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The Spell is Over: Now What?

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The Spell is Over: Now What?

Postby jcrowfoot » Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:49 am

The Spell is Over: NOW What? Juniper's little guide to cleaning tools and spellwork hygene


So you've done your spell and your altar is a mess. Your silver is tarnishing as you watch, and that CLR is looking mighty expensive. Anyway, what kind of vibe does it leave behind? You have gotten candle wax... everywhere, and it was a love spell. Yummy red wax! It stains! Oh, and those red poppy, dragon's blood and red sandalwood stains in the carpet! How do I get my stag horns shiny and new looking without scratching? Should I consecrate my screwdriver before I use it to pry the mostly consumed candles out of the votive holder? Answers to this and more arrive fresh from the peanut gallery to you... from your friendly neighborhood OCD witch!

Also contained within this series of articles are things like: how to use a dip pen (without making a big mess!), setting up an easy-to-clean charcoal burner, etc.

Special thanks to Green Birch Learning circle, where I learned some of this. The rest I figured out on my own, and I stole an idea or two from Silver Ravenwolf. Hey! Don't look at me like that!
She does have good ideas! I only steal good ideas!

First Things First: What's in Your Toolkit?

I should warn you in advance that I love tools, and have one for every occasion. Pagans in the community call this "Hardware-ian" and I am a shameful zealot in this practice and philosophy. So my toolkit is pretty extensive, and if you are clever, I'm sure you can take my list, cut it in half (possibly several times, depending on how elaborate you get in your spells), and be perfectly well suited for any occasion. These are what I call "support tools", which basically means tools to take care of your ritual implements and other hardware, such as candle holders, incense burners, and the like. Many of them have multiple uses.

    1 flat head screwdriver size #1
    1 mini eyeglass screw driver; robust
    1 small chisel
    1 dental pick
    2 awls in small and large
    1 brass toothed bristle brush
    2 toothbrushes; one is a head from a mechanical tooth brush which is round, the other is a standard child's tooth brush.
    2 needles, one embroidery and the other a darning needle
    1 small ball-peen hammer
    1 small to medium sized pastry brush
    1 small painter's palette knife
    1 small steel puddy knife
    1 pocket knife
    a collection of (inexpensive) camel (or "hog bristle") artist's brishes
    a white rubber eraser
    a gum eraser
    a rubber spatula
    a smudging stick*
    an orange stick
    tea towels

Many of these will never need replacing, save the tooth brushes and maybe the artist brushes.
If you use plastic palette knives, then they will probably break eventually...
but steel lasts for many years. Even my pastry brush, which was camel bristle and cheap unvarnished wood, lasted for years. I even decorated it with little pretty witchy doodles with a ball point pen, which kept one from seeing the stains that it gathered over the years. ;-)
The smudge stick is not what you think it is. It's a rubber or paper tipped smear tool used in the art trades for using with things like charcoal or water color or other paint. It is very useful for cleaning plated items and also removing wax. If you don't have one of those, then use a pencil eraser works well, too... I'm just a perfectionist and have these kinds of art supplies hanging around my house.

Now, What do you use them tools for?
... Let me count the ways.

Screwdrivers: Unless you have big candle holders, or routinely use cauldrons or make your own candles, this is probably the closest you have to get to a chisel. Believe me, you won't often need to use this for it's intended purpose. Prying off lids, removing candle wax off of *many* things, and general scraping crusty waxy or otherwise stuck stuff off of other surfaces. Just be careful as it can easily scratch the surfaces of your things.

The Eyeglass Screw Driver is especially handy for re-opening
wine or other cork related bottles that may get testy or crusty. The idea is to loosen the area around the cork with the side of the blade of the screw driver to give yourself some breathing room before you open the jar. Also, this prevents tearing the cork when you open the bottle.
It works well too, for opening bottles that have been previously sealed with wax. If you do this, however, you probably want to (spiritually) cleanse it first, and boff on a quickie protection spell.

The Chisel is used for many of the same things that the screw driver is for, only when you need something more robust, or you are seeing metal bits flying off the screw driver when you use it. So, things like cleaning your charcoal incense burner, the burned bottom of a cauldron, or scraping off the rough end of a ceramic panticle. I've also used one for removing cruft from oil diffusers that use a flame heat source. You will want to oil the surface with jojoba oil so you are less likely to scratch the surface. Also, there's a product that coats steel with a layer of silicon rubber, which also prevents scratching. This can be bought for somewhere between five and ten bucks at a jewelry maker's or beader's supply sites or stores.

Dental Picks, Awls and Ice picks AND needles
I have a small awl that I've consecrated, since I use it to clean off wax from consecrated jewelry, carve initials and symbols into candles, This this works harder than just about any sharp pointy thing I have, and that's saying a great deal, since I carve wood on and off. I also use them to carve initials on the bottom of some of my nicer ritual tools that I might lend to groups in need of temporary swag. It also great for stabbing things... well, you get the idea. I also use them to break up wax in preperation for making candles, and testing the doneness of baked goods.
My smallest was actually made from a paper clip. It's biggest job is getting wax out of bevels and detail figures in candle holders or statuary.

Brass toothed bristle brish
This tool is excellent at removing crushed wax from things. This is useful for cleaning cauldrons too. The brass bristles actually don't scratch unless the metal is softer than brass... so be careful if you are using it on things like copper. However, I've been told that they can be used for polishing things like copper, but I haven't tried that yet. I'll report back on a sample peice of copper that's going to be polished and used for something else. DO NOT use on glass, plastic, or ceramic with delicate finishes.

I'd use these on things like silver and copper and your more delicate stuff. They handle a lot of dirty jobs remarkably well. I also use them to clean glass and ceramic objects with delicate finishes, even silk! I tend to use soft bristles.
Ball Peen hammer
Ok, it doesn't have to be. I like them, and they tend to be smaller and lighter than a regular hammer, so basically get a small hammer.
Also, it's easier to put leather on the tip of it so you can soften the blow further. There are some cauldron cleaning operations I've found that really need a hammer. I also use the hammer to break up wax in hard to clean out candle holders (one or two gentle taps are all that's needed)
Pastry Brush
I prefer the camel haired variety, since the finer bristles mean the tool is more versitile. I used this the most often for sweeping up salt, powders, ashes, graveyard dust and herbs from my altar. It's also great for cleaning out the last of the cruft on the bottom of a mortar and pessle, getting the last of the salt out of containers.
(cheap) Artist's Paint Brushes
The coarse camel hair brushes with long handles that you can buy in a number of shapes in one big pack for six to ten bucks is what you want. They shouldn't be the really cheap kind you get in water color sets for children, because they don't last long enough to be useful and aren't robust enough for any of the tasks one could use them for.
They are best for cleaning out hard-to-reach places at the bottom of jars and bottles. Witchy bottles seem to have all those crevises that stuff likes to stick in, and this is my solution. Some of that, and some lava (or dish soap) in the bottle and some water. You can also use them like gentle dish scrubbers for ceramic oil diffusers and cleaning out crumbs of wax from inside holders.
Puddy knives and Pallete Knives
The palette knife is useful for things like... scraping flat ceramic surfaces that you don't quite trust to awls or chisels. basically they have plastic ones and steel ones. The plasic ones are pretty robust, and can be used for this purpose, but you will be replacing them once in a while.
I use puddy knives to scrape wax off of kitchen floors, stoves and other large flat surfaces. The chisel doesn't do this nearly as well, and is likely to cause more damage. It also is good for cleaning off glass top tables, but be careful to test to see just how much elbow grease it takes to scratch glass.

Smudging Stick and Orange Stick
These are yet other things that can be used for more delicate, scratch-prone surfaces for cleaning wax. I spend a lot of time cleaning wax out of things, so I have lots of tools for it. But then, I re-use my novena candles and other pourable candles, too...
I use various erasers to remove wax and other gloppy things from fabric and other related surfaces. This is great for stuff that needs TLC or those particularly sticky things like resins and molten/charred gums.

This is a fine piece of suede leather, with oils in it, that is traditionally used by car enthusiasts to clean cars. It also works for various surfaces we use, like silver and other metals. It also can ease away rust and other crusty kinds of deposits.

Sponge Believe it or not, I use it for more than cleaning!
I have a special sponge that I moisten and keep next to my dip pen for wiping off the pen just after dipping and also to take away excess ink after you've finished a line. Sponges are also good for things like keeping near by during long lengthly rituals where candle-light generates too much heat. Also, a wet sponge picks up a lot of cruft from the ritual table after the brush has picked up most of it!
I also use a dry sponge to wipe the shavings off of a candle after it's been carved, and a clean dry sponge also as an emergency parking place for for spheres and eggs. Just don't put a hot candle holder or incense burner on them, as they will most likely melt. The vast majority of them are made from plastics these days.

Next time, I'll talk about the items I keep around, and the kinds of cleansers I make from them, and what they are good for. Many of these ideas can be used to clean your house, as well!
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Postby jcrowfoot » Thu Jan 10, 2008 11:08 pm

Solvents, Cleansers, and Abrasives, oh my!

Here's a list of various cleansers that I have on hand that both are effective for cleaning, and do spiritual cleansing as well. With this list I have some techniques for using them.

Materials for Cleansing
    Salt (Kosher)
    Epsom Salt
    Baking Soda
    Lemon Juice
    Witch Hazel (that liquid stuff you buy at the Pharmacy)

It may seem silly to have water on the list, but the truth is, we don't pay enough attention to it, or truly respect it for what it is. Sure, we have an entire quadrant on our circle dedicated to it on our Model of the Universe (aka the Circle) but it's physical qualities and it's abilities as a cleanser should be examined. To give you an idea of just how corrosive water is... ask some scientists who were studying the beginning of life and found that in their "beginning of life" solution, not only was water the most corrosive element in that primordial soup, but the water broke down the BOROSILICATE GLASS in which they were conducting the experiment. To put this in perspective, hydrochloric acid can't do that. Then they tried quartz, on the theory that quartz is a very prevalent element in the soil, but again, it ate away too much of that, and they had to use a vessel of schist instead.

Now, I don't know how long that mixture had to sit, while they did this. When you soak your quartz stones in it, it does eat away a little bit from the surfaces of the stones, but not enough that one would really notice.
Just don't leave it in there for more than a week.
Not only was it used for food preservation, but also a was the most common household cleanser in the ancient world. When an ancient Roman had a bath, he rubbed his body with salt and olive oil, then scraped it off with a stick followed by a good rinse. It was also used to scrub dishes, and wash floors and on tough stains. It is useful as a scouring agent that doesn't scratch. I use it for cleaning out my mortars after grinding herbs, particularly resins. First I use a brush to take out all the loose material. Then I take some salt, and the pestle and start working the inside. After I've gotten as much stuff as I can, I then add more salt until it is clear that either this techniques are not working, or that there is no more to flake off. Remove half the salt, then put water into the mortar half way up. Continue to use the pestle to work off the material. Then, dump out the water. This should clear out the rest, then rinse it with some witch hazel. Then dry.

You can clean off crusty bits on your incense burners the same way, using the pestle. If that doesn't work, you can make a paste of water and salt or baking soda, and let it set on there for a few minutes, then use a pestle or a brush whether a toothbrush or the fancy brass bristle brush to remove the material.
Wipe down with a chamois after the scrubbing.

If the burned on bits on your incense burner are bad, you can take the lemon juice and dab it on the place, then put on the baking soda paste.

For cleaning copper, soak in lemon juice, and then scrub with salt and a soft brush or sponge.

Do the same for silver, only use baking soda instead of salt. You can use vinegar in place of lemon juice.

To get to the bottom of scalded cauldrons, you can use some Epsom salts and regular salt with your pestle. Add some vinegar, and use the brass brush.

Always rinse the objects after scrubbing with the witch hazel before drying. It clears the vibes after cleansing the objects.
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Postby jcrowfoot » Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:06 pm

Misc. Cleaning Tips

Altar Setups for Sanity
Sometimes, Proper prep is your best defense against the mess. For example: Altar cloths. Do you have one that you worked hard, and sewn by hand or cost a bundle? Well, here are some things you can do so that it works as a working altar as well holding those items you cherish without damaging them.

1. Get candle holder platforms. You can use ceramic bathroom tiles. Just put them under the candle holder. Or you can find small tins with scalloped edges that can catch drips and prevent heat from scorching the fabric underneath. Ceramic trays for flower pots (without holes on the bottom!) work well, too. You can even decorate them appropriately if you think they look dull! The added stability will also help prevent candle tippage.

2. Get a working area altar cloth. Have that nice altar cloth on the outside, but use a smaller, more easily replaced cloth actually under the items that might cause damage. I like using tea towels, bandannas or men's handkerchiefs. These can be dyed to match intent and you can buy a big bunch of them for under $10 US. Bandannas, as an added bonus, can be purchased in MANY colors and intents. I've even seen some that have money in high denominations printed on it (good for getting needed cash) or some in camo pattern (good for protection and "you can't see me") and some with red hearts on it (for love). I've seen these at dollar stores for 50 cents a pop. Then, you have the bigger fancier one underneath that, so you still add the energy to your ritual, but don't risk the fine fabrics to the tender mercies of your spell.

3. If you REALLY want to see that nice fabric under your candles and statues, oh, my... then forgo all this silliness and get a glass table top for your altar space. This goes ON TOP your altar cloth. You will still need the ceramic tiles for your candles since heat from those or a flaming cauldron will shatter your glass unless it's specially tempered. This will be easier to clean, and will look very nice. If you do this, you may want to put cushioning velvet on the foot portions of various objects that go on your altar, like your chalice or big heavy stones... anything you will be picking up and putting down on your altar surface, since a sharp strike from any of these objects could in theory shatter your glass.

3_b, Oh, and if you do go the glass route, you may want to add a razor blade to your cleaning supplies. I recommend those with a safety handle... the scraping kind, not the cutting kind for tape and boxes and stuff. It's a plastic handle that is only about a 1/2 inch or so long and may have a snap on cover that will cover the blade while not in use. You will find it near the window re-cauking supplies, glass cutters and the like, since it's used by professionals for removing paint from glass. I know this because my favorite easel when painting in oils in college was a glass easel.

5, Obsessive compulsive time: I even use small area rugs around the foot of my altar so if I drip wax on it I can just replace it with something else. You can get small cheap rugs in the home fashions department of Meijers, Target, or any large general-purpose store. Sometimes you can find them in Pharmacies too. I like using the rag rug type, or an attractive runner that leads up to and under the front edge of the altar but doesn't actually go underneath it. This is especially important for altars held up with pillars, since you don't want anything to get in the way of it's stability.

Misc Tips for Fabric Care

Dust and dirt, ashes and powder...
Fortunately there is a product for this. You can get tack cloth at the hardware store, probably near the lumber yard, or by the paint supplies. It's very cheap, and is this sticky cloth that will pick up the finest powders and ashes and picks them up completely. Really handy stuff! I like keeping a few of them in their own tin, since they tend to be very tacky and somewhat oily to the touch. Oddly, I've never had them get my clothes or other objects oily or stained. This also works really well for cleaning up altar spaces and other objects smeared with talc, ashes, dirt saw dust, or powder of any kind.

Removing wax from fabric can also be a problem. I have this amazing doe suede robe I love to wear... until I spilled a large splatter of red wax on it. This I wound up having to take to a professional dry cleaner, since this velour-like fabric would have been damaged if I'd pulled out the wax even frozen. So keep your limitations in mind.

So, if you don't have napping or pile in your fabric (piled fabrics include: courderoy, velvet, velour, doe suede, suede, and terry cloth) you can freeze them and the wax should come right off.

For blood, blot the excess with a cold damp cloth, then can use hydrogen peroxide. This works even for dried blood, but not if it's been run through the washer.

Making Things: Setup

When I blend essential oils for anointing or spell oil or spritzer, I always use a plastic drop cloth on my table surface, topped with two ply of paper towel. Then I have a separate glass dish with a towel in it, that holds my clean eyedroppers. Near that, I have a glass dish filled with hot water spiked with dish detergent. I have one dropper per scent. (not for all I own, but between cleanings... and I try to use the same dropper with the same scent, but I don't always succeed) This way, I don't get cross contamination, and if there is spillage I can bundle it up quickly and toss it away and replace it with new stuff.

Misc.Safety Tips
1. Windows : the only good place for my altars when I'm not using them is in front of a window. I tend to move everything away from that window when I work, since there are blinds there that could, in theory catch fire if they got in the way of the candle flame. I never use drapes in the temple room, because they are like elevators for flames. This is a safety thing, not really a cleaning thing, but worth saying anyway.

2. If you use candles at all, be sure you get a small, new fire extinguisher to sit somewhere were you can easily reach it (INSIDE the circle!!) but won't trip over it. I like setting it on the north side of the altar, so I don't have to reach over the south to get it, since on my altar anyway, that's where most of the fire is, on the south.

A friend of mine, who works in a coven, actually has a small short fat pillar with a cushion that holds the coven fire extinguisher. It's always in plain sight, and always in the same place. They put it on the north side of the altar, just on the other side of the Gods shrine. The important thing is that it must be obvious where it is, and it must be out of your way when you are working in ritual space.

And, it must be close to hand when you are working. In her coven, there is a "circle officer" who's specific duty is to look for fire hazards and mind the extinguisher, in case others aren't really focusing on that. This post may also make sure that people respect the circle (especially when visitors are present... they do lots of open rituals) , so if you are starting a group, you may wish to consider making this a stated duty for someone in the circle.

I even keep an extra pail of water around if I'm working with burning things . This way, if I get hot wax on my hand I can plunge it in the water. Or if I'm suddenly holding an enthusiastically burning ribbon, I can just plunge it into the water rather than flinging it down in a panic and inadvertently starting my room on fire.
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