The Bad Witch’s Guide

January, 2018


The Bad Witch’s Guide to Poppets


I am a bad witch. There are a long list of reasons why I am a bad witch. Having been out of the broom closet for some considerable number of years I would on occasion get asked “but you’re a good witch though?” My response to that depending on the person asking but I found I started to say “yes, a very, very good witch” rather darkly as it usually got the point across.

As someone who has only relatively recently learned to sew I had to get crafty with poppets. I am quite cool about substitutes like onions and lemons (as someone who LOVES to cook).

Salt dough


I started making my own salt dough for my family early on. I do suggest food colouring (and gloves) at least in the mixing stage otherwise it has a tendency to go a bit gray. Equal parts flour and salt with warm water added a bit at a time until it reaches a dough. You can add an oil to make it a bit more pliable but if you mix it then chill it it should work better without. Salt dough can be used to make decorations, altar pieces for Sabbat, and poppets to heal, or otherwise. To harden it drying it out in a low oven is best, but it does dry to a hard texture, a bit like crumbly clay.




Clay is old school! You can buy air clay and you won’t need to dry it in an oven or you could let it dry out slower. Again it quite hard when finished and you might need to “poppet it” (add openings, names and so on) before it’s dry. You can mix herbs and things into the clay but this will effect it’s structural qualities too. If you are going for a bigger poppet you will probably need an armature. An armature is a skeleton within an object to give it a structure. Small ones might need only a single piece of thin wire down the middle. Bigger poppets might need a wire body. Clay holds onto paint well when dried and if you are a person who paints well this can be valuable.




Fabric cut out with wool or other stuffings make a cheap and useful poppet. They take pins and other objects pretty well. You can put hair, or an old piece of clothes inside. You can add cursing herbs or spices and they soak up oils really well. It’s definitely a different experience than the clay or dough. An accomplished person can knock one out in very little time, but the rest of us it might take more than an evening. It’s lightweight and easy to carry with you.




There are a couple of ways you can make wooden poppets. You can use the carving method which requires a lot of skill and tools. The peg method (a wooden clothes peg can make a quick and useful poppet in a pinch). Or you can make a bundle doll. A simple cross bundle bound with thread can make and excellent poppet or spirit doll. You can use all kinds of woods, all kinds of thread, from silks to rough jute and soak it in oils or tinctures. You can glue the threads or even wax them (making them easier to burn in a fire) to keep the binding together. You can of course combine materials and use clay and the like to make the thread hold. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you like.



I am a crafty witch, in all senses and I got into needle-felting recently and I love it. It’s sculpting with pointy needles! While you do need wool and felting needles (which can vary in price a lot) a simple set is not that expensive. What you don’t pay in money, prepare to pay in blood! No needle felter doesn’t stab themselves (with varying degrees of pain and blood loss) while making things. Sure you can by leather finger protectors but I never stab myself in the same place twice! That said you can make rather good likenesses, have a whole spectrum of colours and shades of wool to choose from and with an armature you can make them quite big. I have been making a lot of fae dolls this way (they just want to be made) and there is this strange alive quality to them even before they are finished.


Roots and Vegetables


From pumpkins to turnips we have been carving faces for a very long time of vegetables. My turnip head is still there from Samhain last year (and yes it’s terrifying). You can carve or make poppets from roots like ginger and even odd shaped carrots, or just parts like heads, or phallic symbols in all kinds of vegetables. They do perish (some more quickly than others) which can be great (or not) depending on what you want. Can be burned reasonably safely and put in rushing water without too much issue (polluting is bad people). You can also squish them quite well too, should you feel the need and compost with clear(ish) conscience. Being as they tend to be wet (ooh er) things like photographs, or other connections can be damaged in trying get them into the poppet. That said that might be a bonus and they take pins and such really well.




This is one I don’t often use but one of my friends is great at this one! They are not “pretty” but they have such a power to them. Good for a short sharp shock. They burn well (obviously) and if you do it right they burn themselves! So try and make sure if you are using a wicked candle to try and keep it central to the poppet. A candle, a craft knife and a hot spoon to smooth things out are all you need. It’s a cheap and powerful way to make poppets. You can of course buy and melt wax and sculpt it from scratch but it requires a double boiler and a lot of patience. This way means you can add oils, herbs, hair, photographs and so on. They take pins well and if you leave in a cool place can last a long time. No so great for throwing in water but good for jar work and fire work.


Grasses, Cornstalks, Such Like



Corn dollies are a very old poppet material. Good wheat stems can vary on how easy they are to find and there are hundreds of ways to weave these little lovelies. Dependent on the material weaving can be a simple or complicated business. It’s more like stalk origami than true weaving but you get some lovely pieces. They are a lot of work and you might not want to use them as a poppet unless you are really pressed. That said they are a beautiful and ancient form of poppet and it would be remiss of me to leave them out. They can last years, but don’t take pins well. You could use them as a basic armature for something like clay on top.
A good poppet is what you need in the moment. Whether it is for healing, focusing a group spell or cursing the crap out of someone making your own is an empowering and therapeutic thing.

A Hereditary Witch on Hexing

October, 2017




Hexing, this is a word that conjures up images of Shakespeare’s witches in Macbeth huddled over a bubbling cauldron; of the Sanderson sisters in Hocus Pocus and of Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax (who doesn’t love that ol’ gal). Bring up hexing at a Meet-up or discussion group and suddenly you are bombarded by someone quoting the Three Fold Law, The Wiccan Rede and Karma.


According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary:
Hex – \’heks\ verb Etymology: Pennsylvania German hexe, from German hexen, from Hexe witch, from Old High German hagzissa; akin to Middle English hagge hag. Date 1830
1: to put a hex on 2: to affect as if by an evil spell.


How many of you have hexed? No one, are you sure? Hmm. Well, how many of you have flipped someone off on the freeway while uttering curse words? How about having God (your choice of which) condemn someone to hell by uttering ‘God damn…’. These are just two examples of using hexes without even realizing it. Take ‘flipping’ someone off for example; you use the power of words fueled by the power of your negative emotions while adding a gesture and guess what, you just hexed someone. Of course you don’t literally want the person to ‘Go F’ himself, you’re upset, but you did put the energy out there through thought and action and in some way it will manifest, even though you will never know in what way. We talk about responsibility in the pagan/magical community, but how responsible are we really. When it suits us? Have you ever considered recalling or grounding the energy you sent forth?


“Those who can’t Hex, can’t Heal.” This one has been around for a long time. Hexing and healing are two sides of the blade; you can’t have one without the other. I’ve been an energy healer my entire life and 20 years ago I became a Reiki Master. I know from experience that when a work of healing begins it starts off as a hex. The energy goes to the damaged or blocked place in the body and forces it, pushes it, dissolves it or moves it out, then and only then can the healing energy come through. In Reiki we call this a Healing Crisis. This can also happen in reflexology. For example: my son does intuitive reflexology. He worked on my feet one day and I went into cold chills and shakes as the energy went through my organs and cleared out the toxins. Afterwards I felt better than I had in a long while.


Some years ago I was invited to a circle of women to enact a hex on a serial rapist in the area. The woman leading the group knew one of the women who had been raped. We worked up a curse that this person would be caught by his own means. A week later, the police had evidence that led them to the rapist. He was convicted.


In my family we prefer to use the term ‘justification magic’, but a hex is a hex. This is something we use vary sparingly and we don’t use it for petty problems. Example: Your boyfriend/husband leaves you for your best friend. Hurt, angry, devastated, vengeful; yeah, you are probably all those things. Hex the person? No. Its’ life, it happens, it’s unfortunate, but it happens.


There is a fine line between life’s lessons and someone who unjustly attacks you or your family. It takes a strong sense of knowing who you are and what you are capable of at a core level. It also means being able to accept the responsibility, if you are wrong.


When my daughter was in her early 20’s, her boyfriend dumped her on Valentine’s Day.  They lived together in a house with his mother. He began dating a friend of hers and she began finding stuff missing from her room. She told me she was moving in with her dad and that she was planning a trip out of state to visit a friend. She had been putting money away for this trip.


Not long after, she discovered that her bank account had been drained of all assets. She contacted the bank and apparently someone had used her ATM card as a credit card to place orders on line.  She filed a report with her bank and contacted the online shops where her ATM was used. They weren’t of much help. She did everything she could do legally. I did not know any of this was going on at the time. Then she came to me.


I asked her if her ex-boyfriend had her ATM card number, she said no. I asked her where she left her purse unattended, she said at work and when she lived at the ex-boyfriends. As she is telling all of this to me and I see the hurt and frustration on her face, I felt dead calm inside. I uttered a verbal curse, and sent the energy out to whom ever did this and that they should suffer in like kind, until the money was returned or they confessed to what they had done.


Sometime later, I heard that her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend left him. His mom moved out of the house to move in with her boyfriend. He lost his job and his place he was renting. He lived out of his car and by the grace of a friend, allowed to park the car in his parent’s driveway. The parents however, wouldn’t let him stay in the house.


Three months passed, the bank returned all of my daughter’s money and at that moment the hex was nil. Within 3 days of her money being returned, her ex-boyfriend got a job and his entire livelihood turned positive. He also eventually moved out of state, that was just an extra bonus.


I mentioned the Three Fold Law, The Wiccan Rede and Karma at the beginning of this column. Here are my take on those:


Three Fold Law:
We do not adhere to what you put out returns to you three time good/bad. We believe that magic is like casting a stone into a pond. If the stone (hex) is cast right the ripples move outwards until they hit their target, but never reach back to the center. In attraction magic, the stone must be cast harder so that the ripples return to center.


The Wiccan Rede:
The Rede (translates as to advice or given counsel too) is part of a tradition that we do not belong to. However, I have seen how this has helped many people become more positive and thoughtful on how they act and live their lives.


Karma gets bandied about way too much and is often misunderstood. Karma works with a person’s Dharma. Dharma is the life lessons you come here to work on in this life. Karma is the retribution if you stray from your Dharma. Eastern philosophy is beautiful, but it is also not part of my tradition.


Summing up, I am not an advocate for anyone to start hexing. This is something I trained in and which is part of my tradition. I do not hex indiscriminately and I always give on ‘out’ for the hex to break. Over the course of my life, I can count on one hand the hexes I have performed all of them ending positively for both parties. You should always have one good hex in your magical arsenal. Better to have one and not need it, that to need it and not have one.


Blessings on your Hearth and Home

Rebel Rede

June, 2010

To Hex or Not to Hex

When I first became a witch the word Hex was not in my vocabulary.  In the beginning of my witchcraft studies I learned that “good” witches do not believe in hexing. Wiccans and most other Pagans do not use magic for any type of negative spells, especially the witches who follow the Wiccan Rede, “An ye harm none…”  This is one of the reasons that the mundane community often refers to Wiccans as “white witches” or why you hear the term “white magic.” Just like most beliefs systems and cultures though, what you first learn is only the beginning. Once you start to scratch the surface you will find many more layers hidden below the publically visible surface.

I first learned that some Wiccans and modern witches practice hexing when I was introduced to Dianic Wicca and Zbudapest. I was very surprised when I read Zbudapest’s article on hexing rapists. Hexing, I thought was not something Wiccans or modern witches did. While I was very uncomfortable with the idea of hexing I did understand what Zbudapest was saying and her reasoning behind practicing this forbidden “dark magic.” I took a vow to never practice hexing personally, but my view of hexing and witchcraft was slowly starting to expand and open. As I grew in my Wiccan and witchcraft studies I came to discover Hoodoo and other African based witchcraft.  This was when I was even more surprised to learn that many traditions of witchcraft in fact do practice hexing and not just hexing, but cursing and death magic as well. My first reaction to this was shock, death magic, and I thought the idea of hexing was bad!  I began to study Hoodoo, Voodoo, Vodou, and the other African Traditional Religions (ATR’s) in more depth. What I discovered is that hexing, crossing, jinxing, and cursing are all alive and well here in the US (and around the world for that matter).

As my knowledge of hexing expanded my view of hexing expanded. Is hexing really all that bad? Are there times we can justify hexing? Most Wiccans and witches do believe in self defense, so what if hexing is the form of self defense you choose to use? If someone harms you first is hexing them back breaking the Wiccan Rede? Most Wiccans are horrified at the idea of using death magic, but what if a death spell could save millions of lives? I have to admit it would have been pretty tempting to put a death spell on Hitler if I lived during his lifetime.

Personally, I have never put a hex on anyone, but I have learned how to if I ever decide to. I have not made my final decision on hexing just yet, but I am more open to the idea now then I was at the beginning of my witchcraft studies. I may never use hexing, who knows, but I think it is important to at least hear the other side of the story. Maybe hexing isn’t so taboo after all, the world of magic is limitless and wide open. Remember, we may not all agree on what is morally acceptable when using magic, but we are all witches. Hexing or no hexing, we are still a community, a family.

Roll of a Mentor

August, 2009

Learning Braucherei

Traditionally, magickal systems would be learned from another person face to face.  As I have discussed before, information available from print and online sources have enabled the seeker to learn without a teacher, although it is of great help to have other Pagans for learning and discussion.  One tradition that still places emphasis on in person learning is variously known as Braucherie, Powwow, or Hexerie.

Braucherie originated among German immigrants to the US in Pennsylvania; erroneously called “Pennsylvania Dutch” because they referred to themselves as Deutsch (German).  The practice of magick was shunned by the Amish and Mennonites, who were among these immigrants, but considered it evil.  These immigrants brought with them a system of folk magick in the form of chants both spoken and written, actions performed with household objects such as ribbon, yarn, pins and eggs, a specially selected stone, use of herbs, and talismans.  They also brought a grimoire called The Sixth and Seventh of Moses, which contrary to claims of antiquity, was actually compiled  in Germany in 1849 by Johan Scheible.  This soon became secondary to another book of magick called The Long Lost Friend by John George Hohlman, first published in 1820, whose secondary title was The Powwower, a term often applied to this tradition.  Personally, I prefer not to use the term to avoid confusion with Native American traditions.

The primary focus of Braucherie has always been healing and this is one of the main reasons I was attracted to it as well as my mainly German ancestry.  I have used it quite a few times to stop minor bleeding (a common use)  as well as to help heal sprains, sore muscles and burns.  My first use of it in healing occurred when my dad burned his left hand improperly mixing fireworks chemicals.  I broke the rules by “trying”, as working magick is known in this system, for my dad without his permission, but I believe the Gods allowed it because of the close relationship.  Practitioners did not discourage their clients from conventional medical care and normally accepted only donations.  My dad went to the ER and followed up by seeing a dermatologist and applying a prescribed salve and I’m glad to say that his hand healed completely with no scars or loss of use.

Some other applications for this variety of folk magick were overcoming adversity, gaining luck, protection against negative magick, animals and natural disaster.  The most famous form of protection was the Himmelsbrief, literally meaning “Heaven’s letter”, elaborately worded and decorated documents, many of them never opened by the bearer, which implored protection against war, fire, flood, deadly disease and other disasters.  Their use almost certainly peaked during WW I when perhaps tens of thousands of soldiers and sailors carried one.

The most famous magickal symbol and the only aspect of Braucherie familiar to most people is the hex sign.  These round colorful designs were first seen painted directly on barns and later became popular as signs that were often displayed on or by front doors, sheds, garages and inside homes.  Some people say they are “chust for fancy”, meaning merely decorative, but many of them incorporate magickal meanings in symbols such as the distelfink (finch), tulip, heart, geometric patterns and color correspondences.  In German, the word Hex means magick without a negative connotation like in English.

A tragic chapter in the history of this tradition occurred in November 1928, when John Blymire and two accomplices murdered braucher Nelson Rehmeyer in his home in rural York County, Pennsylvania.  Blymire had become convinced that a personal run of bad luck was caused by a curse placed on him by Rehmeyer and it could only be broken by cutting off a lock of the braucher’s hair and burning his magickal book, but sadly, while attempting this, they killed him and unsuccessfully tried to burn down his house.  The subsequent trial, which was well publicized, dealt a serious blow to the practice of magick in Pennsylvania, causing many to see it as a dangerous superstition and those who kept it alive to practice quietly. (1)

As with many other systems of folk magick, Braucherie practitioners insisted that it did not conflict with them being Christian and resented being called witches.  Often, chants include references to Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Trinity as well as drawing equal armed crosses in the air.  Some practitioners also included Bible verses or used the book as a magickal tool.  While Christian practitioners have a monotheistic theology that recognizes God and Satan, Heathen practitioners call upon Germanic gods and goddesses, particularly Frau Holda, and draw upon Northern European myths and folklore.  Many of these prefer the term Hexerie, which comes from the German word for Witch, “Hexe”.  It is only been in recent years that it has been studied and practiced from a Pagan perspective, leading to Urglaawe which is the study of Germanic spirituality, myths and folklore by those who call them the first ways. (2)

Whether one desires to learn Braucherei as the primary focus of their spiritual path or as a useful art to add to their magical practice, one needs to address the question as to whether it must be learned in person or if self study is valid.  Like any other question, there is more than one viewpoint worth considering.  I am thankful to several members of the Yahoo group Hexenkunst for their input.

Like I said at the beginning, traditionally the only way to learn was in person, normally from someone of the opposite sex who was often a blood relative.  I heard from members who told me they were taught by relatives and one said he was the apprentice of Jesse of The Three Sisters, an educational foundation dedicated to the teaching and preservation of Pennsylvania Dutch folklore, spirituality and traditions.  He added that traditional practitioners took a dim view of learning only from books.  Jesse also wrote me explaining that it would be difficult to learn energy manipulation as well as the correct pronunciation of Deitsch (local German dialect) words used in chants without in person contact.  She added that her and her husband learned from older brauchers as well as gaining much information through interviews with them.  One Wiccan tradition, Black Forest, incorporates this magickal practice and its founder learned it the traditional way.

However, for many who desire to learn, in person training is not possible.  In recent decades, this magic has mainly been practiced by seniors, many of whom passed without finding an apprentice even among their relatives.  I heard from someone who wanted to learn, but the only brauchers in her family were great-grandmothers who were deceased.  Since this tradition is quite local, mainly south central Pennsylvania, living outside this area would require travel to learn in person or attend festivals.  I heard from a man calling himself Oracle from Bucks County Pennsylvania who explained that he learned from books because he felt quite drawn to this practice and German spirituality in general, but could not find a teacher, although he later found his brother, a former student of a hexenmeister who became his mentor.  He figured he must be doing something right as his magick had been successful, as mine has been.  My learning has also been through books and the only German I speak is what little I remember from high school, which I never use in magick and is High German anyway.

A good compromise would be an online course and one is offered by The Three Sisters, lasting a year and requiring minimal travel.  Personally I believe that in person learning is best, but there is nothing wrong with book learning or distance learning, in my opinion, if the student is sincere and has accurate information as well as the dedication to learn then apply it.  I believe that initiation comes from the Gods who teach and guide all who are willing and listen with their hearts.  Requiring lineage raises the inevitable question of who initiated the first magickal practitioner.  While I respect and agree with those who desire to keep this practice traditional in both its form and teaching, I feel it needs to respond to the needs of those who sincerely desire to follow it but do not fit the traditional mold.  As the Three Sisters Center says on its website, ” We believe that this living being of culture and tradition must be continuously nurtured and allowed to evolve, recognizing that otherwise it would stagnate and die.” (3)

(1) “History of Rehmeyer’s Hollow” http://rehmeyershallow.com/?TabId=57

(2) “Urglaawe” http://www.thortrains.com/utmo/Urglaawe.htm

(3) “Three Sisters Center” http://www.threesisterscenter.com/