Friday, December 20, 2019


The winter solstice (on or around December 21st) has long been honored as the moment we shift from the darker half of the year to the lighter half, as the days begin to lengthen- the sun is reborn. Germanic and Norse traditions historically celebrated a festival known as Yule or Yuletide, a holiday that is still celebrated by Neopagans and Heathens today and lasts anywhere from three to twelve days. Many traditions we now associate with the Christian holiday of Christmas originated in historical Yuletide celebrations, such as caroling, imbibing on wassail (spiced cider), mistletoe kissing, as well as decorating trees with lights, and hanging holly and ivy in the home. A Yule log, traditionally made of ash, was brought into the home and lavishly decorated before being set ablaze, as the highlight of celebration. A piece of the previous year's log was added, symbolic of retaining prosperity throughout the year and into the next. There are many variations of these celebrations in modern traditions. Whatever you celebrate, we hope you have a blessed and warm holiday!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Book Spotlight: A Year of Living Mindfully by Anna Black

Experience a year of living mindfully with weekly activities and practices that will help you enjoy a more stress-free, contented, and fulfilled life.

Anna Black believes we can see our essential nature as the blue sky and our experience, good and bad, simply as impersonal weather that obscures it from time to time. We can’t stop the difficult times occurring but we can help ourselves move through them by connecting with our essential nature through mindfulness. In A Year of Living Mindfully Anna helps you to gradually integrate mindfulness into your everyday life. Week by week it suggests different activities and meditations to cultivate present moment awareness. The emphasis is on progressing at your own pace and cultivating a spirit of curiosity about the moments that make up your life. There is plenty of space to reflect on your experience and what you are discovering. Anna suggests ways to actively cultivate qualities that build our emotional resilience in the same way we may exercise to improve our physical fitness. We can learn to handle difficult emotions more positively and learn to respond to our experience rather than being hijacked by it.


VIRGINIA CEDARWOOD: Essential Oil of the Month

While most trees are bare this time of year, cedar trees are evergreen. Cedar oil can remind you of your deep strength and give you some emotional stamina this winter. Cedar is considered a sacred tree in many different cultures and traditions. It has been used in many different religious and spiritual ceremonies and practices, partly because it is known to relax the mind and body, making prayer and meditation easier. Used in aromatherapy, cedar oil can be a wonderful tool for aiding both relaxation and concentration. It can both alleviate feelings of stress and stimulate cerebral function, making it easier to focus. Cedar oil can help ease tension in the body and make it easier to fall asleep. It can be used to help one breathe easier, help with the buildup of phlegm, and a variety of other respiratory ailments. To help with breathing, try using it as a natural vapor rub by diluting it and massaging it into the throat and chest.
When diluted and used topically, cedar essential oil can help ease inflammation, dryness, cracking of the skin, acne, and can reduce signs of aging. It can facilitate wound healing, as well as soothe muscle aches and spasms.
Cedar oil is great for encouraging hair growth and health. It has been known to reduce hair thinning, slow hair loss, and help improve circulation to the scalp while cleansing.
It also can be used in spray bottles to disinfect and to repel insects.
Enjoy cedar oil's many and varied benefits this winter season.

by Theresa Musatto

RAINBOW OBSIDIAN: Gemstone of the Month

The French writer Albert Camus once wrote, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” In this darkest time of winter, the stone of rainbow obsidian can remind you of that invincible summer within yourself. Like the rainbow comes after a storm, rainbow obsidian holds this rainbow within itself, as a promise of hope encapsulated by the fertile darkness. This stone is useful for grounding and is a powerful protector. It can help you touch on some of the root causes of emotional distress. It carries you deep within yourself and aids in shining light on different, perhaps buried, parts of oneself. This journey is not always pleasant to begin with, but looking deep into oneself bears the fruit of true understanding and peace that cannot come without an earnest and determined search.

Use this stone as an ally in this dark months, to dig deep and find your inner rainbow.

“Rainbow Obsidian helps one take the downward journey to unexpected Light. One often expects the spiritual Light to be found above, in one's flights towards Heaven, but for most human beings it's impossible to escape the prisons of one's own wounded psyche without going down. This journey into the depths is as amazing as it is necessary. As one descends, one finds the forgotten pieces of oneself that have been left behind at each wounding. Reclaiming the parts and continuing downward, one may experience more emptiness and deeper darkness before suddenly bursting into Light at the very nadir of the descent.” - Robert Simmons

by Theresa Musatto

WILD CHERRY: Herb of the Month

As winter progresses, wild cherry bark can help you with any coughs or colds that come along. Considered one of the most precious herbs to the Native Americans, it can be used in a variety of ways. Known best as a cough suppressant, one can often find wild cherry bark syrup at their local natural food or herb store. Because it is also a bronchiodilator, it not only suppresses coughing (very useful if it is keeping you up at night), it can also open up your airways. Its astringent actions reduce mucus, and its gentle nervine action helps you to feel soothed. Being a member of the rose family, it is not surprising that wild cherry bark is also a wonderful heart tonic. It both tones the heart and aids in relieving congestion of the cardiovascular system. It can help remedy heart conditions such as heart palpitations and high blood pressure.

Wild cherry bark is also considered a wonderful digestive tonic. Being a bitter, it promotes the secretion of digestive juices, which help the breakdown of food and aid in the absorption of nutrients. Additionally, it can tone and strengthen the digestive system and can be useful for cases of indigestion.

Many Native America tribes used the berries and inner bark to treat worms and diarrhea. Used as a poultice, wild cherry bark and root have proved to be useful in treating a variety of skin problems and wounds. The inner bark was applied as a poultice on cuts, ulcers, wounds, and burns by the Chippewa tribe.

Prunus serotina (wild cherry) is very closely related to prunus virginia and both are often referred to as chokecherry. According to the Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants, "When Captain Meriwether Lewis fell ill with fever and abdominal cramps on the Lewis and Clark expedition, he was on his feet the next day after being dosed with chokecherry twigs simmered in water." 

Wild cherry should be avoided in large doses and for long periods of time. In addition, avoid if you are pregnant or nursing. Consult a doctor if you are taking it with medications because wild cherry bark can affect how they are are broken down by the liver.

by Theresa Musatto

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Magic of Soup: January is National Soup Month

In the 17th century B.C., I-Yin, the Chinese imperial chef studied herbs for medicinal use in cooking and developed the healing herbal soups that are now a standard part of the Chinese diet and healing regimens.
Experts believe the therapeutic value of soup comes in part from the ease with which the body assimilates the ingredients, broken down by simmering, as well as from the synergy of food and herbs cooked together. Soups don't require much energy to digest so in many cultures they are often used instead of food when a person is sick. (For example, chicken soup: the Jewish penicillin). Soup is an ideal vehicle for introducing therapeutic substances into the daily routine. You can eat soups containing tonic herbs and food daily for preventative health.
To make a good tonic soup, use a non-metallic pot such as a ceramic or crock pot. Cook the ingredients over low heat. Simmering gently leaches out the energetic and therapeutic properties of the foods, rather than destroying them.
Fall is the season of the lung, which is nourished by pungent foods, and must be protected from excessive dryness, and from ailments like cods, bronchitis, and the flu. Winter is an important time to tonify the kidneys with soups. As you strengthen the kidneys, you strengthen the whole body.

Soup Recipe for Cold & Flu
3 whole scallions, sliced into thin 1" strips
1 ounce black or white soybeans
5 quarter-sized slices ginger, cut into 1" strips
2 pints water
Bring all ingredients to a boil. Cover and simmer over very low heat for thirty minutes. Makes 2 servings.

Recipe for Kidney Tonic Soup
1/4 ounce fennel seeds
1/4 ounce cinnamon bark
Dried orange peel (about 1/2 of an orange)
2 scallions, cut into thin 1" strips
3 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped fine
3 quarter-sized slices ginger, cut into 1" strips
1/4 pound tofu (or cooked chicken) 1" cubes
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
Place fennel, cinnamon, and orange peel in a tea strainer or herb floater. Place with other ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered for forty minutes. Remove strainer and serve. Makes 2 servings.

by Judy Burger