Hours of the Tide: The Feast of Hares

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Another Pink moon rises, and with it, the feast of rabbits and hares.  Sadly, the pickins' were slim this year and I just didn't feel the need or desire to do my flower fry.   I don't even know why.  I walked with the fields and flowers, and even picked a few for the altar, enjoying the sense of sacrifice.  But when I got home, the tide felt... less food-oriented and more about transitions.

From the Feast of Hares through the end of Floralia is my "flower feast tide"-- usually an ideal time for some of the best spring edibles in my area.  But instead of physical eating, I feasted on the sense of growth and beauty I feel around me in my personal work-room.  In my lovely green-and-pink witching-room, my kniolas black Ipomoea moonflowers grow.  Small, lovely, and ever so brief.  They live a day to enjoy the moon and sun, and then pass as if they had never been there.  I won't get a new generation from these indoor blooms, but the incredibly feminine, passionate, gripping power they bring into my space has been quite a learning experience..

I took time to garden; transitioning pots to the outdoors to catch the fresh new rain to come.  And I sat with my rabbits; Bosley and Sherman.  They reminded me of the warmth and kindness and change around me.  So, they got a little but of fresh green oat and barley grass from my Holy Grains garden.  A quiet tide with family-- loved ones.  My commitment to observance of hours and tides continues, even challenged by my own lazy will in the midst of all this sadness, war, anger, change...  I keep to the hours.

My newest venture with fellow witchy-people has really helped me recuperate my sense of socialization.  I really love Lisa and Tania for that.  Shout out to Coleman of Dark Exact Tarot for linking us magical folk together.  It's cold out here in the Northwest, I'm blessed to have found such warmth with you all.  May the rise of the Floralia, Walpurgis, Beltane and May Day be everything you need, and bring every bit of fire that warms me.

Oh, Fortuna

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Luck, Be a Lady Tonight

Luck, let a gentleman see
Just how nice, how nice a dame you can be
I know the way you've treated other guys you've been with
Luck be a lady with me.
-F. Loesser, American Lyrical Magician

The only answer...

No matter who you are, who matter where you are from, I wish you the blind favor of Fortune and the friendly company of the lucky toad.  Wherever you are; may Luck be a kind lady to you.  She, for all my faults, has been kind to me.  She is Venus's dearest friend after all; my Deydez, my passionate, Glittering Star of Virtue.  My sphere of birth.

Fortune.  She has blessed me with a life fairer that many.  Fortune, along with The World Soul works with the Fates themselves to weave the holy theatrics of our lives and deaths, and rebirths.  Fickle, and unflattered.

For about 25 years, I've dedicated  portion of my practice to acknowledging the Fates, Fortunes and Ways-Between-- in particular because I am a Diviner and no great feat of Fortune should go unpaid.  Oh, Fortuna.  Be kind.  To a world blind and stumbling, peek beneath your sash and wink at the down trodden, seen just low, where you lift the fold a bit.  Oh please, smile on them, the many, the majority, who sit beleaguered and unseen.  Oh you, who winks at the soil and those rooted deeply there, or buried there; please smile, and drop thy coins in flagrant disregard of sister Fate's plan.  Smile upon the souls of the World, beloved by Hekate, and take that precious moment to smile.

O Fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem,
dissolvit ut glaciem

Winterlore: In Memoriam: A Drunk Witch

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Night-flyer by Via Hedera
linocut stamp

 An Ode  to Phoebe Ward
by Via Hedera

Bitch.  I wana be you.
You fun, son of a gun.
Gutter queen,
often seen
making bulls flee, way over the hagerleen.
Through a hole, over a creek;
Inspire the bold and scare the meek.
Ride men, drink sin.
By Satan below,
with his fiery glow;
I wana be you
Before I go.

You know what I love most about folklore, fairytales and fables?  The sense of identification we find with the figures we discover.  For some, the idea of a witch and the legend surrounding them means more than the facts, and over time, what is fact and fiction simply becomes folklore, legend or myth. I spend most of my time combing books.  I collect and hoard them, and I read them day in and day out taking notes on everything I find of any interest. As the cold wanes, I hunker down into my books even deeper and enjoy the stories and tales that help pass the time as we wait for the sun's return.

“It is known that she was a woman of bad morals.”

I have to say, I really love falling in love with a folktale witch.  Cross recounted a tale of the supposed Northampton Witch of North Carolina, Miss Phoebe Ward in the Journal of American Folklore, and it was later picked up and further distributed through the Green, Brown and Hand collections, giving it some popularity.  This folk narrative was highlighted in Elizabeth A. Lay’s folk superstition drama/theater piece When Witches Ride: A Play of Folk Superstition.  Supposedly, this 19th century witch was famed for the misfortune she brought to those who turned her away, (like the fairy from Beauty & the Beast), and embodied much of the superstition we love about witches here in the West.

What I liked about the witch in this narrative was that she represents the best aspects of witchery; this unashamed, unpredictable, cunning creature who could be near death in the freezing cold and still charm a man into giving her booze and a fire to sit by.  The idea of this woman engenders affection in me.  The tale says that she died very old, surrounded by a life of scandal and superstition, fear and fable.  I want to go out like that.

Phoebe was a beggar, an old woman, presumably a white American person, possibly a traveler, who made her living off of the rare charity of others.  The account states that the general atmosphere around her was fearful and negative; with people said to need to perform all acts of inhospitality in order to get her away from their homes where she was well-known to overstay her welcome.  People were seemingly quite cruel to this old beggar woman, sticking pins in the chairs they offered her and burning foul odors to drive her away- this was done using pepper, an old remedy for driving away evil spirits, devils and witches, and I suppose, poor old women.

"Through thick, through thin, way over in the hagerleen"

The transformative skin-slipper is very much the quintessential new world witch motif of old, a definite throwback to the most classic fears regarding witchcraft that happen to be shared across cultures (as magical concepts are want to do).  I find the skin-slipping witch to be the most fascinating one, a kindred spirit. 

Correspondences of her variety of hag:

  • Keyholes, doors, chairs
  • Hexes, enchantment, tricks
  • Brandy
  • Winter
  • Fire, Wind
  • Cow, horse, toad

For these new world witches of old tales, the slipping of skin was quite literal- the skin came off by means of a grease, ointment in combination with an incantation of some sort, or some kind of ritualistic movement like turning round in three circles.  The witch flew either as a beast, succubi, force or spirit- and the skin would be quite literally left behind, or otherwise, the “skin” could be interpreted as the body itself while the spirit flies away.  But Phoebe Ward had more gifts than sheer skin-slipping- that art is basic to our kind, and Phoebe was no basic bitch witch.

Among other mysterious gifts presented within the brief narrative of this folktale witch, Phoebe could:

  • Ride people at night as a nightmare
  • Fly through keyholes
  • Ride animals at night until they are spent in the morning by making them leap rivers
  • Make a bull jump a river with an incantation which when disrupted or revoked, caused the animal to fall

A witch like this could be warded off by:

  • Horseshoes hung over entrances
  • Sieves hung over keyholes (she’d have to count all the holes before entering)
  • Needles stuck in her ass by way of chair
  • Pepper burned in a fire or stove

Maybe the idea of Phoebe was just a way to express the narrative of witchery, maybe it was a hogwash tale of nonsense spurred up to to give folks some good fun.  Maybe, just maybe, Phoebe was a bonafide witchy woman (or amalgam of women) who went out like a solid boss.  I’m not sure I care, I kind of just like knowing that this personification of American witchy superstition has a name, has the wisdom to help pass along to the next generation of witches.  So here’s to you, and cheers to you Phoebe Ward the Northampton Witch of lore. 

May we meet someday on these nocturnal flights, somewhere far away from b'needled chairs... 

When Witches Ride  by Elizabeth A. Lay
Witchcraft in North Carolina
 by Tom Peete Cross
The Journal of American Folklore: "Folklore from the Southern States"-by Tom Peete Cross: Journal of American Folklore V XXII
The Silver Bullet, and Other American Witch Stories by Hubert J. Davis

Hours of the Tide: Blessing of the Seeds

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

From garden dibble to rusty sickle, the Green Lady watches and blesses all within her purview.

You, oh Earth
Who, in utter darkness; crushing and tearing,
opens new life to the sun
and feeds the dying
the dead
and the living,
You, Mother
kiss my seeds
and make them fertile as you.

I spend this Hour of the Tide honoring the Sacred Sickle; the bringer up of grains; the blood that scours the land.  Rye, oat, wheat, barley, poppy, amaranth; this harvest season will have the hours marked in deep commitment.  

The Summer Mysteries are still... well, a bit of a mystery to me.  I'm planning my garden with great intensity, and taking the time to weave and mend things. It gives me a sense of hope for the future.  There is a spring to come, one that will bring up the green and bring out the pollen and poplar fluff... I intend to work my garden with great care, and find gratitude in every process, every life, every death.  I intend to find meaning in what I make, what I eat.  

So, to you, oh mothers of land and harvest, I beg: breathe over these sleeping things, and give them life.

A Weaver Witch's Cauldron:  from lucet to hook, from loom to spindle, from nostepinne to nalbinding-- baby, I've got the magic.

Winterstide: Wool & Loom

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

"Spider spider, is that web for me?"
"Of course!  To hold you tenderly."

Merry Witch's Night.  What is it about winter that brings out the domestic magic in me so hard-core?  Is it the constant cold and darkness?  The silence?  The short days that need filling with work before the long night sets in?  Maybe all of it.  Winter gives me a strange energy.  A buzz.  A rat-like change of spirit.  Maybe my shadow self does change shape this time of year; from a rabbit in spring, a mole in summer and fall, to a rat in winter.  Scurry scurry, with lots of hurry, stirring pots and tying knots.  I've been boiling pears in butterscotch and brandy, whipping berries with heavy cream, layering dough and stuffing jars with the last fruits for oxymel.  I need to be careful with all of these brown-sugar and pine cinnamon buns, I'm plumping up on 'nog and dough.

I've spent the summer dying new wools with poke and walnut and verbena... I've been washing my old threads in saining water and rewinding them around their white bones.  And, I finally whipped out my spindles and hooks and bag of old fibers and am about to undertake a project I haven't heard of anyone else doing before.  I'll be using a seasonal fiber common to the Northwest but woefully underrated, and I collect it annually.  I've finally thought of a neat idea for my fibers.  

While I practice, I reflect.  When I reflect back, I start to pull at old threads and wonder.  I don't regret much in my past, except the things I didn't do sooner.  The projects and progress I've undertaken these last few years have overwhelmed me and I've discovered a renewed desire for total independence and self-sufficiency.  I want to weave things, create bonds and wind lost threads back together.  For now, it starts with keeping my working-wools in good shape and getting them ready for a brand new year of absorbing my work.  That's their purpose after all; to bind and hold all the magic they touch.

Never doubt the power of Red Thread.  It is a popular magic.  It's well known around the world that a string or rag or spool of red has a binding, connecting, banishing, petitioning and protective power.  Red thread connects the fated, red thread leads us through the labyrinth of life and death, red thread binds the dead, red thread winds a trick and pulls the future towards us.

I don't know how you choose to wind your wool, but mine goes round bones much of the time.  Simply because they're smooth and never catch on the wool and hold the spirit of life and death.  Wrapped in wool, like muscles and sinew round a skeleton, reminds me of what it means to give body and substance to something.  My wool feeds from the energy, and you can feel it-- a cold strand in each thread.  Horse-chestnut-dyed wrapped around horse-tooth, poke around chicken, rue around rabbit bone...  They bind up around the bones and sit ready at hand-- never to be snipped, only to be wound and unwound with each charm, with every fortune.

Spin. Measure. Cut.

Fate is funny.  They are funny, I should say.  Or at the very least, they have a wonderful sense of humor.  Sick.  Cold.  Cutting.  She who weaves, she who measures, she who cuts...  Parcae, Norn or Fates; whomever is spinning the threads, they seem to have a way of laughing at us, crying with us, sympathizing blindly.  The Fates, as I know them-- as an American metaphor and personification of destiny, are unseeing things, just like blindfolded Fortuna (Lady Luck).  They are not too closely scrutinizing, they seem to be following some greater directive, one given in the textiles of destiny, by Lady Luck, and by Trivia-- by the triple-facing, terrible Queen we witches adore.  It is the Soul and Chaos directing the triumvirate of weavers and cutters.  They're all in cahoots, they've ensnared us all.

Weaving was taught to me by my favorite teacher, Missa.  You may have seen her name mentioned in my acknowledgements section of my book.  She taught my sister and I so much; how to card and spin fibers, how to dye and soften, how to weave on fingers or looms.  Spinning wheels, drop spindles, indigo dye, frame looms, pin looms, round looms, lap looms, beading looms, wool, cotton, flax-- when a teacher of great creative and domestic skills is in your midst, love that person, for they are teaching your children some sacred magic.  Because of her, I expanded past crochet and into appreciating how my textiles get made.  My sister is a quilter and seamstress of great skill.  I... was not so gifted with the complex things, but I was always very good at simple; lap looms and drop spindles, crochet hooks and embroidery hoops.

Looms are phenomenal magic; framework magic.  What does a loom mean in sacred work?  As part of the everyday domestic arts, kitchen and hearth witching, homemaking and artistic innovation, the weaving of things is pure magic.  The tools used for this creative work are like any other tool or arte.  The scissors, the hook, the needle, the wool, the hoop, the loom; they all serve a purpose in magical practice.  The hook is ruled by earth, and is feminine, and generates the energy of activity, strength, protection, binding, protection, creation and community.  The frame loom is balanced, genderless, and holds a supportive, creative, guarding energy; it says to the witch; all things are temporary, and fate's boundaries, while ever present, are changing.  My looms are usually handmade from a wood with containment properties; something with masculine scent, with Solar or  Jupitarian energy.  So, oak or walnut usually. They are usually square or round, but never rectangles or triangles (preference).

I will rule,
I rule,
I have ruled,
I am without rule.

The divination aspect usually comes in with the weaving of shapes and lines.  The colors; the weave; the mindless loss; the focus; the feel; the texture-- all of it induces a state where the mind sees... things.  Past.  Present.  Future.  There are secrets in those threads as they cross and knit.  And the little vibrations-- smallest shimmer of life in every fiber, catching the air and electricity all around it. The stress on the knot, the wind and unwind.  It's  a trance inducing set of moments; senses engaged in a rhythm, a focus.

from my scrapbook of shadows
I really love all threadwork-- in particular; sacred embroidery, and knot-magic.  Love knot magic and Winding-charm fortunes are some of the more popular Halloween, Mayday and Midsummer folklore in the US, and I'm fond of the way it preserves in our practices today.  I adore the connection between calling visions of love, summoning spirits and winding a simple ball thread.  The connection between binding a charm and knotting a cord; it's such symbolic, simple, accessible magic.  Could be a shoelace, could be a sacred band of woven silk-- doesn't matter, both will get the jobs done admirably.  It's a deeply intentional magic.

The Fates are always at work; they are Fortune never stop their wild rhythm.  Winter is for them, I suppose.  And on this Night of Witches, I honor the raveling and unraveling of life, and death.  We are caught in it, all of us, and so, let us learn to manipulate these harmonies, and tangle them as we go.  Let us make something from the balls of chaos in our lives, and undo the structures we've woven.  Set the knots, pull the knots.

My books of work (grimoires, cunningbooks) are all full of knotwork, threadwork.  It's... a connection many of us practitioners share.  I wonder if most folk witches in America have a special spool of wool or ball of yarn or twine?  I wonder if we all keep some stock of cord to cut and crochet and quilt...  Are we all just knotting our hexes and whispering our rhymes?  I'd like to think it's a connection we're all sharing on a folk-spiritual sense.  I'd like to think that the pluck of the harmonies these threads weave can be felt, resonating against the work of others.  Maybe it's the kind of magic that can draw us to one another.  

I wind, I wind... who holds?

Hours of the Tide: Evergreen Gathering

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Evergreen, evergreen, evergreen.  So many smells and textures, so many kinds of conifer and holly and feral arbutus.  The evergreens that are brought into the house before Christmas are meant to bring good luck.  And likewise, for luck, they must be removed and burned by January 5th, with the ashes taken to the orchards at the feast of Mater Malum (Epiphany).  Every tree who stands tall and gives shelter, whispering and weighted with the responsibilities of winter's burden, is honored today.  My fingers smell like juniper berries and cedar oil.  My kitchen is covered in pine needles and my allergies are kicking my ass.  As it should be.  In our grimoire, the day is simply meant for the hanging, or laying of evergreen boughs, the making of hanging decorations for yuletide, the maceration of pine and spruce needles in brown sugar and the counting of holly berries.  

It's also a day to honor the emerald kingdoms that surrounds us.  After all, we're a regional witchcraft tradition, so honoring the most powerful trees in the Northwest in their most powerful and protective time, is just part of the sacred landscape.  Everyone gets to take home their own centerpiece covered in boughs and cedar roses, and the presence of it all lingers, in the air, and in the home.

Stay Green.

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

© VIA HEDERA • Theme by Maira G.