Monday, February 28, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

I'm seeing a lot of “March means spring!” mentality on the great big Internet and it’s making me chuckle. And I’m not the only one who lives in a place where it will continue to be winter right through March and into April with potential for snow as late as mid-May. Spring indeed.

So, in that grumbling sort of spirit and with my teeth set on edge at the mention of anything related to “spring”, I defiantly offer up my absolute favorite hot chocolate. This is a French Creole recipe that can’t miss on a cold day and is a family favorite after work or play in the chilly Alaskan outdoors this time of year.

Whole milk
Cocoa powder (Ghirardelli and Hershey both make excellent cocoa powder but if you want to splurge try Valrhona or, my personal favorite, Frontier which is available at Amazon)
Powdered cinnamon

Using the mugs that will ultimately serve the hot chocolate, measure enough milk into a saucepan and let it come to a boil over medium high heat. Keep an eye on it; scorched milk is just awful and boiled over milk is a real pain to clean up.

Meanwhile, place two teaspoons of cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and sugar to taste in each mug. When the milk is just bubbly, pour a little bit into the bottom of the mugs and mix this until it makes a smooth paste. Now call in the family and slowly top off each mug with milk. The kids can stir away the lumps of cocoa, which also helps to cool the milk, and enjoy.

You can add more cinnamon for an extra bite, or omit it all together if it doesn’t strike your fancy. A dash of pepper sauce is good too if you like it spicy. Bon appétit~

Header: La Famille du duc de Penthièvre c 1768 by Jean-Baptiste Charpentier This painting is also known as “La Tasse de Chocolat” - The Cup of Chocolate.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dimanche: Swimming

"Don't be afraid" Late 19th century postcard featuring a "bathing machine"

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Samedi: Pot Tet et Govi

According to the religion of Voudon, we are all born animals. Fish in the sea, birds in the air, monkeys in the trees, moles in the ground and men on the land; all animals. The only difference is that people can become human by choosing to go through initiation into Voudon and thereby being born again as humans. Most people I mention this to find it off-putting, which is amusing to me. None of the Big Three Western religions think twice about using the same language with regard to their rites of initiation.

This rebirth is the reason for the two articles, or some would say “fetishes”, that I’m bringing up today. One, the pot tet, is for the living. The other, the govi, houses the dead.

Pot tet can be literally translated as head pot and it is a vessel used to hold the gros bon ange, that part of the initiate’s soul that carries a little piece of Bon Dieu and will live on after death. The pot tet is a crockery jar, usually white, that accompanies the initiate on their journey to join humanity. Once initiation has concluded, personal concerns from the initiate such as hair and nail clippings, some ash from the ceremonial offering, corn meal and sweets such as hard candy will be placed in the pot tet and it will be sealed. The jar is then ensconced in the initiate’s oumphor. Here it will be guarded by the presiding mambo (priestess) or houngan (priest).

The pot tet is a symbol not only of initiation itself but of the initiate’s trust in his or her spiritual leader. In theory, an unscrupulous priest could use the pots tet under his care to maliciously control some or all of the oumphor’s members. When a houngan or mambo falls under suspicion of such dealings, people will remove their pot tet from the oumphor and find another house of worship.

This kind of trust is particularly critical in the case of the second receptacle of the soul: the govi. As we’ve discussed before, when the gros bon ange is released in desounen it goes into the waters of Ginen. This part of the human soul only resides in this abyss for a year and a day – a marking of time that will be very familiar to many who practice alternative religions. On this anniversary, the priest and family of the deceased will call the gros bon ange in a ceremony known as “calling the dead from the low water”. The receptacle for this now immortal force is the govi.

The govi is usually made of clay in a form more or less like a human uterus. It is usually draped in a skirt of cloth in the favorite color of the lwa who was the deceased’s met tet. A woman who held Erzulie Freda on her head might have pink satin draping her govi; one who was favored by Simbi would have a govi swathed in green cotton. The govi, like the pot tet, is kept in the oumphor. Interestingly, mambos and houngans report that once the gros bon ange has entered the govi, the clay pot is heavier than it was before.

These traditions are an example of Voudon’s honor for those who have gone before, which is an ancient wisdom unfortunately neglected in our “enlightened” world. Bon Samedi ~

Header: Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

Friday, February 25, 2011

Vendredi: Seven of Hearts

This card is one of the few in its Suit to bode ill. While the outcome of any difficulty pointed to by the Seven of Hearts will not be terribly severe, it could very well be a life lesson well heeded.

The card indicates a querent who is suffering from delusion. They may view themselves as more capable, attractive, talented, funny, etc. than they actually are or they may be imagining things about others for their own gain. Since the card is in the Suit of Hearts, it is most probable that they are deluding themselves in love – either of someone else or themselves – unless the cards close by point strongly to another issue. The real concern with this card is that the querent has waded too deep into self-deception and may cross over into dissipation.

If there is absolutely no indication of trouble in the reading and, in fact, the cards surrounding the Seven of Hearts are remarkably positive, then the querent may very well be on the right track. Their only potential pitfall in this case would be not following up on what success they have accomplished.

And so we are more than half way through the Suit of Hearts. It’s hard for me to believe but the adage of time flying is always true. Appréciez votre Vendredi ~

Header: Late 19th century engraving of a Tarot reader and her clients

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jeudi: Root Work

Positive outcomes, or more correctly outcomes in favor of the root worker, are what mojos and spells are all about. There is a subtle difference, of course. Just because the result of my working is good for me does not guarantee that it will be good for anyone else. Generally speaking, hoodoo is not concerned with black, white, or gray, probably because it comes from a background of hardship. It is always important, though, to think carefully before undertaking any work and to simply do on to others as you would have them do on to you.

Today’s working is not of the type that anyone needs to worry about. On the face of it, one might imagine that it is manipulative. In fact I’ve had Wiccans flat out tell me it is. My response is that everyone is getting something out of the so called manipulation. In this instance we are talking about the sale of an item (as last week we talked about the acquisition of something) and this is a working I have used personally with great success. There are still folks driving around in my old cars with name papers tucked away in them, probably happy as clams. I mean, if clams really are happy. So, if you want to sell an item for its best possible price – particularly a large item like a house, boat, plane, car or piece of furniture – here’s a working that, as noted, has been “road tested”.

Take a piece of paper nine inches square and, using green ink, write the buyer’s name nine times from top to bottom. Now turn the paper and write the buyer’s name nine times once more from top to bottom so that the names cross each forming a checker board pattern. Be sure to concentrate on this person willingly purchasing what you have for sale. If you do not have a specific person interested yet, write something like “reliable buyer”, etc. in the same fashion.

Now mix a small amount of dried devil’s shoe string (also known as hobble bush or cramp bark), mistletoe and cinnamon together and sprinkle them on your name paper. Fold the paper up to form a little packet and tie this up with green thread, knotting it three times. The smaller you can make your packet the easier the next step will be. Remember to concentrate on drawing that good customer to your wares.

Finally, take your packet and secrete it somewhere inside the item you have for sale. Tuck it in a drawer, behind a baseboard, in the back of a glove box or under a floor mat, where ever you think it can stay the longest without being found. Again, the smaller the packet the easier this task.

Now walk away and let it go. Keep your item in good condition and advertise as you would regardless. The right buyer will find you, the right deal will be struck and the longer they go without finding your packet, the happier they will be with their purchase. Bon chance ~

Header: The Plaza Market San Antonio Texas by Thomas Allen c 1879

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

All of us know that taking care of our teeth and gums will lead to a long and happy relationship with both. Some studies suggest that good oral care can also help in preventing heart and liver problems. Some studies tend to be contradicted later but regardless, having a nice smile and pleasant breath makes life a whole lot easier. So why not get a bonus from something you do daily anyway? Like prosperity for instance?

When my eldest daughter became completely averse to anything minty – no gum, candy canes, mouthwash or toothpaste will cross her lips if it smacks of mint – I started hunting around for alternatives. Crest currently makes a nicely flavored whitening toothpaste called “Citrus Splash” that she has somewhat embraced. But here is a homemade tooth powder that harks back to our ancestors and adds the extra kick of prosperity-attracting cinnamon and clove. Both have antiseptic properties as well so there’s good science behind this recipe which may be over 300 years old.

2 tbsps baking soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp powdered cinnamon
7 drops clove essential oil

Sift the soda, salt and cinnamon together and discard any lumps. Add the essential oil, mix and sift again. Store the resulting powder in a tightly sealing jar. To use, moisten your toothbrush and dip it in the powder, proceeding as you would with any commercial powder or paste. Think about prosperity coming into your life as you brush, tasting the cinnamon and clove to remind you of all the potential that is out there for you. Rinse thoroughly and enjoy your clean teeth. If you want that kick of mint, reduce the clove essential oil to four drops and add four drops of peppermint essential oil. A votre santé ~

Header: Mae West by Henri Sabin

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

Today is “Presidents’ Day” here in the U.S. which, as Homer Simpson so aptly put it, is really a “rip off”. We used to celebrate Lincoln and Washington separately, on their actual birthdays (February 12th and 22nd, respectively) but now we just have this third Monday in February for “Presidents”. In the spirit of rebellion that I always feel on this measly holiday, I am wearing a shirt with neither of those guys on it. Instead it is adorned with my favorite President: Andrew “Action” Jackson. My husband’s t-shirt has William Howard Taft, our fattest President, on it. In honor, then, of a hard-nosed Kaintuck who got shit done and a guy who could really eat, it’s a carnivorous recipe today. Throw that steak on the grill and eat hearty!

1 cup red wine or Balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsps onion flakes
2 tsps thyme
3 tbsps lemon juice
1 crushed bay leaf

Place all in a baking dish in which your meat of choice can lie flat. I recommend a London Broil for this marinade but it’s also great with fillet mignon, strip steak, caribou and moose. Allow the meat to marinate at least two hours and up to overnight in the fridge. Turn it once in a while to evenly cover with marinade. Cook as usual, allowing a few minutes of rest before carving. And safety first: the stuff is super tasty but you need to dispose of the marinade after you’re done. Bon appetite ~

Header: Jackson Square, NOLA and Taft on the stump

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Samedi: Klemezin Klemay

In 1212 a young noblewoman named Clare ran away from her wealthy parents’ home in the Italian town of Assisi to join the man who would become Saint Francis in his denial of all Earthly things for the sake of God. She would eventually join him in sainthood as well, becoming the woman we know as Saint Clare, the founder of the order of Poor Clares.

Clare died in 1253 but before then her legend had spread. She is often depicted as above, holding up a Monstrance against the invading army of Frederick II who had a mind to ransack her convent. He was turned back by a storm which the locals attributed to Clare’s vigilance and courage in the face of so formidable an enemy. Women, particularly those of noble birth, at first flocked to the order of Poor Clares. Later it would be a place for wealthy families to stash unmarriageable daughters and a small convent was established on the island of Sante Domingue after the French settled there.

Perhaps because of this, Saint Clare entered the Voudon pantheon as the lwa Klemezin Klemay. Though Clare of Assisi was an elderly, pious woman when she succumbed to a virtual life-long illness in the 13th century, she is nonetheless thought of in Voudon as a young, spritely girl. It is not unusual for those possessed by Klemezin to skip around the peristyle like a child. They might also take up a broom to sweep the bad luck out of the oumphor.

Klemezin is frequently offered sweet cakes with light blue or white icing. She is also fond of flowers in the same colors and her devotees wear scarves and clothing in those colors as well. Oddly, she is thought to love perfume, something that Saint Clare herself would surely have nothing to do with. She is called on for clarity in thought and vision and those who do psychic readings keep her prayer card handy to help them in their “second sight”.

A little prayer to Klemezin next time you need help choosing your best path in any given situation may be something to consider. Her kind and energetic spirit is sure to jump to your aid without hesitation.

Header: Saint Clare from the Fort Meyers Beach, Florida, convent of Poor Clares website

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vendredi: Six of Hearts

Today's card, while not as auspicious as last Friday’s delightful offering, also foretells happiness. Of course that is the usual expectation with the Suit of Hearts so really there’s nothing to be surprised about.

Overall, the Six of Hearts indicates unexpected good fortune. You will need to look at the cards in close proximity to determine what the good fortune might be. Diamonds could indicate an increase in wealth, Hearts a new or improved romantic situation, Clubs might indicate recognition for the querent at work or in another endeavor, Spades could bode well in a pending court case or other disagreement. There is a lesson in whatever may be coming the querent’s way as well: they need to count their blessings and be thankful for their good fortune.

If the reading gives no indication of pleasant surprises, for instance the cards all around the Six of Hearts are negative, then consider the possibility of this card indicating a relief from all that negativity. The querent will have a chance to breath; their worries – though not entirely dissipated – will be lessened. Sometimes just a brief respite from constant concern is enough to give a person a positive outlook. Bon Vendred ~

Header: Gipsy Fortune Teller by Taras Shevchenko

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jeudi: Root Work

One of the many things that my grandmother passed on to me were some interesting workings she had learned from friends. She had the good fortune to have a little travel under her belt and when she was “back East” (she never specified exactly where) she made the acquaintance of a small group of what most people would call Gypsies. These people, who call themselves Roma and are frequently referred to as Romany, were originally from India and have migrated pretty much all over the world since somewhere around the 11th century. There are pockets of Roma population all across the U.S. so there’s no reason to discount Grandma’s story. And why bother when the dear lady has gone on, rest her.

This was one of Grandma’s favorite “Gypsy spells” and, considering that no matter where she lived Grandma always had beautiful, expensive furniture I’d have to say there’s something to it. The spell invokes two Catholic Saints, Patrick and Peter, but the names used for both will be unfamiliar to most. Saint Patrick is referred to as Darny and Saint Peter as Liber. I cannot tell you why this may be but I’ve a hunch it follows a similar path as Voudon with a culture’s pagan gods taking on the guises of Saints to avoid detection by the Church. At any rate, both Darny and Liber are called upon for assistance here.

So, if you have a need for a piece of furniture, from end table to baby grand piano, but haven’t the means to buy what ever it may be, try this working for remarkably quick results.

Take a green taper candle and, using a knife from your kitchen, cut seven equidistant notches into one side. They should be approximated 1 inch apart. Place the candle in a sturdy holder and put it somewhere near the place that you plan for your new furniture. Light the candle and say three times: “Darny help me, Liber help me”. Concentrate on the item you desire, visualizing it in your home being used and enjoyed.

Allow the candle to burn down to the first notch and then put out the flame. You will need to return to the candle, light it, say your prayer and visualize at approximately the same time each day, allowing the candle to burn down to only one notch per day. Remember not to think about where you will find your furniture or how you will pay for it, just do the work and move on to other thoughts.

If you can, clear a space for your new item and treat that space almost like the furniture is already there. Feel free to tell anyone who might ask what you plan to put in that space but discuss nothing further. The rest is your business alone. When the candle has burned out on the eighth day, dig any remaining wax from the holder and bury it, either in your yard or a house plant. Now let it go and don’t be surprise when that piece you most desire turns up cheap at a thrift store, sitting around in a friend’s garage or free on Craig’s List. Stranger things have happened. Bon chance ~

Header: Lady at the Piano by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

While we tend to imagine human beings to be the only animal that cares about how they look, I think that may be erroneous perhaps even to a fault. Some would say that the beauty of the dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, which finished up last night, is all for the people who care for them, show them, breed them and watch them and has nothing to do with the animals themselves. I beg to differ. Watching Best In Show winner Hickory, the willowy Scottish deerhound, lope around the ring and then stand stock still with remarkable elegance I was brought to mind of America’s Next Top Model. Tyra Banks would call Hickory “fierce” and I’m pretty sure Hickory thought she was too.

After reading about Hickory at the NYT online, and finding that she is a hard working farm dog, I thought to offer this concoction for the beauty – and health – of our furry friends. This calendula paw cream (which is also great for humans, ferrets and monkeys) is all natural and relatively easy to make. The flowers of the calendula (commonly known as marigold) are much like aloe in their anti-inflammatory and healing properties. In small doses calendula is safe to ingest so there is very little chance of your pet getting sick should they lick at their paws after application.

8 tbsps jojoba oil
3 tsps grated beeswax
4 tbsps rosewater
4 500 IU vitamin E capsules
10 drops calendula essential oil

Warm up the rosewater to a simmer in a small pan. Put the jojoba oil and beeswax into a double boiler over simmering water and allow them to melt together. Remove all from the heat and, when they are both lukewarm, whisk the rosewater into your oil/beeswax mixture. Then use an electric mixer on low to whip the cream for about 3 to 4 minutes. Or use your whisk for a nice workout; you’re looking for a creamy but not hard consistency, kind of like whipped cream with soft peaks. Add the vitamin E from the capsules (usually pricking with a pin and then squeezing will work fine) and the calendula oil. Whisk until completely cool to the touch. Place this mixture in a wide mouth jar with a tight lid. Scoop some out with your finger, warm it up by rubbing between your hands and then slather Fido or Fluffy’s clean, dry paws to keep them soft and crack free, especially in winter. À votre animal familier ~

Header: Scottish deerhound Hickory and her handler at Westminster last night
via Times Union online

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Licorice root (not the black candy) is often used in root work, most probably because it is said that – when used correctly – licorice can give a person command over others. The use of the root may have come to hoodoo through Native American culture but it could just as easily have come to the U.S. through Afro-Caribbean associations.

An incense for dominance is made with equal parts licorice root chips and frankincense. These should be burned on charcoal either before the situation where command is required or while performing workings to increase a person’s power. To improve chances of success in a court case, substitute tobacco for the frankincense. Carrying a piece of licorice root is also said to improve confidence and aid in success when speaking in public.

Licorice is also added to mojo bags for love in cases where a person wants to dominate the lover. This is said to work particularly well if a “personal concern” of the intended lover’s, such as a lock of hair or nail clipping, is added to the bag. Even a used tissue, though not very appealing, will help the working along.

In Wiccan practice, licorice is used to engender fidelity, attract love and stir lust. Scott Cunningham suggests that chewing a stalk of the licorice plant will make one more passionate. He also recommends it to help stop smoking. For these purposes it is important to note that licorice should not be ingested in large doses by anyone and should be avoided by those with diabetes and high blood pressure all together. As my grandmother used to say, a word to the wise is sufficient. Bon chance ~

Header: An Oleander by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

Chicken is one of those “feel good foods”. I mean, unless you’re a vegetarian. From simple chicken soup to elegant Chicken Florentine, it’s all good as far as I’m concerned. Also, chickens are economical to keep in even the poorest circumstances so that’s good too.

Today then, as a little Valentine’s Day treat, Leon E. Soniat, Jr’s recipe for chicken and sour cream. Since butter, shallots, sour cream and cayenne pepper are reputedly aphrodisiac in the hoodoo lexicon, it seems a perfect choice:

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 1 fryer cut up
1 cup finely chopped shallots
½ lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 8 oz carton of sour cream
½ cup dry white wine
1 stick of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1 cup chicken stock (or water)
Salt and pepper to taste

Salt and pepper the chicken and brown them in oil and butter in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Remove the chicken and add the shallots and mushrooms. Sauté five minutes over low heat. Add the sour cream, stock, cayenne, salt, pepper and chicken. Cover and simmer slowly until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Add the wine and stir well. Cook another five minutes or allow to simmer with the lid on until dinner time. Serve over rice.

Jour de Valentines heureux ~

Header: Medieval manuscript illustration “cooking at an open hearth”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Samedi: Prayer to St. Expedite

We've talked about the Roman soldier born and bred in New Orleans, Saint Expedite, before. As we discussed, he is the saintly alter-ego of the Lord of Ghede, Baron Samedi in New Orleans Voodoo. That post is a consistent favorite here at HQ as is the Saint. Anyone who can help you find a solution to a problem quickly is sure to be popular.

Prayer cards are available with the Saint’s likeness – he is invariably shown as a Roman clad in the uniform of a legionnaire and holding a cross, palm frond, or both – on the front and his invocation on the back. The words are curious among prayers to Catholic saints as they specifically mention St. Expedite being able to achieve for the supplicant what his or her abilities cannot. I find this particularly comforting and encouraging; perhaps because I am a writer.

Today, three versions of the Prayer to Saint Expedite from my own prayer card which comes from lovely NOLA herself. Light a red candle (preferably dressed with an oil to match your need as in clove oil for protection, rose for love, cinnamon for money) and recite the prayer that most resonates with you. Allow the candle to burn out completely and then put what is left of the candle – still in its holder – in your freezer. Leave it (and try not to think about your request) until your desire has manifested, then remove the candle from the holder and bury it on your property or in a house plant before making a thank you offering to St. Expedite (try rum; he loves it).

May the intercession of the glorious martyr Saint Expedite, recommend us, O my God, to Thy goodness, in order that his protection may obtain for us what our own merits are powerless to do. Amen.

We supplicate Thee, Lord, to inspire by Thy grace all our thoughts and actions, that Thou being their principle, we may, by the intercession of Saint Expedite, be conducted with courage, fidelity and promptitude, at the time proper and favorable, and come to a good and happy end through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saint Expedite, honored by the gratitude of those who have invoked thee at the last hour and for pressing cases, we pray thee to obtain from the all-powerful goodness of God, by the intercession of Mary Immaculate, the grace we solicit with all submission to the Divine Will. Amen.

Use any or all of these prayers, but always remember to thank the Saint when your request is fulfilled. Bon chance ~

Header: Saint Expedite niche at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, New Orleans

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vendredi: Five of Hearts

Although there are always exceptions, generally speaking the Suit of Hearts is full of happy cards. Today we will discuss arguably the happiest card of them all: the number Five.

This card is a harbinger of great good fortune and possibly more of it than the querent has ever experienced. Luck is with them in all things but usually the spread and the querent’s question will give you an idea of where it will hit. If you are reading for a person on a spiritual journey, they are likely to find new insight and – if an appropriate face card is close – a trustworthy teacher. Look for one or more Spades in proximity. If they are looking for love, it is near. Again, look at the cards close to the Five of Hearts; a definitive omen would be the King, Queen or Jack of Hearts (depending on gender/persuasion) right next door. Diamonds nearby? Then business success is on the horizon. Spades? A court case or dispute could turn in the querent’s favor. The possibilities are virtually endless.

As we’ve discussed more than once, it is always wise to end your readings on an upbeat, positive note. If the Five of Hearts shows up, you definitely have your querent’s silver lining no mater how dark their reading might otherwise be. Bon Vendredi ~

Header: The Card Players by ter Borsch c 1659

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jeudi: Curios

All forms of money can be used in root work for gaining wealth and in some cases luck. I keep an envelope of dollar and five dollar bills to which I add dried bayberry daily with a prayer of intention to provide all that my family needs, and a little extra. When I get a dollar or – particularly lucky – a dollar coin I place it in the envelope and add more bayberry. Not only does this help keep household funds on an even keel it also provides a stash of cash when the kids request a few bucks, usually somewhere between five and ten minutes before we need to leave for school. In most money workings such as this, drawing from the reserve is fine – even encouraged to get that lucky cash out in circulation. Just don’t ever take all the cash out of the envelope; leave at least a dollar bill and a coin to keep the magick working.

The coin of choice for your magick envelope, the one that stays put always to work for you, might just be today’s curio. The silver dime is coveted in hoodoo, particularly now since the U.S. government stopped minting them in 1946, and is sometimes called a mercury dime. Used in workings for wealth, health, luck and love, silver dimes can still be had through hoodoo suppliers.

All coins with faces on them are considered appropriate for guarding the health of the person carrying them. The idea is that the face on the pocket piece keeps watch for evil and jinxes while the holder is distracted. Silver dimes are considered the most powerful of the bunch and many root workers “dress” them occasionally with Florida water, whiskey or holy water to keep them effective. Sometimes the coin is worn in the shoe or sock. In other instances it is occasionally put under the tongue. If the coin turns black in any case, then evil workings are being done against the holder.

For luck, and gambling luck in particular, nothing beats a dime minted in a leap year. Some workers dress the dime and then wrap it in a two dollar bill to double the luck. The thought hear is that two unusual items will bring unusual luck. Catherine Yronwode, a folklorist, writer and herbalist whose incredible knowledge of hoodoo and root work is unsurpassed, notes that there may be a subtext to this old practice at her Lucky Mojo website (see sidebar; you can find silver dimes there, too). Since many prostitutes in the early part of the 20th century were paid two dollars on average, there may be an implication of “getting lucky” away from as well as at the gambling table.

Silver dimes are also added to mojo bags to attract love or lust. Generally, red flannel is used and the ingredients in the bag should amount to three, six or nine items. Here’s one for lust: In a red flannel bag place a silver dime, a piece of ginger, a sprinkling of red pepper, a coffee bean, a cinnamon stick, and an apple seed. With the intention of attracting a lover, sew up the bag and anoint it with a bit of vanilla essential oil or extract. Wear this next to your skin when you go out looking for love. If you hook up with someone and decide you’d like a relationship rather than a fling, open up the bag and replace the cinnamon stick with a sprig or sprinkle of rosemary. Repeat as above with the intention of a lasting love affair. Bon chance ~

Header: Silver Favourites by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

Soap – along with shampoo for similar reasons – is probably the easiest beauty product to make at home. The base is simple and and as long as you use quality essential oils you can quite literally go to town. This makes it an easy way to work a little magick, too. Since cleansing is, in and of itself, a kind of ritual it’s not that hard to add a little intention to achieve your desires.

Since we’re talking lovin’ this week, here is a great basic gel soap recipe (cake soaps are a little harder to do and will be talked about in a separate post) followed by a few suggestions for love inspiring essential oils to mix and match.

You’ll need castile soap, which in most places is easy to find at drug stores but can also be purchased online. Castile soap is olive oil based and all natural with a low amount of foam (this isn’t going to be the bubbly soap you buy at the grocery store, particularly if you buy the vegan version with no animal fat) but it cleans so gently that it can be used on children over 8 months old in its natural state. Don’t use essential oils of any kind on a child under 2 years old without consulting your pediatrician.

For eight ounces of castile soap you’ll need eight to twelve drops of essential oil total. Twelve drops is a lot for most scents but some very light scents, like clover, may need a few more. Do some experimenting, including wearing a drop of an essential oil before you use it in beauty products to test for allergies. The inside of your arm below the elbow is a good place to test. Some oils, like thyme and clove, are universally irritating and only a drop or two should be used, particularly in a soap, bath or lotion.

All that said, here are a few of my favorite herbal oils to jumpstart your love life:

Apple blossom: Apples are used in “sweetening” workings in hoodoo to keep lovers faithful and happy. Use apple blossom essential oil to help grow an existing relationship and encourage fidelity.

Jasmine: This oil is an enhancement to any love potion and it smells delightful on just about everyone.

Lavender: Both the flowers and the essential oil of lavender is thought to bring good luck in love. Sprinkle a few flowers in a bath to make yourself more attractive before a date.

Rosemary: The herb and its essential oil are much favored in root work and Wicca as well. Rosemary is used for protection and drawing a kind, faithful lover by women in many traditions. This is a great ingredient for ladies who want to feel confident while searching for a new love, but also want to be protected from predators. When in doubt with love attracting lotions and potions girls, throw in some rosemary.

Vanilla: Like lavender, an attractant for both men and women. The smell is universally appealing. Hint for ladies of a certain age: mix vanilla and grapefruit essential oils to make yourself appear more “youthful” to gentlemen (the scent of grapefruit has been clinically proven to make men guess a woman is from five to seven years younger than she actually is).

Lemon Verbena: a great essential oil for the guys. The scent is very attractive and it has the added bonus of clearing out any blocks, unwanted attachments or thoughts of old loves that might be impeding a new relationship.

Mix your oils as noted above with eight ounces of castile soap and store in a bottle with a tight lid. Plastic is fine and one with a pump top is perfect for keeping in the shower.

The essential oils noted are just a few of the possibilities for delightfully scented and surprisingly effective love drawing soaps. Get creative, get clean and then get on out there! A votre santé ~

Header: After the Bath by Edgar Degas

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and I’m feeling some folks getting that “desperate for a date” kind of antsiness. It’s a little sad that we allow a Hallmark holiday to put so much pressure on us. To that end, however, and perhaps to ease some of that pressure I thought I’d focus a little bit on finding love here at HQ as the 14th approaches. Knowledge is power after all. So today let’s talk about sugar.

Sugar and other sweeteners, like cane syrup and honey, are used in hoodoo for love and “sweetening” workings. Sugar in particular is consider a love “herb” in old hoodoo and was used around Valentine’s Day to help affection along. A lady or gentleman who fancied someone would give them (or send them) a Valentine card just as anyone might but, before sealing the envelope, the potential lover would sprinkle sugar into it to sweeten the recipient’s attitude toward them. Some root workers say this only works if you add a pinch of graveyard dust as well. Seems like the sugar is plenty but, in this day and age of anthrax and what not, I might recommend something a little less suspicious looking particularly if you’re using the mail. Ladies, try pink glitter; gentlemen, go with red glitter. Just add a little focus and intention as you sprinkle it into the envelope and if you can find the kind with hearts and cupids, so much the better.

Sugar and cinnamon are often mixed to attract money and enhance confidence. Put a pinch in your business’ cash register or, to feel surer of yourself on a big day, eat a piece of cinnamon toast with butter and the sugar/cinnamon mix sprinkled on it.

Want to fool around without your significant other freaking out? Well, shame on you. That said, some root workers say that if you fill a red flannel bag with a broken pin, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of chewing tobacco and one of your spouse’s pubic hairs then carry this mojo next to your skin, your adulterous affair will be free of spousal complaints even if they catch you in the act. But seriously, think twice about this will you? No one needs that kind of bad karma.

Hoping a lost love will return to you? Chew on a piece of sugar cane nine mornings in a row while thinking of your lover. After you run into them, bury the piece of cane in your yard or in a house plant to keep them close from then on.

In Wicca and Druid practice, sugar is used for protection and cleansing, just as salt might be. As Silver RavenWolf points out, however, sprinkling sugar in the corners of rooms is a tempting attraction for pests. Better to stick with salt for that kind of working. Bon chance ~

Header: The Proposal by John Pettie

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Samedi: Filomez

Though the idea of associating a lwa in Voudon with a Catholic Saint in order to “mask” the African religion from Catholic masters is a major topic of discussion in all tracts on voodoo, hoodoo and Voudon, the reverse is rarely spoken of. Discussing a Saint being transformed into a lwa is so unusual as to be found only in books and other writings specifically for and about voudonists. Curious, isn’t it?

Of course I’m not here to debate the why of it, just to give an example of the how. My favorite story of Saint to lwa is that of Filomez, the Catholic St. Philomena, who did not join the Catholic pantheon until after Haiti became a free nation.

St. Philomena is, as noted, a fairly new addition to the honor role of Catholisism and, as quickly as she was officially recognized, she was dropped from said role unceremoniously. Her relics were originally found in Italy in 1802 as the body of a thirteen year old girl with a vial of dried blood unearthed in the catacomb of St. Priscilla. Father Francis de Lucia of Magnano immediately became an advocate of Philomena, taking her body to his church and beginning a campaign of prayer and alleged miracle working (including the cure of one Pauline Jaricot of her terminal heart condition). After the visions of a nun named Louisa of Jesus revealed Philomena as a martyr, the little Saint was canonized in 1837.

The far fetched nature of all this led to St. Philomena’s demotion after Vatican II. Like St. Christopher, she was struck from the roster of the heavenly host. But her worship had become second nature, particularly in the Caribbean where she is honored not only in Voudon but in other Afro-Caribbean religions like Candomble and Santeria. In Haiti she is known as Filomez and her statues, depicting a young woman, usually wearing pink, with a palm frond or arrows and an anchor, often decorate home altars and niches in oumphors.

Some voudonists equate Filomez with prosperity, calling her the daughter of a merchant. Others, like myself, equate her with Erzulie Freda and call Filomez Erzulie’s youngest sister. In fact, when I could not find an (affordable) statue of the Virgin Mary that Erzulie would approve for my altar to her, we compromised on a statue of St. Philomena which I agreed to decorate with jewels in order to make it more pleasing to the Lady of Luxury. One rarely really “compromises” with Erzulie.

Filomez is most pleased with offerings of pastel colored flowers and her long history of miracles in both the Catholic and Voudon tradition make her a very popular lwa indeed.

Header: St. Philomena from a French prayer card

Friday, February 4, 2011

Vendredi: Four of Hearts

Tripping along through the Suit of Hearts we are headed to their very own holiday: Valentine’s Day. But today, another coincidence: speaking of the Four of Hearts on the 4th of February.

This card is one of the less salubrious in its suit. The Four of Hearts indicates disappointments and delays, particularly – of course – in romance but also in friendships. Due to these setbacks, the querent may be pushing too hard for an attachment or relationship or just for relationships in general. They may feel a fear of being left behind while it seems their entire group of friends is moving on to marriage and parenthood.

When this card turns up in a reading, it is usually a warning to the querent to slow down, take stock of the good things in their life and husband their gifts. They are thinking too much of the world around them and not enough about themselves. Now is a time to relax and possibly turn inward. The squeaky wheel may get the grease but the obviously needy rarely get the guy or gal.

If Diamonds or Clubs are near this card, it might be worth advising the querent to take a break from dating or working on interpersonal relationships and focus on career or other forms of personal development. If Spades are close by, an all out vacation, as in a cruise or a week at a ski resort, might just be the key to the issue.

It’s never pleasant to tell someone they appear to be headed down the wrong path, but it is nice to head off an unfortunate train wreck. Just remember to keep it positive and that your querent may very well already know their situation, they just needed someone to confirm their suspicions.
Bon Vendredi ~

Header: The Happy Fortune by Georges de la Tour

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jeudi: Great Sprirts

With all the troublesome weather making things at least uncomfortable for many parts of my country, it’s probably hard for a lot of people to believe that February 2nd, Wednesday last, was the Celtic first day of spring. The day was known as Imolc or Imbolc and, despite the snow on the ground, the Celts recognized spring in the lambing of their sheep and the crocuses and irises that poked up through the white blanket at their feet.

With spring came the return of the spirit known as the Green Man. This male nature spirit was essentially the son of Earth and was thought to be present in every form of plant life. Given that many of the later Celts lived in areas where the thick forests were prevalent even into the late Medieval period – Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Northern France – this is not surprising.

Some writers place the Green Man’s origin firmly at the doorstep of agriculture. In this he is related to the later John Barleycorn who represents the life-death-life cycle of the harvest, particularly in the case of grains. Others see an ancient spirit, perhaps Neolithic in origin, that is the ancestor of Jack-in-the-Green. Jack was the spirit of the wild wood and could be either friendly or hostile depending on how he was approached.

The Green Man is probably the ancestor of both of these figures. He is the essence of all things that grow as is made obvious by representations of him throughout Europe. Generally the Green Man is shown as a face with leaves, twigs and vines growing over his skin so that only his eyes and lips can be seen. Even his hair appears made of foliage and sometimes stalks grow forth from his mouth. These images can still be seen in churches and on other buildings. An example is the Green Man sculpture at the header carved during the Roman period at Bath, England.

Clearly, the Green Man is a fertility symbol but he is not concerned directly with animals or humans. His purview is the biological life of plants down to the cellular level. That his plants feed the creatures around them is virtually of no consequence to the Green Man. He is verdant growth without conscience or concern. Just as wheat grows neatly in rows to be harvested, moss and molds grow unhindered over what is dead and rotten. The Green Man does not distinguish one as good or one as bad; they are all part of the urge to live, reproduce, die and be reborn.

It follows, then, that the Green Man’s descendants – his sons if you will – have each chosen a different path. John Barleycorn resides in those neat fields of grain, feeding the farmers who settled down to reap and sow. Jack-in-the-Green still lives wild where the moss grows on the northern faces of his beloved trees. Humans can find shelter in his realm, but only a certain type of humans. In the later Middle Ages, Jack-in-the-Green became closely associated with Robin Hood which hints at the kind of company Jack prefers to keep. The wilder outlaw, albeit with good intentions, is more to Jack’s taste than the diligent farmer.

The Green Man is still celebrated today, and not just by pagans. As an example, I offer you “The Green Man”, a song from the band Type O Negative’s album October Rust. There is not video for the song but this YouTube clip does a nice job with the rich, melodic sound. Here the Green Man, who is the narrator, takes on the guise of the May King courting the May Queen whom he worships and praises as “her highness”. A decidedly pagan sentiment coming from a Catholic from Brooklyn; RIP, Peter Steele.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

For some reason, most people leave their feet out of any beauty routine they may have. Except for places like coastal California and South Florida, where wearing flip flops out to your car without smudging your still-wet pedi because you’re in a h*u*r*r*y has been elevated to an art form (largely by women but I’ve seen dudes doing it too), most of us just pull on our shoes and forget it. Or our boots in weather like the stuff outside my window.

Although I’m not a huge advocate of the professional pedicure, largely because of the potential for unsanitary conditions in the more affordable shops, I like to treat my feet as well as possible at home. And by that I mean going a little further than a good once over with a wash cloth.

Here is a recipe for a foot scrub that I am fond of particularly in the winter months. Feet are generally happier in those aforementioned flip flops and when confined in heavy socks and boots they sweat even on cold days. This leads to a build up of dead skin cells and the resulting odor can be anywhere from mildly unpleasant to down right horrifying. This scrub will buff off that dead skin with oatmeal and sugar, mildly disinfect with tea tree oil and leave your feet fresh with peppermint. Apply once a week or so for the nicest winter feet you’ve ever had.

1 tbsp coarse oatmeal
2 tbsps sugar
2 tsps dried peppermint leaves
1 tbsp of plain, organic yogurt (if you can’t get organic, authentic Greek yogurt works perfectly; failing that, buy plain yogurt of the best quality you can afford. Despite what Food Network would have us believe, not every ingredient is “easy to get anywhere these days”)
Juice of 1 lemon
5 drops tea tree essential oil
5 drops peppermint essential oil

Combine oatmeal, sugar and peppermint leaves in a bowl. Add yogurt and oils. Mix and add lemon juice as you go until you have a sandy paste (you may not need all the lemon juice to get a consistency that feels right and works for you and your feet).

To use, sit on the edge of your tub or over a basin and massage the mixture into your feet, preferably after a shower, bath or soak. Hit the rough spots especially. Rinse and dry thoroughly and follow up with a good moisturizer. This treatment is very effective right before bed or before a long night in when your feet will have time to absorb the benefits of the treatment. A votre santé ~

Header: The Three Graces by Raphael c 1504

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Everyone knows what is being spoken of when someone remarks that an especially pretty girl is “like catnip”. The truly amusing thing is that the idea behind the remark is as old as the hills and probably has a magickal basis.

Catnip has been used in hoodoo for hundreds of years. It attracts men in particular, and ladies have been using its magnetism to just that end. The idea is that the herb will make a woman look more enticing and her conversation seem more charming to gentlemen. With this in mind, catnip quickly became a favorite among the quadroons of old New Orleans.

It was not uncommon for debuting girls to wear catnip flowers to the Black and White balls where the wealthy and decidedly white gentlemen would pay (often a hefty sum) to dance with and be entertained by these mixed-race ladies. The end for everyone was a nice arrangement whereby the young lady would set up house under the gentleman’s patronage and any children of their union would be given his last name so, of course, competition tended to be fierce. A little catnip pinned to the bodice or worn in a locket or broach was said to give a girl an edge in a sea of pretty women. To seal the deal, a lady might offer a flower to the gentleman and then burn the rest of the catnip she was wearing with love incense upon arriving home. Monsieur would surely come to her like a cat to, well, catnip.

Other traditions have similar workings built around catnip. Growing it in the yard or hanging some over the door is thought to attract luck and helpful spirits. As with hoodoo love mojos, which frequently include catnip, Wiccans fashion sachets to draw love with dried catnip and rose petals. Scott Cunningham mentions holding catnip in your hand until it is warm and then, after setting the herb aside, holding another’s hand. That person will forever be your friend as long as you keep the catnip you used in a safe place.

And then there’s your cat. The tradition goes that giving him or her catnip increases your psychic bond and that wise women in Europe would do so to make a stray cat a docile familiar. If nothing else, it will make the cat happy. Bon chance ~

Header: The Musical Contest by Jean Honore Fragonard