Daily Archives: June 17, 2012

The Enchanted Nights of Midsummer

by Asherah

When I was a young  girl, I had a book of tales and poems about fairies. I don’t know where it is now, probably on  one of my parents’ dusty bookshelves, missorted after a move. It was a  big book, mostly pictures, and it fascinated me: I wanted to get into  that world, in with the fairies.

I only remember one verse: “The fairies will be dancing, when there’s a  ring around the moon.” But I remember that the big fairy holiday was  Midsummer Night.

On Midsummer Night, the witches, the fairies, the spirits of the dead, the wraiths of the living: all will be abroad and visible.

I couldn’t have been more than five, but it enchanted me, the idea of  slipping out at midnight, stars veiled in the humid dark of summer,  maybe with a flashlight (a candle would have been more romantic but  harder to get), to a ring trodden bare in grass that flickered around my  ankles. The circle would break, a small, bony hand  held out to  mine…

But I knew if I tried slipping out I’d get in trouble. Moreover, I was  confused. It seemed Midsummer Night was June 21, or thereabouts, but  wasn’t that the beginning of summer? If so, why was it called midsummer?  I consulted my mother, but the contradiction didn’t bother her; she said  that was just the way it was. It was only much later that I stumbled on  the answer, that if Beltaine is summer’s start the solstice falls at  Midsummer.

In medieval times, Midsummer was the feast of St. John the Baptist. The herbs of St. John are St. Johnswort, hawkweed, orpine, vervain, mullein,  wormwood and mistletoe. Plucked (depending on your tradition) either at  midnight St. John’s Eve or at noon St. John’s Day and hung in the house,  they will protect it from fire and lightning. Worn about the body, they  will protect you from disease, witchcraft and disaster.

Previously, Midsummer was one of the great fire festivals of Europe. At Stonehenge, it is said, Midsummer was a time of human sacrifice. The  children’s counting-out rhyme “Eeny, meeny, miney, mo” may be a relic of  the means by which the Druids chose their sacrifices.

It was around Midsummer when my friend Holly and I decided to enchant  David, who was the cutest boy in our class. We were 11, and what might  happen if he really fell in love with both of us didn’t cross our minds.  (I think each of us in her heart of hearts felt he’d choose her.) Holly  got a copy of the Dell pocketbook Everyday Witchcraft from the stand at  the grocery store checkout line, and I talked my mother into buying me  one too. One of the love spells instructed us to collect grass from his  lawn and make a charm from it.

So we slipped out and met at dawn . I remember the feel of dawn asphalt  cool beneath my feet. In Kansas City the lawns are pretty big; sitting  on the sidewalk at the far corner of David’s lawn, at the bottom of a  steep incline, we ran little risk of being seen. So we collected a few  strands and sat a while, basking in his nearness.

If an unmarried girl, fasting, on Midsummer Eve at midnight sets the table with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale, leaves the yard door  open and waits, the boy she will marry, or his spirit, will come in and  eat with her.

Plant two slips of orpine (Sedum telephium) together on Midsummer Eve, one to represent yourself, one to represent your lover. If one slip  withers, the one it represents will die. But if both take hold, flourish  and grow leaning together, you and your lover will marry.

It was around Midsummer also, and I, 13, but not much the wiser, when my  friend Vanessa and I did candle-magic on a mutual friend, Troy. Vanessa  made a good, thick candle-poppet of him, with the wick for his head. She  was angry at him, and her spell was to banish him; she buried the  candle-poppet in the gutter outside her house. I had a crush on him, and  my spell was quite the opposite, though I didn’t confess this to  Vanessa. Our spells must have crossed, because while Vanessa and Troy  made up, ever afterward Troy had an aversion to me.

To become invisible, wear or swallow fern seed (that is, fern spores) that you collected on Midsummer Eve.

On Midsummer Eve at midnight, the fern blooms with a golden flower. If you pluck this flower, it will lead you to golden treasure. In Russia,  the flower must be thrown in the air, and it will land on buried  treasure. The Bohemians believe that if you pluck the flower and on the  same Midsummer Night climb a mountain with the blossom in hand, you will  find gold or have it revealed to you in a vision. Bohemians also  sprinkle fern seed in their savings to keep them from decreasing.

It was the fairies, and charms like those of Midsummer, that led me to  the Craft. I won’t swear all the high points of the summers of my youth  happened on Midsummer Night, but Midsummer is a kind of distillation of  all summer. On that night, perhaps you can brush back a feathery, green- smelling branch to see, dancing in a ring, fairies. Or  sometimes you  might find such a ring indoors.

[Enter Puck, carrying a broom]

“Now it is the time of night That the graves, all gaping wide, Every one lets forth his sprite, In the church-way paths to glide. And we fairies, that do run By the triple Hecate’s team From the presence of the sun, Following darkness like a dream, Now are frolic. Not a mouse Shall disturb this hallowed house. I am sent with broom before, To sweep the dust behind the door.”

(from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare)

Merry Midsummer to all.

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A Midsummer’s Celebration

 by Mike Nichols

The young maid stole through the cottage door, And blushed as she sought the Plant of pow’r; — “Thou silver glow-worm, O lend me thy light, I must gather the mystic St. John’s wort tonight, The wonderful herb, whose leaf will decide If the coming year shall make me a bride.”

In addition to the four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year, there are four lesser holidays as well: the two solstices, and the two equinoxes. In folklore, these are referred to as the four “quarter days” of the year, and modern Witches call them the four “Lesser Sabbats”, or the four “Low Holidays”. The summer solstice is one of them.

Technically, a solstice is an astronomical point and, due to the calendar creep of the leap-year cycle, the date may vary by a few days depending on the year. The summer solstice occurs when the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer, and we experience the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Astrologers know this as the date on which the sun enters the sign of Cancer.

However, since most European peasants were not accomplished at reading an ephemeris or did not live close enough to Salisbury Plain to trot over to Stonehenge and sight down its main avenue, they celebrated the event on a fixed calendar date, June 24. The slight forward displacement of the traditional date is the result of multitudinous calendrical changes down through the ages. It is analogous to the winter solstice celebration, which is astronomically on or about December 21, but is celebrated on the traditional date of December 25, Yule, later adopted by the Christians.

Again, it must be remembered that the Celts reckoned their days from sundown to sundown, so the June 24 festivities actually begin on the previous sundown (our June 23). This was the date of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Which brings up another point: our modern calendars are quite misguided in suggesting that ‘summer begins’ on the solstice.  According to the old folk calendar, summer begins on May Day and ends on Lammas (August 1), with the summer solstice, midway between the two, marking midsummer. This makes more logical sense than suggesting that summer begins on the day when the sun’s power begins to wane and the days grow shorter.

Although our Pagan ancestors probably preferred June 24 (and indeed most European folk festivals today use this date), the sensibility of modern Witches seems to prefer the actual solstice point, beginning the celebration on its eve, or the sunset immediately preceding the solstice point. Again, it gives modern Pagans a range of dates to choose from with, hopefully, a weekend embedded in it.

Just as the Pagan Midwinter celebration of Yule was adopted by Christians as “Christmas” (December 25), so too the Pagan Midsummer celebration was adopted by them as the Feast of John the Baptist (June 24). Occurring 180 degrees apart on the wheel of the year, the Midwinter celebration commemorates the birth of Jesus, while the Midsummer celebration commemorates the birth of John, the prophet who was born six months before Jesus in order to announce his arrival.

Although modern Witches often refer to the holiday by the rather generic name of “Midsummer’s Eve”, it is more probable that our Pagan ancestors of a few hundred years ago actually used the Christian name for the holiday, “St. John’s Eve”. This is evident from the wealth of folklore that surrounds the summer solstice (i.e., that it is a night especially sacred to the faerie folk), but which is inevitably ascribed to “St. John’s Eve”, with no mention of the sun’s position. It could also be argued that a coven’s claim to antiquity might be judged by what name it gives the holidays. (Incidentally, the name ‘Litha’ for the holiday is a modern usage, possibly based on a Saxon word that means the opposite of Yule. Still, there is little historical justification for its use in this context.) But weren’t our Pagan ancestors offended by the use of the name of a Christian saint for a pre-Christian holiday?

Well, to begin with, their theological sensibilities may not have been as finely honed as our own. But secondly and more  mportantly, St. John himself was often seen as a rather Pagan figure.  He was, after all, called “the Oak King”. His connection to the wilderness (from whence “the voice cried out”) was often emphasized by the rustic nature of his shrines. Many statues show him as a horned figure (as is also the case with Moses).  Christian iconographers mumble embarrassed explanations about “horns of light”, while modern Pagans giggle and happily refer to such statues as “Pan the Baptist”. And to clench matters, many depictions of John actually show him with the lower torso of a satyr, cloven hooves and all! Obviously, this kind of John the Baptist is more properly a Jack in the Green! Also obvious is that behind the medieval conception of St. John lies a distant, shadowy Pagan Deity, perhaps the archetypal Wild Man of the wood, whose face stares down at us through the foliate masks that adorn so much church architecture. Thus, medieval Pagans may have had fewer problems adapting than we might suppose.

In England, it was the ancient custom on St. John’s Eve to light large bonfires after sundown, which served the double purpose of providing light to the revelers and warding off evil spirits.  This was known as “setting the watch”. People often jumped through the fires for good luck. In addition to these fires, the streets were lined with lanterns, and people carried cressets (pivoted lanterns atop poles) as they wandered from one bonfire to another. These wandering, garland-bedecked bands were called a “marching watch”. Often they were attended by morris dancers, and traditional players dressed as a unicorn, a dragon, and six hobbyhorse riders. Just as May Day was a time to renew the boundary of one’s own property, so Midsummer’s Eve was a time to ward the boundary of the city.

Customs surrounding St. John’s Eve are many and varied.  At the very least, most young folk plan to stay up throughout the whole of this shortest night. Certain courageous souls might spend the night keeping watch in the center of a circle of standing stones. To do so would certainly result in either death, madness, or (hopefully) the power of inspiration to become a great poet or bard. (This is, by the way, identical to certain incidents in the first branch of The Mabinogion.) This was also the night when the serpents of the island would roll themselves into a hissing, writhing ball in order to engender the “glain”, also called the “serpent’s egg”, “snake stone”, or “Druid’s egg”. Anyone in possession of this hard glass bubble would wield incredible magical powers. Even Merlyn himself (accompanied by his black dog) went in search of it, according to one ancient Welsh story.

Snakes were not the only creatures active on Midsummer’s Eve. According to British faery lore, this night was second only to Halloween for its importance to the Wee Folk, who especially enjoyed a ridling on such a fine summer’s night. In order to see them, you had only to gather fern seed at the stroke of midnight and rub it onto your eyelids. But be sure to carry a little bit of rue in your pocket, or you might well be “pixie-led”. Or, failing the rue, you might simply turn your jacket inside out, which should keep you from harm’s way. But if even this fails, you must seek out one of the “ley lines”, the old straight tracks, and stay upon it to your destination. This will keep you safe from any malevolent power, as will crossing a stream of “living” (running) water.

Other customs included decking the house (especially over the front door) with birch, fennel, St. John’s wort, orpin, and white lilies. Five plants were thought to have special magical properties on this night: rue, roses, St. John’s wort, vervain, and trefoil. Indeed, Midsummer’s Eve in Spain is called the “Night of the Verbena (Vervain)”. St. John’s wort was especially honored by young maidens who picked it in the hopes of divining a future lover.

And the glow-worm came With its silvery flame, And sparkled and shone Through the night of St. John, And soon has the young maid her love-knot tied.

There are also many mythical associations with the summer solstice, not the least of which concerns the seasonal life of the God of the sun. Inasmuch as I believe that I have recently discovered certain associations and correspondences not hitherto realized, I have elected to treat this subject in some depth in my ‘Death of Llew’ essay.  Suffice it to say here, that I disagree with the generally accepted idea that the Sun God meets his death at the summer solstice. I believe there is good reason to see the Sun God at his zenith—his peak of power—on this day, and that his death at the hands of his rival would not occur for another quarter of a year. Material drawn from the Welsh mythos seems to support this thesis. In Irish mythology, midsummer is the occasion of the first battle between the Fir Bolgs and the Tuatha De Danaan.

Altogether, Midsummer is a favorite holiday for many Witches in that it is so hospitable to outdoor celebrations.  The warm summer night seems to invite it. And if the celebrants are not, in fact, skyclad, then you may be fairly certain that the long ritual robes of winter have yielded place to short, tunic-style apparel. As with the longer gowns, tradition dictates that one should wear nothing underneath—the next best thing to skyclad, to be sure. (Incidentally, now you know the real answer to the old Scottish joke, “What is worn beneath the kilt?”)

The two chief icons of the holiday are the spear (symbol of the Sun God in his glory) and the summer cauldron (symbol of the Goddess in her bounty). The precise meaning of these two symbols, which I believe I have recently discovered, will be explored in the essay on the death of Llew. But it is interesting to note here that modern Witches often use these same symbols in their Midsummer rituals. And one occasionally hears the alternative consecration formula, “As the spear is to the male, so the cauldron is to the female.” With these mythic associations, it is no wonder that Midsummer is such a joyous and magical occasion!


Document Copyright © 1983 – 2009 by Mike Nichols. Text editing courtesy of Acorn Guild Press. Website redesign by Bengalhome Internet Services, © 2009

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Common Kitchen Herbs That Heal

What follows is a short list of herbs commonly found in kitchens, or easily found in most supermarkets. This list is alphabetical by herb.
——————————————————————————–
Anise (Pimpinella ansium)
Anise helps expel gas, relieves nausea and stomach pain caused by gas.
To use: crush anise seeds into a powder. Put 1 teaspoon of the powder into 1 cup of warm water. Drink up to three times a day to relieve symptoms. ——————————————————————————–
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil is another anti-nauseant that also relieves gas, and promotes normal bowel function.
To use: Make a strong tea using 1 teaspoon of the crushed dried herb in a half- cup of water. Drink as needed, not to exceed three cups a day. ——————————————————————————–
Capsicum or Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens)
Cayenne helps stimulate the appetite and acts as a milk stimulant. It may reduce discomfort from the common cold.
To use: make a tea out of the dried herb, 1 teaspoon per cup of hot water. 2 cups per day only.
Note: Cayenne irritates hemorrhoids and should never be used by people with stomach problems. Do not exceed recommended dosage as high doses can cause stomach and kidney problems. ——————————————————————————–
Caraway (Carum carvi)
Caraway works as an expectorant for coughs due to colds. It also improves the appetite and may increase breast milk in nursing mothers.
To use: Chew some seeds three or four times a day. ——————————————————————————–
Dill (Aniethum graveolens)
Dill eases indigestion and upset stomachs.
To use: make a strong tea by steeping 2 teaspoons of dill seeds in 1 cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and drink one half-cup 2 to 3 times daily. ——————————————————————————–
Fennel (Foeniculum velgare)
Fennel is a digestive aid and is known to relieve cramps. The oil is used to relieve stiff joints.
To use: 15 drops of extract in warm water with honey, one daily, as digestive aid. Rub oil directly on affected area for pain alleviation. ——————————————————————————–
Fenugreek (Trigonella graceum)
Fenugreek relieves sore throats and is useful for treating irritations and other inflammations.
To use: as a gargle for sore throat – mix 1 tablespoon of pulverized seed in 1 cup hot water. Let steep for 10 minutes and strain. Gargle 3 times a day, every 3-4 hours. As a poultice for skin irritations – pulverize enough seed so that when mixed with 8 ounces of water, it forms a thick paste. Apply paste to affected areas once a day. ——————————————————————————–
Garlic (Allium satvum)
Garlic helps fight infections, lowers blood pressure and may be able to destroy some cancer cells.
To use: stir-fry cloves for a few minutes to cut down garlic-breath. Eat 2 or 3 a day for maximum effectiveness. ——————————————————————————–
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
Ginger eases cold symptoms, soothes skin inflammations and minor burns, calms upset stomachs, and is a natural remedy for morning sickness.
To use: for burn and inflammations – mash fresh ginger root, soak cotton ball and then rub juice on the affected area. For all else – add ginger extract to hot water, 10 drops per cup. This can be taken up to three times daily. ——————————————————————————–
Parsley (Petroselinium sativum)
Parsley settles stomachs after meals. If also helps clear congestion due to colds and is soothing for asthma.
To use: make a strong tea using 1 teaspoon dried, ground parsley in 1 cup hot water. Let steep 10-15 minutes. Take once a day. ——————————————————————————–
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Mint is an anti-spasmodic and is excellent for relieving cramps and stomach pain. It also relieves gas and aids in digestion. It can help reduce the sick feeling associated with migraines.
To use: drink one cup as a tea. Commercial teas are available. (Make sure it is only mint, not mint flavored.) Drink as needed. ——————————————————————————–
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is used for most head pains.
To use: as tea, to relieve nervous tension, make a strong tea. Rub rosemary essential oil on the temples to relieve headaches. Mix essential oils or leaves with olive oil to make a dandruff treatment. ——————————————————————————–
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage reduces perspiration and can be used to ease sore gums.
To use: to relieve perspiration, medium tea, one time daily. To ease gums, strong infusion, gargled, 3 times daily. ——————————————————————————–
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme is good for chronic respiratory problems, cold flu and sore throat. It is also an anti-fungal.
To use: make a tea of the dried herb, drink daily. As an anti-fungal, rub extract on affected areas. ——————————————————————————–
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric promotes good liver function and helps prevent gallbladder disease. It also may help prevent over-clotting of blood cells, and may help relieve arthritis symptoms.
To use: take 300mg up to 3 times daily. ——————————————————————————–

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Herbal First Aid Kit

Contents and Instructions
* Calendula Ointment – Use for minor cuts and grazes, red rashes and any minor skin rash.
* Comfrey Ointment – Suitable for all bruises and minor damage to external blood vessels and veins.
* St. Johns Wort Oil – Beneficial for itchy skin and irritable psoriasis. Also good for sunburn when applied at night.
* Liver Mixture – Has mild laxative properties and helps with the digestion of rich food. Take one teaspoon at night or 30 minutes before your main meal.
* Parasite Mixture – Effective against some common internal parasites. If  infestation is suspected abstain from all food for 24 hours. Then take one tablespoon of the mixture in a little water and repeat this dose after four hours and then once again after another four hours. Your parasites should by then have died. You should be able to recommence eating four hours after the last dose, (Gasp!). May also be used as a skin wash for external parasites.
* Nervine and Sedative Mixture – Take 25 drops 3 x daily on an empty stomach as a general sedative. If you have trouble sleeping at night take one teaspoon in a little water 30 minutes before bed-time.
* Astringent Mix. – Good for internal bleeding and also as an effective remedy for occasional diarrhea. If you are stricken with “the runs” take one teaspoonful in a little water every two hours until symptoms subside. Follow up with Echinacea and Goldenseal tincture.
* Echinacea and Goldenseal – Similar in effect to an anti-biotic. Use only in the event of serious infection etc. Take 25 drops in a little water 4 x daily half an hour before meals. Continue for at least two weeks. May be used externally as an antiseptic and anesthetic lotion.
* Echinacea Tincture – Similar to the previous mixture but more suitable for use over a long period when taken internally. May be taken for up to one month in order to boost the overall effectiveness of the immune system.
Important – These remedies are in no way intended as a substitute for proper medical care and attention. If your symptoms persist please consult with a reputable health care practitioner.

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The Sacred Herbs Of The Gods

Adonis: myrrh, corn, rose, fennel, lettuce, white heather
Aesculapius: bay, mustard
Ajax: delphinium
Anu: tamarisk
Apollo:  leek, hyacinth, heliotrope, cornel, bay, frankincense, date palm, 
cypress
Attis: pine, almond
Ares: buttercup
Bacchus: grape, ivy, fig, beech, tamarisk
Baldur: St. John's wort, daisy
Bran: alder, all grains
Cupid: cypress, sugar, white violet, red rose
Dagda: oak
Dianus: fig
Dionysus: fig, apple, ivy, grape, pine, corn, pomegranate, toadstools, 
mushrooms, fennel, all wild and cultivated trees
Dis: cypress
Ea: cedar
Eros: red rose
Gwydion: ash
Helios: oak
Horus: horehound, lotus, persea
Hypnos: poppy
Jove: pine, cassia, houseleek, carnation, cypress
Jupiter: aloe, agrimony, sage, oak, mullein, acorn,  beech, cypress, houseleek, 
date palm, violet, gorse, ox-eye daisy, vervain
Kernunnos: heliotrope, bay, sunflower, oak, orange
Kanaloa: banana
Mars: ash, aloe, dogwood, buttercup, witch grass, vervain
Mercury: cinnamon, mulberry, hazel, willow
Mithras: cypress, violet
Neptune: ash, bladderwrack, all seaweeds
Odin: mistletoe, elm, yew, oak
Osiris: acacia, grape, ivy, tamarisk, cedar, clover, date palm, all grains
Pan: fig, pine, reed, oak, fern, all meadow flowers
Pluto: cypress, mint, pomegranate
Poseidon: pine, ash, fig, bladderwrack, all seaweeds
Prometheus: fennel
Ra: acacia, frankincense, myrrh, olive
Saturn: fig, blackberry
Sylvanus: pine
Tammuz: wheat, pomegranate, all grains
Thoth: almond
Thor: thistle, houseleek, vervain, hazel, ash, birch, rowen, oak, pomegranate, 
burdock, beech
Uranus: ash
Woden: ash
Zeus: oak, olive, pine, aloe, parsley, sage, wheat, fig

As the Craft, we will take only that which we need from the green and growing 
things of the Earth, never failing to attune with the plant before harvesting, 
nor failing to leave a token of gratitude and respect.
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The Sacred Herbs Of The Goddesses

Aphrodite: olive, cinnamon, daisy, cypress, quince.  orris (iris), apple, myrtle
Aradia: rue, vervain
Artemis:  silver fir, amaranth, cypress, cedar, hazel, myrtle, willow, daisy, 
mugwort, date palm
Astarte: alder, pine, cypress, myrtle, juniper
Athena: olive, apple
Bast: catnip, Vervain
Bellona: belladonna
Brigit: blackberry
Cailleach: wheat
Cardea: hawthorn, bean, arbutus
Ceres: willow, wheat, bay, pomegranate, poppy, leek, narcissus
Cybele: oak, myrrh, pine
Demeter: wheat, barley, pennyroyal, myrrh, rose, pomegranate, bean, poppy, all 
cultivated crops
Diana: birch, willow, acacia, wormwood, dittany, hazel, beech, fir, apple, 
mugwort, plane, mulberry, rue
Druantia: fir
Freya:  cowslip, daisy, primrose, maidenhair, myrrh, strawberry, mistletoe
Hathor: myrtle, sycamore, grape, mandrake, coriander, rose
Hecate: willow, henbane, aconite, yew, mandrake, cyclamen, mint, cypress, date 
palm, sesame, dandelion, garlic, oak, onion
Hekat: cypress
Hera: apple, willow, orris, pomegranate, myrrh
Hina: bamboo
Hulda: flax, rose, hellebore, elder
Irene: olive
Iris: wormwood, iris
Ishtar: acacia, juniper, all grains
Isis: fig, heather, wheat, wormwood, barley, myrrh, rose, palm, lotus, persea, 
onion, iris, vervain
Juno: lily, crocus, asphodel, quince, pomegranate, vervain, iris, lettuce, fig, 
mint
Kerridwen: vervain, acorns
Minerva: olive, mulberry, thistle
Nefer-Tum: lotus
Nepthys: myrrh, lily
Nuit: sycamore
Olwen: apple
Persephone: parsley, narcissus, willow, pomegranate
Rhea: myrrh, oak
Rowen: clover, rowen
Venus: cinnamon, daisy, elder, heather, anemone, apple, poppy, violet, marjoram, 
maidenhair fern, carnation, aster, vervain, myrtle, orchid, cedar, lily, 
mistletoe, pine, quince
Vesta: oak
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The Herbs Of The Sabbats

To be used as decorations on the altar, round the circle, in the home.

Samhain:
Chrysanthemum, wormwood, apples, pears, hazel, thistle, pomegranates, all 
grains,  harvested fruits and nuts, the pumpkin, corn.

Yule:
Holly, mistletoe, ivy, cedar, bay, juniper, rosemary, pine. Place offerings of 
apples, oranges, nutmegs, lemons and whole cinnamon sticks on the Yule tree.

Imbolc:
Snowdrop, rowan, the first flowers of the year.

Eostara:
Daffodil, woodruff, violet, gorse, olive, peony, iris, narcissus, all spring 
flowers.

Beltane:
Hawthorn, honeysuckle, St. John's wort,  woodruff, all flowers.

Midsummer:
Mugwort, vervain, chamomile, rose, lily, oak, lavender, ivy, yarrow, fern, 
elder, wild thyme, daisy, carnation.

Lughnasadh:
All grains, grapes, heather, blackberries, sloe, crabapples, pears.

Mabon:
Hazel, corn, aspen, acorns, oak sprigs, autumn leaves, wheat stalks, cypress 
cones, pine cones, harvest gleanings.
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Woods: The Many Types & Their Uses

The ancient Celtic tree alphabet was used by the followers of the Old Religion to construct a language of the trees that could be used in conjunction with the occult symbolism of each of the trees.  When translated from the ancient tongue we find the following trees referenced often: Elm, Birch, Hazel, Oak, Aspen, Alder, Ivy, Yew, Rowan, Ash, Pine, Willow, Elder, and Spindle.  These trees, along with others, will be covered. From early times, there have been the sacred groves and the sacred tree.

 
Individual trees of particular species have been revered, the kind varying with the divine force represented.  Oak and Cedar are obvious examples of father emblems as Willow and Hazel are mother emblems.  The androgynous Pine and the world bearing Ash also have their place in our folklore.  The symbolism of the woods are very important in the construction of any magical tool.  A complete description of the various woods and their uses is impossible in a limited space but we will cover as much as possible.

 

OAK ) The oak tree is the tree of Zeus, Jupiter, Hercules, The Dagda (The Chief of the Elder Irish gods), Thor and all other Thunder Gods.  The royalty of the Oak needs no enlarging upon.  The Oak is the tree of endurance and triumph, and like the Ash, is said to count the lightings’ flash.  The Oak is a male wood which is ideal for the construction of any tool that needs the male influence such as Athames, certain wands and staffs.  The midsummer fire is always Oak and the need fire is always kindled in an Oak log.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Endurance, triumph, strength, power, dominion, prosperity, sacrifice, guardian, liberator.

 
BIRCH ) With the exception of the mysterious elder, the Birch is the earliest of the forest trees.  The Birch is used extensively in cleansing rituals.  Throughout Europe, Birch twigs are used to expel evil spirits.  Birch rods are also used in rustic rituals to drive out the spirits of the old year.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Controlled by the Lunar influences.  Birth, healing, Lunar workings, and protection.

 
HAZEL ) The Hazel is a tree of wisdom.  In England, all the knowledge of the arts and sciences were bound to the eating of Hazel nuts.  Until the seventeenth century, a forked Hazelstick was used to divine the guilt of persons in cases of murder and theft.  We have retained the practice of divining for water and buried treasure.
OCCULT ASPECTS: Wisdom, intelligence, inspiration, wrath.

 
ALDER ) The Alder is the tree of fire.  In the battle of the trees, the Alder fought in the very front line.  It is described as the very “battle witch” of all woods, the tree that is hottest in the fight.  from the alder, you can make three different dyes, red from its bark, green from its flowers, and brown from its twigs; this symbolizes the elements of fire, water and earth.  The Alder wood is the wood of the witches.  Whistles may be made of this wood to summon and control the four winds.  It is also the ideal wood for making the magical pipes and flutes.  To prepare the wood for use, beat the bark away with a willow stick while projecting your wishes into it.  The Alder is a token of resurrection.
OCCULT ASPECTS: Controlling the four winds, banishing and controlling elementals, resurrection.  Making magical dyes.

 
IVY / VINE ) The Ivy was sacred to Osiris as well as to Dionysus.  Vine and Ivy come next to each other at the turn of the year, and are jointly dicated to resurrection. Presumably, this is because they are the only two trees that grow spirally.  The Vine also symbolizes resurrection because its strength is preserved in the wine.
OCCULT ASPECTS: (VINE) Faerie work, Joy, Exhilaration, Wrath, Rebirth.

 

(IVY) Fidelity, Constancy, Love, Intoxication.

 
YEW ) The Yew is known as the death tree in all European countries.  Sacred to Hecate in Greece and Italy.  Yew wood makes excellent bows, as the Romans learned from the Greeks. This strengthened the belief that Yew was connected with death.  Its use in England is recalled in Macbeth where Hecate’s cauldron contained:”… Slips of Yew, slivered in the moon eclipse.”The Silver Fir of birth and the Yew of death are sisters. They stand next to each other in the circle of the year and their foliage is almost identical.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Destructive workings concerning death.  Not recommended for magical tools “…for I am the tomb to every hope.

 
ROWAN ) The Rowan is seen as the tree of life.  It is also known as Mountain Ash, Quickbeam, The Witch or Witch Wand. In the British Isles, Rowa is used as a protection against lightning and magical charms of all sorts.  In ancient Ireland, the Druids of opposing forces would kindle a fire of rowan and say an incantation over it to summon spirits to take part in the battle.  The Rowan is alsoused for many healing purposes.  The “Quickbeam” is the tree of quickening. Another use was in metal divining.  In Ireland, a Rowan stake was hammered through a corpse to immobilize the spirit.
OCCULT ASPECTS: Divination, healing, astral work, protection.

 
ASH ) The Ash is sacred to Poseidon and Woden.  The Ash is considered to be the father of trees.  The Ash is the tree of sea power, or of the power resident in water.  Special guardian spirits reside in the Ash; This makes it excellent for absorbing sickness. The spirally carved druidical wand was made of Ash for this purpose.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Seapower, karmic laws, magical potency, healing, protection from drowning.

 
PINE ) External symbol of life and immortality.  It is one of the few trees that are androgynous.  It was also worshiped by the ancients as a symbol of fire because of its resemblance to a spiral of flame.  It is regarded as a very soothing tree to be near.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Strength, life and immortality, rejuvenation

 

WILLOW ) The Willow was sacred to Hecate, Circe, Hera, and Persephone, all death aspects of the Triple Moon Goddess, and was often used by the Witches in Greece.  The moon owns it. Female symbol.  It is the tree that loves water most and is sacred to the Moon Goddess who is the giver of dew and moisture, generally.  The Willow is the tree of enchantment. Can be made into a tool to make wishes come true.
OCCULT PURPOSES: Moon magic, psychic energy, healing, inspiration, fertility

 

ELDER ) A waterside tree, the Elder has white flowers that bloom to their peak in midsummer (as is also true for the Rowan) thus making the Elder another aspect of the White Goddess.  The Elder is also said to be the crucifixion tree. The inner bark and the flowers have long been famous for their therapeutic qualities.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Witchcraft, banishment, magical art, waters of life.

 
HAWTHORN ) The Whitethorn or Hawthorn or May Witch takes its name from the May.  It is a generally unlucky tree and its name, translated from the Irish Brehon Laws, had the meaning “harm”.  The Goddess, under the name Cardea, cast spells with the Hawthorn. In many cultures, the month of the Hawthorn (May) is a month of bad luck for marriages.  The Hawthorn blossom, for many men, has the strong scent of female sexuality and was used by the Turks as an erotic symbol.  The monks of Glastonbury perpetuated it and sanctified it with an approving tale that the staff of Joseph and the Crown of thorns were made of Hawthorn.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Purification, enforced chastity, male potency, cleansing.

 

HOLLY ) Holly means “holy”. The identification of the pacific Christ with the Holly is poetically inept a it is the Oak king, not the Holly king that is crucified on a T shaped cross. The Holly has many uses form making a dye from its berries to being used as an aphrodisiac.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Holiness, consecration, material gain, physical revenge, beauty

 

WHITE POPULAR ) The tree of the Autumn Equinox and of old age, is the shifting leaved White Popular, or Aspen, The shield makers tree.  Heracles bound his head in triumph with popular after killing the giant Cacus (the evil one).  The Black popular was a funeral tree sacred to the Mother Earth. Plato makes a reference to the use of  Black popular and Silver Fir as an aid in divination.  The Silver Fir standing for hope assured and the Black Popular for loss of hope.  In ancient Ireland, the coffin makers measuring rod was made of Aspen, apparently to remind the dead that this was not the end.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Hope, rebirth, divinations.This concludes trees referenced to be in use in Europe. However, I thought there may be interest in a few local trees.

 

ALMOND ) Almond has a very sweet natural being.  Aids in self protection.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Fruitfulness, virginity

 

APPLE ) It is an old English custom to drink to the health of the Apple tree with a good glass of cider all in hopes of encouraging the tree to produce a good crop next year.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Fertility

 

COCONUT ) The Coconut is feminine and very fertile.  The shell represents the womb, and the milk, fertility.
OCCULT ASPECTS: Protection from negative psychic forces.

 

FIG ) The Fig is androgynous. The fruit representing the feminine and the triple lobed leaves suggest the masculine force.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Balance

 

MISTLETOE ) The mistletoe was sacred to the Druids and to the Norse. It was considered to be the great healer and has both male and female qualities.   It was so well regarded by the Norse (because it was sacred to Freya) that they refused to fight in the vicinity of Mistletoe.  The custom of hanging Mistletoe in the house to promote peace comes from this. Generally regarded today as a symbol of love and purity.
OCCULT ASPECTS: Love, fertility, sexual potency.

 

PALM ) Is regarded as particularly powerful because of its incredible durability and because it is self renewing, never changing its leaves.  Aids in rejuvenation.
OCCULT ASPECTS:  Resurrection, and the cycle and matrix of life

 

PEACH ) The Peach is an emblem of marriage.
OCCULT ASPECTS: Abundance, fruitfulness, happinessThis concludes this short treatise on the various woods, their types and uses.  This information was passed to me through various sources, and no claim is made as to its accuracy.

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