hearth

Magic at the Hearth Excerpt from The House Witch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

December, 2018

Magic at the Hearth

*Excerpted from The House Witch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

 

 

 

In hearthcraft, magic is a way of consciously drawing on the energy of the spiritual hearth to enhance the activity you are engaged in. In many paths magic and spiritual practices are separate, but in hearthcraft the magical activity both supports and draws from spiritual activity. As so much of hearthcraft revolves around love, nurturing, and protection of what you consider sacred, positive goals can be the only ones envisioned.

 

Another way of looking at magic within the context of hearthcraft is as transformation of some kind, a task performed with the intent to weave together energies in order to initiate some sort of spiritual transformation, rejuvenation, or growth. With that in mind, this chapter looks at kitchen folklore and customs and the energies associated with the equipment found and used in the kitchen.

 

Kitchen Folklore

 

One of the fun things about doing research into home-based customs is discovering the traditions and folklore associated with domestic activity. Here’s a series of domestic customs you can use to help enhance your awareness of the spiritual nature of your activity.

 

  • Stir the contents of pots and bowls clockwise to attract positive energy, or stir counterclockwise to banish things. Use one or the other according to the needs of your home or family at the time.

  • Pass items at the table in a clockwise direction to maintain harmonious energy there.

  • If you wish to clear the house of negative energy, clean it beginning at the back door and travel through it room by room in a counterclockwise direction until you reach the back door again, then sweep or mop out the door and off the doorstep.

  • To attract positive energy, clean items in a clockwise motion. is includes dusting, mopping, and scrubbing as well as wiping counters and washing dishes.

  • Draw a spiritual symbol that has meaning to you (either cultural, religious, or designed by you) with salt water on the windows of your house and on the front and back doors. Paint these symbols with clear nail polish if you want something a little more permanent.

  • If you wish to further connect your cooking to your spiritual hearth, draw a spiritual symbol on the inside of the pot or bowl before you use it. A stylized flame is a good basic image to use.

  • Empower your laundry detergent for purification of any negative energy clinging to clothes. Water has a natural purification effect, but empowering the cleaning substances you use boosts that natural effect. Do the same for your household cleaners.

  • Running out of salt is said to be bad luck for the posterity of the home. Keep a small packet of salt somewhere to ensure there will always be salt in the house. (This may be one of the origins of the custom of bringing a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, and a box of salt to a housewarming.)

  • Hanging braids or wreaths of garlic, onions, or hot peppers will keep your kitchen free of negative energy. Compost them every fall and hang new ones. Never eat them!

  • Hanging bunches of dried Indian corn attracts prosperity and abundance.

  • Leave an onion or clove of garlic outside below the kitchen window to absorb any negative energy trying to enter the home. You may leave them around the doors to the house as well. Place a new one there every month, or more frequently if the old ones decay faster.

 

The House Witch: Your Complete Guide to Creating a Magical Space with Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home on Amazon

 

*Copyright © 2018 Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

 

Review of Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s The House Witch

December, 2018

Review of Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s The House Witch

 

 

I received a “review copy” of The House Witch: Your Complete Guide to Creating a Magical Space With Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home by Arin Murphy-Hiscock just before the Thanksgiving holiday. This handsome book is published by Adams Media, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, and is the twelfth book by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. On Simon and Schuster’s author website for Arin Murphy-Hiscock, you can find all the titles of her other published books. Some were known to me and some were not. Some, like Birds: A Spiritual Field Guide, I had borrowed from my local public library and had on my “to-buy” list. So naturally I was elated to get The House Witch. I immediately cracked it open and wrote my name and the date on the inside cover.

But the demands of the Thanksgiving Holiday – cooking the meal and getting together with family in town for just a few days – meant that I wasn’t able to sit down and give The House Witch a good read. And then I caught my son’s cold. Sick and miserable, I gave up. I took a box of tissues and curled up on the couch under a hand-crocheted afghan for several days in a state of semi-slumber.

When I did finally get back to The House Witch, I was delighted, as I knew I would be. One my very first impressions was, “Gee, I wish there had been books like this back when I was first getting into witchcraft and wicca!” In the 1970’s and 1980’s, there were only a few books out on the subject and most of them – like Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance – were geared toward the large group or the coven but very rarely the solitary practitioner. Not until Scott Cunningham published Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner in 1988 that you started to see more attention paid to the solitary witch. While The House Witch is not specifically written for the solitary witch, it addresses the many concerns of those of us who practice alone – whether we live alone or with other people.

I was born in May, under the sun sign of Taurus, my moon in Pisces, with Cancer rising. Issues of home and health and happiness have always been forefront in my spiritual practice, so it is natural that I would gravitate toward creating and maintaining a beautiful home, even if that home is a tiny apartment in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in a rust-belt city. Because of my wonderful grandmothers, I was always aware of the magic in everyday things but many people – especially those born after, say, 1980 – do not have the benefit of the wisdom of their elders. On page 17, Murphy-Hiscock lists four steps that anyone can learn to “recognize the magic” as she terms it, reminding us to keep things simple and always to focus on what we are doing in the house. These steps are: live in the moment, be aware of your intent, direct your energy properly and focus on an action. Anyone who has studied any kind of meditation, magical instruction or spiritual path will recognize these steps. So just what does all of this have to do with the home and the hearth? Murphy-Hoscock writes,

“Opening yourself to the simplest of tasks and allowing them to inspire you with some insight or wisdom, or even a

moment of peace, illustrates that the Divine can whisper to you in the oddest of unexpected places. Hearthcraft is

about communing with the Divine through everyday tasks, not through complicated formal ritual.” (page 19)

She talks about home as sacred space. One thing she mentions is the removal of shoes in cultures such as Japan and other parts of Southeast Asia; I don’t allow anyone to wear shoes into my apartment and I am always amazed – when I watch TV, for instance – and I see people, not only with their shoes on inside their homes but also on the furniture!

When I was growing up, I always lived in houses that had fireplaces and we usually had a fire most winter evenings, so the idea of a hearth and a hearth fire is not unknown to me – one of our houses actually had a giant hearth built into the wall surrounding the fireplace! But since I have left my parents’ house, I have never lived in a house with a fireplace, much to my great sadness. I consider my hearth to be my kitchen oven or perhaps a meditation candle. However, when I was sick a day ago, I had some split pea soup and freshly baked bread and lay down for a nap. I could feel the warmth of the soup and bread in my belly and it occurred to me that my hearth fire was inside of me.

With this in mind, the “Bank Your Inner Flame” ritual on page 45 makes perfect sense. I had a wonderful warmth inside of me and I needed to be able to hold onto that warmth. It wasn’t just the soup and bread – it was the sense of being safe and secure in my own home. I love the word “smooring” – I love anything Scottish and Gaelic – I added it to my list of cool words and then I copied the “smooring prayer” (page 46) into my personal prayer book.

This book is filled with jewels.

There is a chapter on “The Magic of the Cauldron” in which she talks about how to find and care for a cast-iron cauldron. “Hearth and Home Deities” is just what it sounds like – a chapter of gods and goddesses of the home and hearth. The next chapter is about the kitchen as a sacred space – something that not many people even think about seriously nowadays. If your idea of cooking is opening up a box of prepared food and popping it into the microwave – or even using something like Hamburger Helper – then I would give Chapters 6, 8 and 9 a very close reading. As I already stated, Chapter 6 is about the kitchen as a sacred space. Chapter 8 is “Magic at the Hearth” and Chapter 9 is “The Spirituality of Food”. included!!!!!

Other topics in this fabulous book are “Using Hearthcraft to Protect Your Home”, “Herbs, crafts, and other Hearth-Related Magic Work”, and a chapter of various spells, rituals and blessings. Quite naturally, there is an appendix and a bibliography that have quite a bit of information in them as well.

In the “Postscript”, Arin Murphy-Hiscock writes, “Several times as I was writing this book, my thoughts moved faster than my fingers, and as a result ‘hearth fire’ very often came out as ‘heart fire.’ I wonder, at times, if my subconscious was trying to tell me something.” (page 247). I do not wonder at all. This book most assuredly set my heart on fire. In this rich season of Yuletide joy, when all of us decorate our houses with festive lights and traditional ornaments that may only have meaning to our loved ones alone, The House Witch: Your Complete Guide to Creating a Magical Space With Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home by Arin Murphy-Hiscock is a book which brings together all the spiritual and happiness that home and hearth can represent. I highly recommend it for anyone on any spiritual path.

References

Murphy-Hiscock, Arin. The House Witch: Your Complete Guide to Creating a Magical Space with Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home. NY: Adams Media, 2018.

The House Witch: Your Complete Guide to Creating a Magical Space with Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home on Amazon

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Notes from the Apothecary

December, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Christmas Cactus

 Oh no, not the C-Word! That’s right, my fellow Pagans, I said it. Christmas. Love it or loathe it, come December the 25th, possible birthday of Dionysus and Mithras (but unlikely to be the birthday of Jesus) the nation, nay, the world goes Christmas mad and we shake our heads. Don’t they know it’s just another solstice celebration? Or at the very most, an adoption of the festivities of Roman Saturnalia? Well, it might surprise you to know that I love Christmas. Yeah, it’s a touch annoying when people deny the Pagan roots, but I’m a sucker for seeing other people happy. And Christmas makes people happy! It also gives its name to some amazing things: Christmas Island, Christmas Jones and of course, the beautiful and exotic Christmas Cactus.

The botanical name is Schlumbergera, chosen by botanist Charles Lemaire (1801-1871) in honour of Frédéric Schlumberger (1823-1893) who was a renowned collector of cacti and succulents.

 

The Kitchen Garden

 Christmas Cacti are generally kept as houseplants as they are native to Brazil and used to this type of climate. In the wild they grow attached to rocks and trees, but they are happy in some well-drained, good quality compost with a bit of grit or sand.

The cacti are normally grown from cuttings and their spikes are barely there, making them resemble a succulent more than a traditional cactus. The leaves are flattish pads and they form chains which eventually erupt into bright and beautiful flowers. They are normally quite happy sharing a large pot with other succulents and cacti as long as it doesn’t become too crowded.

Don’t let them have too much direct sunlight. It can damage the leaves. But too little light, and they may never flower. Many schlumbergera flower in winter, making them a wonderful addition to natural holiday decorations, whatever you celebrate.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

Cacti in general are associated with fire and the south. They are also associated with the zodiac sign of Aries, but Christmas cactus is specifically associated with Sagittarius. Unsurprisingly this plant is associated with the month of December and the festival of Yule or the Winter Solstice. Christmas cacti make a great altar decoration for any festive period, and ones with pink or red flowers are particularly appropriate for the south of your sacred space.

The association with the zodiac sign of Aries can be expanded to include the god Aries, and Mars, Aries’ Roman Equivalent. This lends the Christmas cactus the power of strength, courage but also of conflict and success in battles.

Sagittarius is another fire sign, but one particularly associated with November and December, the signs time in the zodiac ending around the winter solstice. Sagittarius is the archer, and associated with prophecy and divination. The Christmas cactus, therefore, could be a great tool in meditative divination or prophetic spellwork.

Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, so the Christmas Cacti could also be a great addition to expansion magic, and lawfully aligned magic.

 

Home and Hearth

Collect the flowers of your Christmas Cacti before they begin to fade. Let them dry; laying them on some paper in an airing cupboard or a sunny windowsill away from damp is good for this. Place the dried and hopefully colourful flowers in a small, clear jar. Either hang the jar on a thong or chain, or keep it in a pocket when you are going into situations where you need a little more courage. This could be confrontations with friends or family that you are nervous about, or perhaps raising a grievance in the workplace. The energy of Mars will walk with you, and the balance of a very hardy plant.

 

I Never Knew…

For those who enjoy growing succulents and cacti, the adorable name for baby succulents is pups!

All images from Wikipedia.

***

About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

 

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon

Notes from the Apothecary

November, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Fenugreek

Hailing from Western Asia, Fenugreek is an odd tasting herb with some interesting history. Seeds have been found in archaeological digs dating back to 4000 BC and were even found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Called Greek Hay, Bird’s Foot and Sickly Fruit, the herb is considered to be a bit of a panacea, being a tonic for everything from abscesses to kidney problems.

 

The Kitchen Garden

Fenugreek is an annual herb which means it grows, flowers and seeds all in the same year and does not return the following season. The plants can grow to two feet tall and has little white or yellow flowers. It’s a pretty but unassuming addition to any herb garden

You will find Fenugreek in Indian shops under the name Methi in either seed or leaf form. It’s widely used in cooking, particularly in Eastern dishes. By itself it has a bitter taste, particularly the seeds, but within a dish it adds levels of depth which can’t readily be described. The seeds are high in protein, calcium, fiber, iron and various other essential minerals so make a great addition to your diet. It is possible that if you have a nut allergy, you may also be allergic to fenugreek so approach with caution if that is the case.

The greens are highly nutritious and can be eaten fresh or used dried as an herb. The seeds can be sprouted in a little water and the sprouts are tasty and very good for you.

 

The Apothecary

One of the most common uses of fenugreek is as a galactagogue. This sci-fi sounding word means an herb that promotes and boosts breast milk production. When my own milk supply was depleting due to my youngest weaning, I took a couple of teaspoons of fenugreek seeds every day and it seemed to help. It’s most palatable to make a tea out of them, which you can sweeten or add other herbs into in order to make it taste a little better. I ate the seeds straight down and they are bitter!

Other modern-day uses for fenugreek include relief for digestive issues, increasing libido and even fighting baldness.

Recent research has shown that fenugreek may be useful in sufferers of diabetes, but this research is ongoing. It may also be useful for relieving menstrual cramps and the symptoms of menopause.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

Cunningham tells us fenugreek is a masculine herb, but look at all the medical uses that relate specifically to women’s issues such as breastfeeding and the menopause. If the plant is indeed masculine, then it’s a great example of how men and women need to help each other out, rather than bemoaning our differences. This male plant is definitely a feminist!

The plant is associated with Mercury which links it to communication, and also wealth and commerce. Fenugreek is therefore useful when crafting spells to do with business, jobs and joint ventures.

In Judaism, fenugreek is eaten during Rosh Hashana and is associated with increase. This is more about increasing our own talents and skills rather than the increase of wealth, but they can be closely linked depending on how you look at it.

Fenugreek is known as a ‘lucky legume’, as it is a member of the bean family and provides protection and attracts luck.

 

Home and Hearth

Scatter fenugreek seeds around the threshold to your home to ensure any who enter can only speak the truth.

Carry a pouch of fenugreek seeds in your pocket when attending an interview or important meeting to ensure you speak your mind. Just be sure you have nothing to hide, as you may be compelled to be honest about things you didn’t want to reveal!

Steep Fenugreek seeds in boiling water then add this water to whatever you use to clean your house with. This will attract material wealth into your home.

Combine fenugreek with alfalfa to craft oil or powder which will attract money. Just be on the look out for mischief, as Mercury is known to play pranks and cause messages to be mixed or muddled.

 

I Never Knew…

In ancient Egypt, a paste made of fenugreek seeds was used in the embalming process of dead bodies.

 

Image credit: Fenugreek from the Vienna Dioscurides, public domain; Freshly Sprouted Qasuri Methi by Miansari66; Junge Pflanzen des Bockshornklees by Yak

***

About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon

MagickalArts

November, 2018

The Hall of the Goddess Hestia

Light fills the Hall as you step through the doorway and Hestia stands centrally awaiting you. Gentle and loving eyes look upon you and although youthful in appearance, you feel the aeons of time that she has stood watch in the hearth spaces of home and community. She is radiant and filled with Light and Life and it is within her Hall that you will see the hearth flame that glows within……

Who is Hestia?

My hearth fires burn
And keep safe those
Blessed by my hand.

Food lovingly prepared
And family’s joining as one
These are my gifts
These are my boons.

This Goddess of the hearth fires and home was known as Hestia in the Greek Mythos, with Latin/Roman name of Vesta. She was considered a virgin Goddess, whose priestesses were known as the Vestals or Vestal Virgins in Ancient Rome. Hers is the domain and sanctuary found in the kitchen. The preparing of food for those loved and the warmth of sitting close together as the hearth burns in the long winter nights.

The primary focus of Hestia was that of keeping the sacred fires burning. In ancient times, this continued flame ensured fire for warmth, protection, light, cooking and more. She was Goddess of the sacrificial flame and as such received an offering share of every sacrifice to the Gods.

Hestia oversaw the cooking of every meal both in private home and communal gatherings. Her blessing was sought that the meal would nourish and sustain as well as forging the connections of sharing the meal with others.

In Myth, Hestia was the first-born of Kronos, God/Titan of Time and the Ages and Rhea, the Great Mother of the most powerful of the Gods, the Titans. She was fertility and Motherhood. Kronos, fearful that his children would depose him as he had done to his Father, Ouranus, ate each of the children as they born. Hestia, being the first-born was also the first to be consumed and the last to be disgorged when Zeus, (who had escaped the devouring of his Father, being hidden away by his mother Rhea), forced Kronos to release his swallowed siblings. I find this to be a very interesting story surrounding Hestia and the nature of her energy as Goddess of family, home and fires.

In an other tale, Hestia was pursued for marriage by Poseidon and Apollon, both of whom she refused and then asked Zeus to allow her to remain unmarried, an eternal virgin. Zeus agreed and she took her place at his Sacred Hearth.

So, how do we honor Hestia within our Hall? These are some of the thoughts and feelings I have regarding this Goddess. Consider her parentage, daughter of the Great God of time. Time is something we all wish to have more of with dear friends and families. Time is filled with joy and abundance when we spend some of that time, preparing a meal together and/or sharing the bounties of a hearth well-tended. Hestia’s mother, Rhea, was mother of the Gods, fertile and fierce in her protective nature. Motherly care speaks to the nourishment of those children tended, not only in the form of food, but also in the sustenance of mind, heart and encouragement to achieve their best possible selves. We do this for friends and all those we love as well. At times, being the Mother and at others allowing the expression of care to be given as we receive it with the innocence of the child who knows only this way of receipt.

Hestia’s sacrifice of refusing the offer of Marriage, thus parceling herself to another, speaks to the passion of choice in giving what we wish of ourselves and holding some intact for ourselves so we may focus on what is needed from others. This may seem as an odd comment, but keeping those fires burning brightly, to light the way for those who are wandering in the dark, to welcome another to the table for a feast lovingly prepared or to become the flame itself as source of inspiration requires at times an attitude of self-focus and being unfettered by another’s demands.

Hestia chose to remain the eternal virgin. In ancient Rome and Greece the term “Virgin” meant not married, not belonging to a man. This was a woman who was “one-in-herself.” The word is derived from a Latin root meaning “strength, force, skill”; and was later applied to men as the term “virile”. To provide for others requires that you must be strong within yourself. To offer up the bounty of food and relationship, you must know the wisdom of yourself singularly and what it is you have to offer in contribution to what is more than yourself.

Hestia maintains the inner flame that burns within each of us and the magick that we exercise is crafting the precise recipe that will produce the transformation of wheat to life-giving bread is successful to the degree that we acknowledge her presence in all of our working. Every word we speak, every action we take, every emotion expressed and every idea we share is blessed by the potential of taking a new form that will sustain, warm, and light the way for others.

This month is a wonderful time to come to know this Goddess. We have celebrated the First Harvest (Northern Hemisphere) or the First Sowing and Planting of Seeds that will require sun and care. Hestia’s fires call us to our dinner tables as friends and family gather round. And, as we offer up our thanks for her bounty and night draws near, the oil of her lamp will carry us into the cradle of gentle sleep.

Spend some time with Hestia. Think on how you connect with her as you move through your day. Light a candle or prepare a meal and feel her presence guiding and watching over.

Excerpted from:

Cornerstones of Magick

https://awitchssacredjourney.com/2015/09/07/cofmagick2-the-hall-of-the-goddesshestia/

Cornerstones of Magick: Lesson Index

https://awitchssacredjourney.com/cornerstoneslesson-index/

Image Credit: Howard David Johnson

***

About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.

She is the author of (click on book titles for more information):

 

The Inner Chamber Volume One

It’s Written in the Stars

Astrology

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the Spheres (Volume 2)

Qabalah

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths

Qabalah

 

A Year With Gaia

The Eternal Cord

 

Temple of the Sun and Moon

Luminous Devotions

 

The Magickal Pen Volume One (Volume 1)

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

 

The Elemental Year

Aligning the Parts of SELF

 

The Enchanted Gate

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

 

Sleeping with the Goddess

Nights of Devotion

 

A Weekly Reflection

Musings for the Year

 

Her books are available on Amazon or on this website and her Blogs can be found atRobin Fennelly 

 

Follow Robin on Instagram & Facebook.

Notes from the Apothecary

March, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Dill

Feathery and fragrant, the herb dill is so much more than just a flavouring for fish dishes or pickles. This magical herb has been used for centuries as a medicine, and as a potent tool for magical practitioners. From a muscle toner for Greek athletes, to a medicine for treating boils, this versatile herb is truly fascinating.

The Kitchen Garden

You can find dill growing wild, so if you manage to harvest a few seeds, or purchase some from your local supplier, you could cultivate a little patch of dill yourself. It likes loose soil with good drainage, and you can plant the seeds directly where you want the herb to grow, ideally in a sunny spot. It’s an annual or biennial, which means that at most each plant lasts two years, or two growing seasons. However, it self-seeds, which means that you should get plenty of fresh seedlings the following spring.

The delightful, tiny yellow flowers are a real draw for bees, butterflies and other essential pollinators, so planting dill will definitely increase the number of visitors to your garden. Conversely, dill helps repel aphids and other pests, making it a great companion plant to cabbages, lettuce and many other food crops.

If you don’t have a garden, or quite frankly, the time and energy to grow herbs, dill is widely available at grocery stores as well as herbal retailers.

For culinary purposes, it’s normally the leaves that we’re talking about. Small amounts of leaves can be cut from each plant, so that you don’t kill the plant by harvesting. If you have more leaves than you need to use immediately, put some in a sandwich bag and pop them in the freezer. Don’t forget to label them!

Dill leaves can be added to salads, cheese (such as cottage cheese), soups and other foods as a garnish and to add flavour. Leaves or seeds can be added to a bottle of vinegar to create a unique, flavoured condiment.

The seeds are also used, primarily for flavouring the liquid that pickles are soaked in. Hence the term ‘dill pickles’.

These are but a very few of the culinary uses of dill. It is used all over the world in dishes from curry to crayfish. Because of this, it is relatively cheap, and very easy to get hold of.

The Apothecary

Charlemagne had dill tea made available for his guests who dined with him, to aid their digestion and prevent hiccups. It has been used as a ‘gripe water’ for infants, helping relieve colic and gas, but obviously don’t feed herbal remedies to children without consulting a pediatrician first.

It is normally the seed of dill that is used medicinally, as it has high amounts of the oil anethol, or anethole, also found in anise and caraway. Mrs Grieves recommended it as a stimulant and for easing stomach issues, flatulence and simply as an aromatic.

Modern research has found that the active oil has antimicrobial properties, which are effective against some bacteria, fungi and yeast. It’s even been found to be effective against salmonella in some instances.

It can also be used as an insecticide, which probably explains why it’s effective at repelling certain unwanted critters in our gardens.

Wash your hands after handling dill and don’t use the oil in massage. It causes photosensitivity so can lead to burning. Don’t take if pregnant or breastfeeding, as it can affect the uterus.

The Witch’s Kitchen

Mrs Grieve notes that during the Middle Ages, dill was used by magicians in spells and in charms against witchcraft. If this is true, we can surmise that there is a protective aspect to dill, particularly against supernatural or magical attack. Dill can be used in a poppet to provide protection to the person you are visualising. You could carry a sprig to ward off negative intentions towards yourself, or sprinkle some seeds around yourself and visualise a wall of light rising up from the seeds, protecting you from all harm.

In the bible, the Scribes and Pharisees are berated for paying a ‘tithe’, or tax of rich goods, but neglecting their morals and ethics. One of the items in the tithe is dill, along with mint and cumin, so we can assume that dill was very valuable. This can be translated magically into using the herb for money spells, perhaps a little in your purse to protect your existing funds, or used in a little pouch with other herbs to draw wealth towards you.

Both Culpeper and Cunningham assert that the plant is ruled by the planet Mercury, which one can also extend to include the god the planet is named for. This reaffirms the wealth and money connection, as the Roman god Mercury is strongly connected to financial gain, especially commerce and trading. He is also associated with eloquence, so dill could be used to help you find the words you need in a tricky situation. Linking the two, a charm made with dill is ideal for a sales person, as it will boost the holder’s communication skills and promote wealth coming to them.

Cunningham also states that placing dill in the cradle protects a child, which most likely links back to the herb having been used in children’s medicine for centuries. A sachet under the mattress where the child cannot reach it, or even under the bed or cot itself would be best for safety.

Home and Hearth

Sprinkle dried or fresh dill leaves or seeds around the boundary of your home to keep out unwanted visitors or negative energy. Walk widdershins (anti-clockwise) whist doing this if you feel there is an existing energy you need to banish. Walk deosil (clockwise) if you are wanting to boost the current mood or atmosphere in your home. You can boost the power of this simple spell by adding elemental energies, if appropriate to your path and beliefs. Sprinkle water, salt for earth, carry a candle for fire and walk the boundary again holding a lit incense stick to represent air. Don’t try and carry them all at once! Juggling candles and incense might seem impressive but actually it just leads to burnt fingers and clothing. If you are not mobile, hold the dill or have it near you, and visualise your energy surrounding your home or sacred space.

Once a year (I would do this at Imbolc as I have the idea of early spring cleaning firmly ingrained in my psyche) sweep the boundary and refresh your protective ward.

I Never Knew…

There is a superstition that burning dill leaves will cause thunderstorms to clear up.

Image Credits: Anethum graveolens by Forest and Kim Starr via Wikimedia Commons, copyright 2007; Dill seeds by o Alanenpää via Wikimedia Commons, copyright 2008.

***

About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

For Amazon Information Click Images

The Enchanted Cottage: Magick for the Witch’s Home

November, 2017

To Protect the Witches Home

“We will set to work on that” said Hansel, “and have a good meal. I will eat a bit of the roof, and though, Gretel, canst eat some of the window, it will taste sweet.”

Hansel reached up above, and broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, and Gretel leaned against the window and nibbled at the panes. Then a soft voice cried from the room.

“Nibble, nibble gnaw,
Who is nibbling at my little house?”

The children answered,

“The wind, the wind,
The heaven-born wind,”

and went on eating without disturbing themselves….

From Hansel and Gretel—Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tale

 

Grimm

 

The above tale is from one of my favorite fairy tale books. Reading the myth and lore that the Brothers Grimm collected not only brings me comfort during the cold and dark months, I also enjoy unraveling some of the meaning behind the tales. One of the lessons I have learned from Hansel and Gretel is that if you don’t want random children nibbling on your home, you better learn how to set up protective boundaries. If the old witch in the candy coated cottage had installed magical shields around her property, she may not have ended up being cooked in her own oven.

There are many ways one can go about protecting their home from evil and unruly spirits, enemies, and unforeseen forces. It is always best to figure out what shielding magic works best for you but I will share a few methods that I have found to be effective.

Red Brick Dust. A staple in New Orleans Voodoo and Appalachian Hoodoo, Red Brick Dust is my go to formula for most protective magic. Easy to find on the internet and fairly easy to make, this magical powder is made from the grindings of a red brick. The trick is finding a brick that is red throughout, they can be difficult to find. To use, just sprinkle across your doorways and window seals. If feeling the need for extra protection the dust can be sprinkled around the perimeter of you house.

Gargoyles. Found on Egyptian and Greek temples and many churches, the grotesque gargoyle started out as a water spout. Now they can be found everywhere as a decorative feature on many homes and businesses. I have found these creatures to be fiercely protective and have a few around my home. They not only defend my home from unwanted entities, they also have been known to protect my home from natural forces such as storms and falling branches. All of my Gargoyles have names and they are treated like part of the family.

Herbs. There are many herbs that can be used in the protection of your home. You can sprinkle them across entrances much like Red Brick Dust or you can make magical brews and washes out of them to clean or draw runes and symbols with. This list is but a small portion of herbs that may be utilized for protective measures. Garlic, anise, bittersweet (poison), cinnamon, datura, juniper, wolfsbane (poison), and my go to favorite herb—vervain.

Runes and other symbols. These can be drawn through the air or “painted” on doors and windows with washes and brews. They can also be carved into the ground at the four corners of your property. Runes can be used on their own or combined to make bind-runes. Isa, Nauthiz and Algiz are just a few of the runes that can be used. The pentagram or pentacle is another popular protective symbol that is used as is in some magical circles, the cross.

What I have shared here are a few techniques that I use in protective magic for my home. There are many methods that have been known to work just as well as mine and it is wise to find the ones that work best for you. As the nights grow colder, I offer you many warm blessings for your hearth and home. May your home be safe from the nibbling of children…

Spiralled Edge

August, 2017

Spiralled Edge – Finding the Hearth and Heart

 

Once upon a time, the Hearth and Heart of a home would have been the main room with a large fireplace for cooking and heating, where people went about their daily lives. The fireplace would have been the focal point of the room. But many houses don’t have fireplaces these days, or they may be mostly ornamental with a fake fire, and we certainly don’t have huge fireplaces. The focal point in that main room has become a TV set, not a fireplace.

 

 

Gradually, the hearth became the cooker. And the heart of a home moved into the kitchen. After all, there’s big heat source with a cooker, even if it might put out heat produced by electricity and there might not be any fire involved at all. This is where the magic of cooking takes place, making it the hearth and possibly the heart of the home.

 

Not everyone cooks though, and some kitchens are tiny. In my case, I have had a tiny kitchen that was really part of the living room. The hearth in our home over these past 2 years has been the living room. Not quite a kitchen, not quite a lounge (because I have slept here as well), no fireplace, just a bricked up chimney.

 

The hearth and hearth in today’s modern home, is that room in the house where people most want to gather. For the most part, we aren’t living in one or two room homes with a single large fireplace used for heating and cooking. The heart and hearth may still be the kitchen, it may be another room.

 

Over the next week, I will be moving out of a flat into a small house, complete with separate kitchen! And I have found myself wondering, where is the hearth in this new home? Kitchen, living room, back garden?

 

The kitchen has the cooker, and the boiler used to produce heat for the entire house as well as hot water. The living room has a bricked up fireplace. Outdoors in the garden there is an unused but reasonably put together brick barbecue. Each has potential, but I won’t really know until I have spent time in the house, adding my own energies to the place, until I have cleaned and cleansed it of other people’s energies.

 

 

Once I have found the heart and the hearth in our new home, I will be able to work to strengthen that, so that its warmth can spread more easily into the other rooms of the house. I’m not talking about a physical heat here. I’m talking about the warmth that comes from walking into a calm, loving home.

 

Over the first few days of August, I will start by giving the currently empty house a thorough clean, top to bottom. This will help to wash away any residual physical signs of previous occupants. Then, I will give the house a thorough energetic cleanse, to remove any residual non-physical signs of previous occupants. Finally, I will take around my own holy water and salt to bless the dwelling and place a layer of protection around it.

 

Then, and only then, I will be ready to move into our new home. Then, I will know where the hearth and heart is.

 

Where’s the Hearth in your home? Is it the same room as the Heart, or are they in different rooms? Does this make a difference to the energy in your home?

Notes from the Apothecary

May, 2017

Notes from the Apothecary: Plantain

 

Plantain1

 

No, not the banana type fruit; I’m talking about the weed that we all walk past every day, that has a surprising wealth of health benefits. My friend calls it a ‘Magic Bandage’, and indeed, a cut or a graze can be safely wrapped in a clean, bruised leaf which soothes and heals at no expense. There are several types of plantain, and for the most part I’m referring to the broadleaf plantain, but I will also mention the ribwort, which has long, slender leaves. There are other variants too, so do look up which are native to your own area.

The Kitchen Garden

There’s generally no need to try to cultivate this amazing plant. It grows prolifically in environments ranging from your own garden to utter wasteland. The plant can survive in almost arid conditions, yet copes well with very moist conditions too. In lawns, it can be a bit of a pest, if you’re bothered about your lawn being immaculately groomed. I quite like the odd bit of clover and plantain in my back lawn; it’s a nice bit of variety!

The young leaves can be eaten as a ‘green’ in salads, in much the same way young dandelion leaves can. As the leaves age, they become tougher, and stringy, yet if stewed, can still be enjoyed as a healthy addition to casseroles or similar. The leaves are high in vitamin A and calcium, so make a healthy addition to your diet.

The seeds are also edible, and a good source of fibre, but some have a husk which is indigestible. The seeds are very tedious to gather as they are tiny!

The Apothecary

 

Plaintain2

 

Culpeper recommended grass and ribwort plantain ‘against spitting of the blood, immoderate flow of the menses’ and piles’, which he attributed to the plant’s astringent properties. He also recommended the juice of the ribwort for lessening agues (fever and shivering).

Mrs Grieves had plenty to say about the broadleaf plantain, including an interesting note that it was one of the nine sacred herbs mentioned in the Lacnunga, a collection of Anglo-Saxon texts and prayers. She also refers to William Salmon’s herbal, the 1710 text which tells us the plantain is good for the lungs, against epilepsy, dropsy, jaundice, and even helps restore lost hearing.

James A. Duke’s book The Green Pharmacy tells us that the plant is good for treating burns, dandruff, haemorrhoids (which backs up Culpeper’s much earlier assertion); also insect bites, stings, laryngitis, sore throats and sun burn. He even mentions it as a potential weight loss aid.

In 2007 in fact, a study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine reported that the broadleaf plantain had the capacity to inhibit tumour growth, when tested on rats. Other scientific studies give evidence that the plant is genuinely effective at wound healing, and has an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and even a very weak anti-biotic effect.

Other Uses

Plantains, like comfrey, contain a substance called allantoin, which has moisturising properties and promotes cell growth, and is one of the key components in the plant’s ability to help heal wounds and soothe burns. This makes the plant useful in some cosmetic applications, such as hair rinses, and skin tonics.

Apparently, the tough fibres in the older leaves can be used to craft fishing line, cords, and even sutures.

The Witch’s Kitchen

Culpeper stated that the broad leaf plantain was governed by Venus, and as such some of its healing power came through its ‘antipathy to Mars’. Cunningham concurs the connection to Venus, which as always, we can link to either the planet, or the goddess, and the usual associations implied. So love, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and triumph. If you plan your spells astrologically, plantain could be used when under the influence of the planet Venus. You could use the leaves, flowers or seeds on your altar or in your sacred space, or in a spell pouch with other items, to accentuate the influence of the planet, which often represents harmony, happiness and the arts.

Plantain is also used for a very specific protection: against snakebites. Cunningham tells us is it the root of the plant which provides this protection. Judika Illes doesn’t specify which part of the plant to use, but she does say to ‘Charge plantain with its mission of protection. Carry it in your pocket to guard against snakebite.’ The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells.

The immense healing power of the plant means it can be seen as a kind of cure-all, and you can implement the plants naute into your magical workings. Something which heals physically, can also heal mentally or metaphysically, and you could use the plant to help heal rifts, ease anxiety, and even alleviate insomnia.

Home and Hearth

I was taught to make a salve of plantain by using a good amount of the leaves, finely chopped, steeped in petroleum jelly and strained whilst the solution is still warm. When it sets, you have a thick, plantain salve which is good for burns, stings, cuts, grazes; any minor wound or inflammation of the skin really. Petroleum jelly is not ideal for everyone’s skin however, and two different friends recently recommended either using almond oil, or coconut oil as a base.

I think I am going to try coconut oil next, as this will also set which makes it a little easier to travel with. Also, I personally know I don’t react to negatively to coconut oil, and neither does my little boy, in fact his eczema prone skin practically sucks the stuff up. I’ll let you know how it goes. Before trying any oils or salves on wounds, it’s a great idea to ‘patch test’ with the base first. Rub a bit into the inside of your elbow or on your wrist, and see how your skin reacts. If your skin becomes irritated or inflamed, you know you need a different base.

A small pot of the salve travels with us whenever we are out and about. The great thing about plantain is that it is available so readily, if a small cut or graze occurs, we can nearly always find a leaf, bruise it, and apply it directly.

I Never Knew…

Plantago Major, the broadleaf plantain, was called ‘White Man’s Footprint’ or ‘White Man’s Foot’ by Native Americans, as the plant had a tendency to spring up where ever the European settlers had been.

Many thanks to fellow magical person Fee Edden for her help with the research for this article.

Picture credits: Wikipedia.

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author and musician, as well as a freelance journalist. She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. Follow Mabh on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

House Rituals

April, 2017

cottage

Purification Rituals

Purification is important to do on a daily basis, for witches and Pagans alike. Witchcraft is really not different from Pagan religion in general; it is just a special discipline within that religion, like the ancient mysteries.

It is, first of all, a more efficient use of energy. Our energy tends to manifest in cycles, and during each cycle we will experience one or more peaks and troughs of available energy. We have different cycles for different types of energy, but their number is fixed by habit and they tend to operate unobserved by us; we just know when we are ‘up’ or ‘feeling down’. Witches observe their energy cycles by noting when they have trouble keeping to a regular schedule of exercise, or meditation, or ritual, or anything requiring self-discipline. They get to know the sequence of their peaks and troughs of available energy by becoming sensitive to the energy itself.

When our energy becomes old and stale it is called ‘miasma’ in witchcraft, especially when it is connected with a certain place or object. Miasmic energy is very unpleasant and fastens on us. In the effort to get free from it, we resort to mechanical patterns of behavior that expend a lot of nervous energy and so send us into a trough. At last, through some habitual means, we manage to ‘bottom out’ of our trough; by dumping most of our available energy, we get rid of the miasma as well.

The means employed to bottom out varies from person to person: we’ll have a temper tantrum, or take a drink or a drug, or overeat, or go to bed and sleep for hours, or engage in some self-destructive behavior, anything to rid ourselves of the deadly embrace of miasma. Once free again, we slowly recuperate, building up our energy towards the next peak. In this way we can imagine we are making progress for years and really just be turning in a circle.

Witches dare to escape from all habitual prisons, and they escape from this one by renewing their energy through daily rites of self-purification. It’s good to use a number of these so they do not become mechanical habits themselves. The witch purifies herself 1 with the four elements of earth, air, fire and water, and must do so in a state of focused attention, because aether or spirit, the fifth element, manifests as attention and the four elements must come into contact with the fifth if they are to serve spirit, as symbolized in the upright pentagram.

Self-purification is also the first step in preparation for spellwork. First the witch purifies her person, then her other tools. Once purified, a tool (whether wand or athame or the witch herself) can be consecrated and charged. These operations correspond to the three visible phases of the Moon, waxing, full and waning; and also to the eastern, southern and western quarters of the Circle. After a spell is released, it is put out of mind, and this corresponds to the fourth phase, the dark of the Moon, and to the northern quarter of silence.

Here, then, are a number of purification rituals that can be performed at different times of the day or night. It’s good when starting out to perform one in the morning, but as you become more sensitive to the quality of your energy you may choose to self-purify whenever you feel your energy getting old and stale.

(1) For earth and water, dissolve salt in water in a special bowl and anoint your forehead, lips, and heart, saying “With the power of the sea that washes the shores, I am purified.” 2

For air and fire, light incense or sage, wave the sacred smoke on the head and chest, then pass it around the body deosil three times, saying “May I be pure; may all my impurities be burned away, carried away on the incense smoke.” If you have difficulty passing the smudge around your body, a simple expedient would be to place it in a burner close by between you and a fan, then simply turn round three times widdershins (this will send the smoke deosil around your body). This is an example of the right use of technology.

(2) This is a traditional purification before prayer. Pour water from an offering bowl over your hands, holding the bowl first in your power hand and pouring it over your palm, then the back of your hand; then switch the bowl to the other hand and repeat. As you pour the water, say “May I be pure, fit to approach the Gods.” 3 Dry the hands with a clean ritual towel, used only for that purpose.

(3) After performing (2), you can don a headband and a ceremonial robe. The Greeks wore a ribbon headband while praying. 4 While tying the headband, say “I am encircled with the sacred, girded about, encompassed, that my actions here today might be within the sacred way.” While donning the robe, say “The sacred covers me, I am surrounded by the pure.” 5

(4) In the same way, praying while donning amulets or other sacred items helps to purify our energy. While donning an image of Cernunnos, you can say the following: “My lord Cernunnos, I offer you my worship. Watch over me today as I go about my affairs: keep me safe, keep me happy, keep me healthy.” 6

Donning a pentagram or pentacle (encircled pentagram), you could say something like the following: “The elements are joined with the power of spirit. May I be blessed by the four. May I be blessed by spirit. May I be blessed by the five.” 7

(5) The ritual bath. This has been described before, but it is not out of place here. Light a candle in the bathroom and turn off the electric light. Light some incense, not necessarily in the bathroom but somewhere close by so you can smell it burning. Begin filling the tub and cast salt into it three times with your power hand, holding it over your heart first. With the first cast, say “I purify by the Maiden.” With the second, say “I consecrate by the Mother to – ” and name the quality you wish to take into yourself, such as ‘balance’. With the third cast, say “I charge by the Crone.” You can also add a fourth cast for the dark phase, saying nothing. Take the bath by candlelight, staying quiet and aware. When you are finished, thank the elements and the Lady.

(6) Proto-Indo-European self-purification: This rite comes from unpublished material sent to the author by Ceisiwr Serith, with written permission to make use of it in ceremony. It is based on the earliest Indo-European sources available, as supplemented by information from archaeology and anthropology, and attempts to reconstruct religious ritual of the Indo-Europeans before that people separated in their migrations into Hindus, Iranians, Hittites, etc.

“Purification is an act of sacralization. It removes anything that does not belong to the object being purified, or to the purpose to which that object will be put. It thus separates the object from the world. It also simplifies the object. A purified bowl is just a bowl. Everything extraneous has been removed. It therefore perfectly expresses its part of the artos. 8 It comes close to godhood.

“Before any ritual each celebrant purifies himself by pouring a small amount of water into his hands. He allows this to run through his fingers to the ground (or a bowl if indoors). He pours more, and splashes this against his face. He pours again, and rinses his mouth. This is all done in silence, while thinking with each washing “Puros esyem 9 [May I be pure].”

“Each celebrant then robes himself.” 10

The Threshold

The sacred household in antiquity corresponded to the human body, and the household familiars corresponded to the internal spirits that accompanied each human soul through life. The house, therefore, was like a temple and contained elements reflecting both male and female bodies. As such, it served as an interface between the human body (the temple of the soul and internal spirits) and our local cosmos (that is, the solar system as seen from the Earth). The solar system is too large for the individual to contact directly, so the sacred household was used as an interface between the two, an instrument amplifying outgoing human energies and de-amplifying incoming cosmic energies from the Earth, Moon, Sun and planets. In this way the sacred household, like the solar system itself, acts like an electrical transformer; its physical features transform incoming and outgoing energies for the bodies of the residents, while the familiar spirits inhabiting those features do the same for the souls and internal spirits of the residents.

The threshold of a house corresponds to the body’s sense-organs and the organs of breath and speech. These are our main interfaces with the outer world as we go through the day, and the doors and windows of a house are magically connected to them. This is especially true of the front door, and Pagans always kept a little shrine there to the threshold guardian. For the Romans, this was the God Janus, who had two faces, one looking outward and the other inward. If you hang a God-face close to your front door, you can imagine His head imbedded in the outer wall, with His other face looking outward on the outside world. Janus is the God of endings and beginnings, and his festival was held on January 9th, in between the ending/beginning of the solar year (coinciding with the new moon or Kalends of January) and the ending/beginning of the sacral year (1st of March). From that vantage, he is looking at them both. He was also honored at the Kalends, celebrated at the new moon of each month, as well as at the beginning of every important new undertaking.

As Jews came to inherit the position of mercantile carriers held in earlier times by the Phoenicians, the empire adopted their seven-day weekly cycle. As we still follow this custom today, it seems appropriate to celebrate Janus at the beginning of each week as well as at the monthly calends. Another reason for honoring Janus on the day of the Sun is that the Sun is also a threshold guardian who looks down on us protectively but also looks outward, into the stellar world, keeping vigilant watch against the wild spirits of the outer spaces.

Every God has something to teach, and Janus teaches us to direct our attention outward and inward at the same time, so we can guard the thresholds of our own personal temple and its indwelling spirits. When we honor our threshold guardian on Sunday or at the beginning of a month, year, or new undertaking, we should ask for his help in learning how to develop the double-face so we can be effective household guardians of our own inner temple. Looking out and in at the same time means while we watch the outer world we monitor our inner reactions to it, and while we are immersed in our moods and thoughts we keep part of our attention on the outer world. If we do the former we will prevent spirits of negativity from entering, and if we do the latter it will serve to eject negative spirits who are already inside.

When entering or leaving our homes, we should touch the doorframe while thinking of the threshold guardian, as a way of acknowledging his presence and of asking him to keep everything safe. The ancient Hebrews followed this custom when they were Pagans, and later changed it into touching the mezuzah.

My own invocation to the threshold guardian goes like this:

“Honor and thanks to you, Janus,

For guarding the threshold of my home.

May only harmonious beings enter here,

And may the discordant depart !

Open this week [month, etc.] for me on blessings,

And teach me to look out and in as you do,

That I may guard the door to my inner home,

For I too am a threshold guardian.”

The Hearth

As I mentioned in Part 1, ‘sacra privata’ is the term used by the ancient Romans for their household religion; it means ‘the sacred private things’ (as in Greek, there is no word for

‘things’, so literally it means ‘the sacred privates’).

While the threshold is where the home interacts with the outer world, the hearth is the center of the home and corresponds to the human heart, which was regarded as the seat of

memory. It is therefore the place where the ancestors are contacted, the door down to theUnderworld or Summerland, and the dwelling-place of an important familiar called the Lar familiaris by the Romans.

In the Italian witchcraft tradition, the lar is the primal ancestor and is responsible for keeping the family together, on occasions when the dead visit the living as well as when loved ones are ready to reincarnate, returning to Earth in the family or clan line. The stregha therefore prayed to the lar to reunite them with loved ones in future lives so they could meet, know each other, and love again.

The easiest way to understand the concept of a primal ancestor is to think of him or her as

an Adam or Eve for your particular family. Pagan peoples like the Greeks did not believe that all of mankind was descended from a single human couple. The Athenians, for instance, believed their first ancestors to have sprung from the soil of Attica; thus, they had always dwelt where they lived. Many a Latin and Greek noble or royal family traced its descent from a hero and a nymph, themselves children of one or another God or Goddess. The primal ancestors had great influence over their descendants and long ago evolved into daimones (the rough Celtic equivalent would be the sidhe).

In ancient Roman religion, on the other hand, the genius of the pater familias (the father-

head of the household) became the lar familiaris after the latter’s death, or possibly he was absorbed into a composite of the genii of all preceding heads of the family. But whether we think of the lar familiaris as an original ancestor or comprising one or more genii of deceased forefathers, he watches over the vitality of the family line, which includes its virility, fertility and ‘heart’. Similarly, each man’s genius, assigned at birth, performs the same service for him, as does every woman’s Juno.

As the household seat of memory, the hearth was the place where families gathered on

special occasions to tell tales of the ancestors and the old days, meetings called ‘treguendas’ in the stregheria tradition. The sacred hearthfire itself was the hearth guardian, and was traditionally tended by the lady of the house, who officiated as her priestess. This fire Goddess guarded the seat of memory (for without remembrance there is no family and no home) and, as sacred fire, communicated the family’s prayers to the Earth deities. In the Baltic tradition her name was Gabija, which means ‘the covered one.’ The Celtic equivalent of Gabija would be Brigid, who was also the blacksmith’s fire and presided over crafts. In Rome she was known as Vesta, and in Greece, Hestia.

I honor the hearth guardian, along with my lar, on Friday, the day commonly used to worship the Earth Goddesses. When I have a stove but no fireplace, I place her shrine close to the stove and light a candle whenever I am cooking, with the words, “I cook with Brigid’s fire”. On Fridays I burn a candle and incense to her and offer salt, bread and pure water.

With fireplaces, a more complete cult of the sacred hearthfire can be performed, taken from the Baltic rites of Gabija:

While the fire is being built, all present maintain a respectful silence and face towards the hearth.

While the fire is going, a large bowl of water is set out by the fire so Gabija can bathe and refresh herself, with the words “Fiery one, bathe, refresh yourself!”

While cooking, the mistress of the household from time to time throws scraps of food into the fire as offerings to Gabija, saying “Gabija, be satisfied.”

At night when it is time to retire, the fire on the hearth is banked; that is, more fuel is added and then it is covered with ashes so it will not throw off sparks. This practice was the reason the hearth Goddess was called ‘the covered one’. The mistress was naturally concerned to bank the fire correctly so Gabija would not get angry and ‘take a walk’ in the night, burning down the house! So, while banking the fire, she would pray to the Goddess like this:

Holy Lady,

I loose you skillfully,

lest you be angry !

Holy Gabija,

be peaceful in this place !

Live with us peacefully,

Holy Gabija !

The only respectful way to put the hearthfire out is with pure water.

These rituals could, I believe, be easily adapted to the Celtic tradition, substituting the name of Brigid (‘Breed’) for that of Gabija.

Holding a Dumb Supper

I recently held my first dumb supper for ancestors for the season. Following Norse and Baltic traditions, I hold a number of these between Mabon and Samhain, culminating with the great dumb supper on Samhain or Hallowe’en, October 31st.

Throughout most of the year I keep my photographs of parents, grandparents and other dear dead in a walk-in closet shrine. The reason I do this is so the photos will stay fresh for me instead of becoming invisible like most of the pictures on the walls of my living room. When it’s time to hold the first dumb supper, I bring the photos out and arrange them in a semicircle on the hearth (my apartment is blessed with a small fireplace, with a brick hearth in front of it). Next to them is a tall candle holder with a red candle in it, and a statue of my primal ancestor. This is a somewhat crudely carved shepherd, ithyphallic, pouring wine from a wineskin into a chalice. 11

As it gets close to sunset, I begin preparing the meal. For my first dumb supper I chose red foods; that is, they were all red to start with, though only some of them were red after being cooked!

I began by turning off the kitchen light and lighting the candle in front of my hearth guardian, the Goddess Brighid, who is the spirit of the household fire. As I lit the candle, I said “Honor to fire, honor to Brighid, honor to the hearth.”

I then put two red potatoes on to boil, sliced and diced two salad tomatoes, and opened a can of red kidney beans. I took out two lamb blade chops and dusted one side of them with oregano, cloves, pepper and a little garlic powder.

As the light waned, I lit another candle from the hearth guardian’s candle and placed it on the windowsill to serve as a beacon guiding the dead to my home.

After the potatoes had boiled a while, I put the lamb chops in the top of the oven and turned on the overhead broiler to 375 to briefly brown the tops. I set the kidney beans boiling and prepared the skillet for the diced tomatoes, melting some margarine in it.

These preparations done, I went into the living room and lit the candle on the fireplace hearth, saying the following to the photos:

“Shades of the dead, who still remember this house, honored ancestors, grandfather, grandmother, father, mother [naming them], who are worthy of eternal remembrance, and all your relatives and children whom death has taken from us, I invite you to this annual feast. May it be as pleasant for you as our memories of you are sweet to us!”

Lighting some aromatic herbs, I said:

“Let us 12 remember those who perished by fire and those who have drowned. We remember those who have had to die far from their homes, and those who have perished without a trace.”

I now returned to the kitchen and finished preparing the meal, switching the oven dial to baking and turning the heat down to around 325. When all was ready, I brought the plates into the living room, setting the ancestors’ down inside the curve of the semicircle of photos, and my own on a small table nearby. According to tradition, no silverware is set out for the ancestors. I brought in two glasses of cranberry juice (red again) and set one for them and one for myself. Then I said:

“Shades of the dead, honored ancestors, sit, eat and drink as the Gods allow!”

I sat down myself and ate in silence, looking at the photos of the dead and occasionally raising my glass to one of them. As I toasted them in turn, I remembered something about each of them, some brief, cherished memory, and I longed for those old times when we were together in the flesh.

For dessert we had bowls of raspberry sherbet. Afterwards I lingered a little in their company. When a polite length of time had passed, I rose and said:

“Shades of the dead, honored ancestors, this dumb supper is over. Go your ways now where your destiny leads you, and remember to do no harm to anything in the streets or fields.”

Then I extinguished the candle and said

“There is, there is not even a spirit here.”

Finally, I took away the dead’s food and disposed of it. It cannot be eaten but must be returned somehow to the land. I poured out the cranberry juice into the earth, saying “return to the elements whence you came.” I let the sherbet melt down the sink drain, which leads to the sea. As for the solid fare, I would have liked to dig a hole and bury it, but my apartment managers might not understand, so I was forced to simply throw it away. This was the only part of the dumb supper that I regretted.

Back inside once again, I extinguished the candle in the window, saying (as ever) “honor to fire,” and then the hearth guardian’s candle by the stove, saying “honor to the hearth, honor to Brighid, honor to fire.”

The dumb supper was over.

The prayers and basic ritual are derived from Pagan Lithuanian practice, with the name of the Celtic hearth Goddess Brighid substituted for the Baltic Gabija. Lithuania was the last Pagan country in Europe, and only began to be (forcibly) Christianized at the beginning of the 15th century. Consequently, much that has been lost in the pre-Christian traditions of other countries can still be found there, and in the land of their neighbors to the north, Latvia. For more information check out their website at www.romuva.lt.

1 I use ‘her’ for ‘him or her’, etc., in this article.

2 Serith, p. 31. See bibliography.

3 Ibid, p. 32.

4 For an illustration, see the Magician card in the standard Tarot deck.

5 Serith, p.32.

6 Ibid, p. 33.

7 Ibid.

8 The ‘artos’ is the pattern of the universe; the wyrd or rta.

9 Pronounced PUR-os es-YEM.

10 Serith, unpublished material. See bibliography.

11 This is a marvelous scholarly word meaning his penis is erect.

12 The ancestors and myself.

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