Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Herbarium: Apple

Witches, it is almost apple season and as such, I have come to throw a herbarium post your way about the magical and medicinal uses of the glorious, tasty apple!

Magical and medicinal uses of Apple. Includes FREE BOS page!

Gender: Feminine
Planet: Venus
Element: Water
Powers: Abundance, Healing, Immortality, Love
Magical Uses and History: Sometimes referred to as the Witch's Fruit because its seeds resemble a 5-pointed star, apple is ripe with history and folklore. The history of the magical and ritual uses of the apple is lengthy, dating back thousands of years. As early as 8,000 B.C., evidence from the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, and Yellow River valleys suggests the apple was highly valued and cultivated crop. Furthermore, the apple plays a prominent role in myths from around the world, often being associated with magic, immortality, death, knowledge, and love. It has been called the Fruit of the Gods, Fruit of the Underworld, and the Silver Bough. In fact, the name Avalon is likely derived from the old Irish word meaning "the place of apples."

In an old Scandinavian Saga, Edda, Idunn (or Iduna) kept apples that were eaten by the Gods to ensure eternal youth. A similar myth appears in Greek folklore where Hesperides guards the apple trees that provide the same gift of youth and immortality to those who eat them. Apples also played a prominent role in Diana's Festival on August 13 in Greece where apples were prepared still on their boughs as part of the ritual meal. And while the Bible never explicitly states the tree of knowledge is an apple tree, it has long been believed to be so. In Celtic mythology, a branch of apple with buds, flowers, and ripened fruit, known as the Silver Bough, was thought to be a magical charm that would allow the bearer to walk between the land of the Gods and the Underworld freely. Apples are also mentioned in an old English ballad, Thomays the Rymour, where the Fairy Queen warns Thomas against eating any of the apples during the feast for to do so would mean he would not be able to walk among the living again. Finally, it is believed the Trojan war was started when the Goddess Eris threw an apple into the midst of a group of goddesses, claiming it was for "the fairest."

Due to its association with death and the Underworld, apples often adorn Samhain altars or are buried as offerings to the Dead so they may have something to eat during the long winter months ahead. Strong cider brewed from apple is sometimes referred to as Witch's Brew and placed on altars or poured on the ground for the same reasons. The wassailing tradition is still maintained in parts of England, especially Somerset, where on the Twelfth Night (Yule) cakes and cider are offered to the trees as libations for the spirits. Guns are often shot and pans banged together afterward to drive away evil and negative spirits.

The number of love spells using the apple is countless. Apple blossoms are added to love sachets, incense, and brews to increase spell potency and bring the caster love. Furthermore, an apple can be held in your hand until warm then given to your love interest. If they eat the apple, then they love you too. The most famous apple love spell, however, was popular among unmarried women across Europe. Simply peel an apple in one piece and throw the peel over your shoulder. The letter it forms is said to be the first letter of your future husband. Margaret Atwood brings light to this tradition in her book Alias, Grace where Mary and Grace try to figure out their future husbands. Mary is unable to peel multiple apples in a single go, foretelling her death in the near future. Other love spells include counting the seeds; even for marriage soon to come, odd for no marriage in the foreseeable future, a cut seed foretelling a tumultuous marriage, and two seeds cut foretelling widowhood. To ensure fidelity, cut an apple in half and have your lover eat one half while you eat the other.

Apples are also used in fertility spells. Barren women in Kirghizstan are said to roll around under an apple tree in order to become pregnant. In some parts of Europe, apple trees are planted at the birth of a son as an indicator of his health and virality. Furthermore, the apple is viewed as a life-giving fruit among the Celts and Welsh. Due to its potency of the drink created from fermented apples, they may have been linked to orgiastic rites.

The apple also has a long history of healing uses. The old Welsh proverb, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" rings with truth, as the apple contains properties that reduce fever, thus keeping the doctor away. An apple can also be cut into three pieces and rubbed on the affected area then buried during the waning of the Moon to banish illnesses. Gardeners would pour apple cider onto freshly-tilled soil to breathe life back into it prior to planting.

Apples can be used in a number of spells including:
     Love Spells
     Healing Magic
     Prosperity Magic

Please note there are hundreds of other magical uses not mentioned here. The list is too lengthy to include in one post. 

Medicinal Uses: Apples are commonly used to reduce fever (and historically scurvy) due to high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C. Apple cider vinegar is also used to treat fevers and sunburns. Early research also suggests eating apples may reduce your chances of cancer, especially of the esophagus and larynx, diabetes, and lung cancer. Research also suggests eating three apples a day increases weight loss.

Preparation and Dosage: Internally- If running a fever, eat an apple, drink apple juice, or eat applesauce immediately to boost the immune system and reduce the fever. Apple cider vinegar can also be taken internally to reduce a fever. Simply mix 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar with 1 tsp honey in a glass of warm water and drink 2-3 times a day until fever breaks. Externally- To reduce fever, place a towel soaked in a 1:2 part mixture of apple cider vinegar and water on your forehead or abdomen. Change towels after they have absorbed your body heat until fever eases. For a bath, mix 1 cup apple cider vinegar in a warm bathtub and stay in the water for 5 to 10 minutes. To treat sunburns, spray the affected area with a 1:1 mixture of apple cider vinegar and water, dabbed a vinegar soaked washcloth on the affected area, or take a cool bath mixed with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar.

Want to print a copy of this for your Book of Shadows? Click below for your free copy!

Magical and medicinal uses of Apple. Includes FREE BOS page!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Lammas Altar 2018

Lammas Altar 2018

Wooo! What a couple of weeks it has been! First, I traveled to Boston and Salem and after our flight was delayed multiple times, I finally returned home late last Tuesday and promptly returned to work the following day for pre-planning. The joys of being a teacher! Wednesday was our first official day back with the students, I am utterly exhausted. Because of my trip and work starting back, I haven't been home, like, at all, except to sleep. Needless to say, blogging has not been something I have had time for. However, I still found a few minutes to put together my altar for Lammas and I am glad I am finally able to share it with you guys.

Lammas Altar 2018

1. Leaf Candle Holder & Green Candle - The leaf candle holders with the green candles represent fertility (green) and the changing seasons. At Lammas, Mother Earth is providing us with bountiful crops, but there are marked shifts in the weather as summer begins to end, especially for those up north. Furthermore, the candles represent the Sun who helps to ripen the fruits of the first harvest. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost: $3 ($1 for set of 3 candles, and $1 each for the holders)

Lammas Altar 2018

2. Grapes- The grapes found flanking the altar represent fertility and abundance. Grapes are ripening and being picked during this time, making them the perfect addition to a Lammas altar. Furthermore, with Lammas being a harvest festival, it is important to have as many representations of fertility and abundance as possible to continue to provoke a bountiful harvest season so there is food to survive the winter. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost: $1)

3. Wine/Juice- Like the grapes, the wine/juice represents fertility and abundance. Being in a "chalice" and red, it also represents the feminine and lifeblood of Mother Earth who we thank during this time for the food she provides us. (Where did I get it: Publix; Cost: $0.25)

Lammas Altar 2018

4. Crystals- On this altar, there is malachite for growth and fertility, carnelian for strength and to represent the sun who is beginning to wane but still remains strong, citrine and pyrite for abundance, and amethyst for balance during this changing of seasons. (Where did I get it: Purchased from metaphysical stores or received in subscription boxes; Cost: Unknown)

Lammas Altar 2018

Lammas Altar 2018

5. Fruits and Red Candle- The fruits found in the center arrangement represent the fruits of the first harvest, as Lammas is the first of the harvest festivals. They also represent fertility, abundance, and prosperity in hopes that the growing season will be successful. The red candle represents the masculine Sun who helps to ripen the fruits of the harvest. (Where did I get it: Good Will; Cost: $2)

Lammas Altar 2018

6. Horn- The horn opposes the chalice of wine and represents the masculine aspect, specifically the Sun who ripens the fruits of the Earth, as well as fertility. (Where did I get it: Loot Crate 2016; Cost: $2?)

Lammas Altar 2018

7. Ivy and Sunflowers- The ivy draped around the entire altar represent abundance during the harvest. The sunflowers represent the Sun, balance, and fertility. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost $2 ($1 each)

8. Wheat- Lammas literally means "loaf mass" making wheat a must have on any Lammas altar. Being one of the first crops harvest this time of year, wheat represents fertility and abundance. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost $1)

TOTAL COST: ~$13-15

Like my other altars, most of the items I use are found or purchased for around $1. The crystals are the only items that I have acquired from various sources and cannot give an exact value for. I hope you find this sort of break down helpful, especially those of you looking to create Instagram perfect altars on a budget!

How did you celebrate Lammas this year?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hedge Riding Safety Tips: Staying Safe Outside Our Realm

Hedge Riding Safety Tips: Staying Safe Outside Our Realm

Following basic etiquette and preparation matters will keep you pretty darn safe in the Otherworld. Most of the safety issues you may face in the Otherworld are easily preventable by following the tips outlined in previous posts. However, there are more things you can do here on our plane as well as in the Otherworld to ensure your safety.

Protecting Yourself

This was posted in a prior post, but I felt it was important to include it again here.

Prior to hedge riding, it is important to make sure you are properly protected, and I don't necessarily mean through circle casting. I have never in my entire magical life cast a complete circle. It just isn't my thing. I prefer to let my energy flow freely, but I understand the importance of circle casting and the benefits of doing so. I, however, choose a different method to concentrate my energies and keep myself protected. As you will be traveling to the Otherworld, where there are both positive and negative entities, it is important to take proper precautions. You don't jump into the car for a road trip without making sure to buckle up first! Apply the same logic to hedge riding. While I have had only one negative encounter, it is better to be safe than sorry.

There are several ways you can protect yourself prior to entering the Otherworld. My preferred way is to envision myself surrounded by golden light. This is a technique I actually learned from Silver Ravenwolf years ago. I know, I know, the dreaded Silver Ravenwolf. However, this particular method of protection always stuck with me and she wasn't even mentioning it as a means of protection. In fact, she was using it as a way to cleanse yourself, but when I tried it, I felt it act exactly as she described a magical circle, so I decided because I could easily summon this "shield" and felt more comfortable with it, I would use it instead of the proverbial circle. I just can't wrap my mind around casting a circle up against a wall, but that's just me. Anyway! This golden light can stick to your skin, or be envisioned as an oval or egg-shaped shield around you. If you prefer, cast that magical circle.

In addition to visualizing a protective shield, you can carry a protective amulet or hold a crystal. Great protective crystals for hedge riding include my all-time favorite black tourmaline which protects against negative energies, especially those at a lower frequency; labradorite, which guards against psychic attacks and fixations; staurolite, which protects against unwanted spirits and attachments; and finally spirit quartz or just plain clear quartz, which both increase your natural defenses.

However, the best form of protection in the Otherworld is your animal guide. We will talk more about meeting your animal guide and developing a relationship with them later, but having them with you at all times in the spirit world if a must. They will inherently keep you safe and defend you no matter what the cost.

Other Methods of Protection

There are a number of other safety measures you can take both here and in the Otherworld to ensure a safe journey that I have not mentioned in previous posts. These include:

  1. Wand: You can place a wand, natural or not, on your lap prior to travel and summon it to the Otherworld if you encounter any negative spirits. If you have a Harry Potter wand from Universal (Ash anyone?) feel free to use that. I know some witches may scoff at the use of a "fake" plastic wand, but I am here to tell you, to any HP fan, that plastic wand holds some truly powerful magic, a magic that is hard to come by elsewhere. If you come across a negative spirit or feel uncomfortable, summon your wand to you by envisioning it. Then tap the spirit and say "be gone." Be firm and do not be afraid. Telling a spirit to go away will make it go away and it should stay away. On rare occasions, the spirit may return. If it does, end your journey.
  2. Besome: Also known as a Witch's Broom, the besome is a fantastic partner for any hedgewitch. In the Wiccan tradition, besomes are often placed at the door when a door is cut in a magic circle to protect the entryway. Sit a besome near you prior to hedge riding and summon it should you need it. Sweep away the negative spirit and will it away, just as you did with the wand.
  3. Iron: If you encounter fairies or other spirits "allergic" to iron, use it to will them away. Iron burns fae and will keep them from bothering you. You can place an iron nail in your hedge riding sachet or wear it around your neck as a protective necklace. I've been known to carry a cast iron frying pan with me when I hedge ride. Thanks Tangled for the wonderful idea. It's pretty darn effective and easy for me to get. Haha!
  4. Rowan: Rowan is the preferred tree of hedgewitches, which is unfortunate because it doesn't grow in warm climates like those found in Georgia. However, if you live up North, enjoy the heck of out it for me. Rowan is an extremely protective plant and can be used to will away and banish spirits from bothering you in the Otherworld. Feel free to wear it as a crown or fashion a wand of rowan. Rowan also increases spirit communication and can make travel to the Otherworld easier.
  5. Red Witch's Cord: Tie a red string, yarn, or ribbon around your finger. When you enter the Otherworld, make sure it is also attached to you there that way you can find your way back to our realm should you get lost. Think of it like a trail of breadcrumbs, but without the risk of it being eaten. This is sympathetic magic, as what you do in our realm affects what is done in the spirit realm.
  6. Safe Word: Develop a safeword that will pull you and your soul immediately back to our realm. This can be something simple like "return" or a full incantation. Completely up to you, but make sure it is something you can remember.
  7. Sigils: Draw a protection sigil on your body in ash or annoiting oil to protect your body while your spirit travels freely. This will not only prevent another entity from possessing your body, but will also help your spirit find its way home.

Other Quick Safety Tips

  • Don't travel when ill, tired, or stressed.
  • Set a time limit, especially when you are just starting out. 
  • If you are new, have someone to "spot" you to help bring you back at the end of your journey.
  • Trust your gut. If it feels wrong, it probably is.
  • Always travel with your animal guides.
  • Be respectful to all you meet there.
  • Don't go anywhere alone with strangers, even if they promise candy and kittens.
  • Trust few. Make spirits work for your trust, just as you have to work for theirs.
  • Use common sense.
  • Properly prepare, set a purpose for the journey, and ask your guides to meet you on the other side.
  • Don't stress. Hedge riding is exhilarating and fun. Enjoy yourself.

Interest in the rest of the series? Make sure to keep an eye out for upcoming posts!

Hedge Riding Series

Hedge Riding Safety Tips: Staying Safe Outside Our Realm
How to Hedge Ride + Flying Ointments
Seeking Your Animal Guides + My Animal Guides
Developing a Relationship With Your Spirit Companions
After You Hedge Ride: Coming Back to Earth
My Hedge Riding Experiences

Looking for more information on hedge witches? Check out my posts on the topic:

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Inviting Fairies to Your Garden

Inviting Fairies to Your Garden

Fairies. How has it taken me this long to cover these amazing magical beings? As a hedgewitch, working with the spirits of the land is just one of the many things I do, and fairies are a pretty important one. I'm not going to go into too much detail about fairies in this post, but if you are interested in learning more about fairies, please refer to W. Y. Evans-Wentz's book The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. This amazing piece of literature is just one of several texts on which Traditional Witchcraft, including hedgewitchery, is based and is a must read if you wish to work with fairies or even understand the history of witchcraft and folk magic. But I digress! Today we are going to look at how you can invite fairies into your garden to help it grow and add a bit more magic to it.

Grow Specific Flowers

There are several ways you can attract fairies to your garden. They are pretty picky creatures, so making them happy is the key to keeping them in your garden once you have invited them. First, make sure you have the flowers they love. Anything bell-shaped will attract fairies to your garden, as well as hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Not sure what to include? Try adding these plants to your garden:
  • Lamb's ear
  • Yarrow
  • Coneflower
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Rose
  • Lilac
  • Morning Glory
  • Foxglove
  • Thyme
I planted almost all of these in my garden. I'm only missing coneflower (which I will plant next year) and lilac (which I will likely plant next year too). The best part of these particular plants is they are also ones you will often use in magical workings, recipes, and herbal remedies. Foxglove and morning glory are toxic, so don't use those, but the others are safe!

Set up a Fairy Altar

Have all the flowers but want something more? Try setting up an altar specifically for fairies and make regular offerings. You can include a fairy statue, tea lights, electric fairy lights, and crystals such as quartz, rose quartz, or moonstone on a flat rock or surface in your garden. Once your altar is set up, be sure to leave offerings on the altar or in small walnut shells. Offerings include:
  • cream or milk
  • beer
  • wine
  • cider
  • honey
  • nuts
  • chocolate
  • flowers (see above)
  • shiny objects like coins and jewelry

Fairy Invitation Ritual

If you want to specifically invite fairies into your garden, try the following ritual.

What You'll Need
  • flowers (see above)
  • white candle
  • the offering of quartz and cream/whole milk

What to Do
This ritual is best performed around Beltane or Midsummer but can be performed any time of the year your garden is blooming. Begin by setting your flowers, candle, and offerings on your garden or fairy altar. Light the candle and say,

"Fair fairies from near and far,
I invite you to dance in my yard.
Please stay awhile,
And brighten my garden with your smiles.
Bless these herbs and flowers,
And fill them with magical powers.
Use your magic to help them grow,
By the light of the moon's glow.
Accept these giftes I give to thee,
By my will, so mote it be."
Once you are finished, spend time with your altar until the candle burns low. Try and sense the fairies you have invited. You may feel the hair on your arms stand up or as if something is playing with your hair or ear. Leave the offerings on the altar overnight. Do not consume any of the food offerings you leave for the fairies. It is considered rude and disrespectful. Also, don't expect the offering to disappear. Fairies consume the astral or spiritual essence of the offering. Leave the quartz on the altar indefinitely.

Remember to record the ritual in your BOS or on your ritual log worksheet.

Why You Did It
This spell, as mentioned, is best performed on or around Beltane or Midsummer. The reason for this is because these are two times when the veil for fairies is thin and therefore they are most likely to come out and be willing to take up residence in your garden. However, fairies can be called upon any time of the year, so feel free to use it whenever you get the change.

The candle helps to focus your spell and gives the fairies a light to use to guide them to your garden. Your candle will burn in this realm and the Otherworld, acting as a beacon to draw the fairies to you.

Fairies don't like to be thanked, but they love to be shown respect in the form of food and shiny objects. Milk, cream, beer, or any of the other food offerings mentioned above are fairy favorites. Including such an offering in our ritual will likely attract fairies to your garden and act as a thank you without you verbally thanking them. You want to make sure the fairies are happy, otherwise, they are prone to cause mischief. The flowers are used for the same reason.

Word of Caution

Fairies are fickle and mischievous. Upsetting them can result in problems for you and anyone who steps foot on your property. Do not use pesticides in your garden. This will scare them off and keep them from coming back. Be good to the environment and animals. Fairies are creatures of the Earth; if you disrespect Her, fairies won't come to your garden, no matter how much milk and honey you offer them.

If the fairies become unruly or you wish them to leave, tell them to. Cleanse your garden and home and tell the fairies you no longer need their assistance. If they still will not leave, try placing iron in your garden and around your home. Iron burns fairies so it's a great deterrent.