Hours of the Tide: Carol of the North Wind

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

 Hour: Day of the North Wind

An airy time.  A frigid time.  And here in Seattle, a dreary and rainy time.  The day of the North Wind is meant to be done on the starry clear night of early December but we are knee-deep in a torrential downpour and daylight dies at 4:15pm.  So... we adapt.  As winter calls us to do.  Biting wind.  Stern wind.  North wind.  Ancestor wind.  We honor you.

We caroled in the cold wind that rises North.  When I think of winter and the North Wind, I think of specific notes, harmonies, tones of the season.  The roar of the wind, the quiet notes of icicles falling, the thunderous cracks as ice melts and refreezes and the delicate patter of rain on what remains of the maple leaves... It's musical, far more than any other season in my opinion.   The Caroling in of the North Wind is celebrated by opening the home, airing out the house (lüften that lair, baby) and letting the wind pass through with song. A blade, like the cutting and bitter wind is placed at the entry door, and the smoke of some evergreens to lead the way.  Juniper, I choose you!  And then, ringing the bells, or, of chimes, and calling on the cold to be kind.

You welcome it. You welcome the bitter knife-wind.  He's inevitable; you may not defeat him you may only outlast him annually.  And so, you welcome him and honor his power and ask of the cold wind-- Will you be kind? I welcome you through with song, and scent and serenade this day.  Some spirits are like that.  Even though they scare you or cause great calamity, sometimes it's best to welcome them as part of the balance of life, part of the magical cost, the human cost, the living cost, and say to this wind; I will not go gently, nor will you, so let us be ready for what comes.  To be honest, I've never liked the ringing of the bells for this day; I prefer the blowing of bellowing wood flutes and ringing of forks or wind chimes.  Something... windy.  To the wind goes all the songs and warmed, saturated air.  With the wind goes the prayers and thoughts.  Out into the night.

I welcome the North Wind.  I will not go gently, nor will you, so let us be ready for what comes.

Hours of the Tide: Father Frost

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Hour: Day of Father Frost

On Monday, we honored the personification of winter in the Father of Frosts and all that his spirit represents within the season.  Snow & Frost: a duet of winter sorcerers of varying mythos and lore. I personify Father Winter as deathly and wild-- he is no sure-footed sprite.  He is the bare-bones of the cold wind, moving across the land and spreading across our windows.  He wears holly and furs, or nothing at all, not even skin.  A withering man, or a skeleton.  And, much like the withered Hag holds her hammer and walking stick that shakes the trees; holds a white rose and carries his staff.  They herald the change, and hold the dark year in their power.  He, the wild god whose host and wolves and haunts are the makings of all our winter-night terrors, is who I honor this day.  Hail to he, his bells, his dire warnings and temper, his gifts and silence.

Damned and Dirty

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Funny, for someone who showers twice a day and cleans the home compulsively, I am happy as a pig in mud when I’m working like a pig in mud…  I grew up around god-fearing folk who were convinced that Jesus himself was looking at every baseboard, running his prim little finger over every mantle, silently judging our impurity.  And yet, I never got the impression Jesus would have cared.  I don’t think many otherworldly beings do care once they’ve left this tethered place.  Why should they care?  They know what we are, they know we are small, slimy, imperfect, puking, farting, bleeding, bile-filled baboons grunting in the mud and slathering ourselves in chemical compounds daily.  They don’t usually care, not unless literal purification is their game.  I will go before the altar of the Mother and Father of bones, witches and corruptions; with dirty feet and sticky hands and tangled hair, and they will smile at my plainness, and celebrate my abandon.

Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but my gods are not always clean, pristine beings.   In fact, I’m not entirely certain the spirits and entities that typically work with me are what someone would call a god-- needing all the bells and whistles and applause so commonly offered to the divine, and they certainly don’t mind some dirt and grime.  As a matter of fact, I’d say that the spirit world in all its vast and varied array, does not always want, need or even conceptualize our concept of cleanliness.  I know from personal experience that the world of the spirits (which include the long-decayed dead and the nightmarish otherworldly) that there is a place for all of it, for the grave and the temple.  There must be a place for it in magic, because it exists in nature, and there is nothing in nature that is without value.  I think we place too high a value on making magic look clean, pristine without a little bit of mean, and I don’t care for that power-washing of the dark arts.  We’re just animals, folks.  We’re just rotting animals like the others; covered in bacteria and filled with viruses.  It’s not a bad thing.  It’s not a good thing.  It just is.

Feral Folk-magic

Do you have any idea how much filth goes into folk-magic?  The garbage bin or dumpster is a valuable resource in some regards; you’ll never know when you need the soiled socks of someone who slighted you, you’ll never know just how useful an outhouse can be until your dropping the names of your foes down into the shit-pit.  To cause living things to grow in the body of an enemy, it was commonly recommended to feed them the crushed corpses of snails, lizards and worms, or to fill a dolly with rotting meat with maggots.  The fresh and bloody brains of hares were rubbed on the gums of babes; toenails and urine would be soaked in the drink of an errant lover; feces of beasts would be dried, powdered and sold as supplements (and sometimes still are). 

Humans harvest the bile of suffering bears for folk medicinal hogwash and the fat of dead men were once believed to be an effective ingredient in candle-making.  Hell, some of my favorite old love charms referenced in Greek and Roman witchery called for the flesh of children, the fingerbones of murdered men and the blood of puppies.  One charm I’ve found called for the hair of a desired lover to be sewn through the flesh of a dead man.  Another I’ve found in a book on Neapolitan witchcraft, Italian Witchcraft Charms and Neapolitan Witchcraft (Folklore History Series) called for the use of a dead man’s finger joints in a fidelity philter.  Horrid stuff, but still a part of magic—the darker end of it at least. 

Dancing With Dirty Divinity

The ritual of worship between me and the spirit who aids in my Red Work- Let’s call her Aunt Lottie for short, does not require that the house is spotless, and doesn’t mind dancing in the dirt—she requires strong whiskey, coffee-grinds, clothes in burgundy and blush, perfume bottles, chiles and mirrors.  She is an avatar for an old entity, one many would recognize once you smelled that cinnamon, clove, sticky sweet scent of the grave.   She dances topless, in high ruffled skirts and laughs readily.  She doesn’t ask for my hands to be clean, or my altar to be well oiled.  She, like me, is a creature of her comforts and can live with the rest.

The Miner, another spirit who only ever shows up to guide me when I’m lost between worlds (a bad trip will do that) is another entity who demands no unsullied place to dwell—he likes the golden sandy dirt of the desert, the rust at the base of an old pickaxe, and tweed cloth that is worn-in with the musk of masculinity and labor.  He may have been some terrifying Tommyknocker at one point, but now he travels in that cosmic space, with dirty, lowly creatures like me for his company.

They are not like Hekate, who will not let me keep a film of dust on her table.  Some spirits of incredible power, once lived in fleshy bodies like ours, and do not worry for the trivialities they have surpassed when crossing through death’s doorway.

The Vile Vials of Via

When I was young, I was so afraid to allow myself to stray away from what was deemed to be “proper” and “clean” even though so many of my gifts lie in rot, waste, and withering.  Picture, a little 11-year-old witch with vials of vile putrid molding and decaying organic matter under her bed, hiding on the wooden bed boards with my collection of soapstone elephants and yellow jade toucans.  To my mother, it looked like some gross science experiment, but to me, they were the first vestiges of spirit bottles- they were places where strange entities would come to visit, to hide in.  I’d read the decay, the flowering bacteria stretching out in green and white mottled rings, the black slime of decomposition, the formation of salt crystals in rancid tones— I would read these changes and metamorphose like some kind of crystal ball, one that would tell me how well or how poorly a charm was doing.  Sometimes I could see disease coming simply by interpreting the bile in my throat as I watched the anaerobic bacteria make an alien planet of my glass vials.  Sometimes, I would open one vial ever so slightly, letting the bacteria feed on the slight bit of oxygen as I breathed an angry wish over the contents, only to close it back up and put it back in the darkness below the bed.

It seems a little silly now, I suppose, this strange work of watching living matter decay behind glass, pouring the blackish, sour ooze from one vial into the mouth of a dolly, telling the future weather forecast from some mixture of battery acids and liquified animal tissue…  That little scent of ammonia and that sweet, sickly smell that comes from rot—it didn’t make me run, it made me curious.  It’s life, it’s death and I am in the service of both realms, and so to me there was something holy in the rot and the mold.  So much activity hidden in the airless darkness, and it made magic for me, small as it was. 

These days not much has changed.  I putrefy and mold and rot whatever pleases me.  A black bottle charm is something special, it’s transformative, it’s icky, it’s… real.  These days I don’t always bother to wash the dirt out from under my nails when I’m digging up roots, nor do I always bother shaking the cobwebs out of my puffy mane after wandering through the laurel hedges.  My work needs a little dirt sometimes, it needs that sickly grime, as a protective mask, as a blessing from the earth, as evidence of death and life’s power.

Life is dirty and I know it well.  Life is grime and grease; it is acrid and oily and in a constant state of withering even as it grows.  I love it.  I live for it.  I serve the dirty gods of filth and desiccation just as I serve the gods of purity and sanitation.  A balance is struck in witchcraft, between forces that seem opposing but are working in complete compliment to one another.  Life and death are like that.  Filthy and polished all at once.  Magic is like that, or mine is at least. 

Hail to the rust and rime that devours all with time, hail to the pus and grime, hail to unsullied and benign.  Hail to the inevitable change that comes for all living things and flings their broken pieces off into a cold and indifferent universe filled with passionate spirits.  I serve all you dead— be you bloated body or mummified jerky-man.  I serve the dirt where the dead are buried, and the new flowers grow.

Soft may the worms about you creep…

Lemon Balm Steamed Rose Dumpling Magic

Friday, June 17, 2022

It's strange what will cross your mind... 

As summer began to rise, my grandmother died.  She loved roses.  And tea.  And baking.

And she loved, loved, loved to garden.

I've been feeling more reserved and numb lately, there's been a lot of grief these last few months.  But slowly, with the sun, I rise.  I wish this awful rain would let up, it's dreary.

When I get sad, I get bored, and then I get creative.  I found this lemon balm with giant leaves on my in-laws land.

And thought of dragon boats and tamales and family and my grandma.  And then, something strange fell out of my brain and into an idea.  Honey soaked rose petals chopped fine and added to a lemon-balm sugar dumpling, wrapped in soaked lemon balm leaves and steamed over a bed of rose petals.  I tied the bundles with the stems of the lemon balm.  The result was a lovely mix of floral and lemon tea-like flavors.

Unwrapping each one was fun, pleasant, aromatic.  The bread was a little chewy on the outside, but crumbly inside.  I liked it with English breakfast tea.  Sometimes it's the little, mundane every day magics that make life feel a little better during grief.  Simplicity and gratitude for things is it's own class of magic. I feel... Much better.

Love Magic: lemon balm, red and pink roses, honey
Day: Friday
Court:  Venus

The Waters We Witch For

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Water Witching (dowsing) Wands and their Familiars.  This compass is used in my tradition of witchcraft to represent the art of navigating nature with our spiritual senses, and the guides who dwell along the roads we take.  Frog and Driftwood and Water; Mole and Apple and Earth; Crow and Willow and Wind; Moth and Persimmon and Fire.  Illustration by Andrew G. Jimenez.

I am no water witch.  It is not my element, it rarely appears in my natal chart; I fear the open water and am terrified of unseen depths.  I love a bath but loathe the mystery that lies beyond the abyss.  I am a child of wind, fire, earth.  But... where magic is concerned, water is a great inspiration; I am a under the protection of La Sirene, she who knows well my fear of water, and my love for magic.  She does not begrudge my inherent fear of the open sea.  She knows I am a daughter of beaches and shores and river people on every side of my ancestry.  She knows the rushing waters between mountain and sea is my place of work; especially where the waters weave off into swamps, marshes, wetlands and estuary mucks.  That's where water and I may meet in peace and congress.

There are a great many waters in folk-magic, witchcraft and occult lore.  Like a mirror, or a pool of ink, it becomes a conduit for the living, the dead and everything beyond that.  Water is transcending of worldly things and a birth fluid that ushers in life, and often leads to annihilation.  It is from the water we emerged.  We release water from our bodies as urine, spit, sweat, tears-- all of these fluids make for key ingredients in some of the most powerful charms and spells imaginable.

We need waters to live, we need water to cool ourselves, we need it for sanitation... it is probably the most popular element among practitioners (something I understand but don't personally resonate with).  What is it about the waters of our small world that give us so much inspiration?  So much power?  It gives.  It is the giver of immediate relief, like the earth often is-- it is not as aloof and wayward a lover like the wind (though water is as fickle and wandering)  or searing, passionate force of destruction like fire (though it is just as overwhelming and consuming).  And so, thought I do not love water the way I love warm, dry air, I have come to know water as a necessary component to my works. 

There are quite a few kinds of water that can be used in the work we do as witches, sorcerers and folk-magicians, and to each of them, a spirit, a nature of things.  Some waters are made gifted by the nature of their placement, or their collection.  Some waters, like those of springs and sea tend to be considered more naturally gifted with power, while others are only made sacred by the circumstances of their treatment, or made powerful by the time of their collection, the tide of the year.  And some magical waters are manufactured through simple alchemies.  What makes a water magical?  Is it "powerful" because it has been touched by moonlight or soaked with earthworms?  What is it about the ability for water to absorb and transfer that makes it so easy to give meaning to? Who knows really.  There's more mystery to water than I really understand, so much history behind its use in ritual and in life.  I'm less concerned with the why and more of the "if"-- if it works for my needs, than why not? I use quite a bit of different waters in my practice, some more than others.  Like all things, the diversity of magic in the realm of water is a gift to any magician.

Some Curious Waters of Note

Stump/Spunk Water-  What do you need a cure for?  Freckles (why would you, they're perfect!), rheumatism? Warts? Bad hair? Skin-complaints?  Stump Water is the panacea of the afflicted and blighted.  The gambler's magical wash, the sanctifier of rabbits feet and conjure-bags, the water that accumulates in the hollow or impression of stumps and logs offers a unique magic and is deeply entrenched in American folk medicine.  Stump Water, like Unspoken Water, is gathered with specific rites and taboos observed: moonlight, silence, backwardness-- it is all meant to give an efficacious punch of flavor to this talisman, which can be carried in a bottle on the person, or used to anoint a talisman of great power; specifically a graveyard rabbit's foot.

"To stop a "haunt" walking, boil prickly pear roots in stump water and sprinkle in the yard with the water."

Holy Water- oh, the great water of purity, consecrated in the name of some divine entity, some god of grace and morality.  The holy water of the Church has qualities of banishment and exorcism, and can be used to bring a searing cleanliness to all it touches.  It may drive out some classes of demon and may even harm some witches.  Mostly, holy water drives away what some call "evil".  I don't believe in true good or true evil, so I have very little use for holy water, but I appreciate that there are magicians who really believe in a great evil and that it can be banished with this kind of water.  As a witch, I'm not even remotely affected by holy water (my devils aint scared of shit) and nothing around me is either; my banishing water is simple sea-water.  To each their own.

Easter-Water- Cora L. Daniels describes this as water taken up before sunrise on Easter Morning from a running stream, which is then bottled and kept for good luck, prosperity and health.  It is used in Catholic traditions as a holy water, mixed with consecrated oils or herbs and is supposed to keep year-round.  My only experience with Easter water is recent; my work with Christo-Pagan friends has led me down the road of their holy waters and I'm rather fond of this revived tradition.  Might not be my flavor of magic but man do I love when people find power anywhere they can.

Saining Water- this bit of Scottish magic became pretty popular with the resurgence of Western European traditional witchcraft practices.  The silvered water, used to bless newborns, the hexed, the cursed and to heal the ill. Sprinkling saining water with a branch of juniper has become a common practice among modern witches.  Silver is one powerful metal in the realm of Western occultism, and this is particularly true in traditions of American magic; it is the killer of witches and their familiars, the bane of the graveyard haunts and a powerful anti-evil charm that was supposed to inherently drive away all supernatural and otherworldly entities.

Unspoken WaterThe Journal of American Folklore and the Frank C. Brown Collection reference unspoken water as that which is collected from the creek, brook or river beneath a bridge over which the living and dead have passed.  When collected in silence and under certain auspicious, the water was reported to be able to heal maladies and purify the afflicted.

Corpse Water- contrary to first intuition, the water in which a fresh corpse has been washed has purification qualities, and can be washed over porches or sprinkled before doorways to purify the space from evils and drive off the hungry damned by placing the water of tender grace about the place.  When the mortuary water is collected from funereal rites, it has the power to drive off the dead and create a boundary of blessing.  When the water is washed from the skin of the disgraced and mistreated dead, it can be used to bring a hex upon the foe who is sprinkled in this water.

Putrid/Black Water- this differs from Corpse Water in that it is blackish/brownish from the rot and decay of putrefaction.  This rot water or sip-of-decay is made from the process of death and decomposition accelerated by the presence of rancid water.  Bloating and rotting corpses instead of the fresh dead may produce this water, or plant matter left to rot in muck water.  It is a perfect tool for sealing in death (in a black bottle) or bringing disease and plague when washed over a foe's porch, car or furniture.

May Dew- the drought of beauty, collected on May's Eve or May Day morning (depending on who tells the tale).  The dew collected from Venusian herbs; specifically the hawthorn, when added to washes for the face were once supposed to bring beauty and charm to the person who uses it.  May Dew must be collected in early morning light, from only the most beautiful of spring's blossoms or freshest of green grass.  Just a few drops on the tongue or rinsed over the face was supposed to be enough to make a person not just beautiful, but lucky in love too.

Well & Spring Water- the water that comes from a natural spring is fresh, tasty and often extremely rich in minerals, which is why so many people swear by it.  It is the water of springs that washes the hands of witches before their work.  And, it is the water of the common well that youngsters were thought to divine their futures by with mirror and shadow.  Holding a hand mirror, leaning backwards over a well, a youth was supposed to catch a glimpse of a long-awaited loved one reflected in the waters surface and in the glass of the mirror.

Luminary (Sun, Moon, Star) Water- of these, it is the Moon Water and Sun Water that seem best known, but the water can be made in the light of other spheres-of-influence who shine in the sky.  Where I live, Venus, Saturn and Mars have times when they shine like the brightest star in the sky, and capturing their essence in water can work in a small, distant way.  It is not as powerful as Moon Water, but Venus Water can have unique loving qualities that bring a sense of sensual sexuality to a charm/talisman.  It can be as simple as leaving a bowl of spring water under the moon's light, asking the water to capture her spirit in its cold reflection.

Teasel Water or 'Venus Basin'-  the water collected in the small basins formed by the circling leaves of the common teasel plant is also called a Venus Basin and is thought to draw forth warts, make people beautiful, cure weariness to sight and aid thirsty and desperate travelers.  I do not recommend this water as it's where many insects make their watery graves- but I do find the water delightful to use in love washes and protective hospitality charms.

Luck Water- Water which is collected from a glass bowl in which a Resurrection Plant has greened.  Taken on the day of its full unfurling, it is sprinkled on the front porch of places of commerce/businesses.  There are a few different kinds of resurrection plants, most popular are the two varieties of "Rose of Jericho" which are commonly sold in Hoodoo shops and Botanicas.  I've met quite a few other witches who make luck water with different money plants, but I think the reason why Resurrections are the standard is because they represent plenty from nothing; greenness after drought, growth after desiccation.  As they unfurl, the water is supposed to become charged with with the power of their rejuvenation.

War Water-  A jar full of swamp water, muck water, puddle water and rusting nails, urine and other putrid and corrupted matter is an excellent elixir for hexing an enemy, for bringing ruin to a foe.  A little sprinkled on their porch will slow their steps, and if poured about their property, will bring ruin and rot.  You can read more about it in Cory Hutcheson's New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic.  War waters can be physically dangerous; mixing different chemical compounds together in a sealed jar has the unfortunate habit of causing explosive reactions in some instances.  But then again, a witch looking to crack a bottle of war under an enemy's porch would probably appreciate a nice bang to their work...  It's not recommended to try, nobody needs to die with a Darwin award for occult mishaps.

Flesh Water/Urine-  You have no idea how useful the water released from the body can be.  It can seal a witch's bottle, ensnare a lover, curse an enemy, bring protection to the home, bring disaster to an enemy, and add a personal mark to any spell.  To use the the water of the flesh in a spell is a personal and powerful thing; think carefully before adding so much of yourself to a charm.  It seems a little gross to modern witches but folk magicians know better than to discount the waters of the body in any form-- from spit to tears to urine, our body provides waters with symbolism, with their own magical signature.

Lightning Water/Storm Water-  my relatives in Florida were my first exposure to this idea; leaving a jar of tap water out on the porch during the thunder and lightning storms.  The water was supposed to be charged with the electric vibrations and wild energy of the thunder and lightning, and would be used to bring a spike of power to a situation, and would protect the home from great evils.  Water collected from a lightning-struck stump was a notoriously powerful type; there is always a touch more magic to those things that are lightning struck, especially trees, as they are considered "charged" by this experience, touched by the hand of the Sky gods.

River Water- Rivers are transitionary places, natural crossroads where sea and land may meet, and are holy places for initiation rites for witches.  A charm meant to hex and wither is best released in the waters of a river.  Rivers, creeks and brooks appear throughout the folklore of the American South as places where rain could be raised by conjure-folk pouring pitcher water into the rivers, as places where witches could be initiated after casting in black-cat's bones, or wetting knotted handkerchiefs.  In my region, rivers are powerful places of plenty, the realm of food and family and fortune.  For my work, a river is the place where all things meet-- a liminal space of movement that tends to work well for my work honoring the Mountain gods (from whom the river comes) and the Sea spirits (to where the river goes).

Sea Water-  Well what more could you need to banish so-called evils and heal impurity?  The first womb of life is the sea; the place from which life emerges, the great primordial soup to which we owe so much, and its salty waves are a thing of purity. Churning in the darkness of the waves is mystery and restlessness, but also the salt of purification and  removal.  Many witches collect their salt right from the sea (when the law allows), allowing the water to evaporate, leaving only the salt and all its wonderful impurities.  While sea-salt in some tap water can be good enough for a basic wash, the sea is a more powerful bet.  Just a splash, and a baptism may take place; just a splash and a curse will be swept away, out to sea, to die as most things do, in time.  Salt water can rebirth a lost soul, or capture one too.

Muck/Swamp Water- if you need a base water for hexing potions and bottles, a good amount of muddy muck water will do the trick.  It used to be believed that even dreaming of muddy water is an omen of sorrows.  It works to stop-up and dirty-up those who pursue you, and can help facilitate disease spells when washed over the porch of an enemy or broken in a jar in their yard.

Pin/Needle Water- the water left over from boiling pins and needles to avert evil is useful because most practitioners speak their incantations against a troublesome enemy or difficult spirit as they boil the nine needles, naming them for the enemy.  The water that remains afterwards can be used as an anti-witch floor wash.  I've been using this water for a while now and find it useful to get irritating magical folk off my back.

Worm-Water- water made from soaked earthworms was reportedly used to heal superficial pains. The worms were deposited into a bucket and soaked overnight.  I've only seen this one mentioned in a few places, and I've been gifted a small jar of some from a friend, but I haven't put any of it to work.  Paulsen quotes this incantation which accompanied the charm:
"Earthworms who slip through earth below
Secrets of sorcery ye know,
When the good foot doth o'er you tread,
or when it passes overheard
Transfer its power and its merit,
Now I pray you to this spirit,
To do such virtue as it may,
And let this headache pass away!"

-The Complete Book of Magic and Witchcraft, Kathryn Paulsen, p-111

Black-Cat Boil-  old folk magic in America is rife with the sacrifice of black cats, moles, toads and graveyard rabbits.  The black cat is thought to be a conduit for initiation into witchcraft, and one of the most popular methods of initiation with the cat was to boil a black one live in water, and then take it's floating bone into your mouth.  But what of the water?  I imagine the boiled water can be used as an anointing for new witches, or used to feed one's working tools to give them power, invisibility and devilish strength.

Mountain Marsh Water- the water that is collected from the swamps of some Cascade and Olympic marshes/swamps.  Wetlands are immensely powerful, they absorb so much destruction and power, mitigating the effects of mudslides and floods and acting as a place of both birth and death for the land.  Here in Washington, the marches, wetlands and swamps of the mountains belong to invisible tribes of otherworldly and unseen beings.  I say it is best not to take water from their swamps, or the whispers will follow you home and tell you the most horrifying secrets...

For more, take a look... in a book... 
Cory T. Hutcheson,  New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic
Cora L. Daniels, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore and the Occult Sciences of the World
Kathryn Paulsen, The Complete Book of Magic and Witchcraft
Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men
Newbell Niles Puckett, Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro
B.A Botkin, Treasury of Southern Folklore
Journal of American Folklore
Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore

Merry Midwinter, Magicians

Sunday, December 19, 2021


Cran-Apple Orange Tart-Pie and cran-apple simple-syrup soda.

Apple-Cranberry clove poached pear

Cinnamon poached pear with honey goat cheese and dates

The Diviner's Tide: This Folk Witch's Winter Ways

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Diviner’s Tide
This Folk Witch's Winter Ways

The land stretches even under the stiff soil; can’t you hear her great sigh?  Restless in the dark cold earth, undulating with the change of the tides.  It smells like rain and damp earth outside; a little sweet and tangy where the pines and spruce needles are falling; muddy and dank where the birch leaves decay in the puddles.  The sun rises just before 8am and sets just before 5pm.  Crows caw and huddle in mass murders along the grass, picking it apart to forage for beetles and worms.  I do not love winter.  I am a daughter of sun and spring and warm green. Miss me with this bitter noise, I want my sunlight back.  Such a boring, lifeless time, with nowhere to go, nothing to do and worry as a constant companion.

Back before the pandemic, in the long, long ago, I had written a little bit about my changing warmth towards the winter holidays. I wrote a bit on apples, eggs, wassailing, divination and opening my mind to the secular folk magics of the season.  I maintain that Christmas is a garbage holiday; I still don’t like what it brings out of people, how it ravages relationships and brings financial misery to so many poor people.  But I have been able to find my peace with the season by ignoring Christmas itself and focusing on the traditions of magic that appear between Hag’s Night, the Halcyon Days, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and Epiphany.  These are diviners' days, but then again… aren’t all of the holy days of the calendar used for divination… and I've taken a particular interest in reinterpreting Winter’s-tide and all that comes with it as a holiday of divination and home protection.

Cedar "rose" cones that were cured with olibanum oil and cinnamon for about 7 months.

And so, I set aside the notion of presents and stockings and trees and bring out the folk magic; the foods of prediction, the yule-candles and strings of cranberry garland.  I turn my face away from the celebration of a miracle that I don’t believe in and turn my face towards the miracle of the great god some call the Sun.  With the rise of the Sun’s renewal comes an awakening of the land, a stirring in the fruit trees, a weakening in the frost.  The Sun is the old god, you know.  The herald of evolution, the balancer of our world, he who sustains us always and consumes us in time… All these sabbats are his, and yet, what time do we yearn for his power more than winter?  It brings me peace of mind to take the time to find a place of joy-- a space to live in the moment and appreciate the temporary nature of all that surrounds us, and bringing magic into any and every aspect of life has been a therapeutic way to cope with life and death and the things in between.

The Yule Candle

When the Hag’s Night begins, I begin my Diviner’s Days; prepping my home to let the spirits make their changes, focusing on feeding my household deities and the domestic spirits who dwell with me.  This has now become my time to perform daily and nightly offerings of service to the spirits of the land, the dead and the living.  Why?  Because you have to find and make meaning in life, you have to strive to finding ways to move your mind in all directions, because atrophy is the end.  I do this by attuning myself to the constancy of the changing seasons, filling the seasons with spiritual expression.  What does this look like?  It looks like the daily lighting of the Yule candle and the sharing of meals with the dead; giving apotropaic charms and sharing fortune-dinners with the living; drinking, caroling, speaking to the land.

Winter Solstice/Yuletide

“The wish that is spoken at Yuletide
shall not be crossed nor yet denied.”

Also called St. Thomas Night or Yule, I call it Midwinter or Long Night.  This is when the Sun seems to have the least rulership over the land, and with the darkness rises the otherworldly things who love to haunt cold and dark spaces.  I honor this darkness, and light a candle from sundown to sun up; for luck, for protection, for the honor of the Sun, the great Luminary. Some practices that have found their way into my Midwinter:

  • Leave a heap of flour and a little ale or wine outside for the passing fairies, witches and spirits, and a small bowl of porridge by the doorway or fireplace for the household entities who watch over the dwelling.  Give them a warm place to be honored by the fire, and keep them happy.
  • Bring a sprig of holly into the home and hang beside the door.  For every berry that withers and drops before New Year, a bit of luck will go with it.
  • With a partner, cut a large apple in two; whoever gets the larger half, or, counts the most seeds in their half, has good luck and should make a wish while eating the apple.


"gilded nutmeg"- for good fortune and health.

I don’t do much with Christmas; magic didn’t seed in this holiday and folk charms were not part of my family way for this holiday-- no mistletoe hung over our door, no taboos against ivy and yew; it was all about gifts, stress and awkward feelings, and honestly, that’s all Christmas is to me.  Luckily, my in-laws have long supported my pagan ways, and this Christmas we will be focusing on crafts, not gifts.  I look forward to stringing cranberries and popcorn, drying orange and apple slices, and caroling around the blue spruce in the yard while the kids and I decorate it and take joy in being together.  I have managed to squeeze some magic into Christmas where there once only stood boredom and consumerism:

  • Baking boar’s bread (a loaf in the shape of a boar) -- this one is brand new to me and was introduced to me by a sister-in-the-craft who has been teaching me how to bake.  Thanks Meryl!
  • Give “gilded” nutmegs on strings to the kids. These nutmegs were supposed to give good luck and blessings to those who were gifted them. I use gilding leaf, and string them on red thread so it can be worn or hung from trees as an ornament or talisman.

  • Leave a cup of tea and a saucer for the dead on Christmas eve to drink.
  • Set a glass of water outside of your window on Christmas day.  When it freezes over, portents of the future will form shapes in the ice.

New Year’s Eve

 On New Year's Eve, I divine the way ahead and make merriment-- after all, in my culture, New Years is a big deal and a second chance for us all, and despite its secular nature it’s actually fairly spiritual.  When we celebrate New Year’s, at least where I’m from, there is really a magic to it.  I can’t count now many superstitions I grew up with about needing to bathe on NYE, eating the right food, opening the doors before midnight to let the evil out and closing them before the last stroke to keep the good tidings in, and most importantly, sealing the magic with a kiss.  Fireworks are a modern luck omen; watching them go off at midnight and singing in good cheer is like some national ritual of renewal and relief.  You drink libations that open the heart, sing a song of incantation (Auld Lang Syne) that binds feelings of love and community between peoples, and play little games that spawn curiosity and good-will.  I wish we'd make magic a more prominent perspective for this time of year, as a country.  There is a power to the cheer and expectations of this season that make for a healthy brew of optimism and mysticism.  We should channel this into reviving divination as a normal part of Winterside ritual and celebration.
                Over the last decade, I’ve introduced all kinds of folk charms into my New Year’s Eve and Day celebrations; ones that have crept in as I’ve made new friends, as I’ve read new books, as I’ve walked with new spirits, maybe some of them will speak to you and your work:

  • On New Year's Eve, place a horseshoe under your pillow to have prophetic dreams.
  • Place a spring of young green ivy in a dish of water on New Year’s Eve.  If it wilts before epiphany, bad luck is coming, but if it remains green, good luck will grow.
  • Holly leaves are used in telling fortunes.  Ask a question out loud as you hold a multi-pointed holly leaf. Follow from point to point using this counting rhyme: "This year, next year, now, never."
  • Remove all evergreens after New Year’s and burn them on Epiphany, to warm the fields and honor the death of the evergreen gods.
  • On New Year’s Day, cut an apple in two and whoever eats the bigger half will have better luck.
  • Money left on a windowsill on New Year’s Eve will bring fortune and good luck to the keeper.


Now, I know it seems odd, but ever since my, ehem, epiphany with the Mother of Apples.  I have become enamored with this tide as my moment to honor the orchard; a realm in which I do a lot of my work year-round.  Does sound counterintuitive since there are no blossoms, greens or fruit on the tree, but it’s sort of perfect for me; the apple trees always have a few decaying remnants on their boughs; fermented by frost and time, swinging stubbornly on brittle black branches.  There is the power of life deep beneath this layer of death, and it’s in this green heart I find a connection.  She’s sleepy, and wants coaxing.  I hear it…

Washington is known for our vast array of apple trees and variety of the malus fruits, and so fruit-bearing trees-- especially apples-- play a unique and deeply spiritual role in my practice as a witch.  It is in the orchard one finds so much ripening life and rotting death.  It is in the orchards I find my favorite meadow-spirits, and it is along the pomme trellis hedges I wander to and from worlds on occasion.  Why the apple?  It’s like a heart.  It’s this trophy of the land, this beautiful, symmetrical, useful entity that has traveled the world bringing endless joy and nurturing. Mater Malus has a sweet and spicy smell when she holds you, and is ever warm and yielding.  I think I’m in love.  I think she reciprocates.

Because I work with apples so regularly in my witching and because they are symbolic of the Witch Queen herself as she moves through the seasons changing shapes, I find a spiritual center in the high grass of the orchards.  And so, what is typically a Holy day for Christians, has become my own personal day of exploration of personal gnosis, meditating on the power of this liminal god who has long grown with me and long helped me grow.

I take those old charms to heart and put them to work for me as a witch; the Apple Mother calls on me to sing, to sacrifice, to warm her branches and shake the rot from her roots.  She calls on me to awaken the land with song, circle, cider and service:

  • Take all the Yuletide greens from the home and burn them in the bonfire outside, to purify the garden.
  • Sprinkle the ashes of the Yule log around the orchard for blessing and to drive away impure or restless spirits.
  • Shake the frost and rot off the apple trees while imploring them to give you good fruit come summer.
  • Place lucky stones on the branches of the orchard trees to encourage a bountiful year.
  • Christian folk magicians may mark their doors in three crosses to banish other witches (at least, those with evil intent).
  • Pour warmed cider or good ale at the roots of the apple trees in thanks, and to encourage them to grow.  A few sun-wheel cakes go a long way in sweetening up relations between witches and apple gods.

“Oh, here we go a-wassailing among the leaves so green

and here we come a-wandering so fair to be seen--

Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too,

and god bless you and send you a happy New Year,

the god send you a happy New Year.”

Needles and Pinlore

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Leave a loaf of freshly baked bread, stuck with many nails at a crossroads, and all who pass it will be cursed.

Stick pins in your sleeve on St. Agnes Eve and you will see the the lad you'll marry.

Like a pendulum; hold a needle on a thread above the head or belly of a pregnant woman; it was once believed, in simpler times, that a circle would indicate a girl and a linear swing would indicate a boy.

Stick a lemon full of needles as you curse the name of the one who has irritated you.

If two needles named for lovers are placed in a bowl of water float together, the lovers will stay together.  But if they drift apart, so would their love.

Nine pins in a black bottle, with noxious substances and ill-wishes, buried in the garden of your foe, will hex them deeply.

A wax heart stuck with nine pins and roasted over a fire will burn the heart of he who you have named the heart for.

A dolly stuck with pins, lets the pain and evils in.

Nine needles stuck in the blade bone of a rabbit, which is then placed under the bed, will produce prophetic dreams.

Stick nine needles in a candle one by one from top to bottom and name each for a foe.  As the candle burns down, so will those named.

Want more needle-lore?  Check out this amazing contribution to the witchery community by my friend Kamden S. Cornell!  It's a sensational recipe book for good, sharp, magic.  I loved being inspired by this book and I have really appreciated Heart & Vine Apothecary's beautiful, powerful work in the folk-witch community.  Get your copy now!

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