Hob & Broom: Household Lore & Traditions

An exploration of the old spirits, symbols, customs, and crafts of the home.

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The Cunning Wife

The Cunning Wife

The Cunning Wife is an animist, writer, diviner, crafter, witch, and spirit worker and traveler. Her work has been published in a number of online and print magazines, including Witches & Pagans and Hagstone Publishing's Stone, Root, and Bone ezine. She gets excited about scholarly essays and books on folklore, magical tales, and ancient spiritual practices, and is passionate about sharing that information. She is also an avid crafter of magical and mundane items. She believes that there is magic in the mundane, just waiting to be remembered.  

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Divination, Play, and Sacred Work

If you want to get the magical community riled up, tell us how divination tools often begin their existence as toys. You’ll see how we quickly split into two factions: one which vehemently denies this, and one which asserts the truth of it (with evidence that is often ignored and bypassed by the former faction). For the former set, I’ve sensed a root assumption at work that makes accepting the mundane, unserious origins of many divination forms so difficult, and even heretical. For them, play is inherently secular and unworthy of a sacred function. Divination, and anything else related to spirit work and religion, must be solemn and sober to have value and efficacy.

 

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Cunning Wife, I believe you are 100% correct. Just look at the 'Chessboard' of Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio, one of the 13 Treasures of T

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Pins and Needles and Nails

Generally speaking, pins, needles, and nails are protective elements in folk magic. They are one of the elements included in many British witch bottles, which function by drawing in malevolent magic and trap it. One source describes a witch doctor who recommended that a man “take a Bottle, and put his Wives Urine into it, together with Pins and Needles and Nails, and Cork them up,” first to be set on the fire to explode and then later buried in the yard to heal his wife from an illness (Saducismus triumphatus). In Appalachia, Scots-Irish settlers held onto these traditions and passed them down. Here, pins, needles, and nails can be used for protection, healing, divination, love magic, and cursing.

 

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white candles on black surface

 

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assorted-color figurine collection bokeh photography

 

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At my house, we've put away the harvest decor that has been up since late September and set up the house for Yule. Earlier in the fall, my mom gave me a straw cornucopia that she's had for years, and as I put it away with the autumn-hued table runner and wreath, I thought of how far back the cornucopia reaches into the past, and what it means.

Nourishment and Wildness

These days, cornucopias often take the form of vaguely horn-shaped baskets of faux fruit and flowers, like the one my mom gave me. But it was originally a real goat horn holding fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and grains. Literally meaning "horn of plenty" in Latin, the cornucopia originated in ancient Greece. In one origin myth, the infant Zeus was nourished with milk from the goat Amalthea on the island of Crete. Because He was extremely strong even as an infant, He broke off one of her horns, and the hollow horn gave forth unending nourishment.

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Ever since I can remember, when I've had to do something difficult -- having a hard but necessary conversation, atoning for a wrong, going through a process of change, or persisting through a hardship or trauma -- this phrase would come to me: Walk through the fire. Even as a kid, I knew it meant that I could get through whatever it was in one piece if I held myself together, kept my eyes and feet facing forward, and accepted whatever happened as it came. If I kept going at a steady pace, the “fire” wouldn't consume me; I'd make it to the other side. I didn't know where that phrase came from, but it always gave me strength. It still does. And it’s true -- I’ve always come out on the other side, more or less in one piece.

Hares and Fire

Fast-forward to me in my 20s, reading Terry Pratchett's I Shall Wear Midnight for the first time, and I come to this poem:

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