Keeping myself healthy during the Winter is always an ongoing project. I'm a hibernator by nature, so when the weather turns cold and grey, I'd rather huddle indoors than venture out. All the more reason to get out for a walk each day - even if that means wearing ten layers to stay warm! The brisk air is a great tool for enlivening my energy, and there is nothing better than a little time outdoors to help me make it through the long, dark season until Spring arrives and I can have my hands in the dirt again.
As cozy as our homes are in the cold months, they can become dry, stale environments in no time when the heat is on, and the windows are closed. Consider opening your windows once each day, even for a few minutes, to circulate some fresh air through the house.
To combat the dry, heated air indoors, get yourself a humidifier. Or even better - save some energy and hang your wet laundry above heating vents and in front of fireplaces (a safe distance, of course!) The radiating heat will dry your clothes and release moisture into the air.
And don't forget to give yourself a bit of extra moisture too. Drink plenty of water, give yourself a steam facial with a few drops of eucalyptus oil to open your sinuses or drop some flowers or essential oils in a foot bath and enjoy the relaxing soak.
This drawing-inward time of year is a great time to get back to your meditation practice. Why not rid yourself of some of that post-holiday stress, and do your heart and mind some good. If you are new to meditation, get yourself a guided cd to help you ease into it, or simply check out YouTube for some easy ten minute meditations to get you started.
This is a great time of year to boost your immune system too. Get vitamins, minerals and antioxidants by eating plenty of root vegetables. Easily found during the Winter, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnip and other root veggies offer a dose of goodness while the gardens are sleeping. Supplement with herbs and spices to keep your system warm and happy. Add some Turmeric to your chicken and rice dishes for it's anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Sprinkle some Cayenne pepper on your omelette and make your circulatory system very happy!
Now is the time to use those herbs you dried this Summer in a healing tea. My current favourite is a simple blend of Nettle (aids kidney & liver function,) Rosehips (high in vitamin C) and Red Clover (aids in women's health & blood circulation.)
Although the light is returning, those of us in Northern or seasonal climates still have the cold to contend with. So give yourself a little extra TLC this Winter and sail through the dark months with ease. Oh - and don't forget to nap! The bears know the benefit of this Winter activity, and it's a soothing treat we rarely give ourselves. Indulge, and enjoy the Winter.
*All photos on this post except the first photo, courtesy of Stock.Xchng - free stock photos.
The winner of the book "Energy Essentials for Witches and Spellcasters" and the Rider-Waite tarot deck is....
Please email me your address to: rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com. I'll send your parcel out after the holiday weekend. Congrats!
I had a very busy Yule, both on the 21st and 22nd and as the holiday blends into the more secular celebration of gift-giving and eating far too much food, I will be heading over to my parents' house for more preparations and celebrating. I hope that those who observe had a wonderful Yule! It was also the start of Hanukkah. Blessings, and Shalom to those who celebrate the Jewish season of light!
I also wanted to thank all of you who responded to my last post. I've long had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the holidays. Your replies put a smile on my face. You rock. Really.
Blessings to all, heading into these hectic few days!
Okay, honestly? I'm ten kinds of done with the holidays and just barely hanging on here. Thank the gods I have comic relief of the furry kind, because otherwise you'd be hearing a report that a girl in Canada went crazy and tied the mall Santa to the hood of her car and drove South to find warmer weather with an entire squad of police cruisers trailing her.
Dexter gets into every possible thing and makes me forget my Santa-napping visions:
Daisy politely sits in any box she can find.
One perfect kitty paw is better than any present wrapped in too much tape.
Ahhh, that's better! Insanity averted. For now.
I hope your holiday preparations are going smoothly and you are finding ways to stop and enjoy the process. I've not figured it out this year, but I still have a few days left. If I can't find "the spirit" - you'll simply find me with a rum & eggnog in hand, hiding under the tree with the cats.
Part of my commitment to myself in 2012 is "going back to basics." I heard several bloggers and podcasters this year (in the Pagan community) talk about "doing the stuff." Their goal for 2011 was to observe the wheel of the year, the esbats & sabbats and to commit to truly connecting to their practice. Well, I've been doing the stuff!
This month marks the completion (when I get my homework handed in) of my second year of study with The Temple of Witchcraft. I've truly enjoyed the experience, and the in-depth look into my own personal practice, my beliefs and my magick. But I'm exhausted! Esbats, sabbats, planetary associations and hours, potion and incense crafting, spells, rituals, solitary vs coven work, and on and on... It has been endlessly fascinating and a wonderful experience and I highly recommend Christopher Penczak's "Temple" series of books and the courses if you are so inclined.
For me, I'll be taking 2012 off from active study and re-connecting with the basics. I've already had a head start, meeting with a small group every two weeks, and discussing beginner topics and basic energy work. A few of us are going to a basic meditation class (middle Eastern style) and I plan to take some time to practice the Tarot more in-depth and continue to work on my herbal studies. I'm hardly resting, but choosing to be drawn in deeper to those things that form the foundation of my beliefs.
As a treat to encourage your own exploration of the basics, I'm offering a "Back to Basics" giveaway, which includes a wonderful book on basic energy work by Maya Om:
And the classic beginner's Tarot deck, the Rider-Waite Tarot.
As always, all you have to do to win this great duo is leave a comment on this post, and be a friend of the blog in some capacity: be a follower by clicking "follow" in the sidebar, friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, subscribe via RSS feed or email. Whatever works for you!
I'll draw for this set in one week, on Friday, December 23rd! Good luck!
I took another trip back to the woods this past weekend (in the Valley - it's a short trip.) We took our semi-yearly excursion to find a tree for my parents' home. While there are plenty of arguments for and against using real trees (why kill a perfectly good tree/the fake trees clog landfills and cannot be recycled,) we feel that our location and local facilities are conducive to harvesting a live tree.
Our area is richly forested, and re-planted with seedlings each year by the local forestry workers. We also have a community program run by the local fire department and community agriculture department. The fire department accepts cut trees, with a donation that goes to procuring new equipment for the department, and the trees get chipped to provide mulch for city gardens and flowerbeds.
Please know, that I do understand that some people do not agree with cutting a live tree for ANY reason, regardless of the re-use of that tree later. This is simply my own practice.
That being said, tree hunting is not an easy task. Live trees do not look like the ones you buy in a store. They look a lot more like Charlie Brown's famous tree. Tree hunting makes you feel a bit like Goldilocks too.
The most important thing about tree hunting is the food!
My niece shows us how it's done:
Don't forget the marshmallows!
I feel very grateful to live in an area, where the woods are a short drive, the seasons are gorgeous (if not particularly cold this time of year,) and there is always something lovely to discover.
"There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of cold roast, and there was a great piece of cold boiled, and there were mince-pies, and other good cheer."
For my part in The Witches Yuletide Ball blog party, I'm going to read you a story... Well...bits of a story. Because this is a tale you should read yourself. Preferrably snuggled in under a blanket and sipping a hot cocoa.
If you've been following my blog for any length of time and happened by here at Yule, you'll no doubt have heard me sing the praises of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Reading this story is a yearly ritual for me, ever since I happened upon this worn treasure at a flea market about a dozen years ago.
Oh sure, I had seen the movie adaptations. The original is a classic and a must-see, although I'm rather partial to the Muppets version with Michael Cain as Scrooge. But this story truly stole my heart when I read that old English prose with my nose in a tattered old school book.
The book bears a copyright of 1915 inside and has a handwritten note on the first page that says "Norman Latimer Grade 7." I wonder if Norman enjoyed this story as much as I do.
One of my many favourite paragraphs is this one, when the second spirit takes Scrooge out into the town on Christmas day and he witnesses the abundance of the season:
"The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish friars, and winking from the shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe."
"Apoplectic" means "intense enough to threaten or cause apoplexy" (apoplexy is a stroke.) There are pages in this story of such description, especially in respect to the second, rather robust, spirit's visit that are apoplectic themselves. The text is dreamy and delicious and just reading it makes me hungry!
I decided that I should have my own little bit of apoplectic opulence in honour of the blog party. I suppose chestnuts and Spanish onions would have been healthier than wine, jelly beans, caramel corn, chocolate and spiced pecans, but a girl's got to make do!
And here is a recipe, for the "Negus" that you see listed in the foods in the first quote at the top of the post. Although Negus is a name for Egyptian royalty, in this case, it's a hot drink made with port and lemons.
1 bottle of port
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup boiled water
freshly grated nutmeg
Heat the port on the stove, but do not let it boil. Peel the lemon carefully and add the peel (outer peel only, not the white pith) to the port. Juice the lemon and add the juice. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Remove from heat and remove lemon peel (strain, if necessary.) Add the cup of boiling water and stir well. Serve with freshly grated nutmeg on top!
"He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure."
Just as Scrooge found pleasure in all the sights of the season, I hope you too, will find pleasure this Yule, Hanukkah or Christmas, or whatever celebration you participate in!
"His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him."
I have to laugh as I look around the kitchen tonight. Everywhere I look, there is something brewing. A bowl of mixed herbs sits on the counter, waiting to be bagged and delivered to two ladies who want a little herbal power when they sweep.
In a make-shift burner of a leaf-shaped bowl held over a tea light, a water-based potion infuses for a house blessing I'm going to tomorrow.
For those that care to know, each herb was chosen for it's association with "purification." Each element was represented:
Earth - Vervain
Air - Lavender
Fire - Tobacco
Water - chamomile
Plus a pinch of sage for cleansing & a pinch of sea salt for protection.
(Of course, correspondences vary - the associations in one book may differ from another, and what says "Air" to me, may not to you.)
The infusion will be strained and bottled and used to annoint doorways and windows.
Over on the stove, a pot holds multiple herbs infusing in oil. This will be strained and beeswax added and bottled for use on Winter-weary skin.
The kitchen smells of rose petals and lavender, beeswax and chamomile. The flickering candles send dancing shapes across the walls and Beau-the-cat is riveted.
I've blended, blessed and bottled, and now I think all these divine scents and lovely energy are directing me...straight to bed!
Each year, on the last Friday night in November, a village in the Valley has a light up celebration in the center of town. I've missed the light up the last four years, three of which I've been *blush* Black Friday shopping across the border in Washington State, and one year I was in Mexico.
Foregoing the big, commercial aspect of the holidays this year, I'm staying local and participating in the smaller celebrations (and giving smaller, handmade gifts.) This light up was a nice start to the season for me.
I love this little town! All the buildings in the main area of town are required to have an old English 'look' to them. Not surprisingly, there's a very busy Fish & Chip place here! Wandering around town were carolers and a town crier, who were all dressed in Victorian garb. And then there was this guy...
I had seen him walk by a few times, and then finally had to stop him when we happened to be in the same shop. It turns out that his daughter made this sweater for him. She knitted it and added all the decorations. He was a very proud dad!
One of the most important stops at any street fair or festival - the mini donut van! These hot, sugary, cinnamon-y donuts were bliss!
The ATV club was also there and they were pulling a barrel train of happy kids. They went whizzing by a few times, so all I could get was a blurry shot!
Also a bit blurry, but I couldn't resist, is a picture of a statue I saw while walking back to the car. She seems to be a goddess of abundance. I'm going to have to come back there in the daylight to get a better look!
This weekend there is much to do in my town. A Santa Claus parade, a Yule meditation gathering and more. I'm not sure how much I'll get in, but I'll see where the weekend takes me!
I walk by the river as often as I can, because it's a beautiful path that I never get tired of. There is always something to see, a new bird to spot (even though I'm not a birder and have no clue what I'm looking at,) or a wildflower or plant to try to identify. But sometimes...I feel the need to get up higher than the Valley floor, so I took off for an hour on the weekend, and headed up into the hills.
We've been fortunate this year, so far. We had a brief snow in early November, but it has mostly melted except at the higher elevations. I didn't get too far up the hill before I was seeing pockets of snow, but there was none on the road to hinder my drive. I can't tell you how lucky I feel to live in a place where I can drive 5 minutes up the road and be on my way into the woods!
While wandering I spotted this very Fey tree. I'm not sure why this Fir decided to throw a curve in it's trunk, but it looks neat! It was also offering up some lovely resin (just a few tears) which I collected and then left my own offering. I think there will be a very small batch of woodsy incense in my future!
Speaking of incense, I wanted to share my Yule incense recipe. I like it so much that I'm going to make a huge batch this weekend so that I have plenty to burn over the Winter.
2 parts Fir needles (you could use pine, but I like fir for my Yule tree.)
1 part clove
1 part frankincense
1 part myrrh
5 star anise seeds
½ part amber resin
I find that the frankincense, myrrh and amber help the incense to stick, but you could add a bit of honey as a binding ingredient if you wanted it more chunky - just make sure you give it time to dry completely.
Burn on a charcoal disk on a heat-safe bowl or plate and enjoy!
I hope you find time during this busy season to take a walk in your area, and enjoy what the Winter has to offer!