Podcast 4 – Defining “Witches” and an Interview with Juniper and Dr. Brendan Myers

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 4-

Summary

In this show, we spend some time trying to pin down that elusive word, “witch,” and figure out just what makes a person fit that term.  Then, in the second half of the show we have an excellent pair of guests, Dr. Brendan Myers and Juniper from the Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow.  Plus, we have a reminder about our current weather-lore contest.

Play:

Download: New World Witchery – Episode 4

-Sources-


Websites
From our guests:
The Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow – The podcast for thinking pagans and working witches.
Walking the Hedge – Juniper’s excellent hedgewitchery site
Walking the Hedge Blog – The ramblings and wanderings of a Canadian hedgewitch
Dr. Brendan Myers’ website – Pagan philosophy, essays on various topics, and all around good intellectual fun.
Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1-The Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow
Promo 2- Media Astra ac Terra

Blog Post 16 – An Introduction to Pow-wow, Part III

Hi folks!  Here is the final installment in my introductory Pow-wow series.  I hope you’re enjoying them!  Now, on to the magic!

Where can I find out more about Pow-wow?

There are many phenomenal resources on this subject.  Here are some of the books I like:

The Red Church, by Chris Bilardi
American Shamans, by Jack Montgomery
Signs, Cures, & Witchery, by Gerald C. Milne
Buying the Wind, by Richard M. Dorson (chapter on “Pennsylvania Dutchmen”)

And, of course, Pow-wows; or The Long Lost Friend, by John George Hohman (also available free at sacred-texts.com).

Additionally, I like this website and its accompanying newsletter:
Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts

There are other books and resources which I’ve encountered either by proxy or by reputation which I’d also recommend seeking out, though I cannot give a strong opinion on their validity myself, yet:

Strange Experience: The Autobiography of a Hexenmeister, by Lee R. Gandee
Hex and Spellwork, by Karl Herr
The Pennsylvania German Broadside, by Don Yoder
The Pennsylvania German Society

Some Pow-wow Charms & Proverbs

Finally, as promised, here are some Pow-wow charms you can try out yourself.  I’d love to hear how they work for you, so please feel free to leave comments or email us about your results!  Please also note that I provide these for cultural, spiritual, and magical value.  They do not replace conventional medical or legal advice; please see a professional if you have needs in those areas.

First, a few from Hohman’s book:

HOW TO BANISH THE FEVER.

Write the following words upon a paper and wrap it up in knot-grass, and then tie it upon the body of the person who has the fever:

Potmat sineat,
Potmat sineat,
Potmat sineat.

TO STOP BLEEDING.

I walk through a green forest;
There I find three wells, cool and cold;
The first is called courage,
The second is called good,
And the third is called stop the blood

TO REMOVE BRUISES AND PAINS.

Bruise, thou shalt not heat;
Bruise, thou shalt not sweat;
Bruise, thou shalt not run,
No-more than Virgin Mary shall bring forth another son.
+ + +

(The three “+” signs at the end indicate making three crosses in the air over the patient or afflicted area, also sometimes saying the three High Names of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost)

ANOTHER WAY TO STILL-BIND THIEVES.

Ye thieves, I conjure you, to be obedient like Jesus Christ, who obeyed his Heavenly Father unto the cross, and to stand without moving out of my sight, in the name of the Trinity. I command you by the power of God and the incarnation of Jesus Christ, not to move out of my sight, + + + like Jesus Christ was standing on Jordan’s stormy banks to be baptized by John. And furthermore, I conjure you, horse and rider, to stand still and not to move out of my sight, like Jesus Christ did stand when he was about to be nailed to the cross to release the fathers of the church from the bonds of hell.. Ye thieves, I bind you with the same bonds with which Jesus our Lord has bound hell; and thus ye shall be bound; + + + and the same words that bind you shall also release you.

(The conventional wisdom on releasing the thief is that the entire spell must be read backwards.  It’s nice to hold all the cards sometimes.  This charm is almost entirely lifted from entry #22 of the Romanus Buchlein, or Little Book of the Roma, a late 18th century grimoire and prayer book).

Here is a pair of charms which I am citing from Jack Montgomery’s American Shamans, but which he cites from an article entitled “Magical Medical Practice in South Carolina,” from Popular Science Monthly, 1907:

TO HEAL A SPRAIN

Christian Version

“Our Lord rode, his foal’s foot slade [slid],
Down he lighted, his foal’s foot righted,
Bone to bone,
Sinew to sinew,
Flesh to flesh,
Heal, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  Amen”

Pagan Version

“Phol and Woden went to the wood, there was Balder’s colt his foot wrenched,
Then Sinthgunt charmed it and Sunna her sister,
Then Frua charmed it and Volla her sister, then Woden charmed it as he well could,
As well the bone-wrench,
As the blood-wrench,
Bone to bone,
Blood to blood,
Joint to joint,
As if they were glued together.”

(Montgomery, American Shamans, p. 102)

A classic Pow-wow blood-stopping charm, also from Jack Montgomery (and derived from a passage in Ezekiel, I believe):

And when I passed by thee and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. (p. 253)

Here’s a more modern charm for protection during automobile travel:

“This is a written prayer that is used for protecting cars and other vehicles.  It can be simply folded and placed in the glovebox.

Our Heavenly Father, we ask this day a particular blessing.  As we take the wheel of our car, grant us safe passage through all the perils of trouble.  Shelter those who accompany us and provide us from harm by Thy mercy.  Steady our hands and quicken our eyes that we may never take another’s life.  Guide us to our destination safely, confident in the knowledge that Thy blessing be with us through darkness and light, sunshine and showers, forever and ever.  Amen.” (Bilardi, The Red Church, p. 284)

And I’ll conclude with a few proverbs from the Pennsylvania Dutch, as recorded in Buying the Wind, by Richard M. Dorson (pp.138-141).  Note that “German” here connotes the Pennsylvania-German dialect, not necessarily European German.

-German:  D’r hammer wert aus faerm ambos.
-English:  The anvil outlasts the hammer.

-German:  Waers erscht in di mil kummt grikt’s erscht gimale.
-English:  He that cometh first to the mill, grindeth first.

-German:  En blini sau finnt a alsemol en echel.
-English:  Even a blind pig will sometimes find an acorn.

I hope this series has been informative to you!  This won’t be the last time Pow-wow comes up here, of course, but I think it may be enough to get your feet wet on the subject.  If you try out any of these charms and have results to report or have any thoughts on the different folklore and opinions recorded here, I hope you will leave a comment or send an email and share them with us.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 15 – An Introduction to Pow-wow, Part II

Welcome back!  Today I’m continuing with a bit more of the history of Pow-wow, as well as some of its cultural connections.  It’s a lot of information, so I’ll spare you a long introduction and get right to the point.

So why is it called “Pow-wow?”

That’s a good question.  After all, the term “powwow” is associated with Native Americans, not with Germans, right?  According to Rosemary Ellen Guiley, author of The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft:

“The term [Pow-wowing] was derived from the settlers’ observation of Indian powwows, meetings for ceremonial or conference purposes.  Much of the Germans’ witchcraft centered around cures and healing.  The settlers enlisted the help of the Indians in finding native roots and herbs that could be used in their medicinal recipes” (p. 270)

So early on, the connection between the marginalized German settlers and the marginalized natives was established, and an exchange of information shaped the magical practices found among the settlers.  This is that distinctly American flavor I mentioned earlier—the syncretism of Old World techniques with New World resources.  I think it’s important to note that this syncretism was not done willy-nilly, but rather was born of specific needs.  Herbs were not substituted based on intuitive feelings, but based on shared botanical properties.  Hence an old-world root like mandrake might find a substitution in the form of a potato (another member of the nightshade family and one which could be used to make vegetable poppets for sympathetic magic).  Or, it might be replaced by the mayapple, due to its chemical properties (both share certain levels of toxicity which can make them psychoactive in small doses and deadly in larger ones).

Are there still Pow-wows in America?

Oh my yes.  There have been dozens of books written on the subject (many of them fairly recent, and sometimes unfortunately rather misrepresentative), and famous Pow-wows were known as little as thirty or forty years ago.  There are great resources written by fairly contemporary authors like Lee R. Gandee, Jack Montgomery, and Karl Herr, as well as some lesser-known works (such as the text by Chris Bilardi previously cited).  And, of course, Hohman’s Long Lost Friend is still available in print, too.

More than just books, though, there is a living tradition, often fairly hidden to outsiders, within various PA-Dutch communities.  Sometimes complete curing traditions are intact, sometimes only a few charms survive within a family.  Often one can find magical recipe books or almanacs like the ones circulated in the 1800’s sitting near family bibles in modern Pennsylvania-German homes.  Speaking of the Bible, that brings me to the next topic…

Is Pow-wow Christian magic?

This is a bit of a sticky wicket for a lot of folks.  Most certainly, as it is practiced now, Pow-wow is highly dependent on Judeo-Christian religion for its symbols, names of power, etc.  It has its roots in older practices, but tracing those roots is often a murky bit of business.  Rather than asking you to believe me on the subject, though, I’d like to present a few quotes from those more in the know than I am:

“Powwowing has survived into modern times.  Some of the charms and incantations used date back to the Middle Ages, probably to the time of Albertus Magnus, a magician, alchemist and prolific author whose feats were often called witchcraft.  Powwowing charms also include Kabbalistic and Biblical elements” (Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, p. 270)

“The roots of Bruacherei are indeed quite long, some of which can be traced to pre-Christian Germanic heathenism.  Other roots are equally pre-Christian and stem from older forms of Judaism and the many strains of religion and medicine of the Roman Empire.  Without overreaching too much, the sometimes blurry lines between what constituted a ‘Germanic’ tribe versus a ‘Celtic’ tribe or a ‘Slavic’ tribe, make it quite possible there are Slavic and Celtic pre-Christian elements in Bruacherei.  The truly unique thing about Bruacherei is that it is a wholly Germanic synthesis of all these cultural strains.  Anyone looking for a purely heathen Germanic healing-way via Bruacherei is in for a major disappointment.  To take Bruacherei and reshape it in this manner is to make a brand-new practice out of it.  Therefore it would no longer be Bruacherei as it has been practiced for nearly 900 years and most certainly not as it has been practiced for the past two centuries in America” (Bilardi, The Red Church, p. 73)

“Once, when I showed him [famed Hex/Pow-wow Lee R. Gandee] several items I’d purchased from a mail order occult catalog, he smiled and said, ‘Do you really think that stuff will help you?  Don’t you realize by now that the magic is coming from within you and from God?  You are the catalyst!  In you, the power will either arise or fall flat.’” (Jack Montgomery, American Shamans, p. 77)

What I gather from this and other sources is that if one studies Pow-wow, one needs to be comfortable with Judeo-Christian ideas.  Note I don’t say one has to accept them all, but if learning to use a charm with the words “Jesus” or “Mary” or “Holy Ghost” in it is a problem, Pow-wow may not be the way to go.

There are definitely illustrations of pre-Christian origins for many of the modern Pow-wow charms and spells (I’ll be including one in this series to demonstrate these differences), but as it stands now, this system is tied to its centuries-old Christian heritage.  It is my opinion (and mine alone) that it is possible to work with Pow-wow without any Christian elements, but that if one does so, it is advisable to be absolutely sure that the names, prayers, charms, etc. one uses are intimately connected to their historical roots.  Using strictly Germanic spirit and deity names in this system strikes me as the only practical way to accomplish this (although I’d be willing to entertain the idea of using Native American stand-ins as well, due to the connection between the two cultures through Pow-wow).  The odd tendency in modern magic to use “correspondences” and tables of mix-and-match deities and forces seems somehow improper to me.  One wouldn’t assume that one could play the violin with a drumstick just because both are musical instruments, yet people feel absolutely no reservations about dropping an Egyptian goddess into a Germanic, post-Reformation charm.  Now, a person can play a bluegrass tune or a strain of Bach with the same bow, so I do think that once a person has mastered the basics of the instrument, the specific form and style he or she plays (or in the case of Pow-wow, the specific charms employed) can vary.  But as for outright cross-substitution between very different traditions, I don’t think that still qualifies as Pow-wow.  I suppose if one subscribes to the “all gods are one” hypothesis I might be able to understand that point of view, but that’s not a perspective I follow, so it doesn’t work for me.

All of that is a lot of typing just to say “Yes, Pow-wow is sort of Christian.  Mostly.  More or less.  But not always.  But mostly.  I think.”

That’s it for today.  I should point out that the opinion presented here is my own, and not that of the authors I cite.  Please refer to their works for their specific opinions.  And feel free to engage in a lively and civil debate if you like!  I’d love to get other perspectives!

Oh, and I promise there are some practical things coming up soon, so stick with me for those.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 14 – An Introduction to Pow-wow, Part I

“Where is the doctor who has ever cured or banished the panting or palpitation of the heart, and hide-boundness? Where is the doctor who ever banished a wheal? Where is the doctor who ever banished the mother-fits? Where is the doctor that can cure mortification when it once seizes a member of the body? All these cures, and a great many more mysterious and wonderful things are contained in this book; and its author could take an oath at any time upon the fact of his having successfully applied many of the prescriptions contained herein.”  -John George Hohman, from the Introduction to POW-WOWS; OR, THE LONG LOST FRIEND

The mysterious folk magic of the Pennsylvania Dutch and their neighbors goes by many names:  Pow-wow, Braucheri, Hexerei, “trying,” etc.  Depending on who you talk to, it may be an extension of Christian prayer or faith healing, a blend of medieval Cabbala and German folk magic, an inherited family practice, a learned set of techniques, an entirely holy healing tradition, or gray-area almost-diabolical sorcery.  There are a range of individual methods to Pow-wow, including written talismans, spoken charms, herbal remedies, and calculated hand-movements.  And I’m not even going to touch the controversial concept of hex-signs on barns yet.

In this series of posts (which will probably go up over the course of the next few days), I want to provide a little bit of background on this rich and interesting magical system, with a few little charms and techniques to try for yourself.  I won’t be getting into great detail yet, as this is a system which many claim takes a lifetime to fully master, but I will be presenting a bit of the lore associated with Pow-wow and pointing you in the direction of a few really solid resources on the subject.

Where does Pow-wow come from?

Because of the syncretic nature of Pow-wow magic, it’s hard to say definitively that Pow-wow comes from one place and one place only.  Very loosely, it stems from German immigrants, but even that isn’t a clear-cut provenance.  As Chris Bilardi puts it in his braucherei text, The Red Church:

“The ‘Germany’ of that period [late 17th century] was, in fact, ‘the Germanies’ – many German principalities and duchies under the Holy Roman Emperor” (p. 41)

Bilardi goes on to point out that many Old World central and northern European cultures migrated here under the German banner, including those from modern-day Poland, Holland, and Scandinavia.  Still, many of these peoples had certain cultural commonalities.  When they came to America, many of these Germanic immigrants pursued unorthodox religious or spiritual paths.  Bilardi refers to two distinct groups of Pennsylvania Germans, the “Plain Dutch” and the “Church Dutch” (‘Dutch’ here being a corruption of the word deustche, the word for the German language).  There was strong religious diversity in the New World, including groups like the Moravians, the Brethren, the Anabaptists (now the Mennonites and the Amish), the Schwenkfelders, and the Lutherans.

In Gerald C. Milne’s text about PA-Dutch and Appalachian German magic, Signs, Cures, & Witchery, he states that, “By 1776, between 110,000 and 150,000 Germans had come to Pennsylvania, many of whom belonged to nonmainstream sects” (p. 5).  This large influx of mystically minded people resulted in a proliferation of distinctly magical practices.  For example, there were the Eckerlin brothers – white-robed Christian ascetic mystics from the late 18th century.  Milne also points out that many of the Germans arriving in America by the 18th century and beyond were well-versed in astrology, and even planted their crops ‘by the signs.’ (p. 31-33).  Old World magical practices, many inherited from grimoire traditions based on dusty tomes like The Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus also came across the Atlantic.  Home remedies, simple magical charms, and astro-agricultural advice began to be collected in almanacs.  The most famous of these was Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack (sic), which held such saws as “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  Milne notes:

“German-language almanacs were widely distributed on the eighteenth-century frontier.  This held secure a distinct occult-centered cosmology in the minds of early German pioneers that went hand in hand with other occult curing and healing methodologies” (p. 32).

The proliferation of these magical pamphlets and almanacs spread the central ideas of what would become known as Pow-wow around the north-central Atlantic coast, the Appalachian mountains, and inland into the frontier-lands.   One such almanac was the famous Long Lost Friend, by John George Hohman, which outlined many of the practices still used today.  I’ll have some of the charms from this book to try out a little later in the series, but for now it’s enough to know that by 1820 (the date of Hohman’s publication), this form of magic had taken on a distinctly American flavor and had become a key part of the Pennsylvania-Dutch cultural landscape.

Okay, that’s it for today.  I’ve got more coming on this topic, so be on the lookout for additional posts this week!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 13 – Crown of Success

One of the things I hope to do on this blog is provide information on specific tools, formulae, ingredients, and objects used in American folk magic.  I hope that these blogs and podcasts will help the eager American witch to develop his or her practice by incorporating these components, or at the very least educate him or her about the different products available in the folk magic marketplace.

Today, I thought I’d focus on the hoodoo formula known as Crown of Success.  I’ve been using that one a lot lately, and it’s one of the ones I almost always have on hand or steeping in my pantry.  I’m sure many people could use a bit more success in their lives, so it’s a good one to have around for quick spellwork.

The recipe varies a bit from maker to maker, but almost all have a few ingredients in common:

  • Bay (as in bay laurel, not the bay which provides Jamaican bay rum)
  • Frankincense
  • Iron pyrite (“fool’s gold”)

There are several ingredients I’ve seen used interchangeably with key ingredients; lodestone can be used instead of pyrite, for example, since it acts as an “attractant” curio.  Likewise, some folks add gold flakes or glitter to the formula because of the association between gold and money/glory/success.  Additional herbs, roots, and curios can include things like master-of-the-woods, deer’s tongue, cinquefoil (also known as five-finger grass), sandalwood, vetiver, dragon’s-blood, etc.

Harry M. Hyatt records an informant in his Hoodoo – Conjuration – Witchcraft – Rootwork compendium who describes a mojo bag for success containing a lodestone, liquid mercury/quicksilver, iron filings, and a black cat bone (Volume 2, p. 1506).  WARNING!  Do NOT use liquid mercury under any circumstances—it is highly toxic and will cause damage or death if handled.  The black cat bone referred to is likely the magical talisman obtained (rather cruelly) by boiling a black cat alive in a magical ceremony and then collecting the bone in a special ritual.  I do NOT advise this, merely present it as a piece of folklore.  The modern formulae for Crown of Success do not depend on either deadly mercury or ritualized animal slaughter.

As far as how to use this particular formula, Lucky Mojo has an excellent page on Crown of Success formula at their site so I won’t go into much detail here.  Very generally, anything that involves gaining favor or accomplishing a goal—things like acing job interviews, applying for loans or grants, or mastering a new skill—can benefit from the inclusion of this product.

My own personal formulation of this recipe (for the oil version of it)  includes the following:

  • Bay leaves & oil
  • Cinquefoil
  • Frankincense tears & oil
  • Sandalwood chips & oil
  • Vetivert (herb & oil, if available)

In the master jar I also keep a rolled piece of paper with this line from Psalm 65 on it:

“Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; And thy paths drop fatness.” (Ps. 65:11)

There are several reliable sources for this oil out there.  I have to plug our shop, Compass & Key Apothecary, of course (forgive the rather paltry site, we’ll be revamping it soon, but you can certainly order any of our oils there).  But I would also heartily recommend Lucky Mojo’s Crown of Success products and Music City Mojo’s oils or mojo hands.  Based on the reputation of the root workers (as opposed to the individual products which I’ve used in the previous two examples), I would also go out on a limb and say that Toad’s Bone Apotheca and Forest Grove Botanica could both mix up a good blend of success formula if you ask them nicely.

One product I will recommend avoiding is Anna Riva’s Crown of Success.  It doesn’t smell “right,” and I’ve never had much luck using her oils in general.  Your mileage may vary, of course, and if you’ve had good luck with her products, I’d love to know about it.

That’s about it for this root work formula.  If you’d like to share your stories about working with it, we’re always happy to hear them.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 12 – Podcast Recommendations

Hi everyone,

This is a just a little post to recommend a couple of new(ish) podcasts out there in the magical podosphere.  I have a fairly long commute to and from my day job, plus I spend a lot of time searching for new blogs and podcasts that I think have good magical information in them.  Sometimes I get lucky and find great sites/shows like these:

1)       Media Astra ac Terra – This podcast is hosted by Oraia the Sphinx, and it is designed as a three-part-show.  The first part focuses on astrology and astronomy (the “Astra” part), the second is all about gemology and mineralogy (the “Terra” part), and the third is a “main topic,” usually related to something magical.

Now, normally, I’m not big on astrology or gemology.  I think astrology has some interesting points (and we’ll get into that whenever we get around to the lore surrounding “planting by the signs”), but I definitely don’t make a major point of studying it.  And I’ve never had a strong connection to gem-or-crystal magic, though I believe Laine has some proficiency in that area.  Yet Oraia’s fantastic show is presented so well that I find myself learning about both in spite of myself.  And her third section has yet to disappoint me.  Her evaluation of magic and its place in the world is incredibly well thought out, and often presented with painstaking research to back it up.  Even though I sometimes interpret things differently than she does or don’t come to the same conclusions, I still am riveted by her show.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

2)       Standing Stone and Garden Gate – This incredibly informative podcast is hosted by Dr. Brendan Myers and his partner, Juniper (a frequent commenter here at New World Witchery).   The show is divided into several parts:  an introduction featuring an incense and beverage of the week; a Bardic Arts section with poetry or music; a Standing Stone section in which Dr. Myers discusses philosophy from a Pagan perspective; a Rants, Raves, and Reviews section in which the two charming hosts give their opinions on books, culture, events, etc.; the Garden Gate section in which Juniper discusses practical aspects of witchcraft and hedgewitchery; and an Ask Dr. Expert segment in which a question or topic is discussed at length, usually citing sources or with a guest lecturer.

The show is definitely a long one (with that much material, it has to be—and after our recent hour-plus podcasts I certainly can’t throw stones), but it’s always interesting, and the hosts keep the pace up throughout the entire podcast.  My favorite segments tend to be the Garden Gate and Rants/Raves sections, but I find that I listen with great attention to the other sections, too.  I even find myself talking back to the iPod sometimes, because so much of the show feels like a conversation with wise, jovial teachers.

In the interest of fair disclosure, I should probably mention that Laine and I have been interviewed for an upcoming episode of this show, and that Juniper and Dr. Myers will be guest on one of our future episodes as well.  They are great to talk to and we were honored to be invited on their show (though I’m fairly sure I rambled a good bit more than I do when I have a script and notes in front of me).  It was a fantastic conversation, so be on the lookout for it sometime soon.

Well, that’s about all for today.  Kveldrida, I promise I’ll be listening to your podcast soon, too, so don’t feel left out since I didn’t mention you today!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Podcast 3 – Hot & Cold Spells, A Story, and A Contest

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 3-

Summary

In this episode, we talk about periods of waxing and waning interest in witchcraft, and how to get out of non-practicing rut.  Then we have a reading of “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  We also announce our first ever contest (make sure to listen all the way to the end of the show).

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 3

-Sources-

Young Goodman Brown,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

We also mention A Pagan in the Threshold in this podcast, which is another excellent Pagan podcast.

Promos & Music

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

Promo 1- A Pagan in the Threshold

Promo 2- Forest Grove Botanica

Promo 3- The Celtic Myth Podshow

Contest

Our first ever contest!  We’re looking for weather lore, so please submit yours for a chance to win our prize, a copy of Cat Yronwode’s Hoodoo Root & Herb Magic. Please see Blog Post 11 – A Contest! for more details.

Blog Post 11 – A Contest!

Hi everyone!

I loosely alluded to this in a previous post, but we’ve decided that we want your weather lore!  We’re putting together a show based on weather magic and folklore, and we need good field reports.  So, we’re having a little contest here at New World Witchery.  From now until the end of February 2010 (the 28th), anyone who:  1) posts a comment on Blog Post 10 – Weather Work, or 2) sends us an email describing any kind of weather-related magic or lore, especially family or local lore, will have their name entered into a drawing.  Also include what part of the country/continent you’re from (you don’t need to give us specific locations, unless you win, of course…then we’ll need an address to ship to 🙂 ).  All entries must be date-stamped before midnight CST on the 28th to be considered.  And if you’ve already posted a comment with weather lore, don’t worry, we’ll count you, too!

On March 1st (or thereabouts), we’ll be drawing a name from the thousands of entries we receive (we’re optimistic) and one lucky reader/listener will receive a free copy of Catherine Yronwode’s Hoodoo Root & Herb Magic.  For those of you unfamiliar with this text, it’s the quintessential text on the botanicals and curios used in the practice of Southern-style hoodoo and conjure magic.

From the Lucky Mojo website (slightly abridged):

Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic, paperback by Catherine Yronwode
Originally published in 2002.
From the proprietor of the Lucky Mojo Curio Company comes the most thorough, complete, and authentic book on how roots and herbs are used in traditional African-American folk magic. 500 herbs, roots, minerals, and zoological curios are listed, along with their scientific names, so you will know exactly what to harvest or buy from an herb dealer. Included are an amazing 750 spells, formulas, mojo hand combinations, and candle rites, all given in workable, practical detail. Medical usages for many of the herbs, supplementary botanical notes, a series of cross-indexes listing herbs by the magical conditions for which they are recommended, plus 50 beautiful black and white illustrations of herbs and vintage herb packaging round out this informative reference volume. There is no other herb encyclopedia like this one. This is the book to get if you are working traditional conjure and herb magic. 224 pages, trade paperback.

  • 500 herbs, roots, minerals, and rare zoological curios, with taxonomic (“Latin”) names for proper identification.
  • 750 traditional spells, tricks, and magical recipes.
  • 50 black and white line illustrations of common magical herbs and roots of North America.
  • 6 handy charts in which dozens of conditions — such as love-drawing or protection — are listed and the herbs for each condition are given in alphabetical order.
  • Cross-referencing: Every herb is accompanied by at least one spell.
  • Bibliography: Authentic recipes are drawn from first-hand experience and 100 years of solid folkloric research.

I own this book and let me assure you, it’s one of the best magical herbals out there.  No fluff, no repetitive 101 stuff; just good, solid information backed by great research.

So, if you want to contribute to the wealth of knowledge and lore in the witchy world, plus have a chance to get a fantastic magical reference book, please submit!  We’ll also be announcing this on the next podcast, too, so if you primarily keep up with us that way, you won’t be left out.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 10 – Weather Work

We recently received a nice blanketing of snow here (which is somewhat rare for our area), and it got me to thinking about weather magic.   When I was little, before we moved to the farm, I used to go out to the dirt hill near our house with a big staff in my hands and shout at the wind, seeing if I could get it to gust up or gentle down.  I remember feeling like I always had a strong connection to weather, particularly those winds.  When we moved out to the farm, my understanding of weather changed dramatically.  Our house was on a hill at the top of our acreage, and we were exposed to a number of tempests, some of which were quite severe.  When we had snow, 4-foot drifts piled up off of our back porch, deep enough that when I jumped into them I was buried up to my chest.  And  I still remember waking up one morning and looking out the window only to see a tornado receding back into the clouds after having passed but a quarter-of-a-mile or so from the house and uprooting a number of trees.  Being a teenager, I had slept through it, of course.

What I learned on that farm was that weather was wild, and would always be wild.  It’s something we can react to, prepare for, run from, or attempt to block out, but we can never really control it the way we like to think we control so many other things—the cleanliness of our water or where our next meal comes from, for example.  Magic seems to have the advantage over empirical science here, as many magicians swear by inherited techniques that allow them to control or predict the weather to one degree or another.

Today I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at a few techniques, charms, and proverbs regarding the weather from various North American sources.

From Nova Scotia (in Folklore of Nova Scotia, by Mary L. Fraser):

“An Acadian boy would not dare to kill a toad or a spider, for his outdoor pleasure would then be spoiled by the downpour of rain that was sure to follow. A boy of Scotch or Irish descent would be deterred from doing so because it would bring him bad luck.

‘If you wish to live, not die,

Let the spider go alive.’”

I’ve heard this before as an admonition not to harm toads (and for some reason, I always assumed lizards) when out of doors, for fear of bringing on bad weather.  The spider is a new twist for me, but I generally try not to disturb any of the bite-ier creatures out in the wild world.

Mary Fraser also reports a weather-predicting system I’ve seen in a couple of places.  She mentions that the twelve nights between Christmas and Epiphany represent the coming twelve months of the year.  In other words, if you have cold, wet weather on the third day after Christmas, you can expect a rather clammy and dismal March.

From the Pennsylvania Dutch (in The Long-Lost Friend, by J. G. Hohman):

For protection of one’s home against storms, say “Beneath thy guardianship I am safe against all tempests and all enemies, J. J. J.”  (These three Js signify Jesus three times.)

Chris Bilardi, in his excellent book on PA-Dutch braucherei, The Red Church, suggests the following Psalms for weather-work:

  • Psalm 2 – For danger at sea (storms); also for headache
  • Psalm 21 – For dangerous storms at sea
  • Psalms 24 and 25 – For dangers of nature—especially the danger of floods
  • Psalm 76 – For averting danger from water

From the Appalachians (in the Foxfire series of books):

It will be a bad winter if –

  • Squirrels’ tails grow bushier
  • Crows gather together
  • The wooly worm has a heavy coat
  • Onions grow more layers
  • Blackberry blooms are especially heavy

It will rain –

  • Within three days if the horns of the moon point down
  • If  leaves show their backs
  • If cows are lying down in the pasture
  • If there is a ring around the moon (count the stars in the ring and it will rain within that many days)

The weather will be fair if –

  • You hear a screech owl
  • Smoke rises
  • Crickets holler (the temperature will rise)

Additionally, here are some bits of lore from the Appalachians:

  • If it’s cloudy and smoke rises, there’s a chance of snow
  • The number of days old the moon is at the first snow tells how many snows there will be that winter
  • For every frost or fog in August, there will be a snowy day in winter
  • A late frost means a bad winter
  • The darker green the grass is during the summer, the harder the winter
  • If it rains on Easter Sunday, it will rain every Sunday for seven weeks
  • If it rains on ‘Blasting Days’ (the three longest days of the year, there won’t be any ‘mast’ (acorns, chestnuts, etc.) for animals like hogs to feed on

From the Ozarks (in Ozark Superstitions and Ozark Magic and Folklore, by Vance Randolph):

Rain will come –

  • If the tall grass is bone dry in the morning, or if there is heavy dew
  • If rabbits play in a dusty road
  • If dogs start eating grass
  • If sheep turn their backs to the wind
  • If cats sneeze, wash behind their ears, or lick their fur against the grain

Signs of dry weather –

  • A red sunset promises at least twenty-four hours of dry weather
  • A rainbow in the evening means clear weather (but a rainbow at morning tells of a storm in the next twenty-four hours)
  • A ‘sundog,’ or a circle around the sun, indicates prolonged dry weather, or at least a radical change in weather soon
  • When the crescent moon travels ‘horns up,’ there will be no rain for some time

And finally, one of the most interesting weather-predictors around, also from the Ozarks:

“The blood of a murdered man—bloodstains on a floor or garments—will liquefy on even dry sunshiny days, as a sign that a big rain is coming”

This is only a small sampling of everything out there.  I’ve used many of these predictors (leaves turning their backs or cattle lying in a pasture) to prepare for bad weather, and there are many I’ve never even thought to pay mind to (rabbits in a dusty road, for example).  So what about you, dear readers?  Do you have any family or local lore regarding the weather you’d like to share?  If so, please post a comment or send us an email, and indicate roughly what part of the world you’re in and what your weather charm or proverb is.  We may do a show on these if we get enough interest!

I’d also like to issue a friendly challenge to you:  make mental note of a few of these and start paying attention to them.  See if they actually do predict or cause weather patterns for you in your area.  Report your findings back here and share your observations with the rest of us.  Who knows, we may read your results on the podcast, or something better (he said slyly).

I hope wherever you are, the weather’s treating you fair.  If it’s not, you can always contact your neighborhood witch.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 8 – Seaside Sorcery

De Windstoot, by Willem van de Velde II (from Wikimedia Commons)

Hello!  Today I’m going to take a look at some of the coastal magic found in Northeastern America and Canada (Southern coastal magic will be in a later post, I hope).  In the early days, American colonies and states depended greatly on foreign trade for supplies.  The wealth of natural resources here were valuable to people across the sea as well, and so much of the commercial backbone of North America during those years depended on seaports and sailing vessels and all those men and women who operated them.

I’ve always found that folks involved in seafaring business are a superstitious lot (and I mean that as a compliment, as I find superstition fascinating and useful in many cases).  At the very least, the vast ocean inspires people to consider their own smallness and to take precautions against their mortal end at the sea’s merciless whim.  With that said, let’s look at some stories, anecdotes, and practices from the Northeastern coasts of North America.

Some stories from Maine:

“The Cursing of Colonel Buck”, as retold by S. E. Schlosser.  In this story, an unscrupulous colonel takes advantage of one of his maids, then turns her out when she bears his sadly misshapen child.  In order to prevent any claims on his name, he accuses her of witchcraft and has her burned at the stake.  She curses him (perhaps his claims of witchcraft were not so unfounded) as she dies, and her leg falls from the pyre, where her son gathers the leg and runs away.  After the colonel dies, his tombstone develops a funny leg-shaped mark on it, which embarrasses the townsfolk.  They toss it in the ocean, but it comes back ashore.  Then they smash it and put up a new stone, but the leg-mark comes back.

So where’s the New World Witchery in this story?  Well, this tale is probably extremely exaggerated.  The main clue is that the witch is burned at the stake, a holdover from European witch-lore, but not a punishment found in the New World.  However, there’s one small fragment of worthwhile witchery in this tale:  the first reaction of the townspeople is to throw the stone into the sea.  The idea that natural water sources, especially moving ones like oceans and rivers, can cleanse cursed objects is solidly founded in other magical lore (see Albertus Magnus or hoodoo trick deployment practices).

Buying the Wind, by Richard M. Dorson, contains several excellent bits of Maine magical lore.  For example, in the title passage, the practice of “buying wind” is discussed.  Captains and crewmembers on becalmed ships would often be tempted to throw money overboard in order to purchase a quantity of wind from God/nature/the sea/etc.  The problem arises in that the quantity purchased is always vastly more than one expected to buy.  As one of Dorson’s informants puts it:

“Never buy wind when you’re on a boat.  You’re daring God Almighty, and he won’t stand for that.  You’ll get all the wind you want.”

In one tale, a captain tosses a quarter overboard, and immediately such a gale rises that it tears off the sails and mast from the ship and pushes it into shore, where it barely holds together as the crew disembarks.  The captain remarks that if he’d known God sold wind so cheaply he’d only have got a nickel’s worth.

Is this witchcraft?  Well, no, not exactly.  But the practice of buying something to control the weather is fairly common witch-lore.  Many tales exist of sailors buying cauls (the membrane which sometimes covers a newborn’s head after emerging from the womb) from dockside witches to prevent drowning at sea.  And those same dockside sorceresses sometimes sold knotted cords to help sailors call up wind as needed—each knot, when undone, would release an increasing amount of wind.  So buying the wind is certainly a magical maritime practice, if not outright witchery.

Magic and Witchcraft in Nova Scotia:

An interesting tale regarding a hidden treasure is recorded in Folklore of Nova Scotia, by Mary L. Fraser.  She writes:

“An old sailor who spent his life as a deep-sea fisherman around the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland told of a great iron chest that was buried just beneath the water, so that its outline could be seen very distinctly. Every time the crew tried to work around it and, raise it up, thousands of crows, one of which was headless, would swarm around them, so that it was impossible for them to get at it. These crows they believed to be helpers of the decapitated guarding spirit.”

This tale is interesting, to me, because of the clear association of spirit allies with a sacred duty (such as guarding a treasure).   I can’t think of many witchier images than a murder of crows—including a headless one—swarming all over treasure-grabbers.

The same volume has several good bits of weather-lore, too:

  1. “If Candlemas day be fine and fair, The half of the winter’s to come an’ mair.”
  2. “Mackerel skies and mare’s tails, Make lofty ships carry low sails.”
  3. “A rainbow in the morning the sailor’s warning, A rainbow at night is the sailor’s delight.”
  4. “Heavy winds kick up a rain.”

The first of these is an old tradition which most people now know as a component of Groundhog Day.  I plan to do a post specifically on some of the traditions associated with early February sometime soon, so I’ll save further exposition on it here.  The second proverb refers to cloud patterns in the skies.  If high wispy clouds (“mare’s tails”) were seen along with clumpy scale-like cloud patterns (“mackerel skies”), then it was a good indication a storm would be coming soon and the sails should be lowered.  The third bit of wisdom is fairly common, though sometimes in different iterations (I know it as “red skies at morning, sailor take warning; red skies at night, sailor’s delight”).   Basically it just means that the weather conditions at dawn or dusk foretell the weather to come.  And the fourth quote is a logical enough assertion that where high winds blow at sea, rain is sure to follow.

Again, are these witchy?  Only insofar as the astute witch would know such proverbs and make use of them in his or her daily practice.  Reading the signs Nature provides has a lot to do with the mentality of witchcraft, which is constantly looking to the natural-and-other-worlds for guidance, instruction, and wisdom.

A Sailor’s Treasury, by Frank Shay, also supposedly provides a good many of early American sailors’ tales and charms (I cannot give a full recommendation as I have only been able to view snippets online, and no nearby library seems to have a copy of this out-of-print text).

Whew!  I’ve only presented a fragment of the nautical witchcraft out there, and already it’s a lot.  So I’ll save more seaside witchery for another day.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

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