I’ve already had requests from people asking if Doktor Snake and I are going to plan something special for Halloween (or Samhain as it’s known amongst the witching and Pagan circles – the circles being consecrated first, of course)
Well, it’s a way off still yet, but if you want to get super organised, you could always put your planning hat on and start making yourself an ancestral spirit bottle. Actually, it’s probably quite a good idea, as it might take some time to get all of the things on your shopping list to go into your bottle.
Ancestral spirit bottles are used traditionally on 31st October, when the veil between the Earth bound and the spirits are at their thinnest and wispiest. They can be used to summon the spirits of the ancestors, but maybe if your ancestors spirits aren’t particularly benevolent, you could call on kindly spirits in general. If your great-great-great grandma Wilhelmina was known as a bit of a tartar, it’s understandable that you might not really want to invite her into your home …
So – on to compiling your spirit bottle shopping list. You’ll need a glass bottle, a cork to seal it with and if you can find one, a skull bead to top it all off.
Most people would say that graveyard dirt is an essential ingredient, but if you really can’t bring yourself to gather some from a friendly grave – remembering not to look back after you’ve collected it, and doubly remembering to leave a gift of liquor or cigars – then you can use powdered mullein.
You have plenty of other ingredients you can pop in there – the ones that are usually named as the most important are graveyard dirt/powdered mullein, cascarilla (that’s powdered egg-shell to you and me), red ochre and black henbane leaf.
Then you can take your pick from the lucky witch bag to pep up your bottle. Dandelion root can be used to summon spirits (although they may be desperate for the bathroom when they arrive), balm of Gilead buds for consecration and grounding, dittany of Crete for opening the 3rd eye, yew or pine needles or at a pinch, crushed pine cones for opening channels of communication – and yes, I know, it starts to read like a Biblical adventure on tripadvisor …
To give you even more options, you can scan around for any other correspondences from the following : frankincense, sage, basil, mint, mistletoe, yarrow, rowanwood berries, rue, sandalwood, myrrh, garlic, rosemary, orris root (whole or powdered), dried hot pepper flakes, coffee beans, white cornmeal, sea salt, powdered bone and charcoal.
At this point, it all starts to resemble Ratty’s picnic in “Wind of the Willows” –
‘Hold hard a minute, then!’ said the Rat. He looped the painter through a ring in his landing-stage, climbed up into his hole above, and after a short interval reappeared staggering under a fat, wicker luncheon-basket.
‘Shove that under your feet,’ he observed to the Mole, as he passed it down into the boat. Then he untied the painter and took the sculls again.
‘What’s inside it?’ asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.
‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly;
‘O stop, stop,’ cried the Mole in ecstacies: ‘This is too much!’
‘Do you really think so?’ enquired the Rat seriously. ‘It’s only what I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are always telling me that I’m a mean beast and cut it VERY fine!’
-The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
But undeterred, we shall continue … Ahem. Firstly, you need to consecrate your working area, as you don’t want to invite nasty spirits. They can be a Devil to get rid of. I would suggest lighting a black candle to dispel negativity. Then you can start to fill your bottle. Make sure that you start with the finest (as in the opposite of coarsest, not as in a range of top notch cuisine from a local supermarket) ingredients at the bottom, and proceed until the bottle is full.
If you wish to use the bottle to summon familial spirits, you can always add what are known as taglocks, which means any assortment of personal items such as hair, fingernails, photos or whatever you have to hand. It may well resemble a hair-ball coughed up by some infernal cat, or something that has caused a blockage in the vacuum cleaner, but do not be deterred.
You can also add in “coffin nails”, which you can make by placing normal iron nails in a solution of 1 part bleach, 1 part vinegar and leaving them for a few hours. Voila, rusty nails …
When you are happy that you have finished your bottle, if you have used a bottle with a large enough opening, you can add a piece of candy to satisfy the spirits, or a splash of liquor. If you feel so inclined, you can also add a few drops of your own blood (remember to sterilise the needle before you prick your finger to do this – you don’t want to end up with septicemia and joining the spirits at rather closer quarters) or nail clippings.
Then cork the bottle, wrap it with twine if you wish (you can also add small charms or feathers to the twine), and then seal the whole caboodle with wax dripped carefully from the red candle. You can then glue or pin the skull bead to the top.
Finally, I would close and consecrate the working area by lighting a white candle. I think that just about sums it up, but if you have any further comments or questions, I’d love to hear them.
Writer and purveyor of the magickal arts.