Monday, June 17, 2024

Magical and Medicinal Uses of Cherry

Magical and Medicinal Uses of Cherry

Gender: Feminine
Planet: Venus
Element: Water
Powers: Death, Fertility, Life, Love, Rebirth
Magical Uses and History: Throughout history, the cherry tree has been admired for its beautiful blossoms and sweet fruits, especially among the Japanese whose sakura blossoms are world-renowned. Cherries are one of the first trees to bloom in the spring, associating them with rebirth, fertility, and life. However, the blooms are fragile and short-lasting, thus representing death and the fragility of life as well. According to Japanese mythology, Sakuya-hime (Princess Blossoms of the Trees) met Ninigi, the grandson of the sun kami (goddess) Amaterasu, while walking along the beach and fell in love. Wishing to marry Saku, Ninigi approached her father, Oho-Yama, for her hand in marriage. Oho-Yama instead proposed Ninigi marry his eldest daughter, Iwa-Naga-hime the rock princess, but Ninigi claimed that Saku had his heart and that Iwa was ugly. Oho-Yama was angered by this but reluctantly agreed to the marriage, which came at a cost. Oho-yama blessed (or cursed?) the marriage by proclaiming that all descendants of Saku would be as short-lived as a spring blossom while Iwa's descendants would be enduring and eternal like stones. Thus human lives are short and fleeting, like the sakura blossoms. When Saku later died, a cherry tree grew on her grave which became known as 'sakura.' This correspondence is further perpetuated in Celtic mythology. During the Battle of Godeu, many trees rose up to fight, including the cherry. Unfortunately, the cherry tree was broken in battle, thus showing its fragility. Despite the contradictory meanings, cherry blossoms can be used in a number of spells for fertility, life, rebirth, and even death. Place upon graves or ancestral altars in the spring to represent both life and death and the rebirth of spirits as they pass into the Otherworld. Add to ancestral incense to honor the dead and aid in spirit communication. Place blossoms under your bed or hang them in your bedroom to encourage fertility. If you wish for a spell to be quick, yet short-lived, add cherry blossoms.

The cherry is also deeply associated with love, being used in love spells across the globe. According to another Japanese myth, the gods decided to remove a tree that had never bloomed. Before removing it, however, they gave it the chance to experience life as a human for 20 years. During this time, the tree lamented that there was nothing good in the world until it met a beautiful young woman. They fell in love and the tree confided that it was not human but a tree instead. The young woman was so in love with the tree that she asked to become a tree as well. They became one, transforming into a sakura that immediately bloomed. In the Americas, cherry has long been used to attract love and romance into one's life, likely due to its beautiful blooms and sweet, red fruit. Eat cherries to boost attraction, serve cherry pie or preserves to a potential lover to win their affection, tie a lock of hair around a blossoming branch to attract love, or dress candles with cherry-infused oil for love. Add cherry pits, blossoms, or dried fruit to love spells and sachets for the same purpose. The uses of cherry are pretty endless in this regard so you can get creative.

As mentioned before, cherry is also associated with death. The leaves and bark contain hydrocyanic acid, which turns to cyanide as the leaves begin to wilt. This makes most of the tree highly toxic, and an excellent component to spells for death, destruction, and endings. Use the leaves to bring about the end of something, especially if you want to break spells, curses, or relationships. Cherry leaves can be added to sour jars, foot powders, or other spells to turn people way.

Cherry can be used in a number of spells including:
    Love Spells
    Fertility Magic
    Death Magic

Medicinal Uses: Cherries, especially wild cherries, are high in prussic acid making them useful in treating coughs and upper respiratory infections such as bronchitis. Cherries are also anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce inflammation caused by arthritis and gout but inhibiting oxidative stress and suppressing inflammatory proteins. Cherry juice has also been shown to increase melatonin, therefore increasing sleep duration and sleep quality.

Preparation and Dosage: To create an infusion, combine 1 teaspoon of dried cherry bark (from a reputable deal) with one cup of boiling water. Allow the mixture to infuse for 10 minutes. Drink up to three times a day. To improve sleep, drink 1 cup of cherry juice before bed. To create a cough syrup, combine 3/4 cup cherry bark with one cup of water. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes before straining the liquid. Pour the strained liquid back into the pot and add 1 cup of honey. Simmer on low for 10 minutes until thick. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Adults take 1 teaspoon every 4-6 hours as needed up to 4 times a day for no more than a week.

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Magical and Medicinal Uses of Cherry

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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Book Review: Alive With Spirits by Althaea Sebastiani

Book Review: Alive With Spirits by Althaea Sebastiani
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I have been a little slower to finish some of the occult books in my stack lately as I have wanted to read more fiction, but I finally sat down to read Alive With Spirits: The Path and Practice of Animistic Witchcraft by Althaea Sebastiani this past week and boy am I glad I did. Alive With Spirits is exactly what the occult community needs right now, especially in the face of rising consumerism, individualism, and fascism in our own community.

Sebastiani provides an excellent guide to animism, with each lesson addressing different facets of animism with several exercises at the end of each chapter to help you change your worldview, hone practical skills, and build community with the spirits around you. Sebastiani does not hold back, calling out a number of problematic behaviors in the occult community that are hindering right relationship with the world and spirits around us. Her work challenges everything American culture holds dear, cultural aspects that have been taking over our community for quite some time. Individualism, consumerism, capitalism, fascism, and cultural appropriation have absolutely no place in our community and Sebastiani's approach to animism is in direct opposition to these ideas. I was nodding my head continuously as I read, underlining and making notes on almost every page.

On top of this, Sebastiani made her book highly accessible to everyone, including those who are neurodivergent, disabled, or members of other marginalized communities by providing such things as definitions, disclaimers, length of exercises, outlines, an index of exercises with page numbers, and so much more. For any exercises that include breath work, she makes a note of how this can affect your heart rate and blood flow, increasing the risk of passing out for certain groups. She offers alternatives for those who may not have certain items or be able to move a certain way. Furthermore, she describes visualization not necessarily as seeing an object in your mind, but instead as an incorporation of all senses to bring about the object. It's important to note that many people are unable to see images in their mind (known as aphantasia), and therefore must rely on their other senses to bring about the object or outcome. When we visualize, it's more about creating those feelings than necessarily seeing the object or outcome in our mind. This is what raises the energy necessary for spell work and builds that spiritual connection.

Book Review: Alive With Spirits by Althaea Sebastiani

On top of the inclusion and equity promoted in Sebastiani's work, she also makes note that witchcraft is not some unbroken line of tradition. Modern witchcraft is only a few decades old. The push to create a false history that shows some fantastical goddess cult or unbroken line of magical practitioners has been used to legitimize witchcraft, which is highly rooted in white supremacy culture. Witchcraft doesn't need to be rooted in history to be valid, and while modern witchcraft, including my own, incorporated historical folk practices, those folk practices were not originally described as witchcraft. In fact, folk practitioners would be appalled if you labeled their work as such. I am so thankful more and more occult authors are discussing the real history of modern witchcraft instead of acting like Robert Graves, among others, was telling the truth. They lied on purpose and we are still perpetuating those lies decades later when we don't have to. Because of this, Sebastiani makes a point to tell the reader that the contents of Alive With Spirits is therefore not based on some historical system, but instead on her own experiences. These experiences are valid and it's important we start recognizing that modern witchcraft really is all about experiences.

I could go on and on and on about Alive With Spirits. If you are interested in taking your practice to the next level, integrating spirit work into your practice, building community, and becoming a spiritual activist, this is the book for you. If you are reading my blog, this is the book for you. I don't care who you are, this is the book for you. When you get it, read it straight through, including the exercises, but don't do any of the work. Just read it. Let it marinate, then pick it up again, this time with the intent of taking her message to heart and engaging in the exercises. I promise you will not be disappointed.

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Thursday, June 6, 2024

Magical and Medicinal Uses of Ginseng

Magical and Medicinal Uses of Ginseng

Gender: Masculine
Planet: Sun
Element: Fire
Powers: Beauty, Health, Love, Lust, Protection, Wishes
Magical Uses and History: Ginseng comes in several varieties, including American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng). All varieties have been used in similar ways throughout history, but also have unique attributes depending on what type of ginseng you are using. 

The name ginseng is derived from the Chinese rénshēn or schinseng, which translates to "person plant root," which refers to the human-like shape of the roots that sports arm- and leg-like branches similar to that of mandrake. Because of its human-like qualities, ginseng has long been associated with magic and medicine, being used across multiple cultures all over the globe. One of the earliest records of ginseng can be found in Pharmacopoeia by Shen Nong. This Chinese text, which dates back to 169 AD, details the medicinal uses of ginseng in China, where it has been used for more than 2000 years. It is widely considered a cure-all, said to strengthen the body's five digestive organisms, remove bad energies, and calm the mind. In North America, American ginseng was used in similar ways by Indigenous tribes, with the root being used to make an eyewash by the Iroquois, steeped in water and drunk to alleviate sores, or pulverized and smoked to treat asthma. When ginseng first made its way to Europe, it was looked upon with disdain and fear, often confused with the toxic mandrake. It was banned for quite some time until it was reintroduced during the Renaissance through trade. Once it became widely accepted among European countries, the use of ginseng as a health aid spread. As such, ginseng can be used in healing and health spells, especially those for unknown ailments that afflict the body. According to the Doctrine of Signatures, ginseng is considered a cure-all as it is shaped like a man and, therefore able to aid in curing any ailment possessed by humans. Use the whole root to represent the sick person, add to healing sachets and bags, or burn as incense to promote health and wellbeing.

Despite its long history in medicine, ginseng is most commonly associated with love and lust, its warming properties attributing to increased blood flow, flushed skin, and sexual arousal. In traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng powder was used to treat erectile dysfunction and increase libido. Among the Meskwaki women of North America, ginseng was used to obtain and attract a husband when combined with mica, gelatin, and snake meat. The Pawnee also used ginseng as a love charm, while in the Penobscot tribe, ginseng was used to increase fertility in women. These practices were passed onto the colonists who arrived in the Americas and began creating their own aphrodisiacs. Some more common methods included adding ginseng to moonshine or mixing it with other herbs to make an infusion, while others called for ginseng to be soaked in Holy Oil which was then used to anoint male genitalia to increase sexual performance. Among practitioners of Hoodoo, ginseng root is often used to enhance male sexual prowess and to increase longevity. As such, ginseng can be used in spells for love and lust. Carry ginseng root to attract love, ensure sexual potency, enhance your beauty, or otherwise bring sexual desire. Burn ginseng powder to attract love, add to teas and potions to enhance libido or give to a lover to increase sexual desire or fertility. 

As Asian ginseng numbers dwindled due to high demand, harvesters switched to American ginseng. in the 1800s, the market for American ginseng boomed, driving prices through the roof. This increase in price associated ginseng with luck and wealth, and therefore can be used in spells for such purposes. Place ginseng in your purse or cash register to attract wealth or add to money drawing bowls or jars for the same purpose. In Hoodoo, the first dollar earned from a new business is wrapped around a ginseng root and tied with a red thread to ensure future financial success. Wishes can also be carved into ginseng root and tossed into a river to ensure your wish comes true. Due to overharvesting, American ginseng is now protected under CITIES, and harvesting is highly regulated to prevent future loss of the species, so be mindful if you are wildcrafting.

Ginseng can be used in a number of spells including:
    Love Spells
    Lust Magic
    Prosperity Magic
    Wealth Spells
    Glamour Magic
    Healing Spells

Medicinal Uses: Despite its long history of medicinal uses, ginseng has only been found to scientifically aid in certain ailments, certainly not all. American ginseng has been found to have anti-aging and anti-hyperglycemia effects in humans, while Asian ginseng has been found to increase blood flow and decrease fatigue. Some studies suggest both types of ginseng are anti-inflammatory as well as help stimulate the nervous and digestive systems, meaning it can be used to treat digestive issues, depression, and fatigue. While it has long been used as an aphrodisiac, studies show it has a mild effect, at best.

Preparation and Dosage: To create a decoction, combine 1/2 teaspoon of powdered ginseng root with one cup of water and bring it to a boil. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Drink up to three times a day. Ginseng root can also be chewed for the same purpose. As a tincture, take 200-400 milligrams by mouth twice daily.

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Magical and Medicinal Uses of Ginseng

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Monday, June 3, 2024

Book Review: The Herbalist's Guide by Mary Colvin, RH

Book Review: The Herbalist's Guide by Mary Colvin, RH
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If it isn't obvious, I adore plants, especially regarding their history, folklore, and medicinal uses. It's why I write my wildly popular Herbarium posts, so when I was given the opportunity to review The Herbalist's Guide: How to Build and Use Your Own Apothecary by Mary Colvin, RH I couldn't pass it up. This was another opportunity for me to not only learn some new information but also add to my growing collection of books on herbalism that I can reference for my own Herbarium posts. I pride myself in providing accurate historical and scientifically backed information, so the more resources I have, the better!

The Herbalist's Guide is broken up into 8 parts, each consisting of a couple of short chapters. Despite how this may sound, the book is short, with only 237 pages minus the glossary and index. These parts or sections include building foundational skills in herbalism, from harvesting, tools, preparations, understanding energetics, building an apothecary, and even a guide to 35 commonly used herbs. I'm not going to lie, the guide to 35 herbs was my favorite part of the book simply because I love quick reference guides when researching, writing, and creating my own remedies and profiles. Each of the herb profiles contains the plant's common and scientific name, taste, qualities, parts used, medicinal properties, a brief description and overview of the herb, an exercise, and fully colored photographs. The exercises for each herb involve creating a remedy with the plant, allowing you to slowly build your apothecary as you learn about the plants in question. Colvin suggests when learning about each herb to start with older material and compare it to modern herbals before looking at medical research/scientific articles from today. I love this approach as it builds a foundation rooted in history and science. Furthermore, Colvin suggests studying no more than five plants at a time to fully learn about them, instead of just memorizing information. As an educator, I completely agree. Overloading yourself with too much information at once and relying on memorizing information is not best practice and often results in an incomplete understanding and failure to retain the information. This is the last thing you want when learning about herbalism as it can result in poorly prepared or incorrectly prepared remedies that could cause more harm than good. True learning occurs through practice, repetition, and trial and error, so I encourage you to spend time working with one or two plants at a time, especially ones that are able to work together before moving on to others. How long you spend on a plant is up to you, but I promise you will know when you are ready to explore more. I've spent months, even years, working with a single plant before I felt truly comfortable moving on to another. While most plants do not require that sort of time, as an animist and witch I find it's important to develop deep spiritual relationships with the plants I wish to work with instead of approaching them as an object ripe for the picking. Exploitation of our resources, which Colvin wholeheartedly agrees with, is the antithesis of healing.

Book Review: The Herbalist's Guide by Mary Colvin, RH

As I mentioned earlier, each plant profile contains an exercise. This is not the only place you will find exercises. In fact, Colvin highly recommends working through the book one chapter at a time, from beginning to end, to fully develop the foundations of a healthy herbalism practice. There are numerous exercises and activities throughout designed to hone your skills before jumping into making remedies. These exercises include plenty of research, with excellent guiding questions to help you better understand scientific studies. Colvin's guiding questions are a great resource for anyone reading scientific or peer-reviewed sources, whether they are about herbalism or not. Unfortunately, reading such articles requires skills beyond those required to read and enjoy fictional works, skills many people simply do not possess. Discernment, critical thinking, and comparing information across sources are necessary to fully understand herbalism and ensure you are preparing the best possible remedies without causing harm to others. I absolutely love Colvin's suggestions and it's refreshing to see someone as passionate as myself about reading critically.

Furthermore, Colvin supports the use of modern medicine in conjunction with herbal remedies and bashes many of the essential oil MLMs, homeopathic practitioners, and more who completely disregard science and safe practices. I wish she had spent a little more time exposing homeopathy for what it is, but we can't all be perfect. For those unaware, homeopathy is NOT herbalism or the use of home remedies. Instead, it is the belief that like-cures-like and small doses that cure illnesses. It's a crock of horse shit (pardon my language) and a waste of time. Numerous studies have found it to be useless and if anything, a great example of the placebo effect. In essence, homeopathy would have you dissolve a single Advil into a bathtub full of water and drink a cup of that water every hour to cure your migraine. Every single homeopathic, over-the-counter "drug" on the market has been tested and found to be nothing more than sugar pills. They contain such small traces, if any, of actual medicine that they are rendered completely useless.

Colvin also includes legal information, specifically regarding the use of the word "apothecary," sustainably harvesting, and harvesting on private and government-owned land. This is very important information to know and understand, whether you plan to open a business or wildcraft. As always be mindful of local laws and research whether plants are protected in your area. A plant can be endangered in one area, but not in another so be weary of using only one source for this information.

Colvin ends the book with a list of resources, which includes information on finding seeds, connecting with local groups, continuing your education, and so much more. I love the addition of resources, as well as a complete Works Cited of the sources Colvin pulled her information from. This is a great jumping point for those wishing to dive deeper into the world of herbalism.

The Herbalist's Guide: How to Build and Use Your Own Apothecary by Mary Colvin, RH is a great introduction to herbalism and beginning your own practice. It is not, however, a complete and definitive guide, and even Colvin mentions this. If you are looking at getting started or continuing to grow your own practice, I highly recommend picking up Colvin's work to get started. You can find The Herbalist's Guide: How to Build and Use Your Own Apothecary by Mary Colvin, RH wherever books are sold.

Until next time,

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Thursday, May 30, 2024

A Complete Guide to Animism

A Complete Guide to Animism & How to Use it In Witchcraft

One of the defining features of witchcraft, as well as many spiritual and occult practices, is the idea of animism. Animism, which is derived from the Latin "anima" meaning soul or life, is the belief that all things are imbued with spirit. This means that not only do humans, plants, animals, and other living things have a spirit, but so do nonliving things such as rocks, mountains, rivers, the wind, hurricanes, and even man-made creations like magical tools, houses, and cars. Animism has been preserved, unbroken, through many Indigenous groups, such as Native Americans and Aboriginals, but has also recently been reclaimed by groups seeking to reconnect with their ancestral roots.

A Brief History

The concept of "animism" was first developed in 1871 by E. B. Tylor in his work Primitive Culture, which debated the relationship between "primitive" versus "civilized" societies. As one might expect, Tylor's work is extremely problematic and contains all the racist rhetoric and apt disregard for non-Christian religions so common in white-centered academia. Unfortunately, Tylor's work laid the foundation for viewing Indigenous cultures as something to be dissected and presented by white "authorities" with complete disregard for them as a living entity and existing people. While Tylor's work and perspectives are still perpetuated within the academic community, we as witches and pagans can choose to be better.

While the term "animism" is relatively new, its ideas are not. Cave paintings in Lascaux, France show animals with human-like qualities, while burial practices indicate a belief in an afterlife or spirit world. Carved figurines, hand prints, and other finds further suggest animistic views among our ancient ancestors, which carried over into multiple religions including those found in Greece & Rome, Celtic druidry, Shintoism, and so many more. 

As mentioned, these practices have been preserved in many Indigenous cultures and have recently been revived by modern witches and pagans and other nature-based spiritual practices. It's important to note, however, that the animism found in paganism and witchcraft should not and is not based on Indigenous practices, although they may share some similarities.

Animism vs Totemism

Totemism, unlike animism, centers around the worship of a particular object, symbol, or animal that is believed to possess supernatural powers or be the embodiment of a group's ancestors. In 1869, John Ferguson McLennan argued that animism was evident in fetishism which he believed gave rise to totemism. This was in an attempt to discredit the existence of animism outside of totemism. Still, modern animists and anthropologists have argued that animism is distinct from totemism, and I am inclined to feel the same.

While animism and totemism share some characteristics, such as the belief that non-human entities have a spirit, the incorporation of ancestor worship, and a reverence for nature, they have many more differences. Animism is inherently broader than totemism, with the belief that all things have a spirit versus a single entity. Because of this, the rituals associated with animism tend to be broader as well, including a wide array of living and nonliving entities. Totemism, however, is more community-focused than animism. Members within a group are all represented by the same totem, coming together to honor, worship, or otherwise involve the totem in their culture, as seen in the Haida and Tlingit tribes in North America that carve totem poles. On the other hand, animism varies wildly between groups and individuals and therefore lacks the community aspect of totemism in most cases.

Animism in Norse Paganism

Norse paganism or Heathenry is animistic in nature and while there are differences in personal gnosis, some things are generally agreed upon. First, is the inclusion of ancestor veneration. This hinges on the belief of there being a spirit realm that is capable of interacting with the living on our plane of existence. Second, is the incorporation of nature spirits such as landvætter or land spirits (genii locorum), Jötunn, trolls, hausvætter or house spirits, and other wights or spirits associated with places, objects, or creatures.

Animism in Practice & Spiritual Activism

When viewed this way, there is no separation between the sacred and the profane. This means that living and nonliving things are not just "things" to be exploited or controlled, but instead, allies that we can build relationships and collaborate with. As such, "using" something in a spell or ritual becomes "working with" and consent of the object must be sought after before incorporating it into your practice.

For example, my most recently posted spell on enchanting jewelry required the assistance of many spirits including my engagement ring, salt, candle, fire, rose, lavender, cinnamon, rose quartz, and moonstone. Each of these spirits was awoken before conducting the spell and their assistance was asked for. If, for whatever reason, a spirit refuses to aid me, I don't use it. I don't have its consent and going against its wishes places me in the wrong, which can adversely affect the spell I am performing. Some refer to this as being in "right relationship," which recognizes the sovereignty of all spirits. As such, respecting their boundaries and thanking them for their assistance puts you in "right relationship."

Animism ties directly into spiritual activism, especially in the form of ecological stewardship. An animistic perspective calls for us to engage in environmental activism while rejecting colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism. According to colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism, the Earth and all its contents are ours to do what we will with, with complete disregard for the impact this may have on the environment and the organisms that live here. This has led to the destruction of our Earth, depletion of natural resources, genocide, and climate change. Recognizing that all things resonate with spirit flies directly in the face of this view, prompting us to preserve, protect, and steward the Earth and environment, giving it the respect and dignity it deserves.

Animism also flies in the face of white supremacy culture, which prizes quantity over quality, power hoarding, and individualism. By interacting and respecting all things, the quality of your spiritual relationships becomes more important than the number of relationships you have, and "owning" or possessing more becomes less of a priority as we work to preserve and protect the environment. Furthermore, animism flies in the face of individualism, encouraging practitioners to develop relationships with others to bring about change. Spells and rituals are no longer simply about you and your power but all of the spirits coming together for one goal. We do not and cannot exist within a vacuum, and neither should your magic.

With all of that said, animism is a crucial feature of modern witchcraft, paganism, and other nature-based spiritual practices, and having a firm grasp of the concept can revolutionize your magic, broaden your understanding, and foster empathy. 

How do you incorporate animism into your practice?

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