Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mountain Laurel Magic and Lore

A high school boyfriend of mine was in trouble with the law. He had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and got implicated in a break-and-entry robbery committed by a group of teenaged boys who were able to frame my friend with the crime. (Or so he told me.) When it came time for him to testify, to try and save himself from juvie or probation, he showed me the bean, a dark red bean with a shiny hard coat. His mother had consulted with her “witch” advisor and had given it to him to hold in his mouth when he testified. Because of the power of this seed, his word would be judged to be true and honest.

This was my first introduction to actual witchcraft, and to the Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora, because they do not grow on the Gulf Coast plains of Texas, or in Louisiana, where my boyfriend’s mother grew up, consulting with the conjure women, I guess now, as need arose. When I was re-introduced to the species later as a student in college, I immediately recognized the bright red bean, hard, shiny, and fascinating. How could they not be magical?

According to Marshall Johnston, my native plant botany professor, the tree which produced this bewitching seed was the Mountain Laurel, also known as the Mescal Bean. He told us that before the European invasion, the Apache Indian medicine men would make a hallucinatory vision brew from these seeds. I inferred that that lead to the naming of the tree for Sophia, the goddess of truth, wisdom, and justice. Unfortunately, or probably fortunately, we had lost the recipe by which the toxic alkaloids were brewed out of the seeds leaving just the less toxic visionary alkaloids. Supposedly that was why they were called Mescal Beans, because the liquor Mescal was used to leach the compounds. I have doubts that this is the case, because alcohol distillation was unknown to the Indians. They drank alcoholic beverages brewed from the agaves, true, but nothing produced by distillation which could produce the mindbending 180 proof liquor we call Mescal.

Whatever the story of the lost recipe, the early botanist explorer who named this tree must have easily identified it as being sacred to the Gnostic goddess Sophia, perhaps because of the magical properties of a plant, I always look at the names it has been given. The early botanists, even more than today’s, were extremely well versed in Greek and Latin language since these were the scientific languages. They knew the mythology, and this mythology becomes a language itself in how scientists name their species. I believe that they knew as well as the Indians that this tree, the Mountain Laurel, is distinguished by its powers for truth wisdom and insight.

Knowing this, I took to wearing one of these seeds in my ear as decoration. (Choosing larger specimens that would not get stuck in my ear of course!) I called them my “earbeans” and pretended(?) that I could hear the voice of the Mountain Laurel by wearing them so.

When I started making handcrafted jewelry and being a bead freak in general, it was not too much of a leap that I started making these bright red, very durable seeds into beaded jewelry. It takes a high speed drill or dremel to drill them, and that takes some time, but then you have a lovely red necklace.

I wear these beautiful red beads for legal situations, personal protection, speaking truth to power, and women's protection.

I matronize only a few trees in Austin that have the most perfect red beans, and I gather and drill the beans on Wednesdays in the waxing moon. I use dark glass seed beads with blue or peacock iridescence as contrasting spacer beads. The short necklaces are about 14-15 inches long, choker length and have 28 beans for each day of the lunar cycle. The long necklaces fit over any head, are about 27-30 inches long and have about 53 beans. These seeds are TOXIC and you should not let anyone or your dog chew on them. In fact all parts of the plant are toxic, and even the flowers, sweet and pungent smelling like grape koolaid, can cause headaches and befuddlement if kept as a vase flower in an enclosed room.

Mountain Laurels are long-lived, slow-growing, evergreen and quite lovely in the landscape. In the wild they are usually overlooked understory trees and usually do not produce as many fragrant flowers or as many jewelry-grade beans as their urban counterparts. In the city and suburb, they are often focal landscaping shrubs, well-watered and tended. They become Spirit Keepers of the landscape, and they produce many flowers, and many seeds in these favored situations. Look under the trees in your neighborhood. Some have dark burgundy seeds and some are nearly orange. Some are well-shaped and some are mottled and homely. Notice how each individual tree has a different size, color, and quality of bean. I find that the fresh-out-of-the-pod beans are usually mottled, where the beans that have been on the soil surface have a more uniform and rich tone. 

If you find any that are quite a bit bigger than the rest, those are the seeds that have absorbed moisture and are likely to sprout soon. Don't drill these, plant them! Mountain Laurel seeds are said to be notoriously "difficult" to sprout. You will find a lot of pain-in-the-ass techniques to increase the likelihood of getting them to germinate. Don't even bother with that. Really, this plant is very wise, so it "banks" a lot of its seeds. A few will sprout this year, a few next year, and I bet some seeds wait over 50 years to sprout under the right circumstances. This is most likely an evolutionary tactic to survive climatic changes and drought cycles. If you want to sprout Mountain Laurel seeds, just throw about three in each of about a dozen one gallon pots, water them and then forget about them. Plant the ones that come up, and let the others wait till the apocalypse is over!

Cedar Stevens
May 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Natural Magick is now being offered by Cedar Stevens as a pathwork tradition within the modern NeoPagan, WitchCraft and Western Tradition.  The focus of Natural Magick is on Earth, Animal, Elementary, Plant, and Planetary magick, religion and spiritual practice.

Natural Magick System Statement of Principles
*Natural Magick is a system of magick within the modern NeoPagan and Western Tradition.
*Natural Magick is a tradition that honors and observes Nature.
*Human Nature is a subset of Nature and therefore Natural Magick is guided by love, respect and devotion of Nature towards the unfolding of Human individualism, will, and ritual magick.
*Natural Magick respects and advocates for the unfolding of the destiny and fortune of All Living Species.
*Natural Magick acknowledges Science as the Consensus Reality and the most current expression of the Western Tradition.

The Natural Magick Tradition of ritual magick is a direct descendant of the Reclaiming Tradition, and we are whole hearted participants and students of Reclaiming. Beyond that, we research, pioneer, test and adapt our modern tradition to serve the needs of the laity, Priest/esshood and Magick.

The Natural Magick tradition specifically teaches the arts of Botany, Native Botany, Native Gardening, Wildcrafting, Herbalism, Herb Gardening, and the use of Herbs, Essential Oils, and the natural produce of the international botanical market to create Magick Potions of High Quality for all manners of positive Human intentions. This art form we call “Potioneering,” and Natural Magick potions are produced under a rigorous System.

Natural Magick Shop turned ten years old on Thanksgiving Day of 2016. Over this decade, and the decade prior, I have been developing the Natural Magick process of potioneering, as well as training in Priestess skills. Gardening, Wildcrafting, Priest/ess skills, and a broad bandwidth of history and lore have woven together into Natural Magick, becoming what I believe can now be considered a distinct Magickal Tradition with a wealth of instruction, support and challenge for the Student and Seeker.

The intention of the Natural Magick courses will be to 1) train the Initiate in the Arts and Crafts of Natural Magick and Priest/esshood and 2) support Natural Magick Shop (the business) with a Fair Trade of Labor and Funding.

Simply put, classes will be taught in exchange for some labor plus some money on a sliding scale.

I have developed and am further developing material for two tracks within the Natural Magick Tradition. All Initiates will be trained in the Priest/ess Path, which will be a traditional year-and-a-day regimen of instruction in Sabbat, Esbat, lore and basic-imtermediate magickal technique. Initiates may also choose to join a Potions Path that can be taken alongside the priest/ess Path. The Potions Path will be a hands-on Gardening, Botany, Native Plants and Wildcrafting course of instruction leading up to training in making Magick Potions.

For now, this course of Natural Magick instruction is available for Austin area participants. In time, I hope to make it available far and wide via podcast and traveling magicians!

Cedar Stevens
Jan. 16, 2017

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mabon/Vacation Rebates and Austin Local Events!

My dear Natural Magicians,
I have two Austin local events before I leave on vacation, and there are specials and rebates involved!

For September 1-14, I will be traveling to Mexico to visit with my parents. I will not be processing orders during that time, but if you place an order while I am gone, I will give you a 10% rebate for the total of your goods! All you have to do to get this rebate is write MEXICO in the notes section when you place your order. When I return, all orders will be processed in the order they were received. You will receive your rebate ASAP via PayPal. Also, Mabon incense is already discounted, and even the discounted deal will tally into your rebate!

The Fall Equinox, Mabon,  is a time of balance, so refer to my article about pendulums (also included in the rebate offer!)

Here are my Austin local events, and as usual, email me if you want me to bring anything special for you!

Phoenix Rising at Elysium on Friday August 26th, 9pm-2am.

Dark Moon Witches Market on Thursday Septembe 1st 7pm-midnight 

Hope you can join me for a spell!
Best Witches,

Pendulum Divination and Magick

Pendulums are very simple and elegant divination tools. They are primarily used to answer yes/no questions, but they can do so much more.

Natural Magick Shop pendulums are handmade of high quality material, ritually crafted, and some are made to become family heirloom tools built to last many lifetimes. They are made on the Wednesday or Monday when the Moon is halfway between New and Full, for the very balanced energy at that time. As I craft each pendulum, I ask it how long it wants to be, and when I get an affirmative, I finish it according to the wishes of its Genie.

When you try out a new pendulum, I recommend to first ask it how it registers "yes" and "no" responses. To do this, dangle the pendulum in front of you, let it come to stillness and then just ask, "Show me your Yes," and see how it swings. Then ask, "Show me your No," and see how that swings. For most pendulums and most people, a circular motion is "Yes" and back and forth is "No." However, I have a friend who "programmed" e.g. instructed, her pendulum to swing up and down for Yes and back and forth for No, kind of like nodding your head Yes or shaking your head No. 

Another system I've seen is a clockwise circle for Yes and counterclockwise circle for No. There are some people who use a pendulum radii, where you hold the pendulum over the radii and how it swings over the radii answers the question.

Pendulums are also used by police psychics to find the missing child, murder weapon, etc., and for this use you move the pendulum slowly and systematically over a map and see if it starts freaking out over a certain location. You might use this technique to find a house to buy, where you left your cell phone, or any other location-seeking question. Pendulums are used for Geomancy, to determine on the landscape/premises the power potentials of any location.

Another use for pendulums is for questions related to calendar dates. Say you are trying to pick a date for a party, wedding or garage sale, or when to pop the question, ask for a raise. Move the pendulum over a calendar in front of you and when it starts swinging crazy, that would be considered the best date.

An old fashioned farmer's use for the pendulum is to determine the gender of eggs. Hold the pendulum over the egg and a swinging circle is female and back and forth is male. This way you can use the male eggs for breakfast scramble and not get too many roosters in your coop. 

Similarly, the nurseryman would use a pendulum to determine the gender of certain shrubs, for example when you want to make sure you buy a female Holly bush so it will have the
ornamental red berries in time for Christmas. Likewise, a pendulum made of a silk thread and the wedding ring would be held over a pregnant woman's belly to divine the sex of the baby.

Some people say that the pendulum is powered by the inner place in you that really knows the answer all along. Others say that each pendulum has a spirit (called a genius) that does the answering, and some spirits get along with some people better than others. My opinion is that all pendulums are inhabited by the same spirit genius. In any of these cases, the pendulum seems to "resent" being played with like a toy, and it will stop talking or give misleading answers if asked a series of testing, frivolous questions. So don't do that, okay? Good luck with your pendulum!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thank You Capital Metro and Thank You St. Anthony

I don't do magick for myself enough and I know it. I make all these potions for Natural Magick Shop and don't use them often enough! I need gentle reminders, and yesterday I got it. I had just gotten off the bus and was walking home and realized I had left my purse on the Capital Metro bus!! Drat! Yesss, and it has my passport and 5 debit and credit cards, eek! 

On the walk home I called Capital Metro's lost and found and started the muggle process of trying to recover my purse. The lady on the end of the line was very helpful and she contacted a dispatcher who would contact the bus driver, and I would meet the same bus and driver two hours later, and if the purse had not been stolen, and if the driver did find it, I could reclaim it at the same bus stop.

Great! But there was a dozen or more things that could go wrong, there might be weak links in the chain of communication. I had done everything within my Muggle powers to fix it. Time to do some magick, right? But it didn't even cross my mind!

Then, nothing more to do, I checked my email and opened a message from a maybe customer, who was asking for a spell or any magick to find her lost cat. I told her to do all the normal mundane things, like neighborhood fliers and contacting the shelters, etc., but after that I did have a Spell to Recover Lost or Stolen Possessions. It never made it to the Spell Kits page of my website, mainly because it doesn't use many things that I make. I found it in my files, and attached the file to my email, wishing the customer luck finding her kitty. Then it dawned on me - I should just do this spell for my ownself! and I told the customer thanks for the reminder. 

I got out my wand, the mirror, the candles and the magnet and got to work. When pondering what deity or spirit guide I should invoke, I did a Safari search right there in circle and found that St. Anthony is the Patron Saint of Lost Possessions, and there was a prayer for him in this capacity.

Having done the spell, I walked down to the bus stop to meet the bus at the appointed time, making sure to get there a good 20 minutes early. When the time bus! I waited, nothing else to do, and having put my confidence in St. Anthony.

Checking the bus schedule, it turned out that the Lost and Found clerk had given me a wrong time. No bus was scheduled for that stop at that time. I waited 18 more minutes til the next scheduled bus, and got on. It was indeed the same bus driver, and he had my purse! The several people on the bus cheered with me and praised Capital Metro.

Now, I do hope you will join me in a prayer to St. Anthony that my customer, my inspiration, will have just as much luck finding BoyCat. We are rooting for you, Carly!

Okay, here is the spell. It's a little bit disorganized, so I will re-work it eventually. There are two chants, I used both of them. I did the first one three times at the beginning and three times at the end of the working, and the second chant in the middle:


Bound and Binding
Binding Bound
See the Sight
Hear the Sound
What was lost now is found
Bound and Binding
Binding Bound

Mirror Orange candle Black candle Small Magnet
Usual ritual requirements, such as incense, quarter candles, and athame.
First create the Circle and invoke the Elemental Guardians.
Raise a cone of power by chanting and drumming, or racing around the circle.
Then light a Black candle (for solving mysteries, and drawing away the negativeness of the loss), then the Orange candle (for luck and precious objects).
Visualize the lost objects in the mirror as already being found.
Place the magnet between the two candles and stroke it towards you as you recite this rhyme:
"Once obscured but now in sight
By the wavering flame of this dark light,
Grant to me my [lost item(s)] in sight.
By the power of this orange flame,
Give me luck to find the same.
In this mirror my [lost item(s)] I see
And this magnet draws them to me."

Substitute the name of whatever you have lost or stolen for [lost item(s)] Say this three times.
Close the circle, but leave the candles burning with the magnet between them
until the candles burn down.

Cedar Stevens May 2016