Aug 18, 2018

Pumpkins, Protection, and a Mad, Mad August

Summer 'Dog-Days' are from mid-July to mid-August. Our ancestors noticed Canicula, the Roman dog star, was in conjunction with the Sun - attributing mad dogs, irritable shedding snakes, and all sorts of vile behavior to Dog Days. Ponds stagnate, poison-ivy thrives, and the fetid air maddens us now with gnats, hungry mosquitoes, and flies; all of us enveloped in a humid miasmic cloud that hangs over these hills.

-Linda Ours Rago, Blackberry Cove Herbal, Traditional Appalachian Herbalism

I counted eight pumpkins, and felt a flutter of excitement in my belly. There were years when I wouldn't grow them because my allotted garden space was minimal and pumpkins were impractical - the plants took up too much room and their many fruits were more than I could use. But as the years raced by I arrived at this magical age when I realized that what was practical was less important than what brought me joy. I decided that life is too short not to grow pumpkins.

The tomatoes that were in my basket a moment ago are as crimson as the sun in its attempt to shine through the wildfire smoke. How many suns and moons have burned red this summer...I've lost count now. The wind changed direction and blew a thick haze into town this morning, like fog rolling in off the ocean. It settled in, right to the ground, and I can barely see the neighbour's house across the road. I'm covered in falling ash as I pick my way through the garden beds, examining the crops and tugging at invading grasses.

I've been having my breakfast in a cornfield since the beginning of August. It somehow seems right that the first day of the golden month would mark my appearance in the middle of an acre of corn, crawling through rows on my hands and knees, talking to the plants and the birds who watch this strange creature moving through the field. My farmer friend is losing her battle with weeds this year. Black nightshade, and a few other vigorous self-sowers, took over the spaces between the cornstalks and some of her successive plantings are being dwarfed by the invaders. She can't keep up so I've volunteered my first hour or two at daybreak, until my back gives out or until the sun rises too high and hot - whichever happens first. Then I wander back down the hill into my day, stopping at the small help-yourself farm stand to buy eggs for my breakfast.

In the last week we've come through another eclipse, a half dozen planets in retrograde, and meteors streaking across the night sky. In my area there are forest fires, large festivals luring the masses into our small towns, and hundred-degree days which, when all stirred up in the cauldron of The Valley, serves up its own sort of madness. I've had trouble getting enough sleep, have found my brain a bit foggy, and, courtesy of the smoke, I'm waking each day with squeaky lungs and a sore throat. These dog days are wearing on me, but I'm making my way through them with as much easy living and small, meaningful magics as possible.

Though we now identify the 'dog days' as the most stifling weeks of summer, most folks understand that the phrase originated with the yearly reappearance of the dog star, Sirius, which some ancient peoples associated with calamity and ill luck. The length of these days of discomfort (and possible devilry) could be anywhere from three to six weeks and could start as early as the beginning of July or run into late August.

Here in The Valley, we are weary from the smoke and ash of wildfires (though thankful that the flames did not swallow peoples homes like they have in previous years). The creeks are dry and the hillsides brittle, and we could sorely use some rain. Our dog days are not over yet. But we do what we can to keep our spirits up. It's a good time to keep up with your spiritual work too, refreshing the wards on your home and land. I keep my altars fed and watered, the spirits I work with honoured (even on the days when I'm too tired to think of ritual or libations), and there are a few protections that have been employed, both to thwart the 'mad-dog' energy and to shield from some of the more criminal activity that increases in our area during the tourist season.

Your favourite floor wash recipe is a wonderful helper for stagnant energy (and can only benefit the house after a dusty summer). If you are feeling 'bitten' by the summer blues or working to bump up your spiritual safeguards, tossing some dried, crushed-to-powder eggshells in your mop water might be in order (if you are unsure about this practice, research Cascarilla and the folklore associated with eggs). I keep any broom-straws that shed from my working broom and I will add one to my mop bucket when cleaning with floor washes to prevent any unwanted guests treading over my floor.

If you are not against calling on saints (or in this case, saints who are also angels) then Saint Michael can be petitioned for protection. Some practices involve hanging or tucking his image over your front door (slipping a small prayer card behind the lintel can be an inconspicuous way of doing this). There are also various amulet-type charms such as equal armed crosses fashioned from particular trees (rowan crosses with red thread, for example) that can be enlisted for their protections on homes or persons. I like to make use of what the land around me offers up. Last year I listened to an insistent prodding to twine some late-season raspberry canes into a delightfully prickly swag that lives over my door. It has been a wonderful guardian ally for my home.

The land is beginning to pull back its energy, no longer bursting outward in fireworks of colour and lushness but plodding along through scorching sun and the floating soot from wildfires. There are signs, in the tansy and goldenrod nodding on the roadsides, the deepening hours of darkness, and the quail families coming together now, legions of them running down the road or pecking and scratching through the underbrush, that speak to cooler days and the deep amber light that late summer brings.

I'm hoping for an early autumn this year - rains and winds to quench the fires and dry land. The charms or protections you weave now will see you into new seasons, and you can add to them with the next tide's harvests or found treasures (a door wreath or swag is perfect for this sort of work).

How have you fared this summer? Were the balmy months friendly to you, or did you wilt and melt and find solace in shade or swimming holes? The weather man reports that the heat has not had its last run at us. The hundred-degree afternoons should be finished now, but the days still linger in the nineties and we are yet moving very slowly during the mid-day hours.

I'm wishing you so many more pleasant days of summer - less madness and more ease. And if you are one of us who attempt to court the fall days in with apples and home-grown pumpkins, who tempt the cool breezes to come soon, then I wish you all the brisk mornings and crisp nights you desire.

Witch Notes: Further Reading

This beautiful post, from Hecate Demeter on her August days.

A good look at spiritual house cleansing with plenty of floor wash ideas, from New World Witchery.

Spiritual Cleansing, Draja Mickaharic

Protection & Reversal Magic, Jason Miller

Communing With the Spirits, Martin Coleman
*Though this may seem like a strange recommendation, it references ancestral spirits (which some of us work with in our homes) and charms and such for keeping trickster spirits away.

All photos mine except the photo of the night sky, courtesy of Robert V. Ruggiero via Unsplash.

Jun 14, 2018

The Marriage of Spring and Summer or, Listening to the Land

I walked the five-mile length of land often, in all weather, keening my senses to the activity of snakes, toads, deer, and trees on rainy and cloud-filled days, I came to recognize the place of each stone, tree, and being that lived in the area, and my own place within, rather than apart from this sacred terrain.   
- Judith Berger, Herbal Rituals
I am listening to grasshoppers singing for the first time this year. In early spring I caught the thrumming of pond frogs echoing across the river, and have been serenaded by assorted song birds since late winter, but those big old grasshoppers don't usually start sawing their legs until the heat ushers summer in. We are at the precipice now, hastily tipping toward those months of sultry breezes and sweltering, slow-moving afternoons. I've been feeling 'in-between' for a few weeks now. Spring is not yet over, but summer seems about ready to set up camp at any moment. I'm all spun around, but rather contented about it.

It might have been the strange heat storms that were pacing along the valley hills just over a week ago, circling my little town but not pouncing (something we don't usually experience until July). It felt like the hot season had arrived. The temperatures climbed to the high 80's for almost two weeks and we were peeling off clothing and drinking icy beverages. The hard work of planting the gardens being finished, I was able to loll about in my yard weeding here and there, deadheading spring blooms and sipping my morning coffee in the shade while the cats clucked at the birds visiting the feeder. But last night there was a cold wind spinning its fingers through my hair as I moved through the rows of peas and lettuces. The day had been warm though there was just enough briskness to remind me that, despite the feverish tease in the middle of May, spring was not finished with us. My family in Ontario lost half their new tomato plants to frost a week ago and only a few mornings after that, at the eastern edge of my country, startled Canadians awoke to snow. I find myself hanging in the balance, the land I walk upon too far gone into ripeness to call it spring anymore, yet not quite radiating with heat and crackling with summer energy.

As gardeners, homesteaders, farmers, wild folk or witches for whom the turning of the year has a level of importance, marking time and tide is much more intuitive than looking at a date in your daybook and trusting that is when the weather will change and the next agricultural marker will be upon us. Most people live in areas that don't suddenly feel different when the solstices and equinoxes arrive, despite the calendrical announcement that it is the first day of the next season. Whether you are fond of the Old Farmer's Almanac or the Wheel of the Year, there is a still a flow to the way the land and climate metamorphose. Your area will tell you when the next season is arriving. Your trees, local flora and wildlife will give indications of the transitions and you only need to allow yourself to observe and note those messages to feel the tide of the year shifting.

The liminal time between seasons always makes me so deliciously dizzy. I feel almost tipsy, picking up on the increasing buzz of the incoming energies, while giving a nod and a farewell to those still hanging on - watching them dance and melt into each other like tendrils of woodsmoke or streaks of stardust across a meteor-showered sky. While I make note of grasshopper songs, where certain constellations are winking above me each night, and which garden flowers are blooming now, I also plug in to the deeper pulse of my land base. I know where the water is running and where the ponds are shrinking back from their spring flood. I can see the wild plants that are flourishing and tell by the animal signs who is moving through an area. I can feel my temples tighten when a low pressure system is approaching. Our entire bodies are a sensitive gauge that can observe and chronicle our experiences while translating the language of our environment into clear symbols that allow us to connect intimately with the land we live upon.

Start with knowing where you are. What's the geography? Do you live by the sea, in the high desert, in the middle of a great city? How many seasons do you have and how long do they last? What is your FDA planting zone? What animals and plants are natives there and who lived on the land before you?
Treat the land like a new lover. Learn what it is, what it likes, how it is threatened and who protects it. "Land" isn't only soil. It is wind and water. It is history and legend.
-H. Byron Ballard, Asfidity & Madstones

When we are in-between seasons, with one foot in each, feeling neither here nor there, it's good to set your sights on something to anchor you. For me, keeping my hands busy in the gardens or the kitchen calms my whirling senses. I'm a tactile girl, so having a task I can touch brings me a great deal of peace and pleasure. Here are some ideas, based on my own activities and current to-do list, that might assist or inspire as the veiling between spring and summer begins to slip away.

Late spring projects and nearly-summer tasks:

* The spring rains are fading now, so be kind and create a water source or bath for birds/bees/animals.

* While the weeds in your yard are lush and green, harvest them for food, medicine, and magic. (I know you have a good field guide and can identify your plants accurately.) Tincture fresh herb material, dry your harvest for infusions, toss freshly picked young leaves into salads.

* The May and June observances of Beltane and Midsummer are considered particularly fae/otherworldly (even though you can tap into this energy in every month). Have you cultivated a connection with your land and the others that live there? Do you offer gifts or thanks when you harvest or pass through an area? Is an altar, offering or burial place something you might wish to bring into your yard or practice?

* In my area this is the last chance to collect the soft and citrusy spruce/fir tips. Yarrow, wild rose, and elderberry bushes are seen blooming now. It is early berry season, and strawberries, honeyberries (haskap berry) and Saskatoons (service berries) can all be found. The medicinal herbs that are thriving with vigorous growth at this time of year, such as mugwort, vervain, calendula, and St. John's wort show up in folklore and magic as midsummer herbs and are traditionally harvested in mid-June. I'm out wandering the land and my gardens with my basket as often as I can be. My valley hills will begin to dry up soon, and the vibrant plants will fade with the fierce heat of summer.

* Midsummer (on or around June 21st up to and including St. John's Day on the 24th) is considered the height of green energy and there is magic afoot! There is a plethora of folklore on the merits of picking herbs/flowers around this date. I make sure my yearly Florida Water mother tincture is created before or on the solstice, and I purposefully harvest a small selection of midsummer plants for magical work.
For many years it was believed that witches picked their herbs at the summer solstice, and that they did it naked in the middle of the night. The farm women also made a bouquet of midsummer herbs, a summer solstice bundle, from one of the countless versions of nine herbs - a magic number. To increase the healing power of yarrow, wood betony, or other herbs the women peered through the bundle and into the fire and spoke a charm, something like the following: "No boil shall come upon my body, no break to my foot." 
-Witchcraft Medicine, by Müller-Ebeling, Rätsch and Storl

If you've moved recently, or are new to conversing with your land base, why not introduce yourself to people and places that might offer you sources of seasonal wisdom. There are few locales these days that don't have a farmer's market of some kind nearby. Talk to the farmers and herb-crafters. See what is in season and what they are expecting to harvest in the coming months.

Visit your local farm and feed shop. Even if you aren't a farmer there is always something wonderful to be found in a supply store and more importantly you can glean tips, tricks, and seasonal lore from the regulars as well as the person behind the counter. Don't have a farm store around? Hit the garden center. Someone there is going to be knowledgeable about the weather and growing conditions in your area.

Talk to your neighbours or folks who you know have been in your community for a long time. Most people don't mind a good chat, so ask them how the seasons have shifted since their early days in the area. My grandfather would have talked your ear off and told you all kinds of stories about his summers as a boy working in the local orchards (gods, I miss him).

Summertide is calling out a greeting now, with cherries beginning to spill out onto farm stands and snap peas fading to gold (even as the shelling peas still offer up a lovely harvest) and I am trying to taste the last kisses of spring before I run into the next season's embrace. I'll dance a while longer in this delicious in-between, gardening in the soft rain and grinning as the wind tries to make off with my big sun hat. I won't have to wait long for the heat - the grasshoppers are singing it in.

Witch Notes:

The quotes included above are from wonderful books that you might wish to seek out. Judith Berger's utterly charming "Herbal Rituals" is sadly out of print but is available as an e-book. It takes you through each month of the year, and presents the author's observations of the shifting seasons and the herbs and flowers that speak to her at those times.

I can highly recommend Asfidity Madstones, an enchanting workbook (both working with your land and a good helping of magical work too) and Witchcraft Medicine (pages 10-19 speak of midsummer specifically). I also want to point out author Tristan Gooley who has a handful of books on the joy of reading nature's signs (his website is wonderful and you could get lost there happily).

And for those who find themselves somewhat overcome with seasonal tasks and malaise, this is a lovely article about dealing with seasonal overwhelm, from One Willow Apothecaries.

Edited to add:

I neglected to mention a wonderful email-course called Be A Local Witch, from Lady Althaea. I received the course because I'm a Patreon supporter of hers and though I've been running through my own forests and meadows since I was a child I found it a fantastic read with wonderful ideas and actions for a deeper relationship with the land and its spirits.

As for me, I'm currently digging through these gems:

The Enchanted Life: Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday by Sharon Blackie

Six Ways: Approaches & Entries for Practical Magic by Aidan Wachter
(I've read this wonderful book and am circling back through it, marking it with dozens of sticky notes - I'll have more to say about this tome soon! In the meantime, grab it - it's fantastic!)

PS - My apologies to the southern latitude folks, for whom this post will offer little. I know you are moving from autumn into your winter season now and I wish you warmth, comfort, and plenty of hygge!

May 3, 2018

Dirt and Stars and Spring Awakenings

There is dirt under my nails, a microcosm of minerals and organisms and organic material huddled under the crescent moons at the ends of my fingers, and I can't stop smiling.

Until this week the spring winds have been stern, not letting me get too ahead of myself in the gardens. I'm apt to wander out, dropping layers and shoes and socks and rolling up pant legs, but it's not yet that kind of temperature. I'm kept somewhat corralled by the chilly morning dew and the late afternoon breezes, but in between the dawn and dusk I find moments to get my hands in the soil, the warming earth now parting eagerly for me.

I made a fantastic error in judgement late last autumn when I hung a feeder for the birds. It was too close to one of the vegetable beds and now the fallen seed has created an oasis of grass at the end of my rows of peas. The new pea shoots are happily leaping up without hesitation and so, in order to ensure they are not choked out by sprouting birdseed, I've been on my hands and knees for a while each day pulling the unwanted grasses out one at a time. This meditation, this devotion to the growing of things (and I suppose, for the grass seeds, the killing of things) makes me feel alive again after a longer winter than I am used to. I don't mind prostrating myself before the earth and its burgeoning green. It's a holier worship than most, this bowing and bending to the land and its life.

There was such beauty to be found while the snow fell and then melted, and then came again and again right into April. I kept good company with books and warm mugs, twinkle lights and candle flames flickering, and cats snoozing on my legs. Now the cats are chewing on grasses and stalking the first bugs of the season. The frogs are awake too, rejoicing in the rains and warmer days. I can hear them a mile off from their marshy ponds. I can't think of a more beautiful chorus for this month of stirring and growth.

Dainty white and purple violets dot the yard now, they were the first blooming thing save the neighbour's forsythia and its blossoms of pure sunlight. Violet leaf and flower can be tossed into spring salads alongside young dandelion leaves, chickweed, small leaves of common mallow, cleavers, and a number of edible 'weeds' that pop up this time of year. My favourite way to bless myself with violet is topically, and I wilt the flowers and then infuse them in oil for a lymph massage rub, as well as create balms with them for skin healing.

I've begun to harvest the first dandelion flowers too, which makes me giddy. I left the inaugural blooms for the bees but when the mass flowering began, weaving yellow brick roads all through the property, I began to pick and dry flowers daily for teas and oils. There will be dandelion flower syrup soon too. I'm near faint at the thought of that heady liquid on my tongue.

The perennial flower bed, which houses long-established plants as well as new herbal additions, has finally been weeded, amended and blessed. There is a corner that has always had a very fae element to it - no matter what I planted there it would thrive as long as fairly consistent offerings were left on the earth. Plants that had no business in half shade and moist soil became glorious beasts and flowered profusely in that spot. I've been negligent of that strange corner for the past two seasons, forgetting the wine, whiskey, or homemade cookie offerings. Unsurprisingly, the forget-me-nots I loved so deeply disappeared and the delphinium faltered and never returned. I spent some time leaving offerings there last week and I reset the small altar. I'm hopeful for a resurrection of lushness and life in that area.

On the last night of April (Walpurgisnacht, for some) after my own revels indoors and out, I awoke in the night to the patter of rain on the roof. I wandered into it, that early May morn shower, feeling grateful for the moisture that my land is lacking at the moment. I returned to bed after being blessed by the sudden storm, and dreamed of devils and carousing with beasts around balefires.

April was all dizzying weather, shooting stars, and woodsmoke on the wind. I found magic in the visits of coyotes and mysterious gifts unearthed in the garden, among the daily whispering of my land and spirits. May has brought with it warm winds and summer-like weather, the trees and flowers that were biding their time for sunnier days have all burst open, leaf and bloom.

I hope you've weathered your first calendar months well. I'm awake and rejoicing now, but gods I loved the long, quiet winter this year. All of this brightness, birdsong, and lushness is almost over-extravagant and I find myself wishing for rain, not just because the land needs it but because I'd not be unhappy to have another afternoon to curl up inside with a book and some tea. But we walk into each season, open to whatever comes, knowing that despite the changing world around us, we can at least do good work wherever we are. On our land, in our communities, and within our homes and magical practices.

Welcome May and Beltane season! Welcome herbs and flowers and new leafy greens! Welcome warm, starry nights and kisses by campfires and lake shores! Cheers to our awakening!

Jan 31, 2018

An Evergreen Winter: The Comfort and Protection of Conifers

The snow is falling in such ghostly flakes that I almost need to squint to see it. Each icy star is so tiny that it doesn't so much fall as dance through the air, whirling around me, kissing my nose and cheeks, melting even as it arrives at the very edge of my skin. It's the same sort of teasing weather that our small party of wildcrafters enjoyed in the woods last month at year's end. We made our way across the snowy landscape, seeking out evergreens to keep our homes jolly and stocked with conifer medicine for winter tide.

We were kept company by chickadees, and stalked the foot trails of deer and coyote, and something with larger paws...lynx, perhaps. We set off together, then wandered slightly off course from one another to find our own trees to whisper to. I lingered at a Douglas fir whose large boughs reached toward the place my dog was buried over a decade ago. Her bones are there still, and though I've been reunited with her in dreams over the years I was surprised at the fierce longing I felt while I was standing beside her resting place. I gathered a few small clippings and kept them tucked aside. Some of those fir tips were for tea, and it gave my heart mild comfort to think that I might be rejoining us in the smallest way by ingesting an infusion from a tree that was fed with her body.

I spent some time with Ponderosa pine, happily gathering up sprays of needles and brushing my hand lightly down the bark to collect any loose resin that had dripped the length of the trees. One pine had been scored heavily by a bear, and another next to it had fallen, its standing remains worn smooth by animals using it as a rubbing post.

There was juniper to be had as well, along with merry green wolf lichen, and a few bright red rosehips left on a stand of wild roses. Once our arms were full of our bounty, we found our way back to my friend's cozy kitchen where a pot of soup was warmed. Rum and eggnog was the seasonal aperitif and a delightful assortment of home-fermented foods accompanied the meal. We spoke of herbal medicines and the hard-won victories of our own peace and well being, while we nibbled on roasted apples topped with maple orange whipped cream.

Conifer medicine is good medicine year round, but there is something especially comforting about bringing evergreens inside in the winter months. The traditional scent of the holidays aside, trees in the pine family (Pinaceae) and some of their cypress brethren (Cupressaceae) are chock full of vitamin C and can offer aid in dealing with respiratory issues/infections, making these trees a perfect cold tonic. Anti-inflammatory and diuretic, the needles can also be infused in oil for a pain-easing massage blend for muscle and joints. Taken as tea, in nutrient-rich vinegar, or transformed into a soothing chest rub, pine, fir, and juniper can assist in keeping your body humming along through the coldest season.

In folklore and magic, conifers seem to act as guardian spirits and are especially useful as helpers for healthy and safe home-keeping. Their stories and lore echo the practical application of these stalwart trees by the original inhabitants of the land. Lodgepole pine was employed in home-building for First Peoples, providing the poles for tepees and lodges, and fragrant fir boughs were gathered as bedding and as floor covering.

Juniper has a history of aiding purification work, assisting in the clearing of both real-world pests, such as insects or rodents, and those of a more spectral variety. The fragrant shrub was used as funerary wood in some forest tribes, the smoke offering protective company to the departing soul. Even in fairy tale, juniper is burial chamber and underworld where the dead can be reborn, as the The Juniper Tree story tells. Cedar, and in the west specifically Pacific red cedar (Thuja plicata) was the conifer of choice for coffins and sea-faring vessels and had so many daily uses that it was known as "Mother Cedar" to the Salish peoples.

The south has its own evergreens (the devastating decline of longleaf pine in particular, is worth reading up on) and here too, in southern rootwork and hoodoo traditions, we see pine added to incenses and floor washes for protection and cleansing/clearing work. Cedar is used in work where gentle persuasion is needed, and evergreens in general can be considered money-drawing just by their nature and name.

Hoarfrost on pine, British Columbia

In my own practice the fir, pine, and juniper I collect in the woods before the winter solstice are bound together with words of protection whispered or chanted over the bundle. I often add a sprig of prickly wild rose, the maroon skin of the branches and the deep red hips lending a pop of red to my green swag. Sometimes I'll even attach a cutting of Oregon Grape, which has a decidedly holly-like look to its spiny leaves. This grand bundle will guard my door and household from December through until late January. The neighbours might give a side-eye to my lingering branches, their own holiday decor long put away, but my evergreen guardian is meant for keeping unwanted spirits from stopping by on a winter's eve and the bitter season doesn't begin to loosen its grip around these parts until February dawns.

As I find myself in the last hours of January now, my sentinel swag is retired and the greenery sorted and re-purposed for incense and magic-making. It pleases me to consider that the aromatic smoke of pine and fir wafting from my censer was once the ward at my home's threshold. This previous-incarnation adds an extra note to any clearing or protection work I do with the incense or washes I create with these trees. (While I might add juniper and cedar to a clearing incense blend, they are more often utilized in my ancestor practices.) If your practice follows seasonal or wheel-type observations, the arrival of Imbolc or Candlemass marks the traditional burning of Yule greens. Generally, these greens would not remain in the household after this point as to keep them indoors would be to invite in poor luck. I burn a small selection of my conifer branches in my fire bowl as a tribute to the passing season, and put the rest up in glass jars for future use.

I truly hope you have weathered your winter beautifully. Perhaps you've found comfort in hygge, coziness and good company, or you've ventured out to ski runs or sledding hills. If you didn't save your holiday greens for Imbolc bonfires or incense, don't fret. Soon, bright green fir tips hinting of citrus will emerge with the coming of spring and you can find new ways to enjoy conifer medicine and magic!

*Please note that conifers can irritate the kidneys with continual use. Please research and know your pines/fir/junipers/cedars before imbibing them (a good field guide or local forestry website will be of great help). Junipers and some pines are not recommended while pregnant or breast-feeding.

Articles and Recipes for reveling in conifers:

Gathering and Processing Conifers, from Rebecca at Thorn & Wonder

Incense crafting, from Sarah Anne Lawless

Evergreen salt scrub, from Rosealee de la Foret at Learning Herbs

Juniper berry spiced cookies, from Danielle at Gather

Foraging for Pine needles, from Colleen at Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment

A Midwinter Herbaria, from Becky at Blood and Spicebush (Pine is mentioned)

I have another small batch of my conifer oil, bottled and listed in my shop, ready to take home.


Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (specifically the chapter "Old-Growth Children" in which she speaks of cedars)

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada, Lone Pine
(Lone Pine produces beautiful field guides)

The Old Magic of Christmas, Linda Raedisch (chapter 12, specifically "Juniper")

The Untold History of Healing, Wolf D. Storl (chapter 2, specifically "Juniper")

USDA Ponderosa Pine guide

Oct 30, 2017

The Great October Giveaway - Sabbat Sign

Thank you again for joining me this year, it was a delicious amount of fun for me! I did receive all your email entries and just about gave myself carpal tunnel by writing out all your names (twice, at times). Thank you for making me smile and for digging the books and goodies and folks I've featured this year. Do click through all the photos and links, and track these authors and artists down, too.

My internet dropped out yesterday during our first snowstorm of the season, so I'm a bit late in posting this, but...the lucky soul taking home Aidan's beautiful work is:

Jennifer Larochelle


You know it is coming. Every year. The last day of October. The haunt of all haunts. The motherlode of candy. The scent of scorched pumpkin, spent firecrackers, and the bonfire smoke on the wind. The laughter and the screams of all the little monsters running amok. And all that before you engage in your own festivities. Samhain reigns from dusk on the 31st until sunset on November 1st, and whether you observe the sabbat or simply frolic with Halloween glee, the finale of October is definitely something to celebrate.

To wind up our October fun here at Rue and Hyssop, I've saved the witch's best accessory for last. A striking talisman, Sabbat Sign, created by the marvelous Aidan Wachter. If you don't know Aidan yet, you need to. A superior precious-metal artist, author of Six Ways (soon-to-be-released from Red Temple Press), and just a sincerely awesome person, Aidan has generously offered up one of his sigils to a very lucky trick-or-treater.

I'll let his own words speak for this stunning piece:
The Sabbat Sign came about while working on an altar piece (which also produced the Descent piece). While they contain strong Saturnal and Neptunian aspects, the story they tell is of those who engage in spirit flight, like witches flying to the Sabbat. They also have resonance with Lucifer and the Watchers. They come in two forms, ascending and descending. This is the ascending or upright form...

These next three days are alive with magic and remembrances. Go out into the world and make merry (or make mischief) on your Halloween, Samhain, and All Saint's Day, but have your name in the hat here by All Soul's Day (November 2nd) at 8 pm Pacific time in order to have a chance at gathering up this lovely silver sigil.

Once again, your comment counts as your entry. If the comment form isn't working out for you, drop your name in the hat by using the "contact me" button up top. If you'd like a second chance at this gorgeous piece, please share Aidan's shop, or link to one of his pieces that catches your eye, at your favourite social media site and then stop back here and let me know and I'll put your name in the hat again.

Thank you so much for joining me this year - it's so fun for me to see familiar names flying by each October, and extra lovely to meet new folks. Immense thanks to the wonderful authors and artists that lent a hand this month in making this another enchanting Great October Book (and cards, and amazing art) Giveaway. I could never pull this off without you!

Happy Halloween, and a bewitching Samhain to you!

Legal Bits:

* This giveaway (or "sweepstakes") is open to all residents of Canada, (exluding Quebec residents) the USA, Great Britain, Europe, South America,  who are 18 years of age or older. This giveaway is void where prohitibited by law.  Please be aware of the contest/sweepstakes laws in your area.

*  Canadian residents will be subject to a skill testing question before being able to claim their prize (this is standard law in Canada).  The skill testing question will be in a form similar to: 1 + 2 - 1 =

*  This giveaway is not for profit and no purchase is necessary to enter.

*  This giveaway is sponsored/administrated solely by this blog/blog author and is not affilitated with or sponsored by Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, or any other entity, nor can they be held liable.

* By leaving a comment intending to enter into the draw for the giveaway (or "sweepstakes") you are knowingly agreeing to these rules/conditions.

I have chosen all the books/cards featured this month myself.  I have not been paid to feature a book, nor have I been asked to advertise for anyone.  This giveaway is not endorsed or sponsored by anyone other than Rue and Hyssop