Monday, September 24, 2018

Mabon Altar 2018

Mabon Altar 2018

Mabon, or the Autumn Equinox, is the second of the harvest festivals, and while it doesn't feel like fall yet here in Georgia, I have noticed the days getting shorter and the Earth shifting towards winter. For this year's Mabon altar I decided to go with reds, browns, and greens to represent the bountiful harvest, the Sun, and our great Mother Earth.

Mabon Altar 2018

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

2. Ivy and Red Berries- The ivy draped around the entire altar represent abundance and fertility during the harvest while the red berries represent fruits of the harvest. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost $2 ($1 each))

3. Green Candles- The green candles flanking the altar represent fertility, prosperity, and abundance, but more importantly they represent our great Mother Earth who provides us with the fruits of the season. Without the Earth, our food would not be able to grow and ripen so they may be stored away during the winter months. (Where did I get it: September House of Rituals Box 2018; Cost: Estimated $4)

Mabon Altar 2018

4. Grapes- The grapes found flanking the altar represent fertility and abundance. In some places, grapes are still being harvested at this time along with apples and pears. Furthermore, with Mabon 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)

Mabon Altar 2018

5. Silk Sunflowers, berries, and wheat- The flower arrangement found in the center arrangement represent the fruits of the harvest, fertility, abundance, and prosperity in hopes that the growing season will be successful. The red colors represent the masculine Sun who is waning during the time, but still strong enough to ripen the fruits growing in the fields and orchards. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost: $3 ($1 each))

6. Corn Dolly- The corn dolly represents the spirit of grain, who will be later reborn in the spring grains at Yule. While I will not be sacrificing my corn dolly, the significance of this effigy is an important idol that should be on any harvest altar during this time. Corn is still being harvested in some places at this time, but the crops are beginning to wane, especially here in Georgia.  (Where did I get it: August House of Rituals Box 2018; Cost: Estimated $5)

Mabon Altar 2018

7. Pumpkin- The pumpkin is a prominent figure this time of year, especially during Mabon and Samhain. For this altar, the pumpkin represents abundance, as fall squash is being harvested in great abundance at this time. It also represents fertility and protection in hopes that the winter months will not be too harsh. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2018; Cost $1)

8. Crystals Spiral- On this altar, there is moss agate for growth and fertility, especially for crops, as well as to represent the Mother Earth, and carnelian for strength and to represent the Sun who is beginning to wane but still remains strong enough to ripen the remaining crops. The spiral pattern represents the wheel of the year and the changing of seasons. (Where did I get it: Purchased from metaphysical stores or received in subscription boxes; Cost: Unknown)

Mabon Altar 2018

TOTAL COST: ~$20-22


Mabon Altar 2018

Like my other altars, most of the items I use are found or purchased for around $1, although this altar is slightly more expensive due to items being received in subscription boxes this year. 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 Mabon this year?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Broom in Hedgecraft


The Broom in Hedgecraft


"I'm a witch. A real house-haunting, broom-riding, cauldron-stirring witch." -Samantha, from Bewitched

Why is it the broom is such an iconic figure in witchcraft? When I say the word witch, that is inevitably the first image to pop into someone's mind. It's so iconic that almost every book or movie with witches features a broom. My favorite is probably the scene from Hocus Pocus where the sisters fly away on other cleaning tools, including a vacuum. I laugh. Every. Single. Time.  So where did it all begin?

Early History

Commonly referred to in witchcraft as a besom, the broomstick was an important fixture in homes throughout Europe and other parts of the world. It was usually made of wood and straw and used, of course, to sweep the floors. The broom represented the epitome of female domesticity and was the perfect object of rebellion for women stuck in an extremely patriarchal world, but we'll get to that in a moment.

One of the earliest known ritual besoms was believed to be made from Hazelwood and birch twigs, both trees sacred to the pagans. They were not very useful for cleaning and needed constant repair, so instead they were often placed by the door, bristles up, to ward of evil spirits and negative energies. Due to its use as a cleaning implement, the broom quickly became associated with the cleansing of negative energies and was later used in handfasting ceremonies to represent new beginnings. But that doesn't explain why the broom became a symbol of flight.

Broom Riding

The first known reference of witches riding on brooms was confessed by a suspected male witch in 1453 by the name of Guillaume Edelin of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. After being tortured, he confessed to signing a compact with the Devil and attending the Sabbath "mounted on a balai," or broom. This is the first known reference to witches riding on brooms. But the story doesn't end there.

The Broom in Hedgecraft

Early accounts of pagan fertility rituals suggested phallic objects such as poles, pitchforks, and brooms were riden through the fields while the rider jumped up and down in an attempt to coax the crops to grow faster and taller. In his 1584 book, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, Reginal Scot describes these rituals:
"At these magical assemblies, the witches never dailed to dance' and in their dance they sing these words, 'Har, hard, divell divell, dance here dance here, plaie here plaie here, Sabbath, Sabbath.' And whiles they sing and dance, ever one hath a broom in her hand, and holdeth it up aloft."
When you combine Edelin's confession with early pagan rights, the picture begins to become clearer, but this is only part of the story. The use of hallucinogenic plants, later popularized by Shakespeare, completes this epic tale.

Tropane alkaloids are hallucinogenic chemicals found in a number of popular toxic plants, including belladonna, henbane, and Mandrake. During the Middle Ages, these plants were commonly used to make brews, ointments, and "witches' salves," according to Johann Weyer in his Praestigiis Daemonum written in 1563. Drinking such a brew could make the drinker extremely ill if it didn't kill them first. Somewhere along the way, people figured out that the hallucinogenic compounds found in these plants, particularly hyoscine also known as scopolamine, could be absorbed through the sweat glands via the armpit or the mucous membranes found in the rectum or vagina. This meant the user could avoid feeling ill and become high faster. The earliest clue of this application comes from the investigation of Lady Alice Kyteler in 1324. According to Mann in his book Murder, Magic, and Medicine, the interrogation records stated:
"In rifeling the closet of the ladie, they found a pipe of oyntment, wherewith she grease a staffe, upon which she ambled and galloped through thick and thin."
In this account, there is no mention of actual flight, but this ritual does correspond to early accounts of pagan fertility rites as mentioned above. Fifteenth-century records of Jordanes de Bergamo in his Quaestio de Strigis confirms the investigation statement of Lady Kyteler:
"But the vulgar believe, and the witches confess, that on certain days or nights they anoint a staff and ride on it to the appointed place or anoint themselves under the arms and in other hairy places."
It cannot be known whether these accounts are valid or not as the history of witches were often written by inquisitors, ecclesiastical judges, and the testimony of accused and tortured witches, but if what they say is true where did the idea of flight using ointments and brooms come from?

The Broom in Hedgecraft

In 1477 the Witch of Savoy, Antoine Rose, confessed while being tortured that the Devil "...gave her a stick, 18 inches long, and a pot of ointment. She used to smear the ointment on the stick, put it between her legs and say 'Go, in the name of the Devil, go!" The idea that these ointments could cause feelings of flying is confirmed with modern accounts and science. Modern science and accounts of tropane alkaloids use shows that intoxication usually puts the user to sleep in which they experience flying and dancing.  In 1966 Gustav Schenk recounts, "At the same time I experienced an intoxicating sensation of flying...I soared where my hallucinations - the clouds, the lowering sky, herds of beasts, falling leaves...billowing streamers of steam and rivers of molten metal - were swiling along." After Rose's confession, rumors spread far and wide and the idea that witches rode on broom planted itself firmly in cultural memory. During the Renaissance artists like Albrecht Durer, Hans Balding, and Parmigianino began depicting witches naked and flying, sometimes on a broom and other times on a phallus. By the late 16th and early 17th century, witches riding up and out of chimneys begin to dominate popular art. And there you have it, the wonderfully colorful history of the broom and witchcraft.

The Broom In Hedgecraft

The broom is still a major fixture in witchcraft today, including hedgecraft. Hedgewitches often use a broom during hedge riding to aid in travel. Other times, a broom may appear during a journey to allow the witch to fly between realms or quickly through a single realm. Hedgewitches will also use brooms for protection during hedge riding, placing the broom within their magic circle, next to them, or in their lap during a journey. Either way, the broom is still used today to symbolize flight and travel for witches, and that isn't changing anytime soon.

Looking to learn more? Check out the following sources.
Murder, Magic, and Medicine by John Mann
Broom Folklore in Rural Cultures 
The Many Uses of a Besom
The Origin of Witches Riding Broomsticks: Drugs From Nature, Plus Shakespeare by David Kroll