Friday, October 28, 2011

Samhain Totems: Toad

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. Samhain's totems are Toad, Elder, and Crane.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Toad – (Buaf) transformation, inner visions, death and rebirth, hidden power and beauty
Elder (Ruis) – death and rebirth, change and transition
Crane – (Corr) longevity, remembrance, past lives, secret knowledge, patience

A witch feeds her toad (and rat) familiars.

The toad is a powerful symbol of transformation, as it grows from tadpole to toad.  It has associations with fertility, magic, fairies, and Witchcraft.

The toad represented the uterus in ancient Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia. Because of this symbolism, the toad came to be the symbol for a midwife, thus leading to associations with Witchcraft.

In Basque country toads were said to be favored familiars, with witches going so far as to “baptize” their toads in cemeteries, and adorn them with velvet ribbons and bells.

Toads secrete a thick white poison through their skin.  This “toad's milk” or bufotenine is sometimes hallucinogenic, and is said to be an ingredient in some ancient flying ointments.

In Shropshire it was said that the spirit of a well would manifest as three toads, the largest of which was to always be addressed as the “Dark Lord” – a manifestation of the God of the Witches.

Witches' marks are sometimes referred to as a “toad's foot”, and a birthmark shaped like a toad is a sure sign of witch power.

Toadstools are so named due to the toad's associations with fairyland, and with their hallucinogenic properties.

Doreen Valiente was a fan of the natterjack toad, and recommended them as pets and excellent familars.  The natterjack toad has associations with the “yellow ringed” toad which produced the legendary Toad Bone amulet.

The Toad Bone amulet was said to confer many strange magical powers on those that carried it.  It is related to the toadstone, a stone said to rest in the head of a toad.  The toadstone could grant invisibility to its bearer.

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelt'red venom sleeping got
Be thou first i' th' charmed pot.
 -Macbeth, Act 4, Scene I 

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