In the beginning of all things
wisdom and knowledge were with the hill.
The four elements are the basic substances that make up life on this planet. They were classified by the Ancient Greeks as Fire, Air, Earth and Water. This categorization influenced European thought well into the Renaissance period, and still remains important in modern magic and astrology. For example, the twelve horoscopes are divided into Fire Signs (Aires, Leo, Sagittarius); Earth Signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn); Air Signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius); and Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces).
FIRE (Ignis) is plasma matter that can manifest as both hot and dry. Galen associated it with yellow bile and the choleric body. It is a positive power – or a destructive influence – depending on how it is used. Fire is also a transformer that can turn into heat, light, smoke, and ash, and is the energy that brings about change. Magicians use fire spells to inspire drive and motivation, particularly in the pursuit of passion or ambition.
AIR (Aer) – a gaseous matter – contains both wet and hot properties. Galen believed it was related to the blood and created the sanguine body. Air is a detaching element associated with the mind. For this reason it is used in magic to enhance human intellectual powers and inspire creativity.
EARTH (Terra) is dry and cold, a feminine solid matter. In Galen’s philosophy it partnered black bile and the melancholic humor. But Earth is also a binding element, and while it can freeze, liquefy, or dry into other states, it always retains the ability to return to its natural form. Because it represents the grounded soul, earth spells are used for guilt-free material gain, and personal happiness.
WATER (Aqua) is the cold, wet element that manifests as a liquid matter. Galen connected water with a phlegmatic imbalance of the humors. This substance not only nurtures and sustains all life on the planet but it also contains magnetic properties. It is a mystical element used by practitioners for communing with divine spirits.
Aristotle studied the heavens and decided to add a fifth element he named Aether. His concept of ETHER sounds like stardust – the substance beyond the material world that is heavenly and unchangeable. Some modern magicians believe this is the stuff from which all magic is made – that spells function by directing the energy in our own bodies to manipulate the flow of Ether as it swirls about the universe.
Perhaps Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock song is right in claiming:
“We are stardust
Billion year old carbon” . . .
Rees, Matthew. “A Metaphysical Theory of Magic” at http://www.sabledrake.com/2000a/metaphysical_magic.htm
“Fire, Water, Air, Earth” at http://www.spiritualknowledge.net
Wikipedia: “Classical Elements” and various Wiccan, Pagan, and Magic websites.
According to the Jewish Midrash’s explanation for the two separate accounts of the Creation Story, Adam’s first wife was a woman called Lilith. She was made of the same soil as man and therefore was his equal. But when Adam tried to dominate Lilith she rebelled, fled the Garden of Eden, and abandoned her mate to consort with more submissive demons instead. So God created another mate for Adam and called her Eve.
From the Sixth Century BC, Lilith was portrayed as a female demon who killed infants and threatened women in childbirth, and perhaps because of this association the scriptures began partnering Lilith with Samael (Satan), making her the Queen of Evil. Her Hebrew name translates into “night creature,” “night monster,” “night hag,” and “screech owl” – and only the three angels Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof can protect against her wicked powers.
In the Middle Ages the Catholic Church identified Lilith (and her daughters, the Lilim) with female succubae – demons who copulate with sleeping men, causing their erotic dreams. Contrasting with the pure, submissive, Holy Mother, Lilith was a disobedient, lustful sinner who used her sexuality to seduce and ruin men. Her evil stems from being willful – a dangerous threat to patriarchal order and stability.
Mirrors were the direct entrance into Lilith’s realm. Vanity allowed Lilith and her daughters to enter an unsuspecting maiden through her eyes, then lure her into all manner of wild, promiscuous behavior.
In some cultures Lilith is the wind-witch. She brings storms, sickness, and nighttime predators. She is bird-like – often depicted with talons and wings – and the name Lil is also associated with the Sumerian word for “wind”‘ “air,” or “storm.”
Today, however, some wiccans and occultists worship Lilith as the “first mother.”
Brunel, Pierre. Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes, and Archetypes. London and New York: Routledge, 1996.
Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions. Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 1999.
Witcombe, Christopher: “Eve and the Identity of Women” (7) http://witcombe.sbc.edu/eve-women/7evelilith.html
The Harry Potter book series made magic wands the must-have addition for any aspiring wizard. But what exactly are they? Do they work? And if so, how?
In J.K. Rowling’s world, wands are mystical tools made from a wide variety of wood. At the core is a magical talisman from some mythical creature such as a phoenix feather, dragon heartstring, or unicorn hair. And as Hermione tells Harry, you do not choose the wand – the wand chooses you. Rowling’s sticks contain supernatural powers that assist the youngsters in casting various spells, and seem inspired by a few elements from European folklore and a good deal of literary license!
Traditionally, the wand was associated with wizard’s staff and the monarch’s scepter, and may have first originated as a phallic symbol. It has also been suggested it derived from the shaman’s drumming sticks, which were widely used as pointers in magical ceremonies. The first literary reference appeared in Homer, when Circe used a wand to turn Odysseus’ men into wild pigs.
But how do the facts differ from the fiction?
* Wands are usually made from wood, but they can also be made of stone or metal depending on the type of spell required. For example, copper wands are used in healing.
* These rods are tools used to focus the power of the wizard but they do not work magic by themselves. They guide and direct human energy to the proper, desired place.
* Wands are associated with the element of air (and sometimes fire).
* Spirals are sometimes incorporated into their design to represent the beginning and end of everything. They also create a vortex that harnesses energy.
* Each wand is unique. They are quasi-sentient – inanimate objects with animate characteristics.
* They can be used for protection, empowerment, healing, and love spells.
* Beginners should use flexible wands made from ash or willow. Experts may graduate to hard woods like ebony and oak.
* Wands need to be cleansed on a regular basis to keep their energy strong and pure.
* They can be recharged in sunlight or full moonlight.
* Power builds up in the handle and is released through the tip.
* Whatever you send out to others comes back three times stronger – therefore a magician should always send out blessings instead of curses!
But do they actually work? You tell me . . .
“Wand” – Wikipedia. Accessed 4/2/2015.
http://www.magicwandsofwizardry.com. Accessed 4/2/2015.
Which rhymes and chants were traditionally used for casting romance spells? And does any method guarantee success? A few clues exits in the rare books of magic and the ‘voluntary’ confessions extracted during various witch trials.
In De Occulta Philosophia the famous magician Agrippa (1486-1535) suggests that potions which include bizarre animal ingredients — cat brain, wolf penis, and frog bones — are the most effective. But the everyday spells cast by love-struck maidens were generally more innocuous.
From Mother Bunch’s Closet Newly Broke Open (by T.R.), Joyce Froome quotes the words used for piercing an apple with three pins and placing it under the pillow:
If thou be he that must have me
To be thy wedded bride,
Make no delay but come away
This night to my bedside.
In the years of religious confusion following the Reformation, British Wise Women seem to have sprinkled their spell with a mix of paganism and papist terminology, perhaps believing that their banned Catholic rites still contained magic powers. Old Chattox (one of the Lancashire Witches) confessed in her trial documents to using charms such as this one ( although this wasn’t actually a love potion):
Three Biters hast thou bitten,
The Hart, ill Eye, ill Tonge:
Three bitter shall be thy Boote,
Father, Sonne, and Holy Ghost
a Gods name.
Five Pater-nosters, five Avies,
and a Creede,
In worship of five wounds
of our Lord.
Yet young girls of that era who wished to dream of their future husbands would say a Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer) for each pin stuck in their sleeves before going to bed on St. Agnes’ Night, showing that religion and magic were firmly entwined in popular medieval culture.
Or on St. Thomas’ Eve, unwed girls might prick an onion with nine pins while chanting:
Good St. Thomas, do me right,
Send me my true love this night,
In his clothes and his array
Which he weareth every day.
By the early Twentieth Century love spells had become less toxic and more in harmony with the natural world. Froome explains how The Book of Charms and Ceremonies recommends placing willow catkins in the mouth before saying:
I eat thy luck
I drink thy luck
Give me that luck of thine
Then thou shalt be mine.
Today, however, love potions usually resemble herbal teas. Here is one example from a “book on Druidic practices”:
1 pinch of rosemary
2 teaspoons of black tea
3 pinches of thyme
3 pinches of nutmeg
3 fresh mint leaves
6 fresh rose petals
6 lemon leaves
3 cups of pure spring water
This potion should be made on a Friday during the waxing moon, in an earthenware or copper tea kettle. Before drinking, the lover should recite:
By light of moon waxing I brew this tea
To make [lover’s name] desire me.
Then they should drink some of the tea and say:
Goddess of love, hear now my plea
Let [lover’s name] desire me!
So mote it be
So mote it be. (links2love.com)
On the following Friday the lover should make more tea and share it with the person they desire who will then fall in love with them!
This brief summary shows a changing trend from the olden days, when young women wished to see who they would wed in harmless dreams, to cunning folk mixing dubious love potions. During times of religious unrest, ancient prayers and traditional sacred rites were used but these were gradually replaced with herbs, roots, and mystical items from the natural world.
Herbal teas seem harmless enough, but the suggestion to “share it with the person you desire” has become an increasingly sinister idea in this modern pharmaceutical era. For many years men have used alcohol as a makeshift “love potion” to seduce unworldly women, but since date-rape drugs like rohypnol, ketamine, and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) are available to those who know where to look, it is increasingly easy to ensure that the object of their desire cannot say no.
Love potions were always designed to make an unknowing or unwilling person comply with someone else’s wishes. Unfortunately, date-rape drugs have now made it much easier for the predator to succeed!
Dyer, D.G. “Agrippa” in Man, Myth, and Magic (London: BBC, 1970)
Froome, Joyce. Wicked Enchantments: A History of the Pendle Witches and Their Magic (Lancaster: Carnegie, 2010)
“Love Potion Tea” available at http://www.links2love.com/love_potion.htm (accessed 2/16/2015)
Potts, Thomas. The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster (London, 1613)
Go Love-Nuts On Valentine’s Day!
If you can’t choose between two lovers then here’s a trick to try – but it must be done either on Saint Valentine’s Eve or at All Hallows:
“Light a fire and take three walnuts. Name one for yourself and one for each suitor.
Place the three nuts on the fire with yours in the middle of the other two.
If either nut cracks – or jumps away – that union is not meant to be.
The two nuts that blaze closest together will make the best marriage!”
The topic for this Valentine’s week is love potions! What are they made from? Who uses them? Do they work?
In Wicked Enchantments, Joyce Froome describes an array of magical charms used throughout the ages and recorded in the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, England. These include: sticking a certain number of pins into an apple or onion while chanting a rhyme; specific astrological symbols engraved on a box as a love talisman; carrying henbane root to make you appear more attractive; piercing knotted cords with pins; throwing salt on the fire while reciting a chant on three consecutive Fridays; melting a wax heart over a hot tile while casting a charm that will bind the lover to your will; and pushing pins in the sleeve with a prayer for each one so you will dream of your future spouse. And quoting from The Book of Secrets of Albertus Magnus, Froome explains that a typical magical drink contained items such as periwinkle, houseleek, and earthworms!
Over the centuries love potions have appealed to young women in search of a husband; those who’ve lost their sweethearts and wish to lure them back; lovers in search of willing bed partners; and insecure people needing outside support, especially when they’ve already been rebuffed. Cunning folk were only to happy to oblige and had a fifty-fifty chance of providing satisfaction, though of course they were conjuring up sexual allure and attraction, rather than genuine love.
There is some scientific research suggesting that modern-day “love potions” may actually affect human mood – for example, those based on odors containing jasmine, rose, and vanilla. Smells can trigger pheromones and create longing, attraction, or remind the person of happy erotic memories from their past. Several products on the market contain chemical pheromones which supposedly make the wearer sexually irresistible. Likewise, in the time before Viagra, certain herbs were used to increase the blood flow and stimulate arousal. But did they really work? What do you think?
Froome, Joyce. Wicked Enchantments: A History of the Pendle Witches and Their Magic (Lancaster: Carnegie, 2010)