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.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Time management books are not awesome

I generally enjoy keeping this blog very much about my creative and witchy interests, but for just a moment, I want to address a subject I encounter quite a bit in my work as a life coach: time management books. The folks who become my clients are curious and motivated to grow which sometimes means that they read self-help books either before trying coaching or as a supplement to the coaching experience. And I have a love affair with books, so you would think that I'd be all over the wonders of time management books. But life is more complicated than that and my experience has been that these titles mostly have one of two issues:

1) They offer very general advice, which is valid but tough to apply to the specificity of one individual's life. This can quickly degenerate into what is known as "shoulding all over yourself". The ideas resonate for you, but without a plan for how to experiment and apply it, these nice ideas just become things you "should" do, but don't. And then you feel crappy about that. And that's a difficult and demotivating place to be.

2) They offer an author's own system of time management, which works really well for him or her but may not be a great fit for each reader. This can also degenerate into shoulding, because it is so easy to think that the lovely, neat system that works so well for someone else should work for you, if only you were... [Fill in the horrible blank.]

I'm not suggesting the world must all refuse to read time management books even if we really love that kind of thing, but I am suggesting that if the reading leads to shoulding... well, as for me I'd rather make art or go outside.

Nerdy note: The idea of shoulding comes from the massively prominent psychologist Albert Ellis, who was kind of frightening really, but I do so like the ideas of "shoulding all over yourself" and it's cousin "musterbating".

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Weed lovin' witchery: Purple Deadnettle

Lamium purpureum
Purple deadnettle
a.k.a Archangel

Purple dead nettle is popping up all over the place at this time of year, including here at the little Victorian. Aside from being cute and sporting a pretty combination of purple and green, it is both medicinal and edible.

For eating:
It doesn't have a strong flavor, but it is a superfood, packed with fiber, iron, antioxidants and vitamins. I've had it raw, but it can also be cooked. It looks pretty on a salad.

For healing: The leaves and flowers can be dried and teas can be made from the plant either fresh or dried. Purple deadnettle is a diuretic, styptic, astringent and tonic, among other things. It's leaves can be bruised and applied to cuts.

For witching: Popping up in the earliest spring-like moments, purple deadnettle is a maideny herb. In older folklore it was said to be a cheerful herb that makes the heart merry. It grows enthusiastically were groundcover is patchy or where the soil has been disturbed, pointing to a tenacious nature and the ability to make something lovely and useful out of a barren environment. It is called deadnettle, because sometimes folks mistake it for nettle, but this gentle plant has no sting. Archangel is an alternate term, coming from the time time that it blooms and the saint's feat day.

For wildlife:
Bees, helpful pollinators, enjoy it enormously.