Sunday, April 28, 2013

As Bealtaine Approaches

{altered royalty free photo}

I thought that I would do a quick post sharing some resources and ideas since Bealtaine is just a few days off.
A few years back I did a post on Bealtaine and May Day over at the nefaeria blog, going over some of the history and lore, as well as some recipes, prayers and other celebration ideas. The Tairis website has two fantastic pages with information on Bealtaine {part one, part two} as well as a webpage dedicated to ideas on traditional ways to observe the festival. As well, the Celtic Reconstructionist group Tuacondate shares their 2010 Bealtaine ritual on their website.
To get things started you could make a May bush and on the eve of Bealtaine decorate your home with green boughs and flowers. I have seen a few sources mention yellow flowers being a traditional choice, so you may decide to go with dandelions, woodbine/European honeysuckle, buttercups, cowslips or primroses. I also like to decorate with periwinkles, lady's mantle, daisies, sweet woodruff, ferns and other pretties that are further along this time of year. For bough cutting choices you may want to try hawthorn, rowan, ivy, elder {although some have historically thought that it was bad luck to bring elder into the home}, juniper, and blackberry. Some good possible substitutes for my particular region could be raspberry, Virginia creeper, forsythia, cedar, dogwood, chokecherry or crab apple.
Fire tends to be one of the first things people think of when it comes to Bealtaine, which is the focus of many different activities, including jumping over the bonfire, the ritual smothering and relighting of the hearth {with a communal flame}, and driving livestock between two bonfires for blessings and protection. Should you have the means, lighting a bonfire on Bealtaine Eve could be a great way to kick things off. I do not have a fireplace, so what I like to do is take my "hearth candle" and extinguish it and light a new one that I made for the upcoming year. If doing this idea in a group ritual setting, each person/household could have their own candle, which could be lit from the central one to represent the re-lighting with the communal flame.
Before sunrise on Bealtaine morning I will go out and collect dew and rainwater should there be any, to keep for various uses in the upcoming year. Later on I will usually also get the first "cream" from a friend's well for the same purpose.
If the weather is agreeable, I think that spending a good part of the day outdoors is a great way to celebrate. This time could be used to bless your garden, fields, livestock or to go out and collect rowan wood, as this was apparently the only time that it was proper to collect it to the Gaels.
For inside the house, it is a good time to sain/bless your home and hang rowan and red thread crosses. There are many different recipes appropriate for Bealtaine, and if you are feeling really adventurous, you could have a go at churning your own butter.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Winner of the Bealtaine Giveaway is...

Jill Snyder! I will be getting in touch with you to get a mailing address to send your package and an email to send you your cyber gift certificate. I can be reached via the contact section on this blog or emailed at unfetteredwood(at)yahoo(dot)ca.
Thank you to everyone who entered, and I hope that you all will participate in upcoming giveaways! I plan on having one for Lughnasadh and I tentative plans for one before then.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bealtaine Giveaway Now Closed

The Bealtaine giveaway is now closed. I will randomly draw a winner tonight and will post the results tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Nature Friendly" Offering Stones

Like quite a few other Pagans and magical practitioners, I have embraced and enjoyed the idea of making offering stones. However, I have seen some made with food colouring, sparkles and salt, ingredients which would be fine if left on an indoor altar, but probably not the best if you are leaving them outside.

The base recipe that I use is very simple and inspired by salt-free play dough:

2 cups organic unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup organic Scottish oats 
1/2 cup of water {I use river water that I collected from a place that is sacred to me}

Mix all the ingredients together until it has a smooth play dough texture. Add more water if necessary.

I then add dried botanicals to mine, depending on who they are meant for. Pictured are my staple offering stones to my Deities, Ancestors and Land Spirits. If you wanted to add colour, I suppose one could try to use plant dyes, although this is not something that I have done myself.

Then I leave them to air dry on a wire rack for two or three days. I make smaller batches that I use up quickly, so I am not sure how long of a “shelf life” they have. If this is a concern, I am sure that they could be kept in a freezer in an air tight container once they have fully dried.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lady's Mantle {Alchemilla vulgaris}


Photo from Jina Lee
Our Lady's Mantle ! When I musing stray
In leafy June along the mossy sward,
No flower that blooms more fixes my regard
Than thy green leaf, though simple its array;
For thou to me art as some minstrel's lay,
Depicting manners of the olden time,
When on Inch Cailliach's isle the convent chime
Summoned to Vespers at the close of day.
Tis pleasant 'mid the never-ending strife
Of this too busy, mammon-loving age,
When Nature's gentler charms so few engage,
To muse at leisure on the quiet life
Of earlier days, when every humble flower
Was known to all, and cherished as a dower.

~To Our Lady's Mantle from Sonnets and Miscellaneous Poems By James Inglis, 1853

Other Names: Common Lady's Mantle, Lion's Foot, Copan an Druichd, Bear's Foot, Falluing Mhuire,  Nine Hooks, Frauenmantle, Pied-de-lion.

Description: Lady's mantle is a lovely perennial that is a member of the rosaceae family. It can be found growing in the wild in England, Scotland, Canada, Greenland, and in much of Northern Europe and Asia.

It could be described as a demure plant, but as Ms Grieve said 'the rich form of its foliage and the beautiful shape of its clustering blossoms make it worthy of notice'.
From Wikimedia Commons
It is a low growing plant that doesn't grow to much more than 14 inches in height, and it has pretty yellowish-green flowers free of petals. It's prize feature is the wonderfully 'scalloped' leaves, which is said to resemble the Virgin Mary's cloak, from which it gets its name.

Warnings: As with all herbs, one should make sure to be thoroughly informed before ingesting them, and is best to do so under the guidance of a qualified healer.

Lady's mantle has reportedly been linked with liver damage in some cases, and many herbalists warn to women notify their health practitioner if they are pregnant or breastfeeding before ingesting the herb.

Cultivating: The natural habitat of lady's mantle is quite vast from meadows, sunny woodlands, by streams and other moist areas, as well as mountainous regions. It is a plant that does well in cooler climates and is generally thought to be suitable for hardiness zones 3 to 7.

Growing it from seed can be sometimes difficult, so it might be easier just to by seedlings or plants from a nursery. If you are going to grow it from seed, just keep in mind that it is quite slow to germinate.

Plant in the spring once there is no more chance of frost, in a spot that is anywhere from full sun to partial shade. It will do well in just about any type of soil, just make sure it is well-drained.

Mulching is a good idea, but lady's mantle is apparently quite drought-resistant. Also keep in mind that if it is doing well, it will drop plenty of seeds and spread, so you can always dead head the flowers if you want to have some control over this.

Some other plants that looks beautiful growing with lady's mantle are poppy, iris, fleabane, phlox, lily, and catmint.

Medicinal/Remedial Properties and Lore: Astringent, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, sedative, styptic, tonic, vulnerary.

Lady's mantle has a long history of use for healing an assortment of ailments: from wounds and bruises, to vomiting and other stomach problems, as well as women's complaints.

One of the most interesting recommendations I found was from good old Culpeper who said, 'such women that have large breasts, causing them to grow less and hard, being both drank and outwordly applied'.

He also suggested its use for women who wished to conceive by drinking a tea, and claimed that it was great for wounds 'green, not suffering any corruption to remain behind, and cures all old sores, though fistulois and hollow'.

Onto Brother Aloysius, who recommended it for heavy bleeding, ulcerated lungs, dysentery, consumption, and ulcers. Like Culpeper, he also mentions in its helpfulness in the boob department, but this time for 'swollen' breasts.

Susun Weed proposes a tincture of fresh root as 'an excellent blood coagulant' and advocates its use for all types of 'female problems' {Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year}.

I can attest the helpfulness of lady's mantle when it comes to PMS and periods; I like making a tea with it paired with lemon balm {also great for these issues} because it does taste a little bitter and lemon balm has a more pleasant taste.

Photo from Aconcagua
Magical Properties and Lore:

The Latin name Alchemilla roughly translates 'small magical one', and was a plant of Alchemists who collected the dew found on the leaves for their workings.

In the book Folk-Lore of Women by Thomas Firminger Thiselton-Dyer (1906) it is said that lady's mantle 'was once in great repute with ladies; for, according to Hoffman, it had the power of restoring feminine beauty, however faded, to its early freshness'. Some women would collect dew found on the leaves on Bealtaine morning for this purpose.

Associated with the Virgin Mary, as the leaves are said to resemble her mantle, I also remember hearing a story when I was younger that the leaves were used as cloaks by the Good Folk.
Because of its use in women's health and healing, I have come to associate lady's mantle with the Goddesses Brigid {there is speculation by some folks that it is a herb historically tied to her} and Airmid.
According to some lady's mantle is connected to the planet and Goddess Venus, as well as other fertility, and Earth Goddesses. In some Swedish {and other Northern European traditions} it is placed under a woman's pillow if she wishes to dream of her future children; if worn in her hair during sex she would certainly become with child.

It was thought to ward off storms in Eastern Europe by burning it in a fire and letting the smoke go to the sky, or by hanging in windows and doors a farm would be kept safe from Nature's wrath.

In Polish-American Folklore by Deborah Anders Silverman she says that small wreaths of various types of herbs including lady's mantle are hung in homes to ward off evil spirits.
This is a herb that I like to use in tealeaf readings when the topic is one of love involving women {romantic, family, or platonic} and fertility of all types. I also think it is a splendid herb for love workings and for decorating on Bealtaine and Midsummer.

Other Uses:
The young leaves of lady's mantle are edible and can be served up raw or cooked, and the roots are also edible cooked.

It can also be used in beauty treatments! Below are some links to a few nifty recipes for you to try:

Hand lotion, facial steam, and bath vinegar

Hand mask



Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Necro Crafting Project

A few months back I had a custom request to make a scrying mirror frame that my client would be using to connect with their ancestors, which inspired this crafty project. I thought that I would share this with folks who were perhaps looking for ideas for their own ancestor altars or shrines.
For both frames I started with some graveyard dirt: for my client's frame I mixed it in with the paint I used and for the one pictured I sprinkled in on the frame after putting a layer of adhesive {I used Mod Podge}. After the frames have dried, it is time to decorate them with whatever pretties you may fancy. For my frame I added dried poppy and datura pods, tansy flowers, nightshade berries, cedar and roses from my ancestor's graves, skull beads and a few other items that have personal meaning to me.
You could use your frame for a scrying mirror like my client did, or for ancestor photos, or perhaps to frame a poem. Mine will be hanging over my ancestor altar with a lovely hand-written Scottish saying: "Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn." {"I will add a stone to your cairn."}.