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Monday, June 28, 2021

Book Review: Doctoring the Devil by Jake Richards + Bonus Conjure Cards Review

book review, conjure, witchcraft, granny magic, folk magic, root work, rootwork, pagan, neopagan, witch

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.

This is the second book this year I have read about Appalachian Conjure and I am not complaining. The entire system is absolutely fascinating and well worth learning about, especially if you live in the United States. We get so caught up in authenticity and tracing occult practices back to Europe, that we forget the United States created its own brand of the occult, that is just as magical and authentic as traditional Cornish witchcraft. The more I have learned about Appalachian Conjure, the more I fall in love with this amazing practice. Doctoring the Devil: Notebooks of an Appalachian Conjure Man by Jake Richards is an absolutely phenomenal introduction to Appalachian Conjure and pairs wonderfully with Foxwood's Mountain Conjure and Southern Root Work. So let's jump into this review because I have so much to talk about.

Doctoring the Devil: Notebooks of an Appalachian Conjure Man is jam-packed with information, and while relatively short, will take you some time to read because there is just so much to process. This is not an introductory book that you breeze through and throw on the shelf. You will find yourself reading a short passage and stopping to think, "Huh..." The book begins by discussing the differences between root work, folk magic, and conjure. These are terms that are often confused so it was great to have a definitive definition of each, especially for someone like myself coming from the outside. Richards then dives into the basics of conjure, its history, and how to cleanse, protect, draw money, cure diseases, break roots, and curse and hex if you need to. He draws heavily upon folklore, even spending an entire chapter talking about famous conjurers and witches. He draws upon his own experiences and stories passed down from his family and neighbors, discussing themes and truths behind folktales, much like Hutcheson does in New World Witchery. He backs up all of this information with an extensive bibliography at the end of the book, so it's obvious Richards is well informed and has done the work. It was lovely to see the overlap between what Hutcheson covered and what Richards actually does, so you go basically from theory in Hutcheson's book to practice in Richards' book. Being that I love folklore, I loved to see how these folktales translate into an actual practice. Furthermore, Richards understands these tales, while they ring with some truth, are exaggerated.

Richards also spends time discussing haints and other spirits of the area, many of which do not mean well. I loved the inclusion of haints, which was missing from Foxwood's book. Haints are such an integral part of Southern history that porch roofs and window molding are painted 'haint' blue to confuse and discourage haints from entering your home. He doesn't mention haint blue in the book but does cover a large array of cleansing methods, followed by an excellent chapter on protecting yourself and your home. These were my favorite two chapters in regards to actual conjure work as they are applicable to everyone, no matter your practice. Furthermore, these two chapters talk pretty heavily about spirits as well as other practitioners having it out for you, mentioning if a spirit makes it past your protections, they likely don't mean you harm. Remember, your ancestors and helpful spirits can move past these because they aren't there to hurt, but to help. During these couple of chapters, Richards heavily uses an herbal gum called asafoetida. I attempted to contact Richards about this herb in particular because I was curious as to what it was. From the little research I did, asafoetida is a gum-like substance from a plant from Southern Iran. I am very curious how a plant from Southern Iran became such a popular protection ingredient in Appalachia, and how readily available it was to these people. I have yet to hear back from Richards, but hopefully, he will respond and I can elaborate on the use of the plant here. I had never heard of it prior to this book and find it fascinating how a gum from halfway across the world is now a staple in Appalachian Conjure. Richards follows up with an entire chapter on keeping the law away and swaying the law in your favor, which was a fantastic chapter as well. Historically, marginalized groups, including those impoverished in Appalachia, needed conjure to help bring justice where it was not otherwise being served, and prevent the law from disrupting 'unlawful' practices that bring a family income.

Finally, Richards covers other topics, including love spells, pregnancy, cursing, and more. In the chapter on love roots, Richards places no judgment on those in need of love roots, but does make it clear, "If your lover isn't willing to work on your relationship without a root being put on them then they aren't worth your time." This is excellent advice without passing judgment, which I love. What I loved most about this chapter, however, was the discussion on how to break love roots after they have been cast, whether you did it or not. This is something you rarely see in occult books, and I deeply appreciated Richards' knowledge on breaking these spells and the reason why you would want to. I wish more books covered breaking roots and spells you cast, but it seems like our community is more caught up in casting than breaking, but that is a discussion for another time.

Unlike Foxwood, Richards does not focus heavily on God, which made this more enjoyable for me overall. However, a large number of Plasms, prayers, and other Biblical references are used in conjure, so if this is something that makes you uncomfortable then this may not be the book for you, although there is ample valuable information that does not involve Christian texts. 

book review, conjure, witchcraft, granny magic, folk magic, root work, rootwork, pagan, neopagan, witch

To add to the book, Richards has also produced a set of Conjure Cards. Richards spends a chapter discussing divination practices in the Appalachia, including bone throwing and the use of playing cards. The section on bone throwing is excellent so if you are looking for some more insight into creating your own bone set, reading bones, and feeding them, I encourage you to check out that section for sure. Because bone tarot or throwing bone sets are so personal, they aren't something you can mass market, but playing cards certainly are. Richards specifically designed a set of playing cards with images representing their meaning to aid in your divination practice, whether you practice conjure or not. The cards come complete with a guidebook that discusses each card's upright and reversed meaning, simple spreads, and examples of how to read cards in conjunction with each other. I love seeing how different practitioners read their cards as it's a great way to learn by example, especially if you are new. Furthermore, Richards discusses gender fluidity and how to find the card that suits you and your lover, without the constraints of traditional binary language. The cards are antiques to give them an aged look and printed on sturdy card stock so they will hold up to use. I love how the imagery on each card is specifically designed to jog your memory into the meaning of each card, meanings that Richards learned from his mother when he was a boy. The only downside to the cards is the information booklet. While informative and complete, it's very small with tiny print written in a funky font. This makes it difficult to read if you are visually impaired or having a learning disability, such as dyslexia.

book review, conjure, witchcraft, granny magic, folk magic, root work, rootwork, pagan, neopagan, witch




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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Magical Properties of Tree Agate

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Spellcrafting: To Curse or Not to Curse; Ethics is Spellcrafting

spellcrafting, spell writing, spell casting, spell, magick, magic, witchcraft, witch, hedgewitch, ritual, witchy, occult, ethics, curse, hex, jinx, baneful magic,

Before you even begin to write and cast your own spells, you need to decide upon a purpose for the spell. This is usually the easiest part of spellcrafting because you know what you want before you even get started. However, just because you know what you want to cast a spell for, doesn't necessarily mean that you should. This is where ethics come in. According to the Oxford Dictionary, ethics is the "moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity." Ethics is concerned with right versus wrong, and the perceptions around those terms. There is a lot of grey area when it comes to ethics because not everyone has the same values and morals, nor do we all look at an issue the same way. I know this is a hot topic, but take abortion as an example. The reason we can't agree upon a 'right' course of action is that we do not agree upon the ethics of the situation. Pro-choice individuals often believe the fetus is not a human being and therefore does not hold more value than the life of the mother. They also often believe that the bodily autonomy of the mother outweighs the potential life of an unborn child. Still, others believe it's none of their business and should be left up to the individual to decide what is best for them. On the other end of the spectrum, pro-life individuals often believe life starts at conception and that the fetus also has bodily autonomy and the right to life. I'm not here to decide which side is right, but to point out that what is ethical for some is not ethical for others, and that isn't always a bad thing. So how does this tie into spellcrafting? The short answer: cursing, hexing, and jinxing; the long answer: many 'good' spells often harm another individual inadvertently by taking something away from them. Let's discuss these in more detail.

Curses, Hexes, and Jinxes, Oh My!

Beyond a doubt, baneful spells such as cursing, hexing, and jinxing get the short end of the stick when it comes to discussing what they are, how to do them, and why someone might. This is largely due to the rise of Wicca and the desire to separate the magic of white witches from indigenous occult practices. I've discussed the latter in more detail in Decolonizing Witchcraft: Racism, Whitewashing, and Cultural Appropriation in Witchcraft and How to Decolonize Your Practice if you are interested in learning more. With the rise of Wicca, came about the Rule of 3 which states that a witch should harm none lest the harm is returned to them three-fold. This same principle applies to 'good' spells as well, but this is often overlooked. Wicca is the most heavily capitalized occult practice in the world, making it readily available to those interested in witchcraft and therefore the more pervasive thought-form in the community. This means that there are a large number of witches, whether they currently identify as Wiccan or not, that strongly believe cursing, hexing, and jinxing should never be done in any circumstance and therefore the topic isn't covered much in introductory books, websites, and online forums. This is a complete shame because witches are purposely ignoring an entire side of witchcraft and their practice hurts because of it. I strongly believe in Z. Budapest's saying, "If you cannot hex, you cannot heal. If you cannot curse, you cannot cure." This doesn't mean that you are hexing and cursing yourself, but that you are learned in the art so you can correctly identify when someone has been hexed or cursed so you can break it. Smoke cleansing is not always the answer, especially when it comes to a more potent spell like a curse. For this reason, it's important to understand their basics and then why people, myself included, would use a curse, hex, or jinx. Let's work our way up from the least harmful to the most harmful, starting with the jinx.

I bet you've jinxed someone before without even thinking about it or knowing you were doing it. Have you ever said something at the exact same time as a friend as yelled, "JINX! You owe me a Coke!" Surprise, surprise, this is an actual jinx. Jinxes are tiny spells that are relatively harmless in nature. They are meant to cause an annoyance in the life of your target and are very temporary. It's often hard to see if these spells actually work unless you are close to the target, such as a friend you jinxed to make them buy you a Coke. They aren't necessarily harmed by the fact that they have to buy you a Coke, unless they are really financially hurting, but it is an annoyance, especially if they aren't supposed to talk until they buy you the Coke. Most jinxes, however, are usually mean-spirited and not in good fun. You want something negative to happen to the person you are jinxing, but you don't want them to be permanently harmed, just inconvenienced for whatever reason. These are usually cast because the person has done something mean or inconveniencing to you, such as calling you a name, cutting you off in traffic, stealing the last parking spot while you were clearly waiting, or any other action that we would classify as being a Karen. Hoping someone stubs their toe, has nightmares, spills glitter on their rug, or steps in a water puddle and spends the rest of the day with wet socks are all examples of jinxes. None of these are terrible, but they definitely ruin the day of the person they happen to!

Hexes, on the other hand, are much stronger than jinxes and last until the target learns their lesson. Hexes are designed to bring long-term bad luck, ill-will, and harm to the target and are often confused with the more potent curse. The key difference that sets hexes apart from both jinxes and curses is that they are specifically designed to teach the target a lesson. These are usually directed toward an individual who is repeatedly causing issues, such as an abusive co-worker or neighbor, cheating spouse, or lying friend, etc in an attempt to get them to stop the harmful behavior. Great examples of hexes have popped up in recent news, such as hexing convicted rapist Brock Turnerhexing Trumphexing the patriarchy when Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in, and hexing the individuals involved in the January 6th insurrection. There were also witches that hexed the election in favor of Biden. Other, less publicized examples of hexes include mirror or return to sender spells that send their actions back to the person doing the harm, hot foot powders (depending on the severity of the spell), continued nightmare spells, and even some banishing and binding spells. These sorts of spells are much more harmful to the individual, many of them focusing on destroying luck, happiness, and sometimes even relationships, but all with the intent of teaching the target a lesson.

Curses are much more potent than both jinxes and hexes and are designed to last a long time, sometimes even generations. Usually, curses are used to seek revenge on the target, sometimes even to bring justice when the system has failed to do so. Cursing is and was heavily used by marginalized groups for justice when the system ultimately fails to help them, especially among the BIPOC and impoverished communities. We see examples of curses pop up in folklore from just about everywhere in the world where they are almost always associated with negative views of witches and witchcraft. If you look at the folklore in the United States and Europe, you will find a number of tales detailing how witches cursed families, how the curse was broken, and how the witch was punished for their cruel actions. However, if you dig deeper into these tales, you find that more often than not, the witch was already an outcast who was repeatedly denied help and services in their time of need, so they retaliated against their abusers to even the playing field, aka bring justice. Curses can take many forms, such as preventing someone from finding love, destroying relationships, destroying crops or other property of value, and bringing long-term ill-will and bad luck. The point of a curse is to make the life of the target a living nightmare. Generally, these sorts of spells are used for abusers, murderers, rapists, pedophiles, animal abusers, and the like, although some people curse for much less. Curses are much harder to break, often requiring the spell remains to be found and destroyed or for the person to go through difficult cursing breaking rituals for several days, even weeks.

The big question, however, is whether or not it's ethical to use any of these types of spells. This isn't a simple answer. Most people will likely agree that a small jinx isn't particularly bad because it isn't particularly harmful. Most people engage in minor ill-wishing when someone does something that upsets them. Does this make jinxing unethical? What about hexing and cursing? These are much more difficult questions to tackle, but important to discuss nonetheless. As you can see from their definitions and the reasoning behind the spell, they aren't entirely bad. Hexes are to teach a lesson and stop someone from continuing to do harm. Curses, on the other hand, are often employed to bring justice to a marginalized and otherwise ignored group when the system has failed them. For some, this is no different than the target going to jail or being executed for a crime. If you are hexing and cursing simply out of spite and the target's actions do not justify the punishment, then what you are doing is likely unethical. However, if you feel the crime warrants the punishment you are sending, then it's probably ethical, or at least justified. I can't answer these sorts of questions for you, but you certainly need to. Before you begin writing your own spells, you need to set the ground rules you wish to follow and write them down somewhere in your Grimore or Book of Shadows so you can refer back to them often.  My advice: Don't cast spells in the heat of the moment if you aren't okay with jinxing, hexing, or cursing.

All that Glitters is Not Gold

Okay so we covered the obviously baneful spells, but what about the 'good' spells? They can't cause harm, right? Sorry to burst your bubble but they most certainly can. Let's break this down a bit. Let's say you are looking for a new job and you decide to do a new job spell to help you find the perfect job. Low and behold the spell works and you have an interview lined up with a company whose values and mission align with yours, it's the right pay, right hours, etc. You decide to cast a spell to help you get the job and succeed in the interview. The company loves you so much they hire you during your interview and all is right with the world! For you, it is, but what about the other candidates? Were they less qualified or less deserving of the job? Not necessarily. When you perform magic to bring about change in your life, you are inadvertently changing the lives of other people as well. When you worked magic to secure the job, you potentially took the job from another who may have needed it more than you. When you work a spell for money and find $20 in the parking lot, someone else had to lose that $20 for you to gain. Where does this fall in ethically? Is it ethical to cast spells for personal gain when others will inadvertently suffer because of it or is that just a consequence of life? Sure, you may have the best intentions, but are you willing to live with the potential consequences of your spells? What about spells that could potentially violate someone's free will, but aren't necessarily malicious, such as a love spell? Do you believe love spells can even violate someone's free will or do they just act upon and enhance what was already there? What about glamour spells? Is it lying to cast a glamour on yourself? Again, these are the sorts of questions you need to ask yourself before you cast a spell.

Before you jump into spellcrafting, I encourage you to set your own ethical ground rules for spellcasting and crafting. What are boundaries you are not willing to cross? Why? Are there exceptions to your rules? Spend time journaling about what ethics in witchcraft means to you. What do you hold valuable? What do you believe is beyond a doubt wrong? What is beyond a doubt right? Again, are there exceptions? This is going to take you some time to do, so don't rush it. I know reading this article you have probably already started forming some ground rules in your mind, maybe these rules have changed throughout the article or maybe it has reassured your stance. Either way, spend time journaling about the questions I've posed throughout the article and see where you stand at the end. Once you have your ethical code in place, then we can begin discussing writing and casting your own spells.

Good luck!

Interest in the rest of the series? 

Spellcrafting Series

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




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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Book Review: American Brujeria by J. Allen Cross

brujeria, american brujeria, magic, magick, folk magic, witchcraft, book review, witchy, mexican american folk magic, brujo, bruja, brujx

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.

Oof! This book review is incredibly late. This is what happens when your life gets crazy! I actually finished American Brujeria: Modern Mexican American Folk Magic by J. Allen Cross almost 3 weeks ago, I just haven't had the chance, or the energy really, to sit down a write a review. But I am here today to do this book justice. The books of 2021 are definitely keeping with the trend of offering new and insightful literature that will take your practice to the next level, and American Brujeria is no exception.

In his book, Cross breaks down the basics of American Brujeria, which should not be confused with Mexican Brujería. He covers everything from prayers to saints to candle uses and dressing to commonly used spells and rituals to creating and maintaining an ancestral altar using stories he collected from the community. Each of these sections is easy to follow, written in large font for those that may be seeing impaired, and cohesive. However, what I enjoyed most was how accessible he made his practice. Cross is quick to address cultural appropriation and discusses how as a Mexican American, he didn't fit in with either the white or Mexican community. As a result, he was left in a liminal space, which is where American Brujeria comes in. He makes it very clear this is not traditional brujería and discusses the differences between the two, including the terms used. Americans coming to brujería are often quick to jump onto the terms brujo/a/x, which are generally not used by traditional practitioners because of the fear associated with those terms. Furthermore, the community does not view brujería as witchcraft; instead, it is an extension of their Christian faith with a mix of indigenous folklore and folk healing.

While addressing cultural appropriation, Cross sets down some ground rules for those interested in incorporating these practices into their own. First, he reminds the reader we are a guest in this tradition and if you are going to borrow anything, you have to follow tradition. This means no changing the practice to suit your own needs and skipping over the parts you don't like. You can't just slap up a statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe and call it brujería. He also makes it very clear that the titles of brujx and curandero, belong to their community, no one else, meaning you don't get to call yourself a curandero unless the community calls you that first, and that you can not actively participate in racism against the Mexican community if you plan on using their practices. That entirely defeats the purpose of trying to work with the spirits of American Brujeria! Finally, Cross states you should not profit, at least in a meaningful way, off of a culture that is not your own, nor should you take up space in the Mexican community. These are the rules you should follow regarding any tradition or practice that is not culturally yours. Heck, do it for every single one! It isn't just indigenous cultural practices being erased, but even traditionally white cultures, such as Celtic, are being erased by people changing the stories to fit their own needs. Not every goddess fits into the triple goddess thought, and trying to force them into that role is harmful. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen origin stories for gods and goddesses changed to fit someone's belief system. But I digress.

I enjoyed Cross's personal experiences, from referring to St. Michael as similar to Dean Winchester (love the Supernatural reference) to his experience with St. Torino Romo and how it helped him and others through the border crisis. This story in particular brought tears to my eyes. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I find Christian occult practices, especially those around Catholicism, incredibly fascinating and comforting at the same time. As someone who came from a Christian background, these sorts of practices resonate with me, even though I do not believe any longer. Furthermore, there is a lot of overlap between American Brujeria and Appalachian Conjure because these practices arose to meet the same needs among the marginalized communities. If you are interested in either, this book is a great primer.

The only thing I did not like about this book was the lack of history. There are, as I mentioned, personal stories and references, with a tiny mix of history, but overall very little background information. If you haven't figured it out by now I absolutely love history, especially folk history. I would have liked to see more of this in this book.

American Brujeria: Modern Mexican American Folk Magic by J. Allen Cross is available now. Whether you are interested in brujeria, looking to expand your own practice, or just learn about the culture of your area, I encourage you to check out this book. It offers practical advice and solutions that can be used to enhance your own practice. Just remember to follow the rules set down by Cross.




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Monday, June 21, 2021

Litha/Midsummer Solstice Altar 2021

Litha, altar, witch, witchcraft, Midsummer, Midsummer Solstice, Summer Solstice, witchy

The Midsummer Solstice or Litha is a time of celebrating the Sun in all His glory. Being the longest day of the year, this is the time full of strength and power of the Sun, which will begin to wane from this night forward. The Summer Solstice has long been celebrated by our ancestors with bonfires, feasts, festivals, and more. It is a time of reds, oranges, and yellows, as well as a time of fertility, bountiful harvests, marriages, and births. At this point, many of the first crops are coming in strong. Here in Georgia, we get the first of the summer squash, blackberries, watermelons, tomatoes, and even corn. With these themes in mind, I put together this year's altar, honoring the Sun and the life He brings to the fields, especially my little garden in my back yard.

Litha, altar, witch, witchcraft, Midsummer, Midsummer Solstice, Summer Solstice, witchy

1. Sun Wheel- I put this sun wheel on my Midsummer Solstice altar every year. It's one of my favorite crafts I've done over the years and it was so simple and easy to make. It represents the Sun, which is most prominent on the Summer Solstice, masculine energy, light, and fertility. Being that the summer solstice is the longest day of the year, it is only fitting to represent the Sun in all his strength. Sun Wheels were commonly created by our ancestors as a form of sympathetic magic by helping the Sun remain strong through the rest of the growing season, which was needed to ensure a bountiful crop to make it through the darkest and coldest months of the year. (Where did I get it: I made it; Cost: Under $5)

Litha, altar, witch, witchcraft, Midsummer, Midsummer Solstice, Summer Solstice, witchy

2. Candles in Holders- I went with white candles this year, representing purity and light, a nod to both the feminine energies of the season and the Sun, the ultimate bringer of light. The flame is a sympathetic form of magic to encourage the Sun's strength while also representing His energies on this altar. I chose the golden or yellow candle holders to further represent the Sun, his strength, light, etc. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2019; Cost: $3)

Litha, altar, witch, witchcraft, Midsummer, Midsummer Solstice, Summer Solstice, witchy

3. Carnelian and Bloodstone- The two crystals I picked correspond with the energy of the sabbat. I went with two of the same I used on Beltane because they are perfect for Litha as well. Carnelian represents the Sun, strength, and vitality while the bloodstone represents health and vitality. (Where did I get it: Metaphysical Stores; Cost: ~$3)

Litha, altar, witch, witchcraft, Midsummer, Midsummer Solstice, Summer Solstice, witchy

4. Sun Plaque- Being the longest day of the year and a celebration of the Sun, it only makes sense to include my sun plaque. I think the representation here is pretty obvious, that this plaque is on my altar to honor the Sun on the solstice, encourage His vitality, and bring continued fertility of the land so our crops many finish growing. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017; Cost: $1)

7. Ivy- The silk ivy represents wealth, abundance, and fertility, as well as the Sun or Horned God who peaks at the Summer Solstice. After today, He will begin to slowly wane in power until He ultimately dies at Samhain. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree; Cost: $1)

Litha, altar, witch, witchcraft, Midsummer, Midsummer Solstice, Summer Solstice, witchy


TOTAL COST: ~$13


Like my other altars, most of the items I use are found, made, 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 breakdown helpful, especially for those of you looking to create Instagram-perfect altars on a budget!

Did you do anything special for Litha this year? I just got back from a week-long vacation in Florida where I certainly enjoyed as much of the Sun's glorious rays without burning of course! It rained a lot as well, but we managed to have a great time at Disney and Clearwater Beach anyway. After spending the past year and some months at home, it was really great to get out and feel some semblance of normalcy for a change. I hope you each enjoyed a wonderful Midsummer Solstice and that your summer continues to be bountiful!



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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Update: Resource Page Now Available


Hello, Witches!

I finally finished putting together the foundations of the Resources page which can be found on the navigation bar next to Herbarium. This page consists of books, articles, blogs, websites, shops, apps, podcasts, and more for witches and pagans. I hope that it will serve as a starting place for new and old witches alike who are looking for something new to expand their path or where to get started.

I divided the page into different types of resources, as well as by content. For example, there are books on traditional witchcraft, history and folklore, divination, sabbats, etc. Everything on hedgecraft appears first, with an entire section dedicated to information on this topic, including articles I have written here. I did this because this blog is first and foremost about hedgecraft and I wanted to make sure the resources for new and aspiring hedgewitches were easy to find. Everything within the resource list is linked to where you can find more information or purchase/download the resource. When free options were available, I noted them off to the side.

I will be updating this list monthly as I read more books and more recommendations from vetted sources are made. There are so many resources out there on witchcraft and paganism, but not all of them are great. This list consists of those items I think are worth reading or those that come highly recommended from people I trust and respect as witches. This does not mean that all of the sources are perfect. In fact, some of them contain problematic language, cultural appropriation, or misinformation, especially about history, but there is enough good content in these resources for me to include them here. I will never include anything on this list that I would not highly recommend, so you can rest assured these are worth spending your time and money on.

Enjoy and be sure sure to check back often!



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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Herbarium: Magical and Medicinal Uses of Poppy

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Gender: Feminine
Planet: Moon
Element: Water
Powers: Death, Fertility, Love, Sleep, Remembrance
Magical Uses and History: Poppies, which come in an array of varieties including corn, oriental, and opium, have long been cultivated throughout Southern Europe and Asia, and later North America, mostly due to their popularity as a beautiful garden addition. All parts of the plant are toxic, except for the seeds which can be eaten or the pod sap distilled into opium. Like all plants, poppies have a rich history of occult and spiritual uses. Poppies are deeply associated with love, partly due to their red color. In Persia, the poppy represents love and those that have died for love's sake. We see this same tradition in the Greek myth of Demeter and Mekon. Mekon, being a mortal, died, leaving Demeter to mourn his death. In her despair, she turned Mekon into a poppy, thus symbolizing their love and the remembrance of such love. Furthermore, poppy blooms only last about a day, symbolizing the loss of a young life or a life cut short. The Egyptians included poppies in their funeral and burial rites to assure life after death (remembrance), evidence of which dates back some 3,000 years. This idea of remembrance was captured more recently in the famous poem In Flanders Fields by John McRae which describes the brutalities of trench warfare during World War I in fields of poppies. Red poppies are commonly worn by veterans and distributed among the graves of veterans during Memorial Day, Veterans' Day, and Remembrance Day to symbolize remembrance of those we have loved and lost to war. In 2019, a pigeon in Canberra, Australia made her nest out of poppies taken from a local war memorial, uniting the idea that those we have lost are resting peacefully in love. As such, poppies, especially red poppies can be used to symbolize love, peace, and remembrance of those we have loved and lost. Use poppy seeds and flowers in love spells and rituals to induce love or bring love to you. The seeds are sometimes used in kitchen witchery to induce love, but be mindful that eating the seeds can show up on drug tests.

The depiction of poppies springing up on a battlefield and being used during funeral rites not only associates the flower with remembrance but death as well. Legend says that white poppies sprang from the battlefields of Genghis Khan. After the battle of Waterloo, it is said that poppies sprang from the blood scattered across the field, just as they did at Flanders after WWI. In Greek mythology, Thanatos, the god of death, is often depicted wearing a crown of poppies. Both the Greeks and Romans, like the Egyptians, used poppy flowers as an offering to the dead and when used on gravestones, represent eternal sleep. This symbolism was immortalized in Virgil's epic tale, Aeneid in 25 BC, in his description of Euryalus's death saying it was "...like poppies bowing their heads when the rain burdens them and their necks grow weary." Place poppies on your ancestral altar as an offering to those that have passed and to let them know they are remembered or use in spells to summon your ancestors to you. Furthermore, their ability to grow in poor soil conditions, such as those after a war where the soil has been beaten, trampled, and depleted of nutrients, speaks to the resilience and regenerative properties of the poppy. As such, poppies are associated with fertility, especially in regard to agriculture. The Assyrians referred to the poppy as the "daughter of the fields," and they were commonly used during crop rotations to repair the soil. Use poppies to enhance the fertility of your own garden or yourself should you be looking to have children.

In the Language of the Flowers during the Victorian period, poppies symbolized eternal sleep, oblivion, and imagination. This symbolism likely originated from the opium poppy that, when taken, would induce a dream-like, hallucinogenic state or sleep which was popular among Victorians, including Charles Dickens, and the mild analgesic and sedative properties of other poppies. Famous painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti captured this symbolism of eternal sleep and death in his painting Beata Beatrix, which was a tribute to his late wife, Elizabeth Siddal, who died due to an overdose of laudanum, an opium derivative. The painting features a dove delivering poppy flowers to a young, red-hair maiden. Other paintings, such as Ophelia by John Millais and Death the Bride by Thomas Coope Gotch show similar iconography. However, the idea that poppy is associated with sleep dates back further to the Greek god, Hypnos, the god of sleep. Hypnos is sometimes featured carrying a poppy stalk or a horn filled with poppy juice, again likely related to opium which has been used as far back as Mesopotamia. Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, is also said to use poppies to help shape the dreams of mortals. This is likely where the name morphine originates. Evelyn De Morgan's Night and Sleep depicts a personification of sleep sprinkling poppies to help those below rest peacefully. In some European folklore, an old folk remedy for insomnia included staring into the black center (oblivion) of a poppy flower. The idea that poppies can be used to aid in sleep is so pervasive that it appears in pop culture, including the story of The Wizard of Oz where Dorthy falls asleep in a field of poppies. John Keats also included poppy imagery in his poem, To Sleep where he says, "...ere thy poppy throws, Around my bed its lulling charities." Place the seeds under your pillow to aid in sleep or mix the seeds into a sleeping draft. Again, be mindful that poppy seeds often appear on drug tests.

Poppy can be used in a number of spells including:
    Love Spells
    Fertility Rites
    Ancestral Offerings
    Remembrance Rituals
    Death Magic
    Dream Magic

Medicinal Uses: Opium poppy contains alkaloids in its immature seed pods which are used to make opium, codeine, morphine, and heroin. For obvious reasons, you should not attempt to make these substances at home and should consult a doctor should you need to manage pain relief. The mature seeds are a mild analgesic and therefore can be used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and tension. However, it is important to note that poppy seeds often show up on drug tests. The rest of the plant is toxic and should not be ingested.

Preparation and Dosage: Please consult a medical professional if you are looking to use poppies to treat pain or insomnia. Due to their addictive properties, I will not offer any preparation or dosage information for this plant.


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