As the sun falls gently behind the hills to the west, the garden takes on an otherworldly look and feel. Giant conifers begin their shadow play and the brighter colored flowers that rule the day, like phlox, rose, hollyhock and calendula, recede as darkness encroaches—their glory replaced by the brilliant white blooms of the honeysuckle, moonflower, liatris, foxglove and daisy, whose brightness becomes a beacon that signals the creatures, both magickal and mundane, that it is twilight time: come out and play.
It is at this liminal time, neither night nor day, that my magickal juices begin to flow. It is a current that prickles my skin and raises the hair on my arms. My children have inherited this love of the twilight hours, too, and though grown, can still be found outdoors practicing magick or exploring the shadows that make up this realm.
At twilight, toads can be found lumbering around my home. As a child, their presence spoke to me of fairytale cottages and Witches' gardens—you know, the kind with belladonna and wolf's bane growing just beyond the prying eyes of neighbors. Now, living in a cottage of my own, complete with a Witches' garden, toads speak to me of childhood and of those twilight hours that held more magick for me than I gave them credit for.
It was during those hours that I slipped into the garden, near the edge of the forest and climbed in the arms of a spidery vine maple. From that vantage point, I watched the twilight come alive. Bats began to flit and swoop; tree frogs chirped; a large owl with glowing eyes would sometimes call out, haunting the shadows; and a small rabbit would shyly appear at times to nibble at the grass There was a toad, too, that lumbered from beneath a rotting stump and as he crawled through the leaf mulch, he would look up to me as if to say, "Welcome, Monica, it's tween time."
Neither Here nor There
Liminal or between times are where the veil between this world and the otherworld thins and one can reach through the threshold and connect with the silky threads of communication with the fae and the spirit world is easier and shadows of the future lighten. Magick during these times takes on a deeper connotation.
The status of liminal space and time has been noted, celebrated, and revered as sacred space for thousands of years. In mythology, heroes such as Llue could only be killed in a tween place and time. In Hinduism, the God Vishnu appears as a liminal being (half man/half lion) to destroy a demon who can never be killed during day nor night, in the air nor on the ground.
Between spaces can include:
In modern times, places such as hospitals, hotels, airports, and train and bus stations may all be considered between spaces because they are passed through, but never lived in.
Time can be liminal; dawn is not quite morning nor still night; noon is between morning and evening; dusk is neither day nor night; and midnight is not light nor shadow. As the Wheel of the Year turns slowly round, we have many "between times" that are celebrated by modern Pagans; the most noted for their thinning veil are Beltane (between winter and summer for the ancient Celts) and Samhain (between summer and winter), but the equinoxes and solstices are between times as well. And what about New Year's Eve? This time between the new and the old, year is full of superstitions, ghost stories, and rituals conducted to assure your luck for the coming year.
Humankind share many between time experiences:
These liminal passages have been dealt with by ritual or ceremony since ancient times. The most widely recognized tween place in folklore and superstition, in many countries, is probably the crossroads. Hecate (a favorite Goddess of mine), is goddess of the three-way crossroads and was said to walk the roads of Greece with her sacred dogs carrying a torch. She is a powerful archetype for many Witches who may help show the way during a crisis.
But of all tween places, it is in the garden at dusk I am drawn to—that time when day fades and the giant lunar moths flit about my porchlight. The corners of my garden are swallowed by shadow, and I can feel the presence of the otherworld. That is when I go outside and step gently through the veil. So, let's wander into the garden shadows and explore the magick and folklore of the garden at twilight.
A Garden for Moonlight
There is something ethereal and mysterious about the garden at dusk, but with the addition of white flowers and slivery tinted leaves, it becomes magickal. The first recorded moon garden in the United States was designed by Benjamin Poore in 1833. Not only did he fill two 700-foot-long by 14-foot borders with an amazing array of white flowers, but he added a small herd of white cattle, white pigeons, and a white dog. Okay, so that might be a little overkill, but I would have loved to have seen it.
When planning a white garden, remember, don't stress if when searching nurseries for plants, you can't find any that are completely white. The plants in my list will have green leaves or yellow centers, or even a stain of pink may tinge the petals, but that's okay—it will help set off the white that much more. For a whimsical touch, add luminaries and white garden statuary.
When designing your moon garden, try planting a circular border that can be entered and used as ritual space. Remember, too, that a magickal garden doesn't require property. All of the plants listed can be planted in containers to create an enchanted environment on a deck or patio. To help encourage growth and water flow, use moon phases/and or astrological timing to plant your flowers. (A complete guide can be found in my book, The Magickal Family: Pagan Living in Harmony with Nature.)
Below is a list of plants to get you started.
Perennials (a plant that lives for more than two years):
Annuals (a plant whose lifecycle is completed in one season):
Once your garden is established, feel free to use your herbs and flowers in spell crafting and for tea or incense blends. Below is a wonderful tea blend using Yarrow that is great to use before practicing divination. And since it was grown in your very own moon garden with magickal intent, it is especially powerful.
Yarrow Psychic Tea
Place 2 tablespoons per serving in a tea ball or bag. Add boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes.
As you pour the hot water over the herbs, say: Silvery leaf and flower of white
Transport me through the evening bright
Past the veil so I may see
Past and Future—so mote it be.
Gift of the Toad
Seeing a toad in the dusky light of twilight reminds me that transition must happen in order for us to grow. A toad begins its life in the water; their eggs are gelatinous clumps, and once hatched, an amazing metamorphosis begins that is all at once, complex and beautiful.
In many Asian cultures, the toad symbolizes the Yin and can enable healing and attract prosperity. A popular symbol of prosperity in Feng Shui, the money toad is placed facing the entrance of the home to ensure the flow of wealth and bring good luck to the home.
It was quite the opposite in medieval Europe, where the presence of toads in a garden or home were sometimes used in the identification of Witches. Body parts of this poor amphibian were also used in folk cures and it was believed that there was a magic stone, known as the toadstone, in their heads that could be used to pass on great power.
Today we know toads in the garden are beneficial, as they eat thousands of pesky insects and provide you with the pleasure of hearing their soothing, throaty song as evening approaches. To encourage toads (and frogs) into your garden supply them with:
In magick, toads are connected to the element of earth and can be used in spells for transition, prosperity, garden, fertility, healing, working with elves, connecting with ancestors, and for rain magick.
Even positive transitions in life can overwhelm us a little. Here is a simple spell using toad energy to help you, or your child, feel a little more at ease with an upcoming change.
As the sun begins to set, stand barefoot in your yard with a representation of a toad (a figurine or toad shaped stone) and hold it in your hands. Close your eyes and breath in and out—feel the connection with the earth by wiggling your toes. Try and sense the fingers of the otherworld as they reach out across the veil. Now say:
Life is ever changing me, ever teaching me, ever moving me
I will be inspired
I will be courageous
I will grow
And with growth comes a beautiful metamorphosis.
Repeat this as many times as you feel necessary. When you are finished, place the representation of the toad somewhere you will see it every day as a reminder that transition can be a good thing.
Twilight in the garden not only brings out nocturnal creatures, but this is a time for the Fae. These spirit beings are very connected to the land. And when called upon to empower our personal sacred spaces, the results are nothing but extraordinary.
When I was a child, I called them the hidden ones and from my favorite tree at the edge of our property, I could hear their faerie revelry. Little did I know that during that time, when I was in neither light nor shadow, was one of the times faerie activity is strongest. My daughter, too, as a small child was very connected with the Fae, and now, as a teen, has become very powerful Witch who works harmoniously with nature spirits.
We must remember, though, that faeries have a moral code very different from our own, and when offended, can become very mischievous. So, if you have children who are interested in working with faeries, always work with them or consult a circle- or coven-mate who has experience working with nature spirits.
Dedicating a space in your garden to the fae during the dusky light of evening is a great way to share ritual with your children. Set up a flat stone in a pretty section of your garden. Set out a little honey and a few shiny objects or a pretty crystal. String some bells for the little ones to shake and dance about as you ask the faeries to enchant and enliven your outdoor space:
In the hushed light of dusk, faeries we call to you
Please enter our garden, we ask for a boon
With the blessing from the wild spirits from beyond
We know our garden will thrive on and on.
So mote it be. Once you've invited faeries into your garden the blessings will be evident. Your garden will take on an otherworldly feel and your flowers will seem more vibrant. If done respectively, working with faeries can be a rewarding experience for both you and your children.
It is at dusk, within the protective boundaries of my garden, as a tangled breeze wraps itself around me tinged with the scent of earth, that I am able to cross that thinly threaded veil and reach to those guides who help me better understand my connection to both worlds. It is there that I know change is possible. It is there that I know I am walker between the worlds.
So, go ahead, plant a magickal twilight garden; listen to the toads as they sing to you of the beauty of metamorphosis; and divine the future. Remember to create scared space for the fae, and don't forget to dance with your family, as day become night, with bells on your feet and magick in your soul.