Love Yourself

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, which can be a complex emotional event for some. While I have read cynics speak of Valentine’s Day as a holiday created by Hallmark to sell more cards, the truth is far more complex. I have never really looked into the history of Valentine’s Day until right now, and it seems that there are a few different stories. It might have started as the Roman festival Lupercalia. This fertility celebration was held around the same time as Valentine’s Day is now and has the obvious fertility connection, but there is no proof beyond that of the connection (as far as I can tell). Saint Valentine himself didn’t seem to have many connections to romance, but he did have connections to Spring. Perhaps this is what led to the connection to romance in the 15th century. A bunch of seemingly innocuous events and a few nudges from card makers later, here we are with the big celebration of romance that is modern day Valentine’s Day.

I’m not here to talk history, though. Instead, I’ve been thinking of how to turn this whole Valentine’s Day into something that everyone can dip into, whether single or not. There are so many different types of love. Romantic love. Familial love. Divine love. Today, I want to focus on a type of love that many of us struggle with: Self love.

I’m not talking about a narcissistic obsession with self, but instead loving and accepting yourself. Josh and I both like to compare it to the love of your child. If you are a parent, you love your child. You want them to grow into their power and become the amazing person that they are meant to be. That doesn’t mean accepting bad behavior, selfishness, and cruelty. You see their weaknesses and try to help them grow out of those weaknesses. You also see all the amazing things that your child brings to the world and you do your best to nurture those amazing things.

If you can do that for your child, why can’t you also do that for yourself?

There are a lot of excuses for why, of course. Cultural baggage. Childhood baggage. Personal baggage. I know that it can be difficult. Sometimes, we need a little help.

To find a little support in this process, I have a suggestion. Why not try a little bit of natural magic?

I’m going to be upfront about this. While I have tested out many different amulet recipes to a whole range of successes and failures (aka learning experiences), I have not tested out this one. So, if you are up to a little experimentation, try this out with me. I’m going to lay out a very basic recipe to try out. Take it and play with it a little. If you work in a magical tradition, work that into it. If you have personal amulet making techniques that you like, try it out.

The first step is to pick a Friday to make this amulet. When making amulets, I try to keep moon cycles and astrological influences in mind. While it won’t make or break an amulet, it can be helpful to ride helpful energetic tides.  You can even do it the day after Valentine’s Day, if that sounds like something you want to try. Astrologically, it’s not a bad time to try it out. The moon is on the way to full in Cancer. Venus is hanging out in Capricorn. The astrological currents shouldn’t mess with the work.

When you are ready to make the amulet, you’ll need a red circle of cloth about 4 or 5 inches in diameter. Make sure it’s made of natural fiber, such as cotton, wool, or silk. I find that material from plants or animals hold energy far better than synthetics. Draw the rune Mannaz on the outside of the to-be amulet. This rune means “man,” but it is also used to mean “self.”

The next step is to get a stone. I suggest getting a piece of rose quartz. It’s a nice stone that has a history of being used in works of love and the heart. While there are other stones that related to the heart and love, but this is a good one for gentle self love. As you place it there, tell the stone why you’re putting it in there. Tell it you are putting it there to be the heart of this self love amulet.

Now, for the herbs. When making these amulets, I like to use three herbs together. The first herb will not surprise anyone who has done any work for me. It’s my favorite green ally, lemon balm. I often refer to this plant as the rose quartz of herbs. It’s calming and great for the heart. As you add this herb, talk to it. Let it know that you are adding it to support your heart in love.

Next herb is rose. Rose petals are beautiful, and they are flowers of Venus. They are classic for love magic and this is no exception. If you can get pink rose petals, even better. As you add the petals, tell them you are adding them to love yourself with strength and balance.

The final herb to add is St. John’s Wort. St. John’s Wort has a long history as a medicine and magical herb, so it will be perfect for your amulet. As you add this herb, tell it that you are adding it to banish the negativity in your heart.

If you are a Reiki practitioner, you can write the Reiki symbol and the emotional healing symbol on a small piece of paper to put in the mix as well. If you aren’t a Reiki practitioner, don’t worry about it.

Gather the ends up, making a little bundle. Take a green string (again, natural fibers) and tie the bag shut. If you have a way you’d like to bless it, try it out! Extra work is not mandatory, though. You can call it good once you tie it shut. Keep the new amulet on your person. When you need a little more self love, put it to your heart. Focus on the energies of the amulet working with the energies of your heart center.  See how that feels for you.

If you’re crafty, you can also make a more complex bag. You can try sewing something together using red (or pink) fabric and green thread. You can get creative with its appearance with beads and tassels. You can turn it into a necklace that hangs perfectly at your heart. That part is up to you, your ambition, and your creativity.

Let me know if you decide to make one. Send me photos of your creation. I love to hear people’s experience in the work.

With that, I wish you a happy Valentine’s Day. May you feel deeply loved.


Be well


  • The Green Mountain Mage

Adventures in Burning and Smelling

What’s the first thing that you think of when you hear the word “incense?” Do you think of the 90s? Do you think of hippies trying to cover up the smell of pot? Even when I was a kid, it’s always made me think of magic (and the other ones as well). There was something mystical in the way that the smoke rose from that burning incense stick and there were some base smells in most of the different incenses that really called to me.

It makes sense that incense would have a sense of magic in our collective consciousness. Using the smoke of fragrant plant matter in ceremony is an old practice. It even made its way into the early Old Testament (Exodus 30:1-10, 30:34-38), though the practice is older than that. It was used in acts of purification and offering. The Catholic Church still uses incense in its Mass. They use an older method of incense, one which I want to talk about today.

Incense in the form of sticks originated in India and China. Before that, folks had to throw their odorous plant matter on coals to release the pleasant smelling smoke. This practice carried over in magical and religious traditions outside of the far East. Even now, making your own incense blend to burn in a heat proof bowl with a glowing ember is an effective method to add to one’s magical and/or religious practice.

A photo of frankincense courtesy of a Google search

A photo of frankincense courtesy of a Google search

Let’s use the incense that the Catholic Church uses as an example. The recipe, as found in John Michael Greer’s book “The Encyclopedia of Natural Magic” is ten parts frankincense, four parts benzoin, and one part styrax. Frankincense is a solid priestly resin, used in blessing and purification for thousands of years (if you checked those Bible verses I mentioned earlier, you’ll see that they mention frankincense… seriously, this plant resin has history). Benzoin has a history of use in purification and protection. Styrax is both botanically and magically related the benzoin. All three have very solar energies, so they work together very well.

Knowing the energies of the plant material in the incense mix is the first step in its magic. While having a pleasant smell is rather nice, it’s more important that the herb’s energies work together well. Having conflicting energies in the plants would be counterproductive. Having their energies work well with whatever you’re trying to accomplish is also super important. While solar energy is generally useful in magical practices, I wouldn’t necessarily choose them for a water ceremony. Not that it would be seriously counterproductive. It would bless, purify, and protect. It just wouldn’t be helpful beyond those purposes.

To use these plant resins, one would take this mix and grind it in a mortar and pestle. Here is the second step in the magic. You could grind it up in a coffee grinder. That would certainly be easier. Doing it by hand gives you a chance to imbue it with intention. You could even take the next step and imbue it with prayer (super appropriate for this specific mix). You could sing into the mix. You could even use the pestle as a sort of wand and use it to direct your energy into the mix. There is a lot of room to imbue an incense with more power at this point, so that’s why I suggest waiting to powder your incense mix until right before you use it. If you’re extra ambitious, you can work with what’s happening astrologically that day for both the grinding of the incense and the ceremony work.

Charcoal discs, also from Google images

Charcoal discs, also from Google images

Now, for the moment you’ve been waiting for. The burning of the incense. At this point you have to acquire a self-starting charcoal. The easiest to find are the disks made for hookahs. They’re soaked in salt peter, and begin to hold an ember when you light it on fire. We carry some in our store, and a disk of the kind that we carry lasts for about an hour. There are bowls designed for the heat of a burning charcoal disk (which we also sell), but a bowl filled with sand or salt will do in a pinch. Once you light your charcoal disk and place it in its heat resistant spot, sprinkle away with your powder. In the situation of a ceremony, you’ll want a mound that it will slowly burn through. Once you have enough ash that there is a layer between the charcoal and the mix, you’ll have to clear a little away.

Some mixes are considered spells by themselves. Scott Cunningham mentions a mix he would burn around his house to deter break-ins. I don’t know how effective that was, or if there’s a way to even determine it, but it seems that it helped. Josh and I mixed up a blend to encourage the beloved dead to work with him in his medium work. We mixed Copal, Myrrh, Vervain, and Tansy. It had a good feel and Josh did great medium work. While it was mostly his talents as a medium, the blend acted as an invitation to the beloved dead that he was reaching out to as well as protection from any parasitic spirits.

There are a lot of great recipes out there. Scott Cunningham has a few books with quite the selection of recipes. Try some out (using herbs you know are SAFE to burn in your space). It’s a fun exercise in the correlations between smell and vibes.

Happy adventures in smelling and burning

Until next time

  • The Green Mountain Mage

A Story Of Invasive Spirits

I sat down on the couch in the living room, talking to a client that we’ve worked with for a while now. It was her house that we sat in talking as her son played on the computer close by. He doesn’t speak much in general, and today is no exception. As we talk, I point my senses in the direction of why I’m there.

Her son’s room.

She had been having a rough couple of months, so life was already in upheaval. So, when her son stopped sleeping in his room, it didn’t much help. She tried to let him sleep there as she moved to his bed to get a little sleep herself. That didn’t last long, though. She woke up in a cold sweat, disorientated and afraid. She tried to finish the night on the couch. This pattern continued for a month or so. Her son would take over her room, refusing to sleep in his room. As I said, he doesn’t talk too much, so he could only share so much about why. She would be forced to stick to the couch. She tried her son’s room a few times, but it always ended up the same.

She wasn’t sure what was happening, she just knew that something was wrong. She gave it a little time to see if it would fix itself, but it didn’t. With life stress and health issues happening in both the lives of her and her son, mixed up sleeping arrangements didn’t make it to the top of the list of important things. Eventually, though, enough was enough.

Being the strong, self sufficient woman that she is, it took her awhile to mention it to us. It took even longer for her to let me stop by and see if I could do something about it. There was a chance that I might not be able to do anything, or the problem might not be something related to spirit work. I was free and in the area that day, though, so there was no harm in me trying.

I get the hesitation. She mentioned a few times “You probably think I’m crazy.” When entering a clearing situation, it is true that I have to be aware that sometimes it isn’t the space at all. Sometimes, it’s the people. Sometimes, it’s a personal issue, or a chemical imbalance in the brain. In this case, though, I wasn’t too worried. As I said, we had worked with this woman before. She certainly has a healthy skepticism and a no bullshit attitude that I really appreciate. Going into this situation, I was pretty sure that whatever the problem was, it wasn’t in her head.

As I sat there on the couch talking to her, I could feel the energy of the room. Something was definitely off. I wasn’t getting much more of an impression. Maybe there was something conscious there? Or perhaps it was just psychic gunk that had accumulated there. It didn’t much matter from that point. This was something in the realm that I work in and there was a possibility that I could help.

I broke out a candle and my smudge stick. I made a joke about how the neighbors would smell the herb blend and think that she was smoking pot as I gathered a bowl of water and salt. When I started to mutter over the salt and water while drawing signs in the air, she gave me a little bit of an odd look, but she let me do my thing. I appreciated that. It was the first time that I had done an energetic room cleaning in front of someone who wasn’t Josh. The flame of the candle was a little extra energy as I blessed, mixed, and consecrated the salt and water. Starting in her bedroom, I began to sprinkle the mixture in the six directions as I prayed a clearing prayer.

I use this often in our studio space and it works pretty well there. This was also the first time I had used this in a space that wasn’t mine. I could feel the minor psychic dirt release and dissipate as I went from room to room. The last room was her son’s.

I could feel the energy change as I entered the room. Whatever was there seemed to be comfortable there. My best guess is that it was a parasitic energy feeding on the health issues or the energy that arose from the rough hand they had been dealt as a family recently. Whether is was a person at one time or not, I don’t know. Whatever it was, it was something outside of them. It was not something that was in the heads of the son and mother. It was separate from them.

I continued my water sprinkling. I actually went through the room and the adjoining bathroom twice. The water starts clearing right away, but it takes a bit for it to fully do what it does. That always makes me a little jumpy. I then walked back to the kitchen where the candle and smudge stick waited for me. It was one of my homemade smudges, using Sweetfern, Cedar, and Mugwort harvested from the surrounding area. I use it in my work all the time. I took the candle with me as I circled around the inside of each room and then offered smoke East, South, West, North, Above, and Below. Once I had reached the son’s room, I could feel the water was doing its job. The smudge helps it and sort of seals it. I like how they work together.

Doing this sort of work can be difficult. I have to rely on my energetic senses and trust my intuition, Spirits, and my tools. As I left the house, I had a list of backup plans I could try if there was still an issue, as well as other folks that I could contact if it ended up being something that I couldn’t handle. My inner skeptic is always ready, it seems, to jump on the self doubt bandwagon. I also didn’t want to let this single mother down. I find that people get impatient quickly when you don’t have immediate answers.

The next morning, though, I got the text I was looking for.

Her son had spent the night in his room.

And, so far, he has been easily sleeping there for the past month.


I want to remind everyone that our Open House for our new space is this Saturday. Josh will be offering 20 minute readings. I’ll be handling the trick or treaters that will be about town for the Gathering of the Jack O’Lanterns event (there’s jack o’lanterns on the rocks in the river, a zombie walk, and a lot of community activities). I will also be manning our new metaphysical apothecary and store. There is an herb selection, stones and crystals, incense charcoal, pendulums, beeswax candles, Josh’s concrete creations, and more! If you can’t make it to our Open House, I will be holding store hours every Friday from 10 am to 5 pm.

Another exciting thing happening is my teacher Adhi Two Owls will be in the area in mid-November. She will be offering a workshop in connecting via shamanic work, as well as a presentation on what a shaman does. We are looking forward to hosting these events, and we will be sharing more information on Facebook as plans are solidified.


I hope October is treating you well, and you are looking forward to Halloween. I know I am.


Until next time


-The Green Mountain Mage


Lessons in Weeding

It’s been a little crazy over here in my corner of the world. I love Spring, yet the season moves at its own pace. Sometimes it feels like it’s taking forever. When everything starts going, though, it can be quite the adventure trying to keep up. The plants are on their own time and they plan on doing their thing with or without me. The race between the plants and I is on.

Along with that race, my husband and I are in the midst of putting together the plan for our studio space, its set up, and what we are doing in it. Reiki, runes, shamanic work, tea, and more… it’s quite the fiasco! The date of our Open House closes in, and there is still so much to be done.

I know that this is the craziness of late Spring. Summer creeps upon us to envelope the sweet unfurling from the Winter months to greet us with a verdant world wrapped up in hot weather, plants everywhere, and adventures to be had.

It’s overwhelming and glorious.

In this craziness, I have to remind myself to take moments to enjoy it all and listen. This is a big part of my shamanic practice: taking time to stop and listen. My teacher Adhi has her apprentices taking time everyday this month to find something that the Earth offers and eat it. Whether it’s burdock, dandelion, or sorrel, we are to take time to taste and commune. If there’s a plant type that we continue to hit up, take some time to sit with it. Maybe make offerings or rattle to it. See what happens.

I’ve been turning my weeding regimen into a chance to explore this practice. Goutweed has found a home in a few of my garden beds and if I am not careful in eradicating it, it will happily (and aggressively) take over any space it can get. It’s also a medicinal and edible plant. It was used primarily for arthritis and (did you guess?) gout. While I am not aware of any magical history with goutweed, it is an interesting plant that is very intent on covering open spots.

IMG_20180526_190459.jpg

So, I am exploring my relationship with this weed. It’s tenacity is surely part of its magic. Its taste is a little unusual for the more modern palate, so I understand why it’s not a popular food in our cuisine. I have yet to really sit with it and listen. When I do, though, this is my plan. I can start with giving a plant an offering of tobacco. Say hi. Introduce myself. Then, I sit and listen. I don’t just listen with my ears. I use my entire body. I am in stillness, receptive to anything that the plant might throw at me. I can also try rattling to get my brain in a more receptive state, as well as another method of honoring the plant.

Take some time this week. Sit with a plant that you can identify. Taste it if its edible. Sit with it in silent meditation. What does it look like? What does it make you think of? Why? See if you can get any impressions from it. Plants and trees have surprised me many times with the insight that they have offered.  Don’t expect a voice (though, if your brain is wired to receive information that way, it’s possible). It can be a gut feeling. It might be connected to a thought. You can even try sleeping with a piece of the plant under your pillow to see if you can get something in dreams.

I’m still in the beginning stages of my relationship with this plant that I am trying to keep in check. I’m sure that there’s something to be learned even in the antagonistic nature of this plant. I just have to dig and find it.

In other news, I had mentioned in a blog a while ago about a project that I wanted to do with planting amulets under trees and seeing how it affected the surrounding area. For those of you who are interested in participating, please reach out to me. I’ll supply the amulet. All you have to do is get a tree and plant the amulet beneath it. Worse case scenario, you have a beautiful new tree in your yard.

I hope it has been as beautiful where you are as it is up here. Stay tuned to hear more about the new studio space and all the things that we will be offering there.

 

Until next week

 

  • The Green Mountain Mage

Clearing Space With Herbs

Using the smoke of cleansing herbs has long been in my practice. Physically, the smell helps bring me into the mental space I need to be to do spiritual work. Smell has strong links to memory, as the information from smells go from the thalamus to the hippocampus and amygdala, key brain regions involved in learning and memory. It’s certainly a fascinating, underappreciated sense! The herbs also interact with the vibes of the area. Most plants used in clearing work have a fiery nature.

I was recently reading the work of author Josephine McCarthy who suggested that there is a connection with these cleansing herbs and the area that they grow. She mentions that she doesn’t have a lot of luck with white sage (Salvia apiana), an herb commonly used in energetic clearing, because she lives in England. White sage is endemic to the warmer, drier areas of the states and has a long history being used by various Native tribes in ceremony. She prefers using frankincense, which does not grow on the British Isles, but has a long history there via the Church.

I’ve read articles about people calling out the overuse of white sage in cleansing as disrespectful and culturally appropriative. I believe it to be situational. It would be cultural appropriation if used in a quasi Native American ceremonial way without correct context, cultural connection, and cultural permission. Used as an herbal agent that works in a certain way seems to me to be working with the land. As a white man in an area that white sage does not grow, you can take my thoughts on that as you’d like.

In my practice, I’m fond of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens). It’s wood from a tree that grows in South America. The name means “holy stick” and I am sadly unaware of its history beyond that. It’s commonly used in energetic clearing, and has a pleasant smell. It does the work, and does not offend the noses of those who dislike the smell of white sage.

Following the idea that plants that have a connection (historical or ecological) to the area you are cleansing are more effective, I wanted to mention some plants that I’ve used in this work that you can grow or harvest in northern Vermont. I will be using some of these in my work in the future, but not all the time. As they carry some of the skunkier notes that make people dislike white sage, they may not be for everyone.

Cedar

A twig of the cedar tree up the road from me

A twig of the cedar tree up the road from me

The type of cedar that grows around here is white cedar (Thuja occidentalis). It has a very fiery nature, its astrology being Jupiter in Sagittarius. They are commonly found in graveyards due to a symbolism of eternal life. Interestingly, cedars seem to have a history in different cultures in dealing with death and purification. It might have something to the compound called thujone in it, which acts as an insect repellent, a wormer, and a mild neurotoxin (not one to repeatedly take internally in large doses, especially in essential oil form). That also protects the wood from rotting quickly. Our bodies deal with it just fine in small amounts, which is why it’s perfect for a cleansing smoke. It smells great, and has been used in conjunction with white sage for a very long time.

Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina)

Taken from Wikipedia

Taken from Wikipedia

This was a plant introduced to me last year. While it does have a sweet scent, it is not an actual fern. It is a deciduous bush that has history of being used as a medicinal plant. I have yet to personally explore that aspect of the plant, but the claims range from an expectorant, to treating ringworm, to covering a host of other ailments. What I do know about it is that a teacher suggested using it to clear space. She felt that it worked better than white sage. I don’t know if part of it is its connection to the land, but that is part of my theory. There is one drawback… when burnt, it really smells like pot. If you’re using it in a situation where that doesn’t matter, it’s great. It’s probably not appropriate for a lot of client situations, though. Depends on the space and the client, I guess. That being said, it works very well. I use it in a mix when I’m doing ceremony for myself.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Also taken from Wikipedia

Also taken from Wikipedia

This herb can be found growing beside roads pretty much everywhere up here. It also has a rich and varied history in the magic and medicine of China, Japan, Korea, medieval Europe, and beyond. Plants in the Artemisia family seem to have that in general. Its astrology is Venus in Cancer, and it is another fiery plant. It is used medicinally for menstrual and digestive issues. Magically, it has a history of use in works of protection and awakening psychic powers. I like to make a tea out of it with lemon balm before I work with clients to help me with compassionate insight. As a tea, it is also used to encourage dreaming. Chinese medicine has long used burning mugwort in a process called moxibustion, where a stick of mugwort is burnt over certain pressure points to restore proper flow. Burnt in a ceremonial sense, it can clear a space and open your third eye a little. My husband uses it to clear his space for readings. This one also has a pot-like smell, but not as strong as sweet fern.

Common Sage (Salvia officinalis)

It's still dead out there. I have to keep using pictures from Wikipedia.

It's still dead out there. I have to keep using pictures from Wikipedia.

Yes! You can totally use culinary sage! I had a teacher who said that it worked way better for her than white sage (again, that possible connection between the plant and where you use it). It has a lot of history in medicine and food. Yet another fiery herb, its astrology is Jupiter in Taurus. I have yet to try out home grown sage in this work. I live right at the edge of where you can grow sage, so I haven’t tried until last year. I’m still waiting to see if the plant made it through the winter. If not, I have to try and create a better microclimate for it. I will get it, someday.

So, there you have it. Four herbs to try out in cleansing space that you can forage or grow up here. Feel free to comment here on the website, or on the Facebook page as to whether you’ve worked with any of these. I’d love to hear about your experience.

Until next week

-The Green Mountain Mage

Offerings

I had a request to talk about offerings to spirits! So, let’s tackle that.

When one does work with other beings, it’s always a good idea to have some sort of exchange, or an offering of good will. When I hike, I like to make three offerings. One at the base of the trail, asking for a safe hike, one at the top of the mountain as a way to honor how majestic it is, and one at the end to thank the mountain for the safe trip. It’s certainly not a necessity. Most people just hike and they’re just fine. I think it’s more polite to offer to the mountain or trail, as well as it sets the mood for the hike. I’m not there just for a walk that I can do anywhere. It’s a pilgrimage, and the mountains are living beings to me.

When doing ceremony, offerings are an important part. Ceremony is usually to honor, or to ask help in something. If you go into that expecting that you deserve help for nothing, or just your presence is honoring enough, is a little short sighted. Offerings give us perspective in our place of things, that we are not the top dog that the universe bows down to. Instead, it creates a give and take.

In short, it begins a relationship.

I believe it’s an important part in communicating with things that aren’t necessarily considered as communicative… or, such as in the case of the mountain, alive. When I began to work with the drum, I was reminded to make an offering to the drum, to warm the drum to me. In the work that I do, everything is assumed to have some sort of spark of consciousness. How we interact with that spark of consciousness can change the way we act in the physical world.

When it comes to what you offer, I find that intuition can play a large part in it, as well as tradition. I usually stick to herbal offerings, but some people use coins, hair, or whatever their specific tradition calls for. We all know about the idea of animal sacrifice, something that has played a role in a lot of cultures. While definitely not something that is considered in our continent, it still does have a place in other parts of the world, where the animal is ritually done in, then eaten usually by the community. If you are a meat eater, and this idea rubs you the wrong way, you might want to take a moment and reflect on the non-sacred killing of animals that happen so that you may have a burger. There’s a lot of weight on that subject, though, and further discussion would take a blog or two on it’s own. I’ll say that I don’t have any animals I’m raising for meat right now, and blood seems to me to be a little too dark to offer to spirits I work with.

The offering I do often use is tobacco. It runs on the idea that tobacco has had its place as a sacred herb to indigenous folk, and the land recognizes it as something that is a sacred gift. People use cornmeal and sage for similar reasons. The intuition comes in when you add herbs to the mix. I had a surplus of Sweet Annie Herb a year back, and it felt right to add that to my offering mix. It had a pleasant smell, and it was something that I grew.

Another offering that I like is one of music, or spoken word. Even singing to a mountain, as silly as it might sound, can be a magical experience. It adds extra vulnerability, and one that I love to mix with an herbal offering.

There is also specific offerings to the spirits, plants, or land formations that you are working with. I was taught that it is traditionally proper to offer white flowers to water spirits. There are great cleansing herbs, like cedar, that are appropriate to offer to a fire. If I’m headed to a specific place to make an offering, I keep what I’m working with in mind, and try to feel out what that space would like. That can begin the conversation, and I like to think that the land appreciates that extra effort.

And that’s all I really have to say about offerings. I’m going to head out an enjoy the beautiful sun that’s poking through the clouds outside, maybe make a little offering to the spring that supplies our house’s water.

Cultivating gratitude for the sun and running water

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Fire Cider

I have a favorite immune support concoction that I love to start my morning with when I have it on hand, especially during the winter. I always seem to have a hard time setting aside time to actually making it, though, which is a shame. It’s a recipe called “Fire Cider.” The well-known Herbalist and Author Rosemary Gladstar came up with it in the 70s (though recipes like it may have been around before that) and she has been perfecting it ever since. There is an interesting legal battle concerning the name “Fire Cider” that’s been waging for a few years now. I urge you to look into it, as it highlights some interesting quirks of herbal work and copyright, but it’s not the focus of my post today. Instead, I want to talk about the product itself, how to make it, and where it plays a part in magic.

The recipe for Fire Cider calls for an apple cider vinegar, preferably unpasteurized. The herbal ingredients are:

  • ½ cup of chopped horseradish root

  • ½ cup chopped onion

  • ¼ cup chopped garlic cloves

  • ¼ cup grated ginger

  • Chopped fresh or powdered cayenne pepper to taste

  • Chopped fresh or powdered turmeric (an addition of mine that usually matches the amount of cayenne I put in, if it’s powdered. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on fresh turmeric, maybe an ⅛ of a cup?)

 

You may notice that these herbs are all food. That being said, the amounts of this recipe can be tweaked to taste or availability. Take these herbs, mix them together in a mason jar, cover them with the apple cider vinegar, gently warmed, but not hot. Put the cover on, and shake it once a day. Usually it’s suggested to do this for a month, but if you’re feeling like working a little extra magic into it, you can do it for a moon cycle.

When you’re ready, strain out the fire cider with a cheesecloth, add honey to taste (or not, if you don’t want or need the sweetness). Take a shot a day, or more if you’re worried about getting sick. This recipe leaves a lot of room to change things around. Some people add orange peel for the taste (and maybe some Vitamin C), or Cinnamon for its taste and medicinal properties. The important parts are the apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic, horseradish, and ginger. The cayenne is highly advisable, but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker.

The herbs in this concoction are generally warming, and are great at taking out a lot of different sicknesses before they settle in. If you take it before your coffee, its zing and heat will wake you right up. It’s also great for your circulation, and you’ll have the immune system of a champ with it.

While looking at the jar of Fire Cider sitting on our kitchen counter recently, I began to wonder what the magical properties of the herbs I’m extracting via vinegar are. That has to have some effect on the imbibing individual, doesn’t it?

These herbs actually have a lot in common in the more esoteric senses. As garlic and onion are related, this makes sense. They both have connections to Mars, and are used as protection against hostile magic and malevolent spirits. I think that magic and physical response are two sides of the same coin, and this makes sense. As these herbs dispel illness, they also dispel bad vibes. They are protectors that also have a connection to martial matters and male sexuality. With their history as ways to support heart and circulatory health, it would make sense that they are also connected to these things.

Ginger also has connections to Mars (a Mars in Aries astrology, just like garlic). It is used in magic concerning protection and sexuality. Could this be another connection to its use as an herb of the circulatory system?

Horseradish is also connected to Mars, and used for purification and protection. It’s medicinal uses are many. When grinding it, sometimes I have to use goggles it makes my eyes burn. It is well deserving of its fiery reputation.

I actually couldn’t find anything on the esoteric uses of cayenne, but I’m sure they’re out there. It’s certainly a fiery herb, and great medicinally for getting things moving, circulation, and kicking out illnesses. It also has a good amount of Vitamin C.

Turmeric has a history in magic as an herb of protection. Medicinally, it has some great anti-inflammatory actions that are a fine addition to the Fire Cider. I also like the taste, it fights blood clots (like a lot of the other herbs in this recipe), and there is interesting research on it helping the body fight cancer.

Vinegar itself has often been used in magical practice. I have a few herbal vinegar extracts that are waiting to be finished and mixed together to make a home cleansing vinegar wash. Vinegar itself has protective and cleansing qualities. It’s used in exorcism and banishment. I’ve even read that some people put out a bowl of vinegar in energetic troubled areas to make it difficult for negative energies to take shape. It is also classified under something that has a fiery energy.

Fire Cider has more fire in it than just in taste. All of these ingredients seem to have some use in protection and banishment, which is essentially what an herbalist is trying to do to winter illnesses with this concoction. Not only will it keep you physically healthy, it might also do the same thing for you energetically. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’m going to strain out the batch in my kitchen and take a shot. Yeah, it’s early afternoon, but it’s sounding like a good idea to me to get a shot in.

 

Happy experimentation!

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Blessings of Rowan

My arms were a little sore from some water therapy that Sandy, a teacher of mine, was having her apprentices try out that day. Apparently, holding someone up in a pool intermittently for an hour while trying to connect to water spirits is a great workout. I shook my arms out as I headed up the hill to meet with the other apprentices under the Rowan tree by the roadside. Our next task was to connect with the tree.

Rowan has a LOT of history and mythology. European cultures seemed to love it! It was a tree that saved the Norse god of thunder, Thor, from an untimely demise. It was reputed to dispel evil witchcraft. It has been said that it was the wood best used when carving runes. It has a creation story in Greek mythology, reputed to grow from the blood of an eagle battling demons. Scottish tradition did not allow Rowans to be cut for anything other than ritual purpose. It was used in magical fires, walking sticks, wands, and shields.

Perhaps it was its indomitable nature that caught their attention. There are Rowan relatives strewn across the globe. We even have a few growing here in the States. Perhaps it was the wine and jelly made from the berries (I hear they are delicious, but they need to be cooked before eaten). Perhaps it was the strong energy of the tree, which I have had the pleasure of recently being introduced to.

As we sat under the Rowan (or, as it’s called around here, American Mountain Ash), we talked about the protective nature of the tree, and it’s place in the Celtic Ogham. Oghams are an ancient Celtic alphabet that has risen to the place of a magical tool and system, much like the Runes. Each of the 20-25 Oghams (depends on the set you use) has a tree associated with them. The second Ogham, Luis, represents the Rowan tree, and its protective and magical nature.

At first, as we crowded around this tree, I didn’t get much besides how much the tree liked another one of the apprentices. Sandy asked us to sit with a Rowan, or a piece of one during the coming New Moon. Okay, I think. So, during the time of the New Moon, I grab a branch of the Rowan.

I was expecting to sit with it that night, but the Rowan decided to get my attention on the drive back, as its branch lay there on my lap. It seemed to ask me “So, how about all those insecurities.”

Well, I thought, that’s an interesting ice breaker.

As I followed this sudden, rather personal interaction with the spirit of this tree, she began to show me how her energies were that of creating a sort of safe space within oneself. She felt strong and safe as we explored different fears that I have that hold me back. Grow into your own path, she seemed to say, don’t worry about feeling competitive with anyone else’s.

I have a lot of these insecurities, but I’m excited that I’ve connected to the energy of this plant. I think that this is going to be a tree that I work with for a while. It’s a power that I am going to call on in my work to help me acknowledge where I am, and to help create a stronger inner world. An interesting exploration, to be sure.

And on that shorter than usual note, I leave you all to your Fridays. I hope you get a chance to get out. Maybe connect to the world out there. It’s a wild place.

 

Until next week…

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Consciousness and magic

As some of you may have read, I am a Reiki practitioner. In Reiki work (and, later, in some of the Shamanic work I’m learning), I worked with being a channel for a specific type of healing energy. I learned to feel different energetic points on clients’ bodies, and try to suss out emotional and physical issues from what I would feel.

This is a difficult thing for me to talk about. I understand that many people are skeptical of what I do. I understand. I, in fact, encourage skepticism. Just taking someone at their word can be dangerous. Skepticism doesn’t change the fact that I can feel something when I’m working on someone. And it seems that I am not alone. There are quite a few cultures with words for some sort of life force or energy, such as chi or prana. I use energy, though that can be confusing as it isn’t synonymous with kinetic or thermodynamic energy, but it’s the best I seem to have in English. So, I run with it.

This is where magic acts. The only way we seem to be able to interact with this energy is through consciousness. There’s been a lot of talk about how our consciousness interacts with the outer world, and it seems to get messy quick. Our consciousness creates the constructs through which we understand reality, after all. I’d like to point out that I didn’t say that our consciousness creates reality. There’s a lot we are not easily conscious of that still affects our reality. Our mind creates ways to interact with the world around us, though. Our eyes receive light. Our ears receive sounds. Our nose receive smells. There’s a part of us that can pick up energy and how it feels.

It seems to make sense, as matter is all just vibration. I read an interesting piece from the New York Times about how nothing is truly alive. It cites how life is a useful label, but in the end just a delineation to better understand phenomenon occurring about us. Many mystics would argue that the opposite is true, that we live, not in a dead universe, but a live one. It has been suggested that all matter has a level of consciousness, all part of a super consciousness. It’s a theory that would erase the difficult line of what’s alive and not, while suggesting that there is something more to everything, that there is some sort of order inherent in all matter of the universe.

I would argue that this is how parts of magic work. Everything being a certain vibration of the bigger thing, a gesture of the infinite, carries with it an energetic correlation with bigger astral cycles. When I mention Angelica is a solar herb, I’m putting its energetic vibration (astral wavelength, magical juju… whatever you want to call it) in an organizational bracket with the energetic vibration of the sun. Put that onto your person, mixing with your astral self, leads to certain interactions. In Angelica’s case, it’s an herb of consecration, blessing, and protection. Its vibes interact with your consciousness to create a certain effect within the realms of your mind and energy.

Ritual is a way to direct these energies. Using triggers for your mind to interact with your subconscious, you can move these astral powers in a way that will interact largely with other conscious beings. When I do a ceremony to bless items, that further reinforces the purpose I’m trying to use that item for in said item. My consciousness, and the consciousness of the spirits that I am working with (if you believe in that sort of thing) interact with the consciousness of the item I am blessing. Whether that item is indeed on some level conscious, or the only place its consciousness exists is in my mind and, later, whoever ends up with the blessed item is up for discussion.

And that is a little bit of magic theory, as I see it. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions.

Thank you for reading.

Until next week….

-The Green Mountain Mage

A Vernal Interlude

I started this morning mulling over how I was to go about continuing this blog’s discussion between bites of breakfast. I barraged my husband with all of the thoughts in my head, the articles that I would reference, the theories that I had. He looked me squarely in the eyes, and said “Sounds like you have a lot you have to sort through. Why don’t you talk about Spring instead?” as he gestured out the window to the apple trees filled with blossoms.

And he was right. Don’t tell him. It’ll go straight to his head.

Magic theory can wait until next week. Right now, Northern Vermont is going through the later stages of Spring. I always think of Spring and Fall the way that I think of Dawn and Dusk. They are this magical in between time. Not quite winter, yet not quite summer. Spring is especially dear to my heart. This time of awakening, when we are shaking the shackles of the dark Winter. And what a long winter we have up here!

I feel that awakening as I ready the garden for the growing season. I’m out there, planting seeds and weeding remaining weeds from last year. Everything seems to be unfurling at once, leaf, herb, and flowers. Flowers like my apple blossoms.

While the most obvious usable product of the apple tree would be the apples, there are many other uses for the savvy herbalist and mage. One of the parts that are usable is the apple blossom. I bring this up because one of the ways that I intend to capture a bit of Spring is to make a flower essence of apple blossoms.

You may have heard of Bach’s Rescue Remedy. It’s sold at health stores around the country, marketed for stress relief. Rescue Remedy is also a flower essence mix. Did I mention flower essences are, essentially, magic?

Flower essences are liquids imprinted with the vibrational qualities of certain flowers crafted for specific interactions with the subtle body of the person taking the essence. Not only is it used by people, I know pet owners and even an animal shelter that swear that Rescue Remedy helps calm anxious and nervous pets. The people who use it on their pets usually assume that it’s some sort of herbal extraction, not a mentrum filled with the vibrations of a certain flower to effect the aura of whomever takes the essence. Yet, they will rely on it with moderately good results. One could attribute the effects of Flower Essences on people to the Placebo Effect (*ahem*), but what of pets who don’t know that their water has a few squirts of vibrational medicine? An interesting question, indeed…

But now I’m getting dangerously close to next week’s continuation on the discussion on magic.

So, I plan on harvesting these blossoms, carefully cutting them off the branch without touching them. Dr. Edward Bach, the person who came up with this process in the 1930’s, was very specific in his instructions as to have as little human energetic contamination in the process. He wanted the magic to be all flowers, sunlight, spring water, and brandy.

To make the flower essence, the flowers will sit in a glass bowl filled with spring water all morning on a sunny day. The flowers wilt and are strained. Add brandy as a preservative, and you have apple blossom flower essence.

When Dr. Bach first outlined his ideas on flower essences, he mentioned 38 flower essences and how they affect the energetic body. Apple blossom was not mentioned. When I first learned to make these essences, my herbal teacher had me sit with some flowers in her garden and listen for their energetic gift before making medicine from their flowers. This is how we suss out the use of flowers unmentioned in Bach’s list. I have a notion that making a flower essence of Apple Blossom will be a great way to capture some of the energies of the in between time that we are experiencing. When I feel a need for emotional clarity in new processes, or feel the need for a sort of awakening and unfurling, I’ll have that Apple Blossom Flower Essence waiting for me there. I won’t know for sure, though, until I have a sit with my apple trees before making the medicine.

I invite you, the reader, to honor Spring with me. Life is waking up and readying itself for the warm months and the extended hours of sunlight. Why not do the same? Make a flower essence. Plant something. Sit and watch the buds of trees unfurl.

Magic is happening all around you. How do you celebrate?

 

Loving this magical in between time

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Amulet Making: 101

This Monday, I plan on having my Protection and Prosperity Amulets up on the website, ready to go. It’s been a long time coming. Creating amulets is actually what really pushed me to creating Green Mountain Mage.

When I refer to amulets, I realize that some may not know what I’m talking about. The amulets that I make are meant to bring about a change in the wearer through a variety of means. Metaphor. A physical reminder to your brain to correct your actions to bring about a desired effect. A focus point. An object infused with a certain type of etheric energy to help guide the wearer’s etheric energy in a desired direction.

As for the amulets for the store, I’ve almost finished making my first batch. Actually, the bags themselves have been ready for a while. The materials were chosen. The runes hand embroidered into the front, my mind focused on stitching in the energies and purpose of the amulet to be. The prayer braid created for a drawstring, woven together with more concentration on the purpose and energy I’m trying to create. The herbs and stones picked out and ready to be put into the bag.

Then, the blessing part itself. I bless the space I’m working in, call to the corners, to the elemental energies. Call to the heart of the planet. Call to the Solar powers. Call to the Creator. Focus that all into the amulets I’m working on. Voila! Ready to go!

I’ve always enjoyed making things like this. The creation of an object with the intention of directing the more subtle universe around it puts me into a meditative state. It’s a little selfish, in that I find it relaxing for me, a great way to connect to the energies I’m making manifest. It’s a ritual of its own.

Each herb I work with has a planetary and zodiac correspondence that I keep in mind when formulating an amulet (or powder or incense, for that matter). Mix that with traditional uses, and the general feel of the plant, I can usually come up with a group of herbs and objects that work well together towards the intended point. Not that I’m adverse to using tried and true formulas. I can usually mine something good from one of the books that I cite at the end of this entry. Eventually, though, it comes to a Mage’s tastes, as well as what plants he or she works better with in general.

Let’s take my Protection amulet as an example. I start with old fire blankets my friends and I have used as safety when fire spinning (for those of you who don’t know about one of my favorite pastimes, click HERE to find out about my fire troupe). Red is a powerful color, and, having been used to keep my friends and I safe in its previous life, it already has meaning a a force of protection.

I then take orange embroidery thread, and start stitching in the shape of the protection rune Algiz. The orange furthers the solar/fiery color scheme. As I embroider, with every stitch, I visualize an energy of protection flowing through me, through the needle, and getting caught in the thread. Perhaps use a protection mantra to help with focus. Same for when I sew the bag together and hem the top. Same for when I braid the drawstring. This is what I refer to when I say that I’m doing something “with intention.” I’m using my actions as a focus for whatever “vibe” I’m trying to work with.

Now for the filling of the amulet bag. I start with a nail. Preferably iron, if I can get it. If not, it’s okay. I bend it into a circle. Drop it into the bag. Take a small piece of paper. Jot down a few more protective sigils. Fold it up, and put it in the circle of the nail.

Now the herbs and salt. I don’t always use salt for amulets, just (so far) the Protection Amulet. Salt has quite the historical use is protection and banishment magic, and I felt that the Protection Amulet would be remiss without it. Its use still echoes in the superstitious act of throwing salt over your shoulder when you spill some. Being Sea Salt, it also has earthy and watery qualities, desired aspects to balance out all the fire qualities of the herbs. Salt will also absorb etheric qualities of mixed herbs, which bring us to the three herbs of the amulet.

The number of herbs isn’t random. Three is a magical number. So, most of the amulets I make have a triad of herbs. The nail, the salt, and the herbs also make a triad, as well as the three sigils inside.

First is Angelica. It’s astrological correspondences are the Sun in Leo. That alone is very fiery, protective, and cleansing. In Christian lore, it has a connection to Archangel Michael (hence the name of the plant), and was used for dispelling all sorts of bad juju.

Then there’s St. John’s Wort. Another plant with its place in Christian mythology, and its astrological correspondences being the Sun in Leo, with its place in history as a medicinal herb also used for protection and cleansing.

Finally, to both empower and support the general energy of the amulet, as well as balance all that fire with its Venus in Gemini, I add Vervain. Vervain has a more pagan reputation, being connected to the Ancient Druids. It also has a history of being used for protection (amongst a host of other things).

Mix it all together in ceremony, bless it, and we get a Green Mountain Mage Protection Amulet.

Now, you may be asking what this is meant to protect one from, exactly, and how it does this. That is a great segue into my next post, where I will tackle the daunting project of defining my understanding of magic.

 

Until next week

 

- The Green Mountain Mage

 

Ps- If the subject of amulet making interests you, allow me to suggest three books. They are what I have drawn a lot of my information and inspiration from.

 

“Natural Magic” by John Michael Greer

 

“The Master Book of Herbalism” by Paul Beyerl


“The Complete Book of Incense, Oils, and Brews” by Scott Cunningham