Friday, August 29, 2014

Doll's Eye: White Baneberry

 Botanical: Actaea spicata (LINN.)

Family: N.O. Ranunculacea

Synonyms: Baneberry, Herb Christopher, Bugbane, Toadroot
Part Used: Root; berries. Extremely poisonous aptly named 'bane'berry

Habitat: White baneberry prefers coarse and loamy soil, hardwood and mixed woodland, full shade, good drainage. Native to eastern North America.

Perennial: Dark green without hairs, black, creeping root-stock, grows on erect stems, 1 to 2 feet high stems triangular in shape. Leaves are long, branching from root, dividing into  three smaller foot-stalks, re-divided that each leaf is composed of eighteen, or even twenty-seven, lobes or leaflets. 

 Flowers: spiked and white. Flowers are in oblong clusters on thick, red stalks in June.

Berries: Prominent Feature: white spherical berries with black dot on tip, hence the common name, Doll's Eye. Fruit appears in autumn 1/2 inch in diameter.  There is also a red variety.  There is an immediate sedative effect on human cardiac muscle tissue causing possible cardiac arrest and death. However the berries are harmless to birds and this is the primary way the seeds are dispersed in nature.

Planet: Saturn

Medicinal Action and Uses: * Not advisable; use extreme caution. Antispasmodic. To only be used by physician herbalist. Roots have been used in very small amounts to relieve headache, coughs and colds. Doll's Eye once thought to benefit the circulatory system.

 Note: Leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and berries may cause gastrointestinal inflammation and skin blisters.
The American species is considered by the native people use against snake-bite and to  drive away insects due to its smell.  American name: Bugbane.

Witchcraft Association: Toads attracted by the aroma giving it the name Toadroot. found. Used in poppets for harm, placing the white variety berries in the place of eyes of the doll enabling it to 'see' the distance to its victim.

Both the berries, root is considered the most poisonous however the entire plant should be respected.

Other Use: Juice of the berries, mixed with alum, yields a black dye. (caution can blister skin)

Friday, August 22, 2014


 When I first saw the 1922 silent film Haxan written and directed by Benjamin Christensen, it was entitled 'Witchcraft Through the Ages'. At that time this 76-minute version was available through my local video store, originally produced in Swedish in black and white, it contained English subtitles.  Based somewhat on the director's study of the 15th century book Malleus Maleficarum, a hellacious mass produced inquisitors' handbook of its day, the story opens through the eyes of believers in the devil lured to Sabbatic orgies and tender baby broth feasts in scary woods at midnight. 

Said to be the most expensive Scandinavian silent film ever produced, two-million krone equaling 2,681,791.97 U'.S. dollars today, Haxan was an enormous hit in Sweden and Denmark, however it was criticized, censored and banned in other parts of the world including the U.S. due to its graphic scenes and lurid nature. Regardless, the production is well done; the lighting, props and sets create a haunting mood.  The action, emotions, make-up and costumes of the actors are excellent. 

Haxan attempts to be a historical view of witchcraft done in seven parts or vignettes beginning with a slide-show alternating inter-titles with paintings, woodcuts and drawings illustrating the behavior of people in the Middle Ages regarding their vision of demons and witches during the witchcraft persecution. 

Christensen's objective was to present the film as a documentary demonstrating a correlation between the actions, aliments, mannerisms, practices and attitudes attributed to so called witches and the modern affects and views of mental hysteria in his day.  Therefore he believed diagnosis was impossible during the prevalence of a deep-seated belief in superstitious concepts during a time of heavy religious canvassing of the population at large.  All this, says Christensen lead to what we know as 'The Witchcraft Hysteria' and the misunderstanding and prejudice surrounding mental illness.  Although panned in some camps, this idea raises questions surrounding the lack of human mental illness diagnosis of the time along with treatment overshadowed by superstitious, religious dogma that wielded both the gavel and the noose. 

 Scenes include: witches flying to the Sabbat; a witch applying a cure; dancing 'round the fire; devils and demons playing musical instruments; the purchase of a magical love potion; the magic circle; the carnal embrace of women; child sacrifice; a demon pleasuring himself; depravity through the devil's hedonism; possessed nuns; the devil chastising monks; the Inquisition, confessions, torture and death. 

In the final vignette of the film Christensen attempts to show how people would be treated today with regard to mental illness and disease. He points out a case of sleep walking and another involving kleptomania and suggests these illnesses might have viewed as forms of demonic possession instead of psychological ailments. 

The 1922 Danish silent film Haxan has been newly presented by The Criterion Collection in DVD format and contains the new 104 min. version along with the original 76 min. version released in 1968.  The film is now accompanied by a musical score by Jean-Luc Ponty and narration by William S. Burroughs. Whether this enhances or detracts from the original version is up to the opinion of the viewer.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Esoteric Book Conference

The Esoteric Book Conference is an annual international event to bring together authors, artists, publishers and bookmakers working in the field of esotericism. In addition to presentations by notable authors and scholars, the conference opens it doors to publishers and booksellers showcasing new & used books as well as rare and hard-to-find esoteric texts. For two days the conference hosts the largest selection of esoteric books under one roof. Contemporary esoteric publishing, finepress book arts and antiquarian texts are offered to augment the libraries of readers, scholars and collectors alike.

This multi-disciplined conference will feature presentations by contemporary authorities researching and working in esoteric currents both East & West. Western Esotericism, Gnosticism, Theosophy, Mythology, Shamanism, Rosicrucianism, Sacred Sciences, Occulture and World Religions are among the subjects to be represented. An esoteric book fair and art show will also be on site allowing education, vending and networking in a unique field of literary, historical and cultural arts.

The conference offers several opportunities for promotion, networking and exhibition for publishers, authors and artists who work in the esoteric publishing field. There will be two days of presentations wherein authors and scholars may present lectures as well as a book fair with scheduled book signings. On Saturday night there will be an evening of entertainment featuring various ritual performances.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Horns of Honor

Horns of Honor Regaining the Spirit of the Pagan Horned God By Fredrick Thomas Elworthy, Edited and Introduced by Raven Grimassi

Originally released in Oct 2013, Horns of Power is well-worth mentioning again.  Academic in nature, it is fine reference book explaining the symbolism and significance of animal horns to ancient Pagans and also followers of early Christianity.  

For modern Pagans and Witches, horns play a major role as a symbol of fertility, power, and protection and yet there are few books that discuss the significance in a way that makes sense to a practicing Pagan.

 In Horns of Honor, neo-pagan scholar and award-winning author Raven Grimassi updates one of the few classic texts on horns, Frederick Thomas Elworthy’s classic 1900 text, Horns of Honor. Grimassi has added a new introduction, footnotes, and commentary to make this extensive overview of animal horns in cultures across time, accessible to the Pagan community.

'Horns of Honor' examines the religious and ritualistic significance of horns in many cultures, the ancient reverence for horned gods, and the horn as a positive symbol.

Fredrick Thomas Elworthy (1830 – 1907) was a noted scholar, folklorist, and antiquarian. He was the eldest son of Thomas Elworthy, woolen manufacturer, of Wellington, Somerset, and his wife Jane, daughter of William Chorley of Quarm, near Dunster; born at Wellington on January 10 1830, and was educated at a private school at Denmark Hill. Though studious from boyhood, he did not enter on authorship until middle life.

He became eminent first as a philologist and later as a writer on folk-lore. His two books on the evil eye and kindred superstitions contain much curious information gathered during travels in Spain, Italy, and other countries, in the course of which he made perhaps the finest collection of charms, amulets, and such-like trinkets in existence and destined for the Somersetshire Archeological Society's museum at Tauntor through the care of his widow. He contributed to Archæologia, was the council of the Philological Society, and in 1891-6 was editorial secretary of the Somersetshire Archeological Society.  He was a magistrate, a churchwarden, an active member of the Wellington school board, and a prominent Freemason.

After an illness which began in the summer of 1906 he died at his residence, Foxdown, Wellington, on December 13 1907. His other books include: The Dialect of West Somerset (1875) and The Evil Eye (1895) : an account of tie ancient and widespread superstition.

Raven Grimassi is a Neo-Pagan scholar and award-winning author of over twelve books on Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-Paganism including Old World Witchcraft and Italian Witchraft. He is a member of the American Folklore Society and is co-founder and co-director of the Crossroads Fellowship, a modern Mystery School tradition. He lives in Springfield, MA.

ISBN: 9781578635436
Book (Paperback)


Information Resources:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Corn Mother

James George Frazer discusses the Corn-mother and the Corn-maiden in Northern Europe, and the harvest rituals that were being practiced at the beginning of the 20th century:

"In the neighborhood of Danzig the person who cuts the last ears of corn makes them into a doll, which is called the Corn-mother or the Old Woman and is brought home on the last wagon. In some parts of Holstein the last sheaf is dressed in women's clothes and called the Corn-mother. It is carried home on the last wagon, and then thoroughly drenched with water. The drenching with water is doubtless a rain-charm. In the district of Bruck in Styria the last sheaf, called the Corn-mother, is made up into the shape of a woman by the oldest married woman in the village, of an age from 50 to 55 years. The finest ears are plucked out of it and made into a wreath, which, twined with flowers, is carried on her head by the prettiest girl of the village to the farmer or squire, while the Corn-mother is laid down in the barn to keep off the mice. In other villages of the same district the Corn-mother, at the close of harvest, is carried by two lads at the top of a pole. They march behind the girl who wears the wreath to the squire's house, and while he receives the wreath and hangs it up in the hall, the Corn-mother is placed on the top of a pile of wood, where she is the centre of the harvest supper and dance."

—The Golden Bough, chapter 45