Mandrake Flying Ointment

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I knew it was going to arrive today, purely because a friend of mine emailed me telling me their order had arrived this morning. So when I heard the thud of the parcel hit the ground through my letterbox, I dashed off the sofa and almost skidded to the front door like an excited puppy.

I’ve never used flying ointment or any other entheogen before, but I’ve been curious about it. I enjoy reading Ms Lawless’ blog, she’s very passionate about her products and it’s clear she’s done her research and backed it up with practice when it comes to entheogens. I chose mandrake because it is the least harmful in the solanaceae family, and also it is sacred to my goddess Hekate. It has a long history within witchcraft, being referenced in the Argonautica, Shakespeare, and even the Bible.

I plan to write up my experiences once I’ve tried it out with some like minded friends 🙂

Tomorrow I will be off to the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh with friends to celebrate, and I hope you all have wonderful Beltane/May Eve celebrations.

Mar sin leat an-dràsta! 

 

Links:

http://sarahannelawless.com/resources/introduction-to-flying-ointments/

http://sarahannelawless.com/2013/10/09/medeas-ritual-of-the-mandrake/

http://sarahannelawless.com/2013/09/15/poison-path-reading-llist/

 

 

 

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Beachcombing on a bonny day

On Saturday I took a short train trip to Carnoustie to visit one of the loveliest souls I know. For the sake of privacy I shall call her the Sea Witch.

The Sea Witch treated me to a delicious salmon and rocket salad for lunch (it was divine) and I bought us some cakes from the local bakery. Afterwards the Sea Witch, myself and her son took a wander down to the beach to collect some treasures. I’ve been determined to find my own hagstones as they seem to be given to me as gifts by other people (which I’m grateful for) but I personally feel for them to work for me it must be found by me. About 2 minutes into my search I came across one and some lovely pieces of sea glass.

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The tide was coming back in so we took a walk along the beach gathering whatever we were drawn to. I found a stone with moss inside it – into my bag it went. I found a piece of bone too but not sure what animal it came from. It was such a lovely day, perfect weather for beachcombing and it finally feels like it’s spring time.

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The Sea Witch treated me to tea and cake in her local cafe and I picked the pecan pie (perfection). Then we took a slow walk back to her home and stopped inside an old fashioned sweetie shop on the way, and of course like the big kids we are we just had to get some sweets and slushies to drink on the way back, giggling the rest of the way there.

We examined our found treasures and spent the rest of the afternoon talking about witchcraft and different modes of practice, and witchy plans for the future. I will be going to the Beltane Fire Festival  (eeeek can’t wait!) and then will be celebrating with the coven the day after as one of our members will be getting initiated 😀 This Beltane also marks the 3rd year I have been with the coven and my 2nd year after initiation and I can’t believe so much time has passed since then!

I’m looking forward to more beachcombing in future, I need more hagstones to make some charms with and looking forward to catching up with the Sea Witch again in her natural habitat 🙂

 

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My treasures

 

 

The Spaewife

 

“O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar-wife says I—

Why chops are guid to brander and nane sae guid to fry.

An’ siller, that’s sae braw to keep, is brawer still to

gi’e.

— It’s gey an’ easy spierin’, says the beggar-wife to me.

 

O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar-wife says I—

Hoo a’ things come to be whaur we find them when we try,

The lasses in their claes an’ the fishes in the sea.

— It’s gey an’ easy spierin’, says the beggar-wife to me.

 

O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar-wife says I—

Why lads are a’ to sell an’ lasses a’ to buy;

An’ naebody for dacency but barely twa or three

— It’s gey an’ easy spierin’, says the beggar-wife to me.

 

O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar-wife says I—

Gin death’s as shure to men as killin’ is to kye,

Why God has filled the yearth sae fu’ o’ tasty things to

pree.

— It’s gey an’ easy spierin’, says the beggar-wife to me.

 

O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar wife says I—

The reason o’ the cause an’ the wherefore o’ the why,

Wi’ mony anither riddle brings the tear into my e’e.

— It’s gey an’ easy spierin’, says the beggar-wife to me.

 

– The Spaewife, Robert Louis Stevenson

 

*It’s gey an’ easy spierin’ – meaning it’s an easy question to ask.

 

The Spae-wife of the Clachen

The Spae-wife of the Clachen.
A group of distressed people gathering before the hut of an old woman, sitting at the door at right with black cat at her feet and a horseshoe hanging over the entrance, through which a male figure is seen in the shadows; cutting from the ‘Illustrated London News’, 7 June 1851, p.542, with part of an illustration of the inauguration of monument to Frederick the Great on the verso. 1851 Wood-engraving
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Spae (from Merriam-Webster online) – chiefly Scottish, meaning foretell. Origin Middle English span, from Old Norse spā; akin to Old High German spehōn to watch, spy.

From Dictionary.com: verb (used with object), spaed, spae·ing. Chiefly Scot.

to prophesy; foretell; predict.

 Middle English span, from Old Norse spā; akin to Old High German spehōn to watch, spy.

A spaewife is a female prophetess, a seer, a diviner, one who sees. In Norse shamanism she was called a  spákona or spækona – a seeress, and stories of such women are found throughout Norse mythology. The völva’s (Norse shamanic seeress) practice involved spá and in an account called Völuspá (Prophecy of the Völva) the first poem of the Poetic Edda, Odin, the father of the gods consulted a völva to find out what was in store for all the gods. 

It must be made clear that in Scottish belief, a spaewife was vastly different to a witch. In the early modern period in Britain, witches were seen as practitioners of maleficium.

” In early modern Britain the term ‘witch’ generally denoted an individual who was seen by others, or perceived by themselves, as being able to employ magical powers to do harm. The type of harmful magic most feared by contemporary villagers was ‘maleficium’. Maleficium was witchcraft at it’s most basic – the manipulation of occult forces at a distance with malevolent intent.”

Emma Wilby, “Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic”, p42, Sussex Academic Press.

 

Villagers would visit a cunning man or woman, or a spaewife for healing, to foretell the future or to counteract the harmful effects of a witch’s spell.  Walter Traill Dennison, a 19th century folklorist and Orkney native wrote of the folk tales of Orkney and the role of the spaewife there. The spaewife was said to possess:

 

“..all the supernatural wisdom, some of the supernatural power, without any of the malevolent spirit of witches.”

He goes on:

“The women of this class were skilled in medicinal and surgery, in dreams, in foresight and second-sight, and in forestalling the evil influence of witchcraft. Such women were looked upon with a kind of holy respect.”

I wrote a blog a little while back about Grissel Jaffray, a woman burned in Dundee as a witch. I’ve updated the photos as the one I used to show her plaque wasn’t clear to read. One thing I had never noticed about the plaque before is that Grissel is noted as being a spaewife, not a witch. Perhaps she could see things others could not and was sadly burned for it.

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I’ve noticed the term spaewife hasn’t been completely disregarded in modern usage, there are those among the pagan and magickal communities claiming the title for themselves. It will be interesting to see if the definition changes over time, and if it will become another branch of the tree in terms of a separate practice. I would be interested in hearing from people who practice spae, so drop me a line if you do 🙂

Mar sin leat an-dràsta! 

 

Adventures in the Undergrowth

 

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I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2.1.255-60)

Herbalism can seem like a daunting project to take on board, what with their being over 10,000 species in the world. However, you don’t need to know what thousands of herbs do. You don’t even need to know what a hundred herbs do. You’re most likely only going to use a small number of herbs regularly in your life anyway.

I don’t have a garden but I’ve found the best way to learn about herbs is to go outside and LOOK. See what’s growing on the land YOU live on. Don’t know what kind of plant it is? No problem.Take a photograph of it and research it online or with a reference book. Or even better, talk to the plant and ask it what it does. I would recommend not touching the plant, as some can irritate the skin and some are poisonous.

I get excited when I spot a herb I don’t know, and it’s not uncommon for me to dash up a muddy hillside to get a closer look at it. One minute you could be talking to me, the next I’m running up that hill before you’ve even noticed I’ve disappeared!

There’s nothing wrong in learning from herbal books alone, but it’s no comparison for doing your own field work. Also some books tend to focus on plants that aren’t native to your home soil. Walk throughout the land nearby you, through all seasons and you’ll soon be able to spot what certain herbs look like in their different stages of growth, and when the best time of year is to harvest them.

So get outside folks, get back in touch with the spirits of the land, remember your manners too –  herbs are living organisms after all – ask permission before taking any cuttings and never harvest more than 10% of a plant. It’s always nice to leave an offering too.

Over time you will have compiled a sizeable knowledge base of herbalism all by yourself 🙂

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