Hello There

My thoughts about Traditional Witchcraft, Wicca, cooking, gardening, and anything else that catches my fancy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hallowe'en Week Cometh

Hallowe'en is almost here! My favourite holiday of the year! There's nothing I like better than crunchy  autumn leaves, spooky pumpkins, witchy movies, and hot apple cider. Fortunately the house I live in is already old and spooky, and needs but little in the way of decoration. Even so, I am spending this weekend carving pumpkins and hanging lights and otherwise doing last-minute preparations.

On Hallowe'en night itself I will pass out candy to trick-or-treaters, watch some scary movies, and host a private Dumb Supper to honour my ancestors. Late in the evening I will be holding a ritual with some friends. As, sadly, many of my best friends have passed away, Hallowe'en is a bit like a reunion to me, as it's during this time of year that the veil is thinnest.

Here are a few images of my Hallowe'en preparations as well as the beautiful autumn scenery here in the Pacific Northwest. I do hope that all of my followers have a safe and magical holiday, and I hope to hear about YOUR Hallowe'en experiences as well!

Leaf-covered streets

My spooky house at dusk

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"From The Hazel to the Blackthorn: Using Traditional Woods to Craft Magical Tools"

The following is a transcript of a presentation I gave on October 6th at Stone and Stang in California. It concerns the various magical properties of woods and their use in making magical tools. I wish I had an audio recording of the event, because I went "off script" for some time and got to answer some really amazing questions. However, this is a good starting point and I will post links at the end where you can learn more about magical woods.

"Hello everyone. My talk today will be about the lore and magical properties of certain traditional trees, and their use in the crafting of magical tools. Before we start, I’d like to share a bit about my background. I’m an initiate of the Unnamed Path and am currently finishing up the Student Teacher program. I am also a recent initiate into Gardnerian Witchcraft. For several years now my main area of study has been in the realm of trees and woods, and this has only intensified since I moved to the Pacific Northwest last year.

So, magical tools. Why do we use magical tools? Obviously, to enhance our magic and as a focus for our willpower. My question to you is, are such items “just” tools, just props for our own mental powers and magical skills, or do they impart a magical power of their own to our work quite apart from anything we might contribute. My own view is that magical tools, especially those composed of wood, contain a power of their own coming from the spirit of that particular wood and the tree it came from. I’m personally an animist; that is, I believe that everything on Earth has an indwelling spirit. It’s by becoming familiar with, and working with that spirit, that we create magic. Said spirit is what differentiates a magically crafted tool from an inert object like a table leg or a couch.

The main tools I personally work with are the Wand, the Staff, the Stang, the pendulum, and the pentacle. All of these items in my work are made of wood and all have a long history of use in magic. Wands thousands of years old have been found in the grave of Egyptian priests and Scandinavian sorceresses. The pendulum has a long history of use in divination, and the Stang (a forked stick used as an altar) appears in Medieval woodcuts depicting Witches in flight. The staff, like the wand, acts as both a tool to project magical power and as a practical aid when tramping through the woods. Old magical textbooks such as the Key of Solomon contain detailed instructions for the making of magical tools, including rituals to be performed at every step and the planetary days and hours in which one should work.
While every tree has a spirit of a kind, some trees, because of their prominence in Western Europe folklore and myth, are most frequently used for magic. I will be discussing the most common of these and will be passing around samples of some of the trees mentioned so that you can get an idea of how you resonate with that particular wood.

The first tree I would like to discuss is the Hazel tree. The Hazel tree is ruled by water and is known as the tree of divination, prophecy, and wisdom. The Hazel tree is the tree most often used for the construction of magical wands and staffs, and is the wood recommended frequently in grimoires such as the Key of Solomon for the construction of the magic wand. In Germanic lore we learn about the Hazelwurm, a cosmic serpent that circles the glob and is an embodiment of the power of the Earth. Because of this association, Hazel is a good choice for shamanic work and wands dealing with the gathering and moving about of Earth energies. There is also an element of command to the Hazel wood; in older times kings and chieftans would carry a wand of Hazel wood as a symbol of office. The Hazel wand is best gathered under a waxing Moon and in the day and hour of Mercury. If you’ll look at your handouts, you will see an image that can hopefully help you identify the Hazel tree when you come across it. The Hazel tends to grow as a large shrub but can reach the size of a small tree with age. The leaves are green and serrated, similar to birch. In the spring the Hazel is covered in small fuzzy catkins, and in the autumn the tree produces tasty Hazel nuts.  The bark of the Hazel ranges from a muddy brown to a beautiful silver colour. The Hazel tree tends to grow in watery or dank places, and for this reason the Hazel is considered the ideal wood to be used for divining for water.

Moving on, we come to the Rowan tree, which is ruled by Earth. The Rowan is known as one of the most magical and enchanted trees known to man, and is famous for its ability to protect those bearing the wood from malevolent magic and witchcraft. The Rowan is a border tree, or a tree that stands with a foot in both the mundane world and the magical Otherworld. An old Scottish poem states, “Rowan tree and red thread, put all warlocks to their speed.” This refers to the making of small crosses from Rowan wood bound with red thread. These are still in use today and can be seen hanging in the home of many Traditional Witches. As a side note, any tree bearing the colours of red and green together, such as the Rowan, can be considered especially magical because red is the colour of blood and magic, and green is the colour of the Fae and Earth energy. People sometimes ask, how can the Rowan be used both for making magical wands AND for protecting against magic? Well, the reason the Rowan is protective is because of its status as a border tree; this can interrupt incoming energy. If you can harness that borderline power, however, you can use the Rowan for magical ends. Rowan wood makes an ideal wood for wands and staffs, and is especially good at enhancing psychic powers and divining for metals. The Rowan tree has symmetrical leaves and brown, somewhat ripply bark. In general they are small trees, though I have seen some pushing 25 feet. In the late summer and early autumn the Rowan is covered in red, edible berries that also have protective powers. Please look at your handout for a visual of the Rowan tree.

We now move on to one of my favourite trees, the Hawthorn tree. The Hawthorn tree is ruled by Fire and is another Faery tree marked by its red and green colours. The Hawthorn is a tree with two faces. In the springtime the tere is covered in beautiful white flowers and is associated with love, fertility, and sexuality. On May Day, traditionally, Hawthorn boughs were used to dress the altar or at a wedding. However, in the winter time the Hawthorn has quite a different face. Devoid of its leaves and flowers, the sharp thorns that give the tree its name are much more prominent. This side of the Hawthorn is associated with protection, wisdom, and the learning of Witchcraft and magic. Some say that the Hawthorn is like the wise old Grandmother of trees. As a hedge tree, we can use it to “cross over” from the mundane into the magical and come back with new wisdom. The wood of the Hawthorn can be used in magic for protection, love, fertility, blasting, and works having to do with spirit contact. The Hawthorn is the sister tree to the Blackthorn, and is the Light Half to the Dark Half. The Hawthorn tends to be, again, a rather shrubby tree though it can reach up to 30 feet in some cases. The wood is a grayish brown with vertical ridges, and the leaves are lobed and shiny green. The branches are covered in large, sharp thorns and in the autumn the tree bears red berries that can be eaten.

The next tree we will look at is the Elder tree. The Elder is a tree of Water and in folklore was believed to be the home of the Elder Mother, a powerful tree spirit. The Elder Mother probably began as a Goddess, but after the coming of Christianity was turned by the church into an evil spirit and the tree, once venerated, gained a dark and frightening reputation. The Elder tree is used in magic for powerful exorcisms, banishing, and the removal of sickness. Harvesting of the wood must be done very carefully, and the wood should NEVER be burned. Traditionally one says a prayer to the Elder Mother while taking a cutting. The Elder tree tends to be a smallish, crooked tree with characteristic green-brown bark covered in little “eyes.” The branches are filled with a soft pith that can be easily removed, making this an idea wood to use for wands with crystals or center inserts. In the autumn the Elder tree is covered with blue, red, or purple Elderberries that can be made into wine or jelly, but the wood and leaves are poisonous and should not be consumed.

The Ash tree is our next tree and is ruled by both Air and Water. The Ash tree is a healing tree commonly associated with shamanic flights and the ability to see all three worlds, lower, middle, and upper. For this reason the Ash tree is the most common wood used for the Stang, the staff, and the handle of the Witch’s broom. The Ash tree is a common tree used for its shade-giving prophecies and the fact that its wood is very hard. Ancient wands made from spiral Ash gave been discovered. The Ash is probably the best wood behind Hazel to be used for the all-purpose magic wand. The leaves of the Ash tree are long, shiny green, and symmetrical and the bark of the Ash tree is an ashy grey.

Our next tree is the Alder tree. The Alder tree is the tree of the dead and is ruled by water. The Alder is sometimes known as the “witch’s tree” because it bleeds red sap when cut, and this was thought to be the blood of an indwelling spirit or witch. In ancient times wands made from Alder were used to measure the bodies of the dead, and it was believed that the wet and marshy Alder groves were the gateway to Hel (that is, the realm of the Goddess Hel, who ruled over the land of the dead.)  The Alder wood is best used for necromancy and the gathering of dark and forbidden knowledge, and is the wood of All Hallows or Samhain. Alder grows in wet, boggy places and has grey bark and large, birch-like leaves. The wood of the Alder is pale and streaked with red.

Finally, the Blackthorn. The Blackthorn tree is ruled by fire and in folklore was known as the Mother of Trees, or the first tree. The Blackthorn has a strange, somewhat sinister reputation and in the past (and in the present) was the wood used for the fearsome Witch’s Blasting Rod. This was a rod or cane made from Blackthorn that was used by a Witch to send forth powerful curses or spells. The Blackthorn is a dark, strange looking tree and is covered in large, sharp, dangerous thorns that can cause a nasty infection if they pierce your skin. These thorns have often been used to pierce poppets for malevolent purposes. The Blackthorn rules over the dark half of the year, as compared to the Hawthorn’s light half. Having said that, the Blackthorn also has positive uses. It can be used to make a washing wand, and the beautiful springtime Blackthorn blossoms  have associations with springtime and luck. However, in general the Blackthorn is best reserved for use by an experienced occultist as its energy can be very dark and brooding. The fruit of the Blackthorn is a small plum known as a sloe; these are used to make sloe gin. If you’ll look at your handout, you can see a picture of the Blackthorn’s fruit and flowers.

 I encourage everybody to go home and look for these trees around you. Seek them out, get to know them, and form relationships with the spirits therein to see what you can offer each other. You may not form alliances with every tree, and what works for you will depend on where you live. When I lived down South I could not get Hazel to work well for me, but now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, where it grows in abundance, it’s now my go-to wood. I also encourage you to learn more about the unique woods and trees that live in your surroundings and the folklore that surrounds them. Please feel free to ask me any questions, and I can also share some links and resources with you that can provide a deeper look at the folklore and magical properties of the trees we have discussed today."

For further reference, I recommend the following:

Briar Rose: Old Craft Hedgewitchery: I learned much of my wood lore from the proprieters of this shop.

Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways/ The Black Toad: Both by Gemma Gary. Wonderful resource books on Traditional Craft including the magical woods.

Bardwood Wandery: A great place for tree lore and a maker of fine magical wands as well

Autumn Hazel Harvest

Yesterday, on Wednesday (the Day of Mercury) I went and did a huge harvest of Hazel wood. Some of it is for my personal use; I am making a new Stang, a staff, and a handle for the broomstick I am working on. The rest is going to be sold off in my shop. I am selling both the raw wood, for the buyer to make their own wand, and at some point I'll be selling hand-crafted wands as well.  I've spent the morning stripping bark from some of the branches and cutting them down to size.

Hazel, the wood of wisdom, inspiration, and divination, is considered by many to be the best choice for crafting the all-purpose magical wand and for the Witch's staff. It is also the wood most frequently recommended by the old Grimoires for the magic wand. If any of my readers are interested in the Hazel wood I have to offer, please send me a message and let me know and I can share prices with you.

Here are a few images of my harvest. In one you can see the forked stick for my new Stang, and I'm including pics of the raw wood and the bark removal process as well. Enjoy!

Using my knife to strip the bark

Hazel wood

My new Stang, after the bark removal

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Magical Trip Cross Country

It's been a while since I've posted anything, but for once there is a good reason. A couple of weeks ago I left the Pacific Northwest and traveled across the country to the East Coast via train. It was an amazing trip. I got to see a lot of the beautiful Midwest (which I had never seen) and I had the pleasure and honour to meet many amazing, talented, respected Witches at the various events I attended. As much fun as I had, I was still happy to come home to my lovely city, especially as the trees have started changing and autumn is well underway. In fact, this weekend we are having heavy rains and high winds. It's dark and wet and gloomy out, just the perfect time of year to focus on work with the Spirits of the Dead. And, of course, Hallowe'en approaches!

Here are a few images of my trip. Enjoy!

Columbia River Gorge

The Gorge


The Mother Road

Field of Pumpkins, Indiana



Indiana Moon

Beautiful Pennsylvania


Friday, September 6, 2013

Crafting Charms

A local Witch friend and I worked on some written charms last week using some magical ink she had made herself and some of my parchment paper. The charms we chose were inspired by one found in Gemma Gary's "Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways" but also incorporated some of my own touches and a few other secret flourishes. After I finished writing out my paper charm, I enclosed it in a charm bag along with a few magical herbs and a magnet. The finished product, intended to bring good luck and banish ill health, can be carried on the person or placed under the bed.

Me, hard at work

The finished charm

My friend inscribes a charm onto parchment

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The First Touch of Autumn; And, The Hawthorn Trees

I can finally tell that autumn is on its way. Some days are still pretty warm, but there have been a few that have been grey and drizzly, and overall things seem cooler....especially at night. A few of the large Maples and Elms have just begun to turn colours, and there are more than a few Poplars that are already showing orange. The apple trees are all covered in apples, and the Rowan trees are still showing their beautiful bright red fruit.

The Hawthorns near my house are just now almost ripe. I've seen some "out and about" that are clearly ready to harvest, but they are in full sun and too close to the road to be useful. I'm planning on making Hawthorn jelly and wine this year, for the first time ever, so I'm keeping a close eye on my "local" trees to determine the best time to harvest. Luckily I have one in my own yard, and the neighbours have been kind enough to tell me I could have some of their fruit as well. Most people around here seem unaware that you can eat Hawthorn. Unfortunately, there is not a single Hazelnut left on the trees; the squirrels ate them ALL. I'm quite sad about that, but at least I have a bunch of Haws to look forward to.

In magical news, I recently had a custom wand my by Gary over at the amazing OMEGA WORKS. He made my Athame for me as well, and they match. I don't usually show photos of my magical tools these days, but I might make an exception for the wand because it's truly an amazing piece. In the meantime, here are some images of the Hawthorn trees and such around my home.

Lady Hawthorn

Not QUITE Ripe Yet

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Victorian Magic in Port Townsend

Last week I journeyed up the Washington coast and into Port Townsend. If you don't know, Port Townsend is a Victorian seaport located on the northern Washington coast. It had a big "boom" back in the 19th century, but almost as quickly as it grew the bottom fell out of the shipping industry and all the money (and most of the residents) left the town. However, in the long run this turned out to be a bit of a blessing because when the money left, nobody had the funds to tear down their beautiful Victorian buildings and replace them with hideous 20th century monstrosities.

On the drive up I saw SO many Elder trees covered in their red (we have the red kind around here) berries. I wanted to stop and get some, but most were by the highway and anyway I wasn't sure they were quite ripe yet. I also found some beautiful Rowan trees; look for that in an upcoming post. In the meantime, please enjoy these images of some of Port Townsend's beautiful buildings! I'm going to work hard and updating this blog more often, and it's going to get a new look, so keep your eyes peeled!

Check out that garden!

A view of the bay from the hill

The Starrett House. This one is actually for sale....if only I had the money!

The Bartlett House, I believe

A beautiful Victorian building

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Adventures in Wood Harvesting

Yesterday me and a fellow Witch went out into a rural area to look for wood to harvest. (I'm planning on selling my own line of wands and magical charms, so I've been in the "harvest" mode for a while.) Anyway, I managed to get some lovely Hawthorn and Hazel wood, and we even came across a few Rowans and a Blackthorn tree. During our adventures in an abandoned lot we also happened across what looked to be some sort of very old cold storage or root cellar. It reminded me of one of the storm cellars back in Texas, but above ground. It was lined with shelves holding ancient jars of peaches, jam, etc, some of which were still recognizable. Clearly the  field had once been home to a farmhouse, and we were seeing the remnants of somebody's old food storage.

In other news, my rooms are starting to look like a forest, what with all the birch bristles and Hazel branches and similar stacked up and drying in every single corner!



The old root cellar

Old broken bottles

Monday, May 20, 2013

My Very Own Hazel Tree

On Saturday I went downtown to the street market. It's held both weekend days during the Spring, Summer, and Autumn months. They have all kinds of amazing things, from local organic fruits and vegetables to honey, soap, plants, and other such and sundry. While I was walking around, I spied a booth selling plants and trees, and what should I see in the back but two very small Hazel bushes. I asked the booth owners, and they said that somebody had asked them to bring the trees to the street fair. I expressed interest in buying one, and said I would stop by later to see if the man had showed up. When I checked back he had not arrived, so I decided to purchase one of the two trees. They had both American and Beaked Hazel. I picked the Beaked form, because it is the one native to the Pacific Northwest where I live. The tree is very small, but Hazel grows quickly and in a few years I should be able to harvest nuts from it and possibly get some wood for wands and charms as well.

Here's an image of my precious little tree. I will be planting it today! So exciting to have one of my very own.

The Beaked Hazel

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy Beltane!

I hope everyone had a wonderful, magical holiday.  I spent the morning bathing in May Day dew and gathering Hawthorn boughs to deck my altar out in.
The Blessed Hawthorn Near My House

Hawthorn Blossoms

The Hawthorn

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Plaque For Doreen Valiente

My love for Doreen Valiente (who I never had the chance to meet but who's book have had an immense influence on my Craft) is well known. She was definitely one the most important writers on Witchcraft and the occult of the past century, up there with such luminaries as Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, and Gerald Gardner. Money is now being raised so that a plaque commemorating her many decades of work in the Craft can be placed on the wall of her apartment home of 30 years. I have already made a contribution, and I ask all of you who've been touched by her writings, as I have, to give generously so that Doreen Valiente can be honoured.

Here  is the link to the donations page:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Hawthorn: The Magical Tree of Springtime

During my walk today, what should I come across but many flowering Hawthorns. Now, keep in mind that back in the South I only saw one Hawthorn ever.....and it was more like a barren shrub than a tree. Be that as it may, it's long been my favourite magical wood to work with and I have several wands and magical tools made from Hawthorn branches harvested in the UK. Imagine my joy, then, to come across easily 10-15 of them in a relatively small area.

The Hawthorn tends to be a smaller tree, sometimes more like a shrub, and has twisty branches that bear shortish, but sharp, thorns. In the springtime the tree firsts displays leaves (unlike the Blackthorn, which has flowers first) before blossoming with many small, white, fragrant flowers. Some say the scent of the flower is unpleasant, others say it acts as an aphrodisiac for men, and still others that it enforces chastity. To me, the flowers had a very pleasant, though quite sweet, odour that was almost intoxicating. Indeed, it's easy to picture the showy white flowers and strong smell putting one in the mood for love, which may very well be the source of the tree's association with springtime romance and naughty romps in the field. The Hawthorn has a strong association with Beltane or May Day, and with fertility and weddings. Traditionally, couples getting married would wear crowns of Hawthorn blossoms and leaves, and would sometimes decorate with boughs of the wood. Oddly enough, at other times of the year to bring Hawthorn into the house was considered to be detrimental in some way. In the autumn the Hawthorn yields many small, red, tart berries that can be eaten as jelly or made into wine.

Like most magical trees, the Hawthorn has a bit of a darker side as well. The thorns have been used in both love spells and curses, and when the tree has shed its leaves in the winter the twisted, thorny skeleton that remains can present an ominous sight. A Welsh Witch of my acquaintance speaks of the Thorn Lady, a kind of spirit of the Hawthorn tree that can act as the "wise grandmother" of the Craft, and not all of her lessons are love and light. It's considered very bad luck to damage or cut down a Hawthorn, as the Good Folk are very protective of it and will take revenge on any who dares to destroy the tree.

On a more mundane level the flowers, berries, and leaves all have medicinal use. The berry can be used (under medical supervision only) to strengthen a weak heartbeat, and the flowers and leaves have a tonic quality. As mentioned above, the berries can also be used to make many delicious jellies and jams. The wood of the Hawthorn is beautiful and VERY hard, and can be carved into small trinkets, handles, and similar objects.

If you come across a flowering Hawthorn this spring, consider yourself lucky because in my opinion there are few trees more magical. Stop for a while to set beneath the thorny branches and feel the powerful magic of the tree.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Happy Full Moon

This is the Beltane Moon.....time to let loose and really celebrate the coming of Spring!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Doreen Valiente Biography Announced

This is very exciting news! Doreen Valiente was one of the most influential figures in the modern Witchcraft movement, and her work has certainly influenced me more than any other resource. I've read part of Philip Heselton's work on Gerald Gardner, and if his work on the Valiente book is anywhere near as good it will be a truly wonderful and invaluable biography.

Doreen Valiente Biography Announced

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Magical Beauty of the Pacific Northwest

I am firmly convinced that I live in the most beautiful place in the world. I'd like to share some recent photos I've taken of Oregon and Washington. This whole region truly has a very magical feel.

Columbia River Gorge



Cherry trees

The Apple Tree


Black Walnut

The Park

Downtown Portland

Spring Flowers

Tulip Tree