Monday, June 30, 2014

Bone Divination

The use of bones for divination, sometimes called osteomancy, has been performed by cultures the world over for thousands of years. While there are a number of different methods, the purpose is typically the same - to foretell the future utilizing the messages displayed in the bones.
Is this something that modern Pagans can do? Certainly, although it’s sometimes hard to come by animal bones, particularly if you live in a suburban area or city. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find some - it just means you have to look harder to find them. Animal bones can be found on the ground in their natural environment any time of the year, if you know where to look. If you don’t live in an area where finding your own bones is a practical task, then make friends with people who live in rural areas, call up your cousin who hunts, become buddies with that taxidermist who has a shop out by the highway.

If you have moral or ethical objections to the use of animal bones in magic, then do not use them.
You may also want to read about Using Animal Parts in Magic.

Pictures in the Flames
In some societies, bones were burned, and shamans or priests would use the results for scrying. Called pyro-osteomancy, this method involved using the bones of a freshly slaughtered animal. In parts of China during the Shang dynasty, the scapula (shoulderblade) of a large ox was used. Questions were inscribed upon the bone, it was placed in a fire, and the resultant cracks from the heat gave seers and diviners the answers to their questions.

According to our Archaeology Expert, Kris Hirst, “Oracle bones were used to practice of a form of divination, fortune-telling, known as pyro-osteomancy. Pyro-osteomancy is when seers tell the future based on the cracks in an animal bone or turtle shell either in their natural state or after having been burned. The cracks were then used to determine the future. The earliest pyro-osteomancy in China included the bones of sheep, deer, cattle, and pigs, in addition to turtle plastrons (shells). Pyro-osteomancy is known from prehistoric east and northeast Asia, and from North American and Eurasian ethnographic reports.”

It is believed the Celts used a similar method, using the shoulder bone of a fox or sheep. Once the fire reached a hot enough temperature, cracks would form on the bone, and these revealed hidden messages to those who had been trained in their reading. In some cases, the bones were boiled prior to burning, to soften them up.

Marked Bones
Much like we see on Runes or Ogham staves, inscriptions or markings on bones have been used as a way of seeing the future. In some folk magic traditions, small bones are marked with symbols, placed in a bag or bowl, and then withdrawn one at a time so that the symbols can be analyzed. For this method, smaller bones are typically used, such as carpal or tarsal bones.
In some Mongolian tribes, a set of several four-sided bones are cast all at once, with each bone having different markings on its sides. This creates a wide variety of end results which can be interpreted in different ways.
If you’d like to make a set of simple marked bones of your own to use, you follow use the guidelines at Divination By Stones as a template to make thirteen bones for divinatory purposes. Another option is to create a set of symbols that are the most meaningful to you and your personal magical tradition.

The Bone Basket
Often, bones are mixed in with other items - shells, stones, coins, feathers, etc. - and placed in a basket, bowl or pouch. They are then shaken out onto a mat or into a delineated circle, and the images are read. This is a practice found in some American Hoodoo traditions, as well as in African and Asian magical systems. Like all divination, a lot of this process is intuitive, and has to do with reading the messages from the universe or from the divine that your mind presents to you, rather than from something you’ve got marked down on a chart.

Mechon is a folk magic practitioner in North Carolina who touches on her African roots and local traditions to create her own method of bone basket reading. “I use chicken bones, and each one has a different meaning, like the wish bone is for good fortune, a wing means travel, that sort of thing. Also, there are shells in there that I picked up on a beach in Jamaica, because they appealed to me, and some stones called Fairy Stones that you can find in some of the mountains around here. When I shake them out of the basket, the way they land, they way they’re turned, what’s next to what -- all of that helps me understand what the message is. And it’s not something I can explain - it’s something I just know.”

All in all, there are a number of ways to incorporate the use of bones into your magical divination methods. Try a few different ones, and discover which one works best for you.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Birthday of author Scott Cunningham in 1956

Author Scott Cunningham (June 27, 1956 - March 28,1993), created more than a dozen books on NeoWicca and modern Paganism. Born in Michigan, Scott spend most of his life in San Diego, California. In high school, he discovered Wicca, and was initiated into an eclectic Wiccan coven. In the early 1980s, he spent some time in a group led by author Raven Grimassi. It was from these experiences that Scott drew much of the information which was passed along in his books.

While Cunningham often comes under fire from lineaged Wiccans, who point out that his books are in fact about NeoWicca, rather than traditional Wicca, his works typically offer a lot of good advice for people who practice as solitaries. He frequently points out in his writings that religion is a deeply personal thing, and it's not up to other people to tell you if you're doing it right or wrong. He also argued that it was time for Wicca to stop being a secretive, mystery religion, and that Wiccans should welcome interested newcomers with open arms.

Interestingly, Scott was able to take his knowledge of natural magic and translate it into language that beginners to Wicca could easily understand. He shared his belief of the Divine, and of symbolism, and although he never dumbed it down, he managed to take complex information and explain it in a way that someone who had no prior understanding of Wicca could still absorb. It was this skill, perhaps, that made him one of modern Paganism's most popular writers. Even fifteen years after his death, Scott Cunningham's books continue to sell in bookstores around the world.

In 1983, Scott was diagnosed with lymphoma. He suffered from a variety of illnesses over the next decade, including meningitis, before passing away in 1993 at the age of thirty-six. Following his death, much of his material was repackaged by publishers and released posthumously.

-The Crafty Witch

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Using Animal Parts in Ritual

Some Pagans use animal parts in ritual. While this may seem a bit unsavory to some folks, it's really not that uncommon. A good guideline to follow is as follows:
  • if your tradition doesn't forbid the use of animal parts, AND
  • the parts are gathered humanely and ethically
then there's no reason you can't use them. Let's look at some of the different parts you might want to use.

Why Use Animal Parts in Ritual?

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors performed rituals and ceremonies. They didn’t have tools ordered from an online catalog or purchased at the Local Wytchy Shoppe. They made do with what they had. For the ancients, many of their tools -- both magical and mundane -- came from the animal kingdom. Few things went to waste. Bones could be turned into anything from a knife to a sewing needle. An antler could be used as a weapon or a farming tool. A horse's bladder might become a pouch to carry herbs. Anything was usable.
In some shamanic traditions, animal parts can be used to connect the practitioner to the animal. One might wear a necklace made of bear claws, a headdress of antlers, or use a fetish of bone and feathers. Some traditions still use these today. Someone wishing to celebrate fertility might use the antlers of a stag, for example. An individual hoping for transformation could perhaps powder a bit of snakeskin for use in a spell. A person who wants to develop their inspiration and creativity might use feathers in a working, and so forth.


Naturally Dropped Items

These are the items that animals discard on their own as part of the natural cycle. Snakes shed their skin regularly. Deer shed antlers after the fall mating season has ended, typically around January through April. A bird may lose feathers as it flies overhead. These are all items that drop on their own naturally, and there is nothing wrong with picking them up and using them.


Items from a Dead Animal

Animals die. It's part of the natural cycle of things. After they've died, sometimes you may find pieces of carcasses lying around. Bones, fur and other parts can be gathered from animal that has died on its own. If you happen to be a Pagan who hunts for food, you may wish to use some of the parts of the animal you've killed. This prevents waste, and allows you to maintain some connection with the animal after death. If you are the one who has made the kill, be sure you have done so in a humane and ethical manner. It's never okay to kill an animal just to use its parts in ritual.


Purifying Animal Parts

It's generally a good idea to offer some sort of thanks to the animal before using the item in ritual. As part of this process, you might want to cleanse or purify the object -- you can use smudging, asperging, or any other method of ritually purifying the item. You can also consecrate it as you would any other magical tool.


-The Crafty Witch

Friday, June 20, 2014

All About Litha: The Midsummer Sabbat (June 21st)

An Ancient Solar Celebration:
Nearly every agricultural society has marked the high point of summer in some way, shape or form. On this date – usually around June 21 or 22 (or December 21/22 in the southern hemisphere) – the sun reaches its zenith in the sky. It is the longest day of the year, and the point at which the sun seems to just hang there without moving – in fact, the word “solstice” is from the Latin word solstitium, which literally translates to “sun stands still.” The travels of the sun were marked and recorded. Stone circles such as Stonehenge were oriented to highlight the rising of the sun on the day of the summer solstice.

Traveling the Heavens:
Although few primary sources are available detailing the practices of the ancient Celts, some information can be found in the chronicles kept by early Christian monks. Some of these writings, combined with surviving folklore, indicate that Midsummer was celebrated with hilltop bonfires and that it was a time to honor the space between earth and the heavens.

Fire and Water:
In addition to the polarity between land and sky, Litha is a time to find a balance between fire and water. According to Ceisiwr Serith, in his book The Pagan Family, European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water. He suggests that this may be because this is when the sun is at its strongest yet also the day at which it begins to weaken. Another possibility is that the water mitigates the heat of the sun, and subordinating the sun wheel to water may prevent drought.

Saxon Traditions:
When they arrived in the British Isles, the Saxon invaders brought with them the tradition of calling the month of June Aerra Litha. They marked Midsummer with huge bonfires that celebrated the power of the sun over darkness. For people in Scandinavian countries and in the farther reaches of the Northern hemisphere, Midsummer was very important. The nearly endless hours of light in June are a happy contrast to the constant darkness found six months later in the middle of winter.

Roman Festivals :
The Romans, who had a festival for anything and everything, celebrated this time as sacred to Juno, the wife of Jupiter and goddess of women and childbirth. She is also called Juno Luna and blesses women with the privilege of menstruation. The month of June was named for her, and because Juno was the patroness of marriage, her month remains an ever-popular time for weddings. This time of year was also sacred to Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The matrons of Rome entered her temple on Midsummer and made offerings of salted meal for eight days, in hopes that she would confer her blessings upon their homes.

Midsummer for Modern Pagans:
Litha has often been a source of contention among modern Pagan and Wiccan groups, because there's always been a question about whether or not Midsummer was truly celebrated by the ancients. While there's scholarly evidence to indicate that it was indeed observed, there were suggestions made by Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, that the solar festivals (the solstices and equinoxes) were actually added later and imported from the Middle East. Regardless of the origins, many modern Wiccans and Pagans do choose to celebrate Litha every year in June.
In some traditions, Litha is a time at which there is a battle between light and dark. The Oak King is seen as the ruler of the year between winter solstice and summer solstice, and the Holly King from summer to winter. At each solstice they battle for power, and while the Oak King may be in charge of things at the beginning of June, by the end of Midsummer he is defeated by the Holly King.

This is a time of year of brightness and warmth. Crops are growing in their fields with the heat of the sun, but may require water to keep them alive. The power of the sun at Midsummer is at its most potent, and the earth is fertile with the bounty of growing life.

For contemporary Pagans, this is a day of inner power and brightness. Find yourself a quiet spot and meditate on the darkness and the light both in the world and in your personal life. Celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year with fire and water, night and day, and other symbols of the opposition of light and dark.

Litha is a great time to celebrate outdoors if you have children. Take them swimming or just turn on the sprinkler to run through, and then have a bonfire or barbeque at the end of the day. Let them stay up late to say goodnight to the sun, and celebrate nightfall with sparklers, storytelling, and music. This is also an ideal Sabbat to do some love magic or celebrate a handfasting, since June is the month of marriages and family.


-The Crafty Witch

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Power Animals, Totem Animals and Spirit Animals

The use of a totem animal is not part of traditional Wiccan practice. However, as Wicca and other modern Pagan practices evolve and blend together, many people who follow non-mainstream spiritual paths find themselves working with a mix of many different belief systems. Because of this, someone following a Native American or Indo-European shamanic path might find themselves working with totem animals. While totem animals or power animals have nothing to do with the Wiccan religion, some people do incorporate them into non-Wiccan shamanic practices as well as Neowiccan eclecticism.

It should be pointed out that sometimes, the use of totem animals and other Native American practices is sometimes seen as cultural appropriation when it's done by non-Native American individuals. Some European shamanic systems do connect with animal spirits, but the use of the specific word "totem" implies a Native American connection. It has a very specific, anthropological meaning, and chances are that if you have made a spiritual connection with an animal entity, it does not qualify as a true "totem." Be cautious what you call your beliefs, because you may find yourself taking ownership of a heritage that's not actually yours to claim. If you're not Native American, but are practicing some other form of shamanism, you may want to consider using the term "power animal" or even "spirit animal" instead.

A power animal is a spiritual guardian that some people connect with. However, much like other spiritual entities, there's no rule or guideline that says you must have one. If you happen to connect with an animal entity while meditating or performing astral travel, then that may be your power animal… or it may just be curious about what you're up to. Our Guide to Healing, Phylameana lila Desy, has a great piece on different types of animal totems and what they mean: Animal Totems.

Unfortunately, as often is seen in the Pagan community, many times the connection to a power animal is simply the result of wishful thinking. When someone tells you they have a spirit animal, they'll almost always tell you it's the bear, the eagle, or the wolf. Why? Because these are animals that exemplify the characteristics we'd really like to see in ourselves -- we want to be strong and formidable like Bear, independent and mysterious like Wolf, or all-seeing like Eagle. No one will every tell you their "totem animal" is the wombat, the hedgehog, or the three-toed sloth.

There are a number of books available that discuss the spiritual nature of animals. Nearly all will tell you to "choose" your spirit animal based upon which animals you want to see first at the zoo or which ones you just find really interesting. Generally, in true shamanic practice, one meets their power animal through meditation or a vision quest. Often, it's an animal you never expected to encounter. If you are fortunate enough to have this take place, do some research on the animal you've connected with, and find out why that particular creature has attached itself to you. Animals have different symbolism in different cultures and societies. Take the time to do some research, and you may end up learning something new about yourself.


-The Crafty Witch

Monday, June 16, 2014

Birthday of Wiccan author Starhawk (Tomorrow)

Starhawk is one of the most respected voices in modern earth-based spirituality. She is also well-known as a global justice activist and organizer, whose work and writings have inspired many to action. She is the author or coauthor of twelve books, including The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess, long considered the essential text for the Neo-Pagan movement, and the now-classic ecotopian novel The Fifth Sacred Thing. Starhawk's newest book is The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups, published November 2011, from New Society Publishers.

Her works have been translated into Spanish, French, German, Danish, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Czech, Greek, Japanese, and Burmese. Her essays are reprinted across the world, and have been included in numerous anthologies. Starhawk's writing is influential and has been quoted by hundreds of other authors, turning up in magazines, trade and academic press, and even inspirational calendars. Her books are often found in college curriculums. The Spiral Dance has been continuously in-print for thirty years and revised twice; in 1999 HarperSanFrancisco published the Twentieth Anniversary Edition. Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery won the Media Alliance Meritorious Achievement Award for nonfiction in 1988. Starhawk's first novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing, won the Lambda award for best Gay and Lesbian Science Fiction in 1994.  Many of Starhawk's best political essays—credited with helping the global justice movement find and define itself—were collected into her book Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising. At the Book Expo America, Webs of Power won a 2003 Nautilus Award from the trade association NAPRA. Her first picture book for children, The Last Wild Witch, won a silver Nautilus from NAPRA in 2010.

Starhawk is perhaps best known as an articulate pioneer in the revival of earth-based spirituality and Goddess religion. She is a cofounder of Reclaiming, an activist branch of modern Pagan religion, and continues to work closely with the Reclaiming community ( Her archives are maintained at the Graduate Theological Union library in Berkeley, California. 

        In the late '80s she consulted on and co-wrote the popular trio of films known as the Women's Spirituality series, directed by Donna Read for the National Film Board of Canada: Goddess Remembered, The Burning Times, and Full Circle. The trilogy was in the top ten of sales and rentals for the Film Board for over a decade. Starhawk and Donna Read formed their own film company, Belili Productions (, to make documentaries on women and the earth. Their first release is Signs Out of Time (2004), a documentary on the life of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, the scholar who made major discoveries about the Goddess cultures of Old Europe. Starhawk and Donna’s second documentary, Permaculture: The Growing Edge, came out in 2010. Starhawk has also made several short documentaries which can be found on YouTube: "The Spiral Dance Ritual," "Reclaiming’s Spiral Dance: Three Decades of Magic," "Permaculture in the City," and "Permaculture Principles at Work."

Starhawk is a veteran of progressive movements, from anti-war to anti-nukes, and is deeply committed to bringing the techniques and creative power of spirituality to political activism.
She is a founder of Earth Activist Trainings (EAT): intensive seminars that combine permaculture design, political organizing, and earth-based spirituality ( Together with Penny Livingston-Stark, Erik Ohlsen, and others, she co-teaches EAT courses in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. With over ten years of experience in permaculture design and teaching, she has pioneered the application of permaculture principles to social organizations, policy and strategy. Since its first course in May of 2001, Earth Activist Trainings has graduated over 600 students who now shepherd projects that range from community power-down strategies in Iowa City to water catchment programs in Bolivia, from inner city gardens in San Francisco to women’s programs in the West Bank of Palestine. Starhawk’s own expertise is in the communication of ecological systems thinking through images, writing, and innovative teaching techniques.

        Starhawk travels internationally teaching magic, the tools of ritual, and the skills of activism. She lives part-time San Francisco, in a collective house with her partner and friends, and part-time in a little hut in the woods in western Sonoma County, California, where she practices permaculture in her extensive gardens, and writes.


-The Crafty Witch

Friday, June 13, 2014

Full Moon - Honey Sun Moon & Friday the 13th

In June, the sun has taken over and the fields are growing. Flowers have bloomed, we're beginning to see some early summer fruits and vegetables (a great time for strawberry crops!), and the days are getting longer and longer. It's a far cry from the darkness of winter, and we typically try to spend as much time outside as possible. It's a time for bonding with friends and family, and forging what connections we can. Nurture your relationships, your garden, your career, and your soul this month.
Colors: Sun colors -- gold, yellow, orange
Gemstones: Topaz, agate
Trees: Oak, maple
Gods: Isis, Cerridwen, Persephone
Herbs: Parsley, mosses, skullcap, mugwort
Element: Earth

This is the month where magical workings are well suited to maintaining and enhancing things you already have. Weed your garden, prune the bushes, give your lawn all the tender loving care it needs. Take time to let your personal life blossom as well -- focus on things that improve your job or education, as well as your relationships with family and friends.
Also Known As: Lover's Moon
-The Crafty Witch

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hanging of Bridget Bishop, first victim in the Salem Witch Trials.

Bridget Bishop was one of nineteen people executed for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Born some time in the 1630s, Bishop had was on her third marriage by the time the witch craze began. Bridget had one daughter, Christian Oliver, by her second husband in 1667, and married Edward Bishop, a lumber worker, in 1685.

Bridget was well-known in her neighborhood. She publicly fought with all of her husbands, dressed flamboyantly (although for Puritans, that just meant she liked to wear big hats and a red bodice with her black dress), and was the mistress not one but two taverns. She developed a reputation for entertaining into the wee hours of the night, playing forbidden games such as shuffle board, and generally being the target of much speculation and gossip. In other words, Bridget Bishop didn't seem to care what society thought of her - and because of that, she became a likely target when the accusations began. She was, in personality and reputation, the polar opposite of the pious Rebecca Nurse, although they both ended up on a scaffold.

In April, 1692, a warrant was issued for Bishop's arrest on charges of performing witchcraft and consorting with the devil himself. When she entered the courthouse, a number of the "afflicted" girls, including Mercy Lewis and Ann Putnam, howled that she was causing them pain. Bishop denied any wrongdoing, swearing that she was "innocent as the child unborn," according to Mary Norton's In the Devil's Snare.

Bishop's wild ways were used as evidence against her. Certainly the town dyer's claim that she brought him yards of lace to color was proof that she was up to something; after all, no sensible or respectable woman could need that much colored lace. In addition to this damning testimony, and the accusations of the teenage girls, Bishop's own brother-in-law swore he'd seen her "conversing with the Devil" who "came bodily into her." She was executed on June 10.

After Bishop's hanging, eighteen others were executed for the crime of witchcraft, and one man was pressed to death. Several others died in prison. Within months of Bridget Bishop's death, her husband remarried.

Bridget's descendants through Christian Oliver still live in New England today, and her tavern, the Bishop House, still stands.

-The Crafty Witch

Monday, June 9, 2014

Celtic Tree Month of Oak Begins (Tomorrow June 10)

The Oak moon falls during a time when the trees are beginning to reach their full blooming stages. The mighty Oak is strong, powerful, and typically towering over all of its neighbors. The Oak King rules over the summer months, and this tree was sacred to the Druids.
The Celts called this month Duir, which some scholars believe to mean "door", the root word of "Druid". The Oak is connected with spells for protection and strength, fertility, money and success, and good fortune.
Carry an acorn in your pocket when you go to an interview or business meeting; it will be bring you good luck. If you catch a falling Oak leaf before it hits the ground, you'll stay healthy the following year.
-The Crafty Witch

Friday, June 6, 2014

Roman Festival of Vestalia (Tomorrow June 7th - June 15th)

The Roman celebration of Vestalia was held each year in June, near the time of Litha, the summer solstice. This festival honored Vesta, the Roman goddess who guarded virginity. She was sacred to women, and alongside Juno was considered a protector of marriage.

The Vestalia was celebrated from June 7 to June 15, and was a time in which the inner sanctum of the Vestal Temple was opened for all women to visit and make offerings to the goddess. The Vestales, or Vestal Virgins, guarded a sacred flame at the temple, and swore thirty-year vows of chastity. One of the best known Vestales was Rhea Silvia, who broke her vows and conceived twins Romulus and Remus with the god Mars. It was considered a great honor to be chosen as one of the Vestales, and was a privilege reserved for young girls of patrician birth.

The worship of Vesta in celebration was a complex one. Unlike many Roman deities, she was not typically portrayed in statuary - instead, the flame of the hearth represented her at the family altar. Likewise, in a town or village, the perpetual flame stood in the stead of the goddess herself.
For the celebration of Vestalia, the Vestales made a sacred cake, using water carried in consecrated jugs from a holy spring. The water was never permitted to come into contact with the earth between the spring and the cake, which also included sacred salt and ritually prepared brine as ingredients.

The hard-baked cakes were then cut into slices and offered to Vesta. During the eight days of the Vestalia, only women were permitted to enter Vesta's temple for worship. When they arrived, they removed their shoes and made offerings to the goddess. At the end of Vestalia, the Vestales cleaned the temple from top to bottom, sweeping the floors of dust and debris, and carrying it away for disposal in the Tiber river. Ovid tells us that the last day of Vestalia -- the Ides of June -- became a holiday for people who worked with grain, such as millers and bakers. They took the day off and hung flower garlands and small loaves of bread from their millstones and shop stalls.

Today, if you'd like to honor Vesta during the time of the Vestalia, bake a cake as an offering, decorate your home with flowers, and do a ritual cleansing the week before Litha. You can do a ritual cleansing with a Litha blessing besom.

-The Crafty Witch

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Spider Mythology and Folklore

Depending on where you live, you probably see spiders starting to emerge from their hiding spots at some point in the summer. By fall, they tend to be fairly active because they’re seeking warmth – which is why you may find yourself suddenly face to face with an eight-legged visitor some night when you get up to use the bathroom. Don’t panic, though – most spiders are harmless, and people have learned to co-exist with them for thousands of years. Nearly all cultures have some sort of spider mythology, and folktales about these crawly creatures abound!
  • Hopi (Native American): In the Hopi creation story, Spider Woman is the goddess of the earth. Together with Tawa, the sun god, she creates the first living beings. Eventually, the two of them create First Man and First Woman – Tawa conceptualizes them while Spider Woman molds them from clay.

  • Greece: According to Greek legend, there was once a woman named Arachne who bragged that she was the best weaver around. This didn’t sit well with Athena, who was sure her own work was better. After a contest, Athena saw that Arachne’s work was indeed of higher quality, so she angrily destroyed it. Despondent, Arachne hanged herself, but Athena stepped in and turned the rope into a cobweb, and Arachne into a spider. Now Arachne can weave her lovely tapestries forever, and her name is where we get the word arachnid.

  • Africa: In West Africa, the spider is portrayed as a trickster, much like Coyote in the Native American stories. Called Anansi, he is forever stirring up mischief to get the better of other animals. In many stories, he is a god associated with creation, either of wisdom or storytelling. His tales were part of a rich oral tradition, and found their way to Jamaica and the Caribbean by way of the slave trade. Today, Anansi stories still appear in Africa.

  • Cherokee (Native American): A popular Cherokee tale credits Grandmother Spider with bringing light to the world. According to legend, in the early times everything was dark and no one could see at all because the sun was on the other side of the world. The animals agreed that someone must go and steal some light and bring the sun back so people could see. Possum and Buzzard both gave it a shot, but failed – and ended up with a burned tail and burned feathers, respectively. Finally, Grandmother Spider said she would try to capture the light. She made a bowl of clay, and using her eight legs, rolled it to where the sun sat, weaving a web as she traveled. Gently, she took the sun and placed it in the clay bowl, and rolled it home, following her web. She traveled from east to west, bringing light with her as she came, and brought the sun to the people. 
In several cultures, spiders are credited with saving the lives of great leaders. In the Torah, there is a story of David, who would later become King of Israel, being pursued by soldiers sent by King Saul. David hid in a cave, and a spider crawled in and built a huge web across the entrance. When the soldiers saw the cave, they didn’t bother to search it – after all, no one could be hiding inside it if the spider web was undisturbed. A parallel story appears in the life of the prophet Mohammed, who hid in a cave when fleeing his enemies. A giant tree sprouted in front of the cave, and a spider built web between the cave and the tree, with similar results.

Some parts of the world see the spider as a negative and malevolent being. In Taranto, Italy, during the seventeenth century, a number of people fell victim to a strange malady which became known as Tarantism, and it was attributed to being bitten by a spider. Those afflicted were seen to dance frenetically for days at a time. It’s been suggested that this was actually a psychogenic illness, much like the fits of the accusers in the Salem Witch Trials.

Spiders in Magic

If you find a spider roaming around your home, it’s considered bad luck to kill them. From a practical standpoint, they do eat a lot of nuisance insects, so if possible, just let them be or release them outside.

Rosemary Ellen Guiley says in her Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft, and Wicca that in some traditions of folk magic, a black spider “eaten between two slices of buttered bread” will imbue a witch with great power. If you’re not interested in eating spiders, some traditions say that catching a spider and carrying it in a silk pouch around your neck will help prevent illness.

In some Neopagan traditions, the spider web itself is seen as a symbol of the Goddess and of creation of life. Incorporate spider webs into meditation or spellwork relating to Goddess energy.

An old English folk saying reminds us that if we find a spider on our clothing, it means money is coming our way. In some variations, the spider on the clothes means simply that it’s going to be a good day. Either way, don’t disregard the message!

Reblogged by by Patti Wigington

-The Crafty Witch

Monday, June 2, 2014

Butterfly Magic and Folklore

Butterfly Legends:

The butterfly is one of nature’s most perfect examples of change, transformation, and growth. Because of this, it has long been the subject of magical folklore and legend in a variety of societies and cultures. Let’s look at some of the magical meanings behind butterflies:

Irish Butterfly Legends:

Irish folklore holds that the butterfly is related to the very soul of a human being. It’s considered bad luck to kill a white butterfly, because those hold the souls of deceased children. The butterfly is also associated with the fire of the gods, the dealan-dhe', which is the magical flame appearing in the needfire, or in the Beltane baelfire. It’s important to keep an eye on the butterflies, because in Ireland, they’re known for the ability to pass easily between this world and the next.

Ancient Greece and Rome:

The ancient Greeks and Romans also held butterflies in metaphysical regard. The philosopher Aristotle named the butterfly Psyche, which is the Greek word that means “soul.” In ancient Rome, butterflies appeared on denarii coins, to the left of the head of Juno, goddess of weddings and marriage.

Native American Butterfly Folklore:

Native American tribes had a number of legends concerning the butterfly. The Tohono O'odham tribe of the American Southwest believed that the butterfly would carry wishes and prayers to the Great Spirit. To do this, one must first catch a butterfly without harming it, and then whisper secrets to the butterfly. Because a butterfly cannot speak, the only one who will know the prayers that the butterfly carries will be the Great Spirit himself. According to folklore, a wish given to a butterfly is always granted, in exchange for setting the butterfly free.
The Zuni people saw butterflies as indicators of weather to come. White butterflies meant the summer weather was about to begin - but if the first butterfly seen was dark, that meant a long stormy summer. Yellow butterflies, as you might suspect, hinted at a bright sunny summer season.

Butterflies Around the World:

The Luna Moth - which is often mistaken for a butterfly but technically is not one - represents not only spiritual growth and transformation, but also wisdom and intuition. This may be because of its association with the moon and lunar phases.
William O. Beeman, of the Department of Anthropology of Brown University, took a survey of all the different words that mean “butterfly” around the world. He found that the word “butterfly” is a bit of a linguistic anomaly. “The terms for butterfly have several things that generally unite them: they involve a degree of repetitious sound symbolism, (Hebrew parpar; Italian farfale) and they use visual and auditory cultural metaphors to express the concept.”
Beeman goes on to say, “The Russian word for 'butterfly' is babochka, a diminutive of baba, (old) woman. The explanation I have heard is that butterflies were thought to be witches in disguise in Russian folklore. It is or was therefore an emotionally highly charged word, which may be the reason for its resistance against borrowing.”
In the Appalachian mountains of the United States, fritillary butterflies in particular are numerous. If you are able to count the spots on a fritillary’s wings, that tells you how much money is coming your way. In the Ozarks, the Mourning Cloak butterfly is seen as a harbinger of spring weather, because unlike most other species of butterfly, the Mourning Cloak winters over as a larvae and then makes its appearance once the weather gets warm in the spring.
In addition to butterflies, it’s important not to forget the magic of the caterpillar. After all, without them, we’d have no butterflies! Caterpillars are determined little creatures who spend their entire existence preparing to become something else. Because of this, caterpillar symbolism can be associated with any sort of transformative magic or ritual. Want to shed the baggage of your old life and embrace a new and beautiful one? Include caterpillars and butterflies in your rituals.

Butterfly Gardens

If you'd like to attract magical butterflies to your yard, try planting a butterfly garden. Certain types of flowers and herbs are known for their butterfly-attracting properties. Nectar plants, such as heliotrope, phlox, coneflower, catnip and butterfly bushes are all great plants to add. If you want to add hosting plants, which form good hiding places for caterpillars, consider planting alfalfa, clover and violet. For more information on planting a lovely butterfly garden, read Marie Ianotti's article here: Designing a Butterfly Garden.

Reblogged By Patti Wigington

-The Crafty Witch