divination

The Sun, some fruit, and a guy with a sword.

Okay, so “fruit” is a bit of a misnomer. I felt like using the gorgeous Tarot de Maria-Celia deck this week, and it’s not so much about the fruit imagery. Still!

I gave myself a little three-card spread. I’ve been working on fine-tuning a spread of my own devising, but I didn’t feel like I needed quite that level of detail for a simple weekly reading, you know? For getting a general feel of things, three cards is usually plenty for me.

I drew Le Soleil, Neuf de Deniers, and Roy d’Epée. For the most part, these have the same meanings that they do in RWS-style decks. For the most part.

Le Soleil, believe it or not, has some surprising parallels with Le Diable. It, too, has two minions — both with red sashes like shackles around their necks. While the Devil is deception, manipulation, and control, the Sun is its opposite — the light banishes shadows, and brings everything into clarity. The Devil is entrapment, the Sun is freedom. The Devil is the addiction that saps your energy and your money, the Sun is vitality, growth, and prosperity.

It’s a great sign for new beginnings. Like the return of the sun heralds the new growth of spring, It’s regeneration.

The Neuf de Deniers follows this. Unlike other decks, Marseilles-style decks don’t really have a lot of imagery for the pips cards — just a graphic representation of their suit and numeric value. Deniers (Coins or Pentacles) is the suit of material wealth. Nine is the last number before ten, the ultimate culmination of the suit’s cycle.

It’s a sign of achievement. Material comfort and freedom are at hand, hard work is rewarded. It’s a sign to celebrate!

More than that, though, it points to a time of balance. You’ve achieved this success through hard work and staying in harmony with your surroundings. Prosperity doesn’t always come in the form of a paycheck — sometimes it’s the abundance of the land.

Lastly, there’s the Roy (Roi) d’Epée. He can be a significant person, or merely the qualities of the ruler of the suit of Swords. His power is of the intellect, he is logical and incisive. He can also be a bit of a prick — he’s cunning, but also scheming. He’s intelligent, but may be cold. He is an authority, but may be too detached. As advice, he says to turn away from the emotions for now, and trust in logic and reason.

Taken together, this is a good sign! Le Soleil indicates success, growth, vitality, and fulfillment. Le Neuf de Deniers indicates comfort, abundance, and autonomy. Le Roy d’Epée says that obtaining, enjoying, and maintaining this requires intelligence and discernment. As advice, they say to spread joy and celebrate, but keep a cool head and let intellect lead the way.

Personally, I’m excited. Even as the days become shorter and the nights lengthen, I can feel that solar energy. I feel relaxed, happy, and fruitful. I’m hydrated, moisturized, and well-rested. My vibes are high, my mind is clear, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

I hope your omens are just as positive. We could all use a little good news.

P.S.: If you’d like a tarot reading, all of the readings in my shop are still 30% off! Place an order, and you’ll have your reading, my interpretation, and a pic of the cards I pulled for you within 48 hours.

life

SHROOMWATCH 2020

October marks the best timing for one of my favorite hobbies: mushroom spotting.

(Not the fun ones. The regular ones.)

I usually have far more luck finding them in autumn than I do in spring or summer, so I was pretty excited when my partner and I drove out to Jug Bay to hike the trails around the wetlands. AND RIGHTLY SO.

Last time we went, I couldn’t walk as far as I’d’ve liked. This time, I was able to go a full 2.25 miles from the visitor’s center to… well, the visitor’s center, but the long way. (I’m also starting to get actual triceps, so all the recreational sledgehammer-swinging is paying off!)

The weather was absolutely perfect — sunny, breezy, and cool, with nary a cloud in the sky. We rarely saw another soul on the trails, but we had our masks so we could pull them on by the ear loopies any time we passed near anyone. Most of the trees were still green, though there were a few splashes of scarlet, saffron, and gold. Winterberries were abundant, lining the boardwalk beside the marsh with bright yellow-green leaves and shining red fruit. Asters, their white faces like miniature daisies, looked up from the side of the trail. Long, hanging stalks of goldenrod, bent under the weight of their blooms, and tall sunchokes seemed to catch and hold the light in their yellow flowers.

As we were walking along the trail, a butterfly fluttered up to say hello, made a loop around my legs, and passed back into the trees. It moved too fast to get a good look or a photo — judging by the color, I think it was either a red-spotted purple or a type of swallowtail. (And a late one, in either case!) I also spotted the most perfect spiderweb, threads intact and shimmering iridescently in the sunlight.

(Two crows hopped up on a parking sign in front of the car earlier that day, too, so this afternoon was just full of good omens!)

Turtles sunned themselves on logs, sleek heads occasionally poking up like curious periscopes. All around, you could hear the chorus of insects in the trees.

It was idyllic as fuck.

It wasn’t until we were close to the visitor’s center again that we spotted some mushy boys. Forest cryptid that I am, I got down on my knees and elbows on the trail, in the leaf litter, said a silent prayer to whatever deity’s in charge of urushiol, and crept as close as I could to get a few pictures. Identifying mushrooms is always dicey if you can’t check them for bruising, spore prints, and other signs that require more than a cursory examination, but they’re beautiful nonetheless!

(I believe the first is a kind of brittlegill, and the one at the top right is some type of gilled polypore. I’m not sure about the other two, but I really love the cream-and-brown one’s mossy home.)

I saw one mushroom that had been snapped off where it grew, so you could see its round butt and the little divot where it once sat nestled in the ground. Inside, the soil was lined with a silvery, cottony web of mycelium — the stuff that actually makes up the bulk of the fungus. I didn’t get a picture of it, but it was fascinating to see past the eye-catching fruiting bodies and into the “heart” of the mushroom.

We rounded the day off with crêpes from Coffy Café (I went with the Bootsy instead of my usual Mr. Steed — I think I might have a new favorite!), and a long, hot bath.

#nomakeup #justtheghostlypallorofmysunscreen

Idyllic.

life, Witchcraft

This Harvest Moon

First thing’s first! All of the tarot readings available in my shop are 30% off(!) for the entire month. I’m also adding some new spreads, so, whether you’re looking for a simple three-card reading, an extended 22-card reading, or something geared toward a specific question or life situation, there’s a reading for you.

Did you remember to say “white rabbits” yesterday morning?

Yesterday was the first day of October, the month when the veil between worlds grows thin. I can feel the thinning, too — my dreams always get extra vivid and extra strange, and I very often smell the scents I associate with my grandmothers who’ve passed on. We’re lucky this year, since, in addition to yesterday’s full moon, we’ll be getting another full moon on October 31st.

I mean, I didn’t feel super lucky earlier this week, when I managed to pinch a nerve in my neck (which absolutely felt like part of my brain) and trigger a four-day headache. You probably know the kind. While daily headaches are pretty much part of intracranial hypertension, this was one of those bad boys that seems to radiate from a single, intensely painful spot right at the base of the skull, which seem like nothing short of a brick would cure. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do the usual preparations I do this time of year, but I was able to knock my various bones and fleshes into shape well enough to manage.

(A protip from a pain specialist I used to see regularly: Only use cold therapy on your neck, not heat. Also, bad spines go on the rolly tube.)

Seven days ago, I set up a working designed to run through the end of the waxing moon and culminate on the full. Everything went off without a hitch (and with some wonderful results, but more on that another time), and I decided to celebrate by setting up a batch of oil that I use for trance and dreamwork. From experience, it seems to work best when I set it up on the October full moon. Sometimes, I let it infuse from one October to the next. This year, I think I’ll try letting it go just until the blue moon later this month.

Infusing under the full moon (and the leaves of my big calathea).

It’s a special blend of dittany of Crete, mugwort, mullein, and cherry, among a few other secrets, and it’s wonderful for anything that involves crossing over into other realms. Not quite potent enough to be mind-altering, but it definitely helps the shift happen. Add a piece of black kyanite, and it’s *chef kiss*. I’m going to post the full recipe one of these days, but I’d like a few more rounds of experimenting with it before I do.

Whether you said anything about rabbits yesterday morning, or your relatives on the other side start hanging around more often, I hope this harvest moon is an abundant one for you.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Fern Folklore and Magical Properties

Ferns!

Fern fronds in sunlight.

FERNS!

Curling fern fronds.

I love ferns. If you want to feel like you live in some kind of magical woodland glade, get some ferns, a pack of Triloka Enchanted Forest, and cue up a couple tracks from The Moon and the Nightspirit. For real.

Ferns have a reputation for being fussy, and it’s not entirely undeserved. They’re not like most plants — their reproduction is weird, their lighting and humidity needs are weird, and some of them will die if you ever have the audacity to subject them to tap water, dirt, or a sidelong glance.

Still. Ferns.

One of my favorites is a little $4.99 “assorted fern” that makes frequent appearances on my Instagram. I put it the window, watered it often, and, to my surprise, it turned out to be a very robust staghorn fern. This was doubly astonishing to me, because a) I originally thought it was some kind of bird’s nest fern, and b) I once bought a staghorn on purpose, followed all of the care instructions to the letter, and it died within two weeks.

Ferns are weird. They’re also very magical plants that occupy a significant role in the folklore and esoteric practices of cultures everywhere they grow.

Fern Magical Uses and Folklore

In Slavic folklore, ferns produce a magic blossom once a year, on the eve of the Summer Solstice. Whoever is lucky enough to find a fern flower will receive good luck, prosperity, and the ability to understand the speech of animals. Baltic, Swedish, and Estonian culture has a similar tradition — in every case, the flower is believed to be protected by evil spirits. In some folklore, the Devil was said to appear and snatch the flowers for himself.

Unfortunately for the possessors of a fern flower, the story goes that any wealth granted to them would vanish if they ever shared it. To keep the riches of the fern flower, they would have to become cold-hearted, stingy, and isolated. In one tale, a boy who obtains the magical flower ends up losing all of his friends and loved ones because of it — eventually wishing for death to release him.

Ferns don’t actually flower, though. They have no need to. They are indescribably ancient plants, old enough to predate seeds. They do produce “fertile fronds,” which can appear as vaguely flowerlike clusters. These stories may refer to fertile fronds, a different flowering species that resembles a true fern, or the difficulty of attaining wealth and fortune.

Fern seeds were believed to be invisible, and only able to be found on Midsummer Eve. Possessing these seeds could make one invisible, help them understand birdsong, tell them where to find buried treasure, or grant them the strength of forty men.

In one Russian folktale, a farmer who lost his cattle was instantly granted knowledge of their whereabouts when a fern seed fell in his shoe.

In England, it was believed that you could catch the elusive fern seed by placing a stack of twelve pewter plates in a field of ferns. When the seeds appeared, they would fall through the first eleven plates and come to rest on the last.

Nicolas Culpepper claimed that, if a horse were to step on moonwort, it would cause them to throw a shoe. This could be because of its purported effect on iron — stuffing it into a lock was said to cause it to open.

In Hawai’ian folklore, the deity Kamapuaʻa occasionally took the form of a fern. The earth goddess Haumea also had a species of tree fern as a kino lau (body form).

Ferns are tied to weather magic. Burning them was said to cause a storm, as could pulling one up by the roots. On the Devonshire Moors, it’s still customary to burn growing bracken to bring rain.

Ferns and mosses growing along a small waterfall.
I can see where the rain thing comes from, tbh.

Tying fern fronds to the ears of horses was said to protect them from the Devil.

In modern magic, ferns are used for rain-making, money spells, and protection. Adding the fronds to spells or arrangements of fresh flowers helps boost the magical properties of whatever they are placed with.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s the delightfully weird tale of the vegetable lamb of Tartary.

Using Ferns

There are so many species of fern with so many different medical uses, I can’t possibly cover them all here. While not all ferns (or all life stages of fern) are medicinal or edible, different fern species have been used for everything from stomach aches to snakebite. From what I have read and observed, they are most often used for skin afflictions — spores are said to reduce pain from stinging nettle, and ointments or pastes made of various fern species are used to tread cuts, bruises, and skin ulcers. In Scottish lore, ferns were mixed with egg and used as an ointment to restore sight or reduce redness in bloodshot eyes!
(Please don’t do this just because you read it here, though. I don’t want anybody getting some kind of raw egg eye infection.)

For protection, plant or place potted ferns near windows and doors. (Just make sure they have the right levels of sunlight and humidity!) Llewellyn has a spell using ferns to banish evil, which may piggyback on its use for rain-bringing. Rain is cleansing, ferns are protective, so these two properties could drive evil out of a place.

If you’re lucky enough to come across fern spores (those black dots along the backs of fronds), carry them when you want to go unnoticed.

In hoodoo, ferns seem to be largely for protective magic. Among other uses, sprinkling crushed fern leaves along windowsills is said to keep intruders away, and adding it to a floor wash with black snake root clears away jinxes.

That said, some spells may refer to specific ferns using secret names. Maiden’s hair is the maidenhair fern, for example, while horse’s tongue is the hart’s tongue.

Magically, your best bet is one of two things: purchasing fern fronds, or growing some of the easier-care varieties in pots. While older sources cited specific plants in their folklore, the modern herbals I consulted for this post didn’t — they just said “ferns.” In my opinion, I don’t think it matters much what type of fern you choose to work with. When it comes to spending my time tending a growing plant versus tracking down the exact species used in a spell, I’ve found I’m pretty much always better off using a plant I’ve developed a relationship with (or, at the very least, one that’s abundant where I live). They have an affinity for water, which explains their use in rain magic. They all have spores, not seeds, which explains their use in invisibility (and, to a lesser extent, protection) spells. Find a fern that will grow happily for you, and see what magical secrets it holds.