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Monday, September 13, 2021

Book Review: Kitchen Witchery by Laurel Woodward

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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.

As we move into Fall, I find myself more inclined to cook at home. Georgia heat makes it difficult to want to cook, let alone eat in the first place unless, of course, it's some cool, crisp watermelon while you lounge in the pool or a juicy tomato sandwich with a thick layer of mayo and pepper. When I was asked if I would like to review Kitchen Witchery: Unlocking the Magick in Everyday Ingredients by Laurel Woodward, I jumped on the opportunity to expand my kitchen witchery skills just in time for Fall!

Kitchen Witchery is outlined like a correspondence book with chapters on different food groups, including vegetables, fruits, spices, drinks, wheat, and even gluten-free options. Woodward's book flows easily from one chapter to the next, outlining the correspondences, brief history, and even some nutritional information about each food item. I loved what an easy reference this book is, making putting together the perfect recipe for your desired intention quick and simple. Furthermore, Woodward includes all of her references throughout the book, each one annotated beautifully at the bottom of the page where the source is used. I cannot express how much I love this. Having the source cited right where it is used makes it so easy for me to fact-check and cross-reference any new information I come across, without having to try and dig through the bibliography at the end of the book. I am excited that more and more authors and publishers are following this design. In the age of misinformation, citing your sources is invaluable to lending credibility!

Within each chapter, Woodward includes recipes and ways to use different food items in your magical practice. The recipes were delightful, and very few contained meat, so if you are vegetarian, you have lots of options. If you are vegan, like me, you will have to get a little creative, but we are used to that, now aren't we? As I mentioned above, there is an entire section dedicated to gluten-free grains and recipes. This, on top of the abundance of vegetarian and vegan options, makes the text extremely accessible to all people, no matter their dietary needs. Some of the recipes are outlined under the food's correspondences, while others are outlined in a designated section within the chapter. This can make some referencing difficult, but the index is comprehensive which will help resolve this issue. Furthermore, there are a number of spells and rituals throughout the book that incorporate food that are not edible. For example, there are recipes to make black salt, anointing oils, cascarilla powder, and even some bath recipes. I really enjoyed the mix of edible and nonedible spells throughout the book, as kitchen witchery is so much more than eating.

The beginning of the book covers some basics of witchcraft, including the moon phases, grounding, and meditation, while the last chapter includes a breakdown of the eight sabbats and recipes for each of the seasons. These sections were a great refresher and Woodward's section on the moon phases offered some new insight I can use in my own practice. However, Woodward does promote the myth that crime and hysteria increase during the Full Moon. There is zero scientific evidence to support this claim, so I really wish we would stop perpetuating it as a community.

Despite how much I loved the majority of the book, there is some serious food shaming throughout. It is most notable in the very first chapter, and I had to put the book down and go for a run to release some of my anger. Lately, I have noticed a growing number of witches discussing how the witch community hates poor people, and this is a prime example of witchcraft hating poor people. First, Woodward states that the best ingredients are those that are organic and touts that non-organic food simply isn't magical enough. This idea completely disregards that 1) organic food is outrageously expensive and 2) that food deserts exist all over the world. This means that organic food is simply not accessible to the majority of the world, nor is it really sustainable. The fact that she can afford to feed her family all organic is a privilege, one many people do not have. There is magically no difference between a conventionally grown apple and an organic apple, at least in my experience. Furthermore, Woodward knocks canned goods on the grounds that they contain BPA. Only about 10% of canned goods worldwide still contain BPA. We have moved away from its use due to it being found hazardous to our health. Canned foods are canned at the peak of freshness, meaning that they will contain more nutrients than those obtained out of season. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using canned goods; the food is just as magical as fresh. The idea that everything needs to be fresh is another sign of privilege: the privilege to have the time to make everything from scratch. As an extremely busy person with severe anxiety and depression, the least of my worries when feeding myself is whether or not I make it fresh, from scratch. The goal is to feed me. We need to have a serious conversation about low-energy, budget-friendly, kitchen witchcraft, using the resources and time that we have, instead of food shaming and hating on the poor, disabled, and mentally ill people. The last thing I would like to address is the idea that organically raised cows are happier than conventionally raised cows. Organic does not mean free-range, and even free-range simply means they are not kept in a cage. All organic means is that the cows are fed a diet that is organic. Woodward also claims organically-fed cows are not given antibiotics. This is untrue. If a cow, or any livestock for that matter, becomes ill with a bacterial infection, they will receive vet care and be given antibiotics. However, the laws in almost every industrialized country state that any animal given antibiotics cannot go to market until the antibiotics are out of its system. This means the milk from a cow on antibiotics does not go to market but is instead thrown out. This is true of all livestock. You see chicken in the store that says "No antibiotics!" This is a marketing tactic. None of the chicken in the store in the US can legally contain antibiotics, and the same goes for our milk. It's disheartening to see this misinformation continuing to be spread, especially in 2021. Most of the food shaming and privilege is easily avoidable by disregarding the first chapter and ignoring it in the proceeding chapters. However, the parts where Woodward forgets her audience isn't entirely heterosexual women are harder to ignore. I encourage you not to let Woodward's opinions get in the way of you creating some truly magical recipes in your kitchen, however.

Despite my dislikes, this is one of the most comprehensive kitchen witchery books on the market. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in adding some magic to their kitchen or those looking to expand their kitchen witchery beyond the basics. Kitchen Witchery: Unlocking the Magick in Everyday Ingredients by Laurel Woodward is an excellent correspondence book, one that I will return to time and time again as I add some own magic to my kitchen. Kitchen Witchery: Unlocking the Magick in Everyday Ingredients by Laurel Woodward is available now wherever books are sold. 



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Friday, September 10, 2021

Magical Properties of Aquamarine

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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Spellcrafting Series: Basics of Spellcrafting

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Once you understand the type of spell you want to cast, you can start constructing your spell around your desire. Spells are essentially a recipe with a few basic components with the intention of manifesting a desired outcome. You fill in each component and viola! you have a spell! Now some spells will be more involved than others, while some will be quick and simple. This all depends upon what you wish to achieve with the spell. However, the basic components remain the same.

Intention or Desire

Behind every spell is an intention and without it, you are just screaming into the abyss hoping something happens. Setting your intention is the act of specifically and clearly communicating what you want to the Universe, spirits, or deities. As such, your intention should be clear, focused, and specific. If your intention is too vague or wishy-washy, the likelihood that your spell will turn out the way you want is slim. Defining your intent can be difficult, even time-consuming, but a clear, focused, and specific intent will get you a lot farther than a vague one with little direction. So how do you make sure your intent is 'good' enough? When writing your intention it should be:
  • Specific (no wants, wishes, hopes, or vague desires)
  • Precise yet Open (while it should be specific, you should be able to say what you want in a few words, but leave the ending open enough to receive something better)
  • Positive (use positive language over negative. Don't use words like not, won't, don't, or can't)
  • Time-constrained (set a time frame for your intention)
  • Personal (use I, me, and/or the person's full name)
  • Reasonable (some things just aren't attainable and that's okay!)
Let's say I want to purchase a new Mazda 3. Side note, I love my current Mazda 3 and can't wait to buy a brand new one in a couple years. Anyway, based on my first statement, the first intention that comes to mind is "I want a new Mazda 3." While on the surface this may sound okay, there are a couple of problems with it. First, it's not specific enough. By starting with "I want..." I am telling the Universe that I want something so I'll get back more wanting instead of my actual desire. Next, it's not very precise, but it is pretty open-ended...a little too open-ended. "New" can mean a whole lot of things. Saying I want a new Mazda 3 could very well manifest as a Mazda 3 new to me, not new in the sense that the car is straight off the dealer lot. Furthermore, what color Mazda 3 is it? Does it have a sunroof? Heated seats? Rear camera? Cloth or leather interior? Tan or black interiors? Radio? CD player? Navigation system? How much does it cost? Are you willing to spend $5 or $50,000? I could end up with a 'new' Mazda 3, but it does not have any of the features I want, is the wrong color, and is unaffordable. No offense, but I just can't do red and white vehicles. Third, there is no time constraint. This means the spell could manifest tomorrow or in 10 years. My current car will need to be replaced in less than 10 years, so that isn't going to work for me. However, the intention is positive as I didn't use any negative language, reasonable as I can afford a new car, and it's personal because I said I wanted the new car. So let's revise this intention a bit to make it better.

First, let's make my desire more specific. Instead of saying "I want" I will say "I own." Second, let's make it more precise yet open to better options. I'll give a specific year, color, and add-ons for the car I really want: "a new 2021, gray Mazda 3 Touring with a sunroof and rear-view camera or better in my price range of $15,000." Here I am precise in exactly what car I want and I opened myself up to the possibility of the Universe giving me something better than I initially requested. Next let's set a time restraint: "within the next year." Now the intention reads: "I own a new 2021, gray Mazda 3 Touring with a sunroof and rear-view camera or better in my price range of $15,000 within the next year." The new intention is specific, precise, positive, time-constrained, personal, and reasonable. You can learn more about writing specific intentions in my post on Primal Language.

Now that you have an understanding of how to construct a good intention, I encourage you to practice this by turning the following 'bad' intentions into 'good' intentions:
  1. I want to pay off all my bills and buy a mansion.
  2. I hope I get a new job.
  3. I wish he loved me.
  4. I don't have to go without.
Now setting an intention alone is not enough. You want to bring that intention into reality and that is often done as a spell of some sort.

Spell Composition and Ingredients

With your intention in mind, it's time to start composing the spell itself. You want to pick a few ingredients that will best suit the needs of your spell. As a general rule of thumb, I try to use no more than 5 ingredients. Those that I do pick correspond with the energy of the spell, enhancing the magic I generate in the process. This is also the time that you will start planning what time is best for casting the spell, if you will chant or write your intention, how you plan to raise energy, and what you plan to do with the spell remains. I will cover each of these steps in later posts, but for now understand that after setting the intention, it's time to start designing your spell.

Shifting Consciousness and/or the Preparation of Sacred Space

During this phase, you shift your consciousness away from the mundane to the magical, focusing on your intent to achieve your goal. During the time leading up to the casting of your spell, you should keep your thoughts about the spell positive. If you allow doubt to creep in, you will bring that energy into the spell itself which can and often does result in the spell backfiring or never manifesting. When you are ready to cast your spell, prepare your working area, again shifting from the mundane to the magical. Preparing sacred space alone results in a shift in consciousness, allowing the later steps of a spell to go more smoothly. 

To prepare sacred space, set aside an area where you will not be bothered. Depending on the spell this may be inside or outside. I know a lot of witches claim that sacred space should be separate from the mundane all the time, but this isn't feasible for most witches and sometimes can restrict your spellcasting if you are not able to work where you need to. Begin by cleansing the space with your preferred cleansing method. This could be through the burning of cleansing herbs or one of my 13 smoke-free ways to cleanse a space. However you do this is entirely up to you. Once you have cleansed the space, you can cast a circle, invite spirits, deities, or your ancestors to help, or simply meditate in the space prior to casting your spell.

During the process of casting the spell, it is important that your focus remains on the work at hand, not your mundane chores. After the spell, continue to keep your thoughts positive as you take the mundane actions required to achieve your goal. A lot of witches cast a spell and forget to put in the work afterward. 

Raising, Directing, and Releasing Energy

Once you have set up sacred space, it's time to start performing the spell. Spells have two distinct phases: gathering energy and releasing it. During the raising of energy, you perform the necessary acts to power your intent. This can be done through chanting, dancing, mixing ingredients, visualization, or through other energy-raising means which I will discuss in greater detail in a later power. Once the energy for the spell is raised, it's time to release it into the Universe. This can be done by burning your spell ingredients, releasing them into the wind, pointing your hands to the sky and pushing your energy out into the Universe, or any other way you release energy. Sometimes this can manifest as crying; whatever helps you release the energy you have raised.

Creating Channels and Manifesting

After you have cast your spell, it's time to do the mundane work. You can't throw your desire out into the Universe and sit back and hope it just happens. In order to get my new car, I need to secure a car loan from my bank, go to dealerships, and price shop. A car isn't just going to fall in my lap. By getting out there and taking the mundane steps to achieve my goal, I am opening up channels through which the Universe can manifest my intention. Unfortunately, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of spellcrafting. Without creating channels through which your intention can manifest, you set yourself up for failure. You can't get a new job if you don't put in applications. You can't move into a mansion if you don't bid on a house. You can't get out of debt if you keep spending money on your credit card. You won't find love sitting on your couch watching TV.  

***

These steps combined are everything you need to cast a successful spell. I've broken down some of these basic components into their own articles so I can spend time going into each in-depth while providing exercises for you to complete to enhance your spellcrafting and spellcasting ability. I encourage you to complete the intention exercises as this is the only time we will discuss creating a specific intention for spell work. Later I will have posts on correspondences and spell ingredients, how to word your spells, and how to raise and direct energy to ensure your spells are successful. Until then!

Interest in the rest of the series? 

Spellcrafting Series

Correspondences, Substitutions, and How to Write Your Own
Perfect Spell Timing
Spell Wording: Be Clear, Be Heard
Raising Energy, Cleansing, Charging, and Centering Prior to Spellcasting
Breaking Your Own Spells
What to do with Spell Remains
Recording Your Spells
Intuitive Spellcasting
Casting Spells from the Otherworld
Troubleshooting Your Spells and Why They Didn't Work


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Monday, September 6, 2021

New Moon Worksheet

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The New Moon, which is not to be confused with the Dark Moon, is the very first sliver of the moon after the Dark Moon. It is deeply associated with new beginnings, seed planting, hope, and success. This is the best time to set new intentions for the coming month, change careers, start a new hobby, or plant literal seeds. This is a time to start over and begin again and is especially potent when used in conjunction with the other moon phases to manifest your desire. 

This New Moon worksheet contains much of the same sections as my past Full Moon worksheets, including a box for your intuition and an oracle or tarot spread. Unlike past Full Moon worksheets, however, this one includes a section for setting new intentions which align with the magical properties of the New Moon. The tarot spread for the New Moon features 5 cards to help you set your intention and work toward manifesting it.

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CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE COPY


Looking for more free worksheets? Why not get your free copy of my spell/ritual worksheet to write your best spells and rituals yet?


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Thursday, August 26, 2021

Herbarium: Magical and Medicinal Uses of Valerian

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Gender: Feminine
Planet: Venus
Element: Water
Powers: Dreaming, Healing, Love, Luck, Protection
Magical Uses and History: Valerian derives its name from the Latin valere meaning "be well" or "be strong." This is likely a reference to the medicinal uses of valerian, which are, historically, very numerous. It is often referred to as "all-heal" and has been used to treat shell-shock during World War I, headaches, anxiety, cramps, epilepsy, ward against the plague, and as an aphrodisiac. During the twelfth century, German herbalist St Hildegard of Bingen suggested valerian be used as a sleep aid, much as it is used today. In the sixteenth century, John Gerard wrote "no broth of medicine be worth anything if it did not contain Valerian, again hinting at the belief that valerian was essentially a cure-all. Due to its numerous medicinal properties and historical uses, valerian can be used in healing spells and rituals. Hang valerian root in a sick room or place under the bed of someone who is ill to aid in their recovery.

The belief that valerian could heal as well as prevent illness and its pungent scent, led to the belief that it could also protect against evil spirits. The Ancient Greeks hung bundles of valerian in their windows and around their homes to prevent evil and other unwanted guests from entering, while the Celts believed valerian would protect against lightning strikes, much like the sacred oak. As such, you can use valerian in modern protection rituals and spells and hang it in your home for protection against evil or negative energies and spirits. Sprinkling a fine dust of valerian across your front door will prevent uninvited guests from entering. The smell, which is off-putting to some, may be enough to keep those pesky inlaws away.

Apart from its uses in healing and protection magic, valerian is also believed to promote love and amorous feelings. During the Victorian period, women would wear sprigs of valerian in hopes that the men they passed would "follow like children." This idea of "following like children" is immortalized in the folktale regarding the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Rats adore the smell of valerian root and many believe the Piper rubbed himself with valerian or filled his pockets with it in order to coax the rats out of town. Cats, like rats, also love the smell of valerian root and treat it just as they would catnip. Due to the idea that it can attract animals and lovers, valerian is a potent herb for love and luck spells or just drawing something to you in general. It can also be used in cat magic, to quell a quarreling couple, and bring general harmony to the home.

Finally, the sedative properties of valerian make it perfect for sleep and dream magic. Include valerian in sleep pouches or drink as a tea to relax the nerves prior to sleep.

Valerian can be used in a number of spells including:
    Protection Spells
    Love Spells
    Dream Magic
    Healing Spells

Medicinal Uses: Valerian root is one of the most commonly used nervine, a fact recognized by its inclusion as a sedative in many pharmacopeias. It can be used to reduce tension and overexcitability as well as relieve anxiety and hysteria. It naturally heals sleep, making it effective in treating insomnia and can be combined with passionflower to increase its potency. It is also antispasmodic, making it useful in treating cramping, both intestinal and those brought on by periods, especially when combined with cramp bark Finally, valerian is a mild pain reliever and can be used to treat headaches and migraines. 

Preparation and Dosage: Valerian is taken internally as an infusion or tincture. To make an infusion, combine 1-2 teaspoons of dried root with one cup of boiling water and steep for 10-15 minutes. Consume as needed. As a tincture, take 2-4 milliliters up to three times a day. People respond differently to valerian with some feeling its effects at a low dose while others feeling nothing. It is suggested you begin with a low dose and work your way up slowly. Furthermore, for some people, valerian can act as a stimulant.


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


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