Saturday, May 24, 2014

Women and the Occult

 Occult: secret; disclosed or communicated only to the initiated. Hidden from view.
Woman: the female human being (distinguished from man).

I just finished reading an academic essay titled, "Managing an Experimental Household: The Dees of Mortlake and the Practice of Natural Philosophy." By Deborah E. Harkness. For those interested in Renaissance magic and ceremonial forms including angelic magic, yes the Dees in the article are "The Dees", that is John and Jane of the 16th century.  For those unfamiliar with John Dee please feel free to learn more on his Wikipedia page, but in a nut shell John Dee was the court astrologer and magician for Elizabeth I and brought the Enochian system of magic to fruition with his oracle Edward Kelly. My goodness that was a terribly short bio. Dee I consider to be one of those "mighty dead" figures in our magical ancestry and because of his amazing note taking skills we can reproduce his rituals to the most minute detail. In fact my friend Lon Milo Duquette has an excellent Enochian magic workshop based on Dee's work that I would recommend to anyone but particularly those unfamiliar with this system. His "cut out of card stock paper" rings and magical seals are hilariously awesome and inventive.  However, while I could go on about the phenomenal menfolk involved in the occult, Crowley, Agrippa, Dee, Chumbley, Gardner, V. Anderson, and Sanders to name a few and their contributions; I want to focus on  women and particularly the experience of women in the occult and the difficulty many women have coming into occult practice. You see the focus of "Managing an Experimental Household" was not about John Dee, it was about his wife Jane and her experience living with an occultist and her female perspective and difficulties therein, and while she herself was not a magician she was touched by this unseen and powerful world.  Many more women today than those in Jane's day have come in contact with alternative religions and the occult and many more have made the choice not to fully engage with the "hard" sciences of the occult. It is my hope that by looking at some of the major road marks on the magical map of women's experiences a clearer picture will emerge and we can separate the "feel good" idea of "magic" in a community context and that of actual magic(k) and serious occult practice.

Sigillum dei aemeth from John Dee's Enochian Spirit workings.
However, let me say this before I go on. This is not some feminist rant piece or some political piece to prove a point. Or maybe it is! I really do try to avoid such trappings but I have things to say people.  I want to try to look at actual magical practice as experienced and utilized by women as opposed to men. You see more than ever before all the avenues of magic are open to women. Where once we could only be wise women, fortune tellers or tea leaf readers or perhaps only the sexual vehicle for manifestation of a man's magic (either in his children or Spirit contact) we now can partake of the entire feast of the occult ourselves. We can orchestrate and experiment and take up the sword if we so choose. Those forbidden books were expressly more forbidden to women in years past but  now are easily obtained and utilized. In fact I feel that we are in a new Spring of Grimoric writing  of such depth and interest, a Renaissance if you will, that it will be the characterization of our magical generation.  Nowadays a woman can pick up a copy of the Goetia or the Grimorium Verum or the Greek Magical Papyrus and practice as diligently as a man and on her own terms.  It is interesting as well if you read any of these old spell books they really do seem as if they were written by men for men.  They are chock full of spells to get women into bed, to make women hot and lustful and to gain mistresses oh and also to make sure your wife does not find out about your mistresses. So far I have not seen one spell to "get that man in to bed", but maybe we don't need magic for that.  Magic of course was not just a man's sphere although I would argue that higher ceremonial forms and the ownership of forbidden books was almost exclusively held by men. Let us not forget the iconic image of the witch and all the accusations of magic directed at women especially if she aroused a man's passion. Wait a minute..first you want to get us into bed and then you get angry when you finally do get us into that bed...geez....make...up...your...mind! Jesting aside, the philosophical sphere of magic or what we might label "high magic" was mostly utilized by men and the sphere of "low or natural magic" was often thought of as more women's work since it involved things like herbs and potions as well as simpler types of divination and this had been the norm in the occult for hundreds of years. Change is slow but it does come.

It seems to me that the feminist movement in the 60's and 70's brought along with it a desire for women to look to a female deity and engage in spiritual practice that was conducive and compassionate to them and their needs, because traditional Christianity certainly was not. Women wanted to make love to whom they wished both in or out of marriage. They wanted birth control and abortions and control of their own bodies. They wanted equal pay for equal work and they wanted to work outside the home. Many did not want to have children. While all of this seems mundane and normal now, at the time it was culture shattering, almost unthinkable. My husband and I were talking about the 1960's and how the boss could get away with smoking cigars and drinking whiskey in his office and slapping his secretaries on the ass as he walked by and that was that. While a woman could not directly challenge the boss at this time trouble was a-brewing for the status quo. The activism of these decades combined with a desire for a Goddess centric spirituality, Margaret Murry's use of bad anthropology, the infusion of the New Age movement with it's feel good message and Eastern influences,  Ray Buckland's bringing of Wicca  to the US and later Starhawk's pivotal book "The Spiral Dance"  all created a huge Wiccan religious movement that was community based, activist based, feminist in nature and focused mainly on the Goddess and healing rituals. And certainly healing was needed.  It was here women could get together and let it all out. They could sing, dance, fuck, love, laugh and challenge the restrictions that bound them. Magic became a "feel good" act and one of healing and helping. "To harm none" was the motto of the day and books like Scott Cunningham's "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner", and "Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs" graced every shelf. Many women were not interested in magical experimentation for the most part, they were swept up in the tides of change and experience. To them the magic was in what they were doing and the community they were building and it was important work.

An early pentagram with planetary associations.
 The people seemed to have had enough of violence and things that were dark and uncomfortable. Was not the Vietnam war just over but still fresh in their minds? Many Wiccans of the period also believed that  thousands or millions of people burned at the stake as witches. They also felt that the Christian God was responsible for all the evils of the world and they wanted to distance themselves from the religious abuse they had experienced. They spoke up about rape and wife beatings and child abuse and no protections in the courts.  But along with the protests and anger about women and children and men who were gay or who were peaceful at heart came another issue.  The issue was small and unnoticeable at first but it was the white washing and cleaning up of the old magics.  It happened in small ways such as Scott Cunningham's description of mugwort as a substitute for Graveyard dirt in magical spells.  No explanation was given why this substitution was made but others came as well and magic and the occult in the sphere of women began to dumb down. At the same time commercialization worked its way in and found new markets. New Age shops sprung up, workshops and Gurus Du Jour could be found almost anywhere. No longer did you have to study magical philosophy for years and years or overcome magical ordeals or walk the knife edge between being "red in tooth and claw" and having compassion. Nor did you have to be initiated into a magical order. All you had to do was "feel good" and be kind. It was all about feeling good and making others feel good as well.

The "Satanic Panic" of the 1980's furthered to create a fear of "black or dark" magic and while available and not illegal to use, those old grimoires were still off limits to many women or seen as evil things to be avoided or even simply not known about. What was once a Western Magical tradition was turning into a religion for the masses which needed to have bylaws and standards and codes of ethics. The magic was being bogged down in the minutia of the bureaucracy of religion and eventually ceased to be magic at all. There arose a new class of Priests or Priestesses who ministered to the masses. This Goddess movement ceased to be occult because it was available to all and in full view of all the masses. This distinction is what separates the priestess from the witch. That is the one who ministers to the masses and the one who walks alone beyond the hedge. They are two very different creatures with very different goals.
Baphomet..the "Devil" has many layers and gifts and things to teach you.

While I am fine with community rituals and women's spirituality and power movements I want to be very clear that I do not consider them to be magic or occult. That is not to say they are not powerful for people in need of healing or community, hell even Jesus performed miracles but occult magic and power is a different Beast.  I am lucky as a woman of this day and age because now I can engage in both worlds if I choose to. I can have the feel good rituals and healing or I can sit down and do some hard core occult study and ritual operations.  The roads are opened further to me than they have been to my ancestresses and I make it a point to learn and do what I can. Yes I balance being a mother and a wife but I also have those old "evil" books to ponder over and the realm of the Spirits to engage with. That is my ultimate passion. I am a student of the occult in many forms from Traditional Witchcraft to African traditions to Ceremonial forms and much more. I want to be more than I am and I know that the ultimate Work is the work of self and the relationship I have to the Spirits. 
Yes lets do coffee and evil books!


It is my hope that more women will pick up those forbidden books and get to work. That they will push themselves beyond the Medieval bodices and maypoles and belly dance skirts and full moon rituals (psss I like all that stuff too) and actually study about magic and its workings. That they will push past their comfort zones and ask questions. Yes even ask hard questions to other women. That they will begin to open up and talk. That they will leave behind the lure of the "cult of the guru priestess" and become more. No really, there are enough guru priestesses and not as many bad ass witches. The occult world is hidden of course, that is its nature and our roads therein twist and turn but that is part of the journey of this Work. I believe we women have much to contribute to the occult in terms of our art, writing, and experiences; all we have to do is begin and not be afraid. I still see so many women who are afraid of things "Satanic" or "evil" or who refuse to read or grind through some of these more complicated books or systems. I would say to them that it is possible if you are interested and that you can balance the mundane and the magical. Unlike the guru priestess there is no box for you to fit into or live up to.  I would love to sit down with women and discuss how astrological magic relates and differs between Agrippa, Lily and Dee. I would love to talk about sex magic in terms of a woman's experience, or really get into the guts of Lilith and her cult and even make or copy her spirit plates as were done in Babylonian times. Can you imagine a grimoire book club with coffee and confections?  Discussions on the relationship of spirits in grimoires to African magical traditions in Brazil? The sexual spirit husband of the 19th century mystic and feminist Ida Craddock and how women can use sex to work with spirits? How right now there is a huge resurgence in African American folk magic called hoodoo and how that is affecting other magical movements. Perhaps I have ventured into the more strange than strange but a serious occultist woman is definitely hard to find and I am more than up for some awesome conversations with my magical sisters out there. If you are interested you know where to find me......

Blessings
Miss Maya
www.ancient-road.com


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hyatt Hoodoo Book Fraud - Saint Martha's Botanica

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness and dismay that I write this blog, but my conscience will not let this go silently.  As most of you know I and my husband are great collectors of rare (and often pricey) occult books and many of you will be familiar with the Henry Hyatt series of 5 books of ethnographic research on Hoodoo and Witchcraft in the turn of the century. These books are rare and expensive and out of print and hard to acquire.  However, as with many rare books they do surface from time to time, so imagine my excitement when a botanica, Saint Martha's Botanica, in the UK had volumes 3-5 for sale! The owner of St. Martha's had posted a pic of the books on Facebook where he promotes much of his items that he sells.

I immediately contacted the owner, Jamie Alexzander, to ask the price and shipping details.  He was selling them for 390 pounds which is about $618.00 dollars give or take. To me this was an excellent price as they usually go for about a thousand dollars a book.  The story was that a friend of his was in need of money, as so many occultists are these days, and was selling his precious books. So I bought them using Paypal on July 24, 2013.

I excitedly waited one week, two, and on August 9 I messaged Jamie to ask where the books were as no shipping tracking number was ever given to me. I was told I would be given the tracking details in the next few days. One weeks went by and so on August 19th I asked yet again the status of my books. Another apology from Mr. Alexzander and I was told that my books would definitely arrive on Thursday.  Thursday came and went and there was nothing. I seriously wanted to cry because I was beginning to wonder if I had been bamboozled. I was sure I had not been because I also run a botanica and we share many of the same friends and colleagues. So on August 30th I messaged St. Marthas again and added my address to see if he had it right. I mean how hard is it to type a little tracking number or cut and past it?

Nothing. Crickets. Dead Silence.

So I wrote again on Sept 6th this time agitated asking what the heck was up. I was told the books should have arrived and I would be told in the morning what had happened. One day goes by..then two... so I again write on Sept 9th as to what it up. On Sept 11th I am told that business partner has the flu and Mr. Alexzander has family issues. Again multiple apologies and it would be sorted. I hear nothing for weeks.

By this time I am pissed. I no longer want these fricking books. So on October 4th I write back and say keep your damn books and give me my money back. I get a response that same day saying that he assumed they would be there and that he will check with the courier. He tells me that they are on their way and I should get them in the next week and that he will send a special gift and he is oh so very sorry.

My hopes raise a little as I think that MAYBE the books will arrive. But you know that feeling you get in your tummy when you know you have been had? You know...the death of hope?

So I call my lawyer. Yup. And ask her what we should do. We crafted a letter to St. Martha to let them know the action we are taking if we are not paid in full or establish a payment plan by Oct 29th.

1. Contacting the IC3 division of the FBI. Yes there is a WHOLE division for assholes who rip you off on-line run by the FBI.
2.Make a report to both the Royal Mail and USPS for mail fraud.
3.Contact their local police department.
4.Let Facebook know.
5. Let Paypal know. FYI You BETTER file no later than 45 days with Paypal or they will not mediate a fraud for you. I don't know if St. Martha's knew this but we filed 2 days later than the file date and NADA.
6. File a complaint with their domain.
7. Contact various occult colleagues privately about this matter.
8. Let you all know about this BULLSHIT.

So after the threat letter we sent to St. Martha which my husband sent as he no longer was responding to me, Mr. Alexzander was extremely apologetic. Apparently the money went to a "friend" to help him move out of his current situation. No details other than that were given. Again no tracking number. Perhaps this friend was wired the money and never had or never shipped the books. Either way that was not our concern as our money went to St. Martha's and they as the business entity were responsible for the transaction. But at this point I do not trust one word out of Mr. Alexzander's mouth so who knows if there even was a friend. It would be easy enough to post up pics on Facebook of desirable occult items and target overseas buyers and then play stupid. I seriously cannot believe that anyone would be dumb enough to transact that much money in their name and then wire the money to the friend and not have the books in their hands and trust said homeless "friend" to pack and ship them.

Anyway, we were assured we would be paid in full by the 29th. We said that was cool, we even offered to do a payment plan, we even joked with Mr. Alexzander because seriously I HATE bad blood. As a business owner I know how important it is to honor your obligations to clients. He was again oh so apologetic. I think everyone has a right to pursue their dreams and run a business but this really stinks.  This lacks integrity and honor and really why would you want to screw with your reputation as a small niche business in this economy? Seriously dude man the fuck up and do what is right. Pay us back and go kick ass and take names from your supposed "friend" who ultimately ripped you off too.

So today is November 5th and you guessed it! No money. No more messages. No more apologies. Nothing but silence. I still have no books and am out $600 plus bucks. Hey ya know we all got bills to pay and mouths to feed and this is seriously low shit.

So my friends please be wary of buying from St. Martha Botanica if you live in the US or heck if you live outside of Glastonbury and you cannot place your actual hands on the actual merchandise. And DO NOT purchase any Hyatt books! I seriously do not understand why he did this to us but as one of my teachers in the South told me..."like attracts like honey child and there ain't no distance that is too far for the Spirits and what they gotta get done...."

Best,
Miss Maya & Ed Grey

















Sunday, November 3, 2013

Of Dittany of Crete...

"Sing to me o' Goddess of the Mountain. Sing and fill me with inspiration as I tread your paths for my love. Let me be nimble as a goat. Let me not fall. Let me find your beloved dittany. Let it fill my basket. Let its perfume waft and coil around my love. Let her be impressed. Let her be desirous of me. For I shall sing praises to you. I will make love in your name. I will honor the mountain!"

In times past we hunted plants as we hunt animals and from that time to now we have had Gods, myths, legends and stories connecting us to plants and interweaving though all aspects of our lives. Our relationship to various plants is sung in epic poems and lives on in charms and even the highest of honors, a simple olive leaf crown, was the ultimate reward for games won. Plants are with us at weddings, funerals and surround us at all times. A plant is not just simply a "thing" we eat or use for recreation or healing. Every plant has a spirit and these spirits shape us as we shape them. Some follow us and help us. Some seem to hinder us. And some are so "threatening" that we throw people in jail for life for the possession of even the smallest amount of certain plants. They alter our minds and consciousness. They heal, kill and exist in every facet of our lives each and every day.They are a foundational point in the magic of almost every worker and they even have an effect on the Spirits in various ways. An intimate and working knowledge of them is critical if one is interested in magic. I focus in on one herb at a time and go as in depth as I can with them to learn "why" they work in the magical context that they do. It has to make sense. There have to be connections. I was never satisfied when reading magical herbal books with their one to two sentence "explanation" of what herbs to what magically. Why? How? Where did they get that? Some of the lore out there is watered down at best or merely a shadow of the actual power. Some is flat out untrue. So my friends please let us explore and make connections. While I am a Rootworker my background is Traditional American Witchcraft. The two systems are intertwined in many many ways and as they are both living, breathing traditions with a body of workers and a body of lore they continue to fuse, grow, expand and develop as all systems that are "working" do.  Hopefully you can gain some insights and understanding as I have.

One herb that has always interested me is Dittany of Crete. In my early years I had only heard of it through whispers and it was held in high regard by fellow witches and workers I knew. When I asked them what it "did" the replies were vague and simplistic like "it is powerful" or "it calls to the spirits". These answers were not good enough for me then nor now and so I decided to pursue my own knowledge of this plant in my own way and in my own time.  I would encourage you to do the same in your magical studies. 

I wanted to know what makes it powerful? What does it do and why would the Witch or Rootworker want to use it? Do the dead really like it and how so? As I have learned and grown I have seen many people work natural magic as if it were a cook book and take what people say as gospel truth. A little dash of chamomile, a pinch of patchouli, and a nugget of frankincense and you have a money incense, voila! Maybe. But why those herbs? Can you just grab them whilly nilly? What goes deeper? Do they contain the power to make the spell work or do you or both?  I know now that it is the Spirit of the plant that lends the power and that the plant itself is the teacher. The worker must be gifted and go forth with will, desire and belief and the drive to go deeper.  So I decided to go deeper.

Dittany of Crete.....Origanum dictamnus (Lamiaceae Family).

I know that what people know in the pagan or witchcraft communities about dittany comes from what Aleister Crowley wrote, that it summons spirits, is related to Persephone and should be burned in copious amounts and often associates it with Abramelin. That is to say that he as well as other Thelemites held it in high regard. Daniel Schulke, in his "Viridarium Umbris" calls dittany a kapnomantic herb---used for divination with smoke.  I have used dittany in this way, it ties back to the legends that it was burnt at various Greek oracular sites, such as the Delphic Oracle.  Other references to dittany are equally as vague, though, and come from the Hoodoo community which says dittany is good for love and use it as a love charm.  Looking at Crowley's work I wondered where he got to his conclusions as in my own research into Greek mythology there is nothing about summoning spirits to manifestation associated with dittany.  The Greek link to Goddess is Athena not Persephone. The only reference I could find to the "Spirits" was in Agrippa which states that dittany is good for prophesy, and driving away of evil spirits. So there is kind of a link there but it still was not good enough for me. It was too vague and I knew that magicians in the past borrowed from other magicians and grimoires (as they do now) and things can get lost in translation. The Hoodoo love spells with dittany made more sense because in the Greek lore dittany has love rituals attached to it. However, Hoodoo is "newer" as it is a combination of various traditions which came together to battle the pedagogy of the oppressed so sometimes it is all over the place in terms of lore, how each individual worker works and how it differs in different areas of the country. And of course we all argue with one another about everything so back to the research we must go. We are on a journey here so let us go to the home of dittany.  Let us delve into the myth of this beautiful plant to see if we can gain some magical insights.

Dittany is native to Crete and is found all over the island but especially on the western side and usually on the steep slopes of the mountains. Being a Mediterranean plant it enjoys a dry hot summer with lots of sun and a mild and rainy winter season. . Being a type of oregano it is a short plant with bifurcated leaves of a greyish green that appear to have a furry lace upon them, almost like a weaving and feel soft like the plant 'lambs ear'. They produce elegant red and pink flower stalks which dip down.

Dittany is well known for its medical healing properties and is anti-microbial, antioxidant and anti-ulcer. It is used in Crete and Greece extensively as a healing herb and can be found in many local markets.

Taxonomy and medical science are interesting but what does the smoke whisper? What do the Spirits know? Shall we climb the mountain in search of answers?

The old Minoan Goddess of the mountain has no name that has survived, though she is depicted as a gorgon headed woman with ritual accoutrement.  However, once the Greeks got to the island they named her Britomartis (sweet maid) and later she morphed again and was given the name Diktynna (of the nets). The name "Dittany" was derived from Diktynna and at its root is 'dikti' which is Greek for "net". Like many of the Gods of old, Diktynna has experienced a transformation in human consciousness as cultures shifted and as people assimilated one another. First being a Minoan Goddess of her own volition (Britomartis/Diktynna)- to being a toned down lady of the woods to a nymph and finally an "aspect" of Artemis (Artemis-Diktynna). The story goes that Britomartis, beautiful and maidenly and a charmer of animals, was pursued by king Minos. Not wanting to be at the end of the amorous king's advances she threw herself off of a cliff and into the sea to escape him. Luckily for her she was caught in the nets of some Greek fishermen who called her Diktynna (of the nets) and brought her to Greece.  We can see this not only in terms of her changing name but as a spread of her cult to mainland Greece where because of her nature with animals and hunting she was associated with Artemis, sometimes as an aspect of Artemis and sometimes as a companion or nymph. What is also interesting is that even though these "aspects" are associated with Artemis, Artemis herself is depicted with the head of the gorgon on her shield. So we circle back to the ancient pre-Greek myths of the area and to the power and mystery of the gorgon.  An  apotropaic charm to be sure, everyone seemed to want the head of the gorgon for himself from Perseus to Alexander the Great!

But let us go back to the old Goddess for a bit. Back to Britomartis. Back to the mountain. Mount Ida to be exact and to a gorgon headed Goddess holding a double headed axe with serpents twining around each arm accompanied by feral dogs and other animals as is depicted in Minoan art. Quite a turn around from the skipping virgin maid who runs from the lustful glance of a powerful king. But then the ancient Greeks had a different view of women than did the Minoans and the blushing virgin was much more palpable than the gorgon who would turn you to stone and Lord knows what else. We also see that Mount Ida is centrally located on Crete and has lore connected to Zeus, but Mount Dikit (ahhh etymology how I love thee) is far to the West. Remember that dittany mostly grows in the West? Two mountains. Two faces of a Goddess. Two cultures. Consider that the ancient Minoan culture was as steeped in mystery and lore and as far removed from the Greeks as we are from those ancient Greeks ourselves today. Time fades memories, weathers stones and stories, and the victors write the tales. An ancient Goddess transformed into something more palatable? Seen that one before.
The head of the Gorgon 

So let us confuse the story a little bit more shall we? Britomartis is translated as "sweet maid", or "fair maid" and yet is depicted as a gorgon or demon with snakes, axes and dogs, so what gives? Why this opposite? We know that Diktynna was also considered to be sweet and fair and without the nastiness of the Gorgon. Now we must leave the age of Aquarius archaeology and the scientific rationality and tread the path of the Witch. We walk now into myth and dream so let us make some connections.

We know that dittany, being of the oregano family, has amazing healing properties but where it grew naturally was in a very precarious place indeed. Right up the steep slopes of mount Ida and Dikit. To procure this amazingly healing and magical herb one took their life into their very hands and a tale of the "quest" grew up around such ventures. The flowers of dittany are beautiful indeed and what young maid would not be desirous of such a beautiful prize? Oh to impress the girls! This is where the love mythos of dittany comes in and even today young men will venture up the slopes (hopefully with carabiners and on belay) to get some for their girlfriends. In times of old though this was quite the quest and proved to the young lady that the lad really did desire her. Thus dittany was used in a variety of love charms and potions and consequently still is. So if you ever read that dittany is used for love now you will know why. Here is one of my favorite dittany formulas used in Hoodoo. It is simple but effective:

A Hoodoo Love Sprinkle
To be placed where the beloved will come in contact with done on a waxing moon preferably in the hour and day of Venus.

Procure:
Dittany of Crete
Red Rose petals
Damiana
Catnip (if lover is a man)
John the Conqueror chips (if lover is a female)
Mix these thoroughly

Spell:
Bring yourself to climax while thinking of your love. Say their name and tell them to be yours aloud as you climax. Wet both your left and right hand with your fluids. Take the herbal mixture and mix with your hands your fluids into the mixture as if you were kneading dough. Breathe your desire into the mixture. Say aloud as if you were speaking to your beloved and tell them all that you desire with passion!!!

Next you will sprinkle these where your lover will come in contact yet not be aware of them such as under a door mat or bed or mixed into some soil where you know where they will walk. You should be able to see "movement" in about 7 days. 

Love play is all well and good. Sex is great and using folk and natural magic to get a lover is awesome but what about sex to call down the very Gods? How could these snakes and axes relate to sex and power?
Dittany of Crete


The double headed axe also known as the "Labrys" was a powerful symbol of the Goddess and has been found all over Crete and especially at Knossos as well as Catal Huyuk and dates to the neolithic in terms of its use. The labrys is curved which represents the "arc of creation" and perhaps the pregnant belly and is the only way an axe can be double bladed. This "double bladedness" is important because it is the two faces of the Goddess, the Gorgon and the sweet maid.  This speaks to the dual nature in such a Goddess and interestingly enough if you look at the leaves of the dittany plant you will see that they themselves look like a mini labrys. That is a double headed axe like shape with a rounded blade. If you are familiar with the doctrine of signatures you can see it at work here with these links.

Another animal associated with dittany but not necessarily with Britomartis was the goat. There is a fabulous tale told by Aristotle (4th C. BC from the Historia Animalium), that when a wild goat was struck with a poison arrow (some tales it is just arrows) it would eat the dittany and this caused the arrows to leave the body and to heal the wounds. This tale was so beloved and believed that it stuck around and a famous engraving by the artist Dapper of Amsterdam showing a little wounded goat eating the leaves of the dittany was quite popular. Because of this lore (as well as its actual healing properties) it was valued indeed and the myth of the goat is repeated again and again in regards to dittany of Crete.  Virgil too wrote that Aphrodite used the herb to heal her wounded lover Aeneas and the myths of the virtue of dittany go on and on. This truly is the "kindly maid" side of the plant.
Dapper's Engraving, notice the arrow in the goat as he eats dittany: Amsterdam 1703

But let us not just stop here with the lovely symmetry of the labrys and the plant itself. Another symbol of Britomartis was the gorgon head and the snakes winding around the arms. If you are reading my blog then you probably have an interest in all things occult and ancient religions and you will of course recognize the famous Minoan statue of the bare breasted woman holding the snakes. These winding serpents were actually a common theme in Minoan art. The ophidian mysteries are here in the dittany. They are writhing with them. This is the face of the Gorgon. The double edged blade of the Goddess. The Ouroboros, that serpent coiling in upon itself and the very raising of the kundalini. This is the dangerous face of the Goddess because it is that which can consume you. Unleashing the kundalini before you are ready can have dire consequences. Here is not the sweet play of love but the creation of the Universe.  The very crossroads of magic. Three. Four. The intersection of power. The serpent is lodged deeply in our minds and we have a primal instinctual fear of them. Those who walk in power and opposition often find them as allies. One of the "powers" of dittany is that it is a snake repellent. Again we see the apotropaic nature at work. It is also used as a snake repellent in Hoodoo, though I believe it got there from the Native Americans. What is this you think? Were we not just in Greece? Yes and we will return gentle readers, but first a little lore from the Americas. We do after all work both Hoodoo and Witchcraft.  

I believe that dittany entered into the Hoodoo consciousness and workings from a very interesting route, that is first via its name (dittany) from the Europeans and by analog (different plans with similar functions) via the Native Americans. When the European settlers came here they looked for plants familiar to them to those they had left behind in Europe.  They did this in two ways. First they looked at plants to see if they were visually and physically the same as ones they knew and second they learned about plants from the Native Americans. Of course not really wanting to call the plants by their native names they often called them by European ones and there are several plants which were called "dittany" which, aside from lore associated with snakes, have nothing to do with true dittany of Crete.  

One of these "dittany's" was the Mountain dittany from Virginia which the Natives used to cure snakebites and to kill snakes with its mystic properties.  One John Clayton, an Englishman in the 17th century tried to disprove the Natives belief in the magical properties of this "dittany" through his writings and thanks to them we know that both the English and the Natives used this plant (later thought to be Dictamnus Virginianus or Pulegium Virginianum ) as a snake repellent. The powers of this plant were so strong that it was labeled "dittany" by the Europeans who associated it with the actual dittany from across the seas.  The Virginian Native word for this plant was "Ki Kasch Kon Ko" which means "death to snakes". It was not a true "dittany" or even an oregano but a plant with strong snake medicine to be sure. There was much confusion with herbal snake remedies being named "dittany" by the Europeans that herbal historians and taxonomists have had a difficult time figuring out what the actual plants were. Snake roots and charms were important in Hoodoo and there were other herbs associated with snakes. Another such example is that of Sampson snake root (Psoralea psoralioides) which was used as a blood purifier and protection charm against snakes shown to the Europeans by the Cherokee and later to the African slaves which is how it found its way into Hoodoo.  However, the "dittany" used in Hoodoo and in the Americas was not the actual Dittany of Crete of this article, it was the "mountain dittany" of the North American mint family (or other various "dittany plants"). Dittany of Crete needs a Mediterranean climate to thrive and the only place in North America that this is found is California and does splendid here! The earliest references I can find of Dittany of Crete (Origanum dictamnus) being grown in the US is from 1936, when it was introduced by Anne Burrage to the Herb Society of America.

The "American Dittanys or Mountain Dittanys" use was that of snake repellent as well as love charm which is direct from the lore and myths of Crete and placed upon these other plants as an analog, which is interesting because the Cretan lore lived alongside the snake lore of the Virginian Indians and Cherokee Indians and seemed to absolutely work in magic. That is to say that even though this plant was not the actual dittany of Crete it was given the name and worked with in much the same way. Though different plant species, the serpent power seems to be found in various plants to which humans gave the mantle of "dittany". Here I think we see the weaving of the ophidian current and the road of the magician and worker. Here we begin to work with Spirit and not just flesh. So how do we learn? How do we walk these roads?

 I do not have a simple recipe spell to share with you here because these are the paths and mysteries  walked on by the witch or worker alone. The way we each make to these ancient halls will be different indeed but the place is the same and those who have ventured there will know the mysteries and will know the words. They will each know one another as they look into their eyes or meet them in the dream time. Words cannot convey. But if you are interested in the dangerous edge of the labrys then start with the information at hand. Your journey will be yours alone. Know also that archaeologists unearthed three herbs in the palace at Knossos, dittany of Crete, wormwood and sage. Let these be your guides. Let them waft and coil and speak to you. Let them teach you the mysteries of the temple.
"Madea" by Fredrick Sandys 1866-1868

It seems to me that before you begin a ritual with dittany of Crete that you call down one of the specific aspects of its nature. That of the "maid" which is to heal and to find a lover. Or that of the "gorgon" which is to open to the dangerous nature of the plant and call upon the serpent energies. There are different rituals which one could use for each and I would encourage you to create you own. You could look up some Greek words and chant them as well as build a beautiful altar. See what calls to you, see what comes up. Part of the "work" of the magician and worker is to experiment and see what does indeed work and is successful.  Even those hoary forbidden books of magic, the grimoires, are only "grammars", that is bare bone outlines of where to get started. The work my friends is up to you. And of course write it down in your magical journal.

So is dittany powerful? Yes. Is it sacred to the dead? Well I am sure that you could say that it is but I believe that its powers are more attuned to the living as well as to the energies of sex and not necessarily "sacred" to the dead per-se but more of the energy of sex that they crave. That is, more of a "food" for them to help them manifest. But burning it for them is not the key, the key would be to burn a small amount to raise the sex energy for the participants in a ritual. The actual sex is the KEY for the spirits in this case. Sex and death are married and dittany coupled with darker more Gorgonic herbs would be appropriate. We step into facets of the realms of ophidian current and its coiling halls. It is up to you, the witch and worker, to experiment and see what this herb has to offer. I think your results will be most interesting indeed....


Sources:

Agrippa, H.C., "Three Books of Occult Philosophy" Llewellyn, 2005 8th Edition.

Blakely, Sandra, "Myth, Ritual, and Metallurgy in Ancient Greece and Recent Aftica", Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Dickie, Matthew, "Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World", Routledge, 2001, 2003.

Gimbutas, Marija, "The Language of the Goddess", Thames and Hudson, 1989.

Graves, Robert. "The White Goddess", International Authors NV, 1948.

Schulke, Daniel, "The Viridarium Umbris", Xoanon Press, 2005.

Stratton-Kent, Jake, "Geosophia: The Argos of Magic", Scarlet Imprint, 2010.

Articles:

Robinson, Martha K. "New Worlds, New Medicines: Indian Remedies and English Medicine in Early America", Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 3, Number
1, Spring 2005, pp. 94-110

 FeestSource, Christian F.: "Another French Account of Virginia Indians by John Lederer", The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 83, No. 2 (Apr., 1975), pp. 150-159

 Lefler, Lisa J., "Southern Foodways and Culture: Local Considerations and Beyond", Newfound Press, Selected Papers from the Annual Meeting of the Southern Anthropological Society, Oxford, Mississippi February, 2007





















Sunday, September 22, 2013

Should I Stay or Should I Go? ---Reconciliation Work


 Most of us have at one time or another yearned for a love that had wandered from us either from misunderstandings, to mistakes made, to a downright terrible breakup. Reconciliation work can be tricky but it is not impossible and magicians and workers have long helped folks in need with these types of issues.

I have often shied away from such work because of the volatile nature of such spells and the delicate emotional state of most clients who are hurting and desiring their love to return. That being said I do take on this work if it is justified in the cards and if the client is completely honest with me.

I remember one client that I had (let us call her Rachel), who had fallen in love with a man who had strayed from her. The relationship had not ended badly per se but this man (let us call him Mr. X) had just started seeing less and less of her. He had moved out and would not tell her that they were broken up but would not give her what she wanted either. He was in a limbo world and could not seem to say yes or no. Rachel had taken to stalking him at work and having her friends drive by his house as well as trying every internet spell she could find to bring him back to her. Mr. X had also started to become a bit hostile to her and was seeing another woman but he still would not tell her to hit the road completely. When she walked through my door she was a sleep deprived mess and her own life was falling to pieces from neglect.  When I read her cards I could see that there was a chance but as the days passed this was fading faster and faster.  I decided to give it a try and see if I could help her as there was genuine love between them. Further work showed that the new lady had actually used magic to keep him chained to her, but without love for her Mr. X was like some zombie caught between two women who were hurling spells.

Our approach was to simultaneously break the other woman's charms, which was easy as she was not a practitioner and only had a little bit of talent, and to release the obsession from Rachel and build up her self esteem and self pride.  She gained hope once she learned that Mr. X had kicked out his new lady from his house and was "single" again. At this point we began to work on reconciliation spells where I worked and coached her in her own workings. Four months after the start of the work they were talking again on a regular basis and seven months from the start of the work they were dating again. While it may have seemed to have taken a long time she had been separated from Mr. X for almost a year by the time she walked through my door.

It seems to me that reconciliation work takes longer than other types of spell work but each situation is so different that it is hard to say it is one way or another on a blog post. Every client is different and while some situations are impossible, not every one is and while there is a sparkle of hope then reconciliation work can be considered. My initial reactions are to say...well if it did not work why not find a truer love that will work. However, I have my own reconciliation love story that took 6 years to heal and come to fruition so I know that sometimes "shit" happens and we just need to create the space for our love to bloom. So if you think that this work is what you really want then relax, have faith and breathe.

Sometimes....you do get what you asked for.....

So let us get to some old magic because we know too that our ancestors nursed broken hearts and they called on the powers of the Old Ones to ease their woes. It starts with the Spirit of the plants and offerings because there is nothing for free in magic.

A Spell to Bring a Desired Person To You
Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum
Psalm 44 From the "Book of Gold"

You will need a red male figure candle, a red female figure candle (if you are gay then two of the same sex candles), reconciliation oil,  damiana herb, myrrh resin, frankincense, cinnamon, honey, parchment, red thread.

This spell is to be done when the moon is in Gemini or Virgo and on the Day of Venus in the Hour of Jupiter.(If you do not know about planetary hours please research it. A blog post about this important topic will be forthcoming)

You will write Psalm 44 entirely upon the parchment along with name of the person you desire. 

You will make an incense of myrrh, frankincense and cinnamon. (3 parts myrrh, 3 parts frankincense, 1 part cinnamon. Please make sure your ritual space is well ventilated as cinnamon can be very irritating). 

You will write your name upon the candle that is to represent you and write the name of the desired person upon the other.  Then make the candles face one another. Dress each candle with some of the Reconciliation oil.

Drizzle a trail of honey from the desired one's candle to your candle and sprinkle with damiana herb. Light each candle.

Light the incense and perfume your parchment in the smoke.

Recite Psalm 44 seven times and at the end of the 7th recitation call to your lover to return to you. Tell them all of the wonderful things that you feel for them "as if" they were there. Be convincing---cry, laugh, love and be full of emotion.  Speak aloud and say your truth. 

Now move the lover's candle along the honey trail to you until they are touching. Wrap them together with the red thread 7 times saying "come back to me". Be careful not to burn yourself with hot wax.  Allow the candles to burn. 

Dress the parchment with some of the Reconciliation oil. I recommend a drop in each of the 4 corners and one in the middle to seal the magic to you. 

Now fold the parchment with the Psalm and take it to the home of your intended love and bury it in front of her door.
Calamus Root
Frankincense 
Damiana

Follow Up:
Reading the Wax: This is a very good way to gauge how your spell work is going and is a divination skill like reading the tarot or using a pendulum. However, even the novice can observe signs and omens.  Here are some basic signs. If one candle burns faster than the other that means that person is more eager than the other. So in other words if you burn WAY faster than your love then this shows that perhaps you need to slow down and be patient.  If one or both of the wicks go out this is a bad sign that the magic is not working and you may need to get a reading or get conjure help from me or another professional. If your love's wax melts away from yours and they do not mingle this could indicate that they are going to "run away", however, if both burn steady and the wax does mix this would be taken as a very good sign.

The Ritual Remains: For this spell and other love type spells I always keep the spell components in my underwear drawer or near my bed. This is to ensure that lusty energy is kept going. Do not throw anything away at this point.

Movement and Time:  Now we look for "movement". That is, is the spell working?  Many folks who are new to folk magic may not know what they are looking at or be keen in observation. Noting movement will help, so perhaps the spell has not "worked" quickly in the way that you wanted but the person did text you or you bumped into them at the supermarket. Well this would be an indication of positive movement.  There is also negative movement as well such as the person now leaves some of your CD's or books that you had forgotten on your porch or you bump into a friend that says that they saw your old love and they were with someone new, this would indicate that the spell is not working the way you intended but Spirit is giving you a heads up because you are working in a magical current. If NOTHING has happened within the first week  you must put a time limit on your work. Because we are working with love matters I would use the number 7, that is 7 weeks for this spell to work or be well on its way to working with positive movement signs. If NOTHING has happened AT ALL in 7 weeks I would seek out a reading to see what is going on. You do not want to sit in magical limbo my friends. Which is why we look for movement. This is the Spirits giving us signs that things are working and pointers in what to do. Sometimes one spell is not enough and so we may need to boost it or do another working.

Have Faith....and always remember to have faith.  Lack of faith will kill your magic faster than anything. So breathe deep, have realistic expectations, have faith and observe.

Be Silent: Do not speak of your work to anyone (except perhaps your personal reader or conjure doctor). Silence builds power and these types of spells are especially sensitive.

A Reconciliation Charm

You will need: Red Mojo bag or piece of cloth, Parchment paper, pen, "Love Me" oil, "Reconciliation Oil", Damiana herb, Calamus root, High John the Conqueror (if you are a man), Orris Root (if you are a woman), two Balm of Gilead, a magnetic loadstone (small), "Love Me" incense.

On the day of Venus in the hour of Venus draw the sigil for Hagiel the intelligence of Venus on the parchment paper (below), and say, "Oh Hagiel, Intelligence of Venus, you who know of all the faces of love, help me to bring back my lost lover (say their name). I offer you these oils of love to feed you so that you may feed me."
Hagiel Sigil

Next dress the parchment with the sigil with both the "Love Me" oil and the "Reconciliation" oil. Fold the paper towards you and place in your red pouch.

Sprinkle into the bag the Damiana herb and say: "Oh Spirit of Damiana, lusty red love of loin, help rekindle the fires in the heart and body of (Name).

Sprinkle into the bag the Calamus root and say: "Oh Spirit of Calamas you who bind and command, bring my love (Name) to me. Let them not sleep or eat until they return to me."

Place into the bag the High John if you are a man and say: "High John the Conqueror, powerful root of manhood and virility. Root of conquest and that which crowns kings and helps men to have the woman desired help me to bring forth (Name) and return her to me!"

Place into the bag the Orris Root if you are a woman and say: "Lady Orris, seductress of love and sensuality. You who know of the power of a woman in love. Wrap yourself around (Name) and bring him forth!"

Place the two Balm of Gilead into the bag and say: "This Balm of Gilead I name for myself (say your name) and this Balm of Gilead I name for my love (say their name). Oh spirit of reconciliation, balm of my heart, ease my suffering and bring the one I love to me with haste!"

Place the magnetic load stone in the pouch and say: "Loadstone, bringer of love, as I care for you and feed you in this charm, care and feed me. Bring to me as metal to stone my love (Name) with haste, with haste!"

Close the bag and tie it with 7 knots.

Light the "Love Me" incense and "smoke" the pouch turning it 7 times and calling your lovers name and asking them to return to you.

Place a drop of "Love Me" oil and a drop of "Reconciliation" oil on the bag to feed it.

Wear the charm and have it in your thoughts. Hold it. Speak to it when you remember but at least once a day and tell it to bring your lover to you. Breathe into it, feel all your emotion and have faith. Make sure to not let anyone see you doing this nor touch your bag. This will kill the magic and you will have to start all over again.

Each Friday light some of the incense and smoke it as well as feed it a drop of each oil.

As before look for "movement" of your lover's return. Give yourself 7 weeks for your lover to return to you or to have some really good signs that they are returning to you.  If nothing happens within 7 weeks I again suggest a reading to see what is standing in your way.

If all else fails....(hey at least you tried...)

If your spells fail, your readings look grim, your aching heart sees only bleakness and sadness....then it is time to release the hope of old love for new and let the Spirits and your higher self guide you.

 I recommend a time of healing which includes treating yourself the way you would treat a small child who cries in fear and pain. Tenderly you pick up this child and hold him close, whispering soothing words or a song while rocking them and wiping their tears. Your tears, gentle reader, which are no less valid as you walk this world and wear the mantle of age and experience. Tenderly heal my friend. How long will this take? No one knows but your heart. What I DO know is that you will heal and you will be able to stand strong once again.
"Song of Solomon" Spell Kit from Ancient Road

Love is all around us but we must first start with self love, and once  you feel strong and ready to look for a partner again I suggest using an old Hoodoo spell called "The Song of Solomon Love Spell". Some Rootworkers simply recite the entire Song for a client or have the client do it, but after years in the shop and working with clients we've formulated a kit that works really well.  This spell is designed to bring your true love to you using the Song.  It is not to bring a specific lover but to cleanse you to bring to you the one whom you are meant to be with. It is a spell that is near and dear to my heart as it brought my husband back to me. After a 6 year separation we were both at our wits end that we would never find the love that we were meant to have.  We had finally let go of one another and we each did the spell in the same month to clear the way for the love we both desired and to finally find the partner we were supposed to have. The next month we saw each other at an event for the first time in 6 years and it was like a comet hit us. The month after that we were living together and it was only after a snugly discussion with a glass of wine that we realized we had done the same spell (albeit with slight alterations) in the same month with the same intention of bringing our true love to us!! I was flabbergasted! The synchronicity was amazing and 4 years later we are still together and absolutely mad for one another. You can find the spell we used (we combined both of our techniques into our Ancient Road Spell kit here. Just go to curios and spell kits and find the Song of Solomon Love kit.)

Problems to look out for within yourself or if you are working for a client---whether reconciling or looking for a new love:

Clinical Depression: people with clinical depression suffer from low serotonin and this acts as a flag to others to stay away which can make it hard to find a mate.  IT also makes it difficult for the person to concentrate and continue spell work even when the going is hard. The depression must be treated first before the spell can be successful or long lasing. Other mental illness can cause incredible problems in a relationship and must be treated in order for the relationship to work. This coupled with a patient and loving partner is the only way I know for some mentally ill folks to enjoy their partnerships.

The Soul Mate Trap: This is the belief that there is a "one" out there or that we all have a soul mate who is perfect for us. People who believe in this are often disappointed because the men or women they meet just do not live up to their expectations.  I do not believe in soul mates or "the one" because we are dynamic and changing beings. What may have worked for you in your 20's may not work for you in your 40's. This is why many people divorce and why so many are still disappointingly looking. Know that there are many people in this world that could make a great partner to you and beware of a fantasy of the "perfect man or woman". Be open to the possibility of love in what ever guise it may wear.

Childhood Damage: We all have work to do. We were all wounded in childhood, some of us worse than others. Understand that each person bears different battle scars and has different reactions. Understand that you do too.  The more you are honest with yourself and are on a path to constantly understand yourself, know that you will attract a mate who is interested in self actualization as well. Be wary of reactions that seem mindless and of patterns you may repeat. Why do you as the professional working woman always go for the "bad" guy musician that always ends up taking your money, cheating on you and giving you the clap? Why do you as the poetic and intellectual man always go for the emotionally needy woman who is constantly belittling you and who refuses to have sex with you? Look to the patterns. Figure out how to break them. Free yourself. Find mature love.

Obsession: Are you paying hundreds and thousands of dollars to readers and workers every month? Can you not sleep without thinking of the other person? Not eating? Losing friends and perhaps even your job? (Gosh this is sounding like an insurance or AA commercial!) Anyway, the point is if you are obsessing over a person there is something within you that is strikingly out of balance. Some part of you that is starving and in need of nurture and the only way to tackle this is to again work on yourself. That "other" person was not put on this planet to make you feel better. So beware of obsession, either of your own, a clients or if you find yourself the target of an obsessive person.  Magical energy tends to go awry with this type of energetic and you can actually draw to you very nasty spirits who feed on such obsession and actually make it worse so be careful!

So my friends here are some simple things to think about. Spell work can be complicated and reconciliation work is often very hard as before this issue can be addressed healing and letting go must happen first. The more clear headed you are and confident you are in self the easier magic seems to come. That being said, reconciliation work is part of our magical heritage and has been thought of and used for hundreds if not thousands of years. Matters of the heart always bear special attention and care. So good luck my friends! I hope you find these spells useful as I have and may you walk in love, power and beauty....

Miss Maya

Hour of Mercury in the Day of the Sun

SOURCES:

Barron, P., Rankine, D. "The Book of Gold". Avalonia Books, 2010.

Rankine, D. Skinner, S. "The Veritable Key of Solomon". Golden Hoard Press, 2008.





















Saturday, August 17, 2013

Of Mandrake...

Mandragora officinarum Linnaeus, mad apple, man root, Abu' l-ruh (old Arabec for, "master of the life breath"), Bayd al -jinn (modern Arabic for "testes of the devil"), love apple, little man of the gallows, witch root.


Mandrake.

Could there be any other plant steeped in so much lore, fear, mystery and magic?  Any person interested in the occult arts and magic has heard of Mandrake. Most New Age or occult shops carry the chopped root calling it "Mandrake", however; since Mandragora officinarum is quite rare and hard to grow you are most likely purchasing a subspecies like the "Mandragora autumnalis" which is not the Mandrake of the witchcraft lore but has powers of its own and is more common.  The main way to tell the difference is that M. autumnalis blossoms in the fall, hence the name "autumnalis" and officianarum or "the official" Mandrake blossoms in the Spring around the equinox and is ruled under the auspices of the Moon, but more on that in a bit. It really is no fault of the shop owners, most of whom just simply do not know the difference or have been bamboozled themselves with something not even Mandrake, but a little education would help!  Many who came into my shop requested the root, some who knew more and some who knew less. One of my favorite customer stories was a young lad of around 13 or so who wished to purchase some Mandrake because he had seen it in a "Harry Potter" movie.  When I produced a packet of chopped root he looked disappointed. "Were you expecting it to speak and enchant?" I asked. "Well yeah." he said. To which I replied, "to get the plants to speak you have to learn about them, you have to become allies and then they might begin to whisper."

Students and customers often ask, "well what does Mandrake do? What can I use it in?"  I hope that this blog article will shed some light on the subject and give some of you a bit more of the history, lore and magic of this fascinating and powerful plant.
Mandrake Root Chips from Ancient Road

Mandrake was known to the ancients as a plant of power, a shamanic plant steeped in lore, ritual and use both medicinally as well as magically. To the ancients both magic and medicine were married; a cause and effect of both spirit and body.  The oldest records of Mandrake come to us in cuneiform writing from the Babylonians and of course the Bible.  In Genesis 30:14 Rachel barters with Leah for the Mandrake she found in order to cure her infertility. There is also mention of Mandrake in the "Song of Solomon." The "Song of Solomon" has long been known in Hoodoo and folk magic as a spell for summoning true love and desire and here the infamous "love apple" weaves its spell upon us in this gorgeous piece of liturgy.

"The mandrakes send out their fragrance,
and at our door is every delicacy,
both old and new,
that I have stored up for you, my beloved."
Song of Songs 7:12-13.

But even far from the Mediterranean and Middle East we find the use of Mandrake in the Pagan lands of the North.  The Germanic Seidkonas, seeresses and oracles to their people, used Mandrake to enter into altered states. Their name for this witching root was "Alraun".  So now we enter into the territory of the entheogenic properties of this plant, that is the use of it as a mind altering substance.  I, of course, must add here that should you decide to ingest Mandrake you do so at your own risk as a high enough dose is lethal.  Some of its folk names reflect this such as "mad root" and "root of the demon". It was also known to be part of a witches flying ointments, which were taken externally but not through the mouth if you catch my drift and so were less lethal.  The Medieval alchemists and Cunning men wrote down recipes for making Mandrake Philtres as esteemed aphrodisiacs. "The root was prepared by rotting in water for two complete lunar cycles, until it transformed into a malodorous green pulp; it was then used in this form, or in a gruel, or added to a brew with sundry ingredients." Schulke, Ars Philtron pg. 189. Many of the recipes were passed orally as well and are still handed down within Traditional Witchcraft societies.

However, in terms of taking Mandrake internally the most common way was to steep it and make Mandrake wine or beer.  Dale Pendell writes about his friend Daniel's experience of drinking Mandrake wine, it was "very stimulating: (Daniel was). gregarious and talkative. That was the first phase, the first glass, where everything was safe. With the second glass the plant took more control. Daniel remembers loss of short-term-memory-not being able to remember what one had just said. And a glimpse at how the brew could be used as a love potion in a manipulative way, "All those good physical feelings and a person not really knowing what they were doing." There was a third phase, the third glass. Daniel said he saw a pit full of insane people who called to him and told him to come in. He declined the third glass." Pendell  pg. 260.

Seething cult of the Witch Apple. Orgy. Lust of the deep. Love Apple. Forbidden Fruit. Serpent writhing on the wings of Kundalini deep from the core of Earth. Dangerous poison. Sex and Death.

Best perhaps to stay safe with that first glass. Perhaps we should stop? Leave it at that. Back to the comforts of book and bed and things we know. A glass of chardonnay instead and missionary sex? Or perhaps you are here because the dangerous poison path intrigues you?  Then we shall continue but let us walk carefully, with open ears and open hearts and with respect for power. Respect for sex and the power of sex and the things witches know.
Whole Mandrake officinarum root in tincture at Ancient Road. A gift from a student who grew it herself!

It was said that semen from Adam's erotic thoughts of an absent Eve caused Mandrake to grow where it fell to the ground. Though I think that this little allegory is an echo from a more ancient time and a more ancient Mandrake lore. The lore of the "Gallows Root" or "Little Gallows Man", which was another of its names and which was known in Greek times and brings us face to face with a harrowing Goddess as well as a desirable one.  It is well documented in antiquity as well as in our modern times that when suffocating to death a man will become erect and ejaculate and this phenomena has a modern term, "auto-erotic asphyxiation", but in the case of a hanging not it is not so "auto"! Both erections and the dripping of semen were observed from hanged men at crossroads. Mandrake found its way here too at the crossroads, ruled by dark Goddesses and the Spirits of the dead, in the frenzy of orgasmic death. Frazer writes of this in the "Golden Bough":

"The human shape of the mandrake root has probably helped to foster, if it did not originate, the weird notion that the plant springs from the drippings of a man hanged on a gallows. Hence in Germany the plant bears the popular name of the Little Gallows Man. It is, or used to be, believed in that country that when a hereditary thief, born of a family of thieves, or one whose mother stole while he was in her womb, is hanged on a gallows, and his seed or urine falls on the ground, the mandrake, or Little Gallows Man sprouts on the spot.  Others, however, say that the human progenitor of the plant must be, not a thief, but an innocent and chaste youth who has been forced by torture to falsely to declare himself a thief and has consequently ended his days on a gallows. Be that as it may, the one thing about which all are agreed is that the Little Gallows Man grows under the gallows tree from the bodily droppings of a hanged man."  Frazer, pg. 7.

So we are back at it, sex and death and death and sex. And we have traversed into a realm known to witches and those who understand the pathways of the dead. We stand at the crossroads. Here Mandrake grows with the offering from the last sex of a dying man and potent with power under the light of the moon which rules it. But its root is hidden and only its dark green leaves and tiny white flowers are visible and so let us begin with its heavenly abode and then traverse down its root into the chthonic realms which also rule it.

Asherot, Astarte, Ishtar, Aphrodite. The pathway of a Goddess of sex and love and power and accompanying the Goddess on her journey through the desert to the seas of the Mediterranean was Mandrake and it is ruled by Aphrodite. One of her names was "Mandragoritis" or "She of the Mandragora" and it was offered to her and prayed over in her name in love rites. It only makes sense that the entheogenic properties of lust would be attributed to her and for the Ancient Greeks things had to make sense. Theophrastus writes in his "History of Plants" a ritual for harvesting Mandrake; "Make three circles around the Mandrake with a sword and cut it while facing West. The second cut shall be made while one is dancing around the plant and speaking as much as possible about the mysteries of love." 
Praxiteles, Aphrodite of Knidos, c. 330 B.C.

But with sex comes death and another Goddess steps forth to speak.   Hecate.  If the love apples and flowers and leaves were the realm of Aphrodite, then the potent and bitter hidden root reaching into the chthonic realms was Hecate's. This was also known to the Greeks and it was written in the saga of the Argonauts of Hecate's garden that "many Mandrakes grow within", Orph, Argonaut, 922f. ". "Hecate sends to humans the dampening sleep and heavy dreams and causes epilepsy and madness, in other words she is capable of inducing altered states of consciousness  It almost appears as though the dark goddess would reveal herself only thought the effects of the Mandrake juice. As Democritus the "laughing philosopher" described in his lost work Cheirokemta, one could invoke the goddess with mandrake." Ratsch, pg. 350.
 3rd century CE statue of Hecate (Antalya Museum, Turkey)

Witch Queen indeed. On one end Eros and on the other Thanatos and the mysteries in between. Mandrake above and below. Of leaf and root of sex and death and at the balance point between the leaf and root, between the light and dark...well, that is where you find the witch. 

And where would the witch be without her incense, her amulets, her potions? Mandrake is safer burned in incense. Its mind altering effects are lessened of course, and it still affects consciousness but has not been known to cause death.  Some of our formulas have Mandrake within them but burning it does not have the nicest smell. It rather smells like burnt bitter leaves so it must be in a small quantity and with other sweet smelling herbs and resins.  Mandrake incense was burned during the Renaissance and was considered to be influenced by the moon and to only be harvested under a full moon. Since the harvesting of Mandrake was death to the plant itself, its harvest was ritualized and done in specific ways and many times an offering of milk, honey, wine and eggs were placed in the hole from where it came. Probably the most notable Mandrake ritual written down in the 1st century by Flavius Josephus, was that of the dog who was tied to the root and beckoned from a distance by it's master with a piece of food. The dog overcome with hunger and none the wiser bolts for the food, pulls out the root, and dies from the root's own death scream.  There are other sources for spring loaded traps to pull out the Root with the harvester out of range of the sight or sound of the Mandrake. But why? Why go to these lengths to remove the root in such a way?  The older sources speak of dancing under the moon and performing ritualized or actual sex acts while harvesting it.  But the dog too whispers to us of an older lore. A lore circling back to Hecate and her hell hounds. Perhaps the dog is the familiar of the witch? Magical knowledge "hidden" in plain sight for those with eyes to see. These participants certainly did not die from the Mandrake scream but the lore surrounding the gathering of the root is strong indeed.  The Mandrake traps seem to be a convention of a more Christian time when the root began to become more demonized.  It was long sought as an amulet or charm and herb dealers and apothecary owners went to great lengths to procure it or counterfeit it (ginseng root comes to mind).  What ever the reason for these elaborate traps it is clear that Mandrake must be harvested under a full moon, preferably in the Spring or near the Spring equinox to obtain it at full potency. It seems to like to feed upon the fluids of the sex act whether they be the drops of semen of the hanged man or the fluids of the young girls climaxing on top of the root in the Romanian Mandrake cults. 
Man and dog about to harvest Mandrake, 

This method (the sexual fluid method) has survived into modern times. Several years ago I attended a lecture at the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle, Washington.  There a well known author on Witchcraft and the Occult, Daniel Schulke, was giving a lecture on the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and some of the Mandrake fetishes housed there, that is carved mandrakes made to look like little men and women.  This has been well documented around the world and many museums and private collectors have the little Mandrake figures. Our word manikin, comes from Mandrake by the way. But what was interesting with the Mandrake figures from Boscastle was that each and every one of them had thick dried coatings (years and years worth) of some substance on them.  When tested in a lab it was revealed that these coatings were dried semen and blood (most likely menstrual blood). There is no telling how old they actually are but they are in the museum today.  They had been passed down in hereditary Witchcraft families and entered into the possession of the museum between the 1930's and 50's. Mandrake cults indeed! And we are back to the sacred fluids of sex and as we pick up tidbits from history here and there we are able to piece together a magical rite. One of a root steeped in lore and ritual, related to the moon, both touched above and below by Goddesses of sex and death and magic and of the mysteries of life and death. That covers it in a plant of power don't you think?

Witch lore from the Grimoire "Viridarium Umbris" weaves around the the Mandrake and its harvest with ritual sex and the use of bone knives or even the bone of a human arm to harvest the plant at midnight under favorable auspices and lacking ill omens.  The greatest power of the Mandrake resides in its manikins and it is said that those who possess a properly harvested and ritualized Mandrake manikin will never be without money, in fact fortune showers upon them. These witches of old knew the power of the manikin and even dug up the root and bound it with thread to have it grow in a desired shape and re-buried it only to come back and truly harvest the bound root. The manikins in the witchcraft museum would certainly seem to give credence to some of this lore. 
Mandrake image from Ancient Road
"Witching Herbs" Class

In general terms I see Mandrake as a gate between the worlds, a ladder that traverses up and down, dangerous to be sure but as one of my teachers used to say, "anything worthwhile is".  A gate to sex and death and those great mysteries and as an offering to both Aphrodite and Hecate.  The witch is able to walk in all of these worlds and to explore the mysteries therein. The power of understanding leads to power on the path of life. If you can grow or be gifted a whole fresh Mandrake root you can explore these avenues in your own magical operations. One of my Mandragora officinarum roots was grown for me by a student of mine while I lived in New Mexico.  It is a beautiful thing and I am lucky to have it. To preserve this particular root I tinctured it in alcohol and I use it as a meditation foci.  It is a powerful plant to be sure and is used by magicians and witches all over the world and in varying traditions. And while the workings of such magicians may differ in flavor the power of sex and death is seen in the basic elements. In fact Hoodoo Rootwork or Conjure has drawn lore from many traditions and European Witchcraft is no exception and neither is the Mandrake Root. 

In Hoodoo it is considered a love root and used in doll babies for love work, which is interesting because of the old European lore of the Mandrake manikin. However, in Hoodoo you would sew a doll baby and fill it with Mandrake chips or chunks of the root. The M. autumalis root would be more commonly used as it grows here in the US.  Here is a Hoodoo spell for love which is based off of the old European Mandrake lore.

Hoodoo Mandrake Love Spell
  • Sew a red doll baby (voodoo doll)
  • Fill with Mandrake root chips or sticks.
  • Add some hair or other personal concern of the person you wish to love you.
  • Add some properly "paid for" graveyard dirt into the doll baby.
  • Sew up doll baby.
  • Breathe life into the doll baby and "Name" it for the person you wish to love you.
  • Bring yourself to climax and "feed" the fluid to the doll baby while telling the doll baby what you desire.
  • Each Friday climax and "feed" the doll baby while speaking to it as if it were your lover to be.
  • Do this for 7 Fridays (7 weeks) in a row or until your beloved comes to you.


Knowing what you do about the lore and magic of the Mandrake you can now see where some of these elements come into this common little Hoodoo spell. It all has to make sense. It all has to come together. There is nothing whilly nilly in magic. It is not unverified personal gnosis. There is a reason for everything done in magic. It is old. It is in our bones and our memories. It is part of who we are. 

So gentle readers walk the path of power wisely and with conviction, with your will, with your desire and with belief. And of course walk in silence as the Spirits share secrets with only a select few.....

Miss Maya

References:

The Bible, King James Version

Frazer, J. (1993) The Golden Bough. Wordsworth Editions Ltd.

Pendell, D. (2005). Pharmako Gnosis: Plant Teachers and the Poison Path. North Atlantic Books.

Ratsch, C. (2005 US Edition) The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Park Street Press.

Schulke, D. (2001, 2008). Ars Philtron: Concerning the Aqueous Cunning of the Potion and its Praxis in the Green Art Magical. Xoanon Publishing.

Schulke, D. (2005). Viridarium Umbris: The Pleasure Garden of Shadow. Xoanon Publishing.

Schulke, D. Editor (2010). The Occult Reliquary. Three Hands Press.

Yronwode, C. (2002). Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic. Lucky Mojo Curio Company.