. Post yours in your blog or on your website. Send it to your friends and family or use it as an impetus to organize a group of like-minded individuals willing to support each other in their work for the given the cause. Hell, maybe you could eventually write a book about it all.

The most famous manifesto is undoubtedly the Manifesto of the Communist Party (more commonly known as The Communist Manifesto) by Marx and Engels. You can find plenty of other manifestos, and even submit your own, at the Change This website.

Yes, for those that were paying attention, I did say I'd be writing a manifesto of my own this year. My personal manifesto will be posted on New Year’s Day (tomorrow) in my other blog, La Vegan Loca. Go write one of your own and let me know what you come up with.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Garden Photos

I spent some time in the garden this morning with my new camera. It's amazing that I can capture such spring-themed images in the depths of winter, but that's one of the interesting things about living in Southern California.

Earlier this year, I participated in a ritual that honored bees. The rite was in response to the bee crisis but it was also appropriate for me personally, as I have an irrational fear of bees. Part of my spiritual Work is confronting my fears - identifying them and examining how they manifest in me and all my parts. So, the fact that I was able to get close enough to take the next picture is indicative of progress.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Altered Pillar Candles

So you're a DIYer, like me, but you're in a crunch for a gift. Unfortunately, you can't just go buy something and give it straight off the shelf because your fans (friends and loved ones) are so enchanted by your crafty prowess that even attempting to do so is not only likely to disrupt the space-time continuum itself, but your friends may implode. I know imploded friends sound way easier to clean up than exploded friends, but take it from me, it's merely a whole new set of issues to deal with. Plus, friends are a limited resource. So what's a conjure girl or guy to do? Alter something, of-course!
Everyone loves candles, but regular pillar candles are like naughty little blank canvases just waiting for some artistic discipline. This is one way you can show them the love they deserve.

Project Materials
  • 2 pillar candles (these were pumpkin spice scented ... mmmmmmm)
  • orange ultrafine glitter
  • white matte craft glue that dries clear (like Mod Podge in matte)
  • gold skeleton leaves
  • small maple leaves
  • sponge brush
  • small dish for mixing glue with glitter

NOTE ONE: You should be able to find skeleton leaves and various pressed leaves and flowers in the scrapbook section of your local arts and crafts store.

NOTE TWO: Raise your hands if you want to breathe lead fumes. Nobody? Didn't think so. Please buy candles without lead in the wicks. As far as burning decoupaged candles is concerned, please see the safety note at the end of this post.

Glue leaves on candles randomly using a sponge brush. Do this by sponging on a layer of glue, placing your leaf where you'd like it, and covering the leaf with another layer of glue being sure to go off the edges of the leaf and onto the candle. You may need to hold the leaves in place until the glue grabs onto them, so only do one or two at a time.

When all the leaves are glued where you'd like them, pour enough glue to coat both candles into a small dish. Add some orange ultrafine glitter and mix with your sponge brush. Completely coat both candles with the glue mixture, being sure to cover the leaves. It'll look milky and sadly unsparkly until the glue dries.

Do not pour any remaining glue down you drain! Hopefully, you've estimated well and don't have any extra. If not, try to use it on another project. If all else fails, pour the remaining glue into a vessel destined for the trash, like a dirty sandwich baggie or something along those lines. Allow your candles to dry and shazzam ... cute custom candles!

Once your candles are dry, you can give them as they are or stuff them into a themed gift basket, like the Pumpkin Spice gift basket shown below. This gift basket was given to a dear friend of mine at the Autumn Equinox in honor of her spinning ritual. Or, you can keep 'em for yourself and let everyone think you paid too much for them in one of those hoity-toity gift shops.

A safety note on burning decoupaged candles from the Mod Podge website (please share this info with anyone you may give decoupaged candles to): Candles with decoupaged designs are decorative and should not be burned. Your designs can be destroyed if the candle is burned. In addition, while both Mod Podge and Royal Coat are not flammable, items used with these glues may be.

However, there is a trick if you want to "burn" your decorated candle. Burn the decorated candle until a small well is formed -- a well about the size of a votive candle. Place a small piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of the well. Then place the votive candle in the well and burn it. Replace the votive candle as needed.

And if I need to tell you not to leave burning candles unattended, you probably shouldn't be playing with fire anyway.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cranberry Liqueur

I added a post on making Cranberry Liqueur to my other blog, La Vegan Loca.
Energetically, cranberries are associated with protection and security. They are also known to ease the process of releasing that which no longer serves you, which makes sense given the fact that they prevent nasty bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. Most often, folk magic belief and biological truth work quite well together. Imagine that.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Triple Berry Liqueur

Mmmm ... liqueurs.

I absolutely love making liqueurs. I've been doing it for a few years now and not only do I find the process (and results) quite satisfying, but my friends love receiving the finished products as gifts.

This summer, I tried something new and created a recipe for the Triple Berry Liqueur seen here.

I donated the first part of this batch to an opportunity drawing at a recent weekend workshop on Creating Ecstatic Ritual with T. Thorn Coyle. The drawing brought in close to $300 for Witch Way to the Cure, a Pagan walking team that participated in the 2007 San Diego Breast Cancer 3 Day Walk.

Want to give it a try? Here's my recipe:

  • 1/3 lb fresh organic blueberries
  • 1/3 lb fresh organic marionberries
  • 1/3 lb fresh organic raspberries
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lb granulated sugar
  • 4 cups 100-proof vodka (80-proof is fine, but I like my liqueurs to have a kick!)

Rinse all berries and pick out and discard any ikcy, mushy, or moldy ones. (Duh.) Let them drip dry in a colander while making the sugar water.

Warm 2 cups water with sugar in saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously until well dissolved and warm.

Pour berries into large bowl and pour sugar-water over them. With a wooden spoon, stir to incorporate and as you do, crush the berries with the back of your spoon. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a week, stirring about once a day.

After one week in the refrigerator, remove all solids by straining through a fine wire-mesh strainer into sterilized aging container(s) (I use half-gallon canning jars). Add vodka and stir. Cap aging container and let age in cool, dark place for one month.

After one month, strain through layers of cheese cloth or paper towel until clear. There will be some sediment. Do not fear the sediment. If it bothers you or you want to give the liqueur as a gift, you can always siphon the clear liqueur after letting the sediment settle to the bottom of the jar.

Place in pretty bottles, add labels, and allow to age an additional 2+ months before drinking. Although, if you're antsy, it's fine to use in cooking prior to this and if you take a sip ... or five ... it won't hurt you. The flavors just blend and mature during the final aging period.

Making liqueurs is much easier than other traditional methods of preserving the harvest, like canning. There's something distinctly magical about taking the fruits of the land, in the height of the season, and "brewing" them in your broom closet for consumption during the dark part of the year. You can amp up the magic factor on this project by decorating your aging containers with symbols, spells, or meaningful words, thereby infusing them with your intentions as they age.

You can also use homemade liqueurs to create kick-ass ritual libations, and let's face it, magic and ritual elements rock the hardest when they've been DIY'd. Phewie on store-bought wines and meads! Or, you can just have a Triple Berry Martini:

Triple Berry Martini

  • 1 oz Vodka
  • 1 oz Raspberry Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Triple Berry Liqueur

Shake with crushed ice in cocktail shaker and strain into martini glass. Garnish with a berry. Enjoy!

If you'd like to explore making liqueurs further, I can recommend to following resources:

  1. The Liqueur Web website has a ton of great info, recipes, and links.
  2. Classic Liqueurs: The Art of Making and Cooking with Liqueurs by Cheryl Long (My Triple Berry Liqueur was inspired by a recipe in this book.)
  3. Cordials from Your Kitchen: Easy, Elegant Liqueurs You Can Make by Pattie Vargas

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ritual Boxes for Military Pagans

The creation and assembly of these ritual boxes was a collaborative effort between Sybilla Stone, Jennie Wiseheart, Kim J., Angela G., Jonah Dove, and yours truly.

We started with 50 small gift boxes. My job was to decorate each box inside and out. I painted the outsides with acrylics, to make them look as though moss was growing up the sides. Since the boxes are going to be distributed to Pagans from various traditions, we tried to keep the symbolism generic. Along those lines I stamped the tops with a simple black spiral.

Inside the boxes, I covered each side with a piece of elemental-themed scrapbook paper - earth on one side, fire, air and water on the others. The bottom of each box contains a charm for protection inspired by a spell in Valerie Worth's book, Crone's Book of Charms and Spells.

Everyone involved contributed something different. Inside each box we placed a vial of herbs, a bag of sea salt, a vial of blessing oil, a red cord, a tiny wand, a sea shell, a wood pentacle, a miniature white altar cloth, and a corn offering.

Jennie Wiseheart created adorable willow wands, each with its own feather and amber tip. Jonah Dove wood-burned each of the tiny pentacles and Sybilla Stone created a custom ritual oil.

On the bottom of each box is a personal message from one of the contributors.

It is our hope that each of these ritual boxes finds the perfect person for it, since they are each a bit different. This weekend, we send them off with a prayer that all members of our military come home safe.