WitchyWomen Wednesday

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Jenna Fox is employed as a writer and educator described by her community college students as “sympathetic, but with a blunt sense of humor.”  As a queer adult adoptee, reuniting with her biological family has helped her reclaim the ancestral witchcraft practices of tarot and folk herbalism native to Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Czech/Slovakia. You can listen to her podcast Leo Rising: Living Tarot & Creative Intuition, on any major podcasting app. To schedule a tarot reading with Jenna, reach out on Instagram @leorisingtarot or her website: www.leorisingtarot.com.

 


Is  the white sage used for smudging practices actually endangered? Is using white sage, or palo santo, as a practice, actually engaging in cultural appropriation of spiritual traditions that are not my own?  If you run in New Age spiritual or witchy circles, you’ve probably at least encountered the practice of smudging with white sage, if not encountered these two questions.

What if I told you there was a way to embrace smoke cleansing that was rooted in traditional European folk medicine/witchcraft ancestry, that was both sustainable and not appropriative? Wouldn’t that be lovely?! And what if it was as easy as going to your local grocery store? Would you be into that? Who wouldn’t want to jump on this easy, sustainable and conflict free form of spirituality?

So, a few years ago, a trusted witch friend from high school posted on Facebook about her practice of smoke cleanings (smudging, without that label) using traditional European herbs, and I was intrigued. I love the practice of burning sage, but hadn’t thought deeper about the fact that many tribes were criminalized until the 1970’s for these very same spiritual practices.It seemes wrong that my 20-something spiritual white girl body was able to do these practices without a second thought about the bigger picture. The more I sat with my friend’s words, the more I was impacted by the colonial mindset that had permeated my spiritual practice of smudging.

And thus, entered my experiment with “returning to my roots.” There are many herbs that were used in ancient and medieval Europe for the same spiritual and practical purpose that white sage and palo santo are used by new age spiritual communities today. And so I began my own practice of tying and burning herbal bundles that my witchy ancestors would have used. Some grocery store versions are:  

  • Garden or cooking sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Yes, just like the song! Cheesy, but maybe the hippies were on to something…

Below I’ve outlined a step by step guide for tying your own herbal bundles from ingredients easily found in grocery stores. And for those that are more foraging inclined, herbs like mullein, lavender, or mugwort were also traditionally burned to clear spaces of negative energy.

Step 1: assemble materials. I use cotton twine for “sausage making” found on Amazon, scissors, garden sage, and rosemary.

 

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Step 2: Identify size of herb bundle that you want to make. Remember, it shrinks when it dries!
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Step 3: Tie a knot at the bottom of the bundle, begin winding the twine around the bundle, tightly packing the herbs together.

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Step 4: Once you’ve wound all the way to the top of the bundle, wind back down and tie off at the end. Leave some room on the string to hang it to dry.

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Step 5: Hang to dry in a sunny window. I choose my kitchen window because blinds are so handy for hanging. It take a week or two to get fully dry!

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Once they’re dry, they can be burned just like a white sage bundle. Make sure to have a bowl/dish below the bundle to catch any ash, and don’t leave unattended!

There are so many different traditional herbs that can be used for this spiritual smoke cleansing practice, so feel free to experiment (but do your homework and be safe!). I’ve found this practice of connecting with my ancestry, rather than just easily adopting a spiritual practice that comes from a different lineage, to be really rewarding for me. Not only do I feel more connected to my lineage, I also feel more connected to the plants. There’s something amazing about the smell of sage and rosemary lingering on my fingers for hours after I’ve tied my last bundle, and the reward I feel when I take one of my dry bundles and light it to clean my house. Short of growing these herbs myself, I’ve had an intentional hand in the tying, drying, and frying of them, which leaves my house smelling great and feeling light and free.

 

WitchyWomen Wednesdays

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Ariella Upton is a solitary eclectic witch who was raised by a Christian kitchen witch. She has a wealth of knowledge about herbs, crystals, natural remedies, gardening, history, religion and is currently studying astrology. She works as a PA & manager on Maui, and spends her free time with her magickal family in the forests and beaches they call home. Her shop is on Instagram as @the.celestial.rose where she sells jewelry, artesian smudge sticks, antiques, books and more.

 


 

Kitchen Witching 101: Herbs

 

There are myriad of sub-topics to cover under such a broad category, one I could write pages upon pages (and have!) about herbs, salts, cooking methods, growing a garden, cosmetic uses, remedies to fight ailments… into infinity!

Today I would like to start at the very basics of Kitchen Witchery, the herbs. There are SO MANY herbs we could talk about, all of them wonderful, with their own properties in the physical and metaphysical world. It is HARD to narrow them down, because I love them all, but these top 5 cover a broad spectrum of health, beauty and magickal properties.

 

Top 5 Must Have Herbs

 

  • Garlic – this is my top #1 all time favorite herb. It does MF everything, from toothaches, warts, inflammation, heart & blood ailments, lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels, eases headaches, treats type 2 diabetes, fights cancer like a BOSS, yeast infection and so many more! It contains vitamins A, B + C, magnesium, potassium, selenium, allin, sulfur, phosphorus & germanium. In the garden, these plants repel slugs and snails; I plant them as a wall around my garden and it definitely helps. It is easy to propagate, simply take the fattest, outer bulbs, put them in a bit of water (I use toothpicks to keep them partially submerged) and place in a sunny window. Once roots and sprouts appear, they can be potted. Magick wise, garlic has been rumored to avert vampires. While you may never meet a fanged immortal, there are energy vampires aplenty in our world today, so hanging some in your home, placing bulbs near entrances or having a nice little potted one on your porch will help keep those energetic monsters away.

Garlic

 

  • Ginger – this is another super herb. Use it to treat inflammation, arthritis/muscle pains, poor circulation, high cholesterol, colds/flus, any type of nausea (sea/motion sickness, morning sickness, chemo side effects). Used in cosmetic products, it fights signs of aging, improves skin tone, calms irritation plus it adds a warm fragrance to the skin as well. You can understand why it is so super when you consider it is chock full of Vitamins C & B6, magnesium, manganese, potassium and copper. I used ginger tonic for my babies when they would get sick, from about 9 months old (when it is ok to give them more than just milk). I also use it in my ageless face mist (ginger tonic+rose water+witch hazel.) In the garden, it can be a bit invasive and needs to be kept fairly warm (read: won’t live through winter.) HOWEVER it can be grown inside in troughs. For Magick purposes, the scent of ginger induces passion & enhances sexual energy.

Ginger-1

 

  • Mint – just the way it smells could be reason enough to put this at the top. Mint has a cool, refreshing taste making it popular in teas, which are stimulants and also aid in digestion & reducing flatulence. Mints have antiseptic, antiviral and sweat-inducing properties. Drink a cup of mint tea before and after difficult meals or if you have been experiencing digestive issues. I make a ginger-mint tonic for my family members at Thanksgiving, when we all need it most! It is an easy plant to grow (but don’t love it too much, moderate water and sunshine) and will continue to sprout and spread as far as you will let it. I have it planted under my front porch steps, where it gets afternoon light, and it is slowly spreading under my stilted house. Used for prosperity, success and money magick, this herb amplifies spells used for business and finance.

Mint

 

  • Rosemary – the smell of this plant is just unbeatable. It’s got me huffing all my little plants. I wonder what my neighbors must think?! Not only does it SMELL good, but when burned, this baby is an actual air cleaner. Around cold and flu season, I am known to place it in little jars of water all over the house, then running through with some dried, bundled, burning rosemary. I swear it eliminates a couple occasions a year of sickness for us (3 kids in and you realize they are practically petri dishes for germs). For cooking, try with almost any veggie, fish and poultry. It’s magickal properties include purification, love, protection and intellectual matters. Rosemary is an excellent aid for memory; keep a small sachet on your person when needed. Rosemary tea before a test or exam will awaken the mind into it’s best functionality.

Rosemary

 

  • Lavender – this one is a gem. Lavender treats colds, flu, staph, strep, skin infections, nail infections, indigestion & IBS, muscle spasms, depression, insomnia, yeast infections, wounds.. just to list a small portion of uses. Practically non-toxic, this is an herb safe to use in cleaners, to burn.. the essential oil is safe to put directly on the skin to heal wounds, cuts, scrapes and bruises. Via aromatherapy, lavender has a powerful calming effect and works wonders against depression (do not use to replace therapy or medication!! Use to aid and enhance current treatments ONLY). Based on folklore, it is said carrying this herb will allow you to see ghosts. Apart from that, use magickally for love, protection and purification. Lavender is a good herb to attract an affair, so be sure you state your intention and know what you want before you start “attracting all the strays” as it were.

Lavender

 

Some notes on the subject of using herbs to turn the mundane to magick:

  • Intentions are everything. I focus on my intentions when I add herbs to food, asking the Lord and Lady to bring the benefits of the selected herb to all who consume the food.
  • Stir clockwise to invoke magickal properties (focus on intention!!)
  • Some herbs, such as sage, rosemary, mugwort, lavender and rose can be burned for magickal effects and cleansing.
  • Growing herbs in containers is totally viable if you have no space. I have been there, and even still, many of my plants are in pots close to my kitchen door.

 

Suggested Reading Material:

Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham

Do-It-Yourself Herbal Medicine published by Fall River Press