Wort Cunning…What is it?

Originally posted 09/01/2018 via speakingofwitchwands.net

By Isabella @TheWandCarver

Instagram: @thewandcarver

Recently I was asked this question. I must remember that not everybody knows the old English/Welsh/Irish/Scottish words for things. To be fair, neither do I in some circumstances, but wort cunning is a very familiar occupation to me. To put it plainly, it is working with herbs and plants. That is the very simplest explanation, but it very slightly scratches the surface. Wort is an old English word for herbs and useful plants. Cunning is the art of working with herbs/plants [or anything] for the purposes of healing/leechdom, charming, protecting, and binding.

Still, this doesn’t fully explain, however, at least now we’re mostly all on the same page. To be a successful wort cunner it takes many years of study – reading and working with herbs and plants, trial and error; in truth, it is an ongoing, life-long mission. If you are fortunate, you might have a cunning parent or grandparent who can teach you much along the way. I was very fortunate to have my Nana for the first 22 years of my life to at least get me started in the right direction. I’m forty-plus years past that now and still learning.

I’m not trying to teach you how to suck eggs here. There are so many reading this who already have a fantastic working knowledge of wort cunning and the ones just starting out would do well to buy a few good books, grow some herbs, and get stuck into your learning experience. What I do want to point out is, just buying and growing herbs successfully, reading a couple of good books, does not a wort cunner make. You must learn when to plant and harvest, chants to say during planting, during harvest, whilst preparing for whatever purpose you have in mind, and other mysteries. That is if you want the best results.

from Google images

If you don’t have a wort cunner in the family, then what? It’s alright. The old ones didn’t, either. In many cases, the ones we’ve learned from as the information was handed down through word of mouth and if we’re lucky, published in books, simply made it up as they went, in a way. You wild-gather some plants or herbs…or buy little cups of baby herbs or seeds and plant them. Find out the right time of year to plant…the right planetary hour and day to plant and to harvest…care for them, and watch them grow. Read everything you can about the correspondences of the herbs and plants, such as their element[s], planetary correspondence, deities, zodiac. Also, read what each is or has been used for what problem by others. A very useful first book of herbs is Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs, 1985. It not only has herbs listed in it but also has a great deal of woods, flowers, and other plant life which have magickal powers. Another informative book to have on your bookshelf is a yearly Almanac. An Almanac is vital for those who are planning to grow all their own herbs and plants for your practise. Then, you must decide your reasons for working with the herbs and plants you’ve chosen…are you interested in herbal healing? What about herbal charms? Protections and binding magick? You may delve into as many reasons as you like for wort cunning but it’s always best to stick to one line of endeavour and see it through in the end.

Spoilt for Choice?

It is also useful to think about what kind of magickal herbalism you’re most interested in such as English folk magick…or Asian healing…perhaps you’re more into Voodoo or Hoodoo or Native American conjures. I hope you can understand that I don’t wish to tell you that you absolutely must do one or the other, you can do as you please, however, it is easier to pick a path and walk it well rather than hopping from here to there until you are no longer interested at all. In the beginning, you might have to try a few different paths to “find yourself”, but do keep in mind you will do best at one path in the long run.

Personally, I am not at all familiar with anything apart from English folk magick. I never had to make a choice, but I also don’t feel the choice was made for me…it’s just what I naturally evolved to which probably and most certainly was influenced by my ancestry. I am sure there are many reading this who are following a path for much the same reasons as mine. Still, there will be those who will need to try a bit of this and that ’til they know what they lean toward, and that is fine.

In Medieval times immense importance was placed on the rituals surrounding the gathering of herbs or plants for a “spell” and there were ones for everything imaginable whether it was for a protection, a charm to prevent or cure evil, or healing…in those days known as “leechdom”, a forerunner of what we know as medicine or holistic healing these days. If you delve into the old English herbal lore you will see that word a lot. If you can, order a copy of two of my favourite books concerning Medieval healing/leechdom. One is The Old English Herbals by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, 1922 [last new publication in 2011] and Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England: Being a Collection of Documents Illustrating the History of Science in this Country Before the Norman Conquest, edited by Thomas Oswald Cockayne [Vol I, II, and III]. You will see for yourself how dedicated the old ones were in ritualising the very cutting of a herb or plant and how it all worked together to make the intended outcome “be well with him” as is often said of the “patient’s” health after the leech was finished.

A little example of what I mean by ritual, this excerpt is from my copy of The Old English Herbals:
Of periwinkle: “This wort is of good advantage for many purposes, that is to say first against devil sickness and demonical possessions and against snakes and wild beasts and against poisons and for various wishes and for envy and for terror and that thou mayst have grace, and that thou hast the wort with thee thou shalt be prosperous and ever acceptable. This wort thou shalt pluck thus, saying, ‘I pray thee, vinca pervinca thee that art to be had for many useful qualities, that thou come to me glad blossoming with thy mainfulness, that thou outfit me so that I be shielded and ever prosperous and undamaged by poisons and by water;’ when thou shalt pluck this wort thou shall be clean of every uncleanness, and thou shalt pick it when the moon is nine nights old and eleven nights and when it is one night old’.

This is a short example whereas some take several paragraphs with very descriptive instructions such as the day to begin the ritual, telling the cunner to sing the Benedicite and Pater Noster [clearly a Catholic cunner!], how to harvest the wort by “sticking thy knife into work, fast and go away”, go to the church and cross thyself, go in silence not speaking to no man, the sing the Benedicite and Pater Noster again, as well as a litany…and so on. It seems it could literally take a month in some cases to gather, enchant, then make the charm, poultice, salve, or whatever the case may be for!

Mind, these days we have learned to pare down our rituals for such things and everyone has their own way of enchanting their herbs and plants. Some Christo-Pagan witches might still sing a litany over their work, for all I know but most of us do not. You will find as you go that you will perhaps use things others have done and you will also start your own ways. Just like the old wort cunners of the past, we tend to stick to the methods which give us the results we need. And, like them, we should keep strict notes on what we have done and how it worked.

I hope this has answered a few questions and if not, please feel free to contact me. Most of all, I hope I have not confused anyone more than they were! Best of luck in your wort cunning and warmest blessings to all home this way wander x

Sources:

Experience

The Old English Herbals by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, 1922

Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England: Being a Collection of Documents Illustrating the History of Science in this Country Before the Norman Conquest, edited by Thomas Oswald Cockayne [Vol I, II, and III]

Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs, by Scott Cunningham, 1985

Love Spells

First posted on 05/02/2014 by Isabella via speakingofwitchwands.net

By Isabella @TheWandCarver

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The 14th of February is nearing;  love is in the air…new beginnings are beckoning. Imbolc has arrived with the promise of Spring soon-to-come and not only are little seedlings stirring in the Earth, awaiting their birth into a sunny World, but the stirrings of passion in our hearts is making many folk – at least those who aren’t in relationships – want to take action.  Is it any wonder that at this time of year I get more requests for love spells than at any other time of the year?

Before we go any further, I don’t do love spells.  I don’t recommend them at all.  I really burned myself several years ago by doing a love spell for myself (and I don’t mean that I burned myself on a candle!).  I really, really thought he was THE one and I would do anything, within reason, to ensure he wanted to be with me as well.  So…a simple little candle spell done and 7 years later, I was still trying to get AWAY from him.  Oh yes, the candle spell worked a treat.  In fact, too well! Problem was, I couldn’t end it when it was physically necessary to do so.  I have always known that every spell needs a “get out” clause, but in candle magick I rarely think to do so.  I’ve only just finished scrapping the rot from that relationship from my boots and it’s been over 10 years gone. But..you really want love and I’m here to help .

I’m not going to put a spell into anyone’s hands that is intended for the attraction/love of one specific person only.  It would be tantamount to handing a suicidal person a noose.  Either way, someone is going to be hurt badly.  My recommendation is to anyone wishing to find love and needing a bit of a hand with that from the Universe is this:

1.  Make a list – list all the qualities you feel you want most from a future partner.  Not just how you would like the partner to treat you, but be so specific that you choose the colour of his or her eyes, if you like. Take your time writing this list, add to it, take away from it, but before you go any further with your spellwork, be absolutely certain that everything on your list is complete and to your liking.  DO NOT give this person a name.  You are NOT wishing for a certain person, only the sort of person you want to attract. However, being dead specific is the only way the Universe is to know exactly what you want in your future partner.

2.  Sleep with this list under your pillow for a week along with a small pouch filled with dried or fresh rose buds, lavender, and vervain.  All 3 herbs are coincidentally for love, however, all 3 offer protection, healing, and luck. Rose and lavender have the power to give you a psychic edge as well..this can help you know when Mr or Mrs Right comes into your life.

3.  Buy a supply of small pink candles – a week’s worth – and burn one each day during the Venus hour(s)** of each day or night, at your convenience, focusing upon your intent to bring love into your life.  Also have on hand a small bottle of rose or lavender oil to annoint yourself & your candle with. Whilst burning the candle, please do not think of a specific person, only think about the qualities you’ve written down.  Small chime/spell candles are usually only about 50p each, perhaps more depending upon where you buy them and it normally takes about an hour for one to burn completely down.  And by all means, carve hearts onto them with a pin if you like. As your candle burns, visualise yourself being loved, cared for, treated with respect, adored. Let the love you could feel for another flow throughout your body and allow yourself to feel it as though you have already found your new love.

For a full week, your main intention is to bring love into your life.  You may carry the herbal pouch with you throughout your day if you choose to.  Do try and keep your mind upon whatever work you must do, still, on your own time, allow the feeling of love and intention rise within you as much as possible.

You will need to keep your mind and eyes open at all times…just because he or she is not the spitting image of the person you have in your mind’s eye, don’t discount those whom aren’t…sometimes the most unlikely on the face of it all is the most likely to be just right.

And please remember – do not do any of this specifically for a certain person’s love.  As the herbalist & writer, Scott Cunningham, once said, “Capturing a person with love magic of this sort is little short of psychic rape”.  Here’s hoping you’ll meet the kindest, gentlest, and most loving partner this month you could ever wish for and may you both be happy ever-after.

 Happy Valentine’s Day and  Blessed be )O(

** you can find the Planetary hours table here: http://www.lunarium.co.uk/planets/hours.jsp to find what time the Venus hour(s) are for each day.  If you find it inconvenient to burn your daily candle during the Venus hour each day, simply carve the Venus planetary symbol onto your candle with a pin.

The Magickal Ash Tree

Originally posted on speakingofwitchwands.net on 07/10/2013 by Isabella

by Isabella @TheWandCarver

Image

Photo by Damien Gayle, www.dailymail.co.uk

Gender:  Masculine; Planet: Sun; Element: Fire

Sacred to Uranus, Poseidon, Thor, WodenNeptune, Mars, Gwydion

Magickal Powers:  Protection, Prosperity, Sea Rituals, Health

The ancient Teutons regarded the Ash as “The World Tree“, which was their conception of the Universe, and therefore revered as such.

Ash has been used in many magickal ways over the centuries.  Sailors of old carved an equal-armed cross from Ash to carry whilst at sea to protect against drowning.  Ash is used in many sea rituals as it represents the power which resides in water.

The leaves of the Ash can be used to encourage prophetic dreams by placing them under one’s pillow or in a sachet.  The leaves may also be scattered to the four directions to protect a house and/or property.

The Ash tree, as are many trees, is considered to be very protective.  A staff (such as a Shaman’s staff) carved from Ash, placed over a doorway, wards off malign influences.  Ash is also said to ward off snakes, as they will not crawl over its wood.  However, Ash attracts lightening, so please don’t stand beneath one during a thunderstorm!

Ash wands (which we do make!) are often made for healing.  Ash wood is burned at Yule to receive prosperity in the coming year.  Even if you don’t have a fireplace, you can burn Ash chips  from resealable packets which are sold on our Etsy shop  in an incense to achieve the same result.  Ash is also used in poppets for all the various powers it brings.

Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings x

*Some information is from Cunningham’s Encyclopaedia of Magickal Herbs, by Scott Cunningham 1985-97, Llewellyn

The Magickal Oak Tree

First published on speakingofwitchwands.net Sept 2013

by Isabella @TheWandCarver

oaktree

Photo by  Glennie Kindred, www.whitedragon.org.uk

Sacred to Dagna, Dianus, Jupiter, Thor, ZeusHerne, Janus, Rhea, CybeleHecate, Pan, and Erato

Gender:  Masculine; Planet:  Sun; Element:  Fire

Oak was a source of food for early settlers in Britain and revered by the Druids.  The Druids (traditionally) would not meet for rituals unless an Oak tree was present.  Religious articles were often fashioned from the tree and Witches danced beneath it.  A tree as long-lived as the Oak naturally offers magickal protection and if you have two twigs of Oak, bound by a red thread in an equal-armed cross, it would be well for you to hang it in your home.

Oak Cross 3

photo by i.macy

Acorns, of course, have always been used for nature’s help – guarding against lightning strikes, drawing to the bearer wealth, among other things.  But, have you ever considered the magickal power of the Oak bark ?

Oak Bark
photo by i.macy

Logs of Oak were often burned in fireplaces to draw off illness.  Nowadays, not everyone has a fireplace, however, Oak still has a healing property in the bark.  They can be ground fine and used in incense, with the same effect.  Also, in incense to draw money and wealth, protection, luck, fertility, and potency.

Carrying a small pouch of Oak bark in a wallet or handbag draws wealth and adds protection to the bearer.  It can also be used in poppets to effect the properties that you desire for yourself or another.

Thank you for your support and many blessings!

*Some information is from Cunningham’s Encyclopaedia of Magickal Herbs, by Scott Cunningham 1985-97, Llewellyn