Saturday, August 3, 2013

Steampunk Saturday: American Victorian Diet: A Steampunk Adventure

Steampunk Saturday: American Victorian Diet: A Steampunk Adventure

The diet of this period is an amalgamation of class, ethnicity, culture, and resources.  We have entered the Industrial Age, Irish Potato Famine is over, the American South has officially ended reconstruction under the leadership of Rutherford B Hayes, the Transcontinental Railroad has been completed, Gold has been discovered in the American West, and the Victorian Era is en vogue  Due to these signifiers the American Northwest had a conglomerate of ethnic influences  such as American-Irish, Asian, African-American, White South, White North, Canadian and French Canadian as well as other European Influences.  Another heavy cultural and ethnic influence is the “Plateau Tribes”; these four tribes were the Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs and the Nez Perce.  The Northwestern Expansion opened new opportunities for Americans as it was untarnished with the influences of slavery and oppression found in the North and the South.  It offered new land, new opportunities and most of all new found riches of gold and commerce.

The Average Diet of the Northwestern Expansion person relied on: Flour, Sugar, Coffee, Tea, Cornmeal, Salted Meats, Dried Meats, Rice, Dried Beans, Dried Fruit and Vegetables, Lard, Salt and Pepper, and Baking Powder.  The main fresh proteins were Sheep, Cattle and wild game such as Deer, Grouse, Buffalo, Bass, Salmon, Squirrel, Rabbit, Beaver, Bass and Coyote.  Root Vegetables were also present due to the longevity of freshness such as Parsnips, Turnips, Carrots, Potato, Onion, Garlic and Yams

The Plateau Indian Tribes were hunter gatherer societies and seasonally nomadic, they relied heavily on the local flora and fauna.  The indigenous people gathered local wild berries such as strawberries, blackberries, huckleberries,serviceberry and blueberries, camassia, bitterroot, kouse root or wild carrot, and stone fruits such as chokecherries.  Their main protein source, Salmon, is still their main protein supplement today. Annually eating 10 times the amount of Americans today.

The Victorian Diet  consisted of four meals a day, Breakfast, Lunch, Tea and Dinner.  The differentiation of food class structure was very wide.  The wealthy survived off a very rich diet and a Dinner serving had at least 20 different served “a la russe” meaning literally ‘in Russian Style’; meaning that all plates came out at once giving an impressive spread.  In contrast the poor and immigrant class survived off of high fatty proteins, usually partially spoiled produce, and animal bi-products. The middle class or laborer class would have a slightly more substantial diet including fresh produce mostly made up of root vegetables and meats, such as sausages, bacon and also various types of breads and cheeses.

The meal structure of the middle class and laborer consisted of a hearty breakfast, a substantial lunch, an afternoon tea and a light dinner.  The afternoon tea was born out of the Victorian era, and allowed people to have a mid-day meal that would hold them until dinner.  

Breakfast, being one of the most important meals of day to Victorians, would usually have been quite a spread.  There was always tea and coffee served at a proper breakfast service.  In an etiquette book from 1897 towards new wives, the author says “ As a wife to your husband, it is your most fervent to duty to present him with your most agreeable manner of breakfast, as well as provide him

with the comforts of a well provisioned table.”.  A hearty Breakfast should consist of multiple protein choices such as Bacon, Fresh Sausage, Cold Ham, Kippers, Eggs Fried or Poached, Fresh Curds and Whey and Meat Pies; the starch choices were Corn Muffin, Porridge, Fresh Bread and condiments would have been Butter, Honey and Marmalade.  The upper class would include fresh fruits like Grapefruit, other Citrus Fruits and vegetables such as Fresh Radishes and Tomatoes, cold stewed prunes, Saratoga or fried potatoes, added proteins like  Filet of Fish such as Whitening and Salmon, Palenthrope Sausage and Savory Rice; the starch choices would include Rolled Oats, Toasted Corn Flakes, French & Graham Rolls, Derby Cakes, and Griddle Cakes.; Condiments would also include Clotted Cream, and Preserves

Lunch was also a large meal for the Victorians, it was usually the largest meal for the day.  It would usually include a soup and vegetables, cold foods and hot foods, breads and cheeses.  Foods were usually prepared so they would not have to be refrigerated and could be reused for the smaller Dinner meal.  The average Victorian Luncheon would be comprised of cheeses, a protein usually in the form of a meat, and bread, it was common for it to be a fried bread such as a Ho’ Cake or a Griddle Cake, and Hard Boiled Eggs .  A formal upper class Luncheon would serve Turtle Soup, German Soup, Potato Soup, Cream Soups, Oyster Soup, or Sweet Herb Soup.  Victorian Salads were usually Iceberg Lettuce topped with a dressing made from cooked egg yolks, mustard, salt, red wine vinegar sugar for sweetness and then garnished with rings of egg whites and pickled beets  Some sweeter salads could also be served such as Waldorf Salad, Apple, and Celery Salad.  Hearty local root vegetables were often prepared.  The proteins were usually meat based such as turkey, chicken and pork; fish dishes were commonly served at dinner.  Hearty meat stews were also usually prepared such as Rabbit or Pheasant, and Meat or Minced Pies.  An average Luncheon on the RMS Lusitania included Anchovies, Clear Macaroni, Potted Shrimp, Barley Broth, Poche a la Reine, Omelette aux Tomatoes, Lamb Pot Pie, Roast Beef-with Browned Potatoes, Roasted Chicken-with Bread Sauce, Succotash, Potatoes mashed, baked or roasted Sirloin Steak, Mutton Chops.  Cold Items served were Cumberland Ham, Roast Beef, London Pressed Beef, Rolled Ox Tongue, Saucisson de Lyon, Galatine of Turkey-with Aspic Jelly, Boar’s Head, Boiled Capon, Endive, Tomatoes,  Beetroot, Roll Jam Pudding-Sweet Sauce, Fancy Pastry, Compote of Prunes and Rice,  Cheeses: St Ives, Gorgonzola, Cheshire, Wiltshire, Stilton.  Fresh Fruits: Oranges, Apples, Bananas, and Assorted Nuts.

The next meal in the Victorian Diet was afternoon tea, due to the fact the dinner meal was served later than in previous periods.  People used afternoon tea to get them through lunch to dinner without being hungry due to the fact the Victorian Dinner was served between 8 and 9 pm.  A Victorian Afternoon Tea included four elements.  The first element was the tea sandwiches: Smoked Salmon with Dill Butter on Dark Bread, Ham and Watercress with Basil Butter on Rye Bread, Thinly Sliced Cucumber with Mint Butter on White Bread, Chopped Egg with finely Diced Black Olives on Whole Wheat, Cinnamon Cream Cheese on Raisin Bread, and Chicken Curry Salad Tarts. .  Scones and Sweet breads served with butter, clotted cream, assorted Jellies and Jams and lemon curd,, would also be served a popular item was Rose Petal Dropped Scones. Third elements were sweets such as: Candied Ginger, Candied Lemon Peels, Freshly Baked Cookies and Pastries, Ginger Snaps, Almond Macaroons, Pate de Fruit, Petit fours, Chocolate Truffles, and Cream Puffs.  The fourth part would be a pudding or an English Trifle, Shortbread, and Crystallized Edible Flowers.  The Victorian Chinese instead of having the tea sandwiches would have Cantonese Dim Sum, and bite size dumplings, and rice pudding.

The last meal of the day was dinner served around 8 or 9 o'clock, and was usually not as heavy as Breakfast and Lunch.  Dinner would include a soup or stew such as Goulash or Clam Chowder, and usually a fish entrees either baked, fried or stuffed.  The proteins would include Roasted Meat such as Mutton, Chicken or Pork (Beef on Occasion but they believed it was too heavy a meat to have for a late meal) with Root Vegetables, Wild Game like Turkey Quail, Rabbit, or Venison.  Their starches would be freshly Baked Bread and corn breads.  The vegetables were Corn, Pumpkin, Squash, Beans Cooked with Ham Bones.  For dessert would often be Fruit Pies and Hot Puddings.  

The Final meal was the evening nightcap, after dinner the men would retire to a lounge for Brandy and Cigars.  Alcohol had a common place in the Victorian households, wine was often served with dinner meals.  With the intrigue of French culture champagne was very popular.  Other alcoholic beverages that were popular were Vodka, Bourbon, Whisky, Sherry, Port and Gin, in the Caribbean Rum was also very popular.  Popular mixed drinks “ cocktails” according to Charles Dicken’s journal in 1842 on his trip to Boston was the  Gin-sling, Sangaree, Mint Julep, Sherry-cobbler, Timber Doodle.  Also the Gin and Tonic was popular in English colonies to cover up the medicine of quinine

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fae Friday: Black Shuck

The Black Hound, also commonly called in fae vernacular as a Grim or hell-hound, is a creature of the Unseelie Court known as a Black Shuck, the phantasmal hound that is a precursor to death, some even say a bringer of death itself.  An Norfolk saying describes it best “A dreadful thing from the cliff did spring, And its wild bark thrill’d around, His eyes had the glow of the fires below, Twas the form of the Spectre Hound”  There are two different ideas of where the etymology of the word “Shuck” originates; one is from the Anglo-Saxon word succa meaning demon, the other word is Norse in origin, shukr referring to the large dogs of war of Odin and Thor.  The lore of this fae began in Britain, especially the region of Norfolk, but as we travel the world so do the fae.  Black Shucks have been seen most places that the British Empire has visited.

The Black Shuck likes to follow straight old roads that meet at crossroads.  The Black Shuck forms out of darkness and its eyes glow with hell fire.  Never gaze directly upon the eyes of a Black Shuck or you will die within 12 months of seeing the creature.  

The Black Shuck is not warded off by religious iconography demonstrated by the account of a chapel in  Blythburgh, where it pushed open the doors leaving scorch marks, killed two people praying, burned the floor and made the steeple collapse.  

The Black Shuck is also the guardian and henchman of the Crossroads Spirits.   Once a deal is made with the Crossroad Spirits and sealed in a blood oath, the hell-hound will now have you scent.  Once the bargained time is up the Black Shuck will smell your blood and claim your body and soul as part of the contract.

When calling forth the Black Shuck it should be done by a well experienced practitioner of magick.  Novice practitioners should not attempt to call forth the Black Shuck due to its overwhelming energy.

Calling forth a Black Shuck would best be done at a crossroad, crossroads representing the space between the worlds.  A circle should be cast using driftwood from the coast of a large body of water.  Fill the circumference of the circle with a mixture of red brick dust and sulfur.  Make a huge crossroad symbol in the center with black powder.  Place in the center of the circle a piece of paper with either the blood or hair of the person you are sending the Black Shuck after.   Light the black powder and using a reflective surface, like a mirror, look back at the Black Shuck.  Tell the Black Shuck that you have a contract that needs completion of this person.  The phantasmal hound will disappear and complete the contract

For repelling the Black Shuck should also be done by an advance practitioner of magick.  Tricking the Black Shuck is like tricking a Reaper and can have outcomes that are unseen by mortal eyes.  One way is to take a picture of the person and place a cross of blood over it, cover it in Bull’s Leather, tie it with a purple cord with nine knots and tie a coffin nail to it. then bury it in a freshly dug grave.  Another way is to take a picture of yourself, nine drops of blood, a clipping of your hair and a glass bottle.  Put the Protective Seal of Solomon on the back of the picture and put nine drops of blood on it, put the lock of you hair in the center and then scroll it up and place it in the bottle.  Completely seal the bottle in sealing wax, so nothing can get in or out.  Throw the Bottle into constantly moving body of water such as a river or an ocean.

Finally the way to avoid the Black Shuck is to make an offering to him on Oct 31 and May 22, these are the days that the veil is at its thinnest.  Take a big Ham Bone or Beef Bone and place it at the crossroads.   Walk backwards at the crossroads and place the bone, so not to look at the hound.

Be careful when working magic with the Black Shuck, the best cure for this fae is to avoid it.  Death comes for all, let us enjoy life while we have it, and leave the Black Shuck to the crossroads.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Corn Spirit : The Use of Corn Meal in Ceremony

If you're like me, I have always been taught (both as a child and as a shaman today) that whatever we have need of will always be around us. We must simply cultivate the eyes to see it. That in mind, I've always been the kind of person that enjoys practical and thrifty means to accomplish most tasks. So naturally, one of the very first things that I learned to work with in my practices was Corn Meal.

If you go into the pantry of most American homes, somewhere between the cans of green beans and the 5 lb. sack of potatoes. you are sure to find a bag or canister of Corn Meal. And in truth, I find it comforting as well as interesting, that the presence of Corn Meal in the home has not changed much at all through the years. The earliest evidence shows that corn meal was being made and used in familial dwellings as much as 9000 years ago in Southern Mexico. And because of its centrality to the livelihood of cultures on the American continents, Corn has long been used as a sacred substance, performing a variety of ceremonial functions for shamans throughout time.

When using Corn Meal in ceremony, it is wise to set aside the portions that you will be using for sacred work from the corn meal that will be used for cooking. Once they have been seperated, I typically spend time praying over the corn meal, speaking to its spirit. Fostering a relationship with the Corn Spirit is essential since you are in fact calling upon it whenever you use the corn meal. To bless your corn meal (and to begin working with Corn Spirit), pour it upon a plate or cloth in a tall mound. Place your finger into the top making a small impression, it should look almost like a volcano. Sitting comfortably to the south of the mound (this is the place of Maize and Earth), offer prayers, gratitude and blessings to the corn spirit. Below is one of my prayers that you can use if you wish:

Prayer to the Corn Spirit
Xilo, Great Haired One,
You are the spirit by which we live,
Yellow Earth, Staff Of Life,
Preparer of Roads and Great Pollen Star,
From the Ant Mountain you came,
Bless your child, and walk with me,

When Prayers are offered, give offerings to the Corn Spirit, tobacco and copal are suitable gifts. After you have finished blessing the the corn meal, place it in a special bag or container to be stored with your other power objects. It is now ready to be used in ceremony.

In my own traditions, Corn Meal plays a vital role in many ceremonies. It's four basic functions are: The Blessing, The Offering, The Transformer, and The Bridge. Each of these functions can overlap or occur within the ceremony depending upon its nature. The following is a brief description and use of each of these four faces of Corn Spirit.

The Blessing:

Corn, by its very nature is a sacred and vital plant. Its presence allows the people to live, thrive, grow and prosper. Because of this role, Corn Meal can be used to bless people, places, and objects. Imagine that whenever corn meal is used in this capacity that it is like a blanket of energy. It surrounds and marks the intended target with its powerful spirit, lending it gifts of vitality, fruitfulness, and rejuvenation. Keeping the idea of this blanket in mind, you can also see it as a mantle of sorts. When it is sprinkled over a person or object, that mantle is shared and covers the object, making it sacred as well. You can use corn meal to bless your sacred space, prepare ritual ground, consecrate power objects, ready participants for a ceremony, and to bless a family or their home.

The Offering:

The role of Corn Meal in this function is relatively self-explanatory. Whenever humankind views a resource or "good" as crucial to survival or a pleasure to behold, it typically is seen as being suitable for offerings made to spirits or deities. We give up what we treasure because we desire to share the best, most beautiful or essential things with these beings. It is a way of saying "You are important and I honor you." In the modern world, we can pick up a bag of corn meal for $2 - $3, however it is the nature of this substance and its place in our history and daily lives that make it sacred. Similarly, most of us don't need to see how much a wild rose costs in order to value it's beauty and meaning. So when using corn meal as an offering, take a moment to reflect on the nature of the substance you hold.

There are many ways to offer corn meal, the simplest of course is to offer a small amount in a bowl or plate to whatever spirit you are honoring. Other methods are rubbing it over the face of your drum or power objects, throwing pinches of it into the air for the wind to carry or for spirits to feed on. You can even use this corn meal to make sacred cakes or tortillas that are meant to be shared only in spiritual gatherings and as offerings wih spirits or deities.

The Transformer:

Staves of Life Design - Original Artwork-
From planting the seed to harvesting, to the drying and milling of the corn. The entire life cycle of Corn is in a constant state of change. This movement and shifting of form makes Corn Meal a powerful container of transformative energy. This energy is clear when we look at the history of the people from North to South America. Corn literally transformed these ancestral traditions and lifestyles. The plant itself transformed from the small bushy Teosinte into the tall stalks we know today. This energy of transformation is carried on in the corn meal that we use in our ceremonies. To access this energy I typically create a hoop of corn meal on a plate or flat surface, this circle can be any size that works for you so long as it is a continous line. Within this hoop, "draw" a symbol for corn using the corn meal. This can be a glyph or symbol that is traditional to your practices or you can create one for yourself. (See my Transformer diagram below, using a traditional "Staves of Life" corn stalk design.)

The placement of the Red and Black stones.
Arrows on the left and right show the upward movement of energy from the earth
After you have created the Transformer, you can choose to use its energy in a variety of ways. The method I use most is to place two objects inside the hoop. The first is a representation of the energy I want to change, for instance If I am having issues of self-doubt I would make or find something to represent this energy for me, perhaps a black stone or picture of the cowardly lion. This is placed or "planted" at the bottom or southern edge. Then we select an object or symbol of what we want that energy to be transformed into. In this instance I want to become confident, so maybe I would choose a red stone or picture of a strong  looking ballet dancer, whatever represents the idea of what you want to transform this energy into will work. This is then placed above the central design in the Northern realm. Looking at the diagram above we can see that we are mirroring the process of growth and change that corn undertakes. In the same way we are creating growth and change in ourselves by planting this seed and transforming its energy into what we need to survive and thrive. When using this method, it is best to only use the corn meal once, afterward return the corn meal to the earth, thanking it for helping you in your work.

The Bridge:

Corn when growing, mirrors the vertical axis that shamans draw on time and time again in their work. This axis is the tree upon which we climb to access and connect with the otherworlds. Corn rises from the earth and reaches skywards, it is this action that creates the connection. We can use this energy to connect to the otherworlds, to specific energies, and to spirits or deities. In this capacity, the corn meal is the "preparer of the way", it becomes the road for these energies and beings to travel upon. from their world to our sacred space. Like the roots of a corn stalk, the corn meal acts as an anchor for the energies we choose to call upon.

I mainly enact the corn meal bridge in two ways, both can be used to achieve similar means. For either method you will need a plate or a flat surface on which to work. The first method, I refer to as the Shining Mound, you can think of it like a Helipad lit up with flashing lights. Depending on what energy you are trying to connect with or call upon you may choose to incorporate corresponding tools accordingly. First place a heap of corn meal into the center of the plate, using your hands to shape it into a mountain. Around the Mound I typically place crystals that will acts as a beacon and condenser, however you can use objects or herbs that you feel relate to the particular working. If you are connecting with an energy that you feel is unfriendly (in the case of illness, etc.) it is wise to place a circle of corn meal around the Mound to act as the barrier. When ready, the energy called upon "jumps across" to the mound, which acts as a seat or "island" for the energy to stand upon.

The Mound Method, The Spirit crosses space to stand on the Central Mountain or Island.

The second method, one I tend to use more often, I refer to as the Bridge. To use this method, once again we begin with a plate or flat surface to work upon. Next we "draw" out a symbol for the energy that we are working with. I typically use this method when I am working with the energies of Day Signs or Deities whom I am comfortable with. This symbol can be as complex or as simple as you like, so long as it has meaning to you. This method works similarly to the Mound method, in that a spirit or energy crosses to the corn meal. However I do not recommend using this method to work with spirits that you are unfamiliar or at odds with as in the case I mentioned above (for these spirits I suggest working carefully with the Mound Method if you feel comfortale doing so, and only after you have a feel for the techniques used here.) I find that this method works well when you want to connect with a specific known energy, such as calling upon ancestors, inviting health or balance into your life, or even connecting with cultural archetypes. Like the Mound Method, once the "drawing" is created, we can call upon the energy to cross the bridge created by Corn Spirit. This energy will rest upon the design created, however unlike the Mound Method, this energy is free to interact within the space we are working in.

From the times of our ancestors to the modern age, Corn has stood with the people as a powerful ally and sustainer of life. Inviting its energy and guidance into our lives can bring about great changes within and around us. By choosing to foster and understand the relationship between yourself and the Xilo spirit, you take the first steps in picking up the trails that those who have gone before us have travelled.

In Lak'ech

-Kurt Shoopman






People in America are too stressed and focus too hard on everything they do from the mundane to the magical. We often forget that we live in a magical universe giving us symbols and prophecies everywhere we turn. 

One of the ways I begin a spiritual counseling is by lying back in a magical cauldron of water, better known as a bath tub. Yes my friends the bath can be a powerful tool, you create an environment of relaxation to open your upper chakras.

I start out with my essentials I get the water to a warm temperature, light a few candles for ambiance and light. 

Open my Vosges chocolates (the magical energy in chocolate is both a grounding and energizing energy; it relaxes and allows the dreaming process to begin.) 

I also put five drops of lavender oil and 5 drops of Bergamot (Lavender and Bergamot oils are also good relaxing oils that helps open the third eye). Also add some of your favorite Bubble Bath this is essential for Bubbleomancy. And then as my Grandma use to say, “Zachęcamy do relaksu i zaczyna się sen” or for you non-Poles “Relax and dream.” Pamper yourself and pamper your third eye, and become one with your state of nirvana.

When the peace has come, and the dreaming begins, you will realize that the water is alive and is speaking to you. Those Tiny bubbles have created a mystical library of symbols for divination. When the bubbles die down from that oh so relaxing meditative bath, I begin to ask questions about the person I am counseling. Recently one of my clients was concerned about a legal matter. A tree appeared in the bubbles and a small bird which was flying away from a cloud. This meant do not hide yourself in unknown territory, go to safety where you can gain leverage and perspective on the matter.

I refer to this form of divination as Bubbleomancy, it is a personal interactive form of the Victorian tea leaf reading, except you become one with the divination and you get chocolate. Half the reason people can not divine is because they are too stressed to see the collage the universe displays. Relax, and become part of the world while you are living in it.Ase Papa O

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Picking up the Trail - My First Steps into the World of Shamanism

Many years ago, when I took my first fated steps on this mysterious path, I could have never guessed where this trail would lead me. I was Starry eyed, spiritually starving, and lost in a sea of questions no one could answer, and so I grasped onto the shining beacon of Wicca. I was in desperate need of healing and validation, and I spent the next few years revelling in the freedom and revitalizing energy of this earth-based path. I learned about the unseen world of energy that surged and bustled around us everyday. I embraced the Goddess who I had been unknowingly searching for during childhood. And perhaps, most importantly, the embers of my spirit had begun to revive themselves, steadily building into a crackling blaze.

I continued to study and practice, exploring the realm of Withcraft and Pagan Traditions. But it wasn't until High School that an unexpected fork in the road changed everything. I came across a random book in the library, Dark Sister, that was shelved as 'fiction', although I would find out later it was anything but. I sat down to read this mysterious book in 4th block French Class. And upon opening the book to the first page, I was transported to the humid and dense jungles of the Yucatan. There I stood, with the author, in a circle of shaman women, who had gathered to perform a most solemn ceremony. It was the power of the story that had begun to weave its own magick, entrancing me as I feverishly turned page after page. I was plunged into the depths of mystery, where light and dark danced in a endless procession of power.

It wasn't until I arrived at the last page that I had begun to realize that I had touched the face of something deeply familiar, something that issued a call that I felt compelled to answer. It was then that everything started to change. The earth felt strange beneath my feet, and the air felt tense like a storm hanging low overhead. It seemed like my spirit was twisting and bending against itself, trying to break free of some cage I could not see. In that moment, all I knew with certainty was that I wanted to know more about these enigmatic and puzzling beings that were called shamans.

Up until then, my operating definition of shamanism was admittedly based off of what I had seen in movies or had read in the vocabulary and brief history sections of my favorite Pagan books. But being a product of my generation, two clicks and few cursory searches later, I began to get a broader sense of the massive precipice that I was currently perched upon. I stood at the edge, the winds of uncertainty whipping about me, but still there was the deep resounding invitation that only my spirit could hear. I didn't know what lay at the bottom of this ancient cavern or what would happen if I stepped out into the unknown. But perhaps the more terrifying question was, What would happen if I didn't? So, with one last breath I looked at the dying light that set over the horizon, gathered my strength and courage, and leapt out into the arms of the unknown.

There is a moment when you're falling. A moment, where time stands still and you are met with a rush of thoughts, emotions, and clarity. Everything else falls away and you are left only with the great expanse of your own being. Alone in this seemingly endless void, you begin to realize that you are undergoing a sacred process that has occured countless times on this Earth. This process of expansion, of death and rebirth that occurs to anyone who bravely looks into the eyes of Spirit. But as everyone knows, when you fall, at some point the Earth rises up to meet you in a glorious and often painful embrace. After the clouds of dust roll away, we shakily rise to our feet again. Stardust clinging to our hair and a surge of strength and power uncoiling itself within our newly awakened bodies.

As I stood in this new and strange terrain, full of mystery and power that crackled in the air, I realized that my spirit had found its way home to the beautiful world of the shaman. I danced among the trees that remembered the ways of those who had walked these trails before me, and they greeted me in kind. It was the expression of a kinship, an unspoken bond, that had been forged in the fires of transformation.

I met many spirits and beings as I explored the hidden vallies and shadowed trails of this wondrous world. Some of them rose up to meet me, extending their hands to guide me along these solitary roads. Others issued challenges that shook me to my core, forcing me to change and learn. It was in these experiences that I began to understand the paradoxical nature of the shaman. They were teaching me how to become fluid and formless, all the while strengthening my foundations and showing me how to stand within my center.

In the years that followed, these teachers and allies showed me the world I had been unknowingly searching for all along. They led me down the old roads, from the Great Plains of my ancestors into the humid jungles were ancient step pyramids still stand. The lives and wisdom of these great peoples planted seeds in the innermost corners of my heart, opening the door for new traditions and practices to flourish and grow on my path. And although this journey has been trying, confusing, and treacherous at times, there is no greater reward than the teachings and experiences that have been shared by these wondrous beings that I am honored to call my allies.

In Lak'ech
- Kurt Shoopman

Quest for the Nomadic Serpent

 Imagine yourself in a room full of people, spouses, coworkers, the community food drive, the pta's meet and greet. While you are milling around feeling a little uncomfortable some one stops with an introduction. You politely give your name and then freeze ... before stumbling through who you are, what defines you. Labels are a fact of life no matter how we hate them. They are how we identify ourselves and how we relate to others individually or in any particular community. Unfortunately it is also how we identify and relate to others and how others identify and relate to us.
   When I sat down to write my bio I found myself at a complete impasse of how to label myself in the pagan community. I am not a part of a particular tradition, I don't practice under a singular pantheon, although I consider many I have worked with and have the privilege to call friends I follow a completely different path. I didn't have a label that would be relateable to other pagans. I could call myself eclectic but that has become almost a bad word in the pagan community. It seems to draw the idea of someone who is wishy washy, someone who lacks in knowledge or legitimate study, and worse yet someone who lacks the ability to know who they are and what they believe. It is sad that so many people in the pagan community jump to this stereotype but it is true more often then not.
   So I was still thinking who am I in this path. I am fairly well read and have been studying for years. I am not, let me repeat, NOT wishy washy. I have definite ideas and feelings and will argue if I feel it is needed. I by choice haven't grouped in a particular tradition not because I don't respect them or many of their practitioners but, to use one of my favorite peoples sayings, it just isn't my flavor. My problem was that I don't have a label to easily put me in a niche that someone can relate to.
   Then I tried to look back at my path at how I got to the place I am now and through a late night philosophical conversation I joked that I was on the path of the Nomadic Serpent.
Serpent, I may be interested in spirit animals but the snake has never been one I have ever found a kinship with. I grew up in Texas where I was taught to have a healthy fear of dangerous snakes and knowledge about there behaviors and types. I have held and touched snakes, I have carefully backed away from dangerous rattlers. When thinking about my path I noticed from puberty through the twenty or so years since I have time and time again found myself attracted to, and practicing to Gods and Goddesses that have significant links to the serpent. So I have decided to explore each of these pieces in blog form one by one to see where it goes, where it comes from, and if there is another possible connection other then simply being a part of my path.
   I grew up with a mom interested in metaphysical practices and following a spiritual path so I started early on with an interest in the worlds religions and spiritual paths of the past and present. Before I even knew what Paganism really was the first deity I was drawn to was Shiva. I had only a very simplistic basic knowledge of Hinduism but Shiva, the God who danced the world into creation, really interested me. Maybe it's my Scorpio nature but life/death, creation/destruction, and life cycles in symbolism have always fascinated me. I purchased a small bronze statue created a small shrine to meditate at and got to work.


   Although there are many symbols in the imagery of Shiva filled with cultural importance and beauty, the serpents symbolism was one that interested me. The serpent is typically wrapped around Shiva's neck three times symbolizing past present and future. Sometimes they are translated into life death and rebirth. They show Shiva's understanding and transcendence over the cycles, time, and transformation. In many ways Shiva was the one that created the doorway to a path that transformed my life.

Written By: Julie Alexander

Sunday, June 9, 2013

St Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes

Today’s Sunday is dedicated to the appearances of the Blessed Mary after her ascension into the heavens. The Blessed Mother has been a Divine Queen of peace, protection and piety, she has been the mother for all who needed her. She comes in many forms and many shades, each to relate and protect the people whom are in need her mothering. Today is a special Saint Sunday because with the Vision of our Blessed Mother we also have birth of the Holy Saint Bernadette.

The First One we will start with is our Lady of Lourdes who appeared in a vision on February 11, 1858 to a young woman named Bernadette Soubirous.  The woman said to Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception”  Bernadette came from a poor family, who were not strong in their faith.  Bernadette herself was a sickly child and not very learned, but prayed the Our Father as well as other common prayers.  The Blessed Virgin appeared as a humble woman to a humble girl, not superior, but as a polite woman.

Bernadette, being poor, would go and collect wood and bones to sell in the town for money.  While wading through the water of the Grotto de Massabielle she heard a ‘coups de vent’, or gusts of wind, but the foliage around Bernadette did not move.  From a dark alcove appeared a glowing white figure of the Blessed Mother, Bernadette became frightened and fled.  She tried to keep this vision a secret, but when she was told of her vision Bernadette received corporal punishment.

Bernadette returned to the Grotto de Massabielle, this time with holy water to scare off the apparition if it came with evil intent  The Blessed Virgin allowed her to pour the holy water over her, and then the Blessed Virgin filled Bernadette with divine ecstasy

When she went back to her village, her parents ordered Bernadette not to return to the Grotto.  Bernadette knew in her heart that this was an apparition of the Blessed Mother, and she knew that she must return  When she returned to the Grotto the Blessed Mother told her to dig, and when she did, she unearthed holy waters that had healing powers.

Bernadette worked for many years in the infirmary at the Covenant of Saint Gildard, until her health became too much for her to deal with.  The Monsignor of her parish asked the Sisters of Nevers if they would take her in, the sisters replied, “ Monsignor, she will be a pillar of the infirmary.”

Bernadette was eventually overcome by illness and was laid to rest on April 16, 1879, at Saint Gildard Convent Crypt.  In 1909 her body was exhumed from the crypt and it was incorrupt, which means the body had not decayed.  Today, her body looks as if she is sleeping and her complexion still filled with the spirit of life.

In 1933 Sister Bernadette of Lourdes was canonized for answering miracles of bodily healing.

The best description of our Lady of Lourdes comes from the mouth of Saint Bernadette herself.  When Bernadette was questioned of the apparition she said “She was a pretty young girl with a rosary over her arm. She was wearing a white robe with a blue girdle, and had a white veil over her and a yellow rose at each foot.”  

St Bernadette is the Patron Saint of: Bodily illness, the poor and ridiculed, shepherds, poverty, and  sick people.

St Bernadette’s Feast Day is April 16

Prayer to Saint Bernadette for Healing

Light a yellow Candle

Holy Saint Bernadette, heal my body as you have healed so many others
Take my pain from me that I may feel whole again.
As you understand the suffering, may your grace remove this burden
Holy Saint Bernadette may my body be miraculously healed through the Grace of Our Lady of Lourdes
St Bernadette look over me in my time of need as you heal my body Amen
Our Lady of Lourdes is prayed to for: Healing and Body ailments

Our Lady of Lourdes can be used to represent Orisha Oshun

Our Lady of Lourdes Feast Day is February 11

Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes over healing waters

Place bowl of water with yellow rose petals in it. Then place a white 7 day candle in the middle of the water.

Blessed is our Lady of Lourdes who looked upon us as friends
Blessed is your healing hand upon this water
Holy Mother bless this water for healing just as you created a holy font for Saint Bernadette.
Make this water for the healing of body and soul
Our Lady of Lourdes, give this water the Healing Power of your Miraculous Grace Amen

Keep Candle lit and in water, doing Prayer for 5 days, on the 5th day say prayer then remove petals and dry them for healing sachet.  

St Bernadettes Garlic Chicken Soup

1 Hen
2 Carrots
3 Stalks of Celery
3 Potatoes
1 Leek
15 Cloves of Garlic
Oregano fresh herbs
Parsley fresh herbs
Rosemary fresh herbs
2 eggs
½ cup flour
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
salt and pepper to personal taste

Slow cook the hen in water. Boil hen until the meat falls off the bones. Remove hen from boiling water and allow meat to sit and cool.  Dice Carrots, Celery, Potatoes, and Leeks.  Mince the 15 cloves of garlic.  Remove stems from the herbs and finely chop.  Place vegetables in water and allow them to cook slowly.  Pull the meat apart into small chunks. Put meat back into the soup and allow the vegetables and herbs to soften and stew. Cook for about 30 min  

In a small bowl take the eggs and flour and mix together till smooth.  Mix in onion powder and garlic powder, mixing again till smooth.

Bring soup to a rolling boil. With a spoon drop egg and flour mixture into the soup, it will take on a noodle-like consistency.

Our Lady of Lourdes Healing Tea Bath

(all dry ingredients)
5 Zest of Lemon
5 Dried Yellow Rose
5 Tablespoons of Chamomile
5 Tablespoons of Lavender
5 Tablespoons of Jasmine Flowers

Place herbs in a piece of muslin and tie at the top.  When running a hot tub, place satchel in the bath and allow it to seep.  When water cools enough climb in and enjoy the healing bath.

When the Divine comes to us, do not be afraid because they can change our lives.  Be humble and dig deep, the treasures of the soul will benefit the body.  Allow yourself to heal through prayer and the grace of the divine.  Heal the soul and the body will follow, trust in your faith and it will strengthen the self. Ase Papa O