Saturday, September 14, 2013

Herbal Wise: The Benefits of Celery

Back in the far away (and very hazy) day I used to dance ballet. Those days were over fast when I realized two things: those (comparatively) huge boobs were not going to work and and my right knee was trouble from the get go. Hey, it was fun while it lasted.

To the point, though, I still have problems with my knee. It pops and pains and I wear a soft brace made from bamboo charcoal fiber most days just to keep the darn thing in line. Recently though, due more to the fact that I often research possible helpful solutions for my daughter's Juvenile Idiopathic (they used to call it "Rheumatoid") Arthritis than any interest in my own uncooperative joint, I have found a surprisingly simple solution. Celery.

It turns out that celery seed has been of long standing assistance to those with joint pain. According to Andrew Chevallier in The Visual Reference Guide to Herbal Remedies, celery is a "... good detoxification remedy, celery stem, leaf and seed stimulate the kidneys to clear waste... especially helping to cleanse salts that accumulate in joints, causing stiffness and inflammation."

Celery seed in particular is of great assistance in this process, and can be found at health food stores and herbalists in capsule form. Both my daughter and I take one capsule daily to the benefit of our sore joints. I won't say that it has completely alleviated our symptoms like some miracle but celery seed has certainly helped.

An added bonus here is that celery seed, and more specifically the juice of the celery stem, can help in detoxifying and moving unwanted fluids along. If you are prone to swollen ankles after a long day at your desk, a nice infusion of celery juice in an evening green tea will help move those fluids along and make you less gargantuan in the lower extremities after a long day.

But Pauline, you say; this is HQ. We're not here to have our piggies de-bloatified by some silly celery tea. What will celery do for us magickly gosh darn it?

Hold your horses, as they used to say. I've got that for you too.

Use celery in your cooking not only to help your dreaming hint at the future but to bring peace and harmony to your home and your family.

Most often, celery - particularly in the form of seed - is used to encourage psychism. Crush and bruise a few celery seeds, then wrap them in a muslin bag or a coffee filter and brew them into a tea with very hot water to help you along in your card, crystal ball, pendulum or other readings. The celery tea is said to open the third eye to visions of the future and what might be the best path for anyone you are reading for - including yourself.

You can make a mojo bag for psychic vision by placing equal parts anise, calendula, poppy flower and celery seed into a muslin or yellow flannel bag with intention. Place the mojo in your pillow case and sleep on it nightly to encourage your psychic ability. Carry it - if you dare - into haunted places to see the ghosties and ghoulies that walk the night. The mojo is best held in your left - receptive - hand for this purpose but beware: this practice can encourage an attraction making an unwelcome entity glom on to you and follow you home. Not a very pleasant experience and one that can only be avoided by proper and careful warding beforehand.

In the end, celery is both a practical and spiritual plant that can help in myriad different ways and on various levels. Use it wisely, and the benefits will be manifest happily. Bonne chance ~

Header: Found on Tumblr; isn't the internet amazing?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Art of Beauty: We Are Not All So Small

I work hard in a toxic environment. There is nothing I can do about that, needing the job and all, but stories come to my mind and they have their own way of being and so - here we go:

I work with a woman who is obsessed with her looks and her size. At a 30-something average she believes that fake boobs, botox and zero calorie count will win her immorality.

Meanwhile I roam the halls with one boob and a good attitude.

Go figure.

Thanks to my dearest of dear friends Undine I now know what's what in the way of body image. Enter my new best friend Hida. Seriously. This girl is all that. And her best friend is an odd dog. What could possibly be better?

Thank you Hilda. Thank you Messy Nessy. And especially thank you Undine. On a bleak and barren Friday, all y'all brought joy to my quiet, weird, bizarrely silent corner of the world.

Header: The great and glorious Hilda wasting her time on a scale

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Samedi: The Art of Beauty

Over at "The Joyful Molly", Molly Joyful has been treating us to more and more eclectic fare. Once a site for all things Royal Navy, Molly is now exploring everything from Medieval land disputes to fashion. My hat is off to you there, girl. And thus, a link.

The above engraving is from a pamphlet entitled Gallery of Fashion, Month of November 1795 which fell into Molly's hands to everyone's - well - joy. More pictures and elaboration can be found at her post here. As we can see from this picture, though, England had a bit of a time pulling itself out of the old hard corsets and paniers era of the 1770s and moving into the classical inspired fashions known as Empire (not empire, by the way, which always sets my teeth on edge: it's pronounce om-PEER). Unlike Paris, which had that messy revolution to jolt it into nearly nude fashions, London stubbornly clung to billowing skirts and properly covered cleavage. No wonder a British sailor loved a stop in a French port of the late 18th century.

In fact the British, and the Americans outside of racy New Orleans, tended to like their Empire gowns with a bit more fabric than the French. A pity, I think, but no one was asking me.

All that said, those gloves are stunning.

Not in the mood for fashion? How about a little something else 18th century and French: magick. The Appendix blog has a wonderfully scholarly evaluation by professor Lisa Smith of a circa 1718, handwritten book entitled Recueille de diferents secrets (Collection of Different Secrets). Find it here and learn how to do everything from repel snakes to stop field fires. This incredible archive of folk-magic and religion proves that "The Enlightenment" hadn't quite taken hold the way Rousseau might have hoped.

And with that, I will leave you to your Samedi. Bonne chance ~

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Samedi: Curios

The beautiful, sea-blue stone known as aquamarine is an ancient talisman of those devoted to the sea. As I am thoroughly missing the blue water right now, I find it is high time to discuss the crystal most precious to my lwa, La Siren.

Aquamarine, a variety of beryl, has been used as a talisman and made into beads and pendants since the dawn of civilization. Beads of aquamarine have been found in Sumerian and Egyptian burials from as early at 4,000 BCE, when bead making was just taking off as an art form. The stone was thought to ease the soul's transition from life into afterlife, probably a stunning psychological trauma that needed - and needs - all the easing it can get.

The stone has long been believed to enhance psychic power, and is a favorite of those who work in the business of divination. Scott Cunningham, in his Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, gives a simple yet powerful ritual for enhancing one's psychism and empathy. Place an aquamarine of any size, even the smallest bead will do, in a glass of fresh water and let this sit in the light of a full moon for three hours. Retrieve the stone, which you might want to tuck away wherever you store your divining tools, and drink the water to achieve increased psychic awareness. This ritual can be repeated as often as necessary.

Probably because of its color, aquamarine is associated with seafaring and safety on the water. The Phoenicians, whom the Ancient Egyptians simply referred to as "The Sea People," sent their men out into blue water with amulets of aquamarine to protect them from storms and drowning. Fishermen along the coasts of Europe and North Africa still wear aquamarine for this purpose. Tuck an aquamarine in your luggage, or wear one on your person, when you travel by or over water to safely arrive at your destination.

Aquamarine can also be used in the same ways one would use amethyst. Wear it to inspire courage, calm, joy, happiness and strong relationships as well as keep the mind alert. Bonne chance ~

Header: Orpheus and Eurydice by Michael Putz-Richard via Old Paint

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jeudi: The Art of Beauty

Once again, a picture says more than any writer ever could. The glorious Joyce Bryant photographed in New York circa 1953 by the incredible artist Philippe Halsman. Find out more about this amazing woman, and hear her distinctive, four-octave voice, here. Fashion forward then; fashion forward now. Many thanks to We Had Faces Then on tumblr for the original post.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Samedi: Herbal-Wise

The herb known as Grains of Paradise is extremely versatile. Used in hoodoo, Voudon, and Wicca for everything from getting a job to protecting one's home, Grains of Paradise are also known as African or Guinea pepper grains.

Scott Cunningham says that Grains of Paradise can be used for the simplest kind of magick: wishing. Take a handful of the herb and hold it in both hands while you make a wish. Visualize your wish coming true; take your time here and really see the thing/change you desire. When you are certain your wish has been firmly grounded in future reality, send it off to the Universe by throwing a little bit of the herb to the four directions, starting in the North and ending in the West. This type of magick is a wonderful way to grow your powers of visualization. Start with something small and work your way up to more serious wishing.

In hoodoo, Grains of Paradise are mixed with frankincense and myrrh to encourage spiritual pursuits and protect a root worker during conjuration. The mixture is burned on charcoal and some workers add rue as well. It is said that this mixture added to Crown of Success Oil can make a powerful dressing for mojos intended to help one rise to the height of their profession and/or to draw fame. I would caution, however, that one be careful what one wishes for here.

For piece of mind and spiritual health, one Grain of Paradise should be disolved into a cup of hot water (tea or coffee will work just as well) and drunk daily. This mixture is also said to elevate the mood and make one capable of facing whatever life may bring.

In the early 20th century, Grains of Paradise were recommended for job-seekers. One was instructed to put nine of the grains in each shoe and then to hold another nine grains in the mouth while asking for a job. The grains were then spit onto the ground outside the employer's property as one left. This may not be the best way to approach this working today; try carrying the extra nine grains in a mojo bag and then - perhaps wrapped in a tissue - deposit this into a waste basket on the employer's premises.

New Orleans voodoo root workers would make a pair of protection packets filled with Grains of Paradise. Generally made of red or yellow flannel, a prayer card of Saint Michael was then sewn onto the outside of each mojo. These were secreted near the front and back doors of a house to keep both the structure and the inhabitants safe from all manner of ills. Bonne chance ~

Header: Harrods catalog cover - once a wish book to end all wish books - from the early 20th century via A Harlot's Progress

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Samedi: Chthonian Histories

We were watching The Green Mile last night and I began thinking about the pros and cons, for lack of a better expression, of capital punishment. It has certainly been proven that certain types of offenders, child molesters as an example that fits the topic, are not likely to be "rehabbed". Their rate of re-offense is virtually 100% and considering the lives they destroy, the argument for destroying them holds weight. But, continuing on the theme of the movie, when one sees a death such as that of poor Eduard Delacroix one can easily make a case for deleting the institution all together. Then, too, when John Coffey tells Paul Edgecomb that he's "tired of the pain, boss" we understand. Who wouldn't rather be executed than caged?

All this brings me to the horrific yet curious story of Robert Francois Damiens. Born in a small hamlet in the northern French province of Arras circa 1715, Damiens quite literally never amounted to much. He was apparently dishonorably discharged from the army and then held a series of jobs as a servant or laborer from which he was usually dismissed as well. He was probably bipolar, but who knew of such things then?

Damiens claim to fame, or infamy as it may be, was a half-hearted attempt on the life of King Louis XV. Damiens stabbed the king as he was descending a carriage and then made no attempt to escape. The king was subjected to a mere flesh wound, and perhaps a bit of embarrassment, but Damiens would suffer far, far worse.

Hauled off to a hasty trial, Damiens ranted and raved so much that he was tied down to a mattress when brought before his judges (as shown in the engraving above via Wikimedia). He was quickly convicted of attempted regicide and sentenced to die quite literally by torture. The last days of Robert Francois Damiens and Agnes, the miller's daughter hold much in common.

Like Agnes, Damiens became curiously stoic as the hour - or hours - of his death drew near. In his book Death, A History of Man's Obsessions and Fears, Robert Wilkins quotes from a contemporary source which describes Damiens' honorable behavior in the face of unbearable misery. Damiens had his skin seared with hot sulphur and then the executioner took steel pincers "which had been especially made for the occasion,, and which were about a foot and a half long" and ripped chunks of flesh from Damiens' calves, thighs, arms and chest. The contemporary source goes on to tell us that "though a strong, sturdy fellow, this executioner found it so difficult to tear away the pieces of flesh that he set about the same spot two or three times, twisting the pincers as he did so..." After this, each wound was filled with molten lead.

Damiens cried out "Pardon my God! Pardon, Lord!" we are told. Wilkins also says that "from time to time he would raise his head and look over his tortured body." He was then harnessed to horses at each limb but to no avail. The horses pulled so hard for well over half an hour that one collapsed in his harness and yet poor Damiens' limbs would not be ripped from his torso. At this point, the prisoner - doubtless in unimaginable pain - asked calmly that the priest standing by say masses for his soul.

After fresh horses were brought in, Damiens' legs were finally torn off. The execution then chopped the prisoner's arms from his body, evidently with a sword or axe. At this point, the executioner pronounced the man dead. The pamphleteer, however, begged to differ:

... the truth was that I saw the man move, his lower jaw moving from side to side as if he were talking. One of the executioners said that he was still alive when his trunk was thrown on the stake.

All of Damiens' body parts were reduced to ash and scattered to the four winds.

Damiens remained something of a bogey man in French memory and, after the Terror, it was rumored that Maximilien Robespierre was related to him. There appears to be no validity to this and it seems to have sprung from their only connection: both men were from Arras.

The disgusting yet dignified death of Robert Francois Damiens remains an obvious case of justice gone berserk. Surely unfortunate Damiens could have agreed with John Coffey when he said he was tired of the pain.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dimanche: Swimming

Sunday Swimmers at the municipal pool in Washington D.C. c July 1942 via A Harlot's Progress
I have so missed all y'all; my new job has a lot of demands... we shall see...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Vendredi: Chthonian Histories

In the more florid days of anatomists and resurrectionists, people worried about their bodies being exhumed for medical research. Such horrors were only replaced in the Victorian mind when the likes of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein gave way to Bram Stoker's Dracula. A long interval of decades indeed and either way we're dealing with the resurrected dead, aren't we?

Today, for your enjoyment, a poem by Thomas Hood who died in 1845, fairly the height of the post Burke and Hare era of the late 1820s. The poem is told from the perspective of the ghost of a young woman who, dead before she could marry her dear William, returns to him one night to recount the ghastly dismemberment her corpse has suffered. Hood clearly has a wry sense of the issue as well as a dark sense of humor. One wonders what he might have to say about our current culture's zombie craze.

The arm that used to take your arm
Is took to Dr. Vyse
And both my legs are gone to walk
The Hospital at Guy's.

I vowed that you should have my hand,
But fate gives us denial;
You'll find it there at Dr. Bell's
In spirits and a phial.

I can't tell you where my head is gone
But Doctor Carpue can; 
As for my trunk, it's all packed up
To go by Pickford's van.

The cock it crows - I must be gone!
My William, we must part
But I'll be yours in death, altho'
Sir Astley has my heart.

Header: Pendumbra by Enjeong Noh via American Gallery

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jeudi: Weather-Wise

For centuries, the moon has been believed to prognosticate the weather. As it turns out, this is not an unreasonable supposition; sailors have looked to the moon for weather news with great success. Here then are a few weathery hints from the moon by land or by sea:

A yellow, dirty moon ~ heat
Big, white moon ~ cold
Silvery moon ~ fair
Red moon ~ wind
Pale, "watery" moon ~ rain
Rings around the moon, which appear like halos, are said to foretell storms. If the weather is warm, look for rain but if it is cold, snow is on the way. Old sailors say that the number of stars seen withing the halo tells the number of days before the storm hits.

Header: Cloud Study, Moonlight by Albert Bierstadt c 1860 via Old Paint

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

Let's fast forward to flash back today with this 1950s magazine ad for lady's underwear. That's right, girls: "One record with 6 briefs. Choose record by Eddie Fisher, Elvis Presley or Perry Como." Looking back on it the choice is easy; you can't beat Elvis plus six panties for $3.97!

Thanks, as always, to the wonderful Mid-Century tumblr for this.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

The herb known as fumitory or earth smoke is most commonly used in modern Wicca and hoodoo as a money-drawing incense. It has a long history, however, as an herbal cure as well.

Pliny the Younger mentions the herb in his writings where he says it is used in a decoction to treat irritations of the eye. According to Pliny, fumitory will cause the eyes to water profusely when applied which may be the origin of this use.

Old wives held that the plant grew not from seeds but from the "vapors of the earth," which may or may not be the origin of the plant's alternative name. The flowers and leaves were used in ointments to sooth skin irritations and rashes. A tea of fumitory was given to aid indigestion an cure constipation.

As an incense, the traditional use for fumitory was to drive out evil. The herb was used during exorcisms and added to the pyres upon which agents of the Devil would be immolated. In modern Wicca practice, the herb is still burned to avert the Evil Eye. Scott Cunningham also recommends the herb to increase prosperity; sprinkle dried fumitory around your home and rub it into your shoes once a week to bring quick cash.

Root workers use fumitory for money-drawing as well. The dried herb is added to Fast Luck incense to increase traffic to a business and to Money-Drawing incense to help with home finances. It can be burned alone for either purpose as well or brewed into a tea which is then sprinkled around home or business. Fumitory was also recommended to salesmen of old; placed in the shoes, it was thought to increase sales.

Finally, the seeds produced by the smokey-colored flowers were once added to a sweet syrup such as honey and given to colicky babies to help them sleep. Mothers of such infants were advised to take a spoonful as well to help them through the "sloth", as postpartum depression was once known. Bonne chance ~

Header: The Fat Woman by Aubrey Beardsley c 1894 via Old Paint

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dimanche: Swimming

Two Ladies at the Beach ~ photographer unknown c 1950s via A Harlot's Progress
Happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Vendredi: Chthonian Histories

While enjoying a new book I received recently, The Joy of Sexus: Lust, Love & Longing in the Ancient World by Vicki Leon - which I cannot recommend enough - I came across a nice little tidbit to round out the discussions of the last few Fridays. Evidently calling up the dark creatures of the underworld to inflame lust is a very ancient practice indeed.

In the chapter "Love Dilemmas & Lust at the Crossroads," Ms. Leon offers a few extant "love spells" that are intended either to draw in an unsuspecting individual or to do harm to a lost lover. In the case I've chosen today, Ms. Leon notes that a woman named Sophia had a mad lust for another woman, Gorgonia, and her remedy for satiation of that lust has survived into modern times.

Ms. Leon notes that an "elaborate erotic spell" was written down by Sophia, and quotes a portion of it in the book. As you'll note, the spell is full of netherworld imagery including reference to those untiring servants of fate, the Erinyes, and Cerberus, the three-headed bitch of Hades. I will use Ms. Leon's quote directly:

Fundament of the gloomy darkness, jagged-tooth dog, covered with coiling snakes, turning three heads, traveler in the recesses of the underworld, spirit-driver, with the Erinyes [the Furies] savage with their stinging whips, holy serpents, maenads, frightful maidens, come to my wroth incantations. Before I persuade by force this one and you, render him immediately a fire-breathing demon. Listen and do everything quickly, in no way opposing me in the performance of this action, for you are the governors of the earth. [Three lines of magical gibberish follow.] By means of the corpse-daemon inflame the heart, the liver, the spirit of Gorgonia, whom Nilogenia bore, with love and affection for Sophia, whom Isara bore. Constrain Gorgonia to cast herself into the bath-house for the sake of Sophia; and you, become a bath-room. Burn, set on fire, inflame her soul, heart, liver, spirit with love for Sophia.

That's powerful stuff and sounds very much like a modern love song with a twist. Sophia is mad with love for Gorgonia and will call up the demons of Hades to achieve her fantasy. One wonders what outcome may have materialized from so much psychic melodrama.

Header: A Greek Woman by Lawrence Alma-Tadema c 1869 via Wikimedia

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jeudi: Curios

Amber, as Scott Cunningham notes in his Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, is quite possibly the oldest form of adornment in the world. The solidified sap of now extinct coniferous trees, amber ranges in color from a deep reddish-orange to sunny yellow. And, of course, there are sometimes little bugs and leaves permanently captured in the stones.

Amber has a myriad of magickal uses and is certainly the jewel of choice for Wiccans and particularly High Priests and Priestesses. Considered a source of energy, amber is believed to represent the so called fifth element or Akasha that binds the four visible elements - fire, air, earth and water - together. Thus wearing of amber, usually in silver settings, is thought to increase the power of the worker and the efficacy of his or her spellcraft.

Viking children were often given simple amber necklaces to protect their health. This habit is still common today in colder areas of the world where amber is most plentiful. In Siberia, Canada and here in Alaska, natives wear amber and ivory together to bring prosperity and turn away the evil eye.

Wearing amber has for centuries been thought to improve the wearer's looks. Cunningham notes the irony of this: during the Renaissance, women wore amber in order to gain weight while in our times it is worn to assist in healthy weight loss. The efficacy of both these approaches may be a little spurious, but I have found that wearing amber regularly does lift one's mood which in turn makes one more attractive.

If you feel you are under psychic attack, or perhaps just having a run of "bad luck," add a few amber beads to a warm bath, settle in and soak. Then wear or carry the beads with you until your next bath. Taking loose amber or wearing a piece of amber jewelry to a job or other interview will also increase you confidence and by turns your chances of landing that job.

A bit of powdered amber added to any incense is said to increase the intended purpose of same. In Ancient Sumer, Babylon and Phoenicia, amber dust was burned during labor to ensure a safe birthing for both mother and child.

When buying amber, be sure to do your research. Items labeled amber are sometimes nothing more than glass or resin. Know your dealer and choose wisely. Amber is not cheap by any means so you will want to purchase the best quality you can afford. I have found that the right piece of amber will often find you rather than you finding it. You may receive it as a gift, stumble upon it at a flea market or run across an ad in the paper or online. For instance, I found the amber ring I now wear regularly at a local art store that was reducing their inventory. I knew the store owner well and therefore had no concerns about quality. The real kicker was when the ring fit - which I did not at all expect given my unfortunate "man hands," to use a "Seinfeld" reference. Reduced price, trusted source and it slipped on perfectly; ring me up, if you'll pardon the pun. Bonne chance ~

Header: Amber pendants via Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

This gorgeous portrait, which I came across over at A Harlot's Progress, is of Gabrielle d'Estrees by Roman artist Lavinia Fontana. The portrait is most often dated 1599, which was the year then twenty eight year old Gabrielle died in April.

Gabrielle was the mistress of King Henri IV of France and her beauty was legendary. Her untimely death threw Henri into a funk that lasted the rest of his life. She is the subject of this scandalous and possibly posthumous double portrait, said to depict she (on the right) and her sister. In the painting, Gabrielle is holding Henri's coronation ring, which he gifted her in place of an engagement band.

Lavinia was born in Bologna but lived most of her life in Rome. She was famous in her own right, to some degree simply because of her gender. The Tudor Era on tumblr also attributes this stunning painting to Fontana.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

The wives' tales of old, an ancient herbology that should never have been lost, are still alive thanks to some stubborn families and skilled researchers. One of the latter is Mary Chamberlain whose book Old Wives' Tales I cannot recommend enough. Here is what she gathered from 19th century England on the use of club moss for eye troubles:

Many incantations involved the use of numbers, often structured so that the numbers diminished... But the quaintness of the spells should not obscure their practical usage. For instance, elements of astrology were perceived as valuable symbols of healing. But more than that, the moon and sun directed not only the course of sickness but often the correct times for harvesting herbs for administering treatment. Club moss, for instance, was believed to be effective for all diseases of the eye, and had to be gathered on the third day of the moon when it was seen for the first time. The gatherer was directed to take the knife with which it was to be cut in the hand, show it to the moon and repeat:

As Christ healed the issue of blood
Do thou cut what thou cuttest for good.

Then, when the moon was setting, the gatherer had to wash the hands and cut the club moss while kneeling and wrap it in a white cloth. Afterwards it had to be boiled in water taken from a spring nearest to the place of growth and then the decoction could be used as a fermentation for the eyes. Or it could be made into an ointment after it had been mixed with butter made from the milk of a new cow.

Although the ritual appears both elaborate and heavily symbolic, it contained important principles. For the efficacy of many herbs does in fact lie in the correct time of harvest. The active principle in the herb may vary according to its freshness and time of gathering. Modern research has demonstrated, for instance, that the yield of morphine from the poppy gathered at nine o'clock in the morning is often four time the yield obtained twelve hours later.

And that once again goes to show that our ancestors, far from being superstitious morons, knew quite a bit more than modern technologies would make it appear.

Header: Woman in a Landscape by Walter Shirlaw via American Gallery

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vendredi: Chthonian Histories

The slightly more creepy and definitely less written about sister of the incubus we discussed last week is, of course, the succubus. She is discussed in the largely Medieval literature as appearing to men in the guise of the most beautiful woman on earth. In fact, when the curtain is pulled back - or the exorcist has had his way - her true form materializes. She is either a grizzled hag in Satan's service or a corpse reanimated by the power of a demon.

According to Genevieve and Tom Morgan in their 1996 publication The Devil succubus means "to lie under" just as incubus means "to lie upon." One has to imagine that the reference is to the human attacked by the demon as succubi were said to straddle men in their sleep and ride them as if they were horses. The poor man would wake up, sweaty and exhausted, only to have to return to his bed and similar treatment the next night. Some authorities postulate that this is the origin of our modern "nightmare" but there is much to debate there.

In general, succubi are and were considered by demonologists to be the daughters of the first wife of Adam: Lilith. These bad girls, sometimes known as lilin, were difficult to exorcise but seemingly not quite as difficult as those nasty incubi for reasons we will discuss in a minute.

The succubi, hag or corpse, were intent on stealing the seed of human men and using it for nepharious, demonic intents. In fact, Francis Barrett, writing in his Celestial Intelligencer in 1801, posits the following origin of succubi:

... the nymphs of the wood were preferred before the others in beauty... and at length [they] began wedlocks with men, feigning that, by these copulations, they should obtain an immortal soul for them and their offspring.

In Barrett's supposition, the dryads of Greek mythology were nothing more than lovely demons who, in mating with mortal men hoped to gain everlasting life by almost literally sucking the soul from them.

Barrett's latter-day ideology aside, it probably comes as no surprise that monks and priests were favorite targets of these wood nymphs com demons. Hermits were particularly juicy prey and Saints Anthony, Hilary and Hippolytus all wrote of their encounters with the gorgeous flesh of tempting succubi. While Anthony and Hippolytus speak only of one succubus at a time, Hilary notes that he often found himself "encircled by naked women. Hippolytus' tormenter, when cloaked in the saint's chasuble, collapsed to the floor as old bones. In later writings, church fathers such as St. Augustine and St. Jerome wagged their fingers at hermits who welcomed the attentions of their demonic lovers. Augustine even mentions one monk who was so consumed with his succubus that he literally died of exhaustion due to his near perpetual fornication with her. Or it.

The overall tone of these writings, however, was that men were far more steadfast at rejecting the attention of succubi than women were with incubi. This was thought to be true to such a degree that St. Jerome claimed authoritatively that incubi outnumbered succubi 9 to 1. Quite a margin if you think about it.

Header: The Temptation of St. Anthony by Alexandre Louis Leloir via 1st Art Gallery

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Jeudi: Root Work

We've talked about gypsy spellcraft before here at HQ. Many gypsy magicks very much resemble those of hoodoo root workers. One of the common themes in both is the use of Christian and particularly Catholic iconography and verbiage. Both the gypsy culture and the cultures that created hoodoo held the Christian religion in awe at one time. It was the religion of those who lived at ease in fine houses and fancy clothes and everyone knows that the gods who grant such things must be powerful indeed.

Today's working, a gypsy talisman to prevent toothache, makes full use of Christian imagery to get its job done. My grandmother explained a variation of this spell, giving me only the "prayer" to say nightly. In his wonderful Book of Spells from 1971, Marc de Pascale gives the entire working as well as a story behind its origin which goes like this:

St. Peter was said to be sitting on a stone when Christ walked by. Christ asked Peter why her looked so unhappy and Peter answered, 'Lord, my teeth pain me'. Christ then ordered that the 'worm' in Peter's tooth should come forth and never return. The pain immediately ceased and Peter said, 'I pray you, O Lord, that when these words be written out and a man carries them he shall have no toothache'. The Lord answered, 'Tis well, Peter; so may it be.'

And here is the working per Mr. de Pascale:

You will need a piece of cloth - and kind and color but cotton works best - about 10" by 3" and a pen

Now write the following prayer on the material:

Peter is sitting on a marble stone,
And Jesus passed by.
Peter said "My Lord, my God,
How my tooth doth ache!"
Jesus said, "Peter art thou whole!
And whosoever keeps these words for my sake
Shall never have the toothache."

The cloth should then be carried on your person - as Mr. de Pascale says, until "you are fitted with full dentures". Bonne chance ~

Header: The Liberation of Saint Peter by Gerard van Honthorst c 1617 via Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

I'm dating myself here but anyone who remembers the campy old "Batman" TV show will remember one of the two original Catwomen - the other being Ertha Kitt - Julie Newmar. When I was in 2nd grade all I wanted for Christmas was one of those sparkly bodysuits. I got a bathrobe.

Anyway, for a double dose of beauty and style, click over to the ever-wonderful Mid-Century Modern Freak on Tumblr to see some stunning shots of Ms. Newmar in an awesome mid-century interior. Meow!

Header: Julie Newmar c 1958 via Mid-Century Modern Freak ~ love that wry smile

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Today's herb, moonwort, can be a little confusing particularly if one is considering planting some in the garden. Two separate plants are called moonwort and, as this nice description at Alchemy Works points out, one is a variety of fern and quite difficult to grow particularly from seed. The other, and the one that is generally used in Wiccan love spells, is called Lunaria annua and is a member of the broccoli family. It grows large, silvery seed pods that have been used in various alchemical and old wives' concoctions since Medieval times in Europe.

The nearly transparent seed pods were once placed in purses and money chests to encourage an increase in wealth. Alchemists believed that the moonwort would actually spontaneously produce silver if left alone in such places. As a pocket piece, the seed pod is probably no less beneficial for increasing cash than any other herb/curio used with intention for the same purpose.

The sweet smelling leaves are dried and added to love sachets. They can also be sprinkled into a bath or simmered into a tea to add to same to make an individual more attractive to a potential love interest. Likewise, wearing the lovely violet-colored flowers is said to draw love. Having a lover hold one of the seed pods is said to encourage their honesty should they be less than faithful, so to say.

The fern known as moonwort was thought to magickally open locks and was thus a favorite of thieves and embezzlers. A fresh sprig from the plant was simply inserted into the lock and the rest was easy pickin's, so to say. The fern was also thought to remove shoes, from both horses and people. Blacksmiths and farriers were advised to carry the plant with them and simply have a horse with a stubborn shoe step over it for instant results. This believe was so persistent that colonists from Europe brought the fern and its folk name with them to the New World where it was largely known as "Unshoe-Horse".

The Lunaria annua is said to be easy to grow and Alchemy Works offers the plant's seeds for sale as well as a wide variety of other magickal herbs. Bonne chance ~

Header: The Love Potion by Evelyn de Morgan c 1903 via Wikipedia

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lundi: Recipes

Today, another curious recipe from The White House Cookbook, which I mentioned earlier this year. This one is for a dessert called Lemon Toast. I haven't tried it yet but it sounds delightful and lemons - perhaps because of my location - always remind me of spring.

This dessert can be made very conveniently without much preparation.

Take the yolks of six eggs, beat them well and add three cupfuls of sweet milk; take baker's bread, not too stale, and cut into slices; dip them into the milk and eggs and lay the slices into a spider, with sufficient melted butter, hot, to fry a delicate brown. Take the whites of the six eggs and beat them to a froth, adding a large cupful of white sugar; add the juice of two lemons, heating well and adding two cupfuls of boiling water. Serve over the toast as a sauce an you will find it a very delicious dish.

It does sound delicious and, I imagine, the home cook could simply fry the bread in a pan rather than utilizing a "spider" with which I am unfamiliar. Bon appetite ~

Header: Bodegon by Benjamin Palencia c 1924 via Old Paint

Friday, March 1, 2013

Vendredi: Chthonian Histories

The cousin or, perhaps more correctly evil step-brother, of the dream lover that we talked about last Friday is the incubus. Known of old as a demon to be feared and especially battled against, the incubus was envisioned as a sometimes handsome but in true form grotesque creature who either raped women or enticed them into sexual liaisons in the very dead of night. This demon is generally thought of in our modern, scientific world as a result of psychiatric disease brought on by the overly repressed cultures of Medieval Europe and Puritanical New England, to name two. In fact, the incubus may be a much older presence than a passing glance would have us believe.

Certain scholars, including those who study such diverse histories as Hebrew beliefs and Arthurian legends, access that the original incubus may have been one of that famous trio of Sumerian demons that included the previously discusses Ardat-Lili. The lili, a male demon, was said to trouble women's sleep, bring them erotic dreams and, in some cases, sire children of a changeling nature upon them. This would make the lili/human hybrid at least somewhat akin to a fairy child.

Fast forward to those days of Medieval tension and the stories of incubi accosting women - particularly innocent maidens and sequestered Brides of Christ - abound. In this period, incubi were said to be clever shapeshifters who could take on the appearance of anyone their chosen female prey might be attracted to. Demons, having no particular corporeal restraints, could pass as smoke or mist under a door or through the cracks in a wooden or stone wall and materialize on the other side. No woman, it seemed, was safe; but the incubi had their favorites.

Nuns were a decidedly popular conquest and, in the reverse, incubi were usually blamed for any convent indiscretions. Until well into the Gothic period, the accusation that an incubus, and not a human man, had gotten a nun pregnant was taken almost for granted.

When one Archbishop Sylvanus, who was the particular confessor of a large convent of Dominican nuns in what is now Bavaria, was accused of sexual assault by one of the good sisters - a particularly young and pretty good sister it is said - he simply turned up his silk-gloved hands. It could not be me, he protested; I would never break my vow of chastity. Surely Sister so-and-so (needless to say her name does not appear in the record) was visited by an incubus who had taken my form. What other explanation could their be? The 15th century inquisitors before whom Sylvanus appeared nodded thoughtful and then agreed with him. Case closed.

Telling an honest (or dishonest, in the case of the aforementioned Bishop) man from an incubus was surprisingly simple. When the list is ticked off, in fact, it is a little surprising that these demons troubled themselves with a disguise. The incubus had an unholy odor, either of sulfur, the barnyard or the rotting corpse that he had picked up as a skin. He had the power to paralyze anyone near his chosen victim, putting them into a trance-like sleep so that, even if the person in question lay right next to the woman, they would not be disturbed from their slumber. Worst of all, the incubus - regardless of what form he took - was said to be endowed with a huge, ice-cold member that was sometimes reported to be two or even three-pronged.

Anomolies of birth were often whispered to have been the result of rutting with an incubus. Woe to the woman who gave birth to an unfortunately harelipped, club-footed or otherwise "different" child; twins or children with red hair were also said to be the sons or daughters of incubi. The wizard Merlin is told to have been such a one and even in the Romantic era certain unkind types talked of George Gordon Byron, who had a club-foot, being the son of an incubus.

With all this, there were some ladies who willingly welcomed the incubus as a steady lover. Franciscan Ludovico Sinistrari, operating in the late 17th century and author of Demoniality, became somewhat of an expert on incubi and ways to exorcise them from the lives of such deluded women. He noted that these demons were particularly difficult to clear out as they "have no dread of exorcisms, show no reverence for holy things [and]... sometimes even laugh at exorcists." He goes on to give the example of a wife and mother so infatuated with her demon lover that she hardly blinked when, in retaliation to Sinistrari's exorcism attempts, the incubus built a wall of roofing tiles around her bed so tall that she needed a ladder to climb in and out.

A troublesome situation indeed... Next Friday, the yang to the the incubus' ying: the succubus.

Header: Incubus by Charles Walker c 1870 via Wikipedia


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jeudi: Great Spirits

In his epic the Aeneid, Roman poet Virgil tells us that the Queen of Carthage, Dido, committed suicide when her lover/husband Aeneas the Trojan adventurer, sails off to Italy and rejects their wedding vows. She is a victim of love and the gods and, despite her great authority and power as the queen of the largest nation in North Africa, she succumbs to both.

The story is a classic Greco-Roman reimagining of how women - and particularly women in power - needed to behave. The distaff side should not be ruling anything aside from their homes; Dido, Queen of Carthage, got what she deserved and at her own hand.

But what is the true origin of the story of Dido? Is she only a figment of Virgil's imagination or is there more to her than that? As Patricia Monaghan points out in Goddesses & Heroines, there must certainly be more to this Queen of Carthage than Virgil's epic. If not, Dido managed not only to live for hundreds of years but to commit suicide not once, but twice.

The Carthaginian legend of Queen Dido is very different - and quite a bit more heroic - than Virgil's version. It also points to a possible answer to the long life and miraculous self-imposed deaths of the queen. Dido it seems, like Candace and Helen, was originally a title and not a name.

According to Monaghan the word dido may come from the root dida meaning to wander. The original Dido Elissa or - even more ancient - Alitta which means "the goddess," seems to have come from the Phoenician settlement of Tyre. Bringing a band of colonists with her, Dido Alitta established a settlement that would eventually grow into the powerful empire known as Carthage. The story holds that the journey was spurred by the murder of Alitta's husband by her brother and that she brought only women with her to seek out a new home. Since the latter seems highly suspect, both "facts" can probably be left as legend.

Alitta, who was clearly a savvy business woman along with a proud leader, purchased a "hide's worth" of land on the shore of the Mediterranean from a local tribe. She then proceeded to cut the hide into thin strips and lay these out end to end around a vast holding that swept over much of a peninsula that now resides in the country of Tunis. Her first order of business thereafter was to begin building a great temple to her goddess Tanit (sometimes written as Tanith) the mother of the sky from which the people of Carthage believed they came. When the Romans invaded Carthage and beheld the beautiful statue of Tanit bedazzled with stars and holding the moon and the sun, they called her Dea Caelestis: "heavenly goddess."

The city flourished and was named after its first Dido: Cartha-Alitta or "city of the goddess." Of course envy from local rulers was inevitable and one particularly nasty cheiftain threatened war against Carthage if Alitta would not satisfy his lust. Alitta's response was swift and pragmatic; she killed herself and had her lecherous neighbor invited to the funeral.

In honor of their first Dido's brilliance and courage, the Carthaginians built a sacred grove in the middle of their city. This grove of Elissa would stand, and refresh the people of Dido's city-state, until the Romans destroyed Carthage during the Third Punic War in 146 BCE.

Header: Morte di Didone by Guercino c 1635 via Wikipedia

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

Really, as much style as beauty here. These were the days, kids. If only Oscar attendees had this kind of panache once again! Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh photographed by Bret Hardy circa 1952. Thanks to the wonderful We Had Faces Then blog for originally posting this. Stunning.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Ah, gossip. That malicious form of harassment that is rarely considered bullying but actually can be. Particularly among the young, gossip can ruin a life. Teenagers have committed suicide over it and in our hyper-cyber world, it can spread five thousand times faster than it could just a short twenty years ago. Progress? Hmm.

Among the curendaros and curendaras of the U.S. and Mexico boarder, there is a simple and fortunately not fatal solution for the problem. A simple working involving a candle, oil and the seed of the chia plant will work even in our social media environment. You can find chia seeds in many Latino markets, particularly in the greater Los Angeles area. Check online as well if you're not in Mexico or the southwestern U.S. Do this working with intention and even the most persistent gossip will shut up.

Using a pin or small knife, carve the gossip's name seven times on each knob of a white, seven-knob candle. If you cannot get a seven-knob candle, which are sold at most magickal supply stores as well as online, use a white taper and section it, using your pin, into seven fairly equal parts, then follow the above process. The six equidistant lines you carve into the candle will help you know when to put the candle out each day.

Anoint your candle with olive oil or, if you can obtain it, Protection Oil, and then, while the oil is still wet. roll the candle in a tray or bowl of chia seeds. Stand the candle in the tray (using a safe candle holder) so that it is surrounded by the remaining seeds.

Burn one knob, or section, each day beginning on a Saturday and preferably in the hour of Saturn (see this chart of planetary hours by day) to aid in banishing the problem. Burn the candle until it extinguishes itself on the seventh day and put any remaining wax in the back of your freezer to seal the working.

The nasty bully should cease and desist by then end of the week and, particularly if that candle wax stays frozen, never trouble you again. Bonne chance ~

Header: Interior d'un Cafe by Juan Luna c 1892 via Old Paint

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lundi: Recipes

My daughter's middle school library recently held a Scholastic book fair and, being a family of four bibliophiles, we could not miss it. Among other things, we stumbled upon the title America's Most Wanted Recipes: Just Desserts by Ron Douglas. Mr. Douglas, who has written more than one of these books, is a genius at deciphering the ingredients in famous restaurant recipes and offering them to the home cook.

Just Desserts includes recipes from such diverse restaurants as Chart House, Zuni Cafe, Dunkin' Donuts and, for you fans and friends of NOLA, Brennan's. There's even a few from Starbucks, like today's offering that combines two things I love: Chocolate-Espresso Pudding. It's so easy (thanks to Mr. Douglas) that even I can do it:

2 cups nonfat soy milk
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolat
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the soy milk and the brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat; stir until sugar dissolves. Whisk in cocoa powder, cornstarch, espresso powder and salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about a minute, until the mixture becomes thick.

Remove from the heat and stir in chopped chocolate and vanilla extract. Pour equal amounts of the pudding into four dessert bowls. Put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to keep it from forming a "skin."

Refrigerate for at least four hours. Remove plastic wrap and serve.

Mr. Douglas notes that you needn't be slavish to the espresso; any instant coffee you have on hand will work. If you'd like to browse through more of Mr. Douglas' recipes, find his work as ebooks here. Bon appetite ~

Header: La Chocolatiere by Jean Etienne Liotard c 1744 via Old Paint

Friday, February 22, 2013

Vendredi: Chthonian Histories

The realms of the underworld and sexuality intertwine and weave a tangled web that continues to burrow into our psyche like the persistent and arrogant roots of the weeping willow will do into the foundation of a home. It's a slow process that moves in mere fractions of an inch but, if left unchecked, it just may drive one mad.

And speaking of madness, let us take the next few weeks to discuss some strange, and very chthonian, bedfellows of old: the incubus, the succubus, and their cousin and today's topic, the dream lover.

One of the best illustrations of the dream lover - who is by no means a dream and is often a shape shifter or revenant in the literature - comes from that old '80s favorite, the movie Excalibur. Early on Queen Igraine, that Dark Ages sex kitten who flairs the passions of Uther Pendragon, believes she has been visited by her husband one night while he is supposed to be away fighting Uther's hordes. To Igraine's horror, she discovers that her husband was in fact killed in battle the very night he crawled into their bed. Who then made love to her? As we all know, Uther wearing a magickal skin placed over him by the wizard Merlin.

Such protestations of women - that their far away husband appeared to them in the flesh and impregnated them - pepper the history of the witch craze. Most of these unfortunates were accused of adultery or, worse still, welcoming a demon into their beds. But once in a while the tribunals were kind and the dream lover was awarded his do: the paternity of the woman's child.

This latter is the case in a curious story written in 1698 by Professor Johann Klein of the University of Rostock. The story centers around a gentlewoman named Lucile or Lucienne de Montleon. Madame de Montleon lived in the French speaking province of Switzerland and her husband, Seigneur Jerome Auguste de Montleon had been away at war for some four years when Madame suddenly turned up pregnant.

As Madame fretted over this situation, word came to her chateau that her husband was dead. Fainting away, Lucile spent the rest of her confinement in bed. She did manage to bring forth a strapping son within the year and, pulling herself up by her corsets straps, presented him to the city council as her husband's son and heir. Her claim as far as the unusual timing of the birth was simple: her husband had made her pregnant in a dream. When she received push-back on her claim - there were doubtless others who would have liked nothing better than to take over the Seigneur's land and income - Madame asked that the matter be heard in court.

The initial findings of the local judges did not go as Madame had hoped. Most called her an adulteress and two labeled her mad. Apparently unshakeable in her resolve, Madame de Montleon appealed her case to the Parlement of Grenoble. There not only two midwives but a doctor from the local University testified in Lucile's favor. They unanimously told the court that impregnations via dream were as common as flowers in spring among the peasant classes. Just because they were rarely heard of among the gentry, didn't mean that they weren't possible among the gentry.

The Parlement, taking all testimony into consideration, found in favor of Lucile de Montleon. Her son, whose name the good doctor does not share with us, was named so heir to the Seigneur.

What Johann Klein does share is a rather blue denouement to this already colorful story. According to Klein the case became something of an international sensation, to the point that the faculty of law at the Sorbonne in Paris looked over all the evidence and testimony reviewed by their colleagues in Grenoble. They concluded, as men often will, that the Parlement was simply helping a lady out of a difficult situation. After all, what educated man, or right thinking woman, could every believe in a dream lover...

Header: The Lunatic of Etretat by Hugues Merle c 1874 via Old Paint

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jeudi: Weather Wise

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is a well known phenomena hear at the top of the world. The beautiful streaks of blue, green and purple that dance across the cold night sky are accompanied by an eerie pop and crackle which is similar to the sound of a wood fire. While gorgeous, explaining the lights and sounds prior to the dawn of the scientific age was a difficult endeavor. Our various ancestors spoke of various possible explanations, many of which are remarkably similar.

In North America, and in what is now Canada, Alaska and the northern U.S. in particular, the lights were often linked to the spirits of the dead, be they human or animal. In what is now the province of Labrador, Canada, the native people believed that the crackling sounds made by the lights were the voices of those who had died a violent or sudden death. People were told to reply only in a whisper, for fear of disturbing these ancestors who were finally at peace.

The Tlingit of southeastern Alaska saw the lights as the spirits of the dead, while in the Yukon, native people said the lights were spirits, but those of salmon, seals and deer. Sometimes the spirits were said to be dancing. In other stories, they were playing ball, often with the skull of an animal. If it was the spirits of animals playing, however, they were said to use a human skull.

The Mandan said the lights were fires built by shaman and warriors who had passed into death. They were lit to boil the bodies of dead enemies in giant pots. It was only in the Point Barrow region of modern Alaska that the lights were thought to bode ill. Seeing them could bring on bad luck, but carrying a knife, particularly one made of metal, would repel the evil energy.

Meanwhile, in northern Europe, people tended to agree with the Point Barrow natives. While the Vikings imagined the lights as nothing more than the gods at play, most of the Celtic nations in Great Britain believed the Aurora ushered in a time of great turmoil, aggression, illness and want.

These beliefs trickled down into the 17th, 18th and 19th century. In Arctic Zoology written in 1784, the author tells us that, at the sight of the lights, "the rustic sages become prophetic, and terrify the gazing spectators with the dread of war, pestilence and famine." Though Pennant calls these beliefs superstitions, it is clear that they are held by many people. In Scotland, the lights were seen as a portend of the death of the famous. Aytoun writes in 1849 of "Fearful lights, that never beckon Save when kings or heroes die." As late as the 1870s, writers mentioned that the lights portended disaster, especially toward their own nation.

Despite all this, and perhaps because we now know their origin, the lights continue to fascinate. Even for the most cynical among us, a little chill must run up the spine at the sight of those dancing ribbons and the sound of spirit fires.

Header: Aurora Borealis over Anchorage, Alaska via Wikipedia

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

A lovely lady from a different era with obvious style that is all her own. I'm drawn to her name... and her face. She looks remarkably like my grandmother...

Header: Pauline in the Yellow Dress by Herbert J. Gunn c 1944 via Mid-Century

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Lots of things going on here at chez Pauline so, rather than skip another post, here is some herbal advice from the archives. Enjoy!

Nettle is a common weed in cooler climates all over the world. Known to Native shaman, old wives and root workers alike, nettle's most common use is to break and turn away jinxes. But there is so much more to the ancient history of this herb.

In hoodoo, nettle is used specifically to dispel evil. A tea of nettle and rue is added to baths along with a handful of black salt to lift curses and crossed conditions. At least some of the bathwater should be thrown out the front door of the home to seal the cure.

Both natives in North America and old wives in Europe recommended nettle tea for pregnant women to strengthen the fetus and ease labor. After the baby's birth, nettle tea continued to be prescribed to encourage milk production. Dried nettle was also sprinkled on the feed given to dairy cows for the same purpose.

According to Scott Cunningham, nettle should be carried in a sachet or stuffed in a poppet to remove a curse and send it back. Wiccans sprinkle dried nettle around the home to ward off evil. It can also be thrown into a fire to prevent harm coming to home or person and it is held in the right hand to ward off ghosts, particularly while walking alone at night near haunted ground. Putting a bowl full of nettle clippings under the bed of a sick person is thought to aid healing.

Pow-Wow also uses nettle, and for similar purposes. Silver RavenWolf says that a combination of nettle and yarrow makes a powerful amulet against fear. Scott Cunningham agrees, saying the two will also dispel negativity. Pow-Wows also use dried nettle to enhance lust, and sprinkle it over the bedclothes of the sick to encourage recovery.

A very old German "spell", which probably originated in one form or another prior to the widespread success of Christianity in the Middle Ages, saw farmers using nettle to remove maggot infestations from their cows' hooves. In Highroad to the Stake: A Tale of Witchcraft, Michael Kunze says the nettle should be picked before sunrise and held between both hands. The farmer should then recite:

Nettle, nettle, hear forsooth,
Our cow's got maggots in her hoof,
If you don't drive the maggots out,
I'll twist your collar round about!

The nettle stem was then twisted until it broke off and both pieces were tossed over the farmer's head. If all steps of this process were repeated three days in a row, the cow would be cured.

Finally, nettle has been used for centuries as a bandage in cases of bleeding. The leaves should be bruised slightly to allow the juice to flow and then applied to the bloody wound before bandaging to help with clotting. Bonne chance ~

Header: At the Entrance by Boilly via A Harlot's Progress

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dimanche: Swimming

Ava Gardner on location for Pandora and the Flying Dutchman in Spain c 1950 via Mid-Century

Friday, February 15, 2013

Vendredi: Chthonian Histories

When modern historians discuss or write about the witch craze in Europe and the Americas, very little thought - if any - is given to the people who looked after those unfortunates accused of communing with Satan. Many times, in fact to a surprising large degree, the jailors are painted as one dimensional thugs reveling in the cruel treatment of their pitiable charges. It is much easier to focus on the horrors of torture than on the inner lives of those who administered the torture.

In his brilliant analysis of the Pappenheimer family ordeal that played out in early 17th century Munich, Germany, Highroad to the Stake: A Tale of Witchcraft, Michael Kunze turns his attention to the keepers of the accused. With surprising empathy and clarity he documents what his research has shown him about ironmaster Georg, the unwitting keeper of the jail known as the Falcon Tower, and his nameless, unenviable wife. Even as he tortured the Pappenheimers as well as Agnes the miller's daughter and her family, Georg's wife kept each one in fresh straw, clean water and warm stew.

Certainly, not every inquisitorial dungeon was run like the Falcon Tower, but the little crack that Kunze opens onto the ironmaster's family's world is at the very least thought provoking. Here is an excerpt from the section entitled "A Day in the Life of a Jailor's Wife" (pp 291-292):

Very little has come down to us about the ironmaster's wife, who performed a range of lowly tasks in the Munich Falcon Tower. We do not even know her name. The prisoners, to whom she brought their meals and occasionally fresh straw for their cells, called her "the ironmaster's wife." We have to imagine a woman of about thirty, not ugly but not pretty either, not squeamish but not coarse. What with all the pain and squalor suffered by the inmates of the Falcon Tower, we are liable to forget that the jailor's wife did not have an easy life herself. The reason lay in her nature, which I believe I know something about, in spite of the meager information in our sources.

The ironmaster's wife was neither stupid nor dull nor harsh. She would have had to be all these things not to find life in the Falcon Tower hard. On the ground floor of the prison she acted as a housewife, looked after her husband and her children, cleaned and washed, placed a few flowers beneath the crucifix. On the northeast side of the building she had laid out a little garden in which a few vegetables and some wild flowers transplanted from the meadows struggled to exist, for very little sun found its way into the quadrangle between the high walls. In this way she tried to lead the life of simple, ordinary fold. But she knew that beneath her little domestic kitchen there lay a vault of horrors, while above it prisoners languished, chained to the walls of their evil-smelling hutches. She could hear the footsteps of these poor wretches on the wooden stairs as they were taken to the torture chamber for interrogation. She saw them in their pitiable condition following the torture. And when her scowling husband joined her and the children at their meagerly furnished table and said grace before the midday meal, she knew that the screams of his victims were still ringing in his ears. Was it possible to talk about the weather, the price of beef, or the Sunday picnic with the children that they had planned? Of course it was possible, and they did it, but they never ceased to be aware of the misery that surrounded them; conversation about everyday things always had an undertone of terror. The ironmaster's wife was unable to separate her official life from her private life as may have been possible in later ages, for the two were linked and interwoven. When she went shopping and did the cooking, she was doing it for the prisoners as well as her family. It was not uncommon for interrogations to take place in her living room. People in the street did not see her simply as a housewife; they avoided her as "dishonorable" on account of her husband's occupation.

He had not assumed office of his own free will. The record suggests often enough that he was no more coarse and violent of disposition than his wife was. He took no pleasure in the prisoners' suffering, but in all probability he was afraid of the power of the demons, whose presence he believed he could sense often enough as he practiced his cruel trade. What forced him to pursue his vocation? We do not know, we can only suppose that he himself had once been a prisoner and had been pardoned simply because there was need of a jailor. He was not permitted to "give notice," for, had he given up his office, he would once more have been treated as a prisoner, and possibly suffered punishment of death.

And so the horrible machine ground down both accused and jailor. And the jailor's wife as well.

Header: Prisoner by Bessonov Nicolay c 1988 via InquisitionArt (please know that Nicolay's art, while brilliant, is very realistic and very graphic; viewer discretion is advised)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jeudi: Curios

Technically, it is a stretch to call the eau de toilettes popular in hoodoo "curios", but they don't really fit into any other category I don't believe so here we are.

The three perfumes in question are Hoyt's cologne, which is commercially made, and Kananga and Florida Waters, both of which are sold commercially but also often made by the root worker. All three are delightfully floral, with Hoyt's cologne probably being the most "masculine" of the scents. Likewise, all three are used in workings, particularly for love and luck, baths and as offerings to the lwa and the ancestors.

Far and away the most popular is Florida Water, which is added to floor washes, laundry and hand and body washes to chase away jinxes and crossed conditions as well as usher in times of good fortune. Florida water is a key ingredient in the Lady Bath. A cleansing dedicated to Erzulie Freda, this bath is undertaken to renew the spirit and bring the good fortune that accompanies the smile of the lady Erzulie.

Though Florida Water is the most popular of the eau de toilettes mentioned, it is not the easiest to make at home. Kananga Water, which can be used similarly to Florida Water, is however. Here is one recipe from Fortunes in Formulas for the Home, Farm and Workshop published in 1937:

10 drop ylang ylang oil
5 drops neroli oil
5 drops rose oil
3 drops bergamot or lavender oil
10 ounces of alcohol

Mix gently and steep these ingredients together in a glass jar with a tight lid for about 24 hours. Add about 10 ounces of distilled water to make an eau de toilette. Make sure to store your end product in glass as well and keep it out of direct sunlight. Use in washes, baths or as a cologne to lift your spirit. Bonne chance ~

Header: Notre Dame de Grasse, France c 15th century via Deities and Demons (see sidebar)


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Bon Mardi Gras to one and all! The calendar is bringing the moveable feasts early this year and, shameless thing that I am, I started the day with a King Cake cupcake. It's never too early to celebrate, after all.

Valentine's Day, not being in any way moveable (not much of a metaphor for love when you think about it) is Thursday. And so today, the violet which is universally considered a bringer of love, friendship and harmony.

According to Scott Cunningham, the Ancient Greeks wore violets not only to diffuse anger but also to bring restful, restorative sleep. Old wives would weave violet flowers and stems into a kind of crown or chaplet that was then placed on the head of someone suffering from headache or dizziness. This treatment, along with a little rest, was thought to banish the problem within a day. Violet leaves were also applied to cuts and burns, and carried on the person in a green bag to keep the wound from festering. It was also said that picking the first violet one found as spring burst forth was a very lucky omen. One's most ardent wish would be fulfilled, the story goes, before the following spring.

In hoodoo, violets are used in workings for love and lust. The violet known in the southern U.S. as Johnny Jump-Up was mixed with High John the Conqueror and snake root chips, then carried by men to draw the sexual attention of a woman or women.

To bring a new love into their life, men and women alike would wear a violet leaf in their shoe for seven days. To boost the strength of the trick, three violet leaves are worn on consecutive weeks. The entire working then lasts twenty-one days and is thought to ensure a new love will follow one home.

Chewing violet to increase that new love's affection for you was also advised. Men who did not want to be "caught" shied away from a lady who might offer to wipe their face with her handkerchief. She may have spit into it after chewing violet, than let it dry. Rubbing the lover's skin with the hanky thereafter was thought to make them wild about you and, to some degree, "trap" them in the relationship.

When love goes wrong, as it does for all of us at some time, the violet can come to the rescue to ease the pain. Mix pansy flowers - which are a form of violet - with the buds of Balm of Gilead or rosemary (particularly for ladies). Steep this in hot water, drain and add to a nice warm bath. With luck, harmony will return to your life. This ritual is said to also soften the anger that often accompanies such episodes, and make one's frame of mind more open to reconciliation or at least friendship with the former lover.

Finally, growing a violet in the kitchen is said to draw prosperity and bring peace to the home. Ask an expert at the nursery; some violets are edible and they make an attractive addition to salads. Serve some to your lover on Valentine's Day and see what happens... Bonne chance et bon Mardi Gras ~

Header: The Reluctant Bride by Auguste Tolmouche via Two Nerdy History Girls because sometimes love just doesn't happen...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lundi: Recipes

Happy Lundi Gras! Tomorrow, of course, is Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday - one of the biggest holidays for anyone with ties to the Gulf Coast and especially for all of us Creoles. Eat, drink and be merry for Lent is just around the corner. And here's a recipe that lets you do all those things at once: bread pudding with whiskey sauce from Roy F. Guste, Jr's The 100 Greatest New Oleans Creole Recipes.

2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
6 ounces stale french bread (about 1/2 of a 32 inch loaf)
1/3 cup bourbon whiskey

In a large mixing bowl mix the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and raisins. Break the bread into small pieces and add to this mixture. Fold all together and let it soak for a few minutes. Butter a loaf pan or baking dish. Pour the entire mixture into the buttered pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

The whiskey sauce: melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan. Turn the heat off and add the bourbon. Mix thoroughly.

To serve, spoon the warm bread pudding onto plates and drizzle some of the whiskey sauce over the top.

Note that Monsieur Guste adds that any fruit of your choice can be added to the bread pudding before baking. I think "craisins" - those dried cranberries - are a nice substitute for raisins, of which I am not a fan. Be creative, have fun and bon appetite ~

Header: They Are Only Collecting the Usual Fans and Gloves by Charles Dana Gibson via American Gallery