The Waters We Witch For

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."
(CLD)

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.

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 lighting 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 lighting-struck stump was a notoriously powerful type; there is always a touch more magic to those things that are lighting 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 their for.  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

 

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

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.

Christmas

"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.

Epiphany

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.
  • 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



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!

The Sythe Moon and the Feast of Nuts: Part II

Another year in quarantine, another Feast Day in solitude.  The Harvest Moon is my birth moon, it is when I came into the world at the time of the scales, under the auspicious Glittering Venus, the  Morning Star.   This Tide is for corn and nuts and grains and apples.  For the late roses and the early frosts and the first rains after the relentless summer dryness.  


For me, this is the time when the lightyear turns dark, when the sun passes from spring's hands to those of the winter Hag and all those riding, nightmare-inducing, wild spirits of the crossroads who go about giving a cold breath to the land.  The Hags that ride at night on their many implements and beasts, these are the ones I follow across the night sky.

They have come for the sacrifice; for the turning of the land from fruitful and green to a time of reservation and survival.  This is the time when the horned father rides with all his host and array.  The autumn is personified as a lush woman bearing a cornucopia. a sickle, a crown of roses and the flames of burning fields around her.  And beside her, a withering pyre, where there rises shadows and spirits.  That's what I see in the subtle turn of the land, in the change of the trees.  And for this moment, where the day and night are equal and turning toward the short dark essence of a dark-year, we honor the sustenance that emerges from this tide, and taste the changes.  I think we all await it; this time of pumpkins and apples and sweet smells and savory ones.

The Harvest Is... food, family, home, sacrifice, gathering, rush, preparation, sex, finality... it is the light waning, and the all-consuming darkness and the message that it sends to us; there must always be a balance, a time of emptiness, a hunger.  All things must change, and we can only hope that the change of the tides, there will come a change... one that will reopen the world.

Death is always with us, some times more than other times... right now death is feasting heavily.  I accept this, and think on the nature of mortality. I watch the leaves wither on the trees and appreciate the change that death brings.  I watch the tearing of rabbits by the owls; this is the cost, it is the way of things.  And I look at the many dead from this disease, and prepare my mind for the change this has brought in the world.  And so, I feast.  On nuts, and grains, and apples, and corn, in honor of life, and death, and that sacred dance they do.

The Path of the Seasons


We all see the change of the year differently.  What one witch calls the calendar, another calls a Wheel of the Year, but I call it the change of the tides.  That's what the seasons are, after all; the tides of the shift of our world.  It follows a rhythm, a clock, a sacred melody whose notes conjure life and death in turn...

The seasons are everything in my work; I time so much of my practices by where the sun and moon fall, what is turning green or brown.  This is the time of pods and husks and dry grass.  It is in the moons after High Summer and before the Equinox that I call Darkyear.  When the world turns over to the hands of those old hag gods and wild hunters, there is a tangible shift in the air; a toasty smell, something bold, something brittle, sweet and acrid, a lot of smoke, a little ripeness of fruit.  It dances on my tongue and I swallow it.  I love the grain seasons just as I love the green seasons.  Transitions and the in-between are the place for me.  

How does the passage of time move for you?  Is it the churning of a wheel?  The stretching of roots?  How do you trace the path of the Sun and Moon?

Equinox Spring/Final Frost/First Flowers
It's when the violets come in.  It's when the bluebells hang.  It's when the first lilacs are just ever so perfectly purple, peaceful and perfuming the air. The March hares rise, the days grow longer and the morning is a little less wet each day.  It is the tide of the passing of the cold dark sun to the new spring.  Here there be brides of the greening and fresh antlered-gods, and virid virgins.  Hail to them all.  I do nothing but enjoy the wildcrafting and the rain-dodging, and pray the frost away.
The Feast of Hares
When the Pink Moon rises, so with it does the tide of the hares.  Rabbit spirits and Mother of Leverets make the world fruitful and populous.  Thumping the land awake, and making wild all our rites of spring.  The hare and rabbit spirits invoke the time with their mysterious rituals of sex and greening.  It's more a feast of flowers than anything else; an excuse to eat as the rabbit does, to enjoy the floral wonders of the growing and turning land.  I love this feast; it's a time to sharpen culinary and creative skills, to forage and nurture the wild senses, and to celebrate my favorite little buddy, the lagomorph.  Feast, my fluffy friends.

May Day
What other day is there for snails and flour.  May's Moon is for flowers and festivals; it's a time for baskets and eggs and hares and happiness, spring is in full bloom and what is more alive than the ripening of life around us?  For some witches, Beltane and Walpurgis are these powerful moments of flight and freedom but for me, I just like to honor the beauty of the time I suppose with a little thought here and there.  Sometimes it's fine to have a relationship with a season that at some moments meaningless and at other moments, everything... There was a time in my life when Beltane meant a lot, but now, May will pass me by with almost no real notice. There's love there, and the root of that is deep.

The Feast of Pines
Nothing tastes quite as sweet as the warming sap of conifers.  Pines ooze from their cracks and craggy parts with sticky sap.  The green ends of the spruce are pale and petal soft.  The cedar roses smell like cinnamon and sunlight, and the pollen on the pines makes a fine yellow paste when mixed with honey.  The crumbling decay is dry, the needles are pliable.  This is the time to honor the greenwood walking along the land in all their fine array.

Midsummer's Eve
The sun rises, and nothing stays dead, every flower grows and withers here.  This is the time of warmth and yellows and golds.  Midsummer is a magical time, for divinations and seeing beyond this world, and for flying by firelit nights.  Witches dance round the ferns and divine by the river waves.  Find your romances on this night, go flying with that love, use it and be wild with it.  Make a wreath of flowers and let them sink or swim...

St. John's Day
The water isn't warm, but it's warming.  It's holy, the saint's water, it anoints and purifies.  A time for taking away illness and for delivering fortunes and futures.  It's of little consequence to my work but it's recently become a perfect time for purification in-between the great feasts of my faith.  I call it a "fresh root", one that may grow strong like the trunk of some great tree, or simply fade to nothing.  I don't think it's for me to know right now.  It's just part of the path.


 Highsummer/ Feast of Grains

The height of summer is a beautiful thing; it is the Feast of Grains; when wheats are ripe and breads are plenty.  The bread represents the alchemy of seasons, of human ingenuity.  It is the body of the old gods of the land, the culmination of green life made brown and buttered and good to eat.  This is the tide of sustenance, to celebrate the height of a life that is so very fleeting.

The Feast of Apples
The making of cider and chips from the ripe and ready apples of the Northwest is a wonderful time; it is the tide of Mother Apple and her brood of sweetness.  The taste of the air is full and warm and crispy. What does a witch do with the Feast of Apples?  Why, they celebrate the sweet life giver of course!  They count the seeds on their knuckles with ancient rhymes, they bob for them in pits of water and roast them by fires.  They coat them in caramel and smash them into cider.  Cut them in two, sing of their tidings and enjoy that moment of reaching into the mysterious green for that special, perfect apple.  Apple Mother is a god of mine and her feast days occur in Spring and Autumn, marking her promenade across the landscape of the year.

Equinox Autumn/ The Feast of Nuts
The sun changes hands, moving into a dark place, where the sun's power wanes and the nights begin their decent into darkness.  The meeting of day and night in this liminal space gives rise to the beginning of Autumn and all the woe and wonder it brings.  Here, the Hags of Winter rise and wink up at the fading sun.  There's nothing left but the bitter work now, the frosting of every leaf and the beating down of the land into stiffness.  The Hunter raises up with all the host of the dead and shades.

The Feast of Corn
The tide of the corn feasts is a tide to welcome the fearful return of the dark year, a proper feast to the Hags and Horned ones.  The equinox proper is a ritual moment, a time for passages... but the corn feast is for the welcoming, a way to offer your hand to the wild ride and go flying with all those underworldly things that rise with the wane of the sun's power.  Go into those fields and get scared.  Swipe your sickle at the grass in sacrifice.  Offer your foods to the spirits, souls and otherworldly gods, in gratitude.
All Hallows Eve
It's a feast of pumpkins, a time for witching things.  The sun is low and the fields are withering.  Everything smells good, even the marshes.  Everything tastes good; all the best of human memory and survival finding a place in the kitchen witching that we call the feasts of fall.  This is not my new year, this is my celebration of life.  This is the glorious reign of the dead, the damned and all dark and enduring things.  Ghosts and spirits, foul and fair gods of wicker and roses and thorns... they command the short days and chilly nights.  A witch makes off with cabbages on this day, sups with the silent dead and serves the games of love fortune.  Hail to the pumpkin feast and the prince of the field, and every cawing crow.

Hekate's Night
Mother of witches, queen of the underworld, holder of keys and patron light of all those witches and poisoners and feral beasts of the world.  To your sacred fires, we commend our very souls.

Midwinter's Day, New Years & Epiphany
When we dream of Christmas Eve and New Years-- we think of the food, the family, the ferns and fine fir trees strung with lights. It is a cold time of year but full of such warm tidings.  I've never liked Christmas.  But I love the turn of the year, the wassailing of the apples orchards, the shaking of snow off boughs in a ritual of awaking for the land.  Midwinter is a dark and dreary realm in the roots of the yearly tide, but it's when we most gather round our traditions and pray, pray for the year to turn safely, and for the food to never run out.  Epiphany is this witch's time to honor the apple orchard and the burning of the evergreens.


St. Valentine's
It's just a little love, and I live for the excuse.  I am a love witch; not the manipulative, cold kind, but the pleasing and fickle kind.  This isn't the magic of forever, this is the magic of now, and wherever souls gather their wants and needs and desires and give them an altar to live on; one festooned with hearts and doilies and sweet-nothings... something there is summoned.  On this day, we summon the spark of curiosity.
 


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