Mugwort

If they wad drink nettles in March,

And eat muggins [Mugwort] in May,

Sae mony braw young maidens

Wad na’ be gang to clay.”

Popular Rhymes of Scotland, Robert Chambers

History of Mugwort

An herb of the night, mugwort has a long mysterious and magickal history. An unassuming, weed-like plant, this herb has been used to treat issues specific to women as well as in the Chinese healing practice of moxibustion. It has long been associated with dreams and divination, and with superstitions and magic folklore. Mugwort’s psychoactive properties make it a powerful tool for magickal practitioners, when used carefully and with intention. Let’s take a look at this herb’s fantastical history and magickal uses.

Herb of the Night

The Mugwort card from the Liminal Spirits Oracle by Laura Tempest Zakroff

Mugwort has long been associated with the night and with the sort of divine femininity of this energy. Its Latin name, Artemisia vulgaris, reinforces this association. Vulgaris simply means ‘common’, but Artemisia refers to Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon. Artemis was known as a goddess of the earth, communing with nature, and often seen as dancing with supernatural and wild creatures in the forests. This association with night, the dark, and the mysteries that come with it, reflect mugwort’s use in dreaming and divination, as well as astral travel and psychic experiences.

Another association that comes from the Artemis connection is that of ‘women’s issues’. Artemis was not only Goddess of the moon, but also of maternity, childbirth, and other uterine things. The moon marked women’s monthly mensural cycles. We will touch on these uses later on, but mugwort was often used to treat menstrual and childbirth issues. The herbs has commonly been referred to as Miadenwort, Motherwort, and Womb Wort.

Remember, Mugwort, what you made known,

What you arranged at the Great proclamation.

You were called Una, the oldest of herbs,

you have power against three and against thirty,

you have power against poison and against infection,

you have power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.

Nine Herbs Charm, The Lacnunga

The origins of the English word ‘mugwort’ are somewhat up in the air. The herb was important in Anglo-Saxon culture, and like others we have discussed, is featured in the Nine Herbs prayer from the Lacnunga. The term mugwort may come from Old English “moughte” (moth) or “mucgwyrt” (midgewort), both of which refer to mugwort’s use in repelling flies, midges, moths, and other annoying insects. There is also the ‘folk etymology’ (basically a word sounds like a thing it is associated with) with the word “mug”, alluding to mugwort’s use as a bitter flavoring ingredient in beers/gruits before hops gained popularity. It’s also thought that the term mugwort came from “muggi”, an old Norse word meaning marsh, and the German “wuertz”, meaning root. So, whichever is the true etymology of the word, we can see reflections of how the herb has been used by these ancient cultures.

Mugwort’s common names include: Felon herb, St. John’s Herb (NOT St. John’s Wort) , and Sailor’s Tobacco.

Medicinal and Other Uses In History

Mugwort has many medicinal properties. In Ancient Rome, soldiers put mugwort in their footwear to keep their feet from feeling fatigued. It was said that a traveler could walk more than 40 miles with mugwort in their shoes and not feel tired. It was often planted on roadway for easy access for this purpose. In Germany, the herb is called Beifuß, meaning ‘by foot’.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses mugwort in moxibustion, a practice of burning cigar shaped roll of herbs near an acupuncture needle or point to clear certain energies. Mugwort is made into a Moxa, and burned to treat inflammation or even correct the position of a baby before delivery.

Throughout history and cultures, mugwort has been used to treat different conditions related to women’s reproductive organs. It was ingested to stop excessive mensural bleeding or to induce uterine contractions (and sometimes abortion). It was also used to relieve pain during and after childbirth.

In North America, Native Americans also used mugwort (although they may have used Artemis douglasiana, a a different spieces of mugwort). In the southwest, tribes rubbed it on their skin to protect them from poison oak, to get rid of intestinal parasites, and in salves and compresses to treat eczema. Mugwort was sometimes referred to as “women’s sage”, because of its use in women’s menstrual issues.

In modern herbal circles, mugwort is used as a natural insect repellent, as an anti-anxiety and sleep aid herb, and to ease menstrual cramps.

In addition, mugwort has been used to flavor beer, fish, soups and salads, and even desserts, especially in China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea.

Psychoactive Properties & Warnings

Although mugwort is not a regulated substance in most countries, it does possess some minor psychoactive chemicals that do produce ‘trippy’ experiences for some people. Mugwort contains thujone, which can be toxic in large amounts or from long-term consistent use. (we’re talking every day, big quantity use). Mugwort’s cousin, wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), is an ingredient in Absinthe, and although it was orginally believed that thujone was a major contributor to absinthe’s —– properties, it has seen been determined that thujone only appeared in low quantities in the drink. This is important to consider when using mugwort because it means it is NOT as psychoactive as wormwood. Then there was the myth that thujone produced similar effects as cannabis. This has also been found to be incorrect.

In addition to thujone, mugwort contains eucalyptol and camphor. The first two compounds together work to stimulate contractions in a woman’s uterus and to cause damage to fetal tissue – therefore one major warning for mugwort is that it NOT be used by anybody who is pregnant, nursing, or is trying to become pregnant. Camphor can induce hallucinations, vivid dreams, and hypnotic states, depending on the amount smoked or ingested.

Here’s the thing – taken at a small dosage, the amount of these chemicals present in the dried herb are going to be fairly small, and thus produce mild effects. You most likely won’t be tripping out if you drink a cup of tea with a teaspoon-tablespoon of mugwort in it, especially if it’s combined with other ingredients. Smoking it may be another story, but as I have not tried that method, I cannot speak to the experience. I recommend doing more research before using mugwort, just to be on the safe side, but I can tell you that I’ve drank mugwort tea several times and have only felt ‘slightly highish’ once.

I recommend listening to this episode of Seeking Witchcraft for an interesting discussion on the herb. It is called: Incense, Flying Ointments, Wine & Other Ritualistic Mind Altering Substances from Aug 21, 2020.

Here are my firm warnings for mugwort (but always do your own research!)

-DO NOT INGEST IF PREGNANT, NURSING, OR WANT TO BE PREGNANT

-DO NOT DRINK ALL DAY ERRRRRYDAY

-DO NOT DRINK LARGE QUANTITIES (use 1 tbsp to at least 8 oz water) can cause liver damage, convulsions, and nausea

-DON’T MESS WITH THE ESSENTIAL OILS

-IF YOU HAVE AN ALLERGY TO CERTAIN SPICES OR CHAMOMILE, YOU MAY BE SENSITIVE TO MUGWORT

-DON’T GIVE TO CHILDREN OR PETS

-IF SMOKING, DO RESEARCH! SMOKE IN LUNGS IS ALWAYS HARMFUL

-DON’T DRIVE OR DO ANYTHING YOU SHOULDN’T DO WHEN UNDER THE INFLUENCE

-START SMALL AND SEE HOW YOUR BODY REACTS

Mugwort is an uncontrolled substance in the United States, although according to a 2011 Louisiana statute, it may be banned in that state (although I couldn’t find a similar statute for other states). So…..do your research before purchasing.

Mugwort Folklore

As you can imagine, mugwort is steeped in folklore. Tied to the tradition of traveling is the belief that St. John the Baptist used mugwort fibers in his famous ‘girdle’. Along with this association was the Middle Ages belief that mugwort was a protective herb – not just against weariness, but against evil spirits and animals. These two beliefs together led to the herb being called “cingulum Sancti Johannis”, and was worn on the head to prevent possession by evil spirits, and when collected on St. John’s Eve it gave extra protection against calamity.

As stated, mugwort has always been associated with the night, femininity, and intuition, and because of the actual psychoactive properties in the herb, mugwort was believed to aid in divination, prophetic dreaming, astral travel, and altered states of consciousness. People placed the herb near their bed or under their pillows, drank it in teas, smoked it, and also rubbed it onto their skin (its oils do work this way), to obtain these properties. It was used in special rituals in China and as a smudging herb by some Native American tribes, sometimes in tandem with peyote.

I wanted to include this excerpt from this site. I’m not sure who to attribute the words to, but they beautifully describe the overall mood and energies surrounding mugwort:

“Artemisia vulgaris guards the entryways of this liminal space. According to Homer, Artemis is potnia theron — mistress of wild animals. Her silvery-grey flowers, the color of moonlight, announce that this is an untamed place, which makes some people uncomfortable as easily as it makes others feel at home. She affirms what is forgotten and in shadow. Also known as mugwort or cronewort, Artemisia vulgaris walks and lives among people. As intractable and sturdy as an old hag, she prefers devastated city spaces to bucolic pastures. She is often found in highway dividers or abandoned lots. Like Artemis who cultivated her solitude, Artemisia vulgaris helps us become sure footed, helps us value being alone as a way of centering and grounding ourselves. She is referred to in Russian as Zabytko, the Herb of Forgetfulness. Her strong, camphor-like oils open up ancient memory, clear the cobwebs of forgetfulness, and help us remember ways of healing and living that attend to spirit and soul. When you’ve lost your vision, your senses are dispersed, and you need an ally to help you remember how to dream, Artemisia vulgaris can be smoked, drank, or placed on your brow.”

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of mugwort are both self-explanatory and steeped in mystery. That’s just the energy of this herb. Lovely, gentle, mystical, and capable of inducing altered states of consciousness, here are some types of magick you can include mugwort in.

  • Divination, astral travel, prophetic or lucid dreaming, meditation, trance work
  • Fertility spells or rituals (not ingested or smoked!)
  • Anything relating to night magick, moon magick, or dreams
  • Rituals to connect to the Goddess Artemis/Diana or any of her correspondences
  • For protection, especially travel (physical or astral)
  • Magick where creativity or intuitiveness is desired

As always you can put the herb into sachets or other charms to bring its energies to your workings. But since mugwort is a psychoactive herb when ‘used’, it may be more powerful to engage with it directly. Incense is one way to do this, so is smoking the herb. Mugwort tea is of course an easy way to reap the benefits of this herb and to enter into the psychic realms. There are also recipes for salves or oils that contain mugwort that can be used since mugwort can be absorbed through the skin as well. You can simply order mugwort (or wildcraft it) and keep the herb near you during divination or sleep if you prefer not to mess with the ingestion part. Whatever method you choose, do your research and never use while pregnant!

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Mugwort Recipe

Although mugwort can be used to season foods, I personally feel that to connect to its magickal energies, this herb is best used in or on the body. I have linked below a wonderful webpage that give a simple recipe for mugwort infused oil, as well as several other mugwort recipes you may wish to try. I’ve also linked my Dream Blend Enchanted Herbal Tea. It contains mugwort and valerian root, and will help you experience that altered state of consciousness that mugwort is famous for. If you wish, you can also get ahold of mugwort at most metaphysical stores and online to make your own tea infusion as well!

Dream Blend

Mugwort Infused Oil (and other recipes)

Yarrow

 A kindlier background for the whole, 

Between the gloom and splendour. 

Let others captivate the mass 

With power and brilliant seeming: 

The lily and the rose I pass, 

The yarrow holds me dreaming.

Sorrow by Archibal lampman, canadian poet

History of Yarrow

Perhaps one of the oldest herbs on the planet, yarrow is a plant that has long been associated with spirits, protection, and healing. Used by Neanderthals and modern herbalists alike, yarrow has connected people to the spirit realm for centuries. It has a reputation for helping heal soldiers’ wounds and breaking fevers, among other medicinal powers. Yarrow is one of the definitive witch’s herbs, used for love, divination, aura cleansing, and so much more. Let’s explore the history and magick of yarrow.

An Ancient Herb

Way back in my first blog post (and first episode of Herbal Witchery) I referenced the Shanidar Cave burial site. This Neanderthal burial site is located in Iraq and is though to be more than 50,000 years old. In the bigger scheme of things, the discoveries at this site are massive and important, but what is fascinating for this post is that pollen from a few plants was found there, yarrow being one of them. Now sure, many plants have been around since this time, but only a few, including yarrow, were found here. And what’s more interesting, is that many researches believe that this site tells us that Neanderthals buried their dead with funeral rites involving flowers or herbs of importance and that these herbs were believed to have special significance or spiritual powers. This is the first appearance we have of yarrow in the span of human history, making it one of the most ancient spiritually significant herbs in existence.

In addition to this, yarrow was found on the teeth of a Neanderthal skull in El Sidrón cave in Spain. The researchers determined there was no reason for them to have eaten yarrow other than to self-medicate. Yarrow is fairly bitter, but it is known to help with toothaches (among many other medicinal uses as we’ll see below), so the scientists determined that they were using yarrow for this purpose.

From just these two examples, we can decipher that yarrow is an ancient herb, one whose uses and associations have remained mostly unchanged over time. As we will see, yarrow has remained in use, both spiritually and medicinally, in these same ways since this ancient era.

Yarrow’s Many, Many Names

Yarrow is an herb of many names and the history behind those names is fascinating. The official Latin name is Achillea millefolium, which means Achilles’ Thousand-Leaved herb. This scientific name was given in the 18th century, and was chosen because of yarrow’s association with the Greek hero Achilles. The myth says that Achilles used yarrow to treat soldier’s wounds on the battlefield. It is said that he learned to use this plant from the centaur Chiron. Another myth says that yarrow was formed from the rust of Achilles’ spear. (Fun myth, but this post does an amazing job of explaining why this association is not as solid as may have been thought). The millefolium portion of the name means “thousand-leaved”, referring to the herb’s green leaves, which are feathery and very numerous.

The English name yarrow comes from Old English “gearwe” (Dutch gerwe/yerw and Old High German garawa). This word also relates to the Yarrow River – whose name’s etymology is…hard to pinpoint. From Wikipedia:

The name Yarrow is obscure, and there are multiple explanations as to the origin of the name. It may have the same origin as the River Yarrow in Selkirkshire in Scotland, and therefore be derived from the Brittonic element garw, meaning “rough, harsh, rugged, uncultivated”… it may also be related to the River Arrow in Warwickshire and derived either from Brittonic *ar, an ancient river-name element implying either horizontal motion, “flowing”, or else “rising” or “springing up”… A relationship with the River Arrow in the Welsh marches is also possible, deriving therefore from a form of Brittonic arɣant, meaning “silver, white, bright”.

Wikipedia entry on the River Yarrow

It may seem like alot of information, but I think that it shows us just how old yarrow is. There is a mystery to the word ‘yarrow’. Any one of those associations can also be tied to the yarrow herb. Yarrow was featured in seven recipes in the Lacnunga (see pg 353 of this resource), so whether the name for a river or an herb, yarrow featured prominently in Anglo Saxon culture.

Yarrow also goes by many common names, such as: yarroway, staunchweed, knight’s milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, bloodwort, herbe militaris, bad man’s plaything, devil’s nettle, devil’s plaything, old man’s pepper, field hop, carpenter’s weed, death flower, eerie hundred leave grass, old man’s mustard, seven-year’s love, snake’s grass, and Nose Bleed, and in the American Southwest it is referred to as plumajillo, or “little feather nettle”. Many of these names refer to the plant’s ability to stop (or start) bleeding, its pungent, peppery smell, or its association with witchcraft.

Medicinal Uses for Yarrow

Yarrow’s reputation as a medicinal herb is vast. Yarrow is native to basically the entire globe, and is used in Ayurvedic, Chinese Traditional, and Native American medicine, as well as European herbal medicine. Some specifics are listed below:

  • to repel insects
  • as an astringent
  • as an anti-inflammatory agent
  • to cure hemorrhoids
  • to induce sweating (a diaphoretic)
  • to treat gastrointestinal disorders
  • Navajo considered it a “life medicine” – used it or toothaches and earaches
  • Miwok used it as a head cold remedy and analgesic
  • Plains Indians used it for pain relief
  • Cherokee drink tea as fever reducer and restful sleep inducer
  • Zuni use it before fire-walking, and to apply on burns
  • Ojibwe inhale the smoke to treat headaches, or smoke it to break fevers
  • to treat hemorrhaging
  • as a diuretic
  • heal skin wounds/burns and stop bleeding
  • as a mild sedative for anxiety

Something to keep in mind is that yarrow, like any herb, can be harmful, especially if used incorrectly. Pregnant or nursing women shouldn’t use yarrow internally, it is related to ragweed and can cause allergic reactions, and it is TOXIC to dogs, cats, and horses.

Yarrow Folklore

There is also no shortage to yarrow folklore. Yarrow was connected to both Venus and the Horned God, meaning it was often associated with love. It was thought to guarantee love for seven years when hung above the matrimonial bed. It was also used to divine a future love. This is seen in some British and Irish practices where a young maiden would use yarrow to get a glimpse of her true love, by repeating one of the versions of the rhyme below:

Yarrow, sweet yarrow, the first that I have found,

in the name of Jesus Christ, I pluck it from the ground;

As Joseph loved sweet Mary, and took her for his dear,

so in a dream this night, I hope, my true love will appear.

or

Green ‘arrow, green ‘arrow, you bears a white blow,

If my love love me, my nose will bleed now;

If my love don’t love me, it ‘on’t bleed a drop,

If my love do love me, ’twill bleed every drop.

or

Good morrow, good yarrow, good morrow to thee,

I hope by the yarrow my lover to see;

And that he may be married to me.

The colour of his hair and the clothes he does wear,

And if he be for me may his face be turned to me,

And if he be not, dark and surely may he be,

And his back be turned toward me.

or

Thou pretty herb of Venus’ tree,

Thy true name is yarrow;

Now who my bosom friend may be,

Pray tell thou me to-morrow.

It was also associated with friendship love- helping to attract friends, refresh stale relationships, and also to set boundaries between friends (an element to healthy relationships).

Yarrow is also associated with clairvoyance and psychic ability in British folklore. It was believed if you held the leaf of yarrow to your eye you would receive psychic visions. In Scotland, rubbing your eyelids with yarrow flowers can bring prophetic dreams. Yarrow tea is thought to bring psychic insight.

In Chinese folklore, yarrow stalks have been used open the superconscious mind in casting and interpreting the I Ching. It is considered lucky, to promote intelligence, and it is rumored to grow on Confucius’ grave. Apparently there is a traditional saying that says “wherever yarrow grows, one need not fear wild feasts or poisonous plants”, this ties into the next point, which is that yarrow is thought of as a protection herb.

Yarrow was thought to be a protective herb against fairies and other supernatural forces. It was worn as such amulets and charm bags. It was also sometimes used in exorcisms to call and banish the devil.

A few random facts about yarrow: it is often used in butterfly gardens, it is food for many different bugs, and birds often use it in their nests, which has been shown to prevent parasitic infestations. It has also been used in gruit, a type of beer that used bitter herbs before the 14th century in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.

There are also some beautiful poems written about yarrow. I’ve included another one by Archibald Lampman, a Canadian poet below. You may also want to check out the Yarrow River poems by William Wordsworth, (lots of sorrow and lost love etc. There are actually a few poems here, Yarrow Unvisited, Yarrow Visited, and Yarrow Revisited).

The yarrow’s beauty: fools may laugh. 

And yet the fields without it 

Were shorne of half their comfort, half 

Their magic — who can doubt it? 

Yon patches of a milky stain 

In verdure bright or pallid 

Are something like the deep refrain 

That tunes a perfect ballad. 

The meadows by its sober white — 

Though few would bend to pick it — 

Are tempered as the sounds of night 

Are tempered by the cricket. 

It blooms as in the fields of life 

Those spirits bloom for ever, 

Unnamed, unnoted in the strife, 

Among the great and clever. 

Who spread from an unconscious soul 

A aura pure and tender.

YARROW  by Archibald Lampman

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of yarrow are ancient and line up with many of the folklore beliefs and healing properties we’ve seen thus far. Here are a few types of magick yarrow is used in:

  • Healing old wounds
  • Clarity of purpose, especially in creative endeavors
  • Protection and shielding
  • During divination or psychic exploration
  • To cleanse the aura
  • Love spells, especially for lasting love or friendship
  • To purify spaces and intentions

To put some of these magickal properties into action you can do many spells or workings. Keep yarrow on your altar when doing shadow work or drink yarrow tea; this will remind you that healing takes time and to be patient while you do the work. Drink yarrow tea (I make a beautiful Psychic Tea with yarrow as a main ingredient) before bed to bring prophetic dreams or just before divination to connect to the spiritual realm. Put yarrow in a container under your pillow to dream of future loves or hang it in a decorative manner over your bed to increase the longevity of your relationship. Put yarrow in a sachet or charm bag for any of the above purposes. Use yarrow stalks if you practice I Ching divination also. There are many different ways to use yarrow in your magickal practice, just be creative and connect your intention to the energies of the herb!

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Yarrow Recipes

For this week’s recipe, I’ve decided to give you two like I did with Calendula. Yarrow is much more widely known for its healing properties than its inclusion in food, most likely because it is fairly bitter. As mentioned above, it was used extensively as an alternative to hops in ‘gruit’, so you’re getting a beer/ale recipe here! I have not made this, and it seems a little complicated, however I know some of you will be up to the challenge and I’d love to hear about it. The second recipe is really simple and it is for a yarrow salve that you can use for a multitude of small problems. Enjoy!

Yarrow Beer

Yarrow First Aide Salve

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The High Priestess

Traditional Meaning of The High Priestess

In the Rider-Waite version of the High Priestess, we see a card that is steeped in mystery and symbolism. The High Priestess is seated on a stone bench between two pillars. Behind her is a tapestry covered in pomegranates and dates, and the pillars to her sides are black and white, alluding to light and darkness, with the initials J and B inscribed on them. These letters stand for Boaz and Jachin, which are representative of the four elements. She is cloaked in flowing white and blue attire, wears a headpiece representing the moon’s phases, and holds a scroll with the letters TORA (the Torah, the sacred Jewish text).

As modern tarot readers, it is sometimes hard to wrap our heads around the symbolism of this card. Honestly, unless you are steeped in Jewish or Kabbalistic knowledge, this is one of the harder cards of the deck to understand. To pull the meaning out, let’s look to Liz Dean’s explanation of the High Priestess card in The Ultimate Guide to Tarot:

She represents the principle of the divine feminine; historically she is the female Pope…Today she might be the psychic, astrologer, or spiritual teacher. Her spiritual path is above material values and earthly relationships. Her gift is wisdom; and knowledge of the world beyond the veil…the High Priestess…tends her inner garden of the spirit in secret, walking between the earth plane and the celestial realms beyond…

The Ultimate Guide to Tarot, Liz Dean pg. 38-39

According to this explanation then, we have a card that talks about feminine power, intuitive knowledge, the spirit realm, and psychic experience. In practice, this might include listening to your gut, deciphering dreams, gaining knowledge by going within yourself (so something like meditation), and possibly even using methods of divination that helps us do this, such as using tarot, scrying, automatic writing, or tea leaf reading. What’s clear is that the High Priestess encourages us to go within for knowledge and not to be afraid to put stock in our inner knowing. She tells us to look inward, to take time away from ‘others’, and to get to know our true selves. In some ways, she also encourages us to ignore what others say and trust our intuition.

Sybill Trelawney as The High Priestess

If you’re anything like me, your memory of Trelawney from the series is of a strange, crackpot teacher who maybe had one fluke prophecy that turned out to be true. Well, I’m here to tell you folks, that that reading of Trelawney is just not correct. Yes, we see some of those elements, but when we actually breakdown Sybill Trelawney’s character, you’ll see she is much more of a High Priestess than you’d think at first glance.

If we look at the illustration of Trelawney above, we notice several similarities to the High Priestess card, although the symbols and layout are different. Trelawney is cloaked in bluish attire that somehow feels tied to water (intuition), and the moon (feminine cycles). She stands in her classroom, surrounded by magickal objects of divination: books, teacups, crystal balls, astrological models, candles, and potions. An owl sits to her side, a symbol of wisdom, and on her face are her very large glasses, which (although described comically in the books) can stand as a symbol for her enhanced “second sight”. She is looking directly forward just like the High Priestess, and clutches at the beads on her chest, possibly made of crystals or another substance imbibed with magickal properties.

One thing to remember about Trelawney is that she in fact IS a professor. Albus Dumbledore, the mastermind of the series could have chosen anyone to teach Divination at Hogwarts, and he chose her. Although it may not feel like it in the books, Trelawney does hold a certain amount of authority and power in her position as a professor at Hogwarts, likening her to the powerful role of the High Priestess.

Trelawney teaches Divination class. In this course, we see the students practice divinatory arts such as tea leaf reading, crystal ball gazing, dream interpretation, and astrology predictions. They must climb to the highest, most distant tower on the seventh floor to reach this room, and it is often filled with smoky incense so thick it makes it hard to see. This in and of itself can be a representation of a spiritual journey – we often talk about ‘ascending’ to the higher self, or searching the ‘higher realms’ when referencing the type of work the High Priestess encourages. Sensory depravation is also though to encourage the other senses, so by making it hard to see in the normal sense in the room, Trelawney is encouraging different states of mind and other ways of perception.

Trelawney often talks about being a Seer, having the Second Sight and an Inner Eye. She makes several predictions throughout the books that actually turn out to be true (it seems every prediction made, except for one, actually came true). Despite her presentation by Rowling as a charlatan and a ridiculous parody of a modern-day psychic, Trelawney is actually fairly gifted at what she does. The High Priestess card talks to us about listening to our inner voice and intuition, but as we all know, this can be confusing and often, when we make a determination for ourselves, we are right – just not in the way we expected. It is the same for Trelawney.

Trelawney encourages her students to seek out their inner sight, to practice divination, and to not be afraid of what they find within. Yes, she is dramatic and sometimes silly, and has a drinking problem, but I think that this comes from being overly empathic. She often mentions staying in her rooms is more comfortable for her and doesn’t mess with her Inner Eye; perhaps she truly cannot handle all the information she gets when around everyone. The High Priestess card does often speak to solitude and keeping to oneself, so Trelawney also represents the card in this aspect.

How Trelawney as The High Priestess Helps Us Read Tarot

Trelawney as the High Priestess helps us read tarot because as we think about how Trelawney approaches life and teaching, we can think about these elements in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about Trelawney from book three onward. They are asked with Trelawney and the High Priestess themes in mind:

  • Why do you think Trelawney keeps to herself much of the time? What does this do for her?
  • How does Trelawney encourage the students to work their Inner Eye muscles?
  • Despite being ridiculed, Trelawney stays true to her self, what does this say about her character and inner strength?
  • Why do some students despise Trelawney’s class and others love it? What does this say about their comfort level with their higher selves?
  • After looking through Trelawney’s predictions (scroll down to prophecies), what is your opinion of her abilities as a ‘Seer’?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Trelawney, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the High Priestess comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the High Priestess shows her face in a reading:

  • Could you benefit from setting time aside to get in touch with yourself (meditate, read, write, practice divination, be creative)?
  • What types of activities or habits can help you get in touch with your intuitive side? How can you incorporate them into your daily life?
  • Do you have a strong sense of self? Do you generally listen to your own advice, or are you easily swayed by others’ opinions?
  • Are you someone who is open to the ‘spiritual’ or ‘supernatural’ realm? If so, how does this affect your life? If not, what about it doesn’t resonate with you?
  • Do you believe you can see your future? Do you believe the future is malleable or set? How does this affect how you live your life?

This post should get your started thinking about the High Priestess, Trelawney’s character, and your own ability to access your intuition. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the High Priestess card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Molly Weasley as card number III, The Empress.

Listen to the podcast episode of Trelawney as The High Priestess :

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Magician

The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork on the right belongs to Jessica Roux Illustration.

Traditional Meaning of The Magician

When we look at the Magician card we notice several things. A man is standing alone before a table, making a confident, wide gesture with his hands. In his right hand he is holding a powerful wand pointing upwards, while his left hand point downwards. He is wearing robes that evoke power and mystery. Above his head is an infinity sign, sitting almost like a halo. In front of him, his magickal tools are laid out; a cup/chalice, a staff, a sword, and a pentacle. Above him hang beautiful green vines and vibrant red roses, and below him are the same, with the addition of white lilies.

The Magician is a card of magick and manifestation, but even more than that, the Magician speaks to us about purpose, drive, and resourcefulness. The Magician is clever, he is the chess master, moving the pieces around on the board in order to achieve his goal. He uses the tools of his trade to aid him in his quest, and while he also uses intelligence and skill, it is his determination and willingness to take action that sets him apart and makes him able to manifest what others can’t. He tells us to set our sights on a singular purpose and take action to achieve it. If we want something in life, we often must use the tools we have in front of us to get it. We have to believe it is possible, but more than that, we have to act. We have to tap into that powerful, maybe almost spiritual part of ourselves, and believe that what we dream about, what we thinking about, will become our reality when we move towards it with practical actions. We must use our strengths, skills, and trust our internal guidance in order to achieve our goals.

Albus Dumbledore as The Magician

Using the description above, Albus Dumbledore is the perfect representation of The Magician from the Harry Potter series. From our very first introduction to him in Privet Drive on the night of Harry’s birth, to the train station at the end of book seven, Dumbledore is the consummate wizard, using his intelligence and power to achieve his purpose.

Look at the image of Dumbledore above. What do we notice? He is seated in his office in front of a desk. In his hand is a wand, books, a parchment and quill, the Pensieve, a lighter, glass vials, his special pocket watch, and what look like his favorite candy, lemondrops. Fawkes stands behind him. He is wearing his signature blue wizard robes, and on top of his head is his wizard’s hat. Although not identical, the similarities with the Magician card are there. This image of Dumbledore reinforces his connection with the Magician card – we see that he is wise, powerful, connected to the magickal realm, practical, and most importantly, that he takes action. He absolutely contemplates things first, but even the amount of tools on his desk show that he is actively searching for something, not simply sitting there passing the time.

Dumbledore’s singular purpose in the books is to defeat Voldemort, and almost to his character’s detriment, he never waivers from this goal. I say this because as readers, many of us were shocked and a little dismayed by the realization that Dumbledore cultivated a relationship with Harry in part, to train him for the sacrifice he was going to have to make in the end. But, just as a Magician (or us in our own lives) must make hard choices and sacrifices to manifest our goals, Dumbledore had to do this hard thing in order to realize his purpose.

This is his overarching purpose, but what about on a smaller scale? Dumbledore fits the bill of the Magician here too. His office is full of magickal tools he uses – such as the Deluminator (formerly known as the Put-Outer), the Sorting Hat, the Pensieve, the talking portraits, books, and other “whirring” “silver instruments“. He always seems to be pondering a deeper question, and as we see in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, he has followed his intuition regarding the Horcruxes and has been able to piece together information to share with Harry. Dumbledore is known for his encouragement to the students, especially Harry, to use their strengths and to believe in their abilities, just as the Magician card urges us to do. Dumbledore is an inventor, a leader, and a traveler. He moves freely in the books, even when it seems impossible.

By far, the most Magician-like quality that Dumbledore represents is his mastermind status. Even in death, even from beyond death, Dumbledore is the ultimate source of wisdom, the ultimate mastermind, manifesting the reality that he thinks is most beneficial. Harry may be the “chosen one”, but Dumbledore, like the Magician card, IS the number one character in the books, in the sense that it is really him who steers the story and most of what happens in them from behind the scenes. An example of this is the backbone of Deathly Hallows…Ron, Harry, and Hermione chase the Horcruxes because Dumbledore essentially instructed them to – after death.

How Dumbledore as The Magician Helps Us Read Tarot

Dumbledore as the Magician helps us read tarot because as we think about the way he function in the books’ storylines, we can think about the way we function in our own life stories. Let’s look at a few questions about Dumbledore with the themes of the Magician card in mind:

  • What is Dumbledore’s ‘singular purpose’ in the books? Why is he so obsessed with this goal?
  • What does Dumbledore sacrifice to attain completion of his purpose?
  • How does Dumbledore embody the Magician traits of both spiritual awareness and practical action?
  • How does Dumbledore use the tools at his disposal to achieve his goals?
  • How does Dumbledore function as a conduit between Harry, Voldemort, and the wizarding world in general?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Dumbledore, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Magician comes up. Whether it is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Magician shows himself in a reading:

  • What is your singular purpose or ultimate goal? How ferocious is your desire for this purpose to be realized? What makes you so focused on this goal?
  • What might you have to sacrifice to attain completion of your goal? And how will you handle these difficult choices?
  • How tuned-in with the spiritual world do you feel? What does your connection look like?
  • What practical actions are you planning to take to realize your purpose?
  • What tools/skills/training/knowledge do you have at your disposal to aid you in the quest?
  • How does your purpose of goal fit into the bigger picture of your life, the lives of those close to you, and possibly even the world?

This post should get your started thinking about the Magician, how Dumbledore functions as the Magician in Harry Potter, and how you can function as the Magician in your own life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Magician card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Sybill Trelawney as card number II, The High Priestess.

Listen to the podcast episode of Dumbledore as The Magician :

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Fool

Traditional Meaning of The Fool

If we take a moment to study the picture of the tarot card above we see the image of a young man about to walk off the edge of a cliff. Far from being panicked about this, his facial expression and body language indicate that he doesn’t have a worry in the world. He is almost prancing towards the precipice, unaware of what lies ahead of him. He carries an impractical little bag, wears clothes that look too fancy for walking far distances, and holds a single white rose, as if he has just been smelling the flowers and decided to wander from the garden to this location. His dog has followed him, either jumping happily along or desperately trying to warn him that “hey man, you’re about to fall off a cliff!”. The sun shines in the background, lighting up the whole card with its golden rays, and jagged mountains can be seen in the background.

The Fool is a card of promise, new beginnings, and innocence. This card speaks to us about embarking on new journeys and the risks and rewards that await us on those journeys. Many times in life, we don’t know what we are getting ourselves into when we start something new. Whether that is a relationship, business, school, or career – we often enter a stage in our life as novices, unaware of what lays ahead. We may be unprepared like this character, or we may have our head in the clouds daydreaming rather than using practical knowledge or skills, but just like this figure, we have to take the leap to get anywhere in life. Friends may try to warn us, like the little white dog, but if we don’t go ahead, we will stay stuck. So ultimately, this card is promising us a new future, a new learning experience, and a way to grow by taking risks and keeping our eyes open as we gain more knowledge on our journey.

Harry Potter as The Fool

Using the description above, Harry Potter is the perfect representation of The Fool from the Harry Potter series. When his story begins (minus the first chapter when he’s a baby), Harry is on the cusp of his 11th birthday. He lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin as a sort of unwanted addition to their family. He is treated poorly, but despite this, seems to maintain an inner good-naturedness and naiveté that is endearing to the reader. Strange things happen around him, but Harry seems only vaguely aware of the these occurrences until an invitation from Hogwarts, addressed specifically to him, comes to the house. His uncle tries to keep them from him, but they begin flooding into the living room in overwhelming force. As Vernon tries to avoid the letters, Harry is dragged along with his aunt and cousin to an isolated island in the middle of a lake. Hagrid, an envoy from Hogwarts shows up, tells Harry he’s a wizard, and whisks him away from his abusive “family”.

Just as the Fool hangs on the precipice in the card, we see Harry stand before the entrance to Diagon Alley. This is Harry’s first first glimpse of the wizarding world. It is the first time he takes the plunge and drops off the cliff so to speak. But where we really see similarities to the Fool card are at King’s Cross Station on Platform 9 3/4. In the artwork above, Harry stands amazed (and a little confused). He has his belongings with him, including his white owl Hedwig, but he has no idea where to go or how to get to the Hogwarts’s Express. Once the Weasley’s turn up and show him how it’s done, he takes the ultimate plunge and runs headlong into what seems like a solid wall.

Just like the Fool, Harry has to risk it. He has to risk running into a solid wall, going off on his own away from the only family he has ever known (even if they are total crap), and he has to trust that everything Hagrid has told him is true. Again, like the Fool, Harry has absolutely no clue what awaits him on the other side. He is going into a world he is unfamiliar with, one that he knows almost nothing about, and on for which he is completely unprepared. Harry embraces the Fool’s energy because he just kind of goes along with the change. He doesn’t overthink it, emotionally overreact, or hesitate too long, instead, he just kind of says ‘ok, let’s do this’ and runs.

Along with this is Harry’s innocence and awe that permeates these early scenes of the books. Not only does Harry not know anyone at the school or in the wizarding world, he has no clue who he is within that context or what he will be up against. Like the Fool, he is embarking on a journey with no plan, no context, and no goal. But as we see, this works for Harry. He makes friends and allies, faces and overcomes challenges, learns and grows, and by the end of the books, he is a full-fledged grown man with a career, family, and sense of self.

How Harry as The Fool Helps Us Read Tarot

Harry as The Fool helps us read tarot because as we think about his beginnings, we can think about our own. Let’s look at a few questions about Harry in these early chapters of book one. They are asked with Harry and The Fool card in mind:

  • Does Harry’s lack of awareness about his origins help or hinder him on his journey?
  • Is Harry an exceptionally brave person, or is he foolhardy?
  • What would have happened had Harry turned away on Platform 9 3/4 instead of running through the doorway?
  • What doesn’t Harry’s story tell us about the rewards and setbacks of taking risks, especially those we take blindly?
  • If Hedwig could talk, and warn Harry of what was to come, what would she tell him? Would he heed her words?
  • Ultimately, what does Harry’s journey teach us about starting on our own journeys in life?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Harry, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where The Fool comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when The Fool shows his face in a reading:

  • How much do you know about this new venture/stage/journey in your life? Do you feel you should jump in unaware, or would you benefit from learning more first?
  • Do you need to embrace courage and bravery to take a risk or do you feel you’d be silly and foolhardy to start this journey as is?
  • If you don’t take this risk, what would happen in your life?
  • What benefit could you gain from ‘jumping off the cliff’? What might you lose?
  • Do you have anyone in your life cautioning (or encouraging) you to start this new thing? What part of their words or warnings strikes a nerve with you?
  • Does anything about The Fool’s Journey or Harry’s journey speak to you about your own life? Do you ultimately think its worth taking the plunge?

This post should get your started thinking about The Fool, Harry’s journey, and your own ‘Fool’ moments in life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read The Fool card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Albus Dumbledore as card number I, The Magician.

Listen to the podcast episode of Harry Potter as The Fool :

Cloves

 She came up to me one evening, when I was very low, to ask (she being then afflicted with the disorder I have mentioned) if I could oblige her with a little tincture of cardamums mixed with rhubarb, and flavoured with seven drops of the essence of cloves, which was the best remedy for her complaint; – or, if I had not such a thing by me, with a little brandy, which was the next best. It was not, she remarked, so palatable to her, but it was the next best. 

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

History of Cloves

Originating in the Moluccas, or the “Spice Islands” of Indonesia, cloves have been used for centuries. Just like cinnamon, cloves were a major part of the Spice Trade in the 16th and 17th centuries, and were a coveted and expensive spice during this time. Used to flavor foods, as a scent in incense, and as a natural dental painkiller, cloves have a varied history with many associations. Drawing energies of protection, mental clarity, prosperity, and love, cloves are used in an array of magickal spells and charms. Let’s dive into the pungent, sweet, and hot history of cloves.

What are Cloves?

As with cinnamon, I think it’s beneficial to first establish what cloves are. In the picture to the right, you can see the Syzgium aromaticum, an evergreen tree that grows in tropical regions of the world. Cloves are actually the flower buds of this tree, picked at just the right time and left out to dry. Once dried, they become a hard, dark brown spice that can be used whole or ground into a powder.

Cloves get their name from the French word clou, which means “nail” (from Latin clavus), which is very fitting as cloves absolutely look like little nails when dried.

Cloves in History

The first written records we have of cloves are in Chinese writings from the 3rd century BCE. These records describe cloves being chewed or put in the mouth to freshen breath before meeting with the emperor.

Cloves are thought to originate in the Moluccas, a set of Indonesian islands and historically referred to as the Spice Islands. Clove trees were native to these islands, and for many years were traded all over Asia and the Middle East. As expected, Rome and Egypt got into the trade around the 1st century CE, where cloves became as highly traded a commodity as cinnamon. Some sources report that cloves were worth more than their weight in gold at the height of the Spice Trade. Europe was introduced to cloves around the 4th century CE, but due to cost and supply, the spice was only used by the very wealthy.

In the 15th century, Portuguese traders began to establish trading ports to assert dominance over the Spice Trade. This lead to more demand and availability of the spice throughout Europe, and although it was still expensive, a growing upper middle class could now afford it more readily. The Portuguese actually signed treaties with local rulers in order to build warehouses and engage in this type of commerce.

In the 1600s however, the Dutch took over the monopoly of the Spice Trade. They were brutal in their tactics (as we saw with cinnamon), going so far as to destroy clove trees that grew beyond their territory. This was an atrocity because the local tribes on these islands had a tradition of planting a clove tree to honor the birth of their children. Each tree was tied to the life of that child, and when cut down, was thought to directly affect the child. The trees had also been tied to deities and sacred spaces, so destroying the trees was sacrilegious.

By the 19th century, the Spice Trade had collapsed as other competitors managed to grow cloves in other locations. It is from this history we can see that cloves were magickly associated with protection, love, and prosperity.

Uses for Cloves

Cloves (and mostly clove oil) have long been used for the following medicinal (and miscellaneous) purposes:

  • As an antiseptic and analgesic (contains eugenol)
  • As a natural herbicide
  • To anesthetize or euthanize fish
  • As a mosquito repellent
  • In oil painting, to coat the canvas and prevent paint from reacting with oxygen
  • Flavoring medicine
  • Remedies for colds, bronchitis, fever, or sore throat
  • As a dental analgesic, especially prior to modern medicines
  • For digestive issues
  • To treat parasitic infections
  • To warm the skin and improve circulation (never put essential oil directly on the skin!)
  • As an expectorant
  • To curb the desire for alcohol suck on two cloves (thus we see what the David Copperfield quote refers to)
  • In mouthwashes and gums to freshen breath
  • To create a pomander, an orange studded with cloves to ward off moths. These were also given as gifts in Victorian England to show warmth and affection.
  • In cigarettes and cigars. A kretek in Indonesia uses whole cloves.
A pomander, made from cloves and an orange

Clove oil can actually be toxic. Of course this means you’d have to ingest a large amount of the dried spice, but as a concentrated oil, yes, it is toxic. In fact, if used clove oil internally, it is recommended not to use more than 3 drops per day for adults. This just shows that cloves are extremely potent and do actually work for many of these medicinal purposes.

In Foods

Cloves are used in many culinary applications. They are considered a mulling spice, often used in wines and ciders to warm the drinker during cold winter months. This also has the association of being an aphrodisiac, warming and getting the blood flowing which makes people…feel good, shall we say. They are often to garnish baked hams because of the unique flavors that mix from the meat and cloves. Cloves are used in several classic spice profiles, such as Chinese Five Spice, Worcestershire sauce, curries, Garam Masala, Pumpkin Pie Spice, and pickling mixes. Clove are also used in ketchup flavorings. In Mexican cuisine, cloves are used with cumin and cinnamon.

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of cloves come from the history, both the more recent European history, as well as the native Indonesian associations. Below are some type of magick that cloves can be used in.

  • Luck
  • Prosperity
  • Protection (from slander and spiritual forces)
  • Friendship
  • Love or lust
  • For clarity or heightened awareness
  • Intensity, strength, or courage
  • Purification, raising the vibration of a space
  • Manifestation

To use cloves in your magickal practices you can burn cloves as part of an incense to purify any space or increase your mental clarity. Create sachets or charms for any of the magickal purposes above. Use clove oil to anoint candles or other magickal tools. Create your own magickal pomander to hang above doors, in your car, or in another space – just place your intention into the pomander as you work. (You can also place the cloves in a pattern or sigil). Make a mulled cider or wine and share with others to strengthen friendship bonds. Use a bowl or handful of cloves to purify magickal tools. Do a ritual to attach a certain ‘to-do’ task to one clove. Put them all together in a bowl near your bed. When you wake up, smell them to remember your to-do list. Decorate Mabon, Samhain, or especially Yule altars with cloves.

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Clove Recipe

For this week’s recipe, I’ve chosen a cute little cookie called a Clove Snap. This should be an easy, simple way to experience the flavors of clove and orange together in a small cookie that you can eat with some clove tea (or my Mabon Tea!).

Clove Snaps

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: Major Arcana Overview

If you haven’t yet, you may want to read my first post in this series before reading this one. It explains the Fool’s Journey and talks about why Harry Potter is a great tool for learning tarot.

The Major Arcana

A good place to start learning tarot is with the first 22 cards known as the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana cards represent different aspects of the Fool’s Journey. Most commonly, these cards are studied as a chronological progression through the stages of life, moving from the ‘new’ or ‘innocent’ beginning to the ‘wise’ and ‘learned’ World. These cards explore the bigger, more abstract concepts of life having to do with relationships, love, loss, death, rebirth, truths and transformations. 

In most decks, the cards are as follow:

0THE FOOLXIJUSTICE
ITHE MAGICIANXIITHE HANGED MAN
IITHE HIGH PRIESTESSXIIIDEATH
IIITHE EMPRESSXIVTEMPERANCE
IVTHE EMPERORXVTHE DEVIL
VTHE HIEROPHANTXVITHE TOWER
VITHE LOVERSXVIITHE STAR
VIITHE CHARIOTXVIIITHE MOON
VIIISTRENGTHIXXTHE SUN
IXTHE HERMITXXJUDGMENT
XWHEEL OF FORTUNEXXITHE WORLD

Within the Major Arcana are a few different aspects of the journey. These include archetypal people (or inner traits) that we encounter along the way, events or transitions that are thrust upon us and which are beyond our control, and ‘meaning of life’ concepts for us to consider. These are the overarching themes in our lives and are represented by figures and symbols that helps us explore them. 

The Major Arcana as Inspired by Harry Potter

Because of its allegorical nature, Harry’s journey lends itself to an amazing correlation with the these classic Rider-Waite tarot cards. In subsequent posts we will explore each of the Major Arcana cards in-depth using characters, events, and symbols from the Harry Potter universe. For now though, I’ll give a brief overview of each card and the Harry Potter character that will match it.

I’ve chosen these representations carefully to tie in with the most commonly accepted meanings for each car d. I do my best to explain any controversial choices, however, as with any tarot deck (or interpretation of a card), my understanding or chosen representation might not fit perfectly with something you’ve learned in the past or how you read that situation. That’s ok! I encourage you to study each example and make your own connections, even if that means discounting mine in lieu of another character or scene from the books. I encourage discussion and contemplation, as that will further your understanding of the cards!

Below are the traditional cards, the Harry Potter character that best represents them, and a few keywords.

0THE FOOLHarry PotterInnocence, beginnings 
ITHE MAGICIANAlbus DumbledorePower, manifestation
IITHE HIGH PRIESTESSSybill TrelawneyIntuition, divination
IIITHE EMPRESSMolly WeasleyNurture, mother, emotion
IVTHE EMPERORArthur WeasleyResponsible, Father 
VTHE HIEROPHANTCornelius FudgeLaws, authority, society
VITHE LOVERSLilly & James PotterLove, soulmates
VIITHE CHARIOTThe FireboltChoices, directions
VIIISTRENGTHLuna LovegoodInner strength,courage
IXTHE HERMITRemus LupinQuiet, contemplative
XWHEEL OF FORTUNEThe ProphecyFate, Chance
XIJUSTICEThe WizengamotLegality, trials, fairness
XIITHE HANGED MANSeverus SnapeSuspension, stuck
XIIIDEATHThe ThestralsTransition, fear, letting go
XIVTEMPERANCEPotions ClassBalance, measurement
XVTHE DEVILLord VoldemortNeglect, addiction, bound
XVITHE TOWERDumbledore’s DeathDestruction, upheaval
XVIITHE STARThe Stag PatronusHope, rescue, light 
XVIIITHE MOONThe PensieveIntuition, deeper journey
IXXTHE SUNThe BurrowHappiness, warmth, joy
XXJUDGMENTPriori IncantatemResurrection, rebirth
XXITHE WORLDPlatform 9 3/4Completion, awareness

If you already practice tarot, you may be making some of your own connections. If you’re new to reading the cards, you probably have questions. In my next post, we’ll begin the Fool’s Journey by exploring Harry Potter as card 0, The Fool.

Learn Tarot With Harry Potter

I know, I know, bad timing. The thing is, I’ve had this idea for a very long time and I really want to go through with it. So even though J.K. Rowling has put a damper on the whole franchise, I am going to be doing a series of posts and podcast episodes that walk us through the entire tarot deck using Harry Potter characters, events, and themes. If you are a fan of the books (or movies), love tarot, or even just want to deepen your understanding of the cards, this should be a great tool for you going forward. Yay! Before I jump into why I think the Harry Potter series is an amazing tool for learning tarot, I want to tell you my history with the stories and touch on the controversy surrounding their author.

My Story with Harry Potter

My love for the Harry Potter series began my freshman year of college. A friend dragged me to the 2001 film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, sort of against my will. I had no idea what the movie was about and when she tried to explain it to me, I wasn’t really impressed. I was twenty years old, going to see a children’s movie that I’d never heard of. I had no idea how deeply the characters portrayed in the movie would become a part of my life.

Of course I loved every second of the movie, and immediately drove to Borders and bought the first four books. I finished them over Fall Break, cuddled up on the couch in my apartment under a warm blanket, devouring the magic of the story while rain beat down on the windows outside. If I could go back in time and experience that week again, I would in a heartbeat. It was one of a handful of truly happy and content moments in my life.

I was lucky enough to experience the legendary midnight pre-order parties for the last three books (sadly, I didn’t dress up, I was a senior in college after all). I read each of those three books in under 24 hours, balling my eyes out at that ONE tragically beautiful scene in the last book that pretty much broke everyone. I actually didn’t hate the ending, or the epilogue. I let it be what it was, and left Harry, Hermione, and Ron on Platform 9 ¾ with a bittersweet farewell. 

I still love Harry Potter. I’ve read the books as an adult twice and I even have Hermione’s wand tattooed on my back. My best friend, who dragged me to the movie 19 years ago, has suggested we plan a girls grip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter before we turn 40, and I am all for it. I hope you can see that I have passionately loved these novels for almost 20 years and dammit, JK isn’t going to ruin that for me…or for you either.

Alright. I guess it’s time to address that…

Why J.K. Rowling, why? 

Since the last book’s release in 2007, things in the Harry Potter world have gotten weird. Dumbledore’s sexuality. Hermione’s race. Wizards’ bathroom habits. Cursed Child. Fantastic Beasts. Native American cultural appropriation. The list goes on and on. It’s not that there is anything wrong with or weird about any of the things listed above, it’s that JK Rowling seems to keep adding in elements of the story that weren’t evident to begin with just to be edgy or relevant.

Then, in 2020, JK Rowling really struck a nerve with comments she made surrounding the transgendered community. I am not going to comment on these statements specifically (big, complicated issue), but Rowling definitely seems to have some transphobia, or at the very least is operating out of a willfully misinformed stance. Unfortunately, she is the author of THE most famous book of the last 50 years, and her statements have caused many people to separate themselves from the Harry Potter franchise, and to disown their affiliation and affection for the entire story.

I understand why people are distancing themselves from J.K. Rowling, and I can see why this may include disavowing the Harry Potter franchise. I think each of us must decide how to handle a situation such as this, and if that includes distancing yourself from Potterverse, I get it.

However, despite all the authorial drama, I still love Harry Potter. He is a fictional character that stands for love, friendship, courage, and fighting for good. The world he lives in is exciting, funny, and …feels like home. I think that sense of comfort and familiarity is why many people fell in love with the books in the first place. For me that doesn’t disappear because the woman who created this world has turned out to be controversial. I believe the story itself still stands. The wizarding world is an amazing setting and the characters still feel like friends (or my children now that I’m old!). I have personally made peace with still loving these characters and their story. I feel I am able to separate the author and her remarks from the word she penned, especially when it comes to recognizing the universal themes present in the books.

If you’re still reading this, I’m guessing you may feel the same. In that case, let me tell you why Harry Potter is an amazing tool to help you learn tarot.

Listen to the podcast episode of this post. Click the picture above.

Why use Harry Potter to teach tarot? 

One of the most compelling reasons to use these books, is that Harry Potter’s journey is one of the best modern examples of the Fool’s Journey featured in the tarot. Most tarot decks begin with the fool, an innocent character who is about to be thrust into their life’s journey. The Fool goes through a series of universal experiences and meets different types of people, all representative of universal stages and themes in life. The Fool learns and grows throughout this journey and eventually comes out on the other side, a wiser, more worldly person.

There are plenty of examples of this in literature and film. Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, Odysseys in the Odyssey, Frodo in Lord of the Rings, and even Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, are all examples of the hero or Fool’s Journey, but the Harry Potter series surpasses them all in my opinion. It is simply chock-full of archetypal characters and imagery that almost seems lifted from the tarot (I’ll be delving into those specifics later). 

Another reason is that Harry Potter is just magical enough that it doesn’t feel completely mundane, but still relatable enough that we can truly see how these characters and situations relate to the meanings of the tarot cards themselves, as well as to ourselves, our journey, and the people and situations happening around us.

When I describe the Empress card as the ultimate mother, the consummate nurturer, and an earthly energy that brings us comfort and compassion, who do you think of in the Harry Potter universe? I’m guessing Molly Weasley. When I talk about the Magician, the first image that comes to your mind is most likely Dumbledore, in his signature wizard hat and robes. What about the Hierophant? If you are just starting to learn tarot, this card can be difficult, but when I tell you that this card usually deals with rules, societal laws and customs, authority and influence, you will probably imagine Cornelius Fudge (at least early on in the novels), running the Ministry of Magic and ensuring the rules are followed. 

As I delve into the cards you will come to see just how connected Harry Potter and the tarot are. Honestly, it’s a little scary how things line up – almost like she took out a tarot deck and started writing…

In this series of posts and podcast episodes, I’ll be taking a whimsical look at the tarot and matching the characters, symbols, and situations to the cards I feel they best represent. Developing these connections has helped me gain a much deeper understanding of the tarot, which has helped me do readings for myself and others. I hope that my observations help you in the same way, and that you will have a more thorough understanding of not just ‘card meanings’, but also the overall narrative these cards represent in your life and the lives of those around you! 

Stay tuned for the next post in the series, where I’ll be diving into the Major Arcana.

Mabon Tarot Spread

While I was writing my Wheel of the Year series post on Mabon, I became inspired to create a tarot spread that focuses on one of the themes of Mabon. One of the magickal aspects of autumn is that during this time of year the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. During Mabon, we see this change happening and find ourselves in a liminal period when day and night are of equal length. Darkness and lightness are balanced this time of year, and this is one of the themes of Mabon.

The tarot spread I’m sharing with you today focuses on the theme of balance. Tarot is a great way to practice self-reflection and notice aspects of our lives that we might not be consciously aware of otherwise. This Mabon spread will help you look at what aspect of your life is not as balanced as it could be, what is influencing this imbalance, how to go about creating more balance in this area, and how this change can affect your life. I’m going to go through the spread with example cards if you’d like to try it yourself. Click the picture for a free PDF printable if you’d like to include it in your Book of Shadows (or tarot spread notebook).

How to Read the Spread

To read this spread, you’ll want to shuffle your cards or cut your deck. Then, you’ll lay out the cards face down in the positions you see above. I personally like to ask each question as I’m choosing the card for that position. Once all the cards are laid out, take a deep breath, ask for clarity and insight, and then turn over the cards in the order you laid them down.

Next thing I like to do is take a second to notice any overarching themes/images/suits. Are your cards all wands? Do you have several major arcana cards? Are the figures all looking directly at you? Do you have repeating numbers or colors? Just take notice of all of these things and and see how they play in later.

Now you’ll move on to the individual cards.

#1: This card will tell you what area of your life is out of balance.

#2: This card will speak to the influences or reasons that this area is causing an imbalance.

#3: This card will bring insights to the ways in which this imbalance is affecting your life.

#4: This card will suggest actions you can take to ‘fix’ this imbalance.

#5: This card will prepare you for any obstacles you might face as you try to bring more balance into your life.

#6: This card will show you how improving the balance in this area can change or improve your life.

I like to write notes as I go, then revisit my initial overview. I also like to either speak or write my insights into a cohesive ‘story’ because as I do this, more connections arise. It gives the reading a deeper meaning and helps it resonate with me. I often think about the cards for days after a reading when I take the time to write up a summary (or video/voice memo). Below I’ll go through a short sample reading.

Sample Mabon Tarot Reading

This sample reading is much shorter than what I’d do for myself or a client, but it can give you an idea of how to read the spread.

Notes: lots of female energy, images of balance/mixing, all four suits present, two 8 cards

#1 Five of Wands- The imbalance in this person’s life has to do with petty arguing. Maybe relationships with siblings (sisters), or even an inability to decide within the self. There is disagreement on a small scale, but the imbalance has the potential to cause more damage.

#2 The World – This card seems to be telling me that this issue is imbalanced because of too much free-spiritedness. Normally a positive card, this imagery indicates that one of the parties in this squabbling relationship doesn’t hold their end of the bargain up-maybe they are irresponsible, always doing their own thing, or ‘exploring the world’; whatever the iteration of this, it’s causing problems.

#3 Eight of Pentacles – The effect of this imbalance is a constant state of back and forth. There’s always some ‘balancing’ or ‘measuring’ going on – who’s turn is it, who did what, who said what, etc. It’s causing resentment and an imbalanced balancing act between the querent and the other person.

#4 The Sun – The querent can balance this aspect by doing a few things suggested by this card: seeing more positives in the other person or situation, looking on the bright side, coming together and forgiving each other, or seeking out support from other more supportive figures.

#5 Eight of Cups – The biggest challenge indicated by this card is that one of the people in this imbalanced relationship will end up walking away. This can mean they walk away and refuse to talk in a smaller sense, or that one of the two will walk away from the relationship for good.

#6 Ten of Swords – Although not pleasant to look at, this card can indicate a few things for the overall effect balancing this area will have on the querent’s life. In the short-term, this balancing may hurt – alot. It will feel as if they’ve been stabbed in the back and this may take some recovery, but in the long run, this will lead to a more balanced and stable feeling.

Summary: For this querent, it looks like what they believed may be a small imbalance is actually causing quite a bit of damage in their life. This is a good example of a tarot reading that says something important, but something that is NOT pleasant to hear. It looks as if these two people cannot work out their differences and balance their relationship, they may end up losing it. Tarot doesn’t predict the future, but warns us of possibilities – therefore, this querent may want to really look at how important this relationship is to them and try the positive actions to resolve the conflict. However, if walking away is necessary, the querent can remember that sometimes balancing means losing something, but in the long run they will feel less burdened and have more stability and balance in their life.

That’s my short sample reading. I hope it helped you in how to approach your own reading. Good luck!

I you love this tarot spread, but don’t love reading for yourself, I’m offering $10 Mabon Tarot Readings for the month of September! Just click below and choose the Mabon Reading.

The Wheel of the Year Series: Mabon

Equal dark, equal light

Flow in Circle, deep insight

Blessed Be, Blessed Be

The transformation of energy!

So it flows, out it goes

Three-fold back it shall be

Blessed Be, Blessed Be

The transformation of energy!”

Night An’Fey, Transformation of Energy1

Change is in the air. It has been coming for some time, but the difference is more palpable now. Days are cooler, and the nights are almost cold. Leaves have begun to shift from their vibrant summer green hues to jeweled yellows, oranges, and reds. Fields are being fallowed, and new crops such as squash and pumpkin are beginning to emerge. It’s time to take out all those fall sweaters, boots, and scarves, grab a witchy book, and sit down with a cup of pumpkin spice something. It’s fall ya’ll and that means it’s time to celebrate Mabon, or as some call it, the Autumn Equinox.

Mabon is the second harvest festival on the Wheel of the Year. It falls on or near September 21, a little more than halfway between Lughnasadh, the first harvest festival and Samhain, the last of the three harvest celebrations. Mabon is often thought of as the pagan Thanksgiving; a time of abundance, sharing, and appreciation for the land. It is during this time of year that the days and nights are the same length, therefore there is a special focus on balance during this time of year, and a recognition of what it means for light and dark to be equal. In this post, I’ll be talking about the historical roots of Mabon, the controversy surrounding its name, and of course, looking at its symbols, themes, correspondences, and sharing ways that you can incorporate this sabbat into your practice.

History of Mabon

The official history of Mabon is somewhat questionable. Unlike Lughnasadh or Samhain, which are based in specific Celtic festivals, Mabon is more of a celebration of a time of year. Yes, there have been festivals and celebrations on or around the Autumn Equinox in many different cultures, but as far as a consolidated pagan holiday, it seems Mabon is fairly recent. (The name definitely is, but more on that later)

The Autumn Equinox has always been important for earth-centered religions. Here are a few celebrations that influenced what we currently know as Mabon.

  • The Harvest Home Festival– A ‘traditional’ English harvest festival, where people sing, drink, dance, and celebrate the harvest. Sometimes tied in with Christianity and is celebrated by decorating the church with food from the harvest.
  • The Festival of Dionysus – An Ancient Greek festival connected to the god of Wine. It was celebrated several times a year, but may have originated from a fall grape harvest festival.
  • Harvest of the First Fruits – general name given to many culture’s such as Hebrew, Greek, and Christian, where the ‘first fruits’ of the harvest were given to (usually) a religious or spiritual organization as an offering or tax of sorts
  • Feast of the Archangel Michael (Michaelmas) – Christian liturgical festival, usually celebrated on September 29th.
  • Alban Elfed – A Druid celebration focused on the balance of light (day) and dark (night), and giving thanks for the harvest. Alban Elfed means “the light of the water”.
  • Harvest Moon Festival – Celebrated all over Asia, specifically China. (Korea has Chuseok and Japan Tsukimi). Communities harvest crops, celebrate, give thanks, and pray. Mooncakes are usually eaten to symbolize and honor this special full moon. It dates from around 1600 BCE.

It is evident that even though there wasn’t an official “Mabon” or “Autumn Equinox” celebration, the changing of the season and the harvesting that came with it has been recognized for millennia. In her section on the sabbat in her book, Celebrate the Earth, Laurie Cabot writes beautifully about the subtle, yet universally felt energetic shifts during the Mabon season:

During the September Equinox, when the sun passes our planet’s equator, making night and day of almost equal length…I feel in a passionate sense the extraordinary relationship between humankind and these primordial movements, patterns, and tides. The influence of so gentle a turn in the Earth’s axis, a poetic motion established long before the existence of time, is profound.

Laurie Cabot, Celebrate the Earth pg. 231

So it very much seems that the modern-day Mabon sabbat, although not directly traced back to a particular ancient practice, embraces the same themes, symbols, and ideas as many of the harvest festivals around this time. Balance, reflection, equality, abundance, and meditating on the darkness to come are almost instinctual human focuses this time of year, and these all carry forward to our celebrations today.

How Mabon Got its Name

Before I dive into ways to celebrate Mabon, let’s talk about its name. It’s actually a point of some controversy in some circles, and the origins may surprise you.

As the previous section explained, Mabon as a consolidated, identified pagan holiday hasn’t really been around that long, and neither has its name. (Of course this doesn’t make it invalid, as we’ve also established that the practices surrounding it are rooted in centuries of similar festivals worldwide). So, where did this controversial name for the Autumn Equinox come from?

In 1974, an influential figure in the California Wicca scene, Aidan Kelly, was writing a draft of a book about religious calendars. In this article, he explains “It offended my aesthetic sensibilities that there seemed to be no Pagan names for the summer solstice or the fall equinox equivalent to Yule or Beltane—so I decided to supply them”. Through a very convoluted, and very intentional line of thought, he ended up using a name from a Welsh myth that dealt with the themes of death and rebirth that the Greek myths of Persephone do. The Welsh myth, Mabon ap Modron (“Son of the Mother”), is where we get the name Mabon. Honestly, it’s a bit confusing and overwhelming because the myths surrounding Mabon are numerous, but the general gist of why Kelly used the name is because 1) it was simple and fit into the same typography as the other sabbats and 2) it is a myth about death, rebirth, the great mother, etc. Kelly’s writing was eventually sent to the editor of the Green Egg, a popular pagan publication, and slowly but surely, the term Mabon began to be used for the Autumn Equinox.

Although this may seem like a tangent (and the following is my own opinion), I think it is important information. In researching this, I came across many sites that referred to Mabon as an ‘ancient festival’. While the roots of that are true, knowing that our modern practices and rituals on Mabon are kind of our own making is both really cool and somewhat disappointing. Many of us embrace Paganism, Wicca, or witchcraft because we feel in tune with energies much older than the 20th century. It takes away some of the mysticism to think about organizing and labeling and naming a sabbat that is supposed to be of ancient origin; however, I think we can take heart that although ancient practitioners didn’t whisper the name Mabon in sacred circles, the ways that we celebrate this newly named sabbat honor many ancient festivals and the “primordial movements” of this time of year. So whatever your belief or feelings about the name, it seems Mabon is here to stay, and is an interesting testament to the way labels change, but actions stay the same.

Themes of Mabon

As with all of the sabbats on the wheel of the year, the themes can be found by meditating on the energies of that time of year. As we’ve already seen, Mabon is associated with the following themes:

  • Balance
  • Reflection
  • Blessings
  • Death and rebirth
  • Harvest/Abundance
  • Clearing Out the Old
  • Planning/Storing for the time ahead

Symbols of Mabon

Symbols associated with Mabon are:

  • Wine/Cider
  • Squash/pumpkin/apple
  • Nuts such as acorns, walnuts
  • Bread
  • Cornucopias
  • Ivy or other vines
  • Crows, ravens, foxes, wolves, owls, deer

Correspondences of Mabon

Some of the correspondences for are:

Stones: lapis lazuli, yellow agate, amber, tiger’s eye, aventurine, citrine, smoky quarts, obsidian

Colors: red, orange, maroon, brown, tan, gold, amber, deep dusty green

Herbs: rosemary, sage, chamomile, rose hips, walnuts, saffron, apple, cinnamon, cardamom, rue, yarrow, clove, nutmeg

Foods & Drinks: Apple anything, deep red wines, hearty breads, rich meats, corn, squash, wheat, zucchini, herbed chicken, potatoes (with herbs like rosemary), jams/preserves, honey, etc.

Magick: Harvest rituals, rituals or connecting to the ‘Dark Mother’ goddesses such as Hecate, Persephone, or Morrigan, spells centering on balance or abundance, or honoring the coming darkness of fall/winter, spells that help with balancing some aspect of life, working with fall energies in meditations and spellwork, or spells/rituals that use the transformative energy of this time of year.

This spell from The White Witch Parlor is pretty fantastic and simple.

Ways to Celebrate Mabon

As modern witches and pagans, we have to find new ways to celebrate the Sabbats. Surprisingly, it is really fun and easy to come up with ways to celebrate that honor Mabon/Autumn Equinox and also fit into our busy lives. As with all magickal practices it is the intention that counts. If you are able to center in on the energies of Mabon by meditating on its themes, colors, stones, and other correspondences, you don’t need a flashy ritual (although there’s nothing wrong with it if you want to do one!) to celebrate.

Here are some celebration ideas. I’ve made them as simple as possible, so you can add on your own touches as your practice allows.

  • Cook a Mabon feast and invite friends and family (include foods that tie into Mabon)
  • Do anything with apples! Go to an apple orchard, bake apple desserts, drink apple cider, eat apple cider donuts (stretching it but yummy!), bob for apples, you get the picture.
  • Do a Chakra balancing meditation to create balanced energy going into fall
  • Do an activity (such as writing a poem or creating a piece of artwork) that focuses on the abundance/blessings in your life
  • Decorate a Mabon wreath with colors, symbols, or even stones that correspond to the sabbat
  • Read about (or work with) the ‘crone’ aspect of the goddesses, specifically Hecate, Morrigan, or Persephone to honor the darker aspect of the coming months
  • Do shadow work
  • Perform a Mabon Tarot Spread, or one that focuses on balancing or delving into the shadow aspects of a situation
  • Spend time in nature, noticing the changing energies
  • Decorate your Mabon altar and take a few moments to meditate on some Mabon themes
  • Go all out with a Mabon ritual from any number of pagan books
  • Literally sit outside and welcome the nighttime, all the better if you meditate or raise energy during the transition
  • Do a spell or ritual that can help you let go of the things that are no longer serving you (think of the “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel” – our ancestors wouldn’t put rotten apples away for winter, they would make room for the beneficial fruit that would get them through the winter!)
  • Drink my Mabon Tea – made with apples, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves

Mabon Recipe

Although Mabon is inherently tied with apples, I am choosing a different kind of recipe here. My latest Herbal Witchery episode focused specifically on apples, and the episode before that cinnamon, both of which feature apple recipes. SO…while I encourage you to play with apples during this season, the Mabon recipe featured here today is in a totally different vein. In fact, it isn’t so much of a recipe as it is a collection of smaller items that make a wonderful appetizer or small meal that you can share with friends or family.

Fall Charcuterie Board

Even putting these items together will allow you to really focus on those items that are seasonally available. Maybe make it a focus to get as many of them as possible from local markets or stores to further celebrate the season.

Happy Mabon!


1Creating Circles and Ceremonies: Rituals for All Seasons and Reasons. Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. New Page Books. 2006.