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!
Knot magick is one of the basic tools in the practitioner’s cache of skills. Witch’s Ladders, cord spells, and knot craft are used to bless, curse, or tie up workings for controlled release. Its use in weather witchery and healing is also one of the arts that remain the go to part of training in the beginning worker’s journey to the Craft.
However, little time seems given to the teaching the time-honored skills used by the essential knot worker. It is common to see yarn purchased from the local fabric store. For my particularly powerful workings, I have found that returning to the techniques of the true Earth Witch satisfying. This means making my own cordage, ropes, and strings.
In Michigan we can thank the activism of the Monarch butterfly activists for vigorously sewing milkweed all over the state. It now grows in abundance. It is also one of the more common plants for simple cordage.
The material used for the cord may correspondent to the intention. As an example, Bindweed, though difficult to work with for beginners, is an excellent material to make for binding. It tends toward fragility when you work with it, so I would recommend a loose braiding, not a twist. Or, rose vines, beaten to pliability, for defense. Use gloves if not dethorned
However, a more unknown source of cordage would be that of blackberry. It grows wild all over and is easy to find if you know where to look. Be careful, though, because in Southeastern Michigan it seems good friends with Poison Ivy. In some of my classes for the Black Moon Grove, we spent a little time in my home garden looking at the brambles of my blackberry plants in preparation for harvest.
It can also be used for Traditional Craft to make the whisk. This has gone out of fashion in modern neo Pagan witchcraft for the most part publicly. You might find some traditional information about this at the new store, Artes and Craft. Paul Barbary is an excellent source of information.
Here is some brief information by an exceptionally credible source.
“The Witch’s Whisk is made of dried out blackberry stems and with the end bound to form a handle. Here in the south west when a witch decides to make magic she first selects a spot or place where she will work, be the chosen place inside or out. The next thing to be done is that of cleansing the chosen spot of all evil forces. This is where the bundle of blackberry twigs comes in. She sets a light to the twigs and with them smouldering, burning and making smoke, she dances and weaves her way in and around and around over and over again. So this is one might call it: ‘a witch’s devilscarer’.” – Cecil Williamson
This skill takes a little time to master, but it is certainly fun. But more importantly, it is a fundamental skill that I believe magick workers should at least try once. The energy and force of will, applied with focus, when creating the cords adds an extra layer of potency that cannot be matched by buying a pre-made material. Try it for yourself and give some feedback below in the comment section if you would like.
I have studied herbs, plants, spices, trees, etc. ever since I learned how to read. When I started my path in Witchcraft in 1984, I knew right from the start that herbs and such would be a big part of whatever path I was going to end up on. My grandmother was the first person from which I learned about different plants their many uses. As well as those called “weeds”.
Some were just recipes, and others were ways to heal the body. I read anything, and everything, I could find about natural healing and ways to use herbs in spells. I also read about other things such as incenses, oils, vinegars, cooking, etc. About 2 years ago I decided that I wanted a degree in herbalism. Much to my surprise, I found out that there is no such thing in the United States.
So what now? Well, some of the best and well-known herbalist are self-taught. Most of the pioneers in the field learned from people and the plants without a certificate.
Juliette Levy, Rosemary Gladstar, and Susan Weed to name just a few. Their certificate programs are very expensive. And frankly, the certificates you can earn really do not hold any credit or merit in the US.
As far as doctors’ concerns, they either are totally behind the idea of natural healing, or totally against it. Either way, I always say if this is a path you wish to follow there are many cautions along the way. You have really got to study and keep lots of notes.
If you are doing this to take natural remedies for yourself, please talk with your doctor, an established herbalist or even your pharmacist first. There are many herbs that can cause adverse reactions when you are taking medications. Prescribed medications and even over the counter things such as aspirin and even antacids can cause you serious reactions with certain herbs, plants and even foods.
If you want to become the local herbalist who helps out other people with your knowledge, then I must caution you even more. Telling others what herbs to use and how to use them is very tricky, as well as very risky. You need to know that persons entire medical background. You also need to know any allergies they may have, any medications they are currently taking, occasionally and also in the future.
Even using some of the safest herbs can pose a dangerous undertaking. It is quite possible to create more harm than good. If you have someone take a tea with chamomile in it to a person who is allergic to ragweed, this can actually cause anaphylactic shock. Also, people who take blood thinners such as Warfarin or Coumadin would need close monitoring while taking this with chamomile.
So if this is something that you feel you are ready to try I say go for it! Just remember that this is not just a simple
“I can just get 1 book and have all the info I need”
kind of path. You are going to want to read everything you can find. This includes books that have herbal information like properties and uses.
Books on aromatherapy, magical herbal uses, essential oils, home remedies and the list goes on and on. There are tons of websites where you can find information, as well as blogs, and even certificate programs if you really want to go that route.
This is a path that I have walked for the last 31 years. I can honestly say I learn something new every single day.
If you are a person who loves to learn and wants to be in touch with nature, this is an amazing path that any form of paganism or any other religion can follow. Learning about the many uses in nature also adds to the knowledge that we need to spend more time protecting her (nature) and all that she has to offer us.
So, the next time you are out on a hike or just taking a walk through a park, take the time to look around and get to know what plats, trees and animals are around you. Take a notebook with you and a camera. Write down the different things you see and take pictures.
If you are not sure what a plant or tree is look it up. Research it and find out the many different uses for it. This is the best place to start your walk down this path.
Learn what you have locally in your home town. Even if you live in the city, there are always parks or sanctuaries nearby. Check them out. You will be so glad you did.
Working tools are those of which you will want or need to be able to practice your Craft for Rituals, Sabbats, and other magical workings that are dedicated to your tradition. I will be giving you examples of different tools that are used in many different Paths and what you can use in place of the more expensive versions of them.
The Athame is mainly used for directing energy in magical Rites. This can be used for creating circles, calling the corners, even for adding salt to water. The Athame is associated with fire and the masculine aspect so this can also be used to represent the God on your altar.
Some Paths have certain distinctions of how this knife should be. Some say that they have to be double-edged, some single-edged, some say dull, some say sharp. I believe that your Athame can be of any shape, size, color, dullness, or sharpness that you are comfortable with. You do not have to purchase an expensive knife. In a pinch you can use a regular knife right out of your kitchen. I found my Athame at a thrift Store many years ago. It is double-edged and dull and is steel with a green on the handle. This knife called to me and I paid all of 50 cents for it. You can use whatever you are comfortable with.
This tool is used for cleaning away negativity from ritual areas and circles as well as at some Handfastings. The Besom is a very powerful fertility symbol. I have 2 small Brooms that I keep near my altar. I purchased these also at thrift stores for around a dollar a piece. I always have my Besoms brush side up to protect it from unwanted energies.
The Bell is not a common tool but it is used in some Paths. You can use this tool to invoke the God or Goddess, to call for the Watchtowers or corners, to ward off negative energies, to welcome positive energies, or even during your Rituals or Rites to signify a beginning or end. It is basically up to you on how you would like to use this tool unless your path already has a use for it. I have a small bell that I purchased at a yard sale for 2 dollars.
These were found in the homes hanging over a freshly lit fire and always had something bubbling in them. They are now made today in many shapes and sizes and are used in Pagan practices with water for scrying and also to build small fires in. I have a small brass Cauldron that sits on my Altar that I use specifically for burning incense in or if I am working on a spell where a fire is involved I can place a small one in there. It is of personal preference as to what size you want or need and even if you need one at all. I found mine again at a thrift store and only paid a few dollars for it.
CHALICE OR CUP
The Chalice is used for libations during Ritual or Rites for holding water, wine, or juice. It is also a symbol for the Goddess and can be used to represent Her on your altar. It can be as grand as a jeweled silver goblet to a regular ordinary juice glass from your kitchen cupboard. I love checking yard sales and thrift store shopping so I love looking for a single wine glass or champagne flute that has a beautiful color or cut to the glass. You can normally purchase something like this from 25 cents to a couple of dollars depending on where you find it.
Most Altars have a Pentacle on them. This can be made of wood, metal, clay, or even a picture of one in a nice dollar store frame. If you are a crafty person you could make one of clay or just purchase a small round piece of wood or metal and paint a Pentacle on this. Not so crafty, find a picture of one that you like and glue it onto a piece of wood, cardboard, metal, or encase it in a frame. Mine was a gift from a fellow Witch who made them.
This is used in some traditions to mark quarter points or to hold banners representing certain elements or symbolic flags. The Staff is also used similarly to the Wand. You can purchase one of these already made or you can make one of your own. If you decide to make one of your own, it is a pretty simple endeavor. I love to be able to take walks in the woods. I find it very relaxing. If you have the opportunity to be able to do this, listen carefully to the wind and the sounds around you. Look around you, on the ground or up in the trees and focus your mind on finding a Staff for yourself. You may find the perfect branch laying on the ground or even a low hanging branch. If you are going to cut it off the tree make sure that you ask the tree for permission first and thank it after. Once you have your perfect Staff you can then clean it up, paint, it, stain it, add cords or ribbons or even gems to it. It is totally up to you on what you want it to be. My Staff was a lonely piece of wood I found on the ground.
The Sword is used in a very similar way as an Athame. It can be used to cast circles and call the four corners, however if you are in a small area it may not be practical to use a Sword. If you do wish to use one, always look around at yard sales, thrift stores and even online to find what you are looking for at a price you can afford. Mine was purchased at a yard sale many years ago for just five dollars.
THURIBLE OR INCENSE BURNER
This can be your Cauldron if you are going to be burning incense on a charcoal or you can purchase an incense stick holder rather inexpensively at a dollar store. Some people prefer to have a censer that hangs on a chain so that they can use the smoke to purify the circle as they walk around it. This again is of your own personal preference. I use stick and cone incense quite a bit so my stick incense holder was purchased at a dollar store and the cone holder (my Buddha) came from a thrift store for three dollars.
The Wand represents Air and Male energy so this can also be used to represent the God on your altar. Wands are used in a very similar fashion as the Athame and Sword. These can be made from glass, copper, silver, or other metals but are usually made of wood. Just as the Staff you can make these yourself by purchasing a dowel from a hardware store or even using a small branch. I have a beautiful piece of driftwood that I found and I decorate it with ribbons and gems for whatever use I need it for. It is always changing and I love having the ability to do that. One little side note to this, if you do not have an Athame, Sword, Wand or Staff you can direct energy just by using your finger. The energy direction has more to do with intent than it does with the actual tool you are using.
This is used for cleansing the area, tools, or space you are working in. It also helps clarify your mind and helps with meditation, not to mention making your home smell nice. Different scents are used for different reasons. The least expensive way to go is to burn sticks. You can find many different varieties and they are usually less expensive than cones or making your own. However, if you are going to burn powdered incense or fresh and you do not have a fire proof container to burn them in, a bucket or old coffee can with sand or salt in it is another inexpensive route to take.
Keep an eye out for part 2 of this article coming soon!
When one thinks of the word “healing”, one would assume bright white lights, crystals, Reiki, Angel Touch, anything that involves the category of love and light. While they’re all wonderful tools to help with healing ourselves and others, they’re not the one and only way. Shadow Work is what a magickal practitioner does in order to advance further in their practice. Spells can go wrong when one is not in the right state of mind and intention, especially in the most unconscious level of their psyche. Your shadow harbors those little nit picks you hate about yourself, your inner demons you sought to suppress while presenting to the world what you want to show. The thing about your shadow is it has a habit to creep up and surface when you least expect it.
Those who don’t face and embrace their shadow are often consumed by the demons within which can lead a life of playing the victim. Inner healing is a very broad subject, but the most basic way to start is through the use of shadow work. It can be as simple or as complicated as you wish it to be.
A good way to work with your shadow is the use of fear facing methods. Are you afraid to push further in your career? Sit down and make a list of ways to spring up confidence within yourself so you can push your boundaries to advance. A fear of letting go?
Find mundane ways such as cleaning and decluttering your house and infuse the energy of what you want gone with what you throw out. Afraid to fall in love? Open your heart to not only to the ability to love yourself, but others as well.
The truth is, healing starts from within. Looking inward is often a very exciting yet frightful journey we can take. Change is the one thing we all fear the most, but no change can lead to a life of stagnation and unfulfilled dreams. Change takes time and the will to do so, you will get discouraged especially if you’re someone who desires instant gratification. Change can come as quick as a few months or take as long as many years. Your desire is the key for how much you want to advance further in your endeavors to heal yourself.
One thing to know for certain, you can count on your shadow to always be by your side. Even when it cloaks itself in darkness, it will always be there. Embrace your shadow, for it has been by your side in your brightest days and your darkest hours. It harbors your truth, both sides you love and hate. Embrace your shadow, and let your inner healer’s journey begin.
Jackie Burkeen (aka Rosalina Nightshade) has been a practicing witch since 2008 where her journey began with being enchanted by nature’s beauty of Mackinaw Island. She follows her own path which incorporates an eclectic modern taste to traditional witchcraft. Mother of a strong willed child, two cats and a Guinea pig, she resides in the Michigan downriver area where she lives her dream as a practicing Massage Therapist. You can follow her spiritual journey and other surprises on her blog “Tales of a Backwoods Witch; Adventures of Rosalina Nightshade” and Rosalina Nightshade on Facebook.