In this post Avril and her sister-friends explore harvest herbs as natural remedies and love divination with the strong magickal aid of the common culinary bay leaf, as well as the proper herb related to individual Sun signs and the planet they rule.
With joy and magick, may all that is written bring sustenance!
Let the story begin...
Avril sat in the kitchen, looking out the door at Shanna and Hanna on the porch with a few others spreading out herbs and flowers on fine wire mesh to dry. They were laid in bundles according to size. The herbs hung upside down and had been covered with cheesecloth to protect them from dust. A light breeze blew through the open windows and doorway to bring ease from the sweltering heat. The kitchen was filled with chatter as the drying and preserving of the herbs, seeds and flowers took place. Hailey, Corena and Avril sat at the kitchen table. The three maidens worked as a team as they bottled, labeled and dated the dried bay leaves. Avril observed Marley and Lilith standing at the kitchen cupboards. She overheard them talking.
“Place those dried seeds in mason jars,” Lilith commanded
Marley frowned. “Hang on, I am trying to seal and date this jar,” she said.
Avril turn her attention back to those who sat at the kitchen table. Corena twirled a dried bay leaf between her thumb and finger. “The bay leaf is an effective defense against evil and remains one of the basic ingredients used for spells by wise women. It is ruled by the Sun, symbolizes victory, and can also be used for divination,” she claimed.
“A bay leaf could help predict which person in the circle would be successful in certain endeavors if we ask it,” Corena announced with her eyes on the bay leaf.
“Let’s give the method a try,” Hailey said, jabbing Avril with her elbow.
Avril stopped preserving the magickal herb. “How can I resist,” she said.
“Would you pass me a wooden bowl from out of the cupboard,” Corena politely asked Marley.
Corena turned her head to meet Lilith's eyes straight on. Lilith gave Corena a sidelong glance and,for just an instant, hatred flashed in her eyes. Marley opened the cupboard door, removed a small wooden bowl. “Here you go,” she said, offering it to Corena.
“Thank you,” she said diplomatically.
“You’re welcome,” she said in a low voice.
Corena marked a cross on the back of a leaf with a pencil. She shuffled the leaves, and then placed the bay leaves on the kitchen table. She finally said, “Sister-friends pick a bay leaf from the piles on the table and toss them into the bowl.”
Corena turned the bowl in a circle, clockwise, three times. She glanced over at Hailey. “Ask the bay leaves a simple question,” she suggested.
Hailey thought for a moment, and then spun the bowl while she asked out loud, “Who among us will have a wish fulfilled first?”
Hailey, Corena and Avril took turns to choose a leaf. They flipped them over and discovered Corena had the leaf with the small cross. She looked completely surprised.
Avril smiled at her. “I assured you that you deserve this,” she said happily.
Lilith’s eyes widened with interest. Corena ignored her. She no longer really cared what Lilith had to say.
“I have a question,” Avril said quickly. Toss the bay leaves back in the bowl.” Avril turned it three times. “Who among us will be asked on a date first?”
They chose their leaf, flipped them over and, once again, the cross was before Corena. The room became still. Lilith with a sneaky grin, asked her, “New love?”
Corena was prepared for an inquisition, even though she appeared annoyed by Lilith's words. Lilith flashed a wicked smile. “Keep in mind, Hal doesn’t want you. He already ditched you for me,” she teased her.
Corena face was tense. She had the urge to shout at her, but controlled her emotions.
“I’m being serious,” she flat out asked, “What’s his name?”
Corena hesitated, annd then said, “You honestly don’t think I would tell you if I had met someone?” She narrowed her eyes and surveyed Lilith for a reaction. Cortney walked in the kitchen. She made her way to the table. She seemed seriously annoyed as she sat down on a chair. She did not want to listen to their battle. Corena noticed her uneasiness and decided not to argue. Lilith was very near to furious. Avril wondered what could be going through that calculating mind of hers. She had witnessed Lilith’s actions and reactions toward others and knew anything was possible.
Lilith spoke bitterly. “You are a fool. I predict it really doesn’t matter who it is, because you will probably fall in love a dozen times and have your heart broken over and over again.”
Corena glanced over at Lilith, then away. “I’m not looking for a fight, especially with the likes of you. So, if the truth were told, your opinion really doesn’t matter,” she said calmly.
Lilith took an intimidating stance and aggressively placed her hands on either side of her hips, planted her feet, puffed out her chest, and had fire in her eyes. She prepared to end what she had started. Corena refused to play Lilith’s power game. She leaned back in her chair, crossed her legs and simply said, “Leave me be!”
Avril looked over at Lilith to see how she'd respond to that.
“Show us,” Hailey and Avril coaxed. Hanna grabbed a white candle in a holder from the windowsill. She opened a drawer beside the kitchen sink and pulled out a box of wooden matches. She placed the elemental tools she needed on the table and sat in an empty chair. When the wick was lit, she held a bay leaf to the flame. Hanna concentrated on her intentions. It was so quiet only their heartbeats could be heard. Finally, she asked her question while she held the herb to the flame. “I want to know if this year the coven would host the wise woman’s Sabbat Samhain?” The leaf crackled and burned.
Hanna was delighted. “The answer is yes!”
Lilith rushed to Hanna side. “I want to try,” she said. She picked up a fresh bay leaf from the table and held it to the flame. “Will Hal be Corena’s date for the upcoming festivities,” she asked hastily. The leaf bubbled and created a high pitched squealing sound.
Hanna sighed and regretfully said “No.” Smugness beamed across Lilith’s face.
“There is no doubt the leaf spoke the truth,” Corena said, smiling.
Lilith’s tone of voice wanted to know, “Who is he?”
“Whatever,” Corena said firmly, and Avril rolled her eyes. Avril was proud that Corena was neither tricked nor lured into becoming that which she did not like. She held her ground no matter how much Lilith had pushed and pulled at her. No words were exchanged as Lilith walked to the opposite side of the kitchen. She stood beside Marley in front of the kitchen cupboards. To Avril Lilith and Marley was a miss-match. Marley was sweet and naïve while Lilith was rude and sneaky.
Shanna entered the room and as she walked to her twin sister she said, “I read in the coven’s ’ Book of Shadows’ that to divine faithfulness in a person one had to scratch the initials or name on a fresh bay leaf with a pin. It is unlikely the person is faithful if the letters remain green by the end of the day. If the name turns brown, they are true. If it is a sweetheart one asked about and the letters appear clearer than when you wrote them, it is an omen that you will marry each other.”
“Wait a minute,” said Hanna. She stood and then left the room to retrieve a package of pins from the sewing box. Cortney politely excused herself as she stood up from the table. She went outside, and then returned with a handful of fresh bay leaves. She handed one to each of the girls, even Lilith, before she sat in her chair. The maidens settled down and performed the magical task.
Lilith cunningly asked, “Corena, what initials did you carve in your leaf?”
Avril hoped Corena would depend on her common sense for she knew Lilith could not be trusted. She waited and watched for the expected explosion between the two.
Corena shook her head in disbelief. “Are you that bold enough to ask? I don’t owe you an answer. I don’t even owe you a civil word, because of all the hurt you’ve caused.”
“Awe, come on Corena, tell us,” Lilith mocked.
“Quit asking me questions for I will not answer!”
Lilith turned to Marley. “I'm bored with this. Let’s get out of here," she said, in the usual sarcastic way.
Marley nodded in agreement. The two retreated outside. A flock of starlings flew over as they strolled across the lawn.
“I’m glad to see her go,” Avril said. "No one likes a bully."
“Are you okay,” sympathetically, Hailey asked Corena.
“I don’t know why Lilith opposes me so. The whole thing had seemed pointless,” Corena said and meant it.
"Hurt people, hurt," Hanna said thoughtfully.
“Maybe the higher powers have blessed you with the dilemma, to teach Lilith to be a better person and you to be a better friend. Life is a learning process, a journey of discoveries. We are supposed to learn by the obstacles that are overcome,” Cortney said sensibly.
Corena was dumbfounded. “You couldn’t expect me to offer friendship to Lilith when I don’t even want to give the time of day to her. She and I are incompatible. The dark side of her nature is more prominent than the light. Lilith is arrogant and self-absorbed. I refuse to allow her to mess with my heart, mind, body, or soul today or tomorrow.”
“We have been put on this planet to help each other.” Hailey reminded her sister-friends. “Lilith has already taught you that you are stronger than she realized.”
Cortney nodded. “Higher Powers change events all the time to put right what goes wrong,” she said sounding intelligent. “There’s guidance in all things. We go through phases - forgive, forget and let go. New opportunities come to put things back in proper order. When everything seems to go wrong, miraculously, everything starts to change for the better.”
“Something nice has happened for Corena,” Avril claimed, widely grinning.
A broad smile slowly spread over Corena’s face and into her eyes. “He’s just a friend,” she said beaming. Her sister-friends listened with interest.
“It was a pleasure to meet Ethan on the hill at the Lughnasadh festival. His put me at ease immediately.” Corena giggled to herself. “He set my heart aglow as we connected soul to soul.”
“He was very flirtatious with her,” Avril said reassuringly. Hailey and Cortney encouraged Corena to tell them more.
“We took a quiet walk by the woods by ourselves and talked at great length. Ethan is an Aquarian, born between January 20 and February 18,” she explained. “He loves humanity with all its faults. He has faith that anything is possible. He’s an idealist and a dreamer of large dreams, and the cutest, boyish grin. He got along with everyone we met. He was gracious, kind, courteous, and considerate, a perfect gentleman in every way.” She giggled. “He also takes an opposing view just for the sake of a discussion.”
Puzzled, Cortney asked Corena, “Where did Ethan come from?”
“He and his family spent the past ten years traveling distant lands. They had an opportunity to experience diverse cultures. He had said that he enjoyed the unpredictability of roaming hither and yon because there had been a surprise around every corner. Ethan’s parents had decided to settle down and moved back to their home town. Ethan said that he had adjusted nicely because he was ruled by Uranus and had become accustomed to upheavals and the constant changes in his life.”
By the glow on Corena’s face as she spoke of Ethan, her sister-friends all agreed that their friend really liked him. Corena described the happy and harmonious experience. By accepting his friendship it had the power to turn her feelings of despair into feelings of hope. She was sure their bond was real. Corena cooed, “Before we had parted he told me, our first meeting was an undiscovered end where, in the middle, love and laughter would fill the space as two strangers become friends.”
“I think we are learning about all natural remedies rather than man-made medicines,” Hanna answered.
Outside, Angelica welcomed their arrival as the maidens gathered around her. There was an array of natural products on display. Lilith grabbed a few bottled herbs. Excitement in her voice she asked, “Do any of these bottles contain love potions?”
“No, love potions are made from herbs and other ingredients,” Angelica answered. “What we have here are medical herbs which could be used to avoid disease and maintain health and vigor. Mother Nature provides plenty of healing power for humans to use. In this type of healing method there’s credibility because there have been good results in patients who had used the herbs as a cure.”
The maidens followed Angelica to the herb stands. The Priestess explained that herbs are part of the plant kingdom. Since the Middle Ages physicians and wise women have used leaves, seeds or the whole herb plants as a prime source of medicine. “Herbs,” she said, “are divided into two groups, annuals and perennials. The annuals die each fall and require yearly soil preparation.”
The Priestess stressed that it was important to take care when herbs are dried. The parts of the plant that are picked are the choicest. There must be bright light to allow them to retain their color and plenty of air has to circulate to avoid mold. As Angelica continued her speech, Avril saw Lilith eye the bottles, jars, bundles, and sachets filled with an array of herbs, like a wild animal searches for its prey. She observed Marley when she whispered to Lilith suggesting that she must not do whatever she had planned.
“It is selfish to manipulate others with magic.” Marley said, accusingly.
In disgust Lilith disagreed. “No one makes a fool of me and gets away with it,” she insisted.
“Lilith just let the situation be,” Marley quietly pleaded. “Life has a way of working itself out when one accepts “what is” and moves forward.”
“Don’t insult my intelligence,” Lilith sternly told her friend. “I’m not altering a situation. I plan to speed up the repercussions deserved.”
“One must consider whether the spell activities harm another and what will rebound back upon you,” Marley reminded Lilith. “White magick seeks to reach back into our history to release forces that have the power to support, to teach and guide for the good of all. In slight-of-hand magic there is a breakdown of structure, peace and equilibrium. The outcome only serves one.”
Avril knew Lilith felt no shame in her intended actions when she nodded to Marley with a sneaky grin. Avril could not fathom how Marley could mistake such a corrupt person as a true friend. No one knew better than she what Lilith was capable of. Avril was positive Lilith practices magic, that which injures another and intends to do harm in various degrees. A manipulative, self-serving, ego-driven individual, her actions speak louder than the words she twists to her own advantage.
Avril read her lips as she quietly spoke to Marley, “If the powder of vervain and grain or corn be put in a place where a male foe dwells, it will bring him malice or discord.” Avril could barely make out Lilith’s remaining words, “rubbed on the hands, whoever you touch would magically be made to love only you.” Lilith released a loud cackle.
Suddenly Avril had a chill. She remembered that night at the wise woman’s holiday Midsummer when a male stranger became enraged and scolded Lilith. He had cursed her as she attempted to enchant his heart. Avril’s thoughts were interrupted as she heard Priestess Angelica say to Lilith, “Is there something you would like to share with the class?” Lilith grabbed a bottle of the dried verbain. ”I’m interested in knowing about this,” she said.
“Vervain herb had been harvested at the rising of the Dog Star when neither Sun nor Moon was out. It is known as the herb of Venus and could be used in potions for love and fertility,” the Priestess explained. “If placed close by the bed it would ward off nightmares.” The Priestess’ voice became stern as she said, “On the topic of medical use, a sprig of vervain cures fever." Angelica’s attitude made the maidens all pay attention. She had pointed to a batch of small bottles filled with liquid and labeled. “The garlic and olive oil mixed together make a worthy ear drop. An extract of the wonder herb feverfew worked on asthma, psoriasis, arthritis, and is a great cure for a bad headache.” Angelica picked up a bottle of hot pepper lotion. “If this lotion is rubbed on a joint full of the pain of arthritis, it will bring ease.”
The Priestess put the small bottle down. “Let’s review the proper herbs based on individual zodiac signs, herbs that are related to Sun signs and the planet it ruled,” she said.
ARIES - March 21 to April 20, ruled by Mars. Two parts of the body ruled by this sign are the head and eyes. The herbs which possess thorns and have a red color are good for colds and sores. The examples the Priestess gave were hawthorn berries or roots, bayberry, wild carrot seed, and sarsaparilla root.
TAURUS - April 21 to May 21, ruled by Venus and governs the throat. Strawberry and raspberry leaves or root could be used for sore throats.
GEMINI - May 22 to June 21, is ruled by Mercury and represents the arms and shoulders. Fenugreek is an herb which would relieve soreness.
CANCER - June 23 to July 23, is ruled by the Moon and governs the stomach, breast and chest. Any herb related to the moon would control vomiting.
LEO - July 24 to August 23 is ruled by the Sun and represents the heart. Mistletoe stalk is a stimulant for a nervous heart.
VIRGO - August 24 to September 23, is ruled by Mercury. It controls the abdomen. Anise seed can be used to treat the liver and intestines.
LIBRA - September 24 to October 23, is ruled by Venus and represents the kidneys. Strawberry leaves and roots could be used to overcome acidity which weakens the kidneys.
SCORPPIO - October 24 to November 22, is ruled by Mars and represents the reproductive organs. Sarsaparilla has an antiseptic healing property that could stimulate the glandular system and throw off disorders.
SAGITTARIUS - November 23 to December 21, is ruled by Jupiter and represents the thighs. Angelica recommended Sage because it is commonly used for rheumatism and neuritis in the lower limbs.
CAPRICORN - December 22 to January 20, is ruled by Saturn and governs the knees. Camomile is the herb used for aches in the joints.
AQUARIUS - January 21 to February 19, is ruled by Saturn and governs the lower legs. Camomile could also be used to relieve leg pain.
PISCES - February 20 to March 20, is ruled by Neptune and represents the feet. To bring ease to foot pain, hawthorn berries was suggested.
After the review Angelica dismissed her class for the afternoon. She asked Lilith to stay behind. Angelica approached the meddlesome one and, when confronted, Lilith seemed to become defensive. Avril stood out side the doorway, out of sight and heard Angelica say to Lilith, “No matter what you do to change something not to your liking, you can’t change other people’s will for long periods. They will see the facade; it’s just the way it is.”
2016 copy written A. Skelhorn