Lammas, or Lughnasadh, is a cross-quarter festival signalling the start of the end of summer (in the Northern Hemisphere). "Lammas" literally means "loaf mass" and is the first harvest festival of the year-- a celebration of the bread made from the first cutting of corn. Elements of this sabbat include baking & sharing bread, feasting with neighbors, and honoring the powerful force of the summer sun.
According to Pagan beliefs, the corn mother's energy retreats into the last strands of grain as they're cut. Corn & wheat dollies are made from these last sheaves & stalks of harvested grain, and these dolls are kept through winter to be planted with the first seeds of spring. These organic goddess figures affirm reverence for the Earth's cycles of birth, death, and renewal.
Another name for Lammas is Lughnasadh. The Celtic sun god, Lugh, dies as the sun begins to wane. He's also 'John Barleycorn', whose energy has gone into the grain and is cut down as a sacrifice to the fertility of the land. Many churches still carry on the Lammas traditions through the celebration of harvest festivals, where corn is offered in baskets.
These celebrations are tempered by the knowledge that most crops are still growing in the fields with no guarantee of adequate abundance for the long winter. This mingling of vibrant summer energy with the "gathering" energy of the coming season makes Lammas a unique time for solidly expanding toward focused goals, such as perfecting and challenging your skills.
Often called the "evening emerald", peridot is associated with spirituatlity & self-expression. A close relative of the diamond, it is a stone of transformation that assists in times of change. Peridot speaks of a problem that isn't overcome because your response is a repetitive action, like a hiccup. It will help you get over that "hiccup" by bringing you past that initial response & guiding you towards change.
Peridot has a vibration of increase and stimulates manifestation, attracting prosperity into one's life. It dissipates lethargy, apathy, and exhaustion, sharpening the mind and enhancing personal power. This stone also increases self-confidence and aids in organization, increasing one's good fortune.
Associated with the heart & the solar plexus chakras, peridot enhances harmony and compassion in relationships-- especially marriages. It releases emotional blockages, encouraging forgiveness. And, it reduces stess, anger, & guilt, which helps to heal emotional wounds.
Black onyx is known as the "stone of strength". It is a stone of self-mastery, giving one self control & anchoring one's flighty energy into a more stable way of life. Onyx promotes inner strength, determination, and endurance to complete difficult tasks or draining activities.
In addition to grounding one's energy, onyx is also said to dispel negative energy & promote emotional well-being. Look to this stone as a source of support during times of mental or physical stress.
Onyx is also a great stone for those of us who have an abundance of ideas, but lack the discipline to carry those ideas out. This stone fosters wise decision-making & prevents the drain of personal energy, helping one master their future.
Onyx is associated with the Root Chakra, and can help with grounding, protecting, and balancing by providing an anchor for your energy, thereby giving you focus. It's an excellent stone for meditation and dreaming, especially when used in combination with other grounding stones.
Considered one of the most spiritual stones, amethyst is a bringer of peace that enhances one's balance & inner calm. It is exceptional for providing spiritual protection & neutralizing negative energy. This crystal also protects against psychic attacks, especially during spiritual work.
Amethyst facilitates decision-making, providing inner strength & clarity of mind while balancing emotional highs & lows. It also attracts positive energy & helps get rid of stress, anxiety, fear, or overall negative feelings. It can even be used to treat insomnia and protect against recurring nightmares.
Amethyst also stimulates the crown chakra, making it a powerful tool for meditation. Meditating with amethyst can help you become more in tune with your feelings & develop a deeper understanding of life. Many psychics & spiritualists accredit amethyst as an excellent all-purpose stone that can increase intuition and psychic powers of all kinds.
Green aventurine is known as "the stone of opportunity". It's thought to be the luckiest of crystals when it comes to manifesting prosperity & wealth or increasing one's odds in competitions. It does more bring "good luck", however: green aventurine aligns conditions so that opportunities for growth & prosperity are inevitable.
Green aventurine will help in releasing old patterns, habits, and disappointments so that new growth can take place. It provides one with the optimism & confidence to embrace change & move forward. Aventurine also increases creativity and motivation to help one persevere through life's obstacles, and it enhances intellectual development & learning. Aventurine also reinforces decisiveness and amplifies leadership qualities. increasing the likelihood of success in one's endeavors.
Aventurine is associated with the Heart Chakra and will promote prosperity & success in friendships and social situations. It balances emotions & promotes mental clarity while also providing a shield to keep others from "tapping-in" to drain your energy. Green aventurine carries a strong connection to Earth, and provides a better understanding & appreciation of nature and its soothing vibrations upon the mind & body.
Hawaiian Black Salt is an edible** sea salt that obtains its rich coloring from activated coconut shell charcoal, which is infused with the salt for its health benefits.
Ritually, black salt is used to dispel negative energies & keep them away. While commonly used to protect the family & home, black salt can also be used to banish and ward away unwanted guests. Other uses for black salt include hex & curse breaking, charging scrying mirrors, and casting circles. Salt "does what you tell it to", so the key to any successful Black Salt ritual is to focus on intent.
Sprinkle black salt liberally onto items to ward off bad memories or attachments. Cast it in a line across your doors & windows to keep out evil or unwanted company. Keep it on you in a vial, tiny pouch, or sprinkle a bit to deflect gossip, bullies, or other negative attention. You can also place it in a satchel or dish under your pillow to ward away bad dreams or unwanted spirits.
When you're feeling sad, angry, or negative, add some black salt into your bathwater to help cleanse & pull that negative energy away. It can also be used in a simple ritual to get rid of worries: write what's bothering you on a piece of paper and cast it into a fire with some black salt. The fire & salt will work together to purify, and your stress will dissipate with the smoke.
And remember, Black Salt absorbs negative energy, so be sure to change it up or sweep it up weekly! You can dispose of used Black Salt by grounding it into the earth, throwing it (away from you) into the wind, or washing it away in flowing water.
**Warning: if you take medication, consult your doctor before ingesting Black Salt or any other items containing activated charcoal, as it can absorb certain medications thereby decreasing their effects.**
White Sage (salvia apiana) is an evergreen shrub that grows across the U.S., mostly in high-altitude desert ecosystems. It is widely used for purification, cleansing, protection, and in ceremonies for blessing & prosperity. For this reason, many consider the White Sage plant to be sacred.
The most popular means of using this herb is to burn the dried leaves in a ritual known as "smudging". This can be done using a bundle of white sage, sometimes called a "wand", or by burning loose leaves in a fire-safe container.
Before lighting sage to start the smudging process, it is best to start with a prayer or petition to set your intention & express gratitude for the help of the plant's spirit. Then, treat your sage like incense-- light the ends of the leaves so they ignite & then quickly blow them out, allowing the leaves to smolder. Burning multiple leaves or torching a larger section of the bundle before blowing it out will burn your sage hotter & faster and create more smoke.
Once your sage is smoldering, hold it over a fire-safe bowl, plate, or shell so you don't drop ashes on yourself or in the area you're smudging. You can then waft the smoke using a feather, your hand, or by moving the sage itself up & down in a smooth motion. The smoke attaches to negative energies and neutralizes them as it dissipates.
Once you've smudged the desired items or area, set the smoldering bundle in a fireproof bowl or sea-shell and allow it to burn out naturally as you move on with the rest of your practice.
The spiral goddess is used in many different cultures & paths to symbolize feminine power, fertility, nature, & life. The spiral represents the cycle of life, death, & rebirth or the regenerative forces of the cosmos. As the wheel turns, you arrive at the same place but on a new level. It also represents the creative power that rises from within, originating from the sacral chakra. The spiral goddess can be found throughout history as far back as Paleolithic times, where they were carved on tombs. Spirals can also be found commonly in nature, in places ranging from galaxies to sea shells.
The Spiral Goddess included in the Basic Altar-in-a-Bag can be used as an altar figure to call upon her energy when setting up your sacred space. It also doubles as a necklace pendant that can be worn daily or whenever you may need a reminder to draw on the energy of the Goddess residing within you.
Greetings, Occultists! Since many of you will soon be receiving your very first Altar-In-A-Bag subscription box, we at Occult Effects have decided to start a blog! Or, perhaps "blog" isn't the right word. This will be our version of an online "Book of Shadows"-- a quick reference guide focused primarily on the items we send to you & how you can use them in your personal practice.
So, for our first topic: How do you set up an altar? The answer to this question will vary person-to-person depending on personal preference, spiritual path, etc., but today we will be focusing on a Basic Four-Element Altar.
First, decide where you want to set up your altar & cleanse the area. This can be done by dabbing holy water or cleansing oil in the corners of your work space or smudging it. Once the area is cleansed, set your altar cloth. Some people will then cleanse the cloth as well, while others have certain times of the month or year they clean their cloth.
The next thing you'll need to do is figure out which direction is East. We set our four-element altar by the Corners, with each cardinal direction representing one of the Four Elements:
You can also add items to represent spirit, the god, the goddess, & other symbols to fit your needs. And with that, your Circle is ready to cast!