Blog Post 203 – What is New World Witchery?, Part II (Witchcraft is an Amoral (not Immoral) Act)

“Tituba and Giles Corey,” by John W. Ehninger. Public Domain. (via Wikimedia Commons)

This post is part of my ongoing series trying to use folklore, history, and contemporary accounts of folk magic to paint a picture of what “New World Witchery” might look like. If you haven’t already done so, you may want to read the previous post, “What is New World Witchery?, Part I (Irrational Pragmatism).” Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you. I have already said there what I will reiterate here: that my attempt to lay out some sort of shape that defines New World Witchcraft practices is likely to satisfy no one (not even me). I undertake this effort largely because I think it gives me a point of reference when I’m developing other articles and trying to see how distinctly “New World” certain practices are. There will always be exceptions, of course. Rules and witchcraft have a murky, complicated relationship, a thought which brings me to the subject of today’s section:

Witchcraft is an Amoral (not Immoral) Act

Despite a common popular conception in parts of early America, most witches are not interested in worshiping a literal Christian Devil or sending random blights over their neighbors’ crops. That doesn’t mean witches do no harm—they seem to do a lot of it, at least in accounts historical and folkloric. For instance, many witches will tie up a rag to an axe handle or fence post in order to steal milk from their neighbors’ cows, thereby stealing directly from the people around them. Seldom are those targeted by witches run into ruin or completely deprived because of the witch’s interference, although it may cause them some anxiety and trouble. The magical theft seems to be an extension of the pragmatism mentioned previously, though, offering the witches involved a way to sustain themselves. There are stories of people being tormented to the point of death, of course, but as in the famous Bell Witch case, much of the lore surrounding such attacks implies that the target has wronged the witch in some way, and that the witch is simply bypassing conventional justice for her own brand (see Keith Thomas’ essay on English witchcraft for a good outline of that argument, which applies equally in a number of Colonial-era witchcraft cases).

Witchcraft is not an act of evil unless it is being labeled that way by those not practicing it, but its applications are often morally ambiguous, verging on unethical. Take for example, the case of Mont and Duck Moore in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Duck would hex livestock within the community, and then Mont would remove the curse…for a fee, of course. This was an act of commerce far more than it was an act of evil. Or at least, it was evil in proportion to its pragmatic approach to earning a living. The case of Betty Booker mentioned previously provides an example with a bit less racketeering.  At the far end of the spectrum we have the case of “The Witch of Pungo,” Grace Sherwood, who provided a variety of cures for her community in Virginia, only to end up being “swum” for her troubles (fortunately, she survived the experience). Sherwood reportedly stirred up the ire of some of her neighbors through her witchy ways, but seldom held back in her condemnation of those same neighbors when they leveled accusations against her. Folk magic and witchcraft, as we have seen already, are about meeting needs, and those needs are frequently morally dubious, much more so than the people who perform conjurations to help meet those needs. Cheo Torres noted that he was once asked what people liked to ask curanderas to do for them by a reporter. He replied: “Well, I said, young men usually want something to help them get sex…[M]idle-aged women usually want something to make their husbands love them again, sine that spark has left their lives. Middle-aged men want something to help them deal with the old aches and pains of their arthritis or their old football injuries. Older women wanted something to help them win at bingo or the lottery. And older men usually wanted something to attract younger women.” Clearly, meeting the needs of those who come to them is what creates moral ambiguity, far more than a witch’s partnership with a particular imp or spirit (although we’ll be getting to that topic soon enough).

Statue of Grace Sherwood on Witchduck Rd., Virginia Beach, VA. By Lago Mar [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A New World Witch is accountable to herself, and answers to her own sense of morality. Some stories demonstrate a witch paying a price exacted later by a Devil, but for the most part any suffering they find is at the hands of those who work countermagic against them—for example in tales where a hexed butterchurn is used to reverse harm upon the witch who cast the curse in the first place. One informant shared a just such a reversal with me regarding the Evil Eye:

“If your infant is thought to have been given the Evil Eye, it will display tantrums, inexplicable fits, crying, fever, coupled with nausea out of nowhere. If this is determined to be the case, the one suspected of giving the Evil Eye to the child must be confronted in front of said child, and be asked to submit (pass along with their mouth or spit in a glass of water) their saliva to the infant for it to ingest… Giving of themselves a part of them, to queue [quell] its curse.”

The person who gave the Evil Eye was expected to be a person that could be confronted, negotiated with, a part of a community that operated by informal, unofficial, but very potent magical “rules” that could flex and adjust to particular circumstances.

Justice is negotiated in individual encounters rather than through uniform rules. Witches like Sherwood may have had tempestuous personalities but still acted as forces for good in their communities. Milk-stealing witches met their needs through magic, often because they had fallen through any social networks of support that were supposed to exist in their communities, and frequently paid an eventual price for their deeds at the hands of those they’d wronged. Some witches played a system, as in the case of Mont and Duck, and were tolerated by the community at least for a time. No one, it seems, in history or folklore, expects the witch to act in a morally “mainstream” manner, but to operate under her own code of right and wrong (and any shades of gray between).

Next time: Witches Have a Lot of Friends (You Just Can’t See Many of Them).
Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 144 – Walnuts

“As soft as silk,
As white as milk,
As bitter as gall,
A strong wall,
And a green coat covers me all”
Walnut riddle from H.M. Hyatt, Adams Co., Entry No. 14379

Continuing with the Thanksgiving ingredient theme (i.e. Apples), I thought today it would be good to look at a fairly common tree and nut that has been woven into magic for hundreds of years. I’m speaking of course of the unassuming but delicious walnut which tops brownies, finds its way into salads, and makes a delicious candied treat. Don’t worry, though, my next topic will not be mayonnaise and I am not subtly leading up to any kind of enchanted Waldorf salad.

I’d like to briefly start in the Old World and mention a legend which had some influence on 19th-century occult folklorist Charles Leland. In “Neopolitan Witchcraft” by J.B. Andrews and James Frazer, a rhyme appears which translates roughly:

Beneath the water and beneath the wind,
Beneath the walnut trees of Benevento,
Lucibello bring me where I need to go.

This charm would help a witch magically fly to her Sabbat, supposedly. The idea of witches gathering beneath a walnut tree in Benevento, Italy clearly impacted Leland, who includes a tale in his “witch gospel” Aradia called “The House of the Wind” (which is what Benevento means in English). [EDIT: See comments below for a correction on this translation] Myth Woodling, who runs a marvelous set of pages on Italian folk magic and witchcraft, has this to say about the walnut:

Walnut shells, in Italian fairy tales, were often used to contain something precious or magical. A walnut branch was said to protect one from lightening. There were stories of witches and spirits gathering under walnut trees”

In the New World, walnuts gained a number of powers and attributes, while the lore about walnuts and lightning becomes reversed, as found in Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic & Folklore, where he tells how black walnuts are now thought to draw lightning and hillfolk refuse to plant these trees near their homes for that reason (72). Some of Randolph’s other interesting tidbits about walnuts are here:

  • “A big crop of walnuts indicates cold weather to come” (26)
  • A good season for tomatoes is a bad season for walnuts (39)
  • Fresh walnut leaves scattered about the house can deter insects (68)
  • Walnut shells must not be burned, or bad luck will come (71)
  • The juice of a green walnut can help cure ringworm (110)
  • “The shell of a black walnut is supposed to represent the human skull, and the meat is said to resemble  the brain, therefore people who show signs of mental aberration are encouraged to eat walnuts. I know of one case in which an entire family devoted most of the winter to cracking walnuts for a feebleminded boy. They kept it up for years, and I believe the poor fellow ate literally bushels of walnut goodies” (114)
  • “A mountain girl of my acquaintance placed a lock of her hair under a stone in a running stream,  believing that the water would make her hair glossy and attractive. Another way to promote the growth of hair is to bury a “twist” of it under the roots of a white walnut tree, in the light of the moon” (165)

Similar lore exists in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky, with the addition of magical wart charming ascribed to the humble walnut. Daniel & Lucy Thomas, in their Kentucky Superstitions, say that green walnuts can be rubbed on warts, then buried to charm the wart away. This makes for an interesting variant on the standard wart-charming method of cutting a fruit or vegetable in half before using it to cure the wart (but I’ll address those ideas in a different post entirely). Heading into Illinois, Henry Hyatt reports a mix of magical and medical uses for walnuts:

  • Thin walnut shells mean a light winter, while thick shells mean a heavy one
  • A black walnut carried at all times prevents headaches
  • A mixture of boiled walnut leaves, water, and sulphur makes a powerful anti-itch wash
  • Dreaming of opening or eating walnuts means money is coming soon

In this latter example, we can see the walnut being used as a divinatory aid, which makes sense when we think of the strong ‘brain’ association with the little wrinkled nut (since it has a brain, it must know something, so why not the future, right?). Hyatt also shares a lovely little love divination with walnuts:

9033. Her future husband’s occupation can be learned by a girl who grates three nuts — a hazelnut, nutmeg and walnut — mixes these grated nuts with butter and sugar, makes pills of this paste, and swallows nine of them on going to bed: if she dreams of wealth, she will marry a gentleman; of white linen, a clergyman; of darkness, a lawyer; of noises, a tradesman or laborer; of thunder and lightning, a soldier or sailor; and of rain, a servant

This sense of a walnut as a ‘knowing’ curio seems to be tied again to its brain-like appearance, but also with the idea of the little nut containing some special knowledge the way it contained magical charms in an Old World context. The tree even seems to know what is growing around it in some cases. Patrick Gainer says that the presence of a white walnut tree indicates ginseng growing underneath it (120).

Another key use of the walnut in magic has to do—or at least I think it does—with its bitterness and perhaps the deep blackness of the flesh surrounding the nut. Walnuts can strip away negativity nearly as well as eggs, lemons, salt, or any of the other major magical cleansing agents. Draja Mickaharic includes a cleansing bath which uses walnuts in order to sever ties with an unwanted person or influence. He warns that it can only be used once, and that going back to the person after ties are severed will have dire results. The basic formula involves boiling six unshelled walnuts in a pot for three hours, adding water if needed. After that time, there will be a black broth that should be added to a bathtub, and the person using the bath should immerse themselves seven times in it, saying prayers as appropriate (Spiritual Cleansing 58).The dark color absorbs all negativity, and the galling nature of the fruit works the way a lemon does to sever evil from one’s person. Cat Yronwode suggests a similar bath to Mickaharic, adding the important step of disposing of the used bathwater at a crossroads. She also indicates that walnut leaves can be used in a spell to hurt an enemy’s luck (Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic 205).

One use for a walnut I’ve never seen but which I really think would be interesting to try would be as a head for a doll baby working. Considering the brain associations and the fleshiness of the fruit, I’m not sure why this is not a common-place use of the walnut, but c’est la vie. If you happen to know why they’re not used in doll magic, I’d love to hear it! Or if you have any other uses of walnuts in New World folk magic, please feel free to share!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 113 – Spiritual House Cleaning

Home Sweet Home, by Douglas William Jerrold (via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s always nice to start the New Year off with a clean, well-appointed home.  In some traditions, this is not mere vanity or hygiene, but a spiritual necessity that must be done on New Year’s Eve to ensure that the home is clear and ready for the coming year.  Today, I thought I’d look at a few of the magical methods for housecleaning, as well as some of the most common cleaning agents with a magical touch.

Sweeping & Vacuuming – It has to be done.  There’s just no way of getting around it.  The floors must be kept clean, at least within reason, and usually a broom or a vacuum is employed to that end.  Workers in the conjure and hoodoo traditions tend to have specific techniques for sweeping, often going from the topmost floor of the house to the bottom and working from the back of each floor towards the front (though I’ve seen variations on that, often depending on specific needs—getting rid of a bad spirit might involve sweeping out the back door, for example).  While floor washes are the go-to method for spiritually cleansing a house and adding specific magical vibes to the area (see Mopping & Floor Washes below), you can add a degree of magic to the sweeping and vacuuming process, too.  Various powders can be sprinkled on floors and carpets and left there for a bit before sweeping.  These will absorb some spellwork and leave other magic behind.  Some good ones to try out (available at Lucky Mojo):

  • Fear Not to Walk Over Evil – A powerful anti-hex and anti-foottrack magic powder.
  • House Blessing – A simple, very peaceful powder.
  • Crown of Success or Fast Money – To encourage prosperity and abundance.
  • Chuparosa/Hummingbird – To create love and attraction between partners in the home.

Likewise, you might also opt for simple, household items to do some of your mojo work during sweeping and vacuuming.  Many spices make great conjure sweeps (and smell wonderful when taken up by a vacuum and slightly warmed by the machine’s motor—an added aromatic energy).  Some that I like to use:

  • Cinnamon – Creates a sense of prosperity and joviality.  Some use it for business success, but I find it creates more of a personal confidence and comfortability than anything purely financial.
  • Allspice – Another success spice, but also good for stimulating conversation.  I like to vacuum with cinnamon and allspice sprinkled on the carpets before guests come over to encourage a warm, friendly atmosphere.
  • Pine Needles – Good for uncrossing and refreshing a home.  Not a kitchen spice, of course, but still easily accessible.  Be careful though, as too many pine needles can gum up machinery (like vacuums) quickly!
  • Rosemary – Good for domestic bliss, as well as helping those who smell it focus and think clearly.
  • Oregano – Keeps meddlesome influences from interfering in your life.  Makes a nice “law-keep-away” substitute, and discourages nosy neighbors.
  • Garlic Skins – Kills off evil, but it will leave a distinctive odor in the air.
  • Rose Petals – Encourages love and passion when crumbled around the home and left for a bit before sweeping/vacuuming.
  • Salt – Great for stopping any hexes put upon you and removing unwanted spiritual energies from your home.  I use baking soda (a type of salt) sprinkled on carpets before vacuuming to both absorb odors and remove pesky curses.  Jim Haskins records a method of preventing unwanted guests from returning which simply involves sweeping salt after them when they leave.
  • Sugar – A little of this will add a sweetness to your home, though make sure you get it all and don’t use too much—a little sweetness may be great, but a lot of ants aren’t.

The basic method here is to sprinkle everything, let it sit for a bit (if you can stand letting it sit for 24 hours, that is lovely, but probably a little excessive—30 minutes is often plenty of time, and even a 5-minute wait will give you a quick dose of magic).

Mopping & Floor Washes – This is probably one of the best known hoodoo methods of cleansing, blessing, and enchanting a home.  Using a prepared magical floor wash to clean anything that can handle getting wet (including the walls) still makes for great spellwork.  Some of the most famous floor washes are (again from Lucky Mojo):

  • Chinese Wash – An old school formula which reputedly came out of Chinatown (though which Chinatown is not particularly clear).  It’s made from several powerful ingredients, many of which are found in Van Van (see below), with broom straws added for extra oomph.  Good for knocking out any hexes and doing purification work.
  • Van Van – We’ve covered this in Blog Post 81, but briefly this is a blend of several Asian grass extracts, chiefly lemongrass and vetiver root.  It, like Chinese Wash, cleanses and purifies.
  • Peace Water – When made in its most interesting form, peace water is beautiful to look at, with layers of blue and white/clear liquid on top of one another in a mesmerizing stasis.  When mixed up and sprinkled into a floor wash, this helps create feelings of calm, quiet, and tranquility in even very turbulent homes.
  • Rose Water – This very basic addition to a floor wash can be found in many ethnic grocery markets.  It’s not much more than a strong rose tea stabilized with alcohol, so you could easily make your own, but it’s also fairly cheap to buy.  When used in a floor wash, it helps promote feelings of love and agreement.

In addition to these specialty formulas, there are lots of common household cleaners you can use with a magical bent:

  • Pine-Sol – This commercial floor cleaner basically evolved out of hoodoo floor washes.  Cat Yronwode even suggests adding a little Van-Van to a bottle of Pine-Sol and using it as a simple substitute for Chinese Wash.  Traditional pine scent is great, of course, or you can go with…
  • Lemon Pine-Sol – Or any lemon-scented cleanser like it.  Lemons have a cut-and-clear effect on a space, and have long been associated with destroying curses and breaking hexes.  Charles Leland’s Aradia records an anti-evil-eye charm which is fundamentally a pomander made of a lemon and pins.  It leaves a lovely clean smell, too, though a fairly artificial one in most cleansers.  Feel free to add some fresh squeezed lemons to your mop bucket for a rootsier version of lemon-cleanser.
  • Ammonia Draja Mickaharic recommends a simple floor wash of ammonia and salt added to mop water, and it really makes a wonderful cleansing and protecting wash water.  It can really neutralize almost anything thrown at you, magically speaking, and it disinfects beautifully.  Mickaharic also recommends a little ammonia down every drain when you finish cleaning (just a teaspoon or so), to finish off your magical housecleaning.
  • Vinegar – Four Thieves Vinegar is popular as a counter-curse wash, and as a protective mix-in for a mop-water.  But really, any vinegar will help get rid of unwanted energies and protect the home from invaders and malicious forces.  If the scent is strong enough, it may protect you from visitors altogether.
  • Urine – This one is very traditional in hoodoo, though much frowned upon in modern use.  It has, however, been long used as a cleaning agent, and a little urine diluted in some mop water can be very powerful for “marking your territory” and protecting the home.  It can also instill a sense of good luck in the place, and ensure fidelity in your mate and passion from your lover.  If they don’t catch you doing it, of course.

There are lots of other cleaning agents out there that you can use, of course.  Almost anything scented probably has at least some tenuous connection to a magical formula, so a little homework can help you transform that bottle of Mop-N-Glo into a powerful apothecary’s potion.

Windows & Doors – You don’t do windows, you say?  Well, you should at least open them up!  Whenever you do a good house-cleansing, throwing up the windows and letting some fresh air circulate is vital to getting everything “right.”  It helps balance out all the forces in the home, allows bad spirits to leave, and refreshes the air in the house.  It’s cold to do this in winter, of course, but turning the heat off for 10 minutes and letting a little fresh air in can make all the difference in getting a home feeling good and happy again.  Likewise, the doors should be opened for a bit to let the air circulate.

When it comes to washing doors and windows, you can really use any of the same washes I talked about above in the Mopping & Floor Washes section.  You can also use a variety of other ingredients to get things right at all your entrances and exits.  For example, many folks take a little olive oil (or holy oil, which is basically blessed and sometimes lightly scented olive oil) and make a little sigil in the corner of every window, to seal that entrance against evil intrusions.  Some folks put blue bottles in the windows, or jars full of sand or marbles, in the hopes that any witches who might try to get in will be forced to count the contents of the container and be unable to do so before daybreak (when their power ends).  You can make a wash water of red brick dust, urine, and salt in warm water and use it to scrub your door to add a powerful layer of protection.  You can also sprinkle salt or brick dust lines down at the threshold and in the sills of every window to keep out unwanted spirits and spells.

Clearing the Air – Once the house has been aired out and all the windows and doors cleaned and opened for a while, some folks like to light some incense, use room sprays, or even just make a little something in the kitchen to add an element of magic to the home.  I’ve covered some of the holiday scents and their uses in Blog Post 108, and I’ve already mentioned pine and citrus scents as powerful agents for spiritual and physical cleansing.  Other odoriferous offerings to your home can include:

Fresh Bread – One of the best symbols of abundanace and prosperity.  Bake a loaf in your oven and let the scent fill the home.  Cookies are also good for this.

Floral Scents – Like jasmine, rose, or lavender.  All of these have specific uses, and add specific magical “vibrations” to an area (rose fragrances inspire love to many, for example), so look into the flowers you like and figure out what note they will set in your newly cleaned domicile.

Sweeteners – I did mention this in Blog Post 108, but I also said it’s a bit strong when burned.  If you are airing your house out, however, a little honey, brown sugar, molasses, or even table sugar might be a good thing to burn or warm on the stove, as it will provide a sublimely “sweet” feeling to the area.  Draja Mickaharic highly recommends this, and I can’t say I’m against it either.

Nailing It Down – This is a practice particular to conjure and hoodoo, though there are likely variants or similar practices in other magical systems.  The basic idea is that by pounding nails into your home’s corners (and the corners of your property), you fix it there and create a stable environment.  You also assert your ownership of the place, and help to guarantee your continued residence there.  The most commonly used nails for this are the “square-cut” kind, usually sold cheaply at hardware stores.  For doing the corners of your property, you would want to use something bigger, like old railroad spikes.  The basic idea is that you simply nail them into every corner of your home, particularly the ones along outside walls.  You can bless them with oil or holy water or anything else you feel is appropriate, or simply nail them down while saying a little prayer that you remain safe, happy, and comfortable in your home as long as the nails remain in place.  Remove them if you ever have to move away for any reason.

That’s a lot of cleaning!  But it’s always good to have a clean home, for both practical and spiritual reasons, so give some of these a go and see how they work for you!  And if you missed your New Year’s cleaning deadline, well, you can always do these things during your Spring cleaning, too.

I hope this has been useful!  Thanks for reading!

Oh, and Happy New Year!

-Cory

Podcast 19 – Curses & Hexes

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 19-


Summary
This episode is all about the controversial topic of hexing and cursing.  We discuss the ethics, methods, and types of cursing, as well as some personal experience with the subject.  Then Laine talks about Goofer Dust in WitchCraft, while Cory looks at Uncrossing in Spelled Out.

Play:

Download: New World WItchery – Episode 19

-Sources-
We cite Peter Paddon’s Crooked Path series on ethics.
Many spells and recipes discussed are in Judika Illes’ Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells
Lucky Mojo’s page has excellent entries on Hot Footing & the Evil Eye
Cat Yronwode’s Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic contains information on the Live Things in You Curse

Our contest will feature products from our Compass & Key Etsy shop and Judika Illes’ book, The Weiser Field Guide to Witches.


Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1 – Appalachian Witch Doctor Tales
Promo 2 – Pennies in the Well
Promo 3 – Lakefront Pagan Voice

Podcast Special – Mother Hicks

-SHOWNOTES FOR PODCAST SPECIAL-
Summary
A tale of a famous witch from Maine, adapted from Richard Dorson’s “Buying the Wind”

Play:

Download: New World Witchery Special – Mother Hicks

-Sources-
Based on tales found in Buying the Wind, by Richard Dorson.


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

Blog Post 94 – Compass & Key Relaunch!

It’s here! Sooner than expected, though far too long in the making.  We’re working on lots and lots of products at the moment, but our initial offering includes:

Saints & Spirits Oil – This oil is attuned to the spirit realm, and can be used to anoint offering candles or to work spells relying on the aid of spiritual forces.  It’s got a “churchy” smell offset by lavender for a peaceful, pleasant effect.

Wall of Flame Oil – If you need to keep bad influences out of your life, this oil is right up your alley.  It’s like laying down a ring of fire around you and the people and things you love.  Sharp, clean, and hot smelling, it sends back any hurtful energies directed at you to their sources.

Uncrossing Oil – When you’ve got troubles that just don’t seem to quit, and it feels like your luck has just plain run out, this is the oil to use.  A little of this worn on the body (particularly the hands and feet—though do be careful if you have sensitive skin) or burned while praying can do wonders to knock any curses off of you.

Within the next few days we also hope to be able to offer these:

Crown of Success Oil – One of our favorites!  This sweet, spicy blend is designed for general purpose success spells.  It can also be applied to any more focused mojo, like a simple gambling hand or money drawing bag, in order to bring increased potency.

Crown of Success Mojo Bags – Just like the oil, these general purpose mojos are designed to generate some serious success in your life.  They should be fed at least weekly and carried in a pocket, purse, or somewhere out of sight.  They’re red cotton cloth and smell rather nicely, too!

And we’re also working on these items as well, though they will probably be another week or two away:

Attraction Oil – Need to bring something good your way?  Luck, money, or love?  Well this might be the oil you’re looking for.  It works like a magnet for drawing things to you.  Annoint a little of your money before you spend it and it will come back to you with more in tow eventually.  Dab a little on before going out for the evening and you may find yourself bringing home a new lover.  It’s warm and citrusy with floral notes, and a real pleasure to smell!

Uncrossing Soap – Like the oil, this soap helps peel away the spiritual grime that may be hanging around you.  If you can’t manage to take a full spiritual bath, this soap makes a nice alternative.  Smells great and is made with skin-friendly goat’s milk.

Crown of Success Soap – This richly scented olive-oil based soap can help to bring prosperity and good fortune to those who use it.  Use as a hand soap and wash before leaving the house every day, or as a body soap for occasional boosts to your luck and fortunes.

Saints & Spirits Soap – If you need to get spiritually clean, or just want a nice spiritual cast to your day, this is a great soap for you!  It has a holy scent and peaceful pieces of lavender mixed into it.  It’s a lovely way to get clean, right down to your soul!

Once we get things going, I’m going to start making package sales, where you can buy a mojo and an oil of the same type for a discounted price if you get them together.  I also plan to eventually release that print edition of the cartomancy guide through the Etsy site, but I want it to be a little better quality if I’m asking people to pay for it, of course.

I should say that for legal reasons, all of our products are sold as novelties and are NOT to be ingested!  I offer them as folkloric specimens and results will vary from person to person.

If you have products you’d like to see us offer, by the way, please send us a message!  We’re always interested in seeing what people want.  We tend to lean towards prosperity and blessing-type products at the moment, but we’re not opposed to branching out.

We hope you’ll stop by the store!  Until then, thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 66 – The Moon

In a lot of modern Pagan religions, such as Wicca and Druidism, there is a certain amount of emphasis placed on the moon.  Phases of our celestial companion become symbolic stand-ins for various god and goddess figures, or particular aspects of those figures (as in the famous Maiden/Mother/Crone cycle).  With the full moon upon us, I thought I might take a little look at just how American witchcraft interacts with that lovely sphere.

There is a great deal of lunar lore found in Native American legends.  In one tale from the Kalispel Tribe of Idaho, the moon is equated with the famous trickster/father figure, Coyote:

“Once there was no Moon for someone had stolen it. The people asked “Who will be the Moon?” The Yellow Fox agreed to give it a try but he was so bright it made the Earth hot at night. Then the people asked Coyote to try and he agreed. The Coyote was a good moon, not to bright – not to dim. But from his vantage point in the sky the Coyote could see what everyone was doing. Whenever he saw someone doing something dishonest he would shout “HEY! That person is stealing meat from the drying racks!” or “HEY! That person is cheating at the moccasin game!” Finally, the people who wished to do things in secret got together and said “Coyote is too noisy. Let’s take him out of the sky.” So someone else became the moon. Coyote can no longer see what everyone else is doing but he still tries to snoop into everyone else’s business” (WWU Planetarium American Indian Starlore page).

The Cherokee thought of the Moon as brother to the Sun (an instance of the moon being seen as male, which appears in several cultures).

The image of the Man in the Moon is frequently found in American folklore.  Many of these traditions hail from European lore, including poems found in Mother Goose:

THE MAN IN THE MOON
The Man in the Moon came tumbling down,
And asked the way to Norwich;
He went by the south, and burnt his mouth
With eating cold pease porridge.
(from The Real Mother Goose)

In other cultures, the moon contains figures less familiar to most Americans.  The Old Farmer’s Almanac includes examples of the moon seen as a woman with child, a toad, a giant, a rabbit, and a boy and a girl carrying a bucket (as in “Jack and Jill”).

There are also particular moons associated with particular months.  A good list of them can be found at the Farmer’s Almanac site, here.  Many are linked with agricultural cycles (such as Green Corn Planting Moon or Harvest Moon), and some are clearly linked to hunting (like the Buck Moon).

There is a plethora of magical lore associated with the moon.  My earlier posts on planting by lunar signs and weather lore both have lunar connections within them.  Likewise, the witch initiations post mentions the practice of shooting at the moon to become a witch.  Edain McCoy, in her book In a Graveyard at Midnight, also has a fun bit of moon magic:

“To remove a curse from your home, you can try shooting your shotgun out an open window at the full moon, while shouting a curse at the Devil.  However, don’t try this if you live in a city or populated area, or you will likely find the police at your door” (McCoy, p. 107)

There are also beliefs about marriage and courtship dates associated with lunar phenomena – waxing-to-full moons are best for “tomcattin’” according to Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic & Folklore.

Of course, witches can find lots to do under a full moon.  Personally I find it to be an ideal time for:

  • Storytelling gatherings (especially around a campfire)
  • Divination and fortune-telling
  • Working with Otherworld entities like spirits, ghosts, fairies, etc.
  • Possession-based magic and shapeshifting
  • Love and beauty magic
  • Crafting magical tools and supplies

These are only my thoughts on the subject, of course, and there are plenty of great sources on lunar folklore out there.  And, of course, your mileage may vary when it comes to making the most of a full moon.  I’d love to hear what you all do with regards to lunar-linked magic.  Please feel free to share your methods, practices, ideas, and thoughts with us here!

Until next time, thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 39 – Angelica Root

Since we talked about the very masculine High John yesterday, today I thought we’d look at its feminine “counterpart,” Angelica.  The main plant bearing this name is Angelica archangelica, appropriately enough, and it has strong associations with angels and holiness.  It is often associated with the Archangel Michael, and has much of his same protective power.

Culpepper, in his medieval herbal manual, writes of this herb:  “To write a description of that which is so well known to be growing in almost every garden, I suppose is altogether needless; yet for its virtue it is of admirable use” (Culpepper 8).  This plant has been grown commonly for hundreds of years, for its medicinal, culinary, and magical properties.  It’s one of the common flavorings found in liqueurs such as Chartreuse and it has a highly aromatic quality that runs from root to leaf.

Botanical.com describes it thusly:

“The roots of the Common Angelica are long and spindle-shaped, thick and fleshy – large specimens weighing sometimes as much as three pounds – and are beset with many long, descending rootlets. The stems are stout fluted, 4 to 6 feet high and hollow. The foliage is bold and pleasing, the leaves are on long stout, hollow footstalks, often 3 feet in length, reddish purple at the much dilated, clasping bases; the blades, of a bright green colour, are much cut into, being composed of numerous small leaflets, divided into three principal groups, each of which is again subdivided into three lesser groups. The edges of the leaflets are finely toothed or serrated. The flowers, small and numerous, yellowish or greenish in colour, are grouped into large, globular umbels. They blossom in July and are succeeded by pale yellow, oblong fruits, 1/6 to a 1/4 inch in length when ripe, with membraneous edges, flattened on one side and convex on the other, which bears three prominent ribs. Both the odour and taste of the fruits are pleasantly aromatic.”

The root of the plant has potent estrogen-like compounds, which is likely one reason it has a strong connection to women.  It’s also supposed to be good for helping to break fevers and expel disease, particularly diseases of the lungs.

Magically, this plant is female, through and through.  That’s not to say men can’t use it, of course.  I bound up an Angelica root in white linen and placed it beneath our bed when my wife was pregnant to protect her and the developing baby (all turned out quite well, by the way).  But Angelica is renowned for its power to protect women and undo harmful magic.  Some of the various spells one can do with Angelica include:

  • Carrying the root to protect from harm (in general)
  • Women can carry the root, along with a picture of St. Michael the Archangel, to protect from unwanted advances (or worse) from men
  • Dress Angelica root with Blessing oil (or just olive oil over which prayers have been said, such as Psalm 23) in order to protect a newborn baby (place the anointed root in a white cloth under the baby’s bed).
  • Ground Angelica root can be mixed with salt and another protective herb, like rue, rosemary, or sulfur (not an herb, I know, but I think you follow me) and kept in a small white mojo bag to guard against hexes.  Alternatively, the mixture can be sprinkled across doorways or mixed into an Uncrossing floor wash to remove jinxes placed on one’s household.
  • A strong tisane (or tea) of the root can be made and used to sprinkle a new home or a home where negative spiritual activity has occurred in order to make the home calm and peaceful.

Additionally, Cathreine Yronwode mentions that “Angelica stem candied in sugar is an old fashioned treat said to keep children healthy” and that “When buying Angelica, be aware that its occasional alternate name Masterwort more truly belongs to Imperatoria ostruthium…Also, Hercules Club, a plant in the Aralia family, is called Angelica Tree by some, but is not related to Angelica” (Yronwode 30).

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 32 – Hoodoo You Do (Intro, Part IV)

This blog post will primarily deal with types of hoodoo spells, or “tricks.”  It’s not a complete list of all types of hoodoo magic by any stretch of the imagination, but for someone just getting into it, this should give you an idea of what a conjure man/woman does, and give you some places to start if you want to do hoodoo for you.

Mojo Bags – Probably the best known of the hoodoo magical charms, mojos go by many names:  hands, tobys, jomos, etc.  These small talismans are little bags designed to be worn out of sight and usually close to the skin.  A particular type of mojo worn only by women is the “nation sack” of Memphis, TN.  The way these charms are made may vary a bit from place to place or worker to worker, but the general idea is that a small flannel sack, usually red but sometimes other colors, is filled with magical ingredients—usually an odd number of them.  It’s then closed up, and often anointed or “fed” with some offering on a regular basis (whiskey, rum, or other alcohol is a common food for a mojo hand; some of the condition oils found in hoodoo are also appropriate).  I recently heard these bags described as little spirit houses, and to my mind, that’s a perfect description.  The herbs, oils, curios, and other elements of hoodoo are matched together to make a little home for a spirit who can aid the worker in getting what he or she wants.  I often include a written charm in mine (being inclined towards the written word as I am), and usually I make my mojos as part of a larger working, such as a Candle Burning.

Candle Burnings – Also commonly called “setting lights,” candle burnings in hoodoo are similar to candle burnings in any other magical system.  The only real difference is the method (or methods) of dressing the candles.  In hoodoo, when a worker is dressing a candle to draw something (like money, love, health, etc.), he or she will cover the candle in herbs and oils from the bottom-up.  To rid oneself of something (like a jinx), candles are dressed top-down.  Personal concerns, such as a target’s hair or fingernails, are usually incorporated in the dressing, or may be placed beneath an inverted saucer upon which the candle is burned.  Name-papers with written charms may also be used in this manner.  Henri Gamache’s Master Book of Candle Burning is an excellent resource for this type of magic.

Readings – Most rootworkers begin with a reading of some kind.  Whether its tarot cards, palm reading, or just a sort of psychic once-over with second sight, the conjure person will need to get a good idea of what the client needs—not just what he or she wants.  Often, readings are done as part of a larger interview process to really hone in on what kind of work the rootworker will need to do.  I like to use playing cards to read before doing most magical workings, even ones for myself.

Honey Jars – We covered them a bit in our Special Episode recently, but I love these things, so I’ll mention them again here.  Basically, a honey jar is exactly what it sounds like:  a jar full of honey.  Into this sweet-and-sticky pot you place the names (and personal concerns in some cases) of those you wish to “sweeten up.”  These jars are also known as “sweetening jars,” and can actually contain almost any kind of pure sweetener, such as brown or white sugar, molasses, or syrup.  This is a good way to start doing hoodoo, because it is a very positive type of magic (you’re only making your relationships with those you sweeten better, after all) and it also teaches you to get your hands a little dirty (because you must push the names into the jar with your fingers, and then lick them clean…a nice reward for your efforts!).  You can make jars for each person you want to sweeten if you’re working more elaborate spells on them, or keep one jar with lots of names in it for general sweetening.  You can also make vinegar or “souring” jars, which is a form of Hexing.  I’d generally wait to do a souring jar until after you’ve tried a few sweetening ones, though.

Foot-track Magic – This type of magic stems from African Traditional practices, in which the footprint of a person could be used magically against them (or to help them, but usually harmful magic is associated with foot tracks).  The basic idea behind this kind of spell is that the feet come in contact with a magical potion, powder, or other ingredient and draw the psychic contagion up into the body.  One of the most famous examples of foot-track magic is the use of goofer dust on someone.  The hexing dust is sprinkled somewhere where the target will walk over it, and the poisonous influence of the powder will cause the target’s body to swell and fill with pain, and possibly even die.  Of course, it’s possible to do helpful spells with foot-track work, like laying a prosperity blend in someone’s path to ensure they have good luck, but this is a less common use of this magic.

Washing/Bathing – While I love the fact that hoodoo gets down and dirty, I also really like the emphasis it puts on cleanliness.  There are lots of formulae designed exclusively for things like washing one’s floors to banish harmful things and/or draw beneficial ones.  For example, you can wash your business doorstep or the sidewalk in front of your shop with a money drawing blend (such as bayberry, cinnamon, and rose-of-jericho water) from the outside-in to draw customers to you.  Bathing is also important in hoodoo, particularly ritual bathing performed over a series of 3, 5, 7, or 9 days.  Much like in Candle Burning, if you take a hoodoo bath, you’ll want to stand in the tub and wash up to draw something (like money) and down to get rid of something (like a bad habit).  Prayers, psalms, and other magical phrases may be recited while bathing, and usually at least some of the bath water is saved and later disposed of ritually (by pouring at a crossroads, for example).   I highly recommend Draja Mickaharic’s Spiritual Cleansing if you want to learn more on this subject.

Cleansings/Uncrossing Work – Related to Washing/Bathing is the concept of a Cleansing or an Uncrossing.  These workings are usually done to remove the effects of harmful witchcraft or hexing, and can be done by a rootworker or by a client under a worker’s direction.  Some common methods of uncrossing involve the aforementioned ritual bathing while using downward motion and uncrossing herbs (like rue, hyssop, and salt), marking the client with the “five-spot” or quincunx pattern using an uncrossing oil, or even running a raw egg around the client’s body to absorb negative spiritual energies (this is similar to cleansings found in other systems, like curanderismo).  A rootworker may also smoke or fumigate a client, using a sheet to tent the seated client from the shoulders down and burning incense beneath the chair to fill the tent with sacred smoke.  There are related areas of hoodoo spellwork which are more protective than cleansing which involve putting down salt, chalk, or brick dust lines around a person’s home to prevent harm from reaching them, but these are usually done after a cleansing has been performed on both the client and his/her house.

Jinxing/Hexing – So I know it seems backwards to discuss this after Cleansing/Uncrossing, but I generally feel like it’s better to know how to stop a harmful spell before you get started, so that’s why I mentioned the other first.  However, Jinxing/Hexing is a big part of hoodoo.  From the harmful forms of Foot-track Magic mentioned earlier to more fearsome curses (such as the disgusting but terrifying “Live Things in You” curse, in which a target is tricked into swallowing powdered snake skin, spider eggs, or other unsavory items so that they begin to feel like things are literally crawling around inside them).  Learning to hex someone with hoodoo isn’t hard, though it often requires a strong stomach.  One simple and quite grave curse is to make a doll-baby (stuffed poppet) with the person’s name paper or personal concerns inside of it, then put that into a small coffin and bury it in a graveyard.  The victim should feel their own life-force fading as long as the buried doll remains in the cemetery (a word of warning, though—in most places digging so much as a single spoonful of dirt is considered vandalism and is quite illegal, therefore I do not advocate it).  A simpler and much tamer curse is the vinegar jar I mentioned in our Witch Bottle Special.  By simply placing someone’s name into a jar of vinegar, along with things like red pepper flakes, black pepper, and garlic, you can sour their life pretty effectively.  Shaking the jar every time you think about it can help “stir up” more trouble for them.  Cursing someone for fun, by the way, is always a bad idea.  You never know when it might backfire and wind up dragging you right into trouble, so make sure you’re working “justified,” perhaps by doing a Reading first.

Love Spells – The simplest of these is a type of Honey Jar in which two people’s names are kept and a candle burned over the top of it.  This sweetens them to each other and helps set magic in motion to keep them sweet on one another.  Love spells in hoodoo, though, are not always so nice.  There are plenty of spells aimed at separating lovers (candles are even sold which look like married couples and which, when burned, come apart and lead to divorce or estrangement).  There are also more intense love spells aimed less at finding that one true love than at exercising power over the target (see Controlling Spells for more on that).  Many love spells, though, are more like the sweetening spells, and simply help a person find or catch that perfect mate.  There are some extremely simple love spells in hoodoo which involve little more than tying two dirty socks—one from each mate—together and hiding them away so that love will remain forever “bound” between them.  Of course, for those coming from a background where this sort of manipulation is a magical no-no, even a fairly benign hoodoo love spell can seem a little sinister.  But then, no one says you have to do every spell in the hoodoo spellbook, right?

Controlling/”Bend Over” Spells – I saved these spells for last because I find them incredibly interesting.  They are so antithetical to the kind of magic I did for years, because they completely ignore the idea of non-manipulation.  These spells are all about manipulation, in fact.  Controlling spells (and their sister workings, “Compelling” and “Bend Over” spells) usually involve forcing another person to do what you want them to do.  Sometimes, as in the case of Compelling or Pay Me Now! spells, the force is simply making the target fulfill a promise they’ve already made.  But often these tricks are laid in order to keep an errant spouse from philandering about, or to make a boss give you that raise you’ve been after.  Using roots like licorice and calamus, as well as personal effects from the target (name papers are much less effective in this kind of work, in my experience), a rootworker can do a heckuva number on someone.  One of the most famous methods of using this kind of magic involves a woman putting a bit of her menstrual blood in her husband or lover’s food, thereby making him remain faithful to her.  She can also “tie his nature” by measuring his penis with a string, then soaking it in his semen and tying knots in it.  That way, he will find himself useless unless she releases him, which presumably will only happen when he’s with her.  It’s intense stuff!  But it also makes sense.  For many folks, these workings are last-resort measures.  In some cases—such as using Courtcase formulae or spitting galangal root juice on a courthouse floor—they are the only methods available to poor folks being ground down by the gears of the legal system.  Who wouldn’t want magical reassurance that the judge was on their side?  While I don’t recommend starting with these kinds of spells, I will say I’ve gotten to really like them over time.  They’ve proven useful, and a good rootworker knows how to set limits when using Controlling magic.

Like I said, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all hoodoo techniques and spells, but it should at least give you an idea what kinds of magic are available in the rootworking system.  As always, I recommend checking out the Lucky Mojo site for more info on many of these methods, and if you have any comments or questions, you can email us or leave a comment and I’ll be happy to respond!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory