lore

Notes from the Apothecary

October, 2017

Notes from the Apothecary: Pumpkin

 

 

It’s that magical time of year again, where anything that can be fragranced or flavoured seems to take on the aroma of a combination of vanilla and pumpkin, with the emphasis on the sweetness of this gorgeous gourd. But why do we revere the pumpkin at this time of year? The answer comes from Irish Celtic history, and the seasonal nature of the fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) itself.

 

The Kitchen Garden

Although the pumpkin, like other squashes, originated in North America, it can now be found all over the world. It’s classed as a ‘winter squash’ due to the fruits ripening around autumn and winter time. This is one of the main reasons it is so widely in use throughout Samhain and into the Thanksgiving and Christmas/Yule periods.

 

The fabulous thing about pumpkins is that so much of the plant is edible. You have probably eaten the flesh at some point, either in pies, soup or puddings. You may even have eaten pumpkin seeds, which are tasty roasted and salted or used in baked goods such as bread. But did you know you can even eat the flowers of pumpkins? The only downside to this is, if you eat a pumpkin flower, it cannot then be pollinated and grow into a pumpkin!

 

In Korea and some parts of Africa, even the leaves are eaten. In Zambia, they are boiled and mixed with groundnut paste.

 

Pumpkin is great in sweet or savoury food, and can be combined with other squashes easily. A touch of chilli adds a fiery zing, and other warming spices such as cinnamon transform a very earthy plant into a symbol of fire.

 

Growing pumpkins requires a good bit of space, and although you can start them off indoors, they really need moving outside onto a large pile of compost where they can spread out. We only grow our squashes on the allotment, as there simply isn’t room in the garden; not if we want to have space for anything else!

 

The Apothecary

Because the pumpkin was only discovered upon the exploration of North America, some of the older herbals don’t cover it in great depth. In Mrs Grieves’ Modern , she lumps the pumpkin in with watermelon, although she does clearly state that it is a very different plant. She says the pumpkin is sometimes known as the melon pumpkin, or ‘millions’; a term which has certainly gone out of fashion today.

 

She states that in combination with other seeds such as melon, cucumber and gourd (Grieves cites this as cucurbita maxima, a south American squash), an emulsion can be formed which is effective for catarrh, bowel problems and fever. She also tells us that melon and pumpkin seeds are good worm remedies, even for tapeworm.

 

For our furry friends, high-fibre pumpkin can be added to the diet of cats or dogs to aid digestion. It is also sometimes fed to poultry to keep up egg production during the colder months. Always speak to your vet before changing your pet’s or livestock’s diet.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

 

 

Pumpkins appear throughout folklore and fairy tales, often in themes of transformation. Think of Cinderella, whisked off to her ball in a coach which only a few minutes before was a giant pumpkin. The pumpkin is a symbol of our hearts’ desires, travelling towards our goals and the transformation of dreams into reality.

 

We mustn’t forget that the coach turned back into the pumpkin at midnight! This reminds us to enjoy what we have while we have it, to grasp the opportunities in front of us as we never know when they might disappear.

 

A piece of pumpkin or pumpkin seeds on your altar represents autumn moving into winter, the final harvest and goals of self-sufficiency; whether literally through living off the land and growing your own food, or through honing your passion into a craft that can support you.

 

I will have pumpkin seeds at north in my sacred space, to remind me of all the ‘seeds’ I have planted this year which I hope will grow into greater things even through the cold months; ideas for songs and poems, research into my ‘magical birds’ book, and plans to save money in preparation for our new baby. These are my seeds, and I need to nurture them. Just like the pumpkin, they need care, attention and feeding! Pumpkins need compost, sunshine and water, whereas my ideas need hard work, time and commitment.

 

Home and Hearth

The archetypal ‘Jack O’ Lantern’ most likely comes from the Irish and Scottish Celts, who would have carved a face into a turnip or swede, placed a light within and used this as an amulet to ward off evil spirits, or possibly as a guiding light for ancestral or guardian spirits. When colonists came to America carrying these traditions with them, they found the larger and softer pumpkin; a much better vehicle for the carved totems! And so the pumpkin became the new guiding light of Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve and eventually, Hallowe’en.

 

It’s only the seeds that you need to remove from a pumpkin in order to leave a space for the light inside, and you can keep a few of these seeds to try and cultivate your own plants next year. If you are able to do this (and I appreciate not everyone has the space to grow a pumpkin plant- they are quite large!) this will create a cyclical connection between this year’s and next year’s magic, cementing continuity and your own connection to the turning season.

 

If this simply isn’t practical, keep a few of the seeds on your altar or in a sacred space, as a reminder of the different stages of life reflected in the changing seasons.

 

If you scrape some of the flesh out as well as the seeds, keep this and cook with it at Samhain. You are making the most of your pumpkin, using as much of it as you can to avoid waste, and you are connecting your magical lantern to your Samhain feasting.

 

The lantern can be placed in a window, or on a doorstep if it is safe to do so. If you use a naked flame such as a candle or tealight, please be aware of animals and children, especially during trick-or-treating! The last thing you want is some small child setting themselves on fire or spilling hot wax on themselves. A great alternative is one of those LED candles which you can now pick up very cheaply.

 

 

 

 

The lantern guards your space, keeping away unwanted visitors, and guiding your ancestral spirits to where they need to be, including back beyond the veil once the period of Samhain has passed.

 

I Never Knew…

The word ‘pumpkin’ originates from the Greek word pepon, which means ‘large melon’, which may explain how it sometimes ends up under the melon section in older herbals!

 

Image credits: Pumpkins Hancock Shaker Village, public domain; Photograph of a homegrown pumpkin species, “Atlantic Giant”, (cucurbita maxima), copyright Ude 2009 via Wikimedia; Nathan looking at Jack O’ Lantern display in Benalmadena, copyright 2016 Mabh Savage.

 

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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.

 


 

How I do Samhain

October, 2016

samhain

 

Ahhhh, It’s that time of year again. The air has turned crisp and leaves begin to swirl around our feet. The darkness greets us sooner and sooner each day. It’s almost time to celebrate, The Witch’s New Year…Samhain or Halloween.

Samhain, Pronounced Sow-in, is the Celtic Festival to mark the end of the harvest season. It is the beginning of Winter and the Darker half of the year. It is just about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It lasts from sunset Oct 31st to sunset Nov 1st. It is believed to be a very powerful day, when the Veil between the Worlds is at it’s thinnest and Spirits and Faeries can pass through into ours with ease.

samhain

 

This is my most favorite time of year. I can feel an energy change as soon as the month of October arrives. The celebrations for Samhain begin early in the month, as soon as pumpkin picking begins or pumpkins hit the local markets.

Every year our family enjoys a pumpkin or 4. We pick tiny ones to decorate altars for the year to come in oranges and whites. Then the fun part, we pick our pumpkins to carve!!!! We make them into Jack-O-Lanterns.

samhain

 

Jack-O-Lanterns are believed to have become a custom on Samhain/Halloween in Ireland around the 19th century. They were believed to either ward off evil spirits or were used, sometimes, by Halloween revelers to frighten people. The pumpkin top is cut off and the insides are scooped out. Placing your hands in the gooey mess can be tons of fun. You can save the pumpkins seeds to roast! Then the front of the pumpkin is carved out into a silly or frightening face or design. When done a candle is placed inside to light the pumpkin. Keep it on your windowsill or front porch to scare away the evil spirits!

samhain

 

At least a good week of October is spent on THE BIG DECISION. Not to mention a big chunk of September was spent on this DECISION, as well. What Halloween Costumes do we get this year?? These days Halloween costumes are usually bought, and for outrageous prices. But the wearing of Halloween costumes dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries and some say as early as 1585. It is a Celtic Tradition on Samhain to wear a scary costume, because with the belief that the veil between the worlds, that is the Spirit World and Ours, is the thinnest on this day, the scary costumes help to keep evil spirits from whisking us away with them, or just plain frightening them away.

With the kids choices for costumes made I don my own. The same I wear each year. With pride I put on my comfy sweater and break out my Witch’s Hat. I only wear it on this special occasion, for the New Year Celebration. I get all the jitters and excitement as the children do as I stuff my hat on my head. Then we all head outside to walk the neighborhood proudly in our finery!

samhain

 

As the kids Trick-or-Treat they are oblivious to my thoughts as they roam through the past year. The ups and downs. The good and the bad. The happy memories I will take with me forever. The sadness I choose to leave behind. I reminisce on the smiles of my loved ones here and gone. Never forgetting those who have passed and thanking them for all they have done and continue to do as they watch me on my path. I thank the God & Goddess for a lovely life. Another lovely year I was gifted, and pray for a lovely year to come. I walk hand & hand with my husband, breathe in the air, and exude gratefulness. Our gift to the Universe is the children’s laughter & happiness. This is how we celebrate Samhain, how do you?

Finding Avalon

August, 2016

avalon1

 

Under the Midnight Moon

Dancing lights, twinkling lights

Around the come again

Dancing in circles, in spiral circles

The Faery dance of yore

They come, they go

They circle about

They call your name to them

Come dance with us, come play with us

Under the Midnight Moon”.

~Vivienne Moss~

I find myself standing under the full moon, majestic in all her luminescence. A gentle breeze caresses my bare shoulders, peppering me in goose bumps. The night air has an unnerving feel about it, causing me to look about in trepidation. A soft melody permeates the quiet darkness; I am certain I hear panpipes and the most enchanting of voices rising from the damp earth. The light of what seems like a million fire flies dance about me. I find myself getting caught up in the rhythm of this midnight performance of beauty and delight. I begin to sway and spin, faster and faster, until my heart is racing with exhilaration. My skin is aglow with Faery light, it glistens like fresh fallen snow under the moon-kissed night. I collapse in breathless desire, my mind no longer able to comprehend what is happening to me.

My frenzied breathing finally wanes as I begin to take in my surroundings. I am no longer within the stone circle in my backyard. I find myself in a great hall filled with delightful music and the appetizing scent of Faery cuisine. I am offered a heaping plate of food and a Meade filled chalice. I reach for the gifts offered me, not wanting to offend my hosts. A nagging feeling tugs at my memory, an uneasy way overcomes me. I know that I should not partake in these Faery gifts, for if I do there will be no return for me. I thank my Faery hosts for their generosity, begging their pardon for not accepting their offerings.

With a rush of wind I am swept off my feet, not so gently landing within my stone circle. I sense that my hosts are no longer near, they have returned to Avalon—to the World of Faery. I feel a pang of regret for not partaking in the Faery Feast but I know that it was not my time to stay within the realm of Avalon. I have work to do in this realm. The lore of Goddess and Avalon must be shared for those who want to learn of the ways of Faery.

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In Faery lore, to partake of the Faery Feast can result in a seven year (or sometimes hundreds of years) stay within the realm of Faery, only to wither away to nothing upon return to the land of the living. There are many tales of travelers to Faery who either never retuned or were greatly change upon returning. Thomas the Rhymer, Tam Lin, Bran the Blessed, and the Reverend Robert Kirk are but a few.

If offered food or drink form your Faery Hosts, kindly decline in a respectful manner. Unless, of course, you are prepared to serve a seven year tithe (or more) to the Queen of Faery. Me? I’d rather serve Her from the realm of the living until the time comes that the Queen of Avalon calls me home.

Tink About It

December, 2015

Witch Balls

The last few months a certain object demanded my attention. In books, in my dreams, on the internet in places you wouldn’t expect… It took me some time before I figured it out, but in the end the message was clear: ‘the universe’ wanted me to pay attention and learn about… witch balls! Of course I had heard about them but I never really did something with it.

Witch balls are hollow spheres of coloured glass that often contain a few thin fibres strung inside. They seem to originate in cultures that believe in harmful magic , evil spirits and such, to ward those off by hanging a witch ball in the (east) window or entrance of the home. As to how it works, the stories vary slightly. Evil is drawn to the ball which absorbs the negativity and keeps it from entering the home. Witches were believed to be attracted by the shininess and beauty of the ball, they touch it or go into it and are lost inside. It could also work like a magnet: the ball itself is charged with positive energy and thus it attracts and absorbs the negative energies. Or even simpler: the mirroring of the balls reflects evil back to where it comes from.

Witchballs(picture: Wikipedia)

No one knows exactly what or where the origin of the balls is. The ability to make and blow glass is a very old skill. Some sources date back the witch balls to Medieval Europe, more than six centuries ago, or even earlier. At that time the form would have been rough and not very well-defined. On the 18th (England. Europe) and 19th century (America) witch balls were moulded in a more refined shape with use of higher quality glass. They became very popular and were also seen as a sign of wealth and prestige as they weren’t cheap. Some people still believed they helped against evil, witches etc. though; others called it superstition. Trying to get rid of old lore they were also called fairy orbs: the beauty of the balls was told to attract fairies, who would then show their appreciation by bestowing the owner with good luck. The balls showed up in a larger form in gardens, and smaller in Yule trees. Are they connected? It’s certainly possible but debatable. Still, glass workers traditionally make a witch ball as the first object to be created in a new studio.

Nowadays there are lots of beautiful witch balls for sale. For protection, for decoration, or both. Funny enough you often see them at the homes of the very people they were used against to scare them of at first: witches! Perhaps a lot of sources got it wrong, and witches are the origin of witch balls. They could have been the ones that made them for protection of their homes. Or they used them for scrying, or collecting solar and lunar light or other magical uses. Who knows..

Fishermen use floating balls for their nets. In earlier days they were made of glass. Those glass balls resemble witch balls, so they were often used for that purpose too. It’s probably also the reason why witch balls are associated with sea superstitions and legends in some lore.
At the moment I have two ‘witch balls’. One of them is definitely used by fishermen. It was found on the beach and has barnacles attached in several places. The other one could be a fishing-net ball too, but I think it is mainly used for decoration. When we were kids my sister had a fishing-net on her ceiling with the glass balls still in it. The ball with barnacles will get a nice place in our living room. We live in a fishing-village close to the harbour and sea so I guess it’s the right place for it. The other one will hang in my temple room window. Yes, as decoration, but I will certainly charge them to protect our home and reflect or absorb evil.

Witchballs2

my own ‘witch balls’

Sources & further reading:

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

October, 2015

Samhain 2015 for Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

 

This article is cheating. I admit it.

I was looking over last year’s article to ensure I did not write close to the same thing this year, and I stumbled upon the file for the talk and ritual I gave at our Samhain last year. It was conveniently and entirely different from last year’s article.

Of course, memories came flooding back. Each Sabbat and gathering is packed with good memories with loved ones. Samhain, the time for honoring the dead, is a good time to connect with the living as well. In pre-Christian times, it was a time of communal work and celebration of a good final harvest and bringing the herds in for winter. It was also a time to give thanks, and ask the powers that be for protection from sickness, starvation, and death in the cold months.

I reworked my talk into an article. That is the cheating! The article discusses some history, as well as ancient practices, and then the ritual we used to honor the Sidhe has been reworked and is given at the end.

A LITTLE HISTORY AND WHY THEY HAD SAMHAIN

Samhain originally comes from Ireland and was celebrated as the beginning of winter. It dates from times when the folk were dependent upon herds. May 1, Beltaine, was of course when the herds were brought out to Summer fields, and Samhain was when they were brought in for the winter. It was also the cold part of the year. People got sicker and were more likely to die. So, people would be doing rituals for protection at Samhain.

They also believed that the dead had more access to the world of the living at that time. They not only honored the dead, but also did things to ward off spirits that were not so nice. Bad spirits could bring disease and death of livestock or people.

Back before refrigeration, insulation, electricity, and preservatives, all of this was a very big deal. The people believed very strongly that the spirits, gods, and the ancestors directly influenced what happened to the living. They could bring suffering and sickness, or bestow life, health, wealth and blessings. It was very important that all the proper taboos were observed and honor was paid to the gods, the dead and the spirits. All the proper workings and rituals had to be observed so everybody made it through the cold winter. And of course it was at the end of final harvest, so there was eating, drinking, feasting, and revelry!

ANCIENT SITES

We know what neo-Pagans do now, but we rely on the writings of people like the monks to let us know what the pre-Christian Pagans did. Some of the writings depict things we’d never do in modern times.

One god who was honored Samhain time was Crom Cruach- who favored human sacrifice. At the historical plain in what is now in Ulster, called Magh Slecht ( maw shlaykht), an image of Crom Stood, and that is where some Samhain rites were said to begin. At Magh Slecht, there are monuments dating back to before 4000 BC and there are 80 known monuments on the site. It became the center for worship of Crom, and devotees were said to prostrate themselves to Crom by kneeling and putting their foreheads on the ground. Thus, the name Mag Slecht means, “The plain of prostrations”. The monuments still there include not only Christian sites, but also artificial islands, burial sites, stone circles, and even a couple of castles. According to the monks, St, Patrick struck down the statue of Crom, ended the worship of him, and founded a church there. It is said when he struck the statue down, a ring of stones encircling the statue sank into the ground. Interestingly, it is said the Killycluggin Stone is the one St. Patrick struck down. Others say the stones around the Killycluggin Stone were actually the image of Crom. There is of course, an amazing looking replica placed where the original was excavated in 1921, as well as remainders of the stone circle. The original Killycluggin Stone is now in the County Cavan Museum in Ballyjamesduff. An online source at

themysticwood.com/shop/2015/08/01/10-tidbits-about-crom-dubh-sunday

has beautiful photos and a little more about Crom and the stone.

Other sites where Samhain was celebrated was The Hill of Ward in Ireland. It was an Iron Age ringfort where a lot of things happened, and its massive Samhain gatherings were to light the winter fires, which took place in Medieval times. Its structures date from 200 AD. It is said the god Lugh was honored on Samhain on the Hill of Ward. The Hill of Tara was also a site where Samhain gatherings occurred. It is 12 miles away from the Hill of Ward, and when fires are lit atop the hills, the fires can be seen all the way 12 miles away at one another. I lucked into an awesome You Tube Video the University of Dublin created called “The First Halloween”. You have to see it!

Another site watched was a cave where the dead were said to emerge. It’s called Oweynagat, The Cave of Cats. It is part of a complex of sites known as Rathcroghan that has burial sites, and was used for huge ritual gatherings. It complex is estimated to be 6,000 years old. The cave itself is just part of that. It was specifically the door to the other world guarded by Queen Maeve who was said to transform into the Morrigan. She held off the beasts from beyond to protect humanity. It was said she was born and also died at the entryway. She is said to emerge in her chariot every Samhain pulled by a one legged chestnut horse. Inscribed in Ogham on the lintel above the door is “Hellmouth Door of Ireland”. They also call it the cave of cats because it is said a three headed long fanged cat guards the door. I watched a video of somebody brave enough to enter. It’s a small cave where many have entered and finally, some workmen started installing electricity, and a portion collapsed to form a dead end. If you’re like me you think maybe the dead do not want people snooping around in there. It was not a place you wanted to be when those creatures emerged.

You can find the footage I am talking about at YouTube. Type in Oweynagat, cave of the cats, Rathcroghan. A journey into mother earth. Mike Croghan is the one who made this video.

Scientifically speaking, very little excavation has been done on the whole complex, but they have used radar surveys, which show a lot of similarities between Rathcroghan and the Hill of Tara complex.

BONFIRES

At these ancient sites, there was not just sacrifice on Samhain. Of course, bonfires were lit on the hills to drive out or burn up unwanted influences, as well as having two bonfires people and livestock walked between to bless them. People took flames from these fires back to their homes and lit new fires from them.

THE SIDHE AND THE DEAD

As for the honoring of the dead, it was originally the Sidhe who were honored. People left food and drink for them, sometimes leaving a portion of crops in the fields for them. If the people had to walk outside , they would turn their clothes inside out or carried salt or iron to keep the Sidhe from harming them.

The dead were welcomed into the home by setting a place for them at the table. They were honored and kept happy, because if they were upset, or wanted to come for revenge, little could be done. The Sidhe, in particular, were those creatures who you did not want to offend. Nowadays, many Neo Pagans like to decorate with fairies and dress in pretty costumes with gossamer wings, many of whom look similar to Tinkerbell. A lot of people think of the Sidhe as sweet, pretty, little earth folk who are charming and enchanting and sprinkle pixie glitter and whatnot, and that is not the way things are at all. To this day, the people of Irelend go out of their way to not piss off the Sidhe.

Some believe they are the descendants of the Tuatha De Danann- or children of the goddess Danu and when the Milesians defeated them, they went to live in the mounds. Historically, the Milesians are actually an ethnic group of people said to have come from Iberia, and settled the Island. And it is historically accepted by some that the Tuatha de Dannan were the pre-Celtic inhabitants of Ireland. They were said to go live in the mounds, which have been proven to be ancient burial sites. According to the lore, as the children of Danu were forgotten about, they shrunk in stature. Some Xtians believe they are fallen angels. Some believe they are spirits that go about their lives just like everybody else. Many believe that we live in parallel worlds with the Sidhe and our world comes in contact with theirs at times and boundaries have to be respected. Money is thrown in wells for them, great care is taken to build roads AROUND sites said to be theirs, food and drink is left for them. If people believed the Sidhe had blessed them or done work for them, gifts of a bowl of cream or new clothes was left for them. Baked goods, apples, and berries were also left for them.

The Sidhe could smile upon you, but they could also harm you. They may not only kill you or your livestock, but they could take you home with them. The belief was that the fairy mounds were completely open at Samhain time. It was a big worry that you might be carried off. If you wound up there, you might find your way back…eventually- but the Sidhe’s time is not our time. What would seem like moments in their time can be decades in our time.

A tale is told of a man who was perhaps the greatest fiddler alive. The Sidhe liked him- a lot- and so they took him with them- and he was seen sometime after his disappearance- looking horribly exhausted, filthy, starved, and a look of horror about him- and his arms seemed to be playing the instrument all on their own, detached from his body.

Encounters with the Sidhe did not always go this way, but there was a chance they could, So it was very important if to stay in or close to home if not at ritual come Samhain time if at all possible, but if you had to leave home, you could do things like- leave gifts, of course, wear your clothes inside out and carry iron, or salt to ward them off.

COSTUMES

You could also disguise yourself. Costumes started from people disguising themselves to confuse or ward off the supernatural creatures- you might get carried off to the other world if they were not disguised well. It further developed into mumming, or going from door to door costumed as part of the festivities, which is still observed all over Britain to this day. Sometimes, it was done in costume to collect things for the celebration from each household, and sometimes it was done for fun.

FUN AND PRANKS

Alcohol was used to celebrate since the time of the ancient Irish, in more recent times, they did so as well. Fueled by booze, the pranks could get pretty wild. For example- folks would throw rotten fruit or veggies around houses, throw bags of flour all over people, or make noises outside their houses.

The Sidhe could also play pranks on people. They might do something as mild as put thorns in your bed or like those horrid creatures from the Otherworld, they could wreak damage on property of livestock. They might even swap their kid for yours.

Maybe it was the Sidhe and the dead that got us started doing tricks and pranks Samhain time, but folks sometimes, to this day go too far-

Like in 2012, a 17 and 18 year old were arrested for throwing an egg in a 71 year old woman’s face who thought she was answering the door for trick or treaters.

In 2010, two women were arrested for a prank. They wrapped a mannequin in a “bloody sheet” and dropped it off on the highway and waited at the top of a hill with binoculars to see how many people they could scare.

Maybe in the days of yore, you could blame a prank on the Sidhe or spirits- but nowadays, I don’t think the police are going to buy that.

DIVINATION

Samhain was also a good time to do divination. Since the otherworld was much more active in this world, the realities shifted, messages would be clearer. They did not do “readings” the way we do. They sometimes used food. An apple was peeled, and the peel thrown over the shoulder to see if it would reveal the first letter of the person’s future spouses name. Eggs whites were dropped in water to see if it would reveal the number of children a couple would have. They sometimes had each person present put a rock representing themselves in a ring together. Everybody would run around the stones and in the morning if any stone was mislaid it was supposed to show who would not survive the winter.

TODAY AS OPPOSED TO THEN

For us Neo-Pagans, we do Sabbat. Usually an evening ritual and gathering. But in days past, the festivities might last a week from first bringing the cattle in, to blessing them and getting them situated- down to slaughtering the last of the meat- especially the animals they felt would not make it through the winter and then having the feast prepared- which might last for more than one day.

So from its humble beginnings – in Ireland thousands of years ago, we now have people all over the world celebrate this blessed time of year when the living and the dead commune and when we prepare for the ice and snow and dark and cold.

We may celebrate differently today and for perhaps different reasons but this ancient occasion is what brought us all together tonight.

One other thing about the Sidhe- it is really not polite to talk about them, and I have talked about them a whole lot, haven’t I? It is a good thing the ritual honors them!

In Honor of the Sidhe

This ritual comprised the closing for our Samhain in 2014 and I am sharing it here. The ritual is a good one to do with anybody, including kids and people who have no formal training in ritual. They do their reading, and give their offering. Simple.

Preparation

Gather things for four offerings. Food, drink, coins, and incense.

Do not cast circle, as your people will stand in a circle and that will comprise your circle. You do not want a closed circle for this out of respect for the Sidhe and so they may come and go as they see fit. Plus, when you leave your offerings, each person needs to be able to move around to place things wherever they deem fit. That might just be a distance from where you are standing to do ritual. Plus, you do not want to banish.

Do not set up an altar. You just need your papers with the readings written on them, and your offerings. It is really best to do this outside in your garden or in nature. You can have garden torches if you like, or outside lights if available. Then again, if you are in a deep forest, or if the stars and moon are not bright enough, you can always let people have their own flashlight or candle to illuminate. But if you cannot be outdoors for this rite, just turn off the lights and light enough candles to see by.

You can have three people to give offerings of drink, food, and money and you can offer the incense at the beginning. Ideally, you want to leave the offerings out in nature for the Sidhe to accept without being watched. You can split up the readings for your group. You can also do all the parts yourself if you are doing Solitary ritual.

You certainly can have people stand facing the appropriate directions when they give their offerings, but you really don’t have to. Wiccan use of the four directions comes out of traditions that came later on in Pagan practice. While the purpose of this is to honor the Sidhe, not to necessarily stick with any given dogma, if you prefer, you certainly can do things “by the book” as they say, moving only clockwise, and standing facing in the traditional Wiccan directions.

The Ritual

Opening Reading

If history, lore, and science are believed, some of us, perhaps all of us in this very room are the descendants of the Sidhe. Some writings say they were the first inhabitants of Mother Ireland. The ones originally responsible for the very fact we have Samhain. If all this is to be believed, they walk among us morseo this time of year, and more than that their blood flows in our veins. It is because of them that we are alive today. And because of us, they are alive today.

It is them who we will honor and ask for blessings in this rite.

Reading #1

(Light the incense, and put it in the center of your group of people.)

Hail to the Sidhe.

Beautiful and Terrible.

Small, and Great.

Seen and Unseen.

Hail to you Fathers of Fathers.

Mothers of Mothers.

Guardians of the Otherworld.

Reading #2

(Put the drink in the center)

You can heal or you can harm.

You can grant life or death.

Accept our gifts and respect

As we enter the cold, dark months.

Reading #3

(Put the food in the center)

Spare us and our loved ones another winter

That we may make it to the Summer.

Increase our wealth and give us good health.

Help us to pass this winter in good company

And to create good memories

Accept our gifts and our respect.

Reading #4

(Put the money in the center)

Smile upon us, give us safe passage home this night

And this season.

(Now those offering gifts will gather up gifts, and with all attendees, take the things and place them where the Sidhe can find them.

Come back together.)

Closing

(Have all join hands.)

The Sidhe have been gifted and honored, and now, may your gods and guides bless you. May the ancestors be ever present all of your days. May the Sidhe smile upon you, and may we all see one another soon.

Merry Have We Met,

Merry Shall We Part,

and Merry Shall We Meet Again.

Blessed Be.

Blessed Samhain.

Notes from the Apothecary

September, 2015

Notes from the Apothecary: Garlic

 

garlic

 

 

Not strictly a herb, but in my apothecary, I make good use of whatever is to hand, and currently the garlic from the allotment is drying out nicely in my mother’s pantry.

Strongly associated with Hekate, garlic has held magical associations for thousands of years. From warding off the supernatural, to disinfecting rooms, the protective power of garlic has been recognised and revered throughout history.

The Kitchen Garden

Most of us know garlic for its smell and taste. It is the bulb of the plant that we most commonly use, although the green shoots that we see above the surface of the soil are also very tasty. Most often, the bulb is dried so that the papery outer skin can be peeled, revealing the glossy, white, oily flesh beneath. Garlic can also be eaten ‘wet’ or ‘green’, which means before it has been allowed to dry out. The flavour is milder, and the skin is somewhat waxy and I think it’s easier to peel off.

Garlic is a star flavour in cuisines from India to the Mediterranean and beyond. It is unique in that it compliments spice, sweetness and saltiness in equal measure.

Garlic is pretty easy to grow, and one clove (a segment of the bulb) should develop into a large bulb with many cloves. An added benefit to growing garlic is that it does discourage other pests from ransacking your garden!

flowering garlic

If you let the plant flower, you won’t be disappointed, as like most alliums, the flowers are beautiful; perfect, spiky globes.

The Apothecary

Garlic is readily available in pill form from most health food store as a supplement for those wishing to improve their cardio vascular health or boost their immune system. The only reason I can see for taking it this way is to avoid the bane of garlic breath! Or, obviously, if you simply don’t like the taste…

Our old friend, the Rosa Anglica, cites garlic as both useful and harmful for different ailments, although it is noted that garlic is mainly irritant in those that are not used to its strong flavour. In this herbal, garlic is mixed with salt to help reduce warts, and it is also indicated for those suffering with smallpox or related ‘pustules’. The same tome advises us to avoid garlic if experiencing lethargy, along with leeks and onions and any other substance that ‘increases phlegm’ in the body.

Some of this advice makes sense, as garlic has strong anti viral properties and is especially indicated for those suffering with chest complaints, to help boost the immune system and fight off infection.

The US National Library of Medicine tells us that further research in garlic is needed, but so far studies have discovered that the bulb reduces blood pressure in those with high blood pressure, but not in those with normal blood pressure. Garlic was also indicated as a possible preventer for colds, and even as a cholesterol reducer. In Korea, studies as recent as 2014 linked the high consumption of garlic to a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

It’s sad that not enough conclusive tests have been done to prove these theories beyond a doubt, but it’s clear that the plant has very real health benefits, and is a very good addition to anyone’s diet.

The Lab

As well as culinary and medical uses, garlic juice is also used in glass and porcelain work for sealing and gluing.

There is also now an insecticide which can be used for both crops and poultry which is derived from garlic. The benefit of this is it has no negative impact on the environment.

Garlic continues to retain its antimicrobial (bacteria fighting) properties at very high temperatures, and as such is ideal for helping to preserve food. It’s clear that this is why meat cooked in hot countries, such as India, often has large amounts of garlic in, as it stops the meat spoiling. Garlic is particularly potent when combined with cinnamon, which as well as being scientifically sound, sounds particularly yummy!

The Witch’s Kitchen

It’s time to look at garlic as a magical plant, although everything I have told you so far is sorcery in itself! What a practical bulb, with such diverse usefulness. Yet we have barely scratched the surface of the spiritual significance of garlic.

In popular culture, one of the most well known uses of garlic is to ward off vampires. Now I don’t expect you will be having any undead blood suckers on your doorstep anytime soon, but it is true that garlic is protective and cleansing, warding off negative energies.

Garlic cut and placed in a room will literally absorb any bad vibes and also literally absorbs bacteria, giving your space a full on cleansing. Onion is also useful for this, and either plant can be combined with lemon to boost the potency of the exercise.

Garlic is also thought, in some eastern cultures, to stimulate desire and passion, so you could work this into your magical work. Perhaps eat a meal including garlic to increase the libido before a hot night! Remember to work your intent into the food as you cook it.

Buddhism tells us that garlic distracts from meditation, which makes sense as it is a stimulant, both externally and internally. Islam also follows this, although from the more practical view point that the smell distracts from prayer.

As mentioned earlier, garlic is one of Hekate’s foods and should be offered to her during Deipnon, her feast at the dark moon. Offerings can be left on her altar, or at a crossroads, as she is the lady of the triple crossroads and will always find these offerings. Garlic should be served with other foods such as fish, eggs, almonds, honey or cakes including these. Traditionally, the food should be placed and one should walk away, never looking back to see who was eating. The Greek playwright Aristophanes noted that the offerings to Hekate were often eaten by the poor and homeless; something I personally believe Hekate would have found very just.

The juice of garlic can be used to cleanse your magical items, such as an athame, to dispel negative energy and boost your own intent. Wipe the blade in the juice then follow your own consecration or cleansing routines. I would normally leave the item in the light of the full moon, then cleanse it again with incense, a candle flame, water and salt or earth.

Garlic is also protective against those trying to harm you, particularly those who are trying to de-energise you or weaken you somehow. In this way, it is excellent protection against vampires- the psychic kind, anyway.

Home and Hearth

In the corner of each room, at the new moon, place a pot with a cut clove of garlic or a cut onion and a cut lemon. Think about how you wish your space to be your own, and imagine dirt and discomfort being sucked away. Clean the rooms and leave the pot until the full moon. At the full moon, the time of things coming to fruition, remove the pots and dispose of the garlic and lemon either by burying or burning (safely!). Do not use these fruit and veg as offerings in anyway. They are now full of germs and harmful energies and need to be removed from your home. Open the windows and let cleansing air into your rooms. Your home should feel lighter, more pleasant and safe.

Alternatively, you can run this spell from new moon to dark moon, which is more effective if you have a specific dark energy to expel, as the dark moon is a powerful time for exorcism and banishment.

I Never Knew…

Apparently garlic can be used to kill tree stumps. Instead of opting for harsh chemicals, drill some holes in the stump and insert garlic cloves, then cover with wood filler and soil. The garlic releases chemicals into the stump that prevent the regrowth of the tree. Bizarre, but apparently effective!