LECTURE: Verdant Versipellis: The Arte and Role of Flora and Entheogens in Shape-Shifting
Ritual chanting undulates into a cacophony of whines and howls, echoes between the trees amongst the thicket where the only iridescence looms over clandestine activities like a pale dead eye. Shadows twist and flux becoming something born anew. Throughout history, the utilization of plants as talismans, medicinal cures, or for baneful reasons has been associated with infamy to sorcerers and witches alike, highlighted through tales of pacts with eldritch creatures, bargains with devils and a whole slew of transfigurations as punishments. Very few of these connections occur in literature and lore with as much fervent frequency as those with witches and werewolves. The place of the shapeshifter within most societies often parallels claims of witchcraft and devilry, what social or spiritual phenomena is it that these two concepts are blurred together? Through this presentation, we will explore these historical mentions and applications of shape-shifting by use of plants, oils, devices, and unguents as they have progressed from folktale warnings to avoid the forests at night, to modern animistic cults that employ poisonous practices to better understand the human animal. This presentation will also detail some of the most (and lesser) known plants tied with folklore surrounding shape-shifting, as well as different cultural beliefs, practices, and reasons for changing one’s shape, and becoming more of the animal within.
WORKSHOP: The Animal Masks of the Forest (3 hours)
The act of using masks in a magical setting is to aid in the separation from the mask worn for the world to see and to invoke the strengths of the true face. In other cases, a mask serves as a way to separate the practitioner from their own ego to assume that of another. Some ritualistic acts deploy masks as a way to obscure what is hidden beneath. The process of taking a new shape is as modern as it is old, practices such as the woad based pigments of the Picts, the healing masks of the faceless society of the Iroquois, ceremonial dances that express core elements of belief, and even to the application of modern war paint in preparation to handle daily challenges and interaction. These are examples of forms of masks that are used to invoke alternate consciousness through the concepts of the subconscious and focus to obtain strength or esoteric knowledge from outside sources.
This workshop will offer a discussion about the Norse concept of hamr, hamingja, and fylgja. , and other ideas of merging and expressing the liminal lines between human and animal commonly explored within the constructs of mental shape-shifting. While the hands-on portion will focus on elements of the plant realm gathered from the natural environment to be formed into new faces for use in ritual workings. The workshop will then apply these masks and optional herbal imbibements to explore the practical perceptions of shape-shifting magic through a group chant and reflection.
Materials Fee: $0
Vex Blòðstjarna has been a self-taught occultist for over twenty years, focusing on totemic animal spirits and the Norse mysteries. His practice ties indigenous animism from his surroundings in Eastern Washington and from familial roots of Scandinavian hunting rituals. Vex is a tinkerer, Mead-Brewer, distiller, wildcrafter and the primitive theurge and skin carver of Ars Feralis. Vex has studied the Prima level of alchemy at the Spagyricus Institute and is an artist of the bones, skins, roots, and flowers of the animal and plant spirits that he venerates, as well as a crafter of Neolithic stone tools. Vex is well versed in runes and other Northern European practices and is a former member of a well-known rune guild, as well as a 2nd degree Mason. Vex likes fire and spending time overlooking the river, exploring the forests and enjoying the company of his four-legged companions.