The meandering thoughts of a modern-day hearth witch.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Blue Moon

Tonight's full moon is in fact a Blue Moon - one of those special occurrences when we have two full moons in one month. 

The term 'Blue Moon' has been around for centuries - cropping up in almanacs, folklore and stories for around 400 years. The relative rarity of the event gave rise to the phrase, 'Once in a blue moon' which we still use today when something happens rarely. Because of this unusualness, a Blue Moon was considered to be very special and amongst pagan communities, a deeply magickal event. One view is that the Blue Moon marks a time of heightened or clearer communication between ourselves and the Goddess - particularly the 'Crone' form of the Goddess who embodies the great wisdom which comes with age and the passage of time. 

As I have spoken about before here, I tend to feel heightened emotion around the time of any full moon. My sensitivity peaks and at times I feel like something beyond me is making feel inexplicably sad or anxious. Every time, I am unaware as to why or how I am behaving differently and it is usually afterwards that I realise it is the full moon and I should have gotten used to it by now! 

Do any of you experience this - the sensation that, like the moon, you are full to the brim and about to bubble over? I'd be interested to hear your stories.

Brightest full moon blessings. 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Witchy Wonderings // Altars

As a hearthwitch - a lone practitioner who follows her instincts along the path, rather than any guidance from a book or instructor - I don't usually have a formal altar set up. I do, however, nearly always have a little corner of my home with a few everyday items, that will be my place for quiet reflection and small rituals. 

In summer, any 'altar' I have will usually be a small table or perhaps the 'hearth' itself, upon which sit a few small items to represent each of the elements something which reflects the season for which I am giving thanks. At times, dependent on the rituals I am conducting or the things most prevalent in my mind, I may also have other things, such as photographs of loved ones or small pieces of paper upon which I have written lists of intentions and hopes. 

For those of you who are taking your first steps along the pagan or wiccan path, I would urge you to do as feels right for you. Choose items for your altar which reflect your feelings or which you have an instinctive connection with. An altar should - and does - represent who you are and your state of mind, as well as being a practical place in which you will want to feel calm, focused and at ease. Often I feel like my mind is 'cluttered' and I will look at my altar space and think 'No wonder!', for it hasn't been dusted or there are too many objects which have been left there and no longer reflect the goals I wish to achieve or the things I wish to reflect upon and give thanks for. 

So, trust your instincts and don't feel like you have to follow anyone else's guidance. Remember, it is your personal space. 

With that said, I am happy to share with you some of the items which often find their way onto my altar.

To represent the seasons: 
For early Spring or Imbolc - a small vase of snowdrops, white candles.
For late Spring or Ostara - painted eggs, daffodils, yellow candles.
For early Summer or Beltane - a candle decorated with white and red ribbons to represent the 'May pole' and the coming together of the male and female, bright summer flowers, white and red candles.
For Midsummer or Litha - bright summer flowers, green candles.
For late Summer or Lammas - wheat stems, bread, blue candles. 
For early autumn or Mabon - apples or apple seeds, black or brown candles. 
For late autumn or Samhain - pumpkins, autumn leaves, pinecones, orange candles. 
For Midwinter or Yule - holly berries, evergreens, dark green candles. 

To represent the elements:

Earth - salt, stones, living plants in soil, the colours brown or green. 
Air - feathers, fans, a woodwind musical instrument, incense, the colours white or yellow.
Fire - candles, crystals, the colours red or orange. 
Water - small bowls of water, sea shells, the colour blue. 

I'd love to hear about your altars - what they mean to you and how you like to set them up. Please share a link to your own post about your altar in the comments to this post. 

Brightest blessings. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Herbcraft // Harvesting and Drying herbs

This time of year, in the late summer, between the wheat harvest of Lammas and the apple harvest of Mabon, is perfect for harvesting herbs. 

Try to pick your herbs after a few dry days - easier said than done in England at the moment, with the weather being so temperamental - because this will help with drying out and preventing mould growth. You can be ruthless with most herbs at this point. Cut lots because in drying, your herbs will shrink down to almost nothing and that enormous bunch you thought you had will no doubt be little more than a small jar-full.

This week we picked huge bunches of oregano, marjoram, rosemary and sage for drying. Once we got it home, we separated the sprigs out and spread them over a wire rack which we put into our fan-assisted oven. The oven is not turned on to any temperature - you want to avoid burning your precious herbs - but the fan is working so dry air is being circulated around the oven to dry them out. Big thanks to Bette over at 'Friends of Hoar Oak Cottage' for this tip. I had previously heated my oven and then turned it off, before placing the herbs inside to crisp up, with the oven door cracked slightly open. You can try it this way if you don't have a fan-assisted oven, but take extra care that the oven is not on and cooking your herbs!

After several hours (this will depend on the size of the sprigs, how dry they already were and type of herb, so keep checking them regularly) the herbs will have dried out. My rosemary didn't take quite as long as the sage, but both take much longer than naturally dry herbs such as thyme. Once they are dry, pass them through a colander or sieve, to make the grain nice and fine and store them in clean, sterile air-tight jars or containers. They should keep for several months. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Hearth and Home // Changes

Hello dear faithful readers...assuming that is, that I have any readers left!

My absence from Hearthwitch Cottage can, in part, be explained by the fact that B and I have recently moved house and there has been much change and upheaval in recent months. 

Once we had made the decision to move, to a flat in Bath, to be nearer friends and a bit more bustle - as well as practical things like a train station - an acquaintance of mine said: 'But how will you carry on writing your blog, in the city?' I think he was meaning that so much of what I write about is inspired by a life outdoors, in the countryside and at our allotment. 

I have been pondering this a lot over the past few weeks. One thing I will need to get my head round is the idea of being a practising pagan in the city again. I have done this before and, although it is not as easy as when you have lots of outdoor space at your fingertips, it is by no means impossible. Hearthwitch Cottage is a metaphorical place - a symbol of my lifestyle and the things I hold dear. My hearth and home are in the heart, not made of bricks and mortar. So, what will I still be able to write about here?

We are, for the time being, continuing to rent our allotment. We will see out the season and, if it is too much to continue travelling to, will hopefully get involved in a similar scheme here. Plus, we have large window boxes, so I will have a new challenge: gardening in a space-efficient way.

Luckily for us, although Bath is a city, it is a small a green one. The river is two minutes walk from where we are now living and there are woods, fields and the canal nearby. Plenty of opportunity for hedgerow ramblings. 

I will still be cooking up some kitchen magick - making our meals from scratch and trying to do so frugally and seasonally. I hope to still gather and dry my own herbs and I will certainly be using them as I have always done and continuing to write about these practises. 

The wheel still turns. 

So, I'm not really sure why 'Hearthwitch Cottage' can't continue to be the space it has always been: somewhere to pull up a chair, sip a cup of warm tea and read stories of a pagan life in a modern world. 

I hope you continue to join me here - I will endeavour to get back into a routine of writing as soon as I can, with my regular features. But what would you like to see here, dear readers, as we begin this new chapter? Are there any topics you would like me to write about, or any questions you have been wanting to ask? Now is the time to share your thoughts. Write a comment to this post and I will do my best to respond in the coming weeks.

Brightest blessings to you all - I have missed you.


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