G is for Growing

rose60-pinkorangeThis is my second post for The Pagan Blog Project ‘G’ week but also a journal post too. I think it’s high time I just meandered my thoughts down on paper…well on the screen. It’s a funny old world isn’t it, you have ideas and dreams and suddenly, if you’re working in line with them to cause their fruition, then something blossoms. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we grow spiritually, and I guess I should really say evolve but it’s growing too. You’ll all know by now that my speciality is herbalism – I love plants in all their wonderful glory; from the tiny daisy to the fantastic tropical trees. I never thought I’d be a herbalist though. Over the years I’ve nurtured a great interest in plants and this interest kind of grew without me even really doing anything about it but I guess it is my deep love of nature. Then my wanting to help others in some way. How could I do this? I had a deep urge to be a healer but of what kind? I am a master in Celtic Reiki and also a crystal healer but plants urged me on from tiny seedling thoughts of being a plant healer to actually doing something about it via certification.

Of course it is my belief that plants offer us insights that require no paper certificates but in this world I’m afraid some kind of professional standing is valued. But I’m really a down to earth woman of wort cunning even though I’ve done professional courses (and am still doing this actually as I’m taking a Masters in Phytotherapy). However, it’s really nothing extraordinary – anyone can do this…all you have to do is spend time with plants and trees and truly get to know them and they will impart their wisdom and knowledge to you. Of course getting to know other like-minded herbalists is important too.

Anyway, I digress because this post is really about how we evolve on our spiritual path if we are open-hearted and open-minded enough. When I look back at who I was at the very beginning of my pagan path I was really an entirely different person to who I am today. I had fixed ideas about who I should be; what kind of pagan I was or wanted to be, called myself a Wiccan and followed quite a strict Wiccan protocol. But over the years this has changed quite dramatically – yes I am an initiated Priestess in a Wiccan Coven and I don’t regret this decision and being part of this group is very important to me. But my path has diverged into many different branches since then. I feel I’ve truly become a tree!

I guess my spirituality is very eclectic with old ways witchcraft roots, shamanism, Daoism as well as Wicca. Some would call this a mish-mash and probably berate me but I just think this is what my Spirit wants – this is the human experience my Spirit incarnated to have. After all, when I pass over all this will be gone…only Spirit remains and the material will not matter. So I’m passed worrying about whether or not I have a particular religion or set of protocols to follow. I just do what Spirit and the Universe encourage me to do.

How do I know? Well, actually I think synchronicity plays a huge part in knowing if I’m on the right track or not. The more open I am the more meaningful synchronicity happens. Then there are those things that happen to warm me off a course of action. Of course, being human I don’t always see, or even if I do see I don’t always pay attention, or choose to ignore and then I pay the consequences. But even these are lessons to learn. Each choice we make is an opportunity for our Spirits to learn. Even choice and actions that don’t work out the way we want are important for our growth. When we think of ourselves within the tree metaphor we can see how many branches and twigs there are on a tree and each one of these can be choices and actions, some working out and producing new growth and some not. But it’s all ok because they’re all part of the overall beauty of the tree, which is each one of us as individuals.

G is for Green Witchcraft

5446_576954122314584_224581038_nThis week’s post for The Pagan Blog Project is about Green Witchcraft, or what I see it as. Green Witchcraft is actually many things to many people but there are some things in common – a deep love of nature and in particular plants and trees, a deep interest in the old ways (i.e. the myths and legends pre-christianity), and a yearning to live ones life in synchrony with the seasons and the cycles of the moon. Of course many would also add the environmentalist and eco-witch aspect in there too.

Much has been written about Green Witchcraft, there are many really lovely authors out there who have written some very informative books on this aspect of witchcraft. One in particular is Ann Moura whose many books on the subject are well worth reading.  Some people see green witchcraft as synonymous with hedge witchery or being a kitchen witch and I guess this is true, at least for the hedge witch. For me green witchcraft is everything I’ve mentioned in the first paragraph but I don’t think there are really any hard and fast definitions with this, like life itself, the Craft evolves and definitions have to be fluid rather than rigid.

My life as a Green Witch largely revolves around what used to be called wort cunning; the knowledge and use of plants for healing and magical purposes – I guess I’m a 21st Century cunning woman! Although I live on the edge of a small town in Kent, England, I immerse myself as much as possible in nature. Even nature can be found in back gardens and suburban places. However, I’m lucky in that I don’t live too far from the country and indeed my back garden backs on to a small woodland area and beyond that fields. Environmentalism and concern for the ecosystems of the world do concern me but I wouldn’t call myself an activist by any means. I just go about my business fairly quietly with not too much obviousness. I leave the activism for others and I’m sure they do a very good job of it too but that’s not to say I don’t care. I just do my part in other quieter ways.

For me, Green Witchcraft touches my soul and it feels like finally coming home to the place I’m meant to be. It’s different for everyone though – we each find this ‘coming come’ in different aspects of the Craft, or for many too even in different religions, although the Craft isn’t a religion. I don’t think it really matters what religion one is, or what aspect of the Craft one follows as long as it truly speaks to your soul and you are balanced. As long as balance and harmony is there then it is the true path for you; fundamentalism in any form is just not good for the spirit and is a sign of ego thinking, which doesn’t come from spirit but from the human mind.

The ironic thing is, I never expected to be a Green Witch, not at all, it just crept up on me slowly over the years although I’ve always had a love of nature and green things and have never been happier in green fields and woodlands. But I truly believe that if you just open your mind and heart, and are patient, your true path will appear. It might take many years, as it did for me, or might come in a few months. It doesn’t matter – when you’re on it you will know, not in your head but in your heart. That’s not to say you won’t have doubts because I certainly did. However, my true path kept pulling me back like a song you just cannot get out of your mind. Although I’m sure there are some who never have such doubts about their path.

I love this path – the greening of the land; the changing of the seasons; the waxing and waning of the moon and the effect this has on things; the plants and trees and the secrets they hold for the betterment of all. It’s not always an easy path but it’s the one my spirit has chosen for me at this time.

E is for Earth Ritual

5789710_origFor this posting for the Pagan Blog Project this week I’d like to share with you all my little Earth Ritual that I do in my back garden at least once a year, and normally at this time of year, and again in the summer. There are a couple of reasons why I do it, first because I wish to bless my garden, the soil to be productive, the grass, the plants that are growing in it, and to bless also all the little critters who live in my back yard, or who make use of it. Secondly, because it just makes me feel good.

The very first thing I do is prepare some incense. I make my own by grinding cinnamon with frankincense and mixing it together. The reason why I use these two is because cinnamon  has the powers of spirituality, success, healing, power and protection (among others) and is fire energy, which is transformative. Frankincense is also fire energy and transformative and has protective and spiritual qualities too, as well as being a resin that helps with removing unwanted negative energies. So these two prove a powerful mix. I grind them both into a fine powder that I will burn on a small charcoal disc in my earthenware bowl.

The second thing I do is make sure I have some Full Moon water with me. This is made on the full moon nearest to the time I wish to do my ritual and is created by leaving still spring water outside on the night of the full moon, in a glass bowl. It doesn’t matter if the night is overcast or raining because the moon’s powerful energy can still permeate the cloud cover. This water is then decanted into a glass bottle I keep on my altar (which also contains a Herkimer diamond that amplifies the energy). I then bless it simply in the names of my patron deities.

Other utensils I will need are my pheasant feather fan to waft the incense smoke about, and three small sprigs of rosemary to use as an asperge for the full moon water.

I spend some time sitting out in my garden meditating and grounding myself – usually do a bit of qi gong at this point. Then basically I go all around my garden in a sunwise fashion (clock wise) wafting incense over every part of it; grass, earth, plants, gate, fence – everything! Then I repeat with my full moon water, which I’ve poured into a little bowl. I use the rosemary sprigs to sprinkle this water over everything too. As I go I just say something very simple like By Earth, Sky and Sea and the Powers that Be – May the earth and everything that grows from it and lives within it be blessed – So mote it Be! To be honest I kind of make it up as I go along with whatever words move me at the time but it’s never complicated.

When I’ve finished I waft incense and sprinkle moon water over my outside altar and then just sit and relax in my garden for a bit – Simples!

Feel free to use this ritual for yourself or adapt it as you see fit.

 

Announcing the all new HERBORIUM newsletter

I am very pleased to announce that The Herborium newsletter is now up on my other site for immediate download. It is free and in pdf format.

http://naturesalive.wordpress.com/the-herborium-newsletter/

This newsletter is the first of many (hopefully) – a little project I’m doing around each Sabbat (that’s eight times a year) focusing on plants and herbs, and the natural world, including Plant Spirits. I hope you enjoy reading it just as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it and putting it together for you.

Bright blessings

Deep~Glade

A Passing On

Yesterday I found out that someone I know, and with whom I’ve been in reasonably close contact with the past couple of years, passed over very suddenly. It’s been a shock to my system to say the least, and I was feeling quite numb yesterday. However, I am not really too sad, not for him anyway. It was time for his spirit/soul to move on with the next stage of life and his physical earthly body is no longer needed. It’s ok, it is as it should be. However, I am sad and concerned for those left behind; his family, friends and co-workers because this is going to hit them really hard and there is much sorrow among them.

I did a small candle ritual last night for him, with funerary herbs Rue, White Willow and Star Anise (these herbs are purifying and blessing) but also asked my patron deities Cerridwen and Cernunnos to ease his passing into the Summerlands as the nature of his death was sudden. Also for them to comfort and protect all who knew him. After doing this little ceremony I feel less numb. I also realise how blessed I am to hold the beliefs I do, which are such a support to me at these times. Passing over is not pleasant for those left behind and it’s hard sometimes to let the person go. So having a belief in the after-life gives a rootedness, a comfort and a hope at these times. Even if one doesn’t have a particular belief, the wheel of life turns – from birth to death to rebirth. We look at nature around us and see this all the time – an animal dies, rots and becomes part of the soil once again, which then supports new life in its time. The cycle goes on and on unbroken.

 

B is for Body

We all have heard of the Goddess as the Land (Mother Nature, Gaia etc.) and most likely most of us will agree with this. She is the Divine in material form, the Sacred Landscape, the body of the Divine. Yet how many think of our own bodies as sacred? I mean we ‘know’ it but do we really treat our bodies as such when we haul ourselves out of bed in the morning, chug down the coffee and dash off to work. Do we ever give a second thought to our sacred and beautiful bodies in those fast moments? I have to admit I don’t always. It seems the mundane is always pushing and pulling us…get to work, take the kids to school, do the housework, all the many seemingly endless tasks and ‘have to’s’ on our daily ‘to do’ list that never seems to get any shorter. Then at the end of the day we sink down into the sofa and stuff our bodies with garbage…garbage food, garbage TV etc.  We feel worn out and drift away to sleep, or not!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how I treat my poor body. Ever since I got a trapped nerve in my shoulder and have been in agony. At first I was angry at my body. How dare it do this to me! Then I wallowed as I’m rather a wuss with pain despite my being covered in tattoos (well, having a tattoo is a completely different sort of pain in my view). However, now I’m thinking that this is a wake up call, my body is giving me a sharp prod in the proverbial…ok in the shoulder! Yes, I do neglect it. I don’t always treat it as an embodiment of the Goddess. I take it for granted.

So, what to do? Well I then thought about how we do our best to look after the Goddess as embodied in the land. Through whatever means available and practical to us we nurture Her, whether this is just picking up litter in our local park to getting involved in Green Activism. We do all sorts of things don’t we? But can the same be said of our bodies? Do we nurture them and love them just as much? Do we pay just as much attention to them?

When our bodies hurt and we experience pain that’s a sign something is wrong and our bodies are telling us something. It’s not being nasty or a pain in the (fit in whatever word you like here). No! It’s pleading with us to pay attention, to expand our awareness in its direction. We tend to do this only when it plays us up but if we just took the time to  pay attention when everything is running smoothly then it wouldn’t have to kick up a fuss as often, if at all. So how can we expand our awareness to our bodies and treat them in a sacred way? Here are some ideas that I’ve implemented in my life:

1. Get up a little bit earlier each day. You don’t have to make a big thing about it – even 10 minutes earlier is enough to begin with. Before you do anything else give yourself a (((BIG HUG))). Go on, you deserve it – your body deserves it. When was the last time you hugged yourself? Make it a simple practice to begin each morning hugging yourself. I bet it makes you smile.

2. Ok, so we don’t all have baths, some of us don’t even own a bath but we can still nurture our bodies even in a shower. Find a shower gel that you just LOVE the smell of and pamper yourself. I use essential oils in my bath but it’s easy to make your own shower gel. Just get hold of a pump dispenser bottle and some unscented shower gel base and add your own essential oils. Ok, so not everyone likes the smell of lavender but there are so many wonderful essential oils out there and not all are really expensive. Get experimenting and have fun concocting your own shower gel.

3. Always make sure you have breakfast. Don’t skip this most important meal of the day. you know why it’s called breakfast don’t you? Because you’re ‘breaking your fast’ of the night. Believe me I know. I used to be absolute rubbish at eating breakfast and wouldn’t eat until later in the day. No wonder my poor body was starving and not playing nice. Even if it’s just a couple of pieces of toast make sure it’s good nutrition – choose a healthy and tasty topping. Please add some fruit too to your breakfast. Our bodies just LOVE fruit and fruit loves us. Fruit is great because it contains enzymes and is packed with goodies that help metabolism, mood, digestion and a whole host of other bodily functions. There is so much fruit available isn’t there, there’s got to be something that takes your fancy. I know some people on diets say you shouldn’t eat bananas because they’re fattening but personally I think that’s rubbish. Bananas are packed with potassium and other nutrients that are essential for our bodies. They really keep you going as they are complex carbs too. If, like me, you have an aversion to eating a banana straight from its jacket then why not whip up a smoothie. It’s so easy – a sliced banana, a cupful of milk and a tablespoon of bran, add some vanilla extract, whizz it up in the blender and voila…a delicious nutrient packed drink that really will keep you going.

4. On the subject of diets, which really are my bête noire, I say avoid them like the plague. Especially these ones that encourage a snack bar for breakfast, a shake for lunch and a ‘healthy’ pre-packaged meal for dinner. What’s all that about? As someone who has forced my body to suffer all kinds of diets in my life, I can attest that most are totally boring, a large percentage are unhealthy, maybe not in the short term but certainly long term and most do not work. Why deny yourself a nice piece of scrummy chocolate cake, or a lovely roast dinner? Balance is the key! We have a wonderful organ in our heads called a brain so let’s use it. A balanced intake of food plus some daily exercise and I promise your body will be happy and so will you and so will your wallet. You don’t need to pay out for expensive diets when all you need is to do a bit of research on the internet to find out what a decent nutritious food intake actually is, choose your own foods and enjoy it.

5. I’ve also started drinking a cup of Basil tea in the mornings too. Yes, common garden basil (the kind you add to your super scrummy tomato sauces). Why basil? Because it is a real ‘start of the day’ booster. Basil is a great herb for the digestion, it is antispasmodic and carminative (which means it acts on colicky stomachs and helps expel pent up gas. It’s also great for women’s ‘moon times’. Basil ‘opens up’ in the body. It is fantastic as a stimulating tea in the mornings. It stimulates a sluggish body and mind and helps one have energy to do the job at hand and helps us focus. Since I started taking Basil tea in the morning I feel more alert to do what I need to do during the day and my digestion is better too. It’s easy to make a cup. You need to treat yourself to a lovely cup and saucer, not a chipped old coffee mug. Drinking herbal teas from a lovely cup and saucer makes the whole thing something special. A ritual if you like that you can do for yourself before entering into the mundane world. I use the empty t-sacs and place 2 teaspoons of dried basil in it, fill the cup to the top and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Or you can make it in a small teapot and use a strainer while pouring it into your cup. I’ve found that I don’t really need any sweetener as Basil does have a naturally sweet flavour of its own but if you really need some then drizzle a bit of honey into it. Then sit down on your sofa or chair (no TV, no radio on) and just BE…be in the moment sipping your lovely basil tisane and enjoy; enjoy its flavour, the warmth of the basil reaching down into your cells. Be aware of your drinking, make it leisurely.

6. Become aware of your body through mindful meditation practise. This does not mean meditating for hours per day, nor is it something that is really hard to achieve although you do need to practice – remember the old saying ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’? Find somewhere comfortable to sit; on the train into work, in your lunch break, at home. sit and be still, allow your breathing to become calm and peaceful, regular and slow. Focus on your body, be aware of it. If intrusive thoughts come in – and they do, just acknowledge them but don’t focus on them. Keep your focus on your breathing and your body. Practice tuning into your body with your awareness. By doing this you will learn to listen, and I mean really listen to your body on a much deeper level.

7. Use herbs more often. Mother Nature has provided us with a plethora of wonderful plants and herbs we can use to aid our bodies and our health. One plant I’ve learnt to love big time is Nettles. Yes, those stinging nettles! Did you know nettles are one of the most nutritious and helpful plants available? Nettles contain calcium, chlorophyll, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, potassium, protein, silicon, sodium, sulphur, zinc and the Vitamins A, C, D, E, F and P. The alkaloids contained in Nettle neutralise uric acid in the body and thus helps to reduce the symptoms of rheumatism and gout. It is an excellent plant to take for high blood pressure, bronchitis, inflamed kidneys, poor circulation, anaemia, asthma, eczema and a whole lot of others too. A great way of consuming nettles is either in soup or to make a nutritious nettle smoothie and drink at least three times a week.

According to Susun Weed, Nettle infusions are…recommended for those wanting to stabilize blood sugar, reset metabolic circuits to normalize weight, reduce fatigue and exhaustion, restore adrenal potency to lessen allergic and menopausal problems and eliminate chronic headaches. Nettle is a gentle and powerful herb that can be drunk daily for increased energy and chi. Taken over a long period of time it is beneficial to the kidneys, lungs, intestine, arteries, hair, and skin.

So how to make a nettle smoothie. Well my version is slightly different from that given in the book nourishing Herbal Infusions because I’ve kind of experimented a bit. However, making the nettle infusion is the same at the beginning. to make a nettle infusion I get a large plastic jug and chuck in about two handfuls of dried nettles, or if you’re using fresh nettles then one handful. I then boil a kettle and pour on 1 pint of hot water. Stir the mixture and then pop a lid or plate over the top and just leave it over night. I don’t refrigerate it because it’s only being left to steep one night but I guess you could pop it in the fridge if you liked. In the morning you will notice the water has turned a lovely browny green colour…hmmm might be packed with great nutrients but doesn’t look very appetizing. First you will need to strain the liquid off and for this I use a plastic sieve, but you could use fine muslin if you wanted to. Then add to the liquid a carton of organic plain yogurt…actually I’ve tried it with thick and creamy Greek yoghurt and it’s adorable! Add a table spoonful of honey and whizz up in the blender…a lovely green creamy drink packed to the brim with all kinds of body loving goodies. Believe me your body will thank you. A word about toilet usage though – nettles are diuretic so you might find yourself peeing a bit more than usual but this is ok. Your body is getting rid of loads of toxins. If you have dry skin and/or dry hair you might like to add a bit of Marshmallow or Slippery Elm to the first stage to give added emollience to the brew. So all you have to do now is sit back, slurp and enjoy!

Oh yes, and a word about those left over nettle dregs you strained out. PLEASE don’t just throw them away in the trash. Go compost them…your compost heap will luurve them.

8. Exercise, yeah not a very nice word to some and it took me years to appreciate it. I talked to some friends, and asked them what they thought exercise was and most answered things like – Zumba (what’s that? Sounds like the name of a lion!), jogging, going to the gym for 2 hours. Well, exercise is definitely all of those things but if you’re a bit of a meandering molly like me then there are other ways, and far gentler on the body. Walking is ace! Take a walk even if it’s just 15 minutes and around your neighbourhood. You’ll be amazed at the amount of wildlife you’ll discover too even if you live on a housing estate like me. Another great form of gentle exercise is swimming; it really tones the body and is rather meditative in a way. So choose gentle impact exercise for the body; you will tone up fast.

9. I suppose, for me at least, the ultimate nurturing thing I can do for my body is give it a massage. Only I live alone so it’s not that easy. Once a month I treat myself to a professional massage for an hour. It’s not that expensive and well worth the money I spend on it. Of course if you live with a partner you can massage each other’s bodies and what a wonderful way to reconnect with your partner.

I think the point I’m trying to get across in this post is to encourage us all to really spend a bit more time nurturing our bodies. After all they are the earthly vehicle of our spirits aren’t they? Those of you who drive, think about what you do for your cars – you MOT it, feed it the appropriate food (gas/petrol), wash it (I hope you do!). How could we do any less for our bodies? Yet in this fast-paced world it seems we spend less and less time really looking after our bodies and then wonder why they break down on us. So let’s all treat our beautiful bodies the way they deserve to be treated.

References:

Nourishing Herbal Infusions by Rosalee de la Foret

Plant Healer Magazine: Volume 2; Issue 1

Today’s Herbal Health by Louise Tenney, M.H.

Rose Geranium Blackberry Liqueur

4 pints blackberries
1 cup Rose Geranium leaves
4 cups vodka
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Combine the berries, geranium leaves, vodka, and wine in a large container with a tight-fitting cover.
Set the mixture in a cool dark place to season for one month.
Open the container and bruise the berries slightly.
Cover and allow the mixture to steep for another five days.
Next, strain the mixture. Then pour through a filter.
Boil the sugar and water together in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Allow mixture to cool and gradually stir into the liqueur. Taste.
When the liqueur is to the desired sweetness, bottle and age for approximately 4 to five weeks. Age in a cool dark place. Makes about one to two quarts.

Source: Wicca Spirit