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Thank you for downloading this Simon & Schuster ebook. * * * Get a FREE ebook when you join our mailing list. Plus, get updates on new releases, deals, recommended reads, and more from Simon & Schuster. Click below to sign up and see terms and conditions. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP Already a subscriber? Provide your email again so we can register this ebook and send you more of what you like to read. You will continue to receive exclusive offers in your inbox. Contents Introduction Part 1: Discovering the Green Witch Chapter 1: What Is Green Witchcraft? The Path of the Green Witch A Brief History of Green Witchcraft Learning to Identify with the Earth The Magic of Being a Green Witch Chapter 2: Embrace Your Own Power Focus on Your Energy Centers Tools of Use Make Your Home a Sacred Space Make a Sacred Outdoor Space Be in Tune with the Earth Chapter 3: Attune Yourself to Nature Get to Know Your Corner of the Universe Experience the Environmental Energy Around You Grounding Yourself Work with the Four Natural Elements Discover and Develop Your Senses Chapter 4: Manifest the Power of the Seasons Seasonal Cycles and Energy Celebrating the Solstices and Equinoxes Meditations for Every Season Performing Seasonal Rituals Part 2: Walking the Green Path Chapter 5: Live Closely with the Earth The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars Working with Green Energy The Magic of Trees Tap Into the Energies of Flowers Potent Herbs and Greens Using Stones: The Bones of the Earth Chapter 6: Keep a Green Witch Garden The Power in a Garden Designing Your Garden Tips on Planting Caring for Your Garden Naturally Fill Your Home with Houseplants Chapter 7: Create and Craft Green Witch Magic Preparing Herbs Extracting the Energies of Herbs Blessing Your Creations Making Herbal Incense Create Spell Bags Craft a Dream Pillow Garden Spell Bags Make a Broom Craft Balms or Perfumes Build Garden Stepping Stones Chapter 8: Become a Natural Healer The Steps of Healing Brewing He; aling Teas Energy-Empowering Essential Oils Regenerating Baths and Bath Salts Make Restorative Elixirs Chapter 9: Green Witch Kitchen Recipes Tap Into the Energies of Fruits Integrate the Power of Flowers Craft Vinegars for Potency Add Sweetness with Infused Sugars Boost Health with Vegetables Incorporate the Goodness of Grains Acknowledgments About the Author Appendix: The Magical Associations of Natural Items Bibliography Index Dedication For Saya and Sydney, who may be among the next generation of green witches. Introduction Whatever your reasons for seeking balance you’ll find that harmonizing yourself with the energy of nature can help you break free from the stressors in your life and focus on the here and now. And there is no better way to explore the bounty of nature than by following the path of the green witch. The way of the green witch is the path of the naturalist, the herbalist, and the healer. It is a free-form, flexible, and personalized practice for anyone who wants to explore the gifts of nature and use them to find balance and harmony in life. With The Green Witch you’ll find the information you need to develop and nurture the spiritual practice of green witchcraft—from advice on walking the green path in the modern world to information on essential herbs, plants, trees, stones, and more. You will find recipes, exercises, ritual suggestions, and directions for making potions and herbal blends for purposes both mundane and magical. From issues such as the history of the practice to creating your own individual traditions, The Green Witch is a positive and practical guide for the modern green witch trying to connect with nature in today’s society. What is so relevant and unique about green witchcraft is that it is a highly specialized and solo practice. Not everyone will be drawn to the same things and practice in the same way. It’s about finding a workable balance in your own life within your own setting. The green witch works closely with nature and its gifts. She uses natural elements to improve the well-being of the physical body, the spirit, and the environment, and works to establish a personal connection with the natural world. It may seem like a challenge to harmonize with nature in today’s technological and industrial world. Fortunately, you don’t need to remove or reverse modern influences. What you need to do is discover how to connect your modern life to that earlier knowledge that is waiting for you to find it again. The trick is to recognize the presence of green energy in the world today and to see how it still operates. Listen to the world around you. Open your heart. Rebalance. And enjoy your journey. Note: Although the green witch and reader are referred to as “she” throughout this text, the path by no means excludes male practitioners, who are more common every day. The pronoun “she” was chosen simply for convenience. Chapter 1 What Is Green Witchcraft? HISTORICALLY, A GREEN WITCH LIVED apart, using the energies of plants and trees around her to heal others. Those who needed her services traveled to see her. These days, a green witch is more likely to be living in the middle of a city or in the suburbs. She could work in any of a variety of fields, such as business, medicine, or teaching, or might be a full-time mom. A green witch isn’t defined by where she lives or what she does to bring home a paycheck. Nor is she limited to working with plants, trees, or herbs. She is not, as people might assume, defined solely by the particular way she expresses her spirituality or by the religion she follows. A green witch is defined by her relationship to the world around her, by her ethics, and by her affinity with the natural world. In essence, she lives the life of a green witch: she lives the green path. The path of the green witch is an intensely personal path that integrates ability, likes and dislikes, the climate of a particular geographic location, and interaction with the energy of that environment. It isn’t a tradition so much as a personal adaptation of an ideal. The Path of the Green Witch In popular perception, the practice of green witchcraft is a nature-based expression of spirituality that focuses on the individual’s interaction with his or her natural environment. Witchcraft itself is a practice that involves the use of natural energies as an aid to accomplishing a task or reaching a goal. In general, witchcraft acknowledges a god and a goddess (sometimes solely a goddess) and recognizes that magic is a natural phenomenon. Witchcraft is frequently confused with Wicca, which is a modern, alternative, nature-based religion. While Wicca and witchcraft possess many similarities, including reverence for nature, Wicca is a specific, formal religion. There is a wide variety of forms of witchcraft, with varying degrees of structure. For the sake of this book, the term “witchcraft” refers to the practice of working with natural energies to attain goals, without a specific religious context. A green witch, then, is someone who lives the green path and is aware of how the energy of nature flows through her life and environment, even if that environment is not the traditional garden and forest setting popularized by fairy tales and romanticized notions. Why do we use the phrase “living the path” instead of simply saying “practicing green witchcraft”? It’s very simple. Green witchcraft is not a practice separate from ordinary life, like ritual magic, for example; it is an all-encompassing, total-immersion experience wherein all of life is a magical experience. Green witchcraft is not a formal tradition in the sense of Gardnerian Wicca, Dianic Wicca, Feri Tradition, or other established forms. When we use the phrase “the green witch tradition,” we do not refer to an unbroken line of initiates or an established body of lore. Instead, we are referring to the various practices from diverse places that come together to inform the modern green witch and wisewoman. Because the path of the green witch is an individualized solo practice, any modern book on green witchcraft is simply a single author’s way of interpreting the practice. Initiation into green witchcraft is technically impossible. There exists no body of formal knowledge passed on through careful training, no established group mind to which you are connected by sacred ceremonies performed by elders. Some modern eclectic groups may base their regular practice on the ideals of green witchcraft, but it’s not the same thing. A practitioner of green witchcraft may pass on her personal knowledge, including her personal notes and writings, to another, but that’s not an initiatory process. Reading a specific author’s ideas and views concerning the path of the green witch is a form of apprenticeship in which you learn a new way of looking at your world and discover new exercises and techniques that will help you refine and deepen your connection to the natural world around you. This process cannot be as intensely personal as traditional apprenticeship, where the apprentice worked beside the master, but it is a modern form of acquiring the knowledge and skills of one particular practitioner. THE GREEN WITCH’S OUTLOOK The concepts of healing, harmony, and balance are all key to the green witch’s practice and outlook on life. These concepts embody three distinct focuses: 1. The earth (your local environment, as well as the planet) 2. Humanity (in general, as well as your local community and circles of friends and acquaintances) 3. Yourself The earth is often singled out as the green witch’s main focus, which is slightly unfair. The green witch understands that the earth incorporates the planet and all living things upon it, including animals, plants, and people. In this respect, yes: the earth is a collective term for all living things. However, the green witch also knows that to lump them all together means that we sometimes forget the more individual emphasis each deserves. We can decry the general mistreatment of our planet’s water supply, but local action often has more of an immediate effect on our environment than demonstrating in front of an office tower. “Clean up your own backyard” is a phrase the green witch understands well. People are also the green witch’s province. The modern green witch understands that humanity impacts the natural world, not only through how individuals treat it, but also via the energy created by their feelings and beliefs. Just as nature’s energy affects us, so too does our energy affect nature, and that effect isn’t always positive. Therefore, the green witch seeks to maintain harmony between humanity and nature. She also understands that people affect other people with their energy, and she strives to maintain a harmonious energetic environment in which people can feel calm and empowered to improve themselves in a positive fashion and interact with each other with ease and love. Finally, the green witch must function in harmony with the realities of her own life. This means working out your own goals and obstacles and knowing your own self so that you can apply your energies and skills to the best of your ability. Your true self is not necessarily the self you wish you could be; it is the self you actually are. Finding this true self can be a remarkably difficult goal. We lie to ourselves on a regular basis, often so well that we are completely deaf to certain aspects of our personalities until the day we die. Working with that shadowed side of ourselves can be rewarding, however, and maintaining a harmony between our darker aspects and our positive aspects brings our personal energy into balance. ETHICS OF THE GREEN WITCH PATH In any path related to the expression of spirituality, the concept of ethics is important. Interestingly enough, there are no ethical or moral rules associated with the green witch path other than those that the practitioner already possesses. Why are there no ethical rules set out in green witchcraft practice? First of all, the practice is so very personal that to create an overarching ethical system would exclude some practitioners or force them to change who they are. Green witchcraft isn’t about forcing an individual to change; it’s about an individual choosing to harmonize her own life with the energy of nature. Second, the green witch is so in tune with her surroundings that a set of ethical strictures is unnecessary. Knowing yourself to be a part of a greater whole makes it difficult to act against that whole. Working with the earth means that to act against it would be counterproductive, and that includes acting against a member of the earth’s extended energy, such as other people, animals, plants, and so forth. It is difficult to act unethically when you understand how everyone and everything is affected by the negativity of such an action. If you love and respect the world around you, you will not abuse it. The more empathy and sympathy you have for your surroundings, the better you will treat them. This is tied in to the basic Golden Rule found in several religions. It’s ethical reciprocity: if you treat those around you with courtesy, they will extend the same to you. What you put out into the world returns to you, and that goes for thoughts, acts, and energy. With the well-tuned awareness that the green witch strives to possess comes a knowledge of who and what will be affected by her actions and choices. With this understanding, and the sense of responsibility and guardianship for life that she also possesses, a further focus on ethics is unnecessary. Nature is your mother, your father, and your best friend. It makes no sense to harm your kin or friends intentionally. Think of the love and respect you have for the earth. Extend that regard to all the creatures that make up the natural world. Humans, animals, plants, trees—they are all part of nature. Naturally, you treat them with the same respect with which you treat the earth herself. A Brief History of Green Witchcraft The practices of the modern green witch have arisen from folk healers and practitioners of folk magic. The modern green witch finds her foremothers and forefathers in village herbalists, midwives, healers, wisewomen, and cunning-folk who performed particular services for their communities. The duties of these spiritual ancestors of the green witch usually included midwifery and preparation of the dead for burial, as well as the use of various plants to heal mind and body. These people possessed knowledge of both life and death. They knew what kinds of which flora could create both states of existence. These earlier green witches, while often respected, were more often feared or mistrusted because of the knowledge they held. They were often marginalized by their communities and lived alone or away from the social center of the community. Even today, society is often uncomfortable with those who possess knowledge not held by the common man. It is also likely, however, that the spiritual ancestors of the modern green witch chose to live apart from the center of the community because it is harder to hear what nature has to communicate to you when you are surrounded by people. Being closer to the forests and fields made it easier for the cunning-folk to commune with the energies of the living world of green and to gather what they needed. Practitioners of folk magic, those who live on the second branch of the green witch’s family tree, are not necessarily separate from the first. Sometimes the healers were also spellcasters who performed folk magic particular to the region (such as Pennsylvanian pow-wow), but more often they were just grandmothers who had a talent for “fixing” things. Folk magic is composed of traditions and practices that have been handed down in a geographic or culturally specific area. It generally focuses on divination for love and marriage, agricultural success, and weather prediction. Owen Davies, author of the fascinating Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History, explains that as opposed to being healers, cunning-folk originally dealt mainly with lifting bewitchments from people who believed themselves to be the victims of a curse or of some sort of spell. Witchcraft was the soil in which the careers of the cunning-folk grew; when popular belief in witchcraft ended, the roles of the cunning-folk ended as well. SIMILAR PATHS There are other modern paths that resemble the path of the green witch. Kitchen witches and hedge witches observe similar practices, and, indeed, sometimes people use these terms interchangeably with green witchcraft. All three paths have three basic things in common: they are based in folk magic, they do not require a spiritual element, and walkers on all three paths tend to be solitary practitioners. Before we launch into a full examination of what constitutes the modern green witch’s path, let’s take a look at kitchen witchery and hedge magic and see how they are similar to and how they differ from one another. • Kitchen witches, who are family oriented, focus on magic performed in the heart of the modern home: the kitchen. The kitchen witch bases her magical practice in her everyday household activities, and cooking, cleaning, baking, and so forth all become the foundation for her magical acts. Sweeping the floor free of dust and dirt may inspire a simultaneous cleansing of negative energy, for example. A kitchen witch works intuitively rather than ritually and may or may not keep track of how she works. • Hedge witches, a term used more in the UK than in the US, live close to nature, often away from urban areas. When you think of the classic wisewoman on the edge of town who was visited for love charms and healing potions, you have a pretty decent idea of what a hedge witch is. The modern hedge witch is usually a solo practitioner of a neopagan path who uses spellcraft as a basis for her work. Modern practitioners often try to link their practice to some sort of history in order to create a sense of tradition, but that sense of tradition is not as important as the sense of self. This is particularly true of the green witch path. It is easy to look back and acknowledge the influences of the past on modern practice, but every green witch creates her own practice. There is no initiation, no adherence to a set of rules. Living the green path is really and truly a reflection of the green witch’s inner light. THE MODERN GREEN WITCH Despite its so-called progress, our modern society tends to look back to a simpler time, even though pioneer days were probably harder and more isolated than life today. This yearning isn’t nostalgia, which is a longing for an airbrushed memory. It is a genuine subconscious draw to knowledge that has been obscured by innovation, progress, and improvement. We don’t need to remove or reverse modern innovation and give up our sidewalks and television sets and computers. What we need to do is discover how to connect in our modern environment to that earlier knowledge that is waiting for us to find it again. Removing the technology and replacing it with witchcraft and agriculture-based practice is not the answer. To reverse evolution and merely substitute something older is a denial of the modern world. A green witch does not deny the world around her. She accepts it and seeks to understand how to integrate it into her spiritual practice. The green witch serves as a bridge between past and present, new and old. The trick is to recognize the presence of green energy as it exists in the world today, to learn how to see it as it still operates. Learning to Identify with the Earth The main identifying trait of green practice is a close identification with the earth. Although honoring the earth and being aware of the natural world is a large part of the majority of modern alternative spiritualities, the green witch is not necessarily a member of an alternative spiritual path. The main difference between the green path and the neopagan religions is that godforms are not an essential part of a green witch’s practice. While the green witch is content to look to mythology and ancient religions in order to deepen personal understanding of how earth energy has been perceived throughout the ages, she does not necessarily worship the gods and goddesses that are expressions and representations of earth patterns and energy. The planet itself is an archetype of nurturing, but further refinement of that archetype is not necessary for the green witch. That being said, a green witch often finds a mythological figure—be it a deity or a hero—who resonates with her personal beliefs and energy. She finds inspiration in this mythological figure. This does not, however, lead to worship of that figure. Whereas alternative religions promote the idea that humanity is a steward or custodian of the planet, the green witch understands that she is the manifestation of the earth itself, not merely a caretaker. That close sense of identification allows her to work in partnership with the earth’s energies. Someone who honors the earth and considers the natural world her primary teacher is sometimes labeled a nature-worshipper or called a pagan. In modern use, however, the terms are not generally pejorative. They describe people who honor the divine in nature. In New Age spiritual practice, the word “pagan” is being reclaimed by those whose spirits resonate to the heartbeat of the earth itself. So is a green witch a pagan? Many are, but not all. The path of the green witch is not by definition a religious one. It is a spiritual path, yes, but spirituality does not necessarily equate to religion. A green witch can participate in any religion and honor the divine in her own way provided that she still honors nature as sacred and blessed. The green witch sees the divine in all of nature, and each green witch interprets that divinity a little bit differently. CELEBRATING LIFE Green witchcraft is an ongoing celebration of life. It is a dialogue with nature, a practice that enriches both the green witch and the earth itself. The exchange of energy produces manifold benefits that may be stated in simple terms: through this dialogue, we heal the earth and the earth heals us. We seek harmony through our actions. We look to balance energies that are askew. Like other earth-honoring paths, the roots of green witchcraft can be found in the agricultural calendar, seasonal shifts, weather patterns, and folk magic performed for health or fertility. Much of the modern neopagan practice comes from basic green witchcraft practice. Note that the word “roots” is key here: when something is rooted, it springs from a source, but it is still strong and anchored. To deny roots is to deny both foundation and strength. We may see only the trunk and the branches of a tree, but the root system ranges deep and wide. As green witchcraft is not a formal path, practitioners are free to adapt what they learn to what they need. This doesn’t mean merely modifying practices created by someone else; it means adapting yourself to what needs to be done. It means being flexible and responsive to your needs and the needs of the earth. It’s important to note that green witchcraft is not Wicca. Wicca is a formal, structured religion that sets out certain tenets and moral guidelines and whose followers celebrate certain rituals in certain ways. Green witchcraft is a nonstructured, flexible practice that has no set holidays and no compulsory rituals. The green witch is adaptable. She creates her own path according to her individual strengths and talents and the energies and supplies native to her geographical locale. If you live in Massachusetts, for example, and then move to New Mexico, your practice will shift as you adapt to your new environment, the new flora and fauna around you, and the new energies of the landscape. You yourself will adapt as well. As you settle into a new relationship with the earth as it manifests in New Mexico, you will discover yourself evolving to reflect it in a different fashion than you reflected the environment of Massachusetts. The Magic of Being a Green Witch Using the word “witch” invariably brings us to the word “magic.” This is a word that can cause confusion. Magic is not illusion, nor is it the artificial manipulation of unnatural forces. In fact, magic is perfectly natural: it is the use of natural energy with conscious intent and awareness to help attain a better understanding of the world around you and to harmonize yourself with the world’s energies. Most green witches find the use of the word “magic” to be irrelevant. Magic implies something out of the ordinary. But to a green witch the mundane is magical. When she senses, responds to, and gently nudges the flows of natural energy around her, nothing could be more natural. She’s performing natural magic. Nature itself is magical. The everyday is sacred to the green witch. Marian Green, the author of Wild Witchcraft and follower of a path sympathetic to the green witch philosophy that embraces natural magic and hedge craft, states that, “Magic is the art of learning to recognize these elements of change: the natural patterns of flow and ebb, the times of progress, of standing still and of retreating . . . Magic teaches us to determine which way the tides of Nature are flowing, to see on which level they run and what they can offer each of us at this moment.” In Green’s view, magic is learning to harmonize yourself with the forces of nature and understanding how they flow through your life. This is, of course, the life work of the green witch in a nutshell. Spellcraft is seen as a perfectly natural occurrence along the green path. Is brewing a cup of rosemary tea for a headache a spell? Or is it natural medicine? To the green witch, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the conscious use of the energies of the rosemary to help heal a temporary imbalance. It is the connection to the natural world and the acknowledgment that we are all a part of that world that allows us to function as a link between the world of people and the world of green. In short, by opening yourself to the energy of nature, and by accepting that you are a part of that grand symphony of energy and power, you allow yourself to partake of that energy to rebalance your life. Then you can work to rebalance the energies of other situations. In other witchcraft practices, there are methods by which energy is raised, aimed at a target or goal, and released. The green witch uses energy in a slower, more subtle way. Seeking to be a part of the ebb and flow of the energy around her, she thus does not deliberately collect energy to shape and release. The green witch works from the inside out and moves with the natural flow of the energies instead of seeking to manipulate them. Using the word “magic” can lead you to view your green witch work as something set apart. In this book, there are no rules for creating a magic circle in which you must work, no compulsory calling on deities, no sequences of formal ritual that must be enacted precisely as written. The practice of the green witch is a fluid, natural, personal practice, one that informs every moment of every day. It is important to recognize each moment as “magical” and full of potential. Everything is magical, in the sense that it is wondrous and unique—every breath, every step, every stir of your soup. Every act is an act of magic. The magic is life itself. This knowledge must be balanced by the understanding that as a green witch, you carry a sacred responsibility not only to watch over the harmony of your environment, but also to remember that, as author Poppy Palin says in Craft of the Wild Witch, “every positive gesture has the potential to become a spell.” However, there is a danger in the practice of green witchcraft that familiarity may breed contempt. Recognizing each moment as magical and full of potential, the green witch may end up desensitizing herself to the point where no moment is special. Beware of falling into this rut. Allow yourself to marvel frequently at the joy and power of nature as the seasons cycle through the year, at the beautiful and frightful aspects of sunsets and storms. Every moment is magical because it holds potential, but also because it is merely a moment. The mundane is sacred to the green witch because it is mundane. The word “mundane” itself is derived from the Latin mundus, meaning “of the material world,” and it is the energy created by the material world that sources the green witch’s power. OATH OF THE GREEN WITCH Fundamentally, green witchcraft is an attitude, an approach to life. However, there also exists the opportunity to explore the green path through personal ritual and the creation of spells and charms. Ritual offers you the opportunity to attune your personal energy to the energy around you in a more structured manner and to experience the natural energy of your surroundings in a different way than you do in your everyday life. If you recognize yourself and your beliefs in the previous pages, then perhaps the path of the green witch is calling to you. If you wish to formally declare yourself to be on this path and to live the green life, you can take this oath or use it as a basis for writing your own more personal version. You may address a deity, as in this example and elsewhere in this book, or leave it out, as you prefer. Lord and Lady, Spirits of Nature, Elements around me, Bless me as I walk the path of the green witch. May my every action be for the good of all, For Humanity and Nature alike. Bring me wisdom and peace, Serenity and balance as I walk this path. Grant me the confidence to do the work you require of me And strength to bear the burdens life asks of me. I swear to guard the Soul of Nature, To work with Nature, To honor Nature, And all who compose nature’s multitude. These things I promise, and this I ask of you, On this day, in this place. As a green witch, I so swear. If you wish, you can make this pledge anew each year at a time meaningful to you—at the beginning or end of each season, for example, to reaffirm your commitment to your path and way of life. Chapter 4 looks at the four seasons and various activities or rituals you can perform to further attune yourself to the changing energies of the yearly cycle; making this oath part of one or all four seasonal celebrations can keep your commitment fresh in your mind and spirit. PRAYER OF THE GREEN WITCH If the idea of a daily prayer appeals to you, this is a lovely way to begin or end your day. Try praying, aloud or in your heart, in a space that is sacred to you, one that is either formally blessed and consecrated or simply blessed by use in daily life. Lord and Lady, Spirits of Nature, Elements around me, Bless me as I move through the world today. May I bring joy and tranquility to every life I touch. May my actions bring only harmony to the world. May I heal pain and soothe anger, May I create joy and balance as I walk my path. Support me and guide me, spirits of Nature, This day and all days ahead of me. This I ask of you, as a green witch, And thank you for your many blessings. The practice of the green witch doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, fancy tools, or complicated rituals. Perhaps more than any other path of witchcraft, the path of the green witch rests on your philosophy of living and how you interact with the world around you. For this reason, your prayers, the rituals you perform, and your sacred space must be personally meaningful. Creating a personal practice that accurately reflects who you are and your desire to work to create harmony in the world around you is the key to living a satisfying and fulfilling life as a green witch. Chapter 2 Embrace Your Own Power LIKE KITCHEN WITCHCRAFT, GREEN WITCHCRAFT emphasizes practicality and everyday activity. There are no special words, no unique prayers, no uniforms, no holy texts, no obligatory tools, and no specific holidays . . .unless you create them for yourself. While the green path is very much the art of daily practice, it isn’t set apart as sacred. It recognizes the sacred in everyday life. The path of the green witch is sacred—very much so—but not isolated from the secular. The secular life itself is what is sacred to the green witch. That being said, and understanding the personal nature of living the green life, the green witch path can be said to focus on certain issues and energies experienced in the secular life. Far from being simply a practice based in the use of herbs or green matter, the green witch’s practice revolves around working toward establishing and maintaining harmony within herself, within her community, and with nature. Focus on Your Energy Centers There are seven basic areas or energies on which the green witch’s practice focuses: 1. Harmony: within the self; between humanity and nature; between individuals; within a community or family 2. Health: of the body, mind, and spirit; of the immediate natural environment; of the larger environment 3. Love: for the self; for other individuals; for humanity 4. Happiness: in oneself; in others; in the natural world 5. Peace: within oneself; within a community or family; between factions; between nations 6. Abundance: personal; familial; community; nation; nature; also includes prosperity and fertility, both of which are aspects of abundance 7. Protection: personal; familial; community; nature These seven areas encompass most of life. Let’s look at them one by one. HARMONY Harmony is the watchword and main goal of the green witch’s practice. Harmony can be seen as the energy that helps all the other energies flow and is capable of being applied to any of the other six areas of focus to help them along. To maintain harmony, you must balance the six other areas of your life, and when everything is in harmony, these other six areas will flow smoothly and in balance. Of course you can work toward harmony as a general goal as well, and several of the rituals, spells, and recipes in this book promote harmony. When your personal energy is balanced and all the various parts of yourself are in tune, you are in harmony with yourself. That’s harder to achieve than it sounds. We all possess traits that we dislike and wish we didn’t have. It’s important, however, to acknowledge those bits of your personality and spirit, for if you deny them then you are attempting to reject a part of yourself, and you thus deny part of your own energy. In doing so, you deny part of your connection to nature. Harmony between humankind and nature is important, and fostering that balance between humanity and the natural world is part of the green witch’s work. Because encouraging harmony between individuals is also part of the green path, communication within humanity is one of the most common ways that energy is stirred and passed along. This communication is one of the foundations of society. HEALTH Health affects your physical well-being, certainly, but it also affects your emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Illness is a result of, or creates, an imbalance in your personal energy, which must then be rebalanced in order to return to health. Listening to and working with your own body’s energy will help you maintain a balanced and healthy mind and spirit. All of these energies are interdependent and deserve to be taken into account when one or another goes out of equilibrium. The health of your immediate environment also affects the health of your own body, mind, and spirit. Likewise, the health of the environment is a general concern for the green witch, for the environment affects all of humankind. LOVE Most people consider love to be an important part of their lives. They spend a lot of energy attempting to find it, keep it, or strengthen it. But there’s more to love than the romantic kind that immediately pops into mind. Healthy love of the self is crucial to a well-balanced personal energy and to healthy self-esteem. Love of family and close friends who form your chosen family is also important, for it is the love of such companions that supports you in your everyday efforts. Maintaining positive and balanced relationships with these people is integral to your emotional and spiritual balance. Love for all of humanity is also an important area of focus for the green witch, even though it can be difficult to love someone you do not know personally or someone you do not like. Loving others is an example of honoring and respecting nature and all nature’s creatures: it is an act of honoring their very existence and their place within nature’s energy. HAPPINESS Like love, many people strive for happiness and joy. There are many different kinds of happiness. Your own joy, for example, is one goal, but you can also work for the happiness of others and of the natural world. While the natural world does not necessarily feel emotions as you do, there is a sense of peace and contentment to be found when an aspect of or object within the natural world is in harmony with its surroundings or with you. This state can be considered happiness. It is important to remember that happiness is very much a personal thing, and that no one act or item will make everyone happy. Happiness also encompasses the ability to rejoice and celebrate the self, and each person celebrates the self in a unique fashion. PEACE Peace can mean a variety of different things depending on your need: serenity, relaxation, an absence of aggression, and tranquility, for example. Like happiness, peace is a highly individual concept, and thus what constitutes peace for you may be different from how someone else defines it. When a family or community is at peace, it is balanced within itself and in harmony with surrounding communities. The green witch works for tranquility and peace, for in a peaceful environment energies that would otherwise be directed toward defense or attack of some kind can instead be directed toward more productive and positive actions. ABUNDANCE Abundance is an area of focus that encompasses such energies as prosperity and fertility. When you have an abundance of something, you no longer worry about it (unless it is an abundance of problems!), and you feel secure enough to focus on the areas of your life that require your attention in order to bring them into balance. If your needs are seen to, then you have the freedom to care for others. As with the other areas of focus, the green witch may look to personal, familial, and community abundance, as well as to ensuring the fertility and abundance of the natural world. PROTECTION Protection involves safeguarding something precious. It can be protecting your physical body or the bodies of others, your possessions, your emotional well-being, the soul or spirit of an individual, the well-being of a family or community, or the natural world, either locally or globally. When we are protected we feel safe and free to pursue other avenues of self-expression and development. We’ll return again and again to these seven categories as we explore the practice of the green witch. You will see these focal areas mentioned with recipes and rituals to help you understand the purposes for which they may be used. Tools of Use Because green witchcraft isn’t an organized path, there are no required tools or equipment you must have in order to follow it. There are, however, important items almost every green witch uses in her practice. HERBS AND PLANTS With so much emphasis on working with natural energies, it is not surprising that herbs and plants immediately come to mind when one thinks about a green witch and the things she uses or interacts with. In fact, many natural objects form a part of the green witch’s tool kit and supply cupboard. Chapter 5 looks at common trees, flowers, and plants used by the green witch. YOUR HANDS A green witch’s hands are her most valuable tools. With her hands, she touches and takes in information. With her hands, she dispenses caring. Her sense of touch is a keen one. We rely heavily on sight, but our sense of touch carries great power and conveys equally important information that the green witch knows to take into account. Touch also allows us to sense energy and forms an immediate link between the green witch and that with which she communicates, whether it be absorbing information from a plant about its energy and potential uses or laying a gentle hand on the forehead of a sick child. You use your hands to tend and harvest your herbs and plants, prepare them for storage, and blend them together. Your hands can become a physical extension of your thoughts and your will. JOURNAL Recording your explorations, field notes, recipes, rituals, and research is of great importance because this record forms the main body of lore to which you will refer again and again in your work. Note that this journal is not a Book of Shadows, which is a term used by occultists and Wiccans to describe a record of spells and rituals and magical information. Your green witch journal will contain some magical information, yes, because the green witch understands that magic is simply another method of touching the energy of the earth; but mainly it will contain recipes, sketches, maps, experiments, observations, and accounts of your work and other experiences. Over time, you will fill many journals, and they may be messy and haphazard. That’s not a problem. Your journal is not meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be a real-life snapshot of your thoughts and evolving knowledge. Recording what you learn and do means that your information will probably be organized by date. You will thus remember and understand what you did when and why; the journal provides a context for your evolution. Don’t worry about the apparent mishmash of subjects you write about. As the green witch path is an organic one, it makes sense to allow your journal (like a daily diary) to meander from topic to topic. Some green witches like to separate their work into books of recipes, plant lore, and so forth so they can more easily track down information when they need to refer to it. I suggest that you put everything down in your main journal first, then copy out recipes or rituals or plant lore into another book once you’ve perfected them so you will have a clean and organized copy as a useful reference. It’s good to have a place where you can write everything down without editing as you go: those first impressions of plants, trees, elements, and situations can be invaluable. Recopying this information later can also help you firm up your impressions and familiarize yourself with it. You will also continually be clarifying and adding new information and research. When you ramble in field or forest or go for walks through your neighborhood, make sure you have your green witch notebook with you. If carrying your main journal is difficult because of its size, you may wish to have a smaller field book in which to make notes while you are out. Transfer information you have picked up on your treks into your main journal when you get home again. Your green witch journal will prove important and helpful to you in months and years to come. CUP A simple cup (ceramic is ideal) is a useful item for the green witch. Water is one of the four physical (and metaphysical) elements, and green witches often like to have a representation of each element nearby as they work. A cup reserved exclusively to hold water in this way honors the element of water. In addition, the cup is useful to drink from in a ritual setting. While the green witchcraft practice isn’t heavy on ceremony or formal ritual, a familiar tool such as a cup can lend a certain energy to your work if it is reserved only for your green witch use. Some green witches use any cup from the cupboard they feel like using at the time, because it’s what’s in the cup that counts. MORTAR AND PESTLE A mortar and pestle is invaluable for crushing dried herbs, seeds, or resins and for blending materials for a variety of projects. Although mortar and pestle sets are available in other materials, stone is the easiest to keep clean and has the weight and strength required to crush things like resins. Metal is sometimes thought to taint the energy of the herbs you crush, while wood will absorb oils and juices and be almost impossible to keep perfectly clean. Although you may like the look of a small mortar and pestle, or want to save money by buying a smaller size, do yourself a favor and don’t get a tiny one. They’re hard to manipulate, and if you use the mortar to blend mixtures you’ll be limited to a teaspoon or two. The standard size mortar is approximately 5 inches high by about 5 inches wide, with a slightly tapered pestle of about 4 inches by 1 inch. You really shouldn’t use anything smaller. BOWLS Also essential to your work are bowls in which to mix and hold ingredients or components while you work on various projects. An assortment of small ceramic ramekins will do for many projects, as you won’t be mixing large batches of things. Make sure you have a couple of large glass bowls for larger, messier projects like mixing potpourri. Do not, however, use plastic bowls. Plastic absorbs oils and scents. Glass or glazed ceramic bowls are best. JARS AND CANISTERS To store your herbs, incenses, and other ingredients, glass or ceramic jars or canisters are ideal. Like your bowls, these can range in size from small spice jars to large canisters. Colored glass or an opaque material will help protect your dried herbs from fading and losing their beneficial oils. If you use clear glass, then store your jars in a cupboard to protect them from the light, or make paper cylinders to slip over them. KNIFE OR SCISSORS An essential green witch tool is the sharp knife used to harvest herbs and other plants. This knife must be kept extremely clean and always be sharp, for a dull blade is dangerous to both the one who uses it and that which is being cut. If you are uncomfortable using a straight knife to cut stems and leaves, you may prefer to use a pair of good sharp shears or scissors instead, reserving the knife for chopping and preparing the herbs at home on a solid and flat surface such as a table. Scissors and secateurs are easier to handle than a straight knife for some people, myself included. Again, sharpen them frequently and keep them extremely clean. Like the cup, you may use any knife that you feel drawn to using. STAFF A staff or walking stick not only helps you as you ramble through the natural world, but it also serves as a symbolic “world tree,” which connects the material and spiritual realms. The world tree is a concept found in shamanic practice in numerous cultures around the world. The world tree is like the world’s spine, serving as a support and a connection between the otherworlds and the world of humankind. In the Nordic lore, this tree, said to be an ash tree (or sometimes a yew), was called Yggdrasil. In Celtic mythology, there were several world trees, which were hazel, oak, and other woods. In shamanic practice, the world tree is often represented by a tent pole, above which are the stars of the otherworld. This tent pole is “climbed” by the shaman’s consciousness through a series of meditations and other methods. The tree is a remarkable symbol. We perceive trees as being strong and offering us shelter or support, and yet we also see them as being flexible, for some trees bend in the wind. The roots of a tree can reach deep into the earth for stability and for nourishment. Its branches reach high into the sky so that the leaves of the tree may absorb as much sunlight as possible and further nourish the tree. A staff or walking stick symbolizes all this in miniature. It is a symbol of the tree, carries a tree’s energy, and reminds the green witch of the connection to both earth and sky. Some books refer to a “stang,” which is a forked staff. It is sometimes described as a sort of altar whose long single end can be thrust into the ground, leaving the forked end at the top, ready to be decorated by the green witch as desired. Garlands, sachets, bunches of herbs or flowers, and ribbons are all common things draped or tied onto stangs. The stang itself can be reused, while the decorations may be disposed of respectfully once your ceremony or action is complete. It is interesting to compare the staff and the knife. The staff supports and serves as a connection, whereas the knife (or other blade) severs and harvests. They are two archetypal symbols, opposite and complementary. The green witch uses both and honors both the archetypes of connection and severing, unity and separation, for these are intrinsic to the cycle of life and the cycles found within nature. COTTON OR GAUZE A roll of natural cotton about 6 to 8 inches wide and a couple of feet long is a useful item to carry with you when you walk in forest or meadow. It may be used to roll herbs in, instead of putting them in a bag, and can help preserve more fragile cuttings. It’s also good for first aid use, should you cut yourself, scratch yourself, or incur other minor damage along the way. (A small, portable first aid kit is always good to have on hand when you go out walking and exploring, and of course you should have one at home as well, either in the kitchen or the bathroom.) POWER BAGS As a green witch, you will over time develop a personal connection to little objects such as stones, acorns, pinecones, or fetishes, and you may wish to carry them with you. Sew up or buy a small bag to hold them, and slip it into your purse or backpack when you travel. By doing this, you carry the natural energy of those objects along with you so that they influence your own energy. You also maintain the contact with their emotional and personal meanings, which strengthen you in a different way. Together, these items form a personal power source for the practitioner. Make sure your bag isn’t too big, however: if you find yourself carrying too many magical objects, it’s time to sort them out and decide which are most important. Leave the items you have removed from the bag at one of your personal shrines at home in order to maintain a different sort of contact with them (see more on shrines later in this chapter). Make Your Home a Sacred Space In the past, the hearth served as the heart of the home. It was where heat and light were created and food was prepared. Hearth magic, or hearthcraft, revolves around safety, nurturing, and protection. Most paths have a hearth and home aspect to them, but for the green witch, so much of her spiritual practice is focused on simple home-based folk practice that hearth magic figures prominently in her green practice. Most people on the green witch path have a strong connection to their surroundings. They instinctively seek to create an environment that supports harmony, communication, and a natural flow of energy. Your home itself—the space in which you live—can be easily overlooked as a tool in your developing spirituality. Your home is a place of strength for you, and a place to which you should be able to return in safety to recharge your batteries. If your home is disorganized and has jarring energy, you lack that base of strength from which you must operate. One of your sources of strength and energy is already cut off from you. TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR HOME How do you make your home a sacred space? Ultimately, it depends on you and the type of energy that best supports your daily life. Here are a few tips and tricks that will make your home the best place for a green witch to live. These tips will help you keep positive energy flowing through your home. • Look at your décor. How you decorate your home says a lot about you. However, you become used to how things look and sometimes forget that you never got around to painting the landlord-white walls when you moved into your apartment or that the furniture is exactly where you put it when you were just trying to get things to fit. Look at your home with fresh and critical eyes. Do the colors of the walls still reflect who you are? What does the furniture say about you? Walk through each room. Are there places you have to struggle to get to? If you don’t want to go there because it’s too difficult (either physically or otherwise), then chances are good that the energy flow through that area gets dammed up or otherwise slowed down. Think about rearranging the positions of furniture, pictures, and knickknacks. • Remove what you don’t use. If you aren’t using it, throw it out. Otherwise, it’s just occupying space and blocking energy. Sell it, pass it along to a friend, take it to a secondhand shop, or find another use for it somewhere else. • Examine your iconography. Your paintings and photographs have a deep psychological effect on you. Take a look at the colors that dominate them, the people in them. How do they make you feel? Are they appropriate for the space they’re in? As much as you love your print of Munch’s The Scream, it may not be the best piece of art to hang in a place where you like to relax. • Think about the purpose of each room in your home. When you decide what the theme or purpose of each room truly is, you can focus on removing the elements that disrupt the energy, and encourage the desired energy to remain. For example, if your living room holds your desk or home office, stores your home workout equipment, and is the repository for children’s toys, you can see that there’s a lot of conflicting energy there. None of it is bad; it’s just confused. Try to keep each room clearly set apart for its designated purpose, and you’ll find that the energy is a lot clearer. If a room serves a double purpose, keep things in their proper places. • Keep it clean. Energy can seem dusty and muddy, the same way your physical home gets dirty. It’s also an unfortunate fact that energy turns stale and can go bad in an environment that isn’t physically clean. Housework isn’t exactly the most thrilling of pastimes, but it helps keep the energy of your home bright and smooth. Make sure everything has a place, and keep it there. Keep surfaces free of dust and clutter as best you can. • Purify regularly. The spiritual equivalent of physical cleaning, purification is an excellent way to maintain a good energy vibe in your home. It’s also a good way to get rid of the bad feelings left over from an argument or the chaotic energy left after a party, and it removes the stray drifts of dead energy that pile up in corners or get trapped in badly laid-out rooms. You can find instructions on how to purify later in this chapter. Sometimes we look around our homes and wonder how on earth we can make them a haven of tranquility and joy. Starting off with a good spring cleaning (even if it’s fall!) is always a good idea. If addressing your whole house at once is overwhelming, do it room by room. To begin, you can choose one room to serve as a spiritual sanctuary and refuge for yourself. You can also start from the heart of your home and work outward. Your sanctuary doesn’t have to be solely devoted to you and your path; in fact, so few of us have that option that if you can pull it off, I bow to you. Most of us have to share space with members of our family and make do with carving out a little corner where we can. Even that little corner can be important for your spiritual health, however. Don’t underestimate the power of a chair covered with your favorite throw next to an end table set with a candle and a small potted plant, or a window seat with pillows covered in soft or textured fabrics in colors that soothe you. If it’s your space, you have a place where you can sit and close your eyes, draw that tranquility into your personal space, and find balance. The heart of your home, on the other hand, can be easier to identify. Do people tend to end up in your kitchen when they come over? Does your family congregate in one specific room, even if another room was designed to be the family room? Where people gather is likely the true heart of your home. It’s not necessarily a tranquil space and usually sees a lot of comings and goings, a lot of communication and sharing. It’s the place everyone wants to be. Starting your home purification here benefits everyone who uses the space. PHYSICAL CLEANING, SPIRITUAL PURIFICATION The green witch has a couple of tricks up her sleeve when it comes to maintaining a healthy, happy home environment. The first is enhancing physical cleaning products with a bit of natural magic. The second is understanding that the energy in a space has to be cleaned regularly, both physically and spiritually. The simplest way to enhance your housecleaning products is to empower them. This means filling them with extra energy associated with a particular goal. It’s easy to do. 1. First hold the container of cleaning product in your hands, or hold your hands over it, and close your eyes. 2. Take three or four deep breaths to calm and balance yourself. 3. Think of the energy with which you wish to empower the product to help you attain your goal. For example, you could focus on happiness. Try to remember how you feel when you’re happy. 4. Now try to pour that feeling into the cleaning product. Visualize the feeling welling up from your heart and flowing down your arms and out through your hands; see the product absorbing that energy. Now when you clean with it, you’ll be using the physical product to clean, but while cleaning you will also be filling the area with the energy with which the product was empowered. You can empower your cleaning supplies with more than one energy as long as those energies support one another and aren’t at cross-purposes. For example, you can empower a furniture polish with happiness, peace, and prosperity. For the best results, choose earth-friendly organic or fair trade cleaning products that carry no toxic ingredients. You can do a general empowerment of your supplies, or you can think about what each one is for or what it contains, and code the empowerment that way. Chapter 5 lists correspondences associated with the scents and essences of your cleaning products. You can use these correspondences to energize your cleaning implements. For example, if your product is pine scented, empower it for protection or prosperity. If your window cleaner is scented with lemon, empower it for love and joy. If your dish detergent is scented with apple, empower it for health. When you clean, you can further visualize the energy you are calling into the space. Visualizing while you clean also helps take away the boredom and resentment we associate with removing the dust and dirt that will just build up again anyway. Think of it as green witch maintenance of your personal space. The second dimension to keeping your space clean and bright is purification. It’s important to clean the energy of your living space because the energy of an environment affects the energy of the people functioning within it. If you’ve ever walked into a room and felt odd for no obvious reason, then you’ve been affected by the energy present in that space. While it’s true that the physical state of cleanliness affects the energy of a room, you have to clean the existing energy of a room as well. Otherwise, the negative energy will pile up, just as dust collects on a bookshelf that you neglect to clean. Purification can be done in several ways. A classic method is to sweep the negative energy away with a broom. The witch’s broom is often seen only as a symbol, but it can also be used as a regular tool. It can, in fact, be a remarkably useful item, and it’s very easy to use. BROOM PURIFICATION This basic purification with a broom can be done almost anytime and anywhere. Do not use a plastic or nylon-bristled broom. Find one with real straw bristles. Craft shops and farms open to the public sometimes sell handmade brooms. (For a personal touch, you can make one yourself following the directions in Chapter 7.) You can keep the broom you use for purification for that purpose alone, or use your regular housecleaning broom to purify. Here is how you should purify with a broom: 1. Stand in the middle of the room you intend to purify. Hold the broom in your hands. 2. Take three deep, slow breaths to calm yourself. 3. Begin to make a sweeping motion, sweeping the broom from your right to your left. Don’t actually touch the floor with the broom, but swing the broom an inch or so above it. It’s energy you’re sweeping, not the floor itself. 4. Turning to your left, slowly turn in place. This is a counterclockwise direction, which is traditionally associated with breaking up and banishing negative energy. Walk in a counterclockwise spiral around the room, sweeping just above the floor as you go. As you walk and sweep, visualize the energy of the room being stirred up by the motion of your broom, and any heavy spots being broken up and restored to the regular flow. See the energy being transformed from murky to bright and sparkling. 5. Sweep the entire room, gradually widening your counterclockwise spiral until you end at the door. 6. If you wish, you may end the purification with a short statement, such as: Bright and strong flows the energy through my home. This room is purified. Another wonderful way to purify a room is with incense. The following recipe creates a gentle incense that, when burned, releases energy associated with clearing negativity. For more detailed information on how to make and use herbal incense, see Chapter 7. ROOM PURIFICATION INCENSE Burn a pinch of this incense on a small self-lighting charcoal tablet (not barbecue charcoal) in a heatproof censer or dish. This recipe will make about a tablespoon of incense. • 1 teaspoon of frankincense resin • 1 teaspoon of copal resin • Mortar and pestle (optional) • 1 teaspoon of dried powdered lemon zest • 3 pinches of dried lavender • Small glass jar with tight-fitting lid 1. If necessary, gently grind the resins with a mortar and pestle until the pieces are in small granules. Be careful not to overgrind them, or they will become sticky. 2. Add all the ingredients to the jar, cap it, and shake until the ingredients are well blended. 3. Hold the jar in your hands and visualize a sparkling light forming around it. This sparkling light is purifying energy to empower the incense. Visualize the sparkling light being absorbed into the blend of resins and herbs. 4. Label and date the jar. To use the incense, light a charcoal tablet and place it within the censer as instructed in Chapter 7. Take a pinch of the purification incense and sprinkle it on top of the charcoal. Place the censer in the middle of the room and allow the purifying energy to fill the room as the smoke releases it. USING THE FOUR ELEMENTS INSIDE THE HOME Being surrounded by nature may be the first thing that pops to mind when you think of the path of a green witch, but as you have seen, what’s inside a green witch’s home is just as important as what’s outside. Many of us who live in an urban environment do not have access to wild areas. The modern green witch needs to figure out how to connect to green energy without being surrounded by nature. This can be easily accomplished in the home. Every green witch is different, and as the practice is informal, there is no prescribed way to decorate your personal space. Depending on your personal tastes and preferences, your home may look extremely different from the home of another green witch. One of the easiest ways to bring the energy of the natural world into your home is to introduce plants into your space. By surrounding yourself with items of personal significance and choosing colors and décor for your home that reflect your goal of harmony and balance, you reinforce your home as your place of power. Although most green witches have one or more rooms or nooks or crannies in or around the house specifically designated as sacred locations where they work or commune with nature and the divine, your entire home can become sacred space. The hearth (the “heart” of the home) is always a focus for the home of the green witch, whether it’s the kitchen or another room where the family gathers. This is rarely a convenient place for practical worship. Although green witchcraft is certainly not a ceremonial path and not laden with formal ritual, a central area through which you can touch the divine can make your spiritual journey more grounded. Shrines are ideal for this purpose. The green witch acknowledges that the energy of the divine manifests within the natural world. The basic metaphysical building blocks of the natural world are the four elements—earth, air, fire, and water. By working with these elements, you can strengthen your connection to the natural world, and this can be done inside or outside. If you don’t have access to forests and fields, you can work with the four elements indoors and balance your connection to the natural world through them. ELEMENT SHRINES An element shrine is a place where you can connect with one element or all four. For example, if you build a water shrine, you can include a crystal goblet of water, a small water fountain, shells, river stones, and pictures of waterfalls, rainstorms, or calm lakes. You may place a soft blue scarf under these objects and perhaps add a clear quartz crystal or two to represent ice. A fire shrine may be a collection of candles in reds and golds on a crimson cloth, perhaps with a small copper or brass figurine of a lion or a dragon. The important thing is to think about what the element means to you and to gather a small selection of items that evoke the feeling that element inspires in you. It is important to remember that a shrine is not an altar. An altar is a place of focus consecrated to the spiritual use of the green witch. It is used as a place to hold tools and equipment during a spell or ritual, and a place to work on charms and witch crafts. An altar can be permanent or temporary. Many witches set up a temporary altar each time they wish to work. As shrines may be used to honor deities or elements, the altar is not required for this purpose, and thus can be considered more of a workspace. Many green witches use whatever surface they wish as an altar, perhaps using the same cloth to spread over various surfaces each time they set up their altar. In this case, the cloth itself becomes the altar, carrying the energy associated with repeated spiritual workings. Green witches follow their intuition, and so may not perform rituals or work spells in the same place each time, choosing the location according to what feels right for their purpose. For the green witch, this means that a workbench or a craft table may sometimes serve as an altar. The practicality of the green witch determines where she works, and very often these sorts of tasks are undertaken in a variety of different places. Potions and salves may be created in the kitchen, while the creation of a protective wreath may take place in the garage. You may choose to formally consecrate your temporary altar each time you set it up, or not, as the mundane is sacred to the green witch. A simple blessing with the four elements can serve to consecrate the surface you have chosen to use as an altar. (See the Elemental Blessing in Chapter 7.) As a green witch, you may also consider using a stone or stump as a permanent outdoor altar in a corner of your yard or balcony, if you have one. A shrine, however, is a place to honor something or someone or to leave offerings, a place where you can collect things of personal significance and various energies to weave together an energy that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. A shrine creates a location for a certain kind of energy. The wonderful thing about a shrine is that no one has to know what it is. It can be as simple as a photograph, a candle, a seashell, and a colored ribbon grouped together on a shelf. You know why those particular things are together; anyone else looking at them will likely think that it’s simply a decorative arrangement. What’s important is that the energy produced by combining these objects accomplishes the goal you envision for it. An element shrine doesn’t have to be in a place generally associated with that element. For example, you don’t have to put an earth shrine outside, or a water shrine in the bathroom, or a fire shrine in your kitchen. Experiment with having four separate shrines in four different places. You can try building the earth shrine in the northern part of your house, the air shrine to the east, the fire to the south, and the water to the west, which is how they’re usually associated with directions in various traditions of Western occultism. Or think about the kinds of energy you feel in various areas within your home, and site a shrine accordingly even if it’s not in one of the traditional directions. If you have a room where a lot of thinking and communicating take place, try setting an air shrine there. If you have a room where everyone relaxes and feels at peace after a long day, try setting up an earth or water shrine there. Make sure to have one shrine for each element so that your home remains balanced. If some part of your home is lacking in a certain type of energy, you can set up a shrine to an appropriate element to balance that lack. If there’s a room where people tend to lose their tempers or energy runs too high, there may be an excess of fire energy that arises from its décor or as a result of how the energy flows through it. Try setting up an earth shrine or a water shrine to balance out the fire energy with stability or tranquility. You can also experiment with creating a single shrine to all four elements. Place this shrine where it feels right to you. This may be near your own personal sanctuary, near the door so that it is the first thing you see when you enter and the last before you leave, or near the center of your home. In a shrine to all four elements, you don’t need to collect multiple representations of a single element. Instead, choose one or two objects to symbolize each element and group them in an arrangement that pleases you and feels right. Shrines are fluid things; you can add objects as you feel drawn to them, or remove objects when you feel they no longer serve their purpose. On a shrine to all four elements have at least one item to represent each element at all times. Traditionally, a small dish of salt or sand holds the energy of earth, a candle holds the energies of fire, a small dish or glass of water holds water energy, and a stick of incense or feather or a fresh flower holds the energies of air. If you’re worried about salt or water being knocked over, try a small potted plant or a stone for earth and a shell for water. Light the candle and the incense only when you are in the room. Doing this once a day for a few minutes can help you collect your thoughts and your energies. It gives you a moment of peace to commune with these four basic building blocks of nature. THEMED SHRINES By creating shrines in different places, with each shrine focused on a different energy, you can create “vortices” of specific energies that can balance out a surplus or lack of those energies in your home. Think about creating a shrine to one or more of the basic areas upon which the green witch focuses. If you wish to bring more prosperity and health into your home, for example, why not create a shrine with objects that represent abundance and health to you? Make a Sacred Outdoor Space If you are fortunate enough to be an urban green witch with a bit of green space behind or in front of your home, there are a few things you can do with this space to make it vibrant and more sacred. If you own or rent land, then you may consider creating a small outdoor sacred space in which you can relax, rebalance, and reconnect with the natural world. While most people who hear the words “outdoor sacred space” envision a large circle, perhaps with standing stones and a full, flourishing garden, the green witch knows that sacred space requires nothing so elaborate. A small corner, a garden bench, or even a single stone set into a small flower bed can serve as your sacred space. You may dream of turning your entire backyard into a temple, but, in reality, your yard is more likely to be taken up by a play area for children, a toolshed, a pool, or storage. Perhaps you share your green space with others; this will also limit your activities and access. In practical terms, establishing outdoor sacred space can be an even bigger challenge than creating an indoor sacred space. If you find it a chore to keep your indoor space tidy, then an outdoor space will be no different. An entire backyard dedicated as sacred space means that you’ll have to keep that entire space neat, clean, healthy, and well maintained. Sacred space doesn’t have to be obvious. It can be a small area that only you recognize as being dedicated to your spirituality. You can choose a set of plants that symbolize your practice and plant them together. You can place a stone among the plants, or a small all-weather statue, or a trellis upon which you can hang a tiny set of wind chimes. Choose anything that has meaning to you. Your small corner of outdoor sacred space should offer you a place to sit or stand to pause and clear your mind, to touch Spirit, and to rebalance yourself. You may also find inspiration in sacred places found in nature. Areas such as streams, pools, and lakes are sometimes seen as sacred, for water is often associated with the otherworld. Perhaps a small fountain or other water feature appeals to you and can become your own sacred space. Single trees and groves have also been traditionally seen as sacred. You can plant a special tree or bush in your sacred space. Mountains are commonly held to be sacred. While building a mountain or even an earth mound is highly impractical (if not impossible), you might want to represent a mountain with one or more standing stones in any size of your choosing. Even “planting” a small 12-inch stone into the ground with intention can declare a space sacred. The modern green witch in the urban setting can sometimes feel lost. Other options are always available. Visit your city parks or public gardens to find a place that feels comfortable and calm to you, a place where you can achieve reconnection and rebalancing. Set up a container garden on your balcony (see Chapter 6 for tips and ideas on green witch container gardening in the city). Carefully selected houseplants can also furnish you with a connection to a sacred space with the feeling of outdoors. Be in Tune with the Earth No matter what her access to nature is, the green witch works closely with the earth. You can live on the forty-seventh floor of a high-rise apartment building and still have a meaningful relationship with the earth. Among the green witch’s common allies are earth spirits. Earth spirits can be valuable partners and aides in your practice. An earth spirit is an intelligence or awareness attached to a particular place, a plant or tree, a natural object such as a rock or stream, or a specific type of weather. These intelligences are sometimes called devas, sometimes fairies. Often we simply refer to them as “earth spirits,” “spirit of,” or “force of” something. It is important to understand that these spirits are not deities. Do all green witches recognize or work with earth spirits? No. Some green witches are comfortable talking about fairies or devas, whereas others roll their eyes and get down to hoeing the garden. Most do recognize that nature has an intelligence, or a sense of spirit, that varies according to the location. Not all of us give a name or classification to that sense of spirit. How each green witch works with these spirits or forces depends on how she perceives them. Most green witches will agree that connecting with the various forces and energies of nature is a key aspect of their practice, but it’s likely that no two green witches will be able to agree on how to do it, or even what forces they connect to. This shows how highly individualized the green practice is. One thing that most green witches would agree on is that they strive to work in harmony with these forces of nature. How you visualize these spirits is completely up to you. You may see them as tiny people or orbs of light. You may not see them at all, but experience emotions or sensations when you are near the tree, flower, standing stone, or phenomenon with which the spirit is associated. Whether your visualization matches other visualizations is unimportant. What is important is that if you choose to work with them, you must honor the spirits as allies in your green witch work to attune to the natural world and to rebalance and harmonize life. You can encounter nature spirits in many places and through a variety of methods. The simplest method is to reach out and connect with the spirit of a single plant, then ask the plant spirit for information on the plant’s uses and properties. In his book Plant Spirit Medicine, Eliot Cowan stresses that the energy possessed by each individual plant is entirely personal. The information and/or gift the spirit of that plant offers to you is exactly what you need at that moment. This gift is not necessarily energy that is traditionally associated with the plant. For example, if you project your awareness to a rosebush, the energy you receive in return will not necessarily be love. The spirit of the rosebush may perceive that you require something different and offer it to you. The key to working with nature spirits like this is to be open to what they offer you without expectations or preconceived ideas. Referring to lists of correspondences associated with particular plants is useful for getting a general idea of how to use the plant’s energy, but it is much more useful to communicate directly with the spirit of the plant to acquire your own understanding or interpretation of the energy and how it may be applied. The green witch never assumes she knows something, or presumes that she is correct, or takes something at face value. It is important to seek out your own experience and build your own opinions as you deepen your understanding of an element, a process, or a situation. Chapter 3 offers a series of exercises designed to help you take in information and energy through your senses, and a variety of techniques for interacting with nature and acquiring information from plant spirits. Because there are different ways of working with plant energy, every green witch will develop her own method of absorbing and applying that energy. Employing plant energies in the practice of medicinal herbalism is perhaps the most common method of using natural energy, but the practice of homeopathy and the use of Bach flower remedies are also popular methods of working with the energy of flowers, plants, and trees. Chapter 3 Attune Yourself to Nature IN GREEN WITCHCRAFT, ONE OF the most important practices is constantly reestablishing your understanding of nature as it is now around you. Maintaining contact with your physical environment is crucial to maintaining a meaningful individual practice. If you lose touch with your environment, you lose the one thing that connects you to your natural surroundings. Green witchcraft is always about the now, about the current state of your environment. Being aware of your environment means knowing the energies moving through it, the energies it produces, its health and rate of vibration. It also means being aware of how your own energy and mental or emotional state fit into your surroundings. If you’re not aware of the current state of your environment, then how can you evaluate what sort of work is required of you? You may think you know your environment, but you might be surprised when you stop to create a new relationship with it. One of the basic foundations of living the green witch path is forging a connection with nature and natural forces. It is imperative that you forge a connection with what it actually there, and not what you assume to be there. Get to Know Your Corner of the Universe If you live in an urban setting, then that city’s energy is the energy to which you must open yourself in order to be in tune with your neighborhood and your environment. It is crucial to interact with your natural environment as it actually is, not the nature you imagine or idealize. The environment you knew yesterday or last month is no longer the environment that surrounds you: energy is in a state of constant change. Thus, the green witch must also be aware, and always adjusting her knowledge. You may think you know your neighborhood, but it’s useful to take the time to see it in a new way. Use all your senses to explore where you live. Ask yourself the following questions. Answer them honestly: • How do the seasons change where you live? What changes can you see and feel? • What influence does the moon have on you? What is the phase of the moon right now? • What wild plants are common to your neighborhood? Name at least ten local plants. • Of those ten plants, which are indigenous to your area and which were imported? When were they imported and by whom? • What trees are most commonly found in your neighborhood? Again, which are indigenous and which were deliberately introduced? When and by whom? • What wildlife is native to your area? • Is the water that’s channeled to your tap hard or soft? • What type of soil does your neighborhood have? Is it chalky, clay, sandy, or other? Is it alkaline or acidic? What you don’t know may surprise you and perhaps disappoint you, too. You may know the name of the street that crosses yours, or what park is nearest to you, but what is basic and integral to your natural environment is often unknown or unrecognized. Taking the time to learn more about your neighborhood will give you a good solid base from which to learn more about how your natural environment functions. Make a point of finding out the answers to the previous questions. Write the answers in your green witch journal. Walking around your neighborhood with enhanced awareness can teach you more than you thought you knew. Engage in the following exercises, which are designed to help you observe as much as you can and make the most of each experience as you gather information. INTERACTION EXERCISES When observation is done with intent, you will discover more about your neighborhood. For this exercise, first choose a stone or a plant that you’re familiar with. Allow yourself to experience it again as if for the first time. Answer the following questions. Write your answers in your green witch journal. • What does this stone or plant feel like to the touch? • How does it smell? • What does it look like? • What sounds does it make? • How does it taste? (Caution! Try to catch the taste on the air. Never place an unidentified plant or object in your mouth.) Once you’ve done this exercise with a few plants or stones you’re already familiar with, try one you’ve not experienced before. Notes on these exercises will serve as the basis of your green witch lore and become the heart of your personal practice. Experience the Environmental Energy Around You Although the green witch uses herbs for their medicinal qualities, the magical qualities of the natural world are also very much her friends. If you look at the uses traditionally associated with various herbs throughout the ages, the medicinal benefits often parallel the magical uses. This is because, in addition to a certain chemical makeup that determines its effect when applied to the physical body, an herb also possesses a unique energy that affects the emotions and spirit of a person. EXERCISE: SENSING ENERGY Perform this exercise with a plant with which you are familiar, then try it with something you’ve never seen or handled before. Trust your observations. For this exercise, you’ll need the plant, plus your green witch journal and a pen or pencil. 1. Take the plant in your hand. If it is a dried or harvested herb, hold a pinch in your palm or hold your hand over it, palm down. If it is a living plant that you have correctly identified as safe to touch, gently touch it with your fingers. If you cannot identify it, hold your hand above or to the side of the plant with your palm toward it. 2. Close your eyes and imagine your palm glowing. Focus on the sensation of your palm. It may tingle or grow warm or cool. That means you’re focusing on the energy your palm is creating naturally. 3. Visualize the plant glowing. 4. Visualize the glow of energy collected in your palm gently stretching out to touch the glowing energy of the plant. As the two energies meet, ask yourself what you sense. Do you feel a specific emotion? Do ideas drift into your head? Thoughts or vague hunches? Pay attention. This is a method for collecting observations about the plant by sensing its energy with your own energy. 5. When you feel you have observed enough, send the plant a feeling of gratitude for its cooperation, then visualize your energy disengaging from that of the plant and drawing back into your palm. 6. Open your eyes and shake your hand firmly, as if you’re shaking water off of it. This will help you get rid of any excess energy hanging on. 7. Write your observations in your green witch journal. What was the experience like? What sort of observations did you make while sensing the energy of the plant? Did the plant feel energetic, calming, nurturing? Write down everything that comes to you and don’t worry about whether it makes sense or not. Your observations of the energy of the plant are valid because they’re yours. Everyone interacts differently with the energy of a plant. If lavender energizes you, then that is one of lavender’s energy benefits in your practice, even though many books will tell you that lavender generally projects feelings of peace and tranquility. Acquiring firsthand knowledge is important for a green witch, as it shapes and refines your practice, personalizing it in a way that makes it truly unique. Grounding Yourself When you work with energy, it is important to ground. Grounding means connecting your personal energy to that of the earth and allowing a rebalancing of your energy to occur. If you are nervous or excited, you may be running too much energy through your body. The earth is a good place to shunt that extra energy. If you are lethargic or dizzy, you may be suffering from a lack of energy, and the earth has plenty to share with you. Once you are grounded, you can absorb the energy of the earth to replenish your low energy levels. To ground yourself, follow these steps: 1. Take three deep, slow breaths. 2. Next take a moment to feel your own energy flowing through your body. Focus on a point in the center of your chest and visualize a small green glowing light there. This is your energy center. 3. Now visualize a tendril of green energy growing from that energy center down toward the earth. Let it reach down past your feet. Visualize it growing into the earth itself, spreading into roots and twisting through the soil. Take a moment to feel how solid and stable your root is in the earth. 4. Now that you have formed a connection with the earth, you can either allow your excess energy to flow down to mingle with that of the earth or draw some of the earth’s energy up to replace the energy you are missing. Grounding is good to do when you get up in the morning, last thing at night, before you do any energy work, or whenever you feel a little out of sync with the world around you. Work with the Four Natural Elements The four physical elements form the building blocks of a green witch’s understanding of the world around her. They represent the raw material of nature. The flow and interaction between the four basic elemental energies form the basis of change, transformation, growth, evolution, and development in our environment and in our lives. Each element has a specific energy. Traditionally, they have the following associations: • Earth: grounding, abundance; receptive and passive • Air: communication, intellect; projective and active • Fire: passion, creativity; projective and active • Water: emotion, sensitivity; receptive and passive While these traditional associations are useful and a handy shortcut, how you perceive the energy of each element influences your personal practice and how you interact with the world. EXERCISE: SENSING THE FOUR ELEMENTS This exercise helps you build a personal relationship with each element. Before you begin, review the previous energy-sensing exercise. • Your green witch journal and a pen or pencil • Small dish of earth (Note: make sure it’s rich earth; if all you have is dry potting soil, use a dish of salt or a stone or a crystal.) • Hand fan (or a small piece of card stock) • Votive candle in a candleholder • Matches and/or a lighter • Small dish of water • Small towel 1. Begin by sitting quietly at a table or on the floor with the supplies set out in front of you. Take three deep breaths. As you exhale, visualize any tension leaving your body. 2. Visualize your fingertips glowing with your personal energy. Visualize the sample of earth glowing with the energy of earth. 3. Gently reach out and rest your fingertips on the soil (or salt or stone or crystal). Close your eyes and allow your personal energy to contact its energy. 4. While connected to the earth energy, observe as much as you can about how it makes you feel. 5. When you are finished, withdraw your fingers and brush them off if necessary. Shake your hand to remove any excess energy or odd sensations. Open your journal and write down all of your observations. What observations did you make about the energy of earth? How did it make you feel? What did it make you think of? 6. Pick up the hand fan or card stock in one hand, and hold your other hand out, palm up. Visualize the palm of your hand glowing with your personal energy. Close your eyes and slowly begin to wave the fan or card, creating an air current directed at your other palm. As the air moves, see it glow with the energy of air. Allow the energy of the air current to meet the energy of your palm and observe the sensations you pick up. Vary the speed of the air current and observe whether that makes a difference to your observations. When you are finished, set aside the fan and shake your hand to remove any excess energy or odd sensations. Write down your observations about the energy of the element of air in your journal. 7. Light the votive candle. Again, visualize the energy of your palm glowing. Visualize the flame of the candle glowing with the energy of fire. Hold your hand beside the flame at a safe and comfortable distance, and reach out to the energy of fire with your own energy. Observe as much as you can about the energy of fire. When you are finished, snuff out the candle and shake any excess energy off your hand. Write down your observations about the energy of the element of fire in your journal. 8. Bring the dish of water toward you. Visualize your fingertips glowing with your personal energy, and see water glowing with the energy of the element of water. Slowly touch the surface of the water with your fingertips and allow your personal energy to engage with the water’s energy. Observe as much as you can about the energy of water. When you are finished, withdraw your fingers and wipe them on the small towel, then shake them to remove any excess energy. Write down your observations about the energy of the element of water in your journal. For a different experience, try to find a large natural manifestation of each element’s energy with which to interact. Interact with the energy of the summer sun to gain a different experience of the energy of fire. Stand in a rain shower or snowstorm or next to a strong flowing river to gain a different perception of the energy of water. Bury your legs and feet in sand or take off your shoes and work your toes in freshly turned garden soil to interact with the element of earth. Stand outside on a windy day to experience the power of air. Write down your experiences and observations in your green witch journal. To keep yourself attuned to the basic energies produced by the elements, perform this exercise at least once a year. For a deeper understanding of the cycles of energy in your area, interact with the elements on a large scale once every season. Doing this will help you better understand how the local energies interact and how their levels and presence ebb and flow with the cycle of the year. INVOKING THE FOUR ELEMENTS Although the four elements are always present, you can choose to recognize them in your practice by formally inviting one or more of the elements to aid you in your green witch work. This formal invitation is often called invoking the element. Invoking an element is a conscious act that draws that element’s energy to you in your environment. Invoking an element can be done if you want that element’s particular aid or energy to blend with the work you are doing. For example, if you are creating a garden sachet for fertility in your vegetable garden, then you may invoke the element of earth to be present while you construct the sachet and weave the elemental energy into the energy of the sachet to help support and reinforce it. Instead of placing your elemental symbols according to one of the traditional directions, you can create a more accurate connection with your own geographic location. Where is the largest body of water in your vicinity? Where are mountain ranges? Where are plains across which the wind drives with nothing to stop it? Where does the sun seem to shine most brightly, with the most heat? You may want to reassign elemental associations with specific directions. This too can affect how you conduct personal practice. Many green witches like to work with a symbol of each element nearby, which honors the elements and creates a balanced atmosphere in which to work. As we learned in Chapter 2, each element is traditionally associated with a cardinal direction. You can balance the overall energy of an area by introducing an elemental energy that is lacking. A small collection of all four elemental symbols supports the balance of all four energies. It also provides the green witch with a source of elemental energies from which she can draw in her magical work, if empowered to do so by those sources. Those symbols can be as simple as a small candle for fire, a feather for air (or a stick of incense to represent both fire and air together), a stone or green plant for earth, and a small glass of water. You can set them in their proper directions or in any way that appeals to you. You can also have symbols of all four elements in your workspace where you do green witch work and formally invoke the presence of all four. If you choose to invoke all four elements, you’ll have a powerful pool of energy to draw from while you work that can support your magical goal. MEDITATING ON THE ELEMENTS Sometimes brainstorming with other green witches (or Wiccans and other neopagans) can help you create a new set of associations for something. Relaxing and thinking about a single element at a time can also yield a surprising variety of images, thoughts, and personal correspondences. If you do this work, don’t forget to have your green witch journal nearby to record ideas as they arise in your mind. Sit comfortably in your green witch space or in another familiar and comfortable area. Choose an element and begin to free-associate. Don’t do all four elements in one session, however; do them on separate days. Discover and Develop Your Senses While everyone interfaces differently with the world around them, we all acquire information via our five senses. VISION Most people are primarily visual. In social situations of every kind, we take our cues from other people. Observing their clothes, their body language, and their physical appearance we get clues how to behave appropriately. Seeing different colors also stimulates us in different ways. Here are some exercises to help you develop how you use your sense of sight: • Sit in front of a window, and use it as a frame for what you see through it. Examine everything within this frame, taking as much time as you require to really look at what you see. If you like, divide the window into quarters and examine the view, quarter by quarter. Look at textures, colors, and light and shadow. Allow yourself to really see things in detail, things you usually just glance at and take in during a split second. • Look at a color photo of an apple, then at a real apple. How are they different to your eyes? How are they the same? • Set an everyday object on a table in front of you and look at it carefully. Then hold it above your normal eye level and look up at it. Set it on the floor and look down at it. Move it to the left, then to the right. How does the position of the object change how you see it? SOUND Sound is overwhelmingly present in our lives. Traffic (cars, airplanes, etc.), the sounds of radio and television, and the noise and conversations of crowds surround us nearly all the time. Our world is very rarely truly silent. The sound of wind through the leaves of a tree or of water lapping the shoreline are sounds that speak of very specific environments that call up specific emotional reactions. Hearing helps us fill in what our vision reveals to us. If our sense of hearing is taken away from us, we feel lost, but it’s also true that if we are in an area that is too quiet, we can become uncomfortable. Here are exercises to help you deepen your sense of hearing: • Sit in a familiar place in your home and close your eyes. Listen deliberately and with awareness to the sounds of your home. What do you hear? How many different sounds do you hear? Where are they coming from? Can you identify them? (Do not attempt this exercise just before you go to bed, or you will find that your attunement to little sounds will cause you to be distracted by noises all night.) • Sit in a public place like a mall or a restaurant and perform this exercise again. Do it with a friend by your side so that you can relax and not worry about what’s going on around you. How are the sounds different? How is the way you listen in public different from how you listen at home? • Sit outdoors and perform the exercise. Do you find it more difficult to identify outdoor sounds? Where do they come from? Do you hear more or fewer sounds than you hear indoors? TOUCH Children are always touching everything they encounter. As we grow up, however, we learn that it isn’t socially acceptable to pick up everything we see and handle it. Our concern for personal space also forces us apart. The sense of touch can be further broken down into specific kinds of senses that we often consider to come under the heading of touch: the perception of pain, the perception of temperature, the perception of pressure, the perception of balance and equilibrium, and the perception of body awareness or location. Try these exercises to explore your sense of touch. If possible, do them with your eyes closed so you are not using sight to influence your sense of touch: • Gather a feather, a small bowl of salt, an ice cube in a small bowl or glass, a piece of wood, and a satin ribbon and set them on a table in front of you. One by one, explore the touch of each item. Take as much time as possible exploring the feel of each item. Don’t try to analyze the sensations: just observe and accept them, enjoying the sensory input. Pick the item up; stroke it with your fingertips, with your palm, with the back of your hand. Run it along your forearm or your cheek. Hold it in your hands and feel its weight and shape. How does it feel if you hold it still? How does it feel if you move your hand while holding it? • Find a patch of sun. Move your hand into the sun and feel its warmth. Move it back into the shadows and feel the absence of heat. • Set a bowl of warm water and a bowl of cold water on the table in front of you. (Make sure the warm water isn’t scalding.) Sink the fingers of one hand into the bowl of warm water, leave them there for a minute, then remove them and put them into the bowl of cold water. How does the temperature contrast feel? After leaving your fingers in the cold water for a minute, dip them back into the warm water. Does the warm water feel different now? TASTE Our sense of taste is often drowned in excess. Fast food and canned meals have lowered our standards of taste to such an extent that if we taste a carrot freshly pulled from the earth, our taste buds are overstimulated and we lose the complexity of flavor. Even more common is biting into a fresh apple. The tangy flavor surprises our taste buds, which have become used to the duller flavor of fruit stored for periodic release over the winter and spring. Produce imported from other areas often travels for days and loses the depth of its flavor. We have become accustomed to dull, chemical-like tastes. To remind your taste buds of single flavors, do the following exercise: • Wash and dry your hands. On a table, set out a small bowl of salt, a small bowl of sugar, a small bowl o