Growing up in a Magickal Home

Book of Gen

~ Magickal Records * Mother's Work * Grandmother's Wisdom~

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood
- teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

I continually hear the lament of parents who want to raise their children pagan and don't know how. I simply refer them to the above quote. We lecture our faith to death (as evidenced by the size of this website!). And nowhere do I see lessons on how to instill wonder in a child's life. Wonder must be felt. It is experiential. It can't be explained. We need to teach mystery without fear, wisdom instead of truth, metaphor instead of fact, logic that has room for the unknown, the romance of beauty in all things, nature as spiritual healer, and intellectual curiosity that doesn't sour with education.

This area will be filled with memories of the natural, the mystical and the mundane magick that I was raised with. My mother rarely explained magick to me - she put me in the way of it, over and over, so that I may experience it for myself. For the pagan parent, these stories might be of some inspiration.

I was raised in the in the car culture of the 1950s and Route 66 was as familiar as any childhood neighborhood. We owned eleven cars in as many years and we enjoyed every one of them. With my father in the Air Force, we transferred often and had thirty-day vacations every summer. I hardly knew what it meant to have a home. Still, Mother and Father had ways of keeping some continuity. So, I begin with a little elf that lived in our ketchup bottle.

The little elf in the ketchup bottle~
One warm summer afternoon when I was about six, I was sitting at the kitchen table eating a hot dog. Mother had put the condiments on the table. We were talking and eating when the warming ketchup popped of its bottle cap. Now you will say, but that wasn't magick at all, it was science. Yet, the enchantment of my mother's imagination saw the wonder in my wide eyes. And she explained that it was our little elf, who lived in the ketchup bottle. I knew that no matter where we lived, our little elf would come with us as long as we had a bottle of ketchup.

The Jingle Bell Welcome~
Continuing this theme, Mother made a point of finding the small jingle bell that our little elf would leave for us to find in every new home we moved into. Named, Patrick after a few years, every time we moved, he went on ahead and left a bell to tell us that he'd checked out the house and it was a happy one. Several times, I found the bell.

Now you say, but that is just Mother's way of creating a magickal childhood. And yes, she did. And yes, perhaps it was Mother who hid the bell to be found. But here's a secret, it doesn't matter. I never knew for sure...and that alone allowed for the possibility of magick. I child doesn't really need magick in his life, only the possibility.

Mother has been gone for nearly 20 years, and funny - when my new husband and I bought our house several years ago - what did I find in the linen closet? A jingle bell.

Elfprints in the snow~
This was one that my mother did for my step sister. I don't remember it and I was told the truth of the story, but to my understanding my step sister was never told the truth.

It was about six weeks before Yule and an early snow fell in Wyoming. When my sister woke to look outside she saw two small footprints in the snow on her windowsill pointing in the direction of someone looking into the window. She looked further down and there were more footprints in the roof of the dog's house, under her window. And further still, there were tracks leading out of the woods behind our house. She was about 10 at the time and she could figure out that there were not big footprints around the small ones. There was just pristine snow.

Mother explains that getting close to Yule, someone must have been peeking into her window to see if she was going to bed on time and being a good girl.

The secret which I was told when I was a teenager, what that my step brother who was 13 at the time and almost six feet tall was leaning over the roof with a fishing pole with a doll attached. My father was holding him by the ankles to keep him from sliding off the slippery roof.

It would have been great if the elfprints were real, but I think I was more as impressed with my father and brother going to all that trouble to make some magick for my step-sister.

Turkish Slippers and the coming Yule~
Even though I never made it overseas, at heart, I consider myself as a citizen of the world. Our home was filled with exotic treasures, trinkets from my father's travels in the Air Force. From one trip, Father brough me a pair of miniature Turkish Slippers, only about two inches long. They were hand sewn with decorative stitching and beading. I had woken up early and was in the living room, holding the slippers between my fingers, making them dance on the coffee table. I was singing softly, so as not to wake the rest of the family. The sun wasn't even up yet, when I heard a cluster of jingle bells ringing in the distance. I couldn't tell from what direction they came.

I thought it might be my imagination, and began to play again. Then I heard them again. Even very young, I suspected that my father was doing it. So I sneaked into my parents bedroom and my father was snoring. Mother's face was still in the half light. I peeked in on my sister and then my brother, whose back was to me. All still. I waited. Nothing. About twenty minutes later, I heard the bells again, but they sounded farther away. Right about then my mother awoke and I rushed to tell her the story.

She gave me her usual droll response to my ofttimes "sudden enthusiasms" begging me to wait until she could get a cup of coffee down her to listen to my story. I was quite put off by her lack of interest.

I think I was nearly thirty years old when she confessed that my brother rang the bells. It is not in my nature to feel betrayed by her efforts to create enchantment in my youth, especially since I can still feel the six year old butterflies in my stomach trying to figure out from where those bells came.

Magickal Pajamas~
When we lived in Cheyenne, I remember being sick a lot. Measles were very common and for some reason, I got them more than once. Only under pressure will doctors tell you that some people who get milder cases can get the disease twice. Well, I think in the same year, I got Rubiola twice and Rubella once.

In the olden days, when someone got sick they were expected to go to bed and not try an endless stream of synthetic ways to keep the person on their feet. So, when I got sick, I went to bed. I can still remember my yellow, long sleeve, footed pajamas that Mother called my Magic Pajamas. She explained that the itching or tickling I felt wearing them meant that they were working on getting rid of my measles. She told me not to scratch, that the itching meant that they were working. I only wore them when I was sick. Mother convinced me that I was sick for half as long as other people with the same disease and my sickness was easier. Because she said so – it was true. I remember actually having fun being sick, getting special healing foods (chocolate pudding!) on a bed tray, coloring in bed, reading and getting small toys to cheer me up when Father came home. Mother’s magick made both the ordeal and the patient both a little easier to live with.

The world is full of magical things
patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

Magickal Training: A truck load of hay~
Mother began my training at a very young age. It seems like such a little thing but it was wiser than I could imagine. The lesson kept teaching me year after year, on every road trip. You probably have a story to tell about the childhood rules of wish making. What consistently occurs is that one cannot just make a wish without passing a small test. And failing that test suffered the “undo” addendum attached. For instance, blowing out all the birthday candles in one breath is the requirement to a birthday wish coming true. One might even practice deep breathing for days before the big day - just to insure enough breath to earn a wish.

Note my choice of words. We never got a wish, we earned our wishes. One of the ways we did that, occurred during the hundreds of times we were on the road traveling from one station to another or taking one trip or another. Whenever Mother or Father saw a truck load of hay, traveling towards us on the opposite side of the road, someone would yell. "Truck load of hay. Make a wish and don't look back!"

This small discipline is more work than you can imagine. Everyone always wants to peek for no other reason than we were told not to. We even learned to be sneeky and catch a glimpse in the rear or side mirrors after the truck passed us. Mother never checked on us. She never watched to see if we cheated. Because, it didn’t matter if anyone saw you cheat. You knew you cheated and undid the magick. You saw you cheat and you knew you were trying to lie to yourself that you didn’t see. Discipline was a big part of my magickal training.

Believe it or not this was critical training in the way I thought of magick and the nature of how it worked. And it stayed with me as I developed a more sophisticated theory.

First Spells~
My first spells were taught to me by my Grandmother and can be found in my Book of Shadows - Spell Book
The Hair Brushing Spell
The Pillow Fluffing Spell

Holy S*it! Mother is a Witch~
One of Mother's most outstanding witchly examples, was at a baseball game at the old Cashman Field some time in the early 60s. Las Vegas had a AAA baseball team called the Colts. And after the 5th inning, the ticket booth closed down and anyone could see the end of the game for free. We were often broke (but never poor) and we went to one game that didn’t have many fans.
The Colts were losing steadily and by the bottom of the 9th inning, the Colts were down, 9 runs and needed 10 runs to win. (I remember because Dad was teaching me how to score a baseball game and I had the score card.) The stands were emptying in earnest as the Colts went to bat. After playing a pretty lousy game the entire night, no one thought they could hit 10 runs at the last possible chance to win. I remember my mother turning around to the people behind us and saying with a twinkle in her eye, “Why are you leaving? They only need 10 runs to win!” The people laughed. I laughed too. (But not for long and never again.)

We didn’t leave because we had a family tradition of not leaving an event “until the Fat Lady sang.” In fact, we moved closer, into one of the now vacated box seats. Still, I had no idea what I was about to witness. One after another, the hits came. One after another, the double plays. One after another, the stolen bases. In the bottom of the ninth inning of the worse game the Las Vegas Colts ever played, they racked up 10 runs to win the game. The players went crazy. We were hysterical with glee. Mom said calmly, “I told you so.” (And she had that twinkling look in her eyes that I would see hundreds more times) We looked around and there were maybe 25 people in the stands. The entire stadium went home thinking the team had lost, only to read the banner headline in the Review Journal’s sports page about the miracle final inning of the game.

This was the first “definitive” example I ever had that my mother was a witch. There was no “Chance” for the Colts to win. But Mother never had a doubt. I was stunned and amazed and after that night, I looked Mother in a different way. It took only a few more examples to realize that one was not too smart to bet against her. She pretty much got what she wanted, when she wanted it and it was uncanny how things that traditionally blew up on other people, remained calm and seemingly effortless for her.

And I was more sure than ever that I wanted to know what she knew and do what she did.

Magickal Herbs~
Mother always planted Mint outside the front door for Protection. She would rub a piece of Mint between her hands before driving to work – for safe passage. And, because she was in communications, she put a leaf in her mouth for sweet speech and articulation.

The Lopsided Fig Tree~
Mother’s neighbor had a Black Mission fig tree planted near the fence that divided their property. Half of the huge tree grew over the fence and hung into Mother’s backyard. Mother loved the taste of fresh figs, which ripen only on the tree and spoil if they are picked too soon. So they had to be picked each day as needed. She thought that this tree produced the sweetest she had ever tasted. The neighbor, however, didn’t like figs or the tree that had been planted in her yard by the previous home owner. She complained of the mess it caused in her back yard and apologized to Mother for the mess it must be leaving in hers. (There never was a mess, because Mother ate all the figs!) When, the neighbor said that she planned to have the tree removed, Mother was heartbroken.

Mother loved that fig tree, so she hatched a plan. She asked the neighbor if the tree cold stay for just one more season, just one last chance to harvest the entire tree for drying. She even offered to clean “the mess” in both their yards. The neighbor agreed.

A funny thing though, that following summer . . . there were hardly any figs on the tree - in the neighbor’s yard. While in Mother’s yard, the tree was thickly laden. Mother didn’t want dried figs. She wanted the fresh figs. So - as if by Magick, the tree seemed oddly frail and fruitless on the neighbor’s side, and thus, it left no mess. The neighbor reconsidered removing the tree, and agreed to leave the tree’s healthy side – for Mother.

Save your Swats~
Andrea, one of Mother’s co-workers at the newspaper was chasing a fly with a swatter, got over enthusiastic and began swatting madly at everything - which only aggravated the fly. After much energy was spent, Mother heard Andrea take a deep breath and say, “Andrea, save your swats.” She waited until the fly settled and then with one swat, she achieved her goal. Mother told her circle this story as a magickal example of discipline. It wasn’t so much that there is a limit to one’s magickal ability, but that wasting magickal energy is just that – a waste. Focus, control, and direction are what is necessary to achieve one’s goal. Whenever my sister S. or I were working too hard, trying too hard, we would get the caution, “Save your swats.”

Some Witches Fly~
Maybe not in the broom straddling way, but Mother could get across town faster than anyone I knew. She would say, “Just lucky, I guess.” However, luck had nothing to do with her hitting the traffic lights so that they stayed green in whichever direction she was going, whatever time of day, whatever the reason. Now, did she change the lights or did she just place herself in the way of their synchronization? She would say the latter. I witnessed her slowing down once to get in synch with the lights, eventually by-passing the dashers who got caught by the red lights. She said that she spent her philosophical life achieving only one magickally trait - that of putting herself in Fortune’s way. When she was late for work or an important meeting, I watched the traffic move out of her way as if a wormhole formed between her hands and the visual space between them moved through the traffic making way for her. She always drove to the parking place nearest the door to wherever she was going. She said that it was just a likely that a space would be open there than at the back of the parking lot. She was more often right than not. She got in and out of stores faster than anyone I ever knew. By her example, I learned to be a patient driver and never rushed for no reason (saving my swats), so that when it was necessary, I too, manage to create that same wormhole through traffic.

Stories to come:

Fairy flowers-
The Nightmare Chant-

© 2004 -2010 Ardriana Cahill

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