hedge witch

Notes from the Apothecary

January, 2019

Notes from the Apothecary: Star Anise

Star anise is a beautiful, fragrant spice from China and Vietnam often used in cooking and medicine. The Latin name is illicium verum. The fruits are green and resemble star-shaped flowers when first picked. When they are dried, the fruits harden and turn a dark, reddish brown and the star shape becomes more prominent. The ‘arms’ of the star pop open to revel smooth, shiny brown seeds.

The whole fruit is used as a seasoning for many different types of cuisine, most notably in the Chinese five spice mix which is widely used in Oriental cooking. The star shape makes this fruit immediately intriguing as a magical ingredient. The powerful, aniseed-like scent speaks of mystery and wonder, whether it’s rising from a specially seasoned morning coffee or some carefully crafted incense. Read on for more information on how star anise is used in medicine and magic.

The Apothecary

The first point in using star anise as a medicine is to ensure it is never confused with Japanese star anise. Japanese star anise, or illicium anisatum, is also known as the Sacred Tree and is highly revered by Buddhists. The leaves are used as incense, but the fruits and seeds are highly toxic. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between dried Japanese and Chinese star anise fruit. Because of this, it’s important to purchase your star anise from a reputable and experienced supplier. Alternatively, if you’re able to grow your own, this is the safest way forward. If in doubt, do not consume, as the toxic substance anisatin causes severe inflammation of the urinary and digestive tracts. Chinese star anise is the only edible variety and the only variety that should be used for medicinal purposes.

Now that the dire warnings are out of the way, the good news is that Chinese star anise is incredibly medicinally important. It’s one of the primary source of shikimic acid which is used in anti-influenza drugs. There are many sources of shikimic acid, but star anise is so relied upon that when there is a serious flu outbreak, global shortages of the spice tend to occur.

Web MD states that star anise is also used for a range of ailments including colic and other digestive issues, coughs, bronchitis and congestion. It may be useful as a galactagogue; a substance that promotes the flow of breast milk. However, it should be avoided during pregnancy as can affect the uterus.

Mrs Grieve states in her Modern that the oil from Chinese star anise is identical to oil of anise, from the unrelated anise plant. This is why the two plants have such a similar taste. Many animals are highly attracted to anise oil. Hunt saboteurs have been known to use it to throw hounds off the trail of a pursued fox or hare, and it has historically been used in mouse traps as bait.

The Witch’s Kitchen

In The Green Wiccan by Silja, star anise is one of the 52 herbs she focuses on as important tools of magic. The author states that star anise is an herb of the element of air. This means it would make a beautiful addition to the eastern point of an altar or sacred space, and an ideal ingredient for any incense.

Star anise is associated with the planet Jupiter, associated with expansion and luck (Practical Planetary Magick, David Rankine and Sorita d’Este). Jupiter has historically been known as beneficent and positive, meaning plants associated with it, such as star anise, can be used for magic with a positive leaning. Jupiter is also associated with law and ethics, meaning it can be connected to justice and doing the right thing. Use star anise to gain success in business ventures or new projects.

Star anise is also linked to Apollo and Hermes, making it a tool of poetry, music, traveling and communication. and poetry can, of course, be tools for communication, which makes me wonder if this is one of star anise’s strongest traits. Perhaps a witch could use star anise to find different ways to deliver a difficult message, or to open up about something they’re having a hard time expressing.

Silja links this plant to magic for consecration and purification, which can be done via incense or scattering the seeds. The author also states the spice can be used for breaking curses and removing negativity, particularly when used in food.

Home and Hearth

Press a whole star anise into a green or gold candle. Use a blob of melted wax to stick it there, or ensure the candle is soft before you do this. Any time you need to do something regarding prosperity or wealth, light the candle and meditate on the flame for a moment. This could be a visit to the bank, a job interview, a business meeting or even a yard sale. The star anise combined with the coloured candle magic will boost your chances at success and prosperity. (Paraphrased from The Green Wiccan by Silja.)

Kitchen witches should add star anise into their recipes for a boost of humour and joviality in their lives. Indian cookery is great for this. My favourite is a biryani; a fragrant rice dish with whole star anise.

I Never Knew…

The Latin name for Chinese star anise, illicium verum, originates from illicio which means ‘alluring’. This refers to the irresistible scent of the fruit.

Image credits: guangxi – star anise farm in china 2005 by fuzheado via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

***

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

Story Series: Hedge Wizard

September, 2018

Part 1


(Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash)

Chapter 1, Part 2

Flight through the Forest

As we flew over the treetops, with the great starry dome overhead, I seemed to be flying upside down over an ocean filled with innumerable lights. The blue child led me deep into the forest, and at one point slowed down to allow me to catch up with him. Then he locked elbows and flew with me, and suddenly all was changed. The trees glowed with light of many colors, like lamps of blue, green, red and violet, each type of tree a different hue. Some trees throbbed with light, while others gave off a steady sheen. In places I saw what looked like columns of light erupting from the trees up into the sky and eventually disappearing in distance. Elsewhere, shafts of light descended suddenly from the sky and fused with particular trees. The blue child led me to a glade in the forest filled with oaks and poplars. We flew to one particular oak and passed inside it through a hollow ‘fairy door’. I was in the trunk of a massive, giant oak tree with the blue child.

Some noise in the forest woke me up at this moment. It was early morning, just around dawn. I went back to sleep and had no dreams I recalled.

At breakfast the Hægtessa seemed pleased and rested. She said she’d had the best sleep in years, for it’s tiring at times to fly with the blue child or other dryads in the forest. At least when you get up to my age,” she smiled. “But while you’re young it’s great fun, and you gradually become acquainted with the deeper forest.”

Dawn can go home tomorrow,” she continued as an afterthought. “Try again tonight with the Blue Child. See if you can get inside the Great Oak. Tell me what happened tomorrow at breakfast. If you find you like doing this, and don’t mind learning herb-lore from me, you can be hedge wizard when I am gone. But think it over; you have plenty of time to consider it.

But the times you go home,” she added, in turning, “don’t speak of your experiences here. Just say you are learning herb-lore from me. That will provide enough reason for them to ostracize you. No point in giving them more.”

* * * * *

On the following night once again I was flying with the Blue Child through the night forest. The blue child led me to a glade in the forest filled with oaks. We flew to one particular oak and passed inside it through a hollow ‘fairy door’. I was in the trunk of a massive, giant oak tree with the blue child. Blue light was all around us.

We rested inside a recess in the oak’s trunk. Not far from us was the figure of an old man sleeping. He seemed carved from wood, or else turning into wood. On his face was an expression of contentment and rest.

Who is that?” I asked the Blue Child. “My Dad,” he answered. “He is falling asleep into the tree. Dad, Dad,” he called softly. The old man’s eyelids fluttered, scattering small splinters. He looked with love at the Blue Child. “Dad, this is Bird-brow. He is taking his first flight.”

The old man’s voice came resonantly from his lips, which hardly moved. “Welcome, Bird-brow,” he said. “The gods bless you.”

And you, Sir,” I replied. “But what is happening to you?”

Oh, I am dying. It is time to return to the Tree, our Mother. My son will serve Her in my stead.”

In the garth, where I live,” I said, “to die is an occasion for sorrow.”

Not among us,” the old man said, smiling. “For we do not die entirely so long as the Tree lives. And She has lived here in the Forest a very long time.”

You can still go upstairs if you’d rather, Dad,” said the Blue Child.

No, Son. My place is here with our Mother, the Oak. But you should go upstairs to tell the Bright Ones I will stay here and subside into wood.”

The Blue Child turned to me. “Rest here awhile. I will return soon.”

The blue light grew around us and seemed to lift the Blue Child. He rose on a column of light and rushed out of the crown of the Tree, up into the sky. He was suddenly gone. I looked at the old man inquiringly.

You must pardon me,” he said, closing his eyes once again. “I am becoming very sleepy.”

I moved outside the trunk up into the lower branches of the Oak. Around me the elms were glowing green, the larches a paler shade of the same color. Here and there in the haunted forest columns of light shot up into the sky and disappeared; once in a while a column descended from the sky and passed into a tree from above, and the tree took on its color and glowed softly.

After some time had passed, a shaft of blue light descended from the sky and the Blue Child was back. “Now we must scout out the Hægtessa’s herbs,” he said. “the old beds have dried up.”

But where were you?” I asked him, as we resumed out flight.

In our star. Every tree in the forest has a star. Ours is there.” And he pointed almost directly up, to the top of the sky. “You must return with the Haegtessa in the morning and help her pick herbs.” Once again we entered the oak.

But where are the herbs?” I asked. “The trees will find them,” he said, and then called out softly “Dad…Dad.”

The old face appeared once more in the wood. “Yes, Son, what is it? I was drifting off.”

The Haegtessa needs more herbs, Dad. The old beds have dried up. We must find the closest bed of wild herbs for her.”

Right away,” said the face, and disappeared into the wood.

Where has he gone?” I asked the Blue Child. “Down into the roots,“he said. “The roots of the great oak extend far on every side and touch the roots of trees growing around us. They in turn touch the roots of their neighbors, and so on. The search for the wild herbs is even now traveling far afield, along the roots through the Deep Forest.”

Presently the old face of the Oak Father appeared once more in the wood. Little splinters flew from his eyelids and lips as he smiled and said “Tell the Hægtessa the way to the herbs has been charted. If she comes here to the Great Oak she can follow the trail with her staff” “Thank you, Oak Father,” I said, and promptly awoke in the crystal room.

At breakfast the Hægtessa was radiant. “You’ve done well, Bird-Brow,” she said. “The Blue Child and the Oak Father both like you. That is important.”

I told her what the Oak Father said. “I know,” she said, “I have done this before, many times. What he said was for your benefit. We must go together today, since you may be doing this next time.”

After breakfast she said farewell to my mother and little Dawn. “She has recovered. Keep her quiet and well-rested for a few days. Bird-Brow is going with me today on an expedition. He will return home tonight.”

The Hægtessa put on her voluminous white robe and took her carved oaken staff from her cabinet. “Take this sack with you, Bird-Brow,” she said. “We will bring back some herbs for replanting in my field.”

I had flown with the Blue Child to the Great Oak and knew vaguely how to get there in the body, but the Hægtessa knew the way very well, and in about half an hour we mounted the hill leading to the tree. It was a quiet, blue morning, punctuated with light birdsong.

The Hægtessa grounded her staff near the base of the oak. “Grasp my staff, Bird-Brow” she said. I grasped its head and felt a tingling coming up the staff from the ground. She knew I felt it, and took it back. “Now follow along. We have a journey to make.”

She walked to the next tree, a smaller, younger oak, and then beyond it to a birch, feeling the ground with her staff with every step. In this way we went down hill and up hill for about half an hour. Coming to a shallow stream, we forded it, the Hægtessa feeling the trail along the stream bottom with her staff, and picking up the trail again among the trees on the other side. The land sloped uphill from the other bank, until we reached a plateau at the edge of a cliff. Far below I could see the field of herbs. Passing to the left along the cliff, we came to a mild grassy slope downhill, and followed it down to the herb beds.

The field of herbs was the size of two yards placed side by side. Beyond them the forest continued on a shallow rise. “The herbs have come here from many places in the forest,” said the Hægtessa. “They are our partners. It is our job to protect them, to pick the weeds from among them and ring them about with guardian plants like marigolds. Some we will gather up and replant in my garden. These will be of use, like the feverfew I gave little Dawn, but once replanted, the herbs have less potency. Here, in this field, is where they retain their full magic.” She showed me how to tell weeds from herbs, and we replanted a few marigolds along the margins.

You must come here with the Blue Child, Bird-Brow,” she said, “perhaps once a week, to see if all is well. You must also come here at times in the body to dress and protect the field, and gather a few herbs for replanting. That is, if you want to.”

She looked at me carefully. “I am old, Bird-Brow,” she said. “I cannot make the journey here often. If you wish to be hedge wizard after me, you must start now to help with the fields.”

I will, gladly,” I said. “But what of my father and the boar hunt? I have never been asked to be on it before, because I was too young. He is counting on me to be with him.”

Some problems have no easy solution, Bird-Brow,” she said.

When I visited the herb field and pitched my tent, all was quiet. In the night I saw one herb light up within, and in it I could see the Hægtessa preparing herbs. She looked very old and tired, and suddenly I knew I would disappoint my father and remain here with her. When next I slept in the crystal room, the Blue Child flew in and said I had chosen wisely. She would not live much longer. In the morning I told her of my decision to remain with her and learn her herb-lore. She smiled and took me into her garden, pointing out the herbs which had been replanted. “These can be used in healing, Bird-Brow. But they must be boosted with wild herbs from the field.” Back in her house, she showed me how to prepare the herbs, cutting them and mixing them with the wild herbs. They seemed to quicken into new life when mixed with their wild counterparts.

At night, I flew with the Blue Child to the wild herb field, but instead of returning to the Hægtessa’s house we flew together over the wheat fields to the Hall. There was a lamp lit inside the Hall, watched over by the Hall-Sun, a young, vigorous woman with straw-colored hair. I was surprised to see my father there with her. “He won’t come, Hall-Sun.” he said sadly. I had hoped to show him hunting. The Hægtessa has bewitched him to her service.”

He can still come along to the boar-hunt,” the Hall-Sun said. “He can fly with the hunters and the Blue Child.” And she nodded to my companion.

That night the boar-hunters ran through a long tunnel in the Hedge, carrying torches. My father led them. The great wild boar had been reported in these parts, and each hunter was armed with bow, arrows and spear. I hovered over my father and the Blue Child and I flew on ahead to scout out the quarry and report its whereabouts to the hunters. Once or twice I saved my father from the boar by warning him of its murderous attack. I think he was aware of my protection and thanked me. He showed me how he stalked the boar and in this way I learned about hunting. The Hall-Sun watched me closely and I was taken by her fresh beauty. She seemed sprung from the earth, like harvest wheat. Her gaze seemed to reprove me for not being with my father on the hunt. But then I thought of the Hægtessa and her difficulties, and when I did, the Hall-Sun nodded approvingly.

End of part one

Story Series: Hedge Wizard

August, 2018

Part 1

(Photo by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash)

Chapter 1

1. A Visit to the Hægtessa

I remember when little Dawn had a fever and had trouble sleeping, I went with Mother across the harvested fields to visit the Hægtessa. The green wall of the Hedge, tiny in the distance, grew and threw open its arms as we approached. On all sides it stretched, shutting out the Forest, except where the river ran by, downhill on the right, where the fishing lodge straddled the bank. I knew that far to the left, the hunters’ tunnel passed under the hedge.

Beyond the Hedge I could see the tops of many trees, outliers of the Forest. The Forest went on and on, they said, forever. No one went very far into it except the hunters. The Hægtessa, whose name meant ‘hedge-rider,’ went a little way in at times to gather herbs.

As we approached her house, Mother cautioned me to remain quiet unless spoken to. The Hægtessa, it was said, lived a very quiet life and disliked noise.

Her house ran right through the Hedge to the other side, and thus had two fronts, each barely extending beyond the Hedge itself. Her magic accommodated the Hedge to her house, neatly fitting it without impinging on it in the least.

I had never been in her house. I had been up to the Hedge, and down to the fishing-lodge by the river, and seen the gabled front of her house from a distance, but never herself. But now she came out.

But when the Hægtessa emerged, she was a kindly-looking middle-aged woman, getting a little stout. She was dressed in a simple farm smock and apron.

I’ve been working in the garden” she said to me, answering my thought. The morning sun peeped over the roof of the forest, and I squinted. She looked at me curiously, then turned to my mother.

Hello, Mopsy,” she said, using my mother’s little girl name.”What can I do for you?”

It’s Dawn, here,” said Mother. “She is hot and can’t sleep. I think her head hurts.”

The Hægtessa took Dawn in her arms. “She needs feverfew and a few other herbs,” she said. “Step in.”

We went up three steps and were inside her house, which seemed carved rather than built. A wide room stretched on both sides. Ahead were more steps, leading past cabinets of herbs and instruments up through the middle of the house. There were no windows to right or left.

Her magic keeps the hedge from bothering the house,” I thought. “But why the hump in the middle?”

Once again she answered my thought. “The roots of the hedge pass under the middle of my house. Else there would be two hedges.”

*

The Hægtessa ascended the inner steps and took several herbs from the shelves. She took dried leaves of feverfew and mixed them with fresh leaves. Then she prepared two or three other herbs.

When she brought the tea down, I saw a circular stairway at the back of her herb-closet. Past it steps probably started down to the forest side of her house.

We have to wait and see how she takes the herbs,” she said. “Please make yourselves comfortable. I will brew another tea.”

We sat on her cushioned carved benches and waited, while Mother applied a cool rag to Dawn’s head from time to time.

The Haegtessa kept us company. She talked about her need for an apprentice, “I’m not as young now as I once was.” She was running out of some herbs and needed help locating new gardens in the forest.

Somewhat later she felt Dawn’s head and said she felt a little cooler, but she needed to stay there for a night or two until her head was back to normal. She fixed up a bed for Mother in the room with Dawn, then turned to me.

Perhaps you’d like to sleep in the loft?” she asked, pointing to the circular stairs. “Come and see.” I followed her up the stairs. At the top, the gabled room was on the right. On the left a door opened into a circular chamber, roofed with crystal. I had heard of the dream chamber, but thought it was just a story.

In the center of the room was a wide, comfortable looking bed. Some treetops could be seen at the rim of the dome, but otherwise it was all sky.

Do you think you’d like to sleep here?” she asked.

Oh, yes,” I said. “Yes, thanks.”

That is well, Bird-brow; I give you that name in place of your boyhood name Hops. For outside, when you squinted, I saw a bird’s head, perhaps a robin’s, in the wrinkles between your brows. So I know you will profit from a night spent up here.”

The first night the dream chamber was filled with a blue light, whitened a while by the moon. I lay entranced by the starry sky and don’t know when I dropped off. Just before I woke I seemed to see a bluish figure flying around the room. It was a boy, a little smaller than I am, but I awoke before I could see more or speak to him.

At breakfast the Hægtessa was jovial. Dawn was much improved, and Mother had finally gotten some much-needed sleep. We had milk and meat and some fruit I had never seen before, juicy with a red pith. “One more night and Dawn will be well,” she said. “Did you sleep well in the chamber, Bird-brow?”

Why do you call him that?” asked Mother. “His name is Hops.”

He is growing fast, and has grown much overnight. See, already he is nearly eight years in stature. And I name him Bird-brow.”

Mother said nothing, but shifted a little uneasily in her chair. We knew that a hedge-witch has the right to assign a name to someone, and that name is not without meaning.

During the morning the Hægtessa took me out over the stair-hill and through the forest side of her house to the herb garden just outside the forest-door. Just beyond it was the blasted heath where the advancing trees of the forest had been cut down and the grass and seeds underneath them burnt brown. We picked herbs that day and she showed me how to store them in jars and prepare tinctures and other medicines.

At sunset a hunter came by with a brace of conies. “Have you heard that the great boar hunt is being prepared?” he asked me. “Your father is organizing it. Will you be with him?” I said certainly. He skinned them and stayed to supper with us, then went off again into the forest.

That night I dropped off to sleep swiftly, and before long the light of a star shone brighter, and the blue child flew or slid down the trail of light, landing at the foot of my bed.

Come, Bird-brow,” the blue child said. “You are asleep, so you can fly,” and we both flew through the crystal and out into the night of the forest.

To Be Continued…

Notes from the Apothecary

June, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: The Poppy

With colors ranging from a delicate, golden yellow to brash, bold scarlet, the poppy is a self-contained paradox. Powerful, yet delicate and short lived, this evocative flower has been associated with sleep, death and rebirth for many centuries. This connection comes from the fact that opium, a powerful drug used for inducing sleep and trance like states, is derived from the seed pods of one particular kind of poppy, papaver somniferum. It is possible that humans have been cultivating this poppy since 6000 BC.

Red poppies are also a symbol of remembrance, ever since the trench warfare that took place in World War One in the poppy fields of Flanders. They are used to remember those who fell in defense of other; soldiers and warriors, ancestors who died in battle and those who were affected by the horrors of war. In the UK especially, some people feel like the red poppy glorifies war, but they still wish to honor those who died, in which case they wear a white poppy. This signifies that they do not agree with war on principle, but that they respect and remember the sacrifice made by those who had no choice but to fight.

The Kitchen Garden

Poppies are classed as an herbaceous plant, and are grown mainly for their flowers and seeds. Many of the flowers are highly elaborate, having double or semi-double layers of petals. The red, multi-layered poppies always remind me of Spanish flamenco skirts.

As well as being a beautiful addition to any garden, poppies are very practical. The seeds are delicious, and are often used as decoration and flavor for breads, cakes, buns and muffins. As well as tasting great, like most seeds, they are a great source of protein. They are also high in calcium, so ideal for a dairy free diet.

The oil can be extracted from poppy seeds and used as a cooking oil, or for salad dressings and in baking.

The Apothecary

It should come as no surprise to learn that poppy seeds have been used throughout history as a painkiller, considering they contain the raw ingredients of morphine. They also contain tiny amounts of codeine. The Ancient Egyptians are known to have employed poppy seeds for this purpose, but they must have used them while very fresh as the opiate contents tends to fade quickly upon harvesting.

The Witch’s

The red poppy is a sacred symbol of Demeter, and as such is perfect for decorating any altar you may have to this Greek goddess of agriculture and law. The Minoans also evidently had a poppy goddess, as shown in the clay statuette found at Gazi. This ancient goddess with arms reaching to the sky has her headdress decorated with poppy seed capsules, showing that the cult that revered this goddess placed special, religious significance on the poppy. This may have been due to its narcotic properties, or the simple significance of the cycles of life, death and rebirth. Either way, it’s clear that poppies are a powerful symbol of at least two ancient cults. Using the poppy today can help us connect to these ancient goddesses.

Also within the Greek pantheon, we have Hypnos and Thanatos, the gods of sleep and death, respectively. These twin gods were both depicted with crowns of poppies, once again reinforcing the association between poppies and sleep and death. Death is a kind of sleep that never ends, and being asleep is so close to death in many ways. The poppy reminds us that just because something looks like one thing, it may actually be something completely different. We should examine and reexamine, and be sure of what we are seeing before jumping to conclusions. It reminds us to be less judgmental, more open-minded, and to appreciate the benefits of sleep and dreams.

Dreams are a doorway into our subconscious. And, while our subconscious kicks out some weird stuff most of the time, it can also send us important messages, including messages from our gods and ancestors.

Home and Hearth

Try keeping a dream journal. This can be a hard habit to get into, as you have to remember to write your dreams down the moment you awake from them. If not, you tend to lose details and the whole dream may even fade within a few minutes.

Before sleeping, meditate on an image of a poppy. A red poppy is the one most associated with sleep and dreams, but if a different color has more meaning for you, that’s fine too. Breathe, relax and imagine each petal of the poppy as a layer of your subconscious. Imagine you will be allowed to explore each layer, just as you can clearly see each beautiful petal of the poppy. Immerse yourself in the sense that your subconscious will open for you, blooming like a great flower, with answers and insight.

Keep a notepad and pen next to your bed. That way, even if you wake up at 3am, you can scribble down the contents of your dreams. Don’t worry if you can’t always remember them. The human mind is complex and temperamental! Write what you can and use it to look for patterns, imagery and symbolism.

I Never Knew…

The pain-killing drug morphine, derived from poppy opium, takes its name from Morpheus, the Ancient Greek god of dreams and sleep.

*Image credit: Welsh Poppies in Post Hill Woods, copyright Mabh Savage 2018; the Poppy Goddess at Heraklion Archaeological Museum via Wikipedia; poppies on Lake Geneva via 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.

 

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

 

A Simple Path: Journey of a Hedgewitch

December, 2009

hedge


*The Hedgewitch lives in the space between the Village and the Forest. Between the mundane and the magical. S/He lives with a foot in both worlds.
This column is dedicated to the Hedgewitches of the planet earth.

Holidays in the Hedge; What is the reason for the season, again???
I, personally, will use any occasion to celebrate. And although I wasn’t raised a pagan, discovering the 8 holy days or sabbats in the sacred Wheel of the Year delighted me! It never occurred to me, for one moment, not to celebrate the Christmas traditions of my youth in Christianity, as well. The blending of my old and new faith merely gave me a whole raft of new holidays to celebrate and as they come roughly 6 weeks apart, there seemed always to be something to celebrate.
As a spiritual kleptomaniac, one who liberally “borrows” from myraid traditions, inclusively rather than exclusively, I never eliminate anything entirely. I simply modify it for my personal use or set it aside for further reflection another time.
However, in modern society, there has been such unrest regarding the celebration of Christmas vs. Yule that I feel led to address the dilemma in this month’s column.
I am aware of the fundamental Christian campaign to remind the world of their assertion that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. It used to sort of crack me up, the unmitigated gall of folks to use a completely inaccurate slogan to ‘guilt’ people into ‘remembering’ facts that simply aren’t true.
Then their reign of evangelism started to rain on my personal parade and I was forced to take things a bit more seriously.
Please understand I am not in the recruiting business. I am just as happy if the number of pagans remains the same in the world for the next 1000 years. If there are to be more, then it is up to the Universe to lead them to become so. It is not my job to make fresh pagans daily. I am delighted to share, instruct and educate those who have made their own decision to come to the Path, and to support their efforts, however, I do not feel responsible to wrest souls from other religions to increase the numbers in my own.
That said, I have the hardest time when I, or others of my shared faith construct, are being attacked for things like “ruining Christmas” because of celebrating our own way. I am not attempting to convince anyone that my way is the best and/or only way. I merely feel compelled to be accurate, and to stand up for my fellowes when they are wrongly accused (anybody feeling a recurring theme of wrongly accused pagans?).
2 years ago I got into a debate with a fundy Christian who was really upset that we pagans had stolen their holiday traditions and were attempting to taint them with our “heathen ways“. I was forced to illustrate that, in fact, it was the Christians who had “stolen” the traditions of Yule and made them their own.
Frankly, I don’t have a problem with their “borrowing”. I do the same thing, as I mentioned above (though, not for the purpose of controlling the masses, of course).
However, this man had no idea, whatever, his most treasured holiday moments and activities had come from pagan origins. He was horrified, aghast, and worst, furious at my impudence to even suggest such a thing.
Now, there were other folks involved in this debate, as it was an open forum, on an online newspaper site. Many, many people, pagan and Christian alike attempted to show this angry man his ideas were flawed, and these traditions existed hundred, even thousands, of years before Christ was even born.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, the man was not swayed by logic, history or verifiable fact. I didn’t expect him to be, but I couldn’t help myself but try to pry his mind open with the truth (I am an Aquarius…it cannot be helped…).
In the end, it was the other folks on the forum who ended up finishing the debate with him, providing many documentations for the very ideas I had purported. They chastised him, not only for his narrow-mindedness and open hostility, but also for not exactly being a beacon of Christian Light in what he referred to as the Season of Jesus. Is that really how Jesus might have acted???
The whole thing left me feeling tired, frustrated and a bit sad.
However, as is my way, I researched deeper into the origins of so many of our favorite holiday traditions. In every case, I found documentation for these ritual acts (the tree; mistletoe, holly and evergreen decorations; exchanging cards; donating food and money to the less fortunate; singing carols) in the historic and anthropological data of civilizations who celebrated the return/rebirth  of the Sun centuries before the birth of Christ, which, by the way, has been determined to have occurred in the Spring, not in December, at all.
Rather than feeling more polarized by the debate, I felt as though we had much more in common than this man wished to note.
There can be a feeling of friction this time of year, for many of us. Particularly those in mixed-spiritual households. Many traditions live side by side, coming from many origins in our lives. No two people (save for siblings, of course) seem to come from the same exact sort of household, nor do their families celebrate holidays the exact same way. When folks marry or join homes in any way, they are entering into an agreement to find a way to blend their holiday traditions or to find ways to separately observe them in their own time-honored way.
The same can be said for pagans and our sabbat celebrations. The lucky thing for us is, our Yule traditions are virtually the same as everyone else’s Christmas. I have openly celebrated Yule for the past 6 years and no one I didn’t tell, specifically, even knew my decorations weren’t for Christmas. I am German (Saxon) and Irish (Celtic) so my family traditions included a tree, candles, evergreen décor, gift exchange, carols, a Yule log and numerous other “normal” Christmas activities.
I do keep the solstice night as sacred for my own personal pagan ritual relating to the season, but this does not keep me from hanging stockings and opening presents on the morning of the 25th. For me, there is no conflict of interest.
I love Winter and the season of light. I would never consider modifying my holiday activities because it wasn’t “pagan enough” or it was “too Christian”.
I wait all year to enjoy these activities, and won’t allow controversy to muddy my holiday cheer.
This is the time of year we come together to celebrate the return of light to the world, regardless of what you choose to call it.
I sincerely hope that all of you embrace whatever traditions give you hope and life during this festive time. Try not to allow preconceived notions of what is Pagan and what is Christian to determine how you celebrate. Or to allow differences in dogma to divide loving households with the heat of debate.
We can be the change we want to see in the world (Gandhi) by being tolerant and open of the beliefs and traditions of others, even if they cannot return the favor. We can apply peace and harmony to a prickly situation by sheer force of will. We can manifest the love and light we want so desperately to see in the world around us, just by appreciating others regardless of our differences.
In this, the Season of Miracles, I pray peace and harmony would come to live in each of your homes, and that abundance would fill your pantries and bank accounts to overflowing.
Happy Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Rocking Solstice and A Blessed New Year to all!
Yay Winter!!!

A Simple Path: Journey of a Hedgewitch

October, 2009

*The Hedgewitch lives in the space between the Village and the Forest. Between the mundane and the magical. S/He lives with a foot in both worlds.
This column is dedicated to the Hedgewitches of the planet earth.

Working Witch

Ever since I was a child, I have been a Healer. It began in my youth, fostered by programming from the church that it is our right to lay hands on the sick and they will be healed. I had never looked at the process any other way.
When I reached my teens, and money was slim and none, I discovered herbs and began ferreting out their secrets. Having a new weapon against dis-ease, I knew I would be a far better Healer, having both spiritual means, and physical means to help people.

Later, when I discovered my inner-witch (who clearly had been working her own magic for years, unbeknownst to me, consciously) I expanded my worldview, but my mission remained the same.
I just found that I had the ability to make change happen in other areas, as well as physical and spiritual healing.

Discernment became divination. An exorcism, cleansing and blessing. Prayers were chanted and candles and incense were lit. Energy was transferred and nothing had changed, except I now felt personally connected to the Divine, and no longer needed to attend church to fellowship, worship or petition my gods.

I had always been the sort of spiritual warrior who was called upon when someone moved into a new house, and became fearful about sprits and paranormal activities. As a Christian, my duty was clearly to remove the spirit, and restore the home to order. So, it really isn’t that different now, when I cleanse and bless. Except that I have respect for the spirit’s needs, as well.

I have been working as a part time witch for a good many years. I make medicines, read cards, run a small shop and do workings for friends of various sorts.
I never charge for my magic, though, occasionally, I will charge for some materials if I don’t have them in stock (rare. I have an extensive magical cupboard). It goes against my personal ethical construct to charge for magical workings, however I am always happy to accept token offerings from the client, as they are led.
I feel magic has been given to me, freely, and I am happy to share. I have always felt I “worked for the Universe”. And, while the paychecks aren’t steady, the benefits are out of this world.

I always insist on participation (on some level) by anyone I work or read for. Magic is best when engaged in by multiple focused partners, and this always aids in the results.

When someone I know has a problem they cannot manage on their own, through mundane channels, they come to me.

I have done UnCrossings for unfortunate friends. I have unhexed some who had been interfered with. I helped a friend find true love. I have healed numerous friends and family members and have cleansed and blessed countless homes over the years.

But, I have never felt that I was working full time, until lately.

Most recently, several serious situations have arisen in my life where I have been called upon to render magical aid. Some so serious that days worth of layers of magic have been required to remedy them.
I have been working round the clock for a week on a particularly dangerous situation, and while we have come out on the right side of it, it has been nearly all-consuming.
Today, I have been given my next assignment, and it is every inch the doozy the last one was.

It is vital that I remember to remain in my body and feel the sensations as they occur. I have been besieged with fatigue after long periods of energy transfer. I have had to remember to put some energy back. My dreams have been loaded with powerful images, so even while I am sleeping, my spirit is working these things through.
I have been trying to be mindful to eat when I am hungry and to keep my husband fed, during the course of things.

I can tell things have changed on some deeper level, because my husband has asked me for the help on one very specific occasion, and this is completely out of character. He knows I work for people, sometimes. He also knows that there are altars and candles in places, and that this means something. But he never knows what, and we don’t discuss it at all.
He just finally came to a place where he could not solve a serious problem through mundane means, and believed that I could help him with this one. He believed that there was some bad magic afoot and knew that I can help with things like this.

It was a amazing thing, to have him ask me to help him using my magic. He has not made a peep about the incense which burns nearly round the clock. He hasn’t mentioned the strange collections of things on the coffee table out in plain sight. He has been enormously supportive of the work, and has respected the sacred space.
It is its own miracle in the life of a working witch, married to a pagan-friendly but not pagan mate.

My work in his situation has been successful, and he is a believer more now than ever of my “hocus pocus” (to his credit, he did finally stop calling it that the first time I made a healing salve that cured absolutely everything it touched, including a major second degree burn he suffered).

With some spells coming to an end, and new ones being formulated, and worked, I find my life has changed. I am working full time for the Universe. Just as I sort of always wanted to.
As I said, the paychecks aren’t steady. But the benefits…who can argue with miraculous abundance?! Not this witch.

I know the life of a working witch is not for everyone. But I believe if you have a gift, it is up to you to share it with those who do not. Even if you are in a place where the idea of someone asking you to help them through magical means seems absurd, just wait.
People tend to notice what we can do. And even the pooh-poohers come around when they need some help they can’t ask anyone else for.

If you are open to this life, it will find you, and you will have more work to do that you have time for. I only know this, because it has happened to me.

Praying you all are finding work for your magical hands to do!
Bright Blessings!

HearthBeats: Notes from a Kitchen Witch

February, 2009

I recently found this amazing graphic…although it is set up counterclockwise (for me) it is wonderful to see how the Sabbats and esbats connect and flow with the death and rebirth of plants as well as the world.. so I wanted to share this as well as some herbal information in this edition of Notes…

hearthbeats

This is in no way a complete list of herbs… but it is as complete as I have and will use..

Herbs A to Z

Aloe Vera – Moon and water. It powers are used for protection and luck. Carry it with you to protect yourself against evil or clumsiness. Aloe is used for its antibacterial, anesthetic and antiseptic properties; it is a good tool for restoration of tissue. It is most commonly used on burns, minor cuts, sunburns and is being used for the treatment of skin cancer.

Angelica – Sun and fire. The root carried in a blue cloth bag is a protective talisman. It was considered to be under the guard of angels and therefore a good preventative charm against the plague. Put the whole root in a blue or white cloth bag and hang it in the window as a protection against evil.

Agrimony – Air. Used in protection spells, used to banish negative energies and spirits. It can also be used to reverse spells and send them back to the sender. An infusion of the leaves is used to treat jaundice and other liver ailments. Externally, a fomentation is used for athlete’s foot, sores and insect bites.

Anise – Jupiter and air. Used for protection, a pillow stuffed with anise seeds is reputed to keep away nightmares..

Apple – Venus and water. Was used in love spells for hundreds of years, cider can be used in place of blood or wine where called for in ancient spells and rites. The wood is made into wands and used for love spells and rituals. In Cornwall, a large apple was given to each member of the household to be eaten at Samhain for good luck.

Ash – Sun and water. A protective tree used to make besoms and healing wands. Ash leaves placed beneath the pillow, are thought to induce psychic dreams. The leaves are considered lucky, carried in a pocket or etc., the leaf is supposed to bring good luck.

Basil – Mars and fire. Used in wealth and prosperity rituals, carrying basil in your pocket is supposed to attract money.

Bay Laurel – Sun and fire. In ancient Greece, bay leaves were used to make the crowns of victors in competitions. The leaves can be burned or chewed to help induce visions. Worn as an amulet it wards off negativity or evil. Leaves under the pillow will help bring prophetic dreams. It is also used in protection and purification rituals.

Benzoin – Sun and air. It is used in purification incenses. A few drops of simple tincture of benzoin will help to preserve oils and preparations.

Betony – Jupiter and fire. Added to incense of protection and purification, If you sleep on a pillow stuffed with betony, it will prevent nightmares. In ancient times it was supposed to prevent drunkenness.

Blackberry – The berries and leaves are considered to protect against evil if gathered at certain times of the moon.

Borage – Air. The fresh blossoms bring courage when carried. A tea will induce your psychic powers. Borage is used for treating bronchitis, rashes and to increase mother’s milk. An infusion is used as eyewash.

Broom – Mars and air. Can be used to create a besom to cleanse the circle of outside influences,it was considered a sign of prosperity to come if the broom plants had many flowers.

Buckwheat – Earth. Buckwheat is used in money and protection magick. You grind the seeds to make flour and sprinkle it around your house in a circle to protect it. You can also use it to form a circle on the floor or ground around you while performing magick. Also keep some in the kitchen to guard against proverty.

Chamomile – Sun and water. Used in prosperity charms and rituals. It also induces sleep, the tea brings peace and tranquility for those times when you need to do a ritual but the emotions are stirred.

Caraway – Mercury and air. Used in love charms to attract a love.

Carnation – Sun and fire. Thought to be worn by witches to prevent capture and hanging. It produces energy in ritual when used in incense.

Catnip – Venus and water.. Catnip is a member of the mint family; it is an edible herb for humans as well as a fragrant herb for cats. It is know to be a relaxing herb taken in a tea, also helps with flatulency, stomach acid and stomach spasms. Catnip is an antispasmodic, astringent, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic and an anodyne, helps promote menstruation and lessen menstrual cramps.

Cinnamon – Sun and fire. Used in incense for healing, clairvoyance, and high spiritual vibrations, use in prosperity charms.

Cinquefoil – Jupiter and earth. This was an ingredient in many spells during medieval times. Hang on the house entrances as protection. Can also be used in spells and charms for prosperity, purification and protection.

Clove – Sun and fire. Wear to drive away negativity and stop gossip. Cloves strung on a red thread can be worn as a protective charm.

Clover – Mercury and air. Used in rituals for beauty and youth, Four-leaved clovers are carried to see fairies, detect evil, heal illness, and avoid madness and a general good luck charm. Red clover can be used as a nerve tonic and a sedative for exhaustion. It is often used in combination with many other drugs in the treatment of cancer. It can also be used for skin eruptions.

Coriander – Mars and fire. Used in love spells and charms.

Cowslip – Venus. These flowers were believed to bring luck in love to the wearer. It was traditionally woven into funeral wreaths to be laid on the deceased one’s grave at the full moon for thirteen moons after death. Posies of cowslips, placed under the pillow are said to allow contact with the dead in dreams.
Dandelion – Jupiter and air. An herb of Hecate, used in Samhain rituals; It is said that if you rub yourself all over with the dandelion, you will be welcome everywhere and all your wishes will be granted. Dandelion benefits all aspects for the liver. It clears obstructions and detoxifies poisons and promotes healthy circulation. The juice from a broken stem can be applied to warts. When allowed to dry, use for 3 days or so, it will dry up the warts.

Dill – Mercury and fire. Used in love charms. Hang in a child’s room to protect them. In olden times, dill was considered an excellent protection against evil.

Dragon’s Blood – Mars and fire. Used in love and protection spells. A piece under the bed is reputed to cure impotency. Carry a piece with you for good luck. Dissolve a little in the bath for a strong purification bath. Dragon’s Blood is also used to make a magickal ink.

Elder – Venus and air. Branches can be used for wands and staves.. In ancient times, it was considered unlucky to burn elder or to bring it into the house.

Eucalyptus – Moon and air. Used in healing rituals and charms of all kinds. Surround blue candles with the leaves and burn for healing vibrations. Hang green pods around the neck to cure colds and sore throats.

Eyebright – Sun and air. Anoint eyelids with the infusion daily to induce clairvoyant visions. It stimulates the liver to remove toxins from the body. It can be used internally or externally to treat eye infections and afflictions. The herb also strengthens the eye and helps repair damage.

Fennel – Mercury and fire. Connected with mother’s milk and breastfeeding, traditionally bought for new mothers and hung near the cradle to keep away flies. Fennel eases the appetite, relieves gas and expels worms.; can also be used as a gargle, mouthwash and eyewash. Helps with coughs and it is also used for cancer patients after radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Fern – Saturn and earth. Extremely powerful protection’s, grow in the house and include in vases of cut flowers. Ferns are supposed to protect any house that contains them from damage by storms.

Frankincense – Sun and fire. A very powerful scent which aids meditation and induces a spiritual frame of mind, burn as a general protective incense. Frankincense has been used in purification and protection incenses since ancient times, although it was the only incense not burned by the Greeks as an offering to the gods. It is still used as incense in Christian churches. .

Gardenia – Moon and water. Wear the flower to attract love.

Garlic – Mars and fire. Extremely protective herb., carry the bulb with you on trips over water to prevent drowning. Hang in the home to protect. The ancient Greeks placed bulbs of garlic on the stone cairns at crossroads as an offering to Hecate. Garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic. It can stimulate cell growth and activity. It reduces blood pressure in hypertensive conditions. A main advantage to using garlic for its antibiotic properties is that it does not destroy the body’s natural flora. It is excellent for use in all colds and infections in the body.

Ginger – Fire. Used in passion spells to heat up the relationship. Used in success spells and ensures the success of spells. Ginger is an excellent herb to use for strengthening and healing the respiratory system, for fighting off colds and flu. Helps remove congestion, soothes sore throats, relieves headaches and body aches. Combined with other herbs, it enhances their effectiveness. It is also very useful in combating motion sickness and morning sickness and digestive problems.

Ginseng – Fire. Carried it will guard your health and attract love. Ginseng is an effective substitute for mandrake in all spells. Ginseng stimulates the body to overcome all forms of illness, physical and mental. It is used to lower blood pressure, increase endurance, aid in relieving depression. The dried root is used for healing purposes. Used in conjunction with most herbs, it is effective in treating all sorts of illnesses, including cancers, digestive troubles, and memory. It also helps overcome fatigue. During menopause it aids in rejuvenating the system, balances hormones and aids in regulating hot flashes.

Goldenseal – Fire. It is used in prosperity spells, and healing spells and rituals. Goldenseal is another natural and powerful antibiotic. The herb goes straight to the bloodstream and eliminates infection in the body.  When taken in combination with other herbs, it will boost the properties for the accompanying herbs. Pregnant women should not use this herb!

Hawthorn – Mars and fire. Used in protection sachets. In ancient times, it was associated with happiness in marriage and carried by brides. The Romans put Hawthorn leaves into the babies’ cradles to protect them against evil. Burn Hawthorn berries as an incense when you feel the need for energy and dynamism in your life.

Hazel – Sun and air. Good wood for all purpose wands. Forked branches can be used as diving wants. Tie two Hazel twigs together with a red or gold thread to make a solar cross as a good luck charm.

Heather – Water.  When used in potpourri, it adds protection and when burned with fern, it is said to bring rain. A tea made of heather blossoms is used to suppress coughing and is an aid for sleeplessness.

Holly – Mars and fire. Because of its red berries and evergreen foliage, holly has always been a powerful symbol of life, protection and safety. Leaves and berries can be carried to heighten masculinity.

Honeysuckle – Jupiter and earth. Use in prosperity spells and charms.

Hops – Mars and water. Used in healing incenses and charms. Hops in a pillow will induce sleep. It is unwise to use hops if depressed, they are believed to engender melancholy. Hops is a sedative. It us useful in treating insomnia and nervous tension, it is mild and safe, also used in brewing beer and ales. Hops can be used for treating coughs, bladder ailments and liver ailments. Externally it is used to treat itching skin rashes and hives.

Horehound – Air. Use as an incense for protection.. Horehound is used in children’s cough remedies because it is a gentle but effective expectorant. It acts as a tonic for the respiratory system and stomach. In large doses, it acts as a laxative.

Horsetail – Earth. Whistles made from the stalks are used to call the spirits.  It aids in coagulation and decreases bleeding. Helps broken bones heal faster, helps with brittle nails and hair. This is because of its high silica content. Has also been used as a part of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, when the plant is boiled in water, it makes an effective foot soak for tired feet or for the treatment of athlete’s foot.

Hyssop – Jupiter and fire. Use in purification baths and protection spells. Associated with serpents and dragons, can be burnt as incense or thrown on the fire to tap into dragon energy.

Ivy – Saturn and water. Guards and protects the houses it grows over, Often given to newlyweds, in conjunction with holly, as a good luck charm.

Jasmine – Jupiter and earth. Used in love spells and charms.

Juniper – Sun and fire. If a sprig of Juniper is worn, is said protect the wearer from accidents. The berry or hot plants such as thistle, chili peppers and bougainvillea, desert dwelling cacti, coffee beans, and Almond Trg seeds, generally help with visualization.  It is high in natural insulin and has the ability to heal the pancreas where there has been no permanent damage. Useful for all urinary infections and water retention problems, It can be used externally as a compress to treat acne, athlete’s foot and dandruff. .

Lavender – Air. Lavender is used in purification baths and rituals. Used in healing incenses and sachets. Carrying the herb will enable the carrier to see ghosts. The flowers, when burned, induce sleep and scattered throughout the home, maintain a peaceful harmony within. Carrying lavender brings strength and courage. Lavender tea made from the blossoms is used as an antidepressant. When used in combination with other herbs it is a remedy for depression and nervous tension and stress. It can also be used as a headache remedy.

Lemon Balm
– Drink as in infusion to soothe away the emotional pains after a relationship break-up; considered useful in recovery from trauma and sexual assault. It has long been considered to drive away melancholy and low spirits.

Lemon Verbena
– Venus and air. Wear as a love charm and to increase one’s attractiveness. Add to charms to increase their power.

Linden – Jupiter. It is associated with conjugal love and longevity.

Lovage – Sun and water. Add the root to cleansing baths. Carry to attract love.

Marigold – Sun and fire. In a vase, renews energy of everyone in the room where the vase is placed, can symbolize constancy and endurance in love.

Marjoram – Mercury and air. Add to love charms. Place a bit of the herb in every room in the house for protection. It was used in an anointing ointment for love divination in combination with marigold, thyme, honey and wormwood.

Meadowsweet – Jupiter and water. A sacred herb of the Druids, arrange fresh meadowsweet on the altar when mixing love charms or performing love spells. Strew around the house for love and peace. Wear garlands of meadowsweet to Lammas to join with the essence of the Goddess.

Mistletoe – Sun and air. Worn as a protective amulet, or to help conceive, Mistletoe was held in great esteem by the Druids, and was suppossed to protect the wearer from evil.

Mugwort – Venus and air. Put into the shoe while travelling, for protection from sunstroke, wild beasts and evil spirits and to prevent fatigue on long journeys. Mugwort tea will induce clairvoyance. Rub fresh leaves on magick mirror and crystal balls to strengthen divinatory powers. Add to scrying, clairvoyance and crystal balls to strengthen divination incenses. It is said that putting it under the doorstep, insures no unwelcome person will enter. It is also used to help induce menses, especially when combined with cramp bark.  Fresh juice of the plant treats poison ivy. Pregnant women should not use it.

Myrrh – Sun and water. Purifying and protective incense, can be used to consecrate tools. It is a powerful antiseptic, being a remedy second only to Echinacea. It is a strong cleaning and healing agent, soothing the body and speeding the healing process. It is used in mouthwashes, gargles and toothpastes for fighting and preventing gum disease.

Myrtle – Venus and water. Sacred to Venus and used in love charms and spells of all kinds. If grown indoors it brings good luck. Carry Myrtle leaves to attract love, or the wood to preserve youth. Wood can be used to make magick charms.

Nettle – Mars and fire. Stuff a poppet with nettles to protect yourself from unwanted attention. Sprinkle around the room as protection or add to protection charms. If carried, said to instill courage.

Nutmeg – Jupiter and air. Carry a nutmeg to strengthen clairvoyant power and to prevent rheumatism.

Oak – Sun and fire. Sacred tree in  many cultures. It has long been associated with royalty. Rites were often performed in groves of oak trees and mistletoe that grew on oak was considered the most powerful. Burn oak leaves as purification. The wood is used for all purpose wands. Acorns are carried to preserve youthfulness and to ward off illness. Hang in the windows to protect the house.

Olive – Sacred to Athena. Regarded as a symbol of peace and wealth, also a sign of safe travel.

Onion – Mars and fire. Used in protection and healing. Place cut onions in a room to absorb illness, leave overnight and throw away in the morning.

Orange – Sun and water. The dried peel is added to love and fertility charms and is used in Solar incenses. It is a traditional Chinese symbol of good luck and prosperity.

Orris Root – Venus and water. Add to love charms, baths and incenses.

Parsley – Mercury and air. In ancient times, parsley was considered symbolic of death and was made into wreaths to crown the graves of the dead. It was sacred to Persephone and used in funeral rites. Because parsley seeds take so long to germinate, it was said that they went to the devil and back before sprouting.

Patchouli – Sun and earth. Both men and woman can carry as an aphrodisiac and to attract lovers. Patchouli is used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, colds without fevers, vomiting, and nausea.

Pepper – Mars and fire. Used in protective charms.

Peppermint – Venus and air. Use in healing incenses and charms, also good in a healing bath, burn as winter incense. Any mint infusion can be sprinkled around the house as a cooling-off influence after arguments.

Periwinkle – Venus and water. Hang on the house entrances as protection.

Pine – Mars and earth. Burn as purifying winter incense, pine nuts are eaten and carried as fertility charms. Pine needles can be added to healing or cleansing baths.

Plantain – Earth. It is considered to have healing, strengthening, protective and snake repelling properties.  Also when placed under the feet, it is said to remove weariness. Hung in the car, it protects. When taken internally, plantain has a soothing action, particularly in the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems. It relieves irritates and inflamed conditions such as colitis, gastritis, bronchitis, harsh coughs and cystitis. It has an astringent action, stems bleeding and encourages healing, internally and externally. It can be taken for colds, sinus congestion and allergic conditions such as hay fever and asthma. It is an antiseptic, cleansing and a good expectorant.

Poppy – Moon and water. Eat poppy seeds as a fertility charm. Carry seeds or dried seed pods as a prosperity charm.

Rose – Venus and water. Carry roses to attract true love. Drink a tea of rose petals for divinatory dreams. Add to charms and incenses for sleep, love and healing.

Rosemary – Sun and fire. Use in protection charms, incenses and baths. It was thought as a preventative against the plague. Wear to aid memory and learning. Can be used in sea rituals and sea magick. Wash your hands in with rosemary infusion before performing magick as a substitute for a ritual bath. Drink the tea before exams or interview to make the mind alert. It can also be made into a protection wreath.

Rowan – Sun and fire. Tie two twigs together with red thread as a general protection and luck charm. Use as a divining stick. The berries are used as a good luck amulet. A necklace of the berries can be used as a healing charm.

Rue – Sun and fire. It was once worn to guard against plague. Added to charms, it is designed to keep illness away. The smell of the fresh herb clears the mind of emotional clutter. Use a sprig of rue dipped into water to sprinkle an area for magickal purification.

Saffron – Sun and fire. Used in prosperity and healing rituals, charms and incenses.

Sage – Jupiter and air. Used in healing and prosperity charms, regarded as a great safeguard of health and has a reputation for promoting longevity. It is supposed to grow best in the gardens of the wise and was once thought to flourish or sicken as its grower’s fortunes did likewise.  It is beneficial to the mind by easing mental exhaustion and by strengthening the concentrating abilities. In a lotion it is useful for treating sores and skin eruptions and to stop bleeding in all cuts. Chewing the fresh leaves soothes mouth sores and sore throats, as will sage tea. It is good for all stomach troubles, diarrhea, gas, flu and colds. As a hair rinse, it removes dandruff. Sage combined with peppermint, rosemary and wood betony, provides an excellent headache remedy, and is used as a deodorant.

St. John’s Wort – Sun and fire. Used in protective charms of all kinds, it was supposed to be so protective that its mere presence would cause evil spirits to fly away. Wear to ward off fever and illness, burn as banishing incense. Gather on Midsummer’s Eve, pass through the smoke of bonfires to purify and hang in the house as protection. Wear to instill courage and strengthen the will. Drink the tea of the herb to cure melancholy. St. John’s Wort is said to combat stress, minor depression, alcohol cravings. It is an antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, astringent, expectorant, vulnerary, helps with insomnia and bed wetting. Drink the tea for help with anemia, headaches, jaundice, feminine difficulties and pain, and chest congestion. Use the oil externally for burns, wounds, sores, bruises and skin problems.

Sandalwood – Moon and air. Used in purifying, protective and healing incenses.

Slippery Elm – Air. It can be burned to stop gossip. It can be used to neutralize stomach acids. It is also used to boost the adrenal glands, draws out impurities and heals all parts of the body. It is most useful for the respiratory system. Externally it is an excellent healer for burns, skin cancers, poison ivy and wounds.

Sunflower – Sun and fire. Brings the blessings of the Sun into any garden in which it is grown. The seeds can be eaten by women who wish to conceive.

Tansy – Water. The ancient Greeks thought that Tansy would preserve dead bodies. Used in love charms, It can be used internally and externally for gout, roundworm, ague, spasms, epilepsy, bruises, strains, colic, hysteria, skin diseases and to prevent miscarriages. Can be used preserve dead bodies because it can drive away flies and stave off decay.

Thyme – Venus and Air. Burn as purifying incense, use in magickal cleansing baths. Inhale the scent for refreshment and renewed energy. Wear to protect oneself from negativity and grief at funerals. When worn, it is thought to inspire courage.

Valerian – Mercury and water. It was used in a love charm and spells and purification baths.

Vanilla – Jupiter and fire. The bean can be carried in a love charm.

Vervain – Venus and water. A herb sacred to the Druids and used by the Romans as a ritual cleansing plant. It can be used in magickal cleansing baths, purification incenses and safety amulets. Hang above the bed to keep away nightmares. It can be used in love and protection charms. Burn as a good purification incense, it also brings good luck and inspiration. It has no odor or taste, which is why it is regarded as magickal or otherworldly. Vervain can be used for ailments of the eye, thinning and ailing hair, sleeplessness, inveterate headache, scrofulous diseases, indolent ulcers and sore throat. It properties also include sedative, and astringent.

Violet – Venus and water. Violets mixed with lavender for a powerful love charm. A violet compress can aid headaches. Carry the flowers as a good luck charm. Violets are supposed to absorb ill will and evil spells. The scent is said to soothe and clear the mind.

Walnut – Sun and fire. Carry the nut as a charm to promote fertility and strengthen the heart.

Willow – Moon and water. Willow wands can be used for healing. The Willow will bring the blessings of the Moon upon those who plant it or have it on their property. Willows have been used to bind together witches besoms.

Wormwood – Mars and air. This was once burned to raise spirits. It can be used in divinatory and clairvoyance incenses, burn first at Samhain to gain protection from roaming spirits. Used in initiation rites and for tests of courage and endurance. It should not be used by those suffering from shock or grief as it has an affinity with the world of the dead.

Yarrow – Venus and water. It can be used in love and marriage charms. It is said to ward off negativity when worn.  Drink yarrow tea prior to divination to enhance the powers of perception.  It was a famed herb for staunching blood flow in all forms. It can also be used for hysteria, flatulence, heartburn, colic, epilepsy, rheumatism, toothache, colds, internal bleeding, loss of appetite,  sore throat, sore nipples, heavy menstruation, piles, cuts and contusions, eliminates toxins. This herb intensifies the efficiency of other herbs when taken in conjunction.

So there you have it.. Many Herbs and some uses.. Please consult with your Doctor as well as a Nutritionist that can work with you to best use these herbs. Do not use without researching more intensely as well as skin testing to see if you will react badly.

Until next time

Blessed Home and Hearth

HearthBeats: Notes from a Kitchen Witch

December, 2008

Kitchen/Cottage Witchery

Kitchen witchery or Cottage witchery is a special kind of magick. Many times you can be in the home of a kitchen/cottage witch and never know it. You may never see a pentacle or any other sign of witchery. We are just your normal every day people. If you sat at our table you would see many of the same things you would see in your home… only we may use them differently.

But the earmark of a kitchen /cottage witch’s home is the “feel” of it. Here you will be at peace. Calm, centered, comforted. That is what many of us infuse our homes with. For Kitchen/cottage witchery is the sort of magick that puts welcomed guests and family at ease.

These are subtle types of magick: think handmade and homegrown-a sheave of dried herb from our garden, a flower grown in the yard, herbs and spices dried and sitting in jars, candle spells and color magick. The magickal household accessories, charms, and spells may not be obvious, but they are there nonetheless. Many of the ingredients kitchen/cottage witchery calls for are, for the most part, already readily available to you, probably sitting in the spice rack or cupboard or outside, compliments of good old Mother Earth.

Home is where the hearts is, and remember that the most powerful magick always comes from the heart. That makes a Kitchen/Cottage Witch’s home a powerful magickal place. There is actually a spiritual connection between us and our homes. When we use the energies of nature and bring them into our homes, they become blessed with magickal purpose, they become sacred spaces.

Much of our magick is done in our kitchens… not because we are all culinary wiz’s but because much of our lore is centered around the “hearth” For generations the hearth is where the family prepared herbal remedies, cooked their food, and gathered together. It was the natural place for magick, as the hearth exuded light and warmth and was literally the heart of the home. We extend that now to our kitchen as many of us no longer have “hearths and fireplaces”… Think back to any family gatherings… where do you congregate?? Where do you wander when you have guests… do you end up having all of your Coven/circle members crammed into the kitchen… well then … think now how much energy you have placed there. So while you’re thinking about this, get up and take a walk around your place. Close your eyes after you enter the rooms and cast out your senses. Really try to get an impression for what type of energy you have going on in there. You will often find a couple of places that pull both visitors and family members alike.

Periodic cleansing and blessing of your home is a good Idea… it helps to remove negativity that may be brought in as well as keep some of the future negativity from entering.

I borrowed this Blessing from another source… but it has been a while since I have read the original as well as having read about a billion other things since… I really cannot say where I got it… so if anyone knows… let me know so I can give credit in the future. I have modified it a bit from the original… so it is not illegal… but I would like to know anyway…

Here is a natural magick blessing to try out.

Pick the room or rooms that you feel are the heart of your home and gather these simple and elemental supplies.

* A small dish of salt to represent the earth and prosperity

* A stick of incense (your choice of scent) and a holder; the scented smoke represents air and knowledge

* A red candle and a coordinating candleholder for fire and passion

* A small bowl of water for water and love

* Matches or a lighter

* Small white “birthday” candle to place a protective symbol on the window

* Small purple candle and candle holder for spirit

Straighten and clean the room or rooms to be blessed.

Then light the candle and the incense.

Place the candle in the center of the room.

Beginning in the east, and moving in a deosil (clockwise) motion, work your way slowly around the room. First mix a bit of salt in the water., Then carry the incense around, waving a little of the smoke to help it flow, Next sprinkle a bit of the water around the perimeter of the room. Visualizing prosperity and love

Then carry the incense around, waving a little of the smoke visualizing passion and knowledge

Take the white candle and at the windows and doorways place a small pentacle at one corner. This represents all of the elements including Spirit

Then settle in front of the purple candle and visualize the blessings from each of the four elements and spirit.

There is the gift of prosperity from deep in the earth.

Knowledge is sent along a fragrant breeze from the air.

Passion is rewarded to you from the bright, dancing flames of fire,

And love embraces you from the emotional element of water.

Spirit is in everything you touch and connect with… it entwines all the elements into you.

Picture these elemental gifts in your mind and then visualize both you and the people or pets that live with you receiving an equal share of these offerings.

When you are ready, center yourself and repeat this blessing:

Elements all I call, release now your power,

As I bless my home in this magickal hour.

No negativity can enter, no spirits shall roam,

As I consecrate and protect the heart of my home.

As you finish the charm, draw a circle in the air above the candle flame with your

finger. Spiral it up faster and faster, higher and higher, until you fling the energy off

and out into the room. Then close up the spell by saying,

This home is now blessed by my will and desire,

I close this spell by earth, air, water, and fire.

You may allow the candle and the incense to burn themselves out.

Does the house feel different.. better .. or just balanced? I bet if you

pay attention, you’ll notice a subtle change in people’s reactions as they enter the

heart of your home, your energy will radiate out to the rest of the place.

Now you may think that because you do not live in a huge sprawling cottage in the woods somewhere you cannot be a Kitchen/cottage witch… but that is sooo not the case. Your Hearth is where you make it. No matter where you live, in the city or a rural area, kitchen/cottage witchery can successfully but you will need to be creative. For example, if you can’t decorate the outside of your door, then decorate the inside of the doors. The energy and the intent are there. So then will the enchantment be there as well.

Many apartments have a deck, patio area, or even a little fire escape. Set a few pots of flowers or herbs out there; see what you can conjure up. How about a few houseplants on the windowsill? Use your imagination! Don’t be afraid to take what you have to work with and adapt it to make it uniquely your own.

You do not need a cauldron… not when you have pots and pan, wooden spoons and other such utensils..

Kitchen/Cottage witchery is about using modern ways to creatively turn the place where you live into one of comfort, happiness, to use those things you have to bring balance and magick.

Kitchen/Cottage witchery embraces a magickal style and atmosphere in the home that is

down to earth and definitely hands-on. It is all about nature and energy and magick… and how to use it in YOUR life and YOUR home.

I know that this has had nothing to do with the Sabbats.. Either Yule or Mid-summer / Litha. But it has to do with the every day. The fact that we do these things because they are natural… second nature. Not due to a holiday or a sabbat. We Kitchen / Cottage witches work year round to use the season and the world to our advantage, to make a warm safe place out of our Home and Hearth. Now if you look for the Recipe column, I will have some Yule/ Litha recipes for you all.

Until next time

Blessed Home and Hearth

The Hearthkeeper

A Simple Path: Journey of a Hedgewitch

December, 2008


*The Hedgewitch lives in the space between the Village and the Forest. Between the mundane and the magical. S/He lives with a foot in both worlds.
This column is dedicated to the Hedgewitches of the planet earth.

hearth

The New Hearth

Less is more: Moving Hedge

I know this column is a bit off-topic for those who are knee-deep in holiday revelry. But for those of us who have recently moved, are in the process of moving or are contemplating a move, it is a relevant piece.

My household has just completed the process of moving from the New Mexico high desert, where we have lived for the past 4 years, to the fertile Sacramento river valley of northern California.
This move came with about 2 weeks worth of notice, so it wasn’t a fly-by-night operation, but it was a bit rushed.

In the 2 weeks leading up to the actual drive across country I had occasion to touch, wash and pack every item I own and possess in the world.
I am not an uber-materialistic person, so I don’t have a lot of valuable items. But I have been a collector for several years. Entirely unimpeded by space  constraints for the past 4.
And in that 2 weeks of washing and touching and blessing, I really had to determine the value of every single item I owned.
I knew space was a factor. I knew that there would be things on their way to the flea market after I was gone. So being mindful of the items I have and their value to me was at the forefront of my thinking.
We had rented a 12×6 trailer and arranged for my brother in law to drive down to tow it with his hemi truck- I don’t really know what that means, but he seemed very confident and my husband was sufficiently impressed by it.

As I carefully wrapped jar after jar, bearing labels such as Graveyard Dust and Feathers and Dried Moths I weighed my choices carefully. I remembered having gathered or being gifted each item.
I wrapped countless snowflakes fashioned from various materials, and thought of the person who gave them to me, knowing my absolute fetish for snow, and winter.
I labeled one box simply “Witches” which contained 6 different ladies who have brightened my home.
I packed 9 boxes of books and another staggering 12 boxes of photos .

As I watched my life go from its normal spread-out state, I assessed the importance of all my things, and separated out many, many items which were just not that important to me.
In some cases they were worn out, and in others, I knew just who needed it more than I did.

The thing that became so clear to me, as I packed, was the concept of owning possessions versus being owned by them, and how often I buy things I would never take with me if I had to pack quickly. In short, things that do not matter.
If I were to evacuate my home, in the event of an emergency, I wouldn’t even consider taking so many things with me that had seemed so important before.

This thought has stayed with me, now, as I unpack, and have had to replace things I gave away. As I stand in the shops, I think to myself “does this really matter? Would I take it along in the event of, say, a flood?”.
More often than not, the answer is No, and I put it back on the shelf.

Now, the things I own don’t own me. I have things I enjoy and the less of them there are, the less I have to clean and maintain, leaving me more time to enjoy my family and my friends.

And in this time of tightening belts and cutting back, buying less means more resources for things that are really important.
My blessing of this holiday season has been the knowledge that less is more.
I have had the opportunity to get completely organized, and for probably the first time in my life, I know where everything is!

If you feel compelled to simplify this season, there are plenty of needy folks who would be happy to have those old coats from the closet or bedding from the linen cupboard.
Less stuff means more room.
You get blessed, they get blessed.
Try it, simplifying might just grow on you!

Brightest Blessings of the Holiday Season (whatever holiday(s) you celebrate)!!!
Willow