The meandering thoughts of a modern-day hearth witch.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Herbcraft // Lavender and Lemongrass Tea

On warm summer days we need refreshment and this tea is fragrant and fresh enough to do just that.

Step One: Gather dried herbs - lemongrass and lavender flowers.

Step 2: Mix herbs together - 2 parts lemongrass to 1 part lavender. 
(If you want a milder lavender flavour, try 2 1/2 parts lemongrass to 1/2 a part lavender).

Step 3 - Option A: Put a teaspoon of the mix into teabag sachets, and use one per cup.

Step 3 - Option B: Add herb mix direct to your teapot if you have a strainer. 

Enjoy the soothing and refreshing properties of these wonderful herbs...

Lavender: eases depression, benefits the digestion, antispasmodic, soothes anxiety and tension headaches, relieves exhaustion and migraines.

Lemongrass: antispasmodic, soothes the digestive system, has a positive effect on nervous conditions and provides a boost if you're feeling tired. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Monday, 25 April 2011

Wheel of the Year // Easter Eggs

To both Pagans and Christians, this time of year signifies rebirth and resurrection. Whichever gods and goddesses you believe in, and whatever religion you follow, these ideas are evident all around us as we watch the Earth come back to life, ever fertile and filled with new hope. 

The egg is an eternal symbol of these concepts - new life waiting patiently within the confines of its protective shell, ready to break free when it is strong and ready. Whether you consider this to be an allegorical representation of Christ's resurrection or a symbol of the fertility goddess Eostre, I wish you a happy Easter and I hope you enjoy your eggs as much as I will enjoy nibbling on these. 


Sunday, 24 April 2011

Hedgerow Ramblings // Lords and Ladies

While on my hedgerow walks, I have often noticed these funny looking little cones protruding from the undergrowth an wondered what they were. I could guess they were part of the Arum family, but I didn't really know anything about them. As they are so odd in appearance, I just had to find out more...

Indeed they are part of the Arum (Araceae) family, related to the Arum lillies you have probably seen in fancy flower bouquets or the Peace Lillies you can find in the indoor plants section of the garden centre.

Arum maculatum is wild woodland plant, relatively common across Europe and variously known by an abundance of names: Lords and Ladies, Wild arum, Jack in the Pulpit, Devils and Angels, Cuckoo-Pint, Naked Boys, Adam and Eve, Cows and Bulls - to name a few!

Fascinatingly, as you can see in the diagram below from the Wild Arum's very own wikipedia page, the flowers are actually hidden within the spathe (the bit that looks like a giant folded petal) under the spadix (the poker shaped protrusion) - fig.3. 
File:Diagram of Arum Maculatum.png

Having read this, I can only assume the name 'Lords and Ladies' comes from the unusual coupled formation of male and female flowers - if any readers out there know differently, please feel free to correct me! I thought it was particularly apt that they have sprung up now, in the days leading up to Beltane, as such a clear symbol of the fertile combination of male and female. 

In the autumn, the female flowers forms into a cluster of bright red or orange berries (fig.4) which are highly poisonous - they irritate the skin and, if eaten, result in the swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, burning pain and upset stomach. So this one is absolutely a 'look-with-interest-but-under-no-circumstances-touch' plant. You have been warned!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Hedgerow Ramblings // Bluebells herald the arrival of summer

With Beltane almost upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is clear that Summer is around the corner.

 Here in England we have been blessed by some astonishingly warm, sunny weather of late and everywhere you look you can see how fertile and full of life the Earth is.

Cultivated Spanish Bluebells

Bluebells are perennial bulb plants which flower yearly around May-time. For me they will always be associated with woodland walks near my mother's house around this time of year - when the floor beneath the trees becomes carpeted with vibrant blues. 

Although the plant has some medicinal uses, the bulbs themselves are highly toxic. This toxicity led to their use as a source of glue for bookbinding - silverfish which would commonly attack the books would be discouraged by this toxicity. 

Spanish bluebells in the wild

In myth and legend, tales tell of the bells summoning faerie folk and any human hearing the summoning of the bells, or wandering into a ring of bluebells, being doomed to die. Some superstitions state that wearing a wreath made of bluebell flowers would  compel the wearer to speak only the truth; others say that if you successfully turn a flower inside out without tearing it, you would win the one you love.

Native Bluebells - image courtesy of Really Wild Flowers

Although prevalent in much of Britain and Ireland, bluebells are scarce in the rest of Europe and do not grow wild in the rest of the world. Globally, they are considered a threatened species, particularly as loss of habitat and people pulling up the wild bulbs for their gardens has resulted in a huge decline in the last 50 years. In Northern Ireland, native bluebells are now a protected species. 

To complicate matters further for the native bluebell, the Spanish bluebell has been widely planted here in Britain, resulting in the hybridisation of the species. Wild hybrid bluebells are becoming widespread, as can be seen in the second image, resulting in the further decline of the less-vigorous native species, which cannot compete. Spanish bluebells and hybrids have bells produced from all sides of the stem which stands upright; native bluebells, as seen in the final image, have bells on only one side of a drooping stem.

Friday, 22 April 2011


Mindfulness: n. The practice of paying full attention or giving full awareness to the present moment.
In Buddhism, mindfulness is one of the seven factors of enlightenment. 

In modern psychology, this spiritual practice has been incorporated into cognitive-behavioural therapies, often using techniques such as meditation, breathing and yoga, to enable individuals to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, in order to better manage them. 

Having spent some time practising yoga, meditation and breathing techniques, I have never really found they have enabled me to wholly hinder my mind from wandering away from the present. What does seem to work is having a camera in my hand.

Whilst wandering, with my camera, I am aware of so much more - I give the world around me my full attention (the people who I am with, less so!) and I lose myself in the moment, connecting with what I am viewing. 

Thoughts of what is for dinner / whether I have left the oven on / who I have to telephone that evening disappear; my mind slows and focusses on exactly what I am doing in that instant. Deliberately, I find myself trying to view things from different perspectives and capture as much as I can of the world around me. It is wonderful.

What enables you to achieve mindfulness?

Friday, 15 April 2011

The Passage of Time

A year has passed in what feels like the blink of an eye.

Looking back, I have difficulty grasping the truth of the fact that the wheel has turned fully since Dad passed away, last year. I know now that even though I have lived, grown, changed, done, made, achieved a year, I haven't really experienced it. Not fully; not with my eyes open; not in the moment; not with my 'real' self. 

Instead I have walked through the days as my 'shadow self' - the part of me that is waking and breathing. The other part of me - the part which really feels - has hidden itself away inside, protecting itself until it knows it is safe to come out again. 

As each day passes I think it awakes a little more. Today, exactly a year since Dad died, I have been able to process these thoughts and put them into some semblance of syntactical sense: that is a start.
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