Monday, March 14, 2011

How to make all natural body powders

Fragrant herbs like lavender make a wonderful body powder.

Herbal powders deodorize and heal

Herbal powders are easy to make, effective and have a relatively long shelf life. The base is simply pure arrowroot powder, kaolin or pascalite clay, rice powder, or a combination of the three. You will need ground or powdered herbs, which you can buy from any of the excellent online herb companies such as Mountain Rose Herbs, or powder them yourself with an herb/spice grinder. Ideally, you would use a mortar and pestle but for larger quantities such as my formulas, it would take a long time and a lot of effort. Also, sift the crushed herbs several times to make it as fine as possible.

You will also need containers. Any jar with a tight lid will work, although you can buy inexpensive, little powder dispensers from an herb shop. I used to sell my powders in the cardboard tube type because they more natural and bio-degradable than the all plastic ones.

Deodorizing Herbal Powder not only smells wonderful but works fine as a mild body deodorant. This formula fills four large (3-oz) containers. Combine one cup of powdered lavender and patchouli. Mix with four ounces kaolin clay and four ounces arrowroot powder. Add the following essential oils (be sure to use pure essential oils and not synthetic fragrance oils, which have no medicinal value): 12 drops cedarwood, 6 drops lavender and 6 drops patchouli. Blend well and fill your jars.

Herbal Healing Powder has the gentle, soothing aroma and healing power of slippery elm bark. I was fortunate that a storm brought down a huge limb from a friend’s giant slippery elm tree. I harvested the cambium, or inner bark, and to this day I am still using my own supply. An organic herb company like Mountain Rose offers it as well. To four ounces of powdered slippery elm and calendula blossoms (which is an easy-to-grow annual flower), add four ounces kaolin clay and four ounces arrowroot powder. Blend well and fill three large (3-oz) shakers.

Please note that these powders may feel somewhat coarse compared to plain talc (even with repeated sifting). Although arrowroot, kaolin clay and rice powder are silky smooth, the powdered herbs, no matter how finely minced, will always add a slight rough feeling to the powder. The scent and effectiveness of the herbs, however, are well worth the minor difference.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Simple Herbal Charms

Magic is in the believing. Just as thoughts contain the power to reshape our world, magical spells—in this case, herbal charms—take that one step further to harness our thoughtful energies into action. As always, I strongly recommend keeping it positive, meaning your thoughts as well as your desires. Negative magic sets loose havoc and sorrow upon the world. But positive magic on the other hand can bring about beautiful change.

Herbs have always played a crucial part in magic spells. You can make simple every-day charms from common botanicals found in your yard and garden. Harvest only healthy plants, preferably organically grown or sustainably wildcrafted (meaning never take more than 10 percent of an existing cluster). Some practitioners ask the plant for permission to pluck its leaves, flowers, stem or roots. By holding your hands out to the plant and waiting patiently, you can feel the plant’s energy and you will know which plant is willing to give itself up to your work. After harvesting, leave an offering. Water is always appropriate. Some people leave a coin. I like to leave a strand of hair from my head.

Besides herbs, you will need small squares (up to nine inches) of natural fabric or felt, plus natural string of cotton, hemp, wool or silk. Synthetics have no place in nature magic. First, you need to “charge” the herbs, which infuses your intent and energizes the magical energy of the plant. You can do this by holding the herb and visualizing your need or desire for the spell. My background includes Native American rituals, so I have learned to appreciate the power of smudging. Before assembling the charm, I light a sprig of sage, cedar, sweetgrass or other cleansing herb and wave the smoke over and around the herbs, cloth and string.

Now you are ready to put it all together. Mix the herbs you have chosen and crush them gently (a mortar and pestle is handy for this), then make a small mound of herbal blend in the center of the cloth. Gather the ends together and tie with string. The herbs listed here work well and are relatively easy to find.

1.      Healing charm
Use three or more of the following herbs: Rose petals, lavender, rosemary, pine, self heal, cypress, juniper, eucalyptus, lemon zest and spearmint. To use, squeeze the charm and inhale the fragrance. Place the charm in a sick room or wear it as a talisman.

2.      Protection charm
Use any combination of the following: Parsley, geranium, nasturtium, pennyroyal, pine and spearmint. Hang this charm in doorways or carry on your person as a talisman. For another protection charm, which I learned from my Native friends, hang a sprig of cedar over your entryway.

3.      Psychic awareness charm
These herbs can be used in a charm that you tuck under your pillow: Honeysuckle, iris, lemongrass, mugwort and yarrow.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How to build a traditional twig fence

Wattle Fence
 Add old-world charm
to your yard with an easy-to-build wattle fence

Wondering how to add unique style to your garden or yard at no cost? Consider a traditional twig fence, also called a wattle fence. Dating back to the Middle Ages and beyond, a hand-built wattle fence is an easy, attractive and sturdy outline for flower beds or other areas needing delineation. With just a few tools and a cluster of saplings, you can create your own eye-catching woven fence.

  • Gather your tools: pruners, a good hand saw, a hatchet and a small sledge hammer
  • With the saw, cut several large (up to two inches in diameter) saplings. These will be your upright posts, so after trimming the side branches, cut the saplings into lengths that correspond to the desired height of your fence, plus one foot. An overall length of three feet is good for your first wattle fence. Take your hatchet and chop a pointed end on each post.
  • Pound the upright posts into the ground three to four feet apart. Try to get them in about a foot deep.
  • With pruners in hand, cut down as many saplings as you can handle, up to a half inch in diameter and four to eight feet long. Poplars are flexible and easy to work with. Honeysuckle bushes also work great because they are fast growing and usually considered a pest—so why not create something beautiful out of them? After cutting the little trees, trim away the side branches and leaves.
  • Now for the fun part. Begin weaving the long, slender twigs along the upright posts. Overlap the pieces and tuck in the ends, but don’t worry about being precise or overly even. Keep it natural. Remember, your wattle fence is a tribute to an ancient custom.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Focusing on Fantasy Nature Art

Aside from this blog, I'm working as a Columbus Arts and Crafts Examiner at, where I’ve started adding profiles of artists whose works reflect unique skills or mediums. Thought I’d begin with my friend Carol and her fantasy nature art. Carol, like me, considers herself a born-again hillbilly (although I’m not sure if she would use my exact phrasing to describe her metamorphoses to a Nature-inspired crone).

Fantasy nature artist Carol Shumate finds inspiration in the woods.
Carol dreams of fairies and sprites, some elegant and beautiful, others rough and scary. She wakes up and heads to field and forest to gather materials, whether rocks, twigs, birds’ nests, feathers, or even animal hair and bones. Then she creates these amazing creatures from her dreams. For more of Carol’s story, please visit my blog

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cailleach, Mistress of Wild Things

 Crone Goddess of Winter
Before the male dominated Judeao-Christian-Islamic religions rose to power, primitive people the world over had their goddesses. The lands now called Ireland and Scotland are known for their Celtic culture, but even before the Celtic tribes arrived from the East, the people living in this area of northwest Europe honored the Great Goddess.

The most ancient pre-Celtic goddess, Cailleach, has many other names to describe her duties, including Mother of All, Goddess of Winter and Mistress of Wild Things. She is the crone archetype, the elder of the Triple Goddess, a wise healer and protector, yet at times a destroyer. I call her the Snow Crone because she reigns during the cold winter months. Men feared her because she was ugly and all-powerful, able to determine life and death. They called her the hag.

Cailleach controls the seasons. From November 1 to April 30, she brings rest and cleansing, both of which are needed for healing. One ancient story tells how she wanders the highest hills of Scotland throughout winter, wrapped in a tattered blue robe and carrying a staff of holly that makes frost and ice crystals. A crow rides upon her shoulder to witness life and death. Another story tells how Cailleach Bheare is the other face of Brighid, the Goddess of Spring, of fertility, renewal and all things light and lovely. Without the winter of rest that Cailleach brings, spring could not arrive. On the eve of May 1 (Fheill Bride), the crone puts down her holly staff, drinks from the Well of Youth and becomes Brighid, whose touch makes everything start growing again. On November eve (Samhain) they reverse the process and the crone goddess begins her reign once again. In her role as Mistress of Wild Things, Cailleach oversees and protects all the animals of the forest. With her they find sanctuary.

Although the goddess culture went underground for millennia, it enjoys a latter day renaissance as people search for a deeper connection to nature and a more feminine spiritual power.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How to make your own incense

Making incense, both loose and cone types, is fun and rewarding. Loose incense--the easier type to make--works with self-igniting charcoal or, using a pair of tongs, you can pull a small chunk of hot coal from the fire and place it in a small heat-resistant dish. Add pinches of your natural, herbal incense to the hot coal and let it smolder. Loose incense is perfect for sacred ceremonies or whenever you want a brief, aromatic burn. You can find many of the following ingredients in your garden, meadow and woods. For the more exotic ingredients such as salt petre and resins, visit an online shop such as Mountain Rose Herbs or Essential Herbals.

These are three of my favorite loose incense blends:

A Crone’s Herbal Charm
Rosemary for clear thinking
Lavender & roses for love and healing
Cedarwood for ancient wisdom
Mugwort for psychic vision and dream recall
Witchhazel for protection of the home

Blend with serious intent any amounts that you have on hand. When using, drop a pinch of the blend on a hot coal. The scent always makes me feel calm and close to the Goddess. This blend also works great in a charm, wrapped and tied up in a small piece of natural cloth and used as a talisman.
Vetiver herb, powdered
Patchouli herb
Orange zest
Myrrh resin

Use only a small amount of orange peel because too much will give off a bitter scent. This is an earthy, mysterious blend that I love using when meditating.

Blessing Ceremony
Sandalwood (or Cedarwood)
Myrrh resin
Orris root
Dragon’s Blood

Please remember that Sandalwood is endangered and buy or use with utmost care and respect. Even better, substitute cedarwood.

Now for the cones. Make them somewhat narrow (about ½ inch wide at the base) and no more than an inch high to help them burn consistently. My cones burn fast and smoky, and are best used outside (in a heat-resistant dish).

Earth Dance Incense

Thoroughly blend 1 Tb gum Arabic or Tragacanth in ½ cup hot water and set aside to thicken. This will be your binder.
Powder the following:
1 part pine
1 part birch
1 part patchouli
1 part benzoin resin
2 parts charcoal

Add 1 tsp. salt petre (available where incense supplies are sold) and blend well. Mix in enough gum to make a dough-like texture. Shape into small cones and let dry on wax paper, turning at least once a day for several days up to two weeks. Again, use only in a deep, heat-safe dish or censer. It sparks and burns fast.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to make an herbal healing balm

Begin with an infusion.

In the morning as the dew dries on the Earth, harvest healthy samples of the following:

Comfrey leaves
Calendula blossoms
Lavender blossoms
Plantain leaves
St. John’s wort blossoms & tops
Self heal plants         

You may, instead, use quality dried plants. One of my favorite suppliers for high quality organic herbs and oils is Mountain Rose Herbs. You will find that I recommend this company often. Check them out for all your herbal needs if you can't--or don't want to--grow or wildcraft the herbs yourself.

Assuming you harvested the herbs, spread the plant material across a clean table and let dry for a few hours or overnight (You want the plant material wilted, with little or no moisture left, especially for leaves such as comfrey, which tend to turn rancid quickly with any moisture left in it.) Crush or tear the wilted herbs into small pieces and fill a jar about half way. Pour oil, preferably olive for its long shelf life, over the plants and continue filling jar all the way to the brim. Cover tightly with lid and set in a sunny windowsill for at least two weeks. Strain through several layers of cheesecloth and bottle in a clean, DRY jar.

Gather your supplies.
Glass bowl or measuring cup
Digital scale
Clean stainless steel spoon
Double boiler
Clean, soft towels
Sterile jars or tins

Balm Ingredients
Infused herbal oils
Pure cosmetic grade beeswax
Natural Vitamin E
Tea Tree essential oil
Lavender essential oil (optional)

  1. Place the glass measuring cup on scale and weigh 7.5 ounces of infused oil (about 1 cup).  
  2. Add .5 (1/2)ounce beeswax. 
  3. Place cup in an inch or so of water in a double boiler or other heat-safe container. Melt beeswax slowly over low, even heat. Do not overheat. 
  4. Remove from stove and cool for a minute or two. 
  5. Stir in one dropper of Vitamin E. 
  6. Add 8 drops of Tea Tree essential oil (or a combination of tea tree and Lavender). 
  7. Pour immediately into ready jars or tins. 
  8. Label and date. Makes app. 9 ounces of healing balm.

This wonderful, gentle balm helps heal minor scrapes, burns and insect bites and stings. It can also be used on baby’s bottom to help clear up diaper rash.

Important: Vitamin E helps prevent oxidation. It adds many weeks to the shelf life of your valuable oils. Vitamin E is not a preservative, however, and it cannot prevent spoilage if ANY moisture enters the product. Keep container cool and dry. Always use clean, dry fingertips to dip into balm. Under optimal conditions (cool, dry and clean), you can expect your all-natural herbal healing balm to last several months up to a year.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How to make a turkey tail rose

Figure 1,  Turkey Tail Rose
When is a rose not a rose? Your friends will be amazed that your handcrafted fungus rose is not a real flower (fig.1). In just a few minutes you can create a beautiful faux rose for dried arrangements and wreathes (fig.2) or to stand alone in a bud vase. You can even add a few drops of essential oil to scent the rose.

Figure 2
Gather some soft turkey tail mushrooms in a variety of sizes and shapes. (You can find them growing in clusters along fallen trees in a deciduous wood.) The little mushrooms will dry quickly in storage. When you are ready to make a rose, place the flat, little mushrooms in a plastic bag, sprinkle them with water and leave for about 15 minutes to soften.

Begin with a small turkey tail mushroom for the flower center and twirl it into a cone shape. Using a 24-gauge (or smaller) florist wire, push the wire several inches through the pointed base of the twirled mushroom and fold down. Pull and wrap brown florist tape from the bottom of the turkey tail petal down the length of double wire for as long as you want the stem (fig.3). You can find both wire and tape at any florist or hobby shop.

Figure 3
With a hot glue gun, add the second turkey tail. Regular glue will not work because you need a quick, strong hold. Start by covering the first fold. Put hot glue onto the new piece and lay it flat against the center piece, then press and hold for a few seconds.

Continue around the flower center with the next piece of the same size, placing it on the other side. The next pieces can be a bit bigger, to wrap farther around the flower center. Keep the new pieces slightly lower than the previous row so the center is exposed rather than hidden. Keep adding rows until the flower is as big as you want it.

Figure 4
You may want to trim the bottom of the longer pieces slightly so the flower ends evenly on the stem. Find a wide, short piece of turkey tail and wrap it around the bottom to cover the seams. It will look like the bottom petals. To finish, glue a small circle of moss around the flower base to hide the seams (fig.4).

Thanks to Carol Shumate from Little Shop of Wild Things for sharing this nature craft.