Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Trees of The Little Victorian: Redbud

Eastern Redbud  
Cercis Canadensis 

Here at the Little Victorian, the Chef cut down invasive Japanese bush honeysuckle, which weakens migrating birds with the bird-equivalent of junk food, and planted a native, Eastern redbud. We picked the redbud up on the cheap at the farmer's market, so let's hope she does well.

For eating: Like other seed pods in the legume family, seed pods of the red bud offer beneficial nutrients, such as protein, iron and complex carbohydrates, when consumed while green and tender. To prepare for eating, sauté the pods like snow peas. The flowers are also edible and can be added to salads. 

For healing: Bark and root of redbud is high in tannins and has been used as an astringent, particularly in the treatment of dysentery. 

For witching: Redbud is a traditional harbinger of spring with quite a bit of folklore around it, particularly so in the Appalachian Mountains. The term “redbud winter” refers to a cold snap that happens just as the redbuds bloom after the first blush of a few warm days in the spring. According to legend, Judas Iscariot hanged himself from a branch of the European species Cercis siliquastrum. Smaller redbud branches were also boiled to make a pink dye for homespun yarn. Redbud wood is quite strong and could be used in the making of magical tools particularly when the energy of spring-like new endeavors is desired. 

For wildlife: The Eastern Redbud is a native understory tree here in Tennessee, and birds, deer and squirrels eat the seeds. The flowers are important for the production of honey by bees.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Weed Lovin' Witchery: Yellow Wood Sorrel

The lovable lawn weed series (Purple Deadnettle, Hairy Bittercress, Plantain) continues:

Yellow Wood Sorrel
Oxalis stricta

Yellow wood sorrel is easily distinguished from clovers and black medic by its heart shaped leaves (rather than oval) and cute, five petaled flower (rather than the familiar, spiky looking clover flower). A close relative of yellow wood sorrel in the same family is commonly sold around St. Patrick’s day as shamrock.

 For eating: Tasty, sour, lemony, but not bitter. People have been eating this raw or cooked for ages. I loved the flavor of the oxalis family as a kid and still do. Good with fish or as tea or in a salad. All parts are edible. BUT it contains oxalic acid, so don’t make it the main element of your diet. (Who would? But just in case…) People who have gout, kidney problems, rheumatic conditions and any other quirky problem that reacts to oxalic acid should clearly not eat it.

For healing: High in healthy vitamin C, wood sorrel is also good for stopping bleeding, cooling fevers and soothing the stomach. It is a mild diuretic and can induce appetite in those who are sick. Use in a poultice for swelling.

For witching: Wood sorrel has a rather magical reputation. Like many herbs with healing properties, it is used in healing magic. It also associated with faeries, woodland spirits and luck.

For wildlife: Native to North America & parts of Europe & eaten by butterflies.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Weed lovin' witchery: Narrowleaf Plantain

The lovable lawn weed series (Purple Deadnettle, Hairy Bittercress) continues:

Narrowleaf Plantain
Plantago lanceolata
a.k.a. Ribwort (note the ribbed leaves)

Do you have a lawn? Do you ever see lawns? You have seen this stuff. I have seen it in diverse areas of the U.S. without ever realizing that I was standing on a goldmine of health benefits. It won’t flower until later in the season, so for now the key thing is the ribbed leaves. Also, narrow leaf and broadleaf (wider, rounder leaves, but still ribbed) plantain have the same uses. Neither is related to the starchy food plantain.

For eating: The leaves are edible stir fried or boiled and are full of good-for-you antioxidants. Young leaves are preferable especially raw in salads, but older leaves can be used after their tough, parallel veins are removed.

For healing: Crushed leaves produce an astringent, anti-toxic, antibacterial, hemostatic and anti-inflammatory juice that can be applied to cuts, insect bites and stings. It is also an expectorant, anticatarrhal and demulcent, useful as a fresh or dried tea for respiratory issues, colds and coughing. In fact, this is pretty much a miracle plant that’s good for everything. Make the tea as needed or carry it dried in a first aid kit, chew and apply to bites (or find it fresh and crush or chew). Make a vodka tincture or an oil infusion and take only 2-3 drops as needed. Make an ointment for diaper rash and hemorrhoids.

For witching: Plantain, so widely regarded as a heal-all herb, can be used for health and healing spells. Its soothing, calming, toxin-neutralizing and protective properties can be used magically as well as physically. It is especially good for taking the sting out of arguments and creating a well protected and happy home.

For wildlife: Like most garden weeds, it is not native to North America. However, birds are fond of plantain seeds, which contain a higher percentage of oil than many seeds and are grown commercially and included in some bird seed mixtures. Children sometimes play games with the long flower stalks. Children count as wildlife.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Sometimes, the front room is like this.

Lately though, it is like this. Can't wait till this project is done!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weed lovin' witchery: Hairy Bittercress

Hairy Bittercress
Cardamine hirsute
A.K.A. Snapweed

For eating: Edible, but neither bitter nor hairy. It is peppery and a wee bit sour, and can make a nice addition to salads while it is young and tender, before it goes to seed. Eat it before it takes over your garden. Once the seed pods ripen, yellow and start shooting out seeds, it is no longer tasty.

For witching: As a peppery herb, it can be used for curses. It is tough-as-nails and able to withstand hard freezes and infertile soil. It’s up and flowering long before most plants are ready to brave the cold. With an amazing quality called “explosive propagation” (it shoots seeds out up to 10 feet!) it can help direct intention and amp up workings in a pretty aggressive way. Do not let its delicate stems and pretty little flowers fool you. (But perhaps you can use it to fool someone else.)

For wildlife: It is not a native species to North America, but early spring butterflies like it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Full moon before the equinox

The full moon before the vernal equinox has become sort of a special thing here at the little victorian. It centers around calling up the spirits in the community of my home and land to begin to shake off wintry slumber in preparation for celebrating together on the equinox.

(Can I just say that typing things like this or saying them outloud is still, after all these years of witchery, kind of embarrassing. In full on teenage/imaginary audience style I can imagine a world full of people laughing at my panentheist-animist witchy ways.)

Anyhow, instead of using the bag of bits and bobs that I usually employ in ritual divination, I pulled out just one tarot card, which is pretty much the cutest thing ever. I love this deck and the artist behind them. The cards are super detailed and most of them are kind of greyish and eldritch, but this this one is so hopeful and lovely that I had to share. It sat on my altar for a while after the ritual.

The deck is by Pauline Stuckey Cassidy. Also in the photo is a heart shaped rock given by my dearest friends, a wee steel skull made by a guy who sometimes vends at the flea market and just a corner of one of my ancestor lanterns.

And then, just because it reminds me of the colors in the card, this is an antique, crazy-quilted piano bench cover that hangs on our wall.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Springtime speckled eggs

As the vernal equinox approaches the Ostara and/or Easter decorations emerge...

Thrifted vintage egg collecting basket with papermache eggs that I painted. Mixing gesso into the acrylic paint gives them that matte, eggshell finish.