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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Betony, Wood

Botanical: Stachys Betonica (BENTH.), Betonica officinalis (LINN.)
Family N.O. Labiatae
—Synonym—Bishopswort.
—Part Used—Herb.
—Habitat—It is a pretty woodland plant, met with frequently throughout England, but by no means common in Scotland. Though generally growing in woods and copses, it is occasionally to be found in more open situations, and amongst the tangled growths on heaths and moors.

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There are five species of Stachys growing wild in this country – the once much-valued Betony (S. Betonica); the Marsh Stachys, or Clown’s Woundwort (S. palustris); the true Woundwort (S. Germanica), a doubtful native, occurring occasionally on limestone soils in England, but very common on the Continent, where the dense covering of its leaves was at one time in rustic surgery employed in the place of lint for dressing wounds, the low-creeping Field Stachys (S. arvensis); and the Hedge Stachys, or Hedge Woundwort (S. sylvatica), perhaps the commonest of them all.
—History—The Wood Betony (S. Betonica according to present-day nomenclature, though nemed Betonica officinalis, by Linnaeus) was held in high repute not only in the Middle Ages, but also by the Greeks who extolled its qualities. An old Italian proverb, ‘ Sell your coat and buy Betony, ‘ and ‘He has as many virtues as Betony,’ a saying of the Spaniards, show what value was placed on its remedial properties. Antonius Musa, chief physician to the Emperor Augustus, wrote a long treatise, showing it was a certain cure for no less than fortyseven diseases.

Throughout the centuries, faith in its virtues as a panacea for all ills was thoroughly ingrained in the popular estimation. It was largely cultivated in the physic gardens, both of the apothecaries and the monasteries, and may still be found growing about the sites of these ancient buildings. Robert Turner, a physician writing in the latter half of the seventeenth century, recounts nearly thirty complaints for which Betony was considered efficacious, and adds, ‘I shall conclude with the words I have found in an old manuscript under the virtues of it: “More than all this have been proved of Betony.” ‘

In addition to its medicinal virtues, Betony was endowed with power against evil spirits. On this account, it was carefully planted in churchyards and hung about the neck as an amulet or charm, sanctifying, as Erasmus tells us, ‘those that carried it about them,’ and being also ‘good against fearful visions’ and an efficacious means of ‘driving away devils and despair.’ An old writer, Apelius, says:
‘It is good whether for the man’s soul or for his body; it shields him against visions and dreams, and the wort is very wholesome, and thus thou shalt gather it, in the month of August without the use of iron; and when thou hast gathered it, shake the mold till nought of it cleave thereon, and then dry it in the shade very thoroughly, and with its root altogether reduce it to dust: then use it and take of it when thou needst.’
Many extravagant superstitions grew up round Betony, one, of very ancient date, was that serpents would fight and kill each other if placed within a ring composed of it; and others declared that even wild beasts recognized its efficacy and used it if wounded, and that stags, if wounded with a dart, would search out Betony, and, eating it, be cured.

—Description—It comes up year after year from a thickish, woody root. The stems rise to a height of from 1 to 2 feet, and are slender, square and furrowed. They bear at wide intervals a few pairs of oblong, stalkless leaves, 2 to 3 inches long, and about 3/4 to 1 inch broad, with roughly indented margins in other plants of this group, the pairs of leaves arise on alternate sides of the stem. The majority of the leaves, however, spring from the root and these are larger, on long stalks and of a drawn-out, heart shape. All the leaves are rough to the touch and are also fringed with short, fine hairs; their whole surface is dotted with glands containing a bitter, aromatic oil.

At the top of the stem are the two-lipped flowers of a very rich purplish-red, arranged in dense rings or whorls, which together form short spikes. Then there is a break and a piece of bare stem, with two or four oblong, stalkless leaves and then more flowers, the whole forming what is termed an interrupted spike, a characteristic peculiarity by which Wood Betony is known from all other labiate flowers. The cup or calyx of each flower is crowned by five sharp points, each representing a sepal. The corolla is a long tube ending in two lips, the upper lip slightly arched, the lower one flat, of three equal lobes. The four stamens lie in two pairs within the arch of the upper lip, one pair longer than the other, and shed their pollen on to the back of bee visitors who come to drink the honey in the tube, and thus unconsciously effect the fertilization of the next flower they visit, by carrying to it this pollen that has been dusted upon them. After fertilization, four brown, smooth three-cornered nutlets are developed. The flowers are in bloom during July and August.

The common name of this plant is said by Pliny to have been first Vettonica, from the Vettones a people of Spain, but modern authors resolve the word into the primitive or Celtic form of bew (a head) and ton (good), it being good for complaints in the head. It has sometimes, also, been called Bishopswort, the reason for which is not evident. The name of the genus, Stachys, is a Greek word, signifying a spike, from the mode of flowering.

—Part Used Medicinally—The whole herb, collected from wild plants in July, when at their best, and dried.

Collect only on a fine day, in the morning, but after the dew has been dried by the sun, Cut off the stems shortly above the root (which is no longer used, as in olden days); strip off all discoloured or insect-eaten leaves, and as the stems are fairly firm, tie them up in bunches of about six stalks together, spread out fanwise, so that the air can penetrate to them all, and hang them over strings to dry, either in half-shade, in the open air, or in the drying room. The bunches should be of uniform sizes to facilitate packing when dry. If dried out-of-doors, take in before there is any risk of becoming damp from dew or showers. For drying indoors, a warm, sunny attic or loft may be employed, the window being left open by day, so that there is a current of air, and the moist, hot air may escape: the door may also be left open. The temperature should be from 70 to 100 degrees F. Failing sun any ordinary shed, fitted with racks and shelves, can be used as a drying room, provided it is ventilated near the roof and has a warm current of air, caused by an ordinary coke or anthracite stove. The important point in drying is rapidity and the avoidance of steaming: the quicker the process of drying, the more even the colour obtained, making the product more saleable.

All dried leaves and herbs should be packed away at once in wooden boxes or tins in a dry place, as otherwise they re-absorb about 12 per cent. of moisture from the air, and are liable to become mouldy. The herbs should not be pressed down heavily when packing, or they will tend to crumble.

—Medicinal Action and Uses—Betony was once the sovereign remedy for all maladies of the head, and its properties as a nervine and tonic are still acknowledged, though it is more frequently employed in combination with other nervines than alone. It is useful in hysteria, palpitations pain in the head and face, neuralgia and all nervous affections. In the Medicina Britannica (1666) we read: ‘I have known the most obstinate headaches cured by daily breakfasting for a month or six weeks on a decoction of Betony made with new milk and strained.’

As an aromatic, it has also astringent and alterative action, and combined with other remedies is used as a tonic in dyspepsia and as an alterative in rheumatism, scrofula and impurities of the blood.

The weak infusion forms a very acceptable substitute for tea, and in this way is extensively used in many localities. It has somewhat the taste of tea and all the good qualities of it, without the bad ones. To make Betony tea, pour a pint of boiling water on an ounce of the dried herb. A wineglassful of this decoction three times a dayproves a benefit against languid nervous headaches.

The dried herb may also be smoked as tobacco, combined with Eyebright and Coltsfoot, for relieving headache.

A pinch of the powdered herb will provoke violent sneezing. The dried leaves formed an ingredient in Rowley’s British Herb Snuff, which was at one time quite famous for headaches.

The fresh leaves are said to have an intoxicating effect. They have been used to dye wool a fine yellow.

Gerard tells us, among other uses, that Betony,
‘preserveth the lives and bodies of men from the danger of epidemical diseases. It helpeth those that loathe and cannot digest their food. It is used either dry or green either the root or herb – or the flowers, drunk in broth or meat or made into conserve syrup, water, electuary or powder – as everyone may best frame themselves, or as time or season requires.’
He proceeds to say that the herb cures the jaundice, falling sickness, palsy, convulsions, gout, dropsy and head troubles, and that ‘the powder mixed with honey is no less available for all sorts of colds or cough, wheezing, of shortness of breath and consumption,’ also that ‘the decoction made with mead and Pennyroyal is good for putrid agues,’ and made in wine is good as a vermifuge, ‘and also removes obstructions of the spleen and liver.’ Again, the decoction with wine gargled in the mouth easeth the toothache…. It is a cure for the bites of mad dogs…. A dram of the powder taken with a little honey in some vinegar is good for refreshing those that are wearied by travel. It stayeth bleeding at the nose and mouth, and helpeth those that spit blood, and is good for those that have a rupture and are bruised. The green herb bruised, or the juice, applied to any inward hurt, or outward wound in body or head will quickly heal and close it up. It will draw forth any broken bone or splinter, thorn or other thing gotten into the flesh, also healeth old sores or ulcers and boils. The root is displeasing both to taste and stomach, whereas the leaves and flowers by their sweet and spicy taste, comfort both in meat and medicine.’

Morrigan

Stone stelae with sculpted breasts have been discovered at Castelucio de Sauri, some with only breasts and a necklace as a marker. They date back to the Copper Age c.3000BC. In Spain, France, Portugal and England statues, menhirs and stone slabs frequently also display her eyes, her beak and sometimes her vulva. Parts of her seem hidden, then appearing so as one looks at the pottery artifacts there is more and more of her to piece together. She is a bird goddess, an earth goddess, and her breasts not only nourish the living they also regenerate the dead. Her breasts were believed to form the hills in County Kerry called Da Chich Annan. ( the paps of Anu) She is the Irish Morrigan, Goddess of Death and Guardian of the Dead. She has in these early Celtic appirations, a bird’s head ( often a crow , raven or vulture) and breasts, and on the vessels depicting her there is a symbol for the number three. Sometimes three lines are connected and depict a triple energy that flows from her body, as she is giver and sustainer of life. Very early she is under stood to be a triple goddess, a shape shifter, a three part person. Her names are plentiful and sound like her original name.

In Newgarange Ireland is her grand megalithic tomb-shrine, in it three stone cells, three stone basins engravings of triple snake spirals, coils, arcs and brow ridges. Her signs appear on spindle whirls, altars, sacrificial vessels, vases, pebbles, and pendants. She is the chevron and V, the inverted triangle, the earth element. She is the triple source of power needed to regenerate cycles, to take one from life to death and from death to life. Figurines that pair sprouting seed and vulvas, fish in the ocean, and the female body as a passageway. Vultures and owls are associated with her.. Spirals, crows and ravens. Lunar circles and snake coils. Female figures lock to form circles, fairy rings, and circles de fees. Her followers do energetic ring dances, dangerous to an intruder who tries to break in. Her circles transmit energy by the increased powers of stone, water, mound of circling motion. She is the moon’s three phases, maiden, nymph and crone. The moons, new, waxing and old. She is the source of life giving, death and transformation. regeneration and renewing. Marie Gimbutas, the emeritus professor of European Archeology. who has written extensively on her artifacts, believes that knowledge of her can lead the world towards a sexually equalitarian, non violent, and earth centered future.

Some writers claim that she did not have a consort, others that her consort was the horned god. It seems at least that if there were other gods they did not subordinate her in the beginning. As the Celtic lands became less agrarian, and more dependent on a warrior class for survival, and as they became more sophisticated, the area will with gods and goddesses. Robert Graves describes this aspectual division of the goddess into many kinds of females and powers as analogous to the battle of the trees, in which powers divided among the seasons, each one dominant at a certain time. Joseph Campbell and other Jungians might argue that the Copper Age understanding of Morrigan was a form of monotheism. I think there is another perspective that might also be taken by many Druids, that whatever enters this life to pull us out of Abred is fractured in our vision, and as we are spirits inside spirits our visions are personal and come with our most meaningful experiences, and slip away when they are generalized too far. So we are polytheists, in this sense.( I think both of these approaches are fruitful.) The female figures into which Morrigan is divided do not seem to be as powerful after the Amairgin invasion, at least in much of the literature which has been preserved, often she is seem through the eyes of frightened men.

The Celtic Druid’s Years by John King claims that Samhain was the mating time between Dagda ( the great God) and Morrigan. Lugh might also have been a consort, of the Morringa who shared Bran’s totem animal, but who could also be a bear, so this is one of her aspects. Another is that she was one of the Banschee or Bean Nighe. There is a saying among the Irish and highland Scots that a woman who dies in childbirth better not leave the laundry unfinished, or she will have to come back and wash it until the day of her natural death. Washers at the Ford, if they are seen by any human, someone is to die soon. Bean Nighe dresses in green and has red webbed feet ( bird feet?) one nostril and one tooth. Very prominent long breasts fall from her chest and if you can grab and suck one, you will be granted any wish. You can ask her three questions and she will answer but then you must answer three from her, and if you lie it is too bad for you.

We know that the banschee were shape shifters, and that they appear in Finnegan’s Wake, washing the laundry of Ireland as it grows dark. ( the Anna Liva Plurabella section is the Morrigan section. In early Celtic writing Morringa and her two war goddess sisters could appear in the forms of crows. Madness and Violence, Badb and Neiman were her sisters. She is tri-part and terrifying in the battle between Fin and Goll. One of Finn’s Captains rides a warhorse named Badb which is gray and black and has wings, so its like the hooded Royston or scarecrow, which most often devoured the dead in the British Isles. Its head is hooded like an executioners. Morrigan is defending Ireland her three parts scream KRAA.. KRA.. very loudly, a sky ripping croak. Finn’s army has long horns which sound like calling ravens.

For the red mouthed Badh will cry around the house
For bodies it will be solicitous
Pale Badbs shall sheik
Badbs will be over the breasts of men.

-from Bruiden Da Choca.

( the house is a hill fortress with views into Connacht )

Notice this however. Crows do not make people dead, they eat and transform bodies. Morrigan is not death itself, she is the keeper of death, and she is frightening. Sometimes enemies ran because of the fearful and magical appearance of the army.

In Ireland Morrigu ( another name for Morrigan) and Badbs meld and can both take on the features of a human hag. This is the old age aspect of the Goddess. It has been theorized by some that it is men who most fear and sometimes disrespect older women. She represents the loss of power and finitude of lifespan, a realization not easy even for Finn. She represents her own power, reincarnation, rebirth and a point of view ( wisdom in age) which can’t be banished.

Over his head is shrieking
a lean hag, quickly hopping
Over the points of weapons and shields.
She is the gray haired Morrigu

-Annals of Leinster

Dusk gray cloud feathers and the gloss of midnight awaited Goll’s sunset army as he retreated into the arms of the terrible mother.

She has been called the Irish Kali, eating and being eaten. There is some similarity, she is frightening, She and her sisters can join into a horrible ring through which a warrior might disappear., one full of teeth and hair . But notice this parallel. Goll has another name, Crom Dubh. In Ireland Finn ( the light) lives on one side of the Island and Crom or Goll ( maybe the God of Connan the Barbarian brought up from India or Summer) lives on the other. He is the dark spirit, the hidden who carried the corn mother on his shoulders. This has to do with the way of the light, the balance of the light and dark, and the sinking of the year. Goll sinks like the old sun into the ocean.

We should also note that the stories of Goll and Finn are not all alike, that in some Finn does not kill Goll and in others Goll rescues Finn from the three hags of winter. ( Morrigan again.) And often in the tales Goll is the more sympathetic figure, sensitive towards his wife, and tragic, while Finn’s temperamental bent is to great rage. Morrigan, I think is hidden like Goll. Finn is the bright edge of the sword, reason, and heroism.

Three phantom spirits come out of the Kreshcorran, Devilish, three unsightly mouths, ( long lips down to the knees.) Six unclosing white eyes, six twisting legs under them, Three warlike swords, three shields, three spears.

It goes together with the tooth mother, the devouring goddess who chases Tailesin and devours him, and then gives birth to him. Being killed and devoured means entering the life cycle again, transported by a woman. Maybe the enemy of a hero is female realism, survival, death, devouring, madness, decline with age. Heroic canons often do not include real moral dilemmas which no rulebook will settle, guilts that can never be mended, the unconscious parts and spirits of the mind, enchantment, and survival needs, passage through cauldrons (stomach and uterus) to make life.

The Anna Liva Plurabella section in Finnegan’s Wake is a modern reconstruction of Morrigan. It starts with the demand to describe the river Livey, One overhears a blend of voices, describing the enchanting effects of human beauty, the nature of women, voices from Celtic Epics, woven together like threads from the Book of Kells. Irreverent-reverent history, and at the end at the Ford we hear the Bean Nighe, doing Ireland’s wash as the images of female archetypes wash, haunted, down into the night.

Ireland sober is Ireland stiff.. Lord help you Maria full of Grease, the load is with me.

They mention Finn MacCool and state that Anne was Liva is and Plurabella is to be. The washerwomen bring unconsciousness in which stories fade from person into trees and stones.

My foos won’t move..I feel as old as yonder elm. A tale told of Shaun or Shem All Livia’s daughter’ sons Dark hawks hear us, night, Night, My ho head halls. I feel as heavy as younger stone. Tell me of John or Shaun. Who were Shem and Shaun the living sons and daughters of ? Night now. Tell me a tale of stem or stone. beside the rivering waters of , the hithering and thithering waters of Night.

Finally in the Arthurian vision: not everyone, but many Celtic Scholars trace Morrigan and her two sisters here called Macha and Modron, to Morgan le Fay. She was the most beautiful of nine sisters, living on the Isle of Avalon. She was Fata Morgana

In the Arthurian Book of the Days on the 13th of December ( a beautiful cycle and weaving of the Arthur tales, Lancelot also suffers at the hands of Morrigan ( Morgain, Morgan?) le Fay in the Valley of No Return, where he must face trials and tests in the shape of dragons and spectral knights, a wall of fire and a gigantic knight with an ax. In the same volume Morrigan plots to murder Arthur, and give his power to Accolon of Gaul, and she almost succeeds in this, since she had given Accolon Excaliber, but during the battle he loses control of it and the sword flies back to Arthur. So in an overview of the tales, Morrigan is a villainess and uses illusion to try to destroy Arthur although she fails. And yet the thirtieth of December according to the same source,

King Arthur awoke from his long sleep in which there were many fevered dreams, and he rose and looked about him. Deep bowered and fair, the green landscape stretched about him on all sides. Sweet apple trees grew by the banks of a shallow stream, and white blossoms was upon them like snow. But though the season should have been winter, the air was balmy and soft, and above, in the sky, the sun and moon shown forth together, and there were stars. Then Arthur knew that he was in Avalon, the region of the Summer Stars, where rain and snow fall not, and where the great ones of the world await a call to arms.. Smiling, Arthur stretched his muscles and set off to walk by the stream, listening for the murmur that would tell him that the Round table was met again amid the trees.

Some tales say Arthur was taken to Avalon by Morrigan, and that as a transporter she is neither good nor evil, others that she is a particular corrupt spirit. Arthurian tales are more particular in their characters, than earlier more mythical sagas. I think the guardian-ship of the land by a pure human leader with no moral faults is the theme of Arthur. Natural but non-moral spirits attack him, but they also help him, and it is he( and the knight’s code) that gives them a man of perfect judgment to restore the land. So I am willing to think that Morrigan might have many aspects in these stories which are like her old Queen Role. Yet she no longer controls justice in these stories, even if Morgan the betrayer, Morgan the sister and The Lady of the Lake are one.

Morrigan, and the other two sometimes part of what she is and what she is not are shape shifters, transporters through the cauldrons that take one from life to death( crows, stomachs, human intestines, going under the ground, madness, degenerative change.) and from death to life. ( the midwife, the corn goddess, the earth, the moon-change.) One should not see her as simply a daemon. Better to think of first female goddess, stronger than battle, and more hidden. She can fly, she can change her shape from old to young, she is kindly and well trained in medicine. She is Arthur’s sister, perhaps his soul sister, perhaps his double ( as a doppelganger is a double). According to the New Arthurian Dictionary her reputation gets better in poetry, worse in prose as the tradition goes on. In Vulgate cycle she envies Guenevere, and tries to undo her. In the Prose Tristran she gives Arthur’s court a drinking horn, which no one unfaithful can drink from. She becomes a mortal who has to hide her age. Perhaps the reason for this parallels the movement of the story from a dominant female perspective to a dominant male perspective. Guenevere threatens her anam cara relationship with Arthur, by being the realization of his desires, but not the same as himself, which makes Arthur dominant. This dominance is I think reflected in the term pendragon, which might mean the head dragon or it might mean the dragon’s head. Remember that Druidry is the white light, having more to do with that than the hidden. And that the hidden tends to be less cerebral less connected with metal powers and heroism, and more connected with natural process. (As a parallel if you think it is relevant, Hinduism also has its natural and its willed. )

Morgan should not be seen as an evil goddess, she is also birth, the midwife, the healer, and sometimes the moon. If you take the
meaning of the head of the dragon. then Arthur is the white light of the dragon power, his intuition for justice and druid wisdom makes him able to give the dragon a head. I like this interpretation. Malory gives Morgan a bad rep, but I am more willing to believe the first intuition, that she is Arthur’s sister. Modern women writers sense this I think and are eager to put her in balance. The belief in her as villain seems to me to be close to masculine fear of powerful women. To be too heroic is to cross the boundaries of what is natural. birth, helplessness, lack of power, vulnerability and death. ( I parallel this to Juliana Kristava’s work on horror, in which she points out that the intellect seems to be there, not so much for its owner, but to protect the body.)

There are some good hidden questions here:

Why are there apples in the land of Avalon, which is after all, up in the Summer stars? Snow white is put to sleep by an apple, could it be then, an equation of apple and sleep. Or is this the place that holds the principle of apples and the rebirth of plants, self sewn grains, this seems like a missing part of the puzzle. Apples with their pentagon- star-in -a -circle mystery. Love and life cycle. Apples which are equated with earth. Another missing part seems to be a story about possession. Does Morgan want to possess Arthur, in that her greatest power is to take him away from his judgment, to make him sleep…

The roles of women at the time depicted in the Arthur Cycle have become less universal. When men and women defended their land together as they did earlier, strong survival bands probably existed between men and women. By the time of courtly Arthur tales only men went to war, sometimes for years. So those strong bonds formed in war existed only among men. Women are more likely seen as someone to protect, and admire for innocence and youth. Arthurian times are idealistic and inward, but they are more Patriarchal.

The Bean Nighe, the Washers at the Ford, along with the saying about getting the washing done first, sounds as if there might have been a rhetoric to push young women into menial tasks although I am pretty sure that Joyce’s intent is that they are the makers of history, the stitchers of the dream of life, although they do it cursing and gossiping and they clean the mind and set the soul loose.
Another missing part seems to be a story about possession. Does Morgan want to possess Arthur, in that her greatest power is to take him away from his judgment, to make him sleep….These things jump out at me, and yet if they are tied together too closely the story wilts. But one thing is clear. Rationality and moral consciousness ( love of justice) count in Druidry and so does the Animistic perspective. The Great Goddess is still powerful, as well as the Way of the Light.

Honor Johnson 1998

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These book were important to this paper, and are a good source of supplementary reading:

Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
The Arthurian Book of Days by Caitlin and John Matthews
The Celtic Druid’s Year by John King
The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom by Caitlin and John Matthews
The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Once and Future Goddess by Elinor W. Gadon
The White Goddess by Robert Graves
Mythic Ireland by Michael Dames

I also want to thank my husband, Wayne Johnson at Cadaobh Press for the illustrations. And Bill for his help and patience.

In addition I want to thank Donata for her reading of the first draft, and for her suggestions, the circle and pentagon in the apple with its earth and love meaning, her questions about the Banschee and the laundry “was death in childhood a punishment for not finishing the laundry? “which I explored as best I could, her recommending the Mists of Avalon, and her wonderful support.

Our Online Book Store carries many of these references.

Strengthening Will

“We cannot seek or attain health, wealth, learning, justice or kindness
in general. Action is always specific, concrete, individualized, unique.

~ John Dewey

“In our era the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of
action.”
~ Dag Hammarskjold

Do we have enough information yet? If you want to lead a good and
healthy life, you can find abundant information about how to do it. You
can read holy scripture. You can read self help books or listen to
self-help tapes. You can search the Internet. You can go to lectures and
workshops or read the lifestyle section of the newspaper. You can take
classes. You can even hire a counselor or a personal trainer.

So many of us continue to do things that we shouldn’t or avoid doing
things we should. Lack of information is not the problem. Often the
missing ingredient is lack of will. We’d like to lose weight or exercise
more. Maybe we’d like to meditate more regularly. We feel we should
study more or spend more time talking with our loved ones. We may have
some big and important project that we need to complete, but it just
doesn’t happen.

Perhaps what we are lacking is sufficient will to act. Willing is the
beginning of behavior. It is the act of setting attention on goals and
taking action to meet them. It is different from wishing. We can wish
for a lot of things, and hope that Santa brings them. Wishing doesn’t
imply that we are going to do anything about it. Sometimes it works.
Often it does not.
When we exert our will, we make choices. For instance, right now you are
probably breathing naturally without thinking about it. You haven’t
exercised will in the matter. Your natural instincts tell you to breathe
in and then out. You could choose to stop, for a short time, through an
act of will. Or you could will yourself to touch your nose or stand up
and stretch. You would be making a conscious decision to perform a
behavior, and then you would begin to do it. That’s will.

These are easy examples. What about the hard stuff? Let’s say your goal
is to meditate twice a day for 20 minutes. An admirable goal, and not so
easy to attain for those living active lives. How would you attain this
goal?

You’d have to start by deciding whether you really want to do it. What
would you gain? Greater composure, relaxation, clarity of mind,
spiritual depth, and mental expansion maybe. Are these gains worth
giving up doing the things you would be doing instead? What would you
lose by meeting your goal? You have to weigh the alternatives.

So lets say you decide you do want to meditate twice a day for twenty
minutes each. You get started and do it for three days. Then you feel
especially sleepy in the morning, or your favorite TV show comes on
during the time you had set aside for meditating, or your friend wants
to talk to you late into the night. You feel the impulse to not follow
through with your goal. When your will is strong, you follow through
with your goal by inhibiting competing impulses. You might decide to
skip the TV show. You might decide to go ahead and talk to our friend,
but stay up later to meditate. And you might decide that you need to
start going to bed earlier so you aren’t too sleepy to meditate in the
morning.

The phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” is a cliché, but it
suggests the truth that when we create our intention and direct our
will, we must, as part of the process, seek alternate paths to
accomplish our goals when obstacles appear. Will involves tenacity. It
means we don’t give up at the first disappointment or difficulty. A
strong will perseveres.

Strength of will allows us to accomplish things, to become the person we
hope to be. However, it is only useful if it is guided by wisdom. A
strong willed fool makes a wonderful obstacle to progress, but they
don’t accomplish anything worthwhile with foolish goals and values. We
must learn to know ourselves. We must learn to discern good from bad,
truth from fiction, and develop values based on valid principles.

When we exert our will in action, we create karma. Each action has a
consequence. We live in a world of action and reaction, cause and
effect. The energy we create by our action will come back to us one way
or the other. If our actions are rooted in greed, anger, or other forms
of attachment they will create more of the same in our experience. If
our actions are rooted in compassion and unselfishness, we will
experience more love.  

Practice:
*How do you assess the character of your will?
*Would you say you are a strong willed person, or not?
*When or where have you had a failure of will?
*What might you have done differently?
*Think about your values.
*What is most important to you?
*What are the standards of conduct that mean the most to you?
*What do you most want to accomplish in this life?
*What state of mind do you most treasure?
*What do you most wish for?
*Is it possible you could attain your wish?
*What could you do to attain your wish or meet your goal?
*What can you do right now to begin it?
*What habits or impulses might get in the way of your goal?
*What competing values or desires could be obstacles to attaining your
goal?
*What can you do to remind yourself to persevere in the face of
obstacles and *passing time?
*How can you exert your will without becoming caught up in the trap of
selfish attachment?

MORRIGAN INCENSE

1 oz musk amberette 1/2 oz dragon’s blood 4 drops patchouli oil
4 drops civet oil 4 drops of blood from your own finger
Blend at the dark of the Moon, put in a jar and bury in the earth for
6weeks.

Bennigan’s® The Monte Cristo

8 to 12 cups vegetable shortening

Sandwich
3 slices whole wheat sandwich bread
1 slice Swiss cheese (deli-style)
3 ounces sliced turkey (deli-style)
1 slice American cheese (deli-style)
3 ounces sliced ham (deli-style)

Batter
2 egg yolks
1 cup ice water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

On Top
Powdered sugar

On the Side
raspberry preserves

1. Heat 8-12 cups of shortneing in a deep fryer or large saucepan to
375 degrees. You will need the hot shortening to be at least 4
inches deep.
2. Make the sandwich by arranging the slice of Swiss cheese on a
piece of wheat bread. Arrange the turkey breast on the Swiss cheese.
Place a piece of wheat bread on the turkey. Place the slice of
American cheese on the wheat bread. Arrange the ham slices on the
American cheese. Top off the sandwich with the third slice of bread.
Make sure the meat is not hanging over the edge of the sandwich.
Press down on the sandwich with the palm of your hand to flatten it
a bit.
3. Make the batter by beating the egg yolks. Stir in the ice water.
Measure the flour and baking soda into a sifter, and sift the
mixture into the ice water and egg yolk. Stir with a large spoon,
but don’t mix it too well. You should still have many visible lumps
in the batter.
4. Slice the sandwich in half from corner to corner. Dip one half of
the sandwich in the batter, while holding it together with your
fingers (the batter will hold the sandwich together in the
shortening). Coat the sandwich well, but let any excess batter fall
off. Drop the battered sandwich half into the oil. If your pan or
fryer can fit the other half of the sandwich, batter that piece and
drop it into the fryer as well. If your fryer is small, you may only
be able to fry only one half at a time. Fry the sandwich for 6 to 8
minutes, turning it over halfway through cooking time. It should be
golden brown when done.
5. Remove the sandwich halves to paper towels to drain. When you can
touch the sandwich, slice each half in half making four pieces. Dust
the sandwich with powdered sugar and serve it with a small bowl of
raspberry preserves. (http://www.topsecretrecipes.com)

Makes 1 sandwich.

Sleep like a baby bath

Perfect for when you are overstimulated after a hectic day.
1 handful of chamomile flowers
2 chamomile tea bags
sandalwood incense (optional)
candles (optional)
1 quart water
Optional 8-10 pellets of homeopathic chamomile 30x into the bathwater
Start by steeping the chamomile flowers in a quart of water for twenty minutes. During this time
cover your head with a towel and position your head over the stove and inhale the healing aroma of
the chamomile steam. Strain and pour the liquid into your bath.
Next using the two teabags make yourself a cup of chamomile tea to sip in the bathtub, steep it
lightly and save the teabags. Once immersed in the tub, put on some relaxing music. Light the
candles and your favorite incense. Close your eyes and place a warm tea bag over each eye.
Now imagine yourself drifting off to the seashore, where
you are stretched out on the comforting sand. The sun is gently warming your body. Imagine the
rolling sounds of the waves as you let yourself drift…drift. It is also helpful whenever you are
stressed and fatigued to breathe deliberately. A simple thing you can do in the tub is put your
awareness into your inhalation and eshalation and at the same time concentrate on your big toes.
The big toe is a reflex point in your body for your head. According to the Yogis, energy enters
through the head and exits through the feet. This is a good way of exiting all your mental
stresses and calming your mind. (You can also do this exercise in bed)
from Water Magic
By Mary Muryn

Jewelry for your Garden

This is a fun trash turned into treasure something useful project. I call my creation “Jewelry for the Garden”. I came up with this idea after my hubby asked me if I could make something to mark the veggies and herbs that he recently planted in our garden. I could have used a number of things as markers – the stamped spoon idea is so cute, but I don’t have any extra spoons. Tongue depressors or Popsicle sticks – they break a part. I could have went to a garden shop and bought some, but I don’t want to spend money on something I knew I could make. So I looked around the house and found these 3 items.

Wire hangers from the dry cleaner, orange juice can tops and bottoms, and a few beads from my collection.

Before

After

Cost: Nothing Time to Complete: 15 minutes = A Happy Hubby He would have been fine with just the OJ lids on the hanger, but I had to add a little style to them.

They are very easy to make. The hardest part is waiting until you have collected enough OJ cans to make enough markers for all the plants you want to mark in your garden.

1. Pull the wire part of the hanger from the cardboard tube. One on each side. This will be the hook on the top of the stake.

2. Untwist the hook part of the hanger.

3. Open up the hook, by spreading the two wires apart.

4. Cut in the center with wire cutters. You have just created 2 stakes to hang the OJ lids on.

5. Press the smaller hook end back a bit with your fingers so that it is closer to the wire behind it.

6. Mold the bigger hook end with your hands so it resembles the ones shown in the photo below. This end will go into the ground, so it does not have to be perfect. It will give the stake support.

7. Optional: Spray paint silver to match the OJ lid.

8. If you have a Dremel drill – drill 2 holes in an OJ lid – one at the top and another at the bottom. Make sure the bottom hole is close to the edge of the lid so you will be able to thread a jump ring through it. I placed mine right in the lid’s groove. If you don’t have a drill, an awl and a hammer will also make a hole.

9. Add some pretty beads to a jump ring and attach to the lid. I was going for an all green look so the markers would look nice, but would blend in with the garden at the same time.

Jewelry For Your Garden

10. I tried using a stamping set to mark each lid, but the metal is too soft, so I used permanent markers. If you want to stamp the names on each marker – use tin can lids that are opened with a can opener that doesn’t leave the edges sharp. Most tin can lids are bigger and have ridges in them. I like the OJ lids – they are smooth.

11. Push the larger hook end into the dirt and never again forget what you planted. The beads and the lids move in the breeze and jangle a bit- it might scare the birds and other animals who may decide to make a feast out of your garden.

DIY Garden Marker from Recycled items

House Blessing

Assemble:
1.  Salt & Water
2.  Incense (fire and air)
3.  Milk & Honey
4.  Oil (for anointing)
5.  Wine (for offering)
6.  Bells, Pots, Pans, Whistles, etc.

Cast a circle in the main room (livingroom) and after casting, visualize
the circle expanding to include the entire house. Call upon the spirits
and energies living in the house (or apartment). Invite those who will
be harmonious with the new household and its energies to remain.
Invite/ask those who will be happier elsewhere to depart.  Release all
“energies” not compatible with the new household.  (This may be
expressed as a “release” in order to unbind anything that may be stuck.)

Then call upon, greet, and invite ancestors, patron deities, and all
harmonious spirits and energies to dwell in the house as they please.

Gather up the pots, pans, and all the noise-makers.  Go to each door and
window, not forgetting the fire-place and dog-door, making as much
racket as humanly possible–to shoo out anything unwanted.  (This is
hysterical fun, and also raises lots of energy for the next important
step.) Go again throughout the house and at each portal (door, window,
etc.) sprinkle salt-water and cense, saying: “By the Elements I purify
and charge this portal.”  Then anoint the portal with milk and honey,
saying: “By Milk and Honey I ensure prosperity and peace within this
place.”  Finally, anoint the portal with oil, saying: “With Oil I seal
this portal and protect all within.”  At the front door a special prayer
is said, asking the guardian deities (God & Goddess) to freely grant
entry to all frien ds and loved ones, and to prevent passage (turn
aside) to any who would do harm.” Then, if it’s a house–pour wine
across the width of the threshold; if it’s an apartment anoint the
threshold with light touches of wine.

The house-holders then each take a sip of wine, leaving some as an
offering to the Gods, and the Circle should be closed.  The remaining
wine, milk, and honey should be offered to the Gods.  (In our case to
the fruit tree and the oak tree in our yard.)

Addenda: This is very effective if done as part of a house-warming
party, followed by much  feasting.  It has also been done very
effectively by two people.  It only takes about 30 minutes to do a large
house.  You _can_ take the time.

Do make certain to “ground” afterward, by closing the circle and by
eating.  This ritual can “stir” up everybody and make the house feel
full of “buzzy” energy.

By: Pirate Jenny
To: All
Re: Re: House Blessing notes

In the spirit of house blessings, and because I’m basically a kitchen
witch at heart, and like little projects over serious ritual, I offer
some selections gleaned from Cunningham’s The Magical Household. I’m
typing these without permission but with the hope that they’ll
inspire you to pick up the Cunningham book, because it’s wonderful
stuph… :>

For the doorway:

o Suspend over the door a fresh sprig of dill, tied with a blue cord (or
  red, if you prefer), to prevent those who mean you harm from entering.

o Cross two needles, and stick into or tie onto a corner of your
  doormat, to prevent evil from entering.

o Grind Dragon’s Blood herb into a powder and sprinkle it on door and
  window sills, to protect your house from harm.

“Witch Bottles”

o Powder some more Dragon’s Blood herb with a small quantity of sugar
  and salt, and place in a small corked or screw-lidded bottle. Shake
  and seal with red wax, then place it where it won’t be found (or at
  least not easily seen). This will ensure harmony and peace within
  the house.

o Place three new needles, three new pins, and three new nails in a
  glass jar. Fill with salt and shake vigorously nine times. Seal with
  white wax and place in kitchen cupboard where it will not be seen.
  This protects your food from contamination.

o Gather rosemary, along with several needles and pins, into a small
  glass jar with a tight-fitting lid or cork. When full, pour in red
  wine and shake. Seal with black or red wax, and place in an
  inconspicuous place in the apartment. If you own your own house,
  bury this at the furthestmost corner of your property. The book
  also adds this:
          As you’re filling the jar, say these words…
          “Pins, needles, rosemary, wine,
          In this witch’s bottle of mine;
          Guard against harm and enmity;
          This is my will; so Mote it Be!”
  Personally, I’m not hip on anything but, “Hey, Gods? It’s me again”,
  but I know, I’m CONSIDERABLY less formal than most!

An Anti-Theft Sachet

o Mix caraway, rosemary, juniper berries, and elder leaves or mistletoe,
and place into white square of cloth. Tie with white yarn and hang
prominently. I’d assume either at the place you think thieves are most
likely to enter–this being an anti-theft sachet–or at every entrance
and doorway. This will require more cloth and more herbs, but most of
the above are fairly inexpensive.

Finally, on Moving Day itself:

o  Bring two things into the house first: a small amount of salt, half
to be scattered upon crossing the threshhold, and a small loaf of bread.
Break the bread into as many pieces as you have people moving in, with
one extra piece for the gods’ portion. Sprinkle a dash of salt on each
piece; share, when you have a moment. (I’d say have water on hand as
well–at the very least, to clear the salt!) Next, bring in an apple and
do the same thing–Cunningham recommends a fruit and cheese basket–I’d
stick with just the apple and maybe a few slices of cheddar, or
something. Lastly, bring in a sturdy chair and place it either near the
apple and bread bits, or facing the door. This ensures that you will
never know poverty, for there is bread and salt, hunger, for there is
fruit (and cheese), and instability (for there’s your stable chair
guarding the door. After that, heave and lift until you’re moved in!

Home-blessing

The Rowan tree (Luis)

Starcandle*

 

The Rowan has been a very “magickal” tree for centuries and for many traditions. The word “Rowan” is said to be descended from the Nordic word “Rune” which means “magick, secret”. These trees are often found near magickal stone circles and many of the Old-English country-houses have support beams for the roofs made of the wood of this very special tree!

In Druidry the wood as well as the berries are used for magickal rites, and in some parts of the country branches of the Rowan are attached to the tales of cows the night before “Beltane” (the night before the 1st of May) to protect them from the influences of the evil spirits on that special night! Let me take this opportunity to share one of my favourite spells for the protection of your home with you:)

You will need: 2 small branches of a Rowan for a cross or 5 (obviously) for a pentacle, if possible pick them up from the ground rather then cutting them off from the tree! In any case ALWAYS ask the tree for permission, if you do not receive permission, respect this, leave the tree alone and look elsewhere!

1 small bottle of beer
1 piece of red ribbon

Take the branches from the Rowan and bind them together in the form of a cross or pentacle with the red ribbon, try to make it a cross where all the sides are equally long. If you have to cut the branches from the tree try to find branches of the same length, because once cut, you can not shorten them anymore! Do not forget to give a special thanks to the tree by offering her the beer which you pour on to the ground near it, while either aloud or silently you give your thanks.

Take the cross or pentacle into your right hand, touch your heart and head with it, touch your lips with it and carry it through every room of your home, stretching your hand as far out as possible, walking around in every room. Leave every room walking backwards while chanting an incantation of blessing.

Now walk out of the house backwards, and attach the cross above your frontdoor. For the spell to be able to keep its power you would have to repeat the same proceedings 4 times a year. I find the best times to repeat the spell are 25th of March, 24th of June, 29th of September and 25th of December, you may feel different.

To increase the magick of the Rowan, you can easily plant one in the garden or in a large container; however always try to put the tree where it can catch the early morning sun. You can be able to enjoy its beauty and the tree can enjoy its favourite environment, thanking you for it with his protection!

I hope you enjoy working with the Rowan as much as I do!

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