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Uncoven Issue #20

Click the link below to be instantly transported to our latest podcast episode #23: See You Next Tuesday, Witches!


Episode 23: See You Next Tuesday, Witches! 

We released an episode right before the mid-term election, and it was jam-packed with activist glory!  Lo and behold, sane people and so many more women are now in control of the House of Representatives.  If you haven’t listened to it yet, you can find us wherever you get your podcasts.  We also talk about what we all did for Samhain this year.

We are ALL OVER the ‘grams, folks.  Check us out.
Follow Hex Rated here (@hexratedwitches)
Follow Blackbird’s poetry (@blackbirdwyrd)
Follow Jaye’s writings and amazing natural photography (@lady_jaye_of_the_wild)
Follow Lily’s gorgeous artwork (@my_blue_veins)

Don’t forget to check out our web-o-net pages at Hex Rated Podcast!

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Description

The Uncoven is a space for the outcasts and misfits, for those seeking their own twisted path to find a community.

Current threads o’ fire:

– Samhain/ Halloween foods (beginning with a delicious looking Rowan berry marmalade over nutmeg biscuits!)
-shadow work- do you go to therapy?
-journeying tips for beginners

You can sit with us:

If that sounds like your cup of mugwort tea, sign up here.
Hex Rat

Thank You!

If you are already a member, THANK YOU, from the cobwebby cockles of our black hearts.  We are so excited to share this space with you.  We are blown away by the sass and smarts that is exploding on our screen and are humbled to be a part of it.
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Elbow Deep with Blackbird

The cold and dark is fast approaching, or is already upon some of us.  Yet it is also the season of gatherings, of blood or chosen family, of celebrating, of remembrance, and of the passing of another year.  Separated by miles from most of my closest friends and family, I am awfully pensive this season, but not in a sad or mournful way – in a deep and reflective mood that is requiring me to meditate a few minutes longer, hold child’s pose a few more breaths in the evening, and stare deep into my altar and study its trappings so that I can really get down to what I am feeling.  I miss my loved ones who are far from me, it’s true – but I am all the more grateful for my strengthening relationship with my husband, with my burgeoning love of this new landscape (I mean, the parts that aren’t on fire), and basically taking time to really explore what’s inside of me.  I’ve started to have menopause or perimenopause symptoms in the last year or so, and the more I fight it, the worse it gets.  So I am trying to ease into it, to give myself the space to feel uncomfortable.  To not fight my body or the changes.  To work with myself, to reflect, to write, to sing, to practice a little more magic in everyday routines.  For awhile, the newness of everything had me upside down.  I feel like the season that is upon us – crossing over into shadows, into cold, into dying – brings me back home to myself.
During this hectic time, try carving out a little space for you.  If it’s a soak in a tub with herbs you’ve had to harvest because of the weather, or a quiet night sitting with a journal, take some time to figure out what this season of magic and sometimes even solitude can mean in your deepest life.  Open your third eye and seek connection with the divine within yourself.

Blessings,
Blackbird

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Wyrd & Wyse Issue the Fourth:
Shadow Season

Wyrd & Wyse is a gorgeous literary publication, and we’re not just saying that because a few of us have been published in it.  The content is curated with utmost thought and care, and the new issue is no exception.  Giving creative, marginalized voices priority, Wyrd & Wyse belongs in every hedge-rider’s reading collection.  Please visit here to pre-order Issue the Fourth today!
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Throwing Stones with Lily

Alright y’all lovely witches, we’re taking it back a bit, back to my original column in the newsletter, back to the runes. Lately I’ve been busy being a working mother of two beautiful nearly ten month old baby girls and my practice has slipped through my fingers a bit. I know, you’re like Lily, get your shit together. I’m trying! So to begin this journey of getting my magical shit back together, I’m going back to the runes, back to where my spiritual journey didn’t begin, but where it began to solidify in my adulthood.

Fuck, wait. Adulthood? Damnit, y’all. As my mother pointed out the other day, I’m now a nearly 30 year old mother of two with a mortgage and multiple retirement funds. When the fuck did that happen?

ANYWAY.

As many do, on my runic journey so to speak, I started off reading Ralph Blum’s Book of Runes, a book I wouldn’t really recommend these days as the text left me unsatisfied. I wanted more. Where did the runes come from? Who used them? How do we know their meanings? In my research I was led then to the history of the European runes and to the rune poems.

If y’all have listened to me rant and rave before then you know that the Elder Futhark is the oldest of the rune alphabets and can be found on artifacts dating from the 2nd to the 8th century. The futhark consists of 24 letters often broken up into three sets of eight called Aetts- old Norse for Clan (Byock) and is thought to have originated from Old Italic scripts: maybe Etruscan or Latin. Some early estimates put the Futhark at 100 BCE while late estimates theorize that the Futhark was developed around 100 CE. Scholars believe the Elder Futhark was created by one person or a small group of people who came into contact with the Roman army. It is generally agreed that the Futhark was developed directly due to Roman influence. One theory suggests the alphabet was created by the Goths (“Britannica”).

A small note: The Viking age in Europe lasted from the late 8th century into the 11th century. The Elder Futhark pre-dates this era.

So if we aren’t 100% sure on the origins of the futhark, what do we know? Well, we think we know the order of the Elder Futhark thanks to the Kylver Stone, a flat limestone dating to the 5th century which was found in 1903 near a farm in Kylver, Gotland, Sweden during the excavation of a cemetery. The stone was originally found laying down, as it had been used to seal a grave, and when flipped was found to be inscribed with the (we think?) complete Elder Futhark  (“Britannica”).

The runes are also discussed in the Poetic Eddas, specifically in the Hovamol, a gnomic collection of poems, where Odin explains how he gained knowledge of the runes. Stanzas 139-146 are the Runatal, Odin’s Rune Song. Henry Adam Bellows believed parts of this poem to be remnants of an ancient oral tradition, but the only surviving copy is in the 13th century Codex Regius.

Below is Odin’s description of his trial to gain knowledge of the runes.

Stanza 139-140

“I ween I hung on the windy tree,
Hung there for nights full nine;
With the spear I was wounded, and offered I was
To Othin, mysef to myself,
On the tree that none may ever know
What root beneath it runs.
None made me happy with loaf or horn,
And there below I looked;
I took up the runes, shrieking I took them,
And forthwith back I fell.” 
(Bellows)

Now what really struck me during my research is that there is currently no evidence to conclusively suggest that the runes were ever used for divination. During the Sigrdrifumol in which Brynhild the Valkyrie is found by the hero Sigurth, she teaches Sigurth the magic runes (Bellows). So clearly the runes were thought to have magical uses, but are not attested as having divinatory uses.

Sigrdrifumol stanzas 6-12

“Winning-runes learn, if thou longest to win,
And the runes on thy sword-hilt write;
Some on the furrow, and some on the flat,
And twice shalt thou call on Tyr.

Ale-runes learn, that with lies the wife
Of another betray not thy trust;
On the horn thou shalt write, and the backs of thy hands,

And Need shalt mark on thy nails.
Thou shalt bless the draught, and danger escape,
And cast a leek in the cup;
(For so I know  thou never shalt see Thy mead with evil mixed.)

Wave-runes learn,  if well thou wouldst shelter
The sail-steeds out on the sea;
On the stem shalt thou write, and the steering blade,
And burn them into the oars;
Though high be the breakers, and black the waves,
Thou shalt safe the harbor seek.

Birth-runes learn, if help thou wilt lend,
The babe from the mother to bring;
On thy palms shalt write them, and round thy joints,
And ask the fates to aid.

Branch-runes learn,  if a healer wouldst be,
And cure for wounds wouldst work;
On the bark shalt thou write, and on trees that be
With boughs to the eastward bent.

Speech-runes learn, that none may seek
To answer harm with hate;
Well he winds and weaves them all,
And sets them side by side,
At the judgment-place, when justice there
The folk shall fairly win.

Thought-runes learn, if all shall think
Thou art keenest minded of men.”
 (Bellows)

So the runes for divination seem, to me, to be a pretty modern concept. The Futhark originally was an esoteric alphabet.

Oh, did I mention we don’t know the names of the Elder Futhark? WELL WE DON’T. OR. WE KINDA DO? The rune names of the Elder Futhark have been lost, but scholars have reconstructed the names based on attestations in the three runic poems which contain the younger rune alphabets (Anglo-Saxon Futhorc 5th-12th Century CE and the Younger Futhark 9th-12th Century CE). Now, that doesn’t means researchers are pulling shit outta their asses (I think), they have meticulously reconstructed the names we know the runes by today from these younger futharks as well as the gothic alphabet.

The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc and Younger Futhark are preserved in three poems: the Norwegian Poem, the Icelandic Poem, and the Anglo-Saxon Poem and are theorized to have been mnemonic devices to remember not only the rune names, but culturally important information (Acker).

If you’re setting off on a runic journey, I strongly encourage you to read these poems yourself and meditate on the runes. By exploring these poems I crafted my own meaning for the runes of the Elder Futhark. Because I’m not a scholar and I’m allowed to make shit up (I’m not really making it up) as long as I don’t try to pass it off as fakelore.

Because fakelore is bullshit. Literally.

~Lily

Sources

Acker, Paul. Revising Oral Theory: Formulaic Composition in Old English and Old Icelandic Verse. Routledge, 1998. Print.

Bellows, Henry Adams. The Poetic Edda: The Heroic Poems. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2007. Print.

Byock, Jesse L. Learn Old Norse, Runes, and Icelandic Sagas. San Bernardino, CA: Jules William, 2013. Print.

“Kylver Stone | Runic Stone, Sweden.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web.

“Runic Alphabet | Writing System.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web.

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Witchcraft Workshop

It is somehow already November and I am just starting to put away the Halloween decorations. Well, I kept up all my usual goth décor and just put up the outdoor decorations that scream “IT’S HALLOWEEN, BITCHES” for the sake of my neighbors.  I am coming down from that Halloween high and wanted something festive to get ready for Yule.

With the first frost making its way into Texas early this year it seemed like a good time for a final big harvest. It is getting cold up in Texas. 29 degrees Fahrenheit for a low….Yes, I know Northern states are laughing at us shivering in the cold. Don’t judge us. We are made to endure triple digit heat. We feisty.

Anyways, with the bitter frost looming, I have an abundance of herbs that I wanted to put to good use while I get the chance. I’ve got three lavender plants spilling out of their containers, rosemary plants that that decided they are bushes now and.sage that came back from the dead and grew three feet out of nowhere. My beautiful garden babies. I put frost blankets on them like I was tucking them into bed.

I had such an abundance of herbs that I got crafty with it and made wreaths. They turned out festive and fun for the season ahead. And all I used was herbs and twine!

I started out by cutting about 8 long, thick branches of rosemary to build my wreath base.
I laid out two branches each to create a square shape and then tied them together with twine where the ends overlapped. I tied them tight enough to hold but not so tight that I couldn’t undo if I needed to adjust later. Right now it probably looks more like a diamond than a circle.  As long as you have it about the size you are wanting, you are good!

At this point you can reinforce the twine in sections that need it so it starts to lay down better into a circle. Then take long lavender cuttings and wrap it through the wreath to help further tie it together and cover up the twine. I used a Goodwin Creek type of Lavender that was soft enough for bending but still strong and long enough to pull it through sections without breaking. I used as much lavender and rosemary as I could at this point to fill the wreath body out for shape.

Then I took sprigs of sage leaves and wedged them into the woven sections for accents throughout the wreath.   At this point you can personalize it with flowers or crystals. Or whatever you want to make it your own! Just keep in mind if you tie on anything with weight to make sure it is tied to one of the reinforced branches.

And done! You have a fancy fresh herb wreath to enjoy!

And your house will smell magical for days. Once dried, you can use for a number of things. I am either going to use it for a wicked fire pit evening outside or crush and use for sachets around my home and gifts.
Have fun and get crafty witches!

-Jaye

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Book Review: 
High Magick: A Guide to the Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row Damien Echols

This popped up on my radar more due to my interest in true crime and criminal justice than occultism.  Since he was giving a lecture in Austin, I decided to buy the book, read it, and resell it just so I could go into the event having read it.

Now, you don’t have to!

Quickest of recaps
Echols was one  of the West Memphis Three wrongly convicted of murder and was finally released after spending over 20 years on death row.  His practice is Golden Dawn ceremonial magick.

Here’s what you get
The book is a curriculum of breathing and visualization exercises, the Middle Pillar, Qabalistic Cross, Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, and charging water and talismans.

Seriously, it’s just Golden Dawn basics
If you’ve ever read anything about ceremonial magic or Wicca these will all be familiar to you even if they are called by other names or use  different flavors of gods and correspondences.

There’s a lot to write about the history of the Golden Dawn, who and what its influences were, and who it influenced in turn, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll just say this: If you don’t like angels, Yaweh, Jesus, or chanting their names in Hebrew, you will not be very into that system. Echols does address this rather expected trepidation, and I’ll expand on that below.

Surprisingly fluffy
This book follows the template established by Wicca 101 books such as To Fly a Silver Broomstick almost down to a page-by-page formula. It assumes no familiarity with the occult whatsoever.  Entire pages are wasted outlining eye-rollingly obvious steps like “turn off your cell phone” or warnings not to practice magick whilst driving a car. A lot of word count is devoted to pep-talks with the same meaningless platitudes found in every other New Age or self-help guide such as: “Try to remain open to the process and move forward with an open heart.”

Some Random observations
Despite the padding with hokey, fatuous woo woo, the straight-shooting prose occasionally delivers some refreshing insights into difficult to articulate experiences.

For example, in discussing astral travel Echols delivers a simple remedy, writing, “It took me about two years of unsuccessful attempts before I learned that astral projection didn’t have anything to do with leaving my body.  Here’s the trick: consciousness isn’t spatially bound.  That means that it’s omnipresent through time and space—infinite.  All astral projection entails is shifting the focal point of where your consciousness resides. For some people, this means visualizing a sense of travel, but that’s just one way to experience it.”  In another striking passage he describes his first encounter with an angelic force as appearing not as a blonde human with feathered wings but an awesome force abstracted as two triangles.

These accounts strike me as genuine.  During his talk, I was left with the same impression that Echols is a sincere magician.   He unpretentiously fielded a question about “dragon magic” with a candid,”I don’t know that is” (full disclosure, I’m not sure I do either) and that despite looking like a “metal guy” he mostly listens to uncool music like Keith Urban.

The conclusion I draw from this is that either the publisher explicitly ordered a benign beginners’ book or that Echols purposely chose to narrow his focus and depth for complete beginners and do so within the framework of familiar Judeo-Christian angelic evocation.

Echols stated that one reason he found the Golden Dawn effective in contrast to Zen Buddhism which he also studied intensively for years was that the Golden Dawn is a European tradition using Judeo-Christian symbolism that is readily intelligible to most Americans. Even if you are a complete atheist, to paraphrase the author, chances are you’ve stopped a at a four-way intersection and seen a church on all four corners someplace in your home town.  In other words, we all have some basic literacy with Christian traditions whether we want to or not.

In contrast, Eastern Traditions may present a steep learning curve when it comes to basic history, language, culture, and technical terms.  I can attest to this in my own study of Hinduism. So I can’t disagree with his premise that Hermetic Magic can be more approachable for total beginners. Buuuuuut….

Can I rant for second?
Hot take, I feel like the Abrahamic religions are simply not set up for transcendental, non-dual, mystical spirituality.

Echols admits that he grew up with a bad taste in his mouth from Fundamental Christianity and acknowledges that his readers may have too.  He explains away invoking Yaweh’s names as really being about the magician invoking his own personal divinity and invoking one’s own god-like nature.  Plus, Hebrew is an ancient and magical language.

That is true and I totally endorse seeing oneself as divine as a great practice. However, besides being a huge jerk in general, Yaweh is really emphatically against doing that.  Like 10 Commandments explicit about it.

So yeah, these practices are effective enough to work in spite of that, but I don’t see the purpose of swimming upstream trying to shoehorn what is basically watered-down Buddhism (and by way of piggybacking, the dharmic traditions Buddhism itself grew out of ) into a Judeo-Christian architecture.

Recommend?
With all that being said, how does this title serve as a ground floor introduction for complete occult newbies which is not anyone that reads this newsletter?  Effectively enough. It is a quick read with easy to follow, specific exercises.  In addition, Damien Echols’ biography is certainly more captivating than the personal anecdotes of your average New Age writers’.
Meh.

-Scarlet

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Politi-Craft

An on-going list of political and social action items to keep you aware in these rage-inducing times. 

-Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Toolkit for Combatting Racism in Schools

-8 Trans, nonbinary, and body diverse Lingerie Brands to Support Instead of Victoria’s Secret

– ‘Siri, I’m getting pulled over. ‘A new shortcut for iPhones can automatically record the police

 Colorado passes Amendment A, a measure that will remove state language allowing forced prison labor without pay!

-19 Black Women Just Became Judges In Texas After Winning In The Midterm Elections!

 Prayers for Transgender Justice from Transforming Hearts Collective.

-A State-by-State List of the Lies Abortion Doctors Are Forced to Tell Women

Still useful stuff:

– Check out Jen Hoffman’s new year activism challenge with her activism plan worksheet and a bonus self care worksheet.    Sign up for her weekly newsletter which is so ridiculous more thorough than ours!

– Join the Handmaid’s Resistance!  Get updates about events, resources, organizing your own event and more.

– fire up that cellular device and oppose the rollback of birth control coveragedefend childhood immigrants and DREAMersdenounce Trump’s ban on transgender troops, tell DeVos to maintain title IX protections for campus assault victims.  Or pick any other five issues from 5 Calls, there are 31 active issues!  Bonus points: follow up with emails and faxes through an app (see below) or good ole snail mail.

– Try the  Stance app. Record a voice message and will send it directly to your representative’s phone.

– Head to the  House of Representatives website to find your rep in congress and contact them! Emails are great, phone calls are better, but do something. Contact them until the poor, unpaid interns who have to answer the phones all day know you by name. Contact them until everyone cries because you will not stop until your rep knows exactly where you stand on all the issues.

– Follow your congress(wo)man on Twitter or periodically check-in (if clouding your social media feed with their trash is too repulsive), representatives will often tweet about upcoming town halls. Attend town halls.

– If you are in a time crunch and want to contact your senators or representatives but can’t get to a town hall, check out this genius texting bot called  Resistbot.  You will have to come up with a short message, but the bot will fax your legislators DAILY if you so desire.  Resistbot is now available on Facebook Messenger, with even more features than ever.  If you are not using this, it is simply the fastest, best way to contact your state and federal representatives.

– The  Women’s March is a goldmine of resources and suggested actions to combat the growing voice of racism, bigotry, and sexism. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as well!

– Check out  The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) handy-dandy doc  Know Your Rights for when you’re out there on the street peacefully protesting and expressing your motherfuckin’ right to civil disobedience. In fact, while you’re at it,  donate some cash monies if you can. Here in ‘Merica we vote with our dollars.

– **NEW!!** Indivisible has released a brand new version of the  Indivisible Guide.  New congress, new rules of engagement.  Check it out!!

-If you are a Texas resident, you can go to the Texas Legislature Online and sign-up for an account, allowing you to view legislative content and add bills to an alert list. Whenever a bill you’ve put on your list is updated, you’ll receive an alert. Also, feel free to check out our list of Texas legislative bills that we are monitoring and updating. Stay woke, witches.

-Check out Planned Parenthood Texas Vote‘s guide on attending legislative committee hearings where the public is given the opportunity to provide input and feedback on proposed laws.

– Don’t over extend yourself! Yes, we’d all like to fix all the problems right the fuck now, but that’s not practical. You will burn yourself out if you try to keep up with everything in this country (and world for that matter) that needs fixing, so we recommend you come up with a short list of the most important social issues to you. This does not mean you don’t care about everything! We know you do! But we can’t all be doing everything all the time.

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 Hocus Pocus, bitches.

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