Dec 17, 2013

Not Even A Mouse - Animals Appearing at Christmas

When you think of animals associated with the holiday season, flying antlered deer most often come to mind. Although the legend of reindeer powering St. Nicholas' yearly excursion has been around since the 1800's, (pre-dated by St. Nicholas appearing on a white horse,) there are other beasts that are connected to Yule and Christmas.

I, said the cow, all white and red,
I gave Him my manger for His bed,
I gave Him hay to pillow His head;
I, said the cow, all white and red.

The nativity story wouldn't be quite what it is without the donkey that carried Mary or the co-habitants of the stable where her son would be born.  The song "The Friendly Beasts" or "The Gift of the Animals" allows the animals themselves to sing their praises, or more accurately, report of their gifts to the newborn king.

The idea of the animals acknowledging the Christ child is echoed in the later tale that tells of how animals might kneel down to pray at Christmas.

"My mother told us that at Christmas, at the hour when baby Jesus was born, that the ox and the donkey beside the manger began to speak.  She also said that if you went to the barn at that very moment you would hear the animals talking."

And a derivative of that story, with a less happy ending:

"An old woman told me about a man who didn't believe in anything. They say that at midnight, when the good Lord came into the world, the animals kneel down. 'I'll go and see for myself,' he said. When he went out to the barn, all the animals were on their knees.  He thought that was silly so he said to them: 'What are you doing?'  'God was born this night,' one of the oxen replied, 'and tomorrow we'll take our master to be buried.'  The man was so frightened that he dropped dead."

~ from Acadian Christmas Traditions, Georges Arsenault

In Sweden (and in a similar way in Norway, Finland, and Denmark,) small bearded men called tomte or nisse bring the holiday gifts, entrusting goats and sometimes pigs to help haul the goods.  In older times, the tomte (or tomtar) were more farm-hand type fellows who helped with daily chores and animal care.  Their identity as holiday visitors developed over the years and more modern tomte have begun to look like Santa Claus.

The Yule Goat, the figure that visited households before the tomte gained popularity, was the helpful spirit of the last harvest, who might bless (or at least keep an eye on) the progression of the Yule celebration.  This goat was symbolized by a straw or corn dolly and kept in the house, and now appears more often as a traditional tree ornament.

I can't seem to track down much about mice having a role in the holiday festivities, but in my family a pair of Christmas mice have always made an appearance and are still hung each year at my parents' home.  Aside from "not a creature was stirring..." and this charming mouse song from Norway, the only other mention I can find of a tradition is the sugar mice that are so common in the UK as a holiday treat.  

"There never was such a goose," says Dickens as he describes the Cratchit family's Christmas meal.  Although we gravitate to turkey these days, the goose was traditionally the more common and affordable meal option.  I went out searching for a goose last month for Thanksgiving.  The most reasonable one I could find was $60.00.  The 20lb turkey beside it was $11.00.  Times have changed.

As we sing the final praises of animals at Christmastide, don't forget that a full 23 of the items listed in "The Twelve Days of Christmas" are animals (all birds) and that's before taking into account what the "eight maids a milking" were working with.  It seems that the holidays would be considerably less cheerful (and tasty) if our celebrations excluded the animal kingdom.

Do you include any animals or animal stories in your holiday celebrations? I'd love to hear!

* all photos from creative commons and linked back
* sources include:
Ingebretsen's (Scandinavian folklore and culture)
Acadian Christmas Traditions by Georges Arsenault
Wikipedia "Tomte" 

Dec 9, 2013

A Few of My Favourite Things

I've been pretty stress-free about the entire gifting situation this year.  I'm not particulary worried about what to get whom, and my family has decided to cut back because we simply buy ourselves what we need and want throughout the year.  I do like to find something special for a friend, or have a few cool gifts on hand in case I've forgotten anyone, or someone unexpected comes for dinner (our family tends to invite everyone we know/see on the street.) I tend to do quite a bit of shopping online now, because I can find unique items and I'd rather support small businesses.

This week is pretty much your last chance to hit the online shops with any assurance that your holiday loot will arrive in time for the big day(s).  Although you'll want to check with the individual shop owners and read their policies, most places will be able to get you what you need if you order right away.

Here are some last minute ideas for those people you haven't quite gotten to on your list (or yourself - you deserve a treat too!)

The Pretties
"Hekate's Key" by Tveir Hrafnar

Although commercials will try to convince you that every girl wants a diamond, many of us lean far in the opposite direction when it comes to jewellry.  Forget boring pieces that you can buy in every mall in North America - we want those charms around our neck appearing in a much more clever form.  

*  Aidan of  Tveir Hrafnar, creates striking silver charms that are as lovely as they are meaningful.  Choose one of his gorgeous designs or work with him to create something that suits you.  Because Aidan creates all his charms by hand, this is not likely something that will arrive by the holidays - but it's going to be completely worth the wait.  (I can't decide between the different keys or the stars, but I'll be adding one of these charms to my neck sometime in the future, for sure.)

*  For haunting jewellry that mimics your favourite totem (or body part,) Moon Raven Designs offers a host of earrings, necklaces or rings in life-like designs.  I have one of their silver pendants and it's a prized piece of my collection.

Bath and Body Bliss

*  The Haus of Gloi website is a fantastical ride through soaps, perfume oils and body butters in scents that sound intoxicating.  And they are - maddeningly divine - they leave you soft and smooth and smelling like every kind of wonderous thing.  You'll never be able to choose just one scent.

*  Crunchy Betty isn't just a super-fun blog with recipes for all kinds of ways to put food on your face (in lieu of chemicals and sketchy ingredients found in drugstore face creams and cleansers,) it's also a little shop where you can buy herbalicious scrubs, facial oils and even a natural deodorant that smells like a tropical drink!

"Lucky Dream" oil by Candlesmoke Chapel

Gorgeous Oils and Other Magical Goodies

*  Bri Saussey is a brilliant spitfire.  Sweet and sassy with a whole lotta love for helping people, Bri is the rootworker and intuitive behind Milagro Roots.  She not only offers courses and magical work, but she creates her own line of spiritual oils and baths.

With names like "Balm of Gilead" and "Promised Land," the deliciousness of these products is guaranteed.  I love Bri's baths (I can even use them in the shower because she includes a little muslin bag that hangs perfectly on my shower head.)  I also dab on her oils as perfume and their magical effectiveness is simply a bonus!

**Update December 2014** Milagro Roots is now and Miss Bri is no longer offering oils and baths in a catalogue format, but you can work with her to create a ritual to address your needs

*  The spirit-child of two truly wonderful folks and hella-smart spouses, Joseph and Sara Magnuson, Candlesmoke Chapel is the place to go for traditional condition oils made with great care.  Their products are not just high quality, but are truly the nicest looking oils I've seen. I'm a visual girl, and these oils make me happy before I've even opened the bottle.

Once you do open the bottle - you've got an exceptional oil that lends a good kick to whatever work you've set before yourself.  Their Psychic Boost oil is a favourite.  It really opens me up to getting more out of my card readings, meditations and any work requiring focus or insight.  They also sell herbs, and washes in some of the same wondrous blends as their oils.

Miscellaneous Awesomeness

* I know I've not shut up about this book since I got my hands on it, but Cory Hutcheson's "54 Devils" has completely changed how I feel about playing cards.  If you have anyone in your life who is a card reader, buy them this little treat of a book.

*  As far as tarot decks go, there are so many to choose from - but these animal themed decks from Art by Nakisha are mad cute.  The rat deck and the rabbit deck make me grin!

* My friend Danni at Heartroot Studio creates diminutive mushrooms (and pumpkins) encased in glass bottles that I love so much - I have three of her pendants!  You can get one of her designs or choose your own colour.

I hope your holiday gifting experience is easy and fun, and that you get spoiled in return.

*photographs are property of (and linked back to) Tveir Hrafnar and Candlesmoke Chapel respectively, and are used only to show the quality of the product listed.

Dec 7, 2013

Merry And Foggy (But Still Bright)

Like everyone else who celebrates any kind of winter festival or religious observance, I'm decking the halls and attending holiday parties and eating the shortbread when I should be saving it for company.  I'm also easing my way into the season in a relatively sane way.  I'm not getting worked up about gifts this year - they'll all fall into place, or I'll give folks an IOU on a sticky note attached to an airline bottle of rum.

While I decide if I'm going to keep working on gifts or even attempt to send out cards, I'm enjoying my December in other small ways.  When the temperature isn't -22 degrees like it is today, I still head out for a walk by the river and check out how the landbase is faring.

There are buds here, beneath the low fog, held tight in anticipation of warmer days.

In my quest to try new things I went to a ceramics studio with my cousin and splashed half a dozen layers of paint on some egg cups.  Not particularly artistic, but I can't draw a straight line, so I do what I can.  The pic below shows streaky cups, but the paint isn't dry and it will fire up quite nicely in the kiln they tell me.  My "new things" can't always be exciting - next time I'll try fire spinning.

Instead of mourning the garden, I'm working on appreciating the beauty of death and decay. I've been watching many of my plants die back and purposely not cutting them down (I'll do the extra work in the spring.)  This way I get to witness the allure of each plant stripped down to its bare soul.  Right now I'm fawning over the morning glory skeleton and its twisty loveliness.

I've been decorating today, but I'm going for a more minimalist approach this year.  Less of the same old holiday tchotchkes.  More greens, nuts, pinecones, and more natural decorations.  So far the cats are behaving, but the tree is going up tonight so I'll see if it's still standing in the morning.

Here is my little viking, assisting with the greens.  (She takes after her auntie in the nutty hat department.)  We were fortunate and came across someone's cast-off yard prunings as we were driving up into the hills - perfect for instant holiday decorating!  

I hope your December is coming along festively.  Are you dashing through the snow yet, like many of us northerners, or is your holiday shaping up rather greenly?  Do tell.

Nov 30, 2013

Tis the Season to be Having Uncomfortable Family Gatherings and Awkward Conversation

The holidays can be a strange time.  Families who may not see each other much throughout the year often come together en masse, and that can be joyful and heartwarming, or terrifyingly uncomfortable. And that's even before the conversations and questions begin. The movies would have us believe that all the discomfort is temporary - just long enough to have some good laughs at the Griswolds, or those nutty folks who left their kid home alone - but holiday reality sometimes feels more like "The Shining."

For those whose homes are not turning into a holiday encampment for familial guests, fortunately "family" is an inclusive term.  We may have our own family unit - a partner, children - or we've developed a network of friends that are like family that we can celebrate with.  Should you find yourself completely alone during the holidays for some reason, and not wanting to remain so, many cities host dinner events or even full travel packages for people who have no other holiday plans.  And if you are wanting to lend a hand, of course there will be many places that would appreciate a volunteer at this time of year.

For the rest of us, who bite their tongue while pouring the wine, and who take the jabs while wearing the paper crown from the Christmas cracker, and who try to find a polite way to answer all the well-meaning-but-inappropriate questions, I want to share my little list of things I do to ensure I survive the holidays.

Holiday Helpers To Prevent You From Cowering in a Closet With a Bottle of Bailey's During Christmas Dinner or Drunkenly Serenading Yourself in a Bathtub (Alone) Like Bridget Jones.
(Working Title)

1.  Have a backup plan.  Always.  Find a friend who knows your situation and let them know that if they see you with your nose pressed up against their window like an old-timey English street urchin, they are to let you in and pass the turkey, and act like nothing happened.

1a. If you don't have friends or alternate family in the area, make like that millionaire show and have a phone-a-friend on standby.  Someone who will talk you down from taking a piece of your aunt's hair and creating a poppet with it and some turkey bones, and then burning it in the bathtub.

2.  Don't be too proud (or ashamed) to let someone in on your holiday concerns.  Tell a good friend (see #1) or a good therapist.  If you have a family member you trust, share with them.  You may end up with an ally across the dinner table.

3.  Do something nice for yourself immediately before and after the holidays.  This is a crucial step - and I recommend booking your appointment now, because I can guarantee that plenty of folks are doing this.  Get yourself a massage, take yourself out to a fancy dinner, buy yourself the holiday gift you want and are sure no one will buy you (with gift receipt, just in case) or whatever else will make you feel really special.  The "before" present is to remind you that you deserve to be treated well, and to give you a bit of holiday hope, and the "after" treat is the reward for not stabbing anyone with a candy cane.  Yay!

4.  Consider donating your time and/or money anyway.  Even if you aren't alone for the holidays and looking for some meaning, find a cause you can contribute to.  It is important all year long to be aware of who needs help in your community, but this time of year can be especially hard on folks who cannot afford to feed, house, or give gifts to their children, let alone provide them with any kind of holiday cheer.  Local food banks accept donations, food, and manual help.  Our little credit union has a "pajama tree" up, where you take one of the ornament cards with a child's gender and age listed on it, and return the card with a pair of appropriate pj's.  There are so many places that are accepting help - finding somewhere to volunteer this time of year shouldn't be a problem at all.

5.  Try to find something to laugh about - or some kind of wonder or joy.  Make a snow angel.  Watch the sky for Santa.  Invent a new drink called "The Steaming Hot Mistletoe Kiss." You can think of something.

We're in for a wild month.  Hang in there. I know you can do it.

*picture via wiki commons

Nov 21, 2013

To Drink is Divine Or, How To Divine With Your Drink - The Love and Lore of Coffee

I was reading an article last week that told of how coffee was the most recongnized scent in the world.  Not roses or lemons or lavender.  Coffee.  That intoxicating essence of roasted beans pressed or percolated into a favourite mug that fits your hands perfectly.

I was a late-bloomer when it came to drinking coffee, but I've always loved the aroma of it brewing.  I even did time as a barista for a year to help out a friend who owned a coffee shop.  I learned how a perfect espresso should look and smell, even though I didn't drink it myself.

Years later, I'm a coffee addict, trying to cut down to one cup a day.  The caffeine has become a bit hard to handle for me.  I'm working on blending in herbal fillers to my daily grind to soften the buzz without giving up on the taste.  Some of my favourite additions are roasted chicory root, roasted dandelion root, and cacao nibs.  Grind it all up with your beans and you've got a killer blend that won't have you levitating by mid-morning.  I'll do anything to not give up on coffee completely.

I envy
the cup of coffee
that gets
to kiss
your sleepy lips
every cold
and bitter morning

~ Sade Andria Zabala

Coffee is much more than a delicious wake up call.  It has a varied history of culinary and magical use, as well as its own little superstitions.  Coffee grounds can be read as tea leaves are, should you want to negotiate a rather grainy cup, or you could simply read the cup as it is poured.  It has been said that if you find the bubbles in your cup (assuming your coffee is taken black and poured in a manner to induce bubbles) moving away from you, then difficulty may be heading your way.  If the bubbles appear to be moving toward you, then good fortune is sure to appear.  Or, you may simply wish to scry into your cup. It seems as though hovering over a steaming mug is a fairly common activity.

Should you want a little more oomph out of your cup, you might want to take it into a bath with you. Starr Casas of Old Style Conjure has a cleansing bath recipe that she regularly recommends.  You simply add one cup of strong, black coffee, a handful of salt (approx 4 tablespoons) and a tablespoon (or a capful) of lemon juice or ammonia to your bathwater.  Should you wish to use this as a more traditional spiritual bath, Starr advises taking the bath as the hands of your clock are moving downward, and reading Isaiah 41.

In Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic, Cathering Yronwode mentions that coffee bean husks can be used in uncrossing baths as well.  If you do roast your own beans and have an abundance of hulls and chaff (and aren't saving them all for baths,) they make a divine-smelling mulch for the garden.

Coffee fans love to boast about the health benefits of the bean.  Full of antioxidants, coffee has lately been touted as a great protector from nasties such as liver cancer, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's disease. Research is, as ever, on-going, but there's another department in which coffee testing is showing glowing results - skincare.

Caffeine is a stimulant that increases blood flow, and it has been found to work topically.  Tannins found in coffee tighten and tone the skin.  That's great news when you want to pass on the exorbitantly priced scrubs at the beauty counter and instead create your own with ingredients you can find in your cupboard.  Coffee can be used all over the body (be gentle on your face,) as well as in a hair mask or rinse if you are a brunette.

For a super-simple coffee scrub, use a cup of fresh ground coffee and add grapeseed oil (or olive or sweet almond) very slowly.  Blend the scrub until you have a crumbly mix (too much oil will be hard to remove from your body and will cause a very slippery shower!)  You can also add sugar if you like, or substitute your favourite body wash for the oil.  Scrub away once or twice a week - you'll have baby soft skin for barely the price of a latte.

Whether you are drinking it, bathing in it, or divining your future with it, coffee is one divine ingredient in our mundane and magical cupboards that is not likely to be ignored any time soon.

Coffee folklore, baths and more can be found:

Picture via Creative Commons

Nov 13, 2013

The Fountain of Youth is a Salami and Havarti Sandwich

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.  When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.   ~Sophia Loren

In the next town, there is a little Italian deli tucked into the entrance of an alley.  It is a place no tourist would likely find, but the locals know it well.  Inside that tiny shop, there is a magical army of women and men that make incredible sandwiches, piled high with fresh veggies, meats with hard-to-pronounce names, and strange and delighful toppings.  If you squeeze into this shop during the lunch rush, you will get carried away by the scent of the deli counter and the sounds of people shouting orders and the tearing of butcher's parchment as it flies off the roll to wrap up a mile-high masterpiece cradled in the bosom of a fresh baked Kaiser bun.

I don't often get a chance to stop in at this deli, and there are times I've tried but couldn't find a parking spot or even get in the door during a rush.  But yesterday I found myself inside with my nose pressed up against the glass filled with mysterious meats and cheeses, picking out lovely things to be delivered to my very own sandwich.  When the efficient woman behind the counter asked if I wanted "the works" for my toppings, I simply smiled and nodded, even though I had no idea what I was in for.  (I'm working on my control issues, you see.  No more being picky and missing out on something good.)

I was practically levitating while eating my lunch.  I had things falling on my shirt and dripping down my chin. I found crisp pickles and rich artichoke hearts and what I think might have been marinated sundried tomatoes tucked into layers of salami and proscuitto and havarti.  I was grinning like an idiot when I returned to work.

I've been in a few situations recently that involved showing my ID or revealing my age.  Each time, I've had someone say "I'd never have guessed you were that old," or "that's not possible."  One person made a comment about how I must have good genes.  I suppose I do.  While my father's family line boasts longevity, my mother's line is filled with people who's age is hard to pinpoint.  (There's something in that Ukrainian blood, I know it.)  But genes only take you so far.  So - I'll tell you my secret - my Fountain of Youth.

Find something to delight in.  Every day.

And not just delight in.  Revel in.  Laugh far-too-loud at.  Swoon over.  It definitely helps if you find something that hits high on your joy-meter, but if you aren't almost peeing, or tearing up, or nearly having an orgasm; if you heart isn't growing three sizes like the Grinch, it still counts.  No pressure. 

I have rough days too.  Sometimes the gods are unkind, or just like to see you fall, or Mercury is a bitch. Stuff happens.  I'm not glossing over the crap - the stuff that knocks us off our feet.  I'm just saying  that if I can get through the day finding at least one reason to grin like an idiot - I feel good.  

In the last month, I have found foolish levels of delight in a haunted amusement park, a cat chasing a piece of crumpled paper, my niece telling me a story, the way the light finds a way through the clouds to beam upon one spot on the hill like it's showing the way to Brigadoon, the crows leaving walnuts on the road for me to drive over so they can swoop down and get the prize inside the shell, a package wrapped in green paper, and a cup of Indian chai that rocked my world.

Every day there is something.  And I expect there to be.  I find something to laugh at.  Something that makes me jump up and down like a Price Is Right contestant.  Silly things.  Things that other people pass by and don't notice.  I notice.  I'm the kid tugging on your coat saying "did you SEE that?" 

I used to have a friend who told me I should act my age.  I should cut my long hair short, because women of a certain age wore their hair short and classy.  I should put away the blue jeans and leave behind the Keds and wear grown up clothes.  I should settle down.

I don't want to act my age (whatever that means.)  I want to spend the rest of my life caring more about what amazing things I can see, taste, touch and experience rather than thinking for one moment about my age.  I have found the Fountain of Youth - it is decidedly in not giving a shit about your age.  It is in finding joy.  It is in a salami and havarti sandwich from a little Italian deli tucked into the entrance of an alley.

Where is your Fountain of Youth?

PS - that picture up there?  Bethesda Fountain.  Awesome right?  From Wiki Commons - by Emma Stebbins.

Nov 7, 2013

Muscle Magic?

November has sunk into the valley in a cold, wet way.  Having had a warm, sunny October, I don't feel comfortable complaining, so I wait for the dry mornings to take my walks and extend hope that the deep cloud lets a bit more light through each day.

I'm feeling myself slip into that familiar hibernation feeling that happens as the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop.  To combat the urge to curl up and not move again, I've committed to using the treadmill on the days I don't go out for a walk.  I've been having quite a bit of fun on it actually, and I've found that a good, hard pace and the steady thud of my feet on the machine begins to take me out of my body, and leads me to some interesting meditative experiences and epiphanies.  I think that this is not unlike the euphoria that is referred to as a "runners' high" - except that I'm rarely at a full run.  It may be more along the lines of what is experienced while doing ecstatic (trance) dancing or a drumming journey - the sound of my feet and the white noise of the treadmill offering up a drum-like repetition for my mind to escape in to.

The whirling Dervishes knew how to get there.

The other body-magic synergy I've been pondering is muscle-building as sympathetic magic.  

Muscle is created after first tearing down the tiny muscle fibers in the tissue.  Your body then repairs or rebuilds these little fibers and the newly generated fibers begin to create bulk.  You are essentially tearing yourself down and rebuilding yourself - stronger.  This really gets me excited when I think about combining it with activities such as "tearing down" non-beneficial habits, relationships and situations where you just didn't say "no" when you might have wanted/needed to.  Add to that some work on creating new energy or movement in certain areas of your life, while your body is literally creating new muscle cells.  Work associated with health, fertility, prosperity would all be something I'd consider here.

I've been glancing at the hand weights that have been winking at me from the corner of the room, and I've been thinking that since I'm no longer hauling dirt, plants or vegetable harvests or pushing a lawn mower anymore, it might be time to pick those little irons up again.  

And why not work a little magic while working my muscles?

* For some great reading along this topic, check out the brilliant Peter Paddon's "Visceral Magick"
* Although I'm fiercely behind on her podcasts, "Iron Powaqa" is a weight-lifting witch with sass - worth a listen!  I'm going to try to catch up on these and see what insight she has on this topic.
* art "Dancing Dervishes" by Amedeo Preziosi via Wiki Commons

Nov 1, 2013

Winners of the Almanacs and Some Thanks!

The winners of the 2014 Magical Almanacs are:


Leah McCullough

And the winners of the 2014 Witches' Companions are:

Theresa N.

Orion's daughter

Please drop me an email (rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com) with your mailing address and I'll get these out to you!

I want to thank you all for stopping by the blog, or giving me a wave over on Twitter or Facebook in October.  I had a great time passing out all the books and I hope you'll give a second look at our featured authors, who were absolutely lovely to me when I asked for their help in getting these books to you autographed.

The authors featured in the 2013 Great October Book Giveaway were (click the names to visit their sites):

I hope your October was every kind of delightful! 

Oct 29, 2013

Last October Eves

I was out in the back yard early this evening.  I watched as the light fled from the approaching dusk, and felt the temperature drop so swiftly that it startled me.  One moment I was eating blood-red raspberries from the canes rescued from an abandoned lot, and the next I was staring at my misty breath hanging in the air.

I noticed that, not too far from the still-producing raspberries, the rhubarb has died off.  The impossible to kill plant is one of the first to return in the early spring, but I'm in awe of how completely dead it looks now. Not an ounce of life appears to remain in its withered leaves that are already prostrate on the earth, preparing to become a part of it again.

Across the yard, the sunflowers still follow the short and swift path of the sun, blooming as if they had all the time in the world.  The chickweed looks better than it has all summer.  The yarrow is bright and bushy again, growing a second crop of fuzzy leaves, while the skullcap has long dropped its foliage and looks like a tiny barren forest.

What a strange thing to see so much green and brown, life and death, and smell rot right alongside ripe apples and savory onions and the last of the kitchen herbs, lingering in their pots.  An odd yet delightful time of last tastes and thresholds.

We are wading deeper and deeper into the dark now, but there are plenty of opportunities for feast and celebration.  While we mark departures on one hand, we note the return of (and negotiate our peace or passion with) the shadows and those that live and thrive within them.

Do you wander out into the dark and meet the ones who preside there?  Or sit by a candle, having made your offerings, and spend time with familiar spirits?  There is no wrong answer.  This time of year invites as much good-company-keeping as it does mischief.

Whether you join the goblins running amok this week, or simply offer a spirit plate to those passing by, no longer in the flesh, I do hope you find much magic on these last October eves.

Oct 28, 2013

The Great October Book Giveaway - 2014 Almanacs

This month has been a blast for me, and padded envelopes carrying books are going out each week, winging their way across the world to you.  Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. It's been wonderful to see familiar faces, as well as meet fab new folks!

Few things go off completely without a hitch, and there were a few little bumps along this ride, but it's all a lesson in organization for me.  Fortunately, this year I planned ahead a bought a few extra books in case an author fell through.  So, to finish out our month, I'm handing out a few almanacs to help your get your new magical year started smoothly.  

I've got two each of:

"This edition features compelling articles, grouped by element, on solar power and the home, carnival magic, recycling and refurbishing, enlightened eats, emergency healing, faery offerings and shrines, folk clothing, alcohol and the gods, soap magic, animism, transforming negativity, and other magical topics.
Also included is a handy calendar section— shaded for easy “flip to” reference—featuring world festivals, holidays, and 2014 Sabbats. You’ll also find astrological info, plus incense and color correspondences, to empower your magical work."

"Live your Craft every day with Llewellyn’s Witches’ Companion. This indispensable guide will keep you one step ahead of the latest Witchy trends, Craft practices, Pagan issues, and ideas in green living. This year’s edition is filled with wry and thought provoking essays—the madness of “Witch Wars,” Gaia and the permaculture movement, magical de-stressing, finding community, magical vessels, essential stones for Witches, the art of dedication, bringing ancestors into magical practice, working with healing deities, and much more. Also featured is a sixteen-month calendar and lunar information to fuel your spellwork and rituals."

As always, leave a comment and let me know how we connect (if you've left this info before, no need to leave it again.)  Feel free to tell me which book you'd prefer.  I try to match them up whenever possible.  If you want the entire lowdown on how this giveaway/sweepstakes works, click here.

You've got until midnight on October 31st to get your name in the cauldron!  

Oct 27, 2013

54 Devils - Giveaway Winners

Here are the winners of the copies of "54 Devils" by Cory Thomas Hutcheson:

Stephanie Clayton - You are taking home the Zombie card deck.

Rebecca Powell - You are receiving the Guardians deck.

Dean - You are getting the Club Tattoo deck.

If you could pop your mailing address over to me at:  rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com, that would be great  - I'll get these out to you this week!


Oct 22, 2013

The Great October Book Giveaway - 54 Devils by Cory Thomas Hutcheson

I'm pretty excited about this next book for several reasons.  I adore folklore in all its forms, I'm a big fan of cartomancy, and the fellow that wrote this book is a fiercely intelligent lore-seeker and one half of the super-duo that host the podcast New World Witchery.  He's also just all-around awesome AND he sent three autographed books for me to pass on to you!

I'm reading this right now and appreciating that Cory breaks down this reading system in a way that even people like me, who never really did anything with playing cards besides throwing down some "Go Fish," can understand.  I'm also drooling through the appendix of folklore, of course. 

Here's our next book:

"Fifty-Four Devils:    The Art & Folklore of Fortune-telling with Playing Cards
This brief-but-richly drawn book explores the practice of divination by playing cards—known as cartomancy. It reveals the “secrets in plain sight” which hide within the pips, kings, queens, and jokers of a standard deck. Explore one method of divination in-depth as you meet the “fifty-four devils”—the symbolic spirits of each card—and learn about invoking ancestral blessings for card readings, the folklore of playing cards, and how to relate fairy tales to a spread along the way."

There is so much folklore around practicing divination at this time of year in particular, why wouldn't you want to grab yourself this book for a Halloween treat?  And although this is a gem on its own, I found a fun companion for each copy.  As I was searching for a set of playing cards for myself (because my only deck features a long-bankrupt airline logo on it - not exactly a fortuitous sign,) I came across some really unique decks by the Bicycle playing cards company.

So - I bought some for you too!

Here's what I've got:

The Guardians deck:

 The Zombie deck:

 The Club Tattoo deck:

Here's the part we've all heard before - but once more for the newbies....

The entire lowdown on the giveaway rules is on this post, but all it takes to be in the running is for us to have bumped into each other somewhere on the interwebs.  Let me know in a comment (on this post) how we connect (no need to repeat yourself if you've left this info before) and ensure that I can track you down if you win.

Also, if there's a deck you prefer, you can let me know.  I can't guarantee you'll get the deck you want, but I'll do my best.

You've got until Saturday, October 26th at 6pm (Pacific time) to get your comment in!  Best of luck!

*all photos and descriptive text are property of New World Witchery/Cory Hutcheson and Bicycle respectively.  Photos/text are only used to promote the above products.

Oct 21, 2013

Wild and Weedy Winners!

Another lot of names chosen from the hat tonight!  Here's who will be getting their hands on books:

"New Paths to Animal Totems" goes to.....


"Baneful" goes to......

syncretic mystic (Soli)

The 2014 Herbal Almanac goes to.......

Kallan Kennedy

Congrats everyone!  Please send your mailing address to me via rueandhyssop AT gmail (DOT) com.

Oct 17, 2013

The Great October Giveaway - The Wild and The Weedy

Our next giveaway is a handful of books for those who love to spend some time outdoors (or even the armchair nature admirer.)

First up, by the talented Lupa from The Green Wolf, (whom I met at Faerieworlds and begged an autograph for you) we have New Paths To Animal Totems:

"I've written a great deal for people of an intermediate to advanced experience level, but this time I'm offering something for a more general audience, to include people who may never have even heard of totems before!

To give readers, especially those new to totemism, some guidance, I've offered a variety of exercises, meditations, and ritual ideas to play with along with the theory. And to illustrate the material further, there are examples seeded throughout the text. However, as with all my books, there's plenty for the more experienced practitioner to play with, and none of it is strictly "by the book", as it were."

Next up is a favourite author and a super cool lady - The Herby Lady to be exact - D.J. Martin.  She has a new book out this year and I've snapped up a signed copy for you - "Baneful!"

"Most everyone knows Socrates died from ingesting Hemlock. Have you heard about the Celtic chieftain who committed suicide by Yew? How about the duels between rivals who ate just half of a poison bean?
From Abrus precatorius to Viscum album, Master Herbalist Deborah Martin takes us on a journey of discovery … ninety-five herbs that, while they had or have their medicinal and magical uses, can be deadly."

And, because I have an extra one of these fun almanacs  - I'm throwing it in the pile too!

"Inspiring you with a bounty of innovative ideas and recipes, Llewellyn’s 2014 Herbal Almanac offers dozens of articles that explore many ways of using herbs, from gardening and cooking, to health and beauty, to herb craft and lore."

Want one of these three books?  The full lowdown is in this post. Quite simply - leave your comment below and let me know how we connect. If you've already left that on a previous entry, you don't have to repeat yourself. Feel free to let me know which book you fancy - I'll see what I can do as far as matching up winners with books. I'll draw the names of the three winners on Monday, October 21st at 6pm (Pacific.) Best of luck!

*photographs and book descriptions are property of the respective authors/websites and are used simply to showcase the books in question.

Judika Illes Giveaway Winners (Plus One)

Alright - time for the goodies!

The winner of "The Weiser Field Guide To Witches" is ...

Linda Wildenstein!

And the winner of "Pure Magic" is...

Karen Sullivan!

And - since there was no response from the winner of Deborah Blake's book "Circle, Coven and Grove" - I've drawn another name....


If you would all be so kind as to send me your mailing address to: rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com - then I will get these books off to you!

Special thanks to Judika for signing these books and sending folks my way!  Don't forget to hit her Facebook fan page for all sorts of October awesomeness!

Oct 14, 2013

The Great October Book Giveaway - Judika Illes

Our next featured author is the wonderful Judika Illes!

Judika is the author of many beloved books, such as The Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells and her latest, The Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints, and Sages, as well as two fantastic Weiser Field Guides.

Judika is also quite active on Facebook and is currently featuring "a month of witches" on her fan page, as well as hosting some giveaways of her own - do check her out!

As for this little corner of the interwebs - I've got two delicious reads for you from Judika:

From:  :

A compendium of witches through the ages, from earliest prehistory to some of the most significant modern practitioners, The Weiser Field Guide to Witches explores who and what is a witch. Appropriate for readers of all ages, this book serves as an excellent and entertaining introduction for those fascinated by the topic.

A comprehensive course in practical magic contained in one single book. No jargon, no agenda: Pure Magic simply presents and explains the various components of spellcasting in plain, simple language. It walks you through the spell process, from beginning to conclusion, detailing all aspects and facets. All the information required to be a functional and successful spellcaster is included. Read the book and get ready to spell. Simple enough for novices to use and understand, Pure Magic also contains sophisticated information to satisfy adepts and to maintain relevance past the beginner’s stage.

Same rules apply - see here for details if you've not entered yet.  Leave a comment and let me know how we connect (where you follow or friend me here on the webs.)  If you've already left those details on a previous entry this month - don't worry about repeating yourself.  If you're keen to share this giveaway on one of your social media haunts, pop back and leave me one more comment with a link to show that you've shared - I'll enter your name again. (Max 2 comments per person.)

I'll draw the names for Judika's books on Thursday, October 17th at 6pm (Pacific) - best of luck!

*All photos and text describing Judika Illes' books are property of and used only to promote said books.

Oct 13, 2013

Make Magic Of Your Life - Winner....

The winner of T. Thorn Coyle's book "Make Magic Of Your Life" is.....

LaTrice Lott!

Please send your mailing address to rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com and I'll get the book off to you! Congrats!

Also - last call to Kathy S. - you won the Deborah Blake book "Circle, Coven & Grove."  Please have your address to me by Wednesday, October 16th or I'll have to draw another name for the book. Thanks!

The next giveaway will be up tomorrow, and you don't want to miss this author!

Last Harvest Corn Chowder

My friend grew corn at her ranch again this year. I don't know the variety, but I can tell you that it was the sweetest corn I've ever tasted.  It was so good that you could eat it off the cob, standing right there in the field if you wanted to. It tasted like candy.

We had several corn-on-the-cob feasts this summer.  My friend created a tequila-lime butter that we coated the hot corn in.  We sounded like a pack of wild animals while chewing on those cobs.

I took some corn home too, and messed around with corn fritter recipes and then settled into a pot of corn chowder that I wish had been triple the size so I'd have some in the freezer to take out and eat now.  I don't even know if chowder freezes well.  I'd have tried it though.

When I make soup, I toss a handfull of this and that in the pot, and hope for the best.  If you've noticed the few recipes I post here, they are very easy.  I'd love to be a Martha - but I'm more of a simple Sally.

I'll try and lay out this chowder recipe - as best as I can describe it.  I do hope you have put away some farm fresh corn from your local grower, but even if you don't have a freezer full of little bags of corn, a can will do in a pinch.  Or check your farmers market - I was at mine yesterday and saw some late harvest corn still for sale.

Late Harvest Corn Chowder

3 cups chicken or veggie stock                            3 slices bacon
1 small can coconut milk                                     3 large potatoes
1 cup heavy cream                                             1 large sweet onion
1 tbsp oil or butter                                              1.5-2 cups corn
1-2 tbsp flour and butter for roux                           (Added veggies to your liking - see below)
Salt, pepper, thyme - season as you like

In a stock pot, cook bacon until done, but not too crispy, and set aside.
Pour off bacon fat except one teaspoon.
Add one tablespoon of butter or oil to the bacon fat in the pot and cook onions until transparent.
Add chicken stock, potatoes, corn, and any other veggies you like in a chowder.  I added one small sweet potato (not a yam) and several sweet, golden beets.  I also added a small amount of salt, pepper and thyme here - but I perfect the seasoning at the end of a soup - so I kept my seasoning here at a minimum.
I add the bacon back at this point, ripped into small pieces.  Some folks add the bacon at the end, but I like it to infuse into the chowder for a longer period of time.
Add coconut milk.  It will appear to separate, but don't be concerned - it blends beautifully as the soup cooks.

Slowly bring to a boil and then lower the temp and let simmer for 10-20 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Add the cream and continue to simmer until the soup thickens.  You can omit the cream and thicken in one of the ways listed below too.

At this point, there are a few ways to thicken your chowder.  Some folks just add flour or cornmeal, but I'm not a fan of that method.  I prefer to cool down the soup a bit, and then blend a few cups of it in a blender and then add that back to the pot.

If the chowder is still not thick enough, I make a small amount of roux.  I take one or two tablespoons of flour (I used coconut flour this time and it worked perfectly) and the same amount of butter and mixed it and toasted it in a frying pan for 5-10 minutes on low heat (just until it starts to smell a bit warm and nutty.)  I added this to the soup and brought the soup temperature back up (not to a boil) and it thickened nicely.

And that's it.  You're done.  Season as you like.  Salt, pepper, thyme, and a nice teaspoon of tandoori spice is what I added to mine.  I like a bit of warmth to my soup, so the tandoori spice was a must for me.  I cheat, and buy it from Epicure, but you can make your own mix.

A happy and hearty feast to you!

Oct 9, 2013

Great October Book Giveaway - Make Magic Of Your Life

The next author featured in The Great October Book Giveaway, is T. Thorn Coyle!

I had the pleasure of meeting Thorn at Faerieworlds this summer and she was kind enough to autograph this book for a lucky person.  Her newest offering, "Make Magic Of Your Life" is a delicious read!

Activate the magical formula known the Four Powers of the Sphinx. These four powers — To Know, To Will, To Dare, and To Keep Silence — help bring about a profound shift in how we view and move through the world. They point us toward our highest purpose and show us what to do, both practically and spiritually, once we’ve found it. They will lead us to a life of magic.

As always, to walk away with this signed copy, leave a comment with your name and how we connect.  If you've listed how we connect on a previous entry, don't worry about repeating yourself.  If you want to earn an extra entry, feel free to share the giveaway however you like - just pop back and leave a separate entry with your link.  For all the details, check out the main giveaway post here.

You've got until Sunday, October 13th to get your name in the hat.  At 6pm (Pacific) I'll pick a winner. Good luck!

*Image and quoted text is from and used only to promote the book in question.

Deborah Blake Giveaway Winners

Here are the lucky folks who will be getting a book in the mail...........

carolg - Everyday Witch Book of Rituals

Danu Brighid - The Goddess is in the Details

Kathy S - Circle, Coven & Grove

Congrats!  Please send me (rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com)  your mailing address this week and I will get your books off to you!

Stay tuned... next giveaway is moments away.......

Oct 5, 2013

The Great October Book Giveaway - Deborah Blake!

Our next author is the magical and clever Deborah Blake!

The first book of hers I discovered was "The Goddess is in the Details" and I resonated immediately with her view of weaving your magical practice into your everyday life.  I loved this book and am sharing a copy with you!  Deborah has several upcoming books (one on broom lore - right up my alley) as well as a pair of fiction novels and a fun book of 13 rituals (titled "A Witch's Dozen") currently available in e-book format.

I'm giving away three of her books here this week, including her newest release "Everyday Witch Book of Rituals" and her first book (now out of print) which she so generously offered up especially for you, from her personal stash, "Circle, Coven & Grove."

"Amplify your wishes and manifest positive changes all year long with Deborah Blake’s inspiring collection of simple rituals. Whether practicing alone or with a group, these empowering ceremonies, designed for new moons, full moons, sabbats, and other special occasions, will help you find love, build courage, boost creativity, achieve balance, and deepen your faith."

"From the hearth to the altar, make magic in every moment. Being a Witch isn’t limited to casting a spell under the full moon or consecrating a ritual circle. Whether you’re calling the Goddess or doing the dishes, your wonderfully witchy ways are woven into everything you do."

"Part instruction manual, part personal journal, and part Book of Shadows, this all-in-one ritual handbook is an ideal tool for busy Witches, new covens, and new priestesses, priests, or coven leaders. Celebrate the Wheel of the Year with original group rituals that can be used as written, personalized to reflect your coven’s unique style, or modified for solitary practitioners."

If you are new to the Great October Book Giveaway and want to know exactly how this works - do read the lowdown here.  As always, please leave a comment and let me know how we connect.  If you've already commented on the last post - no need to say "follower" or "subscriber" - I'll remember! Also, although I cannot guarantee you'll get the book you pick - feel free to let me know which one you'd like if you win - I'll do what I can.

I'll draw the names for the books on Wednesday, October 9th - best of luck!

**All photos and quoted text on this post are copyright of and are used only to promote her work.

Oct 4, 2013

"The Mighty Dead" Giveaway Winner

The name drawn for "The Mighty Dead" is.....

Mario Zeleny!

Please send your mailing address to me at: RueandHyssop @ gmail (dot) com.


Check in tomorrow for the next author - and the chance to walk away with one of three books!

Oct 1, 2013

Great October Book Giveaway - The Mighty Dead

It's no secret that I'm a Christopher Penczak fan.  I've taken two years of his Temple of Witchcraft courses, and there is a goodly number of his books on my shelf.  I did also feature Christopher last year.  I won't normally be passing along books from the same authors each year in the October giveaway, but if the author has a new book out - it's fair game.  Plus, I wanted a copy of this one myself - so I picked up one for you too!

"Traditions across the world honor and recognize the sanctified dead-not just the ancestors of flesh and blood we knew in life – but the ancestors of our spiritual traditions, who died in a state of alignment and union with the divine. Known as the Bodhisattvas, Saints, Secret Chiefs, Ascended Masters and Inner Plane Adepts in other traditions, Witches know our ancestors as the Hidden Company, the Mighty Dead of our Timeless Tradition in the Nameless Art. In truth, they are the guiding principles of our modern tradition, as inner world priests and priestesses to the gods.They consist of our elders in the modern and ancient world, united in the ecstatic dance of the Witch’s Sabbat. Understand the nature of the Mighty Dead and how to work directly with them for your own healing and evolution, and your work in the worlds of flesh and spirit. Work with ancestral altars, oracular skulls, and spiritual merging. Learn to find guides, teachers, healers and partners within the order of the Mighty Dead."   ~

 Sounds fascinating, right?

Simply leave your comment below if you want this book all to yourself!  Let me know how we connect, and you're good to go!   (Look over the post below if you don't know how this works.)  I will draw the name for Christopher's book on Friday October 4th after 6pm Pacific time.  Good luck!

*The image and quoted text above is from and used only to promote the book "The Mighty Dead" by Christopher Penczak.  

The 3rd Annual Great October Book Giveaway!

****UPDATE 2: October 15/13 Please do not leave a comment here if you want to enter the book giveaways. This is simply a post on how this giveaway is run. Please find the current giveaway post by scrolling up to the top of the blog OR refreshing the blog by clicking on the header. The first or second post you see will be the current giveaway. Please leave your entry on that post. Thanks!
**UPDATE:  October 12/13 There has been a couple questions about entering the giveaways.  The lowdown is below, but I just want to be clear about the process.  If you want in on the current giveaway, you need to leave a comment on the current giveaway post.  If you were directed here, to this intro post, via a link - just click up there on the blog header "Rue and Hysosp" and the page will reload for you.  The most recent post should be the current giveaway (unless I've posted about some of my October adventures - then just scroll down - you'll find it.)  You'll need to comment on each giveaway as it comes up if you want to be included in the draw for those books.  Thanks!

A happy and haunting October to you!  The most orange and fun-sized month of the year is not just an excuse to wear your pointy hat and scare small children, but it is also the month where you get to take home some books in your trick-or-treat bag!

My very favourite gifts to give and receive are books.  I can't get enough of them.  Good books, bad books, naughty books, books that make me sleep with the lights on, and books to sleep on in the hopes of somehow absorbing the knowledge within.  I adore them all - and I like to share.

This yearly book love-fest is a fun way for me to give back a little for all the thoughtful and lovely responses to my posts here on the blog, as well as the tweets, Facebook comments and general awesomeness that I get to experience from fellow bloggers and folks that bump into me around the interwebs. (I think you guys are fab - can you tell?)

I track down various authors I dig (because I know you'll dig them too,) and I get these wonderful folks to autograph their books and send them to me to give to you.  Sometimes, like this year, I get lucky and meet an author or two in person.  Some authors have even sent an extra book along - just because they wanted to share in the giving!  I also like to throw in extra books, like almanacs and herbal books I've picked up because I know my readers appreciate a little folklore, moon lore or herb lore along with their witchy books.

Here is how it works:

Giveaway Rules:

*  I will post a giveaway approximately every four days this month.  You've got those four days to leave a comment on the blog post for that particular giveaway, and then I'll draw the winning name(s) and post the next giveaway.  I'll leave dates and times in the posts, so you know when you need to have your entry in by.

*  This giveaway is specifically for folks that connect with me in some capacity.  In your comment, please let me know how you and I rub URL's (is that creepy?)  For example, simply say: "blog follower"  or "FB friend" or "subscribe to blog" or however that applies.  If you look to the right, on my sidebar, you'll see the different ways we can connect.  If you are a brand new follower because you just stumbled across me or someone pointed you this way - welcome!  Have a look around and toss your name in the hat too.

*  Please ensure that there is a way for me to get a hold of you.  I'm not going to allow anonymous comments because I get terrible spam if I do, but you can use Open ID or a registered account to comment. For now I'm going to leave the comment moderation feature off, but if it turns out that I've got to spend time each day deleting comments, it may have to come back on.  Let's hope the Halloween gods get rid of the trolls for us.

* In the past I've run a very easy "leave a comment and you're done" giveaway.  I like this simple approach, but I'm willing to consider a second entry if it's something you really want to do.  If you want to promo the blog/giveaway in some fashion and get brownie points for it - do your thing.  Just make sure that you comment a second, separate, time, leaving the link to your promo.   Even if you share the giveaway all over the interwebs, I'm only going to allow a second comment.  I don't want this getting too crazy y'all.

* You will have exactly one week to respond to my request for your mailing address, and I'll send your book out within a week of receiving that info from you.  If you don't respond within 7 days, I will have to draw a new winner for that particular book.

* I am in Canada.  I will send the books to Canada, USA or overseas (according to the legal rambling below) at the most cost-effective shipping rates.  This means your book may arrive anywhere from 5 days to 5 weeks after I mail it.  (In Canada - approx 5 business days.  To Germany - approx 5 weeks.)

Legal Bits:

* This giveaway (or "sweepstakes") is open to all residents of Canada, (exluding Quebec residents,) the USA, Great Britain and Europe 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.

Now that that's all over with - can we get on with the fun?!