Saturday, March 15, 2014

H.P. Lovecraft Day!

On this day in 1937, H.P. Lovecraft, oracle and writer supreme died. To many, he will never die, as his work are immortal.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Seasonal Altar

To connect our son to the cycle of the Wheel of the Year, we have a space for him in the dining room for "his altar". He puts things on it that he finds on walks or are given to him that are important. It's not a large space, but treasures come in small packages when you are a child on a walk. He takes after his mama- being a collector. He always finds a stick, leaf, rock or something to bring home.

Shown on the altar now: A rectangular wood box and an acorn shaped box given to him by us. A dried green leaf from our mulberry tree. A black walnut. A rock from the Indiana Dunes. His "owl nut". Acorns. An evil eye necklace from Grandma. A cicada carapace. and "tree pom poms".

Since winter has just started in earnest, the picture that I took today is more fall in theme. He knows that if he picks up some treasure and puts it in his pocket he can place it here, and he loves that. From time to time, we also talk about the seasons and bring out his altar items and what they mean and how they connect to the holidays of the year.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Getting ready for Yule.

My son is going on four and he is already asking why we don't celebrate Christmas "like everybody else". I have had myriad answers for him:

"We are not Christians. Christians celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Yule."

"We are Witches, and we aren't like everybody else."

"We celebrate our holiday many of the same ways the Christians celebrate theirs. Everything you love about Christmas are also Yule celebrations! We will trim a tree, have a feast, invite people over, bake sweets, exchange gifts, hang lights."

It doesn't help that his grandparents (and when he's there, TV commercials) are pushing Christmas- HARD. He came home from a weekend with them talking about it incessantly. I am sure he saw lots of Christmas hype on their TV. And then he said, "I wanna celebrate Christmas."

So I said, "You are going to celebrate Christmas when we are with your grandparents. And we as a family also celebrate Yule."

Then he replied. I wanna celebrate Christmas for the right reason." (Uh oh.)

"What do you mean?", I asked.

"I don't want to tell you." (Hmmm. That isn't good and smells of deceptive indoctrination...)

"Sweetie, you can tell me anything. You know that. Please tell me why it is important to you.", I pressed.

"JESUS." (OK, confirmation of my fears.)

"Well, Christians believe that Jesus was the son of a god. And they celebrate Christmas as his birthday party (never mind it actually isn't his birthday, according biblical scholars). But WE do not believe that Jesus was anything more than a cool guy who said some important things in his day. When you are older, you will be free to seek out any or no religion at all, once you can actually understand them and what they offer. But while you are little, we do things as a family, a team. We are the Kunnings Three, remember?"

That brings a smile to his face. He loves being one of the Kunnings Three.

So now, I am getting him ready to celebrate Yule. With the media onslaught that happens this time of year, I cannot blame him for wanting to be a part of it. And I refuse to take part in the onslaught that celebrates it too early. So after Thanksgiving, we erect a tree and such.

He gets such propaganda from commercials and all his favorite shows (all kids shows feature Santa this time of year) that we need to show him that our traditions are fun and good, too. Cuz frankly, who throws a religious party better than Witches? (No one, that's who.)

He spent another weekend with the grandparents after Thanksgiving. He is coming home this evening. Then he will help us put up a tree, drink hot cocoa, and we'll start teaching him seasonal songs.

On the 1st, we will start the advent calendar (in the shape of a tree, that counts to 21). Inside each drawer is a treat or a slip of paper saying what fun thing we get to do that day. We will teach him songs, let him help cook and bake, light the yule log, and on our actual celebration, we will let him stay up and revel with us (we stay up all night to see the sunrise). I am sure he will fall asleep long before dawn, but being a part of something big and festive is important.

Only after we do our family traditions will he get Christmas, with his grandparents.

How do you celebrate the seasons, especially with little ones? How do you deal with the crass commercialism, the overwhelming Christianity, and extended family that are probably not the same religion as you (and perhaps trying to sway your kid to their point of view)?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy Hallows!

Some Witch kin came to visit for Samhain, and did fun (and ritual) ensue! While I cannot disclose what we did on Hallowmas, I can share some photos with you!

C. makes a stand-in for the sacred king out of plants foraged in the neighborhood.

An altar to some of our dead.

The cauldron awaits the King and his sacrifice.

The red rose burned and turned a bright blue.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Plant Spirit Work

Mandragora Spirit by Johnathan Blackthorn
This post by me originally appeared on the Samhain's Siren's group blog on October 10th, 2013.

Before pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies, before doctors and people in lab coats, people sought extra help with their healing from herbalists. They may not have called them “herbalists” back then- some were called “granny”, “bruja”, “curandera”, “strega”, or “cunning man”- but these healers were wise and knowledgeable about plants and their actions in the human body. Often they practiced what we now call magic(k) in addition to herbalism.

Many of these healers lived somewhat apart from the hustle and bustle of the village- allowing them time and energy to commune with plants and learn their secrets- though cultivation, wildcrafting, listening to plants, and experimenting with them to make medicines. And these generations of healers from across the globe, now called herbalists, have left us a legacy of amazing information. Indeed, to really master herbalism, one must study for years to get a basic grasp and then continue your education for a lifetime. There are tens of thousands of plants, just as there are myriad maladies to help cure.

I started out as most do- a dabbler called to heal myself and my friends. I made simples and teas, created poultices, and cured yeast infections. The more I learned, especially as I got into plant spirit work, the more I was fascinated and wanted to know. I personally believe that plants taught us what they could do- and those that knew how to listen became the first healers.

To listen to plants is not easy to relearn (I say relearn, because children do not seem to have a problem doing it- I distinctly remember my son, Rowan, even before he could speak to me in words, telling me to water a neglected plant by tugging on my shirt and pointing at the houseplant and making the sign for water (he was taught ASL as a baby).

When I was in herb school in California, we went out into the mountains to listen to plants. As I lie under a manzanita bush, I distinctly got the message “I was first” and saw strange strobe-like flashes of pictures of manzanita and madrone traveling across hard desert and clay before any other plant life. As they traveled, other plants befitted from them taking root in the hard terrain and breaking up the soil- so they followed and sprung up in manzanita's wake. After my “vision”, I did research and sure enough- this is what botanists believe happened. I was tickled and astonished the clarity of communication.

Recently on a hike with my apprentice, the wind rustled through the trees and I got a feeling of euphoria and joy- coming to me from a very specific tree. “This is how we move” said the tree. “You move from within, we move from without. ” The tree was delighted to be moved in this way.

We can remember how to talk to plants, though a series of conscious decisions. Taking a cue from the generations of herbalists before me, I try and live part of my life apart from the hub bub. Apart from other people, machines, and electronic communication. This is not easy to do when you live in a city, run a business, have a part time job, are a parent, and go to grad school! Not easy at all. It requires deliberate effort and choices.

I have told my apprentice as we begin this work: to listen to animals, one must lower their energy several notches. To listen to plants, you must go even lower (and by lower, I am not referring to hierarchy, I am speaking to vibrational frequency. Plants vibrate at a lower frequency than non-human animals and even lower than human animals. So to “hear” them, you need to “shift down”, too. I am still crafting language around this skill and truth, so this may not be the clearest explanation to you reader. Sorry for any confusion the language may cause.)

Cultivating this skill requires no distractions, stillness (in mind and environment) and the skill of knowing how (which comes from years of practice). I can do it at will when I have time, space, and no distractions, but it took years to be able to do this on command. Now I can make small spaces for this skill frequently, rather than needing hours at a time as I needed when I first started (although hours at a time is a luxury I would take!).

Rowan, helping mama wildcraft.
How do I work it into my busy life? I sought a part-time job that was within walking distance of my home. (Driving requires a brain wave state that is the antithesis of what you are cultivating. And it takes hours to “come down” out of that state.) I walk to work every day, taking back alleys alone. I drop my son off at the babysitter's and give myself 20-30 extra minutes to get to and from work. The alleys of Clintonville (my neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio) are lovely- overgrown and lush with “weeds”, crows and goldfinches, squirrels and murals. I have flipped over a flailing cicada, done augury, and wildcrafted red clover, melissa, dandelion, and plantain to and from work.

I do media fasts. In order to keep people up to date with my blog and business on social media, I queue up blog posts to self-publish, so I do not have to manually post frequently. Being on the internet is not being present with what IS- right in front of your nose. 

I send my three year old son, Rowan on playdates when I make Boline recipes or process ingredients each week. This a time for me to be hands-on and commune with my ingredients, so I can make the best possible product. I can infuse my remedies with intent and add my intent to the will of the plant to make the medicine stronger.

I have a sitting practice that reminds me of stillness and being present. And I grow and wildcraft many of my ingredients. My family does a red meal rite weekly and feeds a tree/the ancestors. We thank the animals and plants that doe for us to survive. And so much more that connects me in a real, daily, tangible way to the gods, the earth, its cycles, and all of creation.

Boline Apothecary is my small artisinal project that helps heal people through seasonally available remedies and body care. I hope you and yours enjoy what I make, with the knowledge that it is a labor of love.