Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hyssop of the Holy Writ



“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” 

Talk to any rootworker and ask them to name the best herb to use for cleansing and uncrossings and their response is likely to be, or at least include: Hyssop. This makes sense given the heavy influence of the Bible on modern conjure, and in particular, the influence of Catholicism and the use of the Psalms - specifically Psalm 51 - in conjure work in New Orleans.

Although well-known for its association with the Bible, the hyssop we know today as Hyssopus officinalis is disputed as the plant referred to in the Bible. Biblical hyssop is often called the “unidentified plant” of the Bible. Some maintain that hyssop is actually a type of marjoram (Origanum maru), while others posit it is the caper-bush (Capperis spinosa). Despite the question of its true identity, Hyssop officinalis is the one used in both perfumery and conjure today.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is a decorative herbaceous plant in the mint family that is native to Southern Europe, the Middle East, and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea.(1) Hyssop is believed to have come to North America with the early European colonists as it is listed among the seeds John Winthrop, Jr. brought to the New World in 1631.(2)

Over the years, it has escaped from gardens and is now naturalized at roadsides and in waste places here and there in North America from Quebec to North Carolina. When it blooms, hyssop displays spikes of fragrant blue, pink, or white flowers. Hyssop has been used in a variety of ways since Classical Antiquity. The classical age was a time in which Greek and Roman society flourished and wielded great influence throughout Europe and the Middle East. During this time, hyssop was widely
used for its medicinal properties.

Historically, hyssop has been used medicinally as an antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, astringent, carminative, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, hypertensive, nervine, sedative, and tonic, among other things. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of bruises, colds, cough, fatigue, fevers, flatulence, indigestion, inflammation, loss of appetite, nervous tension, sore throat, stress related conditions, and wounds. Hyssop should be avoided by those with epilepsy and those who are pregnant.

Hyssop also has culinary uses, although it is considered a bitter herb. It can be finely chopped and sprinkled on salads and game meats, and in soups and stews as an aromatic condiment. The leaves have a slightly bitter taste due to its tannins, and an intense minty aroma. Due to its intensity, it is used moderately in cooking. The herb is also used to flavor liqueur, and is part of the official formulation of Chartreuse.

Hyssop is most commonly associated with cleanliness and sacrifice from a religiomagical sense. It is known to have been used in the ritual cleansing of holy places. Bundles of the herb were dipped in sacrificial blood and water and touched upon doorways and other areas in need of cleansing. The dried herb was used in bouquets and burned to fumigate areas in an effort to ward off plagues. Beekeepers were known to rub the fragrant flowers on beehives to encourage bees to stay. In Hoodoo and Rootwork, hyssop maintains its biblical associations with cleansing, uncrossing, and getting rid of negative conditions.

Here are a couple of ways hyssop can be used to improve quality of life.


AROMATIC MEDICINAL BATH

For the treatment of rheumatism, boil several handfuls of hyssop leaves and flowers along with a handful each of thyme, marjoram, lavender, mint and rosemary in two gallons of spring water. Allow to cool until warm, then strain out the herbs and add the tea to a warm bath. Soak for fifteen minutes.


RECIPE FOR HYSSOP TEA

Infuse a quarter of an ounce of dried hyssop flowers in a pint of boiling water for ten minutes; sweeten with honey, and take a wineglassful three times a day. This tea is said to be good for rheumatism and upset stomach and can be drunk in conjunction with the above aromatic bath.


FORMULA FOR HOLY HYSSOP OIL

Holy Hyssop Oil is ideal for times when you are in need of comfort, hope, and spiritual relief. It is useful in times of grief and when you are facing despair, a sense of hopelessness and would benefit from the reassurance of Divine intervention.

Holy Hyssop Oil is made in a base of the purest Olive Oil you can get. Olive oil from Israel is ideal for this formula. Add the dried herbs of hyssop, lavender and rosemary in a pan with enough oil to cover the herbs. Simmer for thirty minutes. Allow to cool and strain into smaller bottles, adding a pinch of hyssop in each bottle. You can repeat the simmering process if you want a stronger fragrance by straining the oil and adding fresh herbs and boiling for another thirty minutes.

Note that this is my personal recipe and name for the oil; you may find others calling it simply Hyssop Oil, which for me would be simply the hyssop herb steeped in olive oil.

References

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyssopus_officinalis
2. Mother Earth Living, http://www.motherearthliving.com/mother-earth-living/an-herb-to-know-hyssop.aspx

Image credit: Upload by: terryb
Author website: pixabay.com
License: CC0 Public Domain
Free for any use / No attribution required

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* The above article is an excerpt from Hyssop: The Holy Herb and its Uses, one of many such documents and ebooks that is received by members of my Conjure Club.





Lessons from our Elders: Listen or Your Tongue will Make you Deaf





I admit it. I used to be an arrogant little know-it-all, always had something to say about every damned thing...years ago. If someone had a problem, I had a fix. I didn't just have a fix though, my fix was better than anyone else's.  Even when in the presence of people older and wiser than me...it didn't matter. I still had the better idea, the better advice, the better fix.

Then, one day that all changed.

I was with a group of friends and there were several elders among us. It was a typical day, someone was having an issue and I knew what to do. I knew what to do before the issue was even fully explained! Isn't that amazing? Surely everyone must have been impressed! I knew I was!

Uhh, no, they weren't. They were annoyed. And for the first time, I actually SAW that they were annoyed with my know it all arrogance. Because let's face it, that's what it was.

Then, one elder turned and looked at me and said, "you really need to shut the hell up and just listen for a change." Only being an Elder, and being Cherokee, he didn't say it in those words, instead he looked me dead in the eye and said, "Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf."

But we all know what he meant, and what he meant was, "you really need to shut the hell up and just listen for a change you little twerp of a know it all."

I shrank to about 2 inches tall that day and that moment in time is forever burned in my otherwise lousy memory. Fortunately.

Image: Coloured aquatint, ca. 1862, depicting a man covering his mouth with a handkerchief, walking through a smoggy London street – Source: Wellcome Library


Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring Cleaning




Spring is the perfect time to perform a spiritual cleansing of your home, even if you don’t think you need it. One way to do this is to perform an egg cleansing on your home. While this type of cleansing can be performed any time you feel the need, if you do it proactively and preemptively, you will find you can avoid problems that arise as a result of the accumulation of spiritual and energetic debris in the home. In addition to breaking up and eliminating spiritual and energetic debris, this type of cleansing can trap and eliminate negative spirits that may be lingering in the home and causing havoc. To do this cleansing you will need the following items:

  • 4 white eggs 
  • 4 glasses of water
  • Holy Water from a Church
  • 1 large bundle of fresh rue (substitute fresh sage, cedar, basil or lavender if you can’t get rue)
  • Holy incense of your choice
  • salt 




Light the incense and go throughout the house asperging each room with the smoke and praying a heartfelt prayer. Place an egg in the four corners of the house, along with a glass of water, adding four drops of Holy Water to each glass. Next, take the bundle of rue and sprinkle it with the Holy Water and walk throughout your home hitting each wall with the bundle of rue while praying a heartfelt prayer once again. Walk through the home again, this time adding 4 pinches of salt to each cup of water. Take the bunch of rue and hang it on the front door. Allow the eggs and glasses of water to sit out overnight. The next day, take the four eggs and place in a brown paper bag carefully without cracking them. Throw them away in a trash away from your home. Take the water and pour it at a crossroads. This ritual can be repeated every season to maintain a spiritually well household.

Happy Spring Cleaning, y'all!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

To Sweeten a Situation




Here is a useful Conjure Tip: To sweeten a situation, write your petition, place on a plate and dust with powdered sugar. Set a piece of Sara Lee pound cake on top of the petition. Place a pink candle into the cake. Drizzle sugar cane syrup over the pound cake and light the candle. Allow to burn all the way down. Things should start going your way.






Monday, December 29, 2014

Welcome to the World of St. Expedite


Welcome to a world of wordplay, puns, mystery, and legends, from the year 303 to the present, from Italy to France, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, the Philippines and finally, New Orleans, Louisiana. Welcome to the cult of devotion for the Minute Saint, whose past obscurity is replaced in special circles with near celebrity. Welcome to the world of St. Expedite.
     
He’s on the fringe of Catholicism, the “black sheep” of the saintly family; though, not through any fault of his own. Even as he is accused of being a novelty, a joke, and a mistake, even as he has suffered decanonization by the pope and decapitation by tempestuous followers, St. Expedite continues to work his miracles with expediency, unlike any other saint. He is loyal to his devotees and they are loyal to him. He dispenses faith, hope and charity along with prosperity, work, and justice all in one tight little bundle, wherever and however you need it. And, he will help near about anyone. Catholics, nonCatholics, pagans, rootworkers, Haitian Vodouisants and New Orleans Voudouists—really, anyone who petitions him with a sincere heart and the promise of a piece of pound cake (Sara Lee, preferably), he will come to their aid. Just be sure to let the world know how great he is when he comes through for you—that’s about the only caveat.

When I first set out to write this book, I had no idea it would be as long as it is. One hundred and forty pages or so may not seem like a lot; but, for a saint who is best known for how little is known about him, it shows what a little digging can do. This book does not end my quest for learning all there is to know about this saint, however. That said, this book is the first and only book about St. Expedite that combines all the common knowledge with the uncommon knowledge, along with some of the mysteries of his presence in New Orleans Voudou, his relationship to Mardi Gras, Baron Samedi, and sorcery. I include an examination of entries about him in the Hyatt texts, as well as practical conjures of my own. All of the prayers you will ever need are contained within these pages—some of them are common Catholic prayers while others are prayers I have written using familiar Catholic format and verbiage. In short, this book contains everything a person needs to know about St. Expedite and how to serve him as a patron saint by anyone who cares to do so.
     
I looked high and low to find information on St. Expedite for this book. My thought is that everyone has a history, we just need to look until we find it. The task proved to be greater than I realized because there truly isn't a lot written about him, at least not in English. The French sure love this guy, however. Don’t dare attempt to tell them he is some sort of hoax. Because when the French endear themselves to someone as much as they do St. Expedite, trying to relegate him to status of urban legend in the presence of a die hard French devotee will leave you feeling like un parfait imbécile (a complete idiot)!
     
But, it’s not just the French who love St. Expedite. He is loved around the world and New Orleans is no exception. He is considered the patron saint of New Orleans by many, and the patron saint of New Orleans Voudou by many more. Where he is shunned by Roman Catholics, he is embraced by New Orleans Voudouists. He has a healthy following of those who appreciate folk Catholicism and a growing following of rootworkers. Despite being kicked off of the official martyrologies, downplayed on the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel website, ignored by devout Catholics and made fun of by Catholic priests, his cult of devotion remains strong. Try as they might, this saint’s not going anywhere—fast.
     
So, grab yourself a cup of coffee and chicory, or a glass of sweet tea if you prefer, put on something comfy and enjoy this labor of love I have created in perpetual homage to the Minute Saint. Glory be to St. Espidee!