Historical practices of witchcraft: Day 1 “The Toad Stone”

Photo © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow 2015

Engraved on the silver band: ” Toad Stone the Charm long used by the Mearns Witches. Bequeathed by the last of them to Jean Donald and by her to James Maxwell Graham Esqr in 1813″. (SOURCE) 

The “Toad stone,” also known as the witch stone, is a an old, worn down glass marble that has a silver brand wrapped around it. The stone is worn as a protective amulet. The particular photo, above, belonged to a family of witches, in which the charm was passed down the generations and grew in strength.

The “Toad stone” is said to contain mystical power believed to be produced by a toad. It was said to be able to cure any poison.

Sweet are the uses of adversity;
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.

– Shakespeare’s As You Like It, in Act 2, Scene 1, lines 12 through 14

Typically, Toad Stones were “the fossilized teeth of Lepidotes,” (SOURCE). So it is curious that a marble would be called a Toad Stone. Though, I believe it may have been found around or within a toad and absorbed its power “jewels cut from the brain of a toad,” (Balthazar’s Daughter). 

A 1497 illustration by Johannes de Cuba, depicting the extraction and use of a toadstone

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Black Moon Sabbat

Tonight we shall feast

along with the dead.

Releasing the beast

whom we shall wed.

On the moonless night

the rite will be done.

With toads we take flight

till the rise of the sun.

-me

On the night of the black moon, I started the evening by preparing a feast with my fellow witches. We prepared and cooked delicious ham with bread, vegetables, and wine. We had set the table and called our ancestors to join us in this dinner.

I took one seat, and he another; while, the Mighty Dead and beloved ancestors lurked around us. We ate and told of tales and of our lives to one another as we enjoyed the meal. And when we were full, we began our rites.

I renounced all that held me back. I abandoned all prior religions, and I spat upon the expectations that seek to destroy my very being. It was from that in which I cried out “Hail! Honored Ancestors!” And then, I began our rite, the Counter Mass. It took on new feelings for me as I had never lead the rite before. It was empowering and freeing. I felt and feel like nothing can seek to bind me down ever again.

When we finished, we anointed ourselves in flying ointment. I chose the Toad’s ointment and placed it upon my wrists, ankles, and chest. It was then that the Witches and me began to dance around the table and cry out, chant, sing, and moan in ecstasy. I could feel myself being pulled away from the ground. And  soon, we both collapsed as our familiar selves grabbed our spirits and flew into the night. That is when I had visions of strange lands of other figures, though it was brief.

Soon, I felt my heavy body and eventually regained myself.

My friend and I spent the rest of the night enjoying the cool air and then calling upon the power of the fairy pools for some scrying.

It was quite a lovely sabbat

The Harm of the Myth of the Burning Times

Leaves from a Heathen's Book of Shadows

Burning-14

One of the first thing many people learn when they become a pagan – assuming they enter through the route of Western neo-paganism – is about the “Burning Times” when millions of witches were burned at the stake. Many of these people believe this for years; possibly all their lives.  But not only is it wrong, but that has a bad effect on the integration of paganism within some European cultures.

Wrong? Yes. For one thing, it wasn’t millions – it might have been hundreds. maybe even a few thousand. but that’s it. This was not the nazi holocaust.

Secondly, though they may have burned witches in europe and Scotland, in England and the US, they hanged them. Oh, and precious few were hanged or otherwise killed in the Salem witch trials. Less tha 20, if I remember correctly. I can’t speak for the US, but England tended to reserve…

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Excitement for the dark moon

So…It has turned into more of a celebration, than I thought it would. I’ll be doing my renouncing, but it will also hold my friend’s dedication as well. We also plan on having a silent supper for the greater spirits and beloved ancestors. It is going to be very exciting, since we will also be drinking in their honor and flying to join them in the other world.

I am a very excited witch right now.

Dark Moon and the Renouncing

Source: Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

I have to say that February has been the most active month for my craft in a long time. Just a few weeks ago, I had participated in the Sabbat along with various other witches. I even performed the Counter Mass, thus starting on this journey of freeing myself and pushing towards what witchcraft truly is for me.

Even with all that, I still have much I must accomplish this short month. The dark moon is coming this week, and I luckily got the day off from work. It is a day of cleansing and renewal. With the power of the dark moon, I end all my past connections to any sort of prior faith or path I had followed. It is also my rejection of our patriarchal modern society.

I am doing the ritual with the Black Priest, who will guide me through my renouncing. I plan on sealing my new freedom within my own magical book. A mark of my determination. And on this day, I will completely clean and cleanse my space, so that I may start out in my endeavors with a fresh slate. And here’s hoping, I will be one step closer to the realization of my Fairy Lover, whoever they may be.

To the wilderness we go,

sun in back moon in front.

We will be wild and reckless

and have no fear in our eyes.

To our hearts, we shall pledge

that we are witches. It is known.

Scottish Charms and Amulets: Balls of Rock-Crystal used as Charms

Let me dip thee in the water,
Thou yellow, beautiful gem of Power!
In water of purest wave,
Which (Saint) Bridget didn~ez_rsquo~t permit to be contaminated.
In the name of the Apostles twelve,
In the name of Mary, Virgin of virtues,

And in the name of the High Trinity
And all the shining angels,
A blessing on the gem,
A blessing on the water, and
A healing of bodily ailments to each suffering creature.

-SOURCE

Energy work and Spirits

More Celtic Fairy Tales: The Horned Women

Energy work and Spirits, aka why energy work doesn’t work all that well for me and why it might not work for you either. Also known as, why your magic may not be living up to its full potential.

Not long were the witches in coming back, and they raged and called for vengeance.

“Open! Open!” they screamed. “Open, feet-water!”

“I cannot,” said the feet-water,” I am scattered on the ground and my path is down to the Lough.”

“Open, open, wood and tree and beam!” they cried to the door.

“I cannot,” said the door; “for the beam is fixed in the jambs arid I have no power to move.”

“Open, open, cake that we have made and mingled with blood,” they cried again.

“I cannot,” said the cake, “for I am broken and bruised, and my blood is on the lips of the sleeping children.”

-The Horned Women

What is energy work? Basically as I understand it and as many others do, it is the awareness and manipulation of energy both in foreign objects and within yourself. It is from that the user will direct it and control it to do their bidding. What exactly is energy? Energy, “the property of matter and radiation that is manifest as a capacity to perform work (such as causing motion or the interaction of molecules).the property of matter and radiation that is manifest as a capacity to perform work (such as causing motion or the interaction of molecules),” (SOURCE).  Basically, it is something that radiates and is found within every object and force within our realm.

Energy work often implements the use of visualization as a key tool in its use, “formation of mental visual images,” (SOURCE). For many of us, our sight is the main sensory. It is how we interpret our surroundings and help determine how to interact with it. Another common tool that energy work uses, the use of touch and feeling. You can find many energy exercises that enact the use of a person’s touch sensory such as rubbing their hands together and feeling the warmth come from the act.

Overall, energy work is a very useful tool. It helps one become more aware of their surroundings and the presence that objects put off. It allows the witch to interact with these forces in a manageable and conjurable way that is relatively easy to understand. But this is where I get to the however, its not enough for me.

Two of the Somerset witches in 1664 had familiars; to Elizabeth Style the familiar came as a black dog, ‘and when she hath a desire to do harm, she calls the Spirit by the name of Robin, to whom when he appeareth, she useth these words, ‘O Sathan give me my purpose’. She then tells him what she would have done. And that he should so appear to her was part of her Contract with him, (SOURCE).

The practice of energy work, while useful, can cause a huge distancing between the witch and the objects, creatures, and forces they interact with. They treat them as non-conscious things that are only to be effected and directed by the witch; however, the things have their own say. Rather then looking at them as merely vessels for energy, one should look upon them as having spirits. The objects, creatures, and forces that have a will of their own. Though not all of them are self aware as humans or animals are, they still do have their own governing self. Ignoring that can cause your spell work to be counter productive.

One of the things that sets witches apart from other practitioners of magic is their interaction with spirits by use of their self and familiar spirit, ” In early modern Britain both cunning folk and witches claimed to perform magic with the help of familiar spirits, but it is the witch’s demon familiar, whether in the form of a man or an animal, which is most recognizable to people today,” (Emma Wilby: Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits, pg 46).

There are accounts in folklore and witch trial documents of witches speaking to objects and forces as if they were sentient beings capable of intelligent thought. In the quote of “The Horned Women”, the witches speak to the objects in order to get the door to open, and the objects reply that they are unable to do so.

It was when I started to view the things I used in my craft as having spirits that I was able to truly connect and understand them. Ad with that, I was granted their aid in my magical desire.

So, the new witch might be wondering “Is energy work a key component of witchcraft?” or “why is my spell-work failing?” Your own master and there are many ways to achieve the same solution. The reason you may be failing is because you are trying a way that just doesn’t work for you.

So, I say this. Try whispering to the stones you use, chant to the candles, sing to the plants, share secrets with your Familiar spirit and maybe your attempts won’t be in vain.

Toads and witchcraft

“It’s a terrible thing for a man when his woman gangs up on him wi’ a toad”
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32)

Toads and witchcraft often go hand in hand when it comes to lore and fairy tales. A toad is a witch’s imp, an ingredient for flying ointment, a witch transformed, and its the power of the Toad Amulet (also known as the Toad Bone). They have connections to witches and were often used to determine if one was a witch during the Witch Trials in Europe, “A jury of Women found a preternatural Teat upon her Body: But upon a second search, within 3 or 4 hours, there was no such thing to be seen. Elizabeth Horner, another Devon witch, tried in 1696, I had something like a Nipple on her Shoulder, which the Children [who gave evidence] said was sucked by a Toad” (Source: F. Hutchinson, Historical Essay). Unfortunately, the toad is somewhat overlooked by many modern witches despite its historical and magical importance.

Toads are often connected to the otherworld and spiritual world due to their use in witches’ flying salves within folklore and fairy tales (more info about Toads and flying Salves found here). It was used in spellwork meant to heal, protect, connect to the otherworld, and even curse men, “The Cat would kill kine, the Weasil would kill horses, the Toad would plague men in their bodies,” (Source: Giffard).

One of the more famous of its uses is the Toad Bone aka the Toad Amulet.

One of the main purposes of the amulets was the “power from for messing about with horses, (Toad Bone ritual by Albert Love).

In order to see the future with a toad, a witch would supposedly feed it a particular way, often quoted in witch trials it was fed the witch’s blood. It was from that she could use the toad’s power, while it was alive. And with it, she could curse men, torment women, and see into the future.

“I went to the toad that lies under the wall,
I charmed him out, and he came at my call.”
Masque, of Queens,” BEN JONSON

More information on Toads and witchcraft can be found from the following sources:

How do you even begin?

How do you even???

There is a TON of information out there about witchcraft. A lot of interesting things, a lot of misinformation, and a lot of weird stuff too. When you’re starting out, it can be very overwhelming. Where do you even go? How do you even being? When can you start calling yourself a witch? You have a lot of questions.

Its important to know that there is no one way of starting out. As individuals, we all do things a little differently from one another. Some need time to read and research, while others dive in head first. Explore and try out different methods of learning and find one that clicks right with you.

Reading, Researching, Reflecting (the three Rs): With anything, its important to actually know what it is and what it might involve. You should take at least some time to do the three Rs. If anything, it will make easing in more comfortable for yourself. Really take time to know what you’re getting yourself into. Read books, but also check the authors out. How are they viewed? Are they racist bags of shit that don’t know what they’re saying? Or are they highly respected by the community? Take time to test the waters and look about. Its never fun trying to cook a cake when you’re reading instructions from someone that confuses a cake with hamburgers. Below, I do have a few book recommendation for you to check out: (link posted below)

Test out the Waters: Think about yourself practicing. What is the feeling you get? Do you feel excited? Fearful? Indifferent? Why do you think you feel the way you do? Read a spell aloud, look up some rituals, make a poppet, etc. Try some things that you’ve read about and see how they make you feel. During this time, I would suggest maybe keeping a journal to write down your thoughts and what you feel good and meh about doing. Figure out what you like and don’t. How do you want to go about practicing?

Do what you’re reading about: Test out some of those spells, rituals, and charms you’ve been reading about. Then, you can write about your experience later  and reflect upon it. Do you feel silly? Do you feel amazing? Do you feel somewhere in between?

Create your own things: From all the things you’ve done, you should try and create our own. Modify a spell, write out a ritual, think up a charm, create a sigil. When seeking to really understand and master something, the thought process behind how its created can be an amazing asset. It also helps you become more confident in your own power and creativity.

Look into the meaning: Don’t just read the words, try and understand what they mean. Why would someone word a spell like that? Why is a certain item being used over another? Why is it being done on the night of the full moon in January vs a full moon any other month? Take time to reflect upon this and how it affects you and your craft. Maybe the reason why salt is being used over sugar is because of its protective properties. Maybe you don’t need those extra protective measures, so you use sugar instead. You see that a mandrake is the main component of a spell, you try to replace it with a doll, and then discover that the spell failed without it. Why? Research into symbols, the mythology, and the history.

Keep Practicing: Its easy to lose focus with all the reading, researching, and reflecting; however, you shouldn’t allow it to stop your practicing. Witchcraft is above all a practice and requires a witch to actively participate (and actually practice).

Other Tips: I also have a list of other tips for beginners (or those wishing to practice again)

  • create a group to practice and learn together
  • strive to do one bit of witchcraft a day
  • seek out a specific tradition (sometimes narrowing things down more is very helpful)
  • seek a teacher or mentor (always be careful, but if you find a good teacher it is an amazing experience)
  • show a mark of your dedication
  • blend it into your life
  • keep it meaningful (best way to keep laziness and indifference away)
  • don’t sweat the small stuff

Sometimes starting out can be hard

A few notes: I wanted to make note that this post is talking about self acceptance vs coming out to anyone. You are 100% within your right to never tell anyone who you are or what you do.

Source: More Celtic Fairy Tales by J Jacobs

It can be very hard starting witchcraft. A lot of people had been raised in very strict Christian homes, in which a lot of things were seen as evil and satanic. People feel genuinely afraid to try anything that a Christian would consider witchcraft. In fact, I know witches that have been practicing for years that are still afraid for their mortal souls.

I was lucky. Though my mother is Christian, she never used the idea of hell as a way to make me not do something. She would rather tell me to trust my judgement and to do my best to be a good person. And to this day, my mom is still very open with me being a witch. However, I know this isn’t the case for a lot of others.

How can one get over this fear? I’ve certainly remember being told, “I can’t practice to my full potential because I’m still afraid of…what if I’m wrong?” It can be hard to manage or even get over such a deeply rooted fear, especially for those who were raised with this placed over them. And its not even with just witchcraft, people are afraid to be true to their sexuality, their gender, and themselves because of something like this. Though, the idea of being kicked out of your home, bullied, or even killed definitely has a bigger role in regards to hiding things like being Gay or Transgender. However for this, I am not talking about coming out to others, but rather getting passed the fear and accepting yourself for who you are.

How do you accept yourself for practicing witchcraft?

There are a lot of ways to do this, some right and some not so right. I certainly do not agree with the method of bashing others to better yourself in the eyes of others (in terms of people saying “Witches don’t have anything to do with the devil or satanism”). Its denial and continuing the pattern of hatred and being unaccepting plain and simple. No, I am going to talk about how I and others have come to accept what we do and embrace it.

Not everyone will understand what you do: There will always be individuals and groups that will belittle what you believe and condemn it. You can try to convince them all you want, but they will not listen once they’ve set their mind towards something. You can’t change how they thing, you can only change how you react to them.

Accept witchcraft for what it is: It has a dark and mysterious past. The witches of the past cursed, cheated, healed, and did what they could to better their lives. And even today, it is still something witches do. Witchcraft is a practice of neither good or evil, but rather it is a practice of individuals. People bounce from left to right constantly throughout their lives. What is seen as good and evil is only determined by the perception of yourself and outsiders. Witches walk the crooked path, and it is best to accept that no matter what you say that truth will always be. To deny that they are not witches is to accomplish nothing.

Accept the history of witchcraft: There is no need to live in a fantasy of what history was. Witchcraft was seen as a horrible thing to a lot of people, and to be called a witch was a bad thing that’s why people were sometimes killed for being called that (though often they certainly were not a witch). It has a past that has ties to Christianity, and according to some traditions Christianity is the reason witchcraft exists as it is today.

Witches are human: We wound, ail, hate, as much as we heal, help, and aid. We are selfish and we are compassionate. Some use witchcraft in order to survive, while others use it to savor their spiritual needs.

Witchcraft has no rules and witches choose their makers: Some witches follow a creed, a rede, a code, while others only follow their heart. Some witches choose to follow higher powers, while others see themselves as their own masters. They dictate their own craft and care little of what others say.

The Devil is here and is not going to leave anytime soon: Whether you are actually satanic or a devil worshiper, the Devil is present in witchcraft. He is in the history and in the eyes of those that fear our practice. Not every witch works with him in their craft (nor in the same way for that matter), but he is still present, even if the only trace of him are the accusations leaving someone’s lips.

It can be extremely difficult for some when picking up witchcraft, especially those with a Christian background. There is a lot of hate and angry for those that have had their desires crushed. Some can accept the relationship  between Christianity and witchcraft, and they can even prosper from it (such as Christians that do practice witchcraft). However, you find yourself stuck. What can you do? The fear still lingers, though you’ve ended being Christian.

Learn that Christianity is a religion much like any other. One does not fear they are going to be punished by any other religion. But how can one reverse a heavy influence from a religion they no longer follow?

You can do things like formally renounce your following of the religion. A spell to undo your ties to it. Something as simple as staying “I am free of this influence, for I follow another path. One that is true to my heart.” It can also be vastly elaborate and represent how you feel about turning to witchcraft. You can turn it into a huge ritual of sort of self dedication.

Another thing? Its something I have grown quite fond of and have been doing the last month or so. You can say or chant a prayer/verse backwards.

Nema! Live morf su reviled tub

Noishaytpmet ootni ton suh deel

Suh tshaiga sapsert tath yeth

Vigrawf eu za sesapsert rua suh vigrawf.

Derb ilaid rua yed sith suh vig

Neveh ni si za thre ni

Nud eeb liw eyth

Muck mod-ngik eyth

Main eyth eeb dwohlah

Neveh ni tra chioo

Rertharf rua!

-The Lord’s Prayer backwards

You are essentially desensitizing it by showing it to be nothing more than words in your eyes. It doesn’t mean anything to you. In addition to this, you can also state various bible quotes backwards, and in a way you are stating a charm to undo the power they hold over you. Example: “evil ot hctiw a reffus ton tlahs uoht,” (Exodus 22:18).

Words are very powerful, and you would be surprised what something as simple as saying a phrase backwards can do.

And sometimes, its the simplest things that help the most. You just need time to think. Reflect about how you feel. Do you feel witchcraft is worth such effort? Read, learn, and educate yourself. You can take this time to speak with others and seek their council if you desire. It doesn’t have to be a witch. When I was thinking about becoming a witch, I spoke with my mother. She told me she didn’t approve, but that I had to follow what I thought to be right. Take time to contemplate the question, “Can you accept being a witch?”

—-

I do hope the above helps everything or at least give them some ideas on what to do. And if you don’t fear going to hell? That’s awesome. I am really glad that you can practice freely with no regret 🙂