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Since 1971, The Witches' Almanac has been the source of fun, wisdom, trivia, and magical lore for hundreds of thousands of readers throughout the world. Modeled after the Old Farmers' Almanac, it includes information related to the annual Moon Calendar (weather forecasts and horoscopes), as well as legends, rituals, herbal secrets, interviews, mystic incantations, interviews, and many a curious tale of good and evil. Although it is an annual publication, only about 15 percent of...
Since 1971, The Witches' Almanac has been the source of fun, wisdom, trivia, and magical lore for hundreds of thousands of readers throughout the world. Modeled after the Old Farmers' Almanac, it includes information related to the annual Moon Calendar (weather forecasts and horoscopes), as well as legends, rituals, herbal secrets, interviews, mystic incantations, interviews, and many a curious tale of good and evil. Although it is an annual publication, only about 15 percent of the content is specific to the date range of each issue.
The theme of Issue 33 (Spring 2014 - Spring 2015) is Mystic Earth. Also included are articles on Ganesha, graveyard dust, Italian cimaruta amulets, veiled witches, and the legend of the Wicker Man.
I am out on the wind
In the wild, black night;
On the wings of the owl
I take my flight,
On the ghostly wings of the great white owl;
And whether the night be fair or foul,
Or the moon be up or the thunder growl,
Happy I be,
Happy I be
When the changeling blood runs green in me!
When meek folk sleep
In their dull, soft beds,
I creep over roots
That the weasel treads,
Where the squat green lamps of the toadstools glow –
And only the fox knows the ways I go,
And nobody knows the things I know ...
Wise I be,
Wise I be
When the changeling blood runs green in me!
O Mother, slumber
And do not wake! ...
Thin voices called
From the rain-wet brake,
And the child you cradled against your breast
Is out in the night on the black wind's crest,
For only the wild can give me rest ...
Sad I be,
Sad I be
When the changeling blood runs green in me.
– Leah Bodine Drake
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
by Timi Chasen
ELECTRIC LADY UPDATE. Edith, first introduced to our Almanac readers in issue #31, continues to endure an adversarial relationship with the electronics in her everyday life. Known for blowing out hundreds of light bulbs and interfering with a range of electronic devices merely by her presence, Edith's peculiar condition presents ever more challenges, as technology progresses and proliferates.
Extended-life light bulbs fail to deliver on their promises. Instead of years, in Edith's presence, most last only a few months and some only a few days. Edith refuses to touch a computer for fear of what could happen. If even small appliances spark as she enters a room, who's to say what would happen to a computer?
Simply being in contact with her daughter has caused her daughter's computer to malfunction. Although her daughter is an experienced computer user, when she tried uploading Edith's picture into Ancestry.com it wouldn't work. It took her daughter many attempts, as well as a software shutdown and full computer reboot, to finally upload a simple photo.
On days when Edith's emotions are particularly elevated, the activity becomes worse. When Edith became frustrated and "lost it" with a contractor, she raised both hands and her voice, causing the entire building's power to suddenly go out, including that of a contiguous business. We wish Edith tranquility and good health, and since Edith cannot use a Kindle, we hope she will read this in a paperback copy of The Witches' Almanac!
A FELINE'S TRIBUTE. Toldo, a sleek gray and white tabby from the Italian village of Montagnana, remains devoted to his master, even after his master's death. In the year since Iozzelli Renzo's passing, Toldo has visited his gravesite every day. More remarkable still, Toldo brings gifts to adorn the grave, such as small twigs or leaves and plastic cups.
Ever since the funeral, which Toldo also attended, the cat has been spotted keeping a solitary vigil at the grave or accompanying Renzo's widow on walks to and from the cemetery. The widow believes Toldo is thanking her departed husband for the love he shared with the feline, whom he raised from a kitten.
It is interesting to note that Toldo's first piece of tribute to his departed master, delivered the morning after the funeral, was a sprig of acacia. According to ancient Egyptian lore (which also points to cats as being divine creatures), acacia is associated with the goddess Iusaaset and the Tree of Life, symbolizing death, rebirth, and immortality. Perhaps Toldo is seeking to escort his beloved friend through the afterlife in gratitude for affections garnered in this one.
THE OLD WHEYS. Shards of pottery studded with small holes could be the most ancient evidence of cheese making ever uncovered. Excavated in Poland and approximately 7,500 years old, the perforated shards contain traces of animal fats, determined to be from cow's milk. The unique sieve-like pottery was most likely used to strain curds from whey. Necessity may have precipitated the creation of cheese during the Neolithic Age, when the domestication of animals provided the opportunity for harvesting milk.
Dairy is an important source of nutrients, but raw milk spoils quickly. By processing milk into cheese, these pioneering farmers could preserve a vital food source for uncertain times. Turning milk into cheese had the added benefit of greatly reducing the amount of lactose present; something that would be hugely helpful, as most of the population of that time is believed to have been lactose intolerant. Early cheese-makers may have contributed to shaping our evolutionary path. In addition, their prehistoric efforts have since borne tremendous artistic fruits. So next time you are grubbing on gruyere or gorging on gorgonzola, remember to thank our Neolithic ancestors for their ingenuity.
ROYAL MURDER MYSTERY. Modern medical technology offers fresh insight into the death of Ramses III, considered to be Egypt's last great pharaoh. Long believed to be the victim of a coup orchestrated by his wife and son, the exact circumstances of Ramses' death have remained obscure – until now.
The pharaoh's mummified remains were examined by researchers using CTG scanners, advanced medical equipment usually employed to diagnose the living. Scans revealed a deep laceration across Ramses' throat, one that was almost certainly fatal. The cut was previously hidden by the mummy's dressing, which could not be removed due to preservation concerns. The scans also revealed an Eye of Horus amulet tucked directly into the throat laceration.
Egyptologists speculate the amulet was placed there by embalmers seeking to heal the wound in the afterlife, as the ancient Egyptians believed the manner in which the body was treated had a direct impact on the deceased's experience of the afterlife. Genetic tests were also performed on the pharaoh's mummy, as well as on an unidentified mummy found near his tomb.
This unidentified mummy – nicknamed "the Screaming Mummy" – was suspected to be Prince Pentawere, the son implicated in Ramses' assassination. Ritualistic 'mishandling' of the remains (organs were not removed and the body was shrouded in impure goatskin) already suggested that the deceased was marked for punishment in the afterlife. Genetic analysis now confirms that the Screaming Mummy shares fifty percent of its genetic material with Ramses, strongly indicating that he was Ramses' offspring.
ATLANTIS AT LAST? An image captured by Google Earth, purported to reveal an underwater grid of city streets off the Moroccan coast, was nothing more than a glitch. The eerie angular artifact caused much excitement, inspiring many to opine that the Lost City of Atlantis may finally have been uncovered. However, the faint traces disappeared with an update to Google mapping technology.
Would-be explorers should not feel too thwarted in their efforts, however. Precedent exists for the discovery of vast, sunken cities, as, for example, the recent discovery of an underwater city in the Gulf of Cambay, off India's western coast. Remains of a large and advanced civilization were discovered, more than one hundred feet beneath the water's surface. Researchers believe this city was lost at the end of the last ice age, when glacial melting caused sea levels to rise, thus inundating the city.
Similar discoveries have been made off the coasts of Cuba and Brazil. Many more coastal sites may lie hidden under turbulent waters, inaccessible to explorers. Perhaps, as imaging technology becomes more and more advanced, we will gain a clearer view of the sea floor and finally catch more than a fleeting glimpse of the Lost City of Atlantis.
THE TEMPLE OF THE NIGHT SUN. Explorers have had better luck uncovering lost civilizations in the jungles of Guatemala, where a Mayan temple has been revealed at El Zotz, once a small, but imposing Maya kingdom and site of the Diablo Pyramid. Archaeologists stumbled upon the temple, while exploring looter's tunnels leading from El Diablo. Archaeologists believe that the temple, which has been dubbed the Temple of the Night Sun for its dramatic engravings of a shape-shifting sun god, was built around 400 CE, as a memorial to the founder of the Pa' Chan or "fortified sky" dynasty. Kingship was strongly associated with the sun god, so it is not at all surprising to see a Mayan monarch honored with depictions of a fearsome sun. Hidden by centuries of overgrowth, the temple imagery is brilliant and somewhat frightening: the sun rises as a thrashing shark, rests at noon to consume blood, and finally descends as a snarling jaguar. Now excavated, tourists may soon be granted a glimpse of the Night Sun.
COME WITH US, IF YOU WANT TO LIVE ... Researchers at Cambridge University's Center for the Study of Existential Risk have turned their attentions to the problem of robotic revolution. Founded to examine serious "extinction level" threats to the human race, the Center is now launching an investigation into the possibility that robots will one day surpass their human creators to become the dominant species.
This premise is well known to fans of science fiction, especially the Terminator films. One day, or so the theory goes, a machine will be created that possesses intelligence beyond that of its creator. This machine would be capable of manufacturing yet more hyper-intelligent machines, and so forth, until Earth is overrun with mechanical creatures that can easily outthink their human counterparts. Whether these robotic super beings would use their powers to care for humanity or simply wipe us out is subject to debate.
How serious is the threat posed by these, as of yet, uninvented mechanical killers? Serious enough to merit academic inquiry and to spawn some pretty entertaining movies, as well.
THE EYES HAVE IT
Red strings and baleful glares
"THE EYES are the windows of the soul" is a traditional saying that summarizes the depth and power believed to be contained within a gaze. A quick glance into the eyes of another during the course of a conversation often reveals much more than mere words alone will ever convey. In the United States, the ability to be forthright and look someone in the eye is thought to be indicative of candor, while, in other parts of the world, a direct gaze is perceived as rude and even threatening. Those who are familiar with animal behavior know that direct eye contact may be perceived as a challenge and can elicit either attack or flight.
Over the ages, many have feared that an adversary's "evil eye" – manifested through a jealous glance or angry glare – can cause actual harm to the target. Popular idioms, such as "if looks could kill," "an icy stare" or "a murderous glare" reinforce this belief.
Archeologically unearthed artifacts from the upper Paleolithic era indicate that the eye and its powers were a theme in magic and talismans embraced by our cave dwelling ancestors. More recently – about 5000 years ago – cuneiform clay tablets displaying eye motifs appeared in Mesopotamia. Artistic renditions of eyes figure prominently in Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist spiritual art.
Today, a popular method of repelling the evil eye involves carrying or wearing beautiful glass amuletic eyes, popularly known as "evil eye beads." These glass creations, easily found in metaphysical and import shops, are offered in many sizes and colors. Some are worn as jewelry, while others are intended to be placed in the home, automobile, or work place. The tradition appeared in Anatolia, home of early master-glass craftsmanship, at least three-thousand years ago. These magically protective eyes are known as nazar boncugu in Turkish.
Seven knots of safety
Other methods of fending off the evil eye exist, and not all involve an ocular shape. Those who practice the mystical Kabbalah often employ a red string, another, more subtle defense against the evil eye. Rather than a glass eye, this involves a length of red yarn or cotton string tied on the left wrist with seven knots. Kabbalistic teachings meticulously describe the mechanics of the evil eye and offer remedies and solutions. It is believed that envy or other negative thoughts directed at another by means of a glance can devour the light of the recipient's life force.
Negative forces are believed to bombard and be absorbed into the body from its left side. When worn on the left wrist, the red string deflects this energy. According to the Zohar, among the primary Kabbalistic texts, white wool embodies mercy. In the process of dying white wool red, the colors combine, marrying mercy with judgment. This assures justice for the innocent and protection from the evil eye. The seven knots relate to the seven spiritual worlds, the colors of the rainbow and the chakras. Likewise, Feng Shui practitioners often begin consultations by tying a red ribbon around a client's left wrist, for the purpose of encouraging chi – the universal energy flow – to move in a positive direction.
Before wearing a red string or selecting an evil eye bead, it is always advisable to take a moment to focus your intent.
– Esther Elayne
A Witch's Garden
AN OUTDOOR herb garden begins indoors, and your first gardening tools are pencil and paper. Planning at the very beginning will save you many problems later. Decide what specific herbs you really want and how large a garden they will require. As a general rule of green thumb, you can allow a circle with a radius of one foot around each plant. Some herbs require less and some more, but this is a convenient working average.
At this stage you will want to consider just how large a garden will be practical to handle. It is better to start out a bit on the small side; you can always expand gradually. Many novices tackle too much and later find that they have more than they can handle.
The most important step in planning the herb garden is choosing the site. The gardener must be concerned with two extremely important points, sunlight and soil. Most herbs require a great deal of direct sunlight, and starting an herb garden in a spot that is shaded half the day is courting disaster. If you live in the South or Southwest, where the sunlight is intense, you might get away with this kind of site. Otherwise don't plant in such an area unless you want to limit yourself to the shade-loving herbs such as the mints, sweet cicely, woodruff and similar plants.
Most herbs also require a relatively light, limey, nourishing soil. If your soil is sandy, dig in some humus and possibly add some lime. Dolomite, an excellent form of lime, is relatively easy to handle. Eggshells and ground clam and oyster shells are less effective but of some value. With the heavy clay soil common along the Eastern Seaboard and in parts of the Midwest, you will have to take more serious steps. If your site is well drained or on relatively high ground where drainage can be arranged, dig it up to a depth of two or three feet. Remove about half the spaded-up clay and replace it with a mixture of peat, builder's sand, and compost or humus. Gardeners near the seacoast have learned that seaweed is an excellent conditioner for heavy clay soils. Large quantities should be dug in, ideally in the autumn so that the winter frosts can "work" the soil mixture. Seaweed that is well rinsed can be dug in during the spring about a month before planting begins.
Excerpted from The Witches' Almanac by Witches Almanac. Copyright © 2013 THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD.. Excerpted by permission of The Witches' Almanac. Ltd..
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