Friday, April 29, 2016

The Stang: A powerful tool

It was at a local gathering that I first heard the word stang. I was speaking about magical tools and their uses in-front of a group of people. I held up one of my own personal tools that I had created and used in some of my workings. As I do with a lot of my creations, I let the objects instruct me on what it was meant to be.  A small forked cedar twig lying on the ground grabbed my attention one day while out walking. I walk the same route everyday while walking with my dog. Part of my route leads me through a local cemetery when there grows a small grove of cedar trees that I like to call the cedar sisters. The cedar twig caught my attention. After a number of days of walking my daily route and passing the twig, I finally decided to take it home. I usually do this when I feel like something is attempting to grab my attention. I like to be sure that it is truly speaking to me and that it's truly a gift from the Spirits. It's ALWAYS safe to be sure and most importantly it's respect. Not everything is meant to be yours just because it speaks to you.
   After deciding it's a gift, I ALWAYS leave small gifts or offerings. Sometimes it's tobacco or corn meal. Sometimes I bring back a plate or saucer of sugar and sweets, crackers, jelly, peanut butter, cake... anything that I would think the little people would like. I sometimes will leave wooden beads, shinny beads, buttons, strings, ribbons as gifts. I never ever say verbally or mentally, " Thank you!" for a gift. It's just a rule that I learned from my grandfather and I swear by it. Trust me, I have found out what happens if you do. It's just something hard not to do especially if you were raised to say, " Thank you! ".  The gifts or offerings is enough. Just be sure to leave something. It's respect.
   After months of listening and working with this forked cedar twig, it became one of my most strongest tools that I have today.
    I had taken this particular tool to this gathering and to use in my speech. As I was showing and discussing this tool an observer and friend of mine spoke up and said, " Stang! That's a stang! " I asked her to tell me what she meant and what a stang was. Never heard of it before then. After that day I came home and done some more research. It's been a few years since then and the stang has became a big part of my spiritual and ritual life.
   The stang can come in many sizes but it's forked at one end, constructed either by nature or man. The word stang is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term staeng or steng which translate to pole or rod.
   Some scholars and facts point to a short history of the stang. Robert Cochrane is credited with introducing the idea of using a stang to the modern craft.  Robert founded the Clan of Tubal Cain in England. His tradition of witchcraft became known as Cochrane's craft. He said that the stang was sacred to the people as the crucifix was to the Christians.
   As I stated earlier, the stang can be different sizes with many uses. It could be a forked wand, a forked staff of shoulder height or a pole standing in center of a ritual area. Here the stang was used as an altar decorated with ribbons, stones, feathers and other meaningful trinkets even candles were used. Sometimes the stang's forked appearance is created by using some type of horns esp. antlers of a deer. Sometimes a single candle is place between the horns. The other end is usually carved to a point and stuck in the ground. This is especially done if the ceremonial ground or circle is outside. If inside then it can be held up by a tree stand like the one you use to hold up your Christmas or Yule tree or simply a bucket of dirt or sand. This particular practice was because the stang was thought to be a bridge between the Mother and the Father. If the stang was a staff then many witches and
shamans was thought to ride it as a horse to the other world. Robert suggest that the best wood to use to make a stang was ash wood because of it's connection with Yggdrasil, the world tree of the beliefs of the Norse. If a large stang was used in the center of the circle then it would act as an axis of magic and spirit within the circle. It was the world tree where a shaman or a witch could journey to the other world. A stang was could also be made from rowan, which was also known as mountain ash, hawthorn or yew. A stang also didn't have to be a wooden tool which forked out at one end. It could also be a pitchfork. There are drawings and pictures of witch's riding not only brooms but pitchforks and forked staffs to their sabbats.
There are also carvings of shamans in different cultures using a forked tool or staff in their beliefs.
     Having antlers or horns or even an animal skull attached to it represents the Horned God, the Witch Lord, the Lord of the Forrest. In this form it is usually positioned in the center of activity. Here it was thought as watching over you and protecting the sacred site. Some users turn the stang to face the direction of the seasons as a clock especially if there is a skull and antlers.
    Wiccans could use it to represent the Goddess with the fork representing the womb shape and the shaft of the stang symbolizing the God and the phallus.
    I have two stangs, one is a wand type of tool as I had described at the beginning of this article. I use it to cleanse areas and for protection. I also have a stang as a pole in the center of my sanctuary. It is a representation of the Horned Lord, Cernunnos. It has a deer skull with antlers except the skull is covered by a fox skin. The fox is my strongest guide. It looks like a horned fox. The horns are decorate with trinkets of importance and sacredness to me. This is the strongest of all my tools that I have. I'm not at all allowed to take pictures of it or I would share one with you nor am I allowed to share it's name to you. This particular stang has become it's own consciousness. I guess that's a safe way to describe it. It has become an entity within itself. There are times when people has entered my sanctuary and staggered back once they see the stang. It protects my sanctuary, rituals, workings, journeys and protects this house. There are times when I hear movement in my sanctuary. I go to see what's making the noise and the stang has turned, facing a different direction than before.
  The stang may not be of importance to you as it has become for me. Like I said, I never heard of the term before that day at the gathering.  What's weird and cool was that I kind-of already knew before I started doing the research. The stang isn't just a Wiccan thing or a tool of witchcraft. I don't consider myself practicing either but I do follow a shamanistic path where I use the stang to travel to the other side. I use the stang as a physical representation of my spirit. It also is a center for me during ceremony or ritual.
   As with many tools that we use in our ceremonies or rituals, what's more important is what it means to you. It's your spiritual path.
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Capnomancy / Libanomancy


Not much is written or recorded on capnomancy or libanomancy since much was basis on the diviner's needs or their own interpretations of the images. Both terms means the interpretation of images and omens by reading the rising of the smoke from fires. More traditionally from sacrificial fires. Capnomancy has been recorded being used by the ancient Babylonians around 2,000 and 1600 BC.
     Capnomancy comes from the Greek word for smoke, Kapnos and manteia for divination.
     Libanomancy comes from the Greek word Libano meaning frankincense and manteia for divination. Libanomancy was more of a type of divination from smoke rising from incense on coals. The diviner would read the smokey images and also use the odor and taste of the smoke to make their predictions. In order to seek this specific type of smoke divination the seeker would toss herbs onto coals. Herbs such as jasmine flowers, laurel leaves, poppy seeds, mugwort and tobacco. They would also use the granulated or natural resins such as dragon's blood, frankincense or myrrh. The diviner would breathe in the smoke and by it's smell and the mind altering effects would read the omens then make their predictions. Sometimes the herbs would put the diviner into a trance.
     As I mentioned earlier, capnomancy was traditionally interpreting omens from smoke of sacrificial fires. If the smoke rose lightly from the altar then straight to the ' heavens ' was considered a good omen that the offering was accepted. If the smoke hung about and close to the ground then it wasn't a good omen and the sacrifice wasn't welcome.
    Capnomancy is a mixture of Aeromancy ( divination by observing the air ) and Pyromancy ( divination by fire ). Divination by smoke was thought to have it's beginnings in ancient Babylon where on certain sacred days caphomancy was practiced by burning cedar branches or shavings on sacred fires. A thin, straight plum of smoke was thought to be a good omen while large plumes were the opposite. If the smoke touched or hugged the ground was an indication that immediate action was need to avoid a great catastrophe.
    In 2003, there was a report of a group of people who were making predictions by observing the smoke rising out of the chimneys of New England.
    The Celts and Druids were thought to use mistletoe or oak in their smoke divination.
   Some scholars believe that capnomancy began in Babylon then to Egypt then made it's way through history to Greece and on to Europe.    There were thought to be two types of caphomancy.
     1.) Reading smoke marks as images on a plate or in a candle glass.
     2,) Reading the moving smoke of a wood fire or burning incense.

    Most of the time using smoke divination was mostly during time of war or festivals. From ancient text dating back to 2,000 - 1600 BC, Babylon lists of omens for their smoke divination:
    1.) if the flames blew smokey then your army will defeat an enemies' army.
    2.) if it stops short and afterwards it's flame burns smokey then an enemy will defeat your army.
    3.) if the smoke goes to the right and doesn't go to the left then you will prevail over your adversary.
    4.) if the smoke goes to the left and doesn't go to the right then your adversary will prevail over you.
    5.) if the smoke goes to the east and away from the diviner then the downfall of your adversary.
    6.) if the smoke moves towards the diviner but doesn't go east then your adversary will prevail over you.
    7.) if the smoke goes equally in all directions then it means equal weapons.
    8.) if the smoke clusters then success and profit to the man wherever he goes.
    9.) if the smoke is fragmented then their will be financial loss.
   10.) if the top of the smoke divides in two plumes then it means madness and insanity.
   11.) if the smoke is cut off then the man will be experiencing hard times.

This is one of my strongest form of divination and probably my favorite. I never knew the term for it until I came across capnomancy in a past reading It pricked my interest so I dug.




Sunday, April 10, 2016

Blood root

     Spring has begun and as usual I stay outside as much as I can doing different yard projects. One of my projects that I want to accomplish this year is a raised vegetable and herb garden. While visiting a local nursery and getting some ideas of what herbs I wanted to purchase I came across blood root.
     To learn more about this blood root I came home and begun my search. If you have done some hiking in some of the forest of eastern North America then you may have came across blood root and not know it.
     Before going any further in to my research I want to warn the readers to be cautious when using or handling blood root. Please be knowledgeable. Do your research and read, read, read. Also talk with someone who has the experience in using such a herb. An overdose of blood root could be fatal. Also be cautious in using it on your skin because to some people it can cause skin irritation such as poison oak or ivy. It can burn the skin esp. those with sensitive skin. It is not recommended to be use around the eyes, the lips or genitals. As the writer and publisher of this article and blog, I do not recommend any of these usages that I mention in this article. This was only for research and educational purposes. Always check with your primary doctor before trying any herb.
"It has a lovely white flower and produces only a single leaf and a flowering scape about 6 inches high. When the leaf first appears it is wrapped round the flower bud and is a greyish-green colour covered with a downy bloom - Leaves palmate five to nine lobed, 6 to 10 inches long. After flowering the leaves increase in size, the underside paler showing prominent veins. The white flower is wax-like with golden stamens. " - Botanicial. com 
     Blood root is also known as bloodwort, red puccoon root, pauson, tetterwort, sweet slumber, snakebite, indian plant, coon root. 
     Many tribes of the Native Americans found them useful and were respected in their daily life. The most popular known fact is that Native Americans would use the root juice in their face paint and dying their clothes. Due to the fact of the skin irritations that comes with using blood root some scholars believe that the red juice had to be mixed with another ingredient(s) to make the body paint. The popular belief is that they use an oil based ingredient mixed with the blood root. 
    To the Ponca Indians of South Dakota and Nebraska blood root was thought of as a love charm. The would rub the juice on a palm of a young male. The male would then touch a girl of interest and they believed within 5 to 6 days the girl would be willing to marry them. 
    The Penobscot would take pieces of dried root and string them together then hang around the neck to prevent bleeding.
    The Chippewa or Ojibwe of Canada and the United States; the Great Lakes area would mix it with Blue Cohosh by heating and boiling it into a liquid form to take for stomach cramps.
    Seneca tribes would make a wash of the root with a small amount of wood ashes added and then use it to wash the uterus during childbirth.
    The Mohawk tribes made an infusion of the dried root for earaches.    
    In 1612 John Smith wrote in a report that a male guest would be given a bed. A native woman was painted with blood root and oil then she would be sent to him as a bed fellow. There is a folklore legend says that a tribal woman was presented to a colonist at Jamestown as a bed mate. She was coated in blood root and this was the reason that the Native Americans were called Red Skins by the colonists then on. Of course this is only a legend with no liable facts to the story except what John Smith wrote.
    Blood root was also important to those who practice Voodoo, Hoodoo and Root work. It was considered a protector of marriage and was used in promoting harmony with extended family members especial with the in-laws. It could be used in preventing other people from interfering in your marriage. Sounds like a good idea that most of us could use. 
    The blood root varies in color. The darker red to brownish color roots were considered to be the male or the King root while the roots of lighter orange to pinkish color being the female or Queen root. You can combine a King and Queen root together in a single sachet or cloth bag which must be of red flannel and placed underneath the troubled couples' mattress. This was used to encourage a healthy martial sex life. You can also place a blood root up over your door to encourage those who enter your home to respect your marriage. If you are afraid that some individual is attempting to break up your marriage you can sew some dried blood root into your's and your spouse's pillows.
    Just as white sage is burned for cleansing an area of negativity energy you can use dried blood root in the same manner. It is thought to cleanse any area of negative energy. You could also place blood root around the house out of reach of children or pets to keep any negative energy from your home. Some people have been known to wear it around one's neck for the same reason.  Planting blood root near the doors of your home can protect your home. If you are doing a spell that requires blood then you can use the juice of the blood root instead. The dried root can be pounded into a powder form and then add water to reach a desire consistency. Again a word of caution in using blood root. It can burn or cause a rash when it comes in contact with your skin.
    Through-out mankind's medicinal history blood root has been used for many things from treating ulcers, ring worms, skin cancer, cramps, vomiting, coughs and sore throat. It had also been used in tooth paste at one time and Europe used it as an antibacterial agent in their meat production. You can purchase dried blood root, tinctures, infusions and oil through the internet today but again please.... do your research and ask questions. Knowledge is everything.
     

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sassafras: Jewel of the forest

It wasn't until Beltane of this year, 2014 that my interest in Sassafras was pricked. At the last day of the gathering people were talking about making some Sassafras tea and how someone that attended the same gathering had taught them how to find sassafras. Well, of course I got them to show me. That was pretty kool. Now that I can recognize it if I find myself walking in the woods. After the gathering I came home and finish doing some research on sassafras.

The Native Americans found the sassafras tree to be very useful in their everyday life. They believed that the scent of a sassafras could drive insects away especially bedbugs. as well as evil spirits that could come and visit you during your sleep. Early settlers had used sassafras much the same way even driving those evil spirits away. Early settlers would put sassafras in their flooring and in their bedsteads.

Native American shamans would use it in a tonic to help women recover after giving birth and to cure rheumatism, fever, colds and venereal disease. They also consider it as a blood purifier. The Choctaw Indians used the sassafras as a seasoning and thickener in their food. The elders also held a belief that tea and an a oil made from the sassafras could extend one's life and make the body youthful again.

 The Choctaw tribe has a legend that is similar to the story of Noah's ark. As the same, a prophet foresaw a great flood and gave warnings but the people didn't believe him. The prophet created a raft made of sassafras and was saved when the flood came.

When Spanish explorers came to the Americas they became acquainted with sassafras and knew it as the ' ague tree.' There are legends that states that Christopher Columbus himself was drawn to the Americas when he smelled the scent of the sassafras.

Sassafras became a major colonial export being second to tobacco. Sir Walter Raleigh and John Smith got in on the action. Sir Raleigh controlled all exports of sassafras and in 1578 he took some to England from the Virginia Colony. In the 1600's John Smith sent sassafras back to England to be used for it's medicinal properties. The Plymouth colony was thought to be founded on exports of sassafras.

 Known as the Great Sassafras Hunts, in the 17th century England sent ships to the colonies in search of sassafras trees to build forts and other large buildings. The early settlers also would used the wood of the sassafras tree in their posts, small boats and ox yokes.

This new plant and it's flavor held the Europeans under it's spell for 200 years. During the bubonic plague, physicians would wear nose beaks made out of sassafras to ward off the disease. It was exploited though out the disease filled Europe to be used as a cure all for many ills. The flavor of the sassafras found it's way into the drinks of the Europeans as well. In London, a drink served in the shops of many London streets was called Saloop. It was a drink made out of sassafras tea laced with hot milk.

The Pennsylvania Dutch would place a piece of the sassafras root with their applesauce and apple butter as they cooked it to enhance the flavor and aroma. Housewives would place the root into their supplies of dry fruit. They found that sassafras kept the bugs and worms away allowing the dry fruit to be kept for years. It also would enhance the flavor of the dried fruit.

 Native American shamans would use sassafras in their ceremonies, cures and 'medicine workings'. Early settlers thought that if you buried money near the root of a Sassafras tree then it would bring prosperity. They also considered sassafras to have a strong protective and cleansing charm to it. They would burn it to ward off evil influences. The process of it being made into a tea made it a good tonic for love charms and potions.  The magical properties of the sassafras are healing, energy channeling, change, Goddess workings and fairy magic. The leaves were thought to be used to ward off not only evil spirits but those people that you don't want to be around. It was also used often in spells dealing with court cases because it was taught to be able to turn the tables in your favor. The wood was believed to be sacred to the witches and used in their fire ceremonies. Among some shamans sassafras was used in totem workings for finding your totem in ceremonial trance workings.

 For what Sassafras is known for is it was used in making root beer. Today sassafras isn't used in root beer because in the 1960's. the FDA banned the use of sassafras oil in commercially mass produced foods and drugs based on the testing on lab rats and rabbits. They found that the oil in vast amounts could cause cancer in the liver and cause miscarriages. The ban lasted until the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994. Pure sassafras oil is highly toxic, with reports that a little as one teaspoon of oil taken internally can kill an adult and a few drops can kill a toddler. Safrole, which is the term for the oil has been determined to be potentially hazardous at 0.66 mg / kg of a individual's body weight, which is an amount less that the dose found in sassafras tea.

So the question is, Is drinking Sassafras tea dangerous?

 I have researched and researched for the answer. The medicinal folklore has been tested with results that none of them are true. Where the largest amount of sassafras oil is located is in the roots of course. Try to avoid making tea out of the roots. The Native Americans spoke of using the leaves for tea and the roots for medicinal usage. Some research also came up with opinions that you would have to drink a large amount of sassafras tea for it to affect you. You can even find sassafras tea recipes on-line; either using the root or the leaves, even found one using stems and leaves. If you decided to make the tea out of the root then I would suggest that you don't make it a habit. You make the judgement yourself. Do the research before using ANY HERB OR PLANT internally.

So my suggestion is avoid using it for internal purposes as much as possible. The side effects of sassafras ' poison ' is vomiting, stupor and hallucinations.  If you experience these symptoms after consuming sassafras then immediately go to the doctor. It can also cause miscarriages, diaphoresis and dermatitis.

Using sassafras in some of your magic workings is still considered safe. Don't have white sage to use for
smudging? Get some sassafras leaves. Dry them out in a dark and dry place. Make a bundle and use for cleansing and purification purposes. Sassafras was thought to drive away evil spirits and even those individuals that you didn't or don't want around. Place some leaves and bark in your witch's jar. Also you can place leaves, bark and even a branch or twig in the windows and doors of your home for extra protection. Early settlers would bury money at the roots of the sassafras tree to bring prosperity. Wouldn't hurt.

Sassafras could not only be used to cleanse a place but at the same bring in prosperity. Prosperity maybe not be financially but prosperity as in bring an abundance of positive energy. Seeking out your totem animal? Use the wood or bark in a sacred fire or again in incense form to help you make that connection. You can also use a sassafras branch as besom until you can attain a traditional besom. If that's what you wish.

The list of magical properties and capabilities of the sassafras is long and makes it one of the jewels of the forest. A gift that I received at this year's Beltane Gathering.