October, 2013

Merry Meet!

Surrender

October, 2013


You hear the words,
but do you listen?
You see the signs,
but do you read?
You know the way,
but still you wander.
You get your wants,
forget your needs.
Then in the early morning lightness
when you wake still half asleep,
unwanted thoughts bombard your mind,
you try to decide which ones to keep.
You hear the stillness
in the silence.
You taste the freshness
in the air.
You close your eyes,
go back to dream time,
you know the answer’s
there somewhere.
Then when the darkness drowns you,
when there is no end in sight,
finally you can surrender,
realize there was no fight.

Spiritual Seeker

October, 2013

Over the past couple of months I’ve written a few times about the rules that govern and guide different religions. I feel that these rules, as much as the deity, make the religion. They provide the framework for all the practices and beliefs of a faith, and if you can’t follow the fundamental rules then I don’t think you can consider yourself a member of that faith.

Since I’m still on my spiritual journey with only a generic version of the Golden Rule to guide me, I thought that perhaps I’d better take a look at the rules that govern my life. Maybe laying out my personal commandments will point me in the right direction.

In her book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin talks about her own personal commandments and how they help her to frame her choices and also help her to be happier. She is more aware of who she is at a deep level, recognizing things like she finds it easier to abstain from something than to partake in it moderately. So, taking her as my role model, I came up with the following commandments for myself:

  1. Be me
  2. Do it now
  3. Lighten up
  4. Be polite and be fair
  5. Be mindful and intentional
  6. Thrift over acquisition
  7. Observe; don’t judge
  8. Recognize abundance
  9. Seek always to learn
  10. Let go of what isn’t
  11. Patience
  12. Sleep on it
  13. Practice compassion

In the weeks since I’ve written down these personal commandments I’ve discovered that I struggle to live up to many of them. For example, sometimes it is so hard not to judge a person, especially based on their appearance. But, when I find myself falling into that trap, I remind myself of my commandment. And thrift? Well, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t lusting over the new iPhone. I can’t wait to make it mine!

I’m sure you are wondering what this has to do with a search for a spiritual path. Well, how can we know if we are walking the right spiritual path if we don’t know ourselves? I started on this journey when I was finally able to be honest with myself that Wicca wasn’t the path for me. I knew myself well enough to know that it wasn’t providing me with what I needed to sooth and nurture my soul. And, as I learn about many different religions, being aware of my deep personal beliefs and commandments can only aid me in making the right choice.

If I am honest with myself with regards to these commandments, I can definitely see Pagan influences throughout. Lack of judgment, patience, and an emphasis on learning and intellectual exploration, compassion, and patience were all aspects of the path I used to follow. And, clearly, they need to be part of the path I follow going forwards.

What about you? Do you have a set of personal commandments or rules? Do they mesh with the spiritual path you walk, or are they at odds? If they are, how to you reconcile the differences. I’d love to hear from you. Comment below or email me at silverlotus@gmail.com.

Seed, Root, & Stem

October, 2013

Gleaning and gathering are the keywords for October.  Tromping through the forests in our rubber boots for the Chanterelles, subjecting ourselves to the thorny vines on which the rosehips hang large and ready for the jelly or tea pot, trying to get as many tomatoes as we can before the slugs reach their ripened meats – all the work of Autumn’s first few weeks.  Rewarding work, too!

Recent days have brought us the remnants of a typhoon and so the rains have come early and heavy.  We removed the peppers and tomatoes from their vines, and a new set of fruits is already trying to come on.  The peppers[1] have been dried, pickled, smoked and ground. We’ve made preserves, sauces, ketchup and salsa with the tomatoes and eaten many of them raw[2].

 

The Chanterelles were all cleaned with care and dried as well.  It’s a tedious job with a pastry brush, but it provides the perfect opportunity to allow for trance work in the kitchen.  We love this harvest and look forward to it every year.  Not only does it connect us deeply to the land in our search for it, it provides a myriad of health benefits.

 

“Like other mushrooms they contain vitamins A and D as well as some of the B-complex ones. They contain all the essential amino acids and glutamic acid is believed to boost the immune system and may help fight cancer, infections and rheumatoid arthritis. There is evidence that it inhibits blood clotting, which is valuable in the fight against heart disease. As for minerals, they contain potassium which regulates blood pressure and the contractions of the heart muscle; copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium which is good for the mood and the brain.”[3]

 

Sunchokes are another native of our region.  I’ve actually wild-harvested the roots and planted them at home.  They’re towering over me now by a few feet with their soft, yellow flowers popping open.  Underneath, in the soil are the crispy, tender, sweet-tasting roots that we love and that love us back.[4]  We’ll dig them all through the Fall and into Winter as well.

Mustard seeds have been harvested and dried, then soaked and made into hearty, rich mustard sauces for later use.[5]  All of these wonderful, earthy gifts that come flowing in and enriching our lives this time of year prepare us to live well until Spring comes back around again.



[1] http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-benefits-of-peppers

[2] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301091338.htm

[3] http://herbs-treatandtaste.blogspot.com/2011/07/chanterelle-mushrooms-foragers-treasure.html

[4] http://www.eattheseasons.com/Archive/sunchoke.htm

[5] http://www.motherearthliving.com/plant-profile/the-amazing-mustard-seed.aspx#axzz2gPwGZ0g8

Across the Great Divide

October, 2013

 

“When Ghost Hunters Go shopping”

 

Ghost hunting is big business these days. It takes serious cash to attain a collection of data capturing and analysis tools to make your research a success, after all you have to get the latest and greatest gadgets if you’re going to troll around at night playing scientist. The trend is such that the owner of a new business in downtown Springfield, Ohio is cashing in on it, confident of long-term success. Darin Hough’s Ghost Hunting Source offers shoppers paranormal research equipment in a truly unique niche market.

Perhaps a bit morbidly, Hough explained, “As long as people are dying people are going to have an interest in it.” He’s not alone. Morticians, cemetery owners, and fraudulent psychics and mediums have been cashing in on the deaths of loved ones for centuries.

The truth of the matter is that there’s really no better time to open a store like this. It’s possibly the only place outside of the internet where you can buy an electromagnetic field detector, an infrared camera, and a dowsing rod at the same time and take them home the same day.

The questionable “science” of reality television fuels demand for these items as each group and show tries to patent and trademark the latest innovations in paranormal research.

Hough wanted to offer fellow investigators the chance to get their hands on the exact equipment as seen on these shows and play scientist. Sadly, there aren’t any proton packs, ecto containment units, or the latest edition of Tobin’s Spirit Guide available for purchase.

Ghost Hunting Source in an old industrial site known as the Robertson building and comes with the perfect coincidence- other tenants of the building have told Hough they think it’s haunted. And why shouldn’t they? Increased foot traffic means their stores will benefit as well.

Naturally, he’s hoping to conduct a ghost hunt there as part of the store’s grand opening party on Oct. 19 with Miami Valley Paranormal Services, a group which he founded 6 years ago.

Hough promises to instruct newbie ghost hunters on how to properly use what they buy.

“We’ve got something that’s very popular. It’s called the spirit box,” Hough said, picking up and turning on what is essentially a handheld radio, which retails between $59 and $79. “The theory is, maybe the spirit could use the white noise to speak through.”

Readers of Across the Great Divide have heard of these laughable devices before in “The Harsh Truth about Ghost Boxes”.

Still, this all amounts to big money. Last year alone he claims to have sold more than $220,000 in gear at his online storefront and shipped as far away as Australia and Russia.

Another gadget he’s peddling is something labeled E-POD-AMP, a $100 pod that features a series of lights that remain lit until static electricity is detected, and touted as ideal for trying to decipher why the hair on your arm is standing up. Sure, because we all know that static electricity isn’t a normal, everyday fact of physical life and only occurs when an apparition is around.

In addition to all of the high-tech gear available at the store- such as full-spectrum video cameras- Hough also carries low-tech, old-world tools including dowsing rods, tarot cards, and sage incense.

Interestingly enough, the one thing conspicuously missing from the shelves at Ghost Hunting Source is a Ouija board, the infamous board made and sold by Hasbro.

“It’s a personal thing,” Hough said. “I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with them.”

Hough is banking that his store “will turn skeptics into believers.”

I would love nothing more than concrete, scientific proof of paranormal activity- which I wholeheartedly believe in the possibility of- but the unfortunate truth is that the greed of capitalism is at its most successful when it prays on the ignorance and gullibility of the uninformed shopper.

There are a number of websites that sell paranormal and ghost hunting equipment and software. These sites offer very little in terms of real-time customer service to answer concerns and questions about the equipment offered and the correct usage of them.

It’s a big wheel of supply and demand as shows like Ghost Lab act more like hour-long infomercials pushing interest in the newest must-have gadgets. Fans see these cool toys with wide eyes and want to find them at any price so that they can play like the Big Boys on TV. This is why these programs only show those incidents wherein the devices “prove” activity and not the other 99 percent of the time when it acts erratically or not at all.

Even the money machine known as SyFy’s Ghost Hunters has jumped into the game. They highlight innovative and glitzy gadgets for an hour and then offer fans the opportunity to purchase their very own at the “Ghost Gear Store”, an online shopping site run by NBC Universal. My, how convenient.

Be smart and research these items fully before spending your hard-earned cash. Read reviews, tips, and usage techniques. Question the “science” behind their development and look for analytical data on their results. If you’re willing to open your wallet, be willing to open your mind as well. Before you walk into, or web surf, these stores keep the old adage in mind: “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

Trust me, their checkout lanes are counting on it.

 

Sources: Dayton Daily News, WDTN News, SyFy’s Ghost Gear Store Image © Dayton Daily News

© 2013 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

Crafting in Sandi’s Enchanted Garden

October, 2013

Making answer board for a pendulum

 

Hello crafty witches! We’ve already made a pendulum together so now I want to show you how to make an answer board to go with it! It’s basically as simple as writing yes and no (and maybe of you’d like) on a piece of paper. However, if you wanted to make something a little bit fancier and don’t have a lot of artistic skill there is still a way! This method can be used to do everything from an answer board to a wall plaque to anything your heart desires.

 

To make one like pictures you will need:

A wooden board (you can get one at Michaels)

Sandpaper

A pencil

A piece of tracing paper

A print out of the board design you want

Paint

Paintbrushes

Spray Sealer

Newspaper to cover your work surface

 

The first thing we want to do is sand our board clean and smooth.

 

 

 

Next you want to print the picture you want to use for your board. You can trace it from the back of the paper so it will be front ways when you apply it. Trace it with a pencil and be careful not to blow the dust away or put your hand in it.

Place the tracing paper on the board in the way you want it to look when it’s transferred. The tracing you did with the pencil should be touching the board. Retrace the writing so the lead will transfer to the board.

You can also paint the board first of you’d like but be extra careful as the pencil may smear.

Don’t forget to paint the edges of your board!

Now you can paint the details! And then clean up any smears you may have from the pencil.

Spray with a sealer, let dry, and then use away!! Happy crafting

 

Connecting with Nature

October, 2013

What I Learnt About My Ecological Footprint

 

I recently took an ecological footprint quiz to see how big my footprint really was. Thinking that it would be pretty low compared to others as we recycle a lot and are environmentally conscious. Did I get a wake up call! Despite the fact that we recycle, have less than one garbage bin a week, compost, have compact fluorescent bulbs, energy efficient appliances and turn things off when not using them, we are still using a lot of resources.

 

The purpose of calculating your footprint is to measure humanity’s demand on nature and to see how much ’nature’ our lifestyle requires.  I went to myfootprint.org and took the 27 question quiz. It measures your carbon footprint, food footprint, housing footprint and goods and services footprint. The result was that if everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, we would need six earths to sustain us! Six! Certainly not what I was expecting! After hanging my head in shame for a few moments, I vowed that I would change that!

 

 

Now where to start? Luckily they provide you with lots of ways to reduce your footprint from transportation, housing to food. Based on those suggestions, I vow to start doing the following:

–          buying more of my food local and take advantage of the farmer’s market before winter comes. I’m also going to try making some dried mangos in the oven instead of buying them pre-packaged at the grocery store (I’ll write about that outcome on my blog);

–          look into adding more insulation to the attic and caulking around windows;

–          turning off the computer at night;

–          drying clothes outside when possible (okay, now is not the best time to make that vow as the rainy season is starting in Vancouver but I will do it when I can);

–          try going meatless for one meal a week;

–          use less water;

–          drive less on days off.

 

There are many things that I didn’t add to that list that we are doing already such as keeping the thermostat low in the winter, having water saving fixtures, using biodegradable non-toxic cleaning products and choosing foods with less packaging.

 

What is your ecological footprint? What kind of things are you already doing and what do you vow to do differently?

 

The Mugwort Chronicles

October, 2013

Black Sage ~ White Sage

As summer fades into autumn, I have started to prepare the garden for the cold, rainy months ahead. Although most of the herb plants will do just fine left in place, I have a number which need a little extra attention if they are to survive the coming months, including the newcomers to my herbal family, the sages: Salvia mellifera and Salvia apiana.  Planted in glazed pots, the sages enjoyed the sunniest spot my garden had to offer during the summer. As our weather has started to become wetter, they have been moved to our front porch to control the amount of moisture they will get over the winter and to protect them from any extremes in temperature. Although our winters are usually mild, temperatures can dip into the 20s to low 30s. Often this is just enough cold to be fatal to more delicate plants.

The genus Salvia is one of the largest in the Lamiaceae or mint family with over 700 species of shrubs, herbaceous perennials and annuals.  Derived from Latin, salvere means to feel well, healthy, to heal, indicating Sage’s many healing properties.  The common sage used in cooking, Salvia officinalis, was recognized in the past for its importance as medicine and included in apothecaries and formularies. Sage shares many of the healing properties of most mints: carminative to ease digestion, astringent to decrease excess fluids and antibacterial to help with infection.

Black Sage-Salvia mellifera- was given to me by one of my co-workers. When I received this gift, I knew nothing of Black Sage’s growing requirements or its traditional uses. I soon learned that Black Sage is native to southern California & northwestern Mexico where it grows in coastal sage scrub communities. It prefers sandy soil and does not like to be overly wet-a concern here in the Pacific Northwest with our plentiful winter rain. A perennial shrub, Black Sage has soft, oblong leaves approximately 1-2 ½ inches long.

Black Sage is very aromatic-pungent and spicy. It can be used in cooking like its more common cousin, Salvia officinalis. Medicinally, it has similar uses to common sage and other mints. The tiny seeds are highly nutritious with a buttery flavor and were gathered by the indigenous people and ground into meal. The leaves are often added to smudge bundles.

This year I was also fortunate enough to acquire White Sage, a plant often difficult to find here. I had a beautiful one several years ago, but unfortunately, I did not heed the advice that it needed protection from our winters. Sadly, a short, but lethal cold snap did it in.

White Sage-Salvia apiana- is the sage traditionally used in smudge bundles. It, too, is native to the southern California region, preferring a drier climate and more sandy soil.  An evergreen perennial shrub, its soft, silvery green leaves release a strong scent when rubbed. The flowers of White Sage are very attractive to bees, thus its epithet, apiana, meaning, of bees. The seeds from White Sage were added to other grains and used as a staple by native people in the area.

I never thought of using White Sage for anything other than smudging and purification but it has similar medicinal properties to other Salvia. A warm infusion can help ease a sore throat as well as decrease excess mucus secretions. A hair rinse made with White Sage is used to prevent graying and leaves hair shiny.

With a little luck and some tender loving care, my lovely new sages will survive the winter and rejoin their friends in the herb garden next spring.

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:

Salvia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia

Salvia apiana:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_apiana

Salvia Apiana: Growing White Sage:

http://www.motherearthliving.com/in-the-garden/salvia-apiana-growing-white-sage.aspx#axzz2f77A0hUl

Salvia mellifera:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_mellifera

White Sage (apiana):

http://www.gardenguides.com/taxonomy/white-sage-salvia-apiana/

Tink About it

October, 2013

The ones who came before

 

When the wheel is turning towards Samhain I feel the veils between the worlds are getting thinner. Ancestors are always present and I honour them all year through, but their special time is coming… Samhain is one of my favourite pagan holidays, a major sabbat.  The Halloween part with spooky features, pumpkins and the whole shebang are nice and enjoyable, but the other part  is much more important to me.

 

There are different groups I incorporate in honouring the ancestors. Of course there’s my own bloodline, but I also see it in a broader sense: the ones who came before. People that have been (and still are) important to me as teachers, role models, etc. People that had their part in making me who I am today. But also the peoples that lived in The Netherlands in earlier times. People that played a role in the history of paganism and witchcraft. And so on.

 

So what do I do with and for the ancestors? I honour them in almost every ritual. Varying from simply inviting and thanking them at the start and the end to special rituals for them and with them. I regularly visit my foremothers and forefathers in meditations and shamanic journeys. Sometimes to simply sit with them around a fire, sometimes to seek advice in matters that occupy my mind.

I put effort in getting to know them as far as possible. I read a lot about history and specific people. I want to be well prepared, so I can ask the right people the right questions. For example, you don’t ask Gandhi advice about war strategy or a medieval ancestor about technology… although it isn’t always that obvious.

 


To get to know my family ancestors  I use genealogy as a tool. I love to explore and unravel my bloodlines. In genealogy it’s more common to follow the paternal lines, but to me both paternal and maternal lines are interesting so I try to do both. Maternal lines are a bit more difficult because the family name changes every step. Nowadays you don’t have to visit archives if you can’t: a lot is available online. I use software that automatically searches for matches between your family tree and those of others. I asked family members for pictures. Some branches of my pedigree were already researched and documented, so I could simply enter them into my software. I research both my and my husband’s family tree. You can go as far and be as thorough with it as you want. I try to find pictures and info about the people in my tree(s) to bring them alive in my mind.

 

wedding pictures of my maternal grandmother, my mother & me

How do I use this information on my pagan path? The investigation into the ancestors is a ritual act in itself, but here are some practical examples.  In an ancestral ritual I read the names out loud to give them credit, to give them a voice, literally. In another ritual I introduced myself (out loud again) to my foremothers: “I am Cora van Leeuwen-van der Heijden, daughter of Annie Jacoba van der Heijden-Slotemaker, daughter of Johanna Catharina Gerharda Slotemaker-van Otterloo, daughter of Catharina van Otterloo-Lubberhuizen….” and so on until the eldest foremother I have found. That made me feel connected with them, it felt very powerful.

 

Of course there are many ways to honour your ancestors, just find something that feels good for you. I also made a photo album on Facebook called ‘Memory Lane’ in which I remember the people in my family line.  When I have found the right place for it I want to make an ancestral altar with pictures of both family and other ancestors.  Or maybe a picture wall with framed pics, or a combination of altar and wall. Until then I have some pictures on my mantelpiece, where I regularly  light a candle for them.

I’ve also seen people with ancestral houses: a miniature house (or yurt, or cottage, or shack, or castle…) for the ancestors to have a home in this realm too.  You can keep it very simple or put a lot of effort in detail, whatever you and your ancestors want. You can ask them in a meditation or journey what they would like, or you can make them something comparable to what they really lived in.

 

So, how do you honour your ancestors, in general and around this time?

I would love to hear your opinion and ideas.

 

Blessings to you and your ancestors of old!

B*B, Tink

 

 

 

Links:

·      https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.491038687271.268937.677652271&type=1&l=79015cf126 (my album ‘Memory Lane’)

·      http://www.myheritage.nl/site-family-tree-139153921/van-leeuwen-van-der-heijden (my family tree, click top-right to change the language)

·      www.myheritage.com/family-tree-builder (the genealogy software I use)

·      http://veemerica.blogspot.nl/ ( a friend’s blog in English & Dutch about the home she’s making for her ancestors: La Maison des Ancêtres)

·      http://tinkerbell-nl.blogspot.nl/search?q=ancestors (my blogs about ancestors)

 

The Neon Pagan

October, 2013

Mum’s the Word

 

If it’s October, it’s time for me to prepare to be a mummer. Actually, I’ve been paying towards being a mummer since June. Rehearsals start in November. Final payment on my costume (we call them “suits”) is due at that time.

I live near Philadelphia, and one of Philly’s grand traditions is its New Years Day Mummers’ Parade. In this lengthy, lively, and colorful affair, “mummers” of many stripes entertain the hung-over citizenry of the City of Brotherly Love.

There are several divisions of mummers, depending upon talent, tenacity, and sobriety. At the top of the heap in all three categories stand the string bands, whose elaborate routines and off-the-charts costumes leave you wondering: How can these people be amateurs? At the other end of the spectrum, especially in regards to sobriety, are the comic clubs. They are clearly peopled by amateurs on limited budgets who just want to have a semi-organized good ol’ time.

I’m in a comic club. It’s officially called a New Year’s Brigade. We march between 150 and 175 members every year. In 2012 we got first place for our routine “Wenchtoberfest.” Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. In comic brigades, everyone wears dresses. With ruffles. And bloomers. There’s nothing quite so funny as a fat man twerking in a German barmaid costume and a blonde wig.

It turns out that “mumming” is an ancient tradition. (That shouldn’t be surprising. Everything that’s fun is basically an ancient tradition.) In the British Isles, mummers greet the New Year by wearing costumes and prowling from house to house, or having parades. There are two operative words here: “mum,” and “costume.”

Almost every place that holds a mummers’ parade will say that the event got started because civic leaders wanted to put a curb on holiday drinking. But why the parade? Why the costumes? This is where the whole ancient tradition thing comes in. There’s nothing new under the sun. Greeting a new year by wearing strange clothing and acting out without speaking goes way, way back into the mists of time. The only thing that’s gotten funky is the date.

The Philly Mummers’ Parade is held on January 1. This coincides with mummer traditions in the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland. But my home town, Hagerstown, Maryland, also had a Mummers’ Parade. It was held on Halloween.

Hagerstown’s story is the same as Philly’s: The town fathers, seeking to curb misbehavior, initiated a lavish costume parade on Halloween. If this seems extremely natural, well … it is. Halloween was the Celtic New Year. It doesn’t take a leap of faith to feel that the ancient Celts must have brought in their New Year with costumes and hijinks and people acting out under the anonymity of speechlessness.

When I march with my mummer brigade, I feel like I’m immersed in the Old Ways. The New Year is upon us. Let’s get suited up in the strangest way possible and act out in a somewhat organized manner. Call it trick-or-treating if you like, but don’t buy the line that this is something new and modern. It is ancient and holy, and a whole lot of fun.

Happy New Year!

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