Podcast 75 – Moon Magic

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

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

Books Mentioned:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Promos:

  1. The Irish & Celtic Music Podcast
  2. Druidcast

Blog Post 189 – New World Witchery Cartulary No. 6

Cartulary6

Greetings everyone,

It’s been almost five months since my last cartulary post, so I thought I’d touch base a bit on the various magical, folkloric, and otherwise quirky corners of the world that have caught my attention (and my be of interest to my readers).

I’ll start with a little shameless self-promotion and note that the upcoming Three Hands Press anthology, Hands of Apostasy, will have my essay on witchcraft initiation rituals of the Southern mountains in it. It’s edited by Daniel A. Schulke (Magister of the Cultus Sabbati) and Mike Howard (editor of The Cauldron), and contains eighteen essays on historical and traditional witchcraft, both from a practical and scholarly perspective. Some of the phenomenal authors contributing to this tome include David Rankine, Cecil Williamson, and even a posthumous essay by Andrew Chumbley. There will likely be more information on the Three Hands Press website as the release date approaches (sometime in the next few months).

As a side-note, I’ve been placing essays with The Cauldron for some time now, covering a variety of topics in North American folk magic, and frequently alongside art and articles by some top-notch folks (the aforementioned Howard, Chris Bilardi, Sarah Lawless, and Emma Wilby, for example). If you have any interest in folklore, magic, and little-or-big-P paganism, it’s worth subscribing.

Moving on from shameless self-promotion to the fine work of others, I’ve recently been getting very into botany and horticulture (I can’t have a garden this year since we’re moving, so that might explain it). I completed a really lovely little book called The Drunken Botanist, which looks at the plant kingdom through a shot glass, providing history, growing tips, and drink recipes along the way. I’ve also been reading The Founding Gardeners, a book which places Washington, Adams, Madison, Jefferson, and other notable American patriarchs in the context of their horticultural interests, which were plentiful and various. It turns out Washington was an excellent farmer (in no small part due to slave labor, it should be noted), and Jefferson was more theoretical (and also extensively used slave labor). I also read Bill Bryson’s At Home, a microhistory of Anglo-American culture as seen through a series of rooms in his house, which featured a nice chapter on the garden—it put me on the scent of Wulf’s Founding Gardeners, in fact. And if you can’t get enough botany, I’m going to very highly recommend a favorite book entitled Botany in a Day, which is a wonderful introduction to plant taxonomy and identification that teaches you how to build an understanding of plants intuitively based on stem and leaf shape, color, size, petal count, etc. If you are at all interested in identifying wild plants, this is a great foundational text.

Since we’re already in the garden, I’m also going to recommend you stop and smell the roses with my dear friend Jen Rue on the latest episode of Lamplighter Blues, where Hob, Dean, and Jen talk about working with what’s around and growing your own supplies. Sarah Lawless also recently (well, as recently as possible considering she did just have a baby and all) looked at the idea of what’s immediately available to magical and shamanic practitioner in an extensive article on ‘Bioregional Animism’ which I highly recommend.

In the world of gratuitous pop-culture witch-fluff, the Season of Witch continues. A recent, if unnecessary, television remake of Rosemary’s Baby aired over a few weeks recently, which I’ve not seen but which is on my watch list. I won’t say I’m particularly excited about it, as I love the original Polanski film, but if this one turns out all right, I may change my tune. A decadently dark and occult series called Salem has been airing on WGN, and while I cannot recommend it for historical accuracy (of which there’s none), its tone and deep-and-dark witchy atmosphere is just very hard to turn away from. It will do absolutely nothing to improve the image of witches, folk magicians, or really anyone, but if you want to get a little jolt of wickedness it is a lot of fun. The second season of Witches of East End will also be airing starting in July on Lifetime—the first season was another fun and guilty pleasure like Salem, so I imagine I’ll give round two a try. Oh, and Maleficent is coming out, apparently (if I’m being honest, it’s one of the few magical enchantress stories I’m not interested in, but I’ll probably see it anyway).

Moving away from the inaccuracies of popular television and back to the realm of folklore, I had a listener recently write in to ask about why our Dark Mother tribute episode featured the somewhat more docile version of the fairy tale, “The Juniper Tree,” from the Brothers Grimm. In truth, I mostly chose that version because it was at hand and fit the time frame of the show nicely, but I am absolutely at fault for not pointing out that there is a much darker (and possibly more enjoyable because of it) version of the tale. You can read it at the Sur La Lune fairy tale site if you want to get a glimpse of a very Dark Mother. While you are there, you should also check out their versions of a few of the other tales I considered for that episode, but ultimately decided against due to time, including “Snow White & Rose Red,” and “Hansel & Gretel.”

Finally, I generally try to keep these cartularies more centered on things I’m reading, doing, and so forth, but I do want to take a moment to forward a request from a friend of our site and show, Mrs. Oddly, who is dealing with some difficult legal and financial situations centering on a custody battle. She’s set up a crowdfunding campaign which needs support, so if you have a few dollars you can spare, please consider helping her out. She’s brought some real magic to my world, and she is asking for whatever help we can give.

We’ve got a number of guests lined up for upcoming shows, and I’ve got a few one-off shows I’m hoping to do as well that might be fun, too, so stay tuned to the podcast! I’ll do my best to keep adding things to the website as well, for those that like reading the articles on folk magic here.

Thanks for Reading!
-Cory

Blog Post 174 – New World Witchery Cartulary No. 3

First of all, despite the fact that I have the little tag on the side of the blog that says “Blogging Without Obligation,” I would like to apologize for the incredibly slow past couple of weeks. I keep convincing myself that I have time hiding somewhere in my days and I just have to find it, but I’ve yet to find it and use it to keep posts up regularly. This month, it’s been particularly bad, and I know I haven’t been providing you with much content (other than our recent episode, which I hope was fun for everyone), so I apologize for that. I also haven’t gotten my blog up at Witches & Pagans yet for April, so if you follow me there, my apologies as well. Hopefully things will be returning to normal soon, but until they do, please know that when I do produce content at New World Witchery, I will try to make it the best it can be everytime.  Thank you all for being patient.

I think I should share a few items with you that may or may not be of interest to friends of NWW. You’ve probably noticed that the Compass & Key Etsy store has been down lately (and it appears that the Hex Folk Market has also shut down as well). I’ve been struggling a lot with whether to reopen the Etsy shop, because it provides a good way for people to support the show and site, but it is also a bit labor-intensive. While I was finishing my schoolwork, I had a good reason not to keep it open, but I recently made an order for someone who contacted me independently of the Etsy site and remembered how much I love doing that work. However, I’m also aware that there are a lot of sites out there offering similar goods, and too many cooks may be in the conjure kitchen at the moment. So I’m working on some new product ideas, things you probably won’t find everywhere. So basically, I’m saying keep your eyes open, and we will hopefully have *something* available there soon.

In the same vein, I’m also going to suggest you keep your eyes open when it comes to the Cartomancy Guide we posted a few years ago. I’m not saying something is definitely going to happen with that soon, but something is definitely going to happen with that soon.

Also, apologies that the Witches’ Calendar is not yet updated. I will hope to have something up soon, but I do apologize it’s not up to date yet.

Now that all the shamefaced apologetics and shameless self-promotion are out of the way, I thought I’d share a few things that have come across my sightlines lately. Most of these are interesting items I’ve read, and things I would love to hear from you about.

First of all, Fire Lyte recently wrote a post in response to listener Mimi’s question, “Has the era of Pagan Podcasting ended?” I’d be interested to know the thoughts of those out there who listen to podcasts and read blogs geared towards the magical community. My understanding is that there are certainly a number of folks who are trickling away from regular production (we’ve been posting less frequently here, obviously), but that there still exists both a demand and a supply of such shows. The Lucky Mojo Hour, Conjure Crossroads, Lamplighter Blues, and Old Style Conjure podcasts have all produced shows somewhat regularly over the past six months or so (although the only one on a highly regular schedule is the Lucky Mojo show). Likewise a number of more directly Pagan podcasts have been producing somewhat steadily: Lakefront Pagan Voice, Ariel’s Druidic Craft of the Wise, the charming iPod Witch, the venerable and popular Wigglian Way, & Modern Witch Online, for example. A few have never wavered, like DruidCast. And I see new shows starting to rise to the surface, like New York Pagan. Yes, there are definitely shows that are disappearing or fading away, and there will always be shows that explode with potential and then vanish without a trace. And I think Fire Lyte makes a great point about breathing room—it seems that a number of folks have needed it lately, so perhaps we’ll see some of the old hats diving in and doing new work soon. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, New World Witchery isn’t planning on going anywhere for a while. But what do you think? Has the era of podcasting come to a close? Should we all just close up shop and go home, or is there a better way for us to present our content?

My current bookshelf has had a nice little group of texts that might be of interest to our readers. I’m finishing up Vernacular Religion in Everyday Life, edited by Marion Bowman and Ulo Valk. It essentially addresses the concept of religious performance as it is done by people in their day-to-day lives. There are essays about how saint stories influence the behavior of a woman living on the Russian borderlands, a look at how the layout of a house can become a sun-clock tied to the performance of work in the home, and the importance of angels to the royal family of Norway. I’ve also been working through Alan Dundes’ excellent look at biblical folklore, Holy Writ as Oral Lit. If you’ve ever wanted to see how many different people killed Goliath (or his brother), this is a book to pick up. I’ve also got a book on my “in” pile called Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages, by Stephen A. Mitchell, which looks quite promising.

With the lovley spring weather moving in (between the bouts of intense storms), it’s gardening time again. One of my favorite folklife blogs, The Blind Pig & The Acorn, has a couple of excellent posts  on some gardening practices which bridge distinctly Appalachian culture with a sensible, fun personal narrative. Her post “How Does My Garden Grow” and the post on “Patch Farming” are particularly nice. She also goes through each month of planting by the signs, usually posting around the first of the month. If you incorporate gardening into your magical or folk life, check out her blog.

For those who have been wondering, the Pagan Podkin Super Moot will be in New Orleans this year, and while I’m still working on dates and locations, it will likely be sometime in early October. I’ll be posting info at the main Pagan Podkin page, and here as well. I’m hoping to make things coincide with the New Orleans Folk Magic Festival in some way, too, but I can’t promise anything yet.

Finally, a happy birthday to Fire Lyte (a bit early, but better that than late, right?).

Thanks to everyone again for their patience, and for sticking with us!

-Cory

Quick Update! – Spring Lore Contest Reminder

Hi folks!

This is just a reminder that if you want to get into the drawing for our Spring Lore Contest, there’s never been a better time than now!  You’ve only got five days left—until March 21, 2012! We’re looking for Springtime Lore this time around: seed planting rituals & customs, fertility charms, spring cleaning spells, etc. Anything and everything related to Easter eggs, baby animals, April showers, and (shudder) bunnies. We’re trying to put together an episode featuring folklore, ritual, and practice from all over the country and the world relating to rebirth, green grass, renewal, etc. and we need your help to do it! So if you’ve been hanging on to a killer magical gardening tip, a clever and enchanted use for chocolate rabbits, or a story about dancing naked around a maypole, fire up your email and send it in!

So what’s in it for you if you send us lore? Prizes!

The Prizes

  • A copy of Etched Offerings: Voices from the Cauldron of Story from Misanthrope press (an anthology of pagan fiction featuring stories from several podcasters like Oraia Helene, Saturn Darkhope, & me!)
  • An email card reading from Cory, with a 1-2 page card report featuring a 2-card split and 7-card layout, plus interpretations and a fairy-tale recommendation to connect your reading to a story you can turn to for more inspiration.
  • A goody box from Compass & Key Apothecary featuring several of our oils, curios, and mojo bags. While actual contents of the box are subject to change, they will likely have at least 2 oils, 2 mojo bags, 1-2 curios (like rabbits’ feet, gator paws, or Mercury dimes), and 3-4 herbal samples.

How to Enter

Send your entries to compassandkey@gmail.com to enter, and be sure to put “Spring Lore” in your subject line.

We hope to hear from you soon! Remember, the deadline is midnight on March 21st, 2012, so get those entries in before then!

All the best, and thanks for everything you do!

-Cory

Quick Update – Spring Lore Contest!

Howdy everyone!

We’ve got a Spring Lore Contest going on until March 21, 2012! We’re looking for Springtime Lore this time around: seed planting rituals & customs, fertility charms, spring cleaning spells, etc. Anything and everything related to Easter eggs, baby animals, April showers, and (shudder) bunnies. We’re trying to put together an episode featuring folklore, ritual, and practice from all over the country and the world relating to rebirth, green grass, renewal, etc. and we need your help to do it! But because we like you an awful lot, we also want to give you the chance to win shiny and wonderful things from us when you send us your lore!

The Prizes

  • A copy of Etched Offerings: Voices from the Cauldron of Story from Misanthrope press (an anthology of pagan fiction featuring stories from several podcasters like Oraia Helene, Saturn Darkhope, & me!)
  • An email card reading from Cory, with a 1-2 page card report featuring a 2-card split and 7-card layout, plus interpretations and a fairy-tale recommendation to connect your reading to a story you can turn to for more inspiration.
  • A goody box from Compass & Key Apothecary featuring several of our oils, curios, and mojo bags. While actual contents of the box are subject to change, they will likely have at least 2 oils, 2 mojo bags, 1-2 curios (like rabbits’ feet, gator paws, or Mercury dimes), and 3-4 herbal samples.

How to Enter

Send your entries to compassandkey@gmail.com to enter, and be sure to put “Spring Lore” in your subject line.

We hope to hear from you soon! Remember, the deadline is midnight on March 21st, 2012, so get those entries in before then!

All the best, and thanks for everything you do!

-Cory

Blog Post 106 – Book Review

The Faeries’ Guide to Green Magick from the Garden by Jamie Wood and Lisa Steinke, illustrations by Lisa Steinke

When I was asked to review this book from the publisher*, I said yes without knowing anything about it. The title intrigued me, so I thought I’d give it a chance. I have to be honest though, anytime I hear anything about “faerie” books, I’m always a bit wary. Some books can be a bit more new agey than I like, and, dare I say it- a little fluffy. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how this book treats the subject of faeries.

To start out, the authors talk about Man and his symbiotic relationship with the earth. Talk is quickly shifted to a “go green” type of message, and how important this is in order to have any relationship with the faeries. It comes off a bit heavy handed, especially since it’s all information that any pagan already knows. However, Wood and Steinke then go on to explain how they view faeries- as the life forces of plants. They explain that plants are living beings, and that each faerie has an individual energy and personality that is a manifestation of that plant energy. They go on to say that Steinke’s lovely illustrations are her own personal interpretation of that faerie energy. I was really happy with this explanation, as it’s pretty close to my own view of faeries and they explain it in a easy to understand way.

There are a few more chapters on magickal** gardening, green gardening, and complimentary medicine. I found these to be a bit extraneous though, because they only touch on the subjects in passing. I’m glad though, because the best part of the book is what’s next- the Herbal Index. I loved this part of the book. The set up is that each herb has it’s own entry, with 33 of the most common herbs represented. Each herb has Steinke’s illustration of the faerie energy of the herb, a description of the plant, how to take care of it, and some magickal way to use the herb- whether that be an ingredient in a recipe, an ingredient in a spell, or perhaps a way to make your own beauty product. The only thing I found myself wishing for in this portion of the book was an actual picture of the plant/herb. However, since they’re so common, a quick google search will pull up plenty of pictures. I really enjoyed this portion of the book, and I think it would be great for someone new to working with herbs (like me).

Overall, I was pretty happy with The Faeries Guide to Green Magick from the Garden. It is definitely written for those new to gardening, working with faeries, and even to witchcraft in general. Sometimes the tone is almost apologetic for being about “magick”- as if they are writing to the average person who has never even thought about magick or witchcraft before, which is not who is going to be buying this book. I found this to be a bit patronizing at times.

However, the Herbal Index alone makes the book worth it to me. The descriptions, how to care for the plant, a fun way to use that particular herb, and not to mention the wonderful illustrations, all made me think it will be a good book to have in my repertoire. Again, it is for beginners, so if you’re a seasoned herbalist, this book will probably not have enough information for you. But, if you want an easy introduction into working with faeries and working with magickal herbs, then think about checking out this book.

-Laine

*In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher contacted me and asked if I would give an honest review of the book. I haven’t been paid for this review, and I didn’t pay for the book.

**Also, I’d like to note that I don’t usually make the distinction between magic and magick, but the book makes a point of explaining this, so I figured I would stick with that spelling. The same goes with the fairy/faerie spelling.

Blog Post 74 – Sassafras

While passing by the cemetery on campus one day, I noticed a few little sprouted saplings with very particularly-shaped leaves.  I got very excited when I moved in closer and saw the definitive “mitten” shape of some of the leaves.  I pinched one and sniffed, smelling a strong spicy aroma almost immediately.  I knew at that point I was dealing with sassafras.

Sassafras is one of those herbs that you can’t avoid in the South.  It grows in all sorts of adverse environments:  roadsides, hedgerows, waste spaces, etc.  It can be short and bushy in its early years of development, but becomes a full-sized tree given enough time.  The roots and bark have long been used in culinary and medicinal applications.  If you’ve ever had a root beer, there’s a chance that you have tasted this plant, as sassafras and sarsaparilla were the two primary flavors in that drink for a long time.  In recent years (since 1960), active ingredient in sassafras, called safrole, has been officially banned by the USDA as potential carcinogen.  So most of the root beer sold now uses artificial flavors to reproduce the sassafras and sarsaparilla taste.  The leaves of sassafras also feature in Cajun cooking; dried and powdered, they become file powder, which is used to thicken stews like gumbo.

Medicinally, sassafras is a tricky root to use.  According to botanical.com, “Oil of Sassafras is chiefly used for flavouring purposes, particularly to conceal the flavour of opium when given to children. In the United States of America it is employed for flavouring effervescing drinks…Aromatic, stimulant, diaphoretic, alterative. It is rarely given alone, but is often combined with guaiacum or sarsaparilla in chronic rheumatism, syphilis, and skin diseases.”  It also seems to have a strong effect on women’s reproductive systems, easing menstrual pain, but also potentially causing abortions.  Several health problems have been connected to consuming overdoses of safrole, including vomiting, collapse, pupil dilation, and cancer.  WARNING!  Consult a physician before taking ANY herb or root internally!  Sassafras is NO EXCEPTION!

Sassafras bark and root have long been made into teas in the Appalachians.  In Foxfire 4, informant Pearl Martin showed students Bit Carver and Annette Sutherland how to gather the herb and make the drink:

“Sassafras is a wild plant that grows in the Appalachians…The spicy, distinct flavor of sassafras makes the tea a popular beverage, served hot or cold…Pearl told us that she could gather roots any time of the year without affecting the taste of the tea.  However, the roots should be gathered young, so they will be tender…She chops the roots from the plants, then washes the roots in cold water.  Next she scrapes off the outer layer of bark and discards it.  Either the roots or the bark can be used in making the tea, but Pearl prefers the roots.  They can be used dried or green.  She brings the roots to a boil in water.  The longer they are boiled, the stronger the tea.  To make a gallon of tea, she boils four average-sized roots [which appear to be about a foot long and an inch thick] in a gallon of water for fifteen to twenty minutes.  She then strains it, and serves it either hot or iced, sweetened with either sugar or honey” ( p. 444).

While the safrole content of the tea is relatively low, again you should consult with a physician before drinking this tea.

Magically speaking, sassafras is a money root.  It attracts business success and material wealth.  Putting a little sassafras root in one’s wallet or purse keeps money from running out.  Catherine Yronwode has several good charms in her Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic book, including a business attracting sidewalk scrub made from sassafras, allspice, and cinnamon (which has the added bonus of a pleasant aroma), and this powerful little Money-Stay-with-Me mojo hand:

“Jam a silver dime into an alligator foot [available from Lucky Mojo and other botanicas and curiosity shops] so that it looks like the ‘gator is grabbing the coin.  Wrap it tightly with three windings around of red flannel, sprinkling sassafras root chips between each layer as you wind, and sew it tight.  Just as the alligator foot holds the coin and won’t let go, so will you be able to save instead of spend” (p. 179).

Sounds like a pretty wonderful charm to know, in my opinion.  I’ve not seen anything particularly about burning sassafras as incense, but I did find a book called A Collection of Folklore by Undergraduate Students of East Tennessee State University edited by Thomas G. Burton and Ambrose N. Manning which records a bit of superstition claiming that bad luck comes if you “burn sassafras wood” (p. 74).  The lore in this particular collection is all from first-hand sources, so I tend to think it’s got some weight.  A similar folklore collection from Kentucky elaborates on this point, saying, “If you burn sassafras wood or leaves, a horse or a mule of yours will die within a week” (from Kentucky Superstitions, #2993).  I tend to think this refers to burning wood in a fire or fireplace as opposed to using a little bit of it as incense, but take your chances as you see fit.  Particularly if your horses or mules are dear to you.

I hope this post has been of some use to you!  Enjoy the slowly waning summer, and get out in the woods to find some sassafras and other plants!

Thanks for reading,

-Cory

Blog Post 26 – Gravel Root/Joe Pye Weed

Today I’d like to discuss an ingredient found in both Native American medicinal practices and Southern conjure and root work.  The flowering herb known as both Gravel Root and Joe Pye Weed can be found throughout most of the eastern half of North America, including portions of Canada, Texas, and Florida.  Its botanical name is Eupatorium purpureum, and it is also sometimes known as Purple Boneset or Queen of the Meadow.

The story behind Joe Pye Weed stems back to a Native American named, aptly enough, Joe Pye, who used the root to heal typhus.  It’s been used in tisane form—both root and flower—to help with kidney problems (though I will recommend here that if you are considering drinking ANY tea made from an herb to consult with a health professional and be SURE you know what you’re drinking).  Foxfire 11 gives some good information on the traditional medicinal use of this wild herb.

The plant itself is often found as a wildflower in fields and “waste” spaces like construction zones (though it doesn’t last as long here).  It’s a perennial so if you cultivate it instead of wildcrafting you should see it coming back regularly.  Joe Pye can reach heights around four feet, so take that into account when planting it.  It can also reseed, so you might want to thin them occasionally.  It has flowers which range from white to pinkish to lavender and purple, and butterflies love it.

Its magical uses tend to be split depending on what part of the plant you’re using.  The leaves and flowers are considered “Queen of the Meadow,” and are not particularly used in traditional hoodoo, though I’ve seen it show up in a spell for success.  Catherine Yronwode mentions putting the flowers in a glass of water next to a burning candle to attract spirits and visions.  The root, which is often the most sought-after part of the plant, is a fantastic help in job-search, success, and luck magic.  I recently used a bit of Gravel Root in a mojo hand along with High John and a copy of Psalm 65 in order to help procure some magical aid with an academic pursuit, which turned out very well.

Joe Pye Root

You can find more on this herb/root in Catherine Yronwode’s Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic, as well as the websites listed below.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

More information:

Medicinal and identification information – http://www.altnature.com/gallery/joe_pye_weed.htm

Cultivation and propagation information – http://oldfashionedliving.com/joe-pye-weed.html

Folklore and Appalachian history – http://appalachianhistory.blogspot.com/2007/08/queen-of-meadow-cures-all.html

Blog Post 20 – Planting by the Signs, Practicum

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

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

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

And we’re off!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 19 – More on Folk Astrology and Gardening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-Cory