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?
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
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
Practice of the Month
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.