broom

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

January, 2018

La Befana

 

(LA BEFANA. Magic stocking from BEFANA. By incantevolemerletto shop.)

 

Merry meet.

While my mother’s parents were from Sicily, it was not until recently I learned of La Befana, Italy’s oldest and most celebrated legend – about a witch.

In Italian folklore, she is an old woman with warts on her crooked nose, wearing a skirt and a black shawl, who flies around on her broom, delivering candy to well-behaved children. In Russia she is known as Baboushka.

Children await Babbo Natale on Christmas Eve, but the red-suited man is new compared to the story of the old woman who was too busy cleaning to join the Wise Men on their journey. According to the legend, they stopped by her cottage to ask directions and invited her to come along, but she refused. She also refused to join a shepherd who asked her to join him, as some tell the story.

Later that night she saw a great light in the sky. Regretting her decision, she sets out to give the Christ Child gifts that had, according to some, belonged to her child who had died. She never finds the Baby Jesus and instead, leaves her gifts for children she encountered along the way. Since the 13th century, children have left their shoes out or hung up their socks Epiphany Eve, January 5, for the Befana to fill with sweets and gifts. Bad children were given lumps of coal.

Often she is shown covered in soot because, like Santa Claus, she delivers presents by sliding down the chimney. Her name means “gift-bringer” and according to a post by DreamDiscoverItalia.com in 2015, many believe she also sweeps the floor before she leaves, sweeping away the old to make way for the new.

La Befana is a Christian legend that began in Northern Italy and became a big part of the Italian celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the Wise Men arrive in Bethlehem and deliver their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Other versions of the legend have La Befana carrying a sack of bread, giving a piece to every child she saw in the hopes one would be the Christ Child. She never does find him and is still wandering around Italy on her broomstick.

Her arrival is celebrated with such traditional Italian foods such as panettone, fried doughnuts with dried fruit, and fritters with raisins. When children leave a snack for the witch, it’s something soft because she has few teeth.

While La Bafana is viewed most commonly as a village crone, she has also been called a sprite or fairy. Instead of a broomstick, sometimes she is said to ride a goat or a donkey. Rarely does she wear a pointed hat; a headscarf is more traditional.

According to an article written by Martha Bakerhian for tripsavy.com, “This folktale may actually date back to the Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia, a one- or two-week festival starting just before the winter solstice. At the end of Saturnalia, Romans would go to the Temple of Juno on the Capitoline Hill to have their fortunes read by an old crone. This story evolved into the tale of La Befana.”

Heather Greene explains in an article for “The Wild Hunt” in January 2016, “As with many regional traditions, La Befana’s modern construction and appearance were developed over an expansive amount of time and stem from a diverse number of cultural elements. Her story has been adapted over and over to fit into a variety of different social or religious structures.

 

(La Befana the Witch Sculpture by Dellamorteco, Dellamorte & Co. Etsy Shop)

 

Similar to modern community traditions in the northern Italian towns, Circolo dei Trivi burns an effigy, a representation of Giobiana, within their ritual space. They collect the ashes and tell the story of nature’s death and rebirth, through the death of Giobiana and the birth of Belisama. In that process, they also thank nature, represented as La Befana, for bringing the final gifts from the previous year. Grazie, La Befana.”

Urbania, thought to be her official home, draws tens of thousands of people for a five-day festival that includes the arrival of La Befana to her cottage, which the townspeople built in her honor. There is music, dancing, parades, fireworks and letters from children asking for gifts. In Venice, men dressed as La Befana race boats on the Grand Canal, per DreamDiscoverItalia. In Rome and elsewhere, women dress like La Befana.

 

A Spell of Prosperity to Accomplish your Goals 

(Submitted by Gayle Nogas)

What you’ll need:

A red candle placed on a table or altar

Three figs or three dates 

A small cup of honey

A broom 

With this simple spell you can ask The Befana not only to bring your home prosperity, but also to send you powerful energy regarding your success and the goals you will work with next year.

In the evening, put the three figs or dates in the small cup of honey (this is a traditional offering for The Befana) and put them on the table or the altar next to the red candle. These offerings will show that you honor her powers.

Light the red candle. Pull up a chair and sit in it calmly for two minutes watching the candle and bringing your mind to the tranquility of the energy that is surrounding you. The red candle is a symbol of your own power to accomplish your goals and also calls the power of The Befana. Now repeat the following out loud or in your head three times:

“Come Befana, come to me.

Come from the mountains to make me free.

Come with your gifts of wisdom and power,

To make this a prosperous year for me.”

Once you have repeated this spell three times, take the broom and start sweeping the room in the direction of the clock’s hands, always sweeping towards the central part to concentrate there the powers and the charitable energy of The Befana in one place.

Leave the broom and dust all night long. Finally blow the candle and thank The Befana for her help by saying:

“Thank you, Befana, for giving me the gifts of your wisdom and prosperity.”

The next day, pick up the broom, clean up the dust and debris, and focus on a hugely prosperous year.

 

This year, in honor of my ancestors, I plan to recognize the Witch of Christmas for making winter a witchy season. Perhaps I’ll dress like her, or leave my shoes and a soft cookie outside my door. If you celebrate her, please leave me a comment describing how on the Pagan Pages Emag Facebook page.

 

Merry part. And merry meet again.

 

**

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

WitchCrafting: Crafts for Witches

December, 2016

Sorghum Besom

Merry meet.

There’s something special about crafting your own magical tools. I just completed making a besom and it was simple enough you might want to try it.

I had been sweeping my floors with corn brooms for more than a decade before I heard the term broomcorn. Flipping those two words triggered a brainstorm. Corn. I could grow corn. I could make my own broom.

The first challenge was to find the seeds at a nursery. An employee consulted reference material to tell me the scientific name was sorghum bicolor.

On Beltane, I planted a row about nine feet long and after thinning the seedlings, I ended up with about 45 stalks, a few growing alone, most growing in clusters.

Being a dry summer, I watered often. At Lughnasadh, I picked one stalk, but let the rest continue to grow, harvesting them under the full moon just before Mabon. I tied them in bundles and hung them upside down to dry.

My intent was to make the besom while on a Mabon weekend retreat, but it ended up being Samhain night before I sat down to do it. By now, the stalks were extremely dry. Although the YouTube video I had watched called for combing off the seeds and soaking the broomcorn for several hours, I did neither.

Using a witch hazel walking stick I had purchased several years earlier as the handle, I pounded a small nail into the wood about eight inches from the bottom. To that, I anchored a thin hemp cord typically used in beading.

Selecting a variety of colors, I placed stalks around the stick, trimmed them to the same length and wrapped the cord around them as tightly as possible. A few inches lower, I secured them with more cord.

I then selected more stalks, trimmed them to about the same length, and using another length of cord, again secured to the nail, I wrapped it as tightly as possible around the second layer in two places.

My intent was to have three layers, but with the seeds left on them, it was heavy. Most people would probably comb off the seeds – storing some in a paper bag for next year’s crop and feeding the rest to the birds – leaving just the tassels for the broom.

I continued to wrap twine tightly around the stalks until the space between the two sections were connected. By this time, the cording had cut through skin on two fingers in my efforts to keep it taut, and I decided to stop.

Grasping the broomcorn several inches below where it was wrapped to add another band of cord turned out not to have the desired effect of keeping the tassels more upright when the besom is stored with the handle down, which is the way I typically keep them. Other options are being explored, include covering the cord with leather, and adding embellishments such as gemstones and the phases of the moon.

Meanwhile, the besom was offered to the energies of Samhain, passed through smoke, sprinkled with salt water and held up to the next full moon while awaiting use as a tool in its first ritual.

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1Merry part.

And merry meet again.

Witchcrafting: Crafts for Witches

February, 2015

Get Swept Away
Merry meet!
Besom

Besoms – along with black pointy hats and cauldrons – are the three symbols most associated with witches. That was part of the reason my coven decided to have some fun with them. One full moon we adorned black hats. On another, we decorated brooms.

The idea was to personalize it while incorporating all our energies. We each began with a standard broom, a crystal, and ribbons and beads for the directions, the God and Goddess. We then exchanged offerings. I gave everyone shells and a skeleton key. Each woman chose how to incorporate the items into her broom, so no two were alike, yet each had all the same components.

We used our besoms in ritual, to cleanse a space and to define our circle. Other items were added along the way. After a while, we stopped lugging them to ritual. They were retired after there had been a significant turnover in the coven and together we each decorated a smaller broom, transferring some of the unique items.

It wasn’t long before we also stopped carrying those new, smaller brooms to ritual, and again, there has been significant turnover in the coven, but, as of yet, no talk of brooms.

Besom2

 

If this has inspired you, let me point out one thing to keep in mind. Generally, I had stored besoms with the handle down and the bristles up. But decorations – such as ribbons – seem to naturally hang down to be in place when the besom is held and used to sweep. Storing it upside down then seems to go against the flow of the decorations, so I’ve hung mine off the floor. If you find a way to bring harmony to this predicament, please do post to the comment section!

Merry part. And merry meet again.

HearthBeats: Crafts from a Kitchen Witch

October, 2010

Hey Guys and Gals.. I am sending out some crafts and ideas… Thought it might be interesting for Samhain

besoms-1-500

Besom

You will need: 4ft dowel- 1″ in diameter or a tree branch of the same approximate size, ball of twine, scissors, straw, thin willow twigs, broom corn or pliable herb stock.

Take the straw or other herb stalk that you have chosen and soak overnight in luke warm salted water. The water swells the stalk slightly for bending without breakage, and the salt dispels former energies. When ready, remove stalks from the water and dry for just a bit. Not too much or the stalk will stiffen up, again.

Place the dowel on a table where you have room to work. Start lining the stalks along the dowel , about 3 inches from the bottom, moving backwards. Begin binding the stalks to the dowel with the twine. Tie very securely.

You may add as many layers as you like, depending on how full you want the Besom to be. When stalks are secure, gently bend the top stalks down over the binding. When all have been bent over, secure the stalks again with more twine a couple of inches under the first binding.

Allow to air dry for a day or two. The dowel can then be stained, painted, or carved into to make personal. Remember to concentrate and charge at the next full moon.

Pendulum

Items needed:

  • An oblong bead
  • A pendant
  • Approx. 9″ chain (a broken necklace will work great)
  • Needlenose pliers
  • One pin head wire (found in bead stores)
  • Clippers (I use toenail clippers!)
  • Two small beads

Instructions:

  1. Thread the beads onto the pin head wire in this order: small bead, oblong bead, small bead.
  2. With the clippers, clip off remaining wire, leaving approx. 3/4″ remaining.
  3. Using the needle nose pliers, bend the wire holding the beads into a ring and clamp.
  4. Open a link on one end of your chain, and thread through the loop you just made. Clamp shut using the pliers.
  5. Open the link on the opposite end of your chain, loop through the pendant. Clamp shut.

To use the Pendulum, hold the pendant in your hand loosely, elbow on the table, letting the pendulum swing free. Still the movements of the pendulum with your other hand. Ask the pendulum to show you “yes” – the pendulum should start to move in a pattern, usually in a circle or back or forth. If you can’t really tell, ask the pendulum to be more precise. Once a pattern is established, this is the Pendulum’s “yes.” Now, ask the pendulum to show you “no.” Keep your pendulum in a safe place, and it will treat you well!

Here are some activities to try out with your family:

Together as a family, create an altar honoring your family’s beloved
dead(including pets). Use photos, mementos, keepsakes or anything that
seems right.

Make candleholders out of apples, turnips, gourds and small pumpkins
by hollowing out deep holes in the tops. Make sure the candles are
well-secured in the bases.

Eat dinner by candlelight, setting a place at the table for your
beloved dead. If your children are older, try having a Silent Supper where
the meal is eaten in silence so the spirits are not frightened away.

Plant flower bulbs in your yard or somewhere special. Think of this
as a promise for spring, a secret the earth will keep for you in the cold. Infuse it with all your thoughts of spring and warmth.

Take a walk and observe animals (like squirrels and geese) prepare
for winter. At home, prepare for winter in your own way.

Try making skull-shaped popcorn balls.

Why should kids have all the fun? The whole family should make
costumes and go trick-or-treating!

Enjoy your Blessed Samhain

Blessed Home and Hearth

The Hearthkeeper

PS. If there is anything you would like to see here.. Please email me at  thehearthkeeper@gmail.com