Saturday, March 30, 2019

Bone Magic Series: Bones and Skulls: How to Use Them in Magic

Bone Magic Series: Bones and Skulls: How to Use Them in Magic

So I decided to break this post up into 3 different ones because it was so damn long. I wanted to make it as comprehensive as possible, including what the animal remain is from a scientific point of view and what the remain has been historically used for by magical practitioners around the world. In this post I am going to simply cover the use of skulls and bones in witchcraft. The next two posts will cover furs and pelts, followed by feathers, fangs, and claws (along with shells and blood). It is important to note that animal remains do not preserve well overall. That means for ancient cultures, much of what we have is either interpreted from historical texts or noted in myths and legends passed down between generations. Our knowledge is rather limited, but still available. Much of what we know about animal remain use comes from indigenous cultures, especially those of North America and Africa, so please keep this in mind.

Skulls and Bones

This is the one witches tend to be the most interested in, and for a good reason. Skulls in particular not only look really cool, but they are the protectors of the consciousness, making them excellent tools for spirit work and divination. Scientifically speaking the skull is the boney structure that forms the head in vertebrate organisms. It not only protects the brain but also provides attachment sites for the facial muscles and cartilage. Other bones provide protection and attachment sites for muscle and tendons, allowing movement and stature. For example, the ribs aid in protecting the lungs and heart, while the femur is specifically used in movement. In general, skulls and bones tend to preserve pretty well, especially in comparison to soft tissue, making them an easy magical tool for a witch that wishes to use them in their magical practice.

Bone Magic Series: Bones and Skulls: How to Use Them in Magic

In witchcraft, skulls and bones have been used in a variety of ways. I mentioned some of these uses in my previous post on A History of Animal Remains in Witchcraft, but felt the need to expand on this topic. Historically, bones have been used in folk-medicine, divination, and spirit work. This includes using everything from the astragalus of a hare to whale ear bones. You name it, there is likely use for it. One of the most famous uses of a bone is the wish-bone from a turkey or other domestic fowl. Either side of the bone is held by a person and pulled until it breaks. The individual with the largest piece will have their wish granted. Other times, the wish-bone is hung above a door to bring love, likely due to its shape (source).

The earliest use of bones was likely as amulets and fetishes. Archeological finds have uncovered thigh-bones of mammoths that were carried by nomadic cave dwellers from Belgium. The smaller bones, such as the carpus and tarsus, were perforated and worn as charms as seen in the Museum of Natural History in Brussels and Sommerville's collection at the University of Pennsylvania (source). Other early uses include bone-fires, known today as bonfires, where the bones of animals were ritually burned to appease a deity (source).

Other early uses of bones include for divination, as mentioned previously in A History of Animal Remains in Witchcraft. The blade-bone of different animals, including sheep, deer, bear, and ox were used for divination since antiquity, and are still used by certain groups worldwide today. The blade bone was placed into a fire until it cracked in various directions. Once the bone cooled, the splits and cracks were carefully analyzed. One method of reading suggests a long split lengthwise signified the "way of life," while good and bad fortune were read from the lateral cracks (source). In Scotland, the scapula was stripped of flesh and inspected for any semi-transparent parts of the bone. Dark spots were believed to symbolize misfortune, while black spots foretold death. The Irish used a similar practice, except darker spots indicated that someone will be burned out of the house (source). In Japan, scapulimancy dated back to the protohistoric period with the favored bone being from a stag, which is outlined in Kojiki written in A.D. 712. The scorched bones were used to divine luck (source). These Japanese practices were very similar to those found in China, where oracle bones were used. To read about other cultures that also used scapulimancy please refer to my last post A History of Animal Remains in Witchcraft. While not complete, it discusses scapulimancy as well. I do not wish to repeat myself all over again, instead wishing to present you with new information. I also strongly encourage you to read Naskapi: The Savage Hunters of the Labrador Peninsula to learn more about bone use in North American indigenous cultures. This is by no means the only source, but it is pretty comprehensive and free.

Bone Magic Series: Bones and Skulls: How to Use Them in Magic

Apart of divination, bones have also historically been used for protection. Across Europe, horse skulls have been found buried under churches, home hearths, in walls, chimneys, and even under threshing barn floors. Historians believe some of these skulls were placed for acoustic purposes, but many believe this explanation evolved later in history to explain away the skulls as many of the skulls found across Europe have no acoustical function. Much of the folklore associated with horses is concerned with luck (think horseshoe), and it is possible our ancestors placed the skulls in the home to bring luck as well as for protection (source). Cats were also commonly placed in the walls of buildings in across Europe, especially in England, Wales, and southern Scotland. It is believed the dried cats were placed in walls for two reasons: to protect the home from vermin and as a sacrifice to the home as the protector from pestilence (source). More commonly, however, animal bones were used in fetishes, an object believed to have magical properties or to be inhabited by a spirit. I could devote an entire post to fetishes alone, and likely will in the future, but for the sake of this article, be aware that fetishes include a variety objects, including the famed rabbit's foot. There is a great article on the rabbit's foot as a fetish you can read here.

Bones have also commonly been used in folk medicine. The astragalus of a hare could be carried in the pocket as a charm against rheumatism while in powdered form it was drunk with water for its diuretic properties. Stag heart bone, a white irregular bone that is sometimes found in the heart of a stag or ox, was used to remedy heart troubles and prevent abortion. Dried pike jaw-bones were dried and powdered to cure leucorrhoea (not sure why they would be trying to cure this, but whatever) as well as to facilitate easy childbirth. Lamprey and lizard spines were given to children to strengthen their bones while powdered human bones mixed with red wine were believed to cure dysentery. You can read more about these uses in The Hand of Destiny.

Today, skulls and bones are used for a variety of purposes. Skulls and bones can be used as a holding vessel during spirit work, whether by the spirit of the animal who originally inhabited the body, by other animals of the same species, or by other spirits entirely. Summoning or invoking a spirit to the vessel can aid you in your communion or spellwork by allowing you to draw from their qualities, especially those of animals. In ancestor work, the animal spirits inhabiting the bones can act as mediators, messengers, and even guardians or protectors during ancestral work or spellwork. As mentioned above, skulls can be used for divination by gazing into the eye sockets or even into the base of the skull. Being the seat of consciousness, any images or messages received are thought to be from the spirit inhabiting the skull. You may want to check your results with other divinatory methods to confirm the results. Furthermore, bones can be used as ritual adornments, ritual tools, in sachets or witch balls, as altar decorations, bone tarot, and other forms of spellwork that require the characteristics of the animal whose bones you are using. I tend to keep deer antlers around when hedge riding because deer are believed to be able to cross easily between realms. Recently, I invoked the spirit of the coyote by using a coyote skull during my deep house cleansing ritual.

Bone Magic Series: Bones and Skulls: How to Use Them in Magic

In the end, there is a myriad of uses for bones in your craft, from spells to rituals to spirit communication. Have you used bones recently in your practice? I'd love to hear how you use animal bones to enhance your craft!

Interest in the rest of the series? Here's what's to come!

Bone Magic Series

Monday, March 25, 2019

Herbarium: Magical and Medicinal Uses of Sweet Violet

Magical and Medicinal Uses of Sweet Violet. Includes FREE BOS page!

Gender: Feminine
Planet: Venus
Element: Water
Powers: Healing, Peace, Protection, Love, Luck, Lust, Resurrection, Wishes
Magical Uses and History:  Sweet Violets, not to be confused with African Violets, are commonly associated with love and rebirth. According to the myth of Attis, Attis fell in love with a princess. Unbeknownst to him, the goddess Cybele was deeply in love with him. Upon seeing her love fall for another, she drove Attis mad in revenge. He ran crazily through the mountains before finally stopping at a pine tree where he castrated and killed himself. From his blood sprang the first violets, new life from death. Furthermore, the leaves of violets are shaped like hearts, further associating them with love. Violet leaves can be placed in your shoes for 7 days to attract love. It can also be mixed with lavender to promote love and arose lust. Supposedly gathering the first violets of spring will grant you your dearest wish.

Sweet Violets are also associated with water and nymphs due to a reference made by Homer in his epic Odyssey. When they reach the land of the nymphs, Ogygia refers to the area as "the land of parsley and violets." As such, the Greeks would wear violet to calm tempers and help induce sleep. It was even said to cure headaches and protect against evil spirits.

Violets can be used in a number of spells including:
     Love Spells
     Protection Magic
     Rebirth/Ressurection Magic

Medicinal Uses: Sweet Violet has a long history of being used for treating coughs and bronchitis as well as upper respiratory catarrh as it contains chemicals that break up mucus. Furthermore, it has been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and rheumatism due to containing high levels of methyl salicylate and has even been used to treat cancer. Sweet Violet also contain high levels of saponins, which are antimicrobial, lending to its use in treating urinary tract infections and upper respiratory tract infections.

Preparation and Dosage: Internally, Sweet Violets can be made into an infusion or tincture. To make an infusion pour one cup of boiling water into 1 teaspoon of dried violet leaves and let it infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink up to three times a day. For a tincture, take 1-2 milliliters up to three times a day. Externally, it can be used in a hot compress or as an ointment. To make a hot compress, create a strong violet tea and dip linen in the tea, gently strain, and apply to the affected area. To make a violet ointment, place 2 ounces of lard in the oven until it becomes clear. Place 36 fresh violet leaves in the lard and stew for about 1 hour until the leaves have the consistency of cooked cabbage. Strain and pour the lard into a sealable jar. This ointment can be applied to eczema or the throat to help ease a sore throat.

Want to print a copy of this for your Book of Shadows? Click below for your free copy!
Magical and Medicinal Uses of Sweet Violet. Includes FREE BOS page!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Spring Equinox Altar 2019

Spring Equinox Altar 2019

The Spring Equinox is the first day of spring, represented by fertility, new life, and new beginnings. The Sun is growing in strength and Mother Earth is waking up after a long slumber. Life is returning and with it comes flowers, bees, rabbits, birds, eggs, and eventually fruits. With these themes in mind, I designed a much simpler altar, using items I already had around my home.

Spring Equinox Altar 2019

1. Silk Flowers- The flowers flanking the altar represent the first flowers of spring and thus new life. The pinks and purple symbolize love and harmony, as the equinox is characterized by equal day and night. I would have liked to include fresh flowers this year, but the daffodils are done blooming at this point in Georgia, another symbol of spring. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost: $1 each)

Spring Equinox Altar 2019

2. Ceramic and Marble Eggs- Eggs are predominant symbols of Ostara and the Spring Equinox. They represent fertility, new life, and new beginnings, again characteristics of spring. These particular eggs have been on my altar each year. My mother made the ceramic eggs and my grandmother passed the marble egg down to me. She used to collect eggs. The greens, pinks, and blues are also associated with spring, adding to the overall spring theme.  (Where did I get it: Free; a gift from my family. These could easily be replaced with plastic eggs for $1; Egg holder: Target 2018; $1)

Spring Equinox Altar 2019

3. Tree Agate, Quartz, and Rose Quartz- The tree agate, one of my new crystals, symbolized new life. It gets its name from the tree life pattern that forms across the surface, making it associated with plants, gardening, and abundance. The rose quartz represents love and patience which leads to new life. The quartz simply amplifies the magic of the altar. (Where did I get it: Purchased at various metaphysical stores; Cost: $5) 

Spring Equinox Altar 2019

4. Ceramic Rabbit- This rabbit has shown up on my altar every year as well. I absolutely love him! Rabbits, due to their rapid breeding, are strongly associated with fertility, new life, and new beginnings. They are also one of the first animals to appear in the spring, making them considered the harbingers of spring. (Where did I get it: Hobby Lobby 2017; Cost: $3)


Spring Equinox Altar 2019

Like my other altars, most of the items I use are found or purchased for around $1, although if the items must be purchased by you, then the cost will be higher. 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 the Spring Equinox/Ostara this year?

Monday, March 18, 2019

March 2019 Full Moon Worksheet

March 2019 Full Moon Worksheet

This month's full moon is on the 20th, which just so happens to also be Ostara! This months worksheet centers around both the full moon and Ostara, making it the perfect companion to conduct your very own short sabbat/full moon ritual. It includs an introduction to what this moon is bringing, sections to write down what you intend to release and cleanse, a tarot spread with a place for your notes, and any thoughts or intuition you receive while communing with the moon through meditation or hedge riding! This worksheet is completely free and can be easily printing and added to your Book of Shadows!

March 2019 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?

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Egg Prosperity Spell

Egg Prosperity Spell

With Ostara right around the corner, what better ingredient to use than an egg in spell work? Eggs have been associated with creation, new life, and rebirth for as long as humans have recorded history. This makes sense if you think about what an egg actually is. It is a large cell that, if fertilized, will turn into a genetically unique offspring. The largest egg in the world is an ostrich egg. Yes, that entire ostrich egg is a single cell. My high school students are always blown away when I tell them this. How can something so large be a single cell?! But I digress. The point is, an egg is a new life or at least will give way to new life under the right conditions. Spring is when many organisms, plant and animal alike, begin reproducing. Combine this with life coming back after a long nap, and the association of eggs with new beginnings and rebirth is a given.

This spell, however, is designed to bring you prosperity, whether it be financial or otherwise, by working with the magical properties of the egg. It is a rather simple spell and can easily be performed with children on Ostara.

Egg Prosperity Spell

What You'll Need

  • An egg or eggs if making more than one
  • biodegradable sachet
  • pyrite
  • mint
  • marker, dye, and other tools to decorate the egg

What to Do

Begin by cleansing, charging, and/or blessing your items. Whatever method you chose is up to you. Personally, my go-to is sage, because I have a ton of it, or blowing on an object and imagining all the residual energy blowing away with it. After the items are ready to go, write, draw, or otherwise decorate your egg with your intent: prosperity. I chose to draw a rune in gold on my egg to represent prosperity, as seen below. Other color choices are green, orange, or violet. You can dye the egg a solid color, draw sigils or money symbols, or even decorate the egg with stickers representing prosperity. Whatever you chose will work as long as the intent is there.

Egg Prosperity Spell

After the egg is decorated, place it along with the pyrite and mint into the biodegradable sachet. The sachet I am using is one that commonly comes in my Tamed Wild subscription box (formally known as House of Rituals). This is a great way to reuse packaging and be environmentally friendly. When all the items are placed in the sachet, hold it in both hands and imagine it filling with gold and green light. Say,
"With egg for new beginnings adorned all in gold [you can insert your own color here, but it may not ryhme]
With pyrite for wealth and mint for fortunes untold, 

I open myself to wealth beyond measure,
And accept the Universe's treasure."
Once the spell is done, find a safe place in your garden, preferably by a plant also associated with prosperity and abundance, and bury the sachet. While the pyrite will remain, the other items will biodegrade, the egg providing food for the plants nearby. Be sure to watch the plant throughout the growing season. Prolific growth and flowering is a sign your magic is working. If the plant withers, dies, or otherwise fails to thrive, there may be something blocking the magic from working. You should revisit the spell after determining the roadblocks.

Why You Did It

For this spell, while simple, there are a couple key ingredients and steps. Why the egg? I mentioned in the introduction that eggs are representative of new beginnings, rebirth, and creation. This opens the pathway for new opportunities that were abundant in nature to enter your life. Decorating the egg filled the egg with the type of new beginning you were seeking. Gold and green especially are the colors of money, while violet is commonly associated with wealth because it was a difficult color to produce in fabrics, thus only the wealthy, more specifically royalty, wore the colors, giving it its association with abundance.

Pyrite and mint are also strongly associated with abundance and prosperity, pyrite for being gold and mint because it's prolific in nature. If you have ever grown mint you know it will take over your garden, yard, and the entire neighborhood if you let it, thus earning its association with abundance.

Egg Prosperity Spell

Charging the completed sachet with gold and green light, again colors of prosperity, and a short incantation stating clearly your intent infuse the magical object even further. By burying it in the garden you can observe the magic at work using the nearby plants as a guide. This is a pretty long-standing tradition for these types of spells.

If you wish to end the spell or break it, simply dig the sachet up and thank the Universe for all your received. Declare the spell complete and dispose of the items. You can keep the pyrite, but be sure to cleanse the object to release its original charge.

As always, remember to record your spell in your Book of Shadows or use my spell/ritual worksheet to keep track of the spell, especially where the sachet is buried.

How do you bring prosperity and abundance to your life? If you tried this spell, let me know how it worked in the comments below!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Spirit Work for Ostara

Spirit Work for Ostara

Ostara falls on March 20th this year, marking the first day of Spring. I can't wait! I hope with it comes sunnier days, moderate temperatures, and less rain. I am so over the rain, as is most of North Georgia due to flooding. Ostara is by far a fertility Sabbat, focusing on new life and Spring begins and the Wheel of the Year turns once more. Eggs, rabbits, and seed sowing are characteristic symbols of this Sabbat. With these symbols and themes in mind, here are three ways to communicate with spirits on or around Ostara.

1. Perform egg divination. 

Egg divination is commonly referred to as oomancy, and since Ostara's main symbol is the egg, what better way to commune with spirits during Ostara than using an egg to predict future events? My favorite oomancy tradition comes from Nordic traditions where only the egg white is used. Focus on your question and once the question is firmly in your mind, carefully pierce a fresh egg and blow the egg white into a clean glass of water. If you don't know how to blow an egg, simply crack the egg and separate the yolk and white before pouring the white into the glass of water. Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed for until the following day. The egg white will have formed patterns in the water that can be interpreted.

2. Build a relationship with a plant spirit.

If you have ever tried to grow plants, you may have noticed you are really good at growing certain plants, but not so much others. For example, I can grow rosemary, lavender, sage, tomatoes, and salvia without problems, but basil and larkspur?....Basil and larkspur hate my guts. I don't know why! I've done everything to grow them, but nothing works. I have tried communicating spiritually, tending to them, singing, leaving them alone completely, trimming them, not trimming them, planting them with companion plants, watering them, not watering them...Nothing works and I have yet to truly figure out why. They aren't my plants I guess. But the others I have a very strong relationship with. Spring is planting time, so why not get to know the plants in your garden or try to figure out which plant is your plant ally?

Spirit Work for Ostara

With a journal or you BOS in hand, sit near the plant you wish you communicate with. Ground and center then close your eyes and reach your energy out toward the plant. See if you can feel it's energy. Make note of any sensations you feel and images or colors you may see. Continuing with your eyes closed, say the plant's name three times. This is essentially like knocking on the plant's door and letting it know you want to communicate. Then introduce yourself and state your purpose. After you have gotten the plants attention and introduced yourself, you can begin trying to communicate with it. Here are some examples of questions you may wish to ask to open up a line of communication easily:
  • How are you?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What do you need to be healthier? Do you need more or less water? What is your favorite type of nourishment?
  • Are you receiving too much or too little sunlight?
  • Do you have any pests? If so, what can I do to get rid of them?
  • Do you like music? If so, what kind of music do you like?
  • Is there anything else you would like to tell me?
Be sure to ask one question at a time and be patient when waiting for a response. The plant may answer by speaking to you in your mind, showing you images or colors, or through feelings. Continue speaking with the plant until the conversation ends normally. Give the plant thanks for speaking with you. Ask if there is an offering it would like for the time it has spent working with you and close the door. If it asks for an offering, be sure to give it what it asked for to the best of your ability. Usually, they are for water or maybe even a precious stone. You never know! Continue to communicate with the plant regularly to build a strong relationship with it. Not only will you benefit by having a happy plant in your garden, but you will likely gain a powerful plant ally, willing to protect or assist you in magical workings.

3. Connect with the Earth through earthing.

Earthing has become increasingly common in the witch community. There is a lot of confusion as to exactly what it is, but simply put, earthing is connecting with Mother Earth. Grounding is centering and balancing your energy as in bringing it back to Earth. It is not a direct form of communication with her. Earthing will help ground you, but the purpose isn't just to ground, but also open a line of communication between you and our Mother Earth, whether it be to receive healing energy or ask questions. Furthermore, grounding can occur anywhere, whether you are in contact with Earth (soil, grass, rock, etc) or not. Earthing, however, can only occur if the person is directly touching the Earth, as in the soil or grass outside. Spring is a great time to get outside and reconnect with our Mother Earth after a long winter indoors. Find a safe place to walk barefoot and spend time feeling Her energy flow into you. I honestly prefer somewhere muddy. I like my feet to sink into Her as I concentrate on soaking in Her loving energy. If you can't find a safe place outdoors to go barefoot, untreated topsoil works just as well.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Book Review: Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland by Lisa Schneidau

Book Review: Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland by Lisa Schneidau

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.

If you are just starting out on your witchcraft journey, you should always read as much as you can, especially when it comes to folk tales. Much of modern magic is based on folklore that has been passed down for generations, allowing you to garner a better understanding of current practices and correspondences. If you are looking for a book to start with on plants, look no further.

In Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland by Lisa Schneidau, you will find 39 folk tales regarding the plants and herbs of Britain and Ireland that she tracked down from locals, history books, and folklore archives. The tales are centered around the Wheel of the Year, beginning with Mid-Winter and ending with Fall, so it focuses on plants that are active during those times of the year, making it easy to determine which plants you can work with during the different sabbats. Each tale is beautifully written, easy to read, and based off many sources according to Schneidau. Unlike some other folk tale authors, Schneidau lets the reader know when the story is her interpretation or a combination of tales, allowing you to judge the writing critically through knowledgeable eyes. These tales can easily be read as a bedtime story to children or used to help you develop your correspondence and plant histories for your grimoire. At the end of the book, she includes a wonderful list of further readings, giving you the opportunity to continue your studies should you wish.

Book Review: Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland by Lisa Schneidau

If I am honest, there is nothing I can really complain about regarding this book. It is exactly what I expected, with a bit of witchcraft used as the framework. My only complaint is I wish she would have included sources for the tales. I am assuming some of them came from books she suggests her readers look into, but I am not 100% sure. For a hedgewitch like myself, whose tradition is largely based on folklore, I highly recommend this book. While it isn't "local" witchcraft, it's important to recognize the role of these tales on American culture. For European-Americans, which includes myself, this explains many of the stories I heard growing up, giving context to what I already know about plant folklore. Even if you are not  British, Irish, or European-American, it will still be beneficial for you to read, as many modern witchcraft practices are largely based upon European traditions. Overall, I give the book 4.5 stars. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did!