Monday, 18 September 2017

Toad Doctor

The name Toad Doctor summons up the image of an expert in amphibian diseases
 but in earlier years it would have meant something completely different. 

While wise women and pellars would have utilised the so called magical 
properties of the toad it was only the Toad Doctor who  exclusively used 
this amphibian for cures.

Toad cures first made an appearance during Roman times and were given 
cooked in salt and oil as an antidote for snake bite. Toads were also used 
 as a cure for bed wetting; the amphibian would be tied between the legs of 
the child just before going to bed. If they started to urinate it was thought 
that the toad would start to croak and so wake the sleeper.
 It continued to be an important ingredient in folk magic for many centuries,
 and it was during the 17th and 18th century that saw a marked growth in the 
 popularity of this folk medicine.  
A ritual known as the toad bone rite became popular, particularly in East 
Anglia but also in other areas of the country, amongst both cunning folk 
and members of magical organizations such as the Scottish Society of the 
Horseman's Word and East Anglian Society of Horsemen. Although there 
were many variations, the ritual typically involved the killing of a toad or 
frog, having its flesh stripped from the bones by ants, and then throwing
 the bone into a stream at night. It was believed that this would grant the
 practitioner, who was known as a Toad Man, the ability to perform certain 
magical tasks.
Toad Doctors were found mainly in the south west of England and they would
 travel from town to town peddling their cures. The most common ailment that 
they treated  was scrofula, otherwise known as the kings evil. 

This is an infection 
of the lymph nodes, resulting in large swellings on the face and neck. A bag 
containing  toad legs would be placed around the patients neck which they would 
have to wear until the legs decayed by which time it was believed that the cure 
would have been effective.

The most well documented Toad Doctor was John Buckland of Dorset who 
described himself as a surgeon in the 1841 census. With his family he would 
hold an annual Toad Fair at the beginning of May at Stalbridge in Dorset. 
Crowds of people would travel to see him, all carrying their toads. He would 
then rip the legs off of the creatures and place them still twitching in bags, and 
put them around the patients neck. The reported price for this treatment was 
the exorbitant  seven shillings per bag.

Toad powder was prescribed for urinary problems as it was believed to be a 
diuretic, and for any complaints that  caused swellings, inflammations or growths. 
Toad bones and toad skins were also given to prevent plague and small pox.

 Thankfully these traditional remedies are a thing of the past. 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Blackberry Harvest

It's the season to be think about picking blackberries for jam and also I'm 
going to make some blackberry wine this year
I made elderflower champagne in the spring and that was success, even 
though one of the bottles did explode!

The Blackberry bush is an amazing plant and has many uses apart from 
making jam and of course wine.
It's a common native shrub found throughout  Britain.
  Can climb up to 15ft- 5m,  the stems will root where they
 touch the ground.  There are  hundreds of micro species
  in the bramble family.
                     Flowers vary from white to cerise appearing from May to September. 
The fruit is a cluster of segments called dropelets and appear in the autumn months 
and may be seen at the same time as the flowers.

My Jam!
Apart from making jam and wine the plant has a few other uses as well.

Bramble leaves can be used with a healing spell for the treatment of burns: dip 
nine leaves in running water and lay them on the affected area, say to each leaf as you 
apply it ‘Three ladies came from the east, one with fire and two with frost, out with fire 
and in with frost’
Or alternatively bruise a handful of fresh leaves and apply to the burn. This can be used 
for piles, skin ulcers and eczema as well.
A decoction of the leaves can be used for sore throats and if you would like a natural
 mouth wash it can also be used for this.
The juice of the berries mixed with the juice of mulberries binds the stomach in cases 
of diarrhoea, helps sores and ulcers and is good for piles.
The leaves boiled in lye and used to wash the scalp relieves an itchy scalp and makes the
 hair black.

Bramble Leaf Tea
The shoots and young leaves are packed with vitamins and minerals and are ideal  for use in a tea, either fresh or dried can be used. Place three or four leaves in a teapot and pour on boiling water, leave to steep for about 15 minutes. Strain then drink. This can be taken as needed; if using to treat diarrhoea make the tea twice the strength and take one cup every hour.
Good for mouth ulcers and gum disease, also helpful if you have a cold.

Chewing the leaves will help headaches while crushed leaves can be used to treat 
small wounds and sores.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Wild Dartmoor

Dartmoor, a place of mystery, made famous by Arthur Conan Doyle's
'Hound of the Baskervilles', said to have been inspired by the local legends
of the Yeth Hounds that hunted across these windswept moors.

Wistmans Wood on Dartmoor is the last remains of an ancient woodland and is the 
home of these hounds. They are a fiercesome sight, jet black, with smoke and flames snorting
 from their nostrils.
From the centre of the woods they start their wild hunt along with a demonic huntsman
 called Dewer, they race across the wild moorland looking for lost souls.
They head for Dewer Stone near Bickleigh where they disappear.
If any mortal is unlucky enough to see them it means banishment to a distant land, and 
speech with the Huntsman means death.

One well known local legend illustrates the
danger of encountering the hounds and huntsman 
known as Dewer.
A local farmer had been visiting the fair at 
Widecombe and after spending a few hours in
the local tavern decided it was time to set off for home.
Staggering along the lonely road across the
moor he came across the Hounds and Huntsman.
Too drunk to feel afraid he demanded some game 
from  the shadowy figure.
With a cold laugh the Huntsman tossed to the
man’s feet a bulging sack.
It was too dark a night to examine  the contents, so he swung it to his 
shoulder and carried it home.
When he got inside he started to open the sack
on the kitchen table as he told his wife of his 
encounter with the dreaded Huntsman.
She was just marveling on his lucky escape when
the dead body of his eldest son fell out of the sack.

Crocken Moor, a rocky granite outcrop which is believed to be the 
centre of Dartmoor.
The guardian spirit of the moor, Old Crocken, rides out from here on a
 skeleton horse. On dark and stormy nights he rides to Wistmans Wood and
 releases the hounds and Dewer to hunt lonely travelers.
Any meeting with him forebodes bad luck.

‘The gurt old spirit of the moors, Old Crocken himself, grey as granite,
 and his eyebrows hanging down over his glimmering eyes like sedge, 
and his eyes as deep as peat water pools.’
Sabine Baring Gould 1899

Dartmoor is supposed to have a temperate climate but having visited this area 
many times once you step onto the moor you enter a different world; not just at 
risk from the weather but also from the danger of being pixy led.
The moor takes its name from the River Dart which starts at East Dart and West Dart then becomes a single river at Dartmeet. 
It leaves the moor at Buckfastleigh then reaches the sea at Dartmouth

This area has the largest concentration of early Bronze age remains in Britain. 
During this period the weather was warmer and the moor heavily wooded so it would not
 seem as inhospitable as it does today.
The trees were cleared by the early settlers who established the first farming settlements.
There is still evidence of their occupation near Haytor.
The fields that these early settlers cultivated covered an area of approx 39 sq miles, 
the division of the fields called 'reaves' ( banks of earth and stone) are still clearly 
visible in some areas.

Down into the woods where pixies and headless horsemen 
and the wish hounds roam...

Put your ear to the sides of Tors and you will hear the pixies knocking deep 
within the rock, or if you are really lucky you will be able to hear the bells being rung in their underground villages.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Autumn Harvests


     The apple symbolises fruitfulness, prosperity, and rejuvenation and the
 wood is still seen as a symbol of security. 
Beware of entering an apple orchard as the trees are inhabited by faeries and pixies, 
so do not sit beneath a tree and fall asleep or you will fall under a 
faerie enchantment. 
If you wish to call upon the faeries summon them with a apple wood wand; and 
eating an enchanted apple will allow you to enter the faerie realm.

The oldest tree in the orchard is inhabited by the Apple Tree Man, who is the 
guardian of the orchard. 
To honour him the last few apples must be left for him and the pixies; this custom 
is called griggling, pixy hoarding and cullpixying. 

The apple symbolises fruitfulness so barren women would roll on the ground in 
orchards in an effort to conceive, they also believed that wearing pieces 
of bark pinned to their clothes would bring them a child, and if it 
was good year for apples then they could expect to have twins.

The main tradition of the orchard is the custom of wassailing the apple trees 
during the winter months. This is still prevalent today and has been revived in 
many country areas.

The owner of the orchard, along with friends,  gather in the orchard singing, firing 
shotguns into the branches and beating the trunks with sticks to drive out the evil
 spirits to ensure a good crop for the coming year.
Cider is drunk from the wassailing bowl which contains hot spiced cider, lumps 
of apple and pieces of toast.
The remains from the bowl is poured over the roots as an offering to the 
Apple Tree Man, and the cider soaked toast is placed in the forks of the trees.

‘Old Apple Tree we wassail thee, and happily thou wilt bear,
For the Lord knows where we shall be,
Till apples another year’

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

How to make a Witches Ladder

Witches Ladders have been in use for hundreds of years though not many examples 
remain from that time.
 One such ladder can be viewed in  the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. 
This is a long length of knotted cord with different coloured feathers
 woven through out its length, its use would have been to cast spells and 
more often than not used for a death spell.
But they can be used for a more benign purpose; 
the following spell using a Witches Ladder is for protection, abundance 
and happiness. 
Much nicer!

You will need 3 lengths of cord or string or even thread, ( blue for protection) 
each approx three feet in length.
Beads, feathers or some small charms or amulets.

Taking the three lengths tie them together at one end. 
As you begin to plait them together concentrate your intent and will onto
 the forming braid beneath your fingers. 
At any place that you feel the need make a knot and work a bead, feather or charm 
into the plait, at all times keeping the intent of the spell in your mind. 
As you create each knot chant the following:
“By knot of One, the Spell’s begun, 
by knot of Two, the Magic comes true, 
by knot of Three, so it shall be, 
by knot of Four, this Power is Stored, 
by knot of Five, my Will shall drive, 
by knot of Six, the spell I fix, 
by knot of Seven, the future I leaven, 
by knot of Eight, my will be fate, 
by knot of Nine, what is done is mine.”

Then you can hang the Witches Ladder where needed.

Witches Ladders were often bought by sailors for protection whilst at sea. 
The sailors also believed that the witches bound up the wind inside the knots and 
when needed if a knot was released the wind could be summoned to aid the ship in its journey.

In Italy they have a similar tradition but  here it is called a“witches garland”,  
made of cord, and would have contained black hen feathers. 
The malediction was uttered as each knot was tied in and the item was placed 
under the victim's bed. The cord would have had some of the victims hair braided 
into it along with feathers plucked from a live black hen.
 The curse could be lifted by finding the wreath and the hen and throwing them 
into running water.
 The victim is then taken into the church while they are bathed in 
Holy water while reciting a spell.

This is a good Witches Ladder for Healing:
Take an eight inch length of cord or string, divide it into seven equal parts. 
And mark the cord so at each mark you tie a knot and repeat the following six times.

“Disease, no one asks you to stay,
It’s time for you to fade,
With these knots I ask your leave
With these words I weave.”

Once finished place the knotted cord along with some salt into a container 
and seal the top with the above spell written on a piece of paper. 
Then bury the container, as close as possible beneath an Ash tree which is 
associated with healing. 
Be careful not to damage the tree whilst doing so!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Fairy Fun in Burley

The New Forest Fairy Festival 2017
Burley Hampshire

A World of Magic Myth and Legend stall at the Fairy Festival. This year we were joined by 'The Ivory Dolls' showcasing the new range of unique one off dresses and shrugs plus accessories.

The queue started 7.30 in the morning for the grand opening at ten o clock.

Just some of the amazing costumes sported by our visitors!
A great weekend again!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Wild marjoram

I've gone back to the more traditional cure alls for this post and 
hopefully won't get sidetracked onto the more gruesome 
cures as before!

Wild Marjoram, according to Culpepper's Herbal 1653, also called Organy and Joy of the Mountain is a herbal cure-all. Made into a tea or infusion "stengthens the stomach and head much, there being scarce a better remedy growing for such as are troubled with a sour humour in the stomach, it restoreth the appetite, helps the cough and consumption of the lungs, helps the biting of venomous beasts and such as have poisoned themselves by eating hemlock, henbane or opium. It provokes urine and the terms of women, helps the dropsy, the scurvy, scabs, itch and yellow jaundice."

I like this recipe tho!

Sir William Paston's recipe for a 'pleasant mead' 1669

To a gallon of water, put a quart of honey, about ten sprigs of sweet majoram, half so many tops of bay. Boil these very well togethere and when it is cold bottle it up. 
It will be ready in ten days.

These days, essential oil from the leaves of wild marjoram is popular. 
It is used in massage to relax tense muscles or to support the nervous system, 
and is often simply used for its soothing aroma.

Other interesting facts about the plant.

Bees like it!

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that the goddess of love first cultivated marjoram and that her gentle touch had given it its fragrance, so newly married couples were crowned with marjoram wreaths.
  • The Greeks dressed their hair and eyebrows with a fragrant pomade made from marjoram.
  • A bunch of sweet marjoram was placed beside milk containers during thundery weather as it was thought that this would prevent the milk going sour. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Old fashioned cures versus high street chemists

Perhaps it's easier to walk into your nearest chemist but you could also 
try a few of the traditional remedies for what ails you.
Take Herb Bennet for example, above, now it is seeding it is 
a good time to use to cure spots.
Place the root into wine then use to 'scoureth out foul spots if the 
face be washed daily.
It also refresheth the heart and maketh it merry.'

This is one that I would not recommend.
To cure the thrush, take  a living frog place it in a cloth  so
 that it does not go down the child's throat and place the head of 
the frog into the child's mouth until it is dead. 
Then take another frog and do the same again.

Found this article in the Telegraph about Frog snot!

The mucus of a rare frog that lurks in the south Indian jungle could provide the basis of a powerful new class of drugs to combat influenza.
It is found to " host defence peptides" that proved able to destroy numerous strains of human flu, whilst protecting normal cells.
Don't get too excited tho as people  are advised to treat this with caution as three out of the four of the peptides found in the mucus were found to be toxic to humans. 

Some flu cure!

In Peru they use frogs along with white bean broth, honey, 
raw aloe vera, maca; a quick whizz in the blender and there you have
 an aphrodisiac called The Peruvian Viagra! 

Or another use for a frog!
To cure the Black death, place a live frog on the plague sore. 
The frog will swell up and burst. Keep doing this with further frogs until they stop bursting. Apparently some people say that a dried toad will work better.

Sorry, I started writing this in the intention of illustrating a 
few 'nice' floral and herbal remedies but I seemed to have gone 
off in a different direction!
Perhaps tomorrow!

Friday, 30 June 2017

To protect your home against faeries

And evil spirits around  midsummer which can be the most dangerous
 of the year, gather:
St John's Wort, Mugwort, Plantain, Corn Marigold, Dwarf Elder, Yarrow, 
Ivy, Vervain and Orphins. 
These must be picked at dawn with the dew still on them. Fashion them into garlands 
and hang them over over the threshold to your home or alternatively burn them on 
the fire to drive off the spirits of the air.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Midsummer is the time to keep your house clean...

As nothing annoys the faeries more than a dirty home!
So sweep your hearth and set upon it a dish which holds a 
mess of milk and bread. This will please the fae and if you leave your 
shoes by the fire they will sometimes leave a coin in one of them. 
But do not speak of it or they will leave, never to return.

"Farewell, Rewards and Faeries,
Good housewives now may say,
For now foul sluts in Dairies,
Do fare as well as they,
And though they sweep their hearths no less,
Than maids are wont to do,
Yet who of late for cleanliness,
Finds six pence in her shoe?"

The Faeryes Farewell. Richard Corbet c. 1625

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Faeries are active at this time of year...

So this period around midsummer is the best time to bind them to 
your service. 
One way to get a faerie:
First obtain a broad crystal of approx 3" length and breadth
and lay it in the blood of a white hen for three Wednesdays.
Then remove and wash it with Holy Water and fumigate it.
Take three young hazel rods, peel them and write the faerie's name, 
calling out the name three times as you write, bury the 
rods under a faerie hill. Call the faerie on the following Wednesday 
in the light of the moon. Keep your face turned to the East and when 
she answers your summons bind her in the crystal.

Thursday, 22 June 2017


We have been delighted every night this week by the aerial acrobatics 
of a pair of swifts. In the cool of the evening we have sat on our decking 
and have marveled at the way these birds swoop and glide so close to the 
buildings that they have made us duck on several occasions.

Historically these birds have been known as the devils birds or devils bitches 
because they are so mysterious , disappearing every winter only to reappear 
when the summer arrives. Now we know they migrate to Africa.

But what amazing birds!

They can fly up to around 10,000 feet and do everything on the wing, feed, 
drink, preen their feathers and even mate.

They also sleep on the wing and apparently shut down half their brain, while 
still correcting their flight so that they wake up in the same place where they fell asleep. 

In Moray the swift was believed to bring bad luck to river fishermen, while
 historically farmers in southern counties were encouraged to shoot at them as they 
were believed to be ‘regular limbs of Satan’. 
However one farmer in Hampshire shot seventeen of the birds out of bravado and 
subsequently had seventeen of his finest cows die!
Serves him right!

Since writing the above we now have two pairs entertaining us every night!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Is May an unlucky month?

According to folklore the month of May seems to be incredibly 
unlucky, for example Kittens born at this time grow into 
unlucky melancholy cats!

And to marry in May is notoriously unlucky, and to do it dressed 
in green is sheer madness!

"Married in May and kirked in green
Both bride and bridegroom won't long be seen.
O' marriages in May
Bairns die in decay"

And the May weather is considered to unreliable for shorn 
sheep, which may take cold and die.

"Shear your sheep in May
You'll shear them all away"

Thunder during this month presages a poor summer and a bad harvest.
"Thunder in May
Frightens the summer away"

According to a Devon legend the sharp frosts that occur at this time of year
 are the revenge of a beer brewer called Frankin who was put out of business by 
the rising popularity for drinking cider.
He pledged his soul to the Devil in return for frosts on each of the 'Frankin's days' 
around the May 21st hoping that these would kill the apple blossom and 
ultimately ruining the cider crop.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Changelings and May

The month of May is supposed to be the ideal time for substituting 
mortal babies with changelings; why this month I wonder?

Faeries will not hesitate to steal un-baptized children, 
especially popular are fair haired babies, replacing them with changelings.
These may be either an old wrinkled elf who wants an easy life  or a replica made of wood which under a Faerie spell will appear to be alive.
The  replica will sometimes appear to sicken and die,it would then be buried.
It may continue to live, but it will not grow however much it eats,and changelings do have an inexhaustible appetite, it will also have a wizened deformed appearance.

In earlier years many babies that were born ugly or 
malformed were believed to be these changelings, as this was an easier explanation for parents of a socially unacceptable child; life would have been hard for these children.
Placing the changeling on a red hot poker or putting it on the fire, or whipping it was believed to make it reveal its true nature. It would then fly cackling up the chimney and disappear, the real baby would be found at the door having just been returned by the Faeries (see page 12).

Offerings of milk were left at the Well of the Spotted Rock, Inverness, by Mothers who believed that their child had been taken by the Faeries and replaced by a changeling. The changeling would then be left overnight near the well and when the Mother returned in the morning, she hoped the real child would be there, having been returned by the Faeries.

Men and Women were also taken to be husbands and wives of Faeries in the otherworld.
In 1894 in Clanmel, County Tipperary, Bridget Cleary fell under suspicion of being a changeling by her husband Michael.
She apparently appeared more refined than usual and had grown an extra two inches.
Although she protested her innocence he tortured and burned her to death  “to make the witch confess“. Michael Cleary buried the remains of his wife but they were later discovered and he was charged with manslaughter.

He was sentenced to 20 years hard labour.

Faerie births are becoming
rarer and the Faerie 
children are not as healthy as they once were.
So mortal babies are taken
to replenish their stock

The stealing of children has
a more sinister motive in
the Lowlands of Scotland.
Mortal babies are used by
the Faeries to pay the
Devil’s Tithe which is due
every seven years.

To protect a baby from
 being taken by the Faeries hang an open pair of 
scissors over the cot or stick an iron pin into the baby’s clothes.

Lay the Father’s trousers across the cot.

Draw a circle of fire around the cot.

Make the sign of the cross above the baby and 

sprinkle it and the cot with Holy Water.

Excerpt from Faeries and Folklore of the British Isles

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

May Day, Beltane.

I know, I can hear you all shouting you're late but I was busy!

1st May is the Celtic festival of Beltane, the beginning of summer.

May Day which harks back to pagan festivals was celebrated as the beginning of 
summer and on May Day Eve communities would go out and bring in the ‘May.’ 
Spending the night outdoors they would greet the first light with drums and 
blasts on cow horns to welcome  in the summer and then return home laden with 
branches of May blossom (Hawthorn) to decorate their homes.

And we were up as soon as any day O
And to fetch the summer home,
The summer and the May O
For the summer is a come O
And the winter is a go O

We all know the tradition of the Maypole which once upon a time would have been
practised in every community but in pagan times it would have been a living tree 
that our ancestors would have danced around, clapping their hands on the bark to 
wake the spirit within.
Overseeing the celebrations would be the May Queen, decked in hedgerow flowers, and 
keeping her company would be the King (the Green Man) also decked in Oak and 
Hawthorn leaves. Children would fashion wild flowers and blossom into garlands
 and carry them around the village calling at every house, receiving a May Day cake 
from the householder as a reward.

‘Good Morning, missus and master
I wish you a happy day
Please to smell my garland
Because it’s the first of May’

To leave a branch of hawthorn at a friends door is a luck bringing compliment, but 
gifts from another kind of tree could be insulting.

Nut for a slut; plum for the glum,
Bramble if she ramble; gorse for the whores.

A fair maid who the first of May,
Goes to the field at then break of the day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
will ever be after handsome be

It was believed that on May Eve witches were at their most powerful and that 
the month would be ‘witch ridden’ so crosses were fashioned from Hazel and Rowan 
to hang over doorways and fireplace to prevent witches from entering. Even flowers from the children’s posies were a witch deterrent such as the Primrose, bunches were hung 
over doorways to the house and cowshed as it was considered to be very magical. 
Striking a rock with Primroses will open the way to faerieland but on a more practical
 note the leaves were used as a remedy for arthritis, rheumatism, gout, paralysis and a 
salve could be made for soothing wounds, burns.