herb

Review of Ritual Bath Salt by Nuit Apothecary on Etsy

January, 2019

Ostara Ritual Bath Salts

by Nuit Apothecary on Etsy

I received Ostara Ritual Bath Salts by Nuit Apothecary. It came nicely packaged in a black bag, with a pretty label explaining what it was.

It’s made with Dead Sea salt, Epsom salt, prairie lily, red clover and essential oils.

As someone who adores taking hot baths, I was looking forward to trying this salt out. I ran the tub and sprinkled some in.

It had a nice scent and the salts dissolved well in the hot water. There were plenty of herbs floating around in the tub. The scent was not as strong as I would have liked and what was there, dissipated fairly quickly.

Also, as someone who owns a home with a septic tank, there was an over-abundance of herbs and I had to be very careful when letting the water out so that I could catch most of the herbs before they went down the drain.

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I emailed Nuit with some questions about herself, her practice and her process, why she decided to start making products for the public instead of just for her own use, and if she found the birch and driftwood she uses or if it were local sourced, as well as if she grew her own herbs. Her response is as follows:

I’m Nuit, the owner of Nuit Apothecary, a solitary, eclectic witch. I consider myself a very private, solitary person and Ive been practicing witchcraft my entire life. The opening of my online Etsy store in 2017 gave me the opportunity to help people and share my knowledge. I make all my products myself by using only high quality ingredients: organic herbs, essential oils, soy and beeswax. The readers can find me on Etsy: www.nuitapothecary.etsy.com or on instagram: lunaenchantress.”

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About the Author:

Susan Morgaine is a Daughter of the Goddess, Witch, Writer, Teacher, Healer, and Yogini. She is a monthly columnist with PaganPages.org Her writings can be found in The Girl God Anthologies, “Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak” and “Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess”, as well as Mago Publications “She Rises, Volume 2, and “Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess”. She has also been published in Jareeda and SageWoman magazines. She is a Certified Women’s Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis”, one in the series of the “My Name Is………” children’s books published by The Girl God Publications. A Woman International, founded by Patricia Lynn Reilly. She has long been involved in Goddess Spirituality and Feminism, teaching classes and workshops, including Priestessing Red Tents within MA and RI. She is entering her 20th year teaching Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, being a Certified instructor through the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as being a Reiki Master. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She can be found at https://mysticalshores.wordpress.com/ and her email is MysticalShores@gmail.com

My Name is Isis on Amazon

Notes from the Apothecary

May, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Honeysuckle

What a sweet name, conjuring images of bees and summer and jewel like flowers dripping with nectar, while butterflies gorge themselves on the sugary goodness. According to sacredwicca.com, honeysuckle is a Beltane flower, which makes sense as I remember the intricate blooms beginning to open in my grandparents’ yard around this time of year. We would sit in the pale English sun drinking in the smell of the nectar and the gently, bustling hum of honeybees. This exotic looking but fairly common plant holds a great deal of nostalgia for me, and the connection to my recent ancestors makes it an appropriate choice to write about at this other time when the veil is thin; Beltane, the opposite side of the wheel to Samhain, when the fae and their kin are strongest.

The Kitchen Garden…

Eat the Weeds tells us that honeysuckle is ‘iffy for foragers’, basically meaning that it’s one of those plants that has so many varieties, some of which are edible, some of which are not and some of which are downright poisonous. Because of this, if you are planning on cultivating honeysuckle for eating, you should ensure you absolutely know what variety you are growing. Lonicera japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle, has leaves that can be boiled and eaten, and the flowers are so sweet and delicious they are enjoyed like candy. Lonicera villosa, or waterberry, has edible berries, but is often confused with variants which are not so tasty or even bad for you.

The upshot of this is, don’t eat any part of the honeysuckle plant unless you are one hundred percent sure that you have an edible variety. If in doubt, just don’t. Don’t be disappointed about the dubious edibility of this beautiful plant though. There are many great reasons to have a honeysuckle plant in your garden. As a climbing plant, it’s often used to hide unsightly walls or old fences, replacing urban grimness with nature’s treasure. As well as this, it attracts bees and butterflies, essential pollinators, filling your garden with colour and sound. This in will attract birds, and bats in some climates, so honeysuckle is a great addition to any wildlife garden.

Some species can be invasive, so it’s recommended to keep it away from fruit trees and the like as it can literally use their trunks as ladders to climb, which is not so healthy for your poor fruit trees. But with some liberal pruning when needed, honeysuckle is a beautiful, practical plant which brings a sweet fragrance and a splash of summer colour to any garden.

The Apothecary…

Mrs Grieve, in her Modern , tells us that there are over 100 species of honeysuckle but that only a dozen or so are used medicinally. She tells us that the fruits have emiticocathartic properties, a word which is not common in modern usage but presumably means honeysuckle berries can be used both as an emetic and a cathartic. Emetics cause the body to expel toxins, either by vomiting or defecating, and cathartic work solely on accelerating defecation. This sounds pretty grim, but emetics are often used if the patient is known to have ingested something toxic which needs to be expelled quickly. Of course, the berries cause vomiting because they themselves are toxic (some varieties; see above) so shouldn’t be consumed at all, really.

Other traditional remedies include using honeysuckle leaves or flowers as a diuretic, to ease asthmas, and to help with cramps and even bad skin.

The Witch’s Kitchen…

Honeysuckle is a climbing plant, and reminds us that we have to start at the bottom and work our way up. It is a symbol of perseverance, determination and hard work. Rev. Carol A. Ingle tells us that the plant is associated with the tarot card, The Chariot, allowing you to focus on having discernment, authority and mastery of any task at hand. She also recommends the use of honeysuckle in good luck spells and also bending others to your will. The plant is also great for protection magic.

Culpepper claimed it was a ‘herb of Mercury’. This plant, therefore, is often used in money magic, to attract wealth or new opportunities leading to better prosperity, such as luck for a new job interview. Mercury is also all about clear communication, so meditating on honeysuckle can allow you to open up your mind to allow the words you need to say to someone to come to the fore.

Named Féithleann in Irish, the plant is also known as the Irish Vine, so if you work with the Celtic Tree Calendar, honeysuckle is a great substitute for vine. Please note, I find the Celtic tree Calendar a thoroughly modern construct, as there is no evidence the Iron Age Celts followed a year split up into tree-based months, however it is a lovely construct and one that clearly means a great deal to many people. The magic of trees and plants cannot be disputed, and if this is a way that some practitioners connect with that magic, I have no problem with that. As long as it’s clear that it is not a reconstruction of what our Celtic ancestors followed it is inspired by their reverence for trees and plants, which in itself is a lovely idea.

Home and Hearth…

Irish folklore states that honeysuckle around the door of a home will prevent a witch from entering. Of course, the protective nature of the plant is actually that it will prevent negative energies from entering your house, so this is still great advice!

Bring honeysuckle flowers from your garden into the house to attract money. Keep the flowers in water, then as they start to wilt, immediately discard them, either in your compost disposal or in the eastern side of your garden if possible, to represent the manifestation of your desires.

I Never Knew…

Honeysuckle is much enjoyed by livestock, including chicken and goats. Indeed, the Latin name for one species, lonicera caprifolium, comes from the Latin for ‘goat’s leaf’.

Image credits: Lonicera x heckrottii ‘Gold Flame’ by Wouter Hagens, public domain; Lonicera caprifolium by Sten at Danish Wikipedia; Lonicera nigra by Nikolaus Joseph Jacquin (1727-1817), public domain.

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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.

Click Images for Amazon Information

Notes from the Apothecary

August, 2017

Notes from the Apothecary: Self Heal

 

 

Prunella vulgaris; prunel, brunell, carpenter’s herb, hook heal, sickle-wort; a common herb in the British isles, and indeed most places in the Northern Hemisphere; currently creeping its way across my lawn, unapologetically purple. I was delighted to find this magical little plant as a ‘freebie’; we didn’t cultivate it, it’s completely made its own way in and it is most welcome. The plant has a long history of medical use, being commented upon by Gerard, Culpeper and many other renowned herbalists and botanists, for its wide-ranging uses, which we will examine further below.

 

Although useful as a magical plant, we don’t find it in Cunningham or similar books, yet there is much history surrounding this little miracle plant.

 

The Kitchen Garden

 

Eat the Weeds tells us that the young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, however the raw leaves can be slightly bitter. This may be an option if you are really low on greens, but I would only cultivate this plant to be harvested as an herb, or simply to be enjoyed as an extremely beautiful addition to any garden.

 

Purple flowers in the garden help attract bees and butterflies, and bees in particular really love this plant (see the pic I took at the top of the article; I had bent down to shoot the flower when the bee buzzed in, a couple of inches from my nose!). If you grow your own herbs, fruits and vegetable, it’s essential that you encourage pollinators, so self heal is ideal for this.

 

The Apothecary

 

Where to start. The common name, self heal, tells you all you need to know and not very much at the same time. We get that sense that for centuries, this plant has been revered for its healing properties, but what exactly does it do?

 

Mrs Grieve tells us that the whole plant may be used medicinally, as an astringent (causes cells to contract), a styptic (stops bleeding) and a tonic (a general restorative). She recommends 1oz of the plant mixed with a pint of boiling water, to make an infusion which is considered a ‘strengthener’. She also recommends the same infusion mixed with honey (yum, back to the bees again) and used as a gargle for sore throats and mouth ulcers.

 

In 1657 William Coles wrote Adam in Eden or Nature’s Paradise: The History of Plants, Fruits, Herbs and Flowers. In this ambitious volume he mentions self heal several times, including making a remedy for quinsy (a serious complication arising from tonsillitis) made with a combination of self heal, jew’s ear fungus and elder honey. Seriously, if you are at risk of quinsy though, see a doctor! It’s worth noting that Coles was a staunch advocate of the Doctrine of Signatures, the idea that plants look like the part of the body they are useful for healing. He believed that God would have wanted mankind to know what each plant was useful for. Sadly, this strategy doesn’t always follow through, which is why it’s always important to research your herbs thoroughly and scientifically.

 

Coles also wrote that ‘There is not a better wound-herbe in the world’ and recommended it for leaning wounds to stop infection, and to soothe the nipples of breastfeeding women who had been bitten by their enthusiastic babies. He also concurred with Mrs Grieve in that it is a useful tonic for sore throats, particularly those accompanied by a fever, most likely tonsillitis again.

 

Culpeper tells us that there is a proverb:

That he needs neither physician nor surgeon that hath self-heal and sanicle to help himself.

 

So self heal, along with other herbs such as sanicle, mentioned here, can be seen as an essential part of a herbal first aid kit, or it certainly was as far back as the 17th century, if not much earlier.

 

The Lab

 

In modern medicine, there is hope that self heal may hold some anti-viral properties, and may even be useful in the treatment or prevention of cancer. The plant is capable of inhibiting a virus’s ability to replicate itself, so may be very useful in modern anti-viral drugs. So far tests have been done involving the herpes virus and HIV. More testing needs to be done though, to find conclusive evidence on this.

 

There is also some indication that self heal could be useful for diabetes sufferers, although again, this theory is in its very early stages.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

 

 

There is anecdotal superstition that witches grew self heal in their gardens to hide their malicious activities. Self heal is so common that most people would not look twice at it, so perhaps it was used to mask other, more interesting herbs.

 

Culpeper wrote that self heal was ‘another herb of Venus’, lending the plant a feminine aspect and associations with both the planet and the goddess of the same name. Venus speaks to us of love, sex, sensuality and beauty; not just physical beauty but art, music and all types of creativity. Self heal can be seen as a catalyst for not only healing the body, but healing the soul, and reminding us not to be ‘all work and no play’. Self heal on the altar or in a sacred space can be a symbol for repairing or building a friendship, or perhaps a more intense relationship.

 

Venus is also associated with wealth, and by extension work, business, career and other opportunities. Self heal in a button-hole might be an easy amulet to wear for a job interview, or a business meeting. If this is too ostentatious, try some leaves or flowers in a tiny bag in your pocket, perhaps with a small rock to remind you to be grounded and true to your ideals.

 

Venus, as a goddess, is also associated with victory and triumphs, so self heal can be used as a tool to help you achieve your goals. Place leaves or flowers around you while you visualise your goals coming to fruition. Picture yourself where you want to be; getting that job, winning that race, overcoming stage fright or, for writers like myself, getting that next book contract! Crush a leaf and smear some of the juice on your forehead. This is activating your magical and energetic connection to the parts of the universe you cannot see with your eyes alone, and will help cement your will. Remember to make a commitment to do the work required in the physical world, and ensure you stick to it.

 

If the plants grow nearby, water them and thank them for their help. Always wash the juice off your skin afterwards, and if an irritation occurs, as with any substance, wash it off immediately and seek medical help if necessary.

 

Home and Hearth

 

If you don’t mind the odd ‘weed’ in your lawn, let self heal be when it pops up in your garden. The delightful purple flowers will encourage bees and other beauties, and purple reminds us of spirit, universal energy and balance. As such, you can pick some of the flowers for your late spring/early summer altar, depending on when your flowering season occurs. Mine are just starting to wilt, the glorious violet blooms dropping away to leave the empty flowers heads which have a similarity to ears of corn, making them a lovely decoration for a harvest celebration or Lammas altar.

 

I Never Knew…

 

In Ireland the herb is known as Ceannbhán beag, which translates as ‘little bog cotton’.

 

All images copyright 2017, Mabh Savage.

 

***

 

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 Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

Notes from the Apothecary

June, 2017

Notes from the Apothecary: Apple
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The apple is a fruit that is either revered or maligned, depending on which tradition or religion you look at. For Christians, it is the forbidden fruit, the ultimate temptation in the Garden of Eden. Strangely, the bible itself never names the type of fruit as an apple, and some studies suggest it may actually have been a fig, a pomegranate or even a grape. Despite this, the image of the apple as a fruit of seduction and forbidden knowledge has persisted into the modern age. For the Celts, however, there was nothing sinful about the apple at all. The fruit was associated with the afterlife, yet also with immortality and health. It was also closely associated with the faerie realm, and those who ate an apple whilst in the world of the good neighbours, would never again be able to return.

The Kitchen Garden

There is so much you can do with apples one hardly knows where to begin. For me, it’s my ‘go to’ fruit for jams and jellies. As well as making a fantastic preserve all by itself, it can be added to other fruits low in pectin (the setting agent for jelly and jam) to ease the preserving process. I’ve mixed apple with blackberry, blackcurrants, rowanberries, elderberries and even citrus fruit, all with good results.

As well as preserves, apples make fantastic crumbles, pies and cakes. One of my favourite apple cake recipes can be found here, and is an absolute doddle to make. I use eating apples rather than cooking apples, but experiment and find out what works for you.

 

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One of my favourite uses of apples is something I’ve not yet experimented with, and that’s the craft of making cider, or cyder. There is a difference, other than archaic spelling! Cyder is traditionally made from apples that have only been pressed once, rather in the same way that extra virgin olive oil is produced. Cider is made from a repressing of the same apple pulp, mixing it with water. This makes a longer and lighter drink. I’ve always fancied making my own apple press, although I have a friend who uses a hand blender on chopped apples, with some fantastic results! There’s a guide to making your own cider press here at Mother Earth News. If anyone does this or has done this please let me know how it turns out!

The Apothecary

Surely everyone has heard the aphorism, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ The original saying stems from 1866 and was originally, ‘Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.’ Pithy though these little rhymes are, the apple certainly has many qualities that recommend it as a health food, if not actually a cure-all.

The pectin mentioned previously is a type of soluble fibre, and we need fibre for a healthy diet. There is some evidence that pectin can also lower blood pressure and glucose levels. Apples also contain nutrients that promote healthy bones and brain, and they also contain vitamin C which boosts the immune system and keeps cells healthy.

So while apples won’t necessarily keep all ills at bay, they will certainly contribute to good all round health.

The Witch’s Kitchen

The apple appears throughout various myths from many different backgrounds. We briefly mentioned the Celtic links between apples and immortality. In Norse legend, the apple was given to the gods to provide them with eternal youth. Apples also appear associated with fertility, including the gift of an apple being given to one praying for a child. Apples are also associated with the goddess Hel, and possibly her realm of the same name, the ninth of the nine worlds on the world tree, Yggdrasil. Hel is a realm of the dead, so here we have apples associated with fertility and birth, long life, and death and the afterlife. They are a fruit of cycles, circles and representative of all aspects of being. They are of this world and of magical realms, and represent the link between this world and others.

The apple is also a symbol of poetic inspiration. A branch of apple can symbolise a Bardic or Ovate path. If seeking inspiration yourself, a leaf or small twig from an apple tree in your sacred place may help, or place an apple leaf under your pillow and see what dreams may come.

There is an old superstition that if you can peel an apple in one go, without removing the knife until the peel has come off all in one piece, then toss it over your shoulder whilst looking in a mirror, it will fall in the shape of the initial of your loved one to be. The root of this is most likely an older association with prophecy and fortune telling.

 

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Apples are strongly associated with magic of all kinds, in fact they are a kind of catalyst. Any spell can be ‘offered’ to an apple tree. Charge items with intent, and hang them from the tree, trusting that the intrinsic magic of the tree will aid your spell. Water the tree, and if your spell is successful, plant an apple pip at some point in the future as thanks.

The apple is a wonderful offering to many gods and goddesses (always research first though!), and also to the good neighbours (fairies), along with butter and milk.

Home and Hearth

Towards the end of summer, or start of winter, make a Wassail Bowl. There is a druidic celebration known as ‘Day of the Apple’ after Samhain, and a Wassail Bowl is one interpretation of the brew that was made at this time to ensure a good apple harvest the following season. You don’t have to wait until Samhain though. As soon as you have good apples, you can roast them, and mix them with ale, cider, honey or sugar (honey is nicer) and spices such as cinnamon or ginger, to make a warming, hearty drink to share with family and friends.

Pass your brew around while you brag and boast; not merely an excuse for showing off, but a serious exercise in sharing your ambitions and achievements with your loved ones and your gods. Any commitments made at this time must be seen through, or a forfeit paid.

I Never Knew…

In Greek mythology, Atalanta, the virgin huntress, was tricked into losing a race by Hippomenes rolling three irresistible golden apples in front of her. She had to marry him, which just shows, keep your mind on the job and your head in the game!

 

(Image credits: Top: Red Delicious, copyright Bangin via Wikimedia; Next, De Klok jam apple and roses, copyright Queeste via Wikimedia; Final, Malus Sylvestris, copyright Per Arvid Åsen via Wikimedia.)

 

***

 

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.

WitchCrafting: Crafts for Witches

April, 2017

Herb Beads

craft

Merry meet.

One of the first witchcrafts I ever made were herb beads. It was at a pagan festival workshop in the woods.

The idea is to choose herbs, flowers and other botanicals based on their magickal properties, and to infuse them with your intent while making them with mindfulness.

The recipe is tucked in a safe place somewhere in my small condo, under a dozen years of other articles, journals, handouts and books, but I did find one I think is similar that was published online by the herbal academy.

The first thing is to choose ingredients that match your intention. If you wish to make beads for protection, you might consider anise, basil, clove, dragon’s blood, lavender, rose, rosemary, sage and valerian in some combination. To promote healing you could use one or more of these: allspice, carnation, lemon balm, bay, cedar, cinnamon, golden seal, mint, mugwort, nettle, pine, rosemary, rue, sandalwood and vervain.

The ones I made were to attract love and made with mostly cinnamon. They were later strung with turquoise beads and shells to form a necklace.

Ingredients should be in powdered form. You can pulverize your own with a coffee grinder.

Place a few tablespoons of the dried herbs in a bowl. Add an equal amount of bentonite clay powder and blend. You can play with those proportions as you wish. The more clay, the easier it is to make the beads, and they will also be somewhat studier. The more herbs, the more potent their scent.

Add a few drops of water at a time until the mixture forms into a ball a dough. If you add too much water, just add more of the dry ingredients. When choosing water, you might add to the magick by using rainwater from a full moon thunderstorm or from another meaningful source. And, as you work with the ingredients, you can add energy for your desired outcome by remaining focused, perhaps singing or chanting.

When the dough is easy to handle, break off pieces and roll into beads, roll a rope and slice rounds, or roll out and cut into desired shapes.

When each is finished, use a toothpick or skewer to make a hole through the bead or at the top of a pendent. Beads may also be strung onto a wire.

Let them dry completely, undisturbed – generally at least 48 hours, depending on their size and your climate.

When dry, they can be used to make jewelry, or hung on strings around the house, in the car or on a Yule tree. They should be handled carefully and not allowed to get soaking wet. To bring back their scent, spray them lightly with water and rub a bit. If desired, you could also place a drop of essential oil that duplicates or complements the original ingredients.

Merry part.

And merry meet again.

WitchCrafting: Crafts for Witches

December, 2016

Sorghum Besom

Merry meet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1Merry part.

And merry meet again.

ThriftCrafting: Witching on a budget

March, 2016

Cinnamon

Cinnamonum verum

Merry meet.

Some items used in magic can be expensive, but there are plenty of other ingredients and objects that require little money. Cinnamon is one of those magical ingredients that is cheap, versatile and common enough to be sitting in your spice rack.

You can burn cinnamon either in stick form, or powdered and added to a mix thats burned on a piece of charcoal. Use it to purify individuals, objects or spaces. You can also roll a candle in cinnamon and then burn it.

Steeping it into tea results in an infusion that can heighten psychic awareness and clairvoyance, making it good to drink before divination. Burning some while doing a reading or a meditation has also been suggested.

Sprinkling cinnamon around a space will protect it. So will placing cinnamon sticks on windows and above doors. Another option for protecting a doorway is to make a sachet or mojo bag with cinnamon to hang over the entryway.

Cinnamon is also used to attract good luck, love, money, passion, prosperity and success. It can bring wisdom, tranquility and healing.

Keep cinnamon sticks in with your tarot cards and runes, as well as with your other divination tools.

Burn cinnamon oil in a diffuser to attract prosperity, clients and business.

Bless it and add it to the batter when baking desserts to inspire romance.

Ive also heard that it will bring spice to the bedroom when attached to the bottom of the bed or, I would think, put between the mattress and the boxspring. Kama Sutra oils are made with cinnamon.

Cinnamon sticks can also be used for wands, as is or embellished.

With so many possible magical uses, please tell us some of yours.

Merry part.

And merry meet again.

Notes from the Apothecary

February, 2016

Notes from the Apothecary: Lovage

It is an herb of the Sun, under the sign of Taurus. (Culpeper, 17th Century).

lovage

 

Lovage is a tall, beautiful, leafy herb in the same family as Angelica and carrots. Similar in aroma to celery, this herb is just as edible if not as popular in our modern kitchens. It is native to Europe and Asia, so may be harder to find in the Americas, however you can certainly buy seeds online to grow your own. The name may originally have been ‘love-ache’, which actually means ‘Love Parsley’, which is understandable as the leaves have a similar shape and smell to flat leafed parsley. The ‘love’ part is simply an Anglicisation of the original Latin name, Levisticum, which may be derived from ligusticum, which means ‘Of Liguria’, a place in the north of Italy where the herb was prolific.

Lovage may have an emmenagogue effect (may encourage bleeding from the uterus) so please don’t use when pregnant or trying to conceive.

The Kitchen Garden

The first thing you have to think about when growing Lovage is ‘Do I have room for this?’ as the stuff gets massive! Growing up to 72 inches tall, it has a wide spread of up to 32 inches so needs a good bit of space. It also needs sandy or loamy soil, so might struggle in claggy, clay filled soils. It needs to be started indoors, and can be moved outdoors once there is no risk of frost. You could keep lovage as a ‘cut and come again’ plant on the window sill, but you’d miss the opportunity to harvest the thicker stems that can be used like celery, and even the roots can be used once the leaves have started to die back.

Lovage leaves make an excellent, flavoursome addition to a salad, or as a stuffing for meat and poultry. Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall raves about the stuff, recommending it mixed with summer veg, scrambled eggs, new potatoes and all manner of soups.

The seeds and roots have been used in the flavouring of candies and sweets.

In Joanna Asala’a Celtic Folklore Cooking we learn that the roots and seeds of lovage were often used as a substitute for pepper, to add a piquancy to dishes.

The roots can be cooked like potatoes, in stews or casseroles. This is truly a diverse culinary plant.

The Apothecary

Culpeper tells us lovage is the remedy for sore throats, poor digestion and ‘gripe’ (bad or trapped wind). He noted that it ‘mightily provokes women’s courses’ which rings true with the modern research that tells us lovage stimulates the uterus.

Culpeper also noted that dropping a decoction of the herb into the eyes removed redness and dimness, however I wouldn’t recommend this without more modern advice!

Mrs Grieve’s Modern tells us that the herb was widely used in the 14th century, predating Culpeper’s works. It seemed it was taken as a general ‘cure all’. She advised the herb has a carminative action, and especially useful in dealing with colic in children.

The Lab

Modern research backs up the use of lovage as a ‘GI’ drug (gastro-intestinal) as the herb gently encourages natural processes such as saliva production and gastric juice production, improving digestion.

Lab tests also proved that lovage can dissolve phlegm in the respiratory tract. There are also reports of the plant having sedative and diuretic effects.

The Witch’s Kitchen

Any reputation lovage has as an aphrodisiac or love tonic is purely a case of mistaken identity. As mentioned previously, ‘Love Parsley’ actually meant ‘Parsley from Liguria’, and it was because the English mistakenly included the word ‘love’ that people assumed the herb would be useful for love potions. In other words, the name came before the use!

Asala tells us that lovage was brought to Celtic lands by the Romans, and that travellers would place the leaves in their shoes to relieve fatigue.

The stem is hollow and you could use this to represent a pipe or musical instrument on your altar.

As an herb of the Sun, you could also use the leaves or flowers to represent the cardinal direction of south, or the element of fire.

As expected with these correspondences, the herb is masculine so bear this in mind if using in incense or poppets. I always try and balance my concoctions, unless I am going for something that is particularly masculine or feminine.

Home and Hearth

To bring balance to a volatile situation:

Pick fresh lovage leaves if possible. If not, use some dried seed. Tear the leaves or sprinkle the seed into a metal, pot or glass bowl. Add to the lovage about the same amount of jasmine, either fresh or dried. I like to use the dried flowers, which I order from my friendly online herbalist.

Stir the mixture deosil (sunwise/clockwise) with your finger chanting

Male and female

Sun and moon

Bring me peace

And balance soon.

Repeat this several times until the words and the aroma of the herbs fill your mind. As your mind begins to calm, visualise the outcome to the situation you want. Thank the herbs and any spirits or deities you may have involved.

You can repeat this as often as you like until the herbs lose their potency. This is either when they lose their aroma, or when there has been a full cycle of the moon.

I Never Knew…

Lovage was eaten by the Scandinavian people most now refer to as Vikings, and is even thought to be a favourite herb of Lofn, handmaiden of Frigga.

Notes from the Apothecary

April, 2015

Notes from the Apothecary: Aloe Vera

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I’ve already written about horsetail, sometimes called ‘England’s Aloe Vera’, due to its incredible healing properties. This month I want to look at the real Aloe Vera, or similar species that many of you will have growing in pots on your window sill.

Aloes are succulents. This means they have fat, fleshy leaves designed to store large amounts of fluid in arid environments. It is the large amount of water stored within the cells of the leaves that gives us the sticky gel that is used for so many healing and beauty processes.

The photos in the article are of my own plants; amazingly, they all stem from (pardon the pun) one tiny, baby plant I was given by an old friend many years ago. Aloes quite happily reproduce by splitting and ‘having babies’; tiny offshoots that become new plants in their own right. From one, miniscule plant in a 3 inch pot, I now have 3 large plants that are each a foot in height and width, and about 8 smaller ones. Not including ones that have been given away as gifts! So realistically, my descendants may have Aloe plants that all have their roots right here, right now with me. A truly immortal plant.

The Kitchen Garden

I have two, beautiful aloe plants on the tiny kitchen windowsill in my house. They are quite happy with the small amount of light they get through the small pane, and they are right next to the sink so I never forget to water them once the soil dries out. Why do I keep them where I cook? Because I am clumsy, and I frequently burn myself while performing my culinary experiments. Having the Aloe to hand is like having access to your own little burns unit! I break a tip off a leaf, revealing the squidgy, unctuous substance inside. The leaf is gently squeezed to encourage the liquid to come out. This is then spread on the affected area. The gel is remarkably soothing. Even in summer it possesses a cooling quality that takes the sting of the burn away instantly.

But normally, when I’m in the Kitchen Garden, I’m talking about food. And Aloe is not so great in that area. You can drink a juice made from the gel and many companies (I won’t name and shame) have made grandiose claims about the health benefits including that it helps with weight loss, immune function and the all-encompassing ‘detox’. There is, however, no scientific evidence to back these claims up. Also, the juice/gel may be toxic if eaten in very high quantities, although this has only been confirmed in rats, not humans.

Toxicity and health claims aside, it really doesn’t taste very nice (yep, I tried it!) so for me, the best use for it in the kitchen is to soothe my sore fingers when I singe them.

As a medicine…

As well as being a great topical remedy for burns, Aloe gives the same soothing benefits for sunburn, dry skin and even grazes or friction burns. It has been used in this way for over 5000 years, by numerous cultures and civilizations including the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, the Chinese, Native Americans and the Ancient Greeks. The Knights of the Templar used it in a drink called ‘Elixir of Jerusalem’ which they believed increased their longevity and general wellbeing.

Although there is no hard evidence to prove Aloe has these effects on humans, in tests on animals it has been found that Aloe does have regenerative properties, helping heal skin problems in rabbits and eye defects in pigs. It was also found to produce a resistance to strychnine poisoning in white mice. Of course, this proves little for the benefits of Aloe on human physiology, but as anecdotal evidence, 5000 years of use says a great deal. Aloe has been used to slow the growth of cancerous cells and has even been considered as part of a course of treatments for AIDs patients.

The main benefit of Aloe that has been scientifically proven is in the treatment of gastric ulcers and ulcerative colitis. In tests, those who drank aloe vera gel in water twice a day for four weeks had a clinical response including remission of the condition. I know many people who swear by aloe juice for calming the stomach, especially in cases of IBS. Again, the evidence for this is anecdotal so please use your own judgement and consult a doctor before using Aloe for medical purposes.

Science tells us…

As well as the other numerous medical uses we have touched upon (and there are loads more!) a recent clinical study suggests that Aloe Vera may hold some hope for those suffering with diabetes. In preliminary reports it was found that ingestion of the plant may be effective in reducing blood glucose levels.

Aloe has also been used as a treatment in radiation burns since the 1930s, including use on the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the Witch’s Kitchen…

Cunningham tells us that having an Aloe in the house helps prevent household accidents. Thinking about how often I cut or burn myself in the kitchen, I can’t vouch for this, only that it certainly helps to have the plant around when you do have an accident! Cunningham also tells us that in various cultures the plant is said to dispel or drive away evil, and to bring good luck and protection upon the household.

Aloe is associated with water; no surprise considering the way the leaves store the element in huge quantities. Despite the piercing, almost phallic nature of the leaves, the plant is considered to have a feminine aspect, and the planetary correspondence is the Moon. You can use this knowledge to apply the plant in your own magical workings. If you are doing a series of meditations based on the phases of the moon, perhaps move an Aloe plant into your sacred space, to aid your focus on the lunar cycle. An Aloe at the western corner of your altar may emphasise the element of water there.

If you are allowed, place an aloe plant on your desk at work (or where you work at home). The plant will not only cheer the working area immeasurably but will bring good luck and fortune in your work.

Ancient Egyptians used the plant in place of papyrus sometimes to make scrolls. Combine this knowledge with the other properties and use a mark or word carved into a leaf to emphasise your spell or working. Bury or burn the leaf, or offer it to your preferred deity.

Aloe is also associated with death and funerals (courtesy, again, of the Ancient Egyptians) so an Aloe plant is an appropriate gift for someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one.

For you to try at home

A spell to heal another: Preferably at the full moon, or when the moon is visible, snap one of the leaves of your plant so you have a good size piece of Aloe. Sit outside and hold the leaf. Feel the smooth, outer skin, which holds the plant together. Feel the spikes, which protect it from harm. Feel the stickiness of the bitter gel that heals so many things. Concentrate on the healing power of the plant, and think of the one you wish to be healed. Touch the sticky gel at the broken end of your leaf. Make sure some of the gel transfers onto the first two fingers of your dominant hand. Touch those two fingers to your heart; think of the love you have for this person/animal. Touch your lips (external only!); think of the breath that flows through these lips, keeping you alive and well, connecting you to the world and therefore to the universe and all its energies. Concentrate on your breathing for a moment. Finally, touch the two, gel marked fingers to your forehead, concentrating on sending the healing energy of the Aloe and your love and breath to the one who needs it. Rest, and meditate on your intent. Keep the piece of Aloe on your altar or in a sacred place until a full cycle of the moon has passed, then bury it, if possible in the soil of the original plant.

Finally, one thing you didn’t know about Aloe Vera…

In Jamaica, the plant is known as ‘single bible’ and is revered as a healer because of its ability to heal itself. It is often the first port of call for a child with intestinal worms. This may be because it can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. As such, don’t take if pregnant or breast feeding! Until next time.

 

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The Witch’s Cupboard

November, 2009

Blessed Thistle

blessedthistle

Blessed Thistle (Carduus Benedictus) is also known as Holy Thistle, Holy Ghost Herb, Saint Benedict Thistle, Spotted Thistly and Cardin.   It is known as a “heal all” herb.  Blessed Thistle is an annual and it is native to the Mediterranean region and Asia but now can be found in Europe and the United States.

In ancient times, Blessed Thistle was known to cure many ailments, including the plague.  Currently, it is used to help with upset stomach.  Be very careful of using the herb in large quantities because it can induce vomiting.  It is also known to help with mothers producing breast milk.

Blessed Thistle is also was known as aphrodisiac, especially in men.  It is associated with Mars and Pan so it helps to increase sexual desire and awareness so it is a good use in Sex Magick.  It can be thrown in fire as an offering or used as incense.  It also can be used for invocation for the trickster Gods as Pan and Loki.

The Blessed Thistle Herb is very good with ritual bathing for purification.  As a combination with other “blessed” or “holy” herbs, sprinkle Blessed Thistle around your area for protection.   It is also known to help with learning men’s mysteries, especially for priests.

To help with dispelling negative energy and to break Hexes, use Blessed Thistle.  Mix it with Angelica and Basil to bring divine assistance and protection to your home.   Also, sprinkling Blessed Thistle across doorways and thresholds helps to protect the home.

Also, it can be used to bring spirits closer.  Boil it and then place it in a bowl and sit next to it.  Start meditating.  As the steam rises, your questions and spirits answers can be heard.
Blessed Thistle can be used in many ways for healing but remember, this is not a substitution for medical advice so always check with a medical professional to make sure working with herbs or oils are safe for you.

Keywords for Blessed Thistle

Magickal Uses/Spells:  Hex Breaking, Protection, Fertility, Purification, Healing, Happiness, Joy, Lifting Depression
Deities:  Pan
Planet:  Mars
Sign:  Aries
Gender:  Masculine
Element:  Fire
Tarot Correspondence:  Emperor Card, Page Cards of Any Suit