July, 2013

Merry Meet

July, 2013

Merry Meet and Welcome to the July Issue of PaganPages Emagazine!

 

Just as the summer can guarantee heat, we guarantee a Great Issue!

 

This issue is packed full of articles to get you started on your magickal journey, as well as, articles to help those already into their paths. 

 

 

 

Be sure to visit us on our Etsy Site for Beautiful Jewelry, Supplies, and Goodies.

 

 

We are currently looking for a columnist to review blogs, sites, podcasts, etc…  If you are interested email [email protected]npages.org

 

Happy Reading!!!

 

 

 

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Seeing the Signs

July, 2013

 

Framing Your Question

 

Sometimes you come to a reading with a generalized sense of anxiety.  There’s no particular question, you just want an answer.  An answer to what?   You don’t really know.  All you know is that you need to know what you don’t know.

 

I feel like this quite often.  I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going.  I have had an argument with a friend and I feel frustrated.  I have writer’s block and cannot break through.  I have errands to run, but I am agoraphobic; I need to know if it is okay for me to leave the house.  I shuffle my tarot cards or I start making tea for a reading.  I still don’t know what I want to know but I know I have to find out.

 

The first thing I need to do is prepare myself for a reading.  I like to cast a simple circle by lighting incense and setting it in the east, lighting a candle & setting it in the south, placing a cup of salt water in the west, and lastly, a crystal in the north.  I sit in the middle and meditate until I feel settled and hopefully serene.  Serenity doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes I play music but I prefer the sound of the chirping birds.

 

When I feel ready, I lay out my cards or I sip my tea and swirl the tea leaves or toss the coins … whatever I am doing.  Even without a set question, answers come.  Sometimes, it is an “Aha!” moment.  It’s “Oh so that’s what I was missing!” or even “DUH!”  But sometimes I stare at the cards or the tea leaves and I am even more confused than before.  Even though I am tempted to just pick the cards up and start over or pour another cup of tea or re-toss the coins, it is important to write down whatever it is I have in front of me right now.  Even though it seems like I don’t have a clear answer, it may be I am not able to see it right now.  I have gone back to readings weeks, months, even years later, and the meaning of the reading has jumped out at me.  So be sure to always write your readings down, date them, and revisit them.

 

After a reading, thank the spirits who helped you interpret the reading, even if you don’t feel you gained very much.  You always have gained something, even if you are mired in confusion.  The reading stays with you and as you sleep, the images will play out in your dreams.  As the answers come to you, so will the question.  And as you learn to frame your question, you will get a better reading, and a better answer.

Many blessings!

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A Year And A Day

July, 2013

 

Wicca 101 Books

I believe it was Scott Cunningham that encouraged new witches to read everything they can get their hands on when first exploring the Craft. I agree with this wholeheartedly! There is a multitude of ‘Wicca 101’ books on the market, and it can seem daunting to sift through them and choose which ones to read. Every Wiccan author has their own style and point of view, so it’s a good exercise to read a variety of books in order to discover what works for you. Keep in mind that not everybody agrees with what makes a good book!

Below is a list of some Wiccan and Pagan books that I have read, I am planning to read, or have been recommended by others. It is by no means an inclusive list, but it might be a helpful reference for those just starting out on their path. Happy reading!

 

Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham (1989)

This was one of the first books I read on Wicca, and it is still one of my favourites.  Cunningham’s friendly style is easy to read, and the topics are basic enough for a beginner to grasp.  Some people criticize Cunningham as being ‘too fluffy’ and overlooking the darker aspects of the Craft, but I think it’s still one of the best Wicca 101 books out there.  I also recommend the companion book, Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.

 

Wicca For Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy and Practice by Thea Sabin (2006)

This has to be one of my favourite Wicca 101 books.  I find her friendly writing style easy to read and enjoyable.  Written in 2006, it contains a modern view of the history of the Craft, acknowledging Wicca as both a ‘new’ and ‘old’ religion.  It includes some very useful lessons right up front – Grounding, Centering, Visualization, and Meditation – complete with instructions and exercises.

 

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft (3rd Ed) by Denise Zimmermann and Katherine Gleason (2006)

I was skeptical when I picked up this book, but I’m glad I did because it is packed full of useful information.  Following the concept of the other ‘Idiots’ and ‘Dummies’ books, this guide is well laid out with concise chapters with notes, summaries, and definitions.  It will take you a long time to go through it all, but I feel its well worth it in the end.

 

Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland (2002)

 

Buckland’s ‘big blue book’ contains a lot of useful information for the beginner Wiccan. The workbook is organized in a series of lessons with review questions at the end of each.  Although most of what he writes is geared towards coven work, there is a chapter at the end for the solitary practitioner.

True Magick: A Beginner’s Guide by Amber K (1990)

Many positive reviews have been made about Amber K’s ‘little green book’, and although I’m not quite finished it yet, it is quite enjoyable.  It contains information about the history of magic, magic and science, rituals and spellcraft, as well as exercises and recommended reading after each chapter.

To Ride A Silver Broomstick: New Generation Witchcraft by Silver RavenWolf (2002)

Love her or hate her, Silver RavenWolf is here to stay.  Very popular with the teen set, her books are filled with information, however sometimes you have to sift through her varied opinions on things to get to the facts.  This is the first book in a series of beginner Wicca books, followed by To Stir A Magick Cauldron and To Light A Sacred Flame. 

The Inner Temple of Witchcraft: Magick, Meditation and Psychic Development by Christopher Penczak (2002)

This is the first in the Temple series of books Christopher Penczak, a pupil of Laurie Cabot, which also includes The Outer Temple of Witchcraft, The Living Temple of Witchcraft, and The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft.  This book discusses the basics of Witchcraft, as well as magic, meditation, and energy work, complete with exercises and review questions.

Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America by Margot Adler (2006)

First published in 1979, this book was one of the first glimpses of Neopaganism in America.  Adler provides an interesting viewpoint on the history and formation of Neopaganism.


 

Additional recommended books include:

A Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook by Stewart Farrar and Janet Farrar (1996)

The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess by Starhawk (1999)

Witchcraft for Tomorrow by Doreen Valiente (1993)

The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton (2001)

Green Witchcraft: Folk Magic, Fairy Lore & Herb Craft by Ann Moura (2002)

Positive Magic: Occult Self-Help by Marion Weinstein (2008)

The Spirit of the Witch: Religion & Spirituality in Contemporary Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi (2003)

How to Become a Witch: The Path of Nature, Spirit & Magick by Amber K (2010)

The Real Witches’ Handbook: A Complete Introduction to the Craft by Kate West (2008)

The Wicca Bible: The Definitive Guide To Magic And The Craft by Ann-Marie Gallagher (2005)

Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions by River Higginbotham and Joyce Higginbotham (2002)

 

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Lughnasadh Correspondences

July, 2013

(Loo-nas-ah) Major Sabbat (High Holiday) – Fire Festival August 1, 2

Other Names: Lunasa (meaning August), Lughnasaad, Lughnasa Celtic),First Harvest, August Eve, Feast of Cardenas, Feast of Bread, Tailltean Games(Irish), Teltain Cornucopia (Strega), Ceresalia (Ancient Roman) Harvest Home, Thingtide (Teutonic), Lammas (Christian). Laa Luanys, Elembious, Festival of Green Corn (Native American)

Animals and Mythical beings: Griffins, Basilisks, Roosters, Calves, Centaurs, Phoenix

Gemstones: aventurine, citrine, peridot, sardonyx, yellow diamonds, citrine

Incense and Oils: wood aloes, rose, rose hips, rosemary, chamomile, eucalyptus, safflower, corn, passionflower, frankincense, sandalwood

Colors: red, orange, golden yellow, green, light brown, gold, bronze, gray

Tools, Symbols, and Decorations: corn, cornucopias, red, yellow flowers, sheaves of grain (wheat, barley, oats), first fruits/vegetables of garden labor, corn dollies, baskets of bread, spear, cauldron, sickle, scythe, threshing tools, sacred loaf of bread, harvested herbs, bonfires, bilberries, God figures made of bread or cookie dough, phallic symbols

Goddesses: The Mother, Dana (Lugh&’s wife & queen ), Tailltiu (Welsh-Scottish), Demeter (Greek), Ceres (Roman grain goddess .. honored at Ceresalia), the Barley Mother, Seelu (Cherokee), Corn Mother, Isis (Her birthday is celebrated about this time), Luna (Roman Moon Goddess), other agricultural Goddesses, the waxing Goddess

Gods: Lugh (Celtic, one of the Tuatha De Danaan), John Barley Corn, Arianrhod’s golden haired son Lleu (Welsh God of the Sun & Corn where corn includes all grains, not just maize), Dagon (Phoenician Grain God), Tammuz/ Dummuzi (Sumerian), Dionysus, plus all sacrificial Gods who willingly shed
blood/give their life that their people/lands may prosper, all vegetation Gods & Tanus (Gaulish Thunder God), Taranis (Romano-Celtic Thunder God), Tina, (Etruscan-Thunder God), the waning God

Essence: fruitfulness, reaping, prosperity, reverence, purification, transformation, change, The Bread of Life, The Chalice of Plenty , The Ever-flowing Cup , the Groaning Board (Table of Plenty)

Meaning: Lugh’s wedding to Mother Earth, Birth of Lugh; Death of Lugh, Celtic Grain Festival

Purpose: Honoring the parent Deities, first harvest festival, first fruits grains & drink to the Goddess in appreciation of Her bounty, offering loaves of sacred bread in the form of the God (this is where the Gingerbread Man originated)

Rituals and Magicks: astrology, prosperity, generosity, continued success, good fortune, abundance, magickal picnic, meditate & visualize yourself completing a project you’ve started

Customs and Activities: games, the traditional riding of poles/staves, country fairs, breaking bread with friends, making corn dollys, harvesting herbs for charms/rituals, Lughnasadh fire with sacred wood & dried herbs, feasting, competitions, lammas towers (fire-building team competitions), spear tossing, gathering flowers for crowns, fencing/swordplay, games of skill, martial sports, chariot races, hand-fastings, trial marriages, dancing ’round a corn mother (doll)

Foods: loaves of homemade wheat, oat, & corn bread, barley cakes, corn, potatoes, summer squash, nuts, acorns, wild berries (any type), apples, rice, pears, berry pies, elderberry wine, crab apples, mead, crab, blackberries, meadowsweet tea, grapes, cider, beer

Herbs: grain, acacia, heather, ginseng, sloe, cornstalks, cyclamen, fenugreek, aloes, frankincense, sunflower, hollyhock, oak leaf, wheat, myrtle

Element: Fire

Gender: Female

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NATURE ALCHEMY ~ Journey through Spirit in the Natural World

July, 2013

Dedicated to my Beautiful and Beloved Daughter

REBECCA LYNN BASTRON, Devotee of Forest Cathedral

 

FOREST CATHEDRAL

~ Gift of Strength ~

 

 

“In some mysterious way, woods have never seemed to me to be static things.  In physical terms, I move through them; yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me.”    

~  John Fowles , British writer and teacher

From great owl’s sacred stance, he lies hidden within the realm of Forest Cathedral. Owl’s mystery is one with the spirit of the woodlands. This benevolent congregation of trees unites diverse ecosystems together in a cohesive, sustainable, living environment.  Forests comprise roughly 90 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and cover over nine percent of the earth’s surface. It is an all-inclusive world unto itself – a unique atmosphere dwelling harmoniously – a perfect blend of all five elements: earth, air, water, fire, and aether. Forest Cathedral embraces all kingdoms of life with equal devotion. The world’s woodlands are vital to all life because they provide a multi-faceted range of resources: they collect carbon, aid in regulating earth’s climate, purify water, conserve soil, and function as hydrologic flow modulators. Thus, earth’s great groves of trees bestow life with some of the most essential life-sustaining elements of our biosphere.

Life and death abound here, within Forest Cathedral…in the great way: the sublime movement of existence, of being in time and space. It is a holy place, shared by an infinite number of species, living and dying, minute by minute. This dynamic ecosphere cultivates and nurtures the diversity and strength of life – each element, each being, depending upon one another – and at the same time, feeding each other in perfect balance. Here dwells the thriving ways of Spirit. The noble woodlands tenderly overlook, and gently care for, it’s family of sentient beings. It feeds, clothes, shelters, and purifies all creatures – from animal, insect, plant, stone, earth, air, water, and more. The mystical grace of Spirit dwells within Forest Cathedral. It blesses life always, in all ways.

As we come to remember the countless gifts of the forest groves, we are able to gain an immeasurable strength of purpose within. Forest Cathedral not only provides in the material sense, but greatly through the Divine, where personal transcendence can be experienced in the blissful realm of the Soul. Jeb Dickerson, teacher and creator of personal growth website, How to Matter.com, shares, “The trees are whispering to me, reminding me of my roots, and my reach… shhhhhh… can you hear them? Selflessly sharing their subtle song”.  And so, my dear friends…go out into the sacredness of Forest, and become one with the trees…and yourself!

 

~ FOREST SPIRIT POWER MESSAGE ~

We bid you Strength.

Strength of Purpose…Strength of Mind…

As you walk this land on earth.

Know that We are with you.

For as your eyes rise to meet us,

We gather strength together

In the knowing of Nobility.

Gather these forces around you,

And walk in Love…

For Love is your Banner of Strength.

These blessings We give unto you.

 

 ~ FOREST ELEMENTS AND SYMBOLOGY ~

Through the physical and spiritual realms of the Five Kingdoms in Nature:

Celestial, Elemental, Fauna, Flora, and Mineral

Green Man – the vegetative Nature Deity depicted as an icon with foliage sprouting out of his face, sometimes bearing fruit or flowers. Since 400 A.D., Green Man has appeared as an ancient symbol throughout historical mythology. Green Man is the archetypal god representing the life, death, and rebirth cycle of plants. In relationship to humanity, Green Man is portrayed as the spiritual symbol of individual transformation ~ the visionary experience of becoming. Through our personal trials of strength, we can call upon Green Man to assist in our own rebirth of spirit – to the path of becoming our Greater Self by embracing Forest Cathedral’s dedication of reaching for the highest. “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness,” eloquently wrote John Muir, naturalist writer and activist. In the living of life, as we gather our well of inner strength, we can touch this infinite place of universal power and unity, among the towering trees, uplifting us every step of the way. Reach for the Highest! can be our anthem, our emblem of courage, from beloved Forest Cathedral. How Blessed We Are!

Forest Floor – the sacred, abundant ground of forest growth. The bed upon which Forest Cathedral grows is rich with life-sustaining nutrients, feeding a vast array of beings – from microscopic elements to the towering majestic trees. Forest Floor is where physical life dies, only to be reborn anew into a naturally transformed pattern. And, from this fertile ground of earth, we shall grow. The Tree of Life is an ancient and universal symbol for personal evolution: being earth-bound, yet reaching up to the heavens to connect with our source – the Divine. This Holy Tree is revered as endowing life with the sacred qualities of wisdom, protection, strength, bounty, beauty, and redemption. Our roots, like those of the trees, reach deep into the psyche of Spirit, where we can realize these blessed intrinsic gifts. Beloved Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore, divined, “Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.” As we plant our feet firmly upon sweet Mother Earth, absorbing her nourishing essence like Forest Cathedral, we can reach up and touch our inherent power (heaven) within, and grow strong of heart and soul.

Foragers and Nesters – the extensive range of animals congregating within the forest environment. Up to 75% of earth’s animal population lives in this diverse worldwide habitat, dwelling from the upper levels of the tree canopy to the forest floor. This includes seven main species: mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and arthropods. All these creatures live within the divine realm of Forest Cathedral, sharing the sacred exchange of the food of life. A sacred Buddhist Sutra proclaims, “The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings.” Such is the way of Forest Spirit, in eternal benevolence and nourishment for mind and body. We can learn the great strength of giving by walking within the blessed woodland cosmos. Here, there exists the sublime universal balance of giving and receiving, the gracious feeding of others to nurture the self. This is Divinity, and the true noble Gift of Strength.

Forest Canopy –  the upper layer plant community formed by mature tree crowns. This upper stratum benefits the woodland habitat in many ways: it provides protection from strong winds and storms; it reduces solar radiation, offering shade protection to plant and animal life; and, it offers a home to unique and diverse fauna and flora. Forest Canopy is the crown of nature’s cathedral. Great ancient cathedrals were revered as holy places where people could congregate in mutual worship of God. Pilgrims, from times past to the present day, visit the world’s cathedrals to connect with the true peace dwelling within their soul, to surrender worldly uncertainties, to receive enlightenment, and to be born again with renewed strength. And so it is within the realm of Forest Cathedral. Internationally honored Soviet president and peacemaker, Mikhail Gorbachev, lovingly stated, “All of us are linked to the cosmos.  So nature is my god.  To me, nature is sacred; trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals.” The towering trees, reaching up to the heavens, symbolize a way for mankind to connect, to elevate, in spirit. As we walk within this celestial world, our hearts can receive the grace of divine strength, and our souls can touch the pure light of love dwelling above. As the brilliant sun shines through the consecrated soaring trees, so does the power of light illuminate our path in service to life. This is our Great Gift of Strength, lovingly bestowed by our innermost Forest Cathedral.

Tree Agate – a knobby, white opaque stone with green tree-like inclusions or veins. The Native American culture reveres Tree Agate as a sacred gem which helps them connect with the power of tree wisdom. A beautiful 18th century Chinook invocation entreats, “We call upon the forests, the great trees reaching strongly to the sky with earth in their roots and the heavens in their branches, and we ask them to ‘Teach us, and show us the Way’”. We may use Tree Agate to help fortify our relationship with the honorable trees. The wisdom of Forest Cathedral, with its mighty foundation reaching deep within the earth, is to go back to the root of any situation to find the answer. There it lies, at this essential core, waiting to be revealed. The noble woods bless us, and give forth their ancient power and knowledge received from the depths of Mother Earth, and the Spirit of the heavens. The profound implication of the simple statement, “hug a tree”, is filled with great mystical wisdom. This mere physical act offers us the divine opportunity to receive Forest Cathedral’s gracious gift of inner strength, which can Teach us, and show us the Way.

 

~ CELEBRATION THROUGH SACRED CEREMONY ~

Moving through the spiritual energy of our own inner totem Forest Cathedral, we can be blessed with the precious Gift of Strength within all life. Here, within the realm of Forest Cathedral, our True Self eternally dwells.

A personal ceremony can be performed to enhance the manifestation and integration with Forest’s all-embracing gift. This can be a private celebration between yourself and Forest Spirit, or you can invite others to join. It can be as ritualized as you desire, or naturally free-flowing, and include anything you want to say or any object(s) that intuitively feels in harmony with the act of thanksgiving for Forest Cathedral’s blessing.

A powerful place to hold the celebration would be in a natural area with Forest’s presence, but physical location is not of prime importance. If you do not have access to this environment, any contact outside facing Forest’s auric essence would be helpful. Even if this area is hidden or at a great distance, emanations from Forest Cathedral’s spiritual source are not obscured, as they flow freely throughout the Universe. If the celebration is held indoors, being in room with a window is encouraged to enhance the presence of natural elements, but if this is not possible, symbolically facing Forest Cathedral would be beneficial.

As a sample list, any of the following ideas below could be included in your celebration, and verbalized during a Blessings of Intention for Strength affirmation ceremony (see below). Also, any of these offerings may be created and integrated into your ritual either physically and/or symbolically in Spirit.

 

  1. Begin with a personal intention of Strength to enhance any general or specific aspect of your life.

 

  1. Light a green candle to symbolize the transformative power of Green Man, the nature god who can guide you through life, death, and the rebirth of Self.

 

  1. Feel and smell the sweet fecundity of Forest Floor, the earthly kingdom of fertility and growth.

 

  1. Honor the diverse population of Foragers and Nesters, who can help you remember the balance of giving and receiving life’s abundant blessings.

 

  1. See the towering Forest Canopy, who can raise your spirit higher into the realm of the Divine.

 

  1. Hold the green variegated gemstone Tree Agate, or any other stone resonating the great gift of strength. Other related minerals include Moss Agate, Jade, and Rutilated Quartz.

 

  1. Proclaim intentional blessings for the Gift of Strength. A simple statement in the form of a heart-felt declaration can attract and summon the heights of magick and power through the fundamental, positive act of intention. By the sincere act of a clear and pure desire, a personalized blessing can call upon the spiritual forces of unity within life – the source of your Infinite Self. You can use any of the following Blessings of Intention affirmations as a guideline to be included into your own personal declaration towards inner harmony and integration with the energies of Heaven and Earth. Written as non-denominational statements, these intentional blessings can be practiced by any single person, or unstructured or organized group, as their own personal form of prayer, charm, chant, invocation, or medicine, etc.

 

  1. A devotional affirmation of praise, honor, and thanksgiving, as suggested in Dream Song to Forest Cathedral (see below). This act of appreciation is enhanced with the powerful personal statement “I Am”, and especially when said aloud, can invoke the creative energies of manifestation radiating throughout the Universe, calling upon Forest’s Great Spirit to be infused into your life.  All or part of the Dream Song passages can be included in this holy prayer of purpose and gratitude. Their power summon and embrace a wide range of natural spiritual influences, ancient mythology, and alchemical life-force energies from Native American, Deity, Celtic, Shaman, Indigenous, Pagan, and Wiccan cultures.

 

 

~ BLESSINGS OF INTENTION FOR STRENGTH ~

  1. With this glowing green candle, blessed by Forest Spirit, I embrace the guiding power of Green Man, who shows me that the eternal process of becoming is always manifesting in my heart and soul.

 

  1. With the fertile soil of Forest Floor, blessed by Forest Spirit, I feel myself grow in Spirit, reaching deeper into the beauty of my heart and soul.

 

  1. With the infinite congregation of Foragers and Nesters, blessed by Forest Spirit, I joyfully join the sacred act of giving and receiving of Self which eternally blesses my heart and soul.

 

  1. With the soaring essence of Forest Canopy, blessed by Forest Spirit, I rise into the realm of my Divine cathedral, reaching for the highest within my heart and soul.

 

  1. With the textured, green-veined Tree Agate, (or other resonating gemstone) blessed by Forest Spirit, I feel the gracious power of inner nobility embracing my heart and soul.

 

 

~ DREAM SONG TO FOREST CATHEDRAL ~

I am held in Your loving arms, O Forest Spirit,

And feel Your power embracing my soul.

I feel strong…

And in love with myself, and life, again!

It is here where I grow.

In the presence of Your Divine Being,

Always rising to the Heavens…

I am one with You.

I am blessed and healed

In the Cathedral of Your Love.

My soul cries with abundant blessings,

For Your noble power growing strong within.

I Thank You, O Forest Cathedral, for your Great Gift of Strength.

 

 

~ From Heaven Sweet Nature Springs ~

 

 

BRIGHT BLESSINGS!

 

 

 

References:

http://www.peopleandplanet.net

http://www.treeoflifeteachings.com

http://www.sciencecastle.com

http://en.wikipedia.org

The Illustrated Directory of Healing Crystals, by Cassandra Eason

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Connecting with Nature

July, 2013

Nature’s Benefits

We know we feel good when in nature but what other health benefits are there to being outdoors? Studies have found that our stress, blood pressure and resting heart rate are all significantly lower during a 15 minute nature walk than during a 15 minute city walk. The average American spends at least eight hours a day looking at an electronic screen and when we get home stressed and frazzled, we often try to unwind in front of the TV. Research has shown that this only makes us more moody. Since we spend so much time in a technology-driven society, we become more aggressive, distracted, depressed and overweight.

 

David Suzuki, an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster, recently issued a challenge for people to get outside in nature for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. Preliminary results showed that people slept better, felt calmer and were less stressed.

 

 

Here are some other benefits to spending time in nature:

  • Boosts your mood and experience more positive emotions;
  • Increase in white blood cell activity;
  • Improves cognition;
  • Relieves anxiety and depression;
  • Boosts empathy;
  • Decrease in blood pressure and heart rate;
  • Increases creativity;
  • Improved memory and attention span;
  • Higher self-esteem;
  • Social bonding with like-minded people.

 

 

We have an attraction and connection with nature. Yoshifumi Miyazaki, a physiological anthropologist and vice director of Chiba University’s Center for Environment, Health, and Field Sciences, located just outside Tokyo, believes that because humans evolved in nature, it’s where we feel most comfortable. Some believe that humans are biophilia which suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. That we subconsciously seek a connection with the rest of life. For many of us, adding elements of nature to our living spaces can provide similar benefits for those times we can’t make it outside. Try adding some plants, an aquarium or a picture of a landscape you admire. Whether you head outdoors for an adventure or lose yourself to quiet observation near a stream, time in nature can provide some amazing health benefits.

 

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” ~Ben Okri

 

 

References:

http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/wellness/Take-Two-Hours-of-Pine-Forest-and-Call-Me-in-the-Morning.html?page=all

http://www.oprah.com/health/Health-Benefits-of-Nature-Spending-Time-Outside/1

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

http://30×30.davidsuzuki.org/

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-rich-and-measurable-benefits-to-spending-more-time-in-nature/

 

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Interweavings

July, 2013

Book of Seasons for July!

 

Strawberries and Sailboats!  Summer is at its height in the northern hemisphere.  Here in the “deep south” everything slows down to a crawl.  It is hot.  And it is humid.  And it is time to just be in the moment.  Gardens are lush and the sounds of nature are constant.  How I love listening to the birds as the sun rises and then the chattering of cicadas and tree frogs as they join the song.  I try to keep the windows open as long as possible in order to hear the hawk and the blue jay just a smidge longer.

 

 

Our affirmation for July

 

I bask in the sunlight and join the song of Gaia!

 

 

 

Sailboats and summer go hand in hand.

 

I adore wee little sailboats floating down the river lazily bobbing in the current.  I envision dear fairies eating wild strawberries and chatting with dragonflies as they drift on the water.

 

With walnut shells, a toothpick and some paper, a tiny sailboat can be fashioned.

 

First, carefully crack the walnut and remove the meat.  Voila! A boat!  Cut a sail from paper and wrap around a toothpick.  Tack it together with glue stick or staple.  Next anchor the toothpick in the walnut shell.  I drip wax from a birthday candle to hold it in place.  Now float on water!  No river or creek?  Then a bowl of water on the table is perfect.  How about a regatta of boats with different colored sails among floating candles?  Lovely outside at night as the fireflies are waking.

 

 

Let them eat cake!

 

What a perfect setting for strawberries to be eaten!   My favorite way of serving strawberries is to cut them and heap them on pound cake.  Top with whipped cream.  Simple but tasty!  Frozen, they are fun to drop into wine, champagne or ginger ale.

 

 

As we bask in the sun and drink in the beauty of the night let us feel the connection to Gaia and each other.  Each of us is a blessing to each other as well as to Earth herself.

 

Blessings on our day!

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Mugwort Chronicles

July, 2013

Feverfew and the Fine art of Tincting

Feverfew- Tanacetum parthenium

Photo by Louise Harmon

It was during an herbal studies class I was taking that another student suggested that the word, “tincting” well described the process of making tinctures. After considerable discussion, none of us were certain if tincting was truly a word. Somewhere in all the clutter filling my brain these days, “tincting” came flitting back as I was preparing Feverfew leaves and flowers for tincture.

 

A quick on-line search revealed that tincting is an obsolete verb meaning to imbue or to tint with colour or to flavor. Hmmm…it appears that my friend wasn’t really too far afield using the word tincting to describe the making of tinctures. So, what does my nostalgic reminiscence of tincting have to do with the Feverfew tincture I was preparing now?

 

Like many, my path to becoming an herbalist involved liberal amounts of self-directed education, sprinkled with a few treasured opportunities to learn from a handful of well-respected herbal masters. Sadly, my grandmother who knew and used herbal remedies, died long before I was born, so I did not have the benefit of a wise elder to pass on plant knowledge to me. Although my mother never had the same interest in herbal medicine, she did pass on the little she remembered along with my grandmother’s 1920s herbal medicine book, written in French. My path as an herbalist was established early thanks to my mother’s nominal efforts which brings me back to the art of tincting.

 

I made my first tinctures after much reading and following the instructions listed in a correspondence course I was taking at the time.  Although the instructions were fairly clear, there was no person standing next to me demonstrating just how this process was supposed to look. It didn’t seem too complicated and in many ways, it was much like cooking from a recipe. However, the nuances of the process did not translate well into print.

 

For the first few years, I would anxiously wait for the herb plants in my garden to be ready so I could harvest what I needed all at once. After giving the plants a quick rinse, I would coarsely chop them up then stuff them into a Mason jar filled with menstruum[1]. Most times my tincture turned out fine, although once I had a jar of Skullcap tincture with an odd smell and taste which was promptly recycled to compost. So, what was so wrong with my process? Well, it was not so much what was wrong as what was lacking.  One of the most valuable lessons I learned from the herbal studies class which initiated the discussion about tincting was the fine nuances of preparing plant material-the dance of making really good plant medicine.

 

Today, my approach to making plant medicine has become almost as much of a spiritual art as a medicine making process. Right now, Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is beginning to blossom in my garden. Although I have never had much luck using Feverfew alone to curb my migraines, I have had very good results when I combine Feverfew with other herbs such as Skullcap, St. John’s Wort and Valerian.  Feverfew, a drying and warming bitter with diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties, is useful for treating headaches, arthritis, and cold and flu symptoms. I was recently involved in a rear-end collision, and Feverfew was one of the herbs I included in the formula I made for my whiplash. Due to its emmenagogue[2] effect, Feverfew should not be used during pregnancy.

 

I had been watching Feverfew in the garden for several weeks, and after a few blossoms appeared, I carefully chose several stems whose flowers were just opening. After a gentle but thorough wash under running water, I patted them dry and then garbled very carefully. Garbled?

 

Garbling is the all-important process of removing dead, yellowed, withered or bug-bitten leaves and flowers. As my mentor was fond of saying, “…if you wouldn’t consider it fit to eat in your salad, do not put it into your medicine”. Wise words, as I have no doubt that some of the off-taste from the bad Skullcap tincture resulted from my inexperience of not garbling carefully.

 

The process of garbling and preparing plants for medicine has become almost a Zen experience for me. I no longer hurry this step, but rather lavish extra time on the plant and the process, feeling the plant’s energy and enjoying her smells and textures.

 

After garbling comes chopping and again, I have learned the value of taking time with this step. For this I use a chef knife or my very sharp kitchen scissors, to chop or cut the plant into very small pieces. The smaller pieces provide greater exposure of the plant matter to the menstruum allowing better extraction of the plant constituents into the tincture.

 

After the Feverfew was carefully washed, garbled and chopped, I added her to a very clean Mason jar with a cup of menstruum, labeling the jar clearly with the plant name, date and the percentage of alcohol used. For fresh plant matter, I prefer using 66% alcohol (95% alcohol diluted with water) as fresh green plants lose some of their moisture into the menstruum during tincting, diluting the alcohol content of the finished product.  Some herbalists prefer to use 40 to 50% alcohol for fresh plant tinctures as they feel that certain constituents are better extracted with a lower percentage of alcohol. Other herbalists prefer using 95% alcohol. The most important part to remember is that the alcohol content of the finished extract should always be above 25% to prevent spoilage and ensure a reasonable shelf life for your herbal medicines. A well-made tincture can be expected to last at least five years, sometimes up to ten, depending on the plant material used.

 

There are many differing opinions regarding alcohol proportions for making tinctures. Some herbalists are more exacting, weighing the amount of plant matter and adding the proper ratio of menstruum. Others, like me, follow a more folk method by adding enough menstruum to cover the plant, allowing adequate room for ‘swish’.

 

Understanding how much menstruum was adequate for ‘swish’ was also one of those lessons I refined with the help of my mentor. Too much menstruum and your final tincture will be somewhat dilute; too little, and your plant matter will not be adequately covered and you run the risk of moldy or spoiled medicine.

 

Like most plants, the Feverfew in my garden did not set blossoms all at once, so the amount of plant matter I initially gathered was quite small. After patiently waiting and watching, I gathered several more stems of leaves and flowers the following week which, after cleaning and garbling, was added to the first batch in the Mason jar containing one cup of menstruum. One cup of menstruum was too much for the first few plant pieces I added earlier, something I knowingly did as I planned to add more Feverfew over the next week or two. With each addition of Feverfew, extra menstruum was added, if needed, to ensure that the new plant material was well covered with enough ‘swish’ room for the plant matter to slightly swirl when the jar was shaken. If there is no movement when the jar is shaken, the plant matter too tightly packed and can spoil.  When I felt satisfied that I had enough tincture brewing, I stopped adding plant matter, and allowed the tincture to ‘brew’ for four weeks from the time I last added anything, gently shaking the jar several times a day for the first few weeks.

 

My process for making plant medicine has evolved over time from a hurried chore of quickly processing medicine to a gentle ritual of carefully preparing plants for healing and restoring the body. I think tincting reflects this gentle art of making really good medicine. It’s a good word for herbalists to reclaim.

 

On Herb Day, May 4th of this year, the Pacific NW lost one of its beloved herbalists, Cascade Anderson Geller. Cascade was one of my first teachers and over the years, I have been fortunate to hear her speak at workshops and local gatherings. She has mentored and inspired many and her presence in the herbal community will be greatly missed.

 

***

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:

-Tincting:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Tincting


[1] A solvent used in extracting compounds from plant.

[2] A plant/herb which stimulates blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus

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Across the Great Divide

July, 2013

 

Stump the Ghost Guy

I wouldn’t say that I have a unique point of view among paranormal researchers, but it is a rather rare one. Most people exist huddled at opposite extremes; that is, they either have a passionate belief in paranormal phenomena, convinced by the tiniest shreds of evidence, or they think it’s all a bunch of superstition and Hollywood hogwash and keep their worldview locked behind a steel door.

There are a few of us in the middle, though. We are both scientist and mystic; believer and skeptic. For as much as I am a fervent supporter of paranormal happenings- be it the adventurer in me or due to religious persuasions, I am also equally skeptic of any evidence presented to me because the scientist in me has more questions than answers.

This double-edged sword is unleashed every time someone finds out that I am a paranormal investigator and decides to play a game of “Stump the Ghost Guy.”

I’ll be at a bar or some social event and someone will either already know what I do or I’ll innocently give them my business card- which is a great way to make friends and network, but when I see their eyes flare upon seeing those words I get that feeling like a mouse caught in a trap.

“Oh, my god! You’re a ghost hunter? That’s so cool! Hey, let me tell you about my (experience, aunt, grandma, etc)…”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love hearing peoples’ stories and I’m not trying to be pretentious, but there’s a time and a place and I’m not always in business mode; however, if there aren’t too many distractions or I’m not preoccupied I’m always happy to hear a good story and share in a good discussion. The problem arises when too much is expected as a result of the conversation.

The believer will finish their story, sometimes accompanied by a grainy photo on their four-inch smartphone and anxiously await some mind-blowing revelation that confirms everything they’ve ever believed.

When I can’t give them a definitive answer they shuffle and the conversation turns to them trying to find a way out. I know what they’re thinking: “This guy doesn’t know squat.”

The skeptic will want me to give an answer that they have pre-written rebuttals for so they can turn up their nose and say, “Ha! I knew it. It’s all lies and Harry Potter nonsense.”

Both scenarios always- and I do mean always- include the storyteller asking, “Well, how do you explain it, then?”

The short of it is, I can’t. Nope, I can’t and I won’t; especially not on the spot.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t see all of the gathered material, which would include all of the dismissed as well as the saved evidence. I can’t verify any of the many, many environmental and human factors that could impact the event. At the end of the day it’s just a story. One of many that have been shared around holiday tables and campfires for generations. Unless it’s a well-researched or well-known case, then as much as the believer in me may be intrigued by the possibilities, the skeptic has to say, “Sorry, I don’t know what to tell you.”

I also refuse to be put in a position where the storyteller’s feelings could be hurt because I seemingly dismiss their claims. Look, I’d never call anyone a liar but I wasn’t there and a brief conversation and a couple of tiny digital photos doesn’t give me enough material to base a knowledgeable or reputable verdict on it.

Speculation is what the folks on Ghost Adventures do. Real science looks at all of the evidence and investigates before rendering an opinion.

To expect a detailed analysis on the spot with little or no time to properly digest everything is not only pointless but also rather rude.

The only thing I can do is keep an open mind and say, “That is cool. What have you discovered in your own research?”

It’s very unusual for a case to be well-documented and referenced. This occurs in academic circles, let alone outside of it. Some of the stories I’ve listened to aren’t even the experience of the teller, but third-party recollections.

Have you ever played ‘telephone’ as a child? That’s where someone tells you something, you have to tell it to the person next to you, and they, in turn, pass it on down the line. By the time it gets to the end it’s a mess- with dates, times, and locations mixed or replaced.

I read a book about ghosts of Anchor Bay, a community off Lake St. Clair in Michigan, which was like that- a total mess. The speculations were off the wall at best, the photographic ‘evidence’ a joke, and the historical records either false or grossly misinterpreted.

While we’re at it, there’s been too much dependence on personal anecdotes in paranormal research these days, anyway, and it really needs to stop.

There’s one that springs to mind from here in Michigan, coincidentally also in the Anchor Bay area, that I’m not going to give further credence to by repeating the name- but there are plenty of readers out there who know what I’m talking about.

I only mention it because I’ve heard story after story for years and there’s just no feasible, credible way to verify any of it. Not a shred. It’s just a cool story with a local twist. It’s not science, it’s story time.

Local and personal ghost stories simply exist. That’s it. They don’t become valid evidence simply because they’re repeated or have had a few similar versions. It’s never ‘evidence’. They certainly don’t become credible just because you’ve cornered a paranormal investigator with your story and he or she gives their best opinion about it, thus stamping it with the word of gospel truth.

These experiences are called ‘personal’ for a reason. Only you can determine just how important or how much it means to you to find the answers. Do the research. Investigate and attempt to replicate the experience. Appreciate it for what it is- a brief moment where you peered across the Great Divide into something amazing and special.

 

© 2013 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

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Crafting in Sandi’s Enchanted Garden

July, 2013

Crafting in Sandi’s Enchanted Garden

Making an Altar from an Old Table

Today we are making an altar!! I have spent the week remodeling my kitchen so I wanted to share a remodeling project with you. This is the witchiest remodeling project I could think of J I bought this old table at Goodwill for like $10, and planned to do something with it. As projects often do it sat around for a couple of years. Now it’s a beautiful altar for the entry way of your home. You can use it to welcome and thank the Gods, and ancestor altar, or a blessing before you leave and when you come home altar. Your imagination is the limit!

You will need:

An old table, nightstand, dresser, etc.

Sandpaper

Screwdriver

Sticker Paper

Paint Pens

Total Cost: Under $20 (if you limit your table cost to $10 that is the only variable)

I forgot to take a before picture. I do this a LOT! I have hundreds of pictures of half eaten birthday cakes!

First I had to peel through the contact paper on top and sand the sides and legs. I scraped it off with a screwdriver and a piece of sandpaper. Later I found out you can pay a stripper to do it much easier! I’m just kidding he said you can buy something called stripper at the store.

 

 

           Once I got all of this off I sanded it smooth I wiped it down with a wet rag to get the extra dusty bits off. I really like dark woods so I wanted to stain it a mahogany color. I got a small can at Walmart for like $3!! I wanted the top to stand out so I only stained it and not the legs. I painted the legs black to help the top stand out as well.

 

 

 

After the stain and paint dried I printed a sticker of a pentacle with moons on sticker paper (you can get a pack of 3 at Michael’s for like $5) for the top and painted the symbols for the elements in the corners. I used a paint pen to write on the lip under the top on all four sides. The front is shown below. The back says Blessed Be and the sides are runes. I used a paint pen to write Namaste’ on the bottom tray. 

                The finished product decorates and in place! The total cost for this project was under $20!! Good will and thrift stores are gold mines for crafters. Just be sure to not let your crafts, and would be craft projects, run you out of your home!

 

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