Grandmother's Wisdom

Book of Gen

~ Growing up in a Magickal Home * Magickal Records * Mother's Work~

Even the devil hates a coward.

The Endless Task

This page is dedicated to my Grandmother for selected pieces of her wisdom, anecdotes about her life and philosophy that has not filtered throughout the other pages, because it should be said that one will find Grandmother's wisdom on them all. So many of Mother's words were Grandmother's. So many of mine are Mother's. Proper attribution as to who said what needs a better weaver than me to unravel the tapestry of our tradition.

The following exerpts are taken from the Family History that I am writing for my children, examples of Grandmother's life as a witch:

Pages from a Victorian Witch's Grimoire

Unabashed Courage

One of the worst flu epidemics in history hit the United States. At the height of its deadliness, Grandmother with her Red Cross training as a nurse was involved with assisting those who were too sick to get to a doctor. There were families all over the city stricken with the deadly virus. Many of those families were on the street were she lived. Grandmother forbid the children, W.A B., G.N.B. and Mother. to go to school or even go out to play. Mother remembers a turkey dinner that went into the trash because Grandmother saw a fly land on it. Mother, who was only four years old at the time, could barely see over the bottom of the window sill but remembered the black boxes stacking up in the street filled with the remains of those who did not survive. Grandmother had been helping a woman down the street whose entire family was ill. She hadn’t heard from her in several days to find the woman sick, too and her family dying. Grandmother was terribly grieved to lose the entire family to the virus. She was exhausted from disinfecting the house every day and disinfecting herself after tending to the sick, when she got a telegram from her sister that her favorite brother, Great Uncle B. was felled by the flu and was not expected to survive.

Grandmother got on a train to Philadelphia to find her sister’s home filled with family members and a doctor blocking her way to her brother’s sick room. The doctor said, “There’s no reason to go in there. Your brother is going to die and all you’ll do is catch it.” Grandmother pushed the doctor aside and went to Great Uncle B’s bedside. With the doctor looking in from the doorway, Grandmother kissed her brother on the mouth and said, “That’s how afraid I am of catching it. And my brother isn’t going to die! You can leave, now.”

This is a story that the family has told for four generations when there was ever a suggestion of going against Grandmother's will on anything. One should never bet against her when her indomitable will was focused and impenetrable.

Great Uncle B. did not die. He didn’t dare.

The Burning Times were not Over

Grandmother was a volunteer for the Red Cross and took food, herbal remedies and a strong pair of hands to anyone in need. She loved to read and had collected quit a good library of classic books. She lent them to her friends who she had to tea often. They talked about books, politics, religion and domesticity; gardening, sewing, cooking and child rearing.

Then after tea, as was the fashion of the day, she would read the Tarot cards or the ladies’ tea leaves. Grandmother had a reputation for accuracy that delighted her friends when foretelling a letter with good news, a happy trip in their future, a surprise visit from a beloved family member or a gift of money coming their way. One day, she read in the tea leaves the death of a friend’s husband (which occurred at the time of his death). She did not want to share with her friend what the tea leaves foretold, presuming that she was wrong and would not want to frighten her friend for no reason. When Grandmother turned the cup over, placing it on the saucer, she said there was nothing to read. Her friend insisted that Grandmother tell the truth. Grandmother reminded the ladies that no fortune teller was ever 100% accurate and their little dabble in the occult should be taken with a grain of salt, as an amusement. But her friend persisted. Grandmother finally told her friend that the tea leaves said her husband had died. News of the foretelling spread through the small town. And Grandmother swore to never read the tea leaves again.

Still, the people whispered about Grandmother ’s gift when she passed by, even after she stopped reading the leaves. She tried to laugh it off and scoffed at her judges, until a group of men on horseback, wearing white sheets and hoods, burned a cross on the front lawn, then tossed a sign on the porch that read, “Burn witch.” Some shouted “Papal Witch” adding her Catholicism to the list of her transgressions. It was a terrifying warning to Grandmother, but she was determined to ignore it as the behavior of the ignorant and cruel. However, there was one who could not ignore the warning.

It gave Mother nightmares for weeks. She began to sleep walk, thinking to carry a bucket of water to put out the fire. They had found her trying to fill the bucket in the sink. One night, she climbed out her window onto the basement doors. Grandmother and Grandfather found her there and put her back to bed. Grandfather began to think what might have happened had the basement doors been open. Mother could have broken her leg or her neck. Furious by the potential harm to his child, Grandfather sought out the riders.

It was a small town and Grandfather had recognized some of the men’s voices under their hoods. Hell, some of the voices belong to men he had called friend. He found some a the group gathered together at one of their homes. He railed at them, for the cross burning, for insulting his wife and for endangering his daughter. He was aghast at the men who all knew Grandmother, who had benefited from her charity, her cooking and baking, her canning and her herbal remedies. He promised to kill any man who dared to threaten his family again. To his surprise, he got no argument. The men were actually quite contrite and said that they didn’t’ really mean to hurt anyone. It was just a club thing. A thing that people did when they were afraid of what they didn’t understand. They wouldn’t hurt Mother for anything in the world. And they formally apologized to Grandmother. Thus, ended the brief life of the local chapter of the KKK.

Grandmother had something to say about everything. These are just a few of her witchly wisdoms.


  • Cry when someone is born and laugh when someone dies.
  • What doesn't get done by noon, doesn't get done.
  • Making the beds means half the housework is done.
  • Use the finest ingredients and the simplest recipe. (For success in any endeavor. This meant cooking and fashion to my mother, woodworking and furniture making to my father and costuming to me.)
  • Appitite comes with the meal.
  • Good conversation aids digestion.
  • A banana is silver in the morning, gold at noon and lead at night.
  • The apple is nature’s toothbrush, so an apple a day will keep the dentist away, too!

  • Good Luck

  • A coin landing tails is lucky for a witch.
  • Sleep with your head to the north so the ancestors can watch over your dreams.
  • Carry an acorn to bring luck and ensure long life.
  • A wish made upon seeing the first robin in spring will come true.
  • A black cat is good luck and blesses a home if it chooses you for a mistress.

    Bad Luck

  • Shoes on a table or a bed is bad luck.
  • If a hat is laid crown downwards on a bed, the owner of the hat will meet with bad luck.
  • Sweep yourself out of an old house and never take the broom along when you move into the new one. Leave it standing in the corner of the kitchen.
  • It is bad luck to kill a ladybug, a spider or a cricket.
  • Never give a wallet or purse as a gift without a coin (money) in it.
  • Never give a book as a gift without a book mark in it. (I use pressed leaves and feathers.)

    Home Remedies

  • Cucumber juice cures acne.
  • Oatmeal softens the skin.
  • Gargle apple cider vinegar for sore throat.
  • Hot tea and black pepper for nausea.
  • Apply baking soda to reduce swelling and stop the pain of bee sting.
  • Whiskey, water and honey sooths a cough.
  • Sassafras, catnip, horehound and pennyroyal brewed into teas treat coughs and colds.
  • Hot ginger tea helps one with a cold. (She made both ginger tea and ginger beer.)
  • Peppermint tea is good for babies with colds.
  • Camphor and Eucalyptus mixed in lard applied to chest, then covered in cotton or wool loosens lung congestion.
  • A poultice of tea leaves takes the sting out of a burn.
  • A poultice of tea leaves cures a sty or pinkeye.
  • Foxglove settles a nervous heart.
  • For ringworm, apply a mixture of olive oil and sulfur.
  • Feed a cold and starve a fever.
  • Elm bark is used for fevers and diarrhea.
  • Willow bark made into a tea for a fever. Willow is abundant in salicylic acid -- aspirin.
  • A good cup of tea can cure anything from depression to cancer!!!

  • Beauty and Propriety
  • A lady never crosses the street without her hat and gloves.
  • A ladies fan is fluttered slowly and without show.
  • The only gifts acceptable to a lady from a gentleman are flowers, perfume and an invitation to tea.
  • Responding to an formal invitation should begin, Miss Smith will be pleased to attend... or Miss Smith declines the invitation with apologies due to...(excuse).
  • A lady never refuses an invitation to dance.
  • A lady does not cross a ball-room unattended.
  • The companion of man should be able thoroughly to sympathize with him. Her intellect should be as well developed as his.
  • Of the lovely lady, he said, her voice was ever soft and low.

  • © 2004 Ardriana Cahill

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