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The Hearth Witch’s


Natural and Magical Living for Everyday

Published by Llewellyn Worldwide March 2017

The garden is full of roses this week. They flop over the fences and scramble up the trellis, their soft, sensual blooms filling the air with a voluptuous perfume. It is easy to understand why they are sacred to so many gods and goddesses of love - Isis, Aphrodite, Venus, Eros, Cupid, Inanna and Ishtar to name just a few. I bless the plants and gather armfuls of flowers.

I take them into the house and lay them on the kitchen table and begin to separate the red flowers from the white. I’m reminded that in one Greek tale, when the goddess Aphrodite first arose from the ocean and stepped onto the shore, the sparkling sea foam fell from her body in the form of pale white roses and took root, but later, as she pursued the beautiful youth Adonis, she caught herself on a thorn and her blood dyed the roses crimson red, symbolising innocence turned to desire and maidenhood turned to womanhood. For magical purposes, while my white roses stand for purity, perfection, innocence, virginity and the moon, the red roses represents earthly passion and fertility. Wound together, they signify the union of opposites, symbolism we use at Beltane to celebrate the sacred marriage of the God and Goddess, an act which reconciles male and female, summer and winter, life and death, flesh and spirit, and brings about all creation, driven by the most fundamental and powerful force in the universe – love.

However, Midsummer is tomorrow and roses play a part in our solstice ritual since, like other flowers with rayed petals, they are an emblem of the sun. Like the sun, which dies each night and is reborn each day at sunrise, the rose is an emblem of renewal, resurrection and eternal life, which is why the Celts, Egyptians and Romans used them as funeral offerings. I set aside some to make offerings for dead friends later, and others to make chaplets for Midsummer.

I’m still left with an abundance of blossoms. I take down two clean glass jars from my cupboard and pack both of them with the scented petals I carefully pull from the stems. One jar I top up with white vinegar and set it on the sunny kitchen windowsill. I will leave it there for two weeks before straining the liquid into a clean jar. My resulting rose vinegar can be used as a delicate salad dressing, as an antiseptic wash for wiping down my kitchen surfaces, or dabbed onto my forehead to relieve headaches.  The second jar of rose petals I fill up with one part distilled water to three parts vodka.  I label it and put it in a cool, dark place in my pantry where it will stay for three weeks. When it is ready, I will strain the liquid into a clean jar, and lo and behold, I have made my own rose hydrosol.  I use it just as it is as a skin toner, but I could chill it to make a compress for puffy eyes, or use it as a final conditioning rinse for my hair. Next month I will incorporate some into skin lotions and creams.

The gorgeous fresh petals I have left could be baked into cakes and cookies, made into a delicate jam or a wine for next year’s Midsummer solstice, or crystallised for cake decorations.  Tonight I will drop some petals into my bath to make a relaxing soak after a hard day in the garden, and before I go to bed I will put a handful into the teapot and infuse them in boiling water to make a subtle, fragrant tea, which is mildly sedative and good for tension headaches.  

I spread out more petals on a tray and put them to dry in the airing cupboard. These dried petals are not only good for rose tea later in the year and the usual potpourri, but can be employed in magical talismans, charm bags and incense -  red for love, yellow for Midsummer, renewal and the sun, and white for moon rituals. So many virtues in just one plant, and I’ve only scratched the surface of what the rose has to offer. Each day, Mother Nature has a different gift for me.

I’ve worked in this way for decades now. My kitchen is hung with drying plants, and my pantry contains jars of dried herbs for magic, tinctures and salves for healing, as well as brewing wines and jars of jam. I am a hearth witch. Though there are many paths to magic, this is the term I invented some years ago to describe my own. I consider my house to be a sacred place, a temple of the Gods where I live, work and worship. As I make a fire in the hearth or light a candle, I honour the living goddess of the hearth fire known as Brighid in Ireland, Hestia in Greece and Vesta in Rome, and her presence in my home. On the shelves beside my hearth is a shrine to my household gods, and as I clean and tidy, I think of it as honouring them. With intent, a physical cleansing can become a psychic cleansing, sweeping away negative energies.

I as prepare food, I try to do it with intent – to make my body healthy, to thank Mother Earth for her bounty, and to share it with love.  Each ingredient is honoured for its individual life force and its inherent physical and spiritual properties. All the vegetable peelings and scraps go on to the compost heap which will nourish my garden plants, and I think that recycling and composting are much more powerful ways of honouring Mother Earth than muttering a few words in a ritual now and again; the hearth witch not only believes that the earth is sacred, she treats it as such.

My garden teaches me more about the magic of nature than any book, as I try to understand how each plant grows and what it needs, and how to work with it so that it will give me food, ingredients for wine, dyes and magical potions, or help me with my healing work. Season by season, I collect its wealth, along with the wild bounty of the fields and hedgerows around my village.

In this way, the hearth witch sees the sacred within the physical, the magical in the mundane, and uses this knowledge to incorporate spiritual practice into her everyday life. I suspect that most of us feel that we should make a lot more time in our lives for spiritual practice, chiding ourselves that we really must put aside that thirty minutes for daily meditation, or that evening for ritual, then struggling to fit it in and just being left with a feeling of guilt and failure. But this approach is a reflection of a culture that sees the spiritual and physical as separate. Traditional Pagan societies have always recognised that the spiritual and the physical are indivisible and that one is a reflection of the other. When we bring our attention and intent into cooking a meal, lighting a candle, or just being aware of our feet meeting the earth as we walk, it becomes a spiritual practice and opens up a deeper reality, the great matrix of Nature connected in a unified, sacred whole. We recognise that the land beneath our feet is not merely dirt, but a fountain of energy that sustains animals, plants and people. When this realisation dawns, all space becomes sacred space, all time becomes sacred time, and all acts become sacred acts.   

In bygone ages, of course, most of us lived much closer to nature than we do now. Once every woman had to be something of an herbalist and healer, responsible for her household’s health, since professional medical help was either unavailable or too expensive (and possibly dangerous to boot). Every home kept some drying herbs and flowers to make herbal infusions, powders, oils and poultices, brewed wine and ale, preserved fruit, made jams and jellies, pickles and chutneys, and many also made inks, dyes, soaps and household cleaners. A girl would be initiated into the secrets of these family formulas by her mother, along with her knowledge of folklore, stories, healing potions, minor surgery, gardening, brewing and wine making, spinning, weaving, dyeing, childcare, home management, animal husbandry, bee-keeping, fortune telling and cookery know-how.

And then there were those in the community who knew that little bit more, the village wise woman or cunning man. When joined my first coven Julia, our high priestess, told us stories of the herb wives of the past, who cared for the bodies and spirits of those around them, telling their fortunes, treating their bodily ailments with herbs, dowsing their lost property, and physicking their farm animals. She held them up to us as examples of powerful, magical women in an age when women otherwise had little influence. They were the midwives who brought new life into the world, she said, and who laid out the dead at the end of life.

Guided by some of my early teachers in the Craft, I began to study the ancient wisdom of the grandmothers, the wise women, once passed down from mother to daughter and crone to apprentice, and then improved by a lifetime of study and the daily observation of the patterns of nature.  I certainly wasn’t brought up in this way or taught any of those things as a child and, as an ardent feminist, for years I refused to do anything traditionally defined as ‘women’s work’. However, I gradually realised that such expertise formed the pattern of women’s lives for thousands of years and that women developed highly skilful methods in all these areas, even though no contemporary historian wrote about them or accorded women due status for their invaluable work.

Women’s knowledge has been derided and ignored for most of our history, and this is just as true today in western culture, in which knowledge is ‘owned’ by experts (mainly men) and can only be passed on through state-approved academic institutions, and where those seeking to follow traditional or alternative paths – such as herbalism - are dismissed as uneducated, naïve or even dangerous.

But this is our knowledge, our heritage - as women and as witches, both male and female. Discovering it and practicing my Craft has been a marvellous adventure for me, and it never ceases to fill me with wonder and awe at the power of Mother Nature. It makes me aware of the magic that flows throughout the world in every uncurling oak leaf in spring, every blushing rose petal, every humming summer bee, every rutting stag, and every misty shore. This is the reward of the path of the hearth witch and this is what I want to share with you in this book.  




Ritual Food

Food for the Sabbats






Autumn Equinox




Making Wine

Wine from Fruit

Wine from Flowers  

Wine from Vegetables

Herb and Leaf Wines

Sparkling Wine


Ciders and Perries

Brewing Beer and Ale

Making Liqueurs

Cider Vinegar






Fruit Cheeses

Fruit Butters

Fruit Syrups



Ketchups and Sauces


Fruit Leathers


Bottled Fruits in Alcohol


Dry Sugar Preserving



Fruit and Herb Vinegars

Non-Alcoholic Cordials


Natural Alternatives


Bathroom Products

Kitchen Products


Laundry Products

Carpets and Floors

Air Fresheners and Deoderisers


Bath Products


Lotion Bars

Bath Powder

Hair Care

Dental Care

Foot Care

Hand Care

Body Scrub



Herbs for Beauty

Facial Scrubs

Facial Steams

Face Masks

Facial Cleansers

Skin Toners


Eye Treatments

Neck Treatments

Lip Salves


What to Grow

Wine Maker’s Garden

Dyer’s Garden

Healing Garden

Cosmetics Garden

Magical Garden

An Elemental Garden

Starting Out

Moon Gardening

Indoor Gardening




Meeting the Plants

Internal Remedies

External Remedies



How to Use the Oils

Carrier Oils

A-Z of Essential Oils

Essential Oils by Symptom

Magical Oils

Blending a Magical Oil

Charging a Magical Oil

Magical Oil Recipes

Colouring Magical Oils

Using Coloured Oils to Balance the Chakras

Magical Bath Salts


Gathering Ritual Herbs

Identifying Herbs

On Correspondences

The Magical Virtues of Plants

Using Herbs for Magic

Kitchen Protection Charm

Herbal Talismans


Herbal Inks

Ritual Fumigation

Chapter 13 INCENSE

Incense Recipes


Dye Plants to Use

Appendix 1 Colour Correspondences

Appendix 2 Planetary Influences

Appendix 3 Magical Herbal Correspondences

Appendix 4 Weights and Measures