May 3, 2018

Dirt and Stars and Spring Awakenings

There is dirt under my nails, a microcosm of minerals and organisms and organic material huddled under the crescent moons at the ends of my fingers, and I can't stop smiling.


Until this week the spring winds have been stern, not letting me get too ahead of myself in the gardens. I'm apt to wander out, dropping layers and shoes and socks and rolling up pant legs, but it's not yet that kind of temperature. I'm kept somewhat corralled by the chilly morning dew and the late afternoon breezes, but in between the dawn and dusk I find moments to get my hands in the soil, the warming earth now parting eagerly for me.

I made a fantastic error in judgement late last autumn when I hung a feeder for the birds. It was too close to one of the vegetable beds and now the fallen seed has created an oasis of grass at the end of my rows of peas. The new pea shoots are happily leaping up without hesitation and so, in order to ensure they are not choked out by sprouting birdseed, I've been on my hands and knees for a while each day pulling the unwanted grasses out one at a time. This meditation, this devotion to the growing of things (and I suppose, for the grass seeds, the killing of things) makes me feel alive again after a longer winter than I am used to. I don't mind prostrating myself before the earth and it's burgeoning green. It's a holier worship than most, this bowing and bending to the land and its life.

There was such beauty to be found while the snow fell and then melted, and then came again and again right into April. I kept good company with books and warm mugs, twinkle lights and candle flames flickering, and cats snoozing on my legs. Now the cats are chewing on grasses and stalking the first bugs of the season. The frogs are awake too, rejoicing in the rains and warmer days. I can hear them a mile off from their marshy ponds. I can't think of a more beautiful chorus for this month of stirring and growth.


Dainty white and purple violets dot the yard now, they were the first blooming thing save the neighbour's forsythia and its blossoms of pure sunlight. Violet leaf and flower can be tossed into spring salads alongside young dandelion leaves, chickweed, small leaves of common mallow, cleavers, and a number of edible 'weeds' that pop up this time of year. My favourite way to bless myself with violet is topically, and I wilt the flowers and then infuse them in oil for a lymph massage rub, as well as create balms with them for skin healing.

I've begun to harvest the first dandelion flowers too, which makes me giddy. I left the inaugural blooms for the bees but when the mass flowering began, weaving yellow brick roads all through the property, I began to pick and dry flowers daily for teas and oils. There will be dandelion flower syrup soon too. I'm near faint at the thought of that heady liquid on my tongue.

The perennial flower bed, which houses long-established plants as well as new herbal additions, has finally been weeded, amended and blessed. There is a corner that has always had a very fae element to it - no matter what I planted there it would thrive as long as fairly consistent offerings were left on the earth. Plants that had no business in half shade and moist soil became glorious beasts and flowered profusely in that spot. I've been negligent of that strange corner for the past two seasons, forgetting the wine, whiskey, or homemade cookie offerings. Unsurprisingly, the forget-me-nots I loved so deeply disappeared and the delphinium faltered and never returned. I spent some time leaving offerings there last week and I reset the small altar. I'm hopeful for a resurrection of lushness and life in that area.


On the last night of April (Walpurgisnacht, for some) after my own revels indoors and out, I awoke in the night to the patter of rain on the roof. I wandered into it, that early May morn shower, feeling grateful for the moisture that my land is lacking at the moment. I returned to bed after being blessed by the sudden storm, and dreamed of devils and carousing with beasts around balefires.

April was all dizzying weather, shooting stars, and woodsmoke on the wind. I found magic in the visits of coyotes and mysterious gifts unearthed in the garden, among the daily whispering of my land and spirits. May has brought with it warm winds and summer-like weather, the trees and flowers that were biding their time for sunnier days have all burst open, leaf and bloom.

I hope you've weathered your first calendar months well. I'm awake and rejoicing now, but gods I loved the long, quiet winter this year. All of this brightness, birdsong, and lushness is almost over-extravagant and I find myself wishing for rain, not just because the land needs it but because I'd not be unhappy to have another afternoon to curl up inside with a book and some tea. But we walk into each season, open to whatever comes, knowing that despite the changing world around us, we can at least do good work wherever we are. On our land, in our communities, and within our homes and magical practices.

Welcome May and Beltane season! Welcome herbs and flowers and new leafy greens! Welcome warm, starry nights and kisses by campfires and lake shores! Cheers to our awakening!


Jan 31, 2018

An Evergreen Winter: The Comfort and Protection of Conifers


The snow is falling in such ghostly flakes that I almost need to squint to see it. Each icy star is so tiny that it doesn't so much fall as dance through the air, whirling around me, kissing my nose and cheeks, melting even as it arrives at the very edge of my skin. It's the same sort of teasing weather that our small party of wildcrafters enjoyed in the woods last month at year's end. We made our way across the snowy landscape, seeking out evergreens to keep our homes jolly and stocked with conifer medicine for winter tide.

We were kept company by chickadees, and stalked the foot trails of deer and coyote, and something with larger paws...lynx, perhaps. We set off together, then wandered slightly off course from one another to find our own trees to whisper to. I lingered at a Douglas fir whose large boughs reached toward the place my dog was buried over a decade ago. Her bones are there still, and though I've been reunited with her in dreams over the years I was surprised at the fierce longing I felt while I was standing beside her resting place. I gathered a few small clippings and kept them tucked aside. Some of those fir tips were for tea, and it gave my heart mild comfort to think that I might be rejoining us in the smallest way by ingesting an infusion from a tree that was fed with her body.

I spent some time with Ponderosa pine, happily gathering up sprays of needles and brushing my hand lightly down the bark to collect any loose resin that had dripped the length of the trees. One pine had been scored heavily by a bear, and another next to it had fallen, its standing remains worn smooth by animals using it as a rubbing post.

There was juniper to be had as well, along with merry green wolf lichen, and a few bright red rosehips left on a stand of wild roses. Once our arms were full of our bounty, we found our way back to my friend's cozy kitchen where a pot of soup was warmed. Rum and eggnog was the seasonal aperitif and a delightful assortment of home-fermented foods accompanied the meal. We spoke of herbal medicines and the hard-won victories of our own peace and well being, while we nibbled on roasted apples topped with maple orange whipped cream.



Conifer medicine is good medicine year round, but there is something especially comforting about bringing evergreens inside in the winter months. The traditional scent of the holidays aside, trees in the pine family (Pinaceae) and some of their cypress brethren (Cupressaceae) are chock full of vitamin C and can offer aid in dealing with respiratory issues/infections, making these trees a perfect cold tonic. Anti-inflammatory and diuretic, the needles can also be infused in oil for a pain-easing massage blend for muscle and joints. Taken as tea, in nutrient-rich vinegar, or transformed into a soothing chest rub, pine, fir, and juniper can assist in keeping your body humming along through the coldest season.

In folklore and magic, conifers seem to act as guardian spirits and are especially useful as helpers for healthy and safe home-keeping. Their stories and lore echo the practical application of these stalwart trees by the original inhabitants of the land. Lodgepole pine was employed in home-building for First Peoples, providing the poles for tepees and lodges, and fragrant fir boughs were gathered as bedding and as floor covering.

Juniper has a history of aiding purification work, assisting in the clearing of both real-world pests, such as insects or rodents, and those of a more spectral variety. The fragrant shrub was used as funerary wood in some forest tribes, the smoke offering protective company to the departing soul. Even in fairy tale, juniper is burial chamber and underworld where the dead can be reborn, as the The Juniper Tree story tells. Cedar, and in the west specifically Pacific red cedar (Thuja plicata) was the conifer of choice for coffins and sea-faring vessels and had so many daily uses that it was known as "Mother Cedar" to the Salish peoples.

The south has its own evergreens (the devastating decline of longleaf pine in particular, is worth reading up on) and here too, in southern rootwork and hoodoo traditions, we see pine added to incenses and floor washes for protection and cleansing/clearing work. Cedar is used in work where gentle persuasion is needed, and evergreens in general can be considered money-drawing just by their nature and name.

Hoarfrost on pine, British Columbia

In my own practice the fir, pine, and juniper I collect in the woods before the winter solstice are bound together with words of protection whispered or chanted over the bundle. I often add a sprig of prickly wild rose, the maroon skin of the branches and the deep red hips lending a pop of red to my green swag. Sometimes I'll even attach a cutting of Oregon Grape, which has a decidedly holly-like look to its spiny leaves. This grand bundle will guard my door and household from December through until late January. The neighbours might give a side-eye to my lingering branches, their own holiday decor long put away, but my evergreen guardian is meant for keeping unwanted spirits from stopping by on a winter's eve and the bitter season doesn't begin to loosen its grip around these parts until February dawns.

As I find myself in the last hours of January now, my sentinel swag is retired and the greenery sorted and re-purposed for incense and magic-making. It pleases me to consider that the aromatic smoke of pine and fir wafting from my censer was once the ward at my home's threshold. This previous-incarnation adds an extra note to any clearing or protection work I do with the incense or washes I create with these trees. (While I might add juniper and cedar to a clearing incense blend, they are more often utilized in my ancestor practices.) If your practice follows seasonal or wheel-type observations, the arrival of Imbolc or Candlemass marks the traditional burning of Yule greens. Generally, these greens would not remain in the household after this point as to keep them indoors would be to invite in poor luck. I burn a small selection of my conifer branches in my fire bowl as a tribute to the passing season, and put the rest up in glass jars for future use.

I truly hope you have weathered your winter beautifully. Perhaps you've found comfort in hygge, coziness and good company, or you've ventured out to ski runs or sledding hills. If you didn't save your holiday greens for Imbolc bonfires or incense, don't fret. Soon, bright green fir tips hinting of citrus will emerge with the coming of spring and you can find new ways to enjoy conifer medicine and magic!


*Please note that conifers can irritate the kidneys with continual use. Please research and know your pines/fir/junipers/cedars before imbibing them (a good field guide or local forestry website will be of great help). Junipers and some pines are not recommended while pregnant or breast-feeding.


Articles and Recipes for reveling in conifers:

Gathering and Processing Conifers, from Rebecca at Thorn & Wonder

Incense crafting, from Sarah Anne Lawless

Evergreen salt scrub, from Rosealee de la Foret at Learning Herbs

Juniper berry spiced cookies, from Danielle at Gather

Foraging for Pine needles, from Colleen at Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment

A Midwinter Herbaria, from Becky at Blood and Spicebush (Pine is mentioned)

I have another small batch of my conifer oil, bottled and listed in my shop, ready to take home.


Sources:

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (specifically the chapter "Old-Growth Children" in which she speaks of cedars)

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada, Lone Pine
(Lone Pine produces beautiful field guides)

The Old Magic of Christmas, Linda Raedisch (chapter 12, specifically "Juniper")

The Untold History of Healing, Wolf D. Storl (chapter 2, specifically "Juniper")

USDA Ponderosa Pine guide

Oct 30, 2017

The Great October Giveaway - Sabbat Sign

Thank you again for joining me this year, it was a delicious amount of fun for me! I did receive all your email entries and just about gave myself carpal tunnel by writing out all your names (twice, at times). Thank you for making me smile and for digging the books and goodies and folks I've featured this year. Do click through all the photos and links, and track these authors and artists down, too.

My internet dropped out yesterday during our first snowstorm of the season, so I'm a bit late in posting this, but...the lucky soul taking home Aidan's beautiful work is:

Jennifer Larochelle

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You know it is coming. Every year. The last day of October. The haunt of all haunts. The motherlode of candy. The scent of scorched pumpkin, spent firecrackers, and the bonfire smoke on the wind. The laughter and the screams of all the little monsters running amok. And all that before you engage in your own festivities. Samhain reigns from dusk on the 31st until sunset on November 1st, and whether you observe the sabbat or simply frolic with Halloween glee, the finale of October is definitely something to celebrate.

To wind up our October fun here at Rue and Hyssop, I've saved the witch's best accessory for last. A striking talisman, Sabbat Sign, created by the marvelous Aidan Wachter. If you don't know Aidan yet, you need to. A superior precious-metal artist, author of Six Ways (soon-to-be-released from Red Temple Press), and just a sincerely awesome person, Aidan has generously offered up one of his sigils to a very lucky trick-or-treater.

I'll let his own words speak for this stunning piece:
The Sabbat Sign came about while working on an altar piece (which also produced the Descent piece). While they contain strong Saturnal and Neptunian aspects, the story they tell is of those who engage in spirit flight, like witches flying to the Sabbat. They also have resonance with Lucifer and the Watchers. They come in two forms, ascending and descending. This is the ascending or upright form...


These next three days are alive with magic and remembrances. Go out into the world and make merry (or make mischief) on your Halloween, Samhain, and All Saint's Day, but have your name in the hat here by All Soul's Day (November 2nd) at 8 pm Pacific time in order to have a chance at gathering up this lovely silver sigil.

Once again, your comment counts as your entry. If the comment form isn't working out for you, drop your name in the hat by using the "contact me" button up top. If you'd like a second chance at this gorgeous piece, please share Aidan's shop, or link to one of his pieces that catches your eye, at your favourite social media site and then stop back here and let me know and I'll put your name in the hat again.

Thank you so much for joining me this year - it's so fun for me to see familiar names flying by each October, and extra lovely to meet new folks. Immense thanks to the wonderful authors and artists that lent a hand this month in making this another enchanting Great October Book (and cards, and amazing art) Giveaway. I could never pull this off without you!

Happy Halloween, and a bewitching Samhain to you!


Legal Bits:

* This giveaway (or "sweepstakes") is open to all residents of Canada, (exluding Quebec residents) the USA, Great Britain, Europe, South America,  who are 18 years of age or older. This giveaway is void where prohitibited by law.  Please be aware of the contest/sweepstakes laws in your area.

*  Canadian residents will be subject to a skill testing question before being able to claim their prize (this is standard law in Canada).  The skill testing question will be in a form similar to: 1 + 2 - 1 =

*  This giveaway is not for profit and no purchase is necessary to enter.

*  This giveaway is sponsored/administrated solely by this blog/blog author and is not affilitated with or sponsored by Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, or any other entity, nor can they be held liable.

* By leaving a comment intending to enter into the draw for the giveaway (or "sweepstakes") you are knowingly agreeing to these rules/conditions.

I have chosen all the books/cards featured this month myself.  I have not been paid to feature a book, nor have I been asked to advertise for anyone.  This giveaway is not endorsed or sponsored by anyone other than Rue and Hyssop

Oct 27, 2017

The Great October Book Giveaway - A Trio of Tarot

The decks will be haunting the halls of the following folks:

Halloween Tarot: Rebecca
The Wild Unknown: Liz D
Santa Muerte Tarot: Johanna
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As this most magic of months inches toward a spirit-fueled (or spirits-fueled, if you partake, or candy-inundated, if you trick-or-treat) climax, I thought I'd pass along something to assist with your Samhain divinations. You may prefer to peel an apple in one long piece, and toss the peel over your shoulder to spy the initial of your love. Or perhaps you'd rather place chestnuts or apple seeds in a fire to see if you and your crush are meant to be together. I am hoping that you've grabbed yourself a deck of playing cards to experiment with, but if you are still looking for the predictive tool that feels just-right to you, I might have something to tickle your fortune-telling bone.

My very first tarot deck was The Halloween Tarot by Kipling West. It's the one I still go back to time and again, and is so well-loved that I've always got a new deck on standby. All the readers I knew back when I was just starting out were reading the Rider-Waite-Smith or the Thoth deck (which I think is fabulous too) but I was looking for something I could really connect with. I'm a Halloween girl at heart, a lover of fairy tales and monster stories, black cats and pumpkins, and any kind of ghostly yarn, so when I saw West's illustrations they made my heart leap. It is a Rider-Waite based system, with the suits swapped out for more seasonal fare. Pentacles are pumpkins, swords are bats, cups are ghosts, and wands are imps. Charming and whimsical, but still brimming with the symbolism of the RW and wild fun to read with. (I've learned that it is even a favourite deck of the fabulous witch and reader, Judika Illes.)


Originally self-published in 2012 by creator Kim Krans, The Wild Unknown Tarot was a furious success and was eventually picked up by publisher HarperElixir in 2016. One of the bestselling self-published (at the time) decks on the market The Wild Unknown struck a chord with tarot fans with its stark, nature-based illustrations in black and white with bright punches of colour. (Click through to The Wild Unknown site to see Kim's art.)
The last deck I have to share is a brand new release this month. Santa Muerte Tarot, by Fabio Listrani, produced by Lo Scarabeo and published by Llewellyn has been released just in time to lay out your spread for The Day of the Dead. I haven't even opened my deck yet - it's that fresh!


I have one copy of each of these decks to pass out. In the case of The Halloween Tarot and The Wild Unknown, these are tarot sets that include good-sized guidebooks. We are running out of days in October, so you only have until 8 pm Pacific on October 30th to get your name into the hat!

As always, your comment is your entry and if you are the sort who likes to get an extra entry in you can always share this post around to your favourite social media haunt and I'll add your name a second time. Feel free to send along an entry via the "contact me" button up top if you are a bit shy or if the comment form is being finicky.



Legal Bits:

* This giveaway (or "sweepstakes") is open to all residents of Canada, (exluding Quebec residents) the USA, Great Britain, Europe, South America,  who are 18 years of age or older. This giveaway is void where prohitibited by law.  Please be aware of the contest/sweepstakes laws in your area.

*  Canadian residents will be subject to a skill testing question before being able to claim their prize (this is standard law in Canada).  The skill testing question will be in a form similar to: 1 + 2 - 1 =

*  This giveaway is not for profit and no purchase is necessary to enter.

*  This giveaway is sponsored/administrated solely by this blog/blog author and is not affilitated with or sponsored by Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, or any other entity, nor can they be held liable.

* By leaving a comment intending to enter into the draw for the giveaway (or "sweepstakes") you are knowingly agreeing to these rules/conditions.

I have chosen all the books/cards featured this month myself.  I have not been paid to feature a book, nor have I been asked to advertise for anyone.  This giveaway is not endorsed or sponsored by anyone other than Rue and Hyssop

Oct 22, 2017

The Great October Book Giveaway - It's All About The Love

The following folks are taking home books:

Embracing Willendorf: Rhi and Danni

Glamour Magic: James and Joe

Love Magic: Dre and John

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I had some different words planned in order to introduce this next giveaway, but then a week ago the #metoo hashtag bloomed all over social media. It wasn't the way I had ever hoped to connect with other women. It's not the sort of thing I wish I had in common with anyone. For a great number of years I had a difficult time looking in the mirror. I didn't love myself. I didn't believe I deserved love. I wasn't entirely sure that I was worthy of much of anything. I was wrong. I had believed people that I shouldn't have trusted. I bought into a religious system that told me that I was fundamentally flawed. And I rated my value based on the size of my jeans and whether or not I looked like the girls in the magazines I was reading.

I'm happy to say that most days I don't struggle with my worth anymore. My scars still make me flinch from time to time, but they are a part of me - the maps of my life and experiences. I have such a soft-yet-fierce love for myself for making it this far when there were so many times I wasn't sure I could keep going. I learned to trust my own heart. My own desires. And the deep magic of this strange world - magic that I saw proof of, even in my darkest hours.

For me, it is all about where love lives. First, inside me and for me. Then, as it blossoms and flows out to those around me - friends, family, lovers - and then outward still, to my land base and communities and the world at large. These three books I picked for my October giveaways came to mind a few months ago, long before I was reminded this past week how important self-love is. I'm pleased how perfectly they fit, right at this time.

The first book is by a witch close to my heart. A field guide to cultivating health and well-being, told from a sassy, earth-centered perspective, H. Byron Ballard's Embracing Willendorf: A Witch's Way of Loving Your Body to Health & Fitness (published by Skyebridge Publishing) is a wonderful take on loving yourself and working toward being your most vibrant incarnation.

A heartwarming and giggle-worthy memoir, and a good helping of practical advice on living your own robust life, this book is a truly lovely read. You can find more about Byron (and her blog) at My Village Witch.



The second book up for grabs has just what you need to get your glow on and your confidence working for you (even if you aren't sure you have any). Deborah Castellano's Glamour Magic, published by Llewellyn, is a gorgeous take on the often under-looked magical arte of the glamour (both employing this work to achieve/attract what you want, and to bump up your own morale and spirit).

I've been subscribed to Deborah's fabulous blog, Charmed, I'm Sure, for some time now and I'm mad about her writing style and unapologetic honesty. This book serves up her bold ideas with a side of history and pop culture references that will be sure to make you grin and want to get to work!


Our third book is a charming tome brimming with magic. Lilith Dorsey's Love Magic, published by Weiser Books starts off its very first chapter with "Happiness and Self Love Spells," and though it does offer ideas to capture the attention and affection of a potential mate, I am delighted by the chapters that speak to the myriad ways love is expressed. There are fertility rites and spells to bless your marriage, as well as works that center on honoring your relationship with family, friends, animal companions, and the wider world. This is a spellbook for those who generally shy away from love magic!

You can find more of Lilith's writing on her blog, Voodoo Universe at Patheos.


I have two copies of each of these love-filled books to give away. Your comment counts as your entry. If you are of the shy sort (or Blogger comments are not playing nicely) please feel free to enter your name via the "contact me" button up top. If you want a second chance at the goods, you are welcome to share this post on your fave social media haunt or share some love for Deborah, Byron, or Lilith, and circle back to let me know. I'll add your name to the hat a second time. Please have all entries in by 8 pm on Friday, October 27th.

An email address with your entry is super-helpful (especially if your comment doesn't link back to a site or profile that gives me a way to contact you). You can let me know which book floats your boat if you like, and I'll try to match up books with wishes as much as possible. All prizes generally go out within a week of receiving the winner's addresses (if I don't get too far down the October rabbit hole).

PS - for those that aren't podcast fans and didn't catch the reference, "It's All About The Love" is a blatant rip-off/nod/blown-kiss to The Wigglian Way, a Canadian witchy podcast hosted by the wonderful duo, Mojo and Sparrow.


Legal Bits:

* This giveaway (or "sweepstakes") is open to all residents of Canada, (exluding Quebec residents) the USA, Great Britain, Europe, South America,  who are 18 years of age or older. This giveaway is void where prohitibited by law.  Please be aware of the contest/sweepstakes laws in your area.

*  Canadian residents will be subject to a skill testing question before being able to claim their prize (this is standard law in Canada).  The skill testing question will be in a form similar to: 1 + 2 - 1 =

*  This giveaway is not for profit and no purchase is necessary to enter.

*  This giveaway is sponsored/administrated solely by this blog/blog author and is not affilitated with or sponsored by Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, or any other entity, nor can they be held liable.

* By leaving a comment intending to enter into the draw for the giveaway (or "sweepstakes") you are knowingly agreeing to these rules/conditions.

I have chosen all the books/cards featured this month myself.  I have not been paid to feature a book, nor have I been asked to advertise for anyone.  This giveaway is not endorsed or sponsored by anyone other than Rue and Hyssop