Oct 31, 2012

The Great October Book Giveaway - Week Four Winners!

Thank you so much to all who entered in the giveaways this month - and thanks so much to the authors who autographed their wonderful books!  Thank you for making my second year doing an October book giveaway a wonderful experience.  I'm already thinking of ways to make it even bigger next year!

Here we go...

The winner of "Everyday Magic" by Dorothy Morrison is:


The winner of "Utterly Wicked" is:

Theresa N.

The winner of "Lucinda's Web" is:

The Starfire Witch

Congratulations!  Please send me a note with your mailing address to:  rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com and I'll get the books out to you!

Haunting Herbals And A Blessed Hallows

I had grand plans for a Halloween/Samhain post but time has not been a friend this month, so I'm re-posing a work that I contributed elsewhere.  I did want to stop by and wish you all a very happy Halloween and a magical evening.  I know that many will be having to skip the celebrations this year as they recover from the storms out East.  Here in the north-west, we are having constant rains and winds and snow a bit higher up from us.  I'm thinking the door-bell will be very quiet tonight.

My wish for you is a safe, dry evening, with the warm glow of jack-o-lanterns, and the scent of roasting pumpkin seeds and hot, spiced drinks.  Be well!

This post of mine was originally published at Samhain's Sirens on October 3, 2012.

Herbs invoke a myriad of images, from a delicious plot of culinary delights to the perfect medicine to calm an upset tummy.  These lovely green allies are just as happy to perch at the edge of your plate as a garnish as they are being tossed in a charm bag to bring you luck.  Today, we turn to herbs for all manner of reasons, but not so long ago the lore surrounding these natural helpers was anything but innocuous.  Let’s take a look at the more mysterious side of our herbal friends.

First we consider basil.  Commonly believed to invoke venomous beasts, basil was quite the fearful herb once upon a time.  A favorite herb of witches, basil was used in flying ointments which were then rubbed on the witch and their preferred mode of transportation.

“A mystical Herb employed by Witches.  I dare write no more of it!” ~ Nicholas Culpeper

In keeping with the forbidden nature of the herb, basil was also employed as an aphrodisiac. “Even old men felt its charm.” ~ Ovid.

And speaking of dark desires, our friendly neighbourhood mint has a naughty side too.  Culpeper says it is an herb of Venus and “…it is an incentive to venery and bodily lust.”  Legend has it that Minthe was a nymph that Hades had taken a liking to, and when his wife Persephone found the two entwined, she turned the nymph into a herb, that would forever be constantly creeping along the ground searching for her underworld lover.  Hades, in his favor of her, made her wonderfully scented and gave her aphrodisiacal qualities so that she would be desired evermore.

Mints are also apparently helpful against the biting of serpents and mad dogs.  I’m not sure how mint would stand up to a zombie bite though - so take no chances!

One herb that may keep zombies (and everyone else) away is garlic.  Garlic is more famously known for its vampire deterrent qualities, but was also used in old Europe as a charm against the evil eye of enemies.  A dear friend of mine swears by putting a fresh head of garlic on the inside of her windows each new moon for protection.

And garlic doesn’t seem to mind a bit of abuse.  An old wives tale says that crushing or bruising a garlic clove before planting will improve the flavor of the growing plant.

One herb that was not thought beneficial to be gifted or moved about the garden is parsley.  “Transplant parsley, transplant sorrow,” so the saying goes.  And if you dared transplant it?  Southern folklore says you’d have bad luck until either you or the parsley died.

Parsley takes a significant amount of time to germinate (2-4 weeks.)  An old folk tale explains this length of time by saying that parsley must travel to Hades and back 9 times before it will begin to grow.

Parsley was believed to be a foreteller of death and was also carved on tombstones to please Persephone, with whom it was associated.

Most importantly, parsley is a member of the Umbelliferae family.  These plants are distinguished by their umbrell-shaped blooms and hollow stems.  Family members of parsley include the aromatics dill, fennel and cilantro and also the incredibly deadly hemlocks (not the tree) which, if ingested, can cause respiratory paralysis and death.

Lastly, let’s talk about nightshades.  The nightshades we know and love would be our tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, but the family Solanaceae also includes mandrake, henbane, bittersweet and deadly nightshade (belladonna,) all of which are poisonous in different doses.  Even a safe-bet like potatoes can leave us with an upset stomach, and worse if we eat the green parts of the plant.

Belladonna is perhaps the most recognized of the baneful nightshades and folklore has it that it is a plant tended by the Devil, who can only be distracted from its care on May Eve or Walpurgis night.

This Halloween, whether you are leaving parsley out to please Persephone as she heads home to her husband in the Underworld, or wearing garlic to protect you from those that bite, remember that our herbal helpers were as feared in days of old as they are valued today.  Be thankful that those who have gone before have done the hard work (and the deadly work) of identifying and recording the merits and evils of these intriguing plants.

Oct 28, 2012

Soul Cakes

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please, good Missus, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him who made us all.

A Hallow's tradition of old Ireland and Britain, involved the door-to-door begging of soul cakes.  These cakes, which were more like the sugar cookies I bake today, with added cinnamon and nutmeg, were usually marked with a cross to signify that giving them was a religious practice (think, giving alms to the poor as a sign of virtue.)  The cakes, referred to as "souls" were given to the poor and the children in exchange for singing and saying prayers for the dead.

A lovely and haunting take on the soul cakes song, sung by Kate and Corwen, can be heard here.

You can find a recipe for soul cakes here.

A soul cake is just one of many things you might wish to leave out for your ancestors this Hallows.

Oct 25, 2012

Up The Airy Mountain

This is my post as a participant in Pagan Culture's "All Hallow's Grim" celebration - The Dark Side of Faerie.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I wander in the woods quite a bit.  I love to walk with friends, but often go out alone as well (having told someone where I will be.)  The Valley hills are far from vacant.  Filled with birdsong, the woods also house deer, coyote, bear, cougar, lynx, moose and more.

There are plenty of common sense ways to stay safe while wandering alone in the woods.  I take my cell phone (fully charged.)  Even if there is no cell service, the face of the phone is reflective and can be used to signal.  It is good idea to have water and some sort of sealed food in your car, as well as a blanket and a lighter or waterproof matches.  A small first-aid kit is a great idea too.  Wearing suitable clothes and shoes is a must.

While walking, be aware of your surroundings.  Are there animal tracks?  What do you hear?

Here's the part that should be self-evident:  do not follow anything.  Do not track animals (unless you are a hunter.)  Do not follow flickering lights.  And don't bother following trails of mushrooms.

Having given those cautions, I can honestly say that I've done all of those things.  I was never one for taking advice.  My most recent run-in with the odd, was a brief stop within a circle of trees that I had found after following a trail of mushrooms.  The mushrooms themselves, circled the trees and I stood within that circle listening to the buzz of the hummingbirds above me.  After a very short time, I wandered back to the car and looking at the clock on my dash, realized that the few minutes I'd been standing there had, in fact, been almost an hour.

A circle of mushrooms is sometimes called a "faerie ring."  Considered in folklore to be a gateway to the faerie realm or simply evidence of a faerie fete, the ring is the subject of many myths and cautions.  Stories about people losing time, dancing until they lose their toes, or becoming blind after seeing the faeries are common.

A ring also has ties in folklore to witches, who are supposed to be prone to dancing in a circle, leaving a "hexenringe" (witches' ring) and the devil, who apparently leaves rings wherever he sets his milk-churn.

 Image:  Plucked from the Fairy Circle

The Fairies
Up the airy mountain,
  Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
  For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
  Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
  And white owl's feather!

~William Allingham

As for the fae's connection to Halloween, W. B. Yeats has this to say:

"On November Eve they are at their gloomiest, for according to the old Gaelic reckoning, this is the first night of winter. This night they dance with the ghosts, and the pooka is abroad, and witches make their spells, and girls set a table with food in the name of the devil, that the fetch of their future lover may come through the window and eat of the food. After November Eve the blackberries are no longer wholesome, for the pooka has spoiled them."

~from "Trooping Fairies"

This Hallows, I'll be leaving offerings out for the passing dead, as well as a generous plate in the side garden. That garden has always been rather 'active' and as long as I am polite and offer a good drink and some occasional treats, everything I plant there grows marvelously without any help at all from me.

And the next time I head up into the hills, I will not follow trails of mushrooms, or flickering lights, or paths into the trees.  But if I do, I will be sure to leave a trail of breadcrumbs.

Oct 24, 2012

The Great October Book Giveaway - Week 4

The last week of the October giveaways closes with a resounding cackle. The "Wicked Witch" herself, Dorothy Morrison is our featured author!

Dorothy is not just a writer, but a fabulous personality in the witchcraft community.  She has her own line of candles and oils, spell kits, altar cloths and even coffee (which is amazing!)  She can also be heard on a semi-regular basis as a guest on the podcast "Keep It Magic" hosted by her talented Coventry Creations friend Jacki Smith and the charming Storm Cestavani.

Dorothy autographed each one of these books and donated her fiction novel "Lucinda's Web" to our giveaway this week.  Thank you Dorothy!

The following books are up for grabs:

"Everyday Magic"

"Utterly Wicked"

"Lucinda's Web"

As with the rest of the giveaways this month, anyone who follows Rue and Hyssop or myself in any capacity (via Google Friend Connect, RSS, email, Twitter or Facebook,) can enter.  Simply leave a comment if you would like to win one of these books!

I will draw the name for each book on October 31st!

Oct 23, 2012

Week 3 Winners - Herb Books!

The winner of "Herbs: Medicinal, Magical, Marvelous!" by Deborah J. Martin is.......


The winner of either "A Green Witch's Formulary" by Deborah J. Martin OR the 2013 Herbal Almanac by Llewellyn is......


Please let me know where to mail your books by dropping me a line at rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com.

Thanks to all who entered.  You'll have another chance tomorrow when the last week's giveaway will be announced - and it is a doozy!

Oct 18, 2012

The Face of Fall

I've been working two jobs this month, which has seriously eaten into my wandering-in-the-outdoors time.  I have had a few nice walks this week though.  October has moved from unseasonably warm, to full-blown Fall.  Storms have been blowing in and out of the Valley for days now.  We lost power briefly when the high winds knocked a tree into some power lines, but damage has been at a minimum, thankfully.


We are being warned of very low temps coming next week as well as a chance of snow.  It's not snowed this early in decades, I think, so it will be interesting to see what happens.  I still have a few herbs in a sheltered location that need to be brought in and dried.  I'm hoping I find the time to get to them before the weather turns.

This weekend I'm heading to a Samhain Festival.  I'm really looking forward to experiencing some different teaching and rituals.  I've also got to fit in a visit to the haunted corn maze and the farm stands to buy pumpkins before Halloween.

I hope your October weekend is wonderful!

Oct 16, 2012

The Great October Book Giveaway - Week 3 - The Herby Lady!

Welcome to week 3 of The Great October Book Giveaway!  Because my readership is not all witchy folk, and there are a few gardeners and backyard herbalists like myself who pop by the blog, I wanted to offer some lovely herb books this week.

This week we have 2 books by Deborah J. Martin!

I was stumbling around as a Twitter virgin about a year ago, when this wonderful person called "The Herby Lady" started following me.  I immediately followed her back and within a short time had tracked her down on Facebook and subscribed to her blog.  DJ is a wealth of information about herbs and has a killer sense of humor to boot!  

From her website:  "As a member of the American Herbalists' Guild and the Herb Society (UK), I keep up with all the new information coming out on the uses of herbs in a medicinal sense. My favorite pastime (apart from playing in the dirt of my large herb garden) is researching herbs: their medicinal and magical uses; and applications and stories about herbs in history/mythology."

Deborah has written two books.  "Herbs - Medicinal, Magical, Marvelous!" will be giveaway number one.  This week only, you have a choice for giveaway number 2 between "The Green Witch's Formulary" and the "2013 Herbal Almanac" so as to offer a non-witchy alternative.

Admin bits are the same as previous weeks' giveaways.  Be a friend of the blog in some capacity and leave a comment!  I will draw the names for the herbal books on Tuesday, October 23rd!

Good luck!

Oct 15, 2012

Mrs. B's Guide to Household Witchery - Giveaway Winners!

We have two winners!

The names drawn for "Mrs. B's Guide to Household Witchery" are........



mxtodis123 (Mary)

Congratulations!  Please send me an email to:  rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com, and let me know where you would like the book sent.  Please also let me know how you would like the book signed to you (which name to use.)  Kris will be signing the books to you personally and shipping them off.

A very big thank you to Kris Bradley for her generous assistance in this giveaway!

Stop by tomorrow for the next week's giveaway!

Oct 13, 2012

Bewitching Home - Fire Bundles

Today is "The Bewitching Home" blog party over at The Witch of Howling Creek.  The theme of the blog party is domestic witchery and Hallow's Eve party ideas, recipes & more.  Head over to see Tenae and the other party goers for some creative ideas and clever posts!

This is my project today for my own bewitching home:

Herbal Fire Bundles

These scent-sational bundles are simple to put together and make use of the 'waste' material from your dried herbs that might normally go into the compost bin.

I love a good fire at Samhain/Halloween (and just about every other day during Autumn & Winter,) and the only thing better than a nice crackling blaze is a heavenly scented bonfire.

After hanging your herbs to dry throughout the Summer and stripping the leaves, keep the stems!  If you toss them all in a bucket for convenience and don't remember which is which - that's just fine.  You'll have lovely surprise fire bundles.  But if you do remember, or keep the herbal sticks separate, you can create bundles for specific purposes.

I've created a garden sage and sage brush bundle for purification.  Yarrow sticks (which were used for divination in days of old) are burned for insight and fire scrying.  Lavender and lemon balm stems are burned for health.  And I made several multi-herb bundles for lovely-scented fire offerings.

Know anyone else that likes a good fire?  Give some away as gifts!  A very simple and pleasing way to use up the last herb material of the season.

Enjoy your All Hallows fires!

Oct 12, 2012

Driving Into The Mist

I enter the world called "real" as one enters a mist.  ~Julien Green

The mountain remains unmoved at seeming defeat by the mist.  ~ Rabindranath Tagore

I know I should not photograph and drive.  But the mist pouring off the river and onto the road was just too lovely to pass up.  The photos do not do the sight justice, of course.  You'd have to have seen the mist coming for you, like the ghosts of so many souls returning to walk through the meadows at this thin time of year.

At one brief point, as I drove through the thick of it, it was difficult to see and I wanted to pull over and soak in that mist for a while.  Had I not had an appointment, I like to think I would have, and communed with the water molecules and whatever else rode through that vapor.

Oct 9, 2012

The Great October Book Giveaway - Week 2

One of the very first witchy blogs I found when I started blogging, was Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom.  Although I wasn't a mom, I was instantly taken in by "Mrs. B" and her no-fuss approach to witchcraft.  Her subjects ranged from household herb magic to Halloween, to a crazy cat named Tanner who got herself into everything.  More than that, Kris threw her support behind different causes, like educating about the witch hunts going on in Africa and other areas of the world, and standing up for bullying in schools.  There was and still is, something for everyone at Confessions of Pagan Soccer Mom.

It was no surprise then, that Kris was approached to collect some of her blog's best into book form.  On October 1st Red Wheel/Weiser released "Mrs. B's Guide to Household Witchery - Everyday Magic, Spells, and Recipes."

I am very happy to announce that I have two copies of Kris Bradley's book to give away!  And Kris has offered to not only autograph them, but to personalize them for the winners and ship them off herself.

This give away starts today and ends in one week, on Monday, October 15th.

And here's the admin bits:

All you have to do to enter to win one of these books is leave a comment, and let me know in what capacity you connect to Rue and Hyssop.  Are you subscribed by email or RSS feed?  Do you follow by "friend connect" in the sidebar?  Are you a Twitter follower or a Facebook friend?  Even if you've never left a comment before or just happened upon the blog today and subscribed - all are welcome - just let me know how you plug in to my little world!

*Please ensure that there is some way for me to contact you if you win.

 Anyone can enter the contest!  I will ship overseas, but at the cheapest freight price (it can get quite expensive otherwise.)  - In this case, I will have Kris ship the book to me, and then I will get it out to you.  I don't want her to have the extra cost of overseas shipping.

I know the "letting me know you are connected with me" can get a bit old if you are entering a giveaway each week - so let's say that if you left me a comment with that info on the first week's giveaway post, just direct me there.  A simple comment and "see week one for how I know you" is sufficient.

Good luck!

Oct 8, 2012

The Great October Book Giveaway - Week One Winners

We have the winners for the Christopher Penczak books!

Thank you to everyone who commented, everyone who shared the giveaway and to Christopher for autographing these books for you!

The winner of  "Buddha, Christ, Merlin: Three Wise Men for Our Age" is....


The winner of "The Gates of Witchcraft" is ..........

Sharon Grimshaw!

If you could both please email me at rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com and let me know where you would like your book mailed, that would be great!

Stay tuned....the next books to giveaway from a fab new author are coming up tomorrow!

Oct 3, 2012

My October Sky

On the very first night of the month, October gave a show.  The winds blew stormy clouds in, teasing of rain that never came.  They poured over the setting sun, like a host of spirits returning from the dead, and then danced out of the valley again as the sky grew dark.  October sure knows how to make an entrance.

"All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken." 
- Thomas Wolfe

Oct 2, 2012

Temporary Fail

Just a quick post to apologize for the comment confusion this morning.  Here's a bit of background:

About a year ago, I started getting spam here at the blog.  I added the world verification feature to the comments section to weed out the bots and spammers and happily continued on my way, until one day when several blog-kin contacted me to say that there was a rather insulting comment on a post.

Now I don't mind if people disagree with my views at all, but this comment was something like "all American women are satan," or some such bullshit.  The person who posted it, happily moved through the word verification process with no problem and so I added the comment moderation feature to prevent these types of comments appearing on the blog.

This is truly a pain for several reasons, but mostly because if I am too busy to check my blog for any length of time, comments can pile up or get lost.  Also, people have reported having a hard time getting their comment to 'stick.'  I've had the same issues while trying to post on other blogs - mostly with the word verification process, as Blogger has changed up the images to be almost completely unreadable.

To ease the commenting process this month while the giveaways are on, I will be removing word verification and comment moderation from the blog.

Please note:  because I work outside the home and sleep occasionally, there may be stretches of time where I cannot access my blog to check comments.  This means there may be garbage appearing on posts from time to time.  Hopefully, the spammers have moved on, but in case they haven't, please know that I will remove offensive material or links from Persian princes asking for money, as soon as possible.

Thanks so much for understanding!

*Parking meter photo by me.  People gave me strange looks as I snickered and took this picture.  Sadly, the glass was scratched, so the digital read was a bit fuzzy.  Still, I think it will have many uses.

The Great October Book Giveaway

I really wanted to come up with a clever name for my yearly book giveaway but I've not had enough sleep lately and my creative genes have shriveled.  Plus, the amazing Neil Gaiman has already invented "All Hallows Read" which is such a great idea and wrecks the curve for awesome book giveaway names.  Thanks Neil.  (Seriously though - check out his site - it's great!)

So, "The Great October Book Giveaway" it is.  And while we're all sitting around waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive, why not read a book or two?

This year, as I mentioned yesterday, I've arranged a special treat.  Not only are there more books to toss in your trick-or-treat bag, but I've contacted the authors to buy autographed copies!

First up, is Christopher Penczak.  I had the great pleasure of taking the first two levels of his Temple classes (which I highly recommend,) and have amassed a collection of his books.  I don't have these latest two - so I am already perfectly jealous of the future giveaway winners!

"Christopher Penczak is a Witch, teacher, writer and healing practitioner. His practice draws upon the foundation of both modern and traditional Witchcraft blended with the wisdom of mystical traditions from across the globe as a practitioner and teacher of shamanism, tarot, Reiki healing, herbalism, astrology and Qabalah. He is the founder of the Temple of Witchcraft tradition and system of magickal training based upon the material of his books and classes."

Christopher's latest book is, "Buddha, Christ, Merlin: Three Wise Men For Our Age."

From the book description:
"Many paths to the center. Buddhism, Christianity, Paganism… three different spiritual paths to truth. Award-winning author and teacher Christopher Penczak... considers the wisdom-teachings of exemplars of these paths,and the practices of their traditions, looking at the different ways they help us to attain greater spiritual understanding, and how their insights and methods compliment one another. Filled with stories, references to essential lore and practices, and comparisons between  them, this book is valuable to the individual spiritual seeker or as a guide for a group course or discussion on different spiritual traditions. Whatever your spiritual path and wherever it may take you, Buddha, Christ, Merlin offers new perspectives and insights to help you follow it."

The second book I'm giving away is "The Gates of Witchcraft." 

From the book description:
"Many roads, one destination: That alternate state of consciousness associated with magick and Witchcraft. In his book, The Gates of Witchcraft, award-winning author Christopher Penczak looks at twelve different paths or “gateways” of consciousness, twelve different ways f changing our consciousness to go deeper and get more in touch with the magick within. From meditation and breath-work to dance and music, sacred space and sacred vestments, to the Lonely Road of isolation  and the Path of Poison of working with herbal allies, The Gates of Witchcraft presents theory, practices and exercises for exploring the different paths to power in the Craft. Learn all the various aids to help you along the path and take heed of their dangers and shadow-sides, Whether you are an experienced practitioner or a novice finding your way, you will something to hep you along. Step onto the path and open The Gates of Witchcraft."

This month's giveaways are my way of saying thank you to the friends of Rue and Hyssop.  Often when I do a giveaway, it is open to the interwebs at large and a simple comment is all that is required.  This month, I'd like to reward my readers.  Those that take a moment to connect in some way.

So, all you have to do to enter to win one of these books is leave a comment, and let me know in what capacity you connect to Rue and Hyssop.  Are you subscribed by email or RSS feed?  Do you follow by "friend connect" in the sidebar?  Are you a Twitter follower or a Facebook friend?  Even if you've never left a comment before or just happened upon the blog today and subscribed - all are welcome - just let me know how you plug in to my little world!

*Please ensure that there is some way for me to contact you if you win.

This giveaway runs only one week, because there is more fun to be had!  I will draw the two names on Monday, October 8th.  Best of luck!

*Update - because it was a question - Yes, anyone can enter the contest!  I will ship overseas, but at the cheapest freight price (it can get quite expensive otherwise.)*

*All book images, author bio and book descriptions are property of www.christopherpenczak.com and are used only to promote his books for the purpose of this giveaway.

Oct 1, 2012

Welcome October!

As I sit here and wait for the sky to lighten, I have small feeling in the pit of my stomach.  It is not sadness, because I'm happy to see the summer fade to autumn finally.  But there is a knowing that I won't see the sky begin to glow at six am again for a very long time.  This first day of October is waking up slowly - even though I've been up for hours.

The House of Rue is bustling this week.  I start fall production at work (a brief 2 month stint of packaging chocolate goodies for Christmas shows that my bosses vend at across Canada.)  I don't need to do this work, but it's a bit of extra holiday money and I've been doing it for so many years that it just seems like a tradition now.

I also am in charge of the decorations at a wedding reception for an old friend of my mother's.  I am gathering autumn flowers and grasses and tying 80 posies of lavender (which I've been dragging my feet on.)

The day after the wedding this weekend, is our Canadian Thanksgiving.  My mother, as always, is cooking for the 5000 and I'll be elbow deep in something or another, helping her.

If you take a look to the right in my sidebar, you'll also see that I'm involved in a few blog parties.  Do check them out - each of the websites featured will have a month of wonderful posts, and I will post here on the specific blog party days.

And lastly, but something very exciting for my little blog here, is that I start my own October giveaway tomorrow.  Last year I gave away three books by assorted authors with topics relating to "spirit."  Books are truly my favourite item to giveaway - probably because they are my favourite gift to receive!  This year, I've gone a step further, and contacted authors to purchase autographed books from them.  So not only will you have a chance to win a wonderful book - but a signed book by the author!

This is my fourth October blogging here at Rue and Hyssop.  I started this little journal, mostly to connect to a community of like-minded people.  I wanted to meet other writers and gardeners, crafters and cooks, magical workers and spiritual seekers.  These past years have introduced me to such wonderful people.  Doing a giveaway like this is just a small way of showing appreciation for the kindness, support and camaraderie that my readers show me here.

Get ready for a great October!