When we think of Witchcraft and folk magick, many an image may fill the imagination. For some, the image may be that of a very stereotypical fairy tale Witch, complete with conical hat, hooked nose, warts and a broom stick; uttering curses over a bubbling cauldron.
Others may see something akin to Hollywood movies, where a satanic-like Witch sacrifices something (or someone) in a messy and bloody way. However, for most people today, a 21st century Witch often resembles something between a hippy and the current very fashionable WitchCore trend that floods social media. To many, in modern eyes, the 21st century Witch is either hugging trees, dancing around Stonehenge and protesting Fracking, or, being overly Witch-trendy on Instagram and sharing posts about “How to be a Witch” . All in all, rather harmless, if indeed a bit eccentric.
All of these descriptions conjure up quite unrealistic images and assumptions of most genuine Witches and Occult practitioners. I have noticed that it tends to be one extreme or another with popular opinion; we are either Satanic-like harpies or harmless eccentrics.
For most practitioners though, neither of these stereotypes are accurate, nor are we somewhere in the middle of this vast and irritating spectrum. It is my hope, that through my blogs I can dispel some of common misconceptions surrounding folk magick and traditional witchcraft. But more than this, I hope to take you, the reader, on a journey with me. A journey of exploring living witchcraft, folk ways, spirituality, and the British and Celtic folklore that often marries them all together.
Todays topic is healing workings. Some may like the term “spell” and even prefer it. However, you will notice within my personal practice and vocabulary, the word “Working” is used instead when describing operative magick. Although I won’t hold it against you if you prefer the use of the word “Spell”; each to their own.
The working I am about to describe is created by myself and is directly inspired and influenced by three key factors within my practice.
- Family folk ways, in which I was brought up with (note, “folk ways” and not witchcraft, my Mother and Nan never considered what they did as “Witchcraft”- even if it sure looked like it…)
- Lancashire folklore, folk stories and other local Witches’ knowledge and practices.
- The surrounding Lancashire landscape, it’s spirits, my connection to the landscape and what has come to me through inspiration and/or channelling/personal gnosis.
The listed three factors are a constant formula in my life and practice. Any working or practice that is not credited as taken directly from elsewhere (for example, shared to me by another Witch, found while researching etc) is usually a working or practice of my own, created from one or all of the above influences. This working, “By apple, clove, horse shoe and hoop” is one such example.
Before I explain how to do this working, I will break down why it has the ingredients and tools that it has, and their significance within folk magic. I do this in order to explain how it is I came to form this working, while simultaniously also highlighting the method behind it. That way, I not only give you an insight into how I work and use the influences listed above, but also to show you that there is definitely thought and careful method to the madness. Proof that it’s not all plucked from thin air!
The Apple: Apple magick is common throughout all of the British and Celtic isles. Our very own mythical Avalon is said to take it’s name from “Isle of Apples”. The apple also appears in the Ogham as “Quert”. Ascertaining and understanding apples significance and symbology within magick can sometimes be tricky as it has the influence of regional folklore, biblical folklore and Pagan/occult interpretations. But as a general rule of thumb, apple symbolises:
- The otherworld and spirit.
- Knowledge and wisdom.
- The occult.
- Fertility, love and union.
- Community and celebration
- Temptation and indulgence (biblical folklore).
- Healing and cleansing.
Apples and healing have a fairly extensive connection. We all know the old adage of “An apple a day keeps the Doctor away”. It is thought that this was in part due to fruit obviously being good for us and full of vitamin C (thus helping to keep illnesses and deficiencies like Scurvy away) but, also because of it’s folkloric and folk magical connections with healing and cleansing.
One regional Lancashire “spell” I have noted is to cut an apple in half width ways (to reveal the hidden star) and rub one half of the apple on the afflicted area of the body and then bury that half to rot away (thus rotting away the illness or affliction). Meanwhile, the good half of the apple is given to the patient to eat. A symbol of health and goodness, and so restorative of health. Supposedly… I admit I’ve not tried this working. But it is certainly worth referencing!
Cloves: The clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is a non native spice that has been used in the U.K since the Roman period. However, it was an expensive spice that was probably not commonly used by most Witches and folk magick practitioners. From this, we can safely surmise that it’s use within any British/Celtic magick is fairly recent. However, just because it boasts no particular or specific long history within native folk and witchcraft practices, doesn’t mean that it is void of use and inauthentic. 20th and 21st century trade has made it incredibly easy for anyone to access practically any legal herb or spice that they want, and with this can come more modern interpretations and uses within current witch practices.
Magically speaking, the clove is associated with cleansing, protection, banishing, exorcism and pain relief (clove is commonly chewed, or the oil rubbed upon sore gums and teeth). The clove is also an aromatic spice and it’s scent is refreshing, uplifting and comforting.
Clove is therefore added to this working for the following specific and beneficial reasons.
- It’s protective qualities – to bring about protection and preservation of health
- It’s banishing and cleansing properties, to banish ill health and cleanse the patient.
- It’s association with pain relief – and, therefore, the channelling of that quality to help the person/friend/client etc etc
- The comforting quality of the spices aromatics. Symbolic of bringing comfort and ease to the person in question.
The horse shoe: My goodness, the horse shoe. There is not enough time and space to go into a more in depth look at the folklore, beliefs and magickal qualities of the horse shoe here! There is enough information out there that entire books are dedicated to the topic. So I shall only give a brief overview here…
The horse shoe is predominantly associated with good luck and protection. The practice of using horse shoes for luck and protection is almost universal, and certainly not specific to the British and Celtic isles. For example, The Romany and Didicoy Gypsies (from which my husband is descended) also revered the horse shoe and it’s powers. Here in Lancashire, horse shoes are mentioned in folk tales as a way of deterring Witches evil intentions! Especially if you happen the live in the Pendle hill area.
It is because of the horse shoes association with luck, protection, perseverance, strength and safety that it is used in this working. To work alongside the clove to protect the person who is unwell, but also invoke the luck of the horse shoe to preserve health for the immediate future.
The hoop: This is a practice that comes directly from my family and the folk ways I was brought up with!
Growing up, I was taught to make blackberry hoops for protection and healing. The hoop would be made in the spring and kept for continual use over the following year. It was then burnt or buried and a new one made in the spring. I will go into more detail about this practice and blackberry folklore in a later blog, but in short, blackberry hoops were seen as both healing and protective because the Devil hates the plant! It is commonly said within folklore that when the Devil was cast from heaven, he fell into a blackberry bush and the thorns tangled and scratched him! He has since avoided blackberry (or spits, or, urinates on them out of spite – interestingly, two acts of spite done from a distance and not actually physically harmful to the plant) because he knows how painful they are. Blackberry hoops are hung by doors for protection, above the beds of sick people for healing, or passed over an afflicted area (like a broken bone or arthritic hand) to bring healing.
As well as blackberry hoops, willow hoops are also made for similar reasons. However, the willow hoop is used more to bring about peace, easing of grief, and banishing ill-will and negative spirits.
In this working, either blackberry or willow can be used, both seem to have the desired outcome and are used to act as a magickal circle around the working. Much the same as how many practitioners work within a magickal circle, sometimes I will place a relevant working within a smaller circle. Especially if that circle adds an extra magickal quality and energy for sympathetic magick reasons – which in this case, both blackberry and willow will do.
How to perform the working.
Note: This is a working based upon need. Therefore you will notice there is no call for performing this working on a full moon, new moon, retrograde, or, a Friday morning after you’ve drunk your coffee while walking backwards around the garden. In most cases, a loved one doesn’t tend to become unwell in accordance to astrological or astronomical timings. Therefore this working can be done when needed.
PLEASE BE AWARE THIS WORKING IS NOT DESIGNED TO BE USED INSTEAD OF MEDICAL HELP AND ASSISTANCE! If you or a loved one is ill, please still seek qualified medical help. Modern medicine and science are valid necessities This working is designed to be used alongside to compliment medical treatment, not instead of.
- 1 apple.
- 1 jar of cloves.
- 1 horse shoe – real (used), not decorative.
- Blackberry or willow hoop – ideally made by yourself.
- A spade and somewhere safe to bury the working.
- Set up your working space in whatever way feels natural to you. Cast a circle if you want too, ground and centre. Get ready in your own usual and unique way. When you and your space (Altar, Kitchen table, garden lawn, patio table etc etc) are ready, you may begin.
- Hold the apple within both hands and speak aloud to the apple. explain to the piece of fruit that someone is unwell and together you are going to work together to help them. In return for the apples sacrifice, explain that you will give an offering in return. You may feel the spirit of the apple/apple tree (Quert, in Ogham) reach out energetically and tell you what it wants in return. It may be something as simple as “Go and plant a new apple tree somewhere”, or to donate food to the food bank collection at your local supermarket or to simply offer it a verbal “Thank you”. Don’t worry if you do not feel the spirit of Apple reach back out to you. Decide upon a gift you can give the world in honour of the apple and do that. I am aware to some people reading this, they will be perhaps thinking that I’m a little bit, well, mad. Speaking to the collective spirit of the Apple tree. Why not just use the apple and have done with it? A fair point, but when you’re an animist like myself, you acknowledge that all life has consciousness, energy or spirit. Even if that spirit is not experiencing consciousness in the exact same way you and I are.
- Take the jar of cloves and using one at a time, form seven lines of cloves around the apple. Starting from the top and working down to the bottom. While doing this, ensuring that you keep your objective in mind. If it helps, you can create a little chant or affirmation to help keep your focus. For example “May Jane be well. May she be strong, healed and safe. I banish her ill health and bind it here”.
- Once the cloves are set, take up the horse shoe, hold it with both hands and charge it with your intention to bring about luck, healing and protection to the person who is unwell. Again, if you would like to say a few words, or a chant, you can add it here. This is a folk magick working, so there is always room for personal flare, expression and interpretation. That is one of the beautiful things about this particular branch of Witchcraft. There is lots of wiggle room for adaptations and personal touches!
- Lay the horse shoe onto whatever surface you are working on and then place the apple in the centre of the horse shoe.
- Next, take up your hoop and lay this over the horse shoe and apple and again, speak whatever intention, prayer or chant over the working.
- When ready, move the working to somewhere safe. A warm, dry and safe environment where it will not be disturbed for three days.
- Leave the working for three days to soak up (energetically) the illness or affliction of the unwell person. You do not need to leave the working near to the person, they can be in an entirely different country and this will still work to help them. A form of distant healing if you will.
- Once the three days are up, take the apple and horse shoe and bury it somewhere safe where you can one day retrieve the horse shoe.
- Dig a hole and place the horse shoe within the hole and the apple in the centre. cover it with the soil and leave it there for three months.
Once the working has been buried for three months, you, the practitioner have three options…
- Dig up the horse shoe, clean it and give it to the person who was sick as a charm that can be hung in their home.
- Dig up the horse shoe and place it on your altar as a form of continual connection and aid to channel more healing if the person is languishing from a long term illness.
- Keep the the horse shoe in the ground and plant seeds of your choice above it, a symbol of growing and flourishing future health.
Where I have had repeated success with this working, it is also important to be realistic here…
Unfortunately, not every illness or injury can be healed. When it is someone’s time to go, they will go and pass into spirit. I do not say this to be insensitive or hurtful, but to be practical and precautionary.
Magick and Witchcraft can be a wonderful and empowering ally. At times, it can be life changing and miracle-like in it’s results…
But it also has it’s limitations. Much like the Genie/Djinn in “Aladdin” being unable to grant certain wishes, the same holds similarly true within Folk Magick and Witchcraft.
If you find that this working was not as successful as you thought it would be and that perhaps the person is still unwell. It is possible that there are other courses of action that can be pursued (alongside clinical medicine of course).
If in the eventuality that no amount of magick can be done to heal the person, sometimes it is time to switch from healing the illness, to helping them adapt, adjust and make peace with any chronic long term illness or disability. Or in some cases, even creating peace and comfort for a person who is passing from this realm into the realm of spirit.
As a trainee Priestess of Cerridwen, the topic of death and death companionship/Death Doula comes up a lot, and in future blogs I will be discussing the importance of holding space for loved ones as they transition from life into spirit. But that is a topic for another day.
I hope you enjoyed my blog today and found it informative! If you want to keep up with my blogs, don’t forget to follow me and also check out my Instagram page too! There is a handy link on the main page!
Through time, mists and the distance between us, blessing’s from me to you.
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4 responses to ““By Apple, Clove, Horse Shoe & Hoop” A Folk Witches Healing Working”
Brilliantly written, thank you. Following so that I can keep up with new posts, x
Lovely first post and really interesting. Thank you for sharing! Incidentally, my cat is named Bramble because she is a protective little thing! I had never heard of bramble hoops before – but thank you for sharing your family’s practice with us. Looking forward to your upcoming posts!
I loved reading your post and can’t wait for the next one. It was so magical and I can’t wait to try this working. Thank you.
Absolutely love this x I’m from Lancashire too ❤️ looking forward to more posts x