New Endeavors–With Faeries!

I’ve been fascinated by Tarot and other forms of divination since I began learning about neopagan paths about 10 years ago, when I lived in a tiny, dilapidated second story apartment across from a cemetary in New Orleans. But it seemed like no matter what deck I worked with, I just didn’t quite get it.

Then about 4 years ago I purchased a Faeries’ Oracle deck, and I was astounded at the insights I received from the readings I did with it. Since then I hardly ever read with any other deck, and I really enjoy working with the Faeries. I’ve always had a strong attraction to the Fair Folk, and Brian Froud’s art held a powerful significance for me from my childhood, when I got the Faeries book from my elementary school’s library. Maybe that explains why this deck works so well for me. We certainly have plenty of elemental and faery spirits running amok at our homestead–maybe they get in on the fun and help out?

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In any case, I love reading with this deck so much, and I’ve been helped and healed so much by my readings with the Faeries, that I want to share that experience with others. So I’ve decided to make readings available in my Etsy shop. If you’re interested you can go check it out.

I’m excited about this new change. This is the time of year when I always start re-evaluating my activities and goals. I think offering readings is just the first in a series of new endeavors for the coming year. Of course I’ll keep y’all posted!

Now, back to the last-minute knitting. Thank heavens we aren’t opening gifts together until Saturday . . .

Why the Airy Fairy Herbalist Loves Roses

When I was growing up in Michigan, I loved Roses for the reasons many teenage girls love Roses. Because if someone gave them to you, it meant they loved you. I saved every Rose I was given, hung it upside down to dry, and kept the petals in box or a jar, until the giver broke my heart, and then I threw them out. I threw out a lot of dried Roses in those days; teenage love is a perilous undertaking.

In summers, I worked for a little local flower shop, and fussed over the sweetheart Roses in their candy-soft shades, and often on pay days I would buy myself a Rose or three for my room.

Towards the end of college, I was briefly engaged to a man with no imagination. After every quarrel he sent red Roses with an apology note. That was when the appeal of Roses began to fade.

In 1999 I moved to New Orleans with a lover, and again found myself working in a small flower shop. Only this time, I was around on Valentine’s Day. It only took one flower shop Valentine’s Day for me to despise Roses. By the end of my time in New Orleans, I was tired, depressed, angry, and scared of my future; I had moved several times, my lover had broken my heart, I had no money, no faith of any kind, and I was sick more often than I was well. I believe I’ve mentioned before how, for a time, I moved from emotional disaster to emotional disaster.

Until finally, a few years ago, I had the good fortune to end up with the hubster. When I moved in to this house, I was taken aback by the number of Rose bushes the hubster’s ex had planted everywhere. But they were pretty, and I often cut them and mixed them with other flowers to brighten up the house. And there was one Rose bush, a wild thorny thing, with delicate five-petaled flowers, thriving in part shade under a walnut tree. I never touched it, except to trim it back in the winter, but I loved the smell of the small, simple blossoms. This fierce, fragrant bush hardly seemed akin to the other Roses.

My love affair with herbs was in full swing, but I still thought of Roses as belonging to the territory of the flower shop, not the apothecary. I studied herbs, searching for a connection with individual plants, and didn’t give the Roses much thought, even though every time I turned around a new baby Rose bush had appeared in some half-empty garden bed on our land.

And last summer I found myself doing a lot of energy work with friends, and feeling the intuitive nudges to create those energetic elixirs with plants and stones. And somehow, in many different situations, Roses were called for. Then I wanted to make some herbal honeys, but at that time I didn’t have many plants large enough to fill a quart jar with their cuttings . . . but the roses were abundant, and some of them were fragrant enough. A mixture of varieties of Rose petals yielded an exquisite jar of infused honey.

And one day I sat on my porch and looked around the yard, and realized that the Rose was becoming an amazing herbal ally, even though I knew virtually nothing about Roses. And I realized, too, that those Roses were an instrumental component of the slow healing of my heart. For some reason I’d been resisting their pull on me, but I finally understood in one of those “Duh!” moments.

But none of the herbalists I was reading at the time had anything to say about roses. I sensed powerful medicine in the roses, but no one seemed to be talking about it, and I couldn’t understand why. I just went on with what I was doing, drying petals from the wild Rose under the walnut tree, making my Rose honey, and using Roses in magic and energy work frequently.

Of course, since then I’ve found plenty of herbalists who sing the praises of Rose, including the author of my favorite herbal blog.  How amazing to find a voice in a different bioregion extolling the virtues of my beloved Rose, especially those fierce wild Roses I’ve come to love so much.

I’m delighted to be seduced by the plant world, but I also have a mind that was trained by academia, and so I found myself often questioning why Rose, in particular, should have courted me so persistently. There were so many other plants that seemed appropriate, given my specific health concerns and my general constitution–so why Rose? Of course the question of why a plant being calls to a human being is not, perhaps, best answered with the intellect, but old habits die hard.

I doubt I will ever understand with my mind the connection between human and plant, and I’m getting better at not worrying about it. The universe is full of miracles and mysteries, and honestly I think I’d be sad if that ever changed. But I’m coming to understand that Rose is important for all of us right now. Think about the energy of Rose, about the sweetness and love, but also the prickles. Rose offers healing for the heart of humanity, but she offers it with her own boundaries firmly in place. She says you may take, but you must take mindfully, or I will get your attention quickly. She teaches us simultaneously about love and generosity and about creating appropriate boundaries and caring for ourselves.

I’m sure there’s never been a moment in human history when more love was NOT needed. I’m sure there’s never been a time when it wouldn’t benefit us to operate a little more from our heart center and a little less from our head. But it feels to me like the need for stronger heart energy has reached an all time high, and I can’t help but think that that’s why Rose is such an important ally right now.

And here’s where maybe I go a little bit overboard . . . but I feel that those wild or old fashioned Roses, with their sensual fragrance and abundant prickles, offer us a beautiful balance between heaven and earth. They offer the ecstasy of communion with the divine, balanced with the need to be grounded and present. For me, Rose is not only an ally in the process of loving safely, but also in releasing dualistic thinking, embracing apparent contradictions, and becoming whole.

Who would think that such powerful medicine would come in pink?

Herbal Energy Medicine

So, I promised a post today about dandelion elixir, and I would love to deliver. Only . . . I didn’t take in to account mother nature’s plans.

It’s cloudy and cool today. Not raining yet, although I think it will, but when I went out to survey the dandelion situation, this is what I saw.

They’re perfectly healthy, of course, but closed up due to the weather. If I needed them for a medicinal use right away, I’m sure they would suffice. But the specific preparation I’m planning to make is meant to work on an energetic level, and I’m hoping it will encourage expansiveness and facilitate emotional opening. These dandelions are resting and sheltering themselves, so now just doesn’t seem like the time to use them for my purposes. The energy is just all wrong.

I had intended to start my elixir today because the moon is new, and waxing moon energy is good energy for projects that involve expansion, opening, creating, building. In working with plants, however, the moon is obviously not the only influence that matters. I feel that dandelion is far more responsive to sun energy than to moon energy–the plants seem to be saying that, too. So, if I want to create energy medicine that leads (hopefully) to bright, joyful energy, then obviously I want to gather the dandelions at a moment when they are at their most bright and joyful–in other words, when the sun is shining and the air is sweet, when the bees are out pollinating and the birds are singing and everything is glowing with bright sunny life. When I make a healing elixir on a day like this, not only to I get a better quality herb and therefore a stronger product, but I also get the energy of the day–of the sun, and the bees, and the song of the birds, and my own pleasure as I revel in the sunshine and the delight of picking dandelions on a beautiful day, of yellow pollen staining my fingers and warmth on my hair. When I take the elixir, or share it with others, I remember the day I began the process, and that memory is part of the healing energy.

I need to make a little disclaimer here. I actually think that all herbal healing works on the energetic level as fully as on the physical–indeed, I think the two are inseparable. So while I’m talking here specifically about an herbal preparation that is designed to work vibrationally, much as a flower essence or homeopathic might work, the truth is I try to always be mindful of the energies involved whenever I work with plants. There are many times when I’m not as present as I ought to be, but I’m learning, and I try to improve this interaction all the time. I think all good medicine is made with attention to the energies of the plants and the process.

Now, if I wanted to make a medicine to help someone in their process of turning within to explore their dark places and old hurts, or to soothe a hot tempered soul, today might be a good day. Also, it seems to me, it might be a good day to make cooling medicine–cleavers tincture, for example. I visited with the cleavers patch today, and they’re vibrant and lovely, but not quite ready to be made in to medicine. “Soon”, they seemed to say, “But let us put on some blossoms for you first.”

In the mean time, I’m admiring their beauty. Check out the amazing stripes of color on these stems:

So hopefully the sun will choose to shine some time soon, before the dandelions stop blooming! If not, I think I can at least make another (bigger) batch of pickled dandelion buds. For today I’m staying inside and reading some more of James Green’s Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook, with which I’m currently in love. If the cold weather continues long enough, I might end up doing a book review soon. But I’m not going to promise anything . . .

What’s YOUR Favorite Herb Book?

I love books. And I love herbs. So books on herbs . . . well, you can imagine how they make me feel. I love them!

It’s tough for me to decide which is my favorite, but the first book on herbs I fell in love with was Judith Berger’s beautiful Herbal Rituals, published in 1998 by St. Martin’s Griffin. Everything about this book appeals to me, from the rustic looking cover, to its perfect reading-in-bed size, to the gentle tone of the author and her obvious love for the plants she writes about.

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Herbal Rituals is organized in to 12 chapters, one for each month of the year, and a last sort of epilogue called “The Thirteenth Month: Pausing”. For each month the author shares memories of her experiences with the seasons, and with one or two herbs. She then discusses each herb in depth, and provides recipes for food, beauty, and healing with each herb. She explains how to make an infused oil, an herbal honey, a salve, a full strength infusion, a tincture, etc. Berger also shares information on how the plants are used in various cultures for ritual and magic. Even though it’s so full of information, it’s compulsively readable. Tender, wise, comforting, and personal, it’s one of my favorite bedtime reading choices.

Some other favorites of mine are all of the Susun Weed books, Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal, and Ellen Evert Hopman’s A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year.

So what about you? What are your favorite herbals, and why? I’m always looking for new things to read, so leave me a comment and let me know.