Lighting the Beltane Fires

“Tra la, it's May, it’s May, the lusty Month of May
That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray
Tra la, it's here, it’s here, that shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear

 

Whence this fragrance wafting through the air?
What sweet feelings does its scent transmute?
Whence this perfume floating everywhere?
Don't you know, it's that dear forbidden fruit,

 

Because….

 

It's May! It's May!
The month of "yes you may,"
The time for ev'ry frivolous whim,
Proper or "im."
It's wild! It's gay!
A blot in ev'ry way.
The birds and bees with all of their vast
Amorous past
Gaze at the human race aghast,
The lusty month of May. “

 

From Camelot ~ Lerner & Loewe

 

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I first became aware of the importance of the Beltane fires  in my life through a dream. I awoke one morning,  in the arms of my husband and he looked at me in surprise and asked me about the fires. “What fires “ I said… and then I remembered. I guess that I’d been talking in my sleep. In my dream we had been standing together in a place that seemed to be a castle of sorts.  I was wearing some sort of night dress and he had come up behind me. I knew that it was him in the way that time and place meld together in the dream state, but he was blond with longer hair that was flowing back in the wind.  He looked at me with the same deep blue eyes that he has now with a gaze that at that moment transcended lifetimes and said “they are lighting the fires and are in the fields…he wants the fires to be gone, he is sending them”.  All I remember is the night falling and hearing the sighs of  passion  from the plowed fields beyond. I remember saying “Tell him that I said that he WILL allow the fires to burn” and shortly after that I remember falling into his arms and wandering hand in hand out towards the fields.  I woke up naked and in a cold sweat.  I knew that the mysterious “he” was someone of the church, who was trying to destroy my beloved “old ways”.  I knew then that I’d known my husband in some other time or place where we’d been bound together by a spirituality that had its roots planted deep within the earth.  I promised myself at that moment that for as long as it was in my power, the fires would never be allowed to go out.  

 

Beltane or Beltaine as the Irish speak of it is a lusty and passionate holiday full of surprises and all kinds of wonderful. None of us know what the Goddess has in store for us today, but I can promise you that if you are open to her magic you will enjoy every minute of it. Do be careful though…lots of sweet little babies are conceived today.  That’s my only warning, but you'd be wise to heed it....not that you'll really be able to control the outcome.  Trust me she will always have her way!

 

Beltane is  the time that marks the beginning of the most fertile season of the year.  Cattle were driven up to higher, greener grounds and passions burned on May the 1st like the ancient ritual fires that were lit to celebrate the sowing of seed, both physically in the newly plowed fields and during the times of the old religions through an ecstatic sexual union  of the sacred feminine and her masculine counterpart,  the great horned God.  Every year on this day, the great wheel of the year would turn once more towards summer and bonfires would be built.

 

 Men and women lay together in the fields cloaked only in the smoke, exhausting their passions over and over again with the intention of creating a potent ritual that would ensure an abundant harvest.  There would be feasting as well as dancing around a beautifully beribboned May Pole (no imagery there!) and it was a time of celebrating all forms of fertility, love and lust.  Babies conceived during the sacred Beltane union were considered blessed by the goddess herself.

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 Centuries later we really haven't changed all that much.  Bonfires, gardens and woodsmoke can still stoke our passions as well as insure our very survival. We still plant our vegetables every spring and wish for enough rain and sun to help our gardens grow.  Although we have long since harnessed the power of the flame and made it manageable, I've yet to find any oven that stirs my food lust like the warmth of an open flame. I long for a wood burning clay oven in my kitchen where I can bake fresh crusty bread, clafoutis aux cerises and fresh pizza!

 

This is the time of year when all the trees are blooming, flowers and wild potherbs are appearing all over the fields and forests as if by magic. The honeybees have reappeared and are busy making love to the fragrant blossoms and with luck we will find our trees filled with ripe fruits come fall. We till our gardens and plant the seed that we’ve saved from last year’s harvest and we take long walks outside, grateful that the sun has finally come again and brought with it a deep rich warmth.

 

You needn’t go too far back into your imagination to see that centuries ago, these simple things would have seemed deeply magical to our ancestors. Sometimes, I think that it would serve us well to embrace the same simple wonder that they did, an excitement that comes from enjoying a life of following the seasons simply and passionately. For me, springtime is marked by so many things that I look forward to, knowing that they will not pass through my life until the wheel comes full circle again. The beautiful fragrant violets, the precious lilacs and viburnums…wild ramps with their deep oniony flavor and fiddlehead ferns! Fresh pea tendrils, daffodils and the very first dandelion greens that I love to harvest for salads.  

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In a class by itself comes the freshest spring asparagus.  I can’t think of anything more wonderful than a meal of steamed asparagus and a silky tarragon laced béarnaise sauce. Living as locally as possible and respecting the seasons and the presents that each one brings is not only a healthy way to eat, but a holistic way to live. 

The first thing I did when we bought our home in Cleveland Heights was put in an asparagus bed. An asparagus bed is one of natures most useful clocks. When my first thick shoots of asparagus come up, I know that spring is truly and finally here. Several years ago all of my asparagus came up in March and I knew that we were in for a very interesting year. This year, it’s right on time. Nature has a magic all her own and for the ancients Beltane was a reminder to stop and pay attention to those thundering  rhythms.

 

For me one of the greatest joys of the merry month of May were always the flowers that would bloom in my parents’ gardens. They grew many beautiful flowers but none were more precious to me than the beautiful patch of lilies of the valley that grew behind the terrace in a secret place that only a few knew about. I’d wait and wait and then every year on the 1st of May I would run into the back and there they would be, pure little bells of white with strong green leaves just begging me to bury my face into their flowers and inhale their sweet green scent. I learned much later that May  Day in France is  known as Fete du Muguet day and these sweetly scented little flowers are gifted by lovers to each other all day long. I still wear my favorite Lily of the Valley perfume , Christian Diors Diorissimo,  all day long in honor of this glorious French tradition. 

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All of these beautiful greens and flowers come but once a year in a fashion that is fleeting and beautiful. I think that if I could have them all year round it would be a disappointment to me, because the yearning for them is every bit as delightful.  Besides, every season has its pleasures and treasures. Crabapple trees and their fragrant blooms can only come in May, but their fruits are late August’s treasures. The old-fashioned roses in my gardens that bloom so abundantly will produce generous rosehips for my tea in September. To everything there is a season, and to every time a purpose. The joy that May Day brings is the abundant renewal of life and passion. Make love and give love generously on this day. Gifts of flowers and bright May Baskets are traditional gifts of love that are perfect. Make paper cones with your children, fill them with flowers, put them on your neighbor’s front door and let them guess! If it’s a beautiful evening spread a blanket outside, light lots of candles and have a picnic!  

 

Then put the children to bed and go back outside if you dare….

 
 
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Today is the day that we light the ritual fires once again with the intent to create life, celebrate our passion and ensure the fertile harvest not only of our fields, but of our souls.  Feed each other juicy fruits, other luscious things and make love with abandon, spend time in the fields, wander into the wilderness of your hearts and get lost there for more than a little while.  Keep a little magic with you always and more than a touch of mystery.  Remember that it’s the very things that we don’t really know that can bring us the most joy and above all remember to be glad...very glad to be alive. Life is juicy, fragrant and sometimes bittersweet. Life is also all about taking risks with your passions. Be a little naughty, enjoy your wildness, but remember what I said, because the Goddess WILL always have her way……..

 

 

 

 

Blessed Be.

 

 

 

#herbanfarmgirl 

#France #Paris #Muguet #Lilyofthevalley #fetedumuguet

 

Green Man print - Artist unknown

 

 


Welcoming the Vernal Equinox!

The sun is bright, -- the air is clear,

The darting swallows soar and sing.

And from the stately elms I hear

The bluebird prophesying Spring.

 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

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Once again, the great wheel of the year turns and faster than you can say “March Hare!”  the Spring or Vernal equinox is upon us. True to the prose, March would appear to be coming in like a lion and out like a lamb, and none too soon for us Northerners! I don't know about you but I'm just so grateful to see the sun again! The first day of spring is a time to celebrate our rebirth and renewal, the soil is beginning to warm and the flowers are quietly emerging. When I still lived on our farm, I always knew when the Equinox was approaching because I had a beautiful pussy willow that would begin to bud out always around that day.  I’d bring in armfuls of the fuzzy catkins and put them in tall vases all around the house.

Everywhere I look there are the signs, even though it’s still chilly, buds are beginning to poke out on the trees, birds are busy building their nests and flowers are popping up everywhere. The earth is positively trembling with excitement and the maternal energies that always accompany the renewal of spring. Drive past any farm and you’ll begin to see baby goats and lambs skipping all around the fields. The rains are lush and the underground waters are once again springing towards the surface of the earth. The other day I turned over a spade of dirt and discovered very busy and very happy earthworms!

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There's a lot of spring-cleaning work to do, chicken coops to build, more bee hotels and a hive to put in, but I am just thrilled by what I see emerging. Tons of fresh comfrey shoots beginning to appear just in time for poultices to sooth aching muscles! Handfuls of fresh lovage, perfect for stuffing a chicken and lots of asparagus show the earliest signs of appearing. Garlic chives and lots of leeks for soups and healthy stems of licorice flavored anise hyssop, just waiting to become a soothing tea. Fresh Rhubarb for pie and the biggest surprise? Three ramps, sending up shoots from where I lovingly planted them last spring and I am so thrilled. My favorite wild spring greens, actually flourishing in my yard! I won't touch them this year, but by next spring I ought to be able to grab a handful for a wonderful wild onion pesto. I'm just so excited!

 

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Don't forget that Spring and especially the energies of the Spring Equinox when the day and night are equally balanced heralds a great time to begin a cleanse. It doesn't have to be anything too harsh, just a lightening up of sorts ... A movement towards lighter, fresher foods is what’s called for.  Wild greens like ramps, dandelions, violet leaves, chickweed, purslane and stinging nettles will soon be everywhere and they'll make a wonderfully cooling and tonic salad that you can dress simply with a bit of goat cheese, a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt, olive oil and lemon. Don’t forget to blanche your nettles quickly in boiling water to remove the sting, but don’t be afraid to try them, they are delicious and mineral rich! For a delicious springtime tonic why don't you try juicing these same greens, but be sure to add some parsley, swiss chard and for a touch of sweetness an apple or two. You can add honey and lemon and a couple of carrots if you’d like. This is a cooling and refreshing juice that you can start the morning with that will rev up your system and get it feeling fun and frolicsome for the warm days ahead.

Green teas, iced and sparkling with additions of fresh citrus fruits, berries, cucumber slices and herbs like basil, sage and mint are a wonderful aid for cleansing a system that's just a bit sluggish from the denser foods of winter. Adding a touch of raw honey during the cooling process will give you just enough sweetness and a lovely constant energy. I love to use maple syrup this time of the year in honor of the greening trees, and it is a flavor which is absolutely delicious blended into tea and very healthy on its own, providing huge quantities of polyphenols to calm inflammation and lots of antioxidants to boost the immune system!

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Although it may sound odd, I love to add a tablespoon of pure French green clay to my juice in the morning to help draw the impurities from my system. The French drink it in their juice routinely as a tonic to heal the gut and cleanse the skin. There are so many supposed benefits to this practice including a powerful boosting of the immune system, and French green clay is said to be incredibly helpful for improving digestion, food absorption and liver function.

This ancient secret, that of using edible clays as internal drawing salves is my favorite thing to suggest as support when one of my clients is suffering from chronic constipation or indigestion. It also helps to cleanse the skin, because it doesn’t matter how many expensive cremes you purchase,   you can’t create beautiful skin topically because beautiful skin begins from within. I've suggested this to many a client who was suffering from chronic acne, eczema and rosacea. The first time that I tried it, I broke out with acne but within a week it subsided and I noticed healing beginning to happen all over my skin. Last spring when a friend of mine was very ill and suffering from terrible lupus like symptoms, I started her on a course of French clay with her Doctor’s permission. She mixed with her juice and drank it for several weeks. When I next saw her the Rosacea was almost gone and she reported a substantial reduction in inflammation.

 French Green Clay is also said to have the ability to remove toxic metals and chemical residues, in fact after the Chernobyl meltdown, it was mixed into chocolate bars and given to Soviet citizens because it was considered to be very effective in helping to remove the associated radiation, bacteria and blood toxins. It has  virtually no side effects,  and I have never experienced constipation, diarrhea, or stomach cramping while using it.

 

For fun,  during the spring I always mix up my favorite face mask of French green clay, honey, rosewater and coconut oil. I pat it on my skin, sit back wrapped up in a soft blanket and relax for about 20 minutes before rinsing it off of my face with cool water. It leaves my skin clean and so very soft!

Of course, if you try this yourself and notice a new rash or any burning, itching or anything that would seem like an allergic reaction you should discontinue using it immediately.  Also, when it comes to French green clay there are several instances for which is contraindicated. If you are using a prescription medication, have high blood pressure or iron intolerance always ask your Doctor before proceeding with any remedy listed here and remember, if your Doctor doesn’t know, check in with your local pharmacist, because they have all of the latest and most up to date contraindication information.

 

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The most important bit of Spring-cleaning folklore that I swear by ? Always clean everything in your home in a clockwise direction so that your home is infused with a constant stream of positivity.  I love to put bunches of daffodils all around the house in antique blue mason jars and bright clusters of dandelions as soon as they begin to appear. They just make me so happy and they draw the powerful energies of the sun into my home!

As you begin your spring cleaning, you’ll want to infuse Rosemary essential oil into your environment for it’s amazing ability to bring clarity, lots of lemon oil and lemon juice for cleansing and stress relief. Of course, in any magical household there would always be plenty of Lavender strewn everywhere to bring all of the best luck!

 

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Tonight, with luck, we’ll all get to see the magnificent super moon, fittingly named the Earthworm moon! This is the time of year to write down your most closely held dreams and set some simple and intentional goals to work towards.

 

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Remember, that although Spring seems to Spring upon us overnight, that there’s lots of work to be done underneath the surface of the soil before we ever see the brightest bloom. The vernal equinox is one of the times of greatest energy all year. As the light increases and the warmth returns to the earth, your intentions will gain power and you dreams will be more easily achieved. Celebrate by starting the gardening season by planting some seeds right now, even if it’s just a pot or two on your sunniest windowsill. Write down a wish or two on some recycled paper and place it into your potting soil. As you nurture your seedlings, you are nurturing your dreams!

 

Right now, the whole world smells like daffodils and crocuses popping through the rich soil to say hello! Come shed your winter skins and dance with me in the garden!

 

 

Wishing  you the most delightful, joy-filled, creative and abundant spring!

 

Beth

 

 

 

 


Tending Brigids Flame - Happy Imbolc/ St. Brigids Day!

“Jamie’s face, rather tired and worn, broke into a grin.
“A son? The blessing of Bride and Michael be on him! A braw lad?”
“Very,” I assured him. “I think he must weigh almost nine pounds.”
“Poor lass,” he said, with a sympathetic grimace. “And her first, too. Wee Rachel’s all right, though?”
“Rather tired and sore, but quite all right,” I assured him. “Shall I bring you some beer, while you take care of the horse?”
“A good wife is prized above rubies,” he said, smiling. “Come to me, mo nighean donn.” He reached out a long arm and drew me in, holding me close against him. I put my arms around him and felt the quiver of his muscles, exhausted, and the sheer hard strength still in him, that would hold him up, no matter how tired he might be. We stood quite still for some time, my cheek against his chest and his face against my hair, drawing strength from each other for whatever might come. Being married."

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Written in My Own Heart's Blood.”  from the Outlander Series. 

  
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St. Brides Feast 
"I should like a great lake of finest ale for the King of kings.
I should like a table of the choicest food For the family of heaven.
Let the ale be made from the fruits of Faith, And the food be forgiving love.
I should welcome the poor to my feast, For they are God's children. I should welcome the sick to my feast, For they are God's joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place, And the sick dance with the angels. God bless the poor, God bless the sick, And bless our human race. God bless our food, God bless our drink, All homes, O God, embrace."
An ancient song to St. Brigid from Celtic Fire ~ Robert Van de Weyer

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I love Jamie Fraser's devotion to St. Bride as he calls her and it's quite touching and personal for me as I have been called to the work in the service of Brigid for many years now.

I am a Reiki Master who works with the energy and symbols of Brigids Flame and it is work that I love and feel so honored to be able to do in this world.  

I am also a Flamekeeper of Ord Brighideach International and it is my great blessing to tend to Brigid's Flame every 20 days.

Since the December Solstice, the days having been getting longer in our northern hemisphere and the sun has been moving closer and closer.  Although the air is still absolutely frigid, there are signs that the earth is slowly beginning to ease out of its frozen state. Although we cannot yet feel the touch of the sun, she can. You may know the 1st of February as Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day or Candlemas. St. Brigid of Kildare and her twin sister, the Goddess Brigid of Eire are said to breathe the first signs of light and life into the earth after the long cold drought of winter and with their touch,  slowly the earth begins to awaken.  Imbolc is the feast that celebrates new beginnings, the emergence of buried energies and intense focus…all three of which are needed for a seed or shoot to break through the earths crust and emerge as a flower.

Tonight I set my table for St. Bride or Brigid ~ Triple Goddess of The Hearth, Temple & Forge. As Flamekeepers we all have chosen to be a part of a cill (or "church") that inspires us and there are many to choose from, all based upon the ancient Ogham tree Alphabet.  I and 18 others are part of the Cill of the Hawthorn, a beautiful tree that is sacred to the Goddess Brigid.

The Hawthorn is thought to inspire creativity, loyalty and fertility. It is a wonderful ally that strengthens the heart and is the tree sacred to love and happiness, whose flowers are often to used in Springtime handfastings and weddings.

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I spend much time tending the beautiful Hawthorns that grow in the herb garden that I am fortunate enough to work in. They teach me to handle all beings with great care and patience as they are incredibly thorny and will not hesitate to bless you with a lesson if you need it. A prick from a hawthorn is incredibly painful and not easily forgotten, but it usually means that you're traveling through life too quickly and working too quickly.  Simply slow down and take your time...no matter what it is that you're doing. 

 Brigids Flame is always tended from sundown until sundown ~ the span of time for the traditional Celtic day! The worship of Brigid pre-dates Christianity and goes way back into the Druidic mists of early Ireland and Scotland. Brigid's flame was burned continuously in pre~ Christian Ireland by her priestesses who would gather on the hills in Kildare and invoke the benevolent Goddess to protect their livestock and insure a plentiful harvest. Later, when St.Brigid built her monastery in Kildare she continued the custom of keeping the flame alive.  

The number 19 was sacred to Brigid as she had 19 female disciples who kept her sacred flame burning continuously in Ireland. Brigid's flame is still tended continuously in Kildare, Ireland by the Brigadine sisters at Solas Bhride, the hermitage that bears her name. 

I keep her flame alive always in honor of World Peace, Hospitality & Charity for all.... 

 

 

 

For more of my Outlander Love Affair on Facebook please click here! 

 

 

The beautiful photograph of the hawthorn was not taken by me.

It is courtesy of  https://www.best4hedging.co.uk

The flame I have chosen is from Photobucket

 


Tinctures , Tonics and Teas ~ Self Pampering for Body and Soul

 

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It’s that time of year! The merriment of the holiday season is over and winter has begun in earnest. As a way of winding down from all of the highs and lows of the season, so many of us seem to get sick on the 2nd of January! I’ve said for years that I truly believe that sometimes, catching a bug is our bodies way of trying to get us to relax for a bit! Periods of hibernation, or seasonal contemplation as I’ve taken to calling them are a must for keeping our bodies resilient in this world with all of its external interruptions and stressors. 

 

Over the years I’ve learned to use my trusted herbal allies for building up my immunity when I feel as if I could be perilously close to getting sick and when the flu or a cold actually hits me, I use many different herbs to help minimize my symptoms and overall discomfort. 

 

My mother taught me many years ago that the single most important thing that you can do when you are ill or trying to stave off an illness, is to pamper yourself completely. She would always bring our breakfast on a bed tray, served on a pretty cup, bowl and plate and always with a bud vase with flowers. I got strep throat frequently as a child so breakfast was usually something soft, like a bowl of her wonderful chicken, rice and mushroom soup with thyme, cream and an egg beaten into it. She also used to make me an old-fashioned milk pudding that she called Junket which I loved, that she flavored with sherry, cinnamon and nutmeg. It always helped.

 

I still have a bed tray for myself and one in my Airbnb. I have many guests who come to stay that are recovering from surgery or other illnesses.  They have told me that being able to just relax and have their meals in bed without concern really helps to support their healing process.   If you can’t find a bed tray, you can use an old carving board or tray and it will work just as well! 

 

The other thing my mother was absolutely insistent about was that if I was sick, it was especially the time for just a bit of lip gloss, some facial moisturizer, a touch of perfume and particularly lovely pajamas. She’d brush my hair out until it was shiny, touch up my lips and face (a big help because then your skin will resist chapping!) and put just a drop or two of one of her lovely perfumes on my wrists and neck. She’d take me into the library, seat me right by the window and wrap me up in a blanket with a hot cup of lavender, sage and lemon balm tea and hand me a book.  When I looked in the mirror I hardly ever looked as bad as I was feeling and you know what? I always started to feel better.  Simply taking the time for a bit of self-care is absolutely a necessity for supporting the healing process.

 

Although my mother used her lovely Shalimar bath oil for our convalescence, over the years I’ve learned to take my  baths with a tablespoon of sweet almond oil mixed with 3 drops each of essential oils of lavender (relaxing), rose oil (anti-inflammatory) and sweet birch (to promote sweating). This really seems to always help with congestion, aches and fevers. Please remember to never use essential oils in your baths without a carrier oil. Even in the smallest dosages, essential oils are strong and they need the emollient qualities of an oil like almond or olive to serve as a soothing delivery system on your skin. 

 

I’m truly hoping that we won’t ever need to use these recipes to protect ourselves from anything as serious as the bubonic plague and I hope that none of you catch any of these awful bugs that are going around this winter.  However, if you do, please remember to care for yourself and treat yourself to some soothing herbal self-care and pampering. I promise that you’ll feel better and if you can sooth yourself into feeling just little bit better, it always seems like the body will reach deep into its healing reservoirs and do the rest of the work for you. 

 

Somewhere as I’m typing, I hear my mother’s sweet laughter and the smell of her oniony, velvety chicken soup is suddenly wafting through my senses. It’s amazing how potent the memory is.  She would be pleased to know that I still own a bed tray and that I always use her lovely sick bed dishes with the raised purple violets. 

 

Yes mama…you always did know best. 

 

Thank you.