Keeping The Light Shining

 

The Winter Solstice was one of my highlights of last year, 2020.  After a year of gloom, doom, despair and darkness for many,  the Solstice was an opportunity to really celebrate the Light.

 

 

Candle light and lamp light brightened the house during the holiday season and it is always lovely to have such soft lighting when relaxing.  Our Solstice celebration also included lights or torches made from Mullein stalks that I had saved from harvest time.

 

 

You can see how brightly they burned!  They lasted for a good time too – maybe an hour or more – so I was very pleased with them.  I felt it was more important than ever to celebrate the return of the Light after such a dark year.  The Solstice occurred on the night of the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn.  I had read a lot about this conjunction but I am not an astrologer so I won’t attempt to describe any of the forecasts.  You can read about this conjunction here and here  astrologyking.com/jupiter-conjunct-saturn-the-great-conjunction/  darkstarastrology.com/jupiter-conjunction-saturn/         

Suffice it to say, things are going to change but HOW is not known, it depends on us and how we think.  Throughout this last year I, like many, have felt anxious and fearful and I am sure there have been many dark nights of the soul for people. The lack of light during winter certainly did not help.  For me, I was not anxious about a virus or becoming ill because I am confident in my immune system and good health.  I have been anxious about what it all means.  There seem to be so many agendas, so much censorship and propaganda; so much fear generated and so many theories about what is actually going on.  Censorship and confusing information from governments and health experts have given me particular concern and I have felt a darkness spreading towards our future.  Consequently, at the Solstice I made a vow to myself, to not only welcome in the Light but to be the Light!  If we are to manifest a future that serves everyone, brings Peace and good will, a future of equal opportunity and mutual respect for the planet and for all people, then I think we must focus on the Light and not on negative possibilities that haven’t yet happened.

There are many plants throughout the year that will help us to shine our lights, not least St. John’s Wort and, coming very soon, Dandelion!  These plants are allies who will help us to shine the Light within us.

 

 

I do believe that we all have a Light within.  Some people might call it Divine Light others might call it Star Light or Love Light.  It has actually been scientifically proven that we do have a Light body made up of bio-photons. Here is an interesting article.  wakeup-world.com/2013/07/12/biophotons-the-human-body-emits-communicates-with-and-is-made-from-light/   

 

There are many definitions of Light but for me, the Light that is within us is a deep, deep Knowledge.  The Knowledge that we are part of this planet, that we are part of each other and that deep down we know that this is the Truth.  In ancient Ireland, the Truth was seen as a magical force that could bring forth healing.  One could argue that we all have our own truths and that truth may differ from person to person.  Perhaps, but I say, strip away all the conditioning, all of the religious dogma and political, social and cultural propaganda that we have all been subjected to and the deep Truth within all of us will shine like Light.  This Light or Truth, can heal us and heal our planet and heal our relationship with all our plant and animal relations.

So rather than continuing to worry, I am training myself to be in the now and more importantly to visualise and imagine, to really work to  manifest a bright, light filled future.  I want the best for my children, I want them to be free and happy.  I want all of us to be happy and free, free to be how we are meant to be.

If we keep our Light shining and resist the morbid temptation to worry and imagine the worst; if we remember  to call on our plant allies to support us then our Light will overcome any darkness and help us to manifest a better world.  Our energy and personal power will manifest the Light rather than feed the darkness.

Marianne Williamson’s poem has been with me for a long time and I would like to share it with you:

Our Deepest Fear
By Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

 

If we consciously shine our own Light then the Light will spread and all will be well.  The plants are already doing it even in January!

Medicinal Spices of Christmas

 

 

 

I know, I know, I know and I am sorry.   It is far too early in the year to be mentioning the C word.  It is the right time however, to be making “The Cake” – which I did last month.

Making the cake and enjoying the most gorgeous of seasonal aromas,  ( the cloves, the orange, the cinnamon and mixed spice, the nutmeg and the brandy….mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm), I was reminded of the medicinal qualities of many of the cake’s ingredients and thought it would be a good idea to share them because we often forget what a powerful pharmacopoeia we have in our kitchen cupboards.  I was also reminded that spices can come from very far afield and we have been using them for a very  long time both as medicine and in cooking.

Spices have been used in medicine and in cooking for  at least 3000 years.  They were used in China, Egypt  and in the Middle East for centuries.  The Romans brought spices west as they expanded their empire and the crusaders brought them  again in the middles ages.  Spices come from China, India, Indonesia, South America and elsewhere and in the past were so expensive that only the very rich could afford them.  Nowadays any household can enjoy spices and hopefully, indigenous people around the world are no longer being  killed and wiped out, for having land that produces spices, as was the case during the spice wars during the 17th and 18th centuries.

I find it interesting that the spices we use, particularly those we use at Christmas time, are very beneficial for the digestive system along with other complaints.

 

After mixing butter and xylitol, ( we avoid sugar, particularly at this time of year!) I start adding some beaten egg and flour and with the flour, the spices.

CLOVES – Eugenia caraphyllus  and Syzgium aromaticum  This spice takes his common name from the French word “clou” for nail because he resembles a little nail or tack.  The Clove is the dried, unopened flower bud of the Clove Tree and has been used for nausea, flatulence, vomiting, worms and toothache.  Adding Clove to food can help avoid these complaints as he is both antiseptic and a natural anti-biotic; and can reduce distressing symptoms as he stimulates the digestive system.  The spice can also be drunk as a tea or added to another tea or favourite warm drink.  For toothache – which I hope you won’t have from eating too much sugar! – can be eased by holding a Clove in the mouth next to the tooth or put some Clove oil on to a small piece of cottonwool and hold that on the tooth.  This will numb the pain but it is only a first aid remedy until you can get to a dentist.

 

NUTMEG – Myristica fragrans – is, to me, very exotic.  I love the smell and I love using him with vegetables.  I also put Nutmeg in the Christmas cake.  Again, this is a spice that aids digestion, preventing gas and fermentation of food in the stomach and helps ease nausea and vomiting. Nutmeg also supports the liver and kidneys as they work to remove toxins from the body.  Nutmeg is an anti-bacterial spice and can improve memory.  As a muscle relaxant, he can also help relax a tense stomach making digestion easier.  Nutmeg is not commonly used in medicine today because too much of it can be toxic.  A little in the cake is just enough!

 

 

CINNAMON –Cinnamonum zeylanicum – is a spice that everyone is familiar with.  I use her to bring out the sweetness in the fruit.  Cinnamon is another spice that warms up the digestive system and prevents a build up of gas as well as  helping to expel gas.  As Cinnamon is an astringent she can help with diarrhoea as well as nausea and vomiting and can relieve pain the bowels.  We can also use her to  balance blood sugar levels that helps us to prevent diabetes as Cinnamon “eats” sugar and increases the metabolic rate.  The cardiovascular system is improved and cholesterol lowered by this anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory spice.  Wonderful at any time of the year and in any dish!

 

MIXED SPICE – There are various blends of different spices in a “Mixed Spice”.  This blend contains the above spices already mentioned as well as Ginger and Fennel.  Guess what?  Both Ginger and Fennel are both digestive spices and will help you avoid discomfort over the festive period.  Fennel –Foeniculum vulgare is a stomachic which means it is a specific for the stomach,  easing cramp,  relaxing, reducing flatulence and improving appetite and overall digestion.  Ginger – Zingiber offincale promotes gastric secretion, warms the system, relieves an upset stomach and nausea and, as all the spices do, also relieves flatulence!!

It seems to me that we could be using medicinal gifts from Nature without even realising.  The Sage and the Horseradish that people may use in their stuffing and sauces are also very beneficial in the digestion of meat and fats.  As we feast during the Winter Solstice or at Yule or Christmas, we can be assured that in using these spices we shall not suffer with indigestion, within reason of course. They can all be added, not only to the Cake but  to warm drinks, in combination or separately.

I think we are learning that over-indulgence at this time of year does not really do us any favours.  Enjoying our food, taking time to slow down and to really appreciate all the subtle flavours is much healthier.  We will be giving thanks for the generosity of Mother Nature who provides us with the remedies that allow  for a little self-indulgence!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Stock-Take, Looking Towards Spring

Here in Connemara we have finished  celebrating the Winter Solstice and on Monday I went to a friend’s house to enjoy an evening  with women friends as it was Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas.  Traditionally  in Ireland, this is the day when women put up their feet and relax or they go out and party with female friends before getting back to “business as usual”.

 

I always do a personal stock-take during the holiday season asking myself – What have I learned?  Did I fulfill my aspirations and the plans that I made this time last year?  What challenges did I meet this year?  Did I have any successes?  Was I happy? Did I make others happy? Did I make a positive difference in the world?

Doing this personal stock-take or reflection, I realise that I have learned a lot about myself, which is good because now I know some of the areas that need improvement and I know my strengths.  One of my plant allies, Fuchsia was a great help and support when I was facing challenges.  I feel so fortunate in having such good friends and allies in the plant world.

 

I fulfilled some of my aspirations and plans for 2019. For example,  I wrote and published my second book – “The Weed Handbook Volume 2”.

 

(which you can buy from this website – along with “The Weed Handbook Volume 1”)

I battled with technology, struggled with websites, became creative with cameras and learned new skills to create my first ever digital herbal course., “Herbs for Winter Wellness”.  This is available on the Udemy teaching platform and here is a link to it:

www.udemy.com/course/herbs-for-winter-wellness-from-danus-irish-herb-garden/?referralCode=C3D8822F078850AA3AD0

I am also thrilled that my other digital course, “Wise Woman, Goddess Training” has also taken off and I have students doing that too.  Here is a link:

danusirishherbgarden.com/wise-woman-training/)

I am happy to be sharing my knowledge about medicinal herbs as well as helping others to reconnect with Mother Nature and at the same time working to heal themselves.

After taking stock of my personal life I must conclude that despite some difficult times during 2019 and despite the let-downs, overall I am happy.  I think I have done some good for the planet and for my community. I have continued to build a relationship with the plant community by co-creating with Mother Nature.  For any one person that I met this year who was unkind and unpleasant, I was supported and encouraged by so many others and they made a bigger impression on me,   Now I am looking forward to 2020 and I intend to have an amazing year, with the amazing people  who are my friends and who I have yet to meet and with more wonderful plants.

To this end,  I have just carried out a stock-take of my apothecary, my home medicine chest, to see what I have and to plan what I will need for 2020.

 

I see that I am very well stocked with medicines made mainly from weeds, plants that grow wild here, as well as a few garden herbs. It is such a  reassuring feeling having so much good, natural medicine.  I am ready now for any event, for any health issue.  I noticed that there are several nervine herbs here – Lemon Balm, California Poppy, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort, Passiflora and Valerian.  I remember being quite surprised by the abundance of these plants and feeling obligated almost, to make medicine.  With so many people under stress these days I am delighted that I have medicine ready to help those with SAD, depression, nervous tension, anxiety and sleep problems. The plants have provided the medicine and those who need it will come.

What I will probably do this coming year is focus more on the plants and herbs that will help with physical problems, digestive issues and pain for example.  I will dry more plants for teas and make some incense from the many beautiful flowers that will be growing.  We do not know what the weather will be like but it is fun to make plans.  Soon it will be time to be looking through the seed packets again!  So much to look forward to and Imbolc, the beginning of Spring will be here before we know it.   Let me know if you are looking forward to growing anything this year or if you have a home apothecary.

 

 

 

Head Down – Treasure to Find!

During the three days of the Summer Solstice we had the loveliest of weather and thanks to the Goddess it is continuing.  Hurray!

Have you noticed how the energy has changed?  Something has definitely changed or shifted since last Friday.  On Friday I found myself skipping up and down kerbs in the city.  I was having wonderful conversations in my head and noticed I was gesticulating as if I was having a REAL conversation and I had to cop on to myself otherwise I would have had some funny looks.  I could feel energy or excitement brimming up inside of me and I wanted to dance along the streets, laugh, hug people.  I felt SO happy!  It was such a great feeling.  I felt as giddy as a teenager because I felt so full of light.  It must have been the solstice and the sun spot activity.  Or perhaps it was due to all the treasure I had recently found.

All too often we rush through life,,looking ahead to the next chore or activity.  We are always running out of time and dashing about doing.  I can be as guilty of this as anyone but fortunately, because where I live is so beautiful, I am regularly reminded to slow down and take it all in.

 

Looking around and looking down, I discover Devil’s Bit Scabious, English Stonecrop,  Hawkweed and different types of grass.

The purple of Self-Heal next to the white of Clover and the yellow of Dandelion make me think of treasure.    There are more treasures to be enjoyed if I keep looking down.

 

The colours of Red Clover and  Hawkweed along with the pale pink of the Blackberry flower and the blue of Devil’s Bit Scabious are like bright gems strewn in the grass.

 

There are so many stories within our folklore and within modern “morality” tales about people who are so busy searching for what they think is precious or is treasure, that they often don’t recognise it when it is right in front of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

English Stonecrop  looks like a scattering of fallen stars and Wild Thyme adds bright colour which stands out so beautifully against the green of the grass.  Our wild flowers are a treasure trove that we can enjoy if we go head down rather than looking ahead to what is coming next.  So many of these plants are medicinal or have been included in tales in our shared folk history.  The variety and diversity of size, shape, colour and possible use is quite amazing to see on a short walk.

 

Cow Parsnip with lacy umbels look so fresh and delicate.

I say treasure our wild flowers and keep your head down – so that you can see them.  Be a friend to them…which reminds me; if you would like to make a friend of a wild flower consider coming to my double workshop on Saturday 13 July – Finding a Plant Ally and Making a Flower Essence.  Details here,

How to Find Your Plant Ally and make a Flower Essence – 13 July 2019

And remember, when you are out walking, if you really look, there are many types of friends to be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sun Stands Still

Solstice literally means “sun stands still” for about three days.  About ten days ago we had snow and sleet on the mountains.

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We had hope that we might get a “White Christmas” and a shining, sparkling Solstice but our hopes were dashed as temperatures rose again and we became engulfed in mist. The mist wrapped itself around and imposed a magical enchantment, reducing sound and only slightly revealing ghostly shapes.  Soft and velvety it protected us from the madness of current crazy consumerism. Then, on 20th December it seemed to be clearing.

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The mountains were becoming visible.  Perhaps we would be fortunate to see the sun the next day.

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On Thursday we were up to celebrate the solstice,  to greet the returning sun. Just before dawn, standing in our bare feet to connect with Mother Earth,  we sang and chanted and I drummed a welcome but unfortunately the mist was too heavy – it was a fog!!  We could not see the sun but we celebrated anyway.

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Celebrating the Solstice is celebrating the return of the Light, celebrating the strengthening sun.  We lit a candle and made our dedication for the coming year.  Thinking of the light with-out and the light within, we lit candles around the house.

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The house is dressed with the gifts of greenery from the forest, Holly, Ivy, Pine and Spruce, representing our hospitality to the Green Plant Spirits and our recognition of the sun’s vital role in generating life on this planet.

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As we lit the candles we thought of all the aspirations we had for ourselves for the coming year.  We thought of how we all carry Divine Light within and how can we best use it for the benefit of ourselves and for others. What do we want to illuminate and allow to shine?

 

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Eventually the day lightened – we still couldn’t see the sun for the mist but our house was well lit and we felt full of optimism for the coming year.  All will be well in 2018, all is well.  May the blessing of the light be with you.  As my yoga friends say, may the sun shine upon you.  Happy Yule.