Sunday, February 26, 2017

Five Ways to Celebrate the New Moon

A new moon is a time of new beginnings. It’s the close of an old cycle and the beginning of a new one. Though the sky appears dark and blank, it can be a powerful time for magic and goal-setting. Here are five ways that you can harness the power of the new moon:
  1. Set your goals for the next moon cycle. What projects are you intending to begin and work on for the next twenty-eight days? Take time to write them down. Place a reminder of your new goals on your altar. For example, if I’m wanting to write a new story this month about mermaids, I place a picture or statue of a mermaid on my altar to keep it in the forefront of my mind.
  2. Plant a seed. A new moon is a great time to literally plant a seed. For gardeners and anyone who would like a little growth in life, this symbolism can help inspire something new. It’s also a great time to buy a houseplant or divide plants you already have.
  3. Sit in the dark. Whether you go outside to gaze at the sky or look through a window, it’s a good time to feel the stillness. Take time to meditate and think about your comfort with darkness, with the unknown. As a child, I was afraid of the dark for a very long time. I still try to include sitting in darkness as part of my ritual work.
  4. Work with stones. Some excellent stones to work with during the new moon are labradorite for fresh starts and obsidian, which is associated with protection. Clear quartz can be used at any time for any moon cycle; it’s a good all-purpose stone that is said to give clarity in any situation.
  5. Focus on your sleep. I tend to sleep a lot during the days around new moons, so I keep a dream journal close at hand. My dreams are often more vivid during this time, and I get many inspirational ideas and solutions to problems in this time of dark.

The new moon can be the start of a productive new creative cycle. It just takes a few moments to attune to the world around us, in all its soft darkness.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Oregano Taking Over

I planted some oregano in a raised bed a couple of years ago, and it pretty well took over the whole bed. This year, I’m contemplating starting some from seed and using it as a ground cover. It’s pretty, edible, and wants to grow in my climate – what’s not to like about it?

What’s more, oregano has a rich history of magical use. In ancient Egypt, women and girls entered many temples wearing wreaths made of oregano in their hair. In Italy, it was used to ward off the evil eye. English girls used a blend of oregano, marigold, thyme, and wormwood in a concoction to petition St. Luke to grant them visions of their future husbands. Oregano has long been associated with health and protection, and is sacred to Venus.

Love goddesses seem to be coming up a lot for me this time of year, and I think with good reason. In the harsh end of winter, it’s a good time to be gentle to ourselves and practice lots of extra self-care. February is known as the “mud month,” and it can be difficult to imagine that spring is really just a few weeks away.

I dried a good deal of oregano from our garden last summer. I’ll probably be using some of it in spaghetti tonight. Maybe I’ll sprinkle it in with some extra intent for gentleness and extra magic as winter winds down.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Evening Star

The cloud cover thwarted my view of the lunar eclipse over the weekend, and light pollution prevents me from getting a good look at Comet 45P, which approached closest to the earth on Saturday.

Major bummer, right? Anytime I plan to see something spectacular in the sky, conditions never cooperate. My best viewing has always been entirely random, when I spot something while taking out the trash late at night. I spot falling stars and once, the glow of the Northern Lights while taking out the trash. There’s something serendipitous about trash. And tonight was no exception!

Venus was burning bright on the western horizon, brighter than I’ve ever seen her before, with a pure, white light. I spotted Mars, much fainter, to the south of Venus. At first, I wasn’t certain that Comet 45P wasn’t putting on a show. But looking it up online…it is, indeed, Venus.

Venus is the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Maybe it’s appropriate that she’s showing up on the eve of Valentine’s Day?  Like Aphrodite, she was born from sea-foam, springing forth from the ocean as a fully-formed goddess. She’s always been associated with the element of water, with the universe of feelings that swim the undercurrent of that domain. She’s also associated with Ishtar, with making astrological journeys out of sight, into the underworld, and emerging again on the horizon, victorious. 

I stood for a little while out in my garden and soaked in some the starlight. Sometimes, when all is quiet in suburbia for a moment and the sky is glorious overhead, the signs in the sky feel like a blessing.  And a reminder that there are all kinds of sparkly movements going on overhead, out of sight, above, that cannot be seen from below. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

In Praise of the Magical Bath

There are few things more magical than a properly-prepared bath. Closing the bathroom door shuts out the world outside and magic can be accomplished soaking in a tub of luxuriously hot water.

I find that it’s a good idea to include all the cardinal elements in the magical bath. Water is obviously present, to represent emotional current, flexibility, and purification. I add earth by throwing a handful of Epsom salts into the bath, and sometimes some water-safe stones or crystals at the bottom of the tub to enhance the vibration of the water. One of of my recent favorites is tumbled axinite. It’s said by metaphysical types to be an incredibly grounding stone, and enhances physical endurance. I was very ill awhile back, and I bathed in water with a handful of these stones every night. I still seek them out – they’re very reassuring in their vibration now, like old friends.

Fire can be invited by lighting a candle. I have a lovely orange-clove jar candle burning for baths this time of year that seems appropriate for the season. And air can be honored by offering scent. I use essential oils for this purpose. Lately, I’ve been adding a few drops of bergamot and a few drops of sweet orange to the bath. The smell always puts a smile on my face.

Sinking into a hot tub is a great time for visualization of the body, of imagining it to be in perfect health and all the warm muscles and blood and body systems working correctly and in harmony. It’s also a great time to gather wool about the future, to make plans and incubate creative ideas. The bath is an excellent time to feel purification energies, to get connect with goddesses of the water, like Oshun and Venus.

I usually linger in the bath until it gets lukewarm, sigh, and get out. By the time the candle is ready to be blown out, I’m ready to go to sleep. The temperature drop after a hot bath will lull me to sleep faster than anything else, even the sweet-smelling bergamot.

What kinds of things do you add to your baths to make them magical? I’ve heard about people adding herbs with cheesecloth, but I’m too worried about gunking up my pipes with herbal debris. I used some bentonite clay packs in the tub one time and quickly learned my lesson about that – only water goes down the drain. I haven’t tried bath fizzies, either, though those look really interesting. I’d love to hear what you think! 

Grounding: Dirt Time

My teacher, Kathy, encourages her students to get their bare feet on the ground as often as possible to connect with Mother Earth. She calls this “dirt time.” I do a fairly good job of that in the spring and summer months while gardening. But during the winter, my toes curl at the idea of stepping out in the snow. I’ve done it a couple of times, but usually run back into the house shrieking at the cold.

I’m a metaphysical wuss. I admit it.

I try to keep up on the outdoor chores in winter with garden maintenance. I dump coffee grounds into the raised beds a couple times a week and put out cardboard mulch once I’ve accumulated a bagful of it. These small things make me feel a little more connected to earth, even though nothing in the garden is growing.

A few weeks ago, Kathy suggested that one could feel some of the same connection to earth by standing in bare feet on a basement floor. I gave it a shot, and I really liked it. The cool concrete of the floor isn’t nearly as pleasurable as digging my toes in warm grass, but it has a quieter, stiller feeling. I sat down on the basement floor beside the washing machine and meditated for a half hour.

There’s just something about pressing one’s spine into the earth, feeling connected to something larger than oneself. I find it to be incredibly calming, and it helps me to put my feelings and problems into perspective. It helps me to envision sinking all my nervous energy into the ground, to be taken away and transmuted by Mother Earth to compost for beautiful things to grow in spring.

Meditating next to the washing machine in the basement may not be the most glamorous place to sit still and have dirt time, but I still think it counts.

What do you do in the cold months to stay connected to the earth? 

Gift of the Melissae: Honey and Milk Face Mask

I might have an uncontrollable sweet tooth. Might.

But I put it to good use once in a while with a milk and honey face mask. The combination works for my oily skin to reduce redness and tighten pores.

And what’s more, honey has a lot of interesting lore in magic. Priestesses of Artemis and Demeter in ancient Greece were known as the “Melissae,” bees. Honey is sacred to Aphrodite, and is often used as an ingredient in magical love spells. What could be sweeter than courting love with this delicious treat?

Every so often, I mix one tablespoon of honey with one tablespoon of milk to slather on my face. I mix the ingredients together thoroughly in a bowl with a fork until the mixture is a consistent, cloudy yellow color – think the color of a flame shining through an opal. I smear the mixture on my face and let it dry for fifteen minutes or so. Then, I wash it off with a thick-textured washcloth and warm water.

I try to do this about once a week or so. It leaves my skin noticeably less red and softer, and I love my reflection in the mirror just a bit more. I’m sure that Aphrodite, Artemis, and Demeter would approve!

Do you have any tips and tricks for honey, in food or other potions? 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Aphrodite’s Magically Voluminous DIY Salt Spray for Hair

I’m in the process of growing my hair out, and struggling to find gentle things to put on my hair to give me volume and texture without nuking my hair from orbit. Salt sprays are one of my favorites right now, but most of the kinds I find in the store have a long list of ingredients that I gotta squint to read and cost a handful of cash.

So I thought I’d make my own…in a magical way, of course! Salt is used magically to purify, and I can always use a little extra wallop of purification in my life. I use it with a few other fun ingredients in this recipe. It includes coconut oil for conditioning. Aloe has a magical reputation as a healer, and rosemary oil is rumored to be good for the scalp…plus, it smells lovely! Rosemary is sacred to Aphrodite, and is used in magic for mental clarity. And, hey…all that salt in the sea foam she rose out of likely did wonders for her hair!

But if you have another favorite oil, go for it! I sometimes switch it out for the seasons or include whatever is handy in my cupboard that corresponds with what I’m focusing on at the moment. 

  • Epsom salt, 2 ½ tablespoons
  • Sea salt or Himalayan salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Aloe vera gel, 1 teaspoon
  • Coconut oil, ½ teaspoon. (I leave this ingredient out in summer when my hair gets limp and oily)
  • Rosemary essential oil, 7 drops (or other essential oil of your choice, in the amount you're comfortable with)
  • Hot water, 1 cup

These measurements aren’t precise – I just eyeball it and mix the ingredients together in a spray bottle. I shake well and spritz it on damp or dry hair. After spritzing, I scrunch my hair with my hands and let it dry naturally. It's not anywhere near this long, yet, but the waves are similar to this:

And that’s it! Easy-peasy. A little magic and plant lore, a quick mixing, and my hair is magically voluminous!

Do you have favorite DIY beauty treatments that you recommend? Any favorite essential oils that you love to play with in scent or body products? 

With love and light,

Citrine: Frozen Sunshine

It’s February, and in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s cold enough to freeze the water on the birdbath and my eyelashes to my face. Spring seems very far off, no matter what the groundhog has to say about the matter. I like to remember the beautiful warmth of sunshine with citrine.

Citrine is a remarkable stone. The lore associated with it involves prosperity, creativity, and light. I keep a piece on my desk for mental clarity, and one on my altar for prosperity. I try to tuck a nugget of it in my box of stones, as it never needs clearing or cleansing. I personally think it helps to keep other stones clear and crisp. This particularly zingy double-terminated wand, one of my favorite stones, gets a lot of use drawing magic circles and drawing the quarters. The double termination reminds me of the “as above, so below” principle of alchemy, and I like having a few double-terminated crystals around to symbolize that link between earth and sky.

For long winter nights like these, I like to put a piece in a hot bath with a handful of Epsom salts and some citrus-y essential oils. I light a yellow candle, sink up to my neck, and imagine soaking in a pool in August.

How do you remember sunshine during these cold days? Are there things that always remind you of sunshine? 

With love and light,

Hello and Welcome!

Hello, Beautiful Soul!

Thanks for stopping by Belle, Book and Bramble. Belle, Book and Bramble is dedicated to the small workings of magic in everyday life. Magic is all around us – in the flowers of the garden, in cooking delicious things, in a fresh stack of books - in all the beautiful things that we create as we move through our days. Belle, Book and Bramble intends to share some of the creativity of ordinary life, and reveal some of the magic within all of us.

Magic isn’t just something practiced at full and new moons. It’s a lifestyle. It’s in handfuls of salt and colors of paint. It’s in the tomatoes I grow, in the perfume I wear, and the feather I found this morning. It’s all around us, waiting to be seen and experienced.

I hope you enjoy coming to play with me, that you come and share your own magical, creative spark that lights up your world.

Much love and light,
“Belle,” your Suburban Hedgewitch