Caraway Folklore and Magical Uses

I never paid much mind to caraway seeds, really. I mostly knew them as the little vaguely anise-flavored bits in my rye bread, and the occasional ingredient in a love recipe. Lately, though, they’ve gotten my attention.

As it turns out, caraway seeds are one of the best herbs for digestion — particularly for people with functional dyspepsia. Caraway is a carminative, which means that it relieves gas, and the licorice-like compounds in it have a very mild anesthetic effect that’s soothing to a troubled stomach. I have a bag left over from a spell, and I’ve been grinding the seeds to use as an after-meal tea. (I also have samples of a caraway-based digestive remedy called FDgard, but that’s a subject for a different kind of post.)

Long story short, since I’m going to be ingesting a bunch of it anyway, I thought it might be a good idea to brush up on some of the folklore and magical uses of caraway. If you’re going to be brewing it into a tea several times a day, might as well enchant it at the same time, am I right?

Caraway Magical Properties and Folklore

Need to keep your stuff from being messed with? Bust out the caraway.

In Germany, it was sprinkled on coffins to keep evil spirits away from the dead.

By a similar token, it is believed that anything that contains caraway can’t be stolen — putting a pinch of it in a wallet, purse, or car helps deter thieves. Placing a dish of it under a child’s crib was said to keep witches away. Sometimes, the seeds were even mixed into animal feed to keep chickens and sheep from wandering away!

Caraway seeds.

Caraway is often used as a love herb. Chewing some of the seeds before kissing someone is believed to entice them to fall in love with you. (Perhaps not incidentally, caraway was also used since antiquity as an after dinner breath-freshening and gas-fighting herb. It’s probably easier to get someone to fall for you if you’re not enveloped in a dense cloud of halitosis and farting like a Holstein.) Hiding caraway in your lover’s food is also believed to keep them faithful to you.

Bathing in an infusion of caraway removes the spiritual causes of disease.

Using Caraway Seeds

Herb lore usually treats herbs in terms of what they’re able to bring to or repel from you. How many herbs are described as love-drawing, money-drawing, or banishing? After reading about caraway, it seems to be more useful for keeping what you have over bringing in something new. Even in love recipes, its action is geared more toward helping you maintain what you already have — you need to be reasonably close to someone in order to kiss them and get them to fall for you, right?

I think caraway’s greatest strength is as a protective herb, where this preserving quality can really shine. It would also be a useful addition to house blessing spells, or other spells with the aim of maintaining love, providing protection, and keeping evil away at the same time. In love formulas, I usually combine it with other things that have a more direct action.

Caraway seeds are also used to improve memory (which, when you think about it, is another type of preservation). Combined with herbs like peppermint, lavender, and mugwort, they’d make a great addition to a dream pillow or sleep sachet to help with dream recall.

 

If you don’t often use caraway in magic or cooking, I suggest keeping some on hand. Medicinally, it has a whole list of benefits ranging from improved digestion, to better circulation, to pain relief, and relatively few side effects. Magically, it is a very versatile herb for helping you keep all of the things you hold dear.

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4 Great Alternatives to Incense

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Incense is pretty magical. Not only does it give a place that certain mystical je ne sais quoi, it works for sympathetic magic, carries prayers and petitions away on its smoke, and clears away stagnant energy. It’s pretty awesome stuff.

… Unless you’re asthmatic. Or have migraines triggered by smells. Or live in a dorm. Or aren’t yet “out” as a witch. Or are one of any of the millions of other people who, for various reasons, can’t light up.

What do you do then?

Burning incense.

I can get away with using incense sometimes. For other occasions, I’ve found a bunch of very effective incense alternatives that work in both a magical and a mundane sense.

1. Hydrosols

Hydrosols are a “byproduct” of essential oil distillation. I put “byproduct” in quotes because, while they are certainly considered a byproduct if the oil is what you’re after (in much the same way that a rosebush would be considered a weed in a wheat field), they’re very useful on their own. I originally started using them as part of my skincare regimen — putting a couple of sprays on a cotton ball and using it as toner, or stashing a bottle in my bag to cool and freshen my skin throughout the day. After that, I began expanding my use to more metaphysical purposes.

Since hydrosols are derived from the same herbs used to make incense and essential oil, they carry the same properties. The only difference here is that they are closer to water, rather than the airy qualities of incense smoke. So, if you’re using incense to represent the air element on an altar or in a ritual, you may want to choose a hydrosol made of an air-aligned herb (like yarrow or peppermint), or add a feather or other airy representation to your work.

To use them, treat the spray like incense smoke. If you’d use incense to fume an object, space, or person, for example, give a spray of the hydrosol instead. I’m a big fan of those  produced by Wildroot Botanicals.

2. Essential Oil Sprays

These are very similar to hydrosols, but a bit different in composition. While hydrosols are made up of the water-soluble portions of a plant, essential oil sprays are made up of water, a blend of oils, and something to keep the oils in solution (usually witch hazel or ethanol). Hydrosols are usually sold as the product of a single herb, while essential oil sprays are often a proprietary mix of oils, sometimes with crystals, gem elixirs, or flower essences added.

This makes essential oil sprays great for ritual purposes, because you can easily customize them to meet your needs. Need a fire elemental spray? Use oils from fire-aligned herbs, and add some water-safe red or orange crystals. Since a lot of the ready-made sprays have proprietary oil blends, however, they may not be the best choice for skincare applications like beauty magic.

To use them in a spell, treat them just like you would a hydrosol. Enchanted Botanicals has some really nice sprays — their Clearing spray is powerful stuff! I’ve used it for everything from cleansing spaces and tools, to helping to lift a bad mood.

Fresh herbs.

3. Loose Herbs

You don’t always have to burn herbs to get the benefit of them. Burning has its place, but you can also add a dish of loose herbs to your spell, then release them to the wind when you’re done. Rather than waft incense smoke over an object, lay it on or cover it with the herbs. (If you add a few drops of essential oil, you can also pass the herbs off as potpourri.)

Harmony Hills Boutique has a very good selection of hard-to-find herbs at reasonable prices, and they ship quickly.

4. Tincture Paper

Tincture paper is fun if you absolutely need to be able to burn something, but incense still isn’t an option. It’s made by creating or taking a tincture of the herbs you’re working with, and adding a few drops to a piece of blotting paper. The paper will readily absorb the tincture, the alcohol will evaporate, and, once the paper’s dry, it’s ready for use.

These papers are nice because you can write petitions on them, create your own blend of tinctures to add to them, and they’ll burn quite a bit faster than incense. So, if you can handle limited amounts of smoke, or just don’t want to wait for incense to finish burning, try them.

 

Incense is treated as de rigueur in a lot of spells, but isn’t always an option for everyone. If you’re one of the many people who can’t use incense, try hydrosols, essential oil sprays, loose herbs, or tincture paper instead — you may find that you actually prefer them to dealing with smoke!

And so I made a safe travel charm (since the gremlins were already handled).

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“Hey, mind doing a tarot reading real quick?”

I’m kind of used to this — my S.O. and I swap readings on the regular. If he has a decision he’s unsure about, he asks me to pull a few cards. I do the same if something’s bugging me. It’s a helpful way to get some insight that we can’t really get by reading for ourselves.

See, he’s wanted a motorcycle for basically ever. He’s taken riding classes, shopped around, and kept his eyes open for deals. This time, he was messaging me from a dealership. He’d found a used bike at a decent price, but wanted to know more before making the commitment and dropping the dosh.

I pulled a few cards — strangely enough, one of them reversed itself before I could flip it to see what it was. (I often arrange my deck so it’s all upright, and watching the card slowly spin in place until it was perfectly upside-down was super bonkers.)

Temperance reversed, and The Magician.

Buying the bike wouldn’t be sound judgment or a good monetary decision, but it would be the manifestation of something he’s wanted for a long time. The cards he’d pulled before asking me indicated that buying the bike would take a load off of his mind, but waiting would offer a new, better opportunity.

He decided not to buy. (I was pretty relieved, gotta say. I trust his skills, it’s just everyone else on the road I’m concerned about.)

Sure enough, not long afterward, he was hit with the perfect opportunity to get a great bike. Its last owner bought it new last winter, but now he has to move overseas. So, my S.O. managed to snag a nearly-new bike in fantastic condition, with the exact specs he was looking for.

… Which meant that I had to make a charm for safe travel. He’s got a bell, but there are worse things on the road than gremlins.

Historically, travel was always fraught with peril. If there weren’t highwaymen, there were rough roads, storms, injured animals, broken axles, and worse. Even today, it’s not exactly a breeze — most accidents happen within a few miles of home, and longer journeys have their own set of problems. (Trust me, I know. I managed to get run over less than a block from my house as a kid, and someday I might type out the story of how I got stuck on a stranded train in the Utah salt flats seated behind a guy who was on the lam after shooting a dude.)

Long story short, there are a ton of magical measures to help keep you in one piece on the road. Since this is a bike he’s planning on using to commute in the city — weather permitting, of course — I thought this charm was the best way to help keep him safe. Hopefully, it’ll also keep his bike safe, so we don’t have a repeat of the time our car got hecked apart by bad gas in Mississippi!

travelcharm.jpg

 

 

An Amulet for Safe Travel

For this, you’ll need:

I performed this spell on the full moon, during the equinox. Travel doesn’t always leave us room for picking the most auspicious day for spellcasting, so feel free to put this amulet together whenever you need to. Good timing is nice, but not required.

Set up your ritual space as you usually do. Hallow the space, cast a circle, open the gate, call the quarters, you do you.

Combine the herbs, using your projective (dominant) hand. As you do, visualize them filling with energy — enough to extend beyond the amulet itself, to surround whichever vehicle it’s placed within. Place the herbs in the center of the fabric.

Empower the stones as you usually do. If you don’t have a preferred method, hold them in your projective hand. As with the herbs, visualize them filling with warm, protective energy. Place them on the herbs.

Hold your hands over the herbs and stones. Say whatever words are appropriate for your situation — it doesn’t matter if they’re fancy or feel magical, what matters is that they come from the heart. State your intent for this charm. What kind of vehicle do you want to protect? What kind of hazards do you want to protect it from?

Draw the corners of the fabric up, so it forms a bundle. Tie the string or ribbon around the opening (I usually use a miller’s knot) to keep everything in place. If you have any other travel charms, tie them on as well. For this charm, I used a holed stone and a safe travel bindrune (made of raidho and algiz) burned onto a small slice of pine.

Keep the safe travel amulet in the vehicle or, if you’re traveling by public transportation, in a pocket or bag. Before an especially long or risky journey, take a few minutes to hold it in your hands and channel the protective energy.

The Tom Waits Oracle

“When you are writing, you’re conjuring. It’s a ritual, and you need to be brave and respectful and sometimes get out of the way of whatever it is that you’re inviting into the room.” ― Tom Waits

Ever use shufflemancy? It’s a type of technomancy that relies on shuffling through a collection of music. It could be an album, it could be a playlist of your favorite songs, any sufficiently large number of tunes will do.

Tom Waits has been described as a lot of things: avant-garde, gravelly, whiskey-soaked, experimental, a raconteur. John Hodgman said that “[w]e all hear our own stories in our favorite songs (that is why Tom Waits sings in werewolf language—you can pretend it is about anything you want!),” and I’m inclined to agree.

And so, I tacked together a shufflemancy playlist made up entirely of Tom Waits tracks.

It’s pretty self-explanatory. Clear your head, ask your question, hit shuffle, and listen. (Or, if you’re not using the Spotify app, shut your eyes, scroll, click, and listen.) Do any lyrics leap out at you? What impressions do you get? Let the werewolf troubadour sing(/play/beat the bathroom door with a 2×4) you a divination.

5-Minute Energy Cleanses

Ever have a day when you just feel off? You’re not getting sick, nothing really caused it, you just have a sort of wrong feeling. Maybe you’ve been around someone who left you feeling drained, overheard something that made you uncomfortable, or even just had to listen to an annoying, insipid muzak soundtrack in line at the grocery store. You’re left feeling bogged down, maybe even annoyed.

You need a five minute pick-me-up.

A landscape emerging from a very large book.

This picture has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was cool.

These short rituals are designed to be able to be done whenever you have the time for them — there’s not a lot of ceremony involved, just simple, effective rituals to help get you back on an even keel.

1. Use a Sponge

For this, you’ll need:

  • A clean sponge
  • A bowl (preferably glass or china)
  • Water
  • Sliced lemons, or a few drops of your favorite essential oil

Add the lemons or oil to the water, and stir in a clockwise direction with your dominant hand. As you stir, picture the bowl filling with warm, bright, effervescent energy.

Take the bowl somewhere peaceful — maybe in your garden, or your favorite chair. Hold it on your lap, and inhale the uplifting scent of the water.

Hold the dry sponge in your hand, and visualize all of the stress, tension, and negativity in you pouring into it. Dip the sponge in the water, hold it over the bowl, and squeeze it as hard as you can. Let the sponge soak up your negative energy, and let the clean, empowered water wash it away.

Repeat this as many times as necessary — really crush that sponge like a soggy stress ball, and let your tension fall away. When you are through, pour the water on the earth with thanks.

2. Try the Cloud Meditation

Find somewhere where you can sit quietly and comfortably. If you have trouble focusing on your breath or meditating with your eyes closed (me too!), don’t worry. Just imagine a soft, fluffy cloud directly over your head. It glows with a bright light, the color of a sunset, and smells like fresh rain.

Sunset cloud over a calm field.

Tree’s about to get cleansed like whoa.

When you have a solid mental image of the cloud, visualize it beginning to rain down on you. The rain is bright, just like the cloud, tinged with golden light. Everywhere it touches, it washes away the stress, tension, and negativity in your energy field. Imagine the gentle caress of the gleaming water trailing down your skin, carrying away all of the negative energy with it. Keep this up for as long as you need to, then allow the cloud to dissipate.

3. Use a Selenite Wand

I love selenite. Not only is it helpful for pain (for me, anyway), it’s widely used to help cleanse energy fields. If you have access to a selenite wand, no matter how small or unpolished it may be, you can use it to quickly sweep negative energy away from you.

Hold one end in your dominant hand, the way you’d hold a lint roller, or the handle of a portable vacuum. Sweep the wand over yourself, about 3-4″ from your skin, from head to toe. At the end of each stroke, give the wand a shake. If you prefer, you can also point the end of the wand at yourself, and twirl it the way you’d twirl a cotton candy stick. Visualize the negative, stagnant energy catching on the end of the wand, then shake it off, move the wand to a new area, and repeat.

4. Hold a Stone

For this, you’ll need:

  • Stone
  • A body of water

To do this, take a stone in your dominant hand. Hold it tightly, as you visualize all of your stress and negative energy filling it. Let the stone take your tension and worries from you. when you are ready, toss it into a moving body of water with your thanks. The water will rinse away the negativity, and return the stone to a place where it can help someone else.

5. Feel the Sun and Wind

The weather can be a powerful ally when it comes to energy cleansing. If it’s a windy day, stand in the wind and feel it carrying the negative energy away from you. If it’s a warm, sunny day, close your eyes, turn your face up to the sun, and feel the warmth and brightness burning away whatever negativity clings to you. Say your thanks, and continue your day feeling lighter, safer, and more relaxed.

Sun rising over mountains.

Picturesque mountains optional.

It’s hard to avoid negative energy entirely. Depending on what you do, it may not be a good idea to try — it’d be hard to be a trauma counselor or ER doctor if you consciously distance yourself from negativity! If you’re feeling bogged down by the people, places, and things you’ve come in contact with, taking a few minute for an energy cleansing ritual can help you relax and return to normal.

 

How to Completely @&#$ up a Spell

Many, many people who will attempt spells or rituals will bomb one at some point. I’ve done it. Everyone I’ve known has. There’s no shame in it, it’s all part of a lifelong process of experimentation. The only shameful thing is not using it as a learning experience!

Before I go into this, let me preface it by saying that I’m of two minds about the concept of a spell “backfiring.” Some schools of thought hold that backfiring isn’t really a thing — if you’re treating your ancestors, deities, and spirit guides like you ought to be, they’re not going to let that happen to you. Others hold that you absolutely can screw yourself over despite their best intentions — spirits are there to guide and help you, but self-sabotage is absolutely possible. In my practice, this plane is where things really manifest, so it is entirely possible to willfully mess yourself up if you try hard enough. By that same token, I also think that it takes a lot to do that. (I have seen it happen, though.)

So! If most witches are more or less guaranteed to experience a failed spell at one time or another, why does this happen?

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5 Ways to Cleanse “Difficult” Crystals

So, the bog-standard crystal cleanse is pretty simple: immerse it in salt water, hold it under running water, cover it in dry salt, or stick it in the sun. Easy, right?

There’s only one problem: those are very efficient ways to accidentally destroy a lot of different minerals. Your stones might come out energetically cleansed, but they also might be much worse for wear. (Cleansing selenite, for example, definitely shouldn’t involve water.)

It’s important to remember that, beneath that shiny surface, there’s a ton going on in a crystal in a molecular sense. Some crystals’ color and structure depends on water molecules bound up in their matrix, like opals. Some contain soluble material, like selenite. Some might leach toxic compounds into water when soaked, like pyrite. Some might just end up fading on you — especially translucent crystals, like amethyst or rose quartz.

So, how do you cleanse crystals that won’t survive regular cleansing methods?

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