Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Elder Harvest


Yes Dear.

Did you remember to thank the Elder?

Yes, I thanked her before, offered cornmeal, and again after. And I made sure to ask for, and receive permission.

That made my day, my ten year old daughter asking me this on our way back from picking. She usually participates, but today she has one arm in a sling with a badly sprained wrist, and so was not up for teetering along the loose wood chipped bank. She opted to find the first of the ripening blackberries, along with her brother, on steady ground. So, I thought she wasn't really paying attention, but of course, she was.

The blossoms towered over me as I stood under the great Mother, invisibly annointing me with the softest, most lovely powdery scent. The gleaming sun poured in from the ripening morning sky. We got up early for this walk, since hotter weather was expected for today. The stems were hardy, some brown and woody, some young and tender green. All have interesting blemishes all over, like pretty warts or eccentric polka-dots. This reminds me of how soothing Elder is for blemished skin and chicken pox. I carefully lower the branches with the newly opened, white flowers, though cream colored is really more true, and snip the stem above the first leaf thereafter. I laugh as the tree showers me with loose and falling blossoms. I think of the water nymphs, being seduced by the reed music of Pan, and of sorcery being conducted by Gypsies. And more practically I remember two weeks ago curing a Nettle sting on my Son's leg with a spit poultice of Elder leaf, and it curing it more rapidly than Plantain. I made sure not to swallow any juice, but alas I was dizzy and nauseous for much of the remaining day.

I use her medicine with care, and this first real harvest has come only after planting two of her in my own yard last year to watch her transition through each season, and much reading and watching of her over the last few years. Elder is a plant I wanted to take my time with, to get to know her in's and outs, and to discover all of her multifaceted personality. I dare not pick prematurely .... for I have been warned against pissing off the Great Elda Mor!

Some parts of the plant (leaf, root, stem) are not gentle medicines like the flower and berry are. The tincture of the flowers I use for colds and flu's and just if I am under the weather a bit. I love the taste and smell, so gentle and soothing. Elder berries I love, for throat troubles, bad colds and especially for my children. But there is such a panacea found in our dear Elder that I couldn't possibly list .... I'd be writing for days. Kiva Rose has shared with me wonderful knowledge about Elder as an adaptogenic.

As you can see from the picture, I have decided to try making an Elder Blossom infused oil along side my tincture. Let's hope it doesn't spoil. Usually I use Olive oil for infusing plants, but for these lacy, ladylike beauties, I chose my good stuff; Organic cold pressed Apricot Kernel oil. MMMmmmmmm, it's my favorite, it's silky feel and apricot-cherry aroma is simply divine. I thought it the perfect carrier.

I also gently removed some small dead branches that were not growing anything, in hopes of having a wand.

When I got home, it was getting hot. I had to get out of my pants and socks. So I went upstairs to change, and guess what I found? A little, tiny, single blossom, perfectly intact, resting right inside my belly button! It was like a kiss from Mother Elder. And yes, I did take a picture, but it's not going up here:)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Song of the Salvia

I can't contain my excitement when the Salvia blooms. The fragrance is so perfect; sweet, herby, green, minty but dry, and incredibly open feeling as the volatile oil escapes from the leaf and blossom, awakening my eyes, throat, nose, and brain. I love stepping out my door to be greeted by this lovely lady, especially because I only have one full grown plant and I worry every winter about her making it through. But, strong, willful, and vibrantly feminine, she comes back.

She has the history, you know. A prominent member of the Labiatae family, she flaunts her square stem, opposite leaves, irregular flowers, and seductively aromatic body. Being woody, however, like her close relatives Lavender and Rosemary, I never cut her back. The new growth comes right out from last years branches. The years before I knew that were quite tragic.

I like to chew on one fresh leaf, on my way out to work or errands, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated as I chew, but calm at the same time. My mouth and teeth feel squeaky clean, and my throat chakra opens up. For sore throats, nothing cures like a mugfull of Sage brew with local honey. I instantly relax as my throat stops hurting and my lymph glands begin draining. The aromatic steam clears congested sinuses, and for very stuffy noses or a bought of clogged facial skin I will make a full-on steam: I make a pot of boiling water, then remove from heat and add a handful of Sage. Then I'll make a towel tent over my head so the steam penetrates my face and nose. Perhaps half the medicine is just how pleasurable this is.

Sage offers endless healing. She is one of my favorite herbs to steep in honey for an electuary. A muslin bag stuffed with Sage and brewed into the bath is restorative to the circulation and great for the memory like Rosemary. As an anti-viral, warming, diaphoretic herb, I reach for it when my children are ill with the fever or flu virus. And being a Labiatae, the family with high affinity for women, she offers profound support for female complaints such as water retention, PMS, hot flashes, hormonal pimples, candida overgrowth, and breast swelling. Being a drying herb, however, drinking regular amounts of Sage during lactation isn't such a great idea unless you really want to reduce your milk production.

Salvia has been used for centuries in beauty recipes. Sage infused vinegar is a divine rinse for darker hair. Sage footbaths are good for fevers and lung congestion, as well as directly for the feet if they are tired, sore or smelly; Sage is a natural deodorant, as well as anti-fungal. Sage was used for facial tonics by infusing in water or spirits, and for vulnerary and anti-arthritic ointments by infusing in fat or oil. One of my most favorite face creams is one that I make from White Sage (salvia apiana) infused in olive oil. It is simple and lovely.

I love Sage for her beautiful flowers. Like singing mouths she praises the late spring sunshine and welcomes the lapping bees and worshipful insects into her tender, intimate parts. Like Sheela-na-Gig, she sings of the Yoni-happy woman, who loves her body and treats her sensuality with passion, respect and empowered choices. She sings of irregular beauty; perfection. Of blooming out of old experiences, of learning from our own intuition, from our family and ancestors, and of treating equally with love our children, teens, mothers, career woman, and elderly. She sings of versatility, adaptability, complexity, and continuity. Her blue flowers speak of steady nerves, like her soothing cousins Skullcap and Lavender. and her unruly arms outstretched in glee celebrate the childlike divinity of life itself.

To some, this picture might provoke a remark "oh, that's common garden Sage". And indeed, if you are looking to purchase a plant from a nursery, this is how you will find the label for this particular species: Salvia officinalis - Garden Sage.

I suppose from the Wise woman's perspective of the ordinary being synonymous with extraordinary, this name is perfectly fitting. But if I were to make a story, one to relay the medicine and magic of this Goddess plant to my students, Children or Grandchildren, I would retain the name Salvia, as I do here in this mere post, for the purpose of conveying her true nature; Salvation.
I might tell stories of goats coming to life from terrible sickness by way of Sage compresses and infusions, of Gypsies growing Sage at each stop along their journeys, of Great Grandmothers treating their daughter's painful moontime with a fragrant Salvia brew, and of the village Midwife caring for the birthing woman who has bore down for too many hours with Sage infused oil warmed and lovingly massaged into her lower back.
I might tell her how I, myself, drank Sage tea with her when she was only three, on the front steps of our house, by the yellow daisies. And she just might feel a new found gleam of light for her younger brother, whose name happens to be Sage.

Beautiful Salvation,
Healing plant of green and blue,
I am blessed with all your beauty
I am cured with all your truth.

Fragrant lover of sun and air
Witch of Lunar cycles
Be green in all your glory
Be thanked for all you share

Beautiful Salvation
Keeper of the mind
Rejuvenate my memory
New spirit may I find

Blue lips upon the stalk
Speak secrets to my heart
Speak magic talk and ancient lore
Paint pollen breasted art

Honeybee hostess!
Belly bowl of nectar,
Teacher to the cold ones
Of open warmth and pleasure.

Grandmother wisdom
Quietly advise
Look through my cloudy tattered guise
and lead me back to me.

Grandmother knowing,
Raise me wise in green!
Show me ways of self and others,
Ancient rooted queen!

Blessed Be .... our dear Salvia!

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I'll be spending some time on pause...... while I wait for my new laptop to arrive. Our other one died after a good life, and with it went a LOT of photographs. So while I'm waiting, I'll be in the garden, the woods, and where ever else I stop to capture nature's wonder in my camera and more so in my heart.
The changes are incredible now, while a whole new carnival of forceful buds and flowers thrust into blossom, throwing their arms open in sweet abandon to the sun and rain. The profusion of roses arriving in bands over one night, smothering the walking path with perfume, is as seductive as it gets. The Salvia, my pending post, has put on her velvet blue jewelery and come out to greet the Solstice. Tall, prestigious, and ever-calm Valerian puts on a classy show and oversees the rest of the garden. Her scent gently coating the top layer of air above the roses. Down below, covering more of the garden each year, crawl the strawberries and peppermints, like fairies of the soil and secret-keepers to the cats. The silvery fingers of the wormwood shimmy and dance in each breeze like a Gypsy moon dance.
The changing ecstasy of the garden is ever hypnotising, ever giving, and ever mysterious even within her repetition.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Wild Oregano

I think this is wild oregano. Comes up every year reliable as ever and is deliciously spicy - a welcome wild on salad and pasta dishes as well as soups. I tinctured some last year for viruses or poor circulation ... but I haven't used any yet. I love seeing her along side woodland hiking trails where there are not always a lot of aromatic plants. I will pick some to put on thorn scrapes and bug bites.

Pretty flowering chives

Chives! Yummy! And oh so pretty on top of salad :)

The Sweet Life

That IS the life. Spending all day stuffing your face into flowers!