A Selection of Familiar Shapes

On the Shapes  in Nature Taken by Familiar Spirits
“The deed was signed in the blood of the witch and horrible ceremonies confirmed the compact. Satan then gave his ally a familiar in the form of a dog , ape , cat , or other animal , usually small and black , and sometimes an undisguised imp.”Terri Hardin, Treasury of American Folklore: Our Customs, Beliefs, and Traditions
Owl- The Old Hag of Night
The owl witch is an old one.   These familiars are well endowed with witching art and are in the service to the darkest mothers the world over.  As a familiar, thy serve witches as messengers, as trackers, as omens and as guides for necromancy.  Owl familiars are not to be treated lightly, and ought to be given their freedom to move.  Their ultimate service is to the dark mothers, those queens of underworld and inferno and so their wisdom must be respected.  Unlike some familiars which are sometimes brought to heel by force, this one is selective and requires wooing.
The most important creatures in American witchlore were familiars; demon servants that took the form of living animals in order to surreptitiously serve the enchanters.  Familiars were indispensable in casting spells, but by disguising themselves as normal beasts of the wilderness, the spirits could move undetected through the countryside, spring upon innocent citizens and performing evil assignments.”- Sally Smith Booth, The Witches of Early America

 Mouse & Rat- Little Devils
The rat and mouse class of familiars ought to be approached carefully and with planning.  Many spirits, shape-changers and demons take the shape of rats and mice for their work, and a familiar in this shape often works in company with others.  Offerings of food and shelter are often enough to draw a whole nest of hard-working familiars who will nuisance any neighbor you despise.  They can be politely reasoned with through well-written letters but are quite difficult to get rid of.  If this familiar appears, the witch will move swiftly and with cunning, and be given access to hard to reach places.
Rabbit- Jack-in-the-Graveyard
To select this familiar spirit, one need not obtain the foot.  Witches appear as rabbits quite often, and familiar spirits of all manner wear the skin of a rabbit to hide their true faces; it is one of the easiest forms to attain and familiars to encounter.  They are a lucky, swift and self-preserving friend, a valuable spirit.  Rabbit witches are not to be crossed, as harming one brings an instant hex, unless a silver bullet is used.
Frog and Toad- The Living Thing Within
Though a selector of familiars would recognize lizards, toads and frogs as components to hex work, they are also valuable familiars.  A familiar who takes this form is long associated with our kind and provides a plethora of innate gifts such as healing prowess, weather reading, communication with other spirits and usefulness in the production of elixirs and potions designed to harm others.  The killing of toads and frogs is taboo, as witches often take these forms.
Cat- Ye Olde Familiar
By bone and by black fur, the cat is an old mask of the practitioner and a highly prized form for a familiar to take.  Those who wander out of their skins and into another will find the cat an easy form to shape, and as a familiar spirit, the cat is quite loyal and powerful.  Its very bones emanate with the power of invisibility, initiation, conjuring and divination.  A familiar in the shape of the cat will guard a witch but only at its own leisure.

Horse- The Nightmare
The horse as a familiar spirit or wearing it's shape will give the witch a distinct advantage in nightriding, shapeshifting and travel.  Witches may even be able to turn humans into horses to use as they please as though they are familiar spirits themselves.  This familiar can assist a witch in dreamwork and flight.
Hog- Swine Haint
A hog is a form often taken by the witch, and witches are known to bewitch pigs belonging to others, but they are also a permissible familiar spirit that can perform tasks for witches of all manner.  They are wise, unassuming and will serve as a suitable specter for the night-riding hag witch.  A hog bewitched or a familiar hog can torment others by spoiling their crops or spoiling their dreams with the squeals of unholy songs.  A witch hog is hunted by silver bullet and pokeberry, so these things ought to be avoided.

Mole- The Magician
The selection of the mole for one’s familiar spirit is a bloody affair. Familiar moles evade the law, harbor the gift of invisibility, the healing virtues that take away disease, and general command of the magical arts.  This familiar is promised to remove obstacles and block other witches from being a burden.  The difficulty of this familiar is attainment, as it must offer itself, or, be taken.  If the former, this bond is forged in roots and dirt; if the latter, the mole must be crushed in the left hand and the heart and or liver consumed quickly before the paws and teeth are removed and set to dry.
Beetle- The Death Watcher
A familiar who takes the form of the beetle is one who is well adept to traversing the keyhole.  It is the teller of death, rain, thunder and will be useful in delivering forewarnings as a familiar.  Its gift is that it may wander in small places and keep watch without notice.  The black beetle will climb into beds and pinch one’s enemies and will find their way back to the witch even in the deepest darkness. Sadly, the beetle familiar is easily captured in an anti-witching bottle.

Familiars, whether shaped as ghastly specters or as everyday animals, were not thought capable of sustaining themselves without nourishment.”- Sally Smith Booth, The Witches of Early America

The Odd Shape
These can take the shapes of specters, winds, lights or shadows, or, fantastical shapes. Some of the devils and imps of witchlore which appear to witches and non-witches alike look like fireballs moving on the wind, or appear as dust-devils kicked-up on a breezeless day. Some may have the ability to take on shapes we recognize in our animal kingdom while others take rare and strange forms unnatural to our perspective. These spirits may appear before a witch in forms simple and strange, silly and odd, or so terrible it nearly breaks the mind to try and comprehend. The sacred geometry of some spirits is a fascinating thing; that the spirits in their unseen forms can be greater in size than imagination, smaller than reckoning and can be in shapes that twist the eyes and stun the mind. They can be twisted and terrible, wrenching to behold, the very stuff that inspired the horrors of hells’ mythology or perhaps celestial beauty. Their bodies can be infinite fractals winding in and out of themselves, undulating with the deeper maths of the universe, or simple and senseless things- barely imagined, barely there, a simple wisp of an idea lost on the wind. A spirit is not always a familiar face, sometimes, it is so vastly foreign that we are instantly repelled. What is beauty in one universe can be a nightmare in another and the shapes of familiar spirits can take these drastic and diverse forms, but most typically, entities appear in forms suitable to our world; our animal and plant and mineral allies, aspects of nature that can trick our eyes and the eyes of others.

The Scythe Moon and Feast of Nuts

The Harvest Moon is the moon of my birth.  I came into this world after the equinox had passed, on a moon’s day under a waxing moon, and it has landed so again this year.  I resonate with this time and the taste and smells of autumn.  These in-between and transitional times are when I feel most alive, even in such a time of death.  The reaping was heavy this year- the summer burned in more ways than one.  Back in May, I had hoped that by the time the scythe moon came, that things would be calm and normalcy might look like possibility rather than a memory.  At this point, I don’t even know what will happen but I know that the harvest sickle swings hard in the heat.

The time when the leaves turn, the dying grass, the fall of the corn and the preparations of preserved goods is a sacred moment for the human species of mammal; it’s a bloody, hot, burning reminder of the turning of things, the ever constant change over which we have no real control.  The autumnal equinox of this, the Year of Hell, the Covidian Era, falls on a Martian day, under a waxing sickle of a crescent moon as it moves into the arms of the archer.  The sun passes hands around this time.  Those gods of the green and fruiting world mature into wicker men and rose queens, corn mothers and sickle gods, and go into the land as they do, making space for those spirits who dwell in the turn of the leaves, and in the frosts that creep.  Those hags of winter and lords of silence enjoy their rides along the land, bringing with them the hush of the snow, and the endless dark. But for now, the sun is still high, the horizon is ablaze with fire and smoke, and the nights are still hopelessly hot.

Harvest season brings with it all the fun feasts of the season; the feast of grains and the feast of apples have passed with midsummer and highsummer, now is the time for the maples, the buckeyes, and feast of oaks.  This is when the black blood of the god-trees can be drawn out; the oak-gall and the walnut are here to be bled, and to serve.  The oak harvest is one of my very favorites-- the whole season of the nut really.  The feast of oaks takes place when the acorns ripen and the galls grow brown- the wasps have left but the many crawling mysteries within remain.  The horse chestnuts split and bounce down the hills, crushed under wheel, poking up in the grass. We feed on the oaks and chestnuts, hazels and walnuts, and all those good things, to honor the old gods, the strong and ancient arboreal gods.   Around this time, I feel like the Apple Woman and the Lord of Oaks share a kinship, a balance.  These liminal spirits appear a lot in my life, as doorways and symbols, as heralds and omens.  Their names sound long and ancient in my ears, airy words that I speak only with them. 

 But they aren't the only ones who speak to me clearly this time of year; the horse chestnut trees I've worshiped under and bled for and fed and honored have come to bare fruit.  I only pick from these trees and I have since I was a kid.   The horse chestnuts and buckeyes as a personification represent luck, and the protection of good health, but as a personal acquaintance, these particular spirits are teachers of all kinds of loving green art- whispering advice at me like the pinpricks under my heels while I gather.  Painful and sharp works that reveal something smooth and slick and well structured beneath its harsh exterior, and deeper within... the fruit of knowledge.  The horse chestnut speaks of to me of dolls of health, dolls of love, of clean and fresh smelling clothes and good healthy feelings. 

As I feel the land turn and ready for rest, I go out to the woods to the horse chestnut trees and start picking up the early buckeyes as they come tumbling downhill and gather in the ivy below.  They will be all kinds of useful to me soon enough- as a natural soap, as a fortunes tool, as flour for dough-dollies… a good time to start readying the poppets and bottles is right about now.

Winter will bring a lot of change, I hope.  I've been so stagnated in my statue work, focusing more on videos for my YouTube channel, my contributions to upcoming works and my second book.  I really miss putting my fingers in clay for purposes of art rather than charms.  I feel like I waste every weekend and yet I get so much of my personal goals accomplished I don't know why I'm stressing.  The darkyear will be different.  It will have to be.  Because I need to move on to new statues and I never quite move on when I have old projects left.  May the coming dark bring the peace and time I need.

Up and Away and Through the Keyhole

Keyhole Witching
“Up, and away, and through the keyhole I go;
Fly into the night, or to hell down below”

Quarantine continues and there's not much left to do... except torment one's enemies in their nightmares.  After-all, I'm sure I'm not the only person spending more time sleeping than normal while stuck inside.  But then, I don't waste my sleep or my dreams, I enjoy a healthy passion for flight.  And there's a million ways to fly, and yeah sometimes they involve a grease, oil or ointment- or some kind of devilish magic in the wood.  But sometimes, it's a leap of spirit, over hills and through wood, under door cracks and through keyholes...

The spirit that passes through the keyhole may be on his way to the sabbat, or, on her way to torment a love.  They may arrive to ride an enemy in his dreams, or transform him into a steed who will be run ragged into the night.  She may simply wish to enter a closed space inconspicuously, as a spirit, as a specter, as a beetle, moth or gnat, as a dream, as a mean-spirited thought or an erotic desire.  Witches have many methods and motivations for their magical (mis)deed and as witches are want to do, they often achieve this by passing through a liminal space.  After all, it is through the in between that spirits pass between destinations.

The symbolism of the keyhole as a liminal passage, a portal by which the practitioner may send their spirit to torment, exalt or simply wander, is a deeply rooted one in my opinion, it speaks to our deepest insecurities, worries, childhood fears and genuine concerns regarding our safety at the most vulnerable of times- in the night, in the dark, in our own beds where we lose consciousness 8 hours a day.  That little hole in your door is a vulnerable place, especially a keyhole you can see right through; it is a passage between places that is situated within a boundary and that thin separation is a dangerous place.  Even though we know the physical limitations of the door that separates rooms, or marks the boundary between outside and inside the home, it didn't change how some of our ancestors worried.

Keys and Keyholes, what a wonderfully popular symbolism in magical practice.   The Witch Queen is often depicted with keys; in particular, Hekate is associated with keys, doorways and witches altogether, something she’s gained world renown for.  The strength of that connection isn't lost on we modern witches, especially those who are league with Hekate in some form; the key is a magical tool akin to a wand, akin to a will.  Keys can personify movement, travel (in the mundane or sacred worlds), protection from things that lie beyond boundaries, protection from doorways that need closing. It is a popular tool for every occasion, even divination, but the keyhole itself doesn't get a lot of love in terms of magical use these days.

It is the uncanny passage way, an omen of mystery, fear and even death.  The portal that is the keyhole, this metal contraption (typically associated with apotropaic features) that helps guide the key, it is the highway for spirits and has long been associated with magic, but more specifically- with witchery and haunts. Boo-hags, mara, succubae, Nightmares and Nightmare-men, blood-drinkers, witches and all kinds of magical practitioner uses.  Between the many cultures that came to the Americas, there was an overlapping magical mare mythology that magnified the nocturnal fears transmitted between people back when the world was still full of mystery.

Nocturnal Peregrination

The symbolism of witches and ghosts passing through keyholes to get into the home is widely European in origin, coming to America by way of English, Italian and Dutch folk-magic, well-known Slavic superstition, German fairy-tales among other sources.  Obviously, cultures with home designs that include keyholes would have a good deal of lore about them, but these superstitions and beliefs crossed that thin division and became quickly absorbed into the folklore and magic of many Americans, especially African Americans whose own plethora of post-colonial witching lore shows the clear influence that these keyhole spirits had on black American folk- including tales of conjure men riding their masters at night to punish them for their cruelty.
“Nightmare is caused by the nightmare man, a kind of evil spirit, struggling with one.  It is prevented by placing a sharp knife under the pillow, and stuffing the keyhole with cotton."- Fanny Dickerson Berge, Current Superstitions: Collected from the Oral Tradition of English Speaking Folk [in America]
Witches didn't just come through keyholes, but under doorways, down chimneys, carried inside on bewitched clothing, hidden in your work-boots left outside.  Hags and Nightmares could squeeze through cracks in doors or floorboards, wherever you were, a witch or witch-spirit could follow you if proper precautions weren't taken to prevent them from doing so.  These preventative measures could be as simple turning the key sideways and leaving it in the hole, or clogging the keyhole, or putting out a trap like a blue bottle, sea-glass, scissors under the pillow, a sieve or strainer by the window, a pile of grain or line of beans or rice across the doorway, a horseshoe above or a broomstick below.  Sometimes, not even the most blessed metals or stuffed keyholes could prevent the night-wanderer from entering the home and the body.
“When the witches are coming through the keyhole, they sing; "Skin, don't you know me? Jump out, jump in!" and if you are able to throw pepper and salt on the skin while they are out of it, they cannot get into it again." - C.L. Morrison Daniels, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World
Sometimes it's not even living witches who ride in the night, but witch-spirits, ones that were never human or alive in the first place but who work as witches do by night and by will, by way of powers infernal, celestial and terrestrial. These witches ride their victims like horses in the night, tangling up their hair to make stirrups, knotting their curling-ribbons and making a poor soul weary and withdrawn come morning.  With all these witches and hags and nightmare-men wandering through our doors it's no wonder that there is so much folk magic associated with preventing keyhole witchery.  It is a witch's most basic gift, they say, the power to fly from the body, slip the skin like Randolph’s “Devil’s Daughter”, or leave in a breath.  It is a means of travel, a means of hexing, a means of seduction... it has many uses, the projection of spirit.
"For witches this is law; where they have entered there also they withdraw." Tom P. Cross, Witchcraft in North Carolina
Unlucky women often found themselves accused of these nocturnal flights, in records as early as the 1600- in some ways the folklore of the witch caught traversing keyholes reminds me of those tales of the seal-skin women, or of Japanese celestial maidens, wherein a woman is captured by virtue of her magical object being withheld from her.  In the American witch’s case, this was the skin she shed when she fled her body, or the clothing she dropped (we witches and our naked workings).  Other times, it was disallowing the witch to leave from the keyhole she had entered through, thus catching her in the home. It was as much a danger for the witch to use this portal as it was a gift.

Jump In, Jump Out

“If a man in Denmark wishes to have any communication with the devil, he must walk around the church three times, and on the third, stop and either whistle or cry, "Come Out!" through the keyhole"- C.L. Morrison Daniels, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World
In my work, the keyhole is a traveling tool between points and places.  Some keyholes have sisters, keyholes that belonged on the same door or object, the mirror to the keyhole on the other-side of the door, or two made from the same piece of metal, and these ones are very useful when doing spirit work with a loved-one over long distances; acting as a means of connection and travel between two points.  Sometimes I leave the twin of my keyholes (from the family dresser passed down to me) in the woods to glimpse, in my working and my dreams, what lies there in the wood, or place them in areas where I need contact over distance.

They are also used in divination; during necromantic rituals to invite the dead between worlds, or, in the manner of a planchette on a spirit-board (if summoning is your game), or used to look through on auspicious days for certain signs of love to come (Daniels claims Valentine’s day was a good time for this project) or in haunted places in order to glimpse spirits and fairies on their wanderings.

When using keyholes in magic, it’s important to keep the ones you used purified and protected- I keep mine in an iron box and regularly pass salt through the hole, because you never know if an enemy is going to get all Peeping-Tom on you.  Stuffing the hole with cotton, poplar fluff or any kind of cloth is helpful as well.

One needs to be careful; this tool is an invitation- that’s part of the reason for its many dark associations- it is known to invite tricksters, devils, familiars, demons, spirits and even other witches, some who may not mean you any good.  When working keyhole tricks, it’s probably a good idea to keep in mind that the entire nature of this particular magic is movement between worlds, and unlike the key which proffers a sense of control, direction and desire, the keyhole is independent, unwieldy and stationary; it is only the path, not the guide.

Exalt in the Hag and the Horned One- the witch queen and king of we New World witches, for it is they who rule those dark airy spaces and places in-between and know all the mysteries of your wildest dreams… and nightmares.

Reading of interest...
Fanny Dickerson Berge, 
Current Superstitions: Collected from the Oral Tradition of English Speaking Folk [in America]
Alison Games, Witchcraft in Early North America
C.L. Morrison Daniels, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World
Tom P. Cross, Witchcraft in North Carolina
Frank C. Brown, Collection of North Carolina Folklore
Sally Smith Booth, The Witches of Early America

The Feast of Hares

 The Pink Moon in Libra arrives, and with it the Feast of Hares.  This particular moon has been very inspiring to people it seems; it symbolizes a healing hope, a peaceful and united movement in the cosmos, just as Venus passed through the Pleiades, the moon moved in to place for the Feast of Hares which has always, in its many forms and variations, been a symbolic time of rebirth.  The Pink Moon will fall at the end of a sunny Mars day, bringing a warm balance to the cool moon into the world.

That's what Floralia and Beltane and May Day and the Hare Moon and all the spring festivals of this time are, they are our celebration warmth returning, the rebirth of things.  Who knew that our ability to enjoy this time together as people always had would be so seriously derailed.  I'm pretty depressed that I wont get to make my May Day plans happen; I was really looking forward to being all moved out of this place and hosting sabbats by the time May's Eve rolled in.  At this point, I'm looking towards St. Johns and Midsummer, and hopefully, the freedom it brings.

I like Midsummer better anyway; I'm a lover of sunlight and long days and fire festivals of summer.  The older I get, the more I just want things to be warm all of the time, and outside in fresh wind.  As it is, I'm stuck inside like the rest of you, only catching glimpses of Spring on the rare venture outside.  As I've been writing more about recently, the comfort of domestic craft is keeping a lot of us sane.  The time at home and reliance of resources available is teaching me so much about how little I need to live on, how much I truly prefer to be alone like this and how much it comforts me not have to entertain anyone.  It's teaching me that I should focus on the kitchen more because it truly is the heart of a home, it's wonderful power of creation makes the space sacred.

I had to venture outside to prepare for the Feast of Hares (which is more like a Feast of Flowers).  The point of the feasting aspect of the ritual is to honor the rabbit by eating like a rabbit (or at least not eating anything offensive to them)  which is why flowers and fresh greens and simple fruits are a must.  Outside are fresh, fat, dandelions (but I regret to say the greens on these ones were too damn bitter even after some serious pickling and sauteing).  I made a heavy cumin and curry batter with a dash of dried garlic flower I saved from a year back and the result was fluffy, crunchy, sweet and savory fried dandelion heads.

Like I said; the greens were a tad bitter- I just couldn't bare them, but the pickled magnolia and ripe red beets made the salad a tangy, peppery delight.  A little red rose, cherry blossom and Chinese hawthorn tea to wash it all down and a vanilla violet honey bun for dessert and the feast is ready!  The bread broke unfortunately... I overworked it, but it still tasted heavenly. I sat on the porch and watched the lazy world go by.  Tonight, I'll open the Lepus Urn of Dreaming and go leaping over ditch and meadow, over grave and under full moon.

I shared the left-over dandelions with my guests of honor, my rabbits, and I think the whole thing was a success.  
May your Pink Moon be Merry, my friends.  May the moon bring you the hope to heal and the courage to keep fighting this plague.

Venus Day Violet

Gods, the violets smelled heavenly this year.  Like a meadow in my hands, sweet and light and dewy and deeply floral.  They are central to my honoring Venus Day in a few days.  They'll be central to the Feast of Flowers celebrations as well.  Just as Venus Day is a descendant of the Veneralia, the Feast of Flowers descends from Floralia and the celebration of spring in all its merry and abundant beauty from that old world we draw so much of our cultural symbolism from.

All the flowers and their symbols are a delight this month- but none are more beautiful in their cool, unassuming, delicate sweetness as the violet.  Their color when crushed in water is the deepest indigo, a deep blue with a tint of red that adds passion to her hue.  Violets and Venus go hand-in-hand. It's a romance between the glittering star and the lovely sweet violet.  The garden-gathered violets are washed and presented to the altar of Pandemos; I invoke the sweet song of the violet and sing her gentle praises.  Every year I gather the sweet violets from my mothers yard and make syrups, candies or dyes- practical and sweet things- a very me kind of ritual. 

This year was for candied violets and lemon-custard vanilla candied violet tart. The dough tastes like crisp butter cookie and the filling is lemon yogurty goodness with fresh lemon zest, honey and lavender sugars.  I love lemons, I love flowers, I love violets, I love spring.  I hate being quarantined at the height of poplar-bud gathering season, missing the bloom of the white camellias...  But that's okay.  Life is like this sometimes; in these awful and uncertain moments, we make sweet memories while we can-- wherever we can.

The Lightyear in the Home

Egg and sugar, butter and cream, lemon and salt, garlic and flour.  These tools of the kitchen cover everything from love to peace, fertility and hexes, divination and banishment... and a silver fork (even one bent into the beautiful shape of a heart) offers protection in the home that can't be beat.  Stuck in the house means reacquainting with my domestic skills, with the magics of the kitchen.
Spring is supposed to be a healing time, a time of rebirth and renewal.  Right now, it's just a time of fear and uncertainty and anxiety.  I wished better for my generation.  Spring is supposed to be a time go be out with friends gathering up the poplar buds and plucking the last of the sweet violets, instead we're just stuck inside trying to respect the new restrictions in this new world.  I plan to sneak out and walk around the yard a bit, gods know I need the fresh air.  The violets need picking and syruping, the hyacinths need drying and the cherry blossoms need gazing-at.  The wild greenwood walks and here I am stuck inside watching the procession of spring from behind the walls.  Floralia comes.  The Feast of Rabbits comes; May's Eve and St. Johns, Midsummer and First Fruits... it's all so close, I hope we can all go out and enjoy it when it does...

On this Lightyear, this Spring Equinox, I planned for the magical days ahead.  I started planning for this particularly social time in the witching world.  I'd like to hope I'll get the time-off in summer to attend the Symposium but as this quarantine stretches out, I will loose vacation days and opportunities later.  It's all so nebulous our lives right now, that's why I look forward to the divination that permeates the great holy days of witches; May's Eve, St. John's and Midsummer... In American folklore May is all about divination; this is a contribution of our various Western European ancestors.  There are many May's Eve and May Day Charms, ones that include wells and mirrors, fires and eggs, handkerchiefs and even snails in corn-starch.

“On the first day of May, put a diamond ring in a glass of water.  Place this glass where the sun will shine into the center of the ring, and when you look into the center you will see there the face of the man you will marry.”
“If a person looks into a well on the first day of May at noon, he will see his sweetheart.”
“ To keep off all sickness during the summer, get wet in the first rain of May..”
“If you look down a well on May first, you will see the face of the one you are to marry reflected in the water.” -The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore

“A basket tastefully arranged with flowers, was left by the lore-sick swain at the door of his lady-love.”
“A Piece of wild radish worn on Walpurgis Night enables the wearer to see ghosts and witches”
“Hares found on May morning are witches and should be stoned.”
“Draw crosses on you doors before May Day eve and the witches can do no harm.” -CL Daniels, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore and Occult Sciences of the World

“Hold a mirror over a well on May first, and you will see the image of your future husband or wife."
"If you wash your face in dew before sunrise on May Day, you will become very beautiful." -(Alabama)- Current Superstitions, Collected from the Oral Tradition of English Speaking Folk

Key and Bible divination has always been curious to me... I've never used it or seen it used but it's well known as one of the three old-world divinations of the Salem Girls (aside from Venus Glase and the Sieve and Shear), nevertheless I've been exploring it with a sister in the circle.  The triad of these gifts captured the imaginations of colonials, made them weary of this wicked world.  Stuck in the home means lots of time with the family bibles and family clock-key.  I have all the eggs and fostoria glasses I need but I've never quite figured out how sieve and shears is supposed to work...
But, I along with seemingly the rest of the known world am in a state of self-isolation.  Seattle's taking a hard hit with this pandemic, every day is a new damage report.  I'm heartbroken for Italy.  I'm heartbroken for the elderly.  I'm shocked by the callousness of leaders and depressed to know that the future is more bleak.  I've seen it deep in the cards- this doesn't go the way we want or think it will.  We have to get ready for years of hell.  That's life though, it always has been.  There are waves of peace and comfort followed inevitably by waves of chaotic fear and uncertainty.  I encourage you all to fall deep into your spirituality as we wait for the virus (both biological and political) to pass. It will take time, and it wont be fair, but life always balances itself slightly, ever so rightly.  Be patient.

The one benefit is all the time on our hands to get creative.  I've been relentlessly baking, drawing, writing chapbooks and brainstorming ideas of new books for me and friends.  I've been contemplating reaching out to local witches when the quarantine passes to gather for healing circles (carefully sterile ones at that), or just for some resonating time.  I need to harmonize over the craft right now.  I've had some inquires about the chapbooks; they're not for sale, no profit to be made- most are for my rebel-witch circle, the rest will be distributed randomly in cafe's I frequent and given away for May Day Basket.  May Day Basket will be a give away of chapbooks (each themed around either Love Fortunes or Hex Magic) for May's Eve to some of you fine folk.

When in quarantine, bake bread.  Supply yourself, fool.
Stay healthy, stay calm, pray and think conscientiously about your actions going forward, lives depend on our thoughtfulness.  Use this time to create, to sew, to garden, to work great art, to write and to cook.  Bake breads and crack eggs, spend time in your thoughts.  I wish you the best.

The Procession of Spring and Spirits

Already the land is warming.  It could just be a trick of the seasons; sometimes it gets warm in February and March only to snow again, and indeed a hailstorm covered my home in a small pile of ice on a chilly Saturday evening.  The last few months have been about loss.  I don't like grief.  I can deal with finality but I hate the pain of getting through the losses we all endure.  I believe that the way out is through, and that's all I'm trying to do-  get through it.  It's a cold and chilly feeling, a sadness that will come and fade with the frost, returning every so often to remind me but always warmed by my good memories of those I've loved.  Frost never lasts, and it never stays gone.  I like that rhythm.  I like patterns and rhythms, processes and choreographed movements.  Nature is full of that, even in her chaos.

As the frost recedes, the subterranean nursery pulsates and undulates with life striving for the warm sun above.  Their hard shells give way, their roots stretch, the soil makes space as the young shoots crawl their way to freedom and air and light.  She pushes them up from within, the young green bride of the land.  The land opens, the green spirits promenade along the hillsides and bring the celebration that is spring and summer to us all.  The hags of winter rest, the brides of spring dance, and all I wait for is the fires of summer that make the time so great.  The cook-outs and campfires, and bonfires; the holy fires, the nyd-fires, the May-fires and candle lit porches in the short nights...  I encourage you to make this Mayday and Midsummer something special.  Make the bright-year a time of creation and life, go dance with all those green gods and rose queens of summer.  Enjoy the land and sky and sea, and protect it with your whole heart.

Part of my current work has been dedicated to working on a series of chapbooks/zines based on folklore I've collected and essays related to them that I've written here and elsewhere compiled with illustrations.  These chapbooks are put together by hand and will be distributed at some upcoming witch markets and pop-up metaphysics fairs in the city.  Look for me around town, I show up in random places in Seattle and these chapbooks will too!

Floran candles for Mayday festivities this year
The other part of my time has been focusing on welcoming the spring and the renewal that comes with it through creation.  Dipping dried, oiled and cured mullein stalks from the cemetery roadside in beeswax, rolling Floran candles on paper, molding them hot in my hand with the petals of roses and the scent of olibanum, cooking up the fresh-harvested Seward pine resin and wrapping branches in the dried moss for the Woodwife torches... Candle-making isn't just a hobby, it's a coping mechanism, a way by which I can calm my nerves and focus my thoughts.

For my Naenian Candles, my partner and I built a walnut box from hand; a safe and sacred storage for these torches which illuminate sabbats and lead processions of the dead.  Inside is a mixture of calendula, red rose and ash of the cremated dead... A suitable coffin for this spirit candle.  Creation is sacred in every form, and during this time of renewal and sun and fertility, I am a servant to the preparations of this time. Cemeteries are resting places for the dead and roadsides are the paths that guide us, and our processions.  The mullein that grows there is imbued with a particular gift for movement and guidance, rest and community.


I just wanted to give a heartfelt thank you to my friend Cory over at New World Witchery for a great interview and a wonderful conversation on all things magic and folkish.  I look forward to our future collaborations!  Visit New World Witchery Podcast for more!

Apples of Epiphany

I can feel the land stirring even as it withers under the wet and cold and frost.  The Virid Virgin in her nursery, the Wild God newly reborn with the rising sun, the children of green and spring turning in their sacred hills, readying for their emergence into the spring's light.  I wait for this every year, I wait for the light to return because when it does, the buds will unfurl, the leaves will be vibrant, the frost will slough off into the river and out into the bay.  I love to watch the land turn green, watch the Wild Woman and her Horned god promenade through the land, turning bitter black to bursting brightness.  We still have a ways to go here in the Northwest- we don't usually get hit with snow until just before or after Candlemas and it sometimes comes back on and off all the way to May Day.  It depends; this year was cold and wet, so who knows what winter will bring?  What I do know is that the light is returning, the days will stretch out longer and with the rise of the sun, my power grows too.  I am no moonlit witch of the night; I am a flower queen of Midsummer, one of those day-time sorcerers of the fire-feasts, who haunt the heat-baked hedges and do all my best work when the sun is a blazing glow on the Western horizon, right before the whole world turns twilight blue.  I think people get witches wrong too often; they think it's all smoke and shadows and mysteries in darkness... they forget it's also about fire and light and fury and dance and destruction and daylight as well.

The Apple Mother has been on my mind a lot, inspired in part by Morgan's post about this class of liminal spirit.  It really is a class of spirit and having Apple Mother or Granny Apple in your court of spiritual guides is useful- she's sweet, a bit of a tart when she's drunk, she ages fine on the vine and ripens in strange weather.  She (I say she because my Apple Mother is female presenting to me but AM is actually a They in every regard) rules in a garden of food, harvest, home, fertility, love and is one of the many spirits in the court of Venus the Glittering Star- in fact, she is one of Venus' most prized heralds; apples carol in the morning star and sing her out again in the evening.  This New Year's Day and Epiphany, I honored the folk-magic and personal gnosis associated with apples; wassailing, cider-sprinkling in the local orchard, leaving cakes for the apple tree woman...

Apples are a strong cultural symbol in the States, and for good reason too; these wholesome and delicious foods have saved lives and staved off famine and hunger.  They rooted quickly in America and found their way into the cuisine and cultures of all who encountered it, Indigenous and Invasive peoples alike. She really is a force of giving and love; friendship and health, wealth and nobility- all those fancy and warm Venusian things witches like me live for.  Apple fortunes are prescribed for damn near every holiday on our calendar, but Epiphany has a unique and fun Old World history that makes honoring apples on this day particularly sweet; wassailing in orchards with hot cider and cakes!  There are dozens if not more incantations, songs and folk-rhymes in recorded English and Scottish history regarding wassailing around apple trees and orchards come New Years and after.

This time around, I've been focused on how Apples and Eggs play such a huge role in our culture and our magic, how use of these items transcends cultural lines and crosses into the symbolism of the common people.  By whatever name or form the spirit of the apple takes, may she be blessed this new year.

Epiphany means nothing to me religiously.  It celebrates a miracle that I've never witnessed or believed in but I do love the folk-magic associated with Epiphany- namely the fortune telling and divination games; apple-tree shaking, Venus Glase reading and the delightful epiphany cake with it's hidden gifts.  I made my own, with colored sugar and spongy sweet dough.  Inside was hidden a small red bean and a small black bean; to crown the new king and queen of the day.   It tasted fantastic even though I wasn't crowned.  I also made cured egg yolk.  I don't know why, I don't even eat eggs much... I guess I just wasn't raised to waste food, so after cracking my whites in the Venus Glase, I salt cured and baked the yolks, to store for future use.  Some times, we do things just to feel connected, and I felt connected to the season more than usual this year, all thanks to the folk charms that celebrate this season, and I feel better for it, more in-tune to the home and kitchen.

I hope your New Year brings you everything you need; the joys, the trials, the security and the comfort.  May the light return to your world as it grows green again, may it be as sweet as an apple and as filling as cake and may you see the path before you with eyes unclouded by egg-whites.


The Egg of the New Year

Holly pricks and evergreen sticks, 
Mistletoe above, and fortunes of love; 
The short, sunless days-- a world without light.
We witches still play on Christmas Night.

          Winter comes and with it, the bite of the frost and the long nights.  The boughs of the trees will weigh heavy with snow, the rains will freeze in the sky and blister our skin.   We will wrap our homes in light and tell stories by the fireside; stories of nativities and saints and devils and gifts.  Winter is a story-telling time, especially in Indigenous cultures, including the in the Northwest; winter dances and potlatches used to be more common, because winter is a time for stories, for tales that thrill and teach us on the long nights.

         They used to say that cattle and horses kneel to Christ near Christmas.   They used to say that the winter was haunted by Hags.  They also used to say that fortunes and love divinations were just as useful at Midwinter as they are at Midsummer.  In the folklore of the New World, witches and portents of the future tend to ride on the days of Hallow's Eve, May's Eve, Midsummer and Midwinter, and today it is the latter we will honor.

        Midwinter, Winterstide or Christmastime is a peculiar season- from the end of Thanksgiving to the day of the New Year, our world becomes a festive, illuminated, highly spiritual time.  Whether secular or religious, whether Christian or pagan, the Yultide season is so deeply rooted in our traditions that we continue the magic of the season onward through the generations with joy.  Part of this time is spent in frantic materialism and commercialism, driving ourselves into debt over expectations unrelated to the history of the season, and the other part is spent in joy and revelry with family as we fatten on sweets the way "rabbits fatten on frost".I don't care for Christmas, at least, I used to truly dislike it until recently.  The more I started to separate my celebration of folk charms from the consumerism and obligations, the better I felt about the season as a whole. These days my "Christmas" is about divination, baking sweets, attending the ballet and waiting for my more favorite holiday, New Years.  This year, my New Years is for reading the future, looking ahead, seeing the way.

Sorceries in the Venus Glase
Egg divination is a very cute and underrated folk-magic.  The idea that there's an entire magical world surrounding eggs as portents of love or death, as talismans of luck or cursing, as vehicles that witches sail overseas in (according to the German American folklore of the Midwest),2 is just too cute to me.  In the part of Southern California we grew up in, it wasn't uncommon to hear of someone's granny or abuela rubbing them with eggs or cracking eggs over them for all kinds of purposes; to remove internal blockages, to tell fortunes, to absorb bad spirits and evil eyes, or to heal wounds and transfer pain- even to curse children or sick or elderly people.  Oomancy is part of many different healing traditions and their method for use in that regard isn't too dissimilar to the love divination games reported in folklore.  Witches seemed to love haunting eggs in the same way they loved haunting butter in folklore; witches were accused of rotting the hen's eggs or producing yokeless eggs much to the irritation of their neighbors according to Puckett’s Popular Beliefs and Superstitions.  Emrich had reported in The Folklore of Love and Courtship that a portent of someone's intended lover would themselves enter the home to turn an egg put into the coals of a hearthfire, an egg that legend says "sweats blood".   I've never seen the famed "egg-sweating" that's discussed in some of our folklore, but when candle wax or liquid mercury wasn't available, we would turn to egg-whites cracked into bowls.  As we move closer to the long night, the Winter Solstice, I've been dreaming of folk charms for the occasion...

“If an egg, placed in front of the fire by a young woman, be seen to sweat blood, it is a sign that she will succeed in winning the sweetheart she desires.”3

Every bit of lore regarding this divination varies; sometimes the egg-whites must be poured into the water and the bowl left unmolested overnight to be read in the morning (just as it is on May Day), other times you read the whites by candlelight straight-away.

"Drop an egg in water at midnight on New Year's Eve, and whatever it forms is what will happen to you during the year."4

One operation for this fortune given in the Journal of American Folklore tells a pretty fantastic tale, here it is not directly referenced as a Christmas or Halloween divination, but it can be if you want it to;

“One or more girls place some eggs to roast before an open fire, while they seat themselves in front of the fire on chairs. Each one who is trying her fortune rises to turn her egg when it begins to sweat ; it will sweat blood! As she is turning the egg the person she is to marry will enter through a door or window (all of which must be left open) and take her vacant chair. If she is to die before she marries, two black dogs will enter, bearing her coffin, which they will deposit on her chair. Mrs. Fanny D. Bergen.”

         According to C.L Daniels' collection of occult lore, egg folklore among different cultures was not only common, it was fairly serious business much of the time.  But, like most divinations and fortunes, these magics were not always associated with witchery, mostly with 'little sorceries' and fortune-telling, and were usually practiced by younger people (girls in particular) in order to divine for luck in love and life, or to foresee theft and death.  One of the divinations given in reference to the holidays (we witches know as our flying-days), goes as such;

"To foretell coming events, break a new-laid egg, separate carefully the white from the yolk, drop the white into a large tumbler half full of water, place this uncovered in a  dry place, and let it remain untouched for twenty-four hours.  Then look again, and the figures which will have formed indicate the occupation of your future husband,--” the charm continues, "The more whites are dropped into the glass the more figures there will be.  This fortune-telling experiment is believed to be  particularly efficacious if undertaken between midnight and 1 am on May Day, or Midsummer morning, on Halloween, Christmas Eve or New Year’s.

An egg for luck, sugar for sweetness, milk for comfort, rice for wealth and an orange for beauty, may these New Year symbols bring their spirits into my path...

The same egg divinations practiced especially on May Day and Halloween are just as effective at Midsummer, Christmas and New Year’s, days associated with witch’s flight and so, if you’re feel the need to bring some folk magic into your Holiday season, you could turn to egg magic for New Year fortune-telling with friends and family, or make egg-magic part of your Christmas Eve activities with the kids.

Take an unblemished egg from the fridge or hen-house, one for each person involved, and some glass goblets or bowls.  Fill the bowls with water and by firelight, crack the eggs and separate the whites.  Pour the whites into the bowls and save the yellows for baking goods.  Tuck the bowls under your bed and in the morning, pull them out carefully and read the shapes within.  If you see images of wealth, your mate will be rich.  If you see boats and waves, he will be a traveler who breaks your heart.  If you see headphones and turn-tables, bet he’s gonna be a DJ.  Have fun with this little game, or take it as seriously as you please.  For some, egg-reading is their primary form of divination, for others it’s just a fun but of fortune-telling.  The choice is yours as always.

New Year’s divinations make a good deal of sense; why wouldn’t we read our futures when the year turns?  New Years is huge for us as a culture, maybe we should focus more on bringing divination into this time as New World Witches, make it about more than just first-kisses, fireworks and binge drinking (I mean we should keep all that, but we can add more), maybe we can bring back some of the old customs and superstitions of the past in a fun new way.

"A branch of holly with berries on it, brought into the house, will bring luck; but for every berry that falls before New Year's, a bit of the luck will go."

Duncan Emirch’s The Hodgepodge Book: An Almanac of American Folklore has some advice for ushering in a merry New Year, like making wishes on horseshoes kept under the pillow on the eve of the New Year, and leaving out symbols of the future you desire out on the tables; bread and salt and coins and the like in order to draw in health, wealth and prosperity, or, eating foods with symbolic meaning for good luck in the year to come.

"Lay a green ivy leaf in a dish on New Year's night, cover it with water and set it in a safe place until the fifth day of the year. If the leaf is then still green and fair, you will be safe from any sickness all the year; but if you find black spots on it, you may expect sickness."- CLD

This time around I will be leaving out bread and milk for the tricksters who visit and I will be eating an egg for luck, black-eyed-peas6 for prosperity, and peppers to make my love-life spicy.  I’ll also be doing holly, apple and egg-divinations to usher in the New Year with my mates.  I'm looking forward to a new kind of Yuletide set of traditions, ones that make the season truly feel magical to me.

“By giving to a number of mistletoe leaves the names of her several suitors, and ranging them in line before the fire, she can test the affection of each sweetheart. The leaf which the heat causes to pop over nearest to where she is standing will indicate which lover is most sincere in his professions, and in the same way will be shown the relative ardor of the others.”7

1. Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, Vol VII
2. Wayland D. Hand, Popular Beliefs and Superstitions from North Carolina. 4874-8569, Volume 4874, Issue 8569
3. Journal of American Folklore
4. Newbell Niles Puckett, Wayland Debs Hand, Anna Casetta, Sondra B. Thiederman, Popular Beliefs and Superstitions: A Compendium of American folklore: from the Ohio Collection of Newbell Niles Puckett, Volume 1
5. Cora Linn Morrison Daniels, ‎Charles McClellan Steven, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World, Volume 2
6. Thomas G. Burton, Ambrose N. Manning, A Collection of folklore by Undergraduate Students of East Tennessee State University
7. Journal of American Folklore
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