Maker's Moon: Making Warding and Shielding Talismans

It is the end of March which is the month of the Maker's Moon, but there is always time to make new ward and shielding tailsmans for your work and practice. Branwen shares her way of creating these useful tools that can help to keep you grounded, safe, and well protected.

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Wheel of the Year Activities: Corn Dollies and Witches’ Ladders

by Doyenne Rowan Nightshade

I love the autumn: the clear, cold days and chill winds that blow your hair in your face; the leaves turning colors; and the “pumpkin patches” that start appearing in every vacant lot. This month, we celebrate the coming of the harvest by making corn dollies, a traditional activity that actually has nothing to do with maize, and witches ladders, a form of knot magic.

Corn Dollies


The name “corn dolly” is something of a misnomer in this day and age. They aren’t made of maize and they often don’t resemble a person at all. The word “corn” evolved from ‘kern,’ the old English word for grain, and “dolly” may have evolved from “idol,” so “grain idol” is a more accurate term. If you look for information on corn dollies nowadays, you mostly find corn-husk dolls, so “wheat weaving” is the more commonly used term now. Corn dollies were frequently in the shapes of circles, hearts, loops, and stars (sometimes even goats) and were hung prominently in the home through the fallow winter months. It’s thought the Druids believed that the corn spirit lived in the grain fields and was made homeless at harvest time. Hollow forms, the corn dollies, made from the last of the grain harvest were woven to house the spirit, until the dolly could be plowed back into the field in the spring.

There are numerous websites and books that have detailed instructions on making beautiful and elaborate corn dollies, if you’re so inclined. For our purposes, I will describe how to make a very simple, basic one.

In choosing your grain stalks, you should select long ones that are straight and slender, and measure at least 18 inches from the base of the head to the first joint on the stalk. Green stalks will never ripen to a golden color after picking, so bear that in mind as well; golden is the traditional color for corn dollies. Just before you start, you’ll need to temper the stalks by soaking them in cool water for 20 to 40 minutes. Never use hot water, as it will cause the grain to lose it’s natural shine. After soaking, wrap the stalks in a wet towel and lay them aside for about 15 minutes before use. Once they’re ready, you can continue to use them all day as long as you keep them wrapped in the damp towel, or until they get too soggy, whichever comes first.

Materials:
Five stalks of grain, all the same length.
Two lengths of string or ribbon
A large, flat working surface

Getting started:
Stand the stalks on ends to line them up evenly. Fasten them with string or ribbon just below the heads, giving you five long ends below the string and a bundle of grain heads above.

Next, spread out the long ends so that they’re fanned out on the table and the heads are standing up perpendicular to the working surface.

For ease and clarity, arrange the long ends so they point directionally, relative to you. (i.e. North, South, East, and West). Point the fifth stalk East, as well. Now you should have one stalk each pointing North, West, and South, with the remaining two pointing East, one on top of the other.

Weaving:
Take the bottom East stalk and pass it under both the top East stalk and the North stalk.

Now rotate the entire bundle one quarter-turn clockwise, leaving you with two stalks in the East again (having moved them from North to East).

Again, pass the lower East stalk under the top East and the North stalks, then rotate again one quarter-turn clockwise.

Continue repeating this step, passing the stalk under and rotating the dolly. Soon the long ends will begin to curl up around the heads, forming a basket shape. This is good, it’s what we’re going for. Continue weaving until the basket covers the heads completely.

Finishing:
Gather the loose ends together and tie them off with another piece of string or ribbon.

That’s it, you’re done! You may wish to make a loop from ribbon or wire to hang it with, or even weave ribbon in with the grain stalks themselves just for fanciness. You can also use this method to make lavender bundles. Once you have the basics down, there are almost infinite variations to try.


Witches’ Ladders

Knot and cord magic is an old type of folk magic used to bind things to you. You can bind something you want, or bind protection to you to keep away things you don’t want. A witch’s ladder is just that, traditionally made from plaited hair or cord, with feathers woven or tied in. If you can make a braid you can make a witch’s ladder. Typical witches’ ladders use one black, one red, and one white ribbon (to represent the maiden-mother-crone aspects of the triple goddess) and nine feathers, though you may prefer to use colors or numbers that correspond to your working. You might choose pink and white ribbons to attract love, green and red for Yule or for prosperity, etc. You can purchase dyed feathers at craft stores in just about any color, though I, personally, like to collect found feathers and use them. You can also weave in beads or stones, or other objects, to enhance your spell, but the most important thing is to focus on your intention as you work.

Note: If you do collect “wild” feathers, I recommend washing them before use because wild birds tend to have mites.

Some color/feather correspondences are:
White: purification, spirituality, hope, protection, peace, lunar energies
Red: physical vitality, courage, good fortune, life
Blue: mental abilities, peace, protection, psychic awareness
Yellow: cheerfulness, mental alertness, prosperity, solar energies
Green: money, prosperity, growth, health, fertility
Orange: attraction, energy, success
Pink: attracting love
Grey: peace, neutrality
Brown: stability, respect, home, grounding
Brown feathers striped with black: balance between physical and spiritual life

Brown feathers banded or mixed with white: happiness, invisibility from harm
Brown and red mixed feathers: healing to animals
Black: mystical wisdom, spiritual initiation, banishing
Black iridescent feathers: mystical insight
Black and white mixed feathers: union, protection.
Black (or gray) feathers banded or mixed with white: hope, balance, harmony
Black mixed with purple: deep spirituality.
Black, white, and blue mixed feathers: change
Peacock tail feathers: protection from the “evil eye," stimulates clairvoyance
Rooster tail feathers (called sickles): God and Goddess.
The black ones resemble the horns of the Horned God and are a symbol of male virility.
The white ones resemble the sickle with which grain sacred to the Goddess is reaped.
 They also resemble the waxing and waning moon.

Once you’ve made your witch’s ladder, hang it near your door for protection, in the Feng Shui money corner of your house (southeast corner) for prosperity, or maybe next to your bed to attract love.

Happy Harvest!

Epona's Abundance Rising Oil

“In women's leadership, we find peace, prosperity, and joy. We all thrive.”
~Epona, Horse Goddess, Rite of the Abundant Queen. Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe, CAYA Coven.

This past Blue Moon, CAYA Coven’s Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe offered their annual Rite of the Abundant Queen, and I received the honor of being asked by a priestess of the BRHP Tribe to prepare an abundance oil for this powerful ritual. This year’s abundance blessing was received from ancient Horse Goddess Epona, worshipped widely throughout the entire Celtic and Roman worlds. Epona teaches women of their strength and sovereignty. The blessed wisdom that our body and our realms are connected and holy helps women discover their wholeness within themselves and all that women can rule. Women can rise in power. To manifest prosperity and abundance for ourselves and each other, the responsibilities of leadership lie in helping each other rise and fostering the wisdom to know we need more than an abundance of wealth and success to change the world. We must also cultivate an abundance of joy and beauty.

In the spirit of abundance, I share with you my recipe and mystical process for creating this oil for yourself and others. All materials and ingredients needed are listed. If there is a local shoppe near you that sells apothecary goods and wares, I encourage you to support your local economy. If not, all materials and ingredients can be found easily online. This is an abundance working. As with any magical act, regardless of how big or small, it is important to set one's intent, for what we put out in the world returns to us threefold. So your very first act in this working will be balancing choices of personal budget with sustainability, quality of products, and merchant's ethics when acquiring the materials to perform this prosperity magic.

Materials:

  • 3 teeny jars with lids

  • Something to label your bottle of Abundance Oil (Or print the label at the beginning of this post)

  • One clean and dry 4 oz. glass bottle with lid.

  • Optional - Latex or nitrile gloves [for those like myself with sensitive proclivities to touch]

  • One small clean rag for clean up [just in case of dribbles & spills]

Make sure new, unused oil and teeny bottles and 4 oz. glass bottle are clear of dust & particulates. If reusing bottles, clean them thoroughly in the dishwasher or by hand in the kitchen sink. Make sure the containers are cleaned of dust & grime and are dried completely in their insides. This would also be the time to bless your vessels, for they have the sacred honor of holding the magic.

Ingredients:

  • Cinnamon

  • Vetiver

  • Rose Geranium

  • Ylang Ylang

  • Orange Sweet

  • Bergamot

  • Black Pepper

  • Sandalwood

  • Frankincense

Undiluted essential oils should not be used directly on skin, they should be mixed with a carrier oil. For this oil blend will be using 4 oz. of olive oil as the carrier.

Safety note regarding essential oils:

  • Keep all essential oils out of reach of children and pets.

  • Avoid the contact of undiluted essential oils on the skin.

  • Do not take Abundance Oil internally.

  • Use essential oils with caution when pregnant or breastfeeding. [Consult your healthcare provider]

  • Please note: If you are allergic to the food or the plant, you will be allergic to its corresponding essential oil.

More info from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.


Beginning three days before the full moon

This working is most powerful when performed during the three days before a Full Moon, culminating on the night of the Full Moon itself. Take the three days before the Full Moon to prep oneself. The notion of abundance, whether related to money, career success, or love, brings up many hopes, dreams, shadows, and fears. Processing through the activities, listed below, over three days will help ready your mind for the awareness needed to center the working. You may also wish to craft a poem, song, chant, prayer, sigil, art, etc that encapsulates the energy of your abundance  working. Spending the three days prior to the Full Moon to complete your symbol allows components to charge on your altar as you progress.  

Day One

Grounding

Make a list of all abundance in your life. Think beyond material. Abundance is everything: social, emotional, spiritual, etc. Don't forget your talents and qualities. Note all of this and give thanks.

To ground the Abundance Oil, first pour the oils for Epona.

Olive oil symbolizes Epona's Roman connection, and the olive branch is a symbol of peace, especially peaceful relations, amongst people throughout the world. For in women's leadership, we find peace, as well as prosperity and joy. We all thrive. Find within you the peace you currently possess.  You have it. It is there. Focus on it and the abundance of peace flowing from you and returning as you pour the olive oil into your 4 oz. glass container. Charge it on your altar.

Centering

Time to lay the foundations for your abundance. Visualize what symbolizes a foundation for your abundance. Is it a literal foundation? A treasure chest? A cup overflowing? During my working with Epona for this oil, eye envisioned a wild chestnut mare grazing contently in a lush, expansive green field near a river. As you feel the energy of your vision, blend the following three oils in the first of the three teeny jars and charge on your altar.

  • 3 drops Cinnamon ~enhance natural feminine magnetic intuitive powers

  • 3 drops Vetiver ~the comfort of knowing you you have everything and all will be provided.

  • 9 drops Rose Geranium ~an abundance of love ties it all together.

Day Two

Shielding

Gently observe yourself today. How you feel when you spend money? How do you feel when you don't have it? Do you feel you are prosperous? Why? Why not? What are your mental obsessions around abundance & scarcity? Release these shadows and fears by writing them down (let them flow) and tossing them away (let them go). Pour the next three oils and charge on your altar.

  • 3 drops Ylang Ylang ~before abundance can flow, transform negatives to positives

  • 3 drops Orange Sweet ~the smell of knowing you can

  • 3 drops Bergamot ~magnetizes abundance

Day Three

Opening the Way

Make note of any dreams, signs, omens, & serendipities you have had in the last couple of days that correlate to abundance. These are encrypted messages from the Universe. Write them down and read them aloud to yourself.
Note any and all sudden flashes. Pour the next three oils and charge on your altar.

  • 3 drops Black Pepper ~an ultra boost of positivity

  • 3 drops Sandalwood ~increase creativity and adaptability

  • 3 drops Frankincense ~a great spiritual attractor. right alignment in right livelihood. it will also amplify abundance, creating an overabundance to share.

Night of the full moon

Whether you have a home apothecary, work in your kitchen, or at your altar, create your sacred space and gather the olive and the three essential oil blends.  
Center yourself. Breathe. Find your peace.
Set your intent by picking three areas of focus.

Examples:

  • money

  • shelter

  • food

  • career advancement or change

  • health

  • land

Once you have chosen the three areas of abundance you wish to increase, open to the flow of abundance around you.

Begin your poem, song, incantation, sigil, magical act, etc.
Pour three oil blends into the olive oil.  
Give thanks and gratitude to the Abundant Queen for Her generosity and the gifts she has bestowed upon you.

You may leave the completed blend to charge for three days after the Full Moon or use right away.

May the abundance of the Goddess be forever in your heart.

Merry meet. (^_^)

"Feed someone a fish. They'll eat for a day. Teach them how to fish and they'll eat forever."
~Maimonides sung and paraphrased by Arrested Development with the term "man" replaced by a more inclusive reference

Seasonal Herb Crafting: Herbal Allies for Spring Part 2 (Dandelion)

by Meadowlark

Due to the early Spring's much needed rainfall, longer days, and warmer weather, we see activity and signs of life everywhere we look. The buds on the trees have turned to leaves, and the flowers are blooming- in parks, gardens and roadsides alike. People are coming out of their homes on weekends and evenings- jogging, biking and working in their yards and gardens. The stillness and dormancy of winter has fully given way to the movement and growth of Spring. No matter what is going on for us now, or what has happened to us in the past, this season provides us all with a chance for fresh starts and fertile beginnings.

By aligning ourselves with the changes and growth all around us, we can leverage the momentum of the season to cultivate our own desires, and manifest our own wishes and dreams. What that looks like for each person will be different. Some might strive increase their energy and vitality, to enable them to get moving and take action; Others might work on exploring their desires and dreams and determining what's needed to plant the seeds of change; Others might make wishes and work magic to enable those wishes to come true. For each of these physical, energetic or magical challenges (and more!), Dandelion (Taraxacum) can be a powerful herbal ally.

Yes, Dandelion, the nemesis of suburban lawn owners, despite its reputation in this country as a nasty lawn weed, is actually a medicinal and magical herb! Dandelion is thought to originate in Asia, but spread before written history, and is intentionally cultivated worldwide as an essential plant for food and health. All of the dandelion (flower, leaf, root and stem) is edible, and high in minerals, especially potassium, and vitamins A, B, C and D, as well as beta-carotene, choline (essential for liver function) and inulin (beneficial for diabetics). Medicinally, it helps to cleanse and support the liver, blood, kidneys and gallbladder, aids in bile production and digestion and reduce gas, blood pressure, fat and cholesterol, as well as increase muscular strength.

Dandelion has a tap root that can extend up to 3 feet underground, and is an extremely hardy plant. Even if the surface plant wilts or is destroyed, it will regrow from the root. From this quality, as well as its life restoring medicinal qualities, it has been considered a magical underworld or otherworld plant, and is magically aligned as such. Dandelion is sacred to Hecate, and according to mythology, she fed this herb to Theseus for 30 days, thus giving him the strength and vitality needed to defeat the Minatoar in the Cretan Labyrinth.

Spring Herbcrafting with Dandelions:

Health & Healing: Sometimes a gentle herbal energy boost may be just what's needed to restore and revive energy and stamina to get those spring projects off the ground! In March, we talked about “Spring Cleaning” and clearing away any dark, negative or sluggish energies of winter to prepare ourselves for the fresh, new growth of Spring. Hopefully, you had a chance to work a bit with Nettles in this endeavor. If not...its not too late! However, If you have been working with nettles and you still feel like you need some additional “spring cleaning”, dandelion can be taken in combination with nettles or by itself as a nourishing and cleansing tonic.

  • Young Dandelion leaves clear blood and lymph and can be used to add flavor and nutrition to salads and sandwiches.

  • The leaves can also be taken as an herbal infusion to support liver and kidney function. To make the infusion, place ¼ cup to ½ cup leaves (either just Dandy or ½ Dandy + ½ Nettles) in 1 quart mason jar, fill with boiling water, lid tightly, and allow to steep for 4-10 hours (I find overnight to be the simplest). Strain well, composting the spent herbs, and drink 2-4 cups a day warm or chilled, as desired.

  • For a healthy herbal coffee substitute, the roots can be roasted, ground and brewed like conventional coffee.

  • The roots can also be added to soups and stews as they simmer, adding additional nutrients and healing qualities. A little goes a long way with this, as dandelion can be bitter, but it is this same bitterness that aids in bile production and digestion.

  • Externally, a strong infusion of the flowers can be used in the bath or as a wash for skin and hair, to ease dry skin, dandruff, excema, etc

Fertility: Spring is a time associated with fertility. Dandelion, with its own fertile nature, can be an ally for those who are trying to conceive a child and prepare their bodies for pregnancy.

  • Magically, dandelions can be used in fertility spells. One only has to visualize the flower in its seed form to realize the power this flower has to germinate and reproduce in great numbers. Make an offering to the spirit of the plant, blow a seed head to spread the seeds across the land, and ask for support with your own and/or your partners fertility.

  • Nourishing and tonifying the liver is an important part of supporting overall reproductive health. The liver helps filter toxins and waste from our bodies, including excess hormones. Taking herbal infusions of the dandelion leaf, decoctions of the root and/or adding leaves or roots to foods (as mentioned above) will help to cleanse the liver and regulate hormone levels in the body. Of course, if there is a medical condition preventing or complicating fertility and pregnancy, additional measures will need to be taken, but liver health is essential for proper hormone balance and functioning.

Divination, Communication & Wishes: Magic is in the air! The wheel has turned to Beltane, when we honor and celebrate birth, life and all things living. Fairies, nymphs and nature spirits abound!  At this time (as with Samhain at the other half of the wheel), the veil between the worlds is thin. It is a perfect time for making wishes and working big magic.

  • Psychic Tea or “coffee” made from the root is said to promote psychic power and can be a useful ally when preparing for divination or dreamwork. For an extra magical boost, save some tea and place it next to your bed to call spirits.

  • A strong infusion of the plant makes an excellent wash for scrying mirrors, or you can make a scrying bowl by filling a suitably reflective bowl with this tea and gazing into the liquid.

  • For protection while sleeping as well as during astral and dreamtime travel, include Dandelion in dream pillows, sachets and mojo bags.

  • Blow on a seed head to make a wish, or use dried flowers in sachets and charms to make Spring wishes come true.

Happy Spring Herbcrafting!

Wheel of the Year Activities: Gathering Sacred Woods for the Beltaine Fire and Making May Wishes on a Hawthorn

by Doyenne Rowan Nightshade

Gathering Nine Sacred Woods for the Beltaine Fire

I love tree magic, I enjoy and resonate with the unique energies of each one, each living tree and type of tree. Being of a celtic persuasion, at this time of year I tend to think about the tree magic that’s traditional for Beltaine, namely gathering the nine sacred woods for the Beltaine fire. I may or may not have an actual Beltaine fire, and if you’re only just now gathering your woods, they won’t be very dry by May 1st (though if you’re a city dweller like I am, you’re probably only gathering twigs, rather than logs). However, you can still gather it and charge it up all year, and then burn it next year instead, and next year gather the wood for the following year, etc. One of the powerful things about this season is that it’s one of the times when the veil between the worlds is thinnest (the other being Samhain), therefore it’s an excellent time to do big magic, to really establish your intention for the next few months, and to manifest growth and good things in your world.

ninesacredwoods.png

The Nine Sacred Woods, traditionally, are:

  • birch: for new beginnings

  • oak: for strength and protection

  • hazel: for knowledge and for wisdom

  • rowan: for life, for magic, and for protection

  • hawthorn: for wishes, for sweetness in the heart, and for protection

  • willow: for death (all part of the cycle, you know), for vision, and for intuition

  • fir or pine: for birth and rebirth

  • apple: for love

  • (grape)vine: for joy and for happiness

If you live in a place where some of these plants don’t grow, I strongly suggest substituting a local, related tree. For example, rowan and hawthorn are both in the rose family (rosaceae), so maybe there’s another plant in the family that seems to strike the right cord for you. I have substituted wild plum for blackthorn since they are both in the prunus amygdala group (also in the rosaceae family) when making ogham staves, and California sagebrush (an artemisia) for gorse (entirely unrelated), because it seemed to serve a similar function in the environment and just felt right.

Making May Wishes on a Hawthorn

It’s traditional to make wishes on the full moon by tying ribbons to the branches of a hawthorn tree, especially in the month of May, since that’s when it’s generally in full flower (it’s also known as the May Tree). Here in the Bay Area, we’re fortunate to have many hawthorns growing around the edge of Lake Merritt in Oakland, so it wouldn’t be too hard to find one in the moonlight and tie a ribbon onto it. You may want to choose a color that reflects your desire, such as green for prosperity, pink for love, blue for health, and so on; then you can write your wish on it, or even just speak the wish into the ribbon. In case you’re not entirely sure what a hawthorn looks like, I offer the following guide for your edification:

How to Spot Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away: Hawthorn Edition

How to Spot Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away: Hawthorn Edition