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Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

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My old herbal stash. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019

In what seems like a never-ending quest to better organize our small home, I decided an herbal cleanse was in order. I mean that very literally in that it was time go through my old trunk of herbs and sundry. I’ve learned over the years that there is an optimal way to store dried plants. They also lose potency, especially if you intend to use them as food, drink, or medicine.

As a younger Druid-in-training, I had so much to learn. I frequently bought interesting baggies of herbs at metaphysical shops. I had a favorite stall at the Sterling Renaissance festival, and I tried to buy one or two samples every year. I clung to these purchases like talismans of witch cred. Simply having them made me feel more magical, at least for a moment. I seldom did anything with the herbs. I occasionally made an herbal sachet or dream pillow, but most accumulated in the trunk. Even as I grew, however humbly, in my Druidry, folk magic, and herbal know-how, the trunk has followed me around. An item of nostalgia.

Until a few days ago.

I went through it, examining each specimen, remembering where I obtained it. Some were from witchcraft shops no longer in existence. Some came from my very first herb garden. There were rose petals from a young man I kissed one summer long ago. Oak leaves picked up and crushed… because I never had any of those trees where I grew up, so I collected whenever I could.

I put many of the ancient herbs in my compost pile. It seemed appropriate to return these dead plants to the Earth. They can help me grow new herbs in the future. As I worked, I developed a composting prayer:

 

Stem to soil
Bark to brown
Wilt to worms
Break it down! 

 

(I did put a few herbs in the fire pit which was probably not the best idea as they made a lot of smoke at first!)

I did keep a few things: plants that, now that we’re reacquainted, truly are appropriate for talismans rather than consuming. I have some mistletoe, which is steeped in lore, and is not something I’ve encountered in my own surroundings before. I also have a dried fly agaric which I’m very fond of. I rediscovered some chunks of dragons blood purchased at a shop in Salem, MA, and I even have a baggie of shed Arctic fox fur (an animal sanctuary sold little samples of it as a way to raise funds). I mean… you never know when you’ll need these things, right?!

As someone who converted to a polytheistic path over several years, it can be fascinating, humbling, and hilarious to look back at my journey. I prefer keeping my herbs in glass jars now, though I do need to improve my usage and not horde them so much. I also strive to grow or forage for most of what I utilize, but I’m not above buying a hard-to-find specimen from a trusted source who ethically harvests plants.

Do any of you have old herbs stashed away in baggies, forgotten or horded for some unknown purpose? Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate how you work with herbs and do your own herbal cleanse!

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The Plant Spirit challenge starts May 1st, and I’m so excited to take part. You can read bios from all the hosts, including me! This is kind of a big deal to me because it marks a transition. I tend to avoid putting my face and name out there in connection to my religion, but I’m reaching a crossroads.

I’ve been working on a novel, and I’m planning to attend a writers conference in June all about publishing, query letters, literary agents, etc. I’m not sure what will become of it all, but needless to say I’m getting serious about sharing my story. With that comes a question of identity.

I’ve been using my online pen name for a long time, but would I actually want to publish under that name? And yet, my story is about contemporary Pagans. Am I ready to put myself out there using my legal name? Furthermore, I still retain the long-term goal of becoming a clergyperson in my religion. Such individuals must use their legal name, to some degree, for various reasons within ADF. So, I’m following the footsteps of S. H. Hinton and JK Rowling. It feels safer. The bio linked above also includes a photo of my face, but it’s darkened by the hood of my winter coat and the forest canopy. Also a safe transition for me.

I don’t think I’ll officially change my blog bio, twitter, instagram, etc, yet. Consider this a stepping stone. Hagstone Publishing is giving me an opportunity to experiment with sharing this info.

I’m excited to take part in the Plant Spirit Ally challenge! I’m writing with some amazing practitioners and artists. Please check them out!

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Time for another edition of the 30 Days Magical Roots Challenge!  I’m trying not to go out of my mind while I wait for details on the closing.  I’ve always heard that moving is one of the most stressful ordeals, and I believe it because it’s been that way in the past.  But buying a house on top of moving takes the cake.

Day 7 – Yoga Pose

I enjoy many yoga poses.  Tree pose feels very Druidic, and it’s a great way to impress kids, but my absolute favorite is child’s pose.  It is my go-to for grounding, so I’ve already touched on this a bit.  When sending energy back into the Earth after a devotional or spellwork, it feels essential for me to get right down and rest on the Mother.  I haven’t taken an actual yoga class in months, but my favorite moments are entering this post and sitting there for several minutes.  I swear, if I could stop time, I would just to stay a bit longer…

Day 8 – Meditation

No matter how many guided meditations I experience, I always go back to the Two-Powers / Tree Meditations, and simply visiting my inner grove.  They are basic, foundational meditations, but they are essential to my practice.  I can always tailor them to my needs – whether it’s solo or group work, seasonal, energy work, or moving into a trance.  They are good places to start, and a safe base camp for trance.  If I’m away from my altar, I always have my inner grove.  Everything I need is there, really.

Day 9 – Daily Practices

Much of what I’ve already written about for this challenge encompasses my daily practice.  Unless I’m ill or something has disrupted my routine, I start each day in a similar way.  My devotional consists of sitting before my altar, lighting a candle, and filling a bowl with water.  I wave my hand over the flame and touch the water.  I also touch my wand or another representation of the tree.  I’ll usually do a Two Powers meditation which then moves into shielding through the Druid Egg.  I make offerings to the Three Kindred, and say prayers of gratitude.  I may ask for help in some way.
I will then say a divination prayer before shuffling and pulling my daily card from the Druid Animal Oracle deck.  I will briefly reflect on this, give thanks, and ground.

Day 10 – Herb/Plant/Tree

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Mugwort smudge wand – Grey Catsidhe, 2016

I feel very blessed to have mugwort growing in my garden.  I know many other witches and Druids who would love some (although they all seem to have stashes of nettle or comfrey).  Someone saw fit to introduce me to mugwort, so I am working with her.  I want to get to know her better, and this is the time for it.  She’s grown quite tall, but she has not produced flowers yet.  Once she does, I will harvest some of her for later workings.  I made smudge wands last year, and will likely make more.  According to Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, mugwort is traditionally used on the Isle of Man for purification.  On the practical side, many small, annoying flies dislike it.  I also want to experiment with mugwort tea for dream and trancework.

Day 11 – Write a Spell

I came up with this earlier after my daughter jammed her fingers in her dresser door.  I took her fingers between my hands, visualizing healing powers flowing into her.  Then I chanted, “Booboos be gone.  Ouchies too.  You will feel better the whole day through.”  Short and sweet, but it instantly cheered her up after experiencing one of life’s lesser pains.  Always useful with wee ones.

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I decided to walk the hedge near my apartment to see what the plants were up to.  I also hoped to find certain specimens for my herbal stash.  Alas, they were not around.  It’s funny and interesting how they’ll be present one year and not the next.  I won’t be here long enough to figure out their rhythm.  Soon I’ll start to establish a relationship with new land – one that will hopefully last much longer.

As I walked the hedge, I reflected on all I’ve learned from doing just that.  I understand the blackberry’s life cycle thanks to a somewhat hidden patch nobody but me seemed to know about. I learned about jewel weed out of an obsession to identify it.  I refined my ability to distinguish between different trees.  That sort of wisdom comes from the marriage of experience and study.  Some days I walk then hit the field guides and herbal books out of curiosity.    “What was that plant?  I didn’t recognize it.”  Other times I like to look through my books.  I’ll have moments of clarity.  “Oh wow!  I saw that flower once!  Where was it again?  Time to find it.”

Learning the land’s rhythm has been essential to my growth as a Druid.  In addition to increasing my understanding and wisdom, I try to pick up trash along the way.  Today I found some discarded plastic toys – a crushed sand castle mold and an empty bubble container.  Kids.  Sheesh.  Cleaning is usually my offering to the land in exchange for the teachings.

I’m excited to really introduce myself to a new yard, new hedge, and new forest.  I’ll take the lessons I learned here and build on them.

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I was up too late last night. Don’t judge me, but I was reading a really compelling fan fic on my phone. Just like any good story, I couldn’t put it down. On top of that, my daughter is getting over a cold. She coughs a lot which makes me toss and turn. When I finally woke up, my eyes were irritated. For some reason, it impacted my overall mood this morning. I felt a bit grouchy. It’s times like that when the forest’s call grows loud and insistent.

Donning my winter coat, scarf, gloves, crane bag, and walking stick, I got out of the house, away from the screens, the messes waiting to be cleaned, and everything that annoyingly reminds me that I’m renting and not owning right now. The sun is out, but the air is bitter cold.  The neighborhood was quiet since most people don’t want to be out on such a day.  I felt assured of solitude.

The universe said, “nope.”

I crossed the hedge, carefully stepping on exposed logs and rocks to avoid the icy sheen of a frozen puddle.  I always ask permission to enter, and felt the familiar pull.  I was a bit apprehensive to return, honestly.  Last week, my husband and I believe we found bear droppings.  I took an omen before I went out today and was basically told to have courage because I needed this excursion.

The forest near my apartment is accessible to anyone who lives in my neighborhood. I’m grateful for the opportunity to take nature walks whenever I want, but sharing it with other people (people who don’t all respect the woods) is irritating.  There is a never-ending supply of trash to clean.  I take it upon myself to bring a small bag with me when I visit.  I collect what I can as an offering.

After making some other offerings at a large tree, I leaned against its trunk to breathe.  The relaxation was short lived, unfortunately.  Some kids noisily entered the woods and set about smashing things into trees.  Ugh.  I surprised them by stepping out from behind the tree and went deeper into the woods.

Their shock made me grin.  I was grateful they left me to my wandering.

No signs of bear this time.  Noisy kids aside, it was nice to return to the forest.  It’s a bit like a moving meditation.  I definitely don’t sit and meditate here.  You never know who may show up, after all.  I try not to let my guard down, especially when there’s possibly a bear around (not to mention coyotes and coydogs).  A snap of twigs in the distance gets the blood pumping and makes me feel so alive…

Closer to home, I inspected the garden.  Most of the pots are frozen.  The compost bin is unworkable at the moment.  And yet, despite how bitter cold everything is today, the chives are pushing their way towards the sky.  What hardy little plants.  They always  promise me that spring is near.  They appear even before the trout lilies in the woods.  Seeing them made me so happy and reminded me that it’s time to order seeds.

Gods, I can’t wait to garden again…

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Communal Spirit: Upcoming Lecture Series at the North Country Arts Council « F that S.

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It was -15 degrees F when we woke up this morning.  Snow covers the Earth which, for the first time in awhile, truly seems to be taking a winter nap.  When I look out at my patio, which was inhabited by so many plants just a few short months ago, I see a different kind of activity – a few potted trees sleeping, dunes of snow, and wee birds eating seed.  The other day I looked through some photos of the past year’s garden and my goodness, it was so green!  I found myself daydreaming about this year’s garden.  The seed catalogs bombarding me in the mail only encourage me!

Today I decided to order some seeds.  I favored vegetables that are known to do well in containers.  A few will be experiments.  So far, I’ve ordered:

  1. Igloo cauliflower
  2. Alibi cucumbers
  3. White fingers eggplants
  4. Tan-Tan lettuce (a German variety that produces wee heads)
  5. Mohawk pepper
  6. Bush delicata squash
  7. Green tigers courgette
  8. Tumbling Tom red tomatos
  9. Carouby de Maussane pea (a type of snow pea)
  10. Oakleaf lettuce (a personally favorite of mine due to the shape)
  11. Woad (something I’ve always wanted to try growing)

I also ordered a book about kitchen-related sewing projects.  It was on sale and too good to pass up.

I have some other seeds that I had leftover from last year or saved through drying – beans, radishes, and some squash.  I want to order a few other things like mugwart, wormwood, bee balm (Oneida tea), and such but will need to turn to a different supplier.  Along with an assortment of container veggies, I want to explore more herbs.  I’ve already been growing the standards – lavender, lemonbalm, chives, etc.  As my experience in the garden and in spellwork increases, maybe one day I’ll grow and work with such lovelies as foxglove, belladonna, and mandrake.  I also hope to have a house and land by then so I can better keep such dangerous plants away from inquisitive neighborhood kids.  At the moment, I can’t put up fences and gates.

Another gardening goal for the year?  Get some dwarf trees.  My father has ordered me an early “Spring Equinox gift,” as he put it – a dwarf tea bush!  I look forward to working with the tea plant and learning how to make my very own tea blends.  I also want to obtain a dwarf lemon, lime, and orange tree.  My patio and surrounding garden beds will become crowded with beautiful green again before I know it!

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