medicine

Book Review – Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple: An Introduction to Native American Astrology by Deborah Durbin

December, 2018

Book Review

Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple: An Introduction to Native American Astrology
by Deborah Durbin

 

I had a flashback to the 1980’s when I opened this book. I saw the system familiarized in Sun Bear and Wabun’s The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, complete with correspondences to animal totems, plants, crystal and moon correspondences for each astrological sign. So, this book is “New Age;” don’t pick it up thinking that you will learn find a new (or rather, ancient) system of working with cosmic forces here. And you won’t gain any insight into the cultural astronomy or archeoastronomy of the indigenous people of the Americas – the mythic tales of the stars brought down to Earth and how those energies affect human affairs.

That said, you will have a fun tool for broad astrological divination by the equivalent of your sun sign to play with. Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple offers a different lens for examining personality types, strengths and weaknesses, than the zodiac wheel we are used to. Like Sun Bear and Wabun’s book before it, this book uses a Northern American perspective on a seasonal calendar: winter is cold, summer is hot. The calendar wheel is divided into seasonal quadrants with a “ruling” animal totem for each. The wheel is further divided into 12 signs, like the familiar astrological signs, but ruled by animal totems instead of constellations. So, if like me, you are born between April 20th and May 20th, I am a Beaver, member of the Turtle Clan, born under the Frogs Return moon in the Spring Season rule d by spirit-keeper Wabun – Eagle on the East of the Medicine Wheel. My sign is also associated with blue camas plant, the color blue and the mineral chrysocolla. There are many correspondences to investigate here! Interestingly, the description of a Beaver personality was reminiscent of my Taurus self: “slow, methodical, practical, reserved…easygoing and slow to anger, but once roused, they can have a fierce temper…” My compatibility with other signs is similar to my astrological compatibility – I am married to a Snake (Scorpio)!

Durbin has included a section on finding your personal animal totem. She discusses a shadow totem, one that terrifies you, that tests you and teaches you what you need to overcome. Interestingly, mine is Snake, the opposite of my Beaver totem, containing the qualities that Beaver most lacks. And being married to a Snake, I have learned a lot from our differences. She also includes a short section on working with predictive Medicine Wheel astrology by throwing pebbles or shells, noting where they land, and interpreting the energies and qualities of the quadrant and sign in that section of the wheel.

It’s unfortunate that the book purports to be “An Introduction to Native American Astrology.” There are so many beautiful star myths, tales and creation stories in the traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. And the ancient Mayans had a complex astrological and seasonal calendar. And to imply that all Native American cultures used a homogenous system is stereotyping of the worst sort. Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, the book on which this one appears to be based, sourced itself in earth-based cycles rather than representing a specific “Native American” system. Medicine Wheel Plain and Simple is a New Age overlay of North American animal, plant and seasonal symbolism on the common horoscope wheel. But it is fun to play with! If you didn’t come across Sun Bear and Wabun’s book in the 1980’s, this one’s worth a look!

Medicine Wheel Plain & Simple: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need on Amazon

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About the Author:

Susan Rossi is a Practitioner and Teacher of Shamanism. She is a long-time explorer of The Mysteries – the connections between mind, body, spirit and how to live in right relationship to all of the energies streaming through the cosmos. She works with clients as an astrologer, coach, ceremonialist and guide to the wisdom that each of us has the capacity to access. Her focus is on guiding clients to unblock and rediscover their inner wisdom. , exploration of the birth chart, ceremony, legacy writing, hypnotherapy, energetic healing practice and creation of sacred tools are integral pieces of her practice.

Susan trained in Soul Level Astrology with master astrologer Mark Borax. She delights in exploring with individuals the planetary pattern under which their soul choose to incarnate.

Flying to the Heart www.flyingtotheheart.com

Open Channel Astrology: openchannelastrology.com

Notes from the Apothecary

September, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Calendula

Calendula or marigold? Last month we explored the magic and mystical beauty of the true marigold and I mentioned in that article that marigolds are often confused with calendula. Botanically they are actually very different. Calendula are often called pot marigolds or common marigolds, but true marigolds are in the genus tagetes although both tagetes and calendula are in the Asteraceae family, along with sunflowers. Tagetes are native to North America, whereas calendula came to America from the Mediterranean. They have beautiful orange or yellow blooms, with an extremely long flowering season.

The Kitchen Garden

From Mrs Grieve’s Modern :

It was well known to the old herbalists as a garden-flower and for use in cookery and medicine. Dodoens-Lyte (A Niewe l, 1578) says:

‘It hath pleasant, bright and shining yellow flowers, the which do close at the setting downe of the sunne, and do spread and open againe at the sunne rising.’

She refers to calendula as the common marigold, and notes that it is easy to grow as long as the position is slightly sunny and the ground kept free of weeds. Calendula self-seed, and can spread quite easily although they are annuals so the new foliage replaces last year’s plants, rather than joining them. The seeds are curly little horns, perfectly beautiful and very decorative in their own way.

Calendula petals can be used as a substitute for saffron, but only for the yellow colour they impart, not the taste. The flowers make a tasty and beautiful garnish for salads and other foods, and can be mixed into butters and cheeses for colour and flavour. Even the peppery leaves can be eaten to add spice to a salad.

The Apothecary

Natural Living Magazine published a great feature on calendula and its many practical uses. The publisher, Amanda Klenner, notes that she uses the petals in skin lotions, body butters and salves. She also makes marigold tea which soothes irritated mucous membranes and internal tissues. She uses the tea for digestive health, and adds that the petals are used in some cold and flu remedies. She also believes it supports the lymphatic system, crucial for our immune systems.

In the same publication, Nina Katz states that the herb is, “Anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-septic, vulnerary, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulant, immunostimulant, cholagogue, heart tonic, hypotensive, lymphatic, respiratory tonic, emmenagogue, anti-spasmodic, astringent, aperient, diaphoretic…”

Many of these terms might be unfamiliar to you if you’re not an herbalist or phytologist. Vulnerary means healing of wounds or inflammation. Cholagogue means to stimulate the gall bladder to produce bile. Emmenagogue means to promote menstrual flow. This means it can be useful for period pain or delayed periods, as it stimulates the uterus. Pregnant women should not ingest calendula for this reason. Always check with a medical professional before changing or starting any type of medication.

The Witch’s Kitchen

Many believe that the term marigold comes from an association with the Virgin Mary. However, that supposition is a little backwards. The marigold (calendula) became associated with the Virgin Mary because the name sounded a little like Mary’s Gold, however the term ‘marigold’ was first coined by pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons, when referring to the marsh marigold, a plant related to neither calendula or tagetes (true marigolds). However, calendula has been used to honour Mary for so long that, if your path leans this way, it still makes a fantastic offering or altar decoration. It’s just good to know the origins and history so you can make your own mind up about what’s appropriate.

Cunningham tells us it is a masculine herb, which I presume is because of the plant’s association with the sun, and fire. I find it has a very feminine energy, but plants are complex and it’s often hard to pigeon-hole them. He advises picking calendula at noon in bright sunlight to ‘strengthen and comfort the heart’. He also states that calendula is used for protecting the home from evil, and scattered under the bed can give you prophetic dreams and ensure a safe night’s sleep. Calendula petals in the pocket will keep justice on your side if you need to attend court. His final and my favourite point about calendula magic is that, if a girl touches calendula petals with her bare feet, she will be able to speak to birds in their own language. How wonderful that would be!

Calendula has historically been used in divination, particularly relating to love and knowing who one’s true love may be. Rachel Patterson recommends the flower for spells or incense blends involved with psychic powers. She also writes that they promote happiness and uplifting energies, and can be used to make gossip about you cease.

Home and Hearth

As we move from summer into fall, calendula should still be flowering for some time yet. If you are lucky enough to have calendula in your garden, pick a few of the flower heads and separate the petals out. Create a circle of petals on a clean cloth or on your altar, one petal at a time. Have the base of each petal pointing toward the centre of the circle, so the end of the petal points outwards. As you lay each petal, think of something in your life you are happy about, or grateful for. You don’t need to write this down or prepare for it. It should be spontaneous and from the heart.

The bigger you make your circle, the longer it will take to complete, but you will think about more happy things! If you have been struggling with dark feelings or depression, it may be sensible to start with a small circle. This can prevent you feeling like you ‘should’ have more to be happy about, which can actually make you feel worse. Sometimes, we may only have a few bright sparks in our lives, and that’s okay. We can still celebrate that, and as we move into the darker months, focusing on the good things we have becomes even more vital and soul supportive.

I Never Knew…

A snuff of marigold leaves was sniffed up the nose, to encourage sneezing to rid the sinuses of excess mucous. Lovely!

Image credits: Flower of calendula by Wouter Hagens, public domain; Calendula officinalis, Seeds by H. Zell, copyright 2009 via Wikimedia Commons; Calendula officinalis – Botanischer Garten Mainz by Natalie Schmalz, copyright 2011, via Wikimedia Commons.

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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

 

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways

Going Shamanic Radio

August, 2018

 

Going Shamanic” is hosted by Jennifer Engracio on P.A.G.E.  Media Project’s blogtalk radio each month. The show focuses on how to integrate shamanism into every day life. Instead of relegating the spiritual aspect of ourselves to Sundays at church or weekend workshops, this show will support listeners in weaving ritual, prayer, magic, alignment with the Spiritworld and the Earth into their lives to enrich their experience of living.

This Month’s Topic: Storytelling as Medicine with Greg Leach

Jen speaks to seasoned storyteller, Greg Leach, to find out how stories can be told to help us transform, heal and grow as individuals and how we can tell stories that support healing in our communities.

Greg Leach began telling stories when he was 8 years old.  In high school he enjoyed what was then known as Public Speaking.  After university, he wrote for the underground theatre movement.  For a period of time he was a member of the Writers In Residence program at Tarragon Theatre.  Shortly afterward, he wrote for CBC Radio Drama.  But he really came into his own as a storyteller when he entered the marketing world.  They say that every brand has its own story, and Greg was busy developing and modifying brand stories.  He found that the stories that seemed to work best were the stories that had the benefit of being true.

Going Shamanic is hosted by Jennifer Engrácio, about how to integrate shamanism into everyday life.

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About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic practitioner, Reiki Master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’S Shamanic Journey into Healing

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Notes from the Apothecary

July, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Sunflower

 

Despite being used by many Pagans as a symbol of the Summer Solstice, the bright and bold sunflower actually flowers a little later, in the deep heart of summer, during July and August. When the lazy, hot days take over, before the light starts to wane, these great, golden faces nod towards their namesake, spreading sunshine wherever they grow.

Sunflowers range from small, cheeky bright yellow flowers to towering golden giants, yellow and black, resembling great, mutant bumblebees on stalks. There are darks ones, pale ones and even some that seem almost black or purple.

 

The Kitchen Garden

Sunflowers are pretty easy to grow, and the seeds are often given to kids to encourage them to enjoy gardening. Competitions to see who can grow the tallest sunflower are common, and watching the plants soar skywards in the warmer months is a prize in itself.

Although they are named for their resemblance to the sun, sunflowers do actually need a sunny spot to achieve their full potential, along with some well drained soil and good compost. Many sunflowers can be grown for their seeds, which are nutritious and tasty when toasted. The seeds are cultivated commercially for their oil, which is used for so many culinary purposes it would take the whole article to list them here! Sunflower oil is a healthier alternative to many fats, even some types of olive oil. It’s fairly neutral in flavour, which makes it widely popular as it can be used in a diverse range of cuisines. Across Eastern Europe, a crumbly version of the sweet halva is made from a sort of sunflower butter.

 

The Apothecary

Mrs Grieve tells us that the seeds of the sunflower have diuretic properties, meaning they help us pass water more frequently, which can be useful to flush out our kidneys if combined with drinking lots of water. It’s important to remember that when using any diuretic, some important minerals and vitamins can be lost, particularly potassium. Dandelion is a great way to remedy this.

The seeds have also been used as an expectorant, and this application helps with bronchial, larynx and pulmonary issues including whooping cough. Grieve recommends making a medicine with 6oz sugar and 6oz gin! After that much gin, I’m fairly certain that whatever the ailment, you will begin to feel somewhat better… or simply not care that you feel ill!

In other cultures, sunflowers were used to help with snakebites.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

Klytie, the Okeanid nymph of Greek mythology, fell in love with either Helios or Apollo (Sol, the Sun), but was forsaken for her sister, Leukothoe. After watching the sun and pining for a time, she was transformed into a flower that followed the sun. Originally, this was the heliotrope, but in modern retellings, due to folklore that states that the sunflower follows the sun throughout the sky, Klytie has become the nymph who transformed into the sunflower. This makes the sunflower a little tragic, a symbol of unrequited love, and a reminder to let go of that which does not serve us.

Sunflower oil is one of the few foods that was historically permitted throughout lent, symbolising fasting, spiritual cleansing and self-discipline.

In a very literal sense, the sunflower represents the sun, and therefore fire, south, passion, love and creativity. Use the petals or whole flowers to decorate the southern aspect of your altar or sacred space. They make a useful offering or decoration at Lughnasadh or Lammas (1st August or thereabouts, depending on your tradition), as not only do they represent the sun at its height, but the harvest, food, wealth and well-being.

Cunningham tells us that sunflower seeds have been used by women who wish to conceive, and also as a protection charm against smallpox. Considering smallpox was eradicated many years ago, this use could be expanded to a general health charm, or a general protection charm, perhaps when combined with other magical elements. Cunningham also states that cutting a sunflower at sunset while making a wish, will cause the wish to come true before the next sunset, if the wish is not ‘too grand’. This is a touch vague, but reminds us to be down to earth, realistic, and that sometimes we need to make our own wishes come true!

 

Home and Hearth

If you wish to know the truth of a situation, meditate upon the image of a sunflower, or on an actual plant, either outside or in a pot in your house or sacred space. The sunflower represents an open face, total honesty; revealing all aspects of a situation. If you are able to, cut one of the flowers (with permission, never steal flowers and never cut wild-flowers) and when you go to bed that night, place the flower under your bed, all the while focusing on the situation you wish to know the truth of. Make sure that before you go to bed that night, you put a note pad and pen on your bedside table. You should dream of the situation, and the dream should tell you the truth of the situation. As soon as you awake, write down as many details of the dream as you can remember. If you do it immediately, you will remember more detail, so don’t delay!

Use the details in the dream to establish the truth of your situation. If it makes no sense even after this, it means the truth has been hidden for a reason, and you need to let it go.

 

I Never Knew…

Sunflowers have been used for thousands of years to make dyes for fabrics, in colours ranging from the expected orange and yellow, to brilliant blue!

 

Image credits: Sunflower (Helianthus L.) by Pudelek via Wikimedia Commons; Blütenstand (tellerförmiger Korb) einer Sonnenblume (Helianthus annuus) in Balve-Eisborn by Asio otus via Wikimedia Commons; Photograph showing a field of sun flowers and a sun spot by Thomas Quaritsch via Wikimedia Commons.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing the Signs

June, 2018

Depression and divination

(Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash)

Depression is a disease that affects millions of people, regardless of religion, ethnic background, genetic make-up or economic outlook. Many of us take antidepressants, trying to feel better and suffer dubious side-effects from these medications. Some of us become addicted to these meds. Others of us self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and may end up with addictions to these substances. Some of us console ourselves with “comfort” foods, while others of us lose our appetites altogether and even when we are ravenously hungry, we can not eat. Some of us relieve our psychic pain by cutting ourselves. We lose pleasure in many of our favorite activities. Our days are long and boring. Depression robs us of all that once made us happy.

I personally suffer from bipolar mood disorder, which means along with depression, I also have episodes of mania. I am actually what’s called a “rapid cycler” – I can cycle in and out of manic and depressed moods within a single day. I can be depressed and manic at the very same time. But like a day is contained within a week and a week is contained within a month, my days of rapid cycling are contained within seasons of either manic moods or depressed moods. Generally, I am more manic in the early winter and later spring and depressed in the early spring and most of the summer.

Since being formally diagnosed in 1993, I have been on dozens of medications, most of which have been totally useless. I fully believe that most of the medications caused more problems than they solved and most of the problems that I had in the 1990’s and early 2000’s were a direct result of taking psych meds. I was out of my mind most of the time. I have been fairly stable since I reached my Crone years but I still have my moods.

This recent depression was triggered way back in 2016 when our current president was elected and I think many of us went into a deep slump at that time. Certain health issues of mine came to fore, as well as housing problems, and I had to move from New England – which I love – back to Buffalo – which I do love, but Buffalo is like loving an abusive man with addiction issues who’s never going to change. I know that many cities are just like Buffalo but I don’t have the emotional attachment to those other cities. And things really are worse here than they were in 2016 – for poor people, that is. There’s lots of shiny new buildings and expensive restaurants and microbreweries selling drinks that will give me a migraine after the first sip, they’re so damn hoppy. But that’s another subject.

At this point, I have been depressed for well over a year – with seasonal episodes of mania, like the one I’m in now – and it is affecting every facet of my life. If being depressed is defined as “losing interest in things that used to interest you”, then I have got the sickness pretty bad. I love to cook and eat but I have lost interest in food altogether – I go for days, eating nothing other than Cheerios, fried eggs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I simply do not care. I stopped writing my novel over a year ago – I even took the blog off WordPress – I keep saying that I’m going to restart it – and honestly, I miss my characters – they were like friends of mine! But I don’t write – I barely keep my diary.

One of the things that depression has stolen from me is my desire to use my Tarot cards or throw the I-Ching or study the Lenormand or pull a few Runes or anything. Like my attitude toward food, I simply do not care. It’s like – so what? One day is just another day. And with the madman in the White House, we may not have a tomorrow anyway. So what difference does anything make?

I was cleaning the other day – this is where being manic always works out – and I found my divination journal. The paucity of entries are pathetic. The last time I had done a reading was in February! And honestly, I didn’t remember it.

I did a Tarot reading that day – a Celtic Cross – with my Rider-Waite cards – partly because I felt guilty that I hadn’t done any readings in such a long time and partly because I thought that maybe I would see something new. Maybe it was my depression – but it just seemed to me that the cards were telling me that I was depressed – which I already knew! But maybe it’s just I’m too depressed to be reading my own cards. I don’t know – which brings me back to the whole point of this essay – depressing and divination. What is a practitioner to do?

I have to step out of myself to answer this question – as if I were being asked the question by another person. I would answer, go back to the basics. Pick one card a day and meditate on that card. Read all of your spiritual books and remind yourself of your path and why you are on this path. Go to the park and walk where it is green and quiet. Listen to the birds chirping.

I was told that there is no cure for bipolar disease and I do not think there is a cure for depression – there is only managing the symptoms. But I am going to do what I *told* myself to do – pick a card a day and meditate on that card. Read all of my spiritual books and remind myself of my path and why I am on this path. Go to one of the many parks in Buffalo – even if it means getting on the bus – and walk around the greenery that I have right here. Everything will change. The wheel will turn.

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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.

Book Review – Sacred Herbs: Your Guide to 40 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them for Healing and Well-Being by Opal Streisand

May, 2018

Book Review

Sacred Herbs: Your Guide to 40 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them for Healing and Well-Being”

by Opal Streisand

Publisher: Sterling Ethos

Published: Hardcover, February 2018

Pages: 128

This book has beautiful, large, color photos of 40 medicinal plants. That is the best thing about “Sacred Herbs: Your Guide to 40 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them for Healing and Well-Being.” It makes for a wonderful identification and reference for those in the earlier stages of learning about herbs.

For each, Opal Streisand gives the Latin name, an interesting note, the parts of the plant used, and information about the herb and its benefits, along with cautions if applicable. Sometimes that long paragraph includes history. Sometimes herbs get a four-page spread with more detailed information and a second photo.

Nowhere did I learn Opal Streisand’s credentials, so it would seem she is an author researching and writing about herbs, and not a herbalist sharing learning and personal experience. Someone going deeper into the subject will want an additional book by an herbalist.

This book can serve as the gateway, introducing the reader to some of the most commonly used herbs and instilling an appreciation of their many uses. Ancient healers knew the curative powers of the plants around them. That information has been passed down through generations in many cultures and traditions. Herbs are nature’s medicine, and that medicine is just as effective today as it was 200 years ago.

This book will acquaint you to herbs that soothe and heal. You’ll learn that a decoction of burdock was a folk remedy for colds and valerian is a sleep aid that should not be taken with other sedatives or antidepressants.

It’s worth repeating: the photographs are beautiful. They will help to identify plants by their flowers and, in some cases, their foliage.

Click Image for Amazon Information

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About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

 

 

Book Review: Tree Medicine, Tree Magic by Ellen Evert Hopman

January, 2018

Tree Medicine, Tree Magic”

by Ellen Evert Hopman

Published by Pendraig Publishing Inc.

Published: 2017

Pages: 245

This second edition is updated and revised from the original published in 1992 by Ellen Evert Hopman, a master herbalist, lay homeopath and founding member of The Order of the White Oak. She is currently archdruid of the Tribe of the Oak, a teaching grove for Druids. She holds an M.Ed. in mental health counseling.

For each of the 19 trees, she includes an illustration; describes their physical characteristics; gives their practical, herbal and magical uses; and provides Druid insights and recipes. Information for each tree takes up about 10 pages; quotes and poems about trees are sprinkled throughout.

Some of the common trees of North America and Europe that get a chapter in the book are ash, apple, birch, elm, holly, maple, oak, pine, poplar and willow.

Hopman treats each sacred tree reverently, sharing its powerful magic and how its legends are woven into various cultures. The traditions she shares are those of “our ancestors, the celebrants of the trees.”

 

 

At the beginning of the book, she explains the many forms which use flowers, leaves, bark, roots and seeds to treat conditions. She tells you what parts of the tree to use, and how to collect and use them. The back of the book contains such useful information as the Celtic tree alphabet and a tree meditation, along with indexes of herbal uses, magical uses, practical uses and illustrations.

Tree Medicine, Tree Magic” is a useful guidebook to work with trees on multiple levels.

 

Susun Weed, author of the Wise Woman Series, praised it, saying, “Trees are the Ancient Ones. They hold a vast wisdom that can heal all ills of body, mind, and spirit. Open this book and open a door to the details of that wisdom, brought to you by one of my favorite herbal authors, Ellen Evert Hopman. Ellen is actually a tree, ‘disguised’ as a person, so she speaks to us directly from the heart of the Ancient Mysteries. There is something for everyone here, whether you seek food for your psyche or physic for your woes.”

 

 

As I read about tree after tree and learned about the old ways, I was inspired to make more connections with them. I harvested white pine needles to make tea; I became aware that a branch of apple with both flowers and fruits is an indication the otherworld is paying a visit, and will now be on the lookout; and I now know to thank maple trees for being among those most tolerant of people.

I cross-referenced it with the Celtic tree moons – nine of the thirteen are in the book – and will be drawing information from the book when planning rituals.

 

For Amazon Information Click Image

 

Hopman’s other 10 non-fiction books include “A Druid’s for the Sacred Earth Year,” “Walking the World in Wonder: A Children’s ,” “Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore” and “The Secret Medicines of Your Kitchen: A Practical Guide.” She also wrote three novels including “The Druid Isle” and “Priestess of the Fire Temple: A Druid’s Tale.”

Visit Ellen Evert Hopman online at www.elleneverthopman.com.

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

November, 2017

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times November 2017

Bright Blessings!

Many of you have already had your Sabbat celebrations, but some will wait until the weekend after the 31st of October to do so.

I tend to lean that way, myself, and I will use it to do a second Samhain article this year!

Last month’s article focused on the topic of fear, and this month will focus on the less mundane topics.

On Medicine and Healing

Before I get into the Pagany Sabbat aspect. I would like to say a small word about one of the biggest reason our ancient Pre Christian Pagan ancestors did seasonal celebrations. That was to ask the gods for good health. Sometimes, that meant healing ceremonies, sometimes it meant asking the gods to make the land and livestock produce, and sometimes, it was to give thanks for all of this. We, their ancestors who are resurrecting the Pre-Christian traditions are blessed to live in a day and age of better understanding of medicine, illness, sanitation, and disease. We have access to cures for things like flu, bubonic plague, and infections that would have killed our Pre-Christian Pagan ancestors.

A lot of people in our communities are against Western Medicine, and want to revert to faith healing only. They claim they are great spiritual beings who have transcended the physical, and furthermore, our body has everything it needs to heal, and to survive all on its own. Some claim all illness in in the mind, it is something we can think away, and people who are sick are just failing to cure themselves.

I have never assumed I had the right to decide whether somebody refuses medical care or not, but I do notice oftentimes it is the very same Pagans who claim illness is curable through thinking it away who are also bashing Christians and demanding they go to jail if they let their kids die because shunning medicine is what their religion preaches. I have heard so many Pagans decry the fact that in Old testament times, the sick were considered to have fallen from grace with their YHVH, and are thus stricken ill as punishment. However, I don’t see how it is any different to accuse sick people of being sick due to sin as it is to accuse sick people of being sick because they FAIL to think themselves well.

Some of the people in our communities who are against Western medicine state our ancestors did not use it, so we shouldn’t. I will point out that our ancestors were constantly improving technologies, and changing to modernize. They moved forwards, not backwards.

Some in our communities also point to people going to shamans for healing rituals instead of a pharmacy or MD. I point out that many Pre- Christian Pagan peoples clergy persons often lumped into the category of “shamans”, were also the ones who had the knowledge of medicinal plants, and were not only priests, and priestesses, but also physicians, and pharmacists all in one. These ancient practices in no way shunned medical knowledge in honor of just prayers and rituals for healing. Medicine and healing were considered a sacred gift from the gods, and it made sense ritual and prayers accompanied the mundane uses of physical medicines, and that holy people administered this blessing. Life was sacred, and healing continued life that would have otherwise been ended by illness causing death.

Some in our communities see medicine as sacrilege rather than understanding it to be the gift and blessing it is, and I have no clue what gods they worship, but I sometimes wonder if they are worshipping gods or goddesses that try to pull devotees to them in death.

Again, I do not assume I can criticize other’s beliefs.

Many Pagan gods were gods of healing, and some were in charge of both healing, and hygiene, and bestowed knowledge of medicinal plants to devotees. Today, we have been blessed beyond what our Pre-Christian ancestors were with much more knowledge of these things.

People try to convince me that it is not spiritual to nurture the physical body with physical things, and to only rely on prayer, meditation, and positive affirmations to keep the body healthy.

To me, this shows lack of knowledge of the fact the spiritual self is different than the physical self, and different things are needed to nurture the two.

This brings me to my next topic.

The Magic of Films

We have been blessed, because people are giving us films to review at PaganPages. However, we have been granted access to a film I refuse to review. I cannot, in good conscience advocate for the current film, because I feel it is dangerous, and irresponsible.

This new film is classed as a documentary, which it actually isn’t, and is titled Heal. It’s a sales pitch. I watched 20 minutes of it, and it was like watching a sequel of The Secret, which I also don’t agree with. I know the difference between the actual Law of Correspondence Frazier wrote about, and the twisting of it by people like Rhonda Byrne, author of the Secret, and many others before her. I am fully aware that just wishing for things won’t make them come true. I am also aware of the fact that belief and/or perception does not equal reality. I would not expect somebody who is not an actual practitioner to understand how magic actually works, and understand it’s not about having wishes granted 24/7. I also don’t expect to see people call themselves professionals, and try to convine other people that if they buy a book/movie/class/seminar, they can learn to make every wish come true.

The film Heal states the human body has all it needs to heal itself, and there are testimonials from people stating they were able to overcome things from depression to spinal injuries with zero medical intervention whatsoever. They just told themselves not to have the illness or injury anymore, and their body obeyed and made it go away.

The experts speaking in this film sell books, have classes, seminars, and retreats you can pay to go to. While I’ve not priced all of these services, it is quite possible it all costs the same or more than going to a physician, or psychiatric counselor. One practitioners class was $260 per person to attend, for example, for a two hour class.

I could list the many instances I have from both my career in health care, and as the family member of ill individuals to prove that just because you believe you are not sick does not make it so, but I am sure everybody reading this have seen or heard of the very same things.

It is incredibly irresponsible and dangerous to try and convince people that the human body needs no outside help with illnesses or injuries. It could lead to death.

I will not finish watching this film, and I will not write an official review of it to be shared on other websites. I refuse to engage the filmmakers, and I have given my editor permission to remove my type up of the film if she feels it is best. I do not want to incite a fight with the people I call quack snake oil salesmen, and this publication. I do not assume I can preach belief, and I don’t assume I can convince people of the necessity of proper medical care.

I speak only for myself, and my views are not in any way speaking for anybody else, and I am not the spokesperson for PaganPages.

Moving right along.

Samhain and Healing

One of the major things people did at Samhain time was prayers, and blessings to protect the people and livestock, as well as the food stores for the coming winter. Two blessed fires would be lit, and the people and animals lead between them for purification and blessings to be protected. Nobody wanted to get sick. Nobody wanted to die, and people were fully aware wintertime made risk of illness, death, or starvation more of a possibility.

People were closed into tighter spaces together because the weather dictated people stay indoors more. Things like flu and upper resp hit them plenty hard, and they did not have the antibiotics we have today. The flu could wipe out a significant amount of your people in ONE winter!

If damp got into your food, all of your stored food meant to last the winter could spoil, and everybody could starve to death. Unlike us, they could not just jump in the car and run to the grocery!

Illness and food shortage were major concerns, and people wanted all the help they could get to survive!

They also gave thanks for all they had. It would be disrespectful to just ask for things, and never give thanks for what you have given. Samhain is where Thanksgiving, or the final harvest, and celebration of the bounty comes from. I always say that in America, we have Thanksgiving about a month late!

One of my very favorite activities circling around Fall, Samhain, and thankfulness in general is something somebody suggested to me a long time ago when I was engaging in my very favorite activity of them all- I was complaining. I don’t know WHAT I was complaining about, but I remember distinctly that I was complaining to another complainer. I am not saying I am proud of this, but I admit that large parts of our relationship consisted of us complaining to one another. She told me somebody had told her to list 100 things she is thankful for. She said it really made her stop, focus, and pay attention to those things.

Instead of just writing the list, I am going to suggest doing so at Sabbat, and making a fun activity out of it, too!

Saoirse’s Thankfulness Samhain Activity

This will take communication with attendees before your gathering. Each person should write a thank you card and bring a gift of thanks to their god/ess who they want to thank.

Stand, or sit in a circle like we all did as kids at show-and-tell time, and take turns reading your thank you cards aloud to your deity, and give them their gift at the altar.

During your sharing time, talk about what your deity has done that you are thankful for, and what, specifically you are giving as a gift to show thanks.

The gifts should be things that can either be given away, like money to go to a cause, or something that can be burned, or given to the earth as libation.

Easy ways to do this don’t have to be limited to pouring liquid out, or burning incense!

You can do a lot of different things.

You can…

*…release flour to the wind, thanking a harvest god for food

*…bless seeds you will plant come springtime, in honor of an earth mother like Gaia, or Nerthus,

*…buy a houseplant, or even a tree that you will donate, an apple tree for Idunna, for example,

*…buy flowers in honor of your deity, and decorate the altar at your local public sanctuary with them,

*…pull the petals off of flowers your deity likes, and release the petals outdoors,

*…give food the animals that are sacred to your deity will partake of someplace you leave it, like food for ravens in honor of Set,

*…give an offering of your time to a cause sacred to your deity, like volunteering to do some free tutoring in honor of the Armenian god of schooling, Tir,

*…prepare a dish or drink sacred to your deity for the people at Sabbat to partake of, and of course, fix a plate, or cup for your deity, like wine for Dionysius, for example,

*…donate something sacred to your deity- for example, money to a wolf sanctuary for Odin,

*…promise to give up a habit or engage in a new one in honor of your deity, like cutting impulse spending to save for a new home in honor of Hestia.

This activity is nothing new. I have attended more than one Thanksgiving where each person at the table was asked to share one thing they are thankful for after the prayer of thanks we all partook of. You can further adapt this when it is time for the end of November Thanksgiving feast and give an appropriate gift to your dinner host, and tell them how thankful you are for them!

Blessed Samhain.

Blessed Be!

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel

WiseWoman Traditions

April, 2012

Be Your Own herbal Expert

Part 8

herbal medicine is the medicine of the people. It is simple, safe, effective, and free. Our ancestors used – and our neighbors around the world still use – plant medicines for healing and health maintenance. It’s easy. You can do it too, and you don’t need a degree or any special training.

Ancient memories arise in you when you begin to use herbal medicine. These lessons are designed to nourish and activate those memories and your inner herbalist so you can be your own herbal expert.

In our first lesson, we learned how to “listen” to the plants by focusing on how they taste. In lesson two, we explored simples and water-based herbal remedies. In the third lesson, we learned how to tell safe (nourishing and tonifying) herbs from more dangerous (stimulating and sedating) herbs. Our fourth lesson dealt with poisons; we learned how to make a tincture and we put together our herbal Medicine Chest. The fifth lesson found us making herbal vinegars, and the sixth, making herbal oils.

In our last lesson together, we looked at our thoughts about healing; we discussed the Scientific goal of fixing the broken machine, the Heroic intention to cleanse the toxins from our polluted bodies, and the Wise Woman desire to nourish the wholeness of the unique individual.

In this, the eighth lesson, we return to the herbal pharmacy, to make healing sweets: herbal honeys, syrups, and cough drops.

In our next lesson, the ninth and last of this series, we will continue our exploration of the ideas behind healing with a tour of the Seven Medicines.

HONEY

Honey has been regarded as a healing substance for thousands of years. Greek healers relied on honey water, vinegar water, and honey/vinegar water as their primary cures. An Egyptian medical text dated to about 2600 BCE mentions honey 500 times in 900 remedies. What makes honey so special?

First, honey is antibacterial. It counters infections on the skin, in the intestines, in the respiratory system, or throughout the body.

Second, honey is hydroscopic, a long word meaning “water loving”. Honey holds moisture in the place where it is put; it can even draw moisture out of the air. A honey facial leaves skin smooth and deliciously moist. These two qualities – anti-infective and hydroscopic – make honey an ideal healer of wounds of all kinds, including burns, bruises and decubita (skin ulcers), an amazing soother for sore throats, a powerful ally against bacterial diarrhea, and a counter to asthma.

Third, honey may be as high as 35 percent protein. This, along with the readily-available carbohydrate (sugar) content, provides a substantial surge of energy and a counter to depression. Some sources claim that honey is equal, or superior, to ginseng in restoring vitality. Honey’s proteins also promote healing, both internally and externally.

And honey is a source of vitamins B, C, D and E, as well as some minerals. It appears to strengthen the immune system and help prevent (some authors claim to cure) cancer.

Honey is gathered from flowers, and individual honeys from specific flowers may be more beneficial than a blended honey. Tupelo honey, from tupelo tree blossoms, is high in levulose, which slows the digestion of the honey making it more appropriate for diabetics. Manuka honey, from New Zealand, is certified as antibacterial. My “house brand” is a rich, black, locally-produced autumn honey gathered by the bees from golden rod, buckwheat, chicory, and other wild flowers.

Raw honey also contains pollen and propolis, bee and flower products that have special healing powers.

Bee pollen, like honey, is a concentrated source of protein and vitamins; unlike honey, it is a good source of minerals, hormonal precursors, and fatty acids. Bee pollen has a reputation for relieving, and with consistent use, curing allergies and asthma. The pollens that cause allergic reactions are from plants that are wind-pollinated, not bee-pollinated, so any bee pollen, or any honey containing pollen, ought to be helpful. One researcher found an 84 percent reduction in symptoms among allergy sufferers who consumed a spoonful of honey a day during the spring, summer, and fall plus three times a week in the winter.

Propolis is made by the bees from resinous tree saps and is a powerful antimicrobial substance. Propolis can be tinctured in pure grain alcohol (resins do not dissolve well in 100 proof vodka, my first choice for tinctures) and used to counter infections such as bronchitis, sinusitis, colds, flus, gum disease, and tooth decay.

WARNING: All honey, but especially raw honey, contains the spores of botulinus. While this is not a problem for adults, children under the age of one year may not have enough stomach acid to prevent these spores from developing into botulism, a deadly poison.

hERBAL HONEYS

herbal honeys are made by pouring honey over fresh herbs and allowing them to merge over a period of several days to several months. When herbs are infused into honey, the water-loving honey absorbs all the water-soluble components of the herb, and all the volatile oils too, most of which are anti-infective. herbal honeys are medicinal and they taste great. When I look at my shelf of herbal honeys I feel like the richest person in the world.

Using Your herbal Honeys

Place a tablespoonful of your herbal honey (include herb as well as honey) into a mug; add boiling water; stir and drink. Or, eat herbal honeys by the spoonful right from the jar to soothe and heal sore, infected throats and tonsils. Smear the honey (no herb please) onto wounds and burns.

Make an herbal Honey

{  Coarsely chop the fresh herb of your choice (leave garlic whole).

{  Put chopped herb into a wide-mouthed jar, filling almost to the top.

{  Pour honey into the jar, working it into the herb with a chopstick if needed.

{  Add a little more honey to fill the jar to the very top.

{  Cover tightly. Label.

Your herbal honey is ready to use in as little as a day or two, but will be more medicinal if allowed to sit for six weeks.

herbal honeys made from aromatic herbs make wonderful gifts.

Make a Russian Cold Remedy

{  Fill a small jar with unpeeled cloves of garlic.

{  If desired, add one very small onion, cut in quarters, but not peeled.

{  Fill the jar with honey.

{  Label and cover.

This remedy is ready to use the next day. It is taken by the spoonful to ward off both colds and flus. It is sovereign against sore throats, too. And it tastes yummy!

(Garlic may also carry botulinus spores, but no adult has ever gotten botulism from this remedy. A local restaurant poisoned patrons by keeping garlic in olive oil near a hot stove for months before using it, though.)

Make an Egyptian Wound Salve

I thought at first this would be dreadful stuff to put on an open wound . . . Instead, the bacteria in the fat disappeared and when pathogenic bacteria were added . . . they were killed just as fast,” commented scientists who tested this formula found in the ancient Smith Papyrus.

{  Mix one tablespoonful of honey with two tablespoonsful of organic animal fat.

{  Put in a small jar and label.

Increase the wound-healing ability of this salve by using an herbally-infused fat.

Make a Remedy to Counter Diarrhea

{  Fill one glass with eight ounces of orange juice.

{  Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoonful of honey.

{  Fill another glass with eight ounces of distilled water.

{  Add ¼ teaspoonful of baking soda.

{  Drink alternately from both glasses until empty.

Make Dr. Christopher’s Burn Healer

He recommends this for burns covering large areas. Keep the burn constantly wet with this healer for best results.

{  Place chopped fresh comfrey leaves in a blender.

{  Add aloe vera gel to half cover.

{  Add honey to cover.

{  Blend and apply.

Best to make only as much as you can use in a day; store extra in refrigerator.

Fresh Plants That I Use to Make herbal Honeys

Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Comfrey leaf (Symphytum off.)

Cronewort/mugwort (emisia vulgaris)

Fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare)

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Ginger root (Zingiber officinalis)

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)

Lavender (Lavendula off.)

Lemon Balm (Melissa off.)

Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla)

Marjoram (Origanum majorana)

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Osha root (Ligusticum porterii)

Peppermint (Mentha pipperata)

Rose petals (Rosa canina and others)

Rose hips (Rosa)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus off.)

Sage (Salvia off.)

Shiso (Perilla frutescens)

Spearmint (Mentha spicata)

Thyme (Thymus species)

Yarrow blossoms (Achillea millefolium)

hERBAL SYRUPS

herbal syrups are sweetened, condensed herbal infusions. Cough drops are concentrated syrups. Alcohol is frequently added to syrups to help prevent fermentation and stabilize the remedy. Cough drops and lozenges, having less water, keep well without the addition of alcohol.

Bitter herbs, especially when effective in a fairly small dose, are often made into syrups: horehound, yellow dock, dandelion, chicory, and motherwort spring to mind in this regard.

Herbs that are especially effective in relieving throat infections and breathing problems are also frequently made into syrups, especially when honey is used as the sweetener: coltsfoot flowers (not leaves), comfrey leaves (not roots), horehound, elder berries, mullein, osha root, pine, sage, and wild cherry bark are favorites for “cough” syrups.

Using herbal Syrups

A dose of most herbal syrup is 1-3 teaspoonfuls, taken as needed. Take a spoonful of bitter syrup just before meals for best results. Take cough syrups as often as every hour.

Make an herbal Syrup

To make an herbal syrup you will need the following supplies:

{  One ounce of dried herb (weight, not volume)

{  A clean dry quart/liter jar with a tight lid

{  Boiling water

{  Measuring cup

{  A heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan

{  2 cups sugar or 1½ cups honey

{  A sterilized jar with a small neck and a good lid (a cork stopper is ideal)

{  A little vodka (optional)

{  A label and pen

Place the full ounce of dried herb into the quart jar and fill it to the top with boiling water. Cap tightly. After 4-10 hours, decant your infusion, saving the liquid and squeezing the herb to get the last of the goodness out of it.

Measure the amount of liquid you have (usually about 3½ cups). Pour this into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat until the infusion is just barely simmering. Continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by half (pour it out of the pan and into the measuring cup now and then to check). This step can take several hours; the decoction is not spoiled if it is reduced to less than half, but it is ruined if it boils hard or if it burns. Keep a close eye on it.

When you have reduced the infusion to less then two cups, add the sugar or honey (or sweetener of your choice) and bring to a rolling boil. Pour, boiling hot, into your jar. (Sterilize the jar by boiling it in plain water for a few minutes just before filling it.) If desired, add some vodka to preserve the syrup.

Allow the bottle of syrup to come to room temperature. Label it. Store it in the refrigerator or keep it in a cool place.

Make herbal Cough Drops

You must make a syrup with sugar, not honey to make cough drops, but you can use raw sugar or brown sugar instead of white sugar and it will work just as well.

Instead of pouring your boiling hot syrup into a bottle, keep boiling it. Every minute or so, drop a bit into cold water. When it forms a hard ball in the cold water, immediately turn off the fire. Pour your very thick syrup into a buttered flat dish. Cool, then cut into small squares.

A dusting of powdered sugar will keep them from sticking. Store airtight in a cool place.

Make Throat-Soothing Lozenges

{  Put an ounce of marshmallow root powder or slippery elm bark powder in a bowl.

{  Slowly add honey, stirring constantly, until you have a thick paste

{  Roll your slippery elm paste into small balls

{  Roll the balls in more slippery elm powder

Store in a tightly-closed tin. These will keep for up to ten years.

Plants That I Use to Make herbal Syrups

Comfrey leaves (Symphytum uplandica x)

Chicory roots (Cichorium intybus)

Dandelion flowers or roots (Taraxacum off.)

Elder berries (Sambucus canadensis)

Horehound leaves and stems (Marrubium vulgare)

Motherwort leaves (Leonurus cardiaca) pick before flowering

Plantain leaves or roots (Plantago majus)

Osha root (Ligusticum porterii)

Pine needles or inner bark (Pinus)

Sage (Salvia off.)

Wild cherry bark (Prunus serotina)

Yellow dock roots (Rumex crispus)

Coming up

In our last lesson of this series, we will examine the Seven Medicines: Serenity Medicine, Story Medicine, Energy Medicine, LifeStyle Medicine,herbal and Alternative Medicine, Pharmaceutical Medicine, and Hi-Tech Medicine.

Experiment Number One

Make a simple syrup, using only one plant. Make it once with honey, once with white sugar, and once with a sweetener of your choice, such as barley malt, agave syrup, molasses, sorghum syrup, or maple syrup. (See list for suggestions of plants to use.)

Experiment Number Two

Make a syrup with three or more plants. Choose plants that are local to your area, or ones that you can most easily buy.

Experiment Number Three

Make three or more simple herbal honeys using different parts of plants, such as flowers, leaves, roots, or seeds. (See list for suggestions of plants to use.)

Experiment Number Four

Make an herbal honey with a plant rich in essential oils (such as sage, rosemary, lavender, or mint). Try it as a wound treatment. Try it on minor burns. Try it as a facial masque. Record your observations.

Experiment Number Five

Make one or more of the recipes in this lesson.

Further study

  1. Make a yellow dock iron tonic syrup following the recipe in my book Wise Woman herbal for  the Childbearing Year.

  1. Make “Peel Power” following the recipe in my book New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.


Advanced work

Compare the effects of honey from the supermarket, organic honey, raw honey, and herbal honey by using each one to treat the same problems and carefully recording your observations.

WiseWoman Traditions

March, 2009

Take Heart from Hawthorn

Its many common names include whitethorn, hagthorn, ladies’ meat, quickthorn, maytree, and mayblossom. Its magic and medicine are ancient and memorable. From the earliest records, hawthorn is one of the sacred trees. Hawthorn is the sixth tree of the Ogam cycle, Hath. Hath precedes Quer, the oak, center tree of the cycle of thirteen. Hawthorn is said to guard the hinges and to oversee crafts. A branch of flowering hawthorn placed in studio or workshop is believed to make the craftsperson skilled and successful. Hath shuts what is open and opens what is shut. Her magic, like her medicinal effect, is slow but long lasting.

The day of the fairies’ return is not a calendar date, but, according to Ellen Everet Hopman, author of Tree Medicine, Tree Magic, “the day the hawthorn blooms.” As the fairy gates open this May, open your heart to hawthorn. Let its beauty and strength imbue you with great heart, for hawthorn is the herb of healthy hearts.

Hawthorn (Cratageus) is notable for its long thorns and bright red haws (apple-like berries). The thorns may be used as needles; and hedges of thorny hawthorn grow quickly enough to keep even goats at bay. The tasty crimson haws – called cuckoo’s beads, chucky cheese, and pixie pears – are fermented into wine or baked into little cakes to celebrate the new May.

The leaves, flowers, and ripe berries of Cratageus oxyacantha taste great and are easily consumed in teas, infusions, and tinctures. Consistent, long-term use of hawthorn is especially recommended for ageing hearts, weak hearts, damaged hearts, and those with hypertension, angina, arrhythmia, heart valve disease, or Reynaud’s disease (arterial spasms).

Regular use of hawthorn can:

* Lower blood pressure
* Increase the effectiveness of the heart’s pumping action
* Strengthen the heart muscle
* Slow the heartbeat
* Dilate coronary arteries
* Prevent heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
* Help those healing from heart surgery
* Support the immune system
* Increase longevity

The German Commission E – a scientific body which determines the effectiveness of herbal medicines – recommends tea or tincture of hawthorn for:

* Cardiac insufficiency corresponding to stages I and II of the NYHA
* Feelings of pressure and tightness in the cardiac region
* The ageing heart not yet requiring digitalis
* Mild bradyarrhythmia
* Increasing coronary and myocardial circulation

There are no contraindications and no overdose of hawthorn. It is safe to take with any other medicine, including other heart medicines. (Though it is redundant to take blood pressure medicine after taking hawthorn for three months.)

Hawthorn is a member of the rose family, and thus closely related to rose hips, apples, cherries, apricots, and almonds. Hawthorn tea is typically made by steeping two teaspoonfuls of dried leaves and flowers in a cup of boiling water for twenty minutes. Hawthorn infusion is made by steeping one ounce of dried flowers and leaves or one ounce of dried haws in a quart of boiling water for at least four hours. I make hawthorn tincture by soaking dried hawthorn haws in 100 proof vodka for at least six months, or until it turns quite red.

A dose is a cup of tea, half a cup of infusion, or a dropperful of tincture, taken first thing in the morning and last thing at night. For the first three months of use, a third dose, midday, may be added. Traditional European herbalists always add a big spoon of honey to hawthorn tea or infusion. They believe that sweetness heals the heart.

Hawthorn’s ability to slowly lower blood pressure is well documented, although the mechanism of its action is unclear. Hawthorn does not block calcium channels nor is it a diuretic. In fact, it is highly regarded as a safe way to lower blood pressure when the patient is diabetic or has kidney disease. An injectable preparation of hawthorn was widely used in modern medicine prior to the introduction of blood pressure drugs and heart-valve surgery. It is still available in Germany.

The elder Rodale wrote of his heart and its response to hawthorn in Organic Gardening in the mid-50s. His editorials praising his renewed health and vigor stand as a modern-day testament to an age-old herb.

The leaves, flower buds, flowers, and berries/haws of the hawthorn are all rich in anti-oxidant flavonoids. Flavonoids benefit the heart and blood vessels in many ways. Their powerful anti-inflammatory effects relax the blood vessels. Their anti-microbial actions stop low-level infections like those associated with gum disease from harming the heart. And flavonoids support healthy functioning of the immune system and the liver. No wonder hawthorn is the herb of longevity in stories and tales!

In addition to flavonoids, hawthorn is rich in minerals, and contains a small amount of the active principle oligomeric procyanidine (1-epicatechol). Numerous scientific authors have scratched their heads in amazement that hawthorn can have any helpful effect since it has no harmful effect. Pharmacological studies of it constituents evidence “no objectively assessable results.” There just isn’t enough “active ingredient” to account for its observable actions. But herbalists understand that the magic of hawthorn is in the sum of the parts, not in one active principle.

The nutrients in hawthorn assist its active ingredient so that the heart and circulatory system are slowly and deeply healed on multiple levels. Hawthorn carries its magnesium and calcium directly to the heart muscles, enhancing their ability to contract and increasing available oxygen. This beneficial effect extends into the coronary blood vessels as well. Hawthorn is unique in its ability to strengthen the weak heart and carry the old heart into a healthy future.

Hawthorn works thoroughly, dependably, and slowly. Consistent use of the remedy is required for benefits to accrue. But, once gained, improvement persists. I take hawthorn berry tincture several times a week to keep my 60-plus-year-old heart in great shape.

There’s magic and medicine in the tree of May, hawthorn. Take some home for yourself today.

Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material in this article is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.

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