Monday, September 25, 2017

Kitchen Witchery: Making an Arnica Salve

My husband has been suffering from a pinched nerve that has made his entire arm and shoulder feel as if lit on fire. For nearly two weeks he's been wrought with constant pain from the nerve and associated muscle soreness and tightness. Prescriptions and over-the-counter muscle creams couldn't touch it. A few days ago he reminded me of an arnica salve that I'd made a couple of years ago - I had totally forgotten! (The helenalin in arnica montana serves as a powerful topical anti-inflammatory and analgesic*) So I set out to make another, and was pleased to find that I had everything I needed on hand:

A cup of olive oil
An ounce of beeswax
Dried arnica montana flowers (about a half cup)
Rosemary essential oil 

There are a couple of ways to create herb oils, and due to time I chose the short method: letting the dried flowers steep in hot oil for 30 minutes (being very careful to keep the stovetop heat low so as not to cook the herbs).
While the oil was doing its thing, I set about chopping up the beeswax (you can use beeswax beads which work perfectly well, but raw beeswax is something special!)
I paused halfway through and lit a green candle for the healing goddess Eir. May this salve effectively help ease Jorge's pain. Since my arnica wasn't extra fresh, I also asked for a little boost in the potency of the herb itself. I thanked the plant, and its source. I opened my heart to Eir in invitation.
I traced the runes Uruz and Kenaz over the heating oil, and chanted their names quietly. After 30 minutes I strained the oil into a saucepan.

Then, at very low heat, I added in the beeswax and about five drops of essential oil. As the beeswax melted, I used a wooden chopstick to stir.
As I was preparing this salve rather out of the blue, I didn't have a jar or other receptacle ready to receive it. I decided to use a small glass storage bowl that has a fitted lid. As soon as the beeswax was fully integrated, I poured the salve into the bowl to cool.
Cooling is a surprisingly fast process, almost as if the wax desperately wants to be solid and is trying to return to that state as quickly as possible. Within an hour (probably less) I was spreading it over Jorge's back and shoulder and arm.
There is something truly magical-feeling about creating medicines out of such simple and natural ingredients. When it works, it almost seems like an accident, or something too good to be true. It's silly to feel that way, but we are so trained to rely on pharmaceuticals (most of which are based on plants anyway!). And so I found myself entirely warmed over and thoroughly pleased when Jorge reported to me a couple of days later that this arnica salve has been the only medicine to make a substantial difference in his pain level (his exact words were: "You should label this stuff 'miracle salve'"). It is this rather humble blend of plants and oils and wax that has managed to provide true relief.

*Arnica is toxic to consume orally unless specially prepared by a certified homeopathic practitioner. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Wild Within

Yesterday morning I felt compelled to draw a card from the Animal Spirits Knowledge deck that features the beautiful art of Susan Seddon Boulet.

What wild energy is walking with me now? 

The deer was my first experience in animal communion when I was 12 years old. I would walk across the street into the Woods, where I would hunt for berries, build lean-tos, and look for animal tracks by the riverside. On the luckiest of days I would see a fox or other shy, wild creature. One day as I was sitting on a footpath at the top of a forested hill, and the wind moved the maple and oak limbs back and forth above, a group of deer walked slowly through the trees below. Not long after that I began to dream of deer. I remember one in which a deer stood on the back porch of my home, waiting for me. I went outside and touched it as it stood there in silence.

Reading the text on the backside of the card, I felt an immediate connection to the New Moon reading I'd done the day before:
Stone Tarot
What gifts are unfolding, and how to nurture them? Here amidst the purples and blues and greens are themes of exploring personal happiness and contentment, of embracing my nature, of journeying through my own wilderness.

Even some of the language is the same: journey, wilderness, nature.

Artemis was the first goddess that I felt connected to as a young teenager, exploring the Greek deities in ninth grade. Wild, strong, an archer, a forest walker, a companion and protector of inhabitants of the deep woods. I have thought of her lately, and the connection here underscores that energetic presence. The wild within, the untamed, the breathtaking potency of divine feminine power.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Be Good to Yourself

My morning ritual for the past handful of months has involved putting coffee on to brew, and sitting down to pull a card or two for various Instagram challenges. I enjoy these Tarot/oracle challenges because they give a focal point for the day (one I don't have to think up myself). But this morning I looked at the prompts for both of those I'm participating in and shrugged. Neither appealed to me. I sat there staring for a while - should I look up a spread? Do a Celtic Cross (those are informative and familiar, but maybe too many cards for now)? No... as I sat there a three-card spread materialized in my mind, something simple and "just right" for my mood:

How do I feel?
What do I need?
How can I get it?

I felt moody yesterday, that old and familiar impulse to be alone, to not have to talk with anyone, to not have to be around other people. The hermit and the cave. I don't feel much different today. But having just come out of a hurricane that shut the city down for a week, I have so much to tend to at work, and a lot of people who rely on my support. My weekly reading "warned" me of these feelings. Sitting on the couch this morning I started to daydream about taking a day off, and how amazing it would feel to be able to take a day to decompress. Then I remembered the 7 of Cups from that weekly reading: "if you can imagine it, you can make it happen." Making my own needs a priority, if not the only one. Perhaps I could make it work? I decided to draw my cards:
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot - Uusi 
How do I feel? 5 of Wands rx
What do I need? Queen of Pentacles rx
How can I get it? 8 of Cups rx

All reversals certainly reflect the choppy energy moving through me at present. The 5 of Wands speaks to a sense of inner conflict - my internal and external worlds not combining well. That is very much the case. I sit here reviewing my schedule for the day, and I don't want any of it. And yet I'm not sure I can relinquish those responsibilities.

The Queen of Pentacles tells me that I should focus on taking care of myself, on addressing the needs that aren't being met; she asks me to be good to myself. This Queen gazes over at the 5 of Wands, perhaps aware that it is the source (at least in part) of her discontent. She gives me permission to honor my personal, intimate priorities, rather than brushing them off in the face of the busy-ness surrounding me.

The 8 of Cups reflects a desire to abandon it all - to walk away. And yet inverted it shows that I'm not convinced that I can, or should. But this is about getting what I need, so what about finding a balance? I started to reflect on my day today, on what I ought to be present for (a morning meeting), and what I may be able to release in order to make space for myself (perhaps completing some work from home in the afternoon). As I thought, I realized that I do have some wiggle room. I do have options. And suddenly my day started to take on a different hue.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Weathering the Storm: Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma swept up over the peninsula of Florida last weekend, knocked over a lot of trees, peeled off some roofs, flooded bodies of water (and homes), and floated off to the north, taking our electricity with it. One week to the hour that we lost our power, we got it back (around 9:30pm last night). A week without electricity is great when you're backpacking, but in an urban setting post-storm it's a whole other thing. We have done well, though, I believe. We are fortunate in so many ways. Experiences like this cause you to think in new ways, and that is always welcome and good.

As I've been trying to keep up with two Instagram challenges, I thought I'd share two recent posts that capture the essence of this experience...

The following is something I posted a couple of days ago for the September Tarot challenge hosted by @lionharts:

Energy to work with this week: 4 of Swords (rx) from the Ostara Tarot
As I was shuffling, my mind wandered to the feeling I have been having lately that - despite having had a hurricane-related week off work - I am going to need a vacation. The problem is, I am not going to get it! Most people I know have their power back, but we are on day 6 of no electricity, in the hot, humid, subtropical late summer. I'm starting to get cranky. We have been operating in semi-survival mode for days, each moment considering our food options, what we have and don't have, if what we have is enough, how not to break the bank on takeout, how not to melt when the internal temperature of the house sits around 88 degrees. Dirty clothes rack up. In the evening we take walks and notice that the whole neighborhood has lights on now except for our block and the neighboring apartments. There is a tree that split nearly in two during the storm, one half leaning against a utility pole. A week later and there has been no movement to tend to it. I suspect this is why we are still in the dark.

I have been grateful, in many ways, for this time. Grateful for the shift in mindset it provokes. Grateful to see how people come together to support each other during times of distress. The kids spend long hours playing together rather than watching videos. I am profoundly aware of how good we have it compared to others who lost lives or whole roofs during the storm. We (humans in general) are deeply capable of thriving out of the bounds of the technological world. But give me a tent and a forest; the urban environment isn't friendly to this. We receive notifications not to interact with water bodies due to possible contamination and displaced wildlife (aka gators). Nightly strolls are complicated by brush from fallen trees that block the sidewalks, and yet the street has its own hazards (cars and crazy drivers). I won't have the downtime I would like, a liminal space to recover from the sap on my energy, and so I will have to take the time I need wherever I can.

This morning I wrote the following for the La Vie en Tarot challenge:

Do a three card spread
Visconti Sforza Tarot
Theme of the week: 10 of Swords ~ exhaustion, I am sure. The last week hasn't been particularly easy and I have a lot to do this week. The power came back on late last night, which was amazing. But there is no time to recover before jumping back in to the grind. It's also the last week of September classes for our students, and the schedule (due to the hurricane) is going to be chaotic. It is just a week, though, and we'll be fine. 

Challenges: 5 of Coins ~ I may feel like I don't have enough resources. We spent so much money on hurricane supplies and food while we were without power that I definitely do feel a bit financially cautious. But to a large extent that's a mindset, and the Queen of Pentacles I pulled earlier this morning speaks to that. 

Boon: 7 of Cups ~ If you can imagine it, you can make it happen. And also, encouragement (permission) to focus on my individual needs which may be different from the group I interact with. 

We are well. The kids are back in school today after a week of canceled classes. The markets are still low (at best) on cold foods, and some gas stations are still out of commission. Parks are still flooded, and debris still clutters the right-of-way down most streets. But these things will ease with time. I'm grateful for the experience, challenges and all.

Here are some pictures from my neighborhood:

Monday, August 28, 2017

Embracing the Shadow: An Eclipse Reading

This summer has proven to be a whirlwind of activity, movement, joys, and intense challenges. My blog has certainly landed toward the bottom of any priority list I might have had, and even this post has taken a week to finish writing (but I did it!). This grand solar eclipse a week ago was a special moment that has felt so profoundly relevant to all of the energies flowing in, around, and through my world since summer began. I saw an eclipse spread developed by Sharron Basanti from the School of Gypsy Arts  and made space to draw some cards.
I used my (fairly new) Visconti Sforza deck - the Golden Tarot by Mary Packard, which is sumptuous and rich and fun to read with....
What area of my life is the most influenced by the Solar Eclipse? Strength

I love the Strength card, though to be honest, this particular version was what prevented me from acquiring the Visconti-Sforza for so long! A man beating an animal is not at all how I experience Strength, but with historical decks it's critical to understand the context in which the deck art was created. In this case, it's meant to be a man keeping his pride and baser impulses in check. Still, I much prefer to see the friendship between a woman and a lion, bear, boar, or any other similar wild and fierce creature. To live in harmony with the wild within us is far healthier than to beat it into submission!

All of that said, this card makes so much sense for me (and I love the Leo connection between the eclipse and the card itself!). For months now I feel I've been getting to know more intimately than ever before my own wild nature; learning about how to stretch my wild limbs. I feel like a wolf on the inside, and sometimes even see one in my mind's eye when closing my eyes to fall asleep. How do I embrace this birth and still try to hold onto balance? The answer is: I can't always. Birth is messy. And that has largely been my focus for some time now. It's not always pleasant, but then sometimes it is, and I am filled with this glorious and wonderful power of my own feral self.

What illusions are being brought into the light? 8 of Swords rx

Patterns and paradigms have a way of turning in on themselves. Over this past summer I've come to startling and moving realizations about my own mental cages, the constructs that have kept me locked into a particular way of being that no longer fit me anymore. I was too big, and the surroundings too uncomfortable. I was ambling along, quite unaware of what was happening to me, and then one day, I woke up.

How can I embrace my shadow medicine? Knight of Swords rx

The Knight of Swords has long been my shadow warrior. He is upside down because he is my flip side. The Knight of Swords sees so clearly, and is not blinded nor deterred by the ebb and flow of sentimental tides. Once you see, you cannot (and should not) unsee, and there is great strength and conviction available there, in staying in that awareness. This Knight has kept me focused, has encouraged me to speak my truth, even when that truth is sharp and piercing. The determination and forward orientation of the Knight has kept me moving, even when I am uncertain of the destination.

What paradigm shifts will emerge after the eclipse? 2 of Wands

Themes of personal power and the willingness - readiness - to explore new landscapes (both outer and inner) have formed the backdrop of all of "this." If the 8 of Swords directly symbolizes the paradigm shift, the 2 of Wands is the door to new ways of understanding and engaging with myself and my space.

How can I harness potent medicine of the Solar Eclipse for my spiritual practice? 4 of Wands rx

In addition to some pertinent elements including "freedom" and "transition," this card is associated (via the Golden Dawn) with Venus in Aries. Learning how to honor my heart has been another fundamental theme this summer. The other day I pulled a card from the Raven Oracle (by Gabi Bücker) to serve as "food for thought" over the next handful of months - a sort of mantra or reminder when I need to refocus. The card message I received said: "Your heart is a treasure trove - not some smelly sewer." I laughed at that last bit, but the essence is true and relevant for me now. Love is everything; our hearts can handle limitless amounts of it, in all of its many forms. I want to explore all of the love that my heart has to offer, and that is certainly a spiritual practice.

Message from the Sun: 8 of Cups rx

In order to walk a new path, is it necessary to leave behind the old? Can I search my soul, honor myself, live authentically by transforming "what was" instead of discarding it? I think so. And at any rate, I believe that is the "question of the moment" that the Sun is presenting for my consideration.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rune Post #25: Othala

Here is the (slightly delayed) final rune post featuring Othala, the twenty-fourth rune of the Elder Futhark, and eighth rune in the third aett.

Othala translates to "homeland," and connects to themes of property/land, ancestral legacy, ancestral streams, inheritance, and home.*
An Anglo Saxon rune poem reads:

An estate is very dear to every man,
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Othala?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Othala has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

*It has sadly been misappropriated by some neo-Nazi groups that seek to align heathenry with racist ideology; it's critical to understand that the runes (and heathenry as a whole) have absolutely nothing to do with such ignorance, small-mindedness, and hatred.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rune Post #24: Dagaz

Happy Wednesday! Today's focus will be on Dagaz, the twenty-third rune of the Elder Futhark, and seventh rune in the third aett.

Dagaz translates to "day," and connects to themes of daylight, breaking dawn, awareness, enlightenment, sudden and powerful realizations, cognition, enjoyment, breakthroughs, clarity, and hope.
Power of the Runes by Voenix; Ostara Tarot
This morning I happened to pull Dagaz (along with a Tarot card - the Page of Swords). Later I realized that Dagaz was today's rune post as well, and so I thought I would share what I wrote about that pairing:

This Page frequently comes up in connection to my relationship with Odin, so I wondered which rune would then appear...sure enough it is Dagaz, the Odinic Paradox, the great awareness, the meeting of right and left brains, the light bearer. There he sits, nursing a vibrant fire as the sun just starts to make its way over the edge of the horizon.

The Page is a seeker, asks questions, pursues knowledge and information and truth. The Page is a student of the universe, curiosity not constrained by age or social norms. We all see the world through different eyes, and yet as different as our experiences may be, there is something true in them all. I value the pursuit of understanding as a precious resource, cradling the reality that two opposites may indeed be part of the same whole.

An Old English rune poem reads:

Day, the glorious light of the Creator, 
is sent by the Lord;
it is beloved of men, 
a source of hope and 
happiness to rich and poor,
and of service to all.


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Dagaz?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Dagaz has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?