Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blue Moon

Tomorrow is not only New Year's Eve and a full moon, it's also a rare Blue Moon that we see roughly only every two and half years or so. In fact, the last time we saw a Full Blue New Year's Eve Moon was in 1990 and there won't be another one until 2028, so be sure to channel the power of this rare moon (on an already intense night) while it's here.

The Blue Moon heralds a time of great change and while the change may not always be pleasant, it's essential to life and very powerful. There are two sides to everything: both benefits and detriments, and it's important to recognize that while the strength of this moon can be a benefit when it comes to magick and spell casting, the degree of that strength can be overwhelming for some and if one isn't careful this can have negative repercussions. This moon ups the intensity of that part of the year in which it falls. Everything during that time is affected: the power of the moon, the sun and planets, potions, spells, and people. It's important to be aware of it all before you call on the power of this moon in any undertakings. Spiritually, this will be an amazing moon for honoring the Goddess and Drawing Down the Moon.

Native American belief states that the animal totem for this moon is the snake and like the snake, this is a very mercurial and often misunderstood full moon. Regardless of whether you choose to harness some of its power for magickal work or just ring in the New Year with friends, be sure to take a moment to enjoy and honor this beautiful Blue Moon.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yule Altar

This year's Yule altar shot on the night of the solstice this past week. There was so much more I wanted to do with it, but alas it was not to be. I'm not too sad about this though as it already gives me much to look forward to for next year's altar.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Winter Solstice

Today is the perfect day for the solstice: cold, crisp and snowy white. And while this sabbat is meant to ring in the returning of the light, it's important to remember that with this being the longest, darkest day of the year, some time should be spent in contemplation of that darker side.

Before the lights are turned on, the candles lit, the drinks poured, the food shared and the warmth spread, take a few moments in the solitude of this cold winter's day to actually feel that quiet. I like to take some time to be alone with myself (preferably outdoors beneath the glorious moon) and take stock of my life, including all the less than lovely things in it. I give thanks for what I have and I spend some time thinking about that which I don't have and why this might be so. I let go of that which is old or dead and make tentative plans for the new year and all the possibilities that new life and light will bring to my humble world.

Feeling the darkness of this day is equally as important as being joyous in its light. Being alone with it (even for a moment) is as important as being surrounded by friends and loved ones, for without the dark there cannot be light. And without the introspection there cannot be an outward celebration.

Photo courtesy of the amazing Giles C. Watson on flickr. Thanks again, Giles!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Winter Hag

There are countless weird Yule, Solstice and Christmas stories, but this one is without a doubt not only the most unpleasant one, but also the single most violent one I have ever heard.

In Germany it was a holiday custom to eat as many greasy pancakes as you could consume on the night of the Winter Solstice and then leave a few of them out for the Winter Hag as she made her rounds from house to house. If you foolishly forgot to leave her a few it was believed that she would become so enraged at this slight that she would hunt you down and with an enormous knife, cut open your belly and steal the pancakes right from your stomach. The reason that you had to eat those pancakes really greasy was that the grease would make your belly so slippery the Hag would be unable to cut into you. Her knife would just slip off your slimy tummy and no matter how hard she tried, she wouldn't be able to steal your pancakes away from you.

I don't know about you, but it had to be one hell of a long and frightening night for children, eh? I know if I were a child then, I'd be dreading that night all year long.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yule Log Magick

Your Yule log can be of any wood that speaks to you magickally and each has its own properties you can utilize to manifest your wishes and desires. Here are a few of the more popular woods chosen.

Ash: brings prosperity, protection and health
Birch: signifies new beginnings and death of the old
Holly: inspires psychic visions and knowledge of your past lives
Oak: burn oak for healing, wisdom and strength
Pine: brings prosperity and growth
Willow: burn willow to invoke the Goddess and have your desires granted

Keep in mind that the longer your log burns the greater the magickal power you will raise and the more luck you will have in the new year. Traditionally, the log would be burned from Christmas Eve on December 24 to Epiphany on January 6. If you have a fireplace, and to ensure your log will burn for a good long time, choose the fattest log you can find and don't forget to dowse it with cider or ale which will also aid in prolonging the fire. It was believed that if the log fire died out too soon, bad luck would befall those in the household. And as long as the Yule log burns, members of your household and guests should refrain from working (this was part of the sabbat's popularity in former times as slaves and servants were given all the days off that the log continued to burn). This is a time to celebrate and party, not to worry about work!

Write down on small slips of paper all your faults, mistakes and bad choices from the past year and burn them in the fire to purge them from your life and start the new year clean and unburdened.

And lastly, this ancient rhyme may be chanted as you light your Yule fire:

May the log burn,
May the wheel turn,
May evil spurn,
May the Sun return.

Photo courtesy of images by lou on flickr.
Ancient chant of unknown origin courtesy of

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yule Lore

The solstice this year occurs at 12:47 PM EST on December 21.

The celebration of Yule has always revolved around fire and light, this being the longest night of the year. From this day on, the sun once again gains in strength with each passing day. On the night of the solstice, villagers would celebrate the rebirth of the Oak King and the coming light with enormous bonfires built in their fields and they wassailed the crops and trees of those fields with spiced cider and other drinks. Wassailing comes from Middle English by way of old Norse and traditionally meant to toast one's health or luck with drink but the word wassail has since most frequently been used to refer to the actual drink of mulled cider, wine or beer that has had sugar, cinnamon, apples and other fruits added to it and served as a Christmas punch. The term wassailing can also be used to refer to revelry in general, which is fitting for the celebration of this sabbat.

Children would be escorted from house to house with apples and oranges spiked with fresh cloves and these would be placed in baskets lined with evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The oranges and apples were symbolic of the sun, the evergreens eternal life, the wheat represented the abundance of the harvest and the flour the triumph of light and life. Holly, mistletoe and ivy were used to decorate inside the house as an invitation to the Nature Sprites, in the hopes that they would join in the night's celebrations. A sprig of holly was frequently kept by the front door year round to ensure good fortune for those who dwelled within.

The highlight of the night's celebration was the lighting of the Yule log, which must either have been harvested from the owner's land or given as a gift. Traditionally, a Yule log must never be bought. It was then placed within the fireplace, decorated with evergreen boughs, sprinkled with cider or beer, dusted with flour and then set ablaze where it would be left to burn throughout the night and then worked so as to remain smoldering for twelve days before being put out. A small piece from the fire was kept and used the following year to start the next year's Yule fire. Various woods are believed to be the traditional one for a Yule log fire, from ash to oak to willow, but my personal preference is for birch.

However you choose to celebrate this sabbat, do it with great joy and energy! Feel the delight in your heart as you welcome back the sun as it warms our planet and brings new life in the wonderful new year to come. Peace!

Photo courtesy of mukumbura on flickr.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hand Injury

I have given myself a fairly significant (and incredibly stupid) accidental injury to one of my hands and as such, am forced to type with only a couple of fingers which is rather time consuming. As a result, I'll be taking a few days more off from this blog until I am no longer sporting a giant mitt and can once again get back down to business here in a more efficient manner.

I will talk with you all soon. Blessed be to everyone who pops in here for a quick read or two.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Worshipping the Ancestors

Sometimes, it's just synchronicity and nothing less. Recently I went shopping at a very nice cigar shop that I had never before been in to purchase some loose tobacco. I was preparing for a ritual in which I planned to honor my Native American ancestors and at first I held back when answering the shop owner's question as to what exactly I was looking for and why (clearly I looked more than a bit out of my element in his shop). I am generally cautious with strangers when explaining myself, not because I am in any way ashamed to be forthright in who I am and what I believe in, but because to be honest, you never know how the other person might react. Still, after a moment's hesitation, I just came out with it and said, "I need loose tobacco of the highest quality for a Native American rite." Without a pause, he handed me a small packet of pure, organic tobacco for just that purpose, and added a very warm and friendly smile along with it.

I bought my needed item and then wandered about the shop looking into the humidors. My beloved Uncle Fred was a cigar salesman for many, many decades but oddly as soon as I went looking for the maker he worked for, I suddenly couldn't remember their name. When the shop owner asked if there was anything else he could help me with, I mentioned that my uncle worked for a cigar company but for the life of me, I could not remember the name of it. He asked my uncle's name and when I told him, he immediately pointed across the shop to the humidor I was looking for. He said he knew my uncle and that upon meeting him for the first time he instantly recognized my uncle for the amazing man he was. He added that my Uncle Fred was considered a legend in the cigar business, one of the most well-respected men in the industry who everyone loved and admired. I agreed, saying that he was also an amazing man in our family's life and is very sadly missed. He told me some Fred stories and I shared a few of my own.

As I was leaving I realized that not only was I going to be honoring some of my ancestors at the next full moon, but that I had just honored another much adored ancestor with not a single prop and with no formal ritual whatsoever. Two complete strangers connected with the only thing we had in common: my dear uncle and the joy he brought to both of us and the way he touched each of our lives in his own special way.

I went into that shop with the intention of creating a moment of pure love for those who went before me and I did just that, in more ways than one. Perfect synchronicity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Full Cold Moon

Today is the Full Cold Moon, so named by the Native American tribes of the northern and northeastern lands for the biting cold that begins this month. Another Indian name for this moon is the Long Nights Moon (which is also its neo-pagan name as well). Some other names for today's moon are the Christmas Moon, the Bitter Moon, Snow Moon, Oak Moon and rather inexplicably given this time of year, the Peach Moon.

Given that today's moon is in Gemini, which is the sign of communication, take a moment to tell those around you how much you love and value them. Have a tender talk with someone you care about. Listen and learn and feel the peace, light and love of this Yule season. And in case this season wasn't special enough, keep in mind that on December 31 we will be blessed with a rare Blue Moon whose powers will be felt intensely by all.

Blessed Be.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Yule Stones

And while I'm on the subject of stones... here are a few stones that are perfect for empowering your spells and magick throughout the coming weeks leading up to Yule.

Ruby. The ruby is a powerful stone that will bring protection against all negativity and disease to the one who holds it. Wear it during ritual to increase the energy you raise in circle. Alternately, place it on the altar with a bright red candle to lend you physical strength and energy.

Garnet. Another protective stone, garnet strengthens the aura and shields the wearer from negative energies. Held or placed on your altar, you can use this stone to draw extra energy to yourself during ritual. Garnet regulates the heart and blood.

Green Tourmaline. This stone draws success and money to the one who possesses it. Wear it in spellwork or ritual to enhance your creativity.

Jade. This ancient powerful stone can be worn or carried to receive wisdom through your third eye chakra, as well as to aid in healing the body from physical ills. Place it on your altar to be used in defensive magick work, or to increase your mental energy during ritual wear it while burning purple candles.

Jet. Another protective stone, jet also strengthens psychic awareness, making it an ideal stone to wear while in circle. Place it on your altar with white candles during protective rituals. Jet is one of the most powerful and prized of all the magickal stones. For centuries it was believed that if worn regularly it would absorb some of the wearer's soul. If you wear jet, be sure to protect it carefully.

Photo of raw green tourmaline courtesy of schwigorphoto on flickr.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Stone Spirits

I love stones and rocks of all kinds, from the mundane little bits of granite to the fanciest of crystals, but I have to say that I prefer the very humble rocks I step on each time I go for a walk in nature. Native Americans believe that there are stone spirits or rock people, the oldest beings in the world, that live within all rock on earth. The Lakota call them Inyan and they're the children of Mother Earth. They are wise, they heal, and they are the ones who infuse rocks and crystals with power. The spirits' knowledge and wisdom is endless.

When you are next out walking in nature, keep one eye on the rocks and pebbles you step upon. See if you're drawn to one in particular. If a stone is really calling to you, that is your watai, your power stone. Just as we have animals that help us, whose properties and powers we can harness, we also have a stone that when carried with us will also help us when needed. Watai and the ancient spirit within it is our link between the two worlds of the seen and unseen.

Sometimes the stone can be flashy and fancy, but it can also be as common as a chunk of agate. You'll know that it is meant for you when its spirit, the Inyan, calls to you insistently. Carry it with you. Touch it, use it in ritual. And when it no longer feels like it is "yours" bring it back into the wild and leave it there once more. Then spend some time searching for your next watai. Your needs will always be met with the right stone.

Photo courtesy of

Friday, November 20, 2009

Potions and Philtres

As much as I love the romantic idea of them, I'm just not a witch who makes a lot of potions or brews. I'm not a particularly adventurous eater and so it's only natural that I'd be hesitant to drink something full of consumable herbs and oils, even if I made it myself and knew full well every last ingredient in it and that it was perfectly safe. As a result, I tend to not make them at all, even ones that would never be consumed by anyone. I am, however, rather enamored of the idea of philtres, which are just a little bit different than your run-of-the-mill potion.

A philtre is basically an unbrewed potion and who can complain about that? After all, it's a bit less work in the spell-making department, eh? They can be used as talismans or in protective charms although a philtre's original purpose was always as a very potent, infallible love potion (the name comes from the Greek word philos meaning beloved or loving) and meant to be drunk only by the object of your affection. It has through the ages transformed into something much broader in terms of use.

There are countless recipes out there for philtres for all occasions and needs, and of course you can always whip up your own tailor-made recipe too, but the one below (courtesy of Laurie Cabot) intrigues me to no end. She says she has used this protective philtre for years and no harm has ever come to her family while it has been in use, and well, let's be honest, how can anything that contains wolf's hair not be fascinating?

Protection Philtre

6 parts sandalwood powder
1 part wolf's hair
2 parts cinquefoil leaves
4 parts powdered myrrh
5 drops patchouli oil
3 drops frankincense oil

Mix the dry ingredients together and bind them with the oils. Place in a small black muslin bag. Hang it on or above the front door (well out of the reach of children and pets!).

Note: In a pinch clover can be substituted for the cinquefoil leaves as both are protective herbs, though cinquefoil is a bit more powerful and has additional useful properties. As to the wolf's hair, there aren't a lot of places where you'll find this, but it can be purchased through Hex which is an edgy witch's shop in Salem. You can visit them at and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the hair goes to a wolf refuge, so you'll also be saving lives in addition to protecting your loved ones and home. Or, if you're the sort of person who likes to make things considerably more difficult for yourself and potentially appear utterly mad in the eyes of strangers, you could always ask a zookeeper for a small clump of wolf's hair. Keep in mind, however, that the hair used in this philtre must be from a live animal that is shedding naturally (no cutting allowed!) so this venture would require some delicate timing, provided you aren't escorted from the premises immediately to begin with. Personally, I'd go with the Salem shop myself.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Moon Magic

Monday was the new moon for November and I decided to use its power to aid me in overcoming some personal hurdles as well as starting some healthy new beginnings, all of which the new moon is perfect for.

I decided to use herbs that would strengthen my convictions and give my wishes a little kick in the pants, and being the moon of the Maiden Goddess, I bundled those herbs in a small white cloth, the color of the Maiden, tied with a healing fat blue string. I used a simple ceremony with my circle pretty much stripped down to its barest and I summoned the Goddess Diana to aid me in my work by the power of the new moon. I used the power of the four elements and seven carefully chosen herbs in my magickal sachet. And I've kept this little bundle of herbs with me each day and on my night table by night and so far it's working quite nicely.

It's a beautiful thing when it all comes together: the power of the moon, the elements, the deity called upon, and even the more mundane aspects of spellwork. It's enervating and exciting.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Art Book of Shadows

My Book(s) of Shadows are nothing special. Really. I have a growing collection of notebooks and journals that I've filled through the years with notes, information, spells I've copied and altered, spells I've created myself, lists of essential items and other pertinent data. They run the gamut from ones that I've bought on sale at office supply stores to nice leather ones that cost a bit more. I do have a small, very interesting-looking little blank book from Tibet that Griffin found for me that I use to write down my rituals for various sabbats, observance days and those special occasions when a circle is needed for more timely energy work. It's small enough to not be cumbersome in ritual and it is a very sweet little book, but like my myriad notebooks, I've always treated it like something utilitarian and nothing more.

So last week I had another one of my 'Eureka!' moments. These are always especially startling to me as I am always stunned that whatever it is that has suddenly dawned on me never occurred to me previously as it is now so obvious. I am an artist. It's what I do. So why has it never occurred to me until now to create a Book of Shadows that is also a work of art? When I have the time, in and around my serious work, I create art journals and I frequently use old books that I modify for this purpose. I usually have a few waiting patiently for their turn and when the idea to create an Art Book Of Shadows hit me, I knew exactly which book to use: a very large-sized hard cover book about angels full of amazing papers, funky little mylar envelopes and other visually unusual tidbits that I had bought at a used book sale at my local library. It's the perfect blank canvas on which to begin. I'm going to put all my own original spells in it as well as record all the mundane directions for all of my various rituals.

I had just begun to glue up and gesso the pages when I was quite suddenly offered a show from a completely unexpected direction (and when it was suggested that I have my opening on the Solstice next June, I knew it was kismet). Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining at all. I'll quite happily put my Book of Shadows on hold while I spend the next seven months working on this upcoming exhibit. As it hadn't occurred to me before now to create this book, then it can certainly wait another few months before I begin it. Besides, sometimes the best ideas are the ones that are brewed slowly over a nice long period of time and not rushed into. And that's okay. Everything in its own time.

Photo courtesy of Rowan Tree Design on flickr.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trees 101: The Hawthorn

The hawthorn is a very powerful tree, spiritually, medicinally and magickally. Its use in remedies dates back to the ancient Greeks, and its use as a good luck charm and symbol of hope and happiness dates back to this same period. In England it was used to make garlands for Beltane and collecting dew from the leaves and branches of this tree is said to ensure lasting youth and beauty to those on which it is sprinkled.

Hawthorns are frequently found near holy wells and on ground considered to be sacred and as a result are frequently seen with offerings left at the base of their trunks and decorations hung amongst the branches. The hawthorn is known as the wishing tree and there are many famous ones throughout the world that to this day have wishes, requests and prayers hung on them or coins driven into their trunks.

Along with oak and ash, hawthorn is the third tree of the powerful triad of trees inhabited and enchanted by faeries. Hawthorns represent the three realms: the underworld, the middleworld and the upperworld, as well as being symbolic of the three stages of the witch: the maiden, the mother and the crone. The hawthorn is one of the nine sacred woods of the sabbat fire as it represents purity.

The hawthorn is associated with the planet Mars, vibrates to a masculine energy, and is ruled by the elements of air and fire. Wear hawthorn for luck and happiness on your wedding day or use it to cleanse an area before ritual. It can used for spells that open the doorway between the mundane world and the faery realm, to attract love, in protection spells, to attract love and to commune with the spirits of those who have passed before us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wise Words

Witches do concern themselves with ecology. They have never forgotten this basic fact: the World is not our enemy. Neither is it inert, dumb matter. The Earth and all living things share the same life force. They are composed of patterns of intelligence, of knowledge, and of divinity. All life is a web. We are woven into it as sisters and brothers of all. Witches need to be grounded in both worlds and awake to their responsibilities for both worlds. It is only by being responsible human beings that we can be responsible Witches, and only responsible Witches will survive. We respect nature but do not worship it. Witches do not worship anything but the creator or The All, yet we see The All in everything and respect it all.

-Laurie Cabot

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pendulum Divination

This past week I tried my hand (no pun intended!) at a new form of divination, for me at least: using a pendulum. I had never given it much thought until someone this week mentioned that they swear by it and I should give it a try. Given that I have a fairly well developed sense of intuition and am always open to a new way to use my abilities, I thought, "What the heck, why not?"

Knowing absolutely nothing about it, I tried my local library for a how-to book on it, but with no luck. I then went online and found a great book, but in the meantime took a quickie self-taught crash course online for the basics. As I had no actual pendulum, I got out a cherished ring that belonged to my father and a strand of rather thin yarn. And as usual for me, I got started in the wee hours of the morning (my favorite time of day), so there wasn't a whole lot of time to spend working on it. Besides, I fully expected to quickly be less than impressed, or for nothing at all to happen, and then I'd head off to bed. Boy was I surprised!

I sat there for a few minutes concentrating on making my makeshift pendulum swing vertically but nothing seemed to be happening. I carefully watched my hand to be sure it wasn't moving in the least (being an artist, one thing I do have is a very steady hand) and also made sure to not get too discouraged and to stay focused. And then it happened. Slowly at first and then faster and faster: the pendulum moved just as I had wanted it to. Likewise for a horizontal direction and then a small tight clockwise circle. It took me some time to get it going in each direction, but get it going I did, which blew me away! The three fingers I was using to hold the yarn were also humming with energy inside them and swirling about them on the outside. I wished that someone, anyone was awake to share it with, but only my dogs were up with me and they weren't in the least impressed.

So I guess I now need to find myself a pendulum, one that calls to me while all the others just lie there lifelessly before me. I need to spend more time with it and learn how to really use it. I find the thrill of a new form of divination very exciting and I can't wait to jump into it with my heart and soul.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Talk Group

A gathering place for empaths, sensitives, psychics, healers, intuitives and all others who are walking the humble spiritual path of a gentle soul in this life. No one person has all the answers, but hopefully together we can open our hearts, broaden our knowledge bases and expand our hearts a bit as we learn from one another.

This is a brand spanking new group and we're looking for anyone who fits the above criteria, seeks to enlighten themselves, wants to learn the mundane and the magickal from others and likes to talk! All faiths, belief systems and lifestyles are welcome with open arms.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Full Beaver Moon

Today is the Full Beaver Moon, so named because this was the moon that the Native Americans in the northern part of the country used to tell them when it was time to place the last beaver traps before the swamps froze for the winter. Another traditional Native American name for this moon is the Full Frost Moon, obviously named for the thin coating of frost seen on most mornings at this time of year. More specifically from a tribal perspective, the Choctaw referred to this moon as the Sassafras Moon, the Cherokee called it the Trading Moon and the Dakota Sioux called this (and this is by far the most descriptive name) the Moon When Horns are Broken Off. The English Medieval and Celtic names for this moon are the Snow Moon and Dark Moon, respectively. The Chinese referred to it as the White Moon. And lastly the neo-pagans call this the Tree Moon.

Personally, I think it should be called the Moon With More Names Than Any Other Moon of the Year.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Day of the Dead

Here are some images of my ancestor altar for this year's Samhain celebration and for the Day of the Dead. I try always to use things that are very person-specific on it, objects that belonged to a loved one who has passed or items which speak very strongly to me of that person's character. I like to use loads of photographs too, sometimes using multiple different images of the same person, especially when it's someone who is still incredibly important to me, despite they're no longer being on this earthly plane. I also tend to use things in threes: candles, apples, pumpkins et al, as to me this represents the three stages of the life cycle: birth, death and rebirth.

This year's altar had big paper flowers to represent the powerful marigolds that are no longer available here in New England at this time of year, nine tarot cards chosen for this day and year, strands of orange fairy lights (I never did find a way to use those purple ones that were giving me fits a few weeks back), three candles in basic black as well as three of my favorite tri-color ones in black, orange and white, seven skulls (another magickal number) to represent the souls of all my loved ones and ancestors past, and three green apples for health, three pumpkins and small bundle of three strawberry corn cobs to represent the harvest of Samhain. My altar also had on it my beloved crow (he's fake but incredibly well done) who is always in the center of this particular altar to represent this sabbat's magick and mystery as well as to stand as a messenger from the realm of the spirits. And in honor of my full-blooded Native American ancestors I always have a small cup of ground cornmeal and a small cup of pure, organic loose tobacco. Those are then scattered on the earth afterwards as an offering to Grandmother Moon and Grandfather Sun.

As exciting as this sabbat is, there is also a certain sadness that lingers after it's all over for this year. There comes on the heels of the wonderful witch's celebration a feeling of sorrow, of wishing for loved ones passed, of the darkness that falls a bit earlier and earlier each night, of the death of the God and the harvest. It isn't particularly unpleasant, but it isn't exactly happy either, sort of like a restless feeling in one's soul. But this cycle of sorrow too will pass as we roll along towards the upcoming sabbats of the year, and this melancholy will be replaced with joy. Everything in balance and everything just as it should be.

Blessed be to all of you out there and the loved ones you are honoring this day.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

The candy is by the door, I've donned my "traditional" witch look, (which I know upsets a lot of modern day witches, but I think it's rather whimsical and fun), I've got everything ready for circle tonight, the bread has been baked for offerings, my ancestor altar is decorated and ready for ceremony, I've made time to do a tarot reading and it's the perfect autumn day: blustery, dry and not too chilly. So what's left? Only the fun of Halloween and the joy and excitement of Samhain.

A very blessed, joyous and safe Samhain to all!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Magick Lore

At one time it was believed that the skull was where the soul was carried in one’s body, that it was capable of possessing very powerful magical properties and thus was a hotbed of supernatural power. Light a skull-shaped candle on Halloween when you do spell work or circle ritual.

Necromancers use skull-shaped candles in their rituals to summon the dead. Anise essential oil is used to anoint candles used in spells to conjure spirits, while orris oil is a known protection against accidentally conjuring evil spirits. Ancient lore states that lavender oil can be used to give a witch the power to see ghosts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cabbage Lore

For those who don't like to eat cabbage for Halloween (see recipe below) or at any other time for that matter, here's a bit of lore for you instead.

Did you know that cabbage stalks were once used by early Christians to divine whether or not they were going to go to heaven or hell when they died? A person would be blindfolded, sent into a cabbage patch and would then pull up a stalk at random. The stalk was then carefully examined. If it was clean and light-colored, it was said the person was sure to go to heaven. But if it was darkened by frost and rot, that person was going to burn in hell for all eternity.

In England, it was believed that if an unmarried woman went into a cabbage garden at midnight on Halloween and cut a stalk of cabbage, she would see an apparition of her future husband. If she saw nothing, she was destined to die a spinster. It was likewise for single men as well.

Personally, I prefer to eat my cabbage indoors on a cold Halloween night rather than stumbling blindfolded through a dark and chilly garden hoping for a bright future!

Monday, October 26, 2009


The traditional Irish food for Halloween is a potato dish known as colcannon. While it was eaten all year round by the poor due to its few ingredients, low cost to make and its ability to fill the belly quite nicely, it was considered special on Halloween as the cook would hide small trinkets within the dish. Traditionally it was a ring, a coin, a thimble and a tiny porcelain doll. The ring was said to signify marriage for the lucky recipient of that prize, the coin was said to foretell wealth, the unfortunate thimble bachelorhood or spinsterhood, and the little doll meant that that person would be the first in the group to have children. In modern times coins alone are hidden within the dish and it's believed to bring good luck for the coming year to those who find one (or more) in their serving. Colcannon also contains cabbage and butter, but many other ingredients can be added to it as well: milk, cream, bacon or ham, and garlic. Like the traditional Christmas pudding with its hidden prizes still served in England, cook up a batch of colcannon, add a few (safe!) lucky charms to it, and enjoy it with your guests after your Samhain rituals are over.

The traditional recipe called for an alarming amount of butter, and as most of us no longer live in sod huts, and with our modern central heating, we really don't need to pile on an excess layer of fat to see us through the colder months till spring. As such, I've reduced the fat content substantially and by browning the onions in a healthy oil (rather than adding them raw as in the original recipe), have maintained a nice hearty flavor in this dish without using multiple cups of butter. Feel free to add to it whatever your hungry heart desires!

Colcannon serves approximately 10 as a generous side dish

six or seven good-sized potatoes (approximately 4 1/2 - 5 pounds), peeled and coarsely chopped
one medium head of green cabbage, chopped or shredded (not too finely)
one medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup milk (approximate)
2-3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste
one pound bacon cooked and cooled or ham cooked the previous day and chopped into small pieces (optional)

Peel the potatoes, coarsely chop them and put them in a medium pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil, cooking until just tender, but not mushy. Drain and mash. Add butter and milk to potatoes and mash until well blended. Adjust the milk so potatoes are neither too wet nor too dry. In a small skillet, place chopped onion in olive oil and saute over low flame until lightly golden in color, adding a bit more olive oil if necessary to keep from sticking. Add to mashed potatoes and pepper to taste. Steam the chopped cabbage just until color darkens slightly. Cabbage should be cooked, but not be mushy. Drain and add to potatoes, mixing thoroughly. An additional pat of butter can be added to each serving in an indentation made on the top of each.

And if you've added any prizes, please eat with care so as not to break any teeth! Enjoy!

Samhain "prize lore" information came in part from The Pagan Book of Halloween by Gerina Dunwich.
Additional information courtesy of Wikipedia.
Photo courtesy of teenytinyturkey on flickr.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bread and Baking Lore

So, should you bake bread (or cookies) on Halloween or not? One old wives' tale says you should never bake bread on this sabbat, for if you do you will have nothing but bad luck and misery for the next twelve months. This one lonely bit of lore doesn't seem to be as popular as the belief that baking bread and other treats in honor of Samhain is not only favorable for the living, but also for all those loved ones who have passed before us.

In the Middle Ages on All Soul's Day, “Soul Cakes” were baked, which traditionally were little buns with currants and spices in them. They were eaten by Christians to honor those who had died within the last twelve months and were considered as important as hot cross buns were on Good Friday. They are believed to be directly derived from the ancient pagan custom of baking bread from the grain of the last harvest specifically to be eaten on Samhain, making this another pagan ritual adapted for the new Christian church.

Also, in early England was begun the custom of baking "saumas," or soul mass breads, which were then given away to bring good luck. It was important that a few loaves be kept uneaten in each household until the next All Soul’s Day as a charm against an early death befalling anyone who lived under that roof.

In Belgium, it was a custom on Halloween for children to stand beside little shrines they built in front of their homes and sell “cakes for the dead” which were always small white cakes or cookies. The buyer of the baked goods would eat one for each spirit of a loved one that had passed. It was believed that the more cakes you ate, the greater the blessings that would be received by your loved ones who in turn would bestow those blessings back onto the living.

Personally, I love to bake on Samhain: bread, cakes and especially whimsical cookies in the shape of everything Halloween and spooky. And for the record, it's never brought me any noticeable bad luck yet!

Many thanks to Gerina Dunwich and The Pagan Book of Halloween.
Photo courtesy of chelseyanne55 on flickr.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Indian Summer or Not?

You learn something new every day and today I learned something that I thought I knew, but have clearly been completely wrong about for most of my life. Having always thought that Indian Summer meant a few hot days in late September or maybe early October, I was surprised to find out that this is actually St. Luke's Little Summer which occurs in the days around October 18th and that these days were so named in order to give more attention to the saint's feast day as early Christians were spending far more time celebrating St. John's Day on June 24 and Michaelmas on September 29 and devoting too little time to poor St. Luke. True Indian Summer occurs only between November 11 and November 20, which I find absolutely amazing. But regardless, given that I live in New England (and it already snowed here yesterday for most of the afternoon), there usually isn't very much Little or Indian Summer to speak of here.

The early snow yesterday has me wondering just how severe this winter is going to be and for those who also prefer to consult nature over the five o'clock weatherman's predictions, here are a few things to watch for, courtesy of our Native American ancestors, to tell you if the upcoming winter is going to be a cold one.

Geese will be seen to fly at much higher altitudes
Oak trees will bear an excess of acorns
Chipmunks will be in abundance
Lakes and rivers will freeze later than usual
Onion skins will be thicker than usual at harvest
You'll see squirrels gathering a much larger supply of nuts
Woodpeckers will appear earlier than they do before a warmer winter
Corn husks will also be thicker and stronger at harvest as well

Friday, October 16, 2009

Candle Superstitions

Many people around the world think it's extremely unlucky to look at their reflection in a mirror by candlelight on Halloween night (although oddly enough, there's an old witch's ritual of making a wish by candlelight while gazing into a mirror on Halloween night). It was believed that gazing into a mirror lit only by candle(s) -especially a red or black candle- would summon the devil.

A burning candle placed within a carved pumpkin keeps evil spirits and demons away, especially on Samhain night when they are most active walking the earth. This is the basis of the tradition of lighting jack o' lanterns, which began in Ireland with the carving of gourds which were then used as lanterns to not only light a traveler's way, but to keep them safe from the things that go bump in the night.

For good luck burn black and orange candles on Halloween as these are the traditional colors of this sabbat and their color vibrations are at their highest on this day. Always burn new candles on Samhain for this will bring you good luck. And never burn your Samhain candles at any other time of the year as this will bring you bad luck.

If a candle should go out by itself on Halloween, by either wind, breath or an unknown force, it’s believed to be a sign that a ghostly spirit has arrived, so look lively!

Scrying into a candle flame on Halloween night is a good way to divine the future and to receive clairvoyant visions and messages. Or burn a white candle on Halloween, pour the melted wax from it into a cauldron full of cold water and divine the future by reading the patterns formed by the hardened wax floating in the water. There doesn't seem to be any literature on how to read this candle wax, unlike say, tea leaves, so it's up to you to divine the signs!

Burn a new orange candle at the Witching Hour of Midnight on Halloween and let it burn till the sun rises on the morning of November 1st and you will have very good luck, but be sure to burn it safely in a sink or bathtub if you aren't planning to stay up until the sun rises.

Photo courtesy of Me the Wanderer on flickr.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Decorating for Samhain

With Samhain just over two weeks away, I've been busy decorating for the New Year's celebration. I'm not big on lots of gaudy hoo-haws strung everywhere, but I did buy several lengthy strands of fairy lights in a vibrant orange and a soft purple. The only trouble is, I wanted them for indoors and I've yet to figure out where to string them. I've tried a few places, and even spent some time wrapping two strands together so the orange and purple could play off one another and they looked lovely all lit up, but I still hated them where I had put them and so after all that fussing, I ended up taking them back down anyways. For now, all those sweet lights are sitting in large snarled piles on my dining room table, looking rather forlorn.

I also bought a strand of tiny jack o' lanterns that light up and that I put on the mantel over the main fireplace in our house, letting them meander where they chose. And with a few of the little pumpkins hanging whimsically off the face of the mantel and with some small sized real pumpkins and a few little skulls, I'm pleased with the way they look. Thank goodness, as it would have been really depressing if I couldn't make anything work to my liking.

I use my sideboard in the dining room for my ancestor altar and today I pulled from my cellar the boxes labeled "Samhain" and began going through the items that I traditionally place on my shrine to those I love- and those I never knew but am bound to by blood- who have passed. Crows, skulls, large paper flowers I made years ago to replace the live flowers traditional to "Day of the Dead" celebrations and which are unattainable in New England at this time of year, candles, items that were personal to some of the people whose photos grace my altar, and more. I usually start to set it up about a week or so before Samhain and take it down on November 2. In the last days leading up to the sabbat I'll add fruit, vegetables and vegetation fresh-cut from the wild.

For me the act of going downstairs, pulling from my cellar the cartons where I store all my Samhain items during the year, bringing them up into the house proper and opening them is much like opening gifts on Christmas morning. I always get a small thrill when I see all these beloved things that have shared with me the passing of the seasons and likewise so many loved ones, and who in their own inanimate way have marked the years I have spent in the Craft. This is my favorite sabbat of the year and I can't wait until it's October 31.

Even if I never find a spot for those damn fairy lights!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hawthorn Samhain Lore

Never sleep or rest on the ground beneath the boughs of a hawthorn tree on Halloween as it's believed that evil spirits and mischievous faeries who are roaming the earth that night hide within the branches of hawthorn trees and cast unpleasant spells on those who innocently stop to rest beneath them.

"Faerie Hawthorne" photograph by the brilliant Giles C. Watson on flickr. Check out his work, I promise you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Days of the Week Correspondences

As someone who is really anal in all things, I like to do my spellwork on the day of the week, and within the phase of the moon, that is most conducive to the spell coming quickly and powerfully to fruition. But there are always those times when a spell or raised energy is needed in a more timely manner and it just won't do to sit around and wait for the proper day or moon phase to come around and at those times I work when I need to, despite what my inner perfectionist is whispering in my ear. Still, when I can, I try to work within the hours, days, months and planets that are most powerful for my needs. And I'm endlessly fascinated by how potent this time sensitive power actually is. Pay attention to what happens to you on any given day of the week, and what wishes you've had that have manifested themselves and generally it's pretty much when the planets say it should. As an added boost to your spellwork, choose your colors and herbs wisely too. For many this is old hat, but for some it's new information, and for me, it's just fun to ponder the power!

Planetary influence: the Sun
Colors: yellow and gold
Herbs and spices: cinnamon and orange peel
Work magick on Sunday for money, prosperity, success, energy, life force, the divine power of the God, blessings, new projects and to heal those issues related to the aforementioned.

Planetary influence: the Moon
Colors: white and silver
Herbs and spices: lemon rind and wintergreen
Work magick on Monday to bring about conception, any issues to do with mothers and motherhood, the divine power of the Goddess, home and family issues, clairvoyance, women's mysteries, medicine, dreams, the sea and any and all emotional work.

Planetary influence: Mars
Colors: red and black
Herbs and spices: allspice and chili pepper
Work magick on Tuesday to enhance your passion for fighting personal causes, courage, politics, competitions, rituals involving men, self assertion, defense, war, problem solving, and any and all protective or aggressive magick.

Planetary influence: Mercury
Colors: orange and purple
Herbs and spices: dill and celery seed
Work magick on Wednesday for good communication, travel, creativity, speed, all things related to studying, learning and teaching, divination and predictions, celibacy, self improvement, and to improve good luck.

Planetary influence: Jupiter
Colors: green and royal blue
Herbs and spices: sage and nutmeg
Work magick on Thursday for prosperity, abundance, leadership, healing, wealth/poverty/monetary and legal issues, luck, expansion, fortune, and material possessions.

Planetary influence: Venus
Colors: pink and aqua green
Herbs and spices: thyme and sugar
Work magick on Friday to draw or send love, heal relationships, romance, beauty, fertility, incense making, the arts, partnerships, pleasure, entertainment and all rituals involving women.

Planetary influence: Saturn
Colors: black or deep purple
Herbs and spices: Most of the spices associated with Saturn are poisonous, but for banishing spells you can use garlic or onion, fresh or dried
Work magick on Saturday to enhance boundaries, protective magick, restrictions, eliminating debt, finding a job, reincarnation and death, purging of pests, funerals and wills, the elderly, and all banishing and binding spells.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ivy Leaf Lore

In England, ivy has been used for centuries to divine the future. To foretell if a member of your family is going to die within the next twelve months, write the name of each family member on a leaf of ivy and on Halloween night place the leaves in a bowl of water and go to bed. In the morning, check the leaves: if one is shriveled up, has turned black or dark, or if there is the shape of a coffin marked on any of the leaves, this is believed to be an omen of death for the person whose name is written on that leaf. A leaf with black spots portends sickness, red spots a violent death for that unlucky family member. These events, however, can all be reversed if a wise man with knowledge of protective incantations can be found to magickally help you.

Want to induce dreams of your future love? Place ten ivy leaves beneath your pillow before you go to bed on Halloween night.

Ivy is sacred to Bacchus and Osiris and is said to offer protection against all forms of evil. It's long been used in the art and practice of divination and is ritually paired with holly. It aids in fertility, brings good luck and ensures fidelity. Ivy is a powerful witch's tool, even when it isn't Halloween.

Thanks to The Pagan Book of Halloween by Gerina Dunwich and In Worship of Trees by George Knowles

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Full Harvest Moon

Tonight's moon, that which falls closest to Mabon and the autumnal equinox, was named as such because it's frequently bright enough to work by, thus allowing farmers to continue their harvesting even after the sun goes down. Crops now ready for gathering are the last corn of the season, squashes and wild rice (which I have to admit I'm not such a big fan of!).

Due to the seasonal tilt of the earth at this time of year, the Harvest Moon often looks more colorful and unique than any other full moon during the year. I love to look up and see my beloved moon sporting shades of golden red or orange. Not only is it beautiful to look at on its own, but it's in perfect keeping with all the colors the earth is wearing at this time of year and to me it lends an even more fall feel to this season.

Sometimes this moon is known as the Hunter's Moon, but that isn't completely accurate. The Harvest Moon is always the moon closest to the equinox, but only up until October 13 and no later. If the full moon falls later than that, it's then called the Full Hunter's Moon, which is always the moon after the Harvest Moon. Today's moon is also known as the Kindly Moon, the Blackberry Moon, and courtesy of the Sioux Nation, The Moon When Quilling and Beading is Done. The neo-pagan name for this moon is the Blood Moon.

If you're out tonight Drawing Down the Moon or even just taking a moment to enjoy the crisp night air, be sure to first bathe yourself in the beauty of autumn's splendor above your head and enjoy one of the most beautiful moon's of the lunar year.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Natural Herbal Remedies

I've been struggling with a bout of chest congestion and a runny nose for several weeks now. My doctor says sinus allergies have caused a mild case of bronchitis (how generous of them!) and to help with the unpleasant symptoms, such as the complete inability to breathe at times, I should take an over-the-counter allergy medicine. While I would never knock anyone else for making the choice to do this, it just isn't my thing. If I can use herbs to help with any benign (and really unpleasant) symptoms, then I'll always do that rather than take drugs.

So given the fact that it is that time of year when folks get sick with change of season allergies and we're about to lurch headlong into the heart of the cold and flu season, herbal cures and remedies just might be the thing most needed right now. So if you aren't feeling well enough to get to the store, most of these remedies can be found in your kitchen right now. And most or all of these ingredients can be combined together for some even more potent medicine.

Cinnamon is an anti-microbial and cinnamon oil can be used in a steam bath to open the lungs and nasal passages. Keep in mind to not put the oil directly onto your skin so as not to burn yourself with it. Make yourself some cinnamon toast with ground cinnamon sprinkled on it, or a tea made with a cinnamon stick in hot water with added honey drizzled into it.

Eucalyptus and Peppermint are excellent for relieving respiratory distress and opening clogged lungs and bronchial passages. Either can be used as a nasal steam bath with a few drops of the essential oil placed in a large bowl of steaming water and then inhaled. Also, either the crushed leaves of the plant, or a few drops of the essential oil from it, can be mixed with a bit of olive oil and warmed to make a soothing rub for the chest (take care with what you're wearing though so as not to stain it with the oil!).

Lemon is an antibacterial that also helps to flush the lymphatic system. A soothing tea made with hot water and fresh squeezed lemon juice is a great cure for a sore throat and the hot liquid will loosen clogged sinuses.

Onions. Onions contain many volatile oils all of which make for very effective medicine. An onion can act as an expectorant that breaks up mucus and phlegm, as an anti-microbial that has been proven to kill streptococci bacteria, ease asthma attacks and relax bronchial spasms, and can stop a simple cough as well. To ease sinus congestion you can do something as simple as cut a fresh onion and breathe in the vapor from it or eat a sliced raw onion to ease your throat pain. But for those who prefer their onions cooked, here's a few more suggestions. To clear lung congestion, fry an onion in olive oil and sprinkle with cayenne or curry powder. No cayenne or curry? Fry up a couple of onions by themselves and they'll work almost as well alone. Onions are a great expectorant without any added bells and whistles. To make a tasty cough suppressant, grate an onion and mix with honey to taste, fry in a bit of olive oil and eat.

Oregano is wonderful for relieving a fever, a cold or the flu. Keep in mind though to not put any oregano essential oil on your face directly without it being mixed in a fatty oil as it can burn you, believe it or not. This is an herb that in oil form is considered "hot" and will heat up and tingle in no time at all. To be safe, make a rub with some crushed leaves or a small amount of essential oil placed in a warm olive oil solution and have someone rub it onto your upper back to relieve muscle pain and lung congestion. And obviously it goes without saying that the herb itself it can be eaten in a delicious recipe too!

Sage has been used for centuries to treat upper respiratory troubles, such as coughs, colds and fevers. It can be eaten in a dish prepared with it or an infusion made from the leaves and stems can be used as a mouthwash. Gargle with it to cure sore throats and coughs.

Thyme is a natural anti-microbial and expectorant that heals throat, lung and stomach infections, as well as urinary tract issues. If you have a sore throat or chest congestion, make a tea using fresh thyme leaves in place of tea leaves. Gargle with it to heal your throat and drink it to loosen phlegm and heal your lungs. When the volatile oil in thyme reaches your bladder and kidneys, it will heal any condition there as well. Thyme can also be used in a steam bath to loosen your sinuses and bronchial passages. Simply take a small muslin bag of fresh thyme or use several drops of pure thyme oil and place in a bowl of steaming water. Drape a towel over your head and steam your nasal passages to clear them. All varieties contain the same active ingredient, thymol, so choose whatever type you prefer.

It obviously goes without saying that if you are really sick or think you may have an infection, you should please see your doctor right away. While I may use herbs in my daily life, I would never shun proper medical attention when I needed it. Even the Wise Women of old knew when something was beyond their knowledge and it was time to call the village physician!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I don't believe there's a more spiritual way to welcome the month of October than this.

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the
fall; Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

Robert Frost, 1913

Photo courtesy of b3nut on flickr.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Apple Lore

If you eat an apple on Samhain right before you go to bed, you won't have any illnesses during the next twelve months. Eat a slice from each of three apples on Samhain night and you'll have a year of good luck.

Bury an apple in your witch's garden, beneath the light of the moon on Samhain night, and it will feed the souls of those restless spirits wandering through the realm of the living that night. Living in the northeast, I wouldn't even attempt to dig into my cold hard earth at the end of October, but I do leave an offering of cakes out on the sundial in my garden to nourish the ghostly travelers who are out and about on Samhain night. It's far less back-breaking!

Photo courtesy of Aviana2 on Flickr.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Future Besom (Again)

Well, I've finally gotten around to choosing a handle for my soon-to-be besom (see "My Future Besom" August 13, 2009) and ironically enough, I didn't even need to leave my yard! I never quite found the time this summer to take a hike through the local woods to find an old oak branch and I'd been getting antsy about it. Then yesterday afternoon while out beneath my more than a century old apple tree, I happened to glance up through the branches and there it was: the perfect handle. As I said before, I've gathered all my birch twigs for the brush end of the besom over the last few seasons only from twigs my trees have dropped and I was planning on doing the same for the handle as I would never harm a tree for my own personal use. My apple tree had three good-sized sucker branches high up in a neat little row that were going to need to be removed before winter anyways and the middle of the three was exactly the right length and diameter for my besom. The ever-helpful Griffin got out a ladder and climbed up with a hand saw and moments later my handle was right there in my hands. I spent the next couple of hours cutting all the little branches off, pruning down the nubby bits and then peeling all the bark from the branch, exposing the lovely apple wood. It's now sitting in my kitchen beginning to dry out and when it's dry enough, I'll be able to make my besom. It's about four and half feet long, with a gentle curve as it thickens towards what will be the handle end. I haven't yet decided whether to sand the crap out of it when it dries or to leave just as they are all the bumpy bits from its former little branches for a more rustic look. Hopefully, despite my inability to make a firm decision on anything, I'll have decided by then which look I prefer for my handle.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Witches' Smoke

With Samhain just over a month away, I thought it might be interesting to write (here and there) about some of the lore and beliefs associated with it.

In Europe during the Middle Ages, it was believed that witches' homes could be easily identified by the smoke from their chimneys. On the morning of the first Monday after Halloween, you must climb to the top of a hill above your village, one that affords a good view of the whole town below. You must then watch the smoke rising from all the chimneys of all the houses and the smoke from a witch's fire will be seen to travel against the wind rather than with it, thus making it easy to spot her amongst the villagers.

I especially like this one as I live in a house that used to sit alone in a vast field. When we bought it, a great deal of the land had just been sold for new construction and we're the only ones in our neighborhood who not only live in a very old house, but also the only one with fireplaces and (obviously) chimneys, so our winter smoke stands out amongst all our neighbors' homes. If this belief were truly possible, then it would be a good thing that we have the only chimneys as far as the eye can see as given the fact that a witch does live in this house, I'd be in some serious trouble!

Thanks to Gerina Dunwich and The Pagan Book of Halloween.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Talisman Bottle

For my birthday last month I bought myself this little cobalt glass and sterling silver talisman bottle. Actually, I was more surprised than anyone that I had done this as I don't buy myself birthday gifts and I usually don't go for flash looking things, especially jewelry, but this spoke to me in more ways than one.

I adore cobalt and the fact that this little bottle is of cobalt glass was thrilling to me. My Native American animal totem is the wolf so the little wolf head also made me smile. And in spite of the rather gaudy, chunky sterling cap, the bottle is in fact quite tiny at only 3/4", and the entire piece measures only a little more than an inch or so in height, which makes this somewhat more palatable to me.

I'd prefer the bottle to have been much simpler with just a plain wolf head cap rather than all the doo-dads and curly-cues surrounding it. My maiden name might happen to be Irish, but the celtic knots all over this jewelry did absolutely nothing for me, nor did the horrible bit of string it came on. I have some wonderful leather that I plan to re-string it on for as you can see in the photos by its non-existence, the very first thing I did when this little guy arrived in my mailbox was to cut off that offending piece of yarn and toss it in the trash.

My only real trouble is, I don't know what to put in it. I'll know when the object is right by the visceral reaction I'll have to it, but in the meantime, I keep giving it some thought every now and again but to no avail. Funerary ashes? Small charged stones? A special talisman? A powerful charm or a potent brew? I won't wear it empty, so you won't find my little cobalt wolf bottle around my neck until I figure this out but when it does come to me, I'll be ready! And in the meantime, I can get myself used to the idea of wearing this overly ornate little bottle.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Tools and Rules of Ritual

I tend to lean towards the simple when it comes to the accoutrements of ritual. I find myself routinely skimming through catalogs, both paper and online, checking out all the wands, clothing and altar tools, but when it comes to actually putting them to use in my own life, it's just not my thing. I'd never knock another witch for their own preferences but for me less is definitely more.

I don't have an athame or a wand, nor do I own a white handled knife. When I cast a circle, I use my hand and when I need to cut herbs I use an old knife that belonged to my father who was an executive chef. My utility knife has a very worn brown wooden handle and a blade that's been sharpened countless times over many decades, but it speaks to my heart and when I use it my father is right there with me. I will admit that I have thought about finding a lovely fallen branch and crafting it into a wand but I haven't yet done this, probably because I know that I most likely wouldn't use it in ritual. Perhaps one day I'll make one anyways.

My circle altar has no fancy statues or decorations. I don't use special silver and gold goddess/god candles, but one simple fat white pillar to represent them both. I haven't a special dish or chalice so my offerings of food are served up on a plain dish and in a simple cup. I do have a nice incense burner because I grind my own incense rather than use sticks, but that's about the only thing that I've purchased from a shop. My cauldron is an antique that took me years to find, plain cast iron without any fussiness, and used for centuries by women who came before me.

And in circle I keep myself as simple as my tools. I've read about a gajillion books by witches and I have to say that while most of the authors are extraordinary in their talents and knowledge, they're also all utterly delusional. While it would be wonderful to have the time to bathe in a tub full of purifying oils by candlelight prior to circle, who actually has that kind of time? I'm lucky to have the time to cast a circle at all. I try to always wash my face and brush my teeth beforehand, but if I have to choose between the time for ritual and the time for cleansing myself in preparation for it, I'm going to choose circle every time. And given that I bathe every day, I seriously doubt that I'm so filthy as to insult the divine ones. I don't wear any special robes or clothing, but I am always barefoot. I've read in a few books that there is a "rule" about never wearing any hair adornments while in circle, but when I had long hair I always wore it pulled back and out of the way. I'd rather be breaking some silly rule than setting my head on fire. Sometimes common sense far outweighs the romantic notions set forth by those who revel in making ritual as intricate as it can possibly be.

There's something to be said for stripping it all down to the plainest way possible. Remove the glamour and you're left with what is most important, what it's all about. What so many might find boring is what speaks volumes to my soul and that's good enough for me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Blessed be to everyone who today is celebrating Mabon on this lovely (or in my case, not so lovely weatherwise, as it's about to rain) fall day. It's officially autumn! The days will now grow shorter and the nights longer, and as a night person who thrives on darkness and the moon, I'm now coming into the time of the year when I feel most energized and alive.

I've been feeling the Mabon vibe for a couple of weeks as I've been working to put my yard to bed for the colder months, cutting back the unsightly plants that have completed their life cycles for this year and marveling at those who are just beginning to come alive as the season ends. The trees haven't turned yet, but there have been a few leaves here and there that are showing their glorious colors of red, yellow and orange. And every time I leave my house I drive by farm stands selling apples, pumpkins and gourds and I itch to stop and buy a car full of everything they're selling.

I celebrated today very quietly, with a simple circle to give thanks for all I have been blessed with. I would have preferred to honor the equinox tonight, but as I won't be home I grabbed the only time I had and it was still quite sweet, if not dark. I made oat cakes last night for an offering, not only because they're made from harvest grains, but because I felt it appropriate to offer something old, something that has been feeding people for millennia. I like the idea that people were eating these when the Romans were subjugating most of the world. There's something very earthy about using a recipe that's that old. I also finally got around to consecrating my cauldron. I didn't intentionally hold onto it until now, but as this is a day with much meaning for me, it felt appropriate to ritually prepare it during this circle. It's now ready for its inaugural use on Samhain, my favorite sabbat on the wheel!

This is the recipe for the oat cakes. It's been tweaked a little by me, in the interest of making it contemporary and simple. After all, we aren't going to be pounding the grains by hand, nor will we be slaughtering our pigs for lard and then slaving over our hearths as we cook our cakes on a iron griddle in the flame. They still taste delicious and are nice and crunchy, as any self-respecting oat cake should be. They can be used, really, for any sabbat, not just the harvest ones. Enjoy!

Traditional Oat Cakes makes approximately 48 3" cakes

3 cups rolled oats (not minute or quick)
3 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, slightly melted
2/3 cup cold water, approximate

Preheat oven to 350f degrees. Grease a baking sheet.
Combine the oats, flour, sugar, soda and salt. Mix well. Add butter and stir till blended. Mixture will be crumbly. Add the water a little at a time. The dough should be moist enough to form into a ball but not so moist as to be very sticky. It should hold its shape nicely, like a cookie dough used for rolling. Roll dough onto a well-floured surface to 1/4" thick. Cut into 3" circles with a cutter and place on sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden in color. Cool and store in an airtight container.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thank Goodness For Simple Herbs

"Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful, Like a hell-broth and bubble."

William Shakespeare

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Few Good Books

There seems to be a dearth of decent witch novels which sucks because every now and then I feel like reading one. I periodically read non-fictional, historical books about witches, but let's be honest, they are all pretty much the same: women living their lives the best way they knew how, usually with beliefs and behaviors that were way ahead of their time, villagers feeling threatened by them, the women are then tried, tortured and executed. I really need to be in the mood for one of those books and one can only take so much of them due to their rather depressing nature.

But on the other hand, I've found that most of the fictional books about witches aren't very good. 'Practical Magic' and the like aside, they tend to either be very bad chick lit that have very little to do with anything wiccan or more in the vein of the Middle Ages 'Excalibur' costume fantasy-type story, of which I'm not very fond. I'm just not a bodice-ripper kind of girl, even if there is a witch in there somewhere. I've also noticed that for some reason that I have yet to figure out, almost all books about witches now seem to be crime mysteries, a genre that is also not a favorite. Still, I have compiled a list of about a dozen books that may have potential and that I'll be looking into at my local library as the urge to read one presents itself, as it inevitably will.

And it was at my library that I started reading, quite by accident, a series about a group of friends who happen to be witches and all of which take place in the town I grew up in, oddly enough. I only read the first one to see if the author portrayed my hometown accurately, but ended up finding the stories appealing, despite the fact that they're mysteries.

By Delores Stewart Riccio
Circle of Five
Charmed Circle
The Divine Circle of Ladies Making Mischief
The Divine Circle of Ladies Courting Trouble
The Divine Circle of Ladies Playing With Fire

And another series that was brought to my attention by an internet acquaintance, again crime mysteries with a witch (and in this case also an empath) at their heart, are nice light reading as well.

By Madelyn Alt
The Trouble With Magic
A Charmed Death
Hex Marks the Spot
No Rest for the Wiccan
Where There's a Witch

Still, my quest continues because sometimes one just has a hankering for a good, even fun, book about witches and witchcraft. It can be a nice diversion from life for a little while.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wishing for Witches

I really enjoy being a solitary witch and thus being able to do my own thing, doing what I want when I want to do it, but there are times in my life when I wish I was part of a coven. It wouldn't even have to be a proper coven that meets regularly and has rules and regulations or follows a specific tradition. I'd happily settle for just a friend or two who are also children of the Craft that I could call on when needed and who would understand. Because there are times in our lives when we simply need someone who can be there for us in ways that those who aren't witches just can't be.

I had a nasty virus over the past weekend and by Wednesday was in dire need of some emergency (and really horrible) dental surgery on top of it. What I wanted was to spend some time in circle, hoping to generate some positive healing energy to help me make a speedier recovery, but I just didn't have enough gas in my tank to pull it off. In the past I've been ill and struggled to help me help myself and have had positive results, but what happens when you can't do it alone? That's where my much longed-for witch friends would come in. This week would have been much more tolerable with a little bit of witchy help from others who know me well.

And having some witch friends to share in my everyday healthy life would be a blessing as well: casting circle together occasionally, sharing recipes and potions, celebrating the sabbats together, and just being friends in a way that fills a void in my life that my other non-practicing friends and family sadly can never fill.

Being a solitary witch is for the most part fine with me, but every once in a while I find myself yearning for someone to share my journey with, and this week was one of those times.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Whimsy in Magic

I want to be a whimsical witch who doesn't take herself too seriously. I want to feel free-spirited and always see the joy in everything I undertake, both in circle and outside it. I want to wear high heeled witch shoes (though maybe not this high) with long red and white stripey socks and I want a magic wand that glows with a shiny star at the tip. I want to embrace all that is beautiful in the practice of magick and wear a big warm smile on my face while doing just that. Wouldn't that be just lovely?

Photo courtesy alyz on

Friday, September 4, 2009

Full Corn Moon

Today is the first full moon of just a handful of my favorite moons of the year. While it technically isn't autumn yet, with the cooler night air and the change of season imminent, the moon is taking on that lovely fall look I adore so much. Its size and color are different from any other time of the year and I simply adore the way it looks in the fall.

Tonight's moon is known as the Full Corn Moon or the Barley Moon, the Fruit Moon (courtesy of it being apple picking season), the Nut Moon, and the Mulberry Moon. The Native American name for this moon is the Harvest Moon, although the English gave that name to October's moon as it falls closer to the actual harvest. The Harvest Moon is also the neo-pagan name for tonight's moon. My personal favorite would have to be the Singing Moon, the Celtic name for September's moon.

If you hold a moonstone in your mouth at the full moon it will reveal the future, but keep in mind that it's unlucky to look at any moon over your shoulder.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Genuine Card Carrying, Cauldron Stirring Witch

During yet another sleepless night (I've given up any hope of actually sleeping ever again), I found myself watching the movie Practical Magic on some sappy female-targeted station, complete with editing and commercials. And while this may have been pretty sad, it did get me thinking. Wouldn't it be so much better if the craft were even a little bit like it is in movies and on TV? Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining at all about the spiritual path I've chosen in this life, nor am I at all dissatisfied with it, but let's be honest. If practicing magick actually had the capability that writers' fantasies give it, it really would be a total gas.

I should have known where my life was headed, not only because even as a child I was drawn to my ancestors' Native American heritage and beliefs, as well as possessing a near-psychotic respect for nature and animals, but that my favorite TV show was Bewitched. I could think of nothing more wonderful than having the abilities that Samantha Stevens had. And that thrill has never left me through the years and through countless movies and shows.

I value my knowledge of herbs and the ability to cast a circle and channel energy, but I'd simply adore being able to fly (broom or not), or to wiggle my nose and have my house instantly cleaned. To be able to travel through time or even just to teleport from one place to another in the blink of an eye would be grand. I'd find it a rush to be able to turn myself into another object or living being. How about bringing back the dead? Creepy? Perhaps. But come on, it's pretty cool too. If real life could be a Harry Potter story or like a feel-good movie such as the aforementioned Practical Magic, or even the more freaky The Witches of Eastwick or The Craft, life would be far more interesting and fun.

Don't get me wrong, I don't spend all day long wishing for the spectacular in my very quiet and simple life in the Craft, nor am I sad that I possess absolutely no supernatural abilities, but occasionally I ponder the joys of living with some real magickal talents, ones that would turn the world on its ear.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Hearty Tomato Soup

We're diehard soup lovers here in our house and what better way to use some of the most abundant vegetables of this time of year than in a hearty soup, and in doing so honor the bounty of the harvests that occur between Lammas and Mabon? And as the evenings grow cooler, a hot bowl of soup and a thick slab of bread not only feeds the tummy, but the soul as well.

Delicious Tomato Soup makes 4-6 good size servings

2 28 or 35 ounce cans of organic whole peeled tomatoes
a couple of fresh ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges (optional)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 quarts (8 cups) water or stock
1/2 cup chopped organic parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375f degrees. Drain tomatoes and reserve the liquid. Halve canned ones and put those and the fresh (if using them) in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil, toss, add the thyme and roast. Turning them once or twice, roast for about 30 minutes. If they begin to dry out or stick, add a bit of the tomato liquid as needed.

Put the remaining olive oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook just until it begins to color, in a minute or so. Add the carrots and onions and cook, sprinkling with the salt and pepper, stirring for about five minutes. Stir in the stock or water, along with the contents of the roasting pan and the reserved tomato juice.

Turn the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat so it bubbles gently. Cover and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

This is an amazingly vivid-colored soup, vibrant with the reds, golds and oranges of autumn and Mabon and it tastes delicious. Serve it with a loaf of buttery rich homemade corn bread and you have a simple, yet perfect, meal for this time of year. Enjoy and rejoice in the impending arrival of the Great Harvest and the autumnal equinox.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Trees 101: The Apple/Crabapple

Apples are an ancient fruit and have long been used in magick. The apple, as everyone knows, was represented in the story of Adam and Eve and is also associated with the Great Mother Goddess. In the folk tales of many cultures, eating an apple opened the gateway to another realm for the lucky person consuming the fruit. Apples symbolize illumination and knowledge and apple wood is believed to make a very powerful wand.

Apple is one of the nine sacred woods of the sabbat fire in which it symbolizes love. Apples are a common ingredient in Pagan ritual and spellwork. Slice an apple in half across its middle and what will you find? The seeds laid out in the shape of the pentagram. Apples are given as offerings to the dead at Samhain to aid them in the process of rebirth. And the game of bobbing for apples at Halloween was first played in ancient times: if you were lucky enough to win, it meant that you would be blessed by the Goddess for a full year.

Apples bring prosperity and the good life and are believed to be good for the digestion.

The apple tree is ruled by Venus and the goddess and its energy is feminine. Apple vibrates to the elements of both air and water. Besides being used for prosperity and a healthy tummy, apples can be used to attract a lover, to cross over into the faery realm and to foster strength and protection.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A New Scott Cunningham Book

Scott Cunningham has a new book due to be released on October 1st of this year, once again published by Llewellyn Books. The manuscript for this book was recently discovered in a battered old manila envelope and was written by Cunningham in the late 70s or early 80s. According to Llewellyn, the new book contains "spells, rituals, invocations and an herbal grimoire, as well as Scott's hand-written notes and hand-drawn symbols, signs and runes."

Scott's books were the very first ones I read when beginning my spiritual path in Wicca and pagan worship, and to this day I still refer to them on a regular basis. His herbal dictionary is indispensable and his incense and oils encyclopedia is also something I could not live without. It's such a shame that such a powerful voice and a gentle, thorough teacher was gone so soon from this plane.

Cuuningham's Book of Shadows: The Path of an American Traditionalist, published by Llewellyn Books, 288 pages, ISBN-13: 9780738719146 is due in stores on October 1, 2009.