Tools of the Craft : The Besom

Brooms are everywhere this time of the year. Black ones. Orange ones. Black and orange. Brooms with lightening bolts on the handle. You name it and you can likely find it on a besom. Other than the pointy hat, few other things identify witches as well, witches other than this universal accessory. Brooms have played an integral part in modern witchcraft and occult history. In fact, it would be hard to locate a circle anywhere this time of the year where a broom wasn’t somewhere to be found. It’s not just for sweeping the front porch anymore, at least not these.
As I said, brooms come in all sizes, shapes, textures, and patterns. Traditionally brooms were created from an ash or hazel (depending upon which was readily available in the area), sometimes willow, and birch branches or an herb called…you guessed it!….broom. Broom in it’s natural habitat of England, Scotland, parts of Asia, and warmer climates of Europe, has many uses, making brooms is just one. This bitter tasting herb grows as a shrub and can be used as both a toxin and a medicine. As an herbal treatment for bladder and kidney problems, and as a diuretic broom is used in conjunction with other herbs usually as an infusion over the course of a week or two until it is ready to be mixed into a potion. Unlike most herbs, this one is better taken with alcohol as it is very bitter and has an unpleasant scent after it dries and is boiled down.
The herb itself is very tall almost three feet high, woody with long tangling twig like stems, and grows in unlikely places. The rougher the terrain the happier this particular herb is. In fact, it will grow on rocky mountains in poor soil with little rainfall. This made it ideal for using as a tool or utensil for cleaning as well as magick.
Constructing brooms (besom) is pretty simple really. All that is needed is a long stave of either hazel, ash, or willow, willow twine, and long twiggy broom. The broom is connected to the stave with the willow twine and voila a besom is born! Of course the use of said besom isn’t always so simple.
Besoms were used, and still are, to clean the space for circle, to sweep away stagnant energy, as a protective barrier, to welcome guests, as a marital fertility aid (jumping the broom), and in some cases as a form of circle casting itself. Besoms placed near doorways welcome guests and ward away negative spirits. Sweeping the doorway, porch, and front of the home prevented energy from gathering and remaining there to cause problems later. In some cultures, sweeping of one’s feet meant the person in question would either get pregnant, go to jail, or get married. In other cultures it’s a way of removing the last bits of energy after shaking it loose with the besom.

Other lore regarding the besom include never sweeping with a broom while a deceased family member is in the home. A broom that suddenly falls from a door way announces company on the way. Brooms placed over the door protects against fairies and imps. Never bring old brooms into a new home and never burn a broom. Both are very bad luck.

 

The Welsh gypsy practice of jumping the broom is said to bring the newly wedded couple good fortune and many children. In parts of Africa sweeping over a man’s feet is said to bring on impotence. Of course, one can’t mention brooms without the practice of riding one.

 

The Dark Ages brought mountains of superstition regarding witches and devils. One is said to be the consort of the other and riding a broom was a reward for carrying out the devil’s work on Earth. I strongly suspect that should a Witch be able to actually get a broom to sweep his or her floor on its own, much less fly, there would be mass conversions. Certainly modern television witches have no problem twinkling their noses to a spotless home. However, Dark Age witches probably used a salve called flying ointment which was used to dress the broom for ritual use. This ointment consisted of a fatty base in which essential oils and herbs were mixed and then used to dress the broom from tip of the stave to the joining of the herb. Herbs such as wolfsbane, hemlock, henbane, and Nightshade were used and still are as a basis for charging these brooms. Charging is the practice of imparting energy onto an object so it become personal and receptive to the individual’s will. The first mention of flying ointments in conjunction with brooms and their use could be as early as the mid 1400’s.
The besom itself is a work of symbolism. It represents the union of the God and Goddess, a holy marriage, that revitalizes the Earth. Brooms may be created on May Day (Beltane, Belteanne, Beltaine, Cetsamhain), but not purchased on this day. To do so is said to sweep away friends and family and prevent visitors from returning.
Today modern witches still use the besom as an altar adornment, to sweep away negative or stale energy, and to recharge the energy in a space. They are used to cast circle, to mark the barriers of a circle, cleanse and consecrate the circle, and to prepare for smudging. Non-witches also use the broom to scent their homes, adorn their doors, and decorate their homes. It’s unlikely any of us witchy folk will be saving gas and riding our brooms any time soon, but the tradition and lore still live on.

Pop Culture Paganism: Part 1 Loona’s Story

There seems to be a theme of people who have issues with the idea and the concepts of Pop Culture Paganism.  Many of these people have issues claiming that it makes pagans look bad, is full of fakes, and playgans.  Often those who cry out against pop culture paganism claim that those who would use Pop culture symbols in their worship and practice are lazy, have a lack of knowledge of the ancient traditions, and they often claim that there is an inability to tell the difference between fiction and reality.

For people like me this is often highly insulting.  Many of us are educated in our paths and practices.  We simply like to use the modern images from pop culture to connect to the Gods and spirits of our path.  These modern images are powerful tools for reaching the various spiritual forces out there.  These modern images can be useful in relating to beings that many people may never have heard of without the use of pop culture.

I do not identify as a Pop culture pagan.  However I have used popular culture in my path and my practice.  I see the dangers and I see the benefits of working with Pop Culture images.  This is the first in a series of posts talking about the subject.  I figured before I got into the meat of the issues around pop culture paganism it would be a good idea to start with my own experience with the use of Pop culture symbolism.

I started my path with Pop culture Paganism. It was a combination of the Disney Hercules series and Sailor Moon combined with reading the Greek and Roman Myths and books on Wicca. Now keep in mind that I was about 9-10 when this started but I still feel that this is an important thing to share.

As a child and teen these images resonated with me and helped me relate to an connect to the various Gods and spirits in the world. These images to me were gateways to the power within the Gods. Before starting what i thought was Wicca I often spoke to the Muses of Greek Myth. Originally I thought of them as angels to God, but that changed when I read the myths and realized that people believed them to be Gods originally. (I saw the movie Hercules first, then I saw the cartoon Hercules series and then the live action Xena and Hercules series). Still those images provided me a tool to connect to the power of the Gods.

I didn;’t quite understand Polytheism at the time. So for me they were “Gods” but under the main God who was the father of Jesus. You could say I was exploring my understandings within the religious framework I had been exposed to. Still to talk to an communicate with those Gods I was drawing on the image found within the Disney Movie Hercules and the Hercules Cartoon series I watched every Saturday Morning. When I spoke to Zeus or Hera or even Hades I used the images of those Gods from the source I most recognized.

When I started to explore Wicca and Paganism I understood they were not servants of one Larger God but were Gods in their own right. So I dropped the frame of Christianity and continued to speak to those Gods and work with them. I still used the images from Disney. I was now 14 and questioning religion and spirituality.

At the same time I was starting to watch the anime Sailor Moon. As the story progressed and I looked at the Sailor Senshi I saw the properties of the Roman Gods within the Senshi and I was able to find a way to focus and connect with a Moon Goddess. I knew that the image wasn’t the Goddess but it was a tool to help me focus and connect.

I used the images of Queen Serenity from Sailor Moon to connect to the moon Goddess Selene. I knew that the image I was using to connect to Selene wasn’t actually Selene, but it helped me connect to and focus on that divine presence. I had no other image or idea to connect with, so the image of Queen Serenity helped me relate to her.

17 years later and I still can find images in pop culture useful in connecting to Gods and spirits.Today when I call on Thor I occasionally use the image from the Marvel movies to connect to that energy. Again I know it is not Thor but it helps me focus and reach the actual Thor. The same goes for Loki and Odin. I use my knowledge of the lore to connect to the Gods I am trying to connect to. The image I use just happens to come from Modern Popular culture. I still use Norse Rituals to honor those Gods. I simply have a modern image of the Gods I use to connect with.

Today when working with the Moon Goddess Diana I still occasionally use the image of Queen Serenity. Most often I use that as the gateway to get to the other images I have of a Moon Goddess. These images are tools to help connect to the divine forces and nothing more or less.  They are just like the tools used in various spells or rituals.  They are props to help get into the right mind frame and connect with the energy you are working with.

In essence there is nothing wrong with using the images from popular culture in your work. If they help you connect with spirit and the universe than they are a tool for you. The danger comes when you start to claim that these pop culture figures and images are the same as the ancient Gods. Anyone who truly respects Gods as individuals would never say that. They would however more than likely admit that the images can be powerful tool to connect to the Gods they represent.

Book Review: The Good Witch’s Guide : A Modern Day Wiccapedia of Magickal Ingredients and spells

Written by: Shawn Robbins and Charity Bedell, pub 2017 Sterling Publishing Co. 305pp

The Good Witch’s Guide is not your average, everyday introductory or advanced peep into the Craft. To be honest, owning quite a few of these guides, myself, I was used to the standard Wiccan/Witchcraft encyclopedia reference materials. Most of them, I find, are stuffy, and to be clear, I’m not a huge fan. When I cracked open this book, I was expecting this to be just another reference guide, however; I found myself pleasantly surprised. This book is a real page turner.

The Good Witch’s guide is full of wonderful spells, incantations.

There is a guide to crafting your own personal Magick and yes, stones, essential oils, colors and herbs.

It has everything from Witchy Wisdom, rituals and formulas, spirituality, folklore, health and health remedies.

Of course, there are sections dedicated to candle Magick, brewing your own potions, tinctures and salves.

This book is jam packed with all kinds of recipes for Sabbats and special occasions.

Want to know how other Witches are casting their own versions of these spells? There’s even a section dedicated to that!

There are tons of traditional spells that are tried and true and all of the “how-to’s” that go along with them.

In this authors humble opinion, this may very well become the definitive guide for all who take the time to read it. The Good Witch’s Guide is a pleasure to read for the Beginner in the Craft all the way to your most Adept Student. It can be used strictly as a reference manual or can be read cover to cover without the monotony of other reference guides.

On a more personal note, this is one book is one that I will cherish and read again and again!

Laurie Bates
Falcon Lunafyre

https://www.amazon.com/Good-Witchs-Guide-Modern-Day-Ingredients/dp/1454919523/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495484984&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Good+Witch%27s+Guide

Groovy Green Craft Practitioner Series: Star of Bethlehem or Nap-at-Noon

DISCLAIMER:  ALWAYS USE CAUTION WHEN IDENTIFYING PLANTS. USE YOUR FIELD GUIDES AND LEARN YOUR LATIN NAMES. WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND AN EXPERT. NO ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES IS INTENDED TO GIVE MEDICAL OR ANY OTHER ADVICE IN THE HEALING ARTS OTHER THAN THAT OF A LAY PERSON.

Behold, the star that shines among the verdurous landscapes of Spring. The eyes shall be gladdened when they espy the tiny visitor that frustrates gardeners, but THIS graceful sweetheart has hidden qualities. We are talking about the Star of Bethlehem or Nap-at-Noon ( Ornithogalum umbellatum). A gentle bulb which loved being here in the United States so much, it escaped private gardens and went wild. Why play a bit part when you can be your own star, right?

Some folks think the bulb on this is delicious, but they are brave of heart. As a matter of fact, they should make sure they have a sound heart. This plant can affect it.

The bulbs apparently are edible though they contain heart stimulants with a digitalis-like reaction. Another possibility is that it follows from an ancient belief that doves were of a single sex and produced milk to feed their young; thus bird’s milk meant “a wondrous thing.” – University of Arkansas System,Division of Agriculture | Agricultural Experiment Station

 

By Björn S… (Garden Star-of-Bethlehem – Ornithogalum umbellatum) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
You will delight in seeing its six white petals that end in points like rays. A green stripe runs along their underside.  A member of the lily family, it captivates the eye. Simple, yet elegant, it is also INVASIVE.

 

Let us be clear. DO NOT PLANT THIS PLANT IN THE WILD. IT WILL NOT LEAVE. IT WILL ENDANGER OTHER SPECIES. THIS PLANT IS SOMETHING OF A STONE COLD BI***..

Star-of Bethlehem is non-responsive to several herbicides. Research studies at Purdue University found that paraquat provided 70 to 78% control. –https://www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/invasive_plants/weeds/star-of-bethlehem.pdf

No one wants to deal with what will happen when you release invasive species into an ecosystem. Do no be a part of that jerky nation. I WILL judge you, and you will  not be able to share my corn bread.

I am not sure if I would share my cake either, since the petals of this flower are used to bake bread. No, I will not give you a recipe for that. Don’t roll your eyes at me, they might stay that way.

Some folks find that they enjoy nibbling on the bulbs that are fully cooked. I said fully cooked.

Let’s  look at that again: FULLY COOKED.

Raw bulbs have nasty side effects such as … death. Ok, so there is stuff that happens before that degree. Toxicosis is not cute. That whole excessive drooling, violent vomiting, swollen lips, tongue, throat and skin irritation is a real bummer. Not to mention the fact that not being able to breathe is not in fashion on beautiful spring days, Darling. Curiously, though, people do take the plant for treatment of congestive heart failure, according to the folks over at WEbMD.

Jan Kops – www.BioLib.de

Seriously, this plant contains alkaloids and cardenolides which are not our friends. Your children, you, and your animals could suffer if they eat this plant. Such a pretty little poison.

But to be candid, that is a real possibility if you mess around with this plant. It is not a ramp, but folks do try to think it is just because it has a bulb.

(See, this is why we cannot have nice foraged things.)

Ok, healers, I did not forget you were reading along, fingers poised on your pestles. Simmer down a bit and watch this lovely little video on its potential. In a plant essence, it is used for the uplifting of the despondent and those in grief, shock, or recovering from an emotional upheaval. It can bring gladness. It sure did for the Crusaders when they had to dry and eat them in a bout of starvation. Even Rosemary Gladstar trusts the qualities of this uplifter. (Yes, I made that word up. So what.)

Now, let’s talk a bit of the ethereal thing called magick. If you have been paying attention, you know what the properties and fok thought is about what qualities this plant has as a healing agent for emotional upset. Perhaps a candle made with the flowers, or a powder made from the petals might be used. I do not recommend burning.

The real thing you need to remember is that it is primarily good at addressing trauma of the mind and heart. A healing poppet might be useful. Or perhaps a gentle wind and ribbon wind catcher with the stems woven in and enchanted. It is really up to you.

I would venture to say that perhaps this resilience is tied to the plants seemingly stubborn ability to not be removed or stamped out of existence. The spirit of defiance is strong in this one. May that spirit of defiant joy be with you as well.

 

 

Groovy Green Craft Practitioner Series: Eyebright or Euphrasia officinalis

DISCLAIMER: ALWAYS USE CAUTION WHEN IDENTIFYING PLANTS. USE YOUR FIELD GUIDES AND LEARN YOUR LATIN NAMES. WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND AN EXPERT. NO ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES IS INTENDED TO GIVE MEDICAL OR ANY OTHER ADVICE IN THE HEALING ARTS OTHER THAN THAT OF A LAY PERSON.

Let us take a moment to feast our eyes on a lovely plant spirit known as Eyebright, or Euphrasia. Now, normally, this is where I put the officinalis on the end of the plant’s name. But in this case, I am going to pump my brakes a bit, because something a little different is going on here in Michigan. For foragers, it is important to know what we are looking at and identifying.

Eyebright has as its genus the word Euphrasia. But in Michigan, unless it was planted specifically, you probably (I said probably) will not find the officinalis epithet being appropriate to what you will find commonly growing.

I SAID PROBABLY. STOP CORRECTING ME. I CAN HEAR YOU, YOU KNOW.

What you will more likely encounter is Euphrasia Stricta. You will usually find these more along the upper peninsula. This is its glamour shot below.

By Bernd Haynold (selbst fotografiert – own picture) CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], 

 

Notice how it has the same petal shapes as its cousin, but is not quite the same in stature. Look closely. The plant does not  stand the same way as the officinalis.

This is a fairly easy species to identify, with glabrous leaves and with more definite (almost hair-like) bristle tips on the teeth of the leaves and calyx than the other two species, although the bristle tips are a little less pronounced than on some Ontario material. The plants often present a rather “skinny” aspect, with longer internodes and smaller leaves than other species, and a close look reveals to the naked eye a somewhat bristly aspect from the prolonged teeth. – Herbarium University of Michigan

This plant is one of the stand by herbs for eye issues. Indeed, you will need a good set of peepers to find it. Check along areas like old railway paths, meadows, pastures, roadsides, etc. Think travel, for this plant has traveling shoes and is trekking on down from Canada to us. You will catch the flowers begin to appear usually around July.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:246_Euphrasia_officinalis_L.jpg
This sweet thang grows to about a half a foot high. It is also parasitic, as it grows  and depends on nutrients from the roots of other plants. You will notice its pronounced resemblance to an eye. Yep, our old friend the Doctrine of Signatures rises up again to lead us. The bloodshot eye appearance is kind of a clue to how it may be employed.
This is not really a kitchen herb. Although traditionally, it has been ingested in wine. I am NOT telling you to go get drunk and think that you can avoid a bloodshot eye hangover by combining them. You are not slick. I WILL make fun of you.
But if you are determined to just cram things into your mouth, then you can add the greens as a bitter addition to salads. Just a few. If you find you do not like them, then that is fine. That is what you get for putting everything in your mouth.
You can blend it in milk and apply it to irritated eyes. Learning the different ways of preparing the herb in common household blends and compounds is always a useful skill. Milk, oil, butter, and fats have been used this way for centuries, and the pantry stands ready to be used to its full glory as we re-embrace the old ways.
DO NOT PUT THIS ON YOUR EYES IF YOU HAVE CONTACT LENSES IN. I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO TYPE THIS, BUT I LIVE IN PURE PAGAN MICHIGAN. SOMETIMES WE GET WATER IN OUR EARS AND IT MIGRATES TO OUR MINDS.
For the herbal healer, you just hit the next best thing to commercial drops when it comes to soothing. Once, when visiting a remarkable herbalist in Hemlock, Michigan, my eyes were almost sealed shut from an extreme allergic reaction. With permission, she made a soothing poultice of eyebright and within an hour, I had relief, reduction in swelling, and the banishment of my redness.
She also gave me some to take home. Since I have chronic asthma, it was more than courtesy. This herb is also commonly used to help with bronchial issues. I will never forget this experience. Which is rightly so, since eyebright contains flavanoids and beta-carotene which help with the memory.
Here is an excellent suggestion from “A Modern Herbal” ‘s site.
An infusion of 1 OZ. of the herb to a pint of boiling water should be used and the eyes bathed three or four times a day. When there is much pain, it is considered desirable to use a warm infusion rather more frequently for inflamed eyes till the pain is removed. In ordinary cases, the cold application is found sufficient.
The word  euphrosunee,  means joy and gladness. It calls back to the happy little bird, the linnet. Folklore says that the bird cleaned its eyes with the plant, and the Greeks took the hint. After all the nights of wine like most of the ancient world, I am sure they were really happy for anything to clear up morning-after eyes.
The eye is suggestive of life, of divinity, of intellect, piercing acuteness (acies); and again, of truth, of joy, of love: but these seem to have been disregarded, as being mere indistinctive accidents, and the primary idea which, by the common consent of almost all nations, has been thought most properly to symbolise this organ is a spring—fons, πηγή. -, Notes and Queries, Number 193, July 9, 1853 A Medium of Inter-communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Genealogists, etc
For the magician, this ties in smoothly. Why? Because this herb is often used to see accurately into a situation. It is also used to aid clairvoyance and divination. Used as an incense, it can assist the Seer in their pursuit of knowledge.
I said knowledge, not wisdom. You can see stuff and not understand what you see. You can see bamboo and sugar cane all day, and not have the wisdom to know which tastes better, OR, which one to NOT set on fire. Just saying.
It can also be brewed as a tea to aid in this. But before you start guzzling eyebright expresso shots, make sure you are not allergic to it first. You could experience swelling, constipation, and other nasty things. Do some research before you start using it, like any other plant in this series.
Using it as an herbal powder will also garner positive results. Do this to dress an candle. Or even add to a lamp. Be imaginative. Be safe. Be blessed. I am rooting for you.
I hope you comment about your experiences with this plant below. I am always excited for feedback. Please do.
I’ll keep an eye out for you.
Please enjoy “Angel Eyes” as performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra (Ol Blue Eyes).

Groovy Green Craft Practitioner Series: Common Lilac or Syringia

DISCLAIMER: ALWAYS USE CAUTION WHEN IDENTIFYING PLANTS. USE YOUR FIELD GUIDES AND LEARN YOUR LATIN NAMES. WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND AN EXPERT. NO ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES IS INTENDED TO GIVE MEDICAL OR ANY OTHER ADVICE IN THE HEALING ARTS OTHER THAN THAT OF A LAY PERSON.

This article will talk about that beautiful and fleeting bloom that graces the garden in clusters of heavenly hues known as the common lilac or syringia (Syringa vulgaris). This flower means a lot to me, as it is one of my quintessential flowers for mourning. Indeed, I lost my Grandmother this last week as the sea of its colors are flooding the Michigan landscape. She was 100 years old, so I shall take a special moment to write on this flower in memory of her. We shall all wear purple in her memory, as she was our queen.

Jacob Sturm: Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen (1796)

The lilac is identifiable by its cluster of blossoms, four petals each. A common folk belief among those from Ukraine and Russia is that if you find a lilac with five petals, it is very lucky, like a four-leaf clover. There are many hybrids, but all belong to the Syringa family.

Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), as the name implies, is the best known of all the lilacs in the United States. This shrub can be as tall as 20 feet, and the flowers are fragrant and usually lilac-colored,although they can be of other hues. Leaves are somewhat heart shaped and smooth. –

For the graceful gourmand, this is the time to gather your fleeting flowers. A simple sugar made from the bruised petals is a wonderful treat for spring teas. Lilac butter on scones is tasty, as well. But I believe that for many, the syrups are the best known.
Pexels -Valeria Boltneva
For the more adventurous, might I suggest a little bit of a nip? Holly and Flora have an intriguingly easy recipe for a drink called Lilac Haze. Imagine a spring mixer with this unusual refreshment. Perhaps it could be the highlight of the Mother’s Day afternoon brunch.
Those who know me personally, know I make herbal honeys. It is a sweet way of remembrance of springtime. I shall make a honey for my Grandmother to remember her, also. I shall also include it in what I place in her coffin. Sweetness among the sorrow. Here is a simple recipe at Feral Botanicals.
True story: Grandma was a bit of a germ free person. You had to wash your hands all the time, boil her water before she drank it, and so on. However, when my daughter, Brenna, gave her an orange mint honey she made as a gift, Grandma stuck her finger right in and ate it. She doted on her great-granddaughter that much. It was her favorite gift from us. So honey shall be my gift to her. She was very fond of honey. She even used to feed a pet Raccoon from its own honey pot, as a child.
My honey jars – Kenya Coviak, All Rights Reserved

 

For our healers, the lilac has been said to be a good massage oil infusion. Especially for those prone to redness. It allegedly also helps with rheumatism. Making an infused oil would be a great addition to your healer’s kit. But remember, always check for allergies. There are other uses as well, and a naturopath could be a source of training in these.
Lilac leaves can also be used for fever treatment and numerous children diseases, liver congestion, weak digestion and diarrhea, cough, bronchitis, increased body temperature, kidney stones, high blood pressure. – Health Tips Source
Ok, now folklore is out there. It is not hard to find the story of Pan chasing a nymph named Syringa who changed herself into the lilac. She was not having any parts of Goat God Boy. When he thought he was grabbing her, he wound up holding a bunch of reeds. 
He sighed then, and when the sound of it merged with the wind in the reeds, it made music. Hermes suggested he make an instrument, and this became what we now call the Syrinx, or Pan pipes. You probably have guessed what hollowed out wood is traditionally used for them by now. Yep, the lilac. You can also carve other things out of lilac wood, you know.
Here is a sweet article on the lilac by Olga Ikebanova at Frangrantica.  It is not surprising that in aromatherapy, the scent of lilac is also used to treat depression. It is often through stories and allegories that we remember the properties of a herb, flower, plant, or tree.
Let us speak of magick now. This is an interesting plant. On one side of its story, it is used for flirtation, beauty, and love. On another face, it is used for protection and banishment. Still another property is that of transitions from life to death, remembrance, and dealing with ghosts. This sweet shrub is truly a precious gift.
Jennifer Shepherd at the Lipstick Mystic shares some useful insights in the use of this shrub for protection of the home. I know a witch who planted it specifically at her home due to a ghost problem, so it seems to be a tried and true measure against unwanted energetic invasion. It can also be made into a wreathe for a ward (that is my suggestion).
Because my Grandma was a lover of dolls, I shall share with you an activity for this flower. Take it as you will. I give it freely here, in memory of her.
Gather up two pillow cases full of the flowers. From one, boil the blooms until they reduce to half in a large pot of water. Then use this liquid to dye a white pillow case. The color will surprise you.
Reserve a small saucer of the flowers from the other pillow case to make into an oil. Fill a small glass jar with them and cover with grapeseed oil, or some other oil without a heavy scent. Let sit for about 2 weeks. OR place into a double boiler on low for a few hours until the scent is strong in the bottle.
Next, dry the other blooms until brittle. Do this in brown paper bags. That way the moisture will wick away.
Now, get out your sewing kit. cut a simple doll pattern from half the pillow case, a front and back, and sew it together – leaving the top open. Stuff the doll with the dried flowers, which you will scent also with the oil.
Make an apron, or dress, and a bonnet for it from the rest of the pillow case. Now give it to a child, or keep it yourself. This is a good protection against unwanted dreams. It is also a pick me up from sadness. Enchant as you would any other object, with good energy and wishes.
Here is a lovely rendition of a “Lilac Wine” cover performed by Miley Cyrus.
This piece is dedicated to the memory and life of Earlene Bentley North-Horner (1917-2017).

Groovy Green Craft Practitioner Series: Boneset or Sweat Plant

DISCLAIMER:  ALWAYS USE CAUTION WHEN IDENTIFYING PLANTS. USE YOUR FIELD GUIDES AND LEARN YOUR LATIN NAMES. WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND AN EXPERT. NO ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES IS INTENDED TO GIVE MEDICAL OR ANY OTHER ADVICE IN THE HEALING ARTS OTHER THAN THAT OF A LAY PERSON.

Something is quietly growing in your fields right now, Michigan. It is slowly greening and popping and getting stronger. Tiny leaves of one of the most bitter plants are expanding and reaching towards the sun so that they might one day turn into common Boneset, or Sweat Plant (Eupatorium perfoliatum). If you have ever had it, you know what it tastes like. If you ever do, you will not forget.

By Bigelow, Jacob [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Migrants from the South recognized this familiar plant when they hit the lands up here as one of the plants they grew up knowing (and dreading). Those nearer to the wild places will be able to remember where the patches are from last year, it is a showy flowery resident. A perennial, it is part of the Sunflower family and seems to bring the heat of the sun to the body by sweating out sickness and fever. Actually, it is a great big ol’ girl.

Our cooks will have to sit this one out, as it is not what you would serve at an afternoon brunch. Actually, you would not serve it as a food at all. Especially since ingesting it raw in large amounts can cause serious problems. Those with liver issue should steer clear of this plant unless under a doctor’s care.  This plant has sesquiterpene lactones,and  polysaccharides and flavonoids. Though it is not a rule, per se, do not go gobbling it down for more than 2 weeks at a time.

You will not see it bloom until around July, but it is good to remember where you see it for next year. The florettes are identifiable by

large, numerous, white or purple flower clusters, which appear at the ends of the branches, are comprised of 10–20 florets (small flowers). Boneset has a faint aroma and a very bitter taste. – Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine

 

Our healers will make be able to make use of it for pain relief. Of course, they will only do this if they are versed in its usage.

Richard Whelan gives a great insight into its usage insofar as dampness in the body in his article in his piece regarding it as a medical herb. It is already bitter, no need to add bitter regret to its employ. Don’t be a goose.

The butterflies will love you if you grow this plant. Your arthritis will, too. Your taste buds will not. Did I mention it is bitter?

*Pssst. It is bitter. Just saying.

You can find a great recipe for a tea at Alchemy Works here.

Speaking of alchemy, you can use it for great magicks. Fending off evil, and breaking curses is really up this plant’s alley. Think of it as a Daisy Death Dealer of Doom to hexes. It is great in a wash, and even more long-lasting in a pouch spell. Personally, I like to fume a room with it and then do a wash, but that is just me.

Here is a great song to think of when you look for her, “Fever” by Peggy Lee.

 

 

Groovy Green Craft Practitioner Series: Puttyroot Orchid or Adam and Eve root

DISCLAIMER:  ALWAYS USE CAUTION WHEN IDENTIFYING PLANTS. USE YOUR FIELD GUIDES AND LEARN YOUR LATIN NAMES. WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND AN EXPERT. NO ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES IS INTENDED TO GIVE MEDICAL OR ANY OTHER ADVICE IN THE HEALING ARTS OTHER THAN THAT OF A LAY PERSON.

I had to debate with myself on the ethics involved with covering this plant in this series. Because, truly, many people do not have any sense of propriety and stewardship when it comes to our tender plant people. They will rip and pillage and leave nothing behind in their lust for acquisition of materials. So it is with great caution that I discuss our friend, the Puttyroot Orchid, or Adam and Eve root (Aplectrum hyemale).

This orchid is lovely, and modest, and has a long history with foragers, friendly healers, and casters. The roots are edible, so there is a strong appeal to try them.

Potato-like roots/corms boiled and served with butter” –   J.D’s Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants & Fungi

But I urge caution and reserve. Why? This plant is endangered in many areas in the United States, and once you eat it, you have removed another from existence. So make sure that you don’t take the only one in the area if you happen upon this lovely.

Also, this is a survival food. It is not popcorn. It is not a snack.

Barnes Dr Thomas G, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Identifying it will have to wait til later in the year, unless you are very observant. You will only see the flowers emerging, the leaves will not have their usual appearance. The old leaves are nice and brown right now.

But if you are fortunate to be in the right areas, usually near a wood-line, you will find them.Puttyroot has a very unique kind of appearance with veins that run lengthwise and have a silver hue in the fat leaves. The blooms soon will be adorning the stalks with a pleasing combination of tiny bursts of yellow and magenta. These altogether sweet appearances of color are not easy to see against the leaf fall.

In ideal conditions, Puttyroot sends up a single striped, accordion-pleated leaf in late fall, about 3-8 inches (.75 – 2 dm) long and 1-3 inches (.25 – .75 dm) wide. The leaf dies back by the time the single flower stalk blooms in May or early June.  The flower stalk height can vary from about 6 to 20 inches (1.5 – 5 dm). – The Natural Web

This plant is better suited to what its common name would imply. Macerate it and use it as a putty to mend things. Stick some broken pots together. Stick some other natural materials to mend with this stuff.
Since you probably found a broken glass in the woods from horrible people who leave their stuff everywhere anyway, try to fix it with the glue this plant can make. Then remove the glass. Remove the glass anyway. Don’t be trifling.
For our remedy slingers, train with an herbalist and learn how to prepare a tea for migraines.  Or maybe you will learn how to work on boils. You know, stuff you can use instead of trying to find a reason to eat everything you read about in a series.  Even better, perhaps you can use the plant’s legendary property for eloquence to explain to the DNR officer why you are digging up his woods?
Now, here we come to the section that most folks will know about if they practice herb magick. Yep. Adam and Eve root is used in magical herbalism. The most common use is for relationship spells. It is a drawing plant and usually is sold as an oil or as a powder. It is very rare to find a good intact root. This is part of the plant that makes up not only herbalism in general, but are very important to Appalachian and African American practices.
A flora of North America : illustrated by coloured figures, drawn from nature v. 2, 1822
If you would like to explore more about Appalachian magic via a reputable presenter, I suggest Becky Beyer. You can link to a podcast here at “Appalachian Plant Lore with Becky Beyer” on  New World Witchery to hear her talk about it. I do recommend you get out there and get your hands dirty, though, just to become a real practitioner. But don’t be irresponsible and greedy and  part of the group of folks endangering the plant.

Groovy Green Craft Practitioner Series: Wapato, Duck Potato, or Broadleaf Arrowhead

DISCLAIMER:  ALWAYS USE CAUTION WHEN IDENTIFYING PLANTS. USE YOUR FIELD GUIDES AND LEARN YOUR LATIN NAMES. WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND AN EXPERT. NO ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES IS INTENDED TO GIVE MEDICAL OR ANY OTHER ADVICE IN THE HEALING ARTS OTHER THAN THAT OF A LAY PERSON.

Time to get your feet a little wet. If you live near a shallow wetland, marsh, or even a soupy suburb with a good amount of juxtaposition with wet ponds, you may have seen this little fella. The Broadleaf Arrowhead, or Duck Potato is a good friend to the hungry forager.  Looking suave and pronounced, this plant has some heavy history here as a food stuff, medicinal remedy, and a bit of a folk lore as far as magickal usage.

WILD FLOWERS OF NEW YORK Memoir 15 N. Y. State Museum Plate 1

First, you may have noticed that this plant is known as a duck potato. No, ducks do not toss it around after it gets hot in the sunshine as a game. It is not that kind of potato. But it IS wild food.

But be careful. Looking for this food to eat could lead to you being food to eat. What I mean is, where there is water, there could be leeches. So be careful before you just go wading into the wetlands. I am drawn to this plant due to my Creek heritage making this a plant my ancestors probably ate. (No, I do not have a Tribal Enrollment. No, I am not trying to appropriate anything. My Grandmother is 100 yrs old, and if she says we are Creek, we are Creek. We have been Creek since slavery times according to our records.)

This plant produces a tuber that can be roasted and eaten. It is a perennial, so once you find a patch, you can balance your harvesting so that you can come back and get more next year. You can find it in Michigan and all the way down through Mississippi. Gosh, you can find it almost everywhere, actually.

Did you know you could actually dry it and grind it up to use like a flour? Hmm. I wonder how that would taste, and would a duck eat a duck potato pancake? Sounds like a children’s story to me. I found that out from Mount Pisgah Arboretum.

2004 à 17:59 fr:Utilisateur:Bouba

IT IS VITAL THAT YOU MAKE SURE YOU IDENTIFY THIS PLANT PROPERTY. MICHIGAN WETLAND PLANT MISTAKES CAN BE DEADLY. DO NOT MISTAKE ARUM FOR THIS PLANT. USE A GOOD GUIDE, LIKE AT THE USDA NRCS.

For our healers, this plant can be a storehouse of use. It has a long, respected application on this continent. In Curious By Nature’s entry, they share that various uses by different nations such as the Maidu, the Chippewa, Navajo, and Ojibwa. It has been used for topical treatment for fever, as well as an antiseptic and laxative. As always, though, get some education from a bonified practitioner of the herbal arts before just heading off and setting up shop as a duck potato expert. I WILL drag you for filth (that means I will talk harshly about you with great contempt).

Now, let’s talk about the murky part. No, not the water. I mean the legends behind its usage in magicks and mysteries. I cannot verify or really push the legends that this plant is a defense against witches. I cannot really verify it is used to make a witch by drinking its tea in conjure or in indigenous societies. Why? Because I have no one to verify this. I am just presenting that this is part of its folklore. I am not going to just run around talking out of the side of my neck like a twisted duck.

BUT, I will say this. I have been told unofficially that this may be true regarding its use in ceremonial rites. I cannot prove it. Do your own research and ask around. Don’t just repeat what I say. You could be quaking up the wrong pond.

Here is a song about duck hunting. Because I married a hunter, that’s why, and it is about ducks.

Dallas Davidson – Duck Blind

 

 

Groovy Green Craft Practitioner Series: Ramps or Bear’s Garlic

DISCLAIMER:  ALWAYS USE CAUTION WHEN IDENTIFYING PLANTS. USE YOUR FIELD GUIDES AND LEARN YOUR LATIN NAMES. WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND AN EXPERT. NO ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES IS INTENDED TO GIVE MEDICAL OR ANY OTHER ADVICE IN THE HEALING ARTS OTHER THAN THAT OF A LAY PERSON.

Time to fire up the pan and take those yummy ramps into your hands. Ramps, ramsons, or Bear’s Garlic (Allium ursinum) is a tasty spring treat for foragers. This is equally true whether you are foraging in the woods out at Lakeshore or at the local farmer’s market. They are a fleeting treasure for munchers, tonic takers, and kitchen practitioners.

Jacob Sturm: Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen (1796)

This wild allium pops up in sandy to loamy soil in the early Spring, usually around  April here in Michigan. They seem to coincide with morel season. They are not as elusive, but you won’t find them easily down the road either. Just this week, I cooked some in chicken broth, with some sliced mushrooms, salt, pepper, and a bit of oregano. Good eating.

A lot of folks swear by this little strongly scented wonder. Botanicseye give a good breakdown of the most common attributes sought after by its lovers.

Additionally, Ramson can be beneficial in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. A juice made from the plant can be used in weight loss programs. Used externally, Ramson can be helpful as a circulation stimulant in cases of rheumatic and arthritic joints.  – BotanicsEye

I really like this plant. So much so, that I am including another video for better identification.

Allium ursinum by Archenzo Cortenova (Lecco) 02 aprile 2005

Now, it is very important to make sure you are gathering the right plant. Smell it. It should smell like garlic. Again, be careful in identifying this plant in the field.

Since bear’s garlic has become so popular, many people have tried to collect the plant in the wild. Several cases of poisoning have been reported in recent years, as there are a few toxic plants with roughly similar leaves, particularly lily of the valley (Convallaria majus, Convallariaceae/Asparaginales) and autumn crocus (meadow saffron, naked ladies, Colchicum autumnale, Colchicaceae/Liliales). Both plants do not show even traces of garlic odour, and similarities are in the best case superficial, or even non-existent. – Spice Pages

You will die. And then you can use the nice little flowers on your grave site next to your cairn, I guess. Paying attention now?

For our healers, this plant is high in sulfur and rich in vitamins A and C. The body does not store vitamin C, so this is a great thing to eat after a long winter. Just remember, it will make its presence known in on the breath of the person consuming it, as well as other smelly ways. You have been warned.

As far as common usage for our kitchen witchin’ friends, it is a protective plant. Like many alliums, it is used to protect against general misfortune, as well as combined with other spell components for exorcism. Sniff it, you will see why it probably would be good to fend off most nasties.

Be a responsible gatherer when you harvest it. Just cut off the tops and leave some root. That way it will be there next year.