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!

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!

A Busy Day!

So, alongside the launch of the second series of Witchy Ways for my YouTube channel, I’ve also now got a second series started for Down the Forest Path Podcast on my Bandcamp page! The Imbolc e-newsletter has gone out, and I’ve got fingers in a lot of yummy pies at the moment. It’s all go for 2021 – two books being written, lots of new projects and endeavours – hello, energies of Spring!

Snowdrops

Reconnecting

This summer, as I recovered from major surgery, as soon as I was able I stood outside every morning and honoured my Lady and the day. I honoured and praised my Lady with her many associations, and I also used an adapted version of Sigdrifa’s Prayer that I came up with:

Hail to the Day, and Day’s sons

Farewell to Night and Her Daughters

With loving eyes look upon us here

And grant peace to those living here

All to the Gods, Hail to the Ancestors

Hail to the mighty fecund earth

Eloquence and native wit bestow upon us here

And healing hands while we live

But these last few weeks I haven’t said this prayer, and instead simply stood outside and felt the wind upon my skin, listening to the sounds and smelling the air. No words. My life is filled with words, and I guess I needed to stop with the words, for they were empty after a while. I needed to feel, from deep within, reaching for the silence first and then feeling the connection, rather than trying to state it as happening when it wasn’t. Too many words.

And so, now that I have my new seasonal altar set up, I sit and meditate at it every day and call to my Lady in my mind, feeling her inside my heart like a warm amber glow that spreads slowly into my awareness. I reach down with my energy into the earth and call to the earth, whose dark and rich energy comes up with my breath through my spine. I get out into the forest and onto the heath several times a week, with the action of walking as my prayer. And I am often blessed with wonderful sightings of the deer, the low-flying hawk, a falcon, a badger’s den or a robin in full song within arm’s length. Some of these moments I have captured on camera, but they will always reside deep within my heart.

I have changed, since my surgery. I had a hysterectomy at the end of June, due to a uterus full of fibroids and a very large ovarian cyst. I am only now coming to terms with the aftermath: living a mostly pain-free life is wonderful, but there is an emotional tsunami of pain and suffering that looms on the horizon every minute of the day. I call to my Lady to help me, woman to woman, for it seems that all the pain I’ve ever had in my life is now just below the surface of my skin, and the slightest bump sets it loose in a torrent of tears. I want to scream, to sob with abandon, to be held in the arms of my mother. I call to the earth, the Mother of All, and find myself supported on her green and dark bosom.

I found myself leaving all my old pathways of being, I floated for a couple of months, not doing anything except healing. I did not do full moon rituals, though I knew the cycles each and every day. I did a very short blot to Freyr at Lammas. I walked for the autumn equinox. Instead, I meditated, walked the land, and began to find my place within it once more, changed, different.

I felt like I was between the worlds, between a child and a middle-aged woman. I felt separated from myself. My detached self looked down with pity at the sad little girl, at the sad woman dealing with her life’s pain. Perhaps this was my Lady, taking me up to a higher point of view, to see myself from this other perspective, to keep me functioning in day to day business.

Are you having having a bad day? You are not. You are a Bad Bitch. Continue. Is your depression weighing you down? I know. Continue. You can keep going. You can do this. Continue. You are fighter. You are strong. You are smart. And you are wonderfully made. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Keep going. Keep going. Continue.

     – @playcheerleader on Instagram, sent to me very timely by an old friend

I have to let my Lady’s love of life fill my soul again. The earth supports me with warmth and strength, even as she turns colder and falls back into rest. With mind and body numbed from the trauma, I now have to dance in the woods with the elves once again. I remember that time. It was nearly thirty-odd years ago, and more in other lifetimes, but it is still there, they are there, waiting.

My Lady, fill my soul with your golden light, to guide me through the darkest night and find my way back to those woods, and back home to my soul.

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Autumn is here…

Autumn is here, though it’s a bit of a strange autumn. The leaves on the birch trees turned golden a couple of weeks ago, and now most of them have fallen to cover the forest floor in a beautiful golden light. But the oak, the ash and the beech trees are only now just starting to turn, and there’s still a lot of green about. The heather on the heath, which should be a brilliant purple colour, is slowly coming back to life after the rains. It was such a dry summer, that even out in the arid conditions of the heathland, things were dying before they had a chance to come into their own.

But it is definitely autumn, and you can smell it on the wind. That scent is so unmistakeable. It’s hard to describe: it’s a lovely, earthy smell so different from the green scent of summer, or the blossom scent of spring. The winds have ravaged these lands and all others across the country, stripping the trees of their colourful leaves before their time, and branches and fallen trees everywhere. Getting out in between the gales and the heavy rainstorms is a real gamble, so bringing your wet weather gear is essential.

It’s not been an easy year, not just for us humans, but for a lot of nature in this area. Though some species did well during the lockdown, many others have suffered from the lack of rain and a drought for two summers in a row. The hawks have been plentiful, and the deer have managed to keep their numbers up, but the plant life has suffered, and whether there will be enough food to keep them all strong throughout the winter remains to be seen.

And yet, despite all this, my heart sings merely at the thought of autumn. For it is my absolute favourite season, though here in the UK it is far too short. We don’t get the vibrant colours that I grew up with in Canada, but the feeling of nature winding down, of that last pause before dusk, the late afternoon sunlight shining through the clouds, the smell of woodsmoke on the wind – it all fills me with such peace. Gone is the harsh overhead sun, and instead it is dancing, playing through the turning leaves to fall upon the forest floor in dappled light.

The deer are gathering in larger and larger herds, and soon they will be all together out on the heath. The stags have begun to call, and it is the beginning of the deer rut. There are two main players this year, the dark stag who has been King for the last few years, and a new one, dappled and still young, but big and strong. I’m sure there will be some furious matches as they lock antlers in the evening’s failing light.

The foxes have been calling, and visiting us in the night, making their weird cries and strange sounds, or just padding silently down the path in the moonlight. The owls are hooting in the trees, and the pheasants are trumpeting in the night shadows. Hunting season has begun for them, and so we find all those lucky enough to have escaped coming round our way, to find sanctuary amidst the few houses here on the edge of the village.

Autumn is a time to pause, to stop, and to reflect on the bounty that we have collected throughout our labours in the year. Some things may have come to fruition, some may not, and some may still remain dreams, to foster once again through the long winter months until the sun’s strengthening light encourages us to manifest these dreams in the light of day. It is a time for long walks and enjoying the weather, in rain or sunshine. We feel the growing darkness all around us, and we welcome that even as we bask in the last of the golden light. Thoughts are turning inwards, hearts and minds becoming reflective. It is a time to take stock, to see what still needs to be done before the winter’s arrival, and what we need to make it through the cold time of icy frosts and winds from the north.

Take this moment, and enjoy it, for it doesn’t last long. Pause, listen, and learn from nature about the cycles of life, death and regeneration. Find out where you fit in the grand scheme of things, where you stand as a contributing member of your ecosystem. And dance in the light of autumn, feeling its ethereal and brief moments in time deep within your soul.

(Photos taken in Rendlesham Forest, © Joanna van der Hoeven 2020)

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Test Flight on the Heath!

Today we gave it a few test flights on the heath, to try and learn some finesse with the controllers and camera. I can’t wait to shoot more videos! A HUGE thank you to my supporters at Patreon, you have given me wings (or propellers)!

Learning to fly