Media Astra Ac Terra Episode 29

February 21, 2011

Episode 29 of Media Astra Ac Terra is now available!  In this episode, we look at Cassiopeia in the Astra segment, and in the Terra segment we will finish up our two-part look at chalcedony!  And in the main segment, I talk about fear, and how we deal with it (or not) in our lives and our magick.

In the introduction, I announced the re-opening of the call for short story submissions for Etched Offerings: Voices from the Cauldron of Story by Misanthrope Press.  Submissions will remain open until the end of April, 2011, and you can find the updated guidelines here.

I also announced that in April, I’d like to do a Q&A episode – so if you have questions you’d like to contribute, please get them in by the end of March!  You can email me, or send them via Facebook or Twitter.  Everyone who sends in a question will be entered in a drawing for a mystery prize, to be announced later.  :)

In the main segment, I drew quite a bit on a 5 CD set of audio recordings by Pema Chodron, called The Fearless Heart.  I also made mention of a book called Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.  I highly recommend both to anyone, whether you are interested in Buddhism or not.

During the break, I played promos for New World Witchery and Lakefront Pagan Voice.

Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show!
- Oraia Sphinx

Media Astra Ac Terra Episode 28

January 21, 2011

Episode 28 of Media Astra Ac Terra is now available for download!  In this episode, we look at backyard astronomy in the Astra segment, with an emphasis on naked-eye and binocular astronomy to point out that you don’t need a telescope to explore the night sky.  Then in the Terra segment, we start a two-part look at chalcedony, which has many beautiful and well-loved varieties that you may not realize are all the same mineral. And in the main segment, I tackle the recent resurgence of the “astrology is wrong because the constellations don’t line up with the signs anymore” issue.

I mentioned quite a few books in the Astra segment:

A Walk Through the Heavens by Milton Heifetz and Wil Tirion
National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky
Binocular Stargazing by Mike D. Reynolds
Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis

I also mentioned my favorite astronomy-related computer program, Stellarium, as well as a program by NASA called SkyWatch, which can help you figure out where to look in order to spot the International Space Station.

And here’s an example of the over-simplified reporting of the “news” about the zodiac that I address in the main segment, in case you missed it last week.  :)

Last but not least, I played promos for Pennies in the Well and Kakophonos.

Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show!
- Oraia Sphinx

Media Astra Ac Terra Episode 27

December 21, 2010

Episode 27 of Media Astra Ac Terra is now available for download!  In this episode, we look at Pluto in the Astra segment, and the mineralogy and metaphysics of obsidian in the Terra segment.  Then in the main show I share with you the first two installments of my tarot segment from the Kakophonos podcast.

I didn’t end up seeing much of the lunar eclipse this morning, I’m afraid – the cloud cover was just too heavy for most of it.  But I did manage to see the very beginning of the eclipse, and got a fairly decent picture of the shadowed moon through a light screen of cloud.  And even though I couldn’t see it at totality, I did step outside just to feel myself standing on the earth between the two lights of the sun and moon, and drink in the combination of that alignment and the early solstice morning.  It was lovely.

As far as show notes go, although I didn’t mention it by name in the Astra segment, I thought you might be interested in this National Geographic article about some new observations of the relative size of Pluto and Eris, the two contenders for “largest dwarf planet.”

In the Terra segment, I mentioned the British Museum web page for John Dee’s obsidian mirror, and I quoted a brief (and somewhat unfortunate) passage from Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic.  I think I may have gotten parts of the book’s title out of order in the show; if so, I apologize.

Last but not least, I played promos for Standing Stone & Garden Gate and The Infinite and the Beyond.

Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show!
- Oraia Sphinx

P.S. – Perhaps in compensation for losing so much sleep for so little gain while trying to view the eclipse, I woke up this morning to find a sleepy solstice owl perched outside my window:

Media Astra Ac Terra Episode 26

November 21, 2010

Media Astra Ac Terra Episode 26 is now available for download!  In this episode, we look at Neptune in the Astra segment, and the mineralogy and metaphysics of aquamarine (and beryl in general) in the Terra segment.  Then in the main show I talk about some central concepts in Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics, about the way we perceive and interpret what we quaintly like to call “reality.”

In the introduction, I mentioned National Novel Writing Month, the annual November challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel within one month.  Fun, fun, fun!  :)

I also mentioned a few books during the episode.  Once again, I quoted from Robert Hand’s Horoscope Symbols in the Astra segment; it’s really one of my favorites.  In the main show, I mentioned Robert Anton Wilson’s Quantum Psychology (which I found to be a fun and interesting book, “quantum” or not) and Drive Yourself Sane by Susan and Bruce Kodish.  And, of course, there’s Alfred Korzybski’s massive Science and Sanity.  You can find out more about Korzybski and General Semantics at the website of the Institute of General Semantics.

During the episode, I played promos for Borealis Meditation and Earth & Magick, which has recently returned with a new show!

Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show!
- Oraia Sphinx

The Biblical Origin of Birthstones – Part I

October 29, 2010

Do you like to wear your birthstone, or perhaps the birthstones of your children or other family members?  Have you ever wondered how these particular gemstones came to be assigned to each month?  The history and lore of birthstones is a fascinating topic with cultural and religious origins that may surprise you.

If you’ve ever shopped for jewelry, you’ve probably seen the familiar list of “modern” birthstones most often used in the United States:

January - Garnet
February - Amethyst
March - Aquamarine
April - Diamond
May - Emerald
June - Pearl / Moonstone
July - Ruby
August - Peridot
September - Sapphire
October - Opal / Tourmaline
November - Yellow Topaz / Citrine
December - Blue Topaz / Turquoise / Tanzanite

Now, there are other, similar treatments of gemstones ascribed to different cultures.  In traditional Ayurvedic medicine from India, for example, gemstones are associated with the planets in Vedic astrology and used as a sort of prescription for addressing imbalances in the individual’s horoscope.  But although I have seen lists of “Ayurvedic birthstones,” it appears that within that tradition, the stones aren’t strictly associated with the months the way we think of birthstones in the West.  Similarly, there is a “mystical birthstone” list often seen on the internet, which is attributed to Tibet, but I have yet to find a reliable source explaining its origin.

The list above was standardized in 1912 by the Jewelers of America, a national association of professional jewelers, although tanzanite was added to the month of December by the American Gem Trade Association fairly recently, in 2002.  But the original list of stones was somewhat different, and the idea of a special gemstone connected to the month of your birth has roots that go much further back.

In his 1913 book The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, George Frederick Kunz explains that both Josephus (a Jewish writer of the 1st century AD) and St Jerome (a Christian of the 5th century) suggested a correspondence between the twelve months of the year, the twelve signs of the zodiac, and a list of twelve stones given in the Biblical book of Exodus.  These twelve stones were said to be set into the breastplate of the High Priest of the Israelites, and engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Neither Josephus nor Jerome went into detail about how these stones were connected to the months; instead, the order in which the stones are assigned comes from another listing of stones in the Bible, namely the twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem described in the book of Revelation.  Now, these stones were said to be carved with the names of the twelve apostles, and the apostles in turn were associated with the months of the year.  These two lists of stones eventually formed the basis for our modern list of birthstones.

What were these lists of stones, and how did they come to be attributed to the months?  That will be the subject of Part II of The Biblical Origin of Birthstones, coming soon!

(This essay was originally posted on the Crystal and Mineral Collecting blog of a local “rock shop” called Treasure Mountain Mining.  They operate primarily on the internet, but have a wonderful showroom of minerals, in which I have spent way too much time.  :)  The bulk of my own collection of crystals and minerals comes from these folks, and they recently asked me to contribute some articles to their blog.  I will be posting them here as well, starting with this one, but I invite you to check out the original post as well, which includes some pictures and links to their fantastic specimens of the various birthstone minerals!)

Media Astra Ac Terra Episode 25

October 21, 2010

Media Astra Ac Terra Episode 25 is now available for download!  In this episode, we look at Uranus in the Astra segment, and the mineralogy and metaphysics of celestite in the Terra segment.  Then in the main show I share some of my recent adventures with mice and angels.  :)

In the introduction, I also give a brief book review of Math for Mystics by Renna Shesso, and in the main show I mention Lon Milo Duquette’s recent book, Enochian Vision Magick.  The online class he’s teaching based on that book can be found at the Maybe Logic Academy, with more details on the Course Info page.

During the episode, I played promos for The Infinite and the Beyond, New World Witchery (check out their recent folktale mini-sodes!), and a fun new show bumper from Rikki Lacoste (und Wolfgang Schtrüdelburger) of Kakophonos:)

Last but not least, I said that I would include a little more of a write-up on the things I’ve come across in my research into how to keep mice and other rodents out of your car, whether you live in the country or you’re storing your vehicle for a season. I ignored most advice about setting traps or using poison, because for one thing, I think poison is cruel and too apt to kill random other creatures, and frankly, it’s just not an option to trap or kill all of the mice around my house. Killing or removing some would just make room for more. The second most common advice I came across was to get a cat, although again, my interest was more in learning how to keep mice out of my car rather than cut down on the mouse population in general. Besides, I’m allergic to cats, although lately I’ve been considering giving one a try, since my partner loves cats and would love to have one.

So, the best options I came across that work for me involve stinking up my car. My understanding is that mice rely heavily on their sense of smell, and they don’t like going into a place where that sense is overwhelmed. That’s why things like mothballs will keep them away – but frankly, they’d keep me away, too, and I didn’t want to make my car toxic to ME. So I went with scented dryer sheets and smelly soap; the things I saw recommended most often were Bounce dryer sheets in the glove compartment and Irish Spring soap under the hood, so I went with those. I tied the soap in sections of nylon pantyhose to keep them in place, and tied those in areas that don’t get too hot from the engine – the last thing I need is a fire hazard, or soap clogging my engine – and when I park the car at home I put a cardboard box underneath that has both dryer sheets and a bar of the soap in it, to discourage them from coming in close to the car at all. I also made up a spray bottle with peppermint oil in water; mice don’t like the smell of mint, I hear, so I occasionally mist around the wheel wells, too. So far it seems to be working. I’m not thrilled with the smell of all this stuff, either, but I can deal with it.

If you’ve got any suggestions that I haven’t mentioned – especially from personal experience – feel free to share!

Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show!
- Oraia Sphinx

Media Astra Ac Terra Episode 24

September 21, 2010

Episode 24 of Media Astra Ac Terra is now available for download!  In this episode, we look at Saturn in the Astra segment, and the mineralogy and metaphysics of salt in the Terra segment.  Then in the main show I talk about the assignment of the elements to the points of the pentagram, and the planets to the points of the hexagram.

I mentioned a few books and articles in this show, including a short book review in the introductory segment, on The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.  In the Astra segment, I mentioned the hexagonal cloud pattern slowly swirling above the planet’s north pole, and that a group of scientists had demonstrated that they could reproduce the pattern in a spinning cylinder of water.  You can read that article here.  Also in that segment, I quoted from Robert Hand’s book Horoscope Symbols, which is one of my primary reference books every month.

I’ve got a new reference book to add to my list, as well, which I mentioned in the Terra segment – John Michael Greer’s Encyclopedia of Natural Magic.  And I should mention that my primary reference for the main segment in this show was Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn, although I didn’t quote from it directly.

And somewhere in the middle, I also played promos for Kakophonos and Pennies in the Well:)

Thank you for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show!
- Oraia Sphinx

Feeling It

September 17, 2010

My martial arts instructor said something the other day that’s been on my mind.  I was working on my latest form, which I just started learning maybe two weeks ago, and we got to talking about how there’s more to a form than technically performing the movements.  I’ve got the sequence down, and my technique is good, but there are places where I’m not really “feeling” the form.  He pointed this out to me by saying that there’s a difference between feeling the energy of the form and “someone told me to do this.”  In other words, just going through the sequence because that’s how you were told to do it is very different from feeling the flow of one movement into the next, and fully understanding in both mind and body what you are doing, and why.

At the same time, you have to learn the form before you start feeling it, and that requires just doing the movements as taught.  For me, an early focus on technique allows me to move into a phase of working with the form internally, where I can focus on the meaning and the energy of the movements without having to consciously think about them.  Visualizing the imaginary opponents I’m fighting, paying attention to changes in direction and tempo, varying the speed and intensity with which I move – all of these things help me feel my way into the form.  Repetition is key, but it becomes much more than a mechanical repetition that’s the same every time; instead, each performance of it brings the form closer to being a living embodiment of my art, and a moving meditation on energy and flow.

You can probably see how this got me thinking about magick.  :)  For one thing, there’s that meditation aspect, and the need to keep a sense of “aliveness” in rituals that are repeated often.  I especially see standardized rituals like the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP) as being like martial arts forms, and while they carry the risk of going stale with repetition, they also offer the opportunity to find deeper and deeper meanings over time.

They also provide some structure for strengthening the basic techniques that go into them, and for seeing some of the ways in which those techniques can be combined.  Using the example of the LBRP again, you combine drawing precise pentagrams, holding specific postures, vibrating Divine names, sensing and moving energy, and visualization, all while maintaining clear focus while moving through space.  You could practice these one at a time, just like you could spend an hour throwing nothing but side kicks, but it’s much more interesting to combine them into a specific rite.  I’d also argue that in both magick and martial arts, practicing these things in combination is ultimately more valuable than doing each of them in isolation, because the transition points are important, too.

There are martial arts styles, and individual martial artists, who dislike forms as inhibiting spontaneity, preferring free-form practice and sparring, which I agree are absolutely necessary if your goal is actual fighting skill.  If you become locked into a set series of moves to the point where you can’t properly respond to something that isn’t choreographed, well, that’s a problem.  But I don’t think forms are meant to substitute for all other types of practice, just as I don’t think all magick requires three-hour rituals in full regalia – I just think that they offer a very different type of experience that can be quite valuable.

And so, while I also work magick that is simple and spontaneous, I really like having some longer rituals that I practice often.  Things like the LBRP can look complicated and clunky at first glance (in which case, don’t even peek at the Greater Pentagram Rituals!) but as with a martial arts form, once the steps are familiar you can start to feel the energy flowing through them.  But, again, as with a lot of things you can’t start to feel it until you’ve done it for a while, or done something close enough that you can readily adapt.  That’s why I think it’s good to have some specific set of practices to start with when first learning magick, or learning a new style of magick; not only does that give you something manageable to work with, in this age of a zillion spellbooks, but working with the same rituals or spells repeatedly lets you start to feel what you’re doing, rather than just following the steps because “someone told me to do this.”


Memory and Flame

September 11, 2010

What is to give light must endure burning.
- Victor Frankl

Sometimes just the threat of burning is enough to give light, though what it illuminates may be ugly.

I began writing this post in anger, upset at the way in which the anniversary of 9/11/01 has become a stage for bigotry, for fanning the flames of holy war, and further dividing an already divided nation.  But I’ve deleted nearly all that I was going to say, because when I began to look more closely, I could see that all of my anger was only a mask, nothing but a flimsy shield to cover my broken-heartedness.  I grieve for my country, especially when I see how we have become so frightened and petty that we surrender both our liberty and our charity, accepting almost without question a state of endless war and ever-expanding executive power while protesting when a group of Americans attempt to build something to help their community.  Given all of the destruction we have wrought upon ourselves over the past nine years, is it any wonder that the actions of a tiny fringe church begin to take on the mantle of our whole nation to those looking in from outside?

When just about everything under the sun has become politicized, it’s easy to shake your head and disengage, not wanting to get involved in “politics.”  But this is deception, burying the fact that real problems, real progress, and real people’s lives are profoundly affected by these “political” games.  And so it is that people have suffered, and continue to suffer, while craven con-artists exploit the memory of suffering, incite the gullible to produce more suffering, and even make money off of people’s suffering — all while wrapping themselves in the flag to score political points.

But though they pretend to stand for America, they don’t stand alone, and we are bigger than the fear-mongers among us.  So when people say, “Never forget,” maybe we can take it as an opportunity to never forget our courage, our charity, and our shared humanity.  We like to call our nation the land of the free, and the home of the brave.  Let’s act like it.


August 27, 2010

I attended a fabulous workshop with Orion Foxwood last night, where he talked late into the night about southern conjure and rootwork.  Lots of awesome, inspiring, useful stuff.  But the thing that I’ve been thinking about the most today was when he said that the more a magic worker does magic, the healthier he or she is.  Just be aware that the toucher is always touched, so when you do magic, make sure it’s worth your ass.  (That’s probably pretty close to a direct quote, there.  Orion is awesome to listen to.)

Today I stepped away from the computer for a while and went for a walk in the spiderwebby woods, then took a cleansing bath with sea salt and Florida water.  (And that wasn’t just to get the traces of web off my arms, although I admit it was a nice side benefit.)  As I keep mentioning in the podcast, it’s been a busy summer, and this was a particularly busy week.  Most of that was good-busy, but even good-busy can eventually drive me nuts and make me forget what exactly I’m doing all of this busy-ness for.  In particular, I’ve been working so hard lately to write about magic, that I realized I needed to take a day off to do some magic and recharge my batteries.

And, you know, I keep thinking about those spiderwebs.  Not so much the ones I walked through, but the ones I saw everywhere I looked, sometimes two or three in the same tree.  Most of those spiderwebs were new – not frayed by the rain we had earlier this week, or torn by captured insects trying to get free.  They were perfect, ready and waiting to serve their purpose and do the thing they were so exquisitely built to do.  Can we, too, make ourselves new each day, in order to serve our purpose?


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