What is the Witches Wand?

​The Wand is archetypal tool of the magic user. Whether a Wizard or Witch, a Seer or a Sorceress; the quintessential mark of this magical being is the wand they bear.

It’s a big thing, just look at the central role the wand plays in the Harry Potter series. From the outset of book one the Wand stands out as the object that ‘makes’ and, by the end of book seven, ‘breaks’ the Wizard. 

In Pagan circles, especially amongst the fledgling members, a great deal of emphasis on that first wand. Many will insist you must make your own, others will say purchased is fine. Some will say keep it plain and simple, others will pile on the bling. A lot of things are down to individual preference and tastes. There is something to be said for handcrafted items over mass produced ones. Whether crafted by your own hands or those of another there is something to be said for a unique or bespoke magical item. 

Your choices should be personal and based on your personal practice. There are four common materials from which wands are crafted.

Wizzy wands to the ready!

Wizzy wands to the ready!

Types of Material

Crystal

When I talk about crystal wands I am not talking about small (or even big) embellishments to other types of wands but those that are made wholly from semiprecious stones. Whether they are made from single stone or even those held together by apoxy and/or metal fittings these wands are most often associated with complimentary healing techniques. There are some who will use these for magical purposes and practices but this is the exception rather than the rule. More often than not crystals make up elements of embellishment in crafting your own wand and is chosen based in its healing, spiritual and magical associations.

Metal

Whether slender and delicate or dense and utilitarian, metal wands are a common sight. This kind of wand often comes with fittings and embellishments such as crystals and has a bit more duribility in comparison to other kinds of wand available. This kind wand is not usually the first port of call for those who venerate nature or those who wish to make their own wand however metal, particularly metal wire, is a useful component in crafting and can be chosen for its correspondences.

Pottery/Clay

Possibly the least common kind of wand, I only mention it because  clay is a useful crafting material and I was once gifted a beautiful clay wand by my parents. Clay wands can be easily produced at home and embellished with crystal settings. Polymer clay is becoming increasingly popular with craters, particularly for fancy wands. Although I can’t comment on the duribility of polymer clay, or its magical properties,  pottery wands are horrendously delicate. Mine failed to survive a move between home and Uni many years ago and I wouldn’t even consider it now with the kids around but if you have skills and are less accident prone than I it is there for your  consideration. In this case clay is the medium and in itself has not strong associations except with the earth and it is the embellishments and consecration  which gives it purpose. That being said polymer clay is an exception given that it comes in such a variety of colours and can therefore be chosen based on colour correspondences.

Porcelain Wand by Gypsy Wylde Art

Porcelain Wand by Gypsy Wylde Art

Wood 

The most popular kind of wand avalible is the wooden wand. This reflects that many pagans are in tune with nature and natural forces. The hesitation with purchasing wooden wands is whether or not they fit with the ethics of the the individual practitioner regarding how it was sourced and how it was harvested. Many Pagan crafters are transparent in their methods, though not their rituals, but still many feel drawn to make their own because of the inherent power in this process. 

Wood is the easiest medium to be find and work with in your own home and it can be embellished either heavily or lightly or even not at all. The choice of the wood used can, in itself, be a magical act and driven by intent and need and for these reasons wooden wands are the most common and most discussed. For this reason I’m going to include a bit of a “How To” with this post and take you through the process of making a wand from start to finish, closing with how wands are used in magical practice.
How to Make a Wooden Wand

Choosing your Wood

Starting at the beginning we need to consider what end purpose we have for our wand. It is to be a general working tool of magic, specifically for a particular type of ritual or energy  (masculine/feminine/planetary etc) or even with a specific deity. I have included some brief information on magical correspondences for trees commonly found within the British Isles but it is by no means comprehensive and I would suggest you research your local fauna and for more in depth writing’s on Tree Magic.

Tree Associations

Tree Associations

For the purposes of this instructional I am going to make a wand out of oak. The oak tree is associated both with Hekate and Pan, although it is primarily a wood associated with masculine energies, and it will make a nice wand for joint magical practices. 

Once you know what kind of wood you wish to gather you need to select the limb after leaving the house well prepared. 

Straight or crooked, corkscrew or knobbly make sure that the tree you aproach is healthy and free from disease (more on this later). The idea would be a banch between 1-2″ in diameter before any taper. 

Gathering

The gathering of the wood for your wand really contains two main stages however you need to be prepared with the tools necessary to collect your chosen limb safely with minimal damage to the tree. 

The process of creating a wand includes securing the essence of the tree within the limb. Not only do you wish to remove a physical part of the tree but part of its spiritual force. For this reason diseased or deadfall wood are not appropriate for the making of wands because the life force has weakened or been lost  from the wood already and the essence cannot be recaptured. It is also important to request, and receive, permission from the tree to remove its limb and make appropriate offerings and thanks to the tree.

There are exceptions to this rule. Deadwood from a lighting strike or casualties of another trees fall are acceptable. It is not the ideal and the wood should be collected asap to avoid rot and damage but sometimes you take what is given.

Tools

I recommend small garden cutters / clippers or a junior hacksaw. Use them according to instructions. Cut the branch in the same way you would when pruning to encourage regrowth.

Permission 

Before you use your tools on any tree spend a moment communicating with your chosen tree. You don’t need to full on make out with it, simply lay a hand upon it request permission to remove the chosen limb. You can do this out loud or internally and you should communicate clearly what you intend to use the wood for. 

Wait a moment to ‘hear’ a response before proceeding. You may not always get a clear positive response in which case search for another more willing tree, or return at another time. This is a situation of ‘knowing’ and trusting your abilities, our experiences will differ so it is not possible to describe exactly how this communication will transpire. 

Witchy Tip – be aware of where you are gathering your materials. If it a tree on your property or in a public area, and you are taking a minimal amount, then no additional permission is really needed. If the tree is on someonelse’s land you will also need mundane permission as well as the magical. 

Offerings

Once you have the permission of the tree and have harvested the limb it is time to offer thanks and gifts to the tree. There are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Keep In Mind

Keep In Mind

I suggest offerings such as milk, bread and honey; my go to triad of offerings in nature and for any form of natural spirit. If you have a local source of springs water then this is also an appropriate offering. Also, because you are taking something from the tree it is important that you give something of yourself in return. Hair is commonly cited, as are nail clippings and blood (menses or vein). Sexual fluids may also be appropriate if relevant to the purpose of your wand. In the case of personal offerings I recommend burying them amongst the tree roots, or leaving them discreetly around the base of the tree. 

Creating The Wand

So now everything is in place its time to get cracking right? Well hold your horses. Ideally you should give the limb time to season, ie dry out, if you are planning to use it over a long period of time. Depending on the thickness of your choice  (ohh errr missus)  this can take between one week to a month in a dry location. Whether you de-bark the wood before laying it down is up to you, drying it out will most likely make the process easier.

This stage isn’t necessary if you want a wand for one time use  or one ‘in the green’ wand however it will help to ensure that your wand stands the test of time. 

Preparation 

Now is the time to decide what form your wand will take. Are you are keeping any knobbly bits or not, remembering that they can be worked to serve as neat little sockets for crystals and the like. If you decide to go down this route pause and select an appropriate stone and make any adaptations (ie making a hollow deeper or wider) to accommodate the stone.

You can also decide on if you are having a point wand or not. As my favourite coffee mug says “not all magic wands are pointy”. If you decide on a point and there isn’t a naturally occuring one you can start it off by whittling away some of the end. You will then finish the process by sanding it down. 

Witchy Tip – pencil sharpeners will also help with this process.

Now you are need sandpaper, ideally three different grains if not more. Starting with the coarsest grain begin to smooth down your wand. Work through to the finest grain in order to achieve a smooth finish. It is personal choice as to how smooth you go, combined with how long you want to plug away at it. 

Embellishments

Now everything’s nice and smooth it’s time to embellish things a little. If you have a pyro-pen and are artistic you could burn a design into the length of your wand. This could be anything from designs and patterns to runic (or any other ‘magical’ lettering system) inscriptions. Symbols, letters and designes can be chosen to compliment the purpose of the wand; for example runic letters chosen to enhance the properties of the wood but you may just want to go with something you find visually pleasing. 

Wood and Polymer Clay - By Hexelfglitter

Wood and Polymer Clay – By Hexelfglitter

I’m am not overly artistically inclined so I am limiting myself to the burning the Ogham for Oak onto the based of my wand. I would recommend doing this, or marking the wand in sone other way so you are able to identify the kind of wood you have used at a later date. 

Witchy Tip – Don’t rush out and buy a pyro-pen if you don’t have one. Paint will work, as will the ‘magical’ Sharpie pen. You can even carve your mark using a knife though I recommend doing this before commencing your sanding process. 

Consecration

The process of consecration is up to you, and is a post in itself. Personally for general purpose tools I like to bless by the four elements and dedicate them to the Powers That Be. Is there is a specific use for the wand, such as deity work, you can incorporate that into the process. 

Using a Wand

Pick up your wand, point it at your target and shebang!..

Or not.

As said above the Wand is a tool for directing energy. You raise the energy, using one of the myriad of techniques, which you channel within yourself and direct through the wand, visualising it flowing from the tip/end of the wand. Wands are commonly used in the casting if ritual circles, with the energy glowing from the wand to form the energetic circle of protection. It may also be used to direct energy from one place to another or from the practitioner to the target object or person. 

Some wands, particularly those with specific purposes, can be charged with energy ahead of use. This is common with healing wands and those which are intended to be used away from a ritual space. Charging can be done is a way you prefer; for example chanting, crystals, Sun and/or Moon bathing etc, and the wand stored between charging and use or even as part of the charging process. 
Wand vs The Point Finger

There is always a big debate as to whether or not you need tools to practice witchcraft and central to this is whether or not a wand is actually necessary. An argument can be made that old folk traditions wouldn’t have a dedicated wand but would rather use any limb (recently removed from the tree and easily discarded) to hand or would simply use their finger. Folk history is full of cunning and wise women who need do little more than direct their pointy finger towards their target for them to be struck down. Once upon a time ‘watch where you’re pointing that finger’ had real meaning.
Conclusions

As with all the other tools I have mentioned the decision is up to you. There is no golden rule that says you have to have a wand, and you won’t become a better practitioner as a result of spending a small fortune on one. Keep in mind that the sparkle and shine doesn’t make the magic or the wand work, you do. 

Images

Wizzy wands to the ready! 
Porcelain Wand by Gypsy Wylde Art
Wood and Polymer Clay – By Hexelfglitter

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What is a Witches Mirror?

​Mirror Mirror in my hand,

Whose the fairest in the land?

Mirrors, particularly black mirrors, are one of those tools which is often snapped up in those early, heady days of learning about Witchcraft but they are then not used to their full potential. 

Modern Witches Mirrors are usually black glass tiles which provide a passable reflection in which scrying is possible. More traditionally any polished surface set aside for the purpose could be used be it an actual mirror or metal polished to a high sheen, in fact the opaque quality of metal mirrors may be benificial to the scrying process. The mirrored surface doesn’t even have to be old or rustic. A modern mirror will work just as well, particularly when it is set aside for purpose of Witchcraft and nothings else. So long as it is flat, or flat enough to stand objects on should you wish to, you are good to go. 

Speaking from my own experience I had owned a black mirror tile quite some time before realising that there were more uses for it than just scrying. Energy working, spell component or portal to another dimension the mirror is a rather versatile tools of Witchcraft and given that scrying was a subject recently discussed I am going to concentrate on some of these other uses. 

Portal

Portal

Dimensional Portal 

There is a whole community out there seriously discussing the possibility of an invasion by the Mirror People. It’s like Alice Through the Looking Glass on a conspiracy theory high. Picking apart the theory there is a less nurty conversation to be had about the subject in relation to Witchcraft fairly and traditional folklore. 

Have you ever heard the tale of indigenous people refusing to have their image recorded in photography? Well that’s because they believe that the image will capture a little bit or all of their soul and the person who holds the photo will have power over them. The same belief was held about mirrors, especially as the quality of reflection increased with technology. A blurry image i a partially polished metal disc or wavering reflection in water is one thing but a perfect reflection was something else entirely. 

But back to portals, given that the mirror reflects that which is but not (in the same way that a mirror image and photograph of a person never look quite the same) there are some folk traditions which refer to them as portals to the Spirit World. this can happen anumber of ways, for example it is suggested that the mirror can turned into portals which will allow ghosts and spirits to pass into the realm of the living.  This may be achieved by accident, with a mirror which has been in place a long time eventually providing a weak point for allowing entry, or through spiritual practiced used as using Ouija boards and scrying for ghosts in a particular mirror over and over. Another peice of lore states that any mirrors in the room or house of someone who has just died shpuld be covered or turned to face the wall to stop the spirit of the deceased becoming trapped or taking up residence in it. 

How can one protect their mirror then? Well moving wall mounted mirrors or a regular basis is one way. The suggestion is that the presence of a mirror in one location for extended periods of time allows portal to establish itself. An alternative is to draw protective symbolson the back of the mirror before it is hung to ensure that the portal can not establish. But what if there is already a spirit within? The first method for dealing with this is good old salt and water with maybe a bit of cider vinegar added for a cleaning whoosh. Any cleansing or excorsim process can be used, but if this is not effective the final option is to break the mirror. 

I can hear the screams of ‘7 years bad luck’ from here but let’s just review that concept. The idea of a broken mirror bringing seven years bad luck stems from the Romans. The Romans believed that life renewed itself every seven years and that any misfortune, such as the breaking of an expensive metal object such as a mirror would taint the remainder of the seven year cycle. Add to this the belief that mirrors could be used to confuse and confine spirits, either by accident or design, the act of breaking the mirror would cause the spirits to be released and wreak revenge upon the living.

Speaking to a few Witchy Friends around the country one told me about an incident in their locality relating to mirrors. Someone had carried a large mirror into a grave yard and smashed it. Now this was a strange act of apparent vandalism for a number of reasons. Firstly,  no other rubbish or items had been dumped or broken at the same time,  in fact such an act was out of character for the location. Secondly, when I say ‘large’ I mean one of those  big, couple of meter square, mirrors you hang over the fire place that requires two full grown adults to carry let alone a couple of yobs. To carry something of that size to such a location indicates purpose and my friends suggested that the reason was to release trapped spirits from the mirror in another liminal location in order to cleanse a house. Perhaps they were hoping to obtain some protection against any bad luck by choosing a consecrated site, who knows but it is interesting to speculate. 

Broken Mirror

Broken Mirror

Ghost ScryingI don’t actually know the proper name is for this process so Ghost Scrying will have to do. It is not scrying in the traditional sense of seeking to glimpse the future but rather as a way of allowing spirits surrounding a person or location. It is a process I was introduced to by a medium on a ghost hunt and it can be done by individuals or groups.

The scryer, or subject, sits directly opposite the  mirror so that they can see their reflection. If someone else is ‘scrying’ they should be stood so they can’t see their own reflection but that of the subject only. The lighting should ideally be soft and natural but so long as the light isn’t visible in the mirror a dim/muted electric source will do. The next thing is to achieve ‘soft’ vision. Relaxing the eyes and reducing your rate of blinking are all part of this process. 

In time the details of the face being observe will begin to blur. Features shift and details change including the appearance of gender, hair colour and length etc. This is interpreted as a spirit imposing their own likeness over that of the scryer/subject. Where a person is performing this on themselves they should note the changes but remain as motionless as possible, recording the detail at a later time. Where there is a subject and a scryer the information can be relayed out loud for someone to record in the moment as a written description, or even as a drawing where possible. 

Now I will let you decide on the value of this process for yourselves, I have had and seen mixed results myself. I’ve mentioned it here because it was suggested that by using this methods the mirrors used, particularly wall mounted, would eventually become open portals allowing any spirit to enter the setting. 
Energy Work

After scrying one of the primary uses of mirrors is for the directing of light and energy as part of a ritual or spell. Often it is the light of the moon or the sun which is reflected in the mirror, directing the energy and associations within the light upon a given object or person. Most often this is done in order to empower or bless objects, particularly tools which are be consecrated. 

Mirrors are useful in this way where it is not possible to leave items in direct moonlight firstly because it allows you to find what light is available and direct it to where it needs to go and also because the mirror intensifies the light reflected. Think of the magnifying glass and the ant, but with moonlight and less death (and science). The mirror deflects and intensifies the light giving the object being charged a concentrated dose of energy. 

When I started writing this blog I was struck by the idea of a Lunar Mirror Ball. The idea of hanging a mirror ball (aka disco ball) where it can catch and scatter moonlight was immediately appealing, especially as the moon shines straight into my bedroom ob rising and sets in the landing window (which is visible from my bed). Not that the British weather often allows me to enjoy this double edged sword I really liked the idea in dancing under the scattered moonlight, but ny husband says I can’t buy a mirror ball so boo. I wonder how effective it would really be…

Anyway moving on…

Witch Mirror

Spells and Magic

Mirrors are sometimes included in spellcraft as a component, particularly in protective spells or in bindings. The reflective quality of the mirrored surface is used to  deflect energy and intent away from a target and back towards the sender. The same process of sympathetic magic can also be applied to protective visualisation, where you encase yourself in an armour or box of mirror in order to protect yourself from the energies of others. 

There is nothing more satisfying that strapping someone, or their sympathetic representation, between two mirrors to give them a healthy dose of their own behaviour in return. The ethics of binding of course apply, but those ethics are your ethics and you alone know the nature of your situation and those involved. You will not hear the call ‘no mirror spells please’ from me, nor will any nonsense of karma and threefold pass my lips. Mirror spells are easily made and easily broken, just remove them from between the mirrors with a few words. That’s not to say they should be used frivolously or for childish kicks, nor should they be seen as being less than any other form of bind or hex. Hex approximately and use the appropriate hex, that’s the best advice I can give you whrn it comes to deciding on whether or not to use a mirror spell.

Mirrors in personal protection should be less contentious when used correctly. The visualised mirrors should allow through all that is good and positive and reflect back on the sender on that which is *intentionally* negative and harmful. 

We all know someone who can be perceived as being on a downer, even pulling down those around them with their negative perception of self or situation. They are not intentionally attempting to harm, they are just in a bad place so whilst it is right and fair to protect yourself it is not right or fair to deepen their suffering by reflecting their negative attitude back at them. Rather than second guessing intent allow that which is good, deflect that which is not and return all that is intentionally negative. The same rational could be applied to mirror spells, though I have not tried it myself. Let me know what you think or how you get on.

Images

Portal

Broken Mirror 

Witch Mirror

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What is a Scrying-glass?

​Scrying is the most elemental form of divination, of which there are so many different types of scrying it would be impossible to cover them all here. Scrying is usually done via a reflective surface such as by water, metal and crystal. Divination by fire, for example where visions are sought in the flames rather than their movement interpreted, is also referred to as scrying however we will not be covering this today. 

Black Mirror by Mickie Mueller

Most of scrying techniques do not require anything dramatic in terms of tools. A candle, a dark bowl of water or even natural pools are all that is needed in addition to technique and ability. The most popular tools used in scrying are the black mirror, also known as scrying-glasses, and shew stone (that’s crystal balls to me and thee) may require you to make or buy your equipment.

Scrying in a Reflective Surface

Scrying is in effect the process of divination in a reflective surface. If you can see your reflection in it then there is no reason that you can’t use it for scrying. 

There are some mediums that are preferred however. Scrying by water, particularly moonlit water, is a method commonly suggested. Water held in a dish with a dark or black interior is the best medium however any body of still water which has a dark surface can be used. 

Oil can also be used to the same effect, particularly thick, black, viscose oil though Black Mirrors are more common and readily available, being easier and more pleasant to handle than crude oil. 

Crystal/ Ball Scrying

The archetypal tool of scrying is the Crystal Ball. The image of the fortune teller sat hunched over a unblemished, spherical ball of clear quartz crystal is synonymous with the term of scrying. 

The use of perfectly clear quartz crystal is not in truth a necessity. You can purchase stones made from a variety of differ crystal types with dark and solid stones such as obsidian also being popular. It’s always a good idea to know what you are buying however.  Lead Crystal balls will serve your purpose just as well as any semi precious stone, and will be perfect in form (aka contain no inclusion) however you should only pay what they are worth, and of course when buying gemstones it is always important to purchase from ethical sources. 

Nor is it critical that the stone used is perfectly spherical nor free from inclusion. People will give you lots of woowoo reasons why a sphere is important but in truth what is important is that it works for you. The presence of inclusions can, for some people, aid the scrying process and the shape of the stone is more of an choice based on aesthetics and finance than anything else. 

Size is, however, important, well at least size relative to vision. It needs to fill your vision comfortably whilst still allowing you to keep your reflection out of sight. This can have more to do with position of both yourself and your chosen stone as anything else. It’s important to remember that scrying takes both time and practice so you need to be comfortable.

Seens as though we’re moving in to the realms of technique let’s move on to talk about them in more general terms.

Scrying Technique

Just as with meditation it is important to think about your comfort during any scrying session, regardless of medium being used. Your environment wants to be comfortable in terms of temperature and your position one you can hold for a protracted period of time. It also needs to be safe so ensure that any candles you may use do not create a fire hazard. 

Georges de La Tour, The Penitent Magdalen (1638-43)

Georges de La Tour, The Penitent Magdalen (1638-43)

Setting

As said above your room should be temperate and private, try to minimise any external noise by turning off/unplugging your phone. It is best to scry using natural light sources or by candle light.

When you set up your scrying device there are a couple of things to remember. 

Firstly the device dominating your line of sight. Try a minimise the number of objects in your peripheral vision.

Secondly you shouldn’t be able to see your reflection in the medium, you don’t want to be looking directly back at yourself so off set everything slightly. 

You also don’t want to see your light source reflected in the device so off set that as well.

Lastly, remember you need to be comfortable. Sitting is ideal but remember you are going to be seated awhile so a well cushioned chair in which you can comfortably get both feet on the ground is ideal.

Once you are ready you can begin to prepare your mind for scrying.

Scrying 

Scrying is very similar to meditation in a sense. Both processes require a clear and calm mind as well as time, patience and practices. 

Once you are sat your your medium calm your mind and begin to gaze at it. Progressively soften your gaze, reducing the frequency at which you blink. If you are one of those lucky souls who can stop blinking  (think Dr Who and the Weeping Angeles) then go for it. If, like me, you have dry eyes or other issues which might stop you from doing this the trick is to slow your blink rate right down so your eyes remain comfortable but your vision doesn’t revert to normal. 

I will admit that I find scrying hard because of my eye issues but little and often has seen me improve. Keep at it dear reader. 

Pauline Frederick as Potiphar's Wife, c.1912.

Pauline Frederick as Potiphar’s Wife, c.1912.

Again I’m going to diverge from traditional wisdom. Many scrying instructionals would be telling you that about you will begin to see mist form and fill your medium, even describing it as ‘sea’ of mist and that images will begin to appear within this mist. Perhaps it is because of the afore mentioned eye problems but I never experience this. 

For me I experience images fading in and out. Shapes and images will appear and disappear along with impressions and understandings. When I first started to practice scrying I would throw my hands up in utter disgust because the ‘mist’ would not form for me but I persisted and I found the way it worked for me. 

Allow the images and impressions to come and go, not dwelling on any particular aspect in detail but acknowledging the image and and allowing it to pass. 

As the images cease to come and/or the mist clears allow your focus to return to normal and record the date, any questions asked along with your vision and impressions.

Notes on Ritual Context 

I haven’t included any particular references to rituals associated with scrying as I think this is particularly personal. You may wish to engage in cleansing rituals ahead of your scrying session, or even partake in a tea which promotes intuition and psychic abilities. Many people like to invoke guiding deities or spirit guides ahead of time and make offerings in thanks after the session. Whatever you decide to do make it relevant to your practice.

Other Tricks and Tips

Between scrying sessions you should store any permanent tools (mirtors, crystals etc) in a black natural cloth, be it a simple length of cloth or dedicated bag. This protects the object and marks is as something that is used for general reflective use. You could also was the surface of mirrors and crystals both before and after use. 

In preperation for scrying you way want to consider drinking herbal tea’s to promote second sights and higher forms of awareness. Mugwort is commonly cited as a herb to consider however a tea made from the flowers, roots and/or leaves of the humble dandelion can also have the same influences. As ever, when taking herbs herbs internally carefully research the plant in question and/or take professional advice. 

Conclusion 

If you take one thing away from reading this then it should be that we do not all experience things in exactly the same way. You may need to tweak the tried and tested instructionals as I have on occasion but just remember that whatever way you decide to work scrying is an art and takes time and devotion. 

Images

Black Mirror by Mickie Mueller
Georges de La Tour, The Penitent Magna pen (1638-43)
Pauline Frederick as Potiphar’s Wife, c.1912.

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Stitching For Hekate

This week there is a break in our regular transmission because I have already covered the topics on Knives in Witchcraft before and at this time I don’t really have anything to add. So I thought I would blog a little about the other focus of this blog, crafting of the haberdashering kind.

I used to do a lot of counted cross stitch, way back before I had babies. I found it really rewarding and loved seeing the pictures build up and up as I worked through the pattern. But tiny sharp needles and small children do not mix and I shoved all my equipment into deep storage in the final days of my first pregnancy. The recent ‘heatwave’ in the UK recently encouraged me to not start a new crochet blanket after finishing some smaller projects and I decided to pick up my needle and thread.

Buying a magazine and kit reminded me of two things. Firstly that I hate evenweave. Counting both stitches and holes is a PITA. Secondly that I am too hard on myself when I make mistakes. I lost a lot of sleep insisting that anything I unpick must me restitched, which is not a compulsion I have with crochet.

I was all set to put it all away in disgust when this beautiful picture from Eliza Gauger appeared in my timeline.

Hecate - Problem Glyphs

Hecate – Problem Glyphs

Eliza makes absolutely stunning glyphs and using a very interesting mirroring method in some art software with a mirroring function and kindly has written a ‘ how to’ guide. I’d like to try it but the process requires an artist ability that I lack so it is fortunate that Eliza allows quite open use of her designs. Although each design is unique to a problem she allows readers of her Tumbler to use the images for their own purposes, with credit. Predominantly I think her users turn her designs into tattoos, which look awesome, but Hecate screamed cross stitch which then set me looking for a free program or website which would allow me to convert an image into a cross stitch pattern.

One upon a time you could purchase computer software which could do this kind of thing, now a days there are websites that will do the same thing. My Photo Stitch is one such website. I don’t know what it’s like for converting colour photos but for converting black and white images like Eliza’s problem glyphs into a greyscale pattern it is fantastic. The site uses DMC threads, a popular brand which you can find just above anywhere, and I set the parameters to a five shade greyscale rather than anything more detailed and it worked pretty well.

Hecate Cross Stitch

Hecate Cross Stitch

Download Hecate Cross Stitch Pattern

Pattern Size – 10.7″ x 8.5″ on  14 count aida

Thread – DMC

  • 310
  • 318
  • 535
  • 762

As you can see once I got to the end of the Hecate pattern I added a Strophalos to the pattern to round it out. The measurements above don’t take that addition into account at this time.

Touch Me and Be Damned

Touch Me and Be Damned

Now Hecate is finished I am moving on to a glyph called “Touch Me and Be Damned”.

The great thing about Eliza’s glyphs is that even though she makes them in response to specific requests and situation it is possible to use them for other purposes according to how they speak to us. This screams apotropaic witchcraft to me and I read it more as “Touch US and Be Damned”. You can never over do apotropaic work when you have kids.

I have a couple of other patterns planned, including a larger and more complex Strophalos. They will make a nice and dark addition to my Witchy Living Room.

Edit 5/8/16

I have uploaded .pdf copies of the patterns referred to in this blog into the text of this blog. The patterns are free to use and should not be sold on for profit although you are of course welcome to sell of finished products. Please be sure to credit Eliza Gauger for the artwork and to refer to the website used to create the pattern so they get some through traffic as well.

Images

Hecate – Problem Glyphs
Touch Me and Be Damned

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What are the Witches Cord and Garter? 

​I have posted previously about the use of knots and, by extension cords, in the past where I concentrated on the use of cords in witchcraft, beyond their use as a spell component, and their symbolism in a broad sense. In this post will look very broadly at the way cords are used in various witchcraft traditions. 

Their most significant role is as a symbol of initiation and indicator of level and rank. Although I am not a member of any close group/coven or tradition and as such I can only refer to the various groups which provide outer court information as well as information which is widely avalible in books and on the Internet.

Initiation Cords

Initiation and Elevation are significant occasions for members of initiatory witchcraft traditions and cords play an important role in this process. 

Everything about them, from their length and colour to any adornment they may have, signifies something about the tradition and initiate. The cord is presented upon each initiation and elevation and carried with the initiate to each ritual they attend. 

Cords

At 9 feet (3×3) the cord is used to establish the circumference of the magical circle ahead of ritual and as such some traditions hold that it is a tool and should not be worn. More often the cord is worn as a belt or girdle, a discreet mark of rank amongst fellow initiates.

Colour is also an important element to the significance of the cord, being another discreet way to identify level and rank/role within the tradition. What colours are used to signify what will vary between traditions. 

The knotting of the Cord is also a practice within traditions. The number of knots used and what they represent will vary between traditions .

They may represent the number of rituals that have been attended in the first turning of the year since initiation or even the number that must be attended between elevation. In either case the knot will not be tied untill the occasion has taken place. Knots representing life cycles, tradition deities or station within the Coven will be tied on one occasion and will not alter until such time as the position of the individual does. 

Lets look at some significant numbers

8 – five and three representing the five stages of life and the triune lunar Goddess. Found within the Clan of Tubal Cain.  Can also represent the Lesser and Greater Sabbats. 

9 – 3×3 The number of the Goddess

13 – tradition number of a Witches Coven and the number of full moons within a lunar cycle.

As said before the cord is symbolic of the ties between people as well as between our prenatal existence and birth or life and death. The cutting of cords and forging of new ones can be used symbolically to transition from one life state to another or free ourselves of unhealthy connections and build new ones. 

The cord is the halter which draws the initiate on in to the Coven and in suplication to its leaders. In a sense it is a position of submission. The cord could easily be used to kill the initiate, in a ritual action similar to those prehistoric bog bodies of Britain and Ireland. 

By extension cords also represent our connection to Fate, and in some traditions the surender of oneself to Fate (although this should not be confused with blind acceptance of whatever comes your way). The three Fates of Ancient Greece, or Norns of Norse tradition, are the weavers of Fate. They are the spinners that form the thread, the yard stick that and measures the its length and the knife that brings the end.


The Garter

Garters are not just a phenomenon of the middle ages, Paleolithic cave art found in eastern Spain appears to showsl a sorcerer performing in a ritual while wearing nothing but a pair of garters just below his knees. The traditional dress of Morris dancers consists of garters, usually red, although one traditional dance is known as the Green Garter.

Witches Garter

Within Witchcraft the Garter is a ceremonial item associated with Covens and groups and is taken to be a mark of rank amongst Witches. The Garter is worn by the high priestess or whatever title is ascribed to the female leader of the Coven and denotes rank amongst fellow Witches. Colour and adornment may vary but the most commonly described Witches Garters are made of green leather lined with blue silk adorned by a large silver buckle, representing the Coven over which she rules. Where she has more than one coven under her authority the large buckle represents the central coven with smaller buckles or other silver adornments representing the others. 

Traditionally it is worn on the left leg, just above the knee fastened either by the buckle or by ribbons/cords.
Red garters were traditionally worn by a witchcraft coven Summoner, the member of the Coven who would go out and inform fellow Witches of the date, time and location of up coming meetings. The red garters signified to others that he was coming with a genuine message from the Coven leader, an important token when wanting to hid ones activities from the authorities.
There is a particular question that a Witch may ask of the Garter and that is;

“Where does the witch wear the garter?”

The answer given, at least by EJ Jones in Witchcraft, a Tradition Renewed is 

“Around their neck.”

This is in part an allusion to the tradition that, when a Witch was taken by authorities and at risk of torture or likely to reveal the details of the Coven, they would be murdered in jail. Whether it was death by strangulation or some other means a garter would be tied around their throat to signify why the killing was carried out.
Evans is also referring here to the cord and it’s use in initiation as a halter and ritual garotte as discussed above. 


Modern Usage

Most of what I have referenced above comes to us from History and (America) Folk Tradition. The references to Garters seems to focus on the years of persecution during the various witchcraft trials and it seems to me that the gaudy green and silver or bright red garters were a shade too flamboyant to be practical. I mean really, who hoiks up their skirts to flash a bright red garter as identification when a discreet hand gesture or sign and coubtersign droped in conversation would do? The very nature of the garters described above would be anathema to the Puritans; bright, gaudy, expensive. What better propaganda to have against the Witch? 
That being said garters are mentioned by GB Gardener in his fictional work High Magic’s Aid, particularly in regard to the Summoners red garter, and in Witchcraft, a Tradition Renewed. It is not entirely possible to discount them as existing within a living tradition as a mark of authority within a coven setting (ie in private ritual), in fact for groups that operate skyclad it is a simple way to identify ones role without the parifinalia getting in the way of ritual movement, indeed it could add to it with a flash of colour and silver as Witches dance but I highly doubt that they would be used for identification out in the wider world. It would certainly give the phrase ‘flashing old hornie’ a new meaning. 

On the Order of the Garter

The Order of the Garter is Britain’s highest and most oldest order of knighthood and one which commonly gets brought up in discussions about Witches Garters. I am every the slave to convention however it comes with a twist. 

The Order was established by King Edward III sometime between 1344 and 1350 and was Edwards second attempt at building a knighthood along the lines of Arthurian legend. The first and much larger first attempt being represent by the Round Table building found in the grounds of Windsor by Time Team in 2006.  In comparison the Order of the Garter was far smaller, consisting of twenty-six knights including the monarch and their successor.

The foundation of the Order is shrouded by legend but the accepted tale tells of how the countess of Salisbury was dancing with King Edward III at a court function and as the danced her garter fell to the ground. The king picked it up and, to save her embarrassment, put it on his own leg with the words, “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (french for “Shame be to him who thinks evil of it.”) This phrase came to be the slogan associated with the Order of the Garter and is taken as a statement of chivalry and honour. 

Margaret Alice Murray suggests that the the only way a 14th  century woman could be embarrassed by the dropping of her garter would be if the garter in question was one tied to the practice of Witchcraft. Its appearance would mark her for a practitioner of the Craft and such things could bring down even the highest woman of court, particularly given how many high churchmen would have beenin attendance. Given this Murray praises Edward for his quick thinking in not only saving the Countess but for presenting himself as a leader of those still practicing the Craft at the time. 

Personally I feel Murray is building castles in the sky, in this case on the basis of the numerology of the Order and the reoccurrence of the number 13.

Again with the numbers
26 members = 2×13

The Garter of the Chief of the Order = 168 tiny garters plus one on his leg equalling 169 garters on his person= 13×13.

Whilst the tale of the Countess of Salisbury is compelling it is only a tale and one lacking historical credibility. Even if it took place the six year window means that the Countess coule be either Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent or Elizabeth de Mohun.

This is all very murky but my point; almost nothing is known about Elizabeth de Mohun and from what is known about the Fair Maid there is no hint of Witchcraft in her history. We know from the experience of later high ladies accused of Witchcraft, such as Eleanor Cobham and Jacquetta of Luxembourg (aka the Lady Rivers), that such accusation stick and haunt until death even after the charges were dropped. Joan, we know, went on to marry Edward the Black Prince and it is unlikely that this would have been possible if there was even a hint of Witchcraft about her. Joan, to out it mildly, was not well liked and few eould have shed a tear to see her fall however she is well documented and there is no record of accusation. Elizabeth on the other hand is unremarkable in the record, existing solely in reference to her father, husband and later son. 

Something as sensational as Witchcraft would undoubtedly left its mark and whilst absence of evidence is not evidence of absence it is a pretty shaky start.  

Images

Cords

Detail of the Alexandrian Initiation of Janet Farrah 1970

http://afwcraft.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-witches-garter.html?m=1

Edward III and Henry Duke of Lancaster 

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Why do Witches have Cauldrons?

​Black Pointy Hat? Check

Black Cat? Check 

Cauldron? This is the next thing on the list of quintessential witchcraft items and the first of the tools in this section of the Defining My Craft blog project. 

Overview

Once upon a time the Cauldron was a technical marvel. In a time where water could only be heated by throwing fire heated rocks into waterproof containers such as pottery bowls or animal hide bags the Cauldron was brought into being through the wonders of metal working. Though born of fire and shaped by the hand of man they were strongly associated with womanhood and particularly with the senior woman of the household and their mundane, and not so mundane tasks. 

The origins of the physical object lies within metal working and began to emerge in the British Isles with the Bronze Age, remaining the preserve of the higher classes, before spreading in use during the Iorn Age. Even then highly decorated cauldrons were the prized possessions of the ruling elite as evidenced by the ornate and cultural significance of the Gundestrup Cauldron.

Gundrrsrup Cauldron

The word ‘cauldron’ has evolved from the Vulgar Latin caldario and the Classical Latin caldārium which literally means “hot bath”. The word has evolved through the Anglo-Norman word caudron into the Middle English word caudroun that we recognise today. It is interesting to note that thr Anglo-Norman word would have replaced the Old English ċetel (Middle English chetel). These words, from which we derive the word kettle, would have originated from the Old Norse. Both words were used during the same time frame and highlights the language difference between Us (the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of Britain) and Them (the Norman rulers) as do words like Pig and Pork, Cow and Beef, Sheep and Mutton. The animal in the field is called by the word derived from the Anglo-Saxon origins whilst the meat on the table is referred to by the Norman word. The separation in word origin highlights the separation in estate when it comes to dinner so too in the implements used to prepare it.

That’s enough of that diversion. 

The occult origins of the cauldron in the the prehistoric past, for what could be more magical than the taming of dragonfire and transformation of dull rocks into keen bright metal? Thid means that the Cauldron appears in many mythologies in the Isles of Avalon. Whilst these were recorded during the early medieval periods their origins likely extend back into the Iron Age and beyond, times when cauldrons were the items of authorities belonging to Kings and Goddesses, Giants and their kin.

Mythology

There are a number of magical cauldrons that appear in Welsh, Irish and Arthurian literature and their function tends to fall into one or more key categories;

  • Feeding 
  • Healing
  • Knowledge

The actions are feminine but in  the mythology are performed on/behalf of men, specifically warriors and Kings. This can be interpreted as representating the relationship between the King and the Goddess of the Land. Whilst ever the cauldron worked the relationship was seen as flourishing however should the caudroun fail or be taken that divine mandate was lost and the owner would rapidly fall from grace.

Here is a quick look at some of the most prominent examples of magical cauldrons. 

The Cauldron of Dyrnwch the Giant is one of the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain and was persued by King Arthur himself.  It was said to be able to determine whether or not a man was a coward or brave. The cauldron would cook the food of a worthy man in an instant whilst refusing to cook the food of a coward. The story originates from the Welsh tale of Culhwch ac Olwen in which the cauldron is owned by Diwrnach, steward to a Prince of Ireland. Arthur first sent messagers to request that Diwrnach ‘gift’ him the cauldron, visiting Ireland when he was refused to demand it in person. When refused a second time Arthurs champion seizes the cauldron resulting in a war between Arthurs band and the Irish. which Arthur wins (of course). The cauldron is carried back to Britain, stuffed with the spoils of war, to takes it’s place amongst the thirteen treasures.

The Cauldron of the Dagda is one of the Four Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann  Unlike the other treasures, which were talismans of kingly knowledge and weapons, the Cauldron stands out. But only is it a domestic object with strong feminine connections it is linked to the Dagda, the High King of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Dagda is father-figure and a protector of the tribe and in the warrior cultures the king figure is responsible for the fertility of the land and the welfare of his people, particularly the warriors. One way this was achieved was through the marriage of the king to the Goddess of the Land so it makes sense that one of the Treasures would reflect that aspect of fertility and connection of God King to Goddess. The connection becomes clearer knowing the the power of the Cauldron of Dagda lay not only in healing and resurrecting dead warriors but ensuring that no one went away from it unsatisfied as it overflowed with abundant food.

Moon Face

Ceridwen is both Goddess and Enchantress depending on which Welsh medieval legend you read but it all refers to her as possessing the cauldron of poetic inspiration (Awen). The most famous tale associated with this Cauldron is the Tale of Taliesin. Yhis take recounts her swallowing her servant Gwion Bach, who has consumed three drops of a potion Ceridwen had been preparing for her Son Morfran (also called Afagddu). Gwion was granted all the knowledge of the Awen and was persued by an enraged Ceridwen who, after a battle of shapeshifting, eats Gwion in the form if a gen after he attempts to hide as a grain of corn. The potion is then reborn through her as the bard Taliesin (of the shining brow). Ceridwen originally intended to kill the baby but her will was softened by his beauty and she threw him into the sea where he was found by prince (later king) named Elffin ap Gwyddno;  Taliesin grew to become the greatest of bards, the prototype for the magician Merlyn. 

Pair Dadeni, or The Cauldron of Rebirth, is another Welsh magical cauldron which is able to revive the dead. It plays a key role in the second branch of the Mabinogi where it is used in a cycle of great battles to ensure the success of those who posess it. The cauldron originally belonged to the giant Llasar Llaes Gyfnewid and his wife Cymydei Cymeinfoll, who lived within the Lake of the Cauldron, in Ireland. They were driven from the land by Irish king Matholwch and his court and we’re received by King Bendigeidfran om the Isle of the Mighty. In response to his hospitality, the giants gifted the cauldron to Bendigeidfran.

Why Do Witches Have Cauldrons? Cauldrons are sometines cited on the list of primary tools of Witchcraft, more often it appears on the ‘consider it but don’t sweat it’ list. In modern witchcraft cauldrons are mostly tokenistic, that is to say small ceremonial objects rather than large beasts you suspend in the fire to cook up dinner or your magic brew. They have their uses however,  and should be seriously considered. 

Cornish Cauldrons

Potion making – the mixing of brews can still be done in cauldrons, cold ones at least. If you want to use it over heat check that your cauldron can be used that way. You should also be sure to check that your cauldron is safe to use if you intend to consume your finished potion, some commercial cauldrons are lined with chemicals.

Divination – if your cauldron has a dark interior use it to contain water for scrying. You could also use it to contain tools of divination such as runes and other counter based methods.

Spell Pot – I will cover spell boxes in a few weeks timebut you could also use your cauldron to house spells as they work for you.

Containing Water – I’ve already mentioned scrying and potions however you can use your cauldron in place of a Chalice or Cup to carry water either as a representation of the West or Goddess energies.

Containing Fire and Smoke– you can use your cauldron to contain fire as well as water. Burn incense cones or tea lights / votive candles within the cauldron, adding a layer of sand or salt to insulate your work surface. Alternatively your cauldron can become a receptacle of fire itself. It is a fine art so I am told and I recommend this link if you are interested in learning more.

 Image Credit

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What Implements Do Witches Use?

Witches use a variety of tools in their practice, too many to mention in a single post and the blogs coming up over the next few weeks will begin to look at particular tools and their associations in more detail. You can check out my Tools of the Trade series to see what tools I have previously blogged about and I will be adding to this page as the weeks go on.

So what are the core tools of Witchcraft? Many agree that the four most important tools are those which are used to represent the elements in the ritual circle. These are;

Item                                  – Element/Purpose 
Anthame/ Sword       – Air (H) or Fire (GD)
Wand/ Staff                – Fire (H) Air (GD)
Chalice/ Cauldron     – Water
Pentacle                       – Earth

Another tool of importance is the Broom, used for the cleansing of ritual space and to represent the union of both the male (handle) and female (brush) principles in one item.

We are going to cover these four items, as well as a few more in the Defining my Craft series so don’t be surprised if I link back to old articles where I have already covered the ground before as there are some interesting subjects coming up that I want to concentrate my research on.

Some Musings on Tools
I know I have mentioned it before but it is worth mentioning again; tools are in important part of Witchcraft but they should never break your bank. It is all well and good buying the latest OOAK (one of a kind) product of Etsy or Folksy but it is important to remember that it isn’t the tools that make the Witch, it is the Witch themselves. Tools are symbols. They may be symbolic of an element, a concept of divine force, of authority or power but ultimately their appearance or price tag does not make them any more or less effective.

Don’t run out and buy lots of stuff on line and in specialist “new age” shops if you are feeling strapped for cash. Look around your home and see what you have around you. Perhaps you have a knife (domestic or otherwise) which belonged to an ancestor which you can use as your anthame, a plate which has a pattern you associate with the Earth and/or North  with a bit of table salt on it can serve in place of your Pentacle and so on. Even if you feel you want to purchase something to set aside purely for ritual purposes you don’t need to spend a fortune. Visit your local charity shops (USA thrift shops) or car-boot sales (USA yard sales) and see what you kind find. I often find that I am drawn to items and sometimes get the sense that they have been “used” before. It is amazing what you will find, I have bought cups and chalices, offering plates and ornate keys. I’ve repurposed boxes and ornaments and found interesting books and trivia tucked away on back shelves. You never know what you will find until you look with an open mind. Glass ornaments/Christmas Baubles can become Witch Balls, old mirrors scrying tools and old medicine bottle a container for spells.

You also should be afraid to make your own tools as well. Wands are possibly the easiest thing to make yourself, more on this later, however it is possible to make other items by learning skills and crafts. You can make your own robes rather than have someone make them for you, you could take a pottery class as a hobby or ice breaker and use it as an opportunity to both socialise and make your own chalice. There are even blacksmithing courses for those who may be so inclined. I readily acknowledge that this isn’t necessarily the cheapest option but if you are looking for an evening class and you don’t know what to do there is no harm in having a go at a craft you may think is outside your comfort zone both to achieve and activity and socialisation and something that can help in your Craft at the same time.

Some Tools of Witchcraft
So for fun, and to save on duplicating my own boring pictures, I thought I’d share some photos of ‘old’ craft tools. Some have been owned and used by the likes of Doreen Valiente and Gerald Gardner, others beloged to people who may not be as well known as some but whohave added to the legacy of Witchcraft through their gifts and donations. All the rights to the images lay with the organisation and people who took them. For information on each items context and origin please follow the links.

Blasting Rod

Blasting Rod – Museum of Witchcraft 

Pottery Chalice

Pottery Chalice – Museum of Witchcraft 

Ceremonial Blade

Ceremonial Blade – Museum of Witchcraft 

Pentacle

Pentacle – Museum of Witchcraft 

Doreen Valiente Altar Tools – The Doreen Valiente Foundation

Doreen Valiente Alar Tools – The Doreen Valiente Foundation
Source for Doreen Valiente photos 

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