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!

Fairy Tales

I attended a lovely make-up and photography workshop run by Leanne of Mystic Belly Dance earlier this month, and when it came time to be photographed, my friend Michelle and I decided to try out a Fairy Tale theme with the photographer, Roger Dewsbery. Here are the results, which I’m very pleased with! I can see possible future book covers and more… 🙂

 

Introducing Elen, Wild Goddess

ElenShe is the Lady of the Wildwood.

Hidden in the shadows of the trees, she watches you with eyes millennia old. You may catch a brief glimpse of her, and then she is gone, flitting silent as ghost amidst the snowy boughs, disappearing in a heartbeat.

She is the heartbeat of the wood, of the wild places, of heathland and moorland. She dances under the moon in star-filled skies, her dance exhilarating and free. And in the blink of an eye she is gone, lost in the mist that slowly curls over the land in eloquent drifts.

She is called Elen. Not much is known about her – she seems to have escaped the history books and academia of the human race. She knows this, and it pleases her greatly. You cannot know her without seeking her out, in the wild places, in the darkness and in the light, in the heat and in the cold. She is to be experienced, not to be read about.

She is an antlered goddess, her antlers showing her free nature spirit. Her hair is long and red, often with twigs and leaves entangled – sometimes plaited back in a long braid down her slim back. Her limbs are white – they glow in the shadows and shine in the moonlight. Her green eyes, full of mischief, hold the secret of the Ways.

She is Elen of the Ways, of the trackways and paths that cross both nature and the human soul. She is a physical deity – you must put one foot in front of the other if you are ever to know her. If you are lucky, you can find the ancient pathways she had trod, leaving her energy behind, enticing you further, deeper into the heart of the wood, where the mysteries lie.

Follow the footprints – in the snow, in the mud, in the sand. The cloven hoof of the deer will lead you to her. They are her children, they are Her. Like the deer, she is grace and strength, she is trusting and wary, she is capable of great stillness and explosive action. She is curious and wise, and she will beckon you further in if your heart is open.

Not much is known about Elen, a patron goddess of mine. I seem to be attracted to deities who have little written knowledge about them – Nemetona, goddess of sanctuary, is the other to whom I have given my heart and soul. Nemetona is a holding deity – she creates a space where we can simply be – Elen is a wild deity, running naked over the heather in wild abandon.

I’ve always known Elen, though I did not have a name for her. I’ve always known and felt her spirit with me, deep in the woods, wherever I am in the world, eyes watching me. She is strongest here, but I am sure that she is strong elsewhere in Europe – so many countries to visit and learn about. But here, in the east of England, where her children, the deer, run free is where I have found her. This is where I have come home, literally and figuratively.

More and more people are finding out about Elen – a friend of mine does an Immerse in Elen Retreat once a year, which is gaining ever increasing popularity, as well as a Reunion for previous attendees.
The group on Facebook for Elen of the Ways has 360 people and counting – more and more she is becoming known. But she is a deity that must be experienced – not talked or read about.

And so I would encourage you – if you feel your soul spreading out, your nemeton relaxing when deep in the heart of the wood, or out among the wild places where the deer roam, that is where you can seek and, if you are lucky, find Elen. Look for the flash in the shadows at sunset, the glimpse of an antler. When you have found Elen, you will know it, and be forever changed.

Photo from http://raniamaria.eu/blog/tag/antler/

To find out more about my writing, please visit my author page at Amazon, where you will details on the No.1 bestseller, The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid, as well as new releases such as Zen for Druids and my upcoming book, The Crane Bag: A Druid’s Guide to Ritual Tools and Practices available July 2017.