Tag Archives: folkways

Harvest Dollies for Modern Pagans

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Historically, grain dollies were made from the last sheaf harvested, and either left in the field or placed wherever grains were stored. It was often tied or plaited to be roughly human shaped, but in some places shaped like an animal. It was representative of the Spirit of the Harvest, or the Corn Mother. In Ireland, the grain harvest is associated with Lughnasadh. But the god Lugh is not a grain god or earth god. He’s not John Barleycorn (who is English, and more about the production of beer). Lugh isn’t a sun god either, but I’ll get to that later.

The grain dolly from the previous harvest would be ploughed into the first furrow of the new season in the spring, or else otherwise destroyed in some way to release the spirit of the previous year’s grain. Another tradition, the one that most Pagans follow (and I don’t know the origin), states that it is to be kept to insure a bountiful crop through the next harvest season and burned around the time that a new one is made from the last sheaf.

Since Neopagans have three harvest holidays (Lughnasadh, Autumn Equinox, and Samhain) in the widely observed “wheel of the year”, there is some debate over which holiday to burn a grain dolly. I would think the answer would be to make it close to one’s local grain harvest date. Arkansas grows soft red winter wheat as a commercial crop. Harvest begins in May and ends as late as the first week of July. So, for our locality, if you want to burn your grain dolly at the end of harvest, it makes sense to do so at Lughnasadh, rather than at any of the later harvest holidays. That, and because it’s the harvest holiday that has a strong grain theme.

Note that I’m calling them grain dollies instead of the more traditional “corn dolly”. This is because Americans have confused traditional use of the word corn to exclusively mean maize. To the Europeans, corn meant grain. Corn dollies were not corn husk dolls. They didn’t have maize back then. Corn dollies were made of whatever grain various European cultures predominantly ate, like wheat or oats.

But we do live in the modern western world, and many would say that we need to adapt traditions to where we are and the way we live now. Americans in general do eat a lot of corn, both as a vegetable and as a grain, and as a sweetener (although Arkansas doesn’t grow much maize commercially). Corn husk dolls are easier to make than wheat dolls, which is probably a big part of why most American Pagans make corn husk dolls instead of the more traditional grain dollies for harvest holidays. The materials are also easier to find. Not many people grow wheat in their backyard garden but plenty grow corn, or could get corn in the husk at any farmer’s market or grocery store. Maize harvest starts mid August in Arkansas and can last late into September or even October, so it would make sense to burn your cornhusk harvest dolls at the Autumnal Equinox or Samhain if you are so inclined.

Unless you are a farmer or a gardener who grows grains, your harvest doll is purely symbolic anyway, not made from the last sheaf of anything, but symbolic of the harvest for you personally. So make it of whatever materials represent the harvest for you (you’ll notice that one of the dollies in the picture below is make of both cornhusks and wheat), and burn or bury it at whichever of the harvest (or spring) High Days that you feel drawn to do so.

Harvest Dollies | Ozark Pagan Mamma

home and hörgr

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Earlier this year I posted an article about moving and settling into the new place. Lately, I’ve been feeling a renewed sense of contentedness and belonging, of gratefulness.

Last year, we spent several months house hunting. Each time we found a house in our price range that we liked, it either had too many repairs, or it was bought up before we could make a bid. We began to get very discouraged. At one point, I planned out a home-finding spell to do at the next full moon: I was to make house-shaped cinnamon ginger cookies and mark them with the rune othala, making them with intention and sharing them with my family. If any of you readers are house hunting, you can use that spell and let me know how it works, because I didn’t quite make it to the full moon…

One day, I was inspired out of the blue to just pray to Odin and Frigga that they would lead us to our true home- not a fancy shiny new home, but our true home, one that suits us, a place where we belong. A few days later, I got onto one of the real estate websites that I frequented, and saw a new listing, one in our price range and with the main things I wanted (a fireplace, wood floors, and a porch)- and it was in our son’s school district. Looking at the pictures, my heart leapt. This may sound a little crazy, but I marked an othala rune over the computer screen with a saliva dampened finger and said some spontaneous spoken charm that I no longer remember. We went to see it that day, it’s first day on the market. It didn’t even have a real estate sign in the yard yet. We made an offer and had the house inspected. As the house is over 50 years old, it had some issues. We negotiated an allowance for certain things to be fixed. We moved in at the turn of the year.

It felt like home right away and I wasted no time in unpacking and getting everything set up. As time goes on, I’ve developed a rhythm to my days and a feel for the rooms. I love the way the wood floors feel under my feet, and the way some of the boards creak. I love the old stone fireplace. It has a (non-functional) gas starter, installed when such things were popular; the inspector thought it was a gas fireplace, so I was very disappointed until I learned that it actually burns real wood and is no longer linked to a gas line. I’ve placed Three Hallows symbols on the fireplace mantle and set up altar items on shelves next to it. The house is old and patched up strangely in places. It has the original roomy hardwood kitchen cabinets with old fashioned handles, and extra large utility room that doubles as my craft room. It is quirky and imperfect like us. It is our true home and I thank the gods for it.

stalli

Now, as the weather is turning warmer, we are becoming more familiar with the yard and starting a garden, an herb patch, and a flower bed. One day after gardening, I had noticed a lot of large stones laying in various places. Before we moved in, I had decided that when the weather was warmer, I was going to find a large stone to use as a small hörgr to place offerings. But I was finding many large stones, so I figured I could make a proper sized hörgr. I built it on a hilly place in the yard close to the garden and close to a line of tall pine trees. I found the large square stone last. A hörgr doesn’t usually require a flat top (as libations are usually just poured over the top to trickle down over all the rocks), but I was delighted to find it, as now I can use it as an altar surface. Through touching each stone and balancing them with each other, I feel that I have come closer to the land. In shaping this hörgr, I have crafted a deeper level of belonging.

hörgr

offerings

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In ADF Druidry, giving offering is a big component of our rituals. In this very tangible way we establish and maintain a give and take relationship with the Three Kindreds (collectively; the deities, ancestors and nature spirits). It is spiritual hospitality. It is ghosti, the Proto-Indo-European word from which we get the English words guest and host.

offerings of oats, cornmeal, and seeds

In our protogrove, we like to include a time for “group offerings” in every ritual. This is a time for folks (anyone who wants to, that is), to come up the the altar, one at a time, and place their own offerings into the offering bowl (or fire, if we’re outside). They can say something if they like, but that’s optional. They can use the basic offerings we provide (which is usually oats, cornmeal, and birdseed), or bring their own biodegradable/burnable offering.

When creating a personalized offering, there are so many options. There are several things you will want to keep in mind, however. First of all, your offering needs to be of natural materials that will degrade and not pollute the environment. How will you deliver (disperse) your offering? Fresh green offerings such as herbs and flowers will degrade quickly, but other food offerings may need to be finely crumbled. If an offering can’t be crumbled into tiny pieces, it will need to be either buried or burned. If your ritual is taking place on your own land, it may not be so important to you that the offering return quickly to the natural elements. However, it has been my experience that burning is preferable as a quick and satisfying mode of delivery in a ritual setting. The following are a few ideas are for burnable offerings…

offering cakes
An offering cake can be made of any kind of of bread or biscuit dough, or even salt dough. (Although salt dough is not edible, the salt in it is an excellent offering, and salt dough can be a bit easier to shape into creative forms than other doughs, making it an offering of art rather than food.)

spiced salt dough offering cakes
To personalize an offering cake, mix items into the batter before baking (or in the case of salt dough, drying), such as herbs, flavorings or spices associated with the holiday you are celebrating or spirit/deity you are honoring. A biscuit shaped circle is a classic shape for an offering cake, but you can make them in any shape. Try using cookie cutters, molds, stamps, or shaping with your hands. You can shape the cakes into a symbol associated with the deity/spirit/occasion you are honoring. The tops can be decorated with diluted food coloring or garnished with herbs or flowers.

offering bundles
One way to make several small offerings at once is to use an offering bundle. Place items inside a scrap of natural fabric (a seven inch square seems to work well). Gather up the edges, and tie off the end with a string or cord. You could also use a large pliable leaf or piece of brown paper and fold your bundle. Some ideas for items to place in the bundle are: a written prayer or devotional poem, herbs, flowers, dried fruit/nuts, grains, and loose incense.

offering bundle

Another option for an offering bundle is to skip the container and just tie items on a stick (this will however limit what can be used to what will stay tied on) . You may even want to carve runes or symbols onto the stick itself, and anoint the entire bundle with an appropriate tincture or oil.

offering stick

moving house

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My little family has started out the new year with a big change. We’ve bought a house! It’s not a new house, it’s over fifty years old, has had a bit of updates done already, and will need more over time. We are excited about the change, for we’ve been living in apartments for far too long.

I got all the items on my house wish list: wood floors, fireplace, and a porch. However, I also got a lot of fix-up projects, but I’m excited about those as well. We were a bit disorganized with the move; we started moving stuff before completely packed, and not having gone through and organized/ thrown stuff out enough ahead of time. However, before moving anything, I did make a trip out to the house to clear and claim the space. This is what I did:

Before even going in, I stood at the front of the yard and lit a candle in a glass holder. I announced to the spirits of the land that this property is under new ownership, that I am the matron of the family, and that we seek to live in harmony with the landvettir of this place. I also announced that all baneful spirits must go in peace for we are under the protection of the gods. Then I walked sun-wise around the property with the candle singing the Anglo-Saxon Hallowing Charm.

At last it came time to go inside. I made sure that bread and salt were the first items to be carried across the threshold. I then repeated a similar announcement to the one I did outside, this time for the house spirits. I did the Hallowing Charm again, walking from room to room all around the house, this time with the candle and a bell. I went another round, censing with juniper and sage. At last I did a third round asperging with water. Thus completed the ritual cleansing and claiming. Further blessing is yet to come, and I hope to do it with friends.

Though our move was chaotic, we are all unpacked now and settling in rather quickly. It already feels like home, which tells me we’ve chosen well.

moving house - Ozark Pagan Mamma

flying devil oil

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Now that we are well into the dark half of the year, my thoughts turn to workings of decrease and defensive magic. One of the best items to have in your magical supply cabinet is flying devil oil. This fast acting oil is reputed to be the best for all kinds of defensive magic. Use it for banishing evil or negativity, or to reverse a malevolent spell or curse. But do not wear it one your skin, it may burn!

Making flying devil oil is simple. Do so with reverence and intent. Select a small bottle (you may want to sanitize it with boiling water to keep the oil from going rancid) and add red pepper flakes, ground red pepper, then olive oil. Give it a good shake.

Use flying devil oil to anoint your entryways and windows for house protection rituals. You can use it on ritual tools, sachets, poppets, petition papers, and talismans (that aren’t worn against the skin). You can use it to anoint uncrossing candles. You can even use it in and of itself as a spell bottle… When you feel negative vibes, or have negative thoughts, just go get your flying devil oil off the shelf and give it a good shake. Watch the pepper flakes fly around in the oil and visualize them burning through negativity. You can add a spoken spell like “Harm and hurt has no hold on me.”

flying devil oil

no-sew poppet

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The use of poppets in folk magic goes back to ancient times. Though the material of choice back then was wax, practitioners have adapted through the ages to make poppets out of anything handy; plant material, yarn, and often cloth.

This method of image magic can be used for any number of goals that you can think of, but the poppet is generally used to represent a person; what is done to the poppet is done to the person in sympathetic magic. The inside of the poppet should contain a taglock of the subject of the spell, and can include other items that are involved in the goal (healing herbs, for example), and other stuffing as needed like cotton, wool, or plant materials.

Even if you can’t sew, there is a simple way to make a poppet. You’ll need a handkerchief, bandana, or just a square of fabric, the taglock and other stuffing mentioned above, and a length of string. ( If you don’t have string, rubber bands will work, but the advantage of string is that you can add knot magic to your working.) First, find the center of your cloth. Roll the outer edges toward the center. Now open up a little space in the middle and stuff. Fold over, spread out the poppet’s arms, and tie off the head. (Draw on a face and other details if you like.) Take the end strings and criss-cross in the front and tie in the back, under the arms. While doing so, you can say, “Criss-cross, cloth and moss. This I claim, _____ is your name.” or other words of your choosing, followed by the specifics of your spell.

no-sew poppet

nourishing the soul: the magic of replenishment

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Most of us magical folk know what to do if we’ve been feeling spiritually out of sorts or have had negative energies around our home; we do cleansing and purification rituals. Such rituals get rid of negativity, but often something more is needed. A second step after the purification process should be to replenish one’s spiritual energy. The unhappy occurrences that are sometimes a part of daily life (the occasional upset, argument, or near miss in traffic) can have an accumulative effect on one’s soul, and while it’s not as serious as the trauma of soul loss, it is something we need to remedy. It’s not technically  healing magic, though any work of that nature needs to be taken care of first, and purifications as well. Replenishing magic is the work of recovering, building up, and strengthening one’s spirit. Many of the things that I will describe below are things that nourish the body as well as the soul, for as we live, both the body and the soul are one.

  • Using your usual ritual format, perform a ritual to your patron deities and guardian spirits, giving special offerings and libations, and asking them for guidance and strengthening of spirit.
  • Revitalize your ongoing spiritual practice, if you feel it is lacking. Do daily devotionals of your own devising, with grounding and centering as a vital part of it. Include affirmations and chants in your practice, if you find them helpful.
  • Take a soothing balancing mineral bath with Epsom salts and milk.
  • Weather permitting, spend some time amongst trees. The effects of forest bathing are real and profound. Hug a tree and let it’s energy soak in and make you whole. Get lots of fresh air and open up windows to air out your house, if possible.
  • Drink some revitalizing peppermint tea or mint water.
  • Eat some nourishing foods; whole fruits and vegetables (with runes of power carved in), and soups made with bone broth and magic.
  • Use a spiritually reviving woodsy essential oil like cedar, sandalwood, or rosewood, in a homemade room spray and/or personal fragrance spray (2 parts distilled water, 1 part alcohol, enough essential oil to scent).
  • Wear deep red burgundy colors, and rich maroon. Colors that resemble lifeblood attract growth and vigor. Get a shawl or scarf to use for this purpose, and throws for your furniture. It’s even better if you can weave, crochet, or knit it yourself, as you can utilize knot magic in it’s making.
  • Carry strengthening stones or resins (tiger’s eye, quartz, amber, or jasper) as charms in your pocket, a sachet, or as jewelry.
  • During this period of rejuvenation, seek out some wholesome “feel good” entertainment; books, music, or movies/video clips that uplift you.

nourishing the soul: the magic of replenishment