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This blog is all about all the things that make me up. I am a Mother, I am a Pagan Witch, I am a Wife, I am a homemaker, I am a student, I am Spiritual, I am a Teacher, I am Liberal Hippie, I am a Voter, and I am extremely opinionated! Plan to see it all! If you don't like what you see, feel free to leave! However, chances are, if you stick around, you'll find more to love than hate!


Monday, April 21, 2014

The Pagan Path: Books for Beginners (2014 Revised List)

Over the years I have created quite a few "Newbie Pagan" and "Newbie Witch" book lists.  However, as I'm always reading and always growing myself, my "must read" books have changed a bit. So, I've decide to do an updated list.

Before I start listing authors and books though, it's important that you understand a few things about this list and me.  I am an Eclectic Pagan Witch.  I do not practice Wicca, but I do find that the basics of Wiccan belief & practice are a good place for most people to start.  The understanding of how the wheel of the year turns, how to connect with the moon, and the principals of the Law of Return (or Law of Attraction) as well as basic practices such as meditation, energy manipulation and spell working  are all beneficial regardless of the new Pagan or Witches long term path choice. Although some aspects of the basic Wiccan belief & practice are not transferable as is to other paths - for example not all Pagan groups follow the Wheel of the Year - they are a good starting place.  I tend to see Wicca as "Pagan-lite." So I suggest those who are looking to enter the world of Paganism start there before moving on to more in-depth practices. Because of this, a number of these titles are Wicca based, but I suggest that - as with anything - you should read these titles remembering to only take what fits your path... Use each new idea as a stepping stone, something to learn from, but do not assume that they are all knowing tomes of Ancient information.  Take it all with a grain of salt!

The first two Authors I tend to point everyone too at Kate West and Christopher Penczak.

Kate West's "The Real Witch's Handbook," "The Real Witch's Garden," "The Real Witch's Year," and "The Real Witch's Kitchen" will provide you with the basic understanding of How to connect with the Earth's energies, The Goddess & The God, Herbal Magic, Kitchen Magick and Sun (Sabbats) and the Moon (Esbats) and a great deal more.  All of these titles are easily read and understood, even by those who have no experience or previous exposure to Paganism, Witchcraft or Wicca.

Christopher Penczak's books focus more on Witchcraft than Paganism, however, they do it from the perspective of a Wiccan when religion does come in to play.  His "Inner Temple of Witchcraft" book & CD work solely on the witch in each of us, you will learn how and why to practice witchcraft fully from within yourself.  As with all the books in his "Temple of Witchcraft" series this book is set up as a 12-month course, making the entire series beneficial for a new, growing or even a witch of many years. Start with the "Inner Temple," followed by the "Outer Temple" the "Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft" comes third, and then you may wish to explore "The Temple of High Witchcraft," "The Living Temple of Witchcraft - Volume 1 The Decent of the Goddess & Volume 2 The Journey of the God."  By the time you finish the series (which I HIGHLY suggest you do) you will be just about as "masterful" as witches practicing twice as long.  Do NOT rush these lessons! And remember, it is better to take longer than the assumed 12-months than it is to rush the process and move on too soon.

While that may seem like a lot already, there are a few other books which are a good read through or

"The Everything Paganism Book" will give you an overview of numerous Pagan belief systems including Native American, Druidism and Asatru (Norse) Paganism.

"Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans" is, as the name implies, an exploration of the paths, practices and beliefs of 101 modern day Pagans.
which are a good addition to your growing library for reference if nothing else.

"Llewellyn's Complete Book of Correspondences"  is a must have for anyone who will ever write a spell.  This book is like the PDA for Witches!  Correspondences for Animals, Plants, Minerals, Gods, Spirits, Tarot and so much more... All at your finger tips!

"Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation" is written by Silver Ravenwolf, a sometimes questionable (in the community as a whole) author. BUT, the book is perfect for both reference and personal growth.  In my opinion, it's the only Book of Shadows beyond your own, that you'll ever need.

There are an innumerable amount of other books I could choose to list here.  Authors such as Ellen Dugan, Dorothy Morrison, and Starhawk are also worth checking out.  But due to the simple fact that I do not wish to completely overwhelm or over load you, I will leave it to you to explore their titles and choose which may or may not interest you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Creating a Materia Medica (Herbal Notebook)

As always I have a great many projects going on in my life.  One of the ongoing ones I've been working on is my "Materia Medica" --  a book of herbs and other plants.  In my head I usually call it my Herbal Book of Shadows because it will, when finished, include information for herbal workings both mundane and magickal.  I hope someday to create a hand written "heirloom" version to pass on to my children & grandchildren.  But for now it's a scattered mess of information on a great many herbs.

I mentioned on my One Witch's Wonderland Page that I was working on such a project and I got a few comments from people who wanted to or had attempted to start their own version - but who felt it was too daunting a task or weren't sure where to start.  Trust me, I get that!

As many of you know I attempted to get a degree in Holistic Health, which included a section on Herbalism, but sadly, the school I was working with closed.  So I am now searching for a new school to start over at. This means that for the most part my Herbal education is self taught & researched.  This is not a bad thing in my opinion, for nearly all the great herbalists of history were either self taught or apprenticed by someone who was -- there were no herbal degrees in the Ancient World!

This means that regardless of your financial means, a project like this is NOT outside of your abilities.  I guess that old adage about "If I can do it - YOU can do it"  works well here.  But seriously, it's not quite as hard as you think.

If you're doing a digital version or even a "blog" type version it can be even easier because you can edit what you've already written, but if you're doing it by hand I suggest leaving entire blank pages between each herb - at least in the beginning.  I've found that as I've gone on I've learned more about herbs that I've already "finished" and had to go back and add information.  Either way, I suggest NOT creating any type of "bound" book until you feel you're finished - which granted could be years.  So either a digital version (online or off) and/or a 3-ring binder work well to start.

I actually have a ton of notebooks full of information because I like to hand write everything.  And I'm now in the process of typing up my early research and creating more of a binder, but do what works for you. I have found that I retain more mentally if I write it out rather than just type it.

But where to start? What herbs to include? What books or sites to rely on? What information to include?  And what to do when information from one source seems to clash with information from another source?  It's no wonder it seems like the project from you know where...  But no fear, it's not nearly as scary as it seems.

Before you start researching herbs, I found it of great benefit to create a "glossary of terms." This takes a small amount of research all it's own, but it makes for an easier time later on.  IF you have already defined a Dicot as " any member of the flowering plants, or angiosperms, that has a pair of leaves (cotyledons) in the embryo of the seed" and you know that "most common garden plants, shurbs, trees and broad leafed flowering plants such as roses & geraniums" are included in this group, then you won't have the need to define that each time, instead you can simply label the plant as a "Dicot." You may also wish to define other terms related to your research in this section.  You may wish to include terms related to the following aspects here:

  • Preparation & Preservation of Plant Material (Tincture, Drying, Infusion, etc)
  • Growth Habit Classification
  • Scientific Classifications (Division, Class, Family, etc)
  • Life Cycle Types (Perennials, Annuals, etc)
  • Light & Soil Needs (Full Sun, Shade, ect) 
  • Plant Parts:  Names & Types (Stamen, Receptical, etc.) 

I found it best to start with what you know.  Choose herbs you're already comfortable with. What herbs do you have in your garden? What herbs do you already wildcraft?  And what herbs are in your kitchen?  These are the herbs to begin with.  If you are REALLY new to the world of Herbs, I would suggest starting with one you can easily purchase near you. Most grocery stores now have at least a small section of fresh herbs (even my shithole of a grocery store has Rosemary and Sage in the produce section) so start with those.  This way you will be able to fully experience the herb itself, at least in a small way - taste it, smell it, feel it, see what it looks like, maybe even meditate with it.

Once you've chosen an herb to start with, you may be wondering what information to research and what to include in your "book."  Some of that will be up to you. I am a little OCD and include as much information as humanly possible, but you don't need to have all of this.  Here I am listing what I - PERSONALLY - include, placing an asterisk (*) next to those things which I feel are of the greatest importance and SHOULD be included in everyone's book...

  • Common Name*
  • Scientific Name*
  • Alternative Names (Most Common)*
  • Description of Plant and it's parts (& Photographs or Drawings)
  • Native & Naturalized Growing Areas
  • Growth Habitat
  • USDA Symbol
  • Scientific Classifications (Group, Family & Flowering Duration)
  • Actions/Medicinal Properties* (“antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory”, “expectorant”, etc.)
  • Energetics* (“warming”, “cooling”)
  • Affinities* (body parts or systems affected)
  • Common Uses*
  • Common Preparations*
  • Recommended Dosages*
  • Precautions & Possible Allergy Information*
  • Animal Use Information
  • Growing Information (Soil Preference, Tips, Seed Depth, etc)
  • Beneficial Planting Companions
  • Metaphysical & Magickal Correspondences & Properties
  • Meta. & Magickal Uses & Preparations 
  • Essential Oil Uses
  • Recipes
Don't expect to gather all the information at once.  As I said above, I have had herbs I thought I was "done" with only to discover later that I had more to add...  A good bit of this information is simply "Scientific" in nature, and is meant only to help you identify and classify.  You may wonder WHY this is important, if you know what a plant looks like, do you really need to know what Family or Genus it belongs to?  Well, yes and no.  You don't need to know this stuff in order to properly use your herb, but knowing this information does help you to learn relationships between plants and will help you to understand more subtle uses and associations. For example, knowing the Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) and Peppermint (Mentha piperita) are both a part of the Lamiaceae Plant Family, will help you see similarities between the two and give you a leg up when it comes to identifying unknown species of plants in the same family down the road - a huge benefit when wildcrafting in new areas. 

But as I said, not all of this information is needed for everyone.  If, for example, you have no use for Metaphysical or Magickal Correspondences or Uses, skip that part. And you may choose to create a separate chapter or book for recipes.  Growing information may be omitted if you live in an area where a specific plant can not grow, or if you do not plan to grow it.  

If you are using a digital system or a binder you can always add information later on. As I am creating my binder, I have found it beneficial to create 3-5 pages per herb. The first page is for identification & scientific information (names, description, family, etc). The second for medicinal information (usage, dosage, precautions, etc.) including any medicinal information for the Essential Oil.  The third for growing & gardening information (soil pref., sun needs, moisture levels). A forth for the Magickal information & uses. And then the final page for any other information which I may feel needs to be includes. If I have photographs, pressings, drawings, seed packets, and/or recipes I will include them on additional pages. NOTE: I do attempt to include a photo of the herb on the first page with the identification information, however additional photos, etc. get their own page for space reasons.

What herbs or plants you choose to include is entirely up to you. As I said above I feel the best place to begin is with herbs you are already familiar.  For me, Rosemary, Burdock and Dandelions were a good solid place to start, but if you have herbs or plants growing in your home, you may wish to begin there, or possibly with herbs you use to cook often.  Once you feel you've gone through all the herbs and plants you are readily familiar with, or if you feel there aren't any plants you are comfortable with, then I would suggest doing a search on what plants are common where you live.  Often times the plants we see growing along the side of the highway are some of the most amazing.  Wildcrafting.net has a search tool which will give you a list of plants found in your state. 

Once you know what information you're looking for, and you know what plants to research, it may hit you that you're unsure as to where, exactly, to search.  There are literally thousands of books out there and even more websites & blogs.  So where do you go for solid and trustworthy information?  I prefer to stick to "official" sites like the USDA PLANTS Database for scientific information, and Wildcrafting.net has a great deal of that information as well. But for usage and growing information you'll need to look elsewhere.  Stick to professional individuals (their books or sites) and official texts - Herbalists, Holistic Doctors, College/School Textbooks, Encyclopedias - and stay clear of general blogs unless you know the source is good.  Most blogs are written by people like you and me, chances are they aren't trying to put out misinformation, but it can happen. And when it comes to using an herb for medicinal purposes, you want to ensure you have the right information.  Of course if you're researching properly you'll have 2 or 3 sources for everything, but it's still best to skip the little guys and go for the more consistently reliable sources.  If you are looking for text books, do a search for Herbalist Schools or classes at local colleges and see what text books they are using, chances are they're pretty reliable - again though, stay away from unreliable schools or schools who use their own materials. Sites from well known herbal experts (ex: Rosemary Gladstar) are also a good place to and these may even be available through your local library or at a discounted price through places like Half Priced Books or Amazon. 

Even when you are using all the best information sources you may still come across information which is conflicting.  Numerous herbal books suggest the internal usage of Comfrey, for example.  While more recent books will talk about it's carcinogenic properties and suggest it only be used for mulch. In cases like this, take some time to see why there is a conflict. In this case the studies which identified Comfrey as possibly carcinogenic weren't done until recently, so books from previous years would not have had this updated information available when they were written.  Look for studies which back up one or both claims and weight the information against what you know about the body and similar plants.  

Although it may seem a quite impossible feat, it is in fact something that can be done. But the final question here is WHY?  There are, as I said above, thousands and thousands of books, websites and blogs about herbs out there, WHY spend all this time to create a book of your own? Why not just go out and buy other books and keep those.  Well, fact is, if that's the question you're asking yourself, this project may not be for you - it's not for everyone.  But on the chance that you're asking this out of fear rather than simply not wanting to do it, the answer is this - all those other books are wonderful and have all the information you need. This project though is about more than that, it's about teaching yourself all of this information and creating a place to keep it all organized for those times when your brain simply can't remember it all (and unless you have an eidetic memory you never will be able to remember it all anyways.) It's also about creating something that your children and your grandchildren can use and learn from. Something that is going to give them all the education that you have gathered and stop them from needing to sort through all the thousands of books looking for the information that you already have. 

I'll be honest, this is NOT a quick project. You will NOT finish this in a weekend. Chances are, you won't finish this in a year. You may not even finish it in a decade - or ever!  If you're like me, the chance is great that you will add to this book for the rest of your life.  But that's not a bad thing!  Your book will grow as your knowledge grows. If you wish to do an "heirloom" version - like I hope to someday do - then you may wish to someday sit down with your huge 3-ring binder filled with page after page of herbal information and pair it down to just the most common and/or local plants. But that's down the road. Don't allow the idea of a single book limit you now.  You may wish to create an entire shelf of binders as your book grows... I say go for it!  What matters is all the knowledge you will be gathering as you go forward - and of course all the knowledge you will be able to pass on in the process.  

Once upon a time this knowledge was not uncommon. The average housewife could go out to the woods and pick up the herbs she needed to heal the sick, ease labor pains and cook dinner... 
It's time we got that knowledge back!  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Small Break?

Hey all, I'm taking a small break.  Maybe a week, maybe more...  I've been spending a good bit of time here lately and feel I need to take some time to get some off-line things taken care of.  I will be back shortly, but there won't be any new posts here for a week or so.  It's no big deal, I'm healthy, no one is hurt... But my family, my home and my business need my attention - Spring Cleaning is a BITCH!  And something has to give, so unfortunately, it's the blog.  I'll still be online, just not blogging, til I get things caught up - and then I will be back with a fury!

Check me out on my ONE WITCH'S WONDERLAND Facebook Page,  my new SABRINA M. BOWEN Facebook Page, or on TWITTER while I'm gone...

See you all soon!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Good Witch's Gift DVD Release

Okay...  Early this morning I posted that The Good Witch's Garden was FINALLY being released on DVD.  Let me just say that was enough to get me excited... BUT, now I have even more excellent news! As it turns out it's NOT just The Good Witch's Garden which is being released on DVD, but the Good Witch's Gift as well!

This third film in the series is being released on June 17th, 2014 and can be pre-ordered through Amazon NOW.  Again, I've already pre-ordered!

So that means we now have the first three of 6 films on DVD, hopefully with another 3 to come quickly!  A 7th film is due to air this October on the Hallmark Channel, and a Television Series is set to begin in 2015.

Order the first THREE Good Witch Movies TODAY!

Movie 1:  The Good Witch

If you're as much of a fan of this series as I am... I'm sure you're now officially chomping at the bit waiting for DVDs of The Good Witch's Charm, Family and Destiny to be released... Don't worry, I'll make sure I post the moment I know they're available for pre-order!  

The Good Witch's Garden Movie Release

I can not express how excited I am about this!  I am a HUGE FAN (can you be a bigger than "huge" fan? If so, I am.) of The Good Witch Movies!  And until now only the first of the series has been put out on DVD (legally) - although there are numerous bootleg versions out.  Hundreds of fans have been pressuring the copyright owners to put the other movies out, and it seems that FINALLY our voices have been heard!  The second of the series The Good Witch's Garden, is being released on DVD on April 22.  I have already pre-ordered my copy!  

If you aren't familiar with The Good Witch series, do yourself a favor and find out when they will air on Hallmark again! They often do day long Good Witch Marathons where they play the entire (so far) series.  I have lost more than a few days to these Marathons.  As of the time of this post there are 6 movies, with a seventh slotted to air this October and a new Television Series to launch in 2015.

If you are already a fan but somehow haven't purchased a copy of the first film in the series, you can do so HERE.

And don't forget to pre-order your copy of The Good Witch's Garden as well.  You will NOT regret adding these films to your collection!

Now that the second film is being released that the remaining (and yet to come) films will follow suit!
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