(Wild)Craft a loose incense for Lughnasadh

Some of the herbs I foraged for this year’s Lughnasadh incense 

For your Lughnasadh (aka Lammas) rituals, consider crafting your own loose incense for burning in your altar cauldron or in an outdoor bonfire.

Scott Cunningham suggested this classic recipe in his 1986 book The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews:

  • 2 parts* Frankincense resin (see note on PARTS below)
  • 1 part Heather
  • 1 part Apple blossoms (or dried Apple pieces)
  • 1 pinch Blackberry leaves
  • a few drops Ambergris oil

Yes, Cunningham is an inspiration to many of us but I personally would not use ambergris oil (prepared from raw ambergris harvested from the ocean, this substance is secreted from the digestive system of sperm whales) but I like the idea of the other ingredients, so I adapted his recipe by substituting Cypress Essential Oil (Cupressus sempervirens) for the ambergris oil.

You could use any essential oil you have in the evergreen family, and add a couple of drops of Patchouli Essential Oil (Pogostemon cablin).

You could also customize Cunningham’s formulation by adding or substituting other local wildcrafted seasonal herbs such as yarrow and goldenrod, plants such as Sweet Annie (artemisia annua) and herbs (or essential oils) such as cinnamon bark (cinnamomum zeylanicum), rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis), coriander (coriandrum sativum) or basil (ocimum basilicum).

But with Lughnasadh being about the harvest and gratitude, why not wildcraft an incense using local plants and herbs ingredients… preferably foraged?

I found another formulation I like (The Lammas Rebirth Incense from Thoughtco) using many ingredients which I can easily find — with one exception! — so am slightly adapting it, as I cannot find Sweet Annie anywhere, and I’m all out of dried Apple blossoms! I will be substituting dried apple pieces instead, along with some foraged Wild Fennel. You’ll need:

  • 1 part basil
  • 1/2 part cinnamon bark (or cinnamon powder)
  • 1 part coriander (fresh / dried herbs if possible, rather than ground coriander which comes from the seeds)
  • 2 parts goldenrod
  • 1 part heather
  • 1/2 part rosemary
  • 2 parts Sweet Annie (you can use dried apple blossoms if you don’t have Sweet Annie)
  • 1 part yarrow

When using picking the wild elements — goldenrod, heather, Sweet Annie, yarrow, etc — use your preferred combination of their flowers, leaves, and stalks. Allow them to wilt before chopping or throw in a dehydrator (or oven… watch carefully!) for a couple of hours on lowest heat.

Preparation for a Beltaine loose incense 

* A NOTE ABOUT PARTS
Measuring in parts allows you to scale a recipe up or down quite easily, simply by choosing your preferred measuring device such as measuring spoons, cups, grams, shot glasses or even egg cups!

For instance, in these formulations, you could use 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon to equal 1 part. If you really liked the finished incense, it, you could scale up so that 1 part = 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup, 30 grams, etc.

The Parts method provides consistency when scaling and measuring and is sometimes referred to as the “simpler’s method” and “common sense measurement”. Unlike baking, the measurements for incense do not need to be extremely precise. Your can let your intuition guide you.

And by finely chopping or grinding all ingredients, your outcome each time will be fairly consistent.

PREPARATION METHOD
Think about your Lughnasadh Soul Work while you prepare your herbs. Let your thoughts of gratitude infuse your herbs with their positive vibrations. Invite in your mentors, allies, guides, and Ancestors for their support and energy… and magick!

Remember, everything can be Ritual!

Crush all the dry ingredients first with a mortar and pestle (or chop very finely with a sharp knife) and then add any essential oils until blended to your liking. Check the blend intuitively, and add a bit more of whatever your heart says the blend needs.

Store in a sealed glass jar. Label with your ingredients — and the date — so you can make it again. Use a lit charcoal disk (I like bamboo, as it’s more Eco-friendly) to burn this incense at your altar or toss a handful into a bonfire.


sidebar graphics 7If you love working with Mother Earth, following the energies of Grandmother Moon (Seanmháthair Gealach), aligning with the energy of the Celtic Wheel of The Year, or are interested in learning more about this path, you will find great resources – and the opportunity to ask questions, share rituals, and more – in our NEW private Facebook Group, the Wise Woman Bean Gealach Circle. Limited to those who identify as women. For more information about the Circle, CLICK HERE


WP Sidebar graphics-5Connect to your purpose, your medicine, eliminate self-limiting beliefs, and integrate the new wisdom into your life through this unique you-centered blend of shamanic coaching and journeys, energy healing, alchemical healing, Earth Medicine, PSYCH-K® and PER-K® balancing, and six-sensory work. Together we draw on the modalities that best support your journey. Click on the picture for more information or visit our website:  www.innerjourneyevents.com


WP Sidebar graphics, resized to 300 x 213 pxDo you want a better understanding of the Wheel of the Year and how its shifting energies can support your own transformation and growth, support you in aligning with the rhythms of Nature itself? Subscribers receive regular free ebooks and articles, such as Celebrating the Equinox, along with tips for their personal practices, advance notice on free events and webinars, and much much more! 

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Life is Ceremony

Yesterday I attended a workshop led by The Medicine Collective, a group of Indigenous Elders and Knowledge-Keepers, at the xʷc̓ic̓əsəm Indigenous Health Garden at the UBC Farm. Such a profound and healing experience.

I attended a workshop led by The Medicine Collective, a group of Indigenous Elders and Knowledge-Keepers, at the xʷc̓ic̓əsəm Indigenous Health Garden at the UBC Farm. Such a profound and healing experience. This image is from the heart of the garden: sacred tobacco.

We began with ritual… with ceremony… with sharing… standing in Circle, honouring our ancestors and the unceded land of the Musqueam People, upon whose land we were standing. And as we each stood on boughs of cedar, we smudged our Self and gave blessings of tobacco to Mama Earth while our Sisters drummed and sang.

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We then walked the garden to connect with the plants, collecting from those that spoke to us… from those with whom we felt relationship or connection. There were so many plants, some new to me and some familiar favourites. The pollinators were busily working and a bald-headed eagle soared above us. Pure magick!

After our garden walk, we returned to the UBC Farm yurt and made medicinal creams using tinctures prepared from plants harvested from the garden, a hormone cream and a pain relief cream. We each made extras for giving back to the community.

It’s hard to describe my feelings throughout the opening Ritual…. sheer joy… connection to Mama Earth… connection to all others participating… connection to the Ancestors and those who walked this land before us. a profound sense of community.

As we completed the opening ceremony, one of the Grandmothers looked around the Circle and quietly said,

“Life is Ceremony.” 

YES! Embracing Ritual and ceremony has been a huge shift in my work and in how I walk with Mama Earth. I bring Ritual into my work and spiritual practices and into my daily life… when I am working with plants, making magic, wildcrafting, meditating, creating, cooking, writing, crafting…

How does Ritual or ceremony weave through your life?

For me, Ritual brings the sacred into my life. It expresses my gratitude. It honours my place in this Universe and lights my path.

And in a lovely moment of synchronicity, this morning I read this quote:

“I wish for you a life full of ritual and community.”
–Flaming Rainbow Woman, Spiritual Warrior
From her book “The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens

This is what I wish you.


sidebar graphics 7If you love working with Mother Earth, following the energies of Grandmother Moon (Seanmháthair Gealach), aligning with the energy of the Celtic Wheel of The Year, or are interested in learning more about this path, you will find great resources – and the opportunity to ask questions, share rituals, and more – in our NEW private Facebook Group, the Wise Woman Bean Gealach Circle. Limited to those who identify as women. For more information about the Circle, CLICK HERE


WP Sidebar graphics-5Connect to your purpose, your medicine, eliminate self-limiting beliefs, and integrate the new wisdom into your life through this unique you-centered blend of shamanic coaching and journeys, energy healing, alchemical healing, Earth Medicine, PSYCH-K® and PER-K® balancing, and six-sensory work. Together we draw on the modalities that best support your journey. Click on the picture for more information or visit our website:  www.innerjourneyevents.com


WP Sidebar graphics, resized to 300 x 213 pxDo you want a better understanding of the Wheel of the Year and how its shifting energies can support your own transformation and growth, support you in aligning with the rhythms of Nature itself? Subscribers receive regular free ebooks and articles, such as Celebrating the Equinox, along with tips for their personal practices, advance notice on free events and webinars, and much much more! 

Praying Rain and Cooling Green Freshness

UPDATE: This meditation was scheduled as a virtual group event for 8 PM Pacific Time on Monday, July 10th and it has now been spread across social media. People across North America – and beyond – have been participating at their own time, in their own place.

Thank you for your energy.

The organizer, L Gail Ludwig of Shores of Earth and Spirit is now holding space for others to participate beyond the original date and to go (at least) as far as July 31st. Join us, to bring your energy to shift the vibrations from Fire to Water for our beloved Turtle Island.

Click here to visit the Rain4BC community on Facebook.


L Gail Ludwig, a member of our Wise Woman Bean Gealach Circle, shared this beautiful and inspirational meditation for “cooling green freshness” to support Mama Earth in balancing the forest fires raging across our continent with Water and loving intention.

And she has given her permission to share.

Please feel free to share with your friends and on your pages.

Let our vibrations shift the balance from Fire to Water. 


From L Gail Ludwig:

Hello all,

I know we are all horrified at the forest fires that are burning out of control. My thoughts began with the ones burning here in BC, Canada, more by the day, but I know there are so many fires in other places as well. My thoughts and love go out to the ones who are affected by these fires.

So in thinking of all of this, I have been sending out “cooling green freshness” energy and prayers to Mother Earth, Father Sky and Grandmother Moon, to bring about moist coolness and rain to calm these fires. I want to experiment with this, and everyone who would like to, please join me. Forward to your friends if you think they would like to put their ‘energy-in-numbers’ behind this as well.

I know, scientifically, it takes certain conditions for rain to happen. But I also know that we are made of all of these elements, we are an inherent part of it all, and therefore we may be able to influence the conditions.

I have written a visualization for you to follow if you would like, or just offer thoughts and prayers in your own perfect inspired way. We will do this in the spirit of love, compassion and helping in whatever way we can. I invite you to focus your thoughts, meditations and prayers now.


VISUALIZATION

For just a moment, close your eyes, take a slow relaxing breath. We always start with breath, and our own inner environment. We can’t give what we don’t have inside. So center your mind on how you are feeling within. Is your energy rushed and frustrated these days, are your thoughts and words inflamed or possibly out of control? Acknowledge the fires inside you, so that you can quench them, and then have cool freshness to give.

Breathe slowly, and begin to bring coolness inside, wafting over you, and through you completely. Now imagine moisture, like a fine spray of water refreshing you, extinguishing the blaze in your mind, in your body. With another breath enjoy that feeling for a moment.

Imagine water beginning to puddle around your feet, from your cooling mist of water.
Envision the pool of water around your feet growing, spreading out, farther and farther, eventually touching hot burning ground. And still farther it goes, moistening and cooling. More and more water courses serenely down from your body, your arms, dripping off your hands, out from your feet, and streams out to the parched land.

“Rain, we ask you to fall, refresh the land, quiet the fires. Wind, we ask you to blow the other direction and turn the fires back upon themselves. Send reprieve to the men and women who are working so hard to save life, home and land.”

Picture it in your mind; rain, dampness, drops of water on the leaves of the trees and on the grass. Freshness, moist and green. Dripping with revitalizing water. Send it out to the fire, send your fresh coolness, and imagine dewy green leaves and new growth.

Close your eyes again, breathing with peace and love, envisioning these watery images. Take as long as you want. When you are ready, take a deep fresh breath, and keep cool gentle Nature within you.

You can do this exercise whenever you think of it, and know that there are so many others of us doing it with you.

Be refreshed.

LGailL


A Ritual and a Prayer on World Oceans Day 

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Tanker on English Bay, Vancouver at Sunset

On  World Oceans Day, I am reminded of the importance of this Kenyan proverb:

“Treat the Earth well. She was not given to you by your parents. She was loaned to you by your children.”

So, today, on World Oceans Day, I will go to the sea and offer a healing ritual and blessing to Yemaya for healing the world’s oceans and waters. The healing and cleansing ritual was posted on this blog yesterday. Feel free to use this ritual, adapt it or create your own.

And I will say a prayer to Yemaya for her continued health, vibrancy and balance (not my original prayer but one found on many websites):

You who rule the waters, pouring over humankind your protection, O Divine Mother, wash their bodies and their minds, performing a cleansing with your water and instilling in their hearts the respect and veneration due to the force of nature that it symbolizes, let us protect your group of things and what they protect.

We beseech powerful Yemaya, Queen of the waters, to receive this prayer.  With love and justice, give me the required and necessary strength to withstand everything.
In your sea of nature and harmony, I want to live.

Protect my loved ones from all harm and danger.
Hail Yemaya, Queen of the Sea!

How are you celebrating World Oceans Day and the theme of Our Oceans, Our Future?

What does the ocean — and the fresh waters of our Earth — mean to you?

The seas have always been magical to me. I love living by the ocean. . . breathing in the salt air, listening to the seagulls, watching the herons wading in the shallows and the bald eagles soaring in the sky, spotting a playful seal and hoping to one day see a whale breach in the Bay.

Some days I visit at sunset, meditating at the end of the day. Other times, I visit at low tide… walking out on the flats, through the shallow tidal pools, connecting with the ocean floor. It’s a blessing to live where the Sea meets the Mountains.

But I am also aware of both her power and her fragility. As I looked through my pictures of English Bay here in Vancouver to share with you on World Oceans Day, I realized that although many capture our gorgeous scenery of mountains, sea, and sky, very few are absent of the commerce in the Port of Vancouver — the numerous ships anchored each and every day awaiting their appointment at the docks. Even this sunset picture was marred, in my mind at least, by a tanker crossing the horizon as it sailed into port. And if Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion moves forward, there will be even more tankers, carrying toxic crude oil piped from the Alberta oil sands to overseas refineries… at great risk to the environment.

So I will continue to lobby against that expansion
and to lobby for the health of our Oceans.

We are custodians of Mama Earth. . . Let us treat her—and her waters—well for our generation and for future generations.

♥️ 🌎 ♥️ 🌊


sidebar graphics 7If you love working with Mother Earth, following the energies of Grandmother Moon (Seanmháthair Gealach), aligning with the energy of the Celtic Wheel of The Year, or are interested in learning more about this path, you will find great resources – and the opportunity to ask questions, share rituals, and more – in our NEW private Facebook Group, the Wise Woman Bean Gealach Circle. Limited to those who identify as women. For more information about the Circle, CLICK HERE


WP Sidebar graphics-5Connect to your purpose, your medicine, eliminate self-limiting beliefs, and integrate the new wisdom into your life through this unique you-centered blend of shamanic coaching and journeys, energy healing, alchemical healing, Earth Medicine, PSYCH-K® and PER-K® balancing, and six-sensory work. Together we draw on the modalities that best support your journey. Click on the picture for more information or visit our website:  www.innerjourneyevents.com


WP Sidebar graphics, resized to 300 x 213 pxDo you want a better understanding of the Wheel of the Year and how its shifting energies can support your own transformation and growth, support you in aligning with the rhythms of Nature itself? Subscribers receive regular free ebooks and articles, such as Celebrating the Equinox, along with tips for their personal practices, advance notice on free events and webinars, and much much more! 

A Healing Ritual for Yemaya (and YOU) on World Oceans Day

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English Bay, Vancouver BC, where I will do my ritual for World Oceans Day

Thursday, June 8th is World Oceans Day, a day the United Nations has set aside each year as a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future. This year’s theme is Our Oceans, Our Future, with a conservation focus of “encouraging solutions to plastic pollution and preventing marine litter for a healthier ocean and a better future”.

Ocean health is vital to the health of our planet, of our beautiful Mama Earth. Per the UN,

“The oceans cover about two-thirds of the surface of the Earth and are the very foundations of life. They generate most of the oxygen we breathe, absorb a large share of carbon dioxide emissions, provide food and nutrients and regulate climate.”

For those of us who love Mama Earth and are committed to her health and vitality, every day is Earth Day and every day is World Oceans Day.  Consider using this day to look for ways you can improve what you are already doing to support the health of our planet and our oceans.

And do take this occasion to honour our Oceans in a special way, with a ritual for cleansing and healing, and a blessing. And because World Oceans Day this year is so very close to the Full Moon (which arrives Friday, June 9th at 6:09 AM Pacific Time), consider bringing elements of your Full Moon ritual into this ritual… perhaps working with Yemaya in a ritual cleanse or release to the waters.

ABOUT THE RITUAL 
In this ritual, we honour Yemaya (Mother of the Seas) and her sister Oshun (Mother of the Rivers), and offer a healing to the waters of our world. You can also use this ritual for cleansing the Self.

Do change up the ritual to honour any Goddesses of the seas or waters that resonate with you such as Aphrodite, Brigantia, Ganga… so many to choose from.

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Yemaya by Thalia Took 

This ritual can be done at the ocean or any source of fresh water such as a lake, river, stream, pond, etc. If you are not close to a fresh water source, fill a large bowl with the freshest water possible (such as distilled, from a spring, or simply tap water that has been left in the sun for several hours or to which you have added a handful of ocean salts). Preferably, the bowl should be large enough to either stand in or immerse your feet in. Bathtubs or foot baths are great for this!

PREPARATION FOR THE RITUAL
Prepare for this ritual to Yemaya by first collecting seven shells and seven white flowers. The number seven is special to Yemaya, representing the Seven Seas. I believe that rituals are not “fixed” or absolute, so feel free to adapt this in your own way if these materials are not available to you. The key is to honour the intent. Do try to have at least one real shell, however, for the ritual, and make sure that whatever you are offering the ocean will not harm it in any way.

Cowrie shells are strongly associated with Yemaya, but use any small shell of your choice. If you are not in a place where wild shells can be collected, use purchased shells (ethically sourced of course) of any kind in this ritual. You could even use blue and white stones.

Forage for wild white flowers such as daisy or yarrow, or any white blossom that is local for you, first asking Mama Earth and the plant for permission. Alternatively, you could purchase white blossoms from a florist or pick from your garden. And because both blue and white are the colours associated with Yemaya, you could even mix it up a little with the colours.

THE RITUAL
Go to the sea, river or other location (unless you are doing this at home) with your shells and flowers, and any other sacred objects that support you in your rituals.

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Oshun, by Thalia Took

Centre and breathe deeply, connecting to your Wise Inner Self. Meditate first on your intention for this ritual, such as what you want to share with the Oceans, and — if also using this as a cleansing ritual for your Self (so perfect for the Full Moon) — reflect on what you want to release to the Oceans.

Stand in the water, making a connection with the seas and rivers. As you stand in the water, no matter the source, you are connecting to all water.

Call on all your Ancestors, spirit guides, and any other deities and allies. Call to Yemaya (Mother of the Salt Waters) and Oshun (Mother of the Fresh Waters), and any other goddesses of the waters that are important to you.

Holding the shells in your palms, call to the Ancestors of the shells…. to their ancient DNA from the time when the Oceans were pure, teeming with marine life, unpolluted, in balance, and flowing with ease. Call out to these Ancestors and ask them to remember that time of balance and flow in the past and to bring it to our present and future so that the Oceans can be healed again. As you physically connect with the shells, listen to their message. Perhaps they have a blessing for the Sea or wisdom for you as to how you can continue to honour Mama Earth and Lady Ocean.

Immerse the shells in the water to bring the ancient healthy energetic patterns to all our world waters, saying something like:

“Yemaya, I bring you these shells and their ancient energy to heal you, to restore your energy and to heal the damage we have done to you.”

Leave the shells as an offering for the seas. If doing this at home, add them to your altar in a small bowl of water (infused with salts) until the Full Moon has passed.

Holding the seven flowers in your palms, call out to Yemaya, Oshun or other water goddesses. Thank them for the fertility and life they have brought us, for the fresh water that nourishes and cleanses all living things in our world and for the air that fills our lungs. Ask The Goddess(es) for her blessing and a cleansing of all you wish to release. Stand in the water… feel it moving across your feet and ankles…. the coolness… feeling all you wish to release leaving your body and given to the waters for healing.

As you lovingly release the flowers to the water, thank Yemaya — or your Goddesses — with a simple affirmation such as

“Yemaya, I offer you these flowers to thank you for your love, protection and healing. I thank you for the waters and air that nourish and sustain our lives.”

Completion and Gratitude 
While still standing in the water, take a moment to connect with the wisdom of the Oceans and the Goddess(es) of the waters and reflect on how grateful you are for what they give us. Listen for any messages or wisdom they are sharing with you.

When complete, give your thanks to the oceans, to all waters on our planet, to Yemaya and Oshun, and to your Goddesses, Ancestors, and allies.

When you return to the land, note your experiences, thoughts and wisdom gained in your journal for further use in your Soul Work for this month and for your Full Moon rituals.

Blessings to you on World Oceans Day !


sidebar graphics 7If you love working with Mother Earth, following the energies of Grandmother Moon (Seanmháthair Gealach), aligning with the energy of the Celtic Wheel of The Year, or are interested in learning more about this path, you will find great resources – and the opportunity to ask questions, share rituals, and more – in our NEW private Facebook Group, the Wise Woman Bean Gealach Circle. Limited to those who identify as women. For more information about the Circle, CLICK HERE


WP Sidebar graphics-5Connect to your purpose, your medicine, eliminate self-limiting beliefs, and integrate the new wisdom into your life through this unique you-centered blend of shamanic coaching and journeys, energy healing, alchemical healing, Earth Medicine, PSYCH-K® and PER-K® balancing, and six-sensory work. Together we draw on the modalities that best support your journey. Click on the picture for more information or visit our website:  www.innerjourneyevents.com


WP Sidebar graphics, resized to 300 x 213 pxDo you want a better understanding of the Wheel of the Year and how its shifting energies can support your own transformation and growth, support you in aligning with the rhythms of Nature itself? Subscribers receive regular free ebooks and articles, such as Celebrating the Equinox, along with tips for their personal practices, advance notice on free events and webinars, and much much more! 

Let us all honour World Oceans Day on June 8th

Howe Sound, BC, Canada


In two days, June 8th, we celebrate World Oceans Day. Recognized by the UN, this is a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future.

I am so lucky to live by the ocean. I can visit the beaches, and watch the seals and birds every day. I can walk out at low tide, see the tiny fish swimming in the flats, see the air holes of various molluscs, feel the ocean floor between my toes and breathe in the salt air.

But I am concerned for the ocean itself, with the growing pollution, the radioactive water from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant (and the debris from its tsunami) and the potential for tanker spills in our busy sea port. I am concerned that much of the water around our planet is not fit for any one to drink.

So in addition to my normal focus on the health of Mama Earth, I’m working on a ritual for ocean he alth and an offering to Yemaya, Lady Ocean, which I’ll do on World Oceans Day at English Bay here in Vancouver.

And you don’t need to live on the sea to honour our Oceans or to support this year’s theme of “Our Oceans, Our Future”. Check out World Oceans Day for inspiration.

If you don’t live near the sea, you can give thanks or do a ritual at any fresh water source near you…. or even using a foot bath with some Epsom Salts! Why? All water is energetically connected… it has quantum coherence.  What I do here in Vancouver’s ocean is connected, coherent, with your water in Europe… South America… Australia… the Mississippi… the Nile. All  waters will be blessed and energized with our healing thoughts and offerings.

How will YOU honour our Oceans on June 8th?


sidebar graphics 7If you love working with Mother Earth, following the energies of Grandmother Moon (Seanmháthair Gealach), aligning with the energy of the Celtic Wheel of The Year, or are interested in learning more about this path, you will find great resources – and the opportunity to ask questions, share rituals, and more – in our NEW private Facebook Group, the Wise Woman Bean Gealach Circle. Limited to those who identify as women. For more information about the Circle, CLICK HERE


WP Sidebar graphics-5Connect to your purpose, your medicine, eliminate self-limiting beliefs, and integrate the new wisdom into your life through this unique you-centered blend of shamanic coaching and journeys, energy healing, alchemical healing, Earth Medicine, PSYCH-K® and PER-K® balancing, and six-sensory work. Together we draw on the modalities that best support your journey. Click on the picture for more information or visit our website:  www.innerjourneyevents.com


WP Sidebar graphics, resized to 300 x 213 pxDo you want a better understanding of the Wheel of the Year and how its shifting energies can support your own transformation and growth, support you in aligning with the rhythms of Nature itself? Subscribers receive regular free ebooks and articles, such as Celebrating the Equinox, along with tips for their personal practices, advance notice on free events and webinars, and much much more! 

Honey Infusions with Herbs and Florals

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Fresh honeycomb

Growing up in a big city, I can’t remember having local raw unpasteurized honey at home. I do remember, however, my first taste of honeycomb as a child, at the Agricultural Building at Toronto’s summer CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), both surprised and fascinated by the taste and the glorious beauty of the natural honeycomb.

In our house, honey was most often a tub of Billy Bee creamed pasteurized clover honey, or the squeeze top liquid version, and was considered a special treat.

We grew up, instead, on Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup… no surprise in our very English household! My father worked for Tate’s in our hometown of Liverpool, England, and then for a Canadian sugar company that they had acquired. In our home, sugar was “good for us” on many levels!

But we did have honey on occasion. If I was home sick with a cough or a cold, my mother would give me a treat of honey, spread on toast, saying it was good for me.

And now I know that raw honey is not just tasty but is also an ancient medicine and — in its raw unpasteurized form — is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic. It contains pollens and enzymes which can be quite beneficial for our health. (See the Caution at end of this post, however, as raw pasteurized honey is NOT for everyone).

Even Big Pharma is aware of the medicinal benefits of honey, funding hospital studies in the topical use of honey for healing skin conditions such as burns, bed sores and more.

Last year, I made several jars of infused honey: Sage honey, Thyme honey and Rose honey.  And this year I’m hoping to gather some hawthorn blossoms — aka the Queen of the May and associated with Beltaine — for a lovely floral honey.

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Infused Honey is a great addition to the culinary repertoire
and to the Home Apothecary Cupboard.

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I use Sage honey to soothe a dry scratchy throat caused by coughing and also for treating colds. Thyme honey is also excellent for this, and can be used as an anti-inflammatory, as a cough syrup and to reduce congestion. Works for me! You can also use both for culinary purposes. Thyme honey is lovely drizzled on goat cheese, havarti or feta.

And honey infused with florals such as rose, hawthorn or lavender…. sublime! They are a lovely sweetener in tea, fresh lemonade, drizzled on yogurt, and more.

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Getting ready for cough/cold season last summer with Sage and Thyme honey infusions. I used local organic herbs and locally produced blackberry blossom organic honey

INFUSING HONEY
Gather Victoria (do visit their site, a wealth of info and recipes for the wildcrafter) recommends this rule of thumb: 1 parts herb to 12 parts honey for a cold infusion and 1 part herb to 5 parts honey for a warm infusion. Please note this is by WEIGHT, not by liquid/dry measure. Gather gives an example using rose petals: 50 grams of fresh petals infused in 600ml of raw liquid honey.

I tend to use the folk method for measuring out my ingredients. In this case, I would fill a mason jar roughly half way for fresh materials or roughly one-quarter full for dried materials, then top with raw honey.

I also tend to start my infusions on the New Moon, so that rising lunar energy can pull even more of the medicine from the plant. But when using fresh, foraged materials, we may not be collecting at the New Moon. So, nice to do but not absolutely necessary.

BEFORE YOU START

  • Use clean sterilized jars, with a tight fitting lids. To sterilize your jars, place in a large pot and cover with water. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, continue boiling for 15 minutes. You can also place in a 275F oven (on a tray) for roughly 30 minutes (not the USDA preferred method, however).
  • Garble the fresh ingredients to remove any bugs, black leaves, etc. I love the word garble. One of my herbal teachers always used it; this is an archaic use of the word — meaning to sort out or cull — and, to me at least, it sounds so magical!
  • I also let the botanicals dry a little, so they are a little limp or wilted, to remove some of the plant moisture. Raw honey can keep for a very long time but water, introduced through the addition of plant materials, can quickly lead to spoilage or fermentation.

Cold infusion Method

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Garbling and chopping sage before infusion

Add herbs or other botanicals to your jar using one of the methods above. Top with honey, and then stir to remove any air bubbles. Top up if necessary, making sure the botanicals are fully covered with honey. Cap tightly and label with the date and ingredients.

I like to keep my jars out on our balcony, where they can get the sun, but a sunny spot indoors —a windowsill or a shelf near a window — would be fine. Check and turn daily. If the herbs start swelling and rise above the top of the honey level, add more honey… and be sure to check that the exposure hasn’t spoiled the herbs.

After about two weeks, check the taste. If you like it, and can taste your infused herbs or botanicals coming through sufficiently, strain the honey through cheesecloth into a new clean jar. I tend to leave my infusions for about a month but the timing does depend on that magick created between the potency of your herbs, the amount of warmth and light,  and the honey itself.

Warm Infusion Method
You can speed up the infusion process by gently warming your sealed jars in a hot water bath. Place the sealed jars in a large pot or suitable container, and top with boiled water. Repeat several times over a couple of days. Do a taste test to see if the botanicals are sufficiently infused.

Rosemary Gladstar, in her book Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner’s Guide,  also suggests an alternate method:  use a slow cooker set to 100F (roughly 37C) for a few hours.

How warm should the honey get in the warm infusion method?
Even the experts differ on this. Rosemary Gladstar says to keep the temperature below 110F (roughly 43C). Gather Victoria says the limit is 60C (roughly 140F). Your choice. If the honey does become pasteurized, you may not get all the medicinal magick and enzymes from the honey, but it will likely not crystallize as easily and may be safer for those with compromised immunity systems.

STORAGE
Keep your jars tightly sealed, and your honey should last for several months. Some say to store in a cool place (even the refrigerator) but this can lead to quick crystallization (warm gently to liquefy again). Others recommend keeping in a warm spot to prevent crystallization. So, again, your choice. What is imporant, is to check the honey to make sure it hasn’t spoiled or started to ferment.

But even fermented honey can be used, and some choose to ferment their honey for the additional medicinal benefits (after all, it can be used to make mead!).

TIPS
Rosemary Gladstar recommends gently warming the honey first (not above 110F) with the cold infusion method to better extract the medicinal properties of the botanicals.

When straining and decanting, a very gentle warming can help the process. Immerse the jar in a hot water bath for a few minutes, but be careful not to let the temperature of the honey rise above the pasteurization point.

And don’t forget to use the leftover botanicals: they can be a wonderful addition to salad dressings, to teas and in cooking.

CAUTIONS

It is generally recommended that both pasteurized and unpasteurized honey should not be given to children under one year of age due to the risk of Infant Botulism (Health Canada guideline).

It is also generally recommended that raw unpasteurized honey should not be consumed by anyone with a compromised immune system, or by pregnant women.

Always research first to be sure anything you ingest or use topically is safe for YOU.


ETHICS
I do recognize that some will choose not to consume honey of any kind, as it collected from living creatures. In addition, some small beekeepers and large commercial operations have exploitative and unethical practices, such selective breeding and worse. Know from whom you buy! For the perspective of the Vegan Society on this topic, click here.

I choose to support local ethical beekeepers by purchasing their honey as well as their natural product sidelines such as beeswax, pollen, and propolis. I support our local economy by purchasing at local farmers markets, or at their retail outlets, and make sure that I buy only from apiarists that place their hives in organic farms and fields, free from pesticides and toxins, and who observe sustainable beekeeping practices.

Healthy pollinators are essential for fertilizing plants and with the phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder, we need our pollinators!


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