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The Spirit Bottle

Blue Fairy Bottles by Sara StarThe spirit bottle is an enchanted object of age old relevance. From djinns in lamps, Biddy Early’s blue fairy bottle, to the witch’s bottle, bottles are a consistent and traditional craft.

The witch who makes a spirit bottle makes it as an ally and helper. Whether the witch stores a bit of herself in it as a servitor, or houses a familiar spirit (fairy, djinn or demon) in there, it is a fruitful project to undertake.

Witch’s bottles are all too common, but today I am interested in Biddy Early’s fae bottle.  And I am going to start to make one myself.

Firstly, we build a relationship with a familiar spirit. The purpose of Biddy Early’s bottle was scrying and healing, so it must be an oracular and healing spirit. Perhaps the waters of a mirror pond, or of a sacred healing well. The plant ally of a divining spirit like mugwort or chamomile, one you grew just for this purpose, maybe. Chant to you plant, or sing to it, and make sure it wants to be your familiar. Giving the herb a bit of your own blood in water when you water and feed it helps bond you together.

Secondly, you need a bottle. I have no doubt you can track down a lovlerly blue bottle.  I got mine at a brewing store. Sometimes spring water is sold in blue bottles in neat shapes.  You can even make your bottle from clay, fire and glaze it your perfect shade of blue.

Then try and find a Monday or Saturday night during a blue moon to bottle the spirit. In the case of a special watering hole, go down to the the place and gather some water where you see the new moon sliver reflecting in it.

You will have to preserve the water (and herb) with some vodka or perfumers alcohol to keep it from going bad. Make a special ritual out of the whole thing. Talk to the undines and the plant ally as you are preparing the potion. Give it an offering or even play a game with it.

The idea is not to trap a spirit in your bottle, its more like you are making a guest room for it because it lives nearby and visits all the time.

Then when the potion is complete, and preserved with alcohol, cork it or otherwise seal the top. Then wrap it in some red wool, cotton or silk.

Mark your bottle with sigils and symbols or keep it plain. To scry in it, either uncork it and gaze down the neck while breathing very shallowly in your nose and out your mouth, or shine the side of the bottle and glaze into the reflective surface until images start to form.

Irish legend suggest that you never thank your fairy helpers because that is tantamount to saying goodbye. However, you should praise it and give it gifts.

Biddy Early spoke with the fae since she was little and she even spoke a strange language to them (Maybe travelers?) Legend tells us that her son Paddy won the bottle for her in a hurling match with mysterious disappearing strangers. After her death, her preacher tossed the bottle back into the lake and likewise it was never seen again.

Menstrual Current

Death, sacrifice, menstruation, fertility paintings by Sara Star

Within the microcasm of menstruation is structure for the macrocasm of the arte.
We plant seeds by the cycles of the moon for fertility, we likewise measure the cycles of woman to plant the seed for new life.
In the darkness a seed is planted and in the void of raw matter forms a becoming living being with a life and after life.
The very model of the blood sacrifice is that woman’s menstrual priod. Blood must be shed in order for life to take within.
The logic is profoundly rooted in the body the mysteries written on our becoming.*

I found this sweet little shop at its new location in the Alberta Arts district. Its down a little path around the side of a big house. And it is adorable, just packed to the brim with herbal goodies. Oils, dried herbs, plants,  and blends. I picked up some supplies for making some flower wine. And I couldn’t be more pleased, the prices are great, the atmosphere is cozy and cute and it is subtle, one is not bombarded with crappy new age music or excessive numbers of metaphysical books. A great supply shop I will be back to again and again.

Stirring and stabbing

Why is the great rite, I asked myself, the chalice and the blade and not the cauldron and the wand? For truly the ecstasy of sex is alike to the fervent stirring of a wand in a cauldron and not at all like the stabbing of a knife into a cup. And now, years later, I collect an answer.

For like the maiden bleeds afore she can create life, so must ritual sacrifice let blood to make its will manifest.

The menstrual current underlies magic and this is why the price is blood. Because the woman must bleed before she can conceive.


For Eve the cost was blood.
For Cain the cost was blood.
Sarah gave her pagan idols blood.
Delilah gave Dagon blood.

And to this day, the witch knows the prices is blood. The original meaning of sacrifice is blood intrinsic to the menstrual current.

By Sara Star

Invocation to the Holy-Stone

I have found
A holy-stone upon the ground.
O Fate! I thank thee for the happy find,
Also the spirit who upon this road
Hath given it to me;
And may it prove to be for my true good
And my good fortune

hagstones by Sara Star

When you see a holey stone or hag stone on the ground you should say something in gratitude to the spirits that left it there for you. The above is just an example from the Gospel of Aradia.

Now once you have one, what do you do with it? You can’t really hold it in front of your eyes all the time to look for the fae.*

Making a hagstone cord is a useful project. You can make it with one hag stone and multiple knots, or multiple hag stones and multiple knots. The number varies between spells. I say chose a number with meaning to you. Chumbly’s consecration has 7 knots in a black leather cord, Bramshaw’s has nine knots and up to nine hagstones on a red string.

Either way, the point is to concentrate on a different otherworld setting for each knot, including at least one at a witches sabbat. Visualization is important on this one. Each knot is a place you want to go to. Once you have tied the knots you will string the hagstone(s) on and tie it off as a bracelet.

As you string the knots through the hagstones picture you are running each destination through the gate to the otherworld, fey land, underworld, astral, and so on.

You will hold the bracelet with at least one of the stones in your off hand (non dominant hand) as you sleep. Your dreams shall be significant astral or otherworldly dreams rather than regular dreams. You will travel to one of your chosen destinations.

If you don’t remember what happened in the astral dreams, but remember you had them. Then some part of you does remember and it will still impact your knowledge and practice.

If the you find it isn’t working and you aren’t going anywhere. Meditate with your stone specifically on one of the chosen dreams and journey there in meditation. There is plenty to be done that way as well.

I have found this tool to be very powerful and my dreams have changed when I wear my hagstone cord. I know where I have gone each night, but unfortunately I cannot remember much of what happened when I wake up. But I feel different somehow and I stopped having nightmares.

*Spiderwick Chronicles art by Tony DiTerlizzi

Black, Holly. Spiderwick Chronicles. 2004 http://www.amazon.com/The-Spiderwick-Chronicles-Boxed-Set/dp/0689040342/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335197860&sr=8-1

Bramshaw, Vicki. Craft of the Wise. 2009 http://www.o-books.com/book/detail/616/Craft-of-the-Wise

Chumbly, Andrew. “What is Traditional Craft?” http://www.xoanon.co.uk/xoanontraditionalcraft.php

Leland, Charles. Aradia, Gospel of the Witches http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/aradia/ara06.htm

Traditionalwitchcraft.com wiki “Hagstone.” http://www.traditionalwitchcraft.com/Hagstone

The Alruan

The Alruan is a type of plant familiar. In this case a dried root that is kept, fed and cared for to work with the witch on various jobs to bless the home.

Mandrake

Mandrake root in coffin by Sara Star

An alruan is made form a root that looks like a man, woman or child either grown that way or carved to such a shape, dried, and kept in a box-coffin or on a plaque. Alruans were traditionally made form the rare and poisionous mandrake or more often from a briony root. But at its root (see what I did there) the Alruan can be chosen from any witches plant best if it has forked in the ground to form legs and/or arms. My first one was carved from a parsnip and my friend just gifted me one from blackberry roots.

Digging up rituals are all masked with rumors of danger to protect the trade secrets of the Alruan peddlars. Despite what you may have read, you needent have a dog pull it up for you to avoid its deadly scream, ear muffs will do ;)

Mandrake Lego

A witch and her mandrake alruan

Loosen the soil around you Alruan with your working knife in a circle three times or until the soil is nice and loose.  Then very carefully pull up your root as to not break it much.  Any broken off parts can be reburied and maybe given some root hormone so they will start new plants. (Depending on the root it could start a new plant right away or take as long as a year to put out new sprouts, as long as the root is still clearly alive, firm and moist in the dirt, it could still sprout.

If you do plan to carve yours, please practice on a plentiful tuber like carrot or parsnip before taking your knife to a rare root like mandrake. If you are going to carve your root do so very carefully as to not kill the plant or damage its foilage. You should then rebury your root so it will form a skin over where you carved and look more natural.  You might bury your Alruan at an especially potent spot like a crossroads or a graveyard. Traditionally the Alruan will be the opposite gender as you. Female Alruans usually have not forked at the legs and male ones have.

To dry your root in hot dry weather, a covered box with some air circulation works fine.  You should turn your Alruan over daily to prevent it molding or worse rotting! In wet or cold weather dry your Alruan in the oven at 200-250*f with aromatic herbs such as lemon verbana.  Your root will lose half its mass when drying so choose a big one!

There are a variety of ways of keeping an Alruan. Some live on the hearth, others are made beds, and still others have mini coffins. I encourage you to look at the Alruans and Mandrakes at theonline Bocastle Musem of Witchcraft.

Mandrake Bocastle

A Mandrake Alruan in his coffin from Bocastle Musuem of Witchcraft, Richel Collection

Make your Alruan’s life nice and he will repay you in kind or so the lore says. Alruans like to be bathed, clothed, bedded, fed and given gifts. Give him gold coins for money magic and he will bring wealth into your life, bathe him in wine for love, feed him milk for fertility and dress him in white silk for happiness.

American Witches

salem witch trial

Examination of a Witch, by T.H. Matteson 1853.

Sometimes European witches get defensive of their traditional craft. While there are always welcoming people, there are also those that are more closeted and want to keep their culture to themselves. Some still comment that we left their country and created a new one and we don’t need to keep coming back and taking all that is good culturally from them and mutating it. Some don’t understand why many American append a hereditary country to our self identification: Irish American, African American, etc. In most cases our mothers and grandmothers were born in America and so why the obsession with the old country? I can express for myself that Ireland is a mystical homeland in addition to being a land of my ancestors. In the melting pot that is America, most people like to hold onto their original roots and preserve cultural traditions of their immigrant or native ancestors. It is part of the American culture to treasure the old country culture whilst still assimilating the language and culture of the states.

However, when seeking traditional witchcraft, Americans do not have to go back to an old country or bastardize Native American practices either. There are American forms of traditional witchcraft that are every bit as rich as the European ones. In addition, the American traditions have a more homey and American feel. They are built around the land, the dominant religions and the feeder old county cultures of the families who have dwelt in this country so long that no one in their family speaks the old language of their “home” country.

I have been enjoying an excellent book The Silver Bullet and other American Witch Stories that imparts the lore of the Appalachian witch tradition. The stories come complete with rituals to become a witch, to create a witch ball, and to attain a familiar. Long before Gardner came out and charged Buckland with spreading the word when he was sent to America, there were witchcraft traditions already. I learned a lot about these various traditions by reading Her Hidden Children by Chas Clifton. Chas writes about both Wiccan, neo-pagan, and traditional witchcraft and pagan practices in America before and after Gardner/Buckland. Clifton makes the case that much of contemporary popular witchcraft and neo-paganism has been influenced heavily by a rather particularly american activist spirit.

Her Hidden Children had a strong affect on my path, and since reading it I have sought out sources on American traditional witchcraft–especially those tied to the American West since that is where I am from. Hopefully I will get time to share my findings as I get a more solid idea of them here.

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