Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Honeysuckle, that high climbing bush with the almost overwhelmingly sweet smelling flowers, has been a symbol of love since the European Renaissance.  Brides wore or carried honeysuckle flowers, and lovers were painted near plants drooping with buds.   In folk magick, however, the honeysuckle is rarely mentioned as a love drawing herb.

Old wives would recommend planting honeysuckle bushes near the front of one’s house to draw good luck.  Training the branches to grow over the main door to the home was thought to ward of illness and fevers in particular.  Honeysuckle flowers were kept in a vase in the kitchen to draw money into the home.

Diviners would crush honeysuckle flowers and rub the juice on their foreheads to encourage their psychic powers.

Scott Cunningham recommends ringing green candles burned for prosperity work with honeysuckle flowers.  Combining this ritual with the magick of honeysuckle in the kitchen can make an attractive and aromatic summer centerpiece for a kitchen table that will help encourage harmony in the home as well as bring in needed funds.  Bonne chance ~

Header: The Honeysuckle Bower by Peter Paul Rubens c 1609

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

One of my favorite fish dishes has always been trout amandine.  Mom made fish every Friday when I was growing up but I have never become a big fan.  Aside from salmon and the old school tuna salad sandwich, it has just never been my thing.  I like a fish done amandine, though.  As long as it’s not overcooked, I think any kind of fish benefits from the addition of lots of butter and a delicious coating of thinly sliced almonds.  Mom often substituted walnuts for the almonds because we had a tree in the back yard and, to my taste, that’s even better.

½ cup thinly sliced almonds, walnuts or pecans
2 sticks butter
2 whole eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
6 filets about 6 to 8 ounces each of trout, halibut or any white fish
Oil for pan frying

Sauté the sliced nuts in butter until they are golden.  Set aside and keep warm.

Combine milk and eggs in a bowl.  Combine flour with salt and pepper in another.  Dredge cleaned and patted dry fillets first in the egg mixture, then in the flour mixture.

Pour enough oil into a deep frying pan to fry the fish but not drench them.  Heat the oil until it is hot but not smoking.  Lay trout fillets in the oil and fry to a golden brown ; about five minutes per side.

Drain the fillets on paper towels.

Serve one fillet per person, spooning the warm butter mixture over them just before they come to the table.  Bon appetite ~

Header:  Still Life with Trout by Jeremy Mann

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Samedi: Voudon Calendar

Like most religions, Voudon has its own special festivals designed to bring worshipers into touch with the divine spirits.  Depending on where a voudonist is from, the main festivals, or fetes as they are called, will number between twelve and twenty per year.  I spent time in the Les Cayes region and keep the fetes that were taught to me there.  Though local festivals can raise the number to as many as thirty, this general list of fetes is an all around if not all inclusive example of the celebrations in Voudon.

Many of the fetes are synergized with Catholic Holy Days.  This, it goes with out saying, gave the original slave population of old Sante Domingue the opportunity to celebrate the lwa without drawing attention to their practices.  To masters and overseers, the slaves were celebrating Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16th, for instance, when in fact they were raising a fete for Erzulie Freda.

For the purposes of this list, I will give the date, Voudon fete, Catholic Holy Day and significance as I understand it.

January 6,  Voudon Fete Les Rois, Catholic Epiphany: This celebration honors the ancestral kings of Africa and is similar to celebrations of the 9 African Powers in Santeria
February 25, Manje Tet Dlo, no corresponding Holy Day: Offerings are made to feed rivers and springs so that they will continue to provide sweet water
Movable fete usually in March or April, Fete Souvenance, Good Friday: A weeklong festival held in Souvenance which only houngans and mambos may participate in
March 20, Legba Zaou, no Holy Day: Homage is paid to Papa Legba through the sacrifice of a black goat
April 30, Manje mo, no Holy Day: Offerings of food are made to family ancestors
May 12, Manje lwa, no Holy Day: Offerings of food are made to the lwa sacred to the local ounfo
July 16, Fete Saut d’Eau, Our Lady of Mount Carmel: People make a pilgrimage to bathe in the waterfall at Saut d’Eau recognizing Erzulie Freda
July 25, Fete Ougo, St. James: People make a pilgrimage to Plaine du Nord in recognition of Ougo Ferraille
August 15, Fete Soukri Kongo, Feast of the Assumption:  Weeklong honoring of the Kongo lwa at Nan Soukri
November 2, Fete de mo, All Souls’ Day: Weeklong remembrance of dead family members and Ghede lwa like Maman Brigitte and Baron Samedi including ritual meals which are prepared without salt
November 25, Manje yanm, no Holy Day: Celebration of the harvest
December 25, Fete des Membres, Christmas: Every attempt is made to return to one’s home where ritual baths and feasting are part of the celebrations
December 28, Manje Marasa, Feast of the Holy Innocents: The divine twin lwa known as the Marasa are celebrated

My personal favorite is Fete de mo, because I especially appreciate that this is a celebration that was recognized by my Celtic ancestors as well.  Finding connections to all the things that we are and can be may be the best thing that any religion, “organized” or not, can do for us.  At least that’s what I hope for.  Bon Samedi mes amis ~

Header: Soukri Kongo celebration in modern Haiti via HaitiXchange.com

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vendredi: Five of Diamonds

This is an extremely auspicious card.  Regardless of the cards surrounding the Five of Diamonds, the fact that it is in the spread is a sure sign of luck for your querent.

There is the possibility of an inheritance, a grant or a gift on the horizon.  What ever the source of the fortune, it is probably unexpected.  On the other hand, the querent’s hard work may finally – and at the least expected time – be on the verge of paying off.  To use the term windfall is not to overstate cases.

As with all of the cards, there is a caution.  The querent’s good fortune will turn sour, and quickly, if he or she is not willing to share in their largess.  A miserly attitude toward their fair luck, no matter how well it may be deserved, will lead to nothing good.  Pay this fortune forward, and reap the rewards twice over.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Playing cards from the Burgundian Netherlands c 1475, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jeudi: Curios

Additions to magickal workings come in all different shapes and sizes.  More than one is clearly a remnant of a time when objects and chemicals were more available to the “average person” – and more necessary to their livelihoods – than such items are today.  So it is with an old time hoodoo curio, lye.

Of course lye is a corrosive and has been used to break down dead bodies of all sorts.  Distilled from wood ash, it can eat the skin off a person who treats it carelessly.  This is probably why, in out modern “nanny” culture, lye is not quite as readily available as it once was.  Even as recently as the 1930s and ‘40s, however, lye was a relatively common household item especially in rural areas.  Its particular use was breaking down offal on the one hand and making soap and preparing fruit for canning on the other.  In hoodoo homes, this caustic substance would also be used for protection.

The specific brand of lye known as Red Devil was favored for warding off evil.  Because of the picture of a bright red devil on the box, the magickal implication was two fold.  The devil would keep an eye out for evil and the lye would corrode it to nothing.

For such workings, four boxes of Red Devil Lye were purchased.  The unopened boxes would be buried at the four corners of a house, barn or other valuable property with the devil’s visage facing away from the building.  This precaution was taken not only to protect people, pets and livestock from intruders but also from the evil eye and “black magick”.

Red Devil Lye is still available, but it now comes in a plastic bottle that is unfortunately devoid of the devil.  Finding old boxes of the brand, usually empty of lye, is still possible at flea markets and auctions, however.  As an aside, there is a blues group from Lowell, Massachusetts who call themselves Red Devil Lye.

Header: Plaza Market San Antonio TX c 1879, artist unknown

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

With the sparkling season of autumn foreseeable on the horizon, my thoughts sometimes turn to wine country.  I’m a proud follower of Dionysus, and I have no qualms about proclaiming my love for vineyards heavy with grapes of all varieties.  The grape, both wild and tame, fruit and vine, is used not only in the magic of making one of the world’s favorite beverages but in the working of magick as well.

Because abundant harvests are a sign of prosperity, grapes are often used in money drawing work by Wiccans and Druids.  Green grapes in particular are popular in the U.S. for these kinds of spells and Scott Cunningham recommends laying them on your altar during prosperity work.

Grapes have been considered a fertility symbol since Roman times.  Painting grape vines bent with bunches of grapes on garden walls was thought to improve the output of any garden, even if it did not contain grapes proper.  By this logic, eating grapes is also thought to improve human fertility as well as – perhaps almost counter-intuitively – strengthening intelligence.

In hoodoo, the vines of wild grapes in particular are used for bonding people by tying the plant together.  They can also be used to break jinxes.  An early 20th century prescription for catching an unfaithful spouse advises a man or woman to walk into the wilderness and find a healthy grape plant.  Two vines should be selected and held in the hands before naming each aloud; one for the cheating spouse and the other for their supposed lover.  A piece of brown paper should then be marked with the same names using a pencil; one name should be written over the other to form a cross.  Then the worker should urinate on the paper, pull the two vines together and unite them using the name paper like tape.  They should then tie the paper to the vines with a personal item that they have worn such as a stocking, a drawstring or a shoelace.  They should then go straight home without looking back at the grape vines.  If their suspicions are accurate, they will find the illicit affair in progress when they get home.  No further instructions are usually given.

While some pagan groups do not encourage drinking, others adhere to the time honored belief in communication with the divine through the ecstasy of intoxication.  In such cases wine, the fermented juice of the grape, is often the drink of choice.  Bonne chance ~

Header: A Dedication to Bacchus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema c 1889

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lundi: Recipes

Today's recipe is a Gulf coast favorite that most food writers agree originated in Pensacola, Florida back in the 1920s.  It’s basically a tipsy milkshake and it is one tasty treat on a hot day.  Be careful with these things, which usually go by the appropriate moniker Bushwhacker; it’s easy to forget they have all that rum in them.

3 scoops vanilla ice cream
3 oz dark rum
1 ½ oz light rum
¾ oz Kahlua
¾ ounce crème de cacao

Put the ice cream, rum, Kahlua and crème de cacao in a blender and mix thoroughly.  Add enough ice to bring the contents of your mixer within two inches of the top and blend until smooth.  Pour into two glass and share with a friend.

Some tenders top the drink off with a dash of 151 rum once it’s in the glass.  Another version of this drink is made with heavy cream rather than ice cream.  Bon appetite ~

Header: La Belle Chocolatiere by Jean Etienne Liotard c 1743

Friday, August 19, 2011

Vendredi: Four of Diamonds

The Four of Diamonds is an unusually somber card in a generally upbeat suit.  It tends to indicate that the querent is in trouble; financially, psychologically or spiritually.  Usual the problem is financial – unemployment, lack of funds, even eviction can be indicated – but sometimes the person is suffering from depression or a crisis of faith.

This is not a card to take lightly and careful questions should be asked to try to determine what so troubles the querent.  The truly horrible possibilities associated with the card can be mitigated by the cards around it.  Hearts close by may indicate that the querent needs to focus more on themselves and their goals to reach out of the doldrums or that someone close to them can offer assistance.  Clubs in proximity could point to the querent’s natural pessimism as off putting to the people who can help them achieve what they need and want.  Nudging the querent in the right direction might be a little easier in such cases.  Spades, as we know, rarely bode well.

In unusual cases, this card might indicate that the querent is already addressing habits or addictions that have nearly ruined their life.  If this is the case, they may be on the verge of finding a kindred spirit among those who are helping them fight their dependency.  Again, this is a rare indication for the Four of Diamonds, but it is something to consider.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: The Card Players by Lucas von Leyden c 1525

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jeudi: Root Work

As I’ve mentioned before (I think), my daughters went back to school on Tuesday.  It was a pretty stressful return as my youngest was starting Middle School and my eldest, High School.  Anyone who wasn’t home schooled or didn’t attend a 13 year school surely remembers those kinds of jitters. 

Calming those anxieties is one of things I feel tasked with as a parent.  But what’s a Mom to do?  You can talk all you want about how they will have fun and be fine and blah, blah, blah.  Teens and tweens aren’t really that interested in your words.  Actions, though, speak pretty loud.  So it was off to the magick cabinet for mojo building.

On Monday I gathered my ingredients, sat down for a little meditation after lighting a white candle and then went to work.  Since each of my girls is very different – which is no surprise to any parent – I chose ingredients that would suit their personalities, situations and needs.  The only things they both got were a chip of amethyst, a red jasper bead and a blue mojo bag.

First, the bags.  These were made of blue silk and both were on the small side for conveniently tucking them away in pockets or lingerie.  Silk is not at all a necessity nor, in all fairness, is blue cloth.  A simple square of unbleached muslin filled and tied up with thread will work just as well if your intention is put into it.  I just happened to be working with what I had and blue is soothing to anxious nerves.  I dressed the bags with a little holy water to start but you could also leave them in direct sunlight for a day as a cleanser.

Next, assembling the mojos.  For my older daughter who is shy, quiet, studious and has difficulty with mobility due to JIA, I chose five stones and an herb.  I included a large rose quartz to help her be happy and make friends.  A chip of amethyst went in to help her insomnia, take away stress, sharpen her mind and impart courage.  Green jasper went in for health and healing while red jasper went in to protect and send negative energies back to their originator.  A piece of pyrite was added to bring luck; finally, a sprinkling of dried sage for wisdom, strength and protection.

For my younger daughter, who is social, flighty, full of energy and struggles with her studies, I threw in the red jasper, amethyst and pyrite for all the same reasons.  Her large stone was a carnelian, to guard against the jealousy and manipulation of others, counteract doubt and lend courage and eloquence, particularly when speaking in public.  A brown jasper bead was added to help focus and mitigate procrastination, a disease both she and I suffer from.  I chose dried lemon verbena for her mojo to help her in her studies and to accent her effervescent personality.

Finally, the dressing.  Most mojo bags in hoodoo are “dressed” with magickal oil.  I chose Queen Oil, to enhance both ladies’ abilities to rise and conquer all obstacles, and Easy Life Oil to break down barriers.  Empowered olive or almond oil can always be substituted for conjure oils as the point of this ritual is to “feed” the mojo.  For that reason, the bags will be dressed weekly to keep them empowered.  That said, don’t stress if you miss a week or even two; root work is far more forgiving than many ritual disciplines.

It is very much recommended that you touch your mojo bag frequently if possible.  At the very least, rub it a moment between your hands each morning before you tuck it away to carry it with you.  Perhaps even speak a few words to help you focus on whatever goal you have empowered the mojo for.  Love it, and it will love you back.

These are just my thoughts on what would work for people I know well.  Many other items could work in a mojo bag, depending on your needs.  Do your research and work with intent; success follows sincerity.

As to my girls and their mojos, so far so good.  I’ll let you know how we do as the year progresses, but I can tell you right now that they are far less anxious than they were a week ago.  Bonne chance ~

Header: The Daughters of E.D. Boit by John Singer Sargent c 1882

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

As the last days of summer tick down on the way to fall, we sometimes experience the most intense heat our climates can dish out.  South Central Alaska will very often have a few days of what is known back east as “Indian Summer”.  This usually occurs in late August, after the kids have gone back to school and lasts for three or four days.  Once it’s over, though, we can generally rest assured that fall is on its heels.

When it’s very warm, particularly if you live somewhere humid, the last thing you want is to smear thick creams and butters on your skin.  You still need to moisturize, of course, but the thought of anything as heavy as the air around you can be overwhelming.  So here is a nice, light moisturizer to make at home for the true dog days ahead.  Most all of the ingredients can be found at health food stores or online.  The added bonus is the refreshing scent of rosemary and mint.

1 tbsp grated beeswax
½ cup almond oil
¼ cup rosewater
¼ cup vegetable glycerine
½ tsp borax
15 drops rosemary essential oil
15 drops peppermint essential oil

Prepare a double boiler and place the almond oil and beeswax over simmering water.  Warm until beeswax liquefies.  Remove from heat.

At the same time, heat rosewater, glycerine and borax in a sauce pan, stirring frequently until borax dissolves.  Remove from heat.

When both mixtures are lukewarm, combine and mix thoroughly, preferably with a whisk.  Now whisk in essential oil four or five drops at a time.  Continue whisking to aerate until the mixture cools.  You can also use a hand mixer on a low setting.  Pour into a plastic bottle with a tight lid.  Shake well before using.

The addition of borax means this lotion will have a relatively long shelf life.  For a really cool treat on a really hot day, pop it in your frig for an hour or so before using.  A votre santé ~

Header:  Enchantress of the Ages/Beryl Wallace as Delilah by Henry Clive c 1948

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Marigolds, though generally not thought of as an herb, are treated as such in many magickal disciplines.  They are used for protection, to increase psychic power and prophetic dreams, to bring favorable outcomes in legal matters and, particularly in hoodoo, for gambling luck.  This last application is probably a result of the like-makes-like process as the round, golden flowers resemble gold coins.

Marigolds are harvested for protection in Wicca and Pow-Wow.  The flowers are strung together on thread as garlands and hung over the front door of a home to ward off evil and ill intent.  According to Scott Cunningham, prophetic dreams are encouraged by scattering marigold petals under your bed.  He also recommends adding the petals to your bath water to make yourself more respected and admired by the people you meet.

Silver Ravenwolf recommends using marigolds to detect a cheating spouse.  Put a marigold flower in church before your husband or wife enters.  If they are being unfaithful to you, they will not be able to find their way out of the house of worship once the service or mass is over.  If something has been stolen from you, she also advises putting marigold and sunflower petals in a conjure bag and sleeping with it under your pillow.  Your dreams will reveal the identity of the thief.

A similar working in hoodoo is to fill a green mojo bag with gold and yellow marigold flowers.  Put this under your pillow and you will dream of winning lottery numbers and racing animals’ names.

To be at their most powerful, marigold flowers should be harvested on a warm day in the month of August and at noon.

Finally, and perhaps most curiously of all, an old Druid teaching said that if a girl walked over marigold petals barefoot before her first menstruation she would be able to attract unicorns and understand birdsong.  I can’t vouch for that one, but it is poetic nonetheless.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Young Woman with a Unicorn by Raphael

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Samedi: Wait Till Louis Comes

It's storytelling time again at HQ, and this is one of my favorites.  My Aunt Bette told me this one when I was just into my teens, and she told it every time I went down to her house on Bayou Rigolets thereafter.  Usually on a night when the power went out and we all sat on the porch sweating, fanning ourselves, and watching the moths dance around the kerosene lantern.

As I understand now, after doing a lot of research, it is a scary story common to many different immigrant groups in the U.S., Canada and Central America.  The name and the species of the creature in question changes from story to story, but the protagonist is usually a priest or preacher and the old, rundown house is always part of the tale.

One time long ago Father Jean was walking across the swamp to attend at a funeral.  He was so busy reading his prayer book as he walked that he didn’t notice darkness descending upon him.  When he did, he found himself caught in a lonely place and wondering where he might spend the night for the sky looked threatening. 

As rain started to fall, Father noticed an old plantation house.  It was obviously abandoned but it was the only shelter he could see, and so he went in. 

The wind was blowing fiercely by now and it howled through the trees near the house and blew into the broken windows.  Father found a grand fireplace in the downstairs parlor, and he started to pick up sticks and pieces of broken furniture to make a fire with.  Soon he had a crackling blaze going and, pulling up a still in tact cane backed chair, he settled down to warm up.

Before long, Father Jean heard something rustling just outside the firelight.  He looked but he didn’t see anything so he went back to reading his prayer book.  Soon enough, he felt something brush against his leg.  Looking down he saw the biggest, blackest cat he’d ever seen.  As he watched, the cat walked right into the fire, turned around three times, and then came back out as if he had simply walked into an empty closet.

Astounded, Father watched while the cat sat down and, ignoring him completely, began to clean its fur.  “That is strange indeed,” Father said to himself.  “But there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my imagination.”  And then he went back to his prayer book.

The time went by and before long Father Jean heard another sound.  This time it was more of a stomp than a rustle.  When Father looked up he was amazed to see another black cat, but this one was even bigger and blacker than the one sitting near the fire.  It looked to be the size of a wolf and its eyes glowed red as hot coals.  Father was feeling very uneasy until he watched this huge cat turn around three times in the fire just like the other had done.  It joined the first cat and, before it turned to cleaning itself it said in a human voice: “Are we ready?”

Now Father Jean was more scared than uneasy.  But it got worse.

The smaller cat looked up from his paw and said: “We better wait till Louis comes.”  And then both cats went about washing themselves like Father wasn’t even there.

Father crossed himself.  “All right,” he said.  “That is a curiosity.  But there are more things in heaven and earth that are dreamt of in my imagination.”  He gripped the crucifix that dangled from his neck, and tried to return to his prayer book.

The rain poured down, the wind blew, the fire crackled and the cats licked themselves.  Father turned a page in his book and then he heard a growl so loud it made his blood run cold. 

He turned to see a black cat the size of a panther walking toward the fire.  Just as before, this one turned around three times in the blaze and then joined the others.  Father had to move his chair back to get away from this infernal beast and, to his dismay, the cane seat broke trapping his butt in the chair. 

As Father Jean struggled to get free, the panther-sized cat looked right at him with shining, cobalt eyes.  “Are we ready?” it asked.

“We better wait till Louis comes,” said the wolf-sized cat while all three stared at Father as if he were a gutted fish.

Father Jean had no desire to meet Louis in this life or the next.  With a tremendous push and a great force of will, he freed himself from the broken chair.  He tucked his prayer book under his arm and bowed to the hellcats where they sat in a row.  “Messieurs,” he said in a shaky voice.  “Do you tell Louis I was here but I could not wait upon him.  Your pardon.”

With that, Father Jean ran out into the rain and straight home where he packed his bags and was never heard from in that county again.

Bon Samedi, mes amis!

Header:  French priest with servant and slave, artist unknown

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vendredi: Three of Diamonds

Today's is definitely a card that points to success, particularly in career endeavors and hobbies. 

The Three of Diamonds usually indicates that the querent is good with their hands as opposed to something like investments or accounting.  They are more likely to work out of a mechanic’s shop or as a carpenter than in a cubicle farm.  The card also tends to indicate that the querent has or is about to master his craft.  It can point to the same growth for an artist or artisan.

With this mastery comes financial success.  The querent is close to finally getting paid what one is worth as well as of being able to teach new craftsmen or artists.  They will soon get the recognition they deserve.

If absolutely none of this sounds familiar to the person you are reading for, then the card is at the very least a sign of a raise or promotion.  There is, however, probably some avocation that the querent isn’t thinking of wherein they have truly found happiness and mastery.  Press them a little harder; you may see a light bulb go on.  In some cases, this revelation may lead to a whole new – and entirely more rewarding – career path.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: House of Cards by James Louis Clark

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jeudi: Great Spirits

Islam is, of course, one of the “big three” world religions.  Like its progenitor Judaism and its sibling Christianity, it is a markedly patriarchal system.  Given these facts, it should come as no surprise that Islam has also tried to stamp out the memory of any goddesses that ruled over its people before it swept through and “saved” them.  The religion has done a pretty good job, in all fairness, but a trinity of goddesses – one of whom was once worshipped by the family of the prophet Mohammed – still lingers in the collective Semitic memory.

The ancient Arabic ladies known as Al-Uzza, Al-lat and Menat form a sort of Maiden/Mother/Crone group that will be familiar to many pagans.  Much like the same sort of trinity in Wiccan and Druid traditions, these goddesses stand alone at times, meld with each other at others and are sometimes confused or even mistaken for one another.  For instance, the temple thought to be dedicated to Al-Uzza, the virgin warrior, at Petra in modern Jordan, is also mentioned as a place of worship for Al-lat, the fertile mother.

The confusion here is particularly easy to understand.  Just as Al-lah simply means “God”, so Al-lat means “Goddess”.  This is not uncommon in languages of the ancient Near East.  A similar quirk in the Phoenician language, for instance, created the god Ba’al (Lord) and his consort Ba’alat (Lady).  It is worth noting that the acacia tree was sacred to Ba’alat, just as it was to the warrior Al-Uzza.

Al-Uzza was the particular goddess of Northern Arabia and the Koreishite tribe into which Mohammed was born.  She was thought of as a nubile woman whose name meant “the strong”.  Her particular symbol was the morning and evening star and, much like Astarte and Ishtar before her, she took on the oversight of love and war.  Her sacred acacia grove, whose trees were thought to house the spirit of the goddess, was just south of Mecca.  Mohammed had the grove and its temple destroyed as he strove to assert the rule of the “One true God”.

Al-lat, the Goddess, was compared by the Romans to their Ceres.  She has also been compared to the Egyptian Isis.  A goddess of fertility and protector of her people, she was often symbolized by sheaves of wheat or other grains.  She also had a shrine near Mecca where she was venerated in the form of a giant block of white granite.  According to Patricia Monaghan, women were required to appear before the block of stone naked, and circle it once around.  Doing so would guarantee the granting of any boon asked of the goddess.  Ancient Arabians swore oaths by the name of Al-lat, as she was considered to be as permanent and steadfast as the white granite block at her shrine.  Needless to say, this too was destroyed with the coming of Islam.

The third component to the triad was Menat or Menata.  Her name meant, alternatively, “fate”, “allotment” or “death”.  Much like the Angel of Death in Christian myth, Menat was the spirit who came for a person when it was time for them to die.  She was called down when curses were necessary; provided the curse was righteous, Menat would punish the evil-doer.  Like Al-lat, Menat was thought to inhabit a block of stone.  Hers was a huge piece of black granite at Quidaid near Medina and its location is still a place associated with the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

As is often the case with goddesses, people are reluctant to abandon them all together.  Thus the Koran lists Al-Uzza, Al-lat and Menat as three of the daughters of Al-lah.  In that holy book they are longer goddesses, but spirits who intercede for humans much like the Virgin Mary in Catholic Christianity.

Header: Al-Uzza, Al-lat & Menat by Thalia Took (find her fascinating site listed on the sidebar)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

It's strawberry time in the Northern Hemisphere, which is a wonderful time of year for everyone from bakers of pies to makers of preserves.  It also happens to be a wonderful time for those who make their own beauty products.

Strawberries are not only healthy snack but, when prepared correctly, they are wonderful for your skin.  They are full of alpha-hydroxy acids, a buzz word you’ve doubtless seen more than once in advertisements for skin care products when the issue of exfoliation comes up.  The difference is that the strawberries natural acids are much gentler than the replications made in labs.  This makes their use ideal for people with sensitive and/or aging skin.

This mask will wash away dead cells and even coax gunk out of your pores (blackheads, beware) without the irritation that can be caused by retinol or glycol.  The recipe calls for a decoction of dried meadowsweet leaves but don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on this ingredient.  You can substitute a tablet of white bark, crushed into a powder.  White bark tablets are usually available at health food stores.  Either way, you’re skin is getting a mild dose of salicin which is both anti-bacterial and mildly exfoliating.

4 to 6 fresh strawberries
2 tbsps decoction of meadowsweet leaves
1 egg yolk
1 tsp honey
2 drops jasmine or rose essential oil
Corn flour

Break up five to seven dried meadowsweet leaves and place in a saucepan.  Cover with approximately 2 cups of cold water.  Stir and then bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and, without removing the lid, let simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Stir and strain through cheesecloth into a jar with a tight lid.  This will keep in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

While your decoction is cooling, mash the strawberries to a pulp in a bowl.  You can put them in a blender but be careful not to liquefy them; you want a few small chunks. 

Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Slowly add as much corn flour as you need to achieve a paste-like consistency.

Smooth the mask on to clean, damp skin and relax for about 10 minuets.  Rinse with tepid water and follow with moisturizer.

For mature skin, consider making a little more of this mask and applying it to the neck and décolleté as well.  A votre santé ~

Header: Mary Pickford by Christian von Schneidau

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Dittany of Crete is an edible herb that is not much mentioned in modern recipes.  In southern Europe it was often used in stews and fish dishes and old recipe books – journals of receipts as they were known prior to the mid 19th century – often featured tips on how to grow this fat-leafed herb.

In ritual magicks, dittany is much prized for its ability to make spirits appear and to aid in astral projection.  The dried leaves are burned alone to help spirits manifest.  It is said that they will appear as bodily formations in the blue-gray smoke.  When the dried leaves are mixed with vanilla, sandalwood and benzoin and burned as incense, the scent is reputed to allow the practitioner to leave their body and wonder the ether.

According to the old wives of Europe, extracting juice from dittany leaves and flowers and then rubbing it on skin would repel venomous snakes and insects.  In some cases a chant such as “Hax, Pax, Abodemax” was to be recited over and over while applying the dittany juice.  In most cases, such “nonsense” chants were a way of focusing the witch’s attention on their work, thus achieving a form of trance state to facilitate the working.  Some later day writers have tried to find tie-ins with ancient – or even alien – languages in these types of chants but the examples they give usually fall shy of the mark.  Though they may have had a connection to a now dead language at some point, to say the chants were originally Atlantian or Druidic is probably over-reaching at best.

Dittany of Crete came to hoodoo through the European tradition and was considered a love herb by French Creoles in and around New Orleans.  Putting the herb in a meal specifically prepared for a love interest was thought to spark a raging passion for the preparer.  Continued doses would need to be administered to keep the flame burning high.

This focus seems to have translated the use of dittany as incense into a love potion.  According to Catherine Yronwode, burning dittany mixed with myrrh, benzoin and sandalwood could induce visions of one’s future spouse.  This recipe is only one ingredient off from the astral projection incense previously mentioned.  Of course, this is how various forms of magick influence one another but it is a curious point nonetheless.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Medea by A.F.A. Sandys c 1868

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Samedi: The Family Erzulie

In Haitian Voudon, a group of female lwa stands out as a particularly dysfunctional sisterhood.  These are the Erzulies or Ezilis as they are known in Creole. 

There is Erzulie Freda Dahomey, the gorgeous and luxurious.  She is the queen of all things beautiful, sensuous and graceful.  Erzulie Freda is envisioned as a light skinned woman with light eyes; she speaks only French and is the dream of every mortal man.  She is herself a sensual animal who takes lovers from among the lwa and her human worshipers.  Maryaj lwa with Erzulie, though not necessarily common, is one of the most likely such entanglements with the lwa for a man to find himself in.  Erzulie Freda is said to be the “consort” of three male lwa: Danbala, Ogou and Agwe.  All of these gentlemen are married to others.

Erzulie Freda’s sister, or perhaps her other half, is La Siren.  She is the blond haired, white skinned mermaid who is lwa of the deep blue sea.    Mermaids are extremely common in Afro-Caribbean and African American stories.  The tales generally tell of a beautiful, fish-tailed woman who lures an adult or sometimes a child down to her watery domain where they live for what seems like a year, but is in fact decades or even centuries.  La Siren follows this pattern as well.  Though generally benevolent, she can turn violent just as the sea does in a storm.  In this guise she is known as La Balien – the whale – and she can be deadly.  She is married to the sea lwa and admiral, Agwe.

The third sister is Erzulie Danto, the mother lwa of the Petwo nachon whose tongue was cut out by Haitian revolutionaries so that she would not tell their secrets.  She is a fierce mother and warrior, dark skinned and ample in form who has a scar on her cheek.  This wound was inflicted when she fought with Erzulie Freda, and the two have detested each other ever since.  Their enmity is only increased by the fact that Erzulie Danto is married to the warrior lwa Ogou.  Erzulie Danto can wreak havoc against human women in fits of rage and jealousy, but she is also known to take women in maryaj lwa and is thought to be the patron of lesbians.

The three sisters’ grandmother also goes by their name.  She is known as Grande Erzulie (or Grann Ezili) and in some sociétés she is the patron of prostitutes (in others, this task falls to Maman Brigitte).   She is also the lwa of regret, weeping over lost love, beauty and opportunity.  Grande Erzulie is envisioned as impossibly ancient and crippled by rheumatoid arthritis.  For this reason, she is the patron of people of any age who suffer from this crippling autoimmune disease.  My daughter, who has the juvenile form of arthritis, is beginning to cultivate a relationship with Grande Erzulie.

All four of the Erzulies can be of great benefit to their devoted worshipers.  But as always, know your lwa and respect them fully.  The opposite of benefit is not always simple hindrance.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Mater Dolorosa de Monte Cavario, the Catholic aspect of Erzulie Freda

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vendredi: Two of Diamonds

This card is frequently interpreted as a portend of change for the better.  If your querent has had an illness in the family, or has been sick themselves, relief and health are on the horizon.  Financial setbacks will abate in favor of economic stability.  Legal matters will go in the querent’s favor.  A troubled relationship will either be repaired or end amicably.

All that said, the Two of Diamonds also holds more than a little resemblance to the Two of Pentacles in the Tarot.  It is the card of the juggler; the person who is able to keep more than one ball in the air successfully.  This card often turns up when I’m reading for a busy single parent who manages to keep just the right balance between their own life, that of their children and work.  Honestly, those are the hardest working people I know and therefore the best analogy for this card. 

As always, look at the cards that surround this one in the spread.  Generally speaking though, no matter how “bad” the nearby cards seem, this one indicates that the querent will come through the adversity with flying colors.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: The Card Players by Paul Cezanne

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jeudi: Curios

I've talked about semi-precious stones and crystal before.  As noted, these were not common items in historical hoodoo.  This is most probably because their cost was prohibitive to the majority of root workers.  Times change and hoodoo, like all magickal practices, is a fluid discipline.  More and more root workers are availing themselves of the power of rocks and stones, myself included.

All that out of the way, one of my favorite stones to work with is jasper.  It is a relatively common stone and therefore quite affordable.  Jasper is a form of chalcedony, which is itself a form of quartz.  There are four different variations of this opaque stone, each of which has its own magickal uses.  This puts jasper high on the short list of the most versatile stones.

In general, jasper is said to protect its possessor.  It will keep a person from engaging in dangerous behaviors and is therefore thought to assist in recovery from addiction.  Women held a piece of jasper in one hand during childbirth to protect them and their child from pain, injury and/or death.  Any of the variations of jasper could be used for these purposes.

Brown jasper is often the color of sienna ink rather than truly brown like soil.  This is an excellent stone for grounding.  Hold a piece of brown jasper to return to a normal psychic state after spell work or divination.  Scott Cunningham also recommends wearing or carrying brown jasper for people who tend to day dream rather than take action.  Along those same lines, I find that it keeps me from falling into one of my worst habits: procrastination.

Green jasper can vary in color from a light gray-green to moss.  It is used in spells for healing and to bring calm to the psyche.  Wear green jasper to bed to promote restful sleep and chase away night terrors.  People who are empathic favor green jasper as an aid to opening themselves up to psychic vibrations while staying safe and grounded at the same time.  For this purpose, the stone should be held in the receptive hand (left if you are right handed and vice versa).

Mottled jasper often looks like those marbles we used to call “swirlies”, with two, three or even four colors intermingled in one stone.  This was a favorite stone among seafarers, who wore it for protection from drowning.  Depending on the most prominent color in the stone, it may be used as a substitute for red, green or brown jasper.

Red jasper ranges in color from orange to scarlet to a deep purplish-red.  This is a powerful healing and defensive stone that I highly recommend to anyone who regularly works on breaking jinxes.  It will ward off negativity and send such vibrations back to their originator.  In medieval times, red jasper was worn to guard against poisoning and fevers.  Women wear it to promote a youthful appearance.

Finally, jasper is an excellent substitute for more expensive stones.  Use green jasper in place of jade and red jasper in place of carnelian or coral without losing anything in the translation.  As with all tools of magick, stones should be cleansed either with holy water, salt or sunshine before use. 

Because it is a common stone, perfectly good quality jasper can be found quite affordably at craft stores where jewelry findings are sold.  I recently bought a string which included all four varieties of jasper at Michel’s for $1.25.  You can’t beat that.  Bonne chance ~

Header: The Sailor’s Return by Toby Edward Rosenthal c 1880