Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Winter Wednesday

I took this during our little snowstorm on Sunday. It was coming down in huge, thick flakes for most of the day - my favorite kind of snow.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Full Bough-shedding Moon

In the fall there are the harvest festivals, the traditional time where crops are brought in from the fields, and when animal herds are culled. While this is literal for some, it also has a more symbolic meaning. It's a time to give thanks, a time for us to take stock of what we have, and to cull what we don't need. A time to prepare for the winter months - the months of turning inward.

In the spring we see a similar theme. At Imbolc there is purification, preparations, starting to get ready for the summer months where we turn our focus more outward again. In the early spring, it's the time for spring cleaning - literally and spiritually. Organize, get rid of the clutter, tidy up. Get ready for the light half of the year.

When I think of this moon cycle as the Bough-shedding moon, that's the symbolism that comes to mind. Literally, this is a description of the branches that break from the strong winds and heavy snows. Sometimes this isn't good for the trees, but sometimes it also helps the trees to lose the weaker branches, the sick branches, the dead branches that still hold on.

So for this full moon, I sat in front of the window that faces the moon - it was cloudy, but it was good to see the outdoors - and I prepared a small ritual space in Artemis' honor. I made an offering of  honey liqueur and grapes, and spent some thinking about what I no longer needed, and what I needed more of, what I needed to grow this year. I let her guide me in this - a clarity of vision, a strong focus, as well as patience. (Seems like there could always be more patience.) Get rid of the things which keep me from my goals. Don't procrastinate. Don't push important things to the back of my mind. Stay focused.

It's like hunting. Have patience, have a clear view of your target, have a strong and steady aim.

Friday, February 22, 2013


The usual recommendation for keeping a dream journal is to keep a notebook and pen by your bed, and write everything you can remember right when you wake up. For several reasons, this never worked out well for me. Finding I'd written a bunch of gibberish in the middle of the night (if I could even read it) was a common problem.

So, instead, I keep my dreams recorded on the computer. Hanging around a bit on the computer is always the first thing I do in the morning, so the dreams are still fresh, and it gives me enough time from waking up to actually be able to clear some of the morning fog and really remember details of my dreams.

One of the big benefits to this is being able to edit what I'm writing easily. If I'm half way through describing a dream and suddenly remember something important from the start, it's no problem to add it in. I'm also able to add in keywords to the end of my entries, I like to keep track of who is in my dreams, where they take place, what time of day, animals, odd weather, and so on. I also mark common themes like being chased, flying, teeth falling out, or finding myself back in school. Having these keywords helps me to pick up on patterns and the like. 

The draw back to journaling on the computer is if I wake up from a dream in the middle of the night, I have to get up and get to the computer to write it down. Truthfully, this isn't really that bad for me - I tend to wake up and sit up for a bit once or twice a night anyway.

Personally, I don't think most of my dreams are very significant. While I take an interest into patterns that emerge across many dreams, I don't really try to find meaning in each dream I have. For the most part I just see dreams as the subconscious unwinding a bit, and while there's certainly value in communication with your subconscious, I don't think every little thing is an important message.

For me the messages come more when I do see patterns emerge, or when I have recurring dreams about the same thing. Occasionally I will also have a dream that just... feels different. Very vivid, and it really sticks with me through the day. I do like to take a bit of a closer look at such dreams.

Additionally, I record my dreams each morning because remembering dreams is something of a skill - if you don't practice, you won't get better. That can lead to forgetting the important dreams on waking...

As far as actually interpreting dreams goes? A lot of people like to look to books, or ask others for help. While it's nice to brainstorm with other people on occasion, the best person to interpret your dreams is really you. It's your mind. Your subconscious. It doesn't matter if a book says X means Y when it means something totally different to you - go with your own gut on such things. Even if you think the dream is a message from a deity or a spirit, which does happen, that message is meant for you. You are the best one to decode it.

As an example, several years back I had tons of dreams where my teeth would fall out. At it's worst, this would happen almost every night. It got to the extent that as soon as it started happning, I would know I was dreaming, and would wake myself up (to count all my teeth). Everyone had a lot to say about the symbolism of teeth falling out... but I knew why I was having those dreams. I was having a lot of problems with my wisdom teeth, and getting them removed, and the whole thing was a big mess, and the whole idea of having this surgery (I had to be awake for it) was really scary to me. After that whole thing was over? I stopped having those dreams. It wasn't spiritual, it wasn't symbolic, it was just my mind dealing with the stress and fear of what was going on during the day.

Likewise, a current recurring dream these nights is being covered in honeybees. I believe this is a very specific message from Artemis. However, someone else having a similar dream might find totally different meaning in it. (Or maybe they're just scared of bees and are having a nightmare.) That's why it's important to really give a personal look at what's happening in your dreams. Which is not to say it's always easy to do that, but it's worth it to take the time and meditate on the symbolism yourself, rather than just going with the stock answer. Things become a lot more meaningful that way.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winter Wednesday and a General Update

I know I just posted earlier this afternoon, but it's Wednesday, and I figure it's best if I get off the rant train for a while...

It's my understanding that the Abenaki, one of the tribes local to my region, called this moon cycle the Bough Shedding Moon. Or, as another translation puts it, the 'makes branches fall in pieces' moon. That is, of course, the reason why I've chosen this particular photo to share today - it is a very accurate name.

Usually, this is the cycle I refer to as the Wolf Moon, but recently that name has not felt quite right. I think, perhaps, Bough Shedding Moon might replace it. It's something I'll have to consider. Even if it is not a permanent addition, it will be the symbolism I choose to work with for this cycle, at least.

That's one of the things I really love about my path - it's flexible, adaptable. Something no longer works? No problem, replace it with something that does. It might sound flippant, and I don't mean it to - it's not a process that I tend to take lightly. I give a lot of thought as to what I include, so of course I must give a good amount of thought when I feel something should be removed or changed. Still, if something does need to be changed? It can be. I really appreciate that. 

That thing that happened with Fox 2

So, here's a follow up to Monday's post. There was an apology given through Twitter.

@TuckerCarlson - To Wiccans and pagans: Sorry for my pointlessly nasty remarks. Your holidays still confuse me, but you seem like nice people.

I'm not very familiar with Twitter, so I'm not sure if there's a way I can link right to it, but as of now it's one of the more recent things he's said. Now, frankly, I'm not too sure how sincere this apology is. Also, I find it disappointing that he couldn't really be bothered to do a bit of research even after the fact. Not terribly surprising, though.

However, the real reason I'm posting this is I'm much more disappointed with the way some pagans are reacting. We should be using this as an opportunity to show our best, an opportunity for education. If not for the people directly involved, then for the people on the side-lines, the ones who might be silently watching this whole thing unfold.

Some pagans are coming from a place of misinformation. This is not malicious, and it can be hard to blame them when, for example, many prominent pagan authors are happy to put forward some truly terrible history. So, to speak briefly on some of those things... The world was not awesomely perfect before the Christians came along. I've seen many accusations of Christians just stealing pagan holidays, which ignores how indirect such things were in many cases. It also ignores the fact that both ancient and modern pagans are just as guilty of such things. The Wheel itself, the thing that started all this, is a mash-up of Celtic and Germanic festivals and ideas. Many Wiccans have taken a few elements from these old holidays, and put new mythology and such to them. Does that sound familiar at all?

Ancient pagans borrowed holidays, customs, symbols, ideas, holy sites, and even Deities from all sorts of sources, all the time. (Modern pagans do this too, of course.) Additionally, we often think of Christianity spreading through violent means, and ancient pagans never did that! Except for when they did. Look at the history of Europe before Christianity got there. Groups conquered new lands, bringing their religion with them, covering up the old ones. As an example, the ancient Romans were very keen on destroying the druids - not solely for religious reasons (but then, Christians didn't always do such things solely for religious reasons, either), but it did result in a tremendous loss of religious knowledge. Let's not even get into all the horrible things ancient pagans did to the early Christians, either.

All this is not an excuse to ignore modern issues that come up - but it is a good reason to leave the past in the past.

Like I said though, that's mostly just due to misinformation. That is easily correctable. Of course, some seem to get mad when the correct information is brought in, it interrupts their happy Christian bashing, I guess. Isn't that the sort of thing we're mad about, though? Willfully focusing on bad information, refusing to be educated on particular topics?

Some pagans, however, are coming from a place that seems just as bigoted as where those particular people were coming from. Sometimes this comes from years of struggling with spirituality and the like, and I do try to be understanding of that, but it is still disheartening to see. This sort of thing does not help paganism, and it doesn't help the person doing it.

Yes, what was said is frustrating, yes, what was said was bigoted. It's okay to point these things out. It's even okay to rant a bit, so long as the rant stayed focused on what was actually said. It's not okay to make sweeping judgements. It's not okay to willfully spread misinformation. Let's use this as an opportunity to spread correct facts, to share knowledge, and to show people that pagans are just regular people - not some weird oddity, not some stereotype. That we're trying to lift ourselves up, not push others down.

Monday, February 18, 2013

That thing that happened with Fox.

This has been a popular topic for discussion on some pagan blogs and forums today, so you might already be familiar with this story, but a quick recap for those who aren't...

The University of Missouri has added the eight holidays of the Wheel of the Year to their guide on religions. It is suggested that faculty use the guide to plan classes around - classes are still scheduled for these days, but it is advised to think about planning exams on non-holidays, and other such thing. The guide is also just for informational use by students, as well.  It talks a bit about dietary restrictions, things to expect, what the holiday is about, and similar information. Christian, Muslim, and Jewish holidays are all represented on the calendar, as well as some other religions including Shinto and Buddhism. Here's a short article that gives a little more information.

That's all well and good, right? Well, sure, until some of the fine folks at Fox News decided to give their commentary on the matter. (The article on their website is much less inflammatory, much more informative.) It seems they've removed the video from their site, but if you want to see what was said, it's still being hosted on a few sites, including this copy on Youtube.

Alright, so, let's look at some of the issues here. Right off the bat, there are more Zoroastrians here than Wiccans? I'd love to see a source for that, because briefly looking at some numbers for the US shows otherwise. That number shoots up when looking at paganism as a whole.

"Wiccanism." Enough said.

Then we're told that we (pagans and Wiccans) should be mad, we're being used to oppress Christianity. We're being used to downgrade what's important to a majority of Americans. Okay, so let's recap... Eight holidays are added to a list, nothing is removed, nothing is taken away from anyone, but we are downgrading something important. Somehow. According to her, we are ruining the very thing that allows us to enjoy religious freedom. We are ruining religious freedom by acknowledging that other religions exist, that some people follow these other religions, and that said religions have holidays.

At the end, her exact quote is this "...look, tradition in this country is what allows people to be pagans and Wiccans, and to enjoy their lives freely. Good luck doing that in any other country." Really, is she seriously saying no other country enjoys religious freedom? Does she not know where Wicca originated? (I doubt she does.) I honestly do not understand how someone can hold beliefs that are so immensely delusional. I really just don't.

Then the guy goes on to say Wiccans get twenty holidays. I think he's probably just mixing up the 20% figure quoted earlier. (Which, incidentally, is actually higher than the correct number by a little bit - close enough, right?) It's possible he's counting the full moons in with the eight solar holidays, too. Either way, again, only eight holidays were added to this list. Not twenty.

Of course, this gets into "how many Wiccans can name every Wiccan holiday, or 50% of Wiccan holidays?" Dude. There's only eight of them. It doesn't take a genius to remember eight holidays, just a little bit of effort. We're talking about eight holidays spread evenly through the year - plus, maybe honoring the moon cycles. It's like asking someone how they remember the names of the months or what month it is. It's really just silly. (Frankly I'd love to show them some of the other pagan calendars out there - Greek and Egyptian recons often have quite a long list of dates to remember!)

There's also the bit where they're confused about Halloween, and is it Wiccan or pagan? Totally unaware that, you know, Samhain is not equivalent to secular Halloween. It's like someone saying Christmas is all about trees, lights, and Santa - it sure is to some, but you just know these folks are very likely the type of people who go on about "the reason for the season!" and all that. This idea should not be foreign to them, and yet...

Then there's that lovely ending, stereotyping all Wiccans. What needs to be said about that? Anyone who has even done the slightest bit of earnest research knows they're wrong. So, either they've done no real research into the topic before deciding to do a news piece on it, or they're being willfully ignorant. There's just no other excuse, no other explanation.

I don't know. Honestly, having seen a fair bit of Fox News thanks to relatives, it's just... Well, it's Fox News. They pander to people with bigoted opinions all the time, while failing to do even the most basic fact checking or research on the matter. It's a problem, yes, but at this point it's not a surprise. 

Now I also want to talk about the backlash a bit. It's understandable that this is making some people angry, it really is. However, taking it totally in the other direction and stereotyping and insulting all Christians is just as stupid as what was done here. So could we not do that? That said, there is a petition over on calling for an apology. If you want to sign it, do so. (Personally, I'm not sure it will do much good. You're not going to get an honest apology, and it's not going to fix the problems over at Fox.) If you want to speak out, do so.

Please, though, really think about what you're saying first. Do not use this as an excuse to jump on the "all Christians suck!" train that's rolling around. Some Christians are willfully ignorant bigots - but you know what? So are some pagans. Bigotry, failure to fact-check (especially when delivering 'news'), cognitive dissonance, stereotyping - these are the real problems with what was said, let's do our best not to add to them.

Waiting for Spring

The wind has been howling without stop since I woke up this morning. It's a cold, bitter wind - although it's ten above zero tonight, the windchill makes it feel like it's ten below. And all day, my thoughts constantly kept returning to the coming spring and summer. I find myself looking forward to the warmer months, which is something I didn't do often in the past.

 I would guess this is because, while I have always had an interest in herbalism, over the last few years working with living plants has taken a much larger place in my practice than ever before. It's always had a role, but not to the extent that is has grown to in recent years. I miss going for walks along the roadside, out into the meadows, along the hedges, and even out into the deeper woods, drawing, painting, and taking pictures, learning their names, studying them, just being with them. Not just the plants, but the little insects and animals found with them, too. Sitting in with the foxgloves just after sunset, surrounded by fireflies and singing evening insects. Such a simple act, yet immensely moving and powerful. I miss that.

 I still enjoy winter. There's beauty in the snow, ice, and dead and dormant plants. There's a lesson found in the silence of the still nights, and in the whistling of the windy ones. Still... there's so much to look forward to in the coming months. It's hard not to think ahead, at least a little.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Using Dirt in Ritual and Spellwork

Yep. Dirt. Lots of people are familiar with using herbs, spices, oils, gems, and so on in their rituals - but what about dirt? Mentioned briefly in my post about budget witchcraft/paganism, dirt has a place in ritual and spellwork.

The idea behind using dirt for a working is fairly simple - dirt from a particular location gathers and carries the particular energies of a place. For example, libraries and schools are usually thought of as places of learning, so you might gather dirt from such a location for use in a working involving learning, intelligence, knowledge, and so on.

To give a few more examples, dirt from around a bank may be used for prosperity. Dirt from a garden or farm for fertility or growth. Dirt from around a courthouse for workings dealing with justice or legal issues. Dirt from a mountain for grounding and stability. Dirt from a sea shore (or sand) for purification, dirt from the bank of a swift river for messages. Dirt from a road for travel. Dirt from around a casino or racetrack for luck or gambling. Dirt from the soles of shoes for a working involving that person. Like many aspects of spell work, such things can be open to interpretation, so give some thought to your goal, and the energy you wish to bring to it.

Two types of dirt are often given more attention than others - graveyard dirt, and crossroads dirt. Graveyard dirt in particular has many different rituals and ideas attached to it. Usually dirt is not just taken from any part of the graveyard, but a bit of dirt from a particular grave. This might be someone who has traits specific to your working - such as a doctor for a healing. This might also simply be someone who you were related to, or were close to, while they were alive (particularly for protection). As such, it is important to work to know the spirit you will be working with. Take time to tend to the grave, to leave offerings, to ask for permission to take the dirt, to ask for their aid in your working, to listen to for a response before proceeding.

Again, that is just one view on the use of graveyard dirt. There are tons of different views on the collection and use of such dirt.

Dirt from a crossroads also has multiple associations and rituals attached to it, much as the crossroads themselves. For example, some say you must go during the middle of the night, leave an offering, take some dirt, and leave the area without ever looking back. Other collection rituals might be much less specific. This dirt is often used to add extra potency to any working, but again can carry a variety of meanings.

Now, when it comes to actually using the dirt in a spell or ritual, it's fairly simple. It can be stuffed into a bundle, sachet, or dolly much like herbs can. It can be sprinkled in a ring around a candle (or even added to wax in small amounts when making a candle). It might be sprinkled around an area, such as around the outside of a home in a protective working. Symbols can be drawn onto a paper, the dirt sprinkled on that, and folded into a charm. There are many ways to utilize dirt for all sorts of workings - get creative with it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cleansing, Consecrating, and Charging

Cleansing is fairly simple in concept. Places, items, and people all gather dirt and grime over time - physically and spiritually - and cleansing is simply getting rid of that gathered grime. Just as you wouldn't go without washing yourself for long periods of time, or invite your family over without tidying a bit first, it's good to also spiritually clean yourself and your spaces.

There are many different ways to cleanse, and it's really about choosing what's best for your situation, and something that won't damage the item you're cleansing.

The smoke of smudge sticks and other purifying incenses are quite popular. However, you could also dip an item in water with a bit of salt - or sprinkle that salt water onto the item, person, or around the place. Instead of salt water, a light tea of purifying herbs could also be used. An item might also be simple sprinkled in salt or herbs. The light of the sun is cleansing, and some use moonlight for the same purpose. You could pass an item over a flame. Use running water (a shower or bath is a good way to cleanse yourself both physically and spiritually). Sound can also cleanse - a sharking rattle, a tambourine, bells, flutes, or singing bowls can all be used to cleanse. Get creative and experiment with different methods.

When exactly to cleanse is also often a personal matter. Some always cleanse any space before holding a ritual, but in my personal practice this is not something I usually do when working outside. If a space doesn't feel right, I find a place that does. These places are not my home, and I would rather go where invited than try to push my way into a space, but this is something people will have different views on, of course. I cleanse my home about once a month, but I find doing it before every last working is not necessary as I have dedicated ritual space. Again though, it is really personal preference. Some do it more, some do it less.

When it comes to purification of items, I do this as needed, and always at Imbolc. Others do it once a month at the new or full moon. Some just do it only when it's needed.

As for purification of the self? This is easy enough to do with each shower or bath, if one wishes to do so. It can be nice to let all the spiritual gunk dissolve down the drain with the physical dirt. Taking a shower or bath before a ritual is common practice. At other times a ritual washing of the hands, and sometimes face or mouth is enough. Then there are times that you might be physically filthy, say if there's a long muddy hike to the ritual space, but a light spiritual cleansing of the self is still done as a gesture of respect.

To consecrate something means to dedicate it to a particular purpose, usually a sacred one. As with cleansing, there are many ways this can be done, but personally I prefer a fairly simple approach. After giving an item a good cleansing, I anoint it with a dab of blessed oil, and simply state what the item's purpose will be, and ask for the blessings of those it will be going into service of. I then spend a while meditating with the item, thinking about it's new purpose in my practice. It is then ready for ritual use.

In my opinion, it is only necessary to consecrate an item once if it remains in fairly active use. (For myself, that means at least once a year.) However, if a particular item had to go into storage for some time, or something like that, it certainly would not hurt to cleanse it and re-dedicate it.

Likewise, you might find you no longer need a particular item, or perhaps only needed it to act as a sacred tool temporarily. In either case, it's wise to remove it from service. Again, a simple way to do this is just by holding the item and saying some words to return the item to day to day use.


To charge an item means to imbue it with energy. This can be your personal energy, energy from the sun, moon, or other natural energy, or energy that you have raised and set to a particular purpose.

For example, if you wanted to make an amulet to use for protection, while crafting the amulet you would think of it's purpose. This begins to charge it. When it is complete, you would raise and focus energy as you would for any other working that required it, and it would then be focused into the item.

To charge an item with your person energy, you would simply have to spend time with it. This often happens on it's own with ritual tools we use frequently. To charge it with the energy of some natural force, you'd simply allow it to spend time in that force. Buried in the earth, under the sun or moon, hanging from a tree, dipped in ocean water, and so on. One might even ask a spirit or deity to bless an item with some of their energy.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Opinions vs. Facts

Alright, here's something that's been popping up a lot over the last week or so, and it's really starting to bother me...

"I don't like onions, they taste awful." That? That's an opinion. Some people will have conflicting opinions on the subject, after all some people actually like the taste of onions, and that's fine. People might debate a bit on the merits of onions, various cooking methods, varieties, and so on, but at the end of the day...? It's all just personal opinion. Not much can be done about it - although it could possibly change over time on it's own. (I hated yellow mustard as a kid, and in the last year I've fallen in love with it.)

"All species of bear eat bamboo in their natural habitat." That? That is not an opinion. It's a fact. Facts, as we know, can be wrong - this one is, of course, wrong.

Now sometimes the line isn't always clear. One might have an opinion based on the facts available to them. If those facts are wrong? Well, we can see what that might do to their opinion. Pointing out this issue should not really be seen as an attack on the individual, yet that's often how it's taken.

Now that, I just... I don't get it. If I had based an opinion or belief on something incorrect, I'd want to know! It's happened before. I'm sure it will happen again. I'm not perfect, I've believed incorrect information, and I have held beliefs that just plain old did not make sense. When that was brought to my attention? I considered the new evidence, or what was being said to me, and if appropriate I changed my opinion to reflect the new information or ideas.

Evaluation of personal opinions and beliefs is not a bad thing. If you never examine your personal beliefs, how are you ever going to grow, or develop a deeper awareness of them? Of course, this is now starting to get into an issue I wrote about many months back. It's okay to think someone's beliefs are wrong, and it's okay to debate beliefs.

It's not a matter of discussing a particular individual's belief, and after discussion they still believe in it - that's fine! You can look at a belief, question it, examine it, get other opinions on it... and still have that same belief after all is said and done. That's a good way to form strong, well thought out beliefs.

The problem is when people seem to want to stick their opinions and beliefs up on these untouchable pedestals. They want to share them with the world, but when someone disagrees? No, no, you can't do that. That's not nice. Of course, the same people seem to take no issue with giving out their opposing views. They're just giving their opinion. If you want to disagree with, or discuss that opinion? Nope, can't do that - that belief is way up on that sacred pedestal.

If you only want to hear the people that agree with you, what's the point?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Winter Wednesday

Two pictures today, on a similar theme...
Dried autumn flowers frozen in ice.

Oak leaves and pine needles in thin ice.

Monday, February 4, 2013

How to Make Infused Oils

(Not sure what an infused oil is? Confused about carrier oils? Read this first.)

There are two main ways to make an infused oil at home. For both methods, you will need a carrier oil, such as olive oil, some plant material (such as rose petals, cinnamon sticks, or dried bay leaves - or even a mix of a few different plants), a sterilized glass jar, and a strainer.


If you are planning to use fresh plants, start by thoroughly washing them, and patting them dry with a towel. You want to make sure your plants are totally dry before starting. It can be helpful to lightly bruise the fresh plants a bit, as this will help them to release their oils easier. If you're using a long stem of something - say, a sprig of rosemary - break it up into small pieces. If you're using dried plants, they're likely ready to use as they are, but they might also need to be broken up a bit.

First Method

For the first method you simply need to put some of your chosen plant into the jar. You do not need to stuff the jar full, and personally I usually do not fill the jar more than a quarter full, but it does depend a bit on the specific plant. Then fill the jar the rest of the way with oil, making sure that the plant material is completely covered. Then tightly cover the jar.

It will take several days for the herbs to really infuse into the oil. It's best to allow the jar to sit in a warm (but not hot) spot somewhere in the house. Each day you'll want to lightly agitate the oil a bit by gently tipping the jar upside down, then right side up again. Gently rolling it a bit also works, but you don't want to shake it. After about seven days open the jar and smell the oil. If it's as scented as you want, strain the plants from the oil, return the oil to the jar, and seal it.

If the oil is not as scented as you'd like, strain out the old plants, and simply repeat the process using fresh plants and the same oil.

Second Method / Heated Method
For the second method, you'll need a glass baking dish - do not use metal. Put your plants and the oil into the baking dish, and put it it into an over set on it's lowest setting. Some plants might only need to be set in the oven for perhaps an hour or two, while others may take longer. Check the oil often to see if the scent is where you'd like it to be, keeping in mind that it will be a little less scented once it's cooled.

Once it's done, allow the oil to fully cool, strain it, and store it in a tightly sealed sterilized glass jar.

Storage and Shelf Life
Infused oils should be stored in glass jars that are well sealed, and kept in a cool place that is out of direct light. Heat and light will both cause oil to break down and start to go rancid sooner. Some people like to keep some of the plant in the oil after it's made as a decoration. In many cases, this can also cause the oil to go rancid quicker.

How long the oil actually lasts depends a bit on plants used, method used, and how they are stored. They can last a while, but really it's best to make small quantities as needed. When your oil starts to smell funky, it's time to toss it and make a fresh batch.

"Oh no, botulism!" and Other Warnings
Botulism is an extremely nasty, if rare, disease. If you are planning to ingest your infused oils, please do a little extra research on the topic, and take a look at the extra steps you should take to avoid botulism and any other sort of foodborne illnesses or issues.

Likewise, please do a bit of research on the plants you intend to use for your infused oils. Even plants we usually consider to be non-toxic can cause some issues for people - as an example, oil infused with clove or cinnamon can be irritating to sensitive skin.

Beyond oil, you can also infuse vinegars, alcohol, and a host of other liquids... but that's for another post.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


A very happy Imbolc to those celebrating, whenever you may be celebrating it! (And a happy Lammas to those in the southern hemisphere.)

Good old Punxsutaweny Phil didn't see his shadow, which according to the folklore means we'll be seeing an early spring this year. It was mostly cloudy when I peeked outside as well, so perhaps we'll see an early spring here as well? I suppose we'll know for sure soon enough.

Well, at least the extreme cold we've been having seems to have lightened up a bit. It's only going to get down to 20F tonight, which is a good bit nicer than dipping below zero. Still, aside from days that are a little longer, there aren't too many other signs of an approaching spring. In my personal practice, I tend to leave many of the spring aspects to Ostara and Beltane. At Imbolc I know that spring is coming, but I'm still working with winter concepts, ideas, and of course winter weather.

It's a time to rest a bit, to just enjoy this quiet time of year, before the light half of the year brings all it's activity and growth. It's a time to look through my small supply cabinet, and take stock of what I have, what I need more of, and what I no longer need to keep. A time to clean off altars and purify them, a time to purify ritual tools and items, and to do self-purifications as well. It's a time to look inward, to face the good and the bad, and to think about changes that need to be made.

It's also time to look forward a bit. If I'm going to keep a bit of a garden this year, and I'd like to, I need to start thinking about what's going to go into that garden, when do I need to get seeds started, what gardening equipment is already here, what do I need to pick up?

I have given a little thought to what I want to grow. I'd like to try growing a few stalks of corn. We did that one year when I was much younger. Garlic is simple to grow, and I go through tons of it, so garlic is on the list. What else? Maybe some potatoes, or beets? Then some herbs... lavender for sure, perhaps rosemary, or thyme? That's all something I'll need to figure out in the next week or so, anyway.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Animal Lore: Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee on a suet feeder.
The Black-capped Chickadee is a small song bird native to North America, and is only one of a few varieties of Chickadees. They're known for their distinctive 'chick-a-dee-dee-dee' call, which is the source of their name. That particular call is their alarm call, the greater the threat, the more dees will be included on the end of their call. It serves as a warning to other Chickadees in the area, and some other birds have also been known realize that call being associated with danger.

In addition to their chick-a-dee call, they are known to sing quite a few calls, often fairly complex in their nature. Another of their more distinctive calls is their 'fee-bee' call. If you've got Chickadees in your area, there's a good chance you've heard this call before.

Chickadee taking some suet.
Chickadees eat a variety of foods. In the warmer months, the bulk of their diet is made up of insects, although they also eat berries and seeds. In the colder months their diet is a bit more limited, but they still look for seeds and other such foods. Chickadees have occasionally been seen eating fat fro carcases in colder months, and appreciate suet feeders. Chickadees have been known to store food in tons of different locations, and they can remember where food is hidden for up to a month. There is also some indication that they can even remember the quality and quantity of food in a particular cache, if it is one that had been recently made.

Chickadees are year round birds, although they may occasionally go north or south with the weather within a limited range. Chickadees have the ability to lower their body temperate in cold weather, which allows them to preserve energy.

Many Chickadees are bold little birds, and if you're patient it is possible to get one to feed on seed right from your hands. They're known to be curious, and are not as fearful around humans as some other birds.

Because of their traits, Chickadees can be symbolic of bravery, curiosity, intelligence, resourcefulness, and perseverance. Chickadees can warn one of coming danger, and are said to be able to discern the true nature of an individual and their intent.