Posted tagged ‘folk magic’

Podcast 76 – Spring Symbols

April 27, 2015

Summary:

Today we’re tackling a hodgepodge of springtime symbols, including rabbits, eggs, maypoles, and flowers. We’ll discuss some of the myths and folklore surrounding these icons of spring, as well as some of the spells and magic that use these elements.

Play:

Download: New World Witchery – Episode 76

-Sources-

We draw upon several sources for this episode, including some of our own blog posts:

A nice skeptical analysis of the Easter/Eostre fakelore can be found here.

Rabbit books/text mentioned include Watership Down and the Uncle Remus Tales.

An excellent source on the limpia egg cleansing is the Curious Curandera’s site.

Some springtime symbols in fiction that might be of interest include Louisa May Alcott’s “May Flowers“ and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The May-pole of Merry Mount.”

Friends:

Sindy Todo of Todomojo.com is hosting the Northwest Crossroads Retreat soon. Check it out!

Big thanks again to Atticus Hob, who recently announced that his show is indefinitely off the air, but who did a marvelous job as our co-host last month. Check out his Orphan’s Almanac site for updates.

Also, check out the Spring Lore 2015 contest, and win one of three great prizes!

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us or leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

Don’t forget to follow us at Twitter! And check out our Facebook page! For those who are interested, we also now have a page on Pinterest you might like, called “The Olde Broom.”

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.

Promos:

  1. Welcome to Night Vale
  2. The Wigglian Way

Blog Post 194 – Plugging (Healing with Trees)

March 30, 2015

Kirkridge Shelter sign, Appalachian Trail near Fox Gap, Monroe and Northampton Counties. Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli (Wikimedia)

Exploring American folk magic means looking under lots of stones, poking about in the weeds on the roadside, and scaring furry little critters out of their hiding spots as we try to discover the methods that have been used to solve problems throughout the years. Whether it’s using potatoes to cure warts or making your spare change break an incoming hex, the techniques of folk magic demonstrate a masterful application of resources at hand to get the results a body needs. Which brings me to the subject of this article, the practice of “plugging” to heal disease.

Largely found in the mountain regions of America, although it also appears in a few other places as well, the basic practice of plugging consists of measuring a person against a tree, boring a hole in the tree, then filling and stuffing the hole (or “plugging” it, obviously). Some folks also call the practice “pegging” rather than “plugging,” since the bored out chunk of tree forms a natural peg (and since the image of a peg may have a more biblical connotation to some practitioners, since a tent peg is used in the Book of Judges to kill an enemy of the Israelites). Once the person measured against the tree grows past the height of the hole, he or she should be cured of the disease. Of course, this means that the person must still be growing, which essentially means this method is used to help children with chronic illness rather than adults. There are a few variants in the practice, which we’ll get to, and some of those provide relief for adults, but for now let’s look at some of the typical examples:

“Drill a hole in a black oak or sourwood tree just above the head of the victim [of asthma], and put a lock of his hair in the hole. When he passes that spot in height, he will be cured. (Another person told us that if the person died, the tree would also.)” –Foxfire Book, p. 231

This is probably the most basic version of the method, although it is more specific about the tree than many versions. For the most part, the remedies simply say “a tree,” although some will indicate a preferred species to affect a cure. One Southern spell says that “chills can be driven away by boring a deep hole in the sunny side of an oak tree, blowing your breath into it, and plugging up the hole, with the result that the tree dies” (Botkin, Treasury of Southern Folklore, p. 630). Variants from the Foxfire 40th Anniversary book also say you can do the remedy with a black gum tree, and interestingly, you can use a detached form of the plugging remedy: “Take a sourwood stick the size [height] of the child when he’s two or three years old. Put it in the top of the house where it won’t get wet. When the child outgrows the stick, the asthma will be gone. This also works for hay fever, and some say it can be done with any “dry stick” by placing it “under the doorstep” (p. 349). The last examples show that the power to heal is not directly tied to a living tree, but simply to the qualities of wood, since the twigs are detached form their trunk before use in the spell.

Plugging is hardly an Appalachian phenomenon, however. A bit of lore from Indiana is very similar to the mountain method: “Measure the baby’s height on a tree and make a hole at this point in the tree. Then cut off a lock of the baby’s hair and put it in the hole. When the bark of the tree grows so as to cover the place, the baby will be well” (Grace Smith, “Folklore from ‘Egypt’,” p. 70). John George Hohman reports a version of plugging which resembles the detached plugging in the sourwood stick example above: “Cut three small twigs from a tree — each to be cut off in one cut — rub one end of each twig in the wound, and wrap them separately in a piece of white paper, and put them in a warm and dry place” (Hohman, Long-lost Friend). One collection of lore from Louisiana is rife with examples of plugging:

379. To cure a child of asthma stand him up by a post and lay a knife on his head and run it into the post. When the child grows above this knife he will no longer have asthma.
380. Negroes cure asthma by taking some of the victim’s hair, tying it up in red flannel, and putting it in the crack of the door.
381. To cure a child of asthma stand him up against a tree and bore a hole just above his head. Into this hole put some of the child’s hair and then stop it up. When the child grows above the hair he will no longer have the asthma.
382. To cure a child of croup stand him up against a tree and run a knife through his hair into the tree burying some of his hair. When the child grows above the hair he will no longer have the croup…
385. A way to cure croup is to bore a hole in the wall behind a door at the height of the child’s head. Put some of the child’s hair into the hole and cork it up. The child will no longer have croup…
389. To keep a child from having whooping-cough take him to a house that is just being built, stand him against the wall, and bore a small hole in it just above his head. Then put some of his hair into it, plug up the hole, and cut the hair off. As he grows above this he will not have the whooping-cough. (Hilda Roberts, “Louisiana Superstitions”)

Many of these are in “Superstitions from Oregon,” by Donald Hines, demonstrating that the practice is hardly a unilocal one. Henry Middleton Hyatt recorded dozens of incidents of plugging in his “Folklore of Adams Co., Illinois” collection. One such example somewhat resembles the practice of plugging without the use of a tree mentioned in the collection above:

  1. “If you have asthma, take and stand the person up against a door — the door must be an outside door — bore a hole in the door at the top of their head, save the sawdust, then put a lock of their hair in this hole, then the sawdust, then the plug. When the person grows above that hole, they will be well. Do you see that hole in the kitchen door over there? Well, that is where we tried this on my niece, and she got well.” (Hyatt).

The use of the wall or door as a substitute for a tree may stem from the fact that—at least in most homes prior to very recent times—these objects would have all been made of wood, and so might have retained the general properties of trees. Since it is unlikely that those doing the boring would know exactly what wood their walls or doors are made of (although in some older cases they might have known), I think this demonstrates the point that the type of tree used for the cure was less important than the fact that it was a tree.

While a number of these techniques do specifically apply to children, in some cases the practice was extended to adult patients as well. In several of Hyatt’s examples, plugging is used to cure excessive bleeding without any relationship to the patient’s growth:

  1. Profuse bleeding in a horse is stopped by boring a hole into a tree, putting in it some of the blood, and plugging up the hole with a wooden peg.”
  2. To check a bleeding caused by a cut, bore a hole into a soft maple tree and plug up in this hole some of the blood”

In this pair of examples, we can see a general sympathetic magical principle at work, since the stopping of the hole represents the stopping of the wound, and the symbolic transfer of the hurt to the tree. In many cases, the plugging action creates a symbiotic enchantment between the patient and the tree. Several accounts claim that if the tree sickens and dies at some point in the future, so will the person healed by its intervention.

Healing is not always the aim of the plugging, either. One Appalachian plugging says, “When you pull a tooth, drive it in an apple tree, and good luck will follow” (Gainer, 125). Likewise, the healing accomplished in some cases may not be physical, but mental. Some Appalachian lore says that putting hair from a recent haircut under a rock will prevent headaches, a sort of form of plugging (probably because birds can’t get the hair and weave it into their nests, which is believed to cause headaches or madness). Surprisingly, plugging has received little attention as a magical practice (although I somewhat suspect that its lack of marketability and a general inclination against drilling holes in things in the modern age have something to do with that). I hope this brief glimpse into the practice gives readers a chance to explore plugging a bit further, as we really only have the very tip of a rather large iceberg here. If you have additional information on plugging you’d like to share, we’d love to hear it!

Thanks for reading,

-Cory

Podcast 75 – Moon Magic

March 23, 2015

Summary:
We’re back with our eyes on the sky, talking about the role of the moon in magic. We’ll discuss the divinity, folklore, and practical spellwork we associate with our lovely satellite, and make a plan for kick-starting our witchy engines in the moonlight. Plus, a new contest!
Play:
Download: New World Witchery – Episode 75

-Sources-
Please continue to keep Laine in your thoughts and prayers, as she is dealing with a serious (but thankfully not life-threatening) medical issue.

Books Mentioned:

 

Friends:
Sindy Todo of Todomojo.com is hosting the Northwest Crossroads Retreat soon. Check it out!

Big thanks again to Atticus Hob, who recently announced that his show is indefinitely off the air, but who did a marvelous job as our co-host last month. Check out his Orphan’s Almanac site for updates.

We talk about the concept of moon calendar names, a subject derived from a recent discussion on Betwixt & Between.

Our apologies for the technical glitch in the middle of the episode. We’ll try harder next time, we promise!

Also, check out the Spring Lore 2015 contest, and win one of three great prizes!

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us or leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

Don’t forget to follow us at Twitter! And check out our Facebook page! For those who are interested, we also now have a page on Pinterest you might like, called “The Olde Broom.”

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune. Incidental music is “Calling the Moon,” by Dar Williams and “Channel Z,” by the B-52’s.

Promos:

  1. The Irish & Celtic Music Podcast
  2. Druidcast

Quick Update – Spring Lore 2015 Contest

March 22, 2015

March month of ‘many weathers’ wildly comes
In hail and snow and rain and threatning hums
And floods: while often at his cottage door
The shepherd stands to hear the distant roar…
The ploughman mawls along the doughy sloughs
And often stop their songs to clean their ploughs
From teazing twitch that in the spongy soil
Clings round the colter terryfying toil
The sower striding oer his dirty way
Sinks anckle deep in pudgy sloughs and clay
And oer his heavy hopper stoutly leans
Strewing wi swinging arms the pattering beans
Which soon as aprils milder weather gleams
Will shoot up green between the furroed seams
                ~John Clare, The Shepherd’s Calendar: “March”

 

Dear Listeners and Readers,

Here we are in the lovely springtime, knee-deep in the grime of new life, planting seeds to bear fruit under other moons than this one. In a few days, we will (hopefully) be releasing our March episode, which deals with that selfsame celestial sphere, and on that show we’ll be announcing our latest contest. Since you are a dedicated and devoted fan of our work, however, you get a little advance warning and some extra time to work on your entries.

So what do you have to do for this contest? We’re looking for family, regional, or local folklore on two topics. Send in your lore about:

  1. Anything related to the sun, moon, and stars. Did your family tell stories about specific stars or constellations? Did they hold moon-gazing parties or eat moon cakes? Were there special things you were supposed to do during an equinox? Share your heavenly lore with us and get an entry into the drawing!
  2. -OR –
  3. Share your lore about devils, demons, and “bad” spirits. Was there some spot supposed to be haunted by the devil near where you grew up? Were you forbidden to play Ouija boards because of demon possession? Share your most diabolical tales and enter that way as well.

You can even enter in each category! (Only one entry per category per person, please. You can share as much lore as you want, though). Simply email us with the subject line “Spring 2015 Contest” at compassandkey@gmail.com, and you’ll get your entry (or entries). Make sure to let us know where you’re from/family background, and what name (if any) you’d want us to use if we read your entry on the show.

Deadline: Midnight, April 30th (Walpurgisnacht), 2015.

Prizes:
So what is up for grabs if you decide to share a bit of your devilish or stellar side? We’ve got three potential prize packages we’re offering for this event:

  • Prize Package The FIrst – Grimoires Old: A copy of The Long Lost Friend (Hohman, Daniel Harms, ed.) & The Black Pullet (anonymous but very important grimoire in the New World)
  • Prize Package The Second – Grimoires New: A copy of Peter Paddon’s Grimoire for Modern Cunning Folk & Robert Chapman’s Pow-Wow Grimoire
  • Prize Package The Third – Get Lucky: A bottle of our Crown of Success oil, a lucky charm or two, and a copy of 54 Devils thrown in for fun (you know, lucky at cards…)

If those are appealing to you (or even if they’re not and you just want to participate), please send in your lore to compassandkey@gmail.com and know we’ll be absolutely thrilled to hear from you. Questions about the contest or lore are welcome at that address, too. Good luck!

All the best,

-Cory & Laine

Podcast 74 – Grimoires with Atticus Hob

February 27, 2015

Summary:

For February 2015, we bring Atticus Hob on as our guest co-host to discuss magical book traditions, especially grimoires old and new.

Play:

Download: New World Witchery – Episode 74

-Sources-

Please keep Laine in your thoughts and prayers, as she is dealing with a serious (but thankfully not life-threatening) medical issue.

Some of the old grimoires we mention in this episode include The Black Pullet, The 6th & 7th Book of Moses, The Petit Albert, The Key of Solomon and the Goetia, the Romanus Buchlein, Secrets of Albertus Magnus, the Enchiridion of Pope Leo, and of course, the Bible.

Some of the smaller modern grimoire presses we mention are Hadean Press, Scarlet Imprint, Troy Books, Three Hands Press, and Xoanon Publishing.

You can find Cory’s article on magical books, including Joshua Gordon’s Commonplace Book, in Witches & Pagans magazine. He also mentions Rob Chapman’s Pow-wow Grimoire, and both discuss Grimoires by Owen Davies. We also both recommended the recend Llewellyn edition of Hohman’s Long-lost Friend, edited by Daniel Harms. Hob highly recommends Jim Baker’s Cunning Man’s Handbook.

Please stop by Hob’s current website, the Orphan’s Almanac, which is a wonderful fusion of the esoteric, the poetic, and the curious.

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us or leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

Don’t forget to follow us at Twitter! And check out our Facebook page!

Promos & Music

Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.

Promos:

  1. Lamplighter Blues
  2. Backstory Radio

Blog Post 193 – Book Review: Strange Experience, by Lee R. Gandee

February 10, 2015


Strange Experience: The Autobiography of a Hexenmeister—Personal Encounters with Hauntings, Magic and Mysticism (Prentice-Hall: New Jersey, 1971). 355pp. Illustrations.

 

Let me begin by saying I have wanted to review this book for a long time. Primarily, that is because I have wanted to read this book for a long time, at least in something beyond excerpted form, which is the best I’d been able to do. The book itself seems to be out-of-print, and runs upwards of seventy-five dollars on the second-hand market, and I have always just told myself that when I find a copy for less than fifty, I’ll grab it then. Thankfully, my friend Atticus Hob did a sort of book exchange with me, and let me borrow his copy, and so I have finally been able to dive fully inot Gandee’s text and join him on his meandering journey through his mystically charged coming-of-age tale of sexual awakening, spirit contact, and magic.

I knew of this book for a long time before I read it, largely because one of the people whom I consider a teacher and friend, Jack Montgomery, studied with Gandee during the seventies. Jack included stories of his experiences in his own work, American Shamans, which has already been mentioned before (and we interviewed Montgomery in an earlier episode, too). What I knew the most about was Gandee as an adult, living a hexenmeister’s life and dispensing his perspective for an eager grad student. Strange Experience lives up to its title, showing that Gandee’s youth and development—both magically and personally—were extremely unusual, yet not at all unfamiliar to anyone who has struggled with identity at some point in his or her life.

The book is broken into nineteen chapters and an introduction, with titles such as “A Dead Man’s Treasure” and “The Strangest Prayers are Painted.” Each chapter is introduced with a hex sign—a Pennsylvania German art design frequently seen on barns in Lancaster and Berks Counties. Some of the signs are essentially reproductions of old barn signs, but a number of them are Gandee originals, and all have short explanations about their significance and attributed powers (such as “perpetual watchful protection and guidance” or “man’s power to create through mental and spiritual action”) (pp. 27, 115). He begins with his childhood, which launched on a turbulent evening and never seems to have settled down much. He regularly saw his mother in his tender years, but was largely raised by other relatives, mostly his grandmother. The book explains that Lee’s childhood was full of demons, ghosts, hauntings, and apparitions, but that most people he knew simply accepted those as part of the world in which they lived.

Gandee quickly shifts gears into a bit of a sweet if emotionally confounded romance with a boy named Stud, whom Gandee clearly regards as the love of his life, although he goes to great lengths to account for this love as something other than homosexual. The struggle for sexual identity dominates the book, at least as much as any aspect of magic or regional culture, and Gandee eventually recounts a past life in which he was a sort of sacred prostitute named Zaida, and Stud was a sailor with whom she fell in love. The romance was doomed by jealousy in the past, and in their reincarnated state the two boys don’t fare much better.

Much of the book recounts the simply mind-boggling spiritual world of Gandee, which ranges from the native hexenmeister-craft he practices (including the aforementioned chapter on painting prayers through hex signs) to working with Christian Science methods and encountering ferocious ghosts in Mexico (in the chapter “Ni; Uari! Go!; Die!”). Gandee runs a group of spiritual mediums in college, helps find lost things, manifest desires for his friends and neighbors through art, and studies the powers of animal magnetism and hypnosis along the way. He generally tries to rationalize what he experiences in a blithe, worldly tone, although in many spots he is clearly as swept away by circumstances and wonder as any reader might be.

The information on hexerei and Pennsylvania Dutch magic is incredibly interesting, and shows a tremendously syncretic, vibrant faith-based practice. A student of the pow-wow/braucherei culture would gain a great deal from a close study of the many charms and stories shared by the author, and a student of folk magic generally might see some of the potential inner workings of well-known spells in the book, too. When reading Strange Experience, however, any reader would do well to remember that the experiences are only those of Gandee, and do not speak for a larger culture generally. Gandee was certainly a distinct individual, and the things he writes about are connected to very old practices and traditions, but he quite openly acknowledges the changes he has made over time as well.

Because of the paucity of good, first-hand accounts of this sort of folk magic, Gandee’s book stands out in its field. It hardly reads as a dissection of Pennsylvania German religious or magical culture, and Gandee himself is hard to pin down at times (which is largely the point of his text). I feel that the questions about magical ethics, regional distinction, and social dynamics for sorcerors and their communities all make for good intellectual fodder, even if Lee’s conclusions about such things seem, well, strange. I do hope that others will read this book as well and that Gandee’s place in the pantheon of American magicians might receive a restoration of sorts. What he manages to accomplish in this book is far different than any magical how-to manual, because Strange Experience highlights the humanity of a man with feet in two worlds, belonging to none.

Thanks for reading,
-Cory

Podcast 73 – Protection Magic

January 26, 2015

Podcast 73 – Protection Magic

Summary:
We begin 2015 wih a look at protection spells, as well as some talismans of interest. We also have an adorable background guest star visitng us.
Play:
Download: New World Witchery – Episode 73

-Sources-
Books mentioned include: James & the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl; The Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells, by Judika Illes; and Earth Power, by Scott Cunningham

Some of the various protective charms and talismans we discuss include: horsehoes, silver (including Mercury dimes), salt, iron, evil eye beads, the ojo de dios/God’s eye, dreamcatchers, gargoyles, the rowan cross, the SATOR and Abracadabra charms, and High John root.

I mention (and recommend) the Sweet Dreams oil from Mrs. Oddly

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us or leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!
Don’t forget to follow us at Twitter! And check out our Facebook page!
Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.

Promos:

  1. Lakefront Pagan Voice
  2. Betwixt & Between

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