bergamot

Seed, Root & Stem

August, 2013

 

The homestead is abuzz, quite literally, as I’ve released some three thousand ladybugs in to feast on the gray aphids.  Calendula heads are clipped and their vine-dried seeds harvested. Bunches of oregano, thyme and rosemary are hanging to dry.  Lavender and fennel are deflowered, hibiscus blossoms in their natural wrappers are almost ready for the teapot and honeysuckle flowers are twining their golden arms around each other on the rack. The drying room is filled with intoxicating odors and I have already begun to blend them for next year’s ritual incense.  My favorite season of all is just about here – Autumn.

I’m reflecting once again on the year that is almost passed. As my hands perform each mundane chore, I quickly find myself contemplating the new learning the year has brought me in those countless hours nurturing, cajoling and whispering each plant from the dark Mother’s womb into fullness. The moon is full, shimmering on the wheat that stands tall in the fields. Bats are breaking my concentration as they dive through the mosquito swarms, and I am keenly aware that the River’s tide has turned because the breeze has picked up across the island.

The first batch of Helichrysum (aka Immortelle) is in. These petite, sun-shaped flowers nestle against a silvery mist of leaves and stalks, and true to their nature, they’ve improved my disposition by scent alone as I hang them on the line to dry. This herb is well-known for its medicinal value and it is said by some that it stimulates the right side of the brain. It also is reported to ease exhaustion and lethargy as well as treating pain and depression. I harvest the flowers for tea, a tasty and potent treat.  It makes a great addition to my soaps and bathwater, and it is a “must have” in my medicine bag.  The herb being burned for cleansing the house is powerful.  Extracts are also added to sunscreens to block UV rays[1].

I planted this seedling on August 16, 2010 according to my diary. It’s now a mature bush providing enough for my household’s use. Each year I put the first of its harvest on the altar as an offering of my thanks and a prayer that next year will be just as blessed. This year, the first of the harvest has been dried and blended with freshly dried bergamot and laid on the altar beneath the pear tree now surrounded by small tufts of dill. The garden fae appear pleased at its presence, peace and joy are amplified through the power of the bergamot.

Carrying a bunch of the dried helichrysum blooms with some bergamot leaves in my pocket, I cross the hedge. I visit the Spirits that I am forging relationship with; I’ve attempted to build relationships with the moody, grouchy ones by leaving handfuls for them as well. Sometimes I get ignored or maybe a disinterested stare from those Ones who have no desire to be my ally.  But more often than not, this handcrafted offering has proved to be well-received and beneficial. I rarely ‘leave home’ without it as I  travel along the Witch’s path.

 

 



[1] herbal Soaps & Detergents Hand Book, H. Pand

Oak-corns and Apple-thorns

July, 2011

Bee Balm: Flowering Herb of Magic

Also known as Bergamot, Oswego Tea, Horsemint, or Bergamot, Bee Balm is a powerful, hardy, and easily grown herb that bears beautiful ragged flowers all summer long.  This photo of Wild Bee Balm (Mondarda fistulosa) is from my garden.
The origin of the name “Bee Balm” is likely a reference to the plant’s natural attractiveness to bees, not an indicator that it’s a good sting treatment.  I know firsthand that bees love the flowers, but I have no firm evidence that it works on stings.  I could be wrong, but I haven’t been stung in over 20 years, and I hope to keep putting off a field test!  Regardless, it is associated with bees, which symbolize cooperation, unity, immortality and Goddess worship (think “Queen Bee”).  As a member of the mint family, there is an association with health, wellness, and fidelity.  The most common shade of the wild flowers is lavender, the color of devotion, love at first sight, and the union of power and purity (a mixture of purple and white).  Blossoms may also be pink or red, colors of friendship and love.
The leaves and flower petals of Bee Balm have a strong but pleasant flavor that make it a culinary star.  The entire plant above the root is edible.  A tea of dried leaves and blossoms is delicious with honey.  Add petals to salads as a colorful and slightly peppery garnish, or add leaves to wild meat dishes to offset gamey flavors.  Experiment with substituting Bee Balm for mint in recipes.  Add a sprig or blossom of Bee Balm to a glass of iced tea for a flavorful and attractive decoration.
As a medicinal, drink a cup or two of Bee Balm tea to induce sweating, to break fevers, or as a mild stimulant.  Since it contains oil of Thyme (thymol) it has powerful antiseptic properties.  Gargle double-strength Bee Balm tea (two tsp. of dried herb to 6 oz. boiling water, steep 10 minutes, and allow to cool) to soothe sore throats and mouth ulcers, or use as a soak soak for fungal infections of the feet and hands.  Put unused, unsweetened Bee Balm tea in a capped glass bottle in the fridge where it will remain potent for 3 to 5 days, ready to be gargled or applied at a moment’s notice.  Poultices of the moistened herb can be applied to minor wounds to help prevent infection.
In ritual, as a general rule, use Bee Balm in a manner similar to mint.  Macerate equal parts dried Bee Balm and Mint in olive oil to make a powerful “High Oil” for consecration.  In spells, holding a sprig of Bee Balm adds an element of love and purity to calls for power.  Place cuttings of Bee Balm on altars to the fallen to show solidarity and support.  Sprinkle fresh or dried leaves and blossoms into a bath to cleanse, invigorate, or aid in uncrossing.
By virtue of its power, versatility, and ease of cultivation, Bee Balm stands alongside the greatest of herbs.  Consider inviting it into your garden and into your crafting life.
Bee Balm
Planet Venus
Signs Taurus, Libra
Element Air, Earth
Day Friday
Number 6
Colors Lavender, pink, red
Stones Amethyst, Rose Quartz, Opal, Beryl
Body Parts Throat, neck, mouth, kidneys, genitals
Trees Myrtle, cherry
Animals/Birds Dove, swan, hare
Metal Copper