Tag Archives: nature

honeysuckle tincture

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Those beautiful golden flowers and intoxicating scent is, to me, the embodiment of Summer.

In herbalism, honeysuckle has been used as an expectorant, a diuretic, depurative, relaxant, and an astringent. It has been used to treat the common cold and fevers, and may be be a suitable substitute for elderflower. (But as always, check with your health care practitioner for answers to questions about your health and the use of herbs.)

To capture some of that summer magic, you can use honeysuckle blossoms to make a tincture. A tincture is a liquid extract, usually made with a strong odorless 80 proof alcohol like vodka or Everclear. Tinctures can also be made with vinegar, which are usually just referred to as herbal vinegars. Vegetable glycerin can also be used to make a tincture (use half glycerite, half distilled water), and the resulting extract is called a glycerite. Glycerites are especially suitable for children, as they are sweet and alcohol-free.

Sterilize all your equipment in boiling water. Fill a canning jar with dried honeysuckle. Pour in alcohol (or your other choice of liquid) to fill the jar. Lid tightly and keep in a cool dark place. Take out and shake every once in a while. Let steep for several weeks to a month. Strain out into a bottle and keep out of direct sunlight.

They say honeysuckle is a cure for homesickness and excess nostalgia. Honeysuckle is traditionally used in love spells, and the tincture makes a powerful love elixir. Use it to dress magical objects such as charms, talismans, and sachets (mojo bags). It can also be used as a room spray.

honeysuckle tincture

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Nature Study for Pagan Kids

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As Pagan/Druid parents, having a positive connection to nature is one of the most important things we want to foster in our children. I grew up in a time when children played outside more often (video games were a new invention and poorer kids didn’t have them yet). Kids were often set out to play outdoors on their own. The world is a much more complicated place now, and children are more closely supervised these days, and so the structure of children’s nature exploration has changed somewhat. However, the addition of (some) structure and the guidance of a parent or responsible adult is a change for the better, in my opinion.

a nature journal
One way to go about nature study is to purchase a handbook on the subject and follow the author’s guidelines. If that suits you and your child’s personality, then that may be the way to go. If, however, you have a limited amount of money to spend on books, you may want to save it for field guides, such as for tree, herbs, wildflowers, and various animals and insects, and these may even been borrowed from the library at first. (Did you know that you can suggest books for your library to purchase? Look up your library’s website, there’s usually a short form to submit suggestions.)
What is essential above other things is an unlined notebook with various writing/drawing utensils. Binoculars and a camera may prove quite useful as well. Keep your own journal also, and learn along with your child, making it a bonding experience. Some ideas for things to include are leaf rubbings, drawings, and various observations. Date your journals, and take note of the location, as your journal may be a source of very important foraging information later.

nature is sustenance
Speaking of foraging, it is a wonderful and valuable thing to teach your children which plants can be eaten (and how), which cannot, and which are poisonous to the mere touch. A good source for parents to have for edible wild foods in the Ozarks is Billy Joe Tatum’s Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook. Families that forage (and garden!), live by the seasons and have a deeper connection with Nature. You may find that your specific location has certain foods that become ready to eat around certain Pagan holidays, and you may make those foods a part of your High Day celebrations.

nature is medicine
When my kids very very young, I had the good fortune of finding Kids, Herbs & Health: A Practical Guide to Natural Remedies by Sunny Mavor and Linda White. It has been incredibly useful, and through my use of it in making medicines for them, my kids have learned the value and use of herbs and natural remedies. Other herb books that speak directly to kids are A Kid’s Herb Book by Lesley Tierra and Walking the World in Wonder: A Children’s Herbal by Ellen Evert Hopman.

a sense of place
Start close to home with your nature studies. One good project to start out with is to identify the trees in your neighborhood. After this, go on to identify other features of the land and wildlife. Culminate in making a map of the neighborhood. This kind of project cultivates a real sense of belonging and living in the natural world. While exploring the land that surrounds your home, do what you can to clean up any pollution and beautify areas that need it. (If there’s not much green space around your home, accompany your child to the nearest park.) This may be just the time to find little nature sanctuaries like a special tree with branches just right for sitting in, or discovering that magical moment of the day when the sunlight sparkles on the creek.

in community with others
You may find kids’ nature programs in your local community (or the opportunity to start one yourself). One option for learning about nature in a group setting is summer camp. Be wary of church-run camps; just because the camp is located in a beautiful natural setting, doesn’t mean the program has much to do with nature. Unfortunately, here in the bible belt, such camps heavily indoctrinate children with Christian dogma and use scare tactics. Secular camps can be a good option. Check to see if there is an Audubon Camp near you. Local botanical gardens may have day camp programs or workshops available for kids. If you think your child may like scouting, check out the (secular) Navigators USA or the (Wiccan) SpiralScouts. Druid Scouts is scouting program that may still be in the beginning (or planning) stages.
(Disclaimer: there are all kinds of personalities in this world, and thus, not all kids are inclined to go to a camp or scouting program, so be sure to listen to your child’s needs and proceed accordingly to her/his sensitivities.)

just be there
Be in the habit of being outside often. Figure out your favorite time of day for doing so. You don’t always have to have a nature journal with you. You and/or your child can take a break from writing in it for a while, if it’s tiring. A lot of serendipitous learning may come about from just being there. Find your comfortable places in Nature for hanging out and relaxing. Your child will be outside more if you are too. Unstructured play in nature is good for, and necessary to, a child’s development. If you need some kind of excuse, read the article “Tree Hugging Proven To Improve Health Issues”– do it for your health! (Check out Tree Medicine Tree Magic by Ellen Evert Hopman.)

lore tie-ins
Take the opportunity, when it arises, to relate things in nature to the lore and mythology of your family’s hearth culture. For example, you may refer to the sun by the name Sunna (if your hearth culture is Norse), and spontaneously thank her for nice sunny days. Praise Thor (or Lugh, or Zeus) for cleansing storms, and perhaps relate bits of their lore. When you see an animal in nature that has some significance in the lore, relate those stories as well. In the stillness, teach your child to sense the energy of the Spirits and be sensitive to the moods and messages they convey.
In this way, the differing threads of spirituality may be woven together into your child’s upbringing, creating a strong cord of sacredness- that may be used as a lifeline throughout the rest of his/her days.

Nature Study for Pagan Kids - Ozark Pagan Mamma

things for kids to do on rainy days

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Just for fun I thought I’d compile a list of things for kids to do on rainy days that do not involve sitting down with a bowl of popcorn watching a movie:
1. Jump in puddles.
2. Get out all your bathtub toys and float them in mud puddles.
3. Make boats to float in puddles from various recycled materials (egg shells, foam trays). 
4. Paint sturdy paper with thick watercolor paint and leave in the rain for a while to see what designs the raindrops make.
5. Draw on sidewalks with chalk- it’s more like paint when wet.
6. Collect and filter rainwater.
7. Blow bubbles and watch the rain pop the bubbles. 
8. Take a nature walk to see how animals and insects take shelter in the rain.  Look for frogs.
9. Count the seconds between lighting and thunder to calculate how far away the storm is.  Divide the number by five.  It takes about five seconds for the sonic boom to travel one mile.  If the thunder and lighting are too close, go inside- you wouldn’t want to get struck by lighting!
10. Do crafts, lots and lots of crafts! 

After you’ve done all this, maybe now you do want to sit down with a bowl of popcorn and watch a movie.  I’ve got a list for that too… 
Some of the best magical and Pagan-ish movies for kids that I know of (not including holiday themed- which I will list later)
1. My Neighbor Totoro
2. Spirited Away
3. The Golden Compass
4. The Spiderwick Chronicles
5. The NeverEnding Story
6. The Harry Potter series of movies
7. Jim Henson’s The Storyteller Collection
8. Peter Pan
9. Howl’s Moving Castle
 10. The Wizard of Oz
11. Return to Oz
12. A Wrinkle in Time
13. Alice in Wonderland
14. The Dark Crystal
15. The Gnome-Mobile

the nature of deity

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This morning I gradually woke up thinking about something I dreamt- only it wasn’t quite a dream- it was some kind of hazy philosophizing.  It was like I was contemplating deity in my sleep, and the general feeling I had from it was one of pessimism.  In my semi-dream state, my thoughts or dream-voices were arguing the case for atheism.   

Throughout my adult life, my beliefs about deity have flitted around a bit.  In my late teens, I whole-heartedly believed in the Wiccan duality of God and Goddess.  I believed there were actual spirit beings, residing in Nature or in the cosmos, who were the Lord and Lady. 

Later, in  my twenties, my beliefs turned more toward agnostic bordering on atheist.  I was really into Jungian theology; archetypes, the collective consciousness, and all that.  The problem I began to see with this scenario was that if Jungian theology is one’s only philosophy, it eventually leaves a shallow feeling in the stomach- for it seems to rest upon the basic premise there is no spirit universe outside the mind of humanity.

Then I read Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earthby Dr. James Lovelock.  The Gaia Hypothesis–  the idea that the Earth may be a living organism- really blew me away!  (I still believed in psychological archetypes, but I added pantheism to the mix, and my agnostic/atheist beliefs kind of just faded away for a while.)  My ideas about deity began to take on solid form, quite literally.  I no longer thought of them as beliefs, but as knowledge, understanding, experiencing.  

Then another thing happened- a guest minister came to speak at the UU church I attend and her sermon was based on the book The Living Energy Universeby Gary Schwartz, and Linda Russek.  The Universal Living Memory theory proposes that everything is alive, eternal, and evolving, and that all dynamic systems have memory.  I thought this was nothing short of amazing.  It gave me reason to believe in life after death- the one part of my belief system that I was still agnostic about.  It also enlivened my belief in magic.  (Before I had only thought of magic in psychological terms- the power of belief and the shared subconscious, etc.)  This book awakened new possibilities in my mind, in my imagination.  Remember when you were a kid and you believed that all kinds of wild and silly things were possible?  Realizing that they weren’t is like saying good-bye to something wonderful and magical.  Well, reading about the Universal Living Memory theory was like getting some of this magic back.  So many more things are possible than what we know.

Learning about Celtic Reconstructionism also opened up new ideas of spirituality for me.  I began to explore the concept of ancestor worship, of deity being also ancestral, and the idea of honoring spirits (of place, of the land) as well as deity.  Polytheism and animismworked their way into my belief system.  It would not have been possible for me to believe this way before I read about Universal Living Memory theory and the Gaia hypothesis.

Now I think my dream or “dream state” was trying to get me to think about these things.  I think it was a reminder to examine my beliefs.  All this stuff is not at the forefront of my mind on a daily basis.  I guess it’s just too much to think about, and it may sound crazy, but I think my mind may go into disbelief mode now and then in order to function for day to day stuff.  So what I need is to remind myself from time to time why I believe the things I believe, and think about how they all fit together, and how my life should reflect those beliefs.

Ozark folk beliefs about doorways and houses

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The magic of doorways lingered on in my culture.  The old folks used to say that you should always leave a neighbor’s house through the same door you came in, to avoid a serious quarrel. 
And never sweep out the front door after dark, for spirits of place linger there.  Could this be a remembrance of a time when food offerings were left to the Sidhe at the back step?
It’s bad luck to step over a broom that’s been knocked over, and to bring an old broom into a new house because you‘re symbolically bringing the dirt (troubles) of the old house into the new.  It’s also bad luck to carry a hoe inside a house, probably for a similar reason.
If you find your initials in spider webs near the door of your new home, you will have good luck for as long as you live there.  My grandfather believed that spiders had supernatural regenerative powers.  He believed that they would come back to life if you killed them.  Another old belief is that if you kill a spider in the morning, you will kill the spirit of one who had entered its body while it was sleeping.  This seems to be a survival of a belief in rebirth/transmigration of the soul similar to one held by the ancient Celts, or it could be a remnant of some Native American belief (Grandmother Spider Woman?).
Also, a house made entirely of new lumber is bad luck to live in.  I think this belief is telling us to not throw out all of the old in favor of the new, but to keep the old ways alive.
It’s bad luck to return home for something forgotten when starting on a trip.  I think this belief could have come from someone getting in an accident after turning back, or some similar misfortune occurring after turning back.  But also, it reminds me of the Celtic belief in always traveling sunwise/clockwise.

Appalachian / Ozark Folklore Moon Names

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moonbeginning on the new Moon closest to Winter Solstice:

Snow Moon                                     
Seed Moon                                       
Budding Moon                               
Leaf Moon                                         
Blossom Moon                                  
Strawberry Moon                            
Oak Moon                                           
Blackberry Moon
Corn Moon
Vine/Thistle Moon
Apple/Pear Moon
Blood Moon    
Holly or Blue Moon

Ozark Tree Magic

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A very common form of magic used in the old days in the Ozarks was tree magic.  Many of these old time spells involved driving a peg into a tree.  I have been told that this does not damage a healthy, mature tree, even when done several times to the same tree.  However, I will not advocate such practices.  Instead I offer these alternatives; tie a string around the tree where the peg would have been in a peg cure/spell, or drive a peg into the ground instead of a tree.  Many peg spells proscribe driving a peg into the ground already.  An example of this is the peg cure for malaria, chills, or fever:
A foot long hickory peg is to be driven into the ground in some secluded place, unseen and without anyone else’s knowledge of the entire procedure.  The peg is to be pulled up every day, the hole blown into seven times, and the peg replaced.  This is to be repeated twelve days in a row.  On the last day the peg is driven in deeper so that it can’t be seen and is to be left there, working as a cure that should last the rest of the season.
Pawpaw trees were featured predominantly in Ozark folk magic.  They were used in love and peg spells.  Papaw seeds were tossed into coffins to insure revenge for a murder.  Once I asked my dad if he could remember people working magic with pawpaw trees.  He said that when he was a kid, the girls would tear away strips of cloth from their undergarments and tie them to the branches of pawpaw trees for love spells.