Episode 115 – We Have the Best Listeners

Summary:

We dig into our witchy mail bag for this episode. We discuss the land of Oz, fumigating your purse or wallet, and announcing contest winners, among many other topics.

 

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: Corvus, Khristopher, J.C., Josette, Renee Odders, Ye Olde Magic Shoppe, Raven Dark Moon, Sarah, Catherine, AthenaBeth, Jen Rue of Rue & Hyssop, Little Wren, Jessica, Victoria, Johnathan at the ModernSouthernPolytheist, Montine, Achija of Spellbound Bookbinding, Mandy, Regina, and Hazel (if we missed you this episode, we’ll make sure you’re in the next one!). Big thanks to everyone supporting us!

 

Play:

Download: Episode 115 – We Have the Best Listeners

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 -Sources-

Really, YOU’RE the source of this episode. Keep emails coming in to us so we can answer them, please! We love hearing from you.

Some of the New World Witchery posts/shows/etc. that might be of interest to you based on this episode are:

Other links pertaining to the topics we cover include:

Congrats to our contest winners, by the way! (We won’t spoil the surprise for those listening in)

We’ll be doing a live episode sometime in late October, with a them of spooky stories (especially things like local legends or personal spooky experiences). We’ll try to post about that soon, but if you want to send in your stories, please do!

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.” 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 & Music

Title and closing music is “Homebound,” by Bluesboy Jag, and is used under license from Magnatune.

Incidental music is “The Bird and the Rainbow,” by Monplaisir, from Magnatune.

Blog Post 182 –Lost in the Supermarket (Part I)

Customer making purchase in WWII grocery (via Wikimedia Commons)

If you have that song by the Clash in your head now, congratulations, that was my primary purpose in writing this article. Kidding.

Last time I took you on a quick but fun tour of my home to show how I’ve applied some of the folk magic I’ve picked up over the years in my personal life. Today, I’m drawing some inspiration from Sarah Lawless, whose article on “Pantry Folk Magic” is one of the finest pieces on using what’s at hand for practical spellwork that I’ve ever read. I’m also inspired by an article on “Grocery Store Magic,” in The Black Folder, a compilation of workshop notes by Cat Yronwode (which I recently reviewed), and I’ll be citing both of these sources as well as several others in the coming few paragraphs.

There are plenty of articles out there on doing magic from the grocery store, but I wanted to go beyond the spice aisle a bit and look at the vast number of folk magical items that may go a little under the radar in a standard shopping trip.

Before we go much further, I do want to mention that I don’t think the grocery store is the end-all be-all of magical supply houses. I prefer by far to grow or wildcraft my own botanicals, use hand-crafted incenses from a local occult shop, and carry talismans picked up at the nearby Catholic bookstore in a lot of cases. Supporting community commerce and doing work oneself fits in as well or better with most magical practices than grabbing a mass-produced box of incense from a five-and-dime shelf, but there are always going to be cases where magic must be done on short notice or with supplies not readily purchased at the witchy store. In some of the cases below, it should also be noted that the grocery stores where one can find these ingredients are not the big chains, but rather local bodegas or international markets.  You are far more likely to find chewing john (galangal root) in an Asian market than in a big chain one, for example. Now, on to the tour!

Candles

One of the big resources that frequently gets missed in grocery store magical item lists is the cornucopia of candles that can sometimes be found. Of course, a lot of stores carry scented jar candles and those are reasonable enough for doing some workings, but if you look in the Latin American or Hispanic section you can often find a number of saint candles as well. I’ve found everything from the standard Virgen de Guadalupe to Santa Muerte, Seven African Powers, Just Judge/Justo Juez, and even a Lucky Lotto Numbers candle just by browsing a little. Below you can see a pair of very cute candles which look like children’s novenas for working with Guadalupe or St. Jude, found at a mid-level chain grocery store.

Little Candles

The novena candles are also frequently available unlabeled and sometimes in multiple colors. It’s fairly easy to customize them to your own needs and do extended spellwork using these tools.

The candles don’t stop there, though. Say you want to do a quick-and-easy candle spell, but you know you won’t have time to burn a candle 1-2 hours per night for nine nights. Stop by the baking section and grab birthday candles, which are small and burn very quickly. Will it change the potency? Perhaps, but you’ll be able to at least do what you want to do. They also frequently have letter or number shaped candles, so you might be able to use those to target a specific goal or person with the spell (especially if you’re knowledgeable about numerology and can figure out the right number(s) for the job).

If your grocery also has a Jewish section with kosher options, check to see if they sell Shabbat candles. They frequently come in boxes at a very reasonable price, and are specifically designed to be used for spiritual purposes (albeit non-magical ones in most cases).  These burn longer than the birthday candles but much more quickly than novenas, and so would be good for mid-range spell work.

Cleaners

We’ve mentioned these a bit in our previous post on Spiritual House Cleaning, but here I mean less of the whole-herb types and more of the mass-produced stuff. Harshly-scented cleaning solutions with abrasive chemicals and artificial odors may not seem like a particularly likely place to find folk magic, but it’s there if you look for it. One of the most common of household cleaning agents, ammonia, acts as a substitute for urine in some spells. Cat Yronwode suggests in her Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic that ammonia can be used in spells focusing on protection and spells designed to improve sales, either at a business or of a home (Yronwode 29). In Spiritual Cleansing, Draja Mickaharic mentions ammonia’s great psychic cleaning powers and notes that putting a little bit down the drain after a house blessing & cleansing will help finish the job.

In a similar vein, we find plenty of uses for that old pantry/laundry/cleaning-closet standby, vinegar. Sarah plainly mentions vinegar as one of her grocery store finds for the working magician. All vinegars can be good for simple crossing work, according to Southern folk magic, and it would be very easy to turn cider or wine vinegars into a variety of Four Thieves Vinegar for both aggressive protection and subtle cursing. I mentioned on our Spell Failures episode that I had attempted to work a vinegar jar with poor results (mostly due to my lack of dedication). I found an interesting hexing combination of both vinegar and ammonia in Zora Neale Hurston’s article on “Hoodoo in America,” too:

i. To Punish.
When you want a person who is indited punished, write the name of the person in jail on a slip of paper and put it in a sugar bowl, or some other receptacle of the kind. Put in red pepper, black pepper, one penny nail, fifteen cents of ammonia and two keys.  Drop one key down in the bowl and lean the other against the side of the bowl. Go to the bowl every day at twelve and turn the key that is standing against the side of the bowl to keep the person locked in jail. Every time you turn the key, add a little vinegar (Hurston 382).

I find it interesting that both ammonia and vinegar seem to be able to perform cleansing functions in a household, but applied to an individual their corrosive nature seems to become destructive. I think this illustrates the principle of the two-sided coin of magic nicely, though, as the same ingredient that can save you from nasty spirits might also be turned around to damn an enemy.

Before I move off of cleaners, I want to mention a couple of the commercial products out there that have some magical history and applications. First, the famous Pine-Sol cleaner, which has been found in grocery stores for almost 60 years. The product was born in Mississipi, and even today contains pine oil to give it cleaning power and its trademark scent (along with a hefty dose of chemical salts and alcohols).  Pine oil is another spiritual cleanser and refresher, in addition to having some mundane cleaning properties as an antibacterial and antiseptic disinfectant. It works a lot like lemon does in spiritual cleansing—so much so that one of Pine-Sol’s first offshoot scents was lemon, although now they have half-a-dozen different aromas to choose from.  While I’d never suggest using a commercial pine cleaner on the body (or in the body especially…that’s a big no-no!), some folk magical traditions have used pine oil-based treatments for medical ailments (there’s a fine example in Hohman’s Long Lost Friend, for instance). So the presence of lemon and pine has the power to cut through spiritual ailments as well as the nasty germs lingering on your kitchen floor. You can make a variant of your own pine oil cleaner by simply adding pine oil to some salted water with some castile soap dissolved in it. It won’t be as strong as Pine-Sol, but it also won’t be quite as harsh. You could even add a bit of lemon juice or lemon oil to that, too, for extra kick (both spiritually and microbially speaking).

Since we’re talking of lemons and soap, I can’t help but at least briefly mention Murphy Oil Soap, which has been treating hardwood floors for over a century (although only in a mass market for about half that time). The cintronella oil in Murphy’s has a citrusy, lemony scent, and is both a lucky and cleansing ingredient in spiritual work (it’s one of the oils used in Van Van Formula). Queen of Pentacles Conjure notes that both Murphy’s and Pine-Sol make great additions to the spirit worker’s cleaning closet. Citronella keeps away mosquitoes, too, which makes me love it even more.

I’m going to pause here before continuing through the aisles, as this article is already quite long. There is plenty more to see as we make our way through the store, though, so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading,

-Cory

Blog Post 162 – Broom Lore

I recently helped out on a project for a local folklorist looking for information on broom lore, and wound up with easily twenty pages of notes on the topic from a wide variety of sources. I thought that today I would share a few of the commonly held beliefs regarding brooms, as well as look at some of the most unusual practices surrounding this wonderful household item.

Of course there are many instances of witches riding broomsticks in art and media, but of course brooms were only one of the preferred methods for nocturnal transportation to Sabbat rites. Other mounts included pitchforks, stangs, goats, and eggshells (and even the occasional human being fitted with a magical bridle, in the cases of alleged ‘hag-riding’) (The Historical Dictionary of Witchcraft, Bailey: 23-4). Brooms served magical folk for more than hobby-horses and transport, though. In European culture, broom magic goes back at least as far as Ancient Rome. In that culture, the broom’s sweeping function translated into a purification rite. Eli Edward Burriss notes in his Taboo, Magic, Spirits that the Romans believed a new baby and its mother were in danger of being tormented by woodland spirits—particularly one called Silvanus—and goes on to quote St. Augustine about a three-part, three-tool ritual in which several spirits were invoked to provide protection. Let’s see what the good saint himself says on the subject (from Burriss’ book, and his translation of Augustine):

‘. . . After the birth of the child, three protecting divinities are summoned lest the god Silvanus enter during the night and harass mother and child; and to give tokens of those guardian divinities three men by night surround the threshold of the house and first strike it with an ax and a pestle; then they sweep it off with a broom, that, by giving these signs of worship, the god Silvanus may be kept from entering. For trees are not cut nor pruned without iron; nor is spelt powdered without a pestle; nor is grain piled up without a broom. Now from these three objects are named three divinities: Intercidona from the intercisio of the ax; Pilumnus from the pilum; Deverra from the sweeping (verrere) of the broom; and by the protection of these divinities new-born babies are preserved against the violence of Silvanus.’ (Burriss 28)

Burriss goes on to note that the iron in several of the implements provide the expected protection from evil, but the ceremonial sweeping is what actually drives away the wicked spirit. He also notes that Sir James Frazer observed something similar in his book The Golden Bough, which included sweeping salt out of a dwelling and disposing of it in a churchyard to remove any vengeful souls of the dead from the premises (Frazer 144, Burriss 35). Charles Leland noted that Gypsies used broom straws in spells to protect a mother during childbirth (echoing St. Augustine’s writings) and also says that Romanian Gypsies would use iron and broomstraws interchangeably as protective wards placed beneath pillows at night (Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling, Leland: 47-48, 136).

In the New World, brooms retain much of their old purifying & protective power, but also begin to adopt new abilities within the new culture. African American folk practices show a strong connection to brooms and domestic bonds. African American cultural tradition (as well as other cultures) have a wedding practice of “jumping the broom” to seal the ceremony. It’s common enough that in 2011 a romantic comedy film about an African American wedding was entitled Jumping the Broom. This connection to marriage and the household also involves a number of superstitions and folk spells centered on weddings and love in association with brooms. Here’s a short collection of such beliefs:

From Harry M. Hyatt’s Folklore of Adams County, Illinois

  • 9614. To sweep under the feet of someone sitting on a table signifies that person will marry before the year ends.
  • 9615. Do not let anyone sweep entirely around the chair on which you are sitting; you will remain single seven years longer.
  • 9616. The person under whose chair you sweep will marry once say some, twice say others — soon after his or her mate dies.
  • 9617. If you sweep your own feet, you will never get married.
  • 9618. Whoever breaks a broom handle will soon break someone’s heart.
  • 9619. For luck in love, a woman may wet the bushy part of her broom and sprinkle the water about the house.
  • 9935. The significance of an engaged girl dropping a broom is as follows: if the handle points to the north, she or her fiancee will break the engagement; if to the south, she will marry him and live a happy life.
  • 10129. It is very unlucky for a bride to see a broom on her wedding day before she goes to church.

From Kentucky Superstitions, by Daniel & Lindsey Thomas

  • 1614. If you let some one sweep under your feet, you will never be married.
  • 1615. If you sweep your feet with a broom, you will never be married.
  • 1619. If the broom falls across the doorway, someone will call.
  • 1620. If two people sweep a floor together, they may expect bad luck.
  • 1621. If you sweep after dark, you will bring sorrow to your heart.
  • 1625. If you sweep the house after the sun goes down, you may expect a man caller.

I should note that these are only a very small handful of the superstitions associated with brooms in these two texts. Hyatt’s book alone has easily five hundred individual entries featuring various examples of broom magic and lore.

Of course, the broom’s protective power and its association with witches also become increasingly complex in the New World. Many sources (Hyatt, Thomas, Randolph, Puckett, etc.) all say that witches will not cross over a broom, and so it can be a powerful protective charm to put one across your doorway. Similarly, one could reverse a jinx or witchcraft by stepping backwards over a broom. Brooms can also be a component of spells to reverse the evil eye, according to curandero lore:

A treatment for mal ojo (the evil eye) – “She got some kind of herb from the garden. I don’t know what kind it was. She made signs of the cross with the herb by his head and all over his body, and his feet. All this time she was saying something in Spanish, but I couldn’t understand what it was. Then she turned  him over and did the same thing on the other side. She got an egg and did the same thing with the egg, holding the egg and making signs of the cross all the way down his body and across. She told me to get a cup with some water. She cracked open the egg and put it in the water in the cup. Then she had me get a broom straw, which she cut, and made a little sign of the cross that she put on top of the egg. She told me to put the egg under his crib at night while he slept, under his head, and the next day he would be O.K. I looked at the egg the next day, and, my God, it was cooked! I was so surprised! The yolk and the white were hard and cooked like a hard-boiled egg. She told me to bring the egg to her and she could tell if it was a man or woman who had done it. If the cross went one way it was a male, and if it went the other way it was a female” (“Mexican American Folk Disease,” Keith Neighbors, Western Folklore, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Oct., 1969): 254).

Here again we have a connection to magical protection, especially for children, much as we saw in the European lore. Brooms can also cure physical ailments, like warts, as well.

One of the most interesting themes in broom lore has to do with relocating a household. If one is moving, for example, one should not take the old broom along. Likewise, when you are moving, you should break your old broom and burn it before leaving the house. The superstitious believe that a new broom should be one for the first things you bring into a new home:

  • 11288. You will be lucky, if before moving out of the old house you send a broom and a loaf of bread to your new home.
  • 11289. To have luck in the new house, take in the broom and a loaf of bread before anything else; the broom first, the bread next. Then sweep with the broom.
  • 11290. A broom and a dish pan should be the first things taken into your new home for luck.
  • 11291. A broom and a dish towel should be the first things taken into your new home for luck.
  • 11292. The woman who takes a broom and a dust pan into her new home first will always be lucky there. (Folklore of Adams County, Hyatt)

A number of superstitions also note that the first thing a person does in his or her new home should be to sweep it with a broom, then throw the ashes out the door to ensure that all bad luck is swept clean of the house before anyone sleeps there. Likewise, a new home can be blessed with good luck by throwing a broom over it.

While there’s much, much more that could be said on the topic of brooms, I’ll finish up today with a small grab-bag of the more unusual beliefs and practices involving these wonderful magical tools:

  • If a bunch of straw comes out of a broom when sweeping, name it and place it over the door, and the person named will call (“Kentucky Folk-lore,” Sadie F. Price, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 14, No. 52 (Jan. – Mar., 1901), 34).
  • 12368. If you sweep on New Year’s Day, your house will be dirty all year; but if you leave the dirt in a pile on the floor until the next day, clean all year.
  • 12369. To sweep on Monday causes bad luck; all week say some.
  • 12370. The bad luck that comes from sweeping on Monday can be warded off by keeping the dirt in the house until the following day.
  • 12371. The bad luck that comes from sweeping on Monday can be warded off by sprinkling salt over the dirt and burning it.
  • 12372. Sweep on Monday and you are sweeping away all your company that week. (previous five from Hyatt)
  • To draw your enemies to you (so that you may know who they are), clean out your stove, all the time keeping your wish in your mind, but don’t speak it. Then break a stick into four pieces, all of them the  Same length, and pin them together in the middle like this and set them afire in the middle. Then go to the four corners of the room, with your wish in your heart and mind, (but don’t say it), and sprinkle salt. Then, when you see your enemies coming, go outside your door and throw your broom down careless and step over it into the house and talk to them across it and they can’t come in, but they can’t help  from coming to your gate. (“Hoodoo in America,” Hurston:  393).
  • It is bad luck to sweep the dirt out of a house at night; sweep it up into a corner and sweep out in the daytime. If obliged to sweep it out at night, take a coal of fire and throw it first in front of you (“Superstitions & Beliefs of Central Georgia,” Roland Steiner, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 12, No. 47 (Oct. – Dec., 1899), pp. 261-271).
  • To make a guest leave, place a broom upside down behind the door (Puckett 317).
  • If a very young child, without being told, picks up a broom and starts sweeping the house, you might as well prepare for a visitor, the idea apparently being that an innocent child can see things in the future that grown-ups cannot, and knows that the house must be tidied up for the company. (Puckett 444).

And just for fun, you should listen to blues legend Robert Johnson singing “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom.”

Some of our own NWW posts which have featured other broom lore:

Blog Post 113 – Spiritual House Cleaning
Blog Post 126 – Walpurgisnacht 2011
Blog Post 137 – Curandero Spells, part I

So there’s my brief take on magical brooms. The short, sweet version is that they’re not just for riding up to unholy Sabbats upon anymore. I hope this information is useful to you! Until next time, thanks for reading!

-Cory

Tales from the Witching Hour No. 3

Shownotes
A short episode in which we do a pre- and post- discussion of our Walpurgisnacht 2012 celebration.

Listen: Tales from the Witching Hour No. 3

Play: 

Music
“Serenade,” by Schubert. From http://www.archive.org/

Blog Post 144 – Walnuts

“As soft as silk,
As white as milk,
As bitter as gall,
A strong wall,
And a green coat covers me all”
Walnut riddle from H.M. Hyatt, Adams Co., Entry No. 14379

Continuing with the Thanksgiving ingredient theme (i.e. Apples), I thought today it would be good to look at a fairly common tree and nut that has been woven into magic for hundreds of years. I’m speaking of course of the unassuming but delicious walnut which tops brownies, finds its way into salads, and makes a delicious candied treat. Don’t worry, though, my next topic will not be mayonnaise and I am not subtly leading up to any kind of enchanted Waldorf salad.

I’d like to briefly start in the Old World and mention a legend which had some influence on 19th-century occult folklorist Charles Leland. In “Neopolitan Witchcraft” by J.B. Andrews and James Frazer, a rhyme appears which translates roughly:

Beneath the water and beneath the wind,
Beneath the walnut trees of Benevento,
Lucibello bring me where I need to go.

This charm would help a witch magically fly to her Sabbat, supposedly. The idea of witches gathering beneath a walnut tree in Benevento, Italy clearly impacted Leland, who includes a tale in his “witch gospel” Aradia called “The House of the Wind” (which is what Benevento means in English). [EDIT: See comments below for a correction on this translation] Myth Woodling, who runs a marvelous set of pages on Italian folk magic and witchcraft, has this to say about the walnut:

Walnut shells, in Italian fairy tales, were often used to contain something precious or magical. A walnut branch was said to protect one from lightening. There were stories of witches and spirits gathering under walnut trees”

In the New World, walnuts gained a number of powers and attributes, while the lore about walnuts and lightning becomes reversed, as found in Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic & Folklore, where he tells how black walnuts are now thought to draw lightning and hillfolk refuse to plant these trees near their homes for that reason (72). Some of Randolph’s other interesting tidbits about walnuts are here:

  • “A big crop of walnuts indicates cold weather to come” (26)
  • A good season for tomatoes is a bad season for walnuts (39)
  • Fresh walnut leaves scattered about the house can deter insects (68)
  • Walnut shells must not be burned, or bad luck will come (71)
  • The juice of a green walnut can help cure ringworm (110)
  • “The shell of a black walnut is supposed to represent the human skull, and the meat is said to resemble  the brain, therefore people who show signs of mental aberration are encouraged to eat walnuts. I know of one case in which an entire family devoted most of the winter to cracking walnuts for a feebleminded boy. They kept it up for years, and I believe the poor fellow ate literally bushels of walnut goodies” (114)
  • “A mountain girl of my acquaintance placed a lock of her hair under a stone in a running stream,  believing that the water would make her hair glossy and attractive. Another way to promote the growth of hair is to bury a “twist” of it under the roots of a white walnut tree, in the light of the moon” (165)

Similar lore exists in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky, with the addition of magical wart charming ascribed to the humble walnut. Daniel & Lucy Thomas, in their Kentucky Superstitions, say that green walnuts can be rubbed on warts, then buried to charm the wart away. This makes for an interesting variant on the standard wart-charming method of cutting a fruit or vegetable in half before using it to cure the wart (but I’ll address those ideas in a different post entirely). Heading into Illinois, Henry Hyatt reports a mix of magical and medical uses for walnuts:

  • Thin walnut shells mean a light winter, while thick shells mean a heavy one
  • A black walnut carried at all times prevents headaches
  • A mixture of boiled walnut leaves, water, and sulphur makes a powerful anti-itch wash
  • Dreaming of opening or eating walnuts means money is coming soon

In this latter example, we can see the walnut being used as a divinatory aid, which makes sense when we think of the strong ‘brain’ association with the little wrinkled nut (since it has a brain, it must know something, so why not the future, right?). Hyatt also shares a lovely little love divination with walnuts:

9033. Her future husband’s occupation can be learned by a girl who grates three nuts — a hazelnut, nutmeg and walnut — mixes these grated nuts with butter and sugar, makes pills of this paste, and swallows nine of them on going to bed: if she dreams of wealth, she will marry a gentleman; of white linen, a clergyman; of darkness, a lawyer; of noises, a tradesman or laborer; of thunder and lightning, a soldier or sailor; and of rain, a servant

This sense of a walnut as a ‘knowing’ curio seems to be tied again to its brain-like appearance, but also with the idea of the little nut containing some special knowledge the way it contained magical charms in an Old World context. The tree even seems to know what is growing around it in some cases. Patrick Gainer says that the presence of a white walnut tree indicates ginseng growing underneath it (120).

Another key use of the walnut in magic has to do—or at least I think it does—with its bitterness and perhaps the deep blackness of the flesh surrounding the nut. Walnuts can strip away negativity nearly as well as eggs, lemons, salt, or any of the other major magical cleansing agents. Draja Mickaharic includes a cleansing bath which uses walnuts in order to sever ties with an unwanted person or influence. He warns that it can only be used once, and that going back to the person after ties are severed will have dire results. The basic formula involves boiling six unshelled walnuts in a pot for three hours, adding water if needed. After that time, there will be a black broth that should be added to a bathtub, and the person using the bath should immerse themselves seven times in it, saying prayers as appropriate (Spiritual Cleansing 58).The dark color absorbs all negativity, and the galling nature of the fruit works the way a lemon does to sever evil from one’s person. Cat Yronwode suggests a similar bath to Mickaharic, adding the important step of disposing of the used bathwater at a crossroads. She also indicates that walnut leaves can be used in a spell to hurt an enemy’s luck (Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic 205).

One use for a walnut I’ve never seen but which I really think would be interesting to try would be as a head for a doll baby working. Considering the brain associations and the fleshiness of the fruit, I’m not sure why this is not a common-place use of the walnut, but c’est la vie. If you happen to know why they’re not used in doll magic, I’d love to hear it! Or if you have any other uses of walnuts in New World folk magic, please feel free to share!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Podcast 36 – Dealing with Spirits

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 36

Summary
In this episode we’re looking at rules for magical etiquette when dealing with spirits. We take on summoning, banishing, and what to do if you just happen to run into a spirit on accident.

Play:

Download: New World Witchery – Episode 36

-Sources-
We draw upon a number of folk tales, fairy tales, legends, and myths to illustrate our points about magical etiquette, including:

We reference a few of our past shows or blog posts, like:

We also mention our rue charms given to us by Scarlet of Lakefront Pagan Voice. Check out Scarlet’s Etsy Shop for more goodies!

We’ve got a contest going on! Check out the details of our Share-A-Spell contest on our blog, and contribute today!

Don’t forget to follow us at Twitter!

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1 – Media Astra ac Terra
Promo 2 – Iron Powaqa
Promo 3 – The Infinite & the Beyond
Promo 4 – Dr. E’s Conjure Doctor shop

Blog Post 139 – Eggs

In marble walls as white as milk,
Lined with skin as soft as silk,
Within a crystal fountain clear,
A golden apple doth appear.
No doors there are to this stronghold
Yet thieves break in to steal the gold (from “Riddles,” American Folklore: An Encyclopedia, p. 1318)

This riddle (a variant of which appears in Tolkien’s The Hobbit during Bilbo’s riddle-game with Gollum) probably isn’t very hard to figure out.  Eggs are one of the food staples which exist nearly worldwide, and almost every culture has traditions dealing with eggs. They are cooked, painted, dyed, emptied and filled with dioramas, and the shells are even ground up and added to the soil to prevent garden pests.

Today we’re going to look a little at some of the magical traditions surrounding eggs, particularly the ones we find in the New World.

Much of the lore about eggs has to do with their production or bewitchment, such as these tidbits (from Folklore of Adams Co. Illinois, by Harry M. Hyatt):

  • 1772. Hit a hen on the back and she will lay an egg.
  • 1773. A hen never lays eggs near a potato patch.
  • 1774. Eggs are not laid by hens on a windy day.
  • 1823. If you set a hen in the dark of the moon, half of the chicks hatched will be deformed.
  • 1824. Set a hen at sunrise in the light of the moon and all the eggs will hatch.
  • 1825. If you set a hen to hatch in the light of the moon, more of the eggs will be hatched.
  • 1848. To procure chickens of different colors, set the eggs on Sunday morning as the congregation leaves church; the various colors in the clothing of the church-goers produces this result.
  • 1849. Chickens of various colors are procured by setting the eggs on Ash Wednesday.
  • 1892. For white diarrhea among chickens [sometimes believed to be caused by witchcraft], drop a piece of iron into their drinking water and also let them eat corn saturated with urine.

Eggs are frequently used to heal magical illnesses or to help with prophetic work. John George Hohman records several uses of eggs in magic among the Pennsylvania Dutch, including a method for curing “falling away,” a folk sickness characterized by physical weakness, by boiling an egg, putting three holes in the shell, and then leaving it on an anthill to be devoured. A common belief among several traditions says that eggs left in the hands of a murder victim will compel the murder to return and be caught before the eggs rot. A bit of folklore related to Midsummer festivals (which may be from Latin American or Slavic sources, as the book is unclear to which culture it is referring): “In one divination, a girl seeks her betrothed by reading the shape of a  egg white in a glass of water; in another, the index is a wreath floated on a stream” (“Solstices,” Amer. Folklore: An Encyclopedia, p. 1412). This seems to be related to a more general set of European folklore focused on St. John’s Day and Midsummer Eve, such as this ritual from Madeira:

On St. John’s eve at ‘Ave Maria’ the village maidens in Madeira try  their fortunes in various ways. They take a newly laid egg, break  it in a tumbler of cold water, and  place it out of doors in a secluded  place. Should the white rise in lines  that in any way represent a ship,  they will soon take a voyage. If it  at all resembles a house, it means  marriage and settling down. If a coffin or tombstone, it means death (Ecyc. of Superstitions, Folklore & the Occult Sciences, by Cora L.M. Daniels, p. 1551)

This practice may sound familiar, as it is very similar to the curandero method of egg reading done during a limpia, or spiritual cleansing. In that process (which I touched on briefly in Blog Post 137 – Curandero Spells, part I), an egg is used to rub and mark a person’s body in order to cleanse them of curses, witchcraft, bad luck, and general spiritual illness. An Ozark superstition says that if a man eats owl eggs it will cure him of alcoholism (this is not recommended, especially due to the potential environmental damage it could cause).

Eggs can also be used to cause harm as well as to cleanse it. Newbell N. Puckett records that among Southern African Americans eggs put into a couple’s bed will cause them to quarrel and fight (perhaps because they smash the eggs and get into a row about who’s going to clean it up?).  A curious German method recorded by Harry M. Hyatt uses “a glass of salt water that will hold an egg up”and a picture of a person (usually a former lover). The egg is floated in the glass, the picture put upside down over it, and the water swirled around while making a wish for ill (or good, if the conjurer is so inclined) fortune for the person (Folklore of Adams Co., 16006). Hyatt also records that a witch can give a person a ‘gift’ of three eggs in order to curse them. In his extensive masterwork on folk magic (Hoodoo-Conjuration-Witchcraft-Rootwork), Hyatt records a number of other curses using eggs, including using buzzard’s eggs to cause someone harm or this spell, which allegedly forces a straying spouse to be faithful:

WRITE YOUR HUSBAND’S NAME
AND THE NAME OF THE WOMAN HE’S FOOLING AROUND WITH
ON AN EGG.
THROW THE EGG AWAY FROM YOU
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER,
AGAINST THE EAST CORNER OF YOUR HOUSE.
DO THIS FOR NINE CONSECUTIVE MORNINGS,
AND THAT AFFAIR WILL BE OVER.

Yes, ah learnt dis on chicken aigs.  Yo’ take a aig, if a woman is runnin’ wit yore husband, an’ yo’ git chew a aig an’ bust a aig fo’ nine mawnin’s – an’ write dere names on dat aig – an’ bust de aig in [the] east fo’ nine mawnin’s.  Throw it away from yo’ “In the Name of the Father” in de east – in de cornah of de house fo’ nine mawnin’s.  Dat bust ’em up an’ yo’ nevah will be bothahed wit ’em no mo’ – yo’ won’t have tuh worry.  Jes’ write dere names on dose aigs an’ bust ’em fo’ nine mawnin’s – yeah one each mawnin’.

(Whose house do you bust that on, your own house?)
Yore own house, yeah.
(Despite the ‘on’ of my question, these eggs are broken inside the house.  This is a rite to separate a man and woman, not to make someone move from a house.  The eggs are busted against the wall, thrown away from you so that the dangerous substance will not spatter on you.)
[Memphis, TN; A lady who once worked in Louisiana; Informant #1419. D15:3-D23:6 = 2698-2706.] (Vol. 2, p.1581)

Eggshells also have magical uses completely on their own and apart from their high-protein filling. A curious southern tradition involves using eggs as a method to deter predators from killing young chickens on a farm: “Hawks may be kept from catching your chickens by sticking a poker in the fire; by threading eggshells, from which chickens have recently hatched, on a piece of straw (or putting them in a covered tin bucket) and hanging them in the chimney” (Puckett, Folk Beliefs, p.323). Vance Randolph records that a tea made from “toasted egg shells in water” was taken by a girl near Forsyth, Missouri, for ailments unknown, but likely related to stomach issues. And I would be much remiss if I didn’t mention the magical ingredient of cascarilla, or powdered eggshell, which is used in Santeria/Lukumi as well as a few other traditions. It is usually sold in little paper cups (though it is not hard to produce yourself if you just wash and save your eggshells from a few breakfasts), and used to ward off evil and occasionally to draw sigils for ritual work.

Dreaming of eggs is supposed to be good luck, indicating everything from monetary gain to a wedding or children on the horizon. Traditions conflict about whether the eggs must be whole or broken to indicate good news, with convincing arguments presented on both sides (a fragile relationship situation—such as one affected by a lover’s quarrel–could be deemed finished by dreaming of broken eggs, or the possession of whole eggs might mean wealth, for instance). Randolph records this tidbit about the use of eggs to produce prophetic dreams:

Sometimes a mountain damsel boils an egg very hard, then removes the yolk and fills the cavity with salt. Just before bedtime she eats this salted egg. In the night, according to the old story, she will dream that somebody fetches her a gourd filled with water. The man who brings her the water is destined to be her husband. It is surprising how many young women have tried this, and how many feel that there may be something in it (Ozark Magic & Folkore, p. 174)

While this method seems popular, I think it would probably not be good for anyone’s blood pressure.

Wow, that’s a lot of material about eggs! And I’ve only scratched the surface here. There are so many more superstitions, spells, and sayings about eggs that I couldn’t begin to cover them all. So I’ll just recommend that if you want a good, easily available household tool for magic, you just can’t beat the humble egg.  Hm, speaking of beaten eggs, I wonder if there are any magical meringues out there?

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Podcast 27 – Spring Cleaning

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 27-

Summary:
In this episode, we move away from the philosophical topics and back to the practical necessities of life, namely, Spring Cleaning!  We discuss various magical cleaning methods, then Laine looks at coconuts and Cory talks about floor washes.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 27

-Sources-
Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells, by Judika Illes
Spiritual Cleansing, by Draja Mickaharic
Floor Washes” on the Lucky Mojo site
Blog Post 113 from our own blog

Promos & Music:
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1 – Druidcast
Promo 2 – Radiolab
Promo 3 – The Infinite & the Beyond

Blog Post 113 – Spiritual House Cleaning

Home Sweet Home, by Douglas William Jerrold (via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s always nice to start the New Year off with a clean, well-appointed home.  In some traditions, this is not mere vanity or hygiene, but a spiritual necessity that must be done on New Year’s Eve to ensure that the home is clear and ready for the coming year.  Today, I thought I’d look at a few of the magical methods for housecleaning, as well as some of the most common cleaning agents with a magical touch.

Sweeping & Vacuuming – It has to be done.  There’s just no way of getting around it.  The floors must be kept clean, at least within reason, and usually a broom or a vacuum is employed to that end.  Workers in the conjure and hoodoo traditions tend to have specific techniques for sweeping, often going from the topmost floor of the house to the bottom and working from the back of each floor towards the front (though I’ve seen variations on that, often depending on specific needs—getting rid of a bad spirit might involve sweeping out the back door, for example).  While floor washes are the go-to method for spiritually cleansing a house and adding specific magical vibes to the area (see Mopping & Floor Washes below), you can add a degree of magic to the sweeping and vacuuming process, too.  Various powders can be sprinkled on floors and carpets and left there for a bit before sweeping.  These will absorb some spellwork and leave other magic behind.  Some good ones to try out (available at Lucky Mojo):

  • Fear Not to Walk Over Evil – A powerful anti-hex and anti-foottrack magic powder.
  • House Blessing – A simple, very peaceful powder.
  • Crown of Success or Fast Money – To encourage prosperity and abundance.
  • Chuparosa/Hummingbird – To create love and attraction between partners in the home.

Likewise, you might also opt for simple, household items to do some of your mojo work during sweeping and vacuuming.  Many spices make great conjure sweeps (and smell wonderful when taken up by a vacuum and slightly warmed by the machine’s motor—an added aromatic energy).  Some that I like to use:

  • Cinnamon – Creates a sense of prosperity and joviality.  Some use it for business success, but I find it creates more of a personal confidence and comfortability than anything purely financial.
  • Allspice – Another success spice, but also good for stimulating conversation.  I like to vacuum with cinnamon and allspice sprinkled on the carpets before guests come over to encourage a warm, friendly atmosphere.
  • Pine Needles – Good for uncrossing and refreshing a home.  Not a kitchen spice, of course, but still easily accessible.  Be careful though, as too many pine needles can gum up machinery (like vacuums) quickly!
  • Rosemary – Good for domestic bliss, as well as helping those who smell it focus and think clearly.
  • Oregano – Keeps meddlesome influences from interfering in your life.  Makes a nice “law-keep-away” substitute, and discourages nosy neighbors.
  • Garlic Skins – Kills off evil, but it will leave a distinctive odor in the air.
  • Rose Petals – Encourages love and passion when crumbled around the home and left for a bit before sweeping/vacuuming.
  • Salt – Great for stopping any hexes put upon you and removing unwanted spiritual energies from your home.  I use baking soda (a type of salt) sprinkled on carpets before vacuuming to both absorb odors and remove pesky curses.  Jim Haskins records a method of preventing unwanted guests from returning which simply involves sweeping salt after them when they leave.
  • Sugar – A little of this will add a sweetness to your home, though make sure you get it all and don’t use too much—a little sweetness may be great, but a lot of ants aren’t.

The basic method here is to sprinkle everything, let it sit for a bit (if you can stand letting it sit for 24 hours, that is lovely, but probably a little excessive—30 minutes is often plenty of time, and even a 5-minute wait will give you a quick dose of magic).

Mopping & Floor Washes – This is probably one of the best known hoodoo methods of cleansing, blessing, and enchanting a home.  Using a prepared magical floor wash to clean anything that can handle getting wet (including the walls) still makes for great spellwork.  Some of the most famous floor washes are (again from Lucky Mojo):

  • Chinese Wash – An old school formula which reputedly came out of Chinatown (though which Chinatown is not particularly clear).  It’s made from several powerful ingredients, many of which are found in Van Van (see below), with broom straws added for extra oomph.  Good for knocking out any hexes and doing purification work.
  • Van Van – We’ve covered this in Blog Post 81, but briefly this is a blend of several Asian grass extracts, chiefly lemongrass and vetiver root.  It, like Chinese Wash, cleanses and purifies.
  • Peace Water – When made in its most interesting form, peace water is beautiful to look at, with layers of blue and white/clear liquid on top of one another in a mesmerizing stasis.  When mixed up and sprinkled into a floor wash, this helps create feelings of calm, quiet, and tranquility in even very turbulent homes.
  • Rose Water – This very basic addition to a floor wash can be found in many ethnic grocery markets.  It’s not much more than a strong rose tea stabilized with alcohol, so you could easily make your own, but it’s also fairly cheap to buy.  When used in a floor wash, it helps promote feelings of love and agreement.

In addition to these specialty formulas, there are lots of common household cleaners you can use with a magical bent:

  • Pine-Sol – This commercial floor cleaner basically evolved out of hoodoo floor washes.  Cat Yronwode even suggests adding a little Van-Van to a bottle of Pine-Sol and using it as a simple substitute for Chinese Wash.  Traditional pine scent is great, of course, or you can go with…
  • Lemon Pine-Sol – Or any lemon-scented cleanser like it.  Lemons have a cut-and-clear effect on a space, and have long been associated with destroying curses and breaking hexes.  Charles Leland’s Aradia records an anti-evil-eye charm which is fundamentally a pomander made of a lemon and pins.  It leaves a lovely clean smell, too, though a fairly artificial one in most cleansers.  Feel free to add some fresh squeezed lemons to your mop bucket for a rootsier version of lemon-cleanser.
  • Ammonia Draja Mickaharic recommends a simple floor wash of ammonia and salt added to mop water, and it really makes a wonderful cleansing and protecting wash water.  It can really neutralize almost anything thrown at you, magically speaking, and it disinfects beautifully.  Mickaharic also recommends a little ammonia down every drain when you finish cleaning (just a teaspoon or so), to finish off your magical housecleaning.
  • Vinegar – Four Thieves Vinegar is popular as a counter-curse wash, and as a protective mix-in for a mop-water.  But really, any vinegar will help get rid of unwanted energies and protect the home from invaders and malicious forces.  If the scent is strong enough, it may protect you from visitors altogether.
  • Urine – This one is very traditional in hoodoo, though much frowned upon in modern use.  It has, however, been long used as a cleaning agent, and a little urine diluted in some mop water can be very powerful for “marking your territory” and protecting the home.  It can also instill a sense of good luck in the place, and ensure fidelity in your mate and passion from your lover.  If they don’t catch you doing it, of course.

There are lots of other cleaning agents out there that you can use, of course.  Almost anything scented probably has at least some tenuous connection to a magical formula, so a little homework can help you transform that bottle of Mop-N-Glo into a powerful apothecary’s potion.

Windows & Doors – You don’t do windows, you say?  Well, you should at least open them up!  Whenever you do a good house-cleansing, throwing up the windows and letting some fresh air circulate is vital to getting everything “right.”  It helps balance out all the forces in the home, allows bad spirits to leave, and refreshes the air in the house.  It’s cold to do this in winter, of course, but turning the heat off for 10 minutes and letting a little fresh air in can make all the difference in getting a home feeling good and happy again.  Likewise, the doors should be opened for a bit to let the air circulate.

When it comes to washing doors and windows, you can really use any of the same washes I talked about above in the Mopping & Floor Washes section.  You can also use a variety of other ingredients to get things right at all your entrances and exits.  For example, many folks take a little olive oil (or holy oil, which is basically blessed and sometimes lightly scented olive oil) and make a little sigil in the corner of every window, to seal that entrance against evil intrusions.  Some folks put blue bottles in the windows, or jars full of sand or marbles, in the hopes that any witches who might try to get in will be forced to count the contents of the container and be unable to do so before daybreak (when their power ends).  You can make a wash water of red brick dust, urine, and salt in warm water and use it to scrub your door to add a powerful layer of protection.  You can also sprinkle salt or brick dust lines down at the threshold and in the sills of every window to keep out unwanted spirits and spells.

Clearing the Air – Once the house has been aired out and all the windows and doors cleaned and opened for a while, some folks like to light some incense, use room sprays, or even just make a little something in the kitchen to add an element of magic to the home.  I’ve covered some of the holiday scents and their uses in Blog Post 108, and I’ve already mentioned pine and citrus scents as powerful agents for spiritual and physical cleansing.  Other odoriferous offerings to your home can include:

Fresh Bread – One of the best symbols of abundanace and prosperity.  Bake a loaf in your oven and let the scent fill the home.  Cookies are also good for this.

Floral Scents – Like jasmine, rose, or lavender.  All of these have specific uses, and add specific magical “vibrations” to an area (rose fragrances inspire love to many, for example), so look into the flowers you like and figure out what note they will set in your newly cleaned domicile.

Sweeteners – I did mention this in Blog Post 108, but I also said it’s a bit strong when burned.  If you are airing your house out, however, a little honey, brown sugar, molasses, or even table sugar might be a good thing to burn or warm on the stove, as it will provide a sublimely “sweet” feeling to the area.  Draja Mickaharic highly recommends this, and I can’t say I’m against it either.

Nailing It Down – This is a practice particular to conjure and hoodoo, though there are likely variants or similar practices in other magical systems.  The basic idea is that by pounding nails into your home’s corners (and the corners of your property), you fix it there and create a stable environment.  You also assert your ownership of the place, and help to guarantee your continued residence there.  The most commonly used nails for this are the “square-cut” kind, usually sold cheaply at hardware stores.  For doing the corners of your property, you would want to use something bigger, like old railroad spikes.  The basic idea is that you simply nail them into every corner of your home, particularly the ones along outside walls.  You can bless them with oil or holy water or anything else you feel is appropriate, or simply nail them down while saying a little prayer that you remain safe, happy, and comfortable in your home as long as the nails remain in place.  Remove them if you ever have to move away for any reason.

That’s a lot of cleaning!  But it’s always good to have a clean home, for both practical and spiritual reasons, so give some of these a go and see how they work for you!  And if you missed your New Year’s cleaning deadline, well, you can always do these things during your Spring cleaning, too.

I hope this has been useful!  Thanks for reading!

Oh, and Happy New Year!

-Cory

Podcast 14 – An Interview with Cat Yronwode

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 14-


Summary
Today we are truly blessed to have an interview with renowned rootworker and teacher Catherine Yronwode of the Lucky Mojo Co.  Then we briefly discuss Christianity in hoodoo.  Laine tells us about Magical Soap in WitchCraft, and Cory talks about Spiritual Cleansing Baths in Spelled Out.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 14

-Sources-
Some of Cat’s many wonderful sites:
Lucky Mojo – Her main site and online store
Lucky W Amulet Archive – A repository of info on lucky charms
Southern Spirits – Her site on Southern folklore and history
Arcane Archive – An archive of magical lore and practice from around the net
YIPPIE – The Yronwode Institute for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Herb Magic – A site on magical plants and roots
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church – The world’s smallest church, and part of the long tradition of Spiritual Churches in the United States
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers (AIRR) – A body of trained, professional rootworkers with experience and accountability
Hoodoo and Rootwork Course – One of the definitive training programs in traditional hoodoo
And, of course, her book Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic is often referenced on the blog and in the show.

Cory also reference’s Draja Mickaharic’s Spiritual Cleansing, a definitive guide on the topic.

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1- Inciting a Riot
Promo 2- Pagan in the Threshold