This period between the festivals of Lammas and Samhain is known to be an unchancy one, with high levels of supernatural activity.
It’s wise to avoid most magical behaviour for now, as while you are likely to get heightened responses, it’s also extremely possible that the results may not turn out as you anticipated.
So many sprites, goblins, trolls, ghoulies, ghosties, long-leggedy beasties and wotnot are going bump in the night that you should definitely attempt a low profile for the time being.
One area you should not neglect, however, is apotropaic magic (the name derives from the Greek words to deflect or ward away). This is a type of sorcery intended to turn away harm or evil influences by deflecting misfortune or averting the evil eye.
Cleansing and protection should be your focus. One simple protective option is making a bread demon mask to deter the small fae fry which might come hanging around your house. If you have been feeling exhausted recently, it’s likely that something has been feeding on your vitality.
Spirits of the dead are usually attracted to their blood relations as they can gain strength and energy from this kind of company, which can make them feel part of the corporal world again, but as time goes by and families die out, a few wild and lonely dispossessed spirits will continue to roam around, now looking for anybody they can suck a little energy from.
The less energy you have, and the lower and more vulnerable you feel, the more likely it is that they will start to cluster around your house like fruit flies.
These frail pests hover just beyond our ordinary reality, waiting for a chance to attack, play tricks on, or otherwise annoy human beings. To keep them at bay, you can use very simple tools, such as this scary bread face.
Bread and loaves can be used for a variety of symbolic and effective purposes at Lammas and Mabon, and have been used for protection since the Early Times.
A grotesque or frightening image of a face acts as an effective deterrent to wandering ghosts or spirits when placed over a door or in a window, so making one from bread will be especially effective. This is a home-made version of the gargoyles and grotesques which protect churches and holy buildings.
Use my decorative bread recipe from Bread & Salt rather than a standard bread recipe, or the dough will rise too much to be recognisable.
When working the dough focus on the purpose you are using it for, charging it with as much intent and energy as possible.
I modelled mine on traditional Japanese demon masks, with a prominent nose, sharp teeth and googly eyes.
When you have completed your baked face, find a good spot for it. The doorways and windows of buildings are particularly vulnerable to the entry or passage of evil, and make sure – and this is vital! – the face is looking outwards, rather than towards the interior of your house.
You could add some hair made with wild grasses for a stronger effect, or paint the face.
If you have smelt anything unpleasant in or around your house, try to place the face as close to that as possible. Typical demonic smells are rotting flesh or sulphur. If you do smell anything, or if you hear anything out of the ordinary, especially growling, creaking, or flapping – you should carry out a full sage cleansing, as detailed here.
Think of the bread as a sort of keeper of the threshold or magical scarecrow, and remember to charge it with energy and intent fairly regularly to maintain its function.
Do this by touching your fingers to it, gazing into its eyes, and concentrating on the strong, powerful shielding effect it has, and how safe you feel with it there.
I placed mine by the gateway to my deck, as many dogs, cats and foxes come and go there at night, and you never know what they may pick up as they go.
Now that you have a little protection in place, it’s time to relax with a harvest festival drink.
Blackberries are the traditional festival fruit of Lammas and while they are easy and free to gather, they are so seedy and pippy when you make classic pies or puddings they drive you mad, always getting stuck in your teeth.
This of course is where the phrase “you’re giving me the pip” originates.
You can instead run blackberries through a juicer to end up with a rich bittersweet black juice. You don’t get very much, but a little goes a long way, and you can put it straight into the freezer until you need it.
I’m using home-made rosehip syrup for this drink. Rosehip syrup can be used in any number of cocktails as a simple syrup, or with sparkling wine as a Kir Pastural. You can also use the syrup with pancakes or french toast.
Trim the black tips from the gathered, washed rose hips.
Boil them with just enough water to cover, until soft. Half an hour should be enough. Mash them with a potato masher and continue boiling for another 10 minutes. Add a little water if they are becoming very dense.
Strain them through a piece of muslin lining a sieve or colander – the fine hairs inside the hips need to be removed, as this is what they make commercial itching powder from.
Boil up the resulting pulp with sugar – for each cup of pulp, use half a cup of sugar – and after 10 minutes place your hot new syrup in sterilized bottles or jars to cool, and keep refrigerated. Sterilize your jars by baking them in the oven or rinsing them with boiling water, and pour the syrup into them.
This is not only delicious, but extremely good for you as it is full of vitamins.
Pagan Blackberry Daiquiri
Blackberry juice, frozen but half defrosted
Rose hip syrup
I used to crush ice by wrapping it in a tea towel and smashing it with a rolling pin but I’m sophisticated now, I use the blender instead. Chill a glass in the freezer then fill it with crushed ice.
Shake 2 shots of rum and an equal amount of rose hip syrup together until frothy and pour it over the prepared ice. Scoop a tablespoonful of your frozen blackberry juice and drop it in, so that it spreads gradually through the drink as it melts.
Blackberries and their thorns have been used in protection spells for centuries. When you are gathering berries, try to pass beneath an arching bramble if you can, as this simple ritual can assist with healing.
Garnish with a spare berry or hip and any non-toxic flower you can find by the wayside. Drink it secure in the knowledge that you are bolstering your immune system with this nutritious drink while your bread monster face keeps away unwanted visitors.
Better safe than sorry.