Monday, October 31, 2011

Lundi: Happy Halloween!

No recipe today as I am up to my elbows in holiday preparation.  That said, and in the spirit of the day, I'll direct anyone who enjoyed yesterday's witchy picture (and today's for that matter) to one of my favorite bewitching sites Red Witch's Sexy Witch.  Click over and enjoy her amazing collection of witch related ephemera from throughout history. 

Header: Ava Gardner promotional photo via Sexy Witch

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Samedi: Ghostly Tales

Today finds HQ closing out the October series of New Orleans ghost stories from and inspired by the book Gumbo Ya~Ya.  Since we are at our conclusion, I thought I would end on a happy note with a story of love that is stronger than death and happiness found in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

The story goes that a young woman of old New Orleans suddenly found herself a widow.  Her short marriage had been the happiest time of her life and her husband was her true soul mate.  She would spend her days at her husband’s grave in St. Louis Cemetery, sweeping, cleaning, putting out fresh flowers and weeping for her loss.  After weeks of this ritual, the young wife began to contemplate suicide.  She asked her husband for guidance and then sat down next to his resting place and fell asleep.

When she awoke, darkness had fallen.  A mist covered the ground and an eerie silence hung over the cemetery.  Just as she stood to leave, a ghostly form stepped out of her husband’s tomb.  To her astonishment, the young woman recognized the love of her life.  Before she could even utter his name, the couple was surrounded by other shades.  They welcomed the young wife and laughed and joked with one another as if nighttime in the cemetery was the best party of all.

When she managed to look away from her husband, the young woman realized that she could see right through the tombs, markers and even the very walls of the cemetery.  Through these, she spotted a frightening number of skeletons.  They were all hurrying forward to some unknown destination, stepping over one another without regard as if their time and effort was all that was important.

Seeing his wife’s horror, the young man took her hand and said: “That is what the living look like to us.  We are happy while they scramble on to no end other than the one we have already achieved.  They are the dead; we are truly living.”

At that moment, the young woman felt the weight of her grief lifted.  She spent the rest of the night with the shades and then went forward into a happy and fruitful life.  She was known as serene and philanthropic and unshakable in her faith of a joyful life at the end of this one.  When she passed on, she was laid to rest next to her long dead love.  Amour toujour ~

Header: Danse macabre from an Italian manuscript c 1450

Friday, October 28, 2011

Vendredi: Divinatory Spread

The so called Celtic Cross is one of the most recognizable divinatory spreads in the Tarot pantheon.  It has been discussed in hundreds of books and all over the Internet to a point where it is almost exclusively thought of as a “Tarot spread”.  All that said, the Celtic Cross is a wonderful spread for cartomancy with any type of cards.

Using the above chart (from Tarot Meaning Info), let us go through the meanings of each card’s position:

Number 1 “This Covers”: this presents the general atmosphere that surrounds the question asked and the influences at work around it.

Number 2 “This Crosses”: this shows what the opposing forces may be for good or ill.  (Just as an aside, in Tarot this card is always read right side up and never reversed.)

Number 3 “This is Beneath”: here is the basis of the querent’s question or the matter at hand; something that has already become part of the person’s experience.

Number 4 “This is Behind”: this gives an idea of the influence that is just passing away.

Number 5 “This Crowns”: represents something that may happen in the future.

Number 6 “This is Ahead”: presents things that will come to pass in the near future; more often than not these are mundane as opposed to profound e.g. a meeting, an offer, a purchase, etc.

Number 7 “What the Querent Feels”: these feelings are most often the negative or hesitant emotions the querent has about their question.

Number 8 “Family Opinion”: represents the querent’s environment and the opinions and influences of their family and friends about the matter at hand.

Number 9 “Hopes”: the querent’s positive feelings about their question; their hopes and ideals.

Number 10 “Final Outcome”: this card, when combined with all the others, should answer the question.

Note that, if the question is not sufficiently addressed in the last card you are well within your parameters to draw another card for further clarification.  Vendredi heureux ~

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jeudi: Root Work

For centuries, the spirits of various beliefs have been entreated to send prophetic dreams.  Sometimes the desired knowledge is simply what will become of us but sometimes it is more specific: a future spouse, the outcome of a business deal, the best path to take.  Halloween has always been a time to practice this sort of divination because of the prevailing belief that the veil between the worlds is most thin at the turn of the year.  For the Celts – and to some extent for those of us affected by their ancient wisdom – October 31 marks the beginning of a New Year.

I believe that pleasant dreams are a year round privilege; if they happen to give us a glimpse of the future, so much the better.  That said, why not take advantage of the Halloween mojo, if you will, and make mojo bags to help the dreams of your loved ones as the wheel turns once again?  This is an easy working that I encourage my kids to do for themselves.  It’s a wonderful introduction to applying concentration and intention to help achieve a goal.  Here’s what you’ll need:

Small, drawstring bags in any color and material that appeals to you.  These are easily found in craft stores these days; just be sure to cleanse the “store-bought” versions with a dab of holy water or an extra pinch of sea salt before you begin.  You can also make your own bags, of course.  The easiest kinds of mojo bags are, in fact, no more than a square of fabric filled with ingredients then bundled up and tied with ribbon or thread.  You will want a bag/bundle that will fit comfortably in a pillow case or under a pillow.

Dried lavender
Whole cloves
Dried rosemary leaves
Dried rose petals or a whole rosebud
Sea salt

Mix all your herbs together in a bowl.  How much of each herb with depend on your intention and how many mojos you are making.  The lavender will impart restful sleep, the cloves protect from nightmares and call upon ancestors, rosemary also protects (especially women) and draws prosperity; the rose petals/buds attract dreams of love.  A pinch of sea salt in each mojo will help ground the dreamer and encourage them to make wise decisions in their waking life.

Take some time to yourself, listen to music or light a candle if you like, sit down and deliberately fill your mojo bags with your chosen ingredients.  Imagine the people you care for both enjoying and benefitting from their dreams today, tomorrow and always.  Be sure to make yourself a dream mojo as well; you’ve earned it.

When they’re done, put the mojo bags in a box or cupboard where they won’t be disturbed.  Distribute them to your family and friends on or near Halloween.  They can use them all year, and then burn or bury them the following Halloween.  Either include instructions on making the mojo with your gift, or make new ones yourself the next year.  A votre santé ~

Header: A Veil by Louis W. Hawkins via Old Paint

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of (Undead) Beauty

Halloween means costumes, at least round about chez Pauline.  We all dress up but it is my daughters who change what they wear on a yearly basis.  My older daughter weaves in and out of frightening persona; one year she was “Goat Man”, another she was boney Death.  Recently she has gone for more esoteric characters; her hero Jeanne d’Arc was last year and this year she plans to dawn the mantel of Athena.

The younger female child is less about the historical and more about the morbid.   I wasn’t much surprised when she told me her costume of choice for next Monday’s festivities would be that of a “rage zombie”.  Cool, I responded, and then we set to work.  Torn t-shirt and ripped jeans complete with rubbed in graveyard dirt (the advantage of having a hoodoo Mom), red died hair gel and fake blood were all at the ready.  Then it was time to consider makeup.

I can mix up a soothing compress fairly fast but making a twelve-year-old really look like a monster from 28 Days Later suddenly brought me up short.  A few books and Internet searches and one very enjoyable trip to the beauty supply store later and we were set.  I practiced a few of the techniques on myself and what do you know, they worked.  So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d pass a couple along.

Don’t imagine a white base is your best bet for makeup; you come out looking more le mime than la mort.  Mix gray or green with white for that deliciously dead pallor; I find that cream rather than pancake makeup works best.  Shading around eyes and in the hollows of your cheeks with more gray or black – nicely blended of course – gives an appropriately gaunt look.  Consider a little red liner under the eyes for that creepy, diseased touch.

Bruises and bites are a must have, of course, but again a mixture of colors will help bring those injuries to life.   Bruises run the gamut color-wise from the typical black and blue to purple, green and yellow.  The attention to blending without over-blending will better the effect.  Deep tissue injuries should be particularly vivid and infected bites will have an angry red halo. 

Good fake blood will give everything a nice glisten but a reasonable substitute can be made by mixing clear hair gel with red food coloring.  In a pinch, Revlon’s original formula “Cherries in the Snow” lipstick is a nice substitute as well.  Blood stains on lips and chin will let the living know you mean business.  An old comb dabbed with fake blood on the teeth can be used to rake scratches across cheek, neck or arms.

Want to go all out with a Hollywood-style wound effect?  Consider investing in liquid latex which averages about $5.00 for a 1 ounce bottle here in the U.S.   Simply spread a thin layer of liquid latex on the area where you want to create the wound.  While the latex is still wet, stick a few torn pieces of single-ply facial tissue to it.  Dab on a little more latex and then work the medium into a lumpy wound by scrunching and tearing.  Allow to dry and apply makeup as you would to your skin.

Thus armed with so much pseudo-medical and makeup knowledge, I was ready to really make my daughter into a horrifying spectacle on Halloween.  That is, until last Friday when she informed me she had changed her mind.  She would now like to be Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas  Anyone know a good place to purchase blue body makeup in the greater Anchorage area?

Header: Sally from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

Many of us are in the middle of pumpkin carving season, particularly here in the U.S.  With Halloween a week away and Thanksgiving only three weeks thereafter, a lot of pumpkins are on the chopping block.  Along with that, a lot of innocent seeds will go to waste.  And what ever for when it is so easy to roast those little devils and have a healthy, hearty snack around until the next holiday looms large?

The easiest recipe I’ve ever found for roasting pumpkin seeds comes from Silver RavenWolf’s book Halloween.  The secret to this one is quickly boiling the seeds before putting them in the oven.  It also adds a nice magickal touch in the simple but tasty ingredients.

Seeds from one pumpkin
½ cup (or to taste) sea or kosher salt (for protection)
2 tbsps olive oil (for health)
2 tbsps dried rosemary (for prosperity)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse the pumpkin seeds and boil in water until they turn gray-ish and begin to sink to the bottom of the pot. 

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil.  In a bowl, combine the oil, salt and rosemary.

When the seeds are ready, drain them in a colander and pat them dry.  Put them in the bowl with the other ingredients and mix well to coat the seeds.  Pour them onto the baking sheet and spread evenly into a single layer.  Pop them in the oven and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.  I like mine dark and crunchy, so I usually extend that baking time by about 10 minutes.  Bon appetite ~

Header: Still Life with Pumpkin by Anna Bain

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Samedi: Ghostly Tales

Last week’s ghost story saw the horrors of abuse leading to residual, angry energy haunting a New Orleans house on Rue Royal.  In the case discussed, the abuse was visited upon innocent slaves by a cruel mistress.  Cases of such misery were not at all unusual, sorry to say, but what if the roles were reversed and the inter-personal dynamic was not so cut and dried?  Would the lingering energies be as pronounced as they are said to be at the Lalaurie House?

The answer may lie in the case of Monsieur Boullemet and his violent passion for one of his slaves.  Boullemet was married to a strict woman of high morals who would not brook any errors from her slaves.  Madame Boullemet established a reputation for personally punishing even the slightest mistakes.  She was not well liked in her home.

The illicit object of Monsieur Boullemet’s affection was a quadroon of exceeding beauty whose given name was Pauline.  The brief notation of this incident in Gumbo Ya~Ya says that Pauline was “… a statuesque … beauty with flashing black eyes and pale golden skin.”  Monsieur Boullemet’s infatuation with Pauline knew no bounds and they quickly became lovers after she entered his household on Bayou Saint Jean. 

Pauline was both manipulative and ambitious.  After capturing her master’s heart she encouraged him to distance himself from his wife and children.  Boullemet moved his wife out of her bedroom and put Pauline there in her stead.  By degrees, Pauline became mistress of the mansion while Madame Boullemet and her three children were moved to a small cabinet off the kitchen. 

When Monsieur was called away to the east, Pauline made her final move.  She stripped her former mistress and her three little ones of their clothes and chained them to the walls of the little cabinet.  She tortured them mercilessly with hot coals and a bullwhip, according to what Madame Boullemet would later tell authorities.  Pauline denied the family food and they wasted away in their hot, airless prison.

Eventually, friends of Madame Boullemet began to wonder about her when she did not appear in church or make her usual calls.  The New Orleans police paid a visit to the home and, though Pauline insisted that the entire family had gone east with Monsieur, a search of the house revealed the wretched state of Madame and her children.  Pauline was taken into custody and hanged in the city.  Saxon tells us that five thousand of New Orleans’ citizens turned out to see her die.

What became of the Boullemet family, aside from the imposition of a relatively steep fine upon Monsieur, is not known.  Pauline, though, is said to haunt the shores of Bayou St. John, her long hair flowing out in the breeze, a noose around her swanlike neck and her eyes glowing like the hot coals she had once applied to her lover’s wife.  The story goes that seeing this specter can cause a pregnant woman to miscarry and a man to lose his “ability to perform”.  Thus they say that even in death Pauline continues to assert her ambitions on all who witnessed her demise and their posterity.

Header: The Octoroon by John Bell

Friday, October 21, 2011

Vendredi: King of Diamonds

It was one year and three weeks ago that I began HQ with a post on divination with playing cards.  Now things have almost come full circle in our every Friday cartomancy jaunt with the King of Diamonds.  At least from my perspective, time has truly flown.

This card predictably represents a man in the querent’s life.  He is even tempered, reliable and invariably a success at business whether it be industry, speculation or land.  His gifts for mathematics and finances are unparalleled; I once heard a skilled card reader refer to the person represented by this card as “King Midas reborn”.

The gentleman in question is a monogamous man.  He is either married or in a long term relationship and happily so.  Generally this is a good indication as the man in question is a father, uncle, brother or sometimes mentor to the querent.  They can learn a lot from this man and should literally absorb his advice like a sponge.

On very unusual occasions, though, this card pops up next to the Seven of Hearts.  In this case your querent has no familial relation to this person and is usually a subordinate to them at work or in a scholastic environment.  Regardless of their gender, the querent is trying very hard to catch the eye of their King of Diamonds and lure them away from their domestic situation.  Counseling your querent in this situation is vital, even if they deny that anything is going on.  They are deluding themselves and are in for trouble that my draw this unfortunate man down with them.

If no gentleman of this ilk is indicated according to your discussion with person you are reading for, the card may indicate that the querent is headed for financial success.  Check the cards nearby; many from the Suit of Diamonds are a good indication of this.

And so we end with the cards.  All that’s left is the mopping up, so to say.  Next week we’ll look at another divinatory spread and the following week we’ll discuss some quick tricks to help you look at a spread and easily spot the major themes therein.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: King of Diamonds from an early 20th century deck now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jeudi: Weather-Wise

In September, I started these weather posts with an off-handed remark about the leaves on our deciduous trees portending very wet weather.  While I was only half in earnest at the time, it turns out that the wives’ tales were right, at least this year: we’ve had one of the soggiest early Octobers in recent memory.

European weather wisdom about October tends to focus on storms.  Unlike tropical and sub-tropical areas, where storms are addressed in warmer months, Northern Europe tends to be afflicted by hard winds and thunder storms in the late fall.  The fear of lightening is a particular issue in much of this advice.

For instance, in Scandinavian influenced areas it was considered wise to set aside work with metal objects, whether they be cauldrons or anvils, until a lightening storm had passed by.  The notion is that the lightening indicates the God of Thunder, Thor, is toiling at his forge.  Distracting him with our own puny concerns could incur his wrath via lightening strike.  Obviously, since a lot more of this type of work was done out of doors in earlier times, the advice is well taken.  Carrying a bit of green moss on one’s person was thought to avert the possibility of being caught unawares by a sudden lightening storm.

In other seafaring cultures, particularly in Celtic fishing villages in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Northern France, the day’s storms were judged by the ability to sew for local sailors.  It was said that if one awoke to heavy rain with sun, it was wise to judge the rest of the day by stepping outside and looking up.  If there was a large patch of blue sky open and visible – large enough to allow plenty of light to cut and sew a pair of pants – then even the fiercest storm would subside by midday.  If, on the other hand, only ribbons of blue sky were seen between gray clouds, it was no good to put out to sea as the storm would not subside and could very well get worse.

Header: The Storm by Pierre Auguste Cot c 1860

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

In Europe, old wives would say that October is the month to gather the leafless branches of elder trees for use in home protection.  Wrapped into small bundles or woven as wreaths, elder branches were hung over doors and windows to keep evil of every nature – spiritual, human and animal – away from the home during the cruel months to come.  This was particularly true in Germanic countries, where old Frau Hulda, the Lady of Winter who would morph into a queen of witches by the 15th century, continued to be honored through folk ritual.

Elder was and is also a ritual plant in Druidic tradition.  The ancient Britons buried their dead with elder staffs.  Modern Wiccans make wands from elder branches as well.

Scott Cunningham says that carrying elderberries will keep harm from a person and banish negative thinking.  Planting an elder tree in the garden will turn away curses and protect the home and outbuildings from lightening.   

Still more old wisdom from those crafty wives told that toothaches could be eased by chewing an elder twig.  Scattering elder leaves in the wind while concentrating on healing an individual person – particularly if one repeated their name aloud – was said to alleviate colds, coughs and fevers.  A twig of elder knotted three times and carried on the body would help to ease rheumatism.

In hoodoo, the berries, leaves and roots of elder are dried and used in various tricks.  To make any wish come true, it is said that all one needs is a freshly cut elder stick and a patch of dirt (and sincere intention, of course).  Draw a circle around yourself in the dirt with the elder stick while saying your desire aloud.  Adding a prayer to your great spirits will help considerably.

To keep away thieves and any unwanted/evil intrusion, either sprinkle dried elder of any of the aforementioned types at the four corners of your residence (inside and outside if possible) or hang bags of dried elder at the front and back doors.

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, The Little Elder-Tree Mother, combines the healing aspect of the plant with the Teutonic and Celtic belief that certain mother goddesses lived among the roots of elder trees.  Click the link below to read it.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Illustration from The Little Elder-Tree Mother via Fairytales and Bedtime Stories

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

Madeleines are those shell shaped cakes that are popular in French and Creole kitchens.  These are delightful with coffee in the afternoon or for the kids when they get home from school.  Though they are usually a rich vanilla cake, this recipe for madeleines adds the decadent taste of chocolate.  To make these cakes in the shape of shells you will need a madeleine mold; these are easy to find at kitchen stores.  If not, this recipe makes moist cupcakes fit for a birthday party.

1 cup plus 1 ½ tbsps unsalted butter, softened
7 large eggs
1 ¼ cups bakers’ sugar
2 cups plus 3 tbsps sifted all purpose flour
¾ cups plus 2 tbsps unsweetened cocoa

Butter madeleine molds or prepare cupcake pans.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cream the butter in a large bowl.

Using eggs at room temperature, whisk all seven whole eggs together with the sugar in a separate bowl.  Continue whisking for seven to ten minutes until this mixture increases in volume (a whisk attachment on a hand mixer can be used in which case the process will only take three to five minutes).

Sift the flour over the egg mixture and fold the ingredients together.  Remove about two cups of this batter and whisk it into the creamed butter until smooth, then fold this into the remaining batter.  Sift the cocoa over the batter and fold together.

Spoon into madeleine pans or cupcake cups.  Bake 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  If using a madeleine pan, unmold immediately after taking them from the oven and cool on a rack.  Cupcakes should sit a moment before being removed from the pan and cooling on a rack as well. 

Store your madeleines at room temperature in an air tight container for up to a week.  Bon appetite ~

Header: The Stove by D.A. Colville c 1988 via Old Paint

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Samedi: Ghostly Tales

The house at 1140 Rue Royal is known to New Orleanais as “The Haunted House”.  The tales told about the house and its original owners, those true and those not so much, are shocking in the extreme.  Like mushrooms, these stories have grown and spread over the course of nigh-on to 200 years and they don’t seem to be stopping any time soon.

The house, built in the Spanish colonial style, is said to have stood in the same spot since 1780 when it was allegedly built by les frères Remarie, Henri and Jean.  According Stanley Clisby Arthur, that story is hogwash.  In his 1936 book Walking Tours of Old New Orleans, Arthur tells us that the house was built in 1831 specifically for Dr. Leonard Louis Nicolas Lalaurie and his bride of six years, Marie Delphine. 

Madame Lalaurie, who is now quite infamous, was the delicate and accomplished daughter of French-Irish landowner Louis Barthelemy McCarty and his first wife Marie Jeanne Lovable.  By the time she married the doctor, Delphine had buried two husbands, the first a Spanish Don and the second noted merchant and Laffite associate Jean Blanque.  While Delphine was, to all outward appearances, the very picture of Creole respectability and gentility, she seems to have held a very dark secret in her otherwise healthy psychology.

It is a notorious truth that women slave owners tend to be more cruel to their chattel then like-minded men, and Madame Lalaurie seems to bare this out.  Though Arthur claims that all the gossip against her was and is false, others like Lyle Saxon beg to differ.  Saxon notes that charges for cruelty toward her slaves were brought against Madame after she and her husband moved into the house on Royal and that she was fined for same.  The fine was nominal but the documentation still exists.  The true extent of Madame’s sadism came to light in 1834.

In the spring of that year 1140 Rue Royal suffered a fire, which broke out in the kitchen near the carriage house.  At the time, New Orleans had only a volunteer fire department and before they arrived, neighbors hurried in to help the Lalauries move people and valuables out of the house.  One neighbor, whom Saxon names in Fabulous New Orleans as M. Montreuil, questioned the doctor as to the whereabouts of his slaves.  Neither Madame nor Dr. Lalaurie would give their neighbor a straight answer, nor would they allow anyone on the fourth floor of the mansion.

The volunteer firefighters put the fire in the kitchen out quickly but were horrified to find an elderly slave woman chained near the stove with heavy manacles at ankles and neck.  She told them that she set the kitchen ablaze, preferring to end her life in flames rather than continue to suffer Madame’s torture.  They unchained her and took her out of the kitchen; then they entered the house proper.

Thick, black smoke still drifted up the main stairwell and screams were heard in the fourth floor garret.  Despite the Lalauries, the firefighters hurried up to the top of the house and found a locked door, bolted on the outside, behind which the screams could be heard.  They broke the door down and found more chained slaves in such horrible condition that one of the young firefighters actually vomited.  Some had broken, unset limbs, others horrible oozing sores from repeated lashings and still others deep and bloody head wounds.

The slaves were taken from the house and the story appeared in the paper L’Abeille the next day, stirring up public opinion against the Lalauries.  Meanwhile, the doctor and Madame left New Orleans and, again according to Saxon, set sail for Mandeville.  Other historians claim that Madame lived the rest of her days in Paris.

Over the years, more and more horrific atrocities including crude sex-change operations and flaying alive have been tacked on to Madame Lalaurie’s already heinous doings.  One story in particular, that of a 12 year old slave girl jumping to her death in the courtyard while Delphine chased after her with a bullwhip, continues to this day.  It is said that the girl is buried in the courtyard well and that her specter is still seen running up the multiple flights of stairs in the house, attempting to escape the merciless Madame Lalaurie.

Other ghosts include a heavily chained and headless African, who carries his head as he rattles back and forth in the courtyard, a disembodied and skeletal hand at the front door latch, a bloody phantom that wanders the third floor balcony and screams in the dark of the night.  Whether or not any of this is true is open to debate, but if ever there were a house that should be haunted, it is 1140 Rue Royal.

An entirely fictional account of what became of the spirits of Madame Lalaurie’s slaves is told in the movie The St. Francisville Experiment which imagines the Lalauries settling in St. Francisville north of New Orleans, acquiring more slaves and continuing their unspeakable tortures.  Ghostly terror ensues when a group of modern ghost hunters spend a night at the Lalaurie plantation.

Header: 1950s postcard showing 1140 Rue Royal

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vendredi: Queen of Diamonds

This Queen is the quintessential earth mother.  She is loving, generous and usually has an remarkably good head for business.  Often this card represents the querent’s mother, aunt or older sister.  The querent should realize how fortunate they are to know someone who is so comfortable in their own skin and willing to share their happiness.

If this woman is not a family member, she may be a future partner of the querent.  This can cover almost any meaning of that word.  The Queen of Diamonds might just as well indicate a co-volunteer or business partner as a spouse.  What ever her relationship to the querent, she is a great asset to them.

On the off chance that none of this sounds at all familiar to the person you are reading for, the card might be indicating that they are the generous, big-hearted person in their own lives.  This is particularly true if your querent is a woman.  It may also indicate that the querent is practical, capable of trusting others and secure in their current life position.

The one downside to this card is that the person indicated – whether it is friend, family member or the querent themselves – can be prone to moodiness and even depression.  Where this does in fact appear to be the case, the querent may be in need of professional help either for themselves or where the person represented is concerned.  Such cases, I find, are rare but certainly worth noting.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Queen of Diamonds by Sarayel via DeviantArt

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Jeudi: Great Spirits

Today's mythic figure was probably one of the original deities of the ancient Celts.  The stories that have come down to us about him are mostly from the Irish branch of that Western European clan, where the Dagda is known as a father god among the much revered group of deities known as the Children of Danu; the Tuatha de Danaan.

The Dagda (also spelled Dagdha or Daghdha) is usually referred to as a god of wisdom.  He is particularly linked with Druidism and with the bardic tradition through one of his later symbols, the harp.  This harp was sometimes imagined as having the body of a blindfolded woman – much like the harp in the fairytale “Jack in the Bean stock” – and it was tuned to the Dagda’s voice.

In Celtic Gods/Celtic Goddesses, R.J. Stewart says that the Dagda’s name meant “Good God” and that he was also known as the “Great Father” and “Mighty One of Knowledge”.  In this he is similar to the Norse god Odin, known as “All Father” and “Bringer of Knowledge”. 

Probably before the Druids tacked on the harp, the Dagda’s symbols were the cauldron and the club.  The cauldron, which was also linked to the mother/destroyer goddess known as the Cailleach in Ireland and Cerridwen in Wales, provided an unending flow of nourishment and satisfaction, both physical and spiritual.  The club in particular to the Dagda was both an instrument of creation and of death.  One end brought forth life; the other end snuffed it out.  A god of the Gauls, Sucullus, also carried a club and was known as the “Good Striker”.  His relation to the Dagda, if any, is lost in large part due to the systematic genocide carried out on his worshippers by Julius Caesar.

The Dagda was envisioned as a giant.  Due to his large size, he was often imagined as wearing tunics that were too short for him; he wandered the land with his buttocks and genitals humorously exposed.  Because of his enormous size he was a particular concern of the enemies of the Tuatha de Danaan, the Fomhoireans.  These giants would lay traps for the Dagda before their battles with the sons and daughters of Danu.  With these traps, the Fomhoireans hoped to remove their most powerful enemy from the field. 

One story tells of the Fomhoireans leaving a giant pit full of delicious, meat-spiked porridge where the Dagda could easily find it.  Always hungry, the Dagda ate the entire pit-full and then fell into a stupor.  The plan appeared to work perfectly until the Dagda was awakened from his sleep by a curious and beautiful Fomhoirean maiden.  The two took a liking to each other and made love.  So impressed was the giantess by the Dagda’s abilities that she agreed to turn her Fomhoirean magick on her own people.  The Tuatha won the ensuing battle handily.

The Dagda’s most important role, ensuring the fertility of the land, was played out every Samhain.  This ancient New Years Eve of the Celts, which has come down to us as Halloween thanks to the refusal of the Irish to give up their old ways, was their most important festival.  On the night of October 31st, when the veil between the worlds was very thin, the Dagda made love to the fertility/battle goddess known as the Morrigan at the Unius River in Connaught.  In this way the Dagda turned the battle goddess away from her summer/fall focus on war and toward her winter/spring task of germination and rebirth.  Without this coming together of two great spirits, the land would wither and the Celtic people would die.  Speculation has been made repeatedly that this myth sparked the enduring story of Arthur, Guinevere and their relationship’s effect on their land.

Header: The Dagda by The Unknown via

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Squill is a flowering plant that resembles lily of the valley or bluebell in its blossoms.  There are red, really more pink, and white varieties and the plant is sometimes called a sea onion because it grows near salt water.  In hoodoo, squill is used to not only draw money but ensure that money is always at hand.  In Wicca and folk magick, squill is also said to impart protection and be able to break curses.

In Ancient Greece, a small bunch of squill was hung over the doorways to homes to keep away the evil eye.  This practice continued in Rome and Byzantium where the first squill flowers were bunched and hung over windows to avert the evil eye.  Old wives in Medieval Europe advised carrying squill on one’s person for seven days to break suspected curses.  Scott Cunningham recommends placing a small squill plant, root and all, in a box and “feeding” it with silver coins to draw money.

Similarly, an old hoodoo trick for household wealth recommends filling the bottom of a jar with a handful of squill root powder.  To this you should add one cent, one nickel, one dime, one quarter, one fifty cent piece and a silver dollar (not a paper note).  Close the jar, shake it and speak out loud your wish for monetary security.  Keep the jar in your kitchen, and repeat the shaking ritual as often as you like but no less that once a week.  It’s said that over the course of a few weeks the money you need at any given time – no more but no less – will materialize.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Saxon Princesses Sybillia, Emilia and Sidonia by Lucas Cranch the Elder (these sisters look very much as if attracting money is not a problem for them)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

Fall is a wonderful time to select side dishes that feature root vegetables.  Being Irish-American, at least in part, my favorite by far is the potato.  Humble it may be but it is extremely versatile and very tasty.  The French and my Creole relatives often serve potatoes au gratin, which is basically cooked in milk or cream.  Today’s recipe has the delightful addition of cheese which of course melts and bubbles to the decided enjoyment of both eye and pallet.

1 quart whole milk
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh thyme
10 Yukon gold potatoes
1 cup chunked Gruyere or grated Swiss cheese
Butter to grease baking dish
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and thoroughly butter a two quart baking dish.

In a saucepan, combine milk, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and allow the mixture to stand.

Peel potatoes.  Slice the peeled potatoes as thin as you can and overlap the slices at the bottom of your baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a bit of cheese.  Repeat this process until your potatoes are used up, reserving a sprinkling of cheese for the top of the dish.

Strain the milk mixture, discarding the garlic and thyme.  Pour the milk slowly over the potatoes until they are just covered.  Do not fill your baking dish any higher than the last layer of potatoes as the dish may boil over in the oven.

Sprinkle the top of the dish with the remaining cheese.  Bake until a knife goes through the potatoes easily and the cheese is golden, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Bon appetite ~

Header: Kitchen at Mount Vernon by Eastman Johnson

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Samedi: Ghostly Tales

As anyone who has studied, hunted or read about ghosts will tell you, it goes without saying that places like prisons are often more susceptible to haunting than other structures.  The negative energy built up in prisons and penitentiaries cannot be denied and the wraiths that haunt these types of places are often as twisted and malevolent as they come.  This is certainly the case in today’s ghostly tale.

The story comes from Parish Prison which once stood at the corner of Saratoga and Tulane in New Orleans.  This story made its way into the New Orleans Daily Picayune on my birthday, January 23rd, back in 1882.  The brief article indicated that fourteen separate suicide attempts had occurred in the prison the prior year, all committed by inmates of cell number 17.  Those who managed to survive told horrible stories of a pale woman – sometimes she was said to be a seductive redhead, other times a silent nun – who appeared in their locked cell and tortured them mercilessly all night long.  She went about her grim work while wearing a pleasant expression and a tender smile.

When the prisoners’ bodies were examined they revealed agonizing burns in the shapes of hands and fingers.  The authorities, realizing something was up but unsure what to make of it, stopped using cell number 17.  The haunting calmed, but only for a few weeks.  Soon enough the redheaded haint was back, this time in cell number 7.  Sx women killed themselves over the course of a three month period.

Now the officers who worked at Parish Prison began to claim they had seen the ghost, but she always appeared to them as a beautiful, regal woman.  Employees dubbed her “The Redheaded Countess” and it was at this time, when the article was written, that the warden of the prison claimed to have met up with her on the back stairs.  Captain Bachemin swore he passed the Countess; she smiled at him and touched his arm, searing his flesh right through the sleeve of his uniform.

While the story is certainly intriguing, it is impossible to verify over 100 years later.  As the storyteller in Gumbo Ya~Ya ends the tale: the captain met the specter, or so he claims.

Header:  Worshipers by Louis Oscar Griffith via American Gallery

Friday, October 7, 2011

Vendredi: Jack of Diamonds

As we’ve discussed before, the Jack of any Suit can represent a young man, a young woman or more infrequently a warning or need in the querent’s life. 

In the case of the Jack of Diamonds, the person most generally indicated is a studious, responsible young man.  He has a keen intellect and may serve as a counselor or tutor to the querent.  This young man is often very introverted, and the querent may be the key – either as a friend or as something more intimate – to pulling him out of his shell.  In some situations, the Jack of Diamonds may represent the bearer of good news which is often about money.

If a young woman is indicated, she is creative, happy and sincere.  She may be a person who can influence the querent for the better.  In some cases, she has a business proposition – usually involving the arts in some way – that will bring good things to the querent.

When none of these people sound in any way familiar to your querent, the card may be counseling the need for patience and practicality, particularly where money is concerned.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Jack of Clubs from a circa 1945 Bicycle deck

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jeudi: The Art of Beauty

Most of the Northern Hemisphere is beginning to feel the chill of oncoming winter.  Unless you have the good fortune – or some would say misfortune – to live in the Sun Belt, the cold is already upon us. 

It’s not quite time to pull the body butters down from the high shelf, but it’s getting there.  Now is when I like to have an autumn scented body oil to turn to for after-bath moisturizing.  It gets me in the mood for my favorite holiday – Halloween – and is delightfully good for all types of skin.  The added bonus is the essential oils: basil to energize, orange to elevate mood as the light slowly falls away, and sandalwood for a touch of seduction.

3 ½ oz almond oil
1 tbsp honey (try to use a honey from a local producer if possible)
¼ cup jojoba oil
2 500 IU capsules of vitamin E
10 drops basil essential oil
10 drops orange essential oil
10 drops sandalwood essential oil

Put the almond oil and honey in a small saucepan and warm over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the honey liquefies.  Remove from heat.  Now add the contents of the vitamin E capsules and the jojoba oil; stir to combine.  Add each essential oil in turn, stirring thoroughly before adding the next one.

Pour the completed mixture into a dark glass bottle or an opaque plastic bottle.  To use, shake and then dispense a small amount onto hands, rub them together to warm the oil.  Massage into damp skin.  For best results, allow skin to air dry thereafter.

The almond oil is fast absorbing but luxurious and the addition of vitamin E and honey will help your skin stay healthy and glowing even in the face of autumn chills (real and figurative).  A votre santé ~

Header: Ladies Home Journal cover c 1905

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Fennel, a member of the onion family that has a distinctive, licorice-like taste, is very popular in European and North African cooking.  It also has a long history as a magickal plant, with the stalks and seeds being particularly prized.

Old wives have for centuries grown fennel around their homes as a plant-based form of protection.  A sprig of fennel, usually taken from the lacy tufts at the ends, was used to ward off ticks; for this purpose, it was worn in the left shoe.  Modern research has shown that the smell of crushed fennel does indeed hinder, if not entirely impede, the burrowing tendencies of chiggers and ticks.  In Europe, fennel fronds were hung over doors and in windows to keep evil spirits at bay.  This habit of wise women went by the board in some areas with the onset of the witch craze.  Women with fennel hung in their homes were accused of witchcraft.

Scott Cunningham notes that fennel stalks with pine cones attached to the ends were carried in the Dionysian mysteries of Ancient Greece.  Likewise, in his book The Night Battles, Carlo Ginzberg writes of a 16th century group of men and women in the Italian town of Friuli used fennel stalks to battle the crop-destroying magick of evil witches.  These chosen few, known as the benandanti (do-gooders) ventured into the night in dreams to keep their neighbors safe from the depredations of maleficium.  It probably goes without saying that they were in turn accused of witchcraft and punished for their beliefs.

In hoodoo, the focus of magick is more on the seeds of the fennel plant.  These are scattered around homes, on porches and on windowsills to turn away the evil eye and – most especially – to keep the nosey neighbor and questioning policeman out of family business.  A mojo bag to ensure that government and other authorities will turn a blind eye to one’s personal pursuits is made by combining fennel seeds, oregano, mustard seeds and three chips of cascara sagrada bark in a blue flannel bag.  For extra oomph, the mojo should be dressed regularly with Van Van Oil.  Bonne chance ~

Header: La Danse (or Les Bacchantes) by Bougeureau