Friday, 20 October 2017

Elizabeth I, and her cure for wind!

A cure for wind prescribed by the Tudor monarch Elizabeth I

Take ginger, cinnamon, galingale ( a plant in the ginger family) of each 
one ounce; aniseeds, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, of each half an ounce; mace 
and nutmegs two dram each; pound together and add one pound of white sugar.
Use this powder after or before meat at any time.
 It comforteth the stomach, helpeth digestion and expels wind greatly.

From the Fairfax Household Book 17th/ 18th century

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

October is the month for making potions...

The month of harvest and falling leaves is the ideal time to make 
sympathetic and magical potions for the treatment of wounds; these 
as tradition dictates are applied to the weapon that makes the wound 
instead of the wound itself.

"Take the moss on the skull of a strangled man two ounces; of the
 mummia of man's blood an ounce and a half; of earthworms
 washed in wine or water an ounce and a half; of the hemetitis two 
ounces; of the fat of a boar and a boar pig, two drams each; oil of 
turpentine two drams. Pound them and keep them in a narrow pot 
and make this cure when the sun is in Libra. Dip into the ointment 
the iron or wood of the weapon, or if the weapon cannot be had a
 sallow stick made wet with blood in opening the wound. And let the
 patient wash his wound in the morning with his own urine and 
bind it with a clean cloth, always wiping away the matter."

Excerpt from the Fairfax Household Book, 17th/18th century.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Blackberries and Holy Rood Day

 Now is the time to pick blackberries before the Devil fouls them. 
In Scotland it is on the Old Style Holy Rood Day that he poisons the 
brambles by 
either spitting  or urinating on them.

'Oh Weans! Oh Weans! the morn's the Fair
Ye may na eat the berries mair
This nicht the Devil gangs ower them a'
To touch them with his pooshioned paw'

In England he does not foul the berries until Old Michaelmas ( 10th Oct)

Holy Rood Day which is known as Mid Autumn in the Highlands of Scotland
 is traditionally the beginning of the mating season for deer.
 It is also traditional at this time for young women to gather St Michaels wild
 carrot; forked roots were especially lucky, tied into bunches they were
 presented to male visitors on Michaelmas Day.
The carrots had to be gathered in a certain way, first by digging a triangular 
hole around the plant, signifying St Michael's shield, using a three pronged
 mattock which signified St Michael's trident.

'Cleft, fruitful, fruitful, fruitful,
Joy of carrots surpassing upon me,
Michael the brave endowing me
Bride the fair be aiding me'

Friday, 22 September 2017

Witch Balls

The term 'scrying' comes from the English word descry which means to make out 
dimly or to reveal. A typical scryer was a wise woman, gifted with second sight, and 
often referred to as a witch. This ability is not limited to using crystal balls, any
 reflective surface will do. The favoured speculum is the magic mirror, preferably 
one with a concave side painted black.
Few witches throughout the ages would have used crystal balls for scrying, being too
 heavy and expensive, instead the more easily available glass fishing floats 
were commonly used, especially in England. 

Perhaps this is why sailors have such a 
strong belief in the power of witches, believing them to have power over men’s 
fate out at sea, referring to them specifically as sea witches. These sea witches were 
believed to haunt the coast lines around the country, cursing the sailors and willing 
the ships to wreck upon the rocks. Some believe that these particular creatures are 
the ghosts of dead witches and it was one of these ghostly sea witches that was, 
according to legend, sent by the Devil to assist Sir Francis Drake in his battle 
against the Spanish Armada This phantom  helped him raise a storm at sea and 
defeat the fleet. In return for this it was said that Drake bartered his soul
 to Old Nick.

Coloured glass balls often referred to as Witch Balls had another use, they were 
hung in windows of dwellings and intended to keep out witches and the evil eye.
These ,made from the 17th century onwards, would hopefully deflect curses 
and ill wishing. The bright colours of the glass was supposed to entice the evil 
spirits into the ball and then trap it forever in the salt or Holy water that had 
been placed inside. And by keeping one of these balls in your home it would 
prevent a witch from entering as traditionally witches supposedly do not have a 
reflection or can not bear to see their own reflection.

This tradition  travelled across the pond to America in the 19th century.
Although in other parts of America especially the Ozarks a witch ball had 
another form and use. It would be made from black hair rolled in beeswax to form a hard 
marble shaped lump. This is not for protection this would be used by somebody, 
presumably a witch ,to harm or curse a victim. It is said in this area that  
one of these witch balls would always be found near the body of somebody
 killed by  this curse.

The hanging of the protective witch balls in our homes continues today, the glass baubles on the Christmas tree originate from this practice. The use of these are supposed to deflect any envious thoughts when seeing the huge stacks of pressies under the tree!

Thursday, 21 September 2017

St Mathews Day

Darker evenings and cooler weather now beginning...

"St Mathew, get candle new
St Mathew
Brings the cold rain and dew
Mathew's Day bright and clear
Brings good wine in next year"

Monday, 18 September 2017

Toad Doctor

The name Toad Doctor summons up the image of an expert in amphibian diseases
 but in earlier years it would have meant something completely different. 

While wise women and pellars would have utilised the so called magical 
properties of the toad it was only the Toad Doctor who  exclusively used 
this amphibian for cures.

Toad cures first made an appearance during Roman times and were given 
cooked in salt and oil as an antidote for snake bite. Toads were also used 
 as a cure for bed wetting; the amphibian would be tied between the legs of 
the child just before going to bed. If they started to urinate it was thought 
that the toad would start to croak and so wake the sleeper.
 It continued to be an important ingredient in folk magic for many centuries,
 and it was during the 17th and 18th century that saw a marked growth in the 
 popularity of this folk medicine.  
A ritual known as the toad bone rite became popular, particularly in East 
Anglia but also in other areas of the country, amongst both cunning folk 
and members of magical organizations such as the Scottish Society of the 
Horseman's Word and East Anglian Society of Horsemen. Although there 
were many variations, the ritual typically involved the killing of a toad or 
frog, having its flesh stripped from the bones by ants, and then throwing
 the bone into a stream at night. It was believed that this would grant the
 practitioner, who was known as a Toad Man, the ability to perform certain 
magical tasks.
Toad Doctors were found mainly in the south west of England and they would
 travel from town to town peddling their cures. The most common ailment that 
they treated  was scrofula, otherwise known as the kings evil. 

This is an infection 
of the lymph nodes, resulting in large swellings on the face and neck. A bag 
containing  toad legs would be placed around the patients neck which they would 
have to wear until the legs decayed by which time it was believed that the cure 
would have been effective.

The most well documented Toad Doctor was John Buckland of Dorset who 
described himself as a surgeon in the 1841 census. With his family he would 
hold an annual Toad Fair at the beginning of May at Stalbridge in Dorset. 
Crowds of people would travel to see him, all carrying their toads. He would 
then rip the legs off of the creatures and place them still twitching in bags, and 
put them around the patients neck. The reported price for this treatment was 
the exorbitant  seven shillings per bag.

Toad powder was prescribed for urinary problems as it was believed to be a 
diuretic, and for any complaints that  caused swellings, inflammations or growths. 
Toad bones and toad skins were also given to prevent plague and small pox.

 Thankfully these traditional remedies are a thing of the past. 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Blackberry Harvest

It's the season to be think about picking blackberries for jam and also I'm 
going to make some blackberry wine this year
I made elderflower champagne in the spring and that was success, even 
though one of the bottles did explode!

The Blackberry bush is an amazing plant and has many uses apart from 
making jam and of course wine.
It's a common native shrub found throughout  Britain.
  Can climb up to 15ft- 5m,  the stems will root where they
 touch the ground.  There are  hundreds of micro species
  in the bramble family.
                     Flowers vary from white to cerise appearing from May to September. 
The fruit is a cluster of segments called dropelets and appear in the autumn months 
and may be seen at the same time as the flowers.

My Jam!
Apart from making jam and wine the plant has a few other uses as well.

Bramble leaves can be used with a healing spell for the treatment of burns: dip 
nine leaves in running water and lay them on the affected area, say to each leaf as you 
apply it ‘Three ladies came from the east, one with fire and two with frost, out with fire 
and in with frost’
Or alternatively bruise a handful of fresh leaves and apply to the burn. This can be used 
for piles, skin ulcers and eczema as well.
A decoction of the leaves can be used for sore throats and if you would like a natural
 mouth wash it can also be used for this.
The juice of the berries mixed with the juice of mulberries binds the stomach in cases 
of diarrhoea, helps sores and ulcers and is good for piles.
The leaves boiled in lye and used to wash the scalp relieves an itchy scalp and makes the
 hair black.

Bramble Leaf Tea
The shoots and young leaves are packed with vitamins and minerals and are ideal  for use in a tea, either fresh or dried can be used. Place three or four leaves in a teapot and pour on boiling water, leave to steep for about 15 minutes. Strain then drink. This can be taken as needed; if using to treat diarrhoea make the tea twice the strength and take one cup every hour.
Good for mouth ulcers and gum disease, also helpful if you have a cold.

Chewing the leaves will help headaches while crushed leaves can be used to treat 
small wounds and sores.