What We Did Yesterday:
The hubby and I have re-purposed a number of things from our Christian childhoods with our own kids…to toss out a few examples–Jesus Loves Me became The Goddess Loves Me*, Twas the Night Before Christmas became The Night Before Yule, and our family’s manger scene hosts a baby Sun King, Mother Nature, and a herald fairy. Another one that we have adapted was a favorite of mine as a child, I figured I’d share because apparently they are “getting too old for bedtime songs”.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
Nature made them all.
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
Selected for their glowing colors,
Evolution made their tiny wings.
All things bright and beautiful…
The purple headed mountain,
The stream running by;
The sunset and the moonrise,
That brightens up our sky.
All things bright and beautiful…
The cold wind of the Winter,
The zebras as they run;
The lizard in the desert
Warming ‘neath the noontime sun.
All things bright and beautiful…
The heron fishing in the river,
The bears emerging from their dens,
The hatching of an egg
in a nest full of baby wrens.
All things bright and beautiful…
The redwoods in the forest,
The ocean where dolphins play,
The sunset across the prairie,
Bees gathering honey every day;
All things bright and beautiful…
Selection gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How wonderful is Evolution,
That has made things tolerably well.
All things bright and beautiful…
*If you were wondering the words for The Goddess Loves Me (which could easily be adapted to any number of deities), they go something like this:
The Goddess loves me this I know, my heart and soul tell me so. In her arms I’ll safely stay, as I walk the path we’ve laid. Yes the Goddess loves me, yes the Goddess loves me. Yes the Goddess loves me, the whole world tells me so.
Blessing of Air
May the blessings of the air be upon you,
A soft breeze to refresh you,
A strong wind to lift you up,
Great golden wings to enfold and heal you.
– blessing from a Pagan handfasting ceremony
(via The Blessing Files)
The strongest quality of air is truth. Air is an element of intellect, of thoughts, and of the mind…whether bright and clear or dark and clouded. In ancient Greece, the element air was sometimes associated with one’s spirit.
Scientifically speaking: What we call “air” is really our atmosphere. Our atmosphere is mainly composed of Nitrogen (78.1%) and Oxygen (20.9%). The remaining 1% (due to rounding, it looks like 1% with the numbers I’ve used, but really its more like 0.97%) are Argon (0.93%) and Carbon Dioxide* (0.035%), as well as even smaller amounts (in order) of Neon, Helium, Methane, Krypton, molecular Hydrogen (H2), Nitrous Oxide, Carbon Monoxide, Xenon, Ozone, Nitrous Dioxide, Iodine, and Ammonia. Another component of the atmosphere is, of course, water vapor (its not included in these calculations of percentage, though it makes up an average of 0.25% of the atmosphere by weight, ranging from 0.oo1%-5% locally). (source)
Our atmosphere is divided up into layers, a bit like a cake. There’s a mnemonic to remember the 5 principle atmospheric layers–The Strong Man’s Triceps Explode (or Thoughtful Schools Manufacture Terrific Experiences…or Terrible Sun Melts Tiny Eskimo!) , which stands for (from the surface of the Earth, out) Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere, Exosphere. The atmosphere, in some ways, behaves like the oceans, in that there are tides, and currents, and waves, that move energy and molecules.
The troposphere is where weather happens–it contains about 80% of the atmosphere’s mass (including 99% of its water and other aerosols) and extends 4-12 miles above earth (the heights it reaches depends on a location’s latitude and altitude). Nearly all weather occurs here
In the stratosphere, the coolest temperatures are found closest to Earth, and the highest temperatures are the furthest away. Other than airplanes (people) and birds, which can fly in the lower parts of the stratosphere, bacteria is the only life form that can be found in the stratosphere. Also, the stratosphere is quite dry, and it is home to the ozone layer, which protects us from the Sun’s UV rays.
Scientists don’t actually know much about the mesosphere, compared to the other layers of the atmosphere–its too low for satellites and too high for planes and weather balloons (between 31 and 53 miles high). One thing we do know, though, is that it is the place where meteors burn up in the atmosphere…but its really cold, around -90 degrees C or -130 degrees F (they burn up because of friction with the gas molecules in the mesosphere). Its also home to a couple of neat phenomena–noctilucent clouds (wispy, almost glowing clouds visible around and after sunset) and sprites (a type of lightning that occurs over thunderstorms, glows red, and is best visible from sky).
The thermosphere, in contrast to the mesosphere, is hot. Really hot. It increases in temperature the further from Earth one travels, and the temperature varies between night and day and what is known as the solar minimum and the solar maximum (which has to do with sunspot activity), but the average temperature range for the upper thermosphere is 500-2000 degrees C (932-3632 degress F). Space shuttles and the International Space Station orbit Earth in the thermosphere…this is also where the aurora happens!
Lastly, we have the exosphere. Depending on where one gets their information, it is either the last layer of Earth’s atmosphere, or the first “layer” of space…some sources actually consider “space” to start in the thermosphere (How high is space anyhow?). Either way, this region is where the lightest elements wind up, still bound by Earth’s gravity…but tenuously.
Traditional Correspondences: East, flying, sound, yellow, mountaintops, wind-swept plains, cloudy skies, knowledge, recovering lost items, fragrant herbs and flowers, light stones (such as pumice) and transparent stones (such as mica), wind instruments, birds and winged insects, airplanes, balloons, bubbles, spring, dawn, wands (magical tool and tarot–but beware the “controversy”, in some systems swords are associated with air, and wands with fire), feathers, incense smoke, divination, concentration, visualization, wind magic
In the natural world, Air is associated most closely with the sky, wind, and clouds. Mountain peaks, which seem to touch the sky, are also Air. Birds of all kinds belong to this element, and hawks and eagles are especially associated with Air because they fly so very high and make their nests at such high altitudes. A stork or duck, by contrast, is a less powerful symbol of Air because, although these birds fly, they live in and near the water.
In a person, Air is associated with thought and with the intellect, corresponding in the Witches’ Pyramid to “To Know.”1 Ideas are said to come from Air, as is inspiration, a word that also means “to breathe in.” Logic and scholarship are Air functions, which is perhaps why academics are said to live in ivory towers as opposed to ivory basements. People who spend all their time thinking “have their heads in the clouds,” and if they’re “airheads,” they mistake imagination for real life and are impractical (because practicality is an Earth quality, which they lack).
The direction of Air is the East, and since the Sun rises in the east, Air is associated with the morning, with the spring (the beginning of the agricultural and astrological year), and with beginnings of all kinds. Anything that “dawns” is a thing of Air. The things in our lives that dawn, be they projects, creations, or careers, dawn with an idea. Often inspiration feels like the sunrise; a bright beginning full of promise and possibility. Since seeds are beginnings and are associated with the spring, seeds, too, belong to Air.
Deborah Lipp, The Way of Four
Getting to know air:
How I do it differently…Adapting Correspondences:
If you’ve been a reader of my my blog for awhile, it comes of no surprise that I’ve made some changes, adaptations, etc to the conventional correspondences that fit my practice and beliefs better. I’ve mentioned many times over that I’m a big believer in witchcraft being an extension of one’s geography–that part of our job is to *grok* the forces and cycles that are native to one’s location and to work with them, forging our own relationship, rather than some formula from some book by some guy (or gal). Now, if it just so happens that those correspondences work for you, that is awesome…and if you aren’t sure, try on the traditional correspondences for a bit, and shift them as needed for your environment. I promise, you won’t break anything!
So, for me, air is now. Its an end-of-summer, fall thing (hurricane season), its a North correspondence, and air, as an elemental force, reaches its peak around Samhain…
Through ignorance and carelessness we have poisoned your clean air. For monetary gain we have reduced verdant forests, the lungs of our world, to barren wastes. In our craving for more we have plundered your beloved creation and driven many of our fellow creatures to extinction. Only recently have we begun to realize the dangerous future into which our current patterns of consumption and waste are driving us, especially in relation to earth’s climate. Only recently have we begun to see our need to find a wiser and better way of life, before it is too late and our choices are limited by the consequences of inaction. Lord of the Winds, in your mercy, hear our prayer.3
I pray that I may draw a lifesaving breath. This is the most important element of health, to breathe clean and unpolluted air.
(from my Prayer for Clean Air)
Plant a tree. Stop smoking. Plant another tree. Drive less. Plant a tree. Turn off your lights and wash your clothes in cold water. Plant a tree. Write your representatives to support limits on air pollution by industry and fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and alternative energy. Plant another tree. Stop buying furniture made from rain forests. Plant a tree. Stop buying ANYTHING made from rain forests, unless it is ethically sourced and fairly traded in a way that supports local peoples. Plant more trees. Plant sea grass. Let your lawn grow as high as you can without getting a citation. Plant a tree. Get rid of your lawn, and make it a certified wildlife habitat, and a place for birds and bees and butterflies. And for goodness’ sake, plant another tree!
Etymologically speaking, the term flora and fauna was popularized by Linnaeus in the mid 18th century, and means the plant and animal life of a particular religion. The words flora and fauna originate from deity names in the Roman pantheon. Flora is the goddess of flowering plants, whose feast day was celebrated at the end of April, and Fauna is a goddess who is either the daughter, sister, or consort (as Bona Dea) of Faunus, a sort of analog to the Greek Pan considered be a god of the woods and wild lands as well as prophecy. From a Pagan perspective, knowing your flora and fauna is a two-fold idea–both knowing the plants and animals (among other things) of your land-base and knowing the Flora and Fauna (whether or not there is actually a Flora and Fauna in your pantheon) of your land base as well.
Once again, this gets back to the idea of loving where you live as an active devotion–of spiritual bioregionalism. Every one of us lives in a unique ecosystem with a unique history. ” Our individual ecosystem can strengthen us, can teach us, can shape us…if we let it. If we know how to talk to it–and more importantly, if we know how to listen to it. I’ve said it enough times that I think I’m a broken record on the subject, but part of being a witch is being part of one’s environment. That means knowing my local plants and animals, knowing where my water comes from, what my geography means for my weather patterns, what the natural AND human history of my landbase is, and where my soil comes from.”*
You can’t be part of your environment without knowing your landbase…and you can’t know your landbase if you don’t know whom you share it with. Maybe it seems like a daunting task…after all, there are 1.3 million described species (as of 2013), and (perhaps) an estimated 8.7 million species in total. So start small, and close to home…
Who are your neighbors (two legged, four legged, feathered, finned and leafy)? Start in your backyard–learn the trees, the grasses, the “weeds”, wildflowers and shrubs, the birds and small mammals that visit, look for amphibians and reptiles, get to know your insects. Once you have those down, learn your neighborhood, and then the parks and wild spaces where you live. Get field guides specific to your state or your ecosystem (or both), and learn your flora and fauna as a way to know your Flora and Fauna!
If you are a regular reader, you may have guessed this already. I mean, I do include what tea I’ve had to drink that day in my weekly musings posts!
To be precise, I like all sorts of teas. I also like all sorts of herbal infusions and decoctions (since tea is an infusion of a particular herb, the tea plant, or Camellia sinensis). Sassafras tea is probably one of my favorites, along with peppermint, or a nice cup of chamomile and lemon balm after a rough day. I like to experiment too–pumpkin with pumpkin pie spices and black tea (it was pretty darn tasty) to cucumber, watermelon, and lemon balm as a cold infusion (great on a hot summer day). And on the days that I don’t want to be be bothered to blend my own, a pot of Constant Comment usually hits the spot.
Whenever possible, I like to grow or forage my own herbs–some are easier than others (particularly since I’m an apartment dweller without a balcony for growing things). When I can’t, I really like Frontier Herbs to order dried herbs (our local grocery store of awesomeness carries a pretty good selection of their herbs too). Richters is a good supplier to order seeds, live plants, etc, if you have a better growing situation than I!
When it comes to concocting tea blends, there are a books I would recommend…over the years, I’ve thrifted or libraried a number of herbal tea books, of which I think these are the most useful while being user friendly…
But really, the real way to make tea is to be a scientist about it! Start with the building blocks–single herbs. Research their magical and medicinal properties, contraindications, etc. Make a pot, or two, or ten and record the flavor and how it makes you feel, emotionally and physically. Everyone is different, and just because X is good for Y doesn’t mean that you and your body will like what X does for you (or maybe you won’t like how X tastes, or maybe you think you need more or less of X to achieve the flavor you like).
Stock your cabinets with the best collection of useful and complimentary herbs that you can afford that suit your daily needs (your daily moods and goals), and test them out in combination for whatever mood or moment you are trying to celebrate, enhance, influence, etc. Don’t forget proper herb storage! And most importantly, don’t forget to record your results!
You may be wondering, “What the heck do I record?” That’s really good question, and it will depend on you. I would suggest (particularly if this is new to you) that you start with a list of herbs you know you can easily get your hands on. Then, I would suggest looking up the basic properties for each herb, and recording them in the front of your handy-dandy notebook (can you tell I’ve seen too much Blue’s Clues?), along with medical contraindications and dosages**, the “taste profile” of each herb*, as you start trying out single herbs. Once you have that, try out combinations that seem likely on paper. Put them next to each other and smell them–if they don’t smell good together, it is unlikely (though not impossible) they will taste good together (and remember, we are talking about enjoyment tea, not medicinal tea). If you like the combination, write it down and try it out…and then record the results. As an example, if I wanted to relax, I would maybe start with equal parts of chamomile, linden, and lemon balm…or if I thought that I was starting to feel a bit cruddy due to winter ick, I’d use some white pine needles, oranges and ginger.
The “standard” for a non-medicinal herbal infusion** is about 3-4 tsp dry herb (or 2-3 tsp fresh) to 2 c of water that has just been boiled, and seep for 10-15 minutes before straining and drinking. I find that using a french press is simplest way to make tea (no bags necessary). If you are mixing herbs, that amount would be divided into “parts”. When I write a tea recipe out in my handy dandy notebook, it looks something like this 2 cham: 1 lav: 1 lem balm, and I just sort of “eyeball” it. But hot tea is not the be all and end all of tea. In the summer, when it has busted 100 degrees F, the last thing I want is hot tea. Cold infusions are fantastic.
If you are looking for ideas of herbs to start with, my “tea cabinet” is always stocked with the following: lemon balm,
linden, cinnamon, elderflower, lavender, hibiscus, sassafrass (forage), damiana, corn silk (which I get from fresh corn in the summer @ the farmers market), rose petals (forage), rose hips (forage), ginger (really, this one is in my freezer), apple (fridge), oranges (fridge), white pine needles (forage), red clover flowers (forage), chamomile, and yarrow. I also supplement from fruits and veggies in the fridge and from my medicinal herbs…and even from commercial blends. One of my favorite combinations is Bigelow’s Plantation Mint with sassafrass and orange slices. Basically, get some herbs and start brewing!
Next time we’ll either talk about the science of infusions, or making them magic…I’m not sure which yet!
*Taste is mostly smell, so the smell of an herb can offer you a lot of information on how an herb will taste. If you are wondering how to record the aroma and taste of each herb, this site which talks about the smells of essential oils and picking combinations that go together, offers a good introduction which is herb-specific. Other sites that might help–this one and this one on the terminology describing food flavors, or this one on the technique of wine tasting, and this one on spices.
**Medicinal teas are really not the same as non-medicinal ones. They are generally stronger, and prepared as a decoction, rather than a simple infusion. Also, some herbs that one might use medicinally aren’t meant to be used very often internally. Medicinal teas should also be prepared by the weight of herb (which is more precise). I do still advocate knowing the medicinal properties for non-medicinal teas, because some medicinal properties correspond to psychology–an herb used to calm the digestive system is often useful in settling nerves as well, as well as for magical properties that might have been overlooked. Also, I advocate keeping track of the medical contraindications (like pregnancy and medications and common allergens) and dosages so that you can make the appropriate decisions regarding how much of a herb (or none) that you should use based on your own medical condition (and that of any one you are serving).