As I sit here writing this, there’s nearly a foot of snow in spots. Trees have been crushed under the unbearable weight of snow all around. It’s hard to believe we were just celebrating the first day of Spring only days before when now everything is white, and once blooming trees are uprooted and broken. Just back from a slow, sad walk around the property to assess all the damage, where we met the neighbor at the property line to share the sadness of the trees downed around this 5 acres of land. He and our landlady mostly planted them with their own two hands some 25 years ago. He’s been in this community for 35 years and this is the largest snow storm he’s ever seen. He personally lost an apple tree that was easily a hundred years old… completely uprooted, as well as one of our plums, a cypress and a small fir. Many other tree branches are bent and broken, and I am in a state of mourning. I have grown extremely attached to this place since first setting eyes on it and declaring it mine. The trees were a large reason for that. I even made a promise to watch over them if we were allowed to move in there, when we first came out to take a look, and I really feel as if that was part of getting us the place here. It’s what we call our “practice homestead” until we can get something of our own, but no place has ever felt as close to home as this place. I almost feel somehow like I’ve broken a promise to these trees by letting them get hurt, though I know it was just nature taking its course. I take some comfort, however, in knowing that these wonderful trees I’ve loved won’t go to waste, as their flowers and bows adorn my home, brew on my stove top, or steep on my kitchen table and become medicine, and later, firewood for my home.
For example, the bark of the Plum tree, like all trees in the Prunus genus, contain cyanogenic glycosides which, according to the New Age Herbalist, once ingested is turned into prussic acid, “which is excreted rapidly, largely via the lungs, where it at first increases respiration and then sedates the sensory nerves, which provoke the cough reflex.” It is also a great ally for improved digestive function. Although prussic acid is largely toxic, processed and used medicinally, it’s actually quite safe. In fact, in his book Botany for a Day, Tom Elpel says that, “cyanide is easily destroyed by heat, sunlight and oxygen,” so even eating the leaves and seeds of these trees can be safe if mashed and dried. This sadly may be of little use to us this year with our own tree, but it’s a handy bit of knowledge to have none-the-less. I will likely turn my Plum tree’s bark into a tincture to aid digestion, an elixir to use for coughs, and in turn have her essence with me for much longer than I would have otherwise.
Another powerful ally I found in the rapidly melting snow was my chilly looking friends the Wild Violet. Tom Elpel says about these little beauties, “all of our species of Viola are edible as a salad green and a potherb,” and that “violets make an excellent tea,” full of “vitamins A and C.” They contain varying amounts of saponin and are diuretic, expectorant, alternative, and mildly laxative. They can be used as a liver cleanser and therefore are useful in treatment of many things from allergies to cancer. They can also be used externally for treating cancer and internally for ulcers, thanks to their mucilaginous and astringent properties. Again I will probably personally use these in a cough elixir, and in tincture form for heat and swelling, such as with fevers, boils, and headaches accompanied with heat. But these tiny beauties are also helpful for treating sore, cracked nipples, eczema, psoriasis, acne, and cradle cap. It’s also mildly sedative, so I would add it to a blend for anxiety and heartache.
Another plant I can’t wait to see pop out of the melting snow is my dear friend Lemon Balm. When I sit in a patch of Lemon Balm, whether just to sit and appreciate them, or to pick and prune, this plant always brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart. It makes sense that this plant is used primarily as a treatment for depression and anxiety, insomnia, and nervous headache. Being no stranger to these particular ailments, this has been a huge ally for me and an absolute staple in my herbal medicine chest. It is also an excellent aid in digestion and in relieving gas and colic due to its volatile oils. It is useful as an antihistamine, especially for those suffering from eczema, and as an anti-viral agent most specifically useful in the treatment of cold sores. This plant is most potent when used fresh, as most of those volatile oils are lost when drying. I use this plant in tincture form most often with other herbs, like California Poppy, when I’m battling anxiety or depression, but I also use it in most salves I make, as well as a cold sore lip balm. As an essential oil, it could be added to vinegar or water filled spray bottle with some lavender and/or Thyme, for a nice antibacterial spray for your home.
As I mentioned earlier, we recently celebrated the arrival of Spring, or the Vernal Equinox called Ostara, by planting seeds and wishes in eggshell pots in hopes of manifesting our dreams for the new fertile year. Eggs traditionally represent fertility and are used in many ways to celebrate the life bursting forth throughout the Northern Hemisphere as the darkness of Winter gives way to the lightness of Spring. Even though Ostara may be over, the Christian holiday of Easter, which gets its name from the Norse Goddess this pagan celebration is named after, is right around the corner. As many of its traditions are from pagan customs such as fertile little bunnies and brightly colored eggs, you can celebrate Easter in a more traditional way this year by honoring these ancient customs. More examples of these traditions are decorating eggs with your wishes, planting an egg with your crops to ensure their success, and hiding an egg among your seed stores, or among your livestock to ensure their health and bounty. And right after this festival is the Sabbat Beltane, or May Eve, which can be celebrated by erecting a Maypole, jumping the fire, bringing bunches of flowers into your home to honor the Sun as he rises and comes fully back to life, and bringing sprigs of herbs and boughs of trees as a way of concentrating fertile and healing energies. You can also attempt to appease the wildlife with libations so that they may leave your crops and wildlife alone. And leave milk out for the fairies, so that they may bless your home as well.
Speaking of faeries! Let’s begin this month’s zodiac tarot reading! This month we’ll use the Faerie Oracle deck, with images by Brian Froud and words by Jessica McBeth. This is such a stunningly beautiful deck that feels so intimate to work with, I love it!
Aries: Your Faerie Oracle card this month is Ilbe the Retriever of forgotten dreams and lost keys. He’s here to remind you of what you once longed to achieve and to let you know that if you make yourself open to it, your long awaited dreams will make themselves available to you now. Be on the lookout for people in your life who may remind you of some aspect of aspirations forgotten, because Ilbe is trying to awaken you to your full potential. He also brings with him a message of loyalty in friendship.
Taurus: The card for you this month is A Collective of Pixies, who reminds us that “a merry heart makes light work.” Approach tasks and duties with lightheartedness in order to lend potency to your actions. Make a game of it and do it happily. The result will have a different energy and everyone who comes in contact with it will be affected by it, whether they are conscious of it or not. Make a choice to make yourself and the world around you a better place simultaneously. Seek out others to work with collectively to best achieve desired results, as this is also a message of community.
Gemini: Your card this month is a strong one! Himself’s Faerie message is “the magic of procreation, of dancing the spark of life into being,” guardian of both the hunter and the hunted. Earth mother shapes the world, and Himself brings it magic. He dances as we are birthed into this world and as we leave it. Protector of tribe and family, human and animal alike, this card is one of all things potent and powerful, communicating to you in the coming month to bring as much passion and creativity in everything that you do, with emphasis on the good of the whole. This is also a card of spiritual healing, which is greatly needed in this time of intense energy shifts.
Cancer: The card I drew for you for this coming month is Sylvanius, who presents to us the mask of truth and asks us to see ourselves as we truly are. There may be some who see us through their own lens of perception and baggage and put labels on us that don’t truly fit, but Sylvanius suggests to us that we should shrug these off and get back to the person inside we may have been blind to. He says that our own perceptions of ourselves can often be marred by a lifetimes worth of such labels, but through donning the mask of truth, we can create a “crack in consciousness,” helping us to see through to who we really are. This is a lot easier said than done, but this Faerie presenting himself in your reading Cancer, is his way of letting you know that if you ask, he’ll gladly be there to help you in this process.
Leo: I love the message of your card this month Leo, as a Taurus, it’s not hard to encourage me to take it easy. Your Faerie is actually not a Faerie at all, but a Gnome, who are some of my most favorite of all forest dwelling magical folk. Geeeeooo the Slooow is the Gnome of Slow Process. He tells us that whatever it is we’re waiting around impatiently for, or whatever we’re rushing around like crazy trying to accomplish can wait. Slow down! Cultivate patience and stillness and appreciate the process. You wouldn’t rush a sunset, so why rush the natural rhythms of our lives? He reminds us to take enjoyment in each passing moment and to watch our lives blossom as a flower does because once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Virgo: Your card this month Virgo, is The Singer of Connection. Singers aren’t really Faeries, but a sort of celestial beings that guide us on a more ethereal level. Its message is one of empathy and karmic balance. It may seem counter-intuitive, but this Singer reminds us that the only way to become invulnerable is to completely let down all of our defenses, by opening our hearts to love. And if this seems an impossible task, ask for help and know you will receive it. If there is a relationship in your life that has gone sour, expect this Singer to guide you toward reconciliation. Center and ground yourself and work on deepening your connection to Earth and Spirit in whatever way you know how. Go outside, meditate, journal, or pull a tarot card! You will begin to find all the seemingly disjointed parts of your life coming together.
Libra: Your card this month Libra is yet another potent one, The Bright Mother. This card speaks to us of creativity, fertility and self-care, as well as deepening relationships. She reminds us to put our all into everything we do and to recognize that we already have all the ability to accomplish what we need. If there is anything that you feel you need to change, now is the time to do so. You may be having a difficult time giving of yourself, or in receiving care, or you may just be unclear about how to set boundaries, or what your boundaries even are, but ask for help of The Bright Mother and things should improve. And remember, in order to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves.
Scorpio: Heehee! You know those Faeries that like to hide your car keys, or confuse you, or create more clutter and disorder that is already natural? Well, that’s the work of Brownies and your card, The Bodacious Bodach is one of the best! It is however, in the nature of these Faeries to actual be helpful instead of just meddlesome, and this is one of those times! Be sure to thank him and he might even do it again sometime! Seriously though, if there’s someone in your life that’s usually pretty meddlesome or bumbling, this time they might surprise just you and actually get it right. Again, be grateful! It might just become a habit.
Sagittarius: The Lady of the Harvest is your card this month Sag, and she speaks of Loss, Grief and Liberation. This is a time of change and a new chapter in your life and these things may be hard or they may be freeing, but whatever the case, it’s completely futile to resist it, as this is a necessary process in your journey. Be gentle with yourself, honor your feelings and move on as soon as is possible. Trust in the process. The Universe will provide. You are not being given more than you can handle.
Capricorn: Remember the movie the Labyrinth, another Froud inspired creation? Remember the line Sara kept forgetting from her book that she finally recalls when confronting the Goblin King that makes him fade away as she saves her brother? Well remember that, because that’s what your card, The Singer of Courage, is trying to remind you. It may be silly, but as a long time sufferer of anxiety and panic attacks, this is something that’s really helped me. The Goblin King is fear (I mean, what’s up with that hair and codpiece?), and you are Sara. Remember that this coming month and say it! Believe it! Fear is just a feeling and you shouldn’t let it stop you from doing what you most desire. “You have no power over me!”
Aquarius: Your card this month Aquarius is the soul messenger Iris of the Rainbow. She wants to remind you to hold your dreams and aspirations in your mind and remember who it is you want to be. There may be things that look like delays or roadblocks ahead, but as long as you can do this, you will come out victorious, and she is here to help you. Hope is a power greater than anything, and will work wonders in defeating any gloomy blahs that the months of rain may bring.
Pisces: The Singer of Initiation is here with an invitation to your future. You may be at a crossroads of sorts and feeling confused about which course to take, but this Singer wants to encourage you not to wallow in any feelings of self-doubt to better navigate your way through. There is likely a shining new opportunity waiting for you once the fog has lifted. Remember that challenges often bring great rewards. This card often presages a period of success. Don’t let any growing pains discourage you. “It can be done – look with your heart!”