Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thank-you for your visit.

The time we have shared here at the Cabinet has been very enjoyable to me, I hope for you as well. The time has come for all good conviial gatherings to come to an end. Many of the Cabinet of Enchantments writers have moved on to new projects. Some are still writing. I hope we get the chance to see each other in another venue. Be well.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Psychic Journeying

Keeping with the recent interest in travel, thought I'd share another option.  I first came across this concept reading about exercises that were used to practice far-seeing, a subset of clairvoyance.  Far-seeing is really a broad term, it can cover not only seeing things that are far away in space but things far away in time.  This exercise is a fun way to not only work on your ability to see, but to travel vicariously if you are not able to do so physically.

The basic idea is to know enough about a place that you have the basis of a picture in your mind about it.  If you are working on visiting a place you have just heard about, do a bit of reading, just enough to have a mental snapshot.  You don't really want to have too many details at this point (I'll explain why later).

If you have experience with meditation that is very helpful.  If not, don't stress it, just start a bit smaller.  Sit or lay in a comfortable position.  Personally, I find a half-lotus (sit cross-legged, but instead of both feet on the bottom, one is on the bottom the other is on top of the opposite knee) very comfortable, but if is not comfortable, don't use it.  You can sit in a straight backed chair, with your feet on the ground and hands on your knees.  I find that if I am sitting, I want to be fairly straight up, our couch works really well because the back gives enough support to keep me from slouching, but doesn't encourage me to really lean back because that makes me too tilty.  You can also lie down, but if laying down makes you sleepy and you find yourself dozing off, try a different position.  I like to lay flat on my back on the floor with hands palms up by my side.  I find a small pillow under my head is helpful.  When I meditate, my body temperature drops, so I always have a blanket that I cover up with.  You want to be comfortable, being too cold or too hot will be a hindrance. 

Once you are in position, take a few deep breaths and start to clear your mind.  Again, don't stress too much if you have stray thoughts, once you start your visualizations those will mostly fade (and the more you practice, the better you will become!).  Start to picture the place you picked.  Imagine you are looking at a picture, from far away.  For example, lets say you wanted to visit Stonehenge.  Picture the henge as if you were looking at it from a birds eye view, not directly overhead, but at an angle.  The hills around it are not important at this time, just the henge.  Let your eyes be drawn to it, see the stones.  Slowly, draw your focus closer, as if you were flying towards it.  Let the details start to sharpen.  Now you can see the stones, make out where one ends and the next begins.  Let your focus drop to where it would be if you were standing there in front of one of the stones.  See it's texture (reach out to touch it if you wish).  Walk amongst the stones, and explore the henge.

After you have explored as long as you wish at this time, start pulling back.  It can be helpful to reverse your initial approach, walking out to the edge of the henge, then starting to draw back, like a camera panning out from a tight focus to a widescreen shot.  Let yourself start to feel your body, focus on your breath and wiggle your fingers.  When you are ready, open your eyes.  You might want to have a notebook handy to jot down impressions.  Write down what you saw and felt.  Sketch little pictures of things you want to remember.

As I mentioned earlier, this was an exercise given for practicing far-seeing.  If you wish to, you can do research to validate what you saw.  Look up the place you visited, and see how closely your notes match other descriptions (this is one reason not to do a lot of research before hand, you want to visit and see for yourself not just visualize what you have read).  And don't get frustrated because you didn't get everything right, or even if you get huge things wrong.  It is a skill you are working on.  Imagine your far seeing skill like making a rubbing of an intricate picture.  You place the paper down and rub over it and you have an impression.  There will be places where your rubbing doesn't pick up the actual lines.  When you look at the rubbing, your mind fills in the blanks, drawing new lines to connect places that don't add up.  These created lines might not actually line up.  You also might get smudges in places there weren't lines, and your mind will work these into the picture.  The more you practice rubbing (far-seeing) the better you will get at accurately capturing the lines of the original and recognizing where there are spaces and smudges (and realizing these are not part of the original).

Another thing to consider when far-seeing physical places is that far-seeing can see across time.  If you can, check for references of the place at different points in time and see if your vision matches one of those better.  You might not have been seeing a place in the now, but rather in the past or future.

Once you are comfortable with far-seeing, there is no end of things you can see.  Look into the past and see what places that are now ruins looked like in their glory days.  Look in on exotic places on the other side of the globe.  Check out those wild places that are so far from populated areas they might not have been seen before.  Don't limit yourself.  Dive the depths of the ocean, beneath where we have the capability to explore.  Soar into the heavens and explore other planets.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sacred Journey Part 2

Everyday Sacred.

“Don’t be satisfied with the stories that come before you; unfold your own myth.” Rumi

“Honoring begins at Home.  Start with yourself, your family, your home, and your tools.  All are sacred.  If you have only been an armchair practitioner till this point-interested in magick, but never taking the leap because you weren’t close enough to the natural forces- then get up off the sofa and open your eyes…Open the door, walk down the street, and let the adventure begin.”  Penczak, xvi, Introduction to City Magick.

If where you are is the only place you can currently go, you can still visit the holy places where you are.  There is still the world behind the world. (“…we are all strangers in this world, and that part of the elusive wonder of travel is that during those moments.., we are forced to face that truth.” Cousineau)  Everything has a spirit of place, and these can be met, talked with.. The world will meet you where you are.  Set out with the intention to see behind the daily scenes. Pick the itinerary path for your vision walk.  You will also be lightly trancing, so pick fairly “safe” places.  Wear the gear that makes you feel magick, but also I find it helpful to pick unobvious things, to keep interaction with curious bystanders to a minimum.  I have jewelry that I enchant for various purposes.  Start with a prayer to your favorite Gods and guardians, and get your aura armor up.

I also play my soundtrack on my mp3 player as I go.  Get into a light trance, and let your eyes slide off physical things to see if you can see beyond, through, around them.  Your eyes are not quite meeting the details of the world.  I see the energy on things, or people, and get more impressions from people than usual about them, little glimpses of their possible lives.  I see glimmers of “other” things/people. I get other impressions if I touch things, a taste of their energy life.  Sometimes I like to pause as I go, and pick up souvenirs of the trip (“To be touched, we must, in turn, touch.” Cousineau), take pictures, write a little bit of my impressions as I go along.  I like to bring presents,  edibles for wildlife, sharing water with a plant, cleaning up other people’s discards…When you get to the place you are going, reintegrate into yourself. I ground, usually by touching the ground, reminding myself who I am in the everyday world, and thanking Everybody who kept me safe while I travelled.  Be a pilgrim of the sacred where you are, as well as out and about. 

“Reading old travel books or novels set in faraway places, spinning globes, unfolding maps, playing world music, eating in ethnic restaurants, meeting friends in cafĂ©’s whose walls hold soul-talk of decades—all these things are part of never-ending  travel practice…”Cousineau .  Keep romancing the World, and it’s likely it will come to see you if you can’t get away to see it.

“Hymn to the Local Gods”- Shriekback
Where are the bones and the flowers?
Where are the shrines to the local gods?
They never write now or ring us
Whatever happened to the local gods?
What are their names? Where do they live now?
Where do we go to light a candle to them now?

They held the soul of the city
The streets were bright with the local gods
The days were sweet with their meanings
The nights were vivid with the local gods
The day they left we never saw their going
We woke one morning and the world was less than it had been

In the canals and the wastelands
Up in the spires, under the flyovers
Still you can see, with the right eyes,
The shining presence of the local gods
Stand in the silence you can hear them whisper
Hearing their laughter echo in the steel and stone

So leave a fire in the window
Pour the wine under the underpass
Let's all go down to the river
We'll go swimming with the local gods
They never died we only lost their number
All you can find here worship and more will appear 

Sacred Journeys part 1

Or- Or, Lets Tell Mr. Ogdoad where to go!!!

Our own Mr. Ogdoad is planning a trip to Europe soon.  I agreed to work on a list of potential destinations for him, as research is both my passion and profession.  I, in a way, see it as a form of vicarious travel for me.  If I can get him to go to Sacred, interesting, or just photogenic places that I would like to visit, 2nd best to me going myself.  If you, too, want to play the game, give him some travel suggestions and tell him why they would be good destinations for him.

Sacred Journeys

“Travel safely, travel soulfully, travel gratefully, and as the old pilgrim’s advice goes, “Stranger, pass by that which you do not love.”  Phil Cousineau preface to 2012 ‘ the Art of Pilgrimage.

Abram,  David.  The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language In a More-Than-Human World.  Vintage Books, New York. 1996

Hitching, Francis.  The Mysterious World: an Atlas of the UnExplained. Holt, Rinehart         and Winston, New York. 1978

Gray, Martin.  Sacred Earth:  Places of Peace and Power. Sterling, New York/ London. 2007.

Cousineau, Phil.  The Art of Pilgrimage:  A Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred.  Conari Press, New York, 2012

Penczak, Christopher.  City Magick  : Urban rituals, Spells and Shamanism.  Weiser, York Beach,  2001.

I will mainly be discussing megalithic sites, and pagan sites, as the usual tourist sites are easily found, and constantly written about in tourist literature.  I couldn’t Completely help myself, so have included some of the more generally known that are also locations of interest to me, just to make sure I vicariously get to go again.

Most people in the world of occult study know about Ley lines, first written about by Alfred Watkins in the 1920’s, in The Old Straight Track.  He postulated that lines ran between several ancient sites in straight lines.  Leys have also been discovered crossing over into other European countries, linking with those in England.  Also of interest, a relatively unknown French philologist Xavier Guichard, hypothesized in his book Elusis Alesia, that certain place names with a common root occurred throughout Europe; these locations invariably had hills overlooking a river, man made wells and served as traveler stops set at disconcerting regular intervals on lines radiating from a central place, Alaise.  In the Greek, ‘Eleusis’ meant a meeting place to be travelled to.  He further speculated that the lines were laid out at regular intervals using compass cards such as Greek geographers used.

Mr. Ogdoad, could, then if he chose, follow a system of old energy lines both all over the British Isles, and Europe Itself.

Some of the sites I have chosen lie quite clearly on one of the ley lines in Southern England into France.   There is also no way I can list all of the Cool Places in the given amount of time, for even Bowling Green, much less the whole of Europe!! I still have a day job, so I can’t even really wax poetic about why someone might want to go to the places I have chosen.  For that, I recommend the locations’ tourist bureaus or among guide books, I enjoy Lonely Planet.

Ley Line map and locations for Britain on Link:

England  Cornwall-Tintagel (supposed site of King Arthur’s Castle, commonly supposed to be of Roman anscestery, though it cannot be dated to Rome), Men-a-tol,
Penzance - numerous megalithic sites - St. Michaels Mont-a line to Glastonbury Tor, (All churches on this line frequently bear the name of St. Michael or St. George, Ley lines are frequently also refered to as dragon lines…), Wiltshire, Stonehenge, Avebury Stone Ring
Salisbury –Old Iron Age Earthworks—Old Sarum-oldest found human habitation in Britain, 3000 BC London- the British Museum, Threadneedle street
Glastonbury Tor- (once an island surrounded by fen ,remnants of an iron age settlement, and later Roman occupation, associated with Arthurian Legend as the Isle of Avalon)St. Michael’s Tower,  Glastonbury Abbey, Chalice Well
Bath Abbey and Roman Baths also Georgian Crescent
Keswick Stone Circle(tradition has it that if you count the stones in the circle more than once, you will end up with different answers)
Lindisfarne and Cuthbert Priory ruins

IrelandCounty Mayo- Croagh Patrick  mountain( site of pilgrimage for centuries, esp at Summer Solstice.  Legend has it that this was the site that started the snake driving from Ireland by St. Patrick.  Obviously more to do with it being non-Christian.)
County Cork- Blarney Castle and The Blarney Stone( You know, so there is no point in me telling you )County Kerry- Mt Brandon Stone, Holy well, Stone Circle and Holy well of Kenmore. County Meath- Hill of Tara, Knowth, Dowth, Loughcrew, Newgrange Passage cairns. County Sligo- Carramore- dolman tombs.  Cashel
Well and Cathedral at Kildare
Round Towers in several places- Glendalough, County Wicklow,  

Scotland- Callanish Stone Ring. Elgin Cathedral (magnificent even in ruins) Orkneys- Stones of Stenness,  Ring of Brodgar ( dating from about 2500 BC). Outer Hebrides- Isle of Lewis. Lochness in the Scottish Higlands-Loch Ness Monster- you know you want to!!
Also, of course, men in kilts!

Xavier Guichard and his place name maps on the link v

The Northern Lights!!

Iceland – Thigeukkir Ruins of Althing Assembley ground

Sweden- Uppsala- Former site of Norse Temple of Uppsala. Gotland- Bronze age burial mounds.  Oland- Stone age passage graves. Stora Alvaret- Bonze age cairns

Denmark- You really are on your own here.   Lejre. Legoland Billund.Copenhagen Tivoli Gardens

France- Normandy- Mont St. Michel (on the line that links Ireland to Greece, including St. Michaels Mount in England.  Previously, for large sections of the day, the sea would cover the causeway linking it to the mainland, as seen as an important plot point in the Scarlet Pimpernel). Carnac Megalithic site.  Chartres Cathedral and Our Lady of Chatres church on top of a pagan site.  The Louvre

Germany-  Black Forest-Schwatzwald.  Neuschwanstein Castle (I have had a picture of this since childhood)  Aachen( Aix-la- Chappelle) collegiate church of St Mary’s and pagan hot springs  Owen –Celtic Holy Mountain of Teck and Oracular cave Sybillenlock
The Brocken- today part of the Harz National Park-Goethe- Now to the Brocken the witches ride;The stubble is gold and the corn is green;There is the carnival crew to be seen,  The time to be there, would of course be Beltaine
Speyer- Imperial Cathedral on top of a pagan site.  Teutobergerwald Neolithic observatory

 Help Mr. Ogdoad, by posting your own destinations, persuasions in the comments section!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Spanish Moss

There's an old, old legend, that's whispered by Southern folks,
About the lacy Spanish moss that garlands the great oaks--
A lovely princess and her love, upon their wedding day,
Were struck down by a savage foe amidst a bitter fray;
United in death they were buried, so the legends go--
'Neath an oak's strong, friendly arms, protected from their foe;
There, as was the custom, they cut the bride's long hair with love,
And hung its shining blackness on the spreading oak above;
Untouched, undisturbed, it hung there, for all the world to see
And with the years the locks turned grey, and spread from tree to tree

Ah, Spanish Moss. This eerily beautiful hanging fixture of southern culture is full of mystery and a deeply imbedded part of the south’s rich history and an important part of any southern witch’s arsenal.
Down here in Savannah you can’t go anywhere without seeing majestic oaks or towering cypresses  laden with what appears to be  gray frosting.  Called by many names such as, Old Man’s Beard, Devil’s Beard, Old Man Moss, White Beard and Spanish Beard; Or every once in a while Florida Crape or Wool Crape. Tillandsia usneoides is not actually a moss! Niether is this “moss” a parasite. It is instead an epiphyte which absorbs nutrients and water from the air and rainfall. While it rarely kills the trees, it lowers their growth rate by reducing the amount of light to a tree's own leaves. Still it’s pretty …and… useful, so we will forgive it that sometimes death to the host tree thing. This time………Anyways. Spanish Moss can be found not only gracing southern trees.  This stringy gray plant can be found anywhere it’s warm. From the Caribbean to the Hawaii islands, to all the way to the land down under Australia! Spanish moss seems to get  around!

Spanish Moss and Magick!
How to use this versatile plant in magickal workings.
Or what in the name of the Lord and Lady do I do with this stuff?

Before you can start working with Spanish moss you have to actually get your hands on some. Which in some cases will be easier said than done.  
 Do you think You can just go outside and you’ll find some just lying on the ground?
Or growing on a nearby tree? Just waiting for you to come take some?
(Umm Excuse me, Ms. Tk?)
Me- (What?)
(Spanish Moss does in fact grow on trees. And you can find in laying on the ground)
Me- (What? I mean of course it grows on trees. I was just testing you. * Grumble grumble*)
 You can find Spanish Moss in a number of places, Such as outside on a tree, at your local craft store, or through the power of the internet. Where you can find it for sale from as little as $1.00 to around $40.00 or so.
((A word of caution . If you live somewhere where you can just walk outside and grab up a handful you need to be careful of the deadly red bugs (Also called chiggers)! Well ….they’re really not deadly, but they will make you itch your brains out.  If you chose to go the foraging route, have no fear! Just wear some gloves and bake your moss on a pan in the oven at 250 for two hours or more. And this will be sure to banish any moss dwelling critters. ))

Now that you have your moss, you may be asking what kind of witchey goodness can you come up for it. In Hoodoo and the like practices, Spanish moss is used to fill poppet dolls, used in gris gris bags, and all kinds of not nice charms.  However, I’m a huge fan of sympathy magick.  Here are a few ways I personally use the wonderful plant.  
One way I use Spanish moss is to use it absorb things.  Spanish Moss can absorb water up to ten times its dry weight! Keeping that in mind, I use Spanish moss in my witch bottles, and in any binding spells that I do.  I’ve also used it in some crochet spell work that I’ve done.  My grandmother used to sew a bit of moss into my school backpacks as a child, for protection and “to soak up any mean things anyone had to say or bad thought that they’d cared to have” .  Got to love old southern women adages.  

Here is a simple little spell to help negate negative influences.
You’ll need the following:
A small bit of Spanish moss (baked in the oven at 250 for 2 hours if found outside)
Small container with a lid. (the little glass bottles or wooden boxes at Michael’s or hobby lobby work great!)
Dried or fresh rosemary or sage (or any other purifying herb you have on hand)
Something to write with
Take your paper and write either the feeling  or situation your having trouble overcoming or getting away from. This could be the name of the person you’re getting negativity from or a word that you’ve chosen that represents the situation.
Next take some of your chosen herb and place some in your container.
Next Take the scissors and cut as much of the blank paper away as you can.
Roll or fold your remaining paper with your word written on it small enough to fit in your container.
Then take your folded/rolled paper and rap it with the moss. Imagine as you do so that the moss is sucking up all the negative energy that comes from what the word represents.
Next place your bundle of moss and paper inside of your container.
Sprinkle some more herb on top of the bundle and close the lid.
You can either place the closed container somewhere on a shelf and leave it there or bury it somewhere on your property. Either way your situation will now get better as the moss absorbs all the nastiness.

Legends about Spanish Moss
A freind of mine over at http://thenewpagancouple.wordpress.com/ had this share about Spanish Moss, 

There is an old tale that we used to tell back home. Long ago, when the Spanish first came to the Americas, one of the conquistadors became infatuated with a young Native girl. At first he would just admire her from afar or maybe try to teach her some Spanish but soon he wanted more. Now the girl found the conquistador repulsive because he was large, light skinned and had this great long grey beard. One day the man came to the girl and tried to take her by force, so she ran and the man followed suite. The girl ran and ran until at last she came to a huge oak tree that she had climbed often and she took refuge in it branches. The man tried to follow her up the tree but the tree had other plans. Soon the branches were slapping him in the face, breaking under his weight and grabbing at his beard. The man gave up and went to jump from down from the tree and as he did his beard caught on a branch, tore off and was left hanging there.
To this day his beard grows in the trees to show how the trees help those in need.

Here is another great local legend about Spanish Moss!

Over in Savannah, Georgia, there lived a Wicked Man. Everybody feared him – he’d get neighbors fighting against one another (oh, he loved that!), he’d tie tin cans to the tails of cats, put poisonous things in children’s food. He even beat his wife and dog.
Nobody liked him – except the Devil, of course. ‘Cause you know how the Devil likes evil people. So that Wicked Man was right surprised when he was walking down the street one day, and he felt a presence behind him. He turned and looked, and there he saw the long arm of the Devil himself reaching out for him. The Wicked Man said, “Whoa! Mister Devil, you’re not comin’ for me, are ya’?”
The Devil said, “Well, I reckon I am! You’ve been here a long time!”
The Wicked Man said, “Oh, Mister Devil, I got so much meanness left in me. Could you let me stay here just a little bit longer? C’mon, please?”
Well, the Devil was a little bit reluctant to take him back down anyway. So he said, “Alright, I’ll let you stay here a little bit longer.”
Then the Wicked Man said, “Oh, Mister Devil – just one more thing. I know it’s askin’ a lot of ya’, but next time, could you not sneak up on me like that? Could you give me a sign first? Something I could see? Something I could hear?”
The Devil said, “Alright, no problem – it’s a deal.” And he went back down.
Then that Wicked Man got a big ol’ grin on his face. You see, he wasn’t only just as mean as the Devil – he was as smart as the Devil, too. He knew he was getting older, and was going both blind and deaf! So anything that the Devil sent for him to see or hear – why, that Wicked Man wasn’t going to be able to do it!
And that’s just what happened. Time passed, and the fella just kept doin’ his evil ways. The Devil came back up for him many times – flashin’ his name out in lightning, thundering it out in the clouds. But that Wicked Man couldn’t see it or hear it – so he couldn’t die!
Finally, the Devil just gave up, since there was nothing he could do. After all, a deal’s a deal. So the Wicked Man just kept on wandering around spreading his nasty ways. He headed up north up to Charleston, South Carolina, then up through Wilmington, North Carolina, and as far north as Virginia Beach, Virginia. Then he went on back down to New Orleans, Louisiana, and over to Jacksonville, Florida, and then back over to Savannah. He couldn’t eat anything – berries would shrivel up when he walked by, animals would run away, and the water would turn black before he could drink it. Nobody would talk to him – he was all by himself.
And he kept getting skinnier and skinner – in fact, the only thing that grew on him was his hair. It got long and gray and wiry, and would catch on every tree and bush that he passed, and the wind would blow it around.
One day, he just disappeared, and the only thing left behind was his hair. It just kept growing everywhere he’d been. Southerners call it “Spanish moss,” but that ain’t what it really is. It’s the hair of the meanest man who ever lived. Y’all come down and try to pick some of it. He’s left a nice surprise for you – a chigger or two just itchin’ to get under your skin. To let you know where that mean ol’ man has been!

So there you have Spanish Moss. I’d write a lot more about the awesome uses this plant has but I’m pretty sure your tired of reading at this point.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fingerprints on my Soul

I always like the part in a friendship when you know some of your friend’s stories, and could even tell them.  That and things you have done together make up a shared world.  I want my friends to change me, remake parts of me.  I want to be different, having known them.  I like to collect up and think abut all the fingerprint marks people have left on my brain. 
I was just thinking the other day about music.  I listen to my music nearly as constantly as I can get away with.  Used to be more difficult, with walkmen, and batteries and then CD players, but with the advent of mp3 players, I never need listen to something like “Big Green Tractor” ever again.  My music protects me from Wal-Mart, ( I get sensory overload fro Wal-Mart, and then shop stupid, both to get out faster, and because my buying resistance is low) and intensely country music playing situations ( I love in Kentucky, it’s a locational hazard in public places here).  My music keeps me motivated and cheerful, or relaxed, with just the choice between playlists.  I have playlists for everything.  I play my mp3 player through a patch cord, or through one of the fake tape devices in almost all the vehicles I am in regularly. 
       The choice of music I have to improve the atmosphere, I can also trace back to those friend fingerprints.  The more songs you infect me with, the secretly more I will like you, I can’t help it, you have made it so by overwriting parts of my brain.  I am now going to take up space to sing the praises of my friends, and the music choices they have gifted me with.  In college, I collected up Clannad, Kate Bush, and Jethro Tull from Jo, by way of Kat, and John.  Jo and John would even make you cool paper tape cases Jo from pretty paper, and John would cleverly hand draw the band logo.  MMmmmm that’s love!!  I got Dead Can Dance (some of my FAVORITE religious music) Killing Joke, and the More than Complete Imaginos from Mark.  I never really liked the Doors until James brainwashed me with it from endlessly playing it over at his apartment.  From Julie, I got the completely addictive Niyaz, playing loud in my headphone now as I type.  Ken left Budos band….
If I haven’t mentioned you and what you left me, its probably just because of my slippery memory, and not meant as a slight, or to hedge your bet, feel free to suggest music you think I might like in the comments.  I can’t ever have too much music, or too brain fingerprints from friends!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Elemental Grounding

Grounding is something that I consider to be one of the core practices that is often overlooked.  True, many books and beginner study programs include grounding, and suggest it be used after (and sometimes before) rituals.  But I feel that the importance of grounding is understated.

I also dislike how there is one generally accepted method used to teach grounding:  reaching roots down into the earth and drawing up the energy and letting the excess flow down into the earth.  I struggled with grounding for a long time because of this imagery.  It's not the connection to the earth, I physically ground a lot when feeling a bit flighty or overwhelmed, I just lay down or touch my hands to the ground (or really sink my feet down solid).  It took me years to realize this was my own way of grounding (what can I say...I can be slow on the uptake sometimes). 

But it was the inevitable tree/root imagery (and the corresponding sun/spirit light from the sky that is often included in grounding instructions).  I'll admit it, I'm not a tree person.  I just don't self-identify, and so these types of instructions were very hard for me to follow.  What I also disliked about a lot of the basic grounding explanations is that they often don't explain grounding (or centering) much at all.  They tell you what you should do, and when you should do it, and sometimes if you are very lucky there will be a little one-liner about how grounding and centering helps to re-balance your energy and rid yourself of excess.

For me, grounding isn't so much about soaking up external energies like a sponge, nor about dumping any energetic sludge that may have been accumulated over the day.  It is about opening up, allowing yourself to be as you are meant to be, no more and no less.  I think this is why it is a vital practice, not only before and after rituals, but also as a part of your regular life. 

Every day, we experience natural fluctuations in our energy.  We each have unique flows where sometimes we are high energy and sometimes low.  You may be a morning person or a night person, and find you have high energy at those times.  Myself, I am not a morning person, so first thing upon waking I am definitely not my best.  Unfortunately for me, I am a night person (and right now I don't have the luxury of staying up like I would prefer), so when the time comes for bed I am often still quite buzzed and not tired at all. 

Grounding helps me to take control of my personal energy and balance out these highs and lows as I need to.  When I am having a hard time getting started, I can open myself up and release that sluggish energy that is keeping me down.  When I am overly stimulated, I can let go and relax.  Just as our natural rhythms tend to give us energy highs and lows, our energy needs fluctuate as well, so a grounded state might be different at different times based on what you need.  By grounding regularly, you will learn to recognize what you need and what is right for you at any given time.

When it comes to rituals, I think that any time we take an active hand in directing our energy (or energy we have called to our purpose), we should take extra care to make sure we are starting from and ending in a balanced position.  If we aren't fully grounded when we start, we can find our ritual being led astray by lingering concerns.  If we don't ground after we are done, we carry the residual from our ritual which can seriously interfere with our regular activities.  This isn't to say that you can never internalize energy from a ritual to use after the physical ritual is done, but it should be done in a mindful manner.

I also think that there tends to be a focus on earth when it comes to grounding.  Earth is excellent for grounding out excess tension or nervous energy.  It stills the body and is easy to do at any time.  But you can also ground yourself in other elements. 

Opening to air through breathing or by allowing yourself to be surrounded by wind (great to do during a storm) can be invigorating and cleansing.  I find air lends itself very well to singing or spoken release as well. 

Water, accessed through bathing, swimming, standing in the rain or even just washing our hands is a great emotional cleanser.  No one can see you crying in the rain.  If you have ever stood out and gotten completely drenched in a storm, not trying to avoid the rain but embracing it, you find that even weighed down with wet clothes, there is a lightness to you that wasn't there before.

 Fire can be a bit harder to approach, and requires more safety consciousness.  Flame has always been a comfort to me, I loved lighting a fire in the fireplace as a child or even just lighting candles for dinner.  I feel that now, the flame has a presence that extends far beyond it's physical form.  Turning off all the lights and burning candles makes the whole room a place of fire for me.  I have always been drawn to play with candle flames (being very careful to not burn myself).  Fire is where I turn when I need to really go after something aggressively, whether it is a persistent energy that I am finding really hard to let go of or a large project I need to really energize to tackle. 

All too often, I think grounding gets overlooked as a minor and simple thing you do after a ritual (sometimes grounding is reduced to a suggestion to eat and drink something, which are also ways to ground, but without intention I feel they fall short, more of a first-aid type of grounding).  Like anything, grounding is what you put into it, and if you take the time to make a practice of it, there are many ways to not only approach but benefit from it.