A few of my favourite things…

I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite eco-friendly products that I use on a regular basis. I have been buying these kinds of products for years now, and through lots of trial and error, have found which ones really do work, and which ones don’t (at least for me). So, here are my shining stars in the sustainable living category for your bathroom cabinet! Note: I have not been paid to endorse these products by any means, this is a genuine post in which I just want to share some little gems!)

Rosehip Scar Oil 50ml
My absolute favourite!

First off, I have got to mention Balmond’s Rosehip Scar Oil. I got this when I was ready to start treating my scar after the hysterectomy last summer. I was advised by the nurse who took out my clips after the surgery to use a specific oil on the scar to treat it, but when I looked up the ingredients it was a petroleum-based product, which is not something I wanted to put on my skin. So, I searched around and found Balmond’s scar oil, and wow – did it deliver! This oil contains rosehips, lavender and palmarosa, which gives it a lovely scent. It is all natural, gentle and works not only to treat scars, but as a facial moisturiser, for stretchmarks, uneven skin tone or fragile skin. It is rich in vitamin A, C, E and essential fatty acids. The main oils are grapeseed oil, rosehip oil, sunflower oil, calendula oil, chamomile oil, and lavender and palmarosa oil. Some, but not all of the ingredients, are organic.

I used this oil on my scar (and still do) and it has faded much quicker than if I hadn’t treated it. My brother-in-law had abdominal surgery last year as well, and we have compared scars. This oil has really helped in healing the skin, as well as keeping the rest of my tummy lovely and soft. I thought, this works so well on the skin for my belly, let’s try using it on my face. I have always avoided oils on my face, because it tends to clog my pores. Not this one. A few drops is enough to do your whole face at night (don’t use during the day, as the oils can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun) and when you wake up in the morning, your skin will look refreshed and lovely (at least, mine did). I can’t recommend this oil enough.  I use it on my hands at night as well. It seems expensive, at around £18 a bottle, but the bottle lasts 4 – 6 months, depending on how much skin you want to treat with it. I thought it was extremely good value for money, and I’ll continue to use this oil long after my scar has been fully healed. It comes in a glass bottle, with a glass dropper. Sadly the top of the dropper is plastic, but I’m willing to make that concession.

Kutis natural deodorant range

The next stellar product is Kutis natural deodorant. I have spent YEARS searching for a natural deodorant that actually works, and the best that I found for a long time was the solid deodorant from Lush. This still left me a bit swiffy on the hottest summer days, or after a workout, and so I still shopped around. I found Kutis two years ago, and I’ve never looked back. This deodorant really lasts, through two of the hottest summers I have ever known, through kickboxing workouts and belly dance performances – you name it, this product delivers. It has several lovely scent combinations, and my favourites are the citrus ones and the lavender and geranium. The main ingredient is arrowroot powder, coconut oil and sodium bicarbonate. This product contains lot of ingredients that are organic as well, but not all. It comes in a cardboard tube, which is fully home compostable.

I love my lip balms, especially tinted lip balms. I found Nirvana last year. The lip tint, not the spiritual state. This is an organic, vegan lip tint in a home compostable cardboard tube. I’m not sure about the label being compostable however; I may have to write to them to ask. This lip tint comes in several different colours, but I used the Velvet one all last year. I also used it as a cheek tint too, and it was pretty good, though sometimes it can get a bit oily on very hot days.

Fat And The Moon Lip & Cheek Stain

Another lip and cheek tint I found recently is Fat and the Moon. They call their product a lip and cheek stain, but it doesn’t stain at all – it is, in fact, a tint. I would have preferred a stain, for its lasting power, but this doesn’t have it, sadly. It is, however, a lovely tint, but you will have to keep re-applying it, not only to your lips but I also needed a refresher for the cheeks halfway through the day. It gives a lovely natural colour and contains all organic ingredients, though it is not vegan as its base is beeswax.  I used to use Burt’s Bees All Aglow for a lip and cheek tint, but the plastic packaging put me off. As soon as Burt gets their act together on the packaging, I’ll be looking into them again.

null | EthiqueBeauty | Gallery

Finally, let’s talk hair. I have spent YEARS looking for a natural, solid shampoo and conditioner that was SLS free. Everything that I tried (apart from Lush) left my hair a sticky awful mess. Lush works, but contains SLS. Then, at the beginning of this year, I found Ethique, who now distribute from the UK (they are an Australian company). I bought their hair sampler package and their facial sampler. Everything in them was lovely, but I highly recommend their St Clements shampoo for oily hair (mine’s not that oily, but it gives it a good clean) followed by Wonderbar conditioner (again for oily hair, but it works great on my “normal” hair. The full size bars last a long time, and the conditioner bar is a lot smaller than the shampoo bar. Don’t let that fool you. I’m almost finished the shampoo bar, but still have half of the conditioner left! The conditioner works best if you work it through the hair from root to tip, and then brush it all the way through. You also use less conditioner by doing so. The products from Ethique are not cheap – in fact, they’re a bit eye-watering in price, but they are the only ones that I have used that actually work, are eco-friendly, compostable packaging and really good quality.

Do you have a favourite beauty/bathroom product? Let us know in the comments, please!

To Keep Silent

Most people in Modern Paganism have heard of the Witch’s Pyramid, sometimes known as the Magician’s Manifesto. In this, there are four goals for a person to achieve their own power, which are: to know, to dare, to will, and to keep silent. I’m discussing each of these one by one in my podcast series, but I’d like to take a closer look at the adage: to keep silent.

Many say that this maxim was used in order to protect witches from “outing” each other during the witch trials and persecution of the Middle Ages. I’m not sure if this quote dates that far back, in all honesty. However, that’s beside the point of this article. There are some beneficial ways that the motto can be used, and also a lot of detrimental ways.

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A good point: it teaches people to shut up and listen. You can’t really listen if you aren’t quiet. It also teaches us that words do have power. We need to use our words responsibly, especially in this age of social media and the abuse of people through the anonymity of the internet. A Witch’s word is said to hold power too – lies and half-truths undermine a Witch’s power (this applies to all people, in my opinion). Words can heal or destroy.

Being silent also helps us to see the bigger picture. When we step outside of our ego and its chattering, we begin to hear the stories of others and see the grander scheme of things. We all have egos, and we need to learn to work with them in order to not be ruled by them. When we are ruled by our egos, we aren’t living intentionally: we are instead living reactionary lives.

Being silent is also helpful in teaching us to be alone. With so many gadgets to hand to distract us from ourselves, we’ve forgotten how to be alone, how to be bored and, yes: how to be lonely. It’s only when you truly deal with loneliness that you can come to understand it and work to improve your situation. Then again, there are the more solitary folk who prefer to be alone, and who find solace in this space for themselves, to work, to heal, to dance and to pray. When we have cut ourselves off from all other distractions, we begin to realise that we are never truly alone. We have nature, the gods, the ancestors, all around us, all the time.

But what are some of the detriments to the saying, “to keep silent”? Well, silence has been used to abuse people for a long, long time. When we silence someone, we are exerting our power over them. Taking away a person or a group’s voice can be the most harmful thing you can do socially, politically, environmentally and ethically. Sometimes this even crosses over into the Pagan sphere, where unsavoury and unethical groups or persons use the adage “to keep silent” to use and abuse others. It can also be used to keep power from an individual or group, to not share knowledge in order to control them. It can be used as a front, a guise, a glamour for when someone doesn’t know an answer, and simply quotes this maxim to maintain an air of mystery and power. These kinds of “teachers” are really just in it for their egos. The best teacher will willingly admit to not knowing something, often learns from the student, and is willing to say so openly and honestly.

This sense of secrecy helps a group or person to establish power and mystique. It entices people to come closer, to learn more. The old Victorian orders and groups wove this veil of secrecy around their groups, not only to protect their members but also to make themselves feel more important. This has carried through in various forms throughout the decades, and has led to the history of Modern Witchcraft being a bit of a fuddled mess. If people were open about themselves, where their traditions came from, and who did what, we might have a more cohesive and coherent history to turn to. Even in the last 70 years we are still trying to unravel pieces of the puzzle, from Gardner and his associates and beyond. They can’t tell us – they’ve all passed on to the Summerland, taking their secrets with them. We can’t verify a lot of claims made by people and groups, which in this age of fact-checking has become paramount.

Many people, myself included, have found this utterly frustrating. So many traditions have created false histories in order to claim validity. In this way, they feel their tradition has the stamp of authenticity, because it goes back to so and so, etc. The irony of lies and half-truths to authentic a tradition is, I’m sure, not lost on many. I personally am not one to equate a religious or spiritual path’s age with validity, and there are many others out there who feel the same. If a spiritual path works for someone, and it was created yesterday, it’s just as valid as a 2,000 year-old tradition that spans the globe. But when secrecy is used to obscure fact because of false claims or untruths in a specific tradition, it can devalue it in the eyes of some. It’s never fun when you find out that your tradition had charlatans and forgers, ego maniacs and more thrown into the historical mix.

History will always have a veil of obscurity over it, hidden truths and perspectives written down by “the winners”. But with the adage of “to keep silent”, this can simply perpetuate the wilful abuse of the truth and facts.

Perhaps we need to learn when to speak up, when to speak the truth, our truths, and when to keep silent. When it is appropriate to do so, in order for power to be shared by all. The person with the most power is the person who is most willing to share it. And they usually don’t shout about it either.

Pagans with Asthma

 For some Pagans, asthma can really affect their personal practice. It can get in the way of so many things that you want to do, and overall be a real challenge to your way of life. I have weather-triggered asthma, as well as seasonal asthma from tree pollen in the spring and early summer. This means that many of my own personal practices had to be adapted in order for me to still be able to do all the things that I love. Here are some of my tips and tricks for getting through the difficult times when your condition is acting up. Please note, I am not a doctor, I am just passing on some advice that my own doctors have provided, alongside tried and tested methods that work for me.

First off – take your medication. If you’ve been prescribed inhalers, take them. For seasonal asthma, my GP has also recommended in addition to the inhalers, take an antihistamine every day, such as Piriteze. I take mine at night, just before bed. If you know when you asthma will start to kick in, ie. roughly which month, start taking the antihistamine a few weeks before so it’s really in your system when it all kicks off.

Second – look into supplementary herbal remedies from a qualified herbalist. I use the Love Your Lungs and the Allergeze formula from Nature’s Pharmacy. Melanie Cardwell is a licensed herbal practitioner who has worked with Druid College for many years. She also offers really good herbal courses and workshops. Let your herbalist know which medications you are on, and also consult your doctor too on the herbal remedies you wish to take.

A big tip for seasonal asthma – keep the windows closed if pollen is a trigger. You can open them at night when pollen levels are lower, to air out the house. I also used screens on my windows, initially to keep out the mozzies, moths and horseflies from my home in the country, but which I’ve found also keeps out the larger particles of pollen. At the end of every autumn, I take down the screens to wash them and put them away for the winter, and I’m amazed at the amount of pollen on them, luckily on them and not in the house! I bought flexiscreens that attach to windows using Velcro strips around the window edges. These are great because you can just throw them in the washing machine when you need to.

As well, wear a mask outside. These days, people won’t look at you funnily if you wear a mask. Years ago, I wore a bandana around my mouth and nose when I was working outside, to keep the pollen out of my lungs. This enabled me to do what I needed to do. In the evenings I could do rituals outside without a mask, for the most part. Some days were better than others. If a thunderstorm was coming, I had to grin and bear it – and use my reliever inhaler.

There are also a couple of yoga poses that open up your chest, such as supported fish pose. I prefer the supported version of this pose, because I find the traditional pose throws out my lower back. Using pillows and blocks to get into a comfortable position, I can lie there for about a minute and just concentrate on opening and expanding my chest and airways.

Getting an air purifier has also really helped. We bought ours second-hand, and put in a new filter. It didn’t cost us very much, but has really helped, especially overnight in high pollen seasons. It has a night setting, which doesn’t make as much noise as the normal setting. We also have a de-humidifier, which can be used during winter and through low pressure systems that bring a lot of rain and thunderstorms, which for many is also a trigger.

I’ve had to be meticulous about cleaning the house as well. Dusting, to remove any airborne particles has been my mission these last few years. I dust and vacuum every week, and twice a year I do a big clean in the spring and autumn, getting into all the nooks and crannies, under sofas and behind beds, etc. I’ve also found a wonderful tool for cleaning inside the radiators. It’s a long brush that really gets down inside them and pulls all the dust and other stuff that can get trapped inside, only to be released every time the heating comes on. The first time you use this, expect a lot of dust, so wear a mask! I also have the vacuum cleaner nozzle right by the brush head, so that when it’s pulled out, it catches the dust before it spreads to the rest of the room. Kind of like that suction thing that’s used while the dentist works on your teeth.

I’ve had to give up using incense, which was a real blow. I adore incense. I bought handmade incense from my favourite store in Montreal for many years, and also loose incense from StarChild in Glastonbury. Gorgeous, gorgeous scents. However, incense releases too many particles in the smoke, and triggers attacks in me, so I have had to give them up. Sometimes I might use it outside during ritual, if I’m sure I won’t be inhaling it, but even then that’s now becoming a rare thing for me, and I prefer just to enjoy the scents of nature. I can’t do saining or smudging anymore either with smoke, so I use different methods of purification, such as water (from the tap, rainwater, salted water or moonwater that I’ve made by leaving water outside overnight under the full moon, sometimes with a quartz crystal in it to add power to it), deep breathing, allowing the breeze to clear and cleanse me, the sunlight or moonlight, or energy drawn up from the earth and down from the stars.

To scent the home, usually I just have a window open when it’s possible to get some fresh air inside. In winter, this is lovely, as I don’t have to worry about pollen. I can open the windows while I’m making the bed, just to get a few minutes of air into the bedroom. If I want a particular scent, I can use an essential oil. Not in an oil burner, however, as this again triggers my asthma, as the water particles from the steam and the oil attached to them get into my lungs and cause it to tighten. Instead, I take five to ten drops of an essential oil and place them on an organic cotton ball or pad, or even a wadded up tissue or loo roll, and then hide it in a pretty bowl somewhere in the room. For extra oomph, I can place the container on a radiator, where the scent will disperse without the steam that triggers my asthma. For some, this may not work, as scent can be a trigger, so you will have to really know what sets you off and what doesn’t in order to be safe. My favourite oils to use are geranium for the living areas, and patchouli for the bedroom. I use little brass cauldrons that I found at antique fairs and shops, and these are dotted around my house. I also have one on my altar, for when I am working inside. I like to use lavender at my indoor space, as it brings peace and the cats seem to enjoy it.

Candles – you will have to be careful which ones to use, if you can use them at all. I’ve found that all petroleum-based paraffin candles aren’t good for me (or anyone, really) and so I use soy or beeswax candles. Beeswax is expensive, and so I use soy candles from reputable and sustainable sources. You will have to do your homework to find a good soy candle maker/distributor in your area. These give off less smoke and particles than the usual paraffin candles, and so aren’t so much a trigger for me. I air out the room afterwards too.

I haven’t found that changing my diet has had any effect on my asthma, but for some that has worked. I’d advise talking to your GP and herbal specialist about this, as they might have advice to share with you and be able to work with your needs. As always though, everyone should eat their fruits and vegetables!

Meditation also helps to lessen the effect of stress-related asthma. Stress can be a big trigger, and so the more you are at peace with yourself and the world, the less you will suffer, not only from asthma but from a whole host of ills. Meditation also helps you to get in touch with yourself, and the more you know about yourself, the better off you will be able to take care of yourself, and others.

I hope that this blog post has been of help to some of you out there who suffer from asthma, with some tips and tricks to living your fullest Pagan life without triggering attacks. If you have any advice that works for you, please do feel free to leave it in the comments section below. First and foremost, talk to your doctor about your condition, and if it hasn’t been diagnosed, get one as quick as you can. What some people might think is asthma could be a heart condition, and so you really do need to get it checked out immediately.

Blessings on your practice!