Notes from the Apothecary

June, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: The Poppy

With colors ranging from a delicate, golden yellow to brash, bold scarlet, the poppy is a self-contained paradox. Powerful, yet delicate and short lived, this evocative flower has been associated with sleep, death and rebirth for many centuries. This connection comes from the fact that opium, a powerful drug used for inducing sleep and trance like states, is derived from the seed pods of one particular kind of poppy, papaver somniferum. It is possible that humans have been cultivating this poppy since 6000 BC.

Red poppies are also a symbol of remembrance, ever since the trench warfare that took place in World War One in the poppy fields of Flanders. They are used to remember those who fell in defense of other; soldiers and warriors, ancestors who died in battle and those who were affected by the horrors of war. In the UK especially, some people feel like the red poppy glorifies war, but they still wish to honor those who died, in which case they wear a white poppy. This signifies that they do not agree with war on principle, but that they respect and remember the sacrifice made by those who had no choice but to fight.

The Kitchen Garden

Poppies are classed as an herbaceous plant, and are grown mainly for their flowers and seeds. Many of the flowers are highly elaborate, having double or semi-double layers of petals. The red, multi-layered poppies always remind me of Spanish flamenco skirts.

As well as being a beautiful addition to any garden, poppies are very practical. The seeds are delicious, and are often used as decoration and flavor for breads, cakes, buns and muffins. As well as tasting great, like most seeds, they are a great source of protein. They are also high in calcium, so ideal for a dairy free diet.

The oil can be extracted from poppy seeds and used as a cooking oil, or for salad dressings and in baking.

The Apothecary

It should come as no surprise to learn that poppy seeds have been used throughout history as a painkiller, considering they contain the raw ingredients of morphine. They also contain tiny amounts of codeine. The Ancient Egyptians are known to have employed poppy seeds for this purpose, but they must have used them while very fresh as the opiate contents tends to fade quickly upon harvesting.

The Witch’s

The red poppy is a sacred symbol of Demeter, and as such is perfect for decorating any altar you may have to this Greek goddess of agriculture and law. The Minoans also evidently had a poppy goddess, as shown in the clay statuette found at Gazi. This ancient goddess with arms reaching to the sky has her headdress decorated with poppy seed capsules, showing that the cult that revered this goddess placed special, religious significance on the poppy. This may have been due to its narcotic properties, or the simple significance of the cycles of life, death and rebirth. Either way, it’s clear that poppies are a powerful symbol of at least two ancient cults. Using the poppy today can help us connect to these ancient goddesses.

Also within the Greek pantheon, we have Hypnos and Thanatos, the gods of sleep and death, respectively. These twin gods were both depicted with crowns of poppies, once again reinforcing the association between poppies and sleep and death. Death is a kind of sleep that never ends, and being asleep is so close to death in many ways. The poppy reminds us that just because something looks like one thing, it may actually be something completely different. We should examine and reexamine, and be sure of what we are seeing before jumping to conclusions. It reminds us to be less judgmental, more open-minded, and to appreciate the benefits of sleep and dreams.

Dreams are a doorway into our subconscious. And, while our subconscious kicks out some weird stuff most of the time, it can also send us important messages, including messages from our gods and ancestors.

Home and Hearth

Try keeping a dream journal. This can be a hard habit to get into, as you have to remember to write your dreams down the moment you awake from them. If not, you tend to lose details and the whole dream may even fade within a few minutes.

Before sleeping, meditate on an image of a poppy. A red poppy is the one most associated with sleep and dreams, but if a different color has more meaning for you, that’s fine too. Breathe, relax and imagine each petal of the poppy as a layer of your subconscious. Imagine you will be allowed to explore each layer, just as you can clearly see each beautiful petal of the poppy. Immerse yourself in the sense that your subconscious will open for you, blooming like a great flower, with answers and insight.

Keep a notepad and pen next to your bed. That way, even if you wake up at 3am, you can scribble down the contents of your dreams. Don’t worry if you can’t always remember them. The human mind is complex and temperamental! Write what you can and use it to look for patterns, imagery and symbolism.

I Never Knew…

The pain-killing drug morphine, derived from poppy opium, takes its name from Morpheus, the Ancient Greek god of dreams and sleep.

*Image credit: Welsh Poppies in Post Hill Woods, copyright Mabh Savage 2018; the Poppy Goddess at Heraklion Archaeological Museum via Wikipedia; poppies on Lake Geneva via Wikipedia.


About the Author:

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

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


Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.


Children’s Book Review – The Natural Storyteller: Wildlife Tales for Telling by Georgiana Keable

December, 2017

The Natural Storyteller is a gorgeous heart-warming book full of stories that children (and people any age!) can relate to. It is a collection of stories, carefully gathered over a period of years, from all over the world (different sources, locations, periods in history). Some are based on myths, others on legendary figures or even saints (e.g. St Francis of Assisi makes an appearance – but in the story we meet his child self!) or extraordinary things that happened in the lives of ordinary people.

What steals my heart about this book is that it unflinchingly addresses the turmoil and realities of life in the 21st century. The author does not shy away from tackling themes such as deforestation, war or corporate greed.

My favourite story is the King of the Deer (perhaps because I live in the forest in Sweden for part of the year where I see deer daily and observe them very closely). I had a rather traumatic encounter with deer hunters only two weeks ago and this story (about the King of the Deer putting a stop to the hunting of all animal species) really pulled at my heart strings.

I live in London for the larger part of the year and there is a lovely story about a London woman who finds a wounded baby sparrow on her doorstep during World War II. She takes him in and he becomes her companion, eventually bringing comfort to people who lost their homes in air raids. The woman was called Clare Kipps and I am under the impression that this story is based on a real life person.

The author describes herself as going on hikes and actively asking strangers to tell her stories. Predictably many people first say they don’t know any stories before proceeding to tell a very unique story indeed. Many of those stories are about friendships between humans and animals.

I love the scope of subjects, characters and locations. I also love the fact that she does not shy away from the difficult aspects of life. When children hear about characters in stories surviving such things and even finding courage or beauty under challenging circumstances – then that same resilience is reinforced and inspired in the audience.

Many stories end with a Q&A section where the storyteller can ask questions to test if the children have understood the storyline correctly. There is also a Myths from the Land of You section where children are encouraged to connect the story to their own lives and experiences.

This book is that rare thing: it unlocks emotions, ideas and a wild surge of creativity. Even I now want to take myself off on hikes around London and ask complete strangers to tell me stories about sparrows and crows (and may just do that for a day!) Stories about other subjects would be welcome too…

(Full disclosure: I was asked by HawthornPress to review this book as a teacher and author of a book about innovative work with children myself).

Imelda Almqvist, 9 November 2017, London UK


About the author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently working on her second book Sacred .

For Amazon information, click image below.


www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

Duke’s Thoughts

March, 2012

The Second American Revolution

It began not with the ending of the world but with the end of the American Republic although the aftermath may as well have been the end of the world. It was cheered in some circles and condemned by others, but the condemners were in the minority most of them corrupt politicians. The rest were insanely pacifistic sheeple that would rather live under the boots of tyranny then to fight for their freedom and be masters of their own destiny, complacency was their motto, apathy their creed.

At first the people had not realized their freedom had been unceremoniously usurped from teem, they thought that their government was acting in the best interest of the people. The harsh, cruel reality was anything but and by the time they realized it, it was too late to stop the powers that be without bloodshed. The constitution had been torn asunder by the very people that had been entrusted to preserve it and made the very subjects for which it was created the enemy. The very souls that it was supposed to protect were now left without it’s blanket of freedom and they didn’t realize it until it happened.

The law seemed harmless enough, who would not want to be protected from terrorists? But the powers that be soon began declaring the very people they were supposed to protect, terrorists themselves. Denied due process, they were put into cages like dangerous wild animals that had wondered in from the wilderness. Protests fell upon deaf ears and were largely ignored as minor irritants no more important than a common housefly buzzing around one’s head. Soon; however, that changed, the first protester to cast a stone was the shot that was heard around the world. Now the insignificant housefly became an enemy of the state.

Hundreds died in the first clash with the authority that had betrayed the people and it awakened the sleeping giant. It’s awakening was slow at first, few wanted to believe that the government of the people, by the people and for the people would do such an awful thing. 236 years of freedom erased in one single incident, the evidence was irrefutable taking place on live national television sparking riots all over the country. Governors called out the states’ national guard to help restore order but that only exacerbated the problem.

Tens of thousands more died and the Armed Services were called up to suppress the coming insurrection but when the order came to fire upon the very people they had sworn to defend nary a shot was fired. When the brainwashed, indignant leaders attempted to assert their authority they found out just exactly how much their brass would protect them. Whole units and whole military installations mutinied against the now uncivilized authority they were supposed to serve at their pleasure. Those that did not faced the specter of fighting their own countrymen; their own brothers and sisters; their own sons and daughters and they came face to face with the enemy.

Those that could, fled, those that couldn’t, died or suffered in ways too ghastly to imagine, too terrible to put into words. Once great cities of modern civilization, reduced to rubble, mere shadows of their former selves and the statue that once stood watch over the harbor wept, the eagle hung it’s head in shame. Faction after faction came and went as the rising and setting of the sun that was often blotted out by the fires of hatred and intolerance. The melting pot eroded away to nothing and forgotten, our founding fathers turned in their graves and they, themselves were forgotten as well.

After it was over and the last fire put out, the last of the dead buried, it came time to pick up the pieces and rebuild that which was lost. Many were at a loss as to where to begin, questions that had no easy answer were asked and even the smartest among them had no idea what went wrong. “Whom do we blame,” was asked by these men of great intelligence. When slowly the people elected their representatives and sent them back to where it had once began, they once again asked, “Whom do we blame?”

But a voice among them, one not so advanced in years as most and without the benefit of a higher education, replied simply, “We the People are to blame.” Indignant replies ensued, scoffing at the thought that everyone was to blame, but it was true, there was no denying it. Through complacency, ignorance and apathy it was they, no one else could be blamed. To blame one single person was folly as pointless as raking leaves in a hurricane.

It took time, many hours and days of work, through heated debate after heated debate, but eventually they agreed if begrudgingly so. What else could they do? Truth was truth and it was undeniably so, We the People were to blame. We the People wanted freedom from a tyrant across the Atlantic; We the People wanted to form a more perfect union. We the people held these truths to be self evident; that all men were created equal and that they were endowed by their creator to have certain unalienable rights; that among these right were life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So it stood to reason the We the People were responsible, We the People were to blame, We the People had cause the Second American Revolution. And so with that out of the way, the real work began, to restore that which We the People wanted from the start.


May, 2006

This Is a hard article to write, specifically because right now I’m dealing with my own pain and hardship back home and may wind up on emergency leave soon enough. I guess writing is a good release and this is a good vent for me. Pain makes you question why we are really here and is the reason we’re here really worth all the pain it brings. I’ve seen war tear apart families time and time again and it got so bad the Army had to focus a whole program on why and then they made a band-aid to fix the problem. At last count we were at 2700 or so Soldiers we’ve lost due to this war due to enemy actions, some to accidents and friendly fire. To me friendly fire would be the worst way to go, and to have your spouse know it was our own weapons that took their spouses life. In one case the Army tried to cover up the cause of death due to embarrassment and investigation showed it was friendly fire and then to top it all off, there were war protesters at her husband’s funeral calling out, “Baby-killer” etc. Now I believe in Freedom of Speech but come on people show some respect, there’s a time and a place and a Soldiers memorial is definitely not the time or place. On that note, another topic near and dear to my heart is the Pagan headstone campaign. We have Pagan Soldiers at war dying, and when it comes to burial, there family is denied the Pentacle on the Soldier’s headstone. As of this writing, the Veterans Administration has not approved the Pentacle for Pagan headstones although they say they are “working on it”. There are currently, and have been 32 approved symbols for several years one of which is Atheist. It’s a symbol of our beliefs for crying out loud so I really don’t see what the issue is but apparently someone thinks there is one. There really are Pagan Soldiers and the mainstream religions aren’t the only faith-groups fighting for our religious freedoms so this is a big pet-peeve of mine. If I die in combat I would expect to have the Pentacle on my headstone, write to your congressman or woman if you would like to get involved with this. To me, our spouses and other family members have things as bad if not worse then we as Soldiers do. You go from a family, to one parent raising the kids, paying the bills etc. You also have the pregnant family members whose spouses miss the birth. You have agencies and businesses who hassle our family members or refuse to help them because the primary account holder or head of house isn’t present but is indeed at war. Often they won’t even accept the Power of Attorney we leave behind to allow our spouses to handle business. Oh, and they don’t even want to hear my spouse is at war, as they just don’t care. I had one Soldier who had an Arab calling and threatening his family while he was here. How the Arab got his families phone number and bank account information is anyone’s guess but the Army moved his family to safety, point being, these are just some of the things our families go through while we are deployed. Me, well currently my wife’s life is endangered by a life-threatening pregnancy and will soon have to go through surgery to save her but we will lose the babies. My day was distressed and time stopped, I talked to her on the phone and we reassured each-other and the war went on. I will push for a chapter out of the Army upon our return in November or hopefully sooner, as the more I look and think about all the traumas and hardships we go through as military families, the more I know its not worth it. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way, we’ll just say this incident was the icing on the cake. You know, the best movie on war I’ve seen has to be “We Were Soldiers” as it’s the only war movie out there that shows the price of war on families. Well worth the watch. In closing, next time you see a military family whose spouse is deployed, please pat them on the back and give them an encouraging word and thank them for service to their country like you do us Soldiers, they’ve earned it. Bright- Blessings.

Peace and Bullies

May, 2006

Peace and Bullies

PEACE will come when people live

In friendship, side by side,

And cherish understanding

More than hatred, greed and pride.

PEACE will come when people see

All people as the same,

And no one has to live in fear,

In ignorance, or shame.

PEACE will come when people

Who are needy can reach out

For shelter, food, or love,

And no one has to do without.

PEACE will come when people

Learn to listen and to care

About the rights and dignity

Of people everywhere.

PEACE will come when love and trust

And kindness know rebirth,

And on that day all people

Will rejoice in peace on earth.

~By Amanda Bradley~

This is a very beautiful poem. But, it’s missing one little thing… Peace will come when we learn to deal with the bullies in our school playgrounds, our work places, our communities and all the other little places that they grow up and fester and gain power over others, till they erupt into major violence, and war or it’s community equivalent is the only thing that will take them down.

If we could find them in the schools and heal them while they were young… only then would peace have a chance. If we could learn to stand up to bullies in our homes, in our communities, in all the places that people gather, then we could disempower them, show their actions for what they are, and perhaps peace could have a chance.

If we could learn to speak up for ourselves, for those we see being put down and belittled, for the little slights that add up to large harms over time.

If we could learn to encourage dreams, and the work that goes into making those dreams real, then perhaps peace might have a chance.

As long as we remain silent, as long as we allow others to be belittled, bullied, harassed and abused, as long as we keep to ourselves, fervently glad that it’s them and not us, then peace will have no chance.

As long as we ignore or rationalize away the little things that would clue us in, if we were paying attention… then those things will come back to haunt us, and peace will have no chance.

As long as we wear our masks for public use, and treat the masks that others wear as though it were reality, then peace will have no chance.

As long as we ignore the quiet bullies, the ones that manipulate and undermine in the background, encouraging others to do their dirty work, then peace will have no chance.

The causes of crime, violence, war … all are clearly visible in the nearest school yard, in that house down the street where the children are being abused and you do nothing, in our workplaces where co-workers are intimidated, and we say nothing, because it’s not "us", it’s not our business, and we can’t afford to lose our jobs. And as long we, we as individuals, as a people, as a community, as a country, allow, nay, even encourage the bullies to prosper by our silence… peace will have no chance.


author bio:

Florence and her HP David lead WMT-TwinPaths