Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice Greetings!


A blessed Summer Solstice to all on this space in time when the Earth's axis
is tilted towards the sun at its maximum angle of 23° 26', also referred to as Midsummer. Worldwide, interpretation of the Summer Solstice has varied among cultures, but most have held a recognition as a sign of fertility. It is especially celebrated in Europe. One of my favorite traditions occurs in northern Spain where pagan beliefs are especially evident. These beliefs are based on three planetary elements: Earth, Fire and Water, which are exemplified as the importance of medicinal plants, especially in relation to health, youth and beauty; the protective character of fire to ward off evil spirits and witches and, finally, the purifying, miraculous effects of water.
  • Medicinal plants: Traditionally, women collect several species of plants on St. John's eve. These vary from area to area, but mostly include Fennel, different species of fern , Rue, also called Herb of Grace, Rosemary, Dog Rose (rosa canina), Lemon Verbena, St. John's Wort, which blooms on St. John's Day, June 24th, (it has bloomed a week earlier this year) Mallow, Foxglove, and Elder flowers. In some areas, these are arranged in a bunch and hung in doorways. In most others, they are dipped in a vessel with water and left outside exposed to the dew of night until the following morning (o dia de San Xoan -St. John's day), when people use the resulting flower water to wash their faces. Calendula flowers were historically picked throughout Europe on this day as their potency was deemed to be most powerful and could ward off evil spirits.
  • Water: Tradition holds it that the medicinal plants mentioned above are most effective when dipped in water collected from seven different springs. Also, on some beaches, women who wanted to be fertile would bathe in the sea until they were washed by nine waves.
  • Fire: Bonfires are lit, usually around midnight both on beaches and inland. Occasionally, a dummy is placed at the top, representing a witch or the devil. All gather around them and feast mostly on potatoes boiled in their skins and maize or cornbread. When it is relatively safe to jump over the bonfire, it is done three times (although it could also be nine or any odd number) for good luck at the cry of “meigas fora” (witches off!). It is also common to drink Queimada, a potent Galician wine called grappa mixed with sugar, coffee beans and pieces of fruit, which is prepared while chanting an incantation against e vil spirits...
So my blessings for a fertile and joyous summer extend to all of you!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hello friends,

My friend and webmaster, Paul Verduchi, surprised me via e-mail today in honor of my upcoming birthday with a very timely song about our important connection to Mother Earth. It's called 'No No No' by Archie Roach, an Australian born Aboriginal guitarist/singer/songwriter.

Thank you, Paul!

It goes like this:

No, No, No

Standing on a mountaintop listening to the land.
Make them stop please make them stop this burning in my brain.
People they're just passing by,
They don't understand, they can't hear our mother cry.
No they can't hear her pain

No, No, No

Feel our anger, feel our rage. How much can we take?
We're living in a nuclear age. What the hell for?
You cut our mother, watch her bleed and dig your yellowcake
When everyone has had a feed, you can go and kill some more.

No, No, No

I reach out and look around and tears fill up my eyes...

I try but can't block out the sound of crying in my ears,
So take a walk with me, my friend, you might be surprised.
Before our journey's at an end you might even hear!

No, No, No

I kiss the land, I kiss her cheek and nestle at her breast,
Then I ear my mother speak. She says we're one-you and I.

No, No, No...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Honoring the Plants
If you have ever taken an herbal tincture, sipped an herbal infusion used a plant-based medicinal salve, creme or lotion, you have been the recipient of the Earth's prolific plant bounty and its power to nourish and heal. Have you ever paused to consider and appreciate that each one is the Earth’s gift to you? The healing properties of plants are a wondrous blessing to humans and animals alike. Herbalists worldwide believe that this is indeed a time of strife for our planet. We feel it is important-now more than ever-to be mindful of the fragility of many native plant species and their habitats. Your herbal formula is much more than plant(s) combined with alcohol and/or water or an aromatic scent. It is, in fact a representation of how we as humans are connected to the Earth and how we are dependent on it for our health and well-being. So how can you show your appreciation for the plants that provide so much? One way is not to use herbicides on your lawn or garden. Pull unwanted weeds instead or use an organic alternative. Another way is to allow a small section of your yard or property to grow wild. In winter, use sustainable and non-toxic melting agents on walkways and driveway. Who knows? One day you may find a plant that is part of the very herbal formula you are taking today, ready to sprout up and send off its pollen to another meadow and insure its place as an important thread in the web of life.

Photo above: Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica). See upcoming post for more details on this wonderful gift of nature.