Witchcraft 101 – How Much Stuff Do You Really Need?

If you’ve picked up a beginner’s witchcraft book, especially an older book, you’ll often find these long lists of items for you to acquire as you start your magical or pagan practice. But how much of it all do you really need?

First, let’s cover the basics –

  • You can absolutely use stuff you already have for magic, just make sure you’re not mixing the bowl you eat your cereal in with the bowl you worked non-edible herbs in, for safety’s sake.
  • You don’t need the super expensive or specialty stuff right away. Yes, they’re pretty, support artisans, and may be made a certain way that helps increase your practice, but you don’t need them to start. Wait a bit and see if you’re even going to use that item at all. Instead, swap in with a more common items for now – like a $10 hardware store broom rather than the $300 hand-made besom. You can always upgrade later.
  • Used goods store and discount dollar stores can be extremely useful. Cups, glasses, jars, candles, incense, craft supplies, paper, bowls, and more can be purchased cheaply here and that allows you a bit more freedom to play with items that you think you might need but aren’t sure of.

Still, the lists are often useful because they’re a combination of commonly used items and items the authors probably use themselves. It’s a good thing to look at them because you can see how different people use different things to reach similar results.

When you get lists like this (or you’ve written down lists of stuff you’d like), break down those lists of things you want into five categories: necessities, ritual items, spell items, aesthetics, and miscellaneous.

Necessities are things like lighters, a fire proof bowl, a jar, a candle holder… You get it. It’s stuff that, for most people, you’ll just need. If you don’t work with fire, you won’t need that fire-related stuff, but by and large, 95% of us  use the same kind of necessities.

Ritual items are objects used for rituals or worship. This could be an idol statue of your goddess or it could be a veil to use during ritual ceremonies. You may have nothing in this category, depending on your practice, or you may have a lot of stuff. Try and keep this list short when you’re starting out. Sure, you’d love to have a beautiful altar for your deity, but do you really need that expensive hand-carved ritual bowl right now? Probably not.

Spell items are objects used for spell casting. This could be rosemary and bay leaves. It might be a mortar and pestle or herb grinder. It could be materials for a poppet. It could be a box of candles. It depends on your spell casting style.

Aesthetics are just that  – things you have because they are beautiful. Typically these are items that are expensive or something that’s just pretty.  This isn’t to say they don’t have a use! You may have some beautiful objects that are just pretty but are also useful in your practice. I like to think of this as a “if I never had this, would I miss it?”

Miscellaneous is a category for things that don’t fit anywhere else. Your miscellaneous category might not match anyone else’s. Maybe you want a besom for cleansing, but that’s not a spell or ritual task for you. It’s not a necessity – you could do without it – but you want it. It takes some thinking. It may also be things that aren’t “necessary”, but are just plain useful.

My practice consists of a lot of things so my personal list of things is going to be wildly different from other people’s. This is my list below and a little later in this post I’ll give a recommended list.

Necessities – Lighter or matches, stoneware bowl, bells, paper and ink, knife, water, thread and ribbon (all colors), sea salt

Ritual items – Incense, idols, nature offerings, baked offerings, fresh offerings, offering bowl, cleansing supplies, brass, candles, cleaning supplies

Spell items – bones or hair, blood, sharp scissors, jars, candles (all colors), iron or metal, herbs and similar, sewing needles and fabric, honey

Aesthetics – Most besoms, scarf or veil, cauldron, baskets, ritual clothing

Miscellaneous – Most crystals, beeswax, sand, brooms (not besom), wands, stirring spoons, mortar and pestle, divination tools including tarot decks

My items are a bit odd for some. For example, I heavily use bells in my daily magical practices. I use a specific set of scissors for my practice and a few different kind of knives. A regular stoneware cereal bowl often doubles as a candle holder during spells – I rarely use traditional candle holders in spell work because of this.

You’ll see the usual accompaniments of a besom and cauldron are in the aesthetics category. I don’t use them much. My cauldron is actually really handy when I need a fireproof bowl or a bonfire, but I also have a firepit and metal trashcan. I’d never miss it, if I didn’t have it. I use a veil for divination purposes, but I don’t need it. Same thing with most rocks and crystals. They are in my life and I love them, but I don’t use them as others do. Divination tools aren’t spells for me but they aren’t rituals either. They exist in some weird third space for me.

Whereas my ritual category is pretty basic, but I including cleaning supplies in addition to cleansing supplies. I keep a tiny broom, dusting clothes, sacred waters, and dustpan for cleaning the shrine areas exclusively. Usually it’s just for dust and incense ash, but I like the feeling of even ordinary actions like sweeping can be made sacred this way. It’s all about honoring those there, even the mundane cleaning bits. But, that’s just me and it’s part of my private spiritual beliefs.

Of course, I can define my practice’s items easily because I’ve been at it for over quarter a century. And it does fluctuate over some years as I get into certain hobbies or try new ways of using old tools. If you’re new to practicing, it may be difficult to define these categories or know exactly what you’ll use. It’s still a handy technique, especially if your budget is a concern or you’re trying to keep your materialism to a minimum.

And, since this question you probably want to know, this is my recommended list for beginners of most practices:

  • Stoneware bowls or baking dishes
  • Tealight candles and matches or a lighter or LED candles
  • Glass jars or bottles with lids (or cork that fits the jars / bottles)
  • Embroidery thread, twine, or ribbon
  • Quartz crystals

Most of these items can be purchased at a used goods store or discount dollar stores. The rest should, ideally, be acquired from independent small businesses. Check your kitchen cabinets for herbs or spices and neighborhood sidewalks for rouge flowers. Books can often be borrowed from the library, some even accessible online through your your library.

Take your time gathering things. It’s part of the journey to your witchcraft practice.


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Should You Adapt Spells or Use Spells Word-For-Word?

So you found a spell you like, but it’s not perfect. Maybe it uses an ingredient that’s rare or expensive in your neck of the woods. Maybe it asks you to go out and stand in the moonlight and there’s been nothing but snow and rain for weeks. Or, maybe, it’s just not fully clicking for you.

There’s lots of reasons why a person might adapt a spell or ritual. It’s usually for ingredient based reasons, but just as often it could be due to timing or personal practice choices.

But adapting a spell is a fine line. If you adapt something too much, it’s not the same spell. If you swap out an ingredient, you may change the way the spell works. Analyzing spells is something you figure out how to do as you gain experience and knowledge with spell casting. It’s hard to adapt a spell when you might not have the basic knowledge to do that. An experienced witch probably will make changes on the fly, using what’s in their cupboards and their knowledge from research and experience. Others might have to pause to double check something or they might even skip a few ingredients by double up the purpose of an ingredient.

In short, adapting spells can be really easy – but it can be a challenge too. It’s okay if it’s a challenging or daunting task for you! It really is. Because spell casting is a lot like cooking and baking.

If you think of a spell like a recipe, then it may take some of the pressure away from having to “get it right”. Cooking and baking is relatively subjective – things need to turn out a certain way to be properly edible and taste good, but not everything is going to taste great to the same people. Spells are a lot like that. You may learn that you just don’t click with herb based spells or anything that asks you to start a fire is a no-go. And that’s okay! Know your strengths and boundaries. It’s a good idea to push those boundaries and strengths sometimes, but you don’t need to do it all the time.

It’s okay to hold back from adapting a spell or even doing a spell, because you’re not sure of the changes that need to be made. I’m in the camp that says try your adaptations anyway. Take notes on what you changed.

Of course, there’s always some folks out there that say a spell should be used exactly as written. There’s certainly a reason for that. Spells are written with specific intentions in mind and omitting an ingredient or altering a process may change the entire intention of the original spell – even if the person adapting it doesn’t know that. The more complicated the spell – or the more often it deals with spirits – the more likely it is that the process and ingredients are very intentionally chosen. Adaptations and substitutions may cause the spell to fail or not work as intended.

I’ve written spells that have very clear instructions to them because the process, while simple on the surface, was written very intentionally as part of the ritual. The steps aren’t there for the end goal, they are part of the end goal. It’s like a recipe – you need to prep the vegetables properly to really get the flavor you want out of the dish in the end.

I’m still, by far, in the camp of adapting your spells. If a verse in a spell doesn’t seem natural or comfortable, I’ll change it. If I’m doing a complicated ritual, I’ll either take it apart to see exactly how it works or I’ll try it as written and make adaptations for future usages.

It depends on how much experimentation you do with your magic. If you’re looking for a simple grab-and-go spell (and absolutely no judgements here, if that’s your jam), then use what’s written or adapt on the fly. It’s your magic, your practice, and your results. Do what works best for you.


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How to Make Snowman Poppets

Rhode Island, where I live, was hit wit a blizzard a week or so back. It dumped more than a foot of snow on us and everyone had a Saturday off but that was that. Except for having to dig ourselves out that Sunday.

I actually like shoveling snow. It gives me a chance to just put music on and do something mindless with my body. It’s good exercise. It’s a form of meditation. It’s also good alone-time because who the hell is going to bother someone who’s shoveling snow?

The snow from this blizzard is perfect for snowmen. It’s fluffy but packs well. Then, because it’s the natural evolution of thought for me, I thought “snowmen poppets”.

What is a snowman poppet? It’s a snowman that you imbue with magic like you would a poppet.

Ideally, given the nature of snow, you’ll pick a spell to cast with the poppet that will fade away in time. A temporary protection or a healing spell is common. Success and wealth spells are also great choices here, especially for businesses, because snowmen can be seen an observed. Like magical advertising.

To make one, you need to make a snowman. Dress them with clothing from the target of your spell. Burying a bit of the target’s hair, fingernail clippings, or a photo of them in the snow is also a great way to link up to the poppet. Once your poppet is made, stand in front of your poppet and work your spell. Ta-da! All done!

It’s pretty simple, but I think it’s a clever way of doing hiding magic and could be a lot of fun with kids.

What do you think? Is your next snowman destined to be a poppet?

Do You Need A Cauldron?

When new witchlings come around, I almost always get asked this. And it’s a super fair question. Do you need a cauldron? What purpose does a modern cauldron serve? It is just aesthetic or is it actually useful?

I’m not going to dig into the actual history of the cauldron like I normally would. There’s been numerous books written on the subject, easily found via your local internet search engine, online marketplace, bookstore, or library. Plus, the Great Wise Man Google can always lend a helping hand with your research.

I’m going to tackle the actual everyday usage of such an item.

A cauldron is a cooking pot, often with a half moon handle. Sometimes it has a lid and feet on the bottom. It was often set directly on the fire or on a hook suspended over a fire to cook in. Styles vary depending on age, region, and manufacturers. It’s essentially a cooking pot or stock pot, the same kind you use to make soup in.

There’s a similar looking cooking vessel known as a Dutch oven that’s primarily used to bake in these days. It’s used as a casserole dish. Historically, it was used to do everything a cauldron can do. The shape is very similar and you could easily confuse the two in some designs. Other similar cooking pots are potjie (which looks very similar to a cauldron), a testunabe, a chugunok, a sač, and the variety of Korean sots, to name a few. 

I own several traditional cast iron cauldrons. Some very small and fit in my palm. Others larger, about the size of a medium soup pot, I suppose. I’ve been on the look out for one of those really big ones, but they’re hard to come by. The one time I found one, it was quite expensive and I was traveling. The expensive wasn’t as big of deal as the travel was. I wasn’t going to haul a seventy pound cauldron half the size of me through Boston, onto a train for the hour commute home, then into my car for the half an hour drive home. I just didn’t have that in me that day and, honestly, I don’t regret not buying it. 

Anyway, cast iron is great – if you can properly take care of it. Every few months I have to go in and mess with my cauldron’s cast iron coating because many of them are antiques and thus neglected. I have one cauldron I’ve been trying to remove rust on for over ten years. I do, actually, know how to properly care for cast iron. I use cast iron in my everyday cooking and it’s like having a pet. You have to take care of it properly to keep the seasoning in pristine shape, making the cast iron itself easy to use.

But cast iron is great because it retains heat very well, making it lovely for burning things like incense, herbs, and candles. Because of the typically porous nature of a cast iron’s coating, some modern witches use it to grind herbs in. (Unless, of course, your cast iron seasoning is so good it’s smooth) It’s also heavy which means it’s not likely to get knocked over easily. And it looks so witchy and great.

It’s also heavy, hard to clean, and often difficult to store due to the weight and sometimes greasy coating it may have due to being poorly maintained. Smaller cast iron cauldrons are much easier to store and are actually pretty great to keep around. Plus, they are not subtle if that’s something you’re aiming for. Acids, such as fruit and citrus, can also immediately ruin a cast iron’s seasoning, even returning it to the base metal.

Of course, not all cauldrons these days are cast iron. Many are aluminum or metal alloy. That isn’t to say these are necessarily bad, just that they’re different. You’re not working with cast iron, so clean up and heat conductivity may be different. Also, it’s not iron, so magically it is different. Be aware of this when choosing cauldrons.

I like dutch ovens and stock pots for actual witchy related cooking in the house. I usually aim for steel, glass, ceramic, or enamel coating cooking vessels when I’m doing witchy stuff and even then it depends on what I’m doing. I choose a more modern equivalent of a cauldron, even though I have direct access to open flame cooking (fire pit, grill, stovetop) to use my traditional cauldron, because they’re often easier to clean and save time. Plus they usually fit on the stovetop better.

So, if you’re going to use a cauldron for actual cooking, I’d recommend going with a more modern option for ease of use. Don’t make your life harder than it needs to be. You can also use a rice cooker, or slow cooker instead of a dutch oven.

I’d like to throw in here that there are definitely ritual and religious reasons to have a cauldron for some people. I’m definitely not knocking that or saying that you should sub out your religious item for a more modern version. I’m talking about the more secular usages and everyday functionality in this post.

If you are using a cauldron for ritual or religious purposes, then you need to weigh your decisions on whether to actually get a cauldron on a personal level. Is it symbolic? Is it a vessel of a deity? Is it what is being asked for? Is it described specifically in texts? Does it need to be functional? Is there a better or more historical option that the cauldron itself has been substituted for by modern practitioners because it’s something they probably already have? Make sure you break down your usage and figure out if you need a cauldron specifically or if any type of bowl will do.

If you’re using it to burn incense or candles and so on. It’s actually a really good choice. As said, it retains heat well, making it not great if you’re in a rush to put stuff away quickly, but otherwise it’ll keep incense going for a decently long time. That being said, you can same the same thing about a thick ceramic bowl or glass casserole dish. 

But the real question is this: do you NEED a cauldron?

I say no. Unless you’re using it for specific religious reasons, there are plenty of other vessels out there that will do the job just fine. A mortar and pestle or herb grinder can grind herbs better than a cauldron (I bring this up because I see a lot of people grind herbs in their mini cauldrons) . Any number of cooking vessels are more functional in a modern kitchen than a traditional cauldron, especially for actual food and drink prep. If you already use what you got, you might not need to store yet another item, which is good if you’re short on space.

Of course, if you want one, get one! I have a habit of always picking up cauldrons when I see them, but I really don’t think modern magical practitioners NEED one, unless it’s specifically called for in a religious sense. Use what you got and see what happens.

If you’re a newbie starting out, I’d say hold off on the cast iron cauldron unless you find one at the flea market and instead head on over to your local secondhand store and pick up a pretty casserole dish or cooking pot. You can always upgrade later. Unless, of course, you’re using it for specific religious purposes. Then it’s up to you to determine how necessary a cauldron it for your religion.

Favorite Foods + Drinks Before a Ritual

I’m very much a spontaneous kind of spell caster. I rarely plan out full rituals, but when I do, prep is an important step.

One of the steps that’s easy to forget to do is eating before the ritual. Truthfully, if you’re going to be using your own energy for a ritual (rather than channeling fully from elsewhere) you should be eating something both before and after the ritual. So you have a lot of energy to start with and to restore the energy you consumed during the ritual.

So an hour or so before the ritual, these are what I reach for:

  • Fresh fruit, such as strawberries, apples, oranges, bananas, raspberries, blueberries, pomegranates, and grapes
  • Fresh vegetables, such as cucumbers, tomatoes (yes, yes technically a fruit), carrots, broccoli, radishes, and celery.
  • Fresh salad, usually with lots of variation but not as much salad dressing, cheese, meat, or croutons as I might normally like.
  • Seeds and nuts, like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, honeyed peanuts. I try to keep the amount I eat on the smaller side here, as sometimes too many nuts and seeds can feel heavy.
  • A small sandwich or wrap, heavily on the vegetables and flavors. Think afternoon tea sandwich size.
  • Yogurt
  • Smoothies
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Fruit juice, often watered down
  • Sweet alcohol, fruit-based alcohol
  • Wine or harsher spirits. I usually go with this when I need to jump directly into some sort of alternative stage of consciousness or drop inhibitions (ie feeling self-conscious) as quickly as possible.

As you can see, I tend to reach for fresh foods before a ritual, usually light on meat and bread. I’m not particular when it comes to my diet – the only thing I really steer away from is organ meat and diary – but I like to go with a light meal usually paired with tea or sweet alcohol before a ritual.

I find this helps keep the energy up and still allows me to move freely during a ritual – very important with how I tend to cast rituals – and not weigh me down. They also can usually be consumed while I go over my ritual notes or do other prep work before the ritual.

This isn’t to say that you MUST eat one of these foods before a ritual. It really does depend on a person and their personal taste. Let your body guide you to the best choices for you.

It should be noted that, for some rituals, I will intentionally skip this step. I won’t eat before vigils for example where I need to do a lot of spirit work and often do trances during that time. I will often skip food beforehand when I perform oracles or medium work. I personally find that I work better that way, but it’s not something I recommend without knowing exactly how to fast safely.

That being said, I do recommend to try and ensure that you’re taking care of yourself before your rituals as much as afterwards and consider trying different food combinations to see what gives you the best results with your magical and spiritual work.


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How To: Water Divination

Ever try water divination? It’s possibly one of the most accessible forms of divination, but one of the hardest to master.

Water Divination: How to scry with water | thiscrookedcrown.com

It’s a form of scrying. Scrying is a type of divination using some sort of usually reflective medium to derive hidden secrets or future events. Crystal ball reading is the most famous form of scrying, but scrying can be done in water, glass, oil, crystal, shiny metal, mirrors, or other reflective surfaces.

If you’re a good hand at scrying, then water divination is probably in reach. If you’re new to scrying, it’s a very intuitive based divination practice. It’s not for everyone (lots of people find it blurry or frustrating), but if you enjoy it, it can be fun.

There’s a lot of different ways to perform water divination. This one is mine.

Find an ideal vessel.

I prefer to use a flattish bowl or a plate with large edges. A tea cup saucer is usually pretty good for this, but a salad or spaghetti bowl are also good. Any bowl, plate, or cup can be used, but I find having a bowl that have a wide surface for the water is ideal.

I find it’s more important to have the bottom of the vessel to be clean. A bowl with writing on the bottom isn’t really ideal when you first get started. Vessels with scraps or scratches from silverware also aren’t ideal in the very beginning. They can be distracting.

Of course, once you get more adept, you may find that those scratches or writing may help.

You don’t need to have a dedicated vessel. I often use my morning cup of tea or the water in my water bottles. But I also have a dedicated black tea cup saucer and a copper bowl I use for more dedicated readings.

Choose your water source

I often use filtered water, either from a filtering pitcher or some other means. I often use tap water / well water as well, because that’s easiest. It’s totally fine to use tap.

I may also pour out some sort of enchanted water, like moon water. Or I might infuse herbs to make a tisane and use that.

Coffee, tea, juice, oil, blood, soda, and any other liquid you can think of can be used in the exact same manner as water. Or you can drip some of these liquids into a vessel filled with water and see what patterns form. (Oil scrying is often done in this manner.)

This means that yes, you can totally scry in your morning cup of coffee.

I do find there’s some variation on the results depending on the water source. Purified water tends to give me clearer results for most questions, but if I’m doing shadow work or some sort of soul-searching, I use ocean water or blood because that’s best for me. Juices and teas tend to edge the results in certain directions. The same results, but from a slightly different perspective.

Again, none of that is bad. Experimenting may give you different results, but I will tailor what I’m working with depending on the results I want. If I’m doing a reading regarding a business decision, I’ll use a cup of coffee for the divination, but if I want to know if I should date someone, then I might use a tea made with herbs related to love.

Bodies of water

You can also use bodies of water for divination. The water source should be calm or have a little movement in it. A river, lake, ocean, swimming pool, koi pond, or even a fish tank can be used in the above described manner.

You can use an active source of water, even a waterfall, but it’s the churning of the water or the sound that water source makes that will be used for the divination. It’s a somewhat different form of divination.

Divining in your water

Whatever mediums you’re using, the actual divination method is simple enough.

Look into the water, but do it in a way that doesn’t reflect your face or head. I find being able to stare into your own face can be very distracting.

Stare until your eyes become unfocused and your mind starts to drift. Pay attention to what you’re seeing in your mind’s eye and thinking. What thoughts appear? What mental images?

It can be completely random. Maybe a song pops into your head. Or you hear multiple conversation snippets. Or there’s a total Hollywood style vision playing out in the surface of the water.

While doing this, pay attention to what’s happening around you. Are there ripples in the water? Did something fall in it or move in it? Did the wind change direction or did a passerby’s conversation suddenly become clear? Did you cat change position or your dog suddenly start to whine.

All of those things need to be gathered together to form an entire reading. At first, it’s not going to make a lot of sense. With practice and time, you’ll start to see how the water scrying can give you results and information.

I find that have a voice recorder going helps me describe what I’m seeing as I’m seeing it. Later, I’ll transcribe the recorded session onto paper. Paper is also ideal as you can sketch out what you’re seeing or describe it.

And that’s it. It really is that easy. Divination with water may be easy to do, but since it’s a form of scrying, it can be difficult to master. Give it a try and see if you like it.

Moving? Magical “First Ins” – What to Bring Into Your New Home First

Moving? Magical "First Ins" - What you need to bring into you new home first for it's best magical start | thiscrookedcrown.com
Moving? Magical “First Ins” – What you need to bring into you new home first for it’s best magical start | thiscrookedcrown.com

There’s a common tradition that the first things you bring into your new home should be representative of what you want the home to generate and hold, as well as good luck and abundance.

I love this tradition and have used it each time I’ve moved or entered a newly renovated space. I don’t move often, but when I do, I make sure to do this.

However, it’s a bit more tricky than the folklore sounds. The reality is that you might go in and out of your future home half a dozen times before you “move in”. If you’re buying a house there’s open houses, showings, house inspections, house appraisals, and final walkthroughs. Never mind any times where you have the keys but haven’t moved in yet so you can clean or whatever. So the first time through the door might not actually be the first time. 

When to move in varies too. Thursdays on the waxing moon is considered ideal, but a new moon is also good. (However, Thursday is considered to be a more expensive day to move, especially if hiring movers.) Some people say Fridays and Saturdays are terrible days to move because you won’t settle in the home, but others say it’s auspicious. Rainy days are an absolute no-go, but as someone who’s moved in heat waves and snow, all I can say is avoid extreme weather conditions if possible. Finally, you should finish moving before sunset for the best of luck (and also for safety reasons, I imagine.)

For me, I do this moving ritual in stages. Here’s my routine:

Phase One – Cleanse and Clean

Before I move in, I take a few hours to walk through the home and energetically cleanse it. I do it with sounds, energy, incense, magic powders, and enchanted water.

Then I clean the space, even if it’s been cleaned previously. Kitchen, bathroom, floors, doorknobs, light switches, keys get washed.

Now, obviously I have to bring in stuff to do all that with. Plus, I’ll haul in my purse, water, probably some sort of chair, snacks, etc. This phase takes a while and I might not be the only one there.

If I have to do any work on the place in question, this is the time to do it. Painting, changing door locks, new light fixtures or appliances should be done now. 

Tasks I consider at this time are:

Light a fire in any fireplaces to drive out the darkness and warm the home (check the flue first!)

Fennel stuffed into keyholes keeps out malicious witches and other maliciousness beings. You can also hang the fennel over the door.

Paint the ceiling of the porch pale blue to ward off spirits

Air out all closed / contained spaces, such as crawl spaces, basements, closets, cupboards, etc. Even better, make sure light enters each of these spaces.

Open an east facing window to help light, air, sunrise, and energy move. Close it at sunset.

Ring bells to clear the air and shift energy

Scattering rice and coins across the floor comes from specific cultural traditions (Philippines). Sprinkle blessing powder or moon water or some other type of positive energy bringing across the floor and in each corner of the house.

Go out the same door you came in through.

Basic warding spells to keep everything out if you’re going to come back another day before officially moving in.

Phase Two – First Ins

I take the time to be the first one in. This might mean I go to the new place early and bring the stuff in or I might immediately do it right after cleansing and cleaning. What I bring in first varies entirely on what I feel like the space needs. The more permanent the stay, the more stuff I bring.

  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Books
  • Honey
  • Candles
  • Wine or chosen alcohol
  • New broom
  • Handful of coins and money (not debit or credit card)
  • Citrus fruit and/or any fruit (a citrus or fruit plant works too). I like bringing oranges and strawberries, but depending on what you want to introduce to your home, pick accordingly.
  • Basil plant or some other sort of kitchen herby plant associated with luck and money
  • Fresh cut flowers
  • Icons of luck such as clovers, fish, other animals, horseshoes, stars, acorns, turtles, 
  • Crystals and stones
  • Letting a cat walk through the door first should bring good fortune – and the cat may become the target of any ill will.  (Pets should be introduced to a new environment slowly anyway, so when I bring my cat with me while I’m working in the new home and then put her where ever she’s going to be for the furniture moving bit.)

Things to NOT bring with you the first time you’re ritually entering the home.

Bring these in a bit later. You probably have a car load of stuff to carry in anyway, so bring this stuff in the next time or whatever.)

  • Your old broom or stick mop (should be left at old place or tossed out)
  • Ritual brooms (doesn’t count to the throw away rule unless you feel like they do)
  • Your mail
  • Credit cards or anything with debt attached to it. 
  • Vacuums, roombas, swiffer style mops, and similar devices (especially if they haven’t been both ritually and mundanely cleaned.)
  • Mattresses or pillows (especially if they haven’t been ritually cleaned)

In your second load of stuff to bring in, I’d recommend:

  • Toilet paper
  • Cleaning supplies (all purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, scrub brushes, etc)
  • Disinfectant 
  • Paper towels or kitchen towels
  • Dish sponge or cloths
  • Trash bags 
  • Dust pan for the broom (after it’s been cleaned and cleanse)
  • Duster
  • Vacuums, roombas, etc.
  • Hand soap
  • Laundry detergent and dryer sheets
  • Air fresheners of some kind
  • Step ladder
  • Light bulbs
  • Measuring tape
  • First aid kit including disinfectant and bandages
  • Phone charger
  • Pen and paper and permanent marker
  • Tool kit
  • Scissors
  • Shower liner
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight / lantern
  • Bucket
  • Snacks and drinks that don’t require utensils or dishes
  • Your paperwork and any documents or items that you didn’t bring in before (ie, credit cards)
  • Some sort of pain management for the soreness or headache that you almost certainly will have

Your third load is recommended to be these items, especially if you’re spending the night at the new place.

  • Spare clothes
  • Pajamas
  • Clothes for the next day
  • Toiletries
  • Bedding
  • Air mattress or similar (if furniture is not in place)
  • Bath towels
  • Something to do if the internet isn’t in place (board game, movie on laptop or TV, book, etc)
  • Coffee maker, mugs, coffee items
  • Pet food and accessories
  • Cups, plates, and utensils (one set for each person)
  • Folding table and chairs
  • Food for breakfast or a solid plan for getting food in the morning
  • Take out menus for dinner or solid plans for dinner
  • Bottle of wine or appropriate beverage with a bottle opener
  • Pot to cook in

Tasks to do at this time:

  • Open an east facing window and keep it open for the duration of the move, especially if you’re using movers. Close it when everyone but the household residents have left
  • Pick a single room and designate it as the dumping ground for random boxes. Ideally, this should be a room that is out of the way and doesn’t have a lot of large furniture in it or that furniture should go in first.
  • Place large furniture pieces first and worry about the smaller stuff that doesn’t require two people to lift and move later. 
  • Pour a libation or make an offering to the spirits of the land, the house, or your deities are appropriate. It don’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be.

Phase Three – Settling In

First things first, do a light cleansing to clear out any negative emotions that rose during the move.

  • Put away your kitchen and bathroom stuff first, then work on the bedrooms. Don’t try to fully unpack. Instead, get stuff in place that needs to be in place to feel like more comfortable. Then go room by room.
  • Keep a running list on the fridge on tasks that need to be done. A loose doorknob, a window that doesn’t open or close right, a piece of furniture that got damaged in the move, etc. This helps you remember to do those tasks when you get a chance as you unpack.
  • Put a box aside to put random things you’re going to donate. You always find stuff that you don’t really want, need, or like while unpacking and having a box set up just for that kind of thing is extremely helpful.
  • Invoke a guardian spirit or servitor to protect your new home. Start working with the local land spirits and the spirit of the home itself.
  • A housewarming party is a great way of bringing life, laughter, and abundance into the home. That might not be on the docket right now, given the pandemic, but it’s something to consider for the future.

This is something that will be individualized to your needs and specific move. I was still moving around kitchen drawers and unpacking boxes three months after moving into our new house. It happens. Just go with the flow as much as possible while keeping up a positive attitude. It can do wonders.

Magical Gardening Tips for Complete Beginners

Witches and plants go hand in hand. (Generally, of course. I’m not the boss of your craft, but, you know, it’s generally a thing.)

But gardening is expensive. So expensive. You wouldn’t think nature, the thing we live on, in, around, and with would be difficult to acquire, but it is. You can easily drop hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year on gardening – just indoor gardening. Never mind external gardens.

And witchy plants? SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE. Either you need to safely wildcraft them (and some of those plants shouldn’t be removed from their environment if you aren’t 1000% sure you can handle them, because the plants need all the propagation opportunities possible) or you buy those plants. Buying seeds can be a few bucks here and a few bucks there, but there’s always a good chance that your plant won’t grow. Then you’re out a few bucks and all you have is a jar of failed dirt. Buying live plants is a better middle ground, but plants do experience trauma so you still have a risk of them dying.

Aside from the expense of the actual plants, you may need to purchase soil, soil additives (because soil is not the same everywhere and some plants are unhappy without certain soil), pots and planters, plant trays and moving wheeled platforms for larger pots, plant food, and possibly plant lights or a water system. That’s for indoor plants. Outdoors? That’s a whole different expensive level. 

So, here’s some witchy truths and tips for indoor gardens.

True Facts

  • You will fail. Plants will die. You may feel like a murderer. It happens to us all.
  • Google plant care for your plant. It may just save your plant’s life.
  • Ask fellow gardeners and witches for advice. This is something all of us do in regards to plants so many are quite happy to talk about it.
  • It’s better to have one healthy plant than six unhealthy plants.
  • Plants do not always smell good. Some plants smell like ass and others will smell like death, piss, or onions. The prize may outweigh the cost, but not always. 
  • You will have bugs. Even indoors, there will be bugs.
  • Sometimes the organic or better quality stuff isn’t best. Think before you buy stuff for your garden. You organic soil may sprout mushrooms that kill your plants (true story) and you may find that a clear vase of water with a handful of rocks is better for a plant than a specific growing pot. Trial and error helps here, but don’t sink a ton of money on something without trying to more common stuff first.
  • Many, many, many plants are invasive. Mugwort, mullein, chamomile, and mint are common invasive plants used in witchcraft. I recommend googling before purchasing or at least googling before planting in the ground for all plants. Some plants spread like crazy and will destroy your garden if giving the chance. 
  • Annual means that it grows for less than two years and will need to be replaced, most lasting a single season. Perennial means it comes back again and again. Some perennials self-sow so you may get a perennial plant to come back, just not the same plant as before.
  • Keep an eye on how warm your plants can get. Too much heat will kill them, but so will too much cold. It may be best to put a plant on a table near a window than in a cold window sill, even if the window gets better light. 
  • Not all plants are pet-friendly. Google may tell you if a plant is toxic to animals, but a better bet is to just keep them out of a pet’s range.
  • Plants do weird shit. Expect to be surprised.

Where to get your plants

  • Grow from seeds
  • Get a cutting or live plant from a friend
  • Grow them from kitchen scraps
  • Buy a live plant at a store or nursery (online or local)
  • Wildcraft one (so long as the population of said plant is super stable)
  • Check the clearance section of a store or nursery 

I’ll be honest. I normally search the clearance section of stores first for plants to rescue. Normally these are plants that are growing weirdly, need transplanting desperately, or simply look unhealthy. And they may be all of that! But they’re usually really cheap so I tend to rescue them first and foremost.

I can, have, and do grow plants from seeds. I usually keep my plant purchases to a minimum from seeds, merely because I don’t have space to give lots of plants a head-start indoors. (Most of my growing space is a single large window where all the indoor plants live during the cooler months). I normally harvest seeds from foods I’ve consumed (like avocado or lemons), but I also buy seeds from Baker’s Creek (rareseeds.com). They sell heirloom vegetables seeds as well as flower and herb seeds.

My favorite (and cheapest) suggestion is to grow plants from fruits and vegetables you already have purchased. I’ve gotten ginger, scallions (green onions), potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, garlic, and pineapples from kitchen scraps. Root vegetables and plants with bases like celery are easier to re-grow, in my opinion. A quick google search of ‘food you can re-grow from kitchen scraps’ will yield good results. 

Some of my best plants I get from nurseries. Yup, they’re more expensive (but not much more, to be honest, then home improvement stores), but they’re way happier plants. And you can get some beautiful selections you might not get elsewhere. Plus, you’re supporting a local small business, which is always a good thing to do. Two years ago, my household scored black petunias (actually a very dark purple) at a nursery whereas we had never seen them before. My preferred nursery is owned and operated by a single woman and conveniently is a few houses down from my preferred farmer’s market. I just have to remember to grab some bug spray before going and I’m a happy witch.

I rarely get plants in other ways. I sometimes will transplant a wild plant to save it from becoming someone’s lawn clippings (like I did with my bittersweet nightshade) and I’ve gotten plants from other people, but largely, I acquire my plants in the above ways right now.

Planting and grow your plants

Following your plant’s care recommendations, provided by google, is best. Seriously. Each plant will require a learning curve. 

My favorite pots for growing are a large clear glass jar and some cheap clay pots. I do have plastic ones, but I tend to only use them for very, very large plants. Ceramic pots are great too and I use them often. I skip concrete planters – they’re very heavy and I’ve had them crack in the New England cold winters. Who knew? Most of the time though, you’ll find a lot of my water-based plants growing in recycled olive or jam jars. I love the eclectic look of the different pots and jars, but if you like things more streamline and uniform, pick something that’s netural and available widely in a variety of sizes.

You can also use a double pot system. Plant your plant in something that might not be pretty, but you can place inside something that is pretty. I do this with plants that haven’t outgrown the pots they come in. Grow pots are cheap plastic and aren’t great, but sometimes moving a plant isn’t the best idea. I often just leave plants alone until they need some attention. I’ve done best at keeping things alive when I work in this manner.

I use decent but not stellar soil for my indoor plants (and I skip the organic stuff after a mushroom episode). I use dollar stone china plates for the bottom of my planters when I can’t find a real one to fit. Driveway gravel is great for draining rocks for the bottom of my planters, but it can be a bit sharp for some delicate rooted plants.. I dig using my hands and end up with dirt everywhere. I water as needed (unless the plants are liars) and feed them as often as I dare.

Working outdoors is a whole different game. There I have shovels, trowels, work gloves, clippers, shears, scissors, ladders, and every other thing under the sun. I use decent soil to bolster the land as needed or dive for gardening tomes to help balance the PH in the soil. I use mulch and large brim hats and consider the merits of growing compost and curse my yard’s poor dirt.

How I set up my pots generally follows like this:

  1. I pick a pot about slightly less than twice the size of the pot the plant currently is in. If it’s a seed, then I use a very small pot about six inches tall and three inches wide. If the plant is very root bound (as in the roots are all tangled together inside the pot), I’ll upgrade to a larger pot.
  2. I put a small layer of driveway gravel at the bottom of the pot. This is so the water doesn’t sit on the roots or soak the soil too much. If your pot has holes at the bottom (and you have a plant liner tray) then you can skip this step, but I generally always use the gravel. The gravel is somewhat pointy so be aware that it may damage very tender roots, so handle with care. I add more gravel if I’m planting something that needs drier soil, like a succulent or cactus. Some water plants are anchored by gravel and use smaller rocks for additional root assistance.
  3. Then I put a little soil in, just enough to cover the rocks (or more if the plant is short but deep roots or it’s a seed)
  4. I pull the plant out of the pot it’s already in, shaking some of the soil from the roots. If the plant is a seed, just plop it in the soil and plant according to recommendations. If it’s very root bound, you may end up spending several minutes loosening up the soil between the roots so the plant can have more room to grow. Be careful not to break the roots or any stems when handling the plant. Be gentle.
  5. Then I pad the sides of the plant with soil, layering on more and more until the roots are completely covered and the plant is well secured.
  6. Sometimes I add rocks at the top, but that’s largely depending on how much I want or need to protect the plant from soil erosion by water. 
  7. Then I drizzle water on the plant until the soil is wet. Finally, the plant can be placed happily in where I want it to go. I’ll add watering and feeding times to my calendar, as suggested by plant growing guides, and call it a day. 

Planting Outside

I won’t cover planting outside right now, because it’s a super large topic and the advice will vary depending on soil type, weather, climate, sun/shade ratios, wind, what’s already growing, wildlife, and how much time you have to devote to it all.

My general advice for outdoor gardeners is to do a soil test, then you’ll have a general idea how much work you’ll need to do to adjust to plants. That being said, it may be easier for you to simply grow in containers than in the ground, especially if there’s a lot of trees, roots, shade, or something buried in the ground, like a septic tank.

Take photos and notes of the areas you want to grow in for at least a week at various times of the day. I just leave a little notebook in the window closest to that area and take notes and a photo every time I walk by. This will help you determine how much sun, wind, and shade that area gets at various times of the day. It also may tell you what wildlife is nearby.

Armed with that information, you can start planning a garden. Again, this is a huge topic, but I typically suggest raised beds, because they’re just so much easier to take care of and work with.

Now, if you have specific plants you want to grow in a specific area, then do a test. I plant my desired plant in a container and place it in a spot where I’d like to plant it in the ground in the future. It helps determine whether or not the plant will survive there. There’s no guarantee even if all this is done. Some plants just don’t do well in certain soils. You’ll have to risk failure to succeed.

You’ll also want to keep in mind how much a plant will grow and how invasive it’ll be. Mint, for example, grows easily in containers, but shouldn’t be planted in the ground or it’ll take over the whole yard. Ground cover can be useful, but sometimes it’s impossible to get rid of later and becomes a nightmare. Do your research before you plant something with a reputation of being invasive in this manner.

Adding some magic

Magic can be added to any part of the routine.

When selecting plants, I seek out the ones that are calling for help or seem to want me specifically. I listen to what the plant wants and that’s how I get many of my plants to do well. This is an animist’s point of view, of course, but I find that it really works well.

You can plant by the phases of the moon and some people do really well with it. I have a theory that if you have a lot of water on the property, planting by the moon works better, but I don’t have near enough data to really propose this seriously right now.

Water can be enchanted with the power of the sun or moon. You can also used infused water, like a tea or water from making pasta to water plants with. This will largely depend on the plant itself. For example, I use nothing but clear, clean filtered or purified water for my indoor bamboo. If I use anything else at all, it dies rapidly and it very difficult to save. Google will, yet again, be your friend.

What you fertilize your plants with can also be enchanted. Rose, according to some gardeners, like calcium so planting a hank of your hair alongside your roses is good for them. I’ve tried eggshells, but I didn’t notice any changes with my rose bush, but I think that’s largely due to the location rather than the plant itself. Once you figure out what weird things you can fertilize your plants with, the magical connections should come quickly after that.

Of course, you can additionally enchant the soil you plant in with enchanted water, carefully made compost, or enchanted draining rocks with sigils painted on them in environmentally friendly paint.

Pots are probably the easiest to enchant. You can draw or paint with environmentally safe paint on the outside and inside of the plant to encourage grow and health in the plant. This can be as simple as a sigil or written word or as complicated as an intricate painting. The choice is yours.

Placing decorations inside the pot is also useful. This can be done by placing a tiny statue in the pot with the plant in a manner where the plant won’t be crowded. I’m plotting to turn the soil around my palm plant into a tiny fairy cottage, lacing each item I acquire or make with spells for prosperity, abundance, and household happiness and health.

There are many other ways to enchant your gardening too. Garden tools can be enchanted for strength and to be rust-proof. Gloves can be enchanting to keep the hands safe. Support for plants can be soaked in enchanted water.

Don’t forget that you can simply verbalize spells by talking to your plants. There’s some research to support that plants like being talked to nicely and sweetly and that backs up my experience nicely. (The only plant I ever struggle with is a climbing rose I’ve named Diva and she’s the most prickly thing I’ve ever met. She gets me every time, no matter what I’m doing.) I like to hum or sing-song to my plants as I work on them, if I’m not just straight-out having a one-sided conversation with them. I get some strange looks, especially from my brother, but I don’t mind.

Those are some basic tips! Hope it helps!


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Hidden Altars & Supply Storage

I don’t keep an altar. I don’t need one in my practice. But I like the beauty of altars and shrines and most people do have them. But not everyone can leave things out, whether because they’re not public with their craft or they have children, pets, or share space with other people.

I do, however, have a work-space. Over the years, it’s varied. It’s been a desk, other times a floor. Right now it’s usually (but not always) my kitchen counter since I keep most of my herbal ingredients there and it’s a large surface.

A work-space is different from an altar in that a work-space is secular. It serves the same function as the altar you probably have, but it’s pretty much a table you do your spellcasting and research on.

How’s that different from an altar? Ideally an altar is a religious space. You use it to make sacrifices and/or offerings. It can also be used to cast spells or rituals in the name or honor of those worshiped there or used to invoke those entities. It doesn’t have to be to a deity either – an elemental altar is quite nice.

As a side note, a shrine is also different from an altar. An altar is the surface where rituals and offerings are performed. It’s a space in a temple or holy space. A shrine doesn’t necessarily have an altar. It’s a space where religious idols are placed and honored. Offerings can and are made there, but there may not be an actual altar space.

Not that the terminology is super important. Most people use ‘altar’ rather than another word because that’s exactly what they have. Others use it because it’s a word that people understand without going into specifics. Or they use it because that’s what they’ve been taught to use via mentor or texts. In the ’90s it was unheard of to not have an altar, even if the work was secular in nature and that was the word everyone used. The bad terminology continues simply because that’s what’s written about or used. . what they’ve been using and/or what the text they’ve read write about. It doesn’t really matter what you call your space. Owning it is enough.

Of course, owning that space, whether altar or work-space, is difficult on the best of days. How to you decorate for seasons? How useable is the actual space? Will you start a fire by a misplaced trailing sleeve or knocking something over? Is it comfortable to sit at? Is it pretty? Is it secret or safe? For those who don’t share their practice, it can be difficult to have a shrine, altar, or even a work-space without giving something away.

Finding creative solutions for those problems can be difficult, especially when you’re concerned about decor or safety. And most solutions found can be very expensive. I’m a fan of DIY so I’ll offer a DIY post whenever I find it but remember to do some number crunching before you break out the tools. Sometimes it’s simply cheaper to buy something over making it!

One last thing before we start. If you haven’t popped over to my pinterest lately, then you may wish to. I have a board dedicated to altars and work-space inspiration.

So here’s some ideas for beautiful altars that are low key and still be practical.

Glass or acrylic tables and cases

These are tables that are, by and large boxes or rectangles with glass tops or sides. This is probably one of my favorite ways to display something and still have it safe from grabby hands. As a bonus, you can do rituals or offerings on top of the table, allowing for some really inventive set ups. Just make sure that if you work with hot materials, like candles or incense, to have some sort of heat-proof plate under it in case of melting. (This includes incense ashes. Trust me on this.)

Examples:

  • IKEA’s LIATORP coffee table fits the bill here nicely. Four compartments in a slide out drawer means you can devote each compartment to an element and still have that table top to work on plus the shelf underneath to store a basket of stuff in. Stuff as ordinary as remote controls or a blanket for the couch or a pile of candles.
  • Shadow box tables are also a great option. There’s lots of of versions of this from large to small. Some have lots of tiny cubby holes to fill and others have a wife space instead. Here’s a variety of different versions, some with DIY options with things like old windows and printer’s trays. DIY versions are DIY Display Shadow Box Coffee Table from This Old House, Storage Coffee Table with Acrylic Top from A Beautiful Mess, and Glass Top Shadow Box Coffee Table from Instructables
  • Make up boxes such as this one is a great idea. Throw some crystals, pretty shells, feathers, and whatever else inside and make it like a curio cabinet, all while keeping everything safe. On top, you can light a candle on a heat-proof candle plate.
  • This acrylic trunk or this one are perfect options for displaying those giant crystals the size of a baby. Keep them clear of grabby paws and gravity. As a bonus, you can use make crystal grids right on top or even use it as a coffee table. A handmade version is here for those willing to drop the coin.
  • Terrarium Side Table DIY from A Beautiful Mess is another clever idea. I’m not sure how totally feasible it is for the plants inside of it, but I could see for something like cactus or even a rock garden. An aquarium version could be used for moss balls like kokedama.

Hidden Storage Furniture

These might not be showcasing your beautiful stash of stuff, but they are probably the most useful and low-key of anything else on this list. They’re also something of a super obvious option in some cases, but they are probably some of the most accessible. WIth all of these, various quality exists and you’ll want to consider the weight of what you’re storing inside and whether it needs to support weight on top as well (ie, will it be used for extra seating).

Beds with storage are pretty easy to find. So is shelving designed for baskets or boxes as storage. These furniture pieces are easy to source (or even DIY with a little googling) but they also are well-known. These drawers and baskets can be filled with anything and people won’t tend to question what’s in them. Hidden in plain sight, plus the stuff’s out of the way and can be mixed with mundane stuff. However, they can be easily accessed by people and might be prone to peeking.

Storage ottomans allow you to have an ottoman that also has storage. Usually, people use these ottomans to store remotes, extra blankets, or so on. I’ve used mine to store tarot cards, books, exercise equipment, and a number of other things. Buy here or here. DIY here or here.

Benches and chairs have also been turned into storage. Buyer and DIYer beware however. Thinly seats may break, which is not only embarrassing for the person sitting there, but may also damage the stuff inside. Buy here or here for benches. Buy storage chairs here or here (with a desk). DIY bench here and DIY chair here (although this design also has been sold online as a “sewing chair”). I’ve also seen DIY versions of storage chairs where the seat was a drawer but I can’t find a link to share. Another bench version is to have drawers that pull out on the side rather than flipping the seat up. A super version of a bench would be to place a shelf where baskets can be placed and put storage behind that, essentially stacking two storage shelves one behind the other, re-reinforcing the sides with wood and using the sides as the seat of the bench. This style is seen in daybed or twin bed version as well, like here.

Trunks are actually great because they can be portable, especially if it’s a trunk with wheels. But people know trunks = treasure so it might not be as stealthy as you would like, especially if you’re surrounded by nosy people.

There’s also an assortment of tables ranging from coffee table to dining room that have tops that lift up or move in some way, revealing storage underneath. In living room or bedroom set ups, they’re used to store things like remotes or sexy stuff away away from prying eyes without revealing that there’s storage there at all. In dining room tables, they’re usually used for game storage for table top gamers or for silverware storage. DIY versions here or here. Lots of different versions out there to buy from, so use your google-fu.

Shelves

For some people this is an obvious and useful solution but for some people, well, it might be a joke. I’ve lived with thin, fragile walls for over dozen years so putting anything on the wall has always been something of a laughable situation. If you’re a renter, it’s even more hilarious because who wants to patch dozens of holes?

But it’s totally useful. It’s one of the greatest ways to get something off the floor and out of the range of pets and children and still showcase off things. You can also just put your altar or offerings on the shelf so it’s something of an exception to the rest of the items on the list in that way.

What shelves you put up will vary on your style and space but you can go as thin as photo ledges and as large as built in bookcase style. They’re a lot of options available so get creative.

There’s also the option of bookshelves with drawers in them. Or even secret compartments like this one.

I really love hanging shelves and small tables from the ceilings. This has the added bonus of being easily removed when nosy folks are around, but you’ll have to have a strong support on the ceiling.

Herb Tables or Trough Tables

Originally designed as a drink well for picnic tables, these tables have expanded in usage. It could be a really clever way of having the elements available IN your altar surface but it can also be used as a herb garden.

Honestly, this is probably the least useful item on the list. Unless the tray is removable, cleaning the tray will be as much fun as cleaning window sills or gutters. It only only has minimum usages. As much fun as it would be to image a tray with four sections filled with whatever representatives you want to have for the elements, by and large, it’s probably not going to be a good solution for most people.

But it is fun, isn’t it? Here’s a DIY version: Herb Garden Coffee Table by A Beautiful Mess and here. You can buy a version here.

These are just some of the ideas out there. Pretty much anything that’s got a secret compartment could be used. Try storage solutions for tiny homes or RVs as well – those tend to be great sources of never-seen-before storage and that means less people can guess where you’ve stashed your stuff.

For some people, taking some of these measures might seem extreme, but if you’re not open about your practice (for whatever reason), knowing your options can be very important.


What Makes a Crossroads a Crossroads?

What Makes a Crossroads a Crossroads

Have you ever looked at a spell and it says something like “leave the object at a crossroads”? Many, many spells end this way and for good reason. Leaving an item at a crossroads magically and energetically disperses the energy. It’s good when you’re leaving a general offering for spirits. It’s great when you’re trying to cast a non-targeted spell.

Leaving spell work in specific places is usually because you don’t want it around. As said, sometimes it’s for safety’s sake (ie curses or spirits), but other times it’s for things like healing spells.

If you used a rock to remove a disease from somebody while healing them, you don’t want to keep that disease-ridden rock. So put it at a crossroad where it’s away from you.

Some witches leave things at the crossroads so others can pick it up and a curse can be passed that way. And some witches use it to bless those in the same manner.

It’s also commonly used in getting rid of spirits and curses. Capture a spirit and release it in a crossroads far away from your home. Toss the remains of the curse you’ve casted or the dregs of whatever uncrossing spell you’ve done to rid yourself of a curse. Both instances ask you to visit a crossroads far away from you home.

A third usage is an energy reset. This usually is used by a practitioner that does a lot of land-based or local magic or works with a lot of spirits. Sometimes, you just need to cleanse the energy lines and the space.

 

All of those things can be done at a crossroads. But what makes a crossroads a crossroads? What are the unspoken rules about crossroads? And why are there unspoken rules at all?

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Scenes from Gettysburg

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First, let’s establish what a crossroads is.

It’s an intersection. Or, rather, a crossroad is where two or more streets intersect or cross one another.

Properly, it should be any intersection where four streets meet and none of the roads are a dead end or cul-de-sac. However, train-tracks and roads, bridges, and so are are also crossroads and can be used, even if they are literal streets.

Plus, dead ends and cul-de-sacs can be useful in crossroad including spells – want to stop energy from spreading? Want to make a boundary within your neighborhood? Those kinds of spells could benefit from streets that end abruptly.

Similarly, a corpse road is a road that traditionally refers to the pathways or roads the dead were carried on from the church to the graveyards. Often, corpse roads were separate paths with gateways because of fear that the dead linger on such roads. Now-a-days, any road used to carry the dead from one place to another could be considered a corpse road.

I like to combine the two. My home, the Crossroads House, sits between two crossroads (literally two intersections) and is behind a funeral home. So my crossroads are corpse roads. However, if you don’t work with spirits, perhaps selecting crossroads that are not corpse roads is more beneficial to you. Weigh your choices carefully.

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Alleyway near Jackson Square

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When it comes to symology and magical purposes, crossroads are well-known world-wide. I’ll quote from The Complete Dictionary of Symbols edited by Jack Tressider (pg 128-129):

The unknown – hazard, choice, destiny, supernatural powers. The important attached to intersecting ways in most ancient cultures is remarkable. The fact that they were natural stops for wayfarers only partially accounts for the number of shrines, altars, standing stones, chapels, or Calvaries sited there. In Peru and elsewhere pyramids were sometimes built up over years by travellers adding votive stones as they passed through crossroads. Spirits were thought to haunt them, hence they were sites for divination and sacrifice – and, by extension, places of the execution or burial or people or things of which society wished to be rid. Many African tribes dumped rubbish things there so that any residual harm might be adsorbed. Roman crossroads in the time of Augustus were protected by two lares campitales (tutelary deities of place). Offerings were made to them or to the god Janus and other protective divinities, who could look in all directions, such as Hermes, to whom three-headed statues were placed at Greek crossroads. Hekate, as a death goddess, was a more sinister presence, as was the supreme Toltec god, Tezcatlipoca, who challenged warriors at crossroads. Some version of the Oedipus myth placed his faithful encounters with his unknown father, and the Sphinx at crossroads – an analogy for destiny. Jung saw the crossroads as a maternal symbol of the union of opposites. More often, they seem an image of human fears and hopes at a moment of choice.

That’s a lot of words so I’ll break it down.

Crossroads have and will always be a symbol of choice. In the past (and even today) travel by the roads is pretty much the only way to go. In the past it was safer because other travelers can band together to protect one another. Today, property laws say you can’t trespass making roads pretty much the only way to travel.

Because people traveled on them shrines, altars, and holy places were erected at intersections. Sometimes even notes were left by signs. It was also a great place to meet people coming and going.

It was and is also a place where spirits dwell. Part of that is from the shrines, others is because of the executions. I see crossroads a bit like a spiritual water cooler. Spirits seem to collect there because of all the different energies coming from different directions (and be carried by different people and things).

Additionally, if you believe that energy travels via roads (whether naturally or through people passing on those roads), then crossroads are very magically powerful.

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Protective tree entrance to historical cemetery.

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Because of the spiritual symbolism behind them, especially in regards to actual spirits, there’s a lot of unspoken rules about crossroads. Here’s a few of them.

Never use the same route home

This means if you came up the eastern road, you should use the western, southern, or northern route home. Don’t use the eastern. This is because a spirit or energy could follow you home through the circuit you’ve made. Instead, take a different way home, which should spiritually or energetically get them of your trail.

Never respond to voices at the crossroads

Sometimes, you’re at a crossroads and you may here people talking. Logically, this is because crossroads tend to be open spaces and voices travel. However, it may also be spirits or faeries. In any case, don’t respond to the voices you’ve heard. Just go about your business and be on your way.

Do not make deals at the crossroads

This follows the above rule a bit further. If you go to the crossroads and see another person there, then keep on going. Don’t stop to talk with them, don’t stop to do your work, and don’t turn around and go back the way you came. Don’t meet their eyes and, above all, do not make deals. Simply put, there’s a strong belief that if you meet another person at the crossroads, it’s probably going to be a faerie, spirit, demon, or even the Devil, depending on who you ask. It’s Bad News. Skip the drama and don’t even stop.

Never leave items with your address or name at the crossroads

This is not only for spiritual safety, but your physical safety. Someone could simply google you and cause all sorts of problems. Spiritually, offering your real name to spirits, other practitioners, etc is often questionable. Your name is a piece of you. Guard it.

Try to leave environmentally safe items at the crossroads

This isn’t a rule, but it should be. Often times, we leave leftovers of spell work and other things at the crossroads. Typically speaking, it gets cleaned up when the city comes by or neighbors. But animals and the less fortunate also use or consume what they find at the crossroads. So if you’re going to leave an item that is not for consumption (like sugary bread baked with glass for a curse) then bury it at the crossroads. You may need to search for a crossroads that you can discreetly dig at, but it’s worth the trouble to keep animals or people from consuming unsafe things. This is also true for jar spells. Consider, does it really need to be in a glass jar?

 

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Walk along the water with me?

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I use crossroads fairly extensively in my craft, when it calls for it. But I’ve been asked what a crossroad is about a dozen times a year, so it was time to type up my thoughts about it.

Crossroads certainly have their place in magical practices. It has it’s place in folklore. It’s certainly a symbolic feature and we use it often in media to describe being torn or in many places. Remembering this folklore and symbolism is important, but you’ll also want to take into account your own practices to see if crossroads fit your practice.

 


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