Deborah J. "DJ" Martin

A Witch and a Bitch with an Herbal Itch - and an overactive imagination

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Month: June 2012

I’ve Got A Fever(few)

I can’t help it. Every time I work with Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium, I think of this song made famous by Peggy Lee. Whether I’m weeding around it, harvesting, or just talking with it, the compelling beat and lyrics run through my head.

The common name, Feverfew, is (according to Maud Grieve) a corruption of “Febrifuge”, the therapeutic action for which it’s famous. In other words, it brings down fevers. Lately, it has become a popular solution for migraine sufferers … perhaps because it’s also an anti-inflammatory (you know what that means, right?) and a vasodilator (dilates blood vessels). I’ve read that if you put three fresh leaves on a piece of bread and eat it as soon as you feel a migraine coming on, it’ll stop the pain.

Anyhoo, this perennial relative of Tansy smells just as bitter (the bees avoid it) and has been known as a bitter tonic for centuries.  The preferred dosage is the equivalent of 1-3 fresh leaves per day … freeze the leaves for use out of season. (You can use dried – it’s just not quite as effective.) In addition to fevers and migraine, it’s recommended for heavy periods, nervousness, and as a general tonic.

Perhaps because of the bitter smell, a tincture of Feverfew diluted in cold water is said to be an excellent insect repellant. (I need to try this one. I’ve tried everything else and I’m still bug lunch.) Applying the tincture neat to bug bites will calm the itch. (I can attest to this.)

While the leaves are the preferred part of the plant for medicinal use, the flowers do have their own application: an infusion of the flowers taken cold may help tinnitus. While the stalks & leaves look nothing like Chamomile, the flowers look very similar – small, daisy-like with white petals and a yellow center. How to tell them apart? Feverfew centers are flat; Chamomile centers are rounded.

Cautions: do not use when pregnant; may cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to the Asteraceae family; may interfere with aspirin and other anticoagulant medications.

The best use of Feverfew in a magical sense is for protection … and in this case, protection of your health. It’s said that planting the flower around your house will purify the area and ward off disease. Gerard recommended binding the plant to one’s wrists to ward off ague (fever with alternate chills & sweating); Cunningham suggests carrying the herb on you not only to ward off colds & flu but accidents, as well.

A friend of mine covers Ms. Lee’s song and always ends it with, “I have a fever”. Maybe I should bring him a few leaves from my garden? 😉

 

On Spirit Guides

Everyone has at least one spirit guide, whether you know they’re there or not. You may call them guardian angels. I call them family and friends. If you pay attention, you may notice that some come and go … they’re only with you for a specific reason and once you’ve learned whatever it is they are there to teach, they move on.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that some folks seem to think their guides are watching over them 24/7/365. A bumper sticker I see frequently reads, “Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.”  Puh-leez. They can be anywhere in an instant but they may be occupied elsewhere while you’re driving. (Not to mention it’s not their foot on the gas pedal.)

My maternal grandmother has been around since she passed when I was eleven. She’ll almost always come when I ask but others? Not so much. My father-in-law is a marvelous resource for a city gal now living in the country but he’s not always within “shouting distance”. (He has an eye for the ladies … I suspect he’s off chasing a ghostly skirt.)

There have been several others over the years that were there to guide me to or along a certain path. The one I called “Fred” (he wouldn’t give me any other name) kicked my butt down the path to Master Herbalist school. He was around on occasion during those years, ensuring I completed the course. Once I had the diploma in hand, he disappeared.

I’ve had the privilege of knowing the spirit of several herbs over the years. They are wonderful guides to learning about the herb apart from what science knows. Rosemary knows she’s my favorite herb and comes around when her properties are germane to whatever I’m thinking about.

Another thing I’ve learned about spirit guides is they won’t give you all the answers you seek … they are guides, after all. I almost never receive a straight answer to a question but they’re pretty good about dropping strong hints as to which direction to take.

And then there are times when they don’t even give hints. I’m going through a rough patch on a couple of fronts at the moment and although I can feel their love and support, the message is, “you’re on your own … this is something you have to work through”.

Don’t know your spirit guide(s)? Sit quietly, center yourself and put out a gentle call. Don’t be impatient … they may be in the middle of something or with someone else. I usually wait about ten minutes before “hanging up the phone” but I’ve left a message. Someone eventually shows up … many times in my dreams. It’s up to me to remember and interpret the message. (I’ll get a slap upside the head if I don’t. They don’t like to repeat themselves.)

I suggest you treat your guides as you would like to be treated. Don’t demand their presence, and don’t pout when they won’t tell you what you want to know. I’ve found they know more than I do and if they won’t answer a question, they have their reasons. Being petulant will alienate a spirit guide just as quickly as a flesh-and-blood person.

Summer Solstice 2012

Summer “officially” begins this Wednesday, 20 June at 7:09pm EDT. I know all sorts of witches getting ready for rituals and the like, but not me.

First, I actually welcomed summer about a week ago. My clue that it’s summer in my small part of the world is when the fireflies finally start twinkling in our trees. (High summer is when the katydids start their incessant noise at sundown.) Rather than a calendar telling me what season it is, I pay attention to the seasons as they occur here and I can tell you, it’s quite different than, say, the northern states.

Second, I’m really not into ritual. I don’t disparage anyone who likes them. They’re just not my thing. I try to do a little something every day to acknowledge what’s happening – even if it’s just a “nice to see you” to the moon at night.

My metaphysical year begins at the Winter Solstice. This is when I do a lot of planning for the upcoming year. I’m not able to do a lot outside during the dark of the year and it’s an ideal time for deep thinking. Not to mention that I’m a light-needing person and the days getting longer is a time for celebration for me.

Although I don’t “celebrate”, the Summer Solstice is an important day for me. I look at what I’d planned at Winter, how things have progressed (or not), and make adjustments where necessary. I will sit down Wednesday night, give a nod to the fireflies and reflect on the last six months.

Follow Friday

Borrowing a phrase from Twitter, here.

I follow a lot of blogs. I mean, a lot. Over 40 at last count. (That’s a lot to me.) I’m quite thankful for a reader that pulls them into one place via an RSS feed. Otherwise, I’d probably miss one or two or ten, given my screwy schedule. I thought I’d take today to share a few of them with you. Maybe you’ll like one or two, yourself.

Herbal-Related

Dr. Weil’s Daily Health Tips While not always completely herbal, always chock-full of good tips.

Henriette’s Herbal Henriette is well-known for her herbal knowledge.

Myrobalan Clinic Always something interesting here.

The Medieval Garden Enclosed This is the Cloisters Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They nearly always have historical tidbits about the plants they grow (and pretty pictures, too).

Rue and Hyssop Jen lives in a gorgeous part of Canada and takes some of the most breathtaking pictures not only of her surroundings but herbs she finds at the farmers’ market and on her walks. (Jen’s a witch, too. I couldn’t make up my mind which category to put this in.)

Witchy Stuff

Rune Soup Gordon is a Chaos magician and always has something interesting to say.

In The Chimehours Sarah’s blog makes me think. (Sometimes that’s a good thing …)

The Secret Life of the American Working Witch Kallan’s “Sunday Stew” is not to be missed – lets you know what’s up for the week ahead. Her rants can be fun interesting, too.

My Village Witch Byron is located in these here southern Appalachians and keeps me up to date on the pagan community ’round these parts. And her life, which is just as complicated as the rest of ours.

Witchin’ From The Holler Another Appalachian resident … his blog is living history – from a certain point of view.

And just ‘cuz one needs to keep up with Pagan news & views The Wild Hunt. Jason’s news would never make it into the local rag!

So that’s a sampling of who I read. I’m always up for suggestions …

Happy Friday!

It’s All Very Clary to Me

Bad play on words, I know. Count yourself lucky I didn’t sing, “I can see clarly now …”.

Clary Sage Salvia sclarea is quickly becoming one of my favorite plants. (Shh. Don’t tell the others.) I’ve got two beds of it started in the garden in the hopes that I’ll get enough leaves to make a bit of hydrosol. Much as I’d love it, I don’t have the room to grow enough to distill for essential oil.

Baby Clary Sage

First, the description: Clary Sage (yes, it’s a relative of common Sage) is a biennial plant. Like its cousin, it grows two to three feet high, with moderately-fuzzy leaves and spiky, white-to-light purple/blue flowers in the second year.  It produces enough seeds that if left alone, it will self-sow. Also like its cousin, the entire plant is very aromatic.

It got its Species name, sclarea, from the Romans. Sclarea means “clear” and it has been used for centuries as an eye wash for sore or tired eyes. The seed has a lot of mucilage in it, so according to both Culpeper and Gerard, a seed soaked for a couple of minutes in water and then placed in the eye, will attract and remove irritating foreign objects.

Besides an eye wash, an infusion of the leaves can be used for delayed or painful menstruation. It’s also becoming popular as a remedy for night sweats associated with menopause (it was once used to help night sweating in tuberculosis patients). The infusion can also be used to treat intestinal gas and indigestion. Like common Sage, Clary Sage is astringent and is a popular addition to products formulated for oily skin and hair.

The plant itself has sort of fallen out of favor but the essential oil is in high demand: it’s an ingredient in many perfumes, cosmetics, soaps & detergents; as well as in muscatel wines. (The Germans still call it Muskateller Salbei or Muscatel Sage.)

Most people describe the scent as sweet and slightly nutty. My nose says it’s sharp, like Sage, with a slight Lavender overtone.  I’m not a fan of Lavender itself (too sweet) but this hits the right combination with me – it’s awesome.

I’ve been using the essential oil in my facial lotion for awhile but my chiropractor introduced me to another use for it. After that, I had to find out more and started researching. What an opportune find! I can put it no better than Susun Weed so I’ll just quote her:

The essential oil lends strength, both psychological and physical. While it helps reduce deep-seated tension, it remains stimulating, regenerative, and revitalizing. This is the oil chosen for treating nervousness, weakness, fear, paranoia, and depression. Clary feeds the soul and helps us get through rough times. It is recommended when pressures and stress come from outside. The oil is very relaxing. Particularly recognized as useful for people involved in creative work. It lends us the courage to do things we haven’t done in a long time. Wonderful for people in mid-life crisis.

The other use I found for the essential oil is during scrying. While you should always dilute essential oils, one drop of the undiluted oil on my third eye/brow chakra seems to get faster results. I can see where this would be useful for lucid dreaming or studying a difficult subject, as well.

Caution Avoid during pregnancy. I’ve also read that use of Clary Sage while imbibing can enhance the effects of the alcohol. Hmmm. Not sure if this is such a bad thing. 😉

Try Clary Sage. You may find things a little clarer, too!

 

Scorpion Medicine

I was stung by a scorpion somewhere around midnight Saturday in my bed. No, not the huge suckers you see in the desert … we have little ones that are called “wood scorpions” around here because that’s where they live – trees, woodpiles – all of which are around our house.  They and brown recluse spiders are the only reason I have an exterminator using icky chemicals. Biting bugs/arachnids are all well and fine outside the perimeter of the house but indoors? A resounding no.

Unless you’re allergic, these guys’ sting is more like a bee sting. The first one, on my toe, I didn’t really think a lot about … I get weird feelings sometimes as I’m falling asleep. The second one, on my knee, made me look under the covers but I didn’t see anything. The third, um … a little farther up, had me hopping out of bed throwing covers off, batting my nightgown, and basically amusing the cats with my dance. He apparently was in my nightgown because I found him on the floor. Vertical compression took care of that one.

This is the first time in over eight years of living here that I’ve been stung and I really had no clue what to do. They hurt like hell a lot. Since they felt like bee stings, I made my normal bee sting remedy – a baking soda plaster. That calmed the pain enough for me to finally fall asleep … after thoroughly checking the bedding.

Sunday morning I posted about it on Facebook & Twitter. One of my tweeps asked if I’d checked out scorpion energy medicine. Thanks, @MahaliaFreedND, for knocking me upside the head. Being a very stereotypical Virgo, I have a tendency to focus on the mundane (ouch, and why is the exterminator late?) than the more occult things.

Once I’d gotten enough coffee in me to actually read search results, the message of Scorpion was interesting.

Several sites later (this one in particular) I found that Scorpion is telling me change is in the wind. It’s not going to be easy and I’ll have to give up something to get to wherever it is I’m going.  Interestingly, this coincides with my horoscope for this month. I’ll admit to having a hard head but honestly, the horoscope would’ve been enough. I didn’t need such a painful (and now itchy) lesson …

I’m going to go harvest a bunch of Lemon Balm. I have a feeling I’m going to need to drink a lot of that infusion to keep calm …