Yesterday I presented an overview of my course scheduled for spring at Renaissance Institute! It was wonderful to see so many friends and hear about the other presentations being offered! The amount of creativity and talent in this world never ceases to amaze me!
I'm presenting Seeds, Roots and Routes -
Our lives are rich with miraculous seeds - a thought, a smile, a class . . . Roots gather nutrients to help seeds grow. We will explore stories, legends and symbolism, protection and conservation, paintings, songs, short videos to illustrate parallels to our life experiences and journey. Bring a journal to reflect on your life’s seeds, roots and routes - past, present and future.
When I journal, I add seeds at the bottom of the page. A seed may represent a new friend, a class, an idea, etc. When I review my pages at the end of the year it's interesting to see which have flourished, which have remained dormant and may sprout at a later time, and which are best to let fade away.
Decades ago I attended a Brownie registration event in a church basement. I wanted to enroll my oldest daughter, Mycala, in a Girl Scout Brownie troop but they didn't have a leader. I was somehow recruited and loved working with the girls. That led to numerous volunteer positions and I was later hired as a training specialist, then adult education director. The seeds sprouted into numerous friendships that are alive and thriving today!
My training in Girl Scouts was superlative.Francis Hesselbein, our CEO, raised the bar on every aspect of leadership. "Peter F. Drucker, the founding father of management, proclaimed Frances Hesselbein “the best CEO in America.” “She could manage any company in America, even General Motors, and do a great job,” Drucker said." ~ Management Matters Network
When she was called to lead the Girl Scouts, Hesselbein sent all the troop leaders to a leadership training program at Harvard. She believed that it made the leaders feel better about themselves, commenting, “We thought they deserved to go to Harvard that they were the best.”
That seed provided me with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to deliver fun and effective training with SMART goals and objectives, always using the experiential learning cycle as the base.
One unexpected experience in a church basement changed every aspect of my life, leading me to complete my masters in training and become a certified instructor of trainers. It provided me with the opportunity to work with women and girls who were striving to live up to their best potential.
Watching the girls in my Girl Scout Brownie troop, and others in our community, grow into community leaders has been a joy! Continuing friendships and experiences with women of sterling character has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.
The seeds of opportunity are everywhere. Have you had an experience that changed every aspect of your life? Please share in the comments below!
A Festival of Light, Music and Innovation!
The lights in the harbor in Baltimore are always spectacular, but the city really lights up when Light City Baltimore comes to town! It's an event I don't miss - one of my favorite city spectaculars! This is the third year and every year the displays vary.
"In just three years, Light City has become one of the world’s most renowned light art festivals, transforming Baltimore with large-scale light art installations, performances and music. Situated along the Baltimore Inner Harbor and Waterfront, Light City features international, national and local artists, innovative culinary experiences and an interactive children’s area. 2019 marks the 4th year of Light City. Light City is held outdoors in tents, and inside the Inner Harbor’s most popular visitor attractions. The outdoor festival is 100% free and accessible; all indoor venues are accessible and some indoor/private venues may be ticketed." ~ Light City Baltimore 2019
The videos below are the next best thing to being there,
Atropa belladona (Poison)
Solanum dulcamara (Poison)
open their lids
for their lovers;
Maenads fall upon men
dripping with dreams;
& children die
from the sweetest
of inky fruits.
wine of the Bacchanals,
you are indeed the witch’s berry,
I look into your open eye & see
women in love with death,
dying with the widest
& brightest of eyes.
Have you no shame at all
The other herbs
pretend to be angelic,
but you freely play
the Devil’s part.
Dwaleberry, Sorcerer’s cherry,
your sweetness bursts
on the tongue,
the lungs relax,
& death comes
Jimsonweed - Dratura Strimonium
Today's herb is Jimsonweed, also called devil's trumpet, Hell's bells, thorn apple and moon flower, from the genus Datura. It belongs to the Solanacease (nightshade) family. Its toxic ingredients include tropane alkaloids, including atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine, and it is particularly dangerous because the amount needed for a high is nearly the same as the lethal over dose which greatly increases the chance of accidental fatal overdose.
There are times I simply must pause when I do herbal research. These are the kinds of things that have guided me to avoid deadly herbs for so long. I've been sharing information on haunting herbs for years and it has all been in fun, using only herbs found in the gardens of the white witches. But there can be a dark and serious side to herbal use. The lists of illness and most often death associated with this herb are readily available on the internet so I won't list them here.
That being said, I have been in awe of the gorgeous Jimsonweed for years and would not be anymore inclined to eat it than I would poison ivy. I can enjoy it at a distance and as with all the deadly herbs, I strongly advise you look but don't touch!
Bliss, M. (2001), Datura Plant Poisoning, Clinical Toxicology Review
~ Erica Jong
of the poisonous flowers--
even your smallest buds
are said to cause
madness, sleep & death,
but your spiny ″apples,″
prickly & stiff as porcupines,
are the real villains,
& were much beloved
by Kali’s worshipers,
(O kill, kill
in a goddess’ name!)
for arrow tips
& sacrificial victims’ hearts--
you were also used
in love philters!
The cynic laughs,
knowing that love
is the first poison--
that takes the soul,
& all the organs
(O kill, kill
in a goddess’ name!)
Venus, Kali, the Great Mother
the God of the Witches--
what does it matter?
Love potion or poison,
it is the same drink
that brings oblivion
in the end.
Love-will, Sorcerer’s herb,
you were used by brothel keepers
to seduce the innocent,
& witches brewed you
for their flying ointments.
The soldiers of Jamestown
made merry with your juice.
It was a new country
but the herbs were old.
The poisons link us
the poisons & the love philters.
Down through the Ages
we are joined by vines;
we wear garlands
of poisonous berries
Green as innocence,
green as love of death,
we bud, we flower, we fall--
& ancient herbs
out of our blind
Mandragora - Mandragora officinarum
© Mikell Y Worley, Mandrake, Watercolor and Pen and Ink, 5" x 7'
This year I'm featuring the Deadly Herbs of Halloween. We'll begin with Mandrake, the root of Mandragora. Legend states that the plant sprung from the dripping blood and semen of men who were hanged at the gallows.
Mandrake, translated as the dragon resembling man, (Atropa mandragora, Mandragora officinale) is one of the most powerful of the Halloween Herbs. The root, said to resemble the form of a human body, can grow to a length of three or four feet. It is most often associated with males (Man-drake, Mandragan, Mandragor, Mannkin), but other names include a feminine reference (Ladykins and Womandrake). And there are other folk names including Brain Thief, Wild Lemon, and Raccoon Berry. Do you see why I love herbs?
Another name is Herb of Circe, as it is thought to be the herb used in the brew made by the sorceress Circe (Kirke) to turn Odysseus's trespassing men into swine. And there is more than one herb of Circe. More on that later.
If that weren't enough, there are additional benefits! It can protect your home and assure affluence and abundance. Silver coins placed next to this handy root will double in amount over night. Even those of us who aren't known for our mathematical expertise can see the benefit!
Mandrake can be used to attract love if you hang the root on the headboard of your bed. Keep in mind, this is a three to four foot long hairy root that looks something like a person. I'm just wondering how I'd react if I woke up in the middle of the night and . . . .oh, never mind. Once true love is guaranteed it will ensure fertility and the scent ensures a peaceful night's sleep - at least until the baby arrives!
But there is a problem. Mandrake roots are rare and expensive, and, well they should be, considering the challenges involved with obtaining one. To ensure that the magic is intact, there are certain procedures that must be followed. You don't just go out with a shovel to your nearest mandrake patch and start digging.The root must be obtained on a moonless night, ideally yanked out just at the stroke of midnight.
There is another problem. The mandrake does not want to be removed from the ground. It shrieks in protest. The shrill screams seem to have a derogatory effect on all that hear them and drive them to insanity, so as you can imagine, people aren't lining up to be harvesters of the mandrake root.
There is a solution but Zippy, my Puggle, and I don't like it. "The safest way to secure a mandrake was to tie a dog to the plant on a moonless night. Plugging one's ears with beeswax and blowing a horn to drown out the shrieks, the dog was whipped at the stroke of midnight and the jumping animal pulled the screeching root from the ground and died."
Died. A dog, at least one or we know they wouldn't have given this example, died so that someone could tie a hairy root to their bedpost.
One more thing to keep in mind when considering the use of mandrake is that is is poisonous. It is a member of the Solanaceae family and the berries and roots contain anticholinergic alkaloids such as hyoscyamine and scopolamine.
There is good news though! If you're looking for a substitute for your spell this Halloween, you can use the root of an ash, which might be even more difficult to dig up than the Mandrake. It is a tree, after all. The root of betony or may apples have also proved to be worthy alternatives. For an even more easily obtainable solution, apples are said to work just as well. I hope you have read this far before running out to dig up a mandrake root. You may even have an apple readily available in your 'fridge!
In addition to it's many attributes, Mandrake inspired poetry from the hauntingly talented Erica Jong. Enjoy. I'm on my way to tie an apple to my bedpost.
Lehner, Ernst and Johanna (1960), Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants and Trees, Tudor Publishing Company
Stories from my grandmother
~ Erica Jong
little man dancing
with your great tap root,
small song-&-dance man
cloven-hoofed as the Devil--
no wonder you make such noise!
putting out fine root hairs…
Pythagoras & Theophrastus
sang your praises--
blessed you as aphrodisiac
blasted your resemblance
Like man you are tricky, devious,
like man you curse & bless.
Like man you are a poisoner
& a love-bringer;
like man you take
what you can.
bringer of fruitfulness & potency,
lamp in the darkness,
killer of starving dogs,
shrieker, gallowsman, dragon-doll--
you were once thought beneficent
in Biblical times,
but gradually the Devil claimed you.
You grew at the foot
of the gallows,
lapping up dead men’s sperm,
giving birth only to death.
& yet we all give birth
to only death,
& your other attributes--
O bringer of treasure, sensuality, love,
success in battle--
also lead to death.
So dance little Mandrake
in your doubleness.
Rejoice at the gallows’ foot.
You are indeed a dress rehearsal for man,
& we shall join you underground
© Erica Jong, Witches (1981)
Jong, Erica, (1997) Witches, Abradale Press
Yesterday I used my favorite sweet bread recipe to make pumpkins sweet rolls. Wasn't sure how they'd turn out but my neighbors, and the Amazon delivery guy who arrived just as they were out of the oven, seemed to like them. I had planned to double the amount of pumpkin next time but have been told the are 'perfect' and 'the best ever', so I'm ready to share the recipe - tested and approved!.
PUMPKIN SWEET BREAD DOUGH
Gather ingredients - listed below in bold..
Rinse a large bowl thoroughly with hot water. Empty bowl.
1/2 cup very warm water (105 - 115 degrees F)
2 teas sugar and
1 1/2 packages dry yeast (or 4 teas.) on top of the water.
Stir with a wooden spoon, not metal spoon. (This advice came from my grandmother.)
Wait for a few minutes to be certain the yeast is active, about 5 minutes. You'll see it begin to bubble.
In a small saucepan, warm
1 cup milk
I stick butter, sliced to melt more quickly
1 teas salt
In a separate bowl, beat
2 Tablespoons sugar
and beat until lemon colored.
Add both mixtures to the large bowl with yeast.
(milk mixture and egg mixture)
2 cups flour
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teas. cinnamon
Continue adding flour until stiff enough to knead, about
4 cups flour
Knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, oil on all sides, cover and let rise until doubled - about 2 1/2 hours.
While dough is rising, bring
2 sticks of butter
to room temperature and prepare the cinnamon mixture and pans.
In a small bowl, mix
1 cup sugar
2 teas. cinnamon
Prepare your baking pans. Lightly butter the bottoms of
4 - 8 or 9 inch round pans.
I use the wrappers from the sticks of butter to grease the pans.
Punch down dough and roll out on lightly floured surface. Divide in half.
Roll each piece to 12" x 15" rectangle.
Spread one stick butter on each rectangle. Sprinkle each with half of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll the dough, beginning at the 15 " side. Cut into one inch slices. This will give you a total of 24 rolls, 6 rolls per baking pan.
Place rolls into prepared pans. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake for 25 minutes in middle oven rack.
3 cups confectioner's sugar
water - add a small amount at a time
I like my icing fairly thick. Some people prefer a lighter glaze. Add just a little water slowly and mix with a fork until is the consistency you prefer.
These are best served warm out of the oven! Share!
Until then, Sweet Annie can hang out with the dragonfly and copper bird feeder I got at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival several years before I moved to Baltimore.
Complete instructions for harvesting and creating your own Sweet Annie - or other herbal wreath base - are below in posts from two years ago. Harvesting Sweet Annie and making herbal wreaths is an annual event
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Do The Write Thing
Fashion And Fabrics
Lessons From Nature
Pay It Forward
Take The Rose Instead
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!