Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Celebrating Samhain!

Our current newsletter:

Celebrating Samhain!

Welcome to our seasonal newsletter! 

The northeast is decidedly breathing a sigh of relief that another massive storm did not visit our region yet again this year at the end of October.  In the weeks before October 29, we wanted to support the elemental realms - including the trees and shrubs - so at the suggestion of Ilona Hress of Growing Consciousness, we created a stone medicine wheel outside one of the gardens to lend an air of calm.  At the request of the crystal realm, we included tree agates at the cardinal points of the four directions, and placed a heart-shaped agate at the center.  When we remember that we are all connected, and that what effects one aspect of nature impacts the whole fabric of our collective Oneness, we begin to see and understand our interrelatedness with new eyes.

In this issue, we re-introduce the earth holiday of Samhain:

Autumn has arrived, and with it comes the advent of Samhain, a Gaelic holiday celebrated by Pagans and Wiccans, which is the year's third and final harvest festival. Unfamiliar with Samhain?  Brush up with these common facts:

1.  Samhain is celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1, halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
2.  Samhain is pronounced "sah-win" or "sow-in."
3.  It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals along with Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh.
4.  Rituals surrounding Samhain include bonfires, healing, dancing, thanksgiving, and honoring of the dead.
5.  It's considered a liminal time, when the veil between life and death grows thin. Food is set aside for ancestors and protective spirits, and rituals honoring the dead take place.
6.  Some celebrate Samhain with a ritual to guide the dead home by opening a western-facing door or window and placing a candle by the opening.
7.  Samhain is one of the original festivals behind the holiday we know as Halloween.
8.  Some of Halloween's most common traditions are rooted in Samhain's harvest festival roots, such as the carving of pumpkins and bobbing for apples. Later on, people began dressing up as these creatures and claiming the goodies for themselves, sometimes performing antics or tricks in exchange for food and drink. This practice evolved into trick-or-treating.
9.  As it was believed that faeries, witches, and demons roamed the earth on Samhain, food and drink were customarily set out to placate them.
10.  According to Kelley Harrell, author of
Gift of the Dreamtime, some modern Pagans consider it the "witch's new year," though other traditions simply recognize Samhain as the end of the (Celtic) year.

However you choose to celebrate this holiday remember to be gentle with the earth and mindful of her limited resources.

Green Blessings!
Donna at Willow Moon Herbals

In this issue:

Celebrating Samhain!

Imbolc/CandlemasIn addition to the Samhain basics listed above, in the agricultural cycles, this festival or time of year was the time when people gave a long hard look at what they had to last them through theh ocld days of winter.  They would slaughter and salt down any animals that they felt either wouldn't make it through the winter or which they couldn't afford to suort on the stocks from the harvest.  So Samhain was a major feast and often the last time some fresh foods, especially meat, would be eaten until new life started again in spring.

The themes of this festival are:  the end of the old year, and the start of the new; ;a ime when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest and spirits can roam; a time of remembering those who have gone before by setting a lace for them at our feast; a time of looking forward and trying to see what will come.

In traditional earth-based lore, the Goddess takes on her robes of Crone and the God becomes the Hunter who will lead the Wild Hunt throughout the Winter.

As Samhain has become more commercial through its modern counterpart of Halloween, we find newer ideas which also give us themes for the festival:  jack o'lanterns - which were traditionally carved from turnips - are now carved from pumpkins, and food is prepared to mimic all things ghoulish, ghostly or just plain scary.  The old colors of this festival were dark red, purple and black for the Crone and dark green and black for the Hunter, to which the orange of autumn and pumpkins has been added more recently.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Learn about Elder!

As we head into the Fall and Winter months with colds, flu and viruses lurking about, take some time and get acquainted with Elder.  She is a powerful ally, and a worthy adversary to almost anything the fall and winter months can dish out.

Description:  Elder is a shrub to small tree with masses of creamy–yellow,
umbrella-shaped, flowering parts and dark purple edible berries. Elder is considered a magical and holy tree by various cultures of western and northern Europe. She is truly ancient, and vestiges of her existence have been found at Stone Age sites. Celtic lore regards elder as the tree of regeneration, representing “death in life and life in death.” She is considered the tree of transformation, guardian of the thirteenth month of the Celtic tree calendar, which contains the end of the year, Samhain (Halloween) and the beginning of the New Year (All Soul’s Day).

There is so very much more to be said of Elder than space permits, and it would behoove anyone interested to learn more about her magical and healing properties through humble respect and gentle openness to develop a working relationship with her.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Tree Spirit Medicine... my 'book' in progress

As many of you may know, trees are one of my greatest passions.  So, back in 2006 when I was studying with David Winston in his 2-year Herbal Studies Program, we had to complete a medicinal botanical-related project - one for each year.  Of course I chose to do mine about my tree friends:  their medicine, their contributions to humanity, their mystery, magick and use in traditional ceremony and ritual, etc.  I dove into my research with wild abandon, gathering as much information as I could.  I used books of course, and I also used my connection with the trees to help guide me about what information they wanted to share.

As the months rolled on, I found that I could not limit my project-turned-'book' to just one year, so I was approved to expand it into a two-year project.  I had so much fun with my botanical buddies, that I finally realized that I would have to force my Self to stop writing so that I could turn it in!  With that said, I would like to quote from the Epilogue:

"First and foremost:  My love and gratitude to all the trees who unselfishly lent their physical and spiritual support to my discussion ~ and especially to those trees who graciously stepped back and agreed to wait for volume II ~ or a book ~ whichever comes next. 

Secondly, it is my hope that you have enjoyed reading this paper as much as I have enjoyed writing it.  Some of the lighthearted comments contained within are mine, and some reflect the humor and good-natured-ness of the tree spirit I was working with ~ whether sitting together with them or researching in books ~ their chatter, input and friendship was unwavering. 

I hope that I have conveyed some of my passion and appreciation for these silent, giving beings:  from oxygen to food to shelter to shade…  …and still they keep giving.  Even though the majority of humanity has been so destructive with them, they still choose to be among us, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn…  ...to listen……and, when they decide, …sometimes even to speak for them."

In wanting to share an excerpt, it seemed only fitting to start with the chapter on Willows.  I hope it brings new understanding and helps strengthen your relationships with the trees in your yards and neighborhoods.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lessons Learned the Hard Way...

In addition to the various flu permutations, there is a nasty upper respiratory illness going around this winter.  Many friends and family members have experienced it over the holidays in November and December.  Luckily, I’ve kept the flu at bay AND missed all the sinus hoopla with my regular herbal regimen keeping me healthy through all the germ-sharing, cousin-kissing and close-proximity hugging events of the season.  Then we had a warm week at the end of January here in northwest NJ, and I let my usual herbal protocols slide…  big mistake!  That gave this sinus/upper respiratory ‘bug’ a chance to get stronger – so by the time it caught me in mid-February, it was not to be contained.  I first thought it was allergies because the cough started after two particularly blustery days – when all the wet leaves, mold and debris left from Super-storm Sandy was airborne again. 

Apparently, I was quite mistaken!  After seven days of medicinal botanicals, including herbal steams, essential oil steams, elderberry elixir, yin qiao formula, a proprietary medicinal mushroom/fu zheng formula, chuan xin lian formula, Vitamin D3 supplementation, onion honey, using a neti-pot, and even Dr. Gwen Scott’s ‘vinegar-cayenne-lemon-garlic-star anise’ tea – I went to the Dr because the coughing was just too forceful having broken a blood vessel in my eye and my ribs / intercostal muscles were just too painful to touch.  A 5-day round of Zythromax, bolstered with the above listed herbal regimen finally knocked out the sinus condition and reduced the post-nasal drip to tolerable levels.  I haven’t been this sick since November 2010, and hadn't needed a Dr. for winter-related ills since 2006.  A lingering cough still taunts me, and I am told it could last for several more weeks.

Why mention all this?  Because – as the Universe would have it – I missed the “Master Tonic Party” with one of my herbal FB groups back in December, and now fresh from experiencing the worst sinus condition in many, many years, I just created my Master Tonic today, on the New Moon, and it will steep until the Full Moon on March 27.  

And I wanted to share this with all of you so that you don’t get this sick either.  Ever!

So what is a “Master Tonic”?   

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Help our Trees as nor'easter Nemo visits NJ!

There is another  winter storm heading our way:  Watch out for Nemo!  They are calling for 6"-8"+ in northwest NJ with dangerous sustained wind gusts.  Dr. Jim and Basia have tweaked the Storm Whispers that we used for previous storms, especially Superstorm Sandy last fall.  No matter where you are, you can send these Storm Whispers to our Tree friends in the storm's path.  Please help us to help them!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Celebrating Imbolc/Candlemas!

On February 1, Imbolc, also known as St. Brigid's day, is the first chilly harbinger of the season.   The Irish climate is more mild than ours, so for the ancient Celts, February 1 was their first day of spring.  Calling it "Imbolc" (from the words for 'ewe's milk' or 'in the belly', depending on your source) because pregnant sheep and cowsImbolc/Candlemas began to lactate at this time.  In the US, our Groundhog Day (Feb 2) celebrations with the anticipation of spring is a leftover from the Celtic belief that magical animals come out of hibernation at this time.

Even in the cold northeast,  Imbolc begins to show the early signs of approaching spring:  the daylight is noticeably longer and there is a new, vibrant energy in
the air.  Have you noticed that more birds are singing in the early morning?  And even a few hardy plants sometimes begin to show their first shoots.  However, most of the activity is still underground.  Imbolc celebrates the strengthening sun and also the waking of seeds that are beginning to stir in their cold winter beds.  

Green Blessings!  -Donna

Celebrating Imbolc!  
Imbolc/CandlemasIn addition to the celebrations and definitions I mentioned above, Imbolc is also devoted to Brigid, a fiery, independent ancient Celtic goddess of poetry, smithcraft and healing.  Brigid is all about the transformative power of fire, which we need right now as an antidote or balm for the drudgery of endless gray days, seemingly endless cold, ice and dirty snow.  Fire's transformative power is also about fire in the forge/hearth, fire in the poet's mind, and of course, fire in the healer's hands.  The Celebration of Imbolc is the perfect time to reflect and write a poem, or to take the time to make a special craft (weaving of Brigid's Crosses out of wheat or rushes is traditional, as is candle-making) or to perform hands-on healing for someone you love!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jupiter and the Waxing Gibbous Moon

While not an herbal post, I wanted to bring everyone's attention to the gorgeous conjunction of Jupiter and the 76% waxing gibbous Moon!  I know it is cold outside - currently 24 degrees in NW New Jersey (Warren County) - so BUNDLE UP and head outside and look straight up! 

In case you don't head out, here is a photo that I snapped using my Olympus digital camera and a tripod to keep the camera steady.

The winter sky is so much clearer than the summer sky, so go on!  You know you want to get outside and see this glorious sight!