Blog Post 93 – Sneak Peek

Hi everyone!

Today I’ve got a few photos of things to tease and entice you.  We’ve got something happening in the very near future and I wanted to let you blog readers be the first to know about it.  You can probably guess from the pictures what the announcement will be.

Be watching for an update soon!  Until then, thanks for reading!

-Cory


Blog Post 87 – Podcast Recommendation

Hi everyone!

I promise I will eventually get the rest of the cartomancy thread and look at how to do an actual reading, but I’ve not had time to take the photos I want to use for that yet.  So today, I wanted to recommend something I only found last week.  It’s a podcast called “5-Star Spells” and it’s found on BlogTalk Radio.  For those who don’t know about BlogTalk, it’s a phone-in format open radio site that lets people broadcast their shows without having podcasting equipment.  The radio shows go out live at specific times, then get recorded and transferred to a podcast feed for posterity (and for those of us who just prefer podcasts).

5-Star Spells is a show with a group of some of the most talented and knowledgeable root workers and readers around.  I’ll get into them individually in a moment, but as a whole they represent some of the best minds, hearts, and hands in the conjure business today.  What’s even better, they all interact like family, with a tremendous amount of positivity towards each other, even when it’s clear they aren’t exactly alike.  They pass on lots of useful information, a good bit of personal philosophy (anecdotally, which is my favorite way to get philosophy), and a lot of laughter, which is pretty refreshing, actually.  Oraia Sphinx actually tipped me off to them at almost the exact same time I had downloaded their first episode, so that was serendipitious, I thought.  The show’s most frequent callers are:

Rev. Mother Susan Asselin – The show’s primary host, she operates out of a Little Italy-style neighborhood in Providence, RI.  She and Sindy Todo refer to each other as “cousins” as they recently discovered they share some branches on their family trees.  I’ll be honest and say I probably know the least about Mother Asselin, but from what I hear on the show, she’s knowledgeable, spirit-filled, and wise.  Her website is called MotherMystic.

Dara Anzlowar – The owner of HoodooRoots.com, and the owner and manufacturer of Hoodoo Roots and Folk-Magic Traditional Spiritual Supplies.  She also runs two Yahoo groups, Hyatt Spells and Conjure.  I’ve followed Dara’s posts in those groups for a while now, and having a voice to put with the brilliant insights is very nice.  She works in a very traditional style, and provides a strong traditionalist viewpoint in the discussions that come up on the show, though she is also immensely cordial and kind in conversation.

Susan Diamond – She owns the Serpents Kiss occult shop and co-owns the 2Hoodoos site with Orion Foxwood.  She has a very sweet disposition on the show, but also provides a lot of interesting information (listen for her contributions in the Family Folklore episode).  She and Orion provide the most “pagan” voices on the program, but they also have some very traditional leanings as well.  She offers a wide variety of services and products, so check her out.  She’s also a member of the Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers (AIRR).

Orion Foxwood – I know many folks already know who Orion is, but there are probably a number of people who don’t.  The sole regular male voice on the show, Orion grew up in the southern Appalachian Mountains surrounded by the magical and mystical traditions of the area.  He says he was born with a caul (also called a “veil” sometimes) which is commonly associated with having second sight or visions.  He’s published several books on his Faery Seership tradition, and has a bevy of websites including the aforementioned 2Hoodoos, the House of Brigh, and the Foxwood Temple of the Old Religion.

“Auntie” Sindy Todo – One of my favorite voices on the show, Sindy Todo provides sass, humor, warmth, and a heckuva lot of good information on 5-Star Spells.  She always has something nice to say, blessings to pass out, and good news to share.  She is based in Seattle, and has a website called Todo Mojo which offers her magical services.  She’s also a member of AIRR, and seems like one of the most genuinely likeable people I’ve ever heard.

Starr – A Texas based conjure woman working in the old-style tradition, Starr is another favorite voice of mine (they’re all wonderful in their own ways, of course!  I just have a thing for sassy women with southern accents).  She specializes in spiritual cleansings and also is one of the foremost experts on working with the Native American spirit Black Hawk.  She doesn’t appear on every show, but when she’s on, she’s a great participant and a wonderful resource for good, solid hoodoo information.  She’s a member of AIRR, too, and operates a website called Old Style Conjure.

One of the most amazing things about this group of folks is that they all get on so well.  Well enough, in fact, that they’re all getting together in November for a weekend of conjure classes and socializing!  I’m hoping to provide more info about this sometimes oon, but for now you can read all about it at the Traditional Folk Magic Festival website.   And you can hear all about it on 5-Star Spells, which, again, I highly recommend.

Okay, that’s it for my recommendation today!  I hope you can forgive the delay in the cartomancy finale, but I’ll have that soon.  Until then, thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 78 – More Mojos for Success

Back in Blog Post 76, I mentioned that I’d be following up with some other types of success mojos.  Academic success is fantastic, but if you’re not in school it’s probably not going to help you much.  So today I thought I’d take that scholastic success mojo hand and rework it for a few other needs.  I hope it helps!

Building upon the basic Crown of Success mojo, which would generally include a John the Conqueror root in a red flannel sack anointed with Crown of Success oil, you could vary your specific ingredients for particular results:

Better Business – Add herbs like sassafras, five-finger grass, or cinnamon, plus a lodestone and magnetic sand.  Try to use an odd number of ingredients.  Pray Psalm 8 or a similar prayer.

Gentle Judge – A court-case success hand.  Use gravel root, little John to chew/galangal, cascara sagrada  bark, sugar, and tobacco.  Pray Psalm 36 or a similar prayer.

High Rollers – This is a gambling success mojo.  Use Job’s tears, a gator paw, a badger or gator tooth, a raccoon penis bone, a rabbit’s foot, and/or a four-leaf clover charm (primarily use curios for this one).  Pray Psalm 41 or Psalm 62 or a similar prayer.

Lucky in Love – With this success hand, it’s less about attracting a new love and more about strengthening one that exists (say, for example, during the process of courtship and marriage).  Add angelica root, violets, and roses (if trying to court a woman) or vanilla, tobacco, and dragon’s blood resin (for courting a man).  You can use lavender if you’re courting someone of the same sex, as well.  Pray Psalm 139 or a similar prayer.

Make It Rain Money – Add cinnamon, collard seeds, beans or peas, lucky hand root, rice, and/or rose of Jericho (things like seeds, beans, peas, and rice all signify abundance).  Add a lucky penny or a silver dime if you like, or a silver charm like a four-leaf clover.  Pray Psalm 126 or a similar prayer.

There are so many variations on these types of mojos, so please try them out and experiment.  I’ve had a lot of success (and the irony of that is not lost on me) working with these types of hands, so I encourage everyone to give them a try.

I’d like to close this post by sharing something one of our wonderful readers mentioned to me.  Odom of the Evil Eye recently wrote me about an academic success hand he’s working on, and he included an ingredient that struck me as just perfect for that kind of work:  coffee.  He made an excellent point that as a stimulant coffee can help keep one awake and alert, and that the university coffee house is such a ubiquitous piece of the college landscape it almost serves as a shrine to this kind of work.  So good eye for that connection, Odom!

Thanks for reading,
-Cory

Blog Post 77 – Book Review

For today’s entry, I thought I’d approach two books which share a lot in common and which can be useful to people who really enjoy candle magic.  First up, there’s The Master Book of Candle Burning by Henri Gamache.   This is a classic in many hoodoo circles, and falls into the same category of early 20th-century magical texts as the reprints of Black & White Magic by Marie Laveau and Mysteries of the Long Lost 8th, 9th, and 10th Books of Moses, also by Gamache.  All of these small books (usually only around 100 pages each) contain lots of great information on their particular magical subjects, and all are the source of much debate regarding authorship (Marie Laveau most definitely did not write Black & White Magic, which is usually attributed to “N.D.P. Bivins,” whoever that might be).

Candle Burning, though, holds a special place in my heart.  In its pages, Gamache outlines the “Philosophy of Fire” which he traces through a number of the world’s religions, especially linking it to Judeo-Christian and Zoroastrian practice.  Most of what he describes is pseudo-history, though it offers some good food for thought, at times.  What makes this book so invaluable to a magic worker are its spells.  In its pages, it offers spells, prayers, and psalmic rituals for:

  • Gaining Happiness
  • Overcoming an Enemy
  • Obtaining Money
  • Stopping Slander
  • Healing a Troubled Marriage
  • Getting a Promotion
  • Defeating Feelings of Depression

There are so many wonderful rituals in this book, covering a wide variety of problems, that I can’t help but recommend it.  The prayers (and psalms) are all centered around Judeo-Christian religious philosophy, but in a fairly non-denominational way (emphasizing God as a powerful force rather than as part of a Trinity or some particular theological concept).  One of my favorite spells is the last one in the book:

TO CONQUER FEAR

Light your two Monthly Vibratory Candles [candles dressed to match you astrologically], two Daily Cross Candles [crucifix candles or candles inscribed with a cross], and the following Special Purpose Candle:  one Red symbolizing faith and one Gold to soothe nerves.  Read Psalm 3 giving special attention to verse 3:

“But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”

Affirmation [prayer]:  “Dear Lord I ask you to help me with my needs in this life and smooth my way.  Protect me so that no one may cause me harm.  In your light, darkness flees.  I fear not, knowing you are with me.”   (p.106)

The book has its issues, of course.  It makes heavy use of “black” versus “white” magic.  It denounces the black magic as a “perversion” but then proceeds to provide numerous candle rituals for things like breaking up a couple or causing confusion.  Still, if one can forgive it these foibles, it’s a great text to have on hand.

Similarly, The Magical Power of the Saints by Rev. Ray T. Malbrough proves itself a useful text full of practical candle burning rituals.  There are many who do not like Malbrough, primarily because he blends hoodoo and Wicca in some of his books without letting the reader know which is which (his Charms, Spells, & Formulas is guilty of this, and apparently his Hoodoo Mysteries is even worse about it).  However, most of the rootworkers who discuss him seem to offer at least some praise for Saints.

Malbrough focuses on the Catholic saints in candle form (and a number of condition candles, which are designed to invite specific conditions into a person’s life—e.g. Anima Sola/Lonely Soul, Just Judge, Lucky Bingo, etc.).  When I picked up the book I thought it would mostly be about the cult of certain saints like Dr. Jose Gregorio or Santa Muerte or the Infant Jesus of Prague.  Instead, I found it’s mostly candle magic focused on specific spells, much like Gamache’s text.  It definitely has a flavor of Catholicism about it, and actually falls pretty close to what I would think of as New Orleans-style Voodoo (though the connections to things like the Seven African Powers are only cursorily glossed).  For comparison, here’s Malbrough’s overcoming fear spell:

TO OVERCOME FEAR

Sometimes fear can be difficult to shake off when it gets hold of you.  Then there are those people who get a thrill from putting fear and superstition in your mind.

  1. Controlling candle, dressed with Controlling oil.  Write your name nine times.
  2. St. Dymphna candle, dressed with Peace oil.  Write your name nine times.
  3. Guardian Angel candle, dressed with Peace oil.  Write your name three times.
  4. Psalms 11, 31, and 141 [to be read aloud]
  5. Take an Uncrossing spiritual bath made with sweet basil, boneset, elder, and bay leaves.  To this tea add ¼ cup of John the Conqueror bath and floor wash.  Immerse yourself three times in the water, and soak twenty minutes.  Take this spiritual bath every three days until you have taken twenty-eight baths.  Cary a mojo/gris-gris made with herbs for courage.  This gris-gris must also contain a stone for courage such as agate, amethyst, aquamarine, bloodstone, carnelian, diamond, lapis lazuli, sardonyx, tiger’s eye, red tourmaline, or turquoise.  (p. 134-35)

As you can see, Malbrough is much more complicated than Gamache, and he definitely infuses his rootwork with some more Wiccan ideas (such as the “stones for courage” he mentions for the mojo hand, none of which show up in any of the African-American hoodoo sources I’ve found).  So long as you can separate the wheat from the chaff, though, this is a pretty solid little book with good candle burning rituals.  If you have this and Gamache’s Master Book of Candle Burning you will cover most of your bases as far as hoodoo candle magic goes, so I certainly recommend picking up both.  If you can only do one, I’d start with Gamache and try Malbrough once you’ve gotten the hang of a few of these rituals, though (perhaps an Obtaining Money burning so you can afford to buy the book?).

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Podcast Special – Spellcasting Greatest Hits

-SHOWNOTES FOR SPECIAL – SPELLCASTING GREATEST HITS-

Summary
This mid-hiatus special is all about successful spellcasting.  We discuss our most effective spells, our favorite techniques, and some of the philosophy and mechanics of potent magical practice.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Podcast Special – Spellcasting Greatest Hits

-Sources-
*The Lucky Mojo page on “Honey Jars” contains great information on this lovely little family of spells.
*Here are a few pages on lost item spells, particularly the St. Anthony charm mentioned by Cory.
*John George Hohman’s Long Lost Friend contains the Pow-wow spells mentioned in this show.
*The Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells, by Judika Illes, contains many wonderful spells, and is a book we both turn to often.

Music
“Grifos Muertos” by Jeffery Luck Lucas, from his album What We Whisper, on Magnatune.com

Blog Post 68 – Be Our Guest?

So running with an idea (and a title lovingly borrowed) from Juniper over at Walking the Hedge and Standing Stone and Garden Gate, I’m putting out a call for submissions to our wonderful readers.  I know we probably have at least a couple of writers out there as well, and we’d love to have you do a guest post for New World Witchery.

We’re going to have about 6-8 weeks of low posting from me, and we’d like to be able to post at least 3 articles per week if possible.  So that means we need 18-24 well-written, proofread, researched, reasoned, resonant, and remarkable entries.  Something tells me we’ve got a few folks who might just be up to the task, so if you’re interested, here’s the submissions guide:

1)      Each article should be no less than 300 words, and no more than 2000.  500-800 words is usually ideal length, but there is some flexibility.
2)      MS Word (.doc) attachments are ideal, with inline email text being a secondary preference.
3)      Please include all links with your submission.  I may have to tweak them slightly to get them on the site, but I definitely can’t chase down links for you.  Footnotes or endnotes should be similarly included.
4)      Any artwork must be in the public domain (try Wikimedia Commons to start) or your own original picture/art with authorization to use it on the site.
5)      All work must be your own.  Citations are fine, along with short passages of material presented in a scholarly fashion, but please, no plagiarism.
6)      Please proofread your work.  Excessive typos and grammar snafus will not be corrected or posted.
7)      You retain all publication rights to your material other than the first-time online publication rights.  In other words, you’re free to submit this on a site like Witchvox or to a print publication, as long as you say that it was first published on this site.  (I’ll also assume the right to reprint passages or references to your work in future publications, but I will not publish your article in its entirety without your permission).

Of course, I’m always happy to get nice, scholarly articles on the topics of hoodoo, pow-wow, curanderismo, witchcraft, etc.  But what I’d really like is to get articles on the following topics, specifically:

  • Personal or family magical lore (such as magical practices, divinations, weather signs, etc.).  Please include your family background (such as region or ethnic heritage), too, so we know where these things come from.
  • Regional magical lore, including things like witch stories, magical places, spells, famous witches, etc.  Of course, please let us know which region you’re writing about (you don’t have to be too specific—“Appalachia” or “New England” would be sufficient).
  • Spell-work hits and misses.  Tell us about spells you’ve done, ingredients you’ve used, charms you’ve said and what your results were.
  • Botanical or animal curios and your personal experiences with them.  Are there ones you favor?  Ones you shy away from?
  • Favorite spells and practices.  Do you particularly like working with the dead?  Do you have a favorite way to communicate with the Ancestors?  Are you a sharp-shooter when it comes to love mojos?  Tell us what you do and how you got so dang good at it!
  • Magical book reviews are also welcome, especially ones dealing with North American folk magic and witchcraft (not Wicca—there are lots of reviews on Wiccan books, so we don’t really want those here).  History, folklore, and regionally specific spellbooks (like conjure or brujeria books) are all excellent candidates for review.

Other topics are welcome; just email and ask about them first.  Not every article may get published on the site, so if we don’t select yours or if we suggest some revisions first, please don’t take it personally.

“Geez!” you say.  “That’s an awful lot of work for not getting paid!”  Ah, but there’s the twist in the plot!  While we’re still a relatively poor blog and podcast, we’re gearing up for another contest.  Anyone who writes a guest article that we post on New World Witchery will be entered for that contest.   We’ve still got to work out just what we’re going to give out, but right now we’re looking at having three winners drawn at random.  If you submit multiple posts and we publish them, you get an entry for every article we put up!  Each winner will get a different, unique prize, so this could shape up to be a very interesting contest.

So, yes, technically you’re still not getting paid exactly, but you may wind up with something cool in the end.  And you’ll be adding to the wealth of knowledge found here, so you are benefitting a whole wide world of witchy folk.  Isn’t that a nice feeling?

So, if you’re interested in being a part of New World Witchery, email us your articles and maybe win a prize in the process!  In case you can’t get the email from that link, it’s compassandkey@gmail.com.

Many thanks, and we look forward to hearing from you!

-Cory

Blog Post 62 – More Ideas for Urban Witchcraft

Greetings everyone!

Following on yesterday’s topic of urban conjure and rootwork, I thought today it might be fun to take a look at some spells that have roots in traditional American folk magic, but which use certain modern adaptations to accommodate contemporary life.

Courtcase Spell
In the past, courthouses were often wooden-floored buildings outfitted with spittoons for the convenience of trial attendees with a chaw of tobacco in their mouths.  Hoodoo developed a fairly ingenious way to exert some influence over a case by taking advantage of the spitting habit so prevalent in that day and age.  A defendant would keep a gob of Little John to Chew (the root known as galangal now—readily available in Asian markets) in his or her cheek, and then spit the juice onto the courthouse floor while ostensibly aiming for a spittoon nearby.  This sort of contagious magic would then bring favor in the case from anyone who walked on or near the spit.

Nowadays, spitting in court is probably a good way to lose your case.  Most courthouses are kept fairly secure, and tobacco products are seldom allowed in any government building (not that Little John is a tobacco product, but it’s supposed to look like it is, so either way, it’s out).  But there’s still a fairly simple way to work a spell in your favor:

1)      Get some dirt or water from the courthouse area – This can be dirt from a flower bed, from near the back of the building, or even from a potted plant somewhere on the premises if you can manage it.  Or, if the courthouse has a fountain out front, you can collect water from that, or fill a drinking bottle with water from the drinking fountain in the courthouse (or from the bathroom, etc.).  Barring all of these options, you  can scrape the side of the building and try to gather even just a little bit of dust from it, then mix it with soil from the closest source you can find.

2)      Take some Little John to Chew (galangal root) and work up a good bit of spit.  Spit the juice into the dirt or water, while reciting a petition or prayer appropriate to your situation (such as Psalm 35, “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me…”).  If you have only a little bit of dirt, you can add the dirt to some water and make a sort of “tea” out of it and the spit.  If you have only a little bit of water, you can dilute it with some more water (add a little whiskey to it to give it a kick).

3)      Take the dirt or water and go back to the courthouse.  Sprinkle your mixture in a circle around the building, as close as you can get (if you have to walk a block, sprinkling a little as you go, that’s fine—just make sure the entire building is encircled).  Whenever the judge who tries your case crosses that line, he will be disposed to favor you.

This trick relies on the same contagious magic as the older trick.  Why not just chew and spit at the front steps to the courthouse, you ask?  Well, you can’t be sure that your judge will come up those steps, and you need him to come into contact with your trick.  Unless he or she lives somewhere in the courthouse, your judge will have to cross the ring you make around the area in order to get inside, and so you should be able to affect him or her that way.

Git-Gone! Spell
Hot Footing someone to get rid of them is an old hoodoo trick.  In the past, it was accomplished by either mixing dirt from someone’s footprint with a special mixture of potent spices called “Hot Foot Powder” (see here, here, and here to buy) or by sprinkling that powder where a target would walk over it.  While it’s still possible to work the latter trick in a modern setting without much trouble, getting someone’s footprint-dirt isn’t easy anymore.  Additionally, the older version of the trick requires deployment in running water or throwing it away on a road heading out of town.

To bring a trick like this into the modern age, however, is not difficult.  City dwellers who can’t pick up dirty foot-tracks can work around that requirement by laying hold of a sock or shoe (or any article of clothing from the target, really).  Once you have something of theirs, you simply mix the Hot Foot Powder and wrap it in their clothing (or in the case of a shoe, give the sole a good sprinkling).

Deploying the trick can be done a couple of ways.  The simplest is to return the clothing to the target and hope they wear it without noticing the powder first (this is best with shoes).  Often, in apartment buildings, this kind of work is fairly easy to do because people will leave wet shoes in the hallway to dry out (much to the chagrin of their neighbors on warm days).

If giving the item of clothing back seems like it would cause raised eyebrows, or just doesn’t strike you as the best method, there are a couple of other distinctly modern deployment techniques that might be worth considering.  Since deployment in running water is a traditional method, consider chucking the Hot Footed sock into a sewer (which contains running water, after all, along with all manner of nastiness to help convince your target the time to leave is now).  Or, instead of finding a road out of town, you could go down to a train yard or a bus station and toss the sock onto a boxcar or bus heading out of the city.  In a lot of ways, a bus station is like a modern-age crossroads with the constant traffic coming and going, so sending someone away via outbound bus is actually a pretty smart way to go about your work.  I’d also suggest the same is true of airports, but sneaking things onto planes is a BAD idea, especially right now.  You’d really be asking for more trouble than a trick like this is worth.  Stick with bus stations and trains.

Send Away Your Troubles
There’s a bit of American folk magic that involves a rather sneaky method for healing common ailments.  The person with the disease (usually something like boils, warts, or corns) creates a small packet and “passes” the disease to the materials in the packet.  Then he or she drops the bundle in a road.  Whoever finds and opens it then receives the disease, and the person who passed the disease is cured of it.  Vance Randolph describes the procedure in conjunction with warts:

“Another way to ‘pass’ a wart is to spit on it, rub a bit of paper in the spittle, fold the paper, and drop it in the road; the wart is supposed to pass to the first person who picks up the paper and unfolds it. Children are always trying this, and one can find these little folded papers in the road near most any rural schoolhouse” (OM&F, p.127).

In the modern age, very few folks are walking along our roads, and few of those are going to stop to pick up a strange packet.  Motorists zooming by at high speeds never see them and people walking through cities for the most part avoid picking up litter from the walkways.  So how can one adapt this sort of spell to work today?

The United States Postal Service processes over 500 million pieces of mail per day (according to their website).  So why not put that big, churning system to work for you?  Here’s what I suggest:

1)      Just like in the old version of the spell, take a piece of paper and rub it against the afflicted part of your body.  If you want, you can even write a short petition on the paper asking that it remove illness from you and carry it far away.

2)      When you feel like you’ve imbued the paper with the disease, put it in an envelope.  Address the envelope, either by selecting a real person to send it to (which I actually don’t recommend—it just seems like an awfully trite way to get vengeance on an enemy and it certainly doesn’t make you any friends) or by writing a “dead letter.”  A dead letter is addressed to someone fictional (like Santa Claus, Professor Moriarty, Xenu, etc.) or someone dead (this could be an ancestor or just a spirit you think might be willing to help you by taking your disease off of you and into the grave).

3)      Don’t use a return address, and post the letter from a public mailbox.  You might, for example, send your disease to:

Mephistopheles
First Circle
Hell, the Universe

This letter will then carry your disease away from you and into a sort of “limbo” space.

The only downside to this method is the same one that comes with the old method:  if someone ever does open up your letter, they may catch your illness.  But all magic comes with risk, so if it sounds like a useful spell to you, please feel free to use it.

That’s it for today.  I’d love to hear from other city witches and urban rootworkers if you have suggestions for tricks that might be traditional-yet-modern.  Feel free to comment or email us.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 46 – Magic and Mother Goose

I received a comment from reader Chet the other day which inspired this particular blog post.  So, many thanks, Chet!  He mentioned that he’s been listening to his daughter’s music, which includes many nursery rhymes, and hearing not-so-subtle references to fairly adult topics (such as the sexual undercurrents in a song like “There’s a Hole in My Bucket”).  This idea may be old hat to some, but I thought it might be worth taking a few nursery rhymes and dropping them into the cauldron to see what bubbled up.  Please note that my witchy exegesis here may be entirely wrong, but it may also provide some new perspectives on old songs and rhymes.  I welcome all comments on these interpretations (well, all civil comments, that is).

You can find a great list of Mother Goose rhymes here, along with some brief explanations of each one.

Now, onto the rhymes!

Jack-be-Nimble
Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack jump over
The candlestick.

This little rhyme was first published in the 18th century, according to one source.  It may have referred to a clever and quick pirate called “Black Jack,” but  it also likely has something to do with the practice of jumping over fires, as is sometimes done at May Day (or Beltane) celebrations.  In these instances, the leaper jumps over a bonfire in order to gain blessings—like fertility and an easy birth for women—or protection, or to purify one ritually.  Afterwards, the ashes would be scattered over the fields to ensure a fertile crop.  In its diminished form with a candle-stick, a person could leap the candle forwards and backwards three times (or nine times in some cases) while asking for such blessings, and if the candle remained lit, the wish would be granted.  This might make for an interesting spell, though I cannot recommend it for safety reasons—if you choose to do it, you do so at your own risk and would be well advised not to wear loose-fitting or flowing clothes.

Peter Pumpkin Eater
Peter Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her!
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well!

This rhyme fits in very well at New World Witchery, because it originates in North America.  While many nursery rhymes came from the UK, the mention of the pumpkin in this one tells of its roots (pumpkins are a New World fruit unknown in Europe prior to the colonial era).  But what is it all about?  Well, if a man has a wife he can’t “keep,” it means that she is being generally unfaithful to him, and turning him into a cuckold.  My take on this particular rhyme is that our good fellow Peter knows of his wife’s infidelity and decides to put a stop to it.  He does this by putting something of hers—likely something very intimate like used underclothes—into a pumpkin shell, which as it rots, prevents her from being able to dally with other men.  This sort of spell is common enough in hoodoo, and is generally referred to as binding someone’s “nature” so they cannot sexually perform with another partner.   This is my take only, of course, and your mileage may vary.

For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

This rhyme is used, according to some, as a way of chastising children who do not see the consequences of their actions.  I certainly agree that in that light, this rhyme is a wonderful didactic tool.  However, I also like to think there’s something a little more magical that can be gleaned from this little bit of lore.  For example, there is a great deal of sympathetic magic which focuses on using something small, like a poppet, to affect something bigger, like a person.  Examined thusly, this chant might be a great way to amplify magical activity.  For example, if you were trying to banish something—like a disease—you could take something from the ill party (hair, fingernails, or clothing worn while sick) and bind it into a charm which might be buried, burned, or otherwise permanently disposed of while chanting this rhyme.  In this way, you’d be telling the disease that it no longer has the power to ravage the entire body, because you’ve taken away a part of the “body” from it.  The disease would then give up, having lost its “kingdom.”  The healing example may be a bit of a stretch, though, as the primary way I can see this little spell being used is to banish unwanted persons from your life.

Pat-a-Cake
Pat a cake, Pat a cake, baker’s man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can;
Pat it and prick it and mark it with a ‘B’,
And put it in the oven for Baby and me.

I see two ways that this lovely little rhyme might be given a magical connotation:  1) By baking food and marking it with someone’s initial, you’re essentially creating a poppet of that person, which can be used in many kinds of spells, or 2) This could be a lovely way to help someone with fertility or family blessings, as having a “bun in the oven” is a common euphemism for pregnancy.  In this latter case, when the mother-to-be devours the cake marked with an initial (perhaps the future baby’s, or her own if she hasn’t picked a name yet), she would be putting the “baby” in her belly.  A newly pregnant mother might also do a spell based on this to ensure a healthy baby, and a new mother might then play this game with her child as a way of continuing the blessing for her child (as well as endlessly amusing the little one, which is really what I think this rhyme is all about in the end).

Crooked Man
There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house

Finally, we come to one of my personal favorites.  I know that some interpretations put a meaning on this rhyme referring to the unification of Scotland and English under a single ruler, but I tend to think of the rhyme in more esoteric terms.  The repetition of the word “crooked” seems to be almost a mantra, or a chant for moving into another state of mind.  And I think that the “crooked mile” could well be the “crooked path” of witchcraft.  The “crooked stile” is likely the gateway between worlds, too.  So my best use of this charm is to act as a “road opener” between the mundane world and the world of spirits.  There are also plenty of stories about paying a “tithe to hell” before crossing over (see Tam Lin or Thomas the Rhymer), and it’s usually something nominal (or at least, something that seems nominal at the time), so a sixpence would fit the bill. I also wonder if the crooked house is the proverbial witch’s cottage, or something a little more significant. Perhaps the “house” is the line down which a tradition is passed? And because that line sometimes veers out of strict blood ties and into adoptive relationships, it could be seen as a “crooked house.”  Of course, these are all just my speculations, but I like them.

I could go on and on with these rhymes, looking at them through the lens of witchcraft, and probably find something of value in most any nursery rhyme I read.  However, it’s probably best to say here that just because I interpret something with a witchy twist doesn’t mean that historically it has any such meaning.  In many cases, these rhymes are just entertainments for the very young, and a bit of whimsy for the slightly less young.  I like to think that magic and childhood go together, though, so I will happily continue scouring these rhymes for a bit of hidden wonder.  If you do the same, I’d love to hear what you come up with!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 45 – Witches

Stories about witches in the New World are plentiful.  Early historical accounts of witch trials in America show that the belief in witchcraft was widespread throughout the colonies, though the degree to which each colony acted on those beliefs varied quite a bit (see Blog Post 3 and Blog Post 6 for some good background on these).

Often, it seems that the stories about witches that appeared in the New World were linked to Old World roots.  Tales of witch-flights in the Appalachians parallel similar stories from the British Isles.  German stories about witches casting spells on hunters’ guns show up in the Ozarks.  In general, many of these stories can be broken up into a few key categories:  how to become a witch, what witches do, and how to deal with witches.

How to Become a Witch

There are several different ways a person (usually a woman in folklore) becomes a witch.  The act of initiation usually involves a pledge of some kind to a dark figure—usually the Devil, though I would argue that this “Devil” is something other than Satanic.  But I digress, and will address this topic further in another post.  In Vance Randolph’s excellent book, Ozark Magic & Folklore, he outlines how the mountain folk thought a witch was initiated:

“Some parts of the witches’ routine are well known, even to people who deny all acquaintance with such matters. The trick of reversing the Lord’s Prayer is a case in point… When a woman decides to become a witch, according to the fireside legends, she repairs to the family buryin’ ground at midnight, in the dark of the moon. Beginning with a verbal renunciation of the Christian religion, she swears to give herself body and soul to the Devil. She removes every stitch of clothing, which she hangs on an infidel’s tombstone, and delivers her body immediately to the Devil’s representative, that is, to the man who is inducting her into the ‘mystery.’  The sexual act completed, both parties repeat certain old sayin’s, terrible words which assemble devils, and the spirits of the evil dead and end by reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards.  This ceremony is supposed to be witnessed by at least two initiates, also nude, and must be repeated on three consecutive nights.  After the first and second vows the candidate is still free to change her mind, but the third pledge is final. Henceforth the woman is a witch and must serve her new master through all eternity” (Randolph pp. 266-67)

In Appalachia, another witch-making process is described in Foxfire 2:

“JIM EDMONDS:  I heard about a man—a witch said he’d make a witch out a’him if he followed him.  They come to this door and th’witch said ‘Hi-ho, hi-ho!  In th’keyhole I go.’  He went on in and got all he wanted.

Th’old witch came and said, ‘Hi-ho, hi-ho! Out th’keyhole I go,’ and went on out.

Th’old man came and thought he’d do what th’other did and said, ‘Hi-ho, hi-ho!  Up th’high hole I go,’ and fell t’th’floor!

You just had t’pay no ‘tention t’witches.  They can put a spell on you, but they can’t turn you into a witch if you pay them no mind.”  (p. 355)

Hubert J. Davis, in his astoundingly good compilation of American witch-lore entitled The Silver Bullet, outlines another method of becoming a witch:

“’Fust, he’d [the potential witch] have to climb to the top of the highest knob on Witch Mountain and tote either a black cat or a black hen.  Then, he’d have to find the Indian graveyard at the place nigh where two Indian trails cross.  There, he’d have to draw a big ring in the dust ‘bout fifteen feet acrost, and dance in this circle each morning at break of day for eight mornings in a row.  Then, on the ninth morning, he’d have to put one hand on the top of his head and ‘tother on the sole of his foot and say ‘ I give all betwixt my two hands to the Devil…Then the Devil comes…and nips him on the shoulder so hit bleeds.  Then, the Devil tells him to wet his finger in the blood and sign an X to this pact…the Devil will same some magic words over the cat or the hen and change hit into an imp [another name for a familiar]” (Davis pp.14-15)

Various other methods of becoming a witch are recounted in these texts, too, including firing a gun nine times at a full moon, shooting at the rising sun and watching to see if it “bleeds,” or simply being taught the ways of the witch by a family member of the opposite sex.  On this last point, I will note that the writers generally say cross-gender transfer of information is de rigeur, and just because one learns the spells and ways of a witch doesn’t make one an initiate of witchcraft.

I think I should point out that Sarah at Forest Grove did an amazing blog post on initiation recently which I recommend reading.  Particularly because I think there are some pretty strong parallels between the folklore I’m presenting here and the steps towards initiation she mentions in her post.  Let me know what you think, though.

What Witches Do

Having a witch in the neighborhood was a mix of good and bad for early settlers.  On the one hand, witches tended to be able to make potions and counter-charms to help with curses and bad luck, among many other talents.  But on the other hand, a local witch meant that there was a good chance your livestock would end up cursed or dead or both.

A common curse witches could use involved bewitching cattle so that they would not produce milk.  Or rather, the only person who could milk the cow was the witch—she would usually use an axe-handle or an old rag tied to a fence post held over a bucket.  She’d squeeze the object, and milk would pour out, while the cow’s udders slowly drained in a distant pasture.  In one of the stories from The Silver Bullet called “No Milk on Saturday,” Hubert Davis recalls a story about a witch who put a spell on a cow so it would only give bloody milk.  The cow’s owner consulted a witch doctor (see “Dealing with Wicked Witches” below) and figured out how to reverse the curse, eventually.

Witches also had the power to curse people.  One of the main methods of performing such a curse involved the creation of a “witch ball.”  This was a little ball made of black hair from a dog, cat, horse, etc. and wax, which was then thrown or “shot” at the target.  If the victim didn’t get magical remediation immediately, the witch ball could lead to his or her death in fairly short order.  From Ozark Magic & Folklore:

“I have been told of another Ozark witch who killed several of her enemies by means of a “hair ball” just a little bunch of black hair mixed with beeswax and rolled into a hard pellet. The old woman tossed this thing at the persons whom she wished to eliminate, and they fell dead a few hours later. It is said that the fatal hair ball is always found somewhere in the body of a person killed in this manner. In one case, according to my informant, the little ball of combings was taken from the dead girl’s mouth” (Randolph pp.271-272).

Some of the many other sinister tasks a witch might do included bewitching butter churns or soap tubs, causing them to fail to produce any butter or soap.  They could also summon storms and blight crops, as well.  In Randolph’s work, he mentions that one witch ruined a tomato crop by simply drawing a circle inscribed with a cross in the dirt, then spitting in the center.

Of course, the witch could also shapeshift, turning into her animal self easily and slipping off to Sabbaths, into the homes of innocent farmers and their families, or into the bed of a lover while her husband dozed dumbly in bed.  Common shapes for witches included the ubiquitous black cat, the hare, mountain lions, and dogs.  There are plenty of stories about a hunter being unable to shoot a particular animal until he manages to get a silver bullet in his gun.  Then, he mortally wounds the beast, which gets away, and later hears that some local woman is lying in bed missing a hand or a foot—the very part shot off by the hunter!

I’ll refrain from offering too much commentary here on these ideas (though I will be revisiting them at a later date), but I would like to say that many of these common elements have a place in modern witchcraft, albeit not a literal one.  Understanding these stories metaphorically, or understanding the basic kernels of practical witchcraft embedded in these tales, is an exercise worth the undertaking for an aspiring New World witch.

Dealing with Wicked Witches

Randolph makes a key point in his text on Ozark magic that many clairvoyants, mediums, card readers, conjure men, etc. get called “witches” by outsiders, but the Ozark resident made a distinction between them.  Witches were almost always nefarious in purpose, according to Randolph, though he himself revealed that out of nearly two dozen witches he’d interviewed, almost twenty of them reported working against evil rather than for it.

In the Old World, these counter-cursing magical folk were often known as fairy doctors, cunning folk, or pellars.  In the New World, these names sometimes surface, but just as often, they are called witch doctors or conjure folk (which is confusing when you realize that hoodoo and witchcraft cross cultural boundaries in many places, and thus this term may have had different meanings to different people).  In a Works Project Administration report about Tennessee, the folklorist makes the following observation:  “Cunjur [sic] doctors will sell you ‘hands’ or ‘tobies’ enabling you to detect witches and ward off their spells” (Ch. 14, par. 19).  Here, the line between hoodoo (or “cunjur”) and what is typically thought of as European witchcraft is heavily blurred, and the magic of one is used to affect the magic of the other.

Undoing the harm caused by a witch could involve a number of different techniques.  In Hubert Davis’s work, he talks about how the unfortunate farmer with the bloody milk dealt with his problem:

“Steve milked his cow, brought the milk into the cabin and put it in a big flat pan.  Then, he went out on a ridge and cut three birch withes and tied them together.  He built a big fire under the pan of milk and, as it boiled, he flailed as much milk as he could out of the pan into the fire with the birch withes.  As the milk burned with a blue-green flame, Steve saw Granny Lotz’s face in the flames and he knew that it was indeed she who had witched the cow” (Davis p.35)

In the case of a bewitched butter churn, placing a piece of silver under the cursed object would stop the magic sometimes, or burning some of the butter with hot coals would do the trick too.  Other curse-breaking methods included using witch bottles to reverse a curse and shooting an image of the witch with a silver bullet.  This last method could theoretically kill the witch, and often was performed in the nick of time (at least as far as the folklore goes), just before a witch could complete a particularly nasty curse.  Other methods of removing a witch’s curse involved “scoring her” above her eyes, or making her bleed on her forehead.  If that happened, or if you could make her see her own blood in some cases, her powers would be broken.

Another common enchantment involved the bewitching of a hunter’s gun.  A hunter who normally did well would suddenly find he couldn’t hit a thing he aimed at.  In many cases, an elaborate ritual had to be performed to remove such an bewitchment.  As Foxfire informant Jim Edmonds relates:

“Old Billy Jesse claimed he was a witch.  Ol’Gran’daddy couldn’t shoot a thing.  Somebody put a spell on his gun.  He went over to Billy Jesse t’take th’spell off.  He lived in what they call Bitter Mountain Cove.  Told him he wanted him t’take th’spell off him.  Somebody had witched his gun.

So Billy loaded that gun and went t’every corner of th’house and shot sayin’, ‘Hurrah fer th’Devil!’  Run t’every corner and shot—never did load it but once—hollerin’, ‘Hurrah fer th’Devil!’

Billy then said, ‘Now th’next thing you will see will be a great covey of quail.  Now don’t you shoot at nothin’.  Then th’next thing you see will be a big buck.  You can kill him.  Just shoot nothin’ else.

Gran’daddy done just like he told him, and here come a big drove a’birds.  He just held still.  He went on and there was this big ol’ buck.  Shot and killed him.  Th’spell was off his gun.” (Foxfire 2, p.333)

All of this folklore may just be storytelling.  Or it may be a way of hiding secrets in plain sight.  Or it may be to-the-letter true, for all I know.  But at the very least, I know that I enjoy these stories.  And personally, I get a lot out of them that isn’t just related to campfire entertainment.  Though I don’t mind mixing s’mores and witchcraft, should the occasion call for it.

Okay, a long post today, but hopefully a useful one!  Thanks for sticking with it, and as always, thanks for reading!

-Cory

Podcast 7 – Weather Magic and Lore

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 7-

Summary
Today we’ll look at some weather folklore and magic.  Then, we’ll be introducing two new sections:  WitchCraft with Laine, and Magic Spelled Out with Cory.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 7

-Sources-
Main Topic
The Foxfire BookSpecifically the chapter on weather lore
Smoky Mountain Weather Lore – With some interesting weather folklore from the Appalachians
Buying the Wind by Richard Dorson
Grimoire for the Green Witch, by Ann Moura
Dog Predicting Earthquake – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MFzcl-kZHo&feature=related
And of course, weather lore provided by our wonderful listeners!

WitchCraft
“Knitting Witchcraft” by Olivia O’Meir, in Llewellyn’s 2007 Magical Almanac
The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, by Clara Parkes
knittingdaily.com
theanticraft.com
ravelry.com

Magic Spelled Out
Earth Power, by Scott Cunningham
Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells, by Judika Iles

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
WitchCraft Intro: “Down on the Farm” by Chubby Parker
Magic Spelled Out Intro: “Evil Devil Woman Blues” by Joe McCoy
Promo 1 – Witchery of One (Hooray!  Jay’s back!)
Promo 2- Pennies in the Well