To the New Moon

Deep, deep down in my entrails,

I am aching

Something is squeezing, writhing, turning and crying

out to be listened to

 

Listen I do, as I have no choice

neglected by generations of mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers…

the repressed voice of woman now rebels

from deep, deep down in my entrails…

 

I am responsible…

For it is rising up in me, crying out to be heard

To be felt, acknowledged and healed

So past and present may finally find peace…deep within

 

Pregnant, this universal gash, that lies waiting to be born

Must express at last…its rage

Nothing can stand in its way

Like the waves of an angry sea, it rises…

 

From deep, deep down in my entrails

It shakes my being,

So profoundly guarded, secret and denied

No choice but to shine a light into the dark

 

Homeland triggers the wound

Like a pistol to the heart,

Running so hard for so long

No more escaping, fleeing, hiding

 

Secrets cannot be guarded for eternity

Today they have risen

From deep inside my entrails

The past is born

 

I feel its pressure

Building up waiting to be expressed

Released, set free

So I too can finally be unleashed

 

The rage is the awakening

It impulses the birth

Of owning my own sadness

Of broken daughters, silent mothers…

 

Sorrow weakens the wrath and

Takes hold of my body,

The grief of betrayal seethes

Through my veins…

 

Facing the deep sadness

To die a death and

Rip away the cord that imprisons…

reveals a treasure

 

And so I learn to feel

to let go of the old and

With the darkness of the moon

I step into my future…softly !

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Essential oils and Ebola according to the French!

I had intended to write about my explorations into the world of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum multiflorum) this week, however following a number of e-mails and Facebook messages asking me for information coming from France concerning Ebola and essential oils, I thought I better concentrate on this. I feel it is important to state that I have absolutely no background experience on Ebola, either theoretical or practical, this article is just stating what I have found being conveyed on the subject in France at the moment, which you will soon see is not much.

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First of all, forgive me but I am going to begin this article with a rant (before I get on to essential oil information). One of the positive things about my life in rural France is that I am quite isolated from people and the humdrum of peopled existence. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to isolate myself from the threat of Ebola by tucking myself into a lazy, agricultural village, where wine-making is the main thing on people’s minds (except mine). No but I am happy to be isolated from the general mass hysteria infused daily by the media and then spread through all the conversations that people have between themselves…notably at the moment the hysteria linked to the Ebola epidemic.

I would like to quote my friend Florian Birkmayer, who wrote about Ebola on a comment on his Facebook page concerning people put into quarantine,

It’s the archetype of the scapegoat/pariah/threatening other, in full swing. People are projecting their own Shadow (the part of themselves they’re unwilling/unable to see) onto their neighbours. At first projection happens to distant groups, but its moving closer and closer. The ‘other’ is encroaching…”

Last week whilst working in the UK and staying in my father’s house, I was suddenly thrown into day to day conversation, I was surprised that my father talked so much about Ebola and his fears that in 6 months it was going to be a world catastrophe. I personally keep away from newspapers and television and do not have any information about the realities of this viral disease so I am not in a position to either deny or agree with his fears, what I did feel, however really resonated with Florian’s quote above. My father (sorry dad) lives in perpetual denial of his own feelings of rage, terror, sadness etc. he is constantly running away from himself with unceasing activity and military-like timing (which is completely un-necessary as he is retired), I have been and if I allowed it would still be a scapegoat for his own terror – the Ebola virus coming from Africa is an ideal way of exteriorising the problems, focusing on the ‘other’ and not taking responsibility for his own anger/terror etc.

We are the world we live in and the only thing we are in full power to change is ourselves, our thoughts, our way of being. I somehow feel that the world media and information available en masse regarding Ebola is destined to inundate everyone’s consciousness with fear in a time where many people are actually feeling a rise in consciousness and a coming together towards co-creating the future. It seems like a sort of counter attack – as we all know fear and love cannot co-exist.

So, feeling better after a good rant, lets get on with the question in hand, what are French, clinical aromatherapists suggesting as preventative measures for the risk of contracting Ebola?

As mentioned above, before I was asked, I hadn’t really thought about the question, I was having far too much fun harvesting and exploring Solomon’s Seal.

I have only fond one publicised protocol and that is from Dr Baudoux (pharmacian, aromatologist, writer and research director, who runs the essential oil company Praarome and l’Ecole International d’aromathérapie). I feel it is important to state that there have to my knowledge been no scientific or even ‘hands on’ studies done with this protocol and Ebola.

Dr Baudoux suggests during periods of risk regular cures of :

Cinnamomum camphora CT cineole (Ravintsara)

Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea-Tree)

Thymus satureioides (Winter savoury leaved thyme)

Eucalyptus radiata

Eugenia caryophyllus (Clove)

He obviously suggests that people buy the capsules with sunflower oil from his company but 1 drop of each can be mixed well in a teaspoon of honey or made into medicine balls (for those people who have done the infectious pathology course with me)

To be taken twice a day before meals for 5-7 days. If the risk of infection continues this protocol can be repeated once a month

At the same time and without a break during periods of risk, the following external preparation is suggested:

Cymbopogon martinii (palmarosa) 2ml

Eugenia caryophyllus (Clove) 1ml

Cinnamomum cassia (Chinese cinnamon) 0.5ml

Cistus ladaniferus (Rockrose) 1ml

Cinnamomum camphora (Ravintsara) 3ml

Cymbopogon citratus (Lemongrass) 2ml

Apricot kernel oil 15ml

Blend together and massage 8 to 10 drops on the stomach in the morning and evening during the period of risk.

A curative protocol has also been suggetsed, I hesitated as whether or not include it here, I have decided to but purely on the understanding that I am just conveying information, I have no available back up personal or otherwise for the effectiveness of this protocol.

Cinnamomum camphora (Ravintsara) 6ml

Cistus ladaniferus (Rock rose) 2ml

Cymbopogon martini (Palmarosa) 2ml

Blend together and then pour the whole quantity onto the entire body including arms and legs. Then continue with 12 drops of the same blend rubbed onto the stomach 8 times per day for between 5-7 days.

At the same time take the immune stimulating blend 3 times per day.

As I am finishing this, several things come to mind, the first is that I hope that in the craziness of all this there won’t be a frenzy and all the immune stimulating and anti-infectious essential oils will be bought up…this happened in France during the H1N1 flu epidemic. I am also wondering to myself if there are any doctors, health workers out there, actually on the field using essential oils, have any distillers sent essential oils to where they are needed, are any of the aid workers using them to protect themselves? I decide to change from French to English and tap into Google the words ‘Ebola, essential oils, Africa’. Then I begin to see another scarey picture emerging from our warring world, titles such as ‘FDA warns consumers about fake Ebola drugs’, FDA cracks down on Ebola scams’, the sites go on to mention essential oils and some companies pushing the sales of their essential oils as protection against Ebola. I actually open one site and read:

Essential oils have not shown any evidence of effectiveness against viruses, and certainly not against the Ebola virus, said Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and professor of medicine at New York University.

The low value of such oils in fighting infectious disease is evident in a simple comparison, said Weissman: While American diets are not, on the whole, rich in the use of essential oils, African diets are.

“We don’t have Ebola,” said Weissmann. “They do.”

…are we living in the same world?…help! take me back to the woods and good old Solomon’s seal.

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As is the human body, so is the cosmic body
As is the human mind, so is the cosmic mind.
As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm.
As is the atom, so is the universe.
–          The Upanishads.

Plant Wisdom

Communicating with Plants

Who else is the enemy of Nature but he who mistakes himself for more intelligent than Nature, though it is the highest school for all of us? Paracelsus

My childhood memories are dominated by images of myself alone in nature; sitting in the humid autumn grass picking up the windfalls from the ancient apple trees in my parents garden, making perfume from the roses and daintily smelling flowers in the old holiday cottage we visited every year in Norfolk. Wistfully loosing myself in the long grass in the fields behind, playing under the weeping willow tree in what my father called the ‘dell’, at home with fairies and elementals, comfortable with the plants and trees…more so than with people, school and family…this was ‘home’.

As I got a bit older, I ventured alone into wilder places, the marshlands not far from our home along the coast of Northwest England, where I got to know the birds, the plants that thrived in the vast expanse of human-less land, the water holes and the insects and water creatures that there aboded…as I explored the outer world, an inner wildness was starting to develop that would carve the way of my life, a calling that I cannot describe but that came from deep inside my belly.

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Without knowing it I learnt to tune in to each member of the plant world that lived nearby and recognise their ‘feel’ the way they related to me and me to them. I manoeuvred myself on earth, not by remembering place names, street maps or road systems but by knowing what grew where and how they made me feel.

It seemed natural to become a herbalist…one of the questions that seemed to bother me more than other fellow herbalists when I was training and since, however…was ‘what is it to know a plant?’ I couldn’t believe that the scientific view reducing a plant uniquely to its chemical constituents would be enough to be an effective herbalist, I read many books on plant communication, plant spirit wisdom both from what we could call a ‘shamanic’ perspective and also scientific studies on subjects such as the sixth sense, the way the heart picks up electrical information etc. These books were interesting but they remained either someone else’s story where no practical keys were shared or intellectual propositions that after a while leave you feeling like the magic has been taken away. I wanted to go further into the world that I knew existed and one which already supported my soul, helping it become an adult that could love and feel love, I wanted to go deeper, further, all the way into their world, to intertwine my soul with the plant’s but alone, this was difficult, I needed a teacher.

When the student is ready the teacher will appear’

One day in the herbal school’s new catalogue, I saw the title for a new course ‘Plant communication’, my prayers had been answered. It did however take me three years before it was the moment to go and tell Claude that I wanted to learn from him.

My personal path of relationships had left me fragile and the idea of a ‘master’ made me nervous, I had pledged to myself that I would never give my personal power away to someone who put him or herself in a position of greater power. Looking back now and knowing my own and Claude’s path since then, I feel that we both had work to accomplish before he was ready to be my teacher and I was ready to be his pupil. The moment came and I am transformed, the key has been turned in the lock and I will never be the same again.

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Claude teaches a method, yes a precise method that enables one to go beyond a ‘tinkering’ with plant relationship or plant spirit and be able to differentiate between what is sensing the plant’s resonance, communicating with and journeying with the soul of the plant. It’s the knowledge of ancient and indigenous peoples, a knowledge that we have lost or traded for profit, material wealth, power… re-learning to communicate with the natural world is an important part of our healing and helps to reknit our original lineage, the sense of disconnection diminishes and deep health slowly returns.

Once the instruction has been passed on, the pupil has learnt from the teacher and an autonomy is attained, no need for drugs, or a shaman or a master just a healthy relationship with the plants and a desire to go deeper.

From the teachings of Claude, I carried on developping my own unique relationship with the natural world. Although the teacher can share some precious tools, it is up to each of us to learn to use them and to enter into and deepen our own ‘seeing’, ‘listening’, ‘feeling’ and ‘knowing’ in relationship to the world around us. As each of us have unique relationships with each other so we do with plants and animals, allowing this world in and having confidence in the interaction opens the dorrs of perception to the whole universe….the physcial support is nothing compared to the depth of possibility that our relationship with this living world can reveal. This revelation is in my opionion, the most important key for the future of mankind on earth, we must learn to re-connect in order to survive.

The heart’s doorway is acknowledged, this perception portal gradually takes its place in the centre of our being and the idea of ‘real’ knowledge can shift from navigating with the intellect to navigating with the soul. There is a veritable, long-term modification of consciousness through the fact that this way of entering into relationship helps us to restore the natural biological memory of the plant within us.

As a herbalist this work is invaluable for wild-crafting and making plant preparations as the plant’s soul and spirit can be preserved during the harvesting and thus make a highly energetic and quality medicine.

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Beech

I approach the forest with a cathedral-like reverence,

Take off my shoes before slowly meandering up the windy beech-lined track

The ground feels warm and still after summer, spongy and springy underfoot

A smooth, well-trodden cushion welcoming me in and back to earth!

 

I let go of the mind chattering, breath and expand myself into the whole…

Stillness, whilst the forest becomes aware of someone new

My body remembers this familiar silence

For from it, I was born.

 

I recognise the first unmarked gateway

That leads the way deeper into nature’s womb

the squirrel’s table – a moss covered stump

asks silently for an offering

 

For squirrel is guardian

here – in the sylva

As I scatter my gift, I am transported into aliveness

My cells dance with the greenness of it all.

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Further on, the second portal stirs

A master beech tree defies death

And regenerates itself into standing wisdom

And love…

 

In the moment, all is possible

Empty of knowledge

Knowing is feeling…sensing…

Daring to let go and let the forest approach me!

 

The forest opens and master beech calls to me

majestically spanning centuries

Reuniting earth and skies

Below the mountain ridge

I humbly bow…

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Heart explodes, as above so below

I spin, thrown from roots to branches

I sense a chuckle at my child-like surprise

Of this timeless wisdom –lost and found

 

Knocked backwards with its fierce lovingness

Running down my head and spine

It grabs me by the throat

Fills me, merges, with me !

 

I diminish into nothingness

Its breath fills the forest

And shoots light through my heart

Squeezing everything out of me until…

Tears come and I am but love myself

 

Spinning like a world rotating

Roots to sky and branches dig the earth

Old conceived ideas forced out

Relinquishing resistance, my view turns inwards

 

We have met

to know myself is to know the other

For we are one.

 

I thank-you beech for your wisdom

 I will be teaching a one day introductory class in New Mexico on July 11th 2015 http://thebirkmayerinstitut.ipage.com/2015/03/cathy-skipper-plant-communication-71115/

Here is the day’s programme:

The class will take place inside, which is ideal for learning the basic tools for this work. Plant consciousness is everywhere; we will work with plants in a pot, wood from trees, essential oils, photos…

1) Meditation to clear and set the intention for the day

2) Sensing the vibratory field of the plant by re-awakening our subtle senses

3) Identifying the 5 attitudes that can block the connection with the plant

4) Connecting with the plant through the subtle senses and the heart portal.

5) Structuring the connection through the physical aspects a) first overall impression identifying any blockages in physical body b) Specific information going through the chakras c) identifying the plants genuine function for the physical body (if any).

6) Working in pairs and connecting with the plant as a medium.

7) (if time) Integration of the plant – letting go and letting the plant be the pilot.

 

 

The Mountain

Fear welling up

filling my belly,

I tremble

The tears push forward but

I don’t give in

 

A familiar feeling

of a childhood gash

that surges forward

unexpectedly

into the calm of a normal day

 

Moving with the rhythms of this globe

how can I pretend normality

in a world that can no longer stand alone

in harmony with itself

 

I too can hardly stand

although just a speck of dust within this suffering whole

resinating deep in my guts

a mirror of the intestines of the world

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I call upon mountain

its minerality awakens the sound of my bones

infusing them with light

 

its force and stability

traversing time and space

gives me the strength to go on

….living on the edge !

Autumnal musing

After a busy summer, teaching in various countries, re-visiting childhood and family places, meeting many wonderful people, bathing in beautiful landscapes, the gentler pulse of autumn has arrived.

 

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Like Angelica (Angelica sylvestris) the expansion of summer and the beautiful rays of its umbels are now dried and withering, still standing tall amongst the rest but lifeless, its essence or life force making the journey down its long narrow stem to settle into the roots for winter. I feel like I am making a journey too, the energetic, outward going activity of summer is fading and a deep, pulsing desire to enter that space in myself that I know as home is calling. The journey, however is not so easy, for I have changed…with every person met, every plant encountered, every landscape breathed and although deep inside there is a familiar comfort it is also the place from where I come into direct contact with my ‘wound’. But go I must, respect the seasons and the cycles of nature, to go against nature’s rhythms, is to go against oneself as we are no different from the Angelica, except that we can fool ourselves with our so called ‘intelligence’ thinking we are above such basic influences and carry on regardless….but that would not be wise.
Autumn is also an important period for harvesting, as I harvest the knowledge and experience I have learnt from all the interactions of the past months, I also harvest the berries, barks, roots and plants to make into medicine. Walking through the fields, along the country paths, collecting plants, taking my shoes off and feeling the springy, freshness underfoot helps me to make this transition, feel the change in pulsation, process experiences and re-align with the moment. I become autumn like the seeds hanging on the Angelica umbels, like the hawthorn berries fighting for a place on the heavy boughs of the cragged tree, like the walnuts still nestled in their blackening envelopes, like the oak with its brown paper bag covered leaves…I am carried softly by the inevitable call of the seasons and I relinquish resistance.

I am moved now by the earth’s force…autumn this year is warm and summery, the light shining through the changing colours adds a melancholy to the end of something, but not quite…not yet.

I go and nestle into the bottom-sized spaces made by the huge roots of the ‘master’ oak tree, I lean against its great trunk and listen as we breath together, still, serene, supported, tears well up, I am safe here to feel, to let go, to breath deeply, to love!

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Autumn medicine is root medicine
Root harvesting is for me one of the highlights of the wild-crafter’s calendar. Roots are generally harvested in Autumn (surprise, surprise), as this is when the plant’s energy has left the flower, which would have finished its cycle by seeding and going back downwards. If the plant is a biannual (Angelica sp, Heracleum sphondylium), then the roots should be gathered at the end of the first year as they will be dead and exhausted at the end of the second. You need to know your plants well in order to harvest roots as although, plants such as those mentioned above will be visible, many are not…by the time you go and look for them, the leaves and stalks have decomposed and there is no sign of their whereabouts, either you know your plants well and can recognise a bit of half decomposed yellowing leave as the one you’re after or you mark the spot earlier in the season with something so you can locate it later.
So why do I love root gathering and root medicine? Digging down into the ground and feeling my hands deep in the soil, searching for the knobbles of the roots that contrast with the wet, crumbliness of the earth. I like the way all the roots are so different, only knowing the upper part of a plant intimately is like only knowing one side of someone, the roots give me a much wider picture of the plant, their smell, their colour, their form, their size, are they tap roots that go deeply downwards, are they knobbly roots that fragment into bits all over the place etc.

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But more than all that is the way they help us connect with our own roots, they do this on one level by helping anchor or ground in the here and now, we are after all incarnated into a human body so its kind of a good idea to get connected to the earth…its home for the moment (for more information about grounding and which root for which medicine, you can read my article
https://cathyskipper.wordpress.com/category/depression-cuts-the-ground-from-under-ones-feet/)
I also like connecting with ancestral roots when I am making root medicine, medicine makers that have gone before me, lovingly unearthing these bony treasures, tenderly washing them, smelling them, feeling them…thinking about their medicine, for whom and how they may stimulate someone’s healing. Then there is the connection to my ancestral blood family, rarely an easy connection but definitely a necessary one, as I myself sort and clean my roots, they are like unburied bones holding distant memories that were thought of as long gone forever secrets, but this is not the way of healing. One day, at the right time, through the right person secrets need to be unearthed processed, healed and released…root medicine can help the medicine maker in this process.

Seeds and berries are also the stuff of Autumn, the bright red berries of hawthorn (Crataegus sp) and dog rose (Rosa canina) calling out to be harvested. Hawthorn for the heart, tune in to its healing, calming and balancing effect. Physically the berries are used to give strength and rhythm to the pumping action itself (heart muscle wall) and strengthening blood vessels. Hawthorn tincture is actually one of the tinctures that has the best taste in my opinion, even without added sugar it makes a beautiful winter toddy, to warm the heart when the snow is on the ground and all is frozen over. Dog rose, some people prefer to harvest after the frost when the rosehips have become soft, I personally think this depends on what you want to do with them, jam making, soft hips, ideal…drying for herbal teas…no way, you just end up with a sticky mess. There is also the added disadvantage that if you want to retain the high vitamin C content of the hips they can’t be heated beyond a certain temperature and that’s where things get complicated, in France the general consensus is that the vitamin C is destroyed at 60°C. This year I have decided to tincture some hips and macerate some in honey…

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The wild carrots (Daucus carrota) have dramatically turned in on themselves at this end of season, their once, virgin white umbels dancing in the breeze have transformed into hairy, browny, purple nests of insect-like seeds. They have a good flavour, slightly spicy and lemony – a forgotten condiment no doubt. In the past I have distilled them into a hydrosol for easing a windy stomach and aiding digestion as well as for toning the skin in facial creams. I am beginning to feel that there is a lot more to wild carrot than meets the eye and so this year, I am going to harvest the seeds, tincture some and dry the rest. I will no doubt write about my finds at some point in the future.
The walnut trees are laden, the hard green protective cases are gradually turning black.
As Hippocrate said, Let thy food be your medicine and your medicine be thy food’ walnuts are full of lipids, mainly alpha linolenic acid, which belongs to the omega 3 family and so beneficial for the health of the cardiovascular system as well as a good serving of protein, vitamin E, vitamins from the B group and myriad of beneficial oligo-elements.
As they fall to the ground the walnut husks can be tinctured, they need to be green and not yet completely blackened, I use 50° fruit alcohol and leave for 21 days in the good old-fashioned French way. This tincture makes an excellent anti-parasite preparation!

And those are but a few of the gifts I saw today in my strolls, as I said, this autumn is gentle, warm and soft so yarrow, horsetail, mallow are still sticking around, yarrow in fact is in full force, seemingly enjoying the centre stage of this ‘arrière season. I paused once again at its feet, I asked to go deeper, to learn more of its secrets – it took me soaring within myself, with strength and determination balancing male and female polarities into wholeness – with the help of the sun that it captures with its capitula.

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Autumn, as the trees shed their leaves, I cast off the unnecessary, the old, what’s not mine in order to become whole. I bask up the autumnal rays and allow the deep, rhythmic beat of the earth to start its descent into the depths. I let go, knowing that alone I can do nothing!