Posted tagged ‘spells’

Podcast 45 – The Bag Lady Show

November 30, 2012

Summary
This episode is a grab-bag of different items: a recap of PPSM3, some music from artist Leslie Fish, a recording of a mini-class, and listener feedback. Think “Mary Poppins’ traveling bag,” but full of NWW goodies.

Play:
Download: Episode 45 – The Bag Lady Show
Play:

 -Sources-

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

Don’t forget to follow us at Twitter!

 Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.

We feature three songs by artist Leslie Fish, from her album Avalon is Risen: ““Hallows Dirge,” “Hymn to the Night-mare,” & “Lucifer”

Promo 1-Inciting a Riot
Promo 2-Lakefront Pagan Voice
Promo 3-Pennies in the Well
Promo 4-Borealis Meditation

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Blog Post 167 – Corpses

November 26, 2012

To get everyone in the holiday spirit, today I thought we might head down the gruesome path to the graveyard and see what we can dig up (figuratively, of course). That’s festive, right? Deck the halls and all that? While I’ve talked recently about bones and their uses in magic, and we’ve touched on the idea of working with the dead in magical practice, too, you may not know that there is a very long and widely spread habit of using corpses—in whole and in macabre part—as magical tools in their own right. Of course, there are many societies, including some Native American tribes, with strong taboos against contact with dead bodies, yet even this geis reflects a sense of respect and awe at the power of the deceased. Sometimes the spirit of the dead person is the fuel behind the magic—in which case it can be seen as a form of necromancy—and sometimes it is simply the body voided of life—any body, really—which empowers the charm.

Probably one of the most famous and nefarious examples of corpse magic is the Hand of Glory, a special candle made from the severed and pickled hand of an executed criminal which supposedly had intense magical properties. One of its talents was its reputed ability to render anyone in a house near where it was lit unconscious, thus making them easy to rob and explaining why the Hand of Glory might have been sought after by eager thieves. Here is one of the brief-but-to-the-point recorded recipes for making a Hand of Glory, from one of my favorite spooky little tomes, Kathryn Paulsen’s Witches’ Potions & Spells (WARNING! THIS IS PROVIDED AS A FOLKLORIC EXAMPLE ONLY! DO NOT DESECRATE CORPSES—IT IS HIGHLY ILLEGAL!):

During an eclipse of the moon, sever the right hand of a corpse, preferably that of an executed murderer. Dry it and preserve it in a jar to which you have added foul smelling herbs. If you light the fingers of this hand as candles, the light can only be seen by yourself and other witches, and the light will not go out until you wish it. If you bring it into a house, sleep will reign over those within.  But you must let no one know that you posses the Hand of Glory. Use this hand to give light whenever you wish to obtain something from a graveyard (Paulsen 40).

Paulsen also mentions a variation on this spell which involves filling a human shin bone with tallow and carrying it as a candle to cause enchanted sleep. The Hand of Glory and its variants date back to at least the early Modern period, showing up in 18th century texts like the Petit Albert.

Across the Atlantic and on North American soil, corpses remained a morbid part of folk magic. Here they were granted powers of healing, crime-detection, secret-keeping, and other occult traits. The bodies of the dead figure into magical systems spanning multiple cultures, including those of Native Americans, the Pennsylvania Dutch, African Americans, and mountain folk in the Appalachians and Ozarks. First Nations practices vary between tribes, with alternating levels of prohibition and interaction when it comes to handling the dead. Randolph notes that “Some hillfolk of Indian descent insist upon sprinkling a little cornmeal over a corpse, just before the burial. This is done unobtrusively, without any noise or ceremony, and many whites have attended funerals where the rite was carried out without eve* noticing it. As the mourners shuffle past the body, here and there you see one drop a tiny pinch of meal into the coffin” (Randolph 316). Such a practice more rightly belongs to burial customs than necromancy, however. In general, contact with the dead can be a powerful—but frequently fearful—thing in Native societies. For example, “[o]ne of the most remarkable of Indian sacrifices was that practised by the Hurons in the case of a person drowned or frozen to death. The flesh of the deceased was cut off and thrown into a fire made for the purpose, as an offering of propitiation to the spirits of the air or water. What remained of the body was then buried near the fire” (Parkman 4). In the Pacific Northwest, there are accounts of tribes with magical groups that engaged in highly taboo behaviors to perform their roles as community sorcerors:  “There were also a number of secret societies—for example the Cannibal Society of the Kwakiutl, whose induction ceremony was believed to involve eating parts of a corpse” (Lowenstein 120). South American Natives have their own legends about how a group of witch-monsters from Chiloe, an archipelago south of the mainland, use a fearsome object called a macun. This is a leather bowl made from human skin taken from the corpse of a virgin which reveals the presence of human victims and can be used in some stories as a mode of transportation.  It can also help the evil brujos turn into animals, open locked doors, and become invisible.

Turning from the cultural backdrop of Native Americans, whose varied practices I have only skimmed in the previous paragraph, let us now look more at the specific applications of corpse magic in some of the non-Native societies of North America. In general, what follows is broken down by magical purpose into categories (legal work, divination, cures, and curses), with a few tidbits at the end. This is a far from complete examination of the topic, however, so I hope this provides an entryway into further study for those interested.

Legal Work
Fundamentally, these sorts of spells are either somewhat divinatory—helping to provide insight into crimes which remain unsolved, for instance—or make use of the dead body to provide legal aid. To this latter end, we can look in Hohman’s Long Lost Friend to find at least one instance in which the figure of the corpse is invoked to help in court-case work:

“TO RETAIN THE RIGHT IN COURT AND COUNCIL.
Jesus Nazarenus, Rex Judeorum.
First carry these characters with you, written on paper, and then repeat the following words: “I (name) appear before the house of the Judge. Three dead men look out of the window; one having no tongue, the other having no lungs, and the third was sick, blind and dumb.” This is intended to be used when you are standing before a court in your right, and the judge not being favorably disposed toward you. While on your way to the court you must repeat the benediction already given above.” (Hohman #147)”

The use of actual corpses in legal work tends to be more in crime-detection, however. One piece of lore spread across several cultures describes leaving an egg in the hand of a murdered man when he is buried. The murderer will be compelled to some action, depending on the story, ranging from returning to the scene of the crime to confessing guilt to suffering illness and death himself. Sometimes the body will perform its own divination, unaided by other witnesses or participants. Kentucky lore says “If a corpse’s nose bleeds, it is a sign that the murderer is in the room” (Thomas #745). Puckett notes in African American lore that “the common Negro belief [is] that If you put your hand on the corpse the ghost will not harm you (or you will be afraid of no more dead people). This may be the remnant of an old ordeal, since the wounds are supposed to bleed if the murderer touches the corpse” (Puckett 88).

Dead bodies can predict a number of situations and conditions it seems, as we shall see in the next section.

Divination
A number of sources on African American lore mention that a corpse that “limber” corpses predict a death to follow them, and insist that mirrors and clocks be covered with cloth as soon as someone dies to prevent anyone else in the house from dying. Like Puckett’s note above about touching the body to prevent fear of dead people, the corpse can intrude upon the living. Touching the body can prevent both bad dreams and visits from an unruly spirit. Likewise, the suggestion of something corpse-like can announce important information (usually another death). Harry Hyatt had an informant who related a tale of ‘death-scent,’ for example:

“I started to eat my breakfast last week. I happened to put my hand to my face; it smelled like a corpse. I said, ‘I wonder who’s going to die.’ And the smell left right away; that is a sudden death. If the smell  stays, it will be longer. That day I had a call. My cousin died when I was eating my breakfast. If it is the left hand that smells, it’s a lady; right hand, a man” (Hyatt #8313).

The dead seem to know a lot about the affairs of the living, but they can also be entreated to hold their tongues. Zora Neale Hurston recorded a spell used for keeping secrets which required a corpse: “If you want a secret kept, put it in the care of the dead by writing it on a piece of paper and folding it small and slipping it into the hand of the corpse, of whispering it in the ear” (Hurston 361). In addition to catching criminals and revealing impending doom, corpses can also be employed in a variety of happier magics, such as healings.

Cures
The volume of cures ascribed to dead bodies is too voluminous to include in any book, so I will only briefly touch on it here.  One of the most popular healings ascribed to the dead is wart-charming, which we’ve looked at before.  In the Ozarks, “[t]here is a widespread belief that warts can be ‘charmed off’ by touching them with the hand of a corpse. I have seen this tried several times. The warts disappeared after a while, just as they generally do under any other treatment, or with no treatment at all. On the other side of the balance, I have met an undertaker who handles many bodies every year, and both his hands are covered with warts!” (Randolph 131). Similar to Randolph’s bit about wart-removal, this charm comes from Kentucky: “You may remove birth-marks by rubbing them with the hand of a corpse.” (Thomas #1067). It can supposedly treat other skin disorders like eczema as well. A variation on the birthmark-removal from Illinois contains a little verbal charm to accompany the act of touching the corpse: “A girl should visit the corpse of a boy and move his hand over her birthmark as she says What I have, take with you; In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. A boy with a birthmark does this at the corpse of a girl.” (Hyatt #2685). Sometimes merely rubbing the mark or blemish with a rag and placing the rag in the coffin of a dead man is enough to remove the problem. Placing clothes and other objects from a sick person in the casket of the deceased supposedly removes everything from skin disorders to contagious diseases. Clothes taken from the corpse can also be healing: “To remove a swelling on the leg, bandage it with a piece of linen taken from a corpse” (Hyatt #5145).

Some of the other cures attributed to the dead:

  • “In other localities the body is placed on a ‘coolin’-board’ and covered with an arrangement of sheets, the one over the face being raised when the mourners address the corpse. Mourners may talk to the body to this effect: ‘Mandy, you gone an’ lef me. … I may be nex’ . . . Po’ Mandy! . . . Po’ John! .’ A plateful of salt and ashes is placed under the coolin’-board . . . whatever disease the body has goes into the ashes and salt. ‘Ashes takes up from de body de disease.’ These ashes are carried to the grave; and at the words, ‘Ashes to ashes and dust to dust,’ they are thrown into the grave.’” (Puckett 87)
  • “When in pain get some of this graveyard dirt from the breast of the corpse, cook it with lard, and make into a sort of pancake. Sprinkle this with turpentine and bind like a mustard plaster to the place that pains you. You will surely be cured.” (Puckett 287)
  • “Place in a coffin three lice from your head and the corpse will carry away the others.” (Hyatt #1438)
  • One of the more desecration-y methods for solving home problems with a little help from the dead comes from Harry Hyatt: “Pour some of the child’s urine into a bottle, hide this with a coffined corpse, and the child will stop wetting the bed. Sometimes a hole is punched through the stopper so that the urine can drip out — the cure being effected after the bottle becomes empty.” (Hyatt #6298)

In addition to being powerful curatives, bodies of the deceased can also cause tremendous harm.

Curses
It probably comes as no surprise that the use of dead bodies in magical rituals and spells generally gets a fairly negative portrayal. In the previous three sections, the spells were all designed to enact some positive change—albeit messy or sacrosanct in some cases—but now we shall look at a few of the nastier ways in which our dead friends can be used for magic. I’ll begin with a love spell, not because I inherently think love spells are evil curses (I don’t think that at all, actually), but rather because this one is exactly the kind of spell you could make a horror movie out of. It’s obsessive, possessive, and a little mean:

“A girl can take a needle which has been stuck into a dead body, cover it with dirt in which a corpse has been laid, and wrap the whole thing in a cloth cut from a winding sheet ; this is supposed to be a very powerful love charm, and a woman who owns such a thing can make any man fall in love with her. A needle which has been used to make a shroud is useful, too. If a girl thrusts such a needle into her lover’s footprint in her own dooryard, he is forced to remain with her whether he wants to or not. If he leaves the neighborhood he will get sick, and if he stays away long enough he will die.” (Randolph 169)

Randolph also examines witchcraft which falls in line with storybook expectations, harmful stuff perpetrated by willfully malevolent magical practitioners:

“Some witches are said to kill people with graveyard dirt, which is dust scraped from a grave with the left forefinger at midnight. This is mixed with the blood of a black bird; a raven or crow is best, but a black chicken will do in a pinch. The witch ties this mixture up in a rag which has touched a corpse and buries it under the doorstep of the person who is to be liquidated. The practice of burying conjure stuff under houses and doorsteps is well known. I have heard it said of a sick woman that she ‘must have stepped on somethin’ ‘ meaning that she was bewitched.” (Randolph 272)

Sometimes the negative effects of the corpse are inadvertent, however, and cursing is incidental. Several sources mentioned that pregnant women should not look upon a corpse, lest their child be marred in some way. Ozark lore says that using the comb of a dead person, particularly a comb that touched the deceased’s hair, will cause your own pate to go bald. Still other corpse curses seem related to harming the spirit of the departed him or herself. Kentucky lore says that you should “Put a lock of hair of a corpse into a hole in a tree to localize the spirit. If you remove the hair, the spirit will haunt you” (Thomas #741). Trapping a spirit seems like a dangerous game to me, but then, I’m not doing that particular spell anytime soon anyway. One of the quirkier ways of messing with the soul of the departed comes from Illinois: “As long as the funeral bill remains unpaid, the corpse will not rest in its grave” (Hyatt #15193).

In addition to the main methods discussed above, corpses also seem to have other magical uses. Here are a final pair from Hurston and Randolph involving some of the more unusual magic connected to the dead and their bodies:

“I. To Gain All Power. Go to the graveyard the night of All Saints at twelve o’clock. All of the blessed are gone from the cemetery at that time and only the damned are left. Go to a sinner’s grave1 and get nine hairs from his head and give the spirit in there a drink of whiskey. (They’ll do anything for a drink of whiskey.) Just leave a pint of liquor in there with the stopper out. Go home and burn nine red candles and the spirit will do anything you want.” (Hurston 361)

“When a backwoodsman dies, in certain sections of the Ozarks, it sometimes happens that one of his male relatives cuts a hickory stick just the length of the corpse. I have seen a hill farmer carrying one of these sticks on the day of his brother’s death, and I have seen one tied to the wagon which conveyed a corpse to the graveyard, but I have never been able to find out what became of them, or what their significance was. I first thought that the stick was simply to measure the body for a coffin, but it is something more complicated than that, and there is some sort of superstition connected with it.” (Randolph 314)

I hope this has been a worthwhile spin through the old boneyard to look at the dead from a more corporeal angle than we usually do in magic. None of this is to advocate any sort of desecration or anything illegal. While I imagine slipping a pinch of cornmeal into a coffin or wiping a handkerchief over a deceased family member’s hand before the casket is closed would at most raise some eyebrows, just about anything involving messing with the dead means legal problems. If you want to get a little help from the dearly departed, developing a relationship with them as spiritual beings is a much smarter way to go (I wrote about it recently on my other blog over at Witches & Pagans, if you’re interested).  If you have lore about dead bodies and the ways they have been used in magic, I’d love to hear them!

Thanks so much for reading!

-Cory

REFERENCES & SOURCES

  1. Gainer, Patrick W. Witches, Ghosts, & Signs. (Vandalia Press, 2008).
  2. Hohman, John George, ed. Daniel Harms. The Long Lost Friend. (Llewellyn, 2012).
  3. Hurston, Zora Neale. “Hoodoo in America.” Journal of American Folklore (Amer. Folklore Soc., 1931).
  4. Hyatt, Harry M. Folklore from Adams County, Illinois.  (Univ. of Ill. Press, 1935).
  5. Lowenstein, Tom & Piers Vitebsky. Native American Myths & Beliefs (Rosen Pub. Group, 2011).
  6. Paulsen, Kathryn. Witches’ Potions & Spells. (Peter Pauper Press, 1971).
  7. Parkman, Francis. “Indian Superstitions.” North American Review (Univ. of Northern Iowa Press, 1866).
  8. Pinckney, Roger. Blue Roots: African-American Folk Magic of the Gullah People. (Sandlapper Pub., 2003).
  9. Puckett, Newbell Niles. Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro. (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1926).
  10. Randolph, Vance. Ozark Magic & Folklore. (Dover, 1964).
  11. Yronwode, Catherine. Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic. (Lucky Mojo Press, 2002).

Blog Post 160 – Summer Saints, part I

June 13, 2012

Hello everyone!

Today is the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, one of the saints for whom I maintain an altar. There are a number of saints who have feast days during the summer months, and most of them also have some sort of magical practice associated with their specific day(s) of reverence. I know not everyone reading this is disposed to work with saints, so if they’re not your cup of tea (or sacramental wine), I completely understand if you skip this post. For those of you left reading, I hope this will be an interesting glance at the “summer saints.” I tend to think of folk Catholicism as a strong magical presence in certain areas of the New World, and one that has lingered from the early days of New France and New Spain into the modern day, so maybe some of you all out there feel the same. At any rate, on to the saints!

In this particular calendar (which I’m basing primarily on the current Roman Catholic feast day assignments), I’m only including saints who have specific magical rituals or practices associated with their holy days, as otherwise the list would be quite extensive. I also include a few of the ‘folk saints,’ ones that have not gone through the process of official canonization yet. None of these are going to be particularly in-depth examinations of the saints listed or their stories (but there may be more on that front later, hint, hint), but instead I’ll focus on telling you a one-to-two sentence biography of the saint, a little about the symbols and offeratory items involved in working with those saints, and then I’ll list any relevant folk rituals, crafts, or charms associated with that saint.

Unless otherwise noted, the spells are referenced from Judika Illes’ Encyclopedia of Mystic, Saints, & Sages (Harper One, 2011).

Joan d’Arc (Joan of Arc) – May 30th
St. Joan was only officially canonized in 1920, more than 500 years after her execution as a religious heretic. Famed as a military leader, a divinely led warrior, a mystic, and a woman of tremendous influence, Joan of Arc has become a national symbol for France and a patroness for a number of people and causes. Her official saint’s day is May 30th, but she’s also celebrated as a secular French heroine on May 8th.

Patronage: prisoners, rape victims, soldiers, horses, doves
Symbols:  horses, doves, armor, swords, a military banner
Offerings: French food (especially rustic things like bread), toy horses or knights, swords, water (esp. if offering her a candle, as she was burned at the stake, so offer refreshment if using fire in her rituals)

St. Joan Home Protection Spell:
-Ingredients-
Small (“chime”) candles, in gray, white, or silver – one for each member of the household
A knife or sharp tool to inscribe the candles

  1. Name each candle for a member of your household, and carve that person’s name into the wax
  2. Petition Joan with a prayer, once for each candle
  3. Repeat for a total of nine nights

 St. Anthony of Padua – June 13th
St. Anthony is the famous “finder of lost things,” which can include lost people, lost souls, etc. He’s also a devout helper of the poor and needy, and frequently depicted warmly jostling a child Christ in his arms.

Patronage: Anyone who’s lost anything – amputees (lost limbs), orphans (lost parents), Native Americans (lost homeland), etc. Also patron of the oppressed, draftees, expectant mothers, the infertile, the elderly, spice merchants, fishermen, travel agents, shopkeepers, and (paradoxically) thieves
Symbols: lily flowers, a baby (in the arms of a monk, especially), fish, bread
Offerings: bread, olive oil, lilies, heart-shaped Milagros, charitable donations to the poor and hungry, cigars, whiskey/rum/wine, coffee

Because he’s one of my especial favorites, I’m going to share several  of the magical workings associated with St. Anthony. I’ve mentioned the famous “Tony, Tony, please come down…” lost-object finding charm before, so I’ll skip that one today, but here are three other ways to work with St. Anthony in magical practice.

  1. Judika Illes recommends a simple way to gain St. Anthony’s blessing and protection: call his name nine times aloud in succession.
  2. A cure for male impotence, from Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft:

“Item, one Katharine Loe (having a husband not so readilie disposed that waie as she wished him to be) made a waxen image to the likenes of hir husbands bewitched member, and offered it up at S. Anthonies altar; so as, through the holinesse of the masse it might be sanctified, to be more couragious, and of better disposition and abilitie, &c.” (Chapter VII)

  1. Denise Alvarado gives this spell, for getting someone to return a borrowed object to you:

“If you wish something returned to you, turn an image of St. Anthony upside down by a St. Anthony candle. Carry the amulet and pray to St. Anthony until your request is granted” (Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook 67).

 St. Vitus – June 15th
The patron saint of Prague (and thus one for whom I have a fondness), St. Vitus is most famous for his association with a very strange disease known as St. Vitus Dance, which caused its victims to jitter and jive and generally look like they were dancing until they literally died from it. Explanations of this disease vary, with everything from ergot poisoning (that old standby of witchcraft accusations) to religious ecstasy getting the blame, but whatever the case, St. Vitus is firmly associated with this peculiar phenomenon, now known as chorea.

Patronage: actors, theater folk, dancers (of course), comedians, vagabonds, vaudevillians, brewers, tinkers, coppersmiths, travelers (and to some extend Gypsies because of this association), vintners, pharmacists, roosters, mushroom growers, epileptics (whose affliction is sometimes called St. Vitus Dance in folk medicine)
Symbols: a palm branch, a cauldron (ahem), a rooster, dogs, lions, in some circles the fly agaric mushroom is associated with him
Offerings: dancing, donations to animal shelters (he loved dogs, apparently), candles, incense, Czech glass decorations

To Gain a Year of Good Health

  1. Find a statue or church of St. Vitus (very easy if you live in Prague)
  2. Dance before it on June 15th, preferably for an entire night
  3. Finish by falling at the foot of the statue or at the door of the church, asking for the blessing of St. Vitus

Judika Illes also mentions that you can perform a form of curse by pointing at someone and saying “Let St. Vitus take you!” in order to afflict them with his strange dancing disease.

St. Lazarus – June 21st
Frequently confused with the biblical Lazarus raised from the dead by Jesus in the Gospel of John, this Lazarus is often depicted as a decrepit old man leaning on a crutch and being followed by a faithful dog (or two). He’s a leper who receives a miraculous healing in a Christian parable, and who is frequently syncretized to the Vodoun lwa of Babalu Aye (and sometimes with Papa Legba). He’s now strongly associated with helping victims of HIV and AIDS.

Patronage: sufferers of long-term illness, especially diseases like leprosy, AIDS, smallpox, etc. He guards dogs as well, and is frequently venerated as a patron of Cuba.
Symbols: a walking stick or crutch, beggar, dogs, the Hermit tarot card
Offerings: Milagros shaped like an afflicted body part, candles, water, offerings to the poor or homeless, popcorn. Do not give him wine (according to Illes: “if it spills, it hurts his sores” (428)).

For Healing of Chronic Affliction
-Ingredients-
Milagro or symbol of afflicted part
St. Lazarus candle or a new crutch/cane
A little dry dog food

  1. Take a symbol of the afflicted body part (like a milagro, or a cookie baked into the appropriate shape) to a crossroads, especially on the evening of June 21st
  2. Place the symbol, the candle (lit if you can, but DO NOT leave a burning candle unattended in a place where it could start a fire or be a road hazard), and/or the crutch all as close to the center of the crossroad as possible without it being dangerous to oncoming traffic
  3. Leave the offering at a crossroads, praying and asking St. Lazarus to come by and “pick up” your affliction to take with him
  4. Put a little dog food out for his dogs to boost his favorability toward you
  5. Return home without looking back

That takes us up through late June, and there are still a lot of days and workings to cover! You may have noticed I stopped just shy of one of the big days in New Orleans Voodoo celebrations, St. John’s Eve, which I hope to pick up in the next post. Then I’m hoping to do the saints remaning in June, July, and August, but of course the best laid plans of mice and men…

Speaking of, I’m reading Of Mice and Men (again) as one of the approximatel 20 books I’ve been assigned for my six-week summer graduate seminar, which I’ve just begun. So please do bear with me if I suddenly become a hermit and say nothing on Twitter or the blog or the podcast for a few weeks—I still exist, and will resurface once my eyeballs stop throbbing from all the reading. I will be trying to get occasional posts up, too, so do stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!
-Cory

Blog Post 157 – Peaches

May 22, 2012

I love a good summer peach. Or peach cobbler. Or homemade peach ice cream. And I can’t tell you how much I miss my mother’s homemade brandied peaches (which were amazing over some hand-churned vanilla). If you live in North America, it’s likely you’ve encountered peaches everywhere from grocery stores to roadside stands to neighbors’ backyards. They’re ubiquitous, which also means they’ve been a major player in the foodways of America.

Today I’m going to briefly look at the peach from another folkloric perspective, focusing on its relevance in magical lore as opposed to its purely culinary uses (though I imagine the two are not ever to be completely disentangled from one another).

The flesh of the peach is frequently regarded as a nearly sacred food in its homeland of China, where it is thought to aid immortality. The lore of the peach is extensive there, with every part of the tree and fruit making an appearance. Peach pits are worn as amulets to ward off demons, while blossoms are used to enhance love, luck, & beauty. Peaches are left in family shrines, and feature prominently in the literature and art of China. You can read a good deal more about the role of the peach in Chinese lore here and here.

Peaches were highly valued in places like the Appalachian Mountains, too.  According to the third Foxfire book, one of the most common varieties was the Indian peach, a shrubby variety with small, firm peaches:

“Indian peaches are small trees, spreading with scraggly branches, said to be descendants of those trees planted by the Cherokees around their villages…The fruit of the Indian peach is white with a rosy cheek, white-meated with a red heart…All have a most delicious flavor, raw or cooked. Peaches are rich in iron, and peach leaf tea was a medicine for bladder troubles or used as a sedative” (Foxfire 3 303)

In North American folklore, all parts of the peach have their value as well. In Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia, one of the author’s informants says this of the peach tree:  “The peach tree was justifiably described by herbalist Tommie Bass of northern Alabama as ‘a drugstore on its own’ in recognition of its many medicinal uses” (Cavender 64-5). Below you’ll see a sampling of the many different magical and/or medicinal uses of the peach and its parts:

Tree/Wood

  • “A baby that refuses to come can be brought at once and the labor pains will stop, if the woman drinks tea made from bark scraped downwards off a young peach tree.” (Hyatt #2972) Hyatt also states in several other places that peach branches were used to help bring a baby into the world by magical means.
  • “Peach tree root or bark was also commonly used [to treat diarrhea]” (Cavender 88)
  • Peach wood can be used in a magical cure for warts by cutting as many notches in a peach branch as one has warts (Thomas #1493) (see also “Leaves”)
  • Peach wood is one of the reputed choices for making dowsing forks, according to many sources (Thomas #105; Brunvand 432, Steiner 271, Randolph 83)
  • Ozark lore specifies that peach bark scraped upward prevents vomiting and/or diarrhea, but scraped downward it is a strong emetic (Randolph 95)
  • “A mess of peach roots, ground up and mixed with lard, is said to cure the seven-year itch” (Randolph 109)

Fruit

  • A piece of Kentucky lore states that twinned peaches found together indicate that you will be married soon (Thomas #593)
  • Eating a peach pecked by a bird is said to lead to poisoning (Steiner 267)

Pit

  • John George Hohman mentions the use of “peach-stones” as a cure for “gravel” (kidney stones). He attests to it especially because it cured him of his own gravel (Long-Lost Friend #84)
  • Hohman attests that peach pits can also be taken to remedy drunkenness (#185)
  • The seeds reputedly can help stimulate hair growth in some people (Todd 55)
  • Vance Randolph describes an Ozark love charm consisting of a carved peach stone filled with “some pinkish, soap-like material” which he could not identify (Randolph 166)
  • Both Randolph and Newbell Niles Puckett mention the peach-pit charm as a powerful one, akin to the lucky rabbit’s foot charm (Puckett 437)

Leaves

  • Peach leaves were thought to be a Colonial-era cure for worms (Black 199)
  • Cat Yronwode mentions using dried peach leaves in wisdom oil blends to help students focus on studies (HHRM 143)
  • Kentucky lore says that rubbing warts with peach-leaves, then burying them will remove warts (Thomas #1492)
  • The leaves were frequently made into a poultice, which could be used to treat headaches, bruises, and “pumpknots (bumps caused by a blow or knock to the head)” (Cavender 98, 109)
  • One of the Foxfire informants recommended a peach leave poultice mixed with salt and cornmeal to treat an abscessed tooth (Foxfire 9 70).
  • Herbalist Jude C. Todd recommends the use of peach leaves as a part of a dandruff treatment (Todd 53)

Flowers

  • Hohman says that “The flowers of the peach-tree, prepared like salad, opens the bowels, and is of use in the dropsy” (Long-Lost Friend #185)
  • Hohman also recommends the use of the flowers as a cure for worms and constipation (#185)
  • Girls in the Ozarks pierce their ears when peaches are in bloom, believing that piercing them any other time will lead to infection (Randolph 164)

Vance Randolph has a great bit of lore regarding the planting of peaches as well:

“In planting peach trees, it is always well to bury old shoes or boots near the roots. Not far from Little  Rock, Arkansas, I have known farmers to drive into town and search the refuse piles for old shoes to be buried in peach orchards. The older and more decayed the leather, the better it works as fertilizer” (Randolph 39)

From my own perspective, I really like the dowsing power of the peach, but I also have a great fondness for the carved peach pit charms. They seem like they would be beautiful and incognito ways of carrying natural amulets about on one’s person. I can also easily see using the flesh of a peach like the flesh of an apple, carving things into it before eating to absorb those qualities. The peachy pulp, which bears such a strong resemblance in so many ways to human flesh, also suggests a use as a makeshift dolly. When the “heart” of the peach, its stone, is considered, this is likely a very apt application of magic to the rosy-golden fruit.

I thought I’d finish up today with something non-magical, but which certainly has an enchanting power: brandied peaches like my mother used to make (I sadly do not have her exact recipe anymore, so the one I’m sharing is adapted from the excellent Putting Food By, by Greene, Herzberg, & Vaughan). We used to have a spoonful of these over ice cream after dinner sometimes, and they were simply otherworldly. They’re not as sweet as you might think, but that’s part of their charm. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a little booze in your dessert. I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:
Peaches (1 lb.)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Good brandy
Whole cloves (optional)
Whole cinnamon sticks (optional)

Clean & dry your one-pint canning jars. Score skin of peaches, then blanch them in boiling water and dunk them into an ice bath. Slip the skins off and slice the peaches into halves and quarters (removing stones).

Make a simple syrup by boiling the cup of sugar with the water. Cook the peaches in the sugar syrup for about 5 minutes, then transfer peaches into individual jars. To each jar add 1-3 cloves  (optional), 1 cinnamon stick (optional), and 2-3 tablespoons of brandy. Seal jars and process in a hot water bath for about 20-25 minutes, then carefully remove the jars and allow them to seal.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at peaches. If you have any other ideas about using peaches in magic, please leave them in here or drop us a line.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Quick Update! – Spring Lore Contest Reminder

March 16, 2012

Hi folks!

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

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

The Prizes

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

How to Enter

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

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

All the best, and thanks for everything you do!

-Cory

Quick Update – Spring Lore Contest!

January 20, 2012

Howdy everyone!

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

The Prizes

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

How to Enter

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

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

All the best, and thanks for everything you do!

-Cory

Podcast 37 – The Audio Spellbook

December 13, 2011

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 36

Summary
This is our long-in-the-making audio spellbook episode! Listener contributions abound, as well as a few spells from your New World Witchery Hosts. Plus we announce the contest winners from our Speak-a-Spell giveaway.

Play:

Download: New World WItchery – Episode 37

-Sources-
All the spells come from listeners this time. Here’s a list of what you can hear:

1. Odom of the Evil Eye – Gambling Charm
2. Baron Chatdelamort – Chicken Foot Spell
3. Cory Hutcheson – Academic Crown of Success Mojo
4. Leathra (read by Laine) – Safe Travel Spell
5. Scarlet Page – Employment Spell
6. Nashoba – Cicada Creativity Charm
7. Jaina (read by Laine) – Prosperity Spell
8. Leathra (read by Cory) – Lost Object Teacup Spell
9. Ro – Matchbox Spell
10. Jessica – Warding and Protection Spell
11. Bev (read by Cory) – Coral Anti-Negativity Spell
12. Mama Fortuna – Cleansing Ritual Bath
13. Cory Hutcheson – Feet Water Charm
14. Cedar – Socializing Spell
15. Laine – Get a Job! Spell
16. Cory Hutcheson – Addled Brain Curse
17. John from MN – Icelandic Staves Curse

Here’s the photo from John’s Icelandic Staves spell:

Congratulations to our contest winners!

Don’t forget to follow us at Twitter!

Promos & Music

Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.

Additional Music from Musicalley.com (all podsafe):

1. Armand van Helden – “Witch Doctor”
2. Michael & Spider – “Enchanted”
3. Dreamline – “The Day the World Stood Still”
4. Todd Parker & the Witches – “Greetings from the Star Chamber”
5. Witcher – “Astral Phantasm”
6. Clouseaux – “Jungle Witch”
7. Witcher – “Kuin Metsaan Huuta”


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