by A.C. Fisher Aldag
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
We Americans love our automobiles. Commuting to work, carpooling with the soccer team, driving to the mall; many of us spend more than three hours a day in the car. Others ride the subway or bus, hop on a bicycle to save gas, or walk for fitness and fun. However we get there, a spell of protection for travel can help us arrive in safety, and return swiftly home again.
Travelers throughout history have used spells and magically charged items to guard and guide their vehicles. The nomadic Romani people of Europe (also called Rom or Gypsies) created ornate talismans to protect their wagons. These power objects are still used today in modern automobiles. Native Americans of the Great Plains drew sigils on their horses, not only to identify which mount belonged to which hunter, but also for magical purposes. The ancient Mesopotamians and Greeks painted eyes on the prows of their boats, to help the vessel "see" where it was going. The tribes of Siberia wove beautiful rugs decorated with silver ornaments to cushion their saddles, and also to keep their horses from spiritual and physical harm. Originally, a mermaid or sea nymph figurehead was more than just a decoration for a ship—she protected the sailors from storms and sea monsters. Rituals such as "christening" a ship, or naming an aircraft after a significant person, may have roots in the tradition of calling on a specific entity to ask for magical aid.
Deities of many pantheons are aligned with transportation: Apollo with his chariot of the sun, Rhiannon or Epona astride her mystical horse, Neptune in his craft drawn by dolphins, Mercury speeding to carry messages on winged heels, Odin astride his eight-legged steed. Until recently, St. Christopher was the patron saint of travel in the Catholic tradition. Many people still carry a St. Christopher's medal for protection. Hercules, King Arthur, Jason, Rama, Isis, Vainamoinen, and Gilgamesh are associated with mythic quests. The Element most connected with transportation is Air, the Archangel attributed to movement is Raphael, and the Astrological ninth house represents travel. Animals related to an excursion include the horse (of course!) but also donkeys. llamas, elephants and camels; birds—especially wild geese and swallows; fish or sea mammals, particularly salmon and dolphins; and dogs including greyhounds, hunting hounds and the pack animals of Native American Indians. Totemic beasts associated with spiritual journeys include the eagle, wren, or sparrow; black or white dogs often thought to bring messages from the Otherworld; the white deer with seven antler points; the Celtic salmon of wisdom; and mystical steeds including the unicorn or Pegasus.
Real witches may not ride broomsticks, but we often perform traveler's spells before getting behind the wheel of a car. If your family has a teenager who is learning to drive, an elder who loves to attend bingo games after dark, or if you must commute to your job on busy city streets, you might wish to perform your own protective ritual for your vehicle. Even if you only jump in the car once a week to go to the grocery store, a talisman hanging from your rear-view mirror can be beneficial. Our family wouldn't dream of driving anywhere without saying a little prayer, doing a quick magical rite, and checking to make sure the "car charm" is in place. This small ritual may have saved my husband's life.
We live in a sparsely populated area, and we discovered that we needed to do a protection spell after a herd of deer bounced into our brand new minivan's front fenders. So for every Pagan holiday gathering and Sabbat celebration, we dutifully created an amulet for each car. I'm very glad we did. My husband Dave must drive to work on a dark, scary, lonesome country road at three o'clock in the morning. During a thunderstorm with raging sixty mile-per-hour winds, a huge maple tree swayed, cracked, and fell. Right on top of Dave's pickup truck. Yes, it actually fell onto the vehicle as he was driving it! The tree trunk crushed the entire hood. Its impact mangled the engine and flattened the tires, as one thick branch shattered the windshield. My husband walked away from the crash with only scratches. Afterward, our protective talisman looked as though it'd been burnt to a crisp. But it worked.
Magical adepts will remind us that incidents which we perceive as "bad" might actually be a learning experience, Karma, or a warning to heed the voice of the Universe. We can't always prevent every single problem with magic. Yet often we can minimize the severity of a catastrophe such as a car accident. Performing rituals, creating talismans, carrying power objects, casting spells, and saying prayers can grant us the capability of protecting ourselves from serious harm. My husband's truck was wrecked, but Dave lived to tell about it. That's good enough for me!
Llewellyn authors have published numerous books that can help a seeker to understand the magical process, such as Donald Michael Kraig's Modern Magic. This reference helps explain the "nuts and bolts" of a magical working. Further reading about a specific magical tradition, such as Wicca, Druidry, or Shamanism, may help you to perfect your technique. Once you know the basics, my simple eclectic rituals and spells for travel protection can be done by anyone, from a beginner to an adept. They can be adapted to a coven or group, or performed by a solitary Witch.
Many Americans give their vehicle a name, decorate its interior, and plaster the trunk with clever bumper stickers. Witchy folks can go one step further, and consecrate a car just as we would any other tool for magical use. You can perform a spiritual rite for your transportation, casting a Circle or creating sacred space around it. Acknowledge the directions, Elements, spirits, totems, and other entities related to travel, or call on your own personal deities and request their assistance. Ask your Guides to help protect you, to keep your vehicle safe from harm, and request that all its mechanical components work properly.
Summon power for a purification ritual, especially if the vehicle has been pre-owned. Smudge your car with sage and aspurge it with clear water, just the same as you would for your home or workspace. Or wait until you're at the carwash, and perform a cleansing rite during the rinse cycle. If you follow a shamanic path, drum around your automobile, and burn a pinch of cedar in the ashtray. Wiccans might bless the car with ritual implements related to the Elements, such as a splash of water for West or a candle to represent Fire. (Caution: Be very careful with lit candles, incense, or smudge sticks around vehicles. Upholstery can be flammable.)
You may wish to give your car a magical moniker, such as "Sleipnir" for Odin's horse, or "Speedwell" like the New England ship. Anoint it with essential oils, such as frankincense, sandalwood, or heliotrope. Some Celts and Norsemen toast their pickup trucks with mead or ale. Other Witches even go so far as to paint magical sigils onto the car body or dashboard. If this isn't workable, you can use oils, holy water infused with herbs, or even washable markers to inscribe a blessing on your automobile.
You can adapt this ritual to other forms of transportation. Traditionally, a bottle of wine has been used to bless and consecrate a boat before "her" maiden voyage, granting it a female name. Innuit folks washed their dogsleds with snow, which also can be done to a snowmobile. Some rural Pagans even ritually protect their farm tractors.
A Talisman for Travel:
You may wish to perform this ceremony on a Wednesday during the waxing moon, or check Llewellyn's many reference books on planetary alignments to help you find the most favorable time. Cast a circle or otherwise create a protected space, such as drumming away any harmful energies and calling the ancestor spirits by shaking a rattle.
Using yellow fabric, make a "mojo bag" by placing a few power objects on the material, then drawing it up around the items, and fastening it with red ribbon or yarn. Yellow is the color of sunshine, air, and travel, and red is the color of defense. (If you use other colors in your tradition, that's fine—this is your personal charm!)
Plants and herbs related to journeys and protection include acorns; ash leaves; the seeds of "traveling" plants such as maples, milkweed, thistles, catalpa trees, or dandelions; ivy; rue; birch bark; and pine pitch. Stones and metals associated with transportation include turquoise, periodot, jasper, iron, copper, lodestone or magnetite, and flint. Especially potent is an arrowhead, which doesn't have to be ancient—they're available at many museums, Pow-Wows, trading posts and reenactments. Bird feathers work well for a transportation rite, especially those from cardinals or seagulls, but if you can't find a wild bird feather, use any yellow, red or white feather purchased from a craft store. Horse hair, soil gathered from a favorite vacation spot, a piece of deer antler, or other power objects with personal magical significance may be used as well.
You can write a phrase such as "guard this truck and all who ride within," on parchment or colored paper, using a magical alphabet such as Theban or Hebrew. Or use a Rune, planetary sigil or other protective inscription. Fold up the paper and place it within your talisman, or tuck it behind the sun visor. Magical sigils can be drawn in clay and baked, or carved or burned into a wooden disc. The Magician's Companion by Bill Whitcomb has hundreds of magical correspondences. Find the symbols representing travel and protection that best speak to you.
Next, magically"charge" your talisman with energy. Call upon your Guides. Anoint your power objects with essential oil. Drum, dance, sing, braid the yarn for the mojo bag's tie, light a candle, or perform any other ritual that raises energy. Use a chant such as "Goddess Isis protect me, Lord Apollo ride with me, as my will so mote it be." (I'm sure you can come up with something much better! See "Words of Power," below.) Or read the Dr. Suess rhyme I used for the title of this article. Any repetitive chant which affirms your intent, creates a magical state, and is respectful to the Unseen World will help to charge an object with power. Don't forget to thank and dismiss any entities you've summoned in your ritual.
Place your talisman in the sunlight for a day or two, then hang it from your rearview mirror, hide it away in the glove box, or tie it to your gearshift. This rite can also be adapted to a bicycle, riding lawnmower, boat, or any other vehicle. When your charm begins to look ragged, or if you perceive that its energy is wearing out, it's time for a new one. Some Witches make a new talisman for each Sabbat holiday or full moon.
Any of Llewellyn's magical encyclopedias, such as Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, can provide you with appropriate correspondences for specific workings. Silver's Spells for Protection by Silver RavenWolf provides a few car spells, and is good for constructing an overall protective ritual. Sons of the Goddess by Christopher Penczak has a great spell for transportation, geared toward young men.
Words of Power:
Magical speech can include summoning the aspect of deity associated with transportation, chanting, or singing a song that Witches use to invoke power. Any tune about travel, such as "Happy Trails to You," "Magical Mystery Tour," "On the Road Again," or the cute theme song from the animated movie about cars, will work just fine. Keep your mind focused on protecting your vehicle from harm. The intent is what matters, whether you sing a pop song or create your very own car chant.
One pre-travel ceremony utilizes words of power, combined with acknowledging the directions, gestures, visualization and other magical techniques. Standing at the front of your vehicle, raise your right hand. Using just your index and pinky fingers, make the "horns of Cernunnos" and draw a Pentagram (or other sacred symbol) in the air. Walking clockwise around the car, inscribe the sigil at each cardinal direction, or on each side of the vehicle. As you move, speak your words of power.
Each time our family takes a trip uptown, we recite a prayer to the Gods for a safe journey. You may not need such an elaborate ritual, but after so many close encounters with trees and deer, we're not taking any chances!
Dave's Car Spell:
Front: May this vehicle be protected from all harmful magical energies, or any other malevolent influences.
Passenger Side: May it only have positive encounters with man, nature, their creation or the authorities.
Back: May it run properly and well, and maintain itself in good working condition.
Driver Side: May it remain in one piece until it returns onto this spot (or until it returns home) to rest for the night.
So Mote It Be, and Thank You!
This rite is limited only by your own level of comfort (chanting and gesturing might attract unwanted attention in the supermarket parking lot). If privacy is at a premium, do your ritual while sitting inside the car. Speak quietly, and make the symbolic motions below window level.
Some traveling Witches visualize the Goddess "riding shotgun" with them in the front seat, or picture the Wild Hunt running ahead of the car, scaring away any harmful entities. You might envision a shimmering light surrounding your vehicle, or a cone of power protecting you from all negative influences.
These ceremonies can be adapted to other vehicles, or even a journey on foot. In fact, the magical beings associated with the natural environment might especially favor travelers who use non-polluting forms of transportation. For more information on ecologically-friendly practices, read Ecoshamanism.
Ethics: Our Guides, the spirits, elementals and deities, give us boundaries to live within. So does the law of the land. Carrying a talisman in your car, or chanting an invocation for divine protection, does not mean we can break the speed limit or run the red light. Nor can we throw caution to the winds. My priestess friend calls such actions "Fishing for Karma." We still must wear our seat belts, check for oncoming traffic, and periodically change the oil. Remember to "act in accord" with your magic.
Now that you're ready to roll, have a safe and wonderful journey!
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007. All rights reserved.