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What is a Witch?
The media would have everyone believe that a witch is a hunched over old hag with green skin, gnarled fingers and a wart on her nose. I have met a lot of witches and we come in all ages, shapes, sizes, colours (not green as far as I know) and all genders ... but I have yet to meet one who looks like that.
I am hoping that in my crone years I will wear kaftans and floppy hats and be known locally as 'that mad ole witch' – not quite the Hollywood hag figure, but I am working on it.
What is a witch? Well to me a witch is someone who is in tune with the Earth, with the changing of the seasons, someone who connects with the elements and works with all the energies around them. I respect and care for the planet and all the plants and creatures that live on it and in it.
Witchcraft is a way of life; it is who I am, what I am and how I choose to live my life. It is a beautiful, rewarding and wonderful way of life.
It is a chosen path filled with self-discovery, learning, and growth as those who claim the title of witch will grow in knowledge and experiences for a lifetime and possibly more. Witchcraft is a generic term used to describe its many extensions and sub-categories.
There are no hard rules with witchcraft; you can tailor it to your personal beliefs, traditions and rituals.
Witchcraft is a polytheistic religion; this means there is more than one figurehead, a Goddess who has many names and a God who also goes by many names. I think of deity as being like the many facets of a diamond.
Witches all know and live with the God and the Goddess. They are both entities of the great All. Each witch carries a part of the God and Goddess within them. We respect them; work with them, live with them. However, to each of us the God and Goddess may be perceived differently.
The God is the male entity, the Sky Father, representative of the Sun. He goes by many names and many faces – Pan, Cernunnos, Osiris, Thor and Belenos to name a few.
The Goddess is the universal mother. She is representative of the Moon and the Earth. She, too, is known by many names and faces – Gaia, Hecate, Brighid, Cailleach, Kali to name a few.
They do not rule, but they do oversee; they are present, it is all according to your beliefs. They work together, forming a whole.
The true explanation of deity is within each witch's own heart. We reflect them with our daily intent and deeds.
Witches practice ritual observance of lunar events and the seasons. Rituals are split into two groups, Sabbats and Esbats. There are eight Sabbats in a year representing the cycle of birth and death of the God, these being Yule/Winter Solstice, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha/Midsummer, Lughnasadh, Autumn Equinox (Mabon) and Samhain.
Esbats are Moon rituals, celebrating the New Moons and the Full Moons.
These rituals are performed within sacred or magic circles, and are used for the purposes of asking for guidance and giving thanks to the Goddess and God, and are often used for the performance of magic.
Some witches are members of a coven, in which there will be a High Priestess and/or High Priest. The other members will be witches of varying degrees of initiation. There are also many, many solitary witches. There are a large number of traditions within the witchcraft umbrella – Wiccans, Dianic, kitchen witchery, green witchery, hedge witchery, Alexandrian, eclectic, Faery, Gardnerian and Seax to name but a few. We at the Kitchen Witch Coven are very much based in kitchen/green/hedge witchcraft, although most of us have had training in Wicca, but we have also studied between us folk magic, hoodoo and druidry as well.
A lot of witches conform to a moral code called the Witches Rede (or the Wiccan Rede). It simply states: 'An it harm none, do what thou will.' This means that as long as you do no harm to anyone or anything, including yourself, you may do anything that your heart desires and has the willpower to accomplish. A witch who performs magic for the purposes of harm will ultimately be harming themselves. This comes about by the 'Threefold Law' that states that anything that you do will be returned to you three times. So if you perform good it will be returned to you threefold, likewise any evil will be returned to you threefold – so it makes sense to only do good. But, as with most things, this is your choice to make. You can decide to not follow a rede of any kind, but rely on your own moral code.
Witches practice magic, especially magic involving herbs, stones, colours, the elements and the energy of nature. However, we do not perform animal sacrifices; the only sacrifices made are of a spiritual nature.
Magic is the use of a witch's will and energy to manipulate and alter the probability of things around them. The only tool necessary to create magic is a strong will and focused intention. However, many witches will use a variety of tools as they feel the need for them to create their desired effect. Magic works in accordance with natural law and will not create unlikely affects, such as fireballs, bolts of lightning, or resurrect the dead. Well, not that I know of, anyway.
In my little dream world that I sometimes frequent I would have a big old farmhouse in the country with a huge kitchen that housed an old oak kitchen table big enough for everyone to sit around and have cups of tea and chat, herbs hanging to dry from the ceiling, a back garden big enough to host rituals and a view across the fields. In reality I live in a beautiful but modest 1920s terraced house on the outskirts of a city. I do have a garden and I do have a large oak table, although it is in the dining room rather than the kitchen, but it is where everyone ends up sitting with cups of tea and slices of cake ... there has to be cake to chat. I have lots of pots of herbs in my small garden and I have them hanging to dry in the conservatory so I don't do too badly. I have lived in a farmhouse in the middle of a field and in reality it is cold in the winter, muddy and desperately inconvenient if you run out of teabags ...
I am lucky that within a short driving distance I have group rituals available to me, my own Kitchen Witch Coven has Sabbat rituals in a beautiful forestry setting, the Dorset Grove I belong to have their rituals in an ancient henge by a Saxon church and we also get to celebrate a couple of times a year within Stonehenge so I do consider myself lucky.
But, having said all that, you don't need beautiful ancient settings to have wonderful rituals, you can do a perfectly good ritual in your own front room – a kitchen witch's mottos are 'make the most of what you have' and 'adapt what you have to suit'.
I have always thought that sacred places are beautiful, but not always sacred to everyone. Some places I have visited that others have raved about have done nothing for me. Everyone is individual and we all have different favourite spots and different places that feel special to us. One of my very favourite sacred places is my own home. It is a place where I feel loved and a place that I feel safe in. It also has everything I need to hand and always has a good supply of cold chocolate in the fridge.
I guess the subject of sacred places leads me on to talking about sacred space. What is it and do you need it? Well, it is up to you, whether you are 'out of the broom closet', whether you actually have the physical space for it and whether the rest of your household mind you having besoms on the wall and cauldrons on the dinner table or not.
Sacred space can be created in your head and it is actually a good meditation tool to have a specific 'landscape' created in your mind that you can escape to when you need to. At least if the space is in your head you can decorate it any way you like; space and budget are not considerations.
Then you could have just a shelf with bits and pieces on it, or a cupboard that holds all your witchy paraphernalia.
If you have a spare bedroom that no one minds you using, it would be ideal to set up as a meditation/sacred room.
I don't have a spare bedroom, well not yet; it will be a few years before one of the children leaves home! But I do have the luxury of a very patient and understanding family who are quite used to having a broomstick hanging on the kitchen wall and statues of 'naked reindeer man' as my youngest calls my statue of Cernunnos on the mantelpiece.
It is as with all things about striking a balance that everyone within your household can live with.
Step into my kitchen for a while ...
As a kitchen witch I work with what I have to hand, as you will see in the Magical Tools chapter where I give everyday options. The same goes for anything within the Craft. I have given in this book a broad overview of how I work with witchcraft along with the basics of Wiccan/more formal witchcraft structure, but go with the flow and work with what you feel is right for you.
So, back to my kitchen. This is where I spend a lot of time; I love to cook and I love making up medicine bags, witches bottles and the like (see further chapters), so the kitchen is the heart of my home. My kitchen probably doesn't look like most kitchens. Oh, it has the basic worktops, cupboards, fridge/freezer and cooker, but it also has a broomstick hanging on one wall, Hallowe'en signs on the walls and flying witches and witches balls suspended from the ceiling (yes I have a very tolerant husband!) along with shelves full of jars of herbs, all marked up with their magical properties.
Now your kitchen doesn't have to look like mine, but it works for me, stepping into it makes me feel at home, it puts me in the right frame of mind to work and to create, whether it is for a spell or to make the family dinner.
I don't want you all worrying that I cook up eye of newt and wing of bat (which incidentally were real folk names for herbs originally) for the family meal, really I don't! But I do like to add a bit of magic to my cooking.
I have an altar in my kitchen, just a small one; it is a lovely Green Man shelf. Before I start to cook I give a blessing to the altar, asking deity to watch over me whilst I cook and to add energy to the ingredients.
Each and every ingredient that is used in any meal has an energy of its own and a magical property. Cinnamon, for instance, is an excellent ingredient as it not only adds love and passion; it is also good for prosperity and protection.
Adding a pinch of herbs to your cooking can add the magical properties that come with it. Popping a bit of basil into a salad adds courage and strength, mint brings success and protection and rosemary dispels negative energy.
When you are stirring the saucepan or casserole dish, the wooden spoon becomes your wand and the stirring deosil (clockwise) becomes your way of adding positive energy to the food.
And don't forget the appliances too. The freezer and the fridge are good for working spells – if you need to 'freeze' some thoughts or emotions or 'cool off' a relationship, write it on a slip of paper and pop it in the freezer or the fridge until the spell is done.
I think one of the first things that anyone needs to learn about if they are starting to walk the path of a witch is to learn how to work with energy.
Energy is used when we send healing, when we cast a spell, when we are in ritual and when we charge candles and herbs with intent.
Every living thing has its own energy, whether it is a flower, a crystal, a person or a pebble. All of the ingredients you might gather together for a spell will have their own individual energies and characteristics. If you use a wand, that has its own energy too, but the real energy comes from YOU.
Working with energy is really a combination. You can draw energy up from the Earth or from an item such as a crystal and you channel it through yourself, but you also add a bit of energy from your inner self as you do so. When you are in ritual you might also call upon the God and Goddess to lend their energy to your workings and you can raise energy from other sources as well. The elements can provide us with energy too – earth, air, fire and water all provide sources of energy that we can tap into.
But generally you are also the conduit, you summon the energy, you gather it, you add to it and you direct it.
Everyone has energy within them, everyone has the power to access it, to tap into it and use it. Unfortunately most people have no idea how to do so, and boy are they missing out!
The energy created by our bodies and by the spirit within our bodies is generally referred to as the aura. The energy that flows around and through our bodies is usually referred to as chi.
Part of being a witch is to be connected to the Earth, her plants and her creatures; to be aware of the energies around us so that we can connect and interact with them.
My favourite way of explaining energy is to ask people to rub their hands together briskly for a few seconds, then slowly pull them apart – you should be able to 'feel' the energy between them. Sometimes it takes a bit of practice, but when you do feel it – this is the energy you need to be working with. Once you can feel the energy, try to make it into energy 'balls', stretch it, squash it, experiment with it! (No throwing energy balls at people though, because that's not nice ...)
Energy can be raised in many ways, it can be drawn up from the Earth, it can be taken from the universe, and it can be raised by drumming, singing, chanting or dancing.
The energy can then be directed. This can be done by sending it to the person you are healing, sending it out to the universe to be used where necessary, or when in ritual it is usually shaped into a cone of power. In a cone of power the energy is raised by those present and forms a spiralling cone in the centre of the circle to be released by the High Priestess and directed to its target.
On a smaller scale we raise and direct energy when we work a spell, for instance a candle spell. We would take the energy from the Earth, channel it through our body and out through our hands and into a candle, this will charge the candle with energy. We add our intent and any other 'ingredients' such as herbs and oils. Once the candle is burning it releases the energy we filled it with, that energy then goes on its merry way to fulfil the intent that it was meant for.
How many minds do you have? There is the old saying, 'I am in two minds', but in actual fact we have three. Understanding how our three minds work helps us to work with magic.
Your conscious mind, your middle self
The first mind I want to talk about is the conscious mind, the one we are probably most familiar with. This is where you will find your personality and your ego. This is the mind that deals with everyday life when we are awake.
The conscious mind houses our reason, our logic, and our ability to analyse and stay alert. It deals with life as a series of events in a timeline, one after another. It sees life as sorted into compartments – past, present and future. The conscious mind is actually pretty good at remembering past events, dealing with the present and working out what it wants for the future, all at the same time.
It is your conscious mind that works out what you want for yourself and for your magic. It is limited though in that it does see things as linear, which doesn't allow us to work through large amounts of energy or information.
The psychic mind, your lower self, your younger self
The second mind I want to talk about is the psychic mind. This is where you will find the key to your magical abilities. It has no limitations. It works with intuition. Intuition leads us into our psychic abilities. Have you ever known who was at the door before you opened it, or known who was on the telephone before answering it? That is your psychic mind at work.
This mind is called the lower self because it comes from our unconscious and our subconscious. As we relax our logical conscious mind we move into our subconscious, which allows us to see things with greater insight.
Much as it might be a nice idea to always live in the subconscious, we need the balance of the conscious mind and the psychic mind to be able to function properly.
The minds work together in harmony.
The divine mind, the higher self, the older self
The psychic mind works as a connection between the conscious mind and the divine mind, which is the third mind or the higher self.
The divine mind is our spirit; it is what connects us to the whole. You can call this mind the Goddess, the God, the Divine Spirit. This level is a super consciousness, a higher self, an older self. It can see things from a higher perspective spiritually and mentally. It is not bound by linear time or logic. It is aware of all things, on all levels, at all times. The divine self knows what the conscious mind can handle so it drip feeds information so as not to overwhelm it.
Excerpted from Grimoire of a Kitchen Witch by Rachel Patterson. Copyright © 2012 Rachel Patterson. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Foreword: Who am I?.................... ix
Chapter 1: What is a Witch?.................... 1
Chapter 2: Sacred Space.................... 5
Chapter 3: My Kitchen.................... 6
Chapter 4: Energy.................... 8
Chapter 5: Our Minds.................... 10
Chapter 6: Your Magical Name.................... 13
Chapter 7: Meditation.................... 15
Chapter 8: Pathworking.................... 17
Chapter 9: Grounding and Centring.................... 20
Chapter 10: Shielding.................... 21
Chapter 11: Deity.................... 23
Chapter 12: Tools.................... 29
Chapter 13: Altars.................... 36
Chapter 14: Cleansing and Consecrating.................... 40
Chapter 15: The Moon.................... 43
Chapter 16: Ritual.................... 56
Chapter 17: Spell Working.................... 62
Chapter 18: The Elements.................... 66
Chapter 19: Chakras.................... 73
Chapter 20: Auras.................... 79
Chapter 21: Affirmations.................... 82
Chapter 22: Book of Shadows.................... 84
Chapter 23: Divination.................... 86
Chapter 24: Crystals.................... 92
Chapter 25: Herbs.................... 96
Chapter 26: Trees.................... 104
Chapter 27: Animal Totems and Guides.................... 108
Chapter 28: Dragons.................... 118
Chapter 29: The World of Faerie.................... 125
Chapter 30: The Elementals.................... 134
Chapter 31: Nature Spirits.................... 141
Chapter 32: Colour Magic.................... 151
Chapter 33: Hexes and Banishing.................... 153
Chapter 34: Dreaming and Astral Travel.................... 161
Chapter 35: Planetary Magic.................... 167
Chapter 36: Rites of Passage.................... 175
Chapter 37: The Summerlands.................... 186
Chapter 38: A Bit of Hoodoo.................... 187
Chapter 39: Feathers, Bones, Shells and Eggs.................... 191
Chapter 40: Poppets, Medicine Bags, Powders, Smudges and Washes............ 196
Chapter 41: Offerings.................... 205
Chapter 42: Oils.................... 206
Chapter 43: Witch Bottles and Ladders.................... 208
Chapter 44: Celebrating the Sabbats.................... 212
Chapter 45: Words in the Craft.................... 280
Afterword: From Me to You.................... 286