Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Decoctions, tisanes and teas are used in both traditional and magickal healing to keep us healthy or to nurse us back to that state.  Tea proper, whether black or green, has uses in both areas as well.  It is a mild stimulant and diuretic and has astringent properties that benefit skin and hair.  Its magickal uses are somewhat limited in the west but probably only for the fact that it has not been known as long as it has been in the east.

In Wicca, tea is thought to impart courage and strength as well as draw wealth.  Tea is a sign of good fortune, as well as hospitality, in many eastern cultures as well.  Dried tea leaves are burned to draw money to a home or business.  They can also be sprinkled in cash registers and safes for the same purpose.  Scott Cunningham recommends adding them to all money mixtures and sachets.  He also recommends infusions of dark tea to add to any lust-inducing drink.

In hoodoo, tea leaves are not much thought of but odd items are sometimes brewed in boiling water and added to tea or coffee to ensure the fidelity of a partner.  In one such application, women are advised to boil a pair of underwear after wearing it for a day and add some of the resulting “tea” to their lover’s or husband’s morning coffee.  This is thought to ensure his fidelity, at least as long as he does not discern what’s in his morning cup of Joe…  Bonne chance ~

Header:  Lady at a Tea Table by Mary Cassatt c 1883

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lundi: Recipes

Eighty percent of the world’s population lives near – basically within driving distance of – a major body of water such as an ocean, lake or river.  We can reasonably surmise, then, that only slightly less of the people on Earth are eating seafood and/or freshwater fish regularly.  That is certainly the case here in Alaska, which has a longer coastline than the contiguous U.S. and Hawai’i combined. 

With that in mind, I’m offering a recipe for fish today.  This one is from one of my favorite local restaurants, The Double Musky.  Not only is this eclectic and fun restaurant just a scenic drive away from where I live, it also offers Cajun and Creole cuisine from the heart of my father’s family home: southeastern Louisiana.  Here then, from the Double Musky cookbook by owners Bob and Deanna Persons, Cajun Scampi:

½ cup garlic butter (made by combining butter with granulated garlic, as you would to make garlic bread)
½ cup white wine
¼ cup sherry
2 tsps hot pepper sauce
2 tsps lemon juice
2 tbsps granulated garlic
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup white onions, diced
½ cup green onions whites & greens, sliced
2 tbsps sliced black olives
½ cup tomatoes, diced
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cups cooked white rice
Salt & pepper to taste

Melt the garlic butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add all other sauce ingredients in the order above (excluding shrimp and rice).  Cook until the white onions clarify.

Add the shrimp and turn the heat to high.  Cover and cook for about two minutes or until the shrimp are opaque.

Serve over hot, fluffy rice.  Makes about 4 servings.  Thanks Bob and Deanna. Bon appetite ~

Header: Dining room at the Double Musky via That Food Guy (read his review here)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Vendredi: A Teacup Full of the Future

In typical Friday fashion, here are a few more shapes you could find in those soggy tea leaves at the bottom of your cup, and what they might be pointing to.

Hammer ~ strength in the face of opposition and/or the petitioner may be showing insensitivity to someone in their life
Hammock ~ rest; a place of repose and solitude is finally available
Harp ~ peace; the petitioner may be the focus of affection that they are not aware off
Hat ~ a new job or business venture will be offered
Heart (the classic Valentine shape) ~ love or, if the heart is surrounded by dots, wealth
Horn (animal) ~ domination either by or against the petitioner, depending on what surrounds this shape
Horn (musical) ~ good news
Horseshoe ~ the petitioner may come into something of value – not necessarily money – through the death of a relative, a will or something similar
Hourglass ~ a warning to live in and appreciate the present; time is short
House ~ security
Igloo ~ isolation, either purposeful or through the actions of others
Jar or pot ~ secrets kept; things stashed away that might be better off used
Jewel ~ a need for other people’s attention and/or a great amount of admiration from others
Jug or vase ~ generosity; service such as volunteering
Kettle, tea or coffee pot ~ security at home; happiness among family
Key ~ insight; the petitioner has a good handle on what is going on around them and should “follow their gut”
Kite ~ broad speculation, either on the part of the petitioner or their family/friends

And as always, Vendredi heureux ~

Header: The Harmonica Player by Gladys N. Smith via American Gallery

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jeudi: Root Work

In 1978 James Haskins, a prolific writer, published a book called Voodoo & Hoodoo.  The subtitle is “Their Tradition and Craft as Revealed by Actual Practitioners” and that is exactly what the book is about: memories of voodoo religion and hoodoo practices told to the author by elderly people who knew a thing or two about the “old ways”.  The book covers just about everything imaginable on the subject and is written in a delightful, conversational style that sucks the reader in as thoroughly as a well-paced novel.

Haskins devotes only a couple of pages to the issue of witches and, in particular, “hag riding”.  Even in brief, the discussion is a fascinating take on the ancient archetype of the “wicked witch” which seems to be a curious combination of various cultural beliefs and actual physiological experience.

As Haskins notes, the folklore of hag riding most probably comes from a West African beliefs about the habits of witches.  According to this folklore, witches are said to visit sleeping people, climb up on their chests and suck their life out, either via blood or breath or both.  Another spin is that the hag literally rides the sleeping person’s astral body out to do her mischief, returning them to bed only as the sun rises.  This version has the same effect as the other; a wasting death through exhaustion.

Similar beliefs exist in European and Middle Eastern folklore as well and those who swear to have experienced the phenomena may in fact be responding to a form of night terror known as sleep paralysis.  In this scenario, a person’s brain jolts to consciousness out of sleep a few seconds before their body’s neurological function has time to do the same.  They report feelings of being pinned down, stifled or crushed and being unable to draw in a decent breath.  It is not hard to imagine something, or someone, sitting on your chest or holding you down in such a situation.

Because hag riding was particularly feared among practitioners of hoodoo, several forms of protection were developed to keep witches out of homes and away from those sleeping peacefully therein.  Haskins reports on remedies for hag riding from the first two decades of the 20th century.   Almost all of these have counterparts in European folklore as well.

Salt should be sprinkled around the home, and particularly in the fireplace.

An individual should carry black pepper or a knife.  Putting matches in one’s hair was another way to ward off hags.

Planting mustard seed near or under the front porch was said to keep both witches and ghosts away.  Mustard or flax seed – sometimes along with a pan of cold water – placed next to the bed was said to work too.

Hags would not touch a sleeping person with a sifter under their pillow.  An alternative kitchen tool for this purpose was a pair of scissors.     

Hanging a horseshoe over the front door was thought to encourage luck and keep both hags and ha’nts (ghosts) away.  The installation of a new roof, window or door was a sure trick against both troubles as was a fresh coat of blue paint.  Specific colors, known as “haint blue” are still favored for painting porches today.

Most of us would not admit to being troubled by hags or ha’nts “now’a days”.  All the same, the old wisdom is usually the best.  Then too, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Header: Shutters painted haint blue from an excellent article on the subject here at Curious Expeditions

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

I am officially old.  I just had one of those “milestone” birthdays and now I finally have a good excuse for my behavior: I’m old.  That said, it was nice when the (young) lady at the pharmacy told me yesterday that I have “pretty skin”.  It reminded me that I do.  Part of it is genetic but part of it is keeping to a simple, effective regimen, preferably one started early in life.  So, because I am now old, here’s my advice for pretty skin.

Wash your face twice a day and moisturize after every washing.  I don’t care what the makeup companies say; sleeping with that stuff on your face is not good for your skin.

SPF 30 every day.  Until the sun disappears from the sky, there is nothing you can use topically that is better for your skin.

Two cups of green tea daily will keep free radicals from aging your skin, even later in life.  The good news here is that, like quitting smoking, you get almost instant benefits no matter whether you start drinking green tea when you are 2 or 102.

Also, don’t smoke.  If you do (and I did) quit now.

A nice warm – not hot – bath once a week (preferably on your day off and in the evening) with a calming essential oil like lavender or clary sage added to the water (15 to 20 drops) will help you relax and de-stress.  If you can enjoy a bath more frequently, so much the better.

Yes, you do need 8 hours of sleep a night.  Your tween or teen daughter needs 10.

A cup of nettle tisane every two weeks will gently flush your system of skin-ruining gunk.  If you can’t find nettle (health food stores usually carry it), try chamomile tea every other day, or nightly to help you sleep.

Exercise.  Reward yourself with something (like maybe that bath) once a week or so if you stick to your schedule.  Remember, beauty is a lot deeper than your skin.  A healthy heart and lungs make your face glow.

If you drink alcohol, take three consecutive days off the juice per week.  This cleansing ritual will help your body banish the negative side effects of a few too many now and then.  The exception here is one glass of red wine with your largest meal every day to help maintain a healthy cholesterol level, if that is an issue for you.

These are the things my Gran assured me would see me through to old age and so far she’s been right.  Remember though, if you have any health issues, ask your doctor before you start drinking herbal teas or training for a marathon.  Better safe than sorry.  A votre santé ~

Header:  Two Ancient Egyptian ladies who clearly drank their green tea and got enough sleep; I think I went to high school with the one on the left

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Figs are a delightful and ancient fruit that have resonance in most civilizations and magickal practices.  The fruit offered to Adam by Eve is said by some to have been not an apple, but a fig; Cleopatra was rumored to lure her lovers with ripe figs.  Mentioned in texts from around the world, figs are thought to be protective, lucky and to encourage virility and fertility.  In hoodoo they are also said to draw people to the root worker.  Old wives used fig bark teas and fig sap for both life saving and beauty.

In the ancient Middle East, carvings made from fig wood were carried by women who wished to become pregnant.  More phallic designs were similarly worn or carried by men who hoped they would increase their strength and potency.  Eating fresh figs was said to encourage amorous feelings, and prolong the act of love.

Scott Cunningham mentions more modern uses for figs and fig trees.  Feed a fig to a man or woman you desire and they will be in your thrall, at least until they lose their taste for figs.  Having the fig’s relative, the popular house plant known as ficas benjamina, growing in your home is said to bring luck to those who live there.  Placing one of the ficas’ branches in front of your front door when you leave on a journey is thought to ensure your safe, happy return.

In hoodoo root work, a mojo for luck, protection and personal charm is made with three roots from one fig tree.  The roots should be small, and dug up from the north, south and east sides of the tree.  A root from the west side of the tree will cancel the mojo’s power by “dragging it down” like the setting of the sun.  Knot the three roots together three times.  Carry them with you and “feed” the mojo frequently with Florida Water.  Do not ever allow another person to see or touch this mojo, or you will have to make a new one all over again.

Old wives would send young people troubled by pimples out to cut green fig leaves from a live tree.  The white sap that oozed from the leaf stem was immediately applied to the pimple to speed healing.  Fig tree bark tea was also recommended as a restorative for the complexion, and as a cure for snake bite.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Anthony and Cleopatra by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Friday, January 20, 2012

Vendredi: Shapes and Symbols

I've time only to be brief, so on to more shapes in your teacup:

Fairy or other winged human form ~ a deep seated need to be perceived as good that may backfire on the petitioner
Fan ~ expected the unexpected; an upturn in fortune
Feather ~ the petitioner lacks focus and tends to be “flighty”
Flag ~ a “red flag”; danger ahead
Float or buoy ~ the petitioner is cast adrift and needs to find focus and direction
Flower ~ triumph; success
Fountain ~ good fortune; abundance
Fruit ~ unusually good luck
Garden ~ the petitioner is surrounded by good friends and/or loving family
Garland ~ recognition
Gate ~ the possibilities for the petitioner are endless at this time; entering a new situation or exiting an old one
Grass ~ ease or idleness, depending on what surrounds or in particular touches the grass
Gun ~ take caution against hostile action, either by the petitioner or against them

Your pardon, dear reader, for flying through only two letters this week; my time today is not my own.  See you back for more next Friday; until then, Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May by John William Waterhouse c 1908

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

We talked about cleansing our personal space last week and I’ve been thinking about that.  While it’s always good to undertake a cleansing ritual now and again, sometimes what we really need is to clear our head and start our thinking process with fresh eyes.  One of my favorite ways to do this, particularly if I am faced with a life altering decision, is with a ritual shampoo. 

Easy to make and an effective cleanser, this recipe was originally in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine article from the ‘90s.   You will note that the base is liquid Castile soap which is usually available in the beauty aisle of the health food sections of major grocery chains.  Originating from Medieval Spain, Castile soap is one of the mildest cleansers available.  All Castile soaps are still made with vegetable oil, so you should not expect to get the frothy lather that you would get with store-bought shampoos.  The clean feeling is just as satisfying, though, and maybe more so with my addition of three essential oils to help clear your head and get you thinking about the right choices for you.  Here’s what you’ll need:

3 oz sparkling water or club soda (for effervescence)  
2 oz liquid Castile soap (to cleanse)
2 drops lavender essential oil (for calm, clear thinking)
2 drops sandalwood essential oil (for protection & healing)
3 drops rosemary essential oil (to invigorate your mind & spirit)
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar (to banish negativity & add shine & gloss to hair)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and place in a plastic bottle.  Depending on the length and thickness of your hair, you may be able to get two or three shampoos out of this mixture.  I have long, fairly thick hair and this recipe makes enough for me to get my hair thoroughly clean – and my brain thoroughly clear – once.  Hopefully that’s all I need.  A votre santé ~

Header: Portrait of a Lady as a Muse by Richard Cosway c 1804 via Old Paint

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Slippery elm, also known as red or Indian elm, is a species of tree native to most of North America.  Its use in all modern magickal and medicinal practice probably originated with Native American tribes of both the north and south.  The tree, which has a reddish bark and a gooey, sappy interior, has been used for years in preparations to ease upper respiratory congestion.  The bark of the tree is generally the preferred magickal catalyst.

In Pow-wow, slippery elm bark is mixed with gag root and carried to stop gossip.

Wiccans burn the bark as an incense to stop gossip and malicious tales being told about the residents of the home being treated.  Scott Cunningham notes that charms carved from the bark can be worn by children, particularly around the neck, so that they develop a “silver tongue” as they grow to adulthood.

In hoodoo, the dried bark is sprinkled in the corners of a home or workplace to rid the area of evil and put down harmful gossip that may be affecting those who live and/or work on the premises.  A mojo against slander can be made using dried rue, slippery elm bark and a turbo or “cat’s eye” shell.  Carry this with you to keep the jealous tongues of enemies and false friends from wagging.  A third trick for the same issues is to put a pinch of slippery elm bark in each of your shoes.  Bonne chance ~

Header: British poster from World War II via Mid-Century

Friday, January 13, 2012

Vendredi: More Shapes in Your Cup

Today, Friday the 13th no less, more shapes you might find in your cup of tea leaves and their general meanings:

Cabbage ~ curiously, an indication of jealousy either by the petitioner or against them
Cage ~ a longing for a life other than what one has
Car ~ travel; if a journey is not indicated, this symbol may hint at acquisitiveness on the part of the petitioner
Castle ~ the petitioner is coming into a position of power; alternately, they are favored by a person in power
Chain ~ authority currently has sway over the petitioner; a possible loss in a court case.  If the chain has a broken link, the court case will go in the petitioner’s favor
Chair ~ rest after hard work
Church ~ the petitioner is on an amoral path and should look deeply at their behavior with an eye to correct it; petitioner’s actions are hurting others
Clock ~ delays and barriers cause frustration
Crown ~ the petitioner will succeed in their current venture; if this reading is not appropriate, the crown might indicate an unexpected gift or inheritance
Cup ~ thoughtfulness; a time of quiet self-evaluation
Cymbal ~ good news
Dagger, Knife or Sword ~ the petitioner needs to get hold of their temper and/or possible danger – a dagger pointed to the rim of the cup indicates danger to the petitioner; pointing to the bottom, danger to others
Door ~ an obstacle is on the horizon; the petitioner will need to use his wits to break through or get around it
Drum ~ gossip
Egg ~ good fortune is smiling on the petitioner
Engine (train) ~ like a furnace, the petitioner is full of energy that needs a creative outlet

Thus we’ll close for today.  Be safe out there or, if you’re like me and find nothing the least bit worrisome about any specific day of the year, Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Elevation drawing of St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Slidell, LA; the church suffered heavy damage in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and will finally reopen this weekend (image via Thanks, Katrina)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jeudi: Curios

In hoodoo, the unspoken mantra is keep it simple.  Since most root workers and hoodoos from the origin of the practice have been enslaved, impoverished and/or “just gettin’ by”, what they might term “fancy” ingredients have come into the lexicon only recently.  Today’s curio is a good example of the wisdom of the mundane made magickal.

Needles are common objects that have been used in hoodoo since before anyone can remember.  They are often referred to in older texts on the subject as “golden eye needles”, probably because those pretty needles with the gold colored tips became affordable during the first part of the 20th century.  Needles are used in many forms of root work, particularly but not exclusively in jinxing and throwing tricks.

It probably goes without saying that needles are used to carve names and symbols in candles.  This practice, along with dressing the candle with oil, helps to focus the root worker’s attention and ensure a better outcome for the candle burning ritual.

Needles can be used singly or in groups in “doll baby” magick where a doll is used as a representation of an enemy or lost or potential lover.  The needles are used not only to sew up the doll (what in Wicca is often referred to as a “poppet”) but also to spear it in strategic places.  Done correctly, this practice will bring either physical pain to the enemy or heartache and longing to the wished-for lover.

If a root worker is sewing up a mojo bag, they will of course use a needle and hand sewing is always preferred.  The needle can be dressed with a specific oil that goes along with the intended use of the mojo.  In the antebellum South, rumor had it that slaves who were employed as tailors and seamstresses might empower their needles for harm or good, depending on what they were sewing, and for whom.

Small sharp and potentially dangerous items, including needles, are also key ingredients in the protective working known as a witch bottle.  We discussed the making of these very effective personal guardians last March.

Don’t underestimate your needles; they are tools not only for creating beauty but for bringing – and keeping – harmony in your life.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Girl at a Sewing Machine by Edward Hopper c 1921

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

I think that, in our “modern” age, most of us can agree that beauty is not just about looks.  “True beauty comes from within” may sound cliché or even hackneyed but it is the truth of the matter.  More succinctly, I think, beauty is much as Forrest Gump noted about stupid: it is as it does.  And I personally find it very hard to do the right thing – to be beautiful – when my environment is dragging me down.

The post-holiday malaise that comes upon so many of us this time of year is particularly destructive.  For me personally, it does not so much stem from the “let down” most psychologists speak of but from the “hangover” of holiday interaction.  The constant demands from family and friends, either to be entertained or to entertain, often brings with it feelings of resentment and remembrances of slights past as well as new ones to cling to.  These things fester in ourselves and our living spaces, whether we admit to them or not, causing us to feel slow, disinterested, cranky, “blue”; in short, not very lovely at all.

So, allow me to offer a palate cleanser if you will to set us all on a positive course in 2012.  This incense, my take on Scott Cunningham’s Yule Incense from his book on the subject, can be used at any time but is particularly intended for the colder, darker months of the year.  It uplifts both spirit and atmosphere to get you in the mood to put on some Men at Work or Metallica, some Robert Palmer or RuPaul – whatever gets your blood pumping – and sweep the old year away to make room for the new.  Here’s my recipe:

2 parts nutmeg
2 parts peppermint or spearmint
1 part cedar
A drop or two of pine essential oil

Grind each ingredient (except the oil, of course) to as fine a powder as you can.  An old fashion mortar and pestle (I find an m & p made of marble or other stone works best when grinding resins and gums) works best for this process.  It is a bit of a chore to get the very finest consistency – think baby powder – but it is well worth it.

Mix the powdered ingredients in a bowl, preferably with your fingers, while intentionally thinking about cleansing both you home and yourself in preparation to receive the blessings of the coming year.  Add the essential oil one drop at a time to achieve a just slightly sticky powder that can be easily sprinkled on charcoal.  Store in a jar with a tight lid.

To use, ignite an incense burning charcoal in a fireproof censor and sprinkle your incense over it to smolder.  Add more as needed while you perform whatever ritual, housekeeping, meditation etc. you need to complete to get your home and yourself back.  A votre santé ~

Header: The Little Street by Johannes Vermeer c 1657

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Agrimony, today’s surprisingly helpful herb, sounds like something bad.  Any word that manages to bring to mind thoughts of aggravation and alimony is getting off on the wrong foot, at least in English.  All that said, agrimony is a popular herb in hoodoo for not only deflecting jinxes, but sending them back to the person who threw them at you.  It has uses in other magickal disciplines as well, and a tie to witch-hunting.

Old wives used to plant agrimony around their homes to keep mischievous and bedeviling spirits such as goblins, sprites and so on away.  It is said that these same old wives would give their sons a wildflower bouquet to bestow upon their beloveds.  This was not a sign that Mom was happy about the potential daughter-in-law, but a test of the young woman’s character.  In among the blooms would be tucked some sprigs of agrimony, which was the bane of witches.  If the girl refused the bouquet – or worse yet dropped it – she was most probably a witch.

In modern Wicca, agrimony is used in protection sachets and spells to banish bad energy from a place or person.  As in hoodoo, the herb is thought to return hexes back to the hexer.  According to Scott Cunningham, in old ritual magick agrimony was placed under a person’s head to induce coma-like sleep.  Only when someone removed the agrimony from under the sleeping individual would they be able to wake up.

In hoodoo, dried agrimony is mixed with dried verbena and burned on charcoal to protect against a threatened jinx.  Sometimes dragon’s blood resin is added to increase the incense’s powers.  To turn away a trick that has already been laid out against you, brew a tea with agrimony and rue.  Use the strained water to wash your front and back door and stoop and throw any remaining water out your front door.

In the early days of trade with Europeans, agrimony was also brewed into a tea by some of the Great Lakes tribes.  This was then sprinkled on goods they had for sale or trade to make them attractive to potential customers.

As master herbalist Catherine Yronwode notes, agrimony is in the same family as the rose.  This herb should not be confused with cocklebur, hemp agrimony or water agrimony, which are all in the aster family.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Italian Garden Landscape by Gustav Klimt c 1913

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lundi: Recipes

The recipe today is an old time New Orleans favorite that adds the bonus of a homemade remoulade sauce.  I’m giving you my take on the shrimp remoulade recipe from the Roosevelt Hotel, originally published in the Times-Picayune.  Here’s what you’ll need:

2 large egg yolks
1 cup Creole mustard or your favorite course brown mustard
¼ cup champagne vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Your favorite pepper sauce to taste
Salt & pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable oil
1 bunch of green onions, minced (greens and whites)
1 stalk celery, minced
4 pounds medium Gulf shrimp, peeled, deveined, boiled and chilled
12 whole butter lettuce leaves or about ½ cup shredded iceberg lettuce per serving

In a large mixing bowl, blend egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, pepper sauce, salt and pepper.  While still mixing, add the oil in a slow stream as if making salad dressing.  When the sauce thickens, add the green onions and celery.

Combine the shrimp with the sauce and chill for at least two hours.  Serve on lettuce leaves or shredded lettuce for 12 medium or 6 large servings.

If you want a really spicy dish, consider adding a dab or two of horseradish to your sauce.  Bon appetite ~

Header: The Shrimp Girl by William Hogarth c 1740

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

Vendredi: Shapes Telling Stories

At least when reading tea leaves shapes tell stories.  We’ve looked at geometric and animal shape meanings in the leaves so today, and probably for a few Fridays more, we’ll catch all those miscellaneous shapes in our cup.  From the seeds of trees to harnesses for oxen, we’ve got a lot to cover so let’s get started:

Acorn ~ good health and a run of luck
Airplane ~ unexpected travel; recognition in one’s profession
Anchor ~ success; hope for the future
Armor ~ a knight in armor is a sign of a person trying to avoid contact with the outside world; a reclusive personality
Arrow ~ something major – possibly with negative results – is on the horizon for the petitioner
Axe ~ issues that need immediate attention; cutting ties or addressing addiction
Backpack or book bag ~ the petitioner is carrying – but not sharing – critical knowledge that they need to let go of
Bed ~ the petitioner’s mind is preoccupied as in daydreaming or too much rumination of self
Bell ~ news is on the way to the petitioner and it may be something they have been needed for a while
Boat or ship ~ resolution of a difficult situation or problem; a large ship can indicate the potential to avoid problems
Book ~ open, the book indicates enlightenment; closed, the petition is seeking information they will not find
Boot or shoe ~ the petitioner is being well looked after and kept out of troubling or uncomfortable situation either by someone else or by circumstance
Bottle ~ there are concerns for the petitioners health; whether they are known or unknown depends on the symbol(s) next to or touching the bottle
Bread ~ whether a slice or a loaf of bread is represented in the leaves the meaning is the same: the petitioner is acquisitive and too focused on material things
Bridge ~ a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is drawing near
Bush or hedge ~ the petitioner is blessed with many good friends

That’s a lot to absorb so we’ll leave it here for today.  Next time we’ll look at shapes starting with C through E.  Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Saint Jeanne d’Arc, who was born on this day circa 1412, from a 15th century manuscript

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jeudi: Weather-Wise

An over the top weather event can be one of the most terrifying things a person can experience, particularly if that person is an adult with kids.  And I’m not necessarily talking about cataclysms such as hurricanes, major earthquakes or floods.  Sometimes the seemingly little things are even more worrisome: long droughts, high winds, ice or sand storms, blizzards.  We don’t think about these things the way we think about the really big wallops of weather, but maybe we should.  They can be just as much trouble; arguably perhaps more because they don’t bring the “disaster relief” that more terrible disasters do.

We’ve had quite a bit of nasty weather in my neck of the woods over the last eight weeks.  Far more than normal snow has combined with high, warm winds that bring about a freeze-melt-freeze cycle which is not only irritating but dangerous.  We had one school closure and a number of power outages not to mention worries about falling trees and stable roofs.  It got to a point where it was time to take action, and that is where a little bit of magick was in order.

Throws, as they are known in hoodoo, have been a big part of magickal practice probably since the dawn of time.  Because most workers of magick have been – and probably still are – ordinary people who can’t afford to waste a lot of what they have, sacrificing something to the elements is a powerful way to entreat them to do your bidding.  Thus a stone, water, some herbs, a coin, locks of hair, pieces of clothing and so on were thrown to the wind, over the shoulder, into running water or onto a fire with a thought or a spoken petition for a specific result.  Done with intention, this simple working can be very effective indeed.

So, when the brutal weather got to me, my family and my neighbors, I gathered up my anger and frustration into a rational petition: calm the winds and stop the sleet.  Repeating this like a mantra in my head, I opened my magickal cupboard and grabbed a handful of equal parts dried basil and sage.  I then went out onto my front porch and, calling out my request, let the herbs fly into the miserable breeze.

Basil is an all purpose jinx breaker and is strongly believed, particularly in hoodoo, to remove all evil from any place that it has been.  Sage, of course, has a long history of purifying the air in many magickal disciplines.  Two easy to acquire and familiar herbs, along with concentration and intention, did the trick.  As of this writing those warm, nasty winds are only slightly more than a bad memory.

Be creative, be sincere and, with a little practice, the art of “throws” – which we will revisit on more than one occasion – will become second nature.  Bonne chance ~

Header: In the Wilds of the North by Ivan Shishkin via Old Paint

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

The weather here in the frozen North is now so cold that all the humidity has quite literally vanished.  This time of year I always long for a bayou plantation, where my skin would bloom like lilacs without having to pile on enough grease to fill a restaurant sized tub of Crisco.

Especially affected in such crunchy climes are face and hands; but hands tend to take the worst of it.  If you’re washing them as frequently as you really should, it seems that constant re-application of hand cream isn’t even enough.  Cuticles in particular take a beating; ripped and torn they are not only sore but open to any infection lurking on that public transportation or supermarket aisle.

Fortunately for your fingers, making effective cuticle oil at home is easy and quick and much less expensive than buying the kind with petroleum and preservatives in them.  As an added bonus, this one includes the antiseptic properties of rosemary and tea tree oils to keep infections at bay.  Here’s what you’ll need:

1 tbsp jojoba oil
1 tbsp almond oil
5 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops tea tree oil
10 drops rosemary essential oil

Pour the jojoba and almond oils into a small glass bottle, preferably of a dark color such as blue or brown.  This will help preserve the oils without having to hide the bottle in a cupboard.

Add the essential oils, cap tightly and shake gently to combine.

To use, message a few drops into your cuticles and nails before bedtime.  Be sure to give the bottle a gentle shake before each use.  This oil also does wonders for chapped or splitting heels.

If you wish to make a truly elegant cuticle oil as a gift – or as a special treat for yourself – substitute the expensive but worth it essential oil known as rose otto or rose absolute for the lavender oil in this recipe.  In that case, one or two drops should be plenty.  A votre santé ~

Header: LIFE photograph of Marlene Dietrich c 1954

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

When our family first moved to the frozen North almost twelve years ago my daughters were three and one.  It was over that first winter here that I discovered a disturbing reality about my youngest.  If she caught cold – or something more serious – and developed a fever she would often suffer night terrors.  She would scream at the top of her lungs in the middle of the night and waking her up from her horrifying dreams often took several minutes.  I puzzled over what to do, short of dosing her with too much ibuprofen, and then I hit on a plan.  After stuffing her favorite pillow with a handful of hops, the awful night terrors subsided and – as an added bonus – she began to sleep better when she was well, too.

Hops are an old remedy for nightmares and fitful sleep.  Regardless of what magickal discipline you consult, it is universally believed that a pillow stuffed with hops and slept on nightly will bring sweet dreams and ensure restful sleep.

For moms with young children, a handful of hops in their child’s pillow can also bring a small blessing to Mom: a full night’s sleep.  Don’t forget to make a smaller pillow for travel and/or sleepovers.  The work is worth it for everyone’s well being.  Bonne chance ~

Header: The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau c 1897

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lundi: Recipes

I don’t know about you but I am so over the holidays.  They're not over me, however, as my refrigerator is still full of leftovers.  That means its time to get creative in the kitchen and make something new out of the old.  Here, then, is one of my favorite easy, all-purpose recipes for using up anything from ham to turkey to roast to you name it.

1 14.5 oz can of petite dice tomatoes
1 pound package of angel hair or other pasta
2 tbsps olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
1 pressed clove garlic
Left over meat of choice, diced or chopped as necessary
About 3 tbsps chopped olives or drained capers
Salt & pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Put a big post of water on the stove to boiling for pasta.

Meanwhile, warm olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and then add onion.  Once these have clarified, add garlic and cook for two or three minutes.  Add tomatoes and meat of choice and turn down to a simmer.  Allow all ingredients to warm through while pasta cooks per package directions.

When pasta is just about ready add olives or capers to sauce.  Toss cooked pasta in saucepan with sauce.  Serve with crusty French bread.  Bon appetite ~

Header:  In the Kitchen by Theodore Steele c 1911 via Old Paint

Sunday, January 1, 2012