Episode 209 – American Spiritual Renaissance with Thea Wirsching

We dig into North American history and examine the 19th century period known as the “American Renaissance” with scholar, astrologer, and author Thea Wirsching

Summary: We dig into North American history and examine the 19th century period known as the “American Renaissance” with scholar, astrologer, and author Thea Wirsching. Come explore the legacy of figures like Paschal Beverly Randolph, Herman Melville, and the Fox Sisters as we look at the spiritual and magical sides of this era.

Please check out our Patreon page! You can help support the show for as little as a dollar a month, and get some awesome rewards at the same time. Even if you can’t give, spread the word and let others know, and maybe we can make New World Witchery even better than it is now.

Producer for this show: This episode is supported by listener Jennifer C. Your unwavering support earns you the honorary title of Wicked (and Wonderful) Witch of the New World Witchery Burned Over District. Thanks to Jennifer for your support of this episode and for your ongoing support of New World Witchery.

Play: Episode 209 – American Spiritual Renaissance with Thea Wirsching

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You can find Thea Wirsching’s work via her websites, The Pluto Babe and The American Renaissance Tarot. You can also order The American Renaissance Tarot online or through your local bookstore. She also has a chapter on Pamela Coleman Smith in the Palgrave Library of Esoterica: Essays on Women in Esotericism book.

We talk about a LOT of books this episode! Some to check out include:

You can now buy Cory’s book, New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic! (also available from Amazon)

Please note that clicking on links may provide some monetary compensation to New World Witchery.

Image via Pixabay (Used under CC 2.0 License, modified by New World Witchery)

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us at compassandkey@gmail.com or newworldwitcherypodcast@gmail.com or leave a comment at the website: www.newworldwitchery.com . 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 are also on TikTok now. You can follow us on Instagram (main account, or you can follow Laine as well) or check out our new YouTube channel with back episodes of the podcast and new “Everyday Magic” videos, too (as well as most of our contest announcements)! Have something you want to say? Leave us a voice mail on our official NWW hotline: (442) 999-4824 (that’s 442-99-WITCH, if it helps).

Promos and Music: Title music is “Woman Blues,” by Paul Avgerinos. All music is licensed from Audio Socket. Additional music includes songs by Human Factor and Randall Crisman, all licensed from Audio Socket. Some additional music by Kevin Macleod, used under a CC 2.0 Attribution license (via FreeMusicArchive).

Please consider supporting us by purchasing our promotional items in the New World Witchery Threadless shop or by joining our Patreon supporters.

If you like us AND you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will love our new show: Myth Taken: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Podcast, now available through all the podcatchers! Please think about checking out our Audible Trial program. Visit Audibletrial.com/newworldwitchery to get your free trial of Audible, where you can download over 180,000 titles (including some narrated by Cory). Your purchases help support this show, and there’s no obligation to continue after the free trial

Special Episode – Folk Magician’s Notebook – February 2022

Summary:
This time we look at all those peas and beans in our moon calendar, talk about the Aces of Cups and Hearts, and spend some time watching critters to tell us about the weather. We also hear a set of folk legends about St. Brigid of Ireland, and talk about making protective cross amulets for the home!
Please check out our Patreon page! You can help support the show for as little as a dollar a month, and get some awesome rewards at the same time. Even if you can’t give, spread the word and let others know, and maybe we can make New World Witchery even better than it is now.
Producers for this show:
Abby, Achija Branvin Sionach, AromaG’s Botanica, AthenaBeth, Andrea, Bagga Marsh, Benjamin, Breanna, Carol, Carole, Catherine, Cheryl, Christopher, Colby, ConjuredCardea, Daniel, Dave, Don, Donna, Elizabeth, Eveline, Erin, Fergus, Griffin, Heather, Jamie, Jen Rue of Rue & Hyssop, Jess, Jenna, Jennifer, Jodi, John, Jonathan at the ModernSouthernPolytheist, Kat, Kee, Kristopher, Liz, Mark, Marisa, Matthew Venus of Spiritus Arcanum, Milo, Minimiel, Montine of Book of My Shadows, , Nikki, Payton, Sara, Scarlet Pirate, Sherry, Staci, Stephanie, Ralph from the Holle’s Haven Podcast, Vee, Victoria & Keifel of 1000 Volt Press, Violet, and WisdomQueen (if we missed you this episode, we’ll make sure you’re in the next one!). Big thanks to everyone supporting us!
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We highly recommend that you find an almanac or lunar-oriented datebook to help you with planning out your own magical year. Some we can recommend:

Our tales for the month are three legends about St. Brigid, from collections by Lady Gregory (and found in Henry Glassie’s Irish Folktales)

You can read more about groundhogs and folklore on our website, too!

You can now buy Cory’s book, New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic! (also available from Amazon)

Image via Pixabay (CC 2.0)

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us at compassandkey@gmail.com or newworldwitcherypodcast@gmail.com or leave a comment at the website: www.newworldwitchery.com . 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 are also on TikTok now. You can follow us on Instagram (main account, or you can follow Laine as well) or check out our new YouTube channel with back episodes of the podcast and new “Everyday Magic” videos, too (as well as most of our contest announcements)! Have something you want to say? Leave us a voice mail on our official NWW hotline: (442) 999-4824 (that’s 442-99-WITCH, if it helps).

Promos and Music:

Title and closing music are “Runaround (AM Radio),” by Aaron Solomon, and is licensed from Audio Socket. Additional music includes “Prayer from Lemuria” by Paul Summerlin and “Diem” by Jonathan Headly. All music licensed from Audio Socket.

Sound effects from Freesound.org and in the Public Domain.

Please consider supporting us by purchasing our promotional items in the New World Witchery Threadless shop or by joining our Patreon supporters.

If you like us AND you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will love our new show: Myth Taken: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Podcast, now available through all the podcatchers! You can also check out Cory’s folklore show, Chasing Foxfire, where he explores the intersection of folklore and topics like history, medicine, science, nature, literature, pop culture, and more!

Please think about checking out our Audible Trial program. Visit Audibletrial.com/newworldwitchery to get your free trial of Audible, where you can download over 180,000 titles (including some narrated by Cory). Your purchases help support this show, and there’s no obligation to continue after the free trial

Episode 203 – Dabbling in Witchcraft with Don Martin

Summary:
We begin 2022 by chatting with Don Martin, author of the book The Dabbler’s Guide to Witchcraft (published under the pen name Fire Lyte). Don talks about social media and magical spirituality, the value of skepticism, and the role of popular culture in spiritual spaces.
Please check out our Patreon page! You can help support the show for as little as a dollar a month, and get some awesome rewards at the same time. Even if you can’t give, spread the word and let others know, and maybe we can make New World Witchery even better than it is now.
Producer for this show:
Our Patreon supporter for this episode is Chris D. Thank you Chris for sticking with us and keeping us going strong, and for that we’re going to give you the honorific of official King Cake Baby-Finder for New World Witchery. Here’s hoping that brings you good luck, and that you don’t mind making the King Cake next year. Thank you for your support of this episode and for your ongoing support of New World Witchery.

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You can check out Don’s book, The Dabbler’s Guide to Witchcraft, as well as his poetry collections The Playground and While I Wait to be a God Again. You can also subscribe to his podcast Head on Fire (formerly the Inciting a Riot podcast).

You can now buy Cory’s book, New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic! (also available from Amazon)

Please note that clicking on links may provide some monetary compensation to New World Witchery.

Image via Pixabay (Used under CC 2.0 License, modified by New World Witchery)

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us at compassandkey@gmail.com or newworldwitcherypodcast@gmail.com or leave a comment at the website: www.newworldwitchery.com . 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 are also on TikTok now. You can follow us on Instagram (main account, or you can follow Laine as well) or check out our new YouTube channel with back episodes of the podcast and new “Everyday Magic” videos, too (as well as most of our contest announcements)! Have something you want to say? Leave us a voice mail on our official NWW hotline: (442) 999-4824 (that’s 442-99-WITCH, if it helps).

Promos and Music:

Title music is “Woman Blues,” by Paul Avgerinos. All music is licensed from Audio Socket. Incidental music is Jonathan Headley, “Diem” licensed from Audio Socket, and “Brushed Bells Leaving Home,” by Daniel Burch, used under a CC 2.0 license from the Free Music Archive.

Please consider supporting us by purchasing our promotional items in the New World Witchery Threadless shop or by joining our Patreon supporters.

If you like us AND you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will love our new show: Myth Taken: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Podcast, now available through all the podcatchers!

Please think about checking out our Audible Trial program. Visit Audibletrial.com/newworldwitchery to get your free trial of Audible, where you can download over 180,000 titles (including some narrated by Cory). Your purchases help support this show, and there’s no obligation to continue after the free trial

Special Episode – Folk Magician’s Notebook – January 2022

Summary:
We launch the first in a monthly series of posts that will take a peek at folk magical influences for the coming lunation. We look at moon phases and signs, divination, a proverb and folktale of the month, and a practical craft or charm to try out! In January 2022 we talk about pest control and roots (both literal and metaphorical) in our lunar cycle, look at the Ace of Diamonds and the Ace of Swords (as well as the “Twelve Days” folk fortune-telling practice for weather in the coming year), hear a Slavic tale called “The Twelve Months,” and discuss eating your luck!
Please check out our Patreon page! You can help support the show for as little as a dollar a month, and get some awesome rewards at the same time. Even if you can’t give, spread the word and let others know, and maybe we can make New World Witchery even better than it is now.
Producers for this show:
Abby, Achija Branvin Sionach, AromaG’s Botanica, AthenaBeth, Andrea, Bagga Marsh, Benjamin, Breanna, Carol, Carole, Catherine, Cheryl, Christopher, Colby, ConjuredCardea, Daniel, Dave, Don, Donna, Elizabeth, Eveline, Erin, Fergus, Griffin, Heather, Jamie, Jen Rue of Rue & Hyssop, Jess, Jenna, Jennifer, Jodi, John, Jonathan at the ModernSouthernPolytheist, Kat, Kee, Kristopher, Liz, Mark, Marisa, Matthew Venus of Spiritus Arcanum, Milo, Minimiel, Montine of Book of My Shadows, , Nikki, Payton, Sara, Scarlet Pirate, Sherry, Staci, Stephanie, Ralph from the Holle’s Haven Podcast, Vee, Victoria & Keifel of 1000 Volt Press, Violet, and WisdomQueen (if we missed you this episode, we’ll make sure you’re in the next one!). Big thanks to everyone supporting us!
Play:
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We highly recommend that you find an almanac or lunar-oriented datebook to help you with planning out your own magical year. Some we can recommend:

Our tale for the month is “The Twelve Months,” from Czech folklore.

You can read more about eating your luck at our website, too!

You can now buy Cory’s book, New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic! (also available from Amazon)

Image via Pixabay (CC 2.0)

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us at compassandkey@gmail.com or newworldwitcherypodcast@gmail.com or leave a comment at the website: www.newworldwitchery.com . 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 are also on TikTok now. You can follow us on Instagram (main account, or you can follow Laine as well) or check out our new YouTube channel with back episodes of the podcast and new “Everyday Magic” videos, too (as well as most of our contest announcements)! Have something you want to say? Leave us a voice mail on our official NWW hotline: (442) 999-4824 (that’s 442-99-WITCH, if it helps).

Promos and Music:

Title and closing music are “Runaround (AM Radio),” by Aaron Solomon, and is licensed from Audio Socket. Additional music includes “Prayer from Lemuria” by Paul Summerlin and “Diem” by Jonathan Headly. All music licensed from Audio Socket.

Sound effects from Freesound.org and in the Public Domain.

Please consider supporting us by purchasing our promotional items in the New World Witchery Threadless shop or by joining our Patreon supporters.

If you like us AND you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will love our new show: Myth Taken: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Podcast, now available through all the podcatchers! You can also check out Cory’s folklore show, Chasing Foxfire, where he explores the intersection of folklore and topics like history, medicine, science, nature, literature, pop culture, and more!

Please think about checking out our Audible Trial program. Visit Audibletrial.com/newworldwitchery to get your free trial of Audible, where you can download over 180,000 titles (including some narrated by Cory). Your purchases help support this show, and there’s no obligation to continue after the free trial

Episode 201 – Year of the Witch with Temperance Alden

Summary:
We chat with author and witch Temperance Alden about her book, the cycles of bioregional animistic life, blood magic, bread, and so much more!
Please check out our Patreon page! You can help support the show for as little as a dollar a month, and get some awesome rewards at the same time. Even if you can’t give, spread the word and let others know, and maybe we can make New World Witchery even better than it is now.
Producer for this show:
Our Patreon supporter for this episode is Holle’s Haven Podcast. If you’re interested in Pennsylvania German folk magic and Heathen spirituality, this Urglaawe-based podcast is right up your alley! Come spend some time learning about lore, Butzemann, Erwicher Yeager, and lots more! You’ll have a good time yet, for sure! Our immense appreciation goes out to Ralph at Holle’s Haven, and to all of our listeners and supporters!

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We highly recommend Temp’s book, Year of the Witch, and you should also check her out on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube as well. She has a website, Wildwoman Witchcraft, and a podcast we think you’d like, too, called FolkCraft.

You can now buy Cory’s book, New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic! (also available from Amazon)

Please note that clicking on links may provide some monetary compensation to New World Witchery.

Image via Pixabay (Used under CC 2.0 License, modified by New World Witchery)

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us at compassandkey@gmail.com or newworldwitcherypodcast@gmail.com or leave a comment at the website: www.newworldwitchery.com . 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 are also on TikTok now. You can follow us on Instagram (main account, or you can follow Laine as well) or check out our new YouTube channel with back episodes of the podcast and new “Everyday Magic” videos, too (as well as most of our contest announcements)! Have something you want to say? Leave us a voice mail on our official NWW hotline: (442) 999-4824 (that’s 442-99-WITCH, if it helps).

Promos and Music:

Title music is “Woman Blues,” by Paul Avgerinos. All music is licensed from Audio Socket. Incidental music is Jonathan Headley, “Diem” and Richard Ames, “Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1” both licensed from Audio Socket.

Please consider supporting us by purchasing our promotional items in the New World Witchery Threadless shop or by joining our Patreon supporters.

If you like us AND you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will love our new show: Myth Taken: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Podcast, now available through all the podcatchers!

Please think about checking out our Audible Trial program. Visit Audibletrial.com/newworldwitchery to get your free trial of Audible, where you can download over 180,000 titles (including some narrated by Cory). Your purchases help support this show, and there’s no obligation to continue after the free trial

Episode 200 – Folk Magic in Court

Summary:
We hexed the law and the law…turned into a lot of Disney references? We look at the history of witchcraft and the law in North America, a variety of court case workings, and discuss spells that keep one far away from the long arm of the law. Plus our monthly card reading and a listener email about a crafty and creative mirror box!
Please check out our Patreon page! You can help support the show for as little as a dollar a month, and get some awesome rewards at the same time. Even if you can’t give, spread the word and let others know, and maybe we can make New World Witchery even better than it is now.
Producer for this show:
Our Patreon supporter for this episode is listener Jamie, whom we have deigned our official Witches’ Tribunal Bailiff (which also makes them liable for wrangling any and all flying monkeys). Our immense appreciation goes out to Jamie, and to all of our listeners and supporters!

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We call order in the court by talking about a few different books. Cory discusses the history of witchcraft and its legal entanglements based on material in historian Owen Davies’ America Bewitched as well as David Hall’s Worlds of Wonder Days of Judgment. We also get into court case workings found in Judika Illes’ Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells and Backwoods Witchcraft by Jake Richards, too. (As well as mentioning a few of the examples from Cory’s book, of course)

You can now buy Cory’s book, New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic! (also available from Amazon)

Please note that clicking on links may provide some monetary compensation to New World Witchery.

Image via Pixabay (Used under CC 2.0 License, modified by New World Witchery)

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us at compassandkey@gmail.com or newworldwitcherypodcast@gmail.com or leave a comment at the website: www.newworldwitchery.com . 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 are also on TikTok now. You can follow us on Instagram (main account, or you can follow Laine as well) or check out our new YouTube channel with back episodes of the podcast and new “Everyday Magic” videos, too (as well as most of our contest announcements)! Have something you want to say? Leave us a voice mail on our official NWW hotline: (442) 999-4824 (that’s 442-99-WITCH, if it helps).

Promos and Music:

Title music is “Woman Blues,” by Paul Avgerinos. All music is licensed from Audio Socket.

Please consider supporting us by purchasing our promotional items in the New World Witchery Threadless shop or by joining our Patreon supporters.

If you like us AND you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will love our new show: Myth Taken: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Podcast, now available through all the podcatchers!

Please think about checking out our Audible Trial program. Visit Audibletrial.com/newworldwitchery to get your free trial of Audible, where you can download over 180,000 titles (including some narrated by Cory). Your purchases help support this show, and there’s no obligation to continue after the free trial

Episode 197 – Witchy Wildcrafting with JD Walker

Summary:
We venture out into the wild unknown (and our own backyards) with author, Master Gardener, and landscape engineer JD Walker to look at the role of wildcrafting and using local flora in our magical practices.
Please check out our Patreon page! You can help support the show for as little as a dollar a month, and get some awesome rewards at the same time. Even if you can’t give, spread the word and let others know, and maybe we can make New World Witchery even better than it is now.
Producer for this show:
Our Patreon supporter for this episode is the brilliant Achija Branvin Sionach, who also does some stellar bookbinding work over on his page SpellBound Bookbinding. Our immense appreciation goes out to Achija, and to all of our listeners and supporters!

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Cory can HIGHLY recommend JD Walker’s book, A Witch’s Guide to Wildcraft, out now.

We also mention the books Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs and Entangled Life, by Merlin Sheldrake. Cory also recommends following Alexis Nikole, aka The Black Forager on Instagram and TikTok.

You can now buy Cory’s book, New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic! (also available from Amazon)

Image via Canva (Used under Distribution License)

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us at compassandkey@gmail.com or newworldwitcherypodcast@gmail.com or leave a comment at the website: www.newworldwitchery.com . 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 are also on TikTok now. You can follow us on Instagram (main account, or you can follow Laine as well) or check out our new YouTube channel with back episodes of the podcast and new “Everyday Magic” videos, too (as well as most of our contest announcements)! Have something you want to say? Leave us a voice mail on our official NWW hotline: (442) 999-4824 (that’s 442-99-WITCH, if it helps).

Promos and Music:

Title music is “Woman Blues,” by Paul Avgerinos. Incidental music is “The Devil’s Son,” by The Widow’s Bane and “Country Go Slow,” by Studio Nine Productions, and all music is licensed from Audio Socket.

Please consider supporting us by purchasing our promotional items in the New World Witchery Threadless shop or by joining our Patreon supporters.

If you like us AND you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will love our new show: Myth Taken: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Podcast, now available through all the podcatchers!

Please think about checking out our Audible Trial program. Visit Audibletrial.com/newworldwitchery to get your free trial of Audible, where you can download over 180,000 titles (including some narrated by Cory). Your purchases help support this show, and there’s no obligation to continue after the free trial

Episode 196 – Letters Lore and More

Summary:
We open a handful of our listener emails from the past few months and answer questions about connecting with spirits, using salt in crossroads workings, finding Irish folklore, and even vampires! Plus we look back at the year so far, talk about our recent Patreon updates, and then do our cards and question of the episode.
Please check out our Patreon page! You can help support the show for as little as a dollar a month, and get some awesome rewards at the same time. Even if you can’t give, spread the word and let others know, and maybe we can make New World Witchery even better than it is now.
Image of episode cover featuring a quill and parchment with the words Episode 196 Letters Lore and More
Producer for this show:
Our Patreon supporter for this episode is the lovely Jen Rue of Rue & Hyssop. Rue & Hyssop is a blog about living an enchanted life—one full of everyday magic, the adventures of a roving witch, and of course lots and lots of books. Jen also offers a variety of wonderful witchy products at her shop Three Cats & a Broom, including some truly enchanting sprays like Rue Water and Florida Water. Our immense appreciation goes out to Jen, and to all of our listeners and supporters!

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The questions we answered this episode came from our listeners! Thank you so much for writing in and sharing your thoughts and ideas with us, and we hope we answered your queries without too much rambling! Please do write in to us if you want to hear from us!

Cory mentions a bunch of resources on learning about Hoodoo in this episode, including podcasts like JujuBae’s A Little Juju and the Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour. There’s a great article called “Hoodoo in America” published by Zora Neale Hurston in the Journal of American Folklore back in the 1930s, too.

Some additional resources for doing research for no or low-cost:

Cory also mentions checking out Morgan Daimler’s work and our interview with them a few months back regarding Irish folklore. For Welsh folklore, Mhara Starling is excellent, and Troy Books is a great source for a number of British Isles-inflected folk witchcraft.

We also bring up our previous episodes on Sex and Magic, Fairies, and our sister podcast Myth-Taken: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Podcast

Cory uses the Portable Fortitude deck this month, by Corina Dross.

You can now buy Cory’s book, New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic! (also available from Amazon)

Image via Canva (Used under Distribution License)

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us at compassandkey@gmail.com or newworldwitcherypodcast@gmail.com or leave a comment at the website: www.newworldwitchery.com . 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 are also on TikTok now. You can follow us on Instagram (main account, or you can follow Laine as well) or check out our new YouTube channel with back episodes of the podcast and new “Everyday Magic” videos, too (as well as most of our contest announcements)! Have something you want to say? Leave us a voice mail on our official NWW hotline: (442) 999-4824 (that’s 442-99-WITCH, if it helps).

Promos and Music:

Title and incidental music is “Woman Blues,” by Paul Avgerinos, and is licensed from Audio Socket.

Please consider supporting us by purchasing our promotional items in the New World Witchery Threadless shop or by joining our Patreon supporters.

If you like us AND you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will love our new show: Myth Taken: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Podcast, now available through all the podcatchers!

Please think about checking out our Audible Trial program. Visit Audibletrial.com/newworldwitchery to get your free trial of Audible, where you can download over 180,000 titles (including some narrated by Cory). Your purchases help support this show, and there’s no obligation to continue after the free trial

Blog Post 230 – Changing Your Luck

Image of silhouetted animals including cat, skunk, and rabbit
Any number of animals crossing one’s path was considered bad luck and required turning around and beginning a journey again. (Image by author (c) 2021).

As we turn the page on the past year (and I think there are plenty of people who would agree that they’re ready to not just turn the page but rip the whole accursed chapter out of the book), I know many of us are going to make resolutions, plan to live a better version of our lives, and do any number of things to improve situations for ourselves and others. That is all well and good, but if there’s one thing that last year seems to have demonstrated time and again, it’s that at a certain level we also are operating at the hands of Fate. Fortunately, if you’re reading this, you probably have an interest in folk magic, and if there’s one point that many branches of folk magic emphasize, it is that Fate is not a fixed, unshakable future, but something that we can influence through enchanted manipulations and the subtle weaving of our intentions through charms, talismans, and other tools.

Today I want to briefly visit a few of the magical ways in which people have sought to change their luck through folk magic in America. Some are focused on very specific forms of luck, such as gambling, while others are much broader. I’ve already written before about ways in which people can “eat their luck,” for example, as we see with widespread practices of consuming specific “good luck” foods on New Year’s Day. Black eyed peas and greens appear in African American and broader Southern traditions. Pork and sauerkraut are a must-have for those in German American communities, such as those of central Pennsylvania. Likewise, many Latinx people consume foods like grapes—one for each of the twelve days following New Year’s Day—as a method of ensuring prosperity and good fortune in the year to come. Some other food-based luck transformations include:

  • Kissing the cook after taking the last piece of bread to avoid having bad luck (Brown 370).
  • Don’t throw away broken dishes but keep them piled in the back yard/back of the house and they will keep you from going hungry (Hyatt 274)
  • Turning plates at the end of the meal before getting up ensures that any bad luck in the room will be reversed so long as everyone does it (but the same lore warns never to turn a plate during a meal, because it allows “the witches [to] partake of the meal” (Brown 370)

Image of salt shaker
Perhaps the best-known food based form of reversal magic comes from the superstition that spilled salt brings bad luck. According to wide-spread folk belief, this is thought to be related to the idea that Judas must have spilled salt during the Last Supper. (Image by author (c)2021)

Perhaps the best-known food based form of reversal magic comes from the superstition that spilled salt brings bad luck. According to wide-spread folk belief, this is thought to be related to the idea that Judas must have spilled salt during the Last Supper (a folk legend not directly recorded in biblical accounts, which only mentions “dipping into the bowl” at the same time as Jesus). The remedies for this failure of luck, however, are wide-ranging, including tossing a pinch of salt over your left shoulder—sometimes to chase away or blind the Devil. Other versions of this reversal say to throw a bit of salt over either shoulder, or even “on the hot stove” (although tossing salt directly in the fire is thought to cause you to become “very angry”) (Brown 372-74). Throwing food away, however, doesn’t seem very lucky, so fortunately there are also beliefs like those found in Britain and parts of North America that say carrying food like potatoes and onions in one’s pockets would reverse bad luck and bring good (Hyatt 25).

Image of Grandpa Simpson telling rambling story about tying an onion to his belt
Beliefs like those found in Britain and parts of North America that say carrying food like potatoes and onions in one’s pockets would reverse bad luck and bring good. So Grandpa Simpson may have been on to something. (Image from “The Simpsons,” (c)Fox Studios).

Beyond the culinary luck-changers, there are a number of other things a person could do to ensure favorable fortune. Gestures and behaviors that might protect one from bad luck and invite good luck include:

  • Catching a caterpillar, keeping it in your home until it hatches, then freeing it when it becomes a moth or butterfly. It should be noted that the lore is very insistent that you not kill the creature in any of its life stages, as that will bring bad luck (Hyatt 30).
  • Frederick Douglass famously carried a root given to him by a conjure man in his pocket as a way to deflect the “misfortune” of abuse by his overseer, a devil of a man named Covey. It’s possible this was a “master root” or even a “John the Conqueror” root (Douglass 111). Douglass later revised his account of this incident, downplaying the role of conjure and rootwork to distance himself from what was seen as a Black stereotype and the “tomfoolery of the ignorant” (Martin 57).
  • A bit of North Carolina lore says that if you have trouble with being a butterfingers and breaking dishware, you can find a shed snake skin and rub your hands with it to remove that condition (Brown 375) 
  • “It is considered lucky to keep a living plant in your bedroom at night” (Hyatt 21) but there are also admonitions that any cut flowers (or plants that are otherwise in the process of decay) should be removed before sleeping in a room to reverse any potential poor luck in health
  • Several sources indicate that you must restart a journey if a black cat crosses your path. Similarly, other black-completed animals such as skunks, rabbits, or squirrels can all require such a turning back and beginning again (Hyatt 53)
  • Related to the turning back is the idea that if you do turn back, you shouldn’t keep going the same day, but wait until the next day to ward off bad luck (this also ties into the belief that you shouldn’t watch someone’s plane take off). You can also wait until the animal crosses the path of another person, which cancels the bad luck (possibly for both of you)
  • Despite their bad rap as path-crossers, black cats can also reverse bad luck. A bit of lore says that stroking the tail of a (strange) black cat seven times is thought to reverse misfortune and bring good luck (Hyatt 54)
  • Snakes also get a bit of a bad reputation in the path-crossing department. Several people describe the ritual of drawing a cross in a snake track if you see it in your path. This is true whether you see the snake that left the tracks or just the tracks themselves. The cross is thought to cancel out the bad luck (and is likely related to the idea of the “cross” from a Christian context acting against the dangerous and “sinful” nature of the snake from the Garden of Eden story (Hyatt 34). A Kentucky variant, however, totally bypasses the snake and instead simply says that you can reverse bad luck by drawing a cross in the dirt and spitting on it (Thomas no. 1032)

Image of a snake
Several people describe the ritual of drawing a cross in a snake track if you see it in your path. (Image by author (c) 2021)

In many of these examples, animals and other living things (like the houseplant—which makes me glad for my spider plants all the more) are the impetus for the luck-changing magic at work, something I’ve also mentioned when writing about the very strange (and often quite racist) lore associated with lucky rabbits’ feet. Similar animal-bone talismans include the jawbone or breastbone of a frog or the familiar wishbone from a bird like a turkey, which can be carried as luck-giving charms.

Beyond the power of various living things to perform misfortune management, there is a whole cadre of lore connected to sharp and pointy things that are able to reverse the curse:

  • Accidentally crossing two knives brings bad luck, and it can only be undone by the person who crossed the knives picking them up again. Similarly, if a person finds a pair of open scissors, they close them right away, or else “she will quarrel with her dearest friend before the moon changes” (Randolph 58).
  • Another remedy from Nova Scotian lore suggests that a person take “nine new needles, put them in a dipper of water, [and] boil until all the water is gone” (Brown v7 108)
  • Finding open pocket knife and picking it up gives you good luck (Hyatt 273)
  • Similarly finding a pin or penny is potentially bad luck but is easily reversed by simply picking it up and carrying it with you (multiple variations found in Brown 437-38). 

Personally I’ve also often commingled this last charm with the belief that a penny found heads up is good luck, which is great until you find a tails-up penny but also need to pick it up. So my own response is to pick up these “bad luck” pennies and turn them over, then set them down on another surface (usually higher up than the ground), so that I fulfill the basic idea of the charm while also not carrying the bad luck with me. Also, in general I’d prefer not to carry change I pick up off the street for health reasons, but that may just be me.

Image of pocket knife
Finding open pocket knife and picking it up gives you good luck. (Image by author (c) 2021)

Of course, you might also be suffering a run of bad luck because of something you did, or something someone else did. For example, you might have snubbed your local witch (a very bad idea) and thus have fallen under a curse. If the bad luck is the result of conjury or witchcraft, visiting the curse-caster’s front steps is a good way to deal with the problem. Several different traditions, but especially Hoodoo, mention remedies such as spitting on the front step, digging some dirt from under it, or leaving the broken charm under the stair (Brown v7 105-6). There are also long-standing beliefs from a number of cultures that implore you to be humble, because speaking too highly of yourself or your luck courts disaster. Speaking of any good fortune you’ve had recently can invite bad luck to follow, unless you knock or “peck” on wood to counteract that effect (Brown v7 167-8). There’s also a great deal of evil eye lore connected to beliefs like this, but that is its own (rather enormous) topic.

Image of nine pins
Nova Scotian lore suggests that a person take “nine new needles, put them in a dipper of water, [and] boil until all the water is gone” to reverse bad luck. (Image by author (c) 2021).
Some of these reversal charms, spells, and beliefs may seem a bit esoteric to us today. Few of us are going around rubbing our hands with snakeskin or collecting piles of broken dishware in our back yards. But knocking on wood has managed to linger on in widespread use, along with a few other very common bits of magic (some of which people perform without ever even thinking of them as “magical”):

  • A bit of lore found in Florida, Alabama, Michigan, Illinois, and more says that in a time of danger a person should cross their fingers to prevent bad luck (Brown v7 169)
  • “The first dollar collected in a new business should be framed for good luck. 
  • (Mary E. Price from Bill Garrett)” (Penrod, New Mexico article). I know I have seen many businesses that do this and put it on display near the cash register or front door, probably not thinking about the idea that it keeps misfortune at bay and invites good financial luck in.
  • Superstitions about sneezing and luck are common, with many believing that wicked spirits or devils are about when someone sneezes. Hence, the “bless you” or its many variants that you might say are a way of reversing any potential harm, bad luck, or evil that might be close by (Brown v7 153). 

You can see that there are a LOT of options when it comes to luck-reversal, then. There are all sorts of ways that a person can cut their losses through magic, and those I’ve mentioned here are just the very tip of the iceberg (or the found pocket knife or pin, perhaps). I’m always interested in seeing what other rituals people have developed in contemporary times to change luck in their favor, too. Like the lore about not watching one’s loved ones off in an airport, newer technologies breed newer folklore and thus newer folk magic. Surely at some point we’ll have lore about reversing the bad luck of playing online casinos or sports betting apps by doing things like opening other apps first (perhaps ensuring that the betting app is the seventh one opened that day or something similar). Perhaps people will buy wooden phone cases so they can knock on wood more easily whenever they feel a streak of bad luck coming on. Or maybe they will have phone charms resembling rabbits or cats or four-leaf clovers to help them. I should also note that this isn’t strictly about gambling, either (and that gambling can be very addictive so please seek help if you’re worried about that getting out of control). As more of our lives move into the ether of online space, or we see technologies like Roombas running around our house, we may develop new responses to all of these things (perhaps we will begin believing that we must leave the room when our iRobot vacuum is cleaning so it doesn’t go under our feet, which would carry forward a belief about not having your feet “swept” from older lore). 

Wherever our life goes in response to new developments, we will likely always retain a little bit of magical thinking about how to make fortune favor us a little bit more. After the year so many of us have just had, I know there were lots of people who warned against the hubris of claiming 2021 as “your year” out of (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) fear that it would somehow invite another 2020 to rear its ugly head. But taking control through these little rituals—carrying a charm or putting a dollar bill up on the wall or even just tending to a little netted cage of butterflies in your home and then releasing them in the wild—this is something we have done for a long time. What magic do you bring to the table to change things for the better? I’d love to know!

Wishing you a bright and happy beginning to your 2021, and thank you for reading.

-Cory

 

REFERENCES

  1. Brown, Frank C. Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, v. 6, Wayland Hand, ed. Duke Univ. Press, 1964.
  2. Brown, Frank C. Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, v. 7, Wayland Hand, ed. Duke Univ. Press, 1964.
  3. Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Dover Publications, 1995.
  4. Hyatt, Henry M. Folklore from Adams County, Illinois. Alma Egan Hyatt Foundation, 1935. 
  5. Martin, Kameelah L. Conjuring Moments in African American Literature. Palgrave MacMillan, 2012.
  6. Thomas, Daniel, and Lucy Thomas. Kentucky Superstitions. Princeton Univ. Press, 1920.
  7. Penrod, James H. “Folk Beliefs about Work, Trades, and Professions from New Mexico,” in Western Folklore, vol. 27, no. 3 (Jul. 1968), pp. 180-83.
  8. Randolph, Vance. Ozark Magic & Folklore. Dover Publications, 1964.

Blog Post 229 – Frogs and Toads

Illustration of woman spitting frogs and snakes from her mouth to illustrate fairy tale
“As she spoke, vipers and toads fell from her open mouth.” – from “Diamonds and Toads (or, The Fairies)” (Illustration by Cory Thomas Hutcheson 2020)

“Just then there came a second knock at the door, and a voice called out:

Youngest daughter of the king,
Open up the door for me,
Don’t you know what yesterday,
You said to me down by the well?
Youngest daughter of the king,
Open up the door for me.

The king said, “What you have promised, you must keep. Go and let the frog in.”

-From “The Frog Prince, or Iron Heinrich” from the Grimms’ fairy tales collection

Witches go together with frogs and toads almost as readily as they do with broomsticks and pointy hats in the popular imagination. In the story “The Frog Prince, or Iron Heinrich” from the Brothers Grimm collection, a handsome prince has been transformed into a frog by a “wicked witch,” although we pointedly do not get her side of the story. The story “Diamonds and Toads (or The Fairies),” found in the pre-Grimm French collection done by Charles Perrault, reveals that while a good sister is rewarded by precious jewels dripping from her mouth when she speaks, an ill-mannered girl is punished by a fairy (sometimes a fairy tale proxy for a witch), who curses the girl to spew toads and vipers when she speaks.

Beyond the fairy tales, however, several folk magical practices are woven into the webbed toes of frogs and toads. This post will share a few of those bits of magical lore from North American sources and practices. I will note that there are some gruesome spells herein, including some that involve harm or death coming to these marshy denizens, and I am in NO WAY ADVOCATING that you actually do anything hurtful to frogs or toads. They are a valuable part of our ecology and virtually any spell can be adapted in ways that avoid harming them (although I have nothing against the respectful collection of their remains after their demise). In fact, I’ll even begin with this bit of North Carolina folklore to help warn you away from such cruelty:

-Every frog you kill makes your life shorter (or killing a frog or toad will lead to the death of your mother, father, or another kinsperson) (Brown, p. 54). 

Another series of entries from that collection mentions that killing a frog or toad will lead your livestock to give bloody milk (p. 437-38), but conversely it recommends that an ill animal be fed a live frog in order to cure it (p. 449). That may very well have to do with the sympathetic nature of the magic, and the belief that a frog might have been used to initiate the curse, so forcing the frog into the animal is a way of doubling the hex back on itself and thus purging it from the animal’s system (we see a similar logic in the flogging of bewitched milk over hot coals, which is thought to return the harmful spell to the witch who cast it). 

Along that same vein of logic, we see in a number of folkloric instances the ways in which frogs or toads are sympathetically linked through magic to the world around them. They serve as familiars to witches in many stories (including as the representations of the witch’s power in tales like “The Frog Prince” and “Diamonds and Toads”). In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth we also get a reference to a toad as a witch’s familiar, or spirit companion, an idea commonly echoed in popular accounts of witchcraft. One sixteenth-century witch named Joan Cunny from Essex, England, for example, was associated with a pair of familiars that looked like black frogs and another Essex witch named Margery Sammon kept a pair of toads named Tom and Robin as familiars (Wilby, p. 230, p. 109). These creatures could also hold familiar bonds with other living things, such as trees. For example, some American lore states that killing a tree frog in its tree is thought to also kill the tree, also indicating the “familiar” like nature of them (Brown, p. 499). 

Both toads and frogs seem to operate between worlds, making them liminal agents that can run between either the land and water or between our world and the underworld. What they did in that underworld realm made them even more fearful in the folk imagination. For example, one bit of lore says that because they are thought to eat coals of fire (possibly also hellfire, given their traffic with the underworld), toads and frogs can be venomous or toxic. There are indeed toxic species of these creatures, so the belief about their dangers is not entirely untrue in the case of some poison-skinned frogs, but their dangers do not seem to be caused by the ingestion of brimstone (Brown, p. 409). A similar belief prevails about frogs eating buckshot, too, linking them to fire and iron, weapons, danger, and death. Their toxicity, however, might also be a connection to their witchier lore, especially as some frogs and toads secrete substances that can cause psychedelic reactions in humans (as evidenced by the minor fad–massively overplayed in popular media–with “licking frogs” among college students a few decades ago and even portrayed on The Simpsons). 

Frogs and toads also had more positive qualities (although admittedly these qualities didn’t do much to benefit the animals themselves). For example, an oft-repeated claim seems to indicate that some medieval physicians recommended placing a live frog in one’s mouth to remove a sore throat or other ailments, a supposition that has been dubiously linked to the phrase “a frog in one’s throat” (in reality, the phrase derives from an American lozenge rather than any medieval phraseology). Transferring diseases to animals by touch or by holding them in the mouth was not all that uncommon as a folk remedy or cure, and we see it come up in folklore about maladies such as warts quite frequently. That brings me to one of the other common bits of lore about toads and frogs, which are often accused of causing warts in anyone that holds them. This is essentially bunk, but the belief in magical transference of the disease makes some sense as it is a sort of “contagious” magic. Considering just how many folk wart cures and spells there are, it’s probably not a real crisis for someone to touch a frog or toad even if there were a risk of warts (which, again, there really isn’t).

Illustration of a witch's finger touching a frog
A popular folk belief says that touching frogs or toads causes warts (although that is not scientifically accurate). (Illustration by Cory Thomas Hutcheson 2020)

Curing the magical or venomous maladies of the Anuran order (which, frankly, sounds like the kind of club I’d like to join–”I’m a member of the Anuran Order, Bufo Chapter, Horned Toad House”) include the use of the “toadstone,” a type of secret gem or mineral deposit thought to be carried in the head or body of a toad and which could dispel any number of ailments. Specifically it was believed to be good against poisons, and is mentioned both in Roman lore and once again in Shakespeare as well (it may well be that this stone was actually a type of fossil).

The idea that a toad might carry in its body a powerful magical object was not limited to the toadstone, however, for within witchcraft lore a widely pervasive rite known as the “Toad’s Bone” ritual has captivated occultists for centuries and received a recent uptick in popularity due to the late Andrew Chumbley’s essay, “The Leaper Between.” Historical witchcraft writer Nigel Pennick discusses how in many parts of rural England and the British Isles, the toad’s bone rite was associated with a secret society known as the Horseman’s Word. Reputedly, those who were part of this group were a society of horse whisperers who could calm wild horses and easily help to break them, as well as treating them for certain problems. While they were esteemed for their equine skills, they were also suspected of witchcraft in many cases. They were thought to be brought into the fraternity by completing a toad’s bone rite of some kind, one that mirrored similar rites in witch lore, such as this one:

“The Norfolk witch Tilley Baldrey had her techniques published in The Eastern Counties Magazine in 1901. She tells how she became a witch through the toad-bone ritual. In standard English, ‘you catch a hopping toad and carry it in your bosom until it has rotted away to the back-bone,’ then, ‘you take it and hold it over running water at midnight until the Devil comes to you and pulls you over the water.’ This is the initiation as a witch.” (Pennick loc. 1154).

This initiatory rite resulted in the possession of the toad’s bone, which was carried as a token of power and a symbol of initiation, much in the same way that the black cat bone appears in other witch lore. Similar rituals involved crucifying a toad with thorns (usually blackthorn, although it could be hawthorn in some variants) on top of an ant hill and waiting until the ants had devoured the toad’s flesh. The bones would then be taken to a stream and submerged, and whichever floated against the current was the fabled toad’s bone.

I should note once again that I adamantly do NOT encourage the use of animal torture for the procurement of magical tools. These rites may have some significance in the historical context, but you are just as likely to be able to get many of these tools–even toad and frog bones–from sources that do not require the animals to suffer (given how popular frogs’ legs are in parts of the South, contacting a frog-gigger who hunts for restaurant fare might be a better way to handle this). Waiting to find a frog skeleton is just as good, and comes with a sense of feeling like the bones were meant for you rather than extracted through cruelty and malice.

A desiccated frog skeleton found in my in-laws’ house hidden in the back of a cabinet; you never know when you’ll find these sorts of things!

As a final note about the magic of these lovely amphibians, I should note that they are also thought to be harbingers of changing weather and seasons. A belief found throughout the eastern half of the United States says that the croaking of frogs is thought to signal the end of winter (Brown, p. 323). If you’ve ever been in the South in the early summer, you’ll know the sound of “peepers” out in any even mildly wetland area pretty well. Seeing a large number of frogs (and potentially hearing them as well), is also thought to be a sign of coming rain. In this way we can see the deep connections between the watery world of the pond and the stormy sky as connected, with the toads and frogs acting as those “leapers between” as Chumbley phrased it. 

This is been only a webbed toe dipped into the very deep pond of frog and toad lore, but hopefully it gives you a sense of just how much enchantment can be found in these creatures. Perhaps if the spoiled princess in the story of the golden ball had known that, she might not have been so quick to run away or fear her froggy beau. I’d still prefer not to have them jumping out of my mouth every time I speak, though. It would make teaching pretty awkward.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

 

References:

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