So, today we’re going to talk about a slightly more obscure tool: the witch’s ladder. There’s some debate as to whether or not this was a commonly used tool in older European traditions of witchcraft. In the late 1870’s a witch’s ladder, along with a collection of brooms, was found in the attic of a recently deceased woman in Somerset, sparking suspicions of witchcraft. Unfortunately, it’s not actually known whether or not this object was really used in witchcraft or how widespread the use may have been if it was. More on the history of these tools can be found here.
Now, what is a witch’s ladder? It’s a type of knot talisman made by inserting small objects into a length of cord, traditionally rooster feathers and sometimes small bones were used but you can use locks of hair, teeth, beads, sticks, leaves, seashells or pretty much anything that works for your practice.
Originally, it’s thought that they were used to curse but their uses in modern practices are endless. I’ll be making one to protect my house and create easier communication with the Other Realms.
How to Make a Witches Ladder
Ok, to start us off we need a few supplies. There are three main things that I’m using.
First is the cord, feel free to use whatever material you like. When I’m doing work like this I prefer to use regular old kitchen twine. It’s sturdy and not overly processed. You could use yarn, thread, rope, sinew or ribbon as well though.
The second thing that I’ll be using is a couple of small bones, I’m using six because I like working with multiples of three.
Finally, the feathers. These are brown mourning dove feathers; I’m using these as opposed to another type of feather because they’re good for communicating with Spirit and for fostering awareness.
I would like to mention here that while handy in the craft, collecting bones and feathers that you find can be illegal. Most birds are protected species and regardless of whether you found the feathers or ripped them off of the bird yourself, possessing them is illegal. Be sure to check the laws in your area. This problem can usually be solved by writing a letter to the appropriate wildlife officials asking for permission to pick up specific types of bird feathers for a collection. Once written permission is obtained it only has to be kept with the feathers to avoid any ramifications. Of course, if you’re not going to be waving about rare bird feathers in the town square this is probably unnecessary.
As I said, you can replace bones or feathers with whatever you like. Use Barbie arms if that’s what floats your boat. I usually use nine items in mine and the traditional number would be thirteen but feel free to adjust this to fit your needs.
Another optional material would be a metal ring, you can tie the ladder to this and use that to hang it from a hook on the ceiling or something if you like. I’ll just be using a thumbtack.
As always prep yourself and your workspace however you prefer. Cast a circle, take a ritual bath, light some incense, maybe put on some music. Consecrate your supplies and get to work.
The creation of a witch’s ladder is surprisingly simple and quick. Take your cord and cut three equal lengths. How long you make it is up to you, for example, I like each length to be from the fingertips of my left hand to my heart in length. Tie the ends together, if you are using a metal ring, tie it to the ring; otherwise just an overhand knot on the end does the trick.
Start braiding, for this one I used your typical three-strand braid but you could add and subtract cords and use rope braids, fishtail braids or five strand braids as well. As you braid begin adding in your objects. I don’t do anything special, I just keep braiding as usual while adding my feathers and stuff in between two strands. Here’s a close-up of my ladder partially finished.
I spread mine out semi-evenly along the length of the cord, if you’re a stickler about getting things even then make sure you remember that you’ll lose about a third of the cord length in the process of braiding.
As you add each item to the ladder spend a few moments to state your intention or meditate on the purpose of your spell. I kind of just spend the entire time I’m making the ladder talking to it and telling it what I would like of it. You could also use the traditional nine knot spell if incantations are your thing. I find them too constricting for my practice but for those of you who prefer more ritualized working here it is
"By knot of one, the spell is begun
By knot of two, it cometh true
By knot of three, so mote it be
By knot of four, the open door
By knot of five, it comes alive
By knot of six, the spell is fixed
By knot of seven, it has the power of heaven
By knot of eight, the open gate
By knot of nine, it is mine”
After all of your items are in place you need to finish your cord. You can just tie a knot in it and either trim the excess cord or let it hang there, or you can add something to the end as a sort of weight, bells are a common choice. Feel free to let it charge in the light of the moon or sun if you like.
Once it’s completely done take it and hang it somewhere, I like to have them on my porch but hanging it in your room or kitchen works as well. If the spell is more malicious I’d suggest hiding it away somewhere close to your target instead of hanging it.
Here’s my finished ladder, hanging out on my porch.
A few ideas for uses of these lovely tools:
- Warding magic - Use to create a “Do Not Enter” sign for unfriendly energies. The ladder conveys the meaning that those who would harm are unwelcome.
- Attraction magic - Use it to attract people, familiars, ideas, mindsets, jobs, circumstances, luck, etc. into your life
- Binding the thirteen moons of the year - This is a method used to harness the power of the thirteen full moons of the year, allowing you to perform weather magic and nature magic more easily and opening the doorway to the Other Realms.
- Traveling - Ladders can be used as a gate into the Other Realms. An actual “ladder” for your spirit to climb up into various planes
- Natural magic - You can use items related to the branch of nature that you work with. For me it’s trees but perhaps you work with the ocean, mountains, forests, animals, insects, and so on.
- Wish magic - You can use rolled up slips of paper or pressed leaves and make a ladder with them, writing your wish on each one. As the ladder is slowly destroyed by the elements, your wish comes true.
- Divination - I’ll need to make a full post about this if anyone is interested, it’s a tad complicated
- Worship - You could use a witches ladder as an offering to a deity, perhaps as a nine day devotional where you tie in an offering every day and ending with hanging it on the last day
- Curses - and of course, witches ladders can be used to curse.
As usual, if anyone has any questions or would like me to make a follow up post on anything I’ve mentioned here, let me know!
This is a post specifically for my dear friend thegaywiccan who asked about the uses of feathers in magic.
Feathers have had symbolic meaning in folklore, cultures and magic for a very long time. there are many different types of feathers and a whole bunch of different meanings and associations attached to them based off of their color and what bird they have come from. for example Native Americans believed that symbolically feathers represented the spiritual ascension to a different plane, wearing feathers as a sign of their ability to communicate with spirit and their wisdom. in other cultures, it is believed that a black feather landing on your doorstep is an ill omen that signifies that death of someone close or bad luck. you can find over 100 different interpretations on them.
Feathers are magically ruled by the element of air, which is the realm of thought and intellect, which is the first step toward creation. this makes feathers good helpers in communication. But each feather can also hold other specific correspondences, relating to factors such as the bird it came from, its color, the place and how it was discovered.
Bird feathers are symbols of the wind, the divine, Flight, the mind and new opportunities, travel, speed or swiftness, wisdom, communication, spirituality and spiritual powers. also finding a feather can be a sign the connection to Gods or Goddesses. Finding bird feathers can be seen as a reflection of reaching new levels of consciousness or Change. It is always good magic to collect feathers. (i personally have tons of feathers that i have collected, however some feathers are illegal to own, so make sure you know what you are picking up)
Colors are also consider to be an important component in the use of feathers or effective of feathers in magic, I have personally found that Naturally colored feathers are far more powerful than chemically dyed or altered ones. some examples of colors and their meanings are how white feathers are commonly associated with peace, purity, the moon, spirituality and good luck. where as green feathers can symbolize harmony, unity, prosperity, good health, nature, plants and animals, fertility and so forth.
in magic feathers can be used in spells and rituals to promote change, or are used as catalysts. Sometimes particular feathers which have meaning to their owner are added to wands, bags, sachets, witches ladders, necklaces and many other ritual tools to help gain power, draw good luck or keep away negativity.
however the knowledge of what kind of feather is best used for its intent can only be discovered much like many magic things by trial and error. A single feathers usefulness in magic is primarily decided by the energy, intent and associations put into the feather by its user. In addition to this energy, the feathers will hold onto its specific associated natural abilities.
Overall feathers have a wide range of uses, meanings and correspondences associated with them.
-photo by HoneyCoyote (no i did not keep the feather) -
- Monday (Moon): Good for psychic awareness, fertility, healing and intuition, the mother.
- Tuesday (Mars): Sex! taking action, being more assertive and protection.
- Wednesday (Mercury): Writing, communication, studying, travelling, learning, sharing ideas and consciousness also divination. The mind tends to be sharper around this time.
- Thursday (Jupiter): Prosperity, money, exploring philosophical beliefs, expansion.
- Friday (Venus): Love spells, friendship and beauty.
- Saturday (Saturn): Endings, longevity, discipline, focus on home, the father.
- Sunday (Sun): Strength, vitality, healing work is especially good on Sundays and protection spells.
abundance and fertility: apples, bananas, barbecued foods, basil, beef, berries, cabbage, carrots, coconut, corn, figs, fish, grapes, honey, kiwis, lettuce, milk, mustard, oats, olives, oranges, peaches, pork, rice, tropical fruit, walnuts
cleansing: barbecued foods, bay leaves, beer, chicken, cinnamon, coconut, fennel, garlic, grapefruit, honey, horseradish, hot peppers, hot sauce, lemons, limes, mint, mustard, onions, oranges, peppers (all kinds), red foods, rosemary, sage, thyme, vinegar, water, whiskey (or any distilled beverage), white foods
comeliness: apricots, avocados, basil, beets, cucumbers, eggs, ham, honey, oats, olive oil, peanut oil, pears, rose water, rosemary, tea, water
creativity: anything made in pot or served in a bowl or cup, allspice, carrots, celery, grapes, ham, honey, mead, milk products, mushrooms, mustard, pomegranates, pork, water, wine
decisions: brazil nuts, caraway seed, celery, coffee, dill, grapes, hazelnuts, honey, mustard, raisins, rosemary, tea, turkey, watercress
knowledge and education: apples, beans and seeds, caraway seed, celery, citrus fruits, coffee, dill, figs, grapes, greens, hot foods and spices, meat, mint, nutmeg, root vegetables, rosemary, savory, tea, walnuts, watercress
employment: alfalfa, almonds, basil, bay leaves, cashews, chamomile, cinnamon, cloves, dill, ginger, grapes, maple syrup, meat, mint, nutmeg, oats, oranges, pecans, pineapple, pomegranates, radishes, salt, wheat
luck: allspice, bamboo shoots, bananas, beer, black-eyed peas, cabbage, champagne, coconut, coleslaw, fish, hazelnuts, kumquats, mincemeat, noodles, nutmeg, oranges, pears, pineapple, pomegranates, red beans, rice, sugar, tea, wine
happiness: apples, apricots, barley, beer, bubbly beverages, celery, cherries, chocolate, cucumbers, cumin, honey, lemons, lettuce, marjoram, milk, mint, olives, oregano, peaches, quince, raspberries, saffron, wine
money: alfalfa, allspice, almonds, bananas, barley, basil, beans, berries, cabbage, cashews, chamomile, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, dill, eggs, figs, ginger, grapes, lettuce, maple syrup, marjoram, milk, mint, oats, onions, oranges, parsley, peanuts, pears, peas, pecans, pine nuts, pineapple, pomegranates, rice, sesame seeds, spinach, tea, tomatoes, wheat
promises: bay leaves, cumin, figs, garlic, honey, lemons, licorice, mulberries, nutmeg, onions, oranges, peanut butter, plantains, rose water, rye, salt, sunflower seeds, tea, wine
psychic awareness: bamboo shoots, bay leaves, bean sprouts (all), carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery seed, cinnamon, citron, coconut, cucumbers, dill, fish, flowers (garnish), grapes, lemons, lettuce, mace, mint, mushrooms, nutmeg, onions, potatoes, rose water, thyme, tofu, vegetarian fare
relationships: apples, barley, basil, bay leaves, cabbage, catnip, cheese, cherries, chestnuts, chocolate, cinnamon, dill, ginger, honey, kiwis, lemons, marjoram, nutmeg, oranges, parsley, raspberries, strawberries, sugar, tomatoes, vanilla, wine
protection: almonds, artichokes, bananas, basil, bay leaves, birch beer, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cayenne, chives, cloves, corn, cranberries, dill, eggs, garlic, horseradish, jalapeno peppers, leeks, marjoram, mustard, nettle, olive oil, onions, parsley, peppers, pineapple, prickly pear, radishes, raspberries, red rice, rhubarb, rosemary, rum, salsa, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, vinegar
sex: beans (men), blackberries, brandy, caraway seed, cardamom, carrots, celery, cherries, chocolate, cinnamon, figs, fish, ginger, honey, mangoes, mint, mustard, nutmeg, olives, oysters (women), parsley, peaches, plum wine, raspberries, rice, rose water, sesame seeds, shellfish, strawberries, truffles, vanilla yams
changes: asparagus, beans, beets, beverages, celery, cheese, citrus fruits, fennel, fermented items, frappés, ginger, grapes, lavender, microwave foods, mint, mulberry, oregano, rosemary, saffron, tea, vanilla, vinegar
health: alfalfa, allspice, almonds, apples, bananas, barley, basil, beans, berries, bran, brandy, cabbage, chicken, cinnamon, cloves, cornmeal, cucumbers, dill, eggplant, eggs, figs, garlic, ginger, honey, kumquats, lemons, marjoram, milk, oats, onions, parsley, peanuts, pears, peas, pine nuts, pineapple, rice, sesame seeds, spinach, thyme, tomatoes, walnuts
Source: Bubble, Bubble, Toil &Trouble – Mystical Munchies, Prophetic Potions, Sexy Servings, and Other Witchy Dishes by Patricia Telesco
Anise: Love, Enthusiasm.
Bacon: Financial Prosperity.
Banana: Male Fertility.
Bay Leaves: Energy, Health.
Beef: Grounding, Abundance.
Chicken: Health, New Beginnings
Coffee: Conscious Mind, Alertness.
Eggs: Fertility, Hope
Garlic: Strength, Protection.
Honey: Creativity, Joy, Well-Being.
Lemon: Cleansing, Devotion.
Mint: Rejuvenation, Money.
Olive: Peace, Spirituality.
Pineapple: Hospitality, Protection.
Rice: Blessing, Fertility (Good for rain magic)
Thyme: Faery Folk, Romance, Health.
Wine: Celebration, Happiness.
Phases of the Moon 2014
Whaaaaaaat new moon on January 1st??!? Heck yeah New Year’s magics are happening!!
and one on the 30th! Thirty days of something needs planning….
- Abalone: This shell is quite deceitful. Hidden beneath its drab exterior is a beautiful mother-of-pearl interior. Use this shell in spells to seek hidden treasures and good fortune.
- Auger: This obviously phallic shell can be used for any spells of male concern.
- Clam: Renaissance artists painted Venus coming to shore on a clam shell. It has long been considered a symbol of the Goddess.
- Cockle: The basis of the expression “warming the cockles of the heart,” this shell is best used in spells for love, friendship, relationships, emotions.
- Conch: When blown, this shell produces a loud noise. It can be used effectively in spells of summoning, for difficulties in communicating, and as an aid in clearing up misconceptions.
- Cowry: Look closely at this shell and you will see that it resembles the female genitalia. This shell can be used for spells of any female concern including such things as pregnancy and menstrual difficulties.
- Moon snail: As its name implies, the shell resembles a small moon. It can be used for lunar magick of all types.
- Murex: The sharp spikes of the murex shell immediately suggest it can be used for protection, defense, and preservation.
- Nautilus: This shell, which is shaped almost exactly like the brain, can be used for any mentally related spells. This would include term papers, examinations, and writings of any kind.
- Oyster: Due to their pearl generating abilities, oysters are best used in spells for good fortune and also banishment.
- Scallop: Scallop shells are good all-purpose shells. They can be used in place of any other shell.
- Spindle: The spindle shell, as its name implies, resembles the drop spindle. It is best used in meditations on destiny, but can also be used to inspire any art or craft project.
- Whelk: A curved shell that is easy on which to get a grip, whelk shells are used for spells when you need to ‘get a handle’ on things and gain control of a situation.
Against the Evil Eye:
- Hang dill weed over all windows and doorways in the home.
- Wear a blue eye bead for constant personal protection. Hang one from the rear-view mirror of your car, as well.
- Keep a cimaruta (an Italian talisman sporting multiple symbols) on your altar to stave off interference in your magical work.
- Keep a silver bell in your bedroom, and ring it to drive off nightmare-causing evil spirits each night before you go to bed.
- A small dish of coffee beans kept by the bed staves off nightmares.
- Rosemary plants placed near the bed shield against unpleasant dreams.
For Safe Automobile Travel:
- Keep a whole ash leaf in the glove box for magical protection.
- Keep a tiger’s eye in the vehicle to protect against accidents.
- Hang a bag filled with wormwood and plantain from the rear-view mirror to prevent negative spirits from taking on the position of co-pilot.
According to the dozen panicked messages in my inbox, we need to have a talk about curse removal, a talk that (apparently) can’t wait another day. So, here it is. Where I will discuss different methods to remove, reverse, and break curses that you’ve cast or that have been cast on you.
A Few Methods of Curse-Removal
- Reversal - The act of sending a curse back to the person who cast it. This is not (I repeat, is not) the method you want if you’re the person who cast the curse.
- Removal - Simply removing a curse from a person. This can be done by the caster, the target, or by a third party.
- Breaking - Satisfying the demands made by the curse-caster in order to have a curse removed—or actually destroying the curse and all of the negative energy from it.
- Trapping - Putting a curse into an object or living thing and removing it from yourself.
A Note Before You Begin
Some curses are written so that they cannot be removed or reversed. If you’re looking for a curse that you will want to remove later, make sure you can find a removal (or write one) before you begin. Alternatively, if you’re the target of a curse that you can’t seem to shake, try to find out what the target’s demands are and meet them. If that’s out of the question, trapping may be your best option.
Say you’ve been the target of a curse and you want to get even. A curse reversal might be just what you’re looking for. There are lots of ways to reverse a curse. Some are written to send the curse back to that person in a multiplied form—most popularly 3-fold or 10-fold. You can write your own reversal in any way that meets your needs.The following is a simple, quick method of reversing a curse.
- Clean up any salt lines and take down any barriers that would prevent a curse from leaving your home.
- Acquire a cheap hand mirror (one that you wouldn’t mind losing). Breathe onto it. As you fog up the mirror, imagine you’re breathing out all of the cursed energy you’ve been carrying around.
- Place the mirror on a window (facing your target’s home, if possible) with the reflective side facing outward. Leave it there overnight to reflect the person’s curse back on them.
- In the morning, remove the mirror from your window and throw it out. If you can, place a black candle in each window (you can do this one window at a time so that no candles are left burning alone) to protect the house and banish any leftover nasty energy.
- Physically clean the house, cleanse, and redo any protections you need to.
- After reversing a curse, I always put a jar of nails at my window to fight off return attacks.
If it helps, you can write a spoke spell to go along with the above. Usually, I find that alone works very well.
Another good way is to make them eat it—which is a little symbolic and literal at the same time. I usually do this with pie, but you could use anything.
- Prepare a meal that you know this person will eat. (Preferably one that they won’t be likely to share.)
- As you prepare it, let each ingredient stand for a part of the curse you want removed, or a bad thing you want to happen to your target.
- Give it to them.
This can also work as a stand-alone curse and (since they’re eating it and therefore willingly accepting it), it’s not so easy to remove or reversal. (Right, now none of you will ever eat my cooking, but moving right along.)
Reader, we’re about to have one of those moments in which you read my writing and then give me a weird look—but here me out. Curse removal is the act of ritually removing a curse. In my family, we do this with dirt.
- Go outside and collect some dirt. (Preferably, loose dry dirt.)
- Bring it into the house and and sprinkle it over the floors. (You can mix it with a curse removing floor-sweep if you like.)
- Take some in your hands and rub them together (as if your were washing your hands). Say something along the lines of, “Soil and mud and earth and dirt, remove the curse that’s caused me hurt.”
- Wash your hands and sweep the floor, sweeping the dirt out the door if possible.
**Even though it sounds crazy, we use dirt because of its negativity-sucking, neutralizing properties. Obviously, you could replace the dirt with anything else you felt these properties in.
Curse-breaking is a removal method that only works if the curse caster has tied a demand to the curse. For example, a curse broken by true love’s kiss. Or one that goes away when you return the Khal’s books to her. And, in order to break a curse, you have to know what the person’s demands are.
The best way to find this out is with divination. Scrying, Tarot, etc are all good tools to understand what a person wants to get out of their curse. If you trust the person, you can just do what is required and get ready to be curse free. If you don’t, you may want to write a spoken spell to go with your action. Something like, “As I meet [full name’s] demands, take this curse off of my hands.” should work.
Similar to the ‘scapecoat’ concept I talked about in part two, trapping a curse is simply directing a curse into another thing to remove it from yourself. I like to direct curses into earthen-clay figures and bury them away from my home.
Removing a Curse That You Have Cast
Some people will tell you that it’s bad luck for a witch to remove their own curse. Some won’t. For myself, I don’t know because I right my curses not to be removable for the most part.
If you’ve changed your mind and want to take away a curse that you’ve cast, try this:
- Light a black candle for cleansing and banishing.
- Find a photo of your once-target and anoint it with olive oil. This will ruin the photo.
- Say, “My fiery anger did not last. Remove the curse that I have cast. Let all ill will and energy flee, and let [target’s name] never suspect me.”
- If you’re looking to avoid bad luck from removing a curse, it’s a good idea to give some small offering (that belonged to you) in exchange for the removal.