Heart Loving Hawthorn

I'd been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Crataegus oxacantha, hawthorn flowers. It's an indispensable favorite amongst herbalists I think. I had been eyeballing the few trees on my early morning walks to the train for weeks. Watching the small green buds form and then whiten... and then bloom! And bloom they did. There's a few straggler trees still blooming out there, depending on where you live they may have yet to bloom.

Hawthorn is one of those fae trees, associated with faeries (not your winged cherub type) and the fire festival of Beltane (aka May Day). And it is said that if you come upon a stand of oak, ash and thorn growing together you may see faeries, or find a gateway to the otherworld. I personally find hawthorn both fierce and comforting, warm in its personality. With its thorns and bright red berries it is associated with the element of fire and the planet Mars. Being ruled by both fire and Mars myself, might explain my unspeakable attraction to this tree. With the Mars connection, hawthorn is also protective and was once used to protect farm animals from malefica.

Medicinally hawthorn is heart tonic, lowering blood pressure without any negative side effects. It is a true tonic of the heart in every sense, opening the heart, calming and soothing. It can take a fluttering, frantic heart and state of mind to a place of calm and collection. I've noticed this with plants in the rose family, as rose herself has this similar effect on me.

Before harvesting any plant for medicine or magical use, I touch it and speak to it of my intention. I wait for a moment to feel any interaction from the plant and if I have been given permission to collect from it. Usually, when a plant is approached respectfully you will get a positive response. To get an extra gold star, considering offing up honey, a peice of bread or red woolen yarn.

I harvested the flowering tips, twig, leaf and all very carefully with a pair of sharp scissors. I wanted to do a flower only tincture and I dried the rest for tea. My teacher at herbalism school suggested collecting the flowers just before they open. And it makes sense, because they kind of contain themselves once dried out for tea.

The tincture is stinky! If you've ever smelled flowering hawthorn, you'll notice a slight top note of foulness. It's a pleasant foulness to my nose though, some may not appreciate it. To be perfectly honest, it smells like sex and what some perfume enthusiasts refer to as, "skank." Which is not at all surprising as this tree is associated with fertility and that randy of all witch holidays, Beltane. It dissipates in its dried form, but is is preserved in the tincture. I have admittedly dabbed a bit of the floral menstruum on my wrist to revel in its scent. Should I ever acquire a still, I would definitely bottle this. Macerating these blossoms in a perfume grade alcohol solvent may need to happen next year.

How's your gathering going? Are the hawthorn blossoms done in your neck of the woods, or have they just begun?

Spring Gathering: Poplar Buds & Nettle

It feels a bit late to be talking about these two, but my fingers are still deep in their goodness and it feels like I was washing the sticky poplar resin form my hands just yesterday...

The season started slow with poplar buds and nettles. Both have a powerful olfactory effect on me. Poplar bud oil was once worn by an old flame of mine. So upon first whiff I am instantly reminded of him. It's changing though and I am more drawn to the thoughts of the rivers and wet places the cottonwoods grow... and where they grow, nettle never seems far away. You can smell them when the air is balmy and they'll fill your bag with a ripe skunk when you've harvested them up. I've always been rather fond of a good stink, and I sometimes find myself sticking my nose very carefully into the bag I've put them in. Green, fatty, skunky and with a hint of citrus. Yes! To my nose there exists a citrusy note in older nettle leaves.

The nettle has gone into tea for the most part. It creates a vegetal broth of sorts. When you sip it, it immediately touches some place internally that sends off all sorts of signals telling you this is nourishment. Nettle is highly nutritive, full of minerals and a lovely spring tonic. I've also been adding it to my weekly batch of chicken soup. I tried it fresh, but I prefer to add it in once it has been dried. I find it more palatable.

Magically, nettle is a jinx breaker. One that would be powerful I think. Jinx breaking with a bit of a sting to it!

I made oil from the poplar buds and left a good portion of them to dry out for incense and magical needs. Often times I think of plants for their folk magic uses first, rather than for medicine. I find they go hand in hand. Poplar is used to mend broken hearts, or foster reconciliation between two lovers or friends, to soothe strife. You'll find that magical property with a lot of sweet smelling and tasting things. Having had my heart broken by one who wore this as a perfume has been interesting in the development of my relationship with cottonwood to say the least. It truly is a great soothing balm, figuratively and literally!

golden poplar bud oil

golden poplar bud oil

The buds also make a most fantastic incense. Once dried and crushed I mixed it with red cedar heartwood to make a lovely sweetening, soothing, clearing and blessing smudge. Try it, you won't be disappointed. 

April Already Gone Goodbye

Then the youth understood that the Moon, like God and Fortune, does the most for those who do the most for themselves.
— Aradia, Gospel of the Witches - Charles G. Leland

This month flew by and as I try to look for reasons, I can't seem to find any... other than I've been doing shit. Nose has been to the grindstone and to-do's that are relentlessly perpetual hang out around my heels like a swarm of hangry cats.

I turned 30 this month. As the date approached I felt nervous about it, a little intimidated. I don't think I'll ever feel like a proper adult. I still feel like I'm 25. Throughout my late 20's I always told myself that my 30's would be amazing. They will be. And while I'd love to have the ability to wax some poetic about it right now, I don't think I can. I'm 30 now, it's a new decade of my life. Potential and opportunity hum and buzz. My finger on the pulse.

I did start that day with a strong spiritual bath. In the usual style of rising before dawn, washing downwards to remove obstacles, blockages and any sort of spiritual gunk stuck to me, drip dry, clothing myself and marching towards the nearest crossroads whereupon I dispose of a little saved bath water, throwing it over my left shoulder towards the sunrise... and walking home, never to look back on it again. Always the best way to begin a new beginning I think.

I also made a tiny list of things I wanted to get done and do for myself. It really was only one thing, maybe two. Getting my drivers license and buying a car. I've been more or less city bound since I moved here (8 years ago). When my bag and personal belongings were stolen when I first moved here, my license went with it. Because I didn't have a car at the time (and didn't plan on getting one any time soon) Oregon required I take the driving test to be issued a new license, I opted for the non-drivers ID. The quickest fix at the time. A slightly regrettable decision now that I look back on it. But! I haven't had a deep desire for a vehicle till recently.

A lot of this landscape that surrounds me, I haven't explored. I feel, not a void... but a large space inside of me that needs to get out, get away. Or at least have the ability. The city carries it's own spirit that I very much appreciate, but it can be grating on the nerves. The mountains, valleys, the desert, it all calls to me consistently and relentlessly. Now, officially and in earnest I will go to them.

Oh! And it's Walpurgisnacht. Ride your goat to the sabbat witches! I will meet you on the mountain top.

Hello Equinox & Green Things

Spring came so wildly early this year, alarmingly early. Violets in January? Yes! It's kind of crazy. Wild cherry trees have been blooming, filling the streets with white and pink snow. Catkins dangling phallically from trees. The air a mix of tree sex. What has been lacking is the scent of cool petrichor, mingling with blooming things. There have been a handful of predawn mornings, while lying in bed that I can hear and smell the rain coming down. Those are rather precious times to me. The lack of our generally incessant rains this time of year leaves one wondering, curious and slightly wary. That's how I feel anyway, and I wonder to what extent our summer will be dry and hot this year. The thought of wildfire and smoke creep into my brain...

Despite springs early arrival I have been excited about it, naturally. As the sap rises in the plants and trees and the soil moves a little more, so do I and it generates a great joy inside of me. I feel like a bear coming out from its winter den. I've been chomping at the bit to find, gather, process and make things. Poplar buds, nettles and cleavers have been my allies thus far.

Before I moved back into the city proper I had the luxury of living along a paved trail corridor with patches of relatively undisturbed land. Gathering was easy and simple. I knew where the cottonwood stands were, where the creepy ass alder swamp was, wild strawberries, roses, you name it. Now it's whole 'nother game, especially when you lack personal motorized vehicle transportation. Now it is chance, by surprise and hunting when I find what I am looking for. While I miss the ease of access and familiar places and special spots I am finding treasures, medicine and spirit hidden in the nooks and crannies of the city.

I believe that spirit is just as strong and valid in the city, as it is in the most wild and untouched places. I have seen and read a lot of dismissal of the spirit world in the city and I think that it is unwise. They are different, but equally important in my opinion.

So it's a strange and interesting adventure. Acquainting/reacquainting myself with familiar but unfamiliar territory. Making new spirit and plant friends, discovering lonely, overlooked, neglected green patches, appreciating them and befriending them. Every year I feel like I've waited for this moment my whole life, the Spring Equinox. With the sun moving into my sign Aries, my blood quickens and a strange life lust overcomes me and more than ever I feel the desire to do, do, do!

Only warmer and longer days from here on out. Making the most of it.

Umpqua Hot Springs

Was warned of cougars, arrived in utter darkness, got lost, found way again, found springs, hippies gifted candles, luxuriated in 104 degree geothermal pool while light rain flecked the night sky. Went back the next morning for pictures.

I didn't realize till after this picture was taken that there was a bottle cap on the ground. This is something I've noticed and experienced in Oregon, people don't pick up their fucking trash. Perhaps it's the proximity of being near a city. Pack in, pack out folks.

The water was, unsurprisingly, a bit metallic and sulfuric smelling. It was also quite salty.

So, slime mold. Pretty fascinating stuff. Not a plant or animal, nor a fungus! But an amoeba. Read. I discovered some yerba buena, wild strawberries and never before seen with my own eyes, western yew. I was quite elated to finally meet the tree up close and in person, sadly no picture as the lighting was horrid.

I don't get to do things like this too often, so it was a real treat. I haven't driven or owned a car in over 8 years. Public transit has suited me well over the years, but I'm getting that deep and unrelenting itch to get out of the city by my own means. Tired of being city trapped and I am set to change that. Hopefully with a vehicle of my very own (gasp!) in the next few months. I have all manner of wild crafting and exploring that needs to be done.