brief report on Saturday’s headwashing / spiritual bath event

Thanks to all who came and joined in for Saturday’s headwashings. It was a great crowd, with lovely energy, and everybody was just excellent.  I very much enjoyed my time with you all on Saturday, even though my back decided to start acting up that morning (my dear + Lor worked some of her massage magic on me before the baths/headwashings proper started).

Many thanks to those who donated and/or bought "raffle" tickets to support it.  You helped support a significant working that touched many lives and opened many roads to the spirits and saints.  As always, it’s impossible to do something on this level by oneself and I am very grateful to you all for your support, assistance, and participation.

My co-facilitators were my beloved friends + Lor and + Dositheos, who I have been sharing positive energy and doing spiritual work with for almost twenty years.  They were, as always, fabulous to work with, and given the state of my back problems that day, I am not exaggerating when I say I couldn’t have done it without them. 

If you are local or sort of local, or are the type who might like to travel for such things, do send me an email and ask to be added to the info list for these things – next time I really might be able to get the word out earlier, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that some other event of interest might come up locally that you’d enjoy attending, even if it’s not a full-on, semi-public spiritual cleansing event.

There are more pictures, courtesy of P and S, whose spiritual or ecclesiastical names I cannot get to right now, for the same reason that I cannot get to the other pictures on facebook – my poor little computer cannot handle facebook these days without freezing up and crashing.

sanguis veneris, alkanet, fistulae, medieval medicine, and an upcoming astrological opportunity

In an otherwise fairly unappetizing medieval manuscript (though of great interest to historians of medicine), I ran across a description of an herbal remedy called Sanguis Veneris, literally "the blood of Venus."  This is a work largely dedicated to methods for treating what was a usually untreatable and very, er, delicate problem that I won’t go into here (if you must know and have some rudimentary Latin, it’s called Practica de Fistula in ano, and if you don’t have some rudimentary Latin and are not currently eating dinner, you can see an illustrated page from an actual manuscript version of this widely-copied work that will show you, in a nutshell, what sort of surgery this was.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you).  Surgery for this condition was generally fatal in the 14th century, but the untreated condition was often fatal too.  But one John of Arderne not only treated it, but apparently treated it with some success and wrote a book on his methods.

In the interest of time, I’ll quote from an edition of a 15th century Middle English translation of his Latin work instead of trying to translate the Latin, which I won’t do all that well in a few minutes.  All quotations and page numbers are from Treatises of Fistula in Ano, D’Arcy Power, ed., London, Early English Text Society, 1910.

Sanguis Veneris was one of a few different preparations that could be used several days after surgery to clean and dry the wound.  It was so-called because of its redness and sweetness, and was known (says our author) to ladies by the French name "sank damours or sank de pucels" (p. 89) [blood of love, or blood of ladies/young women/whores depending on context].  There is a sense here that it is well-known among women and perhaps sought out by women, but all that isn’t spelled out here.  There were two different ways to make it, depending on what you had access to and how much your patient could pay.  One was to combine an ounce of powdered alkanet with a quart of oil, blended or boiled together (either way).  It’s to be kept in an earthen or pewter pot. Because its properties are cold and dry, it’s good for drying up many kinds of wounds or ulcers and preventing infection (I’m rather freely paraphrasing here).  Blended with vinegar and applied to the head, it’s good for headache (still p. 89).

The second way to make it goes something like this: take blood from a virgin (or, if one cannot be found, of a damsel of about 18 or 19 years old who was never with child).  The blood is to be drawn during the full moon, when the moon is in Virgo and the sun is in Pisces.[1]  To this blood, add equal parts "aloes cicotrine," myrrh, and dragon’s blood; then add powdered alkanet in an amount equal to the aloes+myrrh+dragon’s blood combo.  Muddle all this together to make a paste, and then dry it in the sun, storing it for your use.

To use it, take a chunk of it, powder it, and seethe it in olive oil, one ounce per two pounds of oil, or "a quart of a galon,or more if it be nede" (p. 90).  Boil it together until the oil is red.  When it’s red, pull it off the fire, and the resulting mixture is what is applied for medicinal purposes to cool, dry, disinfect, and heal.

N.B. This is medieval medicine, which most medievalists are grateful not to be subjected to, and I am not an herbalist, and there are probably a hundred good reasons not to go mucking about trying to recreate these formulae for use on open wounds, not least of which is the fact that not everybody agrees as to which regionally-available (or available-by-import) plants are being referred to in texts like this.  In short: DO NOT MAKE A BATCH OF THIS STUFF AND PUT IT ON AN OPEN WOUND.  If you are even *thinking* of trying this based on a blog post you find on the internet, please go above and click on the link to the illustrated manuscript page for a vivid reminder of how different, and how much more unpleasant, medicine was in the middle ages.  However, by medieval principles of sympathetic magic, the doctrine of signatures, and humoural theory, you could certainly make a case for using such a mixture as a spiritual or magical oil as part of spell or altar work to effect healing of conditions brought upon by an excess of heat and moisture (fever, for instance, maybe gout, other types of "hot, wet" illnesses).  If the subtext I perceive here is really meant to be here, this could also be used in any type of working to draw love, incite lust, and gain romantic attention.

After surgery, flesh could be regenerated and scarring induced by using various preparations, including myrrh, aloes, dragon’s blood, Arabian gum, something called sarcocolla, pomegranate bark, and/or flour, mixed with egg-white and sanguis veneris or mel rosat.  Mel rosat is made by mixing honey and the juice from red rose petals, and is smeared onto cloth and laid on the wound.  (84-87 and passim)

[1] I am not advising anyone to go around poking 18-year-olds with lancets, but just for the sake of interest, this Friday, Feb 18, 2011, you will have a full moon with the Sun in Pisces and the Moon in Virgo.  Where I live, the moon is officially full on the 18th, the Moon enters Virgo at 4:40 am, and the Sun enters Pisces at 7:26 pm, so you would have to make your Sanguis Veneris after 7:26 pm EST and, I think, ideally before 3-ish a.m. on the 19th.  Now, if you’re a client or customer of mine, you may have written me before with questions about moon phases and astrological signs in your rootwork and had me give you short and even dismissive answers – if the astrology suits your needs, feel free to time your work this way, but in general, I make the timing fit my needs rather than holding off on my work to wait on some moon phase or conjunction, and I rarely advise clients to wait around for the moon if their work really needs doing.  The exception would be the preparation of some kind of ultra-special, preplanned talisman, amulet, or formula that you can only make every once in a while – like my Three Kings Oil which I make annually at the Feast of the Epiphany, or a gambling luck charm made on 7/7/2007, or some complicated astrological talisman designed to get success flowing in your life, which has to be done at a certain time of the year or even during a rarer astrological event, for which you have planned in advance as something "beyond the scope of day-to-day conjure remedies."  But I offer this as a curiosity for those of you interested in reading such things, and mention the upcoming perfect timing for those who like to make their own preparations.

new formulas ~ esoteric and biblical

Finally posted some new formulas I"ve been working on for a while; they’re part of a new "line" of biblical/esoteric oils. These are generally made in a high-quality olive oil base and contain herbs and essences prized from Biblical times to the present.  The ingredients in many cases are expensive as hell and in some cases are extremely hard to find, so we’ll see how this goes.

I’ve put many, many hours of research, blending, and supplier tracking-down into these and I’m excited to finally have them available.

Continue reading “new formulas ~ esoteric and biblical”

Saints Cosmas and Damian, Sep 27

For once I’m posting a saint’s day *ahead* of time. 

Sep. 27 is the feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian.  They were brothers and physicians, martyred in the 3rd century during the reign of Diocletian.  They are called on for healing, and are considered by many to be the patrons of doctors and surgeons. 

Here’s a prayer from my pre-Vatican II missal:

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who keep the heavenly birthday of Thy holy Martyrs, Cosmas and Damian, may be delivered by their intercession from all the evils that threaten us.

The missal references psalm 33, 18. 19.  The just cried, and the Lord heard them: and delivered them out of all their troubles…. The Lord is near to those who are of a contrite heart: and He will save the humble of spirit.

Cosmas and Damian are often syncretized with the loa the Marassa, the divine twins.

Coming up next, if Crazy Busy Life doesn’t get in the way: The Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel on Sep. 29 (and by the dedication of the angel, they mean the dedication of his basilica).

on healing, orishas, and the diaspora

“The deities, which numbered more than four hundred in Africa, were reduced to several dozen relevant entities in the New World.  Termed orichas in Candomble, Shango, Batuque, and Santeria, and loas in Vodoun, these gods are inexorably linked to the spiritual and material well being of their devotees.  Osanyin, the secretive god of leaves, has special importance in the area of health and medicine.  Among Yoruba-Dahomey descendants in the Old and New Worlds, he symbolizes the mysterious and curative nature of the vegetal kingdom.  Legend describes how Osanyin’s knowledge of plant lore was coveted by Iansa, goddess of storms and winds, who in her jealousy raised her skirts and caused a great wind to scatter the sacred leaves in all directions.  Quickly collecting them where they fell, each oricha retains his or her own medicinal healing domain and associated plant pharmacopoeia.”

— Voeks, Robert.  “African Medicine and Magic in the Americas.”  Geographical Review 83.1 (1993): 66-78.

Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Sept. 27

Cosmas and Damian (unfortunately reproduced in many hoodoo-type places as Comas or Cosmos and Damien) were twin brothers and physicians who lived in Asia Minor in the 3rd century.  They got martyred during the reign of Diocletian.  Diocletian, an autocrat and anti-republican who eventually took the name Dominus et Deus (Lord and God), made a lot of martyrs.   He ordered the greatest persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire that the Empire had yet seen.  (This is the sweep that got St. Sebastian, one of my dear personal saints).

Cosmas and Damian are, predictably, called on for cases of illness, and as the patron saints of doctors and pharmacists.

In voodoo, they are often associated with the loa the Marassa ("Twins").

Prayer for communion, ref Ps. 78, 2. 11.  "They have given the dead bodies of Thy servants to be meat for the fowls of the air: the flesh of Thy Saints for the beasts of the earth: according to the greatness of Thy arm, take possession of the children of those who have been put to death."