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The Fantastic Toad

Author: Kiki's Cauldron
Posted: October 17th. 2010
Times Viewed: 2,812

With Halloween and Samhain around the corner, the image of the witch is all around us. Whether she’s posing sweetly in a vintage card or in displayed as a crone in a store’s window, she usually is in the company of her familiars: the cat and the toad. Even though today’s society has embraced the sweet and precious kitty, the same cannot be said for the fantastic toad.

During Medieval Times, the toad was said to be a demon in disguise. In England, they were a symbol of misfortune, and the fear of getting warts from touching a toad prevailed. Because of these misconceptions, sadly, our society has been turned off to the proud nature of the toad. However, if we look at the toad’s many faces, perhaps we can learn to embrace his charm and magick.

Toad’s Connection to Earth, Fortune and Fertility
The toad’s closeness to the soil and nature truly makes him a cherished child of Mother Earth. In ancient Mexican cultures, he was a symbol of Earth. He is one of the animals you want to have in your garden. This amphibian thrives on bugs that would normally do damage to crops and flowers. His song varies from species to species, yet its soothing voice lets us know that nature is blossoming. His presence, surprisingly, has historically been a symbol of fortune and fertility.

In parts of Central Europe, it was believe that toads were guardians of great treasures. Therefore, to treat a toad kindly could potentially mean being rewarded with a gift from his hoard. In Estonia, it was believed that house spirits or faeries took the form of a toad. As a result, they were well respected as signs of good fortune and wealth. Feng Shui pays tribute to the Chinese legend of the three-legged toad of the moon in the form of figurines, which are said to bring money and prosperity. Tin miners in Cornwall believed the sight of the toad while mining signaled a lucky strike.

Toads were a symbol of luck in love and fertility as well. Perhaps this is in part due to the many eggs it releases and the toad’s birth and metamorphosis in water. One folk medicine remedy suggested that the blood of a toad was a powerful aphrodisiac. In Scotland, it was believed to be good luck if a toad crossed a bride’s path. Votives and offerings in the shape of toads would be left in central European churches by the Mother Mary for smooth pregnancy and conception.

Toad’s Connection to Witches
It was during the Burning Times that the confessions and legends of toads began to intermingle with the world of the witch. In one confession, a witch said that she gathered toads to bring with her for Sabbat celebration. Oddly, she dressed them in small black or scarlet colored velvet robes, fashioning some with bells. Another sorcerer confessed that his toad familiar gave him the ability to be invisible, transport to different places, and shape-shift into the form of any animal.

The toad’s appeal in magick is most likely in part to its natural toxic secretions, called Bufotenine, which comes from glands behind their ears. This poison was allegedly used in potions, flying ointments, and in alchemy. Specifically, the skin of the toad was used in flying ointments, and in alchemy toads were considered to symbols the dark side of nature. Toads even received a small role in Macbeth as an ingredient in the witches’ “charmed pot.” Furthermore, many shamanic cultures revered the secretions of the toad for hallucinogenic experiences.

Toad’s Connection to the Otherworld
In ancient Germanic regions, it was unlucky to kill toads because it was believed that human souls resided in them. The belief that human souls were inside the toad progressed into the idea that toads were actually sinners who passed over and were undergoing penance. As a result, toads were to be treated with sympathy and pity. One story from Godfrey-Leland states that one toad would crawl to the altar of “Saint Michael in Schwatz” on the evenings before festivals to pray and weep.

Toads even served as guardians for those who passed over. In Lithuania, there are grave markers in the shape of toads. Toad’s magick also assisted in divination and amulets. In Ancient Egypt, small amulets of toads were worn as symbols of creation, birth, and rebirth. One object from the Late Dynasty of Egypt is most fascinating- it is a magic rod with small figurines of toads, frogs, and turtles, which were believed to be helpers to the Sun God. The object was used as part of a burial to guarantee rebirth and triumph over evil forces. In Natural History, Pliny explains that the bones of a toad had the ability to soothe quarrels and acts as an aphrodisiac. This could be the foundation for the lore of the “toad stone, ” the precious stones in the toad’s head that could bring great happiness and detect poison. Many an amulets are in the shape of toads, with the wish of drawing their magick and good fortune into the wearer’s life.

The Toad as an Animal Totem
Welcoming the toad into your life will bring grounding energy. He represents strength, pride, and nature. If you are looking for a way to connect the element of earth and water, as an amphibian, the toad is able to traverse and master both of these. Much like the frog, the toad also expresses the ability to transform, as he does through his life. He can help gain the ability to see people and nature through keen observation as well as turn inwards for a deeper understanding of the self. More than anything, it is the toad’s quiet pride and patience that allows it to prosper and bring luck and magick into the lives of those he touches.

A Toad Stone Alternative
On Samhain, you can perform a small spell to create your own toad stone. This gentle approach to creating a toad stone does not involve the harm of any animals, although you will need to get your hands dirty in the soil. You will need a piece of moss agate, a green candle, and vetiver oil. On the morning before Samhain, bring the moss agate to a place where you know toads reside. This could be in your garden, by a local pond, or if you are fortunate enough to have a toad as a pet, in your toad’s tank. If you do not believe you have toads in your neighborhood, simply find a natural place in your garden or yard where you can place a figurine of a toad. Or, find a small pot and fill it with soil from outdoors, bring it indoors and place it by an image or figurine of a toad. Take the clean stone (don’t anoint with oils- this could harm the toad) and bury it in the soil at this location. Recite the following incantation:

Precious toad, spirit of the Earth:
I ask you to bless this stone,
so I may have fortune and love in my life.
And in return, I will revere you this Samhain eve.


On Samhain eve, anoint the green candle with vetiver oil, and light it in reverence to the toad spirit. Take a moment to envision the toad, giving thanks to its presence in your life. If there is a specific magick you would like from the toad stone, whether it be for fertility, prosperity, divination, transformation, love, luck, or self-examination, envision yourself receiving the magick’s end result. The following morning, retrieve the stone and carry it with you to bring good luck and fortune into your life. If you wish to bring the good fortune of the toad into your life, consider getting (or creating) a toad house in your garden. This way, you can enjoy the presence of the toad as a familiar in your life.





Footnotes:
Andrews, Ted. Animal Speak. Llwellyn Publications: St. Paul, MN, 2004.
Arnold, Dorethea. “An Egyptian Bestiary.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. Vol. 52, No. 4, Spring 1995. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3269051. (accessed 10/14/2010) .
Conway, D.J. Animal Magick. Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, MN, 1995.
Godrey-Leland, Charles. Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling. Sacred Texts: http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/gsft/index.htm.
Harper, Clive. “The Witches’ Flying-Ointment.” Folklore. Vol. 88, No. 1, 1977. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1259606. (accessed 10/14/2010) .
Kieckhefer, Richard. Magic in the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2000.
Luttichau, Chris. Animal Spirit Guides. Cico Books: New York, 2009.
Morgan, Adrian. Toads and Toadstools: The Natural History, Folklore, and Culture Oddities of a Strange Association. Celestial Arts Publishing: Berkeley, CA, 1995.
Murrell, Deborah. Superstitions. Amber Books: London, 2008.
Powell, Shantell. Toads, Magic, and Witchcraft. http://www.shanmonster.com/witch/familiar/toad.html. (accessed 10/13/2010) .
Summers, Montague. History of Witchcraft and Demonology. Kessinger Publishing, 2003.



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