Archive | Jul 2014

Major and Minor Tools in Wicca

Wiccan altar with candles, chalice, cauldron (bowl), wand, and athame

Wiccan altar with candles, chalice, cauldron (bowl), wand, and athame

When most people hear the word “Wicca” or “witch” stereotyped images typically come to mind. Whether it’s a green skinned hag with warts or a beautiful seductress using magic to overcome the will of others, few people unfamiliar with Wicca/Paganism have clear and accurate images of who these people are and what they believe. Central to these stereotypes are tools used by Wiccans in their practice. Whether it’s a cauldron, a magic wand, a cup, or a dagger, outside of “the Craft” and often even inside it, the primary and secondary tools used by the majority of Wiccans remains poorly understood. Here’s a quick primer on some of the most common tools:

Athame: a dull-edged knife or dagger (typically more dull than your typical letter opener), often with an ornamental hilt, athames cut only air and spiritual energies. They are used to define and sanctify a space for worship and release the area back to its normal use after. Hence there is a “calling” and “dismissing” of spiritual energies with the athame. Unlike the wand whose job is to invite energies, the athame is used primarily to repel unwanted energies and spiritual entities. In other words, it serves a protective function, cleansing the defined inner space and warding against everything outside the defined boundaries so that only positive energy can enter and negative energy is kept away. Masculine, yang force tool.

Wand: typically made of wood or crystal, wands also define worship spaces, but differently than athames. While athames repel unwanted energies and spiritual beings, wands invite desirable energies into the worship space. For that reason, many rituals begin by “casting the quarters” first with an athame, then with the wand to first repel what a person or group does not want, then invite what the person/group welcomes. The type of material a person uses for a wand affects the direction of the invitation (see for several wands with their associated wood meanings and uses). Masculine, yang force tool.

Cauldron: a bowl or cooking pot, often made of cast iron with tripod feet, the cauldron originates as the primary household cook pot used to prepare meals. As such, cauldrons tend to retain their traditional associations with foods and food stuffs. Sometimes used as a brazier for burning incense, candles, or herbs, the primary focus of most cauldrons remain on food, hearth, and home. Symbolically the cauldron represents female, yin force energy as the cauldron closely resembles a woman’s womb in appearance. Regular, modern cook pots can be used as cauldrons, particular in kitchen witchcraft.

Chalice (cup): probably the most universal religious tool, the chalice’s ritual use transcends time, space, culture, and religion. Intuitively, the chalice’s first and primary function is that of a drinking vessel, holding the milk, juice, water, or wine called for in religious ceremonies. As such, it is the most versatile. A female, yin force symbol, the chalice resembles the female reproductive track in appearance and therefore is the most feminine of the tools used in Wicca.

Candles: from small chime candles to thick column candles, the variety of candles individuals may use is limitless. Usually the type of candle used is decided by functional needs and the color(s) is decided by spiritual or symbolic considerations. For example, green candles may represent balance, harmony, money, wealth, or nature. Pink candles are often associated with love-both romantic and non-romantic. Purple candles tend to have spiritual connotations-and so forth.

Candle snuffer: a safety tool, candle snuffers may be large or small, silver, brass, copper, or another preferred metal. Their function is implicit: to extinguish candle, incense, and other small fires by depriving the flame of oxygen.

Incense: whether in powder, cone, or stick formats, incense is a blend of herbs and/or resins that are burned for the aromatic and/or spiritual properties. Used broadly across numerous world religions, Wiccans often interpret the smoke of incense as symbolic of air (element).

Boline: a sharp ritual knife or dagger typically used to cut plant materials such as fruit, vegetables, prepared foods, and/ or plant stalks. Unlike the athame whose purpose is purely symbolic and spiritual, the boline is a practical object, a cutting implement used in sacrificing plants or simply to facilitate the serving of ritual foods such as a loaf of bread or a pomegranate.

Essential oils: part of the herbalism aspect of Wicca, essential oils are concentrated oils derived from plants and resins used for their spiritual and aromatic properties. Most oils need to be blended with a carrier oil such as almond or olive oil before they can be applied to the skin for healing. Oils can also be mixed with water and sprayed in a spray bottle or sprinkled into an area for a spiritual or physical impact. For example, lavender oil mixed with water and sprinkled onto a pillow or bedding is a well-known remedy for sleep disorders. Spiritually lavender is known for its protective qualities (see

Herbs: important to kitchen witchcraft and its focus on herbal healing, herbs/spices are more than just flavorful for your ordinary cooking. Herbs have both physical and spiritual impacts, promoting health and healing on all levels of the person when used mindfully. The number of resources on herbs and herbal healing are too numerous to list, but one nice one for beginners is at My favorite source for herbs and herbal teas is at

Mortar and Pestle: used to grind whole herbs into a powdered form and mix herbs together, mortar and pestles are important tools for making herbal teas and combining spices for cooking. An essential tool in kitchen witchcraft.

Bells: used in numerous religious traditions, bells can serve many different functions. They can define spaces using sound. They can signal the start of worship. They can represent the element of air. They can also be used purely for their musical tones. The uses are almost endless according to individual preferences and outlook.

Besoms: also called “brooms” or “broomsticks,” ritual besoms are probably the most stereotyped of the tools used in Wicca. Contrary to stereotype, besoms are not used to mix toxic brews or for riding on at night, but are used to sweep away unwanted negative energies and form protective spaces. Many Wiccans keep their besoms in places of honor-above chimneys, doorways, or other entry-points of energies. They are literally used to sweep an area-but not free of loose floor debris like their non-religious counterparts. Instead a besom sweeps spiritual energies. They are typically round and may be of any number of sizes or compositions.

The tools of Wicca are often the same tools used in other religious traditions, just used for different specifics. They are highly individual in design and function. Yet together they help individuals and religious groups shape religious and spiritual experiences.

For more information on Wicca and its tools, please consult:,

Witch in the City: Seven Tips for Adapting Polytheism to Urban Environments

April 21st, 2012Beltane altar in downtown Brooklyn


Many earth-centric religious traditions, including Wicca, help us connect deeply with nature with outdoor worship. But where green spaces are sparse or sometimes inconvenient to reach, how does a Wiccan or other polytheist find the balance? Here are things I’ve done over the years:

  1. Use less fire and more water: instead of burning specific herbs, candles, or essential oils, mix them with water and disperse by libation or through a small spray bottle such as a travel sized pump bottle.
  2. Barbecue grills at parks are your friend: when you do need to burn something for a prayer or ritual, consider travelling to a public park that offers a barbecue grill and light your fire in the grill space. This greatly reduces your fire risk and makes it easier to control your fire.
  3. Use ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams for food sacrifices: one of my favorite rituals for holiday worship is to cast a libation of food and drink (non-alcoholic) into a pond or lake as a gift of thanksgiving to the deity/deities associated with the holiday. This is not only very historically accurate to what many cultures have done for millennia, but your gift is often greatly appreciated by the area wildlife.
  4. Keep incense lighting to indoor contexts: when you light incense outside, you risk not only fire that can more easily get out of hand, but mis-interpretation by passersby. Also recognize that many parks have strict rules against any sort of burning outside of fire pits/grills; you can get into a lot of trouble over fire-even incense!
  5. Replace bonfires with symbolic fires: when a ritual or custom calls for a bonfire, consider using lit or un-lit candles and incense.
  6. Embrace plant life: all life is connected. Connect to it-and deity–with your touch. Caressing a plant is a wonderful way to remind yourself of the beauty, wonder, and divinity around you.
  7. No matter what you practice or believe, prioritize safety over ritual. Accidents happen, especially when working around fire. Invest in those little aids like snuffers and water vessels that make you safer!

Distinguishing Between History and Theology

Distinguishing Between History and Theology

Creationism, Biblical Literalism, and History

June 18th, 2012


On May 15th, Gallup completed a poll on American attitudes on the role of divinity in creation. Respondents were asked if they believed deity had no role in human evolution (evolution), a guiding roll in evolution (theistic evolution), or if they believed deity had created humans in pretty much the same form as it is now less than 10,000 years ago (creationism). 46% of the respondents answering accepted the creationism explanation of human evolution. 32% took the theistic evolution position. Only 15% of Americans surveyed believed in straight, no deity, evolution. Demographic data from the poll revealed that more than half of people with a high school diploma or less, and of those who attend religious services regularly believe in Creationism.

I too once believed in Creationism – when I was an evangelical christian attending church weekly. My university explorations of many spiritual traditions paired with my requisite science courses changed that position to “theistic evolution.” But perhaps the greatest influence in my own shift from Biblical Literalism to Biblical Minimalism came during my junior year of university when I took Dr. Stephen Burnett’s “Hebrew Heritage” course.

Hebrew history is one of those areas where the Bible is presumed to be literally authoritative by orthodox Jews and Christians alike and where every word of the Hebrew Bible is traditionally taken at face value. Creationism stems from a literal reading of the Hebrew Bible; the origins of humanity, let alone Hebrews and other Semites, is not really a focus in the “New Testament.” In Dr. Burnett’s class we paired Biblical texts with archaeology and primary source material from adjacent cultures.

History, Dr. Burnett taught, was not the same as religion or theology: documents must be critiqued for their authorship, bias, and collaborative physical evidence (or lack thereof). He asked us, as students of history, to consider who wrote whatever we were looking at, what they did for a living, what their socio-economic backgrounds were, and other details of context. Was this person a priest? A politician? A ruler? Male? Female? What other events were (near) contemporary? What was the world view of this culture?

In asking these questions, we learned how to evaluate primary sources and decide if a source was truly primary (such as a diary entry) or secondary (written about something not personally experienced). Important in evaluating these sources was the addition of collaborating evidence – both archaeological and textual from other sources.

This multi-faceted approach to sources is what defines the historian’s craft from the theologian. Theologians evaluate a holy book based on spiritual, religious, or moral consideration. In theology, the aim is to discover divine intent and moral wisdom. History asks the questions of “what happened, to whom, and how do we know what happened?” History applies the scientific method in evaluating sources, physical evidence, and literature. Biblical Minimalism is a literary and historical approach to the Bible which regards those parts of the Bible that cannot be collaborated by other sources as literary or metaphorical. In other words, not to be taken as literal truth, but more spiritually or psychologically true.

For me, the Bible doesn’t have to be literally true to hold value for our society. Indeed, it can teach us much about how Hebrew culture. Yet in understanding the Bible’s limits, I find myself freed to explore the breadth of knowledge being slowly revealed through archaeology and the lost cultures and ideas concealed beneath the surface of our world. As a scientist, I am thrilled!

Medieval Militias: a Brief History of England and Europe’s Primary Defense Forces

This article published on June 21st, 2012 was originally written in response to the raging gun control debate exploding at the time.  In that debate, I kept hearing ardent defenses of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution which states in full, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Being a history person, I therefore took the time to look into the history of militias in hoping of shedding light onto the context behind these most controversial words in the US Constitution.


Medieval Militias: a Brief History of England and Europe’s Primary Defense Forces

When most people hear the word “militia,” Colonial America minutemen probably come to mind. Others may remember that it was the Massachusetts militia that Congress adopted and assigned to George Washington in 1775 in order to free Boston from occupying Crown forces. To this Massachusetts colonial militia, Congress merged the colonial militias of the other twelve colonies, forming what became the “Continental Army.”

But this new Continental Army was not an army in the modern sense nor did it form in a historical vacuum. Instead, the American militias that became George Washington’s forces all evolved out of a much older tradition that goes back more than one thousand years before the Founding Fathers and Founding Mother’s time.

It all began in antiquity, as most things ultimately do. Celtic and Germanic peoples competed for resources across Europe, each with very distinct war traditions. Medieval England would take most of their traditions from the Germanic tribes.

Ancient Germanic cultures maintained a tradition of calling forth every able bodied man to fight in times of crisis; professional soldiers were not part of this equation. This tradition became part ofEnglish Common Law even as a more codified feudal system emerged. These first militias were the backbone of defense across Europe; mercenaries were hired sometimes but were so expensive that they were particularly rare in the first millennium of the Common Era. Starting in the eleventh century, the numbers of professional, mercenary soldiers grew thanks to the evolution of a new practice called “scutage.” In scutage, a vassal pays money to his liege lord in exchange for being excused from personally providing military service. With this money, kings and nobles bought more mercenaries than they ever could before. As with most things, Europe’s transition from barter to money-based economics facilitated that shift. Soon it became common for the wealthiest to pay their way out of putting their own necks on the line on the field of battle, increasing the number of mercenaries a king or noble could employ.

But mercenaries were no solution to the problem of how to defend a nation. In England, non-feudal militias were encouraged through laws requiring every able bodied man to keep weapons and train with them. The Welsh longbow became the natural weapon of choice; they were relatively inexpensive and could be owned by even the poorest Englishman. Laws were passed to encourage proficiency with bows. By the Hundred Years War, the result of generations of encouraged archery proficiency rang clear with English victories against the French rooted in the skill of English bowmen – nearly all of these longbow men serving in the militia. As mercenaries became more ruthless in their treatment of civilians, resentment against professional soldiers grew; only the militia made up of their peers could be trusted.

This belief that militia, not professional soldiers, could be trusted stayed with English society through the 17th and 18th centuries, becoming part of colonial American attitudes towards professional verses non-professional soldiers and, ultimately made its way into the United States Constitution through the Second Amendment guaranteeing, just as 13th century English law, the rights of ordinary citizens to defend the country instead of a professional army.

Parrots and Popinjays: a Brief Look at the Role of Companion Birds in Medieval Europe

This next article about medieval aviculture comes from my years as Society expert on medieval aviculture in the Society for Creative Anachronism.


Parrots and Popinjays: a Brief Look at the Role of

1310s illumination from the Queen Mary Psalter showing a popinjay (Psittacula parakeet) at Christ's right hand and opposite a falcon.

1310s illumination from the Queen Mary Psalter showing a popinjay (Psittacula parakeet) at Christ’s right hand and opposite a falcon.

Companion Birds in Medieval Europe

An Overview to the Role Parrots, Finches, and Doves Played in Medieval History

June 7th, 2012

Medieval illuminations rarely depicted species- specific details as this 1236 illumination of a popinjay shows.

Medieval illuminations rarely depicted species- specific details as this 1236 illumination of a popinjay shows.

When most of us think of companion animals, a dog or cat probably is the first animal to come to mind. What few people realize is just how recently our canine and feline obsession really is, dating back only about three hundred years or so. In the middle ages, nearly all the animals in our lives were kept for practical reasons. Medieval Europeans distrusted cats as agents of Satan. Dogs were raised for specific jobs such as herding, guarding, vermin control (the terriers in particular were bred to kill rats and mice), hunting, and even transportation in icy and mountainous regions. Horses were transportation. Oxen pulled plows and were slaughtered for food. Chickens provided eggs and meat. Sheep were shorn for wool and slaughtered as veal or mutton. Even birds of prey served humans as hunting companions.

But three orders of birds were raised primarily for their companionship qualities: Passeriformes (includes sparrows, canaries, and finches), Columbiformes (pigeons and doves), and Psittaciformes (parrots). These were the primary “pets” of the Middle Ages and Renaissance adored by all levels of society — from the poorest to the richest, and royal down to the poorest peasant.

Birds served many companionship functions in medieval life. Among the most humble in society, the family bird kept women in the household company while engaging in the labor-intensive needs of the home. Whether it was spinning, weaving, cooking, laundry, or cleaning — the family bird broke up boredom by providing beauty, song, and social interaction.

Nobles too kept birds, especially parrots (called “popinjays” before 1500). Noble women and noble men kept birds for very different reasons which are perhaps somewhat predictable. For the men, exotic species of birds were prestige animals through which to display wealth and power. Every royal and every noble man wanted the most rare and most expensive parrot, finch, or pigeon/dove that money and aviculture could produce. By contrast, their wives and daughters kept and demanded these birds for their species-specific social and verbal abilities.

In between, the emerging bourgeoisie pursued parrot aviculture as a means of improving and displaying social standing and wealth. As trade and crafts people flourished in cities, so did their need to show poor and very rich alike that they themselves had risen above poverty; possessing parrots served that function quite nicely, particularly as the dietary and shelter needs of the parrot species kept (in Europe, the available parrots were all from genus Psittacula, aka Asian parakeets, birds adapted to Asian rain forests) required consistent warmth and access to fresh foods and grains.

Medieval Europeans raised four species of Psittacula parakeets before 1500: the African ringneck parakeet (Psittacula krameri krameri), the Indian ringneck parakeet (Psittacula krameri manillensis), the plum-headed parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala) and the Alexandrine parakeet (Psittacula eupatria). The highest echelons of society had access to African grey parrots (Congo and Timneh subspecies). England’s Henry VIII notoriously kept an African grey.

But the rarest parrot of the European Middle Ages belonged to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (von Hohenstaufen). In 1229, this noted lover of falconry received as a gift a rare bird indeed — at least to Europeans: a white cockatoo from genus Cacatua. Many believe the bird was an umbrella cockatoo, but my reading of Frederick’s “De Arte Venandi cum Avibus” (Art of Falconry) leads to a different conclusion. Nowhere does Frederick provide any detail regarding his cockatoo that applies only to the umbrella cockatoo; details like white and having yellow under the wings applies to nearly all members of that genus. He does not even tell us if the bird had a recursive (curling away from the head) or a recumbent (crest laying flat against the head) crest nor are the illuminations in the book particularly detailed in that respect. So while many believe his cockatoo was an umbrella cockatoo, I don’t see enough in primary sources to identify exactly what kind of white cockatoo it was.
The story of companion birds in our lives is long and deeply entwined with our own histories, shaping our world in subtle ways few people understand. Yet these beautiful and special birds have, indeed, been part of our lives for millennia in symbiosis with us. For our fates and fortunes are deeply intertwined with theirs; when they suffer, so do we.

This story of birds in the middle ages has just began. But one thing is certain: we must stop poaching them from the wild, destroying their habitats, and mistreating them in our homes. Only then may we all find peace and harmony.

Mulling Over Wine: Three Favorite Recipes for Your Happy Holidays

Written December 12, 2012, this set of recipes for mulled wines is especially great for warming a cold winter’s day and for bringing holiday cheer.  But why wait until November to enjoy a delicious cup of wine?


Mulling Over Wine: Three Favorite Recipes for Your Happy Holidays

Classic Medieval Beverage Stands the Test of Time

 The holidays are here…along with the darkness of winter, biting cold winter storms, and frozen toes. It’s also a time of year when we look back on the year that was as we welcome a new year. In December, we celebrate Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, and Kwanza, typically in that order. It’s a festive time focused on spending time with family and friends; the gifts we might exchange are secondary, contrary to what a plethora of TV advertisements may tell us.For centuries, a critical part of spreading that holiday cheer has been a cup of warmed, spiced wine. Typically red, it can also be white, depending on personal preferences, and infused with any number of fragrant herbs and spices.

For me, three recipes really stand out among all the many mulled wine recipes you can find. The first recipe is medieval. It’s an example from 1660 with doubtless origins stretching back several centuries before it was written down. Unlike most recipes you’ll find on the web, this medieval recipe adds cream to the mix, something I don’t see very often, but really adds to the flavor of the wine. Second, it’s written for a large gathering — an entire GALLON of (red) wine. This makes it perfect for serving at historical re-enactments where typically at least 40 people are sitting at feast at any given time. Not hosting a yuletide event? No problem…just serve it at whatever festive gatherings you choose to host. I can tell you from experience that few things make you feel warmer or happier coming in from a brutal storm than a nice cup of hot or warm mulled wine. For parties, I suggest using a crock pot to prepare and serve the medieval recipe. Your guests will thank you for serving the wine at just the right temperature to drink right away!

The second recipe is a favorite of mine because of all the extra information I found along with it. But it’s also just a really nice, flavorful mulled wine choice. This version calls for three full liters of red wine; I usually make 1/4th of a recipe (one regular 750 ml bottle). It features cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg for a very classic taste that is palatable to almost anyone who enjoys red wine. Choose your favorite budget priced vintage for this one; the cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg add so much flavor that you don’t really need anything more pricy than $18 per bottle!

The final recipe, for mulled riesling, is my all time favorite. Like many people, I prefer lighter flavors; the tannins in reds just don’t agree with me as well as the lighter blushes and white wines do. For many people, white wines are also better tolerated, especially if a person takes prescription medications on a regular basis. But more than that, I love the combination of rosemary, honey, and lemon with riesling. Riesling is a very flavorful, light wine to begin with. Those flavors really come alive when you add rosemary, honey, and lemon to them. For someone with a refined palate especially, the combination is just spectacular! I love the nuances you get with this third and final recipe.
Medieval Recipe:

“1 gallon wine
3oz cinnamon
2oz ginger, sliced
1/4oz cloves
1oz mace
20 peppercorns
1oz nutmeg
3lb sugar
2qt cream

“Take a gallon of wine, three ounces of cinamon, two ounces of slic’t ginger, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of mace, twenty corns of pepper, an ounce of nutmegs, three pound of sugar, and two quarts of cream.”

In essence, mix all ingredients and heat slowly in a large pot. Serve warm. You can also let it ‘settle’ for a few days and serve it cool, depending on which way tastes better to you!”

Anything Wine’s Recipe:
3 Liters red wine (we use Merlot) but you can use something like a hearty burgundy also

· 8 sticks of cinnamon

· 32 cloves

· 3 cups sugar

· 1 cup lemon juice

· 1Tbs nutmeg

· 3 cups water

“Combine all of the above in a pot and bring to a low boil with the cover on. I put the nutmeg and cloves in a small bag for easy removal and strain out the cinnamon sticks with a spoon. Boil for ten minutes.”

Let stand overnight and then take out the spices. Serve warm!


Riesling Rosemary Mulled Wine1/2c water
1/2c sugar
2 Tbsp rosemary
1/4 cup honey
2 lemons
2 bottles riesling white wine

Simmer (but not boil) the water, sugar, rosemary, and honey for 10 minutes. Add in the wine . Peel the lemons and add in the peels. Let sit for a length of time to seep in the flavors, without boiling. Strain out the larger bits and serve warm.
No matter what your mulled wine indulgence is, these three recipes are absolutely certain to please. Whether your interest is in making a historically accurate beverage, a family favorite traditional mulled red wine, or in the delicate flavors of the mulled riesling, there is something for everyone with these mulled wine choices.As the weather grows colder yet and the snow falls once more, try a cup of warmed mulled wine at your next holiday party or celebration. Long before egg nog (an American invention), the holidays were filled with generous cups of hot/warm mulled wine. Discover the tradition and you’ll know why it’s been the beverage of holiday cheer for over one thousand years!

Flexible Isolation: Sound Absorption Options for Apartment Dwellers

One of my most popular articles on Yahoo Voices, this article looks at how we can better sound isolate our homes to make them quieter from our neighbors’ noise.


Flexible Isolation: Sound Absorption Options for Apartment Dwellers

These Sound Absorbing Options Make Apartment Tenants and Landlords Happy

July 4, 2013

If you’ve been listening to me on social media lately, you would think that the only thing going on in my life is my relentlessly loud and borderline sound-harassing next door neighbor. Growing up and living in cities, noise is nothing really all that new to me. Psychophysics tells us that women like myself tend to be more sensitive to noise than men. But over the course of my life, I’ve found that most neighbors (except for a few best described with profanity) usually will try to be nice and at least attempt to make things better.

So what do you do when talking to your neighbor is just not enough, when a discourse on the physics of sound and the impact on the human body of low frequency noise (LFN) reaches deaf (perhaps literally as well as figuratively) ears?

There’s lots of advice out there, most of it absurdly expensive. Most of the advice and products out there are for keeping your noise in, not absorbing structurally-transmitted sounds caused from without.

Here are some things I’ve found that I’m hoping will work for me – when I can afford to do more of them:

  1. Use a sound absorbing rug pad under your rugs and any new carpeting you lay down.

Carpeting seems to be one of the best ways to absorb sound. The thicker the rug, the better. Rugs and carpets can get pricey, of course, and by themselves may do nothing for your problem if they are low pile (read that, economical). Fortunately, there are sound absorbing rug pads that protect your apartment’s hard wood floor and are designed to reduce that structural noise – both what you transmit (walking, a/c, TV, music, etc.) and what others transmit to you. Check out the selection ofhigh density Jute felt rug pads at Rug Pad corner. What I like about Rug Pad Corner is they can cut your rug pad to whatever size your particular rug happens to be. So if you find a great deal on a 6 foot by 8 foot, 9 inches rug, you can still get the pad cut to fit without additional cost.

2. Try sound absorbing “vibration isolation feet” for your bed, couch, bird cage, or other piece of furniture that sits on casters that you do not need to move around much. Needle doctor has several sizes, based on weight, sold individually. Use size 5 for any furniture weighing more than about 50 lbs.

3. Sound absorbing “Quiet Barrier” is rubber/foam sheeting specifically designed to reduce noise transmission between rooms and apartments. Apply on the ceilings, walls, and floors. There is one big downside to the quiet barrier: cost! A 4 x 8 foot sheet is over $60 before shipping with a 30 feet roll costing over $250!

These three options seem to be the best and most economical for apartment dwellers, especially as they do not involve altering the apartment unit itself. Do they work as well as ripping up the floors to apply sound absorbing foam or filling drywall with sound absorbing materials? NO! But then again, odds are really good your landlord won’t let you re-model your apartment for sound anyway.


Finally, there is a lot of support for wall to wall carpeting, especially thick carpeting paired with the jute carpet pad mentioned earlier. The more your home is carpeted, the more sound-resistant it will be. Concrete floors, bare wood stairs, and hard wood floors by their nature sound the loudest. Finally, when searching for your next apartment, look for and ask about these simple measures. Landlords can be flexible and reasonable once asked. I have known many friends in New York City who petitioned for and receivable approval to carpet their apartments – generally at their own expense – but with really good results. Not only are their thickly carpeted apartments more pleasant to walk on, but they really are quieter than hard wood floor homes!


Bon chance in your quest for a quieter home.