Fun and Useless Facts about all those ‘Fat Tuesday’ Traditions

Magic in the woods
Fun and Useless Facts about all those ‘Fat Tuesday’ Traditions

This year’s Mardi Gras, a festival marked by an endless cyclone of feathers, costumes, beads and booze that whips through city streets all over the world, is well underway. It’s been called the wildest fete in the U.S., and for good reason: Every year, droves of partygoers flock to New Orleans to take in the floats, the festivities and the food, and to leave their mark on the Big Easy.

Mardi Gras, meaning “Fat Tuesday” in French, has its origins in medieval Europe. What became a legal holiday in Louisiana in 1875 was once a Christian holiday with roots in ancient Rome. Instead of outright abolishing certain pagan traditions, like the wild Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia, religious leaders decided to incorporate them into the new faith.

What became known as the Carnival season was a kick-off to Lent, a sort of last hurrah before 40 days of penance sandwiched between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Eventually, the celebration spread from Rome across Europe to the colonies of the New World.

Since its early days in New Orleans in the early 18th century, Mardi Gras has grown to colossal proportions and includes several familiar traditions, like bead throwing, mask wearing and coconut painting, that are widely practiced today but whose origins may have been forgotten.
Here are the real meanings of five popular Mardi Gras Traditions.

The Wearing Of Masks
Masks are an integral part of Mardi Gras culture. During early Mardi Gras celebrations hundreds of years ago, masks were a way for their wearers to escape class constraints and social demands. Mask wearers could mingle with people of all different classes and could be whomever they desired, at least for a few days.

In New Orleans, float riders are required by law to have a mask on. On Fat Tuesday, masking is legal for all Mardi Gras attendees – although many storeowners will post signs asking those entering to please remove their masks first.

The Flambeaux Tradition
Flambeaux, meaning flame-torch, was the tradition of people carrying shredded rope soaked in pitch through the streets so that nighttime revelers could enjoy festivities after dark. They were originally carried by slaves and free African Americans trying to earn a little money. Crowds tossed coins at the torch carriers for lighting the way for the floats.

Today, flambeaux carriers have turned the tradition into something of a performance. Torch bearers dance and spin their kerosene lights – something the original parade planners didn’t intend.

The Throwing Of Beads
The tradition of bead throwing starts with their original colors. The color of the beads was determined by the king of the first daytime Carnival in 1872. He wanted the colors to be royal colors – purple for justice, gold for power and green for faith. The idea was to toss the color to the person who exhibited the color’s meaning.

The beads were originally made of glass, which, as you can imagine, weren’t the best for tossing around. It wasn’t until the beads were made of plastic that throwing them really became a staple of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Rex, The King of Carnival
Every year in New Orleans, a king is crowned. His name is Rex, the king of the Carnival, and he first ascended to the throne in 1872. History has it that the very first Rex was actually the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia who, upon a visit to the U.S., befriended U.S. Army officer George Armstrong Custer during a planned hunting expedition in the Midwest.

The Duke’s visit to Louisiana was organized by New Orleans businessmen looking to lure tourism and business to their city following the devastating American Civil War.
Every year, the Rex Organization chooses a new Rex, always a prominent person in New Orleans. He is given the symbolic Key to the City by the Mayor.

Handing Out Zulu Coconuts
The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club is one of the oldest traditionally black krewes – or parade hosts – in Mardi Gras history. The organization is known for handing out Zulu coconuts, or “golden nuggets.” The earliest reference to these coconuts appears in 1910.

The first coconuts were left in their original hairy state, but years later, Zulu members started painting and decorating them. Getting a Zulu coconut is one of the most sought after traditions during Mardi Gras.

By Philip Ross
International Business Times

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365 Days of Celebrating Legends, Folklore & Spirituality for Oct 2nd – Guardian Angel’s Day


October 2nd

Guardian Angel’s Day

This pre-Christian Roman holiday is still celebrated in Spain and Europe. In early Rome, every man led his Genius and every woman her Iuno. When the church writers had a dispute over which angels guarded a person, the day became linked with the feast of St. Michael (Sept. 29). However, in 1670, the two days became separate and Guardian Angels’ Day was moved to October 2.

Genius meaning “begetter,” was a man’s guardian spirit that also enabled him to beget children. For women the spirit was called Iuno (Juno). Each household also had a genius that was worshiped by the family members whose birthday coincided with that of the male head of the household. The genius was usually honored along with the household Lar, at the Lararium. So popular was the concept that it even extended to groups of people. Even the city itself had its own guardian genius.

Properties and Uses of Herbs (A thru H)

Properties and Uses of Herbs

ALOE VERA – Aloe vera syn. A. barbadensis (Liliaceae)
Native to Africa, aloe vera is commonly cultivated elsewhere. The clear gel found inside the plant’s leaf and the crystalline part found alongside the leaf blade, which contains aloin, are both used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. The clear gel is a remarkably effective healer of wounds and burns, speeding up the rate of healing and reducing the risk of infection. The brownish part containing aloin is a strong laxative, useful for short-term constipation. Aloe is present in many cosmetic’s formulae because its emollient and scar preventing properties.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Heals wounds, emollient, laxative.ANGELICA – Angelica arcangelica (Umbelliferae)
Angelica has a long-standing record as a prized medicinal herb and has been mentioned by European herbalist since the 15th Century. Angelica has been used to reduce muscular spasms in asthma and bronchitis. It has also been shown to ease rheumatic inflammation, to regulate menstrual flow and as an appetite stimulant. The stems are candied for culinary use.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Antispasmodic, promotes menstrual flow.

ANISE – Pimpinella anisum (Umbelliferae)
Anise has been cultivated in Egypt and known to the Greeks, Romans and Arabs, who named the plant anysun. Since Antiquity it has been used as a flavoring spice in recipes and as a diuretic, to treat digestive problems and to relieve toothache. Anise seeds are known for their ability to reduce flatulence and colic, and to settle the digestion. They are commonly given to infants and children to relieve colic, and to people of all ages to ease nausea and indigestion. It also has an expectorant and antispasmodics action that is helpful in countering period pain, asthma, whooping cough and bronchitis. The mild hormonal action of anise seeds may explain its ability to increase breast-milk production and its reputation for easing childbirth and treating impotence and frigidity. Anise essential oil is used externally to treat lice and scabies.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Reduces colic and flatulence, promotes digestion, antispasmodic.

ARNICA – Arnica montana (Compositae)
Arnica has been used extensively in European folk medicine. The German philosopher and poet Goethe (1749-1832), claimed arnica for ease his angina in old age. Herbalism and homeopathy use arnica extracts, ointments and compresses to reduce inflammation and pain from bruises, sprains, tendons, dislocations and swollen areas. Arnica improves the local blood supply and accelerates healing. It is anti-inflammatory and increases the rate of re-absorption of internal bleeding. The internal use of arnica is restricted to homeopathic dosages as it is potentially toxic.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Anti-inflammatory, germicide, muscular soreness, pain re-leaving.

ARROWROOT – Maranta arundinacea (Marantaceae)
Arrowroot is native to South America and the Caribbean. The local indigenous people use its root as a poultice for smallpox sores, and as an infusion for urinary infections. Arrowroot is used in herbal medicine in much the same manner as slippery elm (Ulmus Rubra), as a soothing demulcent and a nutrient of benefit in convalescence and for easing digestion. It helps to relieve acidity, indigestion and colic, and is mildly laxative. It may be applied as an ointment or poultice mixed with some other antiseptic herbs such as comfrey.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Anti-inflammatory, digestive, antiseptic.

ARTEMISIA, WORMWOOD – Artemisia absinthium (Compositae)
The name of this plant derives from its bitterness, from absinthia, the Roman word for “bitter”. This property is used for providing bitter taste to some well known beverages and liquors. Wormwood has a marked tonic effect on the stomach, the gallbladder and in adjusting weak digestive problems. It is used to expel roundworms and threadworms. By improving the functions of the digestive system it helps in many conditions, including anaemia. It is also a muscle relaxer occasionally used to treat rheumatism. The leaves of wormwood have antiseptic properties which may derive from the azulenes that the plant contains.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Bitter, carminative, muscle relaxer, antiseptic.

BASIL, HOLY BASIL – Ocimum sanctum (Labiatae)
Holy basil, like sweet (culinary) basil, comes from India where it is revered as a sacred herb. The Egyptians burned a mixture of basil and myrrh to appease their gods. Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) was introduced in Europe as a seasoning for food. The herb has very important medicinal properties – notably its ability to reduce blood sugar levels. It also prevents peptic ulcers and other stress related conditions like hypertension, colitis and asthma. Basil is also used to treat cold and reduce fever, congestion and joint pain. Due to its anti-bacterial and fungicide action, basil leaves are used on itching skin, insect biting and skin affections.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Lowers blood sugar levels, antispasmodic, analgesic, lowers blood pressure, reduces fever, fungicidal, anti-inflammatory.

BELLADONA, DEADLY NITIGHTSHADE – Atropa belladonna (Solanaceae)
Deadly nightshade is native to Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. Herba bella dona, or “herb of the beautiful lady” is known for its poisonous effects (belladonna increases heartbeat and can lead to death), like many other plants it is an important and beneficial remedy when used correctly. Belladonna contains atropine used in conventional medicine to dilate the pupils for eye examinations and as an anesthetic. In herbal medicine, deadly nightshade is mainly prescribed to relieve intestinal colic, to treat peptic ulcers and to relax distended organs, especially the stomach and intestine. Deadly nightshade is also used as an anaesthetic in conventional medicine.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Smooth muscle, antispasmodic, narcotic, reduces sweating, sedative.

BENZOIN GUM – Styrax benzoin (Styraceae)
Benzoin is a tree native to South-East Asia. Its trunk exudes a gum well known for its strong astringent and antiseptic action. For this reason it is used externally to fight tissue inflammation and disinfection of wounds. When taken internally, benzoin gum acts to settle griping pain, to stimulate coughing, and to disinfect the urinary tract. Benzoin gum is widely used in cosmetics as an antioxidant in oils, as a fixative in perfumes and as an additive to soaps. When steam inhaled, it helps healing sore throats, head and chest colds, asthma and bronchitis.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory.

BERGAMOT – Citrus bergamia syn. C. aurantium var. bergamia (Rutaceae)
Bergamot oil, expressed from the peel, assists in avoiding infectious diseases. In cosmetics it is used in preventing oily skin, acne, psoriasis and acne. The oil (or constituents of it) are sometimes added to sun-tanning oils. Bergamot oil is also used to relieve tension, relax muscle spasms and improve digestion.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Disinfectant, muscle relaxant.

BITTER ORANGE – Citrus aurantium (Rutaceae)
The bitter orange, native to tropical Asia, has provided food and medicine for thousands of years. Its oil contains flavonoids which are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal. Bitter orange juice is rich in vitamin C which helps the immune system. As an infusion, it helps to relieve fever, soothe headaches and lower fever. It yields neroli oil from its flowers, and the oil known as petitgrain from its leaves and young shoots. Both distillates are used extensively in perfumery. Orange flower water is a by-product of distillation and is used in perfumery and to flavor sweets and biscuits, as well as being used medicinally to reduce heart rate and palpitations, to encourage sleep and calm the digestive tract.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial, digestive.

BOLDO – Peumus boldus (Umbelliferae)
Boldo is a tree original from the Chilean Andes. It activates the secretion of saliva and gastric juices. Boldine, one of its constituents, induces the flow of bile as well as the total amount of solids that it excretes. Its protective action over the hepatic cells has been demonstrated “in vitro” and “in vivo”. Boldo stimulates liver activity and bile flow and is chiefly valued as a remedy for gallstones and liver or gallbladder pain. It is normally taken for a few weeks at a time, either as a tincture or infusion. Boldo also has antiseptic properties which help in combating cystitis.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Bile and liver activity stimulant, digestive.

CALENDULA, MARIGOLD – Calendula officinallis (Compositae)
Marigold is one of the best herbs for treating local skin problems. Infusions or decoctions of Calendula petals decrease the inflammation of sprains, stings, varicose,veins and other swellings and also soothes burns, sunburns, rashes and skin irritations. These remedies are excellent for inflamed and bruised skin, their antiseptic and healing properties helping to prevent the spread of infection and accelerate the healing. Marigold is also a cleansing and detoxifying herb, and the infusion and tincture are used to treat chronic infections. Taken internally, it has been used traditionally to promote the draining of swollen lymph glands such as tonsillitis.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Anti-inflammatory, astringent, heals wounds, antiseptic, detoxifying.

CAMPHOR – Cinnamomum camphora syn. Laurus camphora (Lauraceae)
Camphor trees are native to China and Japan and are cultivated for its wood for the extraction of camphor oil. Marco Polo was the first to note that the Chinese used camphor oil as a medicine, scent and embalming fluid. Camphor crystals have strong antiseptic, stimulant and antispasmodic properties and are applied externally as unguents or balms as a counter-irritant and analgesic liniment to relieve arthritic and rheumatic pains, neuralgia and back pain. It may also be applied to skin problems, such as cold sores and chilblains, and used as a chest rub for bronchitis and other chest infections.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Antiseptic, antispasmodic, analgesic, expectorant.

CARDAMOM – Elettaria cardamomum (Zingiberaceae)
Cardamom has been praised as a spice and medicine and used in ancient Egypt to make perfumes. It is an excellent remedy for many digestive problems, helping to soothe indigestion, dyspepsia, gastralgia, colon spasms and flatulence. It has an aromatic and pungent taste and combines well with other herbs and helps to disguise the less pleasant taste of other herbs.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Eases stomach pain, carminative, aromatic, antispasmodic.

CARDUS, MILK THISTLE, MARY THISTLE – Carduus marianus syn. Silybum marianum (Compositae)
Milk thistle is native to the Mediterranean and has been in use as a remedy for liver problems for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It is used in a whole range of liver and bladder conditions including hepatitis and cirrhosis. Recent research has confirmed traditional herbal knowledge, proving that the herb has a remarkable ability to protect the liver from damage resulting from alcoholic and other types of poisoning. Today, milk thistle is widely used in the West for the treatment of a range of liver conditions.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Digestive, liver tonic, stimulates secretion of bile, increases breast-milk production, antidepressant.

CELERY, SMALLAGE – Apium graveolens (Umbelliferae)
More familiar as a vegetable than as a medicine, celery find its main use in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and gout. Containing apiol, the seeds are also used as a urinary antiseptic. Celery is a good cleansing, diuretic herb, and the seeds are used specifically for arthritic complaints where there is an accumulation of waste products. The seeds also have a reputation as a carminative with a mild tranquilizing effect. The stems are less significant medicinally.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Anti-rheumatic, antispasmodic, diuretic, urinary antiseptic.

CHAMOMILE, GERMAN CHAMOMILE – Chamomilla recutita syn. Matricaria recutita (Compositae)
Chamomile grows wild in Europe and west Asia. Related species are found in North America and Africa. Its flowers help to ease indigestion, nervousness, depressions and headaches, being ideal for emotion related problems such as peptic ulcers, colitis, spastic colon and nervous indigestion. Chamomile’s essential oil have anti-inflammatory,anti-spasmodic and anti-microbial activity. It is an excellent herb for many digestive disorders and for nervous tension and irritability. Externally, it is used for sore skin and eczema. Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is a close relation, used in a similar way.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, relaxant, carminative, bitter, nervine.

CHICORY – Cicorium intybus (Compositae)
Chicory is native to Europe and have been cultivated through the ages. As a tea or extract, chicory root is a bitter digestive tonic that also increases bile flow and decrease inflammation. Its roasted root is commonly used as a coffee substitute. Chicory is an excellent mild bitter tonic for the liver and digestive tract. The root is therapeutically similar to dandelion root supporting the action of the stomach and liver and cleansing the urinary tract. Chicory is also taken for rheumatic conditions and gout, and as a mild laxative, one particularly appropriate for children. An infusion of the leaves and flowers also aids the digestion.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Digestive, liver tonic, anti-rheumatic, mild laxative.

CINNAMON – Cinnamomum verum syn. C. zeylanicum (Lauraceae)
Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, growing in tropical forest and being extensively cultivated throughout the tropical regions of the world. Cinnamon has a long history of use in India and was first used medicinally in Egypt and parts of Europe from about 500 BC. The infusion or powder is used for stomach pains and cramps. Traditionally, the herb was taken for colds, flu and digestive problems, and it is still used in much the same way today.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Warming stimulant, carminative, antispasmodic, antiseptic, anti-viral.

CLOVE – Eugenia caryophyllata syn. Syzgium aromaticum (Myrtaceae)
Clove trees are original from Indonesia. The dried flower buds, clove, are extensively used as spice. The buds, leaves and stems are used for the extractions of clove’s oil. Both the oil and the flower buds have been valued as a herbal medicine for a long time. The oil contains eugenol, a strong anaesthetic and atiseptic substance. Cloves are also well known for their antispasmodic and stimulative properties.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Antiseptic, mind and body stimulant, analgesic, antibacterial, carminative.

COMFREY, KNITBONE – Symphytum officinale (Boraginaceae)
Comfrey’s name derives from the Latin con firma, i.e. “with strength”, from the belief that it could heal broken bones. Comfrey leaves and roots contain allantoin, a cell multiplication agent that increases the healing of wounds. Today, it is still highly regarded for its healing properties. Externally it is used for rashes, wounds, inflammation and skin problems. Internally, comfrey has action over the digestive tract helping to cure ulcers and colitis. It is also used for a variety of respiratory problems.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Digestive problems, anti-inflammatory, wound healing, astringent.

CORIANDER – Coriandrum sativum (Umbelliferae)
Coriander use has a medicinal plant has been reported since 1500 B.C. both as a spice and as a medicine. It has now spread well beyond its native Mediterranean and Caucasian regions. It aids digestion, reduce flatulence and improves appetite. It helps relieving spasms within the gut and counters the effects of nervous tension. Coriander is also chewed to sweeten the breath, especially after consumption of garlic (Allium sativum). It is applied externally as a lotion for rheumatic pain. Coriander essential oil is used in the manufacture of perfumes, cosmetics and dentifrices.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Digestive, antispasmodic, anti-rheumatic.

CYMBOPOGON, LEMON GRASS – Cymbopogon citratus (Gramineae)

Native from Sri Lanka and South India, lemon grass is now widely cultivated in the tropical areas of America and Asia. Its oil is used as a culinary flavoring, a scent and medicine. Lemon grass is principally taken as a tea to remedy digestive problems diarrhea and stomach ache. It relaxes the muscles of the stomach and gut, relieves cramping pains and flatulence and is particularly suitable for children. In the Caribbean, lemon grass is primarily regarded as a fever-reducing herb. It is applied externally as a poultice or as diluted essential oil to ease pain and arthritis.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Digestive, antispasmodic, analgesic.

DAMIANA – Turnera diffusa syn. T. diffusa var. aphrodisiaca (Turneraceae)
Native from the Gulf of Mexico, damiana has an ancient reputation as an aphrodisiac and is an excellent remedy for the nervous system acting as a stimulant and tonic in cases of mild depression. Damiana has a strongly aromatic, slightly bitter taste. The leaves are used to flavor liqueurs and are taken in Mexico as a substitute for tea.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Nerve tonic, antidepressant, urinary antiseptic.

DANDELION – Taraxacum officinale (Compositae)

Occurring naturally in Asia, Dandelion is now a common plant everywhere. Its medicinal virtues were probably introduced in Europe by the Arabs in the 10th Century. Both the Persians and the East Indians used it for liver complaints. Known principally as a weed, dandelion has an astonishing range of health benefits. The leaves, which can be eaten in salads, are a powerful diuretic. The roots act as a “blood purifier” that helps both kidneys and the liver to remove impurities from the blood. This effect seems to be due to its potassium content. It also acts like a mild laxative and improves appetite and digestion.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Diuretic, digestive, antibiotic, bitter.

DILL – Anethum graveolens syn. Peucedanum graveolens (Umbelliferae)
An ancient Egyptian remedy in the Ebers papyrus (c. 1500 BC) recommends dill as one of the ingredients in a pain-killing mixture. The Romans knew dill as anethum, which latter became “anise”. Dill has always been considered a remedy for the stomach, relieving wind and calming the digestion. Dill’s essential oil relieves intestinal spasms and griping and helps to settle colic, hence it is often used in gripe water mixtures. Chewing the seeds improves bad breath. Dill makes a useful addition to cough, cold and flu remedies, and is a mild diuretic. Dill increases milk production, and when taken regularly by nursing mothers, helps to prevent colic in their babies.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Digestive, antibacterial, antispasmodic, diuretic.

EUCALYPTUS, BLUE GUM – Eucalyptus globulus (Myrtaceae)
Eucalyptus is native from Australia, where it comprises more than 75% of all trees. A traditional aboriginal remedy, eucalyptus is a powerful antiseptic used all over the world for relieving coughs and colds, sore throats and other infections. The leaves cool the body and relive fever. Inhaling the vapors of the essential oils heated in water, clears sinus and bronchial congestions. Eucaliptol, one of the substances found in the essential oil, is one of the main constituents of the many existing commercial formulas of chest rubs for colds. The essential oil has also strong anti-biotic, anti-viral and anti-fungal action. Eucalyptus is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter cold remedies.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Antiseptic, expectorant, stimulates local blood flow, anti-fungal.

FENNEL – Foeniculum vulgare (Umbelliferae)
Native to the Mediterranean, fennel has spread to surrounding areas, including India. Known to the Greeks and Romans, is was used as food, spice and medicine. The primary use of fennel seeds is to relieve flatulence, but they also settle colic, stimulate the appetite and digestion. Fennel is also diuretic and anti-inflammatory. Like anise (Pimpinella anisum) and caraway (Carum carvi), it has a calming effect on bronchitis and coughs. An infusion of the seeds may be taken as a gargle for sore throats and as a mild expectorant. Fennel increases breast-milk production and the herb is still used as an eye wash for sore eyes and conjunctivitis. Essential oil from the sweet variety is used for its digestive and relaxing properties.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Digestive, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory.

GARLIC – Allium sativum (Liliaceae)
Original from Central Asia, garlic is now cultivated worldwide. It was widely known by the ancients, being found in Egyptian tombs and used by Greeks and Romans. Recognized for its pungent odor and taste, garlic is a powerful home medicine for the treatment for a host of health problems. It is one of the most effective anti-biotic plants available, acting on bacteria, viruses and alimentary parasites. It counters many infections, including those of the nose, throat and chest. Garlic is also known to reduce cholesterol, helps circulatory disorders, such as high blood pressure, and lower blood sugar levels, making it useful in cases of late-onset diabetes.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Antibiotic, expectorant, diaphoretic, hypotensive, antispasmodic, expels worms.

GENTIAN – Gentiana lutea (Gentianaceae)
Native to Europe and Asia Minor, gentian properties as a medicinal plant go back to 180 B.C. Gentian is a powerful bitter that stimulates appetite and promotes digestion through the increased production of saliva, gastric juices and bile. It also decreases gastric inflammation and kill worms. Gentian is also used to treat liver and spleen problems and to promote menstruation. Medicinally, gentian strengthens a weak or under-active digestive system.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Bitter, digestive stimulant, eases stomach pain.

GINGER – Zingiber officinali (Zingiberaceae)
Ginger is original from Southeast Asia and is now cultivated in most tropical countries. Its citations in ancient texts go back to the 4th century B.C. The Greeks imported it from the East centuries before Discorides recorded its use in the 1st century A.D. Familiar as a spice and flavoring, ginger is also one of the world’s best medicines. The Chinese consider ginger as an important drug to treat cold and encourage sweating. Ginger brings relief to digestion, stimulates circulation, reduce headaches and kill intestinal parasites.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Diaphoretic, carminative, circulatory stimulant, inhibits coughing, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic.

GINKGO – Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgoaceae)
Ginkgo is thought to be the oldest tree on the planet, first growing about 190 million years ago. It is probably native to China, although there are no wild trees remaining. Though long used as a medicine in its native China, its therapeutic actions have only recently been researched. Traditionally known as an anti-microbial and anti-tubercular action, it has now been shown that ginkgo as a profound activity on brain function and cerebral circulation. This action is useful to prevent dizziness, tinnitus, short-term memory loss, depression and other symptoms related to poor brain circulation. Its effect on poor circulation also used to treat other related disorders like diabetes, hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Ginkgo is also valuable for asthma.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Circulatory stimulant and tonic, anti-asthmatic, antispasmodic, anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory.

GINSENG – Panax ginseng (Araliaceae)
Ginseng is the most famous Chinese herb of all. It is native to north-eastern China, eastern Russia and Korea. The related species Panax quinquefolious, occurs in the eastern United States and Canada. Ginseng has ancient and rich history as a medicinal plant and has been praised for its remarkable therapeutic benefits for about 7,000 years. Its value was so great that wars were fought for control of the forests in which it thrived. An Arabian physician brought ginseng back to Europe in the 9th century, yet its ability to improve stamina and resistance to stress became common knowledge in the West only from the 18th century. Ginseng increases mental and physical efficiency and resistance to stress and disease. It often shows a dual response like sedating or stimulating the central nervous system according to the condition it is being taken to treat. In the West, ginseng is regarded as a life-enhancing tonic.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Tonic, stimulant, physical and mental re vitalizer.

GUMPLANT – Grindelia camporum syn. G. robusta var. rigida (Compositae)
Gumplant is native to the south-western US and Mexico and was used by Native Americans to treat bronchial problems and also skin afflictions such as reactions to poison ivy. The plant’s medicinal value was not recognized by traditional practitioners until the mid-l9th century. Gumplant was officially recognized in the Pharmacopoeia of the United States from 1882 to 1926. Its anti-spasmodic, expectorant and hypotensive actions find applications in treating heart conditions, asthmatic and bronchial conditions. It has been employed in the treatment of wooping cough, hay fever and cystitis. Externally in relieves and heals skin irritations and burns.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Anti-spasmodic, expectorant, hypotensive.

HAMAMELIS, WITCH HAZEL – Hamamamelis virginiana (Hamamelidaceae)
Witch hazel is native to eastern North America, from New England to west Minnesota. It was a traditional remedy of many native North American peoples. Witch hazel acts mostly on the veins and circulation. For this reason it has been used to decrease the inflammation and pain of bruises, sore muscles, bleeding, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, phlebitis, and insect bites. American indians used poultices soaked in a decoction of bark to treat tumors and inflammations, especially of the eye, and took the herb internally for hemorrhaging and heavy menstrual bleeding. Hammamelis was introduced in Europe on the18th century.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Astringent, anti-inflammatory, stops external and internal bleeding.

HAWTHORN – Crataegus oxyacantha & C. monogyna (Rosaceae)
Hawthorn is native of Europe with close species found in North Africa and western Asia. The tree has been known and appreciated throughout the ages, by the ancient Greeks, Arabs and Europeans. Hawthorn is an extremely valuable medicinal herb. In the Middle Ages it was as a symbol of hope and taken for many ailments. It has been shown that its effects are only present when a whole plant preparation is used. Its applications are: the loss of cardiac function, feelings of congestions and oppression in the hearth region. Western herbalists consider it literally to be a “food for the heart”, increasing blood flow to the heart muscles and restoring normal heart beat. Recent research has confirmed the validity of these uses.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Cardiotonic, diuretic, astringent, dilates blood vessels, relaxant, antioxidant.

HYSSOP – Hyssopus officinalis (Labiatae)
Hyssop is found native in the Mediterranean region an is commercially cultivated in Europe, Russia and India. In the past, hyssop was so highly esteemed it was regarded as a virtual cure-all. Currently an undervalued medicinal herb, hyssop is potentially useful as it is both calming and tonic. It has a large spectrum of uses which are due to its anti-spasmodic action. It is used in coughs, bronchitis, tight-chestedness, respiratory catarrh, sore throat and common cold. As a sedative, hyssop is a useful remedy against asthma in both children and adults, especially where the condition is exacerbated by mucus congestion. Hyssop is used to flavor various liqueurs, including Chartreuse.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Anti-spasmodic, expectorant, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, hepatic.

JASMINE – Jasminum grandiflorum (Oleaceae)
Jasmine is probably native of Iran and is now well known and cultivated in Asia and Europe where it was in the l6th century, mainly as a source of perfume. Although it is rarely used today in the western World, flower syrups were used for coughs and leaf tea to rinse sore eyes and wounds. Jasmine flowers make a calming and sedative infusion, taken to relieve tension. The oil is considered antidepressant and relaxing. It is used externally to soothe dry and sensitive skin.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Aromatic, anti-spasmodic, expectorant.

JUNIPER – Juniperus communis (Cupressaceae)
Juniper is found in Europe, south-western Asia and North America. Juniper is tonic, diuretic and strongly antiseptic within the urinary tract. It is a valuable remedy for cystitis, and helps relieve fluid retention, but should be avoided in cases of kidney disease. In the digestive system, juniper is warming and settling, easing colic and supporting the function of the stomach. Taken internally or applied externally, juniper is helpful in the treatment of chronic arthritis, gout and rheumatic conditions. Applied externally as a diluted essential oil, it has a slightly warming effect on the skin and is thought to promote the removal of waste products from underlying tissues.
HEALING PROPERTIES: Diuretic, anti-microbial, carminative, anti-rheumatic.

 

From the Website, Coven of the Goddess.com

 

 

Whispering Woods Ogham Course – Lesson Two – First Aicme

Whispering Woods Ogham Course
Lesson Two – First Aicme

og-side

 

The most familiar Ogham system in use today is the Tree Ogham. The Tree Ogham is split up into; eight Chieftain Trees, eight peasant trees and eight shrub trees. In lessons two through five we will take a look at each group of five and their associations. We can develop a deeper understanding of each letter by understanding its connections with each tree.
1st Aicme:
Ogham Symbol Sound/Letter Name Associated Tree
Beith – pronounced (BETH) Birch (Betula pendula Roth)
Beth (BEH), birch – The silver birch is the most common birch in much of Europe. It is one of the first trees to colonize an area after a mature forest is harvested; this is probably a large part of its symbolic connection with new beginnings. It grows up to 100 feet high, but is more often found in spreading clumps on sandy soils. The common birch (B. pubescens Ehrh.) is almost as widespread as the silver birch, but grows primarily on acid or peaty soils; it can reach 65 feet in height.
The word “birch” derives from a root meaning ‘bright’ or ‘shining’ Because of its connection to renewal; the birch has been utilized in many cultures. In Scandinavia, switches of birch are used on the body to stimulate the process of purification in the sauna. In ancient Britain the birch rod was used as a rod to purify the criminal of their misdeeds, and in some cases it was used to expel evil spirits from those deemed insane.In many cultures, including the Shamanic beliefs, the birch is seen as the “Axis Mundi”, (Cosmic World Tree). Often, baby cradles were made out of birch because of its power to drive out evil influences and its association with renewal.
Luis – pronounced (LWEESH) Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
Luis (LWEESH), rowan – the rowan, or mountain ash is related to serviceberries. The red berries were historically used to lure birds into traps, and the specific epithet “aucupari’a” comes from words meaning “to catch a bird”. Rowans thrive in poor soils and colonize disturbed areas. In some parts of Europe they are most common around ancient settlements, either because of their weedy nature or because they were introduced by humans. Rowans flower in May. They grow to 50 feet and are members of the Rose family (Rosaceae). They are cultivated in North America, especially in the northeast.
The rowan is sometimes called “the Whispering Tree” because it is thought that the tree held secrets. The rowan is also associated with protection against witchcraft and bad luck. Rowan twigs were placed above doorways and barns to protect the inhabitants against misfortune and evil spirits.
Rowan stakes were driven into corpses to stop their ghosts from visiting, especially when they died from acts of violence. The Druids used rowan fires with incantations to summon spirits to help them portend in forthcoming battles.
Scottish tradition does not allow the use of the Rowan tree’s timber, bark, leaves or flowers, nor the cutting of these trees, except for sacred purposes under extenuating circumstances.
Rowan is also called the Witch Tree, or Wicken Tree, and can be used for divining precious metals.
Fearn – pronounced (FAIR-n) Alder (Alnus glutinosa Gaertner)
Fearn (FAIR-n), alder – The common alder is often found along lowland rivers, where it grows with aspens and willows. Like willows, alders sprout from stumps–this allows them to regenerate after heavy flooding. In protected sites they may grow to 65 feet tall. Their leaves are more blunt-tipped than most North American alders, which look more like the grey alder (A. incana (L.) Moench). Like ashes, European alders are not widely cultivated in North American (they are often sold as black alders), but several native species are. Alders are members of the Birch family (Betulaceae).
The old superstition of “whistling up the wind” comes from making a whistle out of Alder.
Alder figures into a couple of ancient mythologies. Scandinavian mythology tells us the first woman was fashioned from an Alder trunk. In Irish mythology the first man was said to be made from an Alder.
The Alder is known as the “King of the Fairies”.
In Homer’s Odyssey Alder is named the first of the three trees of resurrection. The two other are White Poplar and Cypress.
In Denmark and Germany, the spirit of the Alder tree was said to carry children off to the Otherworld. An example of this belief can be found in Goethe’s ballad “The Erl-konig” (The Alder King).
Sail – pronounced (SHAiLuh) Willow (Salix spp.)
Saille (SAHL-yuh), willow – Like North America, Europe is home to a large number of willow species Two common tree willows are the white willow (Salix alba) named for the whitish undersides of its leaves, and the crack willow (Salix fragilis) for the propensity of its branches to “crack” off (probably another adaptation to flooding). Both species grow along with poplars and alders along lowland rivers. They can reach 80 feet in height, and they both vigorously sprout from stumps. The white willow is sometimes grown in cultivation in North America. Willows are members of the Willow family (Salicaceae).
The Willow is often the symbol for the Ovate Grade of Druid. According to Druidic mysteries, two scarlet snake eggs were hidden within the Willow. The Universe was hatched from these two eggs, one containing the Sun, the other the Earth, relating to both cosmic birth and the birth of mankind. Traditionally, in spring rituals, these were replaced by hen’s eggs, colored scarlet for the Sun and eaten at Beltane. This rite later became the Christian celebration of Easter.
In Sumer, 4000 BCE, Ishtar’s predecessor, Belili, was known as the Willow Mother.
Orpheus, the poet, was said to have received his Gift by touching the Willows in a grove sacred to Persephone. Brighid has Her Fire festival, Imbolc, or Brigantia, during the Willow month
The Willow tree has been associated with death, grief and cemeteries, the leaves themselves symbolizing unrequited love or the loss of a lover. The leaf has also been worn as a charm to protect against jealousy.
Willow has been used in the Sacred Pipes and the tobacco blends of many Native Americans because it is thought that it is most effective in carrying messages to the Great Spirit.
Nion – (NEE-uhn) Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
Nion (NEE-uhn), Ash is a major tree of lowland forests in much of Europe, along with oaks and beeches. It grows to 130 feet in open sites, with a broad crown reminiscent of American elm trees. Ash was and still is an important timber tree, and is a traditional material for the handle of a besom; it is also a popular wood for wands. The common ash is occasionally cultivated in North America, and similar native ash species are widely grown as street trees. Ashes are members of the Olive family (Oleaceae).
The wood of the Ash is thought to be enchanted and was used by the Druids to fashion wands and spears.
At one time, children would be passed through the branches of an Ash in order that they might be protected and to cure them from illness. Ash leaves were placed under pillows to induce prophetic dreams or placed in bowls of water to ward off ailments.
The Celts believed that the Ash originated in the Great Deep or the Undersea Land of Tethys. It belongs to the trilogy of sacred Irish trees (the other two being the Oak and Hawthorn) and is said to offer particular protection from death by drowning.
The seeds of the Ash have long been used in love divination. If the seeds did not appear on a certain tree, then its owner was thought to have been unlucky in love or a future venture would be unsuccessful.
In Northern England, it was believed that if a woman placed an Ash leaf in her left shoe, then she would be fortunate enough to immediately meet her future spouse. In Greece, the Ash was sacred to the Sea God Poseidon.
In Norse mythology, the Ash is known as “Yggdrasil” (Cosmic World Tree). It was from this tree that Odin hung upside down from for nine days in order to obtain the runes. Also in Norse legend, it was an Ash which spanned the universe, with its roots in Hel and its boughs supporting the Heavens and Earth at its center.
In Celtic lore, the Ash connected the three circles of existence; Abred, Gwynedd and Ceugant.
Quiz:
1. Stakes from which tree was used to stop ghosts from visiting?

2. The Celts believe that the Ash originated from where?

3. Whistling up the wind is associated with which tree?

4. Bright or shining refers to which tree?

 

Source:
Researcher & Author: Crick

Website: The Whispering Woods

Wicca & Witchcraft – The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide

WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT
————————————
The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide
Steven S. Sadleir

Wicca, or Witchcraft is the old religion of Europe, which apparently evolved from Druidism.  Wiccan is generally a term applied to a “Wise One” or “Magician”, and Wicca is the practice of “magic”, which is the application and utilization of natural laws.  As Witchcraft competed as a religion with Christianity (the ‘new’ religion) in the Christianized Western World, witchcraft became repressed as a form of paganism (i.e., a Primative Teaching) and was given an evil stigma, and therefore was not practiced openly.  However, with the repeal of the English Witchcraft Act in 1951, many covens, or congregations, have opened up to the public and many new groups have formed. There are now dozens of Wiccan orgnaizations in the United States and Europe, with perhaps, thousands of active Wiccans and Witches.  Most witches practicing the craft publicly are considered ‘white’ witches, that is, they yse their knowledge for good ends and practice the Wiccan Creed: “Ye hurt none, do as ye will.”  Black Witches (which has recieved most of the notoriety, but are considered a minority) are generally not visible to the public and use thier knowledge for selfish or evil means.  Satanism is NOT considered a form of witchcraft, but was created by people who believe there is a Satan, or Devil.

Wicca/Witchcraft generally involves some form of God or Goddess worship, and many involve the workings of spiritual guides as well.  Wicca/Witchcraft is a very individualized religion, and each person chooses his or her own deities to worship.  Generally, the supreme being is considered ‘genderless’ and is comprised of many aspects that may be identified as masculine or feminine in
nature, and thus a God or Goddess.  Originally, the horned God of hunting represented the maculine facet of the deity, whereas the female qualities were represented in the fertility Goddess.  The Gods and Goddesses from the personalities of the supreme being, and are a reflection of the attributes that worshippers seek to emulate.  Wiccans may draw upon the ancient civilizations of the Druids, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, or other polytheistic cultures to commune with the particular aspect of the deity that they identify with.  Some favorite gods include Osiris, Pan, Cennunnos, and Bacchus.  Facotie Goddesses include Isis, Caridwen, Rhea, Selene, and Diana.

Wiccans generally observe the four greater Sabbaths of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Laghnasadh; and the lesser Sabbaths – the Spring and autumn equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices.  There celebrations are typically free-spirited, and are sometimes held ‘skyclad’ (naked) or in various styles of robes.  Other services include handfasting (marriage), handparting (divorce) and wiccaning (birth rite).  Regular meetings, called Esbats are also held, at which magic and healing are performed.  Wiccans/witches meet in small groups (up to twelve) called a coven, whcih typically join with other covens to form a ‘Grove’.

Rituals are typically held outside and consist of forma a circle and erecting the temple (consecrating the circle); invoking, praising, and soliciting assistance from gods, goddesses, and elementals; observing the change of season and energies represented by the various seasons; singing; dancing; ‘cakes and ale’ (sharing of bread and wine); and clearing the temple. Personal practive includes meditation and prayer, divination, development of personal will and psychic abilities through spells and various forms of healing.  Most Wiccans/witches have altars where they burn candles and incense and practice their rites.  To perform thier rites, other tools of the craft are used, such as an athame, yag-disk or, seaux (a handmade and consecrated knife), a sword, a wand, and sometimes special jewelry, amulets or talismans (magically empowered objects).  Sometimes these objects are inscribed with magical writings. Joining a coven or grove typically involves an initiation, which is stylized by each individual group, but generally involves the confirmation that the initiate understands the principals and an oath of secrecy.

Repudiating Bad Wiccan History

Repudiating Bad Wiccan History

Author: Zan Fraser 

The problem is that we Wiccans have inherited two sets of history. One is the history shared by the persons of the world around us, recognized as an academic and intellectual discipline, and based upon consensus agreement as to demonstrable facts. The other is what I call the “Wicca Fantasy-Land” version of European history.

Wicca Fantasy-Land is without question a colorful and dramatic place, dominated as it is by a malignant and pervasive Institution of Villainy (the medieval Church) , countered by a bold and oppressed culture of Paganism, and by Pagans who band into defiant pockets reminiscent of the organizers of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising or the French Resistance during World War II.

There are English kings who secretly keep to the Old Pagan Ways and who sympathetically guard and preserve Pagans; there are even English kings who bravely end their own lives as a Magical Sacrifice to the Old Gods to preserve the Ancient Ways. There are gallant women like Aradia and Joan of Arc who lead armed forays against the evil forces of the Inquisition to liberate captured Pagans. And there are countless devout Witches who meet in covens of thirteen, under threat of mortal danger, to worship the Horned God of Witches and to count out the seasons of the year.

It makes a really good story, with the disadvantage of not being true- or at least not really true in the manner in which it is invariably presented.

Wicca Fantasy-Land made its way into our collective history at a time well before there was even Wicca.

Margaret Murray was a respected British Egyptologist at the turn of the twentieth century, whose notes and observations upon archeological digs in Egypt are apparently still thought worthwhile. In the 19-teens, she turned her attentions to European history, producing The Witch-Cult in Western Europe in the early 1920s. Here she offered the startling (for its time) opinion that those called “Witches” during the medieval period were actually continuing the old Pagan Faith of Europe, meeting in covens of thirteen under a Master or High Priest who impersonated the God of Witches- the Horned Forest-God called Pan or Cernunnos.

The Church demonized this Deity into the Christian Devil and (according to Murray’s thinking) the rest of the Middle Ages (including the 300 years Burning Times) represented an on-going series of efforts on the part of the Church to destroy this stubborn Paganism. Murrray went on to elaborate upon her theories in two subsequent books- The God of the Witches and The Divine King in England.

Discussing Murray can be tricky, because she produced some penetrating insight into medieval history as it pertains to Witches (and therefore to the spiritual, if not actual genealogical, descendents of medieval Witches- modern Wiccans) . Her basic observation- that Paganism did not die out suddenly and completely at the Conversion of Europe, but actually continued for some time after, sometimes under threat of violence (Charlemagne proscribed death for any Saxons who continued to worship the sun, trees, and rocks) – was revelatory for its time, but is now understood as a given to researchers of the Middle Ages (especially researchers of the Pagan variety) .

Her insight that the European Devil represents a demonized version of the Horned Forest-God (known by many names, in endless local variations) was likewise a thunderbolt of perception, now also part of the bedrock of Pagan and Wiccan medieval understanding. For reasons such as these, the eminent and formidable historian Anne Llewellyn Barstow (in Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts Pandora Publishing, 1994, p. 83) credits Murray for her detection of “ancient ‘folk religious’ practices throughout the Western witchcraft material.”

Barstow also finds in comparative studies with Russian sources support for Murray’s basic theory that Satan represents in perverse form the “lost God (s) ” of Western Europe. Likewise, in his Introduction to Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath (Pantheon Books, 1991, p. 9) the brilliant researcher Carlo Ginzburg discerns a “core of truth” and a “correct intuition” to Murray’s work.

Be this as it may- Murray is now considered discredited in the academic and scholastic world. Every serious historian on the subject throughout the twentieth century has concluded that she pushed her theories far too far- well beyond what evidence supports. Beginning with Harvard professor Kittredge in the latter 1920s, and continuing through Robbins, Briggs, Cohn, Russell, Kors and Peters, and including Barstow and Ginzburg- all have found that Murray finally reached to absurd and unsustainable lengths.

The decisive nail was struck in the early 1960s, with Elliot Rose’s A Razor for a Goat: A Discussion of Certain Problems in the History of Witchcraft and Diabolism (University of Toronto Press, 1962) , wherein he systemically blew apart Murray’s thesis bit by bit.

For the better part of the twentieth century, however, Murray was widely held almost as a sibyl breathing discernment into the murky cauldron of medieval history- so much so that it was her article on “witchcraft” that appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica in the 1950s, when Gerald Gardner was writing Witchcraft Today.

Desiring to include an account of what many at the time thought “true” Witchcraft history in his volume, Gardner turned to Murray’s works. Therefore (at a time when they were already called into question) , Murray’s theories and highly unique recounting of European Witchcraft made their way into the founding book of the current Wiccan and Neo-Pagan movement.

Through Gardner, tales of the Divine Sacrifice of William Rufus and the Witcheries of the Countess of Salisbury (mistress to the secretly Pagan Edward III) circulated into the publishing of Doreen Valiente and Patricia Crowther, thence outside the Gardnerian line to Sybil Leek and Alex Sanders, thence to the Farrars- thence to Wicca at large.

Despite the fact that Rose devoted a special chapter in A Razor for a Goat (in the 1960s, one notes) to Gerald Gardner’s assertions of medieval “Wiccan history” as regards Murray’s interpretations, Margaret Murray’s “Wicca Fantasy-Land” version of European history continues to circulate throughout American Paganism. How else to explain the presentation offered at a well-known gathering this summer, wherein one who advertised himself by his Third-Degree Initiatory Tradition status, as well as by (it must be admitted) his forth-coming Llewellyn publication, produced a talk chock-full not only of outright mistakes (he incorrectly placed Edward III and the Burning Times in the 1200s; Edward lived in the 1300s and the Burnings do not start until the 1400s) , but of pure, unreconstructed Murrayism- the same Murrayism discredited decisively since the 1960s.

Despite treating his audience to a opening establishing the unique and special quality of Third-Degree Initiates- indeed ho-ho-ho-ing the very idea that a non-Initiated Wiccan bereft of Initiatory Training even counted as a “Wiccan” (thereby specifically invalidating self-directed, self-Initiated Wiccans such as myself) and referring at one point to himself and his “peers” with a smug self-regard that frankly rankled me- and despite much reference to his forth-coming Llewellyn volume (apparently on a subject different from that of this particular talk, giving me every confidence that it will be a far-better researched project) – I found the gentleman’s presentation to be an alarming mish-mash of outright error and wild “Wiccan Faerey-tales, ” offered without substantiation as genuine history.

The Countess of Salisbury was a Witch! Edward III founded the Order of the Garter as a secret Witches’ Coven! He charged its knights with the protection of Witches against the Inquisition! – (Despite that fact that Murray’s fanciful re-interpretation of the Order of the Garter is one of the areas specifically disproved by Rose, with no one presenting persuasive evidence to the contrary since- and despite the fact that the Inquisition was never really that powerful in England- and despite the fact that few people actually cared about punishing Witches in the 1300s, in many ways the last truly Magical era of the Middle Ages.)

The gentleman continued- the Knights Templars were closet Ceremonial Magicians, preserving the Secrets of Magic from the Inquisition! – (Never mind that the Knights broadcast themselves as a Christian order akin to monks, and were perceived as such throughout Europe) . The Masons delivered the Templars from destruction, saving the ancient wisdom of Ceremonial Magic! (This last contains all sorts of mistakes.

It ignores the historical reality that the Templars were deliberately taken unawares, leaving very few to be “saved”; that the majority of the Templars were without question killed; that the reason for their assault was without question the seizure of their properties, rather than an effort to destroy Ceremonial Magic; that the Masons as such do not come into existence until the early 1700s; and finally that there is no need for the Templars to preserve Ceremonial Magic, as Ceremonial Magic is preserved very nicely in the medieval grimoires of Bacon and Agrippa and Paracelsus.)

The part of the man’s presentation that bothered me the most was his projection of modern (Initiatory) Wicca into the medieval past. Wiccan Witch-Queens wear garters- therefore one can tell that the Countess of Salisbury was a Wiccan Witch-Queen, as she wore a garter! (Never mind that many people of the fourteenth century probably wore garters as a means of keeping their leggings straight.) Initiatory Wiccans maintain Books of Shadow- therefore medieval Witches kept Books of Shadow! – Despite the fact that few medieval Witches could probably read or write.

These Books of Shadow were in constant danger of being destroyed by the Inquisition, erasing forever the secrets of Witchery- never mind that many, many grimoires are plainly in circulation and that the “secrets of the Witches’ Craft” (far from being so closely guarded as to be in danger of vanishing) are in fact well-known enough in Elizabethan England (I assume through the avenue of oral folk-culture) that playwrights such as Shakespeare and Jonson compose plays around them.

My point finally is not to diss a bad historical presentation, but to decry the situation whereby such outmoded stuff can be peddled as a “Wiccan History-lesson.” We Wiccans are in the kind of odd position that knowledgeable observers have actually discredited much of what we assert and allege as our “Historical past”. If our movement is to receive respect in the world, we need a history that can withstand scrutiny, as well as movement-participants educated enough to separate fact from plausible supposition from outright nonsense.

Regrettably this means we must abandon a lot of what our founding elders declared to us was our past; we must locate ourselves in the genuine records of medieval Europe established by scholars such as Kittredge and Robbins and Russell (et al) .

We must insist upon elders who can deliver a reasonable review of European Witch-History and we must foreswear the colorful (but unsupportable) Murayite/ Gardnerian “Wicca Faerey-tales” that have hitherto been our history tomes.

Repudiating Bad Wiccan History

Repudiating Bad Wiccan History

Author:   Zan Fraser  

The problem is that we Wiccans have inherited two sets of history. One is the history shared by the persons of the world around us, recognized as an academic and intellectual discipline, and based upon consensus agreement as to demonstrable facts. The other is what I call the “Wicca Fantasy-Land” version of European history.

Wicca Fantasy-Land is without question a colorful and dramatic place, dominated as it is by a malignant and pervasive Institution of Villainy (the medieval Church) , countered by a bold and oppressed culture of Paganism, and by Pagans who band into defiant pockets reminiscent of the organizers of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising or the French Resistance during World War II.

There are English kings who secretly keep to the Old Pagan Ways and who sympathetically guard and preserve Pagans; there are even English kings who bravely end their own lives as a Magical Sacrifice to the Old Gods to preserve the Ancient Ways. There are gallant women like Aradia and Joan of Arc who lead armed forays against the evil forces of the Inquisition to liberate captured Pagans. And there are countless devout Witches who meet in covens of thirteen, under threat of mortal danger, to worship the Horned God of Witches and to count out the seasons of the year.

It makes a really good story, with the disadvantage of not being true- or at least not really true in the manner in which it is invariably presented.

Wicca Fantasy-Land made its way into our collective history at a time well before there was even Wicca.

Margaret Murray was a respected British Egyptologist at the turn of the twentieth century, whose notes and observations upon archeological digs in Egypt are apparently still thought worthwhile. In the 19-teens, she turned her attentions to European history, producing The Witch-Cult in Western Europe in the early 1920s. Here she offered the startling (for its time) opinion that those called “Witches” during the medieval period were actually continuing the old Pagan Faith of Europe, meeting in covens of thirteen under a Master or High Priest who impersonated the God of Witches- the Horned Forest-God called Pan or Cernunnos.

The Church demonized this Deity into the Christian Devil and (according to Murray’s thinking) the rest of the Middle Ages (including the 300 years Burning Times) represented an on-going series of efforts on the part of the Church to destroy this stubborn Paganism. Murrray went on to elaborate upon her theories in two subsequent books- The God of the Witches and The Divine King in England.

Discussing Murray can be tricky, because she produced some penetrating insight into medieval history as it pertains to Witches (and therefore to the spiritual, if not actual genealogical, descendents of medieval Witches- modern Wiccans) . Her basic observation- that Paganism did not die out suddenly and completely at the Conversion of Europe, but actually continued for some time after, sometimes under threat of violence (Charlemagne proscribed death for any Saxons who continued to worship the sun, trees, and rocks) – was revelatory for its time, but is now understood as a given to researchers of the Middle Ages (especially researchers of the Pagan variety) .

Her insight that the European Devil represents a demonized version of the Horned Forest-God (known by many names, in endless local variations) was likewise a thunderbolt of perception, now also part of the bedrock of Pagan and Wiccan medieval understanding. For reasons such as these, the eminent and formidable historian Anne Llewellyn Barstow (in Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts Pandora Publishing, 1994, p. 83) credits Murray for her detection of “ancient ‘folk religious’ practices throughout the Western witchcraft material.”

Barstow also finds in comparative studies with Russian sources support for Murray’s basic theory that Satan represents in perverse form the “lost God (s) ” of Western Europe. Likewise, in his Introduction to Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath (Pantheon Books, 1991, p. 9) the brilliant researcher Carlo Ginzburg discerns a “core of truth” and a “correct intuition” to Murray’s work.

Be this as it may- Murray is now considered discredited in the academic and scholastic world. Every serious historian on the subject throughout the twentieth century has concluded that she pushed her theories far too far- well beyond what evidence supports. Beginning with Harvard professor Kittredge in the latter 1920s, and continuing through Robbins, Briggs, Cohn, Russell, Kors and Peters, and including Barstow and Ginzburg- all have found that Murray finally reached to absurd and unsustainable lengths.

The decisive nail was struck in the early 1960s, with Elliot Rose’s A Razor for a Goat: A Discussion of Certain Problems in the History of Witchcraft and Diabolism (University of Toronto Press, 1962) , wherein he systemically blew apart Murray’s thesis bit by bit.

For the better part of the twentieth century, however, Murray was widely held almost as a sibyl breathing discernment into the murky cauldron of medieval history- so much so that it was her article on “witchcraft” that appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica in the 1950s, when Gerald Gardner was writing Witchcraft Today.

Desiring to include an account of what many at the time thought “true” Witchcraft history in his volume, Gardner turned to Murray’s works. Therefore (at a time when they were already called into question) , Murray’s theories and highly unique recounting of European Witchcraft made their way into the founding book of the current Wiccan and Neo-Pagan movement.

Through Gardner, tales of the Divine Sacrifice of William Rufus and the Witcheries of the Countess of Salisbury (mistress to the secretly Pagan Edward III) circulated into the publishing of Doreen Valiente and Patricia Crowther, thence outside the Gardnerian line to Sybil Leek and Alex Sanders, thence to the Farrars- thence to Wicca at large.

Despite the fact that Rose devoted a special chapter in A Razor for a Goat (in the 1960s, one notes) to Gerald Gardner’s assertions of medieval “Wiccan history” as regards Murray’s interpretations, Margaret Murray’s “Wicca Fantasy-Land” version of European history continues to circulate throughout American Paganism. How else to explain the presentation offered at a well-known gathering this summer, wherein one who advertised himself by his Third-Degree Initiatory Tradition status, as well as by (it must be admitted) his forth-coming Llewellyn publication, produced a talk chock-full not only of outright mistakes (he incorrectly placed Edward III and the Burning Times in the 1200s; Edward lived in the 1300s and the Burnings do not start until the 1400s) , but of pure, unreconstructed Murrayism- the same Murrayism discredited decisively since the 1960s.

Despite treating his audience to a opening establishing the unique and special quality of Third-Degree Initiates- indeed ho-ho-ho-ing the very idea that a non-Initiated Wiccan bereft of Initiatory Training even counted as a “Wiccan” (thereby specifically invalidating self-directed, self-Initiated Wiccans such as myself) and referring at one point to himself and his “peers” with a smug self-regard that frankly rankled me- and despite much reference to his forth-coming Llewellyn volume (apparently on a subject different from that of this particular talk, giving me every confidence that it will be a far-better researched project) – I found the gentleman’s presentation to be an alarming mish-mash of outright error and wild “Wiccan Faerey-tales, ” offered without substantiation as genuine history.

The Countess of Salisbury was a Witch! Edward III founded the Order of the Garter as a secret Witches’ Coven! He charged its knights with the protection of Witches against the Inquisition! – (Despite that fact that Murray’s fanciful re-interpretation of the Order of the Garter is one of the areas specifically disproved by Rose, with no one presenting persuasive evidence to the contrary since- and despite the fact that the Inquisition was never really that powerful in England- and despite the fact that few people actually cared about punishing Witches in the 1300s, in many ways the last truly Magical era of the Middle Ages.)

The gentleman continued- the Knights Templars were closet Ceremonial Magicians, preserving the Secrets of Magic from the Inquisition! – (Never mind that the Knights broadcast themselves as a Christian order akin to monks, and were perceived as such throughout Europe) . The Masons delivered the Templars from destruction, saving the ancient wisdom of Ceremonial Magic! (This last contains all sorts of mistakes.

It ignores the historical reality that the Templars were deliberately taken unawares, leaving very few to be “saved”; that the majority of the Templars were without question killed; that the reason for their assault was without question the seizure of their properties, rather than an effort to destroy Ceremonial Magic; that the Masons as such do not come into existence until the early 1700s; and finally that there is no need for the Templars to preserve Ceremonial Magic, as Ceremonial Magic is preserved very nicely in the medieval grimoires of Bacon and Agrippa and Paracelsus.)

The part of the man’s presentation that bothered me the most was his projection of modern (Initiatory) Wicca into the medieval past. Wiccan Witch-Queens wear garters- therefore one can tell that the Countess of Salisbury was a Wiccan Witch-Queen, as she wore a garter! (Never mind that many people of the fourteenth century probably wore garters as a means of keeping their leggings straight.) Initiatory Wiccans maintain Books of Shadow- therefore medieval Witches kept Books of Shadow! – Despite the fact that few medieval Witches could probably read or write.

These Books of Shadow were in constant danger of being destroyed by the Inquisition, erasing forever the secrets of Witchery- never mind that many, many grimoires are plainly in circulation and that the “secrets of the Witches’ Craft” (far from being so closely guarded as to be in danger of vanishing) are in fact well-known enough in Elizabethan England (I assume through the avenue of oral folk-culture) that playwrights such as Shakespeare and Jonson compose plays around them.

My point finally is not to diss a bad historical presentation, but to decry the situation whereby such outmoded stuff can be peddled as a “Wiccan History-lesson.” We Wiccans are in the kind of odd position that knowledgeable observers have actually discredited much of what we assert and allege as our “Historical past”. If our movement is to receive respect in the world, we need a history that can withstand scrutiny, as well as movement-participants educated enough to separate fact from plausible supposition from outright nonsense.

Regrettably this means we must abandon a lot of what our founding elders declared to us was our past; we must locate ourselves in the genuine records of medieval Europe established by scholars such as Kittredge and Robbins and Russell (et al) .

We must insist upon elders who can deliver a reasonable review of European Witch-History and we must foreswear the colorful (but unsupportable) Murayite/ Gardnerian “Wicca Faerey-tales” that have hitherto been our history tomes.

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Repudiating Bad Wiccan History

Repudiating Bad Wiccan History

Author:   Zan Fraser 

The problem is that we Wiccans have inherited two sets of history. One is the history shared by the persons of the world around us, recognized as an academic and intellectual discipline, and based upon consensus agreement as to demonstrable facts. The other is what I call the “Wicca Fantasy-Land” version of European history.

Wicca Fantasy-Land is without question a colorful and dramatic place, dominated as it is by a malignant and pervasive Institution of Villainy (the medieval Church) , countered by a bold and oppressed culture of Paganism, and by Pagans who band into defiant pockets reminiscent of the organizers of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising or the French Resistance during World War II.

There are English kings who secretly keep to the Old Pagan Ways and who sympathetically guard and preserve Pagans; there are even English kings who bravely end their own lives as a Magical Sacrifice to the Old Gods to preserve the Ancient Ways. There are gallant women like Aradia and Joan of Arc who lead armed forays against the evil forces of the Inquisition to liberate captured Pagans. And there are countless devout Witches who meet in covens of thirteen, under threat of mortal danger, to worship the Horned God of Witches and to count out the seasons of the year.

It makes a really good story, with the disadvantage of not being true- or at least not really true in the manner in which it is invariably presented.

Wicca Fantasy-Land made its way into our collective history at a time well before there was even Wicca.

Margaret Murray was a respected British Egyptologist at the turn of the twentieth century, whose notes and observations upon archeological digs in Egypt are apparently still thought worthwhile. In the 19-teens, she turned her attentions to European history, producing The Witch-Cult in Western Europe in the early 1920s. Here she offered the startling (for its time) opinion that those called “Witches” during the medieval period were actually continuing the old Pagan Faith of Europe, meeting in covens of thirteen under a Master or High Priest who impersonated the God of Witches- the Horned Forest-God called Pan or Cernunnos.

The Church demonized this Deity into the Christian Devil and (according to Murray’s thinking) the rest of the Middle Ages (including the 300 years Burning Times) represented an on-going series of efforts on the part of the Church to destroy this stubborn Paganism. Murrray went on to elaborate upon her theories in two subsequent books- The God of the Witches and The Divine King in England.

Discussing Murray can be tricky, because she produced some penetrating insight into medieval history as it pertains to Witches (and therefore to the spiritual, if not actual genealogical, descendents of medieval Witches- modern Wiccans) . Her basic observation- that Paganism did not die out suddenly and completely at the Conversion of Europe, but actually continued for some time after, sometimes under threat of violence (Charlemagne proscribed death for any Saxons who continued to worship the sun, trees, and rocks) – was revelatory for its time, but is now understood as a given to researchers of the Middle Ages (especially researchers of the Pagan variety) .

Her insight that the European Devil represents a demonized version of the Horned Forest-God (known by many names, in endless local variations) was likewise a thunderbolt of perception, now also part of the bedrock of Pagan and Wiccan medieval understanding. For reasons such as these, the eminent and formidable historian Anne Llewellyn Barstow (in Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts Pandora Publishing, 1994, p. 83) credits Murray for her detection of “ancient ‘folk religious’ practices throughout the Western witchcraft material.”

Barstow also finds in comparative studies with Russian sources support for Murray’s basic theory that Satan represents in perverse form the “lost God (s) ” of Western Europe. Likewise, in his Introduction to Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath (Pantheon Books, 1991, p. 9) the brilliant researcher Carlo Ginzburg discerns a “core of truth” and a “correct intuition” to Murray’s work.

Be this as it may- Murray is now considered discredited in the academic and scholastic world. Every serious historian on the subject throughout the twentieth century has concluded that she pushed her theories far too far- well beyond what evidence supports. Beginning with Harvard professor Kittredge in the latter 1920s, and continuing through Robbins, Briggs, Cohn, Russell, Kors and Peters, and including Barstow and Ginzburg- all have found that Murray finally reached to absurd and unsustainable lengths.

The decisive nail was struck in the early 1960s, with Elliot Rose’s A Razor for a Goat: A Discussion of Certain Problems in the History of Witchcraft and Diabolism (University of Toronto Press, 1962) , wherein he systemically blew apart Murray’s thesis bit by bit.

For the better part of the twentieth century, however, Murray was widely held almost as a sibyl breathing discernment into the murky cauldron of medieval history- so much so that it was her article on “witchcraft” that appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica in the 1950s, when Gerald Gardner was writing Witchcraft Today.

Desiring to include an account of what many at the time thought “true” Witchcraft history in his volume, Gardner turned to Murray’s works. Therefore (at a time when they were already called into question) , Murray’s theories and highly unique recounting of European Witchcraft made their way into the founding book of the current Wiccan and Neo-Pagan movement.

Through Gardner, tales of the Divine Sacrifice of William Rufus and the Witcheries of the Countess of Salisbury (mistress to the secretly Pagan Edward III) circulated into the publishing of Doreen Valiente and Patricia Crowther, thence outside the Gardnerian line to Sybil Leek and Alex Sanders, thence to the Farrars- thence to Wicca at large.

Despite the fact that Rose devoted a special chapter in A Razor for a Goat (in the 1960s, one notes) to Gerald Gardner’s assertions of medieval “Wiccan history” as regards Murray’s interpretations, Margaret Murray’s “Wicca Fantasy-Land” version of European history continues to circulate throughout American Paganism. How else to explain the presentation offered at a well-known gathering this summer, wherein one who advertised himself by his Third-Degree Initiatory Tradition status, as well as by (it must be admitted) his forth-coming Llewellyn publication, produced a talk chock-full not only of outright mistakes (he incorrectly placed Edward III and the Burning Times in the 1200s; Edward lived in the 1300s and the Burnings do not start until the 1400s) , but of pure, unreconstructed Murrayism- the same Murrayism discredited decisively since the 1960s.

Despite treating his audience to a opening establishing the unique and special quality of Third-Degree Initiates- indeed ho-ho-ho-ing the very idea that a non-Initiated Wiccan bereft of Initiatory Training even counted as a “Wiccan” (thereby specifically invalidating self-directed, self-Initiated Wiccans such as myself) and referring at one point to himself and his “peers” with a smug self-regard that frankly rankled me- and despite much reference to his forth-coming Llewellyn volume (apparently on a subject different from that of this particular talk, giving me every confidence that it will be a far-better researched project) – I found the gentleman’s presentation to be an alarming mish-mash of outright error and wild “Wiccan Faerey-tales, ” offered without substantiation as genuine history.

The Countess of Salisbury was a Witch! Edward III founded the Order of the Garter as a secret Witches’ Coven! He charged its knights with the protection of Witches against the Inquisition! – (Despite that fact that Murray’s fanciful re-interpretation of the Order of the Garter is one of the areas specifically disproved by Rose, with no one presenting persuasive evidence to the contrary since- and despite the fact that the Inquisition was never really that powerful in England- and despite the fact that few people actually cared about punishing Witches in the 1300s, in many ways the last truly Magical era of the Middle Ages.)

The gentleman continued- the Knights Templars were closet Ceremonial Magicians, preserving the Secrets of Magic from the Inquisition! – (Never mind that the Knights broadcast themselves as a Christian order akin to monks, and were perceived as such throughout Europe) . The Masons delivered the Templars from destruction, saving the ancient wisdom of Ceremonial Magic! (This last contains all sorts of mistakes.

It ignores the historical reality that the Templars were deliberately taken unawares, leaving very few to be “saved”; that the majority of the Templars were without question killed; that the reason for their assault was without question the seizure of their properties, rather than an effort to destroy Ceremonial Magic; that the Masons as such do not come into existence until the early 1700s; and finally that there is no need for the Templars to preserve Ceremonial Magic, as Ceremonial Magic is preserved very nicely in the medieval grimoires of Bacon and Agrippa and Paracelsus.)

The part of the man’s presentation that bothered me the most was his projection of modern (Initiatory) Wicca into the medieval past. Wiccan Witch-Queens wear garters- therefore one can tell that the Countess of Salisbury was a Wiccan Witch-Queen, as she wore a garter! (Never mind that many people of the fourteenth century probably wore garters as a means of keeping their leggings straight.) Initiatory Wiccans maintain Books of Shadow- therefore medieval Witches kept Books of Shadow! – Despite the fact that few medieval Witches could probably read or write.

These Books of Shadow were in constant danger of being destroyed by the Inquisition, erasing forever the secrets of Witchery- never mind that many, many grimoires are plainly in circulation and that the “secrets of the Witches’ Craft” (far from being so closely guarded as to be in danger of vanishing) are in fact well-known enough in Elizabethan England (I assume through the avenue of oral folk-culture) that playwrights such as Shakespeare and Jonson compose plays around them.

My point finally is not to diss a bad historical presentation, but to decry the situation whereby such outmoded stuff can be peddled as a “Wiccan History-lesson.” We Wiccans are in the kind of odd position that knowledgeable observers have actually discredited much of what we assert and allege as our “Historical past”. If our movement is to receive respect in the world, we need a history that can withstand scrutiny, as well as movement-participants educated enough to separate fact from plausible supposition from outright nonsense.

Regrettably this means we must abandon a lot of what our founding elders declared to us was our past; we must locate ourselves in the genuine records of medieval Europe established by scholars such as Kittredge and Robbins and Russell (et al) .

We must insist upon elders who can deliver a reasonable review of European Witch-History and we must foreswear the colorful (but unsupportable) Murayite/ Gardnerian “Wicca Faerey-tales” that have hitherto been our history tomes.

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WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT – The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide

WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT

The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide

Steven S. Sadleir

Wicca, or Witchcraft is the old religion of Europe, which apparently evolved from Druidism.  Wiccan is generally a term applied to a “Wise One” or “Magician”, and Wicca is the practice of “magic”, which is the application and utilization of natural laws.  As Witchcraft competed as a religion with Christianity (the ‘new’ religion) in the Christianized Western World, witchcraft became repressed as a form of paganism (i.e., a Primative Teaching) and was given an evil stigma, and therefore was not practiced openly.  However, with the repeal of the English Witchcraft Act in 1951, many covens, or congregations, have opened up to teh public and many new groups have formed. There are now dozens of Wiccan orgnaizations in the United States and Europe, with perhaps, thousands of active Wiccans and Witches.  Most witches practicing the craft publicly are considered ‘white’ witches, that is, they yse their knowledge for good ends and practice the Wiccan Creed: “Ye hurt none, do as ye will.”  Black Witches (which has recieved most of the notoriety, but are considered a minority) are generally not visible to the public and use thier knowledge for selfish or evil means.  Satanism is NOT considered a form of witchcraft, but was created by people who believe there is a Satan, or Devil.

Wicca/Witchcraft generally involves some form of God or Goddess worship, and many involve the workings of spiritual guides as well.  Wicca/Witchcraft is a very individualized religion, and each person chooses his or her own deities to worship.  Generally, the supreme being is considered ‘genderless’ and is comprised of many aspects that may be identified as masculine or feminine in nature, and thus a God or Goddess.  Originally, the horned God of hunting represented the maculine facet of the deity, whereas the female qualities were represented in the fertility Goddess.  The Gods and Goddesses from the personalities of the supreme being, and are a reflection of the attributes that worshippers seek to emulate.  Wiccans may draw upon the ancient civilizations of the Druids, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, or other polytheistic cultures to commune with the particular aspect of the deity that they identify with.  Some favorite gods include Osiris, Pan, Cennunnos, and Bacchus.  Facotie Goddesses include Isis, Caridwen, Rhea, Selene, and Diana.

Wiccans generally observe the four greater Sabbaths of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Laghnasadh; and the lesser Sabbaths – the Spring and autumn equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices.  There celebrations are typically free-spirited, and are sometimes held ‘skyclad’ (naked) or in various styles of robes.  Other services include handfasting (marriage), handparting (divorce) and wiccaning (birth rite).  Regular meetings, called Esbats are also held, at which magic and healing are performed.  Wiccans/witches meet in small groups (up to twelve) called a coven, whcih typically join with other covens to form a ‘Grove’.

Rituals are typically held outside and consist of forma a circle and erecting the temple (consecrating the circle); invoking, praising, and soliciting assistance from gods, goddesses, and elementals; observing the change of season and energies represented by the various seasons; singing; dancaing; ‘cakes and ale’ (sharing of bread and wine); and clearing the temple. Personal practive includes meditation and prayer, divination, development of personal will and psychic abilities through spells and various forms of healing.  Most Wiccans/witches have altars where they burn candles and incense and practice thier rites.  To perform thier rites, other tools of the craft are used, such as an athame, yag-disk or, seaux (a handmade and consecrated knife), a sword, a wand, and sometimes special jewelry, amulets or talismans (magically empowered objects).  Sometimes these objects are inscribed with magical writings. Joining a coven or grove typically involves an initiation, which is stylized by each individual group, but generally involves the confirmation that the initiate understands the principals and an oath of secrecy.