Working with Sacred Smoke

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Smudge sticks or smudge wands are bundles of herbs that are traditionally burned during ceremony or for purification purposes. I also use smudge sticks and other types of incense/smudge to

  • Cleanse and bless homes,
  • Clear imprint energy in a space,
  • Lift prayers to Spirit,
  • Dedicate a space for a particular spiritual purpose,
  • Prepare space for ritual, journey work and meditation,
  • “Clear the air” after an argument or an intense conversation,

and I have lots of other reasons to work with sacred smoke and the spirits of plants.

If you want to work with local plants, I encourage you to do a bit of research to see which plants and trees work best as smudge; personally I love to work with Juniper (cedar), pine,  mugwort, yarrow, rosemary and rose (in loose incense or wrapped on the outside of my smudge bundle) and local resins to burn on coals (or a charcoal disc).  I purchase from ethical sources and keep on hand: palo santo, white sage, tobacco and a variety of resins. You can visit Druid’s Garden to learn to make your own smudge sticks: Making Smudge Sticks From Homegrown Plants And Wildharvested Materials.

When selecting plants to work with, I always ask permission before harvesting any plants. If I feel a “no” or a “not this one” or “not right now” anywhere in my awareness, I don’t harvest. I will leave a small gratitude offering whether I receive a yes or a no.

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Alabama herbalist Phyllis Light wrote in a Spring issue of Plant Healer Magazine about Pine (and Cedar):

“Cedar is burned at the deathbed to release the spirit of the dying. Pine is burned after death to help those still living to release the dead.

Pine smoke from smoldering branches penetrate the house to cleanse and clear away ghost spirits. It initially burns the eyes but then the vision clears.

My grandmother performed this burning at deaths in the community. I must admit that I’ve been lapse in my adult years with this ritual. But it’s never too late to burn first the cedar and then the pine to release the spirits and ghosts that may be hovering in the corners or at the top of the stairs.”

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When working with sacred smoke, each tool that’s used while smudging represents and honors an element. For example, the abalone shell (or fire proof container) represents Water, the flame used to light the smudge represents the Fire element, the feathers represent and honor Air, and the herbs, trees, resins, etc. represent the element of Earth. When these elements are combined via the ritual of smudging, the element of Ether or Spirit is invoked and honored.

I personally begin with a prayer of gratitude and intention, asking the spirits of the plants and the elements and directions to be with me and lend protection while I work. And when I say protection, I’m not just asking for physical or energetic protection. I am asking that my attention stay protected… from me. I want my focus to be clear and steady. I want my prayers to be authentic. I want my intention to be heart-centered. I am asking for protection around all of that.

Next, I smudge myself, clearing and cleansing my energy field and bringing my mind into “right relationship” with my intention. What are my motives? Are my internal processes in alignment with my heart and my purpose? If there’s anything (emotionally, mentally, spiritually) that’s in the way of internal alignment, I ask that the smudge clear it away so that I can proceed in a good way.

Then I offer the sacred smoke to the directions and my ancestral helping spirits. Holy Gratitude.

Next I will open windows (if I am indoors and want to clear space) and possibly doors, and use smoke to cleanse the space, working in a clockwise direction in each area, paying close attention to corners, closets and underneath furniture. If I am not cleansing an entire space, but one particular area, I still work in a clockwise manner, and encourage airflow by opening windows.

If you need to clear a space and you are sensitive to smoke, you can

  • Make or purchase a smudge spray

  • Use sound (rattles, bells, etc. to clear dense energy

  • Utilize Reiki or other forms of energy work to transmute energy in a space

Finally, after any ceremonial work or clearing of an area, I thank my spiritual support, I give thanks to the directions and to the spirit of the plants who gave of themselves for my purpose.

Mugwort

“Bad” energy and “Ghosts”

I’ll be the first one to say that there’s some bad shit in the world. Some of it is generated by humans and some of it is not. If you want more insight around the way I work with energy and ghosts, you may want to consider taking an Earth Medicine intensive. For the purpose of this blog post, though, here’s my basic thoughts on bad energy and ghosts.

Energy is neutral. It doesn’t have a good or bad charge on its own. The good or bad comes from people. If someone feels uncomfortable around an energy, she may think of it as “bad” energy. If someone’s personality doesn’t mesh with mine, she may think I have “bad” energy, when really, I’m mirroring something for her that may make her feel uncomfortable. Energy is neutral. What we do with it puts a positive or negative charge on it. Our intention is what flavors the energy. I’m sure someone can (and will) make an argument for that, but that’s how I process energy in general.

Some indigenous cultures see energy has having a variety of vibrational frequencies. There is light vibrational frequency, and there is the dense, heavy vibrational frequency. Smudging and an energy clearing process is often used to disperse and / or transmute that heavy, dense energy.

I see ghosts as the spirits of the deceased who have not, for some reason, transitioned properly, and they’re earth bound either out of confusion or an inability/unwillingness to resolve issues or beliefs that are keeping them here. Most ghosts are not “bad”, but they don’t have the right to be here; any energy that they use in order to be in this realm is usually generated by the strong emotions of the living. In my opinion, smudge is not what gets the unresolved dead to leave your presence. Your intention, your telling them to leave, and your resolution not to feed them with your emotions is what makes them leave.

Most often, sacred smoke gets rid of what we call “imprints”. Imprints can often be mistaken for ghosts because they can be very strong energy impressions and can sometimes be seen by the living. Imprints are not spirits; they’re more like energetic fingerprints, or they can sometimes be strong emotions left behind by the living. These energy imprints can feel spooky or heavy, or they can leave behind a trail of strong (and sometimes influential) emotions. Smudge is an excellent way to disperse that energy and clear it out of your space.

To clear imprints / heavy energy, I suggest using Juniper (cedar),  mugwort or white sage. I tend to lean more toward bioregional plants since white sage is over harvested and working with the plants in my space to balance and clear energy of my space simply makes sense to me.

After I cleanse and clear a space, I like to burn sweet herbs or resins to invite healing and protection and wellness into a space. For this I may choose sweet clover, lavender blooms, roses or sweetgum resin if I want to honor the bioregional model of earth medicine, or I may choose sweetgrass if I feel led to work with it.

One South American tree that I really love is Palo Santo. I work with it sparingly because it is not one of my local allies. I work with this wood primarily in body/mind therapy sessions and to “seal” the auric field of a person after a healing session.

juniper

For more awesome information and resources:

The Amazing Cat Torelli has a kickass incense shop on Etsy. Check it out: Forest Druid Creations. Her incense, Florida water and Queen of Hungary water are above and beyond fabulous.

Rebecca “McTrouble” Altman at Cauldrons and Crockpots wrote a very interesting blog post on smudging (from an herbalist’s perspective) called Holy Smoke.

https://altnature.com/thegarden/smudge.htm

“Killer Germs” Obliterated by Medicinal Smoke (Smudge), Study Reveals

Study ^^ Referenced in the link above ^^: Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria.

Native Tech: Uses of Sweetgrass

 

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Sweet Gum Tree (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Baby sweet gum tree
Baby sweet gum tree

Sweet Gum is becoming well loved in the herbal community because it is known as an amazing ingredient in cold and flu formulas. It contains shikimic acid in its infertile seeds; the same ingredient found in the Star Anise tree (which was used to create Tamiflu). You can read more about the specifics in Green Deane’s link at the bottom of this page.

Several of my highly respected herbalist friends feel that Tamiflu doesn’t help with colds and the flu, so why would we want to try sweetgum? They have not seen enough evidence to show that sweetgum helps to ease cold and flu symptoms or that it reduces the time that people are sick. Other amazing herbalists, however, have worked with this tree and claim it’s a very valuable addition to their cold and flu treatments.

To tincture sweet gum, simply gather green (unripe) sweet gum balls, cut them up (with a skill saw… I’m just kidding, but DAMN) and place them in a quart jar. Fill to the top with alcohol and let it steep for 6 weeks. Some folks have experimented with just gathering the infertile seeds from opened balls, which is time consuming, but I do love experiments.

Darryl Patton at The Southern Herbalist suggests boiling the green balls and drinking the decoction for its anti viral properties.

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Native medicine decocts the inner bark of the sweet gum tree as a remedy for influenza, and according to Starkville MS herbalist Mandi Sanders, the Appalachian herbalists use it as well. Mandi also suggests taking a combination of elderberry and sweet gum tincture to help prevent sickness. Personally I dose up on elderberry/elder flower from October to March to keep my immune system nice and healthy. I am looking forward to experimenting with sweet gum for this as well… maybe when I know I have been exposed to some yuck.

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As an infused oil (leaves, stems, inner bark), I use a simple oil of sweet gum for mild aches; those aches that announce that I’ve been sitting too long and need to move (usually in my low back and neck). I also love to add it to my pain salves. I rotate among sweet gum, mugwort, pine and tulip poplar, and I always use cottonwood buds, St. John’s Wort, Eastern red cedar, goldenrod and solomon’s seal. I’m putting horsetail in my next batch. And maybe some mullein.

Other uses for sweet gum: 

The leaves can be used as a poultice to treat stings and insect bites.

I include sweet gum resin in my incense blends (along with copal, pine and other resins)

The seeds from the green pods can be chewed after a meal as a carminative. This makes me curious about adding it to my digestion and bitters blends. *perk* (see Tommie Bass’s comments below)

A decoction from the inner bark is traditionally (Cherokee) used to calm the nerves. According to the USDA plant database (plants.usda.gov),

“The bark was used to make an infusion that was used as a sedative for nervous patients and for patients who were well in the day but sick during the night. The plant was used to treat colic, internal diseases and to “comfort the heart.”

Sweet Gum for the Heart??      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0968089608002812

by Kelli Hughart Armes
by Kelli Hughart Armes

From Kelli Hughart Armes:

“I use it [sweet gum] quite a bit. I use them in pain formulas, I use them in spasm formulas. I have chewed the leaves in the field for spasm cough. I use them in flu or viral formulas (not as much as pain though), but I find it shines more in pain and anywhere there is spasmy stuff that needs relaxed. I have used the leaf extract too just not as much; it’s astringent, so where you need that the leaf is good.”

Tommie Bass made a cough syrup that included sweet gum:

“I made a cough syrup out of equal parts of boneset, wild cherry bark, sweet gum [leaves], mullein, and rabbit-tobacco. I put a quart of the mixed herbs in a gallon of water and steep it forty minutes to an hour, strain it, and add honey or syrup or any kind of sweetening. My mother made a cough syrup very much like this.”

Tommie said that he used the leaves in the summer time and the bark in the winter. The inner bark is best. He also noted that sweet gum made “a good tonic, good to settle your stomach…and ease ulcers”. He also suggested using a decoction as a tea to wash your hair. Sweet gum resin infused in whiskey “eased consumption”. ~from Herbal Medicine Past and Present, Volume 2.

More on Sweet Gum:

Eat the Weeds with Green Deane: Sweet Gum Tree

Foraging Texas: Sweet Gum

The University of Arkansas on Sweet Gum extraction

Henriette’s Herbal Homepage on Liquidambar

Backyard Nature: Sweet Gum 

Tulip Poplar Medicine (Liriodendron tulipifera)

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I remember when tulip poplar first made her presence known to me. I was sitting on my patio in the back yard, and I kept hearing this *swish swish swish* sound as the wind moved through the leaves, making them shimmy and shake. I looked at it and I thought, “Oh wow, I feel like she’s giving me a standing ovation,” and I immediately fell in love with it.

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When I moved here in 2004, I had no idea I would become the proud steward of this amazing tree. I am fortunate that it has low hanging branches; most people who have tulip poplar trees never get to see and handle these gorgeous blooms until they fall in a storm or heavy wind.


This particular tree is in north Mississippi, just outside of Tupelo. Around mid to late April the leaves are so soft and flexible and the blooms are fresh and bright. I love to handle them. Some of these leaves are almost 6 inches wide.

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Check out the neon orange band on the petals. These babies make loads of pollen. When they are in full bloom, the flowers look ethereal.  ♥

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Look how gorgeous the buds and leaves are.

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In all the information I have found, the inner bark of tulip poplar is primarily what is used for medicine; it is considered a tonic for people who are overcoming illness or are lethargic and have no energy… maybe after a fever or sickness that lasts a long time.

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Historically, the inner bark was used as a tonic medicine, and the highly astringent leaves were used as topical applications for fever, sprains, bruises and rheumatic swellings. I included the blooms with some twigs and leaves for my tincture experiment.

Vegetable materia medica of the United States: or, Medical botany: containing a botanical, general, and medical history of medicinal plants indigenous to the United States, by William Paul Crillon Barton, has lots of fascinating information on the medicinal uses of tulip poplar bark. You can download it for free in Google Books.

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One website stated that Tulip Poplar flower essence helps one “to overcome low self-esteem”. Other sources say it gives spiritual nourishment and can help you reconnect with your spiritual nature. I would love to hear others’ opinions about the flower essence.

Tommie Bass on Tulip Poplar

Tommie Bass says he uses it as a tonic. he says its good for rheumatism and makes you sweat (he used the root bark). He said the tea makes you ‘eat up a storm’ and is recommended for appetite, which would make it good to use after a long illness.

Matthew Wood

Matthew Wood says that Tulip Poplar is an “old American Indian heart remedy” and it is also used after a stroke. Get Matthew’s book for more information on his experiences as well as those of Phyllis D. Light and Darryl Patton, two great southern herbalists who both trained under the late Tommie Bass.  This book is half of a two-book set and both are awesome. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants *

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Experiences:

I began taking notes on Tulip Poplar a few years ago. What you see above is an edited version of the album I made on Facebook. Several friends and I have worked with this medicine and here are our findings so far:

Kelli Hughart Armes:

I use it in all my cardiac and nervous system formulas and it does work great for pelvic congestion too but I also think it is just a good general all around tonic tree. I use it for a salve externally for muscle injury. For pain I would use sweetgum and magnolia (I find magnolia stronger than TP even though some people say they are interchangeable.

Here is how Robin McGee uses Tulip Poplar:

Berry baskets, canoes, cordage. increase appetite, digestive aid, diaphoretic, tonic, anti-inflammatory good for AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASES. Not as strong as cucumber magnolia, but it works (It works better as a tonic type remedy for the inflammation, not as a pain reliever).

My experiences with Tulip Poplar:

I have found tulip poplar to be gently warming yet not “overheating”. I have used it in blends for the heart, (blended with holy basil, motherwort, red clover, rose and hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries). I also love it in my lymphatic blend (with red root, ocotillo, cleavers and chickweed) and my pain relief combo (blended with St. John’s Wort, solomon’s seal, Pedicularis and  sometimes turmeric).

Speaking of pain relief, I also make a salve of tulip poplar combined with solomon’s seal, cottonwood, goldenrod and pine (looking into other tree allies and St. John’s Wort for this blend).

In the future, I want to work with tulip poplar to help restore proper gut function, maybe in conjunction with bee balm and other gut loving herbs (maybe include carminatives and/or bitters), and I want to create a blend that builds and tonifies the uterus (with red raspberry leaves, motherwort and nettles).

Other Sources:

Henriette’s Herbal Homepage: Liriodendron – Tulip Tree

Pine trees, Incense + Owl Medicine

Okayso.

Lemme tell you about my afternoon.

I came home from work, walked out to my mailbox, and saw a pine limb down from the storms.  Well, after I picked that limb up, I looked ahead and saw another one.  And then another one.  And then I got all excited and hauled arse straight into the woods to get as many pine limbs as I could hold.  *thankfully we didn’t have any mail* LOL

Some of my Loot.
Some of my Loot.
Pine + Big Ass Tea Cup
Pine + Big Ass Tea Cup

Well!   You KNOW I was a happy camper, and I thought of all kinds of yummy stuff I could do with this tasty gift.  I gave away most of my pine infused vinegar as Yule gifts this year, so I am sure I will be making more of that, but this evening is all about some hot chai in a big ass cup, swoon worthy incense from my herbalist friends, and ever-so-discreetly stealing Jack’s “good” brandy for some pine elixir!  But this ain’t just any pine elixir, this is Jack’s “good” brandy mixed with “OMFG Sage infused honey”.

Here’s how it all went down.

I put the tea on, gather some supplies, and trot back to the kitchen to find Jack looking at the pine limbs piled up in the kitchen sink.

Jack:  “Is there a reason why there are pine limbs in the sink?”

Me:  “Yes.”

Jack shrugs and leaves kitchen.

I ever so gently *not* remove the needles from the limbs and place them in my wooden bowl.  I can hear the owls talking to each other in the trees beside my house as I work.

*insert thoughts of gratitude for my abundant harvest while eavesdropping on the owl conversation*

Next I cut up some needles and add some of the limbs and tips to a jar.

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Then comes the OMFG Sage Honey

OMFG sage honey

*insert intentions for healing + nourishment for recipient(s) of this blend*

Jack walks into the kitchen.  “What are you doing?”

Me:  “Making magic.”

Jack shrugs and leaves kitchen.

Dana reaches into cabinet and snags “good” brandy.

Brandy infused Pine

Mix well.

*insert smug satisfaction*

And that’s how it went down, folks.  The owls have just quieted, I’ve finished my tea, my awesome mail carrier just brought me two exciting packages *that I’ve already ripped open with glee*, and Jack still has no clue I just used all of his brandy.

Life is good.

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Here are some New Year’s Eve notes:

This year has been amazing, healing and nourishing for me.  My creative projects this next year will reflect those qualities.

We had to say a very sad goodbye to my precious friend, Tim Hardy, this past Thursday.   Tim, my darling friend, you are well loved and missed like mad already.

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A few Blog posts that are inspiring me this season:

Plant Journeys:  Conifer Tree Potions (Solstice Medicine – or How to Use your Christmas Tree by Ananda Wilson

Cauldrons & Crockpots:  Fir Tip Shortbread and Crying over Smoked Milk by Rebecca McAwesome

The Medicine Woman’s Roots:  Pantry Medicine…Onion Poultices, Syrups + Tinctures  and Plant Devotions in Smoke: Bioregional Plant Incense by Kiva Rose

Herb Mentor:  How to make Body Butter by Rosalee de la Forêt

Please share your favorite winter blog posts in the comments section!!!  *also, feel free to share your own work*  ♥

Love, Dana
Love, Dana

*Note* For those of you who don’t get the “good” brandy joke, Jack came home with some brandy and the following conversation ensued.

Jack: “Hey Dana, this brandy is the good stuff.”
Me: “Okay.”
Jack: “That means you can’t put your plants in it.”
Me: *snicker*

Mimosa, “Silk Tree”, Albizia julibrissin

Mimosa

Albizia julibrissin is one of my favorite tree medicines. I most often make a tincture of the blooms, leaves/stems and inner bark of limbs. I have also infused the blooms in honey. Many people dry the blooms and the inner bark for infusions. According to the American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products, “the presence of linalool, trans-linalool oxide, methyl salicylate, and eugenol are likely responsible for the fragrant odor of silktree blossoms.”

Mimosa is in the legume family (Fabaceae), and is a nitrogen fixer. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for anxiety, depression, insomnia and stress, and is often called “the Tree of Happiness”. While I love this tree, I do not encourage people to plant it because of its invasive nature; IPAMS says, “Mimosa is listed as a significant or severe threat in several southeastern US states, including Tennessee in the MidSouth region.” I do, however, feel that we can develop right relationship with this tree and learn to utilize its medicine.

Mimosa is often used for grief after any kind of loss. I blend mimosa with hawthorn leaves, flowers and blooms, motherwort, and wild roses to help move through deep sadness.

 

East West School of Planetary Herbology has some wonderful information on Mimosa.  Albizzia: The Tree of Happiness.

According to Planetary Herbals:  “Albizia was traditionally used to ‘calm the spirit’ and relieve emotional constraint when associated with bad temper, bad mood, sadness, occasional sleeplessness, irritability and poor memory. It was believed to be especially useful for anyone experiencing profound heart-breaking loss.”

Another source that I can no longer remember mentioned that Mimosa could be used for “breathlessness.”  I love how one source called Mimosa tincture a “Spirit tonic”… but I’m not so keen on seeing it called “Chinese Herbal Prozac.”

I use Mimosa in my Anxiety Ease blend (which includes a few other nervines along with milky oats to help nourish and support the nervous system). Mimosa is also used for pain and inflammation.  I have not seen much information on the whys and hows of this, but here is some TCM info on Mimosa that I found from the Herbal Shop.

I would really love to see more people take advantage of Albizia’s healing properties; especially since it’s so abundant (read: invasive) in this area.  I have read that people who are already taking medication for depression or anxiety should talk to their doctors before taking any herbal preparation that would alter any results, so please take responsibility for your personal health if you are considering using this tree medicinally.  Also, if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant, check with your doctor before using this tincture; it is said to have strong blood moving properties.

Update: 3/30/2013

Mimosa blossom, bark and leaf tincture has been an amazing ally for me. When I first tasted it, I was slightly overwhelmed with the “Ohmygawd-I-Just-Sprayed-Perfume-in-my-mouth” taste, but then I got used to it. Originally I made a tincture of just the blossoms… so when I mixed the bark/leaf tincture with the blossom tincture, it tasted much better. Both tinctures *and the blend of the two* worked very well to treat grief, mild depression and lingering sadness over loss.

Mimosa tincture is very helpful for me when I feel tightness in my stomach/solar plexus due to stress or anxiety. It has a calming effect on my respiratory diaphragm and I am able to take deeper breaths during stressful situations.

Mimosa blooms infused in almond oil makes an uplifting and soothing massage oil.

Update: 4/15/2016

I’m finding that Mimosa is especially indicated for people who are stuck in a process; whether it’s a grief process that’s going nowhere or a biological process that has not been properly completed; Mimosa helps lift one’s spirit and perspective so that movement can begin again.

Jon Keyes has a great writeup on Albizia at Hearthside Healing

I have also noticed that when only the blooms are used, people who can become spaced out easily (as well as people who are super comfortable with being in the sky with diamonds), tend to report a feeling of “floating away” when using the tincture of the blossoms. Based on that feedback, I chose to blend the blooms with inner bark, stems and leaves and have used that tincture with very good results. It’s grounding and uplifting at the same time.

Another point I would like to make here (which may end up being a blog post all its own) is that when someone is experiencing the grief process or if someone is dealing with loss, I believe it’s very important to fully have those experiences. I don’t suggest we use an herbal or other medicine to keep us from feeling our feelings. There are many great herbal allies who support us while we have our times of grief and loss.  However, when a person feels the need to move through the grief or move on from loss and is unable to do so, Albizia blended with other supportive herbs can help to raise one’s perspective and spirit in order to begin moving through his/her process.

Enjoy working with Mimosa. My next adventures with this tree will be making a flower essence and experimenting with it in an insomnia blend.

Update 5/12/2017:

I have been working with Mimosa in situations of insomnia, irritability due to overwork, mental strain, or other stressors. If I find myself running on fumes or feeling like I have overtaxed my mind and can’t turn it off and rest, I turn to mimosa along with a few other allies like skullcap and passionflower. For the record, I also take much needed time to relax, get extra rest, drink lots of water, and sit quietly in my yard to restore my nervous system. I have to be careful not to overtax my system and then use mimosa as a band aid so I can keep going. #graduateschool

 

American Beech Tree (Fagus grandifolia)

Meet my favorite Beech tree.

She and I have been hanging out together since this past winter when I first noticed her gorgeous leaves still hanging from her limbs.

Beech - 2/2011

The leaves remain on Beech until after Winter is over and the weather begins to warm.  I love how she waits so long to release her old leaves to make way for the new buds which, for this tree, arrived in early March.

There is a great lesson in shedding our old selves after Winter.  I loved visiting and watching Beech go gracefully through her change.

Beech bark is mostly gray and smooth (unless there is some sort of disease on it)  The leaves are very thin and flimsy… soft and almost transparent.   Standing under her canopy is such a soothing experience.

Beech medicine really is quite amazing.  When I think about her qualities, I must say that I find her strongest medicine to be in her flexibility; her ability to have such fragile leaves, yet keep them firmly attached all through Winter… Her strength within her open-ness is a wonderful lesson as well; how often do we find empowerment when we have the courage to become vulnerable and open?

According to Bach Flower Remedies, Beech is the flower remedy of tolerance and sympathy.  People who are rigid and intolerant of others need this tree as an ally.   She softens the heart and soothes the nervous system.  Her medicine helps us to become more flexible and compassionate.

I tasted one of her buds this spring and I could, along with a slight astringency, taste a bit of mucilage and sweetness… very light… not as much as, say, Elm, but I definitely tasted a nourishing sweetness.  This tells me that Beech medicine is tonifying and nourishing.

Beech medicine is loving and accepting.

And each time I say goodbye to her, I notice how beautiful her base is; how she has herself so easily balanced, knowing that, no matter how hard the wind blows or how often her branches touch the earth, she is safe and secure.  I walk away feeling a little more like her.

Crab Apple

I have the most wonderful little crab apple trees.  I can’t say I always loved them; several of them are quite old and worn out.  They are falling apart, and sometimes only one or two branches on an entire tree will bud out and bloom.

I contemplated putting the poor babies out of their misery (or mine) and cutting them down.

But something stopped me.

Last Fall I decided to try to connect with these trees to see what they wanted me to do with them.  Jessi and I pruned some of them, and while doing so, ran a little flying squirrel out of her home (she was in one of the hollow, dead sections of a tree we were pruning).

We felt awful for disrupting the poor baby, so we left her alone (after Jessi left her a peace offering of raisins in front of her “door”).  Several days later, I decided to make some crab apple infused oil with some leaves and twigs.  I fell in love with the oil, and I am excited about making crab apple blossom infused oil this Spring.

I received several impressions from Crab Apple while working with her medicine.  The longer I worked with her, the more calm, soothed and peaceful I felt.  I noticed that I had more clarity and the things that had my mind churning and working like a puzzle just kind of faded into the background.

She also had a very gentle way of warming my heart and lifting my spirits, making me smile often as I worked with her.  My friend, Darcey, said that she is very good for alleviating feelings of disgust, self reproach or feelings of uncleanliness.  Many people who feel the obsessive need to detox can find balance and possibly self acceptance with this essence.  I found that very interesting, and, based on my experiences with this medicine, I agree with Darcey’s insights.

I am very impressed with my little old trees.  They have taught me something very valuable:  even the sad looking, half alive, very broken trees have tremendous value.  I am grateful for their lesson.

~Walk in peace and beauty.

Evergreens/Conifers

I have been working recently with evergreens/conifers.  The evergreens in my yard (and nearby) are Southern Red Cedar, Short leaf Pine (yellow pine), bald cypress and Holly.

I haven’t quite figured out what to do with Holly except to bring it in around the holidays, but I will do more research on that.

I love to use cedar and cypress for smudge, much like white sage.  The smoke from cedar and cypress cleanses a space and kills germs, and creates a sacred space for ceremony.  Indigenous people used it for this purpose.

I spent some time with Pine last week, and while gathering the needles that fell after a rain, I thanked Her for such a generous bounty.  🙂  I still have some needles that have been harvested sitting on my kitchen counter, wondering what to do with them.

This past week I made Pine needle vinegar and Pine infused in olive oil.  Pine needle vinegar is awesome!  Susun Weed says, “Pine vinegar is rich in flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals. It helps keep the immune system strong, and strengthens the lungs”.  She calls it “Homemade Balsamic Vinegar.”

Pine infused oil is great for the skin… helps all kinds of skin conditions.  It is an antioxidant, antibacterial and anti inflammatory, and is great blended into a muscle rub.  I will be using this as an ingredient for my “Soothing Earth Muscle Salve”.

Bald Cypress

A friend of mine cut down a bald cypress tree in her back yard.  *tears*

I shared with her that the indigenous people believed that Cypress was a sacred tree, and they used it for cleansing their ceremonial spaces, much like sage and cedar, and she asked, “Am I going to hell for cutting it down?”  hahahaha…  I replied, “I’ll light a candle for you.  Let’s cut some of this and I’ll do something with it.”

I feel that if we are going to give death to a tree sibling, then there should be an honorable reason for it.  And we should give thanks to them for giving their lives.  Why not?  If given a choice, I feel most of us would want to have “purpose” for the ending of our lives.

So….. I brought the limbs home and made a cypress tincture.  I dried the rest of it for ceremony.

May we each have a purpose for life… and death.