Blog Post 25 – A Little Nonsense Now and Then…

Hi all,

I don’t have anything deep or profound to share today, just a little bit of silliness I thought some of you might enjoy.  For those unfamiliar with the 1970’s horror film The Wicker Man, it’s chock-full of Pagan-y goodness.  Add to that the loveable felt-and-plastic characters from The Muppets, and you get, well…something very strange.

But very funny.  To me anyway.  Here, see for yourself:

http://issuu.com/soundofdrowning/docs/muppetwickerman

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 24 – Book Review

Hello everyone,

So today I’d like to offer a review of a book I’ve cited several times on the blog already, Richard Dorson’s Buying the Wind.  It’s a book of folklore divided by region and focusing on the different stories, beliefs, and practices of those who inhabit those regions.  The regions he covers are broken down as follows:

  • Maine Down-Easters
  • Pennsylvania Dutchmen
  • Southern Mountaineers
  • Louisiana Cajuns
  • Illinois Egyptians
  • Southwest Mexicans
  • Utah Mormons

Each section then goes into further detail regarding the specific folklore of the regional group examined.  For example, under Southwest Mexicans, there is a section called “Proverbios” which contains the bits of folk wisdom like:

Dar atole con el dedo.

“To give gruel with the finger.”  (To deceive with words or acts, especially to deceive one’s husband).

Entre menos burros, mas olotes.

“The fewer donkeys, the more cobs.”  (The fewer, the better…corncobs, dried as well as green, are given burros to eat).

And under Louisiana Cajuns, in the section “Riddles,” we find:

What has a tongue and does not speak?  A shoe

What has teeth but does not bite?  A comb

If a man can lift two hundred and fifty barrels of rice when it is not raining, what can he lift during a rain?  An umbrella

Each section has its own unique attributes.  Some have the songs and proverbs of their region, some have stories and even some loose versions of “spells.”  I say loose because they aren’t exactly how-to’s on spellcraft, but provide some information that could be turned into a how-to pretty easily.  For example, the Louisiana Cajuns section has information on Hoodoo, including a tale from one informant who described a luck mojo bag that “was a little bag of linen and it had like nerves and then bones.”  The nerves are from a vulture, and the bones from a snake, which both could be used in a lucky mojo hand (though I’ve never heard of nerves being used, per se, but that’s what makes these accounts so interesting—their variety).

The entire book is loaded with bits of magic like this, as well as stories of witchcraft and magic which, while more fanciful, give insight into what the occult practices of those areas might be.  In the Southern Mountaineers section, for instance, there’s an interesting account of a “witch-ball,” which is a bit of hair, wax, and other substances rolled into a ball and “shot” at a victim to curse them.  I’ve seen similar stories in other books of American folklore, especially based in the Appalachian areas, so it’s interesting to me to see how prominent such a magical tool seems to be in that area, though it is largely forgotten elsewhere.

I learned a great deal from this book—the entire section on Illinois Egyptians, for example, was a revelation to me, and has opened up a whole new area of interest for me regarding New World Witchery.  And the stories, songs, and proverbs are fantastic!  I can’t get enough of the Southern “Jack” tales!

I should point out that Dorson uses the Aarne-Thompson system of folklore classification, which divides tales into various types for ease of cross-referencing.  It is definitely a book aimed at folklorists and not particularly at a wide audience, but I think anyone can get a great deal from reading it.  And it may open up a whole new love of folklore as a field of study for some folks.

I’ve been reading a borrowed copy from my public library, and it’s just about due to go back there, which was going to be a sad loss, as I still find myself referencing Buying the Wind frequently.  But thanks to a generous donation from reader/listener Amber (many, many thanks to her!), we’ll be able to procure a copy for future reference now.  So hooray for Amber!

That’s all for now!  Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 23 – Congratulations!, and Something New

A big congratulations to Anica, who won our Weather Lore contest!  We’ll be getting a copy of Cat Yronwode’s book off to you soon.

Many thanks to all those who entered–we received some fantastic bits of weather lore we’ll be incorporating into an episode sometime in the near future.  We have wonderful readers and listeners, and we greatly appreciate you all!  Keep watching the blog and listening to the show for future contests.

Also, some of you may have noticed we now have a “Donate” button on our site.  While this blog and podcast are now and will remain free, we thought that if any of our fans wanted to chip a couple of bucks our way, we certainly didn’t want to stop them.   Any funds donated will be used to enhance the site or procure research materials for future New World Witchery posts and podcasts.  Please don’t feel obligated to donate, of course, but we will welcome any support offered.

Also, if you’re a magical merchant or author and you’re interested in sending us a sample of your craft/work for use as a contest prize, please contact us at compassandkey@gmail.com.

Again, many thanks to all of our wonderful readers and listeners!  You really have made us feel immensely loved so far!  We’ve got some really tremendous surprises coming in the near future, so stay tuned!

All the best,

-Cory

Blog Post 22 – Thank You to All Contest Entrants!

This is just a quick thank you to everyone who participated in our Weather Lore giveaway! We got some wonderful bits of lore we’ll be bringing you in the near future. The contest is closed now, and we should have a winner to announce this week (depending on when Laine and I can get together to do the hat-drawing ceremony). Again, many thanks to our readers and listeners!

All the best, and be well!

-Cory

Blog Post 21– Final Call for Contest Entries!

Hi everyone!

Only a little less than three days left in our first-ever contest!  We’re giving a copy of Cat Yronwode’s Hoodoo Root & Herb Magic to one randomly chosen reader/listener who provides us with a little bit of weather folk lore from his or her family or region.  All you have to do is email us or leave a comment on Blog Post 10 – Weather Work with your general area (you can say “South” or “East Coast” if you like) and a tidbit about what folks say about the weather in your neck of the woods.  The deadline is February 28th at midnight, Central Time, so please get your submissions in before then.  We’ll be using these entries for a podcast on weather magic and folklore, so please write in!

Good luck!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 20 – Planting by the Signs, Practicum

Thank you for your patience, dear readers.  Today, we have a practical walkthrough for planting by the signs.

The crops: Potatoes, tomatoes, and beans
Starting date: 1 March 2010
Planting zone: 6

I include the planting zone because this version of planting by the signs will depend a little on frost-free dates.  Whatever the last frost free date is for your zone, you’ll want to use that as your guideline.  Everything I am about to explain is based on my area’s frost-free date around the 1st of April.

And we’re off!

Date(s): March 18-19, 23-24
Action(s): Plant sprouting seeds (tomatoes and beans) indoors in greenhouse, or sunny window pots.
Why: Taurus, Cancer, and Pisces are three of the best signs for planting, particularly above-ground crops.  While March 13-14th does have the moon entering Pisces, it’s also the tail end of a waning moon, which can inhibit growth.  Instead, the waxing first quarter on the 18-19th when the moon enters Taurus ensures sprouting in a fruitful, moist sign with a healthy increasing moon to encourage growth.  The 23-24th would also be reasonable for a later start to planting, when the moon is in Cancer and a waxing 3rd quarter.

Date(s): March 20-21, 27-28
Action(s): Cultivate, till, clear weeds.
Why?: The barren signs—Aries, Gemini, Leo, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Aquarius—are best for cultivating the soil, as planting during these times leads to less fruitful yields or no growth at all.  Because I will likely be sprouting seeds on the 18-19th, I like to prep the soil soon afterwards. True, the moon is waxing and almost full, so it might be better to wait until a dark moon/new moon to do so, but that would lead to a later planting, which I don’t want.   Cultivating the soil is less affected by the moon than planting is, so it’s less of a worry to me what phase the moon is in.

Date(s): April 5-6, 10-11
Action(s): Plant potatoes.
Why?:  The best sign for planting potatoes is Capricorn, a dry, productive Earth sign.  The moon enters Capricorn on the 5-6th, so that is a good time to plant them, but it is also worth paying attention to the moon phase here.  It’s only in its 3rd quarter, which isn’t the best for potatoes.  The “old” moon, or fourth quarter right before the new moon, is a great time for planting root crops (and also for gathering them, but we’ll get to that).  On the 10-11th, the moon is “old” and the sign is Pisces, which is good for planting in general, and especially for root growth.  Yes, I know I said a waning moon in Pisces was not great for growth just a bit ago, but that was for my sprouting crops.  My root crops should do just fine.

Date(s): April 15-16, 20-21, 28
Action(s): Transplant sprouts (if big enough) into garden bed.  Make sure you are past your frost-free date for this, and if your sprouts aren’t big enough, wait a few weeks before transplanting.  Check root growth before planting, too.  Beans will likely be ready by now, but tomatoes may have to wait a while.
Why?: The best signs for planting and transplanting are Taurus, Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio.  Pisces, as we noted with potatoes, is in a waning moon however, so I ruled those dates out for planting.  Taurus is a great sign for planting and comes right as the moon begins waxing on the 15-16th, so that’s a great time to plant.  The 20-21st is ruled by Cancer, and is another good planting time with a waxing moon.  The 28th is a full moon in Scorpio, and probably the best day for transplanting tomatoes (sturdy vines like Scorpio for some reason).

Date(s): May 13-14, 17-18, 26-27
Action(s): Transplant sprouts if they weren’t big enough in April.
Why?: This is the same progression of signs (Taurus, Cancer, Scorpio) from April, with the same waxing-to-full moon phase pattern.

From here, it could get a bit tangled if I tried to keep explaining individual plantings the way I have been, because germination times are going to vary.  Most plants will be fruiting between 60-90 days, but that’s still a big window, and you will likely continue to have growth after the initial fruiting (if you live in a zone with 200+ growing days like me, you hopefully will get at least two good harvests).   So what I’m going to do next is describe a specific activity (such as pruning, harvesting fruit, harvesting roots, etc.) and give you a date along with the sign.  If you want a good description of each of the signs individually and why I’ve selected the dates I have, a concise description of moon signs and their properties can be found here.  I put information on New and Full Moons where I can, but you may need to look up at the sky a few times before making decisions about harvesting.

Weeding (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Aquarius)
June – 2-3 (Aquarius), 6-7 (Aries), 11-12 (Gemini), 15-17 (Leo), 28-29 (Aquarius)
July – 3-4 (Aries), 8-9 (Gemini), 12-13 (Leo), 25-27 (Aquarius)
August – 1 (Aries), 4-5 (Gemini), 8-9 (Leo), 21-23 (Aquarius), 27-28 (Aries)
September – 1-2(Gemini), 5-6 (Leo), 18-9 (Aquarius), 23-24 (Aries), 28-29 (Gemini)

Fertilizing (Capricorn)
June – 25-27 (Full Moon on 26th)
July – 23-24
August – 19-20

Harvesting Fruit (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Aquarius) (Full-to-Waning Moons are best for harvesting)
June – 2-3 (Aquarius), 6-7 (Aries), 11-12 (Gemini), 15-17 (Leo), 28-29 (Aquarius)
July – 3-4 (Aries), 8-9 (Gemini), 12-13 (Leo), 25-27 (Aquarius, Full Moon on 25th)
August – 1 (Aries), 4-5 (Gemini), 8-9 (Leo), 21-23 (Aquarius), 27-28 (Aries)
September – 1-2(Gemini), 5-6 (Leo), 18-9 (Aquarius), 23-24 (Aries, Full Moon on 24th), 28-29 (Gemini)

Harvesting Roots/Tubers (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Aquarius) (Waning-to-New Moons are best for harvesting)
June – 2-3 (Aquarius), 6-7 (Aries), 11-12 (Gemini), 15-17 (Leo), 28-29 (Aquarius)
July – 3-4 (Aries), 8-9 (Gemini), 12-13 (Leo), 25-27 (Aquarius)
August – 1 (Aries), 4-5 (Gemini), 8-9 (Leo, New Moon on 9th), 21-23 (Aquarius), 27-28 (Aries)
September – 1-2(Gemini), 5-6 (Leo), 18-19 (Aquarius), 23-24 (Aries), 28-29 (Gemini)

There are all sorts of other aspects of this that I could go into, such as when to can, when to plant herbs, etc.  If there’s enough interest in this topic, I might do more on it, but for now, this should give you a fairly solid overview of the process as it would happen this year.

The signs don’t just affect planting and harvesting, by the way.  Seasonal hunting, fishing, and building projects can be coordinated astrologically, and there are lots of healing techniques and beliefs associated with specific signs.  Maybe someday I’ll get around to writing about those, but for now I hope you’ve enjoyed this little discourse on planting by the signs.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 19 – More on Folk Astrology and Gardening

I know I’ve promised a walkthrough of a sign-based planting, and that is still coming, but I thought that today it might be good to provide a couple of quotes and citations regarding just who practices this astrological agriculture.

These practices tended to be broadly found, and not relegated to just one or two American magical systems.  There are slight variances between regions, but that could also have less to do with the magical system in place and much more to do with local climate, latitude, and longitude in relation to the stars.

In the southern hills of Appalachia, one Mary “Granny” Cabe is noted to have been quite skilled with astrology and planting.  Foxfire interviewers tell how she “[p]atiently, with the use of several calendars…explained its [planting by the signs] basic principles and gave us several of the rules” (Foxfire p. 221).  She did more than describe the general system, however.  She also explained how specific plants fared in relation to astrological changes:

“’Take taters.  On th’ dark of th’ moon or th’ old of th’ moon—that’s th’ last quarter,’ she explained, ‘they make less vine; and on th’ light of th’ moon they makes more vine and less tater…Don’t plant in th’ flowers [the sign of Virgo, often seen as a virgin bearing flowers].  A plant blooms itself to death and th’ blooms falls off” (p. 221)

There were also many people in the Appalachians who didn’t believe in this method of planting.  The interviewers record that these were mostly “educated people…[with] college degrees, and held positions of great respect in the community” (p. 225).  One informant makes the excellent point that “if someone’s going to be careful enough to plant by the signs and watch and harvest the crop that carefully, then the chances are he will have a good crop, regardless” (p.225).  Still, the stories persist and the practice of planting by the signs continues in the mountains and hills around that area even now.  The Appalachian heritage blog The Blind Pig and the Acorn records its author’s attempt at sign-planting and several of his commenters speak of doing so, too.

Gerald Milnes, in his Signs, Cures, and Witchery, also discusses planting by the signs in the northern parts of Appalachia and Pennsylvania-Dutch territory:

“Astrologic traditions still exist as more than just quaint curiosities among Appalachian people.  It is noted that these practices declined within English society and in New England before the Revolution.  New England’s almanac makers were under withering attack, religious condemnation, and mockery by the mid-seventeenth century, but over three centuries later continued folk practice based on this cosmology is still easy to ascertain” (Milnes, Signs, Cures, & Witchery, p.32).

Milnes makes the case that much of this preservation of astrological folk culture had to do with the availability of almanacs (he also points out one I completely forgot to mention yesterday, but which is supposed to be excellent for New England climes:  Gruber’s).  Many of these almanacs are the same ones which helped preserve the Pow-wow magic I’ve spoken about in previous posts.

Lest you think the phenomenon of sign-planting is relegated to the Appalachian Mountains, here are a few quotes from Pennsylvania-Dutch planting lore:

“Plant peas and potatoes in the increase of the moon”
“If trees are to sprout again they should be felled at the increase of the moon”
“When sowing radish seed say: as long as my arm and as big as my ass”
-(Dorson, Buying the Wind, pp.124-125)

Okay, so that last one wasn’t really about planting by the signs, but it’s fun anyway.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 18 – Planting by the Signs, an Introduction

What makes the cornfields glad; beneath what star it befits to upturn the ground…and clasp the vine to her elm; the tending of oxen and the charge of the keeper of a flock; and all the skill of thrifty bees; of this will I begin to sing.

-Virgil, Georgics, Book I

Spring is just around the corner, and so my mind naturally turns to gardening.  I love the process of gardening—planting, harvesting, & canning and freezing everything from my vegetable and fruit garden; seeing my herbs grow from seed and sprout into gorgeous greenery; and seeing and smelling flowers as they bloom through the warm days and nights of the year.

There’s a long-standing relationship between magic and gardening.  One need only look to texts like Culpepper’s Herbal or the Anglo-Saxon poem of the nine sacred herbs to see that.  I think it’s something about the alchemy of turning seeds and dirt into food and flowers that seems like the simplest and purest kind of magic.

At any rate, I’m waxing poetic here, and I’m sure you’re wondering just what I’m getting at.  Well, today (and this week) I’m going to be exploring the phenomenon of “planting by the signs.”  This astro-agricultural practice is not unique to the New World, true.  Even the great Roman poet, Virgil, devoted an entire text to it, the Georgics, quoted at the beginning of this post.  But it was a tremendously important way of life for people from the Appalachians to the Mississippi, and really throughout most of North America.

The basic process of this practice involves calculating planetary hours and moon phases, and then using those as guidelines regarding which plants to put in the ground and at what time and day.  Each day of the month is ruled by a specific zodiac sign, and falls within a waxing, waning, new, full, or old moon.  Some signs are considered “fruitful” and others “barren.”  There’s an excellent overview of these characteristics and their daily correspondences at http://www.thealmanack.com/moonsign.htm.   The first book in the Foxfire series has a great article on this topic, as well as a great chart for understanding planting signs.

Some of the rules governing sign-based planting are as follows:

  • Planting is best done in the fruitful signs of Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, or Cancer
  • Plow, till, and cultivate in Aries
  • Never plant anything in one of the barren signs.  They are good only for trimming, deadening, and destroying.
  • Gather root crops in the last quarter of the moon
  • Harvest most crops when the moon is growing old.
  • Dig root crops for seed in the third quarter of the moon

(Examples taken from Foxfire 1)

There are other astrological correspondences as well, governing things like weaning children, hatching eggs, slaughtering livestock, etc.  But for the time being, I’m just going to focus on the vegetative side of this phenomenon.

The one tool (other than a plow, shovel, etc.) that a witch planting by the signs would need is a good almanac.  The one linked above (and also here) is a good one, though many prefer to get an almanac they can hold in their hands.  Some of the recommended almanacs are:
Grier’s Almanac – Continuously published since 1807, this one is very useful for Southerners.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac – A little harder to read and stuffed with ads, but it has some good info and it’s easy to find.
The Waterman & Hill-Traveler’s Companion, a Natural Almanac – Anything with a title this long is going to be full of interesting tidbits.  Sadly, it seems to have ceased production in 2007 due to the death of its founder, but it’s possible it may yet come back someday.

Another great resource for this is your local co-op.  A lot of times they will have local almanacs, or at least fliers and leaflets about regional planting practices, often related to sign-based planting.  Check out  your area feed store or co-op for more information.

If you want to refine your planting even further, you can determine the correct hour for planting by determining the ruling sign of that part of the day or night.  I’m borrowing from my friend Oraia here and recommending the Renaissance Astrology Page for determining that information.

I’ll try to put together a nice, detailed walkthrough example of this type of planting for later in the week, but for now this should give you a good starting point.  If you have any stories of planting by the signs, I’d love to hear them!

Be well, and thanks for reading!

-Cory

Podcast 4 – Defining “Witches” and an Interview with Juniper and Dr. Brendan Myers

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 4-

Summary

In this show, we spend some time trying to pin down that elusive word, “witch,” and figure out just what makes a person fit that term.  Then, in the second half of the show we have an excellent pair of guests, Dr. Brendan Myers and Juniper from the Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow.  Plus, we have a reminder about our current weather-lore contest.

Play:

Download: New World Witchery – Episode 4

-Sources-


Websites
From our guests:
The Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow – The podcast for thinking pagans and working witches.
Walking the Hedge – Juniper’s excellent hedgewitchery site
Walking the Hedge Blog – The ramblings and wanderings of a Canadian hedgewitch
Dr. Brendan Myers’ website – Pagan philosophy, essays on various topics, and all around good intellectual fun.
Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1-The Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow
Promo 2- Media Astra ac Terra