Blog Post 67 – Charms

Whew!  Sorry about that, folks.  Last week was a heckuva beast so I didn’t wind up getting to post all that much.  Or at all, other than the podcast.  I’m hoping that I’ll have more this week, especially considering that after this week, posts will be rather infrequent for the next two months due to grad school.  Anyhow, enough about me; on to the topic!

Today I thought I’d talk a little about charms.  The problem with talking about charms, though, is that it’s hard to define just what a “charm” is.  For some, they’re spoken words used along with other spell components to get results.  Others may take the view that charms are talismans or magical objects, usually fairly small, which are carried like a portable personal spell.  Some think of them as written spells, others mainly include love spells in this category, and some simply think of “charm” as another word for spells.

For my own purposes, though, I’m going to define “charm” thusly:  A spell composed of words, spoken or written.  There, now that’s settled.  So now we have the question, what’s so special about charms?  Well, for one thing, they’re usually simple.  Simple enough, in fact, that ordinary folk who might not otherwise engage in magical practice often work a charm without giving it a second thought.  There are lots of these kinds of little workings to be found throughout the various New World magical systems, but here are a few of my favorites:

Finding Lost Objects

St. Anthony Prayer (Catholic, Strega, Saint-based Hoodoo, Curanderismo)
This prayer is used when an item (or sometimes person) is lost and you need to find it in a hurry. The first version is slightly formal (though not nearly so formal as the prayer on his prayer card).  From the Lucky Mojo site:
St. Anthony, St. Anthony
Please come down
Something is lost
And can’t be found

My own family used a variant of this which was much more informal:
Tony, Tony,
Look around,
Help me find
What can’t be found
I always repeat the prayer at least once out loud and then under my breath as I search for the missing item.  I’d say I have about a 75-80% success rate with this one.  I do know that traditionally if you find your missing item, you should give to the poor in St. Anthony’s name (a practice called “St. Anthony’s Bread”).  This can be as simple as writing “Thank you St. Anthony!” on the edge of a dollar bill and giving it to a homeless person (or leaving it in a poorbox collection of some kind).

Halting a Thief

Three Lilies Charm  ( Pow-wow)
This one comes from John George Hohman’s Long Lost Friend.  I’ve had no reason to use it yet, thankfully, but I like the poetry of this one (or at least, I think it sounds very poetic).  The portions where you see the “+++” symbols indicate making the sign of the cross in the air with your hand as part of the charm:

A GOOD CHARM AGAINST THIEVES.
There are three lilies standing upon the grave of the Lord our God; the first one is the courage of God, the other is the blood of God, and the third one is the will of God. Stand still, thief! No more than Jesus Christ stepped down from the cross, no more shalt thou move from this spot; this I command thee by the four evangelists and elements of heaven, there in the river, or in the shot, or in the judgment, or in the sight. Thus I conjure you by the last judgment to stand still and not to move, until I see all the stars in heaven and the sun rises again. Thus I stop by running and jumping and command it in the name of + + +. Amen.

This must be repeated three times.

Protection

INRI Cross (Pow-wow, Hoodoo, Mountain Magic, most folk magical systems)
This one can again be found in Hohman’s book, as well as many other magical texts.  It’s a written charm, primarily used against harmful magic directed against you, as well as fire.  There are plenty of ways to use this charm, from marking it in a magical oil or water on your door to putting it on a small piece of paper and hiding it in the lintel of your doorframe.  It can also be carried with you for magical protection.  This is the version from Hohman:

A CHARM TO BE CARRIED ABOUT THE PERSON
Carry these words about you, and nothing can hit you: Ananiah, Azariah, and Missel, blessed be the Lord, for he has redeemed us from hell, and has saved us from death, and he has redeemed us out of the fiery furnace and has preserved us even in the midst of the fire; in the same manner may it please him the Lord that there be no fire.

I

N         I          R

I

The simple form of this is to just draw out that last bit, rather than worrying about the prayer before it, but the prayer can also be a powerful addition to the charm.

SATOR Square (Pow-wow, Hoodoo, Mountain Magic, Curanderismo, most folk magical systems)
Another powerful and widely found magical charm, the SATOR square is written out and used much like the INRI cross:
SATOR
AREPO
TENET
OPERA
ROTAS
These words are written out (try to make them as “square” as you can) and again posted or carried to protect you from harm, theft, fire, and any number of other ills.

St. Michael the Archangel (Catholic, Strega, Saint-based Hoodoo, Curanderismo)
This is a common prayer among Catholics facing spiritual struggles, and it’s made its way into magical practice, too.  In the film The Gangs of New York, a priest (played by Liam Neeson) recites this prayer before leading his band of Irish immigrants into battle with another gang.  It’s particularly effective if done in conjunction with the St. Michael medal or candle, but I think you can use it on its own as well.  The main target of this protective charm is evil—if you feel beleaguered by any harmful person or force (and you don’t have a problem invoking this particular spirit), this is a very potent way to deflect that trouble:

Great Archangel Michael Archangel, defend us in battle,
be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the
devil.

May God rebuke our enemies, we humbly pray; and
do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of
God, thrust into Hell the Adversary and all other evil
spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of
souls.  Amen.
I like to use all of these protective charms, though the SATOR square is my favorite.  I generally renew these charms once per year in conjunction with a few other key rituals (and a particular holiday, which I’ll get to eventually).

Well, I’m not quite through with charms yet, but there is plenty here to digest, so I’ll save the rest of them for another day.  Thank you all for being patient, and for being such a wonderful readership!  I’ll be trying to catch up with blog responses and emails over the next day or two, so don’t hesitate to keep up the fantastic comments!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 51 – Book Review

Happy Friday, all.  Today, to make up for a rather long post yesterday, I’m just doing a quick blurb on a book I’ve not referenced much here, but which will likely be cropping up as we get into discussions of things like curanderismo and brujeria.  The book I’m looking at is called Spiritual Cleansing by Draja Mickaharic.

Mickaharic was an immigrant from Central Europe who arrived in the U.S. just as World War II was dawning.  The occult seems to have interested him from a relatively young age, and he’s produced copious volumes on various magical themes.  What strikes me as unique is that despite his Old World roots, most of his magical writings focus on what I would call New World systems, such as Caribbean, Southern, and Mexican folk magic.

Spiritual Cleansing is, according to its subtitle, “a handbook of psychic self-protection.”  Much like Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense, this book is mostly aimed at beginning practitioners or those with little experience in occult topics.  It’s chief goal is to help a person who might be facing all sorts of spiritual afflictions to remove those problems and prevent future recurrences.  Mickaharic is very insistent in this text that his work is not to be taken as medical advice (which is a sound if common legal disclaimer in works like this), but also that it is only for basic spiritual cleansing and protection.  He advises those with serious afflictions to seek out the help of a professional spiritual practitioner, and therein lies some of his charm.  He takes his subject very seriously, and his tone comes across a bit like an admonition from a grandparent.  This is probably because he was nearly 70 when the book was first published in 1982.  A more recent edition came out in 2003 with additional material, including a chapter on “Quieting the Mind.”

Mickaharic’s work is incredibly practical.  He discusses a lot of different spiritual cleansing techniques without high-flown language.  Some of the topics he addresses are:

-Dealing with Malochio (the Evil Eye)
-Cleansing oneself with spiritual baths
-Using eggs to remove negative energy
-Burning incenses to fumigate oneself for protection
-The proper use of Holy Water

One thing that some readers may be turned off by is the matter-of-fact way he says to do things.  For example, of burning incense he says “If we burn incense with no real purpose, we may find the forces  [higher powers] decide we are calling a wrong number—and they will not act in harmony with our desires…To be able to use an incense properly we must first understand these rules” ( p. 78).  He then goes into the rules as he sees them.  In another passage, he advises against using rain water for spiritual cleansing because “Rain water is difficult to use as it has variable vibrations…[and] should not be used for any spiritual work except by those who have been specifically told to use it by a spiritual practitioner” (p. 67).  I know such “this is this and that is that” statements are a big turn-off for many magical folk (and I have a feeling Laine would strongly disagree with Mickaharic on his perspective concerning rain water).  But I’d like to offer up, as some small defense of this work, that it is written for an inexperienced magical practitioner.  Someone with a better understanding of magic very well may be able to bend his “rules,” but Mickaharic is more concerned with the well-being of the reader he’s never met and wants to make sure they don’t get into anything they can’t handle.

Many of the spells and workings in this book are wonderful.  Some bear striking similarities to hoodoo work (his home sweetening spells involve burning brown sugar, which is very common in hoodoo), and many are very close to curanderismo practices (the egg cleansings in particular strike this note with me).  Some things in this book seem a little pedantic to me, of course, but then again I’ve been reading magical books for a long time.  In the end, I still think the good of this book outweighs anything bad I can say of it, and so I’m recommending it to you.  If you have an interest in spiritual cleansing and protection, or in Mexican folk magic, hoodoo, and other natural magical systems, this is a book well worth tracking down.

Have a great weekend!  Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 01 – Introductions

A general introduction to the blog and podcast, plus a brief outline of New World Witchery.

Hello!

Welcome to New World Witchery, the Search for American Traditional Witchcraft.  This is a show/blog about magic, specifically the magic practiced in North America.   Your hosts are Cory & Laine, practicing witches who work with several New World systems.  If you like magic, particularly American folk magic, this is the show for you.

What is this Podcast/Blog About?

This project is—hopefully—going to help all of those magical practitioners out there who identify with their New World roots make sense of magic as it happens on the American landscape.

Some of the magical praxes we’ll be covering include (but are not limited to):

  • Hoodoo/rootwork
  • Pow-wow (PA Dutch Magic)
  • New Orleans-style Vodou
  • Appalachian Granny Magic
  • Ozark Mountain Magic
  • Brujeria/Curanderismo
  • Victor Anderson’s Feri Tradition/Vicia
  • New England Witchery

In addition, we’ll be having discussions about things like:

  • Effective spell crafting
  • Spell crafting successes and failures
  • Magic for oneself and magic for others
  • Magical terminology
  • Hexing
  • Being in or out of the “broom closet”

This show will be semi-monthly, with (hopefully) one podcast early in the month and one closer to the end of the month.  One podcast will be our regular discussion & banter, plus a segment on lore, history, and/or practice of New World Witchery.  The second podcast will have more discussion & banter, then an interview segment with a notable witch, scholar, or expert on some aspect of American traditional witchcraft.

We’ll also be trying out segments from time to time which we think might enhance the show.  Some of the ideas we’re kicking around are a handicrafts segment, poetry or stories related to American witchcraft, book recommendations, and highlights on magical ingredients and tools.  If you have a suggestion for one of these short segments, please contact us.  We’d love to hear from you!

The blog will be updated more frequently than the podcast, probably once or twice per week.  It will have show notes, short essays, links, and various odds and ends that we think might be worth a look. Again, suggestions are welcome.

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