green

Notes from the Apothecary

December, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Christmas Cactus

 Oh no, not the C-Word! That’s right, my fellow Pagans, I said it. Christmas. Love it or loathe it, come December the 25th, possible birthday of Dionysus and Mithras (but unlikely to be the birthday of Jesus) the nation, nay, the world goes Christmas mad and we shake our heads. Don’t they know it’s just another solstice celebration? Or at the very most, an adoption of the festivities of Roman Saturnalia? Well, it might surprise you to know that I love Christmas. Yeah, it’s a touch annoying when people deny the Pagan roots, but I’m a sucker for seeing other people happy. And Christmas makes people happy! It also gives its name to some amazing things: Christmas Island, Christmas Jones and of course, the beautiful and exotic Christmas Cactus.

The botanical name is Schlumbergera, chosen by botanist Charles Lemaire (1801-1871) in honour of Frédéric Schlumberger (1823-1893) who was a renowned collector of cacti and succulents.

 

The Kitchen Garden

 Christmas Cacti are generally kept as houseplants as they are native to Brazil and used to this type of climate. In the wild they grow attached to rocks and trees, but they are happy in some well-drained, good quality compost with a bit of grit or sand.

The cacti are normally grown from cuttings and their spikes are barely there, making them resemble a succulent more than a traditional cactus. The leaves are flattish pads and they form chains which eventually erupt into bright and beautiful flowers. They are normally quite happy sharing a large pot with other succulents and cacti as long as it doesn’t become too crowded.

Don’t let them have too much direct sunlight. It can damage the leaves. But too little light, and they may never flower. Many schlumbergera flower in winter, making them a wonderful addition to natural holiday decorations, whatever you celebrate.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

Cacti in general are associated with fire and the south. They are also associated with the zodiac sign of Aries, but Christmas cactus is specifically associated with Sagittarius. Unsurprisingly this plant is associated with the month of December and the festival of Yule or the Winter Solstice. Christmas cacti make a great altar decoration for any festive period, and ones with pink or red flowers are particularly appropriate for the south of your sacred space.

The association with the zodiac sign of Aries can be expanded to include the god Aries, and Mars, Aries’ Roman Equivalent. This lends the Christmas cactus the power of strength, courage but also of conflict and success in battles.

Sagittarius is another fire sign, but one particularly associated with November and December, the signs time in the zodiac ending around the winter solstice. Sagittarius is the archer, and associated with prophecy and divination. The Christmas cactus, therefore, could be a great tool in meditative divination or prophetic spellwork.

Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, so the Christmas Cacti could also be a great addition to expansion magic, and lawfully aligned magic.

 

Home and Hearth

Collect the flowers of your Christmas Cacti before they begin to fade. Let them dry; laying them on some paper in an airing cupboard or a sunny windowsill away from damp is good for this. Place the dried and hopefully colourful flowers in a small, clear jar. Either hang the jar on a thong or chain, or keep it in a pocket when you are going into situations where you need a little more courage. This could be confrontations with friends or family that you are nervous about, or perhaps raising a grievance in the workplace. The energy of Mars will walk with you, and the balance of a very hardy plant.

 

I Never Knew…

For those who enjoy growing succulents and cacti, the adorable name for baby succulents is pups!

All images from Wikipedia.

***

About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

 

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon

Story Series: Hedge Wizard

September, 2018

Part 1


(Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash)

Chapter 1, Part 2

Flight through the Forest

As we flew over the treetops, with the great starry dome overhead, I seemed to be flying upside down over an ocean filled with innumerable lights. The blue child led me deep into the forest, and at one point slowed down to allow me to catch up with him. Then he locked elbows and flew with me, and suddenly all was changed. The trees glowed with light of many colors, like lamps of blue, green, red and violet, each type of tree a different hue. Some trees throbbed with light, while others gave off a steady sheen. In places I saw what looked like columns of light erupting from the trees up into the sky and eventually disappearing in distance. Elsewhere, shafts of light descended suddenly from the sky and fused with particular trees. The blue child led me to a glade in the forest filled with oaks and poplars. We flew to one particular oak and passed inside it through a hollow ‘fairy door’. I was in the trunk of a massive, giant oak tree with the blue child.

Some noise in the forest woke me up at this moment. It was early morning, just around dawn. I went back to sleep and had no dreams I recalled.

At breakfast the Hægtessa seemed pleased and rested. She said she’d had the best sleep in years, for it’s tiring at times to fly with the blue child or other dryads in the forest. At least when you get up to my age,” she smiled. “But while you’re young it’s great fun, and you gradually become acquainted with the deeper forest.”

Dawn can go home tomorrow,” she continued as an afterthought. “Try again tonight with the Blue Child. See if you can get inside the Great Oak. Tell me what happened tomorrow at breakfast. If you find you like doing this, and don’t mind learning herb-lore from me, you can be hedge wizard when I am gone. But think it over; you have plenty of time to consider it.

But the times you go home,” she added, in turning, “don’t speak of your experiences here. Just say you are learning herb-lore from me. That will provide enough reason for them to ostracize you. No point in giving them more.”

* * * * *

On the following night once again I was flying with the Blue Child through the night forest. The blue child led me to a glade in the forest filled with oaks. We flew to one particular oak and passed inside it through a hollow ‘fairy door’. I was in the trunk of a massive, giant oak tree with the blue child. Blue light was all around us.

We rested inside a recess in the oak’s trunk. Not far from us was the figure of an old man sleeping. He seemed carved from wood, or else turning into wood. On his face was an expression of contentment and rest.

Who is that?” I asked the Blue Child. “My Dad,” he answered. “He is falling asleep into the tree. Dad, Dad,” he called softly. The old man’s eyelids fluttered, scattering small splinters. He looked with love at the Blue Child. “Dad, this is Bird-brow. He is taking his first flight.”

The old man’s voice came resonantly from his lips, which hardly moved. “Welcome, Bird-brow,” he said. “The gods bless you.”

And you, Sir,” I replied. “But what is happening to you?”

Oh, I am dying. It is time to return to the Tree, our Mother. My son will serve Her in my stead.”

In the garth, where I live,” I said, “to die is an occasion for sorrow.”

Not among us,” the old man said, smiling. “For we do not die entirely so long as the Tree lives. And She has lived here in the Forest a very long time.”

You can still go upstairs if you’d rather, Dad,” said the Blue Child.

No, Son. My place is here with our Mother, the Oak. But you should go upstairs to tell the Bright Ones I will stay here and subside into wood.”

The Blue Child turned to me. “Rest here awhile. I will return soon.”

The blue light grew around us and seemed to lift the Blue Child. He rose on a column of light and rushed out of the crown of the Tree, up into the sky. He was suddenly gone. I looked at the old man inquiringly.

You must pardon me,” he said, closing his eyes once again. “I am becoming very sleepy.”

I moved outside the trunk up into the lower branches of the Oak. Around me the elms were glowing green, the larches a paler shade of the same color. Here and there in the haunted forest columns of light shot up into the sky and disappeared; once in a while a column descended from the sky and passed into a tree from above, and the tree took on its color and glowed softly.

After some time had passed, a shaft of blue light descended from the sky and the Blue Child was back. “Now we must scout out the Hægtessa’s herbs,” he said. “the old beds have dried up.”

But where were you?” I asked him, as we resumed out flight.

In our star. Every tree in the forest has a star. Ours is there.” And he pointed almost directly up, to the top of the sky. “You must return with the Haegtessa in the morning and help her pick herbs.” Once again we entered the oak.

But where are the herbs?” I asked. “The trees will find them,” he said, and then called out softly “Dad…Dad.”

The old face appeared once more in the wood. “Yes, Son, what is it? I was drifting off.”

The Haegtessa needs more herbs, Dad. The old beds have dried up. We must find the closest bed of wild herbs for her.”

Right away,” said the face, and disappeared into the wood.

Where has he gone?” I asked the Blue Child. “Down into the roots,“he said. “The roots of the great oak extend far on every side and touch the roots of trees growing around us. They in turn touch the roots of their neighbors, and so on. The search for the wild herbs is even now traveling far afield, along the roots through the Deep Forest.”

Presently the old face of the Oak Father appeared once more in the wood. Little splinters flew from his eyelids and lips as he smiled and said “Tell the Hægtessa the way to the herbs has been charted. If she comes here to the Great Oak she can follow the trail with her staff” “Thank you, Oak Father,” I said, and promptly awoke in the crystal room.

At breakfast the Hægtessa was radiant. “You’ve done well, Bird-Brow,” she said. “The Blue Child and the Oak Father both like you. That is important.”

I told her what the Oak Father said. “I know,” she said, “I have done this before, many times. What he said was for your benefit. We must go together today, since you may be doing this next time.”

After breakfast she said farewell to my mother and little Dawn. “She has recovered. Keep her quiet and well-rested for a few days. Bird-Brow is going with me today on an expedition. He will return home tonight.”

The Hægtessa put on her voluminous white robe and took her carved oaken staff from her cabinet. “Take this sack with you, Bird-Brow,” she said. “We will bring back some herbs for replanting in my field.”

I had flown with the Blue Child to the Great Oak and knew vaguely how to get there in the body, but the Hægtessa knew the way very well, and in about half an hour we mounted the hill leading to the tree. It was a quiet, blue morning, punctuated with light birdsong.

The Hægtessa grounded her staff near the base of the oak. “Grasp my staff, Bird-Brow” she said. I grasped its head and felt a tingling coming up the staff from the ground. She knew I felt it, and took it back. “Now follow along. We have a journey to make.”

She walked to the next tree, a smaller, younger oak, and then beyond it to a birch, feeling the ground with her staff with every step. In this way we went down hill and up hill for about half an hour. Coming to a shallow stream, we forded it, the Hægtessa feeling the trail along the stream bottom with her staff, and picking up the trail again among the trees on the other side. The land sloped uphill from the other bank, until we reached a plateau at the edge of a cliff. Far below I could see the field of herbs. Passing to the left along the cliff, we came to a mild grassy slope downhill, and followed it down to the herb beds.

The field of herbs was the size of two yards placed side by side. Beyond them the forest continued on a shallow rise. “The herbs have come here from many places in the forest,” said the Hægtessa. “They are our partners. It is our job to protect them, to pick the weeds from among them and ring them about with guardian plants like marigolds. Some we will gather up and replant in my garden. These will be of use, like the feverfew I gave little Dawn, but once replanted, the herbs have less potency. Here, in this field, is where they retain their full magic.” She showed me how to tell weeds from herbs, and we replanted a few marigolds along the margins.

You must come here with the Blue Child, Bird-Brow,” she said, “perhaps once a week, to see if all is well. You must also come here at times in the body to dress and protect the field, and gather a few herbs for replanting. That is, if you want to.”

She looked at me carefully. “I am old, Bird-Brow,” she said. “I cannot make the journey here often. If you wish to be hedge wizard after me, you must start now to help with the fields.”

I will, gladly,” I said. “But what of my father and the boar hunt? I have never been asked to be on it before, because I was too young. He is counting on me to be with him.”

Some problems have no easy solution, Bird-Brow,” she said.

When I visited the herb field and pitched my tent, all was quiet. In the night I saw one herb light up within, and in it I could see the Hægtessa preparing herbs. She looked very old and tired, and suddenly I knew I would disappoint my father and remain here with her. When next I slept in the crystal room, the Blue Child flew in and said I had chosen wisely. She would not live much longer. In the morning I told her of my decision to remain with her and learn her herb-lore. She smiled and took me into her garden, pointing out the herbs which had been replanted. “These can be used in healing, Bird-Brow. But they must be boosted with wild herbs from the field.” Back in her house, she showed me how to prepare the herbs, cutting them and mixing them with the wild herbs. They seemed to quicken into new life when mixed with their wild counterparts.

At night, I flew with the Blue Child to the wild herb field, but instead of returning to the Hægtessa’s house we flew together over the wheat fields to the Hall. There was a lamp lit inside the Hall, watched over by the Hall-Sun, a young, vigorous woman with straw-colored hair. I was surprised to see my father there with her. “He won’t come, Hall-Sun.” he said sadly. I had hoped to show him hunting. The Hægtessa has bewitched him to her service.”

He can still come along to the boar-hunt,” the Hall-Sun said. “He can fly with the hunters and the Blue Child.” And she nodded to my companion.

That night the boar-hunters ran through a long tunnel in the Hedge, carrying torches. My father led them. The great wild boar had been reported in these parts, and each hunter was armed with bow, arrows and spear. I hovered over my father and the Blue Child and I flew on ahead to scout out the quarry and report its whereabouts to the hunters. Once or twice I saved my father from the boar by warning him of its murderous attack. I think he was aware of my protection and thanked me. He showed me how he stalked the boar and in this way I learned about hunting. The Hall-Sun watched me closely and I was taken by her fresh beauty. She seemed sprung from the earth, like harvest wheat. Her gaze seemed to reprove me for not being with my father on the hunt. But then I thought of the Hægtessa and her difficulties, and when I did, the Hall-Sun nodded approvingly.

End of part one

Story Series: Hedge Wizard

August, 2018

Part 1

(Photo by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash)

Chapter 1

1. A Visit to the Hægtessa

I remember when little Dawn had a fever and had trouble sleeping, I went with Mother across the harvested fields to visit the Hægtessa. The green wall of the Hedge, tiny in the distance, grew and threw open its arms as we approached. On all sides it stretched, shutting out the Forest, except where the river ran by, downhill on the right, where the fishing lodge straddled the bank. I knew that far to the left, the hunters’ tunnel passed under the hedge.

Beyond the Hedge I could see the tops of many trees, outliers of the Forest. The Forest went on and on, they said, forever. No one went very far into it except the hunters. The Hægtessa, whose name meant ‘hedge-rider,’ went a little way in at times to gather herbs.

As we approached her house, Mother cautioned me to remain quiet unless spoken to. The Hægtessa, it was said, lived a very quiet life and disliked noise.

Her house ran right through the Hedge to the other side, and thus had two fronts, each barely extending beyond the Hedge itself. Her magic accommodated the Hedge to her house, neatly fitting it without impinging on it in the least.

I had never been in her house. I had been up to the Hedge, and down to the fishing-lodge by the river, and seen the gabled front of her house from a distance, but never herself. But now she came out.

But when the Hægtessa emerged, she was a kindly-looking middle-aged woman, getting a little stout. She was dressed in a simple farm smock and apron.

I’ve been working in the garden” she said to me, answering my thought. The morning sun peeped over the roof of the forest, and I squinted. She looked at me curiously, then turned to my mother.

Hello, Mopsy,” she said, using my mother’s little girl name.”What can I do for you?”

It’s Dawn, here,” said Mother. “She is hot and can’t sleep. I think her head hurts.”

The Hægtessa took Dawn in her arms. “She needs feverfew and a few other herbs,” she said. “Step in.”

We went up three steps and were inside her house, which seemed carved rather than built. A wide room stretched on both sides. Ahead were more steps, leading past cabinets of herbs and instruments up through the middle of the house. There were no windows to right or left.

Her magic keeps the hedge from bothering the house,” I thought. “But why the hump in the middle?”

Once again she answered my thought. “The roots of the hedge pass under the middle of my house. Else there would be two hedges.”

*

The Hægtessa ascended the inner steps and took several herbs from the shelves. She took dried leaves of feverfew and mixed them with fresh leaves. Then she prepared two or three other herbs.

When she brought the tea down, I saw a circular stairway at the back of her herb-closet. Past it steps probably started down to the forest side of her house.

We have to wait and see how she takes the herbs,” she said. “Please make yourselves comfortable. I will brew another tea.”

We sat on her cushioned carved benches and waited, while Mother applied a cool rag to Dawn’s head from time to time.

The Haegtessa kept us company. She talked about her need for an apprentice, “I’m not as young now as I once was.” She was running out of some herbs and needed help locating new gardens in the forest.

Somewhat later she felt Dawn’s head and said she felt a little cooler, but she needed to stay there for a night or two until her head was back to normal. She fixed up a bed for Mother in the room with Dawn, then turned to me.

Perhaps you’d like to sleep in the loft?” she asked, pointing to the circular stairs. “Come and see.” I followed her up the stairs. At the top, the gabled room was on the right. On the left a door opened into a circular chamber, roofed with crystal. I had heard of the dream chamber, but thought it was just a story.

In the center of the room was a wide, comfortable looking bed. Some treetops could be seen at the rim of the dome, but otherwise it was all sky.

Do you think you’d like to sleep here?” she asked.

Oh, yes,” I said. “Yes, thanks.”

That is well, Bird-brow; I give you that name in place of your boyhood name Hops. For outside, when you squinted, I saw a bird’s head, perhaps a robin’s, in the wrinkles between your brows. So I know you will profit from a night spent up here.”

The first night the dream chamber was filled with a blue light, whitened a while by the moon. I lay entranced by the starry sky and don’t know when I dropped off. Just before I woke I seemed to see a bluish figure flying around the room. It was a boy, a little smaller than I am, but I awoke before I could see more or speak to him.

At breakfast the Hægtessa was jovial. Dawn was much improved, and Mother had finally gotten some much-needed sleep. We had milk and meat and some fruit I had never seen before, juicy with a red pith. “One more night and Dawn will be well,” she said. “Did you sleep well in the chamber, Bird-brow?”

Why do you call him that?” asked Mother. “His name is Hops.”

He is growing fast, and has grown much overnight. See, already he is nearly eight years in stature. And I name him Bird-brow.”

Mother said nothing, but shifted a little uneasily in her chair. We knew that a hedge-witch has the right to assign a name to someone, and that name is not without meaning.

During the morning the Hægtessa took me out over the stair-hill and through the forest side of her house to the herb garden just outside the forest-door. Just beyond it was the blasted heath where the advancing trees of the forest had been cut down and the grass and seeds underneath them burnt brown. We picked herbs that day and she showed me how to store them in jars and prepare tinctures and other medicines.

At sunset a hunter came by with a brace of conies. “Have you heard that the great boar hunt is being prepared?” he asked me. “Your father is organizing it. Will you be with him?” I said certainly. He skinned them and stayed to supper with us, then went off again into the forest.

That night I dropped off to sleep swiftly, and before long the light of a star shone brighter, and the blue child flew or slid down the trail of light, landing at the foot of my bed.

Come, Bird-brow,” the blue child said. “You are asleep, so you can fly,” and we both flew through the crystal and out into the night of the forest.

To Be Continued…

The Kitchen Witch

April, 2018

Green Goddess Salad

April is the month that spring really gets into high gear, even here in Buffalo. April is the month of Venus, the goddess of love and with flowers beginning to bloom, it’s easy to see why. April is also the month of Earth day – April 22. I was ten years old the very first Earth Day. When I was a freshman in college, in my women’s studies classes, I read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. If you haven’t read this book, you really should!

I have always celebrated Earth Day with a vegetarian meal, usually a Big Salad. Green Goddess Salad is a perfect Earth Day choice. It mixes the celebration of Venus with the celebration of the green earth.

This is one of my absolute favorite salads. I have made it dozens of times, although I haven’t made it in quite a long time. It’s a little on the expensive side but I think it’s worth it. My recipe is from a cookbook that I wish I knew the name of but unfortunately it was in that period of time where I copied recipes out of books I got from the library and never wrote down the name of the cookbook! Which makes it really difficult to reference now! Suffice it to say that I have been making this salad for thirty years and I have tweaked the recipe numerous times – enough that it’s MY recipe now.

I did a little research on the history of the Green Goddess Salad. It was created at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1923 to honor the actor George Arliss, who was starring in the play, “The Green Goddess”, written by William Archer, which had been a big hit on Broadway and was now touring the United States. Arliss would star in two movies of that name, one made in 1923 and another one in 1930, for which he would receive an Oscar nomination. George Arliss was a big star of the stage and silent movies in the early twentieth-century but he is almost forgotten today. Likewise, both the play and the movie “The Green Goddess” have been lost in the mists of time. I read the synopsis of the screenplay and I can’t imagine “The Green Goddess” being popular in today’s culture – it’s a very silly romantic comedy about a plane wreck in a south-sea island and the need of a human sacrifice to a “Green Goddess” – all kinds of ridiculous antics before the British air corps save the day.

Unlike the play or the movie, Green Goddess Salad stayed popular throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s and into the 1960’s. There was a bottled version of the dressing but that disappeared in the 1970’s when ranch dressing became popular. Apparently, you can still buy it online but it’s $7.50 a bottle! I think it might be a tad cheaper to make it fresh! Not to mention much tastier!

If you Google “Green Goddess Salad”, you will find all kinds of salads. Some have chicken in them, some have shrimp, some have garbanzo beans. Some have “updated” versions of the salad dressing, omitting the mayonnaise and the sour cream and substituting avocado, making it a truly green dressing. Some have gotten rid of the creamy aspect of the dressing altogether – the Park Restaurant in San Francisco now serves a “Green Goddess Salad” with a dressing that is basically a vinaigrette made with tarragon wine vinegar and olive oil! Yes, the herbs are the same and there are anchovies in the mixture. But how can you have a “Green Goddess Salad” without a creamy salad dressing? Maybe I’m an old fart but that just doesn’t seem right to me!

The recipe I copied from the “mystery cookbook” was quite simple – but that was the way salads were thirty or forty years ago. Here is a scan of the recipe from MY cookbook, complete with typos:

Because I am not going to be serving six people, I too “updated” this salad for my own use. I am having it for my dinner, so naturally it’s going to be on the large size but it’ll be half the size of this recipe.

The first thing I did was make the dressing. I no longer own a blender or food processor, so this was a totally different process. In the old days, I would cut fresh parsley from my garden, coarsely chop the green onions, add everything else and blend. But I couldn’t figure out how to chop the green onions finely enough by hand for a salad dressing, so I decided to put them on the salad instead. I added garlic powder instead. And I had to use dried parsley instead of fresh.

Instead of mayonnaise and sour cream, I used plain Greek yogurt. I used a single-serve container, so it was a little more than half a cup. With that in mind, I used more or less half the amount of the rest of the ingredients. The beauty of making salad dressings is that you can fool around with the seasonings a bit – it’s not like baking a cake, where you have to be precise.

I didn’t use tarragon vinegar. It’s wicked expensive and I have to be honest – I really do not like the flavor of tarragon very much. So I used white wine vinegar instead. I did add a small amount of dried tarragon with the other herbs. When I tasted it, I decided that it needed a little more anchovy paste and a touch of sugar – I wasn’t going to add any sugar but I decided that it needed it. I also added a dash of salt.

This salad dressing needs to sit for the ingredients to fully “marry” and “get happy”, as Emeril would say. Put a cover on the bowl and set it in the refrigerator and do something else for at least fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes are better.

I arranged the greens on a large plate. I rarely eat endive because when I was a kid, I really hated it and now I don’t think about unless a specific recipe calls for it. But I had to admit that the pale curly leaves looked pretty on top of the torn pieces of romaine. I decided to add baby spinach to the mix – to make the salad greener.

The recipe calls for “two medium tomatoes” but I had a bunch of those little “Campari” tomatoes, so I took three of them and halved them and arranged them along the edge of the plate. Then I chopped the green onions that I had omitted from the salad dressing and I added them to the salad.

At this point, the recipe calls for “frozen artichoke hearts, cooked, drained & chilled” – if you want to do this, you can but I only did this the first time I made this recipe. After that, I bought canned artichoke hearts. They’re much easier to deal with and you can refrigerate the ones you don’t use for another salad on another day. As for the olives – I really wanted to get good Greek olives – Kalamata Olives would have been perfect – but the inner-city grocery store I went to didn’t have any. Honestly, I was amazed that they had anchovy paste!

I omitted the anchovies and added salad shrimp instead. This is what the salad looked like when I had it all assembled on the plate and before I put the dressing on it:

Ok – this was the problem. When I put the salad dressing on top of the salad, it flowed over the top like slow-moving lava. It wasn’t attractive at all. I quickly threw the salad into a large bowl and mixed it all together until everything was “coated” with the dressing – which was what the recipe said to do, after all. Then I rearranged the salad on the plate:

Now – that looks good enough to eat!

As I ate, I made a few mental notes. One – the salad dressing really works better if you have a blender. I think also that fresh parsley and basil are a must. Putting those fresh green herbs into the blender with the mayo/sour cream/yogurt and pulverizing the hell out of them gives the dressing the proper pale green color. My dressing – although it tasted fabulous! – was white with green flecks. It wasn’t what it was supposed to be. As with Spell-Work, sometimes improvising works and sometimes it doesn’t.

The other thing was substituting salad shrimp for anchovies. If you are serving friends who do NOT like anchovies, then by all means substitute shrimp or chicken or garbanzos or whatever else you wish. But I really missed the flavor and the texture of the anchovies. I can guarantee you that the next time I make this salad – and it will be quite soon – I will be putting anchovies on the greens.

However you make this salad, enjoy Earth Day! Praise to Venus, the Goddess of Love and Spring and all good things! Brightest Blessings!

Click Images for Amazon Information

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Crystal Connections

February, 2018

Amazonite

A member of the Feldspar family, it’s said that Amazonite is the stone of truth. By stimulating the throat chakra, this stone assists in clear communication by aligning your speech to higher ideals. Amazonite inspires confidence, hope and enhances creative “true to self” expression. With its soothing green colors, calmness is what this crystalline structure is all about. This stone also works powerfully through the heart chakra by healing past emotional traumas.

(Photo courtesy http://shijewels.etsy.com)

When I worked in the financial industry I would often wear Amazonite jewelry not only because of its abilities described above but also because it’s known to relieve stress and dispel negative energy, and where there’s money, negative energy seems to follow. Thinking back, I remember wearing an Amazonite bead bracelet that I would mindlessly fiddle with when I was dealing with large amounts of money, and calm is exactly what I remember feeling when I did that. Another wonderful aspect that this Feldspar offers is its ability to assist in manifesting. Meditating with Amazonite can help clarify your intentions and affirmations, bringing your souls purpose into alignment.

(Photo courtesy http://shijewels.etsy.com)

To be honest, when I first started collecting crystals, Amazonite wasn’t even on my radar. I was so obsessed with the more common crystals, especially the Quartz family, that this subtle but sweet little gem was passed over many times. It may have taken a bit longer than I’d like to admit, but I can say without a doubt that I’m grateful to have this stone included in my crystal healing arsenal.

***

About the Author:

Shiron (Shi) Eddy hails from the Pacific Northwest and shares a home with her husband, a Great Dane and a cat. Her love for crystals and minerals came from her dad who was an avid rock hound in his younger years. Shi happily shares her knowledge of crystals with anyone who is drawn to them, but especially loves to help people connect with minerals that involves their metaphysical properties. When she’s not networking with other crystal and mineral lovers, Shi can be found making jewelry, painting, crocheting Goddess dolls, selling her wares at shows or spending time with family and friends. You can find her jewelry in her shop ShiJewels or follow her on Instagram.

The Enchanted Cottage; Magic for the Witch’s Home

September, 2014

Moss

The craft of the cottage witch conjures images of a secluded cabin on the edge of an enchanted forest. An elderly woman resides there, bent posture and warts wreak havoc on her frail form. Standing over her bubbling cauldron, she whispers incantations only the spirits can decipher. Wolves howl in the moonless night, sending icy tendrils of fear down your spine. A wisp of wind swirls around the cottage, filling the Autumn air with magic. The old woman cackles, turning about in wicked glee. The spell is cast, the deed is done—magic is afoot.

Though the above scene is great for movies and fairy tales, it is not what cottage witchery of today looks like. Sure, we may have cauldrons bubbling with brew and we may cackle from time to time, but most of us are just your everyday person living in today’s fast-paced world. The magic we do in our homes are aimed toward the health and well-being of our families and community. Through spell-craft and folk magic, we enchant the world around us. We advise loved ones with day to day problems through the reading of tea leaves, tarot and other forms of divination.

The cottage witch may honor many gods or none at all. Some work with ancestors and the spirits that live on their land. We gather inspiration through fairy tales and myth, weaving them together to form our own understanding of the occult world. Through trial and error, the cottage witch learns which potions and incantations work best her. The understanding of superstitions and interpreting omens may play a large part in the life of the cottage witch.

The witch’s kitchen is where most of the magic happens. The cooking of foods, brewing of teas, and mixing of herbs and oils for spell-craft take place in what is sometimes called the heart of the home. It is where we gather at the end of a long day to discuss the events of the day. We bless our food as we are preparing it, filling it with love and health. Offerings for the House-Spirits are left here, in hopes that they protect our home and fill it with enchanting warmth. The making of poppets and witches bottles may be prepared here, the kitchen table doubling as an altar.

The life of a cottage witch is one filled with enchantment. We dance through the seasons of Earth and life, weaving magic through all we touch. We laugh, we cry–we cackle. In this column, I will be discussing all of the above information and more in great detail. From folk lore to superstitions, from spells to the many forms of divination the cottage witch can utilize. House-hold deities, spirits and the Mighty Dead will make an appearance here. Join me in the making of magic, join me in– The Enchanted Cottage.

The Mugwort Chronicles

June, 2013

Wild Carrot or Poison Hemlock?

Several months ago, my brother and I were discussing our mutual love of the woods and the outdoors. Although he has hunted and fished most of his adult life, he admitted that he really didn’t pay too much attention to the wild greens around him. Somehow, our conversation turned to the subject of Hemlock and my brother was quite surprised to learn that Hemlock trees were not poisonous, but several relatives of Wild Carrot are some of the most deadly plants in North America. Their similarity in appearance to Wild Carrot has resulted in many deaths, including children using their hollow stems for straws or for making whistles.  My brother was also surprised to learn that sometimes Wild Carrot and Poison Hemlock can grow in the same areas and that Poison Hemlock can be found growing right in your own backyard.

Wild Carrot, Poison Hemlock and Poison Hemlock’s deadly cousin, Water Hemlock all belong to the Apiaceae plant family. Formerly known as the Parsley or Umbelliferae family, the Apiaceae family includes cow parsnip as well as many well-known edible plants such as celery, parsley, angelica, fennel and sweet cicely. Although many of these edible plants are cultivated, they can still be found growing wild. It is important to note that the non-poisonous Hemlock tree, Tsuga, is not related to the Hemlock plant.

Personally, I never wildcraft any plants from the Apiaceae family. In my opinion, the potential for making a deadly mistake is far too great. I am honest enough to admit that I just do not feel comfortable or 100% certain in recognizing the differences between the edible and the deadly-poisonous varieties. If you ingest either Poison Hemlock or Water Hemlock, it is very unlikely that you will get a second chance to get your plant identification right the next time.   According to tradition, it was the Poison Hemlock plant- Conium maculatum that was used to execute Socrates.

What can make identification difficult is that although Wild Carrot and its edible relatives do have some fairly recognizable differences from Poison Hemlock and Water Hemlock, like many plants, these characteristics can be affected by variations in growing conditions making accurate identification sometimes difficult. It is important to remember when harvesting edible wild plants to be aware of what other plants are growing in close proximity, as poisonous plant neighbors can ‘share’ their toxic constituents with nearby plants. To avoid potential contamination, never harvest any plants growing in the vicinity of Poison Hemlock, Water Hemlock or any other poisonous plant.

Let’s look at some of the characteristics for Wild Carrot, Poison Hemlock and Water Hemlock.

 

 

 

 
WILD CARROT – Daucus carota

Wild Carrot, also known as Queen Anne’s Lace, was introduced from Europe as a medicinal plant; the vegetable carrot was bred from this plant. The root, flower and seeds are all edible and medicinal.

Wild Carrot is often found in dry fields and along roadsides, flowering from May to October. Growing an average height of 1 to 3 feet, it has tiny white flowers arranged in compound umbels-flower clusters in which individual flower stalks arise from the center. These umbels average 3 to 5 inches across. The center flower is often purple and the leaves are very finely divided (tri-pinnate), arranged in an alternate pattern and embrace the stem with a sheathing base. The root is small, spindle-shaped with a strong aromatic carrot smell.

Distinctive features: Unlike Poison Hemlock and Water Hemlock, Wild Carrot has a solid stem which is covered with short coarse hair. Remember: “Queen Anne has hairy legs”!

For some really good detailed photos, check out this weed information website from Canada: http://www.weedinfo.ca/en/weed-index/view/id/DAUCA

The Carrot Museum also has some great information, including ancient folk lore regarding Wild Carrot:  http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/queen.html

 

POISON HEMLOCK – Conium maculatum

Poison Hemlock is found in areas of moist fertile soil, in wooded lots, along fences and in waste areas. Unlike Wild Carrot, Poison Hemlock grows tall-between 3 to 6 feet high. It has small, white flowers in compound umbels with alternate, finely divided leaves with bases sheathing the stems. Poison Hemlock has a large taproot, white to yellow in colour. The entire plant is toxic and if you need to work with it, be sure to wear protective clothing.

Distinguishing features: The leaves have a mouse-like odor when crushed and are extremely nauseating when tasted. The stems are smooth, hollow and often covered with purple reddish spots or mottling.        

The Noxious Weed website from Kings County, Washington has some good photos of Poison Hemlock:

http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animalsAndPlants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/poison-hemlock.aspx

 

WATER HEMLOCK-Cicuta maculata

Water Hemlock grows in open wet areas such as marshes, along shores and sometimes in open swamps. Like Poison Hemlock, Water Hemlock grows tall-3 to 6 feet or higher, with flat or rounded white umbels, 2-5 inches wide. The leaves are alternate, pointed and lance-shaped with numerous teeth; they are sometimes red-tinged. The roots have fat tuber-like branches. One of the most poisonous plants in North America, even a small mouthful of Water Hemlock can kill an adult. Always wear protective clothing if you need to work with this plant.

In Amy Stewart’s book, “Wicked Plants”, she tells of two brothers who, in the 1990’s during a hike, mistakenly identified Water Hemlock for Wild Ginseng. One man ate three bites and died several hours later, while the other took only one nibble, developed seizures but survived.  She also notes that the roots have a slightly sweet taste, which may make the plant seem edible.

Distinctive features: The whole plant has a ragged look. The stems are hollow, smooth and branching, often with purple reddish mottling.  The lower part of the stem is chambered.

This site has some good photos of Water Hemlock:

http://www.natureskills.com/outdoor-safety/water-hemlock/

 

If you feel called to work with the medicinal properties of Wild Carrot or wish to wildcraft other edible members of the Apiaceae family, consider taking a class taught by an experienced teacher which includes hands-on plant identification as part of the course work. While field guides are extremely helpful tools in plant identification, it is important to be introduced to the members of this family face-to-face by a knowledgeable instructor to avoid a potentially deadly mishap.

This information is offered for educational purposes and is not intended to take the place of personalized medical care from a trained healthcare professional. The reader assumes all risk when utilizing the above information.

~Louise~

Copyright© 2013 Louise Harmon

All Rights Reserved
Resources:

-Alternative Nature On-Line - Wild Carrot:

http://www.altnature.com/gallery/Wild_Carrot.htm

 

-Foraging Texas: Queen Anne’s Lace/Wild Carrot:

http://www.foragingtexas.com/2008/08/queen-annes-lace.html

-Tsuga: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsuga

-Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide-Wild Carrot or Queen Anne’s Lace: Daucus carota: http://www.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/dauca.htm

-Stewart, Amy. Wicked Plants. Chapel Hill: Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 2009. Print.

-Wildflowers and Weeds-members of the Apiaceae family: http://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/Plant_Families/Apiaceae.htm

HearthBeats: Recipes from a Kitchen Witch

September, 2010

Hey guys and gals.. I am sending some recipes for homemade cleaning supplies and body care supplies…

Starting with window cleaner.

Recipe #1

2 cups water
3 TBS vinegar
1/2 tsp dish detergent (liquid)

Recipe #2

1 gallon water
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tsp dish detergent (liquid)

Recipe #3

1 gallon water
1/4 cup vinegar
2 TBS lemon juice
squirt dish detergent (liquid)

Recipe #4

1/2 cup white vinegar
1 gallon warm water

Spray windows with preferred cleaner solution then wipe clean with crumpled newspapers. The newspaper helps prevent streaks.

Avoid cleaning windows and glass when the sun is hot and shining on the window–glass will dry too fast and there will be streaks.

Also wash one side of the window in an up and down direction, on the other side scrub side to side. This will help determine which side of the glass has the streaks that need to be polished out.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Shake ½ Cup of Borax and 10 drops of tea tree essential oil into toilet,
give it a quick scrub with the toilet brush, close the lid and leave for
several hours or overnight. Scrub again, flush and delight in your sparkling
clean, fresh-smelling bowl.

Homemade Laundry Soap Detergent

Recipe #1

1 quart Water (boiling)
2 cups Bar soap (grated)
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda

  • Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until soap is melted.
  • Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
  • Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.
  • Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Stir the soap each time you use it (will gel).

Recipe #2

Hot water
1 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
1 Soap bar

  • Grate the bar soap and add to a large saucepan with hot water. Stir over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
  • Fill a 10 gallon pail half full of hot water. Add the melted soap, Borax and Washing soda, stir well until all powder is dissolved. Top the pail up with more hot water.
  • Use 1 cup per load, stirring soap before each use (will gel).

Recipe #3
Powdered Laundry Detergent (
I use this and it is great. You can pre-wash with Dawn if you get grease or oil stains)

2 cups Fels Naptha Soap (finely grated – you could also try the other bar soaps listed at the top)
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Borax

  • Mix well and store in an airtight plastic container.
  • Use 2 tablespoons per full load.

Recipe # 4
Powdered Laundry Detergent (
you can make this in smaller batches. It works great too.)

12 cups Borax
8 cups Baking Soda
8 cups Washing Soda
8 cups Bar soap (grated)

  • Mix all ingredients well and store in a sealed tub.
  • Use 1/8 cup of powder per full load.

Liquid Detergents Note

Soap will be lumpy, goopy and gel-like. This is normal. Just give it a good stir before using. Make sure soap is covered with a lid when not in use. You could also pour the homemade soap in old (and cleaned) laundry detergent bottles and shake well before each use.

*If you can’t find Fels-Naptha locally, you can buy it online (check Amazon).

Optional

You can add between 10 to 15 drops of essential oil (per 2 gallons) to your homemade laundry detergent. Add once the soap has cooled to room temperature. Stir well and cover.

Essential oil ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil

If you add an extra ½ cup borax and a ½ cup salt to 1 ½ cups liquid detergent you can make a great soft scrub.

All purpose cleaner

2 Tablespoons Borax
1 Teaspoon Castile Soap
15-20 drops total of Essential Oils such as Pine, Lemon, Lemongrass,
Eucalyptus or Tea Tree (remember that Tea Tree is has great disinfectant
qualities)

Add Borax to a 1-quart spray bottle.
Fill with warm water.
Add Castile soap and 15 to 20 drops of oil.

Shake and use.

Body care

Basic Shower Gel

1/2 cup unscented shampoo
1/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
15 drops fragrance oil
Food coloring ( optional)

Directions:
Pour shampoo into a bowl and add the water. Stir until its well mixed add the salt and fragrance.

Add any fragrance oil that you like!

Liquid Hand Soap Recipe

1 bar of soap, small (not super size)
3 C. Water

Take your bar of soap (we use Dove or store brand like it, because it’s more moisturizing), and grate it with a cheese grater. Pour the water and grated soap into a microwaveable container and cook on high for 3 min. Remove and stir until all soap bits have melted (put in a bit longer, if needed). Let it cool, then pour into pumps (leftover from store bought liquid soap), and the remainder in any container with a lid. Makes about 24 oz.

Peach Shower Gel

3/4 cup distilled water
1/4 cup shampoo concentrate (or substitute with 1/2 cup unscented shampoo and increase salt to 1 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tbs. apricot kernel oil
15 drops peach fragrance oil
5 drops vitamin E oil (2 capsules)
1 drop orange food coloring (optional)

Warm the water and pour into a ceramic bowl. Add the apricot kernal oil, salt, peach fragrance oil, vitamin E oil (just break open the capsules) and coloring. Stir until well blended and thick. Pour into a squeeze bottle and close.

Hair Growth herbal Shampoo

This shampoo not only helps encourage hair growth, but it also keeps the
Scalp very clean and healthy and helps prevent dandruff.

2 cups distilled water
1 cup fresh spearmint
1 cup fresh rosemary
1 cup all-natural, gentle baby shampoo
Essential oil or fragrance oil, your choice, optional (to make it a
Scented shampoo)

Boil the water with the fresh herbs for about ten minutes, in a glass
Saucepan (like Visions). Or, you can put in a microwave-safe glass or
Plastic bowl and heat in the microwave until boiling, and allow to boil
For about ten minutes. Then, remove the pot from the stove or bowl from
The microwave and cover with a lid and allow to sit and steep for an
Hour. Strain the liquid through cheesecloth. Mix this with the baby
Shampoo. Pour into bottles and let set overnight. The next morning you
Can add some fragrance or essential oil to the shampoo in whatever scent
You like the most.

Until next month
Merry Cooking and Blessed Eating
The Hearthkeeper

PS. If there is anything you would like to see here.. Please email me at  thehearthkeeper@gmail.com

Blessed be…

A Simple Path: Journey of a Hedgewitch

August, 2009

*The Hedgewitch lives in the space between the Village and the Forest. Between the mundane and the magical. S/He lives with a foot in both worlds.
This column is dedicated to the Hedgewitches of the planet earth.

house

Sitting On A Dream

I wish I had more clues to the mystery of My House to share with you. But, then, that’s what this month’s column is all about…

To sit patiently with a yearning that has not yet been fulfilled, and to trust that, that fulfillment will come, is quite possibly one of the most powerful “magic skills” that human beings are capable of. It has been noted by almost every ancient wisdom tradition.
~Elizabeth Gilbert~

(thanks for such an apt quote, SatiMidnight!)

The theme of the past month, for me, has been sitting on a dream. Knowing, waiting, believing. All without the usual “hurry!” attitude.
It is human nature to identify and then attempt to possess things which we feel are meant for us. I am very human in my pursuit of possession of My House. I do yearn to climb her stairs with baskets of folded laundry and to make a fire on her hearth. To fill her rooms with thick, perfumed smoke as I consecrate and bless her, and sleep deeply inside her walls.

Yet, as great as the temptation is to ‘wish away’ the space of time between now and the day I hold those magical keys in my hands, I have been mindful of the urgency not to.

The place I live now (a mere 3 blocks down on the same street as my beloved House), is really quite lovely. It possesses every characteristic I painstakingly added to my list when I was conjuring a new house prior to our move. Not the least of which is a brand new central air/furnace which keeps the temperature roughly 50 degrees cooler inside than out, this summer.
It also has my garden out back, which met my every criteria when I asked for it. It overflows with vegetation and the promise of an unprecedented harvest.
I really have no reason at all to even want to move, except that I know my Dream House is just 3 blocks down. So close, and yet, so far away.

In my desire to be united with My House, it has been so tempting to feel “rushed”. Like meeting your soul mate and not being able to build a relationship with them…yet.

When our family came for the long Fourth of July weekend, we were crammed to the rafters in our current modest-sized home. I spent half my time wishing we were in the spacious new House, and the other half being grateful we didn’t.
I had such trouble imagining my whole family ‘camping out’ on the first floor because the upstairs isn’t quite inhabitable, yet. Well, not by Mother-in-Law standards, anyway.
I also was grateful that the house we were all in had the glorious amenity of air conditioning, so we all slept comfortably, unlike the sweltering temps in the completely un-air-conditioned House.
I was grateful for the appliances and plumbing which accommodated the whole lot of us with well-maintained ease, unlike the new House, in which the kitchen sink shoots straight up in the air when turned on.

As I yearn to spend the evenings on the grand wide screened-in porches of the new House, I am also thankful I have a beautiful yard and bug-proof gazebo right here, 3 blocks down, to enjoy.

I have forced myself not to allow the yearning for what will be to eclipse the wonderful blessings that are now.
And it has been a challenge, to say the least.
But I know in my heart that to rush is to miss the numerous blessings along the way. To hurry is to discount the journey.
I also keep well in mind how nice it is to flip a switch and have power come flowing into my light bulbs. To enjoy clean, modern conveniences not long forgotten or having had to be scrubbed, remodeled or repaired.
The challenge to restore the Old Girl is daunting, and I know it will consume my every waking hour, not spent at work, from the day I get those keys in my hot little hands, on.

So, as I wait, to watch the mystery unfold, I remind myself, often. Life is good right now. There is no rush to the future. There is no need for haste or anxiety.
Enjoy living in this present moment. This air-conditioned reality. This solid, clean, modern home.
There will be plenty of time later for scraping walls and sweeping endless piles of remodeling dust.

I am excited for what is to come. But I will not allow it to preclude my happiness right now, in this moment.

Perhaps this is not the next-installment of the mystery I was hoping to write about. But it is the next stage of the journey that carries me closer to my Dream manifesting.
I pray that all of you are in dogged pursuit of your Dreams, and that you are taking the time to be mindful of the blessings right under your nose, as you pursue them.

Brightest Blessings All!
Willow

ChaosSun’s Crafts

January, 2009

Recycle Yule Poppet!

GO GREEN!  That seems to be the no way to go, Recycle, reuse, reduce.  Well heck!  The holidays are no exception. I’m the notorious one to Recycle unwanted presents among my friends, but rarely do I ever get a gift I don’t keep.  I suppose it’s that dragon side of me that keeps things.   However..the one thing that seems to stock pile, year after year!  No matter how much of it I try and use is Tissue paper, Wrapping Ribbon, and wrapping paper.  And Tape, but lets face it, we can alluse a bit of tape year round.

So…Lately I’ve liked the idea of Poppet Dolls. Some might know them as Voodoo Dolls. Though I like Poppet doll better.  So…while this is the dawn of the new year, and as is a new years custom, we make that new year resolution. Yea the past 4 years running my resolution has been to NOT make a resolution.

Things you will need:

* New Years Resolution!!
* Scraps of Tissue, ribbon, and/or wrapping paper
* Scissors (Kids get help please)
* Tape (there should be plenty)

Step one:

crafts1

Your going to need to have two pieces of tissue paper or wrapping paper.  One large one small.  Ball the smaller piece and stuff it in the middle of the larger piece. (Kinda like making tissue paper Ghost for Samhain.) use some ribbon, tape, or I found a twist tie from a goodie bag, and tie off the head.

Step Two:

crafts2

Lay your tissue paper poppet out and from the bottom corners cut inward towards the head, Don’t cut all the way leave some room in the middle.

Step Three:

crafts3

Start twisting the 4 sections individually to make the arms and legs.

Step Four:

crafts4

Now the time consuming part 😉  On a piece of paper, or on the poppet it self, writ our your New Year Resolution! Attach the paper and start WRAPPING!!  This is the time consuming part. When your done you can stash him away with the rest of the ornaments and bring him out next year to display or Burn when you make another one for the next year.

Aside from Yule this idea can be used for most occasions. Mommie exspecitng take some of the baby shower tissue paper and apply the same idea  except write down your hopes for it’s future and life.  The keep it as a keep sake and when your child gets older, give it to him/her and let them read the good will you wrote.

There are so many other occasions this will work for I won’t even try to list them all J

So Remember GO GREEN!!  And Recycle, reduce, and reuse

Next »