Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Recipe: Old Fashion Fig Preserves

For those of you who don't know, we have a fig tree in our backyard. Figs are probably one of my favorite fruits. They are only available at the end of the summer for a few short weeks, and this year our tree has been producing nonstop. In fact, it has been producing some of the largest figs I have ever seen. Last year the tree produced just a few small figs, so I was expecting much the same this year. However, due to the amount of rain we have received, the tree was able to produce more than I have been able to eat. Normally I don't share my figs, but this year I was giving them away I had so many. I've also let several dozen go to the bees. I just can't eat them all. And that is when it dawned on me; why not make fig preserves?! And that is exactly what I did.

Over the weekend I went to the store, bought some sugar and canning jars, and set to work. This recipe takes roughly 3 hours to cook and another hour to can it all, but it is well worth it.

     4 cups whole or halved figs
     2 cups sugar
     1 cup water
     4 lemon slices, seeds removed
     4 half-pint jars

  1. Gently rinse figs and drain. Remove the stems. You may leave the figs whole or cut them in half as I did.
  2. In a large, heavy pot, add the water, sugar, and figs. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to low. Allow to cook for about 3 hours or until very thick. Stir occasionally. DO NOT leave the pot unattended.
  3. Ladel hot preserves into hot, sterile jars. Place a lemon slice on top of preserves then seal.
  4. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. If not processing in the water bath preserves will last up to 1 month in the fridge.

Unfortunately I didn't think ahead to take pictures of the cooking process for the blog, but I do have beautiful after photos. Looks tasty doesn't it?

Fig preserves are great on toast, crackers, scones, cookies (as in thumb print cookies), or just paired with cheese and olives.

I hope you enjoy!


Monday, August 29, 2016

Herbarium: Bay

Folk Names: Baie, Bay Laurel, Daphne, Sweet Bay
Gender: Masculine
Planet: Sun
Element: Fire

Powers: Healing, Protection, Psychic Powers, Purification, Strength, Wisdom
Magical Uses and History: Bay is a fairly common herb used in witchcraft. It was perceived as a symbol of immortality by the Ancient Greeks and Romans where it later became a symbol of nobility and victory. The leaves were worn on the brow of every triumphant Roman general as he rode his chariot through the city in celebration. It is believed this tradition stems from Apollo, one of the many gods associated with bay, because of his conquests in the natural world where he would deflower a virgin then turn her into a flower or tree as a symbol of his victory. Wear bay during an athletic event to ensure victory and bring strength and courage.

Despite the downfall of Asclepius, who was struck down by Zeus while wearing a crown of bay leaves, bay is traditionally viewed as having protective powers, especially against lightning. It was hung in Roman homes to protect those within and is commonly used in protection spells and rituals today. A withering or diseased bay laurel tree is considered a sign of disaster to come. More recently, herbalist Nicholas Culpeper claimed bay would protect against witchcraft and the devil. Wear as an amulet to ward off negativity and evil or burn  to purify your home and prevent poltergeists from working any mischief. A sprig is often used to sprinkle water during purification rituals to add an extra punch.

Furthermore, bay is said to have prophetic or psychic properties, allowing the famous oracle Delphi, the seer of Apollo, to see into the past, present, and future. Delphi was said to chew on the leaves or burn the branches to inhale the smoke in order to reach these trances. Use in brews or burn as an incense to induce a prophetic state or place beneath your pillow to induce prophetic dreams.

Bay is also associated with wisdom and poetry, other attributes of Apollo, and hence where the name Poet Laureate comes from. Have writers block? Burn bay to enhance your creativity and dispel writers block.

Bay can be used in a number of spells including:
     Protection Magic
     Prophetic Dreams
     Healing Spells
     Creativity Spells

Medicinal Uses: Bay leaves can be used either in whole leaf form or as an oil to treat a variety of ailments. The leaves can be used as a diuretic or to induce vomiting if something toxic has been consumed. It is also commonly used as a tea to settle upset stomachs, irritable bowel syndrome, or to help lessen the symptoms of Celiac's disease. Bay leaf essential oil can be mixed with a salve and applied to the chest to alleviate respiratory conditions such as coughing, wheezing, bronchitis, or asthma. Inhaling the vapors has a similar affect. Bay also works as an anti-inflammatory to reduce joint swelling and can be used to lessen the symptoms of arthritis. Finally, bay has been connected with lower blood sugar and is often used to treat/manage diabetes.

Preparation and Dosage: Bay can be taken internally as an infusion or cooked within food. To make an infusion, pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoons of dried leaves and let infuse for 10 minutes. Drink this solution up to three times a day. If using bay leaf oil, please follow the directions listed on the box/bottle. Each one is different and therefore should be treated as such. Externally Bay Leaf oil can be mixed into a salve and applied to the chest overnight.


Want to print a copy of this for your Book of Shadows? Click below for your free copy!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

New Grimoire

Well, I finally found a book I would like to use as a Grimoire. Originally I was going to make my own, but after watching several videos on book making, researching supplies, and looking at other Grimoires and Books of Shadows I decided it was best I purchase something already bound. I had toyed with the idea of using a three-ring binder or making a book with removable pages so I could move things around as I needed, but I felt like I would begin to lose things if I used these methods. Making a book with removable pages is also fairly time consuming, and time is something I do not have a lot of especially right now.

After watching a video the other night where a fellow witch showed off her handmade Grimoire, I felt the urge to start looking for mine own. Finding and starting a true Grimoire has been on my list of goals for this year, but the timing hasn't felt right. However, after seeing her beautiful artwork I felt inspired to start my own.

I spent sometime browsing on Amazon looking at blank books when an idea hit me. Why not purchase a large sketch book? The pages are blank and heavy enough to paint on if I desire. They are acid free so I don't have to worry about it breaking down in my life time and relatively inexpensive. Low and behold I found a large 600 page sketchbook for just $25 on Amazon. Kind of hard to beat, don't you think?

I am very excited to start work on my Grimoire although I probably won't be able to spend much time with it until October where I have a week off. Being a first year teacher and a student is hard work and much of my time has been spent working, even while I am home.

I am still planning out sections so if you have some suggestions or tips please let me know. I want to get it down and in an order I like before I start because once I begin, that's it. I'd also love to see your BOS's and Grimoires if you would like to share them with me.

Happy crafting!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Book Review: Hedge Riding by Harmonia Saille

Book Review: Hedge Riding by Harmonia Saille 

Harmonia needs to write more books on hedgecraft, that much is for damn sure. She is one of the first authors to write on the topic extensively (well -ish because her books are WAY too short in my opinion) and get it right. More often than not, hedgecraft is confused with the practices of a kitchen or hearth witch. Yes, we share many things in common, but the main difference is hedge riding and the stress we place on divination. Harmonia's book Hedge Riding covers the topic of hedge riding quite well, although like her last book, she could have written a lot more. Her book gives a basic introduction to the art of hedge riding while comparing it to meditation, pathwalking, and astral projection. While these activities have similarities, they are distinctly unique. To learn more, please read my post Meditation, Pathwalking, and Hedge Riding: Making Sense of It All for more information.

As always, let's start with what I did not like. I did not like the length. That's a given. I also did not like that the content wasn't covered in enough detail to walk away with a firm understanding of how to hedge ride. If you are familiar with pathwalking, which many may be, jumping to hedge riding isn't much of a stretch, but for those new to the craft, this book will be difficult to understand. It is by no means for a novice hedgewitch. That's pretty much it for what I didn't like.

What I did like was that it accurately addressed the practice of hedge riding for experienced witches like myself. Harmonia also does a great job describing the different parts of the otherworld in a way all readers can understand. She even makes note that how you sort through the information she presents is completely up to you and that you should make it your own. Like her last book, Hedge Witchcraft, this is written from her perspective of her craft which makes the book relateable. Furthermore, seeing her step by step process regarding hedge riding makes some of the details clearer than if she had just listed the steps. She also leaves subtle warnings throughout that hedge riding can be dangerous and to take precautions. There are at least two chapters than deal with safety when hedge riding. The first covers entering an altered state of consciousness without the use of drugs and what you should bring with you and why, while the second chapter deals with proper preparation and etiquette once you enter the Otherworld.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars because there are some parts that are slightly unclear. This is book is clearly intended for experienced witches and some of the content would be unfamiliar to new or novice witches. However, for someone like myself, this book was an amazing addition to my collection.

Have you read anything wonderful lately?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Meditating, Pathwalking, and Hedge Riding: Making Sense Of It All

Witchcraft is one of those paths that has multiple ways for seeking answers and assistance from other realms. Often times, these methods can be confused or incorrectly used, especially by novice witches. Today I'd like to address some of the ways to seek assistance outside of spell work and rituals that require a specific mental state. I will not be covering astral projection in this post as I have talked about it before. If you would like to learn more, please read my post Astral Projection: What It Is & How To Do It for more information.

Meditation is a fairly simple practice used not only by pagans, but people from all walks of life to quiet the mind, heal the body, and problem solve. While some believe you shut off your mind during meditation, the opposite is actually true. The intention of meditation is to focus the mind on self and enter a state of consciousness different from our daily consciousness. Some use meditation to contemplate while others use it to look inward to problem solve. None of these are "wrong," although some will tell you so. During this higher state of consciousness, you contact your inner "true" self and communicate with the Divine for whatever purpose you have in mind. Compared to pathwalking and hedge riding, meditation is very easy, although many find it difficult to quiet the mind, especially with the hustle and bustle of today.

To begin practicing meditation, I suggest going and sitting in a quiet place outside. Start slowly by sitting in a comfortable position, closing your eyes, and thinking about what you feel around you. Focus on the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, the sound of the birds, and prickling of the grass. Start off by sitting in this way for about 10 minutes. As you become accustomed to focusing your mind, extend your sessions. Some people are able to meditate for hours, while some feel good with 20 minutes. Try not to fall asleep, but if you do, know it is because your body needed the rest. You can combine visualization and meditation, called imagery meditation, where you picture a simple scene in your mind or by imagining something you want, such as seeing yourself well again if you are sick. This is also a great way to retrace your steps if you have misplaced an item. These visualizations are simple and directed toward a specific purpose.

Pathwalking is a relatively new concept in paganism and is not believed to have existed prior to the occult revival. Originally, pathwalking meant astrally or mentally projecting yourself up and around Kabalistic Tree of Life in order to gain information, seek guidance, or heal. More recently, however, the term has evolved to mean any visualized journey, and shares many traits with a Shamanistic journey or vision quest. Pathwalking differs from meditation in that you embark on a visualized journey instead of focusing your mind on your inner self or a specific need. Pathwalking comes the closest to hedge riding as you often find yourself passing into the otherworld realms.

Pathwalking can be guided or self created. In guided pathwalking (sometimes called guided meditation) someone else talks you through what is happening while you visualize the journey. This is a great way to learn certain magical techniques, gain a better understanding of magical symbols, and heal. If you are just starting out, it may be best to use a guided exercise so someone can "pull" you back if and when needed. If you are self-creating, make sure you plan your journey ahead of time and carry a grounding stone with you to ensure a safe return. Sometimes you will feel you have somewhat lost control, but for the most part, you drive the visualization for a specific purpose. Astral projection is a form of pathworking as your astral self leaves your physical self to seek answers, divine intervention, healing, and more.

Hedge Riding
Hedge riding is the main practice that separates hedgewitches from other witches. Unlike meditation and pathwalking, hedge riding requires the witch to physically leave our realm to travel to others. This is not visualization. You do not have control of the journey, and the forces you meet there can cause you harm if you are not careful. To hedge ride, the witch must enter an altered state of consciousness (ASC). This can be done with drumming, dancing, chanting, or drugs, although many hedgewitches do not condone or support the use of drugs to reach an altered state of consciousness (ASC). It is too dangerous. However, flying ointments were common practice way back when and are thusly named because they allowed the witch to enter an ASC and thus fly or hedge ride to other worlds.

Hedge riding is shamanistic in nature and usually performed alone, although some witches prefer to work in groups. When riding, the rider's consciousness enters another realm, generally referred to as the otherworld, which is the collective unconscious. This otherworld has three different realms, Upper, Middle, and Lower, each with their own levels (9 total). The most common version of this is the Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil. Unlike practices in Shamanism, however, hedgewitches usually do not engage in psychopomp work which involves escorting souls to the afterlife or soul retrieval. Instead, hedge riding is used for healing, to search for knowledge, divination, or assistance in spell work. You can also meet your ancestors during hedge riding by moving into the past or future.

There are two different translations of verse 156 of The Havamal in the Poetic Edda of the 13th century that talks explcitily about hedge riding:
I know this the tenth:
If I see the hedge-riders magically flying high,
I can make it so they go astray
Of their own skins, and of their own souls.
Nigel Pennick (Havamal, Complete Illustrated Guide to Runes, 2002)

A tenth I know, what time I see
House-riders flying on high;
So I can work, that wildly they go,
Showing their true shapes,
Hence to their own homes.
Henry Adams Bellows (Hovamol, verse 156, The Poetic Edda, 1936)
Both translations are a charm that can either cause the hedge rider to show their true self and return home, or cause the rider's spirit to separate from their physical body. Either way, these charms tell us that hedge riders traveled or flew to otherworldly realms, usually in another form.

Experienced hedge riders often shape-shift into an animal form for added protection. Journeys are also usually accompanied by animal guides who provide protection and guidance while traveling through the other realms. This can be very dangerous, so if you are not already experienced in meditation and pathwalking, I do not suggest you attempt to hedge ride. If you do, visiting the upper Lower realm tends to be safest, but go for no more than 20 minutes at a time. As you can see from the charms, it is possible to separate your astral self from your physical body.

While there is so much more I can say on all three of these topics, I think we have covered enough of the basics for everyone to have an understanding of what each is and the differences among them. As with any practice in witchcraft, I suggest using your best judgement when engaging in these activities. While meditation and pathwalking are relatively safe, hedge riding can be extremely dangerous.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Should We Rethink the Triple Goddess?

I've said it a thousand times here that I don't believe in any of the deities, but I will admit I like the idea of them. I find them fascinating and believe they can exist within our own minds, but not outside of it. That being said, the Triple Goddess is a beautiful representation of the phases of a woman's life, the changing seasons, and the moon phases, but is it perhaps time to redifine her?

After reading Hedge Witchcraft by Harmonia Saille, my feelings regarding the use of the Triple Goddess changed. The Triple Goddess is supposed to represent the changing seasons, the phases of the moon, and the stages of a woman's life, but Harmonia suggests using four because in reality we have four seasons, four moon phases, and women have four stages in their life.

Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter are all very distinct seasons with certain sabbats falling within each to represent those seasons. We don't really see too much of spring or fall here in Georgia, but the traditional associations are still there. Using only three goddesses to represent these four seasons seems a bit odd. Which do we lump together into one? Furthermore, fall really doesn't match the crone phase, but it doesn't match the mother phase either. The same goes with the moon phases. We have Waxing, Full, Wanning, and Dark. The crone doesn't really fit in the wanning moon phase in the three-phase system, but she fits quite well in the dark or new moon phase. So viewing the seasons and moon phases as a set of four means we are missing a Goddess form.

Photo Credit: Catherine Noble Beyer
Today, people are living longer, meaning women transition into their Crone stage much later than before. However, many women move on from their Mother phase well before becoming a Crone. My mother is one of these women. She has left her Mother phase, but isn't quite in her Crone years either. So what is she? This phase is the autumn of life. In the three-phase system, postmenopausal women are left out, but by switching to a four-phase system we create an archetype to fill this gap. Harmonia calls her the Harvest Queen. After doing a bit of research, several others have also used the word queen to describe this portion of a woman's life as well. I think this name is suiting because queens are wise, independent, and strong, yet still nurturing and young at heart. When I think of the word queen I see Queen Elizabeth I, a woman who was known for having fun, but being strong and independent as well. Queen suits postmenopausal women in the autumn of their lives quite well in my opinion.

So by creating this new archtype and therefore Quadruple Goddess, we have a Goddess for each season and moon phase as well as for each element and direction. So, with this system:

Madein-Spring-Waxing Moon-Air-East
Mother-Summer-Full Moon-Fire-South
Queen-Fall-Wanning Moon-West-Water
Crone-Winter-Dark/New Moon-Earth-North

This system works beautifully and includes women who have otherwise felt left out. If you would like to read more on this subject, Donna Henes wrote a great piece on the topic of the Queen while Wind Hughes posted an article from Sowell Magazine (2000) about the four phases of a woman's life, their meanings, and their "light and dark" sides.