23 January 2014

Blackthorn, Friend and Foe.......and wax poppet making.

"Better the bramble than the black-thorn, better the black-thorn than the devil. He who would go in the bramble for me, I would go in the thorn for him" - Proverb; Alexander Carmichael: Carmina Gadelica Vol. II 1900

Prince Phillip fighting his way through the thorns
Disney's Sleeping Beauty  1959

As you know I love fairy tales. I look for the magical elements in them and expand upon them. Some of the elements are obvious, some are not. I like to research. I like to read. I like to connect the dots. I love to create.

I'm going to be listing quite a bit of information about the Blackthorn, to keep here as my reference as well as information for everyone. I am going to focus only on the magical and the folklore.

I've been thinking about Sleeping Beauty for quite a while. I think since I saw the previews for Malificent.  And yes, I AM super excited for that movie! 

We all know about the thorns that surround the castle of Sleeping Beauty. The handsome prince has to cut his way through the hateful black thorns to get inside to wake the lovely princess from the curse, and in the process, he proves himself worthy because he was able to get through the thorny hedge. Blackthorn has a prominent place in fairy tales throughout Europe. It has always been featured as a tree of bad omens.

Those vicious thorns are Blackthorn. Blackthorn is a sister to the Hawthorn. If both the Hawthorn and the Blackthorn grow in a place together it is considered a more magical place. Blackthorn is regarded as the more sinister of the two.

A winter that is particularly long and hard is called a Blackthorn Winter. This term is used because of late frost which happens at the time of the blossoming of the Blackthorn, in March-April......and will remain that way for a fortnight.

It is also a harbinger of Spring coming, since it is one of the first to flower, usually around Imbolc.

In Scotland, the blackthorn in blossom tells when it is time to sow the barley.

‘When the slae tree is white as a sheet
Sow your barley, wither it be drey or wet.’
Which, roughly translated into Gloucestershire, meant:
‘When the blackthorn blossom’s white
Sow your barley day and night.’

The co-author of the Green Man Tree Oracle, John Matthews, tells us that Blackthorn's message is that "Magic is Everywhere".

It is also called a "a major tree of magical power" by Nigel Pennick.

Three of the trees growing together is ill-advised, because of the power that would be created.

All the information that I found on the internet seems to be crossing the Lunantishee with the Leanan Sidhe. However, in An Encyclopedia of Fairies by Katherine Briggs these are two completely different fairies. According to Ms. Briggs the Leanan Sidhe have nothing to do with the blackthorn. They are just a type of succubus fairy that lead men to their deaths.  Also, of the Lunantishee she states: "The Lunantishee are a tribe that guards the blackthorn bushes, and will not allow a stick to be cut on 11 (originally Samhain) November or on 11 May (originally May Day). If you cut blackthorn on those days, some misfortune will befall you. Blackthorn is one of the fairy trees."

The following is the information that was found on the internet regarding the fae that guard the blackthorn. As you can see there is a confusion regarding which one guards blackthorn:

Before the coming of Christianity the tree was thought to be a respected and revered, associated with the Sidhe, but afterwards it became feared even more so. It isn't surprising that the Leanan Sidhe can be seen as a succubus figure. Aine, the goddess, often referred to as the Fairy Queen, is also often seen as the solitary version of the of Leanan Sidhe.

During the full moon, to pay homage to the moon goddess, the fairies will leave the tree.

When the more dastardly fairies stole babies, and replaced them with changelings, they would place the stolen babies in Blackthorn brambles. Also, it is said that the fairies can be forced to return the stolen babies by burning a small fire made of the branches on top of a fairy mound.

It is associated with winter, the Crone, the Irish Morrigan, the Scottish Cailleach, warfare, death, the waning moon, and the dark moon. It is known as "the increaser and keeper of dark secrets". When the Cailleach strikes the ground in Scotland with her Her Blackthorn staff, then winter begins.

The Cailleach with staff, Merlin BBC series

If you happen to prick yourself on one the hard thorns, then you had better make sure to clean it well, because it can become septic and cause quite a bit of bleeding.

Blackthorn has long been associated with witches. Often being used for binding and cursing, the thorns being used to stick in poppets. This practice is called "the pins of slumber". The devil supposedly pricked the fingers of his followers with the thorns, according to beliefs in Medieval times.

Blackthorn pyres were used to burn witches and heretics in medieval times.

The thorns of it were thrown into wells, if your lover was insincere, then the thorns sank. This was a type of divination used by lovers in Wales.

Also, lucky is the woman that is told by her beau that he loves her, if they are standing by the Blackthorn. A happy marriage is then guaranteed.

In celebrations of May Day fertility magic, Blackthorn is used along with Hawthorn. The chambers of brides were decorated with the flowers of both of the trees, for an ancient fertility rite, as they were said to stimulate desires with their musky scents. This is unusual since to bring the flowers in the home was considered a very ill omen.

It is also known to grant wishes if they are made beside it.

A clootie is a strip of cloth. The Blackthorn can be made into a clootie tree, by putting the clootie (with wishes) on a thorn, to make the wish come true. This is why it is also known as the Faerie Wishing Tree.

To banish negative forces and to ward off evil spirits and bad luck, hang it over your doorways. It will also stamp 'return to sender' on any dark magic sent your way.

Because of it's white flowers on dark wood, the Blackthorn has a perfect balance of light and darkness.

According to folklore in South Devon, England, Blackthorn walking sticks were carried by witches, to cause mischief. The sticks are carried by the Irish as protection against the fae. Divining rods have also been made from this most magical wood. Wands and staffs are excellent for general protections, protections from fire, and aid for exorcisms. To cause harm, one just needs a wand that still has the thorns attached. A staff is also excellent for making wishes and carrying on protects a person from evil. It is also used as the traditional wood for Irish shillelaghs. Rumors originating from Devonshire say that miscarriage can be caused by a rod of Blackthorn.

A story from Niall Mac Coitir tells of a shadow that visited a woman nightly. It frightened her so badly that she sought the help of a local wise woman. The wise woman told her that she get a stick made of Blackthorn and put it next to her bed and sprinkle holy water around her home. The shadow never made another appearance.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1670, Major Thomas Weir had a magical Blackthorn staff. His staff was carved with a Satyrs head, and it was rumored to have extraordinary powers. The powers were so marvelous,  it was even said to be able to fly through the air. It was rumored that he received it from the devil. Major Weir was a Covenanter, and he gave sermons that people traveled far and wide to hear. During one sermon in 1670, he suddenly confessed to years of corruption and sin with his sister, Jean. He did this in front of the congregation. Up until this confession, he was called the Saint of West Bow. Unfortunately both brother and sister were tried and condemned to death. Major Weir ended up being burned as a witch with his fantastic staff. Edinburgh West Bow is still haunted by Major Weir and his Blackthorn staff.

Folklore from Germany states that witches can be repelled by a bundle of Blackthorn sticks on May Eve.

It can also be a protection aid. Iceland thought that it provided protection against wandering spirits.

Used in a hodgepodge of protections spells, there are tales from Ireland in which the Blackthorn tree aided heroes. The heroes were able to make an impassable tangle of thorns, which would stop a giant in it's tracks.

An excellent protection aid that has been used for years is to carve the Thurisaz rune from the Elder Futhark on a branch or stave of Blackthorn.

On the Ogham Tract, is it designated as one of the Eight Chieftain Trees.

For powerful purification and banishing, use Blackthorn at Imbolc (February 1st) and at Samhain (October 31st)

Blackthorn is excellent for purification of negative thoughts and impulses in our psyches at the deepest levels. Issues are dealt with on a Karmic level. It will aid in fighting fear, anger, and depression. Meditation on blackthorn can get rid of built up negativity and help in release of emotional toxins. Using hawthorn with blackthorn will aid in a speedier healing.

Rites for the goddesses, Morrigan, Cailleach, and the Dark Mother, will work well if you add dried leaves, to aid in contacting ancestors.

During Samhain and Beltain rituals, using Hawthorn staffs and Blackthorn wands or staffs in conjunction with each other in initiations will represent death and rebirth.

Also, Caeilleach Bheur, the Scottish Old Blue Hag of Winter, can be called during rituals of Samhain or Yule.

Song of the Cailleach Bheur
What’s all this merriment and cheer?
Is it not winter that you fear?

I am the old veiled one of the wood,
And my appearance shall do you no good.

My realm is cold, dead, and dark.
The ground is barren and the trees are stark.

My fierce white hounds, with eyes of red
Howl through the night, a paean to the dead.

I strike my blackthorn upon the ground!
Now nothing green or living shall be found.

I am the Cailleach Bheur, and now is my reign.
I shall not leave you until next Beltaine.

The darker aspects of deities can make their presence in your life known by the appearance of Blackthorn.

If you would like to contact an Underworld deity, then go outside on Samhain and meditate beneath a Blackthorn tree.

Blackthorn tree in flower. I didn't add any medicinal 
information, but this site has a good blog about it.

The magical aspects:

Planet: Saturn, Scorpio, Mars, and Pluto

Element: Earth and Fire

Polarity: Feminine

Zodiac: Aries and Scorpio

Symbolism: Death, protection, revenge, negativity, strife, balance in light and dark

Stones: Black Opal, Agate, and Bloodstone

Birds: Thrush

Colors: white, black, and red

Deities: Morrighan, Cailleach, Ceridwen, Goddess of Winter, the Dark Mother, Morgan le Fay, Gwynn ap Nudd, the Celtic fire god Bel,  and the Dagda

Sabbat: Samhain

Folk names: Sloe, Faery Tree, Wishing Thorn, Pear Hawthorn, Snag, Spiny Plum, Um Tree, Sloe Plum, Crataegus Tomentosa Mother of the Wood, and Dark Crone of the Wood

Ogham Name: Straif (strife)

Letters: Z, Ss, St, Z

Animals: Wolf,  Dog, Toad, and Black Cat

Virtue: Unity

Associations: Bad luck, Strife, Unexpected changes, resentment, confusion, and refusal to see the truth

Challenge: Turn negative to positive

For this "craft" I am making wax poppet. I am also going to go with the cursing poppet.

I made these with a mixture of melted white candles and parrafin. The parrafin makes it easy to work without getting as stiff. And that allowed me to work my herbs in and spread them throughout the poppet's body. I covered my hands with jojoba oil to work without the wax sticking and I made the poppets on a piece of parchment paper. It worked great.

I selected several cursing herbs to mix them through. I included:

Vetivert- to add power to all the other herbs and it also stops them speaking ill of you
Sloe berries- these are the berries from the blackthorn tree; these will add discord and strife
Slippery Elm- if someone is running their mouth about you with lies and gossip, include this.
Misteltoe- commanding and compelling 
Poppy Seeds- To cause the subject to get into arguments
High John the Conqueror- Commanding
Mandrake- Cursing

I love the way the little guys turned out. I was going for the "Witches of Eastwick" look and I think I got it. 

I included a "compartment" in the bottom to hold a picture, or hair, or whatever would be used for association.

With the blackthorns sticking the poppet

I will be adding these little guys to be sold with 3 blackthorn thorns each in my shop tomorrow.

I found a couple of great links for you to read about poppets and activating them for further info.

19 January 2014

The Magic of Winter

This article is part of Kallan's wonderful Sunday Stew. Please hop on over and read all the different flavors added by each chef. I know that you will love it!

While we are all dreaming of spring and gardening and interacting with nature, we need to remember that we are still officially in winter, and will be until the middle of March. It seems that people are always trying to rush the seasons instead of enjoying them for what they are. Each season holds it's own magic.

Winter is a quality and restful 'downtime' for nature and it can also be a quality and restful downtime for you. Downtime is healing on all levels and it is needed. It is a great time for introspection, for delving into your inter-most you and finding your past year's moments and examining them, whether they are beautiful, or sad, or happy, or just downright scary. This is the time to examine your life's direction in detail and determine what turns you need to take to make you keep to your life's path and re-connect with yourself.

Winter is also an excellent time to connect with the magic of nature. The glittery snow, the glittery star filled sky, the silence, the darkness. What magic! What I wouldn't give to see the aurora borealis and connect with that magic hanging above. Well, one day. One day.

Take the time to tune into yourself and tune into nature. Capture the magic around you, fill yourself with it!

I love playing in the snow and being outside in the cold. But sadly, I haven't had any snow to play in this year. Lots of people stay in, but you should go out and enjoy nature in this time as much as you do in the spring/summer/fall. There is so much to discover and enjoy. So, for this blog, I thought that I would do a link roundup of fun winter activities to do by yourself, with your child, or a grandchild, to help you to re-connect with yourself and with nature. Most of these are nature based, and they are all lovely crafts to make.

These could also be considered for your outdoor and indoor altars.

These are all great blogs, so maybe you will also find some new things to follow. I've also found a great 10 minute meditation for you to try.

Okay, so let's dig deep within, find and refresh our souls, and get ready to burst forward with the coming spring.

Winter Meditation

Treasure Hunt and Ice Suncatcher Craft 1

Treasure Hunt and Suncatcher Craft 2

Natural Lighting

Icy Mobiles

Molded Bird Feeder

Winter Scavenger Hunt

You don't have to homeschool to do these. These would be great weekend together activities. Think of it as leading a child to journaling or maybe beginning their own book of shadows. And bonus. In the process, you and your child become closer to nature and each other.

Nature Journals

Pinecone Firestarters

Orange Feeder

Ice Bucket Lights

Northern Hemisphere Winter Constellations

13 January 2014

I Am My Own Worst Enemy

This past week I have been really thinking hard about my direction for the next year. I know there are things that I want to accomplish. I have been talking to some really great friends about this. Okay now, this is going to come as a shock to you.

I have had horrible self esteem. I would beat myself constantly. I have almost made myself a hermit.


I have had a really bad past few years, mainly in the relationship area.  A lot of it stems from failed communications. I have a hard time expressing myself. This stems from being shut down while I was growing up, with no matter what I said. I was raised by my mother, and while she bought whatever she thought would make me happy, she never communicated or gave me a relationship. She responded in anger with everything. And though I thought I had worked through a lot of this issue........I've come to realize over the past year, that I still have issues with it. I'm still angry with things that happened over the past few years, and I have become my own worst enemy and put blocks up so that I can't get to the things that would make me happy.

So, I determined that I need to do several things to work on myself. I've been erratic with my workouts for the past few months. I am happy with my size now. I have went from a size 12/14 to a 6. I lost from 180 to 136. My knees are happier. My body is happier.

A few years back I contracted Lyme disease. After that, it seems that I had health problem after health problem. Digestive issues, allergies, female problems......on and on and on. It never got better, only worse. The doctors didn't help. Their answer was a hysterectomy, even though I didn't have cancer. Why couldn't they just fix what was obviously hormonal issues? I was walking around with a blood pressure that was 85/58 and I was blacking for a few seconds every time I stood up. I was having heart flutters. What does the doctor tell me? This: "oh, that's a runner's blood pressure, that's what you want"...........Um, okay. But I'm not a runner, so I'm pretty sure that it's wrong.

Turns out, my potassium was low. I figured that out myself. It got rid of both the heart flutters and the low blood pressure. How did I figure that out? I read on the internet. I started taking potassium and within a week I was feeling better. I had a host of other  issues.  I eventually figured out my thyroid was screwed up, my iron was low, and my estrogen was high. I have been tweaking these things for the past two/ three years and I finally feel like a living person again. This year is the best I have felt health wise. I also went on the Paleo diet. That helped my allergy/digestion issues. It enabled me to be able to stop taking the potassium and iron supplements. That is also how I lost the weight, which was mostly bloat.

So, in evaluating myself I discovered I still have blockages. I still have unwanted anger. I have low self-esteem, but I have to say, I have been working on this. I have wonderful friends that have helped me to see my own self-worth, and I am coming out of that.  This year, I will be working on these issues to help further myself. I will do this by:

1. Journaling at least 3 pages every day.
2. Meditation every day. I had gotten erratic with this. So this year, it is going to be an every day thing.
3. Rotate yoga/workout every day. I had also gotten erratic with this.
4. Organization/Schedule

I started reading Spirit Babies by Walter Makichen. I read that it is really good with chakra issues, so I got a used copy on Amazon. This morning I read the first chapter and something that really struck me was this passage:

"Say that because of previous experiences, your second, or navel, chakra has been conditioned to take in large amounts of antagonism from others. As a result, emotions like anger, jealousy, hatred or competition easily enter this chakra. Given this scenario, you might feel a constant sense of persecution- that everyone is against you- causing you to become overly defensive or, in contrast, overly anxious to please............................However, the negative energy flowing into the second chakra damages the intestines, which are interpenetrated by this chakra. Feeling a constant influx of antagonism from others can cause as much irritation in the intestines as drinking a half gallon of black coffee a day for weeks; thus the irritated colon."

Thank you Mr. Makichen.

I'll continue to read his book every day, along with the other things I am doing.

I can only make myself better. I will become my own best friend.