Anyone who has even the slightest degree of interest in Witchcraft will probably have been initially drawn into this world of mystery by the portrayal of the old Wise Woman as she appears in old childhood stories and nursery rhymes.
Coupled with images of rambling roses outside the front doors of her old stone cottage, herbs drying in the kitchen and strange brews bubbling away for days on the open fire these scenes stimulate the senses and engage the Pagan passions in all of us.
Sadly, Modern Witchcraft is no longer filled with visual images such as these for in many ways the Old Ways of the Craft, along with its traditional components of black cats, broomsticks, and pointed hats no longer form an integral part of today’s Wiccan World.
One person who is on a mission to amend these failings and who is eager to put Witchcraft back onto a more authentic and traditional footing is Anna Franklin.
Franklin is a third-degree Witch and High Priestess of the Heart of Arianrhod. She has been practicing Paganism for over forty years and has written twenty-eight books on a variety of spiritual subjects.
In her book The Hearth Witch’s Compendium Franklin firmly harks back to those ancient traditions in Witchcraft and Paganism with a varied collection of recipes, concoctions and brews all of which utilise natural ingredients-most of which might be found in a traditional Witch’s garden.
The book opens with a look at ritual and the foods generally associated with the eight Sabbats. In each case she presents a number of recipes using ingredients that are contemporaneous with the specified time of the year.
The next chapter in the book examines the production of wine, cider and beer mostly formulated from fruits and berries found wild in the countryside or grown in the garden.
Here the author offers specific advice on home-brewing along, the basic equipment needed, and the steps involved in producing a wide range of alcoholic drinks.
Next up is a chapter on the natural preservation of food using such techniques as making jams, jellies, marmalade, curds, and syrups in the case of fruit and pickling, chuckney, ketchups, sauces, salting and drying in the case of vegetables.
Attention then turns to the making of a wide range of commodities for the house and home. Here the emphasis towards natural remedies is even clearer with Franklin offering a number of alternatives to commercial cleaning products such as polishes and cleaners for the bathroom and, kitchen, as well as for specific aspects of housework such as the laundry, cleaning of carpets, windows, etc.
Next in line for the natural treatment is that of personal care and here the author offers natural alternatives for everything from bubble baths and soap through to shampoos and body lotions.
At the centre of all this reliance upon natural and chemical-free ingredients is the Witch’s garden. It is here that so much production of the recipes content takes place.
As Franklin explains in her book ‘Traditionally the wise woman’s garden contained plants for healing, plants to attract and feed familiars, plants to contact the spirits, plants for divination and spells, and trees such as rowan and holly for protection.’
She then offers advice on how to get the best out of your garden, how to plant by the phases of the Moon, and how to grow indoors in places where the climate is less accommodating for some food types.
The book then moves from a look at the production of home remedies through to the production of essential oils — then from magical herbalism — that quintessentially Wiccan of all practices, through to the creation on incenses.
The Hearth Witch’s Compendium closes with recipes and advice on how to create natural dyes.
Our Review of The Hearth Witch’s Compendium by Anna Franklin
Whilst so much of Modern Paganism makes vague gestures in the direction of the production of healthy and ecologically sustainable alternatives to chemical products the truth is that very few people in the movement these days really engage with the subject in a meaningful way.
To my mind without a solid grounding in the growing and cultivation of plants, herbs, fruits and vegetables there is no way that anyone can truly understand the annual seasonal cycles and how they play through our World.
Weeds make Witches and plants make Pagans!
In The Hearth Witch’s Compendium Anna Franklin proves herself to be every bit that authentic Wise Woman that we all recall reading about as children. With a genuine depth of understanding of how nature works and what it can provide for us she has created a book of inestimable value. If you enjoy and appreciate the works of Scott Cunningham then this is of the same quality but a modern day equivalent with a focus upon practical, home-baked Witchcraft which, through 500+ pages, will become a central resource in any Pagans spiritual practice.
That having been said I shall get my only criticism of this book out of the way straight away which is that it really was calling out to be illustrated — which sadly it isn’t. Some accompanying photos for example would really have added something to it and also brought it to life visually. That is not to say that this is a dull publication — far from it for this is a book that is going to be loved and deeply valued by anyone who has a little imagination and who feels drawn towards turning their own gardens and homes into that very idealised image of the Wise Woman’s cottage — a magickal place tucked away in some isolated corner of the woods.
In short I feel that no self-respecting Wiccan, Pagan, ecologist, or nature lover would want to find themselves being caught out not owning a copy of this utterly delightful, inspirational and instructional cookbook of ancient lore fused with contemporary Wiccan practice. With The Hearth Witch’s Compendium you can almost hear the bees busy buzzing around pollinating the comfrey and see the sage, tyme and basil leaves dried and stored in jars on the scullery shelves. Few images are more central to the heart of what Witchcraft is about and few books have come this close to capturing the essence of what it means to work with what nature provides us with at every imaginable level.