Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter & Yuletide Blessings

photo by Justin Kern

And now the fire's the focus of the room
By winter made so. Like a gay salute
There crackles in the hearth
The holly's fusillade.
May this season be full of love, merriment and comfort! Warm hearts & hearths to you and your loved ones, and many blessings in 2013!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Herb-Leech

I have gathered luss {foxglove}
At the wane of the moon,
And supped its sap
With a yewen spoon.
I set a spell
By the carn of Medb,
And smelt the mould
Of the red queen's grave.
I have dreamed a dearth
In the darkened sun,
And felt the hand
Of the Evil One.
I have fathomed war
In the comet's tail,
And heard the crying
Of Gall and Gael.
I have seen the spume
On the dead priest's lips,
And the "holy fire"
On the spars of ships;
And the shooting stars
On Barthelmy's Night
Blanching the dark
With ghostly light;
And the corpse-candle
Of the seer's dream,
Bigger the girth
Than a weaver's beam;
And the shy hearth-fairies
About the grate,
Blowing the turves
To a whiter heat.
All things on earth
To me are known,
For I have the gift
Of the Murrain Stone!

~The Herb-Leech by Seosamh Mac Cathmhaoil {Joseph Campbell}

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


my little Norfolk Island pine decorated last year
I figured that I would get this up before I start the whirlwind of cleaning, decorating and baking that needs to be done. This post is just to share some Yuletide recipes, ideas, going-ons and reading. Please feel free to share you own in the comment section!
For the last few years Midwinter and Christmas are mostlu secular celebrations for me, but I still do enjoy the season. The one real exception to this is a newly adopted tradition of making a Midwinter feast for Ancestors who are no longer here to sit at the table with us. Last year I was inspired by Ms Graveyard Dirt, who put out a Holy Supper Challenge and she is doing so again this year, which I recommend folks to join in!
This year for the Winter Solstice I will make offerings to a new deity that I am getting to know {a post about that still to come!} and start some heather seeds that I got from a lovely friend in Cornwall, on a recommendation found on the Alchemy Works website. I will also be keeping an eye on the illuminations of both Newgrange and Maeshowe, which can be viewed on webcasts. And perhaps pining a wee bit that I will be missing the celebrations at the Kensington Market Festival of Lights.
I still haven't done any decorating, so one of the things that I have to do is deck my little Norfolk Island pine. Last year I cut out a bunch of woodland critters to put on it, which you can see more about here and perhaps gets some ideas. If you are looking for more Christmas tree ideas, you should go read Carolina Gonzalez's article A Very Magical Christmas Tree, her tree is fantastic!
There is plenty of cooking and baking to be done here yet, too. Here are a few recipes that I have enjoyed:
Should you find some time for reading, here are links to posts and articles that you might find interesting:
Yule & Hogmanay Part 1 and Part 2 from Tairis
And should you have even more spare time, here is a great movie called Mummers, Masks and Mischief about mummering and guising in Ireland.


Monday, December 17, 2012

New Moon Prayer Requests

Every month during my new moon ritual I will make offerings and prayers for blessings for those in my life who request it. After thinking about it for a little while, I have decided to extend this service to the wider public. If you are interested, please contact me with the first name or initials of those the prayer is for.

Please note that this is an absolutely free service and you are not obligated to purchase goods or services from me. I understand that not everyone is in a position to afford the services of a magical practitioner, so this is a small way for me to give back for all the blessings that I have in my own life. 
If you look on the sidebar, you will see a link to the prayer request page on the Unfettered Wood website, which basically just has what I have already stated above. I may add more content to that page later on, including ideas on things one can do in conjunction with the prayers while they are being done and perhaps share photos of each month for people to see of the ritual that has been done on their behalf.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Message to Customers & Clients About the Holiday Season

Dear customers and clients,
If you are placing orders in the Unfettered Wood shop, I strongly recommend that you go for a quicker shipping option than the default one in the listings should you wish to have your package in time for Christmas. Just message me before making your purchase, letting me know what you wish to buy and where the package is going to and I will create a custom listing for you with the adjusted shipping prices.
For my local clients, I will be available for workings, sessions and readings over the holiday season, although it would be great to give me as much notice as possible to ensure availability.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

European Mistletoe {Viscum Album}

{originally posted on the nefaeria blog in 2008, with a wee bit of updating}

photo by Rupert Ganzer
Along with conifers, poinsettias and holly, mistletoe is one of the plants most associated with the Yuletide season, so it is a perfect time to post about it I think.

There are other types of mistletoe, but for this post, I am focusing on the European or Common variety.

Other Names: Herbe de la Croix, All-Heal, Birdlime, Devil's Fuge, Mistletan.
Description: The European mistletoe is native to Britain, as well as to much of Europe. It is a hemiparastic evergreen that lives in mostly deciduous trees, and is compatible with at least 200 different host species.
It forms 'bushes' on the branches of trees, that are anywhere from 1.5 to 6 feet in diameter. The leaves are shaped like a tongue and they have white, round berries whose sticky juices have been noted to resemble semen.
Warnings: As with all herbs, one should make sure to be thoroughly informed before ingesting them, and is best to do so under the guidance of a qualified healer.
"Raw, unprocessed mistletoe is poisonous. Eating raw, unprocessed European mistletoe or American mistletoe can cause vomiting, seizures, a slowing of the heart rate, and even death." 
As well, they point out that in countries such as Germany have mistletoe that is available for therapeutic injection. There are potential side effects such as
"itching or redness in the area of the injection. Less commonly, side effects may include more extensive skin reactions, low-grade fevers, or flu-like symptoms. There have been very rare reports of more serious allergic reactions, such as difficulty breathing.'"
Also, avoid while pregnant, as it is known to cause contractions of the uterus.
Cultivating: Germination for the mistletoe usually begins once a bird's business is dropped on a its new host; the seeds sprout from the pile of bird poop, and then takes root in the bark of the tree.
The mistletoe mainly uses its host as a source of water and mineral nutrients, while its leaves do some photosynthesis. It usually bears fruit around the Winter Solstice.
According to Mrs. M Grieve, one could quite easily cultivate their own mistletoe simply by
"rubbing the berries on the smooth bark of the underside of the branches of trees till they adhere, or inserting them in clefts made for the purpose".
It is hardy to about a zone 5, and grows best in dappled shade. Brother Aloysius suggests that it be gathered in Autumn or Winter and that it should be dried and stored in sealed containers.
Medicinal/Remedial Properties and Lore: Antispasmodic, cardiac, cytostatic, diuretic, emmengogue, haemostat, hypotensive, narcotic, nervine, stimulant, tonic, vasodilator.
Culpeper said that
"misselto doth molify hard knots, tumours, and a cephalic and nervine medicine, useful for convulsive fits, palsy, and vertigo."
Brother Aloysius recommended it for a variety of ailments including watery gall, jaundice, internal sores, convulsions and whopping cough.
Today mistletoe is mainly used for headaches, to lower blood pressure, to relieve anxiety and sleeplessness, and there are studies being done in it's effectiveness in combating cancer.
a holiday postcard, circa 1900
Magical/Spiritual Properties and Lore: It is said that Cesar saw Druids five days after the new moon following the Winter Solstice, climbing into oak trees and cutting mistletoe with golden sickles for ritual use. There are disagreements as to whether it was actually mistletoe or holly that they were cutting down.
According to Paul Beyerl's Master Book of Herbalism mistletoe is good for fertility, protection and visionary workings. For a Yule ritual in his book, people should toss a mistletoe berry into the hearth-fire to represent those personal things that one desires, as the sun comes back.
In some traditions, mistletoe is associated with solar deities because it bears fruit as the sun it at it's lowest point , and also lunar deities because of it's round, white fruit.
Once gathered, many sources say that it should not touch the ground, and it does indeed have many potential uses.
For protection, in Culpeper's Complete Herbal, he says that is can be hung around the neck to remedy witchcraft. Also, sprigs can be hung on doorways to protect houses from lightening and evil spirits; it can be placed by a cradle to avoid faeries {careful that little hands can't reach it!}; hung in a barn to protect a herd of cattle and buried in a field to protect a crop.
For this time of year, string up some mistletoe to get some kisses ;)
Where this custom actually originated from I am not sure, but there are a few that I have seen:
One involves the Norse God Baldr, who is killed by an arrow made of mistletoe, that is shot by Loki. After Baldr dies, Frigg cries and her tears become the white berries. In one version of the story, Baldr comes back to life, and Frigg is so happy that she blesses the mistletoe and says she will bestow a kiss to anyone who stands underneath it.
Under the Mistletoe, 1873
Another folktale says that if warring foes came under a tree with mistletoe on it, they would lay down their arms and kiss each other as a sign of peace.
I use mistletoe for various types of workings, including ones for protection, health/healing, divination, exorcism, fertility, romance, sexuality, and activities in the wild {hunting, camping, wildcrafting}.
Other Uses: It has long been thought that mistletoe is just a pest that not only kills off trees, but degrades entire habitats. But, according to a study done on the relationship between junipers and mistletoe, the mistletoe can actually play a role in protecting biodiversity.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Start of the Dark Half

candlelit Samhain ritual

My apologies for posting this so late, it has been pretty busy around here and have started to wind down a bit. Over the last few years Samhain has become more of a proper season for me instead of just something that happens over the course of a days. It is a season full of many different rituals, workings, observances and festivities. So things doesn't end up being a novel, I will just share some of those thing that I am comfortable sharing.

A few days before Samhain Even {or Hallowe'en} I cleaned like mad and got our Ancestor altar set up, along with a shrine to An Cailleach, and baked up a wee storm. On Samhain Eve I did obligatory pumpkin and turnip carving, and waited to give out candy to the guisiers that never came {a lesson that I obviously didn't learn from last year}. I made a new parshell cross for over one of our doors, put out a bunch of bowls to collect Samhain water, did a saining for our home, a blessing spell for family, my first round of offerings and divination for the coming year.

Ancestor altar with a daily offering of incense, food and drink

Over the course of the season there have been several Ancestor observances such as birthdays and Remembrance Day and I have been bonding with a new deity, which I will go further into in an upcoming post. The better half and I also have our anniversary on Samhain, and this was our 10 year anniversary for our handfasting, so that of course was celebrated too!

This is a busy time of year for assisting clients too and I have also been creating new wares for the shop, now that the garden is truly napping and I am more likely to be indoors.

The season is not over by any means though, and if you are looking for an inspiring way to honour your Ancestors in the upcoming holidays, check out Ms Graveyard Dirt's Holy Supper Challenge! I participated last year and intend to again this year.



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Shrine to An Cailleach

This is a wee shrine that I set up around Samhain for An Cailleach, a deity that I am just starting to get to know better. A corresponding post to come.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Incense Additions, Round Two

I have recently added three more incense to the Unfettered Wood Etsy shop. The newest additions are:

For herbcrafting and healing, and as an offering to Airmid.
For Samhain and necromancy rituals, and as an offering to Ancestors and Donn.
For workings involving woodlands, lust and sexuality, and wild animals, also for Bealtaine rituals and as an offering to Flidais and spirits of the forest.
There are a few more blends that I use in my practice that I may make available for sale sometime in the near future.