Thursday, November 29, 2007

Spiral Traditions - Launch

Greetings all .....

This post is to announce the new blog Spiral Traditions.

It will be a sister site - a collaboration between myself and my kindred spirit Monica who will soon be launching her services ('Walk in Beauty') as a ceremonialist.

The purpose of the site will be to announce local circle dates, updates, and musings for our local community. It will also be a place to link people together for Red Tent Temples, Rites of Passage information, Gatherings to know about, Insight on Goddess Traditions, and to write about Spiritual thoughts. I am deciphering it from this blog which is dedicated to Herbal Wisdom. It is also intended to plant the seed of Spiral Traditions itself, a name I have given to represent my personal vision of a new/old culture.

So Mote it Be!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Practical methods and Making connections

I'm not a practical herbalist. Or am I? What's impractical about using our own body's responses to a plant as vital information. It's no more or less practical than a fox using it's eyes or nose to hunt a rabbit, really.

I am thinking today that most of what I feel, write, and do as an herbalist may not translate well to others. So I come here today to out myself on they way I do things. I may not be lavish with my words because the two sides of my brain may get into a cat fight somewhere along the way. Bear with me.

Most of what I do involves a lot of questioning and listening.

When I get 'sick':

First I locate it in my body. Is it in my head, knee, nose, etc. This question can be seen as locating the bodily system/organ it pertains to. I make sure to identify what type of human form it is effecting; mucous membranes, bones, skin, waters, liver, muscle, kidney, etc. This could further be deduced into an element (earth air fire water) or dosha (vata pitta kapha) depending on what system you are most inclined to use.

I ask: what sensation is it? This question could be viewed as getting to the energetics of the problem. Is it hot, cold, stuck, growing, shrinking, vibrating, piercing, dull... etc. The sensation will infer clues about what action the ailment is taking.

This might be telling information if there are analogues to the person's emotional or personal experience. For example, a UTI might imply that the person is very pissed off. I liken Lyme to a giving up of one's power. Something chronic like back pain might imply one's inability to feel supported.

I ask: What am I craving? Sweet? Salty? Liquids? Rest? These are so important. Sweet may be interpreted as a need for sustenance, whole grains and B vitamins, a more stable lifestyle, or more rootedness. Salty may mean you need minerals like kelp and nettles provide. Creativity may need feeding and fertility (of body or mind) may also need attention. Sharp liquids and vinegars may indicate a need for liver, gall bladder and digestive attention among the many other benefits of sour and bitter tastes. Lethargy or frustration and anger may be at play here.

Aromatic, spicy and highly flavourful lends to remedying emotions and self esteem as well as skin and digestion.

I am getting carried away with the ins and outs. Really there are many books begging to be written and read on the topic. What I really want to demonstrate is how I go about attaining information and just a hint of how I deduce things.

My intuition kicks into high gear. Having a pretty strong bond with a handbag full of multi-useful herbs helps, since I can quickly locate the vibration of the plant and match it with the person - often myself or my family but sometimes a friend who is inquiring. The next question I ask is: what plant will strengthen this person? What plant nourishes the afflicted systems? What plants will provide utmost nourishment to this person?

Sometimes I will get clear answers. Sometimes, not. When the not occurs, I go through my garden, or somewhere outside, and ask. Usually I will come across something that just calls me. I may or may not know that plant.

If I know the plant - I can decide how to use it. I may have something at home dry or prepared that I can use. If not, I see if I can harvest it from that spot and of course do so with reverence and a gift.

If I do not know that plant - I sit with it. This is one of the hardest for people because they simply cannot turn off time or their busy brains long enough to do so.

Once past those two blocks, just sit. Introduce yourself. Introduce your purpose or question if you like. Offer a compliment. Breathe. Breathing is one of the most intimate acts you can do with a plant. It is a tangible, real exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide and carries real benefits. The plants may elicit images. Don't take them for granted. The plant may show you rubbing your skin, or smashing it up and putting it on your feet covered with socks, or sleeping with the root in your pocket, or chewing one single leaf. It may tell you to stop saying yes or to spend more time reading. The plant may ask you to call your father or to let yourself cry. Plants don't edit themselves for our benefit. They speak truth.

Plants do not have the same limits or self-conscious habits that people do. Just listen. Then, barring you have come across a deadly plant, do it. Receive healing - you're asking for it!

If you want to take the more cautious route - write everything down in a journal so you can come back to it when you're ready to take action. Then go reference the plant in at least four places.

When you gather information from references:

Gather the scientific name, traditional uses and doses, parts of plant used, and for how long it is consumed or used topically. What are the energetics of the plant? Is it stimulating, sedating, nourishing, or drying? How is the plant prepared? This is so important. You cannot expect a tincture to do what an infusion does. You cannot expect a salve to supply what a kelp and burdock stew will. You also need to know what time of the year to harvest and how to do it ethically. You may enjoy finding out correspondences such as planetary powers, or which Goddess the plant is affiliated with.

If you are sitting with what you know to be a prolific plant and relatively safe, you have a lot of room to play and experiment. Take good notes.

Some plants I consider to be such good friends I can call on them to help me with nearly anything and they will. I have spent a lot of time with these plants, years, getting to know them, harvesting them, growing them, finding them in the wild and offering soil enriching gifts, and singing and praying to these magnificent spirits. I talk and listen, ask questions and give praise. I take the time to cultivate a safe and vibrant relationship.

If I am in a place where I cannot hear myself or am too sick or impatient to do any of the above?


Then do it.

Sometimes an herb will come to me in dreamtime. It may be a faraway plant only available in spirit form. That is good. Let it come to you and help while you sleep. I often have dreams where Jasmine flowers line the background or Usnea drips from the forest as I walk.

Thank it for showing up for you.

Don't take herbs in capsules. I only invite capsule takers to use Milk Thistle in that way and that's it. I would still encourage that Milk Thistle be ground and eaten on food. Capsules are a big waste of time, energy, and a risk on your health.

Muscle test. This technique (I learned from my amazing Mom) is invaluable. Try it. Think I am a quack if you like, but I for one enjoy being in touch with and response-able for my own health and healing. I am not going to try and explain it here as there are more comprehensive explanations out there to be had. I will list a few links as a spring board.

To summarize:

1. Where is it in my body?

2. What sensations does it create?

3. What emotions or personal issues mirror this ailment?

4. What am I craving?

5. Journey to and with a plant including breathing. Take good notes.

6. Research and reference.

7. Make soup, take a bath, sleep on it.

8. Muscle test and make potions.

Happy Healing

- I invite questions to further discuss these ideas. This is roughly how I go about coming to conclusions in regards to treating and caring for myself and I realize it is not entirely cohesive - but indeed that is my internal process. It moves around erratically until answers that feel right jump out at me. How do you do it? How are our journeys different or alike? What vital pieces am I missing? ..........................

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Herbal Preparations (workshop handout)

How to make basic herbal Preparations

Nourishing Herbal Infusion:
One ounce by weight of dried plant material; nutritive herbs and often the leaf such as Nettle, Red Clover, Red Raspberry leaf, Oat Straw, Comfrey leaf, Mallow, Violet leaf; placed into a quart sized mason jar or French press. Pour just boiled water until filled. Let steep overnight or at least four hours to withdraw the vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals. Drink throughout the day and feel great!


Pour hot water over teabag or baggie with herbs inside. A tisane is most useful for delicate flowers or leaves and highly aromatic herbs that diminish with heat. The medicine here is mostly the volatile oils and not the minerals and vitamin content. Examples would be Chamomile, Lavender, Mint, Jasmine, Green Tea, Calendula, Sage flowers, Sage leaf, Roses, Bee Balm leaf and flower, Hyssop.
Let steep between 5-20 minutes depending on plant and desired strength.


A decoction is the simmering of a denser plant part for longer in order to withdraw the deeper medicine. Roots, barks, and dried berries are good examples. Simmer your herbs for at least an hour on low heat. Add more water and continue with the same pot herbs for three rounds.


Simmering down herbs until the water is reduced by ½ or ¾ yields a concentrated water extract. To this, add desired sweet syrup/s of choice such as cherry concentrate, brown rice syrup, honey, or molasses. Endless variations can be made. Keep in mind if your syrup is made with ingredients that will need refrigeration. For example syrup that is made with 50% honey and a tablespoon of vinegar or vodka will need refrigeration less soon than a syrup with maple syrup.
Adding mineral-rich vinegar to your syrup will add nutrition and help preserve it. An herbal syrup made in a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) will usually not need to be refrigerated.

Herbal Honey:

Probably my favorite preparation of all is herbal honey. Gather some of your favorite tasty healing herb such as Lavender, Bee balm, Sage, Hyssop, Rosemary, or Thyme. Be sure there is no moisture on it. Place it coarsely into a jar. Cover it with good local raw honey. Allow at least two weeks to infuse before using. If you have used good honey you will not need to refrigerate it, honey is a natural preservative.
Inverting the jar once a day will help keep the plant material submerged and aid in the infusion process (and help to prevent fermentation)

Herbal Vinegar:

One of the very best ways to keep absorbable minerals in your diet. Add fresh or dried plant material such as Dandelion, Mugwort, Rosemary, Violet leaf, or Nettle to a jar with a plastic lid. Metal lids will rust from the vinegar. Cover with good quality Apple Cider Vinegar. Allow to infuse 4-6 weeks. Some folks strain the herbs out but I personally like to eat them. Pickled Dandy blossoms are delicious, and so are pickled Burdock roots!

Herbal Tinctures:

Herbalists have many varied ways to make tinctures. I prefer the old-fashioned wise woman method for fun and simplicity although I do make some adjustments depending on the plant. You can always consult a Materia Medica if you are not sure.
Loosely pack a jar with your plant material, weighed if possible. Pour vodka to cover. Let steep 4-6 weeks. Indefinite shelf life. Store out of light and heat.
Some adjustments that I make are for blossoms like Red Clover, St. John’s Wort, Roses, and Goldenrod, which I tincture in Brandy, sometimes with a little honey added.
Echinacea requires higher water content so I tincture this in brandy as well or just use a water preparation. The list goes on … but to start with you can make simple tinctures and you will get good medicine.

Herbal Oil:

Gently fill a (clean, dry) jar with fresh plant material that has wilted for a day or so to evaporate excess moisture.
Cover with olive oil or jojoba oil
Cap and Label:
Common Name
Latin Name
Part of plant
Fresh o dried plant material?
Store out of light and heat while infusing
Strain through cheesecloth or muslin after 6 weeks
For dried herbs or fresh herbs with higher water content: slowly warm plant/oil combination over double boiler throughout the day uncovered. Strain and bottle.

Herbal salve:
Melt 1 ounce of beeswax per ¾ cup of oil, in a double boiler
Remove upper pot and dry off the water thoroughly
If adding essential oils or vitamin E do so now and stir
Pour into heat proof salve containers/jars and let cool completely before capping.

© Ananda Wilson

Monday, November 26, 2007

Questions to ask before harvesting a plant

Questions to ask and answer before harvesting and using a plant.

Be certain you have a positive ID - OR be certain it is not a deadly plant. The most deadly plants in New England are both in the Umbelliferae family.

NEVER take more than ten percent of a stand of plants.

Never harvest endangered or at risk plants. For a list see United Plant Savers on the web.

Don’t take the parts, or all of the parts, the plant needs to reproduce or grow back.

Don’t tell the neighborhood about it.

ASK the plant’s permission. Take the time to sit with the plant, naming your purpose and asking for the plants blessings. Then you may harvest.

THANK the plant. Provide compost, water, cornmeal, tobacco, or something nourishing to the plant in return. Prayer and Song are included here.

What part of the plant should I use/harvest?

How much should I use?

How often?

How should I prepare it?

What time of the year should I harvest?

Make certain that if you are harvesting aerial parts of the plant that you are harvesting on a perfectly dry day.
Make sure it is legal to harvest at that place and that it is not sprayed or compromised.

LOG your preparations as much as possible – journals are indispensable. And don’t be afraid to ask these questions to the plant and to yourself while sitting with the plant. You can back it up later with books, but you’ll be surprised how informative plants and your own intuition are.

What’s in a label?
~Common Name
~Latin Name
~Menstrum used
~Part of plant used, how much, fresh or dried
~Moon phase optional
~Quantity ~Use/purpose

©Ananda Wilson

Monday, November 5, 2007

Red Tent Temple Oils

In preparation for the Red Tent I made a set of Herbal aromatic oils. These are my contribution for the day; my donation; for women to use while they recharge in the tent. I made four blends based on the Goddesses that I have come to know well recently:
Artemis ~ Inanna ~ Ix Chel ~ Morgan Le Fay.

I can't wait to use them myself!