Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reading Coffee Grounds

I do love my morning coffee.  Maybe not so much for the taste (seriously, how much could I possibly love something that I add so much sugar and cream to?), or the caffeine boost (we're half-caff chez Discreet  Witch) but for the warmth and aroma and the quiet before the storm it represents first thing in the morning.  Recently, in order to prolong that morning peace, I've started reading my coffee grinds.   Tea leaf reading, was always a "thing" when I was growing up--the joy of hippy parents I guess--but I'd never really applied it to my coffee. 
Tasseography or tasseomancy is the interpretation of tea leaves, coffee grounds or wine settlements left at the bottom of your cup.  Cafeomancy is specific to reading coffee grounds.  Traditionally coffee readers use Turkish coffee, but for our purposes, regular ground coffee will work.

Step 1.  After brewing and pouring a cup of your favorite coffee, and doctoring it with whatever creams or sweeteners you choose, add a tablespoon (or more if you dare) of the grounds to the cup and let sit a moment or two while the grounds settle.  This part is tough for me since I like my coffee scalding hot.
Step 2.  Enjoy the coffee as you normally would, focusing on any questions or dilemmas you may have.  Leave enough coffee in the bottom of your cup to saturate/cover the remaining grounds.  You want a good swirl, but not so much that all of your grounds will wash out when you dump the liquid.
Step 3.  When you are down to that last little bit in your cup, swirl the coffee and grounds clockwise three times.  Cover as much real estate in the cup as possible while you do this.  I've seen it suggested that the left hand should be used--go ahead if you want to be a purist, but sleepiness and half-caff coffee make this one step too many for this Discreet Witch.
Step 4.  Upend the cup onto a small plate to drain the remaining liquid.
The grounds left inside of the cup are yours to interpret.  The first shapes that jump out at you will be the most important.  Pay special attention to these.  Reading grounds is a subjective art.  It is better to write your findings down and research them after, rather than look them up as you go.  Stick with your first impression--it is usually the correct one.  Using the magical Internet, search "tasseomancy symbols" for a lexicon.

Here are a few shape interpretations:

angel-good news
fork-false friendship
kite-wishes coming true or a possible scandal
map-travel and/or change

For more information on tasseomancy :

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Care and Feeding of Brooms

I have a broom habit.  I'll admit it.  It's not out of control yet, but sometimes I just can't help myself--I see a lovely, well-made broom, and I just have to have it.  Currently I am lusting over a handcrafted traditional broom with sassafras broomstick, but I can't justify the cost.  It's a sickness.  Still, brooms are a tool, and as with any tool, proper care will extend it's useful life.  Especially when you've dropped a bundle at your local Renaissance Festival on that carved and hand polished applewood number.

General broom care:
-Always store the broom by hanging it or leaning it upside down.  Simply leaving it on the ground warps the shape of the corn.
-Dampen your broom from time to time, or sweep rain or snow from the porch.  The moisture will help to clean the corn fibers and keep them from snapping off.
-If your broom bristles get all wonky, soak them in warm water for a minute and then bind them with a rubber band or twine in whatever shape you like (I bind my besom with a rubber band, my kitchen broom with twine). Hang the broom for a couple of days to dry and the shape will be restored.
-Clean your broom after use by running the bristles over a rail or a step.

At least once a year, if not more often, perform a ritual cleansing and blessing on your brooms--even that junky Home Depot special you use to sweep off the front porch.  As a tool, that broom is physically and psychically cleansing your space.  Treat it with respect.  Really good pagans will cleanse and bless their brooms monthly, but I just don't have that kind of time and/or energy.  I generally perform my broom blessing at or near the full moon, and almost always in the autumn (there's just something about the season that makes me more aware of magic).  The cleansing and blessing can be as complicated or as simple as you like.  I'm a simple girl and stick with incense, salt and water blessings.  Your words are your own, so say your blessing over this valuable tool, hang it up or display it in a place of honor, and blessed be.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spring Cleaning Time!

I love it when the urge to organize kicks in.  Finally!  All of those half-finished projects, random boxes in the closets and cluttered junk drawers are singing their siren's call to my motivated ears.  But more than that, as the moon waxes and the Spring Equinox approaches, all of that positive energy can be channeled into a springtime ritual cleansing.

Spring cleaning is an excellent way to clear the physical and emotional clutter that builds up during the winter months following Yule.  Start small if the motivation isn't there--old clothes which aren't worn anymore can go to charity, random stacks and piles of papers can be sorted and dealt with.  If like me, however, you are feeling juiced up for a good domestic scrub down, go for it!  Just be sure to get the piles of junk you've cleared out of your home.  As the clutter is cleared it makes room for positive energy in your life.

Once the home is cleaned, a good smudging is in order.  Personally, I really hate the smell of burning sage, but since this is a once-a-year activity for me and I can open all of the windows and doors while doing it, I go ahead with my smudge stick.  I usually make my own every spring with sage, mugwort and lavendar from the garden, and last year's smudge sticks are nice and dry after a year in the pantry.  If you absolutely can't bear the smoke, or if for some reason you aren't permitted to burn things (say in a dorm or a rental property), I've found that liquid smudge works well enough for most cleansings, and it smells so much nicer.  As you would with the smudge stick, go through each room and clear the energy, making sure not to neglect corners and under furniture.  Visualize the the smoke (or spray) dispersing the negativity from each room.  If you are using smudge smoke, be careful of the ash and whatever you do, don't set off the smoke detector (it happens).

Bottle of liquid smudge accompanied by healing crystals
Now that your space is cleansed, cleanse your body in a ritual bath (or shower--just be sure to use plenty of salt), dress in clean, comfortable clothing and take a moment to reward yourself for the work you've done.  Enjoy the cleansed space--while it lasts.  New clutter will sneak up on you later.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Ostara Decor

monmelldesigns etsy
I love decorating for the holidays.  Love it.  Me and my magickal glue gun go to town when holidays approach and being pagan, there are a LOT of holidays to decorate for.  Sometimes I raise a few eyebrows (my Litha decorations seem to puzzle some), but mostly I'll admit to a certain amount of discreet gloating when my decor goes unnoticed by nonpagans.  Some holidays are easier than others obviously.  Beltane through Lammas are a bit of a challenge since they don't correspond with popular Christian holidays.  Mostly I stick with seasonal decor then.  But starting in October with Samhain, I can really shine.  By Ostara I'm on a roll.
Ostara is one of the easier holidays to decorate for since so many of Easter's Christian traditions have pagan roots.  Bunnies, eggs, flowers, baskets,'em!  Ostara is the vernal equinox.  Night and day are briefly in balance, and now the days will grow longer and longer until the climax of summer solstice.  It is a fertility holiday:  the coming of Spring, new life, rebirth, all of that.  It is a holiday celebrating nature, and nature is what we use to decorate.  We love our fecund little bunnies, our prolific baby chicks, our fertile Ostara eggs.
Here at Discreet Witch Central, we've outgrown the Ostara Bunny (sadly), but egg decorating is still a favorite craft.  Some are blown and decorated, some hard-boiled  There is an unspoken rule that the best egg gets a prize, but who am I to judge.  Everybody gets the prize, usually a marshmallow Peep.  This of course leads to Peep wars in the microwave, but it's all good fun.  The blown eggs are hung from a branch and displayed on the breakfast table, and the hard-boiled eggs await their destiny in the refrigerator.  Rainbow Egg Salad becomes a staple in lunch boxes in the days following Ostara.

Burlap Easter or Spring Wreath with MOSS BUNNY
decoglitz etsy
I am a sucker for all things burlap, so the burlap wreath comes out for it's Ostara overhall.  This year I may go with birdnests and ribbons to decorate.  Greenery from the early spring garden fills vases on virtually every surface area, and if I'm lucky a flower or two.  Easter crafts from the kids' schools are subtly repurposed for Ostara and displayed proudly.

For even more ideas for Ostara decor, the amazing magical Internet is a fabulous place for inspiration.
Blessed Ostara all.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mint, Magic and Margaritas

The space between Imbolc and Ostara is one of my favorite times of year.  Those end-of-winter days when the weather can't quite make up it's mind--warm and sunny one day, cold and wet the next.  Wrapping up in pajamas and down quilts at night, only to kick them all off by morning (though in Nature's defense, that could just be hot flashes).   The fireplace burning with the windows open.  In the garden, daffodil and Easter lily buds are poking out of the ground, and dill, fennel and poppy seedlings are everywhere.

I love this cusp of Springtime, and so, apparently, does my mint.

In the garden, mint likes morning sun and afternoon shade.  If (Goddess forbid) you are planting it directly in the ground, give it plenty of space.  I can't stress this enough--a happy mint is a prolific mint.  My mint bed is easily 5X5 feet, and still the mint is trying to escape.  If you don't have the space for it, keep it in a pot and make sure to keep it watered.

Mint is definitely a staple in my witchy bag of tricks.  It's gloriously easy to come by and useful on so many levels.  It is the ultimate herbal multi-tasker.  Mint is masculine and corresponds with the planets Mercury or Venus (depending on your needs, I suppose) and the element of air.  In the Tarot, mint corresponds with The Fool--probably because of its optimistic and unstoppable nature.  In magic, mint is used in spells concerning money and business, communication, luck and health.  Add leaves to amulets or poppets for healing spells and keep a leaf or two in your wallet to attract money (at the very least your wallet will smell nice).  In a pinch, I've been known to charge a breath mint with communication intent before meetings.  In healing, mint tea is our go-to around here for upset stomachs, and combined with ginger and honey, it's an excellent tea for colds and flus.

All of these uses for mint are great, but I have to be honest here--the bulk of the mint in the Discreet Witch's garden gets used to make a spring-time staple at our gatherings:  Banana-Mint Margaritas.  Don't knock them 'til you've tried 'em buddy.  By St. Patrick's Day my whole street is clamoring for mint from my garden to make this incredibly refreshing beverage.

Banana-Mint Margaritas

1cup (or more to taste or garnish) fresh mint
1 6 oz can of frozen limeade concentrate
1/2 ripe banana
6 oz tequila (or more, if you like)

Combine ingredients in your favorite blender and enjoy!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Magical Moon Gardens

I have decided--winter is over and I'm ready to start digging in my garden. 

Last year I finally faced the truth:  my front garden gets almost no direct sunlight.  This was a difficult realization for me, since I planted every plant, shrub and tree in that yard.  But trees and shrubs grow, and the laurel oak and wax myrtles I planted ten years ago are quite happy where they live.  Still, this means my dream of a charming and colorful cottage garden in the front is dashed.  No matter.  A moon garden it is.

Over the last twelve months I have replaced the more colorful foundation plants with their white or variegated alternatives.  The tragic holly trees which were never happy where they grew were replaced with dwarf magnolias.  Bright red scraggly bottle brush was replaced with G.G. Gerbing white azaleas.  I even risked a dogwood, on the off chance that at least some sunlight will get to the poor thing. 

En lieu of bright, colorful plantings, I decided to do a white-on-white cottage garden wherever possible.  Currently, white petunias are struggling to come back from the snail hoards which overran the garden this autumn.  They probably won't make the cut for springtime.  White variety of angelonia adds a little height to the beds and white garden mums left over from last September seem to be coming back well.  Soon the star jasmine climbing my house and the Easter lily nubs I planted will bloom perfuming the spring air.  Still waiting on the white coneflower to come back.  Fingers crossed there. 

As the season progresses, I'll fill in gaps with dusty miller, variegated hostas and, perhaps some ferns for texture.  White impatiens should thrive in the laurel oak's shade.  A delicate windchime and garden lights will complete the moon garden in time for warm summer months.

For your own moon garden, here are some tips: