Hello all, and happy New Year!
First of all, let me apologize for the absence of a newsletter in December! If you aren’t already aware from Facebook, I broke my ankle pretty badly shortly after Thanksgiving, and have been laid up for weeks. After surgery, I came home, but I am in a wheelchair and confined to my first floor (my office is on the second!). That derailed my newsletter plans for December, but my husband has moved my computer downstairs now, so I am back to work!
This month’s newsletter is going to delve into the practical side of Witchcraft and magic. After all, what good is magic and spell craft if you can’t use it to keep yourself and loved ones healthy and feeling good!
The herbs and stone this month are as much about healing and restorative powers, as they are about magic, and the recipes are for topicals for aching joints and bruises from falls and injuries (new or old). I hope this blend of herbalism mixed with a touch of magic suits and brings relief to those of you with sore joints from the Wintery cold!
Another topic I may delve into soon is discussion of books on Magic and Witchcraft. I have joined a sort of Magic Book Club and am reading a couple of books a month now. As that ramps up, I plan to share reviews of some of my favorites here with links to where you can find the books.
There is a lot of material for this month, so let’s hop right in!
HERB OF THE MONTH: ARNICA
Arnica has been prized for centuries for its amazing healing qualities. Used topically to heal deep bruises and sore muscles, some data suggests that Arnica may also lower inflammation in the body. The action of Arnica is gentle yet profound. One study I read from 2007 claimed that Arnica gel could be as effective as ibuprophen used topically for the pain and inflammation of osteo arthritis.
While you can use homeopathic Arnica internally (available from producers such as Boiron), Arnica has been deemed unsafe for internal use in the U.S. For this reason, it is best to avoid this herb in teas and tinctures.
Some sources even say Arnica increases psychic powers. What more could you ask!
Arnica is a perennial herb found in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Arnica prefers a cooler climate for growth (zones 5 to 9).
While Arnica can technically be grown from seed, it takes up to 2 years to germinate! It may be more practical to find plant or root stock that you can transplant to your home garden.
The flowers of the Arnica plant can be harvested in the mid to late Summer. Once gathered, they can be prepared as an herbal oil. For more information on creating herbal oils, see the blog post on my web site:
Root stock can be divided in the late summer to propagate additional plants and increase your garden stock.
Note about storage:
I purchase my Arnica from Mountain Rose Herbs (linked at the end). This is a pricey herb, as dried herbs go! It is an endangered plant, so buying it from a reputable source that is not over-harvesting is crucial!
Typically, I buy the smaller volumes of Arnica, perhaps 4 ounces at a time. That makes a LOT of oil! I also try to make up this oil as soon as I get the herbs in.
Storing dried plants is OK, but bear in mind that they will lose their medicinal properties after about 1 year. Meaning, if you order the herb and put it away, in a year when you take it out, it is no where near as useful. The properties in the plant have largely expired.
Herbal oils will likewise keep for about a year, but since the herb you purchase may already be a few months old, it is best to get it made into medicine right away.
The primary medicinal use for Arnica is for pain and inflammation relief. I have used Arnica gel from homeopathy companies, creams with Arnica in them, and have made my own liniments and salves from herbal oils I made from Arnica. The latter have provided me the most relief.
Arnica works very deeply to relieve the bruising and swelling associated with injuries and arthritis. Consider using topicals with Arnica right before going to bed, as the sleep time seems to help this deep and slow acting herb to work its healing magic.
The primary magical use I have seen mentioned for Arnica is for increased psychic powers. Arnica is also used in some protection rituals, and is said to keep “unwanted visitors” away on the spiritual level.
STONE OF THE MONTH: GARNET
Planetary association: Saturn
Astrological: Capricorn, Virgo, Aquarius and Leo
Element: Fire, Earth
Chakra: 1st (Root), 4th (Heart)
Hardness: Moderate (can be somewhat brittle, and maybe scratched by harder stones)
A stone of love and passion, Garnet will awaken the 1st chakra, which can stimulate those things. It is also a wonderful stone for feeling the support and grounding of a healthy 1st chakra.
Historically, Garnet was worn for protection during the Crusades by both the Christians and the Muslims. In that day and age, it was believed that Garnet was a strong protection from poisons.
Said to reduce body toxins and cause clotting of blood, stimulate metabolism, offer blood purification, regenerate DNA, assimilate vitamins and minerals, increase libido, regulate cardiac rhythm, offer ease for joint pain disorders such as rheumatism and arthritis, as well as a host of other ills. *
Metaphysically, Garnet is said to stimulate past life recall. Because of its stimulant effect on the 1st chakra, it can have a grounding effect, providing stability and structure spiritually. When I have an important meeting or other intimidating event, I wear a lot of garnet jewelry and I find it calming and grounding.
Other reputed metaphysical properties include: the ability to balance negative energies, purify aura, dispel bad dreams, relieve mental depression, raise courage and hope, stimulate desires, prevent fears of insecurity, enhance self-esteem, balancing sex drive, expanded awareness, inspire love and devotion, remove inhibitions, reduce distractions from goals and sharpen the perception of oneself and others.*
*This information is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified professional. It is provided for entertainment only.
THE JANUARY MOON
Name: The Wolf Moon
Alternate names: The Cold Moon,Moon after Yule, The Snow Moon, Old Moon and Ice Moon.
This year, the full Wolf Moon is on January 10th.
The month of January is a time for hibernation. Many creatures are sleeping their long Winter sleep now. A blanket of snow covers the natural world and the green and growing things are dormant. Humans are more dormant now as well.
January is a wonderful time for magic about reflection. Rituals and meditations on the coming year, what worked last year, and what didn’t. Magic to support the dreams and goals for the future is well favored now.
This is a good time to take stock and make lists, prepare yourself for the more active times to come. In a few short weeks it will be Spring, a time for putting these ideas into motion. For now, catch up on your reading, gather ideas for what you want to accomplish in the Spring, and if you feel ambitious maybe clean your pantry and organize a closet or two.
The New Moon for January is on the 24th, in the sign of Aquarius. This will be a wonderful time for rituals to welcome in positive changes in the areas ruled by Aquarius: intellect and idealism. If you have been thinking you would like to give back, possibly volunteer, this is a perfect time to find your cause and start. Activities associated with brotherhood, idealism and all areas of learning – so this is a perfect time to sign up for that class you have wanted to take too!
If you have been alive for any length of time, you will develop aches and pains. Old injuries, osteo arthritis, strains, sprains, bursitis, rheumatism…and just over work can result in sore, aching joints and muscles. And, if you don’t have aches and pains, I’ll bet you have friends or family who do! Making them a hand-crafted herbal remedy is a really meaningful way to show them you care, and to incorporate your magic into your daily life in a practical way.
The foundation of all my home remedies for pain starts with a good, fresh herbal oil. Herbal oil for medicinal use is different from those made for magic. You can use the herbal oil I describe below for magic, but you cannot use the magic oils prepared cold for medicinal use and expect much impact.
To make medicinal oil, you need some heat to extract the medicinal properties from the plant. You will find using a double boiler is a wonderfully simple method that can be performed using everyday tools in your kitchen. Kitchen witchery is a wonderful thing!
The instructions below are for dried Arnica flowers. I get mine from Mountain Rose Herbs, because they source ethically and work to help prevent endangered plant over-harvesting. You can of course do this with fresh herbs. Please see my blog post on herbal oils for more information.
What you need:
- A double boiler – pot with simmering water, and a large bowl to sit above it.
- About an ounce of Arnica
- Several cups of Olive oil (I use organic, but food grade olive oil will work)
- Some Vitamin E as a preservative (optional)
- 1.If your Arnica flowers are clumped up, and in larger pieces, you can run them quickly through a food processor or blender to get a finer dried product.
- 2.Put the plant material in the clean, dry bowl.
- 3.Add enough Olive oil to completely cover the plant material, and give a couple of inches on top. Stir it to remove air bubbles and ensure a thorough saturation of oil.
- 4.Place the bowl in a double boiler.
NOTE: You need to ensure that no water gets into the oil! Water in oil causes mold. Once you get mold, you have to compost your herbal oil and start over. That is expensive and can mean a lot of time and money wasted!
- 5.Put the pan on the heat and keep it low – at a simmer. You need to maintain a simmer so the oil is warmed, but avoid a rolling boil that could splash water into your oil. You are after longer time periods keeping the oil warm, rather than getting it boiling hot. That can scorch and destroy some of the properties.
- 6.Maintain the double boiler, adding water as needed, for about an hour to an hour and a half.
- 7.Take the bowl off and allow the oil to cool.
- 8.Decant using muslin or coffee filters to strain the plant materials out of the oil.
- 9.I add 1-2 tsp of pure Vitamin E to each quart of herbal oil to act as a preservative. It won’t work like a chemical, but it helps, and it’s good for the skin!
Note: Vitamin E used for a preservative here is not something you can buy from the drug store. This is different stuff. It is pure, and has no additives. They sell it at Mountain Rose, it is pricy, but you don’t use much so it lasts a long time.
Store your herbal oils in a cool, dark place. And label them carefully, with the plant, the type of oil you used and the date you bottled. The date is critical because after about a year, the oil will need to be discarded and replaced with fresh if you haven’t used it up.
You can use these instructions to make herbal oils from other herbs that are outstanding for pain, including:
- Comfrey (leaf and Root) – lowers inflammation, healing for bruises, breaks, sprains and strains
- St. John’s Wort – lowers inflammation and reduces swelling
- Peppermint – cooling, reduces swelling and inflammation
- Willow Bark - analgesic
- Meadowsweet - analgesic
Important Note: Meadowsweet and Willow Bark oil will contain some salicylic acid (aspirin) as they are properties of the plants. Salicylic acid is the chemical name for aspirin. This make them a very effective ingredient for a topical pain reliever, but you must be aware and label things in case users have aspirin sensitivity.
Pain Relief Herbal Oil
2 cups herbal oil:
- 1/3 cup Arnica
- 1/3 cup St. John’s Wort
- 1/3 cup Peppermint
- 1/3 cup Comfrey Leaf and or Root
- 2/3 Cup Willow Bark or Meadowsweet
The above is a suggested mix. Try different ratios to find the perfect one for you!
1 Tablespoon of pure Vitamin E as a preservative (optional)
Oil can be used as massage oil for aching joints and muscles.
The following can be added to the herbal oils for extra pain relief:
Essential oils such as:
- Ginger: warming, pain relieving
- Black pepper: warming, pain relieving
- Peppermint: cooling, inflammation reducer
- Helichrysum: pain relief, inflammation relief (expensive!)
- Eucalyptus: anti-inflammatory
Note about essential oils: There are SO many that can help with pain and healing. Adding aromatherapy oils to lift the spirits is another great idea as chronic pain can be depressing. Citrus will lift the spirits – try diffusing it in the home of anyone with chronic pain.
Mountain Rose sells menthol crystals derived from organic peppermint. I use these in my liniment for arthritis and they add a really good kick of “icy hot” pain relief!
If you really don’t like the liquid oil, you can add beeswax and make your remedy into a salve. Either way, be warned that these mixes will be somewhat greasy, but the relief they provide is worth it! I have a whole collection of extremely grungy looking sweats and T-Shirts that I wear when I am using a lot of liniment.
Well, I guess that’s all for now.
I hope you all have a safe, happy and blessed January.
The next newsletter will have thoughts on Imbolc, along with a little about the holiday, possible recipes you wish to try and anything else that occurs to me!
Bibliography & Reading List:
- Mountain Rose Herbs: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/ They are also a good source for organic essential oils that can be added to your herbal remedies and used in magic anointing oils and personal fragrance.