Apr 30, 2012

April Giveaway Winner

The winner of the April giveaway - the book "The Voice of Knowlege" is....

Ellen!

Congratulations!  I'll email you right away.

And to the rest - I wish you a happy May Eve, Walpurgisnaught & Beltane.  Get yourself up to a little mischief tonight!

Cheers!








Apr 23, 2012

The Ultimate Recycler


There was an episode of Thorn Coyle’s Elemental Castings a while back, where she interviewed someone who spoke of psychopomps and who specifically mentioned jackals.  I wish I could remember the exact episode and the guest.  The conversation, of course, was in relation to the Egyptian god Anubis (Anpu) who was a god of the underworld.  As the popularity of Osirus as underworld god rose, Anubis was later relegated to transition work such as embalming/mummification and overseeing the weighing of the heart against the feather of Ma’at.  The guiding of human souls to the scales of Ma’at was attributed to both him and his brother Wepwawet.

Thorn’s guest said something about jackals which has stuck with me since I heard the episode that day.  She said that jackals eat that which no other animal can find use in.  Long after the carnivores have finished their meals, the jackal, with its fantastical digestive system, can consume and process decay and turn it into energy.

As someone who had for most of their life felt damaged, this was a profound moment.  The thought that something out there could take the most broken, ruined parts of me and turn them into something useful was astonishing.

I could blame religion or a sensitive disposition or a brutally critical parent for my belief that I was wrong in some way and all those things have a seed of truth in them, but at some point the belief became mine and I nurtured it.  I understood as I grew older, that I wasn’t really broken.  I wasn’t damaged in some un-repairable way.  But it takes a while to loose a root that deep.  It was a fortunate day, almost two years ago, when he showed up and started digging.

He first appeared as a rather large presence standing behind me in meditation.  There was a considerable sense of protection.  His calm demeanor and substance were comforting.  I was immediately enamoured.

Since then, I’ve had lessons on death and transition and rebirth.  Lessons on repurposing that which seems unusable.  Lessons on letting go.  I understand now that I am not broken.

Those parts of me that I let decay are now being reborn, and those that I will not use again are being recycled into something new.

Hail the jackal - the ultimate recycler!



Apr 22, 2012

April Giveaway -


First of all - thank you to all who commented on the last post.  It always makes me feel slightly less crazy when others offer similar stories.  I appreciate all the wonderful comments and insights.

Today I have a day off and I'm on my way outside to tour the backyard and see what's popped up in the gardens and lawn in the last two days while I've had to work indoors.  This time of year, so much is blooming and popping up in the perennial bed.  The late Winter peas I planted are about three inches tall now and I need to pick up some more fencing for them.  There is much to do and observe and I could just sit out there all day and soak in the delicious Spring energy.

Also - if my explosion of freckles is any indication - it's time for sunscreen too.

In the meantime, lets get to the April giveaway!  This book, by Don Miguel Ruiz (author of The Four Agreements) gets wonderful reviews from everyone I talk to who has read it.  I have a copy on my bookshelf, but I've not gotten to it yet.  I'm knee deep in gardening tomes and herb and medicinal plant books at the moment (and for the foreseeable future.)

If you'd like your own copy of "The Voice of Knowledge" all you have to do is leave a comment and be a friend of the blog in some capacity.  Follow in one of the many ways on the sidebar - whatever way floats your boat.  I'll also pop some extra goodies in the parcel when it goes out to the winner.  I'll draw the name (random number generator is how I roll these days) on April 30th and contact the winner, so make sure that there is a way for me to contact you.

Good luck!


Apr 20, 2012

You Are Not A Pagan

I’m not sure how the conversation started…something about an uncle who likes to proselytize.  I mentioned that if he ever found out I was a Pagan, I’d be the new black sheep in the family.  To which, my mother said: “You are NOT a Pagan.”

“But, I am Pagan,” I said.
“No you’re not,” she replied.

I was a taken aback.  I was sure my mother knew I was Pagan.  We’d had conversations about witchcraft, plant and herb magic, folk traditions.  

My friends, bosses and my local metaphysical community know I’m Pagan.  Although I don’t talk about my spirituality with my extended family, as most of them are pastors and deacons in their churches, I had been sure my mother understood my path.  It didn’t occur to me that I hadn’t been clear.  And then I thought, what if I’m not clear, myself?

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you might have noted that it is rather eclectic.  My interests are fairly all-encompassing.  Myth, folklore, herbalism, witchcraft, Native American culture, gardening, farmers markets, travel, Kemet, Hoodoo, kitties, camping, seasons, celebrations, movies, yoga and chickens.  Theses are just a few of the things that flicker in and out of my mind, teasing me and sending me running to read more books and try new recipes and find more blogs to subscribe to.

I was diverse at birth.  Wandering and having my interest peaked all over the place is in my genes.  I have Ukrainian/Roma/German blood on my mother’s side where there resides a rather colourful story about my great-grandfather the con-man/gigolo.  On my father’s Scottish/Welsh/English side, there were some charming sheep-thieves and pirates in the family.  Oh, sorry - they called them “privateers.”  (Which is just a nice name for pirates.)

I grew up spending half of my weekends running through the woods up the hill from our home and the other half of my weekends were spent in a car, just driving wherever my father felt like taking us.  We were always going somewhere or doing something.  There was no room for being bored.  

I took an interest in growing things when I was eleven.  My grandmother was living on a large piece of land with an orchard on one portion of it and a wonderful stretch of garden on the other.  I started my gardening life weeding between her rows of veggies.  Back-breaking work in a garden that size, but I was hooked from that moment on.

It really shouldn’t have been a surprise for me that I would visit my pastor so many years later and tell him that I just wasn’t finding god in church.  In the hills, the garden, by the river and in the eyes of my nieces and the love of my dog, yes.  But not at my church.  

“Perhaps your church isn’t a building,” he said.  And that statement changed my life.

I’m sure he didn’t mean for me to leave Christianity all together.  And yet…

I left the church fairly quickly after that - ten years ago now - but it would be a couple years before I figured out where I was headed.  

I think I’m still figuring it out.  I use the word “Pagan” because it ties me to a certain community of belief systems that resonate with me.  But the word doesn’t necessarily feel right all the time.  Same with the word “witch” - it conjures a certain feeling, but to some that feeling is wisdom or comfort and to some that feeling is fear.  Part of the problem is, I’ve always shunned labels.  I’m having a hard time finding one that fits me now.

The word “eclectic” is a dirty word in Paganism.  It’s indicative of someone who picks and chooses belief systems, gods and practices with no regard to cultural propriety.  But what about those of us who have a genuine interest in many different subjects, societies and crafts?  I took two years of fairly structured Wicca training and enjoyed it, but it was very difficult for me to train myself to forget the more free-flowing way I practiced, and focus on a more rigid approach.  Now I’m back in the dirt and the rocks and the green and touching and tasting everything with little regard to structure.

I like the word “liminal.”  It speaks of a threshold.  And I feel this way.  And this word feels good.  But how long can you be on a threshold before you must go through it one way or the other.  I’d like to be a Liminalist (which is not a word - except that I just made it one.)  But again - how long could you be a Liminalist before you would have to move?  You cannot always stay ‘in-between,’ can you?  And yet…  I’ve always felt ‘in-between.’  I think that is part of what draws people to Paganism.  Feeling like they don’t quite fit in the other places.  Not quite here.  Or there.

So here I am, wondering how right my poor mother is.  My beliefs have not changed.  This is not a dark night of the soul.  But I do believe a large part of her struggle today was with the word “Pagan.”  And I think I may have to do something about that, because I’m struggling with it a little too.  It’s an easy word to use inside our own community, but does it really paint an accurate picture of who I am and how I practice outside the coven/online groups/conventions and festivals?  I don’t know.

I’ll ponder a while in this liminal space.  And when it’s time to cross that threshold, I will.



Apr 18, 2012

Tincturing



Tinctures are a wonderful way to experience herbal medicine, but buying tinctures at the store can be expensive. Why not make your own?

You can create your own tinctures using fresh or dried plant material. Some herbalists insist on only using fresh plants, believing that medicines and energy are lost in the drying process, while others maintain that using dried plants for tinctures are better than not tincturing at all. You will have to decide what works for you.

For a tincture, you will need:

~80-100 proof vodka or rum ("Proof" is determined by doubling the percentage. So, 40 percent alcohol is 80 proof.)
~Clean, sterilized jar with lid
~Plant material
~Cheesecloth or unbleached cotton cloth
~Dose/dropper bottles

*Please note: if you cannot imbibe small amounts of alcohol, you can use water or vinegar, but these will then be called “extracts.”

If you are using fresh plant material, fill your jar with the plant (but don’t stuff or press down) and then fill the jar with the alcohol. If you are using dried material, use about an ounce of plant to a pint (or approx 500 ml) of alcohol. To eyeball it - fill jar about 1/3 with plant material. I’ve heard of people filling a jar with considerably more than that - but you will find what works for you.

Make sure your alcohol completely covers your herbs/plants. If there is some evaporation, add more alcohol. You don’t want to encourage mould or bacterial growth.

Shake your bottle daily for the first week or two, and then shake weekly. Allow this to sit for six weeks, or longer if using dried plant material. If you are using dried plants, the longer you leave it sit, the better.

When you are ready to bottle your tincture, strain it through the cheesecloth and place in dropper bottles and label. Store in a cool, dark place and your tinctures should last years.

A few great plants to tincture include:

Echinacea
St. John’s Wort
Skullcap
Dandelion

Tinctures can be taken under your tongue or diluted in water or juice. Dosages can be anywhere from 3-30 drops 1-3 times a day. If you are unsure how much of your tincture to use, do a quick search online, consult a herbalist or check out Susun Weed’s website or books for great herbal information.

Happy tincturing!

Apr 14, 2012

What Luck


How was your Friday the 13th? 

Mine was rather lucky!  I've always had a fondness for the number 13 and how can you not love Friday with all that Venus energy attracting good things to you.

I had a fortunate day harvesting dandelion blossoms.  I tried drying them for the first time because I wanted to use them later for tea, and they turned out perfectly.  And I swear, when I looked around the yard, I have more dandelion, red clover, plantain and chickweed than I thought was in residence.  It's like they've all sprung up overnight as a result of my eagerness to harvest and use them in salads, salves and teas.  Manifestation at its finest!

And on top of a lovely morning in the yard and garden, I found out that I won a card reading by Cory over at New World Witchery!  If you are a podcast listener at all, this one is a must.  Cory and Laine discuss folklore, superstitions and magical practices as well as offering occasional storytelling episodes that feature wonderful old folk tales.  Also, the blog has fabulous resource pages that list research they have done on a large number of topics such as magical systems, ingredients and techniques.  Can you tell I'm a fan?


And my luck this week wasn't limited to the 13th.  I might chalk some of this luck up to the mojo I've been working.  It is my first go at a traditional hand rather than just doing some simple herb or candle work and forgetting about it.  It feels a bit like a first date, in fact.  But a great introduction, it has been.  I received a cheque that I was hoping for, but didn't really think I would get.  I was also offered some extra work and sold some of my herbal sprays.  The purse has been padded this week!

For some information about what a mojo or hand is, here is a link to the Lucky Mojo's page that explains some of the terms associate with these items.**  And to circle back to New World Witchery, here is their page on a list of different mojos for success.

One last tidbit about Friday the 13th - there are three this year.  The next one is in 13 weeks.  And the last one is 13 weeks after that.  Lucky?  I think so!



**Please note that although I do not agree with the creator of Lucky Mojo, Cat Yronwode's commentary surrounding the SOPA issue (google it if you don't know what I mean,) her website has an impressive amount of information on it.  My recommendation of her site's information is in no way a statement of support for her statements of late.


Images on this post are from stock xchnge.

Apr 11, 2012

Rewriting Stereotypes

Magaly over at Pagan Culture is having an anniversary party for her blog, entitled "Sexy, Dark & Bloody Fiction."  Her goal?  To re-write witchy stereotypes in fiction in whatever way the contributors imagine. 

Here is my take on Hansel & Gretel:


Once upon a time, there was a great famine in the Village.  A poor woodcutter and his wife did not know how they were going to feed their children and so after much discussion, it was agreed that the children would go out into the forest to try to snare a bird or rabbit, while the woodcutter and his wife went to work cutting wood.

The children, wanting to be sure they knew the way home, left pebbles to mark their path, but dusk came quickly and they stumbled in the twilight and could not see the way home.  They made a bed of leaves and grasses and decided to stay the night in the forest, rather than become more lost and cold.

The next morning, the children awoke to find that they were outside the sprawling gardens of a most fascinating house.  Vines grew over the home and raspberry and blackberry canes stretched up the side of the building, full of fat, juicy fruit.  The children, being famished, began to eat the sweet berries off the side of the house.


Their mouths were full and stained purple and red, when a woman came around the corner and startled them.  She was wispy and tall, with long wild hair that was tied back from her face with a piece of twine.  She smiled when she saw the hungry children and offered them her harvest basket, but the children just looked at her with confusion.

Realizing that these must be townsfolk who weren't used to growing and foraging their own food, the wild woman set to teaching the children about growing plants for food and medicine.  She taught them the joy of harvesting in the forest as well as growing plants at home in any space that you had - even if you had to grow plants up the sides of your house!

She also taught the children about the joys of creating teas and using herbs for crafting cleaners...and even a little magic.


After spending a few days with the wise woman, the children made their way home with their new found knowledge and several baskets of herbs, roots, flowers and vegeteables.  They told their parents of their adventures and the wild woman who taught them about the magic of plants.  And although they never saw the woman again, they shared their knowledge with the people of the Village, and the townspeople never went hungry or without medicine (or magic) again!

The End



*Thanks and Happy Blog-iversary to Magaly!

**Photos in this post are linked to the websites where I found them.

Apr 10, 2012

This Week In The Garden

I've been yard-harvesting for almost two weeks now.  I've harvested as much dandelion root as I could but once dried, it doesn't look like much.  My hands, lower back and legs would protest the meagre harvest, but they are all too tired to complain.  I noted (and promptly picked) three dandelion blossoms today, so I have to say that the root harvesting is over until the Autumn.  All that energy is being sent up into blooms now, which I'll happily pick all summer in the hopes of making some syrup, infused oil and hopefully some wine too!

I also picked some plantain today, some common mallow, and some of the chickweed shown below for a nice healing salve for my already worn-out hands. I love that there are so many great plants just sitting in the yard, waiting to be found!



Shabby phone-quality pics aside, I'm excited to capture the return of the perennials!  Here is a fancy yarrow that blooms a gorgeous orange-red:


This rather obscene-looking mess is rhubarb returning.  I have a love-hate relationship with it.  I find it brutish and bitter, but my mother makes the most amazing rhubarb muffins with a brown sugar topping that makes it worth putting up with this monstrosity.


This is a pot of vervain vigorously growing.  I honestly thought I'd lose all my potted herbs this Winter, but the vervain and the evening primrose seem to be pretty hardy.  The vervain didn't bloom last year (I grew it from seed, sown straight into the pot) so I hope I get some pretty blue flowers this Summer!



This is not a plant.  This is Dexter, who has planted himself in the sink.


I didn't take pictures of the miniscule peas and radishes that have popped up in the veggie beds, but I am terribly happy to see them.  With the snow/rain/sun/frost we've been having, I was getting worried about the seeds I had planted. 

It seems like the weather has finally shifted and we are finally coming into a proper Spring!

Apr 5, 2012

Spring's Roots and Shoots


I've been out wandering as much as possible lately.  It leaves little time for blogging, but it is so good for the spirit.  My heart is still weary (has it been 3 weeks already since my dear kitty has moved on?)  But I seem to find respite in the yard and the meagre offerings of the gardens and walking the path by the river.

The buds are fattening up nicely, although the snow is still teasing us on the hills.  The weather fluctuates from moment to moment these days and so it's more than likely that I'll awake to snow flakes, have a sunny morning to dig around the yard and then experience a cloudy and cool afternoon. 

Frost on the Oregon Grape


The bounty of Spring has been a blessing.  I've been eating fresh chives for a few weeks now, as well as chickweed and digging dandelion roots to dry for tea.  Here's a great post by DJ Martin about the joy of dandelions.


I've also received some Sweet Flag Root (also known as Bitterroot or Calamus) and found a wonderful write up about it here. I've been chewing on it for a few days now and I was telling a friend that it has this lovely "gold-panning" effect on my mind. Instead of the usual non-stop banter skipping from one thing to the next, no matter how irrelevant, my mind seems to slow down and only the important things float to the surface. All the nattering seems to sink to the bottom. I imagine this might be why this root is valued for use in anti-anxiety work.

I'm really falling in love with roots these days!

I hope your April has begun nicely.  For those that are celebrating Holy Week, I wish you blessings.  For those who are merely grabbing a chocolate bunny and getting down to business - I'm right beside you!