Posted tagged ‘lemons’

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

November 14, 2013

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

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Blog Post 113 – Spiritual House Cleaning

January 4, 2011

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


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