Friends in Heaven

Note Statue of Mary on the top

Nana’s Rock Garden
Circa 1962

 

There are a variety of magical traditions, such as Hoodoo, Appalachian Folk Magic and Pennsylvania Dutch Hexcraft  that are uniquely American.   These beliefs and practices evolved in particular areas of the country when people of various ethnic backgrounds shared their folklore and magical traditions.

Traditional practitioners of these magical systems get fewer and fewer with each generation.  Most mainstream people want no part of what they view as superstitious beliefs from another time— beliefs that, in their opinion, are as obsolete as horse-drawn plows and rotary dial telephones.  Others feel the need to be more orthodox in their Christianity and avoid magic for that reason.

When a contemporary person DOES want more magic in their lives, they tend to walk away from Christianity altogether and therefore have no interest in the American systems of folk magic which incorporate the Christian pantheon and utilize the Bible and Christian religious symbols in the work.

I never gave any of this much thought until I became interested in not only honoring my ancestors and praying for their continued spiritual progress, but to do so in a way that showed respect for their beliefs and traditions.  Ancestors on my mother’s side were working class Irish Catholics as far back as I can trace.  My efforts to honor them made me aware of just how quickly culture, be it Irish Catholic or otherwise, can disappear into a world of cell phones, Mc Mansions and conspicuous consumption.

My grandmother’s Catholicism had a focus which was praying for the dead.  She constantly prayed the rosary for deceased relatives and friends, but also for complete strangers.  She did this as if it was her job, but she enjoyed it and it occupied a lot of her time.

When I was young, I left Catholicism to explore Wicca, Paganism and other paths.   At that time, I fell in love with the idea of distant, Irish ancestors who lived close to nature and practiced forms of magic and medicine that were “untainted” by Christianity.  I suppose that, at the time, these faceless, fantasy ancestors seemed more interesting than the immigrant factory workers whose photographs adorned the walls of my Nana’s simple home.

Here we are, forty years later, and it’s only been the last ten years or so that I am able to acknowledge and feel remorse for how I disrespected those ancestors who, generationally, are closer to me.  I particularly feel bad about not seeing the beauty and selflessness of my grandmother’s practices.

When visiting the graves of her relatives to offer prayers and flowers, she would often walk up to a random grave, generally with a very old headstone, and offer prayers and flowers for that spirit.  She used to say that someone who has been dead a long time likely has no one alive who feels connected enough to pray for them, so they appreciate the gesture.

Grandma believed that her practices and devotions earned her many “friends in heaven” with whom she had reciprocal relationships.  She believed the spirits of the dead whom she had prayed for would intercede on her behalf during times of trouble.  This is not to say that she gave only in hopes of receiving something in return.  She was not like that. But she believed in the power of partnerships and reciprocal relationships at a time when most people didn’t articulate concepts like that.

When I decided to honor her by adopting her spiritual practices I realized that I could not remember how to pray the rosary or perform a Novena.  I have friends who identify as Catholics and former Catholics but none of them could help me either.  They had either forgotten these practices or were raised by secular Catholics and never taught these things.

It took some doing to find someone who’d accept my pantheistic tendencies and be willing to help me relearn Catholic devotional practices.   It was then that I realized how different contemporary Catholic culture is from the community that I grew up in.

I’m not even 60-years old yet and already one is hard-pressed to find someone of Catholic origins who appreciates the spiritual and devotional traditions of their grandparents, who avails themselves of the beauty and efficacy of those traditions and who intends to pass these practices down to their own grandchildren.

I hope that five hundred years from now people won’t be writing books and articles about a once-upon-a-time-America, when Catholic grannies prayed for the dead and practiced Catholic folk magic, and where southern Protestants passed their Hoodoo traditions on to the next generation.

So much spiritual history and magical traditions have already been lost over the centuries. It saddens me to think that folk magic beliefs that are unique to our country or to our particular ancestors may also be lost.

That is why over the Easter weekend, I took my 9-year old granddaughter to visit the graves of my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. While we were there, we randomly visited some very old graves, where we offered prayers and flowers, and I taught my granddaughter how to make friends in heaven.

The Doctrine of Signatures — for everyone

sarahsaltar
I have Christian friends who are more orthodox and think it’s wacky for new age people to wear crystals around their necks or offer incense to their ancestors. I also have plenty of friends on earth-centered paths who view Christianity as a tradition that doesn’t acknowledge the magic that is all around us. Surely, somewhere in the middle are truths that almost everyone could agree on?

I see all creations of the Divine as having a soul or as containing the essence of the Divine within them. I also view every creation as having a divine purpose, although it may be one that we never understand in this lifetime.

I view the Doctrine of Signatures as applying to rocks, as well as to plants and animals. Christian friends may want to read the Books of Moses with a hi-liter and note every time the Lord commanded that a particular plant be used in an anointing oil or a particular spice be used as incense or that particular wood and stones be used in the creation of altars and ritual objects.

If trees, stones and plants had no particular spiritual attributes and no properties of unseen significance there would be no reason for the Lord to be so specific in his instructions on the building of altars, the burning of incense, the making of anointing oils, etc.

Christian friends may find it illuminating to read the Bible with the goal of looking for clues as to the spiritual attributes of everything around us. Some of those on earth-centered paths have never considered that new age concepts aren’t so new after all. At least as far back as the time that the books of Moses were written there was an awareness of the spiritual properties of plants and stones. Whether this awareness comes from the divine revelation of Prophets or was obtained by some other means by those who wrote the books is a matter of opinion and of faith.

Either way, it gives everyone something to think about. At least, I hope it does,

Spirits can have a sense of humor

wayne

My older brother, Wayne, died of liver cancer almost one year ago. He lived a biker lifestyle and although he had a good job, he was a big time partier for most of his life! The partying, alcohol abuse and chain smoking no doubt contributed to the cancer.

wayne memorial card

I dreamt of him a few weeks ago and believe that he has helped me recently, so I thought it time to add his photo to my ancestor/relative altar. I have both photographs and mass cards for most of my other ancestors. But when I dug out the card that was handed out at his memorial service I realized that it was a photograph of him on his Harley, giving the middle finger.

That’s SO HIM, but not really appropriate for an altar. When I was looking at the card I could almost hear him laughing about it. I said out loud, “You probably think it’s funny that I won’t use that card. Please show me a sign that you can hear me.”

I logged onto Facebook and noticed that my deceased brother’s daughter-in-law, with whom I remain in contact, posted the joke below just moments before I logged on. So right around the time I asked him to show me a sign, this was sent to her and she posted it.

capri'sangel

Honestly, if you had ever known him, you’d know how very Wayne-ish this is. There’s no doubt in my mind that he had something to do with this. It really made me laugh and reassured me that he’s around and looking out for me!

He was not at all religious and was known for his irreverent jokes and behaviors–so this is just the sort of thing he’d do. I acknowledge and thank spirit for the contact–no matter what form it takes.

Thank You, Spirits! Thank you! Thank you!

Thank You, Spirits!

Thank You, Spirits!

Well, I have been doing intense prosperity work as it’s been a hard winter financially and otherwise. Our income tax refund enabled us to get back in the black, but only just barely. We needed another boost.

This week, the blessings just keep rolling in. It’s astounding! For one thing, my husband’s workers compensation settlements from his two knee surgeries– one almost three years ago — finally are resolved and he will start getting the money they owe just as soon as he goes to the lawyer’s office to sign the paperwork.

Someone who’s owed me several hundred bucks (for so long that I actually forgot about it) just contacted me out of the blue and is sending a check this week.

Plus, I keep getting phone calls and emails for readings and people are calling my husband for work also. So we both will be fairly busy for the next two weeks–and this is a good thing.

I bought some flowers and a bottle of wine today and offered these as gratitude on my altars. Thank you, spirits! It’s so good to have the stress lifted!

THANK YOU!

Dealing with the Grey

My new friend, Tchipakkan, just published an amazing post on her blog entitled, “Why is anyone still surprised that human beings are fallible?” It reminds me of several topics that I’ve thought about over the past few years. One of them is dealing with the “grey areas” or our humanity.

Even though I see myself as having pretty good instincts and some psychic ability, there have been numerous times when someone whom I thought I knew well would do something totally out of left field and I’d think, “Why didn’t I see that coming?”

When I was younger, I thought, in these instances, that I had been “wrong” about a person or had used poor judgment or that I was a failure as a psychic. That’s because I wanted to see people as being one way or the other, as good or evil, right or wrong, victim or aggressor.

Life would be really simple if we could place all people, places and events into piles labeled good, bad and undecided. But, NO ONE is all good or all bad and life, in terms of human relationships, is rarely simple.

One of my favorite sayings is that there’s no such thing as a one-sided coin. In the moments of being thrown off by a person’s negative actions, it’s good to take a deep breath and remember the good things about them. The good and the positive aspects of that person aren’t suddenly less real or rendered invalid because we finally got a glimpse of the other side of the coin. The good in them is really genuine and so is the bad.

Whether one is psychic or not, we have to allow people their humanity and acknowledge the grey areas. When we do this, we are less apt to be “shocked” by the actions of others or to have unrealistic expectations of someone because of their “goodness.” For all you psychics out there, you weren’t “wrong” about John or Jane, you were simply picking up on their positive attributes which aren’t suddenly meaningless or unimportant now that everyone knows that John or Jane is a human being.

Whether or not an individual is a good person who sometimes does bad things or is a bad person who sometimes does good things is a matter of opinion. Truth can be a matter of perception. I can’t tell you how many times someone in the Pagan community has “warned” me about someone else who is supposedly evil or unethical.

I took these things to heart when I was younger but I don’t anymore. Having been the victim of people’s perceptions and assumptions and the gossip generated by these, I am now cautious about causing the same harm to someone else.

As Tchipakkan said, someone’s religion doesn’t guarantee right action or make them immune to dark desires. In the end, we’re all on our own path, accountable for our own actions. A religious or spiritual community can give support but in the end, whether someone walks their talk or not depends on them.