Thursday, August 7, 2008

Updating this blog

Hey everyone - if anyone is still reading this blog, I've switched blogsites to MY NEW BLOG.

I also have a new email address.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lavender Green Magic

All of my playing in trees and streams let naturally to the broadening of my knowlege of natural things. When I was in junior high school, I became very interested in herbs. The watershed moment leading me to herbalism was my reading "Lavender Green Magic" by Andre Norton. This was a book about two herbalists, one good and one evil. The two herbalists entered into the main character's dreams when she slept with a dream sachet. The two witches, Tamar and Hagar, tried to entice her to come to them, and the girl had to choose between good and evil by following paths through a maze. This lovely story had great imagery - after all, who wouldn't be intrigued by a kindly old woman with magical powers who lived with her cats in the center of a hedge maze? Andre Norton had the wisdom to include several simple herbal recipes at the end of the book for the reader to consider. Of course, I tried the recipes, and lusted for more!

Never one to pursue something half heartedly, I soon bought a small booklet about herbs at my local garden store. I planted an herb garden outside, and I had a shelf of herbs growing in my room. The shelf of herbs didn't last long, because I couldn't afford an adequate grow light, but the sage, mint and lemon balm in the garden may still be there to this day. I kept a box full of ancient tins of culinary herbs that I had stolen from my mother's cabinet. She didn't cook much, and the tins contained mostly green dust with no residual properties whatsoever, but I treasured them. I couldn't get enough information on herbs. At long last, I found some books on making herbal remedies. One of these books, "Home Remedies and Herbal Cures" by Carol Bishop, was pretty scary because it contained recipes from times long past and thankfully forgotten. For example:

"To Make Ye Horse Dunge Water - Take horse dunge and putt to it so much ale as will make it like hasty pudding and put into your still. Then putt on ye topp one pound of treakell and a quarter pound of genger in powder and a quarter pound of sweet aniseeds and so distill all these together. This water is good for women in labour and in child-bed, for auges and feavers and all distempters. - The Receipt book of Mrs. Ann Blencowe, 1694"

Yum.

I actually really liked this book, for its esoteric and repulsive recipes, but I didn't try to make TOO many of the potions and lotions. Fortunately, since most people would really rather not make concoctions involving animal feces, more modern books on herbal medicine were becoming available. I managed to find a few excellent ones. My mother's kitchen became my herbal laboratory. I made my mother some white oak bark decoction for her varicose veins, but I fear that the three gallons of this brew moldered in the cabinet for years without use.

I would go wandering in the fields around my home looking for herbs. After picking them, I would present them to my neighbors as gifts. "Look - you can use this dill to cook with!" Since I was still quite incompetent at identifying plants, I hope my neighbors were sensible and threw out whatever I brought them. There were no untimely deaths on our street that year, so I suspect that no one tasted my offerings.

Along with trying "Real" recipes from my herbal tomes, I concocted my own creations using my herbal collection. I soon learned that if I added enough boullion cubes to any brew it would magically become drinkable. Perhaps all of the monosodium glutamate that I ingested with this practice permanently scarred my brain. All of the neighbor kids were subjects of my experiments. They were probably making rude utterances behind my back. "Don't go over to Tasha's house, she'll make you play weird games and force you to drink yucky stuff!" It's not really a wonder that most of the kids I hung out with were younger than I was. Younger kids were much more compliant with my wishes and commands!

My attraction to herbs stemmed from their beauty, usefulness and history. I felt certain that plants had magical characteristics, and if I could only learn enough or try the right combinations, I would be able to use them to cast spells and heal. Later in life, when I discovered the role that herbs play in witchcraft and holistic medicine, I knew that my instincts were true.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jesus Saves Green Stamps

When I was a kid, my memories of church consisted of me being bored out of my mind. I'd spend the hour kicking the pew in front of me while my mother glared in my direction. On the good days she allowed me to bring a picture book to look at, but on the bad days I simply flipped through the hymnal. It was a constant battle between trying to contain my energy and driving my mother absolutely crazy. Those mornings in church would have been better spent running around outside in my play clothes, getting grass stained and muddy. I had a vague understanding that God lived in the church, but even as a young child I knew that I felt closer to Him when I was in nature than when I was jammed into a pew. Luckily for me, my family did not attend church very often.

My grandmother was a staunch Methodist. The church played a large role in her life, and she was determined to pass on the tradition. Her zeal backfired on her, and none of her sons turned out to be avid churchgoers. As kids, my sister and I were regaled with tales about my father's childhood escapades. He and his two brothers would get beatings because they were constantly getting into trouble at church. My uncle, Dan, was famed for his performance during a church recital. His class had rehearsed gospel songs for weeks, and he had a solo. My grandmother was very proud, until the day of the performance. When Dan got up on the stage in front of the congregation, he exploded into a hip gyrating Elvis impersonation. Grandma drug him from the stage. It may have been the best five minutes followed by the worst year of his life.

In the town where my father's family lived, there was a rock which was white washed with the words "Jesus Saves" printed on it in big bold red letters. Everyone driving through the county saw this sign. My grandmother was in charge of the upkeep of this rock as her contribution to the church. When my dad and his brothers were teenagers, they'd sneak out to the rock and paint "Green Stamps" underneath the "Jesus Saves". My grandmother never caught on to the fact that her boys were responsible for the problem. Her three kids obediently went with her to repaint the rock the day after each incident. If she had realized that it was them, my father's life would have ended on that day.

These stories of rebellion were told often at every family event with great relish and hilarity. They were more memorable to my young ears than any Bible story. Perhaps I was brainwashed at a young age into questioning the sacredness of the Church and the clergy. Even though I was less than enamored by the whole prospect of "Going to Church", I always felt like I had a connection with God. I always prayed before bedtime, whispering "God Bless Mom, Dad, Heather, me, Caramel, Tinkerbell, Squirt, ...(include numerous small gerbils, lizards, parakeets, guinea pigs and rabbits here)." I kept a prayer journal where I'd write down the things for which I was praying and thankful.

Sometimes, I felt an underlying guilt about not going to church. I didn't think I was going to Hell, but that was how people were supposed to worship. Everyone said that was what God wanted. My mother seemed to feel the same guilt I did when weeks and weeks would pass without a visit to the church. Our church visits became more sporadic as I got older, finally trickling down to funerals and weddings. My mother wanted us to attend Sunday School. She didn't mean to raise a heathen. Still, other activities beckoned, we didn't go to church, and here I am, writing a blog about witchcraft.

Even though I didn't go to church, I had an interest in religion and Christianity. I read the entire Bible more than once while I was in junior high school, and again as an adult. I was much more interested in the fascinating cultures depicted by the Old Testament than the rest of the Bible. Psalms was always so tedious to read through! My favorite parts of the Bible were the Song of Soloman and Exodus. I thoroughly enjoyed the details of the layout and exact nature of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. The idea of that sacred space and all the ritual objects and acts entralled me. I thought that it would be fantastic to try to replicate the Ark in miniature to scale, but I couldn't be bothered with all the esoteric mathematical conversions that would take. I didn't have much of an appreciation for the New Testament, and I didn't understand why Christianity focused on those books so much. While the stories about Jesus were interesting, they paled in comparison to the grand tales of the Old Testament. I had a hard time figuring out why the New Testament was so repetitive. After all, if God had written this book wouldn't have He gotten it right the first time?

Even without church, I always felt that if I was in the woods or playing in a stream, or climbing a tree I was close to God. I would communicate with trees, animals and plants. Their energy called, and I couldn't refuse. Nature fascinated and enchanted me. I had no comprehension that one had to pray to Jesus or to a priest to have prayers answered. I prayed every day directly to God. We had long conversations. I never doubted my prayers were heard.