Saturday, August 17, 2013

Queen Anne's Lace (Wild Carrot)

Flowers of Queen Anne's Lace - note the single red flower in the center of each cluster.
Queen Anne's Lace (daucus carota), also known as Wild Carrot, is a plant that can be used in a variety of ways. The roots can be eaten when the plant is young, older plants can be used in herbal preparations, and it can also be used to create dye. Queen Anne's Lace is often found in fields, ditches, along road sides, and in other such areas. 

Queen Anne's Lace is so called because the flowers resemble lace. If you look closely, you can see a single red flower in the center of each cluster. In folklore, this is said to be a drop of blood from Queen Anne, who pricked herself with the needle while making the lace.
Queen Anne's Lace gone to seed.
Leaf of Queen Anne's Lace
  Queen Anne's Lace takes two years to fully mature. During the beginning of the first year the root can be harvested and eaten much like a carrot, however, after that small window the root becomes too tough and woody to eat. The young leaves are also edible. During the second year the plant will grow taller, often around three to five feet, and produce flowers.  The flowers are edible as well, and can be eaten raw, or cooked in a variety of ways (such as dipped in batter and fried like a fritter). Later in the second year the plant's flower clusters will turn to seed, and the cycle begins again.
The leaves of the plant can be used as a diuretic, used to aid stomach upsets, and can be taken as a preventative for kidney stones. The leaves of Queen Anne's Lace can cause the skin to become very sensitive to sunlight, so take care when picking or handling the plant. The seed of the plant can cause uterine contractions, and has traditional uses as birth control. The root can have similar effects.
The flowers, and some also use the stem and leaves, can be turned into a dye that ranges from yellow to deep green.
Ritually, the plant can be used to promote fertility, sexual stamina, and to attract love and passion. The roots can be used to keep one grounded and balanced. Forked roots are considered to be lucky.  

Stem of Queen Anne's Lace
It is very important to correctly identify Queen Anne's Lace, as it closely resembles water hemlock, and poison hemlock - both quite toxic, and both can make you very sick, or even kill you. There are a few key ways to tell the plants apart. First, the stems of Queen Anne's Lace will be covered in fine hairs, and as was mentioned earlier, when the flowers are in bloom a single red flower can be found near the center of the flower cluster. The stems of poison hemlock will be smooth, hollow, and covered in purplish splotches. With Queen Anne's Lace, a bit of crushed leaf or root will smell like carrot, where poison hemlock has a different odor - sometimes described as more earthy. As always, please do your homework if you're going to be foraging or engaging in herbalism - be sure you're picking the right plant, and be sure you're using it correctly.

Queen Anne's Lace is not native to North America, and is often considered a pest plant due to how aggressively it can spread, which can cause it to take over areas and coke out native plants. It's my understanding that in some states of the US it is even illegal to plant or transport Queen Anne's Lace, so it's best to check your local laws if you wish to cultivate it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Day Three - Symbols of Artemis

3. Symbols and icons of this deity.

Artemis' bow is probably one of her more iconic symbols. These days, many like to associate the waxing crescent moon with Artemis' bow - and I admit, I like that symbolism myself - but classically Artemis' bow and arrows are described as being golden. The bow is not Artemis' only hunting weapon, however, as she also carries a spear and hunting/fishing nets. She is frequently shown wearing a short hunting tunic, as well, and is accompanied by a pack of hunting dogs.

Artemis is also said to have a chariot, again usually described as golden (or all gold), which is drawn by four deer with golden horns, and deer in general are one of the animals sacred to Artemis.

The torch is another of her symbols, and she is often shown or described as holding a single torch, or twin torches. When she is holding a single torch, often her bow is in her other hand, but sometimes she will be shown holding something else, such as a snake.

Artemis has some ties to music and dance, and is frequently shown holding a lyre (a stringed instrument).

Deer were not the only animals sacred to Artemis. Bears were also particularly sacred to her, as well as boars, dogs and wolves, partridges, quails, guineafowl, and other ground birds, and the buzzard or hawk.  

Artemis also ruled over fishing, and was sometimes said to be a goddess of lakes, so fresh-water fish were also sacred to her, as well, and it would seem a pool or spring of fresh-water fish was a common feature at many shines to Artemis.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Day Two - Beginnings

2. How did you become first aware of this deity? 

I can't really remember when I first learned about Artemis - without doubt I was exposed to her myths, and other Greek myths, when I was much younger. When I first came to paganism the Greek pantheon was actually the first that caught my eye, and was the first I tried to form some bonds with. Nothing came of that, however.

It wasn't until many years after that, that Artemis came to my attention in any sort of spiritual sense. I feel like I'm probably going to get the dates wrong here, but if I remember right I think it was sometime around late 2007 when I first started to feel pulled to her.

At that time, I had just come out of Egyptian reconstruction, and I was struggling a bit with finding direction. Even though I knew reconstruction was not where I belonged, I still worshiped the Egyptian deities. They were the only real constant for me then, so feeling this other deity on the edges? I wasn't having it. Frankly, it was scary. It felt like too much change, too quickly. It would have been just like starting over... Which, as it turns out, was what I really needed on many levels, although of course I didn't know that at the time.

There was also the fact that this was the first non-Egyptian deity that I had ever felt anything from, and that was a bit intimidating in it's own way. It was almost like there was a bit of something akin to culture shock from that.

So, I put off truly responding to this pull for a very long time... at least a year, but if I remember right it was closer to two years. (I know I've written a bit about this before, I need to go back and tag it properly sometime...) Eventually, I had a dream which contained a message I couldn't deny, I knew what it was I should be doing, and at the same time many other areas of my spiritual practice began to stagnate, and eventually the Egyptian deities that I worshiped and worked with seemed to collectively step back - while at the same time, giving a nod to what needed to be done.

So I went with it - and it's lead me to where I am today. Walking a path that makes a lot more sense to me on a personal level than anything I was doing before... and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it here had I not ever become aware of Artemis, felt pulled to her, and actually finally responded to that pull.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Prompt: Advice to Newbies

Everyone has their two cents on where to start, so where do you weigh in? If someone new to Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft approached you and asked for some direction, what would you say? Start with books? If yes, what books would you recommend? Start out in nature? Seek a mentor?Today's topic is all about where you think a good starting place is and why.

My first bit of advice to any beginner, regardless of what path you're looking into, is to write things down! Record good information, record things you disagree with (and why), record any experiences, record what you're interested in learning more about... just write and record all sorts of things.

This serves two purposes. First, it's just a good way to keep and sort through all the information you'll be coming across - because there's very likely going to be a lot of it, especially if you're looking into more than one tradition, or taking an eclectic approach.

But second, as you progress down your spiritual path, it's really nice to have this sort of thing to look back on. You can see where you've grown, see where you may need to grow more, remember when you were interested in a particular topic, and so on.

As for where you learn? Unless you're looking into a particular tradition, often the best way to go is by using a variety of resources. Books (both historical non-fiction and modern pagan books), websites, talking to other pagans, and yes, if you're looking into a more nature-based path, get out into nature and learn there, as well. Cross-reference, get recommendations, fact check.

How one chooses to learn is also quite a personal thing... As a hedgewitch, I've come to where I am in my practice though self-teaching with books and the like, and that worked very well for me. However, others might find they learn much better with a teacher. That's really up to the individual, and how they best learn - although, of course, some traditions have specific requirements in that area.

Beyond that, I'd say another common mistake is putting off any form of practice. Pray, meditate, spend time in nature, learn little basic rituals, that sort of thing. It's good to read, it's good to study, it's good to have an understanding of what you're going to be doing... but too often I see people feel they need to study for a year, or years, before they can do anything - and then, even if a good amount of time has passed, they find themselves stuck, and unable to take those first few steps. Sometimes this is because they've taken in too much information, they get caught up in how much they don't know, they loose track of what they do know, or where they should start to later move to more advanced things. Don't jump into the deep-end with no idea of what you're doing, but do start taking those baby steps, building that strong foundation for your practice, sooner rather than later.

A similar mistake is feeling like you need every tool, herb, stone, etc. under the sun before you can do anything. Again, sometimes certain things might be tradition based, but generally speaking there are a lot of basic practices one can do that require NO materials at all. Don't let a lack of tools discourage you.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day One - Short Introduction to Artemis

1. A basic introduction of the deity.

Many modern pagan sources seem to give a limited view of Artemis - often just nothing more than the short description of "Greek moon goddess," and while she does have lunar ties, Artemis is so much more than that.

Artemis is very much a goddess of hunting, and of wild animals and wild places. I have seen her described as the 'soul of the wild,' and that is a very fitting description of her. While she is a huntress, she is also the protector of wild animals.

Similarly, she had ties to healing and health, and she is a protector of girls and women - yet she was also thought to be responsible for bringing disease and sudden death to them as well. Again, being both protector and destroyer.

Beyond that, she was also a goddess of childbirth, a goddess of the dawn and of the frost, and also had some ties to singing, dancing, and music. She was a virgin goddess, yet the Ephesian Artemis had close ties to fertility.

Artemis is a very complex deity (as they often are!), and it's hard for me to keep her introduction short... but there are 29 more days to get into more detail, so I'll leave it a bit simple for now.

Still, if you're looking to read (a lot) more about Artemis, I strongly suggest her page on Theoi.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

30 Days of Deity Devotion

While messing around on Tumblr recently, I came across this list of prompts which focus on 30 days of writing about a specific deity (of the writer's choice). I thought this would be interesting to do, although I'll likely be doing it over a very long period of time between other posts. Always good to have some prompts around when the ideas run low!
  1. A basic introduction of the deity
  2. How did you become first aware of this deity?
  3. Symbols and icons of this deity
  4. A favorite myth or myths of this deity
  5. Members of the family – genealogical connections
  6. Other related deities and entities associated with this deity
  7. Names and epithets
  8. Variations on this deity (aspects, regional forms, etc.)
  9. Common mistakes about this deity
  10. Offerings – historical and UPG
  11. Festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity
  12. Places associated with this deity and their worship
  13. What modern cultural issues are closest to this deity’s heart?
  14. Has worship of this deity changed in modern times?
  15. Any mundane practices that are associated with this deity?
  16. How do you think this deity represents the values of their pantheon and cultural origins?
  17. How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons?
  18. How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality? (historical and/or UPG)
  19. What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire? What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?
  20. Art that reminds you of this deity
  21. Music that makes you think of this deity
  22. A quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this deity resonates strongly with
  23. Your own composition – a piece of writing about or for this deity
  24. A time when this deity has helped you
  25. A time when this deity has refused to help
  26. How has your relationship with this deity changed over time?
  27. Worst misconception about this deity that you have encountered
  28. Something you wish you knew about this deity but don’t currently
  29. Any interesting or unusual UPG to share?
  30. Any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this deity?