by Selena Fox
originally in Fall 2011, pp. 31-32
Every year, at our Welcome Summer Festival, in early June at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, we craft a special kind of herbal amulet known as Spirit Bags, for members of the Pagan Spirit Gathering Community.
We make enough so that each participant in the Pagan Spirit Gathering can receive one upon arrival and use it as part of personal and group spiritual activities throughout the week. We also make some extras, which later are given to others as tokens of healing and well being.
Each Spirit Bag consists of a small fabric pouch made from a square of all-cotton cloth and containing a blend of dried herbs and a small sacred stone. The cloth, once filled at its center is tied with a piece of yarn, which in turn is tied to a circlet fashioned from a longer piece of yarn.
Each year, we select fabric, yarn ties, and a type of sacred stone to match the theme for that year’s Summer Solstice festival. For 2011, our theme is Solstice Magic, and we have Tiger’s Eye, representing healing, protection, wisdom, awareness, prosperity, and well being.
The fabric and the yarn may be a solid color or patterned. For 2011, the fabric is lavender with a pattern of white celestial six rayed sun stars with arches representing motion, and the yarn is white to match the Solstice Stars. Our fabric squares are of uniform size and usually are between four and five inches square, depending on fabric width.
Every year, we select and combine dried sacred herbs grown in fields, forests, and gardens of our land, Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in southwestern Wisconsin. We ritually harvest these magical herbs, dry, blend them, and then place a bit of them, along with a stone in each Spirit Bag we create.
The blend of herbs each year has Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) as its main ingredient. Mugwort is a versatile ritual herb used to enhance intuition and bless dreaming as well as to cleanse, heal, nurture, protect, and consecrate. It also is an herb associated with Summer Solstice celebrations.
Other herbs that usually are part of the blend include dried leaves of Mint, Yarrow, Bee Balm, Sage, Thyme, and Lemon Balm.
Participants wear their Spirit Bags around their necks during the Pagan Spirit Gathering. Some continue to wear them after the Gathering. Others place them on their altars or hang them in their dwellings as home blessing charms.
* Focus: decide on the purpose of the Spirit Bags you will be creating and qualities.
As with the creation of other sacred objects, it is important to keep spiritual intentions in mind at each part of Spirit Bag crafting as well as during completion and throughout use.
* Fabric: select a natural fabric of a color and pattern suited to the focus. An all (100%) cotton fabric works well. Cut the fabric into five-inch squares. Have one for each person who will be receiving one.
* Yarn: select a soft yet durable yarn of a color that matches or complements the fabric. Cut a six-inch tie and an eighteen-inch piece to serve as the necklace for each Spirit Bag.
* Herbs: select dried herbs with spiritual properties that suit the focus of the Spirit Bags. Place them in a large, non-metal container, such as an enamelware canning pot, plastic cauldron, or large wooden salad bowl. Name the spiritual qualities of each herb that you wish to activate as you place herbs in the container and begin the blending process. Then thoroughly mix the herbs, removing twigs and any prickly parts as you do. There should be enough herbal mixture to fill but not stuff each bag.
* Stone: select a type of sacred stone that suits the purpose of the Spirit Bags. Stones should be small and of similar size and shape. A good source are tumbled stone chips that are typically sold in strands at craft stores and rock shops.
Assemble the items for Spirit Bag making. Have enough tabletop space available for the Spirit Bags crafting process.
Do a spiritual centering and attunement. Connect with the sacred according to your own path and ask blessings on the crafting process. Connect with the spirits of the herbs and the stone, and ask for their support. Call to mind the focus of the Spirit Bags.
Place fabric squares, with the outer side down on a table. In making multiple Spirit Bags, it is best to have enough tables so that every piece of fabric can be laid out. Next to each square, place a single yarn tie.
Now place a single stone in the center of each fabric square. Call the spiritual properties of the stones in mind as well as the focus of the Spirit Bags as you place each stone.
Once all the stones are placed, take a large pinch of the herb blend, about the size of a strawberry or large grape and set it atop the stone in the center of each square of fabric. There should be enough of the herb blend to fill but not overly stuff each Spirit Bag so that it can be securely tied when its four corners are brought together. Call to mind the focus of the Spirit Bags as you set the herbs in place.
The next step is to craft each Spirit Bag. Pull each of the four corners of a fabric square up so that they touch each other. Compress the herbs and stone together in the fabric to form a small ball-like pouch. Tie the yarn piece firmly in a knot to secure the pouch.
Once the Spirit Bags have been tied with the shorter lengths of yarn, take each longer length of yarn and tie its two ends together to form a circlet. Place a circlet by each Spirit Bag. Now, placing the knotted end of a circlet next to the knot of the shorter yarn tie of a Spirit Bag, take the two ends of the shorter yarn tie and tie them twice to affix the circlet to the Spirit Bag.
The circlet with the Spirit Bag attached can now be worn around the neck. Or, to wear later, hang it on a hook or wrap the circlet of yarn around the ends of the Spirit Bag so that it can be unwrapped later.
Once the Spirit Bags have been assembled, energize each one and all together with blessings connected with the focus of the Spirit Bags. This can be done through chanting, prayers, and/or visualization. Once energized, Spirit Bags should be handled with care as with other sacred items.
Spirit Bags can be used in a variety of ways. The most common way to work with a Spirit Bag is to wear it around your neck. It also can be hung or placed in your home or vehicle, or carried in a briefcase or purse. It can be placed in a bedroom under a pillow or above or beside the bed as a dream charm.
Spirit Bags not only can be crafted for use by one’s self, but can be crafted for others and given as gifts, such as to a newborn as part of a baby blessing rite, to a couple at their wedding or handfasting, or to a friend moving into a new home.
A Spirit Bag can be crafted as an offering and can be left at a shrine, temple, circle, or other sacred site. Crafted for healing a loved one, it can be placed on or near the one in need, or worn by the one in need.
When not wearing or using a Spirit Bag, keep it in an honored place, such as on an altar or in a box with sacred jewelry. Care for it as you would other sacred objects.
Should a time come to dispose of a Spirit Bag, express thanks to the sacred forces that were part of its crafting, do a prayer of release, and then return it to Nature in some way. Bury it at a sacred site or by a favorite tree. Or, cast it into a sacred fire. Or, cut the tie and cast the herbs to the wind or into flowing water.
A wonderful way to store and display Spirit Bags crafted for various purposes over time is to affix them to a grapevine hoop, hung on a door, wall or other place in the home.
Spirit Bag crafting and spiritual work can deepen one’s connection with the sacred dimensions of plants, stones, and life, and can serve as a reminder of the greater Circle of Nature of which we are all part.