Witch Hunt: Natural Remedies and Altar Essentials

Do you listen to podcasts? One of my favorites right now is Lore, a true-story horror podcast hosted by Aaron Mahnke. Some of the creepiest episodes are about haunted dolls and serial killers, but my favorite episodes are the ones about witches. There are two episodes in particular that I really love. One, titled “Half-Hanged,” which talks about the inspiration for Margaret Atwood’s poem “Half-Hanged Mary.” It begins by talking about some other examples of what happened to people who were accused of witchcraft, but when it gets to the story of Mary Webster, it turns into another type of podcast altogether. Webster had already been accused of “having congress with the devil, of bearing his children and suckling them,” so when trouble and strange happenings came to the town she moved to, she because a quick scapegoat. A local man got sick, Webster was blamed, and in order to heal the man, the townsfolk beat her, hanged her and then buried her in the snow. But she was too strong, so while the man who was sick died, she didn’t. She lived for eleven more years. The poem that Atwood, a descendant of Webster, wrote, includes towards the end the brilliantly ferocious line “Before, I was not a witch. But now I am one.” That’s what I’m all about.

Another episode, “Making a Mark,” talks about the legend behind Brigand Bay, North Carolina’s Cora Tree. This story is amazing. It’s about a suspected witch named Cora, who was accused of causing cows to stop giving milk, making a local boy sick for making fun of her child, and even causing the death of a local man. When a witch hunter came to shore, he decided that she should be executed. After some tests proving she was a witch, they tied Cora and her child to a tree and were going to burn her at the stake. Unfortunately for them, the child turned into a black cat and then lightning struck the tree, causing the woman and her cat/child to disappear leaving just the ropes, firewood and a mark in the shape of the word Cora. You can still see this today. Have any of you witches seen this tree?

Cora's name as it appears today on the Cora Tree.

Cora’s name as it appears today on the Cora Tree.

Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez, over at Vivala, wrote a really interesting cool essay about being a bruja and how it helps her connect to the women in her family and also connect to her deep Latina roots. She makes a very compelling case for more Latinas embracing their bruja identity, saying, “I am a bruja and proud because the universe and my ancestors are constantly protecting me and guiding me. I am alive and have been kept safe many a time by the brujas in my family line. With my mami’s dreams in mind, I walk the world more aware and with more care.” At Atlas Obscura, Sarah Laskow wrote about how there’s an original copy of the 15th century witch hunting classic Malleus Maleficarum. According to Laskow, Cornell’s “witchcraft collection” also includes Harry Potter memorabilia and the world’s largest collect of witchcraft posters, which sounds super incredible.

When it comes to Autostraddle, we had tons of stupendous witch content for you to enjoy. In Read a F*cking Book, Heather wrote about a book of lesbian sex haikus that includes the gem, “Don’t label me — I’m a non-het identified poly pagan witch.” Beautiful. For the week leading up to Trans Day of Visibility, we featured “A Day in the Life” profiles of several trans women, including two brujas, Luna Merbruja and me, your Witch Hunt Coven Mistress. If you’re an herb witch, kitchen witch or garden witch, you might want to check out Carmen’s gift guide for garden-growers. In our regular witchy columns, Beth talked about the symbology of Tarot in Fool’s Journey and Corina gave us even more great horoscopes in Satellite of Love.


Playlist: Shapeshifters and Familiars


Words With Witches

by Rachel

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Cauldron (noun) – a large metal pot made for hanging over a fire for cooking or boiling. The Middle English version of the word saw its first recorded use in the 13th century. It is associated with magic and witchcraft through popular culture and some folklore, like the three witches of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Celtic tales of leprechauns hiding gold in them. A Welsh myth refers to a magical cauldron in which dead warriors can be placed to come back to life, although without the power of speech. In real life, there are examples of cauldrons with cultural or historical significance, like the Gundestrup cauldron from the Roman Iron Age, made of silver and decorated with highly detailed representations of humanoid figures; it may have been used to contain sacred offerings to deities. In modern witchcraft and particularly Wicca, cauldrons may be symbolically important, with associations of the hearth and abundance, and/or play a role in rites.


Witches Who Sing

by Molly

click to enlarge

click to enlarge


Practice of the Month

by Erin

10 Home Remedies for a New You

1. For clearer skin enter the home of a deviant and slap them at midnight.

2. It’s been said that a longer life by can be acquired by accusing your friend Margaret of adultery in the 3rd year of her marriage.

3. Never prune dead leaves on a Wednesday. Instead, take them each into your cupped hands reciting, “Not today, today is Wednesday, you’ll have to be picked in the morning, we’re moooourning,” with the last word all drawn out and dramatic.

4. Find a spare silica packet in your home. You have one. Break it open and with the tiny gel orbs spell the first letter of the person’s name of whom you hope to destroy.

5. Go outside and belt at the top of your lungs, “PELICAN DESCENT, PELICAN DISSENT, PELICAN DESCENT, PELICAN DISSENT” to see if a pelican will come down and have a debate with you.

6. For a toothache, send a passive aggressive email to your landlord.

7. If you’re looking for faster growing hair you’ll do well to collect into a cup the tears cried after the final episode of a series you’ve binge-watched/formed a spiritual connection with and dip your ends into it.

8. Nauseous? Print out a picture of Donald Trump and burn it.

9. If you come home after midnight you should never walk through the doorway facing forward as there are dark spirits waiting to enter your heart (of which they would have clear access to). Instead, grapevine into it.

10. For brittle nails, maintain eye contact with the guy who you buy wine from possibly too many times a week for the entire transaction.


Wheel of the Year

by Beth

Beltane

Beltane, celebrated on the 30th April/1st May, is a festival of fire and sex, union and fertility. Words like ‘rampant’ spring to mind as we look around and see the nature in full force, at its greenest. Since Imbolc, through the spring equinox, we have seen signs of life, green shoots new growth coming forth, but by Beltane we are witnessing an explosion of life with flowers everywhere, leaves finally on the trees, the threat of a late spring cold snap is over. Here in the UK gardeners enjoy bluebells and blossoms and once again greet the task of keeping brambles at bay, weeding where necessary and remembering perennial plants they had forgotten were there.

Blackbird

Sitting here writing this in April, I am watching two blackbirds — a male and a female —engaged in a courtship dance. He’s bouncing up and down, flapping his wings in the most inelegant way, while she watches. Will she be impressed? I can’t tell!

Taking our cues from nature, Beltane is a good time to make a move on someone you’re attracted to, to have sex outdoors, to marry or handfast, or to try baby-making if that’s something you’ve been thinking of. Where at spring equinox we also talked of unions, at Beltane, attraction and love are maturing, becoming something bigger. If you have partners or lovers, talk to them about your relationship, where you’d like it to go (if anywhere). What does ‘maturing’ mean to you and your loved ones?

This is the beginning of the final and most actively potent of the waxing phases of the Sun’s cycle. All of life is bursting with fertility ad the power of its own potential. Everything is in the process of becoming.

Glennie Kindred, Sacred Earth Celebrations

Like many points on the wheel of the year, Beltane is a fire festival. Dancing round a bonfire, making love beside a fire, sleeping out all night with a fire to keep you warm (Beltane begins at moonrise on the last day of April and continues all night and into the first of May), or having a fire inside your home are all ways you can celebrate. The year is still growing warmer as we move towards summer solstice, and being close to flames represents closeness to the sun.

Bonfire

Elementally, we are moving from airy spring towards fiery summer. The clarity air brings in spring, the planning, the foresight, the bolts of inspiration, all are picking up pace as we move into summer and a time of abundance, but it is also a hard-working time — in the UK, this was the time for driving cattle out to their summer pastures. (If you’ve ever had a country drive brought to a halt by a herd of cattle in the road, you’ll know that this is no mean feat!) May Day is also International Workers’ Day, a holiday honouring working people.

In terms of your own work and projects, now is the time to check in with the plans you began to conceive at new year, the seeds you sowed in February, the first steps you took in spring. What powerful, potent moves can you make now to push things forward? What can you manifest?

Chariot Talisman

Some ideas for celebrating Beltane:

  • Decorate your home with flowers.
  • Pick wild flowers for someone you love.
  • Make a talisman to inspire manifestation of your greatest ideas. (Or you can have one custom made, like my Chariot Talisman created by Wanjira at Asali Earthwork.)
  • Cook a Beltane feast for your friends and stay up all night.
  • Have a bonfire (camp out all night if you feel adventurous!)
  • Make flower essences, or dry flowers for floral teas.
  • Make love, have wild sex, explore your own sexuality. (Need inspiration? Start with NSFW Lesbosexy Sunday!)
  • To observe International Workers’ Day, try this ritual (maypole optional!)
  • For your altar: flowers, rowan branches, a talisman, candles, hearts and love letters.

My Favorite Witch

by Audrey

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Matilda was the first truly fierce, weird and smart girl I read about. Before Ramona or Hermione, I read Matilda by Roald Dahl over and over again, wanting to be like her.

For the uninitiated, Matilda is the story of a British child with wretched parents and a school that has no interest in celebrating how bright she is. The exception is her marvelous teacher Miss Honey, who recognizes how special Matilda is. She’s read most of the library and she can do advanced math in her head, after all. That is not normal first grade behavior.

And there’s this other thing: Matilda can move objects with her eyeballs. Whether it’s knocking a glass of water with a live newt in it (a newt! so charming, so British) onto the heaving chest of her horrible headmistress or writing out ghostly messages on the chalkboard, Matilda’s witchy powers ultimately set her free.

Now, Matilda isn’t specifically defined as a witch. She’s just a very extraordinary girl. And that’s why she’s a hero for all us smart girls who felt too weird to fit in. Matilda taught me that smart girls are magical witchy geniuses trying to get free. And she did it! She really did it.


Healing Through Natural Remedies

by Yvonne

Since I’ve had to make my own doctor’s appointments and send in my own prescriptions to the pharmacy, I’ve hated the whole medical industrial complex. I hate that we have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to get decent healthcare and how pharmaceutical and insurance corporations are being backed by our sickness. I’m reminded of just how horrible the system is every time I make a trip to the doctor’s office that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I think what irks me the most is the incredible amount of faith we, as a society, have in doctors and medicine. I understand that doctors are smart and there’s a shit ton of science to back up treatments and pills to make us well but I don’t believe there should be so much onus or power given to them. Doctors and medicine are some of many things that can heal us or make us well. I believe in a holistic approach to wellness and wish we armed ourselves with more natural solutions to our bodies’ ailments.

My girlfriend, Gloria, learned she had a unique slow-growing cancer in January and last month she got surgery to remove a couple of cancerous tumors from her pancreas and liver. I’ve accompanied her to numerous doctor’s appointments and to medical tests she had to get done, which made me even more wary of the whole healthcare system. Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of faith in my girlfriend’s healthcare providers but I know she needs more healing power to overcome something as daunting as cancer. That’s where her communities stepped in and told her all about the cancer-fighting properties of fruits, vegetables, plants and herbs. It was other Latinas in her life, like the curanderas in our lineage, that shared knowledge with her and who whole-heartedly believe in the healing properties of these natural remedies, which I value more than the sterile, expensive care she gets at the cancer center. I would much rather believe in their love and in the magic they’ve found in nature to restore her.

cancerfightingfoods_Fotor

There are numerous herbs and plants and other natural remedies out in the world but today I just wanted to focus on the cancer-fighting fruits, vegetables and plants my girlfriend has used in her healing process and to be healthy in general. I think the most important component of utilizing these remedies is to believe that they will do good to your body and have the power to help you. This isn’t meant to replace medical advice, but are suggestions to store in your wellness arsenal.

Guanabana: So many people have recommended my girlfriend to consume guanabana and for good reason. It’s a fruit that grows in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia and has been proven to boost the immune system and is effective against colon, prostate, pancreatic and lung cancers. Some say brewing the leaves to make a tea is as potent as eating the actual fruit. Gloria was given some guanabana fruit extract she uses to make in smoothies and also dried leaves to make tea.

Aloe Vera: Not only is aloe vera great to use externally for sunburns or skin irritations, but it has many benefits to being ingested like lowering high cholesterol and killing cancer cells. Gloria’s mom scraped the gel out of several aloe vera leaves and blended it with organic honey to make a sort of tonic. It doesn’t taste very good so Gloria drank a shot of it before each meal every day for a couple months.

Turmeric: Gloria’s aunt was the one to introduce us to turmeric and it’s many healing properties. Turmeric is part of the ginger family and has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and for its medicinal properties. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric which has anti-inflammatory effects and is a strong antioxidant. Studies have shown it can reduce the growth of cancerous cells and help prevent cancer especially ones affecting the digestive system. Curcumin is poorly absorbed in the bloodstream so it helps to take black pepper with it, which contains an ingredient that enhances the absorption of curcumin. There’s supplements out there you can take, teas and just incorporating the plant into your diet.

Berries: In general, berries are just good for you but they contain compounds that may stop cancer from growing or spreading. Gloria and I make berry smoothies most mornings now, which are pretty yummy and healthy.

Cruciferous Vegetables: Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are also just part of a healthy diet but can protect cells from DNA damage, help inactivate carcinogens, have anti-inflammatory effects, and stop cancer cells from growing and spreading. We’ve definitely incorporated more veggies into our diet so kale and broccoli are our BFFs now.

Green Tea: Many friends sent us care packages with tea and one friend gave us a huge box full of organic green tea, which is chock full of antioxidants. More specifically green tea is full of polyphenols known as catechins that are believed to be responsible for killing cancer cells and stopping them from growing.


Astrological Altar Essentials – Water Signs

by Cecelia

One of the questions we get the most about being a witch is “Where do I start?” With that in mind, Cecelia’s put together this great guide to getting your altar started, no matter what your sign is. We’re going to be going through the signs based on their element, so if your’s isn’t here this month, you can look forward to learning a few tips on how to make sure your altar is working best for your personality and temperament in the upcoming months!

scorpiofinal

For people unfamiliar with Tarot, the Death card can seem like a bad omen. Don’t worry, it doesn’t represent literal death, but it does indicate radical inner transformation. For you, the Death card is a reminder of the power you posses. You have a great deal of inner power to transform yourself positively, but remember that also you have the ability to use your energy to transform others. The Death card is a reminder that if you are changing, you are growing. Let go of what isn’t working for you anymore. The Bloodstone is a magical talisman that helps protect you from deception. Bloodstone also nurtures your vitality and strength. Aloe Vera will keep harmful influences outside of your home, and can help ease any feelings of restlessness or loneliness. Ginger Oil will offer protection from nightmares, ghosts, or any psychically harmful energy you might attract as someone who is naturally attuned to deep metaphysical mysteries.
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The Chariot tarot card reminds you that your emotions are your strength. It asks you to find balance between letting your emotions control you and using them to lead you in the most meaningful pursuit of your dreams. Your intuition drives your creativity and spontaneity, and The Chariot helps you access those qualities you possess with an open heart. The Angel Aura quartz reminds you that your core inner state is beautiful, kind and pure. This crystal can help you channel higher spiritual guides to strengthen your intuition in times of struggle. Chamomile tea will relax your anxiety, and drinking it before performing a spell will help you access a balanced emotional state for magical work. Burning Bergamot oil during spells will help you find concentration, confidence, and assertiveness in manifesting your desires.

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The Moon Tarot card asks you to check in on the ways that your intuition is guiding you. Are you projecting your fears onto others? Are you letting your intuition guide you towards harmful behaviors, or towards a higher calling? Remember that as a Pisces, your access to the spiritual, intuitive and imaginative realms is singular, and while that can make you feel misunderstood, it also gives you a valuable gift to help others better understand their shadow side. The Moon card reminds you to explore the depths of consciousness safely, and prioritize self-care in your imaginative quests. Fluorite is a crystal that helps clear your mind and organize your thoughts during magical rituals. You especially have a tendency to let mental chatter cloud your meditation, and Fluorite helps you cut right through that, attuning you to with lucidity to magical energy vibrations. Lavender is a healing element to your sensitive and compassionate side. It will help you find joy in simple rituals, like taking baths or napping or reading in your home. Basil will also help you access inner joy, and will keep your home peaceful.

Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 574 articles for us.

19 Comments

  1. Oh wow, I LOVE this so much! I look forward to Witch Hunt every month. I especially love Cecelia’s astrological altars, and I can’t wait to see the rest (I’m a Gemini, so I’m waiting for the Air signs).

    Also, Yvonne, I’m so sorry to hear about Gloria’s cancer, but I’m glad that she has your support and so many family and friends to offer remedies. I’m sending you both all the best.

  2. Erin you are the gift that keeps on gifting. I laughed so hard at all of these, especially number one. I could read a whole book ! (I would buy that book. It would be the kind of book you leave in your bathroom and when guests start laughing in the loo you think to yourself “ahah they found the book !”)

    You’re welcome.

  3. “1. For clearer skin enter the home of a deviant and slap them at midnight.”
    As someone suffering with severe eczema for life, this is almost tempting to try. I’m that desperate sometimes. But I won’t….for now….

  4. I would advise you against the natural ingredients vs pharma talk re:cancer. I read the article on Guanabana, which is saying that the fruit has cancer-killing qualities in a lab, which is frankly, saying nothing about its efficacy in humans. No double blind trials have been done.

    The link you provided for aloe vera is not from a doctor, or really anyone who has expertise on cancer. They make a passing comment about it being helpful, and don’t even bother to come up with a scientific explanation.

    The curcumin one mayyyyybe helpful. We don’t know yet, but there is mild evidence.

    The link for green tea is a sensationalist, hyperbolic website that is full of untruths about cancer.

    Cruciferous vegetables are certainly excellent for overall health, but I would caution against referring to them as cancer-killing. We simply do not have enough evidence to suggest that. There have been some positive studies, but there have also been counter studies that suggest that there is no connection. We need more studies to see the effects. That being said, I do agree with increased consumption of this food group, just due to the overall health benefits.

    The rest of the article was great! Made me laugh out loud a few times. But the cancer thing got me riled up. I know too many people who gave up on traditional methods and relied exclusively on “natural cures” and they fucking died. I see that your partner is going the traditional route as well, and I seriously encourage that.

    I hope she gets better, sincerely.

    • Listen I don’t think Yvonne is saying that these should replace medicine. This is more about acts of care / self-care. Feeling like, in a situation that is scary, in which you don’t have control about what goes into your body / what happens to your body, you get to focus on this one thing, and focus on the hopes that you have. I personally don’t care whether it’s turmeric or grapes or french fries, the point is: you’re making room in this scary moment for self-care.

    • I think Yvonne was very clear on how these are not supposed to replace “traditional cancer-killing methods,” which by when we say that we really mean western, elitist, methods. Not to mention I think that silencing this knowledge that has been passed down by our colonized/indigenous ancestors is an act of terrorism, ESPECIALLY when pharmaceutical companies have tried getting a patent on turmeric, AND are probably just waiting for more studies to prove that these foods may indeed help cancer patients heal to somehow make a profit out of it. There is nothing wrong with promoting any of these foods in order to heal us, as my mother would say “si bien no te hace mal tampoco.” If you don’t know what that means Katie look it up.

      Frankly, if people who are fighting cancer decided to give up on western medicine and follow an alternative route for healing WE and only WE should be able to decide that. I know too many people that have also died in the hands of renowned doctors and chemotherapy.

      Your comment is insulting and it brought tears to my face because I don’t know if you have any idea the pain that we cancer patients go through. The many times we feel helpless in the hands of condescending doctors. And since when is poisoning our body with chemotherapy and chopping up our insides a traditional fucking approach to healing. GTFO.

      • Calling my comment an act of terrorism is surely hyperbole.

        Also, I’m coming from a place where many members of my family have died of cancer. 3 of them very close to me, and I watched them dying. And not one, not two, but all three of them decided to give up on chemotherapy because they were convinced by the articles on the internet that told them that chemo was poison and that they were only hurting themselves. They turned away from chemo, the drug that was helping them survive, and they spent thousands and thousands of dollars on so-called miracle cures that didn’t help one fucking bit.

        When you have your aunt dying in front of you, seeing hallucinations because of her brain cancer, being constantly scared that this day will be her last, that she only wants 1 more year, just enough time to see her son graduate, and you see people convince her to quit chemo, and she does, and she dies two months later, and you see a young man lose his mother, then you’d fucking understand. People putting out information about “cancer cures” are fucking convincing people that might get better to waste their time and money on things that do nothing.

        Your point on pharma companies and turmeric is useless too, because pharma companies want to patent anything they can make money off of, nevermind if it’s actually useful.

        I looked up your phrase, and I strongly disagree. Promotion of less effective means over effective means is harmful. Adding vegetables and fruits, and advocating for a healthy diet, that’s great! An otherwise healthy body is better at fighting cancer than a body that is weak and malnourished, obviously. But postulating about miracle cures is bullshit. At times, life-threatening bullshit.

        I’m very sorry that you have cancer, and I do support your decision to try to heal yourself any way you see fit, but your method is not supported by science, and I disagree that it is the “right” way.

        • Don’t talk to me like I don’t fucking understand. I have not only dealt with cancer but I have also watch mothers lose their children and everything they have to afford treatment that you probably forgot is NOT easily accessible.

          I don’t know how you are equating fucking turmeric consumption to a miracle cure. Consuming any of these foods mentioned above will NOT cost you thousands of dollars, on the other hand chemotherapy and surgery certainly will and guess what you still might fucking die. People die in the hands of science all the time Katie. And its not a happy death, it drains you out of a life before you actually die. I am truly sorry about your relatives, however I don’t know who they gave their money to.

          And chemotherapy is fucking poison, in fact my own oncologist said so, since you are all about that MD certified voice. No one here said that one method is the right way, in fact the word holistic was used. But fuck, you really got some ego coming in conflating this small piece into into some crystal ball scamming practice especially when you haven’t gone through the disease yourself.

          • I think we may need to agree to disagree on this one. Obviously, if it works for you, then it works for you. And I’ll stick to the things that have worked for my family.

            **Also I live in Canada, so her chemo was 100% free, as was the hospitalization. So access to chemo and radiation is something I forget that we take for granted here. I forgot that it’s cripplingly expensive for a lot of people.

          • Yea Katie you do that. I’m about to prepare myself some carrot juice with turmeric spice because not only is it fucking delicious it also has properties that will help prevent cancer, while I ALSO prepare myself to fast for my upcoming scans I have next week to see if cutting out three pieces of my organs worked or if I need to spend more money on chemo-type drugs.

    • hey katie, my contribution wasn’t meant to be taken as a “cancer cure” whatsoever. i even said “This isn’t meant to replace medical advice, but are suggestions to store in your wellness arsenal.” my point was that in addition to seeking professional medical help, these fruits, plants, and vegetables are also helpful in healing bodies and if we believe in it, that in itself is powerful and magical.

  5. @yvonne, This is the first time I’ve read about Gloria’s cancer. I don’t know if I missed it somewhere else, though I usually read almost every post.

    I’m sorry you are going through that. I know it’s hard. I know it sucks. Thank you for sharing with us. And thank you for sharing your own witchy ways of taking care of yourselves.

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