Witch Cords: By Knot and Feather or Whatever

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Witch’s ladder found in England in 1878

Other than candle magick, Witch cords are my favorite type of sympathetic magick to use. Cord magick also known as knot magick, or a Witch’s ladder is a very old form of folk magick. Traditionally the ladder is made from knotted cord or hair, natural items and charms are knotted or braided with a specific magickal intention in mind. The number of knots and types of woven items can vary as well as the color and number of cords.

The first recorded evidence of a witch ladder was found in an old house in Somerset, England in 1878. A “rope” with feathers and other items woven into it was found in the attic space. However, this is not the only account of such cords used for magickal intentions. The Gospel of The Witches Author, Charles Godfrey Leland discovered that the Witches in Italy used a similar form of the Witch’s ladder, called a “Witches garland”; Which was made of a cord, and contained black hen feathers. It was said that a spell was uttered as each knot was tied and that the cord was placed under the victim’s bed, to cause the ill fortune. Another was mentioned in an article found In Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould’s “Curgenven”; published in 1893. In his account the ladder was made of wool, and white and brown thread, and at every two inches was tied cock’s feathers. It’s maker then would weave into it; ill intentions intended for the victim. The ladder was then thrown to the bottom of a pond.

This type of folk-magick can also be found in its simplest form, also known as “knot magick”. Knot magick was traditionally been used by sailors to bind winds and then untying the knot to stir up a wind. The “Old-wives tale” of using a square knot on a bandage would make a wound heal faster.

marksamcord.jpgDespite it being overlooked by modern Witches, cord magick is very effective and can be done anywhere, at any time, and with any items you have on hand. I often recommend it for those who live and work in non-accepting places. They can be simple or lavish in design, all depends on the Witch. One of the more attractive cords I carry on my online store, The Hierophant, was created by “The Staten Island Witch” Mark Eadicicco for Samhain. Whereas my cords tend to be more traditional in style. Whether of “knot” you choose to cast a more traditional one or a modern one, it’s all about the intention weaved within.

Typically, the more modern “traditional” knot spells use nine knots. While constructing the cord; concentrate and focus your energy on your intent and repeated for each knot that you tie. Thus, your magick will continue to work as long as the knots are tied. Once your goal has manifested or is no longer needed, depending on the intent you should untie, cut and/or dispose of the cord. Tied with in the knots can vary depending on your intent, as would the color of the cords.

To make a basic modern Witch’s ladder, you will need yarn, ribbon, or cord in a color that matches your intent. Some Witches like to use three different colors, one or two for intent (i. e.: money and success), one to represent the knotter (or two in cases of love), and a third to bind (usually red) and nine items that are similar in correspondence (beads, shells, bones, buttons, feathers, stones or whatever you have on hand).

Cut the yarn in a workable length. Tie the ends of the three pieces of yarn together into your first knot. Begin braiding the yarn together, tying and knotting the feathers or beads into the yarn, while adding your energy and envisioning your intent. If you wish, you can say this variation of the traditionally used chant as the items are tied into the knots (not sure where the traditional one evolved from, but this is the one I have used in the past):

By knot of one, this has spell’s begun.
By knot of two, the magick comes true.
By knot of three, so it shall be.
By knot of four, my power is stored.
By knot of five, my will shall it drive.
By knot of six, this spell I fix.
By knot of seven, the future I leaven.
By knot of eight, my will be fate.
By knot of nine, what is done is mine.

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Be sure to stop by E. Massey’s online store, The Hierophant.

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A Day of Thanks and Giving: Understanding the Truth About Thanksgiving and Celebrating it as a Pagan

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Since Samhain I have not had to time to even think about the upcoming holidays. With the opening of the online portion of my store, The Hierophant, setting up my 2019 Salem area tour (yes, I did say Salem, Woohoo!, and finishing up my 2018 classes I have been so consumed. So, I thought I take a moment to talk about what I have come to rename “A day of thanks and giving”. Let’s start with what is commonly taught about Thanksgiving, then what we know as the truth and why I have renamed it and a way we as Witches and Pagans can celebrate it with respect to others who you may be sharing a table with.

Thanksgiving as We Commonly Know It

Thanksgiving is a national American holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. Originally celebrated as a harvest type festival. Since 1789, Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally but did not become a federal holiday until 1863.

What Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World. It was a feast that had lasted for three days and was reported that it was attended by 90 Native Americans (Wampanoag) and 53 Pilgrims. Another reason for this feast was that it was a symbolic gesture of peace and thanks between the settlers and “Indians”, after an English-speaking chief named Squanto, taught the settlers how to survive. At this feast it was said to contain food that had been grown by the Pilgrims by means of “Indian” knowledge. Turkey, goose, duck, corn, squashes were all to have been placed on this recounted table of “gratitude”.

The Thanksgiving Story as We Should Know It

The real story began in 1614 when European explorers returned to Europe with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. In their efforts to capture new slaves from untouched lands, they had left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped capture. When the Pilgrims arrived in the “new world” they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto (who’s real name was Tisquantum) who had survived slavery and knew their language. He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation which was short-lived.

Word had spread in England about the Eden to be found in the “new world” which caused others to arrive by the boat load. They seized land by any means possible, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest. However, the Pequot Nation had not agreed to Squanto’s peace treaty and fought back. Making the lesser known Pequot War one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought.

pequot_warThen In 1637 the body of a white man was discovered dead in a boat. Blaming the Pequot tribe who had gathered possibly for their annual Green Corn ceremonies. In the early morning, while the tribe slept, armed settlers invaded and surrounded their camp . Upon ordering them to come outside, those who did were shot or beaten to death and those who remained inside were burned alive. The victory was celebrated with feast as a thank you to their God for winning over the savages and for the newly acquired land.

While many Indigenous people and historians, still debate over what exactly happened to what directly led to the creation of “Thanksgiving Day.”, the truth is it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, hell it wasn’t even turkey and buttered corn.

National Day of Mourning

The National Day of Mourning is an annual protest organized since 1970 by Indigenous Americans of New England (although, others have joined in) on the fourth Thursday of November, the same day as Thanksgiving. Participants in the National Day of Mourning honor their ancestors and the struggles to survive today. It is also to educate Americans about the history of Thanksgiving. In an interview, Cedric Cromwell, the chairman and president of the tribal council of the Mashpee Wampanoag, said, “…it was a holocaust, and that holocaust must be shared and communicated so that we ensure that mankind doesn’t do that to each other again”. I found it interesting that he still sits down with his family on the day, but for him it’s meaning is about history and truth rather than the myths we have been feed.

A Day of Thanks and Giving

Although, I grew up under Native influence, we still celebrated Thanksgiving (for my grandfather it was always Turkey Day). For us it wasn’t so much about the “American history” it was more of a way for all of our family to get together, and for football. Not that anyone in family really was a die-hard football fan. It was just the American thing to do, I guess. It wasn’t until I reached high school that I learned the horrible history of Thanksgiving. For me this began the drop of calling it Thanksgiving Day, moving on to what my Grandfather called it “Turkey Day”. I’m still not sure to this day if he used this title because of its history or if that’s how he referred to it.  It wasn’t until years later that I used A Day of Thanks and Giving to denote Thanksgiving Day. For me, it means a day to give thanks to the earth and its bounty and to the people in my life by giving the means of food and good cheer. It also has a denotation of respect and honor to many of my ancestors.

father_knows_best_thanksgiving_1954Now that I am hours away from my parents, we do not spend this holiday together. However, I do spend it with my cousin, who was is the daughter of my first teacher. Although, she was raised within a Wiccan household, she is primary Christian based. Which means we say a prayer before we eat. There have been times when this has fallen on me to deliver. With respect to all those present I tend to keep the focus on the Harvest and family aspects of the Holiday. After the prayer we always share a round of things we are thankful for. The following is the prayer that I have used, and of course you can always tweak it to your family and situations.

Day of Thanks and Giving Prayer

We are thankful to Mother Earth for the bounty before us,

We are thankful to our Father who shines above us,

We ask for blessings be bestowed upon our friends and family seated here today

And to those that are not with us but are in spirit

We share this meal in love and respect.

So, it is, so shall be

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Don’t Forget to check out E. Massey’s Online Store The Hierophant

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Children and Samhain

woman wearing halloween costume

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The Halloween season for children and adults alike is a very sensory time of year. With costume parades, haunted hay rides, the thrill of wearing big comfy sweat shirts, the scuffing of feet on the way to school or work, the smell of autumn fires and my favorite the pumpkin spice coffee and treats popping up everywhere: all these things mean autumn and activate our senses in amazing ways. This time of year not only activates our muggle senses but our spiritual ones as well. We all know that this time of the year the veil becomes thinner, and it seems to be thinning earlier and earlier every year. I really believe this is due to ourselves, the Witch and non Witch collectively putting out it into the universe. With the department stores putting out decorations and supplies as early as Labor Day and with more and more emphasis on parties, costumes, and decorations growing each year we are bringing the underworld ever more closer. If you haven’t noticed, this holiday has become enormously popular, and even other related holidays, such as Mexico’s Dios de la Muerte (“The Day of the Dead”) are receiving more notice too. Television networks are showing horror films and Halloween sitcoms all month-long. All this unintentional intent is being put out in to the universe causing us to open the gates earlier for our beloved dead and wandering spirits to cross. If we are as adults experiencing this hyper-activity of spirits and spiritual occurrences, than children are definitely as well.

Since Samhain is the time when our ancestors may find it easiest to visit us, you can have your children ask for dreams about people they know who have passed on. If you think this will frighten your child, by all means don’t do it. But if your child has fond memories of a grandparent or other relative who has died, you can have them ask to be visited in their dreams. Tell them that their relative loves them very much and would like to see them and maybe give them advice. Suggest that they can tell their relative about any accomplishments or big events that have happened recently. As they lie in bed to fall asleep, help them say aloud that they would like to dream about a certain person. Have them focus on their memories of that person as they fall asleep.

If this is something that you or your child is uncomfortable with, there are many ways to celebrate the season. Remember that children often will not fully understand how you view this time of year especially when there is so much going on around them. I have found it best to separate the concepts of Halloween and Samhain. Although they are tied together in history and practice for children Halloween is Halloween; let them dress up and trick-or-treat. However, after they’ve collected all their candy, be sure that they leave a few pieces for the ancestors, as an offering.

Holding a family ritual is another great way for children to understand the spiritual aspects of the holiday. Keep it simple by doing the prep work ahead of time. You might want to create rituals about whatever you and your children might want to lett go of, be that a loved one, warm days, or a beloved summer shirt.

If your family doesn’t have an altar for Samhain, set one up before you begin. Better yet, let the kids help you put things on it. Feel free to raid your Halloween decorations for ghosts, Witches, skulls, and bats. Have fun with it.

One thing I have done in the past for a family Samhain ritual was to create a strand of dried apple slices to decorate an altar. We included a slice for all of our family or friends who have past. This became a great opportunity to talk about offerings.

person holding pumpkin beside woman

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Other seasonal activities that can provide “teachable moments:

Make a besom, or Witch’s broom.

Make resolutions, write them on a small piece of paper and bury them. This is similar to New Year’s resolutions; as for many Samhain is seen as the Witches New Year.

Have a family dinner setting a chair and meal for the dead, a less complex dumb supper.

Pumpkin carving is a traditional good activity to do on Samhain with children, as carved gourds originated with our Celtic ancestors.

Samhain is a great time to spend time with our loved ones who are still alive, too. Visiting your elderly relatives is an especially good way to celebrate, as they can probably tell you all sorts of fun stories about their childhood and what their parents and grandparents were like. If you don’t have any family close by, consider visiting a nursing home, perhaps in costume. Most nursing home residents love seeing children, and would probably get a kick out of seeing their Halloween costumes.

Make a Witches’ cord as an expression of what you hope to manifest in the year ahead.

Introduce different forms of divination. Samhain is seen as the beginning of the Pagan year; divination was usually done to see the future of the coming year. One practice that was always done in my family was to give the gift of tarot. I received my first deck on Samhain 30 years ago.

The point is don’t just create seasonal memories but lay the foundation for spiritual growth as well.  Happy Samhain!!

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Don’t forget to check out The Hierophant – Opening This Samhain.

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