Friday, December 8, 2006

Gypsy Herb Magick

The Gypsies are a nomadic people believed to have originally been “low-caste Hindu exiles” from northern India. Having absorbed the religious and folk customs of the many lands through which their caravans sojourned, the Gypsies came to incorporate elements of both Paganism and Christianity into their practices.

“Gypsies have been renowned practitioners of magical arts, and they have undoubtedly had a profound influence on the development of folk magic,” states author Rosemary Ellen Guiley in The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. There can be no denying that the tradition of these mysterious travelers of the world is abundant with superstitions and bewitchments.

other’s Gypsy Fertility Charm Being brought up in a Queens, New York, neighborhood not far from a Romanian Gypsy settlement that existed in Maspeth from the mid-1920s until 1939, my mother was both leery of, and intrigued by, the Gypsies. Like many other children growing up in the early decades of the 20th century, she was frightened by the old stories she heard of Gypsies stealing babies and was warned by her elders that the Gypsies were a people not to be trusted.

This, however, did not prevent her from later marrying a man whose paternal grandfather was a Gypsy from Bohemia. Herbal Cosmetics

Nor did it stop her in the spring of 1959 from seeking the counsel of a chovihani (a Gypsy-Witch) after her two consecutive attempts to have a child resulted in miscarriages.

According to my mother’s account, the Gypsy woman first read her palm and then her tea leaves in a cup that was marked all the way around with astrological symbols. After interpreting the signs, she then presented my mother with a small silk pouch that contained a root (which I strongly suspect was from a mandrake plant) and instructed her to keep it with her, day and night, throughout the entire term of her next pregnancy.

Desperate to have a child and willing to try just about anything at that point, my mother followed the Gypsy’s advice.

Two days after Christmas in 1959 as an afternoon snowstorm raged, I finally came screaming and kicking my way into the world. (This, incidentally, is how one of my magickal names, “Lady Mandragora,” came to be, although my mother always affectionately referred to me as her “little witchling.”)

In 1962 my mother tried a fourth (and final) time to have a child but failed to use the Gypsy’s fertility charm as she had done during her previous pregnancy, which led to my birth. In October of that year, while sitting in the living room with my father and watching a television news broadcast about the Cuban missile crisis, my mother suddenly took ill and lost the baby. Coincidence? You decide.

Not surprisingly, Gypsy folk magick and divination have long been two of my passions. An interest in old Gypsy customs developed early on in my life despite the fact that my father never discussed his Gypsy heritage. For whatever reason he had, whether it was a sense of shame instilled during his childhood or a fear of discrimination from the predominantly Irish community in which we lived, he made it a point not to let others know that his ethnic roots encompassed more than just Irish and Czech. In fact, I was not even aware that my paternal grandmother was a Native American hailing from the Hopi Tribe in Arizona until my bereaved grandfather mentioned it at her funeral. Around the age of 10 I found myself drawn to cartomancy (divination by cards), and by my early teen years, I was already experimenting with some of the spells contained in Charles Godfrey Leland’s Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling.

In Leland’s book, the Gypsies of England are said to be believers in Witches existing among their own people. These Witches are feared for their powers, but are not associated with the devil. Leland calls it “remarkable” that the Gypsies regard their Witches as “exceptionally gifted sorcerers or magicians” rather than “special limbs of Satan.”

Gypsy folk magick draws heavily upon the use of herbs and other natural amulets, particularly seashells, eggs, animal teeth, and human hair. It also seems that a great deal of Gypsy spells are aimed primarily at the attainment of love and the warding off of the evil eye, the power of which many Gypsies both believe in and fear greatly.

Herbal Amulets for Protection

There are a variety of herbs, and other amulets, used by a Gypsy chovihani for protection. Among the most popular is garlic, which is often placed under a woman in childbirth to keep her, as well as her newborn baby, safe from any onlookers who may possess the evil eye. Garlic is also rubbed upon the spines of horses during the waning of the moon to have them “always in good spirits and lively.”

Hungarian Gypsies believe that hanging the twigs from a thistle plant on a stable door will protect horses, as well as other animals, from bewitchment.

The wolf ’s bane is another plant believed to have great protective powers. Centuries ago, many of the Gypsies in Romania were said to have valued it as an amulet to guard against those with the power to shapeshift into wolves.

Gypsy Love Magick

Rye is a popular herb in Gypsy love magick. When baked into bread and then served to a loved one, rye seeds are believed to secure the affections of that person.

The pimento is another plant associated with Gypsy love magick. The continental Gypsies, according to Scott Cunningham, have used it in their amatory spells and sachets for hundreds of years.

When enchanted and secretly put in the food of another, it supposedly causes that individual to develop deep romantic feelings for him or her. A love charm popular among the English Gypsies is mentioned in Charles Godfrey Leland’s book of Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling. It calls for an onion or a tulip bulb to be planted in a clean and previously unused pot, while the name of one’s beloved is recited. Every day at both sunrise and sunset, the following incantation should be said over the pot:

“As this root grows
And as this blossom blows,
May his [or her] heart be
Turned unto me!”

As each day passes, “the one whom you love will be more and more inclined to you, till you get your heart’s desire.” There is an old belief among Gypsies that willow-knots (willow twigs that have naturally grown into a knot) are twined by fairy-folk, and to undo one invites bad luck. To recover stolen goods, a Gypsy man will often tie a string around a willow-knot and say: “With this string I bind the thief ’s luck!”

But if it is the love of a particular woman that he desires, he will cut the willow-knot and hold it in his mouth while, at the same time, turning his thoughts to the woman and reciting the following spoken charm:

“I eat thy luck,
I drink thy luck,
Give me the luck of thine,
Then thou shall be mine.”

To add even more power to the spell, the willow-knot should then be hidden in the desired woman’s bed without her knowledge of it.

If a man wishes to make a certain woman fall in love with him, an old Gypsy love spell instructs that he should secretly obtain one of her shoes, fill it with rue leaves, and then hang it over the bed in which he sleeps.

Magickal powers are attributed to the roots of trees, particularly the ash and the alraun, and it is said that many Gypsy-Witches cunning in the art of love enchantment know how to use them in the preparation of love philters (potions).

An old Gypsy recipe to make an aphrodisiac calls for the fresh roots of an asparagus plant to be boiled in red wine. It is said that if any man or woman drinks the wine for seven consecutive mornings (in place of breakfast), he or she will be overcome by lustful urges.

Many Gypsies also believe that beans are powerful aphrodisiacs when eaten, and function as sexual amulets when carried in one’s pocket or in a putsi, a special silk or chamois pouch or charm bag used by Gypsies in the same manner that a mojo bag is used by a hoodoo “doctor.”

A piece of orrisroot carried in a putsi is another common Gypsy love amulet, as is the mysterious human-shaped root of the European mandrake plant. In addition to arousing sexual passions, the mandrake is believed to ensure an everlasting love between a couple when both partners carry with them a piece of root from the same plant.

Fern seeds are also a staple in the art of Gypsy love magick. Men traditionally give love potions brewed from the seeds of a male fern to the women they desire, while women traditionally give those brewed from the seeds of a female fern to the men whose hearts they wish to win over.

Vervain is also another plant favored by the Gypsies for the drawing of love, as well as for the attraction of good luck.

It is said that vervain must be gathered on the first day of the new moon before sunrise or it will not be magickally effective.

Carry its dried flowers in a putsi or place them beneath your pillow before you sleep and, according to Gypsy legend, the love of another you will invite.

Gypsies are well aware of the intense powers that their love spells hold. Many who wish to keep themselves immune from such amatory bewitchments or counteract the magick of any unwelcome love enchantment used upon them have been known to wear over their heart a small putsi made of white silk and filled with seven leaves from the angelica plant.

Earth-Spirit Spell

It is believed among many Gypsies that if a baby refuses to feed from his mother’s breast, a “female spirit of the earth has secretly sucked it.” To cure this, according to Leland, an onion is placed between the mother’s breasts and the following incantation is repeated:

“Earth-spirit! Earth-spirit!
Be thou ill.
Let thy milk be fire!
Burn in the earth!
Flow, flow, my milk!
Flow, flow, white milk!
Flow, flow, as I desire
To my hungry child!”

Gypsy Witch-Drum Divination

In Hungary, Gypsies are said to be able to divine the death or recovery of any ill person or animal, as well as discover the location of stolen property, by special use of an instrument known as a “witch-drum.” Described by Leland as “a kind of rude tambourine covered with the skin of an animal, and marked with stripes which have a special meaning,” a witchdrum is traditionally made from wood that is cut on Whitsunday.

The way in which this instrument is used for divination is as follows: First, nine to 21 thorn apple seeds are arranged on top of the drum and then the tambourine is tapped by a small hammer that is held in the diviner’s left hand. (Some diviners simply use their left hand, instead of a hammer, to do the tapping.) After this is done, the position that the seeds take on the markings is then interpreted.

Tasseography: Divination on tea leaves

Tasseography (or tasseomancy) is the art and practice of divination by the reading of tea leaves. Known in Scotland as “reading the cups,” it is a popular method of prognostication among many Gypsy fortunetellers and modern Witches alike.

Tasseography is quite ancient in its origin. First practiced in China, it was eventually introduced to Europe and other parts of the world by nomadic Gypsies, who, in exchange for money, food, or favors, could read the fortune and future in the tea leaves of any woman or man who sought their counsel.

During the 19th century, teacup readings were all the rage throughout England and the United States, which, during that period, was experiencing an influx of Gypsy immigrants. To interpret the future through tea leaves, you will need any type of loose tea and a white (or light-colored) teacup with a wide brim and no pattern on the inside. Any ordinary cup can be used; however, many diviners have a special cup that is used only for tea leaf readings.

Traditionally, a spoonful of tea leaves is placed in the cup, and, before the hot water is added, the person whose fortune is to be told stirs the dried tea with a finger or a spoon while concentrating on a specific question that he or she would like answered. Boiling water is then poured into the cup. After it has cooled, the querent drinks all but one spoonful of the tea.

He or she then takes the cup in his or her left hand and thrice swirls the leaves in a clockwise direction before quickly turning the cup upside down onto a white napkin resting on top of the saucer. After counting to seven (or sometimes nine, depending on the diviner’s personal preferences), the cup is returned to its right side up position. The various patterns formed by the wet tea leaves clinging to the bottom and sides of the cup are then interpreted. Some diviners feel that a reading is not complete unless the tea leaves on the napkin are interpreted as well.

Traditionally, a teacup is read clockwise. According to Eva Shaw’s Divining the Future, “the handle represents the day of the teacup reading and the cup is divided into a years time, with the side directly across the handle indicating six months into the future.”

Most readers feel that the closer the tea leaves are to the brim of the cup, the greater their significance. Tea leaves on the bottom of the cup are believed by some to “spell tragedy,” and by others to indicate events of the distant future. In many cases, the clockwise or counterclockwise facing of a tea leaf pattern indicates a particular event about to happen or about to draw to a close, respectively. Examine the tea leaves carefully for any symbols, pictures, letters and/or numbers that are made, for each one possesses a divinatory meaning. For instance, if the leaves take on the shape of a heart, this indicates future happiness. If two hearts are seen, this is said to be a sure sign that wedding bells will be ringing for you (or someone close to you) in the near future.

News of a marriage proposal or a wedding will be forthcoming should the symbol of a church, a wedding ring, or a bride and groom be seen.

A dagger is generally perceived to be a warning of impending danger, while a coffin is said to be an omen of death. A moon represents a change soon to take place in one’s life, and a ring a change for the better. (However, some tea leaf readers interpret a circular symbol to mean failure!) Animal symbols are commonly seen in teacup readings. A snake is said to warn against treachery and betrayal. A bird portends good news or perhaps a journey soon to be embarked upon. A dog represents a faithful friend, and a cat a friend who is false.

Dots or dollar signs represent money soon to be received, and a broom traditionally portends a change of residence. A star is always a fortunate sign, and a horseshoe indicates good luck. A triangle or the symbol of a pyramid is one of the best omens to receive. Whenever one appears in a reading, it generally foretells great success.

According to Welsh Folklore by J. C. Davies, a good sign is portended if the tea leaves are scattered evenly around the sides of the cup, but an extremely bad one if “the bottom of the cup appears very black with leaves.”

The meanings that lie behind the designs and shapes created by the tea leaves can be highly symbolic in their nature, or they can be exactly as they appear. Symbols may hold different meanings for different people; therefore, as with all other methods of divination, the success of a reading rests heavily upon how finely tuned the intuitive powers are of the person conducting the reading.

If you are new to the art and practice of tasseography, do not despair if your first few attempts at reading the tea leaves are unsuccessful. Many readers see only vague shapes in the beginning. But, as the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.”

This applies to all skills, including magickal and metaphysical ones as well.

A list of tea leaf symbols and their meanings can be found in the books Divining the Future by Eva Shaw (Facts on File, 1995) and Tea Leaf Reading Symbols by Harriet Mercedes McCrite (McCrite, 1991).

Tea ea Spells and Superstitions In addition to its role in divination, the tea plant (Camellia spp.) has long been linked to folk magick and superstition. Burned by Chinese sorcerers to attain wealth, the leaves of the tea plant are often added to money-attracting potions and sachets.

Various parts of the tea plant are also used in spells for increasing one’s courage and strength, and some modern Witches have been known to use infusions of tea as a base for mixing drinks designed to provoke lust.

A magickal method to keep evil spirits from invading a house or barn calls for tea leaves to be sprinkled upon the ground in front of the building’s main entrance. This old Pagan custom is said to be still practiced in some parts of the English Midlands.

Numerous superstitions surround the brewing of tea. For instance, the accidental spilling of tea while it is being made is said to indicate good luck for the mother of the house. However, brewing tea in any teapot other than your own invites bad luck, while forgetting to put in the tea indicates that misfortune is on the horizon.

To accidentally make the tea too strong means that you will make a new friend. But to accidentally make it too weak means that you will end up losing one. In England, where the drinking of tea is a national pastime, it is still believed that the arrival of a stranger is portended whenever someone accidentally leaves the lid off his or her teapot.

Take care to always put your sugar into your tea before adding the milk or cream, otherwise you will find yourself quarreling with your husband or wife before the day is done.

However, in some parts of England it was once believed that if a young girl added milk or cream to her tea before putting in the sugar, she would never wed.

It is extremely unlucky for two people to pour out of the same teapot, according to an old superstition, which can be found alive and well in many parts of the world. And never pour tea with another person unless you wish to become a magnet for bad luck.

Bubbles or a circle of foam on the surface of a cup filled with tea is said to be a sign that money will soon be received.

Some folks believe that money is indicated only if the bubbles or foam appear in the center of the cup. If they appear near the sides, this is a sign that you will soon be kissed!

If a piece of tea stem (known as a “stranger”) should float to the top of your cup of tea, this is said to be a sign that a visitor will arrive. If the stem is hard, this indicates that the visitor will be a man. If it is tender, the visitor will be a woman.

To determine which day of the week your visitor will come to call, place the stem on the back of your left hand and then slap it with the palm of your other hand. Each time you do this, recite one of the days of the week (starting with the current day). The day of the week that is recited when the stem either sticks to the palm of your right hand or falls off indicates which day it will be.

A similar divination method, which was popular in Victorian-era England, was carried out to determine the fidelity of one’s lover. A wet tea stalk or long tea leaf would be placed in the palm of the right hand, and then both hands would be clapped together once. If the tea stalk or leaf remained stuck to the palm of the right hand after being clapped, this indicated a faithful lover. However, if it adhered to the other palm, this indicated one who was fickle.

To avoid bad luck, always be sure to stir your tea in a clockwise direction, and never stir the leaves in a teapot prior to pouring. To stir your tea with a fork, a knife, or anything other than a spoon is to invite bad luck. And never stir another person’s tea, for to do so will stir up strife.

In addition to the numerous good and bad luck omens associated with tea, there are many tea-based superstitions concerning human fertility.

For example, if a man and a woman pour a cup of tea from the same teapot, they will end up having a child together. If a young lady permits a man to pour her more than one cup of tea, she will be unable to resist his sexual charms. A woman who pours tea in another woman’s house will soon find herself pregnant (or, according to another superstition, the recipient of very bad luck). Some folks believe that if two women should take hold of the same teapot at once, this will cause one of them to give birth to red-haired twins before the year reaches its end! And if more than one person pours you a cup of tea, this is also believed to result in the birth of twins (though not necessarily red-haired).

Regardless whether your tea leaves are used in the casting of a spell, the divining of the future, or simply the brewing of a cup of hot tea, you should never throw them away after you are finished using them. To do so is said to bring bad luck, according to some superstitious folks. Disposing of your used tea leaves by casting them into a fire not only prevents bad luck, but keeps poverty away.

Spell For Using Mugwort Tea by Lee Prosser

Mugwort is used to conjure visions, pursue dream quests, open the partaker up to the inner planes for astral travel, and to see into the future.

Prepare mugwort for tea, and then address the goddesses Bast and Durga in the following manner as the tea brews:

Bless this tea in the names
of Bast and Durga
that the goddesses grant
it vision and strength
for my mind.

Prior to drinking the tea, address the goddesses Bast and Durga in the following manner:

Beloved Bast, Beloved Durga,
Beloved Durga, Beloved Bast,
Bless my mugwort tea
with that which I need to
restore myself

so that I may once again be made whole.

Thank you Bast, thank you Durga,
So mote it be,
So will it be,
So it is done.