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.

Apple

Old apple tree, I wassail thee,

And hoping thou will bear

For the lady knows where we shall be

Till apples come next year.

For to bear well and to bloom well

So merry let us be,

Let every man take off his hat

And shout to the old apple tree.

Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full,

And a gurt heap under the stairs.

Hurray!

The Apple tree Man 1

History of Apples

One of the most common and easily accessible fruits on Earth, apples have a long history in both the magick and mundane world. Although these unassuming sweet fruits are often overlooked due to their availability, their contribution to mythology, legend, and cultural symbolism is unrivaled. Today we will explore the apple’s appearance in history and literature, and delve into its magickal properties associated with love, emotion, and the otherworldly realms.

Origins of the Apple

Apples are old. Really old. It seems that they have been around since the dawn of human history, originating in the Tien Shan mountains in Kazakhstan. Our modern apple is the amalgamation of four different strains of wild apples, which existed more than 10,000 years ago. It is believed that “ancient megafauna” (large land mammals, usually weighing over 100 or 1000lbs) first spread the seeds of the wild apple, followed by an even larger spreading through process of trading on the Silk Road. This later process resulted in hybrid apples, which eventually produced a ‘modern’ apple.

One interesting fact about the ancient apple is that before the last Ice Age, apples had evolved to attract these ancient megafauna – this is how apples were propagated and reproduced several million years ago (before humans). However, once these larger land mammals died out, apple trees became isolated. It wasn’t until trading on the Silk Road and human migration that the fruit began to develop and spread again. According to the Max Planck Society, “the apple in your kitchen appears to owe its existence to extinct megafaunal browsers and Silk Road merchants”. Interestingly, the wild ancestor of our modern ‘domestic apple’ can still be found in the Tien Shan mountains.

The Word “Apple”

The word “apple” derives from Old English “æppel”. This comes from a Proto-Germanic word “app(a)laz”. The confusing part about this is that originally, this word simply referred to any kind of fruit or fruit in general. There were many related words such as Old Norse “eple’, Old Saxon “appel”, and Old High German “apful”, all of which just meant fruit. In fact, up until the 17th Century, an apple referred to any fruit or nut, excluding berries. The online etymology site gives the example of “appel of paradis” (banana) or “fingeræppla” (finger-apples = dates).

All of this becomes important when you start to consider some of the most famous and influential associations with apples, and how those ‘apples’ may have actually been other fruits. It’s quite unfair actually, as the scientific name for the apple tree is Malus domestica. Any words beginning with the prefix “mal” are considered ‘bad/evil’, therefore this (possibly false) association with evil in, for example The Bible, actually had an impact on the apple’s scientific name!

In addition to this, Latin borrowed the word ‘melon’ (fruit) from Greek, turning it into mālum, which was extremely close to  mălum, which meant evil, and was used in the Vulgate translation of the Bible. You can easily see how these translation errors (or possibly intentional puns) led to this association as well.

The Forbidden Fruit?

One of the most recognizable and influential roles apples play in cultural symbolism and mythology is that of the forbidden fruit. The apple as a symbol of temptation, evil, and sin has permeated much of western culture due to the fact that the King James Bible (1611) was the most widely published works in human history. The scene in which Eve eats the “the fruit of the tree” (Gen 3:3) reads, “she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat” (Gen 3:6). Because in this time period apple = fruit, and because the word apple started to refer to what we think of as an apple, the image of an apple became the fruit in the garden.

But it isn’t just the story of Adam and Eve’s fall that is associated with the apple. In the Greek myth The Garden of Hesperides, an orchard of golden apples came be associated with temptation, argument, and knowledge. The Apple of Discord, which started the Trojan War, supposedly came from this orchard, furthering the idea of humanity ‘falling’ or destroying itself.

Continuing this theme are fairytales, such as Snow White, which features the same apple motif. In this story the apple is seductive enough to tempt Snow White despite the dwarves’ warnings, and also carries the poison meant to get rid of her.

Love, Sensuality, and the Otherworld

Despite the apple’s association with ‘evil’, it has also been connected to energies of love and sensuality. Sacred to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, apples were tied to love. If you wanted to declare your love, you could throw an apple at them, and if they caught it, it was assumed they liked you back.

Aphrodite makes an appearance with her apples in the myth of Atalanta and Hippomenes. In this tale, Atalanta challenged all of her suitors to a race because she knew she could outrun them all. Hippomenes is gifted three golden apples from Aphrodite and uses them to distract and slow down Atalanta during a race. He ends up winning her hand because of this tactic.

In the Bible, the sensuous Song of Solomon uses apples to, uhhh, refer to some sexual happenings between the king and his new bride. Of course we know that the original Hebrew or Aramaic may have referred to another ‘fruit’, but apple was used in the KJV. Check out this line: “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (SOS 2:3) and “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit. May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples…” (SOS 7:8). Bow-chicka-bow-wow.

In the Prose Edda, a 13th Century Norse poem, apples are connected to eternal youthful beauty and immortality, and in other Norse mythologies apples connect to fertility, with one story resulting in a six-year pregnancy after eating an apple (yeesh). In addition, archeological finds dealing with ancient German pagan cultures have found evidence that nuts and apple seeds have a connection with fertility and the dead.

The apple has also been associated with the magic, mystical, and otherworldly realms. Much of this is seen in Celtic cultures from the British Isles. In the Arthurian legends, Avalon, the mysterious island of the fairies means something similar to “the isle of fruit/apple trees”, and Merlin often worked in a grove of apple trees, whose fruit gave him prophetic powers.

In Celtic lore, apples were tied to the concept of rebirth. In fact, the 10th letter of the Ogham alphabet is ‘ceirt‘, which seems to be associated apples and rebirth, healing, and youthfulness. In Ireland, apples were made into wine, cider, and juice, and used as an important source of food. They were known as one of the seven “Nobles of the Wood“. The apple tree itself was symbolic of creativity, purity, and motherhood, and the wood from its branches was sometimes burned during fertility festivals. One Irish myth is that of Connla and the Fairy Maiden, which features an apple that replenishes itself, obsessive love, and a land of the ‘Ever Lasting’. Another is The Silver Branch, which features a silver apple branch that transports a character to an otherworldly realm.

Random Apple Facts and Idioms

There are so many fascinating facts and pieces of folklore surrounding apples that it’s hard to decide which to include in this post. Below are some short pieces of info about apples that you may find interesting.

Apple Cider w/cinnamon
  • The genome of the Golden Delicious apple has about 57,000 genes, about 27,000 more than the human genome
  • Apples are associated with Autumn and the fall harvest celebrations (Samhain and Allantide to name two)
  • Wassailing is a practice done in southern England where cider is poured on the roots of an apple tree to bless the new year
  • Apples were brought to North America in 1607 in order for the colonists to make cider
  • Thomas Jefferson cultivated the ‘Ralls Genet’ apple, which was eventually crossed with the Red Delicious = Fuji Apple
  • Johnny Appleseed was a real man – John Chapman who traveled throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois for 40 years planting apple tress
  • There are approx. 8000 varieties of apples
  • Early N. American orchards didn’t produce fruit because there were no bees – bees were shipped to the new colonies in 1622 and were called “the white man’s flies”.
  • Court records from 1640 noted for rent to be paid in “two bushels of apples every yeare…the same to bee of the best apples there growing…”
  • “Comparing apples to oranges”
  • “How do you like them apples”
  • “She’ll be apples”
  • “Apple of my eye”
  • “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch”
  • Adam’s apple
  • The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
  • Don’t upset the apple cart
  • The Big apple
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Candy Apples, usually made around Halloween

In Magickal Workings

We’ve finally arrived to the magickal energies of the apple. As we have seen, apples are most often associated with the following kinds of magick:

  • Love, beauty, romance, fertility work
  • Fairy magick
  • Magick relating to otherworldly realms or experiences
  • Magick to invoke wisdom, truth, or illumination
  • Spells or rituals for Mabon/Autumn Equinox and Samhain

Have fun with apples and use them in the ‘traditional’ ways during fall – make apple cider, visit an apple orchard, or even bob for apples. You can eat an apple on Samhain and look into the mirror to get a glimpse of your true love. Leave apples as an offering to fairies or otherworldy elements, or use apples in Mabon and Samhain rituals. If you can get a hold of apple blossoms, you can use them in charm bags to attract love. Share an apple (infused with your intention) with a loved one to ensure happiness in the relationship. Cut an apple in half and meditate on the image of the pentacle you will see therein- visualize yourself in an apple orchard and connect to the mystical and magickal energies that apples have held for thousands of years.

You can also try my Mabon Blend enchanted herbal tea, made with dried apples as a tasty replacement for apple cider and to connect to these fall, apple energies.

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Apple Recipe

Right, so apples are kind of used all the time in the kitchen. What’s a better way of getting in tune with the apple than picking it up and eating it whole? But of course, I’d like to share a recipe here that is a little different and a little fun, so I’m going with the following recipe to help you tune into the abundance, sensuousness, and beauty exhibited by this extraordinary fruit.

Apple Crescent Dumplings


1The Apple Tree Man. Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland. Lisa Schneidau. The History Press. 2018.

Cinnamon

The Grocers’. oh the Grocers’. nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses. It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. 

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

History of Cinnamon

Coming from the dried bark of Cinnamomum trees, cinnamon is an herb with quite the background and has always been an herb of great value. Beginning with its mythical origins in the East, to its involvement in trade wars in the 1600s, cinnamon was fought over and sought after for centuries. Used in teas, desserts, and savory seasonings alike, cinnamon is a familiar and widely used spice. Considering its background, it’s no surprise that cinnamon is often associated with wealth, money, and passion in magickal workings. Let’s take a closer look at the energizing story of cinnamon.

What is Cinnamon?

It might sound basic, but many of us may not know that cinnamon isn’t a ‘plant’ per say, but rather the dried bark of various species of Cinnamomum trees. Cinnamomum verum or Ceylon Cinnamon is “true” cinnamon, hailing from the island of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), while Cinnamomum cassia, usually cultivated in China, Indonesia, or Vietnam, is the most widely produced and what we most likely have in our spice cabinets.

As far back as 2800 BCE, “kwai” was referenced in writings from China. Because the spice was traded throughout the East and Middle East for centuries, the name cinnamon comes from these origins. The word “cinnamon” comes from the Greek kinnámōmon, which was borrowed from the Hebrew qinnāmōn. Another source, stated that the Arabic and Hebraic word “amomon”, meaning fragrant spice plant, is also a source of origin. Cassia, the related term, comes from the Hebrew qātsaʿ (to strip off bark), which evolved into the Latin cannella, which means “little tube”, referring to the way the cinnamon bark dries in little tubes.

Historical References and Uses

Like many herbs, cinnamon is referenced in the Bible. One of the more interesting passages is Proverbs 7:7, which reads: “I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon”. This line is spoken by the equivalent of a prostitute, trying to entice a young man off the streets and into her bed. (There is a deeper metaphor within here, but that’s another story).

In many ancient cultures, cinnamon was highly regarded, and often given a gift or an offering to deities. It was used by the Ancient Egyptians in their embalming process and perfumes. In Ancient Rome, there is a story about Emperor Nero, who murdered his wife. As a show of remorse, he burnt a year’s worth of cinnamon. This would have been a major demonstration of remorse, because according to Pliny the Elder, in the ancient world, 350 g (about 12 oz.) of cinnamon was worth more than 5 kilograms (11 lbs.) of silver.

In Medieval Europe, cinnamon was often used to treat throat issues such as coughing and sore throats. It was also used to help preserve meat. Some of its chemical ingredients actually did hinder bacterial growth, and its scent hid some of the less pleasant smells from this somewhat spoiled food. Because it could only be purchased by the most wealthy, cinnamon was a sign of wealth and riches. Hosts would ‘flex’ at dinner parties by bringing out trays laden with ‘exotic’ spices to show how well off they were.

A Closely Guarded Secret

Cinnamon, like other aromatic herbs such as cloves, ginger, turmeric, and cardamom, was a major player in the spice trade throughout history. Cinnamon from Sri Lanka and China was carried over several trade routes to the Middle East, Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece. Arab traders took dangerous and “cumbersome” routes, which meant a limited supply of cinnamon, and more money for them. Eventually the Italian city of Venice became the port which held control of the spice trade for all of Europe.

Until fairly late in the game, the origins of cinnamon were a mystery to western cultures. Amazing mythical stories were told by spice merchants in an effort to keep the trade secrets secret so that they could continue to have a monopoly over the trade. This allowed them to charge exorbitant amounts for these spices.

One of the most popular of these origin myths has to do with the Cinnamologus, or “Cinnamon Bird”. Circulated well into the 14th century, stories of this creature circulated across the world. According to Birds in the Ancient World by W. Geoffrey Arnott:

 …this large bird brings cinnamon quills from some unknown place and uses them to build their nests on inaccessible precipices or in high trees. The local inhabitants then cut up their own dead animals and leave large chunks on the ground near the nests. The birds fly down and carry the carrion to their nests, which collapse under the weight, allowing the natives to pick up the cinnamon quills and export them. Alternatively the natives weight their arrows with lead and so shoot down the nests high in the trees .

Pg. 145
https://www.deviantart.com/silvervalravn/art/Cinnamologus-734724284

This wonderful myth kept the secret of cinnamon’s origins for a long time, but eventually Portuguese traders braved the Horn of Africa in search of the land from which cinnamon came. They took control of the cinnamon trade in the 14th century (angering Venice, who no longer had the monopoly), but in the 16th century, the Spanish found a different form of cinnamon from the Philippines, which interfered with the Portuguese traders’ monopoly.

Dutch traders came into the picture next. By the mid 17th century, The Dutch East India Company had removed the Portuguese from Sri Lanka, and changed the entire cultivation and harvesting process, from one which was set by castes of natives of Sri Lanka and done in a traditional manner, to a more commercialized and capitalistic method (Read more here). They bribed and threatened a nearby ruler to destroy his cinnamon crops, and in general were pretty cutthroat about the whole thing. One Dutch captain remarked, “The shores of the island are full of it,” a Dutch captain reported, “and it is the best in all the Orient. When one is downwind of the island, one can still smell cinnamon eight leagues out to sea.”

In 1796, due to other victories, the British East India Company took over Ceylon from the Dutch, but by the 1830s the cinnamon trade had other competitors and methods of transportation, which meant the time of the cinnamon monopoly was over.

Culinary Uses of Cinnamon

Because cinnamon is such a universal and widely known cooking ingredient, I’ll only mention it here. Cinnamon is used in many types of cooking, from savory to sweet. Cinnamon rolls, churros, arroz con leche, apple pie, cinnamon toast, cinnamon butter, pumpkin spice… the list is virtually endless. All are delicious and show off cinnamon in all its glory.

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of cinnamon directly relate to its association with wealth, money, and high status as a sacred spice. Cinnamon is often used in the following types of magick:

  • Anointing or consecrating magickal tools
  • In incense
  • Love, Lust, Passion spells
  • Money, wealth, prosperity spells
  • To speed up any kind of magick
  • Success and victory spellwork
  • Spells or rituals for Mabon/Autumn Equinox, Samhain, and Yule

Some practical magickal ideas to put these into practice are to…put cinnamon or cinnamon essential oil into a carrier oil for anointing and consecrating. Rub powdered cinnamon onto a dollar (or a representative) to attract money. Burn cinnamon incense during love spells (or actual love making!) to increase the energy and passion involved. Carry or display cinnamon sticks for any of the above reasons. Keep a cinnamon roll with your tarot cards or runes to cleanse and imbue them with cinnamon’s energies. Drink cinnamon tea! (Try my Mabon Blend enchanted herbal tea). Meditate on its energies and set an intention when cooking with cinnamon. Cinnamon has such a strong energy, its fun to play around with, not to mention wonderful to smell!

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Cinnamon Recipe

Wow, this week was hard to pick. There are SO many things to do with cinnamon in the culinary world, but ultimately I picked a simple slow cooker dish that puts together two ingredients that usher in feelings of fall and comfort. The taste and aroma are quite on point with this time of year, and I feel bring in those rich, spicy, comforting energies of cinnamon.

Crockpot Cinnamon Apples

Basil

And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,

And she forgot the blue above the trees,

And she forgot the dells where waters run,

And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;

She had no knowledge when the day was done,

And the new morn she saw not: but in peace

Hung over her sweet Basil evermore,

And moisten’d it with tears unto the core.

John Keats, “Isabella; Or, The Pot Of Basil: A Story From Boccaccio


History of Basil

Basil is an herb that has a long, somewhat confusing history. Over its more than 5000 year history as a cultivated herb, basil seems to have been both revered and reviled, symbolizing love and peace in some cultures, but hate and mental illness others. Used for its magickal properties of protection, love, and money, as well as its use in pestos, pastas, and pizzas, basil is a unique herb that has a long and storied history that spans the globe.

Soooo Much Basil

Like its cousin mint, basil is a plant that crossbreeds easily. There are many different types of basil that one can cultivate. These include the most widely known, sweet basil, but also anise basil, Cinnamon basil, Purple basil, and Thai basil. Holy basil is another well known species of basil. For our purposes here, basil is basil. Wherever possible I will specify if a myth or folklore belief is aligned with a specific kind of basil, but overall the energies that I’ll be discussing are much the same.

The Kingly Plant

Basil’s official name is Ocimum basilicum. The first half of the scientific name comes from a Greek myth about a man named Ocimus. He is said to have organized combats in honor of a visiting dignitary. When Ocimus was slain by a gladiator during one of these combats, basil where he fell. The word ocimum means “to be fragrant”.

The second half of the name, basilicum, comes from a story about Empress Helene in 326 AD. The legend states that St. Helene went in search of the cross that Jesus was crucified on. She apparently found it, and noticed that underneath it, basil grew in the shape of a cross. She named the plant ‘vasiliki’, meaning “kingly/of the king/royal”. This of morphed into basilicum (very similar to basilica – as in the big religious buildings – St. Peter’s Basilica).

In Latin the plant was called basilicum. Beside the legend above, basil may have been named as such because of its association with being used in making royal perfume. One word that was often confused with basilicum, especially in the middle ages, was basiliscus. For you Harry Potter fans, this word is Latin for basilisk, the legendary serpent who could kill with a single glance. This word meant “little king“, because the basilisk was said to have a marking on its head that resembled a crown. This confusion comes into play later on in some folklore beliefs, but other than the similar nod to ‘king’ or ‘royal’, the plant basil is not associated with the basilisk.

History of Basil

Basil has been around for a long time. It is thought to have originated in India or China over 5000 years ago. It migrated or was intentionally carried west and like most of the other herbs I’ve explored so far, was widely used by the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks.

It is thought that the Egyptians used basil in their embalming procedures, while the Greeks associated it with mourning. Basil was brought to the British Isles relatively late in the game. It wasn’t until the 16th century that it was introduced to the region, and shortly after was introduced to North America by way of the British colonists of who settled in present-day Massachusetts.

Basil in Literature

The quote which opened this post is from John Keats’ poem, Isabella, or the Pot of Basil (1820). His work is based on an even older work, The Decameron (completed 1353) by Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio. The tale is morbid and bittersweet. It has the same tone as other works about dead lovers, such as Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare), A Rose for Miss Emily (William Faulkner), and Annabel Lee (Edgar Allen Poe). Let’s just say that in this tale, first comes love, then comes murder, then comes dismemberment…and finally basil! Being watered by tears…then more death. If you’re into this kind of story (which I totally am), you can read the full text by clicking on the title. The point here is that this story shows the many contradictory associates carried with basil. We have undying love and devotion, obsession, but also a lot of sorrow, madness, and death.

 Isabella and the Pot of Basil by William Holman Hunt (1868)

Folk Beliefs about Basil

Folklore surrounding basil is where things get complicated. There are many directly contradictory ideas and associations, making it hard to sort out where or why one belief originated.

First we have the Greeks. Because of basil’s association with the cross of Jesus, Orthodox Greek culture generally frowned upon eating the herb. They do however, view basil as a symbol of fertility and prosperity.

As previously mentioned, basil was erroneously tied to myths about the basilisk. This lead to basil being both carried to ward off basilisk attacks and as an antidote against its venom. This association carried forward in the belief that basil helped with stings or bites from insects/animals.

In Ancient Rome, it was thought that scorpions grew near pots of basil. Somehow this association led to several European herbalists to assert that smelling too much basil would “breed scorpions in the brain”. In Africa however, basil was though to protect against scorpions.

Also in Ancient Rome, basil was sometimes associated with bad luck, poverty, and hate. This is because it was believed that basil would only grow if the person planting the seeds cursed the ground. This practice actually resulted in a French saying “semer le basilic” (to sow the basil), which colloquially means to ‘rant and rave’.

The following are additional folk beliefs and traditions surrounding basil:

  • In Jewish folklore, basil is though to bring strength to those who are fasting.
  • To ward off curses/hexes and keep bugs away
  • To protect the poor
  • To identify chastity (if it withered in a woman’s hands, she was not chaste)
  • Holy Basil (also know as the Tulsi plant) in India is sacred to Hindus and is associated with protection, the goddess Lakshmi, and forgiveness
  • Considered a love token
  • Thought to change into wild thyme when exposed to too much sun
  • Considered poisonous (possibly due to the basilisk association or the observation that it wouldn’t grow next to rue)
  • Used to prepare holy water and placed near altars in some orthodox churches
  • Rumored to have been used in flying ointment for ‘witches’ and therefore astral projection
  • Basil seeds were believed to be aphrodisiacs, and fed to livestock to increase reproduction

Culinary Uses of Basil

I won’t spend too much time here, as basil is widely used and recognizable in cuisine. It is most well known for its addition in sauces, especially tomato based, in pestos, and in salad dressings. Caprese salad is a lovely summer dish that often features raw bail leaves atop fresh mozzarella, tomato slices, and balsamic vinegar.

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of basil are many and varied. Here are a few:

  • For love (and eternal love) and fidelity
  • To induce mental clarity and drive away ‘madness’
  • In money workings
  • For astral projection or luck in physical travel
  • To perform aspersion (sprinkle holy water) over a space
  • For protection
  • For peace and harmony

To implement these energies you can do several things in your practice. Follow the old tradition and give miniature pots of basil to important guests to encourage safe travel, or use the herb in a tea for your own attempts at astral travel. Carry a basil leaf (or place one near your ‘cashbox’) to attract money. Use basil in any love spells. You can try it in a tea (here is my Love Blend). You may even wish to plant a basil seed and nurture it as a representation of love growing with a certain person or just in your life in general. Sprinkle basil water around your sacred space or doorways to cleanse and protect. You can always cook a meal with basil and infuse it with your specific intentions. So many uses, so much magickal basil!

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Basil Recipe

What else could this week’s recipe be for other than….basil pesto! Yes, I love Caprese Salad and you should try it, but pesto is the quinissential basil dish. Made with a few other ingredients, this pesto is full of basily goodness and will help you connect to the slightly spicy, aromatic, sort-of-sweet energies of the magnificent herb basil.

The Very Best Basil Pesto