Quick Update – New Products and Card Readings

Hi everyone!

I just wanted to let you know about some things going on in our Etsy shop, Compass & Key Apothecary. We’ve got a new mojo hand and a new bundle available:

Be Not Afraid! Mojo Bag
The Be Not Afraid! Mojo Bag is designed to provide spiritual protection to those who carry it on their person. The combination of herbs, roots, and other curios in this handmade mojo all have powerful protective qualities according to folklore. The rue used in this bag, for example, has been reputed by Italian magicians to fend of baneful sorcery for centuries. It is thought that carrying a bag like this can boost one’s confidence, repel enemies, and turn harmful enchantments back on their senders. Best fed with our Wall of Flame Oil or with rum in which hot peppers have been soaked.
Cost: $6.00 + Shipping

The Fearless Bundle
The Fearless Bundle includes one (1) Be Not Afraid! custom-made mojo bag and one (1) bottle of our Wall of Flame oil. Together, these constitute a powerful spiritual defense which repels harmful forces and turns wicked spells back on their senders. The oil can be used to feed the mojo bag and on its own. You can save $2 off the total cost (plus a little bit on shipping) by buying these items in this bundle
Cost: $10.00 + Shipping

All products sold as novelties only. Not intended for internal use. Please consult a health professional for medical conditions.

We’re also knocking $2.00 off of the shipping cost of any purchase made in December. I tried to set it up to do this automatically through the Etsy site, but if that doesn’t work I will refund the $2.00 to you after your purchase, so either way you’ll definitely get a discount on shipping.  If you’ve never ordered from our shop, you should know that every order winds up with some extra free goodies thrown in with it, which can range from little bags of herbs to handmade spells and charms to talismans and amulets.

I’ve wanted to make more products available, but it takes a good bit of time to develop each one, plus I usually like to “guinea-pig” my stuff first by sending samples of new things out to customers in the hopes of getting feedback, and that can be very time-consuming. So apologies if a product you want isn’t on the Etsy site yet, but maybe it will be soon. You can always email us and request something and we usually are willing to accommodate.

Speaking of emailing us, I’m also looking to start offering some card readings to folks. At first, I’ll only be doing it by email due to time constraints, but I may branch out into Skype if there’s enough interest. The cost? How about pay-what-you-can? For right now, I’m doing this on a donations-only basis, so as long as you’re willing to donate something to the site (using the PayPal button located in our main page side bar, or you can do it here, too), I’ll read for you. Ideally, I’d love to get at least $5.00 for it, but hey, a buck’s a buck, and if all you can afford is $1.00, that’ll do.

Here’s how the card-reading works:

1)      You email me your question (subject: “Card Reading”) and make your donation (in whichever order you prefer—please make sure to include your real name and astrological sign so I can get a lock on reading for you).
2)      I will do a two-card split reading and an extended five-card reading, recording the cards drawn.
3)      I will write an approximately 1-page report for you on the reading and send it back to you.
4)      You can ask one follow-up question as well, which I will pull 1-3 cards for. I’ll send you an email response with those cards and a summary of their meaning.

I’m using my own system of cartomancy with regular playing cards inherited from my mother, so don’t be surprised if the cards and their meanings are a little different than what you’re used to.

So why all this commercial activity? No, it’s not because of the holidays. Rather, I’m trying to raise money to fund the next year of the site and podcast’s hosting service and there are some magical courses and books that I’m looking at as well. The more I know, the more I can add to the site and show, so it’s a win-win for all of us, right? Plus (and this is a big reason), I’m trying to do a lot more practical work with folk magic, and making new things while offering card readings seems like a good way to do that. So if you enjoy the show or site and want to help contribute to it, please check out our Etsy shop and/or get a card reading!

Okay, thanks everyone for all your support! We really appreciate all you do for us, and hope you’re having a great holiday season!

All the best,

-Cory

Quick Update – Compass & Key Open!

      

Hi Everyone,

We just wanted to let our readers and listeners know that our Etsy shop, The Compass & Key Apothecary, has re-opened with a selection of oils and mojos for you. We’ve always gotten tremendously positive feedback from those who buy from us, and we always try to add little extras  to the packages to make it really worth your while to purchase. We seem to be producing more or less seasonally at this point, so as long as we have stock, we’ll be happy to sell it, and the money we raise is put towards programming costs (like webspace, music, etc.), resources (books, online journal access, etc.), and other New World Witchery-related expenses.

For those who are interested, here’s a run-down of what we have currently (I’ll update as we expand our inventory, too):

Oils

  • Attraction Oil – Trying to get a little extra attention? Looking to bring a little prosperity your way? Attraction Oil is a marvelous and refreshing blend which provides a bit of magical “oomph” to workings intended to draw love or money. This is often used to anoint lucky charms, love letters, or money in one’s wallet in order to bring good things into one’s life.
  • Wall of Flame Oil – If you need to keep bad influences out of your life, this oil is right up your alley. It’s like laying down a ring of fire around you and the people and things you love. Sharp, clean, and hot smelling, it sends back any hurtful energies directed at you to their sources.
  • Uncrossing Oil – When you’ve got troubles that just don’t seem to quit, and it feels like your luck has just plain run out, this is the oil to use. A little of this worn on the body (particularly the hands and feet—though do be careful if you have sensitive skin) or burned while praying can do wonders to knock any curses off of you.
  • Black Cat Conjure Oil – A recipe which draws on feline power to reverse a curse in some spells, but more frequently used to create a little back alley romance. This formula bubbles with sensuality and strength, but has a dark edge which allegedly puts a potential lover (or sometimes an enemy) under your power. A strutter’s blend, for someone who doesn’t mind magic with a few teeth and claws thrown in.
  • Saints & Spirits Oil – This oil is attuned to the spirit realm, and can be used to anoint offering candles or to work spells relying on the aid of spiritual forces. It’s got a “churchy” smell offset by lavender for a peaceful, pleasant effect.
  • Crown of Success Oil – This is our famous recipe, stuffed with good herbs, prayers, and magic! It is used in several different workings, including candle burnings, anointing one’s head, and feeding mojo bags. This formula is reputed to inspire opportunities in one’s life, and to give one the courage to take those opportunities.

Mojos

  • Crown of Success Mojo – A potent little mojo bag, full of useful herbs, a written prayer, and a good dose of magic! Carried on one’s person, it is alleged to create confidence and reveal one’s natural talents. It has been said to open doors that might otherwise remain closed, and to give one the fortitude to walk through those doors. Can be fed with either our Crown of Success Oil or a little whiskey or rum.

 We also sell combinations, like the Crown of Success Bundle, which gets you both a bottle of the oil and the mojo bag for $2 less than buying them separately. We’ll be adding a few new oils and mojos over the coming weeks, too, so keep an eye out for those.

October is a big month for us, usually, and we will hopefully have lots of fun things for you over the next few weeks, including drawings and giveaways, special episodes, and generally just good old-fashioned fun.  If you’re interested in participating in any of these things, you should definitely follow us on Twitter, as that’s largely where our giveaways will happen (or at least where they’ll be announced). For those who don’t want to get on Twitter, though, don’t forget about our Share-a-Spell Contest, which desperately needs submissions!

We do hope you enjoy our October fun here at New World Witchery! Let us know how you’re liking (or disliking, if it stews your prunes in a bad way) what we’re doing here.

Until next time!

-Cory

Blog Post 124 – Tobacco

[A note here:  This is NOT a medical blog, and the information here should not be treated as medical information. I present only folkloric examples of practices historically done by certain people at certain times. Additionally, I am NOT condoning the use of cigarettes, snuff, or any other tobacco product, especially for minors. If you choose to put into practice anything you find here, you take responsibility for your own actions.  Leave me out of it.  Thank you!]

This particular magical herb/plant/ingredient is rather controversial. As a reformed smoker, I know the power of tobacco’s hold on a person—it’s not just the nicotine, but a whole range of psychological dependencies that develop when one is a smoker.  What I’m looking at in this post, however, is not really tobacco as a commodity sold in convenience stores using cartoon animals, but instead the plant found in the Nicotiana genus. Tobacco is a member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which includes other rather magical plants like belladonna, datura, and mandrake as well as common (yet mythically significant) edibles like the tomato, potato, and chili pepper.  The plant is also a potent natural insecticide—or insect deterent, rather—and an infusion of tobacco leaves in water is often sprayed in organic garden to keep pests away.

Tobacco, like corn, is deeply significant to certain Native American tribes, who incorporate tobacco into ceremonies and offerings.  Cherokee shamans, for example, would use sacred tobacco in ceremonies designed to combat “night-goers,” evil spirits or people who invaded the dreams of others.  Tobacco smoke was also used as a curative for a number of ailments, and these uses filtered into non-Native practices over time (which we’ll see in just a moment).

When tobacco met European colonists, it experienced a boom in popularity that has kept it one of the top cash crops worldwide ever since—for better or for worse.  It has been deeply wound up in the lives of most North Americans for centuries now, including in their folk medical and magical practices.  One oft-repeated use of the leaf was as a treatment for insect stings and bites, as well as other types of wounds:

  • Tobacco used as a poultice to soothe “abdominal pain…cuts, stings, bites, bruises, and even bullet wounds.” It is thought to “draw out poison” (Randolph, p. 98)
  • “TOBACCO. The leaves are put on a wound to stop bleeding or to prevent infection” (Gainer, p.109)
  • Tobacco, especially homegrown, is good for insect stings and bites (Foxfire 9, p. 66)
  • Wet leaves are wrapped on feet to prevent infection of “full sores” (Cavendar, p. 118-9)
  • Tobacco juice/tea used to wash wounds from snake/dog bites (Cavendar, p. 118-9)
  • A personal informant told me that her grandmother used to put wads of chewing tobacco on cuts, bug bites, and stings to help heal them (informant “Darlene”)

The other chief folk medicinal use for tobacco was the application of smoke to sick or troubled persons.  There were almost as many mentions of this method as there were of the poultice method.  Here are a few:

  • Tobacco smoke can be held in the mouth as a cure for a toothache (Cavendar, p. 118-19)
  • Smoke was blown into an ear for an earache, accompanied by the rhyme “Hurt, Hurt, go away/go into a bale of hay” (Cavendar, p. 118-9)
  • Tobacco smoke is blown into the clothes of colicky children to quiet them, or blown through a straw and “bubbled” in milk as a sedative (Randolph, p.98)

This method clearly derives (I think, anyway) from the Native American medical practices which Europeans adopted in the New World.

The use of tobacco has always had its controversies, of course.  Some objected to it on aesthetic grounds, thinking the act of smoking vulgar and primitive.  Others were disgusted by the smoke and smell associated with the burning leaves.  Still others thought it a waste of money or even a diabolical entrapment for hapless Christians.  One poem I found was circulated in the middle-Appalachians during the nineteenth century and covered all these points:

“Tobacco is an Indian weed,

The Devil himself sowed the seed;

Robs your pockets, burns your clothes,

And makes a chimney out of your nose” (Milne, p. 58)

The religious objections to tobacco were primarily on its use as a vice and an intoxicant.  According to Foxfire 7, the Jehovah’s Witnesses had especial objections to it, and for quite intriguing reasons:  “Smoking has always been completely out of vogue among Jehovah’s Witnesses…As the Society researched the derivations of tobacco and smoking, they found it to be associated with spiritism.”  They also related tobacco to “drugs” used by “priests in pagan ceremony and worship” (Foxfire 7, p. 152-3).

When it comes to purely magical uses of tobacco, the information I found varied a good bit.  Zora Neale Hurston mentions it as a cursing ingredient in a powerful separation spell.  She also tells a very interesting story about a man who takes shelter in an abandoned house only to be joined by a mysterious old man who begins spitting tobacco across the fire at him. When the man attempts to fight the old fellow, he finds himself thrown across the room over and over again.  In this context, there seems to be a subtle current relating the “old man” of the story to the Crossroads Man, Papa Legba, or perhaps the Devil (or maybe even all three from a certain perspective).

One article from 1890 indicated that tobacco was included in mojo bags made with the famous lucky rabbit’s foot.

Cat Yronwode recommends tobacco as an ingredient in court case and spirit contact work.  In this latter capacity, I’ve see tobacco used as an offering to various spirits, particularly crossroads entities and spirits of the dead (Central American folk-saint/crossroads spirit Maximon frequently smokes cigarettes or cigars).  Denise Alvarado’s Voodoo-Hoodoo Spellbook indicates that tobacco is frequently offered to Baron Samedi in the New Orleans Voodoo tradition.

I would also suggest that due to the calmative and drawing effects that tobacco exhibits in folk medicine, it makes a useful addition to house-cleansing and blessing incenses.  A very small pinch added to another incense blend in a well-ventilated house should draw evil spirits out of your home and welcome friendly (and particularly, ancestral) spirits into it.  If you or anyone you live with cannot abide tobacco smoke, however, consider burying a little cut tobacco leaf at the four corners of your property to produce a similar effect.

Lastly, if you choose to smoke tobacco in a ritual context, consider whispering prayers as you exhale smoke.  It makes a fantastic visual focus point to see your requests and adoration slowly rising from your mouth and into the air.  Again, I don’t condone smoking (especially not outside of a very occasional ritual setting), but if you do incorporate it into your practices, I hope that this suggestion helps.

That’s it for the devil-weed tobacco!  I hope this proves useful to some of you out there.  Please let me know if you have any other magical or folk remedy uses for tobacco leaf in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading!

-Cory

Podcast 26 – Storytelling and an Interview with Dr. E

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 26-

Summary
This episode has Cory flying solo while Laine is away (she’ll be back!). He discusses storytelling, and shares three tales with some common themes from Ashanti, Bahamian, and Southern African-American sources.  Then we have a great interview with Dr. E, a conjure man and Lukumi priest.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 26

Sources
Some great storytelling resources:
The Story-Teller’s Start-up Book, by Margaret Read McDonald
The Storyteller’s Guide, by Bill Mooney
Hedge-Folk Tales, by Sarah Lawless (podcast)

The three tales I told today are:
“Anansi & Anene” from the Ashanti
“Fishing on Sunday” from the Bahamas
“Brer Rabbit and the Well” from the Uncle Remus tales
(all adapted from versions found in A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore, Harold Courlander, ed.)

I recommend the Year in White Podcast for more information on Lukumi practice.

And of course, Dr. E’s Sites:
The Conjure Doctor Blog
The Conjure Doctor Shop
Dr. E on AIRR (Assoc. of Independent Readers & Rootworkers)
Dr. E on Twitter
Dr. E on Facebook
The Lucky Mojo 2011 Open House Hoodoo & Rootwork Weekend, where he will be teaching a class on doll-baby construction

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1 – The Pagan Homesteader
Promo 2 – Witches’ Brewhaha
Promo 3 – Borealis Meditation

Blog Post 119 – A Little Love Magic

I’m sure with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I won’t be the only one to cover today’s topic:  love magic.  Yes, I know that Valentine’s is a commercial holiday designed to sell greeting cards (or something like that), but this seems as good a time as any to introduce some of the folklore and magic surrounding that strange, powerful feeling of love which seems to rule over so much of our human existence.  We’ll also look a little at lust, though I’ll likely save a detailed discussion for a sex magic post of some kind.

I should also say that this little article only scratches the surface of the overall material on this enormous branch of magical practice.  Love spells seem to be some of the most commonly sought and most often used enchantments in the world, so any blog post on them will necessarily be rather skint on details.  Also, this particular article is a sort-of companion to our upcoming podcast episode, which will be on this topic as well.  In the episode, we’ll discuss things like the ethics of love spells, so I only really want to touch on the lore and some of the basic spell ideas here.  Of course, if you want to leave comments or send emails regarding questions of ethics, I fully support that!

So what is love magic?  Most people would probably understand a spell cast by a young man on his high school crush to make her go out with him as a type of love spell, but what about a spell cast by a wife on an errant husband to make him stay a little closer to home?  Is a spell to spice up things in the bedroom a love spell, or just a lust spell, or maybe a little of each?  As I pored over the research, I found that there are several distinct categories for love magic:

1)      General-purpose love spells, such as wearing rose quartz, hanging a “loving bell,” spells to help a girl find a beau/husband soon, etc.

2)      Love divinations, like dream interpretations, carrying a four-leaf clover in the bible, catching a bouquet at a wedding, etc.

3)      Lust magic & aphrodisiacs, like the famous Love potion #9, dried turkey bones, powdered bird tongues, vanilla, etc.

4)      Person-specific love spells, which make one particular person fall in love with another, using things like hatbands/socks, mirrors, a particularly ghoulish dead-man’s mojo, etc.

5)      Magic for staying together, common in hoodoo, such as tying a man’s nature, writing bloody initials for reconciliation, menstrual blood in food, etc.

6)      Splitting up work, designed to break a couple apart using things like the black cat/dog hair spell, Hurston’s nine needles spell, etc.

Taking these various categories—which are just my understanding of the material, by the way, and should not be taken as gospel—let’s look at some of the individual spells, beliefs, signs, and ceremonies associated with each one.

A word of warning before we begin: I DO NOT ADVOCATE THE USE OF ANY OF THESE SPELLS. I’m presenting them as matters of folkloric record only.  Many of these techniques and/or formulas can be unsanitary or downright dangerous, so please keep that in mind as you read.

General-Purpose Love Spells

This category is fairly well addressed in modern neo-Pagan magical texts, so I won’t get much into it here.  I recall learning early on from Scott Cunningham’s Earth Power and other books like it that rose quartz could be worn to draw love to you, or just inspire loving feelings in you.  Oraia from Media Astra ac Terra covers the metaphysical properties of rose quartz very well in Episode 20 of that show, so if you want more info, I’d suggest listening to her examination of it.

Cunningham’s book also contains a spell for a “Loving Bell” which involves hanging a small bell somewhere the West Wind can touch it, reciting a little chant, and waiting for the bell to “whisper” your desire for love onto the wind, calling a lover to you (p.46).

Another basic spell from Draja Mickaharic’s A Century of Spells calls for burning a candle anointed with a mixture of basil and almond oil to draw love into one’s life.

As far as North American folklore goes, general-purpose love spells are actually a bit rare.  They most often tend to be focused on getting a spouse or preventing spinsterhood (forgive the sexist language there, but these do seem to be customs targeted at women).  For instance, in Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic & Folklore he mentiones that Ozark girls will pin pieces of a wasp’s nest inside their clothing to draw courtship from men.  Randolph also mentions a peculiar love charm that he encountered in the mountains and which reputedly brought love into a young girl’s life:

“Many mountain damsels carry love charms consisting of some pinkish, soaplike material, the composition of which I have been unable to discover; the thing is usually enclosed in a carved peach stone or cherry pit and worn on a string round the neck, or attached to an elastic garter. I recall a girl near Lanagan, Missouri, who wore a peach stone love-charm on one garter and a rabbit’s foot fastened to the other.” (p. 166)

It’s not unreasonable to think that the “pinkish, soaplike material” may well be a piece of rose quartz.  Or, it may be something else entirely.  Patrick W. Gainer records the oft-repeated superstion that if someone sweeps under or on top of a girl’s feet, she will never marry, so girls were very careful not to let that happen.  Taking the last bite of any food at the table meant that a girl should kiss the cook or else end up an old maid, too.  Gainer also says that a girl who hold’s a bride’s dress on her lap within ten minutes will marry within a year and that if a girl lends her garter to a bride on her wedding day, she can expect to marry soon, too.

Love Divination

There are so many wide-ranging methods of determining a future lover’s identity that it would likely give me carpal tunnel and send my readers into a glazed-eye coma trying to list them all.  Divining one’s future love life is probably the most common form of divination, and can be found everywhere from the playground to the wedding chapel to the funeral home.  Most folks know about catching bouquets and garters at a wedding to indicate who the next to be married will be.  Some of the more unusual methods of determining one’s romantic future are:

  • Dream of a funeral and attend a wedding
  • Count seven stars for seven nights, and you will dream of the man you will marry.
  • To dream of the man you will marry, take a thumbful of salt the night before Easter
  • Marry soon if you dream of a corpse
  • If two forks are at a place-setting on the table, the one who sits there will be married.
  • Put three holly leaves under your pillow at night and name each leaf.  The one that is turned over in the morning will be the name of your husband.
  • Put a four-leaf clover in the Bible.  The man you meet while you are carrying it will be your husband.
  • On the first day of May before sunrise, if you see a snail within a shell, your future husband will have a house.  If the snail is outside the shell, he will have none.  Sprinkle meal in front of the snail and it will form the initial of the man you are to marry.
  • Walk around a wheat field on the first day of May and you will meet your mate.
  • The white spots on your nails tell how many lovers you will have.
  • On the first day of May, look into a well and you will see the face of your future husband.

There are lots of other methods for determining a future spouse, of course, such as peeling an apple in one long strip and tossing it over your shoulder to determine the initial of one’s eventual husband or wife.  Several Halloween traditions also focus on love divination, such as throwing nuts into the fire to see if they pop or fizzle, thus reflecting the strength of the love between those who threw.  Really, we could be here all day with these, so let’s just say a little reading will reveal a plethora of divinatory options to the curious witch.

Lust & Aphrodisiacs

This is another broad and often-discussed topic, and one which folks can get into heated debates about very easily.  For instance, many people contend that certain foods—chocolate, oysters, strawberries, etc.—act as aphrodisiacs and cite medical reports to back up their claims.  Others cite counter-claims which demonstrate that any aphrodisiac effect from food is purely psychosomatic /placebo effect.  Love potions are incredibly popular, so much so that there’s an enduring pop song by the Searchers entitled “Love Potion No. 9,” which later inspired a popular film of the same name (featuring the lovely Sandra Bullock).  I’m not going to get into the ingredients for that potion here, but if you’re interested in it, the upcoming Spelled Out segment on the podcast will look at one recipe for this famous draught.
In American folklore, many ingredients can be brewed into love potions and used to drive a partner wild.  Randolph records that yarrow is used in love potions given to men, as are dodder/love vine/angel’s hair, lady’s slipper, and mistletoe.  Boys make a love potion from a wild gander’s foot, powdered and put into a girl’s coffee.  The use of bird ingredients in such potions is rampant, inlcluding the use of powdered turtle-dove tongue, chicken hearts, and rooster blood for various love and beauty blends.   Girls in the Ozarks would keep dried turkey bones in their rooms in order to seduce their beaus when the time was right, too.

Randolph also mentions that a woman can surruptetiously touch a man’s back to inspire feelings of lust in him.  Zora Neale Hurston says in her essay “Hoodoo in America” that a potent aphrodisiac charm from Jamaica includes mixing angle worm dust with High John chips and wearing this as a mojo around the waist.  Oils and powders such as “Come to Me Boy/Girl” and “Chuparosa” are also used to intoxicate a lover’s senses and make him/her crazy with lust and love.  There’s also a hoodoo formula called the “Hot Mama Douche” which is juniper berries steeped in vinegar and which is designed to bring a woman all the sex she can stand. Vanilla, dabbed behind the ears, is also reputed to drive men wild.

Person-specific Love Spells

These are the controversial, yet oft-sought after, spells which one person uses on another to command love.  There are a lot of ethical questions involved in these enchantments, and I won’t get into my perspective on them here (though I do talk a bit about it on the show).  As the folklore goes, there are a lot of ways to make someone yours through magic.  Most of them involve putting a little bit of yourself—such as urine, blood, or sweat—into them, often via food.  Wearing the other person’s clothing, especially intimate clothing that has had contact with their skin or which has encircled some part of their body (like a ring, hatband, glove, sock, etc.) will also allow you to command their love.  Some examples:

  • If a girl steals a man’s hatband and wears it as a garter, it will make him fall in love with her (Randolph, OM&F)
  • Socks and hatbands can be used to rule unruly men (Hurston, Mules & Men).
  • Turning down a man’s hatband and pinning two needles in it in a cross-wise fashion makes him love you (Haskins, Voodoo & Hoodoo)

Other spells to gain the love of a person include tying poppets/dolls together, knotting used clothes from each person together, or burying personal items from that person on your property.  In this latter vein, Zora Neale Hurston records an interesting spell using the person’s image captured in a mirror:

“To bind a lover to a place: a) This is for a girl: Let him look into a mirror but don’t you look into it. Take it home. Smash it and bury it under the front steps and wet the spot with water. He cannot leave the place. b) This is for a boy: Take three locks of her hair, throw one over your head, put one in your bosom, and one in the back of your watch. Then do the same thing with a mirror that the girl does and she is tied. You can’t undo this.” (from “Hoodoo in America”)

Similarly, getting a potential lover to walk over or under a charm specifically planted to catch his/her love can be very effective.  Hurston’s Mules & Men contains the following spell:

Use nine lumps each of starch, sugar, & steel dust wet with Jockey Club perfume and put into nine mojo bags tied with red ribbon.  Put these all around his home (or yours), especially at entrances and under rugs, and he will be unable to resist you.

As I mentioned before, the best ways to gain control of a lover tends to be to make him or her ingest something that has a bit of one’s own bodily fluid.  Randolph mentions the use of menstrual blood in drink (though I usually find that more connected to the next section, “Magic for Staying Together”), as well as using whiskey in which fingernail trimmings have been soaked.  In Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro, Newbell Niles Puckett records a love charm which uses bathwater to similar effect: “a great love charm is made of the water in which the lover has washed, and this, mingled with the drink of the loved one, is held to soften the hardest heart.”

Magic for Staying Together

When a relationship hits a rough patch, people often do all sorts of things they wouldn’t normally do.  While some spells in this category are designed to bolster the already strong bonds between two happily enamored people, more often than not these spells are done out of desperation.  A wife wants to keep her philandering husband at home and away from other women.  A man wants to bring back a lover who has left him.  These aren’t particularly happy spells, but they do make up a good bit of the overall love spell genre, so here are a few of the more common or more interesting ones.

One spell I found repeatedly, and one which I mentioned in the previous section, was the use of menstrual blood in food.  It appeared in the folklore from multiple cultures and always with the same basic idea: a little of a woman’s menses in a man’s food or drink will make him absolutely hers and keep him from ever straying.  Urine occasionally pops up in this method, too, though it is far less common.

Other methods involve attaching something to a man’s clothes to mark him as one’s own.  In Hurston’s “Hoodoo in America” she notes in Section 9 that there is a such a ritual for regaining and binding the affection of an errant man. It is given in the “dialogue with Marie Laveau” style which is also in the N.D.P. Bivens text Black & White Magic of Marie Laveau. It involves using Van Van and Gilead buds placed in the man’s clothes or fashioned into a talisman for him to wear. A picture of Mary is then prayed over, and the man is supposed to stray no more.

Randolph’s Ozark informants revealed a number of methods for keeping or returning a straying lover, including:

  • A girl can write her initials and her sweetheart’s using the blood from the third finger of her left hand in order to reconcile with him after a fight.
  • Salting a fire brings an absent lover home, as does leaving one’s shoes in a “T” formation by the hearth.
  • A girl can clean her fingernails on Saturday, say a “mysterious old sayin’” and make a man visit her on Sunday. Mountain boys even say ‘my gal fixed her nails yesterday’ to indicate they must go courting.

Of course, sometimes it’s not enough to make someone stay a little closer to home.  One hoodoo method for controlling an errant man is to measure his penis with a piece of string (often red) while he is asleep, wet it with his semen, then tie nine knots in it.  This method takes away his “nature” and keeps him from being able to perform with anyone but the woman who has the string.  In some cases, this means that the man is unable to perform entirely unless the woman unknots the string first, which I imagine puts a damper on spontenaity in the bedroom.  However, as the proverb goes, desperate times call for desperate measures (pun very much intended).

Splitting Up

This is an area I’ve got no experience with myself, and one which I shy away from in general.  As such, my research here is a bit thinner than in other categories of love magic, but I do have one or two examples to provide.

Hurston provides a method for making couples fight like cats and dogs using the hair from—you guessed it—cats and dogs:

“To Make a Fuss and Fight. Take a small bit of the hair of a black cat and of a black dog and mix same with nine grains of red pepper seed and names of persons you wish to make fuss or fall out with each other. The names are written nine times crossed. Place this under their house, gallery or bury same at their gate. The articles can be sewed into a bag, and, if possible, place in the pillow or mattress.” (“Hoodoo in America”)

Hurston also mentions a spell using nine broken needles to break up a couple in her book, Mules & Men.

There are a number of products available for break-up work, including figural candles of a man and woman which are burned so that they separate over time.  The Lucky Mojo company sells many of these items, and also has a page outlining other breakup spells, such as feeding two halves of an egg to a black dog and a black cat, or writing a person’s name on the back of a river turtle to send him/her away from a relationship.

Whew! Love is a pretty big topic, and I’ve only given you a few examples here.  There are so many other love spells and magical techniques for gaining love, keeping love, or ending love that trying to list them all would be ridiculous.  I hope, though, that if you’re curious you’ll continue to look into this sort of magic, and let us know what you find.  If you have spells you’ve used in this vein of magic, I’d love to know those, too!  And we’ll have a podcast up soon on this topic, as well, so be listening for that.  Until next time..

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 108 – Holiday Magic in the Kitchen

Today I thought I’d look at some of the holiday lore surrounding baking and cooking.  What would the holidays be without the smells of cinnamon and nutmeg and clove and allspice slowly seeping out of the hot oven?  And who imagines a holiday home without the presence of gingerbread or ginger cake of some kind?  Chocolate and peppermint add extra luxury to an already indulgent season.  In short, much of the magic of Christmastime and Yuletide seems to come from the kitchen (I’m sure many kitchen witches reading that chuckle in amusement that such sentiments even need to be typed out).

So let’s start by looking at some of the ingredients in those festive holiday treats:

Cinnamon – This handy kitchen spice has lots of magical uses.  Cat Yronwode recommends it as a business drawing and gambling botanical.  It can be used to make a wash-water which one would then use to scrub down the walkways in front of a business.  This has the effect of drawing in new clients.  In Jim Haskin’s Voodoo & Hoodoo, cinnamon is mixed with sugar and sprinkled in the shoes to increase gambling fortunes.  Draja Mickaharic describes cinnamon as “calming” with a “protective vibration” and also cites its money-making properties in his Century of Spells (which refers not to a unit of time, but rather a unit of enumeration—a century representing the roughly 100 spells found in the book).  Mickaharic also notes that “it has a claming and quieting effect on young children,” though I imagine in cookie form this may not be the case.

Cloves – Mickaharic says these are “psychically protective,” and keep “negative thoughtforms out of the place where it is burned.”  Presumably including cloves in any baked or cooked dish would involve at least heating them, thus releasing some of this power into the kitchen and home.  Yronwode says that “cloves appear in spells for money-drawing, prosperity, room-renting, and friendship” (HHRM, p. 73).  These are also used to make pomanders, clove-studded oranges rolled in orris root powder and hung as protective talismans in the home (well, protective talismans and lovely nosegays to help imbue the house with that sweet, spicy holiday scent).

Nutmeg – This botanical has a mild narcotic effect and has been a staple of magic for some time.  An old hoodoo charm found in Harry Hyatt’s work and later disseminated by other authors involves sealing a small amount of liquid mercury inside a drilled nutmeg, then carrying the charm around as a gambling mojo (this is NOT RECOMMENDED as mercury is highly poisonous—DO NOT DO IT!!!).  Mickaharic describes nutmeg as an herb which inspires conviviality and jovial behavior, and promotes an air of happy friendship in the home.

Allspice – “Good for social gatherings; increases the flow of conversation and the rapport between people” says Mickaharic (CoS, p.50).  These hard, dried berries can also be soaked for a few hours, then strung as a type of herbal rosary using a needle and thread.  Carrying this can help relieve stress and provide peace of mind.  Yronwode recommends this for business and gambling (there’s a pattern here), and also describes a floor wash one can make with ground allspice.   Mixed with cinnamon and burned as incense, Mickaharic says it “places a smooth and witty feeling” in the home.

Ginger – This fiery herb is used to “heat up” or enhance the potency of various other magical ingredients, and also provides a little kick in spells for love or money (HHRM, p.103).  The root can be used as a poppet due to its shape and sometimes-resemblance to a human body, and would be especially effective in a love or lust working.  It can also be carried for protection.

Sugar – Sweetening!  This can be used to add a “sweet” or happy vibration to the home where it is burned (though it can smell very sharp when burned, too…baking it may not have the same oomph as burning it, but will smell better in the long run).  Of course one can keep all of one’s visiting relatives’ name papers in the sugar jar in order to better provide a happy, congenial home during the holidays, but offering them lots of sugary sweets might help ply a good attitude out of them, too.

As you can see, most of these herbs have to do with prosperity and getting along with one another (and a little protection thrown in for good measure).  This makes sense during a season where money might be tight, tension runs high, and houses are full of dangerous things like fire and hot ovens.  So when doing the holiday baking, it might be worth throwing an extra pinch or two of these spices in to up the magical ante of your confections.

I mentioned gingerbread earlier, and it made me think of a couple of stories from early American folklore about bakers whose experiences with cookies certainly have a magical bent:

The Baker’s Dozen” – A piece of reputed folklore recorded by Charles M. Skinner in 1896, this story revolves around a stingy baker and his encounters with an old crone who bewitches his bakery.  Only through the magnanimous efforts of St. Nicolaus (and by swearing better behavior on a gingerbread cookie shaped like him) does he manage to break the spell.

The Gingerbread Man” – This famous story tells of a gingerbread man come to life who flees his baker and eludes capture by the people and animals of the village.  He meets his match in the swift (and often crafty, in various retellings) fox, who finally devours him.

Finally, I’ll leave you with my family recipe for gingerbread:

1 c. sugar
1 c. shortening
1 c. molasses
½ c. hot water
1 Tbs. cinnamon (or to taste)
1 Tbs. ginger (or to taste)
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
7 c. flour, plus a little extra for rolling dough

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour and mix in dry ingredients.  Add egg, molasses, and shortening and mix.  Slowly add hot water, mixing as you go.  When dough is sticky, begin to work it into a ball.  Dust a flat surface with flour and begin rolling out the dough, working it until you get it about ¼ inch thick.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a knife.   Bake cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet for about 15 minutes (or until they are crisp at the edges and fully cooked.  Cool on a wire rack, decorate, and eat!

My mother and I used to bake several batches (rather, a whole day’s worth) of gingerbread, then spend time making the finished products into houses, sleighs, people, and animals.  We gave them as gifts, decorated with royal icing and candy, and were often very popular around the holidays.  I hope you enjoy!  It’ll be like taking a little bite out of your New World Witchery host during the holiday season.

Wait, that probably sounds kind of creepy.  Enjoy anyway!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Quick Update – New Items in Shop!

Hi everyone,

We’ve had several folks requesting (and we’ve been promising) our Crown of Success Oil.  Well, good news!  It’s finally available for purchase again from our Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/compassandkey.

Along with the oil, a Crown of Success Mojo Bag is also available, and a combination bundle of one mojo bag and one bottle of oil for $2 less than it would cost to buy them separately.

We’ve also got our Attraction Oil listed now, too!

Don’t be thrown by the numbers, either–we’ve got more than one of each of these.  I’ve found it’s easier to list one of something and then relist it when it’s been sold.  For those not in the US who wish to purchase, just send us an email at compassandkey@gmail.com so we can work out shipping costs and we’ll be happy to sell to you as well!

Thanks for shopping! 🙂

Be well!

-Cory

 

Blog Post 98 – Critter Bits (Magical Animals, Part III)

So I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to talk a little about the use of animal parts in magic.  Animals and magic have gone hand-in-hand for a very long time.  The reading of entrails from ritually slaughtered animals has been used as a divination technique since at least the pre-Roman era.  Talismans designed to imbue the carrier with the particular power of an animal were often made from that animal’s fur, bone, or skin.  Owen Davies chronicles the frequent use of virgin parchment—a type of scroll medium made from a highly treated animal skin, usually from a creature like a lamb or goat—in the construction of ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean grimoires (in his book appropriately entitled Grimoires).  The thought was that this particular material would endow whatever was written on it with an extra layer of power, thereby charging sigils, elevating incantations, and generally adding a little va-voom to the inscribed workings of magicians.

On North American soil, many of the old rituals and magical practices found in places like Europe and Africa took root.  Some of them changed quite a bit as they grew here, and some stayed more or less recognizable.  I thought a brief survey of the common animal curios used in witchcraft—both folklorically and practically—might be a good way of seeing the connection between critters and crafting.  Please take note now, I AM NOT ADVOCATING THE INJURY, SENSELESS SLAUGHTER, TORTURE, OR HARM OF ANY ANIMAL.  This information is for educational purposes.  If you choose to use this information in your own practice, please do so responsibly and without resorting to cruelty.  There are lots of ways to gather magical tools and ingredients from animals which are already dead (see Ms. Graveyard Dirt’s excellent site for some great examples).  Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at some of these critter bits:

1)      Rabbit’s Foot – We’ve covered this here in the podcast (on Episode #13) and the blog (in the Lucky Rabbit’s Foot entry), so I won’t spend a lot of electrons on it here.  It suffices to say that the rabbit’s foot remains one of the most popular luck charms in the canon of animal curios.  It may have significant underworld ties, and it may simply be related to speed and fertility. Whatever its originally intended meaning, it stands for good luck now, especially in gambling.

2)      Toad’s Bone/Black Cat Bone – These are some of the darkest and most disturbing of animal curios, as the rituals required to obtain them are brutal.  The Toad’s Bone is mostly found in British magical lore, and was written about extensively by Andrew Chumbley, former Magister of the Cultus Sabbati.  Scholar Ronald Hutton also details the significance of this bone to members of the Toadsmen, a secret society along the lines of Freemasonry, in his excellent history of modern witchcraft Triumph of the Moon.   This ritual artifact was obtained (at least in one version—there are multiple ways this ritual can play out, depending on what source  you look to) by burying a toad alive in an anthill and letting the ants  strip it down to the bones.  The bones are then taken to a stream and floated one by one until one bone floats agains the current.  This bone is then the magic bone, and can imbue the witch carrying it with all sorts of interesting powers from spirit summoning to invisibility.  The black cat version of this same rite is even more gruesome.  As it is recounted in Mules & Men by Zora Neale Hurston, the cat is thrown into a pot of boiling water (also alive), and cooked until all the flesh falls from the bones.  The bones are then either floated in a stream (the same as the toad’s bones) or passed under the tongue of the magician.  The magic bone in this tradition turns the user invisible, and can also be used in some powerful love spells.  Most places selling this bone today are actually selling chicken bones painted black, and hopefully few people are actually performing this ritual as it occurs in folklore.  Again, I don’t condone this rite, and present it as a curiosity of history and culture rather than a suggested magical practice.

3)      Racoon Penis Bone – This is a popular charm in hoodoo, used in luck and love magic.  The bone itself, which is usually very thin and has a curved shape, has no disturbing ritual for obtaining it, but can simply be taken from an animal killed for meat or even from a roadkill hit (though I’d suggest being very careful how you handle remains of this nature, as they can often be riddled with diseases).  Cat Yronwode suggests that this particular curio entered American magical practice by way of Native American sources, and points out that the Pawnee often placed these bones along with ears of corn into sacred bundles.  I’ve heard that in the Appalachian and Ozark Mountains, it was common for boys to give girls these bones on red thread necklaces as love tokens (though I’ve not yet found a primary source for this claim).  Raccoons are not the only animal to have this bone—or “baculum”—and in fact many mamal species have it.  Other animals like foxes and dogs also have these bones, and occasionally these will turn up in magical charms, too.

4)      Rattlesnake Rattle – Snakes in general have a lot of lore about them, but the rattlesnake is particularly of note because its rattlemakes it a unique member of its family.  The rattles themselves have been collected for years as lucky charms.  Cat Yronwode suggests uses including:

  • A charm to help musicians play well
  • A simple “Live Things in You” curse
  • A personal power token
  • A gambling charm to bring luck

Rattlesnake rattles are fairly delicate things, especially once they’ve been dessicated for use in crafts and magic.  You can occasionally find one which has been turned into a key ring or charm, but the best way to handle these is to put them in a little vial or a small box of some kind and carry that with you.

5)      Snake Fangs/Bones/Skin – As I said earlier, snakes generally have all sorts of magical connotations.  You can look back at our blog entry on them (Snakes) and find out a good bit there, but here are some highlights:

  • Fangs can be worn as necklaces or carried as tokens of protection (from snakebite in some cases)
  • The bones or skin can be powdered and added to food to cause a “Live Things in You” curse
  • The skin of a snake soaked in vinegar can be used to treat boils in the Ozark magical tradition
  • The shed skins can be powdered and added to all sorts of crossing and jinxing formulae, including goofer dust and a variant on hot foot powder

Many pet stores will happily give you any leftover snake sheds they have if you call and ask politely, and if you develop a good enough relationship, you can sometimes wrangle dead snakes and/or bones out of them, too.  Roadkilled snakes are also good, but be absolutely sure they’re dead before approaching them.

6)      Dog/Cat Hair – These curios are nice because the animals don’t have to be hurt to acquire them.  Usually black hair is used, and preferably from all-black animals.  When the two hair types are mixed together in a mojo bag or vinegar jar, they can cause people to fight “like cats and dogs.”  Black cat hair can also be used to gain good luck, and black dog hair can be used to inspire feelings of loyalty or obedience in others.  If you have a black cat or dog, you probably have plenty of this available to you on furniture, carpet, etc. (I speak from experience here).  If you don’t, you might find a friend who does and see if they will let you have some of it for use in your magical workings.  At worst, you might have to snip off a little from the animal, but thankfully that does no harm (unless it’s the middle of winter and you leave a bald patch—don’t do that).

7)      Chicken Legs/Feet/Feathers – Chickens are popular creatures for magic, mostly because they are expendable (I call them like I see them) and ubiquitous.  Black hens and their feathers are wonderful for curse-breaking, according to Cat YronwodeStarr Casas, a notable rootworker from Texas, often speaks of using chicken legs or feet during cleansing work.  Even just having chickens can be particularly magical, since they will scratch up and destroy any curses laid for you on your property.  A Pow-wow charm from John George Hohman suggests that you do the following to prevent house-fires:

Take a black chicken, in the morning or evening, cut its head off and throw it upon the ground; cut its stomach out, yet leave it altogether; then try to get a piece of a shirt which was worn by a chaste virgin during her terms, and cut out a piece as large as a common dish from that part which is bloodiest. These two things wrap up together, then try to get an egg which was laid on maunday{sic} Thursday. These three things put together in wax; then put them in a pot holding eight quarts, and bury it under the threshold of your house, with the aid of God, and as long as there remains a single stick of your house together, no conflagration will happen. If your house should happen to be on fire already in front and behind, the fire will nevertheless do no injury to you nor to your children. This is done by the power of God, and is quite certain and infallible. If fire should break out unexpectedly, then try to get a whole shirt in which your servant-maid had her terms or a sheet on which a child was born, and throw it into the fire, wrapped up in a bundle, and without saying anything. This will certainly stop it. (#114)

The chicken’s wings can also be used to make a fan which some magical folk use to direct smoke during spiritual fumigations.  So popular is this animal in magic that one of my favorite grimoires is actually called The Black Pullet (a pullet being another name for a hen).

8)      Eggs – These are often used for spiritual cleansing, across several traditions.  In Mexican folk healing (curanderismo), an egg can be used to sweep, massage, and mark a person’s body to remove the Evil Eye (mal ojo) or harmful witchcraft.  The egg can also be “read” after this process to determine things like spiritual attachments, disease, bad luck, etc.  Another Pow-wow cure with a curious resemblance to the Toad’s Bone ritual earlier mentioned directs anyone suffering from failing health to catch rain water in a pot before sunrise without speaking to anyone, boil an egg in it, poke holes in the shell, and leave the egg on an anthill to be devoured.  This will supposedly allow the ailment to be “eaten” by the ants.  Eggshells also have some magical significance.  When powdered, they become cascarilla, which is used in Afro-Caribbean magic.  Cat Yronwode also lists several really interesting spells that can be done with black hens’ eggs.  For example, boiling a black hen’s egg and feeding half to a black cat and half to a black dog while saying two people’s names will cause them to have a falling out.  There is also a rather fascinating magical detective spell that can be done by placing an egg in each of a murder victim’s hands.  After the burial, the eggs will rot and eventually burst, at which time the murderer will return and be caught.

9)      Animal Fat – This is less of a curio than an ingredient, and the different fats from different animals (often referred to as that animal’s “grease”) have distinct properties.  According to Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic, “Rattlesnake fat is a powerful ointment.  Rub it on any painful body part, or stroke the whole body downward to expel conjure poisons” (p. 162).  Ozark healers commonly used “skunk grease” to cure various rhumetoid conditions.  Vance Randolph says “The grease from skunks or civet cats, mixed with peppermint leaves, is highly praised by some hillfolk as a lubricant for rheumatic joints. It is said that the fat of a male wildcat is best of all” (OM&F, p. 108).   In Pow-wow magic, a range of animal fats is used to make a potent anti-rust treatment for firearms:

Take an ounce of bear’s fat, half an ounce of badger’s grease, half an ounce of snake’s fat, one ounce of almond oil, and a quarter of an ounce of pulverized indigo, and melt it altogether in a new vessel over a fire, stir it well, and put it afterward into some vessel. In using it, a lump as large as a common nut must be put upon a piece of woollen cloth and then rubbed on the barrel and lock of the gun, and it will keep the barrel from rusting.  (#110)

Wild animal fat has mostly gone out of use, though it can occasionally still be found, particularly in the mountain regions of America.

10)   Bear/Badger/Other Teeth – These curios are usually gambling, luck, or protection charms.  Hohman mentions the badger’s tooth as a wonderful gambling talisman.  Bear teeth appear in protective necklaces (along with claws in many cases).  One of Vance Randolph’s stories from the Ozarks recounts a man who kept a big boar’s tooth on a leather thong over his fireplace.  Whenever any of his children would get a toothache, he’d make them wear the necklace until the pain went away.  These charms are common in many places, and hardly unique to the New World (the badger is an Old World animal, after all).  Plenty of places, including the wonderful site The Bone Room, sell teeth, bones, and other animal curious for use in crafts, magical or otherwise.

I think that will end our survey for today.  There are still plenty of parts and pieces I’ve missed, including gator paws and heads, various animal skins, porcupine quills, and the myriad insect charms that could still be discussed (and hopefully will be at some future date or dates—ants alone obviously have plenty of magical uses).  If you can think of other charms, I’d love to hear them, and feel free to share your folklore regarding animal remnants and magic in the comments section!

Until next time, thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 81 – Van Van Oil

Greetings everyone!  Today, I’m going to cover another piece of our recent Lucky 13 podcast:  Van Van oil.  This is one of the most common hoodoo oils around, and actually  shows up in other places fairly often, too.  Because it is made from grasses found in Southeast Asia, it has a long history in medicine and magic from those areas.  Some of the grasses used in Van Van are also grown in West Africa, which is likely one route through which Southern conjure practices adopted this formula.

The basic ingredients in a Van Van blend are oils from:

Most of these are not easily available in bulk herb form, with the exceptions of lemongrass (which you can find at almost any Asian market) and vetiver (which can often be found in herb or metaphysical shops).  All of the oils except gingergrass are readily available from any aromatherapy or herbal extract dealer.  Gingergrass oil, which can be hard to find, is often left out of homemade Van Van recipes, or something else might be substituted for it.

The proportions heavily favor lemongrass in the recipes I’ve seen, almost to the point of exclusivity.  There are some who solely use lemongrass oil and add dried botanicals to it in order to round out the recipe.  Generally speaking, a home blender would use:

  • 5-10 parts lemongrass oil
  • 3-5 parts citronella oil
  • 2-3 parts vetiver root or oil
  • 1 part palmarosa
  • 1 part gingergrass

All of these would be carefully blended in a sterile jar, then topped with a carrier oil (sweet almond or jojoba would be excellent).  The proportions above are merely suggestions, and you would do well to contact a trained herbalist before blending these on your own.  In reality, you might be able to use just the first three oils and have some pretty solid Van Van oil, so don’t spend loads of money tracking down rare herbal ingredients unless you really feel compelled to do so.

Additions to the recipe vary by practitioner and region.  For example, in New Orleans, one might find lemon verbena added to the mix.  In fact, this may be how the formula got its name.  According to Cat Yronwode, Creole rootworkers would sometimes use lemon verbena in their blends in order to supplement the strong lemon-musk scent of the oil.  Verbena—a related herb—was often called vervain, and that was given a pidgin phoneme of “van van.”  The name does NOT have anything to do with vanilla, which is not found in any traditional recipes for this formula.  Judika Illes, whom we’ve referenced several times before, suggests adding another wild Asian grass—patchouli—to the blend, but I’ve never done this myself (I’m not a fan of patchouli, personally).  Other additions might include pyrite chips or “lucky” things like four leaf clover charms (which can also be anointed with Van Van and carried for luck).

So just what is Van Van oil for and how does it work?  Well, it’s considered a sort of ultimate luck formula, having sway over money, prosperity, gambling, love, and anything else that might need a little luck.  It’s often used to anoint talismans—like the rabbit’s foot—or mojo hands made for gambling or love.  As for how it works, lemongrass (and all citrus grasses) has a powerful “cut and clear” effect…think of how many lemon-scented cleaning agents there are.  They just make things seem cleaner (lemon also has some antibacterial/antimicrobial properties, and is a potent preservative in small doses—sliced apples are often treated with a lemon juice extract to keep them from browning).  Citronella does something similar (think of how citronella candles, torches, and oils repel nasty insects like mosquitoes).  These grasses cut and clear any negative influences, warding off bad luck. Palmarosa and gingergrass (which come from the same plant, in reality, Cymbopogon martine) are muskier, and so have a slight sexual connotation.  If you think of something being clean, bright, and sexy, it’s not hard to imagine lucky in the mix, too (think James Bond in a casino).  Vetiver is the muskiest of all, with strong earthy tones.  Earth has connections to abundance and prosperity (think of fertile black soil planted with seeds which grow into crops), plus there is a strong sexual current again.  Sex + money + nothing standing in your way?  Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty lucky.

A few quick notes:

Magico-botanical notes come primarily from Cat Yronwode’s book, Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic.

You can find Van Van oils at the Lucky Mojo Co.,  Music City Mojo, Toads Bone Apotheca, Queen of Pentacles Conjure, The Conjure Doctor, and just about any botanica or root shop around.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 80 – Horseshoes

Following in the vein of recent posts, today I’m looking at another luck charm:  the horseshoe.  One thing Laine and I discussed in Podcast 13 was that the horseshoe seems to be a rather ubiquitous talisman.  It is so ubiquitous, in fact, that many folks may not even realize it has any magical connotation at all.  In an article from Western Folklore entitled “Lucky Horseshoes,” Jeannine E. Talley writes:

The horseshoe as a bestower of luck is so frequently encountered that it has become a cliche, but at the same time an isolated belief without a context. Barnet’s comment that the mule has been “pounding it full of luck” provides not only the ‘logic’ explaining why the horseshoe is full of luck but also reveals that luck is ac-cumulative. His insistence that the old nails must be used to hang the shoe is not found in standard collections for folk belief, but is akin to the notion that if the hardware is hung with prongs down, the luck will “run out.” This instance is a prime example that collecting the item is not enough; the contextual background of any item is of equal importance since it often contains the rationale which makes the belief credible. (p. 129)

I like this particular examination of the horseshoe because it details two points:  1) the horseshoe’s luck comes from its association with the horse itself and 2) as Talley states, the luck is accumulative, so the longer a shoe has been on a horse, the luckier it is.

Of course, there are plenty of other theories about why a horseshoe might be lucky.  Robert M. Lawrence, in his article,  “The Folk-Lore of the Horseshoe” describes the horseshoe as a talismanic emblem with many possible folkloric connections, including:

  • The Jewish Passover – like blood spread on doorposts/lintels and rowan trees in Scotland
  • Serpent emblem – “In front of a church in Crendi, a town in the southern part of the island of Malta, there is to be seen a statue having at its feet a protective symbol in the shape of a half-moon encircled by a snake”
  • Moon emblem – “the brass crescent, an avowed charm against the evil eye, is very commonly attached to the elaborately decorated harnesses of Neapolitan draught horses, and is used in the East to embellish the trappings of elephants.”
  • Phallic Emblem of some kind
  • Prong-shamed talisman – like protective horns of animals (connected to African symbols)
  • Horse as Sacred Animal (as mentioned above)
  • Iron as “Virtuous” metal capable of dispelling harmful forces (Journal of American Folklore, v.9, n.35, 1896, p. 288-292)

I hope to get into some of these symbols and ideas in other posts at another time—particularly iron, which shows up a lot in fairy doctoring practices and other magical systems—so for now I think it suffices to say that horseshoes have a lot of lore to build upon and are quite lucky, though no one seems to know exactly why they are so.

So how does one use horseshoes?  First of all, the shoe needs to be one which actually has been on a horse at some point (remember all that pounding of luck into it in Jeannine Talley’s article?).  Likewise, there are some who say that hanging a horseshoe involves using a spent horseshoe nail, too.  That seems to be a slightly less stringent requirement, but if you happen to have a spare horseshoe nail with your horseshoe, why not use it?

The issue of which way the “horns” of the shoe are pointing seems to be hotly contested by those who concern themselves with such things.  Both opinions seem to have some sound reasoning behind them, which I mentioned in the most recent podcast.  The general idea boils down to whether you think the horns up are “holding in the luck” or whether the horns down are “pouring the luck out on you.”  Either way, I think this is where instinct kicks in.  If you feel like you’ve hung it the “wrong way,” you probably have and  you should switch it.  But if you feel like your luck’s in good condition and your horseshoe’s “right,” then leave it be.

As to how specifically a horseshoe might be used, Harry M. Hyatt has a few examples of horseshoes in hoodoo work:

1) From Vol.2,p.1547

NAIL A HORSESHOE UP
OVER YOUR FRONT DOOR.
NAIL A PENNY DOWN IN THE FRONT
DOOR TOO. SCRUB IT ALL THE TIME.*
THESE WILL BRING YOU GOOD LUCK.

Dey kin use a horseshoe. Yo’ take a horseshoe an’ yo’ kin nail it up
ovah yore front do’ an’ take a penny an’ nail it down in de front do’; an’
yo’ jes’ let dat penny stay dere all de time an’ yo’ scrub ovah dat penny
all de time, an’ jes’ leave it dere an’ dat’ll be good luck fo’ yo’.
[Savannah, GA; Madam Pauline; Informant #1274. C575:1-C586:10 = 2136-2167.]

2) From Vol.2,p.1443

A HORSESHOE OVER THE DOOR
KEEPS SPOOKS OUT AND BRINGS LUCK.
& A MULESHOE OVER THE DOOR OF A BUSINESS
BRINGS BUSINESS SUCCESS

Keep a horseshoe – keep it ovah de do’ to keep de spook outa dere an’
fo’ luck, specially a man who does business. He’d have a new [mule] shoe ovah
de do’ – like he do’s a business roun’ in a shop or a restaurant or somepin
lak dat, because a mule is a hard-workin’ thing, hard-workin’. All right.
An’ jes’ lak ah’d have de mule when he hitch out an’ go to his stall to
eat, people be coming to his place and say….
[Sumter, SC; Informant #1387; Cylinders C885:1-C902:4 = 2366-2383]

(Both of these can be found in Hyatt’s book or in the excellent Yahoo! Group  “HyattSpells”)

I like the first example because it combines the lucky penny with the lucky horseshoe, and places luck at your head and your feet, so every time you enter a door,  you get caught between the two and get a double dose of luck.  I also like the rationale for using a mule shoe to boost business (because the mule is so hard-working).

Finally, Vance Randolph describes the Ozark methods of horseshoe deployment in Ozark Magic & Folklore:

  • Most hillfolk of my acquaintance use a horseshoe instead of the stone (to protect chickens from hawks), and some think that a muleshoe is even better. It is frequently fastened in the firebox of the stove rather than in the oven. In the old days the muleshoe was hung up in the fireplace, or even set into the mortar at the back of the chimney (p. 43)
  • Many hillfolk think that the man who finds a horseshoe with the closed end toward him will do well to “leave it lay.” If the open end is toward the finder, he sometimes spits on it and throws it over his left shoulder, a procedure which is supposed to bring good fortune. Or he may place it in a tree or on a fence,saying: “Hang thar, all my bad luck!” In this case, whoever touches the hanging horseshoe falls heir to the misfortune of the man who placed it there (p. 62)
  • Probably the commonest way to keep witches out of the house is to nail a horseshoe over the door; this is regarded as a sort of general prophylactic against witches, bad luck, contagious disease, and other evil influences (p. 283)

So that’s the lucky horseshoe.  Another long article, so I apologize for that, but hopefully you aren’t too bored.  Skimming is probably a good skill to apply when reading these blogs.  At any rate, if you have any questions or comments about horseshoes, please feel free to post them!

As always, thanks for reading!

-Cory

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