by Sandra Kynes
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
The idea of using the stars for magic and ritual is not new. Medieval texts included details about stars and constellations, and how to determine the optimal time to draw their influence into talismans for spells, healing, and other purposes. A small remnant of this remains today in the use of birthstone jewelry.
The stars have always had a profound influence on people. Who isn't moved by a sense of awe when gazing at a star-filled sky? Many of the goddesses we acknowledge and worship have been known as star goddesses. Called by many names in numerous cultures, Astarte was ultimately known as the Queen of Heaven. An eight-pointed star was the symbol of Ishtar and her Sumerian counterpart Inanna. In addition, Wiccans and Pagans may want to take more of an interest in the constellations for the simple fact that our basic symbol, the pentagram, is a star. Unfortunately, beyond recognizing the Big or Little Dippers and maybe Orion's Belt, what star patterns do most of us know? Because of this, we are missing out on some very powerful magic.
For me, celebrating the esbats extends beyond the moon to the twinkling pinpoints of light that drape like a veil across the sky. A small corner of this mysterious veil can be lifted when we know what we are looking at. Oddly enough, despite the enormity of the universe, I have a sense of place when I look up at the night sky because I can find the celestial markers of the seasons. Just as we can draw down the energy of the moon, so too can we tap into the spiraling celestial magic of the universe. Truly as above, so below.
Most early cultures observed the seasonal differences in the night sky and noticed that the star patterns changed over the course of a year. Providing a longer count than the moon's monthly cycle, reckoning by the stars enabled people to mark time for planting, harvesting, and ritual. Visible year round, the circumpolar stars (and especially the North Star) provided markers for navigation through the night seas.
By the time the ancient Egyptians studied the stars, the major constellations had been known for centuries. Many of the star patterns we recognize today originated with Sumerian and Babylonian astronomers. The Greeks wrapped these constellations in their own mythology and created an ongoing drama in the night skies. These interpretations were adopted by other cultures and have been handed down to us. However, our orientation is different from the people of ancient times, and like gazing at clouds we may perceive something else among these star figures.
In my book Star Magic, I present an exploration of the night sky along with a new interpretation of the constellations that is relevant for twenty-first century Pagans and Wiccans. For example, the mythology of the constellation Orion portrays him as a hunter; however, I think this star figure can also be interpreted as Artemis, the huntress. Unlike the Greeks, early Arab astronomers saw this constellation as a female figure they called al-Jauza. Also, the name of the star Bellatrix, located on the star figure's left shoulder, is Latin, meaning "the female warrior." One other point is that the hour-glass shape of the constellation has a more feminine appearance.
While I explore the aspects of the Orion constellation as both hunter and huntress, what is not included in my book is an asterism within the constellation called Venus's Mirror. Like a constellation, an asterism is a discernible pattern of stars; however, asterisms are not officially recognized as constellations. Two famous examples of asterisms are the Big Dipper within the Ursa Major (the Great Bear) constellation and the Little Dipper within Ursa Minor (the Lesser Bear). Actually, the eighty-eight constellations are more than their familiar patterns—they are defined regions of the sky that include asterisms and other stars as well as large areas without visible stars. These official constellations were established by the International Astronomical Union in 1922.
As far as magic is concerned, let's take a look at the power we may find in Venus's Mirror. There are seven stars in this asterism. They include the three stars of Orion's Belt and three stars that are considered part of a group called Orion's Sword, plus one other star in the constellation. When we envision these stars as Venus's Mirror, five of them create a diamond-shaped mirror and two stars form a short handle.
The Orion constellation is a winter constellation visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres. If you are in the northern hemisphere, look towards the southwest to find Orion. From the southern hemisphere, look towards the northwest. The stars of Orion's Belt are the easiest to find. Once you locate them, orient yourself so the star figure is right side up, which means that the belt appears higher on the right and slopes down to the left.
The rightmost star in the belt marks the top corner of Venus's Mirror and the leftmost star in the belt is the left corner. The center star in the belt is basically along for the ride. From the left corner star, look to the right and you will see another bright star that is equidistant, forming a triangle with the two end stars of the belt. This star marks the right corner of the mirror. Let your gaze move down and slightly to the left to the bright star that marks the bottom corner of the mirror. Two other stars align below this star and form the mirror's handle.
In Latin, the word for "mirror" is speculum, from which the verb "to speculate" was derived. Speculating originally meant scanning the sky, usually with a mirror, to discern the movement of the stars. Originating in ancient Persia, the scrying mirror is one of the oldest forms of divination.
One way to use the energy of Venus's Mirror combines the idea of scrying and divination with Venus, the goddess of love, to help you find your true love. To do this, place a red or pink candle on your altar, and then lay a mirror (of any shape) in front of it. The primary stars in Venus's Mirror are blue and white. Gather five or six pieces of blue gemstones (such as turquoise, beryl, or blue tourmaline), and one piece of white quartz. These will be used to represent the stars of the asterism. Using four of the blue stones, lay out a diamond shape. If you choose to represent the center star of Orion's Belt, place another blue stone between the top and left corners of the diamond. From the bottom of the diamond and outside of the shape, place another blue stone and then the white quartz below that to mark the bottom of the handle.
Light the candle and then gaze at the reflection of the gemstones in the mirror. Reach out with your energy toward the gemstones as you visualize the stars of the Venus's Mirror shining above in the night sky. Visualize the light of the stars reaching down to the gemstones, and then draw the energy of the stars through the gemstones towards you into your heart center. As you hold this energy in your heart, say three times, "Venus with your starry mirror, Help to bring my true love nearer." With a soft gaze, watch the reflection of the flickering candlelight on the pattern of gemstones. Continue to watch the changes of light on the mirror and observe any images that may form and dissipate. Be watchful, but don't try to force yourself to see something.
Observe the light on the mirror for as long as it is comfortable, and then release the star energy from your heart center out to the world along with your intention. Close your eyes and sit in silence as you hold the image of the Venus's Mirror star pattern in your mind. Once more, say, "Venus with your starry mirror, Help to bring my true love nearer." Slowly let the image of the asterism fade from your mind, and then blow out the candle and end your session of star magic.
As in many forms of magic, what we desire may unfold quickly or it make take time. The mirror may reveal an image of a person, something associated with a person, or something that evokes a feeling or idea. It is also important to remember that when we want something may not be the right time to invite whatever it is into our lives, especially where love in concerned. If Venus's Mirror intrigues you, take time to become familiar with its energy and call on its power when you engage in divination for any purpose. When the time is right, this asterism may lead you to your true love. In the meantime, it may show you things that are relevant to other aspects of your life.
When you first start working with star magic, don't feel daunted if you don't know what you are looking at in the night sky. Take one season at a time and start with one constellation, asterism, or star. Learn about it and how to find it in the sky. Employ the classical mythology associated with the stars or your own, more relevant interpretations. Draw stellar power into your rituals and spells. Let the energy support you in divination, astrology, energy work, and everyday life.
The simple act of stargazing connects us with our ancestors because we can see what they would have seen. Looking at the stars also lets us experience the wonder that echoes down through the eons from people in the far distant past. The energy of the stars envelopes our planet and holds us in the web of the cosmos. In the great scheme of the universe we are so tiny, yet we are a part of something so vast and wondrous. Best of all, we can draw the magic of the stars into our lives.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2015. All rights reserved.