Dwelling in the Dark: The Moon + Herbology

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As the dark continues to lengthen in the Northern Hemisphere and some of us prepare to celebrate the new year, I find myself firmly ensorcelled by the deep of night and like a night-blooming flower I open up and turn my face towards the Moon’s glow. I stand out in my garden under streetlight and close my eyes, floating my senses above the teeming senses, like a grey-winged moth, searching for the Moon above the purply dark of Los Angeles. I hunger, like so many wild ones, for the nectar of Moonbright.

What does the Moon matter to herbologists + plantfolk? 

The moon is a celestial vessel pouring out the energies of the sun, stars, and planets in our everyday (and everynight) lives as She moves through the sky. Our magickal ability to access, shape, and bend energy is defined by how we relate to the moon. Integrating herbs that are aligned to the moon into our daily practice is an incredibly powerful way to harmonize the influence of the Moon on us, as well as more effectively accessing Her harmonizing energy.

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Physically, in traditional astrological herbalism lunar herbs govern the blood, lymphatic system, and all fluids of the body, as well as the stomach and digestive system. As the Moon distributes celestial energy on earth, so does our blood distribute water, food, and oxygen throughout our bodies. The stomach is our second brain, where we possess our “gut instinct” and digest food and information that we receive, just as the Moon is the realm of intuitive knowing and revelation of mysteries.

Emotionally, the Moon heals underlying emotional disturbances and traumas that can lead to health imbalances. Moon energy helps us to become more receptive to changes in our life, harmonizing our hearts, minds, and bodies to ebb and flow with power and intention.

Magickally, connecting with lunar energies is an opportunity to cultivate our intuition, our visionary abilities, and become creative, healing dreamers.

At the end of the day (pun most definitely intended), the Moon helps us to access and express our desire. When I speak of desire, I speak of expressing inner truth, trusting your story, and living with the brilliance of authenticity. Working with lunar energy we can create remedies and practices of healing that call on the metamorphic integration powers of the Moon to call all parts of ourselves home again.

So now, clever friends and dreamy lunas, I leave you with the following lunar questions to consider as you brew a cup of tea and dwell deliciously in the dark. You will also find a new recipe for your late-night Moonlight musings! If you are intrigued and ready to start your journey as a lunar herbologist, join our exclusive learning community: The Lunar Apothecary.

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Moondark Musings

  • What is your relationship to the dark? Write it out, illustrate it, sing it, and/or dance it.
  • The Moon and its affect on us, including the lunar tools we are born with as expressed through our Moon sign (discover your Moon sign here) is about authenticity and trusting our story or truth. Do you trust your story? If not, why not? What holds you back from expressing your truest desires?
  • A creature of change, the Moon waxes and wanes, changing form each night. What is your relationship to change? Do you struggle to adapt or fear change? Alternatively, do you change so often that you lose sight of what you really desire? Consider finding an herbal ally or two, especially of the Lunar variety, to help you ebb and flow to the rhythm of your inner compass. Some Lunar herbs include Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), and Aloe (Aloe barbadensis).
  • Next time the Moon is full take time for Moonbathing. Get under her glow and drink deep her mystery, taking time to reflect on the importance of adaptability in our practice as herbologists, trusting our story, and regularly relinquishing that which no longer serves us.

And now for some tea!

Red Ring Moon Brew

Recipes That Go Bump In The Night

Haunted Apothecary Cover

It’s here!

Lots of tea, magickal music, and the occasional costume party led to the creation of our newest recipes book – The Haunted Apothecary!

The Haunted Apothecary is our first recipe book in a new series from the Apothecary featuring some of our favorite remedies! Create remedies to keep you and your loved ones healthy during the darkening year – with a healthy dose of spooky and just a touch of fake gross to keep things interesting! For less than a $1 per recipe you can create gallons of Cauldron Polish and keep your house well stock with our WIZARD! Herbal Coffee Alternative. The Haunted Apothecary is a full of hand-drawn recipes, lots of color, and digital delights to excite both your mundane and psychic vision!

Folks have been asking us for our recipes for years and now that more and more of our remedies are retiring we thought we would share with you some of our most beloved Apothecary blends!

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You’ll get the following original, exclusive, + fully enchanted recipes:

☛ Witch’s Delight Tea Blend
☛ WIZARD! Herbal Coffee Alternative
☛ Cauldron Polish Cold Care Elixir
☛ Troll Gas Digestive Bitters
☛ Ogre Snot Syrup
☛ Dumbledore Tea Blend
☛ Zombie Bait Herbal Powder

The Haunted Apothecary is an excellent gift for students, parents, people, herbalists, folks who like plants, individuals who listen to spooky music, aspiring potion-makers, long-term communards, those who are nostalgic, and everyone in-between!

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Taking Root: 10 Steps to Deepen Your Practice

Taking Root

In a recent conversation with a very clever and courageous herbalist, I found myself articulating just what it is that I love to do when it comes to herb work and magick. In my classes both online and in the garden, regardless of the subject matter, whether a course on flower essences or the home apothecary, the heartbeat of my teaching is the importance of practice and developing your very own devotional rhythm to guide you through your studies, herbwork, and personal journey of wellbeing. So, in the continuation of our series about the path of the herbologist (see part 1 and part 2), I would like to offer some of my thoughts on taking root and deepening your herbal practice. As always, these are offered in the spirit of this-is-not-all-that-there-is-to-consider and change-it-leave-it-dance-it-as-you-will.

1. Learn daily. Cultivate a healthy appetite for exploration where every day holds an opportunity for learning something new, becoming more adept at a skill, making mistakes, and re-membering truths you may have forgotten along the way. You might choose to learn one new item of information about a plant you are currently working with each day, but learning more about herbs does not mean you need to be continuously learning about herbs. Learn how to relax, how to skateboard, how to build an app or cook your great-grandmother’s red bean cake recipe really darn well (and then share some with me, oh please). Having a healthy practice of conscious learning helps us switch into student mode when we are presented with an unexpected learning opportunity as well as doing all those good things like keeping our brain muscle fit, our heart engaged, and our curiosity primed for action.

2. Find your plant ally. I have already written about connecting with plant allies, but briefly, by investing in long-term relationships with plants we grow our depth of understanding for their healing qualities, often in unexpected ways. Also, our plant ally is able to learn more about us and those we serve, sharing its greening perspective of our humyn-ness.

3. Become aware of your breath. Breath is the foundation of wellbeing. If we stopped breathing that pain in our back or chronic psoriasis doesn’t matter too much. Become aware, right now, of your next inhalation. Now, be aware of your next exhalation. Be aware of your breath for the next five minutes and you’re well on your way to developing a meditation practice. Through breath we take up, nourish, and circulate. We also release, unwind, and give away. Explore breath techniques like measuring your breath by heartbeats, pranayama, and how to ground and center through the breath. Breath work grows awareness and mindfulness and lays the foundation for my next suggestion.

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4. Start meditating. The practice of meditation is as varied as the practice of herbalism. Find a technique that you enjoy and proceed from there. Meditation grows mindfulness and I feel pretty safe in saying that nearly every one of us could benefit from more mindful behavior. Whether your eyes are closed and you are sitting or your eyes are open and you’re running along a country road, meditative states can be accessed and propagated. Mindfulness can lead to more attentive listening, being more aware of what triggers certain emotions in our psyches, and acting rather than simply reacting to a situation. All these skills are skills of the herbologist.

5. Get uncomfortable. Sometimes we need to push past the boundaries of our comfort zone in order to grow. If something makes you uncomfortable or fearful, examine what lies beneath. Often times we discover pieces of ourselves that we have hidden away. Imagine the wholeness of calling those pieces of ourselves back home. The importance of feeling uncomfortable can also be understood in the context of the healing crisis. A healing crisis occurs when we release that which no longer serves us but we have been holding on to for a long time. It may occur during a period of detoxification when environmental toxins are released from our bodies. A healing crisis might emerge when we let go of stubborn tapes in our head that tell us we aren’t worth being well or that we are permanently broken. A healing crisis is uncomfortable, at times disorienting, but we are reshaping ourselves to align more clearly with our truth. Another important way to get uncomfortable is to examine the narratives of privilege, accessibility, oppression, and discrimination that infuses our North American culture, including in paradigms of healing both allopathic and holistic. Get uncomfortable, examine your privileges and oppressions, and then continue to do the joyful work of inclusivity, accountability, and kick-ass compassion. From the Ground Up: Herbalism For Everyone is a (free!) resource that I recommend getting started with if you’re curious about the cross-sections of herbal medicine and social justice.

6. Return to your center. Just as it is important to stretch your boundaries, remember to always be coming home. Figure out what fires you up about your herbal practice and follow its light to your heart’s content. I love making herbal remedies and it is a central part of my herbal practice. When I get caught up in research, writing, teaching, and consulting, where I can feel my energy reserves wavering, my focus breaking up, and the rumble of burnout on the horizon, I get back in the Apothecary and I make something. Whether a blah-busting brew or an herbal gift for a friend, I know that I feel renewed and connected to joy when I am making herbal remedies. I make sure to carve out enough time in my schedule to be in the process of remedy-making, knowing that it will support all the other work that I do as an herbologist because it centers me in my practice. Find your center and us it as a compass. If you feel inspired, create a mission, vision, and value statement for your practice to use as a written and visual compass for your practice and goals as an herbologist.

7. Invest in your education. Whether spending regular time in your local library or bookshop reading materia medicas, visiting your local herb garden, attending workshops or herb festivals and conferences, make sure you invest in you and your learning. When you learn more those you serve learn more and the cycle of dissemination of information continues. Mountain Rose Herbs has a great list of herb schools in North America and for those of you looking for an online community course about herbal medicine and magick with a lunar gaze and a group of amazing womyn, come this way. Make time every week for your herbal studies (and then, of course, disregard that suggestion and spend a full week only learning about how to make vegan ice cream). Learn about subjects that you feel shaky in from anatomy and physiology, to Traditional Western Herbalism energetics, or your understanding of terminology like analgesic, febrifuge, ecbolic, and catarrhal. To make your studies effective and fun, figure out what your learning style is and pursue knowledge through that lens.

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8. Examine what kind of herbologist you are. You might not even be an herbologist! You might be an herbalist instead or an herbal healer or any myriad of terms used to describe folks who work with plant medicine. Beyond what you call yourself it is more important to figure out just what you do. Some plantfolk are called primarily to be teachers while others are growers and gardeners. Other plantfolk are remedy-makers, clinicians, festival organizers, writers, and activists. All of us possess a myriad of skills as plantfolks, but most feel a calling to one or two aspects of herbal medicine and magick in particular. I have met a number of plantfolk for one reason or another worry that they are not able to be or call themselves an herbologist because they are unable to or do not like doing a particular aspect or possibility of herbal practice. I have heard folks say, for example, “I love growing and harvesting herbs, but have no desire to see clients, so I’m not really an herbalist.” Untrue and not useful, I say, to think in such a way. I identify primarily as a remedy-maker and apothecarian – it is the aspect of herbology calls most deeply to my desire. I only see a select few folks for consultations, I am learning how to grow herbs in ways that they feel most nourished, but I am happiest and doing my best service to my community when I am mixing up a new blend of tea or brewing up a new extract. Give space for change in your practice as the aspects of herbology that you feel most call to can change over the years as you change. Keep your compass handy, find your happiness as an herbologist, and pursue it with pleasure.

9. Follow the wheel of the year. Reconnect with the cycle of the seasons in your local bioregion. You’ll learn the best time for harvesting various local herbs and it is important that as plantfolk we dwell in plant-time. You can begin to create a rhythm of time that is dictated not by the linear constraints of the clock, but what I personally believe to be a greater authentic and accountable relationship to the land and sky of where you are. As we engage open heartedly with the seasons, our journey through the year becomes less about keeping up and more about moving with. A fantastic way to develop a seasonal practice is to create your very own seasonal tonics that incorporate local herbs and assist your mind, body, and spirit with the transition and the presence of each season. What would a fall tonic look like, for example, as opposed to a spring tonic?

10. Be always in practice. Every moment is an opportunity – whether for learning a new skill, taking time to rest, enjoying a meal, laughing out loud or burying your nose in a book. Engage with the world as an herbologist, practice the ideals that you hold in your heart, and be aware of the moments you are performing rather than practicing your craft. Through practice we realize we are always in practice and that there is always space for us to free up and grow. Come home again and again to your values and marvel at all the ways you are shaped by the truth of your story.