So what is a Witch bottle anyway?

witch bottle2Contrary to popular belief, a witch bottle was something people used to ‘protect themselves’ from witch’s curses. It was a container (usually made of pottery or later glass) filled with all manner of things, mainly sharp, and certain bodily fluids, and poisonous herbs and enchanted in rhyme form to protect the user or holder from witchcraft. The first documented use of a witch bottle dates back to the 17th Century, and they’ve been in use ever since. In addition, ‘witch bottles’ were also used for general protection, safe-guarding the home from fire, flood or thieves. The bottles are buried in the earth by the threshold, or under the floor boards and quietly go about their work, protecting all of the inhabitants inside against negativity and dark magics.

What actually went in a witch bottle? Well, the mainstay of these bottles were generally sharp objects such as nails, broken pieces of flint and glass. However, as mentioned above bodily fluids such as urine and blood were also included, as well as protective and/or baneful herbs (such as henbane, wolfsbane, nightshade etc). Witches bottles actually work with sympathetic magic, in that you use objects that have an association with the intended ‘victim’ or purpose. So, for example, to deter thieves you might add sharp objects ‘to prick and cut’ thieving fingers, to protect you would use protective herbs such as rowan or blackthorn.

Witch bottles can be created specifically to curse or hex but also for thwarting general negativity. Traditional English cunning-craft isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, neither is Witchcraft, it’s good to be reminded of that sometimes (this article is NOT written from a Wiccan perspective).

witch bottle1

If you want to create a witch bottle you first need to decide its purpose. The following is taken from an article written by Jason Mankey in Patheos:

To make a witch bottle you’ll need either a jar or a bottle. Mason jars work well, but you can use a spaghetti sauce jar or a wine bottle; whatever you want. Word of warning though, the narrower the opening the more difficult making your bottle might be (especially towards the end). We created our bottles in four easy steps, though if you want to repeat our version of the spell you can add or subtract a few depending on your circumstances.

Step One: Items to pierce and cut. Materials you can use: nails, screws, pins, razor blades, bottle-caps (the rustier the better for all of these)

When I was creating my bottle I envisioned all of these nasty little things cutting and slicing up any negative that tried to make its way through my front doors. Often times people will use a specific number of pins, nails, etc., because it has a magical meaning for them. (In the 19th Century the number nine comes up a lot, but don’t let tradition dictate what you do, do what makes sense to you!) I simply trusted my hands to pick the right number of nails and razor blades, putting only those that “felt right” into my jar. Once the coven had picked out all of their pointy objects and deposited them into jars we held our bottles and recited the following chant:

Sharp and pointy Metal and mighty No one shall hex or curse So says this witches verse

We repeated this chant six times because I like to do things in increments of three while picturing bad things stepping on bottle-caps and getting pricked by needles.

Step Two: Edibles to cause thirst, burning, and blistering. (Yeah, I took a long shower after this ritual, and I wrote it.) Materials you can use: Spicy food (hot peppers, ginger), salt, vinegar, spoiled wine, stuff you personally don’t like.

Let’s say that cutting out darkness isn’t quite enough, maybe you want to burn it out? Since it would be hard to stuff an ever-burning flame into a bottle hot peppers are an easy alternative. For our ritual we used red pepper. In order to be a little more aggressive we also added some salt, making anyone who would wish us harm eternally thirsty, or at least thirsty once they dared to cross over our witch bottles! To that end we also added vinegar. Once all of the materials we wanted were in our jars we chanted once again, focusing on the intent of the new ingredients added to our jars.

Blister, thirst, and burn To this spell we turn Taste failure taste despair So says this witches prayer

Step Three: Silver dimes for deflection Materials: dime coins (10 cent pieces for those of you outside of the US and Canada)

Silver dime protect me from harm Be a part of this witches charm

Step Four: A piece of yourself Materials: hair, nail clipping, blood, urine, spit

Before the spell is complete the owner of the bottle has to mark their property. Urine was very common a few centuries ago, with toenails and fingernails coming in a close second. (In my bottle I used a finger nail, a few strands of hair, toenails, and some urine.) The important thing is to make sure the bottle and its contents know who to keep safe from harm, and the easiest way to do that is with something directly from the body. If the idea of nails, spit, and blood is too much, you could always simply write your name on a piece of paper and add it to the jar, but since names have power, you might be taking an unnecessary risk. Just spit into it when no one’s looking. Before finishing up this step be sure to top of your witch bottle if it needs a little extra liquid. In addition to vinegar or wine here, you can also used salted water, nothing drives away negativity better. During our ritual we ended with this bit of magic and the following chant:

I give this bottle a bit of me From evil and darkness free Witch bottle I have conjured thee The spell is now cast so mote it be!

Step Five: Sealing the bottle Materials: Wax, ribbon, tape

Due to time and space constraints we skipped this part in our ritual, but sealing up a witch bottle is a nice little extra step. The easiest “seal” is to simply tie a ribbon around the bottle somewhere. A bit more involved would be to make a wax seal. If you’re out of ribbons or wax duct tape would work here too. The whole point of a witch bottle is that it can be made out of easily available ingredients in the home. Nothing is right or wrong. Had we used this step during our ritual we would have chanted the following:

I seal this bottle whole and well Now I finish this witch’s spell!

Step Six: Bury the witch bottle Materials: Shovel

When your witch bottle is ready for use all you have to do is bury it. It’s best to bury it near the entrance to the home, or if you are really ambitious, under your fireplace. Mine ended up right in front of my back door, the door that leads to my office.. My chants are never very good, but they do always rhyme. As I was tossing dirt over my jelly-jar witch bottle I recited the following words several times:

I bury this bottle deep in the ground Now this witch shall sleep safe and sound!

Remember folks that you don’t have to use the same ingredients as suggested above. Use your imagination in keeping with your intent. Witch Bottles can be adapted for Wiccan use and don’t have to incorporate sharp nasties 🙂

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A short study on The Immortal Hour

William Sharp aka Fiona MacLeod

William Sharp aka Fiona MacLeod

Background to the author

Fiona MacLeod wrote the play ‘The Immortal Hour’ in 1908, although it would be wrong to refer to MacLeod as a she, for in fact she is a he, a Scottish poet and writer called William Sharp. Sharp was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1855 but throughout his life suffered ill-health. As a child he had a great love of nature and the outdoors which was enhanced by his nurse’s telling of Gaelic folktales and stories. When he was 18 he spent three months living with a company of gypsies. While at university he studied poetry, philosophy, occultism, spiritualism and folklore. In 1876 he voyaged to Australia but came back a year later although thee experience had been powerfully creative. In 1878 he joined the famous Rossetti literary group, a Pre-Raphaelite and aesthetic literary group. In his first book of poetry The Human Inheritance, The New Hope, Motherhood and Other Poems (1882) an important focus is given to Sharp’s early belief in spirit of place (or genus loci), which supports a strong mystical core. These threads of mysticism and spirituality also appeared in many of his later works. Following a trip to Italy in 1891 he entered into a decade of extremely productive and creative writing imbued with all his interests of mysticism, mythology, folklore, spirituality and philosophy. Then in 1892 Sharp published what was to be his greatest and most remarkable work – The Pagan Review – a single issue journal filled with pagan and Celtic historically based works, although all these works were written under the pseudonym of Fiona MacLeod. He also joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and was a central figure in the Edinburgh group, part of the Celtic Twilight or Celtic Revival.

Why the pseudonym Fiona MacLeod? This was not mere vanity on Sharps part but an important part of his literary persona he had created in his early twenties.  He wrote to his  wife (who happened to be his cousin) “in some things I am more woman than man” and it was a persona he maintained until his death in 1905. In fact, Fiona MacLeod was presented as Sharp’s protégé and his works written under this name evoke a Celtic world combining images of idyllic or harsh highland nature with mystical tales of the brave and beautiful.

The Wooing of Etain

The Wooing of Etain

Background to The Immortal Hour

The Immortal Hour (written 1908 as Fiona MacLeod) is loosely based on the Irish mythological tale of ‘The Wooing of Etain’ (Tochmarc Étaíne), which appears in the Irish mythological Cycle, partially preserved in the 12th century manuscript The Book of the Dun Cow, and fully preserved in the 15th century Yellow Book of Lecan. It tells of the lives and loves of Etain, a beautiful woman, one of the Tuatha de Danann, who is also equated and associated with the Gaulic Epona, and the Welsh Rhiannon. In both manuscripts she is married to mortal men. However, Midir, son of the Dagda and one of the Tuatha de Danann, falls in love with her. Midir’s wife grows jealous and polymorphs Etain into various things until one day she turns her into a butterfly and as a butterfly she becomes Midir’s constant companion though Midir does not recognise her. Eventually Midir’s wife creates a wind that blows the butterfly away and does not allow it to alight anywhere but the rocks of the sea for seven years.

Eventually it lands on the clothes of Óengus, who recognises it as Étaín, but he is at war with Midir and cannot return her to him. He makes her a little chamber with windows so she can come and go, and carries the chamber with him wherever he goes. But Fúamnach (Midir’s wife) hears of this and creates another wind which blows her away from him for another seven years. Eventually the butterfly falls into a glass of wine. The wine is swallowed (together with the butterfly) by the wife of Étar, an Ulster chieftain, in the time of Conchobar mac Nessa. She becomes pregnant, and Étain is reborn, one thousand and twelve years after her first birth.

Midir then goes to Eochaid Etain’s husband) in his true form and asks to play fidchell, a board game, with him. He offers a stake of fifty horses, loses, and gives Eochaid the horses as promised. Midir challenges him to more games, for higher stakes, and keeps losing. Eochaid, warned by his foster-father that Midir is a being of great power, sets him a series of tasks, including laying a causeway over Móin Lámrige, which he performs reluctantly. He then challenges Eochaid to one final game of fidchell, the stake to be named by the winner. This time, Midir wins, and demands an embrace and a kiss from Étaín. Eochaid agrees that he will have it if he returns in a month’s time. A month later Midir returns. He puts his arms around Étaín, and they turn into swans and fly off.

Eochaid and his men begin digging at the mound of Brí Léith where Midir lives. Midir appears to them and tells Eochaid his wife will be restored to him the following day. The next day fifty women who all look like Étain appear, and an old hag tells Eochaid to choose which one is his wife. He chooses one, but Midir later reveals that Étaín had been pregnant when he had taken her, and the girl he has chosen is her daughter. Eochaid is horrified, because he has slept with his own daughter, who became pregnant with a girl. When the girl is born she is exposed, but she is found and brought up by a herdsman and his wife. She later becomes the mother of the High King Conaire Mor.

One has to remember that the versions of this story differ slightly but the main characters stay the same.

Etain and Midir

Etain and Midir

 

An analysis of The Immortal Hour play

Although The Immortal Hour is based on the Irish mythological tale of the Wooing of Etain,  it is steeped in other mythological motifs also. Links can be made to the Greek Eurydice and Orpheus. In fact MacLeod says as much in her introduction to the play. Thus it can be seen as a kind of universal play touching on the love for a man and a woman, the cycle of life and other realities that not only appear in Celtic mythology but in other cultures also. Although the character Dalua does not appear in Irish mythology, MacLeod likens him to the Amadan-Dhu or Dark Fool, who can be equated with our own dark shadow-side, known in the Faerie Tradition as the Dark Fool. Hugh Mynne writes in “The Faerie Way”  the encounter with the Dark Goddess is thus an encounter with our own psychic waste material, our own “garbage.” By facing Her we face our own shadow-self, known in the Faerie Tradition as the Dark Fool, and named Dalua.

Sources:

Dennis Denisoff, The Yellow Nineties Online, 2010

Hugh Mynne, The Faerie Way: A Healing Journey to Other Worlds

Caitlin & John Matthews, Walkers Between the Worlds: The Western Mysteries from Shaman to Magus

Caitlin & John Matthews, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom

 

 

 

Daily Om ~ Personal Power

dancingPower is not about exerting our will over others, it is about being in complete truth with yourself. Many of us have do not understand what personal power means. We have been given the false notion that power is bad—that it is something we use to exert our will upon others. In fact, when our personal power is intact, we are neither overbearing nor meek. We have a clear sense of our strength and the impact we can have on others. This actually enables us to be more sensitive. Personal power is what permits us to work on behalf of our dreams and desires. It allows us to realize that we are worthy and deserve to be heard. In addition, our personal power lets us extend the respect we know that we deserve to the people around us. There is no reason to be afraid or ashamed of fully owning your power.

In the chakra system, the solar plexus is the seat of personal power. One way to evaluate your sense of power is to breathe into this part of the body. If it feels tight or nervous, it is an indication that you may not be fully expressing your power. You can heal this imbalance by expanding the area of the solar plexus with your breath. You can also visualize a bright yellow sun in this part of your body. Allow its heat to melt any tension, and let its light dissolve any darkness or heaviness. Repeating this exercise on a regular basis can restore and rejuvenate your sense of power.

Another way to nurture your personal power is to honour your dreams and desires by making concrete plans to manifest them in the world. Start by making a list of things you want, and let yourself think big. Choose one goal from the list and commit to bringing it to fruition. In addition, break the goal into tasks that you can work on each day. Know that you deserve to have your dreams come true and that you have the power to bring them into being.

Source: Daily Om

Daily Om ~ Surrender Box

surrenderbox1A surrender box is a tool to let go of our burdens so the universe can take care of them for us. There are times when our minds become too full. Our to-do lists, worries, plans, and dreams may be so crowded together in our heads that we don’t have room to think. We may believe that we are somehow taking care of our desires and concerns by keeping them at the forefront of our minds. In maintaining our mental hold on every detail, however, we may actually delay the realization of our dreams and the resolution of our worries because we won’t let them go. At times such as these, we may want to use a surrender box.

A surrender box allows us to let go of our worries and desires so the universe can take care of them for us. We write down what we want or need to happen and then place the note into a box. By writing and placing our thoughts in the box, we are taking action and letting the universe know we need help and are willing to surrender our feelings. We give ourselves permission to not concern ourselves with that problem any longer and trust that the universe is taking care of it. You may even want to decorate your box and place it in a special place. Your surrender box is a sacred container for your worries. Not only do you free up space in your mind by letting go of our worries and desires and dropping them into your surrender box, but you are giving your burden over to a higher power. Once we drop our worries and desires into the surrender box, we free our minds so we can be fully present in each moment.

Surrendering our worries and concerns and placing them in the hands of the universe doesn’t mean that we’ve given up or have been defeated. Instead, we are releasing the realization of our desires and the resolution of our worries and no longer concerning ourselves with their outcomes. It’s always fun to go back and pull the slips of paper out of the box once your requests have been granted. And it’s amazing how quickly problems go away and dreams come true when we finally let go and allow a higher power to help us.

 

surrenderbox2

Source: Daily Om

Daily Om ~ Objects of Power

talisman mandalaHaving a talisman imbued with your intention is yet another tool you can use to assist you in your journey. For millennia, mankind has found peace and solace in objects of significance. When cleansed and consecrated through ritual, such objects – be they gems, amulets, herbs, or written words – become talismans. A talisman is any item imbued with a specific power by its bearer to serve a specific intention. Ancient Egyptians used massive stone tablets as healing talismans while the Greeks and Romans used lead talismans to communicate with the spirit realm. Traditionally, a talisman acts to anchor energy in the physical plane. That energy may be protective in nature or may be intended to draw abundance, wealth, or a wide variety of blessings to its user. Today, a talisman may be made of wood, metal, paper, stone, or natural elements such as plants. Often, talismans are small enough to be easily worn or carried, and they may be marked with words or symbols that the talisman’s owner deems meaningful.

Creating and owning a talisman can reassure you and also serve to aide you in attracting what you want in life. You may use your talisman to help you attain health, security, or good luck. Or you may simply want to carry an object with you that will remind you of your search for soulful tranquility. In order to create a talisman, you must first determine its physical properties. This can be as innocuous as a strip of paper bearing the word “Love” and carried in a wooden box or cloth sack. You may prefer a more visible talisman, such as a metal amulet or a gemstone worn as jewelry. Before your object becomes a talisman, however, it must be charged. This can be done by cleansing the object – with water or with incense – and holding a ritual of your own making. Or, you can leave the object in moonlight or sunlight or bury it in the earth for a time. To preserve its effectiveness, talismans should be reconsecrated regularly.

Almost any object can be transformed into a talisman of protection, good fortune, health, love, or serenity. It may be strung on a cord and hung around the neck, worn on a belt, or carried in a purse or pocket. But the physical properties of the talisman are not as important as the intention of its bearer. If you are grounded in your desires, your talisman will give you a focal point that you can concentrate on to affirm your intention and help you achieve your goals.

Source: Daily Om