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Which Witch is Wytch? Walking The Crooked Path Fetch Light Atop the Hedgerow The Old Straight Track: Ley Lines Oot and Aboot: Crossing the Hedge By Horse and Hattock Skry Stone, Shew Stone: Divination Signs and Symbols To 'Prentis Seekers
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By yarrow and rue, and my red cap too, Hie over to England!

 

By Horse and Hattock or Hupp Horse and Handocks
from Katharine Mary Briggs - British Folk Tales and Legends


--The Laird of Duffus was walking out in his fields one day, when a cloud of dust whirled past him and from the midst of it all he heard a shrill cry of "Horse and Hattock". Being a bold man, he repeated the cry, and immediately found himself whirled away in the air with a troop of fairies to the King of France's cellar. There they caroused all night so merrily that the Laird fell asleep and was left behind. The royal butler found him the next day, still fast asleep, with a cup of curious workmanship in his hand. He was taken before the King, and told him all that had happened. The King pardoned him, and he returned home with the fairy cup, which was kept in his family for several generations. Folklore from the Scottish Borders--

The Witches Excursion
from Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasanty - edited by Willam Butler Yeats


--Shemus Rua (Red James) awakened from his sleep one night by noises in his kitchen. Stealing to the door, he saw half-a-dozen old women sitting round the fire, jesting and laughing, his old housekeeper, Madge, quite frisky and gay, helping her sister crones to cheering glasses of punch. He began to admire the impudence and imprudence of Madge, displayed in the invitation and the riot, but recollected on the instant her officiousness in urging him to take a comfortable posset, which she had brought to his bedside just before he fell asleep. Had he drunk it, he would have been just now deaf to the witches’ glee. He heard and saw them drink his health in such a mocking style as nearly to tempt him to charge them, besom in hand, but he restrained himself.

The jug being emptied, one of them cried out, *Is it time to be gone* and at the same moment, putting on a red cap she added - 

*By yarrow and rue, and my red cap too, Hie over to England*

Making use of a twig which she held in her hand as a steed, she gracefully soared up the chimney, and was rapidly followed by the rest. But when it came to the housekeeper, Shemus interposed. *By your leave, ma’am* said he, snatching twig and cap. "Ah, you desateful ould crocodile! If I find you here on my return, there’ll be wigs on the green".

*By yarrow and rue, and my red cap too, Hie over to England*

The words were not out of his mouth when he was soaring above the ridge pole, and swiftly ploughing the air. He was careful to speak no word (being somewhat conversant with witch-lore), as the result would be a tumble, and the immediate return of the expedition.

In a very short time they had crossed the Wicklow hills, the Irish Sea, and the Welsh mountains, and were charging, at whirlwind speed, the hall door of a castle. Shemus, only for the company in which he found himself, would have cried out for pardon, expecting to by mummy against the hard oak door in a moment; but, all bewildered, he found himself passing through the keyhole, along a passage, down a flight of steps, and through a cellar-door key-hole before he could form any clear idea of his situation.

Waking to the full consciousness of his position, he found himself sitting on a stillion, plenty of lights glimmering round, and he and his companion, with full tumblers of frothing wine in hand, hob-nobbing and drinking healths as jovially and recklessly as if the liquor was honestly come by, and they were sitting in Shemus’s own kitchen. The red birredh (cap) had assimilated Shemus’s nature for the time being to that of his unholy companions. The heady liquors soon got into their brains, and a period of unconsciousness succeeded the ecstasy, the head-ache, the turning round of the barrels, and the *scattered sight* of poor Shemus. He woke up under the impression of being roughly seized, and shaken, and dragged upstairs, and subjected to a disagreeable examination by the lord of the castle, in his state parlour. There was much derision among the whole company, gentle and simple, on hearing Shemus’s explanation, and, as the thing occurred in the dark ages, the unlucky Leinster man was sentenced to be hung as soon as the gallows could be prepared for the occasion

The poor Hibernian was in the cart proceeding on his last journey, with a label on his back, and another on his breast, announcing him as the remorseless villain who for the last month had been draining the casks in my lord’s vault every night. He was surprised to hear himself addressed by his name and in his native tongue, by an old woman in the crowd. *Ach, Shemus, alanna! It is going to die you are in a strange place without your cappeen d’yarrog?* These words infused hope and courage into the victim’s heart. He turned to the lord and humbly asked leave to die in his red cap, which he supposed had dropped from his head in the vault. A servant was sent for the head-piece, and Shemus fe! lt lively hope warming his heart while placing it on his head. On the platform he was graciously allowed to address the spectators, which he proceeded to do in the usual formula composed for the benefit of flying stationers *good people all, a warning take by me* but when he had finished the line *My parents reared me tenderly.* He unexpectedly added **By yarrow and rue,** etc, and the disappointed spectators saw him shoot up obliquely through the air in the style of a sky-rocket that had missed it is aim. It is said that the lord took the circumstance much to heart, and never afterwards hung a man for twenty-four hours after his offence. -Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasanty --


     The common theme that both of these tales presents is the ability to *fly* or be transported to another physical space in an amount of time that would seem to make it an impossible feat. On the one hand this leads one to see the subtle connection to the practices of ingesting such alkaloidal substances as the amanita muscaria mushroom (which contains muscimol - one of the oldest entheogens known) being occulted in the latter tale by leading one to believe that the red cap was an actual headpiece or cap worn by the human - when what was really being offered up for introspection was the idea that the fungus after being ingested (as also identified as the Soma from the ancient Rig Veda), and the onset of the subsequent hallucinatory state was the real reason that the Witches felt they flew through the air.

     Even the Rue (ruta graveolons) contains an element known as Harmaline which has the same sort of hallucinatory effects as the Ayahuasca used by assorted Shamans and mentioned in the second tale has a long and illustrious history of being associated with Witches. The Strega Witches of Italy wore a silver pendant of a Rue plant with select symbols attached between the leaves that was known as the Cimiruta which means Sprig of Rue. The traditional Cimiruta was divided into three main branches and shows the tri-partite aspects associated with Diana as well as Hecate. The symbols themselves are usually the Hand in the mano fica position that was used to ward off the evil eye, a fish or sometimes a dolphin that represented the fertility or an aspect of abundance, a crescent which both signified the lunar associations of the moon as well as the dual horns of the Horned God, and a key which when placed emblematically revealed the unlocking of hidden or arcane occult knowledge and finally a bloom from the Vervain plant which was in essence for Protection. Many times the silver charm had alternate glyphs or symbols on the obverse side which included such items as serpents (which represent knowledge or gnosis), swords (which may sometimes symbolize the cunning mind or consciousness of the wearer) and even on occasion crows who are known to be harbingers of the other world or land of the dead. 

     The Yarrow (achillea millefolium) which is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon name for the plant - Gearwe, and is known also by the folk names Bloodwort and Devil's Nettle among others has been used extensively in divination among other sorts of mantic rites by Witches and practitioners of magic even today. While it does not contain any of the similar substances by which Witches were able alter their states of consciousness it is still used by homeopathic and natural healers for its extensive blood stopping as well as diaphoretic properties. Yarrow still has some toxicity associated with it such as dermatitis brought on from contact with the essential oils that are present in adult plants.

     From the visions of the elusive Green Fairy or La Fée Verte brought on by the Thujone poisoning of the true drink known as absinthe that was consumed by the many artists and poets of days past such as Hemingway and Picasso (created in part from artemisia absinthium or wormwood -- with its distinctive eldritch green coloring being the product of a chlorophyllic interchange of chemicals) to the Sabbat Unguents or flying ointments that were anointed on the traditional Witches' broom or besom, we humans have had a long history of being enthralled with chemicals both naturally occurring and man made that bring about a state of altered consciousness or awareness. 

     Kykeon, the drink with which the Eleusinian Mysteries derived their initiatory processes is now thought to have been the product of a form of mold called ergot (claviceps purpurea) that grew on barley, rye, wheat and other cereal grains. This grain contaminated by the ergot that parasitically consumed it contained several psychoactive alkaloids such as ergine which is the natural source of one of the most powerful psychedelic compounds known, the modern synthesis of d-lysergic acid amide or LSD.

     But what is the true purpose for our seeking these altered states of mind and thought? For some, their only goal is recreational, an escape if you will from the drudgery and mundane patterns that seem at times to overwhelm our lives, caught in the ebb and flow from circumstances that are both beneficial and at times catastrophic. We take these toxic substances into us to rid our minds of the idea of the perpetual cycles that rule and dominate us from the smaller individual cycles of our day to day lives that are ruled by the rise and set of our Sun and Moon, to the great aeonic stellar cycles that rule our planet, galaxy and solar system. We wish to be exalted and rise above those continual spiraling paths and stand at the center of that turning hub known to the Norse as Irminsul or as the World Pillar, the Axis Mundi and to be a part of the eternal stillness that we are somehow acutely aware that reigns outside that set of temporal events shown to us in the follow of one season to another as a continually evolving and paradoxically devolving pattern.

     Still others take them to achieve a form of enlightenment with the ultimate goal of  revelations of gnosis by experiencing an ecstatic, spiritually enhancing set of visions or experiencing various oneiric type states designed to unite us with our Gods and Goddesses theurgically. The Shamans and Healers of many cultures will use a variety of these entheogens to go to other worlds and other levels of our multi-faceted reality for the aid and benefit of another for physical, mental and spiritual health reasons. One common recurring message from many of these Shamans, or even the sundry Hedgewytches and Myrk-Riders is that after the initial drug is ingested and the  experience thus induced  to initiate the process of enlightenment or the *fanning high the cunning fire in the mind of the seeker*  one no longer needs the aid of these herbal or chemical allies. The exact same states are fully achievable without them by meditation and other means according to such authors as Michael Harner as well as Carlos Castaneda, in his tales of Mexican Sorcery, both authors do agree on this point, that profound and erudite intuitive insights can still be garnered without having to resort to chemical or organic means to do so.

     But just how do these substances work? What makes them so efficient at unlocking and opening these doors to alternate perceptions? All of the substances mentioned have one common denominator that unite them in their ability to perform such feats, they all enhance extreme states of concentration and awareness while at the same time having a reductive effect on mental dexterity. While these substances can and may assist one in a developing a much stronger sense of awareness there are many potential pitfalls to be found in their continued use from the threat of permanent damage to one's physical health to the possibility that mental health will be adversely affected to the degree that one is no longer able to relate to the world around them. Without resorting to an overly solipsistic viewpoint, we can assume that in truth the only reason we feel we need to imbibe the aforementioned substances to achieve these desired states is because we believe it to be so as ultimately we create the reality we experience around us.

     In summation, the choice to use such mind expanders or psychedelics alternately termed entheogens (the word entheogen means God containing) remains up to each individual. Our free will and the very fact of having the ability to choose plays an internal and integral part of our unique efforts to map our way back to the Divine. The use of such items may be seen by some as a shortcut to gnosis while for others it remains the only valid way for them to experience reunion with the Godhead at that moment. It should be noted that use of these entheogens can at best give a brief peek into the transcendent realms we call Nirvana, Heaven, or the Chimeri, and while they may be able to lift the veil and allow you to fully experience the Mystery temporarily they cannot deliver you to that realm on a permanent basis. 

 

© Dawn

 

What sorcery by quill or pen
That leaves a mark
Where one has been?

To paint with words upon a page
For those who inherit
Not scribe nor sage.

William Butler said it best,
Whence he prepared his final rest.

"...And may these words remain,
When all is ruin once again..."

Though I too shall turn to dust you see,
I shall live on, my words, in thee.


© Dawn

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