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.