Lustration & Ritual Baths – Freshen Up Yer Body & Soul

New England weather is weird. Today, outside the offices of Weiser Central the sky is overcast and the air temperature hovers at a disagreeable 57 degrees. Yes. You read that right. 57 degrees. Last week it was 98. There is no way to properly plan a wardrobe for a visit to New England unless you bring one of everything.  Sigh. But having lived most of her life in the land of liberals and lobsters, Ankhie knows that as soon as she is acclimated to the English-y weather the clouds will part, the mercury will rise, and the deodorant will give out.  So it’s good to bear in mind ways to stay sweet and sacred through the thick and sticky days to come:

(from Mysteries of Demeter by Jennifer Reif):

Lustration: A Rite of Self-Blessing

The Museum of Eleusis contains a relief of a Hydranos priestess holding a lustration bowl and purifying an initiate, as well as a priestess statue, called “the basin bearer,” that has a square hole in the lower abdomen, which once held a marble basin. The statue, and another just like it, stood beside the doorways of Demeter’s temple, inviting those who entered to perform a lustral rite.

The lustration rite presented here may be used as a way to start the day, bringing the Goddess into your mind and heart as a self-blessing. For your lustration bowl, you may use a large seashell, or any bowl set aside for this purpose. You may choose to scent the water with a few drops of fragrant oil.

Altar Items

  • Icon or image of Demeter and a lustration bowl.

The Words and Actions

  1. Dipping the fingers of your right hand into the lustration bowl, bring them to the center of your forehead and say: Eye of the spirit where wisdom enters,
  2. Extend your right arm out toward the right saying: May her good enter from the right hand,
  3. Extend your left arm out toward the left saying: May her good enter from the left hand,
  4. Bring both hands to your heart (mid-chest), and say: For she dwells within…
  5. Bring your forearms down, palms up, and say: And without,
  6. Bring your hands again to your heart, as before, and say: In beauty…
  7. Raise your arms up, hands upward, and say: Hail!

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(from Pure Magic by Judika Illes)

Seven Roses Aura-Cleansing Bath

  • 7 red roses
  • Handful of salt
  • Splash of vinegar
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Splash of pure springwater and/or holy water
  1. Fill your tub with water.
  2. Remove the roses from the stems. Watch out for any thorns.
  3. Throw all the ingredients into the tub.
  4. Spend 7 minutes in your bath, rubbing yourself with the roses, submerging yourself periodically and focusing upon your goals.
  5. Dry off with a clean towel, white or unbleached cotton if possible, and put on fresh clothes.

Now here’s the hard part: walk out of the room without looking back. The roses have the tendency to come apart in the tub. This is one of the messier spells. Depending on how important tidiness is to you, you may be tempted to stop and clean your tub. Don’t. It’s vital for the success of this spell that you put some time in between taking the bath and cleaning up the residue. If at all possible, get someone else to clean the tub for you. If not possible, walk out of the room and do something positive or enjoyable that lifts your spirits. After at least an hour, when you feel calm, strong and distanced from any negative feelings that may have caused you to take this bath, you may clean the tub.

*Aura-cleansing spells can be combined for intensification purposes. Burn purification incense in the bathroom prior to taking your aura-cleansing bath.*

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(from The Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook by Karen Harrison)

Bath Salts and Purifying Bath Herbs

Ritual Baths are used to purify your body and thoughts prior to a ritual working. You may wish to use a standard Purification Bath Salt for all your rites, or you may choose to create a specific Bath Salt that you have composed specifically for the work at hand. The Ritual Bath will help you to focus on the Magick you are about to begin and cause your auric (energy) field to begin vibrating at the same frequency as the type of Magick in which you will be engaging.

Each time you use a Bath Salt or mixture of purifying bath herbs, you will immerse yourself in the water, visualizing all negative vibrations washing away from your body and your energy field. You will allow your muscles to relax and your mind to empty of all thoughts except those that pertain to your ritual. There are several ways to use Bath Salts or their herbal derivatives as you purify yourself in preparation for your work:

Bath Salt: Make a Bath Salt composed of sea salt and essential oils.

Bath Tea: Compose a mixture of herbs and oils and place it in a tea ball or ironable tea bag (these bags are open on one end to stuff with herbs; after you have put your herbal mixture inside, you then iron it shut with a clothing iron).

Bath Tussie: Place your herbs, essential oils, and a tablespoon of sea salt in a cloth bag with a drawstring or on a flat piece of tightly woven  cheesecloth that is then knotted closed. With a Tussie, draw your bath, step in without sitting down, dip the Tussie in the hot water, and scrub your body with it. Then place the Tussie in the bathwater and proceed to soak.

Bath Elixir: Create an elixir by simmering two cups of your herbal mixture in a quart of water for twenty minutes. Strain the herbs from the water, squeezing out the excess water from the herbs and into the liquid you are collecting. This liquid elixir is then added to your bathwater.

***

As the herbs and essential oils comprising your Bath Salt or purifying bath herb combination will be coming in contact with your skin (and in the case of a bath in which you soak, coming in contact with very sensitive and intimate parts of your body), you do not want to use any oils or herbs that will sting, blister, or otherwise harm your body or make you uncomfortable. If you know you have an allergy to any particular herb recommended for use with a specific Planetary energy, don’t use it. It is very hard to concentrate during a meditation or ritual when you are sneezing or have raised hives on your body!

Herbs you should never use in the bath include nettles, cayenne (it shouldn’t hurt your skin but will wreak havoc if you get some of the bathwater in your eyes), valerian (unless you want to emerge from the water smelling like an old sock), cinnamon, cloves, dragon’s blood resin (this won’t hurt you but will be hard to remove from the bath tub and can also permanently stain enamel), and asafoetida (whose aromatic effects are similar to valerian’s). Ragweed is an herb that often grows among chamomile. Many people are allergic to ragweed, and if you have pollen- or plant based allergies, I recommend that you not use chamomile in the event that ragweed was inadvertently harvested with it. You will always want to use fine sea salt in your mixtures rather than a larger rock salt type. Sit down in the bathtub on the rock salt and you’ll immediately know why.

If you store your Bath Salts in airtight glass containers, you should be able to use them in their full strength for approximately one year. Do not store your Bath Salts in a metal container. The metal can react with the salts, leaving bits of corroded metal debris in your salts. Most people will use about three tablespoons of Bath Salts per bath. You can certainly use more or less depending on your personal tastes.

Pour one cup of fine sea salt into a glass bowl or mortar. Add your essential oils one by one, thoroughly mixing in each one before adding the next and smelling the salts before adding the next oil. Start with five drops of each oil—you can always add more of a scent that you particularly like, but it is impossible to take the oil out. For one cup of sea salt, you will usually end up using around one hundred drops of oil. You want your Bath Salts to look slightly damp but not oily. After combining the essential oils to your liking, add one-quarter cup of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) if you would like your bath to be slightly bubbly and fizzy. You may also want to add color to the salts in accordance with the Planetary or energy color of the Magick you plan to do: green for a prosperity bath, blue for a tranquility bath, and so on. You may use regular food coloring that you can find in the baking section of the grocery store or go to a store that has food coloring for cake frosting. These colors come in small jars and are in a paste form. You need to add only a tiny bit to get intense color. You will find the purple cake frosting coloring to be very helpful, since when you mix blue and red liquid food coloring, no matter what you do, it will come out gray. For a full listing of the energy properties of color, see the list under “Colors for Your Herbal Amulet” in chapter 14. For a Bath Salt, you will be combining only essential oils, not herbs. This is purely for an aesthetic reason. If you put a Bath Salt containing herbs directly into the bath, you will have herbal debris floating on the top of the bathwater. This debris will stick to your skin when you emerge from the bath, and you’ll have to thoroughly wipe down the tub when you are done.

When making an herbal bath mixture to be placed in a bag or tea ball and then infused in the hot bathwater, you will determine the herbs and oils you wish to use. Keep in mind that myrrh resin granules will dissolve and be sticky and mastic; arabic and pine resins will become soft and sticky. I would advise using myrrh or pine oil in place of the resins in a bath herbal mixture, and the oil of elemi in the place of mastic or arabic resin if you desire to include Mercurial or Uranian energy. In your mortar or a glass bowl, place one teaspoon of each of your herbs. Crush and mix them together with the pestle and then add a few drops of your chosen essential oils. Mix thoroughly, then fill your tea bag half full and iron shut, or fill your tea ball halfway. The herbs will expand as they absorb water from the bath. When you use the tea bag, immerse it in the hot water for a few minutes, then squeeze it in your hand to release the liquid that has absorbed into the herbs. If using a tea ball, let it steep in the bath for five minutes or so and then hang it under the water spigot if you are still running water into the bath. If you are not running water, you can just let it bob along in the water as you soak and meditate.

In making a Tussie, combine one or two teaspoons of your herbs in your mortar or glass bowl and add your essential oils and, last, about a quarter cup of sea salt. Since you won’t be putting this mixture loose into the bathwater, you can use either a finely ground sea salt or a larger rock sea salt. Place the mixture into a cloth pouch with a drawstring or onto the center of a flat cloth that you will tie shut. Immerse the Tussie in the bathwater after you have entered the tub or shower and scrub your body with it. Then let it float in the bathwater or hang it from the showerhead.

If you choose to make an Herbal Bath elixir, combine your herbs into a mixture that is two cups in volume. Crush and mix the herb mixture in your mortar or glass bowl, then simmer the mixture in a quart of water for twenty minutes. Let cool until the herbs are comfortable to handle.  Strain out the herbs, squeeze any additional water from the herbs into the resulting elixir liquid, and add any essential oils you desire at this time.After you have drawn your bath, add as much of the elixir as you like to the water. If you are showering, dip your washcloth into the elixir and wipe down your body at the end of the shower, leaving an herbal wash on your skin.

Wedding Witchery

Ahhh June – a special month of very special days – graduations, summer vacations,  Father’s Day (for Ankhie’s opinion on greeting-card holidays see the Mother’s Day post), and of course… weddings.  Now, Ankhie got married in Vegas… in costume… with no one else in attendance but a casino secretary and a not-so-sober witness pulled from a near-by slot machine – but that’s not for everyone. Some people want the big show – lots of guests, lots of flowers, lots of presents – and Ankhie begrudges them not. There are a whole lot of people for whom marriage is a hard-won right, or a right that is still being fought for. And no matter who folks are or how they get hitched, it is a promise worth keeping and a union worth celebrating, and – not surprisingly – one that is full of magical tradition and age-old superstition.

The more I read the more I realize that almost any magical question I have can be answered by browsing through Judika Illes’s Pure Magic. I kid you not. My desk copy has the dog ears and coffee stains to prove it.

Here is what Goody Illes has to say about the enchantments of matrimony:

Preparing for a magical wedding involves more than selecting a caterer and deciding where to seat Aunt Suzy. In some cultures, the bride, and even occasionally the groom, must be primed for the wedding. These often include what today would be considered spa treatments, to enhance beauty and personal power and also to protect against the Evil Eye, to which brides are considered particularly vulnerable. Henna parties are given. In India, brides may be marinated in turmeric paste; the resulting golden color evokes the goddess Lakshmi, whom each bride at least momentarily embodies. In Java, cleansing and beautifying treatments can last for days (the wealthier the bride, the more extravagant and expensive the treatment). The bride’s hair and body is bathed in rose water. She is placed in baths that contain almost as many flowers as water: frangipani, jasmine, and roses. She is cleansed with sandalwood steam, eggs and ginger. She is exfoliated with rice, turmeric and exotic, fragrant flowers and massaged with frangipani and jasmine infused oils.

Henna is most famous as a prime component of marriage rituals. Just prior to the wedding, so that there is enough time for the henna to set and be at its best, a henna party is thrown in the bride’s honor. She is the center of attention. Although all the women may have their opportunity to be decorated, the most beautiful, intricate designs are reserved for the bride. This renders her immobile for many hours and gives her female friends and relatives plenty of time to fill her in on the facts of life and assorted husband pleasing tips they think she should know.

  • On the subcontinent, a marriage’s future balance of power is believed to lie in the henna. The groom’s initials are hidden somewhere in the designs on his bride’s body. It’s up to him to find them on the wedding night; otherwise, the bride will always hold the upper hand!
  • To ensure that the bride will always know sweetness, joy and prosperity, Yemenite Jews stick a gold coin into the center of her hennaed hand and seal it with honey.

Although many cultures have evolved ornate bridal adornment rituals, some Tuareg tribes maintain another perspective. Women form a bridal bed from desert sand while men erect a tent around it. On her wedding day, the bride enters the tent, where she sits on her sand bed surrounded by female companions who chant blessings and spells. Although on  any other day, she might be elaborately adorned, on this day she wears a plain, everyday dress with no makeup or jewelry, to indicate that her husband chose her and accepts her exactly as the Earth formed her.

BRIDAL BOUQUETS

The bridal bouquet was originally another magical charm. Chose your flowers wisely.

  • Basil: grants happiness, prosperity, fertility and romance. Invokes Lakshmi, goddess of marriage and all good fortune.
  • Jasmine: brings romance, fertility and prosperity.
  • Orange Blossoms: evoke happy romance and fertility. Their fragrance calms stressed nerves too. (These must be thrown away before they wilt or before the month is over, whichever comes first, or they’ll foster sterility within the marriage bed. Every spell has two sides, however: if you’re looking to reinforce contraception, hold on to those blossoms!)
  • Queen of the Meadow: also known as bridewort, this flower ensures romantic love and relieves stress.
  • Rose: Juno’s favorite flowers encourage romance and fidelity.
  • Rosemary: traditionally carried by English brides or word as a crown to represent their love and loyalty. Rosemary, lest we forget, also provides protection. Anne of Cleves wore a rosemary crown when she wed Henry VIII and she was the only one of the four wives of whom he wearied to live happily ever after.
  • Saffron Blossom: ancient Greek and Roman brides wore these blossoms, which were also used to decorate the marriage bed. (Grow your own, they’re impossible to find. Only saffron threads are typically available.)
  • Stephanotis: its Hawaiian name means “marriage flower”, the fragrant white blossoms are a favorite for marriage bouquets  and leis.
  • Vervain: even just a sprig of vervain in the bridal bouquet is said to ensure the new groom’s fidelity!
  • Yarrow: ensures seven years of happiness.

Bouquets can also be created to invoke th power of beneficent spirits of love and marriage. These bouquets will not only draw blessings to the bride and groom, when the bride throws her bouquet it will serve as a true marriage amulet for the woman who catches it.

An Aphrodite Bouquet

Carry a selection of the following flowers, all beloved by the goddess of love:

  • Apple blossoms
  • Linden blossoms
  • Marjoram
  • Myrtle leaves
  • Scented geraniums
  • Yellow roses

Juno’s Bouquet of Eternal Love

  • Purple iris
  • Roses
  • Peacock feathers (cut to size)

Ariadne and Dionysus Loving Couple Bouquet

The divine couple epitomizes the ideal of marriage as a joyful, respectful and equal partnership. Carry their bouquet as a good luck charm!

  • Holly leaves (preferably with some berries)
  • Ivy leaves
  • Pine boughs and cones

Happy Marriage Charm

take nine dried yarrow flower heads on stalks. Bind them together with green ribbon. This charm is most powerful when made on a Friday with a waxing moon. Hang over the bed to insure joy and romance.

*****

Many rituals  tap the Earth’s powers to ensure happiness and stability to the bride and groom. Friends of a Czech bride may secretly plant and decorate a new tree for her, decorating it with ribbons and painted eggshells. Tiered wedding cakes in Bermuda are topped not with miniature brides and grooms but with tiny saplings: a gift to be planted in the newlyweds’ home to ensure future love and peace. Not that tiny martital dolls are to be mocked: their roots lie in ancient fertility spells. Real dolls resembling the couple were originally used and later entrusted to the bride, to be cared for as called for. Wedding rituals are replete with fertility rituals, hearkening back to times when progeny, rather than love, were considered the sole purpose of marriage.

*****

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something red?

Cowrie shells attached to bridal garments, necklaces and headpieces link us to our earliest ancestors: they are among the most ancient and widely spread amulets of all. Cowries are believed to provide not only personal fertility but prosperity and protection too. Because their shape echoes the vulva, they are also believed to evoke primal, protective female power, the strongest power of all.

Horseshoes are lucky, not only because of their association with horses, but because they, too, are believed to resemble female generative organs. English brides sew small silver horseshoes to the hems of their gowns for luck.

Other cultures use the code of color to evoke this power: brides are dressed in red or a red ribbon may be hidden under her white dress.

A Czech custom also evokes the female generative force, albeit symbolically: right before the ceremony, the groom is wrapped in his new bride’s cloak, indicating her primal link to this power.

*****

One clove of garlic is traditionally carried in the bride’s pocket or sewn into a little red bag and attached to her underskirt: it brings good fortune and wards off the Evil Eye.

We Speak Crazy Here – an Ankhie Dream Ramble

Like most of the folks reading this post, Ankhie is fascinated by dreams and dream magic. Lately, though, Ankhie’s dream-life has been a little out of control. Frantic, frequent and disturbingly vivid – morning comes with sweaty bedclothes and complete exhaustion.  This does not make for a happy and productive Ankh! There was a time when such nocturnal gnashing would be seen as a sign of incipient insanity. Crazy people talk in metaphor. Crazy people walk around dream-haunted and baggy-eyed.  Crazy people doodle strange symbols on their meeting agendas. Thankfully, Ankhie lives, works and tweets with folks who are fluent in this kind of crazy – folks who are more likely to interpret such dark doings as vision & prophecy rather than chemical imbalance;  a shamanic bent rather than a psychotic tendency.

Still, one has to wonder….

Last year, Mr. Ankh, in an uncharacteristic fit of landscaping enthusiasm, decided to weed the perennial bed beneath the bedroom window. One of the problems with perennials is that, to the uninitiated, they all look like weeds – lilies and a few flowering varieties being the exceptions. There was one “weed” that seemed particularly pernicious, nearly 6 feet talk, crawling with ants and blossom-free. It was, in truth, quite unattractive. So Mr. Ankh took a shovel and hauled out the deep-rooted offender, which, of course, was mugwort.  He did his job thoroughly, leaving no traces, and was quite pleased with himself. Ankhie said nothing and mourned in private, let mint fill in the empty space.  This year the mugwort has grown back in its original location and two other new spots in the bed – mint and Mr. Ankh be damned. So perhaps this is the source of recent dream crazies. An herb with vengeance on its mind.

Or maybe Ankhie is just a wee bit unbalanced.

Either way – herbs or insanity – I know I am good, because (I say this with the utmost affection) we all speak crazy here.

In case y’all were wondering about mugwort and other dream-y herbs to stuff in your pillow, here’s a rundown from Judika Ille’s indispensible Pure Magic:

  • Alecost: facilitates contact with the Earth Mother.
  • Angelica: provides prophetic dreams, visions and protection.
  • Anise: repels nightmares – use only a smidgen of the seed, as many find the fragrance of anise to be stimulating. A little should stimulate pleasant, romantic, sexy dreams. Anise may also increase psychic potential.
  • Bay Laurel: provides prophetic dreams and creative inspiration, gives spiritual protection and inspires self-confidence. Crumble the dried leaves, as whole bay leaves can be very sharp. The tips can stick you right through the fabric.
  • Bee Balm: provides restful sleep.
  • Black Mustard Seeds: repel night demons and malevolent forces.
  • Calendula Blossoms: promote sound, peaceful sleep and physical healing, soothes nerves.
  • Catnip: promotes romantic dreams and restful, sound sleep providing you don’t have a cat who will claw you in an attempt to reach your pillow.
  • Chamomile Blossoms: provide romantic and financially inspirational dreams, spiritual and sound restful sleep.
  • Cloves: initial scent is stimulating, but for most, continuous inhalation produces relaxation and deep, restful sleep. It promotes psychic and erotic dreams. Cloves also provide spiritual protection. Grind the cloves (smash them in your mortar and pestle) so that they’ll be more comfortable.
  • Henna: brings good fortune, protection, fertility, romantic and erotic dreams. Henna produces a grounding effect, provides links to the Earth Mother and the Fire Angels.
  • Hops: provides peaceful, healing, very sound sleep.
  • Lavender Blossoms: promote peaceful sleep and sweet dreams. Lavender’s fragrance is reputed to allow you to see ghosts.
  • Lilac Blossoms: provide access to past life memories and heal broken hearts.
  • Linden Blossoms: promote inspirational dreams, sound restful sleep.
  • Mullein: protects against nightmares.
  • Peppermint: encourages visions of one’s future.
  • Purslane: protects the sleeper from spiritual dangers.
  • Rose: brings romantic, erotic and psychic dreams. Rose eases grief and provides protection; promotes intense healing while one sleeps. Rose is beneficial for threshold states including premarital, premenstrual and premenopausal.
  • Rosemary: some find rosemary’s scent too stimulating to permit sleep, so experiment with only a little bit at first. Dried blossoms may be preferable to the leaves. Rosemary provides mental stimulation while one sleeps and is excellent for students. It promotes romantic dreams and provides psychic protection.
  • Saint John’s Wort: promotes psychic healing and soothes stress. Saint John’s Wort strengthens resolve and is beneficial to those battling addictions, it also stimulates psychic power and provides spiritual protection.
  • Spruce Needles: pulverize them into powder. A Shoshone charm to prevent illness, spruce needles will also provide deep, peaceful sleep.
  • Vanilla Bean: promotes romantic and erotic dreams.
  • Vervain: provides protection and sound sleep, financial inspiration and romantic dreams. A Pawnee recommendation for pleasant dreams.
  • Wormwood (root): provides protection, romance, psychic enhancement, encourages communication with the spirits.

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The simplest dream pillow of all is filled with mugwort alone.

  • Mugwort intensifies dreams, making them linger so that you’re more likely to remember them.
  • Mugwort encourages clairvoyance and is an invaluable tool if you’re trying to contact the spirit realm.
  • Mugwort provides spiritual protection while you sleep. You can take some chances in your dream life with the knowledge that mugwort provides a shield against any psychic dangers.
  • If you really want confidence, place mugwort directly upon your chest as you sleep, either by laying the pillow there or by placing either a sprig of the herb or a small flannel bag containing dried mugwort. A wormwood twig or root works, too.

from Pure Magic: a Complete Course in Spellcasting by Judika Illes.

Herbs of the Field: A Witch’s Quick-Guide to Wildcrafting

When Ankie was but a wee sprite, there were woods and fields behind her house, and many hours (in all seasons) were spent wandering, observing and gathering. Early spring saw pussy-willows by the banks of the sandy stream.  Summer months brought bouquets of wild flowers for Grandma Ankh, and tart wild strawberries,  raspberries, low bush blueberries. Autumn meant acorns and bittersweet. Winter was the time for evergreens,  and tracking prints in the snow. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?  Of course, those of you who read between the lines will understand from this that girl-Ankh was often lonely and bored – but that’s a story for a dark and stormy night not a warm June afternoon.

Ankhie has never had much talent for gardening, but she could always forage with the best of them. And there are those who believe that when it comes to witchy-herbs and such, wild varieties have greater magical potency. So in the spirit of  wondrous, weedy wastes, I offer you this excerpt from Elizabeth Pepper’s  Witches All – A Treasury From Past Editions of the Witches’ Almanac:

OF THE FIELD

Certain herbs acquire greater power under stress and seem to thrive in the garden no one tends – the wild. Those listed below are all alien plants, garden escapees, now masquerading as wildflowers or weeds. These ancient specimens perennially grace roadsides, railroad tracks, old meadows, vacant lots, swamps, woods, pine barrens and other waste places. You need only collect the smallest bouquets from most and a dozen or so leaves from  the larger variety of herbs. Pleasant and rewarding, the quest is known from olden days as “wildcrafting.”

Broom (Cytisus scoparius): A sprig of yellow flowers in a soldier’s cap lent courage in battle. The herb blooms in sandy soil from May through June. Wave a stalk in the air to raise a wind.

Clover (Trifolium pratense): Magic often favors a humble site and common clover is a case in point. Its three-leaf form is linked with the goddess Hecate. Called “trefoil” in old herbals that recommend its use in love charms. The plant blooms red-purple from May to September.

Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis): The gray-green foliage looks like smoke rising from the earth, and smoke from burning dried and crumbled fumitory herb purifies an atmosphere for magical work. Rose flowers with purple tips bloom from May to August.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus): From June to September many roadsides are brightened by the presence of the large yellow-flowered plant once called “The Hag’s Taper.” Collect its flannel-textured leaves to dry and beat to a powder. Use as a substitute for “graveyard dust,” often required for certain spells.

Orpine (Sedum telephium): Orpine’s folk name is “Midsummer Men.” A maiden with romance on her mind was advised to collect a single pink blossom of orpine in silence and sleep with it beneath her pillow in order to dream of the man who would someday win her heart. The herb can be found during August and September in once-cultivated fields or along roadways.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): This sacred herb adorned with yellow flowers blooms from June to September. Its primary use in witchcraft is to strengthen willpower and protect its bearer from harm.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare): Its stalks are topped with bright golden  buttons and its fernlike leaves emit a strong pleasant smell. The dried flowerheads and seeds wrapped in tissue paper guard treasured possessions. tansy blooms from July to September.

Vervain (Verbena officinalis): The plant held sacred by the most diverse European cultures is quite modest to the eye. Its spikes of tiny lilac flowers with five petals come to bloom from June to October.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow is in evidence from June to August. A tight cluster of tiny dull white petals forms the flat flowerhead. Its aromatic leaves are fernlike. Yarrow is primarily a divinatory herb and often added to incense for that purpose. The dried, powdered flowers and leaves of the plant are part of many love charms.

Herbs of the Moon – Full Flower, Fertile and Foretelling

Tonight, the Full Hare Moon (Full Flower Moon, the Milk Moon) will rise and Ankhie will be charging a few divinatory items and howling with the pack out near the  swamp, much to the chagrin of her already mosquito-irritated neighbors.

This is all weather-permitting, of course. Here in New England a full week of rain and low, heavy skies is predicted, tonight being no exception – so we may not see any moonlight at all. Should that be the case, I will forgo the bog-side baying and spend the evening brushing up instead on moon herbs and magic – courtesy of Karen Harrison and the Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook.

The Herbs of the Moon
Dreamwork and the Inner Self
Energies: psychic knowledge, dreamworking, childbirth, fertility, past life recall, imagination, the  subconscious mind

Colors: lilac, silver

Number: 2

Metal: silver

Stones/materials: pearl, abalone, moonstone, selenite

Deities: Selene, Nuit, Luna, Artemis, Sin, Inannur, and Khonsu

Herbs: almond, anise seed, cabbage, camphor, cucumber, fennel, iris, jasmin, lettuce, lily, lotus, moonwort, mugwort, pumpkin, violet,  watercress, white sandalwood

The energies of the Moon affect the activities of the subconscious mind, the intuition and psychic centers, reproductive system, dreamwork, and the emotions. The plants attributed to the Moon act principally on the major fluids of the body and on the stomach (attributed to Cancer, ruled by the Moon). Their fluidic action is primarily regulatory and eliminative. Much of digestive activity seems also to influence an individual’s moods— the effect of one’s emotions on digestion and the actions of the stomach are well-known and universally experienced, so this dual action of many of the Lunar herbs makes a great deal of sense.

Several Lunar herbs bear marked resemblances to the Moon in her various phases, both in color and shape of plant, fruit, and flower. The white fruits of fennel grow in pairs of curved, oblong shapes that resemble the waxing and waning Lunar crescents. The lily, long associated with Lunar goddesses, has round, bell-shaped flowers that are frequently bright white, and its leaves are oblong or crescent shaped. The fruit of the almond generally is also pure white and ovoid or crescentic.

Those Lunar herbs that deal with fluidity generally act upon water and blood most specifically just as the Moon herself controls the tides and the flow of blood. We are all aware of how the Moon cycles affect the rhythms of the female system and the menses. It is also known by healers involved with surgery that treatments involving the cutting of the body are best scheduled around the New Moon period, when blood flow during operations has been documented to be decreased.

Cucumber helps eliminate excess water from the body and is both laxative and diuretic, particularly effective in dissolving uric acid  accumulations such as kidney stones. Fennel and lily are eliminators, laxatives, and diuretics. The lily acts as a digestive antispasmodic, and fennel is commonly used to stimulate the flow of milk in nursing mothers. Mugwort is particularly apt in its Lunar attribution (note the presence of the Moon goddess Artemis in mugwort’s scientific name, Artemisia vulgaris). In addition to its digestive and purgative qualities, a decoction (herbal tea created by steeping the herbs in cold water for twenty-four hours) of mugwort can be used quite effectively to regulate the flow of menstrual blood.

Moon herbs and plants can also aid the female reproductive system, which depends on the Moon for the pituitary gland’s signals in releasing estrogen and progesterone, the female hormones. Anise, fennel, flaxseed, and cucumber all contain phytoestrogen, a natural estrogen. So does brown rice (ever wonder why the bride and groom are pelted with rice? For fertility, of course!).

Several Lunar herbs act on other fluids of the body (generally to eliminate excess) and serve as digestives. Camphor, by reducing fluid  accumulation in the lungs and pleural sac, is an excellent remedy for whooping-cough and pleurisy. Bitter almond is used as a cough remedy, while sweet almond is used internally as a soothing syrup and externally as an emollient. White sandalwood is used to reduce inflammation of mucosal tissue and is also a diuretic—a decoction of the wood can be used for indigestion.

Myrrh and sandalwood share both astringent and stomachic properties, but along with jasmin and bitter almond, they share qualities attributed to the Moon that surpass the simply medicinal. Bitter almond and jasmin both have sedative effects, calming the nerves and allowing a more intuitive, psychic Lunar mode of brain function to manifest. Almond, jasmin, sandalwood, and myrrh, when used in Incense, also can trigger the subtle, Lunar mode of perception that is so effective in meditative work involving intuition, psychic awakening, and meditative pathworking through the sense of smell.

Magickally speaking, herbs of the Moon affect the subconscious mind. They aid in the development of intuition and psychic gifts. Since they are so useful in accessing the subconscious, they are excellent for dreamwork, recalling past lives, and breaking old ingrained habits. Moon herbs are often white or pale in color, night-flowering, and soothing to the senses.

Moon Incense and Meditation for a
Dreamworking
Gather your mortar and pestle, a dropper bottle half filled with alcohol, a small scoop, and the following herbs and essential oils:

  • jasmin flowers
  • white sandalwood powder
  • jasmin oil
  • cucumber oil
  • white sandalwood oil
  • myrrh gum

Place one small scoop of jasmin flowers and two small scoops of white sandalwood powder in your mortar. Gently crush the flowers into the white sandalwood powder with the pestle. Squeeze any alcohol out of your dropper and shake it well to expel any droplets. Draw up into your dropper the jasmin oil and disperse twenty drops of it into the flower-sandalwood mixture. Clean out your dropper with the alcohol and shake it out again, then draw up the cucumber oil. Disperse thirty drops of the cucumber oil into your mixture. Repeat again with the white sandalwood oil, dispersing forty drops into the blend. Combine well with the jasmin flower–sandalwood powder mixture. Last, stir in a half scoop of your myrrh gum.

In your bedroom, prepare a simple altar. Cover a nightstand or other small table with a cloth. Center an Incense burner on the altar and surround it with a circle of jasmin flowers. Fill your Incense burner halfway with sand to insulate the burner from the heat of the Incense charcoal that you now nestle on top of the sand. Place a lighter or matches by the Incense burner along with a journal and pen. Turn on a soft night-light.

Go draw yourself a comfortable bath. If you like, add a few drops of your jasmin, cucumber, or sandalwood oil to the water (or all three, if you prefer). Relax into the water, slowing your breath. With each exhalation, imagine that you are dispelling any negativity or stress, letting your body melt into the water. With each inhalation, imagine that you are awakening your mind, expanding it, and encouraging your subconscious to emerge. Bathe as long as you like, doing your mindful breathwork throughout.

After your bath, dry off and don comfortable sleeping attire. Go back to your bedroom and light your Incense charcoal. Hold it between your thumb and forefinger and light the end farthest from your fingers. When its sparks are almost to your fingers, place it back on the sand in your burner. Let the coal ignite completely across, then place a small bit of your Incense in the center of the coal. Waft some of the smoke up toward your face and breathe deeply as you greet your subconscious. Tell your inner mind that you will be listening closely tonight. You may ask a specific question or just let your subconscious show you something you need to know.

Leave the Incense burning (if you have an active cat or dog, you may wish to put it in another room for the night so that your burning coal doesn’t get knocked onto the floor). Pick up your journal and place it in a convenient spot by your bed along with a writing utensil. Retire into your soft bed and let yourself drift into sleep. During the night you may be half awakened by active dreams—write down any images, impressions, themes, or characters in your journal any time you wake. Go back to sleep for more dreams. You may be awakened by some of your dreams, but it is not uncommon to sleep the night through.

Before you get up in the morning, while you are still in that half-sleep state, write down any dreams and their major symbols, people, emotional qualities (joy, fear, freedom, amusement . . . ). Over the next few days and nights, you may find that additional dream memories rise to the surface of your conscious mind or that you get psychic impressions that feel important. Keep your journal handy wherever you go so that you can jot down these memories as well.

Later the next day, you can dispose of the charcoal and Incense ashes by simply stirring them into the sand in your Incense burner. As you use your burner in several different sessions over time, you can bury the sand or sprinkle it into your yard, but you don’t have to use new sand each time. Just dispose of the sand when it gets too much Incense debris in it and reuse it until then.

Planning a Magical Garden

It’s that time of year, witches  – time to start plotting and potting! Thanks be to green, growing things. If  you’re looking to leaf out a bit beyond the common kitchen garden, Judika Illes has some enchanting suggestions in Pure Magic:

The Magic Garden

A magic garden transforms a portion of the Earth into a living altar. Rather than landscaping based solely on superficial appearance or ease of availability (for instance, going to a nursery and seeing what’s on sale) plants are carefully selected based upon the power that they radiate. Everyone’s magic garden is unique because the botanical power is combined with your own. There are no limitations based upon the size of your garde, You may have acres or a tiny space. You may choose to convert your whole backyard or reserve a tiny corner for ritual use. Apartment dwellers can create their own magic gardens in pots, on windowsills, ledges or fire escapes. You can purchase whole plants or receive cuttings from others. However, the single most basic and primal magic exercise is growing plants from seeds. Just as salt and honey are camouflaged as everyday ingredients, so sprouting seeds is too often relegated to a child’s kindergarten project. Historically, cultivation has been an act fraught with magic, ritual and power.

Magic gardens can be created to serve various purposes: to attract money, love or protection, to honor a spirit or animal ally. Plant allies can be gathered around you for any purpose … let your imagination flow freely. Visualize your magic garden as a living altar: add statues, crystals and fragrance however you are inspired.

Every culture, every spiritual school has its own sacred plants. These can be gathered together to create a place of Earthly power and a bower to replenish your own energy.

Druid Herb Garden

  • Queen of the Meadow
  • Primroses
  • Vervain
  • Water Mint

These were among the Druids’ most cherished plants. Water mint thrives in a somewhat damp climate. Substitute another mint to suit your climate.

Fragrant Night Garden

If you need encouragement to go outside and moongaze, or if you wish to create an enchanted setting for a little night magic, consider a selection of the following flowers. They may look innocuous enough during the daytime, but at night watch beautiful luminous white flowers emerge. Not that you need to use your eyes; these flowers fill the night with their powerful, seductive fragrance:

  • Angel’s Trumpet
  • Evening Primrose
  • Moon Flower
  • Night Jasmine
  • Night Scented Stock
  • Ornamental Tobacco
  • Spider Flower

A Magic Garden of Protection

  • Angelica
  • Clover
  • Dill
  • Flax
  • Gardenia
  • Garlic
  • Holly
  • Juniper
  • Oleander*
  • Oregano
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • St John’s Wort
  • Vervain

For real feelings of security, try to include all of these plants. Use garlic to line the borders.

* While very lovely, oleander is also very poisonous. If children and pets will frequent your garden, then consider whether or not this is a safe addition.

Protective Trees

  • Ash
  • Bay Laurel
  • Birch
  • Cedar
  • Dogwood
  • Hawthorn
  • Juniper
  • Oak
  • Olive
  • Rowan

For utmost security, arrange the trees in a circle

Aphrodite’s Bower of Love

  • Apple
  • Linden
  • Myrtle or Pomegranate Trees
  • Roses
  • Scented Geraniums
  • Marjoram
  • Poppies

Aphrodite is Queen of Wild Nature. Decorate the garden with seashells and images from the sea. It would not be inappropriate to place a hot tub in the midst. Place images of her favorite creatures in the garden, too: doves, swans, rabbits, dolphins, deer, turtles, goats and wolves. If bees frequent your garden, you’ll know Aphrodite sends her personal blessings to you. She likes company: put a bench or gazebo in your garden and enjoy.

More plants for a romantic garden…

  • Basil
  • Carrots
  • Catnip
  • Chamomile
  • Chile peppers
  • Coriander
  • Crocus
  • Gardenia
  • Hibiscus
  • Hyacinth
  • Iris
  • Jasmine
  • Lady’s Mantle
  • Lavender
  • Lettuce
  • Mint
  • Onion
  • Orchid
  • Poppy
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • Saint John’s Wort
  • Strawberry
  • Thyme
  • Vervain

A Money Garden

These plants growing in your garden or within your home invoke and maintain prosperity:

  • Alfalfa
  • Basil
  • Camellia
  • Chamomile
  • Cinquefoil
  • Dill
  • Heliotrope
  • Honeysuckle
  • Jasmine
  • Lettuce
  • marigold
  • Mint
  • Morning Glory
  • Nasturtium
  • Onion
  • Oregon grape

Burn alfalfa and scatter the ashes around your property for prosperity. Alternatively, burn alfalfa and carry the herb in a medicine bag to ease financial woes, Buckwheat, cascara sagrada (Rhamnus purshianus)* and nuts, particularly walnuts, added to the bag will enhance the power.

*Native American tree, decimated by white settlers, very endangered, find out how it is obtained before using.

Money Trees

  • Almond
  • Banana
  • Horse Chestnut
  • Oak

A Healing Garden

Any plant may have therapeutic properties. The following plants have a metaphysically beneficial effect on health; they behave as guardians. Grow any combination of the following:

  • Balm of Gilead
  • Basil
  • Chamomile
  • Coriander
  • Fennell
  • Garlic
  • Heliotrope
  • Lavender
  • Melissa (Lemon Balm)
  • Mint
  • Onion
  • Poppy
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • Saint John’s Wort
  • Thyme
  • Tobacco

Trees of Life and Good Health

For added energy, plant trees in a circle, place a bench, seat, or hot tub in the center and soak in the healing power.

  • Apple
  • Bay Laurel
  • Cedar
  • Olive
  • Willow

All of the above was excerpted from Pure Magic by Judika Illes!