Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Courting Ms. Violet

It is a Wednesday afternoon in late April.  The day is overcast and cold for the middle of Spring.  I wear my winter coat and sling my foraging bag over my shoulder.  I am off to Central Park and pray to the water elementals to hold off until I am finished harvesting.  

I am on a mission.  Making violet medicine.  She’s been calling to me all Spring.   While my ambitious appetite wants to go out and harvest many things and make lots of different tinctures, I am reminded my herbal teacher’s mantra, learn one plant a time.  During my entire seven-month herbal apprenticeship we were asked to find a plant ally and get to know just one plant for seven months intimately.  While I learned much about many different plants during this time, my relationship to my plant ally that I meditated with for seven months is of course the strongest.   

This season, a new plant ally has risen up to be greeted and I am becoming more familiar with her delightful acquaintance.  Violet (viola odorata).  This is my third time harvesting from her this season.  First was a glycerin based tincture, then a vinegar from her leaves that are high in vitamin C along with a violet cordial which turned out to be truly delicious.  Today I was guided to make an oil from her leaves as a new base for womb and breast salves and a vodka-based tincture from all her parts. 

Violet called to me across the park and told me exactly where to gather her.  In my shamanic herbal apprenticeship, we were taught to listen to and hear the voice, song and healing energy of the plant through channeling the plants deva, or spirit.  While this may sound mystical or other-worldly, it is actually quite simple and involves deep presence, listening and a little trust and belief in magic. 

While many violets were growing along the Central Park pathways, she was very specific with me about which ones wanted to be harvested.  She asked that I call her Ms. Violet and sing to her while I harvested her.  She told me where there were extra leaves that needed to be cleared so the ivy could grow and to be generous when I took her flowers because the spring ones were decorative and her true flowers that seeded next years violets would be up in the fall. 

On singing and picking, I was transported to when I was a little girl picking wild violets in my grandmother’s backyard.   It was a ritual I relished every spring.  I would bring a small bouquet of these delicate, purple, handpicked flowers and present them to my grandmother.  She would put them in a glass vase with opaque glass violets etched into it. The vase went in my grandmother’s living room among all my grandmother’s beautiful colored glass and antiques.  Somedays, after picking a fresh bouquet, I would sit next to them in the green velvet chair in my grandmother’s living room and just look at their shape – their long slender stem and the ever so fragile nature of their petals.  I sighed wistfully at this sweet memory of long ago.  Had I known they were edible at the time I’m sure I would have found them a tasty snack.

During a self-pleasuring meditation ritual after I had harvested my first batch of violets this summer, my clitoris actually appeared to me as a violet.  Her delicate petals opening and unfolding, the beautiful engorged veins in my labia mirroring the lovely purple striping in her petals.  I know women often refer to their vulvas as flower like but this time I got that metaphor on a much deeper more profound level. 

As I harvested in the park today, Ms. Violet told me she would sooth this chronic throat irritation that had been with me for months and when I used her tincture and she would help me speak more clearly and effectively when I sometimes jumbled my words or sentences together.  Violet has a delicate but steady flow, like a well tuned violin being playing long sustained notes.  She told me she would help my throat and voice come back into balance from the nodes and polyps I had developed on my vocal cords.  Her heart shaped leaves reflected the shape of my thyroid.  My body loved having a fresh violet leaf placed right at my collarbone to support my sluggish thyroid that sometimes needs encouragement. 

Violet has a soothing and claming effect on the nervous system and supports regulating excess heat in the body.  She has a love for women’s breasts and is a natural supporter of healthy breast tissue and helps smooth out lumps, bumps and cysts both in the breast tissue and in ovaries.  Her leaves make a wonderful poultice over skin irritants, eczema, or places where there’s been chronic pain and inflammation. 

If you find yourself in a field of violets stop and sit with her.  Sample a few of her flowers.  Some are being candied in my kitchen as I write this (painted with egg white and sprinkled with sugar and left to dry.)  She is a beautiful ally to become acquainted with holding the coolness of Spring in her body to relieve the body’s natural inflammatory tendencies and a wonderful generous plant high in vitamins that the body loves. 

Thank you Ms. Violet for all of your wonderful medicine and your generous nature!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rose the Wild Woman

Rose the Wild Woman

The past two days in New York and along the Jersey coast have been sweltering and most of my immediate friends and colleagues have claimed extra heat in their body, unexpected outbreaks of rashes or inflamed skin, sleepless nights and general irritability. Having an impromtu Goddess gathering in the Central Park on a glorious ‘feels like summer’ day, two of my very best friends and Goddess colleagues, yoga teacher Lisa Kazmer, and birth doula / Tantra coach Cindy Neder and I hiked through a very warm and crowded park on a Tuesday afternoon to camp under a shady oasis below Sheep’s Meadow and celebrate some sacred sister time.

Cindy had recently received in the mail a pair of rabbit fur mitts that she would be incorporating into her Tantric session work. We took the mitts out and took turns stroking down each others bodies and massaging each others faces with the soft velvet of the rabbit skin and thinking of all the many ways we could incorporate this wonderful nourishment into our lives. I thought wildly, “Why not a Savasana assist at the end of a yoga class with the fur mitts??!”

“I don’t think the vegan yogis would go for that” Lisa commented. Well, that’s the difference between a Buddhist and a Goddess, I suppose.

I rubbed the mitts over my face and on working on our bodies, realized each of us had some sort of skin heat imbalance going on. On a whim, I had brought a jar of rose infusion with me to the park. Each woman swigged thirstily and we ended up sprinkling rose water on the inflamed skin areas around the body. I had been making rose infusion for the past few days since the temperature rapidly spike across the coast. Rose is one of those fragrant flowering powerhouse plants that is as wild as she is beautiful. She holds core wild woman energy. Her brambles warn that she commands absolute attention and presence in her company but her scent will stop even the most unpresent person in their tracks reminding them to breath deeply and become aware of their surroundings. Rose has for centuries been used as a tonic for the uterus that supports regulating women’s menstrual cycles and relieving uterine congestions and heavy periods. She is also a cooling herb that lowers body temperature, soothes the intestinal track and nourishes skin. In breakouts of prickly heat, skin inflammation, and eczema rose to the rescue! On hot days try misting yourself with bursts of rose water, especially over itchy skin areas. For digestive distress or feverish tendencies, imbibe a quart of rose infusion a day to bring down heat in the body.

After each of us were massaged with rabbit mitts we drank and sprinkled rose infusion on our body’s and gifted ourselves with her sweet fragrant and wild essence. True to her wild nature, rose accompanied us as we each drew a card from Lisa’s tarot deck and received our messages from Source. We closed our time together as Lisa read to us the Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot. We cackled, embraced and parted ways, the wild ‘rosaceae’ woman awake within us all.

The roses petals we used (Rosa Centifolia) for our infusion were certified organic (lots of garden roses have been chemically treated.)

Places where you can purchase bulk edible rose petals in the city

Flower Power



Mountain Rose Herbs