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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Happy Autumn Equinox!

Well, ladies and gents…it’s finally officially here! Autumn!

Unfortunately I have to go to work today, but I know the ride will be amazing. The vineyard I work at is down a winding country road, and on such a beautiful day I don’t think anything could be better.

How We’re Celebrating Mabon:

-Collecting acorns (special points if they still have their hats). Leaves haven’t started to fall yet; that’ll probably be on the agenda for Samhain.

-Decorating my altar.

-My family is in town so we’ve been enjoying their company.

-Continuing to plant the fall garden: lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, turnips, peas, broccoli, collards, beets, parsnips, carrots, cilantro, parsley, basil, chamomile, calendula, dill, chrysanthemums, etc…Yay!

-Taking walks and enjoying being outside.

-Later I’ll do my seasonal Tarot spread and place out some offerings.

-Thursday I started seasonal cleaning and have gotten pretty far. Completely cleaned and reorganized the office/library and utility room.

-As far as making my house a home (see post here), that’s going a bit slow, but there has been definite progress. We’ve sampled about 18 different paints for the dining room–though, we’re no where close to deciding. We bought a new dining room table, moved the old table to the kitchenette, started re-landscaping the front, and I’ve been working on re-organizing (see point above). I think in another six weeks, by Samhain, we’re going to have a substantially different home! Yay, progress!

I hope everyone is having a great beginning of autumn day!

Herbs: Calendula (Pot Marigold)

Open fresh your round of starry folds,

ye ardent marigolds!

Dry up the moisture from your golden lids,

For great Apollo bids

That in these days your praises should be sung!

—“I Stood Tiptoe” by John Keats

Latin name: Calendula officinalis from the Asteraceae family. The asteraceae family is huge! It includes sunflowers, daisies, lettuce, safflower, dahlia, Texas Tarragon, echinacea, chamomile….and the list goes on!

Native to: Probably Southern Europe, though it’s not certain.

Popular Cultivars: The cultivars are basically differences in colors and petal production. Some flowers have double-layered petals. Most calendula flowers range in color from pale yellow to bright orange-red.

Growing Calendula: Calendula is a relatively easy plant to grow, especially from seed. You do need to plan though. For this year’s crop, I sowed the seeds in late last September (I’m in Zone 8B, click here to find out your Zone) and kept them moist throughout the winter. Winter was mild, so I didn’t have to protect them much. The seeds sprouted in October.  Greenery grew slowly throughout the winter, and I saw the first buds in early February. I began harvesting in early March. I pulled up the plants in early April, because they were attracting too many caterpillars.

Next year, I’d plant calendula (and chamomile) in a completely separate bed from any vegetable seeds you might be starting. Calendula tends to attract the bugs with the munchies, and chamomile attracts aphids.

As with most flowers, cut the bloomed flowers as you see them. This will encourage more blossoms. Drying them is easy: lay them on a kitchen towel in a well-ventilated area, dry, room that doesn’t receive much (if any) sunlight. Rotate them around every couple of days to ensure even drying.

Using Calendula: After the flowers have dried thoroughly (2-3 weeks) pull the petals off and place into a clean glass jar. Keep the jar away from sunlight and too much heat (don’t store next to your oven, etc.).

Calendula is typically used to help with inflammation, eczema, and sunburn. It has antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral as well as astringent properties. Truly, a very useful herb.

The easiest way to use dried calendula is to simply make a tea with it. Take a couple of tablespoons of dried leaves, pour near-boiling water over the, steep for 10. Strain and drink. The tea can be used for upset stomach or sore throat. You could use the tea topically either in a bath or by making a compress.

Since I haven’t worked much with my own batch yet as far as actual products go, here is a good link on how to get started with salves, creams, sprays and oils.

Magically: Calendula/Marigold is associated with the sun (as are many of the asteraceae family). Calendula’s element is fire, and its associated gender is masculine. According to Cunningham, marigold aids in protection, prophetic dreaming, legal matters and psychic powers.

To me, calendula has a gently masculine feel. It was the first hot-colored bloom of the spring, vigorous and so showy! But when working with the plant itself, the feel was comforting and…old. The petals gave off a calm, warm, healing energy as I processed them. As if to say, “Lady, I’ve been around a long time.”

Resources Used:

1. Complete Guide to Medicinal Herbs, DK Natural Health, Penelope Ody, 2000

2. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Revised Edition, Llewellyn,  Scott Cunningham

3. A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year, Destiny Books, Ellen Evert Hopman, 1995

4. Growing and Using Healing Herbs, Rodale Printing, Gaea and Shandor Weiss, 1985

(On that note…I need a  more up-to-date herbal!)

(One more note…be careful when using Calendula/Marigold that you’re using the real deal: Calendula officinalis, not the other ornamental ‘marigold’, whose botanical name is Tagetes. Tagetes is *not* a medicinal herb.)

Disclaimer: Before using any herbal remedy, check with your doctor.

Herbs: Basil

Latin name: Ocimum basilicum from the Lamiaceae (mint) family

Native to: India

Popular Cultivars: Lemon and cinnamon, African Blue, Holy Basil, Thai Basil

Basil, King of Herbs. It almost seemsredundant to do a post on basil, but I was inspired by some drying in my workroom. Truthfully, they’ve probably been left too long, but I can’t bear to take them down.

Basil has a long, venerable history across many cultures. Basil itself is thought to have originated in India, and was commonly used for religious and medicinal purposes. From there, it spread both east and west.

There are conflicting views and traditions surrounding basil. Some cultures associate it with death and hatred, others with love, fertility and exorcism. Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is sacred to both the Hindus and those of Greek Orthodox faith. To the Romans, basil was an herb of fertility, and “they believed that it would only flourish where it was tended by a beautiful young maiden” (1). Nicholas Culpeper, the famed herbalist, seemed to think basil as an evil plant, stating that: “This herb and rue will not grow together…and we know rue is as great an enemy of poison as any that grows.” (2) Culpeper associated basil with “the planet Mars and under the Scorpion…it is no marvel if it carry a virulent quality with it.” (3).

Modern Pagan associations aren’t as negative. Scott Cunningham associates the herb mainly with the planet Mars, the element of Fire and with the applications of love, fertility, exorcism and wealth. Ellen Dugan’s book, Cottage Witchery, agrees and corresponds Basil to wealth and good luck.

My personal correspondences with basil are: hot, fire, summer, energetic, moist, growth!, hardy and fresh.

Medicinal uses range from applying fresh leaves to insect bites (this was found in all of my books and throughout history) to drinking an infusion as a tonic for motion sickness and head colds. (4)

Basil needs to be grown in rich soil and in full sun. It loves the heat and can survive extreme temperatures as long as it gets a good drink. Basil is an easy herb to grow from seed, just scatter in a pot and cover lightly with dirt and compost. Keep it moist–but not drenched–and you should have enough basil to keep you from spring to autumn. In  most locations basil is an annual that needs to be replanted every year.

My favorite way to use basil? Fresh and in food! Pesto, caprese salad, julienned on top of pasta sauces and sautéed veggies. I’ve used basil as a remembrance of old friends and to heal emotional wounds. Basil brings me joy in the garden, from its strong and frisky anise aroma to its vigorous growth throughout the season.

(1) The Book of Magical Herbs by Margaret Picton, published 2000.

(2) DK Natural Health: Complete Guide to Medicinal Herbs by Penelope Ody, MNIMH, published 2000, second edition.

(3) Growing and Using Healing Herbs by Gaea and Shandor Weiss, published 1985.

(4) See citation 2.

(5) Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham, published in 2011, second edition, nineteenth printing.

(6) Cottage Witchery by Ellen Dugan, published 2005.

This post is meant to be fun and educational, and in no way meant to be used for self-treatment of self-diagnosis. If you have questions, speak to your doctor.

Grandmother Moon

I know that the traditional names for the August Moon are Barley Moon, Corn Moon, Red Moon and such. As of yesterday I titled this post ‘Corn Moon’ after a little protection charm I made. However, today, as J and I set off to buy a chest freezer and I had just finished a batch of jam I knew that I really celebrated my grandmother during this esbat.

Last night, I did a small ritual. I blended up some Solar Protection Oil (is that weird on a Full Moon…eh? Whatever) and had a sheaf of corn that I had dried and wanted to charm for the house/as a harvest decoration. I plan to find a place for it to hang, perhaps at the beginning of September.

Solar Protection Oil: Orange, Pine, Rosemary and Patchouli blended with Sweet Almond Oil

Dried Corn Sheaf Blessed with Protection Oil

The above isn’t the best picture–many apologies, my corn sheaf isn’t photogenic 😉 (That sentence made me laugh.)

Anyway…I woke up this morning and prepared to make my first jam, ever! I’ve never canned before and was extremely nervous. The whole idea of botulism kind of freaked me out. I didn’t want to shell out money for the equipment before I knew if I even liked it, so I took some pointers from this website about how to can without the equipment. I did buy jars, though (she recommends reusing jars). When I pulled them out of the package, much to my delight, they were the same quilted pattern my grandmother had used when she canned.  I hadn’t noticed when I put them in the shopping cart earlier that week.

Mixed Berry Jam with Allspice, Clove, Nutmeg and Ginger

Mmmm. Jam. Lots of finger swiping.

After I set the jam to seal and cool, J and I decided to make a purchase we’ve talked about for a long time: a chest freezer. We have visions of buying a side of grass-fed beef (anyone want to split one if I can find a provider this late in the season…anyone?) and preserving our garden harvest. So, today, we decided to do that.

Not to get sentimental about an appliance, but one of the things I remember most vividly about my grandmother’s house was her chest freezer in the garage. It held all sorts of yummy things, like a plethora of half gallons of Blue Bell ice cream (Tin Roof, Rocky Road, Pecan Praline and the best…Homemade Vanilla). Blue metal utility shelves lined the back wall of the garage, filled to the brim with preserved veggies from their garden, jam and, most importantly, apple butter.

Oh, gods, the apple butter. That will definitely be happening this year.

Anyway, as I set about doing all of these harvest-y, homey type tasks I felt so, so close to my grandmother. She hasn’t passed over yet, but she turned 90 this year and lives under the care of my parents. It’s hard to see her age as she was the matriarch of the family, the rope that bound our family together during some truly harrowing times. Honoring her this moon, remembering her, acting as she taught me to act: to preserve, to be frugal, to make a home, to tell stories, to laugh—is truly a blessing I won’t soon forget.

Magical Cleaning #1: All-Purpose Spray

I began to make my own cleaning products for a few reasons. First, it (can be) cheaper than buying them. For the simplest cleaning products all you need is a lemon, vinegar and maybe some baking soda. However, I like to play around with some herbs, too, so it gets a little more expensive.

The second reason is that it is so easy to make these products magical (or purposeful, intentional, whatever you term it). Adding essential oils can add those properties and/or scents that you’re aiming for. When I make my products I light my household candle, cast a circle, send a little prayer to my household deities and spirits, and mix it up. It’s just like cooking witchery.

So, I’ll start this little series with the first product I ever made and by far the one I use the most: all-purpose spray.

All Purpose Natural Cleaning Spray

Adapted from The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel Maier

——–

1 20 oz. or larger spray bottle

Funnel or measuring cup with pouring spout

Measuring spoons

Strainer

——–

1 tsp. borax

2 cups water

2-3 tsp. liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bonner’s)

1/4 c. white vinegar

1/4 c. lemon juice (2-3 large lemons)

6 drops citrus seed extract (like grapefruit seed extract, can be found at your health food store)

6 drops thyme essential oil

4 drops lemon essential oil

Other oils: lavender, eucalyptus, orange, lemongrass, basil, pine

——–

Directions

Place your funnel in the stop of the spray bottle. Combine all ingredients starting with the dry (so it doesn’t stick to your wet funnel). Shake well. Voilà!

Notes

If you haven’t worked with essential oils before realize that they are very potent. There is a tendency to think “Oh! It’s just from plants, how bad can it be?” Bad enough that when I put too much peppermint oil in my bath I had a rash on my ass for days (!).

Also, after you’ve made it once play around with it for your needs. I use more vinegar and citrus seed oil because I need a good de-greaser. If you were going to use this around a more germ-y area, experiment with adding bay, cinnamon or clove.