Posted tagged ‘planting by the signs’

Blog Post 174 – New World Witchery Cartulary No. 3

April 8, 2013

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

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Blog Post 20 – Planting by the Signs, Practicum

February 25, 2010

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

February 24, 2010

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

Blog Post 18 – Planting by the Signs, an Introduction

February 23, 2010

What makes the cornfields glad; beneath what star it befits to upturn the ground…and clasp the vine to her elm; the tending of oxen and the charge of the keeper of a flock; and all the skill of thrifty bees; of this will I begin to sing.

-Virgil, Georgics, Book I

Spring is just around the corner, and so my mind naturally turns to gardening.  I love the process of gardening—planting, harvesting, & canning and freezing everything from my vegetable and fruit garden; seeing my herbs grow from seed and sprout into gorgeous greenery; and seeing and smelling flowers as they bloom through the warm days and nights of the year.

There’s a long-standing relationship between magic and gardening.  One need only look to texts like Culpepper’s Herbal or the Anglo-Saxon poem of the nine sacred herbs to see that.  I think it’s something about the alchemy of turning seeds and dirt into food and flowers that seems like the simplest and purest kind of magic.

At any rate, I’m waxing poetic here, and I’m sure you’re wondering just what I’m getting at.  Well, today (and this week) I’m going to be exploring the phenomenon of “planting by the signs.”  This astro-agricultural practice is not unique to the New World, true.  Even the great Roman poet, Virgil, devoted an entire text to it, the Georgics, quoted at the beginning of this post.  But it was a tremendously important way of life for people from the Appalachians to the Mississippi, and really throughout most of North America.

The basic process of this practice involves calculating planetary hours and moon phases, and then using those as guidelines regarding which plants to put in the ground and at what time and day.  Each day of the month is ruled by a specific zodiac sign, and falls within a waxing, waning, new, full, or old moon.  Some signs are considered “fruitful” and others “barren.”  There’s an excellent overview of these characteristics and their daily correspondences at http://www.thealmanack.com/moonsign.htm.   The first book in the Foxfire series has a great article on this topic, as well as a great chart for understanding planting signs.

Some of the rules governing sign-based planting are as follows:

  • Planting is best done in the fruitful signs of Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, or Cancer
  • Plow, till, and cultivate in Aries
  • Never plant anything in one of the barren signs.  They are good only for trimming, deadening, and destroying.
  • Gather root crops in the last quarter of the moon
  • Harvest most crops when the moon is growing old.
  • Dig root crops for seed in the third quarter of the moon

(Examples taken from Foxfire 1)

There are other astrological correspondences as well, governing things like weaning children, hatching eggs, slaughtering livestock, etc.  But for the time being, I’m just going to focus on the vegetative side of this phenomenon.

The one tool (other than a plow, shovel, etc.) that a witch planting by the signs would need is a good almanac.  The one linked above (and also here) is a good one, though many prefer to get an almanac they can hold in their hands.  Some of the recommended almanacs are:
Grier’s Almanac – Continuously published since 1807, this one is very useful for Southerners.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac – A little harder to read and stuffed with ads, but it has some good info and it’s easy to find.
The Waterman & Hill-Traveler’s Companion, a Natural Almanac – Anything with a title this long is going to be full of interesting tidbits.  Sadly, it seems to have ceased production in 2007 due to the death of its founder, but it’s possible it may yet come back someday.

Another great resource for this is your local co-op.  A lot of times they will have local almanacs, or at least fliers and leaflets about regional planting practices, often related to sign-based planting.  Check out  your area feed store or co-op for more information.

If you want to refine your planting even further, you can determine the correct hour for planting by determining the ruling sign of that part of the day or night.  I’m borrowing from my friend Oraia here and recommending the Renaissance Astrology Page for determining that information.

I’ll try to put together a nice, detailed walkthrough example of this type of planting for later in the week, but for now this should give you a good starting point.  If you have any stories of planting by the signs, I’d love to hear them!

Be well, and thanks for reading!

-Cory


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