Sunday, July 8, 2012

Of Peculiar Red Hats and other things

A few months ago, I read Irish Witchcraft and Demonology by St. John D. Seymour. The book was filled with all sorts of folklore. One tidbit was that Irish witches wear peculiar red hats (and they noted this was also common to Scottish folklore, which makes sense considering the Scots invaded from Ireland). However, no clue was given for this other than the old rhyme: "By yarrow and rue and my red cap too.." So, why the red hat? Well, I considered that and my wealth of lore that lives in my brain came up with an answer. Faerie creatures (horses, deer, hares, cows...etc.) are white with red-tipped ears. These creatures travel freely between this world and the Otherworld. Mayhaps, the red hat symbolized a temporary "feyness" that allowed the witch to travel in much the same way. Therefore, I have acquired a "semi-peculiar" red hat. Why is it only semi-peculiar? While it would certainly look odd to wear in public, a red Robin Hood hat isn't particularly odd. However, I have added a crow feather and Celtic knot-work button accent and I must say I think it looks pretty good. (pictures of it and other things will appear in another post).

So..I admit that I don't know what I don't know. I'm a lore and myth junkie and I can talk about magical theory until the cows come home. However, there are some things I am weak on, some things which  *gasp* I don't think I'll be able to learn from a book.

One of the things is divination, it never was my strong suit and there's part of me that is really skeptical of those who try to make a living at it.

Another is anything to do with herbs, particularly in the identification arena. If my herbs didn't come in neat little labeled bags to then be put into neat little labeled jars, I'd mix them all up. One of the labels fell off a bag and I had to throw it away because I had no idea what the f-ck was in the bag. Unless a tree has leaves on it, I can't tell what it is by the bark (and that's only for the few trees whose leaves I know). I have books that tell me what herbs are good for what ailment. And I can get the herbs online or even in pill form. But that doesn't really feel "witchy"...and what if the Zombie Apocalypse does come in December and I have no internet access and we need to live off the can I tell what I can eat in the woods from what I shouldn't put in my mouth ever? Most books only have pencil drawings that make every plant pretty much look the same to me and even then, not for every plant.

Yet another is healing with energy, the most common form being reiki. My issue with reiki is that you can learn it so quickly, but that quick little attunement can cost hundreds of dollars. I don't know whether it's real or not because having to spend so much money on such a small window of teaching is very suspicious to me (again with my skepticism breaking through). Before I make my mind up on reiki, I should probably have it done to me to see if I feel anything from it at all. If it turns out to be awesome, it might be worth the investment (whenever I get lucky enough to have the extra of my biggest pet peeves is that price of all the "lessons/seminars" that I've come across...based on their prices, I can get several books and eat well or eat only Ramen and have nothing new to read for months just for spending the money on one's never seemed worth it to me....but I don't even go to concerts that cost more that $25.00 a I'm just too frugal).

May you be blessed by whichever gods you fancy,

BellaDonna Saberhagen


  1. Greetings, BellaDonna!
    I surfed over from Witchvox, where I've enjoyed reading your pieces.
    What is the source of "By yarrow and rue and my red cap too.." quoted above? When I read it, as a gardener and student of herbalism, I wondered if "red cap" might refer to a mushroom rather than a hat...
    That said, I look forward to the photo of your millinery creation!

  2. It's from a folktale provided in Irish Witchcraft and Demonology. This guy wakes one night to find a group of witches sitting by his fire drinking all his booze. They all have "sticks and peculiar red caps". When he catches them in the act, they don their caps and say the rhyme (with their destination at the end, in this case, England) and ride their staffs up the chimney. He manages to steal the stick and cap of one and goes in pursuit.

    So , in this tale anyway, it definitely refers to a hat, but there is a chance the rhyme is even older than this specific tale.