Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

The herb known as Job’s Tears, in reference to the sufferings of Job in the Bible, are actually the seeds of a specific kind of grass from Asia.  The grass is a weed in subtropical areas, but the seeds are easily obtained elsewhere via pagan stores and hoodoo botanicas.

In hoodoo, the reference to the tribulations of Job is applied to the herb, and the seeds are considered a powerful wishing focus.  Root workers say that you should collect seven Job’s Tears and make a sincere wish over them.  The seeds should then be carried in your pocket for seven days.  Finally, you should approach a running body of water, say the 23rd Psalm (“The Lord is my shepherd…”) while holding the seeds and then throw them over your left shoulder into the water.  Walk away without looking back and your wish will manifest, some hoodoos say within seven days.  A similar ritual (without the use of the Psalm) is recommended in Wicca as well.

In Mexican magick, a curendaro might recommend that a client wanting to select winning numbers carry seven Job’s Tears and a Cross of Caravaca that has been blessed by a priest.  This talisman is said to ensure success at gaming and particularly the lottery.

In Wicca, Job’s Tears are thought to help cure sore throats and colds.  For this purpose, a necklace made of the seeds is worn.  Old wives would also recommend a necklace of Job’s Tears as a talisman to make teething comfortable for children.  This is probably a like-makes-like type of working as the seeds can look similar to baby teeth.

Finally, Scott Cunningham recommends carrying three Job’s Tears on a daily basis for all around good luck.  Given this, adding them to just about any mojo bag probably couldn’t hurt.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Antique Cross of Caravaca via antiquesarms.com

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

So the big summer holidays are coming up: 4th of July and Fete de Bastille ten days later.  This means a lot of family and friends, standing around the kitchen drinking beer and sweet tea (we’ll break out the bubbly later) wanting something to snack on while the potato salad chills down and the barbeque is cooking.  Sure, chips and dips are always good.  Here’s another thought though; the original cheese straw recipe of long time NOLA resident Lady Helen Hardy straight from the Times-Picayune.  According to their book Cooking Up A Storm, this was one of their most requested recipes.  Though these are traditionally a reveillon snack, any excuse for a party is as good as the next, especially if you’re a New Orleanian.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 ¼ tsps baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ sticks (3/4 c) room temperature butter
15 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated and at room temperature
5 or 6 healthy dashes of Tabasco sauce
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Lightly coat a cookie sheet with nonstick spray.

Sift flour.  Add backing powder and salt and sift again.  Set aside.

With your hands, mix the butter and cheese in a bowl.  Add Tabasco, cayenne and flour.  Mix well.

Place the dough in a cookie press and squeeze out rows the entire length of the cookie sheet about ½ inch apart.  Note that I don’t have a cookie press, but find it just as easy to use a pastry bag (or in my case a zip top bag cut at one corner to work like one).  Bake ten minutes at 300 then lower the oven temperature to 225 and bake about another 15 minutes or until golden (not brown).

Let straws stand two or three minutes, then cut them down to size (about three sections per straw) with a sharp knife.

The book notes that this recipe will yield about 120 straws but I usually get around 80 or so.  Put them all out; they’ll go fast.  Bon appetite ~

Header: Bastille Day by Claude Monet c 1879

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Samedi: Gad

Gad is the Haitian Creole word for the French garde, meaning protection.  It probably goes without saying at this point that a gad is a charm to guard the one who carries it but from what, and how, is what we will delve into today.

Unlike a hoodoo mojo, which is separate from the individual who uses it in the form of a pocket piece or a bag, a gad is part of a person.  Generally speaking there are two kinds of gad.  The first is applied to the skin in the form of a tattoo, carving or brand.  The second is ingested, usually in liquid form.  At this point, it is doubtless very apparent that a gad is a serious thing, that should not be undertaken lightly.  We will address that issue at the end of this post.

A gad is an invocation of an individual lwa, using their symbols and herbs related to them to accomplish the protective magick.  This means that the spirit involved has a stake in the ritual and will expect the person who receives the gad to serve them in return for their protection.  The lwa invoked is usually of the hot Petwo nachon so the potential for backlash is redoubled.

An houngan or mambo will prepare for the gad ceremony with sacrifice to the appropriate lwa.  The person receiving the gad will participate in a ritual bath and then be scarified or branded, after which herbs sacred to the lwa, usually along with charcoal or ash, will be rubbed into the wound.  Tattooing is also a popular form of modern gad, with the herbs rubbed on the tattoo once it is completed.  The gad is usually applied to the shoulder and it is expected that the voudonist will “feed the gad” with liquor or herbs on a regular basis.

Alternatively, a gad may be in the form of a libation which the voudonist drinks.  These gads are said to not only protect again evil magick but also against poisoning.

The gad must be renewed regularly, usually on a yearly basis.  The ceremony is repeated, with herbs rubbed on the physical gad or the individual once again drinking the decoction of appropriate herbs.  Failure to renew the gad will result not only in its loss of power, but in potential retribution from the lwa originally invoked.

It has become popular, particularly in New Orleans Voodoo, to have a favorite lwa’s veve tattooed on one’s shoulder or elsewhere on the body.  While this has all the outward seeming of a gad it is in fact a poor substitute.  Serious thought should be applied to such undertakings as the chosen lwa may not be in tune with the individual receiving the tattoo.  One should – at the very least – make sure they are very well acquainted with their lwa of choice and feed their tattoo with appropriate herbs or liquor on a regular basis.   Prendre garde ~

Header: Veve Baron Samedi

Friday, June 24, 2011

Vendredi: Ten of Spades

If I’m honest, I’d say that I’m happy to be close to wrapping up the Suit of Spades.  The majority of this Suit are cards of hard lessons, if not out and out tragedy.  Meditating on and then talking about them can start to wear on your psyche.  Today’s card is unfortunately no different.

The Ten of Spades is sometimes referred to as the jail time card.  Depending upon the issues facing your querent, this card can indicate a period of incarceration in their near future.  This may not necessarily mean prison.  Perhaps they are stuck in a bad situation that makes them feel trapped.  You will need to determine what is going on based on your conversations with the querent and the cards that lie in front of you.

The silver lining with the Ten of Spades is that its forecast is for the short term.  That jail time or that bad situation are only temporary.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Regardless of how bad things look, you must stress this happy ending to the person you are reading for.

Another possibility with this card is that your querent is in fact quite well off and complacent, with no immediate worries.  In this case their problem may very well be miserliness, not only of their money but of their time and concern.  This card is a wake up call to share their wealth; give to charity, volunteer, run for office, do something to give back.  This person may be even more difficult to get through to than the guy with the court date pending but keep trying.  The benefits not only to your querent but to his or her community will be legion.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Reading the Cards by Harry Herman Roseland c 1903

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jeudi: The Art of Beauty

Now that it is officially summer and I keep hearing how crushingly hot it is everywhere but where I live, it seemed like offering a cooling skin splash would brighten things up.  This is an easy to make concoction that can be used on the face and/or body for a refreshing boost of energy and alertness.  Made with purpose, it can also help you focus on a slow day especially if you plan to undertake a little magick.

First off, you will need to make a cucumber tea.  This is easily accomplished by pealing about half of a medium cucumber and cutting it into slices.  Place these into a Pyrex measuring cup that will hold two or more cups of liquid.  Pour 1 cup of close to boiling water over the cucumbers, stir, and cover with a paper or cloth towel.  Let stand for fifteen minutes, remove the towel, stir again and then strain through cheesecloth or a fine strainer into another container.  Allow to cool. 

Some experts refer to this as a decoction, others an infusion.  In hoodoo, all such things which require herbs to be steeped in boiling water are known as teas. 

Now you are ready to assemble your cucumber water.  In a glass or heavy plastic bottle combine:

5 oz of cucumber tea
½ oz lemon juice
2 ½ oz spring water
1 drop of rose essential oil

Stopper your bottle and shake gently to mix.  Keep this in your frig and apply to clean skin with a cotton square or washcloth before moisturizing.  This will keep for a couple of weeks, and will help you focus when the heat and other distractions get you down.  Putting a sprayer on the bottle allows you to mist your face and neck at any time of day, even if you’re wearing makeup.  A votre santé ~

Header: Juliette Recamier by Ingres

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

It is the Solstice and that means it is the day with the most daylight in the Northern Hemisphere.  Where I live that means some ridiculous amount akin to “all day and all night” so the sun starved locals like to get together and do some solstice-y things.  For pagans, this will include out-of-doors workings and circles, and that means more than a few will be using the herb broom in their rituals.

While brooms proper, in the form of household cleaning items, are popular curios in hoodoo, the plant known as broom (or Scotch broom) is not much considered.  Wiccans, however, find many uses for broom whose pretty, yellow flowers are a troublesome source of hay fever for many of us.

Broom is especially prevalent in rainy, temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, so its use in British magick and folk remedies is probably most familiar.  As an example, old wives in Wales and Cornwall advised hanging broom to dry not in the drying house but in the barn where it would protect the animals through the cold winter months.  Broom stalks were (and are) actually used to make brooms for the same result: protection from and sweeping away of evil.  Because of this connection to wise women/witches, broom is sometimes known as Hag Weed.

Tea brewed from broom was drunk at one time to improve psychic powers.  As Scott Cunningham notes this is ill advised; broom can be poisonous depending on a person’s allergic reaction to it.  He suggests carrying it on one’s person to achieve the same result.

Broom is used in protections spells and is hung in the home to keep out evil.  This herb is thought to be particularly helpful in alleviating poltergeist activity.  Broom is also used in weather spells.  Thrown into the air, dried broom will call up the wind; burned and the ashes buried, it will calm the wind down.

Finally, some Wiccans use fresh broom to sweep clean the area where an outdoor spell or ritual will be performed.  This is said to be particularly effective if the broom is a local plant, and more so if it grows nearby.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Woman with a Broom by Vincent van Gogh c 1882

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

One of my favorite meals is chicken piccata, mostly because I’m a huge fan of lemon and capers.  I learned this recipe watching Bobby Flay back when he had a show on Lifetime, before Food Network came calling.  The key is to pound your boneless skinless chicken breasts before flouring them so that they cook quickly.  You can have dinner on the table in the time it takes to cook pasta with this one.

1 box pasta of your choice
2 tbsps olive oil
Four chicken breasts
½ cup flour
1 lemon
½ cup dry white wine
½ stick butter
1 3.5 oz jar of nonpareil capers, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta per package instructions.
Pound your chicken as noted above.  Mix flour, salt and pepper together in a plastic bag and add chicken to dust with flour.

Warm olive oil in a wide pan and add chicken.  Thoroughly brown chicken for about fifteen or twenty minutes, turning frequently.  Once chicken is nearly done, add white wine to deglaze the pan.  Turn heat down to a simmer.  Add the juice of one lemon and cover while the pasta of your choice cooks.

When pasta is ready, add butter to finish your sauce and add capers at the very end to warm through.  Serve with sauce over chicken and pasta.  Bon appetite ~

Header: Suppertime by Harold C. Harvey

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Samedi: The Hoodoo Garden

I've had a couple of folks online and a couple more in “real life” ask me about the herbs, trees and flowers I would suggest for starting a hoodoo-friendly garden.  This has been over the course of the last month and I’ve thought about it very carefully.  As my daughter and I were putting the finishing touches on our own garden shopping list, I thought I’d turn the idea into a post.

I’m not much of a gardener myself, sorry to say, so I tend to rely on authorities who know better than I what will grow in my far northern climate.  Fortunately Lewis Hill wrote Cold Climate Gardening in 1981 and ever since our move to Alaska in 2000 I have relied on his sage, Canadian advice.  Then, too, my daughter could grow a noble fir in the Mojave so I’m lucky in my gardening partner.

So here is my list of “must haves” for a hoodoo garden far from hoodoo country.  No poke or lemon, but plenty of wonderful plants that can be helpful all year round.

Apple: if you can at all have an apple tree somewhere on your property.  Even those first few years when the apples aren’t much to speak of, the tree will keep relations at your home sweet and ward off bad vibrations.  Never forget to offer some spiced apple juice or cider to your tree on the Winter Solstice in the tradition of wassailing.

Catnip: even if you don’t have cats, this herb can be amazingly helpful for women (and gay men) as a love herb to draw men to you. 

Comfrey: the leaves of this plant are not only good in salads but great for money spells.  The flowers are a reasonable substitute for borage, which is harder to grow in cool climates.  Use them in workings for courage and relief of depression.

Horehound: an easy to grow and wonderfully versatile herb for protection.

Lavender: an all around love herb that will also sweeten your home and your laundry.  The plant attracts bumble bees, who will pollinate your garden at no extra charge.

Lemon grass: a delicious addition to many Asian dishes, this easy-to-grow grass is great for house cleaning and is an aphrodisiac.  Just as an aside, dogs love to eat it to settle their stomachs.

Marigold: plant these golden flowers in front of your house in tubs or window boxes to draw in money.  Dry them at the end of the season and sprinkle in your wallet to keep and grow the wealth you already have.

Mint: all mints are lucky, purifying and fantastic at breaking jinxes.  They also, much like marigold, protect the money you have.  Pennyroyal, which is in the mint family, can be used as a ground cover and insect repellant while also helping crossed conditions in relationships (particularly marriage).

Rosemary: will grow just about anywhere, although it likes direct sun best.  Its uses are endless from beauty treatments to breaking jinxes to finding love to encouraging psychic dreams.

Sage: this hearty herb is not only delicious with poultry but will also bring wisdom and impart fortitude to women.

Wormwood: helps to repel insects from your garden and, when dried and carried in your car, will protect you from accidents and carjacking.

Most of these plants are perennial in cold climates as long as they are mulched in before the first frost, marigold excepted.  Your apple trees, if they are selected for your climate area, will be hearty regardless.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Conversation with the Gardener by Auguste Renoir

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vendredi: Nine of Spades

This is the card of drastic change.  There is a certainty if this card turns up in a spread that something revolutionary is going to happen in the querent’s life soon.  What that something might be is usually known to the person who is being read for, whether or not they want to admit it.

Looking at the cards around the Nine of Spades can help the reader glean insight.  As usual, negative cards usually signal negative change while positive cards hint at the opposite.  The best thing to do, once the cards have been thoroughly considered, is to talk the issue through with the querent.  Whatever change is coming is inevitable and fighting it will only cause problems – or more problems as the case may be.  This card may be one of the only such indicators in cartomancy.  Generally the cards only tell us what may occur; the Nine of Spades is pretty set in stone.

Since the Suit of Spades is comparable to the Suit of Swords in a Tarot deck, this card is often called a “death card”.  The Nine of Swords (pictured at the header from the Ryder-Waite Tarot) does sometimes foreshadow the death of someone the querent knows but even there such prognostication is tricky.  What is popularly known as “death” usually means “change” in terms of divination.  Something does “die” to make room for change but it is rarely a physical spirit.  More often it is an idea or a situation, and usual one we ourselves have created.   Bon Vendredi ~

Header picture via Tarot.net

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jeudi: Root Work

The unfortunate reality of our cyber-dominated world is that just about all of us are more open to attack.  People don’t have to know you personally to develop a personal hatred for you.  Whether it’s your occasional tweets, pictures on Facebook or posts at a blog, something you did or said can anger someone who is already angry at life.  And then you are the target for their misplaced spleen and rage.  That’s not fun.

In a case like that, where a coward hides behind the mask of an anonymous troll, a little root work can protect your psyche from further attack.

The best and easiest way to take care of this kind of thing is to put a pinch of salt in all the corners of your home (for general protection) and to keep a little open basin of salt near your work space/computer to specifically keep harm at bay.  This is an updating of an old root trick to avert the evil eye.  Not only is it effective, but glancing now and then at your little basin of salt helps you stay calm and psychically focused which in turn makes you more able to ignore the trolls.

Another helpful and easy to initiate working is to have a picture of someone you admire and feel is able to protect you on or near your computer.  Your Dad, your husband, you dog, or a favorite Saint are just a few options.  I have a picture of an equestrian statue of St. Jeanne d’Arc on my computer to help me out in time of need.

Keep it simple is a good mantra regardless of the task at hand.  Stay safe and bonne chance ~

Header: Jeanne d’Arc by Ingres

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Hyssop, an easy to grow semi-evergreen, has been used for healing and purification since Sumerian times.  The plant is mentioned in the Bible, specifically in Psalm 51.  Since Psalms, like prayers to saints, are considered “words of power” in hoodoo, hyssop is a much used herb in that discipline.

Baths of purification and washes to remove crossed conditions from residences and businesses frequently feature hyssop.  Brew hyssop tea and add it to a floor wash, then scrub your home thoroughly with it to clear away any troubles.  Reciting the 51st Psalm while doing so adds focus, and therefore power, to the ritual.  This is a great thing to consider when moving into a new home or opening up a new business space.  The tea can also be used in a spiritual bath to break hexes and jinxes; with the addition of olive oil to the bath the ritual is thought to alleviate sin.  Once again, speaking the 51st Psalm while washing from head to toe improves the efficacy of the rite.

Unless you are pregnant or nursing, you can ingest hyssop without problems.  Hyssop tea mixed with vinegar is thought to relieve any nagging trouble, spiritual or otherwise, if a teaspoon is taken each morning for 9 days.  Four Thieves Vinegar is sometimes recommended rather than plane vinegar to improve the outcome of the working.

Scott Cunningham recommends hanging fresh or dried hyssop over the front door of a home or business to keep evil away and sweeten the interactions of those who step over the threshold.

Used topically in medieval times as a cure for skin lesions and things thought to be “leprosy”, hyssop has never been far from the medicine chest throughout history.  Teas have been used to cure upper respiratory infections and fevers, relieve anxiety and regulate menstrual cycles.  Hyssop is now being used topically once again, in ointments applied to cold sores.  Bonne chance ~

Header:  From the Grete Herball c 1440

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

Salmon, it goes without saying, is ubiquitous here in Alaska.  Line caught or dip netted, now is the time of year for the very freshest salmon imaginable and lots of it.  The problem, I find, is that it doesn’t keep very long in the freezer so other options need to be considered.  Unless one wants to eat salmon daily throughout the short summer.  No thank you.

Smoking is very popular with many people having home smokers to handle the job but personally I’m not much of a fan.  That’s why, when preservation is the issue, I like to go back to the days of iron men and wooden ships and pickle my salmon.  The best recipe I’ve yet to find is actually from Grossman and Thomas’ Lobscouse & Spotted Dog, so there’s a sailing reference for you.  Here it is for your consideration:

About 4 pounds of salmon
1 gallon water
1 small handful each of fresh rosemary, borage, parsley and marjoram
3 tbsps salt
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 ½ cups white vinegar
2 small bay leaves
4 whole cloves
½ tsp whole allspice
Pinch of mace

Clean salmon as necessary.

Put the water, herbs, salt and ½ tsp of peppercorns in a fish poacher (or similar pan).  Bring to a boil.  Add the salmon and return to a gentle boil.  Reduce heat, cover with a little room for steam to escape and simmer 5 minutes.

Remove salmon and set aside to cool.  Remove and discard skin and bones, then cut into filets that will lie relatively flat in a deep jar or crock.  Once neatly packed, cover the salmon fillets with cooled, strained poaching stock and discard any unused liquid.  Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Let the fish and broth warm to room temperature the next day.  Don’t be alarmed that the broth is now gelatinous; that’s what’s supposed to happen.

Put the wine, vinegar, bay leaves, cloves, allspice and mace along with the other ½ teaspoon of peppercorns into a saucepan.  Bring this mixture to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before adding it to your fish.  Refrigerate for three days and then dig in.

This makes a nice hors d’oeuvre on toast points or cracks, is good in salads or with egg salad in sandwiches.  Technically, this is the English equivalent of Jewish lox, and is likewise eaten in Britain as a breakfast food.  Jack Aubrey certainly enjoyed it thusly.  Bon appetite ~

Header: Officer and a Laughing Girl by Jan Vermeer c 1657

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Samedi: The Two Jeans (Part III)

Ti Jean and Jean Gran have gone through a lot so far; two horses and two grandmothers for anyone keeping count.  Now the law is after Jean Gran and he’s blaming it all on Ti Jean.  The end of this little epic is upon us today.

Jean Gran barged into Ti Jean’s house, sweating and huffing as if he’d run all the way from town which he did.

“Ti Jean,” he said.  “No one would buy my Granny, you liar!”

“You probably didn’t try – ”

“Shut up!”  Jean Gran pulled an old croaker sack off the wall and started at Ti Jean.  “You shut up!  The law’s after me now and it’s all your fault.  I’m gonna put you in this frog sack and toss you in the sea for all you’ve done to me.”

Sure enough, Jean Gran got Ti Jean in that sack, hoisted him on his back and started off toward the sea.  By and by he came to the parish church and Jean Gran started thinking about the murder he’d done to his grandmother and the one he was about to do to Ti Jean.  “Well,” he said to himself.  “That surely is a sin and a sin twice over.  I should make my confession now and put my soul to rights even before I kill Ti Jean.”  With that he put the sack down by the church steps and went in.

Ti Jean poked his head out of the sack just as the young cowherd was walking by with his cattle.  “Hey there Ti Jean,” said the cowherd.  “What you doing in that old sack now?”

“It’s a shame, my friend.  I won’t marry this princess, so they’re taking me down to throw me in the sea.  I sure don’t know how to use a knife and fork, you see, so how can I marry a princess?”

“A princess, huh?”  The cowherd thought for a minute.  “What if I marry her?  I know how to use a knife and fork, after all.”

“Well, that might solve all our problems.  Why don’t you climb in this sack and when you get to the sea, tell the man who takes you that you’ll marry that princess today.”

“What about my cows?”

“Why, I’ll watch them for you.”

So the cowherd climbed in the sack and Ti Jean took off down the road with the cows. 

As evening approached, Jean Gran returned from the sea thinking he’d tossed his hated neighbor into the brine.  Wasn’t he surprised to see Ti Jean in a pasture with a fine herd of stout cattle?  “Ti Jean?” he called.  “Is that you?”

“Sure is,” Ti Jean replied with a smile.  “Thank you for throwing me into the sea, my friend.  At the bottom I met the Sea King, who cut me out of that old croaker sack and gave me this herd of cattle.  It was the best thing that happened to me since you killed my Granny.”

“What?  You got those cattle at the bottom of the sea?”

“Sure did.”

“Well, I want some cattle too.  You put me in a sack, Ti Jean, and you throw me into the sea.”

“You certain now?”

“I am.  You put me in a sack and throw me in the sea.”

So that is just what Ti Jean did, rowing Jean Gran in a little boat way out to sea and tossing him in.  Then Ti Jean rowed back to shore, took his cattle home and lived the rest of his life in prosperous peace.

Sometimes in Louisiana, a similar story is told of Jean Sotte and Jean Esprit, Stupid and Witty John.  It certainly goes without saying that Jean Gran was not very bright and Ti Jean had his wits about him.  Even though the stories are gruesome, they are also surprisingly humorous.  I hope you enjoyed this one.  Bon Samedi ~

Header: The Cowherd by James Douglas

Friday, June 10, 2011

Vendredi: Eight of Spades

Today's card has a lot to say.  Fortunately, it’s pretty blunt about it.  Unfortunately, it may not say what you want to hear.  And that may be part of the problem.

The Eight of Spades, when surrounded by negative cards, brings a huge warning.  The querent may be ill and unable to move forward because of it.  If illness is indicated, the querent is probably ignoring their need for treatment.  When no physical illness is involved, they may be unwilling to move forward due to anxiety or even fear.  This is a card that often turns up in cases where a querent is refusing to leave an abusive relationship.  Still further, the indication of loss of freedom and inability to move may be quite literal; your querent might be looking at time in jail.  Whatever the issue, this card is a call to action.  The querent needs to take the steps necessary to rectify their situation and move on.

If the Eight of Spades is surrounded by more positive cards, there is a good chance that your querent has gotten through or bypassed the issues above and is indeed going forward with positive energy.  They should be encouraged in their pursuits, and other cards in the reading will probably point to more opportunities for growth and self-empowerment.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Girl Drawing Cards (Young Girl Seated Among Cactus) by Alice Bevin

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jeudi: Great Sprirts

The story of Arachne, the girl who challenged the Goddess of Crafts to a weaving contest, is familiar to most.  The familiarities, though, might just mask the reality of the tale which – like so many – is largely not what is remembered but what is forgotten.

Arachne was a young Greek woman who grew up in Lydia.  In some stories she is a princess but in most she is the daughter of a merchant who is gifted with an unsurpassed talent for weaving.  By the time she has reached adulthood, her tapestries are in high demand all over Greece with princes and queens clamoring for one of her pieces.  Her talent makes her family wealthy but it also makes Arachne proud.  She claims that she is the finest weaver on Earth and in Heaven.

Because local nymphs and dryads enjoy watching Arachne work, the gossip of the weaver’s bold statement hurries quickly to Mount Olympus.  There Athena, the Goddess who taught humans the art of weaving, hears of Arachne and decides to set her straight.  Taking on the guise of a beggar woman, Athena descends to Lydia and approaches Arachne asking for alms.  Arachne obliges but is stunned when the beggar tells her not to tempt the Gods with her pride.

Not particularly interested in the woman’s opinion, Arachne stands by her claim and goes on to say that, were Athena with them now, she would challenge the Goddess to a weaving contest.  Athena reveals herself and once again gives the mortal a chance to back down.  Undaunted, Arachne replies with whatever the Greek version of “Bring it” would have been.

The Goddess and the mortal sit down before their looms and the contest begins.  Athena weaves the story of her contest with Poseidon for the city of Athens, outlining the salt water lake and the olive trees each God offered the people in return for their loyalty.  Arachne, ever proud and mindful of Athena’s love for her only parent, creates a dazzling pictorial of Zeus’ many infidelities with mortals.  Io, Danae, Leda, Europa and a host of others parade across the glistening tapestry as if they were real.  Athena, who finishes her work first, cannot help but stare at the beauty of Arachne’s creation.  But a moment later, she is overcome with rage at the lewd, mocking images which assault her eyes.

Athena rips Arachne’s masterwork to shreds, cursing the girl as she does.  Once the tapestry is nothing but bits of yarn, Athena turns on her rival.  She strikes Arachne’s forehead with her palm, causing the weight of terrible guilt and shame to descend on her mortal mind.  And then the Goddess, her loom and her work disappear.

Arachne, in a stupor, sits for days staring at what was once her solace and comfort, the great loom in her father’s courtyard.  Though her family and friends try to console her, she will not eat, sleep or move.  Finally one night she does stir, walking to a nearby archway where she hangs herself out of utter despair.  The last words on her lips are a plea that great Athena forgives her and returns her to her one comfort: weaving.

Athena, overwhelmed by Arachne’s sincerity, answers her prayer.  The woman is transformed into a spider and she and her descendants will forever be the finest weavers on Earth.

This story was first written down by the Roman Ovid and does not appear in the writings of Greek poets or in the art of the Greek city states.  Certain clues, however, point to the story being much older than these facts would imply.  Arachne is the Greek – not the Latin – word for spider and some folklorists think that she may be older even than the Greeks themselves.

Like other pre-Greek Goddesses assimilated by the new Gods, Arachne may have been an early rival to Athena in particular.  Athena was purely a Greek Goddess who went so far in her masculine imagery as to go without having a mother.  In mythology, she turned the older Goddesses into monsters when their actions went against the new patriarchal codes of the conquering Greeks. 

It may be that Arachne, a pre-Greek deity of women’s craft, was assimilated by Athena and thus downgraded to mortal status in myth.  Another more familiar example of this concept is Medusa, the beautiful priestess turned to monster by Athena.  Other historians see similarities between Arachne and Ariadne, the former Minoan Goddess who became no more than the daughter of a King in Grecian myth and helped Theseus find his way out of the Labyrinth with a ball of yarn.

Header: Arachne by Otto Henry Bacher c 1890

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Where I live, contact with and even threat from wild animals is a very real issue.  I’m not talking about running into an angry (and potentially plague-infected) squirrel while you’re out for a jog on Mulholland.  I’m talking about the possibility of surprising a mother moose around the corner from your house, or running into a fresh-out-of-hibernation bear in the school playground.  All of those are possible, but in this day and age only the moose and the bear are potentially deadly.

Of course our ancestors dealt with the threat of wild – and sometimes domestic – animals all the time and that is doubtless why thy decided certain herbs could be used to ward off such threats.  The favorite in hoodoo is horehound, and this herb is also specifically protective in other magickal disciplines.

Root workers sprinkled dried horehound around the perimeter of their property to keep off dogs.  This was in times when dogs were used as weapons, sent out in packs to dig up precious crops or to track people for lawful or unlawful capture.  By extension, the herb is now used to keep almost any animal off one’s property.  For example, I know a woman who has used it against her neighbor’s somewhat feral cats with a relative amount of success.

In Wicca, horehound is carried as a pocket piece for general protection against malevolent sorcery.  It can also be used to exorcise property of troublesome spirits.  Weak teas made from horehound are said to clear the mind and help one prepare for test taking, although pregnant women should not ingest the herb.  Scott Cunningham says that horehound was and should be burned to honor the Ancient Egyptian God Horus, after whom he claims it was named.

Finally, horehound is said to be beneficial when planted in the vegetable garden as a magickal way to keep pests of both the insect and small mammal varieties from eating up your lettuces and parsley.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Mid-Summer, East Hampton, New York by William St. John Harper c 1890

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

Every once in a while, particularly during the summer, I a craving for a vegetarian meal.  I won’t go so far as to dive off the vegan end.  No one’s getting my sheerling slippers off my feet; I live in Alaska.  But dinner made entirely of grains and vegetables is good and good for you now and then.  Here’s one of my favorites, tomato and artichoke pasta.

4 tbsps olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 to 3 large, vine ripened tomatoes, chopped (or 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes)
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered
Splash of dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package of pasta (I like spaghettini for this one but use what works for you)

Cook the pasta per package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet until garlic is tender, about five minutes.  Splash in your wine; about two tablespoons should do the trick.  Add tomatoes, salt and pepper; drain artichoke hearts and add them as well.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally to break up the artichokes, while the pasta finishes cooking.

Once the pasta is done, drain it thoroughly and then add the pasta to your sauce.  Stir to coat and serve.  This is tasty with grated parmesan cheese and a loaf of French or garlic bread.  Leftovers are even better on a warm day as they can be eaten right out of the frig as a pasta salad.  Consider dressing the servings with some fresh squeezed lemon juice to wake up the citrus flavors.  Bon appetite ~

Header: A Flemish Family at Dinner by Gillis van Tilborch

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Samedi: The Two Jeans (Part II)

Last week we were introduced to Ti Jean and Jean Gran, and we saw how cleverly Ti Jean turned trouble into cash albeit at the expense of the family up the road.  Today, the second part of this grisly but amusing tale.

Ti Jean hurried back home with his three baskets of silver and his empty barrel.  He set the barrel on his porch and went into the house to weigh his silver.  To his surprise, Ti Jean found one of the baskets on his scale was missing.  He shrugged and stepped over to Jean Gran’s house where he borrowed one of his baskets.  Back home, Ti Jean weighed all that silver straight away and, pleased with his profit, returned the basket to Jean Gran.

Almost immediately, Jean Gran noticed two pieces of silver that had gotten stuck in his basket.  Curious, he ran over to Ti Jean’s.

“Where you get this money?” Jean Gran asked.

“That’s just a couple of coins from the three baskets of silver I was paid,” Ti Jean replied.  “Got it all for the hide of my horse.  The one you killed.”

Jean Gran’s jaw dropped.  “Three baskets of silver for the hide of that sorry nag?  Why I could get twice that for my stallion’s hide, sure.”  And without another word, Jean Gran went home, shot his stallion, skinned it and took the hide into town.  He stood around the local smithy all the next day trying like nobody’s business to sell that hide, but no one would even make an offer.  By supper time, Jean Gran was livid.  He marched back to Ti Jean’s house and beat on the door until the little man appeared.

“Stop that racket,” Ti Jean said.  “You wake up my Grandmother you wish you hadn’t.”

“You lied to me, Ti Jean.”  Jean Gran threw the bloody hide at his neighbor’s feet.  “No one would pay me a dime for this fine hide.”

“Well of course not.  You have to cure the hide first.  Man, you dumber than a hammer.”

“I’ll show you dumb.”  Jean Gran pushed past Ti Jean.  “I’ll kill your Grandmother and then we’ll be even.”

Before Ti Jean could protest further, Jean Gran did kill poor old Granny in her sleep.  The big man picked up the woman and took her down to the dry goods store where he set her up in a chair by the stove.  Then he went home, whistling.

Ti Jean came along to the store, as calm as you please, and asked the storekeeper for a glass of water.  Then he glanced over and saw his Grandmother.  “Why there’s my Granny asleep by your stove.  How long she been here?”

“Don’t know,” said the storekeeper.  “I was in back when she came in.”

“Huh,” Ti Jean said.  “I wonder she might like a glass of water too.”

“Why not wake her up and ask her,” the storekeeper said.

“Oh no.  Waking her up could frighten her right to death.”

“No such thing.”  The storekeeper walked over to Ti Jean’s Grandmother and touched her shoulder.  Sure enough, she keeled over like a dead woman, which is what she was.  “Oh no!”

Ti Jean hurried over and, after looking at his Grandmother, he turned to the storekeeper.  “I told you!  You killed my Granny!”

“Don’t tell.  Oh please don’t tell; I didn’t mean to.  Look here, I’ll give you a basket of silver if you just don’t tell.”

Ti Jean looked from his Granny to the storekeeper and then he said: “Make it two baskets of silver and I won’t say nothing.”

So Ti Jean walked home with two baskets of silver.  He wasn’t surprised to find Jean Gran on his porch looking smug.  When the big man asked him if he found his Grandmother, Ti Jean said: “Oh sure, and I got two baskets of silver for her.”  He went on into his house without another glance at his neighbor.

Now Jean Gran was really mad, and he spent all night thinking how much more his own Grandmother would be worth if he killed her and took her down to the dry goods store.  The next morning he did just that, but the people at the dry goods store were so horrified by Jean Gran’s calls of “Who wants a dead woman?” that they sent for the law.  Jean Gran had to run, and of course he ran straight to Ti Jean.

Despite the loss of his dear old Granny, Ti Jean is a very rich man now.  But with the law involved, what will become of the two Jeans?  We’ll find out next week when the story comes to its conclusion.  Bon Samedi ~

Header: The Village Smithy by Jan Victores c 1650