Many Branches: Tea-lightful Cards and Magic with Paige Zaferiou

Learning and Community

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ear Miracles, a few months ago I learned that the correct way to pronounce Paige’s gorgeous last name is to say: zee fairy ooh! To me that is a great summation of the awesome that Paige brings to the Sacred Arts table. She is a magic-making woman, who blends incredible teas (I have a few and they rock) and delivers a hot tarot reading too! I invite you to get comfy and watch the incredible video Paige made for you — it will add some magic to your day!

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aige Zaferiou is a pop-culture-loving, positivity-wielding professional witch with a simple philosophy: magic is everywhere and life is great. As a magical practitioner, tarot reader, and tea maven, she has devoted her life to helping people rediscover magic in their own lives. If you can get down with unrelenting optimism, Lisa Frank backpacks, joyful cussing, frequent breaks for song & dance, and the utterlydelicious reality of our magical world, then GET DOWN, baby kitten! Paige is the witch-friend for you. When she’s not reading cards and pouring tea, you can find Paige playing the ukulele, singing about chickens, and searching for the perfect piece of pizza. Transform the way you experience magic at paigezee.com.

Find Paige:
Blog: www.paigezee.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/tarotandtea
Instagram: www.instagram.com/tarotandtea
Moonblessed Tea Blends: www.etsy.com/shop/tarotandtea
Tarot Readings and Magical Services: www.paigezee.com/tarot

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Sapna Mehra

Learning and Community

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ear Miracles: I first learned about Sapna Mehra and her one of a kind brilliant jewelry from my dear friend Fabeku. Since then Sapna and I have become friends as well and I am the lucky owner of a couple of her pieces–they are magical in every single way. Her story inspires and her art sets intention on fire–I proudly present this month’s Many Branches feature and hope all of my readers make Sapna feel welcome!

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In her own words: I’m Sapna Mehra and I collaborate with artisans in my ancestral homeland of Rajasthan, India to create meaningful jewelry that is crafted by hand using 16th-century techniques. My jewelry designs are inspired by the meeting of fine and folk, the old and new, and the everyday and the divine. I design jewelry for anyone who’s passed through fire to wear as an emblem of triumph.

 

Find Sephra on the World Wide Web:

Website: www.sapnamehra.com

Facebook: facebook.com/sapnamehrajewelry

Instagram: http://instagram.com/theglobalsoul

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theglobalsoul

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1.) On your site you have the following quote: “Gold becomes kundan only after passing through fire.” Tell us about kundan and the significance of this process.

I first heard this Rajasthani proverb from a favorite aunt of mine. I was going through an especially difficult time in my life and she said these words to me to lift my heart and spirits. It’s something that has stayed with me ever since.

The saying is about unleashing your strength, inherent beauty, and highest potential when you’re in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds.

It speaks to the process of creating kundan, a very prized form of purified 24k gold used in traditional jewelry from Rajasthan, India. Gold is fired continuously for 3 days in an arduous and elaborate process that requires constant oversight and meticulous care to ensure the quality and purity of the gold.

Once the gold has been fired, it’s beaten down and burnished into flowing ribbons of rich, pure gold that’s used to set gemstones into intricately enameled bases. It’s a beautiful art that is fulfilled only through the devotion and dedication of the artisan from beginning till end.

As individuals, we all pass through our own fires. Those fires distill, hone, and refine who you are.

As you move through the challenges that you face, you persist and overcome, even when you think you can’t. When you persist, you break through the barriers of your mind and what you believe is possible or impossible. Your struggle is your opportunity to choose who you want to be, to choose to act instead of react to whatever circumstance life’s journey has presented you with.

It’s in this act of persisting that you discover your own strength, power and grace.

What I’ve learnt from passing through my own fires, is that in every moment, you are faced with the choice to rise up above the struggle and truly know who you are. You aren’t your circumstance, you are the choices you make in those circumstances. And it’s the sum of the choices that you make day in and day out that transforms you into kundan, pure gold.

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2.) Ritually created jewelry has been present in magical and religious circles for ages but recently sources for such creations have been few and far between. As you know, I have several pieces of your work and I can attest first hand to their wonderful properties and inspirited forms. Why not just go the conventional route in jewelry making, why the decision to add a spiritual/sacred significance to your craft?

First, thank you so much Bri for your love and support!

Mysticism connects you to the universal energy. It fosters intimacy with others and the environment that surrounds you. It connects you to the part of yourself that is greater than you.

My passion for ancient symbols, philosophies and my understanding of form as divine expression is rooted in my Indian heritage. I believe symbols are able to express and connect us to the abstract divine. Symbols, rituals and spiritualism connect the gaps between the rational and the parts of your experience that moves you beyond the realms of logic.

Designing jewelry with meaning that is informed by a spiritual, mystical or sacred practice is how I give voice to my experience in the world. When a design comes forth, it feels like an intense and unstoppable energy that I must respond to and that connects me to something that is much bigger than me.

When you connect with that message or symbol, it fosters an intimate connection and creates a blissful circuit of rasa or divine nectar. This circuit and the experience of connection is what art is all about. I feel blessed and grateful to share this with everyone who connects with this synergistic energy!

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3.) Your tagline is Be Triumphant–how does the right jewelry help us become triumphant and what does that mean to you?

Your body is your sacred vehicle in the world; your witness, perceive, express and act with your body. It’s the body through which you experience and hone your awareness to unleash your shakti. Adorning the body is a sacred act of empowerment. When you choose jewelry that uplifts you and reminds you of your beauty, strength and power, you are empowering your highest self.

Adornment is a powerful act of expression and art. In ancient Indian texts, there are suggestions and prescriptions for sringar or adornment according to seasons, times of day, to affect a mood or elicit a particular desire.

The act of choosing what to wear, putting it on and taking it off is a sensual, meaningful ritual. It creates a beautiful pause, brings grace to light and awakens the senses to oneself.

What you choose to wear, how you choose to express yourself and put your Self out into the world gives you agency and power.

For me, being triumphant is about claiming your story and realizing your agency in your narrative. You story isn’t a series of events or how circumstances unravel. Your story is driven by how you decide to tell your story. I believe choosing the right jewelry for you is an act of empowerment and helps you express your story in the most magnificent way.

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4.) You work with precious and semi-precious stones in your creations so I have to ask…do you have a personal favorite?

Oh, that’s a very hard question because I LOVE gemstones!

I have a special affinity for rose cut diamonds and I really love gems that are cut by hand in old cuts like rose cut and polki. The rose cut originated in India and then it’s popularity spread throughout Europe and you’ll see rose cut diamonds and other gems frequently used in Georgian and Edwardian jewelry. I try to use rose cut faceting as often as I can because it feels like the soul of the gem shines through.

Each gem has a particular vibration bringing forth different energies. At different times, depending how I’m feeling, I’m drawn to different stones, most likely because that is the energy I need to awaken within myself.

These days I am loving turquoise, lapis lazuli, black spinel, labradorite, and moonstones. These gems remind me of the depths of the ocean and the infinity of the sky. You get lost looking at them.

5.) If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

The biggest message I’ve received in my life is to persist. No matter what your circumstance is in this moment, remember your heart’s truest desires, be aware of your dreams and listen to your highest self. Doing this, over and over again, even when it’s so hard, is the discipline that will illuminate your purpose and your path. I think that is the only way to discover what it means to be triumphant.

And to love. Emanate love at every moment possible.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Starry Eyed with Amelia of the Midheaven

Learning and Community

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ear Miracles: Amelia Quint is an amazing astrologer who knows the stars like I know my trusted Rider Waite Smith tarot deck. She is also super nice, approachable, and able to bring all the astro talk down to earth in a very hands on and practical manner–and she does it all with style! These are some of the reasons that I have collaborated with her in the past and had her as one of the featured guest teachers for Star Magic. I am now so pleased to bring her to my lovely readers. Give her a warm welcome and settle in to do some star gazing!

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In her own words: Amelia Quint, author of The Midheaven, uses divination to help movers, shakers, and risk-takers dream new and exhilarating possibilities. Her rock-and-roll-meets-the-boardroom approach creates a space where insights and creativity flow with ease. She believes that while astrology and tarot set the stage for personal transformation, the real magic lies in their ability to inspire people to take charge of their destiny.

 

Find Amelia on the World Wide Web: 
Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/themidheaven
FB:  http://www.facebook.com/midheavenastrology
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/themidheaven

 

1.) On your site you say that you use divination to “help people take charge of their destiny.” I love that so much. What does it mean to you and how do you see it working practically?

One of the most common questions I’m asked in both astrology and Tarot readings is “When are things going to get better?” Though some things in life are out of our control, I think taking this approach takes away your power. My favorite thing to do as an intuitive reader is to show my clients that they ARE powerful and have the ability to change their situation!

In practice, “taking charge of your destiny” is all about knowing yourself. Your birth chart (a map of the planets and stars at the time of your birth) will give you insight into where you’re naturally talented, and what potential stumbling blocks to sidestep. And of course, Tarot is a perfect way to delve into the heart of any issue or crisis you may be experiencing. Really both astrology and Tarot come down to a sense of radical self-understanding. When you know yourself intimately, you can create an action plan to move forward with confidence.

Lots of people come to me when they’re going through a difficult astrological transit. They start out feeling hopeless, but once they are able to put a name to their struggle, it becomes much easier for them to face it down. The archetypes of Tarot help in a similar way. Knowing really is half the battle! Once people have a name for their circumstances, they’re able to own what’s happening and make the best of it. To me, that is really the beauty of divination!

 

2.) You work with both Tarot and Astrology–do you often combine them in your work? If so, how do you find the two disciplines work together?

Yes, I do combine them! I tell people all the time that studying Tarot will deepen your understanding of astrology in a huge way, and vice versa. During astrology readings, I’m always thinking of what Tarot card might correspond to their situation, and with Tarot clients I always take a look at their birth chart to see if there are any major transits happening. The traditional correspondences between Tarot and astrology play a big part in my readings too, especially with the Major Arcana (for example, Venus and The Empress). I take a very holistic approach to both disciplines and move pretty freely between the two, because I think that they each have so much to offer!

 

3.) The name of your business is The Midheaven. What is the Midheaven and why do you love it?

The Midheaven is a traditional name for the tenth house of the birth chart, which rules our public life and contribution to society. The Latin phrase for the Midheaven (medium coeli) literally means “top of the heavens,” and that is what I want everyone to reach for in their life. My goal is to inspire others to seek out the highest expression of themselves, with stars and cards as a guide!

 

4.) Favorite Astrology question? Favorite Tarot Question?

My favorite astrology questions are about how to bring more abundance and joy into your life. Working with the benefics (the Sun, Venus, Jupiter, and more) is fabulous! Also, many of my clients have come to me during a Saturn Return, which is a notoriously tough transit. I love seeing these beautiful people transform adversity into opportunity.

I love checking people’s charts for psychic potential too. Everyone is intuitive, and helping people tap into that part of themselves is so much fun!

Honestly I enjoy all types of Tarot readings, but I seem to have a knack for love and relationship work! I think my Mercury in Libra helps me keep things compassionate and balanced for everyone involved.

 

5.) If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Be audacious! Audacious, one of my favorite words, comes from the root meaning “to dare”. I love this and live by it! Dare to know yourself deeply, dare to love passionately, and dare to stop taking crap from people. And most importantly, dare to ask for what you want. The universe will respond, and so will more people than you think!

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Something Witchy this way comes with Sarah Anne Lawless

Learning and Community

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ear Miracles: Many of those in my audience already know our latest guest in the Many Branches series–Sarah Anne Lawless. She is an occult author, witch, herbalist, and artist living in the Pacific Northwest. Her blog is well known in the Pagan community and beyond. Her knack for crafting a brilliant flying ointment is one that I can personally attest to, and her devotion to her Gods is inspiring. Please give her a warm welcome!

bio-pic-2In her own words: A professional artist, writer, and herbalist, Sarah’s work has been published in various books, magazines, and online in The CauldronHex MagazineWitches & PagansWitchvox, Serpent Songs, and Hoofprints in the Wildwood. She is a carver, painter, and illustrator working in the mediums of bone, wood, ink, and paint creating original artwork, talismans, and ritual tools. Sarah is an animist, initiated witch, and wortcunner with a love of otherworldly beauty, folklore, mythology, poisonous plants, wildcrafting, wild places, and bones.

Find Sarah on the web at:

her website: sarahannelawless.com

Facebook: Black Arts Foundry

Twitter: @forestwitch

 

In the occult and magical community you are known for making excellent spiritual products, your writing, and your fine artwork, but you are also one of the few voices out there talking about working with animals and zoological talismans in an ethical and sustainable manner. This subject is a bit controversial but one that I think the magical community needs more familiarity with. What led you to begin working with animals and animal parts in a ritual setting?

For me it started with collecting feathers and escalated from there and I’ve found that others who consider themselves bone collectors often say the same thing. Taking home a feather you found on a forest walk isn’t really so far off from taking home a sea-washed bone or a small skull picked clean by scavengers. Once people find out you’re a bone collector they will suddenly start calling you about bones, feathers, or dead animals they found and ask what to do with them. Then people will start showing up on your door step with boxes of bones and any friends that hunt for food will start giving you bird feet, wings, and sometimes even organs that they don’t want to waste. Often people don’t want to use or give me the animals they find, they just want to know how to bury it safely and give it a respectful send off to the spirit world. A bone collector can find themselves taking on the role of an animal funeral director.

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I think the reason why many find my use of animal parts in magic controversial is because, though the use of zoological remains is still common in modern rootwork and the magical traditions of Central and South America, it is not common in modern witchcraft despite all the documented historical links and traditions. Many people are so far removed from nature, husbandry, and dirty hands-on folk magic that they find the use of zoological remains to be appalling and unethical without trying to first understand the context and history. Many assume that bone collectors such as myself are actually killing animals to use their parts in magic when this is very much not the case. You can find hearts, tongues, and feet at the butcher and you can find bones, skulls, teeth, claws, and hides from taxidermists, tanners, farmers, or hunters who don’t like to waste any part of an animal that’s been hunted or raised for food.

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Another reason I think this practice is controversial is because many people assume you are using a dead animal’s parts solely for cursing and other black magics, when again this is simply not the reality. Indigenous cultures who’ve held onto their animistic beliefs and traditions use animal parts in a sacred manner – they are used to better connect with animal spirits and the whole of nature itself. Feathers are often used to fly prayers to the spirits so they may hear them. Teeth and claws are used for protection against harm and to give one strength. Organs are more often used for healing and offerings than anything else – anyone with a grandmother who still buries dead fish in the garden for the fertility of the plants may best understand this. In rural areas of North America you can still find farmers hanging deer antlers or bull horns over their barn door. They may have forgotten why, but once upon a time it was the belief that doing so would protect your livestock and also ensure their health and fertility.

Modern butchery and hunting practices are wasteful and unethical for treating animals as soulless resources. By doing this work and using animal remains in a sacred manner in our spiritual traditions, we make those animals sacred. By showing them respect even in death, we make their lives have the same value as our own.

 

You are well known for crafting various flying ointments, often using ancient recipes. Why flying ointments and when did your love affair with them begin?

I first took notice when nightshades I had not planted started to grow in my garden plots and containers. Instead of weeding them, I researched them and became fascinated. This led me to growing other varieties like henbane, belladonna, datura, and brugmansia. I had a lot of fresh plant material on hand and at the same time I realized that no one I could find was making and using flying ointments today. Considering that flying ointments were one of the very few genuine direct links to the ancestral magical practices of preChristian Europeans, it puzzled me greatly that modern witches and pagans weren’t using them. Later I discovered this was largely due to fear of the plants as governments had been churning out frightening propaganda against them for centuries and our modern governments continue to spread the fear through misinformation. Tales of wild hallucinations and near death experiences come mainly from youths not seeking a spiritual experience, but who simply wanted to get high and who used these plants without research, proper preparation, and with no regard for dosage. They were using these sacred plants at a toxic level instead of in the much safer ways our ancestors would have and have consequently given these plants a much maligned reputation.

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I mainly work with plants in the solanaceae (or nightshade) family. Though many would believe we no longer use them today, the constituents of these plants, such as atropine, are actually considered “core” medicines on the World Health Organizations “Essential Drug List.” Aside from the nightshades’ long history with witchcraft, they are also some of the oldest and most potent medicines used by humanity. How could an herbalist fascinated with ethnobotany not fall in love with plants that were both powerful spiritual allies and incredibly potent medicines? Though my original intent was to use the solanaceae and artemisias for spiritual purposes, the more I worked with these plants, the more I found people came to me for their medicinal uses as well.

And so, after A LOT of research and careful testing, I started to make ointments with the plants I grew along with dried European mandrake roots. I found them to be very useful in aiding in dream work, spirit work, and trance work along with being excellent topical pain killers for relieving migraines, sore backs, and other muscle and joint pain. I started making them for shamanic and pagan groups who wanted to use them for rituals and ceremonies and I started bringing them to my own rituals and teaching workshops on these plants. With all my experience, I learned that much of the fear and propaganda surrounding nightshades and flying ointments is simply not true and that those of us who have learned their history and proper preparations should pass on our knowledge so it is not lost to future generations as it has been to generations past.

 

A lot of folks in the magical community struggle with that to call themselves. You have referred to yourself as an animist, witch, and spirit worker. What do those words mean to you and what is your advice for someone who has not figured out what the right title is for their work and beliefs?

When I call myself an animist, I am referring to my religious philosophy just as others would call themselves a polytheist or a monotheist. I do not worship gods, but instead see all things, all of nature, as being imbued with spirit, anima, life force. Interacting with and honouring the local animals, plants, rivers, lakes, mountains, forests, and larger land features is what matters most to me in my spirituality – the local spirits, great and small. Within animism there is also room for ancestor reverence and so I also honour those who have come before me, both my own blood ancestors as well as those who lived upon this land long before I was born. Animism is believed to be one of the oldest forms of spirituality in human history and still permeates surviving forms of folk magic, folk religion, and common superstitions.

When I call myself a witch I am referring to the practice of witchcraft, not a religious path. It is the folk magic I do, the early modern witchcraft lore I study, and the rituals I put into practice.

When I use the term spirit worker, it is to reference my work with spirits, both is in this world and the other worlds of folklore. It is my dream work, trance work, and the rituals I perform to interact with spirits – usually plants, animals, or ancestors.

I don’t personally believe in putting too much stock in labels and finding the right one as everyone has their own definition of a term, some using the archaic meaning and some using a modern derivative. It is far too easy to waste a lot of time trying to find a label that fits all we believe and do, when we could instead spend that time actively practicing and developing our own beliefs to suit our individual spiritual needs. I think it is a better use of our time instead of trying to fit into a role someone else has defined and be constantly fretting over it.

I wrote a whole article tackling this subject last winter as it comes up over and over again in spiritual communities: “Ducking Pigeonholing.”

 

You art is gorgeous, tell us a bit about how you got started and what your current favorite artistic project is?

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Thank you! I got started in art at a young age. I was always drawing and painting. I took art classes in every year of school because it was something I always enjoyed. I had a lot of support from family who kept me well supplied with paper, ink, and paints. I even used to illustrate stories I wrote and bound them into little homemade books. Today I’m lucky enough to be in a position to get paid for my art and to illustrate the writings of others as well as my own. Falling more under the umbrella of a folk artist, I’ve been able to explore just about any medium I’m interested in – woodcarving, bone carving, pyrography, textiles, calligraphy, and jewelry to name several.

Right now I have a bit of an obvious obsession with drawing plants and skulls. I hope to do more pieces with plants and animals native to my beloved Pacific Northwest in the near future.

 

If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams and passions so you can live your life in joy and wonder, but at the same time be honest with yourself about how you’re going to pull it off in a practical manner.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Plant Love with Kiva Ringtail Rose

Learning and Community

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ear Miracles: I first heard Kiva Rose’s name mentioned years ago when my mother and I were reading one of Loba’s columns in Sage Woman magazine. The Anima school and sanctuary sounded wild and wonderful and so very needed. Then years later I came across her work again in Plant Healer Magazine–and it wasn’t long before I wrote a couple of articles for that most excellent periodical. Kiva is a busy woman and I was delighted when she agreed to take some time and speak with me about plant magic and all that is wild. 

In her own words: Herbalist, author, and wild creature, Kiva Rose lives in a canyon botanical sanctuary within the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. She is also the co-director of the HerbFolk Gathering, held each September in the mountain Southwest, is co-editor of Plant Healer Magazine, and maintains an herbal blog, The Medicine Woman’s Roots.

Find Kiva on the World Wide Web:

Plant Healer and The HerbFolk Gathering
The Medicine Woman’s Roots Herbal Blog

 

 

 

Who/What is a Plant Healer? Why this term instead of a term like Herbalist?

A Plant Healer is anyone who works with the plants for the purpose of healing. We chose this term in part because of its simplicity and because of the way it keeps the focus on the plants themselves. I am an herbalist because I love the plants, and feel called to matchmake between plants and people, hopefully facilitating new and deeper relationships among humans and herbs that brings healing for us, as well as inspiring us to take better care of the earth in the process.

 

One of the many contributions you have made to the plant loving community is a return to the notion of “folk herbalism”. How is folk herbalism different from what might be considered more “mainstream herbalism”, what are folk herbalists bringing to the table that has been missing in the community?

Basically, folk herbalism is technically defined as herbalism being practiced by non-professionals or lay people, often utilizing regional or handed down knowledge and perspectives. However, given the wide range of practitioners that currently identify as folk herbalists, I think it makes sense to broaden the definition to include professionals and non-professionals alike who practice an herbalism not currently accepted as valid by the Western biomedical industry and our culture in general.

Folk herbalism has always been here, and has long been represented by an incredible spectrum of practitioners. I personally use the terminology because I value both inclusivity and diversity within the healing community. I especially like the fact that folk herbalism embraces such a wide range of ideas and practices without insisting upon a false or forced homogeny.

 

You run a clinical practice, care for a beautiful wilderness area in Southern New Mexico, teach, write, publish some of the finest books and magazines on the plant path, and organize festive conferences and weekends of education for plant healers, you are also a mom and devoted partner…how do you do it all and what are your personal favorite herbal allies?

Thank you, Bri! I’ve found that it’s my nature to cycle through focusing on what most interests me at the time, and I find that working on so many projects allows me to move from seeing folks to creating art to writing to land restoration to teaching to solitary and family time in a way that allows me to feel both fulfilled and to keep many projects going at once. Also, my wonderful partner, Jesse Wolf Hardin, does an enormous amount and keeps everything on track and on schedule!

Many of my absolute favorite plants are from the genus Salvia, I adore all that I’ve met thus far! I’m very blessed to have two native species growing right here in the canyon where I live and many more nearby. Working with the less well known Sawtooth Sage, Salvia subincisa, was a profound experience in my early herbal studies. While I don’t know of anyone else working with this plant, it is a profound relaxant nervine that is specifically indicated when tremors are present with anxiety. It’s also a wonderful ally for those who have such sensitive nervous systems that even Lemon Balm can seem too stimulating. Back when I was first studying and practicing herbalism, I was also recovering from many years of insomnia, addiction, and abuse and dealing with a very fried and overstimulated nervous system. The Sawtooth Sage helped to heal my nervous system and allowed me to sleep and relax in ways I hadn’t experienced in decades. I especially like it combined with our local Skullcap for tension, anxiety, and insomnia.

 

In 2013 you launched the Bramble and Rose–a wonderful shop where folks can order perfumes, elixirs, balms, and oils, tell us about the Bramble and Rose and what inspired it?

Originally, The Bramble & The Rose was created as an outlet for my passion for creating botanical perfumes and body products, and my desire to share the medicine of aromatics with a wider audience. As time has passed, I’ve slowly been expanding it into a more complete woodland apothecary that includes elixirs, bio-regional incense, bitters blends, and certain single herbs abundant in my area. I’d been asked for many years to make more of my herbal preparations for sale, so I’m happy to fulfill this desire from the community while sharing many of my favorite plant allies!

Part of the profits from The Bramble & The Rose go to paying for the materials used to create the herbal formulas I provide to local clients in my tiny mountain village at little or no charge.

 

If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

To keep your work at its foundation, and to focus on not straying from the source that ignited your passion to begin with. To work as healers of any kind we need to avoid being drained by what we do, and a bit part of that is being able to receive vital nourishment from the earth and work at a roots level. I know that, for me, it’s very easy to get caught up in what needs to be done, and to neglect the simple, sensual delights that first drew me to herbalism. By remembering to play with the plants, experiment with new remedies, and spending wordless time on wild land, I am sustained and replenished in a circle of healing I am honored to be included in.

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Setting Roots with Jen Holmes of Rue and Hyssop

Learning and Community

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ear Miracles: So you guys know by now that I seriously love every single one of the people I profile for Many Branches but Jen holds a special place in my heart. First of all, her gardener’s salve is truly amazing and my soft hands are the proof! Secondly, she is not only a dear friend and colleague, she is one of my students and she brings magic wherever she goes. Finally, she has one of the kindest, most down to earth voices, in the entire Pagan blogging community — not an easy feat for a bunch of dirt loving folks! Enter into her wild garden of delights–you will be sure to find a magical treat or two!

 

jen 2In her own words: Jen (Rue) Holmes is the lime daiquiri-wielding hostess of the blog Rue and Hyssop, a wandering little adventure in Paganism, gardening and herb-craft, folklore, silliness, and the joys and trials of trying to maintain some semblance of a daily practice. Jen believes firmly in sharing your harvests, daily laughter, and in wearing as many strange hats as you can find.

Jen can also be found at her shop, Three Cats And A Broom, where her gardens in the verdant valley hills bring you herbal goodies to delight your bath, body, and home.


 

Find Jen on the World Wide Web:

Rue and Hyssop www.rueandhyssop.blogspot.com

Three Cats And A Broom www.threecatsandabroom.etsy.com

 

 

Why Rue and Hyssop–do these plants hold special meaning for you and if so what is it?

Picking a name for my blog was no easy task. I was going to be writing about my journey and all that it entailed – the garden experiments, my travels, the ups and downs of my personal practices, and the things that were bubbling away in the cauldron. I didn’t want to mislead anyone. The blog was always about my adventures in Paganism, but it was important for me to present it through the lense of my real life, and not try to come off as someone I wasn’t. It had to be real. Although I don’t discuss my uber-personal stuff (who I’m dating, my familial issues, and other too-close-for-comfort tidbits), I do lay it all out when discussing my struggle with keeping up a spiritual practice, or how I’m working through other issues like fear or self-esteem. It’s the kind of thing I appreciate in other bloggers, so there was no chance that I wasn’t going to be genuine.

“Rue and Hyssop” was a perfect fit for me. It served a dual purpose – it was a play on my at-the-time public name (Rue) and highlighted my interest in herb-craft, as well as providing a bit of symbolism for me, a girl who came from a bible-based upbringing (hyssop being a prominent biblical herb) who grew into a woman on a magical-based path (rue being a beloved charm, most notably for the Strega). As for the herbs themselves, they are a cherished part of my garden. Even after working with them for years, I still find wisdom to glean from them.

 

I think you are one of the brightest voices in the Pagan blogging community –why did you start blogging? As a pagan blogger what would you like to see more of?

That’s a really generous compliment, Bri, and one I’d like to keep working at deserving. When I started blogging almost five years ago, there was not an easy-to-find Pagan community locally. Fortunately that has changed, but I could never regret that it sent me searching online for like-minded people who shared my love of getting dirty in the garden and the wilds, who were fascinated by folklore, and who embraced and celebrated the land and the seasons. I’m thrilled to have met so many wonderful people in the blogging and Pagan communities, and I’m beyond flattered when anyone stops by to read or comment at my little spot on the web. I’m especially surprised at the volume of readers I have that wouldn’t consider themselves Pagan, but who stop by because we share some interest or concern that brings our separate journeys closer together.

I’ve found that this year, the Pagan community seems to be struggling a great deal with divisiveness. This isn’t new, I know, but there seems to have been many opportunities for people to say “we don’t know everything, let’s explore this together,” that instead, have become derisive. The magical and spiritual communities whose boundaries we wander over and through boast some of the most learned, creative, generous, and gifted people on the planet. I truly believe that we can find better ways to express ourselves and our explorations of our chosen path than to knock someone else down to show that we can wield the verbal sword impressively. Having said that, I am often in awe of the strength, kindness, and wisdom of those I’ve met in the blogging community. I’m confident that the people with these traits will outshine the ones who prefer to squabble, and my hope is that we’ll see more bloggers, podcasters, authors, and magical businesspeople stepping out into the public eye and showing the world a diverse community that can work together.

 

You make wonderful herbal remedies that are both healing and magical–how did you get started in this work and what are your favorite things to make?

When I was ten, at the height of summer I walked through a field of clover barefoot. The bees gorging on clover-nectar took exception to my intrusion and I was stung. My grandmother immediately noted that a stinger remained in my foot and cut a potato in half and placed it on the wound. Within a short time, the sting lessened and the stinger fell out. To me, that was the most magical thing I’d ever experienced. Within the year I was weeding her gardens (very non-magical, if you had asked me) and I was forever bitten – or stung – by the garden bug.

After relying far too many years on over the counter drugs for common complaints such as colds, sleeplessness, or skin concerns, I turned to herbs to help combat these issues. I’d always grown veggies and culinary herbs, but medicinals were new to me. I grabbed a handful of books and found some organic seed companies and never looked back. My current passion is replacing the chemical-laden cleaning and beauty products in my home with my own organic herbal alternatives. And, of course, I grow a few plants specifically for magical use too.

My current favourite creations are the herbal-infused oil products. There’s just something about seeing those plants suspended in golden oils, releasing their invaluable treasure. I put together a herbal salve that is crazy-healing, as well as a massage oil, and I’m working on a facial oil that should be coming out soon. I’m testing it right now and I’m loving what it’s doing to my skin!

 

What projects are you working on in 2014? What would you like to learn more about?

I’ve been operating my business as a hobby for the past few years and it’s been fun. When I look to my future, I see myself growing and wild-harvesting plants and making herbal creations full time, so there are some big decisions to be made this year in as far as putting a plan into action to see that outcome.

My herbal studies are always ongoing – I was gifted with about a dozen herbal books this year and I’m enjoying working through them. I’m always playing with and testing new herbal creations. Some will make it to the shop and others may end up being more private runs. I made some sample scrubs for a local spa and they’ve ordered them for their permanent line now.

The thing about plants is that you can spend a lifetime studying them and still have only scratched the surface. The same thing applies to spirituality and magical work – there is always something to discover and experience. I’ll never be finished learning.

 

If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

I’ve spoken of this often lately, but it’s because I’ve really been living it. Find one thing to be joyful about every day. We’d all like to win the lottery, or be a size 2, or hit it out of the park in the IQ department, but even if we are not feeling like our best selves, or life is not being generous with the “good stuff” we can still find something to be joyful about. Just one thing. Really dig it. Smile. Dive into that chocolate bliss. Become intoxicated by the scent of that flower. Giggle mercilessly at your crazy cat. There’s always something to squeal about. It will keep you young, I promise. And people will wonder why you are always smirking.

And be kind. It’s not that difficult.

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Going Bright with Candlesmoke Chapel

Learning and Community

D

ear Miracles: I’m so delighted to introduce you all to two more of my favorite Sacred Artists. Joseph and Sara Magnuson are friend, colleagues, and collaborators who make beautiful and truly magical spiritual products. From sublime ritual oils to sweet sugar jars and of course their stellar candle services — these two run one of the most authentic spiritual supply businesses I have come across in years! 

 

In their own words: Candlesmoke Chapel is a husband and wife collaboration dedicated to crafting high quality magical and spiritual goods. We’ve been crafting our own supplies for years and are proud to offer our products and services to others. Our work and studies include traditional witchcraft, hoodoo, genealogy, folklore, and herb lore. We are always working to better our own lives and are committed to helping others achieve their desires through the use of magical and spiritual practices.

 

 

Find them on the World Wide Web:

www.candlesmokechapel.com
www.etsy.com/shop/candlesmoke

 

1.) Candlesmoke Chapel fills many different roles, but one of the things that you two do beautifully is create homemade spiritual supplies–how did you get started in this work?

Both of us have been interested in and studied various paths and traditions our whole lives. After many years of learning and practicing, we found ourselves drawn to the principles behind conjure and rootwork. This became a jumping off point for us, so while we don’t practice conjure and rootwork exclusively, we find that the tangible aspects of working with candles, roots, herbs, oils, incense and washes speaks to us. We believe that having these items to physically work with helps to focus one’s intent and purpose.

In working with these types of items, we’ve been in and out of every botanica and occult shop we’ve come across. Even though there seems to be lots of options out there, we weren’t always satisfied with the quality and the general feeling behind most of the products we found. So we decided to make spiritual supplies for our own personal work, and quickly found that they were powerful and effective. We started giving items to friends as gifts and doing work for people we knew for free. The feedback we received was awesome and we’ve just kept growing!

 

2.) You also offer readings through Candlesmoke Chapel–what is your favorite subject to read on and what question would you like to never be asked again?

We’re going to answer this question separately because we each do different types of readings…

Joseph – I read with the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot and my favorite kind of readings are open-ended, general questions. I love it when the client just says, “tell me what you see.” This gives me the opportunity to really open up to the cards and the client’s energy and look at any and all possibilities. I really enjoy all the readings I do, but if I had to pick I’d say the most difficult readings are the third or fourth go-around on the same issue; when the client doesn’t like the answer they got the first couple of times and they keep wanting another reading to see if something different will present itself. These are difficult because I know they’re unhappy with their situation, but I won’t just tell them what they want to hear.

Sara – I read with the Animal Medicine Cards and my favorite kind of readings are about how people can move forward with something in their life. I love questions about feeling stuck in some way and guiding the client to the animal spirits and energies that they can learn from and call upon to bring themselves up to the place they want to be. I love helping people see the connections between other living creatures and themselves and watching that “aha” moment when the client sees how it all comes together. Like Joseph, I enjoy all the readings I do but, due to the nature of the cards I use, the most difficult question I get is “tell me what my spirit animal is.” People are usually asking this question without a real understanding of what that means and they’re typically not interested in doing the inner work necessary to discover this themselves. It can be challenging to explain to someone who doesn’t want to look within themselves that no one can tell you what your spirit animal(s) is/are.

 

3.) Talk to us about bottle spells–how do they work and what you do guys love about them?

We love bottles spells and especially sugar jars! The idea behind any type of bottle or container spell is to create a magical battery. You’re creating a small space that is super-concentrated with ingredients suited to your purpose. Immersed in that super-concentrated space is a paper with your desire written on it, your handwriting on the paper adding more power to the purpose of the container. Add some personal concerns, like a strand of hair, and this can be some powerful stuff! We create the jar for your purpose, you add your written paper and personal concerns and we provide you with instructions on how to work the Sweetening Jar on your own.

There are tons of different types of bottle spells and we focus on Sweetening Jars, specifically sugar jars. They can be made with many different kinds of sweeteners, but our preference is for sugar because it tends to manifest movement in a situation more quickly than something like honey. There’s also a physicality involved with shaking a sugar jar – seeing the magical ingredients tossing about; hearing the sound it makes and getting into a rhythm like a musical instrument. Our Sweetening Jars currently focus on romantic love situations, but we’ve done custom jars to help create a peaceful home and to help draw more clients to a business. There are lots of situations that can use a little sugar!

 

4.) You are a married couple doing awesome work together-are there any particular challenges or benefits that you find in working together on all your different projects?

One of the biggest benefits for us is that we’re passionate about the same thing. We’ve seen lots of situations where one person can’t be very open about what they’re doing, or even has to hide it, because their significant other doesn’t get it or isn’t into it. Yes, we’re a married couple, but we’re also best friends – and who doesn’t love hanging out with their best friend! There’s also two sets of eyes on everything we make. It’s invaluable to have someone else that you trust to smell, touch and test a new creation; it’s the in-house quality control department. Luckily, we have a very honest relationship so the quality control department takes no BS! We openly and honestly give each other our feedback without worry of hurting any feelings. The best benefit is getting to collaborate; we love putting our minds together to develop new products and services. Even though we’re walking this path together, we each have differing sets of knowledge and our own ways of looking at things. If one of us doesn’t know something or can’t figure something out, the other one can almost always find the solution. The only real challenge for us is arguing over who gets to use the big work table and who has to clean up!

 

5.) If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Trust yourself. Completely block out what anyone else thinks and do what you feel called to do. Keep doing what you feel passionate about and practicing what you believe in because it will shine through in everything you do. Not only have we learned this lesson in our own work, we also run into these issues with our clients. This advice is not just for someone following a path in life, but also for those who are working to change a situation. It’s not just about big-picture, life-choice questions and even applies to the little things. After you get a reading, or use a product, trust yourself. Block out all the extraneous stuff and do what you feel called to do. Practice what you believe in and the right path will appear.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.