crystals, life, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Cleaning House, and Don’t Try the Brown Mushrooms

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This weekend, my partner and I decided it’d be a good time to give everything a nice, solid deep-clean. Everything. The windows, the stove, the weird, hard-to-reach area behind the toilet, everything.

Cleaning house is a great opportunity to refresh the energy in a place. While there are small, day-to-day things you can do to keep the flow from going stagnant on you, nothing really beats a solid top-to-bottom scrubbing and airing out.

Due to a combination of frugality and scent-sensitivity headaches, I make pretty much all of our cleaning products. (What I save in glass cleaner and counter spray, however, I more than spend on ethanol, vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap.) I keep a canister of homemade cleaning wipes in the bathroom, and another in the kitchen. I’ve got pretty cobalt glass bottles of spray cleaner on my kitchen counter, and another of tub and tile cleaner under my bathroom sink.

Frugality and lack of synthetic scents aside, the nicest thing about these DIY cleaners is that the ingredients easily pull double-duty; the same things that keep stains from my counters and rings out of my tub also have a history of use as spiritual cleansing agents. Make them on the right day, in the right moon phase, during the best planetary hour for whatever you’re trying to do, speak your intentions as you add each ingredient, and charge them by whatever method is preferable for you. (I would, however, advise against using sunlight — depending on what ingredients you use, heat and UV light might denature them, leaving you with a concoction that’s mostly water.)

We opened up the curtains and all of the windows. We played upbeat music. We scrubbed everything.

When the physical cleaning was done and my partner was figuring out lunch, I worked on the other side.

I love tarot cards. Not only are they useful divination tools, they’re useful aids for focusing magic. Whatever you’re trying to draw in or push away, there’s a card for that. In each room, I set up a small altar with a candle or incense, a clear quartz,and three cards: The Sun, The World, and the Ten of Cups.

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Cards from the Tarot de Maria-Celia. Massive Herkimer diamond from TheElusiveHerkShop. Lavender and lemongrass candle from SweetgrassApothecary.

These three cards are among the most positive omens in the deck. The Sun speaks of radiant positivity, abundance, and optimism. The World speaks of auspicious beginnings and infinite possibility. The Ten of Cups speaks of ultimate fulfillment. Good stuff to bring into your life and home, right?

I treated them the way you might treat a crystal grid — placing them, charging them, and releasing the energy. It was a small ritual, moving room-by-room, setting up each grid, and putting them to work, but it felt more uplifting and powerful than I can say.

I definitely needed it after the day before that. Friday, I had ambitious (well, relatively ambitious) dinner plans. I made penne, a quasi-homemade mushroom risotto, and grilled vegetables marinated in balsamic vinegar and herbs. Everything came out tasty, and all was well.

You know how some people have genetic quirks that keep them from enjoying certain foods? I don’t even necessarily mean allergies. Some people are lactose intolerant, some think cilantro tastes like soap, and so on.
As it turns out, some people can’t handle boletes.
Like, really can’t handle them.

I am apparently one of them.

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More like “bol-eat-your-insides-apart,” amirite?

I know the mushrooms weren’t actually toxic, because they came in a prepared blend and I really hope Trader Joe’s knows better. I was lucky, though. Some pretty intense gastric pain and dehydration was the most I had to deal with, though I was legitimately concerned that I was going to need some kind of intervention if things didn’t improve quickly enough. I definitely didn’t want to need a spinal tap because my intracranial and blood pressure decided to shoot way up on me. I definitely definitely didn’t want to go to the hospital and have to explain that I was there because my dumb ass decided now was the time to try eating unfamiliar fungi.

Lesson learned. If you’re trying to avoid using ER resources, maybe stick with things you’re absolutely certain you can tolerate. Save the risotto experiments for the future.

Here’s hoping you’re safe, staying sane, and not eating anything weird.

 

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Dogwood Folklore and Magical Uses

I love dogwood blossoms, I think they’re my favorite non-flower flower. Even the wood and foliage of some species is absolutely breathtaking to look at — there’s nothing quite like a bloody dogwood in the snow.

Depending on where you are, dogwoods are either blooming, starting to bloom, or have been blooming for a few weeks. Since I’m missing the dogwoods at the National Arboretum so much, I figured this would be a good week to look at the folk and magical applications of Cornus wood, leaves, berries, and flowers.

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Dogwood Magical Uses and Folklore

As a native American tree (eastern U.S. and Mexico), there’s not a lot of writing on flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) as it pertains to European-based witchcraft. Southern Europe does have a plant called the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), which is in the dogwood family, and most of Europe and western Asia has the common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea). C. mas and C. sanguinea both flower, but neither of these are quite as showy as the big white or pink blooms of C. florida. Since all of these plants are related, it’s possible, even preferable, to make substitutions depending on what species are locally available to you.

Dogwood is associated with loyalty, secrets, wishes, protection, fertility, desire, and illusion. (The illusion part, in particular, makes a lot of sense — the flowers of the flowering dogwood aren’t actually flowers at all, they’re modified leaves.)

The dogwood is strongly tied with Christian mythology, since the flowers form a cross shape. It was believed that the wood was used to form crosses for crucifixion, so Jesus prevented the dogwood from ever growing large enough to be used for this purpose again.

An old folk remedy for treating mange in dogs involved making a decoction of dogwood bark, and washing the affected areas with it.

Leaves, bark, or flowers can be used as a protective charm.

As an herb of secrecy, it’s a good idea to include some dogwood leaves in a diary, grimoire, or Book of Shadows. An oil made from the flowers can be used to dress a letter and keep prying eyes off of it.

Make a wish come true by catching a drop of dogwood sap on a cloth on the evening of Midsummer, and wishing on it. Carry it until you get your desire, then bury the cloth.

It’s bad luck to bring dogwood flowers into your home, or to burn the wood in your hearth.

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Using Dogwood

One theory for the etymology of “dogwood” is that the name stems from “dag,” from which we also get “dagger.” This is related to the straightness and density of the wood — the sticks are pretty much ideal for crafting shafts for tools or weapons (Ötzi was found with dogwood arrows), and the wood is dense enough to sink in water. In a practical sense, this makes dogwood an excellent material for crafting wands or other magical tools.

A lot of dogwood’s associations fit neatly into one another. Illusion, protection, and secrecy all blend well. I probably wouldn’t use dogwood in place of, for example, cayenne pepper as a protective herb because the energy is so different. Dogwood is subtler — it protects by concealment. It’s a smokescreen, not a fiery wall. Even its use as arrow shafts points to a plant that’s best used to take advantage of the shadows!

American flowering dogwood has four bracts. From a numerological standpoint, four is strength, stability, and pragmatism. This blends nicely with its use as an herb for protection and loyalty.

Dogwood is useful in color magic, since the blooms can range from white, to yellow, to pink, to red. Even the leaves can turn from gold or green to pink, yellow, orange, or red.

 

 

 

Environment, life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

A Daily Earth-Healing Meditation

Since today is Earth Day, I figured it’d be a good time to post about a small, simple daily meditation that I use to start my day.

It’s a combination of a grounding exercise and a planet-healing. You don’t need anything to do it, other than a comfortable, quiet place to sit (or even lie down) and five or ten minutes to spare. It’s based around the incredibly important role that fungi play in every ecosystem.

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Tiny eyelash fungi on mossy wood.

The Fungi

Though we often picture mushrooms when we imagine fungi, fungal fruiting bodies make up a tiny portion of the whole organism. Beneath them, spread out in a web, is a vast network of mycelium. The hyphae spread out like thin threads, transporting nutrients, secreting enzymes to break down organic matter, and supplying nutrients to the plants that depend on them. Everything in the world relies on fungi for survival, in one form or another. They secrete carbon dioxide as part of the carbon cycle, and can break down almost anything that isn’t actively toxic to them — even plastic, petroleum, or pesticides. Some fungi turn carbon into melanin, a very stable carbon-containing compound, while others help soil retain moisture. Certain fungi increase soil aggregation, potentially increasing soil carbon storage.

Still, fungi respond to a very careful natural balance. While the soil is a carbon sink, soil fungi also return carbon dioxide to the air — especially in situations where elevated levels of carbon dioxide encourage plant growth, increasing nitrogen demand and upsetting the delicate balance of carbon and nitrogen. Fungi can be vital environmental allies, but the balance needs to be preserved.

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A pair of boletes.

Soil fungi don’t just comprise one or two species, either. Every patch of soil could be a host to a thousand distinct species. Just like the natural microflora of the body shift and change in response to illness, stress, diet, and medication, different stressors affect how these fungi grow, compete with each other, and evolve.

It’s never been more clear that protecting the planet means preserving all of the microscopic activity below the soil, not just the plants and animals above.

The Meditation

To begin, position yourself comfortably. Let your shoulders drop. Relax your jaw and the muscles around your eyes. Unclench your hands, and let them rest softly in your lap.

Inhale deeply, using your diaphragm and pushing out your belly to take in as much air as you can. Breathe in for a count of four, gently hold your breath for a count of three, and exhale for a count of seven. Repeat this three to five times.

Visualize your energy reaching from the base of your spine, through your seat, the floor, and into the soil. You don’t have to go far below the grass here — once your energy reaches the ground, let it spread out like the roots of a tree. Picture the filaments of your energy reaching through the soil, touching the filaments of mycelium that connect everything. Let your roots engage with the hyphae, gently befriending. When you have spread your energy as far as you can, begin sending a stream of loving light down through your roots.

Don’t worry if you don’t know all of the ins and outs of your local soil’s chemistry. Visualize your energy stimulating where it is needed, calming where it is needed, and balancing where it is needed. Visualize the soil fungi doing their microscopic jobs to break down what is no longer needed, and return it to the earth in a usable, nourishing form. Let your contact with the living soil recalibrate your energy, grounding you.

Continue this visualization for as long as is comfortable for you. When you are ready, gently withdraw your energetic roots from the soil. Open your eyes, stretch your limbs, and go about your day with a renewed awareness of how our actions affect everyone — and everything — around us.

 

crystals, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

3 Spells for Keeping the Peace

Ideally, you like the people you’re isolated with right now. Even if you do, though, it’s hard not to get on each other’s nerves once the cabin fever really starts setting in. There are tons of ways to fight boredom and keep busy, but you still might need a little extra help keeping the vibes smooth and tranquil.

That’s where these come in: Three spells to help you keep things happy and peaceful.

Starting with the Cleanest Slate You Can

Okay, so by now you’re probably already used to wiping down, washing, and disinfecting everything that isn’t literally on fire. Good! Physically cleaning a space is a key part of getting the magic flowing — dust, dirt, and clutter are less than optimal for energy flow. So, if you haven’t yet, do a solid spring clean. Set up containers for decluttering — one for things to keep, one for things that need repairing, one for trash, one for recyclables, and one for donations — and work room-by-room. When you’re through, get rid of anything you’re not keeping or fixing.

Once your space is as decluttered and clean as you can get it, rock on.

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A Wind Spell for Peace

The element of air is an oft-overlooked way to cleanse and freshen things. When it’s sunny and breezy out, open your windows and let the fresh air in. Close your eyes and feel the coolness against your skin. You can chant, pray, or state your intent here. I like to say something like,

“Let this breeze blow away all discord, so only peace and joy may remain. As I will, it shall be.”

An Herbal Tranquility Potion

I love making washing potions. It’s easy to do, too — add herbs to boiling water, as you might for tea, let them steep until the water cools, done. You can place dried herbs into a reusable tea bag, square of muslin cloth, or tea strainer, or just leave them loose and strain them out afterward. (As a word of caution, don’t mix the tools you use for potion-making with those you use for food-making. Not all magical herbs are edible, and many are poisonous.)

Some herbs and flowers that are useful here include:

  • Chamomile
  • Coltsfoot
  • Coriander
  • Lavender
  • Lilac flowers
  • Meadowsweet
  • Rose
  • Skullcap
  • Vervain
  • Violet

As the herbs steep, stir them clockwise nine times with a wooden spoon or wand held in your dominant hand. While you do this, say,

“No tension or strife shall come near,
Peace and tranquility alone reign here.”

Visualize the liquid filling with a calming, gentle golden light. When the potion is done and the herbs are removed, add it to a bucket of clean, warm water. Use this to wash your floors, doors, doorways, windows, and any steps leading to your front or back doors. Prepare the mixture fresh each time.

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A Peaceful Herbal Sachet

The same herbs listed above can be made into an herb sachet. To make one, you’ll also need:

  • A square of white, blue, or light purple cloth
  • A ribbon or needle and thread (to close it with)
  • Any other peace-promoting curios you like. These can include metal peace sign charms, a small figure of a dove, tumbled amethyst stones, or anything else that feels right to you.

To begin, make sure the fabric, ribbon/thread, and curios are cleansed according to your favorite method. You can set them in the sun for a little bit, use sound, sprinkle them with blessed salt, fume them with cleansing incense, or whatever other way you like. When they are prepared, it’s time to get to work.

Hold the herbs in your dominant hand. Close your eyes, and feel yourself drawing power up from the earth, and down from the sky. Allow these energies to mingle in you, and direct them into the herbs in your hand. Say,

“[Name of herb(s)], I ask that you lend your power to this spell. Chase tension and stress from here, and bring peace and calm in its place.”

Place them in the center of the square of fabric.

Repeat this process with the curios, substituting the name of the curio for the name of the herb. Place them in the center of the fabric with the herbs as well.

Fashion the square of fabric into a little pouch, either by drawing the corners together and tying them with the ribbon, or by sewing it into a little pillow shape with the needle and thread. When you are through, lightly kiss the sachet, and hold it to your forehead. Say,

“With this spell, I draw in the energies of tranquility, that my home might be a respite from the hardships and strife in the world. Let no stress remain, only peace shall reign.”

Tuck the sachet in a hidden corner of the room you wish to influence. You can let that sachet take care of your whole home, or, if you think your place could use a little extra help, make a sachet to hide in every room of your home.

Remember: If You Can’t Source Ingredients…

… Don’t sweat it! Can’t find an amethyst? Most of the plain stones in your yard are actually variants of clear or white quartz, both of which will do in a pinch. No fresh lilac flowers or lavender buds? You might have a few bags of Earl Grey tea, which is made with lavender and bergamot (which is also helpful for lifting moods and instilling courage). Missing other herbs? See what plants you have in your yard — even “weeds” like clover are associated with things like love and protection, two properties that would be very useful here. You can also check your kitchen. Oranges, in particular, are great for bringing joy and sun energy to whatever spells include them. Zest the peels, allow the zest to dry, and keep it in a cool, dark place for whenever you need a little sun magic.

The most important part of any spell is declaring your intention and focusing your energy on that intention. You can have all of the right herbs, and it still won’t work if you don’t focus the power properly.

Magic is adaptable. You can experiment and bend things to suit what you have on hand. While there are some spells that don’t accept substitutions, the majority of them can be worked around to some degree. Since going out to shops to source rare and hard-to-find ingredients isn’t really feasible right now, this is the perfect time to see how you can adapt your magic to your landscape.

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.
life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

The Many Implications of a Jacket

Guess who’s got two thumbs and a jacket she got a pretty rad deal on!

(Me. I did.)

Everything we touch, we leave a little of ourselves in. Maybe you handled a book when you were having a terrible day, or picked up a crystal when you were feeling particularly elated. By that same token, everything we bring into our spaces comes with its own energetic history. This is why it’s always a good idea to cleanse your stones, bowls, wands, or any other tools before you use them — you don’t necessarily want someone else’s bad day screwing with your whole jam, you know?

So you rinse them in clean water, if you can. Maybe you hold them in incense smoke, or the fumes of cleansing herbs. Maybe you place them in sunlight.

All of this is to say that this jacket is very pre-owned, and I don’t know any of its history. Was it owned by a nice little old lady who only wore it on Sundays? Did it narrowly escape being labeled “Exhibit B” in a trial? It’s a mystery!

Even though a jacket isn’t a magical tool, I still don’t really want any bad vibes hanging around. I mean, if nothing else, that is other people’s energy and should be returned to them. This can go beyond sending energy back to its previous owner, too — not only was this jacket previously owned by someone, it was sewn, cut, dyed, and tanned by someone, the cow was raised by someone, and the cow gave its life for it. (I prefer not to mess with plastic leather substitutes for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, plant-based alternatives like hemp were not going to meet my needs here.)

A lot of living things sacrificed their time, energy, and even lives to keep me warm and dry. That deserves appreciation.

When I cleanse secondhand objects, it’s important to me to not only remove the residual energy from the object itself, but to return it to its source and express thanks and understanding of how it got there in the first place. The choice to purchase or wear anything shouldn’t be made lightly, and it should be done with a full view of what it took to get it into a shop, and what’s going to become of it once its working life is through.

Even the choice to send gratitude and positive energy to whoever previously owned, made, or died for a thing isn’t without controversy. Let’s be real — most of the people involved in this jacket’s creation are probably still alive. There’s something to be said for never performing magic for someone without their consent (though this is often considered a limit to love spells and things of that nature). If the previous owner is a devout Christian, how would they feel about a Pagan doing a working for them?
Granted, my experience with this is limited to watching a family member (and, to be fair, Pat Robertson devotee) set AzureGreen catalogs on fire in our kitchen sink while ranting about Satan, but I am inclined to think the answer is: not super great.

On the other hand, nobody says that this hypothetical person has to accept any intentions they don’t want. I ain’t over here trying to force anyone to have a good day. Ultimately, it’s enough that their vibes make it back to them, where they belong.

So, I light my herbs. I sprinkle my salt. And I send the energy back with the intention that it finds its targets happy and well.

A set of driftwood Ogham staves spilling from a turquoise and grey pouch.
divination, Witchcraft

Ogham Staves from WillowsPaganShop.

Note: This post contains affiliate links to the sellers and products I mention. These allow me to earn a small “finder’s fee,” at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to support artists, artisans, and this site!

So, I’ve been working on learning a new system of divination — Ogham staves. I used them for this week’s divination, and I’ve been trying to see where else I can incorporate them into my practice.

Many types of wood have their own specific magical and spiritual properties, so choosing a set took me awhile. I also prefer to find tools that are “neutral,” in an energetic sense; I don’t like using wood that’s been cut down, if I can help it. Windfall and reclaimed woods are more my jam.

That’s why I was so happy to find these driftwood Ogham staves by WillowsPaganShop.

A set of driftwood Ogham staves spilling from a turquoise and grey pouch.

I love the size and shape — a lot of the other staves I looked at were thinner and more rounded, which I thought might make it more difficult for me to draw them the way I’d like to. The texture is nice, too, with the velvety-softness of sea-tumbled wood. They’re also a very good weight, neither too light to keep from blowing away outdoors, nor too heavy to carry comfortably in a purse or crane bag.

I keep them in a lovely crocheted pouch by Neeedles. It’s just the right size, and gorgeous colors. The crochet is nice and tight, too, so I’m not worried about the staves stretching holes in the stitches and slipping out. At about $15, it was a very reasonable price for a handmade bag, and the craftspersonship is really, really nice. I’m considering getting more of them for my other supplies, they’d be great for carrying a few stones, vials of herbs, and tealights for mobile ritual-doing.

Now I just have to learn the meanings. Fortunately, I have a lot of opportunity to practice!

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Elderberry Folklore and Magical Uses

With colds, the flu, and COVID-19, elderberry syrup has made a lot of appearances in various “crunchy” and DIY blogs. Elderberry is touted as an herbal “medicine chest” — even Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder had a hard time overstating the herb’s value. It’s said to improve allergies, inflammation, sinus problems, and pain, and, with prompt use, shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms.

Elderberries and syrup.

That’s not all elderberry is used for, though. This tree, with its white flowers and dark, shiny berries, has a lot of folklore and a long history of magical use behind it.

Elder Magical Uses and Folklore

The elder tree is believed to house a spirit with the power to help or harm. In Denmark, it is Hylde Moer. Elsewhere, it was dryads, or simply the Old Lady of the Elder tree.

Taking any of the tree’s gifts has to be done with permission. If permission is granted, they have the power to heal and protect. If it isn’t, they have the power to harm. One charm for cutting elder wood goes:

“Old Lady of the Elder Tree,
Let me have some of your wood,
And, when I am a tree,
You may have some of mine.”

In southern Italy, the wood is used to drive out evil, and protect against thieves and serpents.

In Germany, hanging elder branches in a home on Walpurgisnacht protects from evil.

The spongy centers of elder branches are soaked in oil and used as a kind of lamp wick to reveal all of the witches in an area.

In England, carrying an elder stick or cross made of elder wood was said to protect from rheumatism.

Building a cradle from elder wood is a bad idea, for spirits with pinch and poke any child that sleeps in it.

It’s considered a very bad idea to burn elder wood. In Ireland, it was believed that burning elder would would make you see the devil in the flames. Part of the Wiccan Rede goes as follows:

“Elder be the Lady’s tree. Burn it not, or cursed be.”

(Considering the cyanide content of uncured fruitwoods, and the fact that hydrogen cyanide is liberated by heat, this is probably very good advice!)

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The scent of elder flowers is said to be narcotic in nature. Sleeping under an elder tree would cause the sleeper to dream of the fairy realm, or else not wake up at all.

Magically, carrying elder wood, leaves, twigs, or berries is said to protect you from harm, while hanging elder branches over doors and windows of a building protects its occupants.

Elder is associated with death and rebirth — all parts of the plant are toxic (except the ripe, cooked berries), and elder grows quickly from cuttings.

Elder wood is used for wands, and for making instruments whose music is said to be favored by spirits.

In some situations, elder is used as a commanding herb.

Using Elder

All parts of the plant produce cyanogenic glycosides, hence all of the old admonitions against the improper use of elder. The berries are used medicinally, but that’s only after proper preparation.

Magically, elder is a powerful tree — which stands to reason, since the plant itself contains the power to heal and kill. Any tree should be asked for permission before gathering its products, but that goes double for elder. From what I have read, elder wood should be avoided for mundane purposes, and its use should be restricted to magical tools.

 

Elder has gotten a lot of press lately because of its use as a remedy for respiratory illness, but there’s only so much it can do. It can help with sinus problems, inflammation, and shorten cold and flu symptoms, but the best way to keep from getting sick is still to eat well, rest well, stay hydrated, and stay away from people.