Sunday, March 3, 2013

I'll Hex You Thursday; I'm Out Of Eye Of Newt...

via Google Search
Oh no! I'm in the middle of a spell...and I'm fresh out of eye of newt! What ever will I do?

Well...I  could calmly go to my neighborhood grocery store, scan the aisle where they keep the cooking herbs, and purchase a jar of mustard seed...Because that's what Shakespeare's witches were talking about, not the organ of sight of a lizard. Many ingredients used by magickal practitioners were cloaked in a kind of secret code...for more reasons than the obvious. If you were a cunning man or woman in the middle ages, you certainly didn't want just anyone-and certainly not a potential rival- to understand the formulary you used. This secrecy extended to midwives,wet nurses, root workers and much later...doctors of medicine.

Witches, you see, were the original pharmacists. In, say, 1300, you didn't just consult with the local
cunning or wise woman (wicce) for spiritual advice, you visited when you needed help with that pesky skin lesion or nagging cough. The practitioner would consider your symptoms, do a quick examination, and determine what ingredients to compound into a comforting balm or a soothing tincture. Every community had their root workers, cunning folk and witches, although the titles used were diverse and dependent upon the location. Communities outside of huge urban areas depended on their cunning folk implicitly. This was simply a part of pagan, country dwelling, agrarian culture.
Medical doctors were far and few in between and to be found only in the large universities, where many were strictly anatomists  or studied some other 'science'. Not many were general practitioners who saw (live) patients on a daily basis. Childbirth, a natural and frequent occurrence,  required the attention of a midwife or nurse, and those were-you guessed it- cunning folk. You went to the village witch for your treatments and cures...until doctors realized there was a fine line between between witchery and medicine...and money to be made. Upon close examination, the journal, grimorie or book of shadows of the local cunning woman closely resembled  the Medica Materna ( a encyclopedia of homeopathic ingredients, treatments and formulas) of the university educated doctors []. Latin pharmaceutical formularies over-flowed with the scientific names of common plants and minerals- the very same ingredients used by the witches of a bye gone era.

Back to your lack of eye of newt. Hopefully you've been to the market and picked up some mustard seed, but if not, then you could use an ingredient with a similar correspondence. Out of mustard seed?
Substitute curry, turmeric, red or black pepper,coriander,cumin,or all spice  all of which have spicy, hot characteristics and share similar energetic vibration; they are all associated with the element of fire and the planet Mercury, and their gender association is masculine. What is intention of your spellwork? What outcome do you expect to happen? If you're using mustard in a protection spell, you can just as easily substitute any of the above herbs, or plain garlic (or garlic powder/garlic salt). The vibratory correspondence to the intention of what your are conjuring is the key.

Exotic ingredients are not necessary for effective conjuration. Here in North Carolina, you often see the local folk magic/medicine charms that calls for "squaw mint", which is common pennyroyal, available in most grocery stores in the Spanish foods section. It's primarily used for strength and protection, to promote peace of mind or to boost the vibration of a spell. Because pennyroyal has a similar energy vibration, a substitution for the same intention (protection)could be salt and black pepper,mustard seed, garlic, or any of the above herbs. In the nearby Appalachian Mountians, as well as all over the world for centuries, the success of local folk magick practitioners and Native American Medicine has been the ability to adapt and substitute ingredients in their work.

It is fairly easy to look up the folk names of ingredients on the Internet; a few clicks, and you have the information at your fingertips. Three books I would recommend, however ( because I like the feel of using a book when I write out my work) are Herbal Magick by Gerina Dunwich, Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham, and The Way of Herbs by Dr. Michael Terrea, N.D. The first two are written by well-known magickal practitioners and will give you information for occult practice, and the last one, authored by a legendary forerunner of the alternative medicine movement, will give you safe guidance for the use of herbs in naturopathic/vedic remedies.

I will leave you with the very first thing I tell my personal students:1-When using preparing any herbs, keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth, and be sure to wash your hands before and after handling any herbs because many are irritants to mucus membranes and skin,and 2-Never, never, never eat any herb or add it to food unless you are absolutely sure it is safe to consume. Some herbs used in magic are not only irritants, but poisonous. Consult a reliable resource if you have questions!

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