Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Hedgewitch's Guide to Drying Herbs

A Hedgewitch's Guide to Drying Herbs

Drying your own herbs is pretty magical in my opinion and so easy to do. There are several different methods of drying herbs depending on the space, equipment, and time you have. This complete guide will give you a basic rundown of each method. Please note that despite what some witches say, there is no difference between air drying and using a microwave. Some believe there is an energy difference, but this is false information perpetrated by bad science and misconceptions on how microwaves work. Don't let fear mongering stop you from using the best method for you and your needs.

1. Air Drying: This is probably the most popular method of drying herbs and quite simple. Take your herb cuttings (let them remain on the stem in most cases) and wash and dry them. I gently pat the herbs dry with a paper towel after I wash them. You can then hang the herbs upside down in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, place them in a paper bag, or allow them to sit out flat. I currently have rosemary drying on my kitchen counter in a fruit bowl. Rosemary dries pretty quickly and those needles will fall to the floor with the slightest bump, so I prefer the bowl method. For sage, I like to create sage bundles by wrapping them in twine. Post on my sage bundle method and DIY drying racks to follow at a later date.

2. Dehydrator: I finally broke out my dehydrator for the first time this spring to make dehydrated strawberries. Boy am I glad I did. They were the best tasting treat I've ever had, but you can use a dehydrator for more than just fruits and vegetables. A dehydrator is a great way to quickly dry herbs, but they can be expensive. Unlike air drying, you are going to need to cut the stems into smaller pieces to fit inside a dehydrator. After you have washed and dried them, trim them into smaller pieces for easy placement. Basil, sage, mint, and other large leafy herbs can be placed in the dehydrator without their stems. Simply pluck the leaves and lay them flat on the trays. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, and other small leafy herbs will need to remain on the stem. Do not overlap the herbs. You want to ensure even drying. Since each dehydrator is different, you will need to consult your manual for exact drying times and temperatures, but usually, you can have freshly dried herbs overnight.

3. Oven Drying: Since not everyone has a dehydrator, an oven is probably the next best thing. Unlike a dehydrator, you don't have to remove leafy herbs from their stems, but you can if you want to. After washing and drying, lay your herbs out on a cookie sheet. Stems can overlap but you want to make sure there is enough airflow between the stems to dry the herbs evenly. Set the oven to 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit and place your herbs in the oven for about 1-2 hours. Leave the door slightly cracked to allow airflow. You'll need to check these a little more often than the other methods to make sure you don't burn the herbs.

4. Microwave: The final method is microwave drying. The only issue with this method is you risk over-drying the herbs and possibly burning them. After the herbs have been washed and dried, place them on a paper towel with the stem intact. Microwave for 30-second intervals, flipping the over each time until they are dried. Depending on the herb, this could take between 1-3 minutes.

No matter which method you go with, always make sure your herbs are completely clean. You don't want bugs ending up in your spices! After the herbs are dry, you will need to process them. If you want a fine powder, use a clean coffee grinder or food processor. If you want to keep the leaves whole, rub your fingers over the dried stems opposite the direction the leaves are laying over a bowl. Once processed, store the herbs in a cool, dry place away from sunlight in an airtight container. I prefer glass jars, but plastic Tupperware is perfectly fine as well.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Book Review: Morbid Magic: Death Spirituality and Culture from Around the World by Tomás Prower

Book Review: Morbid Magic

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 copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I just finished reading Morbid Magic: Death Spirituality and Culture from Around the World by Tomás Prower (release date September 8, 2019) and I have to say I am thoroughly intrigued. The book is a world tour of death rituals and rites around the world, with each section focusing on a specific location on Earth, from the Middle East to the Americas. Each section gives a brief snippet of how each culture views death and handles funerals, a brief description of the deities associated with death, a death-related takeaway, and finishes with experiences from those practicing within those cultures. There is not a lot of magic in this book, which was disappointing, but learning about how other cultures handle and view death and funeral rites was fascinating to me. You see, my ex-husband was a funeral director. Through him, I developed an interesting view of death and funeral rites because I was exposed to things daily that most other people experience very little throughout their life, especially if you live in a country that hides death away like we do in the US. Now he obviously spent more time with death than I did, but it was an important part of our life and through him, I realized that death isn't something to be feared, but honored and celebrated. I work with spirits all the time and accepting death as an inevitability and as something that shouldn't be feared but instead honored is important to my practice. I was overjoyed to read the story of one of his friends who mentioned how seeing death transformed her practice regarding spirits and mediumship. I strongly related to her story and felt confirmed in my belief that my experiences with the funeral industry in the United States made me a better practitioner. I loved reading the experiences of others with death. It was one of my favorite parts of the book. It gave me a better understanding of multiple cultures, including Islam and Judaism. My ex-husband started in the funeral industry at a Jewish funeral home, so I was accustomed to Jewish practices but reading a woman's story of how her community came forth to help her filled me with such comfort and joy. It made me appreciate our diverse cultures and religions and how we all must die, no matter our religious or political affiliations; that we are all just humans.

Apart from the personal stories, I really loved the takeaways from each culture. These takeaways were things Prower, who also works in the funeral industry, suggests we do regarding death and funeral rites. Some of these are practical yet difficult things, like writing a will and having it notarized. Being with a funeral director for over 6 years, I can't tell you how many times I heard about the bickering of family members and the living going against the wishes of the deceased because they thought they knew better than the dead. It is so important you have a funeral plan written and notarized now. Death can come at any time, which is another takeaway. Decide what you want to be done with your belongings, what funeral rites you want, take out a life insurance policy, and if you can, go ahead and prepay for your funeral that way you get exactly what you want and your family isn't burdened with trying to figure it all out! I can't tell you how many times families couldn't pay for funerals and had to create GoFundMe accounts. Death is inevitable; the least you can do is make it easier on your family. Other takeaways were more spiritual in nature, such as honoring our ancestors. Because of my background, I think the takeaways were the best part of the book and readers need to hear that they need to take care of this stuff now. Don't wait until its too late.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but there were some disappointments. First, Prower completely glosses over African traditions. He prefaces this by saying there are too many cultures to cover thoroughly, but then attempts to lump all the African cultures together by saying "This is what they have in common." I felt African traditions were done dirty in this book. I was most interested in reading about their practices too, although his section on Voodoo and Hoodoo was interesting, albeit short. He is much more careful with Native American cultures. Despite saying there are way too many to cover, he doesn't lump any groups together. There are also some discrepancies with the deities and their representations in this book. I'm no expert on all cultures and their deities, but I know a few well enough to spot inaccuracies. The first is Inanna. He completely dismisses her as the Queen of Heaven and fails to include some crucial aspects of her myth, citing modern anthropologists as the reason. I'd never seen her represented the way Prower represented her and without a good source, I can't confirm this interpretation. However, other sections have great sources so I felt let down in this regard. Lilith's story was also a little strange with the mentioning of amulets being worn by pregnant women and newborns without an explanation of why this tradition arose. Why include it at all if you aren't going to explain the meaning behind it, which has to do with death! The lumping of many European cultures under the heading "Viking" was also a little disheartening, but at this point, I've gotten so used to this cultural misrepresentation that I just let it go (Viking refers to a number of raiding parties with different cultural backgrounds).

Again, I enjoyed the book because of my background, but I wouldn't say this book is really "morbid magic." There is very little magic in the book at all, apart from a ritual found in the first section and a couple toward the end. It's mostly a retelling of death and funeral practices around the world, so if you are looking for spells and rituals regarding death, this probably isn't the best place to start. Now if you are looking to get a brief overview of death culture around the world, then go right ahead. Honestly, I feel there are better, more reliable sources out there, but Prower's lighthearted writing makes this a fun, easy weekend read.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

July Full Moon Worksheet

July Full Moon Worksheet

This month's full moon is on the 16th and is Capricorn. Unfortunately, this Full Moon is going to be tumultuous. Coupled with a lunar eclipse, conjunction with Pluto, and Mercury Retrograde, expect emotions to be running high as truths that were previously hidden come to light. However, it doesn't have to be all bad. Use this partial lunar eclipse to bring your own truths to light, especially things you have been in denial of and deal with them accordingly. This is a great Full Moon for shadow work and healing. This month's worksheet includes areas for you to jot down what you wish to release and charge, notes for any signs you receive this night, and a 4 card spread to reveal the truth of the situation and how you should handle this knowledge.

July Full Moon Worksheet


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

Monday, July 8, 2019

DIY Bee Bath

DIY Bee Bath

While we have recently had some rain here in Georgia, I know we are well on our way to it becoming scarce again. When water is scarce, local wildlife suffers, especially bees. Obviously, bees are tremendously important, pollinating our plants so they may bear fruits for our consumption. Plus, they are delightful to watch in my garden. Other than planting lots of flowering plants, you can help the bees in your witchy gardens by creating a Bee Bath, aka a bee drinking waterer. This is a really super simple project that can be done cheaply and the bees will thank you for it. Heck, the toads and lizards in your garden will likely thank you too! This is so easy, that you can make them with your little witchlings and make them as simple or as intricate as you like. Furthermore, creating a bee bath is a great way to honor both Earth and Water elements in your garden; Earth because you are nourishing the Earth's creatures and Water because you are making a sacred place for Water within your garden.


     Terra Cotta Saucer
     Stones, marbles, or mosaic glass gems (easily picked up at Dollar Tree)
     Citrine or Carnelian chips (or other crystals of your choosing)
     Terra Cotta Paint (optional)


Begin by decorating the outside of your saucer with terra cotta friendly paint, if you wish. Do not paint the inside as 1) you won't be able to see it once the stones and water are in place, and 2) you run the risk of the paint being toxic to wildlife. I didn't paint mine because I liked the way the saucer looked to begin with, but if you want to decorate it, I suggest using sigils and images for health, vitality, strength, and endurance so that the wildlife that drinks from your bee bath will be given a little boost. If you don't want to decorate the outside, place these symbols on the underside of the saucer.

Once your saucer is decorated, fill the bottom with your stones, marbles, or mosaic glass gems. Spread them evenly on the bottom. Sprinkle your citrine or carnelian chips amongst the filler. Citrine and carnelian both symbolize strength and endurance, which bees and other wildlife visiting your bee bath need to make it through extreme temperatures and drought during the summer months.

After the bottom of the saucer is filled, fill the saucer with cool water until it's just at the edge of the filler. You don't want the filler to be completely submerged, as the bees need to be able to rest on the rocks while they drink, otherwise they will drown. Please note that terra cotta absorbs water, so after you initially add water, you will likely need to add more water 30 minutes later. You can see in the pictures below I already need to add more water to mine! If you wish, place your hand over the bee bath and bless the water. Imagine it filling with life-giving properties to support the wildlife in your garden.

DIY Bee Bath

Finally, place the bee bath outside in your garden in a shaded area on level ground or elevated. If you place it directly in the sun, the water will heat, causing bees not to visit, and it will evaporate rather quickly. Be sure to refill the bee bath daily. During especially hot weather, check the bee bath more than once a day. If the bee bath begins to grow algae, scrub the contents with soap and water and refill. Feel free to bless the water each time you add more.

DIY Bee Bath

And there you have it! I told you it was simple! If you happen to make one yourself, please share pictures in the comments below! I would love to see your work!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Questioning Spirits: Is This Spirit My Guide?

Questioning Spirits: Is This Spirit My Guide?

When hedge riding, I often encounter any number of spirits. Honestly, I prefer to work alone or with a select few spirits when I am hedge riding, but there are times that spirits specifically seek me out. Sometimes these spirits have a message for me for someone else, although this is rare in my case. I've made it pretty well known to the spirits of the Otherworld that I have no desire to be their medium, at least not at this time in my life. Most of the time, however, the spirits are coming to work directly with me, some asking to stay in my life longer than one journey. It's important that we are critical of these interactions. Not every spirit we encounter is benevolent and not every spirit has your best interest in mind. For example, the spirit attached to my ex-husband. I made the mistake of trying to steal my heart piece back from this spirit instead of doing it the proper way and ended up being stalked by the creature every time I crossed the veil. It was terrifying and extremely dangerous and reckless of me, but I desperately wanted to feel better. Up until the beginning of this year, the creature had hung out just outside my Garden gate, waiting. However, with the help of three new spirits, I was able to banish this creature and have felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. When I first met these new spirits, however, I was hesitant and skeptical. The only reason I even allowed myself to work with them is because Meka, my fox guide, trusted them. If Meka trusts you, I trust you. Despite her trust, I still sat down and recorded everything I could about these new spirits and how I felt working with them. Each time since that I have encountered them, I have expanded on my notes. I want to be sure these spirits are really there to help me and not trying to trick me. So far so good.

It's extremely important that we judge the spirits we work with in the same way we judge strangers. Always be cautious and wary, especially of eager spirits. Most spirits are not pushy and overbearing. A benevolent spirit will leave if you are uncomfortable and ask them too. If a spirit is too eager to hang around you, be mindful of their behavior and tread carefully. That isn't to say all eager spirits are out to get you! Child-like spirits and those who passed before their time tend to be immature and pushy, just like little kids. Just use your best judgment and always trust your gut. Keep a detailed record of your interactions with these spirits to help you decide if the spirit is really a guide or partner, or if they are just trying to use you.

Devin Hunter in his book The Witches Book of Spirits has a really great outline of questions you should consider and statements you can rank to help you determine whether or not the spirit is truly a spirit guide, familiar, helpful spirit, or something else. When you first meet a spirit you suspect may be a guide or otherwise helpful spirit, begin by asking the following questions:

What is your name?
Do you come to work with me?
Have we worked together before? When?
What are you capable of doing for me?
What do you want in return for your assistance?
What shape do you most often take?
How will you present yourself to me when you want to make yourself known?
What can I do to immediately feel connected to you?
What messages do you have for me? Where do you come from?
Were you once human?
What are your interests?
What are you here to teach me?

I've modified or left out some of his suggestions because I personally don't feel they are pertinent questions, but that's just me. And of course, these are just basic questions to get you started. When conversing with a spirit, you'll often know intuitively which questions to ask. Spend time getting to know them during your journey for as long as it takes. Once you have returned, Hunter suggests using his Spirit Guide Profiler to rate your interactions with the spirit. I absolutely love this idea and have started using it in my own practice. Each statement is ranked 1-5, 1 being strongly disagree and 5 strongly agree. Rate each statement below when you encounter a new spirit that may be a guide:
I feel a vibrational or energy change when actively communicated with this spirit.
I feel safe when this spirit is around.
I feel calm when this spirit is around.
This spirit is easy for me to communicate with.
I feel that the information exchanged between us betters me.
This spirit is direct when it communicates with me.
This information comes to me easily.
The information is easily integrated or used.
This spirit has accurately informed me of future trends in my life.
When I finish my work with this spirit, I am left feeling empowered.
This spirit assists me in my life.
This spirit and I have a deep connection.
The spirit feels like it might be a potential familiar spirit.
This spirit is will to journey through the Otherworld.

Again, I have modified several of these and excluded one statement: Since meeting this guide I have been able to help and encourage others. This isn't an important factor to me because I am selfish and journey for me alone, not others. However, you may feel the need to add it to your list. If your score is low (15-30) this spirit probably isn't a guide. Cleanse and release yourself from this spirit. If your score is between 31 and 45, this may be a spirit guide, but they are most definitely worth continuing to work with, even if they aren't a guide. They are at least helpful to you but take proper precautions. They could also be a spirit guide that is not yet ready to become a full guide as some of the pieces or connections between you two are missing. If the score is 46-60, the spirit is likely a guide and you should continue working with them until the day comes that the lesson they had for you is taught. Remember, guides come and go, so we open to change. No matter what, keep a record of these answers and ranked statements and revisit them as information changes. A spirit may make you feel comfortable one day and really uncomfortable the next. You will not always know after one meeting whether or not a spirit is helpful, but keeping detailed records will help you sort it out down the road.

When you encounter a new spirit, how do you determine if they are a guide, familiar, helpful spirit, or something else entirely?