On the other hand, many people find themselves performing another solstice ritual (though they might not quite see it that way)…by scratching their poison ivy! If you’ve been enjoying the summer so much that you’re now dealing with some poison ivy – or sister ivy as she is sometimes respectfully referred to in the plant community – never fear…
Women's Health and Herbal Medicine
For the holidays this year, Michael made his favorite Christmas apple strudel with a few local spicebush berries thrown in for a wildcrafted Appalachian twist in a dish in which the new world meets the old...via strudel!
by Jackie Dobrinska
Staying healthy means staying in harmony with the energy of the season. The Tiajitu – the yin/yang symbol pictured to the right – is a map for this. It shows that as we flow into the watery blue of the yin, we must stay connected to the seed of the fiery red. There is yang in the yin and yin in the yang, just as there is light in the darkness and darkness in the light.
To stay in harmony during these darker days of the winter solstice and the weeks that follow we invite you to consider the following:
Get outside. See the light of the sun on a daily basis – for at least 30 minutes. This is especially true for those who work inside or who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. The sun helps increase serotonin levels, the “feel good” neurotransmitter.
Keep Active. Keep the blood moving by exercising your body and joints daily. Stretch, dance and walk. Choose activities that move in harmony with this slower season.
Stay warm and dry. In 5-element theory, winter is associated with the water element and the kidneys. Extreme cold can injure them, leading to emotional imbalances like fear and physical imbalance related to immunity.
Oil your body. Winter can dry the skin. Keeping it well lubricated will keep this organ – one of the largest in the body – healthy, vital and vibrant. (see “Rituals” sidebar) It will also protect our insides from the things we want to keep outside!
Cozy up with tea. During the winter, a plant’s energy is in its roots. We can help strengthen and tonify our own roots by boiling up fresh or dried root teas. Fresh ginger root is a favorite winter tea because of its warming properties.
Eat soups. Warm, grounding, nourishing foods keep digestion in good order during the cold winter season, and good digestion equals good health. Slow cooked roots, stewed whole grains, and salty miso and sea vegetables make excellent staples. (see “Soup” sidebar)
Take your herbs. St. John’s Wort, also known as “Bottled Sunshine” helps support emotional balance, nervous system function and immune system function. Wild Lettuce supports sleep function.
Relax & Sleep! During the winter we must be careful not to run our batteries down with stress and the plethora of holiday obligations. Instead, get plenty of sleep. Take time to relax with baths, body work, and daily massages (see “Rituals” sidebar).
Like the hibernating bear dreaming in her cave, the dark days of winter CAN bring much needed rest and respite when we allow it. Staying in balance means being in harmony with both the darkness and with the seeds of light contained within it. Doing so will nourish and carry you into more dynamic phases of the year, with more energy and ease.
by Corinna Wood
The time of year stretching from Sahmain to Winter Solstice is a dark and often intense time, as the seasons of light turn to seasons of dark. The nights are growing longer, and the dark evenings come early. I so treasure the darkness this time of year and the quiet it brings.
It is especially important for us as women to take extra care this time of year due to the fast paced, demanding lives many of us lead. Mothering, working, caretaking–whatever the tasks may be, it can become overwhelming. Often, we put so much energy into taking care of others, but winter brings us the opportunity to turn that care back towards ourselves – to deeply nourish ourselves and fully feel our range of emotions.
Last night I turned out all the lights in my bathroom; not even a candle was lit. I submerged in the warm tub, connected with my own dark warm womb, and asked for her wisdom. Take a little bit of quiet time on or before the solstice when the Christmas rush is not yet in full force. Whether it be a luxurious bath in the dark or a 20 minute cat nap, feel the womb of the mother. Let her nourish and heal you
by Corinna Wood
Some of you may know the quarterly holidays fairly well – Spring and Fall Equinox as well as Winter and Summer Solstice. If the year were charted in a circle, these points make a cross both down the vertical middle and through the horizontal center of the circle. Between each of these points are what’s known as cross quarterly holidays. These are Imbolc (early February), Beltane or May Day, Lammas (early August) and Halloween or Samhain, which falls halfway between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice.
From a medicine-making perspective, this is the beginning of the root harvest. The bulk of our harvest takes place in November and December when perennial plants send their energy down below the ground for the winter. We’ll soon be harvesting dandelion, yellow dock, poke, burdock, echinacea, and comfrey roots.
by Lee Warren
Continuing in our theme of introducing you to some of the amazing teachers at the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference, here’s an interview with Anyaa McAndrew.
I love creating spaces where women can connect in a WE Space or Sacred Space. As women we do the “Field of Unity Consciousness” so well!
I also love teaching topics where the I space can get strengthened, like when women discover the depth and breadth of “Who I Really Am” and “What my own place on the Wheel of Life is.”
It is my joy and challenge to inspire women to step into their own spiritual and personal authority in a dying patriarchal culture that is still fighting with the feminine.
I feel that we can make a big splash in our lives if we have a strong I, and a strong WE.
What theme do you see as you travel the country and work with women?
Women love to be together!
Taking my Shamanic Priestess Process and other work around the country, I experience so much excitement when women come together to do personal~spiritual work.
Women naturally step onto a spiritual path when they are invited in a way that is inclusive, honors all ways and honors diversity of all kinds. I have always experienced woman as hungry for the work of the soul, and hungry for work that allows them to express themselves fully.
How does Shamanic Astrology help women in their lives?
Shamanic Astrology honors the feminine in a way I have never experienced with other Astrological systems, probably because it honors the Goddess or the Divine Feminine within each of us through the archetypes we carry. It also recognizes that there are no bad archetypes or signs, and that shadow is natural for every archetype, which allows us to laugh at ourselves and see ourselves from a witness perspective. That alone allows us to change and grow with more grace and ease!
Why is 2012 important for women?
Women are being called to step into what is being referred to as the “Solar Feminine,” which was heralded by Venus transiting the face of the Sun this past June.
As a Collective, we have been the quiet lunar feminine for way too long, pulled in and pulled back while we were encouraged and also forced to let the Patriarchy have its way with Gaia. Now it’s time to step up, stand up, and speak out, and nothing is stopping us.
If we don’t become authentically ourselves, it seems that something arises in our lives that confronts us to just do it, NOW. This is the year of all the prophecies of the indigenous peoples, it’s called the “Shifting of the Ages.”
We are far more influential than we may think we are! This is the keynote for us in 2012—no more time for hiding and playing it safe and comfortable.
I look forward to seeing you all at the Conference!
Anyaa McAndrew is a psychotherapist and teacher with 31 years experience in the sacred work of emotional, sexual, and spiritual healing. She’s facilitated The Shamanic Priestess Process ™, the Sexual Priestess Process™ and the Shamanic Magdalene Mysteries™ around the US and in Costa Rica, integrating a lifetime of therapeutic work with women. Anyaa is also a Master Shamanic Astrologer, Shamanic Breathwork Practitioner, Sacred Sexuality Educator, and Imago Couples Therapist.
by Corinna Wood
At Red Moon Herbs and Southeast Wise Women, our primary focus is on women’s health. We offer classes and events that are dedicated to this focus, offering a women-only space.
However, this sunny time of year draws our attention toward honoring the yang, solar, male aspects as well. As I watch my son in his adolescence, I find myself endeared and humbled to witness the tender stages of development boys go through to embody that truly yang, enlightened masculine force.
Ema Carmona, my right hand woman, began working at Red Moon Herbs 9 years ago when her son Noah was 6 years old. Today, he’s a sophomore in high school and almost as tall as she is (see right)!
When you call Red Moon Herbs about your herb order, you’ll likely speak with Julie McMahan (pictured below). Doing Customer Service at Red Moon Herbs and mothering her son Forest has kept Julie on her toes this first year of his life!
Solar energy is active, dynamic, and expansive. It is embodied by both women and men, yet most traditions associate it primarily with the masculine. Not the wounded masculine of the patriarchy, but rather the sacred masculine – that pure force we see coming through our sons, partners, inner selves.
On this Solstice, let us remember that the sun is balanced by the moon, lightness is balance by darkness, and yang is balanced by yin. Take a moment to honor the pure masculine in its many forms, knowing that both polarities are needed to dance into dynamic balance.
by Corinna Wood
May Day is the half-way point between the spring equinox and summer solstice. It is the time that marks the greening of the earth and the move into greater abundance and fertility. All around flowers are beckoning us and insects are pollinating.
At Earthaven – the community where I work and live – we honor this transition with a traditional May Day celebration. Three generations come together to weave crowns of flowers, dance around the May Pole (which becomes winter’s Yule Log), and jump over the Beltane fire. Jumping the fire traditionally symbolizes the stengthening of bonds between lovers, but at Earthaven we welcome all bonds that wish to be affirmed – those between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, whole families, and friendships we wish to strengthen. By the end of the jumping, pairs and triplets of children and adults alike are running at the fire from every direction!
For me, May Day also signifies a turning of my energy, from my more inward, body dance of winter to the more outward, mind engagement of summer. From now through October, I will be more focused on teaching, writing, organizing, cultivating and harvesting.
May is a fertile time – the plants, the pollinators and the community. May you receive the fruits of the season as well.
by Corinna Wood
For many in the Northern Hemisphere, February can be a harsh and bitter month. It is often cold and dreary. Yet at the same time, small but sturdy signs of new life begin to appear: lambs are born, ravens build their nests, days get softly longer, and the earth begins to be tilled. The fertility of the land is being reborn.
In Celtic Lore, Imbolc is the time of year when old woman winter is transformed into the young maiden of spring – Bridgid, goddess of regeneration and abundance. At this time of year, the ancient weather divinations asked “How much longer will the winter last?” Modern folklore has translated this into Groundhog’s Day – watching to see whether the groundhog will emerge from its hole and see it’s shadow!
Traditional celebrations use this time to compost what has become stagnant and plant seeds of intention for the coming year. At Earthaven Ecovillage, we celebrate the season by honoring the fertility of the land – last year we tied elven dolls in the barns over where the animals sleep to bless their protection and health.
As the sun begins to strengthen, take a moment to honor the season, strengthening your bodies, minds, homes, community and spirits. Celebrate the life-force in your own life in whatever ways you feel most called.
by Corinna Wood
As we reap the harvest of what what has been sown and tended this year, we must also take a moment to honor the honey bee – an amazing anthropod that has helped make this abundance possible.
The bee is a symbol of the potency of nature. Like its human counterpart, it is attracted to a plant by its fragrant, colorful flower. The more beautiful the flower, the better chance it has of getting pollinated. In this symbiotic relationship, the plants grow, the world is beautified, and the bee gathers nectar from which it creates the sweet elixir of life – honey!
Honey is a powerful healer. It has been used for ages to heal burns, and can be used during the initial “heat” phase of a burn, unlike many oils and salves which can only be used after the burn has cooled. It has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, and is used for healing wounds of all types including those which do not respond well to antibiotics. Honey also has a long role in the history of eye diseases, from simple eye infections to corneal ulcers. When working with honey, use raw honey as it is high in enzymes.
It’s impossible to talk about the magic of the honey bees without acknowledging the difficulty they are currently having. To help support the honey bees:
- Plant flowers that bees love! Fortunately, bees love herbs–motherwort and bee balm and holy basil are some of their top picks in my garden.
- Support organic farming by buying and growing local organic foods, as pesticides are one of the major factors in the bees’ plight.
Bees are almost entirely a group of females (that also includes the very important masculine) working together in mutual support to create something more powerful than they could alone. They remind us that cooperation and symbiosis creates abundance and health in the world.