I get a lot of emails and inquiries about herbal practices. However I’ve come to realize that unless the discussion is for spiritual purposes, Cauldron and Brew is not necessarily the place for those discussions.
So, I have created a new blog for herbalism and related discussions, The Sexy Witch Herbal. It’s just the basics of herbalism plus a few personal and gathered recipes. There is not a lot of content up yet, but I’m working on it! Please subscribe and with friends.
I am a sucker for a good hot beverage. Starbucks and Seattle’s Best used to be the bane of my wallet’s existence. Like most people my age going back to school, I’ve started scaling back on my expenses to prepare for the inevitable poverty of grad school. So I’ve invested in a French press, a couple of mesh loose tea strainers, and an electric kettle.
And I’ve made a discovery. Not only does my tea and coffee taste so much better, but I can easily infuse magical properties into the beverage. Kind of a huge ‘duh why didn’t I think about that before’ moment. So I’ve been doing some research on the ethics and magical properties of these beverages that I thought I’d pass on to my readers.
- Coffee: For some reason, this substance has a bad rap in the Pagan and witchy community. I get it; it’s usually produced under deplorable working and environmental conditions and has astronomical acid and caffeine contents. However as we become a more globalized society the availability of free trade, organic coffee is starting to become available in every grocery store. My college even sells it to students as a fund raiser. If for some reason you can’t tolerate coffee at all but want a similar beverage, try either chai tea or a combination of dandelion root and cinnamon Magically, it is associated with fire and can be used in creativity or academic spells. To infuse, I’ve been drawing symbols into the grounds at the bottom of my French press as I’ve waited for the water to boil.
- Non-Herbal Tea: Yes, technically all tea is herbal. What I mean is your standard black, green, white, chai, rooibos, and the variety of flavors that these types comprise (i.e. Earl Grey, Lady Grey, English Breakfast, Constant Comment, etc). Again, a lot of these brews have similar ethical problems as coffee. Look into buying certified organic and fair trade varieties Also, consider buying loose leaf because you get more bang for your buck. Cunningham associates tea with strength and courage, but through personal experience I am adding comfort, healing, and relaxation to tea’s list of magical properties.
- Herbal Tea: This is everything else: peppermint, chamomile, lemon-ginger, raspberry leaf, lemon balm, etc. I’m not even going to begin going into the magical properties because it varies by type (see Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs or a similar volume). As for the ethics behind this type of tea, at least in the US these varieties can be grown in the home or bought from a local herbiary. Consider even taking a course in how to make herbal blends yourself to meet personal taste or health needs.
- Apple Cider: A fall staple in my household. You can buy it from the grocery store, but I prefer to go directly to a local farm because it’s good for the economy in my area and I know exactly where the product is coming from. Something that you can do with cider is to mull it with spices, which you can infuse with specific properties (CharmingPixieFlora has a good recipe video if you’ve never done this before.) Apples themselves are associated with health and wisdom.
- Hot Chocolate: If you’ve never made hot chocolate from scratch, you’re missing out because it’s so much more flavorful that the powdered stuff. Lately though chocolate itself has been kind of bastardized with waxes and random crap (I’m looking at you, Hershey). You can go the fair-trade, organic route, or just check the list of ingredients on the label. I like mixing the chocolate with half-and-half and a pinch of chili or cinnamon in a double boiler. As a magical substance it is associated with love and ancestors.
© Ariadne Woods
Everyone has an area that is the focus of their day. For some, it’s their stove tops. Others, their desks and computers. Or it’s the dashboard or the garden or the TV cabinet. It’s the space you come back to every day. For me it’s my dresser. It’s not that I spend hours upon hours doing makeup and hair. It’s the only flat surface in my bedroom that isn’t covered with books.
Working altars are a witch’s space for doing meditations, spells, workings, tarot readings, journaling, kaizen, herbal preparations, etc. They differ from sabat altars in that they are vaguely permanent. They are the focal point for all of a witch’s work.
I don’t know how others put theirs together, but mine shares space with my jewelry box and a stack of magazines I’ve been meaning to read. The main features are a white working candle, a Goddess image I change periodically, a Tarot box that holds my Goddess deck and my mala beads, some crystals, and a metal incense stick holder that doubles as an offering plate. Here’s where I make tea and work my spells and light offering incense and contemplate the cards and write inspirational messages on my mirror with a dry erase marker.
I advocate creating these spaces in the places you naturally use. If you’re a cook, put a bowl of salt and an image of Hestia on a shelf above your stove. A gardener, a bench and some special plants in a corner of the garden. Even put it in the corner of your office cubicle if you spend more time in the office than at home. It’s your space.
© Ariadne Woods
As many of my readers know, I’m going to grad school. For the first time in my life, I am moving out on my own. No mom, no RAs. I have big and grand plans (including a permanent altar). If I can, perhaps I’ll get a cat!
I just need an apartment first.
And this task has been turning out to be more difficult than I first imagined. Despite sending inquiry emails daily, I’ve gotten rejected, waited too long (and by that I mean two days), and just plain never heard anything. I admit, I’m starting to get frustrated.
In a talk with one of my friends, she joked, “You’re a witch, just do a spell.” For some reason, that sort of bugged me. Is this what my friends think, that I do a spell and what I want automatically goes my way? That’s just ridiculous. I have to fill out the forms, go do all the interviews, and wait it out just like everyone else. Have I done a spell to give myself clarity in what I want? Yes. Will I try to get into the apartment before I move in to give it a good physical and spiritual cleaning? Yes. But those aren’t necessarily magical things rather that steps in the process of moving.
I guess the best thing I can do is take this frustration as a lesson in patience, Goddess knows something I’m terrible at.
© Ariadne Woods
I believe in recipes and following the directions from a good herbal or cookbook. But sometimes, having a tried and true recipe you don’t need to think about creates traditions and personal touches to your culinary and magical practices. For me, there are seven very quick magical and mundane formulas that I think everyone should know. Share your favorites in the comments.
- Room Spray: Filtered water in a spray bottle with twenty-thirty drops of essential oil. Shake. Done. My favorite is lavender. You could also make a tea and add a little vodka. This method works well with sage sprays. Add gems (although double check the mineral and its safety with water. Quartz and agate are always safe bets) and whatnot if needed.
- Magical Object Cleaner: Unless you are an expert metal worker, glassblower, carver, herb grower AND stone mason, you will end up buying some stuff. And to make it your own and to clean the residual energies, it’s good to give them a scrub. This brew should be highly personal, but can include lemon, garlic, bay, sage, rosemary, salt, thistle, pepper, etc. Mine smells both terrible and awesome, but always turns out nicely. Simmer for an hour and then strain. Fill a bottle half with this liquid and half with apple cider vinegar. To use get a cotton ball and put some of the cleaner on it. Use to clean the object, then rinse and let dry in the sun or moon light.
- One Really Good Salad Dressing or Marinade: Your family, house guests, and taste buds will thank you.
- One Simple Loose Tea Blend: By far the easiest on this list. Get three one ounce bags of herbs you think will go well together (examples: chamomile, mint, skullcap; nettles, raspberry leaf, lemon balm; black tea, orange peel, lavender). Put them in a glass container and shake. Ta da! Use when needed as a personal comfort.
- One Great Cocktail: Or mocktail if you do not drink.
- The Simple Tincture: Get an herb. Put it in a container. Pour vodka, vinegar, or witch hazel over it until the herb is just covered. Cover and store in a dark place for two weeks. Shake as often as possible. When the time is up strain and bottle. Consult an herbal for an appropriate herb, although a lavender one is good in every household as a sleep aid.
- Go-To Herbal Incense: Look to Cunningham’s Complete Book of Incense, Oils, and Brews for inspiration, but the key is to create a personal formula. Of all of the brews here, this one will require the most practice.
© Ariadne Woods
Below is a basic-of-basic guide to our community, just to give you an educated perspective. I encourage you to read as much as possible about all of these traditions. I do not cover every Pagan branch out there (mainly because there is too many), but I tried to cover the more widespread and vocal traditions. Also, you notice I do not go into voodoo, hoodoo, or shamanism. I do not feel educated enough in any of these practices to give you a full description. I encourage you to do research if any of those three speak to you. So here you go!
- Wiccan: Religious worship directed towards the Lord and Lady and uses the Wheel of the Year. This is the commonly known tradition that uses a ritual with the following elements: casting a circle, inviting the elements and deities, spellwork, raising energy, releasing energy, cakes and ale, and the sending forth. When you are thinking the basic of basic stereotypes, you are usually thinking Wiccan.
- Pagan: Any religious tradition that is not Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or Sikhism (This might be an over simplistic definition (and feel free to disagree)). This includes the below traditions. I have to add that East Asian religions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism fall more in the category of philosophies rather than what most of the Western world considers to be a religion (I might be a little off in this, but that’s how my World Religions professor explained it).
- Heathen: A term usually used in the Asatru community (see below).
- Gardnerarian Wicca: The mother tradition of all modern Wicca. Some buzzwords you should relate to Gardnerianism should be coven, mystery tradition, Gerald Gardner, 3 Degrees of Initiation, secrecy, Wheel of the Year,and High Priest and Priestess.
- Alexandrian Wicca: I have never really been able to tell the difference between Gardnerianism and Alexandrianism other than their founders. Anyone in the Alexandrian tradition who comes across this post, please enlighten me.
- Reconstructionalism: These practitioners are not necessarily setting out to recreate old school Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Celtic, etc. religions (although some do). However they base their practices off these ancient ways. One thing to keep in mind that ReCons do not necessarily follow the Celtic Wheel of the Year, but rather other calendars and festivals.
- Asatru: Derived from Scandinavian and Icelandic practices and pantheons. Sort of like ReCons, but way more specific.
- Reclaiming Tradition: A coven tradition with a strong focus on community and eco-political activism. Think the books by Starhawk.
- Dianic Wicca: Focuses nearly entirely on female spirituality. One big myth I am going to dispel right now that Dianic always means lesbian. Absolutely not. It is a tradition for women and our mysteries, but in most cases has little to do with a specific sexual orientation.
- Hedgewitch: I would argue that all witches have a little hearthwitch in them as we set about clearing space and protecting our home and loved ones. This tradition focuses on the home and deities associated with domesticity. This isn’t 1950’s witchcraft, it just focuses magic and spirituality around mundane and day-to-day activities as well as sabats.
- Eclecticism: Taking a little bit of every tradition and making it your own. I’ve written about this topic before.
- Christian Witchcraft: NOT a Pagan or Wiccan tradition. It’s Christianity with the use of magical practices. If you want a perspective on this tradition, watch this video and some of her other videos.
- Agnostic/Humanist/Atheist Wicca: My friend Mary describes herself as a “jaded witch who still wants to celebrate the holidays.” There is usually a lack of a specific deity and a healthy amount of religious skepticism.
- Focused Worship: These are Pagans who are completely dedicated to a specific deity but do not ID with a specific tradition. In this category I am putting Lokians (non-Asatru followers of Loki) and Satanism (there is a lot of debate on whether this is a Pagan or branched off Christian tradition of sorts. I am putting it here because all of the friends I know who are Satanists self-identify as Pagan).
If anyone in any of these traditions wants to talk a little more about that path, leave info in the comments! These paths may not be mine, but they are healthy, vibrant traditions in the Pagan, Wiccan, and Witch community.
I usually don’t post videos, but this Christian Witch dispels some myths in a thoughtful, powerful, and humorous way. On a personal note, I fully agree with her in the idea that not all Witches are Pagans and not all Pagans are Witches. Yes, I am a Witch and a Pagan, but I do not feel like they are synonyms in all my spells, workings, and rituals.