Saturday, May 16, 2009

Poppet Spell

I've made and used poppets in magick for some time now and find them to be very useful when something a bit stronger than a simple herbal spell is needed. Having something tangible to use to empower your needs, in combination with a traditional spell, can be quite potent.

I recently was having an issue with something that was causing me some considerable anxiety and so I decided to work a poppet spell to remove that fear when I needed it to be gone, thus enabling me to function effectively and without the nerves, which my poppet friend kindly cleansed me of when it was needed. The following spell is for the removal of anxiety, but this can be altered and modified to whatever your personal needs might be, such as a need for money or to heal a cold virus, etc. Be sure to adjust your colors and herbs accordingly.

What you will need:
Fabric, for the poppet body in a color appropriate for the issue
Herbs, appropriate for the issue to be resolved
Candles, again in an appropriate color for resolution of the issue
Spell, a written spell isn't essential for this, but it adds to the potency of the poppet

For my poppet's body I chose a natural cotton, in the color pink, which I always find to be calming. You can use a color based on traditional magickal associations (for example: green for money, or blue for healing an illness) or one that you choose on your own based on how it makes you feel. There are no hard and fast rules with this. You can even purchase a pre-sewn empty poppet body, available in various basic colors and ready to be filled with herbs, from a magick shop but I prefer to make my own as it empowers the poppet that much more, coming from my own hands.

It's traditional to use an odd number of herbs in a spell and the usual magickal numbers are 3, 7, and 9 as well as multiples of these numbers. Personally, I like to keep things simple and so I tend to not adhere to this. For the most part I use only four herbs when I can, one for each of the elements, but considering how nervous I was in this instance, I used far more herbs than usual for this! For my fear-calming poppet, I used lavender, rose petals (blue roses, as those are my favorite roses and always make me happy), passionflower, yarrow, scullcap, vervain, thyme and a dash of cinnamon. I don't add any oils to the herbs that I prepare for poppet magick as they can leach through the fabric and make a mess.

Lavender: brings peace and banishes sorrows.
Rose: calms personal stress and heals emotional imbalances
Passionflower: calms troubles and brings peace
Yarrow: stops fears and grants courage
Scullcap: encourages peace and relaxation
Vervain: brings peace and calms emotions
Thyme: gives courage and removes all ills from one's past that have caused the fear
Cinnamon: helps ensure success in a spell and increases the spell's potency

Double your fabric and draw an outline of a human body on your fabric, a bit chubbier in size than normal and cut it out. Either hand sew or machine sew the pieces together, leaving a section on one side open and turn right side out.

Grind your herbs of choice, based on your personal needs, and be sure to remain conscious of your intentions the entire time you do this. Attuning to the vibrations of your herbs and enchanting them is always critical in maintaining their power throughout this process. The herbs need not be ground to a powder, but refrain from using any sharp or twiglike pieces as they can tear or poke through the fabric body, and keeping the herbs fairly small makes it easier to stuff the poppet. Sew your poppet closed.

Once your poppet is finished, hold it in your power hand (this is your dominant hand, the one you write with and which holds the most magickal power for you) and clearly state and visualize your intentions. Place the poppet on your altar, cast your circle and light the candles you have chosen in appropriate colors and in a quantity that feels right to you. If you've written a spell to accompany the empowering of your poppet it should be done during the spellwork period of your circle ritual. Again, this isn't essential. The poppet will work even if you simply visualize it working and light your candles while meditating on your needs.

And as a reminder: spells that draw something to you (in this case, a sense of calm, courage and peace) should always be performed during the waxing moon and those to banish things you don't want should be done during the waning moon. (If I had chosen herbs to quell fear rather than promote a sense of well-being this would have been the correct time to work that spell instead). In this case, this spell was worked at the full moon with the Goddess at her most potent and powerful.

Put the poppet in a safe place and take it out only when needed. I am of the belief that, like my magickal tools and implements, my poppet should never be handled by anyone else so as not to introduce the energies and beliefs of that person, especially those folks who tend to poo poo anything not of the mundane. Personally, I prefer to keep things pure and unmuddied, but this is a personal choice.

When you no longer need your poppet, carefully take it apart stitch by stitch and bury the opened cloth body and the herbs in the ground and thank the Divine for their help in your spellwork.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Trees 101: The Willow

My mother and I were talking about trees yesterday and I told her how much I loved to sit beneath the large old willow in the backyard of my childhood home, to which she replied that my father would never have planted a willow tree as it is symbolic of death and when one plants a willow, someone you love will die. While this isn't exactly true, the willow was a popular image engraved on Victorian headstones and along with the nickname of "weeping willow" is frequently thought of when it comes to the subject of death.

Instead of bringing death and misery, the willow can actually alleviate sadness and darkness and when one sits beneath its long embracing branches, will find their energies calmed. Willow is a favored wood for wands due to its flexibility. Native Americans wove their baskets and fishing nets from willow because of that flexibility. Medicinally, willow has been used to treat headaches and fevers by use of the leaves, bark and wood of the tree. To conjure spirits mix ground willow bark with sandalwood. The traditional besom, usually made of birch, is bound with willow branches.

The willow is the third sacred wood for the sabbat fire and, not surprisingly, it represents death. The tree is associated with the moon and thus the Goddess, giving it feminine energy. It's a magickal tree that vibrates to the elements of water and fire. The willow is the traditional tree of Samhain.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Witch's Field Garden Awakes

We've just begun to get the gardens ready for the season, trimming away that which was dried and dead from the winter, but which I always like to leave for the birds and small animals to cull seeds from, as well as to provide nest materials in early spring. I'm most fond of our field garden behind my studio, the one David and I have spent innumerable hours tending over the last few years. I've carefully chosen the plants that we grow there, plants that serve several purposes: medicinal flowers and herbs, those with magickal properties that have been used for centuries and those that allow us to xeriscape garden for environmental reasons, doing our share to help save Mother Earth and conserve resources. These photos show the garden just starting to wake up. By the time we're in the heart of the season, there will be little mulch and soil showing and the plants will be several feet high and sporting a variety of vivid colors. In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite plants we grow out there:

Yarrow. This is a protective plant and when worn stops all fear and brings courage to the wearer. The flowers can be made into an infusion and when drunk will improve one's psychic powers. It can be used to exorcise evil from a person, place or thing.

Bergamot. This plant brings clarity to any situation. It attracts butterflies and the red varieties will draw hummingbirds to your garden.

Hyssop. This is the most popular herb used for purification. It can be used in any magickal applications for this purpose and can be worn to cleanse a person. It can also be used to purge a home of negative energy. This plant will also attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to your garden and the flowers and leaves can be steeped into an anise tea or used in any dish that you'd like to infuse with the scent and/or taste of anise. This is a plant that smells wonderful and whose scent can be enjoyed on the breeze while you toil.

Heliopsis. The herbal member of the sunflower and daisy family and also a plant native to American soil. They bring luck to those who grow them and will in theory guard a garden against pests. I haven't noticed this last attribute working, but they are beautiful and I adore them.

Coneflower. This is actually echinacea, which if taken regularly stimulates the immune system and can help to reduce cold symptoms. I love them for their glorious colors from purple to an almost neon pink and orange and couldn't imagine having a field garden without them.

Valerian. This is a purifying and protective plant. It can be worn in a sachet to protect one's person or in the house to guard against that which can threaten the home (even lightning!). It can be used in love charms, drawing men to a woman in droves as well as for what it's best known for today: used as a sleep aid and a muscle relaxant. And the best part of it is that witches from centuries past would refer to dried and ground, powdered valerian as "graveyard dust", which is really very cool.

Catmint. Aside from making your cat go berserk and get really wasted, catmint promotes beauty, happiness and love. Use it in love sachets with rose petals, and hang it in your home to attract good spirits and positive energy. It's said that if you give the catmint to your cat personally, you will forge a psychic bond between the two of you. This is also another plant that smells simply amazing in the garden and can be enjoyed while you work.