Spices: Clove Bud

Clove Bud, Franz Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1897. Public Domain.

Clove Bud, Franz Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1897. Public Domain.

Every spice cabinet I’ve ever opened has the underlying aroma of clove. Clove is that spice that you buy maybe once every five years, except if you’re my mom, then it’s once every thirty.

True story, a few years ago McCormick published an ad that listed their different herbs and spice packaging throughout the years, accompanied by a tagline that urged people to clean out their spice cabinet. Well, some of my mom’s spices were from the early 80s. Thirty years!

Until I had a toothache last week, I never knew of much use for cloves outside of baking. I remembered reading in my favorite essential oil book*  that clove had antiseptic properties and was often used as a dental analgesic.

I put a few drops on some cotton gauze and stuck it in my mouth. After a few moments the gum was blessedly numb. Granted, my mouth tasted like I licked my mom’s old McCormick clove tin, but I was grateful for the relief.

Clove Bud

Latin Name: Syzygium aromaticum, of the family Myrtaceae. Also in the family Myrtaceae (Myrtle family) are myrtles, guava, allspice and eucalyptus.

Native to: The Maluku Island in Indonesia, historically known as the Spice Islands

Parts Used: The flower bud of the clove tree

Common Forms: Ground, dried whole bud, essential oil. The active compound of clove is eugenol, also contained in basil, bay leaf, cinnamon and nutmeg.

History:  Archaeologists have found evidence of cloves in Syrian pottery dating back to around 1720 BC (1). The first reported use of clove is from the Hang Dynasty (260 BC to 220 AD). According to written records, “officers of the court were made to hold clove in their mouth when talking to the king.” (2)

Clove is one of the four “major” spices in trade and history, along with nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. Procuring it sparked expeditions and wars. For more information: History of Cloves.

Using Clove: Clove is used in a variety of ways. Most of us know clove from culinary applications–my favorite being Soft Ginger Cookies.  Historical Europeans preserved meat using cloves, as well as enjoying it for its added flavor (clove studded ham spiral, anyone?). Jamaican jerk spice blends and Indian curries also can contain cloves.

Medicinally, clove has been used for thousands of years. In Ayurveda, clove is indicated to aid slow digestion. Perhaps it’s best known application is as a dental analgesic and antiseptic, for which it is still used (rather,  its active compound, eugenol) in modern dentistry.

Magically: Because it belongs to the myrtle family, I associate clove with Aphrodite (3). Therefore, use in spells, charms, or ritual involving relationships, love, beauty and sexuality would be appropriate.

When I’m practicing in the kitchen, I use clove as a warming and comforting agent. Use sparingly, however, since it is very powerful because of the eugenol. Excess eugenol can have definite physical effects in the mouth.

Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs lists Clove as masculine and associated with Jupiter and fire. It is also indicated to use for protection, money and exorcism.

Sources and Resources:

*The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Woodward. I can’t recommend it enough.

1. 2. “Clove” from Wikipedia. Footnote 18. Spice: The History of Temptation by Jack Turner. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clove

2. “Cloves” by Cynthia Gladen. https://www.lib.umn.edu/bell/tradeproducts/cloves

3. “Aphrodite” http://www.theoi.com/Summary/Aphrodite.html

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Cross Post: Finding Aphrodite through The Charge of the Goddess

I was honored to be asked to guest post at one of my favorite blogs, The Pagan Princesses. I decided to write about Aphrodite and my evolving relationship with her. I’ve written about it before on the blog, but this time I threaded the story through with The Charge of the Goddess, a text that I haven’t connected to until recently.

Check out The Pagan Princesses blog if you  haven’t already. It’s wonderful, intelligent mix of social, spiritual and personal commentary.

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    Listen to the words of the Great Mother…

…So begins The Charge of the Goddess, an inspirational text mainly used by Wiccans and other Witchcraft Traditions. Several versions exist, but I prefer the text used by the Reclaiming Tradition, which was adapted by Reclaiming’s founder, Starhawk, and based off a version written by Doreen Valiente.

I’ve read The Charge of the Goddess several times since I’ve been Pagan, but never connected with the text. I am not a Wiccan, and because it was mainly used in Wiccan and Witchcraft Initiatory Traditions I didn’t really feel compelled to study it. Further, even though I am a religious Pagan, until recently working with deities seemed like a nice idea…but not a reality I actually experienced. While other co-religionists had devoted relationships to a variety of deities, I mainly stuck to praying to my ancestors  and setting out offerings to land spirits.

Much to my surprise, that changed earlier this year.

This year has been a tough year for my family and those that I love. There have been amazing times—incredible opportunities, wanted pregnancies, healthy babies, new jobs—but there has also been a fair share of sorrow. Death, pregnancy loss, pet loss, financial hardship and just plain old struggle. One significant event a year seems almost fair—that’s life, that’s the Wheel, and most Pagans of all stripes recognize this as equanimity. But when the struggle and grief persist the Wheel seems to turn into a miller’s stone.

After several months I, out of the blue, began connecting to Aphrodite. She was not a goddess that was even on my radar—I always thought that given my ancestry I’d eventually connect to the Celtic pantheon—but there she was. The first time was in the middle of TJ Maxx, no less. I was shopping for a friend’s wedding. I had tried on dress after dress in several different stores. I only had a half hour left before my babysitting time was up—so—my mind connected to Aphrodite. She’s the goddess of beauty, right? So I sent a prayer. Fifteen minutes later I left the store with two beautiful, well-fitting dresses, shoes, necklaces and makeup.

Over the next few weeks I just felt Her.  Beautiful, sensual, tempestuous, glorious and ancient.

I was baffled (but grateful!) at first. My knowledge of Aphrodite was limited to the standard Pagan 101 correspondence table. Aphrodite: to be invoked on Fridays, loves roses, use pink candles. I had always associated Her with Valentine’s Day and not much else—honestly, not even giving Her much thought. Why was she connecting with me, a married lady? Wasn’t she for…others?

In retrospect, the timing was perfect. My husband and I had just lost a pregnancy. Medical bills rolled in, life was stressful and busy. I didn’t see much beauty in life at the time, or much room for lust, passion or sensuality.

Despite that, I quickly fell in love.  Reading over her epithets, beautiful words like Asteria (of the stars), Urania (heavenly), and Epitymbia (of the tombs) felt familiar, like I had prayed them before in times of joy and times of grief. Patterns in my life began to connect, and when I looked at them anew, I saw Her.

Let my worship be in the heart that rejoices, for, behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my ritual.

I wanted to find ways to work with Her.  Aphrodite is a very erotic goddess. I read about how some use sacred prostitution as a means of connection. I found the idea intriguing, but as an oath-bound married woman, that wasn’t for me. What more? I found her turning my attention to the details of my relationship with my husband. Sure, we couldn’t hole up in a love nest for weeks, but I (and we) could try more. Walks, talks and doing chores for the other person are free. Candles, a home-cooked meal and a simple bouquet don’t require much in the way of money or time, but the thought goes far.

Also, She has been a powerful goddess to work with after pregnancy loss. The whole experience of miscarriage is horrific, haunting and ugly. I won’t try to redeem it, but I will say, that at times I glimpsed beauty and grace surrounding the situation. A pot of ‘Mystic Blue’ salvia from a friend. Someone left me a jar of Floridix iron supplement. And eventually, my husband and I were able to heal, and we did it together.

  Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

As I worked more with Aphrodite, I began to see that throughout my life I had been a pleasure-seeker, a bon vivant. From a passion for good food and good wine to a cultivation of the art of doing nothing—these things seemed very Aphrodite to me. So each time I eat a delectable morsel of food,  I think of Her. When I steal some hours of silence to nap and relax, I devote them to Her. When my husband and I are going out for a date and somehow my unskilled hands slick on makeup like a pro—I definitely thank Her.

  I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.

I realize in these acts of pleasure, these small moments of a joyful heart, there also lies Aphrodite Epitymbia*, and Aphrodite Maelinis (of the dark/night). Not only is this shadow present in the slippery temptations of gluttony and addiction, but also in the essence of passion, sensuality and wonder. Because these moments make up life.  And all life is flowing towards death, in ways small and great.

For behond, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.

In the still depths of dark nights, when grief and sorrow wrap around me like a shroud, that provides an honest comfort. It moves what is happening now to something less egocentric and more universal, it moves the thoughts circling in my head to something closer to truth and freedom. That one goddess can imbue aspects of love, grace, passion and desire as well as decay, death, fear and suffering helps me integrate those concepts in my interior and exterior world.

From me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

In the light of Aphrodite, The Charge of the Goddess has come alive for me. Where once lay meaningless typeface, now words breathe with inspiration and resonance.  What has been an individual devotion now has a broader context. Through those words I’m able to connect with other traditions, such as Wicca and Reclaiming. Does that mean my path is taking me there? I don’t know, and that’s okay. I am just grateful that those words have been revealed to me, gifting me with something to ponder, enjoy and be inspired by.

Sources

Names of Aphrodite: http://www.theoi.com/Cult/AphroditeTitles.html
Aphrodite Epitymbia: http://www.theodora.com/encyclopedia/l2/libitina.html
Reclaiming Tradition’s Charge of the Goddess: http://www.reclaiming.org/about/witchfaq/charge.html

Devoted, Part Two.

I can’t quiet recall how Greece came into my consciousness. It might have been reading some of Star Foster’s blog Pantheon. Or that I stumbled upon a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology for a dollar at the best place in the world. Truthfully, it seemed to kind of all happen at once.

Then it kind of just happened.

Friday I had a wedding to attend and nothing to wear. As I drove away from dropping C off at a play-date, it popped in to my head to ask Aphrodite and Hera for help. Weird, because I’ve never worked with any of the Hellenic pantheon. But I obliged the nudge. And I found some great stuff for a great price. Chalking it up as something to be looked up/honored later (you know, sometime next week), I went home happy.

Later that afternoon as I was preparing to get ready I got another nudge. Ask Aphrodite for help. Lord knows I can always use makeup, hair and beauty help–it’s not my strong suit, to say the least–and in an hour I looked great. I had done things with my makeup and hair that I have never done before, or since, and had never looked that good. At this point, I started to feel a little…I don’t know the word. When I looked down to find that the eyeshadow I was using was named Celestial Silver (two of Aphrodite’s epithets are Urania, heavenly, and Asteria, starry) I shivered a little. I felt (feel) One part of each crazy, tickled and pleased.

Then it went on from there. At the wedding I felt a strong urge to pray to Aphrodite, Hera and Hestia for blessing on the wedding. The next morning as I researched/read stuff on the Internet I just kept finding…resonances. A book that I previewed on Amazon called Aphrodite’s Priestess seemed to speak just to me. As I picked up dinner that evening I swung by Joanne’s with the idea for an altar, and ideas just kept coming to me (and, it must be said, pretty much everything I got was on sale…awesome.). Etc.

I guess this all seems pretty small. But for someone who hasn’t…felt…experienced…anything like this in so, so long–and never really since I’ve identified as Pagan–it feels significant. To me, it is significant.

I’ve vacillated over whether or not I wanted to publish this. My more rational, skeptical self keeps saying Wait another month, another year, don’t tell anyone. For fear of looking stupid, I guess. Especially at this beginning/new stage–after all, I want to be taken SERIOUSLY, right? Have read all the right books and have the right practice and say the right things…

Ugh. Bull shit. Here’s the truth:

I don’t know where this is all going. I know that I’m not a Reconstructionist, and I have no desire to be. I like celebrating the Sabbats. I like my nascent magical practice. I know that Aphrodite is a goddess I want to honor, but I’m also interested in Demeter and Dionysus and…well, most of the Hellenic Pantheon.

Does this make me the dreaded Eclectic?

Perhaps. But it’s a step forward from General (which is no bad place to be.) And I feel a sense of resonance, of truth, that my footsteps are orienting towards the wine-dark sea, to the dry, scrubby, sunlit hills that remind me so much of my own home.

First Public Ritual

So, I went to my first ever public ritual. It was an esbat held by the local CUUPS in a Methodist church. How is that for mind-boggling? Kind of weird to be doing a circle invoking a goddess under a cross. However, the church is a ‘reconciling’ congregation, and very other-faith and gay friendly.

It was nice. I was surprised by how much older everyone else was—I’d say the average age was 50.

The ritual itself was contemplative, focusing on Aphrodite. The ritualist seemed nervous, but during the guided meditation she really hit her stride. Her voice turned suddenly rich and soft and the meditation itself was incredibly evocative. What disrupted it was people coming in late. I like the yoga take on that–five minutes late, don’t even bother coming in. The energy is set, and it only serves to disrupt.

I felt nervous before going, so nervous that I did a small Tarot spread before hand. It was a three card spread. First card reflecting the nature of the group, second card being the implication if I did go, third card being the implication if I didn’t.

First: Three of Cups

Second: The Tower

Third: Six of Swords

Having the Tower card show up was…interesting. With the group seeming to be genial and 6/S evoking a certain listlessness if I stayed home…well…I decided to go. While the ritual didn’t exactly shake me to my core, it did remove a certain hesitancy I’ve had about attending pagan gatherings. You know…like…wow. Everyone’s so normal. Who knew?