Category Archives: apples

HALLOWE’EN – An Inner Journey with Herbs and Friends

Follow me on a brief journey and get to know just a few of the plants and herbs that have been used to celebrate, commemorate and ritualize the phenomenon known as Hallowe’en. Strap on your riding boots, this broom is ready to fly.

Also known as Samhain, Hallows, and All Hallows Eve, the night we call Hallowe’en traditionally represents “… the time when the separation between life and death, between the born and unborn, the veil between the worlds, is at its thinnest… it is the dar sky and dark night that make the new moon possible, the intrinsic duality of new beginnings… That beginnings and endings meet is the great law” of Hallows.


Hallowe’en is decidedly of Irish origin, and was a time for honoring the ancestors. Many of our contemporary trick-or-treating festivities hail from a time of shadows and mist and fae, for when the torch was out… it was dark… Considering the Druid calendar begins on November 1st, we can say that Hallowe’en is also the Witch’s New Year!

Here are a few curious Hallowe’en traditions:

The Star in the Apple

In many areas, an apple is present during this time as much as the pumpkin – after all, Hallowe’en is the 3rd and final harvest festival of the Celtic year. The apple symbolizes the soul: cutting one in half laterally reveals a star shape, not unlike the human form.  An apple can be ritually buried on Samhain to symbolize nourishment during a symbolic death until rebirth in the Spring.


As a precursor to our jack-o-lantern, large turnips were once hollowed out, lit candles placed inside, and then set in windows to guard against any unwelcome spirits that might be stirring on that auspicious night.

For those who choose to meditate on the symbolism of the season, the following botanicals will lend their otherworldly vibrations toward that journey.

Oil of Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) can be used on Hallowe’en to honor and remember those who have passed on, and to be reminded that death is but a doorway to another kind of life. Cypress emanates vibrations of blessing, consecration, protection and grounding. Place a few drops into some steaming water and inhale.

Italian Cypress, looking somewhat like juniper

Hazelwood ( Corylus) which is to be gathered on All Hallows Eve, is used to draw a protective magickal circle, and can also be used for divining such as water dowsing.

A Hazelwood thicket

Often burned with Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) – which lends itself to prophetic dreams – Wormwood (A. absinthium) – oh yes, the plant which fortifies The Green Fairy Herself, Absinthe – is used for protection and to induce visions. Both of these plants are easy to grow. Light a small amount in a heat-proof dish then let it smoulder to perfume your lucid dreams.

mugwort in flower

Myrrh (Commiphora myrrah) has long been used as an incense for meditation and visioning, and for its protective energy, while Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) energizes our love-center as well as protects.

Myrrh trees
Clove tree

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is another herb used for clearing negativity and lending it’s own love vibration to our incense. It offers us the space to focus.

Rosemary plant in bloom

Rosemary is a main feature in this recipe for Meditation Incense, given to me many decades ago, and very inspiring. All ingredients called for are dried, except for the oil.

Meditation Incense

  • 2 cups rosemary herb
  • 1-1/2 cups orange peel
  • 1-1/3 cup lavender buds
  • 1-1/3 cup benzoin resin
  • 1/4 teaspoon patchouli essential oil

Blend everything together in your magickal blender (you may need to give it a good soaping afterwards). Burn in your usual way – my usual way is either in a heat-proof dish of sand, or on my woodburning stove. Please take every precaution with burning incense or anything else with embers or flames.

To learn more about magickal herbs, read Scott Cunningham’s CUNNINGHAM’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MAGICAL HERBS.

To learn more about Samhain and the Great Goddess, read THE SPIRAL DANCE by Starhawk.

For a more scholarly approach, read THE PAGAN MYSTERIES OF HALLOWEEN by Jean Markale.


copyright 2017 – Doreen Shababy


To your Good Health – Wassail!


wassail in bowl

Soon we will be facing the longest night of the year, it will be here sooner than we realize! Creating new traditions out of old ones is something that can bring a feeling of satisfaction to our lives. As we connect via invisible airwaves, it is comforting to know we are still nourished by the same things that sustained our ancestors. In this case, The Apple.

apple cut to show star

Here is a short excerpt from my book, The Wild & Weedy Apothecary, about the tradition of Wassail – both the verb and the beverage.

The curious custom of Wassail — from the Anglo-Saxon wes hal, meaning “be whole” or to drink “to the health of” — is a midwinter toast to the apple orchard, and possibly dates back to the fifth century; some believe it is a relic held over from Roman sacrifices to Pomona, goddess of fruit. It was certainly practiced in the West Country of England up until very recently, and many neopagans and period-revivalists still do so — and why not?

The tradition took place on Twelfth Night, usually around January 5.  A biscuit or cake doused with cider was laid on a tree branch, doused again, and then all the folks who had gathered in the orchard would sing carols or hymns — “Hats full! Caps full! Bushel-bushel-sacks full!” and bang pots and pans together, with the men sometimes shooting their guns into the air, generally making a great noise to ward off uninvited bad spirits and to let the beneficent spirits know where the apple trees were.

wassail festivity

The wassail bowl was sometimes passed around and shared as a “loving cup” or was brought door to door to wassail the neighbors and their homes. Sometimes even beehives were wassailed. Proclaiming a toast to those things in life that are vital and necessary, such as food and friends, makes a lot of sense, and we can see that wassail is an activity as well as a food item.

Some recipes for wassail feature baked apples floating around the punch bowl. Most wassail recipes include brandy, stout, or some kind of alcohol, although you could certainly make it without.

 ripe apples

Here is a recipe that takes a little bit of time and fussing, but the results will be fun to share with your fellow revelers.

English Wassail

12 small red apples

3  each, whole cloves, allspice berries, and cardamom seeds

1 cinnamon stick

2 quarts good English ale

1 teaspoon each ground ginger and nutmeg

2 cups natural sugar

1 fifth bottle dry sherry or port

6 eggs, separated

Bake apples at 350-degrees for 20 minutes, set aside. In a large saucepan, place the whole spices, 2 cups of the ale, and the ground spices, and slowly heat for 10 minutes. Strain ale into a bowl, discard spices, and return ale to the pan. Add remaining ale, the sugar, and the sherry or port, heating on low for about  20 minutes; do not boil! In the meantime, beat the egg whites until firm, beat the yolks until creamy, then fold in the whites. Slowly beat the hot ale mixture into the eggs until smooth (you can see why you don’t want it to boil). Carefully pour the hot liquid into a heatproof bowl. Float apples on top. Serve warm in heated mugs.

wassail cup


Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too!