Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 2013 Events!

Goddess Fest is almost here in the Treasure Valley!  Don't forget to come say hello to the Oaks group at Julia Davis Park July 27-28!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Herbalism - Pansies

I mentioned the quote from Hamlet in my last herbalism post that Ophelia says shortly before her death, while giving out flowers:

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts." - Ophelia,Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5.

The other flower mentioned besides rosemary in that sentence is pansies.  I hadn't really heard much about the symbolism of pansies, but I think they're lovely, so I decided to do some research!

Pansies are a hybrid of several families of violas, and were bred and cultivated in the early nineteenth century.  That means that really Ophelia couldn't have possibly had modern pansies (and neither could Shakespeare), though that name was used to refer to violas as well.

This embroidery was done by a young Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) at age 11.  The initials, KP, were that of her stepmother Katherine Parr, for whom the gift was made.

Pansies go by many names.  I found this snippet from Wikipedia especially useful when looking for info on how to use the pansy in ritual or symbolism:

"The name “heart’s-ease” came from the woman St. Euphrasia, whose name in Greek signifies cheerfulness of mind. The woman, who refused marriage and took the veil, was considered a pattern of humility, hence the name “humble violet”.[ The specific colors of the flower – purple, yellow, and white – are meant to symbolize memories, loving thoughts and souvenirs, respectively."

There is also this explanation of where the name pansy comes from:

"The name 'pansy' is derived from the French word pensée meaning "thought", and was so named because the flower resembles a human face; in August it nods forward as if deep in thought." 

Here is an image by Grandville from 1846 of a personified pansy, deep in thought:

In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream the love potion used to create so much of the midsummer mayhem is made from pansy, here called by one of its other names, love-in-idleness (referring to the type of love where one wants to do nothing but be with one's beloved):

"Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound.
And maidens call it “love-in-idleness.”
Fetch me that flower. The herb I showed thee once.
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees." (Act II, Scene 1)

Another quote from wikipedia on symbolism says:

"In 1858, the writer James Shirley Hibberd wrote that the French custom of giving a bride a bouquet of pansies (thoughts) and marigolds (cares) symbolized the woes of domestic life rather than marital bliss."

And this little gem on pioneer custom:

"American pioneers thought that 'a handful of violets taken into the farmhouse in the spring ensured prosperity, and to neglect this ceremony brought harm to baby chicks and ducklings.' On account of its place in American hearts, a game called “Violet War” also arose. In this game, two players would intertwine the hooks where the pansy blossoms meet the stems, then attempt to pull the two flowers apart like wishbones. Whoever pulled off the most of their opponent’s violet heads was proclaimed the winner. Young American settlers also made pansy dolls by lining up the pansy flower 'faces', pasting on leaf skirts and twig arms to complete the figures"

Because of the association of thought, some people say pansies have an association with telepathy, and that holding a pansy to your ear will allow you to hear your love's thoughts/words.  The dual association with love and thought/remembrance leads some to extrapolate that pansies are good for easing the pain of a loved one who has passed away.  In the Victorian language of flowers, a man giving a pansy to his love meant "think of me."

The heart-shaped petals of the pansy also led to an association with healing a broken heart, part of the Doctrine of Signatures (the idea that plants shaped like a body part would help that body part).

One website mentions a type of divination with pansy petals:

"Pansies were fortune tellers for King Arthur's Knights of the Round table. Plucking a pansy petal, the knights would look for secret signs. If the petal had four lines, this meant hope. If the lines were thick and leaned toward the left, this meant a life of trouble. Lines leaning toward the right signified prosperity until the end. Seven lines meant constancy in love (and if the center streak were the longest, Sunday would be the wedding day). Eight streaks meant fickleness, nine meant a changing of heart, and eleven signified disappointment in love and an early grave. "

After Ophelia's death in Shakespeare's Hamlet, her father Laertes hopes pansies will grow on Ophelia's grave:

 “Lay her in the earth, and from her fair and unpolluted flesh may violet spring” (Act V, Scene 1)

As a final note, pansies and violets are edible, and have a delicate, sweet flavor.  Use the flowers in salads, or they can be sugared and used as decoration for cakes and desserts.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sounds of Paganism #2

Today for Sounds of Paganism I'd like to spotlight one of my very favorite Pagan musicians, Damh (pronouced dah-v) the Bard.  Damh has a wonderful newly designed website at http://www.paganmusic.co.uk/ with links to facebook, youtube, twitter, and google plus, along with some samples of his fantastic music.  Along with his musical performances, Damh gives talks and workshops around the world on various topics within Paganism.  He has an interesting blog, and sells CDs, a songbook of some of his music, and mp3s as well.  I don't know if Damh will ever make it to the Treasure Valley, but I would certainly love the chance to hear him live.

Damh also shares some poetry on his website.  I'd especially suggest his poem The Corn King.  If you're not familiar with the tale of the Corn King, also known as John Barleycorn, here is a good article.  It may seem far away now, but Lughnassadh, the day the Corn King is usually associated with, is right around the corner!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A new group in the area

Today I'm sharing an email interview I did with former council member and friend of the group, Paul.  Many of us have enjoyed Paul's meditation and energy work classes, and have met him at rituals over the past year and a half.   He is starting up a new group of his own, The Elementals, which will be a sort of sister group to Ancient Oaks.  

The basics - Who are you? - name, age (if you want to share), where are you from, etc.

My name is Paul Holsinger, I’m 34 years old, and I’m from a lot of different places.  I was born here in Boise and lived in Emmett, Idaho, The Philippines, and Okinawa Japan as a child.  I came back to the treasure valley when I was 19 and have been a resident here ever since.

Describe your path, how you got started with it, and how that impacted your decision to start The Elementals.

I grew up in an intensely Mormon family and left that path when I was 18 when I was finally forced to confront the problems that belief system was causing me.  I was drawn almost immediately to Witchcraft.  I found that its methods and openness were a much better fit for me and became initiated as a solitary practitioner.  I cast my first spell when I was 19 and have been fine tuning my craft ever since.

While I was in Okinawa, I began practicing martial arts and I have always been intrigued by eastern energy and health sciences.  Three and a half years ago I had a very intense experience while meditating with someone who had a unique and powerful energy.  This sparked my interest and I began to research energy cultivation methods.  In my studies, I eventually came across the science of internal alchemy in ancient Taoism.  I have since put these learnings into practice and have had some very interesting experiences.

I am also a 3rd degree Reiki instructor and I have been practicing energy healing arts almost as long as I have magickal arts.  I learned to read auras about the same time.  By nature I’m a fairly intuitive person, and I’m always looking for ways to refine these abilities and gain new skills.

What is the philosophy of your group?  What can members expect from it, what is its main focus, etc.

The group’s philosophy is centered around openness.   At its core we are magick practitioners, and energy workers.  Every spiritual path has these things in one form or another and there is a lot of value not just in finding the right fit for a path, but also in understanding the methods other paths use.  This involves finding common ground among diverse views and to do this we have to spend a bit less time on the religious side of various paths and more time understanding the philosophies and sciences underneath.

As a group we have two objectives: to share information regarding spiritual practices, and to get a chance to work with others in putting these practices into use.  To do this we are looking at having monthly presentations on various subjects ranging from working with ghosts to applying yin/yang theory to magick.  We are also going to have spell casting and energy healing workshops as well as more traditional classes such as a meditation class and hopefully more.  We are just now getting started so many of the details are still open for discussion and change.

In terms of what to expect, even I can’t answer that question just yet.  I intend on encouraging an open, ego free learning environment where people feel comfortable sharing their views and practicing with others.  I’m hoping we get to spend at least as much time doing things as we do talking about them.  Being an open group means you can’t really know quite what to expect though.  You just have to come and see.

How can people get more information and contact you or your group?

Go to http://www.meetup.com/The_Elementals/ and sign up.  It’s free.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me anytime at sauzin at gmail dot com.

Anything else you'd like to share with readers?

There are many solitary practitioners of one path or another in the valley.  Many people find that their own unique path doesn’t fit perfectly in a more structured religion or group.  Many of these people practice on their own, but find that with everyday stresses and complications it’s very easy to go months without practicing.  This group is for those kinds of people.  The kinds of people who’d rather make up their own minds then to just be told what to do.   The kinds of people who have a wide range of views, or maybe haven’t made up their minds and just want to stay open to possibilities.  This group is open to everyone with the intent of equality and acceptance while getting a chance to put ideas and practices to use. 

We are having an opening meeting around the first of June, please come by and share your ideas of what spiritual adventures you are interested in pursuing. 

Thank you and Blessed Be!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Two Free Ebooks!

Today I have two free ebooks to share with you.

The first is called From a Drop of Water, a collection by various authors on the element Water and its uses and symbolism.

The second is called Towards the Wiccan Circle, by Sortia D'Este.  It is a beginner's guide to Wiccan and Pagan paths.

As always, no kindle is needed to read, so grab them today while they're freebies!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Around the Web

Recently I discovered an amazing resource with tons of free content.  The website is called Pagan by Design.  It is a sort of online book of shadows and blog by Green Witch Polly Taskey.  This site really defies description and I know I could spend hours, or probably days, reading through it all.  Have you used this site's resources before?  Do you have favorite posts?  Check it out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Herbalism - Rosemary

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts." - Ophelia, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5.

Rosemary is one of the most well-loved and frequently-used herbs in the western world.  It is frequently used in cooking, herbal medicine, beauty regimes, and magic.  Rosemary is a woody perennial herb native to the Mediterranean region.  Its name comes from the latin words ros (dew) and marinus (sea), thus its literal name is "dew of the sea," possibly because it needs nothing other than the spray and dew from the ocean to live.  Its purple flowers are adored by bees, and its association with memory and the brain goes back many centuries.

According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite emerged from the sea draped in rosemary.  There is also a legend that the Virgin Mary draped her blue cloak over a white-blooming rosemary bush, turning its blossoms their current blue/purple color.

Rosemary is great for cooking.  One of my favorite uses in cooking is to cut up potatoes into bite size cubes or steak fries then toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, minced garlic, and chopped rosemary leaves.  I then spread them on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and bake for about half an hour at 350 degrees, turning once or twice.  Rosemary is high in antioxidants and has been shown to slow spoilage of omega-3 oils.  It is a wonderful flavoring for meats and can be used in grilling.

A popular cure for gout and paralysis as early as the 14th century was to steep fresh rosemary tips in brandy.  This was known as Hungary Water, named for the Hungarian Queen Elizabeth of Poland.

Rosemary has often been associated with memory, hence its traditional planting at the gates of cemeteries.  Studies have shown that the scent of rosemary in an office setting did help improve memory performance among employees.

Rosemary is a symbol of love and remembrance.  In the middle ages at weddings brides would wear a headpiece of rosemary, and the groom and guests would wear sprigs of it.  Couples would plant a rosemary branch on their wedding day, and if it took root it was said to be a sign of a long and happy marriage.  Rosemary has been used to divine potential lovers or attract new love.  It is said that rosemary under the pillow will repel nightmares.

Rosemary grows well from cuttings.  Simply cut a branch at a diagonal where it attaches to the main plant.  Strip off the lower leaves, dip the cut end in honey (which acts as a disinfectant) and place in a vase of water until roots begin to grow.  Make sure no leaves are below the water line, as they can attract mold and algae.

Rosemary is also known to promote hair growth.  One study showed that participants who massaged their scalps with rosemary oil daily for 7 months experienced significant regrowth of lost hair due to alopecia.  A massage with rosemary oil is also said to help joint and muscle pain.