James Duvalier

author, spiritual counselor & paranormal researcher

Chuseok: An Autumn Festival of Remembrance and Thanksgiving

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52We are well into September and fast approaching the autumnal equinox and the Harvest Festival of Mabon.  As I have mentioned many times before, this is my absolute favorite time of year!  September and October have always been months of pure beauty and magic for me.  It is a time to enjoy all the gifts the earth has given us and to offer thanks in return.  For this reason many autumn harvest festivals exist throughout the world.  We have discussed several of these in the past on the blog, most notably Mabon, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and of course Halloween which is a celebration of the late harvest among its other attributes.  Today, I would like a take a look at Chuseok, a Korean harvest festival that is also a time to honor ancestors and shares many characteristics with the American celebration of Thanksgiving.  Chuseok, like the Chinese Mid Autumn Moon Festival, falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, which this year coincides with October 4th on the western calendar.

Chuseok-SongpyunChuseok occurs on the same date as the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, although curiously the beautiful harvest moon is not really a focal point of Chuseok celebrations.  It is much more about celebrating the harvest and venerating ancestors and also spending time with family.  All schools and businesses close down for at least three days during Chuseok and people travel to their native cities and villages to spend time with family and enjoy lavish meals.  In this regard, Chuseok bears a sticking resemblance to the American Thanksgiving. It is common in many homes for the younger generations to wear traditional costumes and kowtow to elderly family members as a sign of respect while making their annual Chuseok visit. In addition to paying respects to living relatives, it is also a time to honor the dead.  It is a common practice to visit cemeteries in the days leading up to Chuseok and clean and decorate the family tombs in preparation for the holiday.  In addition to visiting familial graves, it is a common practice to prepare a table at home called a Charye on which food offerings are placed for the ancestors.  Soup and rice are placed on the north sides of the table, on the south freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, on the west meat and on the east rice cakes and drinks.  Also, a small plate of food is placed outside the home for wandering spirits who may not have families to prepare an altar for them.  There are also regional customs throughout Korea and different local ways of honoring ancestors and making offerings, but the custom of remembering one’s family both living and departed remains a constant theme of Chuseok wherever it is celebrated.

There are also many secular aspects to the celebration of Chuseok in modern times.  Starting in the 1960’s it became customary to give gifts to family members and friends.  At first the typical gifts were household items that people would commonly need such as soap, shampoo, socks etc. but as Korea became more prosperous the gifts became more elaborate and today they can be as expensive and extravagant as one’s personal finances will permit.  Playing games and engaging in folk dances are traditional activities and it is customary to indulge in a variety of sticky rice cakes called songpyeon filled with syrups and other sweet fillings.  Chuseok is celebrated in both North and South Korea but in the north it tends to be a much more subdued affair as freedom of religion and movement are highly restricted in North Korea making it difficult to perform ancestor veneration rituals and travel to different parts of the country to see family.  In fact, from the 1950’s until the 1980’s the celebration of Chuseok was forbidden all together.  Today most people in the north make a simple visit to their family graves and may indulge in a more elaborate meal than usual during Chuseok if supplies and money permit.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief discussion of Chuseok which I feel is a beautiful way of honoring family both living and departed and celebrating the bounty of the Earth.  I hope that you are enjoying the fall season and as always I wish you peace, happiness and abundant blessings!

September Love Potion

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roses-pdWe are now heading into my favorite time of year.  It is no secret that I absolutely love the fall season and await it impatiently all throughout the balmy days of summer.  To me it is the most magical of seasons when the Earth gives us her gifts in the form of a bountiful harvest and the trees and their leaves put on a spectacular color show before resting during the long winter months.  Today I would like to talk about a ritual that I perform this time of year, which is the brewing and blessing of a love potion that by its very nature can only be made once a year on the 9th of September at 9am or 9pm.  The resulting blessed liquid is meant to be sprinkled around a room while entertaining a lover to drive him or her mad with passion.  It can also be used to anoint candles burnt for purposes of love and applied discretely to gifts given to intended partners to draw them to you.  It is definitely a potent love potion and one of the most sought after items that I prepare for matters of the heart.

The recipe for this particular potion exploded onto Wiccan, Pagan and other spiritually included newsgroups and message boards in the 90’s when the internet was in its infancy and I suspect before that it existed in oral and possibly printed form prior to that.  It was usually called “Love Potion Number 9” no doubt taking its name from the popular 1959 song by The Clovers which describes the dazzling effects of a potion given by a mysterious magical woman to a young man.  I’m sure that some clever witch created this potion sometime in the 1960’s or afterwards based on the title of this popular song, however the ingredients and procedure for blessing the potion are entirely based in solid magical folk knowledge found in various spiritual traditions.  Even the number 9 has highly mystical and magical properties as we will discuss further below.  While most likely developed by a modern Pagan or eclectic witch, this potion has become popular with practioners of Hoodoo and other spiritual paths who will often brew a yearly batch.  Each individual spiritual practitioner will often add different ingredients or employ his or her own particular methods for blessing the potion appropriate to his or her spiritual tradition, but across the board one rule remains steadfast: this potion can only be made once each year on the 9th of September and it must be magically charged either at 9 am or 9 pm on that day.

While I’m sure that this potion was named after and inspired by the hit song Love Potion No. 9, it is worth mentioning that the number 9 from a numerological standpoint is quite powerful.  It is a number of tolerance, peace, power and, above all else, love.  This is true not only in western numerology, but also in Asian cultures.  In fact, in China the 9th of September is one of the most popular days for scheduling weddings since the number 9 is associated with good luck in matters of love and having one’s wedding on this day will give the marriage an auspicious start.  The potion itself makes heavy use of the number 9, not only with the date and time of its brewing but also many of the ingredients themselves are added in 9’s: the petals of 9 pink roses, 9 cinnamon sticks, 9 cloves etc. and 9 pink or red candles are used in the blessing of the potion after the brewing.  A base of red wine or cranberry juice is common as well since red is a color of passion and love.  The exact ingredients I use for my recipe are a personal secret as is the case for most witches and spiritual workers, but I will say that I brew the potion earlier in the day on the 9th of September and begin the blessing promptly at 9 pm.  You can also bless or magically charge the potion at 9 am, but I’ve never been much of a morning person!

I hope you have enjoyed learning about the September love potion and if you wish to acquire some for personal use, don’t hesitate to contact me.  I thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and as always I wish you peace, happiness and abundant blessings.

 

 

Potato Doll Weight Loss Spell

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Today I would like to share a highly effective spell for weight loss that works on the principal of sympathetic magic.  The name of this spell sounds incredibly funny but it is a fun to perform and highly effective for weight loss.  The use of dolls is a fundamental part of folk magic and sympathetic magic and is a valuable tool for focusing energy.  Dolls for spiritual use can be made out of many materials- cloth, wax, moss and in this case even potatoes! I first learned this spell in the late 90’s from a kitchen witch in New England named Wendy.  Since then I have recommended it to others who have reported great success.

 

You will need:

One large potato

A carving knife

 

Sit in a quiet room with the potato and knife where you can focus and meditate undisturbed.

 

Carve the potato into a human shape.

 

Hold it in your hands and meditate, imagining that it represents yourself.

 

Take the knife and mark X’s of the areas of your body from which you’d like to rid yourself of excess weight.

 

Continue to hold the potato doll and meditate for as long as you’d like, imagining your ideal body shape and ideal state of health.

 

Take the doll outside to a quiet place somewhere in nature and leave it there.

 

As you walk away, pray in your own way and in your own words asking that your excess weight be taken away and that you be blessed with perfect health, happiness and the body you desire.

 

I hope you have enjoyed this post and if you decide to give the potato doll spell a try, please share your experience with me.  I thank you for taking the time to visit by blog and as always I wish you peace, happiness and abundant blessings!

 

 

Garden Update

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IMG_2760As we enter the month of August, despite the intense heat, we can begin to see the very early signs of transition to the fall season, my favorite time of year!  The sun it setting a bit earlier each day and the nights are filled with cooler breezes and of course the abundance of the harvest begins to come in by the truckload.  August 1st marks the observance of Lammas in many Wiccan and Pagan circles which is a celebration of the early Harvest.  The observance of Lammas was also recognized in the Christian church especially in England where it was a tradition to make a loaf of bread out of freshly harvested wheat on this day and bring it to the local parish to be blessed.  I have written about Lammas more extensively in a blog post last year, but I will say again that this is definitely the early start of my favorite time of year!

IMG_2765In celebration of Lammas and the coming autumn, I have harvested and hung to dry the majority of the flowers and herbs that I have been growing over the summer.  Today I just wanted to share some photos of the plants that I’ve harvested from my magical garden. They will be used in my various spells, potions and charms prepared throughout the year and also burned as on offering at my annual Halloween gathering.  We are about to embark on a truly magical and exciting time of year.

I thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and I wish you peace, happiness and abundance during the magical season and always!

The Lucky Buddha

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Chinese Spirit BowlAnybody who knows me knows that I love Chinese food.  Everything from traditional dishes from different regions of China to classic Americanized Chinese food, I eat it all.  I’ve spent many fun nights with friends and family getting takeout and having long leisurely dinners in kitschy 1950’s style Tiki-Polynesian-Chinese themed restaurants.  One decoration that is ubiquitous in such establishments is the fat, smiling laughing Buddha known popularly as the Lucky Buddha.  Sometimes he is presented as simply a fun decoration and restaurant patrons are encouraged to rub his round belly for luck and other times I have had the privilege of seeing him on kitchen altars out of sight of customers next to images of other Taoist gods and ancestor portraits where restaurant owners and workers appeal to him to request good luck and financial blessings.  Most likely introduced to American society by Chinese immigrants in 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Lucky Buddha has moved beyond Chinese owned businesses into spiritualist and Hoodoo circles and into American homes in general as a symbol of good luck and fortune.  Often times he is kept simply as an ornament and not taken seriously, but for those who are spiritually included, the Lucky Buddha can help summon tremendous wealth and good fortune.

GOLDENLuckyBuddhaIt may come as a surprise to many that the Lucky Buddha is not in fact Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.  I only recently learned this myself.  He is in fact called Budai and was a traveling monk in China born in the city of Zhejiang during the Liang Dynasty.  Budai would travel from place to place and was known to carry a large sack of gifts that he would deliver to locals and he had a reputation for laughing and smiling.  Hence his association with wealth, abundance and joy and his depiction in popular imagery as a round laughing man carrying a huge sack overflowing with gifts and surround by coins and other symbols of good luck and prosperity.  Budai is believed by followers of Chinese Buddhism to be the incarnation of Maitreya, the future Buddha.  This belief came about due to Budai’s last words:

 

彌勒真彌勒,化身千百億,時時示世人,時人自不識

 

Maitreya, the true Maitreya
has billions of incarnations.
Often he is shown to people at the time;
other times they do not recognize him.

The idea that Budai is in fact Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, no doubt came about as a result of lack of knowledge and confusion regarding the similarity of the words “Buddha” and “Budai” on the part of Westerners after being introduced to the West by Chinese immigrants to America and Europe.  Over time Budai became commonly known as The Lucky Buddha.  Budai is also known in Japan where he is called Hotei and is counted as one of the Seven Lucky Gods.  Today many people in China and elsewhere in the world keep images of the Lucky Buddha and believe in his ability to drawn wealth and luck even if they do not follow Chinese Buddhism or Taoism that closely.

 

Starting the early 1900’s, the Lucky Buddha began to appear in Hoodoo circles in the American South.  This does not surprise me since Hoodoo practitioners live by the philosophy that if it works, we use it.  So it’s not hard to believe that the Lucky Buddha was quickly assimilated into Hoodoo practice after it was seen to be effective in Chinese businesses.  Another important Hoodoo product that was influenced by Chinese immigrants is the Chinese floor wash about which I have written previously on this blog.  Lucky Buddhas quickly became an important addition to money altar among practitioners.  Lucky Buddha candles can be found at pretty much any botanica or spiritual shop that caters to the needs of practitioners of African diaspora religions.  Such candles are highly effective in drawing luck and money to a business or to one’s life in general, and I highly recommend them.  I personally have a Lucky Buddha statue on my money altar and I do light Lucky Buddha candles as well.  At the very least, I would recommend keeping a small Lucky Buddha image in your home or place of business as its mere presence summons money and luck.

 

I have an interesting Lucky Buddha story that happened in the early 90’s to an acquaintance of mine from Boston named Lois.  Lois was in the mall one day and she saw small Lucky Buddha figurines.  One in particular that was make out of an opaque green glow in the dark material caught her eye.  She bought the Buddha and after only taking a few steps, she found a $5 bill on the ground and picked it up.  On her way home, she stopped at a convenience store and bought a scratch off lottery ticket and scratched it off in her car.  She screamed in delight when she realized she had won $7000 dollars!  She used that money to open a manicure business which did phenomenally well and expanded into other forms of cosmetology.  Lois always kept the Lucky Buddha on view in her shop and told her story of lottery luck after buying the statue to anyone who would listen.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that Lois, now close to 70 years old, has finally retired with a tremendous amount of money.  I’m sure the Lucky Buddha played a role in her ongoing success!

 

I hope you have enjoyed this post and I thank you for taking the time to visit my blog.  As always, I wish you peace, happiness and abundant blessings!