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Gael Song

July, 2019

The
Druid Garden, Edible Forest Magic

Because
I worry about the overuse of chemicals across the earth, monoculture
on huge farms that leave the soil depleted, the clear cutting of
trees for building, so soil that has taken 500 years to build up is
washed away in the next big storm or two, I am hooked on
edible forest gardens! They are meant to be as simple as can be,
ending up as a hunter-gatherer’s dream come true. And EASY! All
those Monsanto chemicals kill the network of tiny micronutrients in
the soil, too, organisms that break down organic matter into forms
the plants and trees can absorb. Without micronutrients, plants and
trees starve. If you are using herbicides on your grass, stop,
now! Overuse of chemicals has killed off most of the honeybees, too,
so those massive farms are now in a pollinator crisis. But honeybees
think an edible forest garden is heaven on earth and come zooming in
to thrive all summer long. If food grows scarce in the future from
all those Monsanto misuses, the edible forest garden is my personal
hope for a simple and natural solution. Everyone should have one!

This
year, I moved into a new home, (one I own as opposed to rentals for
many years) so, I could FINALLY have an edible garden of my very own!
This has been the most fun part of moving, joy that is only
beginning as the apples and blueberries plump up and ripen. I will
take you through the whole building process, so you can see how any
five year old could do this. Beginning a garden after a move is the
best possible time because my gardens always begin with sheet
mulching, a permaculture technique in which cardboard is laid down
over grass and weighted with a few stones to keep it from blowing
away. I recycled very little cardboard from my move. And in 3-4
months, the grass underneath has died and the cardboard disintegrated
to become organic matter in the soil, enriching it. Be sure to remove
the plastic tape and staples, though (the plastic comes off as easily
as can be after the cardboard has been outside through a few rains).
Sheet mulching eliminates the need for rototilling or digging to turn
grass under, both of which also disturb the micronutrient network
beneath the soil for 2 years or more. Sheet mulching is a peaceful,
simple way to prepare an area for planting, cardboard best laid down
in the fall for spring planting.

Every
edible forest garden has three layers, a tall tree canopy, an
intermediate height shrubby level, and ground covers. Many druids
believe in three realms; above, middle, and below just like this. And
a forest garden especially is druid to the core! And once the
ground covers fill in, there’s no need for mulching with bark or
sawdust on the soil level. I was surprised how many plants will fruit
or bear under a thin tree canopy in dappled shade. And plants in
edible forest gardens are meant to be perennial. Yes, perennial! This
means NO digging once the initial planting is done (with the possible
exception of a bit of weeding before those ground covers fill in Such
edible forest gardens have the most PEACEFUL undisturbed feeling when
they mature, like Eden. And one can walk through and harvest nuts or
fruit or greens for years to come with very little care. I only add
compost around my forest plants in the spring, for compost is loaded
with micronutrients, and all my plants sigh in pleasure when it gets
watered in, I can feel it. Then, aside from harvesting, which is pure
delight, not work, and a bit of pruning or weeding, and organic
spraying on the fruit trees if pests come in (I’ve dusted mine with
spinosad only once this year), that’s the only work an edible
forest garden needs every year.

Some
of the plants can get out of hand, and you’ll have to decide how
much of this you want to tolerate when you choose what to put in.
Most edible forest gardens look like a jungle when they mature. But I
am one of those folks who likes neat drawers, closets, and gardens,
so I put my plants in sections, rounded edges (another permaculture
principle, no straight lines. Research shows there is much more
growth and activity with curved borders between plants.), with a path
up through them that is mulched in brown bark. So, it all looks
exactly like a tree with branches of plant families and companions,
as druid as can be. See the photo above (taken before the chicken
wire went up to keep out the very chubby groundhog family living
nearby who entertain me every evening now that they are no longer
eating my dill and lettuce to the ground!). The mulch in the small
beds is sawdust I got free from a nice man who cuts and sells wood
for heating a few houses away (You do need to add some nitrogen when
using mulches because they deplete it when they break down, a little
manure, for instance.). Next year or maybe by fall, all those saw
dusted areas should be filled in and green. By spring of next
year, I will have zero mulching to do. Only adding some
nutrient rich compost here and there and popping yummy produce into
my mouth!

So,
let’s talk about plants that will thrive in a part shade, forested
space. Of course, this greatly depends on the climate, and you’ll
need to check what temperature number your own location is in when
you choose what to put in. I’m in southern New England, so a lot of
the edible plants in the texts about them won’t work here, heat and
jungle type plants mostly. (In the south, you can have a ball with
this!). Many edible forest plants I read about in texts also are
quite unusual, hard to find, and with acquired tastes and reactions
one has to watch out for if they aren’t cooked properly (like
sunchokes-cook those babies really well or you will be on the pot all
night long!). In my own little garden, I chose trees with leaves and
branching patterns that don’t completely block the sun. I have a
Butternut tree (sometimes called a white walnut), a white Oak for
acorns (just shell them, boil for 10 minutes, changing the water
three to four times to get out the tannins, and grind up immediately
[they get hard very quickly] and store in the freezer for use in
baking, very nutritious, indeed and as druid as trees!
A friend of mine suggested putting them in a pillow case and running
them through the washing machine to get out the tannins but I haven’t
tried that yet, maybe this year. Tannins make the nuts bitter, a
taste that is hard to get rid of in your mouth, too. The Native
Americans put their acorns in nets and left them in streams for a few
days to get the bitterness out. And it’s impossible to get tannins
out of black oak acorns, no matter how much rinsing you do. Use fruit
only from oaks with rounded tips on their leaves, not the pointed
ones, and you’ll be fine. I have Paw-Paw trees in my edible garden,
too, which are native to the US, even in the north, fruit well in
part shade, and grow large delicious fruit that tastes like vanilla
pudding! Yum! And I put in a small fig tree, too, which is hardly
native and not truly hardy here. But a friend of mine has figs he’s
grown for many years in his orchard. He makes a columnar box of 2”
thick, hard insulation, ties the fig branches loosely together in a
tall central stalk, and puts the insulation box over them after one
or two frosts in early November here. The insulation box needs to go
all the way to the ground and be tied or weighted down to survive
winter storms, too Then my friend takes the box off just as the
weather starts to warm in spring, just before the last frost in early
April (protecting the tree if there is a late frost but opening it up
to air out as the warmth comes in. Leaving the insulation on too late
results in mold all over the tree.) And his figs are leafed out and
budded with fruit well ahead of the rest of his orchard and produce
really well with this method. I’ve been aching to try this ever
since he first showed me. And I put in a semi-dwarf cherry tree and
apple here, too, both of which I keep pruned down to a reachable
level. (Most fruit trees now are grafted to roots of smaller growing
types, so they will not get too large and need far less pruning than
the older, full-height varieties.) So, those are my tree canopy
plants for my first-year forest garden. I have a feeling my edible
forest “tree” will be expanding and growing with new plants every
year, but this was enough for me right after a move. I am aching for
several more varieties of apples and cherries, a plum, and a native
persimmon, though. (Edible forest gardening can be a bit addictive,
fair warning!)

My
shrub level then has elderberries, raspberries, and half-high
blueberry bushes, too (North Country, with fruit that tastes like
those wonderful lowbush Maine wild ones). Wild blueberry pie, mmmm!
I’ve planted the raspberries in their own section on the side of
the yard and will mow the narrow strip in between other “branches”
of my forest garden, since raspberries send shoots off into the wild
blue yonder and need to be contained a bit if you don’t want them
all over your yard. All these are easy care plants, too, only the
raspberries needing any canes that have turned brown cut to the
ground after summer fruiting (not the fall fruiting or you’ll have
no berries next summer!) All plants need regular watering, soil full
of humus, and most need good drainage as well.

Of course, the ground cover level is lowbush blueberries! Along with alpine strawberries, both of which fruit well in dappled sun/shade, so are utterly perfect for a forest garden. I have regular strawberries, too, in front, so they get the sun they need, along with herbs like sage and rosemary, etc. I added a very few annual plants in between this year, too, since there’s so much sun under the new little trees and space between baby ground cover plants I could not resist filling in with eggplant, cabbage, lettuces, parsley, nasturtiums for my salads, and dill (These all need full sun). Once my trees grow big enough and the ground covers take over, the veggies will need a sunny spot of their own. And, of course, they have to be planted every year, so are not true edible forest garden plants, taking more work and requiring digging every year. But there are perennial vegetables, too; onions, leeks, broccoli that is mostly like cauliflower, asparagus, spinaches, and many more to choose from that I haven’t listed here. (See the book Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier, the edible garden guru.)

Put
on your druid robe as you plant and carry your wizard wand, for this
is the happiest, most delightful and druid way of gardening there is
in the world. You’ll create your own Avalon. And you’ll have
moons of delicious things to eat with little to no work to
produce them. There you have it, edible forest gardening, as magic as
can be!

***

About
the Author:

Jill Rose Frew, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, energy healer, workshop leader, and author. She will be opening a school teaching light healing and the Celtic path of enlightenment in 2019. For information, please see www.CelticHeaven.com

Guardians of the Celtic Way: The Path to Arthurian Fulfillment on Amazon

Notes from the Apothecary

July, 2019

Notes from the Apothecary: Book Recommendations

Hi
all! Summer is here, and we might all need to take a break from the
heat every now and then. With that in mind, I thought it might be
good to give you a little insight into the books I use to help me
craft each month’s Notes from the Apothecary. Then you’ll have
some light reading to do while you’re sat in a nice air-conditioned
room somewhere- or out in the park!

I
love plants of all types, and often my research comes from
experience. However, when looking at the medical uses, particularly
from bygone eras, I refer to many different volumes. I also have a
few go-to manuals when it comes to magical interpretations of plants.
Here are a few of my favourites.

Mrs Grieve’s A Modern Herbal, 1931

This book is an absolute treasure trove. She references so many older naturalists and botanists and makes it really easy to cross reference and find the original sources for the information she’s providing. The wealth of plants in here is astonishing, and the fact that the whole book is available online too makes it invaluable to anyone with an interest in herbs. She includes snippets of folklore as well as medicinal uses for all the plants, and includes many different common names to make it easier to find the plant you are looking for.

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal

Born in 1616, Culpeper’s work is still surprisingly relevant in many ways. His Complete Herbal, originally known as The English Physician, is an astonishing catalogue of hundreds of herbs, all with medicinal uses. He took pride in his combination of experience, reason, diligence and honesty, and had a healthy respect for nature. His work is so interesting to us because it is due to his descriptions of medicinal plants and their uses that many were shipped to the New World to be used as medicines there. The world might be a very different place, botanically speaking if not for the writing of Nicholas Culpeper.

A Kitchen Witch’s World of Magical Plants and Herbs by Rachel Patterson

This book from experienced Kitchen Witch Rachel Patterson explains about the different magical energy plants have and how to harness them. It helps novices grow their own plants and explains the best ways to harvest and store leaves, seeds, and flowers. It’s a wonderful reference for any witch, with plenty of correspondences.

A Kitchen Witch’s World of Magical Herbs & Plants on Amazon

Cunningham’s Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham

It’s important to note that I don’t agree with everything Mr Cunningham has to say. Regular readers will infer my written roll of the eyes at yet another reference to a plant that automatically has water-Venus-feminine energy. I find this volume often over simplified and lacking in detail which can be easily extrapolated from older herbals or items of folklore. However, it has an astonishing range of folk and common names to cross reference, and is an amazing starting point for anyone wanting to know what the magical significance of any plant may be. The inclusion of snippets of folk magic for each plant are useful and exciting to both the casual and serious researcher. Cunningham’s is often my starting point before delving deeper into any particular plant.

[Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs] (By: Scott Cunningham) [published: April, 2000] on Amazon

By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root by Melusine Draco

The
tagline for this book is “The shadow world of plants and their
poisons”. That’s exactly what this book is: a focus on the plants
we often try to avoid, but which are, obviously , incredibly
magically and spiritually significant. The books explores poisons
which can also be medicines as well as looking at the uses of
poisonous plants in various types of magic. An engaging read and a
great reference.

Pagan Portals – By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root: The Shadow World Of Plants And Their Poisons on Amazon

I
hope you enjoy my recommendations, and please drop me a line
(Twitter: @Mabherick) if there’s a particular plant you’d like me
to explore- whether that’s a herb, flower or tree. Until next time!

***

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 & 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

April, 2019

Notes
from the Apothecary: Chilli

Chili is a useful medicinal and magical plant. This spicy fruit is delicious in a variety of cuisines, from Mexican to Indian and many in between. Modern research has found many health benefits, and the modern witch can use chili for a range of spells and magics. Chili is a beautiful plant, with striking foliage and stunning, glossy fruits ranging from scarlet to shades so deep they’re nearly black- perfect for the inner goth! Read on to find out why chili is such a useful ingredient for mundane and magical use.

The
Kitchen Garden

Not everyone likes spicy food, but chili pepper adds flavour as well as heat. It’s all about choosing the right chili and getting the quantities right. As this isn’t a cookery blog, I won’t go into too much detail- I could wax lyrical for days about the tastes of different chilies! But it’s worth noting that you can vastly remove the heat of any chili you want to cook with by removing the seeds.

We use scotch bonnets for when we want a deep, savoury flavour- often in dishes that are slow cooked as these chilies handle this really well. We use jalapenos to throw in to pasta or fajitas, or tiny birds eye chilies to add bite to Thai or Chinese food. I’m a total chili addict, and even when we don’t have fresh chilies in the house, I always have some dry habaneros for emergencies, plus a frankly ridiculous range of pepper sauces.

Currently, I even have some dried scorpion chili- not for the faint hearted!

Growing chilies is pretty easy if you have a hot, sunny garden, or a greenhouse, or a decent sized window-sill that catches the sun. I grow mine indoors as I live in a cool climate. I plant a few seeds in moist soil in a pot, cover them with a clear plastic bag or upside-down soda bottle, and wait for them to germinate. Once they have several leaves, I put them into individual pots. Then, it’s all about making sure they’re watered- but not too much- and have access to light. I also manually pollinate the flowers, in the absence of pollinators!

The
Apothecary

Mrs Grieve refers to cayenne pepper in her Modern herbal, but also uses the synonyms bird pepper and African pepper, so it’s clear she’s talking about hot chilies in general. She states it is a powerful stimulant, and aids in digestion although it can also cause problems due to chili being an irritant. Indeed, one of the reasons hot chilies are added to food is to increase the stomach acid in order to kill more bacteria- useful in hot climes where it is hard to keep food cool and fresh.

She states that in the West Indies, a concoction called Mandram is made with chili, citrus, cucumber and onion as a remedy for weak digestion. Gargling with a tiny amount of chili in rose water was a remedy for sore throats or a relaxed uvula- not recommended without expert experience!

The
Witch’s Kitchen

Cunningham tells us that chili is a masculine herb, rule over by Mars- no surprise, considering the fiery connotations! He also states it is one of the plants associated with fidelity and can be used to break hexes or reveal hidden things. One of the spells he shares is for when you fear your lover is straying. Cross two dried chili peppers then tie them with red or pink ribbon. Sleep with the peppers beneath your pillow to ensure your partner’s loyalty to you. Adding chili powder to love spells will ensure the love is passionate or ‘hot’.

Pueblo and Hopi tribes have used chili pepper in rituals, and Maya tribes believed the chili had healing and protective powers. Columbus was attacked with flaming chili bombs full of habaneros when he arrived in the ‘New World’- an appropriate response, really. There is a Zuni legend which tells the strange story of the origins of the chili plant. Thunder and lightning were stolen from the gods, and two youths played with them until the accidentally killed their grandmother. Where they buried her, the chili plant grew, its fruits imbued with the fiery power of her scolding tongue.

Chili flakes are used in Hoodoo to jinx an enemy, in various powders and dusts. Sprinkling chili around a rival’s home brings them bad luck and difficulties in life. Chili can cause break ups or make an unwanted guest leave. However, it’s also used for cleansing.

I
Never Knew…

The
Latin name capsicum is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘to
bite’, referring to the spiciness when eaten.

***

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 & 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

March, 2019

Notes from the Apothecary: Witch Hazel

Witch
Hazel is the name for six types of hazel-like flowering tree or
shrub. Four are native to North America, with hamamelis virginiana
being the most commonly used. The hazel part of the name refers
primarily to the leaves, which are very similar to those of the
Hazel. The ‘witch’ part isn’t as magical as we might hope,
sadly. It comes from the Old English word wice which means
bendy or pliant, and presumably refers to the twigs.

The
Kitchen Garden

Witch
hazel is grown either as a decorative plant or for its medicinal
qualities. It has strange, curling yellow to orange flowers which
brighten up the winter and early spring. You might notice that
flowers will appear while fruits are still present on the tree from
the previous season, something that can also occur with fruit trees
such as apple.

The
medicinal witch hazel is generally made from the bark or leaves of
the tree. If you have a small shrub in your garden, it’s better to
use the leaves if appropriate. Stripping the bark off a garden shrub
is likely to kill it. Witch hazel can grow into a fifteen-foot high
tree though at which point asking permission for a little of the bark
is probably okay.

The
Apothecary

Witch
hazel has a position of pride as one of the only complementary herbal
remedies that also has some FDA approval, although retailers and
manufacturers have to be careful about the claims they make about its
effectiveness. Witch hazel contains flavonoids, tannins and a
volatile oil with astringent actions: it pulls flesh back together
(somewhat) to stop bleeding. This is why it’s so good for cuts and
grazes.

Witch
hazel is probably one of the first natural remedies I remember being
given, with the possible exception of placing a dock leaf over a
nettle sting. My parents would soak a cotton wool ball in witch hazel
water and place it over bruises, scraped knees; whatever the injury
of the day was. Later in life, my friend recommended it for ‘down
there’ after my first child arrived, to help with the healing of
the wounds. Some in a maternity pad seemed to help, and was certainly
soothing, if nothing else. Obviously, always check with a doctor
before self-administering any medication.

Native
Americans have had a multitude of uses for witch hazel. The
Potawatomi steamed the twigs during a sweat lodge to ease muscle
aches. The Osage used the bark for sores on the skin. The Iroquoi
made a tea which they used to ease the symptoms of dysentery, which
makes sense when you think about the high amount of tannin in the
plant.

It’s
also been used as a treatment for piles, with some treatments
involving injecting the herbal tincture into the affected area. Don’t
try this at home!

The
Witch’s Kitchen

There’s
some delightful folklore associated with witch hazel. It’s worth
being cautious that any folklore you find isn’t actually referring
to standard Hazel though. This is of particular note with European
folklore, as hazel is associated with wisdom and magic, but it’s
not witch hazel, as witch hazel is native to North America and didn’t
arrive in Europe until probably the 18th century.

Witch
hazel twigs have been used for divination, again, like the common
hazel. They are used for finding water or treasure, and as such, have
a place in any magical ritual or spell to do with finding things.

Witch
hazel is also used as a catalyst for magic, to increase occult powers
or a connection to the other-worldly. It’s also associated with
protection from evil and negativity, and for mending hurts as well
inside spirit and soul as well as the bumps and scrapes it heal
outside the body.

Home
and Hearth

Witch
hazel is a folk remedy for snake bites, and a modern remedy for
insect bites. As such, it can be said to ‘take the sting out of
things.’ Take this literal meaning and make it metaphysical, and
use the plant to take the sting out of something that is bothering
you or causing you heartache.

If
you are lucky enough to have access to the flowers, place some on
your altar or in your sacred space. If you can’t get flowers, use
some store-bought witch hazel. Dap some on your palms (patch test if
you have never used it on your skin before, allergic reactions aren’t
fun!) and adopt a meditative pose with palms reaching towards the
sky. Visualise the witch hazel soaking into your skin, coursing
through your veins, gripping the source of your agony and carrying it
to your lungs.

Take a deep breath in through your nose, if you are able. Then breath out the hurt, breathe it all out. Imagine the witch hazel in your system like a friendly cleaner, taking all the toxic self-doubt, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and depositing those feelings in your lungs aaah, a physical mist you can simply breathe out. You can use a candle or artificial light to help focus your mind, or you can simply close your eyes and let the power of your imagination connect you to the healing power of the witch hazel.

I
Never Knew…

Due
to its astringent properties, witch hazel can be used as a skin
toner, closing up pores and making the face seem smoother.

Images credits: Hamamelis Virginiana, public domain, and Hamamelis Virginiana flowers by H. Zell, copyright 2009 and shared under this license.

***

About
the Author:

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

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestorsand 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

Book Review – Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple: An Introduction to Native American Astrology by Deborah Durbin

December, 2018

Book Review

Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple: An Introduction to Native American Astrology
by Deborah Durbin

 

I had a flashback to the 1980’s when I opened this book. I saw the system familiarized in Sun Bear and Wabun’s The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, complete with correspondences to animal totems, plants, crystal and moon correspondences for each astrological sign. So, this book is “New Age;” don’t pick it up thinking that you will learn find a new (or rather, ancient) system of working with cosmic forces here. And you won’t gain any insight into the cultural astronomy or archeoastronomy of the indigenous people of the Americas – the mythic tales of the stars brought down to Earth and how those energies affect human affairs.

That said, you will have a fun tool for broad astrological divination by the equivalent of your sun sign to play with. Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple offers a different lens for examining personality types, strengths and weaknesses, than the zodiac wheel we are used to. Like Sun Bear and Wabun’s book before it, this book uses a Northern American perspective on a seasonal calendar: winter is cold, summer is hot. The calendar wheel is divided into seasonal quadrants with a “ruling” animal totem for each. The wheel is further divided into 12 signs, like the familiar astrological signs, but ruled by animal totems instead of constellations. So, if like me, you are born between April 20th and May 20th, I am a Beaver, member of the Turtle Clan, born under the Frogs Return moon in the Spring Season rule d by spirit-keeper Wabun – Eagle on the East of the Medicine Wheel. My sign is also associated with blue camas plant, the color blue and the mineral chrysocolla. There are many correspondences to investigate here! Interestingly, the description of a Beaver personality was reminiscent of my Taurus self: “slow, methodical, practical, reserved…easygoing and slow to anger, but once roused, they can have a fierce temper…” My compatibility with other signs is similar to my astrological compatibility – I am married to a Snake (Scorpio)!

Durbin has included a section on finding your personal animal totem. She discusses a shadow totem, one that terrifies you, that tests you and teaches you what you need to overcome. Interestingly, mine is Snake, the opposite of my Beaver totem, containing the qualities that Beaver most lacks. And being married to a Snake, I have learned a lot from our differences. She also includes a short section on working with predictive Medicine Wheel astrology by throwing pebbles or shells, noting where they land, and interpreting the energies and qualities of the quadrant and sign in that section of the wheel.

It’s unfortunate that the book purports to be “An Introduction to Native American Astrology.” There are so many beautiful star myths, tales and creation stories in the traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. And the ancient Mayans had a complex astrological and seasonal calendar. And to imply that all Native American cultures used a homogenous system is stereotyping of the worst sort. Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, the book on which this one appears to be based, sourced itself in earth-based cycles rather than representing a specific “Native American” system. Medicine Wheel Plain and Simple is a New Age overlay of North American animal, plant and seasonal symbolism on the common horoscope wheel. But it is fun to play with! If you didn’t come across Sun Bear and Wabun’s book in the 1980’s, this one’s worth a look!

Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need on Amazon

***

About the Author:

Susan Rossi is a Practitioner and Teacher of Shamanism. She is a long-time explorer of The Mysteries – the connections between mind, body, spirit and how to live in right relationship to all of the energies streaming through the cosmos. She works with clients as an astrologer, coach, ceremonialist and guide to the wisdom that each of us has the capacity to access. Her focus is on guiding clients to unblock and rediscover their inner wisdom. , exploration of the birth chart, ceremony, legacy writing, hypnotherapy, energetic healing practice and creation of sacred tools are integral pieces of her practice.

Susan trained in Soul Level Astrology with master astrologer Mark Borax. She delights in exploring with individuals the planetary pattern under which their soul choose to incarnate.

Flying to the Heart www.flyingtotheheart.com

Open Channel Astrology: openchannelastrology.com

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

Notes from the Apothecary

October, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Mandrake

As we approach Samhain, I like to examine an herb or plant that has particular links to the season. Last year I explored the magic of the pumpkin, an obvious choice for the Halloween season. This year I wanted to dive deeper into folklore and magic, and the mandrake has been my mystical plant of choice.

Immortalised by J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series as the shrieking stars of herbology, the image of the human-like root screaming actually goes back to at least the 12th century. A medieval manuscript describes how the plant ‘shines at night like a lamp’ and that iron must be used to circle the plant to prevent it escaping, although the iron should never touch the plant. Other texts note that a dog must be used to pull the root up which, let me tell you, does not end well for the dog. Surrounded by magic, mystery, myth and superstition, this plant has a rich tradition of medicinal use and is a popular tool of modern witches and magical practitioners.

The Kitchen Garden


The true mandrake, mandragora officinarum, should never be eaten. It is hallucinogenic and narcotic, and can cause unconsciousness and even death. Sometimes people use bryonia alba, the false mandrake, as a substitute for mandragora. This plant is also highly poisonous. Another substitute is American Mandrake, which is poisonous in parts. Basically, if you come across anything purporting to be mandrake, don’t eat it!

The plants are beautiful, with springtime flowers of blue and white, and summer fruits sometimes known as devil’s apples. It needs really well drained soil to support those enormous roots, which can grow up to four feet in length. It also needs warm conditions and a good bit of sunshine to thrive, and a good quality compost for nutrients. Grown the plant well away from anywhere children and pets have access to. They can be grown from seed, or by separating the tubers.

The Apothecary

Six cures are described in the mediaeval Harley manuscript. One was for headaches and insomnia, whereby a salve of mandrake leaf juice was plastered to the head. Another was for earaches, and the juice was mixed with oil and poured directly into the ear. Another was a remedy for severe gout, but as it was administered in wine, I’m unsure how effective this would have been! Mandrake was also recommended for epilepsy, cramps and even colds.

Dioscorides, in his materia medica, also advised the plant was used to help insomniacs, but also that it seemed to have sedative and even anaesthetic properties. He did point out that ingesting too much was deadly!

Mrs Grieve states that the leaves are harmless and cooling and used to soothe ulcers, while the root and its bark is a strong emetic.

The Witch’s Kitchen

There is a belief that the mandrake only grew under the place where someone had been hanged. This gives it a dark association with death, possibly criminal activity, but also the oddly positive aspects of corporal punishment: law, order and justice. Called ‘little gallows man’ in Germany, the mandrake can be a symbol of ridding yourself of something you no longer need; of doling out ‘punishment’ to the things in your life you wish to drive away from you.

Dioscorides believed the root could be used in love potions.

The human like shape of the root speaks of transformation and hidden things. The mandrake reminds us not to judge a book by its cover, and that things are not always how they seem. We should always look twice, or as Terry Pratchett wrote, we should open our eyes, then open our eyes again.

In folklore, the cry of the mandrake caused either madness or death. Mrs Grieve writes that small doses of the root were used by ‘the Ancients in maniacal cases’, again connecting the root to madness and states of disconnection between the body and mind. Historically it was used to cure demonic possession, indicating it could be used to heal a disconnected body and mind, so there appears to be a contrary nature to this plant.

Mandrake can be used in any magical working to increase the potency of the spell, and in particular to increase psychic powers and prophetic magics.

Home and Hearth

Place a dried mandrake root on your mantelpiece to bring prosperity and joy into your home. Place a piece of mandrake on top of money, so a spare change pot or money box, and more money will enter your life. Hang one above the door to prevent demons or people with negative intentions from entering. Always keep out of the reach of children or pets!

I Never Knew…

As recently as the nineteenth century, mandrake roots were still being sold in Europe as charms to increase the libido.

*Images: Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) from Tacuinum Sanitatis manuscript (ca. 1390), public domain; mandragora autumnalis, copyright tato grasso 2006 via Wikimedia Commons; folio 90 from the Naples Dioscurides, a 7th century manuscript of Dioscurides De Materia Medica, public domain.

***

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

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

October, 2018

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times October 2018

Bright Blessings,

This is the end of the growing season for me due to the kinds of plants I grow, and I’ve already started fall cleanup. It’s also the time I begin planning what I will plant in fall, and I decide what I might like to consider growing come next Spring. I am busily reading bulb catalogs and selecting next years seeds.

Pulling the zinnias is always heartbreaking, but we had such heavy rains earlier in the month, they had been knocked over onto the sidewalk so badly, and I had no choice. They wouldn’t have been left another week even, however, as they were spent. The stems and roots were packaged up as yard waste, and the flower heads given to a neighbor friend who dotes on the neighborhood birds. The birds just love to munch on zinnia seeds in the flower heads!

Also, we are rolling towards Samhain, the final harvest, and in Westerville, the town just North of Columbus where I live, that means we are having pumpkin patch trips, apple picking days at orchards, and the last of our tomatoes we proudly grew all Summer are blessing us with abundant bounty.

It also means poison ivy for those of us doing cleanup. BAH! A neighbor told me to vinegar spray the heck out of them, and I am going to do that today.

I also did not plant as much this year and I’m glad I didn’t. My back has taken a turn for the worse, and although I am in physical therapy now, it’s been getting progressively worse for about five years now. I may have to accept downsizing the amount of plants I do from now on, and I am not happy about it.

The Good and the Bad

Like in the garden, there is good and bad in all things. Everybody wants the good, but facing the ugly realities happen to be something few care to do.

Instead of the typical Sabbat based article, I will be reviewing a couple of things that came up in pop culture that has a lot of feathers ruffled in our communities, discuss some things from a generation ago, and why we ought not to be so quick to fly off all angry or offended.

The Box

The first thing that made so many Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans angry was the Witch Starter Kit Sephora was about to release.

Various individuals blew up all over social media calling it theft, appropriation, offensive, infuriating, intolerable, and what have you. Many bloggers condemned it as sacrilege, and disrespectful of Witchcraft and Wicca, and there was such a public outcry, Sephora pulled the product, and they apologized.

Apparently, I am the only Wiccan/Witch/Pagan who was not in any way upset by this product.

Before you boycott me, or burn effigies of me, hear me out.

I am going to number the reasons why it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to be upset about this product.

  1. There are tons of similar kits out on shelves and have been for quite some time. What, you think the “Starter Voodoo Kit” you nabbed at Barnes and Noble or Half Priced Books when you were 17 were authentic and written by a real Voodoo priestess? Think again. You think the “Crystal Pack” you nabbed at a similar shop, or even a metaphysical store were by a real elder of the craft? Not necessarily. Both mainstream shops, and metaphysical shops sell such items on a daily basis and have for quite some time. Nobody who is raising hell and crying that Sephora’s kit is a great injustice to our sacred traditions seems upset about the other kits at all. This is no different.
  2. Look what is in it.
  1. A tarot deck, which you can get almost anyplace these days.
  2. A rose quartz crystal, which again, gets sold in kits constantly. We had a stash of different ‘crystals’ at a cavern where I was a tour guide, and you can nab then at various trendy shops at malls these days. Many non-metaphysical stores carry magical crystals, and nobody complains.
  3. White sage- which, I am sorry is not in any way European. It is Native to the American Southwest, and South America. So don’t tell me that was misappropriated by this company from European based Pagan and Witch traditions. WE took it from Native Americans. We take a LOT from their practices, and that is a proven fact. Witches use white sage, and don’t think twice about the fact we got it from somebody else. If we are allowed to incorporate practices from others, then others are allowed to incorporate our practices into theirs as well.
  4. Various good smelling tubes of something something.

Each of these products is sold to, sold by, and used by Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches on a daily basis. They are also sold by non-magical practitioners who want to earn money. Even some mainstream groceries carry essential oils these days, and I know of more than one organic market that has nag champa, white sage, and tons of essential oils for sale. Nobody bats an eye about that. Sephora is just one of many companies creating a product that the magical public uses.

Furthermore, in the apology they released, they said “Our intention for the product was to create something that celebrates wellness, personal ceremony, and intention setting with focus on using fragrance as a beauty ritual.” That is magic folks. And glamour. Witches are well-known for using certain looks, and scents to illicit responses, and beauty and making others find us pleasant smelling will draw more people to us. Rose quartz also initiates love and affection. It’s just another magic kit.

  1. Not everybody in our communities who sells to us belong to the tradition of merch they are selling. I will reword that to make sure people understand what I am saying. Every metaphysical shop where I have ever entered was ran by somebody who practiced a particular path, but sold things for members of many other paths besides their own. Some shop owners are not initiated, and just self-educated, and are very good at running a store. At no time in the 13 years I have been active in the Pagan/New Age/Metaphysical community have I ever heard one individual remark on this fact, let alone refuse to by merch for Wicca from a Druid, for example. It would make no sense because how would we be able to buy anything if we were so picky? Sephora’s product is no different.
  2. Furthermore, not everybody in our community who is either a business person or clergyperson has any education, training, or affiliation outside of their own thing. Don’t believe me? I have met more than one self-initiated, self-ordained “Priestess” who recognizes no elders, and put herself in charge because she wanted to be the boss. They have no issue finding followers. I have also known non-clergy who read a few books, and declare titles for themselves they swear was bestowed celestially, and everybody else is just too unenlightened to understand. There are always a number of them at every large gathering, and they slip in and out of our circles seamlessly. We “don’t judge” and we “are inclusive” and put up with a lot of bullshit because we are terrified of somebody getting mad at us for questioning them. Why do we accept this at face value from people who come to our gatherings who are not one of us, yet we raise hell over a product that is actually usable? Furthermore- who is the actual person who designed the kit? Are they Pagan or not? Would it matter if they were?
  3. The people who make tarot cards are not always practitioners. Some are just good at art, got a deal, and have bills to pay. Furthermore, the people who do the assembly line work cannot possibly all practice magic or be Pagan. Nobody seems to mind about that. The people selling you the merch at a non-Pagan shop may or may not practice magic or one of our religions. Again, nobody seems to care. How do you handpick your tarot cards? Do you research the manufacturer and artist and pick over a deck because they do not adhere to your tradition? Nobody does this. It would make no sense. So why are we mad at this manufacturer but none of the other ones? It is not possible to buy all things for our religious or magical practice only from others who practice just as we do.
  4. Is it because it’s more mainstream? Well, how many times have Pagans. Wiccans, and Witches decried the fact the mainstream often rejects us? Now that we are “socially acceptable” enough for things we use to be saleable in a mainstream shop, as we swear up and down we deserve to be, we are insulted. I am sorry, but we cannot have it both ways. “It’s a corporation so they have no right to take our money” some have said. Really? I will mention Barnes and Noble and Half Priced Books again. I am not sure which of the three companies I mentioned makes more money, but all of them are pretty large, successful businesses.
  5. Our practices are derived from other practices. Period. I have already mentioned our use of white sage. But let’s talk about Wicca in general. An excellent publication that is one of the most controversial in our history is Aiden Kelly’s Inventing Witchcraft. In it, he published parts of Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows. The entire Book of Shadows is now available for free online at Sacred Texts. Here is the link- http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/gbos/index.htm Nobody was supposed to see that except initiates, as it was secret, and for members only. Some Wiccans were very angry with Kelly for this. Oh yeah?
    Well, Kelly demonstrated line by line just WHERE Gardner got certain things from. Some from Crowley, some from Rudyard Kipling, some from varied other sources, some on his own. But Gardner and early Wiccans swore Wicca was ancient, from an unbroken tradition, and unchanged for centuries, even thousands of years. My question was- if it was all SO secret, why did Gardner and others put ads in the newspapers, contact journalists to do interviews, write books for publication, and generally put Wicca in the public immediately? Because nothing was secret, nothing was ancient, and they wanted to attract as many as possible. That is fine, it being a small, secret tradition for the few, and it is now readily available for anybody who will buy a book cannot both be true at the same time. Furthermore, Doreen Valiente, a true High Priestess, took one look at some of Gardner’s ritual writings, and said “No way.” She rewrote quite a bit herself. Kelly’s book can be had from Amazon.com, and here is the link.
    Wicca is not an ethnocentric ancient religion that went underground and reemerged when Gerald Gardner decided to publish books. It’s Gardner’s creation. It’s one I am thankful for, but it’s something that was pulled together and created from the many things that inspired Gardner. We, those who practice that have no business criticizing others for doing the same things we, ourselves do.
  6. We do not own the practices we utilize, and are not allowed to tell other people they cannot practice what we do unless we give them permission. Many other religious traditions, including atheists who believe in energy and spirits use the things we use, and follow some of the same practices. We do not have the right to dictate they are not allowed. Even somebody who thinks a kit at a shop is pretty or interesting or looks fun has the right to buy it and use the things without our guidance, permission, or approval.
  7. Nobody is making fun of us. Nobody makes us look bad but ourselves. I could list all the things I have seen and the people who I have met in the community who have driven me to tears of frustration over the years with their bullshit, but I know good and well the rest of you have seen pretty much the same things, so I won’t bore you. We also almost never call people on their shit in our communities unless it is childish arguing online over some discussion topic. I would really like to see us focus more on the condition of our own community instead of pitching fits about how some people who don’t belong in our circles views us.
  8. It is not the mainstream’s job or responsibility to portray us correctly. That is up to us. I am so over the people crying over Charmed or the latest horror flick’s wrongful use of the pentacle. I am sick to death of hearing people passionately declare Hollywood makes us look like devil worshipers and is to blame for misconceptions about us. No. Again, that’s us. And that did not come from Hollywood originally. It came out of the fact we use terminology the Xtains have used for centuries to denote devil worship. The word “witch” was never used to indicate something good until Gardner “reclaimed “ the word, swearing up and down the Inquisitors misunderstood the indigenous religions and demonized them. If you read what the witch trials looked for, you will not find one damned thing about Mother Earth, the goddess, blessing babies, handfastings, honoring elders, or blessing the garden. You will find sex with the devil, killing innocent people, enslaving people, poisoning neighbors they had a disagreement with, turning into rabbits to eat all their neighbors vegetables, causing crop blights, and insect infestations, peeing in a hole to create a hailstorm, making epidemic illnesses, etc. The word Coven, the number 13, the black hats, a horned man all in black, and brooms were all things “confessed” to during torture during witch trials. Nobody ever did those things. So Christians were taught there were evil people worshiping the devil doing all the awful things you could think of, and we are a new religion of people using the language set by the Inquisitors having “reclaimed” the terms? Likewise, the terms “Pagan “ and “Heathen” was used in the Bible to denote terrible people, and yet we call ourselves these things and demand to immediately be identified as the good people we actually are as opposed to the horrible people the words have been used by Xtians to describe. I think this is unfair of us.

The Commercial

Now I come to a commercial that is making people mad as hell also, and to me, it’s not infuriating either. Here is the video:

 

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJxtcwYVLCI[/embedyt]

 

It’s about a 15 second commercial for Constant Contact marketing. It shows women sitting in a room of their business products, one meditating, the other playing a digeridoo. I will add both are white girls who look like they are about to run to Starbucks for their Pumpkin Spice Latte on the way to yoga. That sounds good right now!

They click on the page to see how many folks have looked at their listing through Constant Contact, and there are a lot! The girls are tickled pink, and one says “Oh, my goddess!” and then resumes her digeridoo playing.

And people are losing their minds about this also.

Here’s the thing. I know a LOT of New Agers and Pagans and Witches and Wiccans who look, act, talk JUST LIKE the actresses in the commercial.

I am sorry if you have not had the pleasure of meeting such delightful people, and if you find these people insulting or infuriating somehow, but this commercial in no way makes fun of or misrepresents these types of folks in our communities. There are a lot of folks just like these gals in our communities, and it was a realistic representation.

So, on one hand, we throw a fit about Hollywood not portraying us just as we are, but if somebody portrays us just as we are, we are also very angry. Then again, if they do not mention us at all, we feel left out.

The upset reactions by so many to these things says a lot about how much growing up a lot of us have to do, and I have no sympathy about how offended some people are.

Just because you are offended does not mean that you are right.

The Working

I had thought of doing a dispelling anger working for people who find it so necessary to get upset and offended over things like this, but I have a better idea. I want to make you laugh. One of the people I studied with utilized laughter as banishing, and I have found it to always be very effective.

I am not making fun or ridiculing. I want to show how silly we can be sometimes. I get mad sometimes too, but getting offended, and assuming people are trying to harm us or disrespect us every time they mention magical practice does nothing but make our day and life negative. It’s important to stop when we have a knee jerk reaction, take a step back, breathe, and really look objectively at things.

Or consider this- There are now so very many of us, and we have become so much a part of the mainstream – we are now portrayed by the mainstream, and products for our personal use and for those who aspire to join us have made it into mainstream stores.

This is SO good.

Enjoy this lighthearted take on being offended by one of our funniest practitioners.

Blessed Be.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-mju_gW3c8[/embedyt]

 

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.

Story Series: Hedge Wizard

September, 2018

Part 1


(Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash)

Chapter 1, Part 2

Flight through the Forest

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of part one

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