Sunday, October 8, 2017

Apple & Staghorn Sumac Jelly


I made this jelly about a month back for the first time, and definitely will be making it again! I used a really great recipe found over at the Thomasburg Walks blog.

If you are not familiar with staghorn sumac and how to harvest it, Wayward Spark has a very informative post that you can check out. I harvested mine back in August and left it out to air dry, before stashing it away in a jar to use throughout the rest of the year. If you are new to making jelly or canning, check out this article.

***One thing to note about staghorn sumac is that it is high in tannic acid, so keep boiling time for the juice limited.***

If you can, give this lovely recipe a try!


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Sláinte!

Laurel

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Gaelic Roundtable for September: Faith


This is my sixth post participating in The Gaelic Roundtable blogging project, and September's topic is Faith. The Roundtable asked:
"What gives you faith? What makes you believe in the Gaelic Deities, and why? How do you respond to those times when your faith is wavering? What do you do when your faith becomes too unstable, or “too hard to handle”? do you think that doubt is healthy when it comes to having faith? Why or why not?"
I think that in some ways faith/belief/trust comes naturally to me, to the point that the motto of one of my ancestral clans is Confido. So perhaps it's even in my DNA. ;)

While this is probably not really an influencing factor, I was brought up with the idea that faith is important. Even as a curious, at times skeptical child I still held on to this notion and that hasn't changed much since becoming an adult.

Don't get me wrong, I have a healthy skeptical streak in me and I almost always question things, but I think that belief in something, anything is important. It doesn't have to be religious or spiritual, it could be political, philosophical, or even just in oneself and those you love. Either way I think that faith is a must if one is going to keep hope.

Faith and hope bring comfort, and I am a huge fan of comfort. 

I believe in the Gods of the Gaels as well as other deities, although I choose to be devoted to the former. I can't say that I know that they exist or who they are exactly, but I have my ideas. I could be wrong, may be right, or perhaps a little bit of both. 

How I see them {as well as all deities and spirits} is not how they would be classically viewed in the Abrahamic sense. I don't believe in an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful deity. I think that their powers are finite, although they definitely have a lot more than I do. Which I think is kind of the point why us mortals benefit from forming amicable relationships with them.

Obviously I have my own personal reasons for believing in deities and spirits instead of being an atheist or at least an agnostic. That said, I am not going to trot out a laundry list of experiences, but will just say that I am either touched in the head or they exist at least on some level. 

Even though faith for me is important, so is doubt/skepticism. Blindly believing in something with no reasoning or benefit to oneself I think is more bane than blessing. This is especially true when dealing with leadership, risks and such. People who blindly believe are the perfect candidates to be duped or abused. 

Skepticism and questioning things are obviously important to the pursuit of knowledge, and to me knowledge is just as important as faith. 

I think that both faith and knowledge are important facets of our species. Faith and hope bring us comfort in life's hardships and the pursuit of knowledge is what helps our species strive through those hardships.  
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Sláinte!

Laurel

Friday, September 22, 2017

Reminders From Moss & Trees


I like to go to the woods to be reminded 


that there are things much bigger than us humans,


and that we are not permanent. 


In the overall picture we are just a blink of time,


and I am good with that. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

While Cares Will Drop Off Like Autumn Leaves....


"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." ~John Muir

Friday, September 15, 2017

Tending the Flame of Hope


Some of you have probably already heard of the lovely Tending the Flame of Hope project, which started this past January and is slotted to run until January 2021. It was started as a response to all the unrest and misery going on in the world right now. As a simple act of devotion of lighting a candle every day to spark hope in those who participate, and perhaps to bring some light and hope to others as well.

Upon hearing about the project I was inspired to participate, but realistically it is not something that I can do every day. Instead, I have slotted three hours every nine days to light my own flame, to pray, just sit and try and find my own hope. It is a time of reflection, of healing and thinking of ways how I can bring more hope into the world.

Brighid, bringer of peace,
Keeper of the communal fire-- 
May your flame bring us healing and hope,
May its light shine through the darkest despair. 


Blessings to you all,

Laurel

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Year on and I am still pining for the North...


Yesterday I saw a flock of Canada geese making their way down from the North, and I was reminded that it has been just over a year since I left there myself to move 500 KM away to where I live now.

This time of year I am missing the foggy mornings on the shores of Lake Nipissing, that eventually gives way to a blaze of colour of the changing leaves once the sun has melted away the mist. Right now as the sun rises, I am sure there is the smell of wood smoke, rotting leaves and chill in the air. Things are probably getting quieter as most of the birds start migrating to warmer places and other critters start to shack up for the winter. 

I miss those long, cold winters, cold enough for sundogs and light pillars. I even miss the obnoxious snowmobilers taking over the sidewalks, zipping down to the frozen lake to do their ice fishing.

After those obscenely long winters, I miss the promise of spring and no longer having to be jealous of loved ones in warmer places whose snow had melted months prior. Once the short, intense summers came and were spent trying to grow and harvest as much as possible, I miss being truly grateful for whatever bounty that was given.



I miss the pairs of ravens who would tail me from the high places before flying off to continue their endless feuds with the swarms of crows. I miss the friendly chipmunks and chickadees that would visit my garden, and miss nodding a "hello" to the deer who could be seen sauntering down the road in town during the early hours. I miss the tinge of anxiety while out on the trail that I might bump into a bear who would perhaps be face deep in the wild blueberries or shaking off the sleepiness of a long winter of hibernation, depending on the time of year.


I miss the scent of the air which I can only describe as having a hint of evergreen and damp moss. It smells clean, natural, the way things should smell. That is probably because so much of the landscape is still in tact with all the lovely birches, rowans, and conifers; the big rocky outcroppings of granite peppered with lichen, the cold and deep lakes that are still safe to fish and swim in.


I miss that a totally naked face with a reddened cheek from the wind is enough makeup to look lovely. I miss the candid friendliness and warmth of folk up there, and the fact that many people like flannel plaid, beards and the woods without being hipsters. That stuff has always been in style up there.

Most of all I miss the loved ones who are still up there--both the living and dearly departed-- and I miss the place itself, who I made such a connection with. I miss both in equal measure. Even being someone who is of European heritage, I can say that my family roots run deep up there; my ancestors were some of the first settlers to live and work the land in that area. They are a part of that place.


After a decade of living up there myself, building relationships with the spirits, acting as a steward to the land, I am a part of that place as well. After all of the healing and transformation that was done in those Northern woods, shores and on ancestral graves, a piece of me is still up there. A piece of me always will be.

But yet, I feel like I am starting to connect to where I live now. While the gentle allure of this place will never hold a candle to the wild beauty of the North, slowly this place is becoming home.

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Sláinte!

Laurel

Monday, September 11, 2017

Prosperity Oil



Besides making a candle for prosperity, I also like to make a prosperity oil every year in time for Lughnasadh. I thought that I would share how I make it in case other folks might be interested in having a go at their own. 

While the first harvest feast has past, I think really any time during Autumn would be a perfectly acceptable time to make it. I like to make mine on the Thursday of a full or waxing moon.

Generally I use an olive oil base and the plant materials are ones that are traditionally or personally associated with prosperity:

Grain chaff {this year I used oats}
Lavender
Blackberry leaves
Meadowsweet
Cinquefoil
Hollyhock leaves
Elder berries
Comfrey
Borage
Hawthorn berries
Bladderwrack

This oil can be used throughout the year to anoint candles, charms and in spell work, and is not meant to be ingested or used on the body.

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Hopefully in the coming weeks I will get around to sharing some more recipes of things that I have been making lately. Until then, happy creating!

Sláinte!

Laurel

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Flowers & Fruits of Lughnasadh


My observances for Lughnasadh were pretty spread out this year, although I think that at this point it is fair to say that is the usual. Lughnasadh Day was more for devotions and making offerings at home to both Macha and local spirits.




A few days later I set out to a couple of my favourite spots to do some rituals, make offerings and do some harvesting. The rest of the day was spent in the kitchen prepping for a dinner/BBQ we had with some folks to celebrate the first harvest.

I have been doing quite a bit of preserving, experimenting with some fruit and herb infused alcohol, herbal infused oils and honeys and some jams and jellies. There are some other jellies I want to make, but waiting patiently for the fruits to ripen {looking at you crab apples and rowans!}.


I hope that you are all enjoying the bounty and beauty of the season!


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Sláinte!

Laurel

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Calendula Infused Oil


Calendula is one of those staple herbs for my garden, and even after downsizing from a decent-sized yard to a balcony, I still insisted on growing it this year. I like to use it in magic of course, but I also like to make an infused oil with it.

The oil of calendula is great for many things, but I like to use it in both salves and bars for chapped skin, minor cuts, bug bites and I find when used with other herbs, it is quite effective on sore muscles.

Before starting the oil infusion I dry the flowers so there is a lesser chance of the oil going funky. For the actual oil I used grapeseed oil this year, but olive oil or perhaps almond oil work fine as well. My calendula oil is still infusing, and I will let it sit in a cool, dark spot for about a month. I shake it about every other day.

Once it is finished infusing I will strain it through cheesecloth to separate the flowers from the oil and bottle up the oil again until it is ready to use.

To a see a great herbal infusion tutorial, head on over to the Mountain Rose Herbs blog. They also have some great recipes on how to use your calendula oil once it's ready.

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Sláinte!

Laurel

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Gaelic Roundtable for August: Personal Gnosis


This is my fifth post participating in the The Gaelic Roundtable blogging project, and August's subject is Personal Gnosis. The Roundtable asked:
"How important is Personal Gnosis to your practice? What emphasis do you place on it when reconstructing, reviving, or generally creating your faith? Do you enjoy hearing others’ Personal Gnosis, or tend not to seek it out? How does hearing others’ Personal Gnosis hinder or help your faith? And finally (if you are willing to share), what is some Personal Gnosis that you hold that is considered “unconventional” to the greater Gaelic Polytheist community?"
{For those who may be unfamiliar with what gnosis is within the polytheist context, I recommend checking out this short but very informative article: Vision: UPG, SPG, and CG.}

Both personal and communal/shared gnosis are quite significant in my own personal practice, as I find that it helps to answers questions left by the gaps in lore, myth and customs. It would probably be fair to say that its importance is secondary to those latter-mentioned influences, but plays a strong role nonetheless.

I very much enjoy hearing gnosis of others and I have found it extremely helpful in validating some of my own personal gnosis, as well as guiding me when I was inexperience and in a blind spot. One example of this is when I was first establishing a rapport with An Cailleach, there were some devotees to her that gave extremely helpful insight on things such appropriate approach and offerings to helping me understand some rather odd experiences I had that I attributed to her. 

While I don't know if it would be considered "unconventional" there is one sliver of personal gnosis that I don't recall seeing others talk about before. While two of the elements of what I call The Cosmology of Three Triads seems to be widely accepted, I am not sure if the third element and how I have grouped them would make sense to others or not.

The first triad is the Three Realms {widely accepted}:  Nem/Sky, Talam/Land, Muir/Sea

The second triad is Na Trí Naomh {widely accepted}: Gods, Spirits/Good Folk, Ancestors

The third triad is the Three Gifts: Fír/Truth, Aicned/Nature, Ecna/Knowledge

The third triad is inspired by Trecheng Breth Féne/The Triads of Ireland:

"Trí caindle forosnat cach ndorcha: fír, aicned, ecna."/"Three candles that illume every darkness: truth, nature, knowledge."

I see the interaction of these Triads in the following way:

Nem/Sky>Gods>Fír/Truth
Talam>Spirits/Good Folk>Aicned/Nature
Muir/Sea>Ancestors>Ecna/Knowledge

I am not going to delve deeper on this particular personal gnosis in this post as it will probably end up making it a novel. I may go further into it with another post in the future.

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Sláinte!

Laurel

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Candle for Prosperity


In preparation for Lughnasadh one of the things I made was a candle for prosperity. This is something that I have posted about before and had a couple of requests quite a while ago now about how I make this particular candle, so I am finally get around to sharing that.

Every year I like to make this candle on the Thursday of the full moon or waxing moon closest to Lughnasadh. I use beeswax and like to pour it into a mason jar, but really it would be fine with another type of wax and another heatproof container of your choice. I also used a cotton wick, but could be made with a wood wick too.

The plant materials I like to use, that are either traditionally or personally associated with prosperity are:

Grain chaff {this year I used oats}
Lavender
Meadowsweet
Cinquefoil
Hollyhock leaves
Elderberries
Hawthorn berries

I also added patchouli and bergamot essential oils this year. I really like that combination of scents.

This can easily be converted to hand-dipped candles, molded candles {such as pillars} or tealights. If you are unfamiliar with candle making, The Spruce has some good tutorials.

And finally, please do take extra care when burning candles with herbs as they can catch fire on top of the wick. If unsure, use the herbs sparingly when first starting out and perhaps don't load up as much as the one pictured.


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Sláinte! 

Laurel

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Late Summer Woodland Respite


A friend and I decided to run to the forest for the day to take a wee break from all the craziness that is going on in the world. It was much needed and it's amazing what some moss, trees and critters will do for one's spirits. 

While it is not the same as being there in person, I wanted to share some of the beauty that I came across while out and about in the hopes that it may brighten your day as well, even if only for a moment.







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Even in the darkest of moments may you all see some light and be blessed.

Sláinte!

Laurel