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Working Magic in the GardenThere are unseen forces working their magic in your garden! Have you ever printed a photograph when your ink cartridge is out of yellow ink?  Have you ever had pumpkin pie without spices, or unsalted, unseasoned soup?

These examples are analogous to the massive void left when a very small component is missing.  In soil, that very small component necessary to "kick it up a notch" is mycorrhizal fungi.  Big word, hard to say, and filled with all the magic of the most powerful invocations.  Let's slowly chant it: my... koh... rye... zahl...  Feel the stirrings beneath your feet as you have named the magical component in the soil.

There are many types of mycorrhizal fungi, and each may form a different relationship with a plant, and different types of mycorrhizal fungi may colonize a single plant.  To use another analogy, they form a "neural network" between the soil and plants, and between a single plant and its neighbors.  Like the Web of Wyrd or the lines of a fractal, they spread out through the soil making connections somewhat similar to the neural connections in the brain, a myco-net perhaps.

Like most true magic, all of this goes relatively unseen, working powerful influences underground or veiled in mulch and leaves.  But every once in a while, you catch a glimpse of mycorrhizal fungi's fruiting body, usually a mushroom.  One of these fruiting bodies is familiar to folklorists and Witches, the Amanita mushroom, with its red cap and white spots illustrated in many of our favorite fairy tales. Perhaps fungi are the fairy-like unseen magical force conveyed in these tales.  You might see a "puff ball", another fruiting body of mycorrhizal fungi.  These round balls mature to a "husk" like outer shell filled with powder, its spores.

Unseen forces at work in your garden.Mycorrhiza, the root word of mycorrhizal without the L, comes from two greek words; mykós meaning "fungus" and ριζα, riza, meaning "roots".  Mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and plant roots.  Symbiotic means working together, and although mycorrhiza research is still in its toddler stage, the results of latest research are astounding.

Imagine the roots of your plant covered with a fuzzy network of thread-like hyphae (mycelium).  Instead of the smooth surface of a root you can see that there is now a massive amount of surface area.  The plant provides the fungi with sugar (okay, for the scientist I'm referring to carbohydrates like sucrose and glucose) and the fungi provide that extra surface area to absorb water and soil nutrients.  But that's not all, nor is it even the beginning.  Some mycorrhizal fungi release acids that break down rocks and minerals to make them available to plants.  So the fungi get sugar and the plant gets extra minerals like phosphorous that it might not have been able to get on its own, especially in soil with a basic pH.  The extra surface area provided by the fungi allows for greater exploration of the soil and access to deeper water and nutrients.

The Myco-Net is a web of connections.But wait, there's even more!  Mycorrhizal colonies connect plants together, like a massive internet for Mother Earth.  The fungi can transport water and soil nutrients to other plants in the mycorrhizal networks.  They may even help plants communicate among themselves better, allowing them to know when their neighbor is being attacked by an insect, and releasing repellents as a group to combat the attack.  Some plants release attractants for predatory insects that will come and prey on the insect attacking the plant.  When these plants are connected to the Earth's Internet (mycorrhizal network), they can release chemical attractants or repellents as a group for greater battle strength.  They may also communicate to aid in succession of ecosystems, such as paper birch trees signalling douglas fir trees through the myco-net that it is safe to come out and play.  Still other fungi may attract insects or animals to either kill them or utilize their "manures" to increase the nitrogen in the soil for their plant partners.*

Plants connected to a thriving beneficial mycorrhizal network can tolerate soil pH levels outside of their adapted range, are more drought tolerant, and have fewer diseases.  Some mycorrhizal fungi help plants survive in soils contaminated with metal, such as high zinc contamination.

These symbiotic relationships are an ancient magic, with fossil records of plants and mycorrhizas over 400 million years old and quite a bit of evidence of convergent evolution.  DNA sequence analysis indicates that these ancient traditions of symbiosis appeared when plants were first colonizing land about 430 million years ago.

You can invoke mycorrhizal fungi into your garden or house plants in two major ways.  The first is the ritual of organic matter, whereby you add compost or mulch to your soils to increase the survival rate of native mycorrhizal colonies.  The second ritual is to obtain the alchemical elixirs from a reputable practitioner.  These elixirs may come in a liquid form, but usually are in the form of a magic dust that you mix with water and then dip plant roots into when transplanting.  These powders may also be stirred into compost and then added to the soil used as back-fill when planting trees and shrubs.

When these two rituals are combined, powerful magic infuses your garden.  Plants grow larger, healthier and with more resistance to drought and disease.  Blooming is increased, providing more nectar to bees and insects, and increasing pollination success.  Food production is increased, and the nutrient in this food is increased because the plants are able to obtain more of the necessary nutrients to make fruits and vegetable matter.

Making Magic in Your Garden

A simple but powerful ritual to bring the magic of mycorrhizal fungi to your garden:

  1. Order a packet of fungi, see the links below.
  2. Sprout from seed or purchase a pack of vegetable, flower or herb transplants from your local nursery.
  3. Mix the fungi powder according to the package instructions and dip the root balls of the transplants into the potion.
  4. Plant:
  • For indoor plants, pot up your dipped plants in a good potting soil with a high bark or peat content.
  • For outdoor plants, dig a good hole and mix the excavated soil with a good portion of compost, peat, shredded leaf litter or other organic matter.  After planting, mulch with 2 to 6 inches of compost, shredded leaf litter, pine needles, straw, wood chips or other mulch materials.

You will see an amazing difference in your garden as the myco-net expands from the center of your ritual circle (planting area) and the plants you treated, to surrounding plants.  Combine this ritual with other magical formulas discussed here in the wortcunning area of the PaganPath Library for even more results.

References & Resources

 

 

This waxy substance is coconut oil and it melts at about skin temperatureCoconut oil is very useful for the creation of ointments, balms, unguents and solid scents.  This is because it is very stable and because most  types of coconut oil are semi-solid, melting at about skin temperatures.  It will also take high temperatures without loosing its properties or breaking down.

Coconut oil has not escaped the natural healing and nutrition trends.  You will find an abundance of overly hyped information on the "miracle" abilities and cures of coconut oil.  Yes, it is a fairly good moisturizer and can be an excellent part of a healthy, balanced diet, but it is not perfect.  Like most things in our world, coconut oil has advantages and disadvantages.  Let's explore some of its real strengths:

Dietary

Coconut is high in saturated fat and should be used in moderation.  It does however contain an interestingly high amount of short and medium chain fatty acids such as lauric acid (44%) and myristic (16.8%) acids.

Although lauric acid is not entirely heart friendly, myristic can be beneficial, and a meta-analysis of over sixty studies indicates that coconut oil may increase cholesterol levels, both HDL and LDL.

For high temperature cooking, coconut oil is probably a better choice than lard or hydrogenated fats.  In addition, the shelf and temperature stability of coconut oil make it a good choice for cooking due to the lower risk of rancidity and oxidation.  Both rancidity and oxidation of oils can cause serious health problems.1,2,3

"Rancid oil forms harmful free radicals in the body, which are known to cause cellular damage and have been associated with diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and other conditions. Rancid oils can also cause digestive distress and deplete the body of vitamins B and E. In his book "8 Weeks to Optimum Health", Dr. Andrew Weil says rancid oil can also cause damage to DNA, accelerate aging, promote tissue degeneration and foster cancer development. While rancid oil may taste bad, it doesn't normally make you sick, at least not in the short term. Rancid oil does contain free radicals that might increase your risk of developing diseases such as cancer or heart disease down the road."Australian Olive Association publication "Health Effects of Rancid Oils

Skin Health:
Unclog Pores, Clean Skin & Remove Makeup

For skin health, coconut oil makes an excellent cleanser.  You can incorporate it into homemade soap or make a creamy exfoliating cleanser.

Coconut is a fair to good skin moisturizer.  It is not the best, but at the same time it wont leave too much oil residue on your skin. The real advantage of coconut oil is its high lauric acid content, very similar to sebaceous gland secretions.  Coconut oil will dissolve much of the accumulated dirt and grime on your skin that gets trapped in the sebum.  This is where coconut oil really shines in the skin care department!  Removing built up sebum, grime and dead skin cells will help prevent acne and premature aging.

Because it melts at about skin temperature and has a less slippery feel than some oils, it feels as if it is penetrating deep into skin.  Try one of the recipes below to use the advantages of coconut oil's ability to cleanse and moisturize.

Coconut Oil Skin Cleansing

This works for makeup removal, cleansing pores and leaves a light moisturizing barrier.  To make a steam towel, simply run very hot water over a washcloth and wring it out so it isn't dripping.  You want it to be about 100 °F-108 °F (38 °C-42 °C).

  • Wash hands thoroughly.
  • Scoop out about a tablespoon of the waxy oil from the jar and rub it between your palms to warm and melt.
  • Gently massage into face and neck with your fingertips.
  • Lay a steam towel over face for 30 seconds, then rub gently but vigorously with the towel.  The harder you rub, the more you exfoliate.
  • Splash face 3 times with cold water and pat dry.

Melt the oil in your hands and massage gently into skin.Coconut Oil & Sea Salt - Skin Cleansing & Exfoliation

  • Wash hands thoroughly.
  • Scoop out about a tablespoon of the waxy oil from the jar and hold it in the palm of one hand so it begins to melt.
  • Add a teaspoon of sea salt to the semi-melted coconut oil and rub it between your palms to mix the oil and salt while warming and melting.
  • Gently massage into face and neck with your fingertips.
  • Lay a steam towel over face for 30 seconds, then rub gently but vigorously with the towel.  The harder you rub, the more you exfoliate.
  • Splash face 3 times with cold water and pat dry.

Get Fancy - The $50 Facial Scrub

As you can see from these two recipes above, it is a simple matter to make an excellent, high end skin cleanser.  Melt your coconut oil over very low heat (see instructions for ointments in the PaganPath Academy online herbalism course).  Do not let it get too hot, just melted.  Add your essential oils and sea salt if you desire.  Pour into containers and allow to cool before use.

I recommend starting with four ounces of coconut oil (113g.) and a half teaspoon (2.5ml) of pure essential oil or your own oil blend.  Rosemary, lavender, clary sage, sweet basil, elemi, spearmint (use sparingly), chamomile and tea tree are all good oils to begin with.  If you decide to try a blend of several types of essential oils, be sure to only add a half teaspoon of all the oils combined.  Then try your cleanser before adjusting your formula.  With some experimentation, you will create your own custom blend.

When purchasing coconut oil, it is best to use cold pressed, unrefined types.  Do not use fractionated, hydrogenated or RBD (Refined, Bleached and Deodorized).  You want to select an oil with as much of its original constituents as possible such as vitamins, minerals and fatty acids such as lauric, oleic and linoleic.  The coconut oil you'll want to use is often labeled as Virgin Coconut Oil, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Expeller Pressed or Cold Pressed.

It is easy to scoop coconut oil out of the jar while it is cold.Magical Correspondences

Not surprisingly, coconuts are often associated with protection and purification.  These are also the functions of the oil on the skin!  They are also associated with water, the moon and are considered "feminine".  It is quite interesting that we are discovering the anti-microbial and anti-viral properties of coconut oil when it has been used for centuries for "purification and protection".

Coconut oil is extracted from the white, meaty portion (kernel) of the fruits of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera).

Infused Oils

With these magickal properties, and the ability for coconut oil to remain stable at high temperatures, you have the perfect infusion oil.  Steep your herbs in warmed oil for several hours (or a moon cycle if your spell indicates) and then strain out the herbs for a beautiful infused oil.

References & Resources

  1. Journal of Nutrition: "Some Factors Affecting the Growth and Development of Rats fed Rancid Fat"Samuel M Greenberg and A. C. Frazer with the technical assistance of B Roberts, Department of Pharmacology, Medical School, University of Birmingham England
  2. Journal of Biological Chemistry: "Inactivation of Biotin by Rancid Fats" P. L. Pavcek and G. M. Shull
  3. "Chemical Properties and Cytotoxicity of Thermally Oxidized Oil" Nagao Totani, Miho Yawata, Yuko Ojiri (all three from the Faculty of Nutrition, Kobe-Gakuin University) and Munkhjargal Burenjargal (Faculty of Chemistry, National University of Mongoli)

These flowers can produce heat!  The flowers maintain a temperature around 30–35 °C (86–95 °F)You maintain a body temperature of around 37 °C (98.6 °F) as do many warm blooded animals.  But there are some remarkable plants that also have thermoregulation!  The Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) can produce its own heat!  You can click on the picture to see a larger view.

This lotus is also known as Padma and it plays an important role in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.  The flowers maintain a temperature around 30–35 °C (86–95 °F).

There are other magical plants that can produce heat.  Some of these themogenic plants have the ability to maintain the temperature of certain parts, especially the center of their flowers, up to 45°C (113  °F)!  The heat produced may be to help protect from tissue damage due to freezing temperatures.

Thermogenic plants are in ancient groups of seed plants including paleoherbs like some of the Nymphaeaceae (Water Lily) family and the Aristolochiaceae (Birthwort family).  There are other plant families that have members with thermogenic abilities such as Arecaceae (Palms), Araceae (Arum Lilies or Aroids), Nelumbonaceae (True Lotuses), Aristolochiaceae (Dutchman's Pipe), Annonaceae (Custard Apples) and Cyclanthaceae (Panama Hat Palms).

The names of some of the plants indicate their odor such as the Eastern Skunk Cabbage and the Dead Horse Arum Lily.  The heat they produce may help to spread the fetid rotting odor they produce.  This attracts flies and beetles, their primary pollinators.  The Voodoo Lily (Typhonium venosum also known as Sauromatum venosum) shown in the picture below is another stinky but beautiful example.The unusual flower of this plant emerges before its large leaves.

If you live in North America, the most common example is the Eastern Skunk Cabbage or Swamp Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus).  Note the binomial includes foetidus.  This means bad-smelling or having an unpleasant or fetid odor.  Plants with binomials that include the word "fetid" in one form or another generally smell similar to rotting meat or dung.  Their fragrance may be mild, or may only occur during short flowering seasons, or it may only be present in the roots.  Just be aware when you are selecting plants that those with foetida, foetidissima, foetidus, foetida, etc. will similarly display a malodorous trait.

Eastern Skunk Cabbage can be found from Quebec and Nova Scotia all the way west and south to Minnesota, North and South Carolina and Tennessee (where it is endangered and protected).  In the picture below, you can see where the emerging plant is able to melt the snow around itself.  Click to enlarge the picture if you'd like a better view.

Foetidus in its binomal is a clue to its fetid odor.

Plants are such amazing creatures!  Look for more fascinating articles in the PaganPath Wortcunning section about plants that talk and other magical behavior!

References & Resources

You might enjoy looking up some of the amazing thermoregulating plants in this list:

  • The Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)
  • The Voodoo Lily (Typhonium venosum also known as Sauromatum venosum)
  • Eastern Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
  • Panama Hat Palm (Carludovica palmata)
  • Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum)
  • Elephant Foot Yam (Amorphophallus paeoniifolius)
  • Dead Horse Arum Lily (Helicodiceros muscivorus)
--- "Heat production by sacred lotus flowers depends on ambient temperature, not light cycle" from the Journal of Experimental Botany, Vol. 49, No. 324, pp. 1213–1217, July 1998
by Roger S. Seymour (1) and Paul Schultze-Motel (1) and Lamprecht (2)
  1. Department of Zoology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia
  2. Institute for Biophysics, Free University of Berlin, Thielallee 63, D-14195 Berlin, Germany
--- "Heat-producing flowers" from Endeavour, Vol., 21(3), 1997
by Roger S. Seymour (1 above) and Paul Schultze-Motel (1)
 
--- "Functional Coexpression of the Mitochondrial Alternative Oxidase and Uncoupling Protein Underlies Thermoregulation in the Thermogenic Florets of Skunk Cabbage" from Plant Physiology, February 2008, Vol. 146, pp. 636–645, www.plantphysiol.org | 2007 American Society of Plant Biologists
by Yoshihiko Onda, Yoshiaki Kato, Yukie Abe, Takanori Ito, Miyuki Morohashi, Yuka Ito, Megumi Ichikawa, Kazushige Matsukawa, Yusuke Kakizaki, Hiroyuki Koiwa, and Kikukatsu Ito, United Graduate School of Agricultural Science (Y.O., M.M., K.M.), and Cryobiosystem Research Center, Faculty of Agriculture (Y.K., Y.A., T.I., Y.I., M.I., Y.K., K.I.), Iwate University, Iwate 020–8550, Japan; and Research Institute of Bio-System Informatics, Tohoku Chemical Co., Ltd., Iwate 020–0022, Japan (H.K.)

 

Dragon's Blood is the resin of a prickly climbing palm and has some wonderful magickal and medicinal properties.

(Shop)Dragon's Blood Resin comes from the collected and dried sap of many plant genera.  Usually it is harvested from a type of spiny, climbing palm, "Daemonorops draco." Daemonorops translates to "demon shrub" most likely due to its prickly spikes.

There are several other palms used to extract Dragon's Blood resin such as Dracaena cinnibari (Somalia) Dracaena draco (Canary Islands) and Croton draco (Mexico).  In Mexico, Dragon's Blood resin is sometimes called Sangre de Drago (blood of the dragon).  It can also be harvested from Calamus rotang and Pterocarpus.

The Draeaena draco of the Canary Islands was written of by 15th century voyagers who observed that beautiful blood-red drops of the resin were secreted when the palm was wounded.

These palms grow in many other places of the world including: Australia, the Pacific Islands, south east Asia, the islands of Malay Archipelago, etc.  Most commercial Dragon's Blood resin is from Malaysia and Indonesia.  The type we get here at PaganPath for incense, soap, lib balm and magickal creations comes in "balls" about the size of a baseball.  They appear to be the sap gathered up in cloth and sqeezed and dried.  They are stamped with a gold, five pointed star as seen to the right below.

Perhaps you have been very close to the stems of a climbing palm without realizing it.  Rattan, a type of bent palm stem furniture, it is made from palms of the Daemonorops and Calamus genera.  The slender, climbing stems of the rattan palms are pulled down from the trees they lean against for support, stripped of spines and coiled for storage.Our PaganPath Dragon's Blood comes to us in baseball size pieces stamped with a gold foil star seal.

Uses, Old & New

The prickly spines of the Dragon's Blood Palm echo the magickal uses of the resin.  The spines protect the plant from herbivores, and protection is one of the most popular uses for Dragon's Blood resin.  Specifically, Dragon's Blood offers excellent protection from psychic predators.  The spines may also help camouflage insects which pollinate the palms, again a form of reproductive protection for the plant and survival protection for the insects.

The dark, blood-red resin of the Daemonorops palm is secreted from the scaly fruit.  As this layer of resin oxidizes, it becomes brittle.  The resin is harvested during the summer from both the fruit and stems.  The fruits of the Daemonorops are picked and stored in bags, then beaten to loosen the resin.  The powdered resin is then sifted and warmed to form lumps like the one pictured above with the gold stamp.  The stems of Dracaena and Croton also yield the resin which is harvested by making incisions and collecting the secretions much like opium harvesting.

Dragon's Blood resin has a long history of use as an astringent wash for wounds in Europe, Mexico, Asia and many other areas.  Early Greeks and Romans utilized the resin for medicinal purposes, often to stop bleeding, and Dioscorides wrote of its many uses.

The resin was also used by 18th century Italian violin makers as a varnish.  It is still used as a protective under coating in photoengraving and in some restoration varnishes.  For these types of manufacturing uses, the resin is often marketed as oleoresin.

Dragon's Blood resin is also used in the sacred calligraphy of China and Japan.  This type of ancient art is called Sumi-e, and the red ink, often from Dragon's Blood, is ground on a piece of stone (suzuri stone).  The powder is then mixed with water and used as a type of "ink pad" for the signature stamp (called an Hanko or Chop).  Sumi-e has been practiced in Asia for thousands of years.

Modern magickal uses for pre-mixed Dragon's Blood ink are usually for protection, strength and extra energy or power added to a working.

Dragon's Blood resin sold in most occult store may vary widely in its origin, and therefore in the fragrance it emits when burned as an incense resin.  Some Eucalyptus species are even used to produce a type of "Dragon's Blood" resin and usually merchants do not know the origins of the resin they carry.  Some resins may smell like rubber or plastic when burned, others may emit a subtle myrrh like scent.

Red Rock Opium?

Please Note:  A few unscrupulous individuals have been selling dragon's blood resin to naive experimenters as "red rock opium" for about 100 times the standard retail price.  Repeated random chemical analysis by numerous laboratories, shows that Dragon's Blood resin is not pharmacologically active and contains no opiates.

Any reported psychoactive or narcotic effects from smoking Dragon's Blood resin may be attributable to the placebo effect or the influence of suggestion, or even to partial asphyxiation from smoke inhalation.  This effect is not to be negated, the placebo effect can be very powerful.  However, to clarify, the effects of "red rock opium" are not a direct result of the use of the Dragon's Blood, they are the results of the power of suggestion.

If you have purchased "red rock opium" on the street, please stop, it is only Dragon's Blood resin.

Incense & Oils

Dragon's Blood oils and incense are usually the result of a small amount of the resin (if any is used at all) along with spicy and woodsy fragrance oils or essential oils.  Artificial red coloring is usually added to these.

Dragon's blood is not normally steam distilled to make a true natural essential oil, and its fragrance does not warrant this use.  Instead, you can grind dragon's blood resin until very fine and powdery, and dissolve it into other oils.  A little heat will speed this process, and a coffee filter will remove the impurities or dark specs of undissolved plant matter.

If you like the effects and fragrance of dragon's blood oil or incense, the oil technique above can be used to add oomph to store-bought blends that may not contain the resin.  These blends may have excellent properties in their own right, but adding a bit of the natural material to the bottle will really boost the energy.

Incense that is sold as "dragon's blood" rarely contains the resin, particularly when purchased in stick form with the bamboo stick core.  There are some excellent fragrances sold as dragon's blood, and their properties are almost identical.  However, if you place these sticks in a plastic bag and sprinkle some powdered true dragon's blood resin over them and shake, you'll find their power is increased dramatically.

As mentioned above, the scent of burning dragon's blood varies due to the type of plant from which it was harvested, along with the type and quantity of impurities it may contain.  It is not necessarily a good smell when burned, so adding the dust to your incense sticks or oil blends is a great way to get the energy without the unpleasant tar like odor.  In oils, this will also increase their astringent and medicinal properties.

Although it may be possible to grow one of the Dragon's Blood palms indoors, their size, spines and rarity as houseplants can be major obstacles. Also, extracting the resin from a house plant is not practical. However, there are a few sources for unusual indoor plants and palms.  If you are interested in growing one, try a Google search for the plants listed at the beginning of this article.

Magickal & Spiritual Uses

Modern magickal practitioners use the resin for various purposes.  It is said to increases the potency of magickal workings, aid in returning lost love, and has powerful protection properties as mentioned above.  It is used to cleanse an area of negativity and for energizing psychically, magickally and spiritually.  It is also said to enhance health, virility and to cure impotency.  A very good use of the resin is to add it to incense mixtures or 'mojo bags' to enhance their energy and aid in blending the other ingredients.

As noted in the Incense & Oils section above, Dragon's Blood "oils" are often available, these are normally sweet and spicy fragrance oils which do not contain actual Dragon's Blood resin but are instead formulated to have similar properties as Dragon's Blood.

High quality Dragon's Blood from Asia, especially China, is usually formed into semi-teardrop shaped balls and emboss-stamped with a gold, five pointed star as pictured above.  The easiest way to use these large pieces is to break or shatter them into smaller pieces.  You can do this with a very large pestle and mortar, or more simply use a hammer.  Place the ball of resin in a heavy plastic bag, and place that bag within another heavy bag.  Lay the wrapped resin on a hard surface and firmly but gently tap it with a hammer until you've broken it up into workable pieces.

These pieces can then be further ground into powder using a pestle and mortar or an electric coffee grinder (not one you'll use for coffee or other food items again).  You can also keep using the hammer to crush the whole lot into powder if you desire.

Normally, very small pieces or fine powder are burned on charcoal, or on mica over charcoal. Start with a very small amount, about the size of a lentil (half a dried pea).  Allow this amount to finish smoking before adding more.

Through experimentation, I've found that Dragon's Blood blends well with cloves, white copal and mastic.  Here are a few of my "secret" recipes you might find helpful:

Purification & Cleansing:

2 parts white copal (copal blanco)
2 parts gum mastic
1 part dragon's blood resin

Energy, Power & Sensuality:

1 part ground cloves (or clove bud essential oil, used sparingly such as a drop or two per quarter cup batch)
1 part dragon's blood
3 parts sandalwood powder
1 part fragrant amber (the perfume resin, not the stone like resinite)

For pictures and more information about the amber referred to in this recipe, see the article A Guide to Amber & Jet: Fragrant resins, mineraloids, fossils, copal amber, ambergris and more confusing delights.

How to Obtain Dragon's Blood Resin:

Dragon's Blood resin is available at reasonable prices in The PaganPath Shop, some magickal supply shops, and occasionally etsy and ebay.  The PaganPath Shop also carries hand-made Dragon's Blood incense, Dragon's Blood magickal oil blend, and the pure resin.

*Required Disclaimer: Statements have not been approved or reviewed by the FDA. Historical and traditional information is provided for your personal enjoyment and education, and is not to be used in the place of competent medical care.  See also the Site Cautions & Disclaimer

One of the most iconic art nouveau images of all, this 1896 image for Absinthe Robette by the Belgian posterist Privat-Livemount has spawned a million reproductions.To begin to understand the mystery that surrounds absinthe, I'd like you to go back in time a bit in your mind, to the 19th century (1800s), to the days of bohemian absinthe drinking.  Many "free thinkers" are using absinthe, and its use is associated with creative types, intellectuals, rebels, and to a lesser extent, the underground.  Absinthe use is beginning to affect people physically, and to rock the boat socially, and its reputation is beginning to tarnish.

Absinthe, to be brief, is an alcoholic beverage made with wormwood and other herbs.  Long term use of this drink can lead to absinthism, an ailment many suspect is partially responsible for Van Gogh's illnesses.  Absinthe is green in color from the chlorophyll in the wormwood and other herbs used to flavor it.  However, many disreputable manufacturers at this time (remember you are in the 1800s) use copper sulfate, turmeric, cupric acetate (acetate of copper) or aniline green to make the beverage green in color.

And here's the kicker, symptoms of absinthism include; delirium, nausea, hallucinations and epileptic attacks.  Many of these absinthism symptoms are identical to the symptoms for copper toxicity, and were possibly signs of poisoning from the various colorants used.  However, because of the reports of the dangers of absinthe (both socially and physically) it was outlawed in most countries by the early 1900s.

Now come back to the present. Absinthe remains legal in some areas such as Spain, and interestingly even widely available Vermouth contains wormwood and similar absinthe flavorings.  In 2007, the ban in the United States was lifted and you can now legally purchase absinthe.1  Note that this new legal absinthe may be a bit different than the original, but before we get into that let's look at what makes absinthe unique.

Absinthe is a witch's brew of many plant ingredients.  The constituents of these plants are extracted and distilled, creating a potentially synergistic blend.  Wormwood, a very bitter herb, is at the forefront of most recipes, however some blends also include lemon balm, fennel and/or aniseed and/or star anise, angelica, hyssop, juniper, nutmeg, veronica, dittany and more.

The combination of these plant constituents may affect the consumer more than the individual ingredients.  There is no doubt that wormwood contains mind altering, and potentially dangerous chemicals, however some of the bad rap it receives is rooted in the times of heavy absinthe use in the 1800s when people were showing signs of absinthism (or copper poisoning).

Just like coffee has caffeine, chocolate has theobromine, and nutmeg has myristicin . . . wormwood has thujone.  Every plant contains many chemicals, however what most books and herbalists are referring to in regards to the toxicity of wormwood, and to a lesser extent, mugwort, is thujone.  That said, it is important to note that most herbalists and authors of herbal books don't even know what constituent in an herb is responsible for its toxicity!  Many herbalists are educated through books written by crafters rather than scientists, but that's another story for another article.

Back to the subject of thujone.  Thujone is found in many household products, and in many plants like tansy, sage, thyme, cloves, rosemary, white cedar leaf and of course, most of the Artemisias2 including wormwood and mugwort. Thujone can be dangerous, but then again most things can be if you try hard enough to use them improperly.

Since 2007 when the ban on absinthe was lifted in the United States, the FDA has regulated the amount of thujone allowed in foods and beverages for consumption to less than ten parts per million.  Some traditional absinthe formulas are within this restriction, however most have been reformulated to meet the lower content requirements.  These new legal absinthe formulas are considered "thujone free" meaning they can contain all the traditional herbs, specifically wormwood, but must have less than ten parts per million of thujone.  This provides the traditional bitter-licorice like flavor while still being legal.

The amount of thujone in any given plant can vary greatly.  Two identical wormwood plants, grown in different elevations, soils and lighting conditions may contain vastly different amounts of thujone.  In addition, some people are very sensitive to even a small percentage of thujone taken internally, while others can consume large quantities without ill effects.  Therefore, the safe ground for thujone is always rather shaky.

In general, wormwood should not be taken internally.  Specifically, no thujone containing plants should be consumed by pregnant women, ever.  Let me say that again and clarify further.  If you are pregnant, intend to become pregnant soon, have any trouble with irregular menstruation, or have any other reproductive system concerns, you should never, ever, under any circumstances, consume mugwort, wormwood or other artemisia family plants or plants high in thujone.  These plants can act as abortifacients.

In addition, even if you have no reproductive system concerns and are not pregnant or intending to become so, you should not consume these plants simply because a book on herbs said it was okay to do so.  Research, think, discover for yourself, ask questions from those with experience and find out for yourself why a plant is said to be used for something magickally or medicinally.  Wormwood tea is reputed to increase psychic and magical awareness, and this action can be attributed to the mind altering effects of thujone as well as the energy of the plant.  But, there are better herbs for enhancing psychicism, and many are far safer.

Mugwort also contains thujone, and is related to wormwood.  Many references incorrectly cite mugwort as a safe alternative to wormwood.  However, it is not necessarily any more safe.  As stated before, each person varies in his or her sensitivity to thujone, and each plant varies in its thujone content.

Whenever you see an something recommended for internal use, find out what the toxicity is for the material.  Check botanical names in your reference materials.  Scott Cunningham, a popular Pagan author, was bad about citing accurate botanical names, and many of the binomial names and common names in his books contain glaring errors.

If you intend to consume any herb, additional caution should be taken if you are on any kind of medication.  Always consult a qualified health care practitioner before consuming potentially dangerous plants.  The chemical constituents in certain herbs can cause deadly interactions with some medications. See the PaganPath Cautions & Disclaimer.

Below is a list of the thujone content of some plants you will encounter in your herbalism studies.  These percentages are for the combined iso-thujone and thujone content.  As stated earlier, thujone content can vary greatly from plant to plant, and sensitivity to thujone can vary greatly from person to person.  I do not recommend the consumption of thujone containing plants except in very minute quantities, and novices should avoid these plants altogether in their practice blends.  The following percentages are averaged and plants are listed somewhat in order of greatest percentage to least, as much as is possible.

  • Cedar Leaf (Thuja occidentalis) 58% - 72%
  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) 55%-69%
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis) 36% - 50%
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) 0.03% - 7% (much less than most wormwood, hence the perceived safety)

So the mystery of absinthe can be partially unveiled when we understand the social, political, physical and chemical effects.  The attitude of absinthe drinkers was somewhat rebellious, causing political unrest.  The chemicals in absinthe, especially alcohol, thujone, and potentially toxic coloring agents were causing alcoholism and absinthism.  But that veil is not completely parted, as absinthe retains an aura of independence and mystery that cannot easily be defined.  I believe this is because of its history and the natural mysteries of the plants it contains.

References & Resources

  1. Legal Status of Absinthe in various countries at Erowid
  2. Artemisia Moon Garden - PaganPath Article includes: What is Artemisia? • Wormwood Magic • Growing Wormwood • Artemisia Moon Garden • Moon Garden Design

* Wikipedia entry for Absinthe

* Note: Absinthe has inspired many people, including Ernest Hemingway, Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, Oscar Wilde, Vincent van Gogh, and of course Aleister Crowley.  Crowley was an influential magician and mystic.  His poetic book, Absinthe: The Green Goddess, is available here on PaganPath for Members only. Please register free or login to read the online book in the Library area.  I've illustrated the book with classic absinthe advertising posters from the late 1800s and early 1900s such as the one at the beginning of this article, and included many notations about magick and herbs.

References & Resources is a consolidated notes, footnotes, comments, links and references section at the end of most articles on PaganPath.  This area contains some links that are off-site so we cannot control the content of those pages not on the paganpath.com site. If you discover broken links, please report them to Friday through the Contact Us area, or Members may connect with Friday through Private Messaging, phone or email.

Planting herbs for the medicinal herb tea garden with sunken pots to control wil growthThis garden will provide some basic medicines, and some delicious teas.  All the plants require a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight each day so keep an eye on your property to see where they would be happy.  Usually an Eastern exposure will make them all happy but isn't absolutely necessary.  If you find that you have more space and time, check out the Thirteen Herbs for a Witch's Cupboard page for more plants that you might enjoy living with.

Click the image on your left to see the full size image of the The Ultra Easy Medicinal Herb Tea Garden Design.  If you hover over the right side of the image, you can use the slide show to go to the next image in this article.

This introductory herb garden can be viewed as you would a medicine cabinet.  These plants have been selected with four criteria in mind:

  1. They must be extremely easy to grow and low maintenance plants.
  2. They must each serve a multitude of medicinal uses.
  3. They must grow in most climate zones.
  4. They must be aesthetically pleasing.

This garden is not intended for intense herbal medicine that would be used for treatment of serious illnesses such as liver diseases or cancer, but is meant to provide basic remedies for the average ailment such as headaches, constipation, cold and flu symptoms, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, sleeplessness, minor cuts, scrapes and bruises, tax season and aunt Gladys's cooking symptoms.  Of course, for serious or repeating symptoms, see your health care practitioner and read the site Cautions & Disclaimer.

Useful recipes that utilize these herbs can be found throughout PaganPath using the search at the top of every page.  Following each herb is the binomial or "botanical" name.  Next you will see a short note about the easiest and least expensive way to get the plants to your garden.  You don't have to collect every plant on the list.  Find recipes that you wish to use, and grow the herbs that are necessary for them.

You can find the following eleven plants at your local nursery or garden center.  If they are unavailable there, check with friends, mail order, contact your local Master Gardeners group through your extension service (in the U.S.) do a search on the internet, check gardening and herbs section of the links page on this site, or start them from seed.

  • Thyme Thymus vulgaris best planted from starts (small plants at the nursery)
  • Balm or Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis best planted from starts or divisions (cut your friend's plant in half)
  • Catnip Nepeta cataria grow from seed
  • Dandelion Taraxacum officinale less invasive strains can be found through mail order suppliers who specialize in exotic and European 'greens' or you can just let one pop up wherever, but be certain of your identification.
  • Fennel Foeniculum vulgare grow from seed
  • Feverfew Chrysanthemum parthenium best planted from starts
  • German Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla grow from seed
  • Hibiscus Hibiscus rosa-sinensis grow from established plants available at most nurseries (larger perennials in 1/2 gallon or larger pots)
  • Peppermint Mentha piperita divisions or starts
  • Purple Cone Flower Echinacea angustifolia if available, or purpurea established plants from the nursery
  • Red Clover Trifolium pratense, grow from seed

Sink containers of wild herbs like thisMark out the shape of a garden bed that will be 50-70 square feet.  For this particular plan, the area is 5 feet by 10 feet and is intended to be placed at the edge of your property or against a fence or other obstacle.  In other words, it should be viewed from the sides or the front (thyme is in front) for the best display.  Feel free to design your own bed shape.  If aesthetics are not a concern for you, an old ladder can be placed on the ground, and one of each herb can be planted between the rungs.

If you will be planting where there is now a lawn or grass, try the following easy method of ground preparation to prevent having to till the soil.  Lay down a thick layer of color-free newspapers.  Soy based ink is best and be sure that no colored print is on them.  Use 17 layers of paper for most lawns, or 25 layers for lawns with persistant weeds.  Weight down the papers with a few bricks or rocks, then cover all the paper with 1/2 inch to 2 inches of compost, potting soil, grass clippings, or any organic matter that is free of seeds.  If you can afford it, bark mulch is very attractive.

Set the sprinkler on the area for about three hours to slowly soak everything down, and let it all sit for at least a week.  When you are ready to plant, cut an X in the deteriorating paper and pop the plant in.  Start indoors the plants that you will be growing from seed.  Don't worry if it is late in the season when you are starting the seeds, most of these herbs are perennials and the garden plot will only be improved by the winter wait, but allow them at least a month or two before the first frost date so their roots can take hold before the chill.  I like to start new beds using this method in late autumn or early spring and try to let it 'rot' for about a month before planting.

Be sure to plant the peppermint, catnip and lemon balm in containers without bottoms or they will take over faster than an alien invasion.  Click on the diagram above to magnify and see more details.  Five gallon buckets or plastic flower pots with the bottoms cut off work great for this.  Sink the containers into the soil until the rim of the pot is 2 or 3 inches above the soil/mulch line.  This will prevent these plants from spreading over the entire garden.  Use any shape of planter to design interesting growth forms.  The other plants will spread and grow but with average harvesting, they should stay in their spots pretty well.

Any questions? Send an e-mail.

Long ago I read Sibyl Leek's book "The Complete Art of Witchcraft".  I think that was the book that started my daily herbal brews.  She drank red clover tea every day as a body/mind/spirit energy strengthener.  I tried a plain infusion of red clover blossoms, but later switched to instant ginseng tea for convenience and as a daily ritual.

This recipe is the most recent development, and a tea my friends can't seem to get enough of.  Although I've sold and traded it occasionally, I find it is acceptable in taste, but more magically effective than it is flavorful.  I do enjoy it iced on hot days!

The proportions are rather intuitive and dependent on what's on hand, but basically mix all of the following and use about a teaspoon of the mixture in 6-8 ounces of very hot water, let steep for 5 minutes.  If you don't have all the ingredients, no problem, make it without them!  This makes some of my friends very sleepy, so use at night if that happens to you too.  Personally I feel relaxed, but energized from it.  Following the recipe is an analysis of each ingredient and its purpose.
 

Trifolium Pratense

  • 1 handful Lemon Verbena  or Lemon Grass  or Dried Lemon Peel
  • 1 handful Lemon Catnip  or regular Catnip
  • 1 handful Red Raspberry leaves
  • 1 handful Red Cover blossoms
  • 1 handful Spearmint leaves
  • 1/2 handful Peppermint leaves
  • 1 large handful Chamomile flowers (also spelled Camomile)
  • 1/2 handful Chickweed
  • 1/2 handful dried Nettles
  • 1 handful Lemon Balm

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla-Lippia citriodora): This ingredient is added to the mixture for strength and purification, but is also a primarily a flavor component.

Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus) can be substituted as it will also add a lemon flavor and is helpful for developing psychic abilities.  Dried lemon peel (Citrus limon) can also be substituted for flavor too, and adds an element of friendship, gaining favors & success and attraction to the brew.

Lemon Catnip (Nepeta cataria ssp. citriodora) is added as a flavoring, but regular Catnip (Nepeta cataria) can be used. Both are calming, relaxing, and have wonderful magical attributes: promote beauty and mirth, draw positive energy toward you.  Medicinally, they are both calming, relaxing, aid digestion, and are said to be very mild stimulants of menses.

Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) is very protective and strengthening, especially for strengthening intuitive powers.  It is also used medicinally to treat diarrhea and there is evidence to support its use in treating dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) and painful childbirth.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) has a unique ability to be grounding without causing you to 'come down' psychically or emotionally.  It is a powerful strengthener for magic and for psychic skills and has extremely powerful protection qualities, particularly protection against baneful spells being used against you.  It is a good source of vitamins and minerals.

Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is another flavor ingredient, but also adds the properties of enhancing mental powers, healing and protection.  Spearmint can relieve gas pains and aids digestion.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is another flavor ingredient, but also adds the properties of enhancing memory and psychic powers, healing and protection.  Peppermint can aid digestion and ease gas pains.

Chamomile or Camomile (Matricaria recutita, M.chamomilla) is a flavoring ingredient which adds the magical attributes of purification, attraction, and protection.  Chamomile is medicinally relaxing and calming (sedative) and acts as an anti-inflammatory.  It is used to treat mild arthritis, aches & pains, swelling, and cramps.

Chickweed (Stellaria media) strengthens magical energy and promote attraction and balances the magickal properties of nettles.  Chickweed may be a mild anti-inflammatory and cough suppressant. Chickweed is a good source of vitamins and minerals.

Nettles (Urtica dioica) strengthens magickal energy, are extremely protective, aid in healing, and balance out  the magickal properties of chickweed.  Nettles are an excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, proteins, and iron.  Nettles are a good source of many other vitamins and minerals.  Nettles may reduce body odor and bad breath as they are high in chlorophyll.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is another flavoring herb which is also added for its magickal abilities to heal, promote attraction and to help gain favors & success.  It is used medicinally to relieve menstrual cramps, calm nervousness, and aid digestion.

Medicinal references are given for reference and education and are not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a qualified health care practitioner. Any plant substance may cause allergic reactions when used internally, or externally. Please also read the site Cautions & Disclaimer. If you live in a country where it is legal, and have glaucoma, are undergoing chemotherapy treatments, or for Sabbats, 1/2 handful of cannabis (sativa preferably, or indica if desired or for severe illness) leaves such as sun leaves can be added.  Do not add flowering tops, this is a daily brew, not for primary treatment of physical dis-ease and the flowers are best used in butters or other recipes specifically for pain or nausea.

Huh?Chickens have an essential part in gardening, especially Witches' gardening.  Chicken tractors can mow, fertilize, and weed for you, leaving you with free time to do magick and worship.  They will help you to create healthy soil, which in turn makes healthier plants, which in turn enhances your health and magickal concoctions.

Not sure if you want to integrate chickens into your life?  Chickens are much different than you may have imagined!

A quick note: This section was inspired when one of our new chickens had her first egg! (Monday July 14, 1997) It was a beautiful sea-foam green color. It's ok, this is natural for her, she is an Araucana breed.  As of 2013 we have a new flock of eighteen chickens, a dozen guinea fowl and the numbers are growing.

Here is a basic outline that will just cover the basic benefits of teaching your chickens how to drive a tractor:

No, not really... a chicken tractor is a chicken that does the work of a tractor, and more.  Technically, a chicken in a low cage without a bottom is the 'tractor' part.  I only cage mine part of the year when the veggies are just sprouting or if I need them to mow a particular path that they've been neglecting.  There is no noise (no roosters! actually called cocks, but because the word has other meanings, the word rooster is used even though it once meant any chicken, especially one that is roosting on a perch or nest), odor, disease, 4am rooster calls to wake you and the neighbors.  (Who probably don't need to think you are any stranger since they caught you talking to your garden and running around in little clockwise circles at night while wearing what looked like a sheet, or nothing at all.)

When I first wrote this article in 1997, there was very little information about this alternative way of raising chickens, but there are more resources available all the time.  As of 2013, I've encountered hundreds of others doing this micro-homesteading.  Raising chickens, expecially hatching your own from fertile eggs, is a wonderful project for Pagans and other kids.  Learn about life & death and cycles of birth. . . see the egg and chicken resources at the end of this article.

Here's how you do it.

1. Find out if it is legal for you to have a chicken in your location.  Many cities have passed laws against raising livestock within city limits.  These laws have been changing since the fad of pot-belly pigs which are technically livestock in some places.  Check with neighbors, call your city and county clerks (they always know everything) and check with the county extension agent. (If you can have them, find out from the extension agent if there are any diseases common in your area that most of the local ranchers immunize their chickens from so that you can do so as well.) We moved into a small town in 1999 and the law is that you are allowed one chicken per household, so long as it is caged, so a small chicken tractor will be ok.  Sometimes you can appeal to your city council to pass similar allowances if chickens are forbidden in your urban location.  I've since moved to the country to develop a Pagan sanctuary and organic homestead, so it is nice not to worry about city ordinances anymore!

2. Figure out how many chickens you want. Consider three things when you determine this; how much space you have, how many eggs you want, how much time you want to spend dealing with upkeep.

Books on modern poultry raising state that you need a single cubic foot cage for each chicken (1 ft. by 1ft. by 1 ft.) Not so!  The chickens they refer to are commercial varieties that are so inbred (to make giant chicken breasts), malnourished, confined and high strung that they often cannot walk!  What you want is old fashioned, heirloom yard birds.  If your garden supplies most of your summer vegetables, and you plan to eat or sell the eggs, you will want one chicken for each member of the family. (Your ladies will provide about 4-6 eggs each, on an average weekly basis if they are happy.

Plan on a floor space in your tractors of about 9 square feet per chicken; a 3 foot by 3 foot area.  One chicken per person will provide more than enough eggs for the average family, take up little space, and the upkeep of a handfull of chickens will consume about 5-10 minutes of your time each day.

3. Chose the breed that you would like to live with. Those big white chickens with red hats are usually the leghorns. When bred for commercial production, they can be high strung and sometimes overly inbred. (Read "dumb as toast".)  Through the years, we've experimented with several breeds, and find that the old heirloom varieties are the hardiest and work the best for tractors.  Some of these breeds are near to extinction and if you help to continue their bloodlines, it would save a valuable gene pool.  (Older breeds have been sought out for their genetic attributes more than once to counter hybrid problems that have developed through mismanagement of commercial breeds.)

There are basically three varieties of chickens: meat birds (which have little use in a tractor) egg producers (nice, but some are not too good at tractoring because the years of captive-cage raising has bred out their foraging instincts) and dual purpose (usually the older breeds, hardy, smart, and beautiful, lay eggs great and are ok for meat "swak! what?!! cluck cluck!!"....we don't eat ours...).  These are sometimes referred to by grandma and grandpa as "yard birds".

Here's a rundown of the types we like. All of these are dual purpose chickens:

Note that I can only report on the birds I've raised, and even if you get the same breed, there is no way to tell if yours will behave the same.  Check out several resources to get a range of ideas.

Silver Laced Wyandottes:  Pretty black and white, the roosters have green-blue-purple tail feathers.  Great foragers, easy to tame but not as needy or clingy as some of our Rhode Island Reds.  Good independence.  Hardy, taking heat and cold well.

Delaware:  Nice white feathers with some black specs around the neck (roosters have black tail feathers with some shimmering colors of green and blue).  Very good foragers, sweet hens, aggressive cocks, a big bird in our garden.

Japanese Bantams:  I love these tiny birds!  Like other bantam breeds, they are smaller and take only half the space of full size birds.  Mine are black and white, cocks are beautiful with regal plumes of black tail feathers reflecting peacock-like colors.  Hen is sweet, friendly, clean, perfectly lady-like in her behavior and a great sitter if you want to hatch out eggs.  The eggs are much smaller but when poached they fit on a toasted sourdough baguette slice perfectly.  They are excellent eggs!  You may want to have more hens, say about two per adult and one per child because the eggs are small.

What I like best about these birds is that they seem to be designed for gardening (and historically that is why they were kept) because they eat a lot of bugs but due to their size they cannot damage crops and flowers the way full size chickens do.  One rooster is more than enough if you want to breed them, but if you aren't hatching out any eggs and only want hens, a group of bantams will make ideal garden companions.

Buff Orpington- sweet, huge, buttery sunshine yellow from hat to toe! Not really smart and like to eat alot of commercial chicken feed instead of finding bugs and weeds, but lay tons of eggs, 6-7 a week each. Likes to ride on my shoulder while I plant herbs (her name is Buffy like, can you totally believe that?), very friendly, many people swear by them.

Black Australorpe- huge, smart, black as night even her feet! Rainbow opalescense that shimmers on her feathers and makes her appear midnight blue or deep forest green in different angles. Nice egg producer, almost as good as the Buff Orpington. Beauty that brings tears to your eyes....yup, sounds strange for a chicken, but they'll rival any peacock! Each chicken vairies in luminescence.

Plymouth Barred Rock- yup the very ones from Plymouth Rock, black and white spotted (barred, like very short stripes) huge, Very good at egg laying, they eat lots of seeds and are pretty good with the bugs. Smart, but tends to hang out with the Buff Orpington who is about the same size and is a bad influence. (Our barred rock is named Popcorn because she liked to steal it and eat it while we watched movies when she was just a fluffy yellow chick....by the way, popcorn is not a recommended food replacement...that is, popcorn the grain, not the chicken named Popcorn, though she wouldn't much like being feed either.)

Araucana- Come in a variety of colors and sizes, medium sized are good, they often have 'whiskers'! or puffy cheeks, some more than others. Awesome olive-green to robin's-egg blue eggs depending on their specific genetics and feeding. Yummie eggs, but the ladies themselves are a bit wild, sort of like quail in a way. Higher strung than previous ones listed, but not insane like the Leghorns and other hybrids. Prefer bugs, weeds, and seeds to commercial feed. Run fast and aren't as good as pets because they don't like to cuddle. However, they are more instictual so they often evade raccoons and other predators better. They also like to roost for the night in higher places, like trees!

Rhode Island Reds- Think of the children's story "The Little Red Hen" if you know it. These are huge busy bodies, always looking for bugs and weeds, excellent eggs, hardy, pretty smart, alot like the Plymouth Barred Rocks, very one track minded when it comes to foraging.

Sex Links- These are hybrids between Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Barred Rocks. They are the only hybrid we consider for tractors because they are so smart, hardy, good egg layers, sweet and friendly, and come in a variety of colors. Usually look like a medium sized version of a Rhode Island Red, or are multi-colored with black irridescent bodies like a Black Australorpe and golden highlights on the head and neck. (the later is my favorite, her name is Phoenix because she wandered away from the tractor into the woods. We thought she was wild critter food, but showed up the next morning and ran into my arms.)

Resources

There are many resources online now for chicken tractors, and you can contact me if you have any questions.  I've found online resources for ordering only hens with a three chick minimum but it is usually easiest to go to the nearest farm store in the spring.  If they don't have them, ask them who does (they will be purchasing food from the feed store, so someone there will know.)

A good book to learn more:
Chicken Tractor: The Gardener's Guide to Happy Hens and Healthy Soil by Andy Lee
Foreword by Howard W. 'Bud' Kerr, Jr. ISBN 0-9624648-2-1
Good Earth Publications
POB 898
Shelburne, Vermont 05482
Phone & Fax 802-425-3201 USA

A letter from vixana in the UK, August 4, 2000 about obtaining chickens:
Hi, just read your piece on chickens. I am a Wicca chicken keeper, although i do live in the uk. I get most of my chickens from a battery farm, which produces eggs commercially. They tend to get rid of their hens after a few months. I don't know if this is viable in usa, but it may be worth trying to encourage your readers to consider buying ex-battery hens. It gives them a new lease on life and they can produce eggs for a good few years.
Great idea vixana, thank you!

A popular supplier of chickens, eggs to hatch your own, and books to learn more:
Murray McMurray Hatchery
Box 458
191 Closz Drive
Webster City, Iowa 50595-0458
Toll Free Ordering: 1-800-456-3280
Customer Service 515-832-3280
FAX number 515-832-2213

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