If you are interested in classes, try your local community college, or check out Jo Powell's School of Herbalism and website at www.nwherbs.com. If you can't take it from her, she probably knows someone in your area that you can check with or learn from. I'm taking the Medicinal First Aid with Herbs class in a couple of weeks. I'm sure you'll hear about it.
So anyway, today I finally went to visit my local herb shop, and bought a few ounces of herbs to start playing with-- freshly dried so I know they'll be good for medicinal purposes for a few months here. I've started with a Comfrey Oil, which I'll turn into a balm once it's finished "cooking." And I'm about to try my first sips of my own medicinal echinacia and stinging nettle tea. Which I suspect I may have made incorrectly because if you're using the flowers, leaves, and basically the soft parts of the plant, you don't boil the herb with the water (this is called infusion)... but if you're using the bark, seeds, stems, roots, and basically woody/hard parts of the herb, you DO boil them in the water (called decoction)... And the echinacia I got was surprisingly woody-- (the whole plant is medicinal, and I think this herbalist collects the roots)... but I didn't boil it, as the nettle was a leaf, so...
Anyway, I love the idea of being able to take care of the smaller illnesses and injuries that come my way, without waiting for it to get "bad enough" to see an MD, without paying extra money, without taking a prescription medicine, and without worrying about the next apocalypse. Boy, I know I spelled THAT word incorrectly! Thank goodness for spell-check. And honey. Thank goodness for honey, too. Some of these herbs get kinda bitter. It's really nice to be able to add some honey to the tea and know you are actually doing yourself a favor!
Some Online Resources:
www.nwherbs.com --Jo Powell knows her stuff, and her classes just ROCK!
www.botanical.com --Has a decent Materia Medica (where you learn about the herbs).
www.herbs.org --scientific herbal research.
www.swsbm.com -- The Southwest School of Botanical Medicine by Michale Moore.
www.pacificbotanicals.com -- buy herbs, learn stuff.
www.theherbshoppe.net --The Herb Shoppe is a real store, with a great
and well-educated owner. A great resource person as well as a
great place to buy herbs and bases.
www.mountainroseherbs.com --good for herbs, great for essential oils (EO's).
www.herb-pharm.com --great for tinctures and good info available, too.
www.libertynatural.com --again, great for buying your herbs and other stuff.
www.frontierherb.com --this is the brand carried by most health food stores.
Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar.
From Earth to Herbalist: An Earth-Conscious Guide to Medicinal Plants by Gregory Tilford.
Aromatherapy: A complete Guide to the Healing Art by Kathi Keville & Mindy Green.
A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve. (also available online at www.botanical.com).
Growing 101 Herbs That Heal by Tammi Hartung.
Anything by Michael Moore or Jack Green is also something Jo might recommend.
Can I just tell you how MUCH I love fresh strawberries? With Nutella? And Farmer's Markets. Those rock too. Big rocks. This week, at the Farmer's Market, I found a guy who makes fresh pesto-- in five awesome varieties. Fresh pesto. And strawberries. But not together, please.
I also want to share with you the fact that I am now the proud owner of two identical pairs of khaki pants, appropriate for a professional work environment. Why two? Because it's the first time ... EVER... that I have found professional-looking machine washable khaki pants that don't gape at the back of the waist, don't have really big poofy pleats that make me look pregnant or REALLY CONSTIPATED, and don't need to be hemmed by about 8 inches so I can walk. And they were on sale for about $16 each. So I bought both pairs. I feel that the universe loves me.
So, dude, if you hear me complaining about ANYTHING in the next week or two? Just remind me that I found fresh strawberries, home made pesto, and machine-washable khaki pants ALL IN THE SAME WEEK, and I have nothing to complain about. Nothing.
Not even the fact that my semester ends in less than two weeks, and I have five-- count FIVE-- final projects of various sorts to complete in that time frame. Yes. And I'm going to be eating strawberries with Nutella while I do it.
A Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of North America by Joan Barker, ISBN 1-40546-309-0.
Revised Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast compiled by Pojar and Mackinnon, via the BC Forest Service Research Program, via Lone Pine Publishing.
The Successful Herb Gardener: Growing and Using Herbs-- Quickly and Easily by Sally Roth, a Country Living Gardener, ISBN 1-58816-419-5.
Last night, I put things off until nearly midnight, and then had this overwhelming need to just sit with my candles and my quiet time and my Tarot cards. So I did. And right away I was called into deep meditation by my internal Guide. Which surprised me, because usually I have to take a bit of an inner journey to find her. I'll devote an entry to my Tarot cards sometime, and this will all make more sense.
Anyway, we had a good talk (You know when you've got a problem you're avoiding, and you just finally sit yourself down and start asking yourself questions-- what is up with me? Why the heck am I going around doing THIS lately?!... and you just sit and feel crazy talking to yourself, but you keep doing it until you get some answers-- and you do manage to sort yourself out... Well, that's what it's like to talk with your Guide, only its more to the point), and I realized that what I've been avoiding some painful memories this week... and in the process of avoiding, I avoided homework, and cleaning the dirty dishes, and a few other things, too.
You see, I was a live-in nanny for two years, basically the primary care taker of a wonderful little girl from the time she was 5 months old until I got married and moved away two years later. And when that happened, it felt like I was abandoning my own child. I still miss her horribly, and thinking about her makes me sad. She has good parents, (She's already started school, too!) but she doesn't have me anymore, and since she now lives in Korea, I don't have her, either. It just hurts. And her birthday happens to be in early April. I've only managed to memorize five birthdays in my lifetime, and that includes hers...
Anyway, I was very glad to have that talk with my Spirit Guide, because it let me release some of my pain and feelings of abandonment/loss in a very safe space. Feelings I had been working hard not to acknowledge before that. And then she gave me a good talking to about getting on-task with my homework and stuff. It's like having the perfect mom. The one who helps you stay (or get) on track with your life, while making you feel loved and valued the whole time. She reminded me that there are a lot of children out there in the world who need the caring and the helping and the life skills I can provide as a Librarian, and that it's up to me to make that happen. I have work to do.
(By the way, as a librarian, I take a professional oath to provide accurate and timely information on all topics to all people, without discrimination based on age, ability, gender, creed, cultural origin, topic of interest, or anything else. It means taking my personal beliefs out of the picture when I'm at work, and being a true servant of the community-- the whole community, including the homeless, the infirm, the rich and powerful, and everyone in between.)
I'm also constantly working to make myself a better person... so I took note. I have a radar up now for when I seem to be avoiding things-- mundane things-- so that I can stop and meditate about what I'm REALLY trying to avoid. I want to face it and get moving forward that much faster next time. And... next April, I might just cut myself a little slack, knowing I'm going to have a few down moments that month, and knowing why.
I learned so much from the evening! It was my first group Circle, and I learned that I fall easily into meditation, but that most Circles bring a much greater depth to their Energy Calling. I felt a lot more energy in the circle than I've usually felt on my own. Not sure what I'll do with that knowledge, but I'm definitely going to be pondering it. I also got to hear some of the songs in my tradition. That was awesome. These songs are about evocation, and not about 2.7 minutes on the radio. And we did practice healing. We worked to help each other heal within the circle.
I learned that I'm actually more intuitive than I've acknowledged about pain. Other peoples' pain. And I'm less in touch than I realized with my emotions just lately. I definitely need to work more on that. What I don't know is how to use my energy and my Connection to heal once I find the pain. My gift is in seeing the potential, and what someone else will need to do or be to reach it. It's about helping others make their own efforts on their own behalf. And the healing circle is about making the effort that someone else is unable to make for themselves.
One woman in the group knows reiki, so she did some of that. Another has such connectivity with energy that you could feel her manipulating the chakra fields of the body as she worked. Anther simply takes your pains into herself. I'd like to help her find a way to then get rid of other peoples' pains, as she currently just lets herself suffer for you. I found that I can sense and do more than I expected, and that the things I do are things I've always done-- I just never saw them as healing, and I never acknowledged them as part of Circle Work.
It was just a great evening. A good start. I definitely look forward to another. I also definitely am working on making fewer assumptions about what I am or need to do or be-- and about how others will impact me when we come into contact. But that's my personal journey, and it's proving to be a real challenge. That just means the opportunity to learn and grow is itself also greater.
But in the interest of good PR, many witches have switched to wearing white ritual robes. White is clean, and white light is still touted as being very important to many pagans. White is seen as that beacon of magic in the anytime of day or night. Spirit Energy. Pure Energy, some say.
Then there's me. I did try to wear a ritual sweatshirt for a while. It was good, to start. It was warm soft cotton, undyed, and comfortable in the winter months. I needed the extra ceremony to help my mind calm and focus, and the extra layer to keep the chill in my home from distracting me. It smells heavenly now, too, after the bonfires (tiny, safe bonfires) and the sage smudges (don't go overboard with this-- but aren't they YUMMY smelling??) and the burning of bits of cinnamon and other spices in my tiny cauldron... (Be careful- powdered cinnamon makes lots of pretty jumping sparks when lit, and the oils in some of the other spices can be highly flammable.)
But I'm not so into the ritual sweater thing just now. I am still attached to my ritual scarf, however. And this seems to me a much more practical piece of ritual gear, being adaptable to all kinds of weather, from snow to high summer... unlike the long sleeve full-length robe. Mine is a calm dark blue with dark purple splotches on it, and a few silver threads running through its length. Just the thing for night magick and the Moon. Of any ritual wear, the most important aspect is that it needs to be made of natural material-- cotton or silk or wool or linen or something similar-- and it needs to be something that doesn't distract you from your craft, but rather helps focus your energies in your craft practices. That clarifies for you when you are entering a formal ritual and renewal, and when you are simply enjoying your connectivity with Mother Earth.
I was at a budget fabric store today, looking around. I found a really beautiful soft silver-grey rough silk. And I bought some. Not much, because even at a discount, it was pretty expensive... It made me feel like ritual and Spirit Magick was coming, just by looking at it. The hard part is that I really don't know how to incorporate it into my practice. It did remind me that you don't have to find a "Magick Store" or an expensive boutique with one-of-a-kind cotton robes and such to put together your ritual gear. Goddess knows most of my stuff didn't come from a place like that.
If you need or want ritual clothing for your Sacred Circle work, go to the discount fabric store, and buy 1/8 yard of a fabric that speaks Spirit to you. Colors have the meanings we give them, so if you are a Green Witch, and you find a spring green fabric with a leaf pattern that just feels right-- it is right. Hem the edges, and you have a ritual scarf. Add special beads or buttons that remind you of the mental state you want to be in when you meditate. Just sew them right on the ends of your ritual scarf, and you'll see them when you go to put it on or walk around your circle in casting. I have a bell with a sweet resonating tone that punctuates my ceremony. I think it was 25 cents at the local import store. These personal little do-dads can help you focus just as well as the flashy sixteen-of-a-kind robe you could have paid all that money for.
Get an old wooden mixing spoon out of your kitchen, and add it to your altar. Use it to mix concoctions-- real or magickal-- use it to direct your Spirit Energy in the circle or as a focus for your home/hearth abundance meditations. Free altar object. Right there. Buy some inexpensive tea light candles for your ritual candles (but try to get good quality ones just the same-- they don't have to cost more, and you don't want lead smoke drifting up through your clean energy). Go to the thrift store or local Goodwill and pick up a couple of canning jars to contain them. You can leave them burning, which is nice (if you put them in a safe candle container, and watch them closely) as they go out on their own after about 4 hours. Very tidy. Easy to add a drop of scented oil or a sprinkle of kitchen herbs to the melting wax, too. And the flame is the same as the one that might come from an expensive hand-rolled pure bees wax 18" pillar candle or what-have-you.
Get a bit of muslin at the fabric store while you are there-- 1/2 a yard costs less than $4. Buy a silver crafts pen for about $2.50 and make your own altar cloth with any and all symbols that have meaning for YOUR RITUAL WORK... easier and more personal-- and more natural-- than many of the star-and-moon nylon altar cloths you can buy online-- and you don't have to pay for shipping...Take a walk in the part or the edge of the woods with a friend. Grab a fallen tree branch-- a small one, maybe 10-15 inches-- that feels good in your hand. Use it for your ritual dagger work. It has already got good energy in it from the tree and the wind and the rain and sun... you'll add your own Spirit energy to it as you use it over and over in the Circle. Not so much with a $50 pewter wand or black-hilted dagger that needs your energy to have any life.
If you find an expensive gold-trimmed cape or other specialized ritual item and it speaks to you-- and you know it's in your budget-- go for it. Many of these things are made with love and given a little energy by their maker. The connection you have with the items you use is the important part, not the price tag or the origin of the item itself-- though for some, these are a part of their magick potential, too. So these are simply suggestions. Going bankrupt or buying ritual items on credit is not good joo-joo, so to speak. Appreciating what you have is a big part of connecting with what is.
And my grey silk? I think the black of the night is as important as the white of the moon that shines in it-- and so for me, that soft ethereal grey is a Spirit-Point. I'm not sure what it will become yet, so I'm holding on to it until I figure that part out. Maybe it isn't even FOR me. Maybe it's a gift I get to give to someone else down the road. That's the fun part about the journey. There's always something new to learn or figure out or share with someone you enjoy.
However, when it comes to actually CONTACTING any one of them, I find a depressingly consistent scenario emerging. The vast majority of websites are no longer maintained, and the phone numbers or emails are disconnected and inactive. The few that HAVE actually gone through-- I've left a message after an impersonal beep or sent an email to the address listed-- well, lets just say these must be very busy people. I've gotten two responses. Ever. And I've been doing this (selectively) for a month now. And one of those responses was from PA. Not so helpful to someone located on the West Coast, and searching for local community.
It has strengthened my resolve to not only CHECK that MY list of links is current on a regular basis, but to CONTINUE BLOGGING here for as long as possible. It isn't likely that too many folks will stumble onto this thing, and it's not always the most helpful information for others anyway... but it's NOT GOING AWAY. And at least with a blog, you can see when the last publication was from the author. You know if nobody's bothered with it for a couple of years. The websites... not so much. They tend to use words like "MONTHLY MEETINGS AT..." or "I just started this thing, and..." ...and they don't realize that 4 years later, when they've stopped that thing back in 2002... uhh... how did I know that? Well, I tried the email link and it's dead. But websites don't really die. They just go on broadcasting the same old information... and that information gets older, and older... and older...
WitchVox actually posts a warning and suggestion on their website-- in the history of the publication, they've only had about two groups TELL them when the group disbands or changes it's contact information. Thus-- they highly recommend that you call or contact any store you plan to visit, or group event you'd like to attend, to make sure it's STILL THERE. Wise advice. Saved me a lot of insecure and uncomfortable moments. And a lot of car gas.
So... even though I may not have a lot of insightful, deep, or important info to impart, I'm committed to continuing to blog even during those times. It means there is something that won't go away.
And... I got an email back from someone local this morning. Someone who actually does still put on monthly full moon ceremonies. Someone who invited me to call her and ask questions. Someone who might actually be able to show me the "local community" aisle of the Pagan Supermarket Highway. I'm hopeful. I'm calling.
(Whether or not you believe the tarot cards pulled in a 'reading' were chosen by a special force to give you a message of some sort is irrelevant. -- We take the message associated with the card, and apply it each to our own life. These views are not replacing our will to choose a path. We take the perspectives offered as valuable because they help us recognize the choices we have made, the paths we may yet walk. In this sense, you read your own fortune in the cards, regardless of the "medium"-- and you teach your own lessons. It's not about magic. It's about self-awareness.)
...so I came up with a few things...
I ask that if you make use of them in a public setting or forum, please give me credit. I ask that you use them wisely. I share this path with my Grandcestors, and their standards are high.
Adrift on Sacred Seas of thought,
Owl's wings carry me
Through the rich dark of Grandcstor Earth.
The hearth of the Goddess
Guides me Home.
We are filled with Spirit Grace--
The Earth the Moon and I.
I hear Earth's rhythm
I see Earth's beauty
I taste Earth's passion
I smell Earth's season
I feel Earth's energy
I will Earth's abundance.
With the air that is her breath,
With the fire that is her joy,
With the water that is her womb,
I am filled with Spirit Grace.*
(*The air/fire/water lines are inspired from part of a Starhawk circle casting ritual in Earth Path Credit where credit is due.)
My thanks to you, Great Spirit.
Grateful, Graced, Growing.
Tonight my body rests in your dark womb.
Spirit Traveler, Moon Mother.
Sacred Circle return again to the light.
I hope for you that the beauty of their work fills your senses, and enters your awareness as a blessing. To live each day is a blessing. How do we show our thanks? We celebrate. We recycle. We limit our consumption. We give back good things to the earth by the ways in which we choose to spend our money, our time, our energy while we are here. We recognize that the lives and embodied knowledge of our ancestors, stretching back through the jaws of time, are the matter that compose our earth, our air, our water today.
Is this a strange concept for you? Let me show you how it works. The water rains down from the clouds to nourish our plants, our gardens, our wells and lakes. We use the water to process our sewage, to clean road filth off our cars, to water our lawns after we use chemical pesticides on them, to drink. The water from our homes and factories and gardens percolates into our rivers and streams. They flow down to the oceans. The ocean water is absorbed into the sky where it forms clouds, and rains down on us, to be used again. In this system, we get back what we put in. What did you put into the water today? What did you put into the air?
What did you put into your garden, your garbage, the landfill outside of town? You'll get it back, eventually-- or bequeath it to your children's children-- as our ancestors have done for thousands of years. We are drinking the same water that once flowed through the streets of Gamora, the jungles of Peru, the water that once rained down on Heroshima, and the fertilizer-settling pond down the road. We are the keepers of the Earth, and her resources are limited. It is a blessing to be alive in Her beauty and abundance, but it is a responsibility, too.
I'm not perfect, none of us are. But I am aware of my impact on the world, and I'm working to make it a good one.
Birth, Growth, Death, Decay, Regeneration.
And the circle continues.