Beannachdan na Samhna dha na h-uile

By Isabellla  @TheWandCarver

Instagram:  @thewandcarver

Or, in English, Samhain blessings to all.  I am feeling my Scottish roots deeply this year as I have spent the better part of the last three weeks working through that genealogical branch in my family tree.  I had always grown up believing the prevalence of Scottish ancestry grew through my maternal grandfather’s lineage but as it happens, the Scots brightly adorn both halves of my family tree – and for many, many generations to boot! Then, let us have a Scottish little Samhain!

What about Halloween?

Most of us know the word Halloween is a version of Hallow’s Eve. But are you aware that Halloween originally has Scottish beginnings? The origins of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, or summer’s end. Summer represented the living world [along with Spring, it is the light half of the year] and the dark half of the year begins  31st October.  It was – and is still – believed that spirits of the dead roamed about freely on this night and it was believed that children must be dressed to conceal their youth from these dark entities. What better way to do this than to dress up like the so-called evil spirits themselves so they could blend in?

from Google images, unknown

On this night of merry-making and scary acts [more from children than evil entities!] the way from house to house would invariably be lit by little neep lanterns.  What is a neep lantern, you ask? Well… you know the vegetable as a swede in England or a turnip in Ireland and if you’re in France, it would be called rutabaga.  Neeps were, and are, carved out and a candle placed inside just the same as is a pumpkin in America.  Personally, I think the neep lanterns are much scarier looking! I love them! A jack-o’-lantern [or jack o’lantern, US spelling] is a carved pumpkin, turnip, or other root vegetable lantern, commonly associated with the Halloween holiday. Its name comes from the reported phenomenon of strange lights flickering over peat bogs, called will-o’-the-wisps [England] or jack-o’-lanterns [Ireland].  Jack-o’-lanterns carved from pumpkins are a yearly Halloween tradition that went to the United States with Irish immigrants.

For all the “guising” that went on in Scotland through a few centuries, the American “Halloween” as is now known in the UK did not latch on fully until the last couple or so decades. Long before Halloween, in Scotland children and adults would go “doukin’ for apples”.  I’m sure that will cause a lot of laughter from across the pond, but the word “douk” as it happens means “to plunge, to dip, to bathe”.  Of course, most of you probably use the word as it is described from the urban dictionary.  Not so nice a connotation indeed! Still, the practise arose most likely from the fact that the ancient Celts held apples as sacred.

Samhain and the protection of fire

Returning to Samhain, large bonfires were an integral part not only of celebrations but also that of protection and were lit in each village to ward off any evil spirits. All home hearth fires would be extinguished then re-lit from the flames of the great bonfire. Sometimes, two bonfires would be built side by side, and the people—sometimes with their livestock—would walk between them as a cleansing ritual. The bones of slaughtered cattle were said to have been cast upon bonfires.

The bonfires were used in divination rituals, although not all divination involved fire. In 18th century Ochtertyre, Scotland a ring of stones—one for each person—was laid round the fire, perhaps on a layer of ash. Everyone then ran round it with a torch, “exulting”. In the morning, the stones were examined and if any was mislaid it was said that the person it represented would not live out the year.

Samhain was mainly seen as a liminal time when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. This meant the aos sí, the ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’ [the little folk], could more easily come into our world. Many scholars see the aos sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. At Samhain, it was believed that the aos sí needed to be mollified to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink would be left outside for the aos sí, and portions of the crops might be left in the ground for them.

The dead were also honoured at Samhain. The beginning of winter may have been seen as the most fitting time to do so, as it was a time of ‘dying’ in nature. The souls of the dead were thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Places were set at the dinner table and by the fire to welcome them. The belief that the souls of the dead return home on one night of the year and must be appeased seems to have ancient origins and is found in many cultures throughout the world. It is the very night I use most for hedge walking and visitation with my ancestors and to honour them. The result of which is always gratifying.  I hope they feel the same.

Halloween celebrations names in other countries and areas include:

Wales –  Calan Gaeaf

Isle of Man – Hop-tu-Naa

Cornwall – Allantide

No matter how you celebrate Samhain this year, please do so safely and responsibly.  Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings to all whom this way wander x  Beannachdan na Samhna dha na h-uile!

From the Wortcunner’s Cabinet: Vervain

Originally posted on 30/01/2018 via speakingofwitchwands.net

By Isabella  @TheWandCarver

Instagram: @thewandcarver

Having a laugh as I look through different sites regarding Vervain, the multi-functional herb which is used for everything from love to money to protection…and suddenly, I run across a website which says, in the list of metaphysical properties/powers of Vervain, that it “wards off vampires”. Tee hee. That wouldn’t be because in the American vampire love story series, Vampire Diaries, seemingly endless amounts of Vervain was drank, scattered about, worn, and probably bathed in to prevent vampire attacks…but in the end, it mattered not as the main character eventually chose to be a vampire, didn’t she?

Vervain is one of the herbs [worts] which I use in somewhat great abundance, as it happens, but never to ward off a vampire. Although it is good protection against snake bites…but not so much from people bites. And, certainly not in the great abundance with which it was consumed on Vampire Diaries. Still, should you purchase one of our witch bottle necklaces such as the Love Witch Bottle or the Prosperity Witch Bottle, you will have a pinch of Vervain in those.

vervain-indigo-herbs
Vervain photo from indigo-herbs.co.uk

Why is Vervain useful in a Love witch bottle …or for any kind of love empowerment or spell? Oh, let me count the ways! Firstly, Vervain is a Venus-ruled herb and a water element herb. It is sacred to Isis, the Goddess whom is considered to be the ultimate wife and mother. And, along those lines, as Isis is an Egyptian Goddess, in days of yore, the Egyptian people made love potions including Vervain…perhaps they still do, for all I know. It is a well-known, powerful herb for attracting love. But, did you know that it is also an excellent herb for helping those suffering from lost love and broken hearts? Burn it in an incense on a charcoal disc for helping overcome the pain of a break up, broken heart, and unrequited love. Vervain would make a thoughtful gift to anyone looking for love or trying to heal from loss of love this Valentine’s Day.

How is it that Vervain is so great for all matters of the heart and, at the same time, help draw prosperity and money into your life? Vervain is sacred to the Greek God, Jupiter. Jupiter is the God of the sky, but his planet is the one associated with money. According to the Seven Keys of Solomon, if you wish to do a money/wealth/prosperity spell it should be done on the day of Jupiter [Thursday] and in the hour of Jupiter [there are two in each day, one during day hours, one during night hours]. You can use Vervain, such as we do in a talisman, like our witch bottle, or you can burn it in an incense during your ritual. You can also use it in money candles if you are so inclined to make your own candles or you may roll a pre-made candle in a bed of loose Vervain after you have applied your candle dressing oil.

Vervain is also an excellent protection herb. Make an infusion with the fresh herb in water to use to wash and consecrate your tools and altar. Plant the wort around your property. You can use the Vervain-infused water in a spray bottle to spray your door sills to prevent negative energies and people from coming into your home. Wear it in a talisman around your neck or carry it in a pocket or pinned to a lapel to ward off negative energies around you. Make a sachet to place in a child’s cot to protect him or her and to ensure joy and intellect for the child. Albertus Magnus, in his Book of Secrets, offers a clue when he wrote that ‘infants bearing it [Vervain] shall be very apt to learn, and loving learning, and they shall be glad and joyous’. If you suspect psychic attack upon yourself or others, burn Vervain all around the person being attacked. Please do so carefully and responsibly.

Vervain is always its strongest when fresh cut at sunrise. Still, the dried herb itself is one of the strongest worts I’ve had the pleasure of using as well. It has the reputation of being able to greatly strengthen the effects of any other herbs it is used with. Because of this, the Welsh call it Iiysiaur hudol or ‘the enchanting herbe’.

Vervain was a favourite of the Druids, who gathered the herb when the Dog Star, Sirius, was on the rise, in the dark of the Moon. The Druids utilised Vervain in divination, consecration, and ritual cleansing of sacred spaces. They made a magickal drink called the Cauldron of Cerridwen [a shapeshifter] that some say included rowan berries, sea water, lesser celandine, flixweed, and Vervain, which brought the drinker creative energy for bardic song and prophecy; a drink made from Vervain is still said to help poets in their work. Vervain is also still used to make a drink for initiating into Druidic paths. It is fragrant and can be drunk as a tea or burned as an incense. In its connection with the Underworld, it can be added to a cup of wine drunk on Samhain to aid contact with the Beloved Dead.

Medicinal Use:

Vervain is advantageous for women. The herb not only enhances the lactation but also induces menstruation cycles. In addition, Vervain is known to invigorate the contraction of uterine muscles during labour and hence herbalists suggest that it is best to avoid using the herb during pregnancy. However, Vervain may be used during labour as it makes child birth easier.

It is useful as a diuretic.

The herb encloses substantial amount of tannins that makes it an effective astringent and useful as a mouthwash to treat bleeding gums and mouth ulcers.

Lotions or ointments prepared with Vervain are effective in treating sores and wounds, and valuable medication for insect bites and skin disorders.

Tea brewed from the herb may be taken to alleviate tension; to lift depression, lethargy, irritability and all other problems associated with stress  such as headaches, migraines and even the nervous system fatigue.

When used as a hot infusion [tea], Vervain functions as a diaphoretic and helps to lower feverish conditions by inducing sweating.

*Word of caution:  if taken in excess dosages, the herb may lead to vomiting. Vervain possesses verbenalin that is said to be a gentle purgative and is suspected to be accountable for the vomiting.

Correspondences:
Planetary associations: Venus
Zodiac associations: Virgo, Libra
Elements: Water, Earth
Gender: Feminine
Magickal powers: Aphrodisiac, Fertility, Consecration, Immortality, Love, Protection, Purification, Psychic Visions
Deity: Diana, Hermes, Medea, Aradia, Bast, Thor, Jupiter, Isis, Cerridwen
Part Used: leaves, flowering heads
Other names: herba veneris, herb of grace, verbena, enchanters herb, holy herb,
blue vervain,  Herb-of-the-cross, Pigeon’s Grass, and holy wort

Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings x

Sources:

A Compendium of Herbal Magick, by Paul Beyerl, 1998

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verbena_officinalis

http://www.witchipedia.com/herb:vervain

Experience

The Magick of Broom

Originally posted on 02/11/2017 via speakingofwitchwands.net

By Isabella @TheWandCarver

Ngetal Broom

What is Broom? Technically, it is not a tree…more of a shrubbery, and is sometimes referred to as “Reed” …still, it is considered in the Celtic Birth Tree Calendar as one of the thirteen woods which comprise the CBTC.  Broom [or reed] is the 12th month of Celtic Tree calendar, 28th October – 24th November and is the 12th letter of the Ogham alphabet – Ngetal.  If you were born on 31st October, Samhain, both the Broom and the Blackthorn would have great meaning for you.

People born under the Broom/Reed sign among the Celtic tree astrology signs are the secret keepers. You dig deep inside to the real meaning of things and discover the truth hidden beneath layers of distraction. When there is a need to get to the heart of the matter, most certainly the Reed sign will find the core. You love a happy story and can be easily drawn in by gossip, scandals, legend, and lore. These tendencies also make you an excellent historian, journalist, detective or archaeologist. You love people because they represent a diversity of meanings for you to interpret. You are adept at coaxing people to talk to you, and sometimes you can be a bit manipulative. However, you have a keen sense of truth and honour so most of your scheming is harmless. Broom/ Reed people join well with other Broom/Reeds, Ash or Oak signs.

Broom_2009_06_12_GlenriddingHut_BBQ_203p5
Broom growing wild..as it does 🙂

The Broom seldom grows large enough to furnish useful wood, but when its stems acquire a sufficient size, it is beautifully veined and being hard provides valuable material for veneering.  As its name suggests, it was popularly used for making brooms and brushes and was commonly used for basketwork, especially on the island of Madeira.  In the north of England and Scotland, it was used for thatching cottages and making fences or screens.

A traditional rhyme from Sussex says: “Sweep the house with blessed Broom in May / sweep the head of the household away.” 😊

The branches of the Broom shrub are perfect for sweeping [but not whilst the yellow blossoms are standing at attention, wait till the flowers drop off – otherwise sweeping with Broom branches leads to very nasty luck as the fables warn]. Because of its handy household uses, the flower symbolism of the Broom includes a sense of orderliness, cleanliness, and tidiness. Kind of like a “symbol of good housekeeping.”  Its bright yellow flowers are likened to the gold of the radiating sun, and therefore conjure symbolic attributes of light, energy, vitality, and warmth.  The Broom flower as a symbol also hints at humility – it’s a simple bush…its needs are few [it can live quite well without much tending]. Those who are drawn to the Broom flower as a personal symbol will be humble in his/her ways…. resourceful, too – making the best [and being happy] with simple things in life. Broom flower symbolism also points to matters of the heart; ingestion of the plant is known to affect cardiac function. Folk medicine cites Broom teas as a heart regulator [don’t try it at home unless you know what you’re doing, please]. The Broom is a bright reminder of how simple values can go a long way to balancing the heart.

Medicinal and Folklore:

The whole of Broom is medicinally valuable. The main medicinal ingredient in Broom is sparteine. When consumed in large doses it can cause excitability and hallucinations.  This has been speculated as the reason Broom is associated with witches flying around on brooms. I would imagine this would raise blood pressures to an incredible height so please don’t try this.  The sparteine found in Broom is now used for heart and circulatory disorders. Other preparations from Broom can help with gout, sciatica, joint pain, malaria, fever, kidney stones. I would think it best to leave this to the pharmaceutical companies to know how much and what part of Broom should be used.

broom flowers RHS
Broom flowers ~ Royal Horticultural Society

Flowers of the Broom were once used to concoct an elixir for gout and it was known that King Henry VIII drank the infusion of water with Broom flowers to “cure” the effects of his many excesses.

Before hops, Broom was added to flavour and enhance the intoxicating effects of beer.

My Nana insisted the broom be stored on its end, never on the bristles, to keep the magick from running out.

It is bad luck to loan your broom to anyone, even a friend.

A broom laid in a doorway would detain a witch from entering a cottage. For a witch would not cross over objects without first numbering the parts, and counting all the fibres of a broom would slow her progress. [Wales]

Stand a broom upside down – Marry soon. [Ireland]

Magickal:

Broom was hung up in the house to keep all evil influences out, and an infusion of Broom sprinkled throughout the house was used to exorcise poltergeist activity.  Sweeping the ground with a brush of Broom will clear the area of unwanted influences.

Banishing and releasing spell:

Bundle a handful of twigs to create a small ritual hand broom. Write the name of what you want to release or banish from your life on a piece of paper and burn it.  When the ashes are cool scatter them on the floor around your altar. Take the broom and sweep the ashes from the centre out to the edge of your circle. Gather the ashes and then scatter them to the wind.  [You can also sweep the floor as you burn the ashes, and then take a few pieces of your broom, burn them in your cauldron, and scatter them to the wind after they cool].

~Whispers from the Woods, by Sandra Kynes

Correspondences:

Planet: The Moon

Element: Water

Symbolism: Royalty, cleansing, healing, psychic protection, astral travel

Stone: Opal

Colour: Blue

Bird: Geese, kingfisher

Deity: Mercury, Morpheus, Bacchus

Sabbat: Samhain

Folk Names: Scotch Broom

Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings to all whom this way wander x

Sources:

Whispers from the Woods, by Sandra Kynes

Whats-your-sign.com

In Worship of Trees, by George Knowles

Samhain and the Magick of Blackthorn

Originally posted on 31/10/2017 via speakingofwitchwands.net

By Isabella @TheWandCarver

Instagram: @thewandcarver

treeid-blackthorn woodlandtrust
Young blossoming Blackthorn ~ photo by woodlandtrust.org.uk

It is the tree of Samhain. In the Celtic Birth Tree Calendar, Blackthorn is 31st October, the beginning of Samhain and more recently associated with Halloween. Its ogham name is Straif, Chieftain tree.  It is not a CBT Calendar birth tree, therefore there will be no “zodiac” reading associated with Blackthorn, although some traditions believe those born upon this day to be born from something less than angelic. We shall lay superstitions and old beliefs aside to look at Blackthorn as the wonderfully magickal and protective tree that it is.

“The holy day of Samhain is, in the Celtic tradition, the first day of Winter: a time of sacrifice, divination for the New Year, communion with the dead, of endings and rest. On this night the world of spirits, ancestors and mortals might meet.

The Blackthorn tree is esoterically known as both the Mother of the Woods and the Dark Crone of the Woods.  It is found primarily in the British Isles and is generally part of hedgerows and in thickets. You’ll often find it alongside Elder and Hawthorn in the hedgerows bordering many farmlands. It is a very difficult tree…more like a shrub than a tree, traditionally never becoming taller than thirteen feet in height…to physically come close to. And if you do, mind the thorns or “spines”…

Within the mythic cycle of the Goddess as Crone, she deepens into Herself and enters the Dreamtime, the place between the worlds where past, present and future exist simultaneously. The season invites you to enter a place of stillness and simply be where you are: not moving forward or backward but utterly present, suspended in the space between past and future. It is here that you may hear Her voice in the crackling fire, rain, and wind.

Review the year that has passed with introspection and retrospection. Commune with your ancestors and honour your beloved dead. Remember your sisters who perished in the Burning Times, and commit yourself to the struggle for justice. Divine and ask the Fates for blessings in the coming year. What do you leave behind in the year that has passed, and what do you wish to take with you? How will you prepare to listen to the Old Wise One within?” ~ Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries by Ruth Barrett, and We’ Moon

sloe-dave kilbey photography
Sloe berries on Blackthorn tree ~ photo by Dave Kilbey davekilbeyphotography.co.uk

The Blackthorn does produce fruit, called sloes, and is often made into sloe berry jam and sloe gin.  The berries have medicinal use as well which we’ll look at later.

Folklore

Blackthorn is generally depicted as an ill omen throughout Britain and even Europe, however, the Celtic people formed its most sinister reputation…a hard, cold winter would be referred to as a “Blackthorn winter” and the Ogham letter straif is where the English word “strife” is derived from. Drawing the straif Ogham stave [made of Blackthorn wood, of course!] means the diviner is in for a thorny go of things. The drawing of the stave also indicates the actions of fate in your life, something that cannot be avoided but must be faced and dealt with. Blackthorn gives you the strength to accept and persevere in the face of adversity.

Blackthorn is associated with death quite frequently. Samhain is the death of the old year whilst hailing in the new.

In the Irish legend, the Pursuit of Diarmaid and Gráinne, a passage describes Sadhbh eating sloe berries and becoming pregnant as a result. She gave birth to a son who was born with a lump on his head. The lump turned out to be a worm or snake. The snake was eventually killed in sacrifice for another man. In The Sword of Oscar, sloe berries are part of a sacrificial theme as well. Blackthorn’s theme in traditional stories often indicate a warrior’s death in service to the High King or tribe.

In the Word Ogham of Cúchulainn Blackthorn is ‘an arrow’s mist’ and ‘smoke drifting up from the fire.’ These are both kennings for death.

Magickal Use

Blackthorn is used for purification, as well as protection, ridding the atmosphere of negative energy. It deals with the issues on a Karmic level, which cannot be avoided. Meditating on Blackthorn can purify our minds of negative thoughts and impulses at the deepest level of our psyche. It can aid us in combating fear, depression, and anger. The thorns of the Blackthorn can be imagined lancing the built-up abscess of negative thoughts, and release the emotional toxins, which can then begin to heal. Using the gentler sister tree, Hawthorn, in conjunction with Blackthorn, can aid the process of healing.

Traditionally, Blackthorn is used in protection against evil, creating boundaries, purifying, confronting our own dark side. Blackthorn dispels negativity, toxins, old wounds, and impurities. It can be used in exorcisms. It is associated with chthonic and protective deities.

Blackthorn Spines
Two of my Blackthorn spines…one is 3″ long! Photo by i.macy

The spines can be used as pins to stick in a poppet. A wand or staff can be used for help in exorcisms or for protection from fire and for general protection.  A staff can be used to make wishes, and carrying the wand or staff protects one from evil. The wood makes a good divining rod. Often the Blackthorn wand is called a “blasting rod” for the power is so intense. An ideal wand for casting spells against enemies.

Protection Spell:

Carefully gather a few thorns from the tree.

On a piece of paper,

write the name of the person or situation

from which you seek protection,

and then wrap it around the thorns.

Bury this in the ground – if possible near the tree

from which the thorns were collected.

Whispers from the Woods, by Sandra Kynes

Medicinal Use

The fruit and leaves contain Vitamin C, organic acids, tannins, and sugars. Steep the flowers for a diuretic, tonic, and laxative. The dried fruits can treat bladder, kidney and stomach ailments. Boil the leaves for a mouthwash or to soothe the throat from tonsillitis or laryngitis.

Correspondences

Planet: Mars, Saturn

Element: Earth, Fire

Zodiac: Aries, Scorpio

Symbolism:  The inevitability of Death, Protection and Revenge, Strife and Negativity, The Balance between light and darkness.

Stone: Black Opal, agate, bloodstone

Colour: Purple, Black, Red

Bird[s]: Thrush

Deity: Morrigan

Sabbat: Samhain

Folk Names: sloe, sloe plum, wishing thorn, faery tree

Pronounciations:

Scots Gaelic: Draighionn

Irish Gaelic: Draighean

Welsh: Draenen ddu

Many thanks for reading.  Have a blessed Samhain and warmest blessings to all x

Sources:

Druidry.org

Whispers from the Woods, by Sandra Kynes

Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries by Ruth Barrett, and We’ Moon

Experience

Our Samhain Oil ~ Cypress Wood and Its Use in Magick

by Isabella @TheWandCarver

Instagram: @thewandcarver

The Cypress Tree has already been written about in an earlier blog, however, many do not think about how magickal Cypress wood is when it comes to making poppets, potions, and other spell-work.

Cypress wood may be used to consecrate ritual tools in its smoke.  It can also be powdered and used as an incense for those who work with the magick of the legendary King Stag of the forest.  Of course, many already know that it may be carried in a pocket to help aid in longevity of the bearer.  And, it is said to give a happy hereafter to a loved one whom has died if you throw a handful of Cypress in upon the coffin.

All parts of a Cypress tree may be used in magick.  Cypress oil is a very sought-after oil for protection and longevity.  However, we may not always have every oil that we wish for so here is a recipe for an oil that is rich in magickal properties for longevity, protection, and comfort.  It may be used as candle dressing, annointing, and any spellwork that involves longevity, protection, and comfort for grief.

**WytchenCrafts Samhain

Longevity and Protection Oil

You will need:

Cypress wood, cut fine or powdered (small chunks are fine) about 1/8 tsp

Maple wood, cut fine or powered, about 1/8 tsp

Lavender, dried  about 1/8 tsp

1/8 cup Olive Oil

3 drops Rosemary Oil (for protection)

3 drops Lavender Oil (for longevity, protection)

3 drops Lemon Oil (for longevity)

1 tiny Amethyst chip (for healing, protection)

1 tiny Citrine chip (for protection & charging of oil)

1 tiny rose quartz chip (for receptivity, harmony)

Firstly, enchant your Cypress, Maple and Lavender. Mix all ingredients into a bottle that will accept all items, cork or cap bottle, and shake 3 to 9 times, putting your intent into what you are doing.  Use for all magickal workings to do with protection, healing, and longevity.  May be used for anointing.

**This is our own recipe and is not to be made for sale by anyone but Wytchencrafts, all rights reserved.  Please feel free to make and use it for your personal workings only.

Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings to all whom this way wander x