life, Neodruidry

Letting my mind and spirit free.

I’m writing the after a soak in loads of epsom salt. My muscles are sore and tired, but the kind of “vacation” sore and tired you get from a day of activities you’ve long looked forward to.

Can I tell you how much I love Pagan Pride Day? In the past, it was just nice to go to a place where I felt less isolated. This year, my partner and I were able to go, hang out, and just enjoy the company of good people from the Druid group I’m involved in.

We sat under the spread of an oak tree that occasionally dropped a gentle rain of acorns on us when the wind blew right, eating fruit, shaved ice, and very good Filipino food (provided by Rollz On Wheelz). There was music and dancing, and friends and acquaintances who passed by, stopped for a chat or an introduction, then drifted back into the crowd. My partner and I walked by all of the vendors, secretly pointing out what we’d bring home that afternoon and what we’d hope to see next year.

I picked up handmade soap, Florida water, supplies for offerings, a beautiful devotional bracelet to my patron deity, and a horseshoe for the front door. I also obtained a large, crocheted axolotl, and the seller and I laughed about his adorably wonky eye — as it turns out, we’re both people who gravitate toward things that are slightly off. Not always things in need of repair, but things that are a little out of the norm and likely to get overlooked. He was the last one of his kind, and I knew that leaving him behind was going to eat at me. He’s also made of very, very soft chenille, is delightful to hug, and I apologize to no one for my strange sympathies for inanimate objects.

Admittedly, the event had a strange kind of melancholy for me, too. I was talking to two people about the generational differences between witches and Pagans, open and closed practices, gatekeeping, “Witchtok,” and the seemingly shrinking role of elders in the ever-expanding online community. The internet has provided more interaction and connectivity than ever seen in history, but at a cost — the wisdom of experienced people is easily drowned out by teachings that can be inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst.

I say it was melancholy for two reasons: For one, I feel a pain in my heart for people looking for a place for themselves. I was one for a long time. I was happy with an eclectic practice, but opportunities to learn from experienced practitioners were few and far between. I kludged together what scraps of information I could get but becoming part of a more organized tradition gave me something that eclecticism and patchwork internet teachings didn’t. This won’t be the case for everybody, but damn do I wish that people had access and opportunities that would let them discover and decide for themselves rather than feeling like their only options are books and social media. I know I would’ve loved to have had that opportunity years ago, even if I might’ve turned it down at the time. At the very least, I wish I had been free to make that choice for myself when I was young.

For two, I feel melancholy because it was a bit of a memento mori. Every day brings me closer to being an elder, or a spiritual ancestor. The idea of mortality isn’t really what bothers me — I more than made peace with that a long time ago — but the feeling of ever-plodding obsolescence is. It’s like a sense of loss for something that isn’t gone yet. I don’t really know how to describe it.

So I guess all of this is to say that I love feeling like I’m in a place I belong. It reminds me of the warm, vibrant, thrumming dance of life, with all of its sweetness and bitterness and joy and sorrow and love and loss. I love the drums and the hum of insects. I love the smells of incense and late summer wind through oak leaves. I love the candy sweetness of syrupy ices and the coolness of Florida water on my temples. I love the warmth of tree-dappled sunlight and the smooth coolness of polished bone.

Arright, I’m gonna go before I get more emotional. I need to get the cabbage butterflies off my broccoli anyhow.

Here ’til the lettuce peeks to see the salad dressing,

j.

Link round up

Good News Round Up: 6.17.2022

Hello! Have you ever wondered what your dog’s thinking? As it turns out, scientists might have an answer for you — sort of. This is a collection of posts and articles that I thought were interesting, funny, or just made me feel a little better about the state of things. I hope they can do the same for you.

A Glimpse Into the Dog’s Mind: A New Study Reveals How Dogs Think of Their Toys. Apparently, dogs have a “multi-modal mental image” when it comes to their favorite playthings. That means that they most likely focus on what is, to them, an object’s most significant sensory features — like its smell. Scientists discovered this by having dogs search for their toys under varying conditions, and observing which senses they seemed to rely on the most for specific objects.

Plants Appear to Be Breaking Biochemistry Rules by Making ‘Secret Decisions.’ As it turns out, plants make decisions about their respiration in ways that we didn’t anticipate. They can actually choose how much carbon they release, by deciding how much they retain for building more biomass. This all happens via a molecule called pyruvate. Most interestingly, plants can actually track what sources their pyruvate comes from, and factor that into their decision making process.

This DIYer Made the Coolest Boho Bookends for Only $1.75 , and They Look Straight Out of a CB2 Catalog. Are you into biophilic design? This is a design philosophy that uses natural materials, like wood and stone, which have beneficial impacts on our mental well-being. This super cheap, easy DIY uses a scrap of travertine limestone, and there’s no perfectionism allowed — the perfectly imperfect, organic shape of the material is part of the appeal.

Binding and Burying the Forces of Evil: The Defensive Use of “Voodoo Dolls” in Ancient Greece. The popular image of the “Voodoo doll” has little to do with the practice of Voodoo. The classic image of a human-shaped object that you stick pins in to cause harm is much closer to the concept of the poppet, a vehicle for sympathetic magic. This paper discusses the use of effigies as a means of binding and suppressing evil in ancient Greece, as well as similar binding rituals in Egypt and Assyria. It’s a long read, but an interesting one.

Researchers identify the origins of the Black Death. We all know that the bubonic plague came from fleas that carried Yersinia pestis, but how did the fleas get it to begin with? One popular theory held that it came from wild rodents in East Asia, but archaeological evidence and ancient plague genomes tell a different story.

Project: SigilPen. I often have to explain that Neodruidry is my religion, but witchcraft is a method. I use modern Druid magic, and I use witchcraft, though the two are very different. Either way, I love magical alphabets, sigils, and the concept of language and symbols as a form of magic on their own. SigilPen is a way of creating neat, accurate sigils using a magic square (kamea).

A lot of online sources for sigil magic fall into the trap of using a single magical square — usually the Square of Saturn — rather than choosing the kamea that’s aligned with what you’re actually trying to do. SigilPen allows you to choose whatever square you want to work with, and helps you translate your word, phrase, or name into a sigil. The site has several other very interesting tools for modern magic, aside from the SigilPen.

Pretend I folded this up and passed it to you under a desk.
– j.

Neodruidry, Witchcraft

Rainwater Folklore and Magical Uses

As we get closer to summer, my area experiences more and more thunderstorms. Honestly, even though rain gives me terrible headaches, I kind of love it. I’ve always been very into the energy of loud crashes of thunder and bright flashes of lightning. Now, I always set out containers to catch some to save and use later.

Rainwater is said to have special properties depending on the season and conditions. (I’m also including dew under this category for practical reasons, even though it doesn’t come from the sky.)

Rainwater Magical Properties and Folklore

Dew, specifically the dew gathered on the first of May, is said to preserve youth and enhance beauty.

According to Lexa Roséan’s The Encyclopedia of Magickal Ingredients: A Wiccan Guide to Spellcasting, storm water is useful for increasing one’s personal charisma. Each season’s rain helps with a specific aspect here:

  • Spring storm water is for sensuality and attractiveness to romantic partners.
  • Summer storm water is for is for magnetism and raw sex appeal.
  • Autumn storm water is to make oneself develop an irresistible, Rapsutin-like appeal.
  • Winter storm water is for endurance, and is said to make one a formidable foe against business or political competitors.

Of all of these, winter storm water is the hardest to come by, while autumn storm water is said to be the darkest and most dangerous.

Rain falling on pavement.

I usually use storm water to cleanse and charge things, including myself. I’ll usually gather the water one day, then, on the next clear day, placed a closed container of it with crystals, flower essences, etc. in a sunny or moonlit spot. After that, I use it to asperge or mist myself. I even charged some under the Tau Herculids meteor shower!

Dip a sprig of rosemary or fresh vervain in storm water, and use it to asperge altars, tools, or sacred spaces before working. This will cleanse and energize them.

After about *mumblemumble* years, I haven’t noticed any difference in the water’s properties based on the intensity of the storm. Weaker storms just produce weaker water. While this may be helpful if you’re looking for gentler energy, like for sleep magic, you may be better off just using moonlight-charged water to begin with rather than fussing with storm water.

Some practitioners assign elemental properties to rainwater based on the conditions during which it was collected. Lightning storms produce rainwater aligned with the element of Fire. Windstorms (like hurricanes or tornados) produce rainwater aligned with Air. Rain collected as drips from trees or other tall plants is aligned with Earth. Personally, I would caution against collecting storm water during a windstorm — wind borne debris cause the majority of damage during these storms, and any container you put out can easily become a dangerous projectile.

Some also assign astrological properties to stormwater based on the time of its collection. A waxing moon brings increase, and a waning moon brings decrease. Every day of the week, even every hour, is ruled by a planet. The moon also passes through the various signs of the zodiac. Storm water collected on a Friday, during a Venus hour, when the full moon is in Taurus would, therefore, be a powerful tool for attracting love. (You’d also be catching stormwater in November in that case, which Roséan says will enhance your Rasputin-like qualities, so maybe bear that in mind too!)

From my own experience, and most sources I’ve read, stormwater shouldn’t be kept indefinitely. It’s best used within the first month or so after you’ve collected it. Keeping it in the refrigerator can help slow down the proliferation of algae and other organisms.

In my tradition, sacred water is water gathered from three natural sources, and is used in every formal ritual. I often catch rainwater to serve as one of these, and combine it with sea and stream water.

Using Rainwater

Please check the laws about gathering rainwater in your area. In some places, it’s illegal to do so. This is to protect the environment — a lot of times, it isn’t the mere fact that you’re collecting the water, but the amount. You might be able to get away with a small container, or a single rain barrel’s worth, but laws against collecting rain exist to stop people who end up diverting that water from places that need it.

To use water from rain or storms, put out a container. You’ll probably want a wide bowl, or some other vessel that’s much wider than it is deep. It’ll be easier to catch water that way.

When the storm ends, the container’s full, or you feel like you have enough water, bring it inside.

Run it through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth to clear out any bits of grass, twigs, leaves, mulch, dirt, bugs, or dust that might’ve been blown into it.

Pour the filtered water into a container, preferably one with a lid.

I don’t recommend consuming rainwater of any type without thorough boiling or some other form of treatment. While it’s (usually) clean when it comes out of the clouds, it can collect all kinds of pesticides and others -cides as it drips off of leaves. It can also pick up bacteria, viruses, and parasites from the soil (or worse — dog, cat, bird, rodent, or insect feces) if it splashes off of the ground or outdoor furniture. I’m not even going to get into what gets into it if you have to collect it near a road. While I won’t deny that there’s a certain faerielike, cottage core appeal to sipping fresh rainwater, there are also many reasons why people regularly dropped dead before water treatment became a thing.

If you do need to drink storm water for your purposes, consider setting out a covered bottle or jar of clean water during the storm rather than collecting the rainwater itself. Much like you can charge water with sunlight or moonlight, you can also charge it with some of the power of thunder and lightning. (And you won’t turn into a summer camp for amoebas.)

A little storm water, placed in a dark, solid-colored bowl, is wonderful for scrying.

You can also use storm water as a base for door washes, floor washes, or ritual baths. Steep some herbs in it or infuse it with crystals (I like to use sunlight and a special glass jar for this), then pour it into your bath or wash water.

Here ’til Niagara falls,
j.

Plants and Herbs

Grass Folklore and Magical Uses

I admit, I’m staunchly anti-lawn. Only 50% of this mindset comes from the fact that I’m very allergic to grass. The other 50% comes from the fact that lawns consume more than their share of water, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers; take up space that could be better used by useful plants; and seem to be a weird kind of status symbol. Also, I hate homeowners’ associations with a passion, and they seem to be really anal about grass.

(I used to try to deliberately sabotage a particularly douchey HOA president by discreetly hucking cannabis seeds into his lawn at every opportunity, and I apologize to no man.)

A tree in the middle of a grassy field, under a cloudy sky.

Since it’s getting into late spring soon, my feelings about grass are at a particularly high peak. It had me wondering — short of raising very small quantities of grazing livestock, is grass actually good for anything?

I also read an old recipe for a hand of glory that involved smoking the severed hand of a hanged man with a mixture of hay and other herbs, and hay is basically large grass, so I thought there might be something there. Could lawns be hiding a treasure trove of magic?

Grass Magical Properties and Folklore

First, it should be noted that “grass” on its own isn’t terribly descriptive. There are a ton of grasses that are known for their magical and medicinal properties, like vetiver and lemongrass. Others, like sweetgrass, have religious or ceremonial significance. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to confine the idea of grass to species like timothy hay and Kentucky bluegrass — the kind of grasses that you’re likely to see appear in paddocks or lawns, either intentionally or as weeds.

A spotted butterfly on a blade of grass.

Sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) is said to be particularly aggressive when it comes to triggering hay fever. Interestingly, preparing a tincture of the fresh grass, splashing some into one’s hands, and inhaling the fumes is said to help halt an allergy attack.

Hay, in general, is associated with pregnancy and fertility. Some sources treat it as a healing herb.

Couch grass (Elymus repens) is used for happiness, love, lust, hex-breaking, and exorcisms. It appears to be a general “get rid of bad stuff, bring in the good” herb, particularly when it comes to getting rid of malevolent-but-not-terribly-powerful spirits.

Goosegrass is name applied to several species, some of which appear as common weeds in lawns. Cleavers (Galium aparine), which doesn’t really resemble grass, is sometimes called goosegrass. It’s often used for spells to bind two things together. Indian goosegrass (Eleusine indica) is a species that is considered a nuisance plant in lawns and golf greens. Goosegrass is generally associated with dreams, wisdom, and luck.

Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), a common lawn grass in the U.S., is an important Ayurvedic herb. Some research has shown that it may be helpful for controlling blood sugar. It’s also said to regulate bowel movements, ease digestion, heal mouth ulcers and skin problems, and help stop bleeding from hemorrhoids. It has some antimicrobial properties, which can make it useful for healing minor infections.

“Hungry Grass”

In Irish folklore, there’s a phenomenon called féar gorta — famine grass, or hungry grass. This was a patch of grass, completely indistinguishable from any other, that would cause intense hunger pangs in anyone who stood upon it. Some unlucky steppers might even become suddenly exhausted, or even pass away where they stood.

In some tellings, this is because the grass is growing over the grave of a victim of the Great Famine. In others, hungry grass is attributed to malicious faeries.

Delicious Crabgrass

Crabgrass seems to be the bane of many a stereotypical suburban dad. Far from merely being an unsightly interloper into a perfect putting-green lawn, this grass is useful as animal fodder, producing fiber for paper, and even produces edible seeds. Hairy crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis) is sometimes cultivated in Europe, and the seeds are known as “Polish millet.” When ground, these seeds produce a useful white flour for baking.

Hairy crabgrass is also medicinally useful. In a decoction, it was used as a treatment for gonorrhea. It was also sometimes used as an emetic, or for general debility — though I’m not sure how throwing up a whole bunch would really help there.

The Hand of Glory

As I mentioned above, hay is (sometimes) instrumental in making a Hand of Glory. This was a kind of grisly candleholder intended to help thieves go about their business. When set with a candle (in some tellings, one made with the semen of the hand’s former owner), it would cause all of the occupants of a house to fall into a deep sleep, as well as unlocking any pesky doors that might stand in between you and the house’s valuables.

All recipes for this grisly curio involve cutting the left hand off of a man freshly hanged on the gallows. If he was a murderer, it should be the hand that did the deed.

According to one recipe, the hand then needed to have as much blood removed as possible. In one recipe, it must then be picked in the urine of a man, woman, stallion, mare, and dog for a month. Then, it should be smoked with hay and other herbs, then hung from a church door overnight. At that point, it’ll be ready to use.

In another, the hand must be packed in a jar with salt, pepper, and saltpeter, and left for two weeks. After that, it should be baked in an oven heated with vervain and ferns for one hour.

Recipes for the candle are pretty specific, too. Some require it to be made of the dead man’s fat and semen, with a wick made of his hair. (Unfortunately, getting hair to light isn’t exactly easy — unlike cotton, it doesn’t really burn. Animal fibers tend to just smolder.) Other instructions say it was best to just dip the whole dingdang hand in wax, then light the fingers directly. This seems a bit wasteful to me, though. After a month of pickling with horse pee and smoking with herbs, I’d like my dead guy’s hand to be more than a one-use item!

Using Grass

First, you want to make sure that you’ve removed all of the stems and see-

Wait. Hang on.

Using grass magically or medicinally is fairly simple; the only really tricky part is figuring out what you’ve got. There are reasons why all those short green lawn plants are just called “grass,” and, if you’re not an expert, it’s probably pretty tricky to tell the difference between Bermuda grass, Kentucky bluegrass, or fine fescue.

Once you’ve figured out what you’re dealing with, the next step is pretty much up to you. It’s worth acknowledging that a lot of the grass species used for lawns aren’t from Europe, so there isn’t going to be a lot of Witchcraft or Druidic lore behind them.

A kitten about to go primal on some flowers in a grassy field.

In general, grasses seem to be treated as positive omens that bring luck. This isn’t too surprising — grass is fodder for grazing animals, and its appearance in spring meant that they could graze, and not rely on stored hay. Hungry animals meant hungry people, and grass made all of the difference. Fresh grass chased away the evil spirit of starvation.

Assuming you aren’t allergic, you can place dried grass in a sachet or charm bag for luck, fertility, and protection from evil. You could also steep dried blades in hot water, and add the liquid to a floor wash for the same purposes. Sufficiently long grass blades could be dried and bound together in an herb bundle to fumigate an area, as well.

I can’t vouch for using grass medicinally, particularly given the difficulty with distinguishing one species from another. If you want to use it that way, you may be better off buying dried or tinctured grasses, versus trying to harvest and prepare your own. (Grasses are also generally doused in pesticides, fertilizers, and other things you probably don’t want in your medicine.)

Until lawns fall out of fashion, at least we can use grass for something positive.
Well, you can. I’ll be over here with the antihistamines.

art, Just for fun, life

Curséd/haunted objects I saw this weekend, ranked.

My partner and I go antiquing pretty frequently. This isn’t necessarily out of any real desire to collect antiques, so much as it is the desire to support the local economy and also own furniture that isn’t particleboard. Some antique shops are very curated and fancy, while others are more… eclectic, shall we say.

Anyhow, if you’ve ever spent enough time in an antique shop, you’ve probably passed by at least one thing that you could absolutely picture holding the soul of a tubercular Victorian child. These are those things, ranked in order of how likely I think the potential ghost inside is likely to go all Annabelle on someone:

5. The Blinded Bride.

A chicken wire sculpture with a blindfolded silver face and silk roses.

This is actually just a rad piece of outdoor sculpture, to be honest. It’s eerie, it’s evocative, and I love it. The artist who makes them, Shara Banisadr, is very cool. She was neatening up the area around the sculptures, and talked to us briefly about her work. Their faces are made of old vinyl records!

This wire lady also has friends:

A similar sculpture, of a silver-faced woman holding a wire child on her lap.

I could probably see this particular piece in a setting like Bloodborne or Elden Ring, but I really think she’s more likely to be kind of sad versus actively murderous. Unless you try to hurt her or steal her blindfold, then she would absolutely wreck you like a Mike Tyson made of fishhooks. Truly the luxury model of potentially haunted object. I’m absolutely going to invest in one of these ladies once I have sufficient outdoor space (or a window that directly faces my neighbors, either or). I feel like they’d be good companions for all of the Isabellas.

Murderghost probability: 10%

4. The Courteous Wig Stand.

A wig stand with large eyes and painted flowers.

There’s something about her I dig. She reminds me of the women in 50s ads for housewares. The small, vague smile and wide eyes speaks of a kind of brittle, exhausted politeness. It’s the same expression and energy I had back when I worked retail, and I can appreciate that.

She’s probably not malevolent. You’re much more likely to turn around in a darkened hallway and see her hovering four feet in the air behind you, glowing faintly and slowly rotating. Somewhere, a distant, echoey voice like wind over an open grave will whisper, “Do you need help finding anything?”

There’s no saving you if she runs out of Valium, though.

Murderghost probability: 30%

3. The Fading Child.

A drawing of a child in reddish-brown conte crayon.

There’s a certain sad-yet-focused intensity in this kid. The level of detail in their face, coupled with the strokes almost the exact color of dried blood, creates an image that’s at once aesthetically pleasing and extremely unsettling. They look vaguely displeased about something, and I’m pretty sure they think that’s my fault.

This is basically the exact kind of picture you see as a haunted object in movies. A mansion burns down, or cracks and crumbles like the House of Usher, and all that’s left is this kid. Staring. Subtly frowning. Lightning cracks the sky, and their brow furrows ever so slightly.

I don’t think the child is likely to murder anyone directly, but I refuse to believe that they haven’t been associated with a series of “accidents.”

Murderghost probability: 50%

2. The Tragic Hound.

A painting of a sad looking dog on a pink background. The picture is placed behind a basket, several large spools, and a wooden box.

Don’t let the puppy eyes fool you. This is absolutely haunted, and absolutely just waiting for you to let your guard down.

See the hints of red in the eyes? The way they seem to follow you around the room?

This painting absolutely houses some kind of Shadow Hearts-style monster. Like, I don’t know, an evil mailman. Notice how even the shop owner placed him behind several objects. It’s because they know. Do not gaze upon the full glory of the tragic hound, lest it pursue you for an eternity.

Murderghost probability: 70%

1. The Dapper Man.

A painting of a man in a jaunty blue uniform. The background and frame are both bright pink. The man's large, round eyes seem to bore into one's soul.

HE’S SEEN YOU.

Murderghost probability: Run.

Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Fennel Folklore and Magical Properties

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a Mediterranean herb related to carrots. The type you see in supermarkets is bred for its large bulb, which is eaten as a vegetable. You can also find the dried leaves in teas and herb blends. It has a flavor very reminiscent of anise or licorice that becomes mild and sweet during cooking. It’s also related to silphium, a plant that was both considered a delicacy and included in formulas to cause miscarriage.

Flowering fennel tops.

One of the most interesting things about fennel is its action on the endocrine and reproductive systems. While it isn’t true that the ancient Romans harvested a relative of fennel to extinction for to use for herbal abortions, alcohol extracts of a relative of giant fennel (the source of the spice asafoetida) have been found to prevent egg fertilization and induce miscarriages in rats.

Fennel Magical Uses and Folklore

While fennel isn’t exactly the same plant as asafoetida, fennel seeds do act as a uterine stimulant. Part of this is due to an estrogenic effect, possibly courtesy of the compounds anethole, dianethole and photoanethole. Fennel also contains an enzyme that effects the body’s ability to process certain drugs. In the 3rd century, a doctor named Metrodora included a species of fennel in a compound of herbs to cause miscarriage.

Fennel is one of the plants in the Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm. To wit:

[C]hervil and fennel

very mighty these two plants created the wise leader holy in heaven

when he hung set and sent into the 7 worlds

for wretched and rich all to remedy

stands she against pain

stands she against poison.

Who is mighty against 3 and against 30

against fiends hand

against spells

against enchantment by wicked wights.

An excerpt from the Nine Herbs Charm, from the Lacnunga

Interestingly, Pliny the Elder claimed that silphium (the much-desired fennel of ancient Greece and Rome) had a powerful purgative effect when initially consumed. It was said that the plant purged the body of undesirable “humors,” effectively causing a kind of physical purification. However, Pliny also thought that snakes ate fennel to improve their eyesight, so maybe don’t take everything he says at face value.

A trio of fennel bulbs.

When planted around the home, fennel acts as a magical ward. This may be based in part on its use as an insect repellant — the idea being that it repels evil just as well as it does bugs. As an extension of this idea, medieval households would hang fennel above the door and fill their locks with fennel seeds to keep wandering, unsettled ghosts away.

Fennel seeds are burned to purify spaces. You can also dress a candle with fennel seeds to break streaks of bad luck and crossed conditions in your life.

Fennel’s estrogenic effects were sometimes relied on to improve libido. By extension, the flowers and seeds are often used in sachets and charms to enhance one’s love life.

Planting fennel and dill together can result in hybrid plants that look like a cross between the two and taste like neither.

Followers of Dionysus carried wands made of fennel stalks.

Fennel is used for courage. Chew the seeds or drink fennel tea before you have to do something scary or difficult.

Using Fennel

Consume the seeds or drink the tea to help trigger a late menstrual period. The maximum dosage of fennel seeds for an adult human is about 6 grams. More than that may cause unwanted effects.

You can use pretty much any part of the fennel plant — chew the seeds, put them in tea, eat the bulb and stalk as a vegetable, you name it. This means that you’re pretty much free to choose whichever part of the plant resonates best with you, and use it however it suits your purposes. If you plan to consume it, be sure to do your research to make sure it won’t interact with any other herbs or medications you’re currently using. It’s generally safe in food amounts, but the risk of adverse side effects increases with the dose.

Fennel seeds are great additions to sachets, powders, and potions.

Growing fennel is fairly easy. It can grow in zones 5-10, and is a perennial in zones 6 and up. Nonetheless, it’s usually treated as an annual — it self-sows prolifically, and you’re likely to harvest and use the whole plant once its mature anyhow.

Sow fennel in early spring, about 16-18″ apart in an area that receives full sun and has enough headroom for the plant to reach its full 5′ adult height. (It’s best to direct sow, because fennel isn’t very receptive to transplanting.) Avoid planting it near other plants, since it secretes a compound that prevents competition. Coupled with its sun-blocking height, and you may find that its neighbors really struggle. Fennel also hybridizes readily with some other plants, so you may find that the seeds you get from it aren’t true to the parent plant at all.

A swallowtail caterpillar crawling on a fennel flower.

Water fennel regularly until its well established. The plant generally doesn’t experience many problems, though you might find swallowtail butterfly caterpillars chewing on the leaves!

Harvest fennel after about two months, once its mature. Cut off the flowers as they appear, unless you want to gather the seeds (or would like the plant to self-sow).

Burn the seeds or stalks for purification or protection. Blend with rose petals, cinnamon, and other love and lust herbs for use in aphrodisiac formulas.

Witchcraft

Is energy manipulation necessary for magic?

Funnily enough, I got the idea for this post a long time ago — when I was reading up on reasons why cognitive behavioral therapy might fail. That, coupled with a lot of books and papers on traditional and folk magic, raised an interesting question in my mind:

Is energy manipulation requisite for magic?

I’ve seen some experienced witches who poke fun at the spells created and posted by younger ones. I’ve even written about raising and directing power myself. Here’s the thing though — none of that shows up in the really old stuff.

Seriously. I can point you to a hundred different old bits of magical folklore and formulae, and not a one will mention anything about raising, directing, or releasing power. Nonetheless, these spells were important enough for the practitioners to pass them down.

If you look at modern spells and rituals, though, some manner of energy manipulation is considered absolutely requisite. If you skip it, or somehow do it wrong, you won’t achieve your goal. You could argue that the old wise women and cunning men raised and directed power without doing so in so many words, or even worked old magic without realizing that that’s what they were doing. If that’s the case, then who’s to say that this power-raising has to be done on a conscious level?

I have a theory that I find pretty interesting. It’s similar to one posed by Phil Hine in Condensed Chaos, when he talks about Spirit, versus Energy, versus Cybernetic models.
I don’t think magic changed. I think we did.

The Guardian posted an article a couple of years ago on the apparent decline in effectiveness of CBT. Oddly enough, this decline might be due to nothing more than CBT’s reputation. When it was first developed, it was lauded as a marvel of modern psychology. This perception may have influenced how effective it was for people who tried it — believing they were learning a miracle cure for their problems, they experienced one. As more and more people went through CBT with less than stellar results, this perception shifted. It’s declining in effectiveness because it no longer benefits from a reputation as a miracle.

This isn’t to say that all magic is a product of the placebo effect (though there are certainly branches of mental magic that rely on it to a degree). I’ve had experiences I definitely can’t attribute solely to that. But, as the article above mentions, a 1958 book by psychoanalyst Allen Wheelis stated that Freudian psychology no longer worked because people had changed. Modern humans were better at self-understanding. They now needed different tools.

The old techniques weren’t completely wrong; they’d just outlived their usefulness.

Oliver Burkeman

Modern humans are better at understanding the physical underpinnings of the world (arguably at the expense of our metaphysical understanding and psychic sensitivity). We have knowledge that would’ve been unthinkable to our ancestors. Learning changes us. We interact with energy — and therefore magic — differently. One of my ex-partners’ grandmothers cured people of worms by snapping a handful of straw over their stomachs. My ancestors did things that, if I posted them to an online grimoire, would have experienced witches laughing and poking fun at them for being ineffective “baby witch” spells.

The act of observing changes the observer as well as the observed, and we’ve done a lot of observing.

Does this mean that one way is better, more legitimate, more powerful? I really don’t think so. As Burkeman says, old tools outlive their usefulness. We’ve changed. Ten thousand years ago, nobody could digest milk in adulthood. (And don’t even get me started on what we’ve done to our jaws.) We occupy and interact with our environment differently — including the unseen world. It’s entirely possible we need to consciously manipulate energy because that’s what we’ve adapted to.

I’m curious to see what shape the future takes.

crystals, Witchcraft

What is Devic Temple Quartz?

Lemurian. Elestial. Devic. Lightbrary.

Buying quartz can be complicated.

Sigil. Starbrary. Garden.

The truth is, most of these terms are just names for physical features of the crystal itself. Some claim that these physical traits line up with the stones abilities or affinities, but this isn’t always the case. One of these terms is “Devic Temple Quartz.”

So, what’s a Devic Temple quartz?

In simple terms, a Devic Temple quartz is a quartz crystal that has internal fractures that resemble seats or shelves. These usually also have some visible foggy wisps produced by trapped gasses or water, often called “fairy frost.”

If the water inclusions are large enough, it might also be called “enhydro.” If it appears to have the outline of another crystal inside, it might be called “phantom.” If it contains inclusions of hematite, chlorite, or other minerals, it might be called “lodolite.” As a word of caution, while lodolite is a common term among gem enthusiasts, it’s not actually a real name. It pretty much just means “stone that has some mud inside.” You might also see these called garden or shaman quartz.

Like I said, there are a lot of words involved. Try not to sweat it too much.

What can it do?

Devic Temple quartz is purported to house light beings, nature spirits, or other allies. Sometimes, if you look at the internal fractures, rainbows, fairy frost, and other features, you can see what appear to be faces, dancing bodies, or humanoid/animal shapes.

Since these crystals are said to act as “houses” for spiritual entities, they’re considered a way to communicate with them in meditation, healing, and so forth. Having one of these guys is pretty much like a direct line to the spirit in the crystal. Some also consider them a way to communicate with faeries and/or angels.

Here’s where my opinion differs…

Honestly, from my experience, all crystals have their own presence. Sometimes, you can perceive it as a kind of electric feeling in your fingers — like the feeling you’d get if you were holding a bird, a firefly, or some other tiny life, afraid of squeezing too hard. This isn’t to say that a crystal is alive the way we typically conceptualize life, but it’s in there. In this respect, Devic Temple crystals aren’t unique.

That said, they can make it easier to access that presence. It’s kind of like the difference between trying to find a hermit in the woods, and walking up to a numbered address with a brightly-painted front door and a sign that says “Free pies, inquire within.”

Sometimes, you can see the physical appearance of a crystal’s presence in the fairy frost, even if it isn’t a Devic Temple crystal. One of my favorite meditative activities is to sit with a a crystal, a macro lens, and a good light source, and look for tiny buddies.

If you look on the left, you might see a faint image that looks like a side-on view of a human skull. What else do you see?

Do you need a Devic Temple quartz? I wouldn’t say that they’re essential — but I wouldn’t say that about any crystal. Ultimately, if a stone resonates with you and is responsibly sourced, pick it up. Don’t buy it because of the names attached to it. Choose what you’re drawn to and discover its unique features afterward, when you have a chance to sit with it.

life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

A Soggy Samhain

It was cold and rainy here over the weekend, though that was fine by me — we weren’t exactly spoiled for choice when it came to bonfires and dumb suppers this year. Besides, though rainy weather does my brainmeat up all wretched, it does make me want to clean and air everything out.

So cleaning, cleansing, and refreshing all of my wards is exactly what I did. I would have refreshed my altar too, but I did that on the last new moon — dusting it, wiping it down with a special blend of oils, herbs, and flower water, burning more herbs in my hearth-cauldron, lighting candles, the whole bit.

I often like to take all of the herbs that are getting to be past their peak, ones that I’ve had lingering in my herb jars, drawers, and cabinets for a bit too long, and burn them on Samhain. It just feels right to burn the old herbs, thank them for their usefulness, and either save the ashes (depending on the herbs) for black salt or return them to the soil. I didn’t get to do that this year, but that’s okay — I don’t really have a big stash of old herbs anyhow.

I also filtered the oil I’d started on October’s first full moon, which gave me an inexplicable craving for pizza (courtesy of all of the dittany of Crete. That stuff smells delicious). Now I’ve got a neat little bottle of fresh raven oil chilling in my secret stash, which makes me pretty happy. I’d love to be able to work this combination of herbs into another form — incense, maybe — but many of them are the type that just tends to be throat-pluggingly smoky and bitter when they’re burned. They might work alright if they’re in small amounts and sufficiently worked into a sweeter-smelling base, but that’ll take a little experimentation.

This month came with its usual compliment of especially vivid dreams and messages, but I won’t bore you with those details. I hope the feeling lasts, though. I’m always at least a little sad to see them go once the veil’s no longer as thin.

So how was everyone else’s holiday?

crystals

Working with Herkimer Diamonds

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I like crystals. Even if I didn’t work with them, I’d probably collect them.

I received my first one when I was very little — about five or so, I think. It was a piece of dyed hot pink agate, shaped into an egg about as long as my thumb. I didn’t know anything about geology or crystal properties, but I knew I liked it and so, like a corvid, I kept it with the rest of my treasures.

(Most of those “treasures” were dead swamp cicadas that I’d pick up on the sidewalk in late summer. I had — okay, have — a Thing for iridescent colors.)

I still collect crystals, though now they actually get used for things. Unfortunately, the reality of the crystal market means I can’t just buy whatever I like. There’s a vetting process. Since I’m also lazy, this means that, for the past couple of years, I’ve only picked up Arkansas quartz, Herkimer diamonds, and piece or two from Brazil after making a nuisance of myself to the seller.

All of this is to say that Herkimer diamonds kick ass and they’re very easy to obtain ethically. If I could only use one crystal for the rest of my life, it’d be one of these.

What are Herkimer diamonds?

Well, for one, they’re not diamonds. They earn their name because they come from Herkimer county, New York, and are an exceptionally hard, clear variety of (usually double-terminated) quartz.

Herkimer is known for these stones, so there are a bunch of mines you can visit to get your own from the source. There’s no child labor involved, and the process of mining is pretty much you, some hand tools, and a bucket, so these crystals are also lower on the social and environmental impact scale than many others. A bunch of Etsy merchants make a point to visit Herkimer once a year or so, dig for some, then sell them, so they’re also pretty easy to obtain even if you aren’t interested in making the trip yourself. (Two of my favorite sellers are Luminous Harvest and Greengem. Bonus, Greengem is also a source of beautiful, conflict-free rings — even some really fancy alternative engagement rings.)

How are Herkimer diamonds used for spiritual healing?

Herkimer diamonds have a reputation as extremely high-vibration crystals. They’re supposedly good for purifying the physical and astral body, attuning you to another person, group, or place, removing energy blocks, and increasing the “oomph” of the other stones they’re used with.

According to Michael Gienger’s Healing Crystals, they can be used for awareness, clarity, dream recall, heightened awareness and consciousness, and pain relief. It’s also trigonal and secondary, which makes it particularly helpful for people with “trigonal personalities,” and who wish to unlearn negative behavioral patterns and live in greater harmony with their external environment. For more information, read Gienger’s Crystal Power, Crystal Healing. It’s a very interesting read that outlines his really unique approach to the subject.

(Of course, I don’t endorse the use of crystals in place of conventional medicine. They’re great as a complementary therapy, but please consult a doctor first.)

A hand holds a Herkimer diamond in clear river water.
Cleaning a Herkimer diamond in the river. Look at all of those hydrocarbon inclusions!

What are the magical properties of Herkimer diamonds?

Since they’re clear quartz, they are pretty efficient “all purpose” stones. They do often come with some neat, unique features that make them particularly useful, in a magical sense:

  • Many of them contain hydrocarbons, visible as black lines, dots, or flecks within the crystal. These bits of incredibly ancient vegetable matter connect us to our ancestors, all the way back to our pre-human family tree. For this reason, they can be very helpful for ancestor work.
  • Most of them are double terminated, which makes them helpful for simultaneously sending and receiving energy.
  • A lucky few contain deposits of water, too! “Enhydro” crystals are strongly connected to the water element, as well as earth. This makes them useful for rituals for purification and emotional healing.
  • Some of the rainbow fractures and water or hydrocarbon inclusions give them a character that’s similar to garden quartz (or shaman quartz). The inclusions and “flaws” can create beautifully complex scenes inside the crystal that are lots of fun to fall into. This makes them great as a meditative focus, or an aid to trance or journeying work.
  • They’re generally not huge. To be honest, most of the ones you’ll find in metaphysical shops are downright tiny. This makes them great for including in pouches, sachets, bottles, or whatever else your witchy heart desires.

Herkimer Diamond Clearing Spray Recipe

This is a recipe for something I whip up when I’m in a situation where salt, smoke, or other methods of clearing energy aren’t advisable. Plus, it smells really good.

You’ll need:

  1. First, make sure your ingredients are good to go — tell them what you’re using them for, and what you’d like them to do for you. Bergamot protects from evil, cuts off interference, and functions as a “power” herb. Lavender cleanses and promotes peace. Ylang ylang is calming and uplifting. Rosemary is cleansing and protecting. Vervain purifies, gets rid of negative energy, and enhances the action of other herbs in the mixture. Frankincense is purifying and energy raising.
  2. Add the dried herbs and oils first. You can go with your preference here, one is no more powerful than the other. You don’t need much — a drop or two of oil, a pinch or two of herbs.
  3. Swirl the mixture when you’re through, and speak your intention again. This can be simple. Start with, “With this mixture, I[…]” and state your intent.
  4. If you plan to keep this for a long time, fill the bottle two thirds of the way with high proof grain alcohol, like Everclear. (The Tisserand Institute has more information on preservation here.)
  5. Fill the bottle the rest of the way with lavender hydrosol or distilled water. Swirl to mix.
  6. Add the Herkimer diamond.
  7. Screw the top on the bottle and label it. You’re done!

While the sun is great for empowering things, it’s also not super great for scents. If you want to charge this mixture, do so either under moonlight, or very briefly under sunlight. To use it, simply mist the object, person, or space in need of some energy clearing.