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Review of Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s The House Witch

December, 2018

Review of Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s The House Witch

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This book is filled with jewels.

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

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

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

References

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

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

***

About the Author:

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

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

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

Notes from the Apothecary

December, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Christmas Cactus

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

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

 

The Kitchen Garden

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

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

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

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

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

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

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

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

 

Home and Hearth

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

 

I Never Knew…

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

All images from Wikipedia.

***

About the Author:

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

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

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

 

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

Notes from the Apothecary

November, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Fenugreek

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

 

The Kitchen Garden

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

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

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

 

The Apothecary

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

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

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

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

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

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

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

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

 

Home and Hearth

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

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

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

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

 

I Never Knew…

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

 

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

***

About the Author:

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

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

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

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

The Sober Pagan

November, 2018

“H.A.L.T.”! Before You Continue Into The Holiday Season!

One of the discussions lately in the rooms of AA – at least here locally – is how to get through the holiday season without relapsing. As someone who has been around recovery for a while, I find my best bet is to stay home and enjoy my own company. This year, my son’s father – Mr. AA himself – is spending the Yuletide season with us, so it’ll be lots of recovery talk and talk about Buddhism and other spiritual paths. Plus lots of good food to eat! I admit, I am looking forward to this!

When people ask me my strategies for navigating holiday parties, I generally say, “Arrive late and leave early.” But of course – you can do this as a drunk, too. I used to do it all the time. I was always on my way somewhere else from some other place and I only had a minute to spare. But the way you lived as a drunk can help you out as a sober person. You just leave out the drinking part.

Lately I’ve been using the acronym “H.A.L.T.” when I discuss dealing with the holidays. Because the holidays – what I term the time between Canadian Thanksgiving (first Monday in October) to New Year’s Eve – and depending on where you live – all the way to Super Bowl Sunday – is a giant stretch of time involving endless office parties, family get-togethers, religious rituals, community celebrations and constant reminders that we are supposed to be having a great time!

H.A.L.T. Just stop. Think. What are you doing and why are you doing it?

Sometimes it’s not even about relapsing. It’s about running ourselves ragged trying to make everything perfect – to make up for all those years when we were perfect fuck-ups.

As you probably already know, “H.A.L.T.” stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired”. Whenever something is going wrong in our lives – it doesn’t even have to be a relapse – usually we are in the grip of one of those things.

I remember when I first got sober in my early thirties. Everyday, around three o’clock, I would get wicked hungry. I would have to get up from my desk and go to the break room and buy a candy bar or get a Pepsi. I started making myself an extra sandwich to get myself through the three o’clock hour. Then one day, I passed a bar with the sign “Happy Hour” in the window and it clicked. I was used to having a drink at 3:00 – I was used to drinking until the dinner hour. I wasn’t hungry – I wanted a drink. Once I understood that, my 3 p.m. munchies largely disappeared.

Anger is one of those issues where I disagree with AA in which I think that there are times that we should be angry and that anger can save our lives. That said, the thing is to use your anger wisely and of course, once you add alcohol into that equation, wisdom usually is not the outcome. Quite honestly, anything I can do sober I can fuck up beautifully when I’m drinking. So it stands to reason that if I’m angry about anything at all, taking a drink is not going to help the situation. Especially if I’m at a holiday party!

Loneliness is a killer but going out drinking seldom helps that. And if you’re with your family and feeling like you’re the outsider, having a drink probably isn’t going to help that situation. The only thing that cures loneliness is learning to love your solitude. And there’s always a meeting somewhere – AA, NA, Smart Recovery, WFS, SOS – find one and find your tribe.

The last letter is “T” and of course, that stands for “Tired”. It is so easy to give up when we are tired. So easy to take that drink that a friend is offering us at a party – so easy to justify it – just one, right? When we are tired, our brain doesn’t make good decisions. I know my brain doesn’t. I’m not sure what’s worse – being hungry or being tired. My brain doesn’t seem to be able to deal with either of them very well. So I always make sure that I am in a safe place when it’s late.

My “Happy Hour” is now spent in my own home – sipping tea and eating my home-baked cookies.

So “H.A.L.T.” – and enjoy the season!

Until next month – Brightest Blessings and Happy Holidays!

***

About the Author:

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

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

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

GoodGod!

June, 2018

Meet the Gods: Bes

 

 

Merry meet.

Bes was an Egyptian god who brought comfort and protection to mothers and children. The somewhat comical, somewhat sinister-looking bearded dwarf looks human but is often also portrayed as part animal – generally a lion with a mane and tail, or with wings. He has a plump body, bow legs, prominent genitals and is sticking out his tongue. He is always shown facing forwards, unlike most Egyptian Gods who are shown in profile. On occasion, Bes is wearing a plumed headdress or a crown, and carrying a rattle, drum, tambourine or knife.

 

 

Also known as Bisu and Aha, he was a deity and a demonic fighter. A god of war, “he was also a patron of childbirth and the home, and was associated with sexuality, humour, music and dancing,” according to ancientegyptonline.co.uk. “Although he began as a protector of the pharaoh, he became very popular with every day Egyptian people because he protected women and children above all others. He had no temples and there were no priests ordained in his name. However, he was one of the most popular gods of ancient Egypt and was often depicted on household items such as furniture, mirrors and cosmetics containers and applicators as well as magical wands and knives.”

Apparently, he got the name Aha, meaning fighter, because he could kill lions, bears and snakes with his hands. Although labeled a demon, there he was not considered evil, but rather, drove evil spirits away.

Laboring mothers would call on Bes for help. It is said he would stay on after birth to protect and entertain the child, and that when a baby smiled for no apparent reason, it was because Bes was making funny faces for them.

 

 

Using dance and music, he would also chase away bad spirits during sex and sleep. That’s why he could be found carved into the legs of beds – to protect people during the night when they were most vulnerable.

Egyptians would put a statue of him near the door to protect their home from evil spirits wanting to cause harm. He appeared on the walls of temples and homes, and was on thousands of amulets and charms, protecting people from the dangers of everyday life such as menacing animals and food going bad.

 

 

Bes is the first subject to be identified in early Egyptian tattoos, according to “Tattoo: Symbol and Meanings,” by Jack Watkins.

Performers often had tattoos of Bes because of his association with dancing and music. It is also thought that sacred prostitutes may have had a tattoo of Bes placed near their pubic area in order to prevent venereal diseases, but it is also possible that the tattoos related to fertility,” Watkins wrote.

Bes’ wife, Beset, was the female version of himself. Images of them naked were painted on walls.

Merry part. And merry meet again

***

About the Author:

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

 

Book Review – The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices by Claude Lecouteux, translated by Jon E. Graham

May, 2018

Book Review

The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices”

by Claude Lecouteux, translated by Jon E. Graham

Published by Inner Traditions

English translation copyright 2013

Pages: 228

A house is much more than a building. It is a microcosm, a living being with both a body and a soul. It speaks, even if its language is only creaking and cracking noises for the profane,” Claude Lecouteux writes in the introduction to “The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices.”

It speaks, even if its language is only creaking and cracking noises for the profane. Its wailings are evidence of an attack by hostile forces. … The house establishes a bond between itself and its inhabitants,” he states.

Uncared for, a house will die.

Expressions in our lexicon echo the importance of this bond: to have a roof over one’s head, to take someone out to the woodshed, to be on the threshold of life, to throw something out the window, and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Many old customs have been mistakenly thought of as superstitions, but Lecouteux traces them back to their origins.

[F]olk beliefs have extraordinary longevity and barely evolve as long as social and material conditions do not change,” he wrote.

For instance, the place a house was built was carefully considered. It took into account the place spirits and signs of good fortune such as where a coin was found, the place animals lay down, or the site where inhabitants had previously lived and had good fortune. Roadsides were typically preferred. The borders of fields were avoided. So were crossroads, sites where a house had burned down, former cemeteries, places where animals had had been killed, anywhere someone had committed suicide or a spot with an unmovable stone, Lecouteux tells us.

In various cultures, permission was required from the earth spirits before a house could be built, salt was used to bless the spot before construction, and work ended if, while placing the first beam, an ax generated a spark.

Everything from the houses’s orientation, and the placement of doors and windows to the materials used and the sacrifices made were important to people. When and how they moved in was also dictated by a series of beliefs.

Every element of a building possesses magic and religious meaning,” Lecouteux states at the start of chapter two.

The walls, the gutters, the roof and the corners were all associated with various traditions. There were rites and blessings, customs and ceremonies and taboos connected with every aspect of a home.

 

(Among the photos in the book is this German house having a timber frame with a man pattern and a cross.)

 

Entering a home is done by crossing a threshold, which can be considered a rite of passage. What must not leave by the door, but rather passed out a window were also closely followed – all so as not to anger the spirits and bring about misfortune.

Lecouteux describes them all, across time and territories. He shares the stories, prayers, charms, offerings and practices to domestic deities people used to assure happiness and prosperity, and makes the “sad observation” that “house spirits have vanished and with them the souls of our houses have fled, never to return.”

 

(Fairy loaves and fossilized sea urchins were traditionally kept on the kitchen windowsill of English homes to ensure magically that there will never be a shortage of bread.)

 

The French medieval scholar specializes in Europe during the Middle Ages, covering many esoteric subjects in his more than 15 books. He researches using source texts in the several languages he knows. That way, he explained in an interview in 2016 with Ben & Sol, he can correct assumptions others may have made with extrapolating information.

77 sayings and beliefs are listed in the appendix – including “The spirits are granted the space between the doors, they should therefore never be slammed” and “When a person dies, the windows of a house should be opened so that the soul can leave” – along with footnotes and a bibliography.

He went on to write “Demons and Spirits of the Land: Ancestral Lore and Practices.”

Click Images for Amazon Information

 

***

About the Author:

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

Notes from the Apothecary

March, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Dill

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

The Kitchen Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Apothecary

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

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

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

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

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

The Witch’s Kitchen

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

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

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

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

Home and Hearth

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

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

I Never Knew…

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

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

***

About the Author:

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

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

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

For Amazon Information Click Images

The Enchanted Cottage: Magick for the Witch’s Home

November, 2017

To Protect the Witches Home

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

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

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

The children answered,

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

and went on eating without disturbing themselves….

From Hansel and Gretel—Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tale

 

Grimm

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiralled Edge

August, 2017

Spiralled Edge – Finding the Hearth and Heart

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

House Rituals

April, 2017

cottage

Purification Rituals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Each celebrant then robes himself.” 10

The Threshold

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

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

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

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

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

My own invocation to the threshold guardian goes like this:

“Honor and thanks to you, Janus,

For guarding the threshold of my home.

May only harmonious beings enter here,

And may the discordant depart !

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

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

That I may guard the door to my inner home,

For I too am a threshold guardian.”

The Hearth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Lady,

I loose you skillfully,

lest you be angry !

Holy Gabija,

be peaceful in this place !

Live with us peacefully,

Holy Gabija !

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

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

Holding a Dumb Supper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lighting some aromatic herbs, I said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I extinguished the candle and said

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

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

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

The dumb supper was over.

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

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

2 Serith, p. 31. See bibliography.

3 Ibid, p. 32.

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

5 Serith, p.32.

6 Ibid, p. 33.

7 Ibid.

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

9 Pronounced PUR-os es-YEM.

10 Serith, unpublished material. See bibliography.

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

12 The ancestors and myself.

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