Monday, February 24, 2020

Elemental Magic: A Complete Guide to Water Folklore & Correspondences

water magic, witchcraft, water witch, water folklore, water correspondences, elemental magic

The first stop on our elemental journey is Water, the element of emotions, healing, purification, and renewal. It is the perfect element to work with during the winter months because it is during winter that we spend time reflecting and setting goals for the future. This reflection process often includes shadow work where we confront past traumas to heal and break bad habits. Shadow work is by no means easy and takes more than a little self-reflection to work, but Water can help with the process greatly, especially in the beginning stages. In today's post, I will discuss the element Water in all her glory, from her history to her correspondences to how she works with the other elements. Because of the brevity of folklore and my personal background as a hedgewitch, I am mostly going to focus on European folklore regarding water. Saddle up because this is an incredibly long post because the history of water began with us.

Humans have always been deeply connected with water, which makes sense considering we are mostly comprised of water and need it to survive. Just a couple days without water and we die. Our ancestors knew this as well and discovered quite quickly that water had the ability to sustain and restore life, as well as take it away. Throughout history and across all cultures, water was revered, being associated with deities, spirits, souls, and the Otherworld. One of the most famous tales is of the River Styx, the river in Hades or the Underworld that separates the living world from that of the dead. To cross said river, you had to secure passage from Charon, the ferrymen, by paying him a coin. However, water folklore goes back even further.

Before the Roman invasion, much of Europe was inhabited by a series of tribes, united by a common language and similar spiritual beliefs, called the Celts. The Celts believed water to be sacred and viewed it as a liminal place, a place between our world and the Otherworld. As such, a series of myths arose around major water sources across Europe. When the Romans, who had their own set of water beliefs and rituals, invaded, they meshed many of the Celtic ideas of water with their own. These traditions were so prevalent and such a cornerstone of society, that when the Christians invaded sometime later, they found it impossible to squash the pagan beliefs. Instead of trying to stamp it out, they wrote over the pagan names with Christian names (much like they did with our holidays), thus preserving much of the folklore related to water, even to this day. From wells and springs to rivers and lakes to the wide-open ocean, folklore abounds.

Across Europe, especially in the UK, there are several sacred wells and natural founts or springs riddled with folklore. While different in location and water type, it was generally believed that these sources of water were imbued with healing properties that could cure just about any ailment. Archeological sites, folklore, and existing wells inform us that there were a number of sacred wells designated across Europe as healing wells. Many of these wells were originally revered by the Celts and later picked up by the Romans who enhanced many well practices across the continent by encouraging the practices and adding their own twist. The Roman philosopher Seneca declared, "Where a spring rises or a water flows there ought we to build altars and offer sacrifices." The Romans took this very seriously, building a series of shrines across the continent. When the Christians arrived, they adopted these same practices, turning the sacred wells into holy places with holy water named after saints. Some of the most famous of these healing wells include Chalice Well in Glastonbury and the Temple of Sulis at Bath. Chalice Well is a red well, meaning the water has a reddish tint due to iron deposits, which has long associated the well with blood and healing. It is believed to be the final resting place of the Holy Grail, hence the name Chalice Well. However, archaeological evidence suggests that the well has been in constant use for over two thousand years, long before the Christian arrived in England. In fact, dozens of flints have been found from the upper Paleolithic to Mesolithic period as well as a sherd from the Iron Age. Historically, the water was used to heal a variety of ailments, including to cure asthma. More recently, the well has become known as a symbol of feminine transformation (again think blood). The Temple of Sulis, however, is one of the few remaining wells or baths with a name that is not Roman or Christian. This suggests that the goddess Sulis, the Goddess of the Gap, was so entrenched in the culture that she couldn't be removed. The Temple of Sulis is a hot spring outside of Bath that has long used for healing and rejuvenation, the warm water being used as a cure-all for whatever ailments one had. The springs were popular well into the 20th century. In fact, it was so heavily used, it shows up in literature from the time and modern-day movies and some of the baths are still open to the public today. These curative properties associated with wells makes sense when we look at the chemistry of the water. Water that bubbles up from the earth is full of minerals that also have therapeutic properties while others are toxic. These minerals include calcium, bicarbonates, irons, sulfur, magnesium, and salt, but also arsenic and radon gas. Magnesium helps regulate cellular processes and muscle relaxation while iron cures anemia and fatigue and calcium aids in bone growth and healing as well as digestive disorders. Radon and arsenic, however, are toxic, and likely explain the visions people received after drinking or bathing in these water sources.

However, like all things, wells not only had the power to heal but also the power to curse. Despite Sulis Temple being largely used for its healing and restorative powers, it was also used for cursing, an ode to the dual nature of the Goddess of the Gap, the goddess between our world and the next. When archeological digs began, more than one hundred lead curse tablets were found inscribed mostly with curses for people who had done them harm or stolen from them (likely their clothes!). Part of this association with cursing may also arise from the fact that some of the sacred wells contained toxic water or even water that would turn living things to stone, like Dropping Well. Items that fall into Dropping Well, including animals, leaves, insects, and votive offerings, quickly turned to stone. At the time, it was believed to be the work of witches, but modern science tells us the waters at Dropping Well contain high levels of carbonates, sulfates, and silica that coat the objects in a layer of mineral thus turning them to "stone." As a hedgewitch, however, I find that I am most drawn to the folklore surrounding wells as being portals to the Otherworld.

Water has often been viewed as a liminal space, a point between our realm and that of the spirits. Wells, in particular, had been not only been revered for their curative and cursing properties but also for their connection with the Otherworld as a portal. One of my favorite stories that hint at wells being portals is The Horned Women. In this Celtic folktale, a wealthy woman's home is overrun by 12 horned witches who set to the task of spinning wool. The woman, upon seeing all these witches in her home tries to awake her family and finds she cannot move or speak until the witches ask for her to make them a cake. She asks to fetch water and they tell her to use a sieve and return with haste lest her family suffer. Try as she might, she cannot fill the sieve with water and falls to the ground weeping next to the well. A voice from the well tells her to not despair and that she should fill the sieve with yellow clay and moss and when she returns home she should say "The mountain of the Fenian women and the sky over it is all on fire." She thanks the well and does as she was asked. Upon hearing the mountain was on fire, the witches cry out in anguish and flee. The well again speaks to the woman and explains how she can safeguard her house from the witches. Not long after the witches return, demanding entry, but the spells hold and they are not allowed to enter the. In a fit of rage, having lost what they believed to be an easy meal, they flee into the night, cursing the well for cursing them. The voice in the well suggests that spirits can cross between realms at such locations and that it may be possible for humans to do so as well. The latter is also mentioned in the Brothers Grimm folktale, Mother Holle. In the tale, a young girl pricks her finger on a spindle and falls into a well where she passes into the Otherworld and meets Mother Holle who gifts her with gold after she completes a series of tasks. Again, this tale strongly suggests wells can be used to travel to the Otherworld. In the Yucatan forest, the Mayans, like the Celts, viewed their wells as portals to the Otherworld known as Xibalba. They believed that the holes filled with water, also called cenotes, were passages back in time to the time of the gods. And this isn't just wells that are associated with being portals. Lakes and rivers are also deeply associated with astral travel and the Otherworld, as seen with the Lady of the Lake and the River Styx.

In modern hedgecraft, wells, rivers, and lakes can be used to help you travel to the Otherworld by acting as your beginning location. When you begin the visualization to enter into the Otherworld, many witches, especially those deeply connected with water, can visualize a body of water to act as a gate. To travel to the Otherworld using a well or another body of water, visualize yourself descending into its waters, swimming deep into the darkness until you reach a light at the end of the tunnel. You may find yourself just about to give up, running out of air, before you finally break the surface on the other side. Once you have reached the other side, be sure to travel back the same way you came so you can return safely to your body.

Apart from wells and founts, rivers played a key role in many folktales that still survive to this day. As already mentioned, several myths involving the Underworld include traveling across a river, such as the River Styx or Sildir from Norse mythology. As such, rivers became associated with death as well as life. In the case of the Egyptians, the Nile River was viewed as a life-bringer as annual flooding brought life-giving water and fertile silt to the valleys so crops could flourish. The Nile was so prominent in Egyptian life that it was given its own god, Hapi. The annual flooding was often referred to as the "Arrival of Hapi." However, the Nile was also viewed as a portal to the Underworld, that the souls of the dead crossed the "river of heaven" heading west to set and then rising again to be reborn in the east. Mesopotamia had similar myths. In the Sumerian poem, Gilgamesh and the Netherworld, the god Enki travels to the Underworld via a boat on a river. This idea is further perpetuated in The Babylonian Theodicy which states "Of course our fathers pay passage to go death's way, / I too will cross the river of the dead, / as is commanded from the old." We see similar stories appearing across Europe as well, with the Greek River Styx and the Celtic lore involving the ferryman Barinthus. The name Barinthus is derived from Barrfind which translates to "white hair." As such, Barinthus is often depicted with white hair and a white beard, a personification of Death himself. Today witches call upon Barinthus to ferry them to Avolon or the Otherworld while journeying. Across all cultures, there are stories of the Weeping Woman, Banshee, Bean-Nighe, or the White Woman found near rivers, often washing clothing sometimes stained in blood. These women are viewed as omens of death and anyone who sees or hears her cries will soon die or experience death within the family. Slavic funerary songs also mention souls traveling across a river: "A river runs here, a fiery river, / From east to west, / From west to north, / Over that river, the fiery river, / Drives the Archangel Michael, the light. / He transports souls, the souls of the righteous..." As such, rivers can be used like wells to cross into the Otherworld, communicate with spirits, or commune with the dead. North-flowing rivers can be used to send messages to the Otherworld or send spells on their way.

Apart from being associated with death and the Otherworld, rivers have long been associated with healing and life as well. South-flowing rivers are believed to be healing rivers in Scottish folklore while other Celtic traditions believe water traveling toward the Sun is gifted with healing properties. Several charms call for water from a river to cure anything from headaches to curses, as the running water was believed to wash the ailment away. One of the most famous myths surrounding the healing properties of rivers is once again the River Styx. To prevent his death, Thetis took her son Achilles to the River Styx where she held him by the ankle and dipped him into the water. This made Achilles invulnerable to harm, except around his ankle where his mother held him. As such, Achilles grew strong and was never sick nor injured until his untimely death due to a stray arrow hitting his "heel." Today, the Ganges River is said to purify the soul, removing impurities from past lives and corporeal sins. As such, rivers can be used to wash away negativity, impurities, ailments, and stress.

Like wells and rivers, lakes were also viewed as sacred places. The most famous of lake tales comes to us from Arthurian legend: the Lady of the Lake, a faery woman who gifts Author with the legendary sword Excalibur, enchants Merlin, and raises Lancelot after he is orphaned. We also have the famous Loch Ness monster, believed by many to be an elusive water horse. Both of these myths suggest, much like all water sources, that lakes are a liminal place where spirits and humans can pass between realms. And, like other water sources, lakes can be used for healing purposes as well. Being still and calm, lake water is believed to heal, remove curses, and treat illnesses especially those related to stress and anxiety. Flowers growing along the banks were believed to have more potent healing potential than similar flowers growing away from the lake as they were imbued with the magical waters. The still lake water was also often used for reflective magic or for divination, the waters acting as a mirror.

But not all folklore surrounds freshwater sources. Being as vast and dangerous as it is, the ocean has played a dominant role in human history and thus has its own magical properties and folklore. You could write an entire book on sea folklore and witchcraft, and people have, so I am just going to give a brief overview here. The ocean played a major role in the development of civilizations around the world. For a long time, the ocean was impassible and untameable, which led our ancestors to tie the sea to destruction, instability, and chaos. It was believed that the ocean was ruled by the gods, which had any variety of names including Neptune, Poseidon, and Aegir, and without currying their favor, there was no way you could pass. In Celtic lore, the sea was also heavily associated with witches who were believed to be able to control the weather, especially on the open ocean, and could, therefore, bring the demise of travelers. The Odyssey is one of the best surviving myths surrounding the ocean where we see just how fickle the gods could be when it came to allowing travelers to safely pass. Odysseus, the hero of the epic, blinds Poseidon's son, Polyphemus, thus incurring the wrath of Poseidon who makes Odysseus' journey home extremely difficult and long to ensure he returns home to even more problems. The story is also filled with one of my favorite nature spirits, the siren. Sirens were originally companions of Persephone and when they failed to prevent her rape, they were transformed as punishment, condemned to lure men to their deaths for all eternity (Love it!). In The Odyssey, Odysseus ties himself to the front of his ship so he may hear the sirens first to alert his crew to stuff their ears with wax so they may safely sail out of harm's way. Sirens continue to appear in a number of myths across multiple cultures, including another Greek tale involving Jason and Orpheus. Jason commands Orpheus to drown out the siren's songs with his lyre so they may safely pass. Folklore is also filled with another favorite mythological creature, the mermaid which according to Assyrian legends, began with the goddess Atargatis when she transformed herself into a mermaid after accidentally killing her human lover. Originally, mermaids were believed to be the causes of floods, storms, shipwrecks, and drownings, much like sirens. Either way, the sea was believed to be full of dangers, and rightly so, as many travelers have lost their lives to its fickleness.

With the somewhat taming of the sea, the ocean began to be associated with life, abundance, and plenty as it provided an abundance of food. Later myths show a change in mermaid folklore, portraying them to be benevolent beings who bestowed boons on sailors and human lovers. Christopher Columbus reported seeing a mermaid during his voyage, which may have led to his safe passage. These boons sometimes took the form of mermaid's purses, shark, skate, or ray egg sacs that washed up onshore. (You can read more about mermaids here). Furthermore, the tides often brought in all sorts of treasures for beachcombers that could be used for a variety of purposes in daily life or to create sailor charms. For example, white hag stones, stones with a hole naturally worn in the middle, were often combined with a Mary bean or Malaga nut from Brazil to bring good luck and protection to sailors. Sea urchins were placed on mantles in homes and even in ships to ensure there would be bread to eat.

While many of the deities associated with the ocean are masculine, the ocean is heavily influenced by the Moon, a feminine aspect, which controls the ebb and flow of the tides. In Norfolk and Suffolk, it is believed that children born at ebb tide, the period between high and low tide when the water flows out, would face many challenges in life, while more children were born during flow or flood tide, when the tide is coming in. Being a movement of water inward, these children would likely face better prospects in life. Ebb tide was used for banishing, destroying obstacles, and sending things or people away. Flow tide, on the other hand, was used for growth, expansion, hastening, creation, and creativity. High tide and low tide were also heavily associated with magic. High tide was used for prosperity and abundance magic while low tide was used much like ebb tide for banishing, shadow word, chord cutting, and breaking habits.

And these are all just bodies of water! There is numerous folklore about dew, mists, and rain! Again, there is absolutely too much folklore on these subjects to include in this post, so I'm going to very briefly summarize. Dew has long been a prized magical ingredient, especially in protection and glamour magic. Especially lazy and dirty women and children were believed to be taken away by faeries where they were carefully cleansed by morning dew becoming more beautiful upon their arrival home. Most famously, however, dew was often collected and applied before sunrise on May Day (Beltane) to heal and as a glamour. On the Summer Solstice, it was believed that dew would increase one's strength. Across Europe, especially in Britain, dew was believed to have curative properties. It was often applied to the eyes to help eye pain or rubbed on warts and freckles to remove them. Dew collected from stones with depression or cups called Bullaun Holes were used by wise women and men in medicines to enhance their restorative qualities. Sometimes the dew was collected with a white rag and tied around the ailing part to help it heal faster.

While dew was often seen as a healer, mists were viewed as a magical veil that was used by spirits of the Otherworld to shroud themselves. Furthermore, Celtic folklore suggests that not only did the fae and other spirits arrive with the mist, but the mist could carry you away as well, bringing you to the water if you weren't careful. With mist and fog, it is believed all manner of devilish creatures can walk the Earth. People often report seeing black dogs, an omen of death, in the mists or hearing the luring voices of women calling them out to sea. However, in the Haudenosaunee myth The Maid of the Mist, the maiden is a savor who warns her village of impending doom. In almost all legends, the mists act as a portal or gateway between realms, thus becoming an excellent hedge riding tool for astral travel.

Rain, on the other hand, as a complete set of unique myths, but in most cases, rain is associated with life, fertility, and healing. Originally, the rain was associated with spontaneous generation and was believed that frogs and worms came directly from rain, thus associating it with life, abundance, and fertility. Oden, a Norse god of fertility among other things, was also associated with the rain. I'm sure you can figure out what the rain was meant to be in this case. In Greek mythology, rain is believed to be the tears of Calandra, daughter of Hades, mourning the death of her beloved, Orestes, son of Zeus. Zeus and Hades, upon hearing of their love, struck down Orestes and locked Calandra in the clouds to mourn for all eternity. Rainwater has been used in all manner of magical ways, including spells for rejuvenation, healing, protection, cursing, and nourishment. Rainwater alone deserves a post of its own, which I'll likely do this year sometime in April because "April showers bring May flowers..."

Phew! That was a lot to cover! As you can see, I've only scratched the surface of water folklore. There is plenty more from Asia, Africa, and the Americas that wasn't touched on here. There simply isn't enough time for me to cover everything in great detail, but this folklore provides a deeper understanding of how important water has been throughout human history. It is the bringer of life and death, a healer and a curse. Without water and all its amazing, properties humans would not be where we are today. It nourishes our bodies, helps our cells and organs function and while aiding plants in creating food. It helps us and our planet maintain a relatively constant temperature and allows cell membranes to form a double layer. Its a universal solvent, acting as a carrier for all manner of solutes such as salt and aiding in digestion. Its uses are endless, both practically and magically and no amount of writing will ever do it justice.

Below is a quick correspondence guide for water, including a free printable page for your Book of Shadows!

Gender: Feminine
Planet: Moon, Neptune, Pluto
Time: Twilight
Season: Fall
Direction: West (although if the closest body of water to you is a different direction, use that instead)
Tarot Cards: Cups
Zodiac: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Symbolism: emotion, intuition, psychic abilities, love, unconscious mind, fertility, self-healing, reflection, lunar energy, deep feelings, curses, death
Symbols: Ocean, lake, river, fog, mist, creek, well, spring, pond, rain, shell, sea glass, driftwood, cup, chalice, bowl, trident, seaweed, hag stones, cauldron
Deities: Oshun, Davy Jones, Danu, Grannus, Lir, Llyr, Sinann, Selkie, Sulis, Nix, Nerthus, Nehalennia, Aegir, Achelous, Alpheus, Brizo, Ceto, Doris, Eurybia, Graeae, Nerus, Nerites, Poseidon, Tethys, Thetis, Coventina, Fontus, Juturna, Neptune, Salacia, Tiberinus, Ap, Yami, Ganga, Mokosh, Veles, Anuket, Hapi, Nephthys, Satet, Sobek, Tefnut, Enki, Marduk, Nammu, Sirsir, Tiamat, Hebo, Mazu, Gonggong, Suijin, Susanoo, Cerridwen
Nature Spirits: Undine, nymph, mermaid, finfolk, lake ladies, water maidens, Cailleach, water horse, kelpie, bean-nighe, banshee, white woman, washerwoman, water cows, faeries associated with wells, streams, ponds, or lakes
Colors: Blue, silver, white, gray, seafoam, indigo, aquamarine, bluish-silver, black
Food and Drink: water, tea, apple, pear, coconut, strawberry, watermelon
Herbs: seaweed, aloe, fern, water lily, lotus, moss, willow, gardenia, apple, catnip, chamomile, cattail, lettuce, kelp, birch, cabbage, coconut, cucumber, comfrey, eucalyptus, gourd, geranium, grape, licorice, lilac, pear, strawberry, tomato
Crystals and Gemstones: Moonstone, pearl, silver, aquamarine, amethyst, blue tourmaline, lapis lazuli, fluorite, coral, blue topaz, beryl, opal, coral
Animals: fish, snake, frog, crab, lobster, eel, shark, dragonfly, seahorse, dolphin, sea otter, seal, whale, alligator, crocodile, beaver, octopus, penguin, salamander, turtle, starfish, koi, coral, barnacle, manta ray, manatee, jellyfish, nautilus, heron, duck, geese, crane, swan, water birds, ammonite, dragons, serpents

water correspondences, water magic, book of shadows, water witchcraft, water witch, witchcraft, magic, elemental magic

How does water work with the other elements?

Water with Fire: Water can be used to extinguish Fire, while Fire can evaporate Water forming steam, mist, and fog.
Water with Earth: Water can feed the Earth, providing it with life-giving properties so plants may flourish. However, Water can also destroy Earth through waterlogging, flooding, and erosion.
Water with Air: Water and Air can combine to corrode and dissolve metals or Air can act as a carrier for Water, transporting water vapor around the world, thus aiding in the water cycle. Furthermore, Air can be used to make Water, as Water is one part oxygen and two parts hydrogen (both originally gasses). If combining their more potent forms, Water and Air can combine to form hurricanes and thunderstorms.

Your task for the next couple of days is to research local bodies of water where you live. Where is the nearest body of water? Can you walk to it? How clean is the water? If it man-made or natural? What is its source? Where does it begin? Where does it end? Is there any folklore associated with it?

Don't worry about traveling to this body of water just yet. You can use Google Maps (with satellite view on) to get a good idea of what your local terrain looks like from above. This is a great way to map out your area and begin finding those magical places. Take stock of where your local water sources are and write down anything you learn in your Book of Shadows or Grimoire. While it seems simple, this task is extremely important and helps you build a more local practice.

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

Elemental Magic Series

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Tea Magic: Types of Tea and Their Magical Uses

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Magical and Medicinal Uses of Feverfew

feverfew, herbal remedy, magic, herb magic, green witchcraft, kitchen witchcraft, witch

Gender: Masculine
Planet: Venus
Element: Water
Powers: Protection
Magical Uses and History: Feverfew is aptly named for one of its many uses, treating fever, but has historically been used to treat a variety of ailments including inflammation, menstrual cramps, toothaches, arthritis, vertigo, spasms, labor pains, insect bites, and the plague. The Ancient Greeks referred to feverfew as Parthenium supposedly because it was used to save the life of someone who had fallen from the Parthenon during its construction in the 5th century BC. As such, it is believed that carrying feverfew, along with hyssop and rosemary, will protect the wearer from accidents. Parthenium, however, also means "girl" which may allude to its traditional use for treating female complaints. By the 18 century, it became known as "medieval aspirin" for its use in treating headaches.

In the late Anglo-Saxon period until the 20th century, feverfew was used to treat elfshot or flying venom, a medical condition described in Wið færstice (an Anglo-Saxon medical text), that was caused by invisible elves shooting invisible arrows at a person or animal thus causing shooting pain in a localized area of the body. Its likely this pain was arthritis, a stitch, or muscle cramp. According to Wið færstice, feverfew along with red nettle and waybread could be combined to create an elfshot charm to cure the ailment. First, feverfew, red nettle, and waybread were boiled in butter while saying,

"Loud they were, lo, loud when they rode over the mound.
They were fierce when they rode over the land.
Shield yourself now that you may escape this evil.
Out, little spear, if herein you be!
Stood under linden, under a light shield where the mighty women readied their power and their screaming spears sent.
I back to them again wills end another,
a flying dart against them in return.
Out, little spear, if herein it be!
Sat a smith, forged he a knife, little iron-strong wound.
Out, little spear, if herein it be!
Six smiths sat; war-spears they made.
Out, spear, not in, spear!
It herein be a bit of iron, hag's work, it shall melt.
If you were in the skin shot, or were in flesh shot,
or were in the blood shot, or were in bone shot,
or were in limb shot, may your life never be torn apart.
If it were Aesir shot, or if it were elves' shot,
or it were hag's shot, now I will help you.
This your remedy for Aesir shot; this your remedy for elves' shot;
This your remedy for hag's shot; I will help you.
It fled there into the rest had it.
Whole be you now! Lord help you!
Then take the knife; dip into liquid."

Then a knife was dipped into the liquid and the mixture was likely rubbed on the afflicted area. All three of these herbs have spearhead-shaped leaves, likely a form of sympathetic magic. Either way, feverfew earned a reputation for being medicinally and magically valuable as a restorative and protective plant.

In medieval Europe, it was commonly planted in cottage gardens to protect the inhabitants. When the plague hit, people made sure to plant feverfew around the perimeter of their house to prevent the plague from entering. It is possible feverfew prevented plague-ridden vermin from entering the property which in turn kept the occupants safe. Today, feverfew is commonly used in protection magics and placed in protection sachets or planted around the home for the same purpose. It can also be used in baths or as a tea to break hexes and curses.

Feverfew can be used in a number of spells including:
    Protection Spells
    Breaking Hexes

Medicinal Uses: Feverfew is primarily used to treat headaches and migraines and is commonly taken at the first sign of pain. However, it may also help relieve arthritis when caused by inflammation, menstrual cramps, painful periods, and even dizziness and tinnitus. However, feverfew should not be used if you are pregnant as it can stimulate the womb. The leaves may also cause ulcers in sensitive people. Furthermore, it has blood-thinning qualities and should not be used by anyone currently on blood-thinners or undergoing surgery in the near future.

Preparation and Dosage: Feverfew can be taken internally one of three ways: chewing the leaves, infusion, or tincture (pill form is also available). It should be noted the leaves taste awful and can cause mouth ulcers so it is suggested the leaves are taken with food to reduce the effects. The most common way refers to the elfshot charm above: eat 3-5 fresh leaves on buttered bread daily to reduce headaches and migraines and prevent sores. To create an infusion, combine 3 tbsp fresh feverfew flowers and leaves or 3 tsp dried feverfew with one cup boiling water. Allow to steep for 20 minutes. Add honey to taste and drink 1/4 cup every 30 minutes until symptoms subside. It can be combined with lemon balm, skullcap, and chamomile for an even more powerful headache infusion. If taking a tincture, take 1-2 milliliters of tincture up to three times a day at the onset of symptoms. Externally, feverfew can be made into a salve and used to treat arthritis pain topically.

Want to print a copy of this for your Book of Shadows? Click below for your free copy! This particular plant profile is 2 pages due to the length of the content.

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Meet the Hedgewitch's Cats and Why They Aren't Familiars

I adore animals and have been deeply connected with them from a young age. It's part of the reason I gave up eating meat as well. I just couldn't bring myself to eat the same creatures I loved so much. I've had many companion animals over the years, from frogs to hermit crabs to turtles to hamsters to chickens. However, my absolute favorite animal companions have been my cats over the years, and I have been privileged enough to have shared my time with several. At the moment, I have the joy of tending to three, beautiful grey cats that I adore beyond measure. I'd like to introduce you to them today and discuss why my cats, while great, are not familiars.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar is my big love machine who spends most of his time giving me kisses. When my husband left me in 2017 he took both of our cats with him. He had them for 2 years before we met, so technically they were his, but I will never forget how empty I felt losing my two cats of 8 years. I honestly think that was the worst part of everything that happened. Two days later my mom and dad took me to a pet adoption event at a local pet store. My dad said that if I had something to love I would have a reason to continue living. I was in a really dark place and my parents were legitimately concerned that I may take my own life. They weren't wrong. I did not want to adopt a new cat. I did not want to be responsible for another life when I couldn't care for myself. But I went and I am glad that I did.

When we arrived, we headed straight back to where the cats were, tucked away from the dogs and much of the noise. They had a lot more cats than normal that day and while most people were crowded around all the kittens, I caught sight of a scrawny, beat up, grey-haired cat with so much love in his eyes. He tried desperately to get everyone's attention, but he wasn't a kitten. He was scared up, ear torn, eyelid mangled so it's always showing, stitched on his stomach from a fight, undernourished, prickly to touch, and FIV positive. I looked at that cat and placed my hand against the cage and knew, this cat was waiting for me. He was here today for me and no one else.

I still went around and visited the other cats, my parents thinking I would want a kitten instead of an adult cat, but I kept looking back at Oscar who was watching me. After talking to all the kitties, because who can pass up loving on all of them, I went straight back to Oscar and said "This is my cat. I want this one." Again, my parents thought I would want a kitten and were shocked I settled on this "ugly" cat. The rescue let me open the cage and hold him and he meowed and purred at me the whole time. My parents fell in love too because what wasn't to love about this sweet boy?

I think the rescue was surprised he was adopted so quickly. They said they had picked him up off the street 2 weeks prior and that he was in rough shape. Before I could bring him home he needed to have his stitches removed, but other than that he was good to go. I picked him up later that day and he spent the next several weeks following me around talking to me about everything he had been through and how thankful he was. I had to move his food bowls into rooms with me so he would eat and drink because he only wanted to eat and drink if I was in the room.

Slowly he put on weight, his fur softened, his scars faded, and he settled down. I wake up every morning with him resting on the pillow above my head giving me kisses. Every. Single. Day. He loves giving me kisses and snuggling and being part of the family and he loves his grandparents too. Everyone loves coming over to see Oscar because he is so friendly. You'd think after going through so much he would be untrusting, but he is the exact opposite.

You see, I knew the moment I saw him from across the store that he was meant for me. I felt it in my chest and the pit of my stomach. It was a warm, comforting feeling. Bringing him home saved my life and I saved his. I've never had a cat as amazing as Oscar, and everyone he has ever met dotes on how sweet he is, how they didn't like cats before they met my Oscar. The vet's office eats him up every time I bring him in. He is so easy going, except when I run the vacuum and loves sleeping on all of my chairs and couches and eating lots of kitty treats. If I associated him with anything magical it would be the element Earth for he is grounded, stubborn, and my rock.

Jane Austen

I adopted Oscar in June of 2017. That same December a couple of days before the end of the semester, a small grey kitten wandered up to the courtyard of the school I work at and some students found her playing in the bushes. She was playful and sweet and the students, not knowing what to do, brought her to the English teacher across the hall from me. They knew she loved animals and had taken cats before that had wandered up to the school. She called me over to see it before her daughter picked it up to keep it at home for the day. One of the girls that found the kitten wanted to keep her but needed to ask her parents first. I loved on that little kitten all the way up until she was taken away and told my coworker that if the girls couldn't take her, I would. I had a place for her at home and knew my big, loveable Oscar would love a sibling.

Needless to say, the end of the school day came around and the kitten ended up going home with me. She rode in my lap the entire drive home, purring up a storm. I didn't tell anyone what I had done until I was almost home. I called my mom and said, "Guess what I got today!" She rattled off a couple of things school-related and when I finally told her I had picked up a kitten, she was flabbergasted and asked if I was sure. Of course, I was sure! Like Oscar, this small kitten was meant for me; she had told me so. The Universe knew I wanted and needed another cat and sent me one. Then she asked if I had told my boyfriend, who she knew was sleeping at home with Oscar. Nope...I hadn't said a word to anyone; I had just done it.

When I arrived home, I gingerly carried this tiny kitten upstairs and into my bedroom where my boyfriend was, low-and-behold, asleep with Oscar tucked under his arm. I sat down on the bed which awoke them both and I said, "Look what I got today." Miles squinted at me, looked down, blinked a couple of times, and when it finally sunk in I was holding a kitten his eye grew big and he scooped her up. Oscar was less than happy with me, but after about a week the two of them were inseparable.

When I brought her home, I wasn't entirely sure Jane was a girl. I was hoping she was a boy and that I would get to name her Charles Dickens, but alas the vet confirmed what I already knew; she was, in fact, a girl, so Jane Austen it was, named after my one of my favorite authors. If you haven't noticed there is a theme here...

Jane is inquisitive, playful, intelligent, and vocal. Out of all three of my cats, she puts the boys to shame when it comes to outwitting them and problem-solving. She keeps me on my toes and I am constantly having to introduce new toys to keep her occupied. While much smaller than her brothers, she is the queen among cats, and they follow her lead wherever it may take them. Despite her inquisitive nature, Jane is also a lap cat. She will spend hours sitting on my lap while I am on my computer or reading a book but is wary of being pet without her consent. She is also incredibly respectful and is cautious not to disturb my stuff, no matter how tempting it may be. She always wants to partake in my magical practice, but I am sure to keep the cats at a distance when burning incense to keep them safe. Instead, she usually sits outside my door, waiting patiently for me to finish. She is my sweet girl, and most certainly a gift. Jane is my Fire, full of passion and love.

Charles "Charlie" Dickens

I know you're not supposed to have favorites, but I definitely have a favorite and its Charlie. If you were to ask me why, I wouldn't be able to fully explain it, because I'm not really sure why I am so drawn to Charlie, but I am. He is also the weirdest cat I have ever owned. If I didn't know better, I'd say he was probably a dog in another life.

After getting Jane, I quickly realized that my plan to give Oscar a sibling had somewhat backfired. Jane was full of energy and Oscar wasn't. While he loved cuddling with his baby sister, he wasn't very interested in being attacked, chased, or otherwise bothered by this rambunctious kitten. That's when I realized I needed a younger playmate for Jane, which was perfectly fine with me! I don't particularly like even numbers, and knew that three cats was probably best for me. Everyone tried to convince me I didn't need any more cats, but deep down I knew there was one last cat that was supposed to be in my life right now. So I waited...somewhat patiently...for the right cat to come along. I knew that when the Universe was ready, I'd know.

About 6 months after bringing how Jane, another co-worker, sent me pictures of a bunch of kittens her friend had found under their porch. Low and behold there was a little grey and white kitten among the litter. I looked at his tiny face and knew at that moment this was the cat I had been waiting for. My boyfriend was completely against getting another cat, but when I showed him the picture of the kitten he looked up at me and said "Yeah...this is your cat." A couple weeks later, after he had been fixed and healed and grown a little more, we made the hour trip to pick up this adorable little furball. The family had aptly named him Ash, for his grey color, and he weighed less than 2 pounds. When I picked him up he hissed at me. I gave him an inquisitive look and he immediately settled down and started purring. I told him his new name was Charlie and kissed his little forehead. I fell in love with him instantly and haven't stopped kissing him and holding him since I brought him home. I know he did too.

We made the drive back home, Charlie sleeping peacefully in my boyfriend's lap the entire drive. I was anxious to see how Oscar and Jane were going to respond to be bringing home yet another cat. I was most worried about Oscar after how he reacted to Jane, but when we finally arrived home, Oscar surprised me. Both Jane and Oscar were asleep on the couch in the basement. I slowly sat next to them and let Charlie walk over to them. Charlie sniffed Oscar and immediately began purring as loudly as a train. Oscar sniffed Charlie back and started purring and cleaning Charlie. It was the most amazing thing ever; instant love between the two of them. Oscar and Charlie cuddled on the couch most of the afternoon, Oscar guarding and protecting him from Jane, who was less than happy with the stranger.

Like Oscar had with her, it took Jane about a week to settle down and accept Charlie into the family, but once she did, they were the greatest of playmates. Charlie gave Oscar a cuddle buddy and gave Jane a spunky playmate. And for me, it gave me the biggest momma's boy in the world. He completes our little family and my heart couldn't be more full.

Charlie is my Air as he is extremely talkative but yet so flighty, his head always caught up in the clouds. He loves sitting in windows, watching the birds, insects, and wind blow through the trees. If we close a door, he cries incessantly until we let him in. Heck, sometimes he just cries because I'm not giving him enough attention. When I am on my computer, I have to pull an extra chair up as close to my chair as possible for him and him alone to sit in, otherwise, he cries. He has the loudest purr in the world and follows me everywhere, especially into the bedroom, office, or kitchen. He loves standing in the sink or shower, especially after the water has run, just to watch it drip down the drain. He also insists on putting all of his cat food into the water bowl before eating it and even places his favorite toys in the water bowl. Maybe he was also a fish in another life. Finally, he enjoys chewing on fingers, toes, pillows, and my expensive velvet tufted chairs, much to my annoyance, and we have yet to figure out why. Trust me, I've talked to the vet at length about this because he is ruining $250 dollar chairs! He is extremely quirky, to say the least, but I love him to death, even if he ruined my expensive furniture.

Why Aren't My Cats Familiars?

First of all, I don't believe pets can be familiars, which may ruffle some feathers. Familiars are spirits and my cats are not spirits. They are very much alive and remind me of that daily from the howling for food to the stinky poops in the litter box every morning. Spirits do not need to eat or use the bathroom, and therefore my cats are not familiars. Historically, familiars, also called familiar spirits, were shapeshifting spirits that aided witches in their magical practices. They would sometimes take an animal form, usually to "hide" or blend in. However, this was not the true form of the familiar, and even still they didn't need to "eat" in a traditional sense. Their eating took the form of feeding off of energy, whether it be the witch's energy or the energy of others. Either way, the familiar was not laying around eating cat treats all day and throwing his toys in the water dish.

However, I do believe my cats are magical companions. Jane most certainly is, with Oscar being a respectful watcher, while Charlie is just destructive. Everything is a game to him and that's fine. Jane recognizes there is energy in the objects I own and that I am able to manipulate this energy and as a result, she treats my magical tools with deep reverence. As I mentioned, she is exceptionally preceptive and smart. She puts the other two to shame. Do I ever involve them in my magical workings? Sometimes. If I am burning a bunch of incense, I try to keep my cats out to keep them safe. However, on some hedge riding trips and other general workings, I often let my cats wander in and out as they please. Despite Oscar's ambivalence toward magic, he is interested in hedge riding, mostly because I think he worries about me. I truly believe he can feel me move between realms, and often lays next to me to keep my body safe. If I travel too far, I often feel him licking my face or hair to get me to return. Oscar helps with my return journeys more often than not and does a fabulous job of it. I wouldn't trust anyone else to do his job.

So do I view my cats are familiars? Definitely not. Do I communicate with them and involve them in my magical work? Yes and yes. I love the relationship I have built with these three little buggers and I am glad I get to walk this life with them by my side.

Do you involve your pets in your magical workings?

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Monday, February 10, 2020

5 Witchy Books for Winter

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I love a lot. I think I have made that pretty obvious on the blog over the years. Books are one of the best ways to learn and grow, apart from actually doing what it is you are learning about, of course. Reading is also an excellent escape, one that I find myself turning too more often lately as the winter blues continue to set in. I've always been a devoted, passionate reader. Well, that's a lie. When I was in elementary school I struggled with reading and reading comprehension, but no one really knew why. I was a brilliant kid and extremely creative, but I struggled with reading. It wasn't until I had a teacher sit down with me and teach me a "new" way to read and look at the world of books that it finally clicked. From that point on I devoured as many books as I could. Every Christmas I had several books on my wish list. I went to Barnes and Noble and Borders religiously. I checked out books from the library and otherwise surrounded myself with all the books I could get my hands on. Not surprisingly, I surrounded myself with folklore and fantasy books. They were a great escape and the closest I could get at the time to reading about things I experienced as a child. It wasn't until high school that I finally started purchasing New Age books, and it wasn't until my senior year that an art teacher, of all people, realized I had a learning disability that hindered my ability to read and understand language. Like I said, I was brilliant, later labeled as gifted, and was able to compensate for my learning disability my entire life. But I digress. The point I am trying to make is that books are amazing and you don't have to be a good reader to enjoy a good story.

I've been mulling this post over for quite some time and decided today is the perfect time to discuss a couple of my favorite witchy books and the tea I like to read with them. Again, I love tea about as much as I love books, if not more. Because I love books so much, I broke the post down into seasons. Expect to see a Spring/Summer list in May and a Fall list in September. There are just so many books that I couldn't pick just a few.

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.

1. The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston- Most people know Paula Brackston for her book The Witch's Daughter, which is probably one of my least favorite of hers. However, I adore The Silver Witch. Both female leads are strong, independent women who don't need a man to come along and save them. I think this is part of the reason I loved the book so much. Brackston is a gifted writer and always tells a beautiful tale, especially the parts that take place throughout history. In The Silver Witch, Brackston tells the tales of two women: Tilda, a modern-day artist who recently lost her husband, and Seren, a witch and shaman who lived during Celtic times. Their fates are intertwined and together they must face down a great evil. Seren is by far my favorite witch in all of Brackston's books. She is strong, independent, elegant, and full of love and surprises. She is such a fierce character, one I identify with greatly. Being a shaman, Seren is also able to communicate with the beyond to receive messages and I loved how Brackston portrays her character in this book.

I suggest sipping a strong Darjeeling tea, which is also suggested on page 39, while enjoying the book cuddled up in a nice, fluffy blanket.

2. The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston- Yeah, another Brackston book, but I really enjoy her writing style. This story, aptly named, follows a young witch named Morgana. Unlike everyone else in town, Morgana does not speak and is sent off to wed a local herder she barely knows. However, some force is dead set on destroying Morgana's life and she must work to lift the curse threatening her new life. While the lead woman of this book is sometimes frustrating at times, I found the romance beautifully enchanting. I also loved how Brackston incorporated local Welsh myths of wishing wells into this story.

I suggest drinking Winter White Earl Grey by Harney & Sons with a splash of milk and sugar while reading this lovely tale. I'm not really sure why, but London Fog always reminds me of the moors and warms my soul on cold winter nights.

3. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab- I recently finished this book (like within the first 3 days of 2020 starting), and was instantly in love with the characters. The Near Witch tells the tale of the small town of Near where the inhabitants tell the tale of the Near Witch singing in the wind. When a stranger shows up in town and children begin to go missing, the townsfolk blame the newcomer while Lexi, a young girl who lives with her mother and sister on the edge of town, suspects the Near Witch may be behind it. Lexi is a headstrong tomboy who isn't afraid to get a little muddy to save her little sister's life. She teams up with the ashy newcomer, Cole, to find the children and clear Cole's name.

I suggest an earthy, smoky tea such as Black Cask Bourbon by Harney & Sons. I suggest this because of Cole's smoky past and because bourbon reminds me of windy moors. This tea is full-bodied and sure to warm you up.

4. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson- The Snow Queen is a Danish fairy tale from 1844 and has been the inspiration for many a tale since then. In fact, Disney's Frozen is one such take on this tale. This story tells the tale of Kai and Gerda, two children who live next door to each other in a small town. They grow up hearing the tales of the Snow Queen and one winter the queen whisks Kai away. The town believes Kai dead, but Gerda, determined to get to the bottom of his disappearance, sets off to find him. Its a beautiful story and available for free online.

I suggest pairing this tale with a peppermint tea. Peppermint always gives me the "chills" and goes well with this story.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis- Yeah...the man was a Christian and the whole series is about it, but that doesn't mean we can't love it all the same. In my opinion, this is a pretty darn pagan book! If it's not up your alley, try His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman which was written in response to C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and it about "killing God." Either way, both books are full of snow-filled adventures that are great for both young and old. I adore both stories and if reading them isn't in the cards this winter, the movies are fantastic as well. His Dark Materials was also recently turned into an HBO series, with The Golden Compass premiering as season 1. Be prepared though. The TV show is not for young children.

I suggest pairing this book with Harney & Son's Chocolate Peppermint tea. Chocolate and peppermint always remind me of Yule and winter and magic and goes well with both of the stories listed above. And if tea isn't your thing, a warm cup of hot chocolate is just as magical!

witch, books, reading, winter, witchy, witchy reads, occult

And there you have it, 5 witchy books for winter that are sure to get you through these final chilling weeks. Is there a witchy book you enjoy reading in the winter? Have a tea you think pairs well with one these books? Let me know in the comments below!

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Monday, February 3, 2020

February Snow Moon Worksheet

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February's Full Moon, referred to as the Snow, Ice, Quickening, or Hunger Moon, is filled with uncertainty but hope as well. The nights are still long and cold and for many, cabin fever is beginning to set in. Furthermore, February is the last stretch before fairer weather arrives, and our ancestors were cautious of their winter stores making it until Spring. Despite the concerns, hope is present in the new life forming beneath the surface. Seedlings began to sprout under the snow's surface and baby animals grow within their mother's bellies. February is a great time for re-evaluating our past and setting goals for the future.

This month's Full Moon worksheet contains the usuals of my past Full Moon worksheets, including a to release and cleanse section, a box for your intuition, and a tarot spread. Unlike past worksheets, however, this one can be used every February, as it is based on the correspondences of the moon itself and not other astrological events. The tarot spread for this month features 6 cards specifically designed to help you figure out what seeds to plant this month.

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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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